Saturday, July 30, 2016

Why did the chicken cross the road?

A Bollywood superstar was recently acquitted of long-pending poaching cases. He was accused of killing an endangered species for fun (no, not self-defense). But then he is also accused of hit and run. Not that anything matters as long as he's rich and undone. In China, you get death sentence for killing a panda, which also happens to be a government property. Nobody can own a panda there. India is different. When a human life doesn't count, what can you expect for animals? You can hit them, kill them, eat them and you don't even have to run. Speaking of which, i witnessed my first hit-and-run incident this week. I was in an autorickshaw on my way to work. Saw this car reverse up a bit, bypassing a man lying on the road, speed away like in a movie. It happened so fast that i couldn't even figure out the white car's model, let alone note its plate number. I immediately got the autowallah to stop the auto, got out of it and was about to cross the road when something uneasy happened: I stood where i was, on the other end of the road while people gathered around the man, steadied his bike, picked up his far-flung backpack and carried him onto the footpath. It was chaotic, yes, but necessary. Some got him water while others were busy dialling on their phones to call in the ambulance. What did i do? I just stood there. Like i always do. Scared shitless of stumbling into something i won't be able to handle. After all, i'm that same guy who accompanied a friend to hospital (to change his bandage) only to lose consciousness on hearing him groan. All the principles and all the goodwill don't count if you can't even cross the road for a fallen man. 

Curse of a dead child

When parents lose their kid, the biggest victim tends to be the relationship the two once shared. The bond that their child held for them comes under scrutiny. And many a times, the void sucks both the individuals into a place that they never knew existed. A place where cute memories that were meant to cheer them up begin to chide them. A place where could-have and should-have dominate. A place where pain is excruciating but the source becomes misleading. The worst possible scenario is a place where both the parents have turned on each other instead of sticking with each another. In such a case, the healing process gets abandoned. When you lose, you are meant to grieve for a certain period of time before jolting back to reality. When two grown-ups are blaming each other (secretly or openly), both the individuals set on an irredeemable path to damage themselves more than their better half. That's how tragedy strikes in a heart. When my mother lost my younger brother in her arms (he choked on a tablet), my dad was away in Bombay. When he returned home for the funeral, he didn't utter a word. For days, he maintained silence while my mother kept weeping. In the coming years, during spiteful arguments, my dad used to accuse my ma of negligence (murder is too strong a word, right?). Some things are indeed beyond debate and repair. Particularly when neither of the parents know how to deal with a loss.

Why me?

Whenever something untoward happens to us, the first thing that comes to our mind is that beautiful question: "Why me?" We don't ask that question when something good is going on for us. Food on our plate, clothes on our back, roof over our head, fuel to go from one place to another... we never ask why we got so lucky. Maybe this entitlement has a lot to do with the way one is brought up. Chances are, if your childhood was an underprivileged one, you'll tend to appreciate things more. There are very few left among our species who are more than grateful to what they have and less bitter about what they don't. These people believe in giving away as much as in earning more. My childhood friend Tanno's brother-in-law was one such personality. I remember how he used to hand out more money than the autowallah's meter demanded. He did the same with the waiters and the street vendors. If you taunt him for being spendthrifty, he'd say stuff like, "When God isn't a miser when it comes to me, why should I be one when it comes to others?" One can sense God complex there but that'd be morally incorrect, because it was quite evident that he was trying his level best to make justice with what he has with those who don't. It was also his way of not having to ask the why-me question if something bad happens to him. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tribal humour

There are still more than three dozen tribes out there who are leading a primitive life. Most of them have been contacted but there are still a few left who don't give a shit about modern world. There are a handful that haven't even discovered fire yet. And one of them is the Sentinelese tribe who live on the Andaman Islands. Technically, these people are Indians but they have been hostile to ALL kinds of contacts. No, don't confuse them with the relatively amicable Jarawa tribe. Sentinelese don't like us. Plain and simple. A good example of their insulation can be traced to what they did right after the Indian Ocean tsunami last week. We're talking about an event that killed more than 200000 people within hours. So, when Indian Coast Guard sent a helicopter to check on the Sentinelese people; whether they were OK or not, something strange happened. As soon as the chopper started hovering over the island, it was greeted by a wave of arrows from dark-skinned men on the land. Some arrows almost struck the landing skids. Fearing safety, the helicopter took a U-turn and headed back to mainland. I love imagining the sweet irony in their message back home: "Oh, they are safe! Very safe!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bragging rights and wrongs

