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The best of Jean Ralphio

The best of Jean Ralphio

You know the problem with Parks and Rec? Way too many great characters. We can’t pick between Ron Swanson, Leslie Knope, April Ludgate, Tom Haverford, Andy Dwyer or Chris Traeger. But this list is for the hilarious and underrated Jean Ralphio. Here’s our pick of his best quotes:

Showing true enthusiasm for a job as Ron’s assistant:

For starters, access to the illest clubs. And that’s just for starters. I will work for you. I’ll be on you 24/7. I’ll be like your family. I’m here when you get here in the morning, sure enough, I’ll be there tucking you into bed at night. Don’t worry, it’s not gay. Do we have questions?

Making a business deal:

What up, Big Teeeeeee…stop. This must be the lovely Donna. Enchanté. Listen beautiful, let’s cut the bull, alright? You want this. I definitely want this. T.H. wants this. Let’s seal this devil’s threeway right here, right now. Step one: We buy into this club. Step two: We roll over to the club, either in your Mercedes-Benz or my pre-owned Acura Legend. Step three: I dagger you on the dance floor. Just bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, now all the ladies sayin’, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce. What do you say, sexy?

On giving a great best man speech:

Ok, this is what I would do: I would start with a joke. Joke. Vince Vaughn quote, obviously.Fred Claus. Talk about Andy’s ex-girlfriends, quote from Love Actually, hold back your tears, pause…drop the microphone, get out of that bitch.

On hiring Ben to do his accounts:

Oh you could do better than that. I’m gonna help you out right now, your name is Angelo. Angelo thank you so much for coming out. Get a thicker tie, it looks weird on you. It makes your head look like a fish. Secondly, I don’t know where the paperwork is, but when you find it can you take care of it for us? We don’t have any pens ’cause we’re afraid it’s gonna leak on our shirts. Well actually I hate the name Angelo I’m gonna switch it up for you right now. Your new nickname is Jell-o shot. What do you think about that J-shot? Any questions?

On romance:

One time I waited outside a woman’s house for five days just to show her how serious I was about wanting to drill her. Turns out, it was the wrong house. She loved the story anyway. We got to third base. Over the pants.

Rapping and not knowing when to stop:

– Uh-oh, Uh-oh, it’s K to the N to the O-P-E, she’s the dopest little shortee in all Pawnee, Indiana
– R to the O to the N and then I say, Swanson got swagger the size of Big Ben clock
– Yo B to the O to the double S, do what he say and you’ll be success-ful-o

On great television ideas:

This is for certain, okay? I create a game show… two people on stage, right? They flip a coin; one of them has to perform open heart surgery, the other one has to receive open heart surgery. We call it: “Open Heart Surgery.”

On dreams:

Why don’t you live your life like that cow from that video?

Tom: He was a horse.

Yeah, because he followed his dreams.


Thoughts on Manu Joseph and Cheryl Strayed

Thoughts on Manu Joseph and Cheryl Strayed

The first time I gave everything up and decided that I’m now whole-heartedly a member of the Manu Joseph fan club was when I read this wonderful post. Followed by the many wonderful snarky things he has written since then.

Last week I finished reading Joseph’s second book, The illicit happiness of other people (TIHOOP) and the prose is just a fascinating trip down his dark dark brain. Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be somebody like him. Someone who sees the honest (although sometimes pessimistic) side of things and manages to spin stories that are funny, yet intelligent (both his books Serious Men and TIHOOP focus largely on NASA scientists, neurosis and philosophy) and observations (about Bombay and South Indian aunties. Topics I am well versed with).  I wonder if it’s exhausting to be like him, editor, writer, novelist, stern stare giver. I mean I have one job and one column to write a week and I’m pretty exhausted. It reminds of what Sheena once called Jerry Pinto; “Tana-tan”.

Manu Joseph’s novels are as poetic as his reporting is sharp. His sentences almost like daggers, never once becoming flowery or using an extra word.


I’m currently reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and all my free time and my commute to work is spent following her through the Pacific Coast Trail. I have been a fan of her work since before I knew who she was and she used to write the anonymous Sugar Says column on The Rumpus.

