Category Archives: Arbit Gyan

Sararah

The Brouhaha Over Sararah

(A sanitised, edited version of this article was published in last Saturday’s Bangalore Edition of The New Indian Express Indulge. If you live in Bangalore, please buy the paper and read my humour column called Urban Bourbon. Thank you. God bless you and your neighbours!)

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I love how the Internet throws up new things that blow our minds everyday. Our minds, in that sense, have become like Pakistani schools – keep getting blown every other day, over something or the other.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise when Sararah – the anonymous messaging app – took India by storm in the last few weeks. Hidden outpourings of love, revelations of decade-old crushes, and spiteful messages were passed off with aplomb on Facebook.

A few friends revelled in the newfound attention, some others were shocked that people on the Internet could be so rude (Hahahah!), and the third kind decided to answer anonymous questions on a public platform.

However, I remained oblivious to it all. I don’t fall for this kind of shit anymore, saar! I know that these fads will pass. That behind every ‘Hey, you’re cute’, there are a hundred ‘Babzz ur a sexxy. Show boomps’. I recognised Sararah for what it is – a fad. One that would create a storm for a while and then move on like a gentle cloud.

But as I sat in my room wasting precious herb and pondering over the philogophical implications of fads, something struck me. The lifespan of fads has gotten shorter and shorter over the years. The fads of our childhoods lasted for at least half a decade. Trump cards, magnetic stickers, and Add Gel pens consumed a good part of a decade. For me personally, fads had their own superlatives – fad, fadder, father’s slap.

Ooh, and it makes me wonder. Our parents probably had to endure fads for whole decades. Imagine playing marbles for 20 years of your life! No wonder my father turned into Floyd McGregor every time I asked him money for marbles. It also explains why Shatrughan Sinha wore a leather jacket for 20 years. Why Jeetendra wore white shoes, inadvertently playing a tennis player in every movie.

Which is not to say that I have been immune to fads. No, sir!

My entire life is a dark memory lane of fads. I wore the Salman Khan Tere Naam hairstyle to school, and even the school cows ignored my presence. I wore bell-bottomed jeans and embroidered woollen T-shirts that Sohail Khan wore in the movie I: Proud to be Indian. I bought a jumper after watching an episode of Friends, even though I used to look like a mosquito.

But the icing on the cake was when I decided to get myself coloured streaks. Three of us best friends bought ONE pack of hair colour (burgundy – because why not?), and applied it on our hair. We forgot that the three of us constantly hung out together, went to the same college – on the same bike. We ended up looking like the Mirinda Men on methamphetamine.

Which is why I have become immune to fads. For eight years, my Facebook DP was a pair of worn out chappals. I only changed it when I realised I hadn’t been getting any Tinder matches for three years straight.

I didn’t fall for Pokemon GO either. I had the app, and it showed a Charmeleon (or Dandasaurus, or whatever the fuck those creatures are called!) sitting right in my balcony. But my 2G connection didn’t let my Pokemon GO anywhere. Later of course, Mukesh Ambani launched his own version – Reliance G-O, where he found small telecom companies and ate them up, literally putting the ‘tata’ in Tata Indicom!

All this explains why I refused to participate in the shallow shag-fest that is was Sararah. I lay down on my bed of arrows like Bheeshma, and watched my Kaurava friends fall for the hype one after the other. I don’t need Sararah. If I need honest opinion, I merely need to ping one of my exes. The honesty in their opinions could force me to take 13 years exile, including one year in disguise!

So don’t bother me with Sararah and other such wasteful trivialities. Like the old saying goes, ‘Don’t walk up to Jackie Shroff and talk to him about iPhone X’.

FU

To Those of you who presume I am biased against Telugu cinema

After my last blog on Arjun Reddy, I received a number of mails and complaints from readers.

I was accused of being biased, and harbouring stereotypical ideas about Telugu cinema. That I was some jobless blogger who smoked three joints and went on a rant.

Firstly, I have a day job now, so fuck you! Secondly, I honestly wasn’t trolling or ridiculing Telugu cinema without reason. Most of what I said holds true. Nearly every Telugu film fits into the 5 Song Design Sandbox. Most Telugu films star heroines who can’t speak the language. 95% of Telugu films are exactly how I described them in the blog.

The blog was also accused of being the flippant views of an outsider shitting over the Telugu film industry. Here’s the thing – I am not really an outsider.

