Nothing has brought out the patrilineal pecking order of South Asians more vividly in recent years than control over the remote control during the World Cup. It is the modern icon bestowed upon the clan leader as a symbol of his power and glory – something like what the ceremonial flint-tipped femur axe was to our ancestors. For the outsider, one glance at the remote-holder and it is immediately clear who is boss.
The South Asian dominant male holds on to his electronic sceptre as if he would be naked without it. Bestowing custody of the remote to the crown prince during the commercial break is a time-honoured tradition of laying down the rules of clan succession so that there is no bickering once the patriarch makes final departure for the great soccer stadium in the sky. "And my beloved channel changer I hereby bequeath to my eldest male progeny, Phanindra. May he use it justly and with responsibility."
There used to be a time a couple hundred millennia ago when remotes only turned the television on or off. Today's household is full of remotes: a separate one for the VCR, another one for the satellite decoder, a remote to control the speed of the ceiling fan, a remote for the aircon with timer, the CD remote and the FM remote, a remote-sensing keyboard for the computer, a garage door opener, a remote car lock, and the mother of all remotes – a remote that turns the house master switch off when you are leaving for summer holidays. Such is the relentless march of technology that pretty soon you'll be able to flush the toilet with a remote, turn on the shower and adjust the hot-cold mix while still brushing your teeth with a remote-controlled tooth brush.
Look at all remotes past and present: they are toys that can make it easier to play with other toys. So you/can play them without – what a repulsive thought -touching them. And because toys and boys are made for each other, they are designed mostly for use by members of the male species. When will they start designing a remote-controlled iron, a remote controlled vacuum cleaner, or babies' that can be switched on and off at/50 yards by pointing a laser beam at their bellybuttons? That is when we will know that the consumer electronic industry has finally become gender sensitive.
A recent rush of revelations purporting to prove that nature is more dominant than nurture has given our menfolk all the excuse they need to explain away their laziness. Biological determinism and post-feminism are on a collision course. Prof Michael O'Boyle (that is his real name) of the Psychology Department of the Iowa State University suggests in a Channel Four documentary that men are genetically programmed so that they cannot iron, cannot cook, cannot wash and cannot do more than one thing at a time – like if they are watching Cameroon vs Scotland, they cannot possibly answer the doorbell. Says O'Boyle: "Electrical activity in the male brain is concentrated mainly in the right half. In the female brain it is spread across both."
Wow. That means it is technically possible to interfere with the electrical impulses in the right brain by a wife equipped with a Husband Remote. This gadget (it may be called "Turbo Cerebellum 586") will be similar to one of those control stations for flying model aircraft, and with it wives of the future from the comfort of the living room sofa can electronically insinuate their husbands to do the dishes. It will mark the greatest leap forward towards gender equality since women got the vote. The laser signals will tamper with the electrical pulses on the right-side of the male brain and force hubby boy to at last help with the ironing even though he may be congenitally averse to it.
It will take some time for scientists to design and craft these Guidance Systems for Multi-tasking Males (GSMM), so we may have to wait for the next World Cup before we can channel male energies away from pumping iron and to the ironing board. What's that? Well, all right, we'll let you watch the finals while ironing the knickers.