Monthly Archives: January 2016

caste_system

Why don’t we talk about Caste?

 

Why don’t we talk about caste?

As a nation, as we get together to discuss issues that perturb us, how do we manage to skip out this system that has existed in our civilisation forever?

A system that imprints itself on your name, your title, your identity, your family. A tag that you carry down the tunnels of time, generation to generation, never able to break free from?

Why doesn’t news of a Dalit’s hands being cut off, or being stripped and paraded naked, or beaten up for reaching out to their basic rights, anger us? Why don’t we speak about a system that has crept into our mainstream – into our marriages and proposals, into our websites and matrimonials?

Why don’t we talk about Caste when we mock Islamic countries for their rigid rules? Why doesn’t Caste seem as appalling to us as a 10 year old boy in Syria forced to behead another man? Why doesn’t it shock us that our parents still adhere and abide by a tradition that existed even before the idea of India was born?

But hey, there are cool parents, yours and mine. We dare not think about such things. Let’s discuss the weather, may be?

 

Why don’t we talk about caste with the same anger and furore as we discuss a Gangrape?

I mean, look at the word – GANGRAPE.

Look at all that it carries with it – a bunch of lecherous men feasting upon a crying girl, tearing her flesh. Look at the word – strutting around and demanding our attention like a tramp.

And then look at this word – CASTE.

It signifies nothing. An old, dusted discussion, fleeting memories of that Amar Chitra Katha comic of BR Ambedkar, and how ‘millions’ of Indians were relieved from thousands of years of misery. The word is an old cow, loitering about in the wild till it dies an insignificant, lonely death.

 

Why don’t we talk about caste when it blatantly stares at us in every sphere of life? On our birthdays, and festivals, and weddings, and funerals. Why don’t we talk about caste in our places of worship, our temples of love and compassion?

Why are our Gods biased? 33,000 crore Gods in our nation, why do they watch stone-faced and silent, as this inhumane discrimination is openly propagated in their places of worship?

Why doesn’t it disgust us that a cruel system, whose earliest remains date back to the first script ever written in Hinduism, still exists today? A system that cruelly discriminated upon people for no fault of theirs. A system that relegated you to be a cobbler or barber or sewage-cleaner, year after year, generation after generation?

Why don’t we talk about Caste?

 

*

 

We don’t talk about caste because it’s not cool, yo!

It embarrasses us. Like a stain of menstrual blood on a pure white, silk saree, Caste is a blot on our glorious past as the beacon of the world.

We don’t talk about caste because it doesn’t exist in the world we grow up in. It never did.

Raj and Simran never discussed their caste. Neither did Prem, or Amar, Akbar, Anthony before him. Caste doesn’t go with our idea of modern India.

The one we see in PPTs and news briefs. How do you place that dark elephant of an issue on sparkling flyovers? It doesn’t look good on spotless roads or among fair, shiny kids in blazers smiling in front of their colleges. It doesn’t fit in, bro.

We don’t talk about Caste because it’s not really a serious problem. Nope. Serious problems are Illiteracy, Unemployment, and Gender Sensitivity. Yup, we’re talking about Gender Sensitivity now, but it doesn’t shock us that 80% of the country is divided into four imaginary divisions that began thousands of years ago.

 

We don’t talk about Caste because we don’t believe in the ‘Ugly, cruel caste system’ that we learnt about in Social Studies. We follow a cleaner version of the Caste System.

We don’t beat up Dalits. But we’ll eat and breed among our own kind. We will look for matches within our incestuous little group and find a ‘match’ for our children. We follow the ‘good caste system’. The harmless butterfly version of the ugly black snake that exists out there, in the wilderness somewhere.

 

We don’t talk about Caste because our parents never questioned it. And on never questions one’s parents’ beliefs in anything. Cos bro, Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava, yo!

Also, look at India today. We have left all that shit behind, brother. We are marching forward towards progress and growth and glossy cars and shiny roads. Why bring up something from so far back? Do you know that Mark Zuckerberg wears the same kind of T-shirts every day? Ha, thought so!

 

We don’t talk about Caste because we have never questioned our beliefs.

We will invest our money in hedge-funds and manage our accounts on our smartphones, and yet, we will invite a Pundit and Pujari to do our poojas. Because you see, God is Almighty and All-knowing and All-powerful, but he has a little soft corner for people who were born in a certain caste only.

We know all the prayers, they’re a click away on our glitzy smartphones. But we will pay this man to sit shirtless in front of us and chant them out, because God likes them prayers when they come off his lips. Of course, he’s God. But we all have our weaknesses, and Brahmins are God’s weakness. God is trying to wean off the habit, but it’ll take some time.

 

We don’t talk about Caste because it embarrasses us.

Like the uncle who touches a 12 year old girl between her thighs one summer afternoon, and then meets her ten years later at a family function, we are filled with dread and guilt. We don’t want to talk about it.

I’m not going to talk about it.

And I know you aren’t, either.

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Robokutty

Chapter 1

Friday was Reverend John Kottapally’s least favourite day of the week.

It got dark by the time Reverend John returned home after the Friday special prayers at the Church. The road to his home wasn’t a proper road; merely a path forged by decades of bicycles passing through the wilderness.

Along the path were two shacks, frequented by drunkards who drank, sang songs and made merry through the night. If he didn’t get to the other side by 8, he’d have to hitch a ride from one of the drunkards. The previous Friday, they had crashed into a tree, and Reverend John Kottapally had had to limp back to his house.

Which would probably explain why his walk was brisk and hurried that particular Friday. That was when he heard the cries for the first time.

Low, muffled squeals, whimpers hidden between the tall, wild grass. Reverend John Kottapally stopped in his tracks, and bent down to inspect the source of the sound.

