Tag Archives: Indian Culture

Drop That Gum And Nobody Gets Hurt!

I spent the last ten days in Singapore, because apparently I am on a quest to find places sweatier than Mumbai. It’s always fun to perform in Singapore, especially the part where you compare it to Mumbai and then weep when you see a planned, organised city working like a well-oiled machine. It’s all clean straight lines and right angles and manicured hedges, as if the god who designed it had OCD. Mumbai, on the other hand, seems like a god stuffed buildings and slums and people up his nose and then sneezed really hard in the direction of west India.

As you may know, Singapore is the number one destination for NRIs who weren’t good enough to make it to America, UK or Australia. It’s like they looked at a map and thought, “I want to live in the first world, but I also like worrying about body odour 24/7.” Besides, everyone knows that the NRI hierarchy is US, Canada, Europe, Australia, Singapore and if you hate fun, the Middle East. (There’s also Sri Lanka, but they drink tea and look like us, so it doesn’t count.)

But for all its brisk efficiency, Singapore’s lacking a bit on the PR front. People outside the place have very little to offer in terms of opinion. For example, if a foreigner tells his friends he’s coming to Mumbai, he’ll get a bunch of reactions, all along the lines of “You’ll be fine as long as you don’t eat the food, drink the water or breathe the air. Have fun!” If he says he’s going to Delhi, he might hear things like, “What’s wrong with you – just go to Bombay.”

But when you tell people you’re going to Singapore, all you hear is “Dude, it’s damn stupid –  you can’t eat chewing gum there.” Over years, the legend of the Forbidden Chewing Gum has grown to the point where you hear passengers on inbound flights make small about it, saying things like “I heard if you chew gum na, they arrest you, fine you, wheel-clamp your jaw, chokeslam your baby and then make you give the CAT.”

(Just for perspective, you know who allows you to chew gum without consequence? ISIS. Not that I’m implying anything.)

Another fun fact about Singapore – which I discovered while researching material about the place – is that they sell the largest bottles of Yakult probiotic drinks in South East Asia. I’m not even kidding. Are you not totally amazed and freaking out about this totally awesome fact right now? This is how you know a city is straitlaced – when its trivia involves gas. It’s amazing – even the bacteria here know not to step out of line.

Singapore is a picture of what India could possibly be if Indians actually obeyed the law. This will happen when the law is implemented effectively, without bias, so I’m guessing the year LOL A.D.

It’s so weird to see Indian people abroad not turn every street into death by ammonia. Or to see them queue up without a fuss, especially because back home, they look at queues the same way suicide bombers look at insurance – pretty damn pointless. Then again, they follow the rules not because they think it’s the right thing to do, but because if they don’t, the law will smite them harder than Samuel L. Jackson smiting serpents on an aircraft.

I imagine that all this law-abiding nonsense must get frustrating for NRIs. I’m sure that when they come back to India, the first thing they do is not clear customs or hug their loved ones, but just get out of the plane and spend fifteen minutes hocking up a giant glob of phlegm, which they launch down the runway like a bowling ball, tears of joy running down their face, as ‘Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera’ starts playing out of nowhere. And then they smell the ammonia and pass out.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 24th May 2015.)

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This Humour Column Was Written 7000 Years Ago

Like most middle-class Indian kids, I first completed my engineering and then got around to figuring what I really wanted to do in life. So I’m the first to admit that I know next to nothing about science. The only time I use my education is when my parents ask me to fix some busted gadget, and I, applying what I learnt as a telecom engineer, swiftly pick up a cellphone to call the repair guy.

But as it turns out, I would’ve been clueless even if I’d actually paid attention in class, because here’s a news flash: What we know about science is wrong. It is all a western imperial construct designed to overshadow our original achievements. Simply put, the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Americans have all shamelessly Pritam’d our inventions.

I’m thankful to the various patriots who, of late, have been working really hard to enlighten us about this piracy. The most recent exposé took place at the 102nd Indian Science Congress, where leading scientists had all the logic smacked out of them by the glory of ancient India.

For example, you might think that the first airplane was invented by the Wright Brothers, after they got sick of booking tickets on IRCTC. But no. Captain Bodas, a retired flying instructor and a speaker at the Congress, pointed out that the first airplanes had been invented in Indian about 7000 years ago. Some of them were the size of jumbo jets and apparently they could move forward, backward and sideways, hover in mid-air, do barrel rolls and also bharatnatyam in mid-air.

These planes were also loaded with twenty missile systems. Now I don’t mean to brag, but I too designed similar fighter jets in school, via the technical process of doodling in my textbooks. (I was inspired by scientific materials such as Swat Kats and Centurions, but clearly I should’ve paid more attention to Amar Chitra Katha.)

But that’s not all. We reportedly also had pilots in ancient India, who were prescribed a diet that alternated between buffalo, cow and sheep milk and wore special shockproof, waterproof, electricity-resistant suits made from the fibres of underwater plants. Their names have been lost to history, so let’s just call them Captain Shri Maverick and Goose.

If the pilots got bored of flying domestic, they could take their crafts for an interplanetary spin. No, really. It was claimed that the planes could go from planet to planet. To buttress this point, another speaker, Kiran Naik, said that proof of this lay in the fact that during ancient times – and I wish I were making this up – two kings were fighting on Mars when one of their helmets fell off. This is why you should always take off your helmet before fighting on Mars.