I speak Telugu, and have lived in Andhra and Telangana for more than 17 years now. I have grown up watching Telugu films and even Telugu soaps (Antarangaalu…ting-ting-ting-ting, ting-ting-ting-ting!). I am a huge fan of Jandhyala and his movies with Rajendra Prasad and Naresh. My teenage years were spent in listening to songs of Venkatesh movies, and early RGV films from Shiva to Kshana Kshanam. My M.Phil topic was the rise of Telugu diasporic filmmakers who created a new genre of films in Telugu cinema. I have written and performed shows in Hyderabad for years now.

What I’m trying to say is, FUCK YOU!

 

I was also accused of being a biased outsider who carries the stereotypical bias that most North Indians carry against South cinema. An entire paragraph in a hate mail was dedicated to how ridiculous Hindi cinema is. And I agree wholeheartedly.

Bollywood is the scum of the earth. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know I barely review Hindi films anymore because I can’t sit through them. I watch a maximum of two Hindi films a year and immediately spend money on Hyderabad’s best psychiatrists and psychologists. In fact, if there’s one film industry worse than Telugu cinema, it is the incestuous shit-fest that is Bollywood.

So, at the risk of sounding repetitive, FUCK YOU!

It is not a random rant. Why did I write it, then?

Because I genuinely feel most Telugu films that release around the year are shit. In fact, most films that release in India are shit. We are so caught up in our formats of intervals (where fat kids go stuff their fat faces with sandwiches and Coke), or musicals (with playback singers, and actors who couldn’t be bothered to hold a fucking instrument correctly!) that we have been blinded to our own bullshit.

But more than anything else, I wrote the blog because the Telugu film industry has no honest critics to talk of. Read the review of any Telugu film, and you get articles that are as interesting as an Encyclopedia Britannica page on cacti. People who call themselves critics churn out reviews that are as shitty as the films themselves – ‘Film is good. Dances are nice, fights are terrific, actor is good, loka samastha sukhino bhavantu’. Fuck off!

The Telugu film industry deserves film critics. Recently, a film critic Mahesh Kathi (who has worked in cinema, and studied Film Appreciation), was given death threats for criticising a film starring Pavan Kalyan. Are you kidding me? Death threats?? Is this fucking Syria?

So screw you, Pavan Kalyan fan who wrote an angry mail to me. The article wasn’t biased at all, it was honest. Go get an IQ test done, go home, close the door and windows, and jack off to Tammudu at your home, you dumb piece of shit!

Thank you!

Loads of love,

Hriday.

office-job-151251_640

Getting a desk job at the age of 31

( A santised, edited, sanskaari version of this article appeared last Saturday in the Bangalore edition of The New Indian Express. I write a weekly humour column called Urban Bourbon. If you live in Bangalore and are jobless, you should read my column.

I will be publishing a dirtier, foul-mouthed version of my articles here on my blog).

 

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When I was 16, I ran away from home with the confidence of Amitabh Bachchan in the 70s.

I couldn’t stand my parents, having lived alternatively with both of them. Their morals, their lack of empathy to my aspirations, their ideals and expectations of me were too warped and illogical.

I had nurtured a baby-dinosaur of an ego in the 15 odd years I’d spent on this planet. I wanted to live on my terms, earn money and pay for my fantasies, such as buying the latest MP3 CD of Lucky Ali, or the latest BSA SLR bicycle.

When you’re in your teens, the universe conspires to tell you that it’ll all be okay. Even if the universe doesn’t tell you that, you mistake all its messages for precisely that – let’s see what happens. And so, armed with the confidence of Vijay Dahiya facing Australian fast bowlers, and no real skills except fluent English, I set out to find my calling in life.

What I found instead, was a call centre. In the years since, I have worked in travel agencies, PCO booths, sold investment plans, drawn up press meets and conferences, dubbed for TV serials, advertisements and infomercial campaigns, worked in customer care centres. I have burnt the midnight oil as a teacher, writer, bar singer, M.Phil scholar, sports commentator, copywriter, stand-up comedian and calligraphy instructor.

I know it sounds impressive when I put it all out like this. Sounds like I went through a sea of experiences that changed and shaped who I am today. That it was a time of struggle and survival. In reality, it was not. I was honestly tripping. Each part of these jobs is intrinsically linked to one or the other narcotic substance.

Like for example the Customer Care Executive job where I had to answer 400 calls a day from customers all over Orissa. I used to report to work at 3, and wait for the bhang shops to open at 4.30. The first two hours were torture – assholes calling with strange complaints like:

“Hello! Your network is fucked up. I have two phones in each hand. I can’t call from one to the other”. 

