So this was supposed to be a standard corporate gig. Event management company ‘BOI Media and Entertainment Pvt Ltd.’ contacted me for this a few days ago and though I had never done any but am in severe cash crunch, so decided to do it.
6 pm: I reach the venue (Hotel Leela, Andheri East) to find out that the gig is for a party thrown by German Consulate so lots of foreigners (“from 15 countries”) are around. The show is an hour away and the in-charge from client side tells me “No references to caste, religion, or slang words including ‘F words’.” I was told to cut down my set duration from 30 to 15-20 if that’s what it takes to take out the bad words. She confessed she had seen my videos on youtube (Sadma Awards i think) where I used lots of hindi gaalis. I promised I won’t use any Hindi or English gaalis, and no reference to caste or religion.
7 pm: I cut down my material to a cool 15 minutes, feeling good about less stage time for a while. The venue was not at all conducive for a stand-up show (a huge hall with seating in all corners, no stage or spotlights etc.) But then, in a corporate gig, I was prepared for these things so didn’t bother much.
8:00 pm: I go on stage. These are the major lines/jokes/thoughts I shared.
1. Nice to be in a room with people from so many countries and not fighting for oil.
2. Indians in the room give me a cheer. (Indians cheered.) And now people who don’t honk like mad at traffic signals, give me a cheer. (Some foreigners got the joke and cheered.)
3. Indians love honking and driving rash because we believe in rebirth. While you foreigners have only one birth so you drive safely.
4. I am an IITian so I come from a place where masturbating 5 times a day is normal.
5. 3-4 jokes on beef ban in Madhya Pradesh and how other animals must be feeling inferior to cows.
(At this point, the girl from BOI Media comes and taps on my shoulder to avoid “slangs”. I confused, in the middle of a set, just nod “yes”.)
6. I talk about how i grew up in a conservative household – about how watching a condom ad with your parents was a huge deal in the late 80s.
(At this point she comes again and tells me to wrap up RIGHT NOW.)
7. I wrap up and go back to the console.
8:15 pm: The girls from BOI Media look at me as if i just did a Miley Cyrus on stage. They ask me why did I flout the ‘brief’ and talk “dirty things”. I am trying to explain to them there was nothing dirty in there when 2-3 men gather around me (one older man, one in his 30s, and one in his 40s) telling me “Sharam nahin aati khud ko Indian kahte huye?” (Aren’t you ashamed to call yourself Indian?)
I am still figuring out which part of my set was anti-Indian and the man in his 50s says “Only Indians honk at traffic signal? Do you think we are uncivilized?” I nod a yes in reflex honesty but manage a ‘sorry but…’ when the man in his 40s, already few pegs down I hope, said “Tum jaison ko goli maar deni chaahiye!” (People like you should be shot dead.) I instantly check for signs of satire on his grim face but find none. Am just happy he is not a politician’s son carrying guns in his underwear.
While I am apologizing and explaining to these angry men that what I was saying was ‘personal opinion and satire’, two girls show up and one of them says “I am also an IITian and I feel so bad that you maligned the name of my Institute. How dare you say such horrible things about India and IIT in front of foreigners?” I begin to ask “Which IIT you are from…” and she just turns away half mumbling the most un-eff-word curse she would know.
8:30 pm: The two girls from BOI Media are talking to their bosses and explaining the horror they just witnessed. I decide to step out and get some non-prudent air when another one (a 40-ish year old man) accosts me and says “EVERYBODY IS ANGRY WITH YOU. YOU JUST GAVE OUR COUNTRY A VERY BAD NAME!” I ask him calmly “How sir? I need to know. Honestly.” And he said “You spoke as if India is only bad things. We honk, we masturbate, we kill cows…” I ask him “Have you seen any standup comedy in your life ever?” He says “Doesn’t matter. You were dirty. And I am going to sue the hotel and you for allowing such a thing.”
I take the deepest sigh I have taken in a long while and step out. Predictably, I am told that the cheque (promised right after the gig) is not ready. I will have to meet the BOI Media bosses tomorrow for that to get through.
9 pm: Am in a cab home when somebody (apparently senior) from BOI Media calls me and asks me to explain what happened. I explain and she says “But you were told specifically to not use slang or jokes on caste or religion.” I tell her to go through the video and find me one joke that fits the description. She says you have to apologize (write a letter, meet them tomorrow etc.). I tell her to make the promised payment and get an apology. And then comes the shocker I had not expected even after such a bizarre evening. “We want you to write an apology letter AND forfeit your fees.” I feel like laughing and crying at such immense stupidity of human species even after millions of years of so-called evolution. She cuts the call before I could.
1. There was a reason I never did corporate shows. They are not the people who want to listen or have fun or be amused at new ideas. But I did this one time, owing to cash crunch as well as “ek baar kar ke dekhne mein kya hai!” syndrome. Heeraman of Teesri Kasam type my 1st Kasam – NEVER do a corporate gig again. Corporate world is full of assholes or prudes or prude assholes.
2. Hypocrisy of the privileged Indian is mind-numbingly sad. The older man told me on my way out, probably seeing my sad face, ‘Talking about such things in private is ok. But in front of so many girls…it was not done.’
3. Inferiority complex of our fellow nationals is depressing. Saying Indians honk can offend people and saying IITians masturbate can drive people to wish me dead.
4. Always take advance payment for corporate gigs. I didn’t. And now I am stuck with a bad day, horrible client who didn’t even brief me properly, death wish by offended people, and an unpaid amount of 30K. So Hiraman ki doosri kasam – Take advance for any gig. (Haha! As if am getting any more gigs now.)
5. The foreigners were all enjoying the show while Indians were struck by lightening. Foreigners masturbate i guess.
6. To the man who asked me that loaded question, yes, after meeting such people, I do feel ashamed to be an Indian.
I needed to share this for a few reasons.
1. Venting out after such a horrible experience at the hands of prudes and full of shit Indians.
2. See if it goes around, shared by enough people, and reaches BOI Media Pvt Ltd. and they compensate me for my time and performance, not to mention the mental trauma and threats.
3. See if it can reach German Consulate and they intervene with the good sense that they were not offended, that they have a sense of humour, and tell the Indian client to take it light. Long shot, but not as long as a stand-up comic getting killed for saying Indians honk on traffic signal.
I got paid in full and baa-izzat by BOI Media today. Their team of Directors behaved really professionally today. (Social media impact zindabaad!) No mention of me apologizing to them or client was made and the cheque was handed over without any fuss. Of course they didn’t apologize for the insult and anger I had to face yesterday, but honestly, I wasn’t even expecting that. (Am not that hopeful about the world.) So yes, thanks for all the support and noise and words of encouragement – everything helped.
Of course the Taliban-ke-poot who threatened me y’day go scot free – but am sure some of them would have read the blog (63,000 views!) by now and will feel 2-paisa shame about their existence.