Your Ham is My Spam

If we are not blood-related or haven’t ever eaten a meal together, you don’t have my permission to add me to a group chat.

But of course, you don’t know that. So you’ll add me anyway. I will spend a total of twenty-eight seconds to scan what sort of fuckery I am being sucked in. Post which, I will collect my peace, my battery percentage, and my mobile data, and moonwalk the fuck out of your migraine-inducing, self-patting, spam-generating, chat factory.

Shit, if I liked spam so much, I would reply back to that Nigerian prince asking how can I get all that $100000000 USD I have just won. Or appreciate every time the elegance of the same diya that comes to me with “Happy Diwali” written  all over it, from 20 other people, who also got it from 20 other people, who also got it from 20 other people.

You see, I don’t need that kind of mental congestion on a daily basis, and I don’t want my phone to blink thrice as much as Miley Cyrus on coke does. I like to keep my notifications bar cleaner than my toilet; no toilet skid mark, by no shitty skid, Mark.
I also keep my friend circle small (it’s more like a half moon) and my chat list smaller. People who care about me, call me. People who are a little further away on the friendship spectrum, text me to find out if they can call me.

Then there is an entire gamut of irrelevance, coincidence, and forceful companionship jammed in the obscure bites on my phone. These ones text me once in a blue moon about certain things under the sun, and I text them back. Memes, emoticons, and gossips get tossed back and forth like ping-pong (but way less enjoyable). Until these ones get married, move to a different country, or drop dead. Although, so far – by the good grace of the lord above, and by the sheer misfortune of the foes of these nicely nice earthlings – no one has died yet. But we can’t rule out that possibility, can we? Not that I look forward to such a melancholic mishap, or that I have the genes of a posh white guy, who wears suspenders, inhabits the top chambers of a skyscraper and whilst smoking a cigar and manspreading, cascades down his dreams of owning the oceans, and the mountains, and colonizing the mars, to his entourage, <Insert Maniacal laughter here>, nor do I have the upbringing of a caveman, living under the rock of inhumanity, on a mission to perish the entire planet, because he believes the commandments of an imaginary creature weighs more than the buildings and the bodies he bombs, I just think it’s a bad idea to text a dead person.

 

And if you ever accidentally, or out of habit, texted them after their death, you will be two blue ticks and “Timothy (or whoever the fuck is dead) is typing …” screen away from a cardiac arrest. Next thing you know, you have lost your mind, and you are trying to convince everyone you see dead people.

“Muthafucka not dead yet! I tells ya! He not a ghost! I see him, behind ‘em trees ova there. I says the truths!” 

Look, I know I am being hyperbolic and black, but my point is, forceful chat groups, for lack of a better word, are wack (or is it called whack?)! It’s a very confined, very ambitious, and very annoying platform, where a group of people with very less to zero social life and a soft corner for drama, come together to share trivial information, wish each other happy birthday followed by firecracker and cake emojis, or ask everyone what time of the day it is in their time zone.

to-the-person-who-set-up-this-whatsapp-group-chat-i-will-find-you-and-i-will-kill-you

“It must be late for you! What time is it? Is it today or is it still yesterday? Or is it tomorrow already? What day is it? What year is it? Is Jesus born yet? AD? BC? MC? How about primitive reptiles? Neanderthals? Dinosaurs? Are you behind us? You must be behind us! Because in my time zone, we now have face recognition apps, where you can morph yourself as a dog. You know, the whole point of evolution is to look like animals once again. Right? Wanna see me as a dog? No? Okay then, here is my picture as a dog. Goodnight!”

They share pictures of zucchini and guacamole on their plates, their pets dressed up in onesies, and their babies dressed up in a rag. Someone tell them, there is an app for all your pouts and whereabouts photos – it’s called Instagram. By the way, did you guys know, if you don’t share your food pictures on Instagram, the app doesn’t get full nutrition and turns weak? I know this! That’s why I feed that motherfucker good, once in a while.

