This is how you lose him

4 March 2015

(With due apology to Junot Diaz)

First, take a man you’ve known for a while: any sort of man, and add intimacy worn thin from a few months or years or weeks, whatever it takes for all that is shiny to become dull. The dullness should resemble the gold around the edges of your grandmother’s sari — bright when she was a teenage bride — worn to skinny threads from years of disappointment.

This man should be the kind of man you wanted a few months ago (let’s say six) and now no longer do; this man should be the sort of man who is impossible to get rid of, because each time you try, he gazes at you with forlorn eyes, he sends you message upon message, and it’s sad, almost pathetic, because with every attempt he makes to ingratiate himself with you, it’s like he’s putting a noose of neediness around your throat.

Scenario One:

“Be honest,” say your friends, and so you try honesty.

“I’m sorry, this isn’t working out.”

And he bursts into great, noisy tears, or if he’s a macho man, a relic of a time gone by, he’ll call you a bitch or a cunt. Delhi men love to toss around the “b” word liberally; just smile and think of your pet Labrador, a ten-year-old bitch, with the sweetest disposition of any dog you know.

Honesty is really the best policy because it will drive home your point, and sure, you’ll get name-called for a while, but likely, as soon he leaves you, he’ll call his friends and get very drunk and you’ll never hear from him again except in a drunk dial.

Scenario Two:

Perhaps you’re more of the blushing flower type. You hate conflict, any bad blood makes your stomach tie up in twisty little knots harder to get rid of than the airport zip tie on your suitcase.

Ghost it. Vanish quietly from his life, making yourself scarcer and scarcer until he’s not sure whether you ever really existed. He will message you incessantly, he will call till you wonder how many missed calls your phone can even register. He will appear at your work, at your home.

He might be thick-skinned, like the Greater One Horned Rhinoceros, but sadly, unlike that species, his type isn’t extinct. Far from it. You’ll have to ghost till you wonder whether you had a relationship at all, so far have you run from it. 

It is imperative to make sure all versions of you have also vanished: and this includes your social media. That means compulsive tweeters will have to keep their thoughts to themselves, Instagrammers will have to deal with all that food and no one to see it, and Facebookers will have to do that dreaded status update: “Taking a break from Facebook for a while!”


Scenario Three:

You haven’t had any fun in a while (you poor thing.) Maybe there’s a way to make this enjoyable for you. Take inspiration from two of history’s greatest divas: Scarlett O’Hara and Lindsay Lohan. You’ll teeter totter between the two like you’re wearing seventeen-inch heels on a slippery ramp, with tape stuck over your nipples.

As Scarlett, you bat your eyelashes at everybody and nobody goes free, not even your best friend’s husband. You laugh a lot, and toss your hair, and stomp all over his feelings. Perhaps in the same seventeen-inch heels. “Why didn’t you call me back yesterday?” he might ask, and you say, “Did you call me yesterday? Oh, silly me, I must have forgot.” Perhaps as Scarlett, you’ll even want to keep him around for a bit, another adoring lapdog for your brood.

As Lindsay Lohan, there are no lines for you to cross: unless it’s a line of cocaine. You dance on table tops at fancy bars, every night, there’s a Uber cab calling you for directions and you “simply don’t have any time, darling, maybe we can meet next week.”  He might leave you for a more domestic model, a Maruti to your Mini Cooper, but he might also be so excited by your new wild self that he’ll never leave. And you’ll wonder as you carry your heels in one hand climbing up the stairs: how long can I keep this up?

A caveat: don’t get arrested, don’t drive drunk, and try and not do any drugs. 

