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.



Rain, Rain come again..

Growing up in Bombay all my life, two seasons have come to play a significant role in my upbringing. One being sweat, the other being wet. Wet by rain of course. The sweating lasts about 7-8 months a year. And the monsoons, when they show up, are magnificent and much needed at first. But when floods happen, the enthusiasm for rains lasts as long as the “good acting” bits in any Sunny Leone movie. About 5 minutes.

 That being said, I would rather wade through the flooded gutter waters of Bombay all day long but that’s probably the chronic homesickness talking. But I honestly much rather prefer getting wet in the rain rather than sweating a river. Granted, I am a hirsute individual. So I sweat as much as Emraan Hashmi kisses. I had the privilege, don’t ask my mom that, of being born smack bang in the middle of summer. With temperatures hovering around 38 degrees, the heat was comparable to the heat generated in an average individual’s lungi when he is watching a C-grade movie in the dark confines of a seedy movie theater. So given the general self-loathing I suffer from, the phenomenon of being born on such a hot day invariably ruined summer for me.

 When I was growing up, school always was never around during those hot summer months. We were forced to spend our time at home, either watching TV shows that made Ektaa Kapoor (I lose track of the number of A’s and P’s in her name now) so famous, or having siestas in the middle of the day, that were otherwise cardinal sins. But come evenings, when the temperature got slightly more bearable, friends would gather and we would play cricket downstairs. But the unbridled joy that one got by just getting wet in those first rains cannot be worded. It’s that feeling of much needed relief from the unrelenting heat.

 The rains always had this sense of romance in my mind. Maybe it was due to watching way too many Bollywood or Tamil movies, and ogle at the lovely ladies get drenched and nearly rendered transparent. But every time it rained, there was a certain list of songs that would be on replay most of the time. And those had a sense of romance about them. My first instinct, when it rains, is to run and jump around in it. It brings out the kid in me. But that’s probably because I have the mental capacity of Uday Chopra. Ever since I was in school, the advent of rain brought with it new raincoats, gum boots and puddles, whose depths were as unknown as Rakhi Sawant’s IQ levels.

 As age started descending upon me and raising its ugly head, rather my ugly head, rains meant something a lot deeper. Pubescent hormones brought along with it the need to hold somebody’s hand and walk with her along the mean alleys of Matunga. I, once again, attribute those thoughts to movies. When it starts raining, you see the rush among people to get to a dry area where their heads would be pseudo-covered by a file or a book or a briefcase. Watching 4 people squeeze under a little umbrella, just brought a smile to my face. It just brought to fore what Bombay is all about. Come hell or high water, more often than not it was high water, we will survive. And while we are surviving, we will try to help as many people survive with us. That just embodies the essence of Bombay.

 And walk the mean alleys of Matunga I did. And in my hand was the hand of the most beautiful person I have ever known. My grandmother. We used to walk to the market every evening, first to visit the temple and then to buy the day’s supply of vegetables and groceries. She shared the same immature wish of walking in the rain when it was at its most majestic. Since, school generally just started around that time, classes weren’t as hectic and homework was minimal. So trips to the market lasted longer during the monsoons.

 Ambling around the streets, with puddles, stray rivulets of mucky water flowing along the footpaths, we always used to carry a used notebook from the school year left behind. Armed with pages that were itching to be torn, we squatted beside these rivulets and created a paper boat. Simple in design and creation, this provided an immense source of entertainment. Watching it sail away till it reached an open manhole and agonizingly seeing it being sucked inside the manhole, brought sadistic pleasure. It also brought about hopes of creating another boat, even though it was evident that the consequences would be identical. Another one capsizing in to a manhole.

 Rains brought along with it delicacies that were meant to be had only during rains. It was available other times of the year too, but it felt like it was meant to be. Kind of like Abhishek Bacchan and Aiswarya Rai. Actually probably not. But what I mean is rains and a hot cup of tea, or rains and a hot corn on the cob fresh with salt and chilli powder on top, or better still rains and fried onion pakoras. Match made in heaven. And who better than my grandmother to indulge me in my gluttony. After getting ourselves soaked, we came back home, dried ourselves off with towels and turned on the radio which played Kishore Kumar’s songs. Add to that fresh tea made with ginger and elaichi, it just brings little tears to my eyes, when I think about it now.

