Category Archives: Arbit Gyan

NaNoWriMo Day 2 Updates: Best Music to Listen to while Writing

I am taking part in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. An event where thousands of aspiring writers sit down to write the first drafts of their novel in a span of 30 days.

I have been attempting it for the last three years, but failing spectacularly (Imagine Manoj Prabhakar in a World Cup semi-final). I found that it was because I was ill prepared, and had no idea where my plot was going to take me. This year, I spent a few weeks in October getting my plot ready, diving my story into chapters, and developing the sub-plots in my head.

This seems to be working wonders, as I don’t have to sit down to think about what to write. I have a brief idea of what happens, so it’s only a case of how to write it. It reduces the burden on me to come up with an interesting story; all I need to do is focus on maintaining the flow.

If you’re an aspiring writer, I urge you to follow my Facebook page, where I shall be putting up regular tips, updates and follow-ups of my struggle with trying to finish my first draft in a month. If you’re not a writer, kindly bear with my posts this coming month. They will mostly be scrambled rants about the vagaries of trying to write. If you do not connect to the rants, I am sorry.

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#NaNoWriMo DAY 2

It’s the second day of NaNoWriMo, and the challenge really, was to sustain the josh of the first day. First days are beautiful and sunny and inspirational and all things Rocky Balboa. But it’s the day after that’s an acid test.

Assuming the average first draft of a book is 50,000 words, the average word count per day in NaNoWriMo is 1666 words per day. At first, the number seems daunting. But scratch a little deeper, and you’ll find it isn’t as unsurmountable as it seems.

On days when I’m well and truly stuck, I like to divide my day’s writing into paragraphs. Assuming every paragraph is about 200 words on average, I have to write about 8 – 9 paragraphs. Doesn’t sound so difficult, does it?

And if you further break it down, a paragraph usually deals with a single idea – a description, an action, a memory, or a set of dialogues. Which means that I have to trudge my way through 8 or 9 key ideas. And THAT, sounds extremely doable!

And so I sat down to write for the second day.

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But before I get down to the mundane events of the day, let me answer a question I’ve been asked related to writing.

WHAT SORT OF MUSIC TO LISTEN TO WHILE WRITING?

Most writers wouldn’t recommend listening to any music at all. However, most writers do not possess the focus of a coked-up squirrel, like I do. Which is why I need a distraction to end all distractions.

Also, in the world we live in, it has become harder to focus, tougher to push away our distractions. A ping from a friend, a forward from a relative, a buzz from an actor on Twitter – we are a ping away from distraction crumbling down like Kuki Sharda. (Dear God! I beg your forgiveness).

However, listening to music while writing is a tricky matter. Unlike running, or working out, or cooking – you can’t have music that pushes you forward. It cannot be music that makes you feel pumped up. It has to have a calming effect.

At the same time, it cannot be AR Rahman’s greatest instrumental playlist either. Great and evocative as they are, Rahman’s tracks bring with them a memory tucked away in the back of your head. They carry with them recollections and reminders and thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings are distractions when you’re sitting down to write.

The song cannot have lyrics too, as the words of the song will mess with the words you’re trying to write. So that eliminates most music forms popular in our times. The music shouldn’t evoke strong emotions, its work must merely be to calm you down. To get your monkey mind to transform into a saint.

I tried a number of options – white noise, sound of trains and sounds of rains. And yet, none of them seemed to work. I tried elevator music – Brian Emo’s Music for Airports and Thursday Afternoon. They’re both fantastic albums, but they’re too elevator-y. Too bland, they invoke no inspiration, they inspire no provocation. Instead of egging me to write, I felt that the music made me feel like a crack addict who was tied to the metal bed in a psychiatric hospital.

It was after much searching through the underbelly of the Internet that I found my answer – classical music. Western symphony music has no lyrics, moves from emotions in a smooth manner, and makes everything seem grand.

Don’t believe me? Play Rossini’s overture to The Thieving Magpie the next time you’re taking a dump. Tell me if you don’t feel like it’s the greatest dump taken in the history of human civilization. I found a fantastic radio station – KDFC – run by the University of Southern California. They have playlists, request shows and mostly classical music that helps me to calm down, focus and type. I often find my fingers keeping tempo with the music, speeding up towards the end of the performances, and slowing down when the next one begins. I’d highly recommend listening to western classical music.

