STRANGE SIGHTS

A cough syrup for 
children seen at a 
pharmacy in Gurgaon

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The proper way to do megalomania

Angelina Jolie is adopting African kids.
 Angelina Jolie is writing articles in the Washington Post about Iraq. Brad Pitt is having lunch with Kofi Annan. Tom Cruise and Madonna are spokespersons for a new religion. Jude Law is mediating with the Taliban on behalf of the world. Seriously.

These people are actors. Just good looking people who’s sole talent, apart from having fleshy bums and high cheekbones, is that they are good at pretending to be someone else. They enact stories to entertain us. They are, at best, an amusing pastime. A prurient indulgence. In terms of artistic significance, they would be placed in the ‘Performance Art’ folder, somewhere between Dancers and Jugglers.

Time was when actors made it into the news for sleeping with loads of people, or throwing tv sets out of hotel room windows. Or just a good old fashioned heroin overdose. 

There’s this Elvis story I love. I don’t know if it’s true but they say Jimmy Carter once invited Elvis to visit him at the White House. Elvis’ people wrote back saying it would cost them $50,000. Appearance fee. Flabbergasted, the White House replied saying it was a great honour and whatever to get invited to the White House by the American president. Reply from Elvis. $50,000 if you want me to visit.

You may be the President, but I am the King, asshole.

That’s the proper way to do megalomania.

I’m sure Elvis did his bit for the American community donating money and his seed, selflessly, across the country. He didn’t pontificate. He didn’t go on about third-world conflicts, strange religions and post-natal depression.

I like George Clooney. I even believe his efforts at Darfur are well-intentioned and I don’t think he’s doing it for the attention. But given the post-Bono world we live in, one can’t help but wonder if it is marketing disguised as philanthropy. It is counter productive.

It’s insane how obsessed the world is with actors. India hasn’t been far behind. Every superstar actor has some political agenda or the other. It began in the old days with NTR, MGR and Rajkumar to the present day Rajnikanth and Chiranjeevi quagmire.

Do people ever stop to think before they vote?

How does a chiselled jaw or shapely figure (not that it applies to any of those mentioned in the last few lines) make for a great political leader? How do their infantile brains make that connection, I wonder?

There was a time when Arun Govil, the actor portraying the role of Lord Ram in the popular tv series Ramayan was hailed in some parts of the country as Lord Ram himself. How does a sane person arrive at such a decision? Do they not know that he’s just an actor, a mere entertainer? Do they really think God acts in tv serials under the pseudonym Arun Govil?

There is only one conclusion to draw from these observations. Stupidity is more prevalent than you and I think. Stupidity, like AIDS, is dangerous to humanity. Off the cuff, I would recommend mass culling based on IQ tests. But that wouldn’t sit well with my conscience. So the next best thing, deny dumb people their right to adult franchise. That’s the only way.

Think about that while Jude Law is busy negotiating for the world with the Taliban.

I hope those Afghans ass-rape him

Worst Jobs in India

Entry-level beggar
As the great white man Danny Boyle has shown us while winning Oscars and showcasing India to the West as the West would like to see it, there are hierarchies within beggars. A lousy existence though it is overall, you can’t help but feel sorry for those at the bottom of the pile here. I mean, how much worse can it get?

Home Minister of India
Not only do you have to deal with water-borne terrorists, Naxalites and air-borne shoes, you have to answer questions in the media about providing or not providing Z category security to various losers ranging from Varun Gandhi to Vivek Oberoi.

Proctologist
No need to go into this.

Female staff at any call center in the NCR region
Congratulations, you work in the rape capital of India. And the people responsible for the region being given that title are your colleagues. To make matters worse, you have to travel with them in a crammed Sumo at 3 in the morning. Ain’t life grand?

Cheerleader for Punjab Kings XI
All the cheerleaders unanimously voted Chandigarh as the worst venue to jiggle the booty. And we’ve seen the crowds at Kolkata and Bangalore.

