Home Is Where The Mess Is 

There is a running joke in our household that whenever my mom has nothing to do, she’ll go and start folding some clothes. After the past week, I swear upon the holy name of Batman that I will never make that joke again. 

For the past week, my brother and I have been home alone. Owing to a bereavement in the family, my mom was away in hinterland of Tamil Nadu- the home of idli, dosas and death by bulls. My dad was abroad on work for 4 out of the 6 days. The other 2 days, he left for office in the morning, and came home at night- you know, like normal people do. So even those two days, his presence was more like a guest appearance by a famous star in a movie- very noticeable but with little meaning (Which is also a 6 word review of Housefull 3).

Now ideally, my brother and I are supposed to divide all work equally. But since he likes Grand Theft Auto and I like not getting into a wrestling match with him, that didn’t exactly happen. So he was in charge of making breakfast for me (cheese sandwich with oregano seasoning and bhujiya), while I was in charge of…everything else. This included folding clothes, segregating clothes, taking clothes out from the clothing line, clothes, clothes, clothes, and cleaning. In case it wasn’t clear, the clothes related work doesn’t END! I fold what feels like an entire wedding party’s outfits, and suddenly there appears even more clothes to be dried and folded. And when clothes are straight out of the washing machine, they are heavy. So basically, half my day involves heavy lifting clothes that weigh more than Hulk. That’s not even the worst part. 

I discovered a new game, and aside from GTA 5 and Batman: Arkham Knight, it’s the most difficult one I’ve ever played. It’s called Where’s All The Underwear? It’s a high graphics multi-player game where every morning after bath, my brother and I run around the house in a towel looking for underwear. When mom is home, somehow the drawers in my cupboard get magically restocked with my drawers. In her absence though, some underwear was drying, some was scattered among a pile of clothes on the chair, some were in the washing machine and the ones that I couldn’t find, I just assume they are enjoying this terrible game of hide and seek. But on the last day, my dad magically found all the underwear in two minutes flat! Ha ha Maggi. My father is a brilliantly qualified professional eminent in his field of work, and a caring husband and father. But I have never been more in awe of him than when he conjured up all our underwear out of nowhere. It was like a magic trick, but not the kind you want to perform at parties. 

The kitchen was the other problem that we created, and then spent all our time complaining about. We ordered food from outside the entire week, and we sometimes forgot about this quaint idea called cleaning up. So all of a sudden, the kitchen platform would have two large Pizza Hut boxes, two packets from Burger King, packets from Mc Donalds, Subway and any other American fast food chain present in India. My brother and I gave them enough revenue to sustain their business even if no one else buys from them in 2017. We also had food from a nearby Indian restaurant, because paneer sabzi is life. All of this would accumulate on the platform, making it look like 20 people have partied there, whereas only two of us humbly take credit for all the destruction.

Fortunately, the maid would clean the dishes each morning. But seeing the quantity we ate and number of plates she had to wash, I’m fairly certain she’s going to ask for a severance package rivaling India’s top CEOs. The maid also hung all the wet clothes in the clothes line after the one day I did it and I wanted to sleep for 5 days to recover from the experience.

But finally, sanity is restored and my mother is back to what she does best- show the rest of us how utterly incompetent we are. I  have newfound respect for my mother and have realized that she doesn’t fold clothes because she has nothing else to do. She folds clothes because there are so many that she can’t do anything else! But  I have quite an innovative and practical solution to the clothes problem. We need to stop wearing clothes. Let’s embrace the proud habits of our ancestors. 

Breaking News and Faking News 

News- the only thing on TV that my father watches, and the only thing that I don’t. It’s not that news isn’t important to me. It’s just that if I have to hear a middle aged man in a suit and spectacles shout at my face every night for reasons I don’t quite understand…well, my father already covered that base for me. (Dear dad, I love you.) 

But in recent times, fake news has become increasingly popular and has been embraced by reputed media houses too. Fake News- or as Scoop Whoop calls it, “Did my salary get credited?”. Today, all revenue in media is centred around advertising, which is solely dependent upon the number of people who watch a channel or click on a link. Therefore, to increase their viewership, some websites decided “Hey, this policy of verifying news before publishing it is a wee bit inconvenient right? So to hell with that.” While the fake news problem exists on TV news channels too, it is a far bigger issue with online news. That’s right. Online News-  the only place where an article titled Poverty in Sudan is placed right before 10 Pictures of Cupcakes That Will Melt In Your Mouth and right after This Cat in Japan Recites The National Anthem While Playing Football. On social media, each post is vying for your attention. Therefore, the best way to grab your eyeballs is to post something outlandish, shocking and just about believable. This strategy is supposedly inspired from actor Ranveer Singh’s dressing choices. 

