Earth is Round and So Are You!

There is one activity that really unites India more than cricket, culture or ogling at Sri Devi – laughing at fat people. Class, caste, region or religion have no impact on the notion that well-upholstered people are basically asexual sound effects that must be compared with (insert clichéd animal reference or even sweets). It struck me right after I unearthed the goldmine that was Akshat Singh – as many of you know him as the chubby kid who went on The Ellen DeGeneres Show (at which point I must confess that I am not jealous of him. At all! Not even little bit! Bloody motu, how dare he?)

That’s when I remembered realized that life for horizontally well-endowed students in school can be quite difficult because other children waste no time in reminding them that they are structurally overstuffed. Any typical argument ends with a not-so-fat-kid ending the argument with something like “Yeah but then you were born because an anaconda had sex with the Himalayas, you fatso!” (insert *toinggggggg* *BOLOBOLOBOLOOOOOOOOO*. Don’t ask me why childhood had sound effects from a Sajid Khan movie. It just did.)

And these are the creative ones. The uncreative ones are worse. They deserve all the Sahitya Akademi awards that are being returned.

“Your BMI must be like a billion trillion frillion jillion dandelion.”

“You have boobs!”

Many times it’s just harmless fun (with each kid just trying to get some attention) but then there are always a couple of asshole students who make sure they remind you in each and every class.

Biology – “Dude she said fat globules! Like that sounds fat already. Which you are”

Economics – “The World Bank wants to borrow some fat to give to Sudanese children. I suggested your name”

Physics – “Newton’s fourth law is that a fatty shall be a fatty until more fat is acted upon because fat”.

“Dude that didn’t even make sense”

“Shut up. Motu!

Chemistry – “Dude have you ever thought about how your stomach and chest look like a nice water molecule?”

Geography – “Dude, if you lie down on your back and I look at you sideways and then trace your body structure na, it’ll look exactly like the Andes!”

“Can you stop staring so much? It’s getting a little weird now”

And physical education or the sports teacher is usually the worst of the lot because not only does he not stop these jokes but he feels like his professional ethics dictate that he must join a bunch of middle school children in their mockery sessions. His idea of creativity is making a strongly under height child do push ups while others perform demonic rituals and belt out Amar Chitra Katha asura laughs.

Of course it isn’t that bad and it is exaggerated (although I will never reveal which ones are true and which ones aren’t). But the problem is that rather than talking to the architecturally rotund children about fitness and the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, current social systems are quite happy mocking them and blaming Bollywood for not making enough movies where anatomically ample people are round characters, no pun intended. Are we really looking for inspiration from an industry that forgives Sajid Khan? So in this context someone like Akshat Singh, although no Jackie Shroff, is quite a rebel and inspirational.

So the next time you see a fat kid being weird or quiet around you, try talking to them like they were a normal person, for a change. Otherwise they’ll think it is an invitation to eat you!

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Rich People’s Droughts

Recently I read that California was going through a drought. It hadn’t rained and things were quite bad out there. Or that’s what they said in the newspapers! I wanted to know how bad it was. I saw videos where reporters entered the richer neighborhoods and interviewed the residents. And as part of the water conservation methods the residents said things like “Before we used to have twenty minute showers and now we have to have quick ten minute showers. We have to connect washing machines to the garden pipes. But the plants are getting my dirty water. I went and apologized to them. Poor plants! Poor, poor plants!”

And then the reporters went to some of the poorer sections of California. In fact they didn’t even enter because they were so scared of these areas. The reporters observed the poverty from a distance and reported things like “The people are being forced to have bucket water baths. They have officially hit rock bottom”

That’s when I realized Indian droughts and Californian droughts are two very different things. Rich people’s droughts are like the alternate indie music in a Zach Braff movie. Indian droughts are the hard core metal heads of droughts.

