Category Archives: Arbit Gyan

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I’m proud of you, Pan Bahar

I wasn’t terribly shocked to see Pierce Brosnan endorsing Pan Bahar on my newspaper.

If you’ve been following the Indian Premier League, you’d find a number of international cricketers selling local products like Lux Cozi, Paragon Chappal, and Karbonn Mobile. The idea isn’t completely new.

Look at most of our fashion brands, and you’ll find anglicised names and models selling products that are designed, produced and sold in India. Even established organisations like Madurai Garments and Aditya Birla Group have had to buy foreign brands like Allen Solly, Peter England, Van Huesen and Reid & Taylor to position themselves as up-market brands.

What surprised me however, was the trolling that the campaign was subjected to. Jokes on the same lines, memes with the same image, all mocking the fact that Pierce Brosnan was peddling Pan Bahar. But does the campaign deserve so much criticism?

If Pierce Brosnan was signed on to sell a product that was more in tune with rich Indians, the campaign would have been hailed. If he was selling ‘Only Vimal’, it would have been a matter of pride.

But alas, Pierce Brosnan was selling paan masala. A product that is relegated to the middle and poor class in India. A product that has been facing the wrath of state governments and administrations across the country. With the ban on gutkha, paan masala and supari, it makes sense that a paan masala brand would focus on the lack of unhealthy particles in the product.

But Pan Bahaar thought big. They positioned their product not on taste, but class. Something that was never associated with a pan masala brand.

I choose to look at the campaign through two prisms – a smoker, and an advertising professional.

As a smoker, I am on top of the food chain. I find it amusing how the government is constantly trying to put barriers for smokers. There are the silly disclaimers on television and film screens. Then there are the pretentious friends and relatives who’d rather stuff themselves with ghee and butter, but preach on about the harm caused by cigarettes. Then there are the cigarette packets, with pictures of a throat so badly affected by carcinogenic substances, that it looks shiny blue. Like Neelkanth gone through a mutant experiment.

And yet, ask smokers if it has deterred them from smoking, and the answer will be a resounding NO. That is because every smoker knows that they’re not the worst off. Below them, there are the dudes with the unfiltered cigarettes, followed by beedi, gutkha, supari and khaini. Pan masala doesn’t even figure in my spectrum of options, it isn’t even considered.

From the prism of an advertising professional, the campaign gets a few things right, and a few things wrong.  

Signing Pierce Brosnan was a masterstroke. Brosnan enjoys a huge following in India, probably because he was 007 when our economy opened up to the world. Also, he is not a beefy Bond like Daniel Craig or Sean Connery. Pierce Brosnan is more like Rajesh Khanna – a suave, dialogue-spewing man who is better at charming the women that stabbing the men.

But how far the campaign will go in establishing the brand among its competitors is another matter. Gutkha brands have run a number of campaigns for years to establish brand recall. Manikchand hosted the Filmfare awards for the longest time. Baba Gutkha had Ajay Devgan winking into the screen, now having shifted to Vimal Paan Masala. Rajnigandha has positioned themselves as the secret behind Silicon Valley giants. Pan Parag has immortalised itself with lines such as ‘Baraatiyon ka swagat Pan Parag se kiya jaata hai’.

The positioning is dicey too, because the target audience might not really know Pierce Brosnan, or understand his suaveness. And it is highly unlikely that an urban, yuppie youth would buy Pan Bahar after seeing Brosnan on a hoarding.

In such circumstances, it was important for the brand to establish that they were Pan Bahaar and not Pan Parag. This was even more pertinent as the two brands have the same brand colours, and similar sounding names. You can see it in the memes too. Most people are referring to it as Pan Parag.

Having said that, it is a big gigantic deal for India Inc. To get a British icon to endorse an indigenous brand is reverse colonisation made possible by a resurgent economy that is on a juggernaut.

The fact that it is pan masala, considered cheap and tacky by urban, upper class India doesn’t change the fact that it is a huge endorsement deal by an Indian brand. If we can celebrate Irrfan Khan and Priyanka Chopra when they put on hoaxy accents to act in Hollywood projects, what is wrong with Pierce Brosnan in a Sooryavamsham beard endorsing paan masala?

So, good job Pan Parag Bahaar. I might not pick up your product any time soon, but I appreciate the balls.

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How it all crumbles

It is called ‘chasing’ for a reason.

There is a predatory feel to it. You first identify, and then track. You familiarise yourself with their patterns and movements. You wait for the ideal time, and then pounce! Hence the sense of achievement.

The euphoria of success, a congratulatory victory in the air. The pursuit is always the finale, the climax.

They don’t tell you that it’s just the beginning.

What follows is Book – keeping.

Debit what goes out. Credit what comes in.

That day, you said that. Cha-ching!

But I didn’t reply at all. Cha-ching!

See how tolerant I am. Cha-ching cha-ching cha-ching!

We kept account. Like hardworking gnomes at Gringotts. Carefully keeping score, tallying balance sheets, checking for discrepancies and misappropriations.

What follows is strategy and maneuvers. And what maneuvers they were! Jose Mourinho would stop and shake our hands. A careful twist here, an innocuous pulling out of context there. Just the right amount of pressure applied at exactly the right time, leading to volcanic results.

What games they were! Mind games and soul games. Punching harder and lower and harder and lower till it became cathartic pleasure. Checking how low we could go, and then reaching that bitter spot. Only to punch harder and lower the next time.

Some people bring out the best in each other. And some the absolute worst. The most vicious, the most vile. We were the latter.

How strange it is. Just a few months ago two people are absolute strangers. Checking each other out in their beds, on their smartphones. Swiping through information put out there. And then suddenly, it is a splash of water and boiling lava at the same time.

