Monday, November 27, 2017

Snacking Is India’s Favourite Pastime Right After Outrage

Courtesy - Google Images



Hunger is one of our most primal needs, because it’s food that sustains and comforts us, and gives us joy. Sometimes we get into such an intense relationship with food that it borders on obsession. This kind of relationship usually ends up in heartbreak. I mean what can be more sorrowful than seeing the needle on your weighing scale cross unchartered territories! Which is why the most dangerous type of hunger is the one that has more to do with your state of mind and very little to do with the rumblings inside your stomach. It starts as a little voice inside your head, soft at first, coaxing you to reach for that pack of crisps that you’ve hidden inside a 60-feet pit you dug a few hours back. The one that you were not supposed to buy but still bought it. The one whose existence you were supposed to forget like the promises politicians make just before elections. But damn, it’s stuck inside your head like a fly in a pot of jam! The more you try to ignore that bloody voice, the louder it becomes. It has now installed monster sized amplifiers inside your head. Your hands are now feeling clammy and you can hardly breathe. And that voice is now sounding like a chorus of crazy cricket fans chanting – just eat it, dammit!

You start clawing at the mud with your fingers, sweating with desperation, eager to reach to the bottom of the pit to that green and orange pack that you bought from Kalu ki dukan. You tear open the pack and gobble its contents in 10 seconds flat. Your face is now smeared with the orange spice that’s making your nose gush like sewage during monsoons.

Crispy roundels of heaven, packed with absolutely no nutrients, hollow claims, lots of guilt and 100% guaranteed satisfaction. These devious things cast a hypnotic spell on you. You know it’s bad for your waistline, yet you keep digging in for more and more like a greedy politician.

Eyes half closed in ecstasy, your breathing is now slow and languorous and then you take a deep sigh of regret.

It’s not as if Karni Sena will come running after me to behead me if I choose to snack on carrot sticks and a handful of chia seeds instead. But having a healthy snack is against Indian culture, no? Especially when you are born in a country that takes its munchies as seriously as not a doing a thing about toxic air that the capital is forced to breathe.

A mind-boggling variety of farsans, chop, jhal-muri, bhelpuri, phuchka, dahi bhalla, momos to choose from. Uff! It’s like you are Vishwamitra and these apsaras are out to wreak havoc on your carefully laid out diet plans.

Sweet, savoury, crunchy, chewy, there’s something to suit everyone’s palate.

We love our snacks so much that we even invent occasions to give us an excuse to indulge ourselves.

When we were kids, winters would mean picnics and picnics would mean taking breaks between munching on peanuts, puri-aloo, gajaar halwa, pakora and chai to play the mandatory game of badminton and losing yet another Frisbee. If you are a Bengali you’d have the added bonanza of having cold boiled egg sandwich with banana. If you crinkled your nose in refusal, you’d be rewarded with the sight of Bhutoo kakima rolling her eyes like a windshield wiper on a rainy day. And rainy days mean that veggies have no option but to dip themselves in a batter of gram-flour and jump in a karhai of hot oil. God made winters so that we could get fat and content consuming kilos of gajjaks, revdis and chikkis.

Office meetings, school functions, Independence day, farewell functions refuse to commence till cold samosas and sticky gulab jamuns are served on paper plates. Samosas are the ‘you complete’ me’ for any public function. Cheap and filling, they are available at any nukkad shop with piping hot sugary tea.

Snacking is India’s favourite pastime right after outrage. Its popularity can be gauged from the fact that nashta-pani is the number one excuse to demand a bribe.

If you see a large gathering, it’s either for the world famous kachori-wala or to watch an accident victim bleed to his death.

Come evening and neighbourhood markets are swarming with people snacking on chowmein, moong-pakodis, dahi papdis with such ferocity that some visiting alien might mistake it for their last supper. Go to Chandni Chowk in Delhi and even the smallest of establishments will have mile long queues outside it before the cows have set out for their morning walk. The grimier the establishment, the more iconic its status is.

