Shopping Misadventures or “What was I thinking?”

shopaholic1Less often than a blue moon, my compulsive globe-trotter (and now, entrepreneur, too) friend Achala Srivatsa decides to kick off her shoes, snuggle comfortably in her large First Class seat, and pull out her featherlite Apple Mac Air to write a post for me on a Singapore – Bangalore flight, thus preventing my blog from tumbling into total insignificance. And THIS is what she comes up with.  

 

 

Every now and then, I will read these articles on “How to Simplify your Life”, “The Bare Essentials”, “10 classics every woman over 20/30/40 should have” and have an epiphany. Yes, I say, if I throw out all the non-essentials in my wardrobe, I shall achieve a Zen-like sensibility, that elegant, minimalist classic Audrey Hepburn look that will make other women shrivel up with envy and men gape in awe. I shall have only classics in my wardrobe. Tomorrow is a new day, Operation Wardrobe shall start tomorrow.

This is usually a very, very bad idea because as I sift through my clothes, I am confronted by the Ghosts of Sartorial Misadventures past and present, which instantly drives me into a self-loathing spin. Some of the horrors I uncover display a level of wishful thinking, which borders on the delusional.

  • Delusions of Glamour – That Ao Dai bought in Ho Chi Minh is a prime example. After two days of Vietnam, I was seized with a need to shop. Every woman around me had on these flowing Ao Dais that were stunningly elegant and instantly this voice in my brain went “Buy this and look slender and stunning. People will gasp as you pass them… go now…” I rush into one of those charming little stores with bales of lovely silks that are designed to turn your mind into bubble gum. Yes, yes this brilliant green is so me… maybe this subtle shade of blood clot red… I remember forking over the doubloons and rushing out clutching my Ao Dai. It was only after I returned to Jakarta and I stood staring at a long flowing garment in bilious green, that I wondered what had possessed me to buy something that only a colour blind Vietnamese woman with a 14 inch waist and a 20 inch chest should be wearing.
  • The Slimness Delusion - I will also invariably find one tiny little black pencil skirt, one pair of stylish cropped pants that are 2 sizes too small both bought on an entirely unfounded conviction that I can drop 2 dress sizes over the next 2 months. In my defence, there was a time 20 years and 20 pounds ago when I used to live in these things but well, here we are. These will inevitably be reluctantly handed over to slimmer friends 4 disillusioned years later.
  • The Trend Train Wreck– Every now and then I will also find one truly bizarre item and, after racking my brains will identify it. Ah, a reminder of the scrunchy phenomenon of 1990, or the acid wash jeans of the ‘90s (horrors!)
  • The Cuteness Craze - –which happens when women in precious pale pinks and corals and baby blues surround me. Instantly my mind flashes the message “Go Pink and look adorable”. Shortly after, one putrid pink top bites the dust – or in my case cleans the dust off my bookshelves.
  • Delusions of Tradition - Half a dozen ridiculously heavy kanjeevaram silks (bought during my pious swadeshi phase) that I now almost never wear. Full Disclosure – just did this 2 months ago, but seriously how could I pass up a black and white kanjeevaram – umm that I most likely will probably never wear.
  • A corollary to this is the true Swadeshi phase of the early ‘90s when my friends and I went on a Fab India/Gurjari kick. Shapeless kurtas that blanched at the sight of water and mirror work that blinded everyone.
  • The Crisp White Pretension - Every now and then I will buy a super expensive white shirt in the fond hope that it will confer upon me a cool sophistication – a feeling that dissipates like dew in the sunlight as I stare at the 3 turmeric stains on it. Damn you Rasam!!

The Footwear Foolishness merits a whole new page:

  • My Sturdy Shoe Phase – Black and brown Batas and Scholls of hideousness unparalleled, the salesmen swore these would be the most comfortable shoes I’d ever wear. In my case, I’d ever buy and not wear.
  • My Delicate Shoe Phase - As a size 7, really what was I thinking? The things broke before I could leave the shop.
  • The Sling Back Syndrome – 4 pairs of black sling backs and 5 pairs in assorted colours including – I am not making this up – lime green.
  • The Mystery Shoe - Every now and then I will come across a pair that looks perfectly lovely and go “Oh I wonder why I’ve never worn these lovely peep toes? Let me wear them today!!” 2 hours later, I stare at my bleeding foot which the upper part of the shoe has viciously cut into, thinking – “Yup, that’s why I don’t wear them.”
  • The Bling Bungling or the Metallic Craze – Three pairs of blinding metallic slippers and sandals all blinged up and nowhere to go.

I could go on but you get the picture. I blame most of my hasty decisions partly on all those size zero sales personnel who stand outside the fitting room giggling and going “ Maybe an XXL?” In sheer mortification, I walk out with as much dignity as I can and say, “No thanks I’ll take the Medium,” and walk out wondering whom I can gift the top to.

Meanwhile, let me get on with my wardrobe cleanse. I still need to figure out what I’m going to do with all my low cut sequined tops (The Diva Delusion of AD 2000).

 

Aam Aadmi Ki Maa

Karan Arjun ki Aunty

Vijay aur Jai ki Maa. Karan Arjun ki Maasi.

Arnab’s Vigilante Justice System, popularly known as The Newshour at 9, has spared no one when it comes to doling out reprimands – Politicians dimpled and bearded, Bureaucrats, Jurists, Journalists, Czars of the Sporting World, Social Scientists, Activists, and some Overweight Unknowns with Curly Mops and Loud Voices who duet in complete symphony with Arnab’s own tunes. Lately, however, Arnab was realizing that this constant aiming at the Stars in order to shoot them down, had started to distance him from the very Aam Aadmi (and Aam Naari) he was aiming to protect. After all, no one remembered the last time they had seen a Mango Fellow on his program. So, off went Arnab’s producers, looking hither and tither for the Perfect Common (Wo)Man to be paraded on Newhour, to obtain some answers straight from the featured equus’ snout. Sadly, all they found were Men in Mufflers and inverted paper boats being passed off as Aam Aadmi Caps.

“No more Muffler Men on my program!” yelled Arnab. “Go find me someone who actually looks like a real Aam Aadmi!”

Then, one of his producers suggested they look at Bollywood. After all, Art mimics Life in India, Dhoom and Joker notwithstanding. In fact, who could be more Aam than The Quintessential Hindi Film Mother?

And who better than SuperMa Nirupa Roy herself for the interview?

 

Arnab Goswami : We debated amongst ourselves who to talk to when it came to getting Aam Aadmi’s opinions.

Nirupa Roy : Thank you for having me on the show, Arnab. I am uniquely qualified to answer your questions on behalf of the Aam Aadmi. After all, the Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All P… (pauses)

AG : What were you going to say, Maaji? Problems?

NR : (cautiouslyErrm…no, Possibilities. I was going to say Possibilities. The Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All Possibilities. And I am…well, Aam Aadmi’s Maaji.

AG : How many children do you have, Maaji?

NR : (pontificating immediately) My children have grown up to become Model, Upright Citizens of Society. In fact, most have grown up to become successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Maaji, I have just started by asking you a very simple question, and you are avoiding it already.

