How Not to Do Things in India

#4 – Build environment-appropriate housing
(aka The Outsider’s Guide to Dillistan: New-new Housing)

1.  Take a vague agglomeration of sleepy, patriarchy-driven villages and connect them by long stretches of roads. Plonk it in the middle of the hot dust-plains of northern India, and call it a city.  When people start laughing, use those lathis you’ve been stockpiling. Let it remain in this state (ha!) for a few decades.  Then,

2. Watch as it partakes in the heady euphoria of a nationwide economic boom. Allow it to host a couple of international sporting events.  Watch as it begins to morph into a thriving, connected metropolis.  Sigh as it remains just as dusty, while becoming even hotter and more patriarchy-driven.  Then,

3. Relax the rules which prevented home owners from building too vertically.  Cite the pressures of a growing-growing-why-aren’t-you-slowing population.  Ignore all aspersions of all the money set to be made by greasing palms at all the various levels of permits and licenses.

4. Let loose a bunch of builders and architects whose sole aim is to make a quick profit, and whose sole inspiration is a photograph of a modern flat in a northern European nation.

5. Watch as the decades-old, sturdily-built, individualistic one-storey houses get demolished and converted into couldn’t-pick-them-apart-in-a-lineup four storey apartment buildings within 10 months.

6. Note the single layer of bricks, the thin coating of cement, the low (false) ceilings, the highly compact and totally anodyne rooms, the giant sheet of glass that’s used to split up the main room into a ‘dining area’, the lack of any substantially-large windows that can be opened, the absence of a utility room, the non-existent storage area, the replacement of front- and back-facing walls by a giant sheet of glass, the split ACs in every room, the massive underground tanks and automatic pumps that function day and night, the non-double-glazed non-soundproofed nature of the giant sheets of glass, the teeny-tiny balconies that don’t offer enough space for plants to be grown, and the giant sheets of glass glass and more glass everyghelchodiawhere.

7.  Consider that this city has an average daytime temperature of 40C for four months of the year, an average night-time temperature of 7C for another three months, has a modest rainy season which precludes grey skies for most of another two months, bears the periodic brunt of winds rasping across the western and northern plains which bring in mounds of dust, is constantly alive to the sounds of endless traffic snarls (and the attendant honking) because of the addition of 1,500 new cars each day onto the roads, is in the throes of a full-fledged construction boom that has resulted in a perpetual background symphony of hammering and trundling and screeching (not to mention causing even more dust to float around), where electricity shortages are only worsening every month due to the unthinking way it is being guzzled, and which is so landlocked it does not benefit from the relief of sea-breezes.

8. Wait for the inhabitants to realise that these daft structures will be suffocating in the summer due to the lack of cross currents, freezing in winter because of the thinness of the glass, will be perpetually curtained off due to sharp sun streaming in through the giant sheets of glass, and will almost always require ACs if they want to keep breathing.

9. Slowly realise that they are instead touting these new constructions as better than the old ones, and pricing them higher, because they’re ‘modern’.  And that all their neighbours are also following this exact same design for the buildings they’re coming up with, to cash in on the boom.

10.  Weep.


Dear ICICI, yes I know you’ve put me on hold. Somebody asked for my assent before doing so, so you’d think I’d remember.

Dear ICICI, no I won’t give my password to anyone. I’ve already received 14,282 mails, messages, and calls about this.

Dear ICICI, I know this is a recording and all, but that woman must be going out of breath in some parallel universe at the speed you’re playing these messages.

Dear ICICI, did you know it’s possible to start and end announcements without inserting that background tune of yours? What are you, Indian Railways?

Dear ICICI, yes of course I know you offer home loans. You’ve said so three times already.

Dear ICICI, if I were really that important to you, you’d have a dedicated person reading me an e-book while you sort out my issue.

Dear ICICI, ….. hello? did you get cut off? hello? Am I still on hold? hel-…

Dear ICICI, dude, seriously. Don’t blare the tune in my ear after maintaining radio silence for 40 seconds.  I remember the damn tune, I promise!

Dear ICICI, why is this woman so chirpy when she’s warning me about email fraud?

Dear ICICI, pretty please, take a pause between announcements. Don’t worry, I’ll still give you my business.  Really.

