Adulting

There’s an inevitability to age. Like taxes. One day you wake up feeling a niggle in your back. You blame the bed initially. It’s become too soft. The couch has suddenly become too soft too, for, when you sit on it for four hours straight, your lower back’s beginning to seek attention. There’s new body aches and creaky morning boot up sequence. You dismiss it for a while - that’s the beauty with age. 

Then it hits you - you’re just getting older. 

When you’re young, your body is in the background. It’s there to do its job and you carry on in the merry discovery of life - a bit like riding in a Shinkansen. It’s easy to forget that you’re rolling at several hundreds of kilometers an hour. But grow older and that train becomes a local Yeswantpur passenger. You’re in unreserved and are feeling every moment of the journey.  

A consequence of living as a couple with no kids, both earning, with medium-to-low ambitions on career is that we’ve pretty much resisted adulting all our lives. But, even if you resist adulting in other aspects - definitions of how to live and where to live - it’s impossible to behave as if your body hasn’t moved on past mid thirties. 

So, welcome to adulting. It’s the part where as you get older, you proactively make life more painful / miserable so that you minimize long-term pain / misery. Sounds convoluted? That’s what most of adulting is. 

Anyhoo, we are doing the following as part of our adulting experiment:

Having a cook 🍚

In the first 4 years of living in Bangalore we pretended that our love for cooking ‘one-dish-every-third-day’ would somehow put home cooked food on the table every day. The delusion evaporated as the frequency of our cooking came down. Then the most magical thing called Venture Capital happened. They poured in millions of dollars and from that dollar dump emerged the solution to our food problem - Swiggy. Just like that, we could now get our food delivered home without having to call up restaurants, repeat orders or go out and search for places to eat. It felt like we’d come out of the tunnel in Shawshank Redemption. 

Some stats from the trailing 12 months, us and Swiggy: 

  • We have placed 200 orders - translates to an incredible frequency of roughly 17 orders every month. 🚚

  • About 15% of it is breakfast, 40% lunch and 45% is dinner. 

  • Combined, we’ve ordered from not more than 15 different restaurants on Swiggy. This means that we’re creatures of habit and often seek out the same things again and again. This wasn’t the equivalent of “eating out” decision people make but “we need food to survive” decision.   

One evening, when we had placed perhaps the 170th order of the year, we sat down and evaluated our food habits and concluded that we need to bring in some “adult-like” behavior here. We assumed that our addiction to “one-click-food” was probably bad (there was no evidence for this, though. For instance, our body weights have tracked the same for years). But more importantly, our middle class brains were shocked by our “Swiggy budget”. At an average meal of Rs 400, this tracked to Rs 80k every year. In my head, that translated into a brand new phone. (agreed that we would anyway need to spend at least 20% of this to cook at home). 

In any case, we hired a cook. Suganthi aunty hails from Andra pradesh and cooks delicious South Indian fare with a liberal love for spices.    

The first thing I notice is that the utilization of Fridge is now consistently at 70% whereas earlier it stayed anywhere between 20 - 30%. The second thing I notice is the food. I mean, having a hot meal waiting for you is better than “one click ordering”. The third thing is the economics - having a cook is cheaper (even if marginally) than ordering on Swiggy. 

So, I’ll say that’s a win for adulting - a 4/5. 

Avoiding sugar in drinks 👅

Siddhārtha reflected on his materialistic lifestyle and concluded that he would renounce everything and start a religion (unintended consequence?). I reflected on my hedonistic lifestyle and concluded that I would not eat sugar for 30 days.  

Why? Adulting strikes again. I realized that I was enjoying life too much - eating what I want, seeing what I want, doing what I want - that I felt guilty. So, I wanted some restrictions to build the muscle of not getting what I want to have. Too much hedonism can make you feel shitty - like a day you sat on the couch all day watching TV. 

I’ve been told for a while now that sugar is bad. It’s addictive. Plus, both of us have the weight of family history warning us about impending diabetes. So, no sugar for 30 days, I said. Nitya joined me in this journey into the wilderness of adulting. 

In 4 days, we changed the rule: No sugar only on weekdays. Weekends were cheat days. It took just 4 days to break us - we are pathetic adults. But I am glad to report that this regimen is running for 4 weeks now and still hasn’t gone off the rails like things tend to do. 

Yet another reason to desperately wait for the weekend these days. 