Snacking, just like potholes is a great leveller. It can strike anytime, anyone, irrespective of their pet cause, ideologies, poshness of their holidays, and number of hired helps. Mid-morning, mid-night, pre-lunch… And thanks to these food delivery apps, there’s even a genie to make all your cravings come true as long as you have money in your wallet.

While the government is busy slashing GST, why don’t they make Indian snacks GST free and give tax rebates to snack vendors? With just one stroke our mai-baaps will give a massive boost to their make in India program and reduce unemployment at the same time. This will ensure that the outrage brigade with plenty of time on their hands, especially the Rajputs fighting for the honour of a deceased queen are kept busy either snacking or selling snacks.

Once we do away with needless noise over useless issues, we can focus on the ones that really matter – like Deepika’s exercise regimen, Katrina’s pet cat’s diet and Modi jee’s favourite asana.

Now where’s my Nobel for peace for this brilliant idea.






Friday, October 27, 2017

Hostel Diaries: Straight from the mouth of MaGau

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Year – 2025

Om Prakash Dhankar who is now a 175 feet statue at Veer Savarkar Chowk previously known as IFFCO is fondly remembered as the only minister who kept his promise. It may be recalled that way back in 2017 the State Animal Husbandry and Dairy Minister had announced his grandiose plans for setting up “PG hostels” on 50-100 acres land in major towns in Haryana to rear cows and buffaloes. Thanks to his unwavering commitment and the ambitious Deen Dayal Gauwas Yojna, Haryana is now the Gau capital of the world. Cows from as far as Switzerland and Germany are now thronging to Jaat pastures forcing the steak loving firangs to switch to Patanjali paneer.

Our reporter decided to approach the inmaids of one of the oldest and most prestigious hostels Working GauMaata Chhatrawas (GOTCHA) in Haryana to get a first-hand account of life behind the four walls.

What you’ll read next will leave you speechless.


(Names of hostellers have been changed to protect their identities)


“I spend most of my evenings staring outside my window, looking at my lower caste sisters shitting without a care in the world and swaying their tails with gai abandon” says Bhuteshwari. We are at the grounds outside the hostel champitheatre, where the gau and bhains get their weekly massage. Bhuteshwari and a few of her friends have gathered to share their experiences of life in the hostels at GOTCHA. Shifting uncomfortably in her khakhi shorts, Slutty-Savitri hisses “you know why they made us wear these shorts?” “Our chief-rakshak, BC Bhagmat was inseminated with the idea that our naked butts were sending wrong signals to the bulls in the neighbouring hostel. Bullshit! They squeezed us and our tails into these discarded RSS shorts to curb our freedom of expression.”

“This is bloody bovine injustice!”

The gais and bhais don’t want reveal their names because they could “get suspended” for speaking up against the administration. And then, as the evening starts to fade into darkness, they must head back in time for the ‘curfew’ hour, that begins at 8pm.

“From 9am-5pm, we are busy being milked. After that, we only have time till 8pm to do things such as visit the main gaibrary with limited internet access, visit our favourite garbage joints, or meet friends to talk about our achhe din which is now just a mammary,” says Abhainstika. After the main gates close, there’s a roll call to ensure all the gais and bhais are in. “If you are not in by then, it’s a serious violation of rules,” says Moomita, another inmaid. “The bulls, however, can stay out till 10pm, and unlike us, don’t need permission to step out after the deadline. They are even spared the ignominy of squeezing themselves into RSS shorts.”

“It’s like being born a gai was the greatest sin!”

“It wasn’t always like that,” sighs Gauteeka, the hostel’s oldest inmate. “There was a time when we were free to roam from dawn to dusk, chew cud and ruminate about world peace at roundabouts while bringing the traffic to grinding halt. Why, we could even get men killed for daring to look at us with hungry eyes!”

“Not anymore. We are now like chattels of powerful dairy magnates and who can’t keep their hands off our booty. From our poop, to pee, to our milk, they want it all. Greedy bastards!”

