How to kill your audience one word at a time?!

In my long writing career spanning a staggering 5 months, I took part in two open mics in the city of Bangalore. Open Mic is an event where people with no talent are given a platform to make a fool of themselves. What’s more, you have to pay to make a fool of yourself.

I don’t have qualms about making a fool out of myself unless I am gaining something from it, this time it was the fact that the cost of the ticket was fully redeemable on food and alcohol! I performed my second Open Mic on 19th September 2017 at the ill-fated venue that got bombed by my presence.

This blog post is a recollection of the wonderous evening that has now illumined my life forever.

It was a sunny Sunday morning when I woke up to revise and add more notes to my short 3-minute act. This was the morning of 19th September. I had now been preparing since 2 weeks, changing topics and ploughing bravely through my existing piece.

2 weeks before the Open Mic I was rummaging through ideas about what I could speak about. Finally, the idea hit me when I was least expecting any kind of inspiration! Almost as if the almighty God, in whose existence I have no doubts about, heard my desperate prayers. So on one fine Chandigarh evening, while I was walking my dog, I sniffed something. One would think that I’d smelt a fart, I hadn’t. I smelt something worse. Activism. This viral infection is and was, at that time, in the air. There was nothing I could do to avoid it. After I took in that whiff of air containing this virus, I started seeing placards and began my journey towards hearing the sounds of screaming, raging youngsters protesting for their right to protest. It was almost like an epiphany. Now I knew what I was going to speak about.

My piece was titled, “Running Out of Things to get Offended by: A roundtable conference for solving problems in an activist’s world.” In this fictitious account, I spoke as a reporter who attended the World Activists’ Conference.

But here’s the unsurprising bit, even though I knew what I wanted to talk about, I failed. It seems to me that what this giant leprechaun once said is true after all, “Failure hurts the most when one is confident that they won’t fail.”

Written below are a few tips to achieve what I did:

1.Post my performance I realised that the key to killing your audience subtly, yet powerfully is to read out what you have written in a deadpan manner. Making sure that your content is below average will accelerate the whole process.

2. Keep your act short and crisp, like a chocolate cake. A crisp chocolate cake attracts no ones fondness.

3. That’s it, there is nothing more you can do in those 3 minutes. Nothing is exactly what you have to do in order to kill your audience, one word at a time.

They say there is no recipe for success, but there certainly is, a recipe for failure.

Thank you and have a nice day.

 

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A recipe for tea

George Orwell, a man you wouldn’t expect to write a recipe for tea, wrote one indeed. It was published under the title, “A Nice Cup of Tea” in 1946. The kind of tea he fancies is far from the milky concoction I like to sip. He didn’t like to add sugar to it since he believed it would distract one’s taste buds from the flavour of the drink. 

One can say that I have an avidity for tea. For the brief period of one year that I stayed alone and had access to a stove, I carried from home, among other things, two mugs, tea leaves- both granulated and leaves, sieve, and a vessel in which to make it. Throughout this period, I would make a less than decent cup and sip it anyway because of lack of other options. It was only when I shifted back home, that I tried to find a way to make the kind of tea that is sold for 5 and sometimes under rupees 10 at tapris across India. After about 20 cups, I perfected the technique, here is my recipe to make tea, the way I like it.

  1. Take about an inch of ginger and a clove of cardamom. This amount should be enough to make you feel a transient warmth in the throat, as the liquid makes its way forward. However, it should not be so overpowering that it makes you want to not take subsequent sips. Cardamom, mostly for the fragrance. My mother, at times, likes to keep the pod in the tea while drinking. One can not bother with it. Using a pestle and mortar, pound the ginger and cardamom, until it looks it has been severely stamped upon. Unload the contents of the mortar into a pan. Pour a cup of water into the pan and turn on the gas.
  2. Once the water comes to a boil, put two heaped teaspoons of tea into the pot. The water should be fierce at this point, for the tea to meld with the water wholly. Lower the intensity of the gas flame and wait for under two minutes for the tea leaves to infuse properly.
  3. Add milk to calm the pan down, the amount should be enough to turn the liquid into the colour of caramel. Let this boil for another two minutes. Remember, the flame is still low.
  4. Once you have pottered over the pan for this duration, pour it into the cup. At the moment, my fealty lies in a clear glass cup.

Much like opinions, the kind of tea one likes is a purely subjective affair. There is none presently, and can never be a perfect recipe for it. If you don’t like this one, it is only imperative that you should master the technique to make the kind you like to sip.