OR

Hello. Your network is bad on Wednesdays. I have to stand in the toilet or the balcony to get any network.” 

OR

Hello. I want to fuck you, baby! Aah *hangs up*

I tolerated it all, waiting for the clock to strike 4.30. I would then shoot out of the office for a smoke break, and gobble up a big ball of bhang. The rest of the day was smooth as butter! I spoke to the customers with a smile on my face (my colleagues attributed it to my patience!). I listened to their problems with empathy and solved their issues.

Every single job has been a whirlwind journey of sorts, a blurred mix of memories and intoxication. I have followed my passion, plunging right into it, even if my passion changed drastically in a few weeks.

And finally, after years of searching for my passion, I took up a desk job at the ripe age of 31.

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Most of my friends have desk jobs, and I would listen to them complain and crib all day. I would hear them bitch about their bosses, and shiver with excitement as Friday approached. Their stories were all the same – their bosses were assholes, the food in their office was shit, HR executives got paid a salary to make their lives miserable, and Fridays were for ethnic dressing.

Thanks to their constant cribbing, I’d nurtured strange ideas about a desk job. I detested having to wear formals, disliked the control that managers exert over employees. I was wary of bosses constantly prying over their employees’ work; and mundane, boring work.

But like Shakti Kapoor says in every movie where he accepts a bribe – Paisa toh paisa hota hai. I got an offer for a job and took it, fully armed with the complaints and grouses that my friends fed me. Each of my assumptions fell flat on my face, like a sidekick in Bahubali.

I work for Microsoft, and write content for Game of Thrones – a series that I am obsessed with. My work involves watching older seasons of GoT, looking up conspiracy theories, and tripping on Wikia – the 2nd greatest website on earth after Reddit.

My boss has never come to see me work, he doesn’t even work in the same floor. On my first day, I came to work dressed in formals. I was shocked to find everybody else in shorts – looking like hippies in Dev Anand’s Hare Krishna Hare Ram. I travel using a cab-sharing app, get to travel with other people along the same route, having interesting conversations and making friends on a daily basis.

So what do I do all day?

Well, a number of things. Firstly, there’s an Amul fridge near my desk. I keep a close count on how many ‘Cool Kafes’ there are in the fridge, and give dirty looks to those who take more than one with them. I play Table Tennis for an hour a day, getting smashed by a homo sapien belonging to a new gender, race, and age everyday. I smile at the boy whipping up my salad, hoping he’d add a few pieces of chicken for free. He doesn’t.

It’s been a month now, and contrary to what I believed about myself, I have no qualms to admit I wait to come to work the office everyday.

However, if there’s one group of people who are unimpressed by my taking up a desk job, it is my stand up comedian colleagues. They look at me like I’ve let down the entire institution of stand up comedy by choosing to do a job. To rile them up further, I carry my tag even when I go on stage!

I have come to realise that having a job is not necessarily a bad thing. All the wonders of the modern world, all the tools you use to pursue your passions, were created by passionate people with desk jobs. They fused their passions with their professions so you could better pursue your passion!

And yet, all our films constantly push the same idea. Of not being ‘trapped’ in a job, to venture out and ‘seek’ your passion. It was with great catharsis that I read the news recently about a couple who quit their jobs to travel the world. They used to post breathtaking pictures on Instagram (created by hardworking people with desk jobs!). They are now cleaning toilets to survive!

Or look at Ranbir Kapoor’s films like Wake up, Sid!, which invariably involve him finding his passion in photography, videography, theatre, singing, and politics. I am waiting to watch a movie where Ranbir Kapoor’s passion is to find his passion!

What the fuck is this passion that our new-age India keeps talking about? I have followed each and every one of my passions, and honestly, I regret following half of them. I see this everyday. During my stand-up shows, I ask people where they work, and they mumble apologetically, ‘IT’ – like it’s a crime, it’s something to be ashamed of.

For some strange reason, we have made a whole generation of IT workers embarassed about their jobs. Made it seem like they’re taking the ‘easy way’ by doing a desk job. Fuck Ranbir Kapoor, and fuck his passions. Seriously.

I am happy with what I am doing. I can’t guarantee it’ll go on for too long, given my history of running away from jobs – but it’s been a month of fun. Of course, at the end of the day, while my ‘artist’ friends buy Sai Baba Beedi from the shop, I’ll smirk over my scotch. Suck on my passion, assholes!

When I look at my life, I realise it is a Ranbir Kapoor movie in reverse. I was pursuing my passion(s), and was beside the love of my life. Today, I’m single, and have a desk job.

