Saturday, December 31, 2016

Connect the dots

Whoever thought of this deserves the Best To The Point Title For An Eatery award. The suspense in the three dots after eat makes it the clear winner in its category.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Over and not out

There are very few jokes that i can think of and chuckle to myself. Most of the time, i watch comedians for the way they deliver a joke and i find my dose of humour in the way it’s expressed. For instance, i love it when Bill Burr laughs at his joke because i find the part when he’s unable to control his grin really funny. Similarly, i admire how Kenny Sebastian makes the most of silence before dropping the punchline. I’m a sucker for nuances. At the same time, my joke delivery sucks. I end up laughing the most while telling a joke. Very rarely do i manage to complete the intended joke. I’m usually covering my face on the table or rolling on the floor holding my loin. However (read however the way Louis CK would pronounce it), there are some jokes that i’ve come to cherish because of their solitude value. The kind which no comedian told you but you remember anyhow. The kind that doesn’t even require an audience and you can smile to yourself thinking of the hilarious scenario.

Presenting to you, ladies and gentlemen and the majority, one such piece to marvel.

People gathered outside a TV shop watching a cricket match involving India (of course; Indians are Indian cricket fan, not cricket cricket fan) and one more man joined the crowd. As is the norm, one is expected to ask what the score is. But this guy asked, “Gavaskar out ho gaya kya?” (Gavaskar is still batting or out?) To which, the surprised crowd turned their attention to the newbie and one of them replied, “Gavaskar ko out hue 25 saal ho gaye. Tu kahaan tha?” (It’s been 25 years since Gavaskar got out; he's retired now. Where were you?) The newbie matter-of-factly said, “Jail mein.” (Prison.)

Don’t know why but this silly joke cracks me up. Every single time.

Core issues

I was recently discussing how corruption is all around us. The plague has reached a point where you wonder whether it’s as essential as oxygen or it’s something that we can do without. I tend to believe that both the options could be mere possibilities. And the reason i say so has something to do with our association of corruption with politicians. Logic gets harmed when we can only imagine politics as the source of corruption. You know why? Because it’s not. Corruption is in every sphere of human influence. Politicians are maligned because they make great news. Corrupt individuals give rise to corruption. We often hear how the system is corrupt when the opposite is true. Individuals in a system are corrupt and these individuals function in coherence with their greed. More interestingly, corruption has very little to do with money. It’s essentially an exhibition of power. I can get you this or that done but there is a price to pay. Since the price can be paid in money most of the time, a signature of authority gets an appropriate tag. However, many a times, corruption creeps into a system without the individual noticing it. For example, you are being corrupt if you are using office printer to get printouts for personal use. Better still, you can be held for corruption if you are using staple pins that was ideally meant only for office use. See? That’s how the practice gets into picture but we brush it off thinking it’s not a big deal. Maybe it’s not a big deal but it makes front page headline when that practice is raised to the power of 1000 or more.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

An apple a day

During my kindergarten days, there was a book in which a boy was shown sitting on a fence with an apple tree behind him. The apples were low-lying and i used to wonder how nice it would be to have apples within your arm's reach. I had to wait for more than two decades to fulfill my childhood dream. Just to give you a background check, apple isn't native to India. The Britishers brought it along with them and found the cool hills suitable for its horticulture. Coming back to my story, i visited Ladakh in 2013 and saw apples trees for the first time in my life. To make things sweeter, the fruits were hanging really low. They were reddish ripe and i didn't waste any time in plucking one and belting it. I guess it felt nice... but not for long. I was on my second apple when i started feeling nauseous. Within seconds, i was puking and to complete the cycle of life, i was throwing up at the very base of the apple tree that i fed myself on! Apple hasn't been the same to me since. I've been avoiding that fruit thanks to what my mountain sickness did to me that day. Which is indeed an interesting development for a child who fancied greeting an apple tree someday in the early 1990s.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Misnomer of a colourblind

Ever heard an Indian (preferably northerner) calling a fellowperson (preferably northerner) racist for making a joke on another Indian (preferably southerner)? The joke could have been about anything ranging from unsavoury colour to weird accent to body hair. Even if you change the geographic belonging of the three characters, still the common factor would be the use of the R-word. Is it really racist of a northerner (or a southerner) to make fun of a southerner (or a northerner) with an insensitive remark? How can we determine the difference in race on the basis of the states one comes from? Especially when it’s obvious that the racial distinction in this case is based on appearance? For some inexplicable reason, darker skin tone is associated with the southern states while lighter tone is granted to the northern ones. Moreover, is it fair to say that the dark-looking Punjabis are racially distinct from their pinker neighbours? Similarly, aren’t there are fair people in south India? (No, it’s not just about the Aishwarya Rais and the Hema Malinis of the world.) Isn’t race a much deeper anthropological subject? There are too many questions here and a lot many more equations to handle. Our misguided sense of distinction, if i’m not mistaken, comes from the Britishers who ruled us. They saw us as blacks and we tamely accepted the term, overlooking the fact that many of us were wheat-ish. There was no scope for brown or grey in the colonial era; only black and white please. After our colonisers left, we turned on each other for amusement. Arts played a key role in bringing us together as countrypeople, true. It also gave birth to unchecked misrepresentation. For instance, post-independence, Bollywood kept on stereotyping the so-called Madrasis in their movies. (Calling the whole of south India Madrasis was similar to calling the whole of north India Kashmiris.) This gross caricature went on for decades to such an extent that nobody bothered to correct the powers-to-be in the Hindi film industry. There’s a very popular interview of Mehmood by Shekhar Suman where the former calls south Indian women black. Nothing wrong with that if it’s factual. Colour doesn’t determine the character of a person but the problem is in his tone: the degradation in his voice to crack wannabe jokes on the “blackness” of south Indians makes you want to call him racist. But then, there’s another problem here: his disdain for a particular skin tone doesn’t really make him a racist in India. He’s a colourist who happens to be an ignorant fool.

Urban poor joke

Q: What’s common to Katherine Hepburn, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and my grandma?

A: All took/take cold bath at night.

The only difference being my grandma did so because she couldn’t afford hot water all the time. Scarcity of fuel perhaps. Also, she wasn’t keen on fighting against ageing like the rest of the three were/are.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Begane naamkaran mein Abdullah deewana

What's in a name? A controversy by any other name would smell as tweet.” - Shakespeare

Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan had a baby boy yesterday and decided to name him Taimur. And Twitter India lost its digital shit. In an ideal world, it’s nobody’s business what the parents name their kids. But then, we don’t live in an ideal world and Saifeena comprise a universe that fall under the label celebs. Whatever they do is going to be microscoped; something they fully understand. That’s the price of fame everybody from Hollywood to Bollywood pays. When Kimye named their child North West, there were tweets/jokes floating all around. The same happened when Beyonce and Jay Z named their ward Blue Ivy. Apparently, normal names are for normal people and celebs aren’t perceived as normal. They are considered a notch above not only in their lifestyle but also in their outlook. Which is why it’s understandable how Taimur managed to create a buzz on social media—in tandem with mass media, of course; partners in crime—to such an extent that his name trended for over 24 hours. That’s no small feat. The boy is not even a day old and he sticks to the list like magnet. Even Virat Kohli’s excellence doesn’t let him trend for a day. People’s attention keeps diverting and so do the trending topics. As far as Taimur is concerned, the initial response was a mix of aha and horror, which eventually graduated to hmm and shock and ultimately to ahem and wow. So what really triggered this extreme reaction? For one, Taimur, a variation of Timur, is a historic personality best remembered for his conquest as well as brutality. His Islamic agenda is well-documented and he figures in the top-10 list of mass murderers in recorded history. Taimur is of Turkic origin and signifies strength. It is indeed a rare name at least in Indian context. In a simplistic manner of speaking, he stood for bloodshed but then which great conqueror of the past didn’t? Mao alone was responsible for the death of over 50 million people and he wasn’t even a conqueror! Names like Darius and Xerxes are popular in Iran although both are pre-Islamic and were marked by terror. Omar is a popular name in the Muslim world and means exactly what Amar does: immortal. Similarly, a lot of Arab kids are named Saladin even though the great warrior was of Kurdish origin. Ashoka was an exception in the sense that he gave up violence after butchering villages after villages, thus ensuring his legacy is less tainted. Speaking of whom, we need to understand how significant one-word names are different from the ones with a surname attached. Famous names from history like Buddha, Paigambar, Akbar, Che, etc are words either embraced by or entrusted upon the individuals in question. You hear Mahatma, you think of Gandhiji. (You should ideally think of Phule but that’s a different debate altogether.) This might explain why you’ll still find kids named Adolf in Germany or Augusto in Chile; a different surname becomes the safety net. One-word names like Taimur or Aurangazeb are independent to the point that you automatically think of those two historic figures when you hear such names. Saifeena, in their defense albeit they don’t need to defend anything, can say that they don’t care about Timur or what he did. But that’d be a lame—no pun intended—explanation, especially for a couple that hails from an industry that binges on established names. After all, the nicest part of this pseudo-controversy is people are suddenly interested in "the most boring subject" called history.