 

 

 

 

Understanding the power of instrumental music through YouTube’s comments section

A year ago when I moved to Bangalore, I often started my days at 12 am due to the nature of my job. As a result, I had lots of time to kill alone. In the lull of the night, I found the joy of music devoid of lyrics by a fortunate accident. Daft Punk’s Voyager was the first one I discovered myself.

When I thought about why I like instrumental music, I only had one answer, that it lets you imagine the words rather than the lyrics shaping the message for you. I found this answer on Quora as well and wasn’t surprised that many people on the internet feel the same way.

Below, you will find some songs that I have listened to the most in the last 12 months and below each song are the comments from different people across the world, posted as YouTube comments. I often have the habit of scrolling down to the YouTube comments section to read what other people think of the songs and also figured that YouTube comments section is one of the most honest places on the internet. Often I find comments I relate to and some that offer a different meaning to the music.  Hence I decided to go through the comments again and lift some of them as it is, to help one understand what people think when they listen to music devoid of any vocals.

Daft Punk – Voyager

“Everyone talks about how this (and all the other songs on this album) bring back memories. Sad I’m getting into it just now. Why didn’t I know about this when I was a child?”

“It is a good song to listen to while driving under the countless stars that burn a flame through our hearts”

“long ass drives in the night. all your friends are in the backseat/passenger seat dead asleep. you’ve got Daft Punk playing low on the stereo to keep yourself awake. after an hour or so of driving fidgets awake. “…hey, is this Daft Punk?” they inquire with a sleepy rasp. “Uh, yeah” you whisper, careful to wake anyone else. “…fuck yeah” they reply, squirming back into a comfortable position to fall back to sleep. you drive on into the night, feeling nothing but the road and the music and the void outside your car. there is nothing more theraputic in the world.”

“This song is amazing. its my number one track when i go snowboarding, cruising down with this song makes it great every time”

“Once this song got stuck in my head for so long, I couldn’t sleep for a couple days”

“I just want to dance, I can’t control my body ! This song makes me feel immortal”

“I’m not in my room anymore.”

Daft Punk – Aerodynamic

“Bought this when I was very young, and working on forest property moving branches and fallen trees. It kept me going and interested as I collected firewood for the house. Miss it”

“This song is underrated.”

“I was loving this song until the trash happened at 3:33” The song is 3:32 seconds long

“It sounds like a robot pooping, but still amazing”

“some day i will have a heart atack listen to this”

Bonobo – Kerala

“try to blink with every beat, makes it even more mindblowing”

“as a professional editor this edit earned my respect….also gave me a nervous breakdown.”

“Wow, impressive! This video gave me goosebumps and I felt weird but in a good way. In my understanding she’s a glitch in the matrix, alone and afraid, when normal people make an order in things so they look normal she sees the world raw as it is. Ofc loops can reflect her mental state as someone mentioned but they are mostly for us and to capture those moments. I don’t know if my interpretation is too obvious or the opposite, may be is not deep enough and the video is full of metaphors but I like it this way :)”

“So what I take away from this video is that it’s about schizophrenia/mental illness. The frames loop to match the beat of the song but it also reflects her mental state along with all the weird things happening around her and the way she is freaked out. Really very moving if you’ve had people in your life that have suffered such illnesses. It honestly almost brought a tear to my eye when I realized the symbolism.”

God is an Astronaut – All is bright all is violent

“A Warm Place”

“chills down my eyes, tears in my spine.”

“Wish it could last the rest of my life, 4 minutes isn’t enough”

Bonobo – Black Sands

“You suddenly feel nostalgic of the life you never had”

“This makes me visualize life from birth to death. Anyone else?”

“Can’t stop listening this, i’m listening this for over year now and it’s still like the first time”

“listening to this on a rainy day is magic”

Ludovico Einaudi – Time Lapse

“what a man he can take you to places you have never been before with his music. run is my favourite but there are so many more, it helps you to reflect and put things into perspective. what a brilliant musician.”

“this is the soundtrack of my life”

“clouds, ravens, mountains…”

 

Chromatics- Tick of the Clock

“I listen to this while I drive my grandma to pick up her medication”

“Listen to this song anytime you want a regular situation to be intense. You listen to this shit while walking to class, and you’re expecting for some serious shit to go down”

“I wanna slowly drive trough my town and look at people suspiciously to this music.”

“listen to this while taking a shit, trust me it intensifies the moment”

“Imagine listening to this while your delivering pizzas.”

Eric Prydz – Opus

“When you’re trying to finish your exam under 10 minutes.”