(Wrote this originally for POPxo, a while ago.)
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Five nice things on a Monday morning

2 March 2015

a) It's raining in Delhi, has been for the last two days, and apparently it's a terror to commute, but for those of us cozily tucked up at home with coffee and cats, I recommend this Sufi fusion playlist which I've been listening to and humming along with all morning.


b) For particular interest to those of you who are actually interested in my cat stories, we decided to keep Squishy after all. His name is now Pablo (Squishcasso, Picatto, Escofur, Purruda) and I'm learning Spanish on Duolingo in order to "converse with him in his native tongue." The Duolingo app is kind of amazing, because all you need is 10 or 15 minutes every day (in traffic, on the pot, lying in bed etc) and it teaches you a whole new language. No easy Hindi course yet, alas for The Good Thing, but it does have a Hindi to English course if you know someone with a smartphone looking to improve their English skills.

c) I got sent via email to Soulcial Travel, a random spammy newsletter that I'd normally ignore but in this case, I was bored so I clicked through. It offers volunteer tourism but also shopping-that-gives-back, from where I came across Peter's Pasta. We ordered two boxes of the tagliatelle, one fresh, one dry and Peter came to deliver it himself (which is a nice touch!). Dudes, it was delicious. Order now! We're going to try the ravioli next.

d) Breaking our travel record for the most travel in the least amount of time, we're going to be heading off to Jaipur, Pushkar and YAY GOA in the next few weeks, thanks to a visiting friend of the Good Thing. We're on the verge of penury, but hey, fat bank balance versus travel is not much of a choice, eh? 

e) My book giveaway has started on Facebook! Go check it out and partipate! Free books, what's not to love?


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Feminism ranty rant rant

28 February 2015

I am tired.

I’m tired of having to listen to people say, “I’m not a feminist, I believe in equal rights for all humans!” or “I’m not a feminist, but…” It’s not a bad word. You can use it to mean yourself. It doesn’t make you a man-hater or someone who is mannish. You can be a feminist and feminine. You can be a feminist if you believe women are the same as men, except built differently.

I’m tired of having to listen to people toss around “feminazi.” It’s deeply insulting. The “feminazi” does not exist. There is no militant feminist with a gun coming for your testicles. There may be variations in how people express their opinion—from the mild to the radical—but none of these people deserve to be called “Nazis” for standing up for a downtrodden bit of society.

I’m tired that the answer to a woman being raped in a cab of a cab company was to ban the cab company. I’m tired of having to be awake, alive, alert all the time. Sometimes, I just want to take my shoes off, lean into soft cushions and close my eyes for like fifteen minutes. Sometimes, I’d like to take off my sweater or my jacket, revealing the t-shirt underneath and feel cool breeze on my skin for two minutes, without having to think about all the people staring at me.

Sometimes, I’d like to hold the hand of the person I love as I walk through a busy street. Sometimes, I’d like to scream, “F$*k you!” to the driver who cuts me off on a deserted Delhi road without worrying that he will stop his car and take out a gun and shoot me in the head twice. Point blank.

I’m tired of standing in the crook of my front door, half body in, head sticking out to talk to courier men and service people. I don’t want to have to do this, I’m also tired of having to put on pants over my sleeping shorts after I get out of bed to answer the door, look somewhere else, it’s my house, I can be bare-legged if I like.

I’m tired of apps built with the best of intentions: add two emergency contacts! Let people know where you are and if you need to be rescued! I download them but I’m tired of a world where I need to be rescued. I would like to operate alone. I would like to not stick my car keys outside the ball of my fist to strike attackers with in an empty parking lot, I would like to not think about all the safety tips I’ve read when I’m alone at home, I’d like to sleep in a hotel room without mapping out the exits and checking to see if the door is double locked, I’d like to be in a hotel room and order breakfast from bed and say, “It’s open!” when the man knocks at the door.

If I say I’m tired of Delhi, the next moment I see a story about Agra, or Goa, or Mumbai or New York, even. I’m tired of this worldwide epidemic of hatred towards women, I’m tired of living on a globe where women are consistently treated as less than, to be hunted for sport, to be thought of in their own little slots. I’m tired of living on a globe where anyone is less than, I know that sounds na├»ve, but here we are, facing 2015, and there’s still all these fixable problems! Racism! Sexism! Rape! They don’t need technological advancements, they just need people to get their heads out of the eighteenth century and into the twenty first.

