The Uncivil Wars of the Internet

The last of the men cowered behind the penis-shaped rock. Some lay panting with their back against the wall, exchanging haggard stares. The strain from days of defensive blogging and twitter trolling lay heavy on their faces. Braver souls peered around the stone balls into the darkness to see if the feminists were still pursuing them. The sky was still being lit up by the occasional opinion piece but the thunder of tweetiques sounded distant enough to allow for a short respite.

The Standup Comedian took stock of his ammo. Only two sexist jokes left – that wouldn’t hold the onslaught for long. You had to be on elevated ground for them to be of much use, anyway. The last skirmish had depleted much of his supplies – he had been lucky to get out alive, despite using up all his don’t-watch-it-if-you-dont-like-its and learn-how-to-take-a-jokes.

“So, this is it.” The Meninist wheezed.  “The end of men”.

“CISMEN”. A speaker thundered somewhere overhead. The political correctograms were the first thing the Social Justice League installed when they seized power.

“Darn it, won’t be long before they find us now. Will you shut up, please?”

“Fuck you, Ad guy. I’m not going out whispering”.

“Keep talking and the next Op Ed will land right on your head.”

“You really think you will safely make it to Reddit if you keep quiet, do you? Like fuck you will. Who knows if there is anyone left over there now?”

“Let’s give ourselves a fighting chance, shall we?”

The comic spoke up. “Stop bickering. Who are we kidding? There is no escape now. They should have been stopped when they invaded Twitter.”

“It is true. It’s too late now. First they came for the standup comics. Then I did not speak out because I was not a standup comedian.”
“And not because they came for the comics who trivialized violence against women?”.

“Then they came for the advertising industry. Then I did not speak out because I was not an ad guy.”
“Maybe because they came for the ads which compared used BMWs to women who were not virgins?”

“Then they came for the Jews.”
“Not really”.

“Then they came for me – and there was noone left to speak for me.”
“There’s a chance it could have been because you tweeted rape threats.”

“Did any of you hear that disembodied voice? Who’s sub-tweeting me?”

“It is I.” A shadowy form dropped down the shaft of the rock formation.

“You! Traitorous bast..”

“Don’t take another step. I have a tumblr pointed at you which I won’t hesitate to use. You can all lay down your weapons and get on the floor. And yes, I identify with the feminist cause, if you haven’t figur..”

Before the feminist could finish his words, the area was suddenly lit by the blinding glare of multiple think pieces. An aggressive tweet blared:


As others dropped to the floor in terror, the feminist took a couple of tentative steps forward and tried to make himself heard over the din.

“It’s all under control”.

“Sir, please cast your weapon away.”

“I have. The tumblr on the floor was mine. Everything is under control.”

“Sir, I repeat, please drop your weapon and fall on the floor.”

“I don’t have any weapon, everything is under control. These men were fleeing but I..”


“Base, I had to neutralise a threat. He wouldn’t put his mansplaino-matic away despite repeated warnings.”

Date a Girl Who Likes Biryani

(Because I was fed up of the exhortations to date girls who read, write, travel, does handstands while riding a horse, etc.)

Date a girl who likes Biryani. Date a girl who doesn’t need to look at the menu to know what she wants. She says no to dessert every day because she has no space for it after thulping a full Biryani. Date a girl who knows her Hyderabadi from her Malabar Biryani, can distinguish between the scents of Awadhi Biryani and Chettinadu Biryani in her sleep.

Find a girl who likes Biryani. You’ll know she does because she sniffs the air in anticipation when the waiter is bringing her order. She’s the one who has chicken bones stacked neatly on the side of her plate and an empty bowl of raita beside her in restaurants (Unless she’s not finished, in which case she’s the one who’s eating Biryani.) You see the weird chick who’s peering into your plate when you’re gorging on Biryani like there’s no tomorrow? That’s the Biryani lover.

She’s the girl you run into at Shanmukha Biryanis and then again at Biryani zone. If you take a peep into her plate, she will not have touched the gravy which comes with the Biryani. That’s the mark of a true Biryani lover – the Biryani is to be had unsullied except for the gentle dulling of the spices by the raita. Sit down. She might give you a glare as the girls who eat Biryani do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she liked her Biryani. Ask her if she thought the rice could have imbibed the masala better.

