Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Blame it on the Boogie

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

A few weeks ago, the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh was gripped by anticipation. All the illegal gambling dens selling illicit liquor had their radios tuned into a single station. Somewhere deep inside the bowels of the hinterland, dacoit groups sent whichever member of their group owned a nokia asha to the abandoned safehouse which got the best reception. Teevee channels all over the state interrupted their regular programming for this special broadcast. Laptops given to college students by the UP government automatically connected to the internet and opened their browser window to the homepage of the Samajwadi party. After all, the party’s anthem for the next election was about to be released! Then, as the clock struck twelve, the airways all over the state were filled by words extolling the virtues of one Mulayam Singh Yadav set to the tune of Billy Joel’s We didn’t start the fire.

Yes, that’s right. The Samajwadi Party thought using a song with the lyrics We didn’t start the fire was totally appropriate. What happened, was Bob Marley’s I Shot the Sheriff taken? The day they chose this song, irony died in a fire started by a riot in Muzaffarnagar while the police stood on the side, watching the proceedings, doing nothing.  Maybe they confused ‘theme song’ with ‘legal defence?’

Although, to be fair, I think this is a capital idea. Every political party in India should have an official anthem based on a song from the 80’s. Think of the possibilities! The Congress could use Europe’s The Final Countdown as the people of this country count the days until the UPA is sent to the dustbin of history. Nothing describes the BJP’s campaign better than the Aretha Franklin & George Michael duet I Knew You Were Waiting For Me. U2’s I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For seems like it was tailor-made for the AAP. The DMK can hum Whitney Houston’s I Want to Dance With Somebody while looking for somebody, anybody, who will align with them. The BSP should put a small device under Mayawati’s statues which constantly pumps out The Bangles’ hit Walk Like an Egyptian because of their dear leader’s Cleopatra-like obsession with herself. Laloo Prasad Yadav should have used all his free time in the penitentiary learning the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s I Just Can't Stop Loving You while wondering why the RJD still has feelings for the Congress despite being continuously shunned by the latter. Bow Wow Wow’s I Want Candy seems perfect for Ajit Singh’s political outfit as it is perpetually available for lease to the highest bidder. The TMC should start playing Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is a Place on Earth from the loudspeakers they put up next to Calcutta’s many traffic lights so as to remind the people of that city of their luck in being alive during Didi’s glorious reign of peace and prosperity. Nitish Kumar’s version of the Janata Dal should keep Milli Vanilli’s Baby Don't Forget My Number handy in case they change their mind after the election and suddenly find their former ally quite acceptable once again. The left parties should definitely play La Bamba by the Los Lobos at their rallies because just like the current version of the band, they’re a cheap imitation of their former selves. 

One may wonder why the Samajwadi Party is trying to reach out to anyone who isn’t into criminal activity. Well, apparently someone told them that all the young people, at least those who aren’t patrolling the neighbourhood in their party issued standard jeep looking for someone to pick on, are spending all their time on the internets. So they made a website to show people what they’re all about. Which is why the website is low on information and high on proving how the party supremo is god’s greatest gift to the people of Uttar Pradesh. Hey, just because they are against everything that the modern world stands for doesn’t mean that they don’t want to at least give the impression of living in the twenty first century.

It’s not just Mulayam Singh Yadav’s ancient tribal council that wants to keep the past alive. Most of our political parties suffer from the same ailment. They imagine that by having a website or twitter account and letting their leaders take friendly questions from internet users will make them appear like they are Y2K okay. Yet, they don’t realize that no matter what the medium, their message remains the same. Like our page on Facebook to receive updates consisting of the same regressive pabulum we always talk about!

You can’t cover up outdated policies and an incomprehensible worldview with fancy gadgets. Leaders seeped in intolerance, misogyny, homophobia and religious bigotry want us to believe that they are ready to face the challenges of the modern world because of their ability to hire someone who knows what email is. Can’t thinkfluence my vote, bro!

Political parties in India are modern like the Khap Panchayats are acceptable of young love. Political parties in India are modern like Iran is a democracy. Political parties in India are modern like “baba” ramdev is spiritual. No matter how much you try to shine a turd, at the end of the day, it’s still a turd.

If only there was some sort of communication network our political parties could use to find out what people really want.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

All Hail the Supreme Court

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

On the second day of the seventh month of 2009, a few wise men of the Delhi High Court–who thought they knew better than everyone else–criminalised heterosexuality in India. Things were never the same again! The whole country became a haven for same gender attraction. Suddenly, men started wearing pink, shaved off all their chest hair, learned how to cook French cuisine, left their wives and moved in with their ‘business partner.’ Women started using motor oil as shampoo, wore only ill-fitting denims, stopped worrying about their weight and moved in with their ‘hostel roommate.’ The children who were left to fend for themselves were kidnapped and transported to gay and lesbian conversion camps. Here, they were taught gay and lesbian behaviour, like making extraordinarily beautiful paintings or fighting to preserve the environment.

In a few short days, yearning to mate with a member of the opposite sex became something taboo. It began to be discouraged! Heterosexual individuals brave enough to come out would find that people hitherto close to them suddenly treating them differently. Parents who found out that their children did not want to conform to the norm tried to talk some sense into them. A few of these children were even forced to go to reparative therapy to get rid of their natural desire for the opposite sex. No cure was ever found in spite of corporations and governments spending massive amounts of money on such research.

Coming out would cause heterosexual individuals to lose some of their friends too. Children who discovered that they only felt attracted to the opposite sex had to pretend to like someone of the same gender so as to not make anyone suspicious. If their peers found out, they would be mocked mercilessly. Even gay children who defied stereotypes and wanted to participate in typical heterosexual activities like having a messy room or wearing plaid shirts with corduroy pants were on the receiving end of ugly epithets usually reserved for those with opposite sex desires.

Heterosexual people were constantly reminded that they were different. Guys and girls could hold hands in public, but only as friends. If they looked like a couple, they could hear audible gasps and couldn't do anything but sigh at those head shakes of disapproval. Sometimes, private parties consisting only of heterosexuals were raided by the police and all the people attending were made to do the perp walk in front of a gleeful camera-wielding media to set an example and give a stern warning to other secret heterosexuals out there to keep to themselves. Work colleagues f heterosexual individuals would laugh behind their back and make terrible insinuations to their face. Heterosexual couples were routinely turned away from most hotels if the owner did not approve of their lifestyle choices. Straight characters in movies would be only used for comic relief. Most of their story arcs involved being the recipient of cruel jokes lobed to them by other characters. Those celebrities rumoured to be heterosexual were often the target of demeaning words from bigoted individuals. In fact, some heterosexual filmmakers had to make heterophobic movies because they were not brave enough to live the truth. Teevee programs routinely showed popular leading actors pretending to be attracted to the opposite sex for a few cheap laughs.

As the injustices piled up, some heterosexual people began to form organizations to fight for their so-called rights. They didn’t want to be a silent minority anymore! They decided that they did not want to be treated as second-class citizens in their own country. They even managed to hold rallies expressing their pride in who they were, shouting slogans, refusing to be in the shadows anymore. We’re here, we’re not queer, deal with it!

These organizations even filed various court cases to get back their rights. After a long battle, this case finally ended up in the Supreme Court. On the eleventh day of the twelfth month of this century’s thirteenth year, the prayers of millions of heterosexuals were finally answered. The Supreme Court quashed the senseless 2009 judgement and uncriminalised heterosexuality. Finally, all those oppressed heterosexuals could be free. It was like a huge boulder was lifted from their backs. No more could anyone tell them that they were deviant perverts who needed to be kept away from other members of society. No more could anyone blackmail them by threatening to reveal their sexual identify. No more could the law treat them any differently. No more would they be silenced. No more did they have to live a lie. This was India’s second tryst with destiny!

The Supreme Court upheld the highest principles of the constitution. If our founding fathers were alive today, they would be proud. This is the sort of court they envisioned. One which would not abandon a small minority of people to the tyranny of the majority. A court which would stand up to all those fake purveyors of morality.

Imagine a fourteen year old living in a small town, struggling with feelings he does not yet understand, but still aware enough that he is different. Thanks to society’s attitude towards his natural orientation, he constantly gets the message that his kind of people are not welcome in this world. People find out and mock him for being “a straight.” And then one day, after a very terrible bout of teasing, he contemplates suicide. But before he can do anything drastic, he hears about the Supreme Court judgement and stops himself. For a moment, he doesn’t feel alone. Someone understands him! It dawns on him that not everyone in the world will treat him like a pariah because of his natural human desire to love someone he is attracted to.

After all, what sort of fucked up society would allow such a thing? 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Slouching Towards New Delhi

(A condensed version of this article first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

You know election time is neigh when roads start getting rebuilt, potholes begin to be temporarily covered again and even some government employees begin to show up for ‘work.’ Sure, most of them still don’t do anything, but, remember, it’s the thought that counts! As always, any election in Delhi garners national attention. Not only because it is conveniently located in the same city as the main office of most of our major news organizations, it’s also supposed to provide an indication of which party and their supporters will be more smug while we head to the general election. However, this time there was even more attention paid to the election because instead of the usual two mediocre alternatives, the people of Delhi had three despicable candidates to choose from. Three cheers for democracy!  

As the votes are counted this week and Delhi’s new liaison to the central government to continuously ask for more money is selected, let us not forget the mind numbing and melodramatic campaign that got us here.