It was a small puppy – white and frail – its bony body accompanied by eyes half filled with fear and hope. The first thought that struck Reverend was that the poor thing needed a place to stay. The second thought was how his wife would react.

 

Fridays weren’t Sunitha Kottapally’s favourite day of the week either.

She had to wake up in the morning and set out to the vegetable market, as meat wasn’t an option on Fridays. It was also the day when their daughter Asha’s school was open for ‘half-day’. Asha brought her friends home and the little devils ran around the garden, digging up the mud to hide their treasures.

And when her husband was late from the Church, Sunitha spent an anxious hour walking from one end of the house to the other. Sunitha looked at the clock – 9.05 – and continued pacing around the house, the prayer beads in her fingers spinning furiously.

Sunitha Kottapally wasn’t very happy when she found her husband at the door, wet to the bones, a dirty puppy in his hands.

‘WHAT.IS.THAT.THING?’

Reverend John Kottapally had learnt very early in marriage that one needs to keep calm in tumultuous situations. He stayed at the door as Sunitha handed him a towel. ‘Don’t you wipe that thing with it,’ she hushed, and pointed at Asha, who lay sprawled on the sofa, the colours of the television flashing on her face.

This was how Asha went to sleep these days, watching cartoons till she dozed off. They had tried to wean her off the habit, but it had meant two hours a day of storytelling, so they let her be. As Reverend John Kottapally bent to put the puppy down, it let out a squeal, and Asha woke up and turned towards him.

The next few seconds were a flurry of blurry movements. Asha ran to the door, snatched the puppy from his hands, and ran into the room, spinning round and round while holding the petrified puppy up in the air, screaming ‘PUPPY PUPPY’ over and over again.

Sunitha Kottapally stared in horror, urging Asha to let go of the dirty little thing, causing her to spin faster and louder. ‘Put it down!’, she screamed, her words falling on four deaf ears. The puppy’s legs were sprawled out in the air, its ears flapping about, as it looked at him for rescue.

Reverend John Kottapally took off his coat and shook the water off his hair. He had learnt to keep calm in tumultuous situations.

*

Sunitha Kottapally woke up at five, like every other day. The days of the week meant little to her, as she went about tying her hair in a bun, and glancing through the newspaper. It was still dark, and Asha and John were still asleep in their beds. Sunitha walked to the kitchen, when a squeal brought back memories of the previous night.

She ran to the backyard, only to find the puppy wagging his tail and jumping up and down. The memories of last night swam back to her – Asha howling when she was told that the puppy would have to leave, John trying to cajole the two of them into an agreement, and Asha wailing her eyes out till she fell asleep.

Sunitha walked up to get a closer look at the puppy. As the first rays of the sun hit their house, she noticed two scars on the puppy’s stomach, and a few ticks on its body. Sunitha stretched her hand out, and the puppy sprang towards her and licked her fingers. Sunitha broke into a smile despite herself, and stood up to look for the broom.

As she swept the courtyard, thoughts began flurrying about in her head.

Keeping the dog was out of question. Their neighbours used to own a Pomeranian, and she remembered them constantly cribbing about the expenses involved – vaccinations, food, medicines. This year had been particularly difficult for them, and there was no way she would allow an additional expense on their frazzled balance sheet.

But there was Asha. She had become increasingly obstinate in the last few years, something Sunitha had been warning John about. Just the previous month, she had asked for a bicycle, and refused to eat her school lunch till she got one. One of Asha’s friends owned a dog, and it had been the topic of discussion at home for a week. There was no point talking to John about it, as he generally succumbed to whichever party applied more pressure.

And just like that, the little puppy became a part of Reverend John Kottapally’s home.

They did not sit down and talk about it. It happened rather suddenly, when Asha woke up that morning, walked up to the backyard, picked up the puppy and brought it to her room. Reverend John was reading his newspaper and looked up to see his wife’s reaction – she was glaring at him with a foregone expression.

When Asha’s friends visited her that evening, they bathed the puppy in the garden and tied a red bow around his neck. When they ran into the kitchen to inquire if there were any old clothes for the puppy, Sunitha shooed them away.

The next few days were spent in deciding a name for the puppy.

Reverend John Kottapally had no role to play in the process whatsoever. But Sunitha and Asha took up the task upon themselves. Options were thrown around – Rocky, Tiger, Daisy, and Roxy – but Asha would have none of it. She held her hands between her knees and sulked the entire time.

Sunitha nudged Reverend John to come up with a few names, and he looked up to find tears welling up in Asha’s eyes. ‘Kutty’, he said, putting the paper aside, ‘let’s name him Kutty’.

Asha beamed with joy, picked up the puppy, and ran out of the room screaming ‘Kutty, Kutty, Kuttikutty Kutty!’

 

*

In the next few weeks, Kutty had the entire household on their toes.

The little white devil would wake up before anybody else, and tug at Reverend John’s lungi, waking him up. He would then dance down to Sunitha’s bed and lick her face, only to be flung several feet away. A whimper, followed by a sprint to Asha’s bed, and the two of them would be at each other’s neck, laughing and screaming.

Reverend John Kottapally bought a shiny red collar for Kutty, and he had begun taking morning walks along with Sunitha and Asha. The three of them walked along the empty roads towards the park, as Kutty took turns running between their legs.

Sunitha grumbled about the time lost everyday, and gradually pulled out of the morning routine, which meant Reverend John Kottapally and Asha took Kutty out for a walk every morning. While the waking up was difficult, Reverend John Kottapally found that the rest of his day was spent joyfully.