NR : (presses on unheedingly) …and not just any silly, old, Police Inspectors, mind you…

AG : (persisting) Maaji

NR : (and on) …I am saying, very successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Maaji

NR : …the kind who are allotted no less than Type-VIII quarters by the government…

AG : (slowly losing patience) Maaji

NR : …with a spiral staircase to the upstairs bedrooms, and a giant piano in the drawing room…

AG : Maaji, you are avoiding my…

NR : …and a Puja Room made just for me…

AG : (shaking his head, patience ready to snap any minute) MaajiMaajiMaaji…!

NR : Oh, and they get their own official vehicles too. They all have Willy’s open-roof Jeeps.

AG : (angrily) Maaji, my simple question to you, which you have avoided for the past ten minutes, is this – how many children do you have?

NR : (as if suddenly snapping back to attention) I have several, Arnab. The exact count no one knows because I have lost a few over the years.

AG : (immediately chastised) Oh, lost? That is awful, I am so sorry, Maaji! Were they very young when they passed away?

NR : (mortified) Good Heavens, no, they are not dead, Arnab!

AG : Then?

NR : Arnab, you see, I have never failed to visit the Kumbh Melas and other Vishal Bhagwati Jagarans that millions of people in the Hindi belt attend on a regular basis. You know, the kind where stampedes are as common as trains running late in India.

AG : So?

NR : (surprised) What, so? Isn’t it a given that a mother would lose a few of her children at such large gatherings? After all, what else are Kumbh Melas famous for other than misplaced kids? And Naga Sadhus?

AG : Let me tell you, Maaji, that what you are saying is not normal. People don’t just ‘lose a few of their children’ while they are laundering their sins in the Ganges!

NR : (unapologetic) Frankly, I blame the arrangements made by the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh for my losses. No matter who has been in charge of managing the Kumbh Mela, for example, I have lost kids there. Under the Congress, the BJP, BSP, SP, you name it.

AG : (angrily) You are looking for a scapegoat for your own follies, Maaji. Why can people never accept their own fault!

NR : (taking offence) That’s not true, Arnab. Sometimes I have lost children because of other reasons, too.

AG : Like what? Maaji, please don’t give cryptic answers now. Remember, the nation wants straight answers.

NR : Arnab, there were times when I was physically incapacitated to mind my brood. Like, that one time when I fell and hit my head on a stone and had amnesia.

AG : (concerned) Oh dear!

NR : Yes, it took me many years to regain my memory. I didn’t even have any partial memory left. At least Aamir Khan recalled some of his every few minutes in Ghajini. No such luck in my case. I recovered mine only when I hit the same stone at the same spot again years later. I mean, had I known…

AG : I see.

NR : And, that other time, I fell and hit my head on a stone and became blind.

AG : (exasperated) What’s with all this frequent ‘hit my head on a stone’ business, Madam? This points to some other kind of malaise within you. Why can’t you walk straight? Why should you lose your balance so often? And to such catastrophic results! Have you gone for a full medical check-up?

NR : (helplessly) How can I? I am just a poor widow. Look at my simple white cotton saree! You think I can afford health care in this country? These hospitals are so expensive! In fact, the last time I had to go to one, I needed a blood transfusion but had no money to pay for it.

AG : Then?

NR : It was the kindness of the doctor there who caught hold of three young men named Akbar, Amar and Anthony and made them donate their blood for free, thus saving my life. The kind doctor just hooked all four of us to the same intravenous line and sucked out all the blood from them that I needed. I wish all our medical facilities worked this way!

AG : Holy Maaji of God! You do realize that was unsafe medical practice, don’t you? In fact, the doctor should probably be in jail for such gross medical incompetence!

NR : (surprised) Unsafe? Why? The boys looked healthy and seemed to be from decent families – one was a cop even. The Muslim fellow looked like a tailor, and the third was a Padre, I think.

AG : (a 1:3 mix of concerned and angry) But, Maaji, it is illegal to donate blood without testing! HIV, Hepatitis A, B-12, C, D, E, K, do you really have no worries? What if you had fallen sick? Or worse, died? Who would have taken care of your children?

NR : Oh, my children, yes, though sometimes, I feel that I am losing control over them anyway.

AG : Why do you say that, Maaji?

NR : What else should one make if it? You know, one of my sons just ran away from home after I scolded him?

AG : Young boys do have a rebellious streak…

NR : This one, I think his name was Vijay or Jai, went and got a tattoo without seeking my permission. I was so livid!

AG : (offering helpfully) Maybe the tattoo parlor had a discount scheme? There is just too much competition these days.

NR : No, he got into a tiff with his dad who wouldn’t take him to the T-20 game between Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians.

AG : So?

NR : So, he went to the tattoo parlor and asked the fellow to engrave “Mera Baap Bore Hai” on his arm.

AG : That sounds like a harmless little thing, Maaji.

NR : Arnab, but that was not even the half of it! The foolish tattoo fellow made a spelling mistake and tattooed “Mera Baap Chor Hai” instead.

AG : (nods his head) Ok, I do see why that might be a problem, yes.

NR : Doesn’t it? That’s why I yelled at the boy. And he ran away. Not only that, my husband left me and disappeared, too.

AG : (with a furrowed forehead) I am confused. Is your husband missing? Or dead? What about this white, cotton saree you are wearing? You can’t don the National Costume of Widowhood on just a whim, you know!

NR : (points to the saree, there is even a hole in it at the pallooOh, this? This is just to claim benefits from the government under the Rajiv Gandhi Muft ke Kapde Yojna. Frankly, I am positive that my husband is alive. See? I have full faith in my Mangalsutra (points to suhaag in a necklace). Meri woh zaroor aayenge (tears instantly)

AG : Maaji

NR : (wipes tears away) And I keep Karwa Chauth fasts also, but without telling anyone (triumphantly).

AG : (glaring angrily) Maaji, I am appalled, APPALLED at such devious trickery. YOU are the Mother of Aam Aadmi. At a time when India’s growth rate has hit catastrophic lows, Foreign Institutional Investments have dried up, job growth is an 2.2% and The Times of India print edition is surviving only because it replaced news with ads, it is people like you who are bleeding our nation dry. I say, despite such successful Police Inspector sons, you are pretending to live in penury? Why, Mrs. Roy? The nation wants to know!

NR : But I am like this only, Arnab! My sons seem think I have very high morals. In fact, just the other day, my rich son in “Import-Export” business (goes winky-wink at Arnab), got into an argument with one of my Police Inspector sons whom I live with, you know, the one who got me my own Puja Room?  The boy kept throwing his blazing success at my poorer son’s face – “I have DLF bungalows, Audi cars, servants, Husain’s artwork, Apple products, bank balance with HSBC! What do you have?” – he screamed!

AG : Well said! We all know there is more money to be made in the private sector!

NR : I know! But do you know what my Police boy said?

AG : What?

NR : He replied – “But I have Mother by my side”.

AG : (unimpressed) What shit does that mean?

NR : (excited) That’s exactly what I thought, too! I mean, what shit? So I took my Krishna and Radha idols from my Puja Room and moved into my rich son’s bungalow.

