Tag Archives: Growing Up

HAPPY RANDOM MARKETING OPPORTUNITY TO YOU!

(Note: This is my Hindustan Times column dated 2nd Aug 2015.)

Today we celebrate Friendship Day in India, and by ‘we’, I mean teenagers and people who watch Bindass TV un-ironically. The concept of Friendship Day was first promoted in 1930 by Joyce Hall, the founder of Hallmark Cards. This was followed by McDonald’s promoting Cholesterol and Self-Loathing Day. According to noted historian Mr. Wikipedia, the Friendship Day fad ended in the US by the ‘40s but much like Bryan Adams, it did well in Asia despite being dead.

The concept lived on thanks largely to the efforts of an organisation in Paraguay called – and this is true – the World Friendship Crusade, who introduced the concept of World Friendship Day in 1958. Their plan was to turn the world into a giant Black Or White music video. Maybe it’s just me, but calling it a ‘crusade’ probably wasn’t the best idea. That word stands for friendship in the same way Bombay stands for green open spaces.

A World Friendship Crusade just sounds like a bunch of savages galloping from village to village, forcing people to tie friendship bands around their wrists while singing Purani Jeans. In fact, you can make the nicest, most innocuous thing sound fierce and warlike if you add the word ‘crusade’ to it. If you want to appear extra manly, don’t tell people about your first kiss – tell them how you went on a Hormonal Tongue Crusade.

The World Friendship Crusade continued to pester lobby the United Nations until 2011, when the UN General Assembly declared 30th July to be International Friendship Day. And people wonder why nobody respects the UN. It’s hard to, when you see them spending time on a concept that’s already covered by the most competent authority of all – Bollywood.

Bollywood is the place that first taught us that ‘ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahin ho sakte’ unless the ladka and ladki are actors being interviewed by people whose idea of journalism is ‘tell na who u making sexytime with’. Classic Bollywood is how I learnt to make friends, especially with the opposite sex. The basic procedure went like this:

  1. Be the college stud.
  2. Wear jeans, jean jackets, jean shirts and jean banyans.
  3. Spot the new admission. She’ll be the pretty one in a frock that looks like a Monginis cake threw up on her.
  4. Make a move only to get rejected because The Song hasn’t happened yet.
  5. Chase her around with your mawaali friends while singing about her nakhra, which is all just code for ‘Y U NO LET ME TOUCH’
  6. The girl smiles and eventually gives in to the creepy denim gorilla.
  7. Stockholm Syndrome complete.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. There were other lessons I learnt i.e. celebrate Friendship Day by losing to your tomboy friend at basketball and then marrying her when she gets hot.

It was pop culture like this that led to students cutting up perfectly good ribbons and turning them into friendship bands. When I say students, I mostly mean girls, who expressed love with meticulously crafted bands and handmade cards involving six types of glitter. Meanwhile, the boys stabbed each other with dividers.

This isn’t to say that boys aren’t civilised. As a kid, I once handed over a card to a guy friend on Friendship Day. It wasn’t handmade because that would be weird and as an ode to our manliness, it featured a commode and some pun about poop. Who’s immature now, huh??

Friendships work differently now, especially in frenetic, stressed-out cities like Mumbai. The older you get, the harder it becomes to make friends, mostly because there’s no time and everyone thinks everyone else is weird. The loneliness eventually leads people to take extreme steps, like arranged marriage.

You do end up accumulating a lot of acquaintances though. It’s easy to mix the two up, but an acquaintance is someone you bump into at bars and make small talk about football with, whereas a friend is someone you can get embarrassingly drunk around, trusting him or her to not turn your stupidity into a viral video. Consider yourself lucky if you have more than a handful of these around. Keep in touch and if you’re feeling extra nice, grab yourself a divider.

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The Top Ten Million Things To Hear When You’re 30

I turned 30 last week and the second the clock struck midnight, I transformed into a mature, sensible gentleman who has his life all figured out and has stopped thinking of salads as “culinary depression”. It’s not like I stumbled home at 6 a.m. and spent the day in boxers, surrounded by my closest friends, cake, beer and biryani. Nope, not at all.

Things are supposed to change now because we’ve bought into the idea that 30 is a significant age, and that it is vastly different from 29. And it probably is, if you’re comparing insurance premiums. Even science suggests that decade-changes are when people tend to reflect and take stock and then panic, which is ridiculous because age is just a number and has no bearing on your real life, if you exclude factors like money, health, stability, security and responsibility.

