Category Archives: Arbit Gyan

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!!

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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.

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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

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.

*

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.

*

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.

***

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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!)

*

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?

 

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

Happy fapping! 🙂

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(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)