A Guide to Travelling Well

Dear All, 
As you know traveling makes you great because it has been said so by many people. ‘The more you travel the happier you will be’ is an incontrovertible fact. In fact, there is a theorem called ‘The Traveler’s Co-efficient’ that states: With every 10 km increase in travel distance, a human being’s sadness will reduce by an absolutely whole number such as 3 or 4 depending on location of travel and number of Instagram posts created subsequently.’ 
The second part of the theorem states:
‘Coolness, as indicated by the definition of Ram and Shyam (Cool, Not Cool, 1973), as being ‘The net amount of casual conversation one can successfully emit in a social occasion’ increases dramatically with the number of km traveled. But this occurs in a non-linear manner and is sometimes known to work the other way. Of course, this depends on if you have a Facebook account.’
As you can see, traveling is recommended by almost everybody as a great way to be satisfied with your miserable existence. You can see things and at the same time be cool by eating a large variety of food items. Hence I have decided to explain how best to travel: how to prepare, what to do while traveling to most efficiently make everyone else feel like shit, and most importantly how to convincingly tell people that you had an incredible time even though you didn’t and would rather have laid in bed for a week and watch shows on Netflix (but this as you know would not show up on your passport). Let’s begin okay?

1. Pack for the trip you want to have not the trip you’re actually going on: 
This is an important but tricky one. If say you’re going to Pune but you want to go to Egypt, throw in a pair of stuffed camels – trust me it’ll help with the photographs later on. 
If you’re traveling to London but would rather come home to your family in Chitradurga, make sure you carry lots of Vicodin so you can appear thrilled in your Instagram photos and write that you ‘feel blessed’. 

2. Always keep in mind that the very fact that you’re traveling makes you a superior being:
See, you’re going to Jamaica. This makes you better than anyone who hasn’t been to Jamaica ok? So relax and be secure in the fact that everyone else knows that you’re way cooler because you’ve been to Jamaica. 

3. Everywhere is beautiful and a lovely experience:
This is very important: every breathing second of your existence in any place that is Instagram or Facebook worthy is an immeasurable and unparalleled experience that touches your very soul, understand? There is no fuzz on this. Be sure to include the following terms in your fascinating posts: ‘Amazing people’, ‘amazing food’, ‘peaceful place’, ‘rain-kissed’, ‘life-changing experience’ and most importantly ‘blessed.’ There is no travel unworthy of traveling because the very concept of travel is superior to the specifics of the travel. 

4. If someone stabs you don’t talk about it. 

5. Once your travel ends, make sure everyone knows about it:
As you know, you cannot travel or enjoy travel in a vacuum. Your happiness depends on the deeply spiritual experience of traveling and also how many likes you get on Instagram or Facebook. What is the point of going to Chile if you also can’t tell everyone and their cousin about how incredible you are that you’ve been to Chile? Did you go to Chile or did Chile come and beg you to visit? Why is your face all over the landscape? Share your happiness with everyone and know that there is no happiness without other people. 

6. Selfie time!
Lol, did you think I was going to leave out the mighty selfie? Among all of man’s inventions surely this is the greatest. It allows you to plaster your face on the pyramids of Giza, to display your grinning mug on the slopes of the Himalayas. The scenery is meaningless unless superimposed by your goofy face to show what a good time you were having! Part 3 of the Traveler’s Co-efficient states: ‘The sum total of a holiday’s success is directly proportionate to the number of selfies taken during said travel multiplied by the number of likes on social media.’ 
Why would you even consider that your friends want to see where you went and not your dumb face? That is an absurd and unscientific belief. 

7. Lastly, have a great time because otherwise, nobody wants to hear about it alright? And since you always want to talk about it regardless of whether people want to hear about it, make sure you had a good time even if you didn’t. 

