Monday, February 16, 2009

State Tourism

After the phenomenal success of Kerala in tourism, the Ministry of Tourism realised that the most important reason for Kerala's success was ...tourists. A committee was immediately set up to come up with campaigns for attracting more tourists. It showed great success as the first group of tourists that it attracted was MPs, who had gone on fact finding missions and were presumed dead. Anyway the committee persisted and finally came up with slogans for each of the states and the winners are,

Andhra Pradesh - Come visit the Hi tech India .....(Tourists, Please note that on Thursdays and Mondays, visits may not be possible due to power cuts)

Arunachal Pradesh - Explore the charm of China

Assam - Why go to Bangladesh when you can come here

Bihar - Just come down here to understand why Buddha fled.

Chhattisgarh -Enjoy the hospitality of our tradition (Please get your own guns, lathis and choppers)

Delhi - Where culture breathes which is good because you certainly can't.

Goa - What me worry?

Gujarat - Worth every bit our weight in Reliance Sares

Himachal Pradesh - Be one with nature .....and 5 million other tourists.

Jammu & Kashmir - Waiting for you at the Crossroads of Civilisation and Pakistan

Jharkhand - The next best thing to Bihar.

Karnataka - Come ...explore..look...find...Veerappan's loot..please

Kerala - Gaudz Auwn Kundree

Madhya Pradesh - If you think we are a boring state, then think again.....but hey not for too long

Maharashtra - If you want novelty, If you want adventure, If you want relaxation then we got it all in Chattrapati Shivaji Nagar.

Manipur - The place which Time forgets and so does most of India actually.

Meghalaya - We belong to India....we think

Mizoram - Better than Meghalaya....we do not think

Nagaland - Even Politicians do not come here.

Orissa - 5000 years of history but still not a single test class cricketer

Punjab - Once Santa and Banta went in a restaurant.

Rajasthan - Where you get your just desserts

Sikkim - Yes, we belong to India.

Tamil Nadu - Our heroines may be fat but you need to take a look at our heroes to get perspective.

Tripura - You mean we are a state!!!

Uttar Pradesh - Come feel happy about your state.

Uttaranchal - If ever there is a paradise on earth this is definitely not it.

West Bengal - This BJP policy is a typical capitalist plot against the proletariat

Monday, February 9, 2009

Identity Crisis

I know what some guys out there must be thinking of humour columnists. That they are these rip-roaring funny dudes who can hardly move a foot in any direction without a naked super model throwing herself at them. That they are these cool blokes who every time they open their mouth have the entire population in the radius of a few kilometres going down on all fours begging them to marry their daughters. That they are....what, what do you mean ...NO?

But I have a fair idea about what people think of me. Let's for example take this completely anonymous person called Nina Sharma. She recently told me that my humour is stupid and she sometimes laughs at my stupidity. Now any sane minded person will find this insulting. But luckily I am a humour columnist. Nina, let me tell you, people initially thought that even Einstein was stupid. They use to come by his desk and shout ,

"Hey Stupid, stop showing off with all those crazy formulas. Who do you think you are , Einstein, huh !? "

...and use to walk away with their shoulders sniggering like guitar strings. But HAA!!! Einstein was unfazed ...well, primarily because he did not understand English. But he kept up at his work. His genius has turned our lives and his hair inside out. Not a day passes these days without humanity waking up in a sweat and profusely thanking Einstein and then going back to sleep till 5 PM when they leave their offices to go home for dinner. So Nina though you might think I am stupid, remember one day you too will wake up in a sweat like Urmila Matondkar in "Bhoot" or like the spectators watching Wasim Jaffer bat and plead me to go away. But humour columnists don't go away, they always have a witty comeback.

I got a mail from another person with the name of Smarty Pants (Trust me on this one). Smarty Pants asked me in a perfectly charming innocent way typical of 8 year olds, "Dude, honestly, I think you are crap. It is guys like you who think they are god's gift to mankind. You think u are funny? You nauseate me. Did they pay you for it ?.I think you are like a tumour. You are like a man without a brain. You .blah..blah...

If you observe closely, Smarty Pants is obviously repelled by me. Which is OK for like poles repel each other. Now, I can just misuse my column and challenge Smarty Pants to come up with one piece of work that (with the exception of "Das Kapital") is more ridiculously funny than mine. But I won't or then again may be I will. Smarty Pants, all humour writers have this one philosophy when they write. That is to dance as if no one's watching, sing as if no one's listening and write as if no one's reading (...but by no means fart as if no one's smelling). By reading my articles, your are going against the grain of my philosophy. Is it any wonder that you don't find the articles funny? So please do pay heed to my advice.

