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.)

Now He’s Crazy, Now He’s Not, Now He’s Crazy…

I’m not saying Arvind Kejriwal is honest, but every time he fights corruption, Akhilesh Yadav’s nose grows an inch.  But wait – six seconds have passed since that previous statement, which means that Kejriwal is now a clueless dharna fetishist who’s just one Che T-shirt away from hawking anarchy. This kind of flip-flop pretty much sums every discussion about the Aam Aadmi Party this week, as they stood accused of everything from racism and sexism to water-boarding old ladies for fun.

People aren’t being able to make up their minds about the AAP, as opposed to their rivals who are instantly described as <insert nasty spitting sound here> (Fun fact: When somebody spits in Modi’s Gujarat, the saliva gets recycled and diverted to the Rann of Kutch for rain dances.)

Here’s a quick rundown of the circus that sullied the AAP’s honeymoon period this week. For best results, imagine it being narrated in Yogendra Yadav’s dulcet tones:

The Delhi law minister, Somnath Batman, swooped down on a drug and prostitution racket in South Delhi, and recovered five kilos of incriminating video evidence against himself. Somnath Bharti was accused of leading a mob that allegedly harassed and assaulted four African women, one of whom later identified him in a court of law. In return, Bharti also identified the woman as being Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Will Smith and Vinod Kambli. (Bharti was last seen at a multiplex showing Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, wherein he tried to handcuff the screen whenever Idris Elba came on.)

Kejriwal then launched a dharna to bring the Delhi police under the ambit of the CM’s office, as opposed to its current boss which is a piece of paper with Gandhiji’s photo on it. The Congress and the BJP took the moral high ground by harping on about proper constitutional process. This was followed by a discourse on feminism by Professor Emeritus Yo Yo Honey Singh.

Kejriwal withdrew the protest after an overnight stay outside Rail Bhavan, which was disappointing, because I quite enjoyed that visual of him wrapped up in a blue-yellow blanket, looking like the world’s most colourful bhuna roll.

Senior AAP member and poet Kumar Vishwas also received major hate for some racist and sexist jokes about Malayali nurses that he’d made at a stand-up show in 2009. The jokes said something to the effect of, “Mallu nurses are so dark and cosmetically challenged that I’m happy to call them ‘sister’.” This is funny because it comes from Kumar Vishwas – a guy who looks like Raju Srivastava took a bath. More than offensive, it’s trite and unoriginal, which is really the worst crime a joke can commit. Vishwas did apologise later, and apparently said that he has nothing against dark women and that he’d totally sleep with them as a goodwill gesture.

Then Chetan Bhagat jumped into the fray, describing the AAP as the item girl of Indian politics, a title previously held by Rahul Baba. Ever since he made that comparison, I can’t help but imagine a bunch of swarthy guys showering Kejriwal with notes, and then he stops them and asks for cheques instead, complete with a PAN number and a proof of income attested by Raghuram Rajan.

Sensing that the level of political discourse was slipping, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde stepped in to describe Kejriwal as a “yeda mukhyamantri”. Yes, we’re calling each other ‘yeda’ now. What is this – a David Dhawan film? What next – referring to the telecom minister as Pappu Pager? Of course, David Dhawan films are way more logical than the Indian political scenario. For example, Haseena Maan Jaayegi makes more sense than a Manish Tiwari speech. (Haseena Maan Jaayegi is also the motto of the ruling party.)

But despite this fiasco of a week, there’s still hope for the AAP. All they have to do is uplift the poor, boost investments, support industry, revive the economy, foster communal harmony, root out corruption, usher in police reforms and most importantly,  get Whatsapp to drop the ‘Last Seen At’ feature. It doesn’t sound difficult at all, so let’s hound them about everything until it’s done. And then we can have a party. Just don’t invite Somnath Bharti.

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Jobless Politician

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you.” – Women.

I have been accused of many things in life, but being sexist isn’t one of them. That’s because the women I know are too busy getting me food and drinks to form an opinion. However, this wasn’t the case with Union Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, who was at the receiving end of much female hatred and anger this week after cracking a joke at a kavi sammelan, whose punchline was that wives are no fun after they get old.

Before I comment on this, I should admit that I know nothing about wives, old or otherwise. My longest relationship lasted only a year, because that’s how long Savita Bhabhi was a free site for.

What made matters worse for Jaiswal was that he delivered his line in Hindi, i.e. “mazaa nahin aata“, which made it sound like he was reviewing a Playstation. (Not that I’m equating women to video game consoles – I’ve never seen a PS3 get fat.)

In response, women politicians (belonging to the Opposition, but I’m sure that’s a total coincidence) charged at Jaiswal in full feminist mode, fangs bared, nostrils flaring and armpit hair swaying in sync to the Braveheart OST. Their war cries were ferocious: “Jaiswal has denigrated the women of India!” “Off with his head!” “I can’t believe that hussy’s wearing the same Fabindia kurta as mine!”

The BJP women’s wing in Kanpur actually went about burning effigies of Jaiswal, because, y’know, they’ve had so much free time ever since they finished emancipating all the oppressed women in U.P. In fact, the number of female protesters would have been much higher, had it not been for that little foeticide habit of ours.

Protesters also carried out the whole deface-the-poster routine, which comes across as a really juvenile form of dissent. It reminds me of school, when we drew moustaches on the faces in our history textbooks and thought it to be the pinnacle of humour. And there would always be that one kid who’d go the extra mile with the drawing, resulting in an unholy scene involving Lady Mountbatten, a horse and a strategically placed rose. (That kid now writes humour columns, in case you were wondering.)

Now, if you remember, we recently had this coal scam thing, worth about 1.86 lakh crores, or an average North Indian dowry. One of the ministers facing the heat in the case was – yup, you guessed it – Savita Bhabhi. OK no, it was Jaiswal, whose entire defence was, “The CAG report is all wrong. Looks like a chick wrote it.” It’s nice how we completely forgot about all that, and chose to focus on a silly joke. And honestly, the BJP has no business calling the Congress anti-women. Like it or not, you have to admit that throughout history, the Congress has left no stone unturned in empowering women named Gandhi.

This isn’t the first time a minister has said something stupid about women. A couple of years ago, Mulayam ‘They Named Me After A Baby’s Bottom’ Singh said that if the Women’s Reservation Bill were passed, a lot of rich women would come in to Parliament – the kind of women that young men would want to whistle at. Much criticism followed, with I&B Minister Ambika Soni calling him a sexist. To which Mulayam blushed and said, “Thank you ji. Waise aaj aap bhi badi sexist lag rahi ho. Wink wink.”

As for the Jaiswal protests, I’d say that the women are overreacting, but that might sound sexist, so I’ll just quote Descartes who once stated, “Item log yedi hai.” Anybody with half a brain cell can tell that these agitations aren’t really about an issue, but about whipping up sentiment and scoring political brownie points, thus proving that when it comes to shirking work, women are just as capable as men. And if that isn’t a slap in the face of sexism, I don’t know what is.

(NOTE: This is my HT column dated 7th Oct, 2012.)