Monday, September 26, 2016

Vivid Bharti

This isn’t pornographic literature.


Let’s begin by admitting that all of us watch porn. Those who disagree please type ‘x’ in the address bar of your browser and post the screenshot below. It all began in the early 2000s, didn’t it? The extra 25 minutes we had at the Cyber Café after the print out was taken was usually the time we bumped on to that suspicious folder on the desktop, which invariably contained a .3gp or a .avi file along with the usual army of .mp3s and .docs. With shaking hands, we would double click and see skin colored human shaped figures move passionately over other skin colored human shaped figures and instinctively (possibly due to years and years of preaching, usually religious) close Windows Media Player and almost as instinctively fire up Nero to copy the damned video on the goddamn rewriteable CD. But there was a problem! The rewriteable CDs were unreliable and your trusted floppy disk’s memory was equivalent to one skin-colored .bmp file or the equivalent five skin-cloured .jpeg files. It was then that we felt that the load of science projects at school became unmanageable and the dads were guilt-shamed into getting that first broadband connection installed.

Then the internet changed everything.

He who earlier had to settle for the occasional glance at Maxim on the road or the second last page of Delhi Times, could now use the same paper for complementary yet hitherto unknown purposes. He who had to enlargen himself and shift his chair to obscure the view the neighbor had at his screen inside the dark, dingy and oft dilapidated cyber café didn’t have to do the chair-shifting anymore, while the enlarging responsibility was restricted to only the most necessary organs. It was around the same time that sales of pirated CDs and DVDs of Murder, Zeher and Raaz plummeted at both Palika and Nehru Place, and the repeat telecast of Kasauti Zindagi Kay became the most watched midnight show on Indian Television.

These were modern times.

People were sharing. P2P was born. Remember Napster? No? Remember Limewire? Of course. While those in the West had their Paris Hiltons and Pamela Andersons, we in India had our own Miss Jammus and Mysore Malliges. They were the best of times, they were the worst of times. Rampant copying of Western art gave birth to the Indian Porn Industry. There were strict quality guidelines in place: the actors had to be rotund, hairy and ugly; the cameramen had to be an amateur armed with a camera capable of capturing not more than three colors, and; the music had to be repetitively irritating. There was one sacrosanct diktat though: strictly no sex. And hence, the land of the Kamsutra  became home to the only porn industry in the world, which stood for ‘everything sex’, but in its bio, had the word ‘but’ between ‘everything’ and ‘sex’. It came to a point where every Indian porn video titled ‘HD Hardcore Desi Girl’ was neither HD, nor Hardcore, nor Desi, (and at times) didn’t have a girl.   

It was a struggle. 

The Indian porn watcher, now disillusioned and disappointed with the talent on show at home, looked West. The quality was far, far superior. But with increasing quality comes increased size. The ISPs would bill us like Management Consultants bill their hapless clients for every extra MB on the wrong side of 500. Faced with the toughest decision of our teenage lives: which undergraduate stream to opt for few HD videos versus many pixelated ones, many wilted under pressure and ended up with four or sometimes five digit monthly bills, something we almost always blamed at gargantuan Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat Reader updates. But the cat and mouse between us and the ISPs had only just begun. Remember the impossible trinity? One could only get exactly two of ‘a plan with high download speed’, ‘a plan with significant download limit’, ‘a plan in your father’s budget’. Then one of us made our way to the higher management at these ISPs and introduced the FNU (Free Night Usage) plans. These were variants of the current plans but allowed unlimited download between 12 AM to 6 AM.

All was well again.

Sometimes later, college happened. Pornography had, so far, ensured that we had no hobbies. It now made sure we made no friends either. At least not in the real world. College did have LAN and that meant sharing and more sharing. It was the Limewire era again! There were no speed restrictions and there were no capacity constraints. Instead of the usual twice a day, the towel was not being washed four or, on weekends, even six times a day.

And then there were fringe benefits.

Companies like Seagate, WD and Kinston got a fresh lease of life. Most of us had two hard disks: one that had all the popular TV shows, the top IMDB movies, the best documentaries ever made while the other one was…umm…black in color. The soaring demand also gave employment to cartoonists whose existence was a struggle in the post digital-revolution era. Savita Bhabhi was born. Adobe Reader downloads were at an all-time high and, for a change, people didn’t even mind the daily updates the software asked for.

All was well.

College gave way to a bloodsucking job behind a desk and LAN gave way to torrents. The thought of going back to a new video of your favorite porn star made possible the journey back to the cramped apartment your modest salary could afford in the unimaginably treacherous rush hour traffic. At office, we would kick ass and at home row the high tides of the pirate bay. Porn was life. Torrent was the lifeline.  

Things had never been better.

And then one day they banned the torrent sites! Torrents were dead. Porn was finished. What remained was that black hard disk from college. Alas! Nostalgia was the only thing it could raise. Not enough, clearly not enough.