Fighting for another record term is our first candidate, the current incumbent and the only senior citizen in Delhi to actually have access to various government services, Sheila Dikshit. She spent most of the campaign being offended at anyone who had the temerity to suggest that she didn’t put her best foot forward each and every day she has been in office. For the past decade and a half, her first and last thought has been to wonder how she can make the life of the citizens of her city-state better. And she was ready to debate anyone who dared to suggest that she made any mistakes. Anyone! At an independent public forum! Of course, she couldn’t do that during the elections. She did not have any time! Why would anyone want to see leaders of different political parties debate each other during an election, anyway? What purpose does it serve? None, as far as she is concerned. She just wants to spend all her time with the people of the city. The people she thinks about every minute of her life. They’re her only concern.

That is why she spent the last two weeks of the campaign pretending to be a really humble person. Nothing to see here! Just your friendly neighbourhood grandmother fighting an election! What sort of monster doesn’t vote for their grandmother? She even admitted to making a couple of mistakes. Like the BRT corridor. She gave into popular sentiment and finally admitted her disappointment with what she once claimed to be her signature achievement. She promised to start dismantling it the minute she was elected to her fourth term. Look, if you’re only focusing on her mistakes then you must have a secret agenda of your own. Why not focus on all the positive changes? Look at all the flyovers! Also, the large number of public facilities for all those people who get stuck in traffic while traversing the road between those flyovers. No one even mentions the abundance of electricity! Also, the number of hospitals for all those who get a heart attack after looking at their electricity bills. Vote for the Congress and give us a chance to solve all the problems we created!

The story of the BJP’s campaign is the story of how one deserving candidate was cheated of his rightful place as his party’s chief ministerial nominee. This man was none other than Vijay Goel. Not only is he an obedient worker, he is also a renowned activist. He has spent the past few decades quietly building the party in the city, waiting for his turn. Sure, he is alleged to have made some money and is possibly the only person in Delhi who is less popular than Shiela Dikshit, but everyone knows elections are not popularity contests. You don’t need people to like you to get them to vote for you. Especially not in India, where people vote for candidates they despise at regular intervals. You just have to make them realize that your opponent is the worst person in the world. This was his time to shine, dammit! But they took his dream and gave it to an unknown person like Harsh Vardan. What sort of name is that, anyway? What is he, a character from a Karan Johar movie? Now, Vijay, that’s a name. It literally means victory! VICTORY!

Anyway, it didn’t matter much because the only candidate for every election the BJP runs in for the next few months is Narendra Modi. He was what traders in Delhi call the “all-in-all” of the BJP’s election campaign. The candidate, the chief campaigner and every item in the manifesto. Just don’t ask him any questions. Real patriots don’t want such a great leader to actually specify policy positions. Get your legitimate concerns off my lawn!  Vote for the BJP, because all you need is Narendra Modi!

Almost all of us have that that weird uncle who will show up at your family function and try to be ultra-helpful for no discernible reason. He will admonish the catering staff for being lazy, stand with the family to welcome the guests and will force you to let him do all the inevitable last minute errands. But, instead of helping, he ends up making the catering staff more rude, creeps out the guests who have no idea who this strange man repeatedly asking them to have dinner is and cannot finish any errand because he has no idea where anything is. Well, Arvind Kejriwal’s fledging political outfit, the AAP, is Delhi’s weird uncle. They’re here for you, no matter what you want. Just don’t leave without having dinner!

Throughout the campaign, they promised to change the world, one resident welfare association at a time. Nothing could dampen their enthusiasm! Neither empty threats from the government nor fake stings from shady news organizations. They didn’t even flinch when India’s only living leprechaun, Anna Hazare, tried to rain in on their parade. They promised to give the people whatever they wanted. Their manifesto read like a suggestion box in a high school that accepts anonymous submissions. To them, there are no bad ideas. Five day weekends? You got it! Can you pass a law that makes it so that we don’t have to pay for anything we don’t like? On it! Can you put CCTVs all over the city whose sole purpose is to monitor other CCTVs? What an idea, sirjee!  Your wish is their command. Vote for the AAP, because we don’t think you’re crazy!

Now please excuse me while I mock viewers of reality shows for having a really shitty list of contestants to vote for.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

For Whom the Fans Troll

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

There was a feeling of sadness permeating through the air. The streets were empty. Families gathered together to lean on each other for support. Those without anyone reached out to others like them so that they wouldn’t be alone. A dark cloud had descended over the country. The sun had been eclipsed by an even bigger star. No one was ready to say goodbye yet. But they still had to. First there was the silence. Followed by the tears. And then, there was the chanting. A billion-plus people shouting his name. A nation whose citizens spend every day of the year fighting with each other was united for one short, solitary moment. In five, ten, fifty years, those who survive the nuclear winter will recall this day and let their radiated descendants know how time itself stopped to say goodbye to Sachin Tendulkar.

Okay, none of that actually happened. But if you were a fan of Sachin Tendulkar, then this is probably how you will remember the last day of the last match of his cricketing career. And if you were one of the unfortunate people who didn’t subscribe to the school of thought that proclaimed that he was the greatest thing to happen to this world since the oven that was used to bake the first batch of sliced bread, then you probably will remember that day for the elaborate system of passwords and secret handshakes you needed to use to find any remote safehouse that kept you away from the brainwashed masses.  

That must have been a difficult task because those people were everywhere. In your house, ruining what is supposed to be your haven away from the world. Or at your local cafe, disturbing your “me time” with their incessant need to discuss strange things like “batting average” while making snide insinuations about some chap called Bradman. They didn’t even spare your favourite bar, desecrating the holiest of holy places by boldly asking the shocked manager to switch off the ‘bacardi blast’ cd playing on repeat and putting on the match commentary instead. They took over all the newspapers too! Instead of reporting important salacious details about whom Ranbir Kapoor was dating, our broadsheets were printing interviews with all the important people in Tendulkar’s life, like that guy who once stood next to him at a school bus stop. All the news channels stopped focusing on silly political non-events for a while and instead held panel discussions involving various cricketing legends like Shobha De and Suhel Seth.

Members of the Sachin sect took over twitter too. Between tweeting links to youtube clips of Sachin’s best innings and blogposts that were supposed to make your eyes water while you swallowed that temporary lump in your throat, they spent the day of the final goodbye accusing those who did not agree with them of being dead on the inside. (When did being dead on the inside stop being a thing that should be encouraged? I, for one, highly recommend it!) They declared that anyone who didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of loss on Tendulkar’s retirement must be less emotionally equipped than the Frankenstein monster. They were shocked – shocked! – that not everyone talked about their lord and saviour with the same reverence that they did. They even wondered out loud why everyone else in world couldn’t see that he was the chosen one.

Recently, a court in UP banned the screening of a movie because some stupid people were faux-offended by the use of the words ‘Ram-leela’ in the title. A few months ago, a court in Malaysia banned non-Muslims from saying or writing ‘Allah’ in any form. Earlier this year, when the lead actor for the movie version of the Fifty Shades of Grey series was announced, he got death threats from some of the most obsessive readers of the ‘books’ because according to them, he didn’t resemble the version of the eponymous character that they had in their head.

We’ve let those who believe in the magical powers of ancient storybooks, fairytales, man-made symbols, octogenarian actors, politicians, sportsmen with a cinematic narrative for a life story and other fictional characters determine how we talk about their object of reverence. That is a slippery slope. One minute you’re agreeing to not make silly jokes about a way-past-his-prime cricket player to avoid a confrontation or to please his fans, the next minute you’re going to find yourself prostrating in front of his life-sized statue, as your life flashes in front of your eyes and you wonder how you got here.

I’m all for worshipping whomever you like!  We pretend it’s a free country, after all. We’re all entitled to our delusions. But the insistence that other people follow suit? We’re not entitled to that.

Now please excuse me as I make a change dot org petition asking Obama to sign an executive order banning Ben Affleck from ever wearing a Batman costume.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to be the Best Goddamn Democracy in the Whole Wide World

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)  

As we head into dystopian times at warp speed, it seems refreshing to hear news about a country trying to make its government a little more democratic. Who wouldn’t like to see the human race take another small step in the right direction? But when we heard that our old friend Nepal was trying to elect a constituent assembly, we were very disappointed. If they needed something, they could’ve asked us. We’re always been eager to help our neighbours. In fact, we go out of our way and do things that inconvenience us just to take care of them. So if the good people of Nepal needed a constitution, they could’ve just borrowed ours. We aren’t using ours much these days anyway! And if some people have their way, we won’t need it at all after next year. But, okay. We get it. They needed to do this for themselves. Find out who they are. Even though they tried it on their own without our guidance a few years ago and it didn’t work. Maybe this time it will?

Although, in our humble opinion the smart thing to do would be to wait for a few months and vote in the upcoming elections in India, but, for some reason, the people of Nepal don’t want to subscribe to the Indian democracy project. Their snub is not going to ruin our buzz! We have nothing to say to them. They should know that we didn’t grow all this grey hair standing in the sun all day. It came from experience as well as a botched up dye job.

