Category Archives: Arbit Gyan

Meeting my Father after 15 years

I belong to a dysfunctional family.

There are four members in my family – my father, mother, sister and me. The four of us live by ourselves, without the need/necessity to be with any of the others. We have found our own paths, and drifted as far away from Pangea as Iceland and Australia.

I lived in a boarding school for 10 years, and by myself for the next 15. As you might have guessed, family values have never been an essential part of my existence. Over the years, I have tried to analyse my life and see if it was better or worse without my family.

The pros far outweigh the cons.

For one, living independently shaped who I am today.

I was kicked out of the house by both of my separated parents. The teenage me was angry and resentful about it. But when I look back, I learned to scrape through, to hustle, to do odd jobs, and become an independent person. Everything I have achieved today are due to my own efforts – not my parents, friends, relatives, or God. And all this wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been inadvertently kicked out of the house by my parents.

Without the nagging, half-knowledge pressure that Indian parents masquerade as ‘affection’, I was free to choose the life I wanted for myself. I was answerable to nobody in the world, and my only consideration was my own interest. It’s been great!

The only con I can think of is the lack of empathy and compassion in my life. I believe that living with a family teaches you kindness and compassion. It teaches you how to talk, how to behave, how to empathise – skills that are nonexistent in me. I am as emotive as Arjun Rampal in Asambhav.

But be that as it may, I couldn’t have chosen any other way to have led my life. Somewhere down the line, my parents became side characters in my story. I knew they existed somewhere, and had general updates on their lives, but I wasn’t concerned too much about making peace with them.

Last year, wisdom-in-hindsight presented itself and waved to me.

I figured my parents were about 22-23 when they got married, clueless about love, life, marriage and kids. When I was that age, I used to masturbate five times a day. That was my level of emotional maturity, so why was I judging my parents with alien barometers?

I decided to get in touch with my parents. I began with my mother, and sailed through without too many worries. She has retired from her government job and found solace (I think!) at the ashram I grew up in.

But it was getting back with my father that had me on my toes.

I do not have too many memories of my father. I lived with him till I was about five years old, and then for a year in 2003. I remember him being efficient and emotional – those two words probably best describe the personality that I remember.

He was a boy from a village who came to the city with the proverbial 10 rupee note in his pocket. He got a job, got his brothers educated, got his nephews jobs, and spent his life being the village adarsh baalak.

I was away when most of the above happened, so my connection to him was through the letters he would write to me at school. They were all inspirational in nature, harping about how he knew I would make the nation proud one day (gotta start working on those weed legalisation measures!!). The letters were well-written, and the teacher usually read them out to the entire class. He was also the person who sparked an interest in reading, writing, and stories.

But there was also the fact that he possessed an extremely short temper, was abusive to people around him. That he ran away from our home when things got sticky, and married a girl decades younger than him, to start a family again.

On a personal level, he kicked me out of his house when I was 16. At an age when fathers are supposed to have matured discussions with their kids, my father mouthed unthinkable words and tossed me out on my own. Moreover, in the 16 years that followed, he never bothered to get in touch with me, or even ask for my number or address.

There were long-buried issues between us, and I was skeptical about facing them.

 

*

I have started a scholarship for my village school, and on that pretext, I called up my father.

He didn’t answer at first, and then called back a little while later. We got talking, and the only thing I felt from his voice was a sense of relief. Like he could tick off a long-pending item from his life’s to-do list.

I traveled with him to my paternal village to supervise the nitty-gritties of the scholarship. I was hoping to make a connection with him after all these years. Tell him what I’ve been doing with my life, describe my life as a writer, standup comedian, and journalist. Ask him what he’s been upto all these years.

Inspired by an Osho video that I’d watched, I was hoping my father would be less of a father, and more of a friend. That he would acknowledge that I have grown up, and that he doesn’t need to be the same person he was decades ago.

Unfortunately, I found that my father cannot stop playing the father.

He pretended like nothing had ever happened between the two of us, that it was all normal. I have always found the habit of Indian parents constantly monitoring their children’s lives suffocating. I don’t know why they do it. Perhaps it’s the only kind of parenting they are aware of. Perhaps they fear the neighbours would be offended if they let down their walls.

I found my father’s constant advising, guiding, cajoling and correcting to be excruciatingly frustrating. He gave out weird reasons for the last 15 years – ‘You were born on Ramnaavami. These 14 years were your vanvaas!’ Really? No they weren’t. The last 14 years were me busting my ass around, trying to stay afloat while you were frolicking about with a younger woman and experiencing the joys of being a father at the age of 45!!

I wanted to tell him that it was alright. That he could stop performing, that he could get off the stage now. The play had run its course, the cast had retired, even the theatre was crumbling. But I knew it would be of no use. I could see him flinch a little every time I expressed an opinion, as if he was scared I would burst out again, and vanish from his life.

 

*

I wanted to put up this post immediately upon my return.

But that Sunday coincided with Fathers Day – that fuckall Archies Greeting Cards day that we have all foolishly imbibed in our lives. All the posts on Fathers Day are so dumb, so demeaning, so insulting to fathers worldwide! It robs fathers of their agency, their right to have an opinion.

No! Your daddy is not the strongest in the world. No, he is not a superhero without a cape. Shut the fuck up, and let him be who he is. Such posts only add to the problem, by burdening fathers with the pressure of being Amitabh Bachhan in Baghban – of being the upright, selfless father.

Fathers are not extraordinary human beings who attained wisdom when children are born. If all it took was becoming a father, Osama bin Laden should have been the wisest person on earth. The dude fathered 25 children!

Fathers can be criticised, reasoned with, and spoken to as an equal. You didn’t choose to be born to someone – it just happened. Being proud of your parents is illogical and childish – like being proud of your country, language, or sun-sign.

*

I tried talking to my father. Explaining that I am 32 years old now, that I do not need to be told to brush my teeth. That nagging constantly is not love, it is annoying. It is encroaching upon my carefully-gardened personal space.

But I am pretty sure my father won’t get it.

And that is the sad part. I am not obliged to be nice to my parents, I don’t owe them anything. I grew up completely independent of their support, their backward ideas, their egos and their narrow-mindedness.

What I was hoping for, was to have a discussion. To catch up on life. But the pressure of being an Indian father does not permit him to stoop down from his high pedestal and meet me half-way.

There is no break from being a father. Which is probably why I do not see myself being a husband or father – it is method acting for decades at stretch!!

I still speak to my father over the phone these days. Generic shit like ‘go to bed early’, ‘work hard’, and other outdated lines that his father had told him. Being passed on to me like antique wisdom without any context. That is when I realised something that I was trying to wrap my head around for the longest time.