Dental Hygienist
This has got to be the shittiest job in the whole world. I would rather clean toilets than get within breathing range of some garlic-eating, pan-chewing asshole’s mouth. To me, it’s the same as being a proctologist. Any job involving inspection of orifices is deserving of sympathy and loads of money.

Telemarketeer for banking products
How about a job where you are paid to annoy and lie to people and in turn be abused from 9 to 5?

The guy who has to answer the phone at the electricity office
when there’s a power cut.

See Telemarketeer.

The press officer at the Pakistan Consulate
See Telemarketeer

Those mall guards who have to feel up everyone who enters.
Then again, mall guards, especially those from the cowbelt regions
may not really be complaining.

Maid at Shiny Ahuja’s home

Delhi University Chemistry Lab Assistant.
Do you know they found nuclear waste in a scrap yard in Delhi recently? They traced it back to the Delhi University chemistry lab where assistants are entrusted the task of disposing alpha-emitting elements with a half-life of 5 days as though they were a case of eggs gone bad. Clearly, not a fun job.

Game Show Host on Colors or Zee.
Don’t know if this should be on the Worst Jobs list. More like the Most Despicable Jobs list. I only put it there because if I were a game show host, especially on those shows on Zee or Colors where they get repellant little kids to perform vulgar dance moves , I would seriously consider killing myself.

Editor of a Hrithik Roshan movie
While most of us are happy with ten digits, Hrithik Roshan thinks he is blessed to have an eleventh. Luckily few among us have seen it because editors and post-production people have spent thousands of hours toiling in fetid studios to spare us the freakshow. Here’s 60 hours of footage featuring a bad actor with a shit-eating grin. Now make it look good. Not an easy job.

Peco’s

The other day I received an email from a friend who’s planning a visit to Bangalore. She was asking about Peco’s and whether it was worth a visit.

My reply –

**************
Cons
A dilapidated place where a lot of sad, unwashed men hang out. Watery beer. Smell of hash and piss hangs in the air. Men to women ratio 17:1.

Pros
Dirty, smelly, smoky. Like trashed student digs. They play loud seventies music on tape decks. It’s cool like a pair of beat-up Converse keds. Its trashiness gives it a certain grungy edge against its shinier, reccine and glass competition down the road.

**************

Later in the day, I found myself amused by the Socratic Method of my argument and discovered that Peco’s presents an interesting paradox.

I’m not alone. Although I wouldn’t count myself among the regulars, funnily enough, almost every regular at Peco’s hates the place and frequently carps about the watery beer, the filthy surroundings and the scratchy cassette player.

If everyone who goes there hates it, then why go there?

Is there a certain perverse pleasure that brings out the hidden hippie within us all? Going beyond the peace and love and flower power and underwear burning, hippies stand for The Art Of Unhygienic Living. Eat that, Sri Sri Ravishankar.

As disgusting as it sounds, there are some among us who like to wallow in the mud. Who are turned on by the smell of armpit.

Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore count among these, as avid readers of People magazine will recall. More famously, Napoleon, in one of his more amorous letters to Josephine, begged her not to bathe, for he wanted to enjoy her body odour to the fullest.

But then again, Napolean was French.

The friend who sent me that email is neat, immaculately stylish, pretty, twentysomething Italian girl.

Imagine if I had given the place a clean bill of health.

The habitués at Peco’s would have a stroke. For starters, she’s a girl. Holy Jefferson Airplane! What is she doing here? And pretty too. The last time somebody who fit that description walked into Peco’s, was maybe in 1969. And that was to ask for directions. Why is she smiling? And why does she brush her teeth? Please take her away. I can’t stand the smell of soap.

Understandably, a lot of the advertising crowd hang out at Peco’s. Listening to CCR, CSNY, Jimi Hendrix and who can forget that rush hour crowd pleaser, Grateful Dead. Discussing who’s just been made ECD at Lintas and how long the Brittannia business will stay with Grey. It used to be a regular haunt for IIM-B, NLS and several other fraternities. Most people I know from Bangalore have owned a “pitcher card” at some point of time and a lot of them know Elango on a first-name basis.

