to be gay
Looking for a perfect lover? Mathematics could be the answer. Catherine Townsend meets a woman who believes in a link between numbers and love
A mathematician, Clio Cresswell, PhD, believes the answers to some of the big questions lie in mind-bending equations. After years of research, she is explaining her theories on finding the perfect relationship in her new book, Mathematics and Sex.
"Mathematics is all about patterns, whether itís in the stock-market, society or in your bedroom," she says. Despite her day job as a lecturer at the University of South Wales, the 30-year-oldís quirky humour and unconventional life are more reminiscent of a Sex and the City character than a stuffy academic. She combines her research and teaching with writing an advice column in a womenís magazine and speaking engagements worldwide.
But Dr Cresswell got the idea to apply maths to romance by accident. "I came across these fascinating equations that used maths to figure out how much one should compromise in a marriage, and was blown away by how many people asked about them," she says. She explains that the psychologists John Gottman and Catherine Swanson watched newly-wed couples interact for 15 minutes, and observed their reaction to each other to determine the likelihood of their staying together. The results, she says, were surprising, and "have had a big impact on how psychologists view marital theory." They found that, while some people expressed negativity as soon as they felt it, others held their anger in and "empathised" for as long as possible with their mates.
She adds: "We have always heard in the past that empathy is the best method, but they found that people who hold in their anger and rationalise their partnerís behaviour by saying something like ĎOh, itís OK that he didnít put the cap back on the toothpaste, because he had a hard childhoodí are much more likely to get divorced than those who get their anger out there and then. People who get out the negativity straight away do better because they have higher standards, and see themselves as fighting for their marriages. When members of the couple keep giving in, then they are lowering their standards." Moving on, Cresswell explains how maths can help in hunting for apartner.
"Itís an interesting problem because divorce rates are getting higher and higher. If you bought a DVD player that someone told you had a 50 per cent chance of breaking down, you would ask your friends what they do and take advice," she explains. "But with love we donít want to be unromantic, so we say ĎNo, Iíll know when I find The One,í which is completely counter-intuitive." In fact, she questions the belief that there is "one" at all: "The maths suggests that there are multiple people you could be happy with, and the idea of a soulmate is disputed if you look at social Darwinistic theory," she says, laughing. "But itís tough to dispute, because, hey, weíve all watched Pretty Woman."
"So weíre not all acting irrationally, just using what evolution has taught us." While comparing relationships to the stock-market may seem like an alien concept, Cresswell insists that applying maths to love is a natural evolution. "The Eighties was the first time that mathematical models got applied to the stock-market, and now everyoneís doing it," she says. "Basically, you choose symbols based on particular characteristics and see how they develop, and how the relationship will grow or decline, like the rise and fall of the money market." According to Cresswell, relationships and romance are nothing more than a dynamic weave of different possibilities being played out, meaning that maths can be used to used to simulate conditions within a relationship - or an orgasm. "I saw a mathematical study that looked at how to compare orgasms between men and women," she says. "Basically, womenís orgasms have kind of been studied to death in terms of their emotional connection, and menís from the physical side only. In this case, researchers looked at a bunch of words that could describe an orgasm, then got people to evaluate each word for feeling - fun, exciting, pleasurable, and so on. They did a statistical analysis and found that men and women basically picked the same descriptions of what it felt like." She discusses how dating services work, and why men and women are happier if they actively proposition as many desirable partners as possible. She admits to using the equations as a tool for her own love life, especially in understanding the ups and downs. "Psychologists and sociologists are studying love, but no one really knows what it is, except that it can be an unpleasant feeling that is like an emotional washing machine," she says. ó The Independent
Same-sex relationships continue to be viewed with prejudice, observes Seema Sachdeva
THE recent order of the Delhi High Court rejecting a public interest litigation filed by the Naaz Foundation, an NGO, challenging the Constitutional validity of Section 377 of the IPC underscores the fact that we have a long way to go before same-sex relationships as an adult choice become acceptable.
However much we keep denying such rights, the fact remains that there are gays and lesbians in our society who are increasingly coming out of the closet, refusing to be marginalised. The Gay Pride parade in Kolkata in June 2003 was a call for a right to dignity for homosexuals. The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) film festival, the first such to be held in Mumbai last October, was a major step in asserting their self-identity.
Homosexuality is more than mere sexual desire for people of the same sex; the relationship has many other dimensions and depths, including emotional bonding. Those in such relationships are subject to irrational prejudices by a society that refuses to accept their sexual preferences. Often they have to face ostracism, besides scorn and ridicule, when they come out of the closet. The humiliating experience apart, they are also subject to pressures to go in for straight marriages. They are seen as Ďdeviantsí and even as perverts who need to be cured.
