Thursday, April 3, 2014

Madhu and Narendra’s Excellent Adventure

As the evening dawned on yet another hectic week in New Delhi, the city’s residents were in for a surprise. After the last few days spent getting a small dose of the unbearable summer that we are heading towards, a bout of torrential rain was followed by a small, relief giving hailstorm. Praise the weather lords, spring was finally here! The sweet smell of spring was perhaps most on the minds of the overworked employees of News X. The channel’s staple program of a guy sitting on a plastic chair reading out things from yesterday’s newspaper was being pre-empted for an interview with India’s current Prime Ministerial frontrunner and future eternal President, Narendra Modi. Finally, someone other than their mothers would be watching the channel.

Eternal spring was also blooming in the heart of insane asylum outpatient and the person conducting the News X interview, Madhu Kishwar. Finally, the world would get to see the Narendra Modi she saw. Not the tough but brilliant administrator the world had come to appreciate. But the man behind the man. The kind, gentle soul who wouldn’t even dream of ever hurting a fly. Unless the fly had anti-national thoughts or wore a skull-cap because then HE WOULD LITERALLY ANNIHILATE THAT FLY INTO OBLIVION. NO ONE MESSES WITH INDIA. NOT ON NARENDRA MODI’S WATCH. Through her work, people would get to see what she saw everyday. That the man is pure magic. That he had the ability to turn everything into gold. Especially the fortunes of those of us who worship him. And anyone who didn’t see that was probably a sad victim of a SONIA GANDHI LED CONSPIRACY.

* * *

Last Saturday, as the breathless social media updates from various News X anchors informed us, we were going to witness the greatest television event of the century. For the first time in his capacity as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi would allow someone to ask him anything! Actually, not anything. Just things he likes to talk about! And not someone, but the President of his fan club, Madhu Kishwar. Sure, that seemed suspicious to the layman’s eye. But as Madhu’s twitter feed informed us, this would be Modi at his most candid.

So everyone who managed to find News X on their set top box tuned in. It was right between the channel that told you what shows other channels are broadcasting and the channel that exclusively showed advertisements for anti-acne medicine. And as promised, we learned a lot of things about the greatest thing to happen to this country since the first movie that had songs in it. Not only does he like to use red ink, but he once gave a presentation to Atal Behari Vajpyee. Anyone looking to vote for a person who uses red pens and likes giving powerpoint presentations to powerful people, he’s your guy! 

There were other interesting things we learned about him too. Apparently, Modi was a total Rahul Gandhi when he was deputed by the party to save Gujarat from the imposing weight of the Keshubhai Patel administration. He didn’t even know which side of the file was up! He was so embarrassed that everyone called him ‘Sahib,’ that he still hasn’t told them to stop even though it’s been twelve years.

Now, some cynics will say that calling this farce an interview was like calling Pramod Muthalik a feminist. They will ask why even though there are so many voices present in Madhu Kishwar’s head, none of them showed up to ask Modi a question. They will wonder why a news channel would present such a piece of blatant propaganda as an in-depth interview.

I, for one, was shocked that a person in a news organization fudged the truth to get a lot of people to tune in to their broadcast. And, I’ll have these critics know, that the propaganda wasn’t blatant. If you ask all those who worship Mr. Modi, they will tell you that it was the best interview they have seen on Indian teevee, matched only by the Indira Gandhi video profile presented by Sanjay Gandhi for Doordarshan during the emergency years.

Though I will agree that it wasn’t really an interview. This was the first part in Madhu Kishwar’s 6,999 part seminal, probable Pulitzer prize winning series, All In with Narendra Modi. And for the record, Madhu did ask Dr. Modi a question. She asked him how badly he was hurt when the media unfairly blamed him for a preventable event that happened in his state under his watch in 2002.

We also learned that a lot of muslim groups supported Modi’s first election to the assembly in that same year. It wasn’t mentioned why he would need to specifically highlight their support, but I guess to find out we will have to watch the rest of the series! (Can’t wait for the episode in which Modi tells his kids how he met their mother!) During the post-interview panel discussion with Ms. Kishwar, she specified again that some of Modi’s best supporters are muslim. I know that some people would call this vote-bank politics, but please note that it’s vote bank politics only if Sonia Gandhi does it. Modi simply isn’t into all that shit, okay?

Now, there are some vested interests who accuse Modi of not facing tough questions. That is another lie! Modi faces tough questions everyday from someone who knows him the most: himself. He looks into the mirror every night before going to bed, and asks himself whether he did something to help someone that day. And he goes to bed only if the answer is a resounding yes. And I’ll have you know, he has never had to answer in the negative. Do you think any of his opponents have such a well thought out, fool-proof, unbiased system in place?

I don’t think so.

* * *

Madhu closed the browser window and switched off her 486 desktop computer. She couldn’t handle all the negativity that was being spewed at her on twitter. Why wouldn’t all the paid congress agents leave her alone? She saw a shadow outside the window. She ran quickly to see who it was but they had already made their escape. Maybe it was just the moonlight playing its tricks on her. Maybe Sonia Gandhi had even paid off the moon. That woman was everywhere. If she could make a jumbo 777 jet disappear, what chance did a small, lonely activist have? Should she call the police? No, they don’t take her complaints seriously anymore. They probably have been given instructions from above to ignore her anyway. She checked to see if her gun was still safely resting under her pillow. She tried to calm herself but the worry kept bubbling into her mind. NO! She wasn’t going to give in to the anti-nationals. Not when she was this close to seeing her dreams fulfilled. There was only one thing that would calm her. She took out her phone and dialled his number. He would know what to do.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What Does True Detective Mean to You?