AG : Hey, wait, wasn’t your “Import-Export” son the one who died after a car accident at the Jai Santoshi Maa Mandir? The Police had arrested you for yelling at the temple idols and throwing your slippers at them like a demented person. India-TV did some exclusive breaking news coverage of that.

NR : (shakes her head) Much of what the media says is exaggerated. They will concoct anything for TRPs! It was just a simple protest, nothing more! But, yes, I was on psychotic meds, so…Thankfully, my son did leave me his estate in his well before he died.

AG : Ok, Maaji, now that we have established how strangely the Common Man of India lives these days, I wanted to know – What are your thoughts on the party that represents you?

NR : (happily) I am very glad that the Aam Aadmi Party is doing so well. I say, more power to the Common Man! They will finally bring down the Zamindaari system with the Jan Lokpal Bill! I have seen enough troubles with these Thakurs.

AG : (in a quiet, but seething voice) Maaji, this is national television so I will refrain from using harsher language than this, but you are a fool. Why the bloody hell are you talking about Thakurs? In 2014?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : In the era of computers and CNG low-floor buses, you are talking about something from the 1950s?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : It is because of people like you that progress in this country is difficult…

NR : Arnab…

AG : (relentlessly)…because you keep bringing up demons of the past! Have you not heard of all these government schemes that can save you from the Thakurs?

NR : Arnab…I…

AG : (mouth : frothing) MNREGA? Or Jawahar Jai-Jawan-Jai-Kisan Yogna? Or Indira Daridra, Dukhiya, Lachaar and still Jeevit Yojna, popularly known as DDLJ?

NR : Listen, Arnab…

AG : What do you have to say to explain yourself, Maaji?

NR : If you would only let me…

AG : (angrily) Speak? The nation wants straight answers, Maaji! For much too long, the people of the country have been taken for a ride by the likes of you.

NR : (offended) The likes of me? But I AM Aam Aadmi…or at least Aam Dharampatni and Maa.

AG : Then behave like one, Maaji!

NR : I wish I had access to all these schemes after my husband supposedly died! But the Thakur stole my farm plot in Gurgaon. And then my buffaloes also ran away. The police wouldn’t help me because I am not a VIP like some UP Minister. I had no place to go! I was on the street!

AG : But your own sons are Police Inspectors!

NR : But they are busy fighting Smugglers after Chidambaram changed gold import policies! They have no time for me now.

AG : Smugglers? You mean they work for Indian Customs Service?

NR : What’s that?

AG : (shaking his head) I am very concerned about your sanity, Maaji. I think the Aam Aadmi of the country has a serious mental condition. Ok, let’s change track. I’d like to know more about your family.

NR : (enthusiastically) Most of my sons are married and settled now.

AG : Oh, that’s good. So, there is at least something that is not completely demented in your life then.

NR : My Bahus are indeed very nice. They are reed slim, astonishingly fair and movie-star beautiful. They touch my feet every day and cook me kheer despite my diabetes.

AG : That’s nice, Mrs. Roy. In this day and age, it is hard to expect well-educated youngsters to still be so rooted to our old conservative customs.

NR : Err

AG : Did you choose working wives for your sons? Since most of them are Police Inspectors?

NR : (sheepishly) I didn’t choose the girls. The boys chose their own.

AG : (impressed) Very progressive! Have they continued working their old jobs after marriage?

NR : (horrifiedOh, heaven forbid, no! That would be disastrous!

AG : Why?

NR : Well, all my Police Inspector sons married Tawaifs and Cabaret Dancers, you see.

AG : (suddenly much contrite) Maaji. Can I say something?

NR : Yes, Arnab, it is your show.

AG : I think this will be my last Aam Aadmi interview.

NR : (surprised) Oh, why so, Arnab? Abhi toh picture baki hai, mere dost!

AG : (shakes his head) I am afraid to stay on until the end of this film.

 

 

Valentine’s Day, Or As Some Call It – Thursday

valentines_day_comment_graphic_13With feral disregard to Valentine’s Day propriety that prohibited them from being seen in public, five comprehensively single people, including moi, decided to meet up for dinner. And not just dinner at any place, we boldly decided to hit Ego’s, the Italian restaurant in South Delhi that is immensely popular among those of a romantic persuasion out to enjoy good food and great music with their match chosen by The One Himself. It was perhaps a symbolic choice for us considering that we had enough of it of our own (I mean Ego or Pride or Shamelessness, call it what you may) to not want to hide under our beds on a day when Non-Singles so heartlessly paraded their Facebook status.

One look at the abject appearance of our fivesome and the nimble-footed usher hurriedly chose for us a table situated in the remotest boondocks of the restaurant. Clearly, where we thought fashionably torn jeans, hawaii chappals, black t-shirt with haldi stains, customized unkempt hair, a two-day stubble etc. etc. were all motifs of cool hipsterishness, our man saw them no more than signs of date-less reality. Yes, we were confined to the ‘table on the far side’ – the one by the popcorn machine, and so close to the kitchen that one could smell the artificial pink color being used to make the cake frosting inside. When my friend Sanjiv twirled his finger at the host of untaken tables strewn all over more desirable real estate, his quizzical gesture was shot down with a firm ‘They are all reserved, Sir’. No doubt reserved for happier faces that would oh so seamlessly blend in amidst red ribbons and roses pockmarking every nook and cranny of the place today.

Chris de Burg’s “Lady In Red” spat out of the Bose sound system. Typical, I thought.

“It’s not so bad,” I said half-heartedly, as we were all seated at our outpost.

“Well, at least it’s a good view of the whole place,” Asha consoled herself.

“And no one can see us. I need some JD,” muttered Ravi.

Drinks were ordered at warp speed and were served just as promptly. Vodka, mojito, whisky and such like.

A young couple entered the restaurant and was quickly accorded prime seating. They seemed to have barely cracked puberty.

“How can Chintu and Munni even afford a place like this with their pocket money?” asked Goldie as she pointed at the newcomers with her eyes and used her hands instead to pick up the vodka glass.

“Maybe he saved all year to give his girlfriend a special VD present,” I offered intelligently.

“Must you call it VD?” said Goldie, making a face.

All of us sniggered at the VD joke, hardly justifying our chronological ages.

“But seriously, how? I bet you, Munni put her Barbie to bed before coming here,” Goldie pestered with her pertinent financial cross-examination.

“Parents are only too happy to see their kids go out and have a good time. Maybe this treat was a reward for them passing their Social Studies exam,” said Sanjiv trying to read the menu card by holding it three feet from his face. “Hey, why have they reduced the font size on this bloody thing? And why are the lights so dim?”

Arrey, give it to Ravi, let him order. You just make sure that you check-in all of us on Facebook!” I said, thus ending Sanjiv’s unsuccessful tryst to hold the menu right side up sans reading glasses. (Ravi, incidentally, is 28 dog-years younger than all of us)

“Should I order ribs?” Ravi suggested. The three vegetarians at the table looked at him glumly.

“Don’t tell me they are going to serve them drinks! They are what, twelve? Fourteen, tops!” wailed Goldie observing from her vantage point.

“Let them be happy. Chocolates, roses and tea are the new combination on Valentine’s Day,” Asha said authoritatively. “And by tea, I mean the one from Long Island that comes in a tall glass!”

