Author Archives: Hriday Ranjan

quitting weed

Going a fortnight without smoking weed

It’s been a week since I quit weed.

I know, I know.

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Before you express displeasure or disapproval, kindly allow me to explain. There are a few reasons for my decision. I have listed them down below:

  1. I was in bed with a lady recently, and my performance reminded myself of Devang Gandhi in Australia in 1999. I have been swimming recently, and am reasonably fit, so it must have been all the smoking. Also, isn’t it funny? Smoking before sex makes you bad at it, and yet we light up a cigarette once we are done?

But wait, the reasons aren’t as shallow as lasting longer in bed.

  1.    I have been getting high EVERY SINGLE DAY for the last decade. Every single day, without any exceptions. It made me realise that my idea of reality could be distorted. My entire day revolved around scoring weed, rolling joints, smoking weed. I had positioned myself as some sort of a Baba for my friends, and I realised I was living up to my own image without bothering to question it.
  1.   I have been rather infatuated with a beautiful young woman, and would like to sort my shit out for a while so I don’t have to run away from another relationship again.

Alright, the reasons DO sound shallow, not that I think about it.

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Be that as it may, the last fortnight has been quite pleasant.

I have a habit of hyping things up, so I had to give myself a few days before typing away a blogpost on the topic. These are the major effects I found in myself since I quit smoking pot.

  1. There’s just so much time!

 

My days usually began with me looking for the rolling paper and roach, to roll myself a beautiful morning joint. After which, I spend my time pouring over the joys of the Holy Trinity – Reddit, Facebook and X-art.

Since I quit pot, there’s so much time on my hands, I do not know what to do with it all. I sometimes treat myself like a British officers in the Raj. I step out for a morning walk, have myself a cup of tea and ponder about the meaning of life!

  1.   The ability to plan my day out

I am not big on planning. I have never planned anything in life, except probably when I used to work in an STD booth during my +2, and I made sure I finished all my work before the Friday night movie on DD1.

These days, I bring out my pen (Luxor V7 Hi-Tecpoint, in case you’re curious!) and my notebook (Classmate, cheap 25 Rs.) and chalk out my plan for the day. Of course, I am unable to finish all the items on my to-do list, but it’s better than not having a to-do list at all.

  1.   Withdrawal symptoms? I have Deposit symptoms

I was told that I’d feel a number of symptoms of quitting weed after such extended periods of usage. On the contrary, I feel perfectly fine. I wake up early and do not have to wait for my asshole stand-up comedian friends to get free so I can roll them a joint. Forget withdrawal symptoms, I am showing deposit symptoms!

  1.   Calming of ‘em nerves

I used to live under the impression that smoking weed calms me down. I used to smoke joints before I went up on stage, before I started writing, and before going to bed. Since I’ve gone cold turkey (quit cigarettes too!), I feel calmer before going up on stage.

Instead of the 15 minutes I used to smoke 3 cigarettes before going up, I now calmly run through my content. If anything, I feel a sense of tranquility, a sense of surety.

 

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I don’t mean to preach at all.

I don’t believe marijuana is harmful (except the damage to the lungs, of course), and don’t mean to stop you from smoking up. In fact, I still roll joints for all my friends because of the sense of power and abstinence it gives me. Please feel free to smoke up as much weed as you want.

However, if you decide to quit, remember it’s not that difficult. Marijuana has a number of magical properties, but perhaps the most magical of them all is the complete lack of dependency on the substance itself.

So if you’re looking to quit, please do so by all means.

(Issued in public interest. If you have any issues with quitting weed/cigarettes/your job, feel free to write to Hriday at writetohriday@gmail.com! :D)

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(Featured Image courtesy: wikihow.com)

To be in love with a ‘committed’ woman

At 31, I have nearly given up on love and companionship.

While love is determined on dreamy foundations in your early 20s, as you get to your late 20s, it is about pragmatism and practicality. I have the discipline of a drunk sloth, and do not aim to ever have a job or get married.

At 31, friends do not try to link you up with their friends. Tinder is too shallow for my tastes, and going to meet somebody is too deep for me. My game is not really that of looks – you need to speak to me for a few days before even considering meeting me. Most people have that ONE bad relationship in their lives, all of my 9 relationships were disasters. And I don’t even mean flings, I mean proper relationships.

(Wow, I sound depressing!)

I spent the last one year sleeping around, but how long can a man keep doing that? Flings are great when the night is long and sinful. But once the sun has risen and you have to discuss realities like ‘How do I get back home?’ or ‘When will he be back?’, I feel terribly cheap.

And so my life was hurtling along, when I met this woman.

And thus, the saga began all over again.

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Call me soppy, but most of my relationships begin when I dream about the person (I know, I know!).  

In my dreams, I am super confident about myself, a healthy mix of Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor who can serenade and sweep off nimble feet. All the women I have dated have been stunning, and I look like the actor Harish having a bad hair day. Which means I require high levels of confidence before taking my stance.

And just when I had given up on myself, I came across this woman.

There is a distinct pattern to all the woman I had the chance to spend time with. For some reason, they all love dogs, Harry Potter and marijuana.

Talking to a woman you like for the first time is like doing acid. You pop the tab and wait for it to take effect. You smile and you grin and forget that you’re a monster deep within. The world around you opens up in beautiful, vivid colours. Your broken, jagged soul fits into the horizon like a jigsaw puzzle.

Only problem though, she has a boyfriend!

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When I meet a woman I like who’s committed, there are two paths to take. One, a completely physical, wanton ‘Wham, bam, Bol Bam’. The second, I avoid them completely.

That was the plan. The plan was to forget her and move on, try to be a better person.

