Party Animal

Someone asked him “What’re you drinking?” for the 5th time that evening. Every party was a reminder of how parties suck. In this one, like the last one, he had already agreed with three opinions he didn’t fully agree with, and stayed quiet at one he disagreed with. “What’s the point”, he thought.

He hadn’t been in a very good place lately. He had been worried, but about nothing in particular. His work had become this thing he just did, food was this thing he had to eat to live, his marriage was always this thing he just had to do. A waiter served him Chili Chicken, which reminded him he was gaining weight. He picked up a piece anyway.

Someone then slapped his back and he turned to see the usually buoyant-spirited Akshay buoyant-spirited as always. Nothing irritates unhappy people more than happy people. Akshay was the kinda guy who saw silver linings in dark clouds, and looked like he had exclamation marks around his face. He was an ex-colleague who had “BELIEVE.” plastered on his work-desk. When he asked Arijit why his glass was empty, Arijit almost thought he was talking about his spirit, not his drink.

“How’s work, Arijit? Good?”

“Usual. Getting by.”

“Sounds GREAT, man!”

“Yeah”

“As long as you’re sleeping well at night, right?!”

No, I’m not sleeping well. I have dark circles. I keep scrolling up and down my facebook timeline wondering why other people look happier than me, and have you SEEN facebook’s design? It’s the most cluttered, jarring thing in the world. It’s the last thing I wanna to see minutes before I sleep, but I do, and keep at it till hours after I was supposed to sleep. I go to sleep ashamed of being a time-waster, and wake up a defeated man. All I want is to sleep well, dammit, one good night’s sleep. You know? I hit the bed, close my eyes, sleep within minutes and wake up with music in my head. Is that too much to ask for.

“Yeah. That’s true. All I want is to sleep well.”

“LOVE your attitude to life man! Have you had the Chili Chicken? It’s awesome”

He picked up another piece. It really was awesome, and he really was gaining weight. Those were the facts, the only ones at this party full of opinions derived by articles carefully served by Facebook’s algorithm.

“This government is the worst government ever”. He turned in the direction of the voice. Huge mistake. Because now they wanted his opinions. Before he could speak, a defender of the government arose.

“HOW much can one person do yaar? He can’t do everything!”

“That’s what I’m saying: he should stop doing only!”

Timely scattered laughter distracted them from him, which distracted him from thinking what he truly believed. Parties aren’t the place for introspection. They’re places to meet and make friends. He tried to see who his real friends in this party were. Which one of these wise men would be with him if his car had an accident, and which ones would just quip “Yaar why did you have to drive so late at night!”.

He decided he had only one friend at this party. And he was wearing a striped suit with a name-tag saying “Prakash”, walking towards him with a plate of Chili-Chicken.

Party Animal

You don’t HAVE to read this

Another morning when you wake up and ask yourself “Why am I not in the hills?”, before you quickly answer “Because real life isn’t Instagram”.

Mornings are different. Not like the evenings when dreams are dreamt and beer mugs clinked and promises made of a life by the sea. You probably know that because whoever you are, the least you’ve done in your life is live through mornings and evenings enough to know how different they are.

Mornings are about hope, evenings about celebrating or coping, forcefully called “Happy hours” for those who need an alcohol induced illusion to sleep.

Coffee is not like that. It is not for the dreamer. After 2 sips, you want a to-do list. It’s a doing drink, not a thinking drink. You need it when you think more and do less. Maybe it’s just the resultant acidity that drives you to action, but it does.

See, I don’t have a boss, so these thoughts enter my mind. I work very hard to not have a boss, so that I don’t have to work hard.

For me the first hour or two after waking up are like a long commute to work. There’s traffic, dust, a quick breakfast, the Uber driver hasn’t come on time, the metro is delayed, colleagues are calling frantically because the meeting is about to begin and you’re the only one missing.

I navigate all of it to first create my own job list, then assign jobs to different people and and ask them to report back within a couple of hours. All these people are me.

So they get a little confused and take the easy way out: of watching Bojack Horseman with a big cup of coffee and switching whatsapp off, because that gives a sense of productivity.

If you’re lazy enough, you can turn coffee into a daydreamer’s drink.

 

You don’t HAVE to read this

How to ruin good coffee

You know how people derive their pride from things they can control easily just to maintain the illusion that they’ve got their life under control?