Buy her another plate of Biryani.

Let her know what you really think of Vegetable Biriyani. See if she thinks only Mutton Biryani deserves to be called Biryani.  Understand that if she says she understood what exactly the ‘Dum’ in ‘Dum Biryani’ stands for or if she’s just saying that to appear knowledgable.  Ask her if she knows Kalyani and pray she doesn’t say ‘Who?”

It’s easy to date a girl who likes Biryani. She understands there are highs and lows in a relationship and it might not always be rosy. Just like how the masala is not even throughout and the flavor might vary from part to part. Get her unexpected gifts which surprise her like the odd raisin and cashew in a Biryani. You can stop doing that after the first few weeks, because the raisins usually get over pretty fast. Sprinkle attention on her like the golden deep-fried onions sitting pretty on top of the Biryani. She’ll enjoy the attention but understand that it is really not integral to the Biryani relationship.

Make her Biryani for her birthday. Call up your mom in advance and ask her how many minutes to let it simmer on the stove.

On the day she timidly extends a casserole to you, with a blush in her cheeks, you’ll know that you have successfully captured her heart. Eat the whole of what she has given you, even if it tastes like horsecrap. Do not tell her how badly it sucks, instead tell her how it is the best biryani you have ever had. Ensure she doesn’t have even a morsel to taste. Because then she will learn the truth. She’s the girl who likes Biryani.

You will propose in Paradise Hyderabad. Or at Top Form Calicut. Or at home over a bowl of steaming goodness of rice and meat and spices. In a perfect blend. Like you and the girl who likes Biryani. Imagine her doe-eyed smile of wonder when she unearths the ring from under the juicy leg piece of chicken.

You will have a grand wedding. Where you’ll serve all the guests with the Biryani of their choice. After everyone is gone, you’ll be left alone with the girl who likes Biryani. You’ll smile happily and extend a plate of Chicken Biryani to her. And vow to share Biryani with her forever, in sickness and in health. Except if you get jaundice, in which you’ll do better to stay away from Biryani.

Grow old with the girl who likes Biryani. As old as having Biryani three times a day will allow you to. Have kids and watch her teach them to scoop Biryani onto their plate without spilling using the spoon-fork double hold. Stay in on hot summer days and order in family packs of Biryani. Cuddle around the heat of Biryani cauldron on cold winter nights. In spring, take her on walks to shed those extra pounds.

Date a girl who likes Biryani because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the tastiest life imaginable.  If you can only give her the monotony of Roti-daal, aaloo paratha, idly sambhar, you are better off alone. If you want a deeply fulfilling life with the right mixture of joy and spices little sorrows, date a girl who likes Biryani.

Or better yet, date a girl who likes Porotta-Beef Fry.

Turkish Delight

I don’t really feel happy when good things happen to other people. Haven’t in a while. Fruits of hard work and random pieces of luck are treated with the same amount of disdain when it happens to acquaintances.

Growing up in a setup where the omnipresence of competition is drilled into your head from Kindergarten and your success is constantly measured using the most inane and irrelevant comparisons possible, it is difficult to feel happy for others when they one up you. A more magnanimous man could, maybe, but I couldn’t, especially since I completed my first year in college which would coincide with the derailing of the myth of my academic brilliance.

There have been occasions where I’ve felt genuinely happy – Aswin landing a job in Mahindra, off the top of my head. I remember sending him a rather elaborate congratulatory message on the lines of how he really deserved it,which he proudly showed his mother, only for her to raise an eyebrow at the ‘Cheers!’ which concluded the text.

The reason why I do not feel happy is obvious – because I am not happy with where I am in my life. The fact that what I am is entirely down to what I did and did not do is completely irrelevant here. When I feel that I’ve done justice to myself, I will surely find that what happens to other no longer matter and I will actually be the nice guy I am generally perceived to be.

There is another reason to really feel unbelievably happy for someone else, as much as you would for yourself. When you care for the said someone like hell.

Istanbul FTW.

Death of a Revolutionary

Story I wrote for the Saarang Writing Awards 2011Facebook Flash Fiction Competition. The story had to fit in 10 lines and the prompt was, ‘When you have nothing left to burn, you have to set fire to yourself‘.

