This Is NOT History – Dear Friend-Emperor Ashoka,

This is an excerpt from the book I hope to one day write, ”This is NOT History’, a collection of historical events with historical figures that totally did not happen. But it would have been nice had it happened like this. Also, I don’t want to find out what really happened, waste my youth pirating academic documents, only to get told that it offends a group of people whose idea of Mahatma Gandhi is derived from his stunning biography – the 2000 rupee note (the 10 rupee notes are the cheap paper cousins). And maybe get a death threat or two because I questioned the “non” in nonviolence!

This letter is written by Samprati Devvarman, a childhood friend of Ashoka and his general at the battle of Kalinga. He might have been the Robin to Ashoka’s Batman if not Hardy to his Laurel. This letter finds Samprati in a state of angst over his friend’s “nonsensical *&^%$#@ conversion to Buddhism”. (The quotes are added despite the lack of proof that Samprati actually said it, because, historians have concluded there is a very strong chance he might have.) Sadly the letter did not reach Ashoka, as a devious Buddhist monk decided to take this letter to his grave. But, in one of nature’s greatest miracles, the letter survived. Nature did not extend the favour to the monk or his grave.

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Dear Friend, Emperor, Friend-Emperor Ashoka,

It is I, Samprati Devvarman writing to you from the banks of the river Narmada. I do not need to inform you that I am a general of the highest calibre having personally killed so many savages from the south, north, east, and west. Basically, anyone not from our kingdom!

You and I have been friends since childhood. Ever since the day I challenged you to drink thirty pots of toddy and you took it far too seriously. I do not need to remind you that though you vomited the toddy into my cupped hands, I carried you all the way back to the palace avoiding all the palace guards.

When you had your little affairs with the lowly chambermaids (I cannot fathom how you were so desperate) I told your angry father Bindusara that it was my fault.

I bring this up because I have to ask you: what in the name of the Holy Buddha are you doing? Literally!

First you give up war. What??? How can you even think about that?

Was all that blood lost in Kalinga for nothing? We planned to go to Greece and knock on the door of Alexander’s successors and say “I think only one person deserves the middle name “THE” and that is Ashoka.” Have you lost that fire?

Now you’re making me PLANT TREES! ME? Having killed savages with my bare fists, I must now take care of saplings.

All the soldiers are tired of planting seeds. Besides why are we planting trees? What use are they except to hide monkeys and bandits. And I have realized, here they are one and the same thing. Just yesterday a monkey stole the clothes of a soldier from the banks of the river. These darned monks didn’t give clothes to cover his precious little modesty until he chanted some Buddhist nonsense.

Let me narrate my experiences with these so-called monks and maybe you will convert back to…whatever God we believed in before these fellows came and took over your life.

Don’t trust these Buddhists and their ideas about non-violence. Last night I saw one fellow among them killing a mosquito here. When I asked him how he could have done something like that he looked at me and said “Buddha said everything is subject to change. So I am not killing this mosquito just changing it.” When I asked one of them to help me plant a sapling that bugger had the gall to say “Buddha said work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.”

I think they make up everything as they go. Yesterday when a soldier proclaimed he wants happiness, the monks said remove the ‘I’, remove the ‘want’ and all that remains is ‘happiness’. When I tried to explain to the soldier that it was nonsense and a play on syntax and semantics he looked at me like I was a langoor trying to draw a self-portrait with my tail!

And these monks were giggling away like gossiping little girls at how seriously the soldier took them. I promise on my plump mother’s life that one of them said next they’ll try convincing a soldier that the middle path between good and evil is, and I cannot believe that this is passing off as philosophy nowadays, DOING NOTHING! Really? That’s the path of wisdom you want to follow?

The old chubby Buddha was seen laughing because he is actually laughing at all those who take him seriously and offer him food. The only way Buddha has overcome suffering is by laughing at us over his potbelly.

And may I also ask you why you have sent this bizarre instruction to carve anything onto stone? Do you think your soldiers are poets? Soldiers are barely following instructions and are writing whatever pleases them. Some are writing the names of their lovers others are writing messages varying between “I was here” and “Sugatra loves Nandaneshwari” to “If you are reading this then you are wasting your time.”

And one monk told an illiterate soldier to carve “Buddha was laughing because he saw your mother’s bottom”. The illiterate fellow was sure he was typing one of Buddha’s messages of peace onto the walls. These are just the ones I have seen. Who knows what else they have written elsewhere. I am absolutely worried about what future generations will think about your legacy when they read these messages which are now set in stone.

Anyway I must conclude this letter for I am running out of parchment paper, ink, and patience. I can see a monk peering into my letter. But please reconsider your conversion to Buddhism, the planting of trees and carving writings on the stone.

Your troubled friend,

Sampu

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Samprati Devvarman had this painting made as a way expressing his anger

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The Art Of Dealing With Rejection

As a male from an upper caste and for most part of life upper class too, the one thing privilege never taught me is the ability to deal with rejection. I am not saying growing up I felt entitled to the world, but if someone had to be, who better than me, right?

Recently, a short story I had written got rejected from a publishing house and it felt unreal. As if the rejection itself was something new. The response inside ranged from “what is this strange feeling of sadness that has engulfed me? Tis strange and unique! Have I discovered a new feeling?” to “Me no likey. Daddy, do something”.

Now don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t gotten rejected before. You could say I am the face of rejection only to be rejected from that position because someone else beat me to being the most rejected person and leaving me in some sort of rejection paradox.

But despite being rejected so many times there is a standard way in which I think rejection is dealt with by so many privileged males me: “a mature manner that puts us me on the path of correction.”

