Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The Mid Sem Saga: Ghost Protocol

        Agent H sat on the table, gaping at the book in his hands, contemplating the meaning of what he just read. He couldn't grasp a thing and he didn't wish to strain his already exasperated mind. He walked out of his room and into the next, where his contact was waiting. He walked over to the table in front of the contact code-named MGU003, placed the book on the table and looked directly into his eyes.

 "I was hoping you could clarify this doubt of mine" he said.
"Yeah man, sure" 003 replied.

        Agent H sat listening to him, while he tried to explain the asked question as elaborately as possible. H wished he didn't ask him that question, considering the show 003 was trying to gloat the knowledge he had obtained from detailed study of several reference books. Oh GOD this guy is getting on my nerves.
       Suddenly something strange caught his eye. There was a thin elongated patch of light on 003's face that looked like his moustache. Strangely enough, it started moving up and down, narrowly missing his eyes. In an instant, H knew it was a signal from one of his colleagues. He closed the book, abruptly interrupting 003's explanation.

"I got it. Thanks for the help" he said and strode out of the door, leaving a bewildered 003 behind.
       Downstairs, in the area overlooked by 003's window, Agent B was waiting for H. H could see from a distance that B looked pretty unnerved.
"Are you crazy? You almost blew my cover! You better have a good reason to do that" H almost yelled.
"Of course I do. The Secretary wants you out on a simple SR mission to the Maggu section right now" B said, savouring H's expression of surprise while doing so.
"Rendezvous in five minutes at the mess" he said and walked away.

       Surveillance and Response mission!? Things must be pretty bad out there. He grabbed his smart phone, put it in vibration and rushed to the mess. B was already waiting for him. This will be B's first mission in the field and H's first with B. B seemed pretty excited about it.

         Slowly they ascended a few flights of stairs and reached their targeted floor. H slowly gazed into the corridor. There was nobody. Each room was occupied. H could picture studious nerds at work, sitting amidst piles of books. H beckoned B to follow and tiptoed to the room they targeted. Beside the door there was a panel encasing the room's MCB. H put his ear to the door and listened intently.
del dot E is equal to charge density upon epsilon
del dot B equals zero
del cross E equals minus dB by dt......

     Thumbs up. The mission was a go. B slowly opened the panel and on the count of three, he quietly shut the switch down and ran for the washroom, a twenty paces away. H followed suit. If their target was as dumb as their intel told them, the target would directly rush to the hostel office without checking the MCB.     
    He sure did and hurled a series of obscenities towards the hostel management. H gathered that the target was more agitated over his neighbours not having a power cut than over him not having power. As soon as the target was out of sight, H tiptoed to the room, though B looked unsure if they should barge right in or they should wait for the neighbours to come out, disturbed by the loud unparliamentary language. H however knew that the only thing that could bring them out was a power cut. He confidently walked into the room, took out the cell phone and took one hundred and thirty two pictures of what their target had been studying prior to the apparent power cut, before B signalled him. H and B were back in the washroom in a jiffy and peered into a corridor to see their target accompanied by an elderly man who looked like an electrician. Shit!! H knew the consequences of their target learning that he was targeted. They had only one option, now that they had forgotten the most important function of their protocol, that is, to turn the power back on.


    H stepped out of their hiding spot, walked confidently towards the duo. He wanted to engage their target in a conversation to give B a sufficiently long window to turn the power back on. H knew exactly how to stop such a guy in his tracks. "Dude, have you any idea how many marks will come out of chapter 2?"
    B received a sufficiently long window and was waiting for H in the washrooms when suddenly, there was a loud sound of a door being banged hard. A big guy appeared from one of the rooms, clutching a smart phone in his hands and running through the corridors "Thieves! Thieves! They are onto us!” In a moment the once quiet corridor turned into a bustling one with everybody in a state of awe. H slipped away in the commotion that ensued, joining B. All of a sudden B's cellular phone started glowing red. It was a message from the secretary.


     H and B froze where they were. H was the first to come to senses. He immediately called their chief analyst Agent W.
"One of the agents went rogue and confessed on Facebook. Somebody mailed the Warden the details of our organisation. The Warden has posted a mail to all hostel residents cautioning them against malpractices in the time of examinations and thefts of notebooks going on in the floor you are in" W explained.
     That explains the smart phones.
"Our contact with other agents has been lost" W continued. "Any attempt to re-establish our network will only cause exposure of our activities. Rumour is that the management already has a few names. Under a lot of pressure, Secretary has been forced to initiate Ghost Protocol. You are on your own, Agent H".


A few days ago, Agents B and P were sent on a simple reconnaissance mission to scout a few rooms with potential. They were spotted by an MGU and were barely able to escape, felicitated by the dark. Though the MGU hasn't seen their faces, he could deduce P's identity with good probability. The next day P was blackmailed into confession by his identifier, causing the downfall of an organisation that had semesters of experience in what commonplace dub as MASS COPYING.