It doesn’t help that there are about a gazillion lifestyle pieces about turning 30. There are more pieces about 30-year-olds than there are actual 30-year-olds, and they all seem to say the same thing i.e. “I was on a tight deadline so here’s some faff about my life experiences disguised as content now go away I’m hungover from last week.”

So if you’re a young guy wondering what arbitrary standards you’re supposed to live by, then worry not, because here’s a list of my favourite pointers, culled from actual ‘THINGS EVERY MAN MUST DO/HAVE BEFORE HE’S 30’ pieces:

Build Something With Your Hands:

This is fun to write, because you know you’re not going to be the one doing it. It’s usually accompanied by some rubbish about how real men used to do things with their hands and we must get back to it because apparently it’s sexy, which explains why so many women are lusting after Ramu Carpenter.

Attempt To Grow A Sweet Moustache:

This is great advice if you’re looking to turn into your father’s passport photo from 1976. When was the last time you saw a young guy with just a moustache – no beard – and thought to yourself, “Hmm, that person seems like fun. I bet he has a cool name like Anoop or Mandar”?

(Beards are kinda overrated as well, and no, I’m not saying this as a bitter man who can’t grow a full beard because of a tiny hairless patch on his neck that continues to stay hostile and deserted, like the No Man’s Land between India and Pakistan.)

Have A Signature Dish:

This is less advice, more necessity, especially if you’ve spent the better part of your 20s ordering takeaway designed to nuke your colon. I’ve always found it strange when guys are actually proud about the fact that they can’t cook and say things like, “Oh once I made Maggi and the house burnt down and now we live in a slum LOL.” Those guys are pretty much on their way to being Norman Bates, minus the charm.

Get Your Heart Broken:

I don’t even see how this is advice. It’s like climate change or AAP leaders calling each other ‘poopyhead’ – it’s bound to happen. It’s pretty much the only skill I’ve carried forward from engineering college. The weird thing is that when your friend breaks up, you’re genuinely concerned but there’s also a part of you that’s thinking, “Oh awesome, now we get to drink like idiots. For our bro.” If that is not a metaphor for hope, then I don’t know what is.

Get A House Or Save For One:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Brb, wiping my tears with property brochures for 18 square feet deluxe apartments in a toilet in Mira Road for 37 crores, plus 15% service charge to enjoy The Spirit Of Mumbai (Supplied By The Tanker Mafia).

Have an answer to the “Do you want kids?” question:

This is important because apparently at this age, women start evaluating you on the basis of your ability to nurture monsters who will bleed your bank account dry, suck all the sleep out of your life and in turn, reward you with a sense of love and responsibility so crippling, you will bow before their needs your entire life because it is considered bad parenting to fake your death and flee to the mountains.

This is just a fraction of the advice out there written for you by people who are not you. Feel free to ignore all of it and go do whatever the hell you want. Remember, nothing can stop you. NOTHING. Except rent. And maybe that EMI. And that client meeting. Remember, age is just a number.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 5th April 2015.)

On Your Marks, Get Set, Pizza!

If you’re reading this in the morning, then congratulations on being one of the four people not running the Mumbai Marathon today. Seriously, the last time I saw thousands of Mumbaikars run in one direction, it was for a local train seat.

But what I like about the marathon is that every year, it gives so many people a chance to wake up and seize the day by vowing to run next year pakka I swear boss this year was full hectic with job and baby and winning Nobel prize and licking schezwan off my chin and all.

The Mumbai Marathon has grown spectacularly since its inception in 2004, mostly because new generations of women kept discovering Milind Soman and his short shorts. The fandom is completely understandable. For starters, Soman is a friggin’ Greek god whose idea of light cardio is jogging from Mumbai to Pune. And the heartless monster that he is, he probably doesn’t even stop at the Panvel McDonalds. Also, when it comes to sexy studful studly stud-type men, Milind Soman is pretty much the only Maharashtrian option on the table. The only other hot Maharashtrian is Chicken Kolhapuri.

The reason the marathon is so popular is because it’s accessible to everyone who’s not lazy. It features categories like the Senior Citizens’ Run aka You Can’t Say Anything Mean About This Because You’ll Look Like A Sociopath, the Champions With Disability Run aka This Will Make You Feel Small and of course, the Dream Run, which supports the most important charity of them all i.e. the I Just Wanted A New FB Display Picture Foundation.