First, of course, is disbelief!

Really? I got rejected? Me, the paramount embodiment of poetic perfection who has been thrust upon this meek world to save them from their miseries and meager lives. Surely this is a joke.

Second is rereading and confirming that an error in The Matrix has occurred.

Me: So, it did happen. This is not a joke I repeat, THIS IS NOT A JOKE. The rejection has taken place.

Also-Me: Pfft! “Rejection”.  “Not good enough”. Come on, we know this is a joke.

Me: It’s not a joke. Can you not be an idiot? It really happened.

Also-Me: PSYCH!

Me: You can’t psych yourself, that’s not how ‘psych’ works. Other people have to do it. And then you go… That’s not the point. You just got rejected.

Also-me: Dude, you are not playing this game right. You are supposed to come out and say “Got you! Of course you didn’t get rejected you magnificent paragon of the Aryan wet dream.”

Me:

Also-Me: You’re no fun.

Third is dealing with the anger stemming from it and blaming the source of rejection.

Ugh! The magazine sucks. They are a C-Grade magazine in every way. Their judges hated me because I am a man. I mean they don’t see me for who I am. Feelings! Lots and lots of feelings! And oh, why are my eyes working out? Is this eye sweat? Are these tears? God! You glorious symphony of the spectrum of emotions! Is there anything you can’t feel?

And the fourth stage is acceptance!

I guess I am not as perfect as I thought I was. I just have to move on from this loss and learn to accept that I am an average human being with no real great qualities and have to wait in line like everyone else. This is the boat I am in and like Pi in Life Of Pi, I must fight my inner demons and be on the path of greatness

Wait, before you think “That is a mature way dealing with rejection. Has this man finally learned?”

You sweet naïve child of mine!

If there is a more potent combination than gulab jamun and ice cream it is privilege and rejection. Just when you think you’ve made peace with rejection, on comes a trigger to send you back to your high throne.

And that is the final stage.

And the trigger can be anything! It could be a friend putting a comforting arm around your shoulder to a waiter giving you little bit of extra coconut chutney. No matter what the trigger, the ending seems to be the same.

“Wow, this extra chutney is the universe telling you that you are a flawless amalgamation of unparalleled artistry.”

“You are a goddamned tiger, that’s what you are. Richard Mukesh Parker! Rawr! Just look at yourself in the mirror, so sinfully stunning and ahead of your times.”

Rawr!

Rawr till your pants drop! Rawr!

The rawr-ing goes on for uncomfortably longer but you get the picture.

And the cycle repeats itself.

I guess it helps that I am an average stand-up comedian who gets rejected ever so often for cracking jokes and that sort of regular rejection helps in dealing with it. But still, it’s a battle I’m yet to win.

And I realised I haven’t even spoken about being rejected by women. Boy, that deserves a book called “Getting Rejected Despite Perfection – The Mystery”. But that is for another day. Let me get published by a C-grade magazine that doesn’t pick me only because I am a privileged male.

Goddamit! I never learn. Do I?

1nwt6x

This Is NOT History – Nehru and the Northern Problem: Dandruff

This is an excerpt from the book I hope I one day write This is NOT History, a collection of historical events with historical figures that totally did not happen. But it would have been nice had it happened like this. Also, I don’t want to find out what really happened, waste my youth pirating academic documents, only to get told that it offends a group of people whose idea of Mahatma Gandhi is derived from his stunning biography – the 2000 rupee note (the 10 rupee notes are the cheap paper cousins). And maybe get a death threat or two because I questioned the “non” in nonviolence!

On the 31st of every March, the editors of all the leading national dailies meet up in their secret cabins to discuss the big prank of the following day. In the year of 1952, the first general election was held and all the editors believed they needed one big joke to keep them interested in covering the monstrous elections that were to come. So, one leading daily (rhyming with Sindhustan Crimes) asked Feroze Naaiwalla, the lifelong barber of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, to contribute to their editorial the following day.

Unbeknownst to the Editor, Feroze Naaiwalla replied with great enthusiasm and poured his vocabulary and knowledge onto paper. A lasting document of his legacy, for in his final years he rued that his remaining legacy on this planet was hair that nobody wanted. An anti-artist if you will.

Feroze Naaiwalla, a man taking great pride in his command over the language, his knowledge of Nehru and the reasons why he may have become a bald man, replied enthusiastically.

The Editor of the paper (rhymes with Sindhustan Crimes), kept the original copy to amuse himself at times of distress. 

Nobody knows what happened to Feroze Naaiwalla – the barber artist of Teen Murti Building where Nehru lived.

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Dickens worked in a factory, Kafka was a mere clerk, and Valmiki was a hunter! So, it shouldn’t surprise my reader that I, Feroze Naaiwalla, am a barber! A barber to no less than the most powerful and respected man in the subcontinent – Jawaharlal Nehru – or as I call him fondly, JN. I knew JN since the time he was a young child parting his hair in the middle like a malnourished Pathan youth. He wouldn’t listen to his father Motilalji. No, sir! He would listen only to me. And that’s when I knew right away. Like Alexander tamed Bucephalus, I too must tame JN’s hair – for the follicular future of the subcontinent lay in my hands and that is not an easy task.

Now for the unacquainted reader, the idea of a barber might conjure the image of a frazzled, untidy man surrounded by the hair of ordinary men. Well, I am no ordinary barber, as my great late1 late great father used to say we are the “sculptors of skull”! I was trained in 19 languages (technically 20 but who doesn’t know that Portugese is just another dialect of Spanish). I had great mastery over Shakespeare, the great Bard or should I say the great Bald? I inherit my penchant for puns from my late great father. Please forgive me, dear reader, for it runs in my genes!