Wild is the story of her hiking the long trail after her mother’s death and her divorce. There is something about Strayed’s work that feels strangely motivational. I mean I haven’t once thought of actually doing anything like that but the act of doing something so tough and pushing through despite hunger, heat, snow and cuts and bruises is empowering. A lot of articles call her the anti-self help writer. Don’t sit and think about what you want to achieve and how you feel about it, stop thinking and fucking do.

The book is blunt and raw and straightforward. The story of her incredible journey is interspersed with stories from her life that led to this trek itself. Her writing so clean and passionate, I can feel the pain of her blistered feet. It’s sad without being maudlin.

The heart of unintelligence

The heart of unintelligence

I’m re-reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness right now, and it’s striking me how very difficult I find it, when I went through it quite easily the first time. Odd right? I try to read books I like more than once, rediscover treasures etc., but this has virtually never happened to me before. I am depressed, because the only possible reason for this is that I’m getting more stupid day by day. It’s a matter of months before I reach Crabbe and Goyle levels of dim. I think that, much of a bookwork though I am, I sometimes find sentences extremely tedious. Especially long sentences like Conrad’s, that have a lot of words that don’t make any sense, “ We shall have lots and lots of rivets and why shouldn’t we,” I thought rivet meant like a water body, see rivulet, but apparently its something you dig up on the riverbeds of the Congo? Don’t ask. The same thing happened when I read The phantom of the opera. I could not bear the archaic language. I gave up. I have pondered upon this, you guys and I have come up with reasons of why and how we came to a part of this grave state of affairs.


Here they are:

Twitter and other social media and therein the art of saying your thing in 140 characters has broken down our brains

The interwebz has destroyed our mental faculties. Now we just LOLZ/ LULZ when we don’t get stuff.

In India, it used to be a big deal if you spoke English, now every urban Indian does. So, why improve it by reading tedious stuff? .

Our generation can only think in moving pictures and if there are gun sounds and cars and lots and lots of kisses, we’re so there.

No company. 1990s India. What do you talk about with your friends after class? Books you’ve read or Tv shows you’ve watched? Present day India. What do you talk about with your friends after class? Talk? Lulz, we just text each other.

The steady stream of mediocre trash that gets published year on year and goes on to make the writers lots and lots of money. Example: Twilight, Chetan Bhagat, 50 shades of grey. Why bother reading Sons and Lovers, when a copy of 50 goes much faster and you can get to read naughty stuff out in the open?

Language that is to be dying. And I’m so ironic, I will talk like this, even though I know better, because I do things differently okay. I’m bold and modern and ever so hipster.

The world is sinking into a miserable pit of thankless work, shot through with insufficient shots of  happiness brought through horrible entertainment and mediocre reading. Nothing is worth any effort. The universe is spinning slowly towards an inevitable death of intelligence. There is no hope and we are all, every last one of us, doomed. Now, let’s go watch a phillum.

Project Small Fry for Free Speech #flashreads

First of all, no it’s not a Monday. Though we’re sticklers for the tradition of updating Small Fry once a week, we are breaking out and posting on a Thursday. We are going to be in a small way, a part of Flashreads One Billion Rising, an initiative started a year ago, in support of the fundamental right of free expression. Flash reads works kind of like a flash mob, except instead leaping into a choreographed version of Anything Goes, you stand the hell up in a public place and read out loud from works of literature. What we’re doing is posting a bunch of things people have said about freedom and we’re ending with a passage from George Orwells 1984, an ominous tone of what can happen if people keep getting arrested for facebook updates, if books are banned and if people stop questioning, thinking, expressing and wanting. Can Literature and writing save the world? We think it can, one goddamn word at a time.


“All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let’s get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States — and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!”

– Kurt Vonnegut

“Free speech means the right to shout ‘theatre’ in a crowded fire.”

– Abbie Hoffman (Eds Note: Say whaaat?)

“We live in a world in which people are censured, demoted, imprisoned, beheaded, simply because they have opened their mouths, flapped their lips, and vibrated some air. Yes, those vibrations can make us feel sad or stupid or alienated. Tough shit. That’s the price of admission to the marketplace of ideas. Hateful, blasphemous, prejudiced, vulgar, rude, or ignorant remarks are the music of a free society, and the relentless patter of idiots is how we know we’re in one. When all the words in our public conversation are fair, good, and true, it’s time to make a run for the fence.”

