A local politician today, expressed his gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the opportunity to begin hoarding the new 2000 rupee note, as he said they were very colourful and attractive. “Where I live, the landscape is dull and dusty and the old notes just weren’t cutting it for me in terms of aesthetics and attractiveness,” he told some bored reporters who he had invited for a meal. “The rooms in which I had hoarded old notes were dull and dreary – especially that mucus green 500 note. Good riddance to that pink 1000 note also – they were beginning to get mouldy.”
The new purple 2000 rupee note, he pointed out, matched perfectly his curtains and carpet, which were both made up of the new 2000 rupee note. “The kids love this new colour and shape. They jump around and play Note Ban, a game I invented, where we pick up bricks of the new note – 1 lakh each – and laugh hysterically. Then we throw it at each other and scream,” he said.
Asked if the demonetization had affected him in any way, the politician said crossly, “Didn’t I just explain to you the change in colour palette in my house?”
What did he do with all the other notes? “We burnt them. It was fun.”
But wasn’t he affected by losing all that money? “Is this some kind of joke? Look how much money I make. Listen, if I had 200 crores of cash in my house, how long do you think it’ll take to make up that money? A year maximum. Till then, I’ll forego that Range Rover for my 2 year old turtle.”
He added, “Thank you Mr. Prime Minister. We were getting a bit bored by all this money but now you have given us purpose. The new is always more exciting for human beings, and new notes are no exception. Besides, 2000 rupee notes take up less space than the equivalent in 1000’s and 500’s so there’s that. All in all, excellent idea. Also, by the way, my driver’s mother stood in a queue for 40 hours in her village despite suffering from arthritis and dementia because there’s only one bank there. But hey, she had to give in her 3000 rupees of black money that she had saved up for 3 years, the rotten criminal. Awesome bro!”
With these triumphant words, the politician stripped down to his underclothes and charged into his money room where he dove head first into a wall of 2000 rupee notes, purple and towering.
There is a deep mystery surrounding the origins of Baba Ramdev, much like the mystery surrounding Patanjali products: Where do they come from? In whose mouth have they been? Why do they smell like Baba Ramdev?
The search for these answers took me all over the country, from the inner depths of a mental institution to the outer fringes of more mental institutions, from the bottom of the deepest lake to the top of the deepest lake (the surface) to the shores of said lake. I caught some fish in the same lake the next day.
But first, I must begin at the beginning, because the beginning like the start is the start from where everything begins.
It all began, or started, one day in November. I mention it because it was exactly one week before the day everything began. The day everything began was exactly one week after this day which I just mentioned. On that day, we were having tea, me and a friend, when suddenly my friend said, ‘Oh crap I need to do my taxes,’ and left. That was the end of that.
But just before he left he said something quite intriguing. He said, ‘Oh crap I need to do my taxes.’ What was this ‘crap’ that he spoke about? I couldn’t ask him because in the month it took me to realize this, he had already left the tea shop and I still hadn’t paid. Consequently I was thrown out and asked to visit a local medical shop that could solve all my problems. This establishment was but a minute away by foot, a little longer by metre, and yet for some reason that day it took me a whole hour to get there. The weather also seemed strange, like it was thinking of lollipops and school days, with a strange mellow sting, but that was probably the angry wasp on my face.
Anyway, what I found in that medical shop was the first step in this journey. Let me tell you what happened: as I approached the medical shop I caught sight of a man murdering another man and then telling him to get lost. This did not work. But when I reached the medical shop the murderer was there grinning and predicting cricket scores! This was too much for me. I confronted him angrily and said, ‘Sir, make sure you tell people to get lost before shooting them.’ He said, ‘But that would mean shooting them in the back.’ So I punched him and was arrested.
In jail, caught in the throes of delirium and depression, I was visited in my sleep by a man in an orange robe, in the dead of night. He promised me great riches but first he said I had to test his products. ‘What products?’ I asked, scared and confused by the orangeness of his robe. ‘All kinds of products. We have products for constipation, for diarrhoea, for cancer, for headache, for shortness, for blackness, for Westerness, for femaleness. All kinds of illnesses.’ I agreed and he set me free by giving the warden a blowjob.