I often come across conversations where Scandinavian countries get invoked for their high and cleaner standards of living. For example, Norway has become the first nation to ban deforestation. And Sweden regularly imports waste from other countries because it's dependent on renewable sources of energy more than the non-renewable ones. Similar tales of legendary achievements are regaled for Denmark, Iceland and Finland. One can argue that they are secluded geographically and that might have played a huge part in their emergence as the most sorted nations on the planet. Some may even surmise that the world as we know today bears the stains of World War II and the Scandinavian nations were mostly untouched by them. (Which would be categorically false given an island as remote as Iceland lost more soldiers in WW2 than the USA did.) Some may point out that religion as a notion is weak in these nations and hence they could focus on human development more compared to their pious European neighbours. Some may surmise that they are tiny little pieces of land with minuscule population and hence can keep their shit together. Well, there could be many explanations why Scandinavia is so damn impressive but the one reason that i feel is worth emulating is their adherence to modesty. For some reason, bragging is not a popular pastime in these countries. In fact, those who gloat are either looked down upon or completely ignored. I wonder if it's remotely possible for us to give humbleness a chance, especially in an era where showing off is next only to breathing. Speaking of which, Zakir Naik is a unique specimen in this particular regard. On one hand, he calls himself a student of comparative religion while on another, he just finds caveats from holy scriptures to asserts Islam's superiority. Going by his track record, he's the poster child for words-trump-actions thanks to his mockery but at the same time, he has all the rights under the sky to practise his freedom of speech. The only problem is he lacks humility. Something Scandinavians seem to have in abundance. 

Response to stimulus

  • The correct response to "how are you feeling?" is "that's classified information".
  • The correct response to "how's my tattoo looking?" is always "great".
  • The correct response to “i’ll ruin your career” is “what career?”.
  • The correct response to "how much did you score in math during 10th" is "i don't remember".
  • The correct response to "yeh ho chuka hai" is "toh?".
  • The correct response to "what's up?" is "decomposing in style".
  • The correct response to "hmm" is "hmmmm only".
  • The correct response to “you are spineless” is instantly performing the naagin dance.
  • The correct response to "whose side are you on?" is "mine".
  • The correct response to "how are you?" is "what do you want?".
  • The correct response to "wow, that was deep" is "no, it's common sense".
  • The correct response to "good morning" nowadays is "fuck you".
  • The correct response to "I'm getting married!" is NOT "Oh, sorry to know that."

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Toke care

It was a balmy night and the tiny room smelled stuffy enough to keep one awake. Our hero rolled from one edge of the bed to another with the fan failing to provide any comfort. Helpless, he dragged himself up and opened the window. He could have done that before going to sleep but he didn't, lest the mosquitoes storm in as they usually do. Tonight was unbearable so he chose air over blood. Within minutes, he fell asleep. When he woke up, the ceiling seemed normal but there was some action going on on the wall behind his head. Up above the window, he could notice two beige-ish creatures facing each other. It looked like they were conversing like old couples would on a lazy morning. He wasn't impressed by them or their lovey-dovey veneer. He got up, picked up the broom and began to politely direct them out via where they got in from: window. No pleasantries for uninvited guests? No, thanks. The movement of the ruffled broom caught both the reptiles' attention and they dispersed in opposite directions like Bonnie and Clyde would have. About half an hour later, our boy was tired and the two shameless lizards were still inside the house. By then, he knew exactly what he had to do the following night. An enclosed room filled with smoke to the very brim is enjoyed only by the person who happens to be smoking. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Keeping up with Kim

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing us that Kim Kardashian isn’t a businesswoman. For some reason, the camera tends to focus on her welcome cleavage and ample derriere but never on her acumen. And the media loves to remind us of that "leaked" sex tape as if we'll ever forget her fake orgasms in it. Her sharp decisions and million dollar business deals don't garner much attention for a good reason: she doesn't want us to. Those kind of stuff take place behind the scenes where she's working hard, putting together pieces for the future, making creative plans to expand her empire and charting out her career like a woman determined enough to rule the world. And going by her ever-increasing influence, she aims to do much more than just break the silly Internet. A decade ago, she was famous for.. err.. being famous. Today, she is a millionaire and one of the steadiest forces in celeb marketing not just in the US but across the globe. She holds up a bottle of a random perfume brand and her fans clear out the store shelves within days. Her myth of approachability, be it through Twitter or Snapchat or Instagram, while maintaining healthy distance from the crowd is a symptom of genius. It won't be long before revered schools like HBS and LBS would be teaching courses—if they aren't already—on how Kim extended the learning curves of economics while keeping us distracted with hers. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


The answer to "Would you sell your soul at the right price?" nowadays.

