I’m Too Sexist For This Tweet

Old people can be hugely entertaining, as anyone who has ever heard their grandfather casually emit a jackhammer-style burp in public will agree. If they’re extra old, they may even throw in some ‘Thunder from Down Under’ in the middle of a serious conversation and carry on like nothing happened. But those bodily noises are nothing compared to the sounds that sometimes come out of their mouths, causing outrage and embarrassment among people who are still young enough to care about things.

One such incident took place this week when former Press Council chairman and retired Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju tweeted, and I quote, I regard Shazia Ilmi much more beautiful than Kiran Bedi. If Shazia had been made their C.M. candidate BJP wud have definitely won the Delhi elections. People vote for beautiful faces, as in Croatia. Even a person like me who does not vote wud have voted for Shazia.”

There were two kinds of reactions to his statement. One: “I don’t see the problem. He’s right and now I also want a pretty CM so I’m going to vote for Deepika Padukone.” And two, which was “It is sexist and demeaning to reduce women politicians to their looks, especially when their job is dependent not on beauty but on other skills, like taking U-turns. After all, nobody ever says that about male politicians even though most of their faces look like the underside of my shoe after a trek through Dharavi.”

Mr. Katju later clarified that he’d made the statement “in lighter vein” which is completely believable. I’m not even being sarcastic here. His thoughts echo a sentiment that flows naturally off the whiskey-soaked tongues of Indian uncles. You know the kind of people I’m talking about. They’re the ones who will forward you “hilarious” pati-patni jokes on Whatsapp, where the punchline is about how all a wife does is nag and then suck the life out of her husband’s credit card. Or the thigh-slapper about how all mothers-in-law have Nazgul DNA. Old people would be a great audience for comedy shows that take place in 1950 aka Every Show On Indian TV Right Now.

Despite how good we are at it, sexism isn’t just an Indian thing. It is universally understood that no matter how accomplished or brilliant a woman, she will always be judged on her looks. This is a problem because despite years of conditioning, women stubbornly refuse to morph into item girls with the brain of Stephen Hawking. Instead , they have the audacity to demand equal treatment. I’m sorry, but equality is for men only.

One good thing about this demand is that it sometimes leads to awkward hilarity. Take, for example, the case of Colleen McCullough, a best-selling Australian author who passed away this week at the age of 77. She started off as a neurophysiologist and then, deciding that the human brain was too simple a challenge, went on to write books that sold upwards of 30 million copies.

So naturally, any obituary of hers should include the words “Thanks for making me feel dumb and useless”, except that an Australian paper chose to open with, “Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth.” This is basically a polite way of saying, “Meh, she wasn’t like, hot or anything, but she was okay.”

This caused a fair amount of outrage as well, and understandably so. It’s a bit like writing an obituary for Marie Curie that goes, “An ordinary face, on a boring body that won two Nobel thingies for science, despite being a girl and sucking at math.” Or penning a teary farewell to Sachin Tendulkar that says, “Short of height, with frizzy hair and a mousy voice, he nonetheless managed to hit a ball successfully for many years until he retired and cried in public, that little wuss.”

I’m sure if you tried to explain the nuances of sexism to an Indian uncle, he’d just dismiss it as a ‘first-world problem’ and compare it to his childhood where women weren’t allowed to breathe unless they had a panchnama signed by a male gazetted officer or something. It leads me to wonder about the rubbish I will spout when I’m grey and cranky. Will it be harmless stuff like, “Kids, your music is giving me a nosebleed” or will it be something more insiduous? I have no clue, but whatever it is, I’ll be sure to follow it up with a nice, long belch-a-thon. Because that is real beauty.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 1st Feb 2014.)

BREAKING NEWS: There’s Nothing To Report Today

I know it is immature to make the following confession in a respectable newspaper column, which is why I’m going to do it in mine: I’m sick of the elections. I can’t go five minutes without being reminded by the radio, TV and the internet that soon, Modi will cure AIDS while doing dandiya around the sun, and that Rahul will go back to his real birthplace of Mordor to focus on Gollum Empowerment.