I can only hope that all this sacrifice will pay off by helping us out in the long run. From what I’ve seen, life also tends to be random. I’ve seen chain smokers live up to 90 and people who trek every week have sudden heart attacks. So, it also makes me wonder what is the right level of joy deprivation that makes sense. After all, the one life we have is to enjoy it and is there a point to it if we cut out all sources of joy and fun from it? 

These questions don’t keep me up at night but they certainly enter my head everyday as I drink the less-than-perfect, sugarless filter coffee. 

Running 🏃‍♂️

I try to run. Let me start from the beginning - I am not built for running. I am more comfortable with a puzzle, a book, some kind of futile creative work, or even putting words on screen which I am subjecting you all to right now. When I run, my lungs feel like Vietnam in the 60s, my calf muscles wake up from a deep slumber and I breathe like failing hydraulic brakes on a garbage lorry that makes people around look at me with worry. 

Then things got a little better. I could run for a bit - several hundred meters before taking a much needed break to re-oxygenize myself. Then it got better some more.  I could run a kilometer or a bit more. If you are expecting this to be some inspirational story about how, over time, I conquered running and it became the centre of my life, you are in for a terrible disappointment. The story pretty much ends here. I run at best a km or two continuously. Sometimes, I take breaks and make that three. 

Every time I run, it makes me wonder though - why do people do this. Why are they in a hurry to go nowhere. Early man ran from being prey or to catch his prey. In the medieval era, you probably ran because they were out to separate your head from the body. There’s no reason to run now. Our minds have created a brief moment in civilization where there is order, comfort and no existential threat (if you ignore the whole planet boiling away for a second). Yet, people run in circles like a hamster on a treadmill, perhaps physically simulating what they do with their lives.

I too continue to bravely lace up my shoes and attempt to go running every once in a while. My reasons are the following:

  1. It’s a perfect solo time to listen to music, podcasts, etc. When I discover a fun new podcast (have you listened to Conan O’Brien needs a friend), I run more. 🎧

  2. I think better on my feet, especially in the cool-down period post running. Ideas run in my head on steroids during this time. 🧠

  3. While I do not enjoy the running itself, I invariably get a chemical high after it which lasts me about 30 minutes or so, but still. 😀

  4. I feel like I am doing something to sweat bad things out of my body. 😓

  5. It trains me for more fun things like trekking in nature, walking around 15 kilometers everyday across cities in new countries - all of these are fun, fun, fun. 🥾

Running is also adulting. Forcing yourself to go in circles around the same place while your lungs burn in the homam of discipline is the perfect adult thing to do. 

Workouts

About a month back, Nitya discovered this new program called DareBee. It coincided with the time I murmured about how my back feels sore nowadays after slouching on the couch for four hours binging on Netflix. 

As it turns out, there are a lot of muscles in your body (anywhere from 650 to 840 different muscles). It also transpired, after a couple of days of “beginner level” exercises, that I was putting many of these muscles to use for the first time. Everyday was like a #TodayILearned that there is a new muscle in a part of my body and it is crying in pain. Twisting your body like a contortionist or even merely repeating an innocuous thing like lifting your arms hundreds of times suddenly exposed how unfit I was.  

Everyday I spend 20 minutes in this bubble of pain and humiliation. Bending your body in so many ways has a way of taking out any and all ego you have about your own physicality. Also, it’s good to do things you completely and utterly suck at to respect those who excel at it. Then there’s the pain - sweet, murderous pain. 

Pain in a limited way is a great tool to bring back discipline. These workouts, so far, are doing a good job of subtracting some of the hedonistic guilt I’ve been feeling to the extent that subjecting myself to this pain every morning somehow feels enjoyable. Makes me feel better to take on things.

The question is - how long and far can I keep up with all of this adulting business. Life also throws more adulting into our lap. For instance, we had a teenager stay with us for a week testing our ability to be responsible adults. And there are areas where our parents would desperately want us to behave like 'adults’ (their version of it) but we continue to refuse. These are stories for another day.

Life is fun,

Tyag

P.S. There is more to this adulting story. Watch out for future iterations on “how to be an adult who can take care of a teenager?” and “Why we will never be treated as adults by our parents?”

The totally unnecessary, mishmash review of Joker and Asuran

Is it me or is it getting crazier out there?

I recently watched two movies named after human archetypes - Joker and Asuran (Demon in tamil). There is no reason for me to review these two movies together, except for the fact that I saw them back to back over two days.

Joker (the movie) is all Hollywood. This Todd Philips fare is a cinematic portrayal of a loner’s descent into becoming one of the iconic comic book antagonist. Asuran is Vetrimaran placing yet another brick in the monument of good cinema he’s building. It is a gritty tale of a poor family torn apart by violence.

