An Indian abroad


It’s always the little things. The little things that you notice. The little things that seem to irk you. Sometimes you start to lose your identity. Who are you? Why are you? Where are you?

India, and in particular Indians are not supposed to seem foreign to me. I look Indian, I have an Indian passport and I was born and raised in the country for over 2 decades. I grew up amongst Indian friends. I have participated in a variety of Indian festivals. I have bathed in the culture of temples, mosques, churches, and even Synagogues. But when I return to India, surprisingly, all this seems to dissipate. Almost as if, these ways of being Indian never really happened. It never really resonated with my sense and sensibilities.

The hope being, inevitably, that time will soothe some of these surface irritations and quite weirdly culture shocks on both sides of the planet. What seems to be enduring is a wordless revulsion. Something that is very deep and inarticulable. The sight of what seems to be a wastage of some tremendous potential amongst the plethora of humans that call India their home. This was a great civilization of the world, once amongst the wealthiest and powerful of nations. And yet only after moving out and mingling with other people who have imbibed themselves with their own unique culture, was I beginning to grasp the sheer gravity of the situation. So many are trapped in their boxes. The school children with brains crammed  full of notes, fearful of voicing an opinion in front of their parents. The elders whose doctrines about marriage and other life activities that never seems to budge. The women, to whom few listen, no matter what wisdom were in their words. All this irrespective of how the world seemed to change around them. History is heavy, culture reigns supreme, the old go unquestioned.

In my impressionistic and very opinionated view, India seems to be a land of replicated lives. Where most people grow up to be exactly like their parents. Cracking the same jokes, bearing the same prejudices, and pursuing vocations not too far afield. India seems to function on seemingly low expectations and almost otherworldly powers of acceptance and adjustments. Most television channels seems to beam the same over-acted sitcoms, that anybody else with broader choices would probably never watch. But yet, people seem to accept it. The poverty, the children with malnutrition induced puffed-out bellies and matted hair on the streets, begging for anything that would come their way. These kids possess a similar skin color and facial features as me, and yet the sheer disdain that they are treated with is bloodcurdling. Yet, society, be it the rich folk or the poor themselves seem to accept this existence. Women seem to accept the normalcy of being told their skin is too dark, that their weight should be increased or decreased, that they should marry this man or that. People with vegetarian parents, seemed to accept that they too must be vegetarian.

History was heavy. Culture reigned supreme. Religion seemed to be the clock that made it all tick. The country that gathered in my mind over the years was contradictory and complex and yet so simple. It seems kind and decent, generous and sacrificial, repressed and narrow, wretched and hopeless, a land short on dynamism and initiative, long on caution, niggling judgement, subservience, and fear. This was a land where people rarely come into their own as they do here in the United States.

But this is a country I love and adore. It is a country that has given me everything. The people might be questionable, the superstitions rearing its ugly head in the disguise of culture and religion is borderline disgraceful. But it is due to the love that I have for my country, that I feel this urge to tell what I have to. The country, slowly yet steadily, is rising in the global marketplace. The world’s cheapest car is now a symbol of what India has to offer. It is trying to tell a story as to how the country is undergoing significant changes within. The old constraints are still not lifted. The bureaucracy, the corruption, the tax codes, the labor laws, the poverty, the potholed roads. All of these are burdens that the average Indian citizen has to endure. But in earlier times, this would have considered as an excuse to make shoddy products.

The Tata Nano is a symbol of how India is adapting to these constraints, these unique hardships, and created something that is now considered a technological marvel. Given the condition of Indian roads, which resembles the surface of the moon more than it does the earth, the suspensions had to be made better. Given the average income levels, the manufacturing costs had to be constrained. Given all these adversities, the Nano, which now symbolizes the new India, is really a lesson in bravado. It’s not that India’s core concept has changed. This is a new style of hopeful defiance.

The deepest change I wish to observe in India, and I am beginning to see clear signs of these, is not what the factories are building or what the software programmers are coding. It should be in the mind of the people. How they conceived their possibilities. They should not have to leave the country to pursue their personal revolutions. Children of a lower caste are hoisting themselves up, one degree at a time. More women are becoming breadwinners. The younger generation would find their sense of privacy restored with the advent of cell phones. It would also give a sense of individual identity. Couples should start ending marriages, no what matter what society thinks. The reverse is also true. People should marry who they love, no matter what society labels you as. Servants, whose predecessors were also servants, must take the first step in providing education to their children, so that they do not end up in servitude. Vegetarians could and should embrace meat, and meat eaters could and should embrace vegetarianism. Not due to the caste and faith, but due to taste and trend. What should decline is the tendency to serenely accept life as it is.

Newspapers and books are writing in reams about how India is changing and the pace of growth. It is fast becoming a planet changing model of democracy, pluralism and growth. But the truth is a little more subtle and sober. Our economy is growing, but not as fast as it can. Poverty is being abolished slowly and steadily, yet not fast enough to make a sizeable dent amongst the general populace. The flexing of military muscle overseas, seems sporadic and aimless. But one thing the people don’t lack is the ability to dream.

