A trip down the memory lane, India.

This is a note about my recent visit to India. I have been away from home for about 6 years now. I have visited India 5 times in a span of 4 years and yet every time I visit, I see the country in a completely different way.  I truly believe that traveling frees your mind from perceptions and stereotypes. This blog will attempt to be a different experiment in what passes off as creative writing.

Home: I visited the colony where I used to live. Those charcoal stained balconies are now home to half a dozen nylon strings. They are pregnant with wet clothes. Heaps of disheveled footwear are neatly stacked in the balcony and most of them exhibit various stages of mutilation. My mom stores my Adidas sneakers safely tugged under the bed to protect it from moisture.But her sandals lie on top of the shoe stand in the balcony. It demands a cosmetic surgery every monsoon. They may have enough funds to send you to US for your masters, but they are still humble in the way their feet addresses the earth.
I walk up to the terrace, the view isn’t that impressive. It isn’t a sky scraper. Beneath you could see the general musings of everyday life, the occasional vegetable vendor, the stray cows mulching about and kids running around. The terraces where I played cricket were once battered and sharp ends of the red clay tiles have slashed knees and feet, more times than I would like to remember. Those tiles are now hastily creamed with cement. They now fill the space with aroma of drying pickles, rice vathhals and garments of couples whose balconies were too small to accommodate the newest member of the family.
I feel luxurious when I am at home, the furniture’s haven’t changed much. And I am excited to be home. For example, being reunited with the pillow which was once mine gave me so much joy. I have fond memories with a pillow which must weigh like thor’s hammer. But I have always slept on it without a wink. Maybe it is the feeling of being in your own home.
The local grocery shop: I struck up a conversation with the owner of the local grocery shop. The same shop where my friends and I hurried to purchase cricket balls, pencils which later graduated to fountain pens, notebook covers among other things.
300 ml of pepsi cost 9 rupees . We used to split it. The guy who contributed Rs. 5 always gets the biggest gulp.Now I disclose this as we weren’t affluent growing up. And I am not uncomfortable acknowledging it. You know what i hate? That people only acknowledge their humble beginnings when they make it big. Read any business weekly magazine and the CEO in vogue would indulge in a spiel about how his hard days in youth made him into a man he is now.
Back to the topic of the grocery shop;  The owner has gotten old, his once wide forehead which used to be a landing strip for white ash (vibudhi), now  bears many wrinkles. The people around him have changed, the chotu who worked with him as an apprentice has now opened up his own shop down the street. I walked by his shop, he doesn’t recognize me of course. He owns a Samsung note plus now, stuffed in his pocket. Leaving behind the older grocery store to wilt. He now owns an outlet which sells phones and pre-paid cards. It is a little overwhelming to see one shop die down and another one crop up. It’s funny when I realize that this was the landmark shop where my friends indulged in their earliest vices. The first English magazine featuring a center spread, the cigarette, the first condom etc… I mustered up a smile as I walked along the street, the kids surely looked confused. But I do remember being in their place a while ago.
Chai-walah’s: I feel chai wallah’s are the book keepers of local street history. We don’t have a lot of landmark streets like MLK drive or Peachtree road. When it comes to naming roads, it is basically a pissing contest between the political parties, the one in power chooses the name. Chaiwallah’s are also our answer to google maps. You can basically stop by at any shop and ask them for directions, they have the shortest path algorithm in their head.
 The steel  benches outside the tea stall bears dimpled craters on them, withering from the weight of heavy arses of men who descend upon it. Men, who assemble outside the shop at 7 am like clockwork. If you overhear them, it would seem that they have solution to everything, from fixing Indian democracy to the current status of Indian cricket team. I feel they really do know everything, and maybe that’s why their wives are more than happy to allow their husbands engage in this morning ritual.
 The chai wallah masterfully juggles tea with precision abandon. Milk, coffee and tea are strewn around the table. Which are later cleaned by a towel which looks like it was used to clean the ear wax of an elephant. I don’t know if there is an inverse relationship between hygiene and quality of the food. In India, there are many street vendors whose food are tastier than the ones you can find at restaurants.
Local trains: Traveling on a local train from CST to Thane in Mumbai, or from Beach to Tambaram in Chennai will teach you everything you ever need to know about urban life in India. The rush is truly maddening and everyone’s stride is so purposeful and committed.   We board the trains as if we are going home for the first time. Everyone just scrambles into the coach as soon as the train arrives. Sometimes we even run along , and jump into the coach before it halts. And here we have seat belts in buses. Pussies.
Each handrail supports the fate of countless strangers who are tugged into tight spaces. You almost never get to sit on the seats inside the coaches as it is always occupied. For a long time my urban dream was to sit beside the windows as the train weaves through the heart of the city. The windows have that impact about them. As soon as you lean your head over them, you are pensive, happy, sad all at the same time. Inside the coach,  couples are furtive in their embrace. Far from the wanton eyes of neighbors, parents or friends. They stand close but not close enough to earn the wrath of adult men and women in their fifties. They are aware that these adults scoff at their embrace. I always wondered what scorns these adults when they see lovers, maybe it opposes their religious belief or reflects poorly on their dead bedrooms, I can never seem to tell the difference.
The people: You’d get to meet the most animated people in the world. On this trip down the memory lane, I made sure I visit my teachers from school. You know as a software professional, I’d often fall into the trap of existential crisis when I have to do the same job for over a week. And these people have been teaching the same subject, with almost the same syllabus year after year to students. They are fully aware that their students will achieve far more than they ever will, but they are never shy of sharing the knowledge they possess. Truly, gods among the temples of thought.
My parents still ask me in front of our relative, as what I do for a living. And when i try to answer them about cyber threat management and information security processes, they all smile with intelligent incomprehension. I think, that was pretty much the validation I sought throughout my career. No amount of congratulatory emails or bonuses could trump my feeling when my parents feel proud to learn what I do for a living.
In India everyone will give you an opinion but no one will fight to prove that they alone carry the burden of truth. We are quite non confrontational by nature, which is often misunderstood for meekness.
My parents have aged, we speak to each other once a week but I couldn’t believe how a few years affects the people who you love the dearest. They take multiple medicines throughout the course of the day. I remember I couldn’t stand the idea of my mom getting an headache. When i would ride to the bicycle well into the night to go to that pharmacy and get medications to make sure that she gets a good night sleep. It makes me terribly sad that I can’t be beside them when they need me the most.
Overall yes, I am skeptical about my country. I choose the right to ridicule it and I don’t need to prove my love by aligning myself with a political party. The American apartments and buildings are surely formidable, more comfortable and secure but our humble colony was built on memories than marble. India is a place where I lived, USA is a place where I choose to exist.
This was a difficult blog for me to write as I always had an irrational fear with nostalgia. And I think, I now know why. We are afraid that we will never live those moments of unadulterated joy when we were younger. We recount our nostalgic moments only with our closest friends because we are afraid, that we’d be judged. But in my limited experience let me tell you. Nothing could be farther from truth. I made my best friend when I was 6 because he carried the same water bottle. And we have been best of friends, since. His daughter is 1 year old and I couldn’t shake of that avuncular feeling when I held her. That’s nostalgia, a voice that ushers the question “How far have we traveled” and then chuckles.
Go out, travel, be uninhibited, make mistakes and make memories. Hindsight will tell you that it was a journey worth traveling.