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Some of my friends tell me they are a part of chat groups with a social cause. That they discuss the most prevalent atrocities in the society. That when no one listens to them, they unite on Whatsapp for the greater good of the humankind. That they don’t understand the difference between an online forum, a modern revolution of sorts, and a mobile application meant for chatting. The content of few such groups, from what I am told, revolves pretty much around the most commonly and easily thrown “F-word” around these days. It’s the most sensitive, powerful and controversial word today. When someone drops the “F-bomb”, half of the room goes quiet in guilt, and you hear crickets in your backyard shaming your chauvinistic existence. And as you would have already guessed, I am not talking about the word “Fuck”. In fact, fuck fuck! Who gives a fuck about fuck anymore? And I am also not talking about the other “F word” that rhymes with “maggot”. That word can eat a bag of dicks! (Pardon me. This is just for Pun, guys!)I am talking about – guys, of all shapes, size and sexual orientation, please hang your heads low, and dig up a hole of disgrace and bury yourself in it – the word, Feminism. I support the movement, but I have never been a part of any such chat groups. But I know they exist, and in my free time, when I am bored of reading and watching lopsided millennial debates on sold out platforms, I wonder, if a group like that, consists of a bunch of privileged and empowered women with the halo of arrogance on their heads, simply agreeing with each other.

“You are the best.”
“No, you are the best.”
“I dare anyone who thinks otherwise!”

Firecrackers, heels, wine glass, bra, lipstick, kiss, tiara, firecrackers, biceps, and a monkey covering his face for some reason – in that order.

Well, I am going to stop now. I don’t want the entire F clan keyboard warriors to pick up virtual fights with me because I am never going to win such fights. Besides, why fight? Why fight with someone who is already on your side and wants you empowered (Or isn’t probably as empowered as you are)? Also, no one ever has ever won a debate on this topic by debating from the neg side of it. And if you ever try to play the devil’s advocate, the devil himself descends from the hell (or is it ascends from the hell? Either way, screw semantics!) to the debate assembly and tells you, “Bro, bhai, man, buddy, anna, dude, amigos, chetta, mate, what are you doing? Please shut the fuck up!” Yes, he is a feminist too, guys! He is a man, and he is the devil, and he is a feminist.

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Then there are family chat groups – you can’t escape those. You have to actively participate in the squabbles and the jubilant festival chants that go on for many celestial cycles, until you grow old, die and reincarnate, only to pick up from where you had left. Meanwhile, your last seen is from 20 years ago, and Google has made sure to pin all your personal data in a folder named “for creeping purposes only” printed in Harlow Solid italic, on top of it.
If you go quiet in those groups, they all smell disrespect. And if you go quiet for a longer time, they assume you are on drugs. And that you maybe, but the silver lining on being drugs is that you eat a lot when they feed you. And they like it when you eat a lot.

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And before I wrap it up, let me touch down upon the most inutile and the most pointless cringe-fest, that is, every alumni group, every residential society group, every long lost group, every omg-haven’t-seen-your-fat-ass-since -school-years-and-still-don’t-care-about-your-poetry-and-mimicry-skills group, every workplace group, every post gym talk group, and every other acquaintance created, owned, and poorly managed Whatsapp group.

People, seriously, and I mean that, in Samuel Jackson’s angry motherfucking voice, Kanye West’s, I’mma smack the shit out of you, face, and John Oliver’s, I am asking you a question, but I am actually making a great fooking point mate, hand gestures, what the actual fuck?

Why are we uniting (or re-uniting for that matter) under the pressure of the people who suffer from texting diarrhea (and probably carpal tunnel syndrome? I don’t know if you get it from texting, but if you spam a lot, you most definitely should.) and have pledged to notify us about every grain they ate, every air molecule they breathed, and every time their brain farted an easily forgotten limerick, joke, or a meme idea.

Can we just, for a minute, pause and think like an adult about the downside of creating a chat group full of people, with empty lives and free data packs, every time, an idea so unprolific, an infant could reject it, and is also probably the one capable of taking someone’s brains as a hostage, pops up? And think, maybe, just a fucking maybe, it isn’t the best way to treat people who have agreed to share their phone numbers with you on only one unmentioned rule, that you won’t get them in trouble.