Things have changed.

Long office hours ensue. The traffic is a fjord with dungeons at both end and screeching Piranhas alongside. Cable subscriptions have gone up again. Vendors in Palika and Nehru Place have reported a spurt in demand for DVDs of Tarzan: The Wonder Car and Dil Maange More. Fashion TV is back in action, this time in HD. Midnights on television are going to be Hot again. Prima facie, it’s back to the square one for us.

Has anything changed? No. Everything has.

We are smarter, sharper and cleverer than ever. We now
·         know the second most influential person in the Middle East after Zohan: Mia Khalifa
·         know the one thing Japanese are most scared of, a weakness that can be exploited in case of a war
·         can hide confidential files in plain eyesight (Desktop/Office Work/Archives/Pretty Old Files/Dont Click/Viruses/Mia Khalifa Videos)
·         know useful Chrome shortcuts: ctrl+t, ctrl+w and the most useful: ctrl+shift+n
·         clear My Recent Places and History after every session
·         can get away with murder as the fingers have no fingerprints left

Things are looking up again.     

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The In'vest'ment De'brief' recently reminded me that this domain is about to expire in the coming 7 days. So, acting swiftly, and using my friend’s credit card, I extended the subscription for another year, with more than 23 seconds to go for the deadline. By virtue of such agility, here I am again, your favorite blogger (for quite a few have cropped up of late), giving a few fucks about things you don’t give a fuck about. The reminder also told me that I haven’t written for a while, which is surprising since the fanmail continues to come at a same rate it did during my golden years: a Concord-esque speed of one self-addressed letter per year. In any case, it would be a fair assumption that I have been missed, as fair as patriarchy in our culture or gender inequality in Saudi’s.

So let me give in to temptation and begin by saying that ‘All investments are subject to market-risks. Please read the scheme information document carefully before investing’. Now that I have absolved myself of all the crimes I am going to commit in the coming few paragraphs (and also arson, theft, murder and sedition), let me just clear the biggest misconception people have about investments: no matter how much the word ‘in-vest’ points at something which is inside a man’s vest and no matter how much 80C seems to point at the measurement of something which is inside a woman’s vest, investments have got nothing to do with anything remotely close to a man’s/woman’s torso. In fact, it’s a subject of the heartless and occasionally, of the brainless.

The idea behind investments is to increase household savings so that instead of buying a hatchback today, you buy a Sedan 5 years later. It also gives you an opportunity to save some tax, and hence have more in-hand income by investing away a part of the same in-hand income, leaving you with lesser in-hand income. But the key assumption, by far, is that you will be smarter and more mature five years down the line than you are now, and hence be better capable of managing your own resources. Clearly, Shahid Afridi will have a tough time trying his luck as the brand ambassador of HDFC Life!

Having proved that the very idea of investments is counter-intuitive, let’s delve deeper into a few terms our insurers frequently use: ‘Risk’ is something you always take while ‘return’ is something you never get; a ‘lock-in’ period denotes a period of time when all emergencies will happen in your life and you will desperately want back the money you have just invested; ‘PPF’ is something that will borrow your car today and return the same car thirty years down the lines, albeit with new seat cushions; ‘Mutual Funds’ and ‘ELSS’ will take all your money and return either all of it or none of it depending on the outcome of the toss of an absolutely, totally, completely, Mukeshly, Adanily biased coin; and finally ‘ULIP’ is the astute all-rounder Imran Khan which is supposed to provide both life insurance and tax saving, but is the Irfan Pathan (with astuteness of brother Yusuf) that provides neither.

From the days of ‘Eat breakfast like a King*, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper' to ‘Declare like a King, invest like a prince and take salary-cut in Q4 like a beggar’, mankind has indeed come a long way. ‘Tune FD kiya ya LIC’ and ‘1 lakh kiya ya 1.5 lakh’ have become the grown-ups’ versions of ‘Tune option A mark kiya ya B’ and ‘ek page likha ki dedh page’. Even the additional 50000 exemption limit under NPS is like that bonus question with negative marks only a few dared to answer.

I would like to end by making a plea to the Indian government on behalf of my esteemed readers and everyone else who has missed his/her investments for the current financial year:

  • Allow FDI in investments where some friend of yours sitting in Dubai with no income tax and surplus savings can make the investments on your behalf. It will only extend the definition of FDI because an investment in an investment makes logical sense
  • Rename section 80C as 40C. If you think size 80C is possible, you’ve been watching the wrong genre of porn all this while!
  •  Interchange every occurrence or ‘high return’ and ‘low return’, clearing all the confusion and leaving just one instrument in the market: PPF  
  •  Ban the Indi-McSpicy burger at McDonald’s

*: subtle product placement #1 for employer