But I cannot stop thinking about her. I keep checking out the timezone she is in, wondering what she might be doing at this moment. I keep checking to see if she is online, keep fighting off those dark, evil thoughts that knock on the outside of my brain.

To be in love with a woman who is committed to someone else feels like injustice. Like pain somewhere deep within that cannot be diagnosed. Like running for miles like a maniac, and discovering you’re on a treadmill.

I long for a time when we were all early men and women. When society hadn’t drawn up these lines and divisions. When the only ‘commitment’ humans had was to hunt for the deer that evening.

Of course, I could put an end to all this misery. I could ask her if she wanted to be with me, and she might probably agree. Might. But I have zero confidence in my own abilities. In my morals and ethics. What if I go back to being the lazy sloth that I am? What if I cheat on her too?

Do I have the right to uproot her from her magical life and bring her into mine, full of monsters and demons?

And so I sit here in my shallow pit and wallow in self-pity.

For being in love with a committed woman, is worse than being in love at all.

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Sachin A Billion Dreams

‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’ is two and a half hours of Tendulkar Porn!

As I stepped out to buy overpriced Coke and oversalted popcorn during the interval, I overheard a father explaining to his son—”It’s not a movie, beta. It is a documentary.”

I could empathise with the kid. Sachin: A Billion Dreams is a film that works only if you were born before 1995. The film has no hero, no antagonist, no songs or dances. In fact, the film sits more comfortably in the domain of documentaries than cinema.

If Sachin is God, his life is a mythological epic.

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The story is known to all, told and retold, written and rewritten, over and over. His childhood stories are similar to Krishna’s exploits in Vrindavan. When he looked at the skies, scoring a century after his father’s death, Indians wouldn’t be shocked if flowers came falling from the sky, reminiscent of Bheeshma’s terrible oath.

Sachin fulfils every single criterion of being an Indian adarsh baalak. Fair-skinned, immensely talented, honed by the right people, had the world eating out of his hands. But most importantly, Sachin is humble and soft-spoken. We Indians love humility and soft-spokenness—we’d prefer Harishchandra over Howard Hughes, Ratan Tata over Warren Beatty. In Sachin, kids saw what they wanted to become, and parents saw what they wanted their kids to become.

The thought often rankles me—would India have loved Sachin as much if he was flashy and proud? I doubt it. They’d wait for him to fail, and tear into him—”Told you! His success got to his head!” they’d say! But Sachin remained humble, and joined our long list of gods.

When every single detail of a man’s life is known, how do you make a film? You hire a foreigner to do it! When Indians make films on Indian cricketers, they’re either too fawning (Dhoni: The Untold Story), or mind-numbingly dumb (Azhar).

Director James Erskine uses Sachin and his wife as narrators, using home videos and wedding clips to create a personal bond. There are clips where he’s playing with his daughter, teaching her the umpire’s signals for boundary, sixer and out! This is a portrait of a man who knows nothing but cricket, being worshipped by a nation that follows nothing but cricket.

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But if you’re a cricket buff, you begin to notice the details. Take for example the Sachin of 1994-1997, when there’s swagger in his stagger—he wears Suniel Shetty glasses, a thick gold chain, and a superstar gait. The swagger quickly vanishes when he’s made the captain, and he’s the obedient adarsh baalak once more!

Like Sachin himself, India grew into a generation which likes to date before getting married. Where the wife calls him by his name, instead of silly words like “woh” and “unhein.” Like the India of today, we find out that Sachin goes through depression too.

Within an hour, you begin to feel like a part of the dressing room. You begin to feel for players like Dravid, who put in hours of blood, sweat and tears. For Shane Warne, who has graciously contributed to the legend of Sachin, in spite of being no less of a genius.

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The masterstroke though, was getting AR Rahman to create the background score. They’re not too dissimilar, Sachin and Rahman. Short, stocky, curly-haired, immensely talented, humble to a fault. Rahman’s background score is like a Rahman background score—rousing, thumping, an army of emotions charging forward. A Rahman soundtrack can make mating anteaters look graceful, so imagine the effect it has on childhood nostalgia.

By the end, as Sachin stands on a beach in shades and shorts, it feels like a trip to the planetarium. To a museum of innocence, where ugly relics of match-fixing and controversies are locked up in the attic.

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How much you enjoy Sachin: A Billion Dreams depends on when you were born. If it was before 1995, you can’t stop looking at the man who personified the nation you grew up in. If you were born after 1995, you begin to wonder about this strange obsession with this man!

The film is a heady cocktail of two of our obsessions—cinema and cricket. Now, if only Sachin would go back to the Rajya Sabha…

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This post first appeared on Huffington Post.

#SeriousQuestion: Do you know anybody in publishing?

Hi, reader!! 🙂

I know we haven’t spoken on a personal level, but I wanted to thank you for subscribing to my blog and reading it. Thank you for commenting, and sending me lovely mails of appreciation. On days when I’m sad or depressed, I open those mails and smile.

When I started this blog in 2007, it was to impress a woman. She wasn’t on Orkut, and there was no way to get through to her. Somewhere along the line, she noticed, we got talking, got into three years of a blissful relationship, and drifted apart. However, the blog has remained, a vestigial arm of a collegial relationship.

Thank you for reading my ramblings for more than a decade!!

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Why am I being so nice?

I need a little help. I have been writing books since 2014. Every year in January, I drop acid and decide to write a book. I spend the next 11 months living in a dream, discussing my book, writing it out. And then one month of rejection by most publishing houses!

Over and over, every year, for the last three years. It is a painful experience, like having a miscarriage year after year. My ego wouldn’t let me approach anybody for favours, and my temperament would lead me to the nearest bar to drown my worries.

This year though, I’ve decided not to take that path.

