All Choices are Equal But Some are Just Classier

I recently caught myself doing something I was quite ashamed of. I cried myself to sleep thinking I’m going to die in abject poverty while my parents tell everyone that they never had a son. That was supposed to go into my diary. Sorry about that! I recently caught myself laughing at a young cousin who said he really liked the songs of Emmy awards rejector Mika Singh (that guy who is called when concert organizers can’t afford Honey Singh). The reasons I felt ashamed were two fold: first, only a couple of years ago I was that kid with my own favourite regional pop-culture icons and second, it reminded me how I had ended up on the other end of the diameter. Let me explain!

As a child who grew up on Bhopal Gas Tragedy amounts of regional pop-culture, it upsets me a little when regional films don’t get their fair share of credit. Of course, sometimes the comical depths to which regional films sink to will make Steven Spielberg want to dive legs first into a sugarcane juice machine while giving Salman Khan a career. What bothers me about the lack of respect for regional films is that, it reflects a larger disrespect for the connections that people make with pieces of culture and literature that may not be the hippest thing around.

A friend of mine laughed at me when I said that I actually enjoyed reading Chetan Bhagat’s 2 States.

Me: If you think about it is not such a bad book. I mean there are quite a few moments that will make you go lolz roflmao trololololol (which is also how I think people of Uzbekistan speak: chant dubstep from their epiglottis)!

Friend: Comrade, the hermeneutics of stereotypes are unexamined as his writing style is unpardonable because an epileptic Ramchandra Guha playing scrabble would have written a better novel than 2 States. Blistering barnacles! Thundering typhoons! These humour writers are crazy!

Me (*puff puff*): What is hermeneutics? Advanced herpes?

Friend: GRE swag!

It upset me a bit because although I’m not your average Shashi Tharoor, I do enjoy my Murakami as much as my Chacha Chaudhary and Nitin Gadkari Raja Hooja (somewhere in heaven Anant Pai just gave Pran a legendary high five). I am not trying to defend the writing style of Chetan Bhagat or his tweets. For all I know somewhere in the depths of hell, Lord Macaulay has the smuggest smile on his face while being burnt to a crisp thepla. But a little more tolerance, with respect to tastes, could be a lot more helpful to people who might be suffering from a lack of confidence because they think their tastes are weaker. Definitely, I am no saint and on a scale of one to hypocrite I am currently Anupam Kher.

Laughing at people who have “inferior” tastes in music or literature is just a way of laughing at the lack of opportunities that people might not have had while growing up. Although we are saying “Haha you listen only to Honey Singh and watch only Kannada movies” the underlying message is “Bro. Like my life has had access to more things than you bro. Tum basically gareeb ho! But like even in taste also. Like you and the Indian hockey team should hang out to share your interests about things that we really shouldn’t give a shit about. I mean you are the first educated person in the family? That’s crazy. Like when my grandfather was studying na, your grandfather was busy introducing spin bowling to Amir Khan.”

And I know it is titillating to reform the choices of other people but remember that none of us are really Manmohan Singh from the early 90s (#paidattentioninEconomicsclassSwag). So the next time, we see someone enjoying a piece of culture that it embarrasses us and makes us cringe, remember that our opinion is basically an Aarti Chhabria. Don’t even bother Googling her name because the point was to show how irrelevant our opinion is. But on the other hand if you do know her, then you fellow human being, are not a Bollywood fanatic but a connoisseur, gourmet, a ménage de trois le fafda, a Bhogle that belongs to the House Harsha.

All this applies as long as they aren’t Bhojpuri music and movies. That is where we draw the line!

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A Jog a Day Keeps the Carbs at Bay

Entering the early twenties is quite a refreshing change. I feel like I have reached an age where I can complain like a 40 year old man. Even my concerns have changed a bit because fitness and health have started mattering a lot more. After much thought I set two goals for myself: to eat a fruit a day and go jogging five times a week. I have only successfully accomplished the eating part. And the most amusing aspect is that my mind possesses an amazing smugness despite having lost no weight.