I should call it Go to Sleep, Hriday!

                                                            ***

public-embarassment

To the teenager who mailed me about Masturbation

 

In the ten years that I’ve been running this blog, I get mails from a number of people on a daily basis. Some of them compliment me on the articles, and some of them put forth their requests (Bro, you need to write an article on Tushar Kapoor!). Some of the mails are strange requests (Bro, I’m coming to Hyderabad. Can you arrange some weed for me?’). And some are critical of the stuff I write (How the fuck can you write about Sachin Tendulkar? Kabhi jaake District cricket mein khelke dikha, chutiye).

I have always replied to these mails, and some of the friendships from the blog are intact to this day. But every once in a while, I get mails that make me sit up and take notice. And it was with some curiosity, that I opened a mail from a teenager a few months back.

He had written to me to say that he was masturbating regularly, and it filled him with shame and guilt. It had made him a recluse, and he stopped going out to meet friends and family. He sounded in pain, and I wanted to tell him that it would be okay.

However, I got caught up with the vagaries of life, and the post never materialised. So here it is, dear teenager who mailed me about masturbation.

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Firstly, thank you for writing to me.

You don’t know me in person, and yet, to open up to me about something like this means that my blog must have become an important part of your life. Or at the very least, you felt I’m the sort of person you could share your fears with. When I started this blog, I had no idea it would touch people’s lives like this. So thank you!

Now, let’s get to the topic at hand. Masturbation.

There’s no shame in saying it, no shame in doing it. Let’s just say the word a few more times. Masturbation. The act of masturbating. To pleasure oneself.

It’s not as uncommon as you think. Everybody does it. Literally, EVERYBODY.

Close your eyes and think of anybody in your life, or anybody in the world – and they’ve done it. Sachin Tendulkar? He’s done it. Steve Jobs? He’s done it too. Stephen Hawkings? Well…

Masturbation is completely natural. All your friends, their parents, their neighbours, and their parents have done it too. It is a completely normal and human thing to do. However, we live in a country that aims to become a developed nation, but chooses not to include sex education in schools. A government whose ministers dish out quasi-scientific facts in the year 2017, a government whose ministers believe sexuality is the subject matter of the state. How can you expect such a society to be accepting of homosexuality?

Which is probably why you feel such shame.

Which is also probably why elders peddle such lies regarding the act of masturbation. While growing up, we heard rumours that if you did it too much, hair would begin to grow on your palms. We were told that excessive pimples and acnes were a result of spending too much quality time with yourself. In fact, there was a book called Health In Your Hands which informed us that the half-circles on our nails were indicators of how much sperm we had, and if we spent it all, we might fall sick. I remember checking the half-moons on my nails after watching a Hindi film, or reading the latest edition of Filmfare. Other sources told us that doing it too much could give you AIDS!

As you might have guessed, these were desperate attempts by a prude society.

If anything, masturbation is beautiful. It gives vent to your fantasies. Much like you, I grew up full of insecurities. I studied in a boys school and had no exposure to women whatsoever. And since we were growing up with each other, it was quite common for guys to shag each other off. What is a common practice in most boys school, became a matter of shame and guilt. Coupled with my own insecurities, I was a mess of nerves. When I encountered a pretty girl, I was both guilty and nervous.

Amidst such colluding complexities, it was ‘spending quality time with myself’ that helped me cope. And boy, I was a machine!

Your generation must be used to porn videos on your phones. Tap a button and a million options pop up in front of you. Unfortunately, I had to use both my hands and my imagination.

During compulsory meditation sessions, I would imagine imaginary situations with my crushes, which mostly involved me rescuing them (Sorry! I had watched a number of Dharmedra movies!) and then taking them to an abandoned haystack. I would play out the scene for hours, teasing myself, and then rush to the teacher and excuse myself to go to the washroom!

Magazines and newspapers, sunday supplements and Very Personal columns by Bina Ramani in The Asian Age – during my teen years, the entire world was an outlet of emotions. With the arrival of Internet, our focus shifted to poorly photoshopped images from film posters. Or Indian sex stories that had all the finesse and literary skill of a horny 14 year old from Ludhiana.

Stories that went ‘Mera naam Mukesh hai. Main ek din bus mein jaa raha tha. Mere side mein ladki thi. Maine usey jamke chod diya…’

When the Internet wasn’t available, there was television, and that blessing to teenagers across India – Zee Cinema! There was no stopping me!