To sum up, let's recount the mail from someone called ani22. I don't at all blame ani22's parents for naming him so. Ani22 is a nice name and I am sure he had lots of nice friends who called him out to play. That's the advantage of having cute short names that many people like to say over and over. Bhajji for example. I am sure Vangipuriappu Venkata Sai Laxman did not have too many friends as a kid. Anyway, Ani22 told me that my articles suck so much that every time he opens up the website, he hears a big whooshing sound and that is so because of my observations on the communists? Indeed that is the question I ask myself often ..especially what exactly is the link between a big whooshing sound and communism. Is it the intellectual vacuum or is it hot air high pressure air patterns. Damn, we will never know, shall we? So Ani22, to be honest, I really don't know how can I delink these.

So there, I have tried to explain my position, clarify your doubts and make my editor happy by finally sending in my feature for the week. Now, if you would excuse me, I've a supermodel to peel off me.

Elements of Credit

Dimitri Mendeleev was a Russian scientist, who came up with the periodic table. A periodic table is a table which arranges all the nature's 118 elements in an orderly manner ....till dinner time when the kids come and make a mess of it. That's just goes to show what the Russians are capable of, when they do not skull Vodka (i.e. between 3 AM and 3.30 AM on Wednesdays). When they do drink Vodka however, they produce some phenomenally boring movies for Doordarshan (e.g." Life cycle of the Siberian tapeworm”) and invade central Asian countries. I can imagine Stalin swigging a few and ordering his shivering Komissars -

"Let uz shoot mizziles at Uzbekistan"

"Da........ but we already shot at it yesterday"

"Izzit, dan let uz shoot Turkmenistan"

"Da Vee Kan but we already have it for 4 years"

"Dammn, then let us shoot "Adventures of Vladimir at the Potato farm". Heaven knows, Doordarshan needs it".

Cutting to the cheese again, unknown to Mendeleev however was the fact , that his table was going to be a huge catalyst for one industry....albeit a hundred years later. I am referring to Credit cards. Credit card companies who started with the Silver card (To those who have arrived) and later moved to Gold (To those who have really arrived) and to Platinum (To those who have arrived again) and now to Titanium (To those who have arrived again and left) and finally Iridium (To those who have arrived again and left and would like to arrive once again but are in 2 minds if they arrive again will it be the Platinum card or will it be considered as arriving again and again). Wonderful chaps ....these marketing guys.

That is what is called differentiation and in the process forgetting the original purpose of the credit card. The marketing speak would be "We are not selling just a card but a lifestyle". A lifestyle, which is spilling over to some kind of surreal scenarios

Silver - You can get access and discounts to more than 5000 restaurants in the world

Gold - You can get access to Airport lounges, Golf Clubs, Royal palaces and ladies toilets

Platinum - You can get handcarried by 4 bankers into First Class airplane seats while a personal concierge will breastfeed you Dom Perignon Champagne.

Titanium - You can get access to a round the clock personal back scratching service by a concierge (who BTW has a Gold card of his own), a personal gold threaded underwear

Iridium - You can get a free replacement heart, lungs and some common sense to realize that 90% of the times you get offered things, which you will never need.

Sometimes I wonder if the banks really are no different than these new fangled coffee shops or the so called wine bars, where snobbery is a sport and pretension is a skill. Ever since they started , by offering it by invitation (only to realize that it is not enough of a market) then later on steadily diluting the idea to such ridiculous extents that the whole exclusivity idea looks rather silly. In order to maintain a balance between that verdigris of exclusivity at the upper end and a mass market which is reality, they just keep on attaching new lifestyle elements (Pun intended) to have these exclusive credit cards. In Singapore on one hand you have these super duper Iridium cards and on the other hand the same company's bankers will thrust Gold credit cards in to your pockets with unsolicited alacrity, in what technically can be called as hit and run incidents. I am sure that the banks will say that they have their reasons which sounds the same as Gillette saying that it has it's reasons it will keep on coming up with twin bladed, 3 bladed, Quattro bladed razors etc until a point where razors are going to make your cheeks so smooth that after your next shave, when the mob of Playboy playmates try to plant juicy kisses on your cheek, they are going to lose their grip and fall over your shoulder to their deaths. In fact, Gillette has already lost theirs.

