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.)

Warning: Sex Education May Be Injurious To Ignorance

Indians have been waging a war on sex for ages, mostly by having lots of it. The latest gladiator to step into the arena is Union Health Minister, Dr. Alok Nath Harsh Vardhan, who wants sex education to be banned in schools, and yoga to be made compulsory. These two points appear together on his agenda, as if the latter would negate the former, which is ridiculous because yoga makes you flexible and toned and that just helps you score better. (Notable exception: Baba Ramdev.)

To be fair, this appears on Harsh Vardhan’s personal website so it’s not like the BJP has specifically advocated it as a party. I, for one, cannot imagine them ever promoting a populist agenda based on some antiquated notion of culture. But it’s also reasonable to think that Dr. Harsh Vardhan should know better, given the professional title attached to his name. He’s an ENT specialist, so now I’m wondering how he treats colds. Does he ban breathing? Or maybe he tells people that they can never, ever, ever, EVER know about the existence of ice cream because it could be bad for their throats.

Here’s the problem with that approach: people, especially youngsters, really like ice cream. They don’t care about the flavor – at that age, they just want to get down and dirty with a tub of the good stuff, and they’d take eight helpings a day if you let them. With chocolate sauce on top. And that’s not a metaphor.

For some reason, conservatives seem to believe that teaching kids about sex is the same as telling them go frolic as if they were extras on Game of Thrones. We’re talking about a species that is 30% acne and 70% crappy EDM, so clearly, they should stay far away from badonkadonkadonk. But they do need to know about the workings of the human body and mind, because should they choose to mess up their childhood with sexual dynamics that adults are barely able to deal with, they’ll at least know enough to not accidentally produce more Pitbull fans.

The first form of sex ed I ever got was from Shabana Azmi on a DD ad, telling us that “AIDS chhoone se nahin phailta”. That was when my generation learnt that you got AIDS when a woman dug her long red fingernails into your back. I also got a lot of sex ed from Ramsay movies, so even at age seven, I knew that if you took your clothes off and got a bump-and-grind massage under a bed sheet, you would get attacked by a vampire. It was a pretty apt metaphor for STDs, so let it never be said that the Ramsays weren’t subtle.

But I want this generation to have a more informed outlook than I did, while also remaining true to their Indian roots. That’s why I put together this little culturally-approved sexplainer, which defines various aspects related to sex, such as:

Safe Sex: Ctrl+Shift+N.

Unsafe Sex: A union that’s frowned upon by Haryanvi elders.

Appropriate sexual position: Anything that results in a male child.

Foreplay: Company offsite to Bangkok.

Sex with strangers: Bad. Wrong. Terrible. Anti-National. Unless the coitus is preceded by a ceremony where the stranger is coated in haldi, as if he were a bhindi, and someone has been paid to tell you that the stars and planets bless your caste-approved rishta because that’s just how significant you are to the universe, and of course, an obscenely bloated party that only reminds you that most of your “relatives” are just freeloading douchenuggets.

BDSM: Acts involving domination and gratification through humiliation. See arranged marriage above.

That should be enough to get youngsters started on the path to knowledge. For everything else, there’s always the Internet which, incidentally, also gets a fair share of ban threats. Maybe things would be better if people just loosened up and got themselves some ice cream.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 29th June 2014.)

Once Upon A Time, In A Galaxy Not So Far Away…

The universe is an infinitely vast entity, almost as big as Antilla. That hasn’t stopped humans throughout the ages from trying to understand its secrets, resulting in theories that range from the mythical (“The earth is a ball of snot inside the nose of a sleeping giant.”) to the scientific (“Atoms are the building blocks of snot.”).

It is this spirit of curiosity that is the star of my latest TV addiction, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. It is a follow up to Carl Sagan’s 1980 series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which brought science to massy television – something long considered impossible, given that the source material features exactly zero Kardashian booty.

The 2014 version aims to repeat that feat and make science cool again, which is why they got the internet’s favourite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, to host it. Tyson is the Will Smith-meets-Morgan Freeman of science. He seems like the kind of guy who’d spend his day neck-deep in equations that look like Elvish to us muggles, and then take on a beer-chug challenge at a bar in the evening (and win, because he’d know the optimum angle at which to hold the mug so as to minimise Spillage Coefficient. Then he’d trash-talk the loser with something like “Your mother’s so large that black holes cannot escape her gravity.”)