Impressed by my command over Shakespeare and Dickens and Dostoevsky and Jean Paul Sartre, JN chose me as his personal barber! Of course, over my barbery too, but a way to man’s heart is through his stomach and way to JN’s head is through a good dose of existential angst!

Since he was a young lad, JN looked up to men of stature – Julius Caesar, Napoleon, King Asoka, MK Gandhi, and of course, yours truly. And JN had the remarkable fortune of having me by his side. MK Gandhi too, but as every man knows, haircuts occur more often than congressional meetings. And it is there I can proudly say I groomed the man, pun intended! What’s a royal barber without a p-unny side to him?

But alas, I fear I may have made the lad far too vain! Underneath the tough veneer, lay a primal fear that seals the fate of every man – far more fearsome than the canons of the Imperial forces, slimier than failed secularism, terrifying than totalitarian dictators – dandruff!

Ask a man what his greatest fear is and if the answer is not a resounding “dandruff” or “a receding hairline”, there is a man who will pray that the myth of Pinocchio is false. And right from his youth began JN’s greatest battle – a fight as old as time, a Man vs Nature contest at its best. Many astute observers have failed to decipher what goes on behind the veiled stately mask JN puts on! They see a man consumed by worldly affairs, but I saw a young boy yelling into the void “Must my hair recede? Must dandruff be white and visible? Is there no God?”

I would tell him not to overthink for that causes dandruff and he would yell back that he was overthinking because he had dandruff.

JN and I tried many things! We tried special ayurvedic oils from the distant land of Kerala. (You think JN did not know about that inept, snob of a V Krishna Menon?). Held the position of a Defence Minister by holding ransom the rightful tonsural services to a Prime Minister in exchange for the position of Defence Minister. Pitiable petty pig!

And yet like the Great Lady Macbeth, how my poor JN suffered! All the oils of Kerala could hardly wash his scalp of the flaky soot that is dandruff!

Off late, I have devised a theory as to why so much dandruff may have plagued JN and cause such proficient hair loss. Let me give you a working hypothesis! Assume there is a certain old, bald, abstinent man – let’s call him ‘Gandhi’! If such a man spent most of his time with an impressionable JN, teaching him everything ranging from civil disobedience to absurdist lessons on how to make the whole world blind – would that exert far too much pressure on JN’s tender hair follicles. Now I am not saying this (clearly) hypothetical Gandhi should be deemed a felon but there must be space allotted in the constitution that takes into account such keratinous crimes!

Anyway, I can’t claim to know him anymore.  Distance has grown inversely proportional to the amount of hair left in his head. He comes for a haircut once a general election. He spends far more time with the other Man – for the sake of the hypothesis let’s call the other man, Mohandas! When JN greets me now, it’s not the embrace of comrade but that has been replaced by feeble handshake of a typhoidal midget! They say that he has been seen at the Mountbatten residence often. The young lad dearly overworks himself!

Last I heard, JN had made peace with himself, by wearing a cap and rebranding it to the nation as ‘Nehru Cap’. That boy is charismatic and the nation shall follow him in any path he wants to – even if he declares Emergency, I am sure the nation will understand.

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1To clarify, my father did not become great after he became ‘late’, he was always, as he used to say “great”!

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In the next post, we get to read a letter written by Samprati Devavarman to Asoka the Great about certain idea the emperor has about planting trees across the country. Samprati is extremely angry about being put in charge of this scheme.

This Is NOT History – The Other Man From Porbandar

This is an excerpt from the book I hope I one day write This is NOT History, a collection of historical events with historical figures that totally did not happen. But it would have been nice had it happened like this. Also, I don’t want to find out what really happened, waste my youth pirating academic documents, only to get told that it offends a group of people whose idea of Mahatma Gandhi is derived from his stunning biography – the 2000 rupee note (the 10 rupee notes are the cheap paper cousins). And maybe get a death threat or two because I questioned the “non” in nonviolence!

The following is a from the biography of Bankim Soni, titled The Other Man From Porbandar.  A forgotten and imaginary figure, Bankim Soni was a fashion conscious freedom fighter and aspiring ‘Father of the Nation’ from Porbandar who was very angry with the arrival of a certain Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Here he is seen speaking to his Swedish biographer Mika Binson. Later historians figured out ‘Mika Binson’ is an anagram of ‘Bankim Soni’. Historians have conjectured that this may just have been the man talking to himself.

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(From Chapter 21 titled – The Man From Porbandar From South Africa Originally From India)

“I saw this Gandhi fellow for the first time in Porbandar walking around with Gopal Krishna Dada. Apparently, he was a barrister in South Africa. Small fellow, looked very average. Like they say in our tongue, “A man so thin, that a sneeze of a malarial buffalo will push him off the planet”! And apparently, he is going to get us our freedom! You know what story I heard about him today?

That he travelled in a train without a ticket and got thrown out of it. Rightly so! But you can be sure that such things will only excite our chaps. By breaking rules, they think they’ve done something great. Nothing, other than throwing a rock at a British mountain. And also, now this fellow apparently is saying that everyone should break rules and not wear foreign clothes. What is he suggesting? We wear nothing but shawls? Or better, let’s roam around with nothing cover our modesty but leaves of banyan trees.

We are fighters with a fashion sense not saints with shawls!

I know, I know, he is doing it in the name of freedom, but even our quest for freedom should have limits! With so much care I have collected a fine wardrobe of shirts, coats and toupees and combs and all of a sudden, this man wants us to burn clothes. How irrational! If burning clothes got us freedom you think Mangal Pandey and Tantiya Tope would have not gotten rid of their clothes first. And it might have been better that way! Tantiya Tope had a penchant for silly hats and grandmother told me that Mangal Pandey apparently loved his reds too much.