I’m writing a non-fiction humour book called ‘9999 in 1: Growing up in the 90s’. It’s a rickety time-machine ride back to the 90s, designed as a spoof of an NCERT Text Book. I’m really excited about it, and going to begin pitching it to publishers from the first week of June.

So if you know anybody who works in publishing, please let me know. The Indian publishing industry is a weird, warped industry that is as unstructured as the Indian porn industry, and I usually feel like a fish out of the swimming pool, finding my way in.

So if you know someone, please put in a kind word, and send me their contact. My email is unforgettably generic – writetohriday@gmail.com.

If you ever meet me, I’ll treat you to beer. If you smoke, I’ll roll you two of my finest joints. If you’re a teetotaler, we’ll sit and discuss the meaning of life. And I’ll mention you in the book’s credits.

That’s all. Thank you, and have a glorious day ahead!

– Hriday.

Wallpaper courtesy: WallpaperCave.com. 
Text: You get the idea!

I’ll be in Hufflepuff, thank you very much!

If you were in Hogwarts, which house would you be in?

I have been asked this question since 8th grade, when I first laid my hands on a Harry Potter book. Back then, it seemed like a stupid question. Gryffindor was my window to the world of Hogwarts, it was where all the action happened. Why would anybody choose any other house?

Also, I display a general abhorrence for such leading, pointed questions – Who is your favourite cricketer? Which is your favourite movie? Why the fuck do you want to know, man? And what will you do with this data? And why should I put myself through the ordeal of scanning through all my favourite films to reach an answer – only to be judged by you in the end? Adava Kedavra!!

However, like Lupin in his teaching days, I have toned myself down with age. I understand that humans come with varying levels of intelligence, and it’s not their fault that there’s MSG in Maggi noodles. As we were stubbing out some herb today, my friend asked me the same question after all these years. I did what I do when people ask me this question – I pouted, looked into the distance and nodded wisely.

This was a serious question, and needed serious introspection. But what logical peripheries are we operating within? What timelines are we looking at? Are we talking about present day Hogwarts or during the time of the books? To answer such a question, we first need to set the rules.

I gave it much consideration, and decided I would not want to be in Hogwarts in the present day. What fun would Hogwarts be without Snape and Dumbledore? And McGonagall as Headmistress? Never liked her too much!

So I first went about setting the rules. I first began reading the epics when I was 13, two years older to Neville Longbottom & Co.. So I would have to be in the same era, two years senior to the infamous batch, and present in Hogwarts while the events mentioned in the book happen around me.

In such circumstances, I would choose to be in Hupplepuff, thank you very much! Kindly find my reasons stated below!

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Original wallpaper source: http://hdpicturez.com. Text: Yours Truly

Original wallpaper source: http://hdpicturez.com. Text: Yours Truly

When asked the crucial question, most hipsters reply with ‘Slytherin’. In their heads, this is a wildly imaginative answer, much like their tattoos and cruiser motorcycles. Diffindo!!

On the outside, Slytherin might seem like an adventurous, mysterious side to be in. But can you imagine spending your days and nights amidst those horrible green corridors? And would you want to stay in a house where 11 year olds propagate ideas of bigotry? I am a mixed breed in real life, so it’s quite obvious that I’d be called the ‘M’ word in Slytherin corridors. Living in Slytherin would be like living in India with its caste system, and honestly, who wants to go through that?

Of course, some of you might say that there is more to the house than their cunning nature. That they have produced wizards like Severus and Salazar, that the house signifies resourcefulness, and ambition.

But you have to understand that I’m thinking like a 13 year old here. I do not crave the Mirror of Erised, or the Elder Wand. My motives are driven by da punani!

So no thank you, Slytherin. You’re too slimy for my taste.

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Wallpaper from: wallpapersafari.com. Text: Me, in collaboration with Sorting Hat

Wallpaper from: wallpapersafari.com. Text: Me, in collaboration with Sorting Hat

I have always found Ravenclaws to be too overbearing, and this might be due to a particular ex-girlfriend of mine. She always knew my passwords, and went so far as revealing the climax of Book no. 6 after reading it herself. While I dished out a string of Crutacius curses under my breath, I have forgiven her now!

She was the first person I met from Ravenclaw, and the image has stuck, for better or worse. I find Ravenclaw to be a wannabe Gryffindor, constantly going on about wit, wisdom, intelligence and creativity. It could also be because Cho Chang, the first Ravenclaw I met, was the blandest character in the books.

I was never a fan of Ravenclaw girls – they were too snooty! (Please don’t judge me. This was my thinking as a 13 year old, an age where you don’t arrive at decisions by referring to the latest edition of Malayala Manorama!).  I imagine the Ravenclaw common room to be full of (wannabe) Hermiones, strutting about in their robes, memorising books from cover to cover.

Thanks but no thanks, Ravena. I won’t be choosing any of your house mates. As Molly Weasley puts it so succinctly, ‘Not your daughters, you bitch!’

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Wallpaper Source: TheLadyAvatar - DeviantArt.  Text: Moi

Wallpaper Source: TheLadyAvatar – DeviantArt.
Text: Moi

Much like in Hollywood films where aliens always attack the US of A, Gryffindor is the house where it all happens. This is the house where Harry Insufferable Potter decides to set off on adventures that would seem risky to Peter Pettigrew on absynthe. Where everybody agrees with Harry when he decides it’s perfectly alright for a 12 year old to take on the most powerful dark lord the world has ever seen.

Can you imagine how unsettling it must be to hang out in the Gryffindor common room? You’re finishing up your assignments, and suddenly realise a weird man’s face in the fireplace. Or you’re sleeping (because your parents didn’t take you in for holidays) when suddenly a Death Eater decides to have breakfast with you! Duels, plans, conspiracies – the Gryffindor Common Room knows no chill.

