It has recently been made a legal requirement in parts of India that all prospective grooms must file a photograph with the authorities of themselves next to their household toilet. I am not making this up.
If a picture of a man posing lovingly with his sanitation facility is not supplied, officials in the Sehore district of Madhya Pradesh will refuse to grant eligibility rights for community marriage ceremonies and related benefits. (There is no requirement for brides-to-be to appear in the marriage application photos.)
The law was passed to encourage men to pay for the installation of toilets in homes in the district, newspapers said. Officials claim it is working. On one particular Monday recently, 184 men who had provided photos of themselves with their toilets received the right to be married.
Call me old-fashioned, but I hate the thought of how these new "values" will change the classic marriage ceremony: "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered together to witness the joining together of this man and this Asia Sanitary Co dual-flush zoom-pan ceramic lavatory. Oh yes, and a woman."
Now here's a disclaimer. A reader recently accused me of making Asia seem silly. Thanks for the compliment, but I prefer "delightfully absurd" to "silly", and feel that Asia can do this very well by itself with no help from me. For the record, the Western world can occasionally match us for absurdity.
For example, officials in Jersey, an island off the coast of France, recently started a Certificate of Existence system. A man named Pierre took his copy to the government offices, the BBC reported. "I'm standing here and do exist," Pierre said. That wasn't good enough. The Certificate of Existence needed to be signed by the person who claims to exist and countersigned by a witness, he was told.
Asia's the same. Over the years, I have received numerous newspaper cuttings about people in Malaysia, India and other places who have struggled to prove to government officials that they exist. OFFICIAL: "According to our records, you're dead." LIVE PERSON: "But as you can see, I'm alive." OFFICIAL: "Any proof?"
The reader who sent the link to me foresaw problems. He said Existence Certification officers in Jersey will inevitably end up asking the question to philosophers, existentialists or quantum physicists, for many of whom the correct answer is: No.
I told him that thanks to the narrow operational range of officials' thought-processes, this would not be a problem. OFFICIAL: "Do you exist?" QUANTUM PHYSICIST: "No." OFFICIAL: "Next."
Incidentally, the Britain-governed island of Jersey is actually in France, although it's not polite to say this, as the British public is unaware of this fact. The same is true of British Gibraltar, which is in Spain. Their actual locations are official secrets until the international community can think of a way of gently breaking the news to Queen Liz and her subjects that the British Empire is over. Good luck.
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org)
--IANS (Posted on 30-08-2013)