The Social Utility Of Outrage

by Sidin Vadukut in

"Yet almost none of these outrages have ended in any kind of meaningful political mobilization. We are no closer to understanding how to make our cities, leave alone our villages, safer for women. Farmer suicides, meanwhile, remain the appendix of the Indian political body. We have no idea what to do with it and we all just hope it will go away one day with minimal displeasure. Most of all, we are still no closer to co-opting anyone within the democratic political establishment to pursue these causes with party-agnostic sincerity or trend-resistant persistence."

More here in this essay for Mint On Sunday. You should read Mint On Sunday. It is quite good.

p.s. Planning to do this more. And in general blog a little more. I miss it very much. Used to be fun.

I Miss Sachin

by Sidin Vadukut in

So the other day, after a typically pulsating match at the Cricket World Cup that I completely forgot about in the time it took me to get up from the sofa and go make a cup of tea, Sky Sports played a short, shallow but enjoyable documentary on the life of Sachin Tendulkar. As I watched the grainy film clips and stock shots of Mumbai and the waxing and waning of Sachin's hair over the years, I felt a little tear well up in the corner of an eye..

What I am saying is this: I miss Sachin.

I miss waking up on the morning of a cricket match and thinking, before anything else, "Oh baby Jesus please take care of him today and make him score a lot and don't even think of making him walk back to the pavilion with his head hanging..." Only after this did I move on to other thoughts such as: "Also it would be ideal if my parents have not been killed in their beds by an axe-murderer."

Of course I never wanted to be in a position where I had to choose between my parents and Sachin. But if push came to shove I may have gone with the best cover-driver in the room. 

I miss going to school, on the school bus, mentally preparing myself for a Sachin failure. This is true. I would actually make a list of convincing reasons for why Sachin failed in a match EVEN BEFORE THE MATCH HAD EVEN TAKEN PLACE. We all did. Admit it. Not because we had to fend off Sachin haters. (This was before Sachin-hate had been invented in West Bengal.) But so that we had something to cling on to when he wafted outside off-stump or mistimed a...

Sorry. I cannot even imagine such terrible things. The Sachin in the real world may have retired. The Sachin of my head and heart has not.

I miss sitting on a train or on a bus and thinking: What if there is an alien invasion and earth is nearly destroyed and the aliens agree to let us be if we can beat them in a cricket match... and then we need twelve runs in the last over and Sachin is at the striker's end, and the first two balls are dot balls and then he adjusts his family-guard and looks up in the sky and then... drums violins...

Who will save the earth today in such a situation? Kohli? Nonsense. He doesn't have the focus. Dhoni? Dhoni is almost certainly an alien spy in disguise. Our only hope is that Sachin will come out of retirement and... 

Goosebumps everywhere.

I miss watching the toilet-end of an India-Australia match--when the Aussies need three runs, with five wickets and four overs in hand--and desperately, desperately wanting Sachin to be given the ball. I mean... what is the worst that will happen? He will bounce up to the crease in that jovial, benign way of his and deliver a cocktail of deception. Maybe he will get a wicket. Maybe he will not. Maybe he will slow them down. Maybe he will not. But at least you could go back to class the next day and have soul-soothing conversation.

"But anyway... at least Sachin tried."
"Yeah. That is there. It was nice to see him bowl."
"He should bowl more often. So nice to see."
"Oh he wants to. Ganguly doesn't let him."

I miss listening, mouth gaping, to old-timers from Mumbai talking about the time they saw him bat when he was in school. "Oh he was just something else..." they would say sitting back on the sofa, eyes glazed over, recalling some sunny day in Mumbai's past, the palms swaying, the crows kawing, the trains rumbling, the buses honking, the boy late-cutting.

I miss reading yet another profile in yet another issue of Sportstar or Mathrubhumi Sports Masika or Outlook and comparing our ages and thinking: "What the hell am I doing with my life? No really."

"What the hell are we doing with our lives?" we would murmur inside the TV room at REC Trichy as we watched Sachin during that tournament in Sharjah. "I have to forge an Electrical Engineering Lab report tomorrow," somebody would quip. And we would all laugh laughs of sadness and regret.

I miss, later on in his career, arguing simultaneously that while he was the best batsman in the world beyond any doubt, he was by no means the batsman in India.

Why not give the others a chance? But why? He is not clicking. So? Just because he is not clicking you will drop him? And replace him with some one-Ranji wonder from Chandigarh? Mad or what? You are mad. YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT CRICKET! Shut up man have you even lifted a bat in your life?

And this would go on till I found someone else to argue with instead of myself.

I miss hating Lara. Fool. Upstart. Selfish little... I still hate Lara.

I miss seeing Sachin take wickets or catches and then celebrate. Sometimes you could see, for the briefest nanosecond, a flash of aggression and the wrath of retribution. But then his middle-class upbringing would intervene and this flash would vanish and Sachin would be all fist pump and woo hoo.

So the point I am making is this: I miss Sachin. 

Anyway. Hope we win the World Cup.