For your information, people of Nepal, our country has had at least the pretence of democracy for about sixty seven years now. We’re the leading democracy in South Asia! Sure, that’s like being the fourth musketeer or the vanilla extract in chocolate cake. Maybe some of us like vanilla! It might not have the flash of strawberry or posses the good fortune of tasting better than its individual ingredients like pistachio, but it does its job, even though it tastes like something an old, efficient Soviet-era bureaucrat might come up with. If you think so badly of our favourite flavour, then we probably did the right thing by not bringing over the generous helping we had earmarked for you. You can thank your harsh attitude for missing out on such a delicious treat. We’re going to mix your former share of our home made vanilla ice-cream with bourbon, sit by the fireplace and talk amongst ourselves about how you betrayed us. I hope you realize what you’ve lost! In fact, we had imagined that we’d even try to help you with tricks and life hacks on how to run things. Now, however, we’re just going to gloat about why we’re much better at democracy than you ever will be.

For starters, most of your political parties don’t even have a high command. You amateurs are hilarious! You see, it doesn’t matter who the people elect. The most important vote belongs to the undisputed leader of the party. We should have known how bad at this you were when you jettisoned the dynasty that has ruled you for so many decades. Who does that? Not someone who’s good at democracy! No siree, Bob!

The majority of the candidates standing in your elections don’t even have criminal cases against them. You didn’t even allow criminals to contest the elections. What sort of screwed up operation are you guys running? It’s important to elect murderers, rapists, psychopaths, conmen, busybodies, kidnappers, drug dealers, tax dodgers, smugglers of illicit materials and other valued members of society to various legislative bodies so that you know where they are all the time, in case you want to arrest and/or felicitate them.

Which is why it is also important to have a criminal investigative agency whose primary purpose is to be used as political leverage. Do any of you even know what clean chits are? This is why none of your coalition governments are stable. As you must have gathered by now, voting in an election is choosing the option that would do the least harm to the country. You should have a whole smorgasbord of bad choices! As a matter of fact, in most cases, if you’re stuck, you’re supposed to just vote for the person who belongs to the community you most identify with. So what if they’re an incompetent thief? They’re your thief! Even if they don’t do anything for you, at least they’re keeping those people away from the spoils of power.

How dare you involve your maoists in the constitution writing process? That’s not the right way to solve your insurgency problems. Let them stay in the forest so that you can keep bombing them. And what sort of maoists willingly participate in the electoral process? Have they no shame? I thought their lot in life was to overthrow the state, not play a role in strengthening fledging democratic institutions. Has palling around with China taught them nothing? Though them being bitter about losing the elections and threatening to take their ball and go home might just save your infant democracy.

The people in your country also need to get a hobby because approximately seventy percent of them showed up to vote in the elections. Just because you care enough about the future of your country to engage in one of your most important civic duties doesn’t mean you’re so special. No matter what your politicians promise you, nothing is ever going to change. Things are only going to get worse. Therefore, why even bother voting? Plus, voting day is a great time to catch up on other things. It is basically an extra day off! You can use it to finish all your pending errands, catch up with people you haven’t met in ten years, go for a picnic with your family, get your accident prone child a tetanus shot, update your status on Facebook to show your disillusionment with the electoral process, file your taxes. There is so much to do!

Look, I know all this talk about how awesome our democracy is must make all of you very jealous, so I’ll put you out of your misery and stop talking about it now.

But if you ever need any pointers, you know where to find us.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Untold History of Hindustan

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

(For far too long, thanks to the influence of our cowardly, Nehru worshipping, pinko commie historians, our collective past has been whitewashed to fit the narrative preferred by the elitist left-liberal scum. Therefore, it is imperative upon all patriotic Indians to fight this menace. As we all know, the only person in our country today with cojones big enough to take on the liberal establishment is none other than Shri Dr. Prof. Narendra Modi TBH IDK. So, to aid him in this noble enterprise, we bring you an extract from his forthcoming non-fiction book about the real history of India, called ‘India Before Modi.’)

Preface: Friends, in this chapter, I would like to talk about India’s fight for independence. As always has been the case in our country, the whole predicament began because of bad leadership. We would’ve successfully driven the British out in 1857 itself if only we had a strong leader, preferably from Gujarat, who knew exactly how to bring the mighty British empire down to its knees. We all know that there are no problems strong leadership cannot solve!

A long, long time ago, in a city that very much resembles today’s New Delhi, there was a king called Bahadur Shah Zafar. He had a palace, a few hundred servants willing to obey all his commands and service his every whim. He was a quiet, non-imposing man, who couldn’t hurt a fly even if he tried. He was old, tired and had no knowledge of statecraft. However, none of this mattered because in essence, he was king in name only. No one really cared about his opinion, except maybe his wife, a few bureaucrats and some misguided leaders of foreign countries. In fact, the real ruler of the city and the rest of the country was a European. The king was simply a puppet, allowed to exist so as to lend a friendly face to the brutal, corrupt dictatorship of foreign rule. We would never let someone like that lead us during the present day, right?

Once the atrocities against the people of the country began to reach unprecedented levels, various Hindu leaders revolted against the foreign hand. These leaders even managed to convince their Muslim brethren to not fall for the pseudo-secularism of the occupying power and made them join in the righteous fight to take back the country. They all got together to drive out the British and even succeeded in removing them from the capital city. The one mistake those bold men (and one token woman nominated by the sleepy town of Jhansi. Can you imagine woman warriors? Ha! What was this, the 15th century? Actually it was the 19th. But I digress!) made was proclaiming Bahadur Shah Zafar as their king. You cannot enjoy the fruits of war without the resultant government having a strong leader at its helm. You need a uniter, not a divider! So, thanks to the rudderless leadership of the self-proclaimed poet king, the British won back and occupied Delhi. Now, usually I don’t agree with the British because that would involve putting myself in someone else’s shoes and strong leaders don’t do that, but even I agree with their action of sending Zafar to live in Bhutan or Nepal or wherever he ended up going. No one really knows where and we have never honestly tried to find out because we really don’t care, you know?

The independence movement didn’t have a strong leader until the emergence of ICONIC BJP STATESMAN Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Fondly referred to as ‘the Narendra Modi of the freedom movement,’ Vallabhbhai was the real reason India got independence when it did. He single handedly drove the British away from India. He was provided help in this endeavour by Mahatma Gandhi, who was another patriotic Gujarati. Gandhiji went all over the world but he came back because he once again wanted to breathe in a little bit of Gujarat. On the sidelines, a Roshan Seth lookalike gave some good speeches and wrote some popular books which helped him inflate his role in the freedom struggle. There were also a few minority leaders who contributed to the freedom movement in their unique way but I don’t want to mention any of their names so as to not appear like I’m favouring any particular community. Strong leaders don’t do that!  

However, I’d like to give a dishonourable mention to the biggest villain of the freedom struggle, retroactive ISI agent M.A. Jinnah. He was the sort of man who believed that only he was the right person to lead his people onto the light. A man who had no compunction in rewriting history to suit his purpose.  A man without empathy whose conscience wasn’t bothered that his actions tore the country apart. A man who was ready to sacrifice as many human lives as it took at the altar of his ambition.

We would never let someone like that lead us during the present day, right?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stuff the Congress Wants the UPA Government to Ban

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

(We were going to write another long screed about how everything is just the absolute worst, but minutes before we were about to begin, an anonymous party insider sent us the following Congress Working Committee Memo which enumerates all the things the party wants the government to ban. So we immediately decided to send this in instead because this scoop is so exclusive that even most of the people it was intended for haven’t seen it yet.)

Dear cherished members of the Gandhi family, honourable prime minister, honourable prime ministerial aspirants, respected elders, treasured friends, esteemed colleagues, and Digvijay Singh,

I write this letter to you in anguish. There has been an onslaught of negativity towards the UPA government. We have been treated very unfairly. Everybody talks about all of the bad things we have done, and not the good thing everyone thought we did but found out later that it was a bad thing too. Since the assembly elections are sort of a semi-final for next year’s general election, we have to take some preventive steps to stop the misinformation campaign against us. Due to this bombardment of dubious information, people are getting the impression that we are corrupt, old, out of our depth and not prepared for the challenges of the 21st century. These untruths about us are probably being spread at the behest of a foreign hand by mischievous elements for the benefit of our political opponents. Clearly, getting bad information is the only reason the people of this country have expressed their desire to vote against us. There is no other possible explanation of why anyone would not think that we’re the greatest thing to happen to the human race since the invention of the ‘Reply All’ button.

So, in the spirit of upholding democracy and freedom, we ask that the central government ban the following:

Opinion polls: Clearly, these unscientific measures of groupthink are biased. And damaging! Look, one of the most important things in this country is other people’s opinion. A large percentage of our population base their lives on projecting the sort of image that everyone around them approves of. People are ready to spend their whole lives living in an unhappy squalor as long as they don’t become the topic of gossip among their friends, relatives and neighbours. People are even peer-pressured into killing their loved ones. Don’t you think they can easily be persuaded to vote for someone on the basis of bogus polls?

Election Symbols of other political parties: I, for one, see no need for any political party that is not led by a member of the Gandhi family. However, thanks to a glaring oversight by our founding fathers, the constitution allows for as many political parties as the people want. The only thing we can do to make people forget that other options exist is to remove or hide anything that reminds them of political parties opposed to us. As they say, absence makes the heart grow amnesic! So, for the next six months, say goodbye to aeroplanes, arrows, bells, bicycles, books, bows, brooms, bulbs, bungalows, corn, chairs, clocks, combs, drums, elephants, flowers, grass, hammers, hand pumps, ink pots, ladders, lady farmers, leaves, lions, lotuses, mangoes, pens, sickles, spades, spectacles, stars, the sun, tractors, and umbrellas.