Evolution of Feminism

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the feminist movement in India and how we are warming up to the idea. I wanted to outline the evolution of feminism and how with age my opinion has changed about the movement.

For the record, I am not a feminist. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in equality for women. I don’t have to be an archeologist to deny fossils. For that, I’d have to be religious.

Most of the recent wave of feminist movement are on the lines of “Ladke rulate nahi hain”, “Dear Men, stop beating your wives”, “Dear Men, don’t discriminate against women with dark complexions” etc…

Now I am quite comfortable with the first two agendas, even though the second one seems to be a little antagonistic. To draw a parallel, it is like telling “We should inform Islamists that they shouldn’t terrorize people”.
The message in its basic essence, isn’t inflammatory and no one should indulge in anti human practices. But it somehow leaves a bitter after taste.
The whole Delhi rape incident was a catalyst that probed deeper questions in our society about safety of women. A lot of not so intelligent ideas were thrown about and most of them must be rightly ridiculed. For example:
Home Minister: Well, women should not wear revealing clothes and wander about after sunset. You are an affront to our culture and inviting trouble.
Female Reporter: Sir, this is SEXIST.
Home Minister: (Whispers to his aides) Oh ho she is also looking quite sexist in them jeans.
My effort in this blog space is to bring to attention some of the ideas which seems righteous but are down right daft.
Stop with the metaphors:

If you ask any politician, what a woman means to him. It would be almost impossible for him to describe without metaphors. He would go on an eulogy such as “Our culture is quite respectful of women, they are our rivers, our oceans, lakes and mountains”
Right off the bat, this is down right daft. Drawing a comparison between the contours of a river and a woman is well, just soft core pornography. It was the valmiki’s way of saying, Wiggle wiggle wiggle. I consider myself to be an avid connoisseur of Indian history, so let me elucidate how the River Jamuna got its name
Poor peasant girl: Oh mighty king, our master does not allow us our fair share of access to the bunds. As a result, our farms suffer and we always remain in a debt.
Macho dude King: That is outrageous and I will implement a practical solution. From now on, the river would be called Jamuna and be given a feminine identity. So that, the evil slave owners become answerable to conscience before treating women unfairly.
Poor Peasant Girl: Oh noble king, thank you, that is a spectacular idea. Also while you are at that, could you pass on that joint?
Analogies and metaphors are nice, but if we refuse to humanize a gender it would be difficult to emphasize with their tribulations. Metaphors should be used to describe not justify.
 No Means Not Yet
One of my favorite pastime after getting hammered is to watch old  cheesy indian movies. The common theme in the movies is something like this.
Guy: Hey, that girl looks cute.I just saw her feeding cookies to puppies and buying balloons for slums kids. This proves that she has a heart of gold, because logic. Hence, I think i am in love with her and I am going to win her heart.
Hero approaches the girl
Girl: Fuck off, don’t harass me!
Hero: Challenge Accepted.