While countries like Holland, Belgium and France have accorded legal sanction to same-sex marriages, India remains far behind, in a social time warp. Here homosexuality is considered a form of unnatural sex, and remains a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment up to 10 years. In the Indian context, the issue is considered too much of a taboo to be even discussed or debated upon. Instead, cultural extremists and vigilante groups have launched attacks on the phenomenon and practice. Hindutva hordes have targeted even films such as Deepa Mehtaís Fire and Karan Razdanís Girlfriends with a crusading zeal that betrays homophobia. It just goes to show how intolerant we are of choices and relationships that have been accepted by a number of developed countries.
However, since the issue will not go away merely because the morality brigades set themselves against the phenomenon, it is time to address the issue more seriously out of concern for the rights of fellow humans.
The argument that ours is a conservative country and such issues have no place in a society like ours, has no basis either in mythology, history or even in present times. Our civilisational heritage celebrates varied forms of sexual behaviour. India gave the world its first treatise on love, Kamasutra, and our arts, architecture and archaeology abounds in evidence of diverse sexual practices. Our literature too is rich with a variety of sexual imagery. More recently, especially in the last 20 years, homosexuals have rubbed shoulders with the high and the mighty and been awarded and feted. One would have assumed that with so many achievers and celebrities being publicly acclaimed regardless of their sexual orientation, society would move towards greater acceptance.
Unfortunately, that does not seem to be happening. In the age of individual rights, sex, like religion, ought to be an individualís private affair. It is a matter of personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21.
When an individual is considered mature enough to exercise his political choice at the age of 18, denying an adult right to choose a consenting partner of any kind does seem to be a violation of personal liberty.
Sangeeta Bhalla, a private pilot, working as administrator in the Indira Gandhi Institute of Aeronautics, is the only Indian woman flying instructor in the USA in the recent past. Today she is running an aeronautical Institute that also happens to be an only institute of its kind in this region. She spent most of her childhood and was groomed in Ambala. An only child, she studied in P.K.R Jain High School, Ambala and completed her class 12 from the DAV College there. Joining flying classes was a turning point in her life and Sangeeta decided to take on flying as her profession. During her impressionable years, she had watched the Air Force fighter planes sortie, wonderstruck, from the rooftop of her house which was near the flying pad.
Her mother and grandmother were dead against her flying. It was her father, an excise and taxation officer, who supported her decision. She joined the Karnal Flying Club and later completed her flying hours at the Safdarjung Flying club. She recalls: "For my first flight in a Cessna plane I was supposed to just sit tight and just be a co-passenger. The feeling of being in the sky, with nothing before me, was like having wings and flying high. I felt elated and excited at the same time. Later on, I flew Cessna 152-A and Pushpak planes under Captain Beniwal and Captain A. Mannís guidance. My solo flight came after I had completed flying the required 16 hours and 22 minutes. That was the day I was up there all alone, transforming a childhood dream into reality. I had brush with disaster as I was on my second flight and our plane was stalled on take off. My leader pilot, Sanjay Dahiya, prevented the crash while we were at a height of 7500 feet height and dipped as low as just 700 feet off the ground. Sanjay jacked on and controlled the plane while I sat numbed with fear. This experience sent shivers down many a spine" Sangeeta recalls.
She later went to the USA for an advanced course in multi-flying on Cessna 310, a four-seater plane. The AER Mistral flying club in Dallas (Texas, US) was her next destination. Sangeeta spent five years working as instructor with the club after being trained there. She recalls, "Flying those sophisticated machines is quite an adventure by itself. Imagine being up there as master of your destiny, while the world view is just a finger touch away. Those planes are just marvellous."
After her stint in the US, Sangeeta came homewards to be near her parents. She awaits renewing her license in India to start flying again. Her advice to those who wish to take up flying as a profession is, "A pilot has to be in good physical health and possess a calm and alert mind.
The ability to remain cool-headed in face of any eventuality and alert enough to be able to take quick decisions within a friction of a second are a must. Also important is to keep a check on physical fitness and to maintain a given weight count. Lastly, being a pilot is a serious decision and comes with a horde of responsibilities, prime being the trust reposed in you of the safety of the plane and its passengers."
Amrita Pritamís Aj akhan Waris Shah nu... voiced the trauma of the blood-soaked memories of millions affected by the Partition. For a writer whose work has been pioneering and life an expression of her creative urge, honours and accolades have followed. One wishes that the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship awarded some time backto the ailing writer who has lost her memory had come in while she could rejoice in it. Recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Jnanpith and countless other awards, she did not need the validation that awards bring. More true for Amrita would be the acknowledgement of a societyís debt to a writer, especially as one who who mirrored social reality with a rare sensitivity. Her feel for the Punjabi ethos as well as for universal values of love and freedom defined her muse. Fidelity to her emotions, even if it meant rejection of social mores, defined her life as well as work. There is no shadow between the woman who lived intensely and the writer who wrote with authenticity. A faithful daughter of Waris indeed.