Fact is, you’re at an age when your body, nature, and the entire cosmos – wants you to procreate. And it is completely alright for you to indulge in yourself. So go ahead. If you like reading, may I introduce you to the dark, sinful pleasures of fan fiction. If you have the aesthetic sense of Mr. Sanjay Leela Bhansali, there are sites that aren’t gross. If you are tired of porn sites (for they have a way of making one feel gross at times!), there are audio books. There’s a world wide web of options in front of you. So go ahead; give wings to your imagination.

Which then brings us to the most important question – how much is too much? Is there a problem with too much??

Medically, the side effects are fatigue, nausea and weakness. Honestly, coffee has more side effects. But there are other aspects to it. There is the issue of desensitisation. Especially if you watch Indian porn videos. Indian porn videos are the worst – they are poorly made, and most of them are regressive amateur/revenge videos. They are all shot without the girl’s permission, or are exploitative in nature. Guard yourself against that.

But there’s the more important issue of time management. You must be at an age where your decisions might impact you. Don’t let the habit take over your life. Once you understand that it is completely normal, you will probably learn to regulate yourself better. Step out, make friends, develop a hobby. (Sorry about the generic gyaan! :D)

If you need to take a break, may I introduce you to the fantastic people at NoFap – a Reddit community dedicated to people like you – who touch their member too many times to remember (sorry about the puns too!).

So get rid of the guilt, and go ahead and indulge. Just remember to treat it like a treat to yourself – like gaajar halwa. Don’t make it daal-chaawal, ‘cos what’s the fun in that?

 

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I hope this post helps you get rid of your guilt in some way. I hope you become happy and confident and find yourself a girl (or boy!), and I hope you continue to read my blogs. If you still have issues, please feel free to write to me.

Happy fapping! 🙂

***

(If you have an issue that is troubling you, and want me to respond, please feel free to write to me. I have been running out of issues to write about, and generally find that I like counseling (even if I am terrible at following my own advice!). You can write to hriday at writetohriday@gmail.com – I know, I know! :D)

Saif Ali Khan dancing in Keemat

I want to smoke what Saif is smoking

I always thought Saif Ali Khan was a chill dude.

Just going about his job as a 50 year old man playing a 25 year old man. A man who stayed away from Bollywood bullshit. Who sits in his haveli and plays the guitar, sips on French wine and probably wears satin underwear – a nawaab among kabaabs.

I don’t care too much about the ‘Nepotism rocks’ controversy. Or for any controversy for that matter. I am at an age where nothing can faze me anymore. When Linkin Park’s frontman died, I felt bad for a few seconds. As mourning, I ate one idli less and didn’t ask for onion chutney. My cold heart has been turned to stone in the heartless world we live in.

Also, I understand that scripts for award shows usually begin pure like Gangotri – and end up like the Hussain Sagar lake, thanks to the inputs of actors, writers and event producers. I wrote the script for Filmfare South Awards this year and somehow, we ended up having a dark guy dressed in a saree on stage accepting the ‘Black Lady’. So I know. I get it.

I am also familiar with the life of a controversy.

A controversy first erupts on Twitter, and is picked up by BuzzFeed and ScoopWhoop, those two beacons of journalism who put the ‘nali’ in journalism. It appears on my news at 9 AM, fresh and hot like blessings from Gomata on a national highway.

Slowly, opinions are shared. First, from that one person who is unnecessarily vocal about issues (if you’re on my list, I’m that guy!). Then the issue slowly dissipates to second level social news aggregators – like Being Indian, Sarcasm, and Bahut bhook lagi hai, subah subah thoda tatti khila mujhe. By lunchtime, it has become the OUTRAGE OF THE DAY. Our half an hour contribution to nation building under the Pradhan Mantri Jio Phone Lo, FB pe haggo Yojana.

By the next day, nobody gives a shit.

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Then I saw the open letter and was tempted to read it.

I imagined the letter to be a nuanced, thought out treatise. A well-read man writing out a regal letter, sitting on his porch with his pooch while twirling his mooch. Royalty coupling with satin underwear to produce a beautiful, thoughtful letter.

What it was though, was a man sprawled on the footpath after gulping down a bottle of Director’s Special Premium XXX Brand Whiskey. A man who has run out of cigarettes and has had to smoke a pack of Ball Beedi.

saif dopp main

His retort was absurd, fantastical and tangential to the point where it got excruciating. It was so full of shit, I had to cleanse my screen with Harpic Powerplus Toilet Cleaner.

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 2.22.14 AM

So far so good. But Nawaab has just lit the joint and taken a puff of the strong stuff. He inhales deeply, his royal lungs filling up with the white smoke, only to float out of his royal nose gracefully.

