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My Friend Sancho

My first novel, My Friend Sancho, is now on the stands across India. It is a contemporary love story set in Mumbai, and was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008. To learn more about the book, click here.


To buy it online from the US, click here.


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Click here for more about my publisher, Hachette India.


And ah, my posts on India Uncut about My Friend Sancho can be found here.


Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Category Archives: WTF

Thodi Si Tu Lift Karade

I suppose I should display some empathy here, but I can’t help but be a little amused by the plight of the residents of a swank society in Santa Cruz, who have “filed a police complaint and a consumer case against a developer who, they say, installed car lifts too small to accommodate their large, swanky sedans and SUVs, forcing them to park their cars on the road despite paying astronomical prices for their posh homes.” One such gentleman, who “owns a Toyota Corolla and a 3-BHK flat in the building,” has apparently been stuck in the lift multiple times. On one such occasion, he says:

I struggled to get out of the car. There was no way that I could open the door, so I had to force myself out of the window, climb on to the roof of the car, somehow open the lift door and jump down a level.

There’s a JG Ballard novel in this somewhere.

Posted by Amit Varma on 20 October, 2012 in News | WTF


Men, Listen Up

According to the Times of India, the five things men need to do to attract women are 1] grow old, 2] hang around in a hot place, 3] get beaten up, 4] wear spectacles and 5] carry a plant around. Apparently, “it takes a patient, affectionate man to grow healthy plants.” Also,“experts say that if you can take care of your garden for only 30 minutes a week, it can improve your health and performance in bed.” Not just that, “fertile women are subconsciously drawn to men who are good at gardening.”

Well, ok, I made that last quote up. But would you be surprised if I hadn’t?

Posted by Amit Varma on 14 February, 2012 in WTF


Heavy Fuel

Mid Day reports:

In an attempt to prevent animal abuse, the state government has instructed petroleum giants Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum to not transport oil using animal power.

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I’m blogging this only because of the delicious irony of Petroleum companies transporting their fuel in bullock carts. I have no comment to make on the animal rights angle here— though it’s not as bizarre as the report about the five killer whales in San Diego who “have been named in a slavery case that argues they should have the same constitutional rights as humans.” I mean, if whales have rights, it could be argued that chickens and cows do as well, and then your food could start suing you posthumously. If PETA ever sues me on behalf of a chicken that I ate the previous night, I will snap produce a legal document with an illegible scrawl on it, and say, “The chicken signed this waiver of its rights before I cooked it. Choke on that.”

Ok, lunchtime.

(Photo courtesy Mid Day.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 09 February, 2012 in India | News | WTF


Ban Nudity! Ban Nightlife!

Our right-wing lunatics are so funny sometimes that it’s hard to hate them. Balbir Punj has a bizarre (but typical, so maybe not so bizarre) rant up on the New Indian Express about how Western values are ruining our country. His arguments are so priceless that you have the read the whole thing, I can’t just excerpt for WTFness. Among other things, he thinks that ‘nudity’ and ‘nightlife’ are “Western aberrations”, and rants against same-sex unions on the grounds that they only take place for ‘pleasure’, which, in his opinion, is a bad thing. Punj has it exactly the wrong way around: the rising divorce rates he rails against are, in my opinion, something to celebrate, and the decline of family values is a damn good thing.

Ooh, I can imagine Punj choking on his coffee if he reads this. But wait, coffee must surely also be a Western aberration, no?

Posted by Amit Varma on 08 February, 2012 in Freedom | India | News | Politics | WTF


City News

Having resumed blogging, it was natural for me to head over to the ToI site for the potential double WTFness of 1. what’s happening and 2. what the ToI is reporting. Not much gratification there, though their ‘city’ section did provide some food for thought. Here are the four headlines on that section:

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*  *  *

I actually clicked on one of them. Apparently Ayesha Takia complained on Twitter about Kingfisher Airlines, and Siddharth Mallya responded: “Not too sure who she is, an actor of some sorts?? [sic]” Well, I’m not sure who Siddharth Mallya is. Someone or the other’s son and boyfriend? Is there anything else he’s famous for?

Posted by Amit Varma on 08 February, 2012 in Journalism | Media | News | WTF


The Ill-Effects of a Rave Party in Udupi

The Hindustan Times reports that two Karnataka ministers were caught watching pornographic videos “when the house was in session.” The camera crew of a TV channel apparently “filmed cooperation minister Lakshmana V Savadi watching porn clips on his cellphone and women and child development minister CC Patil peeping in during a discussion in the House.” Savadi’s explanation:

I was watching the video clip of how a woman was raped by four people to know about the incident and prepare for a discussion on the ill-effects of a rave party in Udupi recently. I do not have the cheap mentality to see pornographic visuals.

I’m gratified that our ministers do so much research for their work. What, however, is a ‘cooperation minister’? Ah well.

Posted by Amit Varma on 08 February, 2012 in India | News | Politics | WTF


‘No Touching, Only Seeing, Okay?’