Monday, July 18, 2016


The couple started arguing as soon as it boarded the autorickshaw. The autowallah, being used to such behaviour, pretended to not eavesdrop while the two adults in the backseat turned into patron saints of petulance. Had it been some other day, they wouldn't be even talking to each other, let alone debate. Both would have been engrossed in their smartphones with the sole aim of entertaining absolute strangers they are never going to meet with their hourly updates on life and lifelessness while seeking unquenchable online validation. But then, today was different. They had their priorities set: to prove each other wrong anyhow. And what better way to do that than sarcastically respond to your opponent's statements with "YEAH, RIGHT!"? So lost were the two in their verbal duel that they didn't realize, until much later, that their driver took all the right turns. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Case wide awake

Isn't a crime detective's job the coolest one out there? No, no, nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes hype. Just in general. You're assigned a case and you're supposed to solve it by all means. Your views and methods define the course of someone else's life or death. If doctors (read: surgeons) are the angels who saves lives, then detectives solving homicide cases are the ones who help us understand deaths. I've never met an intense sleuth in real life but whatever i've seen of them on the screen, one inane factor binds them all: they all seem to be struggling with their inner demons. This is further accentuated by a pitiful insomnia. I recently watched Broadchurch and i couldn't help but try to figure out the protagonist's moral compass. There is something in him which is reminiscent of the calm yet restless Rusty Cohle  as well as Will Graham. Movies don't get to do justice to such characters, be it Brad Pitt in Se7en (1995) or Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners (2013). Lack of time, perhaps. Regardless, each one of them is high on coffee and low on sleep. Their obvious retort to "How do you even sleep at night after seeing the gruesomest bits of humankind?" would be "Who told you i sleep?". 

Friday, July 15, 2016

What on wall is that!

All kinds of people have different kinds of fear. Some people are dreading the loss of their their job or that they might end up vandalizing their relationship while others are scared of rocking the cradle called civilization with their ideas (we call them geniuses but we never know what's going on inside their heads). On a personal front, i'm not scared of worldly matters. I'm not scared of losing my job or material possessions. I might be taken aback if i happen to lose my loved ones. But still, i'd say lizards are my greatest fear. If it were possible, i'd rather have these lil' creatures go extinct instead of pandas and rhinos of the world. In my defense, i developed this neurotic resentment-cum-fear-more-disgust for lizards at a very young age. My cousin apparently threw an alive hatchling on me when i was barely four. According to my mother, i screamed and danced like never before! Since then, my antipathy for this being has only grown. I know there are people out there who like them and even have them as pets. Sorry. My wife is the one in charge of brooming them out of our walls at home. And this is the thing about phobia: you end up paying too much attention to what you fear or hate. Just like your trolls on Twitter do. Nobody gives more damn about your presence than them. Which is the reason why i was able to notice certain facets about lizards over the years...
  • The lizard on the wall acts as if it's God but then, who knows for sure?
  • When there's just me and a lizard in the room, the assumptions of being wiser than the other is high. 
  • For me, encountering a lizard having my very own Man vs. Wild moment.
  • Just scared the shit out of it. (Me: 7 Lizards: 39434846)
  • Ignoring its presence the way it ignores my existence is quite difficult. 
  • I wonder who is lonelier — me or him stuck to the wall.
  • I often imagine it having imaginary friends too.
  • To a lizard, prose and poetry are the same.
  • The lizard in the bathroom thinks you're a naked monster... on its property!
  • Absolutely nothing can prepare us for the fall of a lizard.
  • Try guiding a lizard out of the room via the window. (The lil' fuck will take all the routes possible EXCEPT the window.)
  • Face your fear unless it's a lizard.
  • What's the procedure to tell a lizard that it's a grown up and can't stay in the house all day?
  • There's no way to find out how many languages that lizard on your wall has picked up by now.
  • Well, i'm not scared. Just that we two weren't introduced properly. (LOLJK.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