If I were in Gryffindor, I’d have punched Harry right in his smug face, challenged Ron to a duel of ‘Whose wand is newer?’, and proposed to Hermione at least twice in a year. I would have whooped Harry’s punk ass, and later paid the price, as the guy is Dumbledore’s pet!

Too much drama, too much risk! As a 13 year old, I do not wish to be brawny and brainy; I want da punaani!

 

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Wallpaper courtesy: WallpaperCave.com.  Text: You get the idea!

Wallpaper courtesy: WallpaperCave.com.
Text: You get the idea!

Hufflepuff is the most chill house there is in the magical world, and even Alastor Moody wouldn’t disagree with me. While Hufflepuff gets the least screen time, even JK Rowling (herself a Gryffindor), agrees that Hufflepuff is the best house there is!

Hufflepuff has no celebrities, no heroes – even the most famous Hufflepuffs are the Harsha Bhogles of the magical worlds – Pomona Sprout and Silvanus Kettleburn. Also, Hufflepuffs are dignified and hard working. Take Cedric Diggory, for example – the guy drove girls wild for five years, then represented Hogwarts in the Triwizard Tournament, died, and came back to play Edward in a mind-numbing series for the rest of the decade.

Hufflepuffs are all-round nice people – no fuss, no starry airs. They are kids acting like kids, not like teenage pop stars throwing tantrums all the time. While the excitement in Gryffindor and Slytherin might seem attractive in the beginning, would you really want to go through the nerve-wrecking experience every single day? I would much prefer the Hufflepuff Common Room, where students choose to blow away their worries. For what’s a little herb when the Dark Lord’s reign is nigh! How much difference will a few blots of acid make, when there are Death Eaters hanging out in the corridors?

Also, Hufflepuff women are my idea of ideal women. Kind, patient, intelligent, and good with rolling joints. The kind who experiment with potions and positions, ogres and orgies. Since I’m no great looker, my game is more of intelligence and wit, and I’d fit into Hufflepuff like a brick in Diagon Alley.

Also remember, I am two years senior to Harry Potter, and given below is an accurate description of my life at Hogwarts:

my years in hogwarts

So I’ll remain at Hufflepuff, thank you very much!

You can have your dragons and phoenixes; I’m happy with my slugs and shrubs. I would like to make the best of my seven years in this place, and stay as far away from the limelight as possible.

You can call me dull, you can mock me, and our Quidditch team is probably shit. But I’ll gladly finish my years in Hufflepuff, get a clerical job in the Ministry of Magic, and enjoy some peace of mind there!

Professor Trelawney tells me the asshole with the scar is coming there in a few years!  

Hindi-Medium-Trailer-1

‘Hindi Medium’ proves Irrfan Khan is Bollywood’s best leading man

It’s a matter of great sadness that Irrfan Khan is not the biggest star in India. Over decades, the man has brought life to his roles, stayed away from embarrassing caricatures, and has been bold enough to call Bollywood out on its bullshit.

It pains me that Irrfan still has to act in smaller budget films, competing with coma-inducing shitfests like Half Girlfriend.

But a few minutes into watching him on screen, I was glad he isn’t a mega superstar.

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Hindi Medium drives home a topic that we are all aware of. English prejudice.

The Britishers took away not only our resources, but also our pride in native languages. This thought pains me for two reasons.

1) As a comic, most English stand-up in India is limited to elite, urban spaces. In most shows, half the jokes are on poor English – we are so comfortable with our privilege that we mock those without it.

2) As someone who grew up in a lower middle class household, English helped me enter social circles that my economic status wouldn’t. It’s a guilt I am guilty of.

I walked into the hall with this baggage, only to have Irrfan Khan blow my mind in the first few minutes. There is a gentle casualness about Irrfan’s acting. Unlike most of our stars, he is not loud, striking, or garish. He does not require the showmanship of a lion or the exhibitionism of a tiger. Irrfan has the lazy elegance of a cheetah. He does not roar, or leap at you through introduction shots. He waits and he purrs, and he traps you and then snarls. Such is his conviction in the role, that he mutters his punchlines, sometimes whispers them – and still has the audience laughing hysterically. What a joy it is to see this man on screen!

Director Saket Chaudhary and writer Zeenath Lakhani give him the best lines, and the field to play his shots. It helps that Irrfan is surrounded by a stellar cast of actors. My perennial crush Tillotama Shome plays an education consultant with such aplomb, Irrfan himself takes a backseat.

Deepak Dobriyal, who appears on the screen to hoots and whistles, walks a tightrope on a role that could so easily slip into caricature. And yet, he steers his role so well, you cheer him on as he takes sharp turns on the bend.

And finally, Pakistani actress Saba Qamar who brings from across the border an unbridled feistiness to her role. She is petty and high-strung and lovely and strong and vulnerable at the same time, and is an absolute joy to watch. It’s a good thing they didn’t cast an Indian actress, for most Indian heroines have stock expressions to scenes.

When they come together, this fantastic ensemble of actors elevate this story into an immensely watchable film, even if the writers let the story run wild.

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If there is any grouse against the film, it is that the director and writer allow the film to meander about like a drunk cow in the second half. The plot points shift without giving the audience any notice, and it is up to the actors to amp up their performance in reaction. This could partly be due to the fact that the film has been earlier made in Bengali and Malayalam, and perhaps the writers were staying true to the original story.

Hindi Medium also left me wondering if the Indian practice of adding an interval in the film is the reason our films are so bad. Imagine the plight of the writers – they have to create an engaging story, only to have a 20 minute break where people buy cola and popcorn, and children run to the toilet, and ads of Vicco Vajradanti play on the screen!

