The Man In The Mirror Sucks At Pelvic Thrusts

This week was the 56th birth anniversary of Michael Jackson who, even in death, has the power to make fans and plastic surgeons weep with joy. Even if you haven’t heard his music in a while, all it takes is one Youtube search for the foot-tapping to begin. Twenty seconds into the first result, the humming starts and by the end of it, you’re pelvic-thrusting all over the room even though you have a column deadline but you’re humping the air like you just don’t care aaaaaaand now you have a hernia.

I was never much of a dancer, but if there’s one person that made me try, it was the man that my mother once described as “Who’s that girl in the baniyan?” It was his music that made it okay for ten-year-old me to look like an idiot on the dance floor floor – a responsibility that has since been taken over by Mr. Whisky. In fact, Thriller was the first cassette I ever bought and it was one of the most fun things I’d ever heard, even thought it featured a boring duet titled ‘The Girl Is Mine’ with some random guy called Paul McCartney.

(NOTE TO YOUNG READERS: In case you’re wondering, a cassette was kinda like a malnourished iPod.)

The fandom was amplified many times over the by the fact that I was there during Michael Jackson’s first and only India concert. When I say ‘there’, I mean ‘in the same city with no chance of attending the show’ because if I’d asked to go, my parents would’ve just laughed and then sold me off to pay for the tickets, which were priced at Rs. AUKAAT MEIN REH, YOU ARE A MIDDLE-CLASS PERSON IN THE ‘90s only.

But it felt like I was at Michael’s side every step of the way, because every news outlet went into overdrive. Seriously, this is what the headlines looked like:

MICHAEL JACKSON MOONWALKS INTO MUMBAI AIRPORT! SIX FANS DIE OF EXCITEMENT!

MICHAEL JACKSON CLEARS CUSTOMS! CUSTOMS OFFICER MAKES THAT HEART SIGN WITH HIS HANDS!

MICHAEL JACKSON STOPS TO PLAY WITH KIDS IN DHARAVI! EVERYONE ACTS COOL EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE ALL THINKING ABOUT THOSE ALLEGATIONS.

MICHAEL JACKSON USES THE TOILET AT THE THACKERAY RESIDENCE! NOT GONNA MAKE A JOKE ABOUT IT BECAUSE I LIKE MY LIFE.

The hysteria was understandable because a) he was literally the biggest superstar to have enjoyed Bombay’s potholes and b) this was a time when not too many international artistes came here, as opposed to today, where if you throw a rock, it’d probably hit some EDM star on the head, distracting him from hitting ‘Play’ on his laptop.

Michael Jackson left behind a very important legacy in India, i.e. he became the default western look for everybody on Boogie Woogie. All of those acts went down great with the judges, especially Ravi Behl who described everything as “Boo!” I don’t think his contract allowed him to say anything else. Basically, Ravi Behl was the Hodor of Boogie Woogie.

It’s also weird that for all our MJ lovin’, we were quite clueless about his lyrics. For example, this is how most Indian people sang his songs:

KhaegheoihMEsschaskjdjshdME

Suhaedhsjdbsdgsd sdhjshdkjksdh

Zdhsjdhsdiushsd dfushdh sdjsdj

ALL I WANT TO SAY IS THAT

THEY DONT REALLY CARE ABOUT US!

Thankfully, Anu Malik came to our rescue like a musical Robin Hood, and while keeping the beat intact, replaced those lyrics with the much more comprehensible NEELA DUPATTA PEELA SUIT. I’m sure that’s what really killed Michael Jackson.

He still lives on though, in people like Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars and also Chiranjeevi, whose Telugu rip-off of the Thriller video may have fueled the demand for a separate state. But most importantly, Michael Jackson lives on in every kid who is still discovering his moves, and in every adult who is currently grabbing his crotch while also typing this.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 31st Aug 2014.)

Youth 101: Let’s Try And Decode These Crazy Kids

The four of you who still read newspapers may have seen reports about the Hindustan Times-MaRS Youth Survey 2014, which is something that brands do from time to time to figure out what young people are thinking. (“Life will give me what I want, because I am unique, like a unicorn with an Asian-symbol tattoo”, would be my guess.)