“Bro, Don’t eat all that rice. Too many carbs! And you should add more vegetables to your Sambar”

“Dude, I am a beggar.”

Forget losing weight there is still some fat and grease left from the chilly chicken I had during the second semester of college. The reason it bothered me so much was because while in college, on most days, my body wasn’t my temple as much it was a chemistry lab in the hands of a curious nerd: dump any liquid and solid inside and cry when it all explodes. With the way college life was hyped, staying in a hostel sounded like a paid job as a water slide tester. Except what I didn’t sign up for was the food available on a student budget. The sandwiches were roasted in Castrol engine oil, while some rice had been accidentally found in baking soda powder and the curries had been through the digestive juices of a cow (Imagine the water slide tester found out that the water was being procured from drain pipes of Union Carbide)! And in most student friendly restaurants, if raita was served, it was just an excuse to get rid of yesterday’s onions while soaking them in the tears of students who were eating there.

And student messes. Of the following items one of them was found in the dal while I was eating. Take a guess?

  1. Toothbrush
  2. Nail
  3. Insect remains
  4. Bones from Chicken pieces

I lied. It was all of the above!

The problem is that during college nutrition and health are highly neglected by eateries and messes in college and students really don’t know better. The healthiest students are the ones who take no nicotine or non-coriander green leaves for recreation and manage two meals on most days. On the other end of the spectrum lie nicotine airbags held together by cigarettes for ribs, noodles for intestines, and chicken lollipop leftovers for limbs. Yours faithfully lived somewhere in between like every North Indian villager: breakfast was a myth.

College management rarely cares because when students are not assignment churning machines they are mostly uncultured excuses for youth who are just busy wiling time away. At which point you point out to college management that not all students listen to EDM. It’s one of those problems that authorities dismiss as students rebelling against establishment for the sake of it.

What Students ask: We want some decent food that is mildly healthy so that we are not permanently sleepy and tired.

What management hears: We want a humanoid amalgamation of Gordon Ramsay, Sanjeev Kapoor and Anthony Bourdain who will invent a new cuisine every day with the help of Hobbit-esque oompa loompas while the food must be served by the waitresses from Hooters. The food that we waste must be donated to the Great Feast in Hogwarts. (And such a demand would be preposterous. Where would we find such hot waiters in India?)

The biggest benefactors are obviously the caterers. The manager is almost always a potbellied man with a misplaced moustache and a frown that looks like Winston Churchill had a secret to tell.

And of course students are supposed to be responsible adults and the administration is not responsible if students smoke their lungs to stone or drink their liver to sludge. But students should have access to healthy food and it shouldn’t depend on how hard they work. What are they? Black people in America?

Anyway who am I to rant? The fight is for the younger lot to take up. And as for me, I shall continue eating this banana as I wistfully stare outside the window imagining myself finishing a marathon while the Kenyan guy I overtake wishes he had more biriyani the previous night. Oh wait. What is that? Oh god! Some college kids just gave a beggar fried rice in a parcel packet. I think I’ll take him jogging tomorrow morning.

Dropping The H-Bomb

Recently I dropped the H-Bomb. Nope. This is not another post/advertisement/meme/YouTube Video/gif/picture/program/special or another sensory blitzkrieg on Diwali that will melt your brain into a liquidized Diwali commercial.
While talking to parents, I dropped the H-Bomb that no son must ever utter if he is to have any claims over property. I said I wouldn’t mind being a house husband if there was a steady stream of income from something I liked doing.

Let me rewind and put some context to this.
I live alone and therefore have to literally manage an entire house by myself. All the free time I have earned and the freedom that I imagined goes into only four activities: buying groceries, cooking, washing dishes and going back to the grocery store because I forgot to buy phenyl.

One day my father and his friend were coming to visit me. A word about my father’s friend: Have you ever met someone and thought this person is THE reason stereotypes make sense? My father’s friend is an absolute small-town-bred-patriarch. He would fit into a 90s film so perfectly that the 80s would want him back!
While my father saw me purposefully walking out of my house early in the morning he wanted to show off to his friend that I am an early riser who goes out for a jog and hits the gym and drinks protein shake for water. He confidently asked me where I was going. A perfect set up to prove that I was made of XY chromosomes that were bathed in the sweat of Achilles and then caressed in the gentle arms of Akshay Kumar.