“Amen, Sister!” said Goldie, and the ladies sipped copiously from their glasses.

Food was ultimately sorted. It was decided to “just order lots of appetizers”, which is infinitesimally easy to manage, though it also ensures that only microscopic portions of the “awesome” stuff eventually end up getting passed around.

A young couple walked in with their small kid. The kid was five, perhaps ten – we were unlettered in matters of kid’s ages. Or kids, generally speaking.

“Who brings kids to their romantic dinner? Fools!” said I categorically.

“My friend just moved to Bangalore. He is having trouble getting his kid admitted to school,” Ravi said.

“Terrible,” said Sanjiv munching his jacket potato with oodles of butter, cheese and chives.

“Why? I think it is great!” said Asha as she looked at Sanjiv suspiciously. Ravi looked up from his buffalo wings quizzically.

“Oh, I meant the whole school thing – terrible. The potatoes – YUM!”

“My colleague at work has invited me to his daughter’s happy budday this Saturday”, I said. “What should I take as a gift?”

That set off a cackle of laughter at the table. Despite choked food pipes, loud coughing and misty eyes, the other four still managed to mock at my predicament.

“Do get us all return gifts. UNCLE!” managed Sanjiv through more hysterical laughter.

“Bastards!” I said.

The food and drink ravage-fest continued. Presently, the unfriendly usher came by our table again. He enquired pointlessly if we were enjoying our evening, to which we nodded politely.

“I have a request,” he added, this time a trifle sheepishly.

“What is it?” asked Ravi.

“We start our Valentine’s Day Special in an hour. This will become a couples-only restaurant after that. Couples Only. No single people. Not even in groups.”

“Yes, yes, we know,” said Sanjiv gruffly.

“I just thought I should remind you all. Thanks for understanding,” the usher added as he flashed a creepy smile and begged our leave.

“Asshole,” I said once we were safely out of his hearing range. Everyone concurred.

“I am not coming out on Valentine’s Day. Ever again,” said Goldie, as she gulped the last of her vodka.

Asha looked at her and smiled.

“Let it be, dear. One last round? Happy Hour doesn’t end until 6.30. We can still be out of here by 7 before the crowds come in.”

 

To be clear, I shall remain tightlipped on which parts of this story are true and which not! But, do know that all the characters in this story are absolutely real – these are my close friends, who also happen to be happily single. Also typical are their reactions!

And please don’t get angry at the management of Ego’s! It’s an awesome restaurant in New Friends Colony in Delhi…fun, lively, good food – you should definitely visit!

 

Aam Aadmi Ki Maaji

 

Maaji, The Nation Wants To Know!

Maaji, The Nation Wants To Know!

Arnab Goswami. He is the TV ‘Cocktail’ that the nation guzzles every night at 9 pm to alleviate its existential headaches. Ok, so perhaps this spirited-bong was never meant to really address the underlying reasons for our despondency, but at least a temporary buzz of mellow it does bring. When we see Arnab lash at shiny people, much like how a headmaster smacks a truant student’s ass with a wooden ruler, it gives us hope that we might not be that close to the end of days just yet. That someone still exists who can beat some sense into nonsense. That the nation can still hope to recover from its triple heartbreaks of antipathy, mediocrity and decadence. That simply through the brute cyclonic power emanating from Arnab’s tonsils, we might somehow get torn off the messes of today and tossed into a better tomorrow.

If it is our national pastime to create real problems for ourselves, it is Arnab’s mission to chase after imaginary fixes for them. And, like Superman itching to tight-suit his way into every issue, Arnab wants  to fix everything and everyone, too. And he has a bunch of New-Killer Weapons he has perfected that help him do that, having target-practiced with them night-after-night over multiple chat windows, sometimes as many as ten of them open, barely fitting on a measly 32-inch screen. His arsenal, deployed along with his Booming B-52 Bomber Voice includes – The Hand Wave, The Flared Nostrils, The ‘Are-You-Serious?’ Glare Through Coke-bottle Lenses, The Reynold’s Pen Poke, The Repeat-Guest-Name Ad-Nauseam, The Look-away Dismissively Look, among others. The most recent addition to the kitty has been The Purring Prized-Cat Voice – the one in which he talks softly to his prey yet still making it pee its pants. Arnab perfected it while watching the Discovery Channel show about a tigress who licked her cubs and then gobbled them up. And then he deployed it on a poor chap whose last name does not rhyme with Pappu.

Arnab’s Vigilante Justice System, popularly known as The Newshour at 9, has spared no one when it comes to doling out reprimands – Politicians Young, Old and Very Old, Bureaucrats, Jurists, Journalists, Czars of the Sporting World, Social Scientists, Activists, and some Overweight Unknowns with Curly Mops and Loud Voices who duet in complete harmony with Arnab’s own tunes.

Lately, though, this constant aiming at the Stars in order to shoot them down, had started to exact a high price from Arnab, for it slowly began to distance him from the very Aam Aadmi (and Aam Naari) he aimed to protect. After all, when was the last time anyone saw a Mango Fellow on his program? So, off went Arnab’s team, looking hither and tither for the Perfect Common (Wo)Man to be paraded on Newhour, to obtain some answers straight from the featured equus’ snout. Sadly, what sounded like a simple search, seemed to always lead to people in mufflers, the common I-Card of The Common Man.

“No more Muffler Men on my program!” yelled Arnab. “Go find me a Real Aam Aadmi!”

Then, one of his producers suggested they look at Bollywood. After all, the Film Industry is replete with people tall and short, dimpled and bearded, dynastic legacies, old mores, slander and innuendos, questionable morality, an old order that Khan’t seem to give way to the younger lot, etc etc etc. In many ways, Art mimicking Life in India. Once the fertile farm called Bollywood had been zeroed into, it was easy-peasy to find The Representative Face of the Common (Wo)Man in the Film Industry, and haul her ass to his studio. Yes, who could be more Aam than The Quintessential Hindi Film Mother?

And who better than SuperMa Nirupa Roy herself for the interview?

 

Arnab Goswami : We debated amongst ourselves who to talk to when it came to getting Aam Aadmi’s opinions.

Nirupa Roy : Thank you for having me on the show, Arnab. I am uniquely qualified to answer your questions on behalf of the Aam Aadmi. After all, the Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All P… (pauses)

AG : What were you going to say, Mrs. Roy? Problems?

NR : (cautiously) Errm…no, Possibilities. I was going to say Possibilities. The Aam Aadmi is the Mother of All Possibilities. And I am…well, Aam Aadmi’s Maaji.

AG : How many children do you have, Maaji, I mean, Madam?

NR : (pontificating) My children have grown up to become Model, Upright Citizens of Society. In fact, most have grown up to become successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Madam, I have just started by asking you a very simple question, and you are avoiding it already.

NR : (presses on unheedingly) …and not just any silly, old, Police Inspectors, mind you…

AG : (persisting) Madam…

NR : (and on) …I am saying, very successful Police Inspectors…

AG : Mrs. Roy…

NR : …the kind who are allotted no less than Type-VIII quarters by the government…

AG : (slowly losing patience) Mrs. Roy…

NR : …with a spiral staircase to the upstairs bedrooms, and a giant piano in the drawing room…

AG : Mrs. Roy, you are avoiding my…

NR : …and a Puja Room made just for me…

AG : (shaking his head, patience ready to snap any minute) Mrs. Roy…Mrs. Roy…Mrs. Roy…

NR : Oh, and they get their own official vehicles too. They all have Willy’s open-roof Jeeps.