I’m amazed that India hasn’t yet woken up to the fact that Himesh Reshammiya is the new Govinda. I mean, check out the awesome video below of ‘Umrao Jaan’, a song from his forthcoming film Damadamm. It’s WTF, yes, but it is brilliant in its WTFness, which is quite deliberate and over-the-top, much as Govinda was at his best. There are just so many kickass moments in this. I especially love the end…

(Link via Mudra Mehta.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 28 September, 2011 in Arts and entertainment | India | WTF


Vishwa Bandhu Gupta and Cloud Computing

If you thought Ponytail’s speech the other day was funny, wait till you see this: Vishwa Bandhu Gupta, former IT officer, explaining, among other things, why cloud computing is a problem:

I love how clueless the interviewer looks. On second viewing, his reactions are the funniest part of the video. Insanely good.

(Link via Arun Simha.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 29 August, 2011 in India | WTF


‘That is Not a Lump, Mr Beck, It is a Blessing’

Huffington Post reports:

Glenn Beck called Hurricane Irene a “blessing” on his Friday radio show, saying it would teach people to be prepared for disasters.

By that logic, it would be a blessing if Beck gets cancer—it will teach him to be prepared for cancer.

Of course, I wish cancer on no one. But that’s where Beck’s logic leads us. What a clown.

(Link via Arzan Sam Wadia.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 August, 2011 in News | WTF


Arindam Chaudhuri (and 200 Million Murders)

This is truly an August month in the history of Indian WTFness. Check out this insane speech by Arindam Chaudhuri in support of Anna Hazare:

An excerpt:

Humaare desh mein kuchh do so million log hai jo chaalis saal ke umad se pehle mar jaate hai, aur isi liye hum jaise log sattar-assi saal jeete hai. Hum sattar-assi saal isliye jeete hai kyunki hum apne desh ke kuchh do so million logo ko chaalis saal se pehle maar daalte hai.

(There are some two hundred million people in our country who die before the age of 40, and this is why people like us live to the age of 70-80. People like us live to the age of 70-80 because we murder some two hundred million people of our country before the age of 40.)

I mean, this is beyond priceless. It’s also beyond parody, for that matter—when life itself serves up such absurdities, what’s a satirist to do? Just watch in awe, that’s what.

*  *  *  *

And check out the shot in the middle when the camera zooms in towards Anna’s impassive face. I can almost hear the guy thinking, ‘Who’s that clown with the oiled ponytail? I haven’t eaten for so many days, and I have to put up with this shit? Bring me some poha and let’s call it off already.’

That would be an an excellent idea.

*  *  *  *

If you haven’t already read it, make sure you go through Siddhartha Deb’s wonderful feature on Chaudhuri, ‘Gatsby in New Delhi’ (pdf link). Chaudhuri’s already gone to court over it, as you might expect from his past shenanigans.  Such it goes.

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 August, 2011 in India | News | Politics | WTF


‘Meet Once Lover, Who Are Ditched By Each Other’

In times of strife, it is heartening to know that such help exists:

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(Via Joy Bhattacharjya on Facebook.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 August, 2011 in India | WTF


Potted Irregularities

The quote of the day comes from Sheila Dikshit:

All due procedures were followed in awarding the contracts. No irregularities were committed in purchasing of potted plants.

In that denial lies the truth about Indian politics. No?

Posted by Amit Varma on 04 August, 2011 in India | News | Politics | WTF


Mr Kalmadi Needs To Pee

DNA reports:

Suresh Kalmadi, lodged in Tihar jail for over two months in connection with the multi-crore Commonweath Games scam, is suffering from dementia, a disease related to memory loss, impaired reasoning and personality changes and this may have a bearing on his ongoing trial.

The 66-year-old MP from Pune was recently taken to Lok Narayan Jai Prakash Hospital where an MRI scan was conducted on him. The tests show that he was suffering from dementia which gradually affects cognitive functions of the person affected by it, Deputy Inspector General of Tihar RN Sharma said.

[...]

Noted lawyer KTS Tulsi said the first thing is that it needs to be established as to how long the undertrial has been suffering from dementia.

“Now if it(dementia) had settled at the time of offence, it may have a bearing on his culpability. As per the law, a demented person suffers from a global memory loss. If there is a memory loss at the time of the commissioning of the offence, it is not possible to have a fraudulent intention,” Tulsi contended.

If Kalmadi’s lawyers do end up taking this line, imagine how crushing the evidence against him must be. Hell, given how old our politicians tend to be, they could all claim dementia or senility or even death if they’re implicated in such criminal cases. (‘Your honour, I was dead at the time of my alleged encounter with Ukranian prostitutes. Even in the MMS produced as evidence, you cannot see me moving. Look carefully.’)

Kalmadi should wake up one morning in Tihar, ask to go to the loo, and be refused. ‘Let me out. I need to pee, he says. ‘I can’t remember the last time I needed to pee this bad.’

‘We can’t let you out. Use your water bottle,’ says the guard. ‘The warden’s got dementia, and he can’t remember where he put the key to your cell. He he he.’

Posted by Amit Varma on 25 July, 2011 in Dialogue | India | News | Politics | WTF


Mutton Samosas and the Soul

CNN reports the WTF news story of the day:

A small tray of vegetable samosas costs $35 at the Mughal Express restaurant. But one particular tray, sold to strict Hindu vegetarians, might end up costing the Edison, New Jersey, restaurant a whole lot more.

The Hindu customers said the restaurant served them meat samosas, harming them emotionally and spirituality. A state appellate court ruled Wednesday that they can sue for the cost of travel to India to purify their souls.

