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.

 

 

Everybody Needs a Good Orissa

Stand-up comedians love talking about how much they get to travel during the job. And it is true! The glamour, the travel, the recycled air, the amount of alone time spent in hotels must be the brick and mortar of childhood dreams. But being a budding stand-up comedian means grabbing a chance to perform at any venue you get hold of. Even if it means Orissa! Even if it means the original purpose of visit was a wedding. Even if it means performing at a Children’s Library!

Orissa, for me, had been a soft target to generate easy laughs from the crowd. Why not Bihar? It’s so 90s! *roll eyes with the confidence of a girl whose eyebrows are shaped like inverse Nike symbols* My expectations were low because the happiest thing I had heard about Orissa since childhood was Nandita Das. So I think it’s understandable when the standard of my Orissa jokes were “Orissa is so poor that all tourist expenditure goes directly to the CM Relief fund”.

Chugging past the Chilika Lake, in a sleeper class coach that justified its name, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer size of the “lake”. I tried to imagine the disappointment people would have felt when the Chilika Lake was found to be a lake and not a sea. At some point in time, thousands of adults must have been overcome with profound sorrow when their childhood memories and myths about the Chilika Sea were wiped away in one instant, because a bespectacled researcher writing for a journal with lesser number of readers than Golf Digest, wanted to be technically correct. And I realized, had I skipped three more Geography classes in 10th standard, I would have thought science was a lunatic’s paradise to think that the Chilika was a lake. I was enjoying this train of thought when a tea seller, who had a voice that would give Rani Mukherjee a superiority complex, tried to sell me what was essentially a tea bag in hot bile. I resisted the urge to say something rude because who knows what can become of a chaiwala.

But it wasn’t until I reached Bhubaneshwar that I realized that my thoughts weren’t the results of non-coriander green leaves. The city is basically the best kept secret in the world! What can one say; the air is breathable during peak hours of traffic, the roads don’t have too many potholes that look like God stubbed cigarettes, the city has enough greenery for children to know that trees aren’t wooden stumps in parks and it is cleaner than most boys hostels in the country.

Maybe Orissa needs a good marketing agent, I thought. But then again, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe all the citizens of Bhubaneshwar are underselling the city. Because who wants pesky tourists and an increase in the number of Lays and Kurkure packets in the garbage? I can sympathize if the people of Bhubaneshwar feel that way because I got possessive about the city in two days and didn’t want to tell anyone about it. So those of you reading this, yes the two of you, you are special to me.

I am certain Orissa has its poverty and related problems and that my experience is another drop in Chilika Lake. But if anything, I learnt that being wrong can be a poetic experience. It is one thing to realize that you are insignificant compared to the size of the Chilika Lake universe, but it’s another thing to realize how fragile all the opinions I currently hold are. It was a profoundly humbling moment wherein I realized everything I currently believe in including LGBT rights, secularism, __________ (the blank shouldn’t be too hard to fill) could be outrageous thoughts. And thus ended my subsidized version of Eat Pray Love!

So this meant that I don’t have the heart to crack too many Orissa jokes during my stand up acts. Well, what else is Haryana for anyway? I’ve been there, and it was more Gangs of Wasseypur than Eat Pray Love. And where am I going to go next? I have some opinions on Africa that need to be dealt with.

Heroism Comes in Small Relief Packages

There are many times in life when heroism possesses us. Saving the world around us from a crisis while the saved citizens of a country sing ballads about me is a recurrent theme in my day dreams. After I break out of them, I catch myself unconsciously giving a passionate smoulder into the distance while wallowing in self-pity because if there was ever such a situation I would be inconsequential citizen number 42 crying for help than the super hero.

But a fully grown up cousin of mine, had other ideas.

When I asked him to come with me to Chennai to distribute some relief material, he agreed instantly. I was suspicious because there is nothing in my life that I would say ‘yes’, that quickly to.

Non-Me: Your name is Mukesh?

Me: (A few quantum Vedic equations later) Mostly that, but some annoying pet names too, whose origin stories would prove the butterfly effect.

I realized my cousin was under the impression that he was going to dive into the flood waters and save drowning children, while he challenges the government on its corrupt moral fibre. Then the citizens of Chennai would tattoo his name onto their foreheads and erect giant statues, after which Jayalalitha, realizing the folly of her ways, would hand over the reins of the state of Tamil Nadu to my cousin. That’s when I realized my cousin’s day dreams were more Baahubali than Batman!

To offset the delusional optimism of my cousin was the comical pessimism of our driver who was visiting Chennai for the first time. It was made worse by the fact that the driver had the audacity to say “It’s good that Chennai had such floods because at least the weather is pleasant”, as we passed through new squatter settlements along the footpaths, that would have transformed Prince Siddhartha into Buddha during the time it took, to cross the street. In a car!

I wanted revenge.

He tried to quip further that Bangalore and Hyderabad had more shopping malls than Chennai. With sincere nonchalance I replied “The Chennai ones were submerged and swept away in the floods.” If the camera was invented for a reason, it was to capture the definition of the word “panic” in his facial expression at that exact moment. I devoured the moment with all the glee of a caricatured fat child who was just offered a laddoo.

When the final moment did come to distribute the resources, my cousin truly understood the tedious nature of disaster management. Real people have to get their hands and bodies dirty, to give resources to victims and take part in the physical cleaning up of a city, have the heart to bear the brunt of abused global environment and mismanaged local urban terrain. It is at this time, I swear I saw in a bright flash, his coke snorting Raju Hirani directed dream of being a “hero”, leave through the kundalini point in his head. During the next couple of hours my cousin also realized life’s biggest disappointment: there is never going to be background music, no matter what the act of bravado is. It is knowledge all of us possess, but it is wisdom when the physical reality of there never ever being background music in life hits us with the subtlety of a paan stain.

In the outskirts of the city, over some tea that had been clearly made by making an angry Malayalee man spit into it, my cousin and I had a philosophical discussion on the nature of heroism being something that is not defined by statues or noble thoughts, but by something that possess us and how we act in those moments. He felt that it was more everyone solving smaller pieces of the puzzle than a one-man-saves-all fantasy that pop-culture and myths drill into our brains. I told him he need not worry because in this weird way he was a hero too. To come to a new city with no ties other than the whims of an overly sentimental cousin (in case it isn’t clear, it is I, the Prince of Overly Sentimental, Imperator of the Awkward, Baron of the Borderline Bi-polar) just so he could help strangers, despite the manner in which he thought it was going to happen, made him a bit of a hero. At least for a couple of hours that day!

Even in that poignant moment, the best background music life offered was the slurping of tea by our driver.

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!

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!

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!

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.