I am tired of responses made by men: “don’t be emotional.” “Not all men.” “Are you on your period?” I’m tired that these paint the other men with the pale watercolours of misogyny, even though the paint is so faded it peels right off when a man does something as simple and essential as take care of his own infant child. “Such a good father!” they—you—say, and then you ignore the baby’s mother who cradles and rubs and feeds and wakes up at two in the morning and worries and worries and worries, you ignore all that for a walk in the park, a man taking pleasure in his own child.

I am tired. I don’t know if it’ll get better. I know it will get worse. 

(A version of this appeared in mydigitalfc.com around the time of the Uber driver rape case but I think it's still relevant.)
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WEEK OF BOOK GIVEAWAYS!

27 February 2015

So, my Facebook page is about to hit FORTY THOUSAND LIKES. (I know, right? I have no idea how that happened, seeing as it basically lay fallow for several years till I linked it to my Instagram and noticed a crazy amount of activity.)

To celebrate, I'm doing a week of book giveaways starting as soon as we hit that elusive Four Oh. I've asked my writer friends to participate, and you should totally come and play. I have about three hundred likes to go, which is nothing. NOTHING.

Here's the page! Enjoy! Good luck!


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9 Reasons Why It's Awesome That Bombay Can Party All Night

26 February 2015

So, Bombay—sorry, sorry, Mumbai—is getting an all-night nightlife. This means that once it’s implemented, if you’re drinking in Bombay, you won’t get kicked out at 12.30 am, also means that you can meet people for dinner/drinks whatever time you like (just finished a meeting at 2 am? No problem!). I think it’s a fantastic idea. I wish other cities would follow in its footsteps.

Granted, I can see some pitfalls, like the Delhi government is doing in a bid to stop the capital from following suit: “oh but what about the drunk driving? What about the rape?” Ugh. Please. People will drunk drive at midnight just as much as they’ll drunk drive at 4 am. People will rape at 5 pm, or at 3 am or whenever they please. Why must we pander to the lowest rungs of our society, why can’t this be a problem for the police to deal with instead of putting a barricade up on the whole city? Sometimes it feels like laziness drives a lot of decisions in this country.

Anyway. This week I wasn’t going to rant in this very rant-y column. Instead, I was going to list nine amazing things that will happen once Mumbai is a 24 hour city, in the hopes that this list will inspire everyone else to follow suit.

1)   The city will actually become safer. Don’t believe me? Think about it. A 24-hour-city means that there will be more people on the street all night long, and not just your creeps and your loners. Example: I was in Bombay recently, and got lost finding my way back to the guest house I was staying at. I got my taxi to stop next to a man parking his car outside his building and asked him for directions. “Are you okay?” he asked me, checking to see if I needed help and even offered to drop me to the guesthouse himself. I like to think of that as a nice gesture (I stayed in my cab though), and that more chivalrous people will be out in full force in the middle of the night.
2)   Not everyone is going to get raging drunk every night. Just like you know that one guy who will always be drunk and misbehaved no matter what night of the week you meet him, there will be those people in Bombay too. But the rest of us can enjoy our drinks in a civilized way, and even if we don’t drink out and eat out every night, it’s always nice to have an option. 
3)   It might mean the end of house parties, which is a good thing in Bombay because the flats are so small you’re always running the risk of annoying the neighbours. Plus, most people in Bombay have a rule of taking your shoes off at the door, which, like, totally ruins an outfit, darling. 
4)   It’s going to be fantastic for the economy. Much more employment all round. Much more spending. What’s not to love, other city governments?
5)   It’s a policy approved by the Shiv Sena so there won’t be any crazy fanatics from that side at least trying to beat people up for having a good time. Instead everyone will just mind their own business and live and let live, which is how this whole entire country should be run. 
6)   The nightlife will have to rise to this new challenge and keep reinventing itself. The tired old bars will have to come up with new ways to pull in customers. I think it’s a great way to keep things fresh and alive.
7)   Not just bars, it’s going to be a shot in the arm for the city’s culture scene as well. With 24 hour licenses, imagine going for a film at 2 am, or a dance performance, or a concert. People in corporate jobs needn’t worry about missing out anymore!

