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?”

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New Year’s Eve with a Serving of Murphy’s Law

I am actually a big believer in “New Year, New Me”. Unlike a lot of people my age, I genuinely enjoy making sappy speeches at 12 in the night after re-introducing my body to old friends like Kalyani, Commando, Jack, an Old Monk and The Teacher. Despite better wisdom, the romance of “New Year, New Me” has persisted from childhood. New Year’s Eve has been a cathartic experience wherein I manage to let go of the previous year’s ups and lows. I love to feel like it is a genuine chance at doing and being different.

And yes, I know. I know! Many people would love to point out that New Year’s Eve is just another day. And we are all celebrating something futile and that there is a capitalist motive behind creating this celebration. Now that you are done dropping deuces on my dreams, why don’t you go tell children that Santa Claus isn’t real and remind the people of Chennai that CSK doesn’t exist.

Anyway back to my New Year’s Eve.

I have always felt that old people have the perfect start to the New Year: spending time with loved ones, sleeping through midnight and entering the year with a fresh start. On the other hand, the younger ones have to choose some variant of a party where music is played by DJ Nagraj and cheap beer that is clearly Mountain Dew past its expiry.

Waking up with a hangover that feels like there is a screaming cat going through a colonoscopy inside my head, has been a regular feeling on the first day of the year. On this January 1st, I wanted to wake up to beautiful surroundings and sleep and wake up early, so I took up a friend’s offer to spend it at a beach house. I was sure I would start the New Year peacefully. But because life in general is Murphy’s child after Murphy has mated with a female dog, I ended up twisting my ankle just before New Year’s Eve.

I took part in the World Hopscotch Championship and defended the honor of the country in a grueling 40 hour cage match against Oscar Pistorius.

I lead a secret life as a ballet dancer where I am known as Manjunath the Graceful and twisted ankles are an occupational hazard.

Okay faaain. I’ll tell you the truth.

Now for those of you didn’t believe any of those excuses because your parents aren’t siblings, I was taking part in an evolutionary exercise of planting my feet in the reverse direction as opposed to the hegemonic style of forward momentum. Basically I was walking backwards and I twisted my ankle. As someone who has started to look like Rahul Gandhi’s younger brother who gobbled down a dozen cupcakes, a lot of weight was put on my ankle and I’m still reeling from it.

When I realized I failed at walking backwards, I imagined that Evolution as a process might have had an existential crisis and thought about moonwalking back into an amoeba. But it was probably consoled by the fuming skeleton of Charles Darwin, who pointed out that I probably have the life expectancy of an overripe tomato during summer, if I continue like this.

Staying at a beach house gave me the urge to try one of my pop-culture infected fantasies. I have always wanted to send a message in a bottle in to the ocean and this time I didn’t get to do it. There is some of that old school romance in the idea that no amount of internet messaging and calling can substitute. It’s a quaintly poetic idea that in a distant land somewhere, at a time only destiny can control, another human being reads the message:

“If you can read this, you know English. Pass it on”. Oh, the serendipity!

A New Year tradition I have tried to stay away from this year was where I try to convince myself that resolutions can be maintained. My track record has been so bad that once I had idlies while telling myself that I’d stay away from carbohydrates. After I found out that idlies have carbohydrates, there were more chances of ironing out Akhilesh Yadav’s nose than keeping me away from the breakfast of Spelling Bee champions.

Akhilesh Yadav nose

The Celestial Enigma that is Akhilesh Yadav’s Nose

 

The New Year misfortune did not end with twisted ankles and unfulfilled wishes. On January 3rd, a drunken man, who I would later find out, was a construction laborer, bumped into my scooter while he was crossing the road. I was traveling at dangerous speeds of 30 km/h on the left side of the road because responsible driving is the new sexy (Repost that until it becomes a cultural norm). I stopped and bought him cotton and tape to seal the wound, till I could get first aid. Of course, as we all know, drunken men, especially drunk construction laborers are the epitome of reason; he invoked my sister and mother and threatened to file a complaint in the police station. The crowd which had gathered to watch drama in 3D, told me to leave him on the road and that they would take “care” of him. I told them I would take him to Apollo Hospital nearby and he said he would guide me to Apollo. Taking advantage of the fact that I have zero knowledge about Hyderabad, a few “shortcuts” later I ended up in his slum and he started yelling for his friends. A crowd gathered and someone in the crowd snatched the keys of my scooter. And at this point I was scared and angry. Scared because there were lots of angry people around me! And angry because I felt like I should have driven away after I bumped into him. In fact I was so angry I had the worst thought I have ever had in my life. And don’t judge me for the thought.

“If I was in Salman Khan’s position, I may have done the exact same thing and I am not as nice I think I am.”

Anyway, things cooled down after a couple of teenagers talked to everyone and calmed everyone’s nerves. And I took him to Apollo and got yelled at by the doctor for not getting him there fast enough as he lost a lot of blood. I must point out that, I have never been to Apollo Hospital myself and may go there, if and only if, I want to sell my kidneys to make money for groceries. And I took this man there!

I also had a couple of bad days at work.

So twisted ankles, unfulfilled wishes, no resolutions, almost getting beaten up in a slum, bad days at work, my 2016 has been a Murphy special. If the beginning is supposed to foreshadow of what is to come, then, the countdown to 2017 has already started. I can’t wait to meet my friends again this time, maybe in the comfort of my own house. I already miss Jack, the Old Monk, the Teacher and Kalyani.

So while I try my best not reading into the beginning too much, I hope I get a chance to do and be new. And most importantly I hope all of you start believing in the magic of New Year’s Eve too. It gets lonely when I am being made fun of during my corny speech.