The writers then have to draw the audience back into the story, and this is where most Indian films falter. People walk out of the theatre mouthing brilliant lines like – ‘First half mast hai. Second half tatti hai’. But they will not let go of popcorn and coca cola for 15 minutes in the film!

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Be that as it may, the actors of Hindi Medium elevate the story with their honest performances. Go watch the film to see Hindi cinema’s finest leading man paint a canvas for you. Watch him play audacious shots, touch risky notes.

Also, watch the film for Saba Qamar’s terrific performance.

But mostly, watch Hindi Medium because as you read this, the film is losing out to Half Girlfriend, a film that stars a privileged ox and a porcelain bimbo.

*****

Sarathi-Baba-wallpaper

The Rise and Fall of Sarathi Baba

I’ll be honest with you.

I have always wanted to be a Baba. I have the long hair, and the ability to talk for hours. I also possess the innate ability to sound profound while discussing the difference between urad daal and masoor daal.

On a deeper level, growing up in an ashram exposed me to the works of a number of spiritual gurus such as Jiddu Krishnamurthy, Osho and UG. I have giggled at some of their teachings, read through some over and over again, and gaped in wonder at the simplicity of some of their preachings.

So the desire to be a Baba was always there.

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The last few years haven’t been great for Babas. There was Nityananda, who raised a symbolic leg in a private chamber with his devotee. There was Asaram Bapu, who has been convicted of raping two teenage girls. There is of course, Sant Ram Rahim Singh Insaan who has decided to inflict cinematic torture on the world through his films. And finally, that dude in Haryana whose guards started shooting at the police when he was wanted on murder charges.

But these might seem like minor hiccups, as the Baba industry is the second oldest profession in the world. It is only a matter of time before Indians latch on to another Baba.

Sarathi Baba knew all of this.

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Sarathi Baba was the first big mover in the Baba market in Odisha. The market had been fragmented by Satya Sai Baba, Asaram Bapu, the new-age secularism of Shirdi Sai Baba, and the Silent Sect of Sisters – the Brahmakumaris.

However, it was a case of local connect. These were all Babas preaching in Hindi/English. There was a need for local flavour, to activate local language settings. The suave, English speaking Babas like Sadhguru or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar do not attract too many people in Odisha.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

And that’s how Sarathi Baba shot into the limelight.

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Sarathi Baba spoke in Odiya, dressed up in yellow clothes, and bellowed from the television set every morning. While Babas are supposed to stay away from worldly pleasures and generally adopt an ascetic waistline, Sarathi Baba looked like he ate four katoris of gajar halwa a day.

When people dug into his past, it was found that Sarathi Baba used to sell paan in his village and gradually transformed into a yogic guiding light of the state. This gave me a lot of hope for a number of reasons.

Sarathi Baba cooler

You may achieve enlightenment later, but right now, you need Symphony Air Cooler.

Apart from spiritual reasons, one of the reasons was that I kinda look like the dude on the left after a chicken biriyani

The picture on the left is me after a Sunday afternoon chicken biriyani.

In a few years, his devotees began to increase. He released MP3 albums in his Phata Mangeshkar voice, his devotees wore lockets and bracelets with his pudgy face on it. Sarathi Baba opened new branches of his ashram in nearly every city in Odisha, with his main attraction being a cement cow that could give milk!

Please watch the video at your own discretion. It shows honey flowing out of Baba’s feet. Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted about its authenticity. 

 

While most Babas like to stay away from familial bonds, Sarathi Baba proclaimed to have a son. This young man (quite literally) threw his weight around, and was partially responsible for the earth slipping from its orbital axis.

Life was sailing smoothly for Sarathi Baba, when like most Babas, he decided to take a break.

The plan was simple, he would come to Hyderabad for a few days with a lady friend, chill out in an unknown land, monetise the benefits of being a Baba with all those tax cuts, and return to his holy land. Except for one crucial point.

ALL WAITERS AND BARTENDERS IN HYDERABAD ARE ODIYA.

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It happened before you could say the word ‘motey’. A curious waiter with a smartphone clicked a few pictures of a portly man who bore a striking resemblance to Odisha’s most famous Baba. In the picture, Baba was seen watching TV in the hotel lobby, ordering beer, and biting off chicken with aplomb.

Sarathi Baba Hyderabad hotel photos

It didn’t take long for the pictures to spread like wildfire. The hotel records were thrown open, and it was found that Sarathi Baba had ordered three Kingfisher Strong beers, and chilly chicken. That Baba was not only spreading his wisdom, but also his sperm. The 22 year old girl who had travelled with Baba immediately told the world (from behind a red handkerchief) that she had been harassed and forced to travel with Sarathi Baba.

When Baba travelled back to Bhubaneswar, he was arrested at the airport. It was a sad end to a colourful yellow career that held a lot of promise. Baba’s son was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, and as can be seen from this Pulitzer-winning news byte, often engaged in vices like eating mutton pakoda and looking like Ramesh Powar.

 

Sarathi Baba’s ashrams were seized. Odiya people went back to the much safer Baba Ramdev and his Anulom-Vilom. Sarathi Baba got trolled by Odiya people in strange, weird ways.

Sarathi Baba Audio CD

 

 

 

 

 

 

sarathi-baba-cartoon

Caption says: ‘Whatever people say….DHHO!’

Sarathi Baba protest Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi wondering what he did this time!

*

While it might seem comic, the story of Sarathi Baba taught me a few important life lessons. 1. If you become a famous Baba, always go to 5 Star hotels. Or to houses of rich devotees. Not Hotel Sunshine in Gachibowli, Hyderabad. 2. Never order three Kingfisher beers. Nothing good can come off that.

Meanwhile, the Baba market in Odisha sees a Sarathi Baba sized hole, waiting for me to fill it.

JAI SARATHI BABA!