        H sat in the mess hall trying to construct his next course of action. Should he fail, he would be destroying the hopes of countless number of students who have placed their faith in the organisation. He looked at the cold chapatis in front of him. Nothing was clear to him any longer. Days of training in hostile situations have rendered him one of the organisation's best agents. He also held the record of most number of notes stolen, most additionals exchanged in examination hall and most number of books hidden in 'strategic locations' like bathrooms during exams. Now he couldn't even think straight. His confidence was in shambles.

        A couple of students sat in front of him. One of them said "Why are you depressed? You are a nine point someone. It is not like you to be so dull. OH! I get it. You are depressed because you probably forgot one equation" and they both started laughing. Fools! The topper was sitting right next to me that day!
     H went back to his room. Examination is yet to start in 18 hours. He looked at the syllabus. There is no way he could complete the syllabus in 18 hours. He took out his pocketbook and jotted down his plan of action. Now or Never.


     An MGU unit is four rows away. Even if somebody could approach him, there is not a chance that he is willing to help, not after what happened yesterday. The seating arrangement is diagonal type. My four neighbours along the diagonals are my classmates. From the expressions on their faces and the speed of their pens, I can judge that none of them seem to fare any better. Other neighbours are my seniors, and I hope they don't mind me copying. Ah! They are copying too! All others are familiar to me except the person behind me. He looks older than me. What the hell!! I should concentrate on business. The only other MGU of my batch is sitting in front of the invigilator, I cannot rely on him for help. Where is the other invigilator? He seems to be nowhere. Bless heavens! Things will be easier now. I can answer more than half of these. In fact the paper seems to be easy. But I will have to help the organisation. I hope B will remember the plan.......

     H's head rang with thoughts as he assessed the situation. That morning, when there were eight hours left for the examination, all disavowed agents assembled at their secret location- the bathroom at the community centre. After elaborate and intricate discussions, a plan was devised to co-ordinate between different rooms so that most of the information can be shared. A micro-photocopy of the two hundred and thirty two pages of information extracted from various MGU notebooks, bound into a short pocketbook is to be hid under the water filter beside the bathroom. Initial plans to hide it in the bathrooms have been cancelled, owing to recent confiscation of copying material placed there, by the cleaning staff and the subsequent fuss it created. The access to this material has been given to different rooms based on time slots. H's time slot was from 1hr 30min to 1hr 40min. The exam had only begun. So H started answering the questions he already knew.

      Three benches away, Agent O started folding his sleeve backwards. The person next to O gasped at O's hand.  It was covered with tiny ants. No, they weren't ants. They were letters. He was surprised to see that O managed to shove paragraphs of information on his arms. O quickly began scribbling it on his additional and quickly slid the additional onto his classmate's desk. So quick he was, that even his classmate was surprised at the appearance of an additional with an answer to one of the questions he found tough. H could see all this happening. So could his neighbours, who looked in awe at O's professionalism. H was initially alarmed but then felt confident that the proceedings were blocked from the invigilator's line of sight by a column in between.

      Speaking of the column, H noticed something peculiar. It didn't take him long to realize that the scribbling on the column, on the face hidden from the invigilator was different from regular obscenities that you come across on walls every day. Though not of his batch, H was of full praise to the person behind that pillar.
That guy is a genius to come up with that! I should add it to my arsenal.
     That pillar served beacon not only for the person behind it, but for a couple of neighbours too. The only drag was it was quite conspicuous, even for the invigilator. Within moments, there was a warning from the invigilator to the people behind the pillar.

      Other than a few suspicious looks from the invigilator, everything went smoothly for the organisation. Nobody spotted the material beneath the filter. A person from each room came and went, having studied all they needed to. H could answer most of the questions, but he wasn't satisfied. Suddenly there was a distress signal. He was called upon to pass answers to people in need. As he kept doing that, H concluded that the invigilator seemed to pay little attention to the people at the back. That's highly unlikely. Taking advantage, H assumed his full form, rolling down his socks and pulling his trousers up to reveal a whole list of formulas on his leg. Agent B in the next room had a jerkin full of micro-photocopies. Were these not sufficient, H would have a chance to grab answers when his chance comes to visit the 'bathroom'. That was his plan.

 Okay, I am not getting any help from organisation. Doesn't mean I can't copy! Only problem is, had the organisation been operational, MGUs would have helped us. Doesn't matter now.
       Suddenly, without warning, the door opened. Agent O was nearly standing up, peeping into his neighbour's paper, and barely had time to sit back on his bench. It was the attendant.

        He brought two plates of Samosa and two glasses of tea. While he was putting the snacks on the table, H looked in earnest towards the invigilator, waiting for him to say "Take away one tea and one plate". He didn't. Maybe he wants to have both for himself. After two minutes the invigilator said "You might want to take your tea before it gets cold, sir".