While we wait for the next season of True Detective starring Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden as they spend eight episodes revealing details about the surveillance state, we realized that we needed to do something with our time. So we thought what better way to spend the time waiting for True Detective than to talk about True Detective. So we asked various news organizations, editors of respected publications, noted columnists, popular intellectuals, eminent bollywood personalities and Shobhaa De to tell us what they thought of the eponymous season of the greatest show on television.

We began by asking the dean on Indian columnists, Dr. Jug Suriya, to share his valued opinion with us. We found him living in a large refrigerator carton behind the old Times of India building at the appropriately named Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, muttering inaudible gibberish to himself. He was kind enough to give us a ten page summary of his thoughts about the show. We had to edit out the vivid descriptions of bestiality and a long anti-women rant to be able to publish one coherent paragraph:

One day, as I was sitting on the only throne we peasants are allowed to use, I had a bright idea. Influenced by a popular American television serial, I decided to make a detective show of my own. Called Bee Detective, it would feature the two Bs of my life, Bunny and the ghost of our pet, Brindle. I refer him as a pet, but he was more than that. He was . . . everything. But he died because Bunny couldn’t be bothered to feed him. Having a life threatening sickness is no excuse! Now, I realize that a column in a national newspaper isn’t the best place for passive misogyny and aggressive complaints about your significant other, but since I’ve been doing it for more than three decades, why stop now? Anyway, Bee Detective is a show in which a clever tramp and the ghost of a saintly dog who lived a full life and is still remembered by a certain someone whose heart he broke by dying but came back because the love that dare not speak its name is stronger than the cosmos (suck it Neil deGrasse Tyson), solve various mysteries. Actually, just one mystery. They try to find out what really turned the dog into a ghost. In the season finale it is revealed that the dog was killed because of the harlot’s negligence, and she is arrested and put in jail where she belongs, while the ghost and the tart’s husband walk off into the sunlight, living happily ever after. Check your local listings for time and availability.

Errr, okay then, Jug. Thank you, I think? Moving on!

Now, one couldn’t compile such a list and ignore India’s foremost chronicler of popular culture, Jai Arjun Singh. Since we didn’t have a contact for him or knew where he lived, we just said the name of his favourite movie three times and voila, a few seconds later he appeared outside our office! So we asked him to write us a small note sharing his insights about this gorgeous bite of television:

There are many ways for an artist to deal with the underlying darkness in all our lives. Some creators of art like to beat us in the head with the unseemly underbelly of human nature. Some like to be subtle and use a little humour, like a long scene in which two hapless men drag a dead corpse through the city, being chased by the bad guys, while hijinks ensues. One could even choose the route that True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto has chosen. Slowly revealing a small part of the story. Letting the onion unravel itself. If you’ve read any of his short stories or his novel, they carry the same dark, haunting themes as True Detective. In fact, in a coincidence that some might say feels like something that might happen in an episode of True Detective, the show reminds me of a little known 1980’s hindi movie starring Farooq Sheikh and Amol Palekar. Coincidently, both play detectives in the movie too. Talk about your odd pair! Directed by Vijay Anand, the movie was never released because it was considered too dark for Indian audiences! But I got a chance to see it in 2006 while I was working on a different project. Remind me to tell you the funny story attached to how I got to see the movie! Anyway, in the movie, Shiekh is the married family man forced to partner up with loose canon Palekar. Deepti Naval plays the victim, and her character is killed off in the first scene, a very unusual event for an Indian movie. However, after the supposed interval her twin sister shows up, and there is another strange twist to the end. You should catch the movie before it is lost to the vagaries of time.

Thanks for that, Jai! We can always count on you!

We also asked our good friends at the Caravan to send us something enchanting that would take our breath away! They were gracious enough to oblige, even though they were busy working on their ten thousand word cover story about the gentrification of a small neighbourhood in Kanpur. Since the passage was written in their patented house style, they didn’t feel the need to award anyone the byline for this piece. 

On a cold South Louisiana morning in 1995, Sheriff Tate wasn’t a happy man. He had barely had a wink of sleep last night, thanks to the lovely ladies of the bunny ranch. As any good Christian in Louisiana will tell you, a man who hasn’t had his sleep is waiting to possessed by the devil. The devil. That’s who was on his mind when he reached the scene of the strange event that had been called in earlier. As soon as he reached there, he told his men to back off. This thing, whatever it was, was above his paygrade. He’d need to call in a couple of those fancy boys at the CID.Or a priest at least. Looking at the thing surrounded by those strange objects, he said a prayer. That calmed him a little. Maybe, he thought, he’d even go to church this week.

He regretted calling the big guns in the minute he saw who they had sent. He had a bad feeling about this.

A really bad feeling.

Thanks, guys! Ain’t no party like a Caravan party because no one working at the Caravan ever gets to go home!

