Category Archives: Travel

Boys Will Be Boys Will Be Bachelors

By the time you read this, I will be in Amsterdam, drowning in thirty seven types of beer and looking for the meaning of life in coffee shops that serve famous local flora like, um, tulips. But I’ll have you know that this is no frivolous trip. No, it is a noble excursion that young men embark upon when one of their own decides to leave the fold to join the ranks of the wedded. It is then that we, as righteous defenders of the faith, must take our brother on one last quest involving vomit and memory loss.

The concept of bachelor parties came about when men decided that they needed a socially acceptable reason to act stupid. (This was also the reasoning behind the first parliament.) The first bachelor party took place sometime during the Stone Age, when a bunch of neanderthals realised that their friend had begun to throw around phrases like ‘flower arrangement’ and ‘saree shopping’ in conversation, so they clubbed him over the head because strip clubs hadn’t been invented yet.

Thankfully men have changed since then, in the sense that we don’t have body lice anymore. Now we also have a ridiculously high party standard to beat, thanks to movies like The Hangover. This means that the party, at the very least, must feature one guy doing an Ajay Devgn-style split atop two tigers, while another guy performs a double-bypass on himself using a fork, just because everyone else dared him to.

Of course, all of this is a cakewalk compared to the visa process that will actually make things happen. If you’re a young single Indian male travelling to Europe for the first time, you might need to dance around a fair bit for your Schengen (German word for “You’re probably a terrorist but give us your money anyway”). The documents you’ll need to submit include, but are not limited to, tax records from the time you got your first piggy bank, a letter from your employer confirming that you are a legitimate employee and not just some homeless guy who hangs around the office because he likes PPTs, a character certificate personally signed by the Pope and a vial containing exactly three Higgs bosons.

This particular trip is special because it means that one of my oldest friends will soon enter into the sacred institution of marriage for the longest time, Amsterdam has been the final destination on the average Indian boy’s Three Point Debauchery plan. It begins with Goa which, when you’re in college, seems like Hedonism Central, and it truly is, if your idea of hedonism involves being stabbed in the eyes by the sight of banians and Lux kachchas. Once you’re out of college and have made a bit of money, you hit Thailand, and it is at once bizarre, serene and a heap of fun. Where else can you see a post-op tranny shoot darts out of her eyes because we cannot mention the actual body part in a family newspaper?

And that brings us back to Amsterdam, a place that I know very little about, except that it has canals and cakes and a red-light district that is run more efficiently and does more for society than, say, the G8. Because of this, a mere mention of the city’s name causes Indian men to go a little nuts. Just say the word and everyone from your friends to acquaintances to your doctor, your rickshaw guy and the local godman will start sniggering and making rhythmic hand gestures that make it look like they’re unclogging an invisible toilet with a plunger. Of course, what they mean to say is, badonka donka – don’t forget to bargain – donk. Except that this isn’t really my thing, because I have principles.

I’ll wait till you’re done laughing.

Done? Okay. So like I was saying, it’s a matter of principle, because any idiot can throw down some cash and buy the company of a woman. All this says is that you’re rich and you will not let an infection get in your way. But the real skill lies in wooing a woman with charm and wit, to the point where she cannot help but say, “Look, you’re a really nice guy but I’m looking to focus on my career right now, so can we just be friends?”

Anyway, it’s time to head to the airport now. It’s a pity that I’m gone only for a week, although they say that you can make that week feel like a month, provided you get your hands on the right tulips.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 16th March 2014.)

Hit The Road, Jack!

Ladies and gentlemen, we are in crisis mode. Our Army Chief recently revealed that our entire military is obsolete, and could be taken down anytime by a bunch of Chinese kids with Beyblades. This is a matter of national security and must be examined thoroughly, which is why I dedicate this column to cribbing about how much I need a goddamn vacation.

That’s right. I’m part of the overworked, exhausted elite – the kind that get paid well enough for its services, but only if those services include handing over control of our entire lives to clients who demand everything except the sacrifice of our first-born sons. And that’s only because we have no time to get into a room and initiate the baby-creation process to begin with.

(The first instance of this can be seen in the Old Testament, wherein a client, who thought he was God, ordered Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son. The idea worked. That book went viral like crazy, and clients have been trying to replicate that success since.)

It doesn’t help that the professional world has completely changed from what it was a generation before mine. Things seemed to be simpler then. The concept of job satisfaction, much like Levis jeans or on-demand tentacle erotica, was unheard of. You got a job at Whatever The Hell Place Hired You Ltd., pretended to look busy from 9 to 5, and were then free to umm, sleep and… err… sleep more? (I’m sorry. I don’t know what socialist India did for fun. Those wild ‘Krishi Darshan’ marathons on TV, maybe?)

Cut to the present, where almost everyone I know is insanely ambitious. I’m talking about writers, comics, actors, designers, photographers, entrepreneurs, marketers, corporate hotshots and ladies of the night, all of whom have one thing in common – I hate them for inspiring me towards hard work. There is a stupid fire burning inside all of us, partly because of stress-induced acidity, that makes us want to go the extra mile because we’ve realised that there’s no room for mediocrity in Mumbai (unless you work at the BMC)

Mumbaikars, and Indians in general, lead shackled, vacation-less lives. A 2011 international study called ‘The Vacation Deprivation Study’ pegged Indians as the fifth-most vacation deprived people in the world. This may sound surprising given our tendency to celebrate every little event in the life of bazillions of revered figures – both real and religious – such as a birth anniversary, potty training anniversary, first pimple festival, coitus jayanti etc.

But according to the study, Indians actually forego about 20% of their holidays, for reasons such as guilt, or the more common, ‘My boss is a rabid dementor’. Vacations, much like the girl child, are still viewed as a luxury here. It makes sense, because for the longest time, a vacation meant an annual trip to the ‘native place’, aka ‘a place where your parents took you to meet the same people they bitched about the rest of the year’.

And call me stupid, but come April, it blows my mind that we no longer have summer holidays. No more three-month periods of doing nothing. If I could, I would enforce that rule in the adult world as well, leading to a worldwide vacation, as essential services ground to a halt and the global economy crumbled to a point where we were back to trading tiger testes for rice. (As far as I can tell, this is what investment bankers have planned for us anyway.)

But until then, I must make do with the occasional trip down to my happy place. No, not that, you perverts. I’m talking about the place that defines me, the one place I will tell my kids about, the place where everybody knows my name… my office.

(This is my latest HT column, dated 1st April 2012. Cross-posted from here.)