For a drought in India to be labelled a drought by the government (let alone be called a disaster), first there have to be at least 1000 farmers dying of debts in Andhra Pradesh and Vidharba. (Their graveyards are the mosh pits. #blackcomedy. Last joke like that. Mother promise!) Those deaths don’t happen because of the drought, they are indirect deaths caused by debt. They are appetizer deaths for the drought.

Then slowly the pictures and headlines will come out in The Hindu and The Indian Express (purposely leaving out The Times of India because they still haven’t found anything worthwhile to report about after Deepika’s cleavage. You go TOI, you go! Somewhere in the depths of Bollywood is a cleavage waiting to be reported by you before it dies…of lack of attention)

First and foremost is  a picture of women walking long distances, bare feet, with matkas on their head. The picture will exude poverty but the reporter channels his inner Gulzar and writes a caption like “The long walk towards water is as elusive as The Stairway to Heaven leading to that Hotel in California”. Then there is the picture of children eating leaves (Because, you know, when in drought eat leaves #punsonpoverty)

And my personal favorite is the picture of the farmer just staring up at the sky squatting on the ground while he is surrounded by parched and cracked earth. And then the farmer has this poignant look which screams that there are more chances of help coming if he sings ghanana ghanana from Lagaan towards the skies than asking the current government for help. And then there are classic headlines head lines like “10,000 DIE BECAUSE THERE IS NO RAINFALL. There is no food to last five days in many districts. Could this be a drought? Let’s wait for a few more days says the Central Government”.

But we are all so desensitized to this information that it stopped bothering us long ago. So much so that my father (who was one of the many sons of the Green Revolution) will typically go “They call this a drought? Ppch. In Telangana we call it a hot Sunday afternoon”.

Now I know that many of you don’t know what Telangana is like. And I am here to explain it to you. So imagine this – If the poverty of Bihar had sex with the heat of Rajasthan then that child is called a Telangana.

Totally Owning That! This! And Everything in Between!

A trend I’ve been trying to come to terms with of late is that we Hindus like to claim ownership over everything. Somewhere in the world something magnificent happens or is discovered and the world is rejoicing. And if one thinks about it, the world really wants reasons to celebrate!

Because the world is just a big pile of Orissa otherwise! A giant plate of bullOrissa! Just a lot of shitty things happening and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. On the other hand the world isn’t an Uttar Pradesh. In Uttar Pradesh one man gets killed because someone thought he had beef and it becomes a national issue. And it should because nobody has the right to dictate what a man should eat and shouldn’t. But in Orissa millions will die, the state will go through droughts and floods (sometimes both at the same time) and at best Dainik Bhaskar will have a cartoon on it.

Back to the issue. The world is celebrating and then there will be that one Hindu who goes “Actually na bro. That was there in India when Ram was calling South Indians monkeys”.

For example the Wright Brothers built a plane and human beings for the first time had real time bird’s eye view. They didn’t have to imagine any of that. John Wright (or whoever the first Wright brother was) took off on a plane and in a glorious moment in human history, mid-air, he exclaimed “Wilbur has a receding hairline”. That’s how epic it was! And then some forgotten Hindu man in orange robes went “We already had it. Pushpak Vimaan. It’s basically the same thing. Raavan use to fly it from Sri Lanka and check out the babes in India and decide who to abduct and who not to.” And when asked for proof “Bro it was called Pushpak Vimaan pre-Independence. After independence they just named it Air India. If you have doubts look at the air hostesses. They are basically the same people since then”. This is the point where I concede defeat because that argument makes total sense.

The only believable modern practice that we can claim credit over is that before Koena Mitra and Rene Zellwegger, we had the first victim of a dubious plastic surgery.

Ganesha!

How can we even be proud of that? Let’s first understand the circumstances! One day cute Ganesha was busy being adarsh baalak because he was protecting his mother while she was having a bath. Then Shiva comes and says “chal hat saala” and when Ganesha says no, he just beheaded him. BEHEADED HIM!!!