Going in, I was a bigger fan of Vetrimaran than I was of Todd Philips. Todd Philips did bring us the iconic Hangover movies (at least the first one) but Vetrimaran’s Visaranai was the one that gave me at least one sleepless night. Both have the capability to unsettle and draw you in. Todd Philips does this with cinematic flamboyance while Vetrimaran uses gritty verisimilitude.

Violence underpins the work of both directors and in a sense these movies too. Right off the bat, Joker gets into the "let's start bruising Arthur Fleck" project (metaphorically and literally) to force the impending transformation. Asuran begins with Dhanush luring us into a violent world where things have already gone bad.  

But, the movies couldn’t be more divergent in how they handle their stories.

** Some vague spoilers. But, neither of these movies are likely to be significantly ruined by spoilers so read at your own whim. 

In Joker, Gotham City breaks in with intensity and becomes a character on par with the Joker. It is atmospheric, borrowing inspiration from New York of the 70s. Arthur Fleck is constantly crashing against the teeming place and its system. Asuran on the other hand goes for frugality of stimulation, as you spend most of the time in thorny forests, shacks and in plantations. 

But the weight of the location doesn’t end there. In Joker, Gotham mimics Arthur Fleck’s descent into mayhem. “Is it me or is it getting crazier out there,” says Arthur. The idea, that Joker is the fruit of his environment, is punched into us with as much nuance as using a mallet to shove acupuncture needles. What happens when a very obviously deranged, abused child of a mentally unstable mother is loose a city that’s descending steadily into a restless boil? 

While the forests aren’t a allegory (maybe if you stretch the meaning - a wild, joyless place where the family is lost) in Asuran, it is pivotal to the story as Sivasamy and his family spread into it, running for their lives.    

This carries over into how both directors treat cinematography too. Joker is flamboyant. Asuran is simple to the point of being sparse. Todd Philips uses vibrant hues and dramatic shots to convey an almost operatic feel. Vetrimaran isn’t afraid to shoot large parts of the movie in the night, with little in the way of dramatic lighting. The color and vibrancy of Joker is striking - in fact, as Arthur descends further into becoming the Joker, the hues spread further, almost like a cinematographic liberation of the character. In the scrublands of Tirunelveli, the colors are muted (unlike the hyper-saturated hues of joker) and you are rooted in the dusty, brown earth and thorny bushes. This is a hard, joyless life.   

The caste and class discrimination and violence that is still a hard reality in many parts of the country propels the tension in Asuran although the movie tells a very personal story of Sivasamy and his family. There is a divide to begin with - Vadakkur and Thekkur. The rich and the powerful landowners from Vadakkur use any means necessary to take away land from the poor trying to sustain. When Sivasamy and family resist, there is an inevitability to the gory events that follow. 

Joker plays on class division too although at a more impersonal level. And perhaps with little nuance. While Asuran’s caste and class portrayal feels real and makes you squirm (especially the scene involving slippers), in Joker it feels like a contrivance (almost comical in nature). Gotham’s descent into chaos almost feels like a function of the fact that it’s Gotham rather than the implied class divide or joblessness. Notwithstanding the well-groomed, suited Thomas Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s father) playing a caricature - a quintessential elite with unbridled condescension toward the ‘lower’ class. 

But think about Todd Philips’ challenge. Batman (and family) is iconic and loved. He’s had many, many movies and a huge fan base. How do you then make a movie with one of his arch nemesis as the protagonist? Not just that - how do you paint him as the hero of the story you’re making? Todd Philips does exactly that. In the span of the movie, Philips makes the saviors of Gotham (the Batman family) look like elite pricks and proves that everyone is the hero of their own story, even if they turn out to be mass murdering psychos in the end.    

Talking of contrived, Joker’s rejection and bruising at the hands of Gotham also feels like it’s been set up for the story’s convenience. There isn’t a single redeeming moment for Arthur Fleck - he is always being feared, beaten up or laughed at. 