At some point of time in life, we can say a few things about ourselves with utter confidence. We know our bodies – the tweaks, pain and pleasure points. We know our mind,our strengths and weaknesses. If there is one thing I know with absolute certainty, it is that relationships are not my cup of vodka.

In fact, it was a fling I was chasing. But there is no warning when a fling spills over stealthily into a relationship, like a hand reaching out in the dark. There is no notification – ‘You have used up 90% of your fling balance. You will henceforth be charged’.

And as always, we had to walk down the dark lane again. Like dropping acid and watching the stars spin you lay on the grass. Only to wake up the next morning and realise the trip is fading. That the tiles that seemed to swerve seductively last night are regular tiles – off-white, with crumbs of dirt around the edges.

I had tried to remove some of the skeletons in the closet. I ended up taking their place. You’ll probably find me standing reluctantly when you open the closet again.

For how it is love if we don’t claw into the other’s heart and yank out the soul? How is it love if we haven’t changed the other person permanently? Left wounds that will singe for a while and then retire as scars.

For now though, my beloved, we must part. For we aren’t meant to be. We will be memories in each other’s heads. We’ll be monsters waiting in the dark, slashing angrily every time the closet is opened. Only to be shut off again.
And that, my love, is how it crumbles. 

***

 

(Featured image courtesy: http://www.ascendyourlimits.com)

sallu bhai

Why are we pissed off with Salman Khan’s statement?

Why does Salman Khan’s statement piss us off?

More than the statement, I am surprised that people are outraging over the man. I mean, he’s uneducated, has killed people, is known to have a violent streak, and destroy people who don’t lick his ass. For decades now, the guy has been getting away with actual crimes – killing animals, threatening them, beating up people – and we are shocked that he made a stray comment about feeling like a rape victim.

What did you expect anyway? A lecture on the Palestinian crisis? A detail thesis to deal with the Venezuelan agricultural crisis? A three-part treatise on the Bhagwad Gita? He’s Salman Khan, for fuck’s sake. The guy would flunk the 7th standard exam if he sat for them!

I don’t mean to sound pompous, but I have never dated a Salman Khan fan. Of course, it’s no sign of greatness, nor am I Ali Zafar. It probably doesn’t make any difference to the eternal bachelor. A bhai who is so bhai that he can’t find a behen to get married to. I’ve always nurtured a rather terrible opinion of Salman Khan and his films. And most Salman Khan fans are like the man himself – slightly less educated, crude, morons who wouldn’t be on Twitter if there was an eligibility test.

And why should Salman give a shit? Honestly, the man has spent his entire life in an industry that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about women. Go through the history of Hindi films, and you’ll find a handful of filmmakers who actually write meaningful roles for women. So gender-skewed are our films, that actresses who have equal dialogues as the heroes in a film are labelled ‘Intelligent’/parallel/arthouse actors.

If Salman Khan’s statement shocked you, I daresay Balakrishna’s statement a few months back wouldn’t make you bat an eyelid. Balakrishna is a bull who has confused screaming and slapping his thighs as acting for more than two decades now.

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Or the statement by Mulayalam Singh Yadav. Or by any other religious guru, be it Hindu or Muslim, when he talks about women. Asaram Bapu, the pedophile Baba wanted women to call their rapists ‘Bhaiyya’. And if it’s insensitive statements that we are worried about, we need to look no further than our Prime Minister. The shining beacon of light and hope and energy and goodness and everything soft and fluffy in the world. Not too long ago, he called out to Sunanda Pushkar, a businesswoman in her own right, as a ‘50 crore ki girlfriend’.

The fact is, we as a nation have a long history of rape culture. Look at our mythology – most of our leading women in mythological stories are either suspected of adultery, or banished, or stripped, or their noses chopped off for expressing love. Gomata has more of our trust that Sita mata ever did.

We are a nation where politicians openly condone rapes as ‘mistakes boys commit’. Every political party fields candidates who have a history of crimes against women. On Twitter, fans of our Prime Minister openly challenge women journalists to statements, followed by threats to rape them.

Those with good hearts use women as shields in an argument. ‘How would you feel if it were your mother and sister?’. That one statement knocks sense into all our heads because, let’s face it, how else can one explain an analogy without bringing in imaginary mothers and sisters? We have sexualised every single woman in mainstream consciousness.

Sportswomen, IAS Officers, police officers, politicians, just about anybody. Search Sania Mirza on the web and you’ll find a genius who records her videos, converts them into 3X slow-motion so he can see her boobs jiggle. Saina Nehwal? Her too. In fact, on the day Tendulkar retired, I remember going to a cafe nearby to rewatch his video, and the first comment that popped up was this – His daughter is hot. She was barely a teenager back then.

The fact is that we have been objectifying women for a long time in our country. And don’t forget, a few years ago, Aamir Khan, our beacon of wisdom, featured an extended balaatkaar joke. Everybody laughed, and went back home happy.

We need to stop expecting our film stars to refrain from making sensible statements. Most of them haven’t really gone to college, read books, participated in discussions. Some of them are certified criminals too.

Arnab Goswami will scream about it tonight. A few articles will feature on PoopScoop, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, we’ll be fussing over Princess Charlotte’s upskirt pictures.

Go home, folks! We live in the age of one-day outrage.

Kim Fung Restaurant Hyderabad

Chicken Soup for the Asshole

Kim Fung is a tiny Chinese eatery off the Tarnaka Main Road in Hyderabad.

You wouldn’t be able to find it while walking along the road. The signboard has gotten dark with time, lost amidst the glaring neon reds and blues.