For me, sometimes, it’s the coffee I drink. I’m not one of those people who say “I like MY coffee like…” because there’s no ONE way I like coffee. I like it to be perfect, but it can be perfect in a lot of ways. The “Expresso” with chocolate powder at Indian weddings, which gave such unrealistic expectations that when coffee shops served “Espresso” you felt THEY are wrong. But they’re both nice.beans-brown-coffee-34085.jpg

If you’re coffee and you want to be liked, you just have to be at the right place at the right time. It doesn’t matter if you’re a basic sachet of instant coffee. If you’re in a hotel room with a man desperate for coffee, surrounded by sachet of sugar and milk powder, you’ll be loved more than the coffee they buy from duty free shops. Although, the popular belief is that the best coffee you can buy from duty free shops is alcohol.

Then there’s South Indian filter coffee. I was addicted to it before I realized it took too much effort. I make it the traditional South Indian way- put coffee powder and hot water in a steel percolator and wait. WAIT. It’s the waiting that sucked. I belong to the test cricket generation that came of age in the T20 era, so obviously I have mixed feelings about waiting.

These days I get this instant coffee that’s way more expensive than your regular coffee. Worth it, because I’ve figured out the perfect proportions of coffee, water and milk so that its flavour and taste are exactly what I want, and anything else would just spoil it.

I’m telling you all that only so you know that I’m a man of fine taste. But sometimes men lose control. They question what is really sacred, and do bad things to it.

I ordered gulab-jamun for dessert after lunch yesterday. And put the leftover sugar syrup in my very expensive coffee.

How to ruin good coffee

Suicides That Surprise

I don’t wanna be disrespectful to anyone mourning Anthony Bourdain’s death, but I find it hard to trust the honesty of feeling anywhere in social media. I don’t think the couples who post their pictures love each other enough(I honestly think the guy is being a dick to her and sometimes it’s her fault too), and I don’t think travel bloggers who go to Santorini are very happy either. The sun is harsh and it makes you sweat.

But if you’re sad after Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, don’t let me interfere with your mourning. I realise it’s a personal thing, and you could’ve had your own personal connection with him in the way you have with artists (that’s probably a part of his legacy: he made chefs go “Oh, we can ACTUALLY be artists. Tamaatar aise kaato jaise Salvador Dali ki painting bann rahi ho”).

anthony-bourdain-twitter_625x300_1528458776361

I’m not exactly unmoved myself. I’m sad too. Not in a “A part of me just died today” way but more in a “Dying sucks” way. I’m just saying if famous people who die are so important to someone, there’d be some evidence of it before they died. I have this person on my facebook who would regularly post Linkin Park videos and was devastated when Chester Bennington died. I knew he’d be sad before he wrote about it.

Maybe it’s like an old family member who’s been bedridden for years and hasn’t been a part of your everyday life all this while. When they finally die, it hits you at once and in the days that follow, wonderful things are said about their kindness, and their dick moves are rightly forgotten.

My own connection with Bourdain doesn’t go very deep: I once confused him with Antonio Banderas at a party. I’ve read Kitchen Confidential and loved it, and gifted his books to a friend for her birthday, but that’s it.

I was more occupied by what could’ve led to him killing himself. As soon as I found out, my first thought was “Does he have a stable family life?”, because I’ve been grappling with that whole excitement vs stability debate myself. I Wiki’d him and realized he’s been divorced twice. Other than a tiny sense of “Dekha? I KNEW it”, that doesn’t prove much.

So now that I’ve put one unsubstantiated theory out, allow me to make another: I think these people- Robin Williams, Bourdain, Avicii etc. are in a unique position to know that life is, eventually, hollow. They are better placed than most to know that. They’ve achieved whatever is said to be achievable, have more money than they thought they’d need, have been through marriages and divorces, have been on drugs and rehab, have had strangers fawning over them and hating them…that’s an enough number of ups and downs to go “there’s nothing left for me to feel”.

And the reason most of us don’t kill ourselves is that we still don’t have the things we always wanted. Acquiring a skill, getting a bigger house, loving the kinda person you dreamt of when you hit puberty(?) etc.

So the EMI that reminds you of the averageness of your life, could well be the reason you haven’t killed yourself yet.

 

Suicides That Surprise

The dream is over

Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve fought with Uber, Vodafone, HDFC and Paytm customer care executives.

That’s how I spend my free time. Call customer care executives whose jobs are a daily reminder of the death of their dreams, and fight with them. But hello, my dreams are dying too.

I dream of paying Uber only when I sit in their car, not when the driver starts the trip while still being 5 minutes away. I admire the driver for being a free spirit, but not at my expense.