AG : (angrily) Mrs. Roy, my simple question to you, which you have avoided for the past ten minutes, is this – how many children do you have?

NR : (as if suddenly snapping back to attention) I have several, Arnab. The exact count no one knows because I have lost a few over the years.

AG : (immediately chastised) Oh, lost? That is awful, I am so sorry, Mrs. Roy! Were they very young when they passed away?

NR : (mortified) Good Heavens, no, they are not dead, Arnab!

AG : Then?

NR : Arnab, you see, I have never failed to visit the Kumbh Melas and other Vishal Bhagwati Jagarans that millions of people in the Hindi belt attend on a regular basis. You know, the kind where stampedes are as common as trains running late in India.

AG : So?

NR : (surprised) What, so? Isn’t it a given that a mother would lose a few of her children at such large gatherings? After all, what are Kumbh Melas famous for? Other than the Naga Sadhus, that is?

AG : Let me tell you, Mrs. Roy, that what you are saying is not normal. People don’t just ‘lose a few of their children’ while they are laundering their sins in the Ganges!

NR : (unapologetic) Frankly, I blame the arrangements made by the State Governments of Uttar Pradesh for my losses. No matter who has been in charge of managing the Kumbh Mela, for example, I have lost kids there. Under the Congress, the BJP, BSP, SP, you name it.

AG : (angrily) You are looking for a scapegoat for your own follies, Mrs. Roy. Why can people never accept their own fault!

NR : (taking offence) That’s not true, Arnab. Sometimes I have lost children because of other reasons, too.

AG : Like what? Maaji, I mean, Madam, please don’t give cryptic answers now. Remember, the nation wants straight answers.

NR : Arnab, there were times when I was physically incapacitated to mind my brood. Like, that one time when I fell on a stone and had amnesia.

AG : (concerned) Oh dear!

NR : Yes, it took me many years to regain my memory. I didn’t even have any partial memory left. At least Aamir Khan recalled some of his every few minutes in Ghajini. No such luck in my case. I recovered mine only when I hit the same stone at the same spot again years later. I mean, had I known…

AG : I see.

NR : And, that other time, I fell on a stone and became blind.

AG : (exasperated) What’s with all this frequent ‘fell on a stone’ business, Madam? This points to some other kind of malaise within you. Why can’t you walk straight? Why should you lose your balance so often? And to such catastrophic results! Have you gone for a full medical check-up?

NR : (helplessly) How can I? I am just a poor widow. Look at my simple white cotton saree! You think I can afford health care in this country? These hospitals are so expensive! In fact, the last time I had to go to one, I needed a blood transfusion but had no money to pay for it.

AG : Then?

NR : It was the kindness of the doctor there who caught hold of three young men named Akbar, Amar and Anthony and made them donate their blood for free, thus saving my life. The kind doctor just hooked all four of us to the same intravenous line and sucked out all the blood from them that I needed. I wish all our medical facilities worked this way!

AG : Holy Maaji! You do realize that was unsafe medical practice, don’t you? In fact, the doctor should probably be in jail for such gross medical incompetence!

NR : (surprised) Unsafe? Why? The boys looked healthy and seemed to be from decent families – one was a cop even. The Muslim fellow looked like a tailor, and the third was a Padre, I think.

AG : (a 1:3 mix of concerned and angry) But, Madam, it is illegal to donate blood without testing! HIV, Hepatitis A, B-12, C, D, E, K, do you really have no worries? What if you had fallen sick? Or worse, died? Who would have taken care of your children?

NR : Oh, my children, yes, though sometimes, I feel that I am losing control over them anyway.

AG : Why do you say that, Mrs. Roy?

NR : What else should one make if it? You know, one of my sons just ran away from home after I scolded him?

AG : Young boys do have a rebellious streak…

NR : This one, I think his name was Vijay or Jai, went and got a tattoo without seeking my permission. I was so livid!

AG : (offering helpfully) Maybe the tattoo parlor had a discount scheme?

NR : No, he got into a tiff with his dad who wouldn’t take him to the T-20 game between Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians.

AG : So?

NR : So, he went to the tattoo parlor and asked the fellow to engrave “Mera Baap Bore Hai” on his arm.

AG : That sounds like a harmless little thing, Mrs. Roy.

NR : Arnab, but that was not even the half of it! The foolish tattoo fellow made a spelling mistake and tattooed “Mera Baap Chor Hai” instead.

AG : (nods his head) Ok, I do see why that might be a problem, yes.

NR : Doesn’t it? That’s why I yelled at the boy. And he ran away. Not only that, my husband left me and disappeared, too.

AG : (with a furrowed forehead) I am confused. Is your husband missing? Or dead? What about this white, cotton saree you are wearing? You can’t don the National Costume of Widowhood on just a suspicion, you know!

NR : (points to the saree, there is even a hole in it at the palloo) Oh, this? This is just to claim benefits from the government under the Rajiv Gandhi Muft ke Kapde Yojna. Frankly, I am positive that my husband is alive. See? I have full faith in my Mangalsutra. Meri woh zaroor aayenge (tears instantly)

AG : Mrs. Roy…

NR : (wipes tears away) And I keep Karwa Chauth fasts also, but without telling anyone (triumphantly).

AG : (glaring angrily) Mrs. Roy, I am appalled, APPALLED at such devious trickery. YOU are the Mother of Aam Aadmi. At a time when India’s growth rate has hit catastrophic lows, Foreign Institutional Investments have dried up, job growth is an 2.2% and The Times of India print edition is surviving only because it replaced news with ads, it is people like you who are bleeding our nation dry. I say, despite such successful Police Inspector sons, you are pretending to live in penury? Why, Mrs. Roy? The nation wants to know!

NR : But I am like this only, Arnab! My sons seem think I have very high morals. In fact, just the other day, my rich son in “Import-Export” business (goes winky-wink at Arnab), got into an argument with one of my Police Inspector sons whom I live with, you know, the one who got me my own Puja Room?  The boy kept throwing his blazing success at my poorer son’s face – “I have DLF bungalows, Audi cars, servants, Husain’s artwork, Apple products, bank balance with HSBC! What do you have?” – he screamed!

AG : Well said! We all know there is more money to be made in the private sector!

NR : I know! But do you know what my Police boy said?

AG : What?

NR : He replied – “But I have Mother by my side”.

AG : (unimpressed) What shit does that mean?

NR : (excited) That’s exactly what I thought, too! I mean, what shit? So I took my Krishna and Radha idols from my Puja Room and moved into my rich son’s bungalow.

AG : Hey, wait, wasn’t your “Import-Export” son the one who died after a car accident at the Mata ka Mandir? The Police had arrested you for yelling at the temple idols and throwing your slippers at them like a demented person. India-TV did some exclusive breaking news coverage of that.

NR : (shakes her head) Much of what the media says is exaggerated. They will concoct anything for TRPs! It was just a simple protest, nothing more! But, yes, I was on psychotic meds, so…Thankfully, my son did leave me his estate in his well before he died.