Peco’s is also a Training Centre. Once you finish three years or 50 pitcher cards, whichever comes first, your Jedi training is complete. You are ready to move to the next level.

Koshy’s.

It’s where the older, balder Peco’s veterans find a cosy nook where they will become fixtures till Judgement Day.

I’d love to tell you more about Koshy’s. But we’ll save that for another day.

Know your Tiger

Tiger Shroff
Son of Jaikishen Kakubhai Shroff. Who the eff might that be? Perhaps Jackie Shroff rings a bell? Of suspiciously auburn hair mustache and macho manner. About to enter Bollywood in a remake of “Hero” which originally starred JK Shroff. Young Tiger is by his illustrious parent’s admission “a basketball champion” and  “nineteen years old”. Has a sibling called Krishna.

Tiger Prabhakar
Stunt man and one time villain from Sandalwood. Which for the unsuspecting, is the nth rip-off of Hollywood. After Bollywood, Kollywood, Tollywood and the rest. Deadwood series of unimaginative film industries we have in our underachieving country. Much given to wearing mega shirts (no sleeves) riding Bullets and generally being villainous. Now deceased. Lending credence to the adage (not to be confused with the ADAG, which is a different kettle of fish) ‘There are old stunt men, there are brave stunt men, but ain’t no old, brave stunt men.’

Prabhakaran the Tiger
Former leader of the LTTE. The Fidel Castro of our southern neighbours. Now not the leader of anything because you can’t lead if you’re dead. Courtesy of the indignant Sri Lankan army for the petty crime of ravaging the country, wasting thousands of civilians and one Indian Prime Minister besides setting Sri Lankan time back by several decades.

Tiger Pataudi
Mansur Ali Khan, last Nabob of Pataudi. Former Indian cricket captain, Gwalior suitings model, married Sharmila Tagore and sired Saif  and Soha Ali Khan. Has one of the eyes he was born with and rumour has it one that some goat was born with. Nicknamed ‘Tiger’ for obscure reasons. (Because ‘Cyclops’ was taken?) Recently caught indulging in a spot of shikar while forgetting that the Raj, despite the hangover, is finally over.

Tiger Woods
Poster boy for the consumer brigade following the most stultifying sport of all time. Proved that money, a billion fans and a hot Swedish wife can’t hide the fact that you can’t take the wood out of Tiger Woods.

Stripey the Tiger Cub
The only actual Tiger amongst all these animals. Likely to be also dead. Making Dhoni the Phony’s exhortation to save the Fortin Hundred and Eleven tigers so much more unnecessary hot air. Now what do we do with that Facebook page?

First published in KIRIK 03, May 2010

Why Cricket Sucks

1. It’s not really cricket anymore, is it? This tedious sport was originally invented by red-faced Englishmen to give them something to do between cucumber sandwiches and fox-hunting. Over time, Kerry Packer introduced the one-day version, which made way in recent times to the Technicolor slogfest that is 20-20. 20-20, as any proper cricketer will tell you, is not really cricket. 20-20 is to cricket what Miniature Golf is to Golf.

2. One of the main reasons I watch football is that ad breaks in football appear every 45 minutes. There’s no way around it. No interruptions for 45 minutes + added time. Then you put your tv on mute and go get your beers while the ads play. With cricket, it’s every over. And in between there are those annoying bars at the bottom that tell you Vodafone phone rates throughout. And how do we celebrate a crucial moment in the match when a batsman hoists the bowler for six to win the match? Not by witnessing the scenes of celebration in the crowd or the ecstacy on the batsman’s face. Abrupt cut to a Reliance ad that flashes on and off telling you how happy they are as a brand that somebody scored a six. Do you see a Nike ad every time a player scores a goal in football?