I don’t know how this happens, but at some point in your late 20s, a bunch of your friends – people whose idea of exercise was picking up the phone to call the wine shop – will start running seriously. This is a good thing because when done right, running develops the most important muscle of all – your credit card. Because you can’t just go out and run anymore. What are you – a caveman? First, you need the right shoes, something with basic features like “AdiBok Nano-engineered Oxyrich air granules embedded in a lightweight sole made entirely from the burps of god.”

The clothes that you wear need to have been designed at NASA, because if they aren’t high-tech enough, your body will put on fat in protest. And of course, you’re a real runner only if you strap on some sort of activity tracker bracelet that connects to sixteen social networks to let everyone know about your vital signs, the distance you covered, your deepest and darkest fears, which Sex and the City character you are and so on. I wish these devices and apps would broadcast more honest updates, like these:

“Champak just checked into Potholed Running Surface Buzzing With Kamikaze Autowallahs.”

“Champak just slipped on dog poo. Impossible is nothing ki mother-sister, he says.”

“Champak just spotted a cute girl up ahead. He quickens his pace because girls like nothing more than a guy racing at them from behind.”

“ABORT ABORT ABORT! Girl is wearing trackpants that has the word JUICY emblazoned in bling across her butt.”

“Champak’s lungs are screaming for mercy. It has only been one kilometre. Screw this, he says.”

“Champak just updated his FB: Ran 5 kilometres today! Feeling alive! <Protein Shake Selfie.jpg> #Motivated #BornToRun #JeSuisPistorius”

The marathon is also a giant fancy dress party – it’s like Halloween for people who’re off candy. But when it comes to fantastical costumes, nobody can beat Anil Ambani, who turns up dressed like he’s one of us. I imagine him running across the city thinking, “Yeah, I own that… and that… and this bridge over here and all the slum-dwellers over there… and that white building at Nariman with the flag on top” until he spots Antilla, at which point he wishes it were the monsoon, because nobody can see his tears in the rain.

But my favourite marathon moment has to be the one where I wake up after it’s all over and everyone has gone home. It’s not like you need to watch it to know how it ends. Two things will happen: an African guy will win, and Rahul Bose will become relevant again.

Jokes aside, the marathon fosters a sense of community and bonding that this angry, overworked city so desperately needs. That is reason enough to run. I’ll do it next year pakka.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 18th Jan 2015.)

‘Love Ees Sweat Poisson’ and Other Indian Truths

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m somewhat of an expert on romance and relationships, especially the part where I stay single for years at a stretch. It’s like how camels can go without water for ages, because the water just wants to be friends with the camel but the truth is that it is secretly being lapped up by another camel. If I had to quantify it, then on a scale of one to ten, my dry spells are Vidarbha.

With credentials like these, it’s no surprise that I was invited by a popular Mumbai-based literature festival to be part of a panel discussion on — I kid you not — The Changing Face of Romance in India and The Diaspora. My co-panelists included a British-Indian author and journalist who’s written a book about his travails with arranged marriage. I haven’t read it, but I’m assuming it’s just photos of brown parents looking disappointed.

The other panelist was a writer and self-confessed romantic, who’s written India’s second Mills and Boon novel, and nope, I had no idea that those books were still around. I remember coming across them as a kid, and all the covers looked the same. There was always a flushed-looking woman in some stage of undress, lying in a meadow, looking up at a bare-chested man whose piercing gaze seemed to say, “Baby, let’s go indoors, so I won’t have ants crawling up my butt.”

So yes, at the start, I felt a little out of place, like a bartender at an ISIS party. The topic also seemed redundant, because you’d think that despite everything, love and romance don’t really change. Deep down, most people want a constant, someone they can come home to every night, someone whose presence brings them joy and satisfaction. My constant is the Mini Punjab delivery guy. It’s a relationship based on late-night kebabs, aka the 3 a.m. boti call.

But things have changed in the world of hearts and genitals. We’re dating, hooking up and breaking up way more than our parents’ generation used to, because they were nicer, kinder and more emotionally stable we have the options that they didn’t. Thanks to technology, it’s so much easier to catch an STD now.

For example, take Tinder. It is literally a menu of potential partners, founded on the classy Indian proverb, ‘Degi Toh Lega?’. For older uncle-types reading this, Tinder is an app that lets your kids hook up with random strangers based on their face and geographical proximity. If that sounds shallow, remember, you come from a time when it was okay for parents to push their kids into bed with someone just because they had the same surname and also other great qualities, like not being manglik.