After school, Asha’s friends came over to play in the garden, and ended up tying bows of various colours between Kutty’s ears. They would then continue playing ‘House-House’, where one of them (mostly the littlest kid) was a prince and Kutty the royal horse.

In a few weeks, Kutty had grown significantly. His belly had swollen thanks mostly due to the milk-rice he was fed twice a day, and the leftover bones and fish that Sunitha fed him after every meal. Those who woke up early looked at the man, his daughter and the little puppy, and they smiled and waved at them.

‘That’s a fine dog you have there, Reverend’ Mr. Srinivasan from AG Colony remarked to him one day. ‘It’s a Rajapalayam’. Asha looked up on the breed and they discovered that Rajapalayam was a special breed of dogs that were used by kings to guard their palaces and granaries.

Three months since the Kottapallys adopted him, Kutty had nearly grown to his full size. His legs shaped out long and strong, and his ears stood up majestically when he lifted his head and turned around. When he would try to get in between Reverend John Kottapally’s legs during the morning walk, he would kick him slightly, following which he would tug at Asha’s frock.

It was around that time that Reverend John Kottapally noticed something peculiar about Kutty. On some days, he would stop, turn to look at a morning walker, and growl. The first time he did it, Asha froze in her tracks. Kutty drew his teeth out, frothing at the mouth, and let out a fierce growl. It was only when Reverend John held him by the neck and pulled him away did he go back to wagging his tail and jumping about.

 

*

 

Chapter 2

As the days passed by, this streak of Kutty got more and more common. The milk delivery man for example, was at the receiving end of one such incident. He had opened the gate and walked to the door, when Kutty came running and pounced on him, tearing off a sizeable portion of his shirt. The man’s painful howls were carried over the entire row of houses, and Kutty’s reputation as a dangerous dog spread across the lane.

Kutty’s second victim was one of Asha’s friends – a pesky little girl named Deepthi. Deepthi was a frail, bespectacled girl who spoke for three people at once. She was adjusting Kutty’s collar one evening, when Kutty growled. The others ran away but Deepthi was stuck to the ground, frozen in fear. Kutty gnarled at her and circled her slowly, frothing at the mouth.

Everybody else stood frozen, till Asha came running and called out to Kutty, who turned to her, let out his tongue and ran, his tail wagging frantically. It wasn’t a shock when only two of them turned up the at Asha’s place after school the next day.

Sunitha had complained to Reverend John Kottapally about Kutty, but he had paid it no heed. ‘It’s a child ma. In dog years, it’s perhaps the same age as Asha’. Sunitha dropped the matter, but made a mental note to bring it up again that weekend. Asha had stopped playing at their house, choosing instead to go to another of her friend’s house. Asha explained that her friend had lots of books, what she meant was that she didn’t own a psychotic dog.

The final nail in the coffin was sealed in on a Wednesday morning. Asha was gulping down her food on the floor before leaving for school. When the auto-driver honked outside their gate, Asha stood up and ran. Kutty howled and followed her across the gate and began barking at the auto-driver.

Asha screamed at Kutty to return to the house, but he was a dog possessed. He sprang up and down, barking, howling, and charging at the auto-driver. He sped away, only to be chased for a mile by Kutty. Asha revealed to Reverend John Kottapally that her friends had begun crying on the way to school. When Asha had returned that evening, Kutty stood waiting at the gate, and jumped up to lick her face. Asha dropped down on her knees and began crying.

Reverend John Kottapally heard out the two sides and finally went with his wife’s suggestion. Kutty would be chained to the backyard, set free only for walks once in the morning and evening. He would be kept away from the postman, milkman, and newspaper delivery guy. When he dragged Kutty to the backyard, it stubbornly sat on the floor and howled painfully. Asha, whose temperament had become rather fragile, began to sob and cry. Sunitha Kottapally rolled her eyes, shot a silent prayer to the heavens, and went back to the kitchen.

What made the decision tougher for Reverend John Kottapally was the fact that Kutty had never misbehaved with him around. In fact, he had begun buying a small packet of biscuits for Kutty everyday, and as he sat on the plastic chair in the backyard, Kutty would walk up to him and sit in between his legs, just like when he was a puppy. The two of them sat in silence and watched the sun set, and Reverend Kottapally patted Kutty on the head and left into the house.

But Sunitha’s complaints had gotten louder. When she went to dry clothes in the backyard, she complained of Kutty growling at her. ‘He’s different when you’re around. I cannot even go near him in your absence, I swear!’ But Reverend John Kottapally did nothing about it. On the days that he returned from the Church early, he would spend five minutes with Kutty and then get back into the house.

 

*

 

Before he knew it, a year had passed.

Asha was now in Class 7, and the Kottapallys were debating the pros and cons of admitting her in the Convent school at Madurai. ‘How will she manage her food? You know how fussy she is’, Reverend John Kottapally tried to reason, but his wife Sunitha would have none of it.

Asha left for the hostel in the third week of July. As she wiped her tears and refused to pick up her bag, she heard Kutty let out a pitiful howl. Asha ran to the backyard and hugged Kutty so tightly, he had to fight off her grasp. He in turn licked her face all over, and the belt looked like it might snap from the pressure he was applying to break it.

As Asha boarded the auto, Sunitha Kottapally’s thoughts went to the backyard. She had been afraid to admit it to John, but the presence of the dog had begun putting her at discomfort. When she would go to collect the drying clothes, or to remove the pickle that had been set out to dry, Kutty would growl at her.

But it wasn’t the growl that disturbed her – it was the look on his face. His eyes seemed to get red shot, and his jaws opened up into a leering smile. She had mentioned it to John on a number of occasions, and he would nod and turn the other way.

