Till a few years ago, I was what could be described as ‘gregarious’. I liked stepping out, meeting new people, making friends and hanging out with said friends.
But over the last few years, I have become increasingly hesitant to step out of my house. The prospect of having to meet people seems daunting. It’s a little ironic that this coincides with the time I decided to become a writer and stand-up comedian. But the reason is a very specific one. Ladies and Gentlemen, kindly brace yourself for the kind of rants you hear from old men who reach the bars early.
Every generation has a different set of societal pressures. A hundred years ago, there was pressure to work in one’s ancestral property to provide food. A few decades ago, the pressure was to get married, have kids, and produce mediocre progeny to completely unnecessary dynasties. In today’s times, it’s a different kind of pressure.
The pressure of meeting people who randomly meet you, assign tasks to you, and vanish. That’s the reason I detest meeting people these days. Nearly every person you meet assigns some or the other task to you, whether you know them or not. It’s a rampant, vile practice that nobody speaks about. Everybody you meet is adding to a gigantic, imaginary To-do list in your head.
These task-assigners come in various shapes, sizes and categories.
THE WOKE PEOPLE
Most people assume that performing comedy in front of right-wing rogues is the toughest. Surprisingly, right-wingers do possess a sense of humour. The real problem are the left-wing, woke people. They have woken so much out of their slumber that any joke that doesn’t fit their moral text book needs to be put to sleep. In fact, apart from woke people, the only more dangerous place to tell a joke is in front of a pride of lions in the Gir forest! For a woke person, there is no perfect intellectual. The idea of a perfect woke person is a constantly shifting flagpole that is humanly impossible to adhere to.
I had the rare misfortune to host an Open Mic at a vegan restaurant in the city. The kind where rich folks wear kurtas and sit on mats in order to remain ‘grounded to their roots’. Vegans are the most intolerable among the woke-folks. Of course, people are free to make their own dietary choices, but it’s the sanctimonious ‘I’m doing it for the planet’ tone that is intolerable.
I mean, Gandhi fasted for years and he’s called a chutiya on Twitter. But Neha wants to be respected because she said ‘No’ to paneer! Give me a fucking break!
I was performing a silly joke about Shah Jahan and how he cut off the workers’ hands because the Question Mark wasn’t used in Indian languages in the 16th century. Right in the middle of a joke, I got interrupted by an audience member. I called her out for interrupting me in the middle of a joke, and we spoke after the show.
‘That joke is able-ist’, she said.
‘Well, it is the perspective of an able-bodied person who is mocking people without hands’.
Have you ever had a moment when as an atheist, you begin to believe that God exists? That God created somebody this stupid only to make their ancestors pay for ghastly crimes? It was one of those moments.
‘You do know that it’s a myth, right? There isn’t really enough evidence to prove that Shah Jahan actually cut off people’s hands after they built the Taj Mahal’.
She gave me the look I used to give my Maths teachers in school.
‘Even so, that joke is able-ist. You are perpetuating a violent idea through your joke’.
‘Are you telling me people are going to listen to that joke and cut off other people’s hands?’
‘…Ahem, maybe you should choose to read up on Disability Studies, and you wouldn’t be so insensitive in your jokes’.
‘Why don’t you tell me what the studies say?’
‘I’m sorry, it’s not my responsibility to educate you about the world’.
That’s the thing about woke people. They are constantly dropping names on Social Media. You should read this. Maybe watch that. For you see, I’m an educated person willing to debate my views on social media for hours, but I do not possess the skills to summarise what I have learnt in a couple of sentences.
In that sense, I like that right-wing folks do not assign any task to you. They are absolutely sure of their views. If you disagree, you can go fuck yourself. Irrespective of whether you agree with their opinions, it is hard not to be impressed by the confidence. But debate with a woke person, and you will be tasked with reading three books, a couple of essays on EPW, and four academic papers on JStor before you’re worthy of having an argument!
If the woke-walkers are an army of brain-dead people marching at you while echoing each other’s opinions, they can only be defeated by their worthy opponents – the Recommenders.
These are people who have watched a series or film and can’t stop fucking raving about it. ‘OMG!!! YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THAT SERIES? Are you serious? You’re a critic. You SHOULD watch it. MUST. OUGHT TO. BETTER WATCH IT’.
If the recommenders are an army marching, they are commanded by seniors in their own army. The recommending generals who make recommending a competitive game of tennis.
‘Have you watched Better Call Saul?’
‘No, I haven’t. But OMG, have you watched Fargo?’
‘No, I haven’t. But I’ve watched The Wire. Have you?’
‘No. I haven’t’.
‘You MUST watch it. It’s one of those shows that will blow your mind’.