Brands do this because they know that if there’s one thing that young people like, it is reading about stuff that young people like. Also, older people have a very limited definition of youth (“Those phone screens with the humans attached to them”), so these surveys give them a chance to better understand the generation that will be choosing their retirement homes.

I’m pretty sure I don’t classify as ‘the youth’ anymore, seeing as how I’m completely okay with not knowing what a Harry Styles is, and all I really want is to go to bed at 10 p.m. Now that that’s established, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting findings of the HT Youth Survey. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • 61% of the people surveyed said that pre-marital sex was no longer an issue for them. But 63% also said that they wanted their future spouse to be a virgin. Mathematically speaking, people are idiots. If you insist on marrying a virgin, the only thing getting pleasured will be your ego. Seriously, why would you insist on a non-expert? It’s like walking into a fine-dining restaurant and telling the waiter, “Get me a plate of whatever they’re serving in Tihar.”
  • 32% of male respondents said that there was nothing wrong in watching pornography. The rest were clinically dead. From exhaustion. After watching pornography.
  • People with a stable, full-time job had a better chance of finding partners. The message is simple: you have to at least appear like a grown-up, because not too many women are impressed when they see that the only furniture you own is a bean-bag made from old boxers.
  • Mumbai was number one on the spending list, with 70.6% of the respondents having made an unaffordable purchase in the last year. Of course, in Mumbai this could mean anything from paying obscene rents to enjoy bronchitis in a slightly nicer pincode, to just buying a cocktail at a bar (“Enjoy this 800 rupee watered-down swill, with all the potency of baby formula”).
  • On average, 35% of the youth said they strongly believed in astrology. The number was 28% for the 18-21 age group and rose to 48% for people aged 22-25. This is probably because once you get out of college, you realise that the world will treat you like its own personal toilet if you let it, so you latch on to whatever fairy tale works best as a coping mechanism. I’d shake my head at these people, but then we Ariens are sceptical like that.
  • 72% of the people agreed that many Indian traditions must be preserved. Hopefully, they meant fun traditions like gambling on Diwali, or the one where you set a price on your son and call it dowry. It’s also nice to see young, educated people I know decorate their babies’ faces with a giant black dot for protection. The colour black is great at warding off evil, as seen in the case of Africa, which is just a giant bowl of sunshine and happiness.
  • Speaking of happiness, Jaipur scored the highest on that front with 88% of respondents saying that they were very happy at this point of time. I’d be happy too, if I lived two hours away from Pushkar and its government-approved bhang shops. Youngsters in Patna were the least happy of the lot, probably because they realised they were in Patna.

I’m waiting for a survey about people like me, who aren’t uncle material yet, but have too many chins and IQ points to be mistaken for a college kid. I’d be happy to answer any questions, as long as you don’t call when I’m sleepy or tired. So yeah, never.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 17th Aug 2014.)

My Big Fat Indian Wedding Video

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, aka shaadi on steroids. It’s been twenty years since the film premiered at Mumbai’s Liberty cinema and for all I know, is still going on.

So much has changed since 1994: Madhuri Dixit skated off all the way to the States, Salman married a bottle of vodka, and Alok Nath turned into a meme and even made a Twitter account (after he figured out how to un-glue his hands from their permanent namaste position). But HAHK firmly occupies a place in our hearts, like cholesterol, so even now, it has the power to make us look back and wonder, “What the hell was everyone huffing back then?”

Sooraj Barjatya has gone on record to say that his goal with HAHK was to make the audience feel like they’d come to visit a large joint family that was preparing for a wedding. Of course, by ‘family’, he meant ‘people who act so sweet that they appear deranged’. Seriously, they were like the sanskari version of the Addams family. In keeping with the theme of annoyance, even the dog they got was a Pomeranian. That breed is like the KRK of the canine world. (Fun fact: They say that Tuffy was so soft and white that Bhai once tried to snort him.)