The greatest burden that fathers shoulder, is of being a father in the first place.

 

    *****

Shower_head

The luxury of taking a hot shower

In the much-hyped world that we live in, we often miss everyday, commonplace joys. Our hashtags are reserved for the life-changing, the earth-shattering, the path-breaking.

But taking a hot shower is no less of a modern miracle.

This everyday chore often gets side-stepped on the path to larger things in life. But not too long ago, it would have been inconceivable for you to be taking a hot shower at the time of your choice.

*


There is just enough time.

Just enough time to smoke a joint, and switch on the geyser. And as you launch into your thought pool of the day, the water is getting heated up. Just as you near the last few puffs of the joint, you cough the TB cough, and step into the shower.

Into a luxury that you are probably the first generation to enjoy in your youth, in our long history of 2000/3000/5000 years (subject to your education, political inclination and patriotism).

It must be noted here that it is ‘showers’ that I will be harping on about, and not a

  • ‘bath’ in a tub (for you certainly aren’t the first generation hot-bath consumer)
  • a tap-bucket-mug (you have a certain climbing up in life to do, my friend).

The tap-bucket-mug method is too tedious and demands a lot of coordination to execute. Profound thoughts do not come visiting when you’re busy trying not to slip on soap. And I haven’t ever enjoyed a bath. When I am put up at luxurious hotels when I travel for shows, I don’t really know what to do in the tub. My only references are Bollywood villains, or vamps who seduce heroes. Since none of those options are available to me, I sit like an awkward Vishnu on an uncomfortable Sheshnaag.

This article is mostly about taking a shower. The kind with a working geyser (hence the term ‘hot shower’ in the title). The fact that a shower can be had is in itself a modern luxury. If we travel back in time as early as two generations ago, to the time of our grandfathers-

They needed to wake up and bathe in the mornings. There was no hot water, no shower; and in my village in Balasore, he would have to go to the village pond. I have seen it, and let’s just say there is no san-sanananana happening there. My grandfather could not skip it and stay in bed, as he did not want any adulting that day. #Adulting #DontWant

You go to the pond or river and perform your morning ablutions, well aware that you could slip and vanish forever. Then there are crocodiles and snakes to be watchful of. And if you evade all of that, there are still human beings that you need to take a bath with. Neighbours, uncles and relatives, since bathing was more social ritual than hygiene chore.

And why only take the male perspective? What about women? What if you were your ancestor – a noble, law-abiding lady about 500 years ago?

You needed to get to a waterfall or water body before the sun rose. If you lived in a rural area, it must be a headache. For you needed to carry water back with you too! Imagine taking a shower and coming back with two buckets of water, that you needed to carry to your office and manage the entire day with!

And if you lived in an urban area, it did not make your life any easier. You had to find your way to a public bath, or go with the women in your friends circle/family. Which meant you problems were not only with animals, but humans too! I don’t believe in the glorification that our past was all vedas and sunshine and nobility. There must have been creeps to deal with. You might live in the greatest civilisation of all time, but had no control over the time and place of your bath.

Or what if we went deeper into our past, say a 1000 years ago?

1018 was the year when the first Islamic invader – Mahmud Ghazni – entered India. We were still a civilisation that ranked low in the Maslow’s hierarchy of need theory.

If you managed to survive the ongoing wars, you still needed to rush to a water body. And it wasn’t exclusive to you, you had to share it with animals of the jungle too. Deers and tigers and wild boars and crocodiles. And goddamn bears! Bears who roamed the jungle and discovered that you had stolen their honey.

Honey they had discovered and nurtured, only to find that you and your soldier friends burnt a hole in its dreams, partied overnight, and left. And just as you were having a bath by yourself, the bear would ambush you and insert its paw deep in your posterior.

It was a dangerous time. A risky time.

*

Taking  shower is a luxury that we have taken for granted.

This magic cubicle that you enter, and come out a calmer, better looking version of yourself. A space that nobody else can intrude upon; not your family, friends, not Mark Zuckerberg.

A place where tiny plastic bottles contain specially formulated oils and liquids to make your hair shine, your skin glow. A place where you turn a knob, and thoughts come flowing down.

And why not? When you needn’t worry about tigers and bears, and Golu the neighborhood sex-offender – that’s when nobler thoughts come to us. I daresay that is when we evolve as a species.

It’s when you take a shower that you are truly with yourself. When you can think higher thoughts, when you can whip up a blog, and thousands of strangers could read your thoughts and nod in agreement.

*

On our path towards evolution and revolution, our efforts to be better humans, to save the planet and bring about peace and prosperity, we humans have forgotten what a luxury it is to take a hot shower.

*****

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Flipkart and the Myth of the Indian Startup Revolution

Walmart’s decision to purchase a chunk of Flipkart last week was hailed as ‘revolutionary’ by sections of the Indian press. Economic Times, the business arm of The Sensational Times of India, went so far as to call Sachin Bansal the ‘poster boy of Indian e-commerce who redefined 21st century startups’.

In some ways, it was relief for the company that had witnessed its valuation dip by a few billion dollars last year. Amidst news of Amazon and Walmart vying for a piece of the Flipkart pie, the $16 Billion deal with Walmart must have been a sigh of relief.

As expected, the acquisition caused social to go berserk, and over-zealous patriots began pompomming the deal as a matter of pride for India; a shot in the arm for our ‘startup revolution’. At the risk of sounding like an anti-national presstitute, here is my not-so-rosy opinion on Flipkart and the Walmart deal.

*

Flipkart gave me my first real experience with e-commerce. I had read about the magic of e-commerce on The Economic Times – that intimidating newspaper that I chucked the moment I started studying journalism.

To their credit, Flipkart were the first ones to fully trust Indians with a Cash on Delivery option. Earlier, sites like Rediff Shopping and Indiatimes offered COD, but you needed a Credit Card, a shopping history, and four pet tigers. And even then, the items available were limited to ‘safe’ products like baseball caps and talcum powder.

My first online order was placed in the year 2011. Ironically, as the world was moving towards smartphones, I was ordering a feature phone – Nokia X2 – the poor man’s Blackberry. This phone set new standards in over-promising and under-delivering.

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I placed my order and the phone got delivered in three days. I even got a mail saying the delivery guys tried getting in touch with me. So low were my expectations, that I was moved to tears.

Flipkart impressed

Ain’t no appreciation like genuine appreciation!

*

This genuinely good impression aside, I did not become a huge fan of Flipkart in the coming years.

At its very essence, Flipkart is a rip-off of Amazon – the world’s largest e-commerce site. I find it amusing that the founders took the same path that Amazon did – books. However, Amazon did it in 1995, and Flipkart in 2007!  What’s even more shocking is that the founders are ex-employees of Amazon. Imagine you’re employed by a company, and quit to start your own clone of the same company. I’m not too familiar with business lingo, but that’s kind of a dick move.

