Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hello, hello

Four years, 12,000 miles, a master's degree and a couple of heartbreaks later, I am back. I don't even know where to start. All I know is that I've missed writing a lot. My current job involves less writing and more programming, which is good in a way. But I miss writing for fun. I used to let off steam here and write something that sometimes made people laugh. That felt nice. So I am going to try and do it again. Staring with my next post. This one is just a recap.

  • I moved to the U.S in 2015. It's been a wild ride but an incredible learning experience. Professionally and personally.
  • I will turn 30 in Boston. Oh, I am moving there. I will be celebrating with a close friend.
  • I saw Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Chappelle and The New Pornographers live. 
  • I went to San Francisco, NYC, Boston, Nashville, Atlanta, D.C., Chicago, New Orleans, Austin, and Milwaukee. Basically I travelled a lot in these two years. Fun times.
  • I managed to reconnect with old friends. Friends from high school and college are probably the only ones worth keeping. And some rare gems you meet in grad school. AS, that's you.
  • I learnt, the hard way, that you can be the best person in every way and still fall short. For some, it's just not enough. For others, it's too much. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • I also listen a lot more now. It's something we should all do. Especially men. We've been talking for way too long.
That's all for now. I will write soon. Promise.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Home Alone: Episode 1 - Mums are magicians, Dads supermen

Trying my best not to make the house look like this
For the past couple of years, I have been in a strange position, home-wise. My parents generally stay in another city, since my father is on a project site, leaving me alone at home. Ideally, in a city like Mumbai, people would kill to have a fully-furnished house of their own, without having to pay any rent. But when it's your parents' house, it's a double-edged sword. You can't mess around in the house. 

If you've ever been a hostel-dweller, you know a lot of handy tips and tricks to make life easier for yourself - flip the bedsheet over and use it for at least another month, sweep the dust under the bed, ignore everything else till it bothers you or intrudes into your life.

But do that in your parents' house and you're done for. Mothers, I think, have a dust sensor in their noses. My mum can actually walk into my room and tell me how long it has been since I changed the bedsheet (usually in months). 

One glance at the ceiling fans and she tells me it's time to clean them (a concept that was alien to me). She knows I am not the only one living in the house - there are spiders giving me company, with their little webs in the corners of every room. Apparently, it's my duty now, to evacuate them out of their dwellings ('Just because we're not here, doesn't mean you live like you're in a hostel').

In short - I am in-charge of the house that my father built with his sweat and blood. No pressure, of course. To be fair, I do try to be as responsible as possible, but things do get out of hand. 

I once got up in the morning and happily read the 3 newspapers front to back, analysing every article I could. Then I walked into the kitchen, and remembered that I had kept the milk on the stove to boil. It had charred to a rich, black colour. In advertising terms, it was a perfect RGB (0, 0, 0). You could actually use the flakes as carbon paper. That was how black it had turned. 

I've left out a fresh packet  of bread on the table, only to throw it away 2 days later, because
Saving single men,
since time immemorial
the humid Mumbai climate caused a growth of fungus on it ('You should've kept it in the fridge', mom said). 
My father's old flip flops caught fungus due to the same reason. 

Bananas have gone black on me. I once almost ate a worm along with a pomegranate ('You ALWAYS check pomegranates for worms'). Nowadays, I follow a simple rule. Keep everything in the fridge. Even the chapati.

That's when you actually realise how much mums do. Remember getting angry at your mom because you didn't get breakfast on time, because she was preparing lunch for your father and making tea for grandma, while forgetting herself completely? Or maybe you remember the time you came home, tired from work, and a cup of tea or a cool glass of water was placed before you.

Bills were taken care of, and grocery was bought on time, without fail. Lift a month's worth of grocery and vegetables and you won't feel the need to go to the gym. Most of us have gone to sleep after dinner, never even thinking of the mess we leave behind on the table. 

It takes a lot of patience to clear the table, clean up everything, fill the water bottles, and then go to sleep. Only to remember that you forgot to keep the food inside. You've got to do that, otherwise it will rot and you'll wake up to a stinking hall. I've done that too.

Not that dads do any less. My gas cylinder started leaking (the regulator wouldn't stay put), and I had to call up my dad, who told me something about a ring in the valve. Somehow, he managed to fix it 'telephonically'.

One fine day, the pipe for the assjet (the little shower to clean your ass) decided to come off and the whole bathroom started filling with water. I panicked and called dad. He calmly told me to stop shouting, open the bathroom window, turn a knob outside the window and turn off the water supply to the bathroom. He would take care of the rest with the plumber.