For the next ten days, I was placed in a small room and made to eat powders of every different colour and taste imaginable. On the tenth day I had grown a ten foot tentacle on my elbow and was let go. But before I left the man in the orange appeared again and said, ‘If you speak of this to anyone, I will personally make sure you have alternating diarrhoea and constipation for the rest of your life,’ which would probably even out so I ignored his warning.
And so here is the story of the origins of Baba Ramdev. Who is Baba Ramdev? I don’t even know who Baba Ramdev is.
Of course this was only the beginning. Later, if time permits, I shall tell you the end, and the end, much like the beginning is where everything ends.
(Note: Attached is a transcript I found in my research. It appears to be a conversation between Baba Ramdev and someone called Death, possibly a politician.)
Baba Ramdev: Ini mini myni mo catch the tiger…who goes there?
Death: It is I, Death.
Baba Ramdev: You want medicine for constipation?
Death: I do not need this medicine because I do not have constipation.
Baba Ramdev: Watchu’ talking about boy? Everyone has constipation.
Death: I do not because my diet is a balanced diet and my exercise is a balanced exercise like squats.
Baba Ramdev: Some day, death bhai, some day, your butt will feel like you’re sitting on an apple, then you’ll go to a medical shop asking for Patanjali product.
Death: I have come to take you home.
Baba Ramdev: Baba Ramdev does not die.
Death: Baba who? I speak to you oh orange one.
Baba Ramdev: Baba Ramdev, that’s my name.
Death: Oh, hahahaha, oh, ahahahhahaa.
Baba Ramdev: What’s so funny?
Death: hahahaha (clutching stomach). Pardon this reckless expression of mirth. I could not help it as I know your true name to be Srinivasan Tuhnnumudi. The contrast is humourous
Baba Ramdev: How dare you laugh at Baba Ramdev. I can cure cancer with yoga (shrieks in a high pitched voice and launches into a series of yoga poses)
Death: And I can cure the world of you oh ‘Baba Ramdev’.
(Death rises in the air and plunges like a snake into the stomach of Baba Ramdev. Baba Ramdev fends him off with rapid Surya Namaskar.)
Death: You have grown strong Srini.
Baba Ramdev: Don’t call me that if you know what’s good for you. I have medicines that, and I quote, ‘are worse than death’.
Death: Yes I was contacted for a comment and after tasting your medicine I couldn’t help but agree. But what you do not know is even you can’t withstand the power of your own medicine.
(Suddenly death reaches into his deathly robe and pulls out a bottle and readies his hand to throw it.)
Death: Say goodbye ‘Baba’.
Baba Ramdev: (screaming and attempting Vajrasana) No, no, no…..
(End of transcript)
The government today categorically denied a proposal from some ancient Greeks to include Zeus worship as part of the Ministry of AYUSH citing lack of evidence.
‘Unlike ayurveda, unani, siddha and homeopathy there is no evidence supporting the efficacy of Zeus worship in curing any type of disease. We suggest to the ancient Greeks involved in this online petition to avoid further anti-national activities such as promoting Zeus worship in cancer wards. Moreover, the word AYUSHZW does not make sense. There is no such reference in the Vedas.’
Responding to a question regarding existence of evidence on the efficacy of the other forms of alternate medicine, spokesperson for the government, Mr. Swamy Sri Sri Dr. Sri His Holiness Gururaja Mahaprabhu Godliness Godhead said, ‘There is many evidence. This is how evidence works: one merely has to say “there is evidence.”‘
Hearing this, the petitioners, three ancient Greeks from the island of Mykonos named Prafulla Pothead, St. Augustus Badlybutthead and Deadlytired Stephenapolous, arrived at the press conference to loudly claim that there is evidence to support Zeus worship in the cures of many diseases such as bad smell of the genitals, cancer of the chin, and being unable to speak while eating any food that contains tomatoes.