But jokes aside, I still watch a bit of the movie whenever it’s on TV. I especially like the song that goes ‘Yeh mausam ka jadoo hai mitwa’, because that’s the only time you’ll see people singing and dancing happily, not caring about the fact that Salman is driving a motor vehicle in their immediate vicinity. It’s so weird to watch the scene where he goes to pick up Madhuri in his Gypsy and says, “Aaj pehli baar ek ladki meri gaadi ki front seat pe baithi hai.” You can almost hear Madhuri thinking, “Take the hint, bro. Take the goddamn hint.”

Hum Aapke Hain Kaun is said to have revolutionised ‘90s Bollywood, mostly because it did not feature Shakti Kapoor drooling over things. This was a time when action films were the norm, so it was refreshing to see a film where the villain was a staircase. (The only other remotely negative character was played by Bindu, who you might remember as The Vamp That Is Not Aroona Irani.)

One of my favourite parts from the film is the bit where MF Husain watched it and became besotted with Madhuri Dixit. This was front page news back in the day, with the artist claiming that he’d watched the movie some 85 times, just for Madhuri. Or maybe that’s how many times you need to watch it for all the characters to register.

After this, he made Madhuri his muse and gifted her a bunch of her portraits, which just proves that it’s okay to be creepy as long as you’re a famous intellectual. It would never work otherwise. I mean I’d love to land up at Deepika Padukone’s door and go, “Hey, I’ve watched your film 384 times – here’s a stick figure drawing I made of you. Wanna frendz?” I’d get kicked out quicker than Sajid Khan at his next pitch meeting.

For all its legendary success, HAHK seems pretty irrelevant to today’s generation. Unlike Mohnish Behl and Renuka Shahane in the film, nobody just magically falls in love and agrees to marry someone their parents picked out like half an hour ago. Nope, not unless they’re lonely and past a certain age and all their friends have gotten married, so they convince themselves to settle because at least they’ll get a kickass FB album out of it.

But here’s the thing. If you’re in your late teens, HAHK is still relevant to you, because it apparently influenced the Indian wedding scene in a huge way. So it’s possible that you were created because the movie inspired your then single parents to hook up and do some dhiktana. It could’ve been worse. They could’ve named you Tuffy.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 10th Aug 2014.)

Society Tried To Keep Up With Pop Culture. What Happened Next Will Melt Your Brain.

(Note: This was part of the HT Brunch cover story for 3rd August 2014. You can read the shorter print version here.)

“I cried because my 3G was down, until I met a man who had no smartphone.” – Rumi

The internet is arguably the greatest invention of the 21st century, second only to the polio vaccine and the cyborg that assumed the form of Mick Jagger many years ago. Like the best drugs in the world, it offers escape in enslavement and we’re only too happy to roll up our sleeves for the friendly neighbourhood wi-fi dealer. The sensory overload it offers is eclectic, to say the least. On the one hand, it allows us to obsess over a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who joins an ad agency in the ‘60s so that he can drink Scotch all day and bide his time, before marching through an expanse of undulating breasts to reclaim the Iron Throne, currently occupied by the mother of Ted Mosby’s children.

While we’re devouring our way out of this pop culture pile, we’re also taking in other vital information, like real-time FB updates on the bowel movements of a guy you once met at a party in 2008. And somewhere in the middle lies a carnival of countless gifs, memes, listicles, must-watch videos, Twitter controversies, wardrobe malfunctions, social media gossip, longform pieces and impotent outrage, all tugging at your sleeve, begging you to watch their latest trick, until you give in, putting aside that unfinished presentation, letting go of the steering wheel, leaving your patient half cut up on the operating table, over and over again, until you sense your brain leaking out of your ears, holding up a white flag.

The most recent brain-stomp happened a few weeks ago, courtesy Poonam Pandey, Queen of The Will-She-Won’t-She Clan (Spoiler Alert: She won’t.) This is a woman whose entire career is based on the fact that men like adipose tissue. I’m sure the first question she asks herself every morning is, “How do I find a topical connect to my jiggly bits today?”

