Category Archives: Bombay

It’s All About Loving Your Privacy

So I came across an interesting survey this week, which talked about the notion of privacy amongst Mumbai’s youth. When asked what privacy meant to them, 35% of the respondents answered ‘solitude’, while the rest were too busy trying to free their faces from random armpits. Because while Bombay has a lot to offer – a great work ethic, garbage-flavoured air, pani-puris made with crotch sweat – privacy isn’t really one of her gifts. No surprise there, considering that most Mumbai homes pack in about 243 people per square foot, and its biggest public spaces are located in Delhi.

The report also said that in their quest for privacy, 62% of Mumbai’s youth prefer spending time outside the house, away from the family. Really? You mean young people don’t want to hang at home with their parents? NO! Next you’ll say that those nice ladies outside Rock Bottom only want me for my money.

Have you noticed that when a report like this tells us that the habits of the youth have changed, and that things aren’t the way they were 40 years ago, the tone is almost always that of alarm? It’s never positive. It’s always, “Tsk tsk. Look at these youngsters. When we were their age, we used to respect our elders, support our entire family, fight wars, overthrow corruption, save the tigers – and we did it all while dressed in prints that could induce epileptic fits.”

Well, duh. Of course people spent more time at home because what else was there to do? Back then, Bombay nightlife consisted of four townies, and they were all sleeping with Alyque Padamsee.

It doesn’t help that we’re the last generation to know what a large joint family looks like. Practically everyone I know has some sort of a “native place”, with an ancestral home that houses the same number of people as Australia, because back in grandpa’s time, birth control was considered a myth, much like unicorns or feminism.

What surveys like these don’t tell you is that the older you get, the more effort you put into keeping in touch with your family, both immediate and extended. Not because you have to, but because you want to. For example, I recently visited relatives back home in Bhaiyyaland, because it had been a while, and more importantly, because I’d forgotten what it was like to have plates of food being thrust at me all day.

Also, I really wanted to meet my niece, who pretty much rules the house despite the fact that she is only two and I could easily take her in a fight. Hanging out with her is great fun though, especially when you realise that kids that age are like adults on drugs, minus the annoying bits. Seriously, it’s like talking to a stoner:

Me: (pointing to a red object) What colour is that?

She: Blue.

Me: No, that’s red. Again, what colour is that?

She: Red.

Me: (pointing to green object) What colour is that?

She: Red.

Me: What is the capital of Libya?

She: Red.

Me: What is the second law of thermodynamics?

She: Ice-cream??

I guess one of the reasons that kids are so hopped up is because they just got here, and everything is new and fascinating. We look at stuff around the house without a second thought, but when kids look at, say, electrical sockets, they’re thinking, “HOLY CRAP, THIS IS AMAZING! NOW I’LL PUT MY FINGER IN IT BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE HILARIOUS!”

Anyway, my point is that while things have changed, I don’t see the family structure in any real danger, simply because we’re Indian, and this is what we do. No matter how far we move from home, or how busy we are, our elders are right behind us, to remind us that we’re doing everything wrong, and that we should really get a haircut. Jokes aside, no matter how flippant or self-absorbed we may seem, we’ll be there when it really matters. Like when we’re really hungry.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 16th Dec, 2012.  Cross-posted from here.)

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Home Is Where The Idiot Is

Here’s a brain-teaser for you: What do you do when you leave home in a hurry, and return a few days later to find that you’d left a couple of unwashed pots and pans to fester in the kitchen sink, thus turning it into a vat of toxic slush that smells like Mithi river hooked up with Mulayam Singh’s armpit?

On the bright side, the sink complements my refrigerator really well. Because as of now, my fridge is loaded with cartons of Chinese food cooked sometime during the Ming dynasty, that are jostling for space with assorted containers of slop that could deflect bullets, flanked by what used to be a banana and now looks like a forlorn zombie penis.

This is just one of the delightful scenarios one encounters if one is an idiot in charge of a house. So now that my expert credentials have been established, I’d like to present an Unofficial Guide to Home Management For Men Who Don’t Know Any Better.