Also, is it too much to ask the people of this country to be a little more fashionable while protesting? Do we all have to wear such plain clothes when history remembers us? Would it be too much to go down in history as the “The Freedom Fighters in India – Steadfast and Fashionable”?

Well, you know me, I’ve always wanted to be the first great man from Porbandar. This town’s name needs to reach far and wide, from Kashmir to Kerala, Communists to Capitalists, and white man to black woman. Or is it White woman? Or Black man. Oriental mongrels? Or whatever the opposite of a white man is!

But this Gandhi fellow, his real name is Mohan by the way. What kind of a name is Mohan? How outdated! I had joked to him that Mohan was such an outdated name that the only reform Raja Ram Mohan Roy needed was to remove the ‘Mohan’ in his name. Gopal Krishna Dada didn’t think the joke was very funny. He slapped me a little. But quite hard. My cheeks hurt for a few days. But you know dada! Always been a sucker for tough love.

“Bankim, the paper weight in my office has two uses – to hold paper and the other to throw at you when you say stupid things”.

“Bankim, when India gets freedom from the British, I will tell them that you don’t need it and they can keep you in their museums in London.”

“Bankim,…you are an avant-garde idiot!”

I don’t think I should have corrected his pronunciation of ‘avant-garde’ because he huffed and puffed and charged at me like a bull. But I couldn’t help it. He pronounces the second half like it’s a Marathi surname.

Aah! It’s all tough love! Speaking of tough love, I think I should tell Gopal Krishna dada, to stop wearing those turbans he keeps wearing. They really accentuate his jowls!

I was touted as Gopal Krishna dada’s fashionable successor who was going to get freedom for the country in style, but this Gandhi fellow seems to be hogging all the attention. But again, he seems too weak to handle anything in this country. Just yesterday I heard a rumour that his wife yells back at him when they quarrel. What kind of a man can’t control his wife but promises to throw the Queen of England out of this country?

What a silly man! If there ever was a competition for silly men he would be right up there with judges wearing wigs in Indian courts.

But anyway, worry not, he will soon realise that I am the man from Porbandar that really matters. We don’t need to import men from abroad, just better clothes. Porbandar’s true son is ready for grander, colourful things. It’s only a matter of time!

1n670k.jpgBankim Soni’s entire legacy is a meme ahead of its time

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In the next post, I shall unearth an essay by part-time essayist and full time barber Feroze Naaiwala, Jawaharlal Nehru’s childhood barber till 1961. Watch this space for more updates!

To Be A Tourist Or A Traveller

I am not a pretentious guy. Sure, I think the Proletariat revolution must come and take over the means of production in a nihilistic existence only to realize they were better off in their Sisyphean tragic absurdity but I mean who doesn’t think that? Pph! Wait, you don’t? Hmpph! So passé!

*pouts my lips like a true bourgeoisie symbol of class and culture*

The point I was trying to make was that I recently did something that most people are beginning to slowly hate. I did that trip in Europe and I had a great time. I mean, not meet-the-love-of-my-life great (please, if only my life was a bilingual directed by Imtiaz Ali and Richard Linklater), but still pretty great! Now I know what you are thinking! Uff! Another guy, another trip to Europe, another conversation about “how Indian cities need to develop faster”, “Their roads are so clean”, “Every building in the foreign (pronounced as the Mathematical expression 4n) tells you a story where as somebody forgot to tell India buildings that Halloween is over and they are still wearing their scary costumes”

People who do those things are really pissing off. I didn’t do any of those things! Totally did not! Did Not. Nope… Never. Read my lips N-E-V-E-R….. Okay. Mmm! Maybe a little bit! Just a little! Okay, a few statements may have been said! Okay fine!

I totally did all of those things!

But if it makes you feel any better I did not post any pictures on Facebook. And, to be honest I’ve never really understood the idea of travelling. On the one hand I am sure travel makes you feel better, but on the other hand, why is it so expensive? I mean isn’t travel supposed to be life changing? Why are only rich people’s lives supposed to change with travel? Why are only rich people changed by travel? Wait, are there poor people who are travelling the world but just not getting point. I mean do poor people finish travelling the world and say “That’s it? This is what rich people wanted to do?!Mars better be damn good!”

Also call me old school but when I think of travel, I think of Marco Polo! I mean how much did he hate his life in Italy to get onto a boat and eloquently write in his journal “Fuck this! I’m going to China. That Genghis chap sure sounds like a friendly partying warmonger!”. (If some History major is looking for the correct timeline I hope you find out that Ramchandra Guha molests goats in Pakistan!)

Or even Magellan, the guy who proved earth was spherical! I am pretty sure he hated his life so much that he was probably the first gentleman who said “I hate my life so much that I want to jump off the edge of the world” and went for it. You see an explorer; I see a traveler committed to a personal cause! I mean suicide is no joke but imagine the disappointment when he came back to the place he started. And he just looked at God and said “Are you kidding me? Did it sound like a joke to you?”

When I travelled I had no such ambitions or frustrations. I did it only because I wanted to and I could! I just went around in trains and flights surprised that they let a half employed half tax burden like me into their pristine countries, where once the likes of Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare roamed the streets. In those very streets, I produced path-breaking forms of literature like ‘In this country, French Fries, kya tasty hai?’. And then proceeded to make love to them to fill the gaping holes in my life and my inferior vena cava! 4n is such a strange place!