I can imagine the court granting damages because the diners were misled into thinking that their samosas were veg. But how would you calculate these damages? Can damage to the soul be quantified? Does a court have any business acknowledging that souls exist? Ludicrous.

*  *  *

And what is to be done now about my sudden and inexplicable craving for mutton samosas? Who should I sue for the pain this is causing me? And my soul? Eh?

(Link via Sanjeev Naik.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 July, 2011 in India | News | WTF


Does Sturgeon’s Law Apply To Human Beings?

Sturgeon’s Law states that “ninety percent of everything is crud”. This is certainly true in many fields, and I myself have invoked it in the context of blogging, but today I’m wondering, is this true also of human beings? Are 90% of us stupid? Like, really stupid? Consider this news story by Reuters in Istanbul:

Turkish police donned white coats and stethoscopes to disguise themselves as doctors, then knocked on people’s doors to see how easily they would fall for a confidence scam.

The undercover police officers told residents of the southeastern city of Gaziantep they were screening for high blood pressure and handed out pills, according to Turkish media.

They were alarmed when residents at 86 out of 100 households visited on Tuesday swallowed the pills immediately.

Apparently this was the actual modus operandi of a gang that got people to pop sedatives and then robbed them. But this isn’t all.

Officers in Adana in southern Turkey last week called at houses, announcing through the intercom: “I am a burglar, please open the door.”

Police said they were stunned at the number of people who opened the door, the Radikal daily newspaper reported.

Brings a certain Godrej commercial to mind, doesn’t it? But to get back to the question of general intelligence levels, just take a look sometime at comments left in any random Rediff article or YouTube video, and a depressing picture emerges. It’s the reverse of the Lake Wobegon Effect: Everyone appears stupider than average—which is, of course, not possible.

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In case you need a bigger pen1s or a million dollars deposited in your account by a buddy of mine in Nigeria, please leave your email in the feedback section of my site. Thank you.

Posted by Amit Varma on 29 April, 2011 in News | Small thoughts | WTF


‘Attempts to Save the Baba’

Here’s a Sai Baba update, from the state revenue minister of Andhra Pradesh:

The condition of the Baba has deteriorated. Most of his organs have suffered severe damage and stopped functioning. Doctors attending on him are making attempts to save the Baba. Let us pray.

Er, to whom?

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 April, 2011 in India | News | WTF


Try, Try Again

The Insight of the Day comes from Farah Khan, who reveals that:

The key to becoming pregnant is to be determined.

I think many men would agree with me that in this context, the journey might just be more fun than the destination.

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 April, 2011 in Arts and entertainment | News | WTF


Euphemism of the Day

“Private therapeutic performance with a psychologist’s presence.”

If Poonam Pandey does manage to ‘perform’ for the Indian World Cup squad, imagine how pissed Praveen Kumar and Rohit Sharma will be.

Posted by Amit Varma on 05 April, 2011 in News | Sport | WTF


Protecting the Daughters of Goa

The WTF statement of the day comes from Philip D’Souza of the Shiv Sena:

We’re going to protect the daughters of Goa, irrespective of caste, creed, colour and political affiliation.

That last bit is just magnificent. And what exactly is this gentleman from the Shiv Sena trying to protect the daughters of Goa from? Bipasha Basu. Insane.

*

Q. If D’Souza was in West Bengal, who would he be protecting?

Ans. The daughters of Guha.

Posted by Amit Varma on 05 April, 2011 in Arts and entertainment | India | News | WTF


Why I’m Shifting to Coke

Because of Pepsi’s new campaign, as seen below. Like, ewwww!

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Update: Here’s more from the campaign. FSM help us!

Posted by Amit Varma on 12 January, 2011 in Media | WTF


Aishwarya, Freida and Realising the Self

The Times of India investigates if “Aishwarya Rai (Jodhaa Akbar) has been replaced by younger Bollywood star Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) as the face of cosmetics firm L’Oréal”, and ends its report with these two priceless paragraphs:

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, suggested that instead of obsession with minor issues like “pitched battles of Aishwarya and Freida”, media should focus more on highlighting major issues facing humanity, world and India today.

Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stressed that instead of running after these mundane things, we should focus on realizing the Self. As ancient Hindu scripture Katha Upanishad points out that when wise realize the Self, they go beyond sorrow…When one realizes Self, there is nothing else to be known.

Stunning WTFness—and in case you need some background on this publicity hound and self-styled “distinguished Hindu statesman”, my friend Prem Panicker’s classic post from 2009 has more.

*  *  *

I’m racking my brains about what “realising the self” could mean, and I can’t think beyond masturbation. In my nihilistic worldview, there can be nothing more divine than a self-inflicted distinguished Hindu orgasm. The rest is illusion. No?

*  *  *

Meanwhile, bothered by thoughts of neither Aishwarya nor Freida, the irrepressible MF Husain has expressed his love for Anushka Sharma. Besides being gorgeous, she also acted really well in Band Baajaa Baaraat, so I’m going to cheer him on in his efforts to “paint her in myriad hues.” I wonder what Mr Zed would have to say about that.

The Zed link via email from Arjun Swarup.

Posted by Amit Varma on 12 January, 2011 in Arts and entertainment | India | News | WTF


Dabangg Cry-Baby

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The Times of India reports:

Salman Khan bagged the Best Actor Jury Award at an award function last night. Apparently the actor was expecting to win the Best Popular Actor Award which went to Shah Rukh Khan.