Most people on social media aren’t exactly vigilant. Actually, most people in general aren’t exactly vigilant. So when you read an article, you presume its factual solidity for the sake of convenience. But as Snapchat and Snapdeal recently found out, that presumption wasn’t the smartest one.

But the single biggest reason why the fake news industry is growing faster than India’s GDP, is a genuine one. The world is becoming a ridiculous place. What would have been a great punch line and the epitome of sarcasm in 2007 is a cold hard fact in 2017- a Trump Presidency. When Ridiculous Thing ‘A’ happens, it is far easier to believe Ridiculous Thing ‘B’, because simplistic logic says, if A can happen, why can’t B? 

There is also the problem of juxtaposition of beliefs. If you tell me Narendra Modi is actually a Jedi named Namo Skywalker, I MAY believe you (although it’s probably not true). But if you tell me Fardeen Khan has done a good movie, there is NO WAY I would believe you (I like No Entry…). The job of fake news churners is to stay near the thin line that separates ridiculous events that actually happened (like Brexit) from flat out lies (like Tom Hiddleston being cast on Sherlock). So the next time you read an article you find difficult to believe, ask yourself the question, “Should BuzzFeed really be my primary source of news?”

Save Our Doctors So That They Can Continue Saving Us

It is a case of pure unbridled irony that doctors, responsible for minute trivial things like saving lives and ensuring well being of people, are victims of violent behaviour and are losing their lives because of hooliganism by the relatives of the patients they work to save.

Does anyone slap a judge if he doesn’t give a judgment in 10-20 years? (Aka gestation period in legal terms)

Does anyone slap a politician if he doesn’t fulfil election promises? (Aka, what else is new?)

Does anyone slap a train driver if the train is late?

Does anyone slap a contractor if the road he built has more holes than a block of cheese?

But a doctor is thrashed by the patient’s relatives for delaying treatment because of of unavoidable circumstances.

The problem today, is not just the violence. It is not just the strike. It is the reaction. It is the fact that everyone seems to be surprised that the most hardworking community in the country is vehemently standing up for its rights. The issue is being painted as Doctors vs Patients by the media, which as always, adds fuel to the fire while contributing meaningful information of exactly zilch megabytes. It is mighty convenient to paint it as doctors vs patients because that absolves those who are actually responsible for the situation – the government. In context, this strike was waiting to happen. 

Doctors and patients are but pawns in a much larger issue- lack of infrastructure and organization. When a patient enters a hospital, it starts with an excuse for a registration desk (with a non existent reception). There is no place for relatives to even sit. The wait is seemingly endless, and there is no one to even explain, counsel or guide stakeholders about the current situation. On paper, only one relative per patient is allowed while in reality, 15-20 relatives waltz in, causing chaos on a permanent basis. Are the doctors supposed to take care of the patient or the scores of relatives? According to an Indian Medical Association (IMA) survey, 70% of attacks occur due to excessive relatives accompanying patients. 

The media has conveniently forgotten to mention an imperative fact. Even in this strike, all the hospitals involved are still treating emergency cases. Therefore, the rebellious nose upturned image of doctors on strike that is being portrayed is not just wrong, but ridiculous. 

Politicians, movie stars and public figures have security at the drop of a hat, where even actors who last did a good movie in the year ‘never’ have bodyguards surrounding them. On the other hand, doctors are working for the government, and are in dire need of security to prevent their deaths while they are trying to prevent other deaths. These doctors’ demands for security are given scant attention. What happened in Dhule (https://youtu.be/XUt-khwfPQo) was neither the first, nor the last instance of a doctor being attacked, and considering the facts in hand, such occurrences, are sad, but even sadder, not surprising.