The spectacle turned nasty when the Swamy stood up and demanded to see their genitals and then assured the gathered reporters that it was for purely scientific purposes that he wanted to examine their – in his words – ‘scraggly jewels’. The reporters accepted that answer and forced the Greek gentlemen to expose their itchy scrotums at which point the Swamy said, ‘See there is no smell. These men are liars. Zeus worship is anti-national and must not be allowed in this country.’
Hearing of this debacle a group of ancient Babylonians arrived on the scene and loudly demanded to see the Swamy’s exposed groin. The Swamy refused but then quietly made an appointment with them later on and was heard saying, ‘Let’s compare our wonders of the world; you show me your Hanging Gardens and I’ll show you my Taj Mahal.’
Another spokesperson for the government was then left behind to shout loudly, ‘Ayurveda works because once I had a cough and ate some powder and it was fine the next day; unani works because my uncle had a bad back and a bearded Muslim chap hit it with a blessed stick and he grew wings the next day and saved a chicken from a road; siddha works because my dog said so; Homeopathy works because nobody who ever eats homeopathic medicines falls ill and this is not because homeopathic medicines are basically sugar pills but because they are so effective that they cure your soul and even clean up your pool if you put less than zero of them into the water. Basically what I’m saying is we must take everyone at their word except for those bastards there who said Zeus worship helps with constipation and those cheats there who said that a unicorn butt-poked him last night and that it was a holy experience and that slut there who said she had to eat tree bark for three weeks because she didn’t have cash to buy food because of demonetisation.’ All the gathered reporters then stood up and repeated these words till sunset and then went to the local gowraksha to eat cow dung off the floor (and then washed it down with some delicious, warm cow piss).
The failing writer is more honest and self-reflective than the successful one because once he tastes success the tendency is to assume that every word he bangs out is wrought in gold. The failing writer goes back on every word a hundred times and even the 101st time he is convinced that his brain is made of liquid shit and the carcasses of diseased rats – how else can such pure drivel erupt from one’s fingers?
That under-confidence and crippling self-doubt, if left alone (and alive) for long enough can create great things. Unfortunately that under-confidence and crippling self-doubt also affects other parts of his life and more often than not the failing writer either gives up or puts a shotgun in his mouth before he can finish what would no doubt have been a great piece of writing.
A confident writer once he has felt the heady buzz of success can respond in two ways – either he remains on Earth and uses his success as evidence that he can, if he wants, create good work if he tries hard (which is rare). Or he can let the success get to his head and write everything as if, the moment he received that e-mail from a publisher stating the publishability of his work, he was possessed by the spirit of Vladimir Nabokov. And if this is the case, everything that flows out of his brain, through his fingers and onto the screen is platinum class, whereas, in reality, he is putting out half-assed garbage, without the stringency that self-doubt and low self-esteem guarantee.
Another reason the failing writer is more honest is that after many, many years of writing and nobody giving a shit, he stops to give a shit about others giving a shit, not out of some hardening of character, but rather out of sheer exhaustion. Once he stops giving a shit about what people think, he taps into a deeper (and often darker) part of his psyche. He begins to form a twisted mass made up of his reality, his fiction, his mind and his body. Soon he is no longer writing a book – he is just trying to climb out of a grave that he himself dug, in which he buried himself.
Thus writing becomes a way of saving himself, of getting through the demons of the day.
The successful writer is already out of the grave, has already saved himself from himself, and even though it is a cycle – because eventually even the successful writer will find himself in some dark hole and will have to save himself again – one can expect a few books that pander to ‘target audiences’, full of lazy cliches and weak words.
So if you are a failing writer, almost paralyzed by self-doubt and no esteem, keep at it – once you’re done with that work give it up to someone who you know will send it to a publisher (because you yourself can do no such thing) and you might be surprised how successful it turns out.
