Saturday, September 19, 2015

The joke is mightier than the tabloid, but not nearly as good a coaster.

Stand-up comedians are my heroes! If I wasn't reasonably happy and satisfied being an average Telecom/IT engineer with optimistic prospects and average wage, I'd be a rich lucky lottery-winner, an overweight happy cookery show host, a tired hungry travel show photographer or -more relevantly here- a broke pitiful stand-up comedian. But I'd be living the dream, just like the thousand others scampering for nervous minutes in an already overflowing stand-up scene.

I am pretty confident that I would soon realize that it's too much trouble for too little, that I'm not as funny as I think I am (side note: I'm hilarious sometimes, usually awkward and mostly frustrated at not being able to make my point) and that the profession isn't nearly as gratifying or forgiving as blabbering a few amusing observations at the lunch table.

The one thing I do envy though is the freedom to say anything with impunity- sometimes the rules seem to be: 'the more offensive, the better' (I'm of course not referring to violations of freedom of speech by Big Brother). These guys proudly make objectionable, sexist (read misogynistic), racist or just plain mean comments to thunderous laughter and rapturous applause. I often feel guilty later, when I recall some of the things I giggled at- things that would raise eyebrows anywhere else and make cafes use their 'RIGHT OF ADMISSION RESERVED' card.

For someone who hasn't witnessed a stand-up, I'd suggest youtubing it (to those complaining that it's not a word, I say 'not yet'). That's basically where I personally became familiar with the art form.

In the beginning you're enthralled by these people and their wit, spontaneity, intelligence and otherwise keen sense of observation. You later see patterns, 'hey, didn't he make that same joke in the other video', 'hmm... she's just repeating herself again'. I'm not claiming that they don't deserve credit or that they don't work hard. It's just so much more impressive when you actually believe that they're making up so many jokes while on stage with judgmental and bored eyes staring up at them.

It appears to me that there are 3 categories of stand-up comedians. The cheap jokers, the clowns that observe and the pokers of the heart.

The cheap jokers are basically ticklers and caters to those who like beer and tons of it. They don't have a strong point to make. By repeating popular, mundane topics to those who're there just to get tickled, they make comedy a joke. Who hasn't heard a million jokes about men not getting women, politicians being silly and I don't care enough to think of more examples. A happy ending doesn't really need dexterity.

The observing clowns cater to wine lovers. Your time is filled with 'Aha' moments. The show stays with you for a day or two. You most likely try to repeat your favourite lines to friends, fail miserably, get embarrassed and try again.

The pokers of the heart and those you cannot ignore. They make you sip your bitter whiskey. Your vision gets fuzzy but you see more clearly. You hate them for holding your hand and pulling you out from the comfortable gutter of ignorance. They let go once their time is up, but not until they make the gutter a little less comfortable.

Now that your attention and my imagination have reached their ends, could there possible be a better way to end this post than a joke? Well, yes perhaps there is. But I'll take the easy way out.

Why did the billionaire have bad breath? Because he hadn't brushed his teeth.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


A week ago, I hiked in Koli National Park. This was my first, kinda serious hike. TMB was something else. We bought a tent, sleeping bags & mattresses; dehydrated food, mobile kitchen utensils & lighting fuel; backpacks, trekking shoes & walking poles. We hiked for 45 km, chugging along 15kg backpacks, over 3 nights. Most of that time, it was damp, rainy and wet-muddy. Yes, I am exaggerating. No, 3 is not my lucky number. Which one is it, you ask? It doesn't matter.

Though these facts do give me a sense of pride, they aren't meant to be boastful in the least. When I compare myself with even an average hiker, I feel a little like a little turtle before Leonardo. If you didn't get the joke, the reference is to TMNT. If you still didn't, ignore the comment. It's simply a meek attempt at humour by self-deprecation. You know what, that doesn't matter either.

Now after the obligatory two vague introductory paragraphs, I finally land gently at the point. Why did or do we do this to ourselves? Why spend the better part of a month's wages (sorry, but I don't discuss my salary publicly) on equipment that is designed to make you miserable? Well, firstly it's designed to lower your misery.. that is undeniably self-inflicted and secondly, we intend to do it again.. said the engineer after the DSLR, the obese 27-year old during the first week at the gym and the couple before the first baby. So I have just set myself up for either insurmountable guilt or several more bouts of misery or both!

So why did I do it?

Too see the great outdoors? Kinda true but too tacky.

To write about it later? Sorta true but I'm sleepy as I am writing this and have like, 3 followers, so not reason enough.

For some lone time? You live in Finland, helloo!!

To get away from the city? Again, you're in Finland, helloo!!! Also way to tacky (refer to first point)

For exercise? Are you kidding me?!

For fresh air? For the love of face-palms! FINLAND!!!!!

For mosquitoes? Statistically accurate, but not really motivating. For the record, my hatred for the mosquito has sky-rocketed and it is now neck and neck with misspellings of 'lose'. I believe mosquitoes to be the scum of this planet. They're most likely the inspiration for suicide bombers and every time you squish one, you feed a hungry child in America (you thought only African kids go hungry, eh?)

Just a gentle digression here... what's wrong with tacky? Nothing really.