“I want go buy some vegetables and dhaniya. If I go too late all the fresh ones are taken away by these housewives and there’s always such a big crowd.”

His face crumpled faster than a flier in the hands of a disinterested passer-by.
It seems strange that, not only parents who grew up in a different India, but even friends who grew in a similar space have a little difficulty in comprehending the notion. A friend of mine was in town recently and he wanted to catch up. While he was suggesting mantastic Milind Soman approved activities such as catching up over beer, I dropped the idea that he and I should go grocery shopping with the carefulness required to build a tower of cards. He reacted with the gentleness of a table fan next to that same tower of cards.

And then discussion eventually moved on to the topic about house husband being a valid option for men. He was quite shocked by what I said. In face he was so shocked that I thought I said that all men must be treated like a living vacuum cleaner, breathing and whistling pressure cooker, a talking washing machine, a placid reproducing sex toy that must listen to the dictate of an insensitive, paan chewing partner for whom “conversation” means holding industrial weaponry on one hand and scratching the tummy with the other. Or as it is called in Haryana – husband and wife!

But the reason it is important to talk about these things without getting too judgemental no matter what the stance is because in the words of Canadian superhero Justin Trudeau “It’s 2015”. (IT’S NEARLY 2016. HOLY SHITBALLS! WHEN THE HELL DID IT BECOME 2016. WHY IS TIME FLYING SO FAST? I STILL REMEMBER FOLLOWING LAST ELECTIONS LIKE THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL. WHAT? BJP LOST IN A STATE? NEXT YOU’LL TELL ME THAT MID TWENTIES ARE CLOSER THAN TEEN YEARS. WAIT A MINUTE. OH NO. OH NO. OH NO.)
Sorry had a bit of a panic attack. So here’s my new shaadi.com profile updated.

Name: Mukesh Manjunath
Profession: Enthusiastic blog writer who writes blog over enthusiastically
Age: Must not ask a (wo)man their age. Believable number! Product of the 90s.
Height: If gravity wasn’t so harsh 6 feet (almost there guys!)
Skin tone: The colour after 100 ml of milk is mixed with twenty grams of Bournvita. Stirred not shaken (There is a difference!)
Why am I a suitable choice: Post a recent panic attack, willing to be treated like a housewife!

A New Stereotype Has Arrived

I recently realized that there is one group in the country that is constantly living under the domination of another mainstream group and isn’t given fair share of attention or credit (No, not people from the North East. Who wants to talk about them?). I am talking about commerce students who live under the perennial shadow of engineering students. At this point I must clarify by engineers I mean students who take Maths, Physics, and Chemistry (MPC) in their twelfth and pursue engineering in their degree. And a similar logic applies to how I understand the term ‘commerce students’. I confess that I stopped commerce after 12th standard.

Frustrated engineers complain a lot! They’ve complained so much that they’ve become a stereotype. And that’s great for them. But  frustrated  commerce students need a certain amount of pity and attention as well.

Some students who take part in the industrial assembly line ritual of MPC, after their tenth, despite being stressed out and unhappy, have respect in society. MPC students like to think they are rock bottom. Guess what? Frustrated commerce students are below that rock. Commerce students are so badly treated that when they show up with their textbooks, the people of Zimbabwe are going “That is some worthless paper, man”. (Yes! That same country with a trillion dollar note.)

And then someone will point out that chartered accountancy is a valid career option. But chartered accountancy is the profession that everybody needs but anyone who wants to achieve anything in life doesn’t want to be one.

If you do  physics and chemistry it can be useful even though you might not like it because at least you are learning science. It’s about understanding the world. Even if you never use it, at minimum you know enough science to understand Interstellar. You are not going “What did he say? What did he say? Worm hole kya hota hai?”

If anyone has asked you anything similar it is because they did commerce after 10th standard.

