A cynic’s diary

Saturday, April 9,2011

I know how great it is, a victory of the democracy, of the people, of their resolve, determination, courage, blah blah blah. India’s own Tahrir square. Oh, we even did a candle march, a million candles nationwide maybe, is that some sort of a record? Kailash Kher was fantastic.

We were just waiting for a hero to come and unite us all, it was Dhoni a week ago, this weekend it is the new Gandhi. For all you know, Kalyug is over, Kalki is finally here.

How can you say that, it is our country he is doing this for…..if you can’t do anything, at least don’t spread negativity….we the youth of the nation have a responsibility……..

Yes, Anna’s cause was a worthy one without doubt. Yes, he has once again demonstrated the power of Gandhian methods. Yes, he has shown what the public can achieve by active participation in the democratic process. But questions remain.

Corruption is not something that we Indians were/are unaware of. It is, so as to say, ingrained in us…..runs in our blood….like an inheritance, father to son. I myself never appeared for the driving license test, just paid 500 to an agent and got my license at home in 7 days…..3000 for the passport…..brokered a deal for 80K for my niece’s admission in a public school. How many of us have paid 50% of the challan money to a traffic police inspector when fined for some offense? How many of us were ready to pay 10K for a 250 rupees ticket for the Indo-Pak WC semifinal match? The media made it a point to showcase the various Bollywood stars marching for a cause. But are they themselves blamefree? IT raids at Priyanka and Katrina’s homes in the recent past makes me believe otherwise. The corporate bigshots were also duly interviewed expressing their firm support to the people’s movement while Anil Ambani was busy in another interview with Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

मोमबत्तियां जला लो चाहे जितनी
अँधेरा यूँ ही कायम रहेगा
दिलों में कालिख है जब तलक
भ्रष्टाचार यूँ ही फैला रहेगा

We must understand that to weed out corruption, like any other disease, we must start at the grass-root level. Chetan Bhagat in his own renowned (read idiotic) manner said, “Mera Neta Chor Hai”…..but he and we all must accept that “us neta ki junta bhi chor hai”. No doubt that the likes of Lalit Bhanot, Suresh Kalmadi minted money in the CWG scam, but some companies must have paid them the money. And who runs those companies? People like you and me, our parents, our neighbors.

Do you promise that you won’t pay that donation money to get your child an admission? Do you promise that you won’t give a tenner to the peon to put your file on top? Do you promise….well, you may but someone else might not.

In India, population is the biggest facility.

Good Night

P.S. Barkha Dutt’s tweet sums it up for me: Remember the anti-politician rage post 26/11 & then the low voter turnouts? This time changing the system must include taking part in it.

How To Buy Condoms…

We all know (atleast the guys do) how embarrassing it can get while trying to buy condoms for the first time, especially in Indian context. Think of going to your local chemist and asking him for a packet of ManForce. Some people call it “chhatri”, others “topi”, but everyone is so damn shy.

Here are a few tips how to go about it.

1. Tell the shopkeeper that you are conducting a survey as a NACO volunteer and need to know what all brands of condoms are easily available in the market, their prices and most importantly, as a part of the “study”, you have to test their efficacy.

2. Take a sheet of paper, write down some 4-5 medicines on it along with condoms and start with, “uncle, papa ne kuchh dawaayiaan mangwaayi hai….”. Just make sure that you don’t put medicines for joints pain, piles or diarrhea on the list, though Viagra is safe.

3. Buy a Lava mobile. I know it’s a touch expensive way but it has the additional benefit that you might also get a girl to use it with.

4. Point out some random guy in the market and innocently say, “Bhaiyya, woh uncle ek packet Durex mangwa rahe hain….khaansi bahut ho rahi hai unhe” 😛

5. And the easiest way ever. Go to the shop with a sheepish smile (should be easy if you are actually getting laid for the first time) and just stand there. They know the type by now.

Or be a man and Haq Se Maango!

How did you buy your first?

P.S. I first bought condoms when I was in eleventh (though I didn’t use them) from a shop 2 kms away from my home.