At the rate at which more and more exclusivity is being stamped out by these banks, a day will arrive when they may not run out of ideas but surely they will run out of elements. Will having a lifestyle is going to make people use their credit card differently ( "Hey finally got my Iridium card so now I can record my mp3 songs on it ") or is it going to change their lifestyle ( "Let me see I have a Platinum card so may be I will try driving blindfolded in reverse to office today"). How many of us use the card differently just because it is Silver or Gold or Platinum. For majority of the population, a card is a card is a card and for the minority, who do live beyond their means, will continue to do so regardless of Gold, Silver or Platinum. Will the banks come clean with their marketing stables and just have a couple of credit cards. Nope.... as long as there is a steady supply of aspirational naïveté in mankind, we will keep on having new cards and that day is just another fünfhundertfünfundachtzig (585) cards away when we have the final of these Ununhexium cards.

Beauty will be the eternal weakness of man

“Beauty will be the eternal weakness of man” or some thing similar was said at some time by someone very famous. This must have been said when he was very much alive because famous men do not say something simple when they are dying. If you pay careful attention to the last words of famous persons, they will be like

"Rejoice, the comedy has ended" - Beethoven
" I am bored with it all” - Winston Churchill
" Surely I can make a hit movie again" - Dev Anand

Now this sets me thinking, what the hell is wrong with these guys. How come famous men don't have last words like "Aaargh, no ..please..not Doordarshan" or "Say, Is this mushroom poiso..." .. No Sirreeee. Those are meant for ordinary mortals like you and me because famous men, me thinks, spend their lives planning their last words in advance. So there they can be, dying of frost bite in the south pole and our famous guys will be going

"I feel the heat of the devil"

"WHAT!!! It's - 70 F, Captain Scott. It is so cold that I have to drink my oxygen"

"AWWW Shut up. Is it my death or yours!!! Huh!!!........where was I oh yeah.....I feel the heat of the devil"
That is not to digress from the topic of the cloumn, which is beauty aids. I have reached a stage that the only difference between my kitchen and my bathroom is the refrigerator. Have you taken a look at the beauty aids around you? (NOTE: If Hareesh is reading this and I know that he is, fingernails however useful they might be to mine the inner riches of your rather generous nose, are not considered as beauty aids). These days we have turmeric herbal shampoo, tomato skin potato peel body rinse, pudina toothpaste etc. This trend is really something all of us must pay attention to without losing any time.....provided of course that the 8:30 PM telecast of Desperate Housewives is over. If left unchecked we are...and mark my words we indeed are....soon going to have a Chicken Manchurian (with Gravy) Hair remover and a Butter Chicken Masala Moisturiser and then we can all agree that the world would be a much better place.

This really scares me. Granted the way my flat mate Rahul used to cook, there was indeed little difference between his Chicken Manchurian and a hair remover. His Chicken Manchurian not only used to remove my hair but also most of my spleen and kidneys the morning after. But that doesn't mean that we start losing the thin line between cosmetics and groceries.

What does that tell you ? That the cosmetic companies are at it again. Remember they are the ones who started convincing people that instead of using just one standard cleansing agent like soap, we need to use different stuff for each of our physiognomical features including a special cleansing agent for our nasal hair. What is with this people? Face rinses, body packs, feet moisturisers, lip creams, hand lotions, blackhead removers etc. In fact most of my human anatomical knowledge was due to these cosmetic ads…. and the Playboy Annual Mega Issue 2001. Elbow pads, knee creams, heel softeners… you name it they have it. That’s not all... They will be pointing out your imperfections as though you don’t know they exist
“Do you think people mistake your hair for a Velcro Patch? If yes, then we can make you miserable by ranting about it for 60 seconds until most viewers laugh in your face till they dislocate their jaws.”
“Do you think your underarm odour is on the Weapons of Mass Destruction list? Then we can exaggerate it by employing our cartoon mascot G.A.S (courtesy:Abraham ‘Mota Abda’ Abhishek), who between the two of us looks like a cross between a bald Chinchilla and our Director from MIC ”.
Instead of making people feel good about themselves, they seem to be more obsessed with making people feel ugly about themselves. I can understand if they restrict it to Hareesh (not just I, a billion others would understand it too) but to extend it to the general populace is just not done. Marketing gimmicks …., all designed to trick people into buying more and more stuff without really doing anything substantially different. That's just not fair........may be they are the ones who need to use the fairness creams.

A Brief History of Communism

Recently the Bombay stock market lost about 15 percent of its capitalisation because of some highly sensitive comments made by the Left Front. The Left front is not understood by many people and as rumors abound, also by many invertebrates, but there are indeed many who do and I have indeed spoken to both of them The Left front is basically the communist parties of India who rule in West Bengal and Kerala, states where today the primary sources of state revenue are the money orders that Sushmita Sen and Dhanraj Pillay send home. Since there was a lot of vitriolic bad press ascribed to the communists, I thought it only fair that I add to it.