Fun fact: Cosmos is executive-produced by Seth MacFarlane. Yes, the same Seth Mac Farlane responsible for a gag that consisted entirely of Family Guy characters vomiting on each other for two whole minutes. And yes, the same Seth MacFarlane who opened the 2013 Oscars with a song dedicated to Hollywood’s most famous breasts. So naturally, you’d expect the Big Bang to be shown as a giant Peter Griffin fart, and Pluto would be the Meg of our solar system.

Sadly, that isn’t the case. With eye-popping visual effects, animated stories and a tight script, Cosmos is what the meme generation describes as ‘science porn’, except that you feel no shame at the end of an episode. (I don’t understand this current fad of adding the word ‘porn’ to describe anything that looks drool-worthy. Seriously, stop tagging photos of things like cheesecake and calling it ‘food porn’. That just maligns the good name of porn. Also, don’t ever google ‘food porn’ with Safe Search off. You’ll never look at glazed donuts the same way again.)

I wish schools in India would take some time off from stuffing kids’ bags with lead bricks, and use shows like Cosmos as teaching aids. The country could do with some nurturing of scientific talent – we have enough social media evangelist ninja potato whatevers – as opposed to an overworked, blinkered teacher reducing the greatest minds and discoveries of our species to “Learn this equation. It will come for 15 marks in board exam.”

Cosmos works because along with facts, it brings you the stories of the ambitious, brilliant and flawed geniuses behind those facts. For example, for most Indian students, Isaac Newton was reduced to a set of three equations – a bunch of letters and symbols that they remembered but didn’t fully understand, like Ke$ha.

Now consider his story, which will count for nothing in a board exam, but is fascinating nonetheless. A premature baby, he would go on to battle bipolar disorder and silly English hairstyles, while also laying the foundation of the modern world by inventing calculus. The math of his time wasn’t advanced enough to support his work, so he just invented a whole new branch of math. Normal people would’ve given up and gone out to catch the plague or whatever it is that they did for fun back then. Oh, and he did this before his 26th birthday. (By that age, I’d learnt to not throw up after drinking, which is almost the same thing.)

The only problem with Cosmos is that it’ll make you want to smack people in the face. It’s because you’ll watch stories about how we came into being, of the forces and coincidences that led to this moment where you’re able to read this text because we figured how to control sub-atomic particles and make them carry data, of bloody wars and heroes whose exploits are a mere blip on the timeline of the universe, of suns a million times larger than ours, and as you’re appreciating the enormity of it all, some client will start acting like it’s the apocalypse, all because his logo looks 0.05% smaller than usual. See, that’s why we need to make science cool again – so that kids don’t grow up to be that guy.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 22nd June 2014.)

How Do You Spell GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLLL?

Woohoo, it’s here, it’s here, it’s finally here! And by it, I mean malaria. Also, the world cup kicked off this week, bringing cheer to millions of die-hard football fans across India parts of Goa, Kerala, Bengal, the North East and Novy Kapadia. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the pre-game show on Sony Six, called Café Rio, featured renowned football expert John Abraham, whose presence caused much outrage among people who like football and also common sense.

I’m told John played a lot of football as a kid, because when you’re a Bandra kid called John, what choice do you have? But I can’t really picture him playing football. He’d dive everytime his face was exposed to sunlight, and just lie there, howling in pain until a medic brought him a tube of Fair and Handsome, after which he’d start moaning about his sweaty pits.

Now I’m no expert on programming, but if people are staying up after midnight to watch the game, they really don’t care about your token roped-in-to-attract-preteen-girls-from-Faridabad Bollywood celeb. Do the fans a favour and get a real expert, like Shibani Dandekar.

But enough cribbing about the pre-game telecast, because now it’s time for more important stuff, like cribbing about the opening ceremony. It featured a performance of the official World Cup song, ‘We Are One’, by Pitbull aka Latino Honey Singh, and Jennifer Lopez, who was a super choice by people who’re stuck in 2002. But the opening ceremony was great overall, assuming the theme they were going for was Annual Day Function At An Average Indian School. I’m pretty sure there were people standing in line for cold samosas, warm Pepsi and if they were lucky, a slice of Monginis cake, which was basically sweetened sandpaper.

Now I can’t wait to watch the 2022 World Cup opening ceremony in Qatar. It’ll probably feature gladiator-style battles between bonded labourers fighting each other for a glass of water, while sheikhs sit back and use their passports as roach material.