The News: This is the ground zero of the misinformation campaign. Some so called reporters keep damaging our chances in the election by trying to inform the public. The ‘Modi media’ is quite disrespectful to some of our esteemed leaders. These propagandists show our leaders in a bad light by reporting what they said, verbatim. We will not let them get away with that anymore! So we should get rid of all political news, at least for the next six months. Also, why does the public need to hear about politics anyway? It’s such a complicated business! It probably depresses them, anyway. In my opinion, we should ‘humbly suggest’ to all the news channels they’d be better off by reporting on bollywood shenanigans than making a mountain out of a political molehill.

The Internet: We live in the information age. There is so much information for everyone to process! Something is always blaring at us, demanding our attention. A smorgasbord of things that we absolutely cannot miss! So much to must watch! and do read! that being on the internet can feel like a full time job. Therefore, it is only fair that we limit the number of websites that internet users in India can access. It is just like banning the consumption of illicit drugs or local hooch. It’s doing the people a favour they didn’t ask for! Tough love, etc. As someone suggested in our meeting the other day, printing out the whole internet so we can determine what is or isn’t allowed seems like a good idea. In the interim, we can limit people’s access just to websites that display cricket match scorecards and Sanjay Jha’s Rahul Gandhi slash fiction livejournal.

Remember, we need to convince the people of this country that all these steps have been taken because of legitimate concerns and are not the last gasp of air before the final demise of a craven government.

Jai Hind!



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Welcome to Incredible India!

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

I tried looking out the dusty window to get a look at–what I assumed–was a beautiful scenery, and not just a row of terribly made houses of various proportions. I shifted the weight of the bag to my other leg. There wasn’t any available space for me to put my luggage in the overhead compartment because by the time I reached the train all the empty slots had been occupied by bags belonging to my fellow passengers. Not one to cause any trouble or let such small incidents ruin my adventurous mood, I busied myself with trying to breathe in the atmosphere. It smelt like a communal toilet at an all-male college hostel, but, that is part of the charm of travelling by a train in India.

My mouth watered as I saw the steward distributing trays with packed goodies. The food was here! Finally, some relief for my famished stomach. As he threw the tray at my wobbly, make-shift table with the grace of an orphanage warden from a Charles Dickens novel distributing grub to his most hated wards, I shook my head at this endearing show of familiarity. I took one bite of the unrivalled delicacies placed in front of me and let out a contented sigh. It tasted like it came from home. Specifically, an old people’s home. Because it didn’t have any salt, grain, texture, flavour, or any other qualities that would let us classify it as an item fit for consumption by a living being of any species. As they say, that’s how the cookie crumbles. Or at least I thought that was a cookie?

* * *

Once upon a time, around the early aughts of the current century, the ancients used to share their thoughts with the rest of the world by what a majority of people referred to as ‘a blog.’ Short for weblog, this was quite a popular enterprise for a lot of people: parents wanting to share their experience with other parents, those with a lot of proverbial skeletons in their cupboard looking for an outlet, writers wanting to practice their craft, bar drunks looking for an audience to rant to, people willing to rally against conventional wisdom and those who felt that a certain point of view was being ignored by the mainstream media. The best way to identify a blog run by a person of Indian origin was to look at its title. If it contained either “random” or “confessions” or a Vedic reference, then there was a very high probability of that blog having at least some connection to the subcontinent. 

One of the most frequent occurrences on these blogs (and a meme that is still strangely popular on twitter) was nostalgic posts romanticizing the travel industry in the country. The beautiful sights! The amazing journey! The awkward moment when you realize that you’ve been had!

Travelling to our country is not for those who give up easily. We like to make everything much more difficult to accomplish! Trying to book a train ticket using the Indian Railways website is harder than trying to master bullfighting. The government sites that are supposed to provide information look like their developer hired a time travelling teenager visiting us from the 90’s who is colour blind and has only read the first chapter of ‘The World Wide Web for Dummies’ instruction manual to make them.

Not that privatising everything solves any problem. Most popular destinations now have more food courts than actual visitors. Private resorts think that adding a fancy Urdu word to the end of each menu item raises its value by at least a thousand percent. Try our Singaporean Fried Rice Zafarani, a bowel moment stopping exotic blend of two unique food cultures. Our Chicken Khwabgah has been marinated with flavoured yogurt and slowly roasted over a pit heated by the burning embers of the hopes and dreams that you had for your first born which disappeared the minute you realized that you spent all the money that you had been saving for their college education to pay your bill at our hotel. The mineral water being served with your meal was extracted from the bladder of a unicorn then injected with the weird liquid that turns even those sugar pills homeopathic quacks hand out bitter and then sprinkled with the bacteria living in the hands of your designated server.

Safety isn’t really an issue in our country in that most people don’t have any. Flying with our ‘national airline’ is like playing Russian roulette with five bullets instead of one. Our highways are like storage units for potholes. Most of our public facilities are so unclean that some of them probably still have strains of the smallpox virus embedded in them.

We’re also quite friendly to folks who are not like us. The majority of the people of this country are very accepting of those who are different. That is why they don’t stare and make the visitors feel uncomfortable at all. They don’t even treat them like exotic objects flown in for us to admire or treat with disdain depending on the pigmentation of their skin.

The whole tourism industry seems to be built on fleecing people. From the service providers responsible for transportation, to the officials who deliberately misguide those whom they are supposed to be providing help to, everyone is in on the take. Hey, this person is naive enough to trust us. Let’s stiff them for all they’ve got! In fact, getting fleeced is one of the most essential parts of your experience. Your vacation in India isn’t a success unless you’ve been overcharged, cheated, duped, misled, or taken for a ride at least once.

Now, please excuse me as I try to convince this American billionaire I ran into that he can legally lease the Taj Mahal.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to be a Real Tourist

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

Do you like to travel? If you do, then have you ever made a whole bunch of your fellow travellers uncomfortable with your cringe inducing presence? Have you ever improved the quality of a tourist spot just by leaving it? Do you have that application on Facebook which shows the various cities and countries that you have travelled to? If your answer to any or all of the above questions is a loud no, then ladies and gentlemen, consider this an intervention. Clearly, you’ve been missing out. And as a concerned citizen, I consider it my patriotic duty to help you correct that.

First things first. If you’re using public transportation to get to your destination, remember that you paid good money for your ticket. So you better avail every service that they provide. For starters, you should charge all your electronic items on the train. That’s what they’re there for! You should monopolize all the electronic sockets near your seat for as long as your journey lasts. Other people should’ve planned ahead. Why didn’t those moochers charge their cheap tablet at home anyway? Also, grab every food or beverage they serve you. Even if you’re not either hungry or thirsty. Even if it looks like it carries a thousand diseases. Don’t be one of those hippies who don’t take things that they’re legally entitled to because they don’t feel like it. The service providers probably expect you to take those sachets of sugar or those cheap headphones with you anyway. Why add extra work for the staff by leaving things behind?

Then, as soon as you are a few minutes away from the end of your journey, stand in the aisle with all your luggage so that you're ready to get down the second the blurry visuals passing by vaguely resemble your destination. Remember, it’s a race! Whoever leaves first wins! Even if it’s only the satisfaction of leaving a claustrophobic confines of a public transportation vessel a few minutes before the rest of your fellow passengers. Don’t wait for your mode of transport to slow down before you start taking down your luggage from the overhead compartment. It’s always safer to do it while trying to stand still in an object moving at a high speed! You’re not liable to fall down or cause injury to other people at all. The laws of motion, like other laws you don’t care about, were meant to be broken.

Further, always haggle with the porter for cheaper rates. They expect you do it. Even if it is in a foreign country where they don’t include the possibility of bargaining in their pricing strategies. Hey, if those who survive on minimum wage want to scam you for your money, why don’t they open a fancy resort like normal people? This is why you also never tip at restaurants. You’re not going to show up at this place again anyway, so why reward good service?

Don’t forget to take pictures of everything, so that many years later you can remember the time when you were present to see this awesome sight befolding in front of you and you were taking a picture so that you could enjoy the experience later. Even if you’re never going to look at any of these photos again! A grainy cellphone picture is always better than actually being there. You should even take pictures of museum items like old paintings. Sure, the light from the flash in your camera might damage them, and you can buy a replica at the souvenir store, but why should you be forced to buy something which the shitty camera in your phone can record for free?

Your experience is not going to be complete without sharing your pictures with a few thousand of your closest friends on social media. It’s the modern version of the classic ‘wish you were here!’ postcard. Except more passive-aggressive and self-aggrandising. You could be a little subtle and let the location tags in your pictures and tweets reveal where you really are. Or you could go all guns blazing like a real townie and let everybody know where you really are by talking about your existential experience at a famous landmark.

When you’re looking for food to eat, always look for something familiar. You didn’t come all this way to try something new! Who does that? Look for a restaurant serving your native cuisine or a local franchise of a fast food chain. Most of the time time the food will taste very different from what you’re used to. This will give you a great opportunity to feel superior and talk about your travels when you’re back home. Oh, I couldn’t find a decent portion of butter chicken anywhere in Florence! Even a rodent could whip up a more edible casserole of Ratatouille than what they serve in Kanpur!