What kind of child abuse standards is that setting for Hindu fathers? Inspired Hindu fathers are going if a person who beheaded a child is god, the least I can do is hit my child with a belt if he doesn’t perform well in academics. And then when Paravati cries over her dead child Shiva utters eloquent poetry that must be recited at every funeral “Shit galti ho gayi yaar!

Then he starts thinking with his third eye. *inhale a deep puff because, you know, meditative trance* “Nandi, Tum sun. Ek Haathi ko le ke aa. We’ll behead that. Then go to Ramu Kaka’s shop in Kasaul and get some Fevikwik. We will take that head and stick it to this head. And ho gaya plastic surgery!”

And I hope no one takes offence. Oh wait! That’s one thing we actually own!

Butter Chicken from a Small Town

I’m from a small town in India. But most people I know are city kids. One thing that bugs me about city kids is how they react when someone tells them they are from a small town. The conversation isn’t really friendly. And the worst part is they don’t do it purposely. That means it’s unconscious (or subconscious or tetra-conscious. Or whatever the word is these psychology majors prefer)!

So if two city kids meet the conversation is usually like this:

Bro: Dude, where are you from?

Dude: Bro, I am from Dilli. I’m like from totaaly Dil Walo ki Daally! Where are you from, Bro?

Bro: I am from Bombay. Basically South Bombay! But that’s the only Bombay any one cares about.

Dude: That’s so cool. I’ve been to Blue Frog bro. It’s best.

Bro: Dude, I’ve been to Delhi. It’s the best man. It has lots of civilized men playing catch-catch with tables and chairs and bullets, respectfully referring to mothers and sisters, general sense of security. What a place!

Dude: I also know Suraj Sharma bro. His best friend’s girlfriend’s third cousin slept with a classmate’s friend from Ramjas! He and I are like totally best friends!

So that’s how the conversation goes most of the times. I swear I am not stereotyping!

And if someone says they are from the tier two cities like Hyderabad or Bangalore they mention inane things like biryani and weather respectively. Because those cities are the permanent younger brothers of these places!

But the drama unfolds differently once I mention I am from a small town in India. At first these city kids will squint and make sure I didn’t say Mars. Then they ask something polite like “Are you sure Matt Damon didn’t find you and bring you back?”

Then they will repeat the name of the place I come from for a few times till it sounds like a sound effect from Naruto. Then they’ll produce a map out of nowhere and start looking for the place in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. When I say it is in the mainland then they realize I have been speaking English all along and I am not malnourished or differently-abled.

Bro Dude: So you have like Education and shit out there? Like were you adopted by some firang? Is that why you can speak English?

Me: No. I live with my biological parents (this conversation is more or less normal).

Bro Dude: So have any of your siblings died because they couldn’t afford medicine? Or do your uncles participate in riots for fun?

Me: Dude, are you crazy? (At which point I clarify I am not from Uttar Pradesh)

That might have been an exaggeration but you get the drift. Small towns have their own problems and in many cases the social set up is patriarchal, misogynistic, homophobic and everything else that would make a “liberal” ( I have used quotes only because as any academic will tell you there hasn’t been a more elegant cop out for saying “I don’t know what exactly I mean but you are allowed to interpret it in any way possible”) cringe. But at some level that kind of stereotyping is just as bad as some of the stereotypes that small town people have of city youth: all city girls are in an open relationship with every boy in the city or that every city boy is just an aggressive insensitive, bike riding, alcohol chugging maniac who snorts coke for breakfast and drinks vodka for water and sleeps with prostitutes (unless of course you are from Delhi. Then it has been scientifically proven to not be a stereotype!)

Any way I hope I haven’t offended any one. What do I know? When my Christian missionary parents paid for me in malaria medicine to my biological parents for my dying sister, while running away from my uncle who was the Chief Sword Supplier for Riot Equipment in 1991, they didn’t teach me how not to make stereotypes.