“We all feel udderly exploited.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

Women not crackers make Diwali special

Take out the woman of the house from festivities and it becomes a cold, empty house waiting to be filled with happy laughter. 

A major cluster of our cherished childhood memories hover lovingly around festivals. And it was our parents, their extra efforts that made these celebrations so special for us. Add to it the innocence that didn’t count calories, fret about the logistics and then complain about the stress, these occasions were the most looked-forward-to. 

Festivals for most of us were not just limited to the day of celebration. Like any well scripted story it built up over time, kept us on tenterhooks, made us impatient with excitement before reaching its crescendo.

It would start with anticipation of goodies which would give an extra spring to the steps we took. Unlike the hedonism of the present that eats out twice a week and shops till it drops, our past had few excesses. Our parents belonged to the era that believed in rationing material pleasures. So eating-out, a new dress and shoes were would wait for special occasions. If we had just watched a movie, stopping for ice-cream on our way back was a sure shot way of corrupting our souls beyond repair.

It was during festive occasions that our parents loosened up a bit. We were allowed second and third helpings of sweet treats and a few more when Mom was not looking. Almost all of them were homemade and invariably made by her. She’d spend long hours in the kitchen while we danced around her like excited puppies.

Is there anything in this world that tastes better than fresh off the griddle malpua dunked in a degchi of sticky sugar syrup?

When she was not busy in the kitchen, she was engrossed in making alpona on the floor with ground rice paste while I’d squat beside her and watch her in mesmerised silence. Each festival we celebrated had her distinctive stamp –from the 14 diyas she lit on chhoti Diwali, to the bhog she made during Lakshmi Puja, to the paste of turmeric and mustard oil she’d keep for us in the bathroom to slather ourselves with in honour of the beauteous and talented Saraswati. Durga Puja meant weeks of preparation for the many competitions that were held at the pandal during the Pujas.

When you are ten, all you want to do is make your Maa happy. So you recite poetry with emotions you don’t comprehend, participate in dance-dramas with your face caked with ghastly make-up, play musical chairs even though you hate it, all in an attempt dazzle her friends and relatives with your unimaginable talent.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Have We Let Our Children Down?

Photo courtesy - Google images

You don't realise how deeply you are capable of loving till you have your own child. As an adult who’s seen the world that can be kind and cruel, soft and harsh, cheerful and sinister, you want to shelter them from the worst and experience the best humanity has to offer. You want their childhood to be a cherished memory and not a nightmare.

So, when you read about a boy, all of 7, killed brutally for resisting sexual advances of a crazed man inside the safe confines of his school, your heart bleeds. You are filled with rage at the school for taking safety of your most precious so casually. You grieve for the parents who will be left with a gaping hole in their heart for the rest of their lives.

But the first thought that engulfs any parent is – what if it were my own child! I was living in Brisbane, and my daughter in Delhi when the Nirbhaya incident sent chills down our spine. It also brought out my worst fears. As much as I hated myself for doing it, I would ask her to be home by evening, carry a Swiss Knife with her at all times and my insides would turn into a gnawing jelly of anxiety, every time she wouldn’t pick up the phone.

Every time a child gets sexually assaulted or worse killed, we are overcome with helpless rage. It was appalling to find out that Ryan International has toilet facilities shared by students and the non-teaching staff including drivers and conductors. Children are easy targets for deviants. Also it's a known fact that paedophiles seek employment/engagement in organisations where they are in close proximity with children. It’s baffling that the school didn’t bother with background checks before hiring the non-teaching staff.

It is a colossal tragedy of our times that sexual abuse of children is not given the importance it deserves. It is either shrouded in complicit silence or the perpetrator is let off with a reprimand. The bus conductor who murdered Pradyuman allegedly had a history of sexual misdemeanours. Yet the school that dismissed him just a few months back didn’t think it was important to file a police complaint.