One of the disadvantages of doing commerce is, there is never a movie whose themes are the concepts we studied in commerce. Just imagine the plot of such a movie! “*insert dramatic percussion music. Then a voice over begins by someone who has been smoking since he was in the womb. It is Mukesh the dead guy!*

Matthew McCounaughey. One man. One Job. One Helluva ride!

He must race against time to balance his income and expense account. Then explain whatever ‘arbitrage’ and ‘PODSCORB’ mean to a bunch of disinterested students before an evil commerce teacher, who loves tacky acronyms, tries to start a joint venture with his daughter only to finally maker her a sleeping partner so that he can take her assets and leave the liabilities to her.”

*Roll Title Card* Accounting Day!

*Roll Cheesy Tagline* He came! He saw! He BALANCED!

Coming to theatres near you on March 31st!

Alright, Alright, Alright!

That is never going to happen, right?

Commerce students had one movie going for them – The Wolf of Wall Street. It was set in the Mecca of commerce students: WALL STREET! Even in that, the protagonists lead such a messed up life while practicing commerce that they ended up snorting cocaine. Compared to that frustrated engineers are cute. They do creative things like writing books about a couple of mistakes or they’ll do stand up, or at their cutest become pot-bellied bankers in State Bank of India.

So on this momentous occasion, I hereby declare that the stereotype of a frustrated commerce student is official and we are here with our balance sheets to snort change the planet!

Make Dal while the Prices Rise

A few days back a covert operation and inspection was conducted across 10 states and around 35,000 tonnes worth pulses were seized from hoarders. It really isn’t that much compared to how much we consume as a country but given that current prices of pulses are slowly touching stratospheric levels and that the government is importing pulses it shows a disturbing trend. My first reaction was to giggle like a little girl because after the way Hollywood spoils you about covert operations involving terrorists and casinos a covert operation on urad dal is like watching Suniel Shetty in an Interstellar remake. But then it struck me that there isn’t a lot of ongoing public debate because pulses aren’t just sexy enough like beef. If all the food items in the world had a Miss Universe competition, pulses would be busy complaining about how difficult it is to qualify for the Mrs Femina contest held in Cuttack. With the Bihar elections portrayed as a Test match directed by the love child of Anurag Kashyap and Ram Gopal Verma it is a little difficult to take note of things that don’t matter like the price rise in pulses. It clearly is not that important to us carnivores (except on Thursday when we eat dal for the sake of Shiridi Sai Baba).

The most important aspect is to start a discussion on this trend and for that we should all take part in a quixotic mission to package pulses as a worthy discussion topic. But it should be packaged in a personalized way based on each person’s interests.

“If you are someone who follows the news regularly then imagine Pakistan celebrating because dal is expensive in India.” Also because Amit Shah said so!

“If you are a minority in the country then imagine…..oh you don’t really have to imagine….you know the threat. You know the drill!”

“If you are an average Hindi music fan here goes the following song to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s love sonata cum opera Chaar Bottle Vodka!

Ek Kilo urad dal

Ab ho gaya do sau chaar (204)

Ambani ne bola

G@@#d phad gayi dhokla la!

I wanna hang myself tonight

I wanna hang myself tonight

Pulses are the primary source of protein for a large vegetarian population of the country. Any real life remakes of Marie Antoinette who want to misquote her and say “Bro if they can’t have pulses, let them have paneer for protein”, I hope you die of frustration from receiving only five hundred rupee notes at ATMs for the rest of your life. A supply side part of the problem exists because farmers just don’t want to produce pulses. Normally the government would be the culprit behind this and I don’t blame you for thinking so. But believe it or not (and this is where this might sound like a BJP fan fiction blog) the government is actually taking the correct steps. Except this is one of those times where “Make in India” might be a good slogan to use. So good part of the problem can be solved if the government decides to give support to farmers to cultivate pulses as opposed to rice and wheat (both of which are rotting and busy being rat fodder at various storages because of overproduction. The only person who is happy is Ganapati who is taking revenge for the patriotic sadism of visarjan by sending his little imps to wreak havoc into out lives).

So please spread the word and love about pulses. Else on Thursday Shiridi Sai Baba is going to be the maaantally angry!