Thankfully, the World Cup was on at the time, prompting a brainwave that was both hilarious and tragic. Around the quarter-final stage, Poonam Pandey announced that if Brazil won, she would give away her bra to one lucky fan. The only thing prospective serial killers winners had to do in order to win that bio-hazard was to tweet answers to the awfully-worded hashtag #WhyIWantBRAOfPoonamPandey.

Poonam ran this contest only because — and I wish I were making this up – the word ‘Brazil’ contains the word ‘bra’. That’s it. That was her entire reasoning. I don’t know what she would’ve offered if the Virgin Islands had qualified for the cup.

This Twitter contest wasn’t something that I, or anyone else, needed to know about. I couldn’t have avoided it either, because it was right there all day, being shared and retweeted, albeit ironically. But to be completely honest, a part of me wanted to know, because judging people is extremely therapeutic.

The inability to cut off from such noise is just one of the symptoms of a form of social anxiety called FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. Of course, that’s just the informal name – the scientific term is ‘HAHA YOU’LL NEVER BE SANE AGAIN’.

This fear is compounded by the possibility, no, certainty, that everyone you know is doing better than you. You know this because you’ve seen all their status updates, which make it seem like they’re sitting in castles, wallowing in cake, while you’re out on the streets, fighting stray dogs for a slice of bread so you can start a food blog about it.

A great side-effect of this is an actual, physical sense of discomfort when you’re separated from your phone. I’m not saying that I’m obsessed, but if my building were on fire and I had to choose between saving my phone and a newborn baby, I would, without a doubt, pick up the baby to check if my phone was underneath it.

Now I’m not a “trained psychologist”, but I did watch an episode of House where he pretended to be one, so I feel qualified to say this: FOMO is just Insecurity 2.0. We all want to sit at the cool kids’ table, and be told that yes, we belong, except that the location of the table changes every time you look away.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. This was first put forth by a social scientist at Oxford called Dr. Andrew Przybylski, who apparently spends his free time hating vowels. According to Przybylski’s survey, the Fear Of Missing Out was strongest in people whose basic psychological needs, like love and respect, were unfulfilled. This was followed by another groundbreaking study on how hunger was strongest in people who were starving and that fire burnt the brightest in people who were aflame.

In the good ol’ days, FOMO was simply referred to as ‘being a whiny little word-I-can’t-use-in-print’, and was cured by letting leeches suck the insecurity out of you. They don’t do that anymore because you’d ask the leeches to do a Foursquare check-in at your skin.

Things are different now, presumably because there’s way more pop culture out there. After a long day of work, I love nothing more than to come home, assume a supine, pantless form and let the latest TV shows just wash all over me. Even so, I’m terrible at keeping track of everything, and my list of unwatched TV shows now runs longer than a Sri Lankan surname. There’s True Detective, Fargo, Veep, Penny Dreadful, Broadchurch, The Bridge, Halt and Catch Fire and Masters of Sex, to name just a few.

You’d think it’d be stupid for entertainment to turn into a some sort of a race – that’s what the rest of our lives are for. But the availability of content isn’t the problem. It’s the fact that we feel the need to share everything. You know things have gone too far when porn sites offer a default share button on every video. We committed to this social media nonsense so hard that marketers thought we’d actually click a button to tell the world we’re watching ‘Midget Rides Donkey Into A BBW’.

Of all the networks out there, Facebook has to be the biggest source of overload. It’s like a party that started off as fun, but now you just want to get hold of your friends and leave, because random strangers have started making small talk about their “opinions” and “feelings”, all of which are stupid. Seriously, this my default reaction while scrolling through my news feed:

“Don’t care.”

“Don’t care.”

“Don’t care.”

“Don’t care.”

“Holy crap, you got fat.”

“Don’t care.”

“Ooh, who’s that hottie? Oh wait, double-barrel surname. Never mind.”

“Don’t care.”

“Don’t care.”

“Die.”