Now that you’re armed with these tips, go forth and see the world. Don’t let silly things like “common courtesy” or “the opinion of other people” bother you. 

After all, they still don’t allow Yelp reviews of individual tourists.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Two Countries, a World and an Agency With an Insatiable Thirst For Your Personal Data

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

In a world, where conflict rules, borders keep on changing, friendships are based on self-interest, there have been two countries whose destinies fate has entwined together. Two countries, who will one day embark on a journey, to once again change the world.

The relationship between the largest and the oldest democracies in the world has been like a rollercoaster, seeing many ups & downs. In the beginning, there was the initial spark, when both of them met at a party where they bonded over their love for multiculturalism as well as large movie making industries and their disdain for British colonialism as well as state sanctioned religion. They went home excited, thinking they were on the brink of a new and exciting chapter in their lives. However, fate had different plans! A misunderstanding ensued and both of them took alternate paths and found themselves on different sides of a majority of issues. Neither of them wanted to act on their feelings now and they buried whatever affection and fondness they had for each other deep inside their heart. And to get back at the one who hurt them the most, they tried to form a relationship with the other’s arch-nemesis. This went on for a few decades.

However, fate intervened and various interconnected events led to both countries finding themselves on the same side once again. Trying to work towards the same goals together made them realize how well they get along with one another. So their anger thawed and they were reminded again of the things they adored about each other. They decided to try to give their relationship another chance.

The next decade was their honeymoon period. Their love for one another seemed to grow every year. And they couldn’t keep their hands off each other! You found them conducting bilateral meetings while attending international conferences. Or sneaking away with their whole entourage during boring UN assembly sessions. They forgave each other for things that they would get mad at other countries for. They supported each other’s international adventures, even when other countries were against them. They never gave the other a hard time for their international follies like invading the wrong country or paying lip-service to democracy while supporting totalitarian regimes.

Yet, they again began to drift apart. Their work took them to different continents and they found themselves on opposite sides once more. They tried to preserve their relationship by deciding not to discuss things that they didn’t agree on whenever they tried having a conversation. However, as it always does, the resentment carried over. Both countries began to build a life that wouldn’t involve the other. Making new friends, holding summits without inviting their so called ‘most important strategic partner,’ trying to re-negotiate treaties that had already been settled, they began to fall back on old patterns of passive aggressiveness. They barely had time to conduct an awkward conversation when they saw each other at breakfast. America spent most of its time in the office and India got used to having dinner alone everyday, after spending days doing nothing but waiting and then falling asleep on the couch, absentmindedly watching some crap on teevee.

However, this relationship received a jolt of life recently when it was revealed that India is one of the top targets of the American surveillance state. “They care! They still care!” as one Indian government official put it, trying to hide his tears of happiness by pretending that he has a small pebble stuck in his eye.

Now before the privacy ayatollahs try to turn this revelation into something it’s not, don’t forget that America isn’t saying that it doesn’t trust India. It does! So much! With its life, even! But it doesn’t trust the other countries. So it’s hacking into our systems and stealing all our important information to keep it safe! It’s not America’s fault that our systems are so easy to get into. America was just trying a million different combinations as a goof and ended up extracting information from every computer in the country, as a gag. We shouldn’t use a password which is so easy to figure out!

Let’s face it. The surveillance state isn’t going anywhere. No political party with a serious shot at coming to power in any country is going to oppose it. Even Canada – Canada! – is getting into the whole ‘keep track of what other people are doing’ game. Finding out that Canada is spying on other countries is like finding out that the cool hippie uncle whom every child in the family idolizes is a paedophile.

So don’t get upset that America wants to know everything we do, everyone we talk to and where we are at any given moment. Some may call it extreme possessiveness, but as hindi movies teach us, isn’t that just the purest form of love? Their actions are driven by fondness! For example, one of the NSA programs that surreptitiously collects all our information is called ‘Boundless Informant.’  You see? Just like the data that they can access, their love for us knows no bounds.

India and America totally complete each other. One of them is a country starved for attention. The other is obsessed with keeping track of everything every person in the world is doing.

That is a match made in romantic comedy heaven.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Great Day for Indian Shamocracy

A billion people shall wait night and day,
for this child of man to have his say;
for he will be the one to whom they pray,
this child of man who just wants to play.
- A modern day ‘re-boot’ of one of Nostradamus’ predictions 

Many many moons ago, when the sky was dark and the air was suffocating, a man sat looking at the future of the human race in the majestic portal that lived in the small lake near his house. Now, some people say that that old man was just trippin’ and most of his predictions are vague enough that they can be made to fit any event in human history. However, we true believers know in our heart of hearts that he always knew what we did last summer.  

As the great seer predicted, the people of this country spend their days and nights waiting for their favourite man-child to emerge from his man-cave to vocalize his most recent epiphany. India is a computer! Poor people are like spaceships! We’re all living in virtual world while our real bodies are used by our robotic overlords for their own sustenance!

Recently, while part-time Prime Minister and full time employee of Gandhi Inc., Manmohan Singh, was in Washington to meet the self-proclaimed leader of the free world so that they could have an awkward conversation of epic proportions, our childus emeritus decided to steal away the meagre spotlight from his company’s most loyal employee. 

Some members of Team Rahul (Yup, that’s a thing now. Apparently, every moniker these days must be dumbed down to buzzwords so stupid that even teenagers whose only point of reference is a book about vampires can understand them.) had a bright idea! They thought that it would cause no harm if they let their ward appear briefly on teevee to pronounce his opposition to a recent step taken by the government that would benefit members of the political establishment who, let’s just say, were a little creative in their interpretation of what is considered ‘lawful activity.’ Why not let the second most powerful person in the party directly contradict the Prime Minister while he is on an important international tour? That wouldn’t diminish the Prime Minister’s standing in the international community or anything. 

So a choreographed hijack of a press conference was arranged for maximum dramatic effect! It was a perfect setup. From the sycophantic welcome he received from the press club representative, to his pause for gasps and pearl clutching while declaring his opinion, to the metaphorical mic drop and stage exit. Another episode of ‘Two Minute Political Wisdom,’ brought to you by the information age. As easy to make as a packet of noodles!

Now usually the Prime Minister can win a couple of newscycles whenever he returns from a meeting with President Barry America. Just last week, if he’d let one of the bureaucratic adoptees working for him mention, in confidence of course, to an agency reporter that Barry himself walked Singh towards his car, it would have gotten him about three days worth of positive press. Even Arnab Goswami would have been impressed enough to call a large panel of Pakistani generals to his show so he could spend a couple of hours gloating to their face. (Although to be fair it doesn’t take much to impress Arnab Goswami. Just yesterday, Arnab spent five hours watching a goldfish swimming in a glass container full of water. In the end, it turned out to be a piece of toast that Arnab had dropped into the water when he bent down to look inside.) However, thanks to his younger boss, the only time the PM’s name was mentioned at all last week was in conjunction with the words “resignation” and “what a miserable state of existence to be in.” 

In fact, the clamour for Manmohan Singh to resign reached ridiculous levels. Someone who is considered a very serious person with intelligent opinions by most of our news organizations said that the Prime Minister should resign while he is on a bilateral visit! Because that is how you run a country. Just take your toys and go home because the mean kid from down the street questions your ability to authentically replicate the sound a train makes while in motion. In the whole sordid episode, the only person who actually seemed most like an adult human was Manmohan Singh. The man who wouldn’t be able to sell space on a lifeboat to passengers of a sinking ship! He was the designate driver in a car full of irresponsible idiots who couldn’t hold their alcohol! People planning on having kids, do you really want to bring them up in a world in which Manmohan Singh is deemed the sanest person around?

The only silver lining in the whole ordeal was watching the sycophants who had spent the past few days trying to sell the ordinance to the public, turning around and calling it the worst thing to happen to mankind since the bubonic plague. As a connoisseur of hilarity, it was rather entertaining. As a citizen though, it was disconcerting to watch the speed at which the members of our political cults inhabited the opinion of their dear leader and made it their own. As ‘India’s nightingale’ Jayanti Natrajan put it, if the scion takes a view everyone else will obviously fall in line. Obviously! Because in a shamocracy, holding an opinion contrary to the stated position of the object of your worship even though it might be official party policy is like trying to hold two radioactive nuclei in a box made of uranium-238.

If only someone had predicted that this would happen.

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What’s a nice beer like you doing inside my shampoo?

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

A few days ago, some crazy people in my neighbourhood were celebrating their favourite festival by ‘unintentionally’ waking up everyone else early in the morning. So, to drown out the incessant ass-kissing of an invisible wish-granter in the sky so that I could go back to arguing with people on the internet, I had to switch on the teevee. It was the least worst option and it helped me maintain my tenuous hold on sanity. Suddenly, just as I was about to satisfactorily end a particularly strained exchange of sly-tweets by calling my rhetorical opponent the H-word, a stream of grunts and other cave man noises emanating from the teevee grabbed my attention and I was able to witness the most mesmerizing piece of media that I have ever seen: a commercial for a shampoo made from beer.

