In Conversation with Sarthak Ahuja

We caught up with Sarthak Ahuja, a Delhi- based Chartered Accountant, who runs an online humor blog, "My Life is a Jalebi", to talk about toilet humor, jalebis, and more.

Why ‘My Life Is A Jalebi’?
The elders in my family, much like me, live in a delusional world where they believe themselves to be the funniest people to have ever walked this planet. Now, I have no idea about the kind of jokes they used to crack as teenagers, but going by what I have experienced so far, their best jokes are on the lines of “Arrey, aaj khaane mein Rajma banne hain! Raj ki maa: Rajma. Haha!”

Having grown up in a household with such brilliant talent in humor, the only description they’ve had for me while introducing me to never-before-seen and unheard of chachi/mami at family weddings is: “Bilkul jalebi ki tarah seedha hai yeh ladka.” I think that kind of stuck, and on the night when I was creating my blog, I thought I should call it “My Life is a Jalebi”, hoping that whenever a pretty lady would ask me about the significance of the title, I would tell her about how life is full of twists and turns, and more often than not, you may feel like you’re being fried in a big pan of oil (figuratively), but in the end, all this hardship will make you crisp and sweet to dig into. Imagine that being said in Hindi with a Shahrukh Khan head tilt.

Sadly though, no one asked me about the title in all these years and in the meanwhile, I grew up to realize that “sweet to dig into” is a crazy way to describe yourself without coming off as a creep.

If you had to describe what you do to someone you’ve just met, what would you say?
Hey, I just met you.
And this is crazy.
But here’s my website:
My Life is a Jalebi.

Initially, what got you into writing? Where did it all begin?
I was an Editor of my school’s magazine in the eleventh grade, which happened to be my first experience with anything related to writing. In all honesty, I think I was given a post on the Editorial Board only because of my good academic performance and general involvement with extra-curricular activities, and not because I was a lover of literature or some such. I used to live in a constant fear of not being good enough to deserve an esteemed title like that. I had a decent command over English grammar and would top my batch in the English exam quite often. But I was not (and am still not) someone you would call a “good writer”. Moreover, I hated writing. I found it to be a really boring and mind-numbingly difficult activity. I was in it only because being an “Editor” seemed like a cool person to be in the high-school hierarchy of nerdy-coolness.

Later in college, I desperately wanted to be a member of the street play society. I knew they had enough actors already and were searching for a writer. I convinced my seniors that I had experience in creative writing and gained entry into another elite club. I soon became to the street play team what Chanchal is to a Mata ka Jagrata, churning out lyrics like:
Jyot jalayi le Mata ki, bhaiya.
Yeh Maiya badi khaas hai.

Whatever I was doing was lightyears away from “writing” in the strict sense, but it was fun. The fact that everything that I wrote was supposed to be enacted and not read out, took a lot of pressure off me.

I had not gotten over my fear of writing even by the time I graduated. So, being the pseudo-friend, philosopher, guide that I am to myself, I decided to overcome this fear by starting a blog, facing all the judgment and wrath that could possibly result from it and just write; not to become a good writer, but only to not fear writing anymore. It’s been over three years now.

What do you prefer- the content, or the expression? Why?
I prefer the content because that is something I terribly lack. I try really hard to write about meaningful things, but toilet humor and Punjabi aunty tendencies pull me back. On the other hand, I think it requires great talent to write interestingly about things that are otherwise insignificant and ignorable. So, cliché diplomatic statement alert a mix of both is necessary.

I am in awe of Tim Urban of the Wait But Why fame. He puts immense amount of research in his writing and it’s commendable how he presents boring issues in the most interesting ways. A similar combination of both these traits can also be seen in Oliver Emberton’s blog.

Describe a day in your work life.
Do tax calculations, edit audit reports, draft legal opinions and get distracted by the internet.

Describe an ideal day in your work life.
Do tax calculations, edit audit reports, draft legal opinions and not get distracted by the internet.

What would the last line of your autobiography be?
Damn, I should totally put this on my blog!