Instagram’s better, because you get to jazz up your neediness with pretty filters. Meanwhile, Twitter is a completely different beast. Sure, it’s great for when you want to overthrow oppressive regimes so as to make way for more oppressive regimes. But it has also destroyed productivity the way Hitler destroyed the hopes of anyone wanting to sport a cool half-moustache.

I’m just glad social media wasn’t around during the Mughal era, because then the Taj Mahal would never have been built. Also, it would’ve made for an awkward deathbed conversation:

I don't know why Shahjahan looks like a young Prannoy Roy.

I don’t know why Shahjahan looks like a young Prannoy Roy.

 

I feel bad for kids in the future who’re not going to be able to live up to our expectations, thanks to all the baby videos we’ve already watched. My kid could be a brain surgeon at the age of six, but I’d still be thinking, “Meh, not as cool as Charlie Bit My Finger.”

Their history lessons would be different too, given how just about anyone today can get their fifteen seconds of meme. I can’t wait for books of the future, like Miley Cyrus’s Long Twerk To Freedom, typed out entirely through the process of twerking. And who can forget the definitive exploration of female friendships, 2 Girls 1 Cup? (Legal Disclaimer: DO NOT EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER GOOGLE THAT I SWEAR THIS IS NOT A JOKE IT WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO SET YOUR SOUL ON FIRE.)

I could run down our obsession with virality all I want, but the truth is that as a modern-day writer, my career relies on distracting you better and for longer than anyone else. In fact, I wanted to call this piece ‘Exclusive Katrina Kaif Bikini Shots Reveal Birthmark Shaped Like Ranbir’, just so it would stick in your goldfish brain. I cannot lie – I want you to tweet and Facebook and reddit and Snapchat this piece to everyone you’ve ever known. Do it before the next distraction comes along. Seriously, hurry. Poonam Pandey just started unbuttoning her top.

We Are One Nation, One People, One Face

Bollywood has been called many things – ‘colourful’, ‘exotic’ and ‘vibrant’ are words thrown around by westerners trying to be polite – but nobody thinks of it as sensitive or authentic. We’re talking about an industry that allowed 26/11 to be retold by Ram Ganja Verma, so let’s not even pretend that we have standards.

This is why it’s surprising to see the outrage against Mary Kom being played by Priyanka Chopra in the upcoming biopic titled ‘Hopefully This Will Make Up For Babli Badmaash’. It smacks of disrespect and racism, they say, to have Priyanka Chopra play a Manipuri, given that she looks as Manipuri as I look like Dakota Fanning.

Now Priyanka Chopra is a fine actor who’s turned in many great performances, like the time she convinced the world that she was an actual singer. The trailer, which released this week, looks good too. It’s hard to mess up a sports film, given that they all follow the same graph: a fiercely talented underdog overcomes obstacles – social, financial, political – to rise, then fall, then train using brutal montages, the mere sight of which gives normal people a hernia, then rise again before winning the ultimate prize, i.e. dancing on Cross-Dressers With Kapil Sharma.

So the argument isn’t about PC’s talent or the eventual fate of the film – it’s about the fact that Bollywood was too risk-averse to search for an equally talented actor who looked the part. Of course, we can’t know that for sure. Maybe the casting team tried really hard, but couldn’t find any North Easterners hanging out at the Lokhandwala CCD.

To make matters worse, there were reports that prosthetics would be used to make PC look like an authentic Manipuri. And by prosthetics, I mean six army guys hanging around the set at all times. Also, Bollywood takes commercial viability really seriously, which is why I’m glad that they at least chose Priyanka, because things could’ve been way worse. I’m sure that at some point, the suits investing in the film had the following conversation:

Suit 1: What do we do to make sure this is a guaranteed 8000 crore megasuperblockbuster?

Suit 2: Ooh, let’s get Salman to play Mary Kom!

Suit 1: That’s insane. For obvious reasons.

Suit 2: Like what?

Suit 1: Duh. Bhai will only play Mary Kom if a South Indian dude has played her first.