Remember when paying small-time conmen a lot of money to pretend to put your name on a single grain of rice was a thing people were into? Watching this advert was like that. Someone boiled down the essence of conventional wisdom about being a man and put it in a single fifty second advert. The ad begins with the model—who is obviously a real man because he has a large moustache—‘getting his neanderthal on’ by  continuously shouting the words ‘man hair’ at the screen, as if that’s a concept which exists in real life. And while he continues to repeat those two words, he does other manly things like hitting a piece of log with an axe, scaring away a large bear by using only his booming voice and arm wrestling. The ad also contains things every ‘dude’ is supposed to love – Beer! Women! Presentations! Men with waxed chests!

Now, this may come as a shock to a lot of you, but I’m not really a ‘spiritual’ person. But the first time I laid eyes on this work of art was the closest I’ve come to believing in the existence of god. This advertisement is the Picasso of prickery. The David Lynch of douchebaggery. The Mozart of misplaced masculinity. Maybe even the Jhumpa Lahiri of jackassery. 

I have no idea why the makers of this wonderful product even need to advertise it. It sells itself. Who doesn’t want to spend all day smelling like they just woke up in their own alcohol induced vomit? And who wouldn’t want to get with that? Isn’t it very woman’s dream to end up with a guy so riddled with insecurity that he needs to add beer to his shampoo to prove something to himself? And let’s face it. Women’s hair is different from men’s hair. Why? Maybe hormones or something. I don’t know! I’m not a bearded lesbian enrolled in gender studies working on a thesis discussing the impact of exploiting a person’s lack of self-belief as a marketing strategy. Blergh!

Look, women have it so easy. As India’s #1 love guru Chetan Bhagat once said, women don’t have to do anything to attract the opposite sex. They come on their own! (Also, if you’re taking dating advice from Chetan Bhagat, then you’re probably going to spend the rest of your life coming on your own.) It’s the men that have to do all the hard work. Like a dancing peacock, a man whose hair smells like beer is telling the female members of his species that he’s ready to mate. And as most of the adverts on teevee tell us, the only reason men do things is because they want to get laid. From deciding which deodorant to mask their body odour with to offering a ride to a senior citizen in distress, the motivation behind every action is the possibility of sexual intercourse. Any other reason will force the other members of the ‘Real Mens’ Club’ to throw them out and confiscate their man card.

My favourite part of the advertisement is when the protagonist warns prospective consumers to not drink the shampoo just because it is shaped like a beer bottle. Is that such a big problem? Of course, these days’ shampoos have less chemical content than our actual food, but is there really a huge outbreak of people falling sick after drinking their shampoo? You see, drinking beer shampoo is hazardous to one’s health because it is basically a tasteless mishmash of hops, water and surly carbohydrates. It shouldn’t go anywhere near your mouth, no matter how much its manufacturing process also describes how regular beer is made.

In two thousand years, when our future generations finally recover from nuclear destruction and are able to find their way back to civilization, they will look at this ad and hold it as an example of how the ancients were really crazy, just like we look at the historical porn at Khajuraho and discover that the people that came before us were really into some kinky stuff. Who knew the human body could even bend that way? I know what you’re going to say: It’s not porn! It’s art! Look, I don’t make the rules here. As per the guardians of Indian culture, it’s not art if it involves any sort of nudity. Wait, does that mean that the people who started Indian culture were against Indian culture?

That makes my head hurt.

If only there were a beverage I could consume that would make me temporarily forget my confusion.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Tale of Two Indian-Americans

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times! In the two thousandth and thirteenth year of our lord Oprah, a man with a small jaw and a plain face took to the virtual pages of the journalistic version of a flaming-bag-of-dog-poo called Politico, to declare that since he had dominion over the state of Louisiana and a ‘dark skinned man’ called Barack Hussein Obama was the ruler of all of the United States, her colonies, her allies and the heart of the current British Prime Minister, racism was finally over. This man was none other than undiagnosed village simpleton, Bobby Jindal.

It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity! That he wrote his screed in the same week when a jury in Florida declared that the murderer of an innocent black teenager – whose only fault was taking a shortcut while heading home – was not guilty of any crime, did not give him any pause. That he wrote his screed in the same month that a federal judge declared that the New York Police Department’s policy of ‘Stop & Frisk’ unfairly targeted the city’s minority residents and mentioned in her judgement that most targets of this policy were “blacks and hispanics who would not have been stopped were they white,” did not make him reconsider. That he wrote his screed in the same year that the conservative majority of the US Supreme court struck down one of the major provisions of the historic voting rights act, allowing the states with Republican-majority legislatures to start the process of purging of minority citizens from the voter rolls under silly pretexts, did not help him reconcile his cognitive dissonance.

It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness! In his piece, he also asked all minorities to stop being so different and try to be more,Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal  you know, white. Yes, why can’t all of you forget something that is such an integral part of who you are! We should all be same, like a mass-market trouser, where even one out-of-place thread will make sure you’re kept away from the others. We should all be like Bobby Jindal, the poster boy of trying too hard. Bobby lives his life like he orders food in a restaurant - he walks in, sees what the white couple at the next table are ordering, and tells the waiter that he’ll have what they’re having. Bobby has spent a lifetime keeping up appearances. All he has ever wanted to do was fit in. Just be like everyone else! And he wants all you idiots who insist on being different to do the same.

Nina doing her best Mata Hari impression! It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair! Earlier this month, millions of Americans watched as history was made when Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America, becoming the first American of Indian origin to win the pageant. She didn’t actually run away from being part Indian! This angered a lot of racists who took to twitter to lament for the good old days, when all these outsiders knew their place. They can take our spelling bee contests, our petrol pump mini-supermarkets, become handsome surgeons on CNN, but letting an immigrant participate in the Miss America pageant is going too far! As the inscription on the Statue of Liberty says, keep your filthy masses and don’t you dare send us your beauty queens. 

It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness! Since the internet abuse against Nina became the racial slur heard around the world, this also angered a lot of people living in India. How dare does any American say racist things about a person of Indian origin. Who do they think they are, Indian? Which is why Bobby Jindal’s assertion about the end of racism is even more ironical. There is nothing more Indian than denying the existence of an actual problem that affects millions of people. Bobby loves to tell people that they shouldn’t bother with being who they are, they should think about what they can be. There is nothing more Indian than hating who you are!

We had everything before us, we had nothing before us! Bobby extrapolated his own experience to portray it as a general norm. He made assumptions about the experiences of others. He passive aggressively ‘explained’ to other people what they should be doing with their life. He gave a clean chit to people who were guilty of a crime.  Bobby Jindal is as Indian as a song sequence in a Sooraj Bharjatiya movie. Bobby Jindal is as Indian as the ‘VIP’ section in a place of worship. Bobby Jindal is as Indian as a historical monument defaced by declarations of puppy love.

Your identity is like a quicksand. The more you try to escape it, the more you sink in. 

If only there were a country famous for helping people find themselves that Bobby Jindal could visit.

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

UPA Ministers Say The Darnest Things (Part 3)

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

(Click Here for Part 1 & Click Here for Part 2)

We have sadly come to the end of our trilogy about the esteemed leaders running our country. Granted, they might be running it into the ground, but at least we can laugh at them while we drown our sorrows in alcohol and gallows humour. In this edition we also give an honorary shoutout to two former members of the cabinet who we will always remember with a smile on our faces, disgust in our hearts and a solitary tear in our eye.

Our seventh contestant is defence minister and the inspiration behind the Mr. Magoo cartoon character, AK Antony. Possessing the personality of a tetanus injection, Antony is proof that being clueless is considered a virtue in this country. His main qualification for one of the top four jobs in the union cabinet was that he is too stupid to be corrupt. He is so out of his depth in the defence ministry, even Manmohan Singh is able to bully him. Antony also has to visit the hospital very often because he keeps getting his foot embedded in his mouth and has to get it surgically removed. He once floated a 26/11 conspiracy theory that even an anonymous internet commentator would be ashamed to propagate. He continues to deny that any incursions take place on the India-China border even though Chinese soldiers regularly cross over into our side to satisfy their insatiable thirst for Chicken Manchurian while taking pictures of each other using the smartphones assembled in a factory by their own children. Yet, Antony’s employers keep him where he is, because honesty!

Our final contestant is Minister of State for Human Resource Development and human plate of scones, Shashi Tharoor. For the first few years after his election, he appeared to be out of place among his contemporaries in Parliament. He seemed like he would have been more comfortable arguing with Bertie Wooster about the ownership status of a cow creamer rather than explain the vagaries of international law to Sharad Yadav. Back when he was Minister for External Affairs, he was often found bringing a chippy attitude to his job. I say old chap, what’s all this rummy business with that old codger they call the Dalai Lama? He spent most of his first year clarifying and apologizing for some Mmm, they don't make them like me anymore! gaffe or the other. Being made a constant target fortified his credentials as a bonafide middle class icon. He became a real life hero. One of us, as they like to say. He could speak English with an indeterminate accent! He went to all the right schools! He was the type of politician who wouldn’t get his hands dirty by committing petty crimes! He was being bullied into silence by his own jealous colleagues and their  surrogates in the media because he dared to speak the truth on twitter! He liked to pose for photographs which showed him thoughtfully staring into the future, the true mark of an intellectual.