***

Kochi_airport_aerial_view

An ode to Kochi’s beautiful airport

Among the many genres of writing and journalism, I have special envy reserved for travel writers. Their words bring to life the sights and the sounds, the smells and the tastes of the places they visit. Most travel writers spend their lives travelling, living in different places and writing extensively about those places.

I am the opposite of such travel writers.

I travel to places for a maximum of one or two days; barely step out of the room before the sun sets, and am quite contended to look at the city from my hotel window, tucked comfortably under the blanket while watching Zee Cinema. If I were writing this for Travel and Living or Discovery Travel, I doubt they would publish it – the research is shoddy and selective, the facts are not grounded in figures and numbers. The opinions are clouded by personal judgement and bias.

But thankfully, this isn’t a magazine, and since you haven’t paid 140 bucks for glossy pictures of Ranveer Singh chilling in Switzerland, you’ll have to make do with this poorly researched, not-grounded-in-facts article.

*

The first thing that strikes you in Kochi is the unforgiving summer heat. You could be the noblest person in the history of Kochi, or you could be Sreesanth – the Kochi heat forgives no one. It was 6.45 AM when I landed, and I immediately put on my shades.

The second thing that strikes you about Kochi is the cleanliness. If you’ve wondered about the impact of 100% literacy in the state, you just have to look at the roads. They are wide, clean, efficient – and there are no beggars!! I did not see one, single beggar in the two days I spent at Kochi.

The other effect of 100% literacy in Kerala is the discipline that people have inculcated in their day to day lives. Traffic rules are adhered to, there are no Uday Chopras on yellow bikes carting through the wrong side of the road. Pedestrians are allowed to use the zebra crossing through out the day.

And the food!!

Rohit and me walked into restaurants and asked them for recommendations – and ended up eating orgasm-inducing Idiyappam and chicken/beef curry. Followed by Dubai Shake and Sharjah Sheikh, which makes you feel like the owner of a fleet of camels in the Middle East.

The recent tragedy that struck Kerala – bars were banned in the state and a heavy police crackdown on marijuana – was a dampener to our otherwise happy, humid spirits, but we allowed ourselves the luxury of a three hour nap before the show.

*

If you’ve wondered about the effect of 100% literacy in Kerala, here’s a discovery I made – Kochi people do not turn up to stand up comedy shows! We had publicised the show well in advance, giving interviews to three newspapers. By the time the show began, the number of people in the audience made me feel less like a comedian and more like a stripper!

But the show had to go on as (whoever that asshole was!) said. By the end of the show, we had a few happy gentlemen, a few bemused teenagers, and one 12 year old boy who had closed his ears for the second half of the show!!

The most striking aspect of Kochi though, struck me as we were leaving the city – the Cochin International Airport.

*

Another side effect of 100% literacy in Kerala is that Cochin people decided to wave a middle finger at other airports in the city. They did things their style.

As the plane descended down on the airport, I craned my neck to get a first aerial look of the city.

I like making shallow first impressions of the city before landing in the city. If you ever fly to Chandigarh for example, you’ll find beautiful, planned patches of land in varying shades of green. If you plane descends down on Hyderabad, you get to witness brown barren land that will remind you of Aurangzeb’s tenure in the Deccan Plateau.

The Kochi airport looks like a beautiful private estate, akin to the vast estates that Bollywood villains possess in their ‘den’, as they plan to spread poison in the veins of the country.

Most airports in India are clones of each other. They are all desperately trying to look glossy, friendly, jazzy. Polished floors and bored janitors sweeping up after spilled Coca-Colas. Stores with shiny brands on both sides, salespersons challenging you to buy even a single product from them! Eateries where they charge 300 bucks for a 2 idlis, 1 vada, and some healthy Oxygen.

The Cochin International Airport does none of this.

*

Everything about the airport is old school. The overpowering colour in the airport is a maple, wooden brown. The first impression you get when you walk in, is of a railway station in 1995.

The stalls sell regular stuff like Malayala Manorama Yearbooks, Ayurveda potions and Ponds Dreamflower Talc bottles in pink and violet variants. The eateries sell food that is targeted not at Donald Trump, but at Arvind Kejriwal. The aunty who serves the food does not have the snooty look of the Rado salesperson, but the warm smile of Kaveriamma.

The waiting area in the airport gives off a warm vibe – the chairs have thick cushions on them, the airport assistants are curt and friendly – like friendly relatives who wear a mock-sad expression when you leave their house. The entire space has a cosy, intimate feeling – like we are all strangers who turned up for a wedding, standing in line patiently to greet the newly-weds on the stage. Also, I found that the prettiest girls in Kochi were in the airport, leaving the city!

*

As I sat on my seat, and the girl next to me took out her Bible for some quick revision, I made two quick decisions – 1. I need to visit Kochi again, 2. It needed to be in the winter.

Bye bye, Kochi. Your airport fucking rocks!! Keep it that way.

Vizag_city_aerial_view

Goodbye Vizag, you beautiful, beautiful city!

If there is any place that I have a strong bond with (after of course Bhubaneswar, where I was born, and Puttaparthi – where I studied), it is Vishakapatnam.

A city with so much character that it needs three names to go by – the traditional Vishakapatnam, the outdated Waltair, and the more modern yuppy name – Vizag.

All through my childhood, Vizag was a relief from the mundane life that I led in Bhubaneswar and Puttaparthi. Puttaparthi was where my school was, and it was criminal to stay there during vacations. Bhubaneswar back in the 90s was so hot, even cold cakes sold like hot cakes. Every summer vacation brought with it news of 50 deaths due to sunstrokes. Also, my parents were conservative and their idea of vacation fun was to lock up the television when I visited home. The television was considered an obstacle in my pursuit of moksha.