If you look carefully, Flipkart’s business strategy is lifted from the world’s largest e-commerce site. And even it’s logo seems to be lifted from the logo of the world’s largest social media site.

In the years that followed, Flipkart and Amazon went head to head, often with similar strategies, similar logistical decisions. After Amazon did it, Flipkart launched their own music player Flyte, which took flight after a few years. Flipkart also launched their own e-book reader that had more than a few similarities to Amazon’s Kindle. The service was later transported to Kobo, and eventually shut down.

Flipkart’s few bold moves backfired badly. The decision to go app-only with Myntra was quickly aborted. Flipkart’s in-app chat service Ping was also dumped in less than a year. Nearby, the grocery-delivery add-on sank without a trace.

Flipkart’s only real innovation must have been those annoying sales. Big Billion Sale, Gazillion Sale and Poonam Dhillon Sale.

As Amazon announced its arrival to Indian shores, Flipkart did everything to prepare itself, including buying the rest of the market – eBay and Jabong, and a long, gruelling negotiation with Snapdeal.

*

But then, India has never been the torchbearer of innovation. Our much-lauded IT revolution has been around for more than 20 years now. And yet, we haven’t shaken up the world with a single product, service or organisation. For the most part, we are cheaper alternative for high-end labour. An advantage that is expected to slip away from us as our brethren in Philippines and other countries wake up to the wonders of Rapidex English Speaking Course.

May be that is why we are so hung up on our past. Everybody from your friendly neighbourhood social media troll to ministers at the highest echelons of power – they love to hark back to that magical era. We love to stake claim to every modern technological thought, claiming we had done everything in the Vedic age (except sex, of course. Indians don’t have sex. They do tapasya and babies are born).

And this lack of innovation is not limited to Flipkart alone. If you search for the largest Indian startup companies, you’ll find they are all clones of global companies. Often times, the products and services are nearly identical. Ola is Uber without the professionalism. PayTM began with phone recharges and jumped on the smartphone revolution to follow the path of WeChat and other payment carriers. Swiggy does what global companies like JustEat and Takeaway do. OyoRooms is a shameless rip-off of AirBnB.

It’s perhaps telling that most of the founders of these clone companies are from IIT-IIMs – those haloed meccas of education in our country. And our media keeps worshipping these guys as visionaries and trailblazers. Whereas in reality, it is a case of first-mover in a booming economy. The strategy has been charted by others. It just needs some money and good replication skills.

I am yet to come across a single Indian startup company that is working towards a unique Indian solution to a uniquely Indian problem. (If you do, please let me know in the comments – I would love to read up on them!).

I am sure there must be organisations that are honestly trying to blaze trails. But they will never enjoy the funding or popularity that the copycats will enjoy in our culture. A culture where we go down on our knees to suck off anybody who got ‘foreign ka paisa’.

*

The Flipkart deal with Walmart might be celebrated among India Inc, but please do not call them ‘change-makers’.

It makes me cringe when the founders of these companies are hailed as ‘change-makers’. They are bringing as much change to the world as Venkatapathy Raju brought to the world of fashion designing.

*****

empty stage

How it feels to bomb on stage

At its most basic form, Standup Comedy is an absurd art form.

To go up on stage (and people like Jerry Seinfeld have said this in more eloquent terms), and try to get laughs from strangers, by spilling out the insides of your mind is absolutely weird. Jokes themselves are so subjective – they can either change your world-view, or get you shot in the head by fanatics.

The closest art form is probably singing – you go up on stage, you have a mic, an audience. You have words, and use tunes and tones to communicate. But that is where the similarity ends. A singer can replicate another singer’s song, and is appreciated for how close the singer comes to the original.

In any other art form (cinema, theatre, sports), you have a team working with you. Your success is dependent on how they collaborate with you. Your failures too, can be divided equally. That’s not the case with stand-up.

It is you, standing alone in a dark room of strangers in front of you. They are your thoughts, your words, your performance. Forget sounding like someone else, if you ever tell a joke that belongs to any other comic in the world, it’s the death-knell of your career. Forget copying a joke, even a similar strain of thought could mean THE END, beautiful friend.

*

It is this auteristic nature of Standup comedy that makes it unique. There is no team to fall back on, no companions who will see you through. There are friends, of course, but they cannot get on stage with you, or for you.

In other forms, you can always come back. You could muff through the first half of a match, and make a heroic return in the next. You could screw up the first two paras of a song, and come back with a terrific solo in the end. In standup, the audience’s laughter is the only validation. You need validation every few seconds. If the audience does not connect to you in the first few minutes, fat healthy chance of them doing so in a while.

Also, the context to the art form. You could be the greatest standup comedian in the world, but a newbie from Warangal could steal your thunder on his day and sell it in the black market for 250 bucks.

*

There are two terms used in Standup – ‘kill’ and ‘bomb’. (Trust comics to use two such terms to describe how they fare!). To ‘kill’ is to do well – to have a good show and get laughs. Of course, kill has other superlatives – murder, destroy, aatank, etc.

On the other end of the spectrum is – ‘to bomb’. To have a shit-show, to muff and fumble and mumble and grumble.

Of course, a lot has been said, written and filmed about ‘killing’ – the success and the glitz of standup. There are books written, shows made, films shot – there is modern folklore associated with successful standup stories.

But nobody talks about bombing. About standing on stage alone and watching your words fizzle out into a silent audience. About standing alone on a stage with your mic, with hundreds of people looking at you, and then slowly looking into their phones.

At one level, bombing is beautiful.

It is like yellow fever – you cannot predict when it’s going to come. It happens to the best, and it happens (more frequently) to the worst. It comes unannounced on some days, and on other, it RSVPs its attendance days in advance. There are days when you expect to bring the roof down, but end up swimming in a sea of silence.

*

 

I obviously can not claim to speak for standup comedians in general, and this is where the blog becomes personal.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve seen me perform, but my jokes are not really family friendly. I don’t know why or how that has come about. Perhaps it is the shock, or the audacity of such jokes that make them such an integral part of my shallow quiver. Or perhaps it was the silly joy in cracking a ‘non-veg’ joke that has somehow shaped who I am as a person.

Which is why I don’t have a great strike rate when it comes to events that ask for ‘clean humour’. ‘Clean comedy’ is an albatross that hangs around every comedian’s neck (I am unsure if that’s the right metaphor – but it looks dramatic enough!). There is money on offer – lots of money – if you’re willing to toe the line.