If you are a sucker for virtual validation and spam generation, by all means, go on gallivanting from one mediocre gossip commode to another, but you should spare the people who aren’t meant for that shit, just like you shouldn’t hack into their phones, commit a proxy crime, and bite the SIM off.

 

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“Life begins at forty”, they said…

Now don’t get me wrong, I have read enough inspirational bollock about people claiming that “life begins at forty”, and how forties are the new twenties. And I do suppose they are; with all that botox, steroids, liposuction and tummy tucks. Which is probably pretty similar to a 22 years old Kylie Jenner today. But that is not for us; middleclass folks.

"Believing life begins at 40, Dave decided to take it easy for the first 39."

I am sure you may think that your midlife crises would constitute “spur of the moment” vacations to Spain for the Tomatina festival, but then your bank will slap you on your face with it’s barely five figure balance and EMIs. So, then you decide to pick up a relatively inexpensive hobby, like an obsessive, aggressive, omnipotent, all consuming drive to convert your porch into a garden. And your Pinterest is all about DIY planters, perennials, annuals, terrariums and succulents.

You decide to garner words of undying appreciation from your social media followers/friends by calling your garden, your own tiny attempt to save bees from extinction. Because isn’t midlife crises all about finding meaning? At some point you really start believing that you care, in fact care a lot, you cry over the death of Harambe. And yet you don’t give a fuck about America’s elect president, teaching men “how to grab them by the pussy” but calling Climate Change a scam.

You realize your last year’s jeans feels tighter, you scour your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter every single day, multiple times to find anything, anyone out there to inspire you to lose weight. And the 81 years old nun who goes for Ironman every single year becomes your greatest inspiration. You search online; you find Gold’s gym right in the next lane. They charge 15,000/- a year for using the gym, and 36,000/- for six months of personal trainer. Your bank slaps you again with a reminder of your child’s overdue school fees. So, the next day you find out that Beyonce is Vegan, and then you wonder Vegan way would help you lose weight and keep your pockets heavy.

You invest a couple of thousand bucks in Rujuta Divekar’s diet for Vegan Gujratis. You blow another few thousands at Hypercity, you arm yourself with groceries enough to feed an orphanage, and very little olive oil. Because you realize that you are not as rich as that bitch, Rujuta, and you’ll have to sell your kidney if you want to continue using Olive oil for the entire family.

That evening you find yourself eating a salad comprised of spinach, cucumber, tomatoes and a bowl full misery. You brave yourself to stuff one forkful after another, and feel more of a cow than you have ever in your lifetime. Which then reminds you of that yummy beef curry from Ilango’s and that makes you cry, through your tear filled eyes, you open the Swiggy app on your phone and order a large, double cheese bacon pizza from Papa Johns with beef toppings.

But, no your mother hasn’t raised a quitter, so the next day you wake up and transfer 50,000/- to Gold’s gym, you’ll pay your son’s fees next quarter, along with the late fee, you decide.

When you walk out of your home, you barely glance through the dying plants in your tiny garden, begging for water. You tell yourself you’ll water them tomorrow, but today, today you sweat in your seven thousand rupees Adidas active wear and Puma shoes.

That night, when you take a whole of five minutes to slowly lower yourself on the seat of your English commode, because your body aches in places you never knew existed, you take your phone and check the prices for tummy tucks and liposuction.

 

 

How Maa beat cancer’s butt…

Every time I think of my Maa chasing her cancer away, I always imagine her running behind a pesky rodent with a “cheemta” (tongs) in her hand. And what is a rodent compared to the indomitable spirit of a woman. And like any woman who finds her home invaded by a tiny rodent, Maa went about the task of cleaning up her body off cancer with the single-minded grit and persistence of a really hungry feline.