Notes From A Brief Journey - Part 1

by Sidin Vadukut in

(Two days before leaving for two week-long holiday to India.)

Sister on WhatsApp: "Sidin chettan! How are things going?"
SV: "Things are pretty hectic. Desperately tryi..."
Sister: "Yeah all that is ok. Don't forget to bring a lot of Milka chocolate when you come ok?"
SV: "But let me fini..."
Sister: "YAY. Okie bye."

(One day before leaving for two week-long holiday to India.)

Sister on etc. etc.: "So how is your packing coming along? Hope everything is ready for India baby!"
SV: "Yes. So far so good. We are somewhat concerned about how the bab..."
Sister: "Good to know. Don't forget the Milka chocolates. MILKA. Under any circumstances Milka is compulsory. Don't bring Galaxy instead. I hate Galaxy. I only like Milka. All my friends are waiting for Milka."

(Hours before boarding the flight from Heathrow to Dubai.)

Sister-zilla: "Any updates on the Milka?"
SV: "I amputated my arm by mistake with the toaster."
Sister: "Excellent. See you soon. Don't forget the Milka chocolates. If there is sale in London then buy more and more Milka."

(Halfway from Heathrow to Dubai. Perhaps over Istanbul.)

Missus: "Where is that Milka we bought from duty-free?"

(Ten minutes later.)


(Nary a millisecond after landing in Dubai for 2.5 hour layover.)

Missus wiping large chocolate stains off her clothes: "I think we should buy more Milka for your sister..."
SV: "Goddamit I think my next book is going to be about Milka. Bloody nonsense. Fed up."

(Hours later in Kochi as we line up at passport checking counters.)

Missus: "Look at that advertisement on the TV screen behind the counters."


Two photos from Dubai Duty Free.

From left to right: Kerala Sheikh, Kerala Lake.

The Economy Class meal on board the Emirates flight from Heathrow to Dubai is one of the finest, if not the finest, meals I've ever eaten on a plane. Nonetheless the Kapoor-Vadukuts were feeling a tad peckish after landing in Dubai, and after due consideration we decided to partake of the excellent offerings of the McDonalds outlet inside the airport.

Oh McArabia Chicken! I have missed you verily.

There's more than one way to enjoy our chicken. And you'll like it like this! Two grilled chicken patties with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and garlic sauce lovingly folded in Arabic bread.

Not  just normally folded, my friends. But lovingly folded in Arabic bread. Shudder.

Whilst we settled into the food court, one of the cleaning staff ambled along and began to coo at Whataybaby. 

Staff chap: "How old is she?"
SV: "Nine months!"
Staff: "Awww! I have one back home who is a little older."

And then he went away, just as he had come along, like an enigma wrapped in a puzzle ensconced inside a private cleaning company's uniform.

So I told the missus about this funny thing that happened to me many years ago. This happened way back in the late 80s when we used to live in the small building on Abu Dhabi's Old Airport Road near St. Joseph's Church. One day the guy who runs the Malayali hotel downstairs knocked on the door. Or perhaps he rung the bell. I don't recall. My dad went through alternating bell-knocker phases. 

"Salaamalaikum Sunny chetta. Is your eldest son at home?" hotel uncle asked dad.

Turns out that it was hotel uncle's son's birthday. So naturally hotel uncle was planning to leverage core competency and throw a birthday party in the family section of his hotel. There was only one problem. His son was back home in Kerala. I don't recall if his son ever visited the gulf at all. I sincerely doubt it though. I don't think the hotel made very much money at all. Keeping family in the gulf has never been cheap. At least not for us brown folk.

So he decided to have a real birthday party with a fake birthday boy who approximately as old and chubby as his boy back home.

Later that evening, for the first and last time in my life, I stood in for someone else's birthday party. I wore a good set of clothes, polished shoes and posed for photos and cut a cake, and awkwardly waited for a large crowd of hotel workers and other bachelor Malayali NRI types to sing a song to some other boy. Obviously my brother tagged along and insisted on helping me cut the cake.

I used to have a photograph of that somewhat strange birthday party somewhere.

"That is so sweet Sidin," the missus said. And you know what? It actually was. It was also a little sad. All those towers and parks and gardens and shopping malls are built on foundations of lonely lives all crushed together into soul-concrete.

But still! I made hotel uncle happy! Yay.

And then, with moist, thoughtful eyes, we boarded our flight to Kochi.

SV to Passport Checking Officer at Kochi Airport in order to appear jovial: "Hello. Good morning. Enthaanu visheshangal?"
SV after noticing that officer's badge says Gupta: "Oh. Sorry sir. I assumed..."
Guptaji: "Arrey kuch nahi sir. I can understand if you speak Malayalam slowly. After some time you learn these things. And madam..."
(A few moments of silence.)
Guptaji: "Aap Delhi se ho?"
(Miscellaneous North Indian utterings and pleasantries ensue. These people are so tribal I tell you.)
Guptaji: "Aur is Malayali ko kahaan se pakda? Ha ha ha ha ha ha."
Missus: "Ha ha ha ha ha."
Whataybaby: "My father is a Malayali???? LIES LIES SO MANY LIES!"