The dream to own their own house, a refrigerator, a microwave, a washing machine. The dream to break caste barriers. The dream to marry for love, all the complicated family considerations be damned. The dream to become rich. The dream to finally live life comfortably. The Indian revolution has to come from within. As was once said in a famous Indian movie, no country is great. It is up to the citizens to make it great. Let the fabric of Indianness not diminish, but let it unravel in the force of these dreams. India is a great country, it can be made greater.

Rise!

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What do women want?


Any typos in this article are all entirely my fault. Any grammatical errors spotted in this article were put there because I could. The opinions posted are also completely mine and are about 99.4% accurate. The opinions expressed by me, are (usually) not the opinions of anyone else on the planet. Heed advice at your own risk. Phew. Now that I have this disclaimer out of the way, I still harbor a reasonable chance of delving into the complexities that come with trying to understand what women actually want. There is a fair chance that after this blog, I might need to go back in time and have a threesome with Oedipus and Sigmund Freud.

Bear in mind, this post is primarily trying to cater to understanding straight women. My opinions about what women look for in other women for a relationship, would be as useful as Hrithik Roshan’s sixth finger. On his right hand. All I needed to do was to google, and the responses were there. Everybody seemed to know what women were really looking for in their ideal man. Huffington Post, Men’s Health, E Harmony and even Fox News had an opinion. If you listen to Fox News’ opinion on what women want in a man, all roads would point to Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly. Both of whom are assholes, but that’s my opinion. Even Times of India had something to say in this regard. According to them, women want a guy who is intelligent, has a deep baritone, drives a cool car, is romantic and not necessarily rich, has a head full of hair, and can dance like John Travolta. Let me go over each of these traits and hope that this topic finally has some much needed resolution.

Intelligence:

Intelligence is an oft used but even more often misinterpreted term. Growing up in a country which places more importance on educational degrees than it does on personal sanity, intelligence was directly correlated with the kind of degree you have and the institution you obtained it from. So if you have an engineering degree from IIT, you are probably hung like a horse on viagra. Or you probably make so much money, the current government wants to scam you out of it. So I would assume girls would flock around them. But getting into and graduating from an IIT probably ruined most of their adolescence and the chance of having a first crush, first love, first kiss, etc. So, I would actually wish that girls flock around them. But when I think intelligence, my first thought goes towards knowledge of things around you, world politics and general wittiness. Granted common sense amongst the general populace is like deodorants. Those who need it the most, don’t use it. Intelligence is also learning not to ever ask Mayawati to speak again, because chances are your ears are still ringing from the first time you asked.

Deep Baritone:

Speaking of Mayawati, apparently another trait that women look for in a man is a deep voice. Let this not be misinterpreted that I called Mayawati a man. Mayawati is as much woman as Riteish Deshmukh is sexy. In the words of Times of India, “Women are approximately seven times more attracted towards a man who has a deeper voice and a superior position and a dominating work style. High-pitch voices hint towards a pro-social behaviour, so women find such men more reliable. A research suggested that women prefer men with deep voices because it signals strength, dominance and good genes.” I think it was Bill Cosby who once said, ” Women want to hear what they think – in a deeper voice.” That would explain the need for a deep voice. And if that’s the case, Mimoh Chakraborty will probably never be in a relationship. Ever. Only because he is a shitty actor might I add.

Cool Car:

“Cool” is another one of those words that is so often misused. Cool is also something that is time sensitive. Like, for example, when I was 4, I thought growing up to be an adult was cool. Now I regret every minute of it. Except for the money that I make and spend. That’s cool. Wearing your hat backwards, wearing your bag on one shoulder and saying “Waaazzaaaaaaaaa” are some of the things I used to consider cool back in the day. But speaking of cool cars, I wonder if a reliable Japanese vehicle, which gives great gas mileage and probably lasts longer than you, is considered cool. Or is cool the new word, for an expensive, two seater convertible sports mobile that travels 0-60 mph faster than Manmohan Singh can say Soniaji. Or is playing loud, obnoxious music from your car when you pass a couple of good looking girls and nod your head up and down once to try to emulate Joey Tribbiani and say, “How you doing?”. Whichever way you look it, if you offer a girl a bullock cart as a viable eco-friendly replacement for her Toyota Prius, chances are she might not find that cool.

Romantic and not necessarily rich:

This one I actually have a lot to say about. Well actually probably not, because I am as romantic as, well, a paper bag. When I use lines such as I love you as much as pig loves mud, I get the look that practically says, “Get outta here before you’re 6 feet under said mud.” But apparently, women want a man who can sweep them off their feet every single day and make them feel like a queen. She wants material goods, but she also wants somebody who would appreciate them with her. Said material goods can be obtained only with money. I tried haggling with a shop-owner and told him I would pay him in love and hugs. The tilt of my nose is now 15% to the right. So, may be you need to have enough money to buy said material goods, but also you need to have enough romance left in you to woo your better half. So if you think you are like Emraan Hashmi, then score. You just got paid a few crores to smooch your partner. Wait you didn’t? Ha ha sucker. Oh wait, neither did I. The joke’s on me.