Dear ICICI, did you create that tune by recording an acid-tripping monkey on a xylophone?

Dear ICICI, yes yes I’ll stay on hold. How can I not? You have succeeded in brainwashing me and taking control of my motor functions.

Dear ICICI, you could put on Kenny G right now and I wouldn’t destroy this phone. It’s that bad.

Dear ICICI, this is me hyperventilating because you’re not.


Evergreen Irritating Conversations: #14

“Me? Oh, well I …
talk to myself,
make up bad jokes,
run from hornets,
watch people’s lips,
twirl and twirl in the rain,
keep experimenting with masalas to add in chai,
practice arching my left eyebrow,
am trying to perfect a recipe for akoori,
hug friends,
spend hours rambling in search of secondhand books,
like to embarass friends by skipping la-la-la,
can’t help scratching the ears of animals,
stare at clouds till they go away,
bung things into an ove-….

…oh, you mean what do I do for a living?
I have a job.

…no, you first learn how to ask the right questions.

How not to do things in India

#77  Using violence as a means of social activism

This video’s being doing the rounds of social media in India. It’s been getting a lot of likes, a lot of ‘LOLs’, and a lot of eager shares.

I really, really hope this is a spoof video. But even if it’s not, this needs to be said, because people are actually approving of this vigilante shit.

Yes, public defecation is a major problem in urban India, and yes, it’s not pleasant, and yes, it’s frustrating trying to stop people (mainly men) from doing so.  But this? All I got from this is –

“Oho, look bro, I am Activist Middle Class Person.  See, I have enough money to hire a tanker and to paint it and to risk all the fines I will have to pay when arrested.  Plus, I have a bunch of friends to help me thrash you if you dare to attack me.  And I’m too much of a hypocritical wuss to put my face where my actions are.  But beshht part? I got cool video-skills, bro!


Abey kya lecture de raha hain.  So what if the almost zero-number of public toilets in India are not located within 10 kilometres of each other, are flooded in excrement, and stink enough to make you gag within 50 metres of them?  So what if using a water cannon is not legal, or safe?  So what if this method adds to the perception that the only way to achieve anything in India is by physical violence and abuse?


Urban planning?  Working with authorities to build more toilets?  Fund-raising for water-less porta-loos?  Trying innovative methods like photographing them or surrounding them and singing loudly or blaring loud music just as they start peeing, so they’re shamed/persuaded not to do so?  Using the tank to wash out the existing public loos so that more people are encouraged to use them?


Bro bro bro – don’t be a bore, man.  Waaay cooler to dress up like so cool and show off our fake-Batman pose! Chal na, we’ll pretend to be riot cops in Ukraine!  Video-viral on teh interwebz, bebbehh!!”

… you know what, go take your dumb-ass tanker for a ride. Go on, I dare you. Because since I disagree with you, by your philosophy, it’s ok if I slash your tyres and smash your lights and dismantle your engine and take over that hose and wash you off your tanker onto the ground, and then dump you in a public urinal while wearing a Tshirt that says “IF YOU START, I LAGAO VAAT”, right? Right?

….What utter, utter ghelchodias. The Clean Indian? More like The Idiot-Who-Thinks-They’re-Cool Indian.

So not funny.  So not cool.  And so not helpful.

Z is for Zeroth Law

The Zeroth Law of Robotics, as defined by Asimov, states:
‘A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.’

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Our society is, with increasing pace, headed towards the AI Singularity and the creation of robots that match the dreams of the classic Sci-Fi writers.

Whether it’s drones unmanned aerial vehicles or football-playing humanoids or canine-shaped military attack bots, robots are set to become a ubiqitous part of our lives in the next few decades.  So far, the impact is negligible on the vast portion of humankind, but the rapid pace of eager development and the growing inter-connectedness of technology means that very soon, we will all begin to use them in some capacity.  And eventually, depend on them.

I’ve been re-reading classic robot Sci-Fi – particularly Asimov and Bradbury and Heinlein – and I cannot but marvel at how prophetic their vision of such changes in society were.

And I can only hope that, in the end, our world(s) will be more in line with those futures rather than ones where we’re Terminated.