Coming back to writing after a long time, I find that my mind is much more scattered, much more thoughtless than the state in which I had left it. The break was not really a break – it was a mild shattering of the writing mind, which has morphed, at least superficially into a lazy, distracted, and jumbled mess – a regular mind to put it bluntly.
Every break from writing has a similar effect – the last one dissolved my hard-earned discipline of the previous few months, with a lethal infusion of nicotine, alcohol and joyful leisure. When I came back home, I no longer felt the drive to write (a drive which I had cultivated by ignoring my lack of drive). But after having so much fun, it didn’t seem that important anymore to ignore my feelings.
It is not permanent thankfully, as evinced by this thing that I am writing – eventually, the obsessive, compulsive writing mind whispers and knocks at my insides (but it does it slyly and destructively showing itself as anxiety and restlessness. Why can’t it just make itself obvious? It wouldn’t be the writing mind then would it?) and eventually my legs take me to my desk and my fingers begin to tap away.
It never gets easier, even though I know the logistics of these conflicting creatures within me – the happy creature and the writer creature. I know the signs that one is showing itself, I know the tricks that the other employs to make me obey its desires – yet I am helpless to their rise and fall. And I am ok with it to a certain extent – as always, it is a balance I need to find and not an absolute solution.
And so here I am writing again, happy that I’ve come back to it, mad that I’ve taken such a long break, tortured, anxious, satisfied, relaxed, and ready to write, write, write, until the next break, and after that where this whole tragic, triumphant drama will play itself out once again. And again and again till I am cold and dead.
It might seem obvious that nothing much needs to be said of a place that brings about nausea and a headache on first contact. But something does need to be said of Delhi because it is home to 45 million people, unlike Chernobyl, and many of these 45 million people have a lot to say in its defence.
So here I am saying something about Delhi in a fair and balanced way.
I fucking hate Delhi. I hate it for many reasons – most of them subjective – but I hate it most of all because I could not breathe the air. In my opinion, there is nothing more objective than breathing (because you do it without thinking about it) and not being able to breathe is a pretty good reason to hate a place.
I hate it also because it is the heart of the hypocrisy and irrationality that is India. It is the heart of this mangled, spread-eagled corpse that we are supposed to love and respect. It is the heart of a hurricane of lies and corruption, of cynicism and manipulation, of the machinations of a carefully controlled democracy, controlled by people with not a single democratic bone in their bodies.
Now that I’ve run through the objective reasons of why I hate Delhi let me give you some observations that perhaps feed into this intense hatred I have.
1. The people on the streets stare at you with either a terrifying dullness or inexplicable aggression. We spoke to one man who would lose to a tape-worm – lose at anything, including giving directions.
The people at parties stare at you with a sick hunger or a terrifying fullness.
3. The best thing about Delhi are the Uber drivers, which shows that Delhi cannot save itself – help must come from outside.
A piece of layered fabric designed by some foreign multinational that goes
around your nose and mouth is your best friend in Delhi.
5. Wealth must be displayed. If it cannot be displayed it is not wealth. All this is coming from a person who travels around Delhi in air-conditioned sweetness, who visits in multi-story homes, who wears tailored suits and tuxedos to wedding parties. I can only imagine what a person who lives on the streets of Delhi has to say about its toxic air and its putrefying wealth.
If you are at all sensitive about inequality then Delhi will fuck you up. If you are at all sensitive to the environment, Delhi will fuck you up. If you are at all sensitive about superficiality, about fake things, about the quality of human interaction, Delhi will fuck you up. In other words, Delhi will fuck you up. It will fuck with your brain, with your eyes, nose, and throat, with your lungs and your stomach. It will fuck with the very blood that flows through your veins. Then it will spit you out – a glob of dirty, coughing, waste into planes or trains or automobiles and when you return to your city, it is like walking out of the smoking area in an airport – the air smells pure and cool, the people are breathing healthy air, knowing that every breath they take isn’t killing them, and the world opens out. Then you feel truly grateful that you are not living in that festering anus (an anus so close to the brain is never a good thing) that is Delhi.