So I think to pay respect to people who actually travelled I decided to call myself a mere tourist and take pride in it. Lots of people want to be travelers but not tourists because tourists remind them of uncles and aunties and from India and China who remind them of their parents! But screw that! #TouristIsTheNewSexy (Repost that until it becomes a cultural norm)!

Unless of course I go to South America! Then of course I am going to find a fat friend who has some actual skill in saving people and then become Che Guvera of South America. I mean, Che Guvera from South India of South America! But wait, if he was already there for South America then do I get to be Mukesh Manjunath, Che Guvera from South India of South India because of South America?

Whatever, you get the picture!

 

 

 

 

 

Schrodinger’s Jokes: A Lesson Well Learned

A debate in my mind that I’ve been trying to solve over the last couple of months is, does any performance or art form cater to the audience or to the performer? Look, I know the answer is both. But, where does the balance lie?  The thought started pestering my mind after a really bad experience during a show. Not sure exactly when! A couple of months back! (8:30 pm, May 26th, 2016, ‘Twas a Thursday. I was wearing a green shirt! #neverforget)

So, the setup was very simple. I was to do a five minute spot before more experienced comedians took over. The theme was the 90’s (the show was called That 90s Show named after the immensely popular and similar sounding sit-com……. Friends). It was to be a trip down the nostalgia lane. You know, 90’s, the decade which began with the economy crumbling and ended with match fixing scandals, and somewhere in between a prime minister exploded, Naxalism was the new rural hipster ideology, Hindi pop-music icons were touted as India’s rockstars in the making. Screw you, Buzzfeed and Scoopwhoop! We know what really happened in the 90’s. The show was intended for urban 20 and 30-somethings to have a good time and go back feeling happy that they didn’t have Facebook and Snapchat to record their stupidity.

So, I had a very simple task ahead of me – warm the crowd up for a few minutes. It can’t go too badly. Can it? It’s only five minutes. How bad can it get?

Very bad, apparently!

You see most moments in life seem to be written by God going through a midlife crisis because his children don’t feel like visiting him during the weekends. The audience that turned up weren’t people that experienced their pre-teens during the 90’s. The parents of that demographic turned up! And the front row in particular had people whose average age was death.

God - what if life gave god lemons never thought about that did you? Selfish prick

Just the shock of the wrong demographic turning up gave me butterflies in my stomach – except these butterflies were made of zombie material. When I went on stage and did my first bit, I got a moderate response – which is normal. Before i went onto my next bit, I had an inner voice tell me that I should probably shock my audience. Yes, the same inner voice that tells us to follow our dreams. So to an audience where the front row was populated by people who probably saw Bajirao Mastani, in person, I said the following lines:

Funny me trying hard: “So, I want to talk about the 90’s. 1790’s. Because that’s when most of the front row seems to have been born. So, what was happening in the 1790’s? Sati! Sati was a horrible thing no doubt, but, you think people would have tried making it better for themselves. If they had an ice water bath before, then maybe for five seconds Sati would have been warm and cozy. “ *followed by the smuggest smile that made me look like a descendant of a slave owner*

At that moment two helpful gentleman in the front row started shaking their head ominously to indicate that my joke sounded so insensitive and was so bad, that if I set myself on fire the very next moment, they would whip out acoustic guitars and everyone in the room would start singing “Jeena Yahan, Marna Yahan” as they collectively enjoy the bonfire . An old aunty thrust her arthritic arm behind her back to display her displeasure at my displeasing joke and let out a yawn so wide that I swear I saw Matthew McConnaughey trapped inside a singularity #UnderstoodInterstellarLittlebit.

Anyway I, to date, do not know how I got through the next four minutes. And I still think the bit was funny but, poorly phrased.

Lesson learned: Don’t make fun of Sati in front of old people. They don’t like remembering their friends in that order. Okay joking! I’m just joking! It was a bad joke! I learned my lesson.

Now don’t worry, it sounds like I am bitter that old people didn’t laugh at my jokes. But, I got over it pretty soon. It was just a phase when I was running around the road pointing at old people saying “Nein, Nein Nein, Gotta catch ‘em all! Gestapo, Kill ‘em all!”

It led to a bigger debate that I later had with my friends over to whom was comedy was performed for? Where are the lines drawn?

And over the little time I’ve been doing this (recently finished a year, thank you) I’ve realised that comedy is very much a social act; every joke is made within a particular social frame and context. So, what that means to me as a comedian is that if there are people who express their displeasure at statements that I call jokes, the joke is not just a litmus test for the humor type around me but, also an indication that my comedy is totally unfunny to the people around me. My joke is not just funny but, it’s also not funny. A joke is funny and not funny.  And that is an interesting position to be in: it’s like all jokes are Schrodinger’s jokes. *put cigar in my mouth, look passionately into the distance*

Interstellar Cooper -  the face you make when you understand enough to make one refernce

I guess what I’m trying to say that is, I have a Humanities degree and don’t know how to use it, ultimately (as much as I hate to admit) the answer to does any performance or art form cater to the audience or to the performer, is both – I can’t spew out anything I want, but at the same time I can’t try to find the LCM (or is it HCF?) of all the audience members in the room. And, as I struggle to find the balance, I shall continue to anger old people…I mean hate them…I mean… continue living in this Schrodinger’s state of existence. And kill old people…Ugh…You know what I mean!

The Guilt of Privilege and the Privilege in Guilt

*The following was not written after listening to Coldplay*

If there is one thing doing a degree in the humanities taught me, it’s that I am a fleshy, over privileged waste of resources and time-space, who is so good-for-nothing that an absurd tragic hero of a plump goat, raised with the singular goal of being mutton biriyani, that contacts malaria during Bakrid is probably more useful to the planet than me.

