It began with a couple of WhatsApp forwards. Some ingenious and possibly very bored person decided to make a play on the citys ubiquitous Happy Birthday or Congratulations to so-and-so hoardings and came up with something funnier photoshopped memes of people congratulating each other for bizarre reasons.
Memes,for those of you who have wisely distanced yourselves from social media fads,are ideas or artworks which are passed from person to person through mimicry. Most social media memes are humorous parodies of real life like a recent popular one which showed how lawyers,engineers and artists are perceived differently by people in their lives.
The latest viral trend in digital Maharashtra is the Hou de Kharcha meme. Its typically an artificially created image of somebody looking triumphant while their friends congratulate them (via the captions) on achieving materialistic milestones such as Buying a Rifle to Light Diwali Crackers With,or Buying an Enfield Bullet by Way of a Loan (I must confess I thought the second one was real,but that only speaks for how outlandish our real traffic-light hoardings are).
The kicker in these memes is that the language is Marathi,complete with fancy salutations and signatures. The punchline however smacks of slang Hou de Kharcha!
This translates literally to Let There Be Expenditure. Not impressed? Well,what the phrase really means,in all its feisty spirit and zany context,is Let it Rain. (stacks of money,as Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne have been teaching us through western hip hop for years)
This is Gen Ys hedonistic sauciness at its very best. Not surprisingly the internet is flooded with countless Hou de Kharcha memes and each one seems to add a new Marathi catchphrase to its gaudy script. Apart from proving that Indians are adept the inane internet jokes game,the trend has also unexpectedly pushed regional-language humour into the mainstream.
Omkar Wadke,a Fergusson College graduate who also happens to be the admininstrator of the official Hou de Kharcha Facebook page with over 1,65,000 fans,answers enthusiastically when I ask if the bird has flown beyond the Marathi-speaking crowd. An agenda-less chap if there ever was one,hes clear that his page is not going to be a vehicle for any social messages or propaganda.
This pop art is content to just be. Although considering the short shelf life of online fads,after which they begin to nauseate and then ricochet off your glazed eyes,its yet to be seen how long this pop art will be around.
No cause for fans to worry yet though. Hes received requests for memes in Hindi and English but has so far stuck to cherry-picking and publishing the most deserving entries in Marathi,the language hes most comfortable with. Political content and vulgarity are
party poopers,he says,and much editing needs to be done. This makes me wonder if theres a job opportunity here. I must ask Mr Wadke. He may plead lack of funding,but I will just say,thats right,you guessed it.
The author is a chess grandmaster and former national champion