Photograph ‘The Colosseum is Large’ © Roshan Ali

Religion has Nothing to do with Religion

Religion has nothing to do with religion – this is a fact. Sounds strange? Consider this: terrorism has nothing to do with religion. If terrorism has nothing to do with religion – a fact, despite the numerous frequently elucidated connections that some racists and Islamophobes try making between Islamic texts and the acts of Islamists – then religion has nothing to do with anything because once you deny the links between religion and religious terrorism – as we are rightly doing – then one can confidently say that religion has no link with anything. It’s like this: if you deny the link between the game of football and the football itself then it becomes very easy to deny its link with football boots, football teams, football grounds, sports, teams, competition, money etc…The obvious point here is that Islam has nothing to do with anything. 
If Islam has nothing to do with anything then only stating this is Islamophobic, gross, and racist (because naturally some people will be offended by the statement ‘Islam has nothing to do with anything’). So we must include all religions into this statement because all religions are the same and saying anything else is gross and racist. Conclusion: religion has nothing to with anything. And we do not use the word ‘anything’ lightly. We mean it. Anything includes even religion. What are we left with? Religion has nothing to do with religion. 
Say we allow that religion has something to do with religion. This is dangerous. Let’s work backward from this seemingly obvious and harmless statement. If religion has something to do with religion, then one could say that religious people are in some ways inspired to act in some ways by their religion. In what ways are people influenced by their religion? These kinds of questions lead to a slippery slope, where one could easily draw a strong connection between religious texts and the actions of its believers. This must be avoided at all costs. 
And so for the benefit of all, for everyone’s information, let us make the following a fact: religion has nothing to do with religion. 

Standing Up by Sitting Down

To anyone who’s been to a movie theatre lately it should be absolutely clear that authority doesn’t want you to have a good time. Or, if you are going to have fun, despite their statutory warnings and public service messages, authority will at least try to inoculate you against entertainment’s immorality by giving you a vaccine of nationalism. What else explains the mandatory national anthem before every film? What other connection exists between entertainment and nationalism than that authority thinks one is the opposite of the other? Entertainment – violent, sexual, comedic, Unindian – is immoral. Nationalism – somber, serious, patriotic, Indian – is moral.
We are so used to this attitude that I had forgotten that it is Puritanism, which, in the words of H.L. Mencken is “…the haunting fear that someone somewhere may be happy.” 
All this is saying that I don’t buy the Supreme Court’s rationale that the mandatory playing of the national anthem before every film is to instill “committed patriotism and nationalism.” I don’t think the Court is that stupid: can intelligent people really believe that playing the national anthem and making people stand up, converts anarchists and traitors into patriots and proud Indians? Do they really think people who have no love for their country can be forced to feel affection and pride by making them stand up before watching a movie?
Because let’s examine why somebody would be unpatriotic: one, he or she, is living an individual life, and does not identify with a mostly meaningless category called country, and is indifferent to India. He or she does not love nor hate this political entity because India allows him or her to live a healthy, happy life. Perhaps he or she should love the country for precisely this reason, but is forcing empty rituals on a person like this the best way to inspire a change in attitude?
Two: Our citizen is a rebel, finds patriotism and nationalism distasteful. It reminds the citizen of jingoism, bigotry, xenophobia and he doesn’t want to partake in symbolism which encourages these attitudes. He will not rise because he has been told to rise – if he feels genuine respect and love for his country he will express these feelings, not by standing which he thinks is a hollow and meaningless symbol but with words. But mostly he feels anger and hatred towards the country of his birth because he does not share the same values with the values that the government is trying to promote. Sure, he feels love sometimes but also hate. Is a love-hate relationship with the country of your birth unacceptable? Does it make this peaceful, tax-paying citizen a traitor?
Three, our citizen is absolutely hateful of our country. He feels no connection with its people, no sentiment towards its culture and no love for its religions. But he keeps these things to himself, incites no violence, lets his patriotic friends stand – is this person a traitor? Should he be charged with treason for this thoughtcrime of hating his country? 
And lastly, the person in question is an anarchist, a terrorist or a foreign citizen. This person cannot be expected to love this country, and no amount of gluteus raising his going to change his or her mind. 
And let say it does work, that people actually become more patriotic and loving of their country every time they listen to the national anthem and stand up; what does this say about these people? That they are so weak-kneed that a mere song makes their legs straighten? Do we want to be in a country filled with people who do not question thoughtless directions from the highest court and whose minds are so easily influenced? 
There’s a word that describes a country that forces love and adulation upon its citizens: totalitarianism. Are we a totalitarian country? Perhaps some people want it to be one, and if they make this clear it’ll save them and their resistors a lot of time and confusion.
But the most troubling instance of this totalitarian instinct came for me towards the end of the film ‘Dangal.’ When the national anthem played inside the movie, people began to rise one by one. It is possible that people were moved beyond words and rose automatically, but I am willing to bet that some people thought that it was now mandatory to stand every time the national anthem plays, even if it is in a movie and even without explicitly being told to. As Saul Bellow said in the Adventures of Augie March, “Everybody knows there is no fineness or accuracy of suppression; if you hold down one thing, you hold down the adjoining.” In this case, the ones who are being held down, are the ones who are standing.