The revolution had failed. He would never live to see the dawn when his people would walk the streets fearlessly, their heads held high with no muzzles to bow down to. What pained him was that the people didn’t seem to want to. More than the guns of the army or the fear of the tyrant, it was the apathy of the people which had hurt the struggle the most.

At first, he had hoped that the truth would be enough to jolt the people out of their beds. Then, he was sure that the blood of their brothers would push them over the edge. When all else had failed, he had even reluctantly approved a campaign based on lies, magnifying the regime’s atrocities tenfold.

But here they were, the last remnants of the uprising hemmed in by the army on all sides and it was time for the last gamble, the one which he had hoped he would never have to make. He stepped out of his tent to meet his bodyguards dressed in the unfamiliar olive-green of the official forces and the photographer who would beam the graphic pictures of cold-blooded murder of a defenseless prisoner to the outside world. He took a deep breath, searched his mind for appropriately profound last words and said, “Alright, be quick with it.”

Where have all the sperms gone?

A question to which most people reading this will answer ‘Down the drain’, I suppose. But no, it’s not the masturbatory habits of the Indian male that elicits this lament from me, but an increasing number of alarming news articles which gives one the impression that the human sperm is an endangered species, placed somewhere between the Bengal Tiger and the Polar bear in the Red list.

The latest in this series of events happened this morning. Seated lavishly in the BMTC Volvo, the Bengaluru software engineer’s chariot of choice, I took a peek at the ToI the gent who sat ahead of me was skimming through. Regular ToI fare of skimpily clad actresses cribbing about the US Foreign policy and a random astrologer predicting Baby B’s future was snorted at, before my attention was arrested by a heading on the Science page (Yes, ToI has one).

‘Browsing the net on a laptop with wifi will kill sperms’.

ToI headlines being ToI headlines, the first thought you have is that the possibility of a sperm owning a laptop, let alone have a wifi connection is rather negligible. Then, the realisation kicked in. What the fuck. You might as well tell me breathing kills sperms. I mean, I spend more time ‘browsing the net on a laptop with wifi’ more than anything else in my life. Before I could read further, the bus pulled up at Ecospace, and I had to get down, with a disturbing piece of half-baked information. Which is arguably what you get even if you read the ToI in full, but still.

Coming back to the topic, there is no doubt that we are witnessing an alarming trend with respect to sperms. Anything and everything is supposed to make you infertile. Sperms can’t be blamed if they become fucking paranoid and think everybody’s out to get them. Because everybody is.

The first time I noticed this was when I was in school and all of a sudden, there was an alarming lack of eggs in my diet. My mother, who used to take the NECC ad where the scrawny kid breaks Sachin Tendulkar’s- REALLY! – hand very seriously and fed me bulls eye for breakfast, Omelette for lunch and Egg roast for dinner, seemed strangely against eggs all of a sudden. My habit of reading anything and everything strewn around the house, including strict no-nos for gentlemen such as Vanitha and Manorama weekly, was what helped me find out the truth eventually. I read with much amusement and some indignation, a passionate article on the evils of hormone-infested chicken which flooded the market today and laid the hormone-infested eggs which would make our children childless. I shrugged and turned the pages to Dr.Narayana Reddy’s column where he wrote about the curious cases he had come across in his illustrious career. They were, more often than not, well illustrated.

A few years later, I was lounging around in a family wedding, trying to simultaneously avoid annoying uncles who would ask me how my CAT plans were coming along and even more annoying aunties who would ask me to guess their names before soliciting free career advise for Monu and Sonu who would be in 4th and 6th standards, respectively. As always happens, I was discovered lurking before too long and was dragged into a well fed group of aunties who had just finished a hearty lunch and were looking for something juicy to chew on. Cue me.

The usual discussion on how engineering was of no use these days ensued and I stood squirming in the middle, trying to eye some of the more desirable female contingent milling around. In my impatience to get away, I palmed my phone and started fiddling with it. Suddenly, curve ball.

Mone, Where do you keep your phone?”

“Uh? In my pocket.”

“Which pocket?”

Somehow, I had a hunch of what was coming.

“Shirt pocket.”

Atha nallath. Don’t use your pant’s pocket, okay?”

Huge laughter ensues. I manage a weak smile and slink away as a new victim is ushered in. He is older and closer to marriage, so his ordeal would be longer and more terrible to behold.