If you’re a first-timer looking to move, realise that the old real-estate agent maxim still holds true: it’s all about location, location, location. (This is also the founding principle of Israel)

I managed to find a not-so-expensive apartment in Bandra West, partly because I got lucky and partly because the kitten sacrifice worked. Now I know that when you say Bandra, most people think of Bandstand, Pali and hot women that were manufactured in labs as a cure for impotency. But you must realise that there are bargains to be found in the dusty, neglected, and hence cheap corners of popular suburbs. For example, my window opens to a stunning vista of about 16000 vehicles going both ways in a one-way lane the size of a bandana, as hawkers stand by, casually launching rockets made of saliva and AIDS. Security consists of one comatose watchman and about twenty stray dogs that spend the entire night bravely barking at cars, rickshaws, pedestrians, rats, leaves, individual air molecules etc.

Once you land a place, your first instinct is to throw a house party. This is a great idea if you’re a fan of tailing people and placing coasters under their drinks, or being on Puke Patrol, or walking in on random people defiling areas of your house that you were waiting to defile with someone special.

Also, there’s a new house-party trend that’s emerging these days: instead of liquoring up and then basically ordering in bags of Type-II diabetes, people are now having cook-offs. Con your friends into this because then you’ll get to sit around and drink while they compete to cook you the best meal possible. This trend can be attributed to the popularity of shows like Masterchef Australia, thanks to which everyone I know is now a food critic. This is what the average conversation during a cook-off sounds like:

Friend: Mmhmmm. I like that when I bite into this, it yields at just the right instant – not too soon, not too late. The spices and the salt, combined with the stubbled texture, create a delightful ménage-a-trois that exemplifies rustic zeitgeist, giving me little mouthgasms that sing to the deepest parts of my soul.

Me: Dude, it’s Kurkure.

But the most important aspect of having your own house is that now you have somewhere to take your special lady friends to, once you’ve negotiated rates and stuff. Learn from my place, which is set up perfectly in this regard. First up, the elevator music is – I kid you not – ‘Here Comes The Bride’, which is a really smooth way of letting the girl know that I’m some sort of serial killer. Then she enters the house and sees the furniture, which is straight out of a Gujju wedding reception and works only if you’re trying to seduce Baa. But after that, it’s pretty smooth sailing. That’s when I take her by the hand and gently lead her inside, to the kitchen. That damn sink isn’t going to clean itself.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 2nd Dec 2012. Cross-posted from here.)

Wake Up And Smell The Old People!

It’s been a strange week. A Haryanvi khap leader went on national television to declare that rapes were caused by chow mein – a conclusion he arrived at via the scientific method of being dropped on the head as an inbred baby. On the other end of the scientific spectrum, a man jumped from the edge of space and landed, as expected, in an ocean of lingerie. But most importantly, while all of this was happening, I discovered that I’d almost turned 40.

That’s because I came across a recent survey which claimed that 28 was the new 40. A thousand men and women were polled to find out when they thought youth ended, and the age they agreed upon was 28.  (Of course, this doesn’t apply to Rekha, a woman who looks like she is held together solely by make-up.)

Age is a real talking point amongst us 20-somethings, because we’re self-absorbed babies only in our 20s do we start realising that playtime is over, and it’s time to man up. Unless our name is Rahul Gandhi. The survey also asked respondents to identify the top 10 changes in behaviour that signal the end of youth. And listed below are some of those responses, in no particular order. Feel free to check which ones apply to you, and in true 20s fashion, proceed to the nearest bar regardless of your score.

You have no idea what the number 1 on the charts is.

This is true. At this point, I can’t even identify a David Guetta track from a Pitbull track. All I know is that one of them is a French DJ, and the other guy has collaborated with every man, woman, child, desk, lamp-post and dung-beetle on this planet. Then there’s something called a Nicki Minaj, which is what happens when Lady Gaga has sex with radioactivity.

You stop going to nightclubs.