[...]

The actor was present backstage when the Jury Award and the Popular Awards were announced. Disappointed with the announcement, Salman refused to come on stage to receive his award.

This is hilarious at multiple levels, but leave that aside. I feel a bit sad for Salman, that such a petty thing should matter to a grown man. In award-infested Bollywood, who remembers who got which award for what film anyway? After the kind of career he’s had, it’s kind of poignant that Salman Khan needs validation this bad.

Having said that, I will now stop commenting on how 40-plus men can play characters so many years younger than them. If they behave like babies, then maybe they’re really just acting above their age.

(Pic source: bollywooddeewana.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 08 January, 2011 in Arts and entertainment | India | News | WTF


Chaddi Flexibility

This has to be the quote of the day:

We are not rigid on the half pants.

Quick, without clicking through, guess the context!

Posted by Amit Varma on 07 January, 2011 in India | News | Politics | WTF


The Cockroach Party of India (Marxist)

Mamata Banerjee is a riot. But her allegations are borderline plausible. Tells you a lot about the CPI(M), eh?

(Via @geetharamc.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 July, 2010 in India | News | Politics | WTF


Anticipating Schadenfreude

At least the guy is being honest. Where do you get that in Politics?

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 July, 2010 in India | News | Politics | Sport | WTF


The Oddly Enough Species

This is the 13th installment  of Viewfinder, my weekly column for Yahoo! India, and was published on July 22.

We’re a weird species that takes itself far too seriously, and it is my theory that if a true picture of the human race is to be found in journalism, it will emerge in the odd news sections of most papers and news sites. In today’s column, rather than focus on a serious world-changing topic that requires your immediate intervention, let’s look at some of the odd news from around the planet.

Reuters’ ‘Oddly Enough’ section is a reliable source of laughs—and revelation. Take this story headlined ‘Chinese police beat official’s wife by mistake’. Here’s what happened: the lady in question tried to enter the building where her husband, “a provincial law enforcement officer,” works. The cops outside, “assigned to guard the office building and ‘subdue’ petitioners”, thought that she was a petitioner and set about subduing her. According to a local report, “a strong wave of fists rained down on her for more than 16 minutes.” She ended up in hospital with “a concussion, and damaged brain and nerve tissues.”

The report says that “ranking police officers apologized profusely”, and a Communist Party chief explained, “This incident is a total misunderstanding. Our police officers never realized that they beat the wife of a senior leader.” Beating anyone else, of course, is totally okay.

Now, that’s a story in the weird news section. But I don’t think it’s weird at all. I think it’s good journalism that goes to the heart of the society it reports on, and illustrates the system of governance and the role of power. Also, it has resonance beyond China.

Another weird headline from the same section: ‘Bridge game fights “led man to murder wife.”’ This story is about a 52-year-old man who stabbed his wife to death following arguments that were ostensibly about her bridge-playing capabilities. He and his wife apparently played much social bridge together, and a fellow player said that he had “started drinking heavily which led to ‘vicious’ criticism of his wife’s prowess at bridge and a deterioration in his own game.” Once, in the middle of a card game, he “shouted at his wife and threatened to throw her off the balcony.” Eventually, he killed her.

At one level, this is just a weird story. At another, it’s a portrait of a relationship that is fairly typical—marriages of this sort are common, and I’m sure every reader of this column knows a couple where the woman is forced into a submissive role by an insecure, demanding prick of a husband. That this one involved arguments about bridge and ended in a stabbing make it unusual—but apart from that, it’s commonplace.

Another headline from the same section: ‘Romantic comedies affecting off-screen love lives.’ It seems that “a poll of 1,000 Australians found almost half said rom-coms with their inevitable happy endings have ruined their view of an ideal relationship.” An Aussie ‘relationship counsellor’ has said, “It seems our love of rom-coms is turning us into a nation of ‘happy-ever-after addicts.’ Yet the warm and fuzzy feeling they provide can adversely influence our view of real relationships.”

The tyranny of the imaginary over the real is reflected not just by romantic comedies, but also by porn. Women have long complained that men get idealised notions of sex and female bodies by watching porn, and that regular women can’t match up. (It’s probably truer that porn can act as a substitute for real-world intimacy rather than a benchmark for it.) This works both ways, of course, as few men have organs quite as extravagantly elongated as some male porn stars do, but women seem to prefer romantic comedies to porn, and I suspect they expect more from their men with regard to romance than sex. (The ideal man is gifted at both, but is either gay or married.)

You can go look up such weird news in that Reuters section, or websites such as Fark.com, or even in all our local newspapers, which are full of them. They reveal human nature as well as the state of our society far better than all the serious news out there about politics and economics and so on. For example, in our Indian papers today, we can read about the female Congress MLA breaking flowerpots in the Bihar Legislative Council and having to be dragged out. We can read about Sachin Tendulkar’s blood being distributed along with a special edition of his biography. Or about how “bugs and roaches” set off a “passenger revolt” at a train terminus. All of this is weird, yes—and all of this is us. This is how we are.