I hope I trend on Twitter someday.” - Timur’s last words

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Nirvana Country

Clicked this photo last night in the market. The quality of the picture sucks mainly because nobody uses ASUS except me. Regardless, you can't help but feel for the dog staring longingly into the pet shop. Maybe it's something she does on a regular basis for her own amusement. Maybe not. Maybe the owner of the place has been kind to her. Maybe not. Regardless again, it is nice to know that well-fed dogs have their priorities set. At least in Gurgaon.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Doctor strange

I am a fan of Hugh Laurie on Twitter mainly because he is different from other Hollywood celebrities. Most of them don’t even make an effort to be real. He’s a rarity, squarely putting him in the league of funny fames like Conan O’Brien, Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick, James Blunt, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Colbert, Louis CK (he shouldn’t have quit Twitter), Chrissy Teigen, George Takei,etc. The trouble with being a star—big or small screen or tiny—is you treat stardom like a shoulder devil and forget to loosen up a bit. That’s also marks the distinction between the smart and not-so-smart celebs. Twitter, because of its spontaneous nature, allows one the space to be accepted or ridiculed for their hilarity. If not for social media platforms, we’d never really get a taste of how the popular peeps think and react to a situation. In any case, the dreg in us likes to believe that they aren’t smart because their onscreen lines are written for them! Which is true but it doesn’t mean that they are incapable of normal. We don’t care that Heath Ledger was a junior chess champion but if he was alive and kicking today, maybe he’d have been on Twitter expressing his love for those B&W squares. Going back to Hugh, after watching Dr. House (first season), i’m a fan of the character he plays in the eponymous show too. His professional aptitude, acerbic wit and his alienating personality work as a magnet. But behind all of the charming traits lies a limping person who can come across as sad. He is interested in others’ lives, particularly those who are working close to him. Not interested in gossip as much as he’s invested in ensuring all of his colleagues are doing their jobs well; he clearly doesn’t have a life of his own. Moreover, there is an episode where he confesses to his subordinate that he’d hate it if others pried on his space the way he does to others but then, he doesn’t have a personal life! Dr. House is strange and yet not so strange. His Sherlock-like attitude towards solving a given problem helps you look at yourself in a better light—be you a patient or a colleague. And while he’s at it, he emits a vibe that says that he can’t wait to get out of his clinic duty (read: hospital) as soon as he can. This despite the well-established fact that he doesn’t have anything waiting for him at home. It’s a paradox of being a prisoner. You can’t and don’t want to escape and yet you keep trying. After all, the patients will get better and leave the building sooner or later but the doctors are stuck inside for life. And Dr. House knows that.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Original Bane

Whenever you look at an influential person on screen, be it of a TV or a magazine, you ignore the ones who work behind the scenes. They enjoy the cloak of invisibility while they have a proper grasp on reality. One such character is Steve Bannon. Although he’s not really a quiet character, he has silenced quite a lot since he came to the forefront of American politics. He is the Chanakya to Donald Trump’s Ashoka; a terrible analogy by all means but the idea is to give intelligence due credit. Unlike Trump, Bannon isn't a fool who plays to the gallery. He masterminded the Trump campaign so effectively that there is no parallel to be found in the West today. And more you read about his controversial insights, the more you become convinced how wrong the mainstream media (MSM) was—throughout. It’s one thing to predict a football match score and quite another to orchestrate the entire match. Going by his record, Bannon was more correct than incorrect—much much more correct than MSM, no doubt—not just about the general public mood but the general public mood in different states. Of course, we aren’t reading articles full of accolades for Bannon thanks to his leaning. It's too early perhaps to celebrate hatred. Not that he seems to care because he’s busy charting out the future of his country, no matter how desperately bleak that may be.

Let’s back up a bit and check Bannon’s background.

Back in the 90s, his company produced Seinfeld, that groundbreaking show about nothing. It became so immensely popular that NBC bought it. This sweet deal made Bannon loads of money and Jerry Seinfeld the eventual richest entertainer in the world. Bannon went on to pursue different vocations, dabbling in media as well as showbiz. He seems to understand the string theory of power and influence. Going by the almost-white team that Trump has been selecting, Bannon certainly has a plan for the USA. In the coming months, more and more surprises and unsurprises shall unfold. Whatever happens, it’s worth wondering whether Trump would have been the POTUS-elect today if Seinfeld wasn’t the success it was and continues to be today.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pee and space

School teaches us a lot about the society we live in. But it misses out on some key lessons of life. For instance, it doesn’t bother to explain how bad breath can single-highhandedly destroy your career. Or for that matter, why being silent is a symptom of strength in today’s ecosystem. Most worryingly, modern-day schools continue to pretend as if corruption is a word from fairy tales. The world is changing so fast while our education system (is it education system or literacy system because there’s a massive difference between the two?) continues to be stuck in a time zone. Maybe that’s why it’s becoming increasingly difficult to face the uncertain future that we’ve created for ourselves. But my greatest issue with the way things are today is the absolute disregard for etiquette in toilets. No, it doesn’t matter whether the toilet is stinking rich with urea like a desi toilet is supposed to. My concern is the way men behave with the lottery system in place.

None of the schools teach the kids to go for the first or the fifth urinal if all of them are available. That way, you don’t create an awkward situation for fellowmen. Let’s say you pick 2, the next guy will have to choose 4 to maintain the much-required space in a sanitary relationship. And then the following guy who shows up will have to choose between 1, 3 and 5. None of these options bode well for any of the three people, especially if they have a medical condition that automatically shuts their peeholes if a person is standing right next to them with his dick out.

In the nick of name!

We Indians have weird nicknames. Monikers that have nothing to do with our official name. My nickname is Sunil. My family and close friends still know me by that word. Apparently, it was my first name too as my dad was a huge Gavaskar fan. So i’ve got two names that are remarkably independent. Shakti and Sunil are as similar to each other as Putin and Trudeau in global politics. There’s another category of nicknames in our subcontinent (yes, this tradition-turned-trend isn’t restricted to India alone): nicknames that sound like nicknames but have nothing to do with the original name. Like a girl named Pooja is known as Munni in her family while a boy named Sameer is more popular as Guddu in his neighbourhood. This is still alright. The third category of nicknames is purely accidental and they usually occur because of me. I am bad with names but it gets worse at times. So, there’s a colleague named Neeraj in our office but i’ve been calling him Nikhil for about two years now. (Unlike a colleague from previous office named Gaurav who told me his name wasn't Gautam!) He never bothered to correct me even once until recently. In fact, whenever i called out Nikhil, he responded. It’s like he accepted either of the following conditions or maybe both:
  • According to me, Nikhil suits him better.
  • He agrees with my opinion since we are living in a very opinionated world.
The hilarious bit about this confusion would happen when somebody asks him whether he has a nickname and he goes “Oh yes, somebody calls me Nikhil too!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Yellow submarine

A school bus is meant to be yellow. Not just because the colour is attractive (OK, that’s the main reason actually) but because of scientific reasons. Unlike the kids inside it, a school bus is expected to behave. You’ll rarely see it meandering on the road or jump a signal or two. It follows all the rules and maintains decorum even in the most frustrating of traffic jams. In an ideal world, fellow vehicles would let a school bus go ahead but then Indian motorists seldom allow even an ambulance that sort of special favours. One more thing is similar to a school bus and an ambulance: phone number on its back. In fact, you are encouraged to call up the number in case you notice something off. What would be interesting though is to notice a school bus misbehave for a change. Like speeding, for instance. What’d be more interesting is to call up the number only to hear, “I’m driving right now, call me later."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

As fragile as democracy

Trump becoming the POTUS might be an unsavoury development for a lot of us but it's a necessary pill for democracy. Democracy might be the finest form of government but it’s definitely not infallible. History has taught, time and time again, that it's deeply rooted in human decency and it inextricably expects everyone to be wise enough to know what’s good for them. Now, the question is do people really know what’s good for them? Anyway, going back to Trump, the world looks up to the USA—not India, mind you—as the epitome of functional democracy. And when Americans can choose someone as divisive as Trump, it provides the world a much-required lesson in the fragilities of democracy. For example, last week, Austria (birthplace of Hilter) overwhelmingly rejected far-right party in a tense election. Can this choice, in some parts at least, be attributed to the outcome of US elections and more importantly, its aftermath? Can't say. People aren’t blind wherever they come from but going by the narrative of the mainstream voices, people are dumb creatures who require the arrogance of journalists/intellectuals/etc to dictate what they really desire from a political candidate. After all, a majority of those who voted for Trump overlooked his racist/misogynist/xenophobic/assholic comments and paid attention on the 'change' he promised. A change that mattered to them because it’s invested in their betterment; a change that apparently will bring jobs back to American shores and improve the conditions of working class America; a class that the rest of world tends to overlook because we are soaked in by the photoshopped glitter of Hollywood and the cultural coolness that US represents. There must be legion of studies on this topic but i’d like to assume that people always hold their economic need above EVERYTHING ELSE. Something that happened in 2014 too when Modi got a clear mandate. A majority of the commoners didn't vote for him because they wanted a temple in Ayodhya. They saw him as a harbinger of development; someone who will put the economy back on track and pull us ahead from the the countless scams that UPA1 and UPA2 shamelessly perpetuated. Going back to the burning question, people might be wrong in guessing what's good for them but more often than not, they are damn sure about the things they don’t want. Just that most of the time, we don't listen to them thanks to superiority complex despite knowing very well that democracy is all about the majority. Or in a simpler word, people.