Yup. That’s because most clubs are filled with kids who were born around the time you started reading this column. It’s amusing to see them stumble out at 2 a.m., overclocking their one remaining brain cell to try and answer the various questions rattling about in their head: “Dude bro dude where did I park my car dude?” “Bro why is this girl throwing up on my shoes bro?” “How long do I have to hold her before I can make out with – oh never mind, I need to throw up too bro.” As far as I can tell, teenagers exist only to serve as ads for birth control.

You now prefer homemade food to restaurant food.

Yes. Because at some point, your body starts getting nostalgic about fat and tries to hold on to it the way Pakistan holds on to Kashmir. The fat from your beer-and-chicken lollypop diet at 21 has now made a permanent home for itself in your body, and will continue to stay there until you’re cremated, at which point the whole place will smell like a pub.

Oh, and speaking of home stuff, I must admit that ever since I got my own place, I get kicked about the most random things. The other day, I was actually excited at having bought new dishwashing liquid and fabric softener. That was when I almost qualified for spinsterhood, but thankfully, I don’t have a cat.

You prefer to buy property instead of renting it.

Yes, but given our property rates, the only thing that most 20-somethings in Bombay can afford is a kitchen sink. In Virar. Not even a kitchen. Just the sink, marketed as “200,000,000 sq. ft. (super built up area, if you include the sky)”

Your career becomes more important than your sex life.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! What’s a sex life?

You start looking for a husband/wife instead of a boyfriend or girlfriend.

This is only partly true. It’s actually the world around you that starts looking for your future spouse. And it’s weird because I see marriage the same way I see acid – it may work great for some people, but I’m convinced it’ll make me want to jump off a building.

So I don’t know about you, but according to this list, my score is ‘Haha what rubbish! I’m not old. Your mom is old.’ And just to prove that, I’m going to go out and do something fun, like jump off the edge of space. Right after I’m done with laundry.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 21st Oct 2012. Cross-posted from here.)

Wine Makes The World Go Swirl Sip Spit

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s growing older. No seriously, I’m a natural. Over the course of these years, I have done many things that you do when you grow older: I’ve paid taxes, got my own place, managed to not burn down my own place and so on. But even then, something was missing – something that would make me feel truly old.

So I went to a wine tasting.

The event was one of a series of monthly evenings organised by a company that aims at educating people about the finer aspects of wine, especially the part where you spit in the faces of people who don’t drink it. Now I have nothing against wine, because it is impossible to hate a wondrous cosmic energy that helps women lose both their clothes and their standards.

But the snobbery associated with wine had always put me off. For the longest time, it just seemed like the only way you could enjoy wine is if you had a French person lodged in your throat, critiquing it for you.

This is also partly because I started drinking the hard way: as a broke college kid, in seedy bars named after Hindu gods, where if you sat around sniffing your glass and wondered what aromas you were getting from your Cannon 10000, the big Shetty dude who owned the place would stuff masala papad into a place that wasn’t your mouth, because that’s what you deserved for acting poncey. (Oh, and the aroma from that beer was always ‘Sulabh Shauchalaya’.)

But of course, things are different now, which brings us back to the wine tasting. I walked in to see elaborate questionnaires placed at every seat, which listed every wine that we’d be tasting, and under each name were about 500 aspects that one was supposed to identify, including colour depth, colour hue, clarity, aroma intensity, body, finish and body odour and toenail yellowness of guy who stomped on the grapes.

To take us through this maze, we had the help of co-host Aneesh Bhasin, who is what you would call a Serious Wine Person. Saying Aneesh likes wine is like saying Poonam Pandey has cooties. Aneesh is the kind of man who would refuse a blood transfusion if the colour of the donor’s blood didn’t match his favourite Pinot Noir (pronounced ‘ratatouille’) In fact, a major part of his job involves travelling to exotic locales for free, and drinking wine. Sort of like an alcoholic Pratibha Patil.