The only relief from these troubles was going to Vishakapatnam – eight hours away, with four trains everyday – one for each of the platforms at Bhubaneswar railway station.

*

Vishakapatnam wasn’t much bigger than Bhubaneswar, but offered so much more than temples and street food. My cousins lived in MVP colony, a sleepy residential colony that was large enough to qualify as a town by itself.

Nimmakai soda was sold on the streets for two bucks, and the said amount could be easily fleeced off grandmother by singing her a Mohd. Rafi song. It was a different matter that my cousins ran up a baaki  bill of 10,000 rupees in the neighbourhood goli soda shop!!

The BPL TV at my cousin’s place could not be controlled by my mother and was the source of some of the earliest movies I watched – Kondapalli Raja, Premikudu, and Baaghi.

Large, spacious roads shielded by trees on both sides, Vijaya milk delivered in the morning as MS Subbalaxmi’s Bhaja Govindam wafted out of every single house.  

The Young Rising Star Youth Club where my cousin played cricket every evening as I sat awkwardly at the boundary. Daspalla Hotel, where Kashmiri Pulao and Paneer Butter Masala was ordered every single time, as I hadn’t told my folks that I had turned non-vegetarian (still haven’t!).

But most of all, Vizag has that one feature that adds immense character to a city – a beach. The beach in Vizag is accessible, with every place in the city about ten minutes away from the other. The beach is a curious spectacle, with people from all walks of life getting on the rocky shores for a few moments of solitude. A beach allows you to switch off from the humdrum of everyday life and tune in to the sea. How can you remain in a bad mood as waves crash at your feet majestically?

Every trip to Vizag has been memorable – a welcome break from the mundane life that I was living. It was in Vizag that I serenaded a breathtaking woman, travelling to the city on the pretext of meeting my cousins, and singing Pehla Nasha on a sea deck restaurant. Ever since I entered my teens, Vizag provided me with excellent weed sourced from nearby Aruku. I once offered a man a joint while getting on the bus to Hyderabad, only to look down at his shoes and discover he was a cop!

Vizag was fun, eventful, and dreamy.

*

After many years, I was travelling to Vizag – this time as a stand up comic. Me and Rohit Swain are travelling across the country with Silly Point – India’s First Cricket Themed Stand Up Comedy Show (Wow! What a subtle plug in – I’m Subtle Behari Vajpayee!!).

This time, I was not travelling to partake of the city’s beauty and serenity, but to give it something of my own – something I had created and curated. I was going to peddle my wares to the city that has given me so much.

*

Of course it wouldn’t be a sellout show – it’s Vizag we are talking about! But in the same way that a parent ignores the kid’s spelling mistakes while showing her off to relatives, I was prepared to let it go. The show was organised in Kala Art Cafe, a tiny location with a seating capacity of 50, lemonade served to the guests, and a white screen for film screenings.

The stage was sweaty, and the mics refused to work after fifteen minutes – this was going to be a struggle! And yet, we persisted. The laughs came slowly at first, but grew stronger and stronger from there on. By the end of the show, we had won over the audience. It was like an India vs Sri Lanka One Day International at Vadodara where India needs to chase 287 but takes 48 overs to get there – bumpy, but successful.

*

As the plane lifts off from Vizag, and the doors of the plane are shut to the salty, humid air of Vizag, I take a final look at this city that has given me so much!

With Andhra Pradesh now a separate state, Chandrababu Naidu has grand plans for the ‘City of Destiny’. The roads are getting wider, the buildings shooting out of the ground are taller, stronger, dapper.

And yet, in a strange, selfish way, I do not want Vizag to become a hotbed of development.

I want Vizag to remain as it is. A beautiful chutney of the new and the old. Mom and pop stores with intricate muggu outside the doors, goli soda bottles being bought by thirsty kids, Venkatesh films playing on tiny TVs during sleepy afternoons, Ladies Tailor – Fall & Pico centres next to Apple showrooms. And the outdated Bunny dustbins in VUDA Park.

*

Of course these are but a nostalgic man’s fantasies. The City of Destiny is destined to transform into a zip-zap-zoom city. The muggu in front of houses will be replaced by cold, impersonal placards saying ‘NO PARKING IN FRONT OF THE GATE’.

But even then, I’ll come back and visit you. I’ll love you for who you are, Vizag.

Until next time then, Vizag!

***

What really happens when I get stoned

As a struggling writer and successful stoner, I have been fascinated by the technicalities of getting high.

I don’t mean the effects of THC or ethyl acetamine or some chemical shit that happens in my brain; I couldn’t give lesser of a fuck about that. I am fascinated by the artistic, aesthetic side of it. How do my thoughts change when I get high? What really changes in perception of sounds and visuals?

This thought has lingered at the back of my head for a long time, floating out of my mouth occasionally when I blow out smoke. But then it would go back to the dark corridors of my brain, waiting to get out again, a skinny little Casper of a thought.

*

When I woke up this morning, I decided to pursue research on this topic. To shed light on this dark corner of my brain and find out the secrets once and for all. The day has begun on a good note, and there seems to be a lighter at the end of the tunnel.

I woke up at 7.45, wasted time on the phone till 8.45 and proceeded to brush, bathe, and step out for food. Thanks to Modiji, the ATMs are in incognito mode again, and I walked till I found a Kannada tiffin stalls. I have a soft corner for Kannada tiffin stalls – I am no foodie, and couldn’t care less about cuisines, tastes, nuances and Tarla Dalal. I will eat anything as long as it has enough salt and masala in it. There are quite a few of us, the Brethren of Dontgivafuk, who assemble at Kannada tiffin stalls to partake of the food. It’s quick, clean, and cheap – our own McDosalds. I packed three plates of idli for the brethren that live with me and took a quick bath.