Music to (other's) ears

Being sensitive to sounds can be a disadvantage. It messes with your mind. Peace of mind, to be precise. When you’re too sensitive, you basically lose your right to noise. How? Even the tiniest of audible infractions disturb you while the people around you don’t seem to care. You wince. They don’t. Their sense of accommodation belittles your tolerance. You become the party-pooper by default. As much as you are designed to appreciate music, the noise plays a key role in maintaining your sanity. To each their own music, to each their own noise. There must be a reason why our world is filled with music as much as with noise. The rhythm created by the chirping sparrows or the streams in a runaway forest complement the tumult orchestrated by a bursting volcano or a crazy tornado in rural America. That said, when you are too sensitive to sounds, you end up picking up tunes and tones others tend to miss. Not to brag but i noticed something in House which others—all those whom i know have watched the TV series—evidently overheard. Whenever a scene showcases a patient ward, you can hear the gentle doo-doo-doo beep in the background. The ominous sound of some medical equipment is always there without fail. And it fucking annoys me.

Friday, December 9, 2016

What does your art say?

Helplessness should be a genre in itself. I recently watched The Fundamentals of Caring (2016) and you should too. It’s basically about how each one of us on this planet is healing in different ways. You don’t need to be paraplegic to understand this analogy. Not so sure whether time heals or not but we certainly do. Sometimes with others’ input. Sometimes on our own. This is so because we are helpless beings, always in the pursuit of something that enhances our excuse to be alive. Speaking of which, helplessness has played a major role in the upliftment of arts. Be it painting or poems or a sculpture, the fact that nothing humane is for eternity plays heavily on our collective conscience. And that realization is also what makes our species beautiful. Beaten, broken, hopeful, hopeless but perpetually stuck in the process of healing.

Footnote: One of my favourite helpless scenes comes from Barfi (2012) when Ranbir Kapoor’s dad suffers from a cardiac arrest at night. He is in agony and trying to scream for help but Ranbir’s deaf-and-mute character is blissfully asleep.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Love and disorder

I have a (conspiracy?) theory that Jayalalithaa passed away in the afternoon of December 5 itself. According to me, they delayed the news so as to ensure that the state gets enough time to absorb what was going on. Had the breaking news been sudden and straightforward, hooliganism would have raised its ugly head. The media was full of trepidation and justifiably too given the stature JJ enjoyed in her state. I received a message, a few minutes after lunch, from a well-placed friend asking me whether i can translate a condolence message into Tamil for him. Given my admiration for Tamil, he assumed i must be well-versed in the language. I am not. It was obvious that she’d have passed away although media was playing cat-and-mouse with Apollo hospital. Maybe the people-behind-the-walls must have controlled the flow of info in this fashion: leak in the afternoon that Amma is very critical, followed by another leak suggesting she might have passed away only to deny it early evening, followed by a clarification by Apollo saying she was on life support system and finally make an official announcement at night that she has indeed departed. This yo-yo technique of uncertainty must have contributed to the orderliness that followed, leaving little space for chaos. Of course, the credit largely goes to the law enforcement agencies in Tamil Nadu, especially Chennai. But the maturity with which the communication was handled deserves a relook though there was an element of necessary deception. Maybe it’s a sign of the change in politics. The days of flaming emotions are numbered. Those types of nostalgic exhibits used to make it to the front page but the losses registered in damages to public/private properties ran into crores. And a ruling party can do well without such fanaticfare. 

Something similar happened but at a city-level when i was with mid-day. Rumours started spreading that Balasaheb had passed away on Friday. The official statement was made on Saturday. This delaying of news ensured minimum disorderliness in the city. The procession of departure was exemplary with minimum ruckus. 

This pattern also shows how the source of madness in Indian politics often emanate from the politicians themselves. No matter how much the laity loves a political figure, the majority don't engage in over-the-top expressions of grief. That job is executed by thugs employed by politicians. They are the ones who burn the buses and cars on roads in times of unrest. Common people, irrespective of whichever state they belong to, stand (and drop dead) in the queue. They seldom burn an ATM.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sound of noise

When i quit mid-day, the in-house cartoonist Amit Bandre drew my caricature. It was a farewell gift. As cherished as it is, i got it printed on a glossy paper and pasted it on our wall. If you notice, it’s an exaggeration of my face as a cartoon is supposed to be. What’s more interesting is the manner my love for Maggi and tattoos are highlighted; not just random tattoos but by a tattoo gun in my hand. I often wondered why exactly am i holding the machine in my right hand pointed towards my right ear. It’s not like i’d be tattooing myself and that too my ear! After nearly two years—being the duffer that i am—it finally dawned on me that Amit was trying to show me as a tattoo-maker; somebody who’d be comfortable with a tattoo gun. And if you’ve noticed a tattoo artist, you’d see that as soon as they turn on the machine, they draw it closer to their ear to check the sound the swivelling coil makes. It’s a peculiar habit before they dip the needle into the ink. Being a cartoonist who pays incredibly close attention to his subjects, Amit could ingrain this element into his picture. Took me a loooonnnng time to get it despite having 33 tattoos on my skin.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Enough is never enough

Is there anything called enough when it comes to money? If so, how much is enough? We seldom come across characters like Sudha Murthy or Scott Neeson who are big on giving back and low on showing off. These gems comfort us when we read about the kind of moolah the so-called successful people make. And more importantly, the kind of money they stash away in tax havens and other slimy places. Apparently, it’s a necessity for them. You want to save as much as you can by hook or crook. The bigger question: how much does a person need to fulfill his greed under an umbrella called security? When the Panama Papers got leaked, it had mighty names on the list, from Amitabh Bachchan to Lionel Messi to Jackie Chan to Kofi Annan to several famous political figures. Like they say in Hindi, sab ke haath mailey hai. (Nobody’s clean as far as wealth is concerned.) When Messi’s name surfaced, i was a bit dejected given his super-clean image. Later, i realized that, even if he washes his hands off the tax fraud charges—which he did by naming his father who also acts as his agent and finance manager—there is no denial that money is synonymous with more. That’s the magic of lucre. You’ll never hear anyone—be it a peon who earns less than ₹10000 per month or a footballing legend who earns ₹41535000 per week—plead with folded hands, “Please, no more!

PS. With the recent Football Leaks, we might be able to understand why the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo (who is known for his philanthropic work) or Neymar or Coentrão or Sanchez are no different. After all, a footballer’s shelf life is relatively short. They get to earn a lot in a short period of time, yes, but if they miss the gravy boat, it’s their loss. Loopholes are meant to be filled.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Heartbroken? Maybe. Scared? Definitely.

There are pictures and then there are mysteriously amazing pictures. This one was clicked about an hour ago by my flat-mate, Pais. In case you're wondering who's that in a bright red winter-wear, it's Ranga. Zoom in to have a better look. It cuts a lonely figure. Like he's staring into the horizon having lost the purpose of life or something. We knew he spends a lot of time on the terrace—ours is a two-storey walkup and we stay on the second floor—but we didn't know he spends his time sitting on the ledge! That's the height of daredevilry; literally and figuratively. He can't get out of the building lest fellow street dogs attack him. As a result, he stays confined to his territory. It's been six months since he adopted us and almost everyday we learn something new about him. It's quite obvious that he hasn't achieved a lot of kindness from humans. Even when we pet him, there is an unhidable awkwardness from his end. Perhaps it's not easy to shed away years of abuse he must have endured like the way he is shedding away his fur this winter.

PS. We always wonder where he goes to relieve himself. Not sure but his absolute lack of vertigo must allow him to deface neighbouring terraces. Or sneak out at night. Shhhhhh...

Home sweet home

The boy and his mother were at a party. The night was getting heavier with every passing tray of drinks. An hour before midnight, she got up, kissed her friends goodbye and walked to her son's circle. "Let's go," was her commanding request. The chirpy group went silent and collectively stared at their hero to either leave or make a manly statement. Had he gone for the former option, they would have mocked him. So, the 16-year-old had to stand up, walk up to her, cup her face, look into her eyes dramatically and blurt, "Ma, you go. I'll reach home in a bit." She could sense the alcohol in his breath but then, social outings have a cost of their own. To avoid drama, she elegantly left the scene. After all, their house is less than a kilometer away. Two hours later, our hero is drunk as fuck. However, he somehow makes it home, rings the bell and can barely keep his chin up. The door opens and his mom is standing there looking at him worried. "MA, WHY ARE YOU WAITING FOR ME? GO HOME! I'LL REACH IN A BIT!" were his words before hugging the doormat.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dumb charade

In the world of copywriting, you try to (you should if you aren't already) write something different. It doesn't have to be new. Different is more than enough. Which could be why you dig deeper into the consciousness of acceptance. Besides, you don't write for yourself. You do so for people you will never get to meet. Keeping that in mind, you are expected to "dumb it down" because your copy often comes out as too smart. People like smart but not always. Apparently. What this line of thinking does is it inadvertently encourages the gust of mediocrity. A standard standard of acceptance with little to no room for experiments. Acknowledging dumbness is one thing but catering to it repeatedly, quite another. Many a times, this approach leads to creating a world where we end up asking ourselves how the fuck did Trump become the most powerful man on the planet.