Nawaab saab closes his eyes for a few moments, ponders on the meaning of life and then wonders what he has to say. Kya Kehna?

Let’s see…

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This is where things get a little icky. Firstly, the analogy of race horses doesn’t make any fucking sense. Race horses are bred with the single aim to run courses. Are you seriously telling me that’s what goes in human’s minds when they look for partners? That we think not with the nuanced intelligence and empathy of human beings, but in terms of pedigree of race horses? By that logic Kim Sharma and Umesh Yadav must produce the finest children in the country? Are you even fucking serious?

Not only is Saif pleased as punch with his philosophical analogy, he goes on to give some shit to a poor reporter from Elle. To read a book and improve her vocabulary – which is all fine advice. Only, she’s a writer who contributes articles to internet magazines. You own a town.

A fucking town! You’re the ruler of a place in the largest democracy in the world! Anybody who is the Nawab should stay away from discussions on nepotism, man. And you’re lecturing a girl some 20 years younger to you to read books? Could you be a little less cocky, Mr. Dicky Malhotra?

Saif Ali Khan then proceeds to light the joint again (for it might have gone off with all the brainwaves that crash at the banks of his brain. So he lights the joint and comes up with more gems through the night.

Like this bit:

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 2.25.06 AM

What the fuck are you talking about? Three systems at play? Aristocracy, meritocracy, democracy? What the fuck is this? Chandrakanta??

I always thought Saif Ali Khan was a deep, philosophically intelligent man, but now I realise it was always Kareena Kapoor who said so! And her opinion can be taken with bags of NaCl. But then NaCl ke liye bhi akal chahiye!

Nepotism cannot work in the film industry because it is a democracy? So where will nepotism work, wise one? The People’s Republic of North Korea? Do you even read what you write, O! Nawaab of Kabaabs?

What genetic investment are you talking about?

You of all people shouldn’t be talking about nepotism. Your debut film was symbolically called Parampara. In a space of four years, your character was named ‘Raja’ in four films, ‘Prince Vijay’ in one, and another film was called Ek Tha Raja! And you own a fucking town, man!

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What sort of genetic investment went into Bambai ka Babu, Surakshaa, and Aao Pyar Karein? What investment philosophy is this? Rich Dad, Poor Dad??

You won a National Award for Best Actor for Hum Tum. Not Manikchand Superstar of the Year Award – the NATIONAL AWARD. For Hum Tum, a film that was shamelessly copied from the legendary Hollywood rom-com When Harry Met a Shitty Scriptwriter. Your mother Sharmila Tagore was the Chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification. Hum Tum? Are you fucking kidding me? 2004 was the year of films like Swades, Lakshya, Yuva, and Ab Tak Chhappan. And you won it for Hum Tum. And you’re lecturing a 20-something writer to read more books?

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What does that bit about Johnny Depp’s advice even mean? Never complain and never explain? You just complained and explained a fucking 1000 word slob-fest. And what do you mean when you say you have forgotten his advice and you’re never going to forget it again? Does that sentence make sense in a different dimension? The one in which Kachhe Dhaage exists?

And now we are supposed to root for fucking Arjun Kapoor? The guy has the acting range of a drunk hippopotamus? Why don’t you just go ahead and tell us which design of Amul Macho underwear we need to buy too?

You get to play the lover boy opposite actresses half your age, even though the film has all the realism of a Saavdhaan India Weekend Dhamaal episode. You get to play guitar with Parikrama with skills that are marginally better than a 3rd year IIT student’s. You get to strum G-A-D-C chords on a guitar and pretend to sing songs along with Pritam Chewbacabarty on a music awards show. AND, YOU’RE THE KING OF A FUCKING TOWN!  

The truth is, you got to act in 25 films before Dil Chahta Hai. 25 films! Most actors in the country would give their arms, balls, and liver to get to act in 25 films. You got to live the life of a superstar while sucking gloriously at your job. And I don’t know if you realised it along the way of all the beautiful books you read (which the writer for Elle didn’t). That you lead a life of privilege.

Kangana Ranaut has no such luck. She will not get producers making ‘genetic investments’ in her career for twenty years, while she pathetically flaps about with bigger stars for a hit. To go up on stage and perform a gag is one thing. But to write an open letter from a closed mind, to give vague analogies of race horses and genetic investments – proves you’ve clearly been reading the wrong books. May be if you picked up the latest edition of Elle, you would see the number of actors who struggle to get films.