3. Not only is cricket one of the most boring spectator sports in the world, it is one of the most boring participation sports in the world. Remember when you were a kid and you ran off to the nearest playground to play cricket? What did you want to do the most? Bowl? Bat? Maybe keeping wickets did it for some. But did anybody really like fielding? This is my main problem with the construct of this sport. Fielding. What is the point of fielding? How is it fun? Why is it exciting? From what I see it’s mostly just standing in a place. There’s a term for that and its called ‘loafing’.  Most other sports involve all participants all the time. Football, basketball, tennis, hockey. In cricket, of the 13 players on the pitch, only 3 are actively playing. The bowler, the batsman and the wicket-keeper. The rest are just standing or walking around the place. There is no feat of athletic prowess involved here unless you are one of those specialist fielders at silly point or wherever who fling themselves to the ground at regular intervals to stop the ball. Bravo. If this is a sport then watching a pair of goldfish in a bowl would qualify as an X-game.

4. Where are the personalities? Great personalities are often image-drivers for sport. One tends to think of Michael Jordans, Boris Beckers and Eric Cantonas when one thinks of basketball, tennis and football. Cricket had its heroes too. Viv Richards comes to mind. But the big difference is that basketball, tennis and football have heroes that drive the modern game. For every Jordan, Becker and Cantona, there’s LeBron James, Rafa Nadal and Lionel Messi. What does cricket have? Dhoni. A pockmarked hillbilly and an assorted selection of unwashed rabble like Sreesanth, Harbhajan. And there’s this other guy with an abnormally large Adam’s Apple that betrays at least three generations of inbreeding. Who else? Kevin Pieterson? Afridi? Ponting? You got to be fucking kidding me.

It’s a dull game played by dumb, ugly people watched by dumb, ugly people. I’m fully aware that over 98% of India would disagree with these views. Enjoy your dumb game you fucking halfwits. Remember to clap every time you see the pop-up ad that announces the sixer.

Too Much Oestrogen Is A Dangerous Thing

A recent report in the paper states that women’s breasts are getting bigger and the expert opinions they’ve glommed from the Daily Star state it’s due to an increase in female hormones caused by pollution and man-made chemicals in the environment.

If that is true then expect to see flights to Bangalore fully booked by flat-chested women from all over the world.

However, like everyone with a brain, I distrust anything the TOI prints. The editor must have googled ‘breasts’, found this article and passed it on to his sub-editors with the memo ‘Cover story for tomorrow. Unless Amitabh Bachhan has a new post on his blog.’

So I have another forkful of scrambled eggs, finish my tea and turn the page, choosing to not worry about oestrogen anymore.

Later in the day, I happen to be looking up prominent people in the Indian literary scene. Don’t ask. Something related to my day job. Too tedious to get into. I come across this blog written by a published female Indian author, Mridula Koshy.

Here are some excerpts. I quote verbatim.

“Torn petals of marigold drift between us. My heart is a stranger I watch take a step and then two, and the arm carves a smile there, in the belly, now spills a mass, dark into the dust.”

“Time is an accordion that never opening, closes.”

“Eagerness in our quivering knees. She leads us between yellow walls. Twist, she barks. Slop pots empty from overhead. She is nose lost in fetid piles. We are curious. So this is her bliss. Everywhere small lights quench. Sigh and rustle, man and woman embrace. The moon slides across the carom board sky. Onward the joy. Bound, stumble, prostrate. Feel it passing over us, gray lace, the trailing of night’s hem.”

The TOI, for once, was right. This oestrogen overload thing must be true. Nobody with a regular level of female hormones could construct transferred epithets of such staggering womanliness. Did you read that bit about the “arm carving a smile”? No amount of substance abuse can result in that. This author obviously has a yet-undiagnosed condition.

Wodehouse readers will no doubt recall the caricature that PGW created in Madeline Basset who believed ‘every time a fairy hiccoughs, a wee baby is born.’

Stylists and lyrical writers occupy a grey area in literature. On the one hand you have Shakespeare, and allowing personal bias, T S Eliot.  To the Bard is attributed such gems as ‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’, ‘the winter of our discontent’ (Not Churchill, as many believe), ‘Salad Days’ and the classic ‘Woe is me’. He left us with an overflowing vault of phrases to turn into clichés, use in inspiring speeches and patch together in movie dialogues. So, thanks to the Shakemeister and a handful of others, to which I can even add Rushdie, we can all shout a big ‘Hooray for Stylists’.