Hurt locked

When you hurt someone, you don't get to decide the extent of the pain caused. Plain and simple.

What you just read should have been the first thing that life taught us.

But sadly, it doesn't.

Turns out the first lesson that life teaches us is, "You are hungry, dear. Go feed yourself."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

That wall of validation

Kind words go a long way, right? Not really. They go only as long as you want them to. Seems to me we are raring for the sort of validation we’ll never receive, be it offline or online, from strangers. The assortment of words that was poetic as well as genuine continue to allude us. Now they’ve devolved into something else. Maybe that’s why words of appreciation from family and friends are either taken for granted or not given enough weightage. So we end up hunting in the darkest of corners: social media. A tiny piece of the Internet which unwittingly calls for more anti-social and much more media. It’s a skewed system already. But that’s also what makes the whole hunt worthwhile. If not, why would you be elated on scoring 500 RTs when you know that’s too low a figure to make ANY difference to anything? The real world is too big. Plain arithmetic notwithstanding, the desire to get appreciated for one’s talent—be it good haikus or bad jokes or excellent riffing—is fast becoming the hallmark of our generation. So much so it has turned into a rarity to come across folks who don’t get this online craze at all. You can either admire such creatures or exude utter disdain for their ignorance. The worst type are those who don’t even feel the urge to click a selfie. C’mon!

PS. Going back to validation, how much do you appreciate that Uber driver or Jugnoo autowallah who showed up on time and dropped you safe and sound(less)? Don’t you think he too would have a better day ahead if some words of appreciation fall on his eardrums? The funny bit being he is connected to you through an online creation too—an app, nonetheless—but he’s doing a great job at it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Twinkle Twinkle real star

I saw Twinkle Khanna in flesh for the first time in 2012 while covering an event in Bombay. I was basically a scribe back then who rarely missed Bollywood-related invitations. She came across as very elegant and i thought to myself “she was a terrible actress but she is a sorted person…”

Fast forward to last night.

I watched Koffee with Karan (episode 10), featuring Twinkle with Akshay Kumar, and this is the second time i noted her this decade (in flesh or otherwise). She was nowhere to be seen otherwise. She doesn’t endorse products on TV. She is reclusive to some extent although you keep hearing about how awesome she is thanks to her witty tweets and apparent formidable personality. She is an author of two books now—both kindly-received by critics and fans alike—and you can’t help but admire her while watching the aforementioned episode. Political correctness is not for her although she is wise in concealing things that’d make her appear partial. She cracks jokes at her husband’s expense, Johar’s expense, and her self—repeatedly with admirable ease. If you follow BuzzFeed or ScoopWhoop, you must have already seen clippings from this interview that accentuates her clarity of thoughts. She leaves little space for bullshit. And that’s what makes her humourous, i guess. When you accept yourself completely for the person you are or going to be, you don’t feel the need to pretend. And when that happens, the doors of humour not only open up but also welcome you with an Aladdin carpet. Granted that Twinkle is not a comedian but the trait of a good comic can be seen in her: good jokes occur when the truth is allowed to absorb you.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Cardiac acquital

Your heart is an idiot. It makes you do everything you weren't supposed to. The most despicable bit being it keeps you alive. Pump. Pump. Pump. Shock. Pump. Sneeze. Pump. Pump. It doesn't give up on you, now, does it? As bloody as it is, the heart emoji paints a rosy picture of something that is—pardon my Italian—mafially gross. Blame it on the poets. Poetry has a way of painting an image that doesn't stick to reality. Heartbreak. Heartache. Heartthrob. No disrespect to pancreas, liver, spleen or lungs but heart received a preference. The Aztecs used to rip beating hearts out of captives and presented them to sun god. Of course, the sun god didn't care for such kind gestures. It had bigger things to do with time and space. On the contrary, humans continued to stay fascinated by a tick-tock machine inside us. In some ways, it's a practical reaction to an organ that is so consistent with its music. Even your stomach grumbles whenever it feels like. There's no set pattern in there. Perhaps heart deserves the attention it gets. For what it's worth, every single breath you take is a tribute to an orchestra called life.

Errata: Your heart is an idiotic musician.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

There if

There is hope,
if you believe in be.
There is justice,
if you accept the truth.
There is memory,
if you establish the facts.
There is warmth,
if you burn yourself for love.
There is calmness,
if you notice the storm on time.
There is excellence,
if you appreciate all those talents.
There is compassion,
if you don’t get carried away by hate.
There is awareness,
if you keep your senses open to cosmos.
There is nothingness,
if you continue to pray to the material gods.
There is enlightenment,
if you remove your ridiculous halo of arrogance.

Memories of a carpet

I haven’t been sleeping well lately. And not a night goes by i don’t think of Biswa’s joke. In one of his shows, he made a socio-economic quip on how people keep the fan on at top speed before pulling up the blanket. He took an obvious dig at us and our privileged attitude as far as wasting resources is concerned. Now, my case is different. I keep the fan at the lowest pace possible to scatter away my enemies. Also, i feel cold despite the blanket. It’s weird. Adding injury to insult, mosquitos don’t give up on me although the repellant has given up on them. This has been the case since the temperature dropped in Gurgaon. It made me ask myself “when was the last time i slept like a dead baby?” The answer lies in early 2010. After moving to a new office building (8th floor) in Vashi during an off season, i often found myself done with work by 3 am. And the first train arrived at 4 am so to kill time, i used to sleep in the conference room. I used to feel a strange variety of calmness while lying on that carpeted floor. Instead of waking up before 4, i used to doze off late into 7-ish am, an hour before the morning shift people entered in. The level of relaxation i felt on waking up remains unmatched. I felt fresher than a daisy. The only downside was i failed to sleep properly once i reached home. Maybe it had something to do with that carpet. I don’t know for sure.

Sound sleep matters. Memories of sound sleep, more so.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Endanger alert!

I move on from one being to another. What this behaviour entails is hours spent on tempering my curiosity about a particular animal/bird/insect/etc. There was a phase when i was highly intrigued by jellyfish (they are practically immortal), before which there were octopus (they are awkwardly awesome) and butterflies (they prove Darwin wrong; it’s the survival of the smartest) and raccoons (they can open almost all the locks with their claws) and tardigrades (cockroaches may survive a nuclear holocaust but these dudes can survive ANYTHING) and the list goes on and on. My current creature of fascination happen to be the black-and-white panda. So much so i believe it’s my spirit animal. The only difference being, my ugly beard doesn’t make me cuddly—not even close. Otherwise, we are quite similar. Extremely lazy and doing things that don’t really yield much of a result. What i admire the most about these species is their continued effort at endangering themselves. It looks like they are dying to be an endangered species! Even the Parsis appear cautious compared to them. The amount of carelessness that they exhibit is adorable as well as numbing. Small surprise why there are only 1600 left of them. One reason is their utter lack of interest in mating and if at all a panda delivers two cubs, she’ll probably abandon one at the birthplace itself. Weird, yes. Ununderstandable, no. Fortunately, every single one of the pandas alive today belong to the Chinese government. This massively boosts the conservation project. If you spot a giant panda at a zoo in New York, just make a mental note that China is responsible for their well-being. If you observe them closely—on YouTube videos, of course—you’ll notice that they are very nihilistic in their outlook. Simply put, they don’t give a fuck. It’s just about them, them and them only. They’ll spend their whole day eating, playing, eating again, falling asleep wherever they feel sleepy—this dangerous evolutionary characteristic contributed to their decline—only to wake up and repeat the cycle. They get attracted to objects around them, both living as well as non-living, very easily. Whatever it is, they believe in hugging it whether it’s a bucket or a human leg. And that’s the part i love the most about pandas.