As a nation whose track record of safety for its citizens is far from exemplary, we still do not have a national database of sexual offenders. It’s not as if demands for one have not been raised before but our outrage that follows reports of sexual abuse in schools has the attention span of an amoeba.

The Delhi Police has chalked out a plan of action to look into the issue of security of children in schools following the Ryan incident. I am sure the Haryana government will also come up with their own list of rules and regulations for schools to follow. But simply drafting hurriedly made rules for children’s safety is not enough. If new laws and rules could keep us safe, no woman would be afraid to step out in the dark, no man would think twice before stopping to a take a bleeding accident victim to the hospital, no rapist will have the audacity to rape again and again.

Police background checks become just a useless piece paper when you know that the police chowki will simply sign the form without any physical verification for a mere 500 Rs. Regulations are of no use if the school lacks the sincerity to implement them.

One single lapse is all a predator needs to slip through the safety net.

So how do we keep our children safe?

Monday, August 28, 2017

How To Be An Asshole and still be Mistaken as God


Hello, my lovely disciples

Let me start by congratulating you for being a lucky bastard. Now now, don’t start fancying yourself as John Snow. Your case is different. You are blessed to be born in India and a time where despite free flowing spirits, spirits are at an all-time low and outrage at an all-time high. With the breakup of Suraj Barjatiya type of familial connections where even the dog is happy, families have become nuclear, happiness an elusive entity, satisfaction comes with no guarantee and everything you cherished is being relegated to history. You are often consumed with the fear of being part of the rootless and faceless herd, leading a life of perpetual consequence. And boy, you are so right!

Now that I have acquainted you with reality, don’t try to kill yourself or others by sharing your soppy poetry about your shitty life. If you follow my guidelines carefully, you can become the most powerful and wealthy asshole, with a following of millions ready to lap-up any bullshit you spew including achhe din. You don’t need degrees from elite institutions or be particularly gifted. All you need is a gift of the gab and a proclivity of making promises you have no intention of fulfilling. You have to master the art of making a fool of millions. Once you’ve achieved that, anything you do or don’t will be hailed as the best thing to have happened to mankind since chhole bhature.

Across the world religion is becoming the fastest growing business venture. Since there’s never a shortage of the gullible masses waiting to believe that their very existence is under threat from evil forces, all you need to do is prey on their fears and make them believe you are their saviour. If they don’t have it, create it. Mine on their ignorance and you will yield a rich harvest of unfounded fears and hostility towards one and all. Make them feel wronged, alienated. Then you can slowly take control of their lives by becoming their spiritual guide, psychologist, family confidante, semen donor and money launderer.

Remember, this is the age of instant noodles, news, outrage, opinion, love, breakups, fame and satisfaction. So why should salvation be left behind! If all it takes is two minutes to commit a grievous sin and make Maggi, it is unreasonable to wait a lifetime for moksha. And since God is like homeopathy, more faith than reality, it makes sense to look for the real deal in flesh and blood.

So here lies your opportunity for becoming their God. The one that can be seen, touched, heard, and is a one stop shop of redressal for all their grievances.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dear Magazine, I am not sorry we broke up



The newspaper is dying a slow death, but not in India. For many households it’s still the perfect accompaniment with morning tea even though the many reports of horrific rapes and killings fill you with sorrow and disgust at the same time. Every member of the family has a favourite page. During my teen-angsty days ‘the middle’ mostly witty accounts of personal anecdotes, was my favourite. My Dad stuck to the sports page and Mom would devour very inch of the paper. When the ‘middle’ was removed, I shed lonely tears on its demise. Unfortunately, there was no social media where I could call for a candlelight vigil.

These days I spend most time on the editorial page. In this age of constant explosion of news that’s breaking the Internet every few minutes, you need a learned and well-informed pen to help you make sense of the chaos and cacophony that passes off as news.