Everyone has opinions. But
can we agree that some opinions are stupid and some are not? This is different
from accusing the opinionators of being stupid or clever. We are talking about
the validity of the point expressed, not the intellectual or aesthetic tastes
of the expresser.
For example, if you think Ronaldo is a better player than Messi, that is a stupid thought – it doesn’t make you stupid. It could be the case that most people who have this thought are generally stupider than those who think the other way, but that is a different matter and must be concluded only after a competent scientific study.
What about the opinion that ‘Breaking Bad’ is a better show than ‘The Wire?’ There is no language invented to describe what a stupid opinion this is. It is stupid on so many levels that you are tempted to question the upbringing and general living environment of someone who expresses this opinion – Who traumatized you when you were young? What hazardous chemicals do you breathe on a daily basis? What did you put in your morning coffee?
But we must resist this temptation. Perhaps they have an emotional connection to Breaking Bad, some deep, subconscious association that is ignited whenever the show plays. Or perhaps they haven’t watched ‘The Wire.’ Either way one must not jump to conclusions about the kind of books they read (do they read?) or the kind of conversations they have (do they listen?).
But seriously, we must recognize that some people just don’t know enough about particular subjects and still have very strong opinions about them. They love having the opinion because it affirms their spirit, makes them feel like they have an opinion (which they do) but they do not take the time and effort to form a responsible opinion. They do not recognize the privilege of having an opinion and having the freedom to express it – it is a power and must be used responsibly. Sometimes when I express an opinion, and just after I express it, I ask myself what I just said, I feel ashamed of having opened my mouth. What was the need to say that? I don’t know anything about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. So why did I just say that the people who think it is a good book are unhealthily stupid and if we are ever to go to Mars, they must be kept here on Earth for the very important job of making sure everyone gets on the ships and to hang around just in case someone else is left behind. Am I expressing something I truly believe and have examined, or am I just trying to imply that somebody I knew who once expressed this opinion is unspeakably idiotic? I admit it, it’s probably the latter. And now that I think about it, it feels like this whole piece I’ve just written is of a similar nature. Thus, it is best ignored.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
I’m quite certain of the existence of vast quantities of literature on trains and train journeys, but I am also quite certain that all of it is very different from the other. I know this because trains are unpredictable: they have not yet come under the purview of internationalism and professionalism, and differ vastly between not only countries, but between regions within countries, and indeed vary temporally too––the same train on the same day, in the same berth and coach, but with a gap of a month, will be quite different from the one taken earlier. Unlike flights, which have been hammered into uniformity and smooth shapes, by a combination of the possibly terrible consequences of even a slight disturbance, trains remain from an earlier generation, in which the suffering of a traveller is assumed, his expectations unexpressed (or even unthought), and if articulated, his complaints remain completely ignored. Though at times frustrating, tiring, and discouraging, train journeys offer some interesting experiences.
Put into such a small area, with no escape, passengers begin to talk, as this is seen as the best way to pass the time. Very few people actually see the time as something to be used; rather, it is seen as useless time, the time between work, or between family. Passengers are seen generally supine and snoring, or in animated talk about small things (important topics are generally avoided, possibly because of the lack of an escape route in case of a disagreement––is this conscious?) The tone is cordial and polite, and seldom are people rude to each other. Probably, this too is a measure taken to prevent uncomfortable situations and not a reflection of the quality of the people present. This shows also, that even the rudest and most beastly of people, feels personal discomfort at being rude to others, and generally does it only in open spaces and or if they are in a group. Indeed, a group of young men, even in the casual laboratory-experiment atmosphere of a train journey, are bound to misbehave, especially if there are some pretty young women around. But on the whole, we make a pleasant bunch.
If you are young and alone, attention is bound to fall upon you. Elderly gentlemen will engage you regardless of your lack of reciprocation and will insert small details of their life into the questions they are asking (because let’s be honest; people are more interested in themselves than they are in you).