Which one of your own works has influenced you the most?
I wrote a piece on old age called “Here’s the Wrinkle, Where’s the Smile”, and it is one of my favorite works on the blog. I like writing about serious things because it’s more fulfilling in terms of growing as a writer. Additionally, serious topics also help me come across as a smart person.

Among silly posts, I really enjoyed writing “A Dummy’s Guide to Writing a Punjabi Song”.

Which of someone else’s works has influenced you the most, and why?
It was Khamba’s Blog that inspired me to pick up humor as a theme for my blog. I also found immense inspiration in Lavanya Mohan’s Coconut Chutney because it felt really good to see another Chartered Accountant being at the forefront of humor blogging in India.

What are you currently working on?
Professionally, I’m helping a number of start-ups with their business incorporation and taxation matters. It’s really interesting to work with bright young minds. (Now, look at me talk like a 40-year old.)

What does it take as a person, to do what you’re doing? What were the circumstances involved?
Like most others my age and even fifty years older, I feel I still haven’t found my calling in life. But that’s the thing about this so called “calling”; you won’t just randomly stumble upon it one day and recognize it to be your passion. One needs to pick up any job/hobby/career path and then stick to it like Velcro laced with super-glue.

It’s very difficult for me to find the time to write for my blog so frequently, but I take my self-imposed deadlines seriously and put up at least two posts every month only because I have to. Most of the times I churn out crap; but, there comes one post in ten that also makes me feel proud of having decided to stick to this hobby. I believe this applies to anything that you may decide to do with your life… even love! Shah Rukh Khan head tilt and hypnotic lover boy eyes

Are you involved in something other than this? Tell us about it.
I often get mistaken for a food critic and get invited by restaurants to review their food. It has nothing to do with my knowledge of the culinary arts, which is zilch; and everything to do with the “Jalebi” in the name of my blog. I just happily play along, given my theatre background, and then oblige with an honest review on Zomato.

If not this, what?
If not this, then YouTube vlogging. Wait, I can still do YouTube vlogging!

If you were a pizza delivery guy, how would you benefit from scissors?
Trick question?
Let me give you my smartass answer and say that I will benefit just like any other person who isn’t a pizza delivery guy will.

How do you balance you personal and professional lives?
Balance is like pyaar; kiya nahi jaata, ho jaata hai.

If you were a box of cereal, what would you be? Why?

Post’s “Banana Nut Crunch”. Oh, the innuendo :,)

What would your three sentences in the game ‘Two truths and a lie’ be?

  1. I’ve danced to “Choli ke Peechhe Kya Hai” at the inter-college dance competition in every Delhi University college in 2010-11 - dressed in harem pants and a sequined dupatta.
  2. I woke up one morning at IIM-Ahmedabad’s Girls’ Hostel with ten women sleeping on either side, and I had no idea about how that happened.
  3. I once went to a National Conference on Banking Frauds as a Speaker, assuming that I had to address a gathering of law students, but was shocked to find that my audience comprised Professors of Finance, Auditors of a few Nationalized Banks, officers from the Reserve Bank and the Chief of Police for the Cyber Crime Department. I was so scared that I ran away from the venue, but returned while there was still time and conducted the session like a boss.

(The first one is false because “every” DU college did not organize a Dance Competition that year. I was there at most of the ones that did.)

What’s your least favorite thing about yourself?
The verbal diarrhea and the verbosity. Must learn to keep quiet!

With regard to what you’re pursuing, do you have a story for your grandchildren?
I wish it were a “who” and not “what” that I was pursuing. The children would have got a nine year long narration of How I Met their Grandmother.

What has been your best experience while interacting with people who respect your work?
A majority of the friends that I’ve made after college are all who I got to know through the blog. So, it’s given me a lot of close friends. My blog is like my wing-man; except, he specializes in being a catalyst to only platonic relationships.

Do you think you’re making a difference to the world?
This question makes me realize how useless my life has been so far. But on the up side, I feel so much like a participant at a beauty pageant. Never known a question that is so cathartic!

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