Sunitha had heard that dogs are closest to the women of the house, as that’s where their food comes from. However, all of Sunitha’s attempts had failed miserably. She would leave aside the bones every day, but all she got was the terrifying growl. She had bought a packet of Pedigree by breaking into her savings, but that didn’t seem to break the ice between her and Kutty in any way.

It happened one day as John returned from his morning walk. John was vehemently against the idea of tying Kutty to a leash, but had to do it on Sunitha’s insistence. On that particular day, when John got back home and closed the gate, Kutty shot out of his grasp and came running into the house. Sunitha, who was in the kitchen, heard her barking and dropped the vessel she was holding in her hands. Hot water splashed all over, some of it landing on Kutty.

Kutty let out a howl and charged at Sunitha. Reverend John darted into the room, only to find Kutty towering over Sunitha, who lay sprawled on the floor. Kutty had her arm in his mouth, tugging away at it furiously as a thin stream of blood began to get thicker. John ran towards her and tried to shake Kutty away, but his grip got tighter.

John screamed and hit Kutty, but the stream of blood got thicker as Sunitha’s wails grew louder. Finally, John found a rolling pin and brought it down hard on Kutty, who turned to him, let out a painful moan and whimpered out of the room.

Sunitha lay on the floor, shell-shocked. Her eyes were glazed, her body still, her expression blank.

 

*

 

Chapter 3

 

The decision had been made. Kutty was to be given away.

Reverend John Kottapally had tried to avoid it. He had asked people around him if they wanted to adopt a dog. He got three positive responses. The first man left from the gate itself when he heard Kutty’s bark. The second man luckily found Kutty in a good mood. He patted him a few times on his head, as Kutty put on his best behavior and licked his hand. ‘He’s very healthy. But my daughter doesn’t want a stray breed,’ he said apologetically. ‘He’s not a stray dog. He’s a Rajapalayam’, Reverend John corrected him, but there is very little fathers can do when faced with the choices of their daughters.

The third man had walked up to Kutty gingerly, only to retrace his steps when he heard Kutty’s growl. The milkman, postman, and newspaper delivery had complained to John about the dog. Saleswomen who took old clothes in return for utensils cursed him as they ran out of the gate. There was no other way. Kutty had to be abandoned.

‘But what will Asha say?’, Sunitha asked meekly, only to be dismissed by Reverend John Kottapally. The plan was to drop Kutty in a deserted area in Ayyanarkulam. The postman had suggested a spot where another couple he knew had left their dog.  ‘It’s a very deserted place. We will have to take him in a car. I know this Omni Ambulance driver, I’ll contact him for you’. Reverend John was surprised by the postman’s enthusiasm in the matter, but he didn’t blame him. He seemed shaken from the time Kutty had bitten away a few inches of his arm.

The plan was in place – September 13th was a Tuesday, and the driver would arrive at the gate by 10. Reverend John would wrap up his work in the Church early, and along with the postman, they’d cross the Vaigai river, and drive up along the Madurai-Dhindukkal Road for an hour, till they reached the spot.

On the specified day, Reverend John returned to his house in a foul mood. He filled up milk and biscuits in a bowl and brought it out to Kutty one last time. Kutty walked up to him and sat by his side, quietly lapping up his food. When he was done, Reverend John patted him on his head one last time, and brought the leash out. Kutty assumed they were going for a walk and began wagging his tail frantically.

When they reached the gate, Kutty sensed something was wrong. The driver had left the door of the Omni van open, ready to slide it shut once the animal was inside. But Kutty would have none of it. He pulled at the leash, barked and flashed his teeth and everybody around. Sunitha, who was watching from the house, had her rosary in her hands, praying to God.

The gate was yanked open, and Reverend John Kottapally pulled Kutty towards the van. When it refused to budge, he tried to push it in, only for Kutty to emit a low, spine-chilling growl. Reverend John held on to the leash frantically, when all of a sudden, the postman came running from the back, lifted Kutty by his hind legs and threw him into the van.

Kutty gave out a loud yelp, and was shooting out of the van, when the postman slammed it shut. A huge yelp escaped the van, as the door slammed off Kutty’s face. Kutty continued howling, as the postman shut the door of the van.

Reverend John remained on the floor, shaking.

 

*

 

The ride to the spot was the most painful journey Reverend John Kottapally had embarked on.

Kutty alternated between howling and yelping, as Reverend John Kottapally avoided turning back. When he caught a few glances in the rearview mirror, he found that Kutty’s snout was bleeding, bright streaks of red across its white fur.

The postman tried to break the silence by offering his expert advice. ‘I have seen Alsatians and Dobermans, but never a stray dog so violent’. ‘He’s not a stray dog, he’s a Rajapalayam’, Reverend John Kottapally corrected him. The postman refrained from further pointers, and the three of them sat in silence.

They reached the spot in about an hour, as the Postman signaled to the driver to stop. The driver got down from the car gingerly, opened the door, and ran into the van again. Kutty continued looking at Reverend John Kottapally, his eyes pleading, his snout bleeding – but his resolve wouldn’t be shaken. They tried prodding Kutty out of the van with a stick, but it refused to move.

After spending fifteen minutes sitting in silence, the driver came upon an idea. They would leave the door open, as the driver snaked his way through the hilly road. At some point, the dog would jump out of the van himself.

They snaked their way up the hilly road, the driver maintaining a frightening speed, in the manners that ambulance drivers do. Kutty got slammed from one side to the other, as his yelps grew louder and louder. When the driver found Kutty clawing to the seat, he applied the brakes, the van screeched to a halt, and Kutty was thrown against the wall with a gentle ‘thud’.

