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.



Nod (and smile)

The odds are not in your favour.  With more than seven billion people on this world means the likelihood of you bumping into an idiot is very high.  And once such contact has been made, the chances of such idiots cornering you and forcing their even-more-idiotic opinions upon you are even higher.

You may meet people who fervently believe voting for a rightwing, authoritarian politician is going to result in positive change.  You may meet people who tell you how homeopathy can cure cancer.  You may meet people who insist your sole purpose in life is to marry, and then procreate, and who will hound you till you do both.  You may meet people who will try and brainwash you against intermingling with “those kind of people”.  You may meet people who refuse to accept that all of life’s lessons can be found in the Discworld novels. You may meet people who will dismiss the Tracy Chapman version of ‘Words’ in favour of the Boyzone one.  You may meet people who are convinced that cinnamon should never be added to chocolate.  You may even, if you are extremely unfortunate, meet people who will hold forth on the obvious superiority of Formula 1 over Wimbledon.

You will meet at least one such person in your life.  It is inevitable.  Now you might initially contemplate refuting, rebutting, and rejecting their theories.  Which would be a pointless waste of your time and energy (remember that Shaw quote about wrestling pigs).  So do the only thing you can in such an eventuality –

Nod and smile. 
Don’t talk, don’t grunt, don’t gesticulate.
Just Nod.
A noncommittal slight tip of the head
and Smile.
A neutral stretching of the lips.
Nod. Smile. Nod. Smile.

The idiots eventually go away happy – without trying to punch you – and you end up with less frown-lines.  What’s not to like?

Empowered for a day

So many articles about Women’s Day.  What it means, and how it can be used, and how to celebrate it. So, so many articles.

The best thing to do with Women’s Day?
Ignore it.

Because acknowledging it means you’re still accepting token platitudes.

Because accepting it means you’re effectively giving up your right to the rest of the year.

Because celebrating it means you’re okay with being treated as a special case that needs propping up, because you’re obviously incapable of doing so on your own.

Because nobody insists on marking Men’s Day* with special film screenings and product launches and articles about achieving self-actualisation. And till that happens, you still haven’t achieved the equality that you’re fighting for.

And mostly, mostly, because it’s a bloody sales gimmick!

And if you agree to this concept, then those moora marketing people will get even more encouraged to foist some other stupid ‘Day’ onto us, which means I won’t be able to access any information medium for weeks without being bombarded by ads and articles which basically suggest that I fork over my moolah in return for some gimcrack gewgaw.  And not just a few ads, lots and pots of bheja-frying blathertisements!

So, pretty please with a layer of extra maska, stop buying into this guff!  And the next time somebody says ‘Happy Women’s Day’, sock ’em one. Or sling them a slipper.  Otherwise, khodai na kasam, I’ll call you every afternoon and wish you Happy Day Day.  And sing you the official song.  Yes, there’s one.  I invented it.  It’s mind-scrambingly awful.  And I’ll do it in full Bombay-local-urchin-channelling-Altaf-Raja mode.

You’ve been warned.

* 19 November, apparently.

Bloody Sunday

I like Sundays.  Of course I do, I’m a Bombay bawa.

Growing up, Sundays was about omelettes or akoori for breakfast, accompanied by lots of chai and the weekend paper supplements, and helpings and helpings and helpings (and helpings) of dhansak for lunch.  Sundays was about being morally blackmailed into going to the agiary, and ticking off lists for the study-week ahead.  Sundays was about trying to convince your grandmother into treating you to those interesting looking snacks that the door-to-door salesperson would bring.  Sundays was about lining up all the Duke’s bottles that had just been delivered and delighting in all their colours and scheming about how you could get access to them early this week.  Sundays was about an evening walk along one of the sea-front promenades, or a browsing trip to the original Crossword.  Sundays was about writing letters (and then emails) to distant relatives, and visiting nearby ones.  Sundays was about contemplating the world and the life you were making in it.

But more than anything else, Sunday was about Sunday afternoons.
And most specifically, about Sunday afternoon naps.

Because you couldn’t nap on Saturday afternoons.  Well, you could, but only technically.  Because Saturday was full of shopping and tidying up the loose ends of the working week and meeting friends and going for a movie.  There were always things to do while the shops were open and the city was alive.  But Sunday?  Sunday was for making plans, and having made them, knowing you had the luxury of ignoring them completely, secure in the knowledge that everything was set and sorted and you could just … relax.

And once lunch was done, you could just streeeetch and sigh loudly, contentedly, and then reach out for a last greedy slice of watermelon, and read another few pages, and then unworriedly, uncaringly, contentedly surrender to the warmth of the day outside and the warmth in your tummy, knowing that there was no pressure, no urgency, and no demands. And you could fall asleep comfortable that the only urgent thing that you would have to deal with on waking up was whether you wanted mint or ginger in your chai.