11 Ways to Write Nothing

They say you must write what you know and what I know best is not writing. So keeping these credentials in mind, here are 11 ways to get no writing done for people starting out on their writing adventure:

1. Emulate: Everyone has writing heroes – mine are Orwell, Joyce, Nabokov, Hitchens, and others. But a sure way to get nothing done is to try and emulate their writing. What do I mean? Well, if you write something, don’t go back and read it and hate yourself because it’s not as good as Joyce or Orwell. The fact is, you will never be as good as Joyce or Orwell. The sooner you realize this the better for everyone; especially you, because instead of playing the genius game and losing constantly you can move on to what you’re decent at, like writing about not writing.   

2. Stylize: Similar to the first point – don’t try to write in a certain way. You do not have the skill to pull it off yet. Write content first and ignore style, at least for the first draft. And you don’t have content and have only a style in mind, don’t write till you think up some content. 

3. Edit before finishing – Once you have an idea, or a vague idea of what you want to write, start and finish before reading it and editing. If you keep editing, your brain will go into detail mode and lose the bigger picture. If you finish and have a whole, it’s much easier to go back and edit. 

4. Worry – If you start worrying you will write nothing. Forget what people will think of you or your work and just write. If it’s no good, start a business – at least you know you’re not a writer. If it’s good, congratulations, you achieved something very few people achieve. 

5. Depend on inspiration and creativity – Inspiration and creativity are both highly unpredictable and irregular visitors. Sometimes they arrive early morning and stay the whole day, drinking all your booze and producing some genius level writing. Sometimes they just drink all the booze and do no work. Sometimes, it’s months between visits. And they never warn you of their unscrupulous plans. Depending on those two fuckers will ruin you completely, and probably leave you a drunk. So don’t depend on them. Depend instead on discipline – he (he would be a she if I was a woman) might sound boring and unromantic, but he’s the only one who comes when you need him and doesn’t leave unless you tell him to leave. In the end, discipline is your only true friend and only he will give you freedom (see Jocko Willink). 

6. Talk about your writing – Writing is a messy, strange, confusing, numinous and largely unconscious process and the last thing you want to do is to start talking about it. It’s like making soup – you put everything in, you stir it, and you let it simmer and cook till the final product is ready for consumption. Would you suddenly put a hole in the bottom of the vessel and let things out? I know you’re thinking it’s not a good analogy because speaking doesn’t empty your brain, but in fact when it comes to writing I think it does exactly that. Let your subconscious work with the mess in your head till the exact moment you have to put it down on paper (or screen). Fiddling with this primordial soup will tip the balance between spoken and the unspoken, said and unsaid, and take away some from your final effort. 

7. Sit in front of the screen before you know what you’re going write – The computer screen is like a brightly coloured black hole – it sucks your attention and focus and tears them to pieces. Always decide what you’re going to write before you open a blank page on whatever software you’re using, or you will get distracted, annoyed, depressed or plain lost before you type one word. 

8. Check Facebook – If you’re writing a book, chances are you have low self-esteem, low-confidence, have some form of anxiety or depression and haven’t achieved much for a while. None of this is good if you want to check your feed on Facebook, which shows only how awesome other people are doing. Check once a week, after a dose of artificially induced confidence preferably. 