I’ve had issues with almost every service provider whose app is on my phone. The internet of the 90s promised freedom and equality and a level playing field. But humans run the internet and they don’t stand for those ideals. My hope now is that the digital revolution undoes itself and we go back to the basics. You used to call me on my cellphone, now I can’t wait for you to call me on my landline.

One of those HDFC executives actually hung up on me. And that’s my problem: there seems to be this new environment where no one cares. Customer care people don’t care because their bosses don’t care, who probably don’t care because the boss of all bosses, the government doesn’t care. When the class monitor himself talks, how will he ask the naughty kids to keep quiet?

I really did go back to the 90s with that one.

But life’s not all bad. So here’s a picture of a jalebi.

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I ordered some from my neighbourhood halwai yesterday after I saw Momina Mustehsan having doodh-jalebi on her Instagram post.

That’s how desire works no? You end up wanting the thing you didn’t know you wanted because you saw someone else enjoying it.

The dream is over

Do we know enough about Karan Johar?

KJo

For the last couple of months, Karan Johar has been everywhere. I would’ve called him “KJo”, but no man should be called that. He’s been the only person to not be fighting an election and still be in all kinds of media: print and digital, relevant and irrelevant, and whatever category “Pinkvilla” belongs to.

Here’s what a quick google search for Karan Johar threw up:

From Vogue’s website:“7 life confessions from Karan Johar you haven’t heard yet”.

Fine, I guess. When you have nothing to do, you’d probably glance over that.

But fancy this, from India Today’s website:“Karan Johar reveal he paid for sex: 5 explosive confessions from KJo’s biography”

 The “Indian Express” goes a step further:“Karan Johar opens up about his sexuality, virginity and SRK in his new book”

Behind this headline is one very happy SEO guy. “Sexuality” and “virginity” are enigmatic things on their own, but when you add Karan Johar and SRK to the mix, the results are toe-curlingly orgasmic. I’m guessing the only point of debate in this headline was: Should we go with SRK or Shah Rukh Khan? What if people don’t get SRK?

 Then there was this, from Storypick: “I Don’t Have A Relationship With Kajol Anymore,” writes Karan Johar In His Autobiography”

 To be fair, Storypick has even shared MY videos, and this is way more relevant.

But imagine, you’re a person who wants to stay informed about the economy so you can say something substantial the next time someone says “demonitisation” at a party. You subscribe to the Economic Times, and it would take a very open mind to not unsubscribe when you read this:

“I am done with Kangana playing the victim card and blaming Bollywood: Karan Johar”

Just wait a week or two, and he’ll be on the front page, talking about who Akhilesh Yadav should Fuck-Marry-Kill. Virat Kohli will take a backseat from the sports page because on it will be Karan Johar, talking about how he doesn’t follow cricket because that “jhintak blue of the Indian team is so Eww!”

You can tell a lot about a country by how it treats its heroes, and even more by how it treats its directors. We treated Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Gulzar differently: we just watched their movies, went “Waah kya sahi hai!”, and moved on.

We’re no longer that country. We’ve changed, the media has changed, and in the new scheme of things, Karan Johar is the most important voice in the country and soon, hopefully, on Indo-Pak issues.

(Exhibit A: “Make Fawad the PM of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif is anyway so ugly if Benazir was alive she’d die again Oh MY GOD HUHUHUHUHUHLOL!)

The point, simply, is this: Ussko kuch kuch hota hai, tum nahi samjhoge.

We know from his interviews that he was a fat kid. That was revolutionary, for no one else has ever been fat. He’s the only person in the country to have had body issues and be bullied. He’s been in love and not had that love reciprocated, and felt vulnerable about his sexuality.

Which, again, nobody else has felt. Even if they have, it doesn’t count because they’re not from Bollywood. When we outsiders have issues with our sexuality, there’s just that one obvious solution: go fuck ourselves.

I’m afraid we as a society haven’t dived to the depths of our KaranJoharity. I won’t be convinced until we have a start-up dedicated to solve the problem of Karan Johar. How hard is it to create an app that transfers Karan Johar’s thoughts on to your facebook timeline in real time? Cut out these middlemen and journalists.

Because journalists, honestly, could’ve done better. We know he was fat, but no journalist has had the ingenuity to plunge the depths of his subcutaneous fat and tell us exactly how much he weighed in 1991. What is that one snack he binged on when he was upset because people called him fat?

No answers.