 But with all its glorious traits, torrential rains coupled with a high tide on the Arabian Sea can cause the best of people to scurry in to the confines and comforts of their homes. One such instance was in the year of 2005. 26th of July. About a 1000mm of rain in 2 hours annihilated the city no end. It hit Bombay so fast and so furiously, people did not have time to react. I was one such soul. Stuck at college, listening to a lecture that was boring to begin with, concerned friends and family were constantly texting asking me to get out of there. Multiple requests to our professor, but to no avail. No means of transportation to get back home, I was forced to walk an arduous 6 hours before I could reach the nearest relative who provided much needed shelter and a cup of hot tea. Walking 6 hours is still acceptable, but walking 6 hours in neck-deep muck with the fear of being sucked in to an open manhole was a lot more challenging than meets the eye. But the fact that I am writing this essay ensures that I survived that traumatic experience.

 All said and done, rains will always have a special place in my heart. For some reason, Bombay is always associated with rains in my eyes. The sense of camaraderie that it brought in times of need. The huddling up of people under one umbrella. Utter disregard to caste, creed, religion or social status, everybody who walked in the rain, would get wet. It was how it was meant to be. People will come, people will go. Monsoon is as critical to Bombay as a beat is to a heart. And I will still jump and play and get drenched in the rain as when I was a child.

 As Langston Hughes once said, “Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”

Age is but a giant, disappointing number

So, this week, of all weeks, I have a birthday coming up. Funny thing about age. It keeps increasing every year, pushing one to the brink of extinction. I was always taught as a little kid, when people age, they age like wine. So, apparently they have a ton of complex reactions, sugar, acids and taste funny. Funny good of course. I choose to age like milk. That is well past its expiration date. With great age, comes great wisdom. All I got was 4 wisdom teeth, nestled perfectly inside my gums, waiting to pierce certain nerves. Then I grunt with pain, have a surgery and get them out. Nothing wise about that. Get it? Wise, Wisdom, teeth? Eh screw you.

One of the main qualms I have with most of the youth of this generation is the sheer lack of functional literacy in terms of writing a sentence to save their lives. Back in my times, we were rapped on the knuckles for not using punctuation, using improper spelling and all of these in complete legitimate sentences. Everything these young people write is unfiltered, unedited, unintelligible and filled with crazy slang and infuriating abbreviations. Gone are the days when BTW stood for Back To Work, but now abbreviations are the new norm. Seriously people, WTF?

However, the digression is partly due to the fact that my attention span isn’t what it used to be. Neither is my waistline for that matter. I blame that on the advent of my middle age, where my age starts showing around the middle. Also, my tolerance for putting up with bullshit has also reduced significantly along with what used to be a hairline. Now, it just resembles a forehead suffering from gigantism. I have slowly started to learn that the walkman that I use actually has a knob that turns left. Walkman? You know the device that plays audio cassettes? Audio cassettes, which have two sides to it all full of music? Damn kids, with their youtube and Harlem Shakes. During my time, Harlem was famous for a bunch of insanely talented basketball players who used to roll a ball on one finger and dunk the baskets using trampolines. Warned you about the digression, didn’t I, kiddo?

When older people used to ask me to reduce the goddamn volume, I used to retort by saying “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” And now the negative volume button is pressed as quickly as the speed dial for emergency services such as Pizza or Chinese food. When the waist level on my jeans slowly start encroaching towards my chest, I will have then started the unholy process of aging. I know I have started growing old, because visits to the doctor now are more than an annual “Hello, how do you do?”. It’s started to lean towards:

Me: Doctor, I think I am having a heart attack.

Doctor: Why would you say that? What are the symptoms?

Me: Uhh.. Chest Pain, shooting pain down the left arm, sweating bullets, anxiety!!

Doctor: Ok. Chest pain is because of gas. Excessive potatoes aren’t good for people your age. Shooting pain down the left arm is because your bones are starting to get creaky and you can’t lift heavy grocery bags anymore. Sweating bullets is because you just ran up 5 flights of stairs to my office and you are grossly fat and unfit. Anxiety is because you are a hypochondriac and an idiot.