….and then I question why I hope our robot rulers are kind to us, when we haven’t been so with ourselves.  After all, their thoughts and actions are likely to be based and guided by the study of human history, and human history is merely one long series of messy, brutal conflicts.  I wonder if the robots will simply look around, think for a bit, and then continue what seems to have been humankind’s mission (wiping each other out) in a more efficient manner.

…. those underground bunkers are going to have to be really heavily re-inforced.

(The Outsider’s Guide to Dillistan) Yowling and yelling

After a delayed start, Summer has engulfed Dillistan.  The 40C barrier was broken yesterday, and it will continue to rise until it most likely peaks at around 47C.

Of course, once this happens, the whole place goes totally woo-woo.

…well, it’s always totally woo-woo, it just gets a bit more so.

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Contrary to expectations, the summer air in Dillistan is full of a raucous cacophony.

The day is full of Dillistanis insisting on stepping out without protection despite the heat, which means they promptly end up getting their brains scrambled (even more).  And when a Dillistani’s brain gets scrambled (even more), they resort to their basic state-of-being – showing everybody else how badass they are.  Of course, unless they’re really truly badass, nobody really gets into a physical fight (because even a crazy Dillistani worries about whether the other person might actually pull out a knife) but instead make do with verbal violence.

Which is why all day long, every hour or so, you can expect to be witness to duels of the abey-teri-maa-ki and aa-na-abey-tu-idha-aa-na varieties.

Do not intervene under any condition – the ghelsappas will consider you yet another opponent and drag you into the ruckus as well.  Particularly if you are trying to placate them or are asking them to tone it down.  Because tu kaun hota hain beech main bolne wala.

Eventually, however, the sun sets and the air cools down marginally and the Dillistanis head home.

Which is when the stray dogs, which have been lounging peacefully in the shade all day long, wake up.  And since they mimic what humans do, and since the heat has been insidiously stewing their brains as they slept, they launch into a barking-howling-snarling symphony that lasts till the sun comes up.

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After a few days of this incessant yelling-by-day and yowling-by-night, accompanied by the heat, a high percentage of newcomers to Dillistan have to be rescued from their locked bedrooms, where they sit catatonically, slowly tearing things into strips.

The rest of them join in the fights, as they have been converted into a Dillistani.

Either way, you cannot escape.  You have been warned.

(The Outsider’s Guide to Dillistan) Xenophobia

Like every nation, Dillistan does not like foreigners.

Some sociologists and historians will try and convince you that this is because centuries of invasions have instilled an instinctive wariness and mistrust amongst the native populace.  Plausible.  But bollocks.

The real reason Dillistanis are so xenophobic is because they have to live in Dillistan, and thus resent anybody who doesn’t.

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A Dillistani has a keenly-tuned radar for detecting foreigners.

The timidity with which somebody requests a service provider to, y’know, provide the service instead of talking on his phone for 44 minutes; the naive way in which commuters expect autowallahs to start the meter; and of course, the use of the word ‘Boss’ instead of ‘bhaayyya’ – all of these instantly help the Dillistani identify the outsiders.  And it is then incumbent upon a true Dillistani to torment these border-crossers and make their stay truly unforgettable.

A Dillistani will buttonhole outsiders with insistent demands about their exact sub-sub-sub-category of religion, caste, and clan.  You can try and tell them that eight generations of your family have lived in one of the major metros, but they will not rest till you trace your roots back to some village.  At which point they will sneer at you for having such dehati roots, unlike their own.

Dillistanis will deliberately confuse you by using different names for food items.  Thus pumpkins will become ‘sitaphal’, even though all over India that’s the name for custard apples.  Dillistanis have a highly sophisticated and complex scoring system to see how quickly they can make a person frustrated, and they’re all in on the action.  The betting scene is bigger than a World Cup final,but of course you won’t even know it exists.

Dillistanis will also mock anybody who can afford to but doesn’t buy a bike or car because they’re concerned about sustainability and public transport.  The same applies to people who prefer not to have domestic help all day long but instead call them in for just a couple of hours every alternate day, or worse, wash their own dishes.  As for actually transporting and setting up your own furniture … well, you’d better have a will made up.

And of course, the ultimate way Dillistanis get their own back at foreigners is by ensuring that every eatery offers only potatoes and paneer in the non-meat section.