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Verve People
September 19, 2013

You Do?

Text by Neha Gupta. Illustrations by Wyanet Vaz.

Stand-up comedians are applauded at their gigs with rousing ovations and full throated chortles. Talk to them and the conversations lead to more witty comments, cleverly steering away from the personality that lies beneath the charisma. Neha Gupta discovers their romantic, quirky side

  • Vir Das, Shivani Mathur, Actor, Entrepreneur
    Vir Das, Shivani Mathur
  • Azeem Banatwalla, Sana Khan, Stand-Up Comic, Businessman, Dentist
    Azeem Banatwalla, Sana Khan
  • Sorabh Pant, Iva Bagchi, Stand-Up Comic, Author, Writer
    Sorabh Pant, Iva Bagchi
  • Neeti Palta, Rahul Palta, Stand-Up Comic, Script Writer, Banker
    Neeti Palta, Rahul Palta

VIR DAS, STAND-UP COMIC, ACTOR, SINGER.
SHIVANI MATHUR, ENTREPRENEUR.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: DATING.

SCRIPT
Four years ago when a girl from Delhi crashed into Vir Das’ housewarming party and didn’t laugh at his jokes, the comedian was smitten. “Sometimes when you’re a comedian, people just laugh at everything. You tend to gravitate more towards people who are not laughing than to those who are.” The relationship began on a practical note with friendly encounters, keeping nascent attractions at bay to get to know each other first.

PRACTICE
To woo this easy-going, level-headed lady, Vir decided that ditching the instinctive humour card for a sweet one would work better. The time she moved into her apartment, he was lifting boxes. And when she finally settled in, he bought her a life-sized stuffed St Bernard to appease her animal-adoring heart. The most fun date as Shivani remembers, “He rang my doorbell one day, standing there with a twister mat and two bottles of champagne.” Music in the background, the two tumbled over each other in a tangle on coloured dots between mouthfuls of bubbles. Back then she was only getting to know him. And all she knew was his charm. “I didn’t really try to be funny – we just went with the flow,” Vir admits.

His funny bone categorically sprang out at her when she decided to attend one of his performances. It left her with a laugh-stitch in the sides, after which he received a standing ovation. And before that, she even got a glimpse of one of his other characteristics.

“Four hours before I’m up [on stage] I’m very silent. She had to see that side of me sooner or later because I can be quite moody.”

“It was quite a contrast to his otherwise garrulous self!” she proclaims.

PERFORMANCE
They avoid getting into arguments before his show. Even if they happen to trip into a spat, Shivani understandingly lets it go easily. “My audience won’t understand that I just fought with my girlfriend, right?” But Vir isn’t the type of person who loses his cool often. And neither is she. It works beautifully because the couple believes that life is too short to hold on to anything for too long. They resolve their differences within the hour and move on. Hedonistic indulgences usually pacify the irked partner. She enjoys cheese and olives; he relishes those yesteryear pastry flavours from old-time bakeries – think pineapple, Black Forest, chocolate.

Besides, staying mad at him is even harder. There are times when she is all geared to give him a good scolding. Half-way through, when he foresees rising tempers, he breaks into song. They’re extemporaneous lyrics on the argument itself. Naturally she can’t resist a smile.

Vir and Shivani have hit upon their comfortable spot after finding out and coming to terms with the other’s idiosyncrasies. Take the comedian to a party and at midnight he insists on leaving for home. “At first I found it strange. But now it’s a joke. We call him Cinderella and start locking doors and windows to thwart his escape.” His excuse is that work sometimes demands his time till the wee hours of the morning. “I’m an early riser. So when I have the opportunity to turn in at a reasonable hour, I’m tempted!” Luckily for him, Shivani can empathise with him on this front since she isn’t one to sleep in either.

FINALE
Ask them about their future together and Vir quips, “I don’t know. She could wake up one morning and find herself suddenly engaged or she could be taken to a bullock cart in the backyard!”

AZEEM BANATWALLA, STAND-UP COMIC, BUSINESSMAN.
SANA KHAN, DENTIST.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: ENGAGED.