Before you accuse me of being an anti-national, here’s why Indian classical music didn’t work for me. I have listened to a lot of Indian classical music. The instruments evoke memories in me, and I cannot be completely detached to Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Zakir Hussain and Shivkumar Sharma. These beautiful gentlemen were a part of my growing years, and I needed something that was neutral and unemotional for me.

However, I would also highly recommend Hariprasad Chaurasia’s albums Morning to Midnight – Morning to Dusk, Pure Joy, and (for completely biased reasons), Hriday.

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Day 2 Updates:

I got back from my office at 9.45. Our cook had cooked meal-maker curry in the day, and had merely added daal to the menu. This prompted me to have a Masala Dosa in the office (a huge shoutout to the wonderful cooks who make the dosa in the Microsoft campus).

I reached home to find that the geyser (which was installed in the heyday of Bahadur Shah Zafar) had been repaired, and I took a shower. I rolled a joint, and sat down to jot down what I’d be writing today.

At 12, I began writing, going smooth till I’d hit 890 words. I found myself stuck with a particular question (What sort of food would students in the Mahabharat era eat?). I had a quick discussion with my friend, and the harmless question stretched on for an hour and a half.

By the end of the discussion, we had charted out the daily schedule for the Kaurava princes at Dronacharya’s ashram. We knew what they would do on regular days, and on holidays and festive occasions.

We had also created a menu for students in the Dwaapar Yuga, and what they’d be given to eat on holidays. By the end of the discussion, we saw that the time was 3.30. I wished my friend goodnight and sat down to write myself to sleep, managing a healthy 1682 words for the day.

Lessons learnt on Day 2:

  1. If you’re stuck with descriptions, carry an exam pad and sketch out the places, doodle out the exact details, and then proceed to explain them one after the other.
  1. If you’re finding it difficult to focus, classical music is a great option to resort to.

So, on the third day of November, I stand at 3315 words, and well into the second chapter of my fourth book.

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If you’re an aspiring writer, I implore you to take part in NaNoWriMo. There are wonderful fora across the Internet where authors sit and discuss, debate, and bitch about the world. All through this month, I shall be posting unsolicited advice, tips, and updates about my struggles to finish my book in a month.

If you’re not an aspiring writer…I envy your life!  🙂

crackers-festival

Diwali Crackers ranked according to awesomeness (and Risk Levels)

I have been writing about Diwali over the last one week, and as expected, the discussions have all descended into a Hindu vs Muslim argument.

Honestly, I’m a little tired of putting forth my opinions and being labelled. There’s already been so much said on the subject, and the reader will mostly only take the opinion based on the ideology that they belong to, so it’s like singing a Qawwali to a cow.

While I’m an atheist and strongly detest anything to do with religion and religious rituals, I cannot deny that I’ve had my share of fun on Diwali. I cannot deny that Diwali is more than bursting crackers or creating an India-shaped hole in the Ozone layer. It is about families getting together. About joy, happiness, and explaining technology to family members.

Also, no matter what I say about crackers, I can’t change the fact that I’ve burst thousands of crackers in my lifetime. I realise that just because I’ve grown up and slanted towards a particular line of thought, I cannot expect kids of today not to burst crackers. That would be very uncle-y of me, and not something I’d do.

What I’d like to do, on the other hand, is to list out all Diwali crackers on the basis of awesomeness (and the risk involved).

So here it is. The definitive list of Diwali crackers, ranked on the basis of awesomeness.

  1. SNAKE BOMB:

This name is a misnomer. It is not really a bomb; and no prizes for guessing – it isn’t really a snake either.

The snake bomb (also called snake pellet/Evil Hajmola/Kill Grandmother Tablet) is a small, black button-like object that is placed on the floor. Light it with a matchstick, and nothing happens – only a thick, black line of soot comes out of the tablet, leaving a permanent scar on the floor, and in your heart. I always felt this was the Lifebuoy of crackers – that after all the crackers were made, this was coughed up with whatever gun-powder remained in Sivakasi. It has now been banned by the government, which came as a surprise to nobody.

RISK LEVEL: Zilch. Except that your grandparents might feel they gave birth to a degenerate.

 

  1. MAALA:

If the Indian government wishes to track black money, they needn’t run after Swiss Bank accounts. They need to place taxmen in colonies and track down the man who’s bursting the longest maala on Diwali.

The most annoying Diwali cracker in the history of Diwali crackers. If the Maala existed in the time of Ramayan, Lakshmana would have shot arrows straight through the hearts of the monkey army for lighting up maalas.