Doctor: Also, blood tests show super high cholesterol. So, stop shoveling down those potatoes and get some physical activity.

Me: But, watching sports, eating chips and guzzling beers already makes me so tired.

P.S. All the above conversations were completely made up. But it could have happened to somebody, right?

I have started to realize that the older I get, the more I start thinking about life’s responsibilities. Like choosing the right person to marry, how can I best save my money, how to buy a house in a good school district that is good for the kids, etc. And also, where my next dose of fiber is going to come from. You know, so I can comfortably crap out the gluttonous sins of the previous day, and hopefully, some toxins too. On the other hand, my cynical mind tells me, you are going to die anyway. Eat what you can, when you can. Before they start shoving it up your behind, hey i’m old enough to say ass, through a tube.

Yes, thoughts of buying a fast, two seater sports car have crossed my mind. But then reality kicks in and laughs in my chubby, bald face. That’s enough whiskey for today. It’s 9pm. Time to head in to bed. As somebody rightly pointed out, middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that’ll get me home sooner.

Get me my armrest and cigar now. And happy 27th birthday to me.


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I Heart Bal Thackeray (Mummy kasam. I really do)

If there was ever a man to invoke the kinds of crowds that are generally reserved for weekday mornings in trains from Virar to VT, it had to be Bal Thackeray. It finally happened. The man they called the Tiger passed away to pastures new. Cue angry mourning Shiv Sainiks going from apartment to apartment asking people to take down their Diwali lights, asking the local shopkeeps to pull down their shutters and generally emptying the streets. In an island city teeming with over 22 million residents, the sight of an empty street is as rare as a pig in flight. The unforeseen happened. No, no they did not find a swine in flight. They found several empty streets in Bombay. So, who was this person and why did people fear respect him to such an extent that they would be willing to sacrifice their annual celebrations of the Festival of Lights, close down their stores on the day when they would probably rake in a good amount of business selling their wares.

Bal Thackeray was a right-wing leader of an ethnocentric party that catered to the rights (?!) of the natives of Maharashtra. He championed various causes during the course of his long political career. Some valid, some controversial and some downright ignorant. As a cartoonist in his early days, he focused his attention towards creating a separate linguistic state of Maharashtra. But then saw the “immigration” and hence growing influence of marwaris, gujratis and south indians in to Bombay. This led his party workers to start violently targeting said workers from other states.

Certain causes he fought were quite valid which included an end to Pakistan sponsored terrorism which particularly hurt Bombay the most, the limiting of freebies offered to Dalits. Let me go in further to describe this one. Dalits were, at a time very early in Independent India, considered the untouchable caste. So, Dr. Ambedkar, who was a Dalit rights activist and also one of the main authors of the Indian Constitution suggested that certain rights be reserved for Dalits, but only for a period of 10 years, by which time they should be self-sufficient. But 66 years hence, Dalits have more than 60% reservation in most walks of life including premier educational institutions.

But as a young boy watching an old Muslim man have his beard set on fire in the middle of the street, 1992 was quite a harrowing year for a 6 year old me. The communal riots that ensued after the Babri Masjid demolition by Hindu Extremist leaders, was horribly destructive and led to so many innocent lives being lost. Religious tensions were at their peak in Bombay in that year. This was followed by 1993 Bombay bombings which was claimed to be a retaliatory strike by Muslim extremists for demolishing the Babri Masjid, the killing of innocent muslims and inactivity of the police towards these innocent muslims. Ever since that incident, Bombay just became an easy target for Pakistan sponsored terrorism and people who live there are in constant fear of being killed, yet carry on with their lives one day at a time.

In times like these, it’s hard not to hate a man whose every single ideology revolved around the concept of Hindutva. Religion based politics have been the bane of our country ever since it got independence. And with regional sentiments seeded in people’s minds, the non-Maharashtrians were viewed as the enemy. Personally, I have lived in Bombay for the most part of my life and would still consider it my home and my city even though I am not remotely Marathi speaking, even though I am a Maharashtrian.