SCRIPT
Eight years ago they were in the same tuition class. There were some dozen students and neither Azeem nor Sana had noticed each other; up until he cracked a joke. “It was so bad I had to look up and at him. I mean we’re solving trigonometry functions and suddenly he screams ‘sexy square’ for SEC C2.” The next year they met each other in college again. Azeem was looking to make friends and through sheer coincidence got chatting with a few of Sana’s schoolmates. When she spotted him her first reaction was, “You’re the same guy who cracks bad jokes!” He had no recollection of her. And no, this didn’t kick off infatuation from either side. In fact, the boy started dating Sana’s best friend for what lasted a short three months.

PRACTICE
It was years later when he realised his affections for the girl. “Very rarely would she be single to give me an opportunity to ask her out.” When he finally saw a window, he asked, “Hey aunty, can I talk to you for a minute?” Turns out he calls every girl he knows aunty. He then led with, “I’m terrible with these things. So will you just be my girlfriend?”

The dynamics of their relationship changed if only slightly with the new status. But otherwise, she asserts that her fiancé is a romantic. On their first anniversary as a couple he had booked a room at a luxury hotel, ordered champagne and a menu of goodies. Another time, for her birthday he had designed a mock-magazine that illustrated their time together from acquaintance.

PERFORMANCE
When things started to move from serious to committed, it was time to meet the parents. The comic’s humorous gut suddenly broke sweat. For the first introduction, Sana’s father insisted that her mum and he meet the boy and his parents without her. This rippled into more fear. That her father owns two guns is a known fact. “I was terrified to finally meet the man with weapons. I expected him to walk in with a gun aimed at me!” Awkward silences filled the room. Azeem wouldn’t dare risk a joke that would bounce off in the wrong direction. Thankfully his loquacious father saved the situation.

Now each time he meets the parents, his future father-in-law jokes about the revolvers. It seems the groom-to-be is gradually warming to him. The families often meet to discuss the couple’s liaison. There never was a formal exchange of rings. The parents made decisions on the wedding dates and just informed the bride and groom. Suddenly it was more like an arranged marriage set-up for the two.

FINALE
Sana always fancied getting married in a white dress. They are planning such a wedding, just with friends, before their final nikaah. The interesting part is that her maid of honour is that same best friend who once dated Azeem, and Sana will be given away by one of her ex-boyfriends. That much has been decided, as of now!

SORABH PANT, STAND-UP COMIC, AUTHOR.
IVA BAGCHI, WRITER.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: MARRIED (LOVE).

SCRIPT
“I work as a monkey in a zoo,” is how Sorabh had introduced himself to Iva five years ago. The evening had passed in a blur and the next day the comedian sent a friend request to all the girls he had met at the party. The two got chatting online. A peculiar conversation it was, for she noticed he shares the same surname with her mum. “This probably makes us members of the same ancestral clan, so that means we can never get married,” she remarked at the time.

They still went on their first date to a pizza parlour. When she excused herself to powder her nose, he found the perfect opportunity to scheme a ruse. He immediately got to work asking people around him for their birth dates. When Iva returned, he boasted of being able to deduce strangers’ birthdays with just a glance. Of course he was challenged, and of course the girl was astounded.

Their following dates were sporadic, bordering on platonic, till the seventh one. That’s when they prophesied a relationship in the offing, sharing a first kiss to Gloria Estefan’s classic break-up song – I Will Survive.

PRACTICE
About 18 months in love, Sorabh decided he wanted to spend his life with Iva. There was pressure on the couple as well from both their families to quickly ‘settle down’. Iva, succumbing to this insistence, oblivious to her partner’s intentions, dropped hints looking for answers about their future. She had her patience tested because the boy took his time. “People were constantly nagging me to make it official. So I was like let’s challenge this lot!” he now sheepishly admits.

PERFORMANCE
A year later Sorabh picked a huge fight with the girlfriend, telling her off about how badly the relationship was doing and made her feel terrible. Livid, she readied herself to end it all with him the next afternoon. Despite determinedly dialling him, he refused to answer her calls. Just as she was about to fall into another blubber, Sorabh’s best friend walked into her room, mechanically handed over a CD and left. When she played it, Sorabh appeared on screen in full Lord Of The Rings regalia uttering, “Oh young diva, you must go out on this quest – this is The Lure Of The Rings.”