Goat Meme2

If there’s one thing that a degree in humanities gives all students, it’s crippling self-doubt while at the same time possessing a superiority complex it’s guilt. It’s the same guilt that I guess a certain Prince Siddhartha felt that turned him into the Buddha. But unlike Buddha who got a religion, most humanities students either get nothing or, at best, a debt (which is a good way of making sure they don’t have time to start their own religion). Now I am not saying, we, humanities students, are worthy of starting our own religion. Trust me, if some of us started our own religion, it’ll just be a lot of people with crushing social anxiety resorting to debate on social media but in real life having the argumentative skills of an overthinking puppy, that knows too much and too little about Karl Marx.

I don’t want to talk more for other humanities students as my degree has taught me that I can’t speak for others. Or myself. I shouldn’t speak? But I also shouldn’t remain silent. Gibberish?

Noil leber fo tca na siHsire bbig?

(That’s gibberish for “Eh?”)

Buddha

Anyway what I really wanted to talk about is about how sometimes I can’t come to terms with the privileges I possess. And I am terrified of defining what exactly ‘privilege’ means because definitions provide a false sense of accuracy that constantly changes across with time, space and individuals.

.(looks around to check if people have bought that excuse)

.Erm…

.Uh.

Okay, fine. You got me! I’m lying. I don’t want to be held accountable, for defining such a loaded word, by definition dictators (they are like grammar nazis, but the term is invented by me. Re-post it until it becomes a cultural norm). So I’m going to give a vague definition of what I mean by privilege. Every time I read a Buzzfeed articles that goes “ X things that every 90s kid from India will relate to” for a few seconds I am convinced that every 90s kid will relate to this, before I realise most 90s kids actually don’t relate to those things. Those few seconds in between are my moments of privilege. Every time I think the monsoons are a great time to have coffee and read a book, before I realise it’s literally the worst time of the life for a lot of people, those few seconds are me forgetting my privileges.

I also know, privilege is a lot more and serious, but this is a humor blog, so don’t get your tightie whities up your flowery nighties (another one of my coinages, please free to use them).

Once I took all my privilege into account, everything I have done, doesn’t really amount to much. My inner voice, which is basically a drunk South Indian attempting an impeccable Irish accent, trying to scream over a cranky pressure cooker that just refuses to go off, always takes an opportunity to remind me of it.

A casual conversation in my head:

Me: Hey, I’ve traveled quite a bit. That’s kinda nice. Feels like I’ve achieved something.

Inner-Me: You are a guy. You can do anything and get away with it in India.

Me: I guess you’re right. But I’ve also got a decent education and some social respect.

Inner-Me: Oh my god! Can you believe this guy?! Let’s not even get started on your caste. The big bad B word. That starts with a B ends with N and has the name of a popular Hindu deity squeezed in. Just in case it wasn’t obvious!

Me: But, but…Uh, I am trying to do stand up comedy. And that’s kinda tough. Don’t I get any points for that?

Inner-Me: What do you mean? You think you deserve points because you can burn through money and be okay with it? Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Abdul Kalam, those guys deserve points. You have everything going for you.

Me: Hey, but I was a fat kid. So that’s something. That made life kinda difficult.

Inner-Me: I’m sorry, your problem was you ate too much in a country where people die of hunger!  Besides once you ate so much that your friend tried convincing you that you had the biggest belly in the world.

Me: Hey. I got made fun of for that. There must be some larger socio-cultural explanation for being fat. Besides weren’t we supposed to suppress that memory?

Inner-Me: Nope that’s all on you. That’s your achievement. Some people use their privilege to go the moon, some people use it to believe that they have the world’s biggest belly.

I guess what bothers me is that the more privilege a person has the fewer number of people that person competes with. That, to me, is the best example of how unfair the world is. It’s basically the reason why Nawazuddin Siqddiqui will always be “alternate”, and Bollywood star kids, part of the “mainstream”. And at some level, all of us English-speaking, blog reading, individuals in many ways are no different than star kids. We are all part of the same game: we are holding on to our ten of hearts and complaining that they got dealt the ace of spades while the not-yet-Nawazuddin Siddiqui next to us has Uno cards and realized he’s completely fucked in this game.

Which brings me to the next part of the title: the privilege in guilt. It’s also weird that as I type this I am staring at a laptop which was probably made in factories in China where committing suicide is tea-time conversation. And here I am worrying about what to do with guilt. My big problem. And that again is privilege.

YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE PLAYING UNO BUT REALISE LIFE IS PLAYING POKER WITH YOU | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

The Performance Of Being Honest

There was a major momentous moment in my life about a month ago. I told my parents the truth about my dabbling in standup comedy. Of course, in an age where pop-culture has convinced us that coming out of the closet to your parents wins the “Moment That Deserves The Most Dramatic Music” award, my moment compared to that isn’t as dramatic. But compared to coming out of the closet, my moment of honesty, was at least a  Liam Hemsworth:Chris Hemsworth and less a Rohan Gavaskar: Sunil Gavaskar (His name is Rahul. Ok no. It’s Rohan. Or, is it? But you get the point!)

You may be wondering, what shady shenanigans my parents thought I was up to all the while (nearly eight months since graduation). Well, suit up ladies and gentlemen and non-conformists to the gender binary, IT’S STORY TIME!

*INSERT TROMBONE MUSIC*

Flashback sequence on!

Ba Duhm Tsh!!!