Also the common themes of these movies are that,  a girl doesn’t dislike you. It is just that she doesn’t know it yet. No shouldn’t mean not yet. Ideally, you could cut your losses and move on. But again that is not seen something that the culture encourages.
As shocking as it is to believe, in my yore I have been rejected by a couple of girls. But I wizened up and moved on, because I knew there were plenty of fish in the sea who could reject me later.
Even our epics such as Ramayana are filled with ridiculousness.
During Swayamwara
Ram: Sita, babe, I think I Am the most suitable guy for you and I am in love with you. So will you please take my hand in marriage?
Sita: But there are other dudes who are good looking. That arjun fellow looks like an abercombie model for pete’s sake.
P.S: If you study Ayodhya’s history closely, you can clearly see that Abercombie & Fitch outlets used to exist in Ancient India. They were dimly lit and played jagjit singh melodies at 150 db.
Ram: But I have mad archery skills.
Sita: Swoons, I am all yours.
Mother- Sister Analogy
The other day, on a Indian sitcom it is shown that a couple of roadside juveniles, glance mischievously at a girl. An elderly man passes by and reprimands them by asking “Don’t you have any mothers or sisters”?
First of all that is a terrible logic, unless you are Tywin Lanninster. Wait, especially if you are Tywin.
Hypothetically any male can be attracted to any woman, you could have all the sisters from an Alok nath family and still heave if Gisele Bundchen walks by you at Bandra. It is perfectly normal. Let us criminalize harassment not sexuality.
Sexual Depravity
This is going to be a controversial topic because I am going to raise a speculative yet scandalous allegation that teenagers will try to get laid. In India, apart from a few select metropolis, segregation of sexes is often rampant in smaller communities.
As a teen you can’t officially ask a girl out and most relationships have to be discrete affairs. And funnily enough, parents flip the fuck out when teenagers exhibit interest in the opposite sex.
Mom: Enna da, talking to that girl from your class ah?I see you always glued to the phone! You want to be a skirt chaser or what rascal! Focus on your studies
Me: Mom, but she has my homework.
Mom: Why did you give it to her? I know you want to discuss homework only with girls, don’t you have any guy friends? What about that vikram, he always gets first rank.
Me:  Sigh! Whimpers But vikram doesn’t have boobs.
As a teenager all you care about is getting groovy. If you can ignore the sex aspect of it, juvenile relationships teach you a lot . You learn that there is no perfect one and accountability is more reliable than just impressing someone. And you become quite tolerable as a person in your twenties. Case in point

Zach
And in the event that the girls family finds out that their daughter has been dating, the father hilariously slaps the shit out of the mother, spouting the glorious phrase.
“Is this how you raise a daughter”?
Look, I understand that sex education might still be tricky topic, so if you want your kids to embrace celibacy I have two suggestions.
1. Wean them on a diet of quiz shows such as Bournvita quiz contests. So that your kid grows an allergy to silence and vomits them upon the earliest opportunity possible.
Cute cashier girl: Sir, here is the remaining balance 34.50
Me: Hmm, Did you know that Camels have 3 eyelids to protect themselves from sandstorms.

Cute cashier Girl: Next in line please

Me: God Dammit! These dumb girls will always go for losers.
2. Axe deodarant is available for Rs. 140 at your nearest Sakhari Bhandar.
Vigilante Feminism: There was a recent viral video (Rohtak Bravehearts)which went around. In which a couple of girls are caught on camera bashing two guys in the name of justice. Of course the mob joined in, without any questioning. It was later proved that, their claim was completely false.
The same with dealing with people who harass in the streets should not be dealt with vigilante mob justice. It just reeks of jingoism and misplaced patronage for women.

Sadly the new age feminism sounds divisive and accuses men for all problems women face. If you look up the news, you could always find one or two groups being officially offended because they found a sound byte inflammatory. Being offended doesn’t mean you’re right. It means that you cannot deal with your emotions.

False rape accusation, false dowry harrasment case, alimony claims, child support, eve teasing, you name it. It seems that the claim alone is enough to frame a guy, again, because logic. The court views men as guilty unless proven innocent.

Dear feminists, the world isn’t against you nor are men sitting in smoke filled rooms conspiring to stifle your progress. The world, simply put, is indifferent. As Kurt Vonnegut put it brilliantly, “So it goes”.

It is widely acknowledged that women’s emancipation through education is the surest way to eradicate poverty. Both the sexes must be symbiotic in the society to move ahead.