In India, where boundaries between private and public do not exist, if one is slightly “different” (the difference lies more in quantity and not quality), the conversation is bound to get uncomfortable very soon.
On a recent journey, the eldering gentleman in my compartment yanked the direction of the conversation to religion with a simple question: ‘Hindu or Muslim?’ His omission of numerous other religions was out of ignorance rather than bigotry, and his reaction when I told him that I was in fact neither, and not only neither of these but none at all, was mild shock, followed by amusement. The conversation went like this (he spoke in Hindi, and the curious abruptness of his initial question and subsequent responses is unfortunately not clear upon translation):
Man: ‘Hindu or Muslim?’
Man: ‘You have to be one or the other.’
Me: ‘No. I’m nothing.’
Man: Arre, you have to be something or the other.’
Me: No. I’m nothing. I am, what they call ‘Naastik’ (atheist).
Man: Accha, you’re an atheist!
Man: I see, an atheist! (chuckles with amusement). He wore a dirty, golden-brown safari suit and a cheap golden watch and told me that he had been in a car accident near his hometown in Rajasthan––I never asked. The safari suit wasn’t the only thing ugly about him––in fact, everything was. The hair on his cuboidal head was oiled and lay plastered like thick, flat snakes. He had a look of utter boredom and on numerous occasions asked if I had movies on my laptop (the use of the word ‘picture’ to refer to the medium of film perhaps is an indication of his generation). And this wasn’t the only thing that betrayed his anachronism. Soon after finding out that I was on my way to meet my girlfriend, and armed already with the knowledge of my religious views, he probed further into the cast question, (identity is the only thing that matters to some people), and seemed disappointed when speaking about the unimportance of such matters in big cities. “Boys and girls just get married,” he said, “without regard for cast or level of household.” Ill-disguised was his follow up statement: “There’s a lot of goondagiri in Bangalore. So many prostitutes near Majestic.” Soon he realized that I wasn’t much for talking, but my change of compartment had more to do with the conversation ending than this revelation. Presently, I heard him talking to someone else about the car accident and happily for him, he had found some people who agreed that his unquestioning belief in God was what saved him from that brutal wreck. Perhaps now God could save him from the brutal wreck that was his life, I thought.
The successes of your
friends are always a complicated thing; because unlike the successes of your
enemies you can’t hate them for it. You like your friends and you want them to
be happy, but their success reminds you of your failures and you find yourself
in two minds. One one hand you would rather not hear about their
impressive accomplishments because they make you feel useless, a blight on the
earth; on the other hand, you need to show off to people what your friends
are doing, in the hope that at least by association people think you’re
It is difficult to not feel jealousy – it is human to do so. With people you don’t like the transition from jealousy to belittling and hatred is an easy one. They probably don’t deserve their success anyway because they are stupid jerks and sleep around. With your friends you can’t slide into hatred; they definitely deserve their success and are nice people (why else would they be your friends?). So the jealousy lingers for a while. Sometimes, like milk, if the jealousy is allowed to stand, it will turn sour and begin to eat away at the foundations of your friendship. Sometimes it dissolves into admiration and pride. Mostly it just fades away with memory, till the next time your friend succeeds, and then it comes back and lingers again. Unless of course you have in the meantime succeeded at something impressive. In that case you have something to say for yourself and you neutralise each other’s stories.
All this makes sense in the first place only if you think of yourself as a failure. If you think of yourself in impressive terms, the coolest cat around, then no achievement by your friends will make you jealous or confused. You are, after all, the shit and you have an impressive number of stories to tell; so many in fact that your friends can barely get their stories in.
Eventually, if you like your friends enough, you will stop feeling jealousy and come to terms with the fact that they are amazing people, much more amazing than you will ever be. The sooner you have this realisation the sooner you can go back to having a good time as they wax eloquent about their numerous and varied accomplishments (or the accomplishments of their successful friends).