How could we ignore popular columnist and Strepsils spokesperson, Swapan Dasgupta? He usually doesn’t speak to small publications like ours, but we sent him a bust of Churchill and he was impressed enough to send us back his notes on True Detective:

These days it’s quite hard to find anything enjoyable to view on the old idiot box. Usually, I just entertain myself by visitng my home library and picking up one of the masters. My favourite is, of course, Dickens. Nothing warms the heart more in the freezing Delhi winter than sipping quality port whilst reading about some strong leaders who were principled enough to refuse greedy orphans extra grub. Stop asking for handouts, tubby. If only Oliver Twist had been able to get his hands on the works of Edmund Burke! He would understand that his creator wrote him into existence so as to subtly hint at the opportunities provided by the free market in Victorian England, and a lesson in how instead of letting government waste all that money in running orphanages, they should just leave these kind of ventures to private philanthropists. Anyway, I digress. What is clear from my limited viewing of True Detective is that neither of the protagonists have been to a college in the league of my alma mater, St. Stephens in Delhi. As I was telling my manservant Gungadin the other day, Mani and I used to solve such mysteries every week while we were in college. Sure, there weren't any murders for us to solve. But we had things just as grisly! I remember we had gone to Shimla once on a college field trip to stay in a sprawling ancient bungalow so that we could see where the wonderful perpetuators of the Raj went to escape from the claustrophobic presence of our non-Anglophile ancestors. So Mani and I set out at two a.m., to find a bottle of Sherry. Also, the whole town was closed but we roamed around the town singing old British war songs. Have the supposedly manly men of True Detective done something dangerous like that? We could’ve been abducted and held for ransom! Or worse, exposed to some ghastly waste of good air who didn’t even know or admire the House of Windsor. Long live the Queen! As they say in merry old Blighty, Tally ho!

Okay, then. Thank you for that, Mr. Dasgupta. Right ho!

This exercise would be incomplete without asking our self appointed media watchdog website, newslaundry, to send in a small contribution. Apparently, Ms. Trehan was still busy signing out of her latest facebook Q & A session and Abhinandan Sekri was occupied talking to his image in the mirror and laughing at his own they probably had one of their minions write and send this in:

There was a huge problem with True Detective that no one seem to have noticed. What was Ms.Lange doing with the Yellow King anyway? I haven’t watched beyond one and a half episodes because the misogyny of the show really made my stomach curl. Why was she a prostitute? Why didn’t she get a real job? Why did she let people treat her this way? What sort of bubblegum feminist lets people get away with having sex with her? Real feminists have ugly hairdos and never even think about sex because they can’t stand the sight of men. Wait, why are you putting me in a straightjacket and dragging me away. Don’t taze me, bro.

Alrighty, then. That was . . . well, a bunch of words stitched together to appear as if it is coherent? Anyway . . .

We also asked famed director and Emraan Hashmi enthusiast Mahesh Bhatt for his thoughts on what we assume has become everyone’s favourite show:

The meandering melancholy of the first episode of True Detective draws you in. The plains of Southern Louisiana are ripe for making anyone feel such existential angst, let alone a character like Detective Rust Cohle, who can barely keep up with his facade of sanity.  The mumbled dialogue adds to the whole experience instead of being a turn off. True Detective also doesn’t shy away from adult scenes, a thing I’ve tried to incorporate in some of my movies with various degrees of success. Sure, some people question my aesthetic, and refer to it as ‘soft porn’ and ‘voyeuristic,’ but I ask you, isn’t all art voyeuristic? Don’t we all carry that little voice inside ourselves? The one which wants us to bear witness to the intimate details of someone else’s life? Doesn’t the oversharing eagerness of the modern world make us all voyeuristic? I just put on screen what everyone wants to see. You need me to show you the unvarnished truth. You can call me names to make yourself feel better, but you know deep inside of you that I’m just the living embodiment of human need. Don’t you ever forget that.

Rrrrright. Thank you, Mahesh! Thank you for the magnificent monologue!

We also asked self-proclaimed culture critic and the loudest voice in every South Bombay party, Shobhaa De to share her opinion with us. Why did we do that? Well, because we probably hate ourselves and like to see us suffer, slowly dying a little everyday, because what else is there to do in this world. Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, Shobhaa De:

Bakwaas! That’s the first word that came into my mind when I watched the pilot episode of True Detective. These hollywood wallahs have so much to learn from the hindi movie industry. I couldn’t even try to watch another episode. Not even if someone paid me to. Maybe the creators of True Detective should learn from the creators of Dabang. Now that’s a movie (or two!) So much masala. So much entertainment. So much paisa wasool. I like my entertainment like I like my columns, without any trace of intelligence. Hey HBO, if I wanted to entertain myself by listening to some fool go on about the purposelessness of life, I’d have been a regular at Shekhar Kapur’s weekly brunch. Also, what was with all the nudity and objectification of women? Hollywood wallahs need to learn that women can be sexy with their clothes on too! I’d pick a Munni gyrating suggestively to lewd music than a naked hooker any day! Now please excuse me I’m late for a soiree at Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi’s house.

Thank you, Mrs. De. You keep doing you!

Now, as we were about to wrap this up and send it to print, an envelope was delivered to our offices by an old man in khaki shorts. He warned us that we need to run the following as it is or we would pay for our sins. When we opened the envelope, we were surprised to receive a note from the people at NitiCentral, even though we had never asked them for a contribution or even told them that we were seeking one. Even we’re not that into self-hatred. But we do want to live. So here is an unsigned contribution from NitiCentral:

HBO is every left-libber’s favourite network. They mostly like it because of the sex and the nudity and the violence, even though left-libbers claim to abhor all those things. They’re hypocrites, basically. Look at this True Detective shit they’re talking about these days. I haven’t seen an episode, but from what I gather it’s about two NGO workers needlessly harassing the king of the yellow people. Apparently, even though the Supreme Court and the SIT have given the yellow king a clean chit, the two NGO fame-seekers want to frame him for murder. Classic left-liberal conspiracy mongering. The needless insult to kind, god fearing people hasn’t gone unnoticed. If these liberals believe in their atheism so strongly, why do they feel the need to defend it from religious critics? Tells you everything, really.