Asuran doesn’t have such problems. There is a reason for why Sivasamy’s family is in the eye of the storm - the land that Sivasamy’s family owns is the point of contention. If Gotham’s incessant cruelty to Arthur feels made up, the cruelty and harassment that Sivasamy faces escalates organically until it results in death. If Joker is an origin story, Asuran is a re-origin story where we see the old Tamil movie trope of hero revealing his  ‘other face’ 

Ultimately both movies rest heavily on the key men who drive it forward - Arthur Fleck played by Joaquin Phoenix and Sivasamy played by the ever magnificent Dhanush. The roles couldn’t be more stark. Sivasamy is subdued to the point of being too real and exists in an ecosystem of other characters. In fact, for the vast majority of the first half of Asuran, the character is a drunken slob of a man who is reviled by his very kids for the fact that he is not a man who stands up for their family. His transformation, when it happens, is that perfect ‘interval scene’ for the movie although it breaks the gritty realism of the first-half (my gripe with the movie). 

Arthur Fleck is performative from the start. The opening scene has you squirming where he just laugh-cries for a while, giving a peak into his deranged existence. Joaquin Phoenix’s uncontrollable laughter (he has a condition) creates some intense moments in the movie. You know it’s not voluntary and you can see the pain even as he is laughing, often morphing into a cry. Phoenix is also physically shocking, coiling his scarily emaciated body. He breaks into a creepy dance which gets more dramatic as he unfurls into the full unfriendly neighborhood Joker. 

Image result for joker emaciated

Both films have issues. In the case of Joker, the monotony of Arthur Fleck’s suffering in the hands of Gotham gets a tad exhausting. Despite the scene brilliance, the repetitiveness begins to catch up with you about halfway into the movie. 

In Asuran, the stunts are contrivances that are too hard to ignore. While the scenes are shot gloriously (especially the interval fight scene with slow motion set pieces), the idea of a guy constantly being slashed and punctured and yet continuing to fight takes away the idea of what Asuran was until that point.

Image result for asuran fight

Then there is an issue of messaging. Joker glorifies the trope of a disturbed, lone white guy who feels rejected by the society and engages in egregious violence (mass shootings come to mind). The rise of incel subculture has shown the dark side of glorifying this journey into some kind of inevitable heroic lashing out.  

Asuran has subtext issues too. Hacking each other to resolve issues has been the plot idea for the many hundreds of movies set in rural TN and the fact that Asuran went back to it feels dated and overused. Besides, caste and class subjugation is reflected in a million ways in the lives of people and the fact that these movies take the reductionist view of it through acts of physical violence alone feels limiting.

But the one area where Asuran truly stumbles (in my opinion) and Joker is elevated is the soundtrack. GV Prakash’s soundtrack for Asuran is cliched and forgettable and probably shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as the soundtrack of Joker by Hildur Guðnadóttir. The deep strings in the subway scene (which is like the interval scene for Joker, i suppose) will undoubtedly give you goosebumps. Immediately following it is the dance sequence in the bathroom to electric cello. The soundtrack of Joker portends a tragic end-of-the-world and elevates the whole movie.

Ultimately, the movies have different places in your mind. Asuran will be remembered for simple and tight story-telling. More importantly, it has a role to play in communicating a point about the society that’s relevant and needed. Joker, on the other hand exploits a social topic more to propel the cinema of it. It will divide people more (being loved and hated with equal passion) and will remain an important mile-marker in movies that will be talked about. 

I wouldn’t be able to pick one over the other. But I can tell you this - If you give me one more one-act movie like Joker, I might get bored. But Dhanush can keep acting in Vetrimaran movies and I can keep watching them all life long. 

These are fun times.

-Tyag

Why do Wombats make cubed poo?

Also, Millenials are ruining our economy

On September 12th, a gala event was held in Sanders Theatre, Harvard University. A crowd of spectators celebrated scientists getting awarded for their winning research / discovery by Nobel Laureates. Everyone was amused. There were giggles and guffaws. 

Thermal asymmetry in human scrotum

Some 2019 winners from this event:    

  • Physics award for the study on how, and why, Wombats make cubed poo

  • Peace award for the assessment of the pleasurability of scratching an itch

  • Economics award for the research on which country’s paper currency best transmits bacteria

  • Engineering award for the invention of a diaper changing machine for babies. Voila!

There were a few other awards too, including one for measuring scrotal temperature asymmetry in naked and clothed postmen in France. The paper titled Thermal Asymmetry of Human Scrotum is free to read for those interested. 

Welcome to the Ignoble prizes. Before you dismiss it completely, note that: 1) These are actual scientists 2) The research papers are perfectly valid and have been published and use scientific methods and 3) Awards are handed over by actual Nobel Laureates. 

In the words of Amanda Palmer, 

“It’s like the weirdest f-ing thing that you’ll ever go to… it’s a collection of, like, actual Nobel Prize winners giving away prizes to real scientists for doing f’d-up things… it’s awesome”.