It can be difficult to keep up with all the idiocy being generated on an hourly basis, which is why I suggest you throw out your TV, because the following news report should fill you in on everything you need to know. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you… <drumrollll> 

EVERY ELECTION NEWS SHOW EVER

Anchor: Good evening and welcome to The Noise Hour, starring I, me, myself as Arnab Sardesai Stormborn Dutt, Bringer of Justice and Mother of Decibels. Tonight, we will spend 72853 minutes dissecting the latest instance of monkeys flinging faeces at each other and calling it a political debate.

The issue we’re discussing tonight is a shocking, stunning, repulsive, disgusting and life-changing issue, mostly because my scriptwriter has a Ph.D in Amazingly Good Adjectives. What we want to know is, how did Digvijay get attacked for his leaked pictures that show Modi referring to Priyanka as a daughter who should stay chaste because Abu Azmi still lives in 643 BC?

Joining us on the show is Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha Tewari, along with his BJP counterpart Meenakshi Lekhiraman –

Sanjay Jha Tewari: (interrupting) Arnab, this is clearly a flawed attempt by the BJP at destabilising the democratic fabric of the nation. This is fascism. Nazism. Exorcism. I LOVE RAJIV GANDHI AUTOMATIC RETORT YOJANA! Sorry, what was the question again?

Lekhiraman: As an immensely accomplished lawyer, let me just say that your face is a suxxx.

Arnab: It’s been six seconds since the audience heard my voice, so now I’m going to cite some facts and numbers while waving about a few sheets of paper that, for all you know, I use to play FLAMES. With myself. I complete me.

Sanjay Jha Tewari: I’m going to counter your facts with a digression. What is 2006 minus 4?

Lekhiraman: According to my party’s calculations, 2006 – 4 = 1979 + 5.

Arnab: Very classy. Now let’s go to an on-ground reporter who’s stuck in some Gaonpur village that we can all pretend to care about for three minutes.

CUT TO: A reporter standing near something that emphasizes the idea of rural life, like a bunch of naked toddlers running around next to a hut, or a man trying to marry his buffalo.

Reporter: I’m going to walk towards the camera while talking about this village, which is the kind of place that gets electricity about three times a year, and that too when it’s struck by lightning. Oh look, now I’m close enough to the camera, which means it’s time to ask the one question that villagers here have been asking for generations, i.e. when will Gaonpur get its own trending hashtag on Twitter?

CUT TO: More shots of rural life; a fly homing in on a snot bubble under a kid’s nose as he stares balefully at the camera, a woman walking while balancing six pots, two chickens and three helicopters on her head, Prakash Jha in a corner, taking notes for his next movie.

Reporter: Now I’m sitting next to an old man who is also wise, because he has a zen-like toothless smile that surely has nothing to do with the herb in his hookah.

Old man: (subtitles) It’s cute how you city folk are huffing and puffing about free speech and pub timings. I’d like to care, but the last meal I had was in 1963, so I’m going to vote for the guy who can change that. But only if he’s from my caste.

Reporter: I’m now going to end this capsule with some vague statement about the future of Gaonpur. Will 2014 bring it much-needed change? Only time will tell. Que sera sera. Bailamos.

BACK TO THE STUDIO:

Arnab: We have with us now expert psephologist, Stats McStatterson, who has some clear predictions about Gaonpur.

Statterson: In my expert opinion, the Congress will win, unless the BJP wins, in which case the Congress will lose. Or the AAP might just pull off an upset, in which case both the BJP and the Congress lose. I get paid to say this all day.

Arnab: There you have it, India. A definitive answer. On tomorrow’s show, we shall solve yet another mystery: Are there anti-national messages encoded in the frequency of Kejriwal’s cough?

Audience: *throws TV out of the window*

(Note: This is my HT column dated 4th May 2014.)    