Lessons from an Offline Experiment

The new years eve is always a daunting one as we all try to formulate resolutions. It is a feeble attempt at retrospection and fix things that we think are wrong with us. Mine was pretty innocuous. I saw a Ted talk about an author who shared his experiences after he went offline for a year. That sort of captivated my attention and i wanted to give it a try.

As a writer one of the most embarrassing yet educational things you can do is to go over what you have written in the past. I delved into my sent mails section, old messages, tweets and Facebook posts. Needless to say a lot of it was cringe worthy. I used to like Roadies. Blasphemy!

That is why i rejoice writing because it is like a personal memorabilia which you can use to reflect and contemplate. And when you open it for criticism in the form of a blog, the results can be pretty interesting. I noticed that i was apologetic to assholes and an asshole to those who were apologetic. It’s a strange thing as you are more drawn towards interesting people who aren’t necessarily nice and find nice people to be boring and one dimensional. For example it is always the people who you love, who embarrass you. For example my uncle would type comments in capital, without spaces, on my photo’s something like.

DHANESHILIKEYOURPHOTOVERYMUCH.LOOKINGVERY GOOD DEAR, REGARDS

UNCLE AND AUNTY.

And you wonder why they killed the Indian postal service.

I decided to go offline for a wee bit and see if I suffered from any of the withdrawal syndromes. The task wasn’t very difficult for me. I discontinued using Facebook. Most people use Facebook to check up on what their friends are up to in their daily lives. I am not a sociopath but i find the trials and tribulations of people to be boring. So going offline wasn’t necessarily difficult for me as i had already unsubscribed scores of people whose (online) lives i deemed to be boring.

And in doing so i observed that most of my newsfeed were from pages related to movies, sports or science. I often took a holier than thou perspective while commenting  and always tried to be witty about what i would say.  I never wanted to be the last word freak, so i conveniently wouldn’t answer comments on my pictures or posts.

I would like to open the following activities for further scrutiny as i think they merit more discussion than the rest.

Check ins: Truth be told, ever since I saw the movie “Up in the Air” I knew what kind of lifestyle i wanted. Fortunately, my current job permits me to travel to far flung cities, stay at expensive places and dine at the best of restaurants. It wouldn’t be a misplaced opinion if i said i found joy out of it, by the attention i got. I wanted people i knew to know that I am having a good life and if it brought envy then i wouldn’t be lying if it made me a little happy.

When i was in india and i witnessed the spoils of my friends in the promised land, i was more envious than happy. I think one can truly be friends only when they can be happy for each other. It is very easy to share sadness because we all have some level of empathy. But whenever you find yourself genuinely happy for a friend’s accomplishment, it should count as a victory. When I check in at an expensive hotel, I hear an amateur exuberance within which screams “Hey, I have made it”, show it those people who didn’t think so, lets prove a point etc… I think everyone is entitled to some level of bragging, but it should slowly fade away.

2. SHARE EVERYTHING:

Why do we have to share everything we do, on a regular basis. I mean “Dhanesh is feeling meh [insert absurd smiley]. Why do people have to know what am I up to, all the time? Why do my friends have to know where i spent my weekend or whom with?

I’ve often been told that I am full of myself and I take that as a compliment because I’m so self absorbed, that I often forget that i am surrounded by people. Now don’t take me wrong, I am not smart or good looking enough to be a narcissist. I don’t engage myself with people who I would disagree with. I realized that I had surrounded myself with people whose ideas I share. I was being a smug liberal at best. I found joy in proving other people wrong, but rarely participated in discussions where my opinion was minority.

Also I found that every article people shared either made you immediately happy, sad or angry. As someone who enjoys reading, I want to formulate my own opinion on what is going around me. But we all live in a bubble which is in constant need of reassurance. I felt I was sharing news only because i wanted to be judged by my friends as witty, intelligent and wise member of the society.

From the feeble fame i achieved through the space of this blog, I feel people consider me to be kind-of-funny. As I dabble with humor and sarcasm, people tend to “like” my comments or status. Not that I am complaining about the attention, I feel the Gamification theory, i.e. rewarding every popular comment with a “like” can be disruptive.

Once used to the internet fame, I said or did things that would be popular rather than genuine. I would never participate in an argument where I know I am in the minority. I mean it is really not difficult to make a joke about Rahul Gandhi, Justin Beiber or Islam. You can easily make a cartoon and make your living. Am I wrong?

I feel it is healthy to get your views challenged, so surrounding myself by people who have similar taste kind of made me feel superior.I would feel intelligent when I share an op-ed piece by De grass Tyson or Paul Krugman. I’ve been also guilty about just sharing a news story just because the headline seemed controversial.

Facebook permits you that so in the end you surround yourself with likeminded people and then lose a sense of reality when people you meet in real life aren’t so accommodating.

