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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Delhi Litter Festival


(A slightly edited version of this article was published in the print edition of the Times of India in April 2015)


I have a complaint. There is so much brouhaha about the Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF), a recent phenomenon, while no one seems to care a
bout another, much older, cultural phenomenon called the “Delhi Litter Festival”. Unlike the #JLF, the #DLF has been around for decades, nurtured by the proletariat as opposed to the crème de la crème of the #JLF.

The legacy of the #DLF is built around the age-old Indian fetish for cleanliness, that is, sweep your verandah and deposit the outcome in front of the house of the neighbor you love the least. In modern times, the art form has also flourished vertically in DDA housing societies. The municipal corporation contributes to the festivities by letting free market dynamics operate without any hindrance. The result is the omnipresent vibrancy of detritus, bearing the marks of human civilization. You can see Domino’s rubbing shoulders with Aggarwal Sweets, condom nestled beside a baby toy, empty bottles of Kingfisher and cough syrups embracing Amul milk sachets, torn lingerie wrapped around last year’s government of India calendar, and such like.

Unlike the #JLF, the #DLF is a permanent exhibition spread over Delhi’s gali-muhallas, commercial centers and boulevards. The young and the old alike are continuously adding to the variety and volume of exhibits by hurling trash from balconies, tossing gutkha and chips pouches over their shoulders and ejecting KFC and Mc-D cartons from BMWs and Audis cruising at 90 kmph. Finally, in our bid to become another New York, the big melting pot of cultures, the #DLF has also embraced influences from other states in the form of paan stains all over town, providing a lively ochre background to the cultural tapestry that Delhi has become, courtesy the biggest festival of them all. Not to be outdone, almost all Indian cities and towns have lapped up the idea of the #DLF and have organized such festivals of their own.

However, all is not well in paradise. Last heard, an insensitive government was planning to close down the Delhi Litter Festival under the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”.
               

Mocktale: When PM Modi nearly broke down in China.

(This humour piece was published in Times of India on May 20 18, 2015. The link to original publication is: "When Modi Nearly Cried in China")




If the Chinese whispers are to be believed, during his recent China sojourn, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after hearing that the Chinese Tera Quota Warriors were low caste people who remained edified because Lord Rama missed them on his Redemption Tour, nearly broke down. To avoid embarrassment, he quickly asked the Indian Ambassador to China, for a (genuine) pair of Silhouette sunglasses from their Matrix collection. The Indian Parliament was one thing, this China tour something else. China was the last place Modi could afford to be seen as someone emotional and vulnerable. After the shades arrived, holding back his tears, he then strutted among the downtrodden, whispering in a choked voice "I wheel be bike".


Of late, everyone, from politicians to film stars, is crying and mopping after. While sturdier souls wear sunglasses for subterfuge, other 'coconuts' are letting their emotions flow. Obama, Putin, Sheila, Alia, Giriraj, Ashutosh...the list goes on.

However, it's not only PM Modi who has popularised 'crying'. It has been omnipresent. Advertisers make kids cry on television so that moms buy noodles and artificially flavoured juices; film directors make audiences cry so that they can reach for their pockets while the maudlin viewers are mopping their faces with tissues tinged with salsa sauce; politicians make poor people cry during election rallies, so that they can be robbed in broad daylight; girlfriends cry so that this abominable "going Dutch" business stops; and, wives cry so that husbands agree to switch the TV from Indian Premier League (IPL) to Sasural Simar Ka.

Ironically, everyone has a reason to cry. Unlike RGV, Alia Bhatt cried while watching her own film. Unlike RaGa, Sheila Dixit cried while watching her party floating like deadwood in the AAP deluge. Unlike Sakshi Maharaj, Giriraj Singh cried when told by his boss not to monopolize idiocy. Unlike Salman Khan, Putin cried when asked to put his shirt back on. Finally, unlike Sambit Patra, Ashutosh became an 'Ansootosh' when he correctly handled the transitions between 'farmer' and 'former' during the entire course of a recent television debate.

Mocktale: Tech giants offer relief from “WAT Lag Gayee” pains!

(This humour piece was published in Times of India on June 18, 2015. The link to original publication is: "WAT Lag Gayee!")

In a rare show of solidarity, the tech giants Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and LinkedIn recently met inside the Googleplex to finalize the specifications of the Without-A-Trace (or, simply the "WAT") framework.


Mr. P. Ping Tom, the Projector Director of WAT, informed a select gathering of reporters from democracies around the world that WAT is a software framework specifically targeted at politicians who so often wish to obliterate their digital trails and escape "Wat lag gayee" situations. "The project name was picked up from whispers often overheard in the corridors of the collaborating companies, who employ a sizable number of Indian engineers," Mr. Tom quipped. He added that, "It is also a sort of tribute to India, the biggest democracy in the world, and a recent pioneer in sting operations, Swaraj, digital farming and cleanliness drives." 

At the click of the mouse or tap of finger, the WAT application 'WATsapp' will crawl via all the popular search engines and Bing and search the databases of the email service providers, Twitter, Facebook, chat service providers, location/map providers, LinkedIn, e-commerce providers, etc. They will be sniffing transactions initiated by the user containing one or more keywords e.g. "Lalit", "56 inch", "Zurich", "Kejriwal", "Sunny", "Srini", "Bhai", "Rafale", etc. The user will then be offered three options: 1) Hide for 5 years, 2) Hide Indefinitely, and 3) Delete. The application will be triggered automatically, daily or on demand. The service will be NSA and WikiLeaks proof. 

The service pricing will be based on keywords and follow a dynamic rate card. For instance, while "Lalit" may be currently priced at 5 dollars per record, the service may be offered free of cost for keywords such as "Love", "Jaanu", "Dying", "Who dis?", "Fraand", etc. as the group's contribution to world peace!" 

The WATsapp beta trials in India are currently on in a secret location at the Lutyens Zone in New Delhi and Prem Nagar in Delhi.