Look Before You Sit

These are troubled times for the nation, seeing as how the most popular choices on our voting machines this May will be LOL and ROFLSCREWED. Sure, there’s something called a Third Front which pops up once every few years, but just seems to be the political equivalent of the Eclairs that tollbooth attendants try to palm off when they run out of real money. Given such dire circumstances, it is only natural that I address the most pressing concern facing the nation today, i.e. there could be a snake lurking in your toilet.

This is a real thing. It happened in the Mulund suburb of Mumbai this week, when a family discovered a 6-foot-long cobra in their toilet and did what any normal human being would do: they gutted all of Mulund with a flamethrower. At this point, let’s observe a minute’s silence for the fact that nothing good has ever been associated with Mulund. The only nice thing about Mulund is that it’s not Vikhroli, but that aside, it’s just another pimple in the general rash that is Central Mumbai. For long, its name has been a source of much amusement for 12-year-old boys, but that may change now, what with builders giving it fancy monikers like Lower Powai, Lateral BKC and Groin of Thane.

Anyway, as it turned out, the cobra had been living in the sewage pipes and occasionally surfaced through the toilet to get some air and transform into Sridevi. It was eventually rescued by a team of people who are trained to go from toilet to toilet and rescue snakes, as if they were the love child of Steve Irwin and Aman ‘Harpic’ Verma. Although anything that can survive in Mumbai sewage doesn’t really need to be rescued. I’m sure the cobra was doing just fine, and had managed to score an Aadhar card, domicile certificate and a “setting” with the local corporator.

This snake-in-a-toilet thing sounds like one of those urban legends that we all heard about while growing up in Mumbai. For example, there was one popular story about a faceless gang that skulked around crowded theatres, quietly pricking people with HIV needles and stamping a message on their arms that said “Welcome to the AIDS Club” (which just sounds like a rejected slogan for South African tourism).

This incident also has to be the cheapest, tackiest remake of the masterpiece that is Snakes On A Plane. I can already see the desi version unfold before my eyes:  Snakes In A Sandaas, starring Nana Patekar, who’s basically the Maharashtrian Samuel L. Jackson, standing there slapping his own head while saying things like “I HAVE HAD IT WITH THESE MOTHERF****** SAANP AADMI KO HIJRA BANA DETA HAI!”

The problem is that this has ruined my relationship with toilets forever. There are things that toilets are great for: snatching a few moments of solitude, waiting for creative inspiration to strike, cussing out the creator of Flappy Bird, being bulimic and so on. Here’s what toilets aren’t great for: surprise prostate exams. That’s what Dadar locals are for.

In more wildlife news, the citizens of Meerut in U.P had a terrible week, probably because they are citizens of Meerut in U.P. Also, a leopard strayed into the city and attacked some men after –  and I quote – “Some of them went close out of curiosity”. Why would these guys see a leopard and then walk in for a closer look? What did they think it was – a woman?

One suburb of Mumbai that has seen its fair share of leopards is – surprise surprise – Mulund. It’s not the leopards’ fault though, because we’ve been encroaching upon their forests for ages. It must be terrible, as a mighty predator, to come home one day and see that your hunting ground has been replaced by MANDAR BUILDER AND DEVLUPPER SPACIOUS 26 SQ.  FT. FLAT FOR 4 CRORES BECAUSE APPARENTLY THESE FLATS ARE MADE OF COCAINE. It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to go away to a nice, quiet place, like my bathroom. But I’m going to need a flamethrower.

Welcome to India, Where We Divide By Zero

The Congress Working Committee accepted the demand for separate statehood for Telangana this week, thus introducing the possibility of one more IPL team that no one will care about. This move has changed the fundamental nature of discourse in Andhra Pradesh, with people finally talking about something other than the soul-fondling awesomeness of Hyderabadi biryani.

Hyderabad will be the joint capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for the next ten years, making it the state’s most awkward love triangle since the time Shoaib Malik allegedly married the appetisers before the main course. After that, the capital will shift to wherever Saina Nehwal goes.

This news led to a renewed demand for other states. One of the first people to react was Shrimati Lord of The Andals Mother of Statues Behen Mayawatiji, who reiterated her demand for Mulayam U.P to be split into four. This is redundant, since U.P has already been split into different parts, all of which have moved to Mumbai. (They are Taxi Pradesh, Chaat Ki Dukaan, Jogeshwari and Amitabh Bachchan.)

The pro-Gorkhaland voices also got stronger, to which Didi responded by calling everyone’s mom a Maoist. Besides, the Gorkhas have already carved out a nice, separate place for themselves. It’s called the Indian Army.

The issue of statehood is complicated because with every new entity comes the burden of adding new regional stereotypes to our current list, which already runs longer than a riot hearing. But we’re up to it. Our previous achievements include branding everyone south of the Vindhyas as math teachers, which is ridiculous, because they’re nurses. Unless they’re men, in which case they’re moustache-farmers. In return, everyone north of the Lungi Dance Line is considered illiterate, a kidnapper, a thief or a buffalo-seducer. And if you combine all that, you get the average government.

Then there’s the half-joke that maybe India would work better as a collection of separate nations, like Europe. (Of course, if you want to feel European in Bombay, just buy drinks at a bar and you’ll automatically start using fancy European phrases like, “I am le sucker.”)

For the record, I’m not in favour of any splitting, because that’s the kind of opinion that draws thinly veiled sexual assault threats from politicians, and I much prefer threats that are fully veiled in accordance with Indian culture. But it is an interesting thought. South Bombay would work as England, because townie guys already look like Manchester United threw up on them. Himachal Pradesh is already Amsterdam, minus all that tulip nonsense. And you just know which state would be Germany. You can even hear the famous WWII slogan: Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Feku.

I don’t get the concept of regional pride. Sure, it makes sense that you would, by default, like the place that you were born in – even cockroaches must think that drains are amazing – but it’s weird to see people act superior based on nothing more than the fact that their ancestors hooked up within certain geo-political borders, their power and glory dependent on how much elaichi they sold to white people.

This is usually accompanied by a declaration of how proud they are to be from the same culture that gave birth to <INSERT NAME OF FAVOURITE WARRIOR/SAINT/JEDI MASTER> That’s just taking credit for someone else’s work. I was born in U.P, as was the legendary wordsmith, Premchand Baba Sehgal. This is true. But you don’t see me using that connection to cuss out other greats like Devang Patel, even though Patel Scope withers in comparison to the cosmic secrets nestled in the hymn, Baja Bana Ke Ban Gaya Raja Manjula.

Also, no one ever wants to acknowledge the mistakes from their community. You never see a Punju guy go, “PROUD TO BE SHERA! But sorry about Honey Singh. He fell into a vat of Rad Label as a baby and had to drink his way out.” If your veins are bursting with Mumbaikar pride, how about you also apologise for Riteish Deshmukh in Grand Masti? And if you’re from Gurgaon, just apologise for existing.

See, that’s the problem with regionalism. You’d spend most of your time just trying to sweep idiots under the carpet. It’d be easier if we just accepted that we’re all messed up, and focussed our energies on a common goal: Thanda Thanda Pani for President.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 4th Aug 2013.)