Tag Archives: Religion

Welcome To The Greatest City On Earth. Conditions Apply.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 31st May 2015.)

Earlier this week, a Muslim woman named Misbah Quadri alleged that she was forced to vacate her rented apartment in Wadala, Mumbai, because of her faith. This story came as a shock to exactly zero people, because if you’ve spent more than ten minutes in India, you know that bigotry and hypocrisy are our finest talents, second only to telling people that they’ve put on weight yaar.

But then came the twist: it was reported that the building she was evicted from houses other Muslim residents who’ve never faced such problems, and that she was evicted after a spat with her broker that had nothing to do with religion. If that’s true, then congratulations to Misbah for arming people with one more reason to turn down minority tenants.

This contradiction gave a bunch of people the chance to crow ‘SEE SHE’S LYING SHE’S A PAID COMMUNAL AGENT THERE IS NO BIAS BOOYEAH!’. That’s like saying that ‘I know a woman who filed a false dowry claim so
‘Honda City ke saath ek biwi free’ doesn’t happen.’

It’s not just religious grounds – the housing market is a basically a buffet of bias. You can pick the ideal tenant qualities like you’re designing an avatar in a video game. When you unlock the highest level, you get an upper-caste married MNC-employed couple with kids who cracked the JEE while still in the womb.

Of course, bias isn’t the exclusive domain of the majority. Like young women four drinks down at a party, it goes both ways. And you can see why. It’s because equality is terrifying.

I mean what if some heathen starts cooking meat in the privacy of his home, with complete disregard for the noses of people who live two floors up? What if someone starts drinking alcohol in his own house, not caring about some medieval definition of sin as imposed by the followers of Magic Sky People? What if kids see young men and women freely visiting each other and conclude that this is normal and does not mean that a brothel is being run on the premises? Does it not shake you to the core when you realise that people outside the radius of your tiny brain give zero shits about your prejudice?

What is amazing is that these are the same people who, when they’re abroad, will whine about how white people call them Apu-loving towel-heads. This is how Indians sound like when they’re abroad:

Guy 1: That guy just called me a darkie. White people are so racist!

Guy 2: Bhai, Indians are best. We treat visitors like god only!

And this is what they sound like when they see a black guy in India:

Guy 1: Aye Negro, how much for cocaine.

Black Guy: Dude, I’m Chris Gayle.

Guy 2: I loved you as Nick Fury!

If I ever own property – which will happen once I figure out how to monetize oversleeping – I too will have a set of rules and questions for prospective tenants. It’ll look something like this:

Do you watch Game of Thrones? Do you read Game of Thrones? Can you STFU about spoilers? Okay, we’re cool.

Are you gay? Are you straight? Are you turned on by Shrek soft toys? When is Ranbir marrying Katrina? None of this is my business, so carry right on.

Do you drink? Do you get drunk and quote cheesy Bollywood lines? Can you sing Hai Huku Hai Huku Hai Hai, and wake up the next day with not an ounce of shame? If so, welcome to the party.

Are you a pain at the dinner table? Will you put on a hazmat suit if the guy next to you orders meat? Or conversely, will you make stupid ghaas-phoos jokes if there’s a vegetarian at the table? Either way, I hope you catch a disease that requires you to only eat karela for the rest of your life.

Tina Fey or Amy Poehler? (There is no wrong answer here. Unless you say Comedy Circus, in which case you can go live in Archana Puran Singh’s mouth. It’s bigger than most Mumbai apartments anyway.)

There you have it. That was pretty simple. Now if only somebody could just gift me some property, that would be great. It’s an open offer to anyone reading this. Bigots needn’t apply.

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Waiter, There’s A Question In My Soup!

I watched PK recently, and it has to be the finest performance yet by Aamir Khan’s ears. A satire on organised religion, PK raises the all-important question i.e. how long before theatres are attacked? As it turns out, not very long. In India, you could die waiting for water or electricity, but dammit, we have the best Dial-A-Mob service money can buy.

The only thing offensive about PK was that the popcorn cost me 300 bucks. But try explaining that to the gentlemen who vandalised theatres left, right and centre, apart from filing cases claiming that the film promotes enmity and hate speech.

It’s weird that people can take offense to Raju Hirani, who’s probably the sweetest, most inoffensive director around. He could take the darkest story and turn it into the cinematic equivalent of hot chocolate.

If Hirani had made Black Friday, it’d end in Munnabhai telling the terrorist – who’d be Parikshit Sahni’s wayward son – “Aye mamu yeh gun chhod na – ghoda chalaane ka hai toh race course pe jaa.” Then Munna would give the terrorist a warm jaadu ki jhappi. (Okay, so some part of that story may have actually happened.)

This is not to say that I don’t have faith. I’m deeply religious. I fast regularly, mostly between bedtime and breakfast. I try and humbly follow whatever is prescribed in the greatest Indian manuscript of all time, the Kama Sutra. I have travelled far and wide to attain enlightenment, and I have found god. He lives at the bottom of a chillum.

What I’ve really enjoyed about my religion is that for the longest time, my reaction to the morning news was not, “Oh FFS, stop doing that in my name. Now people will think I’m also crazy.” Nope, that was a problem for people from the religion known as Naam Leke Marna Hai Kya, But You Know Which One I’m Talking About.

But of late, that luxury seems to be slipping away. It’s also tedious to hear and refute the same ol’ arguments that nuts throw at you, but it must be done, so here we go:

That film/book/song/falooda hurt my religious sentiments

So? You might as well take to the streets to announce “Anarkali ka phone thha, ice-cream khaana bahut zaroori hai” because that’s how much sense it makes. If you don’t like something, don’t watch it. It’s like me hating karela, yet going to a buffet where everything is karela and then attacking vegetable vendors because I did not like the karela.