Kutty slowly crept out of the van, limping, and turning to look at Reverend John Kottapally. Blood continued to drip from his snout, as the driver quickly turned the van around. As Reverend John Kottapally looked in the rearview mirror, he found Kutty limping towards the van, his shaky legs failing to keep pace with the van. Blood was dripping off Kutty’s snout, and Reverend John Kottapally wiped away tears as Kutty vanished from the view.

 

*

 

The next few weeks were spent in relative quiet and peace.

With Asha away in her hostel, Sunitha Kottapally spent much of her afternoons in silence – watching quiz shows on TV, or reading Readers Digest. She wasn’t sure, but John seemed quieter since Kutty had been abandoned. When they had called Asha that week, they’d told her that Kutty had been taken to the hospital for a stomach problem, and would be back soon.

Reverend John sometimes dragged his chair out to the backyard and sat alone, staring into the horizon. He refused to talk about it, but Sunitha knew John long enough to sense he missed Kutty.

 

*

 

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months.

Asha had returned home for her winter holidays in November, and the neighbours told her about Kutty. She had cried for a few hours, but forgot about it when they stepped out of the house to buy new clothes. With Kutty gone, Asha’s friends visited her again, and the house was abuzz with the sounds of girls chattering.

Christmas slipped past unannounced, and Reverend John Kottapally got even more silent as the months trudged along. Sunitha stopped asking John about it, since all she got in the form of a response was a shake of the head and a change of the topic.

As March slowly crept into their lives, the Kottapallys had to face Madurai’s heat once again. Since Asha was away at the hostel, they had begun sleeping on the terrace when there were powercuts in the night. They would lock the doors of the house, and carry their mattresses to the terrace to sleep.

Reverend John Kottapally was fast asleep, when he was jolted awake by the sounds of moans.

He looked around to find Sunitha lying on the floor a few meters away, blood gushing out of her neck. The sky crashed on Reverend John’s head, as he looked around frantically. Sunitha’s breathing was heavy, and getting slower each time, her right leg twitching, the pool of blood at her neck spreading every second.

Reverend John looked around and screamed for help, but silence had enveloped the night sky like a dark blanket. He tried to hold Sunitha’s neck up, when he saw them for the first time.

Standing on the parapet, two bloodshot red eyes, a thin, white frame, and blood dripping out of the snout. Reverend John staggered back a few steps, as Sunitha’s head hit the floor with a low thud.

‘Kutt..Kutt…’ Reverend John tried, but only empty words escaped his mouth. He held his chest and tried to stand up, when he saw the creature walk up to him. Slowly.

It was frail and skinny. There were scratches and scars all across its body, and a metal casket held its bloody snout together. Reverend John Kottapally hobbled backwards, till he reached the edge of the parapet wall.

The creature was now a few feet away from him, when it walked up to him and stood between his legs. Reverend John was shaking with fear, his hands searching for the rosary that was normally in his trouser pocket.

When he realized the rosary was missing, Reverend John fell to the floor.

The creature walked up to him, the blood from his snout fell on Reverend John’s body, drop by drop.

‘Kutty,’ a faint whisper escaped Reverend John’s lips, when he looked at the face for the first time.

Bloody teeth spread out into a wide smile, as Robokutty opened his mouth wide one last time.

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This Messenger of God apparently can’t take a fucking joke!

Unless you live under Hard Rock, you’d have seen comedian Kiku Sharda in a number of roles. He is the guy cross-dressing as Palak on Comedy Nights with Kapil, doing dim stuff like dancing to item numbers and trying to kiss male guests on the show.

It’s all unfunny and weird and fucked up, but that’s what makes the nation laugh, I guess.

I have been following Kiku Sharda since his stint at the Great Indian Comedy Show, where he teamed up with other funny men Ranvir Shorey, Vinay Pathak and Suresh Menon to great effect. I don’t personally like his drag act on Comedy Nights, but I’m nobody to comment on other’s work.

 

However, it was shocking to find out he has been arrested for offending the sensibilities of the devotees of Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan Ji. Apart from a few comedians who raised their voice, there was barely any coverage of the news.

Our galaxy of Bollywood stars – entitled coke-zombies with IQs of table spoons – who regularly jump to the defence of their pagan gods Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt, have nothing to say about the issue. Not a word. Isn’t that shocking?

Not really.

For you see, a comedian gets as much respect as a nose-picking, crack-snorting, child murderer in our country. And when we need to shut someone down, we turn to a gift that the Britishers left for us, archaic laws that they left for our lawmakers to fuck with us centuries later.

Of course no BJP leaders are going to protest in any way. Half of them – from the PM to your friendly neighbourhood Barang Dal activist who resurrects every Valentine’s Day – spend a good part of a year kissing the ass of these asshole gurus and religious leaders. Name any tainted guru, and you’ll find our beloved PM has taken a few pics, and touched their feet, and sought their blessings.

When our political leaders are ready to go down on their knees and gag themselves on these gurujis, how can you expect any serious action? Obviously archaic laws will be used whenever it seems necessary.

This is a trend that I like to refer to as the ‘Talibanisation’ of Hinduism.

These assholes who foolishly assume they are protecting our religion and culture, have taken it upon themselves to reduce 5000 years of debate and discussion in Hinduism into a murky, rigid Taliban-like interpretation.

For if they actually had the fucking brains to read any Hindu scriptures, they’d know there has existed a long culture of dissent and debate in Hinduism long before any of these assholes’ ancestors got their first hard-on.

There exist slokas and stotras where the author rebukes God for his actions, bemoans his lack of access to devotees. If you travel to the interiors of India, you’ll find indigenous interpretations of the epics, where everybody from Lord Rama to Hanuman are mocked, mimicked, and brought down to a human level. People laugh, have a good time, but they go back to their houses without getting offended.