3. I-know-everything-syndrome: I felt that i suffered from I-know-everything-syndrome, as i scourged internet constantly. I would be an endless supply of suggestions and opinions. In a social setting, I could easily distract the conversation about something I read and beat you down with facts. The last time, I remember shutting up for good was earlier today when I was getting my tooth drilled at the dentist. I forgot how to listen.

3. Rebel without a cause: Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool for social deduction.You can easily judge people based on their affiliations with literature, movies, causes or music. I am generally superficial and judge people a lot on what they speak and how they behave. I know it is not a respectable quality, but who’s got the time to give every human being a chance. My fingers got a carpel reflex typing that sentence out.

By all means I wished more people read, but not the likes of buzz feed or upworthy. They are nothing more than captions with gif’s. Since when do we need pictures and gif’s to accommodate   text. Are we 12? Articles like “37 ways to know that your dog hates you” make me want to choke those hipsters by blocking their access to Instagram.

And why are we so divided by opinions? Do you think Rahul Gandhi gives two shits about your opinion? I mean in the end who cares? As an educated member of the society I wanted to be pro-something. Enough of anti-racism, anti-corruption, anti-pollution. I want to own up to things I am bad at and DO SOMETHING about it. Our brain convinces us that just by creating a Facebook page or liking a cause means we have done something for it. I am 26 and by all means an Adult. I don’t have to be a rebel, I think i should be quite capable of taking a cause and working towards it.

At the end of three weeks of being offline, I found I had tremendous amount of time and energy left and now i am slowly utilizing them to create new hobbies.

Update after 3 weeks: Forget everything. I’ve come to realize that people are shallow, unforgiving and boring. Get back to facebook, twitter and Instagram! But I still hate Buzzfeed.

Happiness for Sale! At a retail store near you

Every year during the holiday season all of us are spammed with advertisements galore about discounts, sales and offers at different retail stores. And it can intimidate the strongest among us who don’t usually cave into peer pressure.

Movie stars constantly endorse utilities and other appliances. Do you really think sharukh khan drives ani10? Think about it.

I have always wondered why companies like Amazon, Walmart or Reliance have this sudden found empathy to promote human values among its customers. And in my own naïve way I have observed that those evil marketers have finally got to us.

The day after these festivals everyone always wondered what we received as gifts and what we gave to others? It becomes almost like a parade where we flaunt our wealth. Our affection towards each other seems so tangible that we can measure it in dollars!

Allow me to relive how our family usually spent Diwali and I am sure a parallel narrative exists for the readers in the form of Christmas, Hanukkah or Eid.

Our parents would plan our trips to our ancestral village, which we would refer to it as “town” to our friends as we are secretly ashamed of our bucolic upbringing. All our relatives would gather there and would spend the day together.

The womenfolk would be in charge of cooking delicacies, some of which would take the whole night to prepare. The men would be in charge of purchasing clothing and fireworks. Men looked forward to interviews of actresses and women relished debates on the telly which made fun about the plight of husbands. Through which they thought they scored a silent victory.

The topic of the debate would be something like: “Who is harder to satisfy during the festival season? Is it the Husband or is it the Wife?

Man 1: Do you know what my wife wanted for this Diwali, an expensive silk Sari worth Rs.3000. Does she think money grows on trees? How am I supposed to afford that!

Man 2: I know these women have no idea how hard we work. My wife wants a gold necklace for 5000Rs, it is ridiculous.

*Sanity Check*

Let us do some basic economics here. A housewife toils for 365 days a week approximately 15 hours a day.

365 * 15 = 5475 hours a year, and suppose the husband caves in and buys her that Rs. 5000 necklace it would equate to 5000/5475 = 1.095 Rs/hr. Who knew women were such gold diggers. Gosh!

*******************************Back to Diwali**************************************

I didn’t appreciate the efforts they would put into it as I thought I was obliged to it as a participant. But now as a mature adult (debatable, I know) I don’t celebrate any of these as I am too cool for that desi stuff. And as my grandmother passed away this year there were no celebrations in my family back in India.

My grandma would slave away in the kitchen for the whole day preparing a complex range of delicacies. And if you happened to be a greedy little fat fuck like me, they better be ready to cook a second batch. She would make sure to reserve a good part of the food prepared to give it away to the needy. She always made sure that we grandchildren give it to them so that we directly earn the goodwill of the poor.

She would then attempt to educate us about the meaning of the festival on our way to the temple which we always would ignore. She was overarching glue that held our huge family together under one roof. We wouldn’t return until the next festival and would only occasionally call her to check up on our health. And every year she would put in the same kind of superhuman effort to keep us happy.

Contrast this to a hypothetical uncle returning from the middle-east. He would get us chocolates and toys and we would worship him for a couple of days while completely ignoring our grandmother. I mean he barely put any effort into his gift right? But why should that diminish the effort of our grandmother?

I think this was my origin for instant gratification. I can defend by saying that as a kid I didn’t know any better. But am I behaving any different as I got older?