He said that “If you google ‘helmet on Mars’, that helmet clearly shows up”, because ancient India also invented Photoshop. Sadly, all these advances in aviation were squandered because as it turns out, the industry was run by Vijay Mallya’s ancestors.

Mr. Naik then educated the audience about a bacteria that lives inside cows and converts whatever the cow consumes into 24 karat gold. Wow, that has to be the worst Tanishq ad ever. Picture a young, hopeful man going down on his knees as his girlfriend blushes with anticipation:

Guy: I cannot imagine a life without you. Will you marry me?

Girl: Yes, yes, a million times yes! (pause) Where’s the ring?

*they hear a PLOP! in the distance*

Guy: Go get it yourself.

Seriously, I cannot get over the fact that India is home to bovine creatures that crap gold. But enough about Mukeshbhai.

Not all talks at the Science Congress were as eye-opening. The others were woefully bereft of fantasy and stuck to boring ol’ scientific temperament. I wonder what it was like for the scientists – including Nobel laureates and a Fields Medal winner – to sit back and listen to stories that essentially took a flamethrower to their life’s work. It’s like Sachin Tendulkar being told by a baseball player that his stance had been wrong all these years and also once an ancient Indian batsman hit the moon for a six.

I bet they feel smarter now and cannot wait for next year’s Science Congress. If I were them, I’d make travel arrangements right now. Where can I book a one-way ticket to 5000 B.C?

(Note: This is my HT column dated 11th Jan 2015.)

I Predict That You Will Read This Title

I hereby announce that I am incredibly proud to be an Indian. Like a Bombay gutter in the monsoon, my pores are overflowing with desi ghee as I type this with my long, straight fingers that coincidentally look like an ‘I’, which stands for ‘India: The Birthplace of the Universe And All Good Things In It, Except Biryani Which Is Invader Food’. I’m just seconds away from spraying on my signature scent – Eau De Chicken Tikka Masala – and being chased down the street by nubile Indian belles who want to tie me a rakhi because culture is best bro.

I wasn’t always like this, but I’ve seen the light thanks to right-wing visionaries whom I didn’t even vote for. I guess that’s the beauty of democracy. Even if I voted against them, I can reap the benefits of being ruled by people like former Uttarakhand CM and BJP MP, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who claimed in the Lok Sabha this week that an Indian sage had conducted nuclear tests in the 2nd century BC. He also said that astrology was the topmost science, and that regular science – y’know, with all its stupid experiments and proofs and logic – was a pygmy compared to astrology.

See, that’s the kind of glory that causes my chakras to swell up with joy. Gone are the days when India was only known for giving white people hernias with the Kama Sutra. The world will now worship us as the people who made the first nukes – even before the atom had been discovered – and they will bow before our might. Or they would, if we could locate those old nuke designs. I don’t know what happened to them. Maybe they were stolen by ancient terrorists who, as we all know, were invented by Pakistan.

Nishank was also of the opinion that there must be a proper discussion on astrology in the Lok Sabha, which makes sense because most of our politicians were alive when the planets were formed. Now a lot of you might dismiss astrology as a frivolous, non-science, but it is much more than that. It’s also hugely profitable. It provides employment to hundreds of thousands of wastrels across the country, way more than any silly IIT.

Astrology saves people from the rigours of having to go out and earn an honest living. People may refer to astrologers as hacks, often comparing them to other charlatans like aura-readers or investment bankers. But astrology takes serious skill. You have to train really hard to keep a straight face and not say “LOL dumbass” while accepting a client’s money.

In case you’re still sceptical, let me show you how my predictions this week changed my life. My zodiac sign is Aries, as is Robert Downey Jr.’s, so yeah, I’m basically Iron Man. Here are actual predictions India’s top astrologers made about me today:

“You will desire absolute freedom in whatever you do today.

Holy pigballs! How did they know?! Yes, this is true. I desire absolute freedom in what I do today, but only today. On every other day, I want to be bound, gagged and slapped around like Rajpal Yadav in a Priyadarshan movie. Also, the genius of this prediction is that it applied to most Indians before 1947, and also to every teenager ever. And speaking of teenagers…

“A lot of entertainment is on the cards for teenagers, like window shopping or going for a movie.”

If by “window shopping or going for a movie” you meant “taking pictures of their junk”, then yes, this prediction works too.

“You shall be eager to complete all your assignments well in time.”

(NOTE FROM ASHISH’S EDITOR: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Seriously, screw this guy. He’s like the Air India of freelance writers.)

“Those in strained relationships shall be able to find a solution, but for that to work you shall have to keep a cool head.”

Now I’m glad I got this information. It’s something I would never have figured out otherwise. But I wish I’d read it sooner, because now there’s a rapidly-spreading blood stain on my carpet and I don’t know what to do. Dammit. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I were a godman.

Once again, I’d like to thank all those who, with their informed decisions, made this current state of affairs possible. And if you’re still sitting on the fence then get down because that sounds painful, and join me in drinking the Kool-Aid. Or as it was called in India, som ras.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 7th Dec 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.)