It all started when I was in Mumbai, and she in Bangalore. I think I have always somehow been in Mumma’s girl. I love her almost as much as I love bitching about her. And one day on our daily calls, she confessed that something was wrong, that the doctors had insisted on a biopsy of her left breast.

mother-daughter

Of course, the doctors were wrong; my mom couldn’t have cancer, she does Pranayama every day! At least that is what I thought until my confidence came shattering down, when I realized that unstoppable forces of nature also pause, and Pranayama moms also fall.

We were on a call, when she said, “Bas ek mastectomy ho jayegi. Theek ho jayungi.” I smiled at the courage it would have taken her to brush it off like your everyday dental filling.

Continue reading

When women drive big cars…

“Beta, don’t you think you should travel by cab?” my dad ventured, hesitant at first, firm later and positively, relentless thereafter. I had been listening to him and my mother moan and crib about their precious daughter driving a massive Tata Safari around the city on a daily basis, for more than two years now.

It also doesn’t help that after successfully maneuvering my car all the way from ITPL to Kormangala three times a week during peak hours, for two years has still not instilled enough trust in my parents to take a 3km ride with me.

Every single time I venture to take them shopping or other chores, relentlessly at first, firm later and then hesitantly thereafter, they respond as if I have suggested taking them to a brothel.

The vehemence in their voice when they say, “Nahee! We are not taking your car. We would rather go by cab.” makes me believe that they probably think I run over three men and two kids every time I take my car out. And the only reason I am not rotting in prison or hell; is because of the Thursday fasts and pujas that my mom religiously keeps.

Having witnessed such lack of faith, for so long, I began contemplating; Why?! Why such distrust for women drivers, especially for the ones who drive an SUV?

woman-in-suv

Lets get this straight, people still need a lot of conditioning to get used to a woman driving. The ones, who actually are used to women driving, expect her to be in a hatchback, not a sedan, definitely not an SUV, and God help her if she dares to drive a jeep.

Because she is a woman, and of course she would look good in, you know, those cute little Japanese toy cars that are electric blue, green, or white, or yellow. If it is a pink Reva, it is even better. All those post retirement uncles and aunties would give you looks of approval, even smile at you and call you “Beta.”

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Escape from midlife crises – A to-do guide for women & men

“Life is a prison”, now I didn’t say that. Someone did, someone completely inconsequential to this write up. That would explain why I don’t feel even a teeny bit of inclination to make you aware of his or her name.

But if life is a prison then mid-life is the Green mile. It is one those fancy semi colon tattoos that everyone is getting, as if “a down on his luck 40 year old” is even going to notice the tiny semi colon strategically placed near your wrist.

But your tattoo is not the reason for this write up. It is the prison of your mid – life and how to escape it.

Now, it is extremely critical to understand that mid-life crises differs from men to women. For example a woman, almost every single month gets minute mid life shocks when she starts PMSing. But for men it comes like a meteor falling over their head out of nowhere.midlife-crises-women

So, let me start with an escape route for women.

Ladies, believe me you have it easy.

You hit 36/37 or the 38 mark. You realize the kids are gone or almost vanishing, the husband doesn’t notice your new hair cut. Continue reading

Friend with a Question Mark

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“This doesn’t feel right” he says.

“It doesn’t have to”

You want to say more and your face does that twitchy thing it does when you’re lying but it doesn’t matter because you’ve just switched off the lights in your roof garden, it’s well past midnight and he’s looking away and it isn’t until he lights the joint that you would meet his eyes.

Weed doesn’t work its magic on you but you didn’t smoke much either. He had to pluck it out of your hand after you coughed hysterically, collapsing on the ground beside a cactus pot. You are surprised by your theatricality, you’ve put worse things in your mouth out of sheer curiosity. You’re afraid your curiosity is merely a euphemism for something dark and twisted. He doesn’t need to know any of that and neither should you need to know anything about his life. Life is long and complicated and you feel lucky for being in this moment.

It was only yesterday though, when you were anything but delighted – you were pissed that you’d reach home to find someone in there already, a pair of eyes, a pair of limbs, a pair of ears, someone breathing in the same space as you. You have to learn to be live with people, your mom had said on the phone, stressing every word, but she’d corrected herself soon enough, cautioning you not to do any drugs-wugs and you were angry about that as well, or at least you wanted to be.