So today Comrade Rajesh will explain the principles of communism. Communism aims to eliminate the difference between the rich and the poor. It does so by making everybody uniformly poor. This is to avoid the exploitation of the poor. Communists divide the people into 3 groups, the working classes which are called the proletariat, the middle classes which are called the bourgeoise and the capitalist classes which are called the capitalist classes. This was so because during the great Bengal famine the communists had nothing to eat but their words which resulted in them eating all the fancy french and latin words first and thus the classes did not get any. To this day, the communists continue to eat their words.

Though communism in the western world is only 150 years old, in India it is about 30000 years old. This was proved after ancient skeletons of homo erectus were found around Calcutta holding placards in their hands. Some of them still continue to roam the earth with Harkishansingh Surjeet immediately coming to mind, who also is believed to have talked the dinosaurs to their extinction. Though Communism has largely collapsed in the west, it is in India's interests to let communism thrive as it is the sole means of livelihood for a large number of cartoonists.

The basic tenets of Communism were laid down by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels who made the famous statement "Hartal, Hartal, Hartal" in their book "Communist Manifesto" which is pronounced as "Bye-ble" in Bengali. These tenets spread like wild fire through Europe. This fire was set by the young torch bearers of communism who had lit up the factories and used to throw in the factory owners, to prevent the fire from dying out. It eventually found a strong proponent in the form of Lenin, who after guzzling down a few litres of Vodka, thought that communism was a brilliant idea.

In the post war world, communism was embraced enthusiastically in Eastern Europe where Stalin made the Slavic people an offer they couldn't refuse i.e. Communism or Batting Replays of Ravi Shastri. In China, Mao Zedong demonstrated its use as a birth control technique by exterminating millions of Chinese in the Great Leap forward. Apart from China, it spread to Vietnam also, where Ho Chi Minh made sure that at least 2000 Hollywood films were made every year on this topic. In India too, apart from West Bengal, communism was practised in Kerala by Enthuvukozhai Malllaikuttunam Shivapareeyapadikil Namboodirippad, where it led to massive development in generating unpronounceable mallu names. As civilisation developed, we have made progress and the day is not far, when mankind will eventually develop a vaccine against communism. "One small prick for man, one giant ball for mankind".

Today, Communism has failed all over the world. The so called communist countries of Vietnam and China are perhaps more capitalist than any one else. Despite this, we have a situation in India where parties, which have the mandate in only 2 states out of 27, feel absolutely free to dictate the national agenda and the economic policy. Today, West Bengal and Kerala are both economic laggards. West Bengal once the industrial capital now is a driving force for the Indian industry having driven out all possible industry except perhaps manufacturing Ambassador Cars which should tell you a lot. Kerala, despite its impressive social development has little to offer its workforce apart from flights to the Gulf.

And all this from a party which is not participating in the government. One can argue till the cows come home whom exactly the mandate was given to i.e Congress, Sonia, Anti BJP etc but it was given for development, which is possible only from reforming a failed socialist structure. The reforms have benefited only the urban populace, the parties scream hoarsely. True and perhaps a tad unfortunate but at least it has benefitted the urban populace rather than the unfortunate situation in the past where no one benefitted, neither the urban nor the rural. But one shouldn’t mistake the trees for the forest; the problem is not with the economic reforms but with perhaps the unevenness of implementation. Even Marx would agree with that.