9. Write only one thing at a time – When you write you get stuck: this is a fact of the universe as sure as the speed of light and the idiocy of Trump. If you’re writing only one thing, you will abandon it and watch YouTube videos and you will become depressed and hate yourself for the rest of the week. Instead, work on multiple pieces, which provide varying degrees of challenge. If you can’t seem to get ahead in the novel, switch to your piece on how VR porn will likely ruin relationships. Switching to something within the domain of writing will distract you just enough without allowing you to lose your focus. 

10. Calm the fuck down – Don’t stress. Stop mid-sentence and take a deep goddamn breath. If you have the ideas and you have the discipline something will emerge. Patience is a great tool to increase the rate and quality of your work.  11. Accept – Accept the kind of writer you are and stop trying to be the next Joyce or Rowling. If you’re good this won’t stop you from becoming better. If you’re bad, it will allow you to accept that maybe writing should be a hobby and not a career. 

Radius of Flag’s Patriotic Effect Unclear – Government Enquiry Ongoing

The government today initiated a high-level enquiry into determining the radius of the patriotic effect of flags. “Since we are installing flags at a cost of about 45 lakhs in all Central Universities, we thought it fit to study the radius of the effect of nationalism that these flags will have on students,” said Mr. Vikram Chauhan, Minister of Nationalism. “We cannot afford to have fringe elements not affected by the flags. Hence, we will make sure the flags are installed at the right height so as to instil pride and patriotism in even the farthest corner of universities such as JNU.” As per the initial report prepared by the team, the patriotism cast by the flags is in a conical shape, the apex of which is the topmost part of the flag (not the pole). The cone forms at angles of around 47 degrees from the apex towards the ground, where the base is a circle of pure, optimum patriotism. “We have found that people outside this circle often have anti-national sentiments such as no respect for our culture, for Gow Mata, for our vision of a Hindu nation. They have no hatred for Pakistan (those choothias) and think beating is not a good response for anti-nationalism. But when we threw them into the circle, in about 10 minutes, they had miraculously reversed their opinions and some even started chanting our Honourable PM’s name, which was unprecedented.” When asked if their change of heart had anything to do with conditions of the experiments, Mr. Chauhan said, “No, it had nothing to do with us. We surrounded them only to observe and the sticks in our hands were to mark out the effect of the flags on the ground. They were not afraid at all.” Mr. Chauhan, newly appointed Minister of Nationalism also stressed that they have no problem if the effect of the flags went beyond the boundaries of the universities. “We can expect an overflow of about 5-6 percent, but we think it is a good thing because passersby will also benefit. They may leave home thinking of not voting for BJP but by the time they reach work, they’re dressed in saffron and have Rajnathji’s face imprinted on their t-shirts.” He also said that they took the decision only after a 5-hour long high-level meeting on whether there was any better way to spend 45 lakhs. They concluded that there was not. In the future, the government will consider installing a 10000-foot high flag to solve all the nation’s problems. “This flag will have a perch on top to look into Pakistan,” he added. 

Photograph ‘Flag is Torn’ by Roshan Ali

A Guide to Coolness

Food, water, shelter, sex, safe spaces and coolness. These are the six essential constituents of a happy and successful life. The first five are self-explanatory, but what about coolness? How does one go about being cool? Here are some top tips from our experts on how to be cool in today’s world. 

 1. Be offended: To be offended is a fundamental right of every human being. It even trumps the right to free speech, and the right to free thought. If you are to become a successful and much talked about person in the social circle of whichever city you live in, it is fundamental that you are offended constantly, no matter how small the perceived transgression by those rapist Right wingers, or those child molesting Lefties, or those immoral murdering atheists. Quality of offence taken rarely matters; it is the quantity by which one is offended that truly sets you apart and this is indicated by how many times you say ‘offensive’ in a particular day. And make no mistake, even though saying ‘that’s offensive’ is not an argument, who says you need to make arguments anymore? Arguments are so 2010. These days the best way to confront something you don’t agree with is to say you’re offended. But don’t get carried away; it is important to be offended by exactly the same things your friends are offended by. If you digress in your offence taking, you might alienate your friends, and in turn become the offence giver. Oh, the horror! 