What’s the point of this, you may be thinking. If you are the outraging type, you may even be asking: “Should actual scientists be wasting time doing silly things when the world is going to shit?” 

The answer is yes. The Ignoble prizes are supposed to make you laugh, then think.

If silly headlines can capture the interest of the world, then so be it. Behold, science. The thing that got us to where we are - out of disease, poverty, and from still running in the plains with wild buffaloes. We should be building temples and listening to every word coming from the mouth of scientists, but instead we kneel before celebrities and Godmen who claim to be the panacea for our troubles.

Need more silly in regular life

We really need more farce in regular life. Taking oneself too seriously should be a crime.

For instance, take the archetype for zealous preaching - the tech and startup bros. Everyone’s Plato, dispensing wisdom in tweets on how to live a purpose-filled life. Ostensibly, the words ‘entrepreneur’ or ‘investor’ in your bio gives you the blueprint to distilling the essence of life, universe and everything. 

Simple human tasks are now calibrated madness. Want a productive day? Then wake up at 5 AM on the dot, drink Kale smoothie infused with a magic nootropics, do high intensity training and meditate for 30 minutes to clear your ‘mind inbox’. Want to sleep better? Listen to Headspace, eat yogurt and find an ergonomic bed that shape-shifts to accommodate your aura. Do a digital detox and Vipaasana once a quarter to find your inner self.

Technology’s most destructive vandalism has been to give a bullhorn to every person on the planet. It’s made us so earnest and deliberate in our middling pursuits that we think we’re evolved. We are now in a world of infinite cults. Following are some examples:

  • Dieting rules and models🥑

  • Fitness plans and recommendations 💪

  • Yoga and meditation gurus 🧘‍♂️

  • Entrepreneurship as a virtuous social task🧔

  • Modi is god 🐮

  • Modi is the devil💥

  • And a million more….

And because people take their cults so seriously, they get viciously angry at anyone who makes fun or speaks against it. Outrages erupt like floods during Indian Monsoon.


All hail Lord Bezos!

We have a team stand-up every Monday in Amazon. Last week, the soaring leader of my team (he is 6’1’’ is all I am saying) decided that it was time to galvanize the bunch of sober performers into something of a cult. He painted the vision of our future next year, calling out the 5x growth projected and why we will be beating our competitors and be one of the largest teams within Amazon. All the while, he was revving up excitement in the numbers he was quoting - “this is a unique chance to be part of such a high growth!”  

I was struggling to contain smiling. I struggle to think of our ability to sell 5x more of potato or a moisturizer a measure of great vision. Ultimately, retail and e-commerce is just propagating consumption like a virtue to a level that’s not sustainable. We buy more phones, more TVs and more deodorants. Nothing to thrust out your chest about.

Corporations think of themselves as the new religion. The preachers are well paid and they know how to project a sense of importance to the inane things they do. Their incentives are aligned to project this sense of mission that pushes a large segment of relatively underpaid workers to push the engine further along. And we’ve all fallen for it.

Look at how proudly people flaunt their corporate brand or fight for it (Apple vs Android). Jeff Bezos is pretty much a cult leader for the Am-bots. Their words are hung on to with reverence and repeated in the halls.

But ultimately, these corporations mostly generate profits for shareholders and self fuel their own success. They are (mostly) greedy wealth-creation machines that will optimize all costs and pass on as much cost to the society as possible ( use up social infrastructure, no taxes and pollute and consume resources). Sure, they provide jobs and are a necessary component of the free market model that has fueled our collective creation of things.

But they surely don’t deserve the serious reverence with which we treat them. They need to be mocked and treated with silliness rather than revere them in our mind temples. 

Math did not help Einstein

In MP, a marriage ceremony was conducted between two frogs. The reason: this would result in rains. Later, there were rains. Too much of it, in fact, that the perpetrators of the ceremony decided they had to divorce a few of the frog couples.

If you ask me, that’s just poor system thinking. Any good product manager would have first asked the question “how much rain can we spawn by marrying off one frog couple” and then proceeded to work backwards from total rain needed to estimate the number of frog marriages needed. Instead, they went off all willy-nilly and married off frogs. Now Udupi is full of unhappy frog couples croaking at each other.  

But Frog marriages may just be the stimulant our GDP needs. India’s minister for the monies, Nirmala Sitharaman, having scoured through multiple reports on the state of our economy, arrived at the root cause of all problems - Millenials.