A mundane hoarding of Pepsi above the door might mislead you into mistaking it for a paan shop. Walk into Kim Fung, and you’ll find a small, dimly lit room, six tables of varying sizes stuffed in for maximum efficiency. You’ll also find hungry youngsters gorging down food on the appropriately fitted tables. A woman with Mongoloid features mans the cash desk, and three little children walk around taking orders, helping her out with work. They’re not child labour, just little schoolchildren helping out during summer vacations.

Outside the restaurant, you’ll find groups of youngsters waiting for their turn, hunger churning inside their stomach, frustration writ large on their faces. You won’t find Kim Fung topping the charts on Zomato or Food Panda. They do not proscribe to the modern craze of quick home-delivery, perhaps they’re stuck in the 90s, when all you needed for a successful restaurant was good food.

The food in Kim Fung is delicious. It has the volatile spice of authentic Chinese cuisine, combined with the calming tranquility of home-cooked food. The food is delicious, the prices fair. The journey from outside the restaurant to inside is that of a frustrated frown to a contented smile.

Or so I’ve heard.

For you see, I’ve never had the good fortune of eating at the restaurant. It’s been a month and my Bae speaks very highly about the place. And once a week, we ride down to the restaurant to chance our luck, only to be met with apologetic smiles from the little kids.

The first time we were there, we were asked to write down our names on a list. We were 18th on that Waiting List, a dark throwback to the days when you had to rush to the Railway Station a few hours before the journey to check your status.

The next hour was spent in walking aimlessly, smoking unnecessary cigarettes, and kicking pebbles off the road. At the end of an hour, we were served a few more apologetic smiles, until we left with grace.

The second time was worse, as the restaurant was being manned by the children – two girls and a frail bespectacled boy dressed in a soccer jersey. They must be about 12 years old, going about their work in clockwork precision. Taking down names, placing orders, serving the food. But it was after an hour that we were informed outside the door – ‘Mother just now called and told to inform that we have a power problem and so we have to shut down now’.

In my mind, I was running amok, stabbing a thousand rabbits to death, but on the exterior, I was calm as Buddha. ‘Oh no, that’s fine, that’s fine. We’ll come again some other time’.

The next some-other-time wasn’t very different. The dreaded notepad with names spilling out of the pages, the unnecessary cigarettes smoked to pass time. I wanted to make eye contact with the little girl, see if a sad expression could trigger sympathy in her little heart. But they must have taught her discipline during Shaolin training, for she was unmoved by it.

And just yesterday, we set off for Kim Fung yet again. Without hopes or aspirations – like an alcoholic waking up and going about his day, unsure of himself, sure of his failure. And when we reached the dark, dingy portico outside the restaurant, we were met with groups of youngsters laughing nervously in the way that youngsters do. Nudging and poking the silent one in the group because what else can one do when there’s nothing to be done?

‘I’ll go see if I can manage something,’ she says. I love her optimism – bright and shiny, streaming into a dark, dingy bat-cave. The woman at the counter smiled, and from a distance, I knew what the smile meant. We nodded and left the place.

*

Four times in a month. Once every week, I have tried to have food at the restaurant. And have failed each and every time.

I wonder what sort of place Kim Fung really is. Are there elves inside the kitchen, stirring up wonderful dishes, albeit at a very slow rate? Is that why there are children running the place all the time? Do the children go to school? Or are they mystical, magical creatures who reward deserving people with food, and politely shut the door on the undeserving?

Has the restaurant heard of Zomato, FoodPanda, and Swiggy? Do they know that mobile technology has evolved since the days Shaolin Soccer was shot? And what about the Power Problem – is it a recurring feature? Is the restaurant on the verge of shutting down. My mind is brimming with questions.

If anything, my resolve has been strengthened. I will go to the place again this week. Land up before the rest, before the sun has even set. And I will sit down on a table and stretch my legs out.

Because I can.

And then I shall order food and devour it like Tadakasura. And then order more food, watch the children bring me my orders, only to have it finished off in a few minutes. Only to go back and get more food.

And when that happens, dear Kim Fung, and dear kind, soft woman at the counter, and the three little kids who are probably elves – the food better be good.

It better.

Of Soppy Facebook posts and Uni-dimensional Mothers

May be it’s because I hail from a dysfunctional family, that I find the entire online charade of Mothers’ Day a little too soppy for my liking.

All the YouTube ads that I skip savagely, the marketing campaigns that sell uni-dimensional women who love and give and forgive and sacrifice for their children. Those status updates and sloppy Facebook pictures where the mothers are clearly uncomfortable, but are holding up a smile so their moronic kid could tag them on social media.

Quotes that have clearly been lifted from the Internet, followed by a one-line cursory tribute that often reads – ‘You stayed up for me when I had to study, you gave me all that I need, including a kidney for my dialysis. I love you, mom!

Not only do I fail to understand the need for such hoopla, I also find it terribly demeaning to women in general, and mothers in particular.

*

Since childhood, I have had a problem with the Indian custom of worshiping parents. Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava – these lines never made sense to me.

How can a natural act of producing a progeny elevate one to the status of a god? If producing the next generation of the species is all it takes, then every creature on earth does it. What makes us so unique? Dogs do it, as do cats and monkeys and donkeys and camels – why do we humans enjoy the exclusive privilege of godliness? Surely monkeys should be gods too? And cows as …oh well!

My disillusionment also probably stemmed from seeing my own parents. They were both products of the 70s – born with generations of tradition, but blessed with an education that allowed them to break free and make their own choices. They both met and fell in love and got married and started living together, two minor blips in a nation that was trudging along the chosen lines of tradition. But somewhere along the lines of fighting customs and tradition, they began fighting among themselves.

All this before they even reached the age of 25. It was an age where you couldn’t make mistakes. An age that expected you to act on your impulses, and live with them hanging across your shoulders for one and all to see. It was an age that expected you to wear your scars, that did not allow you options, or dates, or make-up or break-up. And they were humans after all. While other parents continued being devas for their children, I saw my parents for what they were – confused 30 year olds who had no idea what to do with their marriage, or the kids that had resulted thereof.

