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.)

Please Switch Off Your Cellphones Before Reading

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m very talented at eating bits of burnt tyre masquerading as popcorn. So clearly, I’m a fan of multiplexes, and will go in to watch pretty much every movie that comes in to town, unless it involves the Deols and an orangutan. (I’m sorry. That’s no way to talk about Bobby.)

This is why I don’t get people who download the latest movies and watch them at home, when they can just walk into a nearby theatre and surrender to a giant thundering canvas that will melt their brains with sixteen hours of footage before the actual film. Take, for example, the anti-tobacco ad. You’d destroy more brain cells just watching that ad than if you were to smoke a pack while sucking on every exhaust pipe that passes through Marol.

What gets to you is the element of surprise. You know they’ll play the ad at some point, but as you sit there and the minutes go by, with no sign of the Ominous Judgemental Voice, you think that maybe, just maybe, you missed it. And then BAM! There’s Mukesh the Mouth. You know who I’m talking about: the dead man who’s been turned into a cautionary tale for audiences who – when he appears on screen – develop a sudden fascination for the ceiling, as if they were sitting in the Sistine Chapel. It’s pretty much the worst kind of warm-up you could have before any show. It is the foreplay equivalent of bringing a girl home and introducing her to your pet maggots called Slimy, Curly and Rajesh.

I also like the way they depict tar deposits in lungs, by wringing out Spongebob Squarepants: The Mithi River Edition. Thanks to the ad, I now know that a smoker’s lungs contain more tar than Mumbai roads, which makes sense, because at this point, our roads are just potholes held together with cellotape and apathy.

Then there are the in-film anti-smoking text warnings. It’s ridiculous to have to force in a warning in the middle of a narrative. You’d hate if I started doing tha- WARNING: None of what has been said above should be taken to mean that smoking is cool. It’s not. It’s a stupid, life-threatening habit, like drinking or voting for Mamata.

Moving on, to the next thing that you see before a movie: trailers. The current lot includes ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’, which is the story of Milkha Singh, who looked at Farhan Akhtar and said, “Mad body bro. Did you bench-press all of Juhu?” (I don’t know what happened, but Farhan looks so massively pumped up that they just stripped him of his Tour De France titles. At the other end of the fitness spectrum is ‘Policegiri’, where Sanjay Dutt looks like he ate Ajay Devgn from Singham.)

Then there’s the national anthem, which is an amazing, wonderful, beautiful, soul-stirring reminder of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. (Apparently that law does not apply to the UPA.) I respect the anthem, but I don’t get why I need to have it sung to me just before a movie, by random actors including Shreyas Talpade aka The Poor Man’s Riteish Deshmukh.

The anthem is a reminder of how great our nation is. You know what might make our nation even greater? Not having to send constant reminders of its greatness, especially to people who’re juggling babies and bags and overflowing trays, and can barely stand at attention, thereby defeating the whole purpose of demanding garnering respect. (The only exception to this is the anthem video featuring our soldiers at Siachen, which can make a grown man tear up, probably because he realises that he is an insignificant mass of insect droppings as compared to the men out there. Thankfully, this feeling of inferiority passes after the video ends and people like Neil Nitin Mukesh and Ameesha Patel get on screen to spit at the theory of evolution.)

On the bright side, at least we don’t have to endure the pre-movie marathon in a cramped non-multiplex seat. Sure, single-screen theatres are reminders of simpler times, when seats were often reserved for rat babies and you could pay for stuff in coins that only Zimbabweans will accept now. But I’d happily punch nostalgia in the face for a Gold Class recliner. Lying back on those is therapeutic, almost like smoki- WARNING: RECLINERS ARE INJURIOUS TO HEALTH. HEALTH IS INJURIOUS TO DISEASES. READING THIS IS INJURIOUS TO ILLITERATE PEOPLE. INDIANS ARE INJURIOUS TO INDIA.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 23rd June 2013.)