So anyway, after about twenty minutes of foreplay with the wine, which involved swirling, tilting, sniffing and basically getting to know the wine to the point where I was about to confess my deepest fears to it, we finally chugged tasted the wine. My reaction differed slightly from that of the expert:

Aneesh: Hmmm… I detect a moderate amount of rose, and some strawberry on the nose. There’s a hint of lychee in here, as well as subdued hues of melon and pineapple, not to mention a whiffling of escargot and the taste of L’Arc de Triomphe, marinated in a Monet of the joie de vivre of the bourgeoisie of the Viva La Resistance. Ashish, what do you think?

Me: Grapes. There’s definitely grapes in here.

Aneesh:

Me: Oh, and sunlight! I’m sure sunlight was involved!

I got better with the second wine, which was a Trapiche Pinot Grigio (pronounced ‘Chardonnay’) Aneesh’s assessment was “mango”, while my opinion was “hospital disinfectant”. We compromised on “mango grown in a bed pan”.

As the evening progressed, things became less about paperwork and more about getting drunk, which is also how Parliament functions. We sampled wines from across the world, including one from Africa, which tasted of Bono’s tears.

All in all, it was a superb evening and a fun Bombay thing to do if you’re a fan of wine, or of waking up the next day and exhaling enough alcohol to power a Mars rover. After all, it’s about discovering new things. Or as the French put it, “Zinedine Zidane”.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 26th August 2012. Cross-posted from here.)

Take Me Down To Paradise City, Where It’s Not Flooded

While you guys were stuck in gutters masquerading as roads, I spent the past week in a verdant, faraway land, watching majestic grey clouds ride in on the backs of winds, and unleash what can only be described as furious lovemaking manifest as rain.

Of course, when I say ‘faraway land’, I mean New Bombay. During the monsoons, it looks like the kind of place that was Instagrammed with great love, and presented in 1080p.

In comparison, the rest of the city is a badly drawn sketch on a tissue that was used as a loofah by a bunch of homeless lepers. Now I admit that since I’ve grown up in New Bombay, I might come across as biased and smug. But in my defence, when I’m smug, I’m also right.

You only need to step out on a Mumbai road to realise that there is traffic backed up all the way to Jaipur, with cars crawling at the speed of a riot investigation. Also, the fact that we get anywhere is a miracle, considering that the roads are about 80% potholes, 10% smaller potholes and 10% holes dug by the BMC sometime during the Mughal era.

And all this is before the monsoon.

To say that the authorities have a careless attitude towards monsoon preparation is like saying Milan Subway is wet. An example of this would be our CM, Mr. Chavan, who, earlier this month, went to a pilgrimage site 400 kilometres from Bombay, to pray for rain. (It was either this, or R.R Patil doing a rain dance in a leafy skirt.) I’m sure there are cannibals in the middle of a remote Bolivian forest, who are laughing at our primitive nature.

Cannibal 1: Hey, check out this report about the Indians praying to rain gods. LOLZIES!

Cannibal 2: Saw it. Now gimme back my iPad.

Cannibal 1: This R.R Patil sure looks delicious…

That brings us back to New Bombay, also known as Bombay’s Twin City, because the two are twins in the same way that Bruce Willis and Rajpal Yadav are twins. It was designed according to the principle of ‘Look what they did with Bombay. Let’s not do that’. So it turned out to be what they call a ‘planned city’, making the rest of Bombay look like a botched abortion.

The difference is most apparent during the rainy season. We’ve got hills, waterfalls and green fields, all within comfortable driving distance, and if you want to go even further to Lonavala, you can do so in less time than it takes to cross the Suman Nagar junction. Then again, you can tear down a hill, take a dump all over its ecosystem and create your very own fancy hill-station in less time than it takes to cross Suman Nagar. Just ask Sharad Pawar.

We also have a bunch of mangroves, which is just a nice way of saying that we will have a bunch of malls there soon. But mangroves actually serve a very important ecological function: they can be turned into makeshift love shacks. No, seriously. Last year, the cops busted one such operation in Vashi, wherein couples would pay 100 bucks an hour to bump nasties on thermocol sheets that were placed inside 10×10 foliage shelters. It was Survivor-meets-Splitsvilla for poor people, and was a hit with those who like to get frisky and contract malaria at the same time. So if you thought New Bombay was boring and asexual, hah! In yo face, Bandra!