On the other hand, you have writers of odious tripe, sentimental bilge about torn petals of marigold who are acclaimed for their stylistic virtues.

“Here is a natural stylist, with an easy, accessible turn of phrase…Hers is a determined, stealthy eye, born of fierce concentration, often conjuring up a rustic quiet: ‘Now her pregnant beauty startles him like the fish that rustle and slip past his shins in the flooded fields of paddy he bends over to seed.”

Rajni George, India Today, June 22, 2009.

Thing is, when I picture people writing stuff like that, I picture them in a tranquil (I hate that word but it’s apt) setting with aromatherapy oils slathered over themselves, stroking a peacock, listening to James Blunt. Before you read too much into it, I’m not making any more gay jokes here. This is about chick jokes. Let’s get our prejudices right.

So the question is, how much femininity qualifies as an acceptable norm? Where do we draw the line? In Ms Koshy’s case, clearly she needs help. They need to immediately cart her into a trauma unit and suck out as much oestrogen out of her as possible, before she grows a beard. And, obviously, keep her far away from pollution and man-made chemicals in the environment.

First published in KIRIK 03, May 2010

STRANGE SIGHTS

Tired of being called a ho? Tired of being just one of the bitches? Get rid of your pimp with all-new Pimp Kill. Just one dab of this baby and he won’t be wearing that feather in his hat no more.

This priceless image of an outdoor ad that sells a pimple cream in Uttar Pradesh was contributed by Sharell Cook

Opening Ceremonies

It’s that time of the decade. When people make a mad scramble for tickets to the World Cup and fork over exorbitant prices to be part of the global village. I’m as excited about the FIFA World Cup in June as the next man. I predict Spain will be touted as favourites till the Semis, and the terms ‘dark horse’ together with ‘England’ will pop up several times. In the end, though, everybody knows either Germany or Brazil will win. Don’t even bring up the Azzuri here. They’re good but when your main striker is Luca Toni then even the Pope on direct line with God cannot help you.

A friend of mine was busy booking tickets to the opening ceremony yesterday. Of all the exciting games to watch, he picks 3 hours of tedium which can only be entertaining if South Africa embarrass themselves like they did during in the 2003 Cricket World Cup by dressing up the natives as giraffes and rhinos and having them run around the field in one of the most laughable affairs in living memory. If, on the other hand they choose to follow the example set by the Sydney and Beijing Olympics and more recently the Vancouver Winter Olympics, it ought to a grandiose, fascist borefest.

Am I the only one to find the goose-stepping military carrying the Olympic flag in Beijing more than mildly reminiscent of Berlin 1936 and somewhat disturbing?

It looked more like a propaganda show, starting with how they invented paper to how they are now walking on Mars. Dull as watching clay dry. Opening ceremonies usually are. The mass Mexican wave has had its day, folks, let it go.

Do you remember the opening ceremony at Sydney? Well I don’t that well, so I looked it up on Wikipedia.

“The opening ceremony began with a tribute to the Australian pastoral heritage of the muster (or “roundup”, in which the stockmen gather together the livestock from the vast areas of an Australian outback sheep or cattle station), symbolising the drawing together of people from across the world. This was introduced by a lone rider,  Steve Jefferys and his rearing Australian Stock Horse Ammo. At the cracking of Jefferys’ stockwhip, a further 120 riders entered the Stadium, their stock horses performing intricate steps, including forming the five Olympic Rings, to a special Olympics version of the theme which Bruce Rowland had previously composed for the 1982 film The Man from Snowy River.

The Australian National Anthem was sung, the first verse by Human Nature and the second by Julie Anthony.

The ceremony continued, showing many aspects of the land and its people – the affinity of the mainly coastal-dwelling Australians with the sea that surrounds the “Island Continent”, the indigenous occupation of the land, the coming of the First Fleet, the continued immigration from many nations and the rural industry on which the economy of the nation was built, including a display representing the harshness of rural life based on the paintings of Sir Sidney Nolan. Two memorable scenes were the representation of the “Heart” of the country by 200 Aboriginal women from Central Australia who danced up “the mighty spirit of God to protect the Games” and the overwhelmingly noisy representation of the construction industry by hundreds of tap-dancing teenagers.”