(Fun fact: The official world cup footballs are called Brasuca and have been manufactured in Pakistan. Yep, the football is Pakistani, which means it’ll be great at sneaking through defences.)

This is a great opportunity for Indians to learn about Brazil, because as of now, we’re not very familiar with the country. Here’s a list of things Indians know about Brazil:

- There’s a famous statue there that’s doing the Shahrukh arms-wide-open pose.
- Dhoom 2 was shot there.
- Breasts.

It is a foregone conclusion that if you ask Indian guys about Brazil, they will mention the Rio carnival girls. Sure, they may also talk about favelas and the impact that ‘City of God’ had on them, but that’s only because they don’t want you to know that they’re picturing gyrating, bedecked lady bits as they speak to you.

While I’m all for a clothing-optional party, it’s still a little weird to see women dressed in nothing but giant, multi-coloured plumage. It’s really strange to get turned on by something that looks like a peacock got implants. (Of course I say this now, but as kids, we all sneakily watched carnival girls on Fashion TV. Also because they were the only women on that channel who looked like they ate regular food, as opposed to the standard model meal of diet cocaine.)

The world cup is also a great time for people like me – basically a puddle of carbs glued to a couch – to yell out things like “ RUN FASTER, YOU LAZY PIECE OF SH*T!” at athletes with a body fat percentage of minus six. Glory be damned, that is the real beauty of the game, and that is why I’ll be watching until the cup is kissed by the one who deserves it the most: John Abraham.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 15th June 2014.)

Read This Column Now. You Can Enjoy Later.

Dear Students Who Just Got Their Results

First up, I’d just like to say, congratulations on getting done with your board exams. I’m glad I’m not you because I went through formal education once and even today, I get the classic exam nightmare, wherein I’m late for a math exam and I reach the hall only to discover that it’s actually a physics exam and also I’m naked and the invigilators are strangely okay with it. (Based on a true story.)

Now you may hate board exams, but they’re important because they help find new faces to put on the side of a BEST bus. Maybe you are one of those pimply toppers, in which case you should know that six commuters just felicitated your photo with paan juice.

Or maybe you’re at the other end of the spectrum, in which case you’re contemplating a career as the guy who has to wash off that paan juice. Either way, it’s an exciting time to be a student, because with so many non-traditional options open to you — from the liberal arts and humanities to music production, gastronomy and zoology — the only question you need to ask yourself is, “What branch of engineering should I pick?”

You’re probably eager to start college and discover your true self through Old Monk, THC and Snapchats of your nether regions. But before you get there, you still have to deal with cliched advice coming your way from parents, uncles, neighbours, doodhwala, humour columnists and anyone else who is not you. The most common one is, “Beta, if you work hard and study now, you can enjoy for the rest of your life.”

If you’ve ever fallen for this, let me just say HAHAHAHAHA SUCKER. This is pretty much how it goes:

In class X: Work hard now, then later life is full enjoy only.

In class XII: Work hard now, then college will be chill.

In college: Work hard now, and life will be a pantless tequila party.

At your first job: Work hard now, so that you can rise up faster and work even harder. Then enjoyment.

When you start a family: Work hard now, so that these annoying little people who look like you can enjoy their life. You enjoy later.

At retirement: You’ve worked hard all your life. Now put on this adult diaper and wait for death.

(I like how Indians use the word ‘enjoy’ to describe any fun activity. “He was fully enjoying” could mean anything from “He really liked the salad” to “He really liked being asphyxiated by that limber Nordic woman”.)

Then someone will start talking about how you don’t need formal education to be successful because Steve Jobs was a hippie dropout and Bill Gates mooned Harvard on his way out. What they forget is that these people were goddamn geniuses; Gates had been coding and tinkering since he was a kid, back when computers were seen as some sort of voodoo fad. You, on the other hand, spent that time wondering if your special “me-time” activity could cause blindness. Seriously, if you’re a dumbass, please get a formal education. This will not make you any less of a dumbass, but at least you’ll get paid to be one. This is why people get an MBA.

And finally, there’s the cliché that isn’t repeated often enough. It’s something that needs to be hammered into your heads, regardless of result, i.e. these marks, much like a woman’s opinion in India, do not matter. Or rather, they’ll cease to matter soon enough.

You may get into a top college, which is great, except you’ll be competing with the brightest minds in the country, until you graduate and realise that dammit, there are more smart people to contend with, and that nobody cares about your Class XII math score. It’s like playing WWE trump cards and looking to kill with a Shawn Michaels card, except everyone else has a deck full of Andre the Giant.