Previously on Viewfinder

The Beautiful Game of Poker

Beauty and the Art of Winning

Football and a Comic Marriage

Beware of the Cronies

Indian Liberals and Colour Pictures

We are All Gamblers

Homeopathic Faith

Give Me 10,000 Hours

Match ka Mujrim

The Man with the Maruti 800

Internet Hindus and Madrasa Muslims

The Hazards of Writing a Column

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 July, 2010 in Essays and Op-Eds | Journalism | Media | Viewfinder | WTF


Divine Demat

This is a remarkable opening sentence for a news report:

Can Hindu deities have demat accounts to enable them transact in shares and debentures on the stock market?

Before you snort out whichever beverage you are currently consuming, consider that the IT department has already issued PAN cards to the deities in question. Go figure.

(Link via Marginal Revolution.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 13 July, 2010 in India | News | WTF


Rakhi the Gun

“Item girl Rakhi Sawant,” Mid Day informs us, “denies charges of owning pistol which two arrested UP criminals claim to have stolen from her. [sic.]” The quote of the day from Rakhi:

I can take care of myself as I am a gun myself.

No jokes about double barrels will be made on this family blog. No, really, I like her spirit. If only Sanjay Dutt also thought he was a gun.

Posted by Amit Varma on 26 May, 2010 in Arts and entertainment | News | WTF


Passport

This is quite the WTF headline of the day:

Passport office doesn’t accept passport as ID proof

Quite magnificent—you can’t parody this stuff. The government has a monopoly on even that.

(Link via email from @Shefaly.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 30 April, 2010 in India | News | WTF


After an Extra-Marital Bang, Ask Your Lover…

... Did the earth move for you as well?

(Link via separate emails from readers Arshdeep Singh Wahan and Tejaswini.)

*

On a serious note, if we’re into confusing correlation with causation, we could make a case for anything causing anything. Exactly one week ago, for example, I had a cup of tea when I woke up in the morning instead of my usual black coffee. And lo and behold, Eyjafjallajökull explodes. It would be remiss of me to ignore the manifest connection between these two events, and I have decided never to drink tea again.

Posted by Amit Varma on 21 April, 2010 in News | WTF


‘The Same Musical Framework’

The WTF sentence of the day comes from Inder Sidhu of Tehelka, who writes about the band Indian Ocean:

That one of the most original bands in the country has been working within the same musical framework for 30 years is, frankly, shocking.

How bizarre a sentiment is that? I’m guessing Sidhu doesn’t like the Rolling Stones or Metallica or U2 or REM either, all of whom are “working within the same musical framework” that they started out with. And in literature, for the same reason, he probably finds Updike and Roth and Kundera and Munro “shocking” as well. Poor guy. What does he listen to or read?

*

Check out the rock band Thermal and a Quarter’s rejoinder to Sidhu.

*

Sidhu does have one good sentence in his piece, though: “The fact is that original rock in India is still wandering around with its umbilical cord, trying to find some place to plug it in.” There’s a valid point behind this comment—but it’s not the whole story. (And it could have done without the first four words—leaving those in is sloppy editing—but that’s just me being anal.)

(Links via Shrabonti Bagchi and Devangshu Datta respectively.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 13 April, 2010 in Arts and entertainment | India | Journalism | Media | WTF


Marriage and Rape

HT reports that a couple of army jawans have been arrested in Pune for gangraping a woman. At the end of that report is the following line:

The incident comes days after a married woman was gangraped in the city.

Why does that sentence need to have the word ‘married’ in it? Does the inclusion of that word change either the impact on the reader or the perceived gravity of the crime?

If so, isn’t that disturbing?

Posted by Amit Varma on 09 April, 2010 in India | Journalism | Media | News | Small thoughts | WTF


Bata Shoes and the Crow Pujari

I love local city news. Mumbai Mirror has a couple of stories today with absolutely killer quotes. The first is about a dude named Nitin Bhende, who nabbed a man who used to steal shoes from his building. His chief motivation: to get back a beloved pair of Bata shoes that he had bought “for Rs 999 at a discounted rate - the original price was Rs 1300.“Here’s what the delightfully named police inspector, Maruti Rathod, has to say on the matter:

We have arrested Hussain and have recovered Bhende’s no 10 Bata shoes. Bhende was asking us to hand over the shoes to him directly, but we have asked him to approach a court and seek permission for doing so.

So Bhende’s got to wait for his shoes while government machinery creaks into action.

The other story is about a dude named Apoorva Chakravorty who claims that a pujari he fought with “has been manipulating my brain and spoiling my deals by visiting my house in the form of a pigeon or a crow.” He has even given pictures of these crows and pigeons in his house to the police, who “are utterly baffled about how to deal with this case.” In the face of police inaction, he has evoked the RTI. The following quote is from the state information commissioner, Suresh Joshi:

There is no logic to his assumption that someone is taking the form of a crow or pigeon and harassing him. It does not amount to a cognizable offence.

Maybe the cops should just go arrest the damn crow—and then see if they can get the pujari in the same room. Eh?

Posted by Amit Varma on 06 April, 2010 in India | News | WTF


A Picture of You

The Times of India reports on the Shoaib Malik controversy:

Shoaib’s brother-in-law Imran Zafar, who was shopping in Lahore for the wedding slated for April 15 in Hyderabad, said the family was unfazed by Ayesha’s claims. “Shoaib was duped and shown pictures of another girl as Ayesha. We have pictures of the girl who posed as Ayesha and which were sent from Ayesha’s email ID,’’ he said.

