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!

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.

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.