There are corporate shows – shows for corporate India – mostly bored corporate employees who have been tricked by their HR into an illusion of a good time at an expensive hotel. I can see a bad show coming. Whether it comes announced or unannounced, when you get up on stage – you just know!

For a show to work, there are a number of factors that need to work – I don’t mean the sound and lights and other such paraphernalia. The audience has to be in the right frame of mind, they need to be on the same bandwidth – since a joke is always going to poke fun at somebody or something. They must also belong to your socio-eco-cultural surroundings because standup is subjective and contextual. And to top it all, the audience needs to find what you’re saying funny (or at the very least – stimulating/entertaining enough).

 

So, how does it feel?

It feels crushing. Absolutely heart-wrenching. You have nobody to blame – it is you, thoughts that emanated from your head, told in your voice. And the silence that ensues – is all yours! The humiliation is deeply personal. It is embarrassing, shameful even.

Like a number of tourists who walk towards a man selling clinkets on a bicycle, stare and ask about every product, and casually walk past without buying a thing. There is no redemption, no salvation. There are no second takes, or peppier second-halves. It’s just you, and the mic, and the silence through which you can hear your soul being ripped apart.

So, what do you do?

You feel the sweat trickle down the back of your neck, and patches of sweat in your underarms. You continue to look at the audience, and find a few people looking at you with sympathy – hoping you do well, but curious to see how cringey it can get. You can see in their eyes a rich blend of curiosity and sympathy.

You stand and you take it. You wade through the soul-crushing sorrow and do your time on stage. You soak it all in, say goodbye, and rush out. You smoke a ton of cigarettes and wonder what went wrong.

You wonder why anybody would subject themselves to this? Why would someone put themselves on stage in front of strangers and think they’re funny? Why??

But later, you meet your comedian friends and tell them of the ordeal. And the first thing your friends will do – no matter which city or what age – is laugh. They will laugh long and hard – more than all the laughter that you could have got, if the show had gone well.

And then, you realise it’s alright. They’ve gone through it too, or probably will. That if you cannot see the funny side of your failure, why would you even want to be a comic in the first place?

And then you smile and go back home. Wondering what a strange fucking profession this is.

Strange. But nice.

 

*****

Why I don’t post blogs these days

The last few months have been really slow on the blog.

If you have been a loyal reader, I am utterly sorry to disappoint. All the posts have been about cricket and films, and not even good posts at that. Just lazy, haphazard shit that I scribbled out in the last minute. I know, I know.

I received a snorter of a mail in my mailbox about the lack of posts, and I gave it some thought. I introspected for a little while and found the answer waft its way to me in brilliant bullet points. Ancient sages and thinkers were firm believers in the belief that the better the herbs utilised in the thinking process, the clearer the Bullet Points come to you when you seek answers.

So, without much ado, allow me to list out the reasons below for your kind perusal.

  1. Laziness: 

The primeval reason. The reason why millions of humans are not writers. The laziness of sitting down and thinking of something, to articulate, give examples, extend the thought, provide counter-points and rebuttals, and then reply to erudite comments like ‘Fuck yourself!’ – it is energy sapping after a point. I have been reporting to a day job, and then sparing time for open mics and shows in the night – leaving me with no motivation to update the blog.

 

2. The Lure of Money 

Again, not the most original of explanations. In the last one year, I have begun writing for a few websites. I write a weekly humour column for the Bangalore edition of The New Indian Express (Bangaloreans, check it out – every Saturday with TNIE), and articles on sites like Arre, DailyO and 101India.

The pay is decent, and the presence of a deadline makes it urgent and binding. Also, there are people to go through the article, suggest changes, make sure it is served well. And at the end of the day, I get paid for it too.

When I write for my blog, there are no such amenities. I have to drag my ass off to the chair and think about writing it. Just before I begin writing, I notice there are 345 comments out of which 325 are spam comments about Viagra and gardening tools from Russia. Deleting them takes a while, and the idea that was fresh as salad in your head now looks like mango chikki.

I then have to type out the blog, and then share it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Which is a pain in the ass. And if an article does well, Facebook sneaks up the suggestion to spend some money and boost it so more people can read it!

 

3. A little clued out of the scene 

Before I started blogging professionally, writing an article was rather easy. I just had to scroll through Facebook and ideas would spring out of the screen and wave to me. I had to smoke a joint, gather my thoughts, and fire away at the keyboard to much appreciation and fanfare.

However, like a fantastic drug that overstays its welcome in your system, that began to backfire. Due to my background and the work I do, I have three distinct kinds of people on my Facebook list –

a. University students who believe in bringing about revolution

b. Engineers/IT employees

c. Standup Comedians.

Each of these categories have their own stance and opinions on everything, and scrolling through my feed became a nightmare. I would read an Arundhati Roy article about Afzal Guru, and then a SwarajMag piece on how she’s full of shit. It was chaotic.

I quit Facebook for a few months, but that resulted in nothing except mosquitoes turning up for my shows. So I returned to Facebook, but this time armed with a boon from Sage Vishwamitra (the world’s friend – the original Zuckerberg). I unfollowed each and every person on my Facebook list.

Everybody. I know not everybody is evil, and it is probably extreme – but how does it matter? It took me about an hour, but was completely worth it. Now my wall is a blank slate with a few desperate ads suggested by Facebook. The only two pages I get content from are Writers Write – a page for aspiring writers, and The Dodo – a page that posts about dogs, cats, and animal rescues.

This has resulted in me retaining my sanity. And my Facebook wall becoming a warm, fuzzy place rather than the digital Kurukshetra that it was earlier. However, with this unfollowing business, I am also a little clueless about what is happening. I’m not necessarily complaining, but it’s part of the reasons that came to me in clear Bullet Points, so I had to mention it here.

 

4. The times we live in

When I look at my earlier posts, I notice one common thread running through all my posts – a certain anger. A frustration about the state of affairs, governance, jurisdiction. I have had people come up to me and ask if I have anger issues (which I most certain do, of course – but I don’t tell them. Why should I? Fuck those guys!).

However, over the years, I have refrained from expressing my opinion on my blog due to the cacophony of opinions. I mean, have a look at Twitter and Facebook – opinions and rage being hurled about from every side. After a point, it doesn’t matter if you are on the right side, just participating in a discussion brings about ugliness and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

And that is what stops me from expressing my opinion here. I may be right, or I may be wrong – it’s an opinion, after all. But anything I say will be used to buffer one side of an argument, and none of it will be clean or civil. I felt like my blogs were dung cakes that are being taken off my wall and used to fuel larger bonfires on social media.

And when was the last time you saw someone admit in facebook comments – “Hey you know, you’re right. Let me read up on that, it might help change my opinion”? I’ll give you a hint – the number of Test centuries that Venkatesh Prasad has scored in his life – SHUNYA.