No AAP Puns Were Used In The Making Of This Headline

I like this part of the year, when people have finally shut up about how “Dude I got so wasted on the 31st that I made out with the shoe rack it was epic bro”. It’s also when we’ve shrugged off the disappointments of the previous year so as to make room for new steaming piles of disappointment.

Having said that, one thing that I’m really looking forward to in 2014 is the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party. Let’s face it – everyone loves a good underdog story, unless their name is Sheila Dixit. Arvind Kejriwal is Daniel-san from Karate Kid (and now I’m picturing Anna as Mr. Miyagi in a corner going, “Fast on, fast off” before melting into a puddle of irrelevance.)

Kejriwal may have been criticised for his populist schemes but damn it all, because he has created history by becoming the first man from Ghaziabad to ever garner positive press. Otherwise all you get are headlines like “Ghaziabad man slits wrist after pet buffalo spurns his advances.” (In case you Bombay people are wondering, Ghaziabad is sort of like the Kurla of U.P – lots of murders, one mall.)

Now while Kejriwal may have an IIT-IRS background, his most important qualification is still ‘Did Not Preside Over A Scam Factory Or Mass Murder’. Another thing that everyone seems to have latched on to is the extreme middle-classness of the man. For example, everyone loves the fact that he still drives a WagonR, which is understandable because other politicians wouldn’t even let their dogs pee on a WagonR. These relatable traits make for great news, so you can expect to see more such middle-class headlines in the future. For example:

Kejriwal haggles with sabziwala, calls him chor; housewives scream in ecstasy.

Mrs. Kejriwal judges neighbour’s daughter for talking to boy, Khap Panchayat offers external support. 

Kejriwal gets new car sticker that looks like puppy peering out from boot, AAP fans say, “No bro, too much tacky.”

Kejriwal also resonates with the elites because now they get to feel good about themselves by outsourcing their humility to him. This is what people said when they found out about Kejriwal taking the metro:

“Wow, that is commendable. He is a man of the people. Such a nice, middle-class uncle type guy. I bet his hobby is telling every kid in his mohalla to stop playing and go study for IIT-JEE. If this were a film, he’d be the family friend played by Satish Shah. Jai Hind.”

And this is what people actually thought:

“Shoot me if I’m still taking public transport in my 40s.”

It’s hugely entertaining to watch AAP navigate the political arena. The festivities kicked off with the swearing-in ceremony at Ramleela Maidan, where Kejriwal actually started singing about honesty in the middle of his speech, much to the delight of Delhiites who responded with “OYE DJ HONEY SINGH BAJA AUNTY PULLSS BULA LEGI!”

Then we saw the emergence of poet and AAP right-hand man, Kumar Vishwas. (Fun Fact: His romantic poetry is widely used to console North Indian engineering students after they get dumped for being, well, North Indian engineering students.)

Vishwas announced his candidature for 2014 from Amethi, and dared both the Gandhi scion and Narendra Modi to take him on. I like this sudden burst of zing that’s come in after the Delhi victory. The AAP is like a Yashraj heroine who is quiet and demure at first, but then has her first ever drink and transforms into a wild and whimsical beast that fears nothing, not even pre-marital sex. This challenge is basically the AAP’s version of “Dum hai toh bahar nikal!” It’s as if their campaign is sponsored by Maa ka Doodh. (Apparently they hired Dharmendra to help spread this message, but he kept referring to Kumar Vishwas as “Chhotu, drink bana.”)

Kejriwal finally zeroed in on his official residence this week, choosing to forego the bungalow he’s entitled to, for a duplex flat on Bhagwan Das Road, which has to be the most middle-class sounding address in the world. The only way it could be more middle-class is if he bought the flat at Big Bazaar.

But even this wasn’t enough for the BJP, who said that a duplex apartment goes against the principles of austerity. And who better to tell you about fiscal prudence than the party that promises to spend millions on a house for an imaginary being?

So that’s the situation just five days into 2014, and it’s only going to get more chaotic. It’s a long road ahead for the AAP, but I’m optimistic, because those Maruti cars are known to go on for ages.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 5th Jan 2014.)