Imran said Shoaib had fallen madly in love with the girl whose pictures were sent to him. “But that girl was not Ayesha. Shoaib was trapped. Ayesha would tutor him online and have him parrot the line that they were married at select interviews,’’ the brother-in-law said.

Go figure. This dude claims that he fell in live with a girl, and wanted to marry her, on the basis of a photograph. And then the actual girl turned out to be someone else. The thing is, if you fall for a freakin’ photograph, the actual girl is always going to be someone else. Incredible WTFness.

As for the girl, she either married or wanted to get married to a guy she clearly didn’t know at all, and had perhaps never even met. Regardless of whose story is true, she doesn’t get my sympathy. She’s as much of an idiot as Shoaib is.

Indeed, their story illustrates why Nigerian scamsters are so successful. I wonder what Sania Mirza dreams about.

*

Saamna gets into the act. Heh.

Posted by Amit Varma on 03 April, 2010 in India | News | WTF


Feudal India

Check out this headline:

Karunanidhi praises Stalin, doesn’t mention Azagiri

What does it say about the state of our country that petty family politics is national news? And it’s not one state, it’s the whole damn country. We are ruled by families.

Posted by Amit Varma on 29 March, 2010 in India | News | Politics | Small thoughts | WTF


Headline Material

I’m baffled by this Mid Day headline:

Oshiwara gay teen killed

The headline makes it seem that the victim was killed for being gay. But on reading the piece, you’ll find that his sexual orientation had nothing to do with his death. He saw someone getting mugged, tried to help him, and got fatally wounded in the process. That’s all.

So why mention his being gay in the headline?

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Imagine the following headline: ‘Left-handed teen stabbed in Lokhandwala.’ WTF, no?

Posted by Amit Varma on 29 March, 2010 in India | Journalism | Media | News | WTF


A Police Complaint

ToI has a report on a Maharashtra minister beating up an “alleged party worker” in public. The minister in question is a gent named Abdul Sattar, who “engaged in verbal duel” with a chap named Mohammad Nisar. Then:

Food & civil supplies MoS Abdul Sattar kicked the alleged Congress worker Nisar in full public view. The minister’s bodyguards first assaulted Nisar and then the minister allegedly kicked him in the stomach. Mohammad Nisar has been admitted to hospital after allegedly being hit the abdomen by minister Abdul Sattar.

Sattar later denied knowing Nisar. He said:

I do not know the man either. He is not a Congress activist and I am going to lodge a police complaint against him.

That’s right—the kicker is going to lodge a complaint against the kickee. And it makes perfect sense, because the police is likely to act on behalf of whoever is more powerful, and that’s clearly Sattar. So what does it matter who did the kicking?

Posted by Amit Varma on 23 March, 2010 in India | News | WTF


The Nanny Effect

The WTF claim of the day is that “baby boys who have a nanny ‘turn into womanisers’”:

In the book The Unsolicited Gift, Dr Dennis Friedman said delegating child-rearing responsibilities too soon risks equipping your son with life-long double standards when it comes to women.

This means that even though he could go on to be married he will always have the feeling that another women could cater for all his basic needs.

“It introduces him to the concept of The Other Woman,” said Dr Friedman who is 85.

I’d be impressed if this was intended as a parody of how people so often mistake correlation for causation. But such WTFness cannot be manufactured, and Friedman seems to be serious. Ah well.

On another note, I wonder if there were nannies in prehistory. I can imagine the following scene:

Interior of cave. Occupants: Daddy Savage, a bearded man in loin cloth with large wooden club; Mommy Savage, a topless woman with leaves covering her pubic region; Baby Savage, a baby with a baby beard just like Daddy Savage’s; and Nanny Savage, also a topless woman with leaves covering her pubic region, bought from a discount store.

Daddy Savage: Grunt. Right, people, I gotta go and hunt a mastodon for dinner. And kill them cheetahs that’s been eating our stored carcasses. Be back by evening.

Mommy Savage: See ya. I’m also off to look after my vegetable patch in the valley. Mastodon meat needs garnishing. Nanny Savage, you look after Baby Savage.

Daddy Savage: Heh. Baby Savage has a nanny. He’ll grow up to be a womanizer then. Just like his daddy. I’m so proud! (Squeezes Nanny Savage’s left breast affectionately.)

Baby Savage: Daddy, leave that alone. It’s lunchtime!

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 March, 2010 in Dialogue | News | WTF


In India, Adults aren’t Adults

My friend Rahul Bhatia has a fine story in Open about Dibakar Banerjee’s experience with the censor board during the evaluation of Love, Sex aur Dhokha. Not that there’s anything new about censorship in India, but Dibakar wanted an ‘A’ certificate for his film, and still had to make cuts and compromises. Why do adults need to be protected from sex and bad language? How effing condescending is that? Disgraceful.

Thank goodness I’ve chosen to be a novelist. Imagine if a committee had told me to cut the orgasm from MFS.

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 March, 2010 in Arts and entertainment | Freedom | India | WTF


Woman in the News

Here’s the WTF headline of the day:

Woman co-pilot lands jet solo

If that was a man, this wouldn’t be news. I find that hugely offensive. Don’t you?

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Tomorrow’s headline: Male Airhostess Fondled on Plane.