The Maala (which comes in varieties of 10,000 wala, 1 lakh wala and 10 lakh wala) is a ‘fuck-you’ cracker that serves no purpose but to display the wealth of its owner. The most annoying bit about the Maala (also called the ladi) is the fact that while it goes on for over 9 minutes like a thumri, all you can do is sit and wait.

RISK LEVEL: Make sure grandparents have had dinner, play Raina Beeti Jaaye on Sony Mix, and the begin lighting the Maala.

 

9. FOUNTAIN/FLOWERPOT/KUMPI

The flowerpot (also called an ‘Anaar’ by people who studied at Rishi Valley School) is symbolic of Diwali and is often the first cracker to get out of the way. It is easy, fun to watch, and like a human orgasm, is fantastic for a few seconds.

However, the reason for its low ranking is the fact that the Flowerpot scores very low on the Money : Chaos theory. You can’t direct it at neighbours, or use it to spook the guy next to you lighting up an Atom Bomb. The riskiest thing you can do with this is to hold it in your hand while lighting up, something Jackie Shroff did as an infant. In fact, Jackie Shroff came out of the hospital ward holding a lit up fireworker in his left hand (he’s right-handed). But more on that later, for Diwali is an occasion to celebrate other heroes.

Another reason for its particularly low ranking is the fact that it has become rather expensive these days.

RISK LEVEL: Breeze. Like watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham on Star Gold on a Wednesday afternoon.

 

8. CHAKRI

The Chakri is based on a simple concept – that if you wrap barood in thin strips of paper and tie them around in a circle, it will rotate and spew sparkling lights across. It has a fairly long wick and can be lit by people of all ages. The only problem I have with the Chakri (and hence, the low ranking) is the fact that it needs a lot of prep time.

Chakris need to be properly sunned in the afternoon, failing which they go through the scientific phenomenon known as ‘phusss ho gaya’.

RISK LEVEL: Just wear a pair of Paragon chappals.

 

7. BIJLI:

The Bijli Bomb (bit of a stretch to call it a bomb, honestly) is a value for money, efficient cracker that does its job. You can light it up before, after, or during Diwali – the Bijli is the French Fries of Diwali crackers.

When many Bijlis come together, they create the annoying maala, but as individual sticks, they are quite palatable. Proving that in the world of crackers, the adage holds true – ‘United we Terrorise, Divided we chill’.

The Bijli bomb can be enjoyed be oneself. Light a candle, light the wick of the Bijli, throw it away from you. Relight the candle.

RISK LEVEL: Mild surprise when grandmother is praying in front of the Tulasi plant, but no physical damage.

 

6. SPARKLER:

Non-exciting and completely vegetarian, the Sparkler is the only real surprise in this list. However, it has earned its place on the basis of solid facts. The sparkler is pretty much the first real cracker that anybody in their lives ever held. It is also the only cracker that every single member of the family could hold, loop around in the air for a few times, and then safely throw away to the side.

The sparkler is also used when matchsticks are too mundane to light up other dangerous bombs, and on the basis of efficiency and their ubiquitous nature, the Sparkler ranks high in the list.

RISK LEVEL: Very low. In fact, grandparents will smile, and give you their blessings. And some pocket money as well, if they aren’t my grandparents.

 

5. CHOCOLATE BOMB:

No fuss, does what it’s supposed to do, comes cheap, and looks like it was made from Minnie Mouse’s old underpants – what’s not to like about the classic Chocolate Bomb?

The Chocolate Bomb used to cost a rupee in my childhood and I’m glad to announce that it only costs about 10 rupees now (5 if you buy on Diwali evening). In fact, if Bajaj Motors released a Diwali cracker, it would be the chocolat bomb. Cheap, efficient, won’t last too long.

RISK LEVEL: It has a very small wick, and requires precision while lighting. Grandparents could throw their walking stick at you.

 

4. ROCKET

The perennial favourite, the ‘Rocket’ was such a legendary cracker that Chacha Chaudhry named his dog after this delightful essential household item.

Comes in attractive packaging, with tantalising pictures of Katrina K and Kareena KK. The rocket also scores highly due to its flexible usage. It can be lit up in various modes – fitting the complete range of sadomasochism – from the Arun Govil technique of filling a cool drink bottle with sand, to the ISIS approved method of holding it in your hand and pointing it to the neighbour’s window.