So when it was revealed that the only thing Shashi Tharoor cared about was Shashi Tharoor and he had to resign, people were shocked. How could he betray us? If you can’t trust people who have spent their whole life believing that the world revolves around them, then whom can you trust? However, a few months later a newer, shinier, hungrier, middle class hope came along and everybody forgot about the former UN under-secretary general. So, last year, Tharoor was rehabilitated into the council of ministers, without any fanfare. He’s now become a fierce partisan warrior, even using his impressive articulation skills to tweet political arguments using a silly hashtag invented by a person with a negative IQ.

Our first honorary shoutout goes to former Home Minister and safari suit aficionado, Shivraj Patil. His greatest (and probably only) achievement was turning incompetence into high art. In fact, Shivraj Patil’s stint in government was such a catastrophe, Shivraj Patil promised that the perpetrators of this horrible incident will be caught and brought to justice. And then he wet his pants. These days, Patil is cooling his heels at the expensive senior citizen home known as the Punjab Governor’s mansion and is currently working on his memoirs, tentatively titled, 27 Dresses: The Shivraj Patil Story.

Let’s not forget about former Minister of Petroleum and Burra Sahib extraordinaire, Mani Shankar Aiyer. He left the union cabinet to spend Mani Shankar Aiyar's default expression more time being mean and distant to every guest on every NDTV show. But nothing encapsulates his personality like an article he wrote last year for Outlook magazine. In it, he whined about not being served champagne in first class while he was travelling in an American airline. He was also angry at being addressed by his name by people he thought were beneath him. His exact words were “Democracy in America apparently means the right of the lower orders to be rude to their social superiors.”

HOW DARE THEY ADDRESS HIM BY HIS FIRST NAME? HE HAS MORE MONEY THAN THEM FOR PETE’S SAKE! He gets invited to the best parties! He appears on teevee! Why didn’t they prostate in front of him? They treated him like a . . . . normal! Preposterous! It was very brave of Mr Aiyar to not have reported this incident to the American state department. As everybody knows, the state department’s only purpose of existence is to make sure all Indian VIPs visiting America are treated with the respect they deserve. Also, for future reference, the only acceptable salutations are: A) SIR DR MANI SHANKAR AIYAR SIR, B) HIS EXCELLENCY MANI SHANKAR AIYAR THE EIGHTH and C) MANI HONEY. Mani remembers a time when social superiors were not forced to mix with the rest. Everybody knew their place in the world. The rich would be treated with the importance they deserved and the rest would be . . . . well, who cares about the rest? That was a golden age! When sitting in premier class meant something. If you asked for champagne, you would get champagne. If you asked for caviar, by jove, you would get caviar. And now? First class just means that you have more leg space than those unfortunate masses forced to travel in economy.

So, who do you think is the winning contestant? Did we leave anyone out? Send your answers to

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

UPA Ministers Say The Darndest Things (Part 2)

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

(Click Here for Part 1)

As we were discussing last week, the members of our federal council of ministers are a barrel of laughs. It’s not that they aim to be such a rich source of hilarity. It’s the only positive outcome of their actions! In fact, the biggest threat to the UPA isn’t any political opponent; it’s dementia and osteoporosis. So let’s go back to reminding ourselves of their greatest hits:

Our fourth contestant is none other than our Law Minister and a man who hasn’t met a sentence on the internet that he didn’t want to censor, Kapil Sibal. Mr Sibal is man of many talents. He showed us his epic skills as a magician when, as the then Telecom minister, he made the notional loss on the allotment of spectrum disappear. It was all a misunderstanding, he declared. A simple mathematical error. All you had to do was carry the one, subtract a trillion and voila, everything would make sense again. What many people don’t know about Mr Sibal is that he is also a writer of science fiction! In fact, last year, he read out an extract out of one of his fantastical stories on the floor of the Rajya Sabha. In his story, he imagined an India which is more liberal than Europe and America. An India in which the government doesn’t act like a nanny and tells its citizens what they cannot watch, read or think. An India in which the government doesn’t spend a significant amount of its resources clumsily trying to stifle dissent. If only Mr Sibal was in a position to make this possible! Anyway, let’s not forget that Mr. Sibal is also an amateur poet. In fact, his poetry is so moving, it inspired us to write a small ditty of our own about this master of many trades:

                                             There was once an old minister,
                                      Whose every intention was sinister,
                                                               His need to censor,
                                          Made his eyebrows grow denser,
And he liked to silence protestors using a tear gas canister.

Our next contestant is Home Minister and the first person ever to ask for a red pen of any colour, Sushil Kumar Shinde. Until recently, Shinde was so unknown outside his home state, even his wife thought he was Vilasrao Deshmukh. Shinde took a big dive into public consciousness last year when under his watch, the northern grid failed and cut power from half of the country for almost three days. A more self-aware person would’ve been humbled and might have voluntarily decided to lower his profile for a few months. But this is the UPA council of ministers. There is no rock bottom here! So, naturally, Shinde called a press conference to announce that he would rate his stint as power minister as ‘excellent.’ And as a reward for his belligerence in the face of reality, he was promoted to the Ministry of Home, because, what could go wrong? Turns out, a lot! But Shinde faced every obstacle with the humility of an IIM graduate who just got hired by Goldman Sachs and the grace of an arctic penguin participating in a hurdle race. Shinde’s stint in the home ministry has been so disastrous, his name is now a verb. For eg: “The look of relief on her face when I dropped her off at her house made me realize that I had totally Shinde’d our date.”

Now, there are men who are born to a life of mediocrity. Men who are born to work, eat and wither away. Men who spend their whole lives without being noticed at all. Men who fall by the wayside, never to be heard from again. Then there are those men who are born into greatness. Men who have destinies to fulfil. Men who by the sheer force of their willpower end up changing the world. Men who are the true heroes of our time. Our sixth contestant – the Minister of Rural Development and ‘cousin Itt’ from the Addams family – Jairam Ramesh, is one such hero. Whenever he has been called upon to shower the less knowledgeable with his golden stream of wisdom, he has always delivered. In fact, he has done that even when he hasn’t been called upon to offer his opinion. Hair Force One – as his friends fondly call him – is kind like that. You know what they say – If opinions are like assholes, then Jairam Ramesh has one for every occasion! No matter what the problem, Jairam Ramesh is always on it! Like when he first denied the existence of global warming and then suggested solving it by getting people to stop eating beef. That’s classic Jairam Ramesh! See, now you don’t have to do anything concrete like closing factories or cutting down on carbon emissions. Doesn’t matter that a vegetarian asking other people to not eat beef is like an Eskimo asking people living in tropical climates to not use air conditioners. Once, Jairam even dared to take on a crazy, cultish breed of human beings who believe that a certain bespectacled boy wizard would be their saviour. No, not the Congress party, silly! He took on fans of Harry Potter. He blamed them for the decreasing population of owls, despite their being no actual evidence to support his claim. Look, he doesn’t really need your “comprehensive” research to know things. If he thinks something is true, then it is. This is what separates him from the less knowledgeable. That, and the dense rainforest on his head.

(. . . To be continued)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

UPA Ministers Say the Darndest Things (Part 1)

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

In these modern times, there are not a lot of activities that can be classified as a ‘sure thing.’ Heroes have turned into villains. Villains have turned into heroes. Nothing is permanent anymore. Even death and taxes aren’t the pillars of surety that they used to be. However, in this darkness there is one tiny speck of light that is always shining. A small aberration that fills you with hope. Whether it is day or night, rain or shine, you can be confident of one thing: That somewhere in this vast land of ours, there is a minister belonging to the central government who is publicly saying something unintentionally hilarious. This is a bet that comes with its own money-back guarantee. Never before have so many incompetent people been part of the same body. They might have made things worse than they found them and choked the Indian dream even before it began, but when it comes to saying stupid things, they provide us with an embarrassment of riches! Now, as the General Election from Hell creeps upon us, let us take a gander at some of these great men that history will not have kind words for.

Our first contestant is the Minister of Petroleum and the generic south Indian villain from every Ram Gopal Varma movie, Veerapa Moily. He recently took over the news cycle by storm when he declared that the best way to save petrol is to close down petrol pumps at eight p.m. every night. Apparently, that will make sure people will use less petrol because as we all know, when the government makes something illegal in India, there is no way anyone can get access to it! That is why there is no alcohol sold for more than three times the price on dry days. Even though a better way to save petrol would be to try to cut at least one vehicle from every government cavalcade, or, I don’t know, encouraging investment in alternate forms of fuel. But hey, none of these are out-of-the-box non-solutions masquerading as a reasonable idea.

So, after saying something so ridiculous that even Manmohan Singh was pissed off enough to deny that any such proposal existed, Moily said that the suggestion didn’t come from him, it came from the people. Yeah, someone hacked into his brain and made him say things. Previously, when he was law minister, he said that the government was finally closing down the ‘Bofors’ case file since ‘nothing’ turned up after twenty years of investigations and no one wanted to celebrate the golden jubilee of the case. This made lady justice cry like a regular Nirupa Roy.

Our second contestant is our Minister of External Affairs and human bobble-head, Salman Khurshid. He recently dismissed the NSA’s spying on Indian citizens and our embassies as ‘a study of computer patterns.’ All the US is doing is monitoring every activity of every internet user! Nothing to see here! Invading the privacy of citizens of a sovereign nation is not as important as, say, detaining a movie star for questioning for a couple of hours. He also burnished his credentials as a civilized member of society when he threatened Arvind Kejriwal with bodily harm. Back when he was Minister of Corporate Affairs, he warned corporate India against 'vulgar salaries & perks.’ Because if anyone knows about not indulging in vulgar salaries & perks, it’s a professional politician. Maybe he should bring this up the next time his colleagues in Parliament pass another resolution to triple their salaries and benefits?