So what’s the point?

 

5. What do I want the blog to be? 

The blog was pretty much the first creative platform where I wrote and expressed myself. But after 11 years, and with me becoming a professional writer and humorist – I am unsure of where to take the blog.

I mean, it has to be different from the other platforms that I write on, or what’s the point? It already seems like a white, WordPress-like elephant in the room. I am unsure of the direction the blog needs to take. But here is what I have in mind –

a. A blog cut off from the ugliness of the world. Watching a number of Dodo videos for months at stretch, I began to wonder why the blog cannot be a happy place. A place where politics, or films/sports are not discussed. There’s lot of shit-sites for such shit-posting. The blog could be a place where other stuff can be discussed.

b. A journal of sorts. I know, I know. The idea makes me flinch a little, but I do not mean a ‘Dear Diary, it is snowing in Sambalpur today’ sort of a journal. I mean an unorganised stream of thoughts.

c. An angry space. This was the final option. I thought, instead of running from my weakness – anger – I will bring it all out here. No sharing on social media, no replying to comments. Just a space to vent out all my anger and frustration.

*

I am still confused about the direction the blog needs to take. It’s been 11 years after all.

But those are the reasons I haven’t been posting on my blog frequently. I just thought you should know…

Sudan Rhino Tinder

The Art of Guilting People into your Ideology

Last week, Sudan the last Northern White Rhino died in Kenya, signaling the end of a species.

His death raked up a social media storm, and animal lovers shared his pictures countless times across platforms. While the incident itself was tragic, it ruffled a few imaginary feathers in me.

Firstly, who is an ‘animal lover’? I like dogs and cats, and will stop my commute if an animal is in danger – does that qualify me as an animal lover? And even assuming I’m counted as an animal lover, what REALLY is my contribution to the cause – except for a personal gratification of feeding a needy stray puppy?

But more than the death of the animal, it was the tone of the social media posts that irked me. They all had this condescending tone to them – ‘Hey, while you were surfing through your feed, the last Northern White Rhino just died. Thanks a lot!’.

I find this preachy tone extremely toxic. And that is the reason why I do not jump on to social media campaigns. Most such campaigns exploit people’s anger against an imagined enemy – a nameless, immoral person who is responsible for all the problems in the world. The knack of burning the imagined enemy has been in vogue in the last decade.

Take for example the Anna Hazare anti-corruption campaign in 2011. I was never for the movement because I found it vague and dangerous. However, the campaign worked because the imagined enemy was a corrupt politician – a vague image of Danny Denzongpa in a Sunny Deol movie of the 90s.

Or take the run up to the 2014 elections. Media organisations started throwing out terms for Narendra Modi. Dangerous terms like ‘mass murderer’ and ‘Killer of Muslims’ were used by columnists and our nation’s intellectuals. Every single follower of Modi was called a ‘Bhakt’ – a highly insulting and generalising term that chastises someone for having basic expectations from politics. And how that backfired!

Modi swept to power, and his fans went on to give their own names to mainstream media – Presstitutes. Today, nobody on either side of the political spectrum trusts the other, and even a Facebook discussion on politics takes a few minutes to descend into anarchy.

The framing of an ‘imagined enemy’ is both dangerous and lazy. It is lazy because it gives journalists and social media influencers a low-hanging target. In the same way that Arundhati Roy paints the ‘establishment’ with broad, blood-red brush-strokes to draw attention to the problems of tribals, it is such lazy journalism that gives rise to hatred and mistrust. It is dangerous because there will always be a backlash. By pinning a villain to every problem, you are turning people away  from an otherwise noble cause.

*

During my University days, I used to closely follow a political organisation that claimed to run on the lines of Ambedkar’s ideology. I attended a few meetings, and wanted to get to know the organisation better. I had just read Mr. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste, and my head was ringing with the ideas the great man had propagated.

And yet, I was highly uncomfortable in the meetings. The rhetoric was filled with hatred and abuse, the enemy was this imagined Brahmin who was vehemently torturing lower castes physically, mentally and emotionally. And when I came out of the University, I found that most urban, general caste people have the same hackneyed opinion about reservations and the caste problem.

Or take my favourite pet peeve – vegetarians. Vegetarians walk about with an invisible halo, like they’re blessed children of god who have unlocked the truth. And everybody else is a moron who is yet to see the ultimate truth. As a pure vegetarian who saw through the hollowness of vegetarian argument and now eats all animals and birds – I fucking can’t stand it. The funny thing is, most Indian vegetarians will peddle PETA videos shot in the US to prove their point. The even funnier bit is that most of these guys are vegetarians not because they truly understood the issue – but because their family is vegetarian. That’s like trying to create a mathematical equation to explain the superiority of your family name – to win a fucking argument on Facebook!

 

*

Social messages cannot be divisive. If you wish to bring about change, you need to be inclusive. By antagonising and chastising random people, nothing really is achieved. You have the same number of people who disagree with you, with a few more who hate you for being an insufferable prick

Targeting an ‘imaginary enemy’ alienates people, and gives rise to the classic Indian question – What did YOU do for the cause? It is lazy activism and makes your come across as a weirdo with a 11 inch rigid unicorn-hair wand stuck up your ass.

*

I am sorry Sudan died, but I don’t know how else to say this – YOU DIDN’T DO SHIT!!

Your contribution to the cause was a grand total of NOTHING. You live in the same time as the other people you chastise, burn the same fuels, and consume as much toxic plastic and waste that your imaginary enemy does.

It’s sad that Sudan died, but making me feel guilty for it isn’t going to bring him back to life. So shut the fuck up!

*****

Of Hockey bats, tyres and torches

In spite of following politics keenly, I am usually ambivalent towards the Supreme Court.

For one, I do not understand the legal world too much. The closest I have come to legal matters is by dating a lawyer, and the only cool thing that came off that was juicy gossip about some venerable legal personalities in the country.

Then there is also the question of understanding. Can I, a Commerce graduate who studied journalism, and now tells jokes on stage for a living – fully understand and imbibe the workings of the highest court of the country? Can a B.Com (Hons.) comment on the Honourable Supreme Court?

I think of it this way. Inside my head, there’s a cynical monkey waiting to go ‘Bola tha; sab chutiyaap hai’ at the drop of a hat. Whenever there’s news of a hero of mine accused of a heinous act, or if the tiffin guy gives me less chutney to go with two idlis and a vada – the monkey gets into action.

This cynical monkey is waiting to go ‘Bola tha’ when I read about Supreme Court mishaps. But deep within, the existential question of ‘Are you smart enough to even understand what’s going on’ – a feeling that last arose while watching Humraaz – crops up at the same time.