Instead of spending the time with my parents on the day of the occasion, I substitute this responsibility by buying them an Ipad. Instead of cooking an elaborate meal for them, I could take them to an expensive restaurant. I mean, I could marry a submissive wife and ask her to do all this for me. But you know who finds girls like that these days? All this “equality”, “empowerment” and  modern “education” has robbed them off all the culture they are supposed to have.

We work hard the whole year, bicker about our companies as soul sucking satans and suddenly become huge fans of them as they give out bonuses!

And we how do we spend our bonus money given to us by corporate gods ?

  1. Useless item we don’t have.
  2. Useless item we don’t need.

For eg: Buying a DSLR and a trip to a hill station. Where instead of spending our time embracing nature we will spend our time on getting the right shot the fucking bee which flies over a stupid sun flower. If I had a dollar for every pretty picture someone on my friends list took during their family holiday. I would be left with a dollar.

**************************** Back to Festivals ***************************

I love stories and I am sure most of us do. I think of festivals as a story through generations which have a simple yet unoriginal meaning. Like be good to people, bury your differences and love the people around you irrespective of their attributes, spend some time to introspect etc…. But I don’t see how throwing money at such occasions adds value to it.

Since when did Christmas and Diwali become an occasion for those who could afford it? When we parade around in our expensive gifts do we care to think about unfortunate? I mean how about the urchins and how much it would break their hearts to know that their parents would never be affordable to throw a spectacle like we get.

When I came to US my parents feared that I would forget what the festivals mean to us as Indians. That we would take up Christmas and thanksgiving instead of Pongal or Diwali or Ganesh Chaturthi. But if we treat festivities as an excuse to spend money then it is just like a robe. Christmas is no different than Diwali but it is just dressed differently.

My only worry is that I would slowly forget those stories and morals which underlined the spirit of festivals. I am worried that I wouldn’t put effort into making people happy, if at least for a day like my grandma used to do. But there is always next year!

Happy Holidays 🙂

The myth buster’s guide to Marriage

This post is dedicated to my best friend, my bro who just got married!

I almost cringe at the prospect of using the word Marriage for the title of this blog. So I turned 26 ceremoniously a few months ago and it has dawned on me that people are headed to the next phase of their life.

I personally would like to think of myself as a trivial man with humble needs. I have always chased things that I need rather than what I want, so far this simple tenet has served me well and I am unwilling to shrug this off.

I have used the following space to articulate and think out loud the merits of the institution of marriage.

Almost all calls with my parents end on an awkward note where they hint about getting me married. And the hilarious part is when they try to sell it to me. I think their honest hardworking career has fostered them to gain a lot of skills, but sales aren’t among them. I feel they are confident in my lack of ability to find a girl for myself which is sweet and also profoundly sad at the same time. So here is a sample of their sales pitch

“Son, we are really glad that you are doing well. You are surrounded by friends, you get to travel a lot have a good job and having so much fun. But it’s now time to get serious.”

That’s the worst sales pitch ever. I don’t think they can sell parole to a convict who is facing a death penalty, with that pitch. I wanted to write this article for a long time. But I think this is a good time, most of my good friends have got married and have suffered a social death. Their social activity comprises of sharing insufferable pictures of each other at eventful places such as the mall, parking lot, temples, restaurants, movie theater, beach, work and practically every place which bans nudity.

Arranged marriage or love marriage? I really don’t know how this is even a question. My answer is, “If it ends in a marriage, does it even matter? Hah, I know I am quite the romantic. *blushes*

I am aware of statistics which say “Arranged Marriages” last longer. I think it is partially skewed. In arranged marriages you are necessarily married to each other’s family. So most “arranged marriages” last longer because they are designed to. If you think breaking up with one person sucks, try 200. We Indians are so uncomfortable seeking a resolution that we will try to see the relationship or the people involved die, rather than mitigate.

At least in India there is a notion that divorce should be permitted only in extreme cases of violence, harassment and abuse.

It is lost on me that in my society, two perfectly decent people would not be allowed to go their separate ways if they can’t find happiness without being judged or hated.  And this is a question that every quintessential couple faces. And the most clichéd answer is “Love cum arranged marriage”. You see you cannot concede either of them because society is perverted.  So for a groom

Arranged marriage:  Society goes “Lucky him, it must be the dowry”.

Love marriage: Society goes “Must’ve knocked her up”.

Work Life Balance: Work life balance is by far, my favorite oxymoron. And I can prove it to you. I hope you love numbers

All the hours spent in a week

Number of hours in a week: 168

Number of hours spent working, avg: 50

Number of hours for recreation such as gym, going for a run, reading etc..: 10

Number of hours spent on commute: 6

Sleep: 42

Time spent socializing with other equally boring couples in activities such as dinner, movies or spiritual recreation: 10

Time spent doing chores, because I believe in equality. LOL: 10

Total time left to spend with wife: 40

Guys get it easy. The above list is crazier if you’re a woman.