AG : Ok, Mrs. Roy, now that we have established how strangely the Common Man of India lives these days, I wanted to know – What are your thoughts on the party that represents you?

NR : (happily) I am very glad that the Aam Aadmi Party is doing so well. I say, more power to the Common Man! They will finally bring down the Zamindaari system with the Jan Lokpal Bill! I have seen enough troubles with these Thakurs.

AG : (in a quiet, but seething voice) Madam, this is national television so I will refrain from using harsher language than this, but you are a fool. Why the bloody hell are you talking about Thakurs? In 2014?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : In the era of computers and CNG low-floor buses, you are talking about something from the 1950s?

NR : But Arnab…

AG : It is because of people like you that progress in this country is difficult…

NR : Arnab…

AG : (relentlessly)…because you keep bringing up demons of the past! Have you not heard of all these government schemes that can save you from the Thakurs?

NR : Arnab…I…

AG : (mouth : frothing) MNREGA? Or Jawahar Jai-Jawan-Jai-Kisan Yogna? Or Indira Daridra, Dukhiya, Lachaar yet Jeevit Yojna, popularly known as DDLJ?

NR : Listen, Arnab…

AG : What do you have to say to explain yourself, Mrs. Roy?

NR : If you would only let me…

AG : (angrily) Speak? The nation wants straight answers, Mrs. Roy! For much too long, the people of the country have been taken for a ride by the likes of you.

NR : (offended) The likes of me? But I AM Aam Aadmi…or at least Aam Dharampatni and Maa.

AG : Then behave like one, Mrs. Roy!

NR : I wish I had access to all these schemes after my husband supposedly died! But the Thakur stole my farm plot in Gurgaon. And then my buffaloes also ran away. The police wouldn’t help me because I am not a VIP. I had no place to go! I was on the street!

AG : But your own sons are Police Inspectors!

NR : But they are busy fighting Smugglers after Chidambaram changed gold import policies! They have no time for me now.

AG : Smugglers? You mean they work for Indian Customs Service?

NR : What’s that?

AG : (shaking his head) I am very concerned about your sanity, Madam. I think the Aam Aadmi of the country has a serious mental condition. Ok, let’s change track. I’d like to know more about your family.

NR : (enthusiastically) Most of my sons are married and settled now.

AG : Oh, that’s good. So, there is at least something that is not completely demented in your life then.

NR : My Bahus are indeed very nice. They are reed slim, astonishingly fair and movie-star beautiful. They touch my feet every day and call me Maaji.

AG : That’s nice, Mrs. Roy. In this day and age, it is hard to expect well-educated youngsters to still be so rooted to our old conservative customs.

NR : Err

AG : Did you choose working wives for your sons? Since most of them are Police Inspectors?

NR : (sheepishly) I didn’t choose the girls. The boys chose their own.

AG : (impressed) Very progressive! Have they continued working their old jobs after marriage?

NR : (horrified) Oh, heaven forbid, no! That would be disastrous!

AG : Why?

NR : Well, all my Police Inspector sons married Tawaifs and Cabaret Dancers, you see.

AG : (suddenly much contrite) Mrs. Roy. Can I say something?

NR : Yes, Arnab, it is your show.

AG : I think this will be my last Aam Aadmi interview.

NR : (surprised) Oh, why so, Arnab? Abhi toh picture baki hai, mere dost!

AG : (shakes his head) I am afraid to stay on until the end of this film.

 

 

When Hell Freezes Over

Is it just me or does anyone else also feel that January hardly ever turns out to be that stellar beginning that we all want our new year to have?

Let’s face it, January is never a good month for anyone. It marks the end of vacations (that’s a big problem right there, see?) and the resumption of work, emails, conference calls and the year-end appraisal process. The traffic is awful because everyone is back to their wrong-ways on the roads, despite the Dense Fog. The Dense Fog itself is an invention of airline companies so that they can happily make paper planes with their schedules and then poke our eyes with them. And, have you observed how suddenly this Dense Fog wafts into your life at the most inopportune moment – like, when you are about to leave home for a long-awaited dinner party 25 miles away? Or, when you must pick up an elderly relative from the station when his train arrives – the one that is running with a delay of…umm…anywhere between 2 to 36 hours?

January means acting on New Year resolutions about things you have to resolve yourself into doing because, frankly, there is no way you would do them with a sane mind. Like, ‘I will go to the gym five days a week’, or the death-wish to slip into those jeans from 2010. Or give up Vodka! I mean, really, who are we kidding? Give up Vodka? In this weather? If December is already cold, January is like God teaching Al Gore some kind of a twisted lesson. And have you noticed that frequent urge to pee that seems to get triggered by the mere sighting of water? The eternal conflict between a bursting bladder and the warm razaai, and you cringing in the middle of it, trying your damndest to stay away from your Siberian-cold toilet for as long as possible. It’s the month when morning showers are quickly dispensed with, and strong deodorants are celebrated as your armpits’ best friends. The jaanghiye and baniyaans take at least four days to go from wet to still-damp when you put them on. And then, there are all those pages of your cheque-book that you have to scratch and destroy because you can’t seem to get the bloody year right in the date field. As if signature-matching wasn’t problem enough.

Makes you doubt if that fancy New Year Eve party at the 5-star hotel was really worth breaking your Fixed Deposit for. All that naach-gaana, drunken buffoonery and Facebook check-ins. Such a premature ejaculation of happiness. And for what? January? Like they say, premature of nothing is ever good.

Strange wonder, then, how we still never learn. How we never wait until February to make New Beginnings. Or, better still, March. That one word even has entire phrases like ‘We shall overcome!’, ‘Press ahead!’ and ‘Go seek your destiny!’ built right into its definition!

No, January it always is.

Despite all the miseries I have spoken of above, January is when everyone chooses to soar their highest, only to then land on their backsides with a resounding phus. It is the month that Sallu Tiger picks for the release of his latest magnum opus. The man is sure ballsy but such a pity that his movies only ever smell of the kind made of naphthalene. “Maa Kasam!” you exclaim using the endearing ‘70s vernacular equivalent of the modern-day ‘Holy fuck!’, as you shake your head and exit the theatre after watching ‘Jai Ho’, “that was way too soon after Uday Chopra!”

Then there is that other charmer, Rahul Gandhi, who has shamed until eternity all parents who once adoringly named their sons Pappu or Prince. (Side note : The ones who named their children Prince Pappu or vice versa deserve to be shamed). Indolent Gandhiji lands a January-date with insolent Go-Swamiji, the dimpled man feeling strangely plenty empowered to boldly go where no man has gone before and has ever returned unscathed. The assumption, possibly, being that the cold of the winter hardens ear wax, making all the 1.2 billion people watching Times TV go temporarily deaf – simply unable to hear what is being said.

The less said about the Indian Cricket Team the better. Its gravest nemesis is the Republic of India Passport that allows it to spend its January in the sunny summer of a distant land, where flightless birds and Hobbits can shit on its face repeatedly and with alarming accuracy.