I've learnt a lot, staying alone in my parents' house. If I had stayed in a rented apartment, I probably wouldn't have bothered much. It would just have been like hostel life - only a few notches better in terms of quality of life. 

But, this was the very house for which I saw my father toil away alone in a far-flung town in godforsaken Nigeria for three years. He narrowly escaped being robbed and murdered twice. It's the same house, for which my mum decided to toss her wishlist away in a remote corner of her mind, only so that the EMIs could be paid. One would be an ungrateful wretch not to make every effort to take care of such a house. 

Which reminds me, I forgot to clean up. 

On the next episode of Home Alone: I have some serious animal trouble, and a lot of running around to do.

Monday, August 12, 2013

BREAKING: Real life version of a Bollywood south Indian discovered

In what is seen as a landmark piece of discovery, a man who dresses and behaves exactly like south Indians portrayed in Bollywood films has been found in a remote village called Illapuram, which is situated in one of the four south Indian states. The writer is not quite sure which one.

Dressed in a dark-coloured vest and a lungi with checks on it, the man welcomed the writer of this piece with a coconut in his hand. “Drink this, everyone knows we love coconuts.”

The man’s name is Muthuswamy Iyer and like most south Indians in Bollywood films, he 
says ‘Ayyo rama’ in almost every sentence. “I am a Madrasi, and a proud one,” he says to your writer.

Short in stature and slightly rotund, Iyer is a PhD in mathematics. Despite his obvious 
intelligence, he is shy and socially awkward. So how does he get the attention of the ladies? “I generally don’t go out partying. I prefer staying at home and reading books,” confesses Iyer. “I speak to a girl only when she comes to me asking for help. After that, she goes back to her boyfriend who is being mean to her. I can’t really have a hot girlfriend.” reveals Iyer.

As expected, Iyer enjoys curd rice and any delicacy that involves curd. He says he cannot curd curb his urge to mix curd with every possible dish he comes across. “My favourite is 
noodles and curd. I just love it."

So how was Muthuswamy discovered? “I was getting ready for work and wearing my lungi.  Suddenly, I saw the trailer of Chennai Express on TV. I was shocked, and my lungi fell down! 

When asked about why exactly he was shocked, Iyer exclaimed, “It was like my life was on 
screen. Those clothes, those words, those actions! Yenna rascala, I behave the exact same 

On being contacted, the director of Chennai Express, Rohit Shetty said, “I am glad someone is finally appreciating what I am doing. It is not true that Bollywood uses stereotypes in films and this man is living proof of this fact.” Shetty further added that all his films were inspired by real life and as he was speaking these very words, behind Shetty, the writer spotted two Mahindra Scorpios flying in the air and crashing into each other.

Muthuswamy Iyer is now ready to make his big move to Bollywood. “Various directors have 
contacted me for roles in their upcoming projects. My USP is that I don't have to get into character. I am the character,” he says confidently.

Muthu also plans to write lyrics and dialogues. “You don’t need much writing skills. I just have to use random words like ‘Ille’, Po and other simple words.” A well known producer quipped happily, “Here’s a refreshing change. We won’t have to invest in script writers anymore. Anyway, we don’t really have scripts in Bollywood per se, but now we don’t need 
one at all. We can just put Muthuji on screen and he will do the rest.”

The producer also revealed, after much coaxing, that a similar search has been put into action to find real life versions of all supporting funny characters from films – a man from the North Eastern part of India, who is preferably a waiter, a Nepali watchman, an old Parsi grandfather, and a loud, brash Punjabi who says ‘Oye’ in every sentence. “We will find them,” he says.

Muthu signs off happily “Bollywood, I am coming. Mind it!” All the best, Muthuswamy Iyer.

Image source: Wikipedia

Article source: Every damn Hindi film that stereotypes south Indians

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hairy Tales

I recently, at my own expense, learnt that it pays to look good. So I thought I should do something about it. As most of you might now, I have the genetic gift of hair. It grows at a rapid pace albeit in a haphazard, aimless sort of way. Just like Rahul Gandhi's political career. 

So, I walked into a salon which I shall refrain from naming (its name begins with the letter 'e' and the second part of its name also describes someone with a lot of money). Now, for someone who has never paid more than fifty rupees for a haircut, such places can be quite intimidating.

First impression of the place - all the barbers 'hair stylists' themselves had a variety of hairdos. My friendly neighbourhood barber Yadavji had hair. That's it. Here, everyone had pointed, spiky hair. So sharp and pointed one could cut some strands, make a spikestrip out of them which the police could lay down on the roads to stop criminals and speeding cars.