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 March, 2010 in India | Journalism | Media | News | WTF


The Curse of Vikram Bhatt

Speaking about his new film Shaapit, Vikram Bhatt says:

I did some research and a very important fact emerged. It was how a curse actually functions. The person who has cursed and the person who has been cursed may no longer be there but the curse remains on their family for generations. [...]

Before starting this film, I did a course of psychic meditation. By psychic meditation we can speak to spirits. With constant meditation you can avoid that too. I have seen spirits.

I hope the dude is just saying this to promote the movie, and doesn’t actually believe in this nonsense. And really, how does one research curses anyway? I can imagine the following scene:

Vikram Bhatt knocks on a door. The door opens. An old man stands there, unkempt and grouchy.

Old Man: Yes?

Vikram Bhatt: Sir, my name is Vikram Bhatt. I am researching curses. I hear that you have been cursed. May I come in so we can talk more about it?

Old Man: Ok. Whatever. Come in.

The old man and Vikram Bhatt walk to a table on which lie six bottles of vodka, two of them empty.

OM: I had just begun my drinking session for the night. Wanna join in?

VB: Sure. (Takes a glass from the old man.) So tell me, what’s your curse?

OM: I have been cursed to talk to spirits every day.

VB: Wow. You can talk to spirits? That’s so cool. I’d love to do that.

OM: It’s very easy. Watch. (Starts talking to a bottle of vodka.) Hello, sweety. How are you today sweety? Can I drink you, sweety? Without any mixer, just you and me.

VB: Neat. I like that. Hey, talking to spirits is easy.

*

What do you mean, that’s not plausible? Have you seen the dude’s films?

(Link via email from Kundan.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 18 March, 2010 in Arts and entertainment | Dialogue | News | WTF


Until Death Etc Etc

The WTF opening sentence of the day comes from a Rediff report:

According to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) one married man commits suicide every nine minutes in India.

That sentence makes it sound as if marriage is the cause of these suicides, which is surely unjust to the 57,639 wives whose husbands offed themselves. Causation is often complex and not easy to pin down when it comes to suicide, and the following sentence would make quite as much sense: “According to Cricinfo, 13 married men have made scores of 250+ in Test cricket in the last 10 years.” Huh, no?

Given that life is a fatal disease, it’s not unnatural for some of us to want to get it over with quickly. Marriage, like most of what we seek in life, is a palliative. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it can’t cure nothin’, and it ain’t the cause.

(Link via email from Poornima.)

Update: Here’s the NCRB report (pdf link).

Posted by Amit Varma on 18 March, 2010 in News | Small thoughts | WTF


A Garland for the Queen

image

Heard about the recent furore over the garland of thousand-rupee notes that was presented to her Royal Majesty, Mayawati, by her party workers? One of her cronies has now come out and said that the media reports got it all wrong, and the value of the garland was “only Rs.21 lakh,” and not the Rs 5 crore that some people reported. (The rally at which it was presented reportedly cost Rs 200 crore, though the crony denied that figure as well.) Since then, the IT department has ordered a probe into Mayawati’s funds, while Her Highness has gotten herself another garland of notes. (Only Rs 18 lakh this time.)

Now, really, as long as it isn’t our taxes being spent, this should not bother me. But this kind of behaviour demonstrates, yet again, how our politicians believe that they are our rulers, and not our servants. This seems to be an attitude shared by most voters as well. Sure, many of them don’t like Mayawati, and would rather have a tribal leader of their choice on the throne, but you get what I’m saying.

Also, I have to say that a garland of currency notes is more honest and apt for the times we live in than one of dead flowers. Such it goes.

(First link via email from Maria Thomas.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 17 March, 2010 in India | News | Politics | WTF


Topless Women and the Indian Government

The Times of India reports:

The government has banned Fashion TV for nine days after finding a program it aired offended good taste and decency by showing women partially nude.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry statement said FTV channel would go off the air later Thursday until March 21. The statement cited an unnamed FTV program aired in September that showed women with nude upper bodies.

It’s immensely WTF that someone should think that topless women offend “good taste and decency.” Women have breasts. Straight men are attracted to them. These are just ho-hum facts of biology. Only massively repressed and resentful men and women would find partial nudity offensive—and one factor in their repression, certainly, would be this attitude against anything sexual. It’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop—the more you repress, the more repressed they get, the more you find reason to repress them further. In the 21st century, its all a bit bizarre.

What is even weirder is that the continuing spread of the internet threatens to make all this moot. Far wilder things than mere toplessness are a Google search away, and its practically impossible to filter all of that out. And why would you want to do that anyway? Sex is healthy, so let’s be open about it, and not whisper while talking about it or blush when the subject comes up. Or censor boobs.

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Earlier posts on the subject:

‘A Trial Balloon’.
The Ministry of Wet Dreams.

Posted by Amit Varma on 12 March, 2010 in Arts and entertainment | Freedom | India | News | Politics | WTF


When the Marshalls Go Marching In

This sentence says so much about the level of parliamentary debate in India today:

Finally, marshals were called in to remove the unruly MPs.

Who elected these dudes and put them in parliament? We did. I would hang my head in shame if that didn’t mean I’d be staring at my paunch.