But given my limited understanding of legal matters, the Supreme Court’s recent observation warmed by cold, cynical heart. While hearing a case against a Gorkha Janmukti Sangha leader for violence in the region, a bench of Supreme Court judges announced that destroying public property and indulging in violence is not a basic right, no matter how genuine the reason might be.

Read – Violent protests not a basic right: Supreme Court (The Hindu).

This is a phenomenon that we have taken for granted in India. The habit of political parties taking to the streets and burning vehicles, destroying property, and pelting stones. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, political parties employ jobless youth in arson and loot – and we stay indoors and watch the news on television.

Nobody raises a word, nobody lodges a complaint. Sometimes, the threat of violence is used as a bargaining ploy. On other times, parties announce their presence by burning and breaking. This is a habit that unites all political parties in the wide spectrum of ideologies in this country – this is the common thread – the knowledge that havoc can be wrecked. On the contrary, when a teenager complained on Facebook about the mess due to the death of a political leader, an FIR was filed against her.

I wonder what gives us the absolute confidence to take to the roads. Perhaps it is the nature of our festivals – Holi and Diwali. Celebrated by everybody, out on the roads. And I don’t just mean Hindu festivals either. Muslim festivals are equally outdoorsy – whether it is Muharram processions or Christian carnivals. Our festivals are also celebrated along with other mobs.

A decade ago, one would hear of violence from the norther parts of India. North India, that discordant where the prettiest locations give birth to the ghastliest incidents. But of late, there are reports of vandalism and violence even in the North-east, arguably the most well-behaved part of the country. As if that wasn’t enough, this has become a common sight in south India too.

And what protests they have been! Who can forget that shady guru who had AK-47 wielding devotees protecting their guru. Or those bunch of morons who burnt cars to defend their godman – Ram Rahim Rapist. Or the demands for reservations, or for a separate state – the latter always baffles me. It’s like saying ‘Hey, give us our own state, or we’ll fuck up the one that we already have with us’. And what happens if you get the state, but you’ve broken all the infrastructure? Well, who gives a fuck?

Ironically, the most famous man from our country was famous for a non-violent protest. Like the Kamasutra, non-violent protest is another branch of knowledge that we rarely resort to in everyday life.

Another possible reason for the increase of public violence is the media spotlight that these incidents gain. Bajrang Dal wakes to life when Valentines’ Day is around the corner. Karni Sena has made a name for itself by protesting against Padmavat – inadvertently looking like a bunch of nincompoop morons due to the excessive praise and bravado dialogues in the movie. With 24-hour coverage, the violence has gotten louder, more destructive. And no political party will take real action because grassroot workers of every political party are involved in these incidents. From Congress to BJP to TMC – every political party in India has a history of public violence.

However, if we needed an example, we need to look no further than the farmer protests that happened last week in Maharashtra. These were not urban, English-educated folks; and yet, the dignity with which they handled themselves makes one question the purpose of literacy in our lives.

When the first strains of news about the protests began flowing in, the response from urban Indians was sickening. Log into any news site, and you saw youngsters putting up moronic statements like ‘These guys just want freebies. They are a waste of taxpayer money’.

I’m sick of hearing urban Indians complain about ‘taxpayer money’. What is the fuss about taxpayer money? The term is thrown around every time reservations, or subsidies are mentioned. Should urban India only enjoy the benefits of taxation? And you’re not doing anybody a favour by paying your taxes – it’s your fucking duty!

The farmers’ protest was exemplary when compared to the usual rowdy Indian standards. There was no violence, arson or looting. They came in huge numbers and arrived in the city early in the morning so as to avoid disrupting life of the average Mumbaikar. They put forth their issues, got an assurance from the Chief Minister, and silently went back to their lives.

For all the talk of ‘taxpayers’ money’, those farmers showed us that literacy and wisdom are two diverse concepts. That we might be a developing country, but we are far from being a civil state.

 

*****

Breakfast-in-Bed

Start Up Ideas that You Can Use (BUT PLEASE LAUNCH IN HYDERABAD)

Cigarette Delivery App – Paanwala

Cigarettes.

You can’t live with them. You can’t live without them.

The government has been doing its best to get smokers to quit. There are the annoying ads before movies, Rahul Dravid speaking Hindi and sounding like the evil rulers of Lagaan, there are warnings telling people that smoking could lead to cancer, impotency and death. And yet, a smoker will smoke.

However, buying cigarettes is a pain.

In India, we don’t have the culture of buying the entire pack of cigarettes, hence they’re sold loose. Most people who look to quit smoking refrain from buying an entire packet too.

From the seller’s point of view, there’s really no profit in cigarettes. It’s staggering how they even run their business, knowing that a single cigarette offers a margin of a rupee. Which means you have to sell a pack of 10 to make a profit of ten rupees.

How the App works:

There are millions of paan dabbas around the country, in every lane, every street, every locality. You connect the nearest paan dabba to the customer. There’s a minimum order of 100 rupees and every cigarette is sold at a margin of 5 rupees.

It doesn’t require a kitchen, or preparation – or even an outlet. It could be a service than runs 24×7, and the seller could make a profit of 50 rupees per pack – 5 times what he’d make from his shop.

Also, if the shop offers other goods (like cool drinks, glasses, paan, etc.), customers can order those too.

Cigarettes are a necessity in every party, and they always run out – I haven’t attended a single party in my life where there were too many cigarettes. This app will connect smokers to cigarettes and ensure a long and happy smoking relationship between the two.

PS: If you’re making an app for this, please give me credit. Also, please start operations in Hyderabad, in the Madhapur – Gachibowli – Kondapur area.

Thank you.

Jai Hind.

                                     HumsurferA Co-Travelling App

Travel.

Hyped by the rich, fantasised by the middle-class. Unheard of by the poor (except when they migrate for work – which is a beautiful common ground between Tourism and Labour Migration).

With rising disposable incomes, and a population that is mostly young – India will see a huge surge in local tourists travelling around the country (and abroad). While apps like Oyo and MakeMyTrip handle different specific aspects of travel such as hotels and travel – there is one unanswered question in travelling.

We in India do not have a culture of traveling. It is not till recently, when hashtags such as #WanderLust and #TravelIsLife became popular.

However, the biggest pain with traveling is making a plan.

Most often, your partner is busy. Or friends have plans. Or some of you did not get a leave from work. Which results in a million plans going to dust every year.

What the App does:

The app is targeted at people looking for other travellers.

When you register on the app, you get to choose your own requirements:

  1.   Number of people in the group (from 2 to 5)
  2.   Gender of the people (either same gender or the other gender – though I doubt Indian women are dying to invite stranger Indian men to travel with them. But you never know – this app could be revolutionary!)
  3.   Age group of the people you want to travel with
  4.   Destination and dates that you are comfortable traveling between.