When you wake up
Do certain things you never did before
Think about yourself
—instead of others
The way you feel
The way you used to feel
The way you wish you felt
As long as it's about you
Take 5 minutes if you like
Or maybe 10
Take as long as you can
To think about yourself, alright?
Once up on your feet
Move your limbs around
No need to brush or wash
Just wriggle your body a bit
Shake off that cloak of pessimism
Warm up
No weights
Push up
Squat down
Pull up
Bend around
Let life enter your skin
Let blood rush your cheeks
Let sweat tease your belly button
And when you're done, relax
Try to repeat the same every morning
Till the day you don't wake up
And people are surprised by your death.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Unfair enough

Two weeks ago, Lionel Messi cried on the pitch after the Copa América Centenario final. On Sunday night, Cristiano Ronaldo cried during the Euro 2016 final. Both appeared disappointing as well as disappointed with themselves. The only difference is Cristiano could askew the terrible tackle he faced and hop on to the stage to hold up the trophy as if nothing happened to his knee. Years down the line, people won't remember that Portugal managed to win just one match (within the 90 minutes timeframe) in the entire tournament. People won't remember that Portugal got lucky with the draw as it didn't have to face any of the major contenders (France, Germany, Spain or Italy) until one of them showed up in the final. People won't remember the boring defensive anti-football tactics Portugal assumed throughout. (It almost felt like LvG was their manager.) People won't even remember that Cristiano played less than half an hour of final. The only thing people will remember is Cristiano won Portugal their first ever major tournament. Similarly, people won't remember Argentina won all the matches (within the 90 minutes timeframe) in fantastic fashion. People won't remember the reasonably tough draw Argentina had and overcome. People won't remember the attacking football Argentina adhered to making it less yawn-worthy for the audience. People won't remember Messi quite literally shouldered the team to the final as he's used to now. People won't remember he didn't even appeal for a penalty after losing his balance for which he was amusingly yellow-carded. People won't remember any of the other penalty shootout misses (including Vidal's) from that night. People won't remember the countless chances he created for his team-mates to squander. The only thing people will remember is Messi lost all of the four major finals Argentina was in. 

That's how cruel football can be. 

Brown pride and dark underbelly

I've often heard hip-hop is best left to the blacks. Apparently, the whole genre loses its sheen when Indians try to imitate the art form. Which is also why Mumbaiya rappers get derided for their unflattering attempts. I counted myself as one of the critics not very long ago. I found Bombay-based hip-hop artists way too wannabe to be taken seriously. This was before i stumbled upon Divine and Naezy. These young artists are brilliant not just in their expression but also with their substance. There is an undeniable volume of honesty in their work. They speak about the place (read: chawls) they come from and that too in a language their neighbours understand. They don't seem to be putting on a cape to look cooler than they already are. 

For instance, check these lyrics from Divine's Jungli Sher:
Chhota sa main ladka
Chhoti cheezon pe main bhadka
Mere daal mein nahi tha tadka
Ghar mein baap ke roz ka lafda
Dafna mushkilon ko
Meri maa ki kamaai ne
Baap wala role nibhaya mere bhai ne
Tairna sikha khaai mein
Isiliye shabdon mein gehraai hai
Zindagi toh ek ladaai hai
Jo paiso mein samaayi hai...

And here are some from Naezy's Haq Hai: 
Mumbai ka mai chokra
Ye nagri hai ayyaasho ki, ameero ki
Sitaaro ki, funkaaro ki, ghumkhaaro ki
Gareebko ki, fakeero ki
Bas daal roti ki bhi kadki hai, majboori hai
Maal daaro ki tadki hui tandoori hai
Bhadki hui maa ro ri hai
Khaa k maa ki lori wo
Ladki bhooki so rahi hai
Wo tarsi hui si thodi hai
Khaane ko bhi wo ro rahi hai...

Both of them seem to draw inspiration from their surroundings. They observe and they feel and they write about stuff that really matters to them. Poverty and illiteracy are some of the two recurring subjects addressed without any resort to self-pity. There is anger in their voice but it's tempered by their inward looking attitude. It's remarkable how the words chosen somehow maintain the balance between the problems exhibited and the solutions proposed. 

They collaborated for a song titled Meri Gully Mein and you don't even need to have a past in the slums (like i do) to get attached to these engaging lyrics:
Tere shooterooo ka khaas
Meri gully mein
Poore shehar ki awaaz
Mere gully mein
Pray aarti ya namaz
Meri gully mein
Maa pe gaali tho chamaat
Mere gully mein
Police aayi lagi waat
Mere gully mein
Ek number saari baat
Mere gully mein...