So, no matter whether your name is Kejriwal, Khobragade or something much easier on the lips, January is not likely the most auspicious month for New Beginnings. It’s more like, ‘Let’s Seize the Day some other day’. Frankly, why even look for a reason to delay rolling in the good times? There are 365 days in a year, after all.

So why Day 1? I say, Day 32 (or Day 60) sounds just as good as any to ring in the New Year!

Happy February (Happiness of the visual is courtesy Google - what would Bloggers do without it?)

Happy February
(This Visual Happiness is brought to you by Google – a Bloggers best friend)

The First Diwali – The Untold Backstory Of What Transpired When Lord Rama Returned Home

 

Glad to have you back!

 

As the official Pushpak Airlines plane on special duty taxied to a stop, the royal Super Couple and their Sidekick breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a long, tedious flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka, and even though the plane was the best in the airline’s stable, it was still in a fairly ramshackle condition. ‘And this after Bharata has pumped billions of rupees trying to resurrect this so called King Of Maharaja-like Times’, Lord Rama had lamented to himself onboard just a few hours ago. He had been observing Sita make futile attempts to get the entertainment system to work, finally giving up when her headphones broke into two. Thankfully, Lakshmana had slept through most the flight but not after he had blown his top at the flight crew at the bad alcohol selection in the bar menu. “What do you mean you don’t serve Single Malt? Don’t you know who I am?” had been hurled at the shitless flight attendant. ‘I must do something about his anger management issues once we settle in’, the concerned elder brother thought, observing Lakshmana’s perpetually furrowed forehead. ’14 years without sex. That’s gotta be rough.’

“And about time, too!” said Sita as the seat belt sign switched off. “I need a fucking shower so bad I am even willing to walk through fire to get one! Get a move on, guys! Chop, chop!”

‘That makes two. In need of extensive psychiatric therapy’, Lord Rama thought. The newly potty-mouthed lady had been behaving unhinged since her rescue. “Are you telling me that you were busy gallivanting with these godforsaken monkeys while I was roughing it out under this fucking tree?” she had yelled when Lord Rama and his anthropoidal rescue team finally showed up at Ashoka Vatika, the kidnapper’s lair. “Why couldn’t you frigging go to Bharata and get some real help right away? You know, like real soldiers with real weapons?”

‘Hmm, good point…I wonder why I never thought of that’, Lord Rama pondered in reminiscence. ‘Anyway, I think she went batty at the sight of talking monkeys’, he consoled himself. Also, sadly, one picks up unholy words so easily. The foul vocabulary of Ravana’s goons, all those Bhandaranaikes, Vikramsinghes and Jayasuryas seemed to have made permanent residence in Sita’s once virginal lingo.

The airport was mostly cast in darkness as the trio walked towards the arrival hall. Just a few essential lights flickered.

“Terrorism threat?” Lakshmana asked with concern.

“No Sir, pan-Ayodhya power grid collapse,” said the airport official sheepishly. “Second time just this week alone. The whole nation is at a standstill.”

‘Uh oh!’ Lord Rama mumbled.

The resident members of the first family of the nation emerged from the VVIP lounge to greet the erstwhile Exiles. The paparazzi shutterbugs had been kept at bay by their Z+ security category, enabling the three mothers, their four sons, and their wives to shed unabashed happy tears amid incessant hugging and kissing. Emotional PDA among royalty is difficult to accomplish even on a normal day, given the clanging of heavy gold jewellery, the scrunching of expensive Chinese silks, and giant crowns and tiaras that constantly slip down to the eyes, here, one was talking of 14 years of pent up melancholia that needed to be sorted. Expectedly, no mascara was left intact.

“Hello, Chhoti Mummy”, said the eldest son.

“Hello, Beta. Very good to see you again.”

Of course, this polite embrace was fooling no one, but much water had flown down the Sarayu these past 14 years.

Once royal poise had been reclaimed, the party settled in their transportation and started to make their way back to the Presidential Palace. Bharata, Sita and Lord Rama were in one car.

“So, my dear Brother, what’s up with everything looking so beat?” enquired Lord Rama. “The airline looked like shit, there is no electricity in the city, and,” he coughed, “even the air feels smoggy,” just as the car flung itself into yet another massive pothole. It had not been an opportune time for Sita to be putting on lipstick after 14 long years.

“Mother of …!”

The brothers ignored her.

“Sorry, Brother, things are indeed quite bad. We have been floundering. The national morale is down, infrastructure is in pieces, there are massive scams each day. General malaise. No direction, no decision making. And all that the bloody media is concerned with is getting the real scoop on what happened between Sita Bhabhi and Ravana when they were together!”

“No way! These fucking mother … Wait till I get my hands on them, these mother fuckers!” blasted the angry lady. Of course, no one would have taken her seriously if one could see her right now – with a giant lipstick gash from her upper lip all along her right cheek.

“Calm down, Bhabhi. We will sort it out. Once we do your makeover, we will have you do press interviews, Koffee with Karan etc. The Times of Ayodhya newspaper is in our pocket. We will make sure you are popular again.”

“Cocksucking assholes.”

‘Wow’, thought the husband. ‘Not quite TV-ready just yet, are we.’

“So what has kept you from running the nation? From taking decisions?” he resumed with his brother.

“But what was I to do? I am no king. I have just been minding the store! Keeping my head down. Staying quiet. Totally mum, actually. Just waiting for directions.”

“Directions? From whom? You are the bloody King!”

“In name only, dear Brother. I am just a remote control, remember?”

Hein? Then who is, pray, controlling this remote control, my dear man? Your mummy? ”

“No, no, don’t you remember? It’s your Slippers! They are running the nation! I took them 14 years ago when I saw you in the forest. I have just let the Royal Slippers show us the path these past 14 years.”

‘Shit on toast’, thought Lord Rama. ‘Is everyone absolutely cuckoo in this family?’

“But now that you are back, dear Brother, please take your country back. This really isn’t my scene. I am done with politics. I am going to take some time off now. I think I’ll start a blog. Or write a novel – a mythological thriller, actually! Maybe even a teenage love story!”

Lord Rama wasn’t listening any more. ‘It will take a lot to get this place back to shape. I will have to hire a completely new cabinet. Put resources around infrastructure and human resource development. Provide jobs. Stamp out corruption. In fact, suck out all the negativity. Give a positive spin to everything. Look confident. For starters, hire a new Public Relations Expert. Yes, that’s what I will do first. Make everything sound good and cheerful – like, help is on its way. Like, it will be all right soon!’

‘Which also means that my personal life is screwed. No rest. No holiday. No distractions. No Sita, no moms, no brothers, no family. Certainly no kids. Just work, work, work. There is no other way to turn this ship around.’

He sighed silently.

“I don’t feel so good,” said Sita suddenly. “Like, I am nauseous all of a sudden. Maybe I am coming down with the flu? And my stomach hurts, too.”

The brothers ignored her. Lord Rama was still lost in thought, gazing out the car window.

“What are all these folks up to? Why are they lighting diyas all around their houses?”

“Must be because of the power grid failure. These poor sods have got to plough on, I guess. What choice do they have? God knows when the electricity is going to be back. Last time it took 36 hours!”

Lord Rama pondered in silence. ‘I think I may already have an assignment for the PR team.