The app verifies your profile using a number of profiles – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – and you get to choose the people you travel with. You can choose solo travellers, or groups – depending on how comfortable you are with strangers.

What’s in it for app users:

  1.   No jhijhak about traveling. Make a plan – find people travelling to the same place – pack your bags and leave.
  2.   Cost savings. Travelling in a group brings down your costs by half (or more!). This is ideal for youngsters/hitchhikers/budget travellers.
  3.   You get to meet new people along a journey and make friends.

I still don’t know how this can be monetised, as every aspect of the travel can be planned and customised according to the needs of the people traveling. But also, does every app need to be monetised? I mean, is earning money the sole purpose of every single endeavour in our lives?

I still haven’t been able to figure out the answer to this question!

*

So there you have it, reader. Go ahead, make in India. Bake in India. Rake in India.

I am quit shit at running my own life, leave alone a start up. The only time I had tried one, we wound up in a month because we were both stoners who decided to get stoned with our customers and suppliers. Sometimes, at the same time.

But life is a constant stream of learnings, and through the experience I learnt that one must never get stoned with one’s customers and suppliers. However, the incident has kept me away from the Start Up Revolution, and hence I have decided to pass on the baton to the next generation.

Jai Hind. Jai Yugoslovakia. Jai Shree Allah.

*****

Suggested Reading: Why I Had to Shut Down my Start Up – By Hriday Ranjan. Start-Up Enthusiast. Venture Socialist. Devil Investor.

2017 media

The Most Annoying Media Stories of 2017

As a writer and journalist, I get pissed off when I hear terms like ‘Presstitude’ or ‘Paid Media’.

Not because I’m touchy about my field or such grand principles. But because these are lazy terms that put a cold blanket over the many earnest journalists, vernacular news agencies, and independent organisations.

Crib all you want, but the media in India has had a large role in weaving the fabric of our nation. In fact, in Shashi Tharoor’s brilliantly imagined The Great Indian Novel, where he fuses the Mahabharata with the Indian Freedom Struggle – Indira Gandhi is re-imagined as Duryodhana, the Emergency is the Kurukshetra war, and Indian media is Arjuna.

For every large media house that was created by leftover sperms from Mukesh Ambani, there are hundreds of independent media houses that strive to survive and bring out the truth. That strive to take on the powers that be, that lose lives and jobs in the process.

And yet, I can’t deny that the popular media houses in India drive me to insanity. In fact, it has reached such a level that I have stopped reading the newspapers, and deactivated my Facebook account. I follow the news on reddit (even though it has its biases), or the updates that Google provides on Google Now.

I passed out of my Journalism Masters in 2012. One of the assignments we were given was to track two newspapers for a week, and analyse the coverage of the news. I still have my assignments in my mailbox and even a few years ago, there wasn’t as much fluff in our newspapers.

As the nation jumped onto the smartphone bandwagon and Facebook/Twitter became a legitimate source of news. Ever since, there has been no barrier, no check on the floodgates. We have reached a stage in our consumption of news that a brawl between two actors grabbed more eyeballs than children dying in a hospital.

Here are the most annoying news stories of 2016, covered with aplomb by our media houses.

 

1. The Padmavati Controversy

It’s funny that the present government projected itself as pro-youth, pro-development – and yet it has failed to curb in death threats by parties affiliated to them. Every leader worth his saffron shawl began throwing death threats at the filmmaker.

What is absurd is that the controversy could have been nipped in the bud if it wasn’t awarded the kind of coverage it attained. But we know that anything pertaining to Bollywood in India is news-fodder. And the citizens are cows that will chew upon it, ruminate, and bring it out in a few days even though they haven’t fully digested what was served to them.

The Padmavati controversy is absurd on three basic levels – 1. Nobody has even seen the goddamned movie. So, nobody really knows what the film shows. How can you be offended by something that you haven’t seen?  It’s like me getting offended by Siddharth Malhotra’s acting skills – there aren’t any to begin with!

The second reason is that the filmmaker has clearly stated that the two leads don’t meet in the movie. They have no lines together, not even a single scene. Is it the idea that the evil emperor thought about the queen that offends these morons?

The third and most tragic reason is that Padmavati is not even a real person! There is no substantial proof of there being a queen like this. All the accounts of the queen are from poems and folklore. What next? We have protests for Tenali Raman and Santa-Banta?

What is tragic is that the government sat like a limp duck as the controversy raged on. Not one of our esteemed leaders bothered to assuage the fears of the filmmaker. Death threats, violence, vandalism – not a single arrest was made, nobody was held accountable.

And the media had a field day!

 

2. The Government’s Masturbatory Propaganda

2017 was filled with news and articles on how terrific GST was, on the numerous benefits of Demonetisation. And guess who the source was? The government itself!

Every single report that came from outside the country about demonetisation brought with it some criticism – ranging from mild to intense. And yet the government went on telling us how awesome its policies were.

This reminded me of all those ‘Khaana Khazana’ shows on television. Where Sanjeev Kapoor cooks up a dish, adds namak swaad anusaar, and then tastes the dish himself. Wah! Mazaa aagaya, Sanjeev Kapoor would exclaim, about his own dish.

 

3. Kangana Ranaut – Hrithik Roshan

It started as a kitchen fight, and become a national obsession. This was a topic that made me ashamed to be a journalist.

For more than a month, every single media house in the country went about publishing sordid details of the fight between Hrithik and Kangana. Open letters and closed mails, fan clubs and Twitter trends – you’d imagine for a moment that India had solved all its problems and had nothing else to worry about.

What was even more shocking was that the entire issue was given slants of feminism.

 

4. Taimur breaking the Internet

Among last year’s useless controversies was the naming of Taimur. If Taimur the name should be avoided because the man was violent, so should Ashok and Parshuram.

This year, our media decided to splash us with images of Taimur breaking the Internet. The kid has broken the Internet so many times, you’d need Dr. Fixit to fix the Internet. At an age when he should be breaking toys and cutlery, the kid has been under constant media scrutiny. I fail to wrap my head around the obsession with star-kids in our country.

And don’t even get me started on the ‘hot’ pictures of teenage kids of stars. The abysmal lows that our media would stoop down to for a few extra clicks is truly depressing.

 

5. Varun Pruthi

This was not really covered by the media, but I need to get this off my chest.

Fuck Varun Pruthi.

The guy makes emotionally exploitative videos involving beggars, street vendors and children, and every single video has a single theme – Varun Pruthi the Jesus Christ. I clicked on one video by mistake and my YouTube page has been flooded with his shitty good-samaritan videos.