Again, a year or two later, during my brief dabble with cigarettes, I’ve been told, “Never mind your lungs, kuttikalundavilla ketta?”. Open-mouthed smile Least of my concerns by the time really.

So, there you have it – mobile phones, laptops, chicken, eggs, cigarettes, alcohol – everything – only has one agenda. Killing sperms. If half of what you hear is true, then half of my generation will not father kids. The next generation might as well not bother to try at all.

Of course, there is a bright side to all of this. Once you are sure every last little bugger has been killed, you can bonk away to kingdom come without any fear of accidents whatsoever.
So there. We still win.


I was talking to M one of these days, and we were on an unusual subject for us, Writing. I told her how I write, rewrite and abandon posts because I don’t feel I’m writing good enough. I also told her about Heinlein’s rules of writing which I’m blatantly violating. She replied, “Whoever this guy is, he’s my God” – or something in a similar vein. And how she starts writing something only if she’s sure she’ll finish it. How to just write and get it out of your system and not worry about constructing sentences and replacing words and getting THAT word you’re looking for.

So I just went along to her blog and found this post. On what makes her happy. She got the inspiration to write it , quoting her, from “sucking on a lollipop, sitting in my veranda and watching it rain cats and dogs”. So, I decide to have a shot at it, the way she does it. Write, write and write without thinking too much about it. I am lying on my bed, listening to Noel Gallagher serenely belting out Don’t Look Back in Anger and pounding on my keyboard, with an open copy of ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’ lying beside me. I’ve promised to help 2 people with 2 different things tonight – to write an SoP for Sandhu and to read through a PDF on Air Law for V, both of which are open and half done on 2 windows.

Now, the song has switched to Engine Driver by The Decemberists. I’m still happy, it’s a song I’ve recently loved.

SO, here goes, the things which make me happy.

Aasiya – For being a cute sister who make me look forward to going home every time, from Bangalore of all places. For calling the purdah-clad extremist who teaches her Quran a crackpot.

Vaappa – For bringing me up mostly by himself when I was a toddler, and for realising the benefits of the hands-off approach when it was time for it.

Umma – For worrying about me.

Oh fuck. There is a Light That Never Goes Out. Not the happiest of songs.

Quizzing – For the thrill of – quoting the supreme authority – random, half-forgotten details combining to offer a ‘Eureka!’ moment.

Liverpool FC – For giving me something to be unabashedly passionate about.

Football – For giving me the some of the highest of highs and some of the lowest of lows in my life. For a lot of intelligent friends online.

V – For being the other source of highest of highs and the lowest of lows. For being the most random incredible piece of luck ever.

Friends – In particular, 2 from school, 4 from college, 2 from the interwebz and 1 from quizzing for being generally awesome company.

Now it’s Long as I can see the Light . Hope. Happiness. Good shit. Thanks to Arun & Raju for introducing me to CCR.

Bangalore Pubs – For being the scene of some of the most illuminating discussions I’ve sat through in my life. Honorable mention to Hotel Prince in Trivandrum and Venugopal Sir.

Spotify – For being a simply brilliant app which knows what to play, when. Thanks again to Raju for more awesomeness.

Accenture – For being generally cool with me. I would rather slave for you American bastards than country Indians like TCS or Infy.

Books & the WWW – For helping me stay the pseudo-intellectual I am, through the years.

100% Good human beings – For Anand and Kiran for restoring my faith in humanity, that humans can be wholly unselfish and good.

Chicken, Beef & Fish – For survival.

Why am I thinking about happy things? Because I spent nearly 6 hours on the phone today and it made me happy. Sad, I know, but I needed it, somehow.

Raindrops are Falling on my Head. How fitting.

V for V

H (or B or D or M or P or any of the numerous names bestowed upon him by his few admirers and fewer thigh-grabbers) wonders why lovers are preoccupied with sunsets. It seems that every couple he knows love to be photographed with the setting sun in the background. It baffles and irritates him even more when the photo just has the sun – “What is the bloody point?” The scenario goes from merely puzzling to tragic, and the rage-meter climbs to apoplexy from indignation, when the culprits are laymen who are as competent with a Canon as they would be with a Beretta and commit that cardinal sin which singlehandedly fills more than half of the photographers’ hell, of using flash.