Monday, November 21, 2016

War is a horrible joke

It’s 2016 and there are more than enough warmongers amongst us. The worst revelation being the otherwise calm folks who vent their deepest angst on social media. To them, war is a solution, not a problem. It’s sad how people can jump to a fatal conclusion like that. Slow down a bit. What’s the most barbaric thing you can think of? Whatever your guess, war comprises almost every fucked-up thing imaginable. Just that we don’t get to experience any of it from the sideline. Glory, honour, patriotism, etc. are some of the words decorated with war, conveniently overlooking the fact that war is nothing but our collective failure at employing our greatest asset: words. Sometimes, even kids grow up thinking that there is an enemy out there, all thanks to the conversations shining on the W-word. If only somebody told the kid what the ground reality is like; how overzealous young men tend to lose their bellicose thrill within a few days of entering the war zone. There’s no fun in smelling blood and shit. It doesn’t take long to realize that they are basically going through crap to entertain the ego of the powers-to-be. Regardless, they are expected to shoot at people they’ve never met before; people they have nothing against personally. No wonder WW1 witnessed soldiers—on both sides—shooting over their so-called enemies’ helmets. If there can be a miracle on the battlefield—no, Hitler surviving WW1 wasn’t a miracle, that was pure fate—this phenomenon was it. Excessive exposure to bullets makes one weary and brings out the kindest as well as wildest out of you. Soldiers are known to act out of character in their blood-stained uniforms. Speaking of which, it’s often ignored how war becomes synonymous with rape. There isn’t a war in human history which didn’t record soldiers violating the womenfolk from the other side. We don’t have to go to WW2 to check how it ended with the Russian soldiers raping German women; it happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and most recently in Syria. The price of conflict is often borne by those who have the least to do with it. Unfortunately, we neither talk about it nor acknowledge we don’t have the capacity to make our children see how things are. How words like ransacked, seized, defeated, captured, annexed in their history books have broader implications. And there is nothing glorious about them.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Presumption of guilt

The Americans had their JFK moment. The world as we know it today has its 9/11 moment. If you ask people around—even the so-called millennials—where they were when those two buildings crumbled, they'd tell you about the earliest instance they saw/heard the news. It's the singlemost effective event in recent history for a reason. The dust might have settled and the debris must have given way to a taller structure but the ramifications of that attack still resonate in world politics. To me, nevertheless, that event is more of a blur. I used to read The Asian Age (TAA) back then, mainly because it was priced at one rupee. I used to get three rupees on a daily basis: one for going to school, another for coming back and one for emergency. I used to spend the emergency allowance on buying myself a newspaper. I absolutely loved TAA. It was edited by MJ Akbar and featured splendid columns from not only an Indian perspective but also international (they had a syndicated collaboration with the New York Times). And my earliest memory of following an event per se was the execution of Timothy McVeigh. I read TOI in passing at my tutor's place but nobody else, i'm quite sure, covered the aftermath of Oklahoma bombing as acutely as TAA did. I can recollect reading an entire broadsheet about McVeigh's upbringing, his difficult times during the Gulf War, his ideological shift to extremism, also how he cared for kindle (a group of kittens) as a little boy only to grow up and be responsible for the death of 168 people. I remember reading that his last meal consisted of icecream, his favourite thing in the world. I read all of these exactly three months before 9/11. He was executed on June 11, 2011. When the news of 9/11 reached me, i immediately presumed someone like McVeigh must have attempted such a horrific action. The building in Oklahoma wasn't very tall, so i felt maybe the attackers were aiming higher this time.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Political beings

I used to be one of those who blamed politicians for everything that’s wrong with our society. This was before i wised up a bit. The so-called apolitical people do a lot of damage in the name of fencesitting. Turns out blaming politicians—or in that vein, politics—is like blaming oxygen for slowly killing us. Politics is everywhere around us. It begins in the kindergarten playground where kids form their own little groups. It never ends though. We are, for lack of a finer term, political beings. The sooner we accept it, the better. For some reason (let’s call it ignorance), we tend to associate politics and politicians only with corruption and debauchery. When we do that, we are only asserting our unwillingness to make a difference by staying unaware. It’s quite similar to standing on the side of the road ostracizing the monsoon for causing an accident instead of helping the guy whose motorcycle slid. Moreover, the weather isn’t in our control but our future certainly is. Being aware of the guys who are running for office and the kind of work they are doing at the local level could be a good start. But then, we don’t even want to know who the corporator in our neighbourhood is, let alone confront him/her on issues that is close to your heart. We only want to crack jokes on the NaMos, RaGas and Kejris of the world. Democracy might not be perfect but it has proved again and again why it’s the least of all evil systems out there. If people show as much interest in knowing/discussing the powers-to-be at a level that’s closer to home, we’ll certainly reach a stage where the government would consist of people who genuinely care. Right now, it’s defined by people who stand in the queue because they don’t have a voice and are so helpless that they feel only a ballot or a bribe can change their lives for better. And that’s the political order we should be aiming against.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Once upon a cheap night

By the time they reached the station, it was quite late at night. On top of that, the vacation season was on so they couldn't get a place as every available hotel was booked. Being an Indian tourist isn't easy in India. It's always advisable to book in advance but our heroes were of the adventurous type. In other words, lazy. Approaching midnight, the four of them were clearly running out of options. It was chilly and they didn't know what to do. To their good luck, an elderly man covered in a blanket walked towards them, didn't say a word and directed them to a narrow street. The boys took the cue and found a mansion-y place at the end of the street. Turns out it was a hotel with rooms! Lucky indeed. If that wasn't awesome enough, a room costed 100 bucks per night. "Seriously?" gasped the four in unison. Overjoyed, two rooms were booked; two guys in each. Exhausted, all of them decided to hit the sack.  The boys got up late in the morning and sounded excited about the hill station. What followed remains etched in their memories though. As a prank, three of them locked the fourth one inside the bathroom while he was doing his business. They even turned off the light. Those on the outside thought he'd freak out but something strange was to be. After a while, they opened the door and the locked boy got out looking quite pissed. Sensing anger, the boys immediately apologized for the prank. The boy wasn't looking for a sorry. He had a straightforward question: "Did you guys hear my screams?" To which, the boys said no. At this point, all of them were about to understand why that place was so darn cheap. "The moment you guys switched off the light, somebody from behind placed his hand on my right shoulder and whispered Shhhhhhh....."

In the course of time

I grew up in a slum in Bombay. The kind of place everybody wants to escape only to end up in a place—Nashik/New-Bombay/Pune/Gurgaon—that makes you nostalgic about your past. It had everything imaginable. The good. The bad. The makeup. People from all the three communities were present (nope, never met a Sikh/Parsi/Jew/etc there—perhaps the place was too poor for them). We never witnessed a riot, not even during Babri demolition or the following bomb blasts of ‘93. We may not have had the basic rights but we had our basics right. We respected and cared for each other. There was no scope for naarebazi. The Hindus in the neighbourhood lent their carpets for the grand namaaz on Friday afternoon while the Muslims helped with the pandals during Ganeshotsav and participated in the Holi pyramid. Well, the Christian community was the icon for the rest as far as the importance of education (read: literacy) was concerned. We effortlessly embodied the spirit of basti. People, back then, loved the city for accepting them the way they were—broken, luckless and hardworking. It’s easy to sit in an air-conditioned room in 2016 and blah about secularism while conveniently forgetting that the Western idea of secularism is bound to be counter-productive for a country like ours where religion is practically woven into our consciousness whether a person is rural or urbane. What these misguided conversations usually highlight is the distance between reality and notion. Fortunately, the chawl i was/am from didn’t care for such labels. Maybe that’s why there was no tension regarding who ate what or who prayed to whom. The Hindus were happy with their vegetarian/meat diet while the Muslims relished their beef and the Christians fearlessly showed their soft corner for pork. Non-Hindu kids gathered for prasad whereas the non-Muslim kids gathered for niyaaz. What mattered was the sweetness of the food offered, not the mumbo-jumbo of myths behind it. There was noise everywhere and yet, in that chaos, we found a diverse semblance. Things changed only after 9/11, thus proving once again the power (of narrative) USA enjoys. Suddenly, the conversations during lunch/dinner began to turn bitter and paranoid. Still, on the surface, there was no evident animosity. The walls that united the one-room houses remained polite but then, manufactured anguish has a way with our species. Interestingly, i left the place and moved to Nashik in 2002, the year that remains significant. My family moved to New-Bombay within two summers. I revisited my slum (the thing about this word is it sticks with you irrespective of the buildings that mushroom over time) in 2007 to teach secondary school kids English. I carried on till 2011, the year i joined journalism full-time. I haven’t rerevisited the place since. But what i noticed during those four years, in touch with the kids i taught, was the drastic shift in attitude. Something was clearly missing. When i was a kid, the friendship we built with our neighbouring kids triumphed our differences. The kids i encountered on a daily basis in a tiny classroom back then seemed to have let their differences triumph. Armed with with their limited vocabulary, they couldn’t even hide their prejudices. A perverted version of religion had become the norm. Some Hindu kids were suddenly proud of their perceived greatness. Some Muslim kids were seeking a hero in Zakir Naik. Some Christian kids were clearly brainwashed about the superiority of their God. And ‘some’ is more than enough to make the ‘most’ divided. An idea or an ideator refines with time, yes. However, if it’s not for the better, what’s the point of evolution? If it instills unwarranted fear of the unknown in children’s minds during their formative years, what good can possibly come out of it? Facts are going to be abused in places like these. The chawl i remembered was the one where only one thing got abused on a daily basis: English. We called chewing-gum ching-gum, station taeshun, brown-pao burun-pao, slice-pao si-lace-pao, lantern lal-turn, bottle baa-tal… the list goes on.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Meta level

2015 ended and 2016 is nearing its closure but i haven't come across a statement deeper than what Rakhi Sawant made last year.