Finally! Home! Thrissur! Oasis Housing Complex! Numerous bottles of Slice in the fridge! 

You know what they say in Kerala?

They say "Home is where the elephant temple festival ornament hangs on the wall."

My dad suffers from an acute case of "NRI Return Symbolism Ornamentation Syndrome". Also known as Kathakalimaskitis.

My dad suffers from an acute case of "NRI Return Symbolism Ornamentation Syndrome". Also known as Kathakalimaskitis.

Oho! Already this blog post is spinning out of word control. Also I have some other things to do that actually involve income. So why don't we catch up on the rest of my trip in the second part of Notes From A Brief Journey?

I will leave you with this lip-smacking culinary item from local Thrissur restaurant.

Also... who is Manchu?

Also... who is Manchu?

Actually their food would prove to be most excellent. But rest all in next blog post.

Cheerio chaps.

My baby between the times of 3 and 4 AM: A poem.

by Sidin Vadukut in

I am hot.
I am cold.
This is a blanket? This is not a blanket. Do not insult me.
Are you sleeping?
You are really sleeping.
I have pooped.
Change me.
Ha. I had not pooped.
I had not even peed.
Amuse me by trying to sleep again.
I am feeling very sleepy.
My eyes... they are droopy.
I am almost asleep.
I am asleep.
No I am not.
Hiccup. Hiccup. Hiccup. Hiccup. Hiccup. Google "newborn severe hiccups" if you truly love me. Hiccup.
I am hot.
Feed me.
Feed me now.
This is not a human nipple.
What is this? I hate this.
Give me boob now.
Very good.
Look at me.
Do not look at the iPad when you're feeding me, stupid woman.
Look. At. Me.
I am full.
No I am not.
I am full.
No I am not.
I am full.
I am quite full.
Stop this. What nonsense.
Do you like this sweatshirt you are wearing?
Is this your favourite sweatshirt?
Oh this is the first one you bought after losing weight?
I enjoyed that. Go change.
Pull my finger.
Look, we can all act as if this nappy change can wait till the next feeding.
Or you can be a responsible parent and change me now.
Guilt. You adults are so predictable.
Personal best there I think.
From a sheer quantity perspective.
Edge to nappy edge.
Is this cotton wool from Tesco? What kind of family is this? 
I am hot.
Sing me a song.
Ugh. Hindi song please.
Hand me over to mummy.
Not that song.
Not that song.
Not that song.
Not that song.
That song.
I am cold.
Mmmmmmm... adult bed... love adult bed...
Smile. Smile. Smile. CRY CRY CRY CRY CRY.
Have you tried white noise?
According to Mumsnet white noise remind babies of the womb.
This is white noise?
Ha ha. Garbage.
Remove that obscene sound.
Mumsnet it seems. Charlatans.
Who will burp me? Your father? Burp me.
What time is it?
3:53 AM.
Think I am ready to sleep now.
Is one of my eyes smaller than the other. No? Google urgently.
Change me.
Where is the fresh nappy?
Go on. I will give you a minute.
Muahahahahahahaha. No I won't.
Urine trouble now. LOL. Please RT.
Place me in the cot while you clean the bed.
Play some white noise.
Dim the lights?
I will sleep now.
Love me.
I am cold.


The text on the back cover of the next book

by Sidin Vadukut in ,

The Sceptical Patriot: Exploring the Truths behind the Zero and Other Indian Glories

There is really no such thing, ethnically speaking, as an Indian. We are all, every single one of us, the outcomes of centuries of civilizational upheaval. We are part-Greek, part-Mongol, part-Persian, part-British, part-Arab... part-everything. Indeed, a true Indian must be proud not of his or her identity but of the utter lack of identity. We carry in our blood not pure Hindu, Muslim or Christian platelets. On the contrary, an entire planet’s worth of history courses through our veins.

The average Indian does not need the complex education of a genetic scientist to appreciate this lack of identity. He or she just needs to look into his or her lunchbox...

India. A land where history, myth and email forwards have come together to create a sense of a glorious past that is awe-inspiring... and also kind of dubious. But that is what happens when your future is uncertain and your present is unstable—the past gets embellished until it becomes a portent of future greatness.

In The Sceptical Patriot, Sidin Vadukut takes on a catalogue of ‘India’s Greatest Hits’ and ventures to separate the wheat of fact from the chaff of legend. Did India really invent the zero? Has it truly never invaded a foreign country in over 1,000 years? Did Indians actually invent plastic surgery before Europeans? The truth is more interesting—and complicated—than you think. And, as you navigate your way through the amazing maze of legend and fact, you might even discover what it means to be an Indian today...

From the bestselling author of the Dork trilogy—and one of India’s most popular bloggers and columnists—this is a delightfully tongue-in-cheek yet insightful look at Indian self-perception and self-deception.

(Coming soon. In January. Ish.)