A grand total of 40 hours! So, good luck trying to make her feel like a Queen; be a responsible husband and raising a happy and healthy family. Oh also try to build a house, tend to the never ending family members from both sides, raise children. If he is a boy, make sure he is engineer. If she is a girl, make sure she is an engineer. Fund their college and then help them get married and be pretty darn successful at it. Oh by the way, make sure you are HAPPY while doing it.

Matching expectations: People feel that people with similar needs make a better couple. There are so many traits that act as deal breakers. For example, a groom might be a perfect match except the fact that the girls family expects a teetotaler. My parents pitched a girl for me who seemed pretty agreeable. But under “Music” she listed Falguni Pathak, so yeah that’s a strict no-no for me.

And something that people always ignore is sexual appetite.  That should be a huge factor but is always never discussed. Now I am using the term sexual in a very non sexual manner, like a botanist. Because when you date, you have sex. When you’re married you have intercourse. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a very responsible word to me. And often responsibilities aren’t fun. Nobody has ever blown the party whistle and screamed words like “Hey guys, lets crank up the volume, get drunk and be RESPONSIBLE”

Guys are always trigger-happy, while with women it’s more of a methodical approach. For guys we would be up for it in an instant, a girl just have to give us the hint and even if we are stuck on I-75 we would floor the silly Prius for you and reach home ASAP.

But for women, the process is more measured. They prefer treating them with attention, love, respect and all the adjectives you would find on a hallmark card. I am not a sexist; I am merely outlining the differences in approach towards a Darwinian act.

 Every matrimonial site ever: You see I have never been a huge fan of meeting people online. But once you are cruising towards your late 20’s your parents are  in a panic mode. It starts with it would be nice if my kid gets married to OMG PLZZZ someone marry my baby. The indian matrimonial sites reeks of parental influence. Most of the profiles are either tied to education, wealth, caste or culture. Nobody describes anything about what their personality is like.

I thought it would be a fantastic idea if such sites were designed like Amazon.com which would have user reviews. Where people would share review the families based on their experiences. Something like even though the groom’s father is Jain, I once saw him outside Steak and Shake.

My parents started sending me pictures of attractive women, I was surprised at how good of a wing man my dad could be. Then it struck me, the horror!

My dad uses Internet explorer as the basic browser whose home screen is set to Bing!

Happiness and loneliness: Most people marry of happiness; we grow up on stories where we are told if we behave good we will get a good wife or a husband who would make us happier. The flaw in this approach is lack of accountability. If I am getting into a relationship, I need to be sure of what I can contribute towards it. Are there qualities in me that would make the other person happier? Am I mature enough for that (I know it is a rhetorical question). Happiness is only true when shared and in order to share we must be prepared to give.

Loneliness: I think being alone and feeling lonely are completely different from each other.A major trigger towards getting married is the fear of ending up lonely. And I can assure you that it is morbidly terrifying to be left alone. Our society never accepts people who are lonely; they are either cast as greedy or gloomy. But in order to embrace happiness, one must like them. And you can only learn about yourself by embracing solitude. If you don’t like anything about you, it is ridiculous to expect others to.

We should realize that happiness is merely a state of mind; it is like those happy pit stops at the coffee shops while being on a road trip. One has to work towards it and it will last only for a while, but the mere pursuit makes the effort worthwhile. And if you can find someone who shares your view of happiness, then it is safe to say that you are going to have fun!

This post is dedicated to you bro! Good luck on your marriage.

Graduation Speech

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I know that this is a graduation season and there are a lot of people are quite happy about it. Most of Indians I know are excited as this is one of the few times you get to take a picture with white people in the background, which means “You’ve made it” back at home.

So I wanted to write a graduation speech. I am not sure if I envision myself to be famous enough to commemorate a graduation ceremony. As it is, I feel I have achieved more than any man with my looks and intellect possibly could. So here goes nothing…

The Speech

Hello batch of 20xx. Congratulations on your graduation (Unless you did an MBA from IIPM. Then you’re fucked. Proper fucked).

*Side note: Begins speech by thanking people who are important but you couldn’t possibly care about.

I’m sure most of you can’t wait to get out of this stadium to be with your loved ones and celebrate your success. I promise I won’t beat the cliched horse to death. I request twenty minutes of your time. And I have made sure that there is enough security at the gates, so you really don’t have much choice.

I don’t have anything inspirational about me unlike many of you. I got pretty much whatever I wanted and couldn’t complain about how my life was going. I was and am ordinary. And now I want to address those students who are ordinary. Just like me.

So to all the ordinary lads and lasses out there, you might feel that since you’re ordinary these clichéd speeches don’t work for you. You don’t see yourself changing the world or realizing your dream which in many cases might cease to exist. I am going to attempt to prove it wrong. My speech is about 5 big things that you are going to face after you have graduated.