So kindly shut the fuck up about nepotism. Smoke some cigars, order satin underwear on Zivame, and go the fuck to sleep.

And oh, pass me your dealer’s number, will you, Raja?

***

Picture showing a group of hybrid, super-efficient zombies who pass off as the Indian team today.

Why do all Indian cricketers look like each other?

Nostalgia, is a tricky monster.

Nostalgia makes people romanticise the trivial and the unpleasant. People glorify the agony of waiting a month for a telephone connection and LPG cylinder. Processing and accepting those emotions as some hogwash cathartic, life-coming-full-circle bullshit.

Cricket isn’t exempt from the vile clutches of nostalgia either.

I have met erstwhile fans who glorify the tension of watching the Indian cricket team in the 90s. Celebrate the anxiety of watching the Indian team totter and stutter their way to rare victories. ‘Glorious uncertainties’ – that term that Sunil Gavaskar dished out when we snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory in Bahubalean fashion. When S. Ramesh T. struggled to string together the winning runs while his partners strolled in and out of the pitch like drunk baaraatis. Most fans tend to romanticise these days of uncertainty, bracketing them unnecessarily under the umbrella of ‘nostalgia’.

I am not one of them. Give me ‘predictably good’ over ‘glorious uncertainty’ any day. Perhaps my brain had a premonition about my weak heart’s incapability to deal with these days for too long!

Cricket today is not just competing with Amul Surabhi and Chitrahaar. It’s competing with Netflix and Facebook and Tinder and Zomato. You don’t just have to win, you have to win while blowing my mind, or I’ll switch off. I’ll switch channels and devices and playlists and crawl far, far away from you.

I am happy with the state of the Indian cricket team today. I love the fact that after 80 years of international cricket, India is now feared and respected as a worthy adversary, like the Australian team we grew up watching. That we are counted among the top; that to beat us, you have to be top-shelf, surpass our strengths and exploit our weaknesses.

That you can’t beat India just because Sachin got out and the rest of the team has the batting skills of woodcutters. Not because chasing a big score in a final was ‘always going to be a difficult ask’. Not because, like my neighbour would say, ‘Today is Friday, Muslims will always win’.

To beat the Indian team of today, you have to be bloody good, play out of your skin. Elevate your standards to meet those of our many gods.

It’s a wonderful feeling. I am thrilled with with the state Indian cricket is in today. None of that nostalgia-vostalgia for me, thank you very much!

*

However, I would like to lodge a minor complaint.

It is human nature after all, to lodge such minor complaints from time to time. Jackie Shroff essayed the role of the legendary Ram in Teri Meherbaniyan, but is only remembered for the Bidu caricature. Bob Dylan lodged complaints against the times he lived in using cutting letters and biting phrases. Chenghis Khan complained about the size of his kingdom and went about redefining the meaning of ‘Father’s Day’ for most of Asia. The British complained about the lack of spices in their salads, and I’m sitting here thousands of miles away writing articles with clickbait headlines. It is human nature to complain.

My complaint is the headline of this article. The words you saw on your Facebook feed and decided to give a chance because you saw potential – much like the selectors did with Amay Khurasia years ago –

‘WHY DO ALL INDIAN CRICKETERS LOOK THE SAME?’

The Indian cricket today is a clone army of supremely fit, spiky-haired, tattoo-sporting, muscled athletes. Their beards are all perfectly trimmed and shaped, their hair spiked to perfection, vague tattoos on their left arms – everybody looks like everybody else.

How did a nation with as much diversity as ours, all those races and ethnicities, the chutney of languages and foods and dialects – how did our entire team morph into one another?

Kohli looks like Rahul who looks like Jadeja looks like Rahane looks like Dhawan looks like Pandya looks like Rohit Sharma. Even Ashwin, who till a few years back resembled the topper who eats three tiffin compartments of curd rice in the last bench, has morphed into the army. Suresh Raina, who looks like his father owns a sweet shop on MG Road, has also gone for the beard-spike look. Dhoni, who was once a long-haired Samson who sported a paunch but ran like Minotaur, has also bought into the scheme.

Picture showing a group of hybrid, super-efficient zombies who pass off as the Indian team today.

Picture showing a group of hybrid, super-efficient zombies who pass off as the Indian team today.

Don’t get me wrong! It’s great that the Indian team is faster, stronger, sharper. But at a narrative level, it is devoid of personalities. The Indian team I grew up with was a motley crew of distinctly different personalities. Like a pirate ship with cast-away crew from different lands. You could be watching the match on a grainy 7’ x 8’ black and white television in a paan shop, but you knew who was who. You could recognise them by their gait, their posture, their throws from the boundary, their hobble across the 22 yards.