It’s quite sad that I’m so excited about New Bombay though; excited about not having to wade through a pool of leptospirosis, about street lamps that do this magical thing where they emit light, and about roads that do not look like the tar version of Om Puri’s face. This stuff should be boring and commonplace, but efficiency is such a freak event that even the slightest bit becomes cause for celebration. I mean the most pro-active measure taken by our leaders is praying. I don’t think God’s listening though. He’s too busy chilling in New Bombay.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 8th July 2012. See the original here.)

Stop, Or My Mom Will Refute!

Last week, the Indian government finally managed to get its hands on 26/11 handler Abu Jundal, probably because Kasab was bored and demanded company (I mean there’s only so much goat porn one can watch) The arrest has been described as a major achievement for India, because we can now finally prove that Pakistan was behind the attacks, as opposed to earlier when the evidence pointed to pygmies from Congo.

Abu Jundal is reportedly a nasty piece of work, who evaded arrest all these years via the standard method of nibbling softly on the ISI’s earlobe. And now that he’s in custody, the circus will go on as usual: India will interrogate him until he reveals shocking details like Pakistan runs terror camps, or that Shahid Afridi and Rekha share the same anti-ageing DNA, after which Manmohan Singh will reiterate his anti-terror policy by staring balefully at Pakistan until the US feels sorry for India and promises to write a remark in Zardari’s diary.

Then there was also Jundal’s mother claiming that he was innocent. I feel bad for her, as you would do for a mother whose son turns out to be a mass murderer. You know how it is – you spend all day taking care of your kid, but you turn your back for one second, and the tyke sticks a pencil in his nose, or walks into an LeT camp. It happens. And she probably really believes that he is innocent, and that he went to Pakistan only for the wild beach parties.

It’s not her fault. As an Indian mother, she is genetically wired to reject any statement that goes against the idea of her son being the Noble King of Sunshine and Rainbow Land. It doesn’t matter what sort of maniac we’re talking about. If Hitler were Indian, his mother would have rushed to his defence saying that he was a sweet boy who had been led astray by that Mussolini kid. (For some reason, I see Kirron Kher as the mother, stuffing Hitler’s face with paranthas going, “Kitna patla ho gaya hai! Bilkul Jewish lag raha hai!“)

Things don’t change that much with age. I’m 27, and my mother sometimes still treats me like I’m at the mental age of Rahul Gandhi. It doesn’t matter what I say – nothing seems to beat her ninja-like maternal reflex. This is what the average conversation in my house sounds like:

Me: Greetings, O Maternal Figure. I have come here only to tell you that I recently saw a burning bush and had an epiphany, thanks to which I shall now march into active war-zones to preach the message of love through shamanism and interpretive dance, while wearing only satin boxers and a towel as a cape.

Mom: Uh huh. Did you have breakfast today?

OK, I’m kidding. Sometimes she also responds with, “Get a haircut.”

It’s also amazing how mothers operate on worst-scenario mode. Son’s gone for a rock show? Probably doing drugs. Gone to a party? Probably doing drugs. The party’s in Juhu? Definitely doing drugs. A prime example of this was when I was in school, and used to frequent a McDonald’s (because this was New Bombay, and McDonald’s was our Fire and Ice, okay?)

Anyway, in an example of stellar planning, the place next to the McD’s was a flashy dance bar. So yes, at one point, I was duly asked, if I, a wisp of a teenager, had ever been to the dance bar. I didn’t know what to say, so I said no and went back to pawning my mom’s jewellery. (Mom, if you’re reading this, relax. I only did it to pay for the abortion.)

The best way to counter maternal paranoia is to just agree. I realised this in college, when I came home after a “DJ Nite!” at a fest and gleefully chatted about the pot-filled classrooms that I’d been sitting around in. I don’t think my mother will ever forgive me for that shock. (She’s started with her revenge though – she keeps throwing around words like ‘arranged’ and ‘marriage’ without using any other words in between.)