Confused, I walked up to the counter and said, "I need a haircut." Looking at the lady's expression, it was quite a stupid thing to say. I doubt they had people walk up to them asking for the latest iPhone (nobody does that, it sucks). 

I was given a printed slip and shown to my seat. I looked around; the place was filled with Punjabi women. I felt like I was in a Dibakar Banerjee film. How did I know they were Punjabi? Well they had big...bags, purses, clutches etc. Of makeup. What did you think, you dirty person?

And in this salon frequented by Punjabi women, the women were extremely demanding (Get me a magazine, I want cold water, chicken tandoori kahaan hai bh******)! Amidst all the pandemonium, a thin man (spike number 4 on the spikestrip) walked up to me. He ran his hands through my hair and said, "Sir, we will have to wash your hair first." I thought, 'Wow, they've got nice service. No wonder people come here so often.' 

He took me to a reclining seat and asked me to lean back so that my head went into a washbasin. This was the first time the back of my head was able to appreciate the ceramic masterpiece that was the basin. 

I felt like I was in a shampoo commercial. The tap was put on, and the temperature was just right - warm and heavenly. Shampoo was applied on the hair, a smooth lather was worked up and the ablutions began. Ah, this was the good life. 

Five minutes later, I was asked to get up and go back to my allotted chair. I walked with a swagger Cleopatra would've been proud of and asked, "Will this cost extra?"

Yes. A whopping 150 rupees more for essentially a palm's worth of liquid. This just wouldn't do. I interrogated, "What shampoo did you use?" A random French sounding name was uttered. Damn, if I'd known, I'd have shampooed my hair and come to the salon. But that's not the south Indian way to do things. Once you take a bath, your day has begun. It is a cardinal sin to take a bath and then go to the barbershop. And you don't just shampoo your hair in the basin. No sir!

Spike no 4 began cutting my hair. I asked him in jest, "First you apply a ludicrously expensive shampoo. Then you cut my hair. I think it should be the other way round." Number 4 smiled at me and continued on. Joke wasn't funny enough. Half an hour later, I got up. It was amazing; I was rendered speechless. The salon hadn't made even an inch of a difference to my hair. It still looked as if Yadavji had cut it.

I was swiftly handed the bill, along with a visiting card and some toffees. Damages? 450 rupees (300 for the haircut, 150 for the French shampoo). I dug deep into my pockets and found that I didn't have enough money. So I handed them a credit card. For a haircut. This was new.

I went home and showed my mother the credit card bill. She had a good laugh. Well, at least something good came of it. Yadavji, I'm coming back.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Life's a bitch. Oh yeah, Superman quit.

Just when you think everything's dandy, when you think you've got it all under control, she puts her foot down and says, "No." 

Life, she makes you walk on a tightrope. You're afraid, you hold on to dear life. But after a while, you like the excitement. You walk smiling at your feat, one foot following the other. It's fun, isn't it? Haha. 

Just you wait till she tugs at the rope a little. How do you like it now? Uneasy? This is just the beginning. Wait till she playfully skips it. If you insist on a struggle, she'll coolly cut the rope off. Game, set and match. Next please. 

Sorry for the rant. Yeah, I got published in Mid Day. Here's the article:

