To Boldly Go Where No Indian Has Gone Before…

Every once in a while, I feel like getting out of my comfort zone and doing something totally wild, like sleeping with the AC at 22 instead of 24, or going into outer space. The latter doesn’t happen too often – just when I read the news. But there are Indians who are more driven and have actually signed up to go to Mars as part of the Mars One project, which aims to establish permanent human settlements on the Red Planet by 2023. Indians are reportedly in high demand for their core technical skills that will be vital in space, such as breeding.

20,747 Indians have signed up for permanent relocation to Mars. Unfortunately, Mulayam Singh is not one of them. (This makes sense. What would he do there? It’s not like Mars has riots that need to be mismanaged.)

The Mars One project, which has received more than 200,000 applications, is a privately funded program that needs six billion dollars for the initial mission, part of which it plans to raise by turning the whole process into a reality show. Wow, I didn’t realise that Roadies had such a huge budget. I can’t wait to watch the first episode, with Raghu going, “SAALE TU MARS PE JAAYEGA B******?? MARS TERE BAAP KA HAI?? I SHIT ASTEROIDS, YOU B*ST**D!”

India ranks second in the number of applications sent, behind 47,654 Americans who want to bring democracy to Mars. China comes in third with 13,176 applicants, all of whom began training when they were foetuses, and are now skilled at constructing Mars stations that are also foldable mp3 players. Pakistanis are not in the top 10 list of nationalities that have applied, because if they wanted to live on a hostile piece of land cut off from humanity, then the joke writes itself. But we’re told that Pakistan will send its own private mission to Mars, once it figures out how to attach rockets to a rubber dinghy.

I’m really curious to see how this pans out. Indians have had a long and fascinating relationship with the science of outer space, because all our gods live there. There’s still a lot of whittling to be done before the first team is decided on, but the Indians have already gotten in on management quota. The trip will be a little different with our people on board. Imagine them all strapped in, as Mission Control does the final countdown sequence:

“10… 9… 8… 7…”

“Aye mission control, I’m bored yaar.”


“Chal na, baithe baithe kya karein, karna hai kuch kaam, shuru karo antakshari, leke space ka naam!”

This is because Indians are genetically incapable of sitting in moving vehicles without breaking into song. This will be followed by the world’s first outer-space game of Rummy, which was invented to teach counting to Punjabi kids. Within five minutes of the launch, one Indian aunty on board would go through the first mission checklist, i.e, “Beta, where are you from? What does your father do? Are you married? Why not? Are you manglik? Here, eat these six dabbas of achaar that I just made while judging you.”

But the first images that the team sends from Mars will be incredible. Just imagine the first humans on Mars, smiling at us, nothing behind them but a red, unexplored landscape emblazoned with the words ‘SUNNY LOVE PINKY’.

I’d also like to see India react to this development. We’re the people that start dancing in the streets when we learn that some senator in the States once had chicken curry and loved it even though he pooped fire for six days. So if some Indian does set foot on Mars, things are going to go a little nuts. The UPA will claim responsibility for his success, because without them, an Indian wouldn’t have to go to Mars to find a job. LK Advani will start talking about space, based on his personal experiences during the Big Bang. Meanwhile, Modi fans will find a way to make this about him, by sharing pictures online:


Normal Person: Dude, those are the rings around Saturn.


At some point, a bill will be passed to rename Mars to Shri Rahul Gandhi Alien Vikas Yojana. And then we’ll learn that Mars is actually owned by some Vadra person. This is the point where I feel like going to Mars. Come along. Bring achaar.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 15th Sep 2013. Cross-posted from here.)

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Joke

I don’t like to brag, unless I’m certain it’ll grab the attention of thousands of people, so this seems like a good place to do it. Earlier this week, I got to do my first ever international stand-up gig. Alright, so it was in Dubai, which is basically Kerala with better-looking people, but it still counts, ok?

The inherent benefit of stand-up is that I get to travel, which is great. It’s the commuting that I can’t stand. People may or may not have fun stories about travelling, but no one ever has a positive story about commuting. You’ll never hear anyone come back from a trip and say, “Oh so I have to tell you about my flight. It was lovely. We got through immigration really quickly, with all officials sporting smiles that had been distilled from the light of a thousand suns. Then it turned out that our head stewardess was Oprah, who told us to look under our seats, where we all found a billion dollars and a puppy.”

Nope, it’s never that. It’s always, “My flight was 22 years late and we survived by gnawing the rexine off the chairs, because the only other option was CCD.”

Once the commute is done with, it’s time to check out the hotel room, only to be reminded of the western world’s hatred for water (which has made its way down to many Indian hotels as well) Because we’re approaching issues related to toilet paper here, and because this is a classy column, let’s refer to the body part in question as Shirish Kunder. The west, for some reason, believes that once you’re done dropping a Joker, it is ok to clean your Shirish with just paper. On a scale of 1 to retarded, this idea is Ramdev.

Let’s assume somebody dropped a giant, steaming pile of Tees Maar Khan on your desk. Would you a) use only paper to wipe it off, or b) also use a powerful stream of water? The correct answer is c) kill the desk with a flamethrower.

Also, you can tell your hotel is fancy when it offers an aromatherapy pillow menu, with options like vanilla, lavender, summer, Nigella Lawson’s armpits and so on. I still haven’t reached that point where I look at the pillow menu and go, “I only want the one infused with herbal tea and the soul of a baby panda. NOT rosemary. That disturbs my chi.”

I hereby state, in print, that if I ever turn into one of those people, please feel free to barge into my room and smother me with that very pillow.

Once you’re bored of the hotel (which is about 7 minutes after check-in), it’s time to meet the locals. Dubai was interesting in that regard, because just before the show, the following, mildly racist exchange took place in the lift:

Rich Arab Guy: Oh you are the Indian comedian performing? We are coming to see you.

Me: Yup. Good to know.

Rich Arab Guy: But why are you here? Shouldn’t you be taking the service elevator? *smirksmirk*

Me: Shouldn’t you be flying a plane into a building somewhere?

OK so I didn’t say that out loud. It is generally considered bad luck to have a fight with an audience member before a show, especially when said member looks like he might be related to some important Sheikh bin Choppin’ Off Limbs. (On a related note, have you noticed how white people are expats, but brown people are just immigrants?)

I didn’t have too much time in Dubai, but I still made sure to soak in the multi-cultural vibe, with a special focus on food, history and the fine arts. Kidding. I went to a mall. It was the size of Punjab. I’m sure Dubai is just bigger on an atomic level. As in, atoms in Dubai are bigger than regular atoms, and come pre-fitted with gold-plated swimming pools and three Mallu attendants named Sijo.

With event season on, I anticipate a whole lot of travelling in the months to come. That means more travelling, more writing, more drunk audience members and more used tissues because being alone in a hotel room suddenly gives you a cold. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except for the commuting. That’s just a pain in the Kunder.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 9th Sep, 2012. Cross-posted from here.)