So, whew, we’ve finally come to the end of our journey. If you’re still reading, then you’re much braver than we previously thought.

Now, what did you think of True Detective? Please send your thoughts and opinions to feedback at hbo dot com. Tell them we sent you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Dummies Guide to Hosting an International Sporting Event in your Third-World Banana Republic

Hello there! Are you an “emerging economy” supposedly poised on verge of world domination? Do your leaders promise you that global recognition of your superiority over other peoples is just around the corner? That pretty soon everyone else will notice that they had no past or any culture and drop their way of life which has been evolving in their countries for literally millions of years and subscribe to yours? Was your economy going great guns and suddenly petered out like it was Chinese knock-off of a popular phone? Is paying a bribe as regular an activity in your life as say, eating? Does a strangely popular political party in your country have a carefully worded and/or openly expressed animosity about an ethnic and/or sexual minority?  Are you currently in the process of electing and/or have elected someone whose leadership style can be politely interpreted as “strong?” Do you think the money your country will spend on hosting a useless international meet of healthy grown-ups competing with each other for a gold medal that you can’t even sell in the open market to prove some point is better spent on solving more pressing domestic problems? Are you afraid of answering any of the above questions honestly because doing that might invite persecution and/or physical intimidation tacitly sanctioned by the state?

If your answer to all the above questions is yes, then, read on!

(Note: If you’re an average citizen of such a state and you spend all your days just getting around the government apparatus, then please note that you are better off not reading any of this. Ignorance is bliss, remember! What we have to say is really of no use to you, anyway! This guide is basically for powerful political leaders, oligarchs, billionaires, and/or someone with an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to monetize their connections in the government. If you still want to read it, then don’t blame us for the large men knocking on your door right now. Go ahead, they just want to talk to you. Don’t be afraid. All this will still be here if you get to. . . I mean when you come back! Now go, don’t keep them waiting.Seriously.)

Hey, powerful people! Nice of you to join us! Now, ask yourself the question, do you like money? Do you want to increase your power and/or sphere of influence? Are you finally ready to become the sort of person your country’s government apparatus caters too? Does the oppressive regime in your country want to seek international legitimacy?

Then, boy, do we have a guide for you!

Now that we’ve got all the pleasantries out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Firstly, I hope you’re not one of the people who think of corruption as a bad thing. Don’t buy into leftist propaganda! Those people have no idea what they’re talking about. One man’s corruption is another man’s motivation! Look, everyone needs motivation, right? Some people need their palm greased. Some people need their peckers swollen. And some people need a boot on their back. Find out what’s the right fit for you!

Listen, if you thought the people in your country were corrupt, they got nothing on members of international sporting bodies. Corrupt officials are attracted to sporting bodies like pesky western journalists are attracted to sectarian conflicts. So we begin by determining which sporting event you want to host in your country. Be careful in making your choice. If you want to start small, you should look at associations like ITF or the IAF. They’re loyalty can be purchased for a small amount of money. However, they don’t have much potential for you to make something on the side. These events don’t hold much cache because even third grade tin-pot dictatorships with terrible human rights record are able to host them. And they don’t really attract much media attention. They’re okay for mid-level oppressive regimes who have managed to keep the public numbers of their murdered dissidents into the hundreds.

If you’re not that oppressive but just want your citizens to feel patriotic pride while you make lots of money, you can go for something like the CWG or the Asian Games. They’re not that difficult to get and by hosting them you can pretend that your banana republic has finally “arrived,” whatever that means.

However, if you’re a big oppressive regime with a history of tyranny, violence, oppression, genocide, no freedom of speech etc., you need to think big. You should set your sights on something like the FIFA world cup or one of the Olympics. Not only do they attract lots of attention, they’re big money-spinners. And there is almost no barrier of entry. Hey, they even allowed Hitler to host one of them, so you’re pretty much pre-approved.

After you’ve decided which sporting event you’d like to host, turn your attention to their local body. You can either become the head of that body yourself, or better yet, appoint a dispensable sycophant whom you can throw under the bus if someone “falsely” dares to accuse you of benefiting from hosting the said event.

After your sycophants “election,” put him in-charge of finding countries sympathetic to your bid. Sure, not all of them will be convinced. You might need to cajole some countries to support you. Find pliable member-countries and dangle some carrots in front of them. You might even need to give some of them money upfront. Don’t hesitate! Think of it as an investment in your future.

Once you have enough support behind you, send a couple of more “senior officials” in an non-official capacity for a “friendly chat” with members of the sport’s governing body. Nothing to see here, just a couple of average joes talking about how much hypothetical money would have to change hands for a hypothetical country to host a hypothetical international sporting event, hypothetically. Once you “attain” their loyalty, the heads of these organizations are more loyal than your own mother! You can make them do anything you want! Like pretending you don’t have a terrible human rights record or doing PR for your oppressive regime. You can even make them agree to using a city famous for it’s beach resorts that has never seen a speck of snow in thousands of years as the host of the winter olympics!

Once those people are taken care off, it’s time to buy some good PR in the international press. Get some international lifestyle magazine to cover your glamarous first lady (if you have one) or get one of those useless contrarian magazines to write a long piece about how the fact that the government in your country is oppressive and corrupt is a western myth and that limited freedom is actually good for your people. The next step is to put a friendly face on your regime! If you’re the sort of person whose image is used by superstitious people to ward of evil, use one of your trusted, harvard educated, ironic humour spewing lieutenants to do your dirty work for you. Get them to appear on some comedian hosted talk show on either side of the Atlantic so that he can charm all the “cool kids.” Nothing will get you more street cred ‘on the internet’ than getting Jon Stewart to say nice things about you.