RISK LEVEL: ‘Stick it with the pointy end’, Jon Snow said, as he smiled at Arya.

 

3. ONION BOMB:

I don’t know if this bomb is still available and legal, but it was one of my favourites while growing up. The Onion Bomb had no wick to light, and burst on impact when you threw it with force against a wall, floor, or ceiling.

Shaped like an onion and looked like a garlic, I used it extensively as an imaginary cricket ball. I would draw wickets on the wall, take a run up and bowl fast (being careful not to pitch the ball short). On the other end, I would imagine Pakistani batsmen buckling under pressure (What can I say! Disturbed childhood). I also used it as grenades to fling at imaginary villains, as shown in the film Zalzala.

RISK LEVEL: Do not buy too many at one time and put them in the same bag. Do not put the bag on the floor with force once you’ve reached home. Do not put them in your pockets, as you might slip and fall. Do not ask your grandparents to cook you anything that involves onion or garlic.

 

2. GUN AND BULLETS:

Okay, I take back my words. The Gun and Bullets are the ACTUAL surprise on the list, but kindly give me a minute to explain my choice, M’lord.

While Diwali might be a festival that raises many questions on the socio-political spectrum today, this wasn’t always the case. Back then, Diwali only came on the news when people suffered third degree burns. And even then, I didn’t spend a lot of time fussing over bombs and creating imaginary lists in order of awesomeness.

There were two other boys in our lane and the three of us ensured we got decent guns in our pockets. We collected coins and pooled in the brown cardboard boxes that had rolls of red, barood-filled bindis in them. And then we set out.

An abandoned truck had been lying by the side of a road for a few years, and if you climbed from the back, you could open its doors and sit inside. The back was empty, and the great vessel that once carried sand and cement and chips was now a fortress. I spent many an afternoon hopping on to the truck, killing enemies while ducking Bullets, and holding dear friends as they died in my arms from bullet wounds…only to rush home to drink a glass of Bournvita and return as a new hero!! For, tell me O Partha, how can you remove the concept of Punarjanam from a festival?

RISK LEVEL: Barely any. Keep away from the dressing table and cousins attempting Medical/CA courses to avoid minor scares.

 

1. HYDROGEN BOMB:

The elder brother of the Atom Bomb, the Hydrogen Bomb is a large ball of destruction that is rolled up in green woollen threads and a shiny sticker to hold the wick in.

If the Atom Bomb is the gateway to the Dark Side, the Hydrogen Bomb is where things get real. Not every wizard who bought guns from Ollivander’s shop will step over into the dark green, Slytherin world of the Hydrogen Bomb. But the ones that do, will heed the call of the Death Eaters, and purchase boxes full of these potent crackers.

In Game of Thrones, Ser Beric Dondarrion lights up the Lightbringer sword and comes back to life, but it kills a bit of him every single time. As we know, everything originated in India, and George RR Martin was inspired for this idea from the great Vishwa RR Mitra, an Indian Maharishi. Much like the Lightbringer sword, the Hydrogen Bomb startles everybody, but particularly rearranges the insides of the person who lit it up. Other conspiracy theories say that it was invented by Tyler Durden on a particularly gloomy Wednesday afternoon.

The Hydrogen Bomb is all the more relevant in the times we live in. As we speak, Kim Jon Un and Donald Trump are threatening each other with Hydrogen Bombs of larger sizes, as Death Eaters around the world cheer with glee. It might be the last Diwali out there folks, enjoy it while it lasts!

RISK LEVEL: Grandparents could strike out your name from the family’s inheritance.

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So that is it.

That is ALL I know about Diwali crackers. I literally no nothing else on the subject. If I ever make it to KBC and Mr. B asks me ‘Haiiiinnnn…. Hriday ji, agla sawaal… Kaun sa Bharatiya neta ne ‘Lakshmi Bomb’ ko naam diya?’; I’d have to quit the game, for there is nothing more I know about crackers.

Some 10 years ago, I started this blog as a teenager, unaware that it would mean anything, unaware that it would open doors, that thousands of strangers would connect to it. But it has survived 10 years.

If this blog survives another 30 odd years, and some kid is reading it and looks back on our times, let them not think that Diwali was only a festival that brought on controversies, debates and confrontations on the news and Internet. Let them know that Diwali was a festival when people shared sweets, met their loved ones, got high, smiled, and laughed.

I am nobody to preach to you. Burst crackers if you have to. Don’t burst them if you don’t.