It’s not just Tinder; with so many forms of social media, we’re just a few DMs, likes and favourites away from entering someone’s inbox, so as to speak. It’s a great time to be young and single, because everyone has the attention span of a fat kid in a candy store. That’s why you see so many people try out Friends With Benefits aka One Of You Is Gonna Get Screwed Over So Bad LOL.

The flipside is that tech will also jerk you around because it can. WhatsApp is great at this, first with the ‘Last Seen At’ and now the Blue Tick of Death. It’s the kind of thing that makes people go, “If you really want to ruin my relationship, why don’t you just get your app to sleep with my girlfriend?”

Tech also negates the point of break-ups, which is that exes should go away, preferably to another planet. But now they’re always around, their faces flashing across your newsfeed as if to say, “Look how well I’m doing without you! Here’s a photo of me with an attractive person of the opposite sex! I’m not doing this so you feel bad about losing me – I’m totally over you! No, seriously- SHIT SHIT SHIT I accidentally liked a photo of us from 2009 STUPID TOUCHSCREEN SHIT SHIT I DON’T CARE I’M FINE *dies of vodka poisoning*”

Everything said and done, you can whine about how complex everything is, or suck it up and keep looking for That Great Modern Love, which is basically two people checking their phones in comfortable silence. And if that proves elusive, let me know. I’ll put you in touch with this great guy from Mini Punjab.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 9th Nov 2014.)

I Like Fit Backs And I Cannot Lie

Some of you may have noticed that this column was missing for the last few weeks. And by some, I mean three people not including my editors, who, like all newspaper editors, were busy figuring out how to compete with listicles online. (“Let’s make clickable paper” is what I heard last, before they returned to their monocles and quills.)

The reason for the absence is that I’ve been resting and recuperating from a lower back injury, which happened because I went skydiving and crash-landed on a remote island, where I was nursed to health by beautiful local maidens whose culture had no place for upper body garments.

Or, y’know, years of bad posture finally caught up with me, resulting in a slipped disc.

As you know, a slipped disc is a painful condition wherein everyone who has ever possessed a spinal cord will feel the need to give you advice. I’m sure they mean well, but this is what all your conversations sound like: Sit down, don’t sit down, lie down, don’t lie down, use ice-packs, use heat, gently simmer back on low flame and add namak swad anusaar and so on.

Most people have trouble believing me because this usually affects people in the age group of Farida Jalal to Alok Nath. But the way I see it, maturity is maturity, whether it exists in the mind, or in your spinal structure. Also, I’m used to falling sick in ways that make no sense. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with tennis elbow, despite the fact that I’ve only picked up racquets to kill mosquitos while pretending to be a Jedi. At this rate, I’m sure I’ll be diagnosed with something weird soon enough, like pregnancy.

I’ve also realized that men and women react to news of illness in very different ways. In this case, my women friends said something along the lines of, “Oh so sorry, that sounds horrible, please take care” whereas the guys’ exact words were – and this is true — “LOL tere ko spinal AIDS ho gaya.”

(This was inevitably followed by the question, “So… does it hurt when you do that thing that you do to yourself on cold, lonely nights and on other nights as well?” to which the correct answer is, “Some goals are so noble, it is glorious even to fail and call for an ambulance.”)

Having a slipped disc feels like being in a game of Mortal Kombat, especially the part where Sub Zero pulls his Fatality move that involves ripping out his opponent’s spinal column, skull attached and all. There are days when you can almost feel a fist clench around your vertebrae as if to say, “Screw you for sitting awkwardly on non-ergonomic furniture for years.” If that sounds too dramatic, then it’s probably the painkillers talking. Seriously, those things are amazing. They can make Stephen Hawking sound like Rahul Gandhi. This is what I sound like on a normal day:

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen. Come, let us discuss scholarly matters and say things like, “The bourgeoisie nature of the Fermi paradox suggests a Kafkaesque influence to the neo-classical interpretations of Hegelian thermodynamics.”

And this is what I sound like on painkillers:

WHY IS FLOOR SPINNING HOW IS BABBY FORMED WHEEEE! *throws up*

Painkillers also help me appreciate the little things in life, like the fact that my physiotherapist’s surname is Girey. It was nice of him to name himself after the incident that leads people to his clinic. It’s like going to a lung cancer specialist called Dr. Classic Milds.