Now that you’ve got good “buzz,” it’s time to go public with your bid. Sure, you’ll face some opposition. However, it’s not really hard to drown out the noise made by strongly worded op-eds and do-gooder protests if you have enough momentum. As long as you keep greasing the right palms, no will will really care about any of that.

The real fun comes in after you win the bid. Make sure every contract you hand out gives you a cut of the profits. From building stadiums to procuring toilet paper, there is nothing that won’t make you richer. All you have to do is pay a high markup price for everything. Make sure your own people put in the highest bids. You funnel the government's money into their bank accounts, they’ll funnel a percentage of that into yours. Hey, if taxpayers didn’t want you to siphon off their hard earned money, they wouldn’t have paid any taxes.

Now, some of the consequences of this will be that not everything will be of proper quality. No worries, you got to compromise somewhere! So bridges might collapse, the living quarters might remain unfinished, and some choosy people might complain about insects in their food, but hey, that’s a good thing! All this drama keeps the international press busy and they will focus on the crumbling infrastructure instead of your human rights abuses. It’s what asshole consultants call “a win-win.”

If you’re still reading this, then you’re all set to host your own international sporting event. However, please remember that this guide has been provided to you with the explicit understanding that a percentage of the profits will be given to the writer as a, you know, token of your “appreciation,” if you know what’s good for you. 

(The writer of this piece is a popular third world dictator whose hobbies include oppressing people, invading neighbouring countries and shirtless horseback riding.)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Indian Democracy, Call Your Office

(Presented by LexCorp)

As we began the week, a staggering scene unfolded on our television screens. The whole world watched in shock and awe as a hero crumbled right in front of its eyes. A messiah of millions revealed his true self. All the people who had invested their hopes and dreams in his success were now heartbroken and inconsolable. Overwhelmed with despair, they had nowhere to turn to. They couldn’t even commiserate  with each other because they knew that anything they said would sound quite hollow. They promised themselves never to worship another human being again. But enough about Justin Beiber’s imminent fall into meth addiction!

Last weekend, when it was announced that India’s #1 man-child was going to be interviewed by India’s #1 blowhard, people were excited! (By people I mean political junkies on twitter and by excited I mean cringing in anticipation.) Everyone was looking forward to interpreting whatever Rahul Gandhi said using the lens of their pre-conceived notions.

The interview began by both the participants talking about the interview. You could tell this was Rahul Gandhi’s first interview for anything because a few minutes later he was asking Arnab a question and then chastising him for not answering it, perhaps because he wasn’t aware that a person being interviewed isn’t supposed to be the one asking questions. At some point he started referring himself in the third person, thus reminding viewers of every middle manager in corporate India. He sounded like the sort of employee that old family owned companies in India don’t fire because of some sense of misplaced loyalty. The kind who ‘trained’ the current CEO when he was young but is still in the same position because despite having been in the business for forty years, he still knows nothing about it. And when he retires, all he will have to show for his decades of ‘service’ would be a yellowing certificate signed by the current CEO’s grandfather and a Quartz watch he got at his depressing retirement party.

A long, long time ago, during the final semester of my college, I had to give a presentation. I was actually looking forward to this one because for the first time, I had made it myself and not gotten some lowly junior to make it for me. I had barely started to show the teacher the first slide that she started asking me questions I had not prepared for. When my flailing got really embarrassing, she curtly told me that I was done and dismissed me. But I wanted to salvage whatever remaining prestige that I had and insisted that she see the rest of my presentation. I couldn’t answer any of her questions again and my friend, seeing that I would go on signalled to me to end the torturous session and get off the damn stage or he would punch me in the face. I still cringe when I think about this incident! Unfortunately, Rahul’s interview for me was a vivid reminder of this very moment. He had prepared so hard! But no one askedhim the questions he wanted to answer. And he kept rambling on long after he needed to. Maybe surrounding yourself with yes-men who never let you face even a smidgen of contrary opinion let alone allowing a friend to threaten you with bodily harm for fucking up is not the best idea? It was like Gotham city sending Robin’s intern to fight their biggest villain while Batman stayed back in the batlair, watching the destruction of his beloved home on teevee.

After the interview was over, the Congress trolls on twitter were doing extreme verbal gymnastics and calling it an insightful interview showcasing the humility of their lord and master while the BJP trolls were doing twitter’s version of dancing in the streets. The only good thing most sane people could bring themselves to say about the interview was that at least Rahul Gandhi has given more interviews than Narendra Modi. Even though he answered questions that had a simple yes and no answer with an incoherent word salad of meaningless phrases, at least he sat through them. Maybe we should get our Prime Ministerial candidates to do the limbo because the bar seems to be set too low.

One would have thought that the interview would yield a discussion around the fact that one of our supposed Prime Ministerial candidates and the vice-president of one of the country’s largest political parties was giving his first major interview on the eve of his third parliamentary election. That he was only deeming it necessary to ‘speak out’ to the general public now that his party is facing an electoral rout and his minions thought that putting him ‘out there’ might rejuvenate their campaign. That he found it prudent to give his first interview to the person who just last week had an argument with one of his guests, a member of parliament no less, the highlight of which was both of them calling the other “a child,” should give the journalistic fraternity some sort of pause. That the other candidate hasn’t even deemed it necessary to give in to even the pretence of facing questions from someone who might be a little hostile to his agenda should be worrying to all of us. That these are the sort of people populating the pillars of our democracy should be making us uneasy with questions of our own.