*

But my parents belonged to an earlier generation. What about our generation?

Nearly every girl I know has a career of her own. One that is not a detour till marriage happens, something to pass time off with till the inevitable ‘M’ word. What happens to our generation when we grow up to become fathers and mothers?

Is there a guarantee they will all be wonderful women – giving and forgiving and caring and sharing?

Why does a woman have to be all of the above, anyway? Do we know what sort of a mother Marie Curie was? Or Florence Nightingale? Rosa Parks?? Does it even matter? They were all women who changed the world just by who they were. Brilliant, caring individuals whose genius benefited millions around the world.

By celebrating the ‘giving, forgiving, sacrificing’ aspects of your mother, you are only reducing her to a cardboard cutout. You are pandering to the image of mothers that advertisements and marketing campaigns create for you.

If you truly love your mother, you should be celebrating her flaws as well, her weaknesses. You should be celebrating her for who she is, warts and all. As it is, the world is hell bent on straight-jacketing women into pre-decided roles – Daughter, Wife, Mother, Mother-in-law, Grandmother. Your posts only add to the existing tropes.

If she’s amazing, she’s amazing just as she is. Whether she stayed up all night for your Board Exams or not. She’s amazing if she gave up her career for you, but more so if she didn’t. There’s more to your mother than her equation with you. She was someone before you came into her life and it’s utterly disdainful to assume you are her entire life. May be you’re not. May be if you stopped being such a narcissistic piece of shit, you’d think twice before assuming the sun shines out of your ass.

By celebrating the one facet of her that advertisers want you to, you are reducing your mother to a caricature. Every time you post a picture of her with a hashtag, some intern in a marketing office is jacking off to a new advertising campaign.

Your mother doesn’t need your hashtag and your Facebook update. She doesn’t need to be giving and forgiving and sacrificing or kidney-donating. And if you truly loved her, you wouldn’t reduce her to a cardboard caricature.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Why Holi is the bestest festival for Indian Men

PoopScoop Specials: Why Holi is the Bestest Festival for Men

Hi folks! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A big warm hug from our team at PoopScoop, where we get underpaid writing staff to write articles that you’d NEVER have thought of. We use innovative techniques like waiting for a festival and then writing a detailed, research-oriented piece on the subject. As you all know, today is Holi. So here is the Holi article, which is about Holi, which is today! Yayy!! #LifeGoals #Gogols Now I’ll add some more content to the first para, ‘cos admit it, you don’t really want to read this shit. You’re waiting for GIFs.

Yay!!!! Let’s begin!

1. Holi is best Indian festival.

Holi is indeed the best festival among Indian festivals, is Holi. Very nice festival is Holi, the festival of colours.

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2. Holi means, everybody has to dance. Yay! #LifeGoals

Holi means, everybody has to dance. Yay! #LifeGoals

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3. Holi is a time when logic, morals, and sexual harassment cases are kept aside for a day

As you all know, Holi day is a holy day. So we can all let our hair down and our dicks up. That which you feel like, you may do today. Take into your arms the one you wish to hug.

Holi_Song_Ang_Se_Ang_Lagana_Full_Song_Darr_Shahrukh_Khan_Juhi_Chawla_Sunny_Deol

4. Holi is a good time to pick up chicks. Yay!

#LifeGoals #RelationshipGoals #PickingUpChicksGoals

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5. You can have lots of Bhang on Holi

You can have lots of Bhang on Holi, and hallucinate about Abhishek Bachchan’s wife dancing with you in a yellow saree.

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6. And Indian women, honestly. They want to make the sexay time during Holi

Indian women have many weaknesses. IIT-IIM husband, Baba Ramdev’s shampoos, and Holi. As soon as they see Holi colours, Indian women lose their minds. They be running to men and doing vulgar-vulgar things to them. But it’s nice only. Yay! #RelationshipGoals

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7. We will celebrate Holi in spite of urban India reeling under a water crisis.

Hey, fuck you for asking uncomfortable questions. Why don’t you ask the factories who pollute the atmosphere? Why don’t you ask all the Gujarati men who eat radishes and fart all afternoon? The thing is, even if we don’t want it, we have to celebrate Holi. ‘Coz the girls be horny, and what if she dances with that Aditya fellow? Already his parents are talking to her parents. So a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta doodh. Yay! #FestivalGoals

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Now I’ll share this on social media and waste three and a half minutes of all your lives.

Yay! #LifeGoals

 

Image courtesy: http://what-buddha-said.net/Pics/meditazione.jpg

Going a week without losing my temper

No bullshit. Cut straight to the chase – I have anger issues.

It’s not like I’m normally raging like a Cuban teenager all the time. But in the event of an incident that pisses me off, I pull out the gun, place my finger on the trigger and fire away like I am a character in Grand Theft Auto.

It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s something I have begun to acknowledge as part of my personality. I have soiled quite a few relationships in my life since I had no control over my anger, and then regretted losing my cool in a few hours.

If you’re someone who doesn’t get angry often, it is hard to describe the process. The anger is not a momentary thing, it builds up slowly. Bubbling and frothing like a Hans Zimmer soundtrack, it slowly rises up to your neck, fat and ripe, waiting for the final trigger. And the moment it senses the trigger – BOOM!

I often feel like an asshole within a few hours, but the damage done is mostly irreparable.

However, this is not meant to be a preachy post about my demons. Rather, a detailed explanation of an experiment I decided to undertake last week.

*

I have been reading up on Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s writings (you should too, if you are into that kind of stuff), and in his essays on anger, he suggests getting to the root of the cause without being judgemental on yourself.