8)   Also, with everyone going out later in the evening, traffic will lessen considerably around rush hour, I hope. 
9)   And finally, when Bombay’s experiment is a success, the rest of the country can follow suit and India will be exciting and accessible. Win win!  

(A version of this column appeared in mydigitalfc.com)
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Genres of bad-news books I will buy and read no matter how many versions I've read before ranked by order

25 February 2015

1) Anything about a mountaineering expedition gone wrong but ESPECIALLY tales of people who have died on the Everest.
2) Anything about how you made one TEENY TINY mistake and wound up in a foreign prison for forty years to life.
3) Anything involving a historic incident where a lot of people died and how unaware everyone was in the beginning.
4) The serial killer/rapist and his family life and how he was caught in the end.
5) How you lost everything and there is no redeeming quality to this book and WHY THE WAVE?
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Off to Gulmarg!

19 February 2015

Hoping to look a little more cheerful
I'm going away for a few days, so there won't be any posts up here. Check my Instagram for my live travel feed, it's usually where I post updates.

I'm going SKIING, and it's my second time this season, so I feel quite official. I'll tell you all about how awesome it was when I return. In the meanwhile, have a great week!
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Pondering Mr Kejriwal and his relationship with his wife and how that affects the rest of us

18 February 2015

An apology goes a long way, as Mr Kejriwal has realized, and as other politicians are beginning to get. I was as wounded as any other Delhiite when he chose to leave our city after we had handed it to him, but the more I read about him and how he said, “Listen, I’m really sorry, mistakes were made, give me another chance,” the more I wanted to vote for him. So, he quit. People have done worse things—not apologized for them—and still won elections. Why should this be his Unforgivable Thing, which for a man brand new to politics, isn’t even that unforgivable?

A lot of people on my social media blamed Modi’s jacket (which I talked about two columns ago); emblematic of his attitude, some said; for his party’s resounding loss. The BJP and the Congress have both gotten far too smug, far too comfortable with the idea of being the only two choices for most of India, and as a result, they’re not doing very much else beyond big words and talks of reform and slugging mud over at their opponents.

But I think the measure of Kejriwal could be taken by his attitude to his wife. While Mr Modi pretended Mrs Modi never existed, Rahul Gandhi is a confirmed bachelor and even Kiran Bedi is… divorced? (It’s hard to tell), Kejriwal has always been a man of his family. A photo of him hugging his wife circulated as he tweeted, “Thank you Sunita.” An Indian man. An Indian politician. Hugging his wife in public? It’s huge! It’s a victory already! He even made her come onto stage with him as he smiled at the roaring crowd, cheering for his victory. “This is my wife,” he told them, as they chanted his name, “I would not have been able to do anything without her.”

In contrast, I can’t remember a single other Indian politician acknowledging that there were other people besides his or her party who helped them get where they were. Modi works alone, flashing peace signs at crowds who sing his name, Rahul Gandhi is, yes, accompanied by Mummy, but only so Mummy can keep one beady eye on him as he smirks through his speeches. I tried to remember if I ever saw former PM Manmohan Singh in public with his wife, so I Googled it only to find pictures of her with him greeting the Obamas and other such affairs which did not expose her to the Indian public. More? Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a well-known philanderer. Indira Gandhi had a husband somewhere once, who was never in the picture again after their kids were older. Only Rajiv Gandhi seemed to acknowledge the fact that he was married, and I’m sure his glamorous Italian wife and the mood of the ‘80s had more to do with that than a political move.

Now I’m not saying Kejriwal’s hat-tip to his wife was purely political. I’m sure he loves her, and there was also a very sweet photo collage of him and his son, who first extended a hand to be shook and then, overcome by emotion, Kejriwal reached out and hugged him hard. He seems like what he always says he is: a middle class man with a family, who works hard and cares for them. It’s nice! He’s a politican people like us can identify with, because we’re either related to someone like that or are someone like that. He’s a politician women like because he respects and speaks out for women. He’s a politician basically that speaks across borders (except I don’t think the very rich care for his brand of populous politics): his peculiar way of being (that ghastly muffler, those horrible sweaters!) making him even more endearing. I’d be too shy to have lunch with Rahul Gandhi, too intimidated to have lunch with Narendra Modi, but I think Arvind Kejriwal and I could have a lot to talk about.

