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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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!

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.