Monday, November 14, 2016

From sure to shore

We often read about a startup getting funded by a bigshot investment group. For some reason, we tend to assume that it’s a recent fad. Companies like Google and Facebook, with their roots in Silicon Valley, make us believe that entrepreneurship needs to have a technological touch. This might not be the case always but the glowing stars in the Internet Era are often the ones who accepted technology wholeheartedly. And they continue to inspire budding entrepreneurs to take risk. Most often, the road to success gets cockblocked by the lack of capital. Which is where the investment groups enter the picture. Convincing the financiers that their investment would be worth it (read: profitable) is not a child’s play. Serial funding lies in the future. In most cases, the young entrepreneurs fail to even bag a discussion room with the moneybags. Nowadays, we read about companies that are based in XYZ country but is funded by people who are based in MNO country while the market for the final product is in ABC country. We call it globalization. However, wasn’t this the case, say, 500 years ago? When the European powers were rising mainly because of their curiosity to know what lies on the other side of the sea (a curiosity that the Asian powers didn’t harbour; no pun intended), a lot of navigators came forward with their business proposals. They were sure about the riches that laid bare open on foreign shores but the tough part was to get someone to fund their exploration. They went from the kings to the merchants to the banks—whoever was willing to listen to their ideas—so as to fund their naval trips. In this scheme of things, the explorers weren’t any different from the entrepreneurs of today. They too vied for a dream that could result in a nightmare while firmly hoping it didn’t. They too wanted sugar daddies to help them put up the hull. Which might explain why an Italian guy named Christopher Columbus got funded by the Spanish monarch for an idea that had more to do with India than anywhere else.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Show me the money!

Maybe it's a good time to talk about money. Black, white, colored, all sorts. There are some lessons i learnt after moving to Gurgaon. Back in Bombay, i didn't care much for money mainly because i didn't have expenses. When you're living with your family, you don't care about raashan. I barely went out or had any habits to support. There were magazines to buy, Internet bills to pay, film festivals/cultural events to attend, occasional weekend Chinese with Tushar and Anu. That's it. Maybe that's why i could take a 50% salary cut to try myself at journalism. I was touching 25 then and was offered 13K a month. Not a huge amount when you consider i didn't get any conveyance from the publication, not for the travels required, nope for the calls dialled. After the deductions, less than 10K reached my pocket. But then, i got myself some proud bylines. Lots of them, actually, for someone who never went to an esteemed J-school. Also, experience. Loads of that too. By the time i gave up journalism, after spending close to 3.5 years, i was back at the very salary i quit my previous job!

That was then. I'm a bit wiser now.

The thing about money is it requires understanding. Not very different from the way we deal with kids. They are unpredictable. My friend, Rudra, once told me that one of the reasons i'll remain gareeb is because i'm afraid of money. I didn't gauge the depth of that statement. He was right. When you have remarkably low income, you somehow find comfort in that zone. You look at people with higher income and the troubles they've added to their list by buying a house or a car on loan. You see that they have willingly become a slave to the bank. You begin to see those aspects (at least i did) as avoidable headaches. Irrevocably, you get stuck in your zone. And before you acknowledge it, you are getting old and starting to feel sorry for yourself because not a week goes by you don't compare your fate with the kids you grew up with. They are doing great—not merely going by their FB pics—while you are nearing 30 and neither have a career nor savings.

Savings. That's the word.

How does one save money? If you ask an expert, they'll drain out the difference between save and invest. Since i'm not an expert, i feel saving can be done better when you set your priorities right. Where is your money going? If i find myself in an accident tomorrow, will i be able to get through without disrupting others' lives? Which hill station am i visiting next? Do you want to retire in a mansion? Maintaining a diary about expenses (daily/weekly/monthly) helps. I don't earn a lot (more on that later) so whatever i get gets divided equally into brackets. Precisely how i want things to be for now. Let's put it this way: I neither feel bad about shelling out ₹20 extra to an autowallah/sabziwallah nor do i get robbed by malls. I'm at ease. I do my bits here and there from time to time for people and the environment. I miss participating in sapling projects though but i'm sure my current state of health won't permit it either.

Money happens to be a psychological trick and it's interesting how much imagination it captures. What's more in store is the endless pursuit of it. There's no such a thing as enough when it comes to income. Precisely why we should have a second income flow. It could be anything from freelancing to baking to anything else that you're good at and won't need more than a few hours a day/week. That amount fortifies your future. I've been planning to write a book since my late-teens. At this rate, it seems like a distant dream. However, if i manage to get something going for myself in the field of writing, then i might be able to sustain better. Buy insurances, maybe? Fixed deposits, too? Who knows? A steadier flow of income makes you imaginative. 

Until a month ago, i was the only earning member from my family back in Bombay. When you are in a position like i was, you are constantly reminded of your responsibilities. You can't randomly leave your job and pursue your distant dream. You try to settle with as much caution as possible. I look at some of my colleagues who can't do without parties and excessive spending. So much so their online retail therapy doesn't pause. They can afford that because their families don't look forward to their month-end deposits. Things are different for different people. Also, you decide your value in the market and the sooner you realize this, the better. If not, chances are you'll feel lost in the rat race to be financially secure because that's a bloody oxymoron.

PS. No matter what, pay your taxes because a pyre made of black money is a fucking disgrace.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Missus on point

I don't like going out much. In fact, i never show up at a party lest i'll have engage with people in hollow small talks. On the other hand, i love talking to my wife. That's something that hasn't changed in over three years now. It's a delight to converse with her about random things. Our conversations belie our romantic shortcomings as we are both tad boring in departments most couples otherwise boast. At the end of the day, we talk about things that are mostly based on what we read or watched recently. 

One such episode from the recent past is quite noteworthy, if not hilarious by all means.

Me: "If you were given a chance, would you accept the role of the POTUS?"
She: "Of course!"
Me: "You won't be nervous or something?"
She: "Hmm... nope."
Me: "Wow. What would be the first thing that you'd do or change on becoming the POTUS?"
She: "I'll appoint Obama as my official advisor."
Me: "Well, as a rule, you can't do that as an ex-prez isn't supposed to hold official titles."
She: "In that case, I'd like to change that rule."

Paranoia, please don't scare me

Democracy is funny but the joke is lost on those who believe in it.

Americans have elected Donald Trump as their president. It’s official. Understandably, there is a massive wave of despair among the people (both from the USA as well as the rest of the world) about an uncertain future. Given his repertoire for loose words, it’s going to be interesting how his tenure as the POTUS will be. But let’s stick to now, shall we? He hasn’t even taken the oath as the president yet and there is already more than enough panic in the world, especially on social media. It’s almost as if the world is going to end. Here’s the worst part: It’s not going to. I wish it did. I wish if somebody just pushed the Restart button. But that’s not happening. So, we need to deal with it practically. This is what is going to happen: Trump is going to assume the office in mid-January and we’ll have to wait and see if anything drastic takes place. On a political level, there will be presumably a lot of (attempted) changes to the set narrative by the previous government. Whatever ensues, it’s only going to highlight the fact that our species are connected like never before. The world, as the ancient wise people from India suggested, is indeed one big family. What happens in doesn’t stay there anymore. Everything affects everything. This is our new digital reality. And when a man-child like Trump assumes the highest office of the world’s strongest democracy, worries are natural. However, they shouldn’t be the cause of irrational fear or untenable paranoia. In a democracy, one party loses and another wins. That’s the rule of game. Instead of wasting time on spreading panic, maybe it’s time to understand the factors that made us believe that Trump didn’t stand a chance. The greater question should be, how disconnected are we with the realities of this world where we form our opinions based on the enlightened views of the few?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

We need to talk about Caste

There’s a famous quote vis-a-vis Indian politics and election: “Indians don’t cast their votes; they vote their castes.”

The only problem with the above statement is nothing’s going to change unless we address the core issue of our society. Caste, whether you like it or not, is incredibly strong. It's beyond religion. In fact, much stickier than that. Cluelessness only makes it stronger. Especially if you grew up in urban India and never bothered to know why the labourers in the city generally belong to the downtrodden caste or for that matter, where your maid/help comes from, then you—and not the institutions in place—are partly to be blamed for your ignorance. The burden of privilege ensures that you stay away from the C-word. So much so you don’t even want to talk about it. Your excuse could be anything from “It’s irrelevant!” (Yes, it’s irrelevant because the generations that preceded you made sure of that but if you’re going to discuss the conditions in our country, you better do your homework) to “It makes me uncomfortable!” (Well, that proves the extent of your comfort more than anything else, sweetheart). The point being, not talking about something by calling it regressive is giving too much power to the regressiveness of the subject. Caste is all around us. It’s so prevalent that if you can notice the pattern, it’s almost there all around you be it urban or rural India. So why talk about it? And what difference would it make? Words are a powerful tool, if backed by facts and data. It can be a weapon of mass destruction too, if backed by falsehood and propaganda. That said, if we—the ones who have the voice to make a gradual difference—don’t try to understand the correlation between a person’s caste and his profession (or the lack of it), then who is going to? The politicians? Well, they are busy exploiting our ignorance for close to seven decades now. If we don’t sit up and see how caste affects the entire subcontinent—yes, it’s not limited to only India as Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka also have a steady caste system in order—that’s a major chunk of 1.68 billion people on the planet—then we are only fooling ourselves. If we’re going to stay aloof instead of digging deeper (like we do with the trends/memes that catch our imagination on the Internet) into the surface of a disease that has been making our society hollow for ages, then what’s the point in criticizing caste politics?