Or maybe we could just follow Justin Beiber’s lead and descend into an alternate reality too.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wanted: A CEO for the Central Board of Film Certification

(After we discovered that the new CBFC CEO walked straight out of a teevee soap opera set in a tiny village in Northern India, we asked our sources to find out how this happened. After all, if there is anyone who stands up for liberal values and an artist’s right to express themselves, it’s the Central Board of Film Certification. Our source sent us the following job listing posted at by the CBFC to fill the position.)

Situation Wanted

Seeking a self-motivated, highly capable candidate who loves to seek new challenges.

Candidate must have loads of free time on his or her hands. Former government bureaucrats will be given preference. If he or she hasn’t worked for the government, candidate must show job experience where they have been needlessly mean and condescending to people for no reason whatsoever.

Candidate should have no self-awareness. Should have no qualms in forcing his or her own worldview onto other people. Candidates who blame the state of the world today on young people without any irony whatsoever will be given preference. Under no circumstances should the candidate even try to think ‘outside the box.’

Having an artistic sensibility is a strict no-no. An exposure to real art will interfere with the candidate’s job of telling people who were born with a camera in one hand and a three film UTV pictures contract in the other how to make their movies.

Candidate should not have seen any human genitals willingly or unwillingly in the last fifty years. Must be such a prude that he or she even covers up firm tomatoes or really long cucumbers/bananas. Candidate must have a disdain for people who wear provocative things like jeans or fastrack watches.

Candidate must constantly live in fear that someone, somewhere might actually enjoy his or her movie watching experience. The Central Board of Film Certification frowns upon that and will not allow it to happen under any circumstance. Letting adults make their own decisions is against our culture.

After two rounds of interviews, candidates will be required to find things to censor in the following movies: Jai Santoshi Maa, Any random Rajshri movie, Mother India

Compensation: A huge salary and the satisfaction of preventing literally dozens of people from seeing a nipple because they haven’t yet heard about the internet.

Interested candidates may send their application to:

Thank you for your interest!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Are You Ready for #VoterMania2014?

“Finally,” bellowed the announcer, “Arvind Kejriwal has come back to . . . Ramlila Maidan.” The crowd erupted with a huge cheer. They told him that this day wouldn’t come. They said that he would be a flash in the pan. They said that he was too insignificant to even be remembered as a historical footnote. Yet, here he was. Listening to the millions and millions of his supporters chanting his name. Arvind closed his eyes to soak in the moment. As he stepped up to the podium to take the oath of office, the noise was deafening. They could probably hear the happy roar of the crowd in the secure confines of a fancy bungalow in Janpath as well as the state capital of Gujarat. He smiled. From now on, he would be known as the most electrifying man in Indian politics. After everything was going to be said and done. After all the smoke will be cleared. There would only be one man left standing. And he will be none other than the trail blazing, Shiela Dikshit defeating, morning ablutions tweeting, muffler wearing, people’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal.

* * *

Previously, when we checked in with the people of New Delhi, they were busy haggling over who would get to play their chief minister and pretend to solve their problems. Since Shiela Dikshit had retired to spend more time with all the flyover models in her house and no one else had come forward to take her place, the city was being run by an empty bottle of imported whiskey. The Lt. Governor was so desperate to find a human administrator for the city that he even contemplated going old-school and settling the dispute as they used to do in ancient times: hosting a butter chicken eating contest and awarding the chief ministership to the winner of the contest. 

This situation came about because none of the parties in the legislature were in a position to form the government. In fact, in a first for electoral democracy, all the three parties wanted to sit in the opposition. The BJP fulfilled its election promise of providing strong leadership by refusing to even attempt to form the government, even though it was the party with the most legislators. The AAP didn’t want to form the government because (a) it wasn’t in the mood, (b) it had a headache and (c) it probably had too much wine at dinner, was very tired and all it wanted to do was go to sleep so would you please switch off the light, honey? The tiny group of legislators that belonged to the Congress were busy wondering what they were doing in the assembly anyway.

That question was answered a fortnight later when after days of goading by its political opponents, the news media, and its supporters, the AAP finally agreed to form the government with outside support from the Congress. Our national nightmare was finally over! The city with the highest number of government officials in the country was going to get another half dozen of them!

So history was made and thousands of people watched Arvind Kejriwal take the oath of office and become the first resident of Ghaziabad to become the Chief Minister of New Delhi. Never before had so many people gathered together in a single venue without any food stalls in the vicinity. The stage Kejriwal took the oath on was made of wood, concrete, Anna Hazara’s crumbled hopes, Harsh Vardhan’s tears and faux piousness.

In a month’s time, Arvind Kejriwal had gone from flash-in-the-pan-do-gooder, to being labelled as the most omnipotent force in Indian politics. He became India’s newest boyfriend and/or saviour. His narrative was less expert politician and more vanquishing hero. It’s like something out of a wrestling storyline. An unknown man comes out of nowhere and issues a challenge to the more established candidates. They mock him and act like he is no threat to them even though they’re really worried of losing their position. They try to stop him by any means necessary. They throw every roadblock his way and make him go through every obstacle they can think of. Yet, he overcomes all of their challenges and despite the overwhelming odds, emerges victorious and wins the championship. Even Vince McMahon couldn’t come up with something better.