This game has no rules, and no winner. It can go on for a few minutes, hours, or the entire night. But the recommenders are also guilty of another crime. If you ask them to describe the show, they mostly refuse. ‘I can’t describe it. I’ll do a shoddy job. You MUST watch it’.
What they’re essentially saying is that they have the time and resources to watch a show that ran for an entire decade, but cannot be bothered to indulge you in a two-minute summary. Because THAT would require some skills and intelligence.
‘You just watch it. It will blow your mind’.
Everything seems to blow the minds of recommenders. It is a mind or a school in Pakistan? To get blown every Friday??
THE NUMBER SHARERS
The third in the list are those that immediately want to exchange numbers after meeting you.
I have met people at parties with whom the only commonality I shared was to belong to the same species. ‘Give me your number, I’ll give you mine’. I thought this was true only in case of pretty women, but apparently, it’s a rampant social disease.
Despite the fact that it takes 2 seconds to find someone one by searching on social media. ‘Give me your number, I’ll call you’, they say. And then stare at you till you take out your phone. ‘Unlock your phone. Use the swiping pattern. Let me see it so I can theoretically know everything about your life. Unlock your phone RIGHT NOW and save my number. Or I’m going to stare at you till you drop dead’.
The number-sharers are not easily pleased though. Some of them will take out their phones and give you a call. ‘I called you’, they’ll say. ‘That’s my number. Save it’. Trapped like a teenager in Shakti Kapoor’s bedroom, you have no option but to nod.
‘Give me a call when you’re in this locality the next time’.
‘And let me know if you have any shows coming up, man. Just ping me on WhatsApp or something’.
‘And oh, have you watched this series…?’
As a culture, we have strange ideas of writing and writers. When I tell people that I’m a writer, the first question I get is ‘What books have you written?’. It is hard for people to wrap their heads around the fact that there are other types of writers than authors.
We have made writing so performative, so cliched – that an entire generation of youngsters is more comfortable solving complex mathematical equations to arrive at one common answer, than write a short essay that displays their uniqueness. But even though I belong to the camp of writers myself, writers are one of the worst committers of the crime of assigning tasks.
‘Hey, can you read what I’ve written? Do let me know what you thought’.
No hello, no introduction. No cursory line of courtesy asking if I would be interested to read their work. Forget niceties, there is no context to what was sent – no summary, no one-para description of the content within. I am supposed to open the document and plunge into ‘EXT. DAY. SCENE 1 – A dusty Jeep arrives outside the village. We see a child inside the Jeep, with a snake around its neck’.
I have had one dude send me his script over 5 long WhatsApp messages. Another dude met me at a party after a few years and cribbed about me not giving him feedback. That’s the thing about writers – while their wallets are thin, their egos are massive. If you do not reply to their messages, they take it as a personal insult. ‘Since you are a professional writer’, the dude would say to me in the balcony as we passed joints, ‘I expected you to respond professionally’.
I think the problem lies in the fact that writing is considered an art. And because it’s considered an art, people don’t realise that to review it is actual work.
I review movies professionally, and as a reason I get sent at least 20 to 30 videos every week. Most of them have no introduction, or summary, or any sort of hint about what the video might contain. Just thrown my way with the cursory message that says, Hey, check this out.
I understand that film making is a tough business. But how do you expect to be taken seriously when you don’t even follow the basic rules of professionalism? The common message attached to the video links go something like Hey, the video is just about 5 minutes so please watch it. Sure, it might take about 5 minutes to watch your video. But it will take me about 30 minutes to analyze it. And then another 30 minutes to put it in words. And then some more time to find you on social media and reply to your message and then discuss it with you.
So in essence, you are asking me to work for 3 hours. For free. Without even the basic modicum of courtesy. People think that it is some sort of a joyful activity to review films. But it is actual work. Imagine if you were a software engineer working. And I suddenly drop in at your desk and say, Hey, can you write this code for me, please? People do not even take permission. Do not even drop in a line that says, Hey, do you mind having a look? Do you have a few minutes free?
And if you do not respond to their messages, they come back and check in a weeks time. Like it was a fucking assignment to begin with. And when you fail to respond to their unprofessional messages, they get pissed off.
Which gives rise to the question. What is the professional way to ask somebody to review your work?
I don’t know what are the industry guidelines but I personally would like it if you first asked me if I would be interested to check out your work. And be ready to accept a ‘No’ if I’m busy. The next step would be to send a short summary along with the link. And then leave it for me to decide if I want to have a look or no. Because it’s a favour I’m doing you. It’s not a contract. I’m not getting paid.
So that was it. That was my rant. If you belong to any of the above categories, please stop assigning tasks to everybody around you. We live in tough times as it is.
Thank you for reading. Now please go to the comment section and tell me what you thought of my article. Right now!!