Sunday, February 28, 2016

Thrifty Shades of Grey

How many times would you expect to find a woman with a wad of currency notes stuffed in her mouth, staring at you from as soon as you exit your bathroom? Maybe, it happens with motivational speakers a bit too often, but for Dr. Deepak Pattanaik, this was probably a first.

“I thought I’d asked the concierge for a bottle of the hotel’s best wine. I didn’t know it was code word for companionship tonight.”

As she stood there dumbstruck, more out of awe than out of the money stuffed in her mouth, Dr. Pattanaik continued. “And is that money you carry a refund to excuse the hotel staff for this joke tonight? If yes, I wouldn’t mind”, and he pulled out the cash from between her lips.

“You said you liked people who put their money where their mouth is”, she mumbled while holding her jaw that hurt from being stretched open for a full seventeen minutes.

“I beg your pardon.”

“At your speech tonight, you said only those people impress who put their money where their mouth is.”

“I hope you’re not from Gag TV with a hidden camera somewhere, because I’m sincerely not in the mood.”

“I love you.”

“Well that’s quite generous of you, young lady. And I wish the absolute best for you. Would an autograph help? Or a selfie; because that seems more like your thing?”

“Do I look like I’m dressed for a selfie? I’m here because you say one can do anything one wants. And that’s thrilling, motivating and exhilarating. You say things that make me realize are meant only for me. I’ve watched all your YouTube videos, read all your interviews, and was here to attend your talk tonight because this was the first time you visited my city as a part of your tour. I love you. And I will not shy away from telling you that I want you because you said one can do anything one wants as long as one goes all out and does it. And the only thing I want to do is you.”

“Well, that’s really kind of you to say, young lady, but I am not a thing. I’m a person. You really can do anything you want. That’s the universal truth. But, again, I am not a thing.”

“All of us are nothing, but specks of dust so small in this expansive universe that our individual problems are much smaller than the specks of dust we seem to be. We divide things into animate and inanimate based on our limited understanding of the universe, which is a living system so huge that every part of it lives and carries energy. Every thing. You. Me. This table. This stage. The food we eat. We’re all nothing but THINGS that carry energy as a part of this whole system… Did you not say this in your speech at IIT Bombay on 26th March, 2015? I saw it in the YouTube video on your channel. You are a THING. And I want to do you! And no one can stop me because you said I can do anything I want. And if you tell me tonight that I can’t do something that I’ve been wanting to for so long, for which I’ve made efforts too, then I’ll know that all you say on stage is utter bullcrap just to play with people’s emotions.”

Dr. Pattanaik was quick to break the pause. “Then I guess you can do me, and I wouldn’t deny that. However, it’ll take more effort than dressing up in, what is this that you’re wearing; fishnets and a corset?”

“I’ll do anything it takes.”

“Okay, let’s try to draft a plan for you on paper”, and Dr. Pattanaik started scribbling while Protima looked over from his shoulder.

“Step one – you’ll have to develop a personality that would impress me. You’ll have to read every book on the New York Bestseller’s list, start writing a blog, be seen at Derby races, know the difference between your wines and your cheese, have a vocabulary so strong that you judge everyone who takes idioms literally, such as the one about putting your money where your mouth is. You’ll have to hit the gym, lose four kg’s around your waist, learn to dance the Salsa, know how to eat caviar, engage me in an analysis of the Finance Minister’s Budget speech and its implication on the growing income disparity in the nation; develop a taste in women’s fashion and know how to tell the personality of a man from the way he wears his suit.”

“All of this may seem too intimidating at first, but I’ll design a year-long personality course for you that’ll cost Rupees twelve lakh fifty thousand after discount. You’ll have to take tests every week, and I’ll watch your progress.”

“Step two – you’ll have to slowly break the trust my wife has placed in me – the very foundation of my marriage. Ensure that your perfume lingers on to my suit when I get back home to my wife; leave nothing but just a strand of your black hair on my shoulder; leave at least three missed calls at 3 am every alternate day, out of which I will pretend to have forgotten to put my phone on silent once a week and ensure that my wife wakes up to it. You’ll have to apply for a job at every event management firm that plans an event with me, convince them that I won’t do a talk without you hosting it; be seen around in at least sixty-eight per cent of my pictures on Page 3 – and then wait for my wife to leave me. This might take another year or so, and might cost you another ten lakh, if not more.”

“Also know that personal coaching programs begin with a minimum duration of one year, but go on for longer durations depending on how quickly the student picks up on what is taught. A discounted fee of Rupees nine lakhs per annum is charged for every additional year of the course’s duration. You may deposit fifty per cent of the first year’s coaching fee as advance through the payment portal on my website tomorrow morning and we begin the program from Monday, 9 am at Three Sixty One Degree, The Oberoi, Gurgaon”, he smiled.

“Is the fee for subsequent years Rupees nine lakh per annum or Rupees ten lakh thirty thousand five hundred?”

“Nine lakh, I said.”

“That means the Service Tax and Swachh Bharat Cess are included in the fee quoted above?”

“Um, I guess.”