Actually, I think I’d rather have lunch with Sunita Kejriwal. She strikes me as a woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get it for herself or for people she loves. She also strikes me as someone who knows how to have a happy relationship without giving up work or sacrificing on motherhood or wifehood or all those other things the media says we can’t have if we have the other. I’m going to be watching her journey at her husband’s side, and wishing her well, just as I do him. 

(A version of this column appeared in mydigitalfc.com)
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For everyone who accuses women of "playing the gender card"

17 February 2015

This will be my go-to feminism image.
Maybe we wouldn't have to "play the gender card" (I'm imagining the Queen of Spades) if you didn't reduce every argument to whether or not the person you're arguing with has ovaries and how you disagree with them, but specifically you disagree with the ovaries. Cannot win with you people.

Basically: don't be a douchebag about women's issues if you're not a woman. Don't be a douchebag about it even if you ARE a woman. Don't be a douchebag, period. 
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What I'm reading: Link List #3

16 February 2015

Spent yesterday having several Bloody Marys in honour of Scout! Who is getting married! She's maybe one of my only "blog friends" who made it to a legit IRL relationship and attending her wedding I think adds a whole new layer of legitimacy. Read about our adventures in Singapore here and here. And Hong Kong here. Happy wedding trails, Scout! May all your troubles be little ones! (Honestly, I just re-read our Singapore adventures, and goodness me, how far we have come.)

Onward to the reading list! It's HUH-YOUGE this week, so maybe bookmark this and come back when you have a little time. 

* Ramchandra Guha in The Telegraph has a fantastic piece on the self love of the Indian male, starting with The Coat and going on to scientists trying to name traffic circles after themselves.

 Mashelkar is a former director general of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and much else. He has not, so far as I know, had a circle or building named after himself. Yet his conduct in public is scarcely less boastful, as witness his editorial in a recent issue of the journal, Current Science. Entitled '"Indovation" for affordable excellence', it is mostly about the author himself.

* QZ has a photo feature on Delhi's smog which looks rather lovely and post-apocalyptic until you realise you're actually breathing that air unfiltered. 
 


The city’s air has become so toxic that US president Barack Obama’s recent three-day visit to the capital reportedly shortened his expected lifespan by six hours.



* Related: in The Economist, how our life spans are lower because of our bad air. 
In theory, at least, every Indian city is now supposed continuously to measure air quality. But state governments are slow to enforce national orders, while the Central Pollution Control Board, India’s main environmental agency, does little. Mr Javedekar promises “aggressive action” to improve fuel standards, which would cover those belching lorries coming into Delhi. In March the Supreme Court may anyway order standards to be tightened, by reducing sulphur, as well as instructing carmakers to cut vehicle emissions.


* Ooh I had another article in Scroll on Valentine's Day when I deconstructed six "romantic" love stories from Indian mythology to point out how secretly sinister they were. Super fun to write.


The Story of Ahalya and Gautam OR Love In The Time Of Godly Body Doubles
Ahalya was super-hot, and her dad, the god Brahma, decided to have a contest to see who would marry her, which is always a great way to pick your future life partner. Indra really wanted to win, but the old sage Gautam won by using some lawyerly logic. Indra disguises himself as Gautam and rapes Ahalya. Other sources say that she saw through his disguises but had sex with him anyway. Who can blame her, being married to a pedantic old dude? Gautam is super pissed and curses both of them, and Ahalya is turned into stone, only set free after the Lord Ram touches her with his foot. She and Gautam live happily ever after.
Why it’s sinister: On two levels: one, if she was raped, it’s one of the earliest bit of victim-blaming in Hindu myths. Two, if she was seduced, it was probably because her husband was old and boring. Poor Ahalya. She didn’t have a chance.