But on your way home through that night, you felt a pang of thrill knowing that you were headed towards something, that you were not hurtling with your eyes closed into a cold dead space as always, that someone was waiting for you in your house, walking around and breathing and touching objects that have known no human but you.

You’re relieved to discover that you can be silent around him and he can be silent around you but you try to be funny when you can and he tries to laugh and you both pretend not to take anything seriously. You’ve never learnt your lessons in intimacy but he looks broken too – why would he be here, otherwise?

Three nights through and you’re convinced he smokes for a good night’s sleep. He asks you whether you’ve watched that movie that you’d played for him that night four years ago when he was too high and you forced him to sleep over at your place. You tell yourself that he lives in the moment but truly, you’re swept by a wave of sadness, and a crumbling bitterness for you have, on a good number of nights, reminisced about that night you’d watched that movie together. It used to be a memory worth revisiting but only for you.

There comes another night, and he’s used to sharing his joint with you. You’re on the roof garden again, with your back on the floor, lying next to each other and he’s whispering his recurrent epiphany about the chasm between the phenomenal world and the ‘actual’ world.

“It isn’t about building more houses and raising children and slogging for months in cubicles and grocery shopping and sex and obesity and hero worship and politics and… ”

You yawn in the minute it takes for him to choose the next word. “Reality TV.”

Reality is starkly different, he says, and you cannot disagree.

What to make of the presence of an old friend in your life occupies your mind to and fro from work. You were happy to have had to call him up from work, asking him to be available when the delivery boy comes with groceries you’d ordered before you left for work, not because of the convenience of it but because it made you sound like everyone else who had a life. You are twenty five and insecure and hopeful and afraid and silly and lustful.

You’re sad he’s taken away your depressing omegle hours, that you can’t croon Adele’s ‘Don’t You Remember’ in the shower anymore, that you can’t sleep only in your coffee-beans boxers and nude-dance to Katy Perry’s ‘This is How We Do It’ in the kitchen. You’re glad though, that you have a reason now to stop imagining bringing that hot guy who stays 898 meters away from you overnight. His nickname is ‘Soulmate’ with a question mark and he blocked you when you refused to send your ‘pic’ to him citing the oft-cited ‘I can’t chat with faceless profiles’ excuse but you’re convinced something gave away your ugliness and desperation before he could take a look at your sloppy pimply face. It probably broke your heart but you couldn’t stop fantasizing about him. You wonder sometimes whether his prompt refusal relieved you of a greater pain that you might have had to endure had he taken interest in what some like to call your little ‘quirks’ (which tend to be either cute or annoying, depending on things out of your control). You can fantasize about him now because it’s all in your head and it’s all within your reach.

You’re at the Corner House three blocks away from your house. You chose your apartment over a swankier option because it was two blocks away from Gold’s Gym and for once in your life, you wanted to make healthy lifestyle choices. Three months after having moved here, you’re still a treadmill-virgin and the last time you probably broke a sweat was when you ate an entire tub of mango ice-cream. You visit Corner House every weekend and they know your order (it’s not mango anymore) before you state it and are now probably surprised to find you have company today.

A voice in your head tells you that maybe it’s all in your head. Maybe you’re lonely only in your head, and no one actually sees you as a lonely person, because although they don’t have reasons to believe otherwise, they barely notice you or think about you. You look happy, you always do or at least you don’t look sad or have the words to talk about your sadness because it isn’t sadness or happiness but just a gaping absence of either. They don’t know, as they watch you eat your Caramel Cashew Delight, that you watched ‘Toy Story-3’ again last night because you knew it would make you weep uncontrollably and that it did.