Head full of hair:

That’s got to boil down to your luck. Or your genes. Or both. Or your razor. But apparently, a balding guy is a major turnoff for girls. If hair was anything of a reference to how popular you were with women, Anil Kapoor would be the most laid man in the history of the world. Or, for that matter, even me. So, apparently, the metro sexy look is not what girls want. According to the world-renowned doctors at Times of India, “In the past, men were never into makeovers and beauty treatments and they were simply crude. And women have grown up seeing their dads and brothers in a typical macho man look, so this orientation of preferring men with more hair has been there with them since childhood.” God damn it. And here we are, as men, trying to manscape everything that grew naturally. So that women might actually find us attractive. Clearly we were misled. Fuck you, Anil Kapoor.

Dance like John Travolta:

This is something I can not give you any advice on. I have 2 1/2 left feet and none of them can dance. Not even form a semblance of rhythmic repetitive steps. So when girls expect that their guy can do the moonwalk like Michael Jackson, and the guy actually practises and pulls it off, he is a keeper. So I am going to have to use my other magnificent talents such as drinking an entire 6-pack of beer and a bag of chips in one sitting, to market myself as a viable mate. That’s not an accomplishment? Then, I am sadly out of talents to market.

Mulling over all these requirements, not only do I feel grossly insignificant, I also see myself uber single for the foreseeable future. So for all you women out there looking for this ideal man, good luck in your search. I would happy to hear your feedback if you think that I am full of shit and I have no clue about real women want. It is a very real possibility and the fact that I check none of the above boxes in terms of requirements, makes me want to learn about this even more.

Did I mention I was single?

Mind your f****** language


This post contains words or even sentences that would bring most refined and pure individuals to give a look that is reminiscent of a Chinese person being called a Japanese. If you belong to a genre of people who detest the F word or cringe at the S word, look away now. Clearly, on reading further, you don’t give a shit about what I warn you about, so you continue to read along anyway. Well, if you don’t give a Muroidea‘s Gluteus Maximus about your senses or my sensibilities, then read on. But don’t tell me I did not tell you so.

If you’ve traveled in a Bombay local train ever before, or even seen one on youtube, you realize that you are in kissing distance to sweating individuals who believe deodorants are like common sense. Those who need it the most never end up using it. So, good wishes and courtesy quite often take a back seat. A quick look around and the choicest obscenities are uttered like it were unwanted pregnancies after a prom night. It’s that common. In fact, the Railway Authorities, led by Lalu Prasad Yadav, conducted a survey in which they asked everyday train users what the most common abuse they heard. About 30% said madarchod (mother fucker) or bhenchod (sister fucker). And the remaining 70% had their faces pressed against another man’s sweaty armpits.

Hailing from a country that has 22 official languages and countless dialects, which also comprise of Bambaiyya Hindi (Hindi spoken by residents of Bombay), language played an important role in my upbringing. Almost every language I have learnt to speak, have started from an obscenity that roused my creative curiosities in learning said language. But growing up in a world where even words are segregated by class, namely good words and bad words, my leanings have always been towards the bad ones. Which is when a fight broke out in a local train we were traveling in and an individual happened to say, “Tereko main latesht gaali sunao kya” (can I interest you in an obscenity I just came up with?), my ears got a little pointier. Who are these wordsmiths who invent these wonderful phrases? Well, a common man such as myself you say. Very interesting.

India places way too much importance to protecting people’s sentiments. In fact, it is the second most important activity in an Indian household after creating babies. Hence, there are 31 children born every minute whose sentiments can now be hurt. So much so, free speech is curtailed by people such as Kapil Sibal and Mamta Banerjee, both of whom need a hug, preferably by a straitjacket. To be honest though, our collective sentiments seem to resemble an arthritic set of bones. Doesn’t take much to hurt them. Which is why when Salman Rushdie came a visiting, “minorities” had their sentiments affected. Yet they let Chetan Bhagat spew out utter nonsense in the disguise of literary awesomeness.

As Hank Moody once quoted, “People… they don’t write anymore – they blog. Instead of talking, they text, no punctuation, no grammar: LOL this and LMFAO that. You know, it just seems to me it’s just a bunch of stupid people pseudo-communicating with a bunch of other stupid people in a proto-language that resembles more what cavemen used to speak than the King’s English.” All of this coming to you via a blog nonetheless you say. Hence, the immense amount of self loathing. Personally I place a lot of emphasis on accurate usage of words as they were meant to be. Like, literally I wish you’re mama read this shit you write herr. Correct spelling gets me as excited as the announcer of the spelling bees. Only I don’t get to judge kids when they spell  flocci­nauci­nihili­pili­fication (whose meaning is worthless. No, seriously)but I do internally judge people who misspell common words. Pacify me please. There, Their, They’re.

As Shakespeare once said, “What’s in a f***** name anyway?”. Now get me that elusive publishing deal. I am ready to vomit chunky literary garbage. Ala Chetan Bhagat