*

I have mixed feelings on the larger issue of women’s reservation. If I was a woman, I’d find it offensive. Implying that women can’t rise in politics on their own is terribly condescending, especially when so many counter-examples exist—strong women like Uma Bharti, Sushma Swaraj, Renuka Chowdhury and, um, Pratibha Patil. (And Sonia Gandhi, who may be at the top because of her last name, but then, so are so many male politicians.)

Also, it implies that there are fewer women MPs because women are discriminated against by political parties. I’m sure there is some discrimination, but it is not the sole factor. My hunch is that people enter politics because of their lust for power, and that men are biologically programmed to seek power actively, while women aren’t—at least not to the same extent. Thus, there are fewer women who seek validation in how much control they have over other people, and fewer women who are attracted to politics. (In saying this, by the way, I am dissing men and complimenting women, though Renuka Chowdhury, on an episode of We The People where I stated this opinion, attacked me because she thought I was disrespecting women. Quite the opposite.)

Having said that, I think the bill may have some positive unintended consequences. At the very least, parliamentary decorum is likely to improve, and MPs are likely to behave with somewhat more dignity. There might even be fewer instances of marshalls being called in to control unruly MPs. Who can complain about that?

Posted by Amit Varma on 09 March, 2010 in India | News | Politics | WTF


A Complex and Dynamic Taste

[EWWW POST ALERT]

Reader Deepthi B sends me a link to a book named “Natural Harvest - A Collection of Semen-Based Recipes”. The blurb reads:

Semen is not only nutritious, but it also has a wonderful texture and amazing cooking properties. Like fine wine and cheeses, the taste of semen is complex and dynamic. Semen is inexpensive to produce and is commonly available in many, if not most, homes and restaurants. Despite all of these positive qualities, semen remains neglected as a food.

Deepthi thought I might find this WTF, but having never tasted semen, that is clearly a matter I can’t comment on. It might be an acquired taste for many straight women and gay men, and I certainly wouldn’t want to pass judgement on that. Also, if this turns out to be a semenal moment in culinary history and semen becomes a popular ingredient, it might prove to be a valuable diversion for young men’s energies, and crime rates might dip. The positive externalities of wanking, and all that. The possibilities are endless.

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Before you sully your mind by thinking of jokes related to semen cuisine, let me get this out of the way. Man sits at home by his phone, tapping his fingers, getting really angry. Finally he picks up the phone and pressed ‘redial’. The phone rings, and someone picks it up.

‘Hello, this is Urban Tadka, how may I help you?’

‘Dude, I ordered a semen biriyani from your restaurant one hour ago. It’s still not here. How long will it take?’

‘Not very long, sir,’ the guy at the other end says. ‘I’m just coming.’

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Well, I do have an Ewww Alert on top, don’t I?

Posted by Amit Varma on 04 March, 2010 in Miscellaneous | WTF


A Metric for Hotness

The WTF headline of the day comes from The Times of India:

Sherlyn gets hotter!

Note the exclamation mark. But no, it’s not the enthusiastic reporting of Sherlyn’s increased hotness that makes this headline WTF, but the metric used to measure it. She is hotter, it seems, because her “new management agency is pitching her as the face of the cover for the most read and most popular lifestyle, fashion and health magazines.” In other words, she is hotter because she has better PR.

I suppose given the state of our media, that makes some kind of perverse sense. Such it goes.

Posted by Amit Varma on 25 February, 2010 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Media | WTF


The Elegant Hindu

The WTF Q&A of the day comes from a WSJ interview of Sonia Dara, the first model of South Asian descent to make it to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue:

WSJ: During your shoot in Rajasthan, you posed with some local women who cover their heads, as is local tradition. Did you feel it made them uncomfortable to pose with you in a bikini?

Dara: To be completely honest, I was the one who felt the most uneasy because I thought I was putting the women in a potentially uncomfortable situation. At first glance, the concept of a Hindu girl in Sports Illustrated might seem contradictory. With that in mind, I posed as elegantly as possible, in order to never undermine my Hindu upbringing. I really hope this is made clear in my photos.

Yes, it’s clear. Her pout is Vedic, and her slim figure is surely the result of righteous fasting. Happy now, foreigners?

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And really, who finds such slimness attractive? At best I’d imagine it’s a niche taste. If I was ever to spend quality time with someone so slim, I’d want to feed her, not do naughty-naughty. This is one fad that totally befuddles me.

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On the off chance that you were wondering, this is how she looks without makeup on.

(Links via email from Arun and Madhu.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 February, 2010 in India | Journalism | Media | WTF


Scheming Brides and Underhand Tactics

The WTF news report of the day surely has to be this one:

Six in ten scheming brides force men to go down on their knees by resorting to underhand tactics, suggests a survey.

[...]

While 32 per cent bullied their partner into proposing by threatening to leave him, 17 per cent sent themselves flowers from a fake admirer to stir up their lover’s jealousy.

It seems this survey was conducted by a British TV channel called Really. See the fun.

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I can’t say why, but I suddenly remembered “The Gift”, the Velvet Underground song. Check it out.

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 February, 2010 in News | WTF


The Lady With the Handbag

Revelation of the day: All of Mayawati’s statues in UP have a handbag included.

This via my friend Anand, who loves making up stuff but insists this is true. And I believe him. It’s too far out to be made up.

Update: This one cracks me up.

Posted by Amit Varma on 18 February, 2010 in India | Politics | WTF


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