And it was the same everywhere.  Even in a driven city like Bombay, the pace and sounds of life just eased off gradually on Sunday afternoons.  The streets were empty of enthusiastic children.  Doorbells were spared by people soliciting donations or trying to tout spurious schemes.  Restaurants were shut, shops were closed, and everywhere felt like Goa in the off-season, or France any day of the week.

And the world was a softer, calmer, nicer place.

Which is why, nowadays, I have to try very hard not to chuck bricks and let loose with a flamethrower from my window every Sunday afternoon.

WHAT THE HECK has gone wrong with people?  Why are people surprised that I’m too groggy to talk on the phone at that time, even though this is not the first time it’s happened?  Who told my neighbours I would be eagerly awake to talk to them, even though I haven’t been the previous five times they’ve come to talk to me at such a time?  Why in the world would marketing survey types start rattling off their spiel in the face of my bleary eyes and believe I’m likely to give them my time and not a ninja-kick?  Why are these morons shredding the silence by revving and racing their bikes through the colony?  When did it become okay for religious nuts to play loud bhajans just as the world has obviously launched into slumber?  Why in heck’s name is the bloody kabadiwalla making four rounds right now, instead of the morning when people are more likely to give him business?  Why does a monkey-trainer think he’s going to get an audience then, instead of in the evening when people are up abd about?  And why why why why why WHY have people stopped caring so much that they will talk really loudly and shout to each other despite people requesting them to sod off you miserable gits?

People tell me this is progress.

That this is the result of the disintegration of joint families leading to people caring less for others.  That this is what happens when schools insist on telling everybody that they’re special and stop parents from smacking them a deserved one.  That this is the price we pay for becoming a vibrant, thriving economy that’s no longer stultifying under mofussil traditions.   That this is the sort of abrasive uncourteousness caused by a too-rapid influx of wealth for too few people, and the frustration of those not partaking of it.  That’s there’s so much more to do in the New India and how can I just waste time by sleeping.  That this is how it is and if I can’t deal with it, I should head to the hills.

To which I say, purple bollocks.

It’s time to Reclaim Your Sunday Snooze.

Go ahead, switch off your phones and your tablets and your laptops and your TVs.  Put away the book and all the other paperwork.  Turn off your doorbell and put a big ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door.  Persuade and mock and shout at people who make excess noise.  And when you wake up from your slumber, the world will seem a tad more manageable, a tad more amenable, a tad more likeable. Well, for a while, at least.

As for me, the next idiot to wake me up between 1.30pm and 4pm on a Sunday is going to get a bucket of fermented cat’s piss thrown all over them.

Coffee & cigarettes

(To the tune of Cross Road Blues)

Oh, I walked into a Costa the other day
wanting me a cappucino,
Oh yes I walked into a Costa the other day
wanting me a mean strong cappucino
(maybe even a gooey brownie)

I marched right upto the counter,
order decisively on my lips,
ready to fight for my right
for no extra cream or chocolate bits.

But I stopped short to gape like an imbecile
at a big shiny counter
offering bunches and bunches of
fancy-looking cancer-sticks.

Oh Costa, are you really doing that poorly?
Oh Oh Costa, are your margins really hurting so much?
Or did you just look around and figure
heck, everybody’s selling them
so we’ll look odd if we don’t too?

You know it don’t make no sense
because nobody can smoke them in your shops;
Oh you know it don’t make no sense
because it’s not like they’ll lounge around for some brew.

Or did some marketing ‘genius’ fool you
that the two have a subliminal link
(subliiiiiiiiminal baby),
and tell you that java and arabica
drive the need for nicotiana?

I used to like you Costa
no, not because you’re cheap;
Oh I used to like you Costa
nor because your brew is at all sleek;
But only because you employ those who’d
struggle elsewhere because they can’t hear or speak.

But now I wonder about you Costa,
I reallly, really do;
And I don’t care about your motives
I just won’t be getting my mojo again from you.
From youuuuuuu.

Ever, baby, ever.


Seriously, W.T.F. Costa?! Why would you be selling cigarettes at your outlets? For the life of me, I can’t remember whether you always sold them and I just noticed it.  But even if you didn’t, and this is just some trial at select outlets, or a short-term promotional deal, or some gimmick where you’re trying to boost your margins and differentiate yourself from your rivals by luring people who want premium cigarettes and getting them to stay for a drink – it sucks.

Not because you shouldn’t have the choice to sell what you want, or people should have the choice to buy (and consume) what they want.  But because you go on and on so much about your ethical standards and the work you do with the Rainforest Alliance and all the farmers you’re helping and all the sustainability work you’re doing.  And you then go and promote a product that harms the immediate user, their bystanders, the air around them, and the soil it’s grown in.