Balasaheb was undoubtedly gifted with an intuitive skill to sense the fissures within our social fabric, divided on caste ,religion, language and ethnic origins. It was no co-incidence that he realised the potential of a huge political capital in this divided sense of identity, particularly in a metropolis city like Bombay. Considered historically as a city of opportunities, it was only natural that people from across the country of all hues would pour into Bombay, to eke out a living or to realise their dreams. Bombay was destined to have a multi-layered composition of its populace . Plurality in terms of language, religion and ethnicity has always been the essence of its identity. A talented political cartoonist then, for Thackeray, this was a perfect setting to arouse and incite a dormant regional identity of the Maharashtrians, giving birth to a myth called “Marathi Manus”. Deftly using a combination of satire, sarcasm and vitriolic, his oratory and prose succeeded in solidifying this myth in the minds of aimless, rudderless Marathi youths of an entire generation.

Marginalisation and cultural isolation in one’s own homeland is indeed a strong passion of victimhood that has huge political value. Thackeray, the politician, used it unabashedly as an effective currency and a potent tool to carve out a distinct political space in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena ,thus became the Nazi party of this Fuhrer, Sainiks, his storm troopers, let loose on the streets. The agenda was plain and simple. Threaten, persecute and terrorise all “outsiders”- read non Maharashtrians. This admirer of Adolf Hitler could shockingly play out with impunity the dangerous game of identity politics, as long as there were targets. From South-Indians to Gujaratis to North-Indians(UP/Bihar) to Muslims, he and his party invented the causes that were inimical to the interests of his Marathi Manus, and so accordingly targeted. What he preached through the party mouth piece “Saamna” , his storm troopers would practice on the streets of Mumbai and Pune. The “pride” instilled in the Marathi Manus was borne out of prejudice against target groups, rather than positive virtues inherent in them. Thankfully, the goons in the guise of Sainiks could not carry out ethnic cleansing and restricted their terror tactics to vandalism, destructions, arson and injuring their victims. Slowly yet firmly, this paper tiger sent a strong signal to all non-natives that they were not welcome in Bombay. As he grew in strength, he colonised other parts of Maharashtra, notably Pune. For those who chose to stay on and continue to work in Maharashtra, he sought a tacit compromise. That is, to give in to his diktats as and when he issues them.

Later, as he and his senseless game of identity politics became increasingly irrelevant and a stale theme to arouse or disrupt, he expanded his themes .Although Balasaheb exhibited extreme right wing Hindu nationalistic ideology, the new targets like works of art and literature had wider implications than the narrow Marathi manoos cause. Ironically some of them, like his steadfast stand against any concession to Pakistan or whole hearted support to the Indian Army during the Kargil war were indeed welcome deviations. But essentially, he remained every inch a fuhrer till end. He revered in imposing his will on others, could not brook any dissidence or disagreement. Loyalty to him was the ultimate virtue. Authoritarianism, just as his idol Hitler, came naturally to him. Even Bollywood and business community could not afford to earn his ire and overtly offered obeisance to him to remain in his good books. The legacy of Balasaheb Thackeray, if at all there is one is unmistakably that of regional extremism, intolerance, rigidity of misplaced ideas, coercion, vandalism, arson, rioting, and plain goondaism. All of them, when put in one basket is what Shiv-Sena stands for today, in stark contrast and incongruent to the of 21st century progressive mindset.

Ironically Balasaheb’s legacy of intimidation played out most eloquently even in his death. While the Bombay police issued advisories to its citizens as if some calamity has struck streets and by lanes of this maximum city wore deserted looks with shops and services closing down, people remained indoors in hushed silence stocking up essentials for the impending crisis, the designs of the lurking legacy was unmistakably sinister.
With the end of the phenomenon called Balasaheb Thackeray, his hard core followers may feel deeply marooned. His progenies, Son Udhav and nephew Raj have inherited his legacy to a great extent, both genetically and by virtue of close proximity. MNS, the mutated version of Shiv-Sena is promising to outdo the latter in the dangerous game of identity politics. But eventually, like all such parochial mindsets, they are all destined to be lost in the quicksand of time as they will become irrelevant in the growing globalised identity and priorities of Bombaykars such as myself. If we have survived multiple terrorist attacks, this too shall pass.