Also, I’m glad that I have no real arguments with my parents anymore. It’s a wonderful thing that you only begin to see in your twenties, and I’m all for it. I also know that no matter what I do, I can count on my mother to stand by me, while blaming my misdeeds on those pygmies from Congo.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 1st July 2012. Link to original post here.)

So Which Raid Do You Wanna Go To Tonight?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself being enveloped in an aura of safety and virtue ever since our brave cops raided that party at Juhu, and rescued hapless party goers from the horror that is a Pitbull techno mix. I can sleep well knowing that the people tasked with protecting us are worried about our health, even if it means sending us to prison – a really safe and clean place filled with about seventeen different kinds of AIDS.

At the time of writing, the cops were still trying to decode the Facebook invite that was sent out to guests, so as to prove that the organisers intended to distribute drugs at the party. Here’s an excerpt from that invite:

“Lets rock this town — so get ready to get high. Please do not try to FLY. Because Flying is an illusion not a Reality, come with us and we’ll make you feel Gravity.”

I don’t get why that needs to be decoded in the first place. Clearly, that copy is not the work of a sober mind. It’s as if a first-year mass media student was smoking a joint and accidentally fell into a vat of bullshit. And if you need further proof that drugs kill brain cells, just think of all the people who go to “raves” in the middle of the city. As far as subtlety goes, this is one step away from planting a giant neon bullseye on your building along with a sign that says, “THIS IS TOTALLY A DRUG-FREE ZONE. WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE.”

So given the current state of affairs, it’s only right that I present a brief overview of the most commonly used urban drugs.

(LEGAL DISCLAIMER: If there are any minors reading this, do not try this stuff at home. Go to a friend’s place.)

First up, cocaine. It is a naturally occurring white powdery substance that grows inside the nostrils of rich people. It’s very powerful and an overdose may lead to serious medical conditions, such as ‘being found in a bathtub with a dead naked fat guy, which will make you so irresistible to women across India that they will participate in a televised swayamvar just to win the honour of being your punching bag for life.’

Then there’s LSD, aka acid, aka OHMYGOD YOUR FACE IS LEAKING RAINBOWS! It’s responsible for many terrible things, such as Scientology, and showing you the meaning of life, and then making you forget it. LSD is known to sometimes induce an out-of-body experience, allowing you to basically look at yourself from the outside. This is great for people who don’t have mirrors.

Another popular drug is MDMA, or Ecstasy. Its users are characterised by an emphatic passion for crappy music that they flail around to, in a dance form known as Energiser Bunny Having An Epileptic Fit. Think jagran, but with more topless Israeli dudes.

And then you have the most maligned members of the drug world, the innocent bystanders that got shot in the war on drugs – the marijuana family. Its users are characterised by their ability to not care about anything except food and a long, sweet nap. Pretty much like the average BMC official. The only terrible side-effect of pot is that one guy who refuses to shut up about Pink Floyd. (Yes, it’s a great band and all, but I don’t want to hear about your stupid epiphany.)

If growing hash were an Olympic sport, India would Dhyanchand the hell out of that tournament. So legalising it is the only patriotic thing to do. But this will never happen because drugs are bad, and they lead to death and happiness. Well, so do cigarettes. And alcohol, while awesome, has disastrous side-effects such as liver cirrhosis, and waking up next to ugly people.

So clearly, these busts aren’t about the government trying to protect or reform you. And if you’re an educated independent adult who can afford a habit, then I could not care less about you being “reformed”. It’s your choice, and you’re obviously ready to live with the effects, be it the compelling desire to drive across town for Chinese at 4 a.m., or the need to shoot heroin straight into your eyeballs because all the veins in your body have collapsed. And after all this, if you still want help, just walk into your nearest pub and our nice cops will give you a lift to Bhabha or Cooper hospital.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 27th May, 2012. Originally posted here.)