Something that seems unimaginable in urban India today.

And who triggers this kind of shit? Politicians and their followers, mostly. Remember when Bal Thackeray passed away and a school girl was arrested for a Facebook update? Remember when Jayalalitha pressed sedition charges against a folk singer who sang songs against Her Hugeness’ antics?

It is a trend that is disturbing as hell. And as a writer-comedian who plans to earn his livelihood by making fun of people, it is extremely worrying. We have clear lines on who we can mock, and whom we can’t.

Rahul Gandhi is OK, but not Narendra Modi. It is OK to crack jokes on Gandhi, but not Shivaji. It is alright to crack jokes on Lord Shiva, but not Allah You Know Who. We draw these lines for ourselves and happily frolic about inside them, thinking of ourselves as cool, liberated, open-minded people.

 

*

And honestly, who are we talking about here?

Baba Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan has been embroiled in controversy for decades now. The man has not one, but three charges of rape and sexual exploitation in his name. He has been accused of forcibly castrating about 400 men in his town of Sirsa, and also for the torture of devotees who dared to speak up against His Assholiness Sri Sri Gurmeet Singh Sahib Insan Ji.

And seriously, the guy was born so that comedians could write jokes. Have you seen the guy?

10848780_10152674143846977_3578961904789828491_o

He is walking-talking material for comedians. If humorists suffer from Joke Menopause, you can show them Babaji’s videos, they’ll walk out of the room with a complete 1 hour set.

The most common argument in support of these asshole Babas is – ‘Have you seen the number of social movements he is running? He has X number of schools and Y number of hospitals?’

So what, you dimwits?

Don’t you get it? That’s the modus operandi. Unless you build hospitals and schools, people aren’t going to flock to you. How else are you going to dress up like Santa Claus on Cocaine and sing asinine songs like ‘You Are My Love Charger’?

Engaging in social activities gives you no right to trample over people’s rights and expressions. Even the ISIS runs social movements in the areas they have captured. And we all know how benevolent those guys are. They put the ISIS in CRISIS.

*

At the end of the day, it is just going to be another episode in our nation’s bejeweled history.

We will quickly move on to other matters of national importance. Like how many nipples Katrina Kaif’s new dog has. After having traumatized the daylights out of an honest man who was earning his living, we’ll move on with our dream of being a developed, progressive nation when our Prime Minster takes another selfie with tribals in Honolulu. Because, that is the route to true development.

If this joke of a Guruji is the Messenger of God, God must be using a shitty app on a shitty phone. But then, I wonder if God has a sense of humour. Look around at the world, and you’ll know God really has issues he needs to solve.

Does God have a sense of humour?

I doubt it. From where I’m standing, he seems like an insecure dude to me.

It’s time I had a word with God. I’ll probably ping him on Messenger…of God.

***

Light It

Sunday Short Story: Light It!

 

Harish had reached LCP an hour before the scheduled time.

LCP – short for Large Cement Pipe – stood a few metres from the National Highway that led to Fuladi. Below the pipe, the summer remains of a stream flowed under an old bridge.

Light It

The cement pipe was long and thick. Thick enough for three people to lie down, head to toe, along its length. Long enough for ten, if they lay down across the pipe’s width. Every week, Harish met Venu met a few times at this spot. They didn’t do much – just sat and smoked and spoke.

As Harish blew off the dust and sat himself on the pipe, he wondered how he could classify Venu. They had met through a common friend and discovered that they shared a common passion – pot.

Which led to their meets on the cement pipe, a few times a week. They did not behave like teenagers – going on about how awesome it was to smoke pot. Nor were they hippies – cribbing about the evils of capitalism and talking about world peace.

Their evenings were spent in sitting on the pipe and smoking a few joints, after which they’d go home. Sometimes one of them would play a song on his phone, and they would listen to the song and watch the sun set. And once it got dark, one of them would ask the other what the time was, and they’d both leave.

So was Venu a friend?

It was difficult to tell. The world was constantly putting much pressure on you – the pressures of friendship. Friendship, if one were to go by books and stories, involved embarking on great journeys together. And ended with a friend giving his life for the other. It had to be an extreme, till-death-do-us-apart sort of a thing. Harish’s mind went back to a story he had been taught at school.

*

 

Once, there were two young boys – Tippul and Bapuni. Tippul was two years older than Bapuni, and the two of them went to school together. Every morning, after their mothers had scrubbed, wiped, clothed, and fed them, the two boys set off to school, carrying a tiffin box with more food. There were two roads to the school – one went through the farms, and the shorter one through a jungle.

Tippul, the elder of the two, would make Bapuni walk ahead of him. Since neither would admit how scared they were, they decided to sing songs, or talk to each other to pass time. Tippul and Bapuni would sing a few songs, or repeat what was taught to them the previous day, and walk as briskly as their little feet took them.

One day while crossing the jungle, Tippul (the elder one) asked Bapuni (the younger one) to narrate a story. ‘But I already narrated a story yesterday, it’s your turn today,’ Bapuni said, using his stick to push away shrubs and branches from his face. ‘I don’t know any more stories,’ Tippul said, ‘could you please narrate another story?’ Bapuni thought about it for a while, and decided to narrate a story he had heard from his grandmother.

“There was a woodcutter named Sudrushti. One day while chopping wood in a forest, he found a golden axe. He was so smitten by the golden axe that he stayed at home the entire day and guarded the axe. All day he sat around it, and all night he stayed awake, dreaming of the wonderful ways his life was going to change.”

“This went on for a week, till he grew tired and weak. He hadn’t gone to work, and his children kept crying because there no food at home. They wouldn’t listen when he told them of the golden axe, and all the riches it would bring them.”