2. Hate America: A very effective means to coolness heaven is to hate America. It doesn’t really matter why you hate America, or if half your family lives there, or if you studied in Harvard, or if you speak American, or watch American TV shows, or watch American films, or wear American clothes, or follow American celebrities on Instagram, or anything really. These are all insignificant things about America. Have you heard of the First Amendment of the American Constitution? Obviously you don’t care if it guarantees unrestricted free speech. Bosnia? Couldn’t matter less to you. NASA? Who the fuck gives a shit? Iraq? FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT AMERICANS ZIONIST PIGS CREATED ISIS. You just got a whole lot of browny points from that group of friends who read Chomsky on foreign policy. Periodically say things like, ‘I fucking hate that country man, it’s fucked up the world!’ and everyone will absolutely agree with you. Congratulations, you’re all absolutely cool!

3. Don’t mention Islam: One thing you should never do, and mind you this is the Golden Rule of coolness since September 11, 2001, is mention Islam. Because if you mention Islam, you’ll go down some awkward roads that will lead to very uncool things like Islamophobia (note: the word Islamophobia can hike up the cool factor in any social gathering. Context, accuracy etc…don’t really matter. Just randomly say the word next time and someone is bound to applaud), or discussion of the contents of certain holy books that shall remain unmentioned. These awkward and inconvenient discussions might offend someone. See point 1 for an explanation of how this makes you cool. 

4. Hate Modi: A blanket, comprehensive and absolutely total and pure hatred of our PM Narendra Modi is essential. It will guarantee you access to almost all of a certain kind of social gathering that you undoubtedly want to be part of. In place of nuance and discussion, you may holler once in a while that you hate him and he’s a psychopath, Fascist, mass murderer.

5. Love Modi: A blanket, comprehensive and absolutely total and pure love of our PM Narendra Modi is essential. It will guarantee you access to almost all of a certain kind of social gathering that you undoubtedly want to be a part of. In place of nuance and discussion, you may holler once in a while that you love him and that he’s a prophet of progress, a maker of great roads, and ‘Gujarat, Gujarat, Gujarat.’ 

6. Use Facebook effectively: Who is the coolest of us all? Obviously, the ones who put up fantastic political think pieces on Facebook. Who is uncool? The one who puts up shitty political think pieces on Facebook that you don’t agree with. It’s easy to see which path to take.  These are just some of the ways you can become way cool in your social circles. We hope you learn something from this article and if you do become cooler leave a comment to let others know that it really works!

Photograph ‘Cool Thai Guy’ by Roshan Ali

Diwali Blues

Now that Diwali is over and the noxious smoke dissipates, and the bombs fall silent, ask yourself these questions: what makes sane, reasonable, educated and peaceful people act like hooligans? What makes them do things that they would otherwise consider illegal and dangerous? What makes them do things that they would otherwise consider harmful to their children, to the sick, to the elderly? What makes them do things that they otherwise know destroy the very air we breathe, destroy the little bit of peace that nighttime brings?
The answer: culture and religion. Nothing else makes a sensible man throw out all notions of civic, environmental, moral, neighborly responsibility like religion and culture.
Somehow, culture and religion have become magic spells that throw a switch in smart people and make them behave like idiots.
Imagine we ask an alien: there is a certain ritual that humans perform every year – it causes the air to become unbreathable, it terrifies pets, it makes war-like noise levels, but people have fun. Should this be permitted? What do you think the alien would say?
But the alien doesn’t know the perversion that culture and religion cause to reasonable discussion.  
When you weigh the positives and the negatives, religion, and culture always tip the scale in their favour.
Horrifying, noxious smoke that tortures the asthmatics among us; terrifying eardrum scarring bombs that send our beloved pets howling underneath beds and tables – these things have no chance against the weight and might of culture and religion.
It’s not all negative: Diwali brings family together; people have fun. Can’t you do this without dirtying our common air, without shattering the night with weapons-grade explosives? Here’s a moral guideline you can follow: things that are fun should not harm other people. Is that so hard to follow?
As if this country doesn’t have enough problems with pollution.
Culture and religion are two sides of the same grimy, entitled coin and one thing we know about entitlement is that it should never be encouraged.
But of course, no argument will ever work because the response always is: “It’s my culture.”