Honestly, I’d have to take her side. We now have people calling themselves minimalists, pursuing so-called ‘passion’ (instead of doing a solid job), taking Uber instead of driving their own car and renting and living together instead of buying a great 2 Bhk apartment (with modern amenities just 10 kms from city center). Frankly, this kind of attitude hurts national interest. The e-cigarette ban is just the beginning, I tell you.   

Things are so silly right now that Subramanian Swamy briefly made sense. To get to a 5 trillion rupee economy by 2025, he said, you need to grow at more than 10%. Before you could say, “that makes sense” Piyush Goyal jumped into the fray to dispel some myth about math and numbers in what has got to be the statement of Modi Raj 2.0. 

Don’t get into those Maths; Maths never helped Einstein discover gravity

We are increasingly averse to math and science as it doesn’t quite go with our feelings. Instead we go: “Shut up, you western-influenced, anti-national, liberal swine. Our ancestors figured out everything including interplanetary flights. So, go and shove your science up your….”

The good thing that came out of all this was that for a brief moment, Newton and Einstein trended in India.  Perhaps in his own way, our honorable minister was doing what Ignoble prizes were trying to do - make people laugh and then think about science. 

And talking of science, Trump decided that he wanted to get rid of all energy efficient lighting in the White House because it makes him look orange.

So, as I always say with these things, it all could be worse. 

-Tyag

Food orgy and a bad movie

A weekend of a lot of wedding food and 2h 25min of a spectacularly bad movie

The last weekend of August was a food orgy. I was at Nitya’s cousin wedding.

Indian weddings are like test matches. This wedding was more like a shortened 30-hour match. Yet, there were four massive meals to be consumed (Lunch, Dinner (Saturday), Breakfast and Lunch(Sunday)). 

So basically - A. LOT. OF. FOOD. You know that beautiful feeling when you sit in front of a table, with its white paper sheet and a clean banana leaf in front of you - that basically lasts for one meal. Here’s a little math: Each meal has, let’s say, an average of 15 items. So 60 items over four meals. Even if you account for a 15% overlap (that pesky curd pachhidi and other things), it’s at least 50 items you get to eat.   

50 items. Five. Zero. In a space of….24 hours. Mughal emperors probably has slightly fewer items in their feasts. #Justsaying.

Then there’s the way we eat it. Although I had compared Indian weddings to test matches, the meals in south Indian weddings have more of a T20 vibe. There’s a fury to the opening sequence as things get delivered onto your plate. Think Jofra Archer but with masal vadai. Before you can say “Is that pal payasam?” your plate now has about 10 items and you are frozen with indecision on where to start.

...but there’s a mama who deposits a steaming pile of rice on your plate. Sambar follows. Your spell breaks and you now nimbly navigate it within the confines of your rice and from spilling on to your crotch. In wedding meals, like T20 cricket, it’s best not to be too much in your head. The best advice is to activate your inner Ben Stokes and attack the food like you mean it.

Extravagant wedding food

This may sound hypocritical after shoving down four square meals but hear me out. 

Thousands of kilograms of food is wasted in weddings everyday across the country. One study found that Rs. 339 crores worth of food gets wasted per year in weddings just in Bangalore. Apply any multiple you want (not less than 10) to get to a country-wide number. Most of us know it. And yet, when it comes to a wedding we organize, we do…….well, nothing. 

Because we don’t want to be the assholes that don’t feed anyone. 

Wedding food planning is complex, to say the least. There are several meals, each with multiple courses and items. Portfolio proliferation is a nightmare for effective planning. Ask Tim Cook. Then there’s the estimation of number of people who would turn up - we don’t have a concept of RSVP or even a notion that you can’t turn up for a wedding and its food without informing in advance. There have been a few weddings where I’ve just ‘turned up’ - not even sure if I had been invited. Another complexity multiplier are the multiple sessions - you really aren’t sure who is going to turn up for what event. 

The result: Enormous buffer. Waste.

Perhaps we need to simplify the whole deal. Make wedding a single event ceremony and a quick reception. Invite only a limited number of people. It’s not a public service event especially when 99% of the people who turn up belong to the same economic class as you. Another way to reduce complexity is to make the menu simple. Four great things to eat are better than 40 average ones. 

And finally - and it’s high time we do this - ask people to respond s’il vous fucking plait if they are going to turn up. 

If nothing works, consider using something like Nofoodwaste.in. This award winning social venture basically takes excess food from weddings (and other places) and donates them to those in need.