RIP Balasaheb Thackeray.

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My dog, the parlimentarian.


Reasons why the average Indian politician is pretty much like my dog:

1. My dog sleeps about 20 hours a day.
2. She can eat whenever she wants.
3. Her meals are provided at no cost to her.
4. She does not need to pay for medical insurance. She visits the doctor once a year for her checkup, and again during the year if any medical needs arise.
5. For this she pays nothing, and nothing is required of her.
6. She lives in a nice neighborhood in a house that is much larger than she needs, but she is not required to do any upkeep.If she makes a mess, someone else cleans it up.
7. She has her choice of luxurious places to sleep.
8. She receives these accommodations absolutely free.

9. All of her costs are picked up by others who go out and earn a living every day.

About 5 years ago, India and China were portrayed to be global superpowers. While China continues to grow, the picture that emerges from India is that of a great country in a state of moral decay. The immediate future seems to belong to the doomsayers rather than to cheer mongers. We suffer from a fatty degeneration of conscience, and the malady seems to be not only persistent but prone to aggravation. The life style of too many politicians and businessmen bears eloquent testimony to the truth of dictum that the single minded pursuit of money impoverishes the mind, shrivels the imagination and desiccates the heart.

Q: What is the difference between Parliament and my uncle’s rusted old Bajaj Chetak scooter?

A: Both don’t function. But the scooter is better at implementing reforms.

Young, dynamic people all over the country are well aware of this dire situation. They wake up in the morning, read the papers, and think to themselves: “Good God! It is high time people like me stepped forward to intervene, before it is too late to restore the nation to its rightful glory.”

After which they think to themselves: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That was some pure comedy gold. I will now go and fill my US visa application.” However, there is one major hurdle that young non residency-prone professionals must overcome before they fly abroad: deal with tremendous social guilt.

In the past, going abroad for work was seen as a good thing to do. Talented people left, made some money and then sent most of it back home where responsible parents and elders invested the money safely.

But now, oh how times have changed.

So, how does a young, dynamic person like you deal with this entire social guilt-tripping? Here are some methods:

First of all, you must loudly and frequently announce your intention to move back to India at the earliest opportunity.  Say things like: “I don’t even want to go yaar. But these guys have a policy of training everybody in New York. The very day training is complete I am flying back on the next Kingfisher flight.”

Secondly, you must constantly say how you are upset at leaving the “most exciting market” in the world. Use terms like the “this is where the action is”, “the next big story is India” and “the untapped opportunity is immense”. Keep saying this till you are well inside the aircraft. And then start right away on your American accent dude!

The next canard is to tell people that you are only going abroad to make enough money to come back and set up your own enterprise. For added brownie points, make it one of those “social entrepreneurship” thingumajigs. But make it sound complicated enough to warrant your going abroad. Try things like “sustainable grassroots biodiversity microfinance for the girl child”.

Also effective is to tell people that you are going abroad with the medium-term plan of “doing higher studies” and then coming back to teach, say, at your alma mater. “We must go to Harvard, learn their methods, come back, and then beat them at their own game!” you must say, preferably whilst waving a large flag.

And finally, if nothing else works, tell people that you’re going abroad because your parents are forcing you to. Actually, you can’t even imagine spending one night outside our international borders. But the parents insist. And their happiness is more important to you than anything else. Later, move your parents abroad with you. Then tell people that they’re too old to move back, but now they never want to live alone again.

Alas. Green card.

Picking up women – 101

If you were looking for an article which would give you a fool-proof way of picking up women at bars, massage parlors, search no further. Here is all that you were always curious about but were afraid to ask.