It is an opinion echoed by Buddhism as well, which talks of anger actually affecting the angry person more than anything else. Which is probably true because if you keep getting angry, you begin to notice that the people around you stop caring after a point. You are automatically treated as a cranky old fuck, and that’s simply pitiable.

And to rid myself of such misery, I decided to keep my anger on check. It began with solutions from the internet, like Count upto 20 backwards. Which is nice in theory, but I’m so bad with numbers that I’d count down the numbers wrongly and that got me angrier.

There were other remedies, like listening to yourself breathe. Another great suggestion, but when I’m angry, I’m more caught up in the performance. I treat my anger like a theatre production – taking care to emote through my actions, tone, and words.

Finally, I decided the shortcuts won’t work. I decided to go through the painful grind of keeping a tab on my anger. I sat and listed down the situations that made me angry, and then in neat handwriting next to it, the reasons that got me angry about them. After a cathartic two hours, I was ready to test myself.

I’d spend seven days without losing my cool. If I lost my cool, I’d punish myself by not smoking a joint for a week. With the stakes set comfortably high, I laid out the rules:

  1. Shouting counts as losing my cool.
  2. Sarcasm doesn’t count as anger, as I’m still calm enough to think up witty, sarcastic lines.
  3. Not shouting at the person, but spending the next one hour thinking of rebuttals I could have used in the argument counts as anger.

With my rules, my determination, and conviction firmly in place, I began the journey. I was prepared.

*

If cities had characters to themselves, Hyderabad would be like the annoying sidekick in Chhota Bheem. Annoying, pesky, and easy to lose your temper over. The weather is hot and sticky, or cold and damp. There aren’t enough trees around, and the vehicles and honking gets to you after a point.

But luckily, I was in Bangalore.

Bangalore is Zen, that way. Everything is calmer, the people more civilised. The evenings are pleasant, and a walk down a street is like getting a Thai massage if you’ve come from Hyderabad. The first day, I’m proud to say, was a breeze.

There was an incident where I’d placed an order for breakfast – nothing complicated – just two vadas and a coffee. I flipped through Bangalore Times as waiters duly served everybody around, except me. But I wasn’t going to lose my cool over two vadas and a coffee, come on!

I smiled and reminded him of the order, to which he smiled and caused further disorder. Finally, after another fifteen minutes, the vadas and coffee arrived. I gulped them down, both with hunger, as well as satisfaction over my mind-controlling powers.

I was so enamored by my own success that I began to show off to myself in the coming two days. I would walk into situations where I would normally have lost my cool, just because I could do it. Like Steve Austin from the WWE Attitude Era, I walked into danger, and swaggered out of it without losing my temper.

I was clearly good at this.

*

For someone who writes and maintains journals, I began to dissect the dizzying heights of success I achieved in those three days. I wrote about how I had been such a fool, and that one’s demons are in one’s mind. All one has to do is put them on a leash, and zoom out and look at the larger picture.

The next two days were easy as well. There was the case of a hotel boy who got me hot water to drink when I was famished, but I smiled and asked him to change the bottle.

On the fourth day, I got myself a haircut.

Now, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I fuss about my hair quite a bit. I have had such harrowing experiences with barbers, that I only cut my hair once a year. The rest of the days, I’m Jackie Shroff in the 80s, carrying off a mullet with aplomb.

This particular barber sat me down on the hot seat and wrapped me in the shawl. He then proceeded to intensely watch a Shobhan Babu movie on ETV Telugu.

Somewhere between the haircut, I enquired if he watched films of this age, and he clicked his tongue in disapproval. It was the first sign that I was screwed. When he was done, and I put on my specs and look at myself, I could have cried.

Do you remember Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones? That’s an accurate description of my hairstyle at the time.

BUT. I didn’t lose my cool. I grinned when my friends told me I resembled a budding lesbian teenager. I went to the barber again and asked him to correct my hair. I then went to another barber to get a second corrective operation. Which was followed by my friend snipping scissors on my head, and a final corrective haircut in an expensive salon.

And all through, I remained calm.

I smiled like an ascetic, gushing silently about my victory over my demons. I had finally done it.

Yes!!

*

It is easy to remember your resolution when you’re awake.

When you’re aware, and fully conscious, you can steer your mind to places of your choice. But what happens when one is asleep?

What happens when one is a light sleeper, trying to catch forty winks on a semi-sleeper, with the seat curving at such an awkward angle that even a snake would get spondylitis?

And so it was that on the sixth day, I was on my way back to Hyderabad from Bangalore.

The bus guys graciously chose to play another film by Prabhas, and once that was done, people silently settled into their seats. The snoring picked up, the lights were switched off, the rumble of the engine acting as a lullaby to tired people who couldn’t afford a plane ticket.

I began reading Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, and I spent a good hour travelling to Gaiman’s wonderful, fantastical world. When I returned, I duly put the phone in my pocket, and pulled up the blanket to sleep.

 

Wake up, wake up…it’s a brand new day…

Wake up, wake up…everything begins today…Wake up!

I nudged the guy next to me, ‘Dude, your phone…’ He mumbled and fumbled, and I drifted off to sleep again…

Wake up, wake up…it’s a brand new day…

‘Dude, your phone, man…’ The guy turns to me and shrugs his shoulders, I look around to find the owner of the phone, and it’s quickly turned off. I drift into sleep again…

Wake up, wake up…it’s a brand new day…

I shoot up like a meerkat, turn my head around and find a man in the row behind me.

‘Uncle, please switch off your alarm’. He slobbers up and nods at me. I mutter a few curses in my head and drift back to sleep.