छोटा सा कदम…

आज एक छोटा सा कदम बढ़ाया है
नन्हीं आँखों ने एक सपना नया सजाया है
उस मंजिल को हमदम अपना बनाया है
आज एक छोटा सा कदम बढ़ाया है

माँ कहती है, छोटे कदमों की पहुँच बड़ी होती है
क़दमों की लम्बाई नहीं, इंसान की सोच बड़ी होती है
बड़े क़दमों ने तो अक्सर रौंदा है यह जहां
छोटे छोटे कदम मिला ही बनता है कारवां

आज एक छोटा सा कदम बढ़ाया है
आँगन की मिट्टी से एक कच्चा पक्का गुल्लक बनाया है
उस गुल्लक को अपने सपनों के रंगों से सजाया है
आज एक छोटा सा कदम बढ़ाया है

माँ कहती है, गरीबी एक अभिशाप है
सब गुण निगल जाए, ऐसा भयानक सांप है
माँ, मगर सपने तो सब देखते होंगे
शायद गरीबों के सपने थोड़े मैले-कुचले होंगे

हमारे सपनों में ice-cream, chocolates होती है जहां
उनके सपनो में शायद रुखी सुखी सी रोटी हो वहां
माँ कहती है, अपने सपनों के पीछे तो भागते हैं सभी
किसी दूसरे के सपनें पूरे करो, सच्ची ख़ुशी मिलती है तभी

इसीलिए आज एक छोटा सा कदम बढ़ाया है
रोज़ गुल्लक में एक का सिक्का डालने का नियम बनाया है
प्रिया दीदी से एक साल का हिसाब लगवाया है
आज एक छोटा सा कदम बढ़ाया है

माँ कहती है, भूखे को खाना नहीं काम देना चाहिए
एक दिन का नहीं, रोज़ का इंतज़ाम देना चाहिये
३५० रुपये का आता है बूट पालिश का डब्बा
अगली दिवाली किसी को काली स्याही से रोशनी का ईनाम देना चाहिए

आज एक छोटा सा कदम बढ़ाया है
अपनी पुरानी किताबों पर जिल्द नया चढ़ाया है
अपने ड्राईवर के बेटे को २ का पहाड़ा पढ़ाया है
नन्हीं आँखों ने एक सपना नया सजाया है
आज एक छोटा सा कदम……..

Exploring Happiness

What exactly is happiness? I feel there is no correct/absolute definition for it as it highly depends on one’s perspective. Really? Birth of a male child, who won’t be happy, maybe  the teenager unmarried mother. Ok, let me not hide behind hypothetical situations and rather cite a real example. You won;t believe that I locked my room and cried for an hour when I came to know that I got 670th rank in IITJEE, arguably one of the toughest exams in India. And mind you, they weren’t your cliched khushi ke aansoo. I was expecting a much better rank. But does that mean I would have been happy if I stood first? Perhaps, yes. OF COURSE YES. We all feel elated when we achieve our goal. But it lasts only for a day or two. And then we redefine our goals, start running after something else, and the vicious circle goes on. The search for happiness is the biggest cause of our sadness. And ironically, happiness is sitting right next to us as a present all along but we fail to unwrap it. We are always aiming for a perfect future (which again has no absolute definition), and ignore the present.

I have been reading this very beautiful book, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera where the author explores the Nietzschean idea of a recurring world where things happen over and over again ad infinitum. In such a world, every action we take has a grave significance attached to it. But in a transient world, supposedly like the one we live in, the past hardly has a value (or rather the past should hardly have a value). It is like the past tense version of Que Sera Sera, what has been, has been and I find it much easier to accept than the original, What will be, will be (which makes me feel helpless). So it is neither the future nor the past that matters. It is the present.

The past thirteen months have been rather rough on me. Friends, family, life. I tried to find solace in the happy memories of the past. But it made the present look even harder. So, I thought about the even tougher times I had endured and suddenly my entire life seemed full of shit. I dreamed about a better future. But “better” again is a relative term. The better future came, I waited for even better times, that came………………..

I happened to flip through the pages of ‘The Secret’ by Rhoda Bryne and though my scientific education/bend of mind forbids me from outright accepting the hypothesis laid forward in the book, I am nevertheless fascinated by it.Rhoda says we govern this universe and all have the power to attract anything we desire, fame, power, money, by the energy of our positive thoughts. I tried to test it and actually managed to get all the traffic signals green (and one out of order) on my way to college. But then Paul the Octopus predicted all the German matches correctly. So, i chuckled over it for a while and ignored it just as a coincidence. However, I think that even though we may not be able to control the physical world, the power of positive thoughts can help us emotionally.

It kind of works for me. Whatever be the situation, you just have to accept it for what it is. As Aamir Khan says in 3i, just say to yourself, “All’s Well”. This life, this moment is here just once. It won’t come back. So, why lament? I know its easy to say all this crap but how can one be happy and cheerfully dance to All’s Well when say for example, your boss gives you a sound scolding? Be sad. Happiness and sadness are not two independent emotions. They are essentially entwined, albeit a bit asymmetrically.