These are the qualifications that you must have:

Name: Vasant Dhoble
Age: 56
Designation: Assistant Commissioner of Police, Social Service (SS) Branch
Previous posting: Vidhan Sabha security
Member: Police commissioner’s special squad

Track record
>> Suspended (1989): for taking bribe in Pune
>> Sentenced (1994): to 7 yrs imprisonment
>> Fined Rs 1 lakh for custodial death of Abdul Gaffer Khan after alleged torture (Jail term overthrown by HC in 1996)
>> Dismissed (1994): for Khan’s custodial death (reinstated in 1996)
>> Pending: Departmental inquiry for Khan’s death after SC order
>> Responsible for: Misplacing 12 dossiers related to gangster Dawood Ibrahim
If you satisfy all of the above criteria, then grab a hockey stick and rush to your nearby bar, club, hookah bar, and pick-up the girls that rejected your advances. Make sure you label them as prostitutes, questions their parents’ ability to raise their children in a wholesome family-oriented atmosphere and then go back home and sleep.

On first glance, ACP Vasant Dhoble looks like that uncle (read pedophile) from your colony who always seems to know anything and everything about the people residing there. The kind that gives Zaid Hamid a bad name. Dig deeper and you find that he is a vigilante who has the city’s best interests at heart. He is trying to instill culture into wayward teenagers and trying to dissuade them from “doing bad things”. How can that be so wrong? Apparently, residents of Bandra and Khar are complaining about the noise pollution that is destroying their sleep. Well for them, there are always ear muffs. Not that I am trying to justify the flagrant law-breaking of noise and crowd levels of the aforementioned places, but there is always a solution. Isn’t the policy of Bombay, “Boss, thoda adjust kar na please”(Buddy, could you adjust a little bit?) ? From a 4th person on a train seat to an extra person squeezing in to an already over-full train compartment.

The nature of this man’s belligerent jingoism borders on being fanatical. Just because we have patrons drinking in pubs does not mean that we carry an assault on their integrity or label them as being the outcome of a licentious upbringing. Such bawdy behavior on the part of the law enforcement should not be tolerated anywhere especially in a so called ‘democratic’ nation – we do not live in a fascist state after all. However, what is most unfortunate though is that we have laws that are vaguely worded and archaic giving free rein to such individuals who owing to their intrinsic bigotry deem women who drink in pubs as being ‘prostitutes’ – it’s disgusting and indicative of a ‘perverse’ and parochial mindset.

Ours is a country where a lot of emphasis and pride are placed in the cultural superiority of our people as compared to people of the West. So when people do go party, the immediate go-to thought in most people’s minds are “loose people”. Women, even more so, than guys. But you probably were already familiar with the sexist nature of our society. So, when Mr. Dhoble gets a lot of phone calls everyday from concerned citizens about the immoral atrocities in their neighborhoods, you can’t blame the poor guy for doing something. Otherwise, you would start comparing him to our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who is as vocal as Charlie Chaplin in his heyday.

I think the root cause of all these problems is regurgitation of ancient laws such as “No individual is allowed to keep more than 12 units of alcohol in their own home”. Also, the new laws stating that everybody over 25 who wants to have some alcohol at any point needs to have a piece of paper called the liquor license. So, if some friends decide to have an impromptu get-together, make sure it doesn’t involve alcohol. Or just to be safe, keep that piece of paper on you at all times. It should probably do a good job of reminding you of the rampant corruption that plagues our country. How? You probably gave the officer some “chai-paani” (bribe) to obtain the permit in the first place.

Speaking of crazy Indian laws, here’s one that I will end this blog with. Under section 294 of the Indian Penal Code, it is a criminal offense if anyone commits any obscene act, sings, recites or utters any obscene words, in or near any public space.

So next time, you call your friend with the choicest obscenities or get in to a fight with a random stranger because he/she pushed you in the train or bus, make sure that Dhoble isn’t around. He will go tell your mummy that you are a bad boy/girl.

Saaheb, jaoo dyaa naa….

Mee Bombaykar

This one article published by the quite popular Time magazine has got a lot of “rave” reviews and quite a lot of negative publicity from the online Indian community. So much so, that the magazine and the writer both had to apologize. Don’t judge me if I try to cash in on this.

I am pretty sure I ought to be insulted as Mr. Joel Stein is saying pretty bad stuff about my countrymen and my culture. But somehow, we keep conveniently ignoring the humor with which the article was intended to be written. People should also place themselves in his shoes and see where this article is coming from. This is a person, who is returning to his hometown after nearly 20 years and finds it different. So culturally different, that it’s called Little India. And he just voiced his opinion about that. I agree it may not be…

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