Photograph ‘Early Trash’ © Roshan Ali

Channeling Aliens

I stumbled on this video on one of my YouTube down-the-rabbit-hole sessions (which I think is something everyone should do once in a while, to remind themselves of the sheer variety of human experiences that people undergo). It is a compilation of people claiming to channel aliens. It is an astounding video and I suggest you take a moment to watch it before reading on. (Update: the video seems to have been removed. But if you type ‘Channeling aliens’ into the YouTube search bar, you’ll find plenty of similar ones).
I don’t know what you think when you see this kind of thing. I can probably guess that most people would laugh and dismiss these clips as the ravings of frauds and madmen. Not all though: There is an entire channel on YouTube called ‘ET Whisperer’, dedicated to one man’s channeling of alien and supernatural spirits. A brief skim through the comment section will show you that there are people who really believe in the unusual powers of these people. You can find the channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TReBoryitNE
To those who are willing to give the benefit of doubt to these men and women seen in the videos I ask you to consider these few options: 
1. They are frauds: They are intentionally fooling people and it’s all an act. 
2. They are deluded: They actually believe that they are channeling extraterrestrial beings. 
3. They are mentally unhinged: These are symptoms of some serious mental disease. 
4. They are actually channeling the voices of beings of an alien civilization: It’s one hundred percent real.  Now I ask you a simple question: which is most likely? 
Is it more likely that they are being contacted through some medium as-yet undiscovered by 200 years of modern science, by beings who live thousands of light years away, in perfect English? Or are they deluded? Is it more likely that they, of all the millions of credible public figures on planet Earth, have been chosen by these god-like beings to spread their message? Why not choose Mahatma Gandhi or Albert Einstein? Or are they frauds? 
(This reasoning can also be used to examine the claims of prophets and godmen)
The first three options are somewhat similar. The fourth is the interesting one: because if it is true it will force us to reconsider everything we know about modern science and to change our fundamental understanding of nature. This is no small thing. 

To me, the answer to the question of what is most likely is 1, 2 or 3. Let me know which one you think is most likely. 


 

I Can’t Write

So much of my writing life has been not writing. Some would say this doesn’t make me a writer. But I am a writer precisely because I am constantly struggling with not being able to write. Find me one writer who can write easily and I’ll show you an unserious writer. 
This is what makes a writer a writer: every sentence it writes, it hates. 
This thing I’ve just written for example – It’s the worst piece of writing I’ve ever seen. It shouldn’t be allowed to exist. It is atrociously clumsy, unbelievable uninsightful, sickeningly obvious. I hate it with all my heart. 
And now I can’t write anymore, I’m stuck; hating myself for my poor ability with words, unable to come up with anything clever or funny (or clever and funny), about to give up, my mind like polluted air, choking on the fumes of a past full of regret, blocked by vague and nervous plans, exhausted by ideals and aspirations. 
But I don’t give up. Look – here’s another sentence I pushed out of my constipated mind. And here’s another one. And another. 
Writing is very much like taking a shit – sometimes nothing comes out and sometimes it’s a goddamn deluge and you’re left wondering what you ate last night, and you examine the excrement and see strange things that you’ve never seen before, strands of this, seeds of that. It’s a disgusting, smelly and lonely process. 
But ultimately it is a relief. 
The boy who lived across the street was walking one evening when he found a marble on the road. He picked up the marble and examined it but it was dirty. So he licked his finger and wiped the marble with his spit. It was a blue marble. He took it home and put it on his bedside table. 
In the evening when the boy’s father came home he showed him the marble which was blue. His father said, “Who’s is it? Did you steal it?” Then he beat the little boy till his mother came in from the kitchen and said dinner was ready. 
That night the boy cried and cried and finally he swallowed the marble and it got stuck in his throat and he choked to death. 
The end. 

Photograph ‘Oil and Water’ © Roshan Ali