Life can be broadly divided into three phases: Happy, Sad and the neutral neither-happy-nor-sad. What we do wrong is trying to pretend that we are happy when we are really sad. I am not asking you to be happy when your boyfriend dumps you. Cry. Cry your heart out. But after that, wipe those beautiful eyes, get up and be happy. Don’t wait for your boss to praise you or your boyfriend to come back to you. The energy of positive thoughts can be used to convert the neutral phase into a happy phase (similarly negative thoughts can make it a sad phase). Being happy is sometimes as simple as saying to yourself that “Yes, I am happy”. Just that. Try it, it works like a charm. Most mornings, we don’t have any reason to be sad or happy. Look at yourself in the mirror, smile and enjoy life as it comes. I will end it with a poster I posted once earlier.

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P.S. My interpretation of Nietzsche might be different from what Kundera intended. I know it is not the most lucid of posts but it has been quite some time since I wrote a long composition. Just trying to get back in groove. 😛

S01E02: The Blue Light Area

Earlier in this series: S01E01: The Pilot

Kids, last time I was telling you about the extremely volatile yet interesting times that your superDad grew up in. The Indian economy was liberalized in 1991 by Dr. Manmohan Singh (who was castrated later and acted as the PM. Weird that his name started with Man) and the middle class was starting to find its footing.

The age of Ramayana and Mahabharata was past and babas started popping up left, right and centre (like pimples on the face of a sixteen year old girl) preaching abstinence by the daylight and giving sexual prasadam to their most favored disciples at night.

Long before Lord Ganesha decided to become the brand ambassador for Amul Milk, people queued up the temples from Vaishno Devi to Rameshwaram offering coconut as bribe to the Gods to fulfill their wishes. Just like the multitude of Indian population, their aspirations were also an example of Unity in Diversity. For a Sikh would bow his head in front of the Akal Takht and pray that Babaji be kind enough and send him to Canada to drive a taxi, a Gujju would disturb the sleep of the entire neighbourhood by organising a jaagran to please maata raani and ask her to give his son a wife and dowry (and either the wife be beautiful or else the dowry better be handsome), and a South Indian would put three white stripes on his forehead and pray to the God to give him more saambhar and naariyal chutney. No, actually kids you must remember this, the South Indians are the most learned people in India. Every village in Tamil Nadu has sent more number of kids to IIT than the number of PMs that Uttar Pradesh has sent to Delhi (I am not counting Mayawati. She says so but she was never the PM. She is just a bit loony. Don’t believe me??? Ok, she installed a million elephants in UP and then kept crying over the paucity of sugarcane in UP). So, the south Indians prayed for education and an admission for their progeny in the IITs.

This brings me to the original story I wished to tell you. About IIT. Kids, in our times becoming a doctor/engineer was the second most cherished dream, second only to becoming a sweeper at Heathrow. And IIT for engineering aspirants was like Amsterdam for the playboy, Vegas for the gambler and India for government officers. It was such a revered institute that its entrance examination was deferentially called IIT ji. I am telling you that people were so obsessed with IIT that they would be pretty happy if their kid spent 4 years doing his B.Tech at IIT, then 2 years for M.Tech at IIT, 5 more for Ph.D. from IIT and then become a teacher in IIT.

The exam was one of the toughest in the country and overnight coaching centres cropped up across the country (not like pimples but more like mosquito bites, concentrated in some regions). One fine morning, you saw a board for F(uck)IITji outside a shop which earlier used to sell lamb-chops, and the next morning, you will find Ban-Sal hoardings decorating the neighboring scraps shop, and within a week every possible shop in the market was taken over by Narayana, Oasis and their various manifestations. But all had the same goal, to mint money from the parents and promise each of the four lakh students an admission ticket to the 2000 odd seats in IITs. Once again Unity in Diversity.

It was more like a red-light area, with pimps calling you from every window enticing you to take ‘admission‘,  some offering crash courses to overcome past failures, some special extended courses for the beginners with personal attention to every student, and some even boasted about highly qualified and experienced teachers from every corner of India. The only difference was that while we would go the red-light area hiding it from our parents, the parents in turn hid it from us and before we even knew, got us enrolled in one of the courses. That’s why I rather call it the Blue Light Area.

P.S. Best of luck to over 4 lakh students appearing for the biggest fuckfest of all times (IIT-JEE) today.