That loud F-word

This happened in 1999. I was 13 and went to a friend’s place for dinner. Maybe it was lunch. I don’t remember. What i can recollect though is the event that took place while we were eating. Amid a discussion, my friend’s dad let out a loud fart. Absolute silence followed the act. Grain drop silence, if you may. Nobody said anything. But at the same time, we couldn’t pretend as if nothing happened. My friend’s mom and sister were visibly aghast while i was highly amused. Within the next 60 seconds, my friend revealed his embarrassment. After all, his best friend was there and he didn’t ask for this private/public humiliation. With hardly anything left to blurt, he could only manage a “Papa!” in his I-am-disappointed-in-you tone. His father responded immediately. His words, expressed with absolutely clarity, still ring in my head. “What? I didn’t do anything. Besides, this is my house and I can fart whenever and wherever I want. If I come to YOUR house someday and fart, do let me know.”

We went back to our plates.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What happens in 20s stays forever

Newton proposed the Binomial Theorem at 22. That was also the age at which Charles Darwin gave up on his religious dreams by embarking on a ship to Galapagos Island, ultimately paving the path for modern science with his Theory of Evolution. Bhagat Singh kissed the noose at the age of 23, thus patenting the title Shaheed (martyr) for himself. Einstein proposed his groundbreaking Theory of Relativity at 26. John Keats was gone even before he turned 26 while leaving behind a body of fabulous poetry. Hawking proposed Black Hole theory at 28. Ramanujan's greatest work occurred in his mid-20s. There are a lot of people from the world of entertainment too who left a mark in their 20s. Be it Tupac who was killed at the age of 25 or James Dean who crashed at 24. Or the whole members of the esteemed Club 27. Heath Ledger drew his finest portrayal as The Joker before bidding adieu at 28. Of course, not everybody had to die in their 20s but the few names that are mentioned above (and the thousands of names that aren't) achieved the most in their 20s. Siddhartha (before turning into Buddha) left his palace at the age of 29. Schubert might have died at 31 but the reason why we still remember him is because of his work from his last decade. It's mostly true nowadays for a sportsperson to mature in their 20s and dusk away in the 30s. But shouldn't that be true for everyone else too?

The point is, if you are 30, like i am, you don't have the luxury of the thriving 20s anymore. And you should be asking yourself a very tough question: If you die today while walking on the footpath (crossing the road can be fatal), what will you be remembered for? Or for that matter, forgotten for? What has been your potential? Did you manage to convert to kinetic? Even if you don't care about legacy, there are things that go beyond you. It could be anything from a design of a building that you came up with to a programming code you wrote for an app to an anthology nobody seems to decipher yet. Since i haven't stayed true to my original before-30 plan of earning a PhD in linguistics/anthropology or writing at least one fine book, i can only hope i'm not remembered as that guy who wrote THAT chai-biskoot tweet.

Monday, November 7, 2016

From school to streets

The boy had escaped the boarding school. He was 14, barely interested in studies, chased butterflies, low on attention, high on daydreaming and a huge Rajesh Khanna fan. Not sure how but he ended up in Bombay. When a group of people questioned the seemingly lost kid, he revealed he was hungry. They took him to their neighbourhood. He hadn't seen a chawl before. Coming from a background of plenty, he was evidently taken back by the warmth of those strangers. People he saw growing up work for people like him. The only difference being he didn't know he was kidnapped by the time he entered a stranger's house. They fed him and treated him nicely. Over the course of a day, they even dug out information about his parents. The next thing we know: they called his worried dad to tell him that the boy is OK provided they get some reward in return. No harm in getting paid for kindness, right? Charity begins at home. The father took the next possible flight and landed in the neighbourhood. He was distinct in the crowd—obviously—with his sunglasses and jacket. They shepherded him to a hut-like place. And therein, he saw his son about to strike. Nope, no guns involved. He was engrossed in a carrom game with some boys wearing creamy baniyans. After the settlement, the father waited till they reached the airport to ask the pertinent question. "Why did you run away from school?" Pat came the reply, "I thought it'd be easier to become a film star."

Change is a lingual constant too

I called English a mythical language some days ago. 

And all hell broke loose.

Apparently, mythical is something which doesn't exist. Like God. Or Atlantis. Their arguments preened toward establishing that if i call English mythical, then so are Sanskrit or Malayalam or any Germanic languages. Which is a fair point because language evolve exactly the way we do. Words change. Tones change. Pronunciations change. The whole vocabulary changes with time. But that's the thing about a majority of languages that undergo this process. They die. Unlike English. Hence, here are some questions worth pondering over: does English really exist anymore in its essence? Or is it a fiction that is wholeheartedly accepted across the world be it the Nordic nations or the Francophone ones? Doesn't this acceptance validate the greatest empire—British—of all time? If no, would you claim to understand the "English" Chaucer wrote in? Or for that matter, Shakespeare (or Marlowe, whoever that was!)? English, as we know today, is not what it was barely 400 years ago. Can you say the same for languages like Arabic or Tulu? From what we know, if you are to time travel to England a few centuries back, you won't understand a word on the street. No, no, not because of the accent (which is true for the present day as well; you can't understand shite when Cockneys are speaking) but because of the syntax. The very structure of the words used were enormously different back then. If you called someone nice, they'll trash you because there was a point in history when that word meant an idiot. And if you called that person a bully for trashing you, he'll trash you again because bully was once the equivalent of today's bae. People would blankly blink at your "What's up?" expression. A different language altogether perhaps. Too many influences perhaps. Recently, a Tamil word 'aiyoh' made it to the Oxford Dictionary. It's certainly not the first south Indian to have the honour, nor would it be the last. That's how integral the English language is—or should we assume, has always been. There are myriad words with Latin and Greek roots. So much so, more than 80% of the English words today have something to do with French; either in its formation or its pronunciation. At the same time, then are lots of words with non-European roots as well. What does that tell you? I believe it shows us (more than just telling us) the immense power of a language. A tongue that refuses to stagnate or wither away. It's growing like a myth that keeps changing its mythology every passing generation. Which is why you pick up the phone and say 'hello' without bothering to know its origin or say OK without bothering to know that it doesn't really have an origin.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Leopard print

We were regaled by several stories about leopards. The hills were known for tigers once upon a time. The British did a pretty good job in ensuring that that ain't the case anymore. Today, you'll only hear tales of leopards spotted—no pun intended—every now and then. The Kumaoni hills are enticing for different reasons. Its legends about the four-legged predator is one of them. The leopards don't generally attack two-legged ones the way tigers used to, mainly because they get their fill from stealing cattle, poultry and dogs (in some some cases). If you're lucky, you'll see them sitting on the side of the curvy road not giving a fly about your presence. If you're REALLY lucky, you'll get to click a picture. In my case, my (bad) luck remained consistent. But to my credit, i woke up to the view on the right side. My slipper had a print that would make you wonder whether a leopard was sitting outside our tent but you know it didn't.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Ride and prejudice

PR is everything nowadays. Hardly anybody cares about the truth anymore. You neither have the time nor the patience required for it. Which is why you rely on labels. You jump to conclusions. You don't want to read fat books but would call someone fat without even knowing the person. Labels. We've come a long way from Stone Age (which was actually Wood Age because our ancestors did more kaarigari with wooden objects compared to stone) to Label Age. We throw words at others without giving them the benefit of doubt. The same benefit of doubt that we easily give ourselves or the ones we like. For instance, there has always been a growing resentment against Dilliwallahs for being too flashy about their wealth. This is a perfect case of blanket banality because we don't know for sure whether a majority of the residents are like that. Yet, we tend to smear the entire city with one stroke of prejudice. When i was in Mumbai, i used to hear a lot of incidents where young women don't offer their seats to the elder ones; which isn't the case in the general (there's no gents compartment) dabba. More often than not, you'll see young men giving up their seats for the older guys. Again, how are we supposed to declare a broadband judgement without an empirical data to support our bias?

PS. On our way to Anand Vihar (Delhi), my wife offered her seat to an older lady. She gracefully declined the offer before inquisitively commenting to her husband standing next to her: "She can't be from here?"

