Patriotism And The NRI

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[This was published in Yahoo's India@64. Original link here]

NRIs are unpatriotic.

Having stayed outside the country for many years (twelve and counting), I have heard this and its variations many times. If you are an NRI, chances are you have too. In some form or the other.

Let’s look at the first sentence, shall we?

We know what an NRI is. Kind of.

But what is unpatriotic?

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But Seriously

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There is a popular video game called “Guitar Hero” in which the controller is like a guitar. As notes scroll by on-screen, players have to hit colored buttons on the controllers at the exact moment the note is highlighted on the screen. The more “notes” you hit, the more the virtual crowd goes into a frenzy and the more points you score.

Writing for the foreign media, whether it be articles or fiction, is often like playing “Guitar Hero”—you mash the right buttons at the right moment and out comes a publication, in the same way “music” comes out of Guitar Hero. An example of this kind of ” say-what-your-foreign-audience wants-to-hear” writing that hits the hot-points can be found here, in an article written in the New York Times by Manu Joseph, also referred to sometimes in Middle Earth as the Bane of Barkha.

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The Brand

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This story (Late night internet chats land IITian in court) [Link] caught my attention today. No it was not just because of the judge making the man pay for the accommodation of the woman but for the way the word “IIT ” occurs in the headline and inside the piece. This is all the more confounding since the man in question does not now study in the said institution (he works for a “multinational firm in Gurgaon” ) and even more importantly there is nothing in his IIT education that has any bearing on what happened. Some may claim that his desire for late night chats with women stem from the social situation in school and to them I would say this is hardly an IIT-only phenomenon, many lonely men from different educational backgrounds, usually those with highly gender-imbalanced student bodies, are found to engage in such nocturnal activities.

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Greatbong's Person Of The Year 2010

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And the nominees are:

Dolly Bindra: “Kisiko anda milta hain, kisiko anda naheen milta hain, isne do aande khaayein isne ek aande khayen”,  says a contestant on Big Boss IV capturing perfectly the curse of the human condition, torn between the base instincts of hunger, lust and the desire for eggs, the last mentioned being an appropriate metaphor for them both. And if there is anyone who perfectly captures Big Boss and reality shows in general, it has to be Dolly Bindra, Sushmita Sen’s true ideal for “woman of substance”.

For long, Big Boss has experimented with the tried-and-tested formula of sidey starlets and wannabe models/actors and their fake romances but this time they alighted on the perfect guest, who crystallizes perfectly Big Boss’s  biggest viewership demographic—large, aggressive foul-mouthed aunties with a penchant for hyper-drama. Whether it be reacting to Asmit Patel’s  fake “ubercool” “Talk to the hand” with a gusty “Talk to your hand kya, hand aapne **** main daal”  and “finger daalna [Asmit's MMS partner's] *** main jaake” or her writhing on the ground,  claiming to having been possessed by a ghost (perhaps a person inside her trying to get out) Ms. Bindra has been incomparable, setting the bar high, way way high for people to follow in successive iterations of Big Boss.

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Phir Hile Sur Mera Tumhara

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Mile Sur Mera Tumhara is, without doubt, one the most iconic symbols of late 80s Indian popular culture. Some love it for the music. Some for the visuals. Some for the memories associated with it—of father coming back from work as it played on the TV or everyone rushing into the living room to catch a then-rare glimpse of Amitabh Bachchan.

And some, like me, for the sight of  P K Banerjee (who gave Bengalis such enduring phrases as “Dui Milan-r Milan” while presenting Italian League soccer on DD) wiping his bald spot as he and Arun Lal get down from a metro train, with the same cool swagger that would later inspire Quentin Tarantino in “Reservoir Dogs”.

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We Are Not Worthy

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Shan, a regular commenter here, posts a link on his Facebook page, an extract from a “travelogue” titled “To Hellholes and Back” [Link] which in essence says that India is the “most annoying place in the world to be a tourist” with “sleazy dishonest” merchants, of the type that presumably cannot be found anywhere else in the Milky way.

And if this piece of “hellhole” bit of writing was not enough of the imperial Macaulian “those poor annoying subhuman bastards” perspective of India for a week, we had insanely popular US talk show host Glenn Beck (who unfortunately calls him GB) on the cable news channel Fox News saying that India does not have flush toilets, their doctors graduate from their less-than-reputable institutes and that Ganges sounds to him like the name of a disease. [Link]

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The Party

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A White tent in Monsoon Wedding style on the lawns of the White House. Music playing: Aja Nachle

Dr. Singh, the PM, ambles about.

Bill Clinton arrives.

“Hello there Dr. Singh. I had a favor to ask of you.”

Dr. Singh: “Oh Mr. Clinton, I thought you were not coming to the dinner.”

Bill: “See that’s the problem. That blasted wife of mine dragged me along—didnt want me to be alone with the new lady secretary I hired to look over my papers [wink]. Would it be possible for your country to invite Hillary over for like a week or two on some excuse?”

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The Phantom Menace

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With chapters of my book having come back with edits and with a new chapter I have been working on together with talking to the cover designer, I have been on a blog-break of late.

However when sensational things like Arundhati Roy justifying the reign of terror unleashed by the Naxals and Kamal Khan hurling a waterbottle at designer delicate-flower Rohit Verma (who weeps like somebody has died when asked to cook) on Big Boss Tritiyaa happen then I am forced to break the silence.

Sensational yes. Surprising no. After all both Ms. Roy and Mr. Khan push the envelope of outrageousness for the expressed purpose of self-promotion, a game known as Rakhiopoly wherein one is forced to continually raise the bar of provocativeness in order to keep oneself in the public gaze.

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Hawa Desi

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Welcome to Hawa Desi, the airlines which promises you “Hawa Hawa Khusboo Luta Dey” everywhere in the plane, totally Desi style.

We would like to extend a special warm welcome to any Hawa Desi executive, politician or administrative bigwig or  his wife, daughter, son, son’s wife, daughter’s husband, their sons and daughters, their cousins and their transitive closure thereof,  who might be traveling with us today “free of cost” —–remember yeh aap ka baap ka plane hai.  If anyone of you havent been upgraded to business or first class yet, please get in touch with a member of the crew who will be happy to help you and polish your shoes so you so please.

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