Who are you to say that god doesnt exist?

Personally, I have no clue if god exists or not. But I admire your confidence. You’d be hard-pressed to explain how a fridge or an engine works, but you know exactly how the universe works. You should go tell that Hawking fellow to chill and stop thinking so much – your book has all the answers.

Why dont you make fun of That Religion Which You Refuse To Name In This Column?

We do, but your bias prevents you from noticing it. But I agree that we tip-toe around it more than we tip-toe around other religions. Because we’re too afraid, too broke to afford bodyguards, and too irrelevant to be granted asylum in countries that do not kill you for having an opinion. But is that what you want to become? If you say you’re better, then prove it by not turning me into sheesh kabab every time I make a joke.

How dare you question something so personal?

This was a question raised in PK too. If so-called silly rituals and and faith offer someone hope, then who are we to question it? Fair enough, as long as it stays personal. If it spills out on the streets and holds us up, we get to question it. If it breeds ignorance and superstition, we get to question it. If it leads to violence, we get to stand atop a flaming pile of your storybooks and proclaim that your beliefs need to change. Even Whatsapp gets an upgrade every few months. Surely religion could do with one. But we won’t do it, because burning books is your thing and we wouldn’t want to steal your thunder.

See, there’s a reason PK had to be an alien. Because we’re not allowed to question the planet we live on. If that thought offends you, well, pray that people like me see the light. That always works.

Keep Calm And Ban Everything

Once again, India was witness to a colossal whirlwind of stupidity that began sometime last week and is expected to end by the year ‘Haha Are You Kidding Me?’. India and Pakistan stopped sparring over Kashmir for a while and chose to divert attention towards something far more important – the well-being of Shahrukh Khan.

The farce began after an essay written by Khan gained circulation, and left people shocked by the fact that Bollywood actors could actually string together sentences that weren’t typd lyk dis gng 2 gym lolgodbleess mwah. In the essay, Khan talked about how he often became the target of political machinations because of factors like status and religion. You know which religion I’m talking about. Yes, the one that people tip-toe around a lot. Scientology.

Khan’s essay caught the attention of Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik, who took time off from his busy schedule of denying 26/11 and asked the Indian government to provide SRK with security. It’s wonderful when two of the world’s most watched nuclear rivals set aside piddling matters like poverty, corruption and domestic strife, and choose to talk about a guy who peddles fairness creams. And because that wasn’t enough, Hafiz Saeed, 26/11 mastermind and Ugly-In-Chief of the JuD, said that Shahrukh was free to come to Pakistan if he felt unsafe in India. Now that’s just daft. The only Indian who can be safe in Pakistan is Dawood.

Then of course, every idiot with an internet connection had to weigh in, and this is what the comments section under every article looked like:

ProudIndian: (8 minutes ago)

SRGAYYYYY! Dey r all tarorist! Go bck 2 homeland u asterisk-loving asterisk-asteriscker!

SweetAnjaliTinaSimran4u: (3 minutes ago)

SRK da bessttt! ❤ u alwayz! leave gori, marry me!

JessicaMcBusty138179 (1 minute ago)

I was very moved by your article. I have shared a few thoughts on the same on my blog. Do have a look. I’m waiting for you on http://www.getgianterectionsandimeangiantlikeKingKong.com

If that doesn’t make you break down at the state of the gene pool, just consider the week Kamal Haasan has had. His six trillion dollar magnum opus, Vishwaroopam, was banned for hurting the sentiments of people who hadn’t seen it.

(The film, set in New York, is classic Kamal fare. It’s about Vishwanath aka Wiz, played by Kamal Haasan, who battles a jehadi, played by Rahul Bose, also played by Kamal Haasan. Haasan also plays his wife, the cops, the FBI, the bomb and the Empire State Building. In fact, this isn’t a computer – this is Kamal Haasan playing a computer. If you don’t believe me, rub the bottom of the screen gently. Go on. I dare you.)

The contention was that Vishwaroopam showed members from a certain religion (Shintoism) in a bad light. There were protests in Chennai, causing average commute times to soar to 4 hours instead of the usual 3 hours 55 minutes. Also, I’m always intrigued by the logic that goes into these protests:

Leader: This film/book/TV show/comic/web clip/text on shampoo bottle portrays our community as a bunch of violent fanatics. What should we do to counter this?

Follower: We could just ignore it and work on real issues –

Leader: WHAT ARE YOU SOME SORT OF PUSSY! LET’S SHOW THEM THAT WE’RE NOT NUTS BY ACTING NUTS!

At the time of writing, the protests had been withdrawn after the government and protestors sat down with Haasan and forced him to sweetly asked him to delete certain ‘offensive’ scenes. It’s nice to see our secular government ensure that no matter what group you belong to, you will be personally met and mollycoddled by our leaders as long as your cause is crazy enough. But fickle causes like justice for a gangrape victim – remember her? – or anti-sexual harassment reforms are matters that merit the attention of only inanimate objects, like water cannons, or Sushil Kumar Shinde.

Even though my name suggests otherwise, I am part of a minority. I’m part of a group that bases its opinions on something other than the honour of Magic People In The Sky, and then broadcasts those opinions into a world filled with petty agendas backed by powerful maniacs. I’m part of a group that will one day share jail space with murderers and rapists, because someone somewhere didn’t like the sound of our thoughts. So if this column offends you, I urge you to try and understand us, and join hands in espousing the one cause that we all believe in, regardless of faith, i.e. Hafiz Saeed should really take a bath.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 3rd Feb 2013. Cross-posted from here.)