All gloom was replaced with intrigue as she ran down to her awaiting chariot, a pre-booked taxi. Inside was a food hamper with a clue to her first of seven destinations; each place held a clue to the next. Five hours of chase ended with Iva spotting her knight beneath a tree. As she walked towards him, he took a knee with an ambiguous, “Will you accept this?” She accepted the ring in tears till Sorabh whispered, “This is Rs 200 ring. For the real deal, follow the clue” and bolted off. The last destination was Sorabh’s home, where the final proposal took place.

FINALE
That’s when Iva was awarded diamonds for her patience. Finally they were wed in a resort at Corbett National Park, more popularly known for its tiger and elephant conservation programmes. And after the wedding, they decided a honeymoon would have been a tad bit much considering they had spent ample exclusive time together anyway. So Sorabh, his sister, mum and wife all took off on a family-moon.

NEETI PALTA, STAND-UP COMIC, SCRIPT WRITER.
RAHUL PALTA, BANKER.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: MARRIED (ARRANGED).

SCRIPT
Very innocently she accepted her uncle’s invitation to dinner, with no inkling of a sneaky blind date set-up. Neeti was visiting Delhi during her college break as a post-graduate student from Pune. She was accustomed to his friends dropping in last minute for such outings and so made nothing of the young man and his family who had joined them. “I only got suspicious when this oldish lady (Rahul’s aunt) kept staring at me and asking me all sorts of questions. When the question became the textbook ‘what are your hobbies?’ I froze as realisation hit.”

Discerning the lady’s angst, Rahul escorted her out for some air. That’s when she unleashed her mixed reactions to this sudden encounter. Despite everything, “the simple yet feisty, not-planning-to marry (ever), with no knowledge or inclination to cook (ever), five feet two inch tall girl in a luxurious Delhi hotel wearing her cousin’s clothes two sizes too big with rubber slippers,” besotted the potential groom.

Their first conversation went something on these lines.

He asked: So, are you looking to get married?

She said: Absolutely not!

PRACTICE
At the next meeting that followed, she allowed him to take her out to dinner on the evening of Holi. He arrived with a bunch of loosely put together flowers – apparently the florist was drunk on festive ale. The restaurant was thoughtfully picked out with mood-setting lights, candles, and violinists drawing serenading tunes from under their chins. Suddenly Neeti’s nose detected unpleasant smells. The man on the next table was silently relieving himself of gas. To make light of what could have been a spoiler moment, she discussed how the candle flame would flicker if their neighbour let loose another one.

In spite of these unusual conversations, nothing seemed to frazzle Rahul out of pursuing her. And so, that evening he was convinced that he had found his soulmate. He then dialled her mum with the good news. In return, he was advised not to share it with Neeti, lest she ran away. The eight-month courtship didn’t mean frequent visits. This was during the time when email was a new concept and flights weren’t as regular. So the wooing continued with heart-shaped pillows, hand-written poetry, and long letters. Gradually she realised her feelings for him. But he had to be extremely careful not to scare her away with a sudden proposal.

PERFORMANCE
Before Neeti plunged into a headlong ‘yes’, she just had to figure if he had a sense of humour. “One day I marched up to him and asked ‘kiss me?’ Clearly he wasn’t expecting that and replied vaguely. At this point I held up a Kiss Me toffee and in all innocence repeated my question. His reaction would’ve made the funniest video.” Clearly he had passed the test.

Later that evening when on the phone, Rahul finally took the courage to propose. “He claims he got down on one knee when he asked. But since we didn’t have FaceTime then, who knows?”

FINALE
A night before their wedding, Neeti left home in a panic, only to have her family find her re-evaluating her options over a bucket of chicken wings. “It was uncanny how Rahul could read me so well. On the day of the wedding he sent me two dozen red roses with a little note saying ‘Please make it for our date tonight.’” And since then they have been living happily ever after for 17 years and still counting.

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