He asks you if you’ve any plans that he’s coming in the way of. It’s Saturday. You sense that he’s not looking for a yes as an answer, that this is a cruel inquiry into your abject loneliness and lack of social life. You tell him your friends are all abroad, that it was more ‘fun’ years ago when you were all just out of college and stayed together. You’ve never stayed with friends even when you were pretty sure you had at least one acquaintance whom you could reasonably call a friend. You have had friends in childhood, which is a different life altogether, when the criteria for friendship was proximity and availability to play the same sport as you but lately, the plural of ‘friend’ gives you a funny jolt in your stomach. You tell him your friends are at ASU, UCLA, Illinois, Penn State. You’re fabricating a social life in real-time, re-visiting Instagram feeds of your classmates, preparing yourself for pointed questions about their life and your time together. You do have a friend at ASU but it miffs you that you are the kind of person who questions whether he’s still friends with someone who chats with him at 3 AM about what he did over the weekend. Gladly, he does not implore further.

He has been at your place for a week now and you’re running out of reasons to stay away. You don’t know why and you don’t want to question your motives. You work long hours. You take longer walks in supermarkets. You even visit the once if only to enquire about their plans (that you may as well have perused online at your leisure) and whether they have an in-house qualified nutritionist consultant and whether they host Zumba and aerobics sessions. You spend hours with coffee cups and ghee roast dosas. You hop from restaurant to restaurant and there’s no dearth of food that makes you more fat and miserable and keeps even the lesser Soulmate-with-Question-Marks out of your reach. When you reach home, you tell him you’ve had dinner. You feel the guilt every night but he appears unconcerned and maybe you deserved to find this out the hard way – that he doesn’t mind not having your company, that he merely needs a place to crash until an actual friend comes by to replace your clumsy attempts at intimacy.

You call your mom and tell her how pissed you are at not having any ‘personal space’. He’s your friend, she tells you and you feel reassured. She reminds you again, not to do any drugs-wugs.

It’s 8 PM when he texts you that he’s leaving. It’d take you an hour to reach and he can’t wait that long. He says he’d keep the keys with the neighbor aunty.

You knew this day would come. You knew you’d be on your way home one night to find it empty. You wish you could lie on your back on the cold floor of your roof garden. He’d be by your side, reluctantly offering you a joint, saying how it doesn’t feel right. He’d see you as he saw you a decade or more ago when you were a different person. You would one day come to rank this fantasy over the one about meeting Soulmate with a question mark.

 

My Envy – In All Honesty

You know what I can’t stand? Insufferable prick-writers who are probably describing say….an action scene…the two-faced son-of-a-gun who raped your wife and stole your life’s belongings while pretending to be your best friend is on the loose, and you chase him on one of those fancy-named sports cars, with a nine-inch revolver and a backup butcher knife just in case, and suddenly, just as you almost nailed the line-of-sight to shoot the motherfucker’s tires like a piñata annihilated at a five-year-old’s birthday bash, you stop. You gear down your story to screech-halt, no not because you want an urgent pee so that you don’t have to halt in between the brutal head smash that you have planned. But because there is a sunflower field, in full bloom, and you’d probably be OK with it if it was a tear-jerker scene, holding the hands of your dead wife, while the wind blew through her hair, and the salt of your tears mixed with the sweat of your palms, adding further adrenaline to your enraged screams for later, but no…you are just admiring the sunflower field….the hue of the falling sun warms your hardened heart, the dew drops on the leaves are your uncried tears, the fucking cat in the corner is your listlessness personified, everything is oh so sad and whimsical.

And what’s worse, while you, the semi-turned-on reader is now cursing the inappropriately timed tease of the writer, you suddenly notice a few other readers gliding to a gentle pause as they step out of their own literary rides, totally entranced by the copulating sunflower bees as if they were on psychedelic vines dished out by shamans in Peru. You know…. the manicured reader, stepping out of her ride with the refinement of Convent English, her husband is a ‘dear’ even after the three no-good brats masquerading as the ‘Saints’ in hill station-schools, and in every flower that stand together, they see the nuances of writing, the finesse of the technique that awakens the fellowship that drives the bravery of the protagonist, right before he beats the pulp of the bored-to-coma villain who is probably contemplating suicide by ingesting a pound of sunflower seeds than listening to the drivel slushed around.