Our government spends 1.4% of its GDP on health care each year. I’m pretty sure the production budget of Baahubali is greater than that. This is as opposed to 8.3% by US and 7.6% by UK. Even African countries spend a higher proportion than we do. You know you have a messed up health care system when countries notorious for poor health are spending more than you on the  same. To make matters worse, tha Fadnavis government in Maharashtra reduced the health budget allocation by ₹569 crores. Have you heard of that proverb, kicking a man when he’s down? Now you know what it means.

The past week hasn’t been a new problem. It has simply been an existing problem in its most extreme form due to sheer negligence by the relevant authorities. 

It’s not that no steps have been taken. It’s just that in a journey of a thousand miles, one footstep has been taken. The previous UPA government introduced the Maharashtra Medicare Services Persons and Medicare Services Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act in 2010.  However, the number of people this law has benefitted is less than the number of words in the Act name. Even after constant assaults, not a single person has been convicted in the last 2 years. Even though the imprisonment is for a non bailable offence, attackers are bailed out within a day.

Our medical community deserves so much better, more so for the employees of the State, because we have cases of doctors dedicating their lives to service, working 36 hours straight on a regular basis, and then being rewarded with broken bones and loss of an eye. 

A paradigm shift in attitudes, rules, laws and implementation is needed, with focus on the following-

1. Appointment of more and significant security personnel with immediate effect.

2. A two pass system per patient for number of relatives.

3. Strengthening and implementation of the 2010 law, with no bail of at least 3 months and FIR by the institution itself.

4. To enact a strict law regarding trespassing in hospitals.

Even these steps are but that, a step in the right direction. Our system is extraordinarily late in realizing the literally life altering repercussions of its lack of action. But it is better late than never.

Save the savior in white before his coat turns red in his own blood.


An Unreliable History of WhatsApp: Part 1

During the course of our teens and twenties, we always have that one friend, who is absolutely useless for anything relevant but fun to have around- this person normally qualifies under the Rahul Gandhi Bekar Dost Yojna. For me, WhatsApp has been that friend. I discovered WhatsApp back in 2012 (notice how the word discover makes me sound like a contemporary of Columbus, unlike the reality where I tapped on random icons until one morphed into a green logo on my screen). 

2012 was a time when it was easy to be impressed by smartphones. If the phone could simply connect to WiFi and take a few pictures where the faces are vaguely identifiable, your phone was pretty smart. This was different from today, where unless your phone that’s thinner than Rahul Gandhi’s resume performs backflips while taking selfies that can highlight pimples that haven’t appeared yet with a flash so strong that the superhero feels insecure, your phone is trash. So in 2012, my friends had told me about WhatsApp, a messaging app that used the internet to send messages, and changed the name of my slave owner from Vodafone to MTNL. I was super excited. So far I was used to my friends ignoring me in person. Now I was going to be ignored using the latest technology! I couldn’t wait! 

Therefore, in 2012, two things exploded- WhatsApp and the pimples on my face. This was right after my 10th board exams, so we were free enough to help some unknown people from Philippines and eventually Mark Zuckerberg, become multi billionaires. Suddenly I was part of groups- a group of my batch mates from 10 A and 10 B, a group of people from 10 A so that we could talk about the people in 10 B and like a permanent member of the UN, one group permanently dedicated to planning a trip to Goa that has never happened and probably never will. 

These 10th groups were made so that we can keep in touch even after we have passed out and we will remain ‘friends forever’. I am very amused to report that 5 years later, I have no idea what happened to any of these groups. All of us used the WiFi in our homes and public spaces to access WhatsApp, making the app effectively free. Now there were constant rumours that WhatsApp is going to become a paid app soon. But it was one of those folk tales of warning that you hear from the village elders sitting around the fireplace. “20 years from now my child, the world will descend into anarchy and all the religious texts have predicted,that is when the world when end. When there is a strike of lightning from the skies and when WhatsApp becomes payable.” 
The WhatsApp status was a very big deal. In the initial days, we all faithfully read all our friends’ statuses. They were always a either a joke, a comment on the last football match, cricket match or any other current event of importance, such as the release of a new song or movie, or even less significant events like elections or natural calamities. There was an unwritten rule that whenever you were having a hard time, such as going through a break up, being rejected by someone (including auto wallahs) or faced anything sad in general, you were supposed to post this really emotional status – ideally a gut wrenching line from a book you have never read, or a movie or TV show you have never seen. Then, based on this one line, your friends are supposed to enquire “OMG are you okay? Arey guys are like that only ya / Arey I’ll find you a hotter girl.” I personally have never done this because I normally keep my sob stories to myself, and not just because no one else cared xD. But I have been on the consoling side of it, trying to convince my close friends that they shouldn’t cry because that guy doesn’t like them, or shouldn’t cry because United lost the match last night. 