“I say this is a celebration. The countryfolks are simply delighted to have me back in Ayodhya after 14 years and they are lighting diyas to welcome me back. Yes, let’s stick to that thought. This is a celebration – a, what shall we call it, a Festival of Lights!”

“Can we do that? Make people believe something that isn’t there?” said the younger brother questioningly.

“Of course we can. Let’s think of a catchy name! Perhaps something that has Diya or Deep in it.”

The younger brother nodded in agreement. ‘It is so good to finally have Bade Bhaiya back’, he thought.

 

 

Why India Needs Steve Jobs – Part II

 

To recount the story so far (read Part – I of this essay here), Steve Jobs started his remarkable professional life by forming his new company Apple over a bowl of Dilli Fruit Chat in Old Delhi. The company was construed as an innovative technology giant for the advanced world (basically everything west of Iraq, east of North Korea, and south of Burma). For the rest, meaning the remaining 3/4th of humanity, Apple was going to be a political consulting firm. Its aim was to make proudly-poor countries like India strong enough to be able to buy the iProducts that Jobs was going to unleash in the next decade or two.

That was the beginning of Jobs’ association with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Ab, aagey…

 

The Bharatiya Janata Party seemed like the only existing viable alternative to the monolithic dynastic rule of the Nehru-Gandhi family and its personal fiefdom, the Congress party. The Great Chanakya (or was it Voltaire?) had once said that the progress of a nation can be judged by the way it deals with the three realities of life – Death, Taxes, and Bowel Movement. In India, Life was still very cheap and Taxes way too high. Moreover, even after decades of rule, if more than three-quarters of the population still did not have any toilet access, and those who did still could not aim straight into the bowl, there was a clear case to be made for new leadership and fresh thinking. The Bharatiya Janata Party had leaders who were like a breath of fresh Hindi Heartland air – for starters, they were resolute nationalists and wore their patriotism on their sleeve (and also in the form of dhotis, kurtas or very, very loose shorts). Everyone in the Bharatiya Janata Party liked to make fiery speeches, and they all made them well. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s favourite colour was Saffron (so soothing!) and its favourite flower was the Lotus, naturally making the popular Lotus Root (or Kamal Kakdi in Hindi) their favourite vegetable. The Bharatiya Janata Party had everything going for them, including a name that was unpronounceable to only those who did not have an MA in Hindi or Sanskrit.

‘Why don’t you simply call yourself the BJP?’ Jobs had once guided Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had scoffed at the silly, though simple, suggestion. ‘You know, like the AIADMK?’

Hmpf,’ Atalji had declared, ‘if anything, we will call ourselves the Bhaa-Ja-Paa.’

‘Ok, well, suit yourself then. As long as it is simple. I love simplicity,’ was all Jobs had said.

Steve Jobs’s first successful product was designed keeping in mind India’s natural affinity to Sound and Fury. After all, nothing draws more attention in this country than something loud and blaring. So, to drown out the Congress completely, the Bhaa-Ja-Paa needed a human Boom Box – something that only spoke at levels 120 Decibels and higher. It was not important what sound came out of it, as long as it sounded like Heavy Metal and made you want to turn into a rebel without a cause. Thus was born the iPod, more popularly known in India as LK Advani. You could store a million sounds in it. The casing was strong and unbreakable, causing many to visualize a Loh Purush in its design language. But, perhaps, the most ingenious element about LK Advani was the Wheel – a round contraption that allowed control to be swung any which way the wind blew. The Hindi word for Wheel was the Rath and the iPod could yatra far and wide on it, winning hearts and minds, or causing mayhem and destruction, whatever was the political flavor of the day.

Calamity struck in 1992 when the iPod and its Wheel led to the annihilation of Babri Masjid, causing deep consternation in Steve Jobs mind. It was time to cut LK Advani down in size – and Jobs continued to do that relentlessly as he reduced the size of the iPod in avatar after avatar – from the Loh Purush iPod to the iPod Mini, iPod Micro, iPod Nano, and so on.

With the iPod experiment proving to be such a colossal disaster, Jobs realized that for the Bhaa-Ja-Paa to prosper, it needed to be calmer, inclusive, conversational. It needed to be seen as non-confrontational and reflective. It needed to be everything to everybody. Something that everyone would want to call their own. Like a mini-computer that you could talk into, or read poetic prose or witty anecdotes from. High in conservative intellect, yet progressive, dependable. Childlike, yet iconic. Like the iAtal Behari Vajpayee, later shortened to simply the iPhone.

Just like last time, Jobs had another massive hit on his hands. The iPhone ruled the hearts and minds of the country for a solid five years. It survived deep underground nuclear tests just as well it did falls from lofty heights such as the mountains of Kargil. Everyone was happy – it made them feel all glittery. ‘iNdia Shining’ was a slogan that best captured the mood of the population at the time.

However, all good things eventually come to an end. Over time, the iPhone started giving trouble. It would frequently be caught napping in public. Sometimes its speed in responding to your question or command would be so slow that you would subconsciously check if it still had a pulse. Clearly, iAtal Behari Vajpayee was approaching the end of its innovation life-cycle and no iOS update was going to be able to fix that.

Jobs was slow to recognize the massive gap in his product line as the iAtal failed. India paid a huge price for Jobs’ shortsightedness. Bhaa-Ja-Paa was swept aside by the nation by a mere push of a button and an inkspot on their forefinger.

Many worried about the future of the Bhaa-Ja-Paa, including its chief political strategist. But just as we were fast losing hope, mortified that the Italian Queen and her Dimpled Prince were going to run the country until the evening of your grandchild’s Ladies Sangeet, Jobs rolled out the latest proverbial rabbit out of his remarkably brimming digital fedora. He knew that the country was again craving for dependability and solid performance, but not of the monotone variety of the 1990s and the 2000s. The iPhone needed to come back, but it needed to project something brash. Something colorful. Something glitzy. Something that encapsulated the predictable-precision of perfection, but with a lot more pizazz. So Jobs readied the iPhone’s new avatar – the Narendra iModi, also known as the iPhone 5C. The heart of the new device was the same as the tried and tested chip of the old block, but this one came in bright colours – like neon saffron and neon green. And with exciting covers too, one could change them as often as one wanted – much like different types of headgear. The only thing that wasn’t compatible with the iPhone 5C was the Muslim Skull Cap.

Even though the new iModi is expected to go far, converting millions into new fans in the next few months, there remain skeptics who worry about its high price – which, they say, may eventually prove to be catastrophic for our secular democracy in the long run. Still, interest on Social Media remains especially strong partly owing to the new product’s brand new iOS – a less complicated, almost friendly user interface than before, with fresher styling, like its starched half-sleeved kurtas.

The Bhaa-Ja-Paa has staked its entire future on its succeeds.

Sadly, though, the new iPhone 5C is the last of Jobs’ contributions to Bhaa-Ja-Paa, or India, really, leaving many of us deeply disturbed and anguished. You see, we are worried because if this latest experiment fails, there is no more Steve Jobs to save our nation.

Steve Jobs, Bharat Ratna winner. (Image shamelessly pilfered from the internet)

Steve Jobs at his Bharat Ratna award distribution ceremony.
(Image shamelessly pilfered from the internet)