Pretty damn cool if you ask me. Feeling socially responsible is just a phone call away. 

Comali

After all the food-orgy, we decided to do a group movie on Sunday evening. Sometimes, when you are in a group, and the blood in your head is heavy with cholesterol from the feast you make decisions that you wouldn’t make otherwise. Seeing Comali was one of those decisions. 

Image result for comali memes

Remember that thought experiment about a monkey typing for an infinite period of time may eventually end up creating all the works of Shakespeare? Ok, they took it to heart in this movie. Except they didn’t have infinite time. 

Q: Can monkeys write movie scripts?

A: Comali.

Q: Is Jayam Ravi annoying?

A: Comali.

Q: What happens when a guy wakes up from a Coma of 16 years because he was bitten by an ant (yes, you heard it right) and then, having woken up, proceeded to run around harassing a married woman and assaulting another, doesn’t find a job and instead of learning some marketable skills, decided he was going to steal an old family property worth crores from a politician?

A: He becomes an internet influencer. 

Wut? 

Here are some other things that happen in the movie:

  • Jokes about the fragile mental state of the guy who came back from coma

  • The coma guy harasses a woman right in her home in the presence of other members, like his OWN-FREAKING-DOCTOR who is her husband

  • Coma guy sexually assaults a woman...

  • ...the woman then proceeds to give him a job 

  • Coma guy spends several days post coma before he knows that a tea no longer cost less than 2 Rs. 

  • Coma guy has proper biceps after 16 years in coma

  • Coma guy spends his post coma days trying to pull off a heist of some idol from a minister’s house

  • Finally, Coma guy becomes a youtube influencer

I think the movie would have been better if the guy had never woken up from Coma and we’d stared at him sleeping in his bed for 2 hours straight. And it’s time to stay far away from Jayam Ravi films.  

Where are the good movies?

I am desperate for good Tamil movies in 2019. I am still rich from the spoils of the second half of 2018. What a spectacular year that was! 

  • Chekka chivantha vaanam

  • Kaala

  • Pariyerum perumal

  • 96

  • Vadachennai

  • Kolamaavu Kokila

Of course there was 2.0 as well, like a black hole of mediocre, towering over all of the above, but still. If you haven’t seen any of the above, you must right away. I recommend taking off from work today and seeing any of these. 

I am a huge fanboy of Santhosh Narayanan and eagerly wait for his next composition. Kaala and Vadachennai backgrounds were…..mmmuuuaaahhh. But all those other movies in the list above also had equally awesome music. It’s like all the stars aligned. 

Then 2019 came. And except for Petta, I haven’t been excited by anything so far. But I am waiting for the as yet untitled Karthik Subburaj, Dhanush, Santhosh Narayanan film. In the meantime, I am just nourishing myself on Fahadh Faasil movie orgy. That guy is a beast! Maybe it deserves a post of its own and I’ll reserve commentary there.

But, it’s always good to remember that for every bad Comali there is a worse Vishwaroopam 2. Could be worse, is all I am saying.

-Tyag

P.S. Do you have any good Tamil movies recommendations from 2019? Leave in the comments. 

India needs thugs

And an Independence day speech critical of uncontrolled freedom...

I am under no illusions about not living in a bubble. My current universe is a white-collar shop floor + my social media + digi-verse bubble.

My stakes are fairly low. I don’t have to think about not having the next meal or being able to pay the rent for the coming month. Neither am I directly affected (yet) by large global problems of big pharma, water scarcity or personal safety. Yet, like the turd that I am, I whinge about things.

The thing with bubbles is that they can get quite cozy. Your mind on a la-z-boy. And when you pull them out of it - your brain is like a Panda in the middle of KR Puram junction.


The other

I spent the long republic-day weekend back home in Coimbatore. Between religious rituals, the usual generation-gap related friction, pulling out defense for the decision on not making a baby and eating good food, there were some real moments. Overall mood: Happy and slightly uncomfortable. The happy part is from all the time I spend with my parents. The uncomfortable parts are the areas where our world view diverged drastically.  

Mass hallucination is the general state of human-dom. People get elected on it, wars start, religions grow, celebrities emerge and movements and revolutions begin. The wildest and most powerful hallucinogen on the planet is Fear. Anger is also pretty good but has the side effect of some nasty trips. Hope is a feel good buzz. 

Purveyors of hallucination - an incomplete list:

  • Religious men

  • Motivational speakers

  • Your social bubble - old friends, colleagues and family

  • People of your age group, color, caste, religion, etc. 