Wake up, wake up…it’s a brand new day…

‘Uncle. Your phone. Can you switch it off?’ Uncle mumbles something and then fiddles with his phone. This time, I don’t drift back to sleep. I am in a half-awake, half-asleep limbo state; I know it’s going to come again…

Wake up, wake up…it’s a brand new day…

‘UNCLE! CAN YOU SHUT OFF THE FUCKING ALARM?’ (A few people wake up and turn to me).

‘I’m trying, but it’s not stopping…’

‘NO! That’s because you’re snoozing it. And I’m losing it!’

There is a silence in the bus, straight out of a Center Fresh advertisement. I cover the blanket and go back to sleep.

*

When I wake up in the morning, there is commotion on the bus.

Turns out a customer mistakenly got down at Jadcherla to pee and got into another bus by mistake. Our bus was waiting for Mr. Christopher Columbus, and the other passengers didn’t seem too pleased about it.

Slowly, as my eyes got used to the light, I realised there was something heavy on my heart. And then the incidents of the previous night came back to me. I turned around to find a man in his late 40s, balding, a paunch with a maroon Polo T-shirt. He looks at me and quickly looks down.

We are three hours away from the destination, and I can’t stop thinking about what I did to the man. I open Neil Gaiman’s book and try to force myself into his world, but he isn’t very pleased either, and won’t let me in.

I turned around to look at the man a few times, and he catches me each and every time. I walk up to the driver a few times, and fidget in my seat.

I made up my mind to apologise to the man.

‘I’m sorry, uncle…I didn’t know it was your phone…so I …’

‘No no, beta. Actually, this is a new phone, and I still don’t know all the functions properly…’

‘No, uncle. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…’

 

Of course, the above conversation never really happened. When my stop came, I sheepishly picked up my luggage and leaped out of the bus as quickly as I could.

Sorry, uncle.

I know you didn’t mean to disturb other people, but LEARN THE FUCKING DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SNOOZE AND OFF’.

As you can tell, I lost the bet with myself.

I realise controlling anger cannot be taken up as a project. It can’t be a New Year’s resolution. It entails internal cleansing in the purest sense. Most people who get angry have deep demons inside them, and look for triggers around them to invoke those demons.

I do not have any more targets as of now, but I haven’t lost my cool since that day. It’s been a week now.

I hope this phase lasts slightly longer this time. And I hope that fucking asshole learns to operate the fucking phone.  Shanti Shanti Shantihi.

***

Featured Image courtesy: http://what-buddha-said.net/Pics/meditazione.jpg

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The Dreaded D – Word

I have a long running joke about how certain ailments are apt for a particular gender.

Like, it is OK for a guy to have Loose Motions, but not for a girl you like.

Of course, it is all sexist and jokist and all of that, but let’s sweep that under the carpet for a moment.

 

So, the joke goes that some ailments seem to fit men and some, women. Like you’ll only meet guys who suffer from Diarrhoea and Malaria. And women who have migraine, periods and depression.

For a long time, I looked at Depression as a rich-man, first world problem. And I was a first-rate pig about it.

I made my moves on my first girlfriend when she would go to a park nearby to run. I ‘casually dropped in’ one day and began to have a conversation. I remember she was very sad because her dog Snoopy had died. And I was at that time, as pleasing a personality as KRK on cocaine. ‘Hahaha, it’s a fucking dog’ – were my exact words. She held it against me for years after that.

If there was a person who mentioned the dreaded D – Word, I crept out of the discussion like a cat, gliding away skilfully while making it look good enough to put up on YouTube. If someone said they were feeling lonely/sad/depressed/like they wanted to talk to someone, I’d slip away, change the discussion, or in true classy fashion, dish out one of my premium, top-of-the-draw jokes (What did the gay truck driver say to his partner? ‘Ashok! Ley, lund’ Hahahaha. What? Not funny? Fuck you, it’s funny).

In my head, how can one be ‘depressed’?

We live in an amazing world, a world connected and curated by ideas and technology and rationalism and objectivity. A world where everything you needed was a few feet away, you just had to walk up to the giant old tree and shake it and all the fruits would come raining down on you.

How does one, in such a time and age, get ‘depressed’.

As a result, I have laughed and scoffed and rebuked people for their depression. Is it the normal depression that happens? Or is it a special one? The Great Depression? Hehehe.

In my head, I was not Hriday Ranjan, I was Howard Roark. I am immune to stuff like this that happens to regular people. My rationality, which I wore like a proud Kavacha, protected me from such vagaries.

 

Parantu…

 

mahabharat samay

 

D – Man gets to you.

D – Man is out there, lurking. He is waiting to feed off your habits, your pleasures, your routines. It’s funny how your beliefs change in such a short span of time. Just a few years ago, I’d scoff at people, and today, I completely get it.

With all the wonderful advantages of the world we live in, come the disadvantages.

The constant chatter-patter of voices, opinions. A world that is a permanent Broadway stage, a world that you are a small part of, putting up a picture here, a note there. A world where everybody you know today is not just a person with a profession – a milkman, teacher, tuition master.

Everybody you know is a person with ideas, ideologies, is for or against something or the other. They have a green Honda City and a Labrador and went to Andaman for holidays, and other such information that you didn’t need at all. Till you feel like screaming out amidst the chaos just to stay sane.

 

Have I felt this earlier? I don’t know.

I personally think my maturity levels are working like Benjamin Button’s body did. I think I was more mature in some aspects in my early 20s, and that I’m slowly degenerating into a crazy fucking psycho.

The closest feeling to this that I can think of is from childhood. When we would re-join our school after the Summer Vacations. The parents would all come down and drop their kids, and the next few days in the hostel would be spent crying and wailing. Not by everybody, but a few guys who cried every year. There would also be the other set of guys who didn’t give a rat’s ass. They’d hang out and play and laugh and dance and pull each other’s pants down like nothing ever happened.