“One day, when he saw his children put mud into their mouths out of hunger, Sudrushti decided that he had had enough. He walked to the king’s palace and gave him the golden axe as a gift. The king was pleased and gave him a few acres of land as reward. Sudrushti grew his own trees on that land, and went to cut wood in others’ lands. With a normal axe. His children were very happy, and he lived a long, happy life.”  “The moral of the story is that we should always be happy with what we have, instead of wanting more and more,” said Bapuni.

But Bapuni got no response from Tippul behind him. The school stood in front of him, but his friend was nowhere to be found.  Bapuni shouted for help and men who were farming nearby came running. They looked for Tippul frantically, and finally found him inside the jungle. He had been bitten by a snake, but knew his friend wouldn’t be able to make it on his own. So he asked for a story, and let his friend walk away to safety.

*

“What a dumb story!” Harish thought.

The two of them could have run, or attacked the snake with the stick. Or one could use the stick, while the other could call for help. But no, it had to be heroic, else it wouldn’t be friendship!

And spare a thought for the poor younger boy. He had to live out the rest of his life with the sorrow and guilt that his friend had died for him. That he was so clumsy that his friend preferred to die alone, rather than seek his help.

“What a dumb story,” Harish thought again, as Venu reached the spot on his bike.

*

Venu got off his orange coloured motorcycle, and joined him on the cement pipe. The sun burnt a bright orange, its final show before calling it a day. The clouds near the sun gave off an orange hue too – like someone had dropped a blob of paint on a drop of water; getting lighter and lighter by the minute.

On the highway in front of them, people were returning from work. ‘I rolled one,’ said Venu, as he pulled a joint out of his pocket. Harish put the joint to his mouth, took a matchbox and from it, a matchstick. He struck the matchstick and there was a slight flame, which quickly vanished with a sizzle.

‘There’s too much wind, let’s turn to the other side,’ Venu suggested, and the two of them slowly turned to face the other side.

Harish took another match out, struck it against the side of the box, but nothing came of that.   He took out another match, struck it, there was nothing, he flicked it twice, and threw it behind him.

Struck it, sizzle, flicked it twice, threw it behind him.

Struck it, fizzle, flicked it twice, threw it behind him.

One of the sticks showed a flame for a brief second, but vanished again.

Struck it, flicked it twice, threw it behind him.

Struck it, flicked it twice, threw it behind him.

After what seemed like an eternity, one of the sticks spat out a small flame, he brought it to his mouth, sucked on it, the orange at its tip the only light around.  Harish took a long puff and passed it to Venu, a contended smile on his face, as they sat in silence, the night slowly enveloping them.

‘What’s the time?’

‘Seven thirty.’

‘I need to go.’

‘Alright. Bye.’

 

*

 

When Harish and Venu met the following Thursday, it was pleasant outside.  There had been sporadic rains in the last few days, the stream below the pipe now had pools of water. A few cows wandered about aimlessly near the water, while dogs eyed them suspiciously from at a distance – ready to bark.

Miniature men washed clothes in the water that was flowing along slowly. Seated on the pipe, Harish and Venu watched the sun set, as crickets began their orchestra for the night. They started with a short sonnet that began slowly and ended in a crashing crescendo, and they were just warming up for the night.

Harish took the joint out of his pocket, put it to his mouth, and took out the box of matches. Venu watched, a smile on his face. Harish took out the matchbox, pulled out a match, struck it to the side of the box, flicked it twice, and threw it behind him.

Struck it, flicked it twice, threw it behind him. Struck it, flicked it twice, threw it behind him.

Slowly, Venu slipped his hand into his pocket, and pulled out a shiny object. He stretched his hand out, as Harish stopped striking matches to look at it.

‘I got it for you,’ he said, a smile on his face. ‘It’s a Zippo.’ It was made of a brownish metal, so polished that he could see the light reflecting off it. He flicked the lid open, and found a thick wick, with a knob next to it.  Harish put his thumb on the knob and pressed. There was a spark, the wick burnt a little, and ever so slowly, a flame came to life. The flame shook a little, but slowly steadied itself, burning thick and confident. A flame of orange that was the only light about in the darkness.

Harish looked at Venu, the light shining off his face, his heart warm – ‘What a nice thing to do for a friend,’ he thought.

‘So should we light it?’ asked Venu.  ‘Absolutely’. Harish brought the flame towards the tip, and sucked hard.

He then shut the lid, flicked it twice, and threw it behind him.

There was a plonk! as the lighter hit the ground, then there was silence.

Harish and Venu stared at each other.

 

***

 

 

 

Hriday Ranjan Stand up comedy

Chinese Lizards and Oriya People

Dear Reader,

Let me admit I am not a huge fan of cross-platform promotion.

I get irritated when Shah Rukh Khan uses IPL to promote his latest films. I hate it when Salman Khan goes to jail in a baniaan and then comes out and promotes Dixcy Scott.

If I were you, I’d probably get pissed off about subscribing to a blog, and having videos coming to my inbox when I didn’t ask for them. I know that if my Guru, Sri Sri Jackie Baba got a whiff of what I’m doing here, I’d incur his wrath. I understand.

But is paapi pet ke liye yeh sab karna padta hai. Kya karein?

*

So, without much ado, here’s a video of my performance at District N, Hyderabad. It’s a bar where rich people go to drink and splurge, and poor people like me try to amuse them by doing cute stuff. Like Stand Up comedy.

If you like the video, kindly do subscribe (Remember, it’s because of Sinner Stomach that I’m doing all this). If you don’t like the video, please add a comment below and inform me that you will have none of this nonsense anymore. I’ll consider it.

And upload another video next Tuesday.