         H's heart sank as the person behind him stood up.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Colonizing Comedy - Interview with EIC

It had never happened before. Most of us were helpless that evening and half of us were crying with pain. No one but EIC members were responsible for it. They made us laugh so hard, some of us were barely able to breathe. The energy and enthusiasm of the crowd was at a level never seen before. 
Something crazy must be going on in their heads all the time, to come up with ideas to crack us up, that's what Shreyans and Medha had thought before they got to meet them and ask this in person.
Let's take a look at what they found out.


Medha: Why the name East India Comedy? And your Facebook page says, ‘The lords of East India are here to colonize your thoughts’. Why the colonial connection?
Sapan: There wasn’t much of logic in it, just a joke. We started it as a fun thing, the idea was to colonize the jokes, make everybody laugh across the country. We didn’t realize that we will actually be successful and we will have to stick to this thing forever.  Just like that, no logic. There’s no philosophy behind it.

Medha: What made you choose comedy?
Sapan: We don’t think any of us can give a proper answer to that. It just happened to us. It was all coincidence. When we did it for the first time, It turned out to be okay and we thought why don’t give it a try?  It takes at least 2-3 years to establish yourselves if you work for it and you are lucky. None of us were aware that comedy has scope for a career until we tried it.
Angad: First we did it for fun and there came a point where we realized that, okay, we are earning money too, and then everybody started taking it very seriously. It is the most fun job because you are making people laugh and you also get to travel a lot.
Azeem:  We don’t have to go to office Monday to Friday on sharp time and that makes our lives free.

Medha: Do you think you will move to different things if you find them more interesting?
Azeem: Yeah…we will. It doesn’t mean we will stop being comedians, but I guess there are progressions to everything. It depends on what your end goal in life is. And priorities also change with time. Three years ago, we were only doing live shows and after that we started realizing the potential of you tube and we started making videos as well. Now 30% of our time goes to stage shows and 70% of time goes into making videos. Tomorrow if we think making a movie is better, we might move on, but it doesn’t mean we are going to stop comedy completely. We also think that making videos are very much connected to stage shows because it brings more people to the show and enables you to reach out to more people.

Shreyans: How did your parents and family react to your sudden switch in professional career?
Angad: We know it is pretty unconventional to leave jobs to switch to comedy. Everyone said that whatever you do just don’t look back. Don’t sit back and think what would have happened and all. We don’t think what would have happened if we had chosen to go some other path. I kept telling my parents at each stage what was happening. Once they read my name in newspaper. So they also started to realize that we were doing quite well. It was not a sudden switch; we tried it in small scales and then decided to pursue a career in comedy. It was very chaotic in the beginning, but we really enjoyed it.  And we think whatever we had done before, was useful in this career too, the experiences we have had definitely helped in our career.

Medha: Most of the stand-up groups are based in Mumbai; everyone gets similar material for comedy, how do you get new ideas? Is there any pressure to stand out? And what are your views about more entertainment groups being centered in Mumbai?
Azeem: Everything is a new thing. Coming to Bhubaneswar was a new thing. Everyone has their own zone, everyone has their own thinking and that’s what makes everyone unique. It is not that everyone is doing the same thing. And I think more troops are from Mumbai because it is the entertainment hub. The evolution of comedy in Mumbai is far bigger than other cities like Bangalore. The industry is so big in Mumbai.

Shreyans: Can you share the weirdest thing you have done?
Azeem: We might have done a lot of random stuff together.
Sapan: So far, most ridiculous thing I’ve done is reporting the destination wedding (in Barcelona) of Mittals’ daughter.

Shreyans: From your website, I found out that you have done shows abroad. How do you find the crowd to be? Is it different from the Indian crowd?
Azeem: It varies. We have done shows in Singapore, Malaysia and I loved the crowd. It’s a great experience. The current writing style of comedians has become much more evolved. But in New York, we struggled a lot, American comedy scene is so evolved and New York is a tough ground, there is at least thirty comedy shows happening every night. The success of the show depends on the country and the audience. If you have to go abroad and perform for Indian audience, it is quite easy if you are famous. The real challenge is going abroad and performing for their people. But if you pull that off, it takes the confidence to a whole new level.

Shreyans: How do you deal with situations where people get offended during live shows?
Angad: If somebody gets offended on something, as long as the rest are enjoying it, it is not a matter of concern and we don’t give ears to the abuses. If everybody is getting offended, then there is something seriously wrong, if that’s the case, you admit it then and there and apologize on the stage that we have made a mistake.

Shreyans: We hear about the struggles of Bollywood stars, but nobody talks about the struggles of comedians
Sapan: Maybe because people don’t take comedians seriously. Coming to struggles of a comedian, making people laugh is the hardest thing. There might be situations where you keep speaking and speaking and no one is laughing, because what you are saying is only funny to yourself. It is a point where you have to realize that this is not funny and I have to do something else.
Azeem: It is not possible to know in advance which all jokes are people going to accept and which ones are going to be not laughed at. But after a while you can understand the nerve of the crowd and you monitor your material accordingly.