This isn’t the first time that a Priyanka Chopra film has been accused of racism. That honour would go to Fashion, where her character, Generic Model McTemplate, goes into a drug and booze-fueled spiral that results in her sleeping with a random black guy. It is this encounter that causes her to re-evaluate her life, because like they say in India, ‘Once you go black, you better not go back because log kya kahenge?’

Of course, it’d be unfair to say that Bollywood’s only good at racism. We’re great at reverse racism too. Case in point: a largely forgotten film called Gandhi to Hitler, where Raghubir Yadav played Hitler, Neha Dhupia played Eva Braun and a bunch of neo-Nazis went, “Bro, show some respect please.” Watch this film if you haven’t, because where else will you see a bunch of brown people fight for white power? Okay, maybe in every fairness cream ad ever, but you get my point.

But to come back to PC and Mary Kom, one thing is certain: it is a story that deserves a glittering showcase and the film, like it or not, will be a hit. It will hopefully inspire young people, especially girls, to follow their dreams, so that one day they too might have their cultural identity misappropriated for an audience that’s too dumb to appreciate them otherwise.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 27th July 2014.)

Gadzooks! Egad! They Killed Carrot Top!

Archie Andrews, aka the Ron Weasley of Riverdale High, was killed off in this week’s issue of ‘Life with Archie’, causing a whole generation to go, “Who the hell is still reading Archie?” His death gave us 20-somethings yet another reason to whine about how old we are and how we’re *this* close to popping it and being discovered weeks later, our six pet cats feeding on our corpses (which, obviously, would be hunched over a laptop reading a listicle about how old we are.)

I gave up on that self-defeating form of nostalgia once I realised that I would never again be younger than the world’s most popular athletes, musicians and MMS stars. But even so, it was a little weird to hear about Archie and the way he died – shot dead by a gun nut. I guess they wanted to stick to their core idea of Americana. The only way it could’ve been more American is if Archie’s heart had exploded under the weight of bacon grease. But I guess they’re saving that one for Jughead.

If that storyline sounds very different from what you grew up reading, it’s because it is. Life with Archie is a recent spin-off that focusses on the Riverdale gang dealing with modern-day life as adults. The tone is darker, with an emphasis on realistic adult themes, like divorce, illness and the urge to smack anyone who wears baggy pants.

I haven’t read Life with Archie, because if I wanted to experience modern adult life, I could just, y’know, wake up. I wonder what would happen if other formerly-carefree characters from our childhood got their own realistic spin-offs. GI: Joe would just be called PTSD, Johnny Bravo would be getting herpes on Jersey Shore and Captain Planet would meet with a “tragic accident” on a deserted highway because some builder wanted to make a mall out of dolphin carcasses.

Of course, since Life with Archie is a spin-off, the makers have assured us that Archie will still live on as a high-schooler in the regular comic books. Even those have been updated for modern times, which is why they have an Indian character called – you’ll never guess his name – Raj Patel. It’s like every white character in Bollywood being called Bob Smith. (It’s only a matter of time before Indians start sharing feel-good messages about how the UNESCO named Raj Patel as the Best Comic Book Character In The World, and that Jughead is derived from the Sanskrit word, ‘jugaad’.)

One reason why Archie comics were a huge hit in India is because they were our introduction to the wondrous world of America, as imagined by Americans stuck in a time-warp. Archie first made an appearance in 1941, and if you try to read old issues on the website today, you’ll see a disclaimer that states, and I quote, “The issue is a product of its time and may contain material that is offensive to some of its readers.”

That just leads me to imagine the worst storylines possible, like Archie dressing up in blackface for a school play called ‘Why Broads Belong In The Kitchen’, while the commie-hating Mr. Lodge wins an arms contract to kill “those gosh-darned Jap slants”. Or something even more ridiculous, like Jughead being forced to deny his real sexuality.

Oh, wait.

It’s funny to think that the world of Archie was so aspirational in the ‘90s, given that Riverdale was just another boring suburb. It had a burger place and a mall. That’s it. Even Kurla would spit on it today, and that place has rats the size of scooters. I can’t imagine the kids of today reading Archie, but that’s because they can’t read anymore. Wow, that last line makes me sound really old. You guys go ahead and think about Archie – I’m gonna go adopt some cats.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 20th July 2014.)