* From Gawker, How ISIS Makes Its Blood Sausage, a story showing how they get their videos produced and out there. Interesting--and super-chilling--read. 

In terms of fidelity and graphics, what ISIS is able to produce is on the same level as something you'd see on ESPN—Alkhouri speculates militant studios could be using pro software like Pinnacle Studio or Adobe Suite. Gone are the days of grainy Bin Laden recordings that look like they came from an attic.

* Also from Gawker, a dated, but still cool old article: On Smarm  and niceness versus sarcasm on the internet. (Personally, I vote for the latter, at least it's a more interesting read.)

It is also no accident that [Dave] Eggers is full of shit. He is so passionate, and his passion has such rhetorical momentum, that it is almost possible to overlook the fact that the literal proposition he's putting forward, in the name of large-heartedness and honesty, is bogus and insulting. Do not dismiss ... a movie? Unless you have made one? Any movie? The Internship? The Lone Ranger? Kirk Cameron's Unstoppable? Movie criticism, Eggers is saying, should be reserved for those wise and discerning souls who have access to a few tens of millions of dollars of entertainment-industry capital. One or two hundred million, if you wish to have an opinion about the works of Michael Bay.

* UGH YOU GUYS WHY IS MEN'S RIGHTS A THING AND WHY ARE WE GIVING IT SO MUCH BHAAV? 


In 1993, Farrell published his full-throated manifesto,The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex. The book tackled a number of pressing issues affecting men. It also took some bizarre turns: At one point Farrell pondered whether the American male was the new "nigger." ("When slaves gave up their seats for whites, we called it subservience; when men give up their seats for women, we call it politeness.") He took a sledgehammer to bedrock feminist ideals, claiming that women have themselves to blame for unequal pay, that domestic violence is a two-way street, and that government programs to benefit women only exacerbate inequality.
* The Pune Mirror runs a lovely column by Mitali Parekh called Pet Puja about the city's animals, and this week it featured a pig, an animal which is both delicious and very smart. 


Mini is most active when she's in heat. She'll steal blankets, laundry and towels to make a nest. Once she even stole hay used to feed horses, and piled it knee-high in her kennel. Things get a little dangerous for Amit, who works in the office. He is the object of Mini's focused affection. "Mini will not leave him alone. She follows him around and looks at him pleadingly. He doesn't leave the office when she's in heat," says More.

It's not that her parents haven't tried to set her up. They took her to meet a boar in the neighbouring piggery, but she tried to bite him. They lived together for a month, but there was no chemistry and Mini came back a virgin. Once a boar broke into the farm and they engaged in loud adult play for three days and immediately after, the boar bolted.
* Speaking of delicious and cute, an Indian restaurant in London is serving squirrel curry.


Rajasthani spiced grey squirrel has been put on the menu at the Cinnamon Club by head chef Rakesh Nair.
For the speciality dish, squirrel legs and shoulders are marinated with coriander, cloves, garlic, chilli and pineapple juice, before being cooked in a tandoor oven.
While the belly is braised and turned into a kadhai-style stir-fry with peppers and onion.

* And finally (I have more, but this is already ginormous so I'm saving some for the next post), Isaac Stone Fish on gay cruising in Modi's India.


The travel website Cruising Gays called [Nehru Park], which is named after India’s first prime minister, the “grand dame” of New Delhi’s cruising places. “On Sunday evenings, the gardens are rocking with over a hundred men hanging around, waiting, looking and just checking out the scene,” claimed an undated post on the site. “If you are a novice and looking to meet other men, this is the place you should start with.” The technique, the activist told me, was simple. Stroll, keeping your head up, and make eye contact with men who walk by. If someone catches your eye and smiles, walk up and say hello.



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I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Squishy

13 February 2015

We got Olga da Polga spayed yesterday, which is quite the operation. On top of this, we're fostering an eight-week-old kitten, who began by being called clever things like Benedict Pawmerbatch and Sub-Klaws, and is now just Squishy. Squishy is the world's cutest kitten, but he's also the world's maddest kitten. Between him scratching all the bare skin he can find, Olga sulking in recuperation and Bruno being very condescending about the pair of them, we have a full (CRAZY) house.