  • Politicians

  • Celebrities

Pick sides, filter your sources of information and soon you’ll have a deluge of reinforcing messages. Algorithms will do the filtering for you.

My bubble has formed over the last 10+ years. Stepping out of home, finding new types of people, getting married, traveling and seeing things as myself and not as an extension of my parents has partially helped me build my own bubble. The Internet and social media has played a big part too.

In any case, our bubbles increasingly don’t overlap.  I have different answers to fundamental questions than my parents:

  • How to live?

  • Role (or lack thereof) of Babies

  • Religion

  • Modi

  • What is art? 

  • What is work?

  • What is a good time to wake up in the morning?

In each of these topics, I realized that I am one of the “other” that my parents refer to. When I say parents, it’s mostly my dad. My mom, as moms generally tend to be, is way more chilled out in these things. But my dad and I have such fundamental different views on some of these topics (fodder for another day) that its best to do the south-Indian thing of nudging these pesky topics under the carpet and instead relish some thenkuzhal (see below).


India needs thugs

I can’t believe how many people are angling for fascism openly. Forget religion for a second. I discovered a vicious glee at the thought of a fascistic dictator ruling us all during the visit to one of my relatives.

The conversation began pleasant enough - stories from our trip to Japan and small talk about the weather, furniture and whatever else popped into consciousness. Just then, the same quantum physics that injects stupid ideas into my head, made me utter the words Kashmir and Modi. I may have made a face saying that second name that could also be interpreted as me having severe acidity. 

Matchstick into napalm.

Image result for napalm

What resulted was a tirade on how the younger generation was completely brainwashed by vested interests into thinking that Modi and BJP were bad. 

Sample statements from the conversation:

“You haven’t lived during the emergency. Reporters were jailed.” 

“Everyone is just looting off the J&K issue without actually resolving it” 

“Modi is what India needs”  

That last statement is actually incomplete. It kinda gave me a chill. His exact words were, 

“Modi and Amit Shah may be thugs but that is exactly what India needs” 

You can’t argue any further.


Can only do so much freedom

The independence day visit to home also exposed me to the quaint tradition of flag hoisting. Normally, I am agnostic to symbolic displays of patriotism. But I was also curious re-discover the vibe of a community flag-hoisting event - just to see how it had changed.  

The standard SOP was followed. Everyone assembled in good clothes. A flag pole was decorated with flowers. A suitable flag hoisting candidate had been picked. As always it was a symbol of power and hierarchy. Male, check. Older than 50, check. Has a title that says he’s the boss (In this case the president of the apartment association), check. He pulls the rope (ably assisted by a guy who set it up and ensures that there is no snag). The flag reaches the destination, unfurls like a wrinkly tissue. Some petals spill over and the wind which was blowing all this while decides to stop completely and the flag hangs limp. Claps followed by Jana Gana Mana. Post the anthem, it’s speech time. Then there could be some attempts to do ‘cultural’ activities (I say attempts because it doesn’t always succeed) like singing, playing an instrument or ‘decent’ dancing. At this point, everyone is waiting for what comes next -  chai, coffee, chocolates for kids, etc. [Fit Indian snacks here] or a full fledged breakfast. National duty done. Peace out. 

Overall, I was satisfied that the SOP hadn’t changed and concluded that in 2040, we’ll all arrive in flying cars to repeat the same process. But I did notice one thing about the speech. My memory of Independence day speeches were, apart from being boring af, about being good citizen, remembering those that got us independence, and those that are doing good service to the country. This one was a tad different. 

The president of the apartment complex (a nice man by all accounts) lectured everyone on the fact that nowadays we have people saying “freedom” for everything and diluting the word. Ohhkay. He had a strange story. In some district in TN, three young boys in class five were found drunk. They were produced in court (they do that?) and the judge after much deliberation decided that they had to do some community service and clean out a mandapam (homage building) for a dead politician. That way, not only the mandapam got clean but their hearts too, he concluded. Notwithstanding the fact that the last statement seemed to have been borrowed from hundreds of ‘patti mandram’ speeches that spontaneously erupt every time there’s some holiday, it’s the conclusion that drew my attention.  

Not all freedom were equal, the man concluded. We can’t justify everything as freedom, he raged. The story was of the kids. But it was rather clear that he was annoyed with freedom being used as an excuse to protest big government these days. All these millennials and pretend-millennials.  

The unsaid mood: “These pesky, brainwashed young need to get in line”   

These are fun times,

Tyag

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