– Daniel Gilbert

“I don’t see how the study of language and literature can be separated from the question of free speech, which we all know is fundamental to our society. [p.92]”

– Northrop Frye

“But I think what’s important about this debate is not written into any specific ‘gotcha’ on this, but asking the question: What about freedom of speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking?
I don’t want to be associated with those people, but I also don’t want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilised behavior because that’s one of the things freedom requires: is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilised, but that doesn’t mean we approve of it.”

– Rand Paul

And now…drumroll please…

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

– George Orwell, 1984

A list of the lovey dovey stuff

A list of the lovey dovey stuff

It’s valentine week (We don’t care. So commercial. Stupid Archies. Whatever. Rolls eyes) so we sat down and picked 8 things that made us blush and gush and some that simply reinforced our belief in love (This is nothing like Madhuri Dixit buying flowers and heart-shaped candy for herself in Dil Toh Pagal Hai).

Louie and Pamela. I know it’s television and it’s scripted but this is probably one of the most beautiful declarations of love I have ever seen on television.

Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.” From this Sugar Says column.

This letter from U.S President Ronald Reagon to his 26 year old son.

Hema and kaushik. It’s not the greatest love story ever written, in fact I’m sure there are far better ones but this has stuck to the sides of my brain for some strange reason. It’s when loves mixes with loss and emptiness; the kind that makes you jump about and smile but leaves your eyes hollow. Jhumpa lahiri’s short stories from Unaccustomed Earth tell the story of Hema and Kaushik. It keeps changing perspective and talks about cultural similarity and the similarity of a meaningless existence that the two characters face. It’s one of those beautiful stories.

In the language of love, there’s love and then there’s The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. My favourite passage is the conversation that the Rabbit and Skin Horse have early on in the story, when Rabbit wants to know what being real is. “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” Here, just read the whole story.

The closing of credits of Grease can either be incredibly ridiculous or incredibly sincere. Maybe it’s because I love nonsense words, or because I love Travolta in that film, or that I love the whole film, but to my mind, real romance is when the two of you go together like rama lama lama ke ding-a-de-dinga-dong.

Deeti and Kalua. There are some books that come to you when you need them the most; when you feel like nothing will ever make things better. And then they do. I’m a terribly huge fan of Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy and especially of Deeti and Kalua’s story from the Sea of Poppies. He saves her from having to jump into her husband’s funeral pyre and then run away to start a life together. It’s love unlike we know or see because it’s pure and complicated but still sweet like teenage love. At the end of the book, Kalua leaves the Ibis to save his life and for the past four years, I have been waiting for Ghosh to finish the trilogy so I can finally know what happened to them.

I’m an Emily Dickinson fan. My favourites have always been the shorter ones with strong imagery and since in college my life was all about the unrequited, part of me clings to Wild nights! Wild nights!, as a symbol of joyousness and hope one needs in matters of the heart. WOW, that was a long sentence.

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Wild nights! Wild nights!

Were I with thee,

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile the winds

To a heart in port,—

Done with the compass,

Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!

Ah! the sea!

Might I but moor

To-night in thee!

Nick and Jess

Nick and Jess

Friends who fall in love are one of those clichés everybody loves and when a sitcom takes up the notion we love it some more. All shows begin with the will- they-won’t-they premise on some level and then finally when the audience has almost given up…bam! It’s what keeps people going. I know I’d probably have stopped watching The Office if Jim hadn’t confessed his love for Pam at the end of two agonizing seasons.

New Girl had one of those moments two weeks ago. Initially I hated New Girl and particularly Zooey Deschanel’s character Jess. Halfway into the second season, I still hate her, but boy, has the show done a 360. Most of the credit goes to Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and some of it to Nick (Jake Johnson). Last week in one of those ‘what-the-hell-just-happened’ episodes Nick and Jess kissed. A small part of me (the part that really secretly dances when Rachel gets off the plane and the one that openly weeps when Andy and April get married) was super excited. Finally! Finally! But, hey, so damn predictable. It had to happen some time. Now, it’s going to get all complicated and saccharine sweet, there’s might even be tears, damn it.