“Where did all the dislikes come from though…”

“Music doesnt need lyrics to tell a story…”

“A unsung legend…”

“The intro brings feels of an ending, this is it, this is where it ends. But, the ending is ok, you’ve accepted it, your smiling, its ok, you finally understand, its actually beautiful and everything will be ok. Everything comes together. Peace is restored. A ending and a beginning, all in one.”

Thomas Bergersen – Final Frontier

“They need to play this for the launch of the mission to Mars.”

“this song makes you feel: ” alright, alright, alright!”

“when the mexicans see the wall”

“If you look long enough the clouds move”

“Just imagine standing in front of an orchester that is playing this track… ”

“ts feels so liberating and its so epic”

Hans Zimmer – Interstellar main theme 

“The music reminds me of my mum who died of gastric cancer last week. Mum, I love u and I miss u”

“So, who else feels the chills every time you hear this? :)”
“Because of bad luck, I threw up and I screwed the public university entrance exam of my country. Everything has since been and will be ruined for the rest of my life. I come here every now and then to appease myself.”
“wouldn’t it be amazing if all war on earth stopped? If instead (like Star Trek) we focused our money and resources into space exploration? Even the thought of it takes my breath away.”
“To me, the recurring high-pitched synthetically sounding strings (i don’t know what it’s called) are like the revolving lights on a lighthouse, or the beeps of a sonar, in their search for the meaning of life. As the music gets louder, the hope of humanity increases, only to pass that point and continue further in a vain attempt to find what can’t be found.”

 

Ramin Djawadi -Game of Thrones, Light of the Seven

“This leaves me speechless. More than half a year later, I still get full-body ghoosebumps listening to this score.”

“This was the greatest opening to a TV show I’ve ever seen, it was legitimately mesmerizing!”

“Just came here because of the Second trailer today…had to hear it again”

“This piece of music was the highlight of my year.”

“37 DAYS LEFT!!!!!!!!”

“This is now my alarm.”

 

Yann Tiersen –Comptine d’un autre été (Piano) 

 

“bad memories…”

“Why is everyone commenting in their own language tho”

“this is so beautiful. It makes me calm and happy.”

The Neighbour

My relationship with wooden panels dates back to college days when I stayed in a paying guest accommodation that had rooms separated by thin cardboard like panels. One could easily hear the girls in the adjacent room talk on the phone, giggle and make small talk with each other or their parents. While it was tolerable in the day, during the nights you could just bang on the panel to let them know that they could be heard. Some wouldn’t stop even then.

The second time I encountered wooden panels, it was 2 years later.

There’s a particular spot in our rented house where I like to write. It’s a comfortable sofa with a puffy to keep one’s foot on, sounds luxurious and it is one luxurious sitting spot too. The cosiest in the house, according to my mother. If there’s a downside to this spot, it has to be it’s close proximity to the dreaded wooden panel. This panel is more solid than the one in my pg in Delhi and connects the other side of the floor through an equally strong wooden door.

My neighbour is a Parsi lady of big built, short salt and pepper hair, wears spectacles, and has a friendly but usually loud voice. She lives up to the image you might have of a Parsi lady in her 50’s. My neighbour lives alone and works at a hospital during the day, takes piano lessons twice or thrice in a week and makes really good tiramisu.

Almost like a ritual, she calls up a woman, whom I will call the lady on the phone, between 8-9 in the evening. The next one hour is followed by my neighbour, gossiping, catching up and sharing trivial details of her life with the lady on the phone.

I mostly saw this as a nuisance since I find it difficult to find interest in what my neighbour ate during the day or what she plans to do after she keeps the phone. I usually didn’t cope with her conversations very well, since it would make me get up from my favourite spot. If you have ever met me at my house between the hour of 8-9, you will know that it’s not the best time to visit.

One such evening, I was sitting with my laptop struggling to come up with something to write for my blog, I had been struggling for days now. Mind you, my blog may not have readers, but publishing on it is good writing practice.

Meanwhile, from the other side of the wooden panel, I could hear a phone ringing. It was my neighbour’s call to the lady on the phone, she had put it on speaker. Before I could roll my eyes again, I started listening intently.

My neighbour went on and on, taking few breathers in between to listen to the lady on the phone. The lady on the phone had rather few inputs to give. my neighbour would start with when she woke up, what she did when she left the house for the office. My neighbour would laugh in between, mimic someone she met during her day dramatically, laugh even more loudly and the lady on the phone would follow up with an equally loud laughter. My neighbour’s peculiar habit, to keep the volume of the receiver very high, so the lady on the phone’s voice was audible, a fair mumble of words and crystal clear laughs.

My neighbour would mention the advice she gave to a person called Nazeer. Often, she would complain about her weight and her inability to lose the fat.