F*** Profanity

Nobody, and I mean nobody, including newborn babies, believes in the concept of an honest politician. A two-faced leader is the oldest stereotype in the world, and calling one honest is like referring to hyenas as polite dinner companions. (By this, I mean no offense to hyenas – the ecosystem actually needs them.)

But once in a while, a politician surprises you with his candour and you have no choice but to stand up and applaud. I’m talking about senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, who recently used the word ‘chu****’ at a public event, making it the most honest utterance in politics since someone described Indira as  ‘Totally ripped off Cruella DeVille’s hairstyle’.

Sinha was addressing a gathering of business leaders in Jharkhand, and in describing his frustration at the media, he said, “They keep asking me who will be the CM of Jharkhand… arey koi bhi chu**** CM ban jaaye, kya farak padhta hai?” (Translation: Any Roadie can become the CM of Jharkhand.) Of course, this is a ridiculous thing to say about a state that has progressed so well under the leadership of stalwarts like Madhu Koda and Shibu Soren.

Nevertheless, Sinha’s remarks drew laughter and applause from the audience, which isn’t surprising, seeing as how we’re a nation of six-year-olds. Also, let’s be honest – it is hilarious to see our former External Affairs minister talk like a rickshawalla. I wish he’d done this when he held that post, because that would’ve made press conferences way more fun. This is what he sounded like:

Yashwant Sinha: I met the Pakistani PM and we discussed issues of mutual importance. It is a long road ahead for both nations.

And this is what he actually meant:

Yashwant Sinha: B******, I told him to stop all the terrorist sh*t, but he’s a f****** c*** s***** and he can just go gargle some giant billy goat b****. If I ever see him again, I swear Imma <INSERT DELHI BELLY SCRIPT HERE>

This incident is made funnier by the fact that nobody expected it from Yashwant Sinha, because he comes across as a soft-spoken, educated politician who isn’t a stranger to soap. We wouldn’t have been as surprised if the leader in question was, say, Laloo Prasad Yadav. (Then again, Laloo would never use that word for the Jharkhand CM. For the CBI, maybe.)

So it all comes down to image, which is weird, because everyone cusses. And I mean everyone, whether it’s the Queen of England, your favourite spiritual conman, or your parents when you jammed cream biscuits into the VCR. But the more unlikely the source, the funnier it is. That’s why I’d love to see someone like Amitabh Bachchan recite the lyrics to something utterly juvenile, like the underground college hit, GMD by Bodhitree. (If you don’t know of this song, don’t google it because it’ll get stuck in your head and you’ll end up singing everywhere, including funerals and as a lullaby.)

On second thought, if you want to get people like Amitabh Bachchan (or Morgan Freeman, or your grandmother or anyone else) to swear like a mofo, you don’t need to give them a song. Just put them behind the wheel of a car on an Indian road, and they’d go from zero to Jackie Shroff in about six seconds.

Ladies, you know how they say that you can judge a man’s character by the way he addresses waiters? Well, guys are on to that now and really, any idiot can fake being polite to a waiter, especially when he knows that it’ll lead to action later that night. Guys like that probably go back to the restaurant the next day and spit on the wait staff, just to restore the balance of the universe.

But the driving test is nearly impossible to fake, so if you really want to know a guy, get him to drive you through rush-hour traffic. For best results, try Milan Subway or Saki Naka in the rain. If he keeps his cool and does not threaten to violate fellow commuters with a dandiya stick, then call it off right there, because he’s clearly a robot I mean WHAT KIND OF PSYCHO DOES NOT WANT TO EVISCERATE IDIOT BIKERS ON THE ROAD?

Sorry, I got a little carried away there. Just thinking about Indian drivers does this to me. Maybe they should all apply for the post of Jharkhand CM. They seem to fit Sinha’s criteria anyway.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 6th July 2014.)