NewGirl_Xmas2-Sc14_0104_FULL copy

But it doesn’t. In fact, the following episode was a great example of brilliant comedy writing. How do you follow up a long awaited kiss with a hilarious episode? By taking the entire gang out of the loft and into an Indian wedding convention, that’s how. Ceecee is looking to get hitched and Schmidt is here to woo her. Jess and Nick are both trying to avoid each other and Winston is just doing some kind of nonsense (they should really give me him better storylines). The episode veers of into the emotional (when it dawns on Ceecee that she’s on table 34 because she’s just a model), the silly (Schmidt having a conversation in Hindi. “Hello” “Hello” “Samosa” “Yes, please, samosa” “more towels” “Do you know where the white person toilet is”) to the completely random (Nick doing a backwards moonwalk every time he’s nervous).

When Jess admits to Sam that she kissed Nick, he breaks up with her. Nick tries to unsuccessfully cheer her up and even gives her a super awkward hug. And that’s it. No indication whatsoever of them even considering romantic futures with each other. No sappy speeches. They just made a mistake and they are moving on.

Isn’t that wonderful? Everything doesn’t have to lead to anything and I do hope they never really get together. It would change the dynamic of the show and I hate that kind of change (anyone notice how nothing fundamentally changed when Monica and Chandler got married? It was like they were always married). Yes, yes Nick and Jess would be so cute (so so cute) but that’s not Nick and that’s not Jess. They can’t deal with it and I love that the writers lets the characters do as they would. If they did decide to get together, I wouldn’t believe it all.

Women writers and their male readers

Women writers and their male readers

As of this minute I am both restless and hungry and those two were never good bedfellows. Hungry because a stretch of ghastly Andheri traffic is probably keeping my food from me and restless because I have just this minute finished Edith Wharton’s The age of innocence and I am bursting to discuss it with someone. Well, I suppose I could always get on to the internet and read reviews, blogs and discussion forums but what I really, really, really want to do is discuss it with a man. Sadly I may never do this. And I say this knowing the unhealthy revulsion many twenty something Indian male readers have for amazing women authors that frankly ought have shrines erected in their honour. It’s an uncomfortable truth and we may as well suck it up.

Show me one man who openly chooses Austen over say, Dickens and I’ll show you ten women who have had to righteously defend their favourite women writers against arguments as insipid as “But Austen plots are like every K Serial ever”, “The story is bound to be depressing.” or (honest to goodness you can’t make this stuff up) “Women can’t write as well as men because they’ve never been master of a house,” I don’t know what it is. Insecurity? Defiance? A we-boys-stick –together-our-penis-strongest notion? Ignorance?

Just to clarify, I am not against male readers who genuinely dislike whichever Austen or Woolf novel they have read. I am against  the existing mindset that forces a woman author to in some way prove that she’s not some random bad chick lit writing airhead while still writing (intelligently and mind numbingly well) about subjects like marriage, love, divorce and relationships.

The Age of Innocence copy

I have finished The age of Innocence barely a month or two after Francesca Segal’s The innocents won the Costa Prize for first Fiction. Segal’s book takes theme and plotline from the Wharton classic and by the author’s own admission, was a sort of nod to the greatness of The age of innocence. For those of you, more familiar with film than literature, a screenplay of the same name won actress Winona Ryder the best female actor in supporting role Oscar in the nineties. The books plot, really a love triangle, is set in New York and is also really a comment on the kind of rigid old-money society that the main characters in the story have to operate within. It is also so masterfully written that though narrated from the perspective of only one character, each action and consequence is open to multiple interpretations. The narrative flows smoothly and while action is not a particularly a strong point, I found myself riveted by the depth at which Wharton explored emotions like obligation, passion and obsession. I also found the way she handled the thoughts and customs of the society of which she wrote, truly tactful. At no point, at any part in the story, did I blame the exacting and complex demands of Mrs so and so and Mr so and so, who frankly were the cause for the star struck lovers to be forever apart.

P.S: If you need one more reason to read The age of innocence it’s to get acquainted with Mrs. Mingott, the old matriarch of the Welland clan. She’s a clever, outspoken, manipulative ancient thing who has the best lines and who is the coolest character I’ve read in a while.

P.P.S: The Guardians has a book podcast, which a couple of weeks ago held a lively discussion on the woman writers place in today’s literary world and her accomplishments. The debate of “womeny books” was duly dug up and aired out. Its good stuff, talks about much of what I’ve written here and since I was in the middle of The age of innocence when I listened to it, it struck me as most insightful.

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