As in any middle class home where a household item has nine lives before its expiry, the newspaper too enacts many roles with ease. After it has fulfilled its purpose of informing and sending ripples of outrage down our spine, it quietly takes on the humble job of lining shelves in cupboards and cleaning windows. The ones that escape this ordeal hand meekly surrender themselves to the local raddiwala who defies inflation and offers lesser and lesser money for the same pile.

As I hand over the stack of rustling newspapers to its new custodian, I can’t help but notice the few odd magazines cutting a lonely picture. I carefully avert my eyes from their accusing glances. They believe I have forsaken them for a new lover and they are right.

Damn you, online distractions!

The fact is, we did have a passionate love affair for decades. They were my besties after a long, tiring day, my before bed companion, the secret behind my know-all attitude. I remember how excited RayMan was when I trundled home with Cosmopolitan and 110 ways to make your man sigh in bed. I read them all, giggled, rolled my eyes and then promptly forgot all the tips. And my man let out a loud sigh.

It was through Illustrated Weekly I discovered great artists and their work. My Maa’s Bangla magazine with its agony aunt column where youngsters would share incestuous, forbidden and supremely weird but exciting tales of love and longing stoked my desire to learn the language. Magazines were a one stop shop for stories, opinion pieces, satire and how to use onion juice to rejuvenate your hair.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Period leave – Yay or Nay for Empowerment


I will conquer the world but only after I am done with my periods

A Mumbai based firm in their attempt to be more women friendly has granted first day period leave to all its women employees. Yay! This should start making men wish they had periods too - the mythical condition that makes perfectly normal women turn into raging monsters. This monthly ritual of shedding eggs is much like the short skirt – the most popular defence for rapists and their many sympathisers. Every time a woman creates a scene, screams her lungs out, gets into an argument because she’s tired of taking shit, it is promptly attributed to the big P or her sis PMS. Either this, or she is menopausal, or may not be getting enough sex.

So deep is this rot in the mindset, a Trump voter went on to say the reason why she’ll never vote for Hillary is because a woman should never be the President. Her hormones that play hide and seek make her so volatile that she can start wars, totally ignoring the fact that both the world wars were started by leaders who were men.

That the future of world peace depends on the mental health of our vagina is a huge responsibility to shoulder. Phew!

Despite menstruation taking the blame for all the ills that befall mankind, it’s funny to note how little men know about it. Or rather choose not to know about it. Never mind the fact that they had taken the same path as period blood to slide out into the world.

Ah, well!

Thankfully we have come a long way from the time when menstruation was thought to make women periodically dangerous. The reason why we were kept in isolation, away from public space and temples, lest we desecrate its holiness.

Period is no longer the condition that renders us bechaari and immobile. We can choose what we want to do – run, swim, scale mountains, barge our way into temples or even go to office, Hell, I can go to my neighbourhood chemist and walk out with a pack of sanitary napkins without its soulmate, the brown paper bag!

No one but us gets to tell us what we can or cannot do. So a Serena Williams wins the Australian Open when she was 8 weeks pregnant. A well into her fifth month Gal Gadot plays the warrior princess in Wonder Woman and slays.

We are no longer shy from talking about what we go through when we are menstruating. Something that was unthinkable for generations before us.

So forgive me if I feel confused when a period leave is hailed as a giant leap for womankind.

Yes, I get it. It is an acknowledgment of what we go through, the uneasiness, the cramps that come and go like electricity in Gurgaon. For some women it’s worse – fainting spells, vomiting, debilitating pain that brings life to a grinding halt. But the lack of a period leave has never stopped us from staying home when it was too much to bear, right?

If we are okay with taking a holiday earmarked as ‘period leave’, what’s stopping us from going to our boss from telling, look, I am about to get my periods, the pain is unbearable. I need to go back home. And if PL is the new normal, why not make provisions for pre-menstrual syndrome as well? Bar women from being part of key decision making, meeting high-value clients, closing business deals, because hey, it’s that time of the month when her mood swings faster than a movie star’s sexual orientation.

I will conquer the world but only after I am done with my periods?

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