But this other set – the ones who were homesick and cried – hanging out with them felt like going to lunch with Dementors. When I would join them (because, you know, human beings seek company and empathy – two other assholes that need some taming), it would just be a session of remembering stuff and feeling sad. Like, one guy would be like ‘This time, my father took me to Essel World, and then we had so much fun…boohoohoo’. And the rest would sit there and listen and transport themselves back to the good times they had at home, and cry. It was an exercise in how miserable you can make yourself feel, by pulling out a happy memory and manipulating it to make yourself feel like shit. It was a strange experience, and I remember going back to it even though I knew what it entailed.

That is the closest to what I feel.

Now, I get it.

I get how all the information in the world, and all the wonderful philosophies and rational arguments and wonderful distractions – of people, things, experiences – are all part of the giant tree you can walk up to shake.

And sometimes, there are too many fruits on the tree. You keep shaking the tree, and the fruits keep bumping on your head till you have a headache and want no more of the tree or the fruits.

D- Man is coming.

I think a world like ours is more prone to depression than the guys before us. And in India we do not possess the social capital to deal with the subject. Speaking about depression is like speaking about incest.

 

*

If you know anybody who wants to talk, do talk to them. I wish I had. I wish I had listened, and held her hand, and replied and spoke to her. I wish I had given it some thought, enquired from them how they dealt with it. If you know someone, please do that. Like AIDS and Cancer and Poonam Pandey videos, Depression is a part and parcel of the chaotic times we live in.

D – Man is coming. And when he comes to get you, he does a bloody good job at it.

And Karma, like they say, is a Bitch.

A Depressed Bitch.

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The Slow, Tragic Death of Pet Names

The relation between ‘Good Name’ and ‘Pet Name’ has always fascinated me.

I love the fact that in India, your pet name is not a shorter form of your name, like Bill for William, or Chris for Christopher. Our pet names are living entities by themselves.

Pet names are fairly popular in Orissa, and the names given are fairly common too. Boys are named Pappu, Babuna, Ricky, Kaalia, etc. Girls are called Mamuni, Kunmun, Munmun and Baby.

Giving a child its ‘Good Name’ is a fairly well documented process. There is a complex assortment of beliefs thrown in – Astrology, Numerology, position of the planets, and the mood of the local pujari on that particular day. There is a lot of thought given, a few options are thrown around, and finally, one name is picked. Your Good Name sticks with you for your life, it becomes who you are. It connotes an emotion every time your friends hear the name. Your name becomes you.

And I have a theory that educated Oriya parents of my generation gave their children distinctly long, dramatic names. Shiva Sundar, Debashish, Biswa Kalyan – most Oriya names are long-winding and theatrical. I often joke that it is educated Oriya people’s way of asserting their educated status over the rest of society.

I am no exception. Sai Hrudaya Ranjan is not exactly what you’d call a common name.

 

But how nick-names come to be, has always fascinated me.

Since in Orissa, there are a few commonly used pet names, you have about 10-12 choices, and a pragmatic name is allotted, probably keeping in mind that there’s no other Pappu, Ricky, or Mamuni around. A simple, informal, pragmatic solution.

There is no feeling of historic importance, no histrionics or ceremonies – a pet name sticks to you, a second identity of yours. The one you grow up with outside school, the one your childhood friends call you by.

Some guys have two pet names. One that is given at home, and one that their friends give them. The second pet names are generally not very flattering – Chamba, for example. Some are so bad, they can be interchanged with names of actual pets – Litton, Chepa, Tara, Moti.

I have met a wide vista of pet names in my life. From the ubiquitous ‘Pappu’, to the exotic ‘Lord’, pet names have flashed themselves across my timeline of memories. Chintu, Chimpa, Jhikki, Popuna, Bapuni, Tippul, Babool and Litton.

I have lost my heart to many a Munmun and Kunmun. Sang imaginary songs of love to Chulbul, careful to avoid her sister Bulbul. Written letters to Pinky, Rosy, Reena and Baby.

Pet names generally abided by a simple rule of thumb. They had to be short (maximum 2-3 syllables), easy to remember (Chepa, for example, leaves a distinct imprint), and unique (but not too unique, like Chamba).

Now, this is where I got a real raw deal.

Much of my childhood was determined by this one particular relative. They weren’t really related to us in anyway, but asserted an unbelievable amount of control over what I did. Someone there gave me the most fuckall pet name in the history of fuckall pet names – Puppu.

I remember when my folks would come to visit me at school, and we’d be walking in lines, when all of a sudden, a shrill voice would ring out,

‘Aye, Puuuupppppppppppppppppuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu……………’

A long, intense call that echoed in my ears for about five minutes. I remember being embarrassed by my pet name; I’d look down and walk as quickly as I could.

Folks at school had no idea about the pet name though, as we were referred to by our initials. And admittedly, SHR sounded remarkably more suave and nuanced than Puppu.

*

However, I have noticed a strange phenomenon of late.

Oriya people have started adopting strange, anglicised names for their children. I happened to teach at a school in Bhubaneswar for about six months, and the names I came across had no resemblance to the ones I had known.

They were all neutralised, shorn of any MTI – sterile names like Nivaan and Ayaan and Aman and Aabhya.

Of course, I have no right to comment about the names parents choose to give their children. I can’t sit like Bishen Singh Bedi, complain and crib. Naming your child is something you have complete rights over. That’s fine.

But it is the pet names that I am worried about.

Most of these modern names can double up as pet names as well. They are all short and unique, and assume the same importance at home and at school.

I doubt Aabhya, for example, would want to be referred to Bulbul? Nivaan is going to throw his iPhone 6 at your face if you call him Chepa.