Career: It is comparatively easy to get a job. But it takes a lot of grit and passion to get to your dream job. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when in you are in the commencement ceremony and when the speaker adorns your ego with words like #Dreams #Success #Changing the world. You know what? It is a sham.

You are more than likely to find a decent job which will pay your bills. You will soon realize that your work requires none of the skills you learned at school but will realize that “job satisfaction” is a hoax. You will work hard to impress your boss and then grow tired of it.

You shall slowly realize that people who don’t work as hard as you are getting ahead of you and you are running into a dead wall. You will doubt your worth often and feel like slamming your coffee against the coffee machine after the road rage you went through en route to work. And if you pick up a self-help book by Deepak Chopra, you know you’re going downhill. I have one advice for you

Mastery : Let me tell you how the world works. You are what you can do. As long as you can get the job done you will survive. Nothing else matters. Nobody but nobody (except maybe your mother) gives a flying fuck about what you are as a person. People have needs and as long as you fulfill them you can coast along. Look at any job description, you are not there to exchange pleasantries, build relationships or if you’re black contribute to diversity. You are hired to fulfill the needs of the company and as long as you do meet it. You will survive. And if you get good at it, you will still have other companies who would want to hire you. Not because they like you. But because they NEED you.

Tyler Durden was wrong. You ARE your job. You ARE the contents of your wallet. Society determines you by what you do and not who you are. Imagine you are at any social event. Some person comes up to you to have a chat. The rest of the conversation depends on what you do for a living. This is the microcosm of the society we live in.

Dreams:

We are encouraged to dream when we are kids but we are constantly brought up in way that we don’t realize it. When you dream you don’t really have boundaries. But when you feel mortal and look around you, there is only so much you can achieve. I am risking my reputation here, but you know what? It is OKAY to give up on your dreams.

For one simple reason, we evolve. Just like our dreams. It is not the end of the tunnel if you can’t achieve your goal. But you are not a failure. Yes, days will be longer and nights will be shorter. It is OKAY to give up and it is better for the economy too. 10% of American debt is on student loans. Creativity is an unforgiving business because of the latent uncertainties. But trust me, no one wipes their tears when they collect their paycheck which feeds their needs and vices alike.

Relationships:

In one of the episodes of my all-time favorite shows “Californication”. The character “Lew Ashby ” remarks to Hank moody that “In the end it is all about her”. Finding someone to share your life is one activity that will define the rest of your personal life. The definition of love should subjective lest should you fail and embarrass yourself chasing the dream girl/guy as promised by some sitcom/movie. Those being said, never marry someone without whom you cannot be happy. It will end in an abusive relationship. For you.

I will now cater the next few lines to my male friends who are still single. A lot of you have gone through your entire college life without sharing your feelings to your girl. You guys make the dreadful mistake that the only way to win a girl over is by impressing her with your good demeanor. You assume that there are two steps to the process

Step 1: Become her friend. Earn her trust be nice and kind to her and always be on your best behavior. And hope that one day she realizes that you are the guy for her.

There is no step 2, you think it would mean getting the girl. But you may not. You know why? Because SURPRISE you’ve been friend zoned. And you will only realize it when she walks away with a douchebag or at least who you think is a douchebag. And you will ask yourself, I held her so high in my regard. I put her priorities over me, even then, why doesn’t she like me? Think about it logically, if you put someone on a pedestal the only way they can look at you is downwards.

Whenever you see a pretty girl with another guy you will immediately arrive to a conclusion where you put the guy on a pedestal compared to you. He got her because he has a fancy job. He won her over because he is good looking etc…

Such excuses make you miserable. Being miserable is easy. Happiness takes *effort

Never doubt yourself ever. At the same time don’t go overboard to be good. Not being a pretentious prick doesn’t mean you’re eligible for the women of your dreams. Or in other words being a nice guy doesn’t qualify you for the love of your life. Women want men, not boys with emotions. Women want men who would change the world. The world wants men who will change it. I am sorry to disappoint any feminists in the audience.

Failure: It is very likely you will face failure in your life with unpredictable frequency. Some of you will be divorced, fired from your job and undergo other things that doesn’t bode well with the spirit of this occasion. And when you are defeated the whole world would scare you. You might want to curl into a fetal position and stare at the wall.

I think our greatest fear about the universe is not that it is dangerous but  that it is indifferent. Remember, However dark the abyss, we must individually stoke our own fire.

So what should you do when you fail? This is the biggest lesson that education teaches you.

Confidence and Grit

Dear men and women, we have seen civilizations built upon education, hard work and determination. If you read about it a career seems far less daunting. You have gained many valuable tools for survival in this great institution and I hope you use it to your behest.

I can promise you that these skills and tools won’t ensure you a safe journey and you shall not emerge unscathed. But at the end you will look back and relish at this awesome realm of time we call existence.

Cheers!

1- http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-you-better-person/