You’d be taking me for a fool if you told me the ceremony was a relentless adrenaline rush.

Why do they spend millions on these tedious affairs? Why can’t they just light the fucking torch and get on with it already?

First published in KIRIK 02, March 2010

For whom the wedding bells toll

There comes a time in every Indian’s life when he or she is called upon to perform the first virtuous duty of adulthood. Getting hitched to the mate of their parents’ dreams. As coming of age rituals go, this is no mean task, since it involves putting aside pretty much anything you might find acceptable in a life partner.

These petty preferences must be cast aside in deference to the greater cause of fulfilling the righteous filial fantasy of throwing the ultimate Indian party and extorting heirs on demand. Failing which, one must come to terms with being labeled the Black Sheep who must be saved by The Family and Friends of The Family.

‘My God, already in your thirties!’ the sundry aunty will exclaim shrilly, ‘Come, come, you have to get married now and give us all a reason to get together again!’

‘Aiyyoooo, you youngsters these days!’ the ambient family elder will wheeze dramatically each time the gossip dies down at family gatherings, ‘All I ask is to see you settle down before I die, that’s all!’

‘When are you giving us some Good News, eh?’ the ever-pregnant cousin will beam, her one-year old and three-year old cuddled into her expansive bosom.

Reasonable as all these requests were, I agreed to play matrimonial roulette primarily because my father needed a post retirement project to focus on after he was done renovating the house. That I ended up throwing off the meddling mob was a completely unexpected bonus.

Given that I am of a mindset euphemistically labeled as ‘modern’ in the Indian marriage market, my father turned to the internet as the most suitable medium to go husband-hunting for me.

The first few weeks of this new hobby went well for both of us. My Father investigated and shortlisted the most promising marriage portals basis their advertising slogans, their reputation among Family Friends and the size and variety touted by their ‘cosmopolitan’ sections. Thereafter, he and I creatively crafted my profile to introduce myself without revealing anything at all.

Just when I thought all the hard work was over, the matrimonial portals began sending in the clowns. Ever since we clicked on ‘submit’, my inbox has been spammed by a motley assortment of suitors who, in retrospect, have always had three things in common.
1. This is the only way they get to meet girls
2.This is the only way they get to talk to them.
3. This is what they do after work and on weekends.

One of the first men to make an impression on me was Cool_Looks_007.  He even sent in a picture. He had clearly made a special effort to have this portrait made, because he posed in a silky hot pink Chirag Din shirt against a maroon curtain, with his hair neatly parted just above the left ear and carefully combed across his shiny smooth pate.

After being selected for the attentions of Hi_Hello101, Iambest4u, Wild_Vasu, Idealguy_No1, XF5425 and Rocket Singh, I realized that the Indian Wife Hunter often exhibits a catchy turn of phrase online. While there is always the garden variety Desperate Guy who wants to make ‘friendship’ with you, me, or anyone else who’ll have him, and the occasional Pervert, there is also the Pushy One. What do you mean let’s meet for coffee first? Didn’t your father tell you that my Mother has tallied our horoscopes and the astrologer has given our match 9 on 10?.

Then, there’s the Professional (Please find attached my resume, cc your father.), the Smarmy One (When do I get to hear your surilee voice?), the Sap (Don’t you sometimes wish for someone whose hand you can hold at the end of the day?), the Shy Guys (Our son doesn’t even talk to his female friends and colleagues.)

Most memorably, there was Raghu_2008 who I’m guessing, is still declaring his virginity in the hope of attracting an equally chaste bride. “I am proud to tell you that even in these days, I have saved myself for the one who is made for me.”

My all time favourite however, is the Nice Guy, simply because he’s the one who gets the Meddling Mob’s goat.

‘But there is nothing wrong about him!’

‘Sure. But there’s nothing right about him either.’

First published in KIRIK 02, March 2010