Keyur Shah wasn’t happy with the stereotypical image of a Gujarati that he saw in Bollywood films.“We are more than just fafda, dhokla, kem cho and su cho!” exclaims the 19-year-old. So he started Gujju Tips, a page on Facebook highlighting the eccentricities of members of his close and extended family.
“We go to the movie hole and take outside snakes for refreshment,” is one tip for example, that takes a dig at Gujju accents. And then there is a tip about the common Gujarati salutation that believes in forming a relationship even before any transaction, hoping that the new professed relative will ofcourse give his best bit: “Every autowala, taxiwala, grocerywala, chaiwala is our ‘kaka’”.
Like Gujju Tips, a host of virtual ‘Tips’ groups that post funny one-liners are making communities laugh unabashedly at their own idiosyncrasies and traits. Some of the most active groups include Bong Tips, Sindhi Tips, Bihari Tips, Lucknow Tips, Marathi Tips, Nagpur Tips and Hyd Tips.
Taking inspiration from BroTips, an online website with a collection of advice by a man for a man, the Tips groups give advice to outsiders on what it takes to be an insider.
One of the first Indian groups to start a Tips page was BawaTips. Founded by Victor Daruwala and Hormuz Bana in July last year, the group did what Parsis do best: Make fun of themselves. And in the process, they became a viral hit.
The most popular BawaTips strike at Parsi food (Before KFC, there was chicken farcha), language (Saanti Rakh doesn’t mean you get to keep Saanti) and behaviour (It’s okay to burp loudly, we only want to say how much we loved the food).
While some of them are a play on Gujarati words that mean something completely different in English, others are the unique quintessential qualities that make a bawa a bawa.
“The page in a way got people from the community together. Now there’s an active group who met on our page online and have regular meetups offline too”, says Daruwala, a promo producer with VH1.
In a similar attempt to ‘promote and celebrate the unique cultural awesomeness of the state of Assam’, Bhringraj Hazarika started Assam Tips. “We are not just about small eyes and hard rock… we are much more than that,” says the About section on the page.
Hazarika a masters’ student, who started Assam Tips for his classmates who were curious to know more about Assamese culture says, “I’ve used several words that are popular in the rural parts of the state.”
He gives the example of Tip 59: Why do you bring water every time I ask for Lao Paani? Here Lao Paani refers to rice beer.
“And then there are tips that give trivia about lesser known facts in a funny way. Like Tip 76: 60% of people cook their food in Engine Oil. Don’t panic, it’s the name of the brand,” adds Hazarika who collaborated with Kaushika Hazarika, an NRI with roots in Assam, who helps him edit the tips before uploading them.
With over 15,000 Likes on Facebook in less than two months, Punjabi Tips is another page that grew popular after netizens started giving it a thumbs up for its gems. These include tips like, ‘If it isn’t a Patiala Peg it isn’t a drink,’ ‘When we say Cloney we don’t mean George Clooney. It might mean Defence Cloney’, ‘‘Oye, koi nahin yaar’ is our reply to ‘Shit happens’,’ and ‘Whether you’re a boy or girl, for your parents you’re puttar’.
24-year-old Angad Manchanda, who writes the tips along with his Punjabi colleagues Satwik Khanna, Nishtha Kanal, Esha Matta, says the group is popular because it is an archive of the little details in the day-to-day life of a hearty, boisterous Punjabi family. Today they get tip suggestions from fans spread across 33 countries.
“We upload user-generated content that is quirky giving credit to the person who suggests the tip,” says Manchanda.
Archiving city secrets
‘2 boys on a black pulsar? Yeah, hide your phone and gold chain,’ ‘Yeh cheez, Chandni Chowk mein half-rate mein milti hain. Tell everyone. Everyday,’ and ‘Ustaad is a car mechanic. Always,’ are just a few of the local secrets being archived on the Delhi Tips page by 17-year-old Tushar Sagar. “The purpose of the group is to share facts about my city,” he says.
Debjyoti Roy, a 25-year-old software developer and creator of the Kolkata Tips page describes tips as “minor occurrences that we come across everyday but tend to ignore”.
“I like reading the tips because they tell you things only a true Kolkatite would know,” says Sudipta Basu, a regular reader of the page. Her favourite tips are: ‘If you want to date a Kolkata girl, you have to love Fuchhka’, ‘If you don’t find a book on college street, it probably does not exist’ and ‘Hyderabadi biryani might be world famous. But for a true Calcatian there is no alternative of Arsalan biryani’.
And while most tips get shares and Likes, there are some that generate controversy too. Ensuring to stay on the safe side, admins of these communities have posted disclaimers that read, ‘This page is not meant to hurt anyone. It’s just an honest effort to bring a smile on your face through witty one-liners about our culture and life. We don’t want to promote a division among Indians as a nation’.
Cashing-in on the popularity of their tips, owners of the groups have started merchandising their quirkiness by printing tips on tees. Keyur Shah and Zubin Sheth, the admins of the Gujju Tips community have started their own website where they allow fans to order Gujju Tips teeshirts.
“We’ve printed 13 designs including popular ones like, ‘Chaas is our beer. Cheers!’ ‘We can do garba on Summer of 69’ and ‘Masala Chai is our Red Bull’,” he says.
BawaTips have their own tees and now a funny music video too.
“The song is just an extension of the Facebook group,” says Daruwalla describing the spoof video called ‘I’m bawa and I know it’ that plays to the tune of ‘I’m sexy and I know it’.”
For those looking to sample the video, be warned. It’s peppered with colloquial cusswords in Parsi Gujarati, giving you cultural eccentricities in their purest format.