Pilot- How I Screwed My Life

So, it’s that time of the year again. People have already started flooding their FB, Orkut, GTalk, Buzz and Twitter accounts with senti status messages, nostalgic photos and videos of the years spent in college, how they had the most amazing time of their life, how they are really thankful to their bestest friends in the world, how they will never forget these golden years, how they wished they could live it all over again, blah, Blah te more BLAH. I am kind of nostallergic to all this. The last five years, without doubt, have given me some of my fondest memories but that’s no reason to cry over it getting over.

Rather, I plan to borrow Prof. Dumbledore’s penseive for a while and preserve those golden memories on paper. And perhaps if some beautiful damsel manages to change my orientation and more importantly if I am able to reproduce, my dumb kids will one day sit down and listen to their superDad reciting the story, “How I Screwed My Life (and your Mother)”.

And just as we add common salt to preserve pickles, I might add a little namak-mirch (and maybe a raunchy item-number) here and there, just to keep them interested.

S01E01 The Pilot

2035 AD

Kids, today I am going to tell you the greatest stories of all times, the story about a young man’s indefatigable ardor, perseverance, fervor and ingen….Hey, wait, where are you going?? Ok, whom am I kidding. You are my own kids. You are the least interested in all that crap I mugged up for GRE.

So instead let me tell you about a young connoisseur of free beer and aesthetic porn, a devout BC Sootaaah fan and a rebel who fought against the barbaric tradition of getting up before noon and abolished the inhuman practice of bathing daily.

Kids, as you know your superDad, yeah that’s how we will refer to me in this series, was born under the Taurean sky on a romantic moon-lit night because of another such night a few months ago (As part of my extra-curricular research work, I proved conclusively beyond doubt and reproach that moon is responsible for our exploding population. I convinced the government to send Chandrayaan to that hole-y maternal uncle of ours and give him an ultimatum. Instead the idiots burnt billions and came back with news of water there and plans to populate the moon as well. Jaise ko Taisa) and was hand-picked by destiny to screw his life.

The India I grew up in was like a large boiling cauldron, a dynamic and vibrant mix of different cultures, traditions and ideologies (a perfect recipe for news channels to flourish), trying to etch its identity on the world map (sleeping happily with USSR till it went broke and then moving on to an extra-marital relationship with USA. Our neighbours Pakistan (oh, I must tell you, in our times, the present Eastern States of USA were known as Afghanistan and Pakistan) also slept with USA and we always kept fighting over it), and learning how to unlearn all its ancient wisdom

The recommendations of the Mandal Commission had already come into practice (At that time there was roughly 10% reservation for the SC/ST and backward classes. Yeah, it must sound funny to you, now that you have 10% reservation for the upper classes), the chants of Mandir Wahiiiin Banayenge united a nation to divide itself (yes, the same Mandir which you hear about every five years even now), Madhuri Dixit’s choli ke peechhe kya hai was the height of openness, SRK was a rage among girls and SRT among boys, cable TV had just made its appearance and our mothers spent hours crying over the woes of Lala Lahori Ram and his seven daughters (SEVEN, yes kids….the generation before us took great pride in showing off their vigour and virility. Sex was a sacrosanct ritual done every eleven months and just like most exploration activities, was highly result-oriented).

To be continued…

P.S. The Pilot episode is supposed to gauge the audience’s reaction. So, unless you leave extremely encouraging comments, this might just be the end of the series.

The Bird in the Cage

Caution: Mostly incoherent blabbering follows.

What will you rather be, a bird with its wings chopped off or a bird in a cage? The question is not really about freedom. I am thinking more on the lines of hope versus despair,  frustration vis-a-vis helplessness. The bird inside the cage has the hope that one day it might get free but in the meantime it has to live in constant agony and yearning. Every passing day makes him feel all the more despondent and desperate to break free. The promise that the open skies hold for him becomes his greatest grief. As for the other bird, he can do nothing. The great expanse of the blue canvas overhead is nothing but a mirage for him and so he adapts to live with his reality. He has no false hope. He is not condemned to ruin his present thinking about what the future can be. He is quite literally grounded in his reality. He may be crippled but once he accepts that as a fact, it ain’t that bad.

Hope is what we all live for, live with. But what if the hope itself turns out to be an illusion? What if the bird one day gets free, flies away, only to get frustrated with the big bad world and come back to the cage in the evening. One can not be sure whether the thing that she/he is hoping for is what she/he really wants. Or what if the bird gets killed the day he comes out of the prison or worse still finds his wings chopped off ?