Why would you do this? Why why why why why why?!

Su total ghelchodiagiri chhe.
Enjoy your ban from the Ranting Bawa basket of consumer goods.  Bye bye.

Rage, rage against the dying light

So the Supreme Court of India has suddenly decided to go all technical and has lobbed the ball on Section 377 to the Parliament, saying that only the legislature can rule on the constitutionality of the law in question.

You are not going to be alone in being angry and bewildered and disappointed with this decision.  But instead of hand-wringing and having endless arguments on social media, do something.  Because this judgement is now history, and we can only work to alter it.  This is not the time to give up, but to fight on.

So here’s six things you can do:

1) Contact your local MLA and MP. 
Ask them whether they will support the repeal of Section 377, and promise the legislator the loss of your vote if they don’t.  Convince as many people as you can to write in as well (or to sign your letter).  Write a letter every week till they answer you.  And keep reminding them about your lost votes.  There’s nothing a politician hates more than the potential loss of votes.  This country wants vote-bank politics, right? They can have it.

2) Grill prospective legislators.
Ask every candidate for any upcoming election (which you are eligible to vote for) whether they will support the repeal of Section 377.  And promise them the loss of your vote if they don’t.  Demand an answer and try and convince them if they say no.  Remember, you are a vote-bank.

3) Volunteer. 
Offer your support, your vote, your money, and any other sort of help to the Naz Foundation, the Alternative Law Forum, the Humsafar Trust, and other members of Voices Against 377.  Even if you do nothing but write to them and tell them you’re supporting them, it’ll matter.

4) Know the enemy.
The 2009 High Court ruling was opposed by a coalition of religious and community groups – Baba Ramdev.  Suresh Kumar Koushal.  The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board.  Trust Gods Ministry.   Apostolic Churches Alliance and Utkal Christian Foundation.  Krantikari Manuvadi Morcha.  The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (wtf?!).

Write to them repeatedly telling them how disgusted you are with their narrow-minded attitudes.  Tell them you will fight them and will support any review.  Tell everyone you know that these were the groups responsible, and warn them away.  Convince anyone you know who utilises their services or donates to them or watches their TV shows or buys their books to boycott them.  Hit them in their pocket, because that’s what they care about most.  If you know where their offices are, get a bunch of friend together and go protest outside them.  If you feature in any sort of publicity, denounce them again and again.  If you spot any of them on the road, shame them, provoke them into an argument, or just shout at them so that they listen to you and know people disagree with them.  Do NOT let them rest smugly and think they’ve won.

5) Create awareness.
If you know somebody who is happy with this ruling, and believes it’s all about gays, remind them that Section 377 applies to every single person living in India.  Highlight the fact that this law allows the government (and the police) to dictate what consenting adults in this country can or cannot do in private spaces.  Highlight that this could be used by future regimes to impose any law that they think is ‘morally right’.  And if they’re completely stubborn – and if they’re of an age where such things matter to them – be blunt enough to point out that they themselves now cannot legally indulge in oral or anal sex.  Since this law applies to every single person in this country (even if heterosexual).

6) Most importantly, support your gay friends.
Be aware that this ruling effectively is a call for open season on all gays in this country.  Corrupt cops, right-wing loonies, religious nutters, and conservative ‘sections of society’ will all be out to harass them and trouble them and terrorise them.  After all, it was one thing living with the threat of some arcane medieval law being invoked, but now that law has been ratified by the highest court in independent India.  It’s doubly official, and the anti-gay brigade know it, and will be out in force and more rabid than ever.

It’s going to be a scary, traumatic time for anybody who’s gay, thinks they’re gay but are not sure, or are just getting to the stage where they think about things like hetero or gay.  Offer your shoulder, your ear, your home, and any other support you can, because by heck, they’re going to need it.

If you have to fight your family over it, do it.  If you have to face down some right-wing goondas, do it.  If you have to argue with or pay off some trouble-making cop, do it.  If you’re asked to go to a protest to raise awareness and boost numbers, do it.  If they want to add your name and photo to a public list of people who support their rights, do it.  If you are asked if a secret gay party can be hosted in your house, say yes.

Whatever you have to do, be there for any gay person you know.

*   *   *   *  *   *   *   * *   *   *   * *   *   *   *

This is going to be long, hard, and often disheartening battle now.  But it’s more than just about LGBT rights.  It’s about what sort of country we want for the future.  And for the future of our future generations.  It’s about standing up against the unreasoning, uncompromising orthodoxy.  It’s about indirectly helping all the millions of people in other countries who look upto the ‘world’s largest democracy’ for guidance in matters of humans rights.  It’s about you and me and all of us.  Surely that’s worth fighting for?