Let’s talk about S**, Baby

Today in India we have the choice of virtually millions of TV channels. This is a far cry from early days when we had just Doordarshan, India’s reply in the seventies to the Nuclear Bomb. Just as effective but minus the radiation. Those days, when delegates used to come out of events like, "The 3rd All India Seminar for Study of the Dietary Habits of Tribal Ethnic Groups", there used to be a solitary Doordarshan reporter dangling the microphone in front of them. Today you see, even if a Traffic Police is being asked for information, a mob of reporters will be thrusting their logo-ed microphones into the constable’s face, with the thinly disguised intention of puncturing his face but sadly in most cases they just succeed in knocking off his teeth.
This media deregulation, along with the deregulation of the skirts-so-short-that-they –can’t–even-cover-Danny De Vito’s-Thighs industry and shorts-so-tight-that-they-could-asphyxiate-an-earthworm industry, has led to a new phenomenon which I prefer to call Channel Surfing. This is because no matter what channel you switch to there will be a scantily clothed nubile nymphet gyrating to the remixes, Item numbers or plain romantic scenes. If you happen to be watching TV with your folks, you have no choice but to appear totally disinterested (which is sort of difficult to do, while drooling) and enthusiastically flip the channel to DD. Marathi, where a certain Damodar Jadhav (fully clothed) standing in the sugarcane farms of Kolhapur would be asking you without rubbing his hips against a steel pole, "…..and aren’t you excited as I am to find out the advantages of Drip Irrigation over Piped Irrigation. In fact I am so excited that I am changing my underpants on an hourly basis"
Yep, DD got it right alright. This was a problem with which we, the nineties kids have little experience with. Those days, we used to queue up for hours putting everything else on hold including, at times, our appendix operations, to get the pirated video tape of "Satyam Shivam Sundaram". Those were the days when we used to stand in front of Vijay Paper Mart giggling like uncoiled springs to flip through Debonair issues, before Mr Vijay or Mr Paper Mart came menacingly towards us with a 5 step plan to disengage our limbs from our trunks. These days you open virtually any magazine and there would be articles about Sex like , "How to improve your sex life in 7 Days", " How to say Yes in Bed" , "Global Warming and what can it do for your sex life" etc. As a net result of all this increased media attention, one could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that the major staple of Indians today is Viagra.
On the other hand one reads in the media, that with all the tight clothes and loose morals, our society is going down the drain and that day is not far when we actually go and pay money to rent a Kumar Gaurav movie. Whether this new "openness" to sex is taking the society to the cleaners can be debated till the cows come home. But the traditional hypocrisy which has surrounded sex is also a factor why we have among the highest AIDS cases in the world, an increasing rate of teenage pregnancies and also an underperforming population control program. Perhaps the Government can itself be a bit more pragmatic and confront these issues head on instead of burying its head in the social sands. Obvious social trends like children reaching puberty early, late marriages and also the Internet as a media vehicle as well as a meeting ground, are being totally ignored as we continue to judge the present generation by standards set from a time machine. Sex education at schools, Compulsory HIV testing for marrying couples and a more frank birth control program, especially among the underdeveloped strata of the society can perhaps achieve more for the Society than thumbing our nose at the MTV generation and blaming them for taking our society to the dogs.

Staying Germane

Ich spreche Deutsch. That is German for well… 'I speak German', a language which I learnt overcoming my natural handicap of my Father not being named "Helmut" and my mother not being called "Heidi". I learnt German for different reasons than wanting to impress Claudia Schiffer's Vater und Mutter before asking their daughter's hand.

I learnt it primarily because:

a) Learning German exposes you to a new culture of mainstream Europe.

b) It was time to use that little thing dangling at the entrance to my throat to pronounce some words like "Buch".

But I realise that I would have never learnt this language had I tried to learn it at college, where it was taught by Mr Iyengar, whose closest brush with the German culture had come while secretly stealing glances at the poster of an economically clad Ursula Andress. Mr Iyengar taught with all the passion and fire of a wet matchstick.

With a voice that refused to get out of bed, he used to drone on somnambulently in class , "Ich bin, du bist, er sie es ist. Repeat after me". After 15 minutes of this , most countries would have tried him for attempted murder but Mr Iyengar went on , quietly ignoring the bodies that lay before him with their jaws frozen open in various stages of pronouncing "bin".

That was not the only problem. The books were designed for people who had some major problems with their visual and cognitive skills.

Hans: Is that a table ?
( " Ist das ein Tisch ?")

Peter: No, these are shoes.
("Nein, diese sind Schuhe")

Call me a skeptic but if the target audience for learning German is people, who have trouble distinguishing between shoes and Tables, then a operation by a German surgeon would be pretty interesting.
("Nurse, Is that the Tropic of Capricorn?"….

"No Doctor, that is his Medulla Oblongata").

I can think of only so many occasions involving Tables and Shoes and thankfully our Parliamentary sessions are one of them.
In my mind, the correct answer to Hans should have been, "Hans, you neuron starved imbecile, these are shoes which are soon going to end up in the far end of your alimentary canal if you continue asking stupid questions"

(No i won't try to translate that)

But Hans will continue mistaking trousers for curtains and Cars for Ships until the month of March, when the State education board quietly puts Hans and Peter and a very tired opthalmologist to sleep.

If the system seriously wants the students to learn language, it should focus on things which are more practical and rather than having chapters like , "An evening at the Zoo" which to an 18-year-old ranks just after Arthritis on the interest scale.

What would have been more practical are chapters like, "When Wolfgang finds he has run out of Beer", "Dietmar rents a soft porn video" or "Helga shops for lingerie".

But Hans and Peter, who have a lifetime employment contract with the State Education Board are unlikely to be retired soon and isn't that a tragedy ?
Even Mr Iyengar would say , "Sie ist".