Jul 27, 2008 - published work    No Comments

Trivial Pursuit

Something of mine that was published in Dawn, an updated and more detailed version of an old blog entry of mine.

Among the benefits of knowing trivia is that one gets to know the true potential of seemingly innocuous things.

Have you ever wondered why Graham Bell chose to invent telephone of all possible things he could have invented?

If your answer is no, then you belong to the sane majority of people who generally don’t spend much time wondering about things that have no relevance whatsoever with their everyday life. If your answer is yes, then it probably is very important for you to know that Graham Bell probably (and it’s an intelligent guess) invented telephones because he wanted to speak to people. As both his wife and mother were deaf, the need to speak with other human beings, besides the quest of scientific discovery, urged him to create the telephone.

I have been fascinated with trivia and general facts since I was a little girl. I always wanted to know things like the exact duration of a blink, which by the way, approximately lasts 0.3 seconds. I would try to read volumes of encyclopedia, much to my mother’s chagrin, who wanted me to spend every waking moment with my text books. My mother actually thought that cramming my brain with useless (in her opinion) information would not leave much room for trigonometry and English literature. What she did not know that knowing that a chameleon’s tongue is twice as long as its body or that milk of a hippopotamus is bright pink or the fact that it is impossible to lick your elbow would make it so much easier for me to understand the Pythagoras theorems and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Such seemingly useless factoids also explain some things that you would not understand otherwise. For instance, an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain; it is probably why they bury their heads so that no one will notice how disproportionate their eyes are with the rest of their heads and we humans think that they are shying away from their problems. No, they are not; it’s just that they are a little more aware of their eyes than the rest of the animal kingdom. Talking about eyes, human beings cannot keep their eyes open when they sneeze. If they do it by force during a sneeze, the eyes may pop out. It is body’s defence mechanism that we always close our eyes shut while sneezing.

When one once asked me what my favourite animal is, I said shark. No, I am not a carnivorous freak with a ‘Jaws’ fixation. It is just that sharks are immune to all known disease and who cannot be awed by such an infallible creature? Another interesting thing about sharks is that their skeleton is made of cartilage only, it has no bones. It is probably why the saying goes that ‘he is as smooth as a shark’.

People think that multitasking is a term coined in twentieth century and gained true currency in twenty-first century; little did they know that it was truly mastered in 16th century. For instance, Leonardo Da Vinci could write with one hand while drawing with the other. Who can multi task like that in this century? The best we do is drive, yell at the kids, talk on cell phones simultaneously and get fined for that.

Another benefit about knowing trivia is that one gets to know the true potential of seemingly innocuous things. Peanuts are considered fairly healthy food but do you know that it is one of the main ingredients of dynamite, yes the same dynamite that is used in blowing things up. Similarly, beautiful grapes can be lethal when you put them in a microwave; they explode!

According to trivia, cows produce more milk when they listen to music, I wonder if this stands true about the all music or does the quality of music matter. If the quality of music influences milk production patterns, cows will produces finest quality milk while listening to The Who or Abida Perveen but will go on strike if they listen to Naseebo Lal’s songs with many a double entendre.

Some interesting facts about food are that French fries are originally from Belgium and not France. Table salt is the only commodity the price of which has not dramatically risen in the past 150 years (probably because no government anywhere in the world thought about either privatising it or levying new taxes on it). Bananas are the new chocolate; it is discovered that they contain a natural chemical that makes a person happy. The same chemical is found in prozac, so if prozac is not readily available, have a banana instead to feel happy!

There is a phrase in English language about selling ice to Eskimos. Well, they may not buy ice, but they sure do buy refrigerators. In Alaska, the Eskimos use refrigerators to keep their food from freezing solid. In Taiwan a third of all funeral processions feature a stripper — and we thought it was the decadent West that brought the trend to this part of the world. If BBC radio is to be believed, 57 per cent of British school kids think that Germany is the most boring country in Europe, however, BBC radio did not elaborate why do British kids think that way. Desi restaurants in United Kingdom employ more people than steel making, mining and shipbuilding industries put together in that country. No wonder John Major declared ‘Chicken Tikka Masala’ to be the national British dish. Another important tradition started by marketing forces is Santa Claus’ red coat. It is only about 80 years back when coca cola started this Red Santa campaign. Before 1930s, Santa used to wear green coats.

It is said that a human being spends, on an average, two weeks of their entire lives waiting for traffic lights to change. Obviously if that person happens to live in Karachi, he or she would spend an average of about two years waiting for traffic signals to change.

Needless to say, I have proven beyond doubt that I’m a trivia junkie; if you want to know the lurid details of Nelson Mandela’s divorce (for a price of course) you know who to contact.

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