My Encounter With Digital India

A week ago, I decided not to spend money in the wake of demonetization.

Some of my Modi bhakt friends suggested I spend money to keep the economy going. Heeding their advice, I got my weekly rations last week. Not foodgrains, silly, but cash.

Rs 24,000, the government dictated weekly cash quota for all Indians.
I felt great when the bank teller handed me 11 notes of Rs 2,000 and another 20 notes of Rs 100. Before I could tell him I needed change he had summoned the next person in the queue.

Armed with the Rs 2,000 notes, I stumbled on the dawn of Digital India.

With a Rs 2,000 note in hand, I sought to buy three tickets for the Alia Bhatt-Shah Rukh Khan starrer Dear Zindagi at Navina, the single screen theatre near my home.

The man at the ticket counter told me firmly that he would not accept the Rs 2,000 note and if I wanted to watch Dear Zindagi I would have to bring change.

Unfazed, I smiled and showed him my debit card, saying, “Now please accept this. India is going digital. Don’t you know that?”

The ticket seller laughed and said, “Are you serious? Who is going digital? Which India are you talking about?”

“Modiji’s India,” I replied.

“We don’t accept credit or debit cards,” he told me sternly, “If you want to watch the film, bring Rs 480 in change for three tickets. Or go to bookmyshow and book the tickets.”

‘Eureka!’ I thought almost with Archimedean fervour, ‘Modiji’s Digital India works!’

I logged onto bookmyshow and tried to book three tickets using my debit card.
I was startled to discover that the site would bill me Rs 58.20 extra as Internet charges for the three tickets. The extra charge, I guess, is the price one needs to pay for life in Modiji’s Digital India, but I was unwilling to do so.

“You are a fool,” a bhakt friend told me. “Download the Paytm app and then buy the movie tickets. They have many discounts.”

‘Eureka!’ I thought again. ‘Problem solved.’

I tried to download the app on my phone and felt I was entering the Alibaba’s cave of digital riches which Modiji talks about all the time.

In two minutes that illusion too was shattered.

My outdated smartphone responded, saying I didn’t have enough space to download the app.

“Ouch! Now what to do?” I asked my all-knowing bhakt friend.

There is a way out, he said, asking me to move my phone’s memory data to an external memory card, and then install the app.
I would have to buy a 16 GB external memory card for Rs 528 to do that, he added.
“No way am I going to pay Rs 528 extra for a memory card just to watch Dear Zindagi,” I said.

The bhakt was determined that I jump onto the digital bandwagon.
“If you don’t change,” he asked, “how will the rest of India change?”
He helpfully offered to book the movie tickets from his Paytm account.

His fingers moved like the bullet train which Modiji wants us so badly to have on his phone’s display and within seconds he was on Paytm to book my tickets.

The Navina theatre was not listed on Paytm and my friend finally gave up.
There were only two options to watch Dear Zindagi. Pay Rs 58.20 extra on bookmy show or fork up the exact change, which I didn’t have.

I opted for the time tested Indian solution, jugaad.
I asked my friend to loan me Rs 480.
And thus ended, for now at least, my ‘Digital India’ dream.


RIP Newshour

Arnab’s leaving. Just saying those words are devastating. As I heard the news, I stared at my TV, uncomfortable with the ensuing silence, an ominous quiet of the future to come, where I can hear birds and my own thoughts.

My TV, if it could speak, wanted to say, “thank you, I can go back to being a normal TV now and not worry about an anchor trying to jump out of me” – but I was in no mood to mollify inanimate Samsung objects. Nor was I up for appreciating smart-ass comedy wit on Twitter :
“You asked for a noise-less Diwali and here it is.”
“The Nation is relieved.”
Blah blah.
Do these cretins not realise that the messiah is not bothered by this juvenile teenage sarcasm? You think 138 characters can bring down a man who can become 138 characters?

Is this the time for humour, when we’ve just lost the only voice on television that was also all the other voices? In the age of comedy, will we not respect the most sacred Indian value of making sure everyone talks at once only to be overridden by the Messiah’s booming, “Just one minute. One minute…”

What, what kind of a world does he leave behind –a world of silence, of listening, of rational discussion, of both sides being right AND wrong – who wants that world? What is this – Canada?

As the great filmmaker Werner Herzog said in his memoir, “Whatever you do in life, always be aware of the bear behind you”. Arnab was the nation’s bear. Now the nation is bear-less. Johnny Cash, the singer once wrote,
There’s a man going around taking names And he decides who to free and who to blame. Everybody won’t be treated all the same when the man comes around.
That man isn’t coming around anymore. Your idiot friends are, some food app delivery boy is – but not Arnab’s justice. So nation, you are announced NOT guilty. What a shame. And who’ll decide your crimes? A court. What is that? Isn’t that just a movie?

