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A 1,000-mile journey begins with a joke

mumbai Updated: Sep 09, 2012 01:00 IST
Ashish Shakya
Ashish Shakya
Hindustan Times
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I don’t like to brag, unless I’m certain it’ll grab the attention of thousands of people, so this seems like a good place to do it. Earlier this week, I got to do my first-ever international stand-up gig. Alright, so it was in Dubai, which is basically Kerala with better-looking people, but it still counts, okay?

The inherent benefit of stand-up is that I get to travel, which is great. It’s the commuting that I can’t stand. People may or may not have fun stories about travelling, but no one ever has a positive story about commuting. You’ll never hear anyone come back from a trip and say, “Oh so I have to tell you about my flight. It was lovely. We got through immigration really quickly, with all officials sporting smiles that had been distilled from the light of a thousand suns. Then it turned out that our head stewardess was Oprah, who told us to look under our seats, where we all found a billion dollars and a puppy.”

Nope, it’s never that. It’s always, “My flight was 22 years late and we survived by gnawing the rexine off the chairs, because the only other option was CCD.”

Once the commute is done with, it’s time to check out the hotel room, only to be reminded of the Western world’s hatred for water (which has made its way down to many Indians as well). Because we’re approaching issues related to toilet paper here, and because this is a classy column, let’s refer to the body part in question as Shirish Kunder. The West, for some reason, believes that once you’re done dropping a Joker, it is okay to clean your Shirish with just paper. On a scale of 1 to retarded, this idea is Ramdev.

Let’s assume somebody dropped a giant, steaming pile of Tees Maar Khan on your desk. Would you a) use only paper to wipe it off, or b) also use a powerful stream of water? The correct answer is c) kill the desk with a flamethrower.

Also, you can tell your hotel is fancy when it offers an aromatherapy pillow menu, with options like vanilla, lavender, summer, Nigella Lawson’s armpits and so on. I still haven’t reached that point where I look at the pillow menu and go, “I only want the one infused with herbal tea and the soul of a baby panda. NOT rosemary. That disturbs my chi.”

I hereby state, in print, that if I ever turn into one of those people, please feel free to barge into my room and smother me with that very pillow.

Once you’re bored of the hotel (which is about seven minutes after check-in), it’s time to meet the locals. Dubai was interesting in that regard, because just before the show, the following, mildly racist exchange took place in the lift:

Rich Arab Guy: Oh, you are the Indian comedian performing? We are coming to see you.

Me: Yup. Good to know.

Rich Arab Guy: But why are you here? Shouldn’t you be

taking the service elevator *smirksmirk*?

Me: Shouldn’t you be flying a plane into a building somewhere?

Okay, so I didn’t say that out loud. It is generally considered bad luck to have a fight with an audience member before a show, especially when said member looks like he might be related to some important Sheikh bin Choppin’ Off Limbs. (On a related note, have you noticed how white people are expats, but brown people are just immigrants?)

I didn’t have too much time in Dubai, but I still made sure to soak in the multi-cultural vibe, with a special focus on food, history and the fine arts. Kidding. I went to a mall. It was the size of Punjab. I’m sure Dubai is just bigger on an

atomic level. As in, atoms in Dubai are bigger than regular atoms, and come pre-fitted

with gold-plated swimming pools and three Mallu attendants named Sijo.

With event season on, I anticipate a whole lot of travelling in the months to come. That means more travelling, more writing, more drunk audience members and more used tissues because being alone in a hotel room suddenly gives you a cold.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except for the commuting. That’s just a pain in the Kunder.

Ashish Shakya is a writer and a stand-up comic. He co-writes the TV satire, The Week That Wasn’t. Sometimes he’s even sober while doing so