Ok, brothers and sisters. Time to go now. I’ll just leave this here.

Thank you.

 

Image Source: http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/supernatural/images/1/13/Apocalypse.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130418054613

World War Z Every Morning

Hyderabad has been reeling under a water crisis for a while now. In fact, water has been a recurring problem in Telangana.

Much of the Telangana struggle pertained to water, and not as people in Andhra like to believe, because KCR is an egomaniac, or that his nose is so large, he can smell What the Rock is Cooking.

At one point, it is said that the city had over 3000 lakes, all maintained by the Nizam who had so much swag (and wealth) that he got a Rolls Royce just to sweep the roads of Hyderabad.

But since then, we have had apartment complexes springing up with ‘Lake View’ rooms, which is a polished way of saying ‘We encroached the fuck out of the lake’. The lack of urban planning has resulted in lakes going dry, stale, or senile. And we have begun to feel the pinch of our forefathers’ sins (Well not mine, technically. My forefathers were smoking beedis in Orissa and chilling out. Till the Super Cyclone came, at least!).

But as Hyderabad grapples with the water crisis, there are a few ways that common men like me have to pay the price. Like the Water Regulation rule in our hostel.

*

The University of Hyderabad (if I haven’t advertised it enough in my blogs already) is a large, sprawling campus that has three lakes within its boundaries. There are water tanks, reservoirs, and pump houses at such regular intervals that if you zoom out on Google Earth, it looks like a map on Age of Empires.

But this year, the administration decided to take matters into their own hands. Which meant they’d switch off the water in our hostels. December is Holidays’ time, so the kids – Bachelors, Masters students – have left for their homes.

Which leaves us guys – the MPhils and PhDs, the zombies of academia – loitering about the corridors searching for water every morning.

Now, my opinion of bathrooms in government hostels is no secret, really. I have written about it umpteen times, and if Swachh Bhaarat truly needs a place to begin its Phase 2, they need to look at the bathrooms in government hostels.

As it is, they are not in the best shape.

Sometimes, there is a tap running in a bathroom, like a depressed damsel in distress, crying for her lover, as the tap moans painfully, giving an aching friend a shoulder to cry on.

The mirrors are all cracked at least three places, so when you go to shave in the morning, you end up asking yourself existential questions like – ‘Who am I? What is the purpose of life?’

Some bathrooms are so old, you can still see ‘Aurangzeb loves Reshma’ etched on the walls. Some of the hostels have those olden style flushes – a large metal box hanging precariously over your head. The flush is a rusty metal chain that you never pull, for fear of having it the entire apparatus over your head.

Then there are the boilers – relics of Neanderthal man’s conquest over nature – just large, bubbling cylinders that look like props on a Mithun Chakroborty film, ready to explode any minute. There are bathroom doors that have no latches on them. Meaning you have to walk in and trust humanity to suppress its native curiosity. Or hang your towel on the door and sing songs constantly, hoping nobody pushes open the door to ask for your autograph!

*

I am an early riser.

I am up by 7 every morning. Then I check Facebook for a bit, go through the news on my phone, and set out to roll the Morning Joint.

I am a strong advocate of the Morning Joint. (Read my blog on it here). It helps you appreciate the beauty of sunrise. While others are struggling to begin their day on the right foot, you get wings to start things off.

But just when I am done, and decide to get on with life’s mundane necessities, I realise how traumatic it can be.

*

The authorities did their bit, by putting up a poster on the notice board. Like Venkatpathy Raju in the Indian cricket team, the poster is overshadowed by food delivery brochures, political pamphlets, and a notice by that guy whose jeans are missing.

Which means that at the back of your mind, you know that the water is going to run out. But you don’t smoke the Morning Joint and think about taps and water. You think about the world, and life, and how beautiful the butterfly that’s sitting on your table looks.

So I’m in for a shock every single morning.

And with me, are other co-sufferers.

There’s that one guy humming a tune because he’s stuck in the toilet without water, and he’s given up. There’s that guy with shaving foam all over his face, just banging into things and cursing like Captain Haddock.

The corridors – once bustling with conversations and music – are empty and deserted, save for a few PhD zombies with that glazed 4thYearMeinHoonWattLagRahiHai expression in their eyes.

Standing there with my mug, which has a toothbrush, soap, and shampoo, I am catapulted back to reality. I run back to my room, looking frantically for any traces of water.

Only to realise I had luxuriously poured myself a peg of Hercules Rum. I look around, and find an old Thums Up bottle, half filled with old water. I pick it up, thank Lord Shiva, and rush to the bathrooms again like a madman.

I pour off a few drops on my toothbrush, and brush my teeth slowly and carefully. On the outside, inside and chewing surface of each tooth, using short back-and-forth strokes. Using as little water as I can, I wash my mouth, and get ready to wash my face (It’s winter, I’m not going to have bath. Fuck off!).

Every morning in the last month has taught me the value of teachings I was taught in school.

Like, Boond boond se saagar banta hai.

I thought that was something Hindi teachers mumbled every few minutes as they were generally senile. But I see the point now.

I close my eyes and spread the soap on my face, rubbing gently from the inside to the outside in a circular motion, as it says in WikiHow. When I am done, I gently pat my face with a towel, and get the fuck out of there.

*

May be this is what the future of humanity is going to be.

Running around with a bottle of water, thinking fondly of the days when Sridevi seduced Amitabh Bachchan in a swimming pool. Just two people, and all that water to themselves.

May be this is how the world is going to end.

Just all of us singing Raag Malhaar in a toilet, hoping there will be some water.

I come back to the room and half the joint is still left. I sit down on the bed, and all is well with the world again.

***

(Featured Image Source)