Three days, two nights

Terrible roads. Steep trails. Dangerous curves. Awesome topview. Foggy mornings. Gentle people. Shy personalities. Good souls. Bulbuls everywhere. Long-tailed beauties. Exotic birds. Breathless moments. Strong tea. Stronger coffee. Comfy tent. Less privacy. Sturdy bed. Warm quilt (daytime). Damp quilt (nighttime). Butterfly museum. Enlightening af. Huge spiders. Overfriendly dogs. Bushy tails. Leopard stories. Legendary tales. 90s songs. Firecrackers galore. Echoing hills. Crowded market. Fresh produce. Sattal lake. Freezing water. Kayaking stunt. Finger injury. Anthropological spiel. Understanding wife. Authentic food. Upward climb. Downward walk. Plastic alert. Grapefruit trees. Cucumber plants. Short day. Long night. Clear sky. Shooting stars. Bright constellations. Guitar guy. Singing lady. Bonfire throughout.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Have you noticed the decline in crows and sparrows around you? If you haven't, don't read any further. They used to make so much noise not so long ago. Not anymore. Most of them seem to be on their way out of the city. This place of ours that we take pride in calling urban is getting unlivable for a reason. Yes, we can blame the pollution for this trend but we shouldn't forget that the real pollution begins with our mind. We overlook the basic tenets of life and end up endangering the nature as we've been doing for ages now. There is hardly anything out of the textbook here. We harm our surrounding by taking it for granted but in truth, we are taking our grandchildren for granted. They are going to inhabit this planet and the question is, do we want them to wake up to chirpy noise made by birds arguing who has better feathers? I used to wake up to these birds every single morning when i stayed in Bombay (followed by New-Bombay) mainly because my amma would feed them at the window. Yes, both the crows as well as the sparrows. But as of today, their frequency of visits has gone down drastically. They seldom show up in the morning. At this rate, we'll be left with those assholes called pigeons who shit on us for being like them.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Right people

It doesn't matter how talented you are if you don't know the right people. There is not a soul out there that could, at any given point of time, claim that they made it on their own. It's humanly impossible. By birth, we depend on others for everything. We only manage to do one thing for ourselves: stay hungry for more. And as time passes by, we learn how to depend on the right people. If you are a brilliant writer but don't have access to an equally brilliant editor/publisher, then your work won't reach the pedestal it merited. More often than not, the greatness of an individual can be measured by what s/he managed to achieve despite the obstacles. But what's usually overlooked is the pattern that these achievements are often goaded by people we never get to see, let alone admired. These are the hawkeyes who spot things before others do. They are the stepping stones of progress. For instance, in the world of entertainment, they are the agents who help make an actor a star and a footballer an asset. These are the "right people" i'm talking about here. Their greatness lies in having the vision to see through a talent. They make you what others call promising. Without them, there'd be no Brad Pitt or Cristiano Ronaldo. Without them, you wouldn't know the difference between the right place and the right time and how to miss neither. Without them, you wouldn't even know your real worth. Without them, you wouldn't know where to expect a nod or a wink from. Without them, you'd miss out on important handshakes, air kisses, hugs, fake laughs and selfies.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The birth of homesickness

If you're asked which is the greatest revolution of all time and you don't reply "That's an easy one. Agricultural Revolution," i'll judge you. Not for your answer—whatever that is, from Industrial Revolution to French Revolution to Russian Revolution to Digital Revolution—but for the grave injustice of misinformation. It'd be like missing the field for a grain. Agricultural Revolution (that happened 12000 years ago) is the reason we are where we are today as a world. Before our ancestors found out the reason to settle down, they were hunters who constantly moved from one place to another. It was the charm of agriculture that sowed the seeds of civilization. If not, we'd still be moving around like a lot of non-agriculturist tribes still do. Although i don't see anything wrong with that, it's worth imagining how our planet would have looked like if our foremothers refused to reside by the rivers. Movement was always there but still, agriculture helped us multiply faster in one particular location bestowing on us a sense of identity and belonging. The hunters were the restless souls who discovered the dark/cold unknown (read: Americas and Australia) so everything took place for a bigger plan—well? Those who wanted to settle settled while those who desired to travel traveled. Whatever be the end result, i strongly feel that we weren't meant to have a monogamous relationship with a place. But then, Agricultural Revolution ensured that we stick to one place for the sake of food and security. Maybe that's why we find it so hard to move on.

Monday, October 24, 2016

To err is error

I get a lot of flak for not pronouncing some Hindi words properly. My h-sound sucks—literally and figuratively. I can't take a stand between khoon and koon or todha or thoda, just like a girl named Alka might get called Halka by me. It's terrible but i'm working on it. To make matters worse, this disorder has seeped into my English as well. I've noticed, on several occasions, my h-sound goes out of the whindow. These are the reasons i prefer to stay quiet when humans gather around me. It's a mental block and forces me to stick to talking to people in private. Which is strange when i openly nurse my ambition of becoming a professor someday soon!

Anyway, i went to hospital this afternoon to get my flat-mate diagnosed. He's not feeling well. I noticed three posters there and couldn't help clicking them. All three of them had copy errors. For someone who writes for a living, it's a given to point out mistakes in others' work, particularly when there's no need to say it out loud! (If that wasn't the case, i'd humbly shut up and look somewhere else.)
OK, let's start from the left. The first poster's first word itself is flawed. It should be INHEN/INHEIN instead of INHE and ZARURAT/ZAROORAT instead of JARURAT. The second poster's first word is flawed again. It should be FOREN/FAURAN instead of PHOREN. Phoren is a corrupted derivative of foreign and means the same in the Indian subcontinent. This is actually ironic when you consider the fact that the poster is inadvertently suggesting the idea of a treatment in a foreign country! The third poster is a masterpiece in bad copywriting. It should be HAIN instead of HAI and the subtext is full of syntax errors. There's an apostrophe after YES instead of a comma and the sentence ends with two full stops. 

I'll stop here at once.


I must admit (given the rising number of baby pics i've posted on Instagram recently) that i'm kind of obsessed with my niece. She is like the most adorable thing out there. I think we can say that for any lil' kid as long as they aren't yelling at you. Ahalya is a bit different in the sense that she is immensely curious and very prone to breaking into magnetic smiles. She turned 8 months last week and i can only wish health—happiness can arrive on its own terms—to this tiny bundle of joy. Lastly, doesn't she look like an orangutan in the above picture? 
PS. I wrote the entire paragraph so that i can get away with that last sentence. Also, imagine a song called Orange by Coldplay.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Touched by shame?

We need to talk more about masturbation. It needs to be brought out of the darkness it currently resides in, all thanks to lousy jokes we crack and warm ignorance we carry. There is no denial that we need to be more open about the facts of life but one of the main reasons why dispensation of knowledge continues to hit the roadblock is we STILL aren't comfortable talking about masturbation. Even those who advocate the significance of sex education somehow cringe when it comes to this touchy topic—no fun intended. Until and unless we don't reach a consensus on the basic facts of life which dictates that you are going to feel things in the netherworld with your hands sooner or later, we are not getting anywhere close to wrapping our heads around decency. What separates us from other living beings is our garment; nothing more, nothing less. That's all. They feel hungry. We do too. They conserve fear. We do too. They are all about survival. So are we. They touch themselves (yup, there are recorded instances of several species that wank off). We do too. They fuck. We fuck around the subject. And that's the problem. But not everything is gloomy to be fair. It's 2016 and we are finally coming to terms with  loads of issues we used to sweep under the rug. Stuff like mental health, climate change, etc. Honest words can do wonder. They come out of you but make you embrace yourself. The more we push them back, the longer we bask in unnecessary guilt. The very purpose of being human is seeking the truth, isn't it? If we only choose to remain in the closet of shame, aren't we fingering evolution by hiding from ourselves? Just asking.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Why give up on love?

Dogs and humans have been together for over 15000 years now. It's been a long, heartwarming, symbiotic and enriching alliance. It's also something that will continue for aeons. If one goes through the nitpicking, there is no denying that we got a better deal out of this relationship. They teach us a lot of things about ourselves more than anything else but to me, the one aspect that stands out is their undying faith. They simply refuse to give up on you. You might be the sanest person in the world. You might be the cruelest person in the world. You might be the funniest person in the world. You might be the ugliest person in the world. You might be the nicest person in the world. You might be the most gorgeous person in the world. You might be anything anywhere anyhow. Your dog doesn't give a shit about that bit. To them, what matters is you and your presence. How or what you are with the world outside doesn't come under their purview. They love you unconditionally and thanks to which, they don't abandon you no matter what happens. However, you might do the same to them someday, like so many people continue to do by leaving their aged dogs in their street to fend for themselves. And if that doesn't shock you, you should listen to the excuses humans come up with: "Oh, he was little and cute in the beginning but then he started to grow..." Yes, as if they were supposed to stay puppies throughout their lives? Morons! There's no compulsion on adopting (yes, adopting is the word, breeding does unimaginably serious damage to their kind) a dog simply because you assume it to be a matter of status symbol. Believe it or not, it's not. If you can't raise another living being, don't get involved. Plain and simple. I sincerely wish this wretched world goes to the dogs—finally. Humans, for the most part, are painfully hopeless.

PS. Continuing with the tradition of unsolicited movie reccos, do watch The Rover (2014)—if you haven't already—to understand a bit more about selfless love.