What? You haven’t watched Game of Thrones yet? Are you serious?” My friend Gaurav displayed an exhibition of astonishment, agony, angst, while letting the entire pub know of my unforgivable crime. I had lost all the respect in a single moment and happy hour wasn’t happy anymore. My entire friend circle ignored me for the rest of the night (no one called me their brother even after getting drunk), strangers kept giving me strange looks and the staff kept serving me warm beer all night (they were cold, the beer wasn’t). My inner voice summarised the entire situation to me — ‘You’re an outcast’.
This was school time all over again. I was an innocent kid who was happy watching cartoons for fun (Jungle Book was my favourite) while ignoring my homework. All this changed when other kids switched to Discovery Channel and couldn’t stop flaunting about it. Peer pressure was real and I too gave in. I sat and went through hours of footage of the animal kingdom (mostly big creatures eating small ones) but nothing came close to the joy of watching Mowgli roam around the forest carelessly (in his all weather shorts) with his bear friend. Everyone around me was happy (friends, family, and teachers) that I switched to Discovery Channel, but not me.
Current day scenario. Binge watching is the new religion and I’m considered an atheist. On top of it, I’ve committed the cardinal sin of Notflixing (the poverty of not owning a Netflix account). Notflixing means that whenever my friends discuss a new TV series, I sit and read my WhatsApp forward messages (even from family groups). Whenever my colleagues discuss TV shows, I put my headphones on and shake my head on random beats (without any music). Whenever a girl plans to ‘Netflix and chill’ with me, I tell her that my parents are home (much better than making love to Taarak Mehta ka Oolta Chashma on TV).
It’s not that I’m anti-social. I want to be a part of the conversation and after what happened at the pub, I was desperate to make amends (can’t drink warm beer forever!). I approached Gaurav for help and he suggested that I should binge watch at least five popular TV shows to get accepted in the society again. I took his advice (and his login credentials) and here is how the ordeal went:
1. Sacred Games: I started with an Indian TV series (#beingpatriotic) but I felt cheated. Sacred Games had no games, let alone sacred. Also, the language used was so indecent that I was hurling abuses for the next three days (even during client meetings).
2. Breaking Bad: Another lie. A Chemistry teacher starts making drugs and becomes rich. Why would an educator sell drugs to make money when they can charge hefty fees in the name of education? Although, personally I would have preferred if my math teacher sold meth so that we could’ve seen those imaginary numbers in real.
3. How I met your mother: A father narrating his life mishaps for 9 seasons to his kids and telling them about how he met their mother. Nine seasons? This could have been a single episode TV show in India. Indian kids: ‘How you met our mother?’ Indian father: ‘Arranged marriage’.
4. Narcos: Story of another man who made money by selling drugs (without being a Chemistry teacher). The effects of watching this series were similar to that of Sacred Games, only this time I was hurling abuses in Spanish.
5. Game of Thrones: There was so much violence in this series that by the time I finished, there were blood stains on my television. Also, the makers seemed to be inspired by hand sanitisers because by the end of it, they had killed 99.99 per cent characters. Here is a summary of all 7 seasons in 7 words — death, death, sex, death, sex, death, dragons.
It took me a while but I went through this suffering without complaining. My growing dark circles were the proof of my commitment and finally I was part of this religion. I called Gaurav to express my gratitude and invited him to the pub along with rest of the friends. This time, I was no longer avoiding conversations and felt included. Everything seemed to be falling in place until I heard those words.
‘What? You haven’t watched Friends yet? Are you serious? ‘
The world stopped. My “friends” started ignoring me again. Strangers started giving looks again and once again, beer was served warm. My inner voice finally spoke the truth — ‘It’s ok to be an outcast’. I smiled, plugged my headphones to the phone and started watching Jungle Book on YouTube. Mowgli was happy and finally, so was I.
(Sudhanshu Ramteke is a stand-up comedian)