You see, back in the days of being a Padma Shree recipient for Excellence and leaving behind a large body of work in the field of Professional Idiocy, (a.k.a childhood and teens), I had my own “childhood dream” that I was sure was going to be my source of happiness. I had the ambition of being a Telugu film maker. It was only when I tried to poke into those circles that I realized I had long moved beyond my childhood dream and that I, for too long, had romanticized the idea of following a boyhood passion. Not that I think I am superior to Telugu films in any way. I know nothing makes me laugh harder than the goofball Telugu comedies I consumed like a frustrated investment banker at a buffet of free alcohol and recreational drugs. But still, I didn’t enjoy the process or the company. The bubble of a romanticized childhood dream was burst by the universe. (Yes, I’ve seen Tamasha and 3 Idiots. Nope, all childhood dreams are not meaningful! Somewhere in Bombay as that statement echoes through the time-space continuum a weeping Imtiaz Ali is given a group jaadu ki jhappi by Aamir Khan and Raju Hirani).

And then, an art form that I learned to watch and appreciate during the many nights in college, which otherwise were being spent over-thinking the chocolate ice cream out of love, love life and the Proletariat revolution, came to mind – standup comedy. I wanted to give it a shot before migrating for a Masters education in Rebels with Failed Causes in the London School of Confusion (LSE for over thinkers. Especially for all the times I’ve thought, is it LSC or LSE? Or are we all saying LAC really fast? I digress!)

With not much to do in a new city nor too many familiar faces, standup comedy happened. And of course it was still not a happily ever after and it’s probably going to be tougher now than ever but there was marginal closure to that problem (Will someone please check on Imtiaz Ali? He’s probably committed suicide by now.)

While the “what-to-do” was solved, temporarily at least, the how-do-you-tell-parents had just opened up. How do you explain standup comedy to Telugu parents who grew up in a different sort of India and with a radically distinct cultural baggage altogether?

*me after poetically explaining the art and history of standup comedy*

Parents: So you do mimicry in Telugu?

Me: No no! Not in Telugu. It’s in English.

Parents: So you imitate Hollywood actors?

Me: No. I don’t imitate anyone. I just talk and people are supposed to laugh.

Parents: Are you going to come in drag on Kapil Sharma’s new show?

I still think the worst part is, they will be sweet enough and try to show me off to other parents even if they think standup comedy is me doing mimicry of Bollywood celebrities on Colors TV.

Non-my-Parents: (showing off their son) This is our male offspring who was birthed after we sacrificed his grandmother to the god of fertility. After pursuing a Masters in a University founded by White people in the Whitest town in Whiteland he works at a multinational company where he is a revered demigod whose sperm is so powerful that his male genital organ has an underground cult following where it is called Magic Mike. What does yours do?

My Parents: Standup comedy.

Non-my-Parents: Speak, jester! Tell us two jokes and we shall pay you handsomely in buffaloes.

But after much over-thinking and Vedic Mathematics I did tell my parents about pursuing standup comedy. And contrary to the banishment and exile that I was expecting (I am not being over dramatic, it’s just that I already told them about wanting to become a part-time house husband. Read Dropping The H-Bomb), they were actually really happy and surprisingly supportive. And I know I should get killed for over-thinking a reasonably sappy moment, but I think they were actually glad that I didn’t end up in a B Grade Telugu soft porn film. Imagine finding out from  a dim-witted cousin, in haste to make fun of me but foolish enough to reveal his choice in erotica!

And that was that. Thus another chapter in the constant misadventures of a bumbling Mukthegaul came to a close. (Sorry that last bit of mush was just to give some oxygen to a dying Imtiaz Ali. I swear!)

Trombone Music.

Exit Flashback Mode
Ba Duhm Tsh!

13b5rm

My Big Fat Pajama Shaadi

Watching a friend get married gives you a good sense of what your age really is. There is a formula for this.

Number of years since you were born (Y) times the number of friends of yours who are already married (F) divided by the estimated number of years you are not going to earn money (E).

Real Age, R = Y*F/E

My real age, R, is nearing a zero. Mostly because my E has discovered the end of numbers! It’s a surreal thing to attend a friend’s wedding, because on the one hand you are admiring the courage that a person has to take this bold step of promising, what hopefully should be, a lifelong commitment, but on the other hand your brain is also thinking “CRAP! CRAP! CRAP! CRAP! CRAP! CRAP! DID I LEAVE THE GAS CYLINDER ON?”

I am not your average pop-culture inspired teenager adult who is “afraid of commitment” and says things like “Marriage Bro. I don’t know if I can handle it. It’s too much effort bro”. I have always thought that marriage is a great institution for as long as I can remember.

*In School*

Teacher: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Non-Me1: I want to be a Truck Driver. (There is always one kid with this response)

Non-Me2: I want to be an archaeologist. (This kid probably saw Indiana Jones last night)

Teacher Cliché 1: In our days we only had Engineer, Doctor, Lawyer.

Teacher: Mukesh, what do you want to be?

Me: Husband.

Teacher Cliché 2: With your marks you’ll end up there only.

As to what kind of wedding I want, I didn’t give it much thought until I attended one recently. Going for one reminds you of how elaborate a process this can be. I don’t think I know as many words in the English language as the number of people at that wedding. I’ve decided mine is going to have a strict pajamas and shorts only policy. It’s going to be a Bring Your Own Pajamas Wedding. (Repost that until it becomes a cultural norm). There’s going to be a giant game of hide and seek and the ceremony ends when the bride and groom find each other. Then there is hurrah and merry and champagne and speeches and everybody passes out till they leave.

When people come out of it, people are not going to go “Bro, it was so much fun dudebro. I don’t remember anything”. People are going to go “Wow. That was just super comfortable.