Stay safe! Happy Diwali. 🙂 🙂

*****

Featured Image Courtesy: www.hindugodwallpaper.com

Rajiv_Gandhi_International_Airport

Tripping in airports

The last week was spent traveling, and as I navigated through cities with my blue oversized Wildcraft rucksack, I reveled in the joy of tripping in airports.

As a writer and comedian, traveling to other cities has become a constant attempt to come up with observations. Some of them are rather mundane (did you know that vada pavs across the country are exactly the same? I mean, there are no variations at all, it’s exactly the same).

But some observations were genuinely interesting. For example, I noticed that you could gauge how much the women of a city trusted their city, by looking at their Tinder profiles. In Hyderabad, I find women usually build walls around themselves on their Tinder profile (Not interested in hook-ups. Swipe right if you want to go traveling together).  In Mumbai, I found women quite open about their likes and dislikes, their choices and needs. In Bhubaneswar, easily the most conservative among the three cities, I found women on Tinder putting up absurd excuses for meeting (Swipe Right if you want to take part in Ekamra Walks on Sunday morning 9 AM!!). 

But keeping forced observations aside, most of my time was spent tripping

It has been a custom for the last few years. On the day of the journey, I panic, stuff stuff in my rucksack, and make sure I’m sufficiently toked before getting to the airport. It helps that the Hyderabad airport is forty kilometres away, and give me a very ‘Swades’ feeling. Of staring into the distance and pondering over the many myriad meanings of life. I plug in my earphones, fire up a clichéd playlist of travel songs, and stare philosophically into the sky.

I took my first flight about seven years ago. And in spite of having to travel around as a comic, I am blown away by the experience every single time. I love the hustle and bustle, the feeling of success everytime the guard with the machine gun checks my ID and lets me in.

I grew up on train nostalgia, but train journeys are simply not the same anymore. They are noisy, dirty, chaotic, and I have a constant fear that a terrorist is going to blow up the railway station. So I trip on airports these days.

So I trip in airports these days.

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I understand that the primary job of an airport people by airplanes. But if there was a second reason, it seems like they were built to let people trip. Long white corridors, abstract paintings on the walls, music playing through speakers, sights and sounds, smells and flavours.

I find children and old people to be the only ones who still revel in the joy of an airport. The children are fiddling with things, getting yanked by their parents, pointing and wanting stuff. The older ones are curiously judging everything, asking their guardians for tips on navigating the gigantic technological glacier they’ve been trying to ride. Everybody that’s not a child or old, is simply jaded. Music is playing in their ears, but their eyes are glazed. The frequent travelers have no time to wonder, no need to marvel.

I wander through the outlets, buying nothing, and judging everything. ‘Achha. 11,000 ka shirt. Wah! Tera baap khareedega, saale!’ I wander through the food counters, looking at the menus, their prices and imagining I’m in the future where a plate of idli costs 350 bucks. I wonder if these shops would then be shooting other stoned passengers like me into the future.

There is a mild panic before the Security Check. I don’t know why, but it’s always there. I have had nightmares of being stopped by the security guards because a friend stuffed some weed for me in my rucksack. The police stop me, and I run, and then they shoot me down.

None of this happens, and I feel victorious after my boarding pass has been stamped. You remember the satisfaction in school when there was an investigation going on for a crime, but you knew you had nothing to do with it, and were being unusually cocky about your confidence? Something like that.

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But more than anything else, it is the thrill of being in the sky that gets to me. I once did acid on a flight and I felt like I had died and God had approved of my membership into the gated community called heaven. No matter how many times I fly, I make it a point to look out of the window and gasp at the enormity of it all.

Of being able to sit and write out a blog in the sky.

As I sit down to type out this blog, we have taken off and when I look to my right (and past the man who looks at me and my shabby hair with suspicion), I see clouds of white in skies of blue. Bright blessed days and dark sacred nights.

The announcements have come on, I need to close my tray. I return the Cello Gripper ball pen to the air hostess, close my note book and slip my tablet and keyboard into my bag. In the time that it took me to write this blog, I, Veda Vyasa, have travelled from my Karmabhoomi to my Matrubhoomi.

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And that is why I trip in airports.

And that is why I trip on airports.

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).

 

*

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.

*

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.

*

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?

 

*

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.

*

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…

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 2.23.38 AM

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!

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 1.50.37 AM

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?

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 2.26.12 AM

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.

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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.

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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)