In the meanwhile, WhatsApp kept getting new features except the one feature I really needed- uninstall it and do something productive. They introduced blue ticks and read receipts, which was the app equivalent of adding fuel to the fire. “He hasn’t replied to your message? Look, he has read the message for sure and still hasn’t replied! What an ass! Hawwwww.” (Read the earlier sentence in Kaneez Surka’s voice for maximum effect). 

Then they introduced end to end encryption, a concept that I thought existed only in Hollywood movies (For the number of technology based movies I’ve seen, I really feel like I deserve an honorary degree in IT or Computer Science from like..at least Lovely Professional University). Thanks to encryption, we can criticize the government without the government reading our messages. Yeah, because teenagers, the bulk of WhatsApp users discuss the government and politics right? Not movies, TV shows, books, sex, friends or love but..politics. 

(To be continued)

An Ode To Donald Trump 

His campaign is as fake as his hair

He only likes people whose skin is fair 

I used to think Indian politicians are dumb 

But then I came across Mr. Trump 

He treats women like I treat Cauliflower 

With disrespect, disdain and a sense of power 

To Mexico, he said he will build a wall 

As I could hear his IQ points fall 

He then spoke about a Muslim ban 

As the world sighed, “What is wrong with this man?!”

“I will run for President, and win!” said he 

The world scoffed as everyone said “This guy? Chee!”

But run he did and win he did, defeating Clinton the missus 

And to hopes of logic and sanity, the world blew kisses 

No one knows his income because his returns he does not file 

The cash probably sits in his tower, gathering in a pile

He’s been married thrice, that’s three times a groom

That many times, I haven’t even cleaned my room

His campaign was so stupid and unintentionally fun

Although at times he made me want to shoot myself with a gun 

But then I remembered I live in India, not the States 

Where getting a gun is easier than getting a date 

I still hope that he does something decent in his time 

And not make the White House look like a pantomime 

In the US, once I wanted to live 

A visa for a brown foreigner, doesn’t look like they will give 

In conclusion I’m so glad I went there 4 years back 

Back when being Muslim wasn’t worse than doing crack. 

Honest Bollywood Reports 

If newspapers were movies, Times of India would be Transformers- a piece of crap trying to look cool. The Hindu would be Inception- a brilliant piece of work not understood by some, and Bombay Times would be any Bhojpuri movie – a piece of crap not pretending otherwise (Indian Express would be any Nawazuddin Siddique movie – really good but unknown to many). 

But today’s topic is Bombay Times, or the answer to the question, what do you use when you’re out of toilet paper? Every morning, I receive a copy of The Hindu, Times of India and Economic Times at my doorstep. Like a 15 year old trying to get into an A rated movie, Bombay Times lies wedged between these 3, trying to hide but being very visible because the cover is shirtless Hritik, his abs looking like sections of a Dairy Milk bar (ironically, he would have had to stop chocolates to look like that).

Sometimes media keeps coming up with crap in new and innovative forms. Not Bombay Times though. They repeat the same crap in various ways. For example, for them, every movie is a success, no matter how sexist, dumb or Tushar Kapoor oriented the movie is. And any movie that does not earn 300 crores and make some Khan, Kapoor, Johar or Chopra a billionaire, is termed ‘quirky and unique’ or ‘off the mill’. They can’t say the truth right? Which is- this movie was so awful that the only people who bought tickets to it are people who had no other place to make out (*cough* Baaghi *cough* Befikre).

There are a few standard articles the paper will always have. There will be one article about how some actor wants to break the mould and do a different non stereotypical role. This is an absolute guarantee that in his next movie he will play either a college boy or an action hero with a beard so thick you can hide your house keys inside it. 

Then there will be that one article about a famous director starting work on his next movie, which is going to be TOTALLY DIFFERENT from his other movies and his hardest project yet. But if it’s a Bhansali movie, it WILL have gaudy sets and more jewelry Kalyan Jewelers’ lifetime collection. If it’s a KJo movie, it WILL have rich people who have rich people problems, and if it’s a Rohit Shetty movie, it WILL have no logic. 