The biggest secret in journalism has been leaked. Superman aka Clark Kent will quit his job as a reporter at The Daily Planet and turn to blogging a la Huffington Post and Drudge Report.
My first thought when I read this was: Appraisal achcha nahi hua. But Superman is not as myopic as the rest of us. This is a man who has dedicated his life to journalism with his fearless reporting about, erm, himself. He surely has a vision in place.
It must’ve begun with the disguise. With glasses, he’s Clark Kent and without them, he’s Superman. Since 1938, the citizens of Metropolis have been playing along to this spectacular (pun intended) charade. Finally, he realised the utterly stupidity of this act and by turning blogger, this practice becomes obsolete.
Also, he changes into his Superman uniform in a phone booth. Phone booth. Ha ha. Everyone has iPhones now and iPhone users don’t have phone booths. They have an invisible force field around themselves which only Apple users can penetrate. Then, they all have an iParty.
The advent of digital media has greatly affected print media. I’m sure there must’ve been an incident where Clark Kent showed his article to his neighbours. And the neighbour’s kids laughed their stomachs off and said, "Dude, that’s old news. I saw this on Twitter yesterday. The Youtube video already has a million hits. It’ll overtake Gangnam soon. Here’s your walking stick, Grandpa.” With a blog, he can file fresh reports which he can share on his Facebook page and get a couple of likes. This will of course be overshadowed when Lois Lane posts a picture of herself in an LBD.
On the positive side, Superman can now afford to be lazy, because nobody reads beyond the headline on the Internet. There’s no need to work hard on original material. Ctrl C, Ctrl V. Also known as the Arif Zakaria Principle. It’s the era of being cool. Our man wears red underwear over a blue suit. He needs to do something cool. Blogs can be read on iPads which automatically makes them cool.
It’s also cool to quit a job you hate. What vicious villains and masterminds couldn’t do, the corporate world accomplished. Defeat Superman. With an arsenal full of timesheets, investment declaration forms and IT policies, even the Man of Steel had to buckle. And the ultimate weapon — meetings. I’m sure there were meetings where a major chunk of time was spent in deciding how many teas and coffees to order from the canteen while Clark sat quietly in the corner, resisting the urge to melt the whole building down.
They say people quit bosses, not jobs. Superman’s bosses must’ve constantly shot down his ideas for path-breaking exposes in favour of a Kim Kardashian piece, because apparently that’s what the readers want. No more will his work be criticised by power-hungry old men who have no idea of the modern world. Superman will now be read by trolls who read only because their porn is buffering. It’ll be a whole new experience for him. So, best of luck Clark. Just remember, Justin Bieber sucks.
This article was originally published in Sunday Mid-Day on 4 Nov, 2012. The online version is here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Supermen of Malegaon

What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name 'Malegaon'? If it's terrorism, then you're not alone. The town, that is home to several power looms, has been in the news for bomb blasts. 

But what is not known is its unique film industry. It's home to a local film industry that produces parody versions of popular films and the populace loves these films. I recently watched a documentary on this 'industry' so to say. Without batting an eyelid, I can say that it is one of the best things I've watched in recent times. Very few films can make you smile with every dialogue and yet, leave you with a dull pain as an afterthought. This is one of them.

This is a film for people who have been wanting to do something in their lives, but have been unable to do so for whatever reasons. It's a messenger of hope, one that perishes after its job has been done. A bit like Jatayu from Ramayana. 

If this doesn't get you off your lazy arse and make you want to go out and grab life by its balls, nothing will. 

 The entire film is on Youtube. Watch it now. And share.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

kvlt Bollywood Songs

Bollywood has always been our source for music. There are many shows that tell you about the latest releases and what's currently hot and popular in Bollywood music, like Janmashtami, Ganeshotsav, Navratri etc. But what of the unsung heroes (pun intended)? What about the songs that never caught the fancy of the public because they were on an altogether different plane of understanding? As a writer (that's what I tell myself), I place a lot of value in words. And we've produced some magnificent poetry, especially in the 80s.

Presenting some truly wonderful pieces. These are some of the songs that I think should be heard, purely for their lyrical value. 

Angoor Ka Daana (Film: Sanam Bewafa)

This fruity little song is a humble request to hubby dear (or boyfriend) not to try anything, erm, strange. Notice the fine use of metaphors. Even William chacha from Stratford-upon-Avon would have been proud. 

Angoor ka daana hoon, sui na chubha dena
sui jo chubhayi to, ras tapakega
jo ras tapakega to kis mis, kis mis kis mis
kis mis ban jaaungi, angoor ka daana
angoor ka daana hoon

Batata Vada (Film: Hifazat)

The song is a testimony to the lover's pain. Love is such sweet sorrow, that to get over the melancholy, he eats batata vada instead of drinking himself to death like a Bengali. 

Batata vada ho batata vada,
pyar nahi karna tha, karna pada

Telephone Dhun (Film: Hindustani)

Kamal Hassan is completely befuddled as to what Manisha Koirala really is. Is she an Australian fish he can devour? Or is she a tabla he can play like Zakirsaab. The wily minx is a shape shifter, it seems. And she can sing in a telephonic voice? I think Kamal Hassan called a phone-sex line by mistake. Notice the line after 'Brahma ne rachaya kya.'

Telephone dhun mein hasne wali, Melbourne macchli machalne wali, 
Digital mein sur hai tarasha, Madonna hai ya Natasha,
Zakir Hussain tabla tu hai kya?
Sona Sona Tera chamke roop salona, Cellular phone tum toh hona. Computer ko lekar, Brahma ne rachaya kya?...
Teri galiyon mein koyi mard na chhoduunga aurat bhi na chhoduunga...

Ooi Amma (Film: Mawaali)

The age-old question (How do I look in this?). Asked by Jaya Prada, answered in stellar fashion by Jeetendra. Which other country can boast of a Member of Parliament whose resume has something like this? 