So, now, everyone wants to be his friend. Social activists, people pretending to be social activists, actors, billionaires, politicians not affiliated to any other political party right now, busybodies, journalists, children and grandchildren of freedom fighters, senior citizens who are also members of their local laughter club, adults who once wrote an essay in school about things that they would do if they were made the prime minister, and folks who love that Anil Kapoor movie in which he gets to be chief minister for one day. All of them are all lining up to join the AAP.

Since he’s the most popular kid in school now, the other political parties don’t know what to do with him. The BJP keeps trying to prove that whatever actions Kejriwal takes has been done by them before. We hated the Congress before it was cool. The BJP zombies on twitter who-till last month-were so goddamn sure of Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister for life and their party winning all the parliamentary seats in general election are now spending the better part of their day fruitlessly trying to prove that Kejriwal is the worst thing to happen to the country since bollywood producers discovered Telugu movies. The Congress has a love-hate relationship with the AAP. They love them for taking away the ‘change’ mantle from the BJP. But they hate them for taking away the we’re-the-only-thing-standing-between-you-and-desi Putin mantle away from the Congress. However, they still have to pretend to like the AAP because Rahul Gandhi is fascinated by them. So they support the AAP with the same enthusiasm shown by children who are forced by their parents to accompany them on visits to older relatives who insist on discussing the strange rash on their pelvis during dinner.

So, ladies and gentlemen, that’s going to be your next few months. One man’s election campaign is going to be another man’s gladiatorial soap opera.

* * *

He stood on the stage and saw all his Modimaniacs looking at him with their expectant eyes, chanting his name, treating every word out of his mouth as a pronouncement from god. He smirked. Did anyone really think that they could stop his momentum? Or steal his thunder? There is no one out there that can even come close to inspiring the sort of devotion that he does. After all, he is the excellence of execution. The best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. He is so close to taking what is rightly his that he can almost taste it.  All he needs to do is to keep reminding people to say their prayers and take their vitamins. His critics can do and say whatever they want. Haters gonna hate, right? The real question dear critics, he thought to himself, is that whatcha gonna do, brothers, when the Modimaniacs run wild on you?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Open letter to Baldev Sigh from the movie ‘Apne’

Namaste Uncleji!

When we first met you, you were resigned to spending the rest of your days bitterly obsessing over winning that boxing trophy/belt/whatever. You didn’t even realize how your single track obsession has ruined the lives of everyone else in your family. Especially, both your sons. They might put on a brave face in front of you, but on the inside, they’re probably rueing the day that they were born.

Let’s begin with the eldest. Why are you so hostile to him? Why do you expect him to fight your battles? Did you want him to continue to give up the best years of his life trying to achieve something that you failed to? Okay, I get it. You’re an Indian. From a village in Punjab. You want your son to follow you into the family business. Which he did! For some time. He gave you the best years of his life! (-ish). His best, mate-attracting, child bearing, years. He let you waste his precious putting-in-the-hard-work-that-you-can-only-do-in-your-20’s years. And then he went on to do something that seems like an alien concept to you: provide for his family. It’s because of him that you can spend all your time shadow boxing with your demons. It’s because of him that your wife doesn’t have to spend all winter knitting sweaters and mufflers to sell at the local bazaar or spend her summer washing your neighbour’s dirty utensils. It’s because of him that you live in a big-ass house in which you and your best friend/#1 fan/stalker get to reminisce about the good ol’ days. Instead of going “Thank you son! You’re a fucking national treasure,” you don’t even bother to TALK to him? What the hell is wrong with you?

As for your youngest spawn, do you realize that your he lost his arm because you were out trying to be the youngest-boxing-champion-who-looks-like-an-eighty-year-old? That itself should have given you pause, Mohammad Ali. Anyway, one day, a miracle happens. His hand recovers! A person who had made peace with the fact that he is going to have to spend the rest of his life with only one hand (do you have any idea how difficult it is to both masturbate and manoeuvre porn with just one hand?) is then able to use BOTH HIS HANDS. A life changing event! Something which only happens to perhaps one in a trillion people! A lesser man would have counted his blessings and lived happily (albeit a little bitterly) to the end of his days. But, as we all know by now, you’re not a lesser man.

So you start training your formerly handicap son a week after he starts recovering from his disability. Good call, father of the year! You put him through a gruelling physical regimen for a dangerous and useless boxing championship which he, on paper, has no chance of winning. Again, let’s remind ourselves that HE WAS LIMITED IN HIS MOVEMENTS TILL ABOUT A WEEK AGO!

Now, after your hard and vigorous training, which would not have been good for his newly un-paralyzed hand, he finally enters the local boxing championship, defeating the last guy who betrayed you. A more mature man would have realized how hard he has pushed his luck, but as we established in the beginning, you aren’t a mature man. You are the sort of person who interprets the recovery of his son as the last opportunity for you to finally be able to tick the last item on your bucket list. If god didn’t want you to emotionally blackmail your offspring into spending their youth trying to accomplish your unrealistic goals, then he wouldn’t have ordered his stork to drop them into your glove shaped house.

So you finally set sail to “America,” for the “international boxing championship” which no one has ever heard about. HOW PRESTIGIOUS CAN IT REALLY BE?

Anyway, unrealistically, your son keeps winning. He even manages to reach the finals! Then, something which everyone with even a pea brain could see coming happens. He ends up in the ICU! It hasn’t even been six months since he regained the use of both arms and you pushed him into doing something which even stronger people who can use both their hands are not able to do. Best Dad ever!