Look what justice is now left with – this court place – people wearing black robes like they’re at morning assembly at a convent school guided by clauses written by British men in wigs influenced only by “evidence” (whatever that is).
Real justice – THE man saying to the nation, “I am saying to the nation you did it”- just died. And with that – the hopes of his fans – that someday he’d shoot the people he found guilty live on air. The hope that along-with the piece of paper he holds up with nothing written on it, there’d be a gun in the other hand – alas, will never be.

And how can he just walk away from the nation like this? Those that rely on him for everything. The stoned drunk single 24-year-old man at 3 am for whom Newshour is a trippy dream and his girlfriend. The families who have years of discontent and dysfunction and nothing to say to each other, who get by without confronting their issues by saying, “Did you see what he did last night?” The retired Pakistani generals whose entire post-pension income is based on keeping that moustache curled, looking like a Pakistani general, and ready to be shouted at.

The quiet die-hard right-wing guy in every family whose true colors can only be spotted, (like the near extinct Amazon lizard), when he steps out as himself – by his vehement agreement with Newshour, and you wonder, ‘Wow. This is different guy”. The comedians and satirists, a large chunk of whose income is based on Arnab impressions. Do we really want to live in a world where their children ask, “Dad who are you imitating? Who is that?” The Congress spokesperson who has forgotten how to finish his sentences.
Arnab has abandoned them, just like he would when something logical was beginning to be said on the show and he’d shout, “Rubbish. Ad break.”
What will happen to these people? What other test is there for Gen X and Y now to truly understand that their parents are mad, except the Newshour?
Still, all is not lost.

Like he rises from his bear repose by threatening “never ever ever never” to someone accusing him of taking a bribe, he will rise again. By sitting, that is. On an anchor’s desk. The kraken will be unleashed again.

He mentioned something about starting a news empire that can take on the CNN/ BBC hegemony. Amen. Why take on – overtake is my hope. Why aim just for this planet’s news media domination? Maybe one day it becomes so big that it is broadcast to other planets so any intelligent life out there will be convinced not to contact us.
We, his devotees, are ready for Arnab TV, modeled along the lines of Trump TV perhaps (but even bigger because Trump is small fry). As a sleight to NDTV 24/7, perhaps called Arnab 24/7. Yes Arnab from 8 am – nervous breakdown with morning coffee.

Sadly, they say the world is not ready for all this. That’s why he’s taking a break. In journalism they say that when something happens in the world, journalists are ready. In his case, he’s ready – now he has to make the world ready.
Till then, I will watch, in depressed annoyance, regional channels like the BBC; the old age home of journalism with informed people “listening to each other” (useless).
And as Shakespeare said in As You Like It, I will say to HIM:
“Hereafter, in a better world than this, I shall desire more love and knowledge of you”.

The Radio Mishap : Of Prizes & Bieber

I called up the local Radio Station today. A booming voice greeted me saying, “Congratulations on being our first caller. Answer the following question correctly to win our Grand Prize!”.

“That’s awesome!”, I shouted in delight.

“Feeling confident?”, he asked, “It’s a maths question”.

“Well, I opted for maths in High School, so I think I’m ready”, I replied, elated.

“Okay then, to win our grand prize of 2 front row seats to a Justin Bieber concert and to meet him back stage answer what is 2+2?”

“7”, I replied.

When Alphabets Invaded Mathematics

I never understood why we had to alphabets to solve maths. Isn't what numbers are for anyway?

I never understood why we needed alphabets to solve maths. And damn those Greeks and their Alphas and Betas!

People love mathematics, and people hate it. But sad enough, we have the number of haters a gazillion times more the number of lovers. As a kid, I was always a mathematics person. I mean, I loved mathematics- everything about it. The joy of adding two numbers, the thrill of solving those problem sums which otherwise freaked out my bunch of useless classmates- the very feeling of it was reason enough for me to fall in love with mathematics.

But God is a comedian, my friend! And just when everything looked absolutely in place – me and math holding hands, walking by the shores of an unnamed river- He just decided to bring in some tragedy. Some Dark Grave Tragedy! 

The doors of my life opened and confidently walked in algebra, waltzing with him a battalion of terrorizing alphabets, ready to shell my brain with uncanny theories and unpronounceable formulas which I was supposed to memorize for the rest of my life. And as if the alphabets were not enough, paraded in the Greek letters to envisage me parting ways with my childhood love.

And that, my friend, is a sad love story. And it’s true for most of us, isn’t it? We love adding and subtracting and multiplying and dividing and just when we think that we’ve tamed the People’s Choice Most Hated Subject Of The Millennium, God gives us a reason to hate it too ( and also a justification as to why it stands as the most hated ).