Part of the physiotherapy involves electrical stimulation of the affected areas, which, in my case, includes the gluteus maximus aka the tashreef region. So yes, I get to enjoy the kind of vibratory massage that some of you weirdos would pay top dollar for in a dungeon in Amsterdam. It’s not too bad though. I just refer to it as Fifty Shades of Girey.

(Yes, I’m going to blame that joke on the painkillers too.)

(Note: This is my HT column dated 26th Oct 2014.)

Could This Headline BE More Obvious?

Twenty years ago, the world watched its first episode of Friends, and given the rerun cycle in India, I’m sure my grandkids will end up watching it on their deathbeds, getting nostalgic about a world without nuclear winter. Friends is said to be responsible for the rise of everything from a certain haircut to coffee sales to awkward guys using sarcasm as a defence mechanism because clearly, that’s all we do all the time for no reason.

Friends hit Indian shores when I was about fifteen and I could tell it was something big because it was the only thing that made us stop our cricket game and rush home to huddle in front of the TV. (NOTE TO YOUNGER READERS: A TV is sort of like a physical Youtube, except someone else is in charge of the playlist and you don’t get to leave nasty comments about people’s mothers.)

Back then, we had no real idea about the stuff they were talking about – being on a break means nothing when the only girlfriend you’ve ever had is a Kate Winslet poster – but we lapped it up because it was our first proper pop-culture look at adults in America. It was like Archie featuring yuppies, it was three-big-laughs-a-minute and honestly, if someone from my generation tells me they didn’t like it, my brain automatically classifies them as horrible people, like serial killers or MBAs.

In fact, I’m sure that even the most despicable, blood-thirsty bastards on the planet are fans of the Central Perk gang. This must’ve happened at ISIS camps at some point:

Terrorist 1: … And then, Rashid here was like, “Boss, I forget to carry detonator.”

Terrorist 2: Hahaha, you pulled a Monica!

Terrorist 3: (spots a girl in black) How youuu doin’?

*awkward looks all around*

Terrorist 1: Dude, that’s a curtain.

Friends helped an entire generation of people discover themselves, which is just another way of saying that everyone thought they were Chandler Bing. I was convinced I was Chandler because of my tendency to make bad jokes while gradually putting on weight, which, if you think about it, is a pretty generic brief. Nobody ever thought that they were Ross, because that’s the kind of realisation that would drive a man to three divorces. As for Joey, I didn’t even think such people existed, but then I started working in the entertainment industry and long story short, you can shoot a Joey spinoff in any gym between Bandra and Andheri.

But the biggest validation for Bright, Kaufmann and Crane has to be the fact that we ripped off their show to create something called – the subtlety will blow your mind – Hello Friends. It featured Nikhil Chinappa, Maria Goretti, Cyrus Broacha and Mandira Bedi, because I guess VJ Shehnaz was busy digging her way out of the cardboard and glitter avalanche that was MTV Most Wanted.

Hello Friends was pretty much like the original, if you removed all the funny bits. One difference was that desi Ross did not have a lesbian wife – he was just a regular divorcee. This was because lesbians did not exist in India in 1999. We only imported them later when we realised that we had way too many plaid shirts and not enough people to wear them.

Friends faced the same criticism a lot of sitcoms face – “It’s so unreal”, “How can they afford that apartment?”, “Can I get the number of Phoebe’s dealer?” – but nobody really cared because the other stuff made up for it. Sure, the theme song sounds less saccharine and more realistic now – I’ll Be There For Youuuu (Until I Get Married Or Move Cities And We Lose Touch Because That Kinda Thing Happens Watchu Gonna Do About It).

But the rest of it feels real enough, especially once you’ve started living on your own: Having people whose fridges you can raid, no questions asked, hearing them out after their sixteenth break-up with the same person and then getting drunk because that’s as good a reason as any, having people come over with soup when you’re sick and being as exclusionist about your group as those six were, and believing that a Chandler-Monica romance is possible because she’s not obese anymore.

I recently came across a photo of the grey and saggy Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc hugging at an award function, and all I could think was, “Goddamn dust allergy, making me sniffle.” So I know that if a Friends reunion ever happens, I’d be the first to drop everything and watch, all the while thinking, “Could I BE more senti?”

(Note: This is my HT column dated 21st Sep, 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.)