Squishy is all black and now I have to go look for him again, because I keep losing him.

Lord Squishton of Squishfell, Sigil: Claws
You should consider fostering, especially if you'd like a pet but travel a lot or whatever. It's easier and less permanent, plus all the fun of a kitten or puppy without them being boring old dogs and cats.

That being said, he is SUCH a Squishy, let's just say my heart wouldn't break if they didn't find a home for him.

Here's a link to the cat group in Delhi I help out with: Everything Meow.

This is a sort of disjointed post, but there are suddenly kittens that need my attention EVERYWHERE. 

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Free speech, motherfuckers

11 February 2015

Liberty. Let’s consider that word for a second.

“The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's behaviour or political views.”

Liberty happens at several levels. There’s the personal: where you are free to come and go as you wish, to live a life you want to, free from society’s interference. There’s the political: where you are free to vote or not for whoever you like (democracy!) or stand for election yourself, or say anything you like about anyone without getting into trouble.

Now those definitions are already somewhat problematic. Consider this. What if living the way you want involves child abuse or something equally horrific? What if saying anything you liked about a political candidate meant that enough people listened to you and the person was not elected even though what you said wasn’t true? It’s a fine line, a delicate line, and all too often, we err on the side of caution. “As long as we’re not hurting anyone,” we say, as we live perfectly innocent but perhaps morally not-that-great lives in India. In the latter example, you’d assume the people you’re talking to are smart enough to figure out who to vote for on their own, but that’s why defamation laws exist, I suppose.

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom of speech. I had sort of complicated thoughts after the whole Charlie Hebdo thing—of course, no one deserves to die over a few hurt sentiments, but still; was it really necessary or just a print version of clickbait to put the images out there? It was a truly, truly horrific thing to happen, and somehow I think those terrorists were just looking for an excuse to slaughter, but I don’t think it was as cut and dry an act of denial of freedom of speech as people supposed.

Which brings us to the next thing: the All India Bakchod (AIB to fans and familiars) roast. A “roast” is a popular form of comedy where people take not very PC pot-shots at other people. I Googled a few before I wrote this column, mainly to see if there was an art form to it but apart from the quality of jokes, it’s pretty much the same format. A bunch of people get together and make fun of other people. It’s funny! It’s a roast! Granted, it’s probably more amusing if you’re actually there, but it didn’t stop millions of people from checking out the AIB roast online, and writing their own thoughts on it. I checked it out, it was not bad. Perhaps what made it the most worth watching was just people admitting Karan Johar had lots of gay sex (welcome out of the closet, Karan) or that Bollywood stars actually had sex at all. That bit was nice. A lot of swearing, not quite my thing, but okay, I could see the appeal. Mostly, I was pretty shocked no one had objected to it yet, and guess what, the Indian government lived up to my expectations and issued an enquiry, the videos got taken offline. My god, but the fine folk of Maharashtra either really totally resent everyone in Bombay for being in Bombay or they’re just the fun police. (Let’s not even discuss the songwriter who had to remove the word “Bombay” from his song, even though it rhymed.) (Lighten up, you guys, it’s not like Voldemort, it won’t magically morph back into Bombay just because a few people call it that.) (Bombay! Bombay! Bombay! Bombay!)

The gist of the matter is that there’s this guy on the Censor Board called Ashoke Pandite who is exercising his Brahmanical right to object to everything and called it “porn.” Because there’s no other porn available on YouTube? I’m not sure what what Pandite’s MO was in this case, but pretty soon everything became rather muddled with people filing police cases saying it offended religious sentiments (lots of sex jokes, no religious ones). Finally the Maharashtra police backtracking under a tidal wave of unpopularity saying that actually they were only checking licenses and so on, not moral fiber.

Is this going to be how stuff is now? Writers, artists, comedians, anyone who creates, first having to check a source of inspiration to see if it offends anyone? If that’s the case, stamp those passports, because we’re checking out. 

A version of this appeared in Financial Chronicle as my column last week. 
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