In the way that smartphones ate into the market for alarm clocks, these modern names have extinguished the need for short pet names.

I am afraid in a few years, there will be no more Kalias in Bhubaneswar.

There will be no Tippul, with his group of friends on their bikes. No Bapuna hitting on Baby while texting Mamuni.

Pet names, I fear, will die a slow, sad death.

*

(Featured Image Courtesy: Pran’s characters Billoo and Pinky, Copyright Diamond Comics India Ltd.)

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This Messenger of God apparently can’t take a fucking joke!

Unless you live under Hard Rock, you’d have seen comedian Kiku Sharda in a number of roles. He is the guy cross-dressing as Palak on Comedy Nights with Kapil, doing dim stuff like dancing to item numbers and trying to kiss male guests on the show.

It’s all unfunny and weird and fucked up, but that’s what makes the nation laugh, I guess.

I have been following Kiku Sharda since his stint at the Great Indian Comedy Show, where he teamed up with other funny men Ranvir Shorey, Vinay Pathak and Suresh Menon to great effect. I don’t personally like his drag act on Comedy Nights, but I’m nobody to comment on other’s work.

 

However, it was shocking to find out he has been arrested for offending the sensibilities of the devotees of Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan Ji. Apart from a few comedians who raised their voice, there was barely any coverage of the news.

Our galaxy of Bollywood stars – entitled coke-zombies with IQs of table spoons – who regularly jump to the defence of their pagan gods Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt, have nothing to say about the issue. Not a word. Isn’t that shocking?

Not really.

For you see, a comedian gets as much respect as a nose-picking, crack-snorting, child murderer in our country. And when we need to shut someone down, we turn to a gift that the Britishers left for us, archaic laws that they left for our lawmakers to fuck with us centuries later.

Of course no BJP leaders are going to protest in any way. Half of them – from the PM to your friendly neighbourhood Barang Dal activist who resurrects every Valentine’s Day – spend a good part of a year kissing the ass of these asshole gurus and religious leaders. Name any tainted guru, and you’ll find our beloved PM has taken a few pics, and touched their feet, and sought their blessings.

When our political leaders are ready to go down on their knees and gag themselves on these gurujis, how can you expect any serious action? Obviously archaic laws will be used whenever it seems necessary.

This is a trend that I like to refer to as the ‘Talibanisation’ of Hinduism.

These assholes who foolishly assume they are protecting our religion and culture, have taken it upon themselves to reduce 5000 years of debate and discussion in Hinduism into a murky, rigid Taliban-like interpretation.

For if they actually had the fucking brains to read any Hindu scriptures, they’d know there has existed a long culture of dissent and debate in Hinduism long before any of these assholes’ ancestors got their first hard-on.

There exist slokas and stotras where the author rebukes God for his actions, bemoans his lack of access to devotees. If you travel to the interiors of India, you’ll find indigenous interpretations of the epics, where everybody from Lord Rama to Hanuman are mocked, mimicked, and brought down to a human level. People laugh, have a good time, but they go back to their houses without getting offended.

Something that seems unimaginable in urban India today.

And who triggers this kind of shit? Politicians and their followers, mostly. Remember when Bal Thackeray passed away and a school girl was arrested for a Facebook update? Remember when Jayalalitha pressed sedition charges against a folk singer who sang songs against Her Hugeness’ antics?

It is a trend that is disturbing as hell. And as a writer-comedian who plans to earn his livelihood by making fun of people, it is extremely worrying. We have clear lines on who we can mock, and whom we can’t.

Rahul Gandhi is OK, but not Narendra Modi. It is OK to crack jokes on Gandhi, but not Shivaji. It is alright to crack jokes on Lord Shiva, but not Allah You Know Who. We draw these lines for ourselves and happily frolic about inside them, thinking of ourselves as cool, liberated, open-minded people.

 

*

And honestly, who are we talking about here?

Baba Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan has been embroiled in controversy for decades now. The man has not one, but three charges of rape and sexual exploitation in his name. He has been accused of forcibly castrating about 400 men in his town of Sirsa, and also for the torture of devotees who dared to speak up against His Assholiness Sri Sri Gurmeet Singh Sahib Insan Ji.

And seriously, the guy was born so that comedians could write jokes. Have you seen the guy?

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He is walking-talking material for comedians. If humorists suffer from Joke Menopause, you can show them Babaji’s videos, they’ll walk out of the room with a complete 1 hour set.

The most common argument in support of these asshole Babas is – ‘Have you seen the number of social movements he is running? He has X number of schools and Y number of hospitals?’

So what, you dimwits?

Don’t you get it? That’s the modus operandi. Unless you build hospitals and schools, people aren’t going to flock to you. How else are you going to dress up like Santa Claus on Cocaine and sing asinine songs like ‘You Are My Love Charger’?

Engaging in social activities gives you no right to trample over people’s rights and expressions. Even the ISIS runs social movements in the areas they have captured. And we all know how benevolent those guys are. They put the ISIS in CRISIS.

*

At the end of the day, it is just going to be another episode in our nation’s bejeweled history.

We will quickly move on to other matters of national importance. Like how many nipples Katrina Kaif’s new dog has. After having traumatized the daylights out of an honest man who was earning his living, we’ll move on with our dream of being a developed, progressive nation when our Prime Minster takes another selfie with tribals in Honolulu. Because, that is the route to true development.

If this joke of a Guruji is the Messenger of God, God must be using a shitty app on a shitty phone. But then, I wonder if God has a sense of humour. Look around at the world, and you’ll know God really has issues he needs to solve.

Does God have a sense of humour?

I doubt it. From where I’m standing, he seems like an insecure dude to me.

It’s time I had a word with God. I’ll probably ping him on Messenger…of God.

***