Back to the Q&A bullets. To be an outdoorsy person? True, I'd love to be one. Though, I find it weak to call myself outdoorsy, while sleeping in a nylon-polymer, rain-proof, easy to install tent; carrying an ergonomically designed, height-adjusted, weight-distributing backpack; consuming specially designed, low-effort, hygienically packed food. During the hike this bothered me at times, until yet another mosquito buzzed near my right ear and I scrambled to squish it, inadvertently slapping myself. I then sprayed a generous amount of mosquito-repellent on myself and bliss returned.

In my mind I see this outdoorsiness as a process- like reading is, for most people. You promise yourself to do it more often seeing the book lying on the bed, it's kinda messy and distracting but fun while you're reading, but once you're done it fills you with a sense of satisfaction and exhilaration.

All that said, if I ask myself how I felt before, during and after the hike, the answers are nervous, anxious & excited; exhausted, mosquito-hatred & nature-loving; ebullient, achieving & relieved. (Some of those aren't really adjectives, or even words. Just deal with it!) If you want to feel it yourself, think of the last time you had constipation, extend it over 3 nights and multiply it by 100.

Hiking is wonderful and meditative. Each hike is a unique and memorable experience. I totally recommend it.

Secrets to writing well
  • Write in 3's
  • Use self-deprecating humour, scarcely
  • Avoid long sentences
  • Don't reveal secrets to writing well
  • Don't make-up words 
  • Don't repeat small words in a sentence
  • Don't write late into the night
  • Write in one go

Monday, November 3, 2014

A short story

The door bell rang and I opened my front door with glee. "Was this it? Had she arrived?" I wondered expectantly. The FedEx girl looked at me like a dentist looks at a candy-loving 5-year old visiting her for the first time. She seemed to have a frown for every one of my teeth (in case you were wondering, the two dental references are unrelated). "Sign here" she ordered. I gave her the longer, more eloquent version of my signature. She pulled back the pad impatiently before I could finish, dropped the package angrily, as though punishing me for her bad day and stomped off. 

On another day, I would have given a shit, but today I had none to spare. There she was, packaged resplendently in glittering peerless cardboard that I couldn't wait to strip off. I lifted the package to the pre-cleared living room centre, then admired her from all angles for a minute, took a deep breath and got to work with my favorite knife. 

The assembly took me just over six minutes. Though this wasn't my first time, I was extra careful, ensuring that all the pieces went to their rightful places. When I was done, I stepped back a couple of feet and turned around as though presenting my new bike to the fan-boys. "Apple has today revolutionized yet another industry" I announced loudly in my head as the imaginary audience went beserk. "After sucking the marrow out of computing, music, movies, television broadcasting and the phone industry, we though to ourselves-what is left? The choice was obvious. We need better bicycles So today, after years of work by overpaid engineers and dying underpaid labourers, we unveil before you the iBike" The audience erupts as I pick my nose and scratch my butt crack. 

Five minutes later, I am dashing down the street in my Bianchi Vertigo 105 sporting my cycling attire. I have always wondered how the more sport-serious your attire, the dumber you look. It's as though the designers deliberately make you stand out from the normal sane-dressing crowd, so that you are recognizable to your similarly terribly outfitted brethren. Fully geared, I was prepared for injuries, listening to music, dehydration, rainy weather and I even had those specialized glasses that increased my range of viewing. However, I pretty much looked like one of those unimportant ambassadors from a forgettable planet in Star Wars. Not that I really gave much thought to how I looked, you know. 

It was a magnificent day, I was in my element... whatever that means! I wonder if chemists agree with that idiom. Whatever! It was just the right amount of cool, not chilly, not warm. I was cycling along a spectacular route. I cycled along several little bridges, criss-crossing some quiet residential areas and passing though some dense tree-laden areas towards the city. As I sped along, the breeze kissed my forehead and the wind brushed my arms. My muscles ached a bit, but it was the good sort of ache, you know, when the body realizes pain and the brain releases these hormones, dopamine, seratonin and stuff like that. I don't know the details, but I sure felt that my brain was doing the right thing. It felt great and I felt invincible and then...BANG!!

I was thrown about 10 feet from the crossing. I was hit by a bus, a frikkin' bus. I guess I wasn't invincible after all. A crowd gathered and I was dragged to the sidewalk. I felt bloody from the inside, outside, everyside. There was this gigantic pool of blood at my feet. I was almost waiting for an alien to emerge out of it then quickly dismissed my stupid hollywood-inspired imagination. It was amazing that I wasn't dead. I then got up to thank the stranger who had helped me to the sidewalk and noticed that he was wearing this ominous cloak and had a scythe by his side.

He smile gently. I freaked out. Oh! But this was halloween weekend. Haha.. HAHA! I laughed to myself, then looked closer. The stranger had a skeleton face. OMG! I was dead and this was death. 

Surprisingly, it didn't take me long to get over it. I was always a practical person and hey! it's not like I could do anything about it. I walked to my body a few feet away. I looked awful. I ran back to death with horror in my eyes. He hugged me and patted me on my back. "There there!" he said in his hollow but soothing voice, "Always be careful while crossing the street"

About Me

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I am Arjun P. Kamath, and I am a nice guy to know.