The Real Rubber Man

At Rs 80 a week, TIME magazine’s prohibitively expensive. Considering I spend over five per cent of my take-home earning every month on printed matter, adding another Rs. 320 to the account seems unreasonable, given the fact that I end up reading less than a quarter of all that I buy. Therefore as a cost cutting exercise I make it a point to get only the special issues, usually from the Sunday market at Old Delhi’s Daryaganj at a fraction of the price, or on busy weekends from the magazine stores, paying in full.

TIME Asia’s 60th anniversary issue was a special one. Nehru and Gandhi on the cover would’ve attracted many like me (TIME often comes out with different covers for different readerships) and this one had four.

TIME Anniversary Special - 60 Years of Asian HeroesTIME Anniversary Special - 60 Years of Asian Heroes
TIME Anniversary Special - 60 Years of Asian HeroesTIME Anniversary Special - 60 Years of Asian Heroes

There were a total of 11 Indians in there if you expand the definition of Indianess to include The Dalai Lama and Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Bulsara). On second thoughts, make it a dozen, since Mohammed Ali Jinnah was an Indian citizen for almost all his life. Many of the Asian heroes were whom I knew well. Quite a few were discoveries. Some I had only heard of, but never read about.

In the first (and till date the only) bloggers’ meet that I attended, Dhiraj addressed me as the ‘Rubber Man’ in recognition of the most read and linked (and by far the lengthiest) post on Cutting the Chai. But the real Rubber Man is (no, not Prabhu Deva) Mechai Viravaidya, also known as Thailand’s ‘Condom King.’

Never afraid to challenge the status quo, he’s a refreshing change in arenas too often concerned about consensus and not rocking the boat. Mechai, a longtime Senator and cabinet minister, has little patience for committee meetings – he’s more at home leading a rural Thai community in a condom-blowing contest, handing out kitsch souvenirs promoting safe sex, or greeting guests at his Bangkok-based chain of restaurants, Cabbages and Condoms, where free condoms take the place of after-dinner mints. His brash, quirky style makes people laugh about sex – and has forced the topic of sexuality into the open.”