After you send your youngest progeny to battle between life and death, you start training your eldest son again. SERIOUSLY? He’s fifty years old. He can barely lift a handpump anymore and you want him to fight a boxing championship against someone who is at the top of their game? And you think you can train him to do that in one month? Even David Blaine is going “Dude, that is some crazy shit.” Do you want to relegate all the women in your family to go back to sewing and knitting for the rest of their lives?

However, thanks to the big bookie in the sky, the biggest miracle in the world since you having a career happens and your eldest son wins the championship. Phew! I hope that makes you happy! Couldn't you have just stuck a sock down there like a normal person instead of almost destroying the lives of the unfortunate fruit of your lions?

And if you think that your eldest son won the trophy for you, then you’re a few bottles short of a full crate of Bagpiper soda. He did it because he realised that if you didn’t get your “prestigious” trophy, you would’ve lived long enough to make his children fight your battles.

In short, paaji, you’re a terrible father!

History’s greatest monster!

Also, what’s with all the overacting?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A District Attorney in New York Arrested a Diplomat for Visa Fraud. You will Never Guess What Happened Next!

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

The past few weeks have been really distressing for those of us who like to think of themselves as ‘Americaphiles.’ We have been betrayed, left saddened and made to feel unwanted by someone we used to fondly refer to as Uncle Sam. By arresting Devyani Khobragade for the crime of simply being an Indian, they have unintentionally let us know what they really think of us. And from where we’re sitting, it doesn’t look pretty.

Various interests group have turned Devyani Khobragade into a symbol of their pre-formed beliefs. To some, the furore over Devyani’s arrest seems like a representation of everything that is wrong with India’s elites. They declare that the reason the establishment is acting out is because someone dared to treat them like “a normal,” and not like the precious gift that they are. They proclaim that since most members of the elite have been allowed to get away with breaking the law in their own country, they don’t understand why another country wouldn’t accord them the same privilege. Being given special consideration is their birthright and they shall have it!

Of course, the people accusing the country’s decision making apparatus of overreacting couldn’t be more wrong. Obviously, the real symbol in the whole hullaballoo is Sangeeta Richards. She is what is wrong with the country. She did not for once think about all the things Devyani had done for her! Would anyone else have taken her to New York? I bet that Sangeeta was probably the first member of her family to even see the inside of an International airport. And Devyani provided her with everything! She didn’t even charge Sangeeta market rates for all the calls made to India. She just automatically deducted a small amount of money from Sangeeta’s salary. Not because Devyani couldn’t afford to pay for Sangeeta’s calls. Not at all! She was teaching her the value of money. How else would have Sangeeta learned how important money is since she probably spent her whole life without having much of it? Devyani also gave Sangeeta all her clothes that she wasn’t using anymore. Some of them were almost brand new, or worn only a couple of times. Do you think Sangeeta could afford a Dior? Ha! Not with what Devyani paid her, for sure! It is clear that Sangeeta did this for a green card. She saw all those buildings visible from Devyani’s New York residence and got greedy. If only Devyani hadn’t relaxed the ‘no going outside at all’ rule she had for Sangeeta out of the goodness of her heart, none of this would have happened.

The Americans made a huge mistake by arresting Devyani. They can deny us access to the mastermind behind one of the major terrorist attacks in our country. They can even invade the privacy of millions of our citizens and access all their private information. But, arresting one of our own for violating the rule of law in their country? That is taking things too far! I blame Preet Bharara, the District Attorney handling her case, for detonating this diplomatic time bomb. What sort of name is “Preet Bharara” anyway? What is he, an appetizer in an Indian restaurant in New York’s Meatpacking District? Although, one day, I’d really like to meet his twin brother, Preet Changezi. Is this how he treats a citizen from the country of his birth? After all we’ve done for Bharara! Sure, if his parents had stayed in India, he’d not have gotten most (or any) of the opportunities that he has had, but that is not the point! We gave him a name that is not only familiar but also sounds exotic at the same time. That must be come in handy during election time. We gave him a lifelong love of the law by ensuring that his actual place of birth was a lawless wasteland. We even gave him a huge vote bank of Americans of Indian origin by making certain that the only way they could be successful was to go to foreign shores. And this is how he repays us?

Mr. Bharara put Devyani in jail. With common criminals! Is this how they treat important people in the so-called ‘oldest democracy in the world?’ Maybe Mr. Bharara and his cohorts should come to India to learn how to treat people of stature who might be suspected of committing or have been convicted of committing a crime. We give them the respect they deserve and the resources they are used to. Make them feel like they’re not in jail, but at home. And we don’t let them mix with the riffraff in any circumstances. Regular jail is for people without any connection to someone important. Only an unpatriotic person would disagree with this arrangement.

So we did what we had to do to put the Americans in their place. We hit them where it really hurts! First we unfriended them on Facebook. Then, we cancelled their licences for importing liquor and afterwards, we got rid of all the barricades outside their embassy. That’ll teach them! Now, they will think twice before messing with us. Although, if it were up to me, I would have taken more stringent measures. Like putting up a huge statue of Edward Snowden giving the finger right opposite the US Embassy in New Delhi. We could force them to use only the Vodafone 3G network to try to access the internet. Or give them free tickets to an exclusive screening of the new hobbit movie, block all the exits once all of them are inside the theatre, and then play Dhoom 3 instead.

However, the most important and inspiring lesson of the series of events was lost in all the noise. And it is that as long as you know someone who matters, you can do anything you want. The world is literally your oyster.

And don’t you ever forget that.

Now please excuse me as I explain to my indentured servants why rising prices mean that their salaries would have to be cut in half.