They were uncle cricketers – who could vanish into any Indian crowd. They could be members of a summer picnic of SBI employees, or a Ganesh procession.

Group of Indian men waiting for traffic police to give permission for their Ganesh to start from the colony (PC: Cricinfo)

Group of Indian men waiting for traffic police to give permission for their Ganesh to start from the colony (PC: Cricinfo)

There were the paunchy, middle-aged men – Manoj Prabhakar, Saba Karim, Ashish Kapoor – whose moustaches and mullets served as tributes to the likes of Suneil Shetty and Sudesh Berry.

Then we had the Decent Gentlemen’s Club of South Indian bowlers – Srinath, Prasad and Kumble. Tall, gangly engineers who worked hard because they had to withdraw their PPF account before Diwali.

Anil Kumble, who with spectacles and moustache, slayed opposition tailenders like they were calculus problems. Srinath, who would come running in from the 30 yard circle, apologise to the batsman for hitting him on the head, and run back to his bowling mark sweating like a marathon runner. Or Prasad, who had the legs of a giraffe and the hands of a sloth. Who woke up early, wore a digital watch, bowled his 10 overs and retired to bed early (unless you were a certain Ameer Sohail).

Picture showing Indian men having a house party when their wives are away.

Picture showing Indian men having a house party when their wives are away.

There was Sunil Joshi, whose moustache was more glorious than his bowling average. Sanjay Manjrekar with his aadarsh-baalak white helmet. Robin Singh, who looked like an honest (and hence) harassed SBI employee – hard-working, sweating, his receding hairline a reflection of his worries. There was Sidhu with the 5 Ks of Sikhism, and one ‘G’ – Grin. Sachin with his curly mop of hair. Venkatpathy Raju and Vinod Kambli, who looked like boys who hung out with the seniors in the colony. Nayan Mongia, who looked like the guy who dropped out of school after 10th and was now doing a vocational course in Industrial Technology Institute.

Schoolboys clicking a picture with their class-teacher on a picnic. PC: Reddit.

Schoolboys clicking a picture with their class-teacher on a picnic. PC: Reddit.

There were the cricketers from Mumbai, their young shoulders drooping with the burden of legacy – Pravin Amre, Sairaj Bahutule, and Sameer Dighe. There were the south Indian batsmen – Sujith Somasunder, Vijay Bharadwaj and S. Ramesh – hardworking and honest (except when Ramesh faked an injury certificate and got booted out of the team!).

And then there was Ramesh Powar, who famously declared in an interview that he was ‘fat, but fit’. Who with his portly paunch and his gold chains and coloured sunglasses looked more capable of hypnotizing batsmen than bamboozling them. Who was probably given two Test matches to play because selectors placed bets on his ability to stand for five days!!  

Then there was the boss man – shoulders hunched, latching onto the ball like it was a golden snitch, flipping the ball with his shoe and catching it – all swag and coolness – Mohammad Swaggeruddin. The man who had his collar up all the time, like the World Cup semi final was just another ‘bet-match’ between Charminar and Begumpet.

You just didn’t follow cricketers, you aped their mannerisms. I tried to flick the ball up like Azharuddin all through my childhood and only learnt to do it at age 30. Ajay Jadeja’s ‘throw the ball quickly and smile’ trick was never possible because I suck as a fielder, and smiling after a misfield makes me look like a lunatic. Laxman’s tapping on the pitch was followed by millions of kids in India.

*

You can’t do that with today’s team. KL Rahul has Virat’s beard and Dhawan has his tattoos, and they’re all fit and springy and quick and efficient. Their beards are all cropped to perfection and their tattoos are all dark-green mumbo-jumbo, and they all field well and rattle opposition batsmen.

I can’t tell one from the other. Even when I watch cricket on pimple-revealing HD clarity, I have to put my bottle of beer aside, and wait for the replay to curse the rare misfield. I have nobody to ape anymore, falling back upon Mohd. Swaggeruddin’s ball-flick, and Venkatesh Prasad’s sublime fielding skills.

It’s only a minor complaint, I know. But I’m only human, saar.

Like Sadagopan Ramesh.

***

quitting weed

Going a fortnight without smoking weed

It’s been a week since I quit weed.

I know, I know.

*

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.

*

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.

 

*

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)

***

(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.

*

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!

*

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.

***

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!

*

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.

*

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!’

*

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!

 

*

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!  

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!

***