Also no pictures allowed. I believe that a moment should be enjoyed and lived in and stored as a memory rather than trapped in an abstract socio-metaphysical construction such as a photograph. And because in photos my face looks like the age rings of an ugly Eucalyptus tree! So no photos!

The number of photos and the amount of makeup and the amount of smiling for photos at shaadis, gives a dubious desi touch to how The Joker got his scars.

Joker: I can’t feel my face any more. What is happening?

Batman dressed as North Indian Uncle, Bruce Jain: Why so serious, beta? Put a smile on your face?

Is that the best origin story for a villain? Or the worst?

Before I get stereotyped as the guy who wants to get married as soon as possible because he saw a lot of rom-coms, STOP! It’s more a belief in the practice of living together, which I get, is not for everyone. And I understand that there are so many things that go into the life of a couple living under the same roof, beyond the usual rut of romantic gestures etc. But I still feel, that there is a lot of cynicism regarding marriage in so many young people. And I am no one to blame people for their fears or pinpoint the source of their cynicism (American pop-culture, I tell you).

Now I am speaking with the confidence of a Fair Skinned, Brahmin, MS in US, settled in Silicon Valley Telugu Software engineer on Shaadi.Com. But, I am aware that the prospects of my wedding happening in such a manner are near zero. I mean, there are more chances the bride will happen to be a Koala bear given how much they like eucalyptus trees. But I shall be relentless in my optimism. Please consider this as an invitation for the wedding which has the probability of a renegade fat goat Rambo-ing itself to survival during Bakrid in interior Baluchistan.

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This Post was Awkward to Write

I want to talk about something that’s a little embarrassing and people might find it uncomfortable to read. So before you proceed, note that I am squirming as I write this. So if you think it is difficult to read, imagine how difficult it is to write. So here goes!

I want to be a Pakistani shepherd.

Sorry. Fine! I’ll tell you the truth. I want to talk a bit about male molestation. *A random goat in Pakistan who is reading this just went “how the tables have turned”.*

So you might be thinking how and why I chose this topic. On a bus journey back from what was nearly a perfect holiday, I was woken up abruptly when the bus I was travelling in hit a speed breaker so hard and fast, I felt like I was inside the belly of a drunk Malyali uncle fighting an angry Bengali intellectual over the correct interpretation of Sitaram Yehcuri’s left eyebrow. But I also found the hand of the guy sitting next to me all over my crotch. I knew it had been there for a while and he had the obvious guilty look of a teenager watching porn for the first time and he quickly got up and sat in the seats behind. It all felt a little surreal and I got down from the bus as soon as possible.

The reason I felt a little surreal because I assumed that once you grow up these kinds of violations would stop. Yes! I was a fat chubby pink kid while growing up which meant that at almost all busses, trains and weddings it would be extra alright to be pinch buttocks and be extra affectionate with their tongues. And this was when I used to wear pants. So wasn’t really revealing much!

Of course, it was always passed off as affection and it wasn’t until you learn to label the acts that you feel bad for yourself but also for that random uncle’s aunt who probably has the sex life of a basaltic rock.

And it doesn’t really stop there! During college a similar incident happened while standing in a local train in Chennai, when I was with a male friend. Him and I decided the best way to deal with it was to laugh about the fact that it was a Tamil man who looked like a Mahalingam who went for my lingam. That was really how that was dealt with because as men we have to give Thor a run for his hammer, no pun intended!

But more than the labels and boundaries it is the surprising lack of emotional infrastructure to deal with these issues that leaves a lot of conversation to be had. And as the psychological bile piles up, you just hope that you don’t do something stupid along the way.

Somewhere along the way stand-up comedy helped. Not that my jokes are all rants on molestation or anything. It’s just that sometimes standup comedians are lovely people to talk to about anything.

Normal people conversations

(Some place with loud music that sounds like the footsteps from an uncoordinated three legged race with three one-legged people. Some beers because…just the warm piss of a cow, man)

Me: Hey!
Non-Me: Hey!

(Awkwardly tear away at the label of the beer company)

Me: Isn’t it strange how we say hard work pays but in gyms we pay for hard work?
Non-me: What?
Me: Sorry.
Non-Me: Hey. Listen. I have to go now. Just…for something.
Me: Understandable!

(Retreat into a self-made invisible cave and sip the beer awkwardly)

Standup Comedian First Conversations

(Awkwardly hang about at an open mic)

Non-Me: Hey. First time?
Me: Yeah. Kinda nervous really!
Non-Me: Don’t worry man! It’ll be fine. You’re going to be a rockstar. Do you want to try your bit with me?
Me: Hey. Not really. I’m sorry. It’ll just get me more nervous.
Non-Me: That’s cool. Do you want to hear my bit out?
Me: Sure. Would love to! What’s it about?
Non-Me: Actually. Childhood mein, molestation hua mera! I am just trying out some bits on it. This is the opening line. “I know I was an attractive kid during school days. Not because I had many girlfriends as a kid, but because I got molested by older uncles a lot”. Kaisa hai? Edgy, no?

Of course not all standup comedians are like this and this is clearly exaggerated, but you get the drift.

I also found out that the legal framework isn’t too helpful either.

And it’s not surprising that conversation regarding the matter is surprisingly minimal. But the worst direction this conversation can head towards (and I swear I heard this once) is the “It happens to boys also so all these girls are just complaining”. It’s part of the same problem methinks!

Anyway, I’m sure such instances are all around us. So next time you are with your friends and enjoying a moment so warm and cozy that life feels like an American sit-com just say “So guys! How many of you were molested as kids?”