Sometimes, there were detailed comparisons of people’s dressing sense, with detailed comparisons or why she doesn’t use Jet Airways to fly to Bombay.

One evening, there was a bit about how one lady called Rajni has been messing around with Jyoti. I also knew that as part of her preparation for her trip to Mashobra, she had packed her warm Adidas sweater. “Maine toh Kuch Nahi Karna wahan, main Toh Apni saheli se milne ja rahi hun,” she explained, laughing.

My neighbour had met her mother one morning, she started that bit by telling her friend where her mother was sitting. She also appreciated her mother’s spontaneous nature and how she would have agreed to go for a trip to Shimla, on a short notice.

My neighbour has numerous things to say, I wonder if she uses WhatsApp like we do, constantly, to give fragmented snippets of information about our lives to various people. My neighbour, I am assuming fits all those text messages into one long hour of verbal dialogue.

Maybe I will listen again, the wooden panel, me and her unending phone balance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Selfie camera is the most important feature of a mobile phone”, say teenagers

Research has shown that the latest among the new age diseases is human beings obsession with themselves. Humans these days can be seen posing absurdly in front of their mobile phones and using their mouths to form what is being called a “duck face.”

selfie project 4

One of the many examples of the now trending, “duck face”.

Simultaneously, two alternative hypotheses have emerged to explain this behaviour: either some humans have an undeniable obsession with ducks or they just love looking at themselves because they don’t believe in the concept of mirrors.

Research is ongoing to know the root cause of this. Boyd Lutham, who is heading one of the research clusters became a part of this effort when he heard his child’s first meaningful sentence, which was, “Imma take a selfie.” Mr Lutham added, “I am shocked, scared and I really want to solve this problem. 95% of young adults spend 60% of their day going through their own photos or photographs of people they don’t really care about. The world needs more sensible people at the moment.”

Majority of such humans can be seen in shopping malls, usually in groups. A marauding teenager who was roaming in one of the city malls, “just ’cause”, said, “I want to belong, I want to be kewl, and I want to just be liberated. Taking a selfie gives me the freedom to express myself the way I want. It’s almost poetic.”

Genius inventors have built their businesses around it, such as the creators of Snapchat. An app which provides people with a platform to post multiple pictures of their faces with unrealistic filters and editing effects. With this, more teengaers are getting empowered. Josh, another one of the selfie enthusiasts, said that he identifies himself as a honey bee. When asked the reason he said that he looks really good in that particular Snapchat filter and would like to live the rest of his life as a bee. He shouted, “I was always a bee in a human beings body.” His parents are confused but they will support his decision because “everyone has the right the live the way we want.” Josh added, “I am going to start a movement where in humans who identify themselves as bees will come together to demand people’s respect and a space in society.”

Some advertisements and feature improvements in phones are based on human beings tendency to behave this way. It is not yet known if these developments are the cause or the effect of such human behaviour.

Case in point are the two advertisements by phone companies, Oppo and Vivo where an invention that is being called a “selfie camera” is being promoted by famous people who earn a lot of money.

The selfie project.jpg

Crazy lady who bought this phone because it has the best selfie camera in the world. “The only feature I care about”, she said.

 

Selfie project 2.png

‘I am passionate about trying out different filters that new age apps are coming up with,” – Delusional Bollywood guy.

 

Mostly, humans are seen taking multiple pictures of them because it increases the probability of a good photograph. The current tradition calls for the best of these pictures to be laced with filters and other effects that validate the people that they are truly beautiful. Sceptics, however, have argued that these people simply need to “get a life.”

Rest of the research results are yet to come in. Till then, we can try to build a useful conversation in this direction so that humanity does not lose it’s purpose.

 

 

The murdered raccoon

How to Solve a Murder the CID way

Last night, a racoon was found brutally murdered in his Sunset Boulevard Mansion in San Francisco. The racoon, Shaun Shaunesy, a rich heir of his mother’s G.I Joe business was last seen by 100 people in his house since a party was going on in his mansion on the night of the murder. Shaun was known for his affluent lifestyle and good taste in antiques because he could afford it. Apart from this, Shaun was a peaceful resident and was planning to marry Lily, a heiress from East London.

The San Francisco Police department officials, who reached the scene after a month were unable to find the body. Only some blood stains that tasted like tomato juice and feathers that probably came out of Shaun’s favourite goose feather pillows, were found. Shaun was also a part-time goose, and the feathers found on the crime scene were suspected to be his. All the other people who attended the party were not present at the crime scene since they thought one month was too long a time for them to wait for the investigations to begin.

The police have declared that murder is a surity, however, they are not sure who committed the crime since they have no skills to find out.