He wrote in an NDTV article about how he lost his virginity late in life. How is that information enough? We need to know who it was that finally entered the dragon.

And last week, we outdid ourselves: We took attention away from him, and gave it to Kangana Ranaut! So what if she’s smart and bold and disruptive. The show is not “Koffee with Kangana”. She’s not allowed to play her “Woman” and “badass” cards when Karan has his “social” and “vulnerable” cards ready. Why she would break the line instead of falling in it and making it convenient for everyone, is beyond me.

But it’s a tiny issue for Karan and I’m sure he’ll get over it. He’ll see a toot-ta taara and wish for his mojo back.

Let’s never make the mistake of keeping him relevant just to being a filmmaker. Let’s loosen up a little more. Just like Karan’s jeans in class 10th. See? I just normalized his obesity.

It’s our fault. For lapping up whatever we’ve been served and not demanding better.

Do we know enough about Karan Johar?

Underneath that burqa…

There are very few moments when you can claim to be truly “startled”.  It’s one of those things that happen to other people. In fiction. Like, “Ross said Rachel, and Emily was startled”.

I was at the Carter Road Promenade in Bombay recently. It’s that place where people look towards the sea and pretend the city behind them doesn’t exist. That equips them to face the city when they do, in fact, face the city. It was 9:30 a.m., so the only people there were assorted people who don’t have bosses. People who’ve made too much money to care, people who don’t care about money, and me: out on a morning run so I could justify my lust for carbs.

“Morning” tends to be a very subjective term when you’re a freelancer.

Benches line this 1 km stretch for old people to sit and wonder where their life has gone, and young people to think where their life is going. I saw something more rooted in the present.

There were 3 people on this bench, comfortable in their space while they jostled for more, in a fashion typical of Bombay. One guy and two girls, two of them were wearing a burqa. I won’t tell you who. The guy and one girl seemed to be a couple, in that pre-kiss zone, one skillful maneuver away from ripping each other’s’ clothes apart. The kind of simmer you achieve on delaying the inevitable.

I’m not generalizing, but two people kissing are usually a couple. So we’ll work with that assumption. The other girl was sitting calculated inches away from them to not interfere.

Even “privacy” tends to be a subjective term when you have little space.

Now those are just the facts. Like most facts, they’re true, but less interesting than what I did with them in my head.

The “startling” bit came to me a second later: THE BURQA IS FULL OF POSSIBILITIES! In the limited burqa interaction I’d had in my life, this had to fall under “Best use of burqa”.

I also learnt that when you get startled, you say “Ohhh!”. Like the “Ohhh!” you say when your friend tells you the “friend” he’s brought to your party has been his girlfriend for 3 months.

The burqa is beautiful, and the beauty of it lies in the eyes of the wearer. Here was a symbol of repression being turned into one of liberation, even rebellion. Presumably, this is what happened. Call it the Sharia version of Sex and the City:

Girl and boy want sexy time, but how to get sexy time when family be like “No sexy time. Marriage first. Dibs.”

But when girl want sexy time, girl get sexy time.

Girl see symbol of repressed sexuality, girl turn it into key to liberation.

Family say, “Where you go, Amina?”. Amina say, “Oh just close by. Sufi night is happening.”

“Don’t go alone, Amina!”

“Lol, not going alone! Sultana also coming”

“Oh then it’s fine.”

Because Sultana is a nice girl. I mean, you HAVE to be a nice girl when you calmly sit while your friend gets laid. That niceness must spill over to other spheres of her life too, enough for Amina’s parents to go “Oh don’t worry. If she’s going with Sultana, she’s not going to have sex. Trust me.” Poor Amina is probably allowed to go out only if when accompanied by Sultana, who won’t arouse suspicion. Even if some suspicion, in this aroused environment, is aroused, only Amina, Sultana and the guy know they are Amina and Sultana. Nobody else will ever find out. What a plan.

At this point, I’m only thinking of Sultana. The girl who’s bringing joy to two people who’ve found their sources of joy. Does SHE have joy? Does she have love? Will Amina come with her when SHE has to sit on a bench? Or will she be a total bitch and say “I already have plans yaar”

As she sat there, third-wheeling, she did what most people do when they have to feign business: look into her phone. I hope she gets the text she’s waiting for. So that she can rub it in Amina’s selfish face.

I’m team Sultana. I’m sure it’s not easy having a restricted view of romance in full bloom.

Especially through a burqa.

P.S.: I saw them for barely one second while I was in motion and they were stationary.

Underneath that burqa…