Also, very similar to Ooh La La from The Dirty Picture. 

Ooi amma ooi amma mushkil ye kya ho gayi
mere badan mein toofaan utha to saadi hava ho gayi
ooi amma ooi amma mushkil... 

Mama Miya Pom Pom (Film: Justice Chaudhary)

Another metaphorical masterpiece. Love is being compared to a car and there is a request to increase the speed so that the limit can be tested. 

Pom pom, hey mama miya mama miya
pyar ki gaadi tez chalaon, accelerator aur dabaaon
prem gali mein mode bahut hain, dekho dil ke tod bahut hain
rasta mudd jaane wala hain, main road aane wala hain
stop, love, love (mama miya pom pom - 2)

Gutur Gutur (Film: Dalaal)

Meet the evil cousin of Kabootar Ja Ja Ja.

Gutur gutur (4) are chadh gaya oopar re
atariya pe lotan kabootar re
gutur gutur… 

You Are My Chicken Fry (Film: Rock Dancer)

Years before Tandoori Nights, Bappi Da's team shattered all norms and entered culinary terrain. 
The song also features samosa, masala dosa, sarson ka saag, makke ki roti, chocolate, cutlet, tandoori, roshogulla, rasmalai 

Also, only a Mithunda film can be called 'Rock Dancer'. *bows* 

You are my chicken fry, you are my fish fry
kabhii naa kehnaa kudiye, bye bye bye

Ranaji Maaf Karna (Film: Karan Arjun)

The song is Mamta Kulkarni’s way of apologising to her Ranaji, because she mistook her brother-in-law for him. The writer uses an interesting Q & A instrument to describe the fiasco. Hark, hark.

Laamba laamba ghoonghat, kaahe ko daala
Kya kaheen kar aayi tu munh kaala re
Kaanon mein batiyaan karti hain sakhiyaan
Raat kiya re tune kaisa ghotaala....
Chhat pe soya tha behnoi, main tanne samajh kar so gayi
Mujhko raana ji maaf karna, galti maare se ho gayi

Gale Mein Laal Tie (Film: Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam)

Bhai ko jab thandi lagti hai, toh woh tie pehente hain. This sentence makes as much sense as his films. Par bhai ne ek baar keh diya, toh keh diya. So you better listen.

Gale mein laal tie, ghar mein ek char pai
Takiya ek hai aur hum do, ek hi hai razaie
Sardi kaisi jaayegi, kaho kaise humein neend aayegi…
Gale mein laal tie ghar mein ek char pai
Takiye ki fiker na kar banunga main khud razaie
Gale se lagaloonga oh tose coffee pila doonga…

Raja Chalo Akele Mein (Film: Rajaji)

Who would've thought of a barn as a romantic getaway? This is Raveena Tandon’s invitation to Govinda to accompany her to the barn, because she has made entertainment arrangements. Acoustics have been taken care of; even the buffaloes have been positioned to let the quality of sound remain at optimum levels. 

Raja chalo akele mein
baj gaya tabla tabele mein… 

Kal Saiyyan Ne Aisi Bowling Ki (Film: Vijaypath)

Cricket, Bollywood. A heady concoction that the entire nation loves. This is a ball-by-ball description of a 'cricket match' between a wife and a husband. Playing sports is a very healthy way to keep fit, right?  Also, check out the cool shades.

Kal saiyyan ne aisi bowling kari ek over bhi main khel paayi nahi
chouthe hi gend mein out huyi, paanchva gend main jhel payi nahi 

Ek Aankh Maarun (Film: Tohfa)

The song describes the power of his wink. Jeetendra is the superhero here who can conquer the world, with a wink of an eye. 

Ek aankh marun toh parda hatt jaaye
dooji aankh marun kaleja kat jaaye
dono aankhein marun toh chhori patt jaaye, chorri pat jaaye

Dilli Ki Sardi (Film: Zameen)

This song is a very informative description of Delhi winters. Who needs the Met department when you have experienced Bollywood hands telling you the weather?

Tadpaaye tarsaaye re, tadpaaye tarsaaye re
Saari raat jagaaye re, pyaar teraa, Dilli ki sardi
Kohraa kohraa chaaye re, ye dil dhadkaa jaaye re
Pyaar teraa, Dilli ki sardi…

These are some songs that I discovered and have heard. This is by no means, an exhaustive list. Please feel free to add yours to the comments.

This originally appeared as a shorter article in JAM (Just Another Magazine) in 2009, which can be found here.