And then, as I sat down to roll my joint for research purposes, I felt a bit like Jeff Corwin. The herbs of Dhoolpet were laid out, along with the other paraphernalia. I proceeded to roll a joint quickly, and succeeded in rolling an efficient one. Not a Kookaburra Kahuna Pro, but more of a BAS Vampire 500. I quickly made mental notes.

MENTAL NOTES:

Objective: To study the paradigmatic shift in thought process after the consumption of Lord Shiva’s prasadam. To analyse the change in sensory perceptions.

Required material: Immaterial

Conditions under which study was conducted: Wednesday morning. Summer season. 10.30 AM.

*

Most stoners prefer smoking in large groups – sitting in a circle and discussing music, cinema and the space. Fuck those guys.

I prefer two, or a maximum of three guys. So you don’t have to look longingly at the joint, mentally calculating how long before it came to you, applying absurd cocktail of mathematics, psychology and astrology. A joint is best smoked between two people.

My friend has woken up and sent his manager a message that he would be chilling from home today – another message from the heavens. Finally, I wore my lungi and brown aviator shades and lit the joint.

*

The change is not drastic.

After all these years, it takes me about ten minutes for Mahaprasad to kick in. It begins slowly, but if you’re watching out for the signs, they are quite noticeable.

It begins with a slight numbing at the back of the head. But contrary to evil cousins Migraine and S.Headache, this is a gentle pain. The body’s posture is the next to get affected, it gets slouchy and relaxed. I am no Vivekananda, and I subconsciously shift a few inches to the back to lean on my cajon.

What follows is a craving for stimulation. I look around furtively to find all my devices low on battery. The phone is playing a Test innings, building up on a strong foundation of 16% battery, and my tablet was going down like a warrior, bleeding battery at 14% – I choose the tablet because I don’t like it too much.

My fingers float magically and click on the YouTube icon, firing up a range of videos I could watch. I see an interview of a music director I’ve been following – Vivek Sagar. I had seen the thumbnail of the video earlier, but never felt like clicking it.

The interview begins, and the interviewer asks him a few questions. He looks at her for a few seconds and then looks vaguely at the wall as he answers, his eyes shifty, his body language uncomfortable. A stoner!

I smile at the connection. But I’m researching! I cannot let me brain get swayed by emotions. Why did I smile? Would I have smiled normally, if I wasn’t stoned? Scientific questions shoot out of my brain, turn around and go right back into my own brain.

I give it some thought. I smiled because stoners deep inside believe that other stoners are good people. That in spite of their flaws and personality tics, there’s something about them that’s in the right place. It’s hard to tell if this is due to the nature of Sattiva Indica, or due to the Brethren of Bholenath that propagates the idea.

He is now talking about how it is always about struggle. That he never wanted to create music for ten films or anything like that, that he just wanted to make music. Ah! Yes. What a thought! Something strikes again! What is this? – my brain asks me.

I psychoanalyse my own thoughts, and find that when stoned, my emotions are run wild. I laugh like Bishan Singh Bedi, and cry like Kapil Dev. I am inspired by people, sights, sounds, words, sentences, songs, tunes, lines, writers, musicians, and Mimoh Chakravarty.

That’s the other thing! You notice that? I sometimes insert unnecessary jokes that kill the flow. I sacrifice the flow of a beautiful thought for a cheap laugh at the end. Did I always do that? Or it a recent addition to my armoury of sure-shot social arrows?

A song by the music director begins to play and the tunes sound clear to my head. When the drums crash, I can hear it like it’s in front of me. The sound of the bass guitar rings loud and clear. The perception of sound is astoundingly beautiful, thank you dear Lord!

I do a sub-conscious check of my surroundings. The joint is now at 25% levels, the song wafting out from the back of my tablet sounds the right amount of melodious. There are 3 packets of idli (parcel) in the other room, a bottle of water at arm’s distance, and my friend’s ‘chill from home’ request has been approved.

Satisfied that basic security criteria have been met, my brain gets up to close the shutters, to  take a nap in the summer morning. There’s a bit of light seeping in from under the shutters, but the rest of it is dark and comfortable, with table fans and Symphony Air Coolers (with ice inside) keeping the surroundings clean. And slowly, the brain slumps into a fiesta of a siesta.

But hello brother! Research ka kya hua?

My brain gets up, shakes his head and slowly pulls the shutter up. It was a short nap, a powerless nap. What is happening? What observations and conclusions have you arrived at? – urgent questions that my brain throws at me.

I sit up and take stock of the surroundings. It is submission time! I bring out a mental pen, to fill out the mental notes. I might have to use a lot of filler words to hit the word limit.

*

MENTAL NOTES:

Observations: Overall, the effects of the consumption of Mahaprasad could be said to be primarily of the sensual and aesthetic level. Basic alterations to the perceptions of the senses of the conductor of the experiment were noticed, and it was found that sounds seemed to undergo an enhancement. Conversations revolved around jovial and amiable topics.

The observant made an observation that the conductor of the experiment does not look people in the eye while talking to them, choosing instead to look at the space between their eyes and their lips – the vacant nose area because, naakon ke aankh nahi hote.

Effects: While the physical and mental effects were seen to wear off after a while, it was noticed that there were significant changes in the time-table of the observant. Before the experiment began, we found that there were clearly marked to-do lists for the day, arranged neatly in terms of priority and urgency.

However, after Mahaprasad was administered, it was found that the ideas that sprung up in the head were usually lofty, and sometimes far-fetched. It was found that the decisions taken had no grounding with immediacy, targets, or other worldly factors. For eg, the observant chose to write a blog on this topic, instead of choosing to attack the to-do list.

It was found that the observant chooses shots of dopamine over dollops of satisfaction from fulfilling targets.

***