I find his videos cancerously preachy. And I fail to understand how the fuck somebody’s life is going to change if you give him 2,000 rupees! Varun Pruthi milks poor people’s sorrow to earn money on his YouTube channel. And what he promotes is not charity or service, but a new-age tokenism that is tailor-made for views, clicks and shares.

I want to watch a video where he takes a man suffering from AIDS and cure him of the disease. Or one where he solves the Iraq crisis by wearing a burkha. Fuck Varun Pruthi! Seriously!!

*

As for me, the year has been lackluster at best. If you’re a subscriber of my blog, I’d like to apologise for my erratic posts. I got caught up with matters of the heart, and gave classic step-motherly treatment to my blog.

Also, I’m tired of writing posts on Bollywood films and stars. The Saif Ali Khan blog went viral and I ended up receiving a ton of hate mail from fans of Saif Ali Khan. Ek toh I didn’t know he had so many fans to begin with. And fans so passionate that they’d write hate mails to support their useless fucking star.

Most of my blogs are just rants that I type out after getting drunk and stoned. There is not journalistic depth in my rants, nor is there any valid point (except in odes to Jackie Shroff, of course!).

*

As the last day of the year comes to an end, I am sitting in balcony and smoking a joint, reflecting on the year that whizzes past me with alarming speed. I am too old and unwise to resort to New Year Resolutions, having broken each and every resolution I chose for myself.

After years of pressure, I go back to some realistic new year resolutions this year. They are:

  1. I shall not murder anybody in 2018.
  2. I shall not win the Australian Open in 2018.
  3. I shall not masturbate to Sharad Pawar.

On Wednesdays.

Happy New Year. And thank you for reading my blog. I go on and on about myself without thanking you, dear reader! You are the reason these rants and rambles exist. Have a great year ahead! 🙂

*****

project_quotes____troy_ending_by_panca21

Dealing with the Death of a Hero

Over the last month, a number of my heroes have been buried in public consciousness.

It’s a phenomenon that has been in place over the last few decades, but the nature of the Internet has accelerated that process in the last few years. It’s something I like to call ‘Death by Internet’.

Where accusations surface, and articles are put up, hash-tags are created, till the personality eventually apologises for the mistake, and his career comes to a grinding halt in a few hours. It happened to Kevin Spacey, and Woody Allen, and Louis CK.

They were all my heroes. They were all artists who enriched my life in numerous ways, people who I watched and heard and read over and over again. These were people who inspired me to be better at what I was doing. People I looked up to, in a mix of admiration and envy.

*

Kevin Spacey

I had watched a few of his films earlier, but it was during my Masters that I truly discovered the genius of the man. We were assigned a task to watch a film, write about it and give the professor our opinions on a few subjects.

I happened to watch American Beauty and was blown away by the man. As is my habit, I looked him up and started reading about the man. I learnt of the cult status that he enjoyed, and how he kept his private life intensely private. I learnt about how he never gives interviews or appears on social media.

Over the next few years, my admiration for the man only increased. There is something about the way Kevin Spacey essays his characters. Unlike lesser actors *cough cough Aamir Khan cough cough*, he doesn’t need to resort to gimmicks like physical transformation or makeup. His face was a canvas. His eyes were tools.

Kevin Spacey was not an actor. He was a ghost who inhabited the souls of the characters he played. Watch him curb a smile as he is being driven to the field in the climax of Se7en, or the chameleon-like calmness with which he switches in The Usual Suspects. There was something Kevin Spacey did with his self that no other actor managed to do.

And yet, when he was accused of sleeping with young boys, his response was a sheepish, cheap ploy. It was disheartening and unbelievable at the same time; the kind of apology you’d expect from an Arjun Rampal, from a Suneil Shetty.

And yet, he did it. He decided to come out in the open about being gay, hoping to put in a final performance for the world.

I was never an actor, but Kevin Spacey’s films encouraged me to write. They encouraged me to scratch beyond the obvious surface, to explore the darker, sinister side of me.

 

Woody Allen

Even if Woody Allen didn’t make a single movie, his place in popular culture would be cemented simply through his stand-up work. The pioneer of the shy, under-confident, awkward comic – Woody Allen is consistently ranked in the Top 5 lists of the greatest stand up comics of all time.

His movies have made me marvel at the man. Beguilingly simple, and yet disarmingly complex – Woody Allen’s movies were always about two people talking to each other. The settings could be present day Rome, or 19th century Paris – his films were driven not by set-pieces or graphics – they were stories narrated by tormented characters. I spent a good part of the previous month going through his movies, and they never fail to impress me with their brilliance.

And yet, the accusations against him are horrifying. That he would molest a young girl, that he would take pictures of the adopted daughter of the woman he was dating, and then go on to marry her – was this the tormented artist, or a twisted human being?

 

Louis CK

It won’t be far-fetched to say that Louis CK was partly responsible for me becoming a stand up comic. I had participated in a stand up competition and went with a fucking PPT!

A friend of mine pinged me saying he loved the fact that I was doing a Ricky Gervais (I’d no clue who that was!), and that I should start watching Louis CK. The next few weeks were spent in watching his videos on loop.

The manner in which he turned his misery into humour, his demented desires into punchlines – there was a morbid beauty to Louis CK’s work. While most comics adopt the ‘I’m a stud’ persona, he took self-loathing to the level of an art form.

The allegations against Louis CK have been floating around the comedy scene for a long time now. So I wasn’t particularly saddened when he was outed, but it’s heartening to see that his apology was the most honest, the most earnest.

 

Mohammad Azharuddin

I have written about the impact of Azharuddin’s match-fixing scandal on my life earlier.

As a child, you are blind to statistics and logic. You worship people because you heard someone praise them. Mohammad Azharuddin was my first real heartbreak. My family, never one to back off from an opportunity to drill sorrow into my life, taunted me for months about the match-fixing scandal.

I remember weeping in my room. The scandal had shattered my beliefs, broken my heart, and twisted me in ways that are difficult to describe in a blog on a cold winter morning.

*

How does one deal with the death of their hero?

How does one grapple with the fact that the person they worshiped all their lives is a monster? I have spent many a sleepless night pondering about this. I wish I could say that it is easy to separate the art from the artist – but I know that is hardly true!

Has it changed the way I look at these people?

Nope! I still enjoy Woody Allen’s movies, I still marvel at Louis CK’s sets.

Perhaps we are wired to only take the best from the people we love. Woody Allen taught me to stay true to my voice, Louis CK to embrace my demons. Kevin Spacey’s astonishing talent still makes me stare in awe, and Mohammad Azharuddin…fuck that guy! Fucking piece of shit!

*****

 

 

 

Recommended Reading:

Mohammad Azharuddin and the match-fixing scandal