Then there are the reports of what happens on set. As far as I have read, every Bollywood hero is a prankster. This report surfaces from the set of every movie. They are shooting, and the hero will do something hilarious, such as be on time to the set or read out a WhatsApp joke. For an industry that has an ego bigger than CGI villains in superhero movies,existence of a sense of humor does seem surprising. But this also makes a lot of sense. For example, if actors keep messing about on set and playing pranks, no wonder the movies are so bad. Bollywood is the only place where not doing your work is actually a marketing strategy. 

In conclusion, Bombay Times is actually an accurate representation of Bollywood. It is sexist, incredulous and yet people follow it with religious fervor. If tomorrow’s copy has some obscure actress in skimpy clothes saying she wants to carve a niche image in Bollywood, I win a cookie, okay?

Confessions Of A Schoolboy 

A friend of mine said she’s happy to finally pass out of school, and I almost spat out my food in shock, but I realized I wasn’t eating anything then. On my last day of school, I had almost made my own Karan Johar movie, with sad music, over the top acting, beating my chest in disdain like Kirron Kher, and everything.

But then I realized, my squeaky sounding friend may have a point. When I left HFS, I was positive that I would stay in touch with everyone and we would all be great friends( or as I later understood, friends who were polite enough to pretend to care). Unfortunately, life happened and I was wrong. But that’s not the worst part. I don’t think I even WANT to be in touch with all those people. Out of the 180 people in my batch, I liked around 150, cared for around 70, and I’m in touch with around 3 today. I know mountains that slope downwards less steeper than those numbers. But looking back, around 5 people actually cared for me, so 3 is about right. 
I have has a lot of great times in school, but was it worth all those boring-to-death physics and geography lectures I sat through? Irrelevant, because it’s not like I had a choice. But my underlying point is that maybe nostalgia has an inherent tendency to romanticize a time period, which makes them seem nicer than they actually were. It should have a sticker on it like car rear view mirror- “all memories  appear more fun than they actually are”

While my 10th was quite memorable, it was equally forgettable, which is the most contradictory thing a non politician has ever said. But it’s true. Innumerable sluggish days were filled with school, tuition, school homework, tuition homework and wondering whether that girl likes me back. Today’s kids have it so much easier (Annnnd with that sentence I’m officially an uncle). My own brother plays video games and watches sitcoms every spare moment he gets, and if those get too  monotonous, he has cheese and paneer in various forms to delight him. He and his friends actually went for concerts and parties halfway across the city 3 months before the board exams. When I was approaching my boards, I had to file a written application to mom-dad and get it attested by a gazetted officer just to use the washroom. 

I’m sure a lot of you had hunky dory school lives, where you either achieved distinction and made your parents proud or played Counter Strike all day in the cyber café and made the café owner proud. But at least you made someone proud. I was somewhere in between. I would study well for the subjects that I liked, and play Fifa intensively for the ones I didn’t. In my school where I studied for 9 years, I felt like an outsider way too often. All the people I looked up to, or whose groups I wanted to be in often had better things to do than take me seriously. I just wasn’t cool enough. People were needlessly mean, nasty and ignorant often enough. I was never bitter about it but it was a tough emotion for an early teen to figure out and react to. I had a lot of close friends but in recent times I feel like they never considered me their close friend. I think it helped me that I always loved reading books, so if you count friends of the fictional kind, no one was more blessed than I. So anytime I felt bad about anything, I had Percy or Alex or Harry or Julian or Fatty to turn to. 

I sound like an orphan right now, so I should clarify that I did, and do, have parents. The only problem was that my parents were Indian, and South Indian at that. So if your problem doesn’t involve studies or food, it’s not really a problem. I never went and told them much about this stuff, and if you have been a teenager recently, you’ll know why. 

I’m not even sure was my school life as bad I think it was, or as good as I thought it was. Probably somewhere in between.
This article made me realize that nostalgia is sometimes unreliable because it makes bad things seem good, and good things seem great, which is not always good. It also made me realize that my brother is really lucky. Lastly, it made me realize that you probably didn’t read the whole thing. Ah who cares…

(Actually I do)