They have put down the names of a few suspects, but inspector Gregory George wrote these names on his hand. After eating food, he washed his hands and he figured that the ink was not permanent. Gregory wasn’t available for quite some time after this incident, but when he was, he said, “I didn’t realise the ink was not water proof. I was hoping to keep the names on my hand as a tattoo, forever.” Considering this as a failure for not knowing basic concepts of inspection, Gregory quit and he pursued a career in developing permanent ink. According to him the world needed more permanent ink.

Investigations are likely to go on until the case has been forgotten. Stay tuned.

 

One of the picture's from my profile.

How my Instagram profile got me a job

The title is not for click bait purposes. The incidents mentioned in the following paragraphs are purely incidental and bear 100% resemblance to the truth. 

As bizarre as it sounds, one of my social media profiles, got me a job. Read on to know how.

On an average Tuesday afternoon, I got a call from my friend who recently joined a start-up in Bangalore. (Adding an unnecessary, irrelevant heads up: whenever someone moves to Bangalore, it can mean 2 things and 2 things alone. Either he/she is joining a start-up or he/she is starting one.)

So I pick up the phone and she tells me that my Instagram profile has a new viewer, one of her companies founders. The founder liked the way I captioned my pictures and thought that similar content could be used to build out of the box marketing campaigns. He expressed interest in meeting me and I promised to meet on the following Friday.

Friday morning came and it wasn’t the best morning for me. Not only did I find a cockroach casually hanging out on my t-shirt in the washroom, I found myself succumbing to screams and horror thereafter. I was wearing that t-shirt, by the way. The cockroach, let’s call him Mogambo, was half the size of my middle finger. Yet I screamed, cringed and cursed my life for bringing this morning to my doorstep.

My next step was to grab a repellant and spray it all over Mogambo. Mogambo tried to run away and finally breathed his last in my roommate’s bedroom. His last words were, “Don’t take this as validation to use the spray again. It’s not the spray that killed me, it’s your roommate’s bedroom. It’s never the spray. Sprays are a hoaaaaaaxxxxxx!”

In the next 15 minutes, glad that I had gotten rid of Mogambo, I was stepping out of my washroom when I slipped over the repellent’s remnants on the floor. Nothing except my bum and spirits were hurt and broken.

Till this point, I had not remembered about the meeting I was supposed to go for.

But soon, I was reminded about it by my friend. I tried to gather my spirits, but they were really upset. Somehow, I managed to convince them, they came together to enable me to do what I had to. I got up, bathed for a change, and mentally prepared myself for what was to follow.

Unlike other interviews, I was unprepared for this one. I knew a little bit about the company and what they do. I downloaded their app to see what they had to offer.

Other than that, I had nothing prepared. I took an Uber and spent an hour listening to Bonobo’s “Kerala” on repeat.

Now I had finally reached the destination and my stomach was already witnessing butterflies that were trying to spread the nervousness. I didn’t let them get to me, how could they, they were inside my stomach.

I walk inside the very pleasant office space, following the founder. Asked to take a seat, I sit and smile. The founder starts the conversation with me where he asks me questions about me, tells me his vision for the company and how it all came together.

It’s very exciting to see people talk about something they love doing. Their eyes shine, almost as if they are picturing their motivations and dreams as they speak of it.

I was told about my role, the impact they’d want me to make and so on. Following this, I was introduced to the other employees and was told to prepare a task.

I met the founders on the following Monday where I was asked to present my ideas. These were people who believe in their company more than anything else and who now wanted to test my abilities. Could I bring something out of the box to the table? I didn’t know.

So I pick up a marker and stand in front of the whiteboard, shaking and trembling because I get anxiety when in front of audiences. Even if the audience is as big as 3 people. I am recalling the time when I was in school and in class 10, I was given the responsibility to read out a prayer on the annual day. Trying my best to hide my nervousness, I read out the prayer in one quick robotic speech. But wait, suddenly, I forgot the line I was on, panic struck and all I could say was a loud, very clear, “SHIT!”

So it’s evident that I am not the best at handling anything at all.

Moving on, inside the room where I was being interviewed, complete with white fluorescent lights and a deadly silence, these people were interested in what I had to say, their eyes fixated on me.

I go ahead and start speaking, taking reference from a notebook I had scribbled my thoughts on. They questioned, suggested, probed, gave me a few on the spot questions and I continue my streak.

A series of more tasks and conversations later, I submitted my final task.

The weekend goes by and I am told on Monday that they liked my ideas and wanted me on board.

How cool is that? Now I could write about this experience and had a story to tell.