Discourses about the virtues of natural light notwithstanding, he is impressed with how beautiful V looks in photos, with the head slightly cocked to one side, a few stray strands hinting at how her hair would be all over the place if not tied down, an incredibly natural smile, enhanced tenfold by the freckled cheeks dimpled in full glory and the ease with which she hugs. She would look just as comfortable throwing her arms round a stone statue, one of the many which dot the background with the frozen smile and chicken legs. This is, as V would be quick to point out and H quicker, not remarkably far from the object she is hugging in actuality. If they do, I can always say that when you are with the Hannibal Lecter of hugging, the one and only possible author of the highly improbable book if it’s ever written – The Rise and Fall of Hugging as a Professional Sport, there’s nothing much you can do, except surrender. And surrender is never easy on the eyes.

V does not like being told she looks beautiful in photos. She explains, with all the usual lawyerly cocksurety fully in place, that photogenic is not a compliment and it is a euphemistic adjective for people who look ugly in person but look marginally less ugly in photos. As is the case mostly when she assumes this air of imparting wisdom to mortals, she is bullshitting. It does not matter how beautiful you are, or how revolting you look; when a moment is frozen, most people find it hard to look natural. And only very few can look as if they are born to look beautiful in that moment. But she knows it too, and she is pleased at the compliment. She is, though she tries very hard not to be, a nineteen year old girl, after all.

Still critically glancing through the photos, H remarks that V looks happy. Her happiness is not an assumption you can draw from her camera smile, a photographer’s dream, a perfected routine which she will pull off even if you shook her awake at 3 in the night. But it’s true that there is something more, a tangible happiness to some of the pictures, which is in spite of and not because of my efforts at a natural smile which ends up somewhere between the smirk of a serial killer and a Cheshire cat grin. I cannot be so presumptuous so as to conclude I had the most part to play in it. I am there or thereabouts, yes, but over the years, both Hampi and the rain have made more people happy than I have ever managed to.

The rains in particular had miraculously transformed her mood. The ominous dark clouds were hanging above us all afternoon and I was fervently hoping it wouldn’t come to anything. But rain it did, and heavily for half an hour. But a short stay under a tree which was of little help and a mad wet dash to the Lotus Mahal –the only roof within a mile of us – later, the preoccupied air of a spinster who enjoys the sights but is not really taken in by the wonder of it had been replaced by the wide-eyed joy of a kid who oohs and aahs at every little thing she saw. I will stay eternally grateful for that bit of help from the heavens in a sultry Hampi afternoon. That spot of rain also paved the way for the Great Mobile Chase of Hampi, which is a story in itself, but for another place and time.

I wish I had some pictures of V with the locals. It was an educational experience to see this girl run over people. I would try at first to look in charge of the proceedings, which was difficult as V was the one who whittled the local gold-diggers down to our prices in rapid Tamil and later, to recede to a bermuda-wearing wallflower still attempting to be faintly in charge, from a distance. This happened with each of the characters we encountered. Ravi, the auto driver who took us from Hospet to Hampi. Muthu, the next auto driver and Man Friday who took us around the ruins and uttered the immortal lines ‘But Saar is the maan in charge’ which earned him my respect, V’s ire and fifty extra bucks at the end of the day. The nameless waiter at Gopi’s who could reel off the names of all manner of foreign dishes before taking the order back to their very excellent cook who could apparently cook all of that with the same ease. The giggling girls who all crowded into Muthu’s auto with us at the end of their shift as guides in the Vittala temple , accepting Muthu’s chivalrous offer of a lift to Kamalapura with ‘Teri Meri Prem Kahani’ on repeat in the background. The random strangers she got to click our pictures for us- the cute American guy (in her words), the Korean chap, the bald foreigner, the guide of the very South Indian family who mildly disapproved of us, to name a few.

H winds up his run through the pics, but not his critical appraisal – ‘disgrace’, ‘flash’ and ‘angle’ occasionally peppering the conversation. He feels restless having to occupy the same universe as these photos taken of a very beautiful subject at a very beautiful place by a very bad photographer and goes to work, trying to rescue what he can , in Picasa. I retire to bed after a couple of Bacardi Lemon shots.

Sometime later in the night, a beep wakes me up. It’s a text from H – “You guys look SUPERAWESOME as a couple in some of the pics I’ve managed to salvage.”

That we do. In spite of me.