Or you’ll land up in a college that’s basically an abandoned cargo container in some place like Jabalpur, where the professor and the watchman are the same guy, and the only extra-curricular activity is sweat. You’ll survive that, because honestly, the only way to go from there is up. (You’ll look daft while doing it, all angsty and metal-y and emo, but you’ll do it.)

At the very least, if you can figure out what you absolutely do not want to do in life, you’ll be better off than so many working professionals today. Then you can work hard and “enjoy” hard too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for a math exam and why am I naked… oh wait.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 8th June 2014.)

It’s All Good. Nothing To See Here. Move On Now.

16th May, 2014 will go down in history as the day India gifted a whopping majority to its new and controversial Prime Minister, Arnab Goswami. If the result wasn’t proof enough of a Modi wave, consider the following true story: A couple in Indore named their twin boys — born on 16th May — ‘Narendra’ and ‘Modi’. (This was a source of great joy for them, but not so much for their older triplets, Lal, Krishna and Advani.)

But the most pressing question here is, do people still name their babies Narendra? On the plus side, that’s one less kid named Aryan, which lowers the douchebag count by one. But on the other hand, you just know that all the other kids are going to call him Uncle all through school, until he graduates and becomes a retired LIC agent.

He’ll still have it better than his brother, whose first name is also a last name. It’s like naming your kid Gupta Sharma. Why would you do that? Also, if the kids start flunking school, do they get renamed to ‘Dammit’ and ‘Rahul’?

The problem is that even though the results are clear, a certain section of alarmist, book-reading liberals are harping on about their concern for free speech. It’s ridiculous. Why would you think that free speech is under threat? Just because Modi’s BJP will rule the roost in huge numbers, while the opposition wields all the influence of a potato? That’s insane, and it’s exactly what the ISI wants you to believe. Let me assure you that dissent and political humour are going to flourish in the years to come. In fact, I’m going to prove it to you with the following anti-establishment jokes:

Q. Why did Modi cross the road?
A. Because Congress is corrupt.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Modi.
Modi who?
Pappu hai hai!

Q. How many Modis does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Sagarika is a Bangladeshi bai.

Modi walks into a bar. And raises it.

You see what I mean? There’s no problem at all. Nope.

And yet, the critics persist. One recent report that got their Fabindia panties in a bunch involved the arts and culture cell of the BJP. Apparently they’re looking to actively develop and support films that showcase traditional Indian values, which, as it turns out, is not just shots of flowers grinding against each other. The film they cited as an example was DDLJ, which promotes the great Indian custom of going halfway across the world to infiltrate the wedding of a girl you once hung out with for a week.

DDLJ also showcases the glorious Indian tradition of fixing a match for your daughter when she’s just a baby, and then uprooting her from a lifetime in suburban London so that she can marry a lecherous stranger and live in a village in India, because people in London are bad and they drink beer.

It also features the classic ‘Hey Simran, I kinda date-raped you when you were drunk lololol this is so funny why aren’t you laughing oh crap I was just kidding’ scene, wherein we learn that Raj Malhotra would never do something like that, not because of the depravity of the act, but because of his (drumrolllll) Indianness.

That, my friends, is the power of culture. So these Lashkar-loving hippies should really stop overthinking the connect between the BJP and the underlying message of DDLJ i.e. your joy is at the mercy of angry old people.

But the report that really sparked off outrage among the Macaulayan parasite class was about how a shipbuilding professional faces serious jail time for allegedly posting an anti-Modi opinion on a Goa-related Facebook group. Thankfully, the cops are checking to see if this is part of a “larger game plan to promote communal and social disharmony [in Goa]”. These Maoist seal-clubbers can whine all they want, but our balanced sense of justice has foiled what would’ve been a devastating communal clash in Goa. It would’ve played out somewhat like this:

Goan Guy 1: Hey, so I disagree with this FB post. In fact, I’m so angry that I’m going to pick up weapons and cause some communal disharmony. Wanna come?

Goan Guy 2: You mad or what men? It’s siesta time.

So clearly, the hysterical jhola agents need to calm down and do a shot of aam ras. They can’t always expect things to go their way and be “fair” or “logical”. You know the old adage: if you want to make an omelette, you have to arrest a few eggs. Or as Raj Malhotra once said, “Bade bade democracies mein aisi chhoti chhoti baatein hoti rehti hain.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 25th May 2014.)