I'm a copywriter by profession and i basically write for the graphic designers. So far, i've made it a point to NOT pretend to understand design. Similarly, i stay focused on lyrics and pretend not to understand music. To me, words matter. The sincerity behind them matters more. And in the above mentioned cases, that's evident in abundance. It'd be great to see many more such rappers emerge from the darkest of underbellies that are left unsung. They shall be brown and they will be noted hopefully. The way a white guy named Eminem was 20 years ago. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pretty little thing

My adorable niece seems to be wondering, "Why the heck are you people always pointing that thing at my face all the time? Am I that cute?"

Friday, July 8, 2016

The brighter side of darkness

What will happen if there's no power; complete blackout in a country? For starters, the answer depends on which part of the world we're talking about. Yes, there will be darkness after sunset. Industries will come to a halt and the whole paradigm on which our modern world balances today will be shaken. Economy, as we know it, will also pose newer existential questions. It's impossible to imagine a world without electricity but what's harder to imagine is a world which (finally) realizes how much it depends on electricity. However, that's still not the worst thing to foresee. As George Carlin once pointed out in one of his many outstanding stand-ups, once the power goes off, all the prisoners will be out of the prison as the locks are power-controlled. Within hours, all the criminals—hardened or otherwise—shall be running amok on our streets. No force would be able to stop them. Yes, prisons are mostly located on the outskirts but how long can it possibly take for them to storm into civilization? Not a lot perhaps. Which brings us to an even more interesting axiom: for the kind of population India has, the number of prisons are relatively low. Also, if an eternal power outage takes place in our country, it will only affect those who are used to 24-hour power supply. And we all know how enlightened pan-India is. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Biryani for thought

It's that day of the year (other being Bakra-Id) when the word Biryani gets tossed a lot. The stereotype is so strong in our country that you'll hear and read Muslims being addressed in conjunction with the aforementioned dish. "Biryani kab khila raha hai?" becomes a common refrain amongst non-Muslims. Of course, it's a harmless assumption because, let's face it, Biryani is associated with Muslims in India, be it Hyderabadi or Malabari or Lucknowi or Awadhi. But is it factually correct to call Biryani a Muslim dish like people usually do in their careless conversations? Especially when it has Persian roots, which predates even Islam? But then again, on a social scale, this stereotype doesn't hurt anyone as whoever consumes Biryani once becomes a lifelong fan. (No, there's no place for vegetarians here as there's no such a thing as veg Biryani; it's called Pulao, which again has Persian roots.) But the point here is purely etymological: we use words and analogies without paying too much attention to details and before we realize it, a stereotype is built. It's convenient to claim that we shouldn't mix religion with food but if you think about it, the very cornerstone of our so-called faith is based on what we choose to eat or don't. The only respite one can gather from this holy mix of food and religion is there's nothing called Hindu dish. For example, Idli-Sambar or Chole Bhature are Indian dishes, not Hindu dishes. Can Biryani be called an Indian dish without ruffling some feathers on the West front? 

Sunday, July 3, 2016


The year was 1993 and the entire house got robbed within the silence of one fine night. The following morning wasn't that quiet though. There was chaos in the air and all the family members appeared to be in state of shell shock. 
"How could this happen?
"Why didn't we hear anything?
"I'm not even a sound sleeper." 
"They took away all the gold."
"My phoren watch is missing."
"The rascals took away everything!" on the postmortem report read; apparent symptoms of helplessness.
Outside, the neighbours were murmuring as the news spread. The police were on their way too. Inside, little Raghu had just discovered that the green 5-rupee note he had safely hidden in his geometry box was missing as well. Turns out the thieves didn't even spare him. Although he didn't utter a word, nobody else there could have matched the seven-year-old's agony. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016


This shot from Eastern Promises (2007) best explains my relationship with weekends. Just as i'm about to enter it, i'm interrupted by something from the weekdays. Something scary that refuses to leave me unless Monday dawns on. The burden of responsibilities, if you may. I guess i'm not alone in this club. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tip: Choose words carefully

Have you seen the movie The Departed (2006)? If not, you should. Anyway, there is a gorgeous scene in there where Jack Nicholson and Leo DiCaprio are talking about something. No, wait, it was Nicholson who was doing the talking. DiCaprio was trying hard to pay attention. And then, after a while, unable to comprehend the situation, he looks at Nicholson and asks, "What the fuck are we talking about here?

Turns out Nicholson doesn't have an answer. 

I hope you do.