Our next contestant is Health Minister and the poor man’s Avtar Gill, Ghulam Nabi Azad. This great scholar once suggested that the best form of birth control would be to provide villages with enough electricity so that they can watch late night teevee and stop worrying about making babies. To be fair, watching Indian teevee at any time of the day kills everything from brain activity to hunger. So who needs condoms and birth control pills and education when you can just scare people into limiting their sexual activity to platonic hugging?

However, his pièce de résistance was his ignorant statements calling homosexuality unnatural. Before you get angry at him, remember, it’s not his choice to be daft. He was born this way! He’s just trying very hard not to contemplate what homosexuality means. They told him that it’s wrong. It has to be! Otherwise, his whole life has been a waste. Whenever he sees a happy gay couple, it stirs up certain feelings in his heart. He is reminded of what his life is really missing. He wasn’t always this dead on the inside. Back when he was in school, his heart used to fill with starburst whenever he laid his eyes on Pershad, his best friend. Pershad was the boy who made him a man. All he wanted to do was spend his life staring into those deep blue eyes and caressing that innocent face. But that wasn’t to be! One day Pershad’s Dad caught both Ghulam and Pershad physically expressing their love for each other on the banks of the lake. Instead of trying to understand them and letting them be who they are, Pershad’s dad thrashed both the teenagers. And then he took Pershad and moved to another city. The next time Ghulam saw Pershad, twenty years had passed. That innocent face had all but disappeared, replaced with a constant expression of sadness and despair. They didn’t have to say anything to each other. The look of longing they exchanged said it all. So, no. Homosexuality isn’t natural. If it was, it wouldn’t have caused the most precious gift in his life to be taken away from him. Forever.

(. . . . To be continued)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who Is The Wisest Of Them All?

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

As they keep telling us, India is the land of diversity. We’re united in our differences! In fact, the only thing keeping us together is cricket, our inexplicable hatred for people who are even slightly different from us, and the inherent wisdom that’s embedded into each child that is born on this blessed land. Not that we’ve ever lacked wisdom. We’ve always been the land where lost souls arrive from other countries to find their enlightened selves. Foreign tourists have been treating our country like a global yoga retreat for centuries. But some of these ungrateful people also stole our secrets and used them for their own personal benefit. As any real patriot will tell you, the secret to everything was written in the puranas. Yet, we’ve never taken advantage of our own ancient wisdom, because we’ve been too busy following the self-destructive path Macaulay laid out for us.

However, all this is set to change. Recently, self-proclaimed avatar of Vallabhai Patel and the wisest man in the world, Narendra Modi, gathered some future disciples and explained some facts of life to them. He said that in 1947, when India awoke to freedom and being condescended to by our own elected leaders, the dollar and the rupee were at par. And now, thanks to the retirement community running our central government, the Rupee has fallen on hard times. In fact, the rupee is so destitute, it’s like an unemployed college graduate in a Raj Kapoor movie. The only way it can buy itself a few measly meals is to turn to a life of crime. We can’t let that happen!

Now, even though the assertion is completely false, it feels like the truth. So what if the Rupee was pegged against the pound until 1966? It doesn’t matter that in terms of real value, a dollar in 1947 was equivalent to four rupees. Let us ignore the fact that if the dollar and the rupee would be at par right now then we’d actually be in the middle of an economic disaster. We wouldn’t be able to continue to be the ‘outsourcing haven’ that we are. Neither would we be able to become the ‘economic powerhouse’ that is our god-given destiny.  The point is that if one rupee is not equal to one dollar, then a great insult has been perpetuated on our people. It’s not economics deciding the value of the rupee, it’s racism! And this government won’t do anything about it because it’s so effete. Real men avenge imaginary insults. So we’re going to have our revenge by seducing more British directors into making movies about poverty so that another rejected AR Rahman song takes over the Oscars.

Not to be outdone, Modi’s opponent, Congress Vice President and ‘Boy Wonder’ without a Batman, Rahul Gandhi, enthusiastically declared The only computer the "Congress OS" will run on . . . that if India was a computer then the Congress party was its default operating system. Which explains why every file in the computer’s memory is corrupted, no programs work as intended and the computer only works for five minutes every morning. So this is why all of the computer’s software applications ignore the user and only take instructions from the motherboard.  Maybe the makers of India’s operating system should look into why there is no sound emanating from the speaker? I’m no expert, but I think the problem lies in the sound card. It was a popular brand in its heyday, but now it is just a shell of its former self, doing nothing but waiting for the time when a younger, much more subservient sound card puts it out of its misery. 

Following in the footsteps of his dear leader, real life Shakespearian tragedy and Minister in-charge of the government’s propaganda department, Manish Tewari, gave a speech too. Among other equally brilliant ideas, he proposed that journalists should be issued a license before being allowed to practice journalism (or its local equivalent). This is a great idea because that worked out so well for other similar democracies like China and North Korea. Not many people know this, but we already have a pilot program in place. If any expat journalist reports on things that the government doesn’t really like talking about, they don’t renew their visa under some flimsy pretext or the other. This project has been a huge success! There are no negative stories about India in the foreign press. What works in our favour is that there is no other way people in the world can know what is going on in our country besides reading reports by foreign journalists. After his speech, Manish Tewari got into his time-travelling Premier Padmini, stopped at Connaught Place in 1989 for a Wimpy’s burger and a Campa Cola. Then he headed back to whence he came.

However, the award for the most intelligent activity of the week goes to all those people who were protesting the movie Madras Cafe because it portrayed the LTTE in a negative light. Heaven forbid someone think unfavourably about the LTTE! They assassinated a former Prime Minister and committed various atrocities on the very people they pretended to protect; yet, appearing in a John Abraham movie is going to give them a bad reputation! All I’m saying is that if you want to protest a movie exploiting Tamil stereotypes to make a huge amount of money, then you’re probably confusing Madras Cafe with the other recent movie which uses the capital of Tamil Nadu in its title.

If only there were some place where we could go and seek the truth.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Time to Give You Up, Technology

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

In every person’s life, there comes a time when you realize that the world around you is changing too fast. So you have to ask the world to stop the car so that you can get down and start your slow walk towards obscurity. Of course, this is not the easy path. Many before me have dared to traverse it but haven’t been able to make it safely to the other side. I pledge to never forget the sacrifices made by those that came before me.  Whether it was brave grandmothers who spent all their golden years trying to load a YouTube video of their grandson performing at his college talent competition along with his acapella group on their ancient computer with 256MB RAM and a 4GB hard drive, or those brave connoisseurs of culture who spent all their money collecting vinyl records for which they didn’t even have a compatible turntable. I know that it won’t be easy. But when has blazing a trail and leaving others to follow in your stead been easy? If you don’t believe me, ask Buddha. (Disclaimer: The buddha doesn’t provide actual solutions to your questions because of the whole ‘look inside your own self for all the answers’ thing he had going on. Warning: Don’t try this at home. That one time I tried looking inside myself and was disgusted by what I found.)

This day come for me recently when I found that my favourite texting application would be introducing something called ‘voice messaging.’ Using your own voice to communicate through a phone – what a unique idea! Why didn’t anyone think of this before? I was outraged at this development because the whole point of modern technology is to help people avoid all human interaction. For example, if I ‘interact’ with another person using just my voice how will I let them know I laughed at their joke without the use of LOL? How will someone I send a voice message to determine that I am angry with them unless I also include a red smiley of a serious face?

What’s next? Keeping your phone down when you’re in a restaurant and talking to the person you’re meeting for dinner? Making eye contact with strangers in a waiting room? Not looking at the small teevee on the dashboard while driving down a highway? Walking up to the colleague at work who sits in the next cubicle to resolve an issue instead of sending him passive aggressive emails that complicate everything? Not letting everyone in the movie theatre know that I’m a douchebag by not putting my phone on ‘silent’ because I might receive an important call? I, for one, refuse to walk down this slippery slope.

Even an idiot can win games with me! My disillusionment with modern technology probably started when I discovered  video games that require actual physical exertion. Is nothing sacred anymore? The primary purpose of video games is to enable you to avoid all sorts of physical exertion. Back in my day, all you needed to do while playing a video game was sit back on the sofa, use one hand to move the joystick that controlled your player while indiscriminately stuffing various snack foods into your mouth with the other. Nowadays, people play video games which require them to simulate the action they want their player to mimic in the game. If you want to play tennis on these newfangled video game consoles, you probably need to have the expertise and experience of a grand slam titleholder to win a match.  It’s just like being there! If I wanted to be there, I would, you know, go there. I don’t buy your crappy video games so that they can remind me of my lack of physical ability. What part of “inside good, outside bad” is hard to understand? Sheesh! Even being lazy requires so much hard work these days.

So that’s it, folks. I refuse to comply with technological advancements anymore. I don’t want to wake up one day and find out that not only have my eyelids become a google glass clone, but whenever I think about asking for directions, an angry British ladyee automatically shouts them into my ears.

Now please excuse me while I spend the next year and a half trying to reboot my old 486 desktop.