“This means that for every hundred rupees that you receive as income, you end up paying over twelve rupees as Service Tax and Swachh Bharat Cess from your own pocket, when you can actually charge it from your clients and they will happily pay it additionally because of two simple reasons. One, your talks are attended by employees who get corporate sponsorships, and their employers can take service tax input credit on the tax they pay you, so it, in effect, does not increase their cost of tickets. Two, price elasticity for most of your other clients for this service is zero. So it wouldn’t matter if you charge them 14.5% extra. How did your CA not tell you that!”

“I don’t know!”

“Hope you’ve formed a Trust for organizing events where you give free talks in the name of betterment of society. A simple 80G registration will be required, and all your incomes in the Trust will be tax free, along with donors getting tax rebate on all the donations they give you in the Trust. It’s a win-win. Plus, you could also use it to do some Corporate Social Responsibility activities as required under the Companies Act, 2013 for your private limited company. You can practically get 25% of your present income tax free, if you plan it well!”

As Dr. Pattanaik stood in awe of what he was just told, Protima handed him a business card and continued, “I really need to see your accountant. My professional charges are Rupees fifty thousand per annum. Also know that personal tax planning begins with a minimum duration of one year, but goes on for longer durations depending on how quickly the client executes and implements what is advised. A discounted fee of Rupees thirty thousand per annum is charged for every additional year of the professional advice. You may deposit fifty per cent of the first year’s professional fee as advance through the payment portal on my website tomorrow morning and we begin the program from Monday, 9 am at Three Sixty One Degree, The Oberoi, Gurgaon.”

As he sat into his car that night, he took off his corset, fishnets and luscious locks to change into something more comfortable. Who said CA’s had dull jobs? Mr. Ahuja here was breaking boundaries every night.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

From Barf to Barfi

They say cows are angels from heaven because they provide milk when alive, and hide or food when dead. But the Barfi is supremely under-rated in comparison.

You may say that one cannot compare the two, as it’s like comparing apples with oranges. But if you say that, you’re not really making sense. Comparing apples with oranges could be an appropriate idiom if we were comparing cows and buffaloes. But, when we’re comparing cows and Barfi’s, we’re just comparing cows and Barfi’s. There is no other way of saying it. I mean, if you were to really showcase your large collection of idioms with reference to this conversation about dairy, you could probably say any of the following instead:

  • There’s no use crying over spilt milk. Especially if the milk accidentally spills itself in a big wok full of sugar and nuts, and cooks itself into Barfi.
  • Men who kill cows for meat have no milk of human kindness in them. They should, in fact, milk them for Barfi.
  • Kejriwal milked Anna Hazare’s movement to gain a huge political platform. And then became CM, when for munh-meetha-karo, he had Barfi.

Coming back to the point at hand, the Barfi also presents itself as a wonderful sweet to be eaten when alive (Here, we talk about the Barfi being alive, which is just another way of saying fresh. Y’know, how they say, “I feel so alive on taking a bath with Cinthol”. They just mean fresh. Who wouldn’t feel alive/fresh on taking a bath with a blonde girl called Cinthol?)

And when dead (dry and stale, except not the fungus infested stale), the Barfi presents itself as the best substitute there can ever be for any other parantha stuffing in the world.

While I’m a huge fan of the Kaju Katli and the Kalakand, I’ve never been too fond of the traditional Barfi. When shopping for sweets, we buy the Gulab Jamun’s, the Laddoo’s and the Dhoda’s, but never the Barfi. The Barfi lands up at our house in exchange for the aforementioned sweets that we gift to “relatives and friends” (a better term for whom would be “jerks and frenemies” because who gives Barfi’s to people they love!)

The Barfi sadd-oes in the fridge for five days, adding to our bad-assery of rule breaking behavior, because we do not consume Bengali sweets on the same day as we open them.

Just when the Barfi is ready to die of being parched due to lack of contact with human saliva, the Mother does something that she does best – makes paranthas out of it for all and sundry.

The Barfi Parantha is an invention that beats all the Red Velvets and Tiramisu’s of the world. It’s the one goddamn thing that is both the main course as well as the dessert. I have been blessed to have grown up under the mamta of a lady who does not think twice before getting her Halwai mode on and turn terrible things into crazy awesome thangbajangs!

(If the Mother is reading this, please note that this is not a blanket compliment for all other inventions in your kitchen like making Pao Bhaaji, where the Bhaaji is basically mashed Lauki, Tori and Tindey cooked in tomato sauce and Aaloo)

The Barfi Parantha goes best with Rabri or some such. The only step of caution here is to ensure that your mother doesn’t pass off whipped Malaai with sugar as Rabri. Or maybe that’s how Rabri is actually made. I don’t know. I’m also not the guy who eats Rabri with Jalebi at weddings. Who started this whole thing of having Rabri with Jalebi, in the first place!

Anyhoo, the best way to have the Barfi Parantha is to have it without any accompaniments, both in terms of side dishes or human companionship. In case you want a suggestion for a drink to go with it, try the Pepsi Milk. It’s three-quarters a glass of chilled milk with a quarter of your favorite cola drink. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s not! It’s awesome as long as you don’t check out videos of what happens when you mix milk with cola on YouTube, but gulp it down all at once instead.