How Did India’s First Farting Contest End Without Even a Whimper? An Investigation

Humour

How Did India’s First Farting Contest End Without Even a Whimper? An Investigation

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Some ideas are bad at a fundamental level. Like making Rahul Gandhi the face of your party, or casting Sonam Kapoor in any film, or dating Kartik Aaryan. These projects are borne out of extreme emotion, but their terribleness is so evident that everyone from a WhatsApp uncle to a newborn baby knows they’re going to end with little whimpers.

Another such whimper was felt in Surat on Sunday, where India’s first farting competition was held. Titled “WTF — What the Fart”, the event invited participants from across the state to display their “loudest, longest and strongest” fart. The prize? The title of India’s “Padshah” and 10,000, provided enough flatulent folk participate.

The event was the contrivance of 48-year-old singer Yatin Sangoi, a former finalist of the now defunct  Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, and former judge of “Surat Idol”. The idea apparently first occurred to him when he was watching TV with his family, and accidentally let one rip. The rest of his family laughed, and brushed it off. But Sangoi saw gold, and went on to plan an entire event to “remove the taboo around farting”.

Despite all his credentials, the event was far from a success. A grand total of two contestants turned up – and both failed to perform under pressure. The event was all gas and no farts. So what went wrong?

I reached the venue — hotel La Terrenza — nearly 30 minutes after the time mentioned  on the poster. There were two people in queue at the registration desk, squabbling over the ₹100 entry fee being charged to “visitors”. The entry fee apparently wasn’t advertised in the event’s now viral marketing. Those who did pay, however, did get the word “Poison” stamped on their wrists, so it was worth it.

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The entry fee apparently wasn’t advertised in the event’s now viral marketing. Those who did pay, however, did get the word “Poison” stamped on their wrists, so it was worth it.

Parthshri Arora

A quick look at the register revealed that a total of 14 people had braved the Surat heat on a Sunday morning to attend. 

“What benefits you are giving visitors? How many participants have come,” a gentleman asked 19-year-old Paridhi, who was seated at the desk. She seemed fazed by his question, and immediately called her boss to ask what the “benefits” were.

As you’d presume, organising a fart competition wasn’t Paridhi’s childhood dream — it was an internship she sorted out as part of her Event Management diploma. And she probably hadn’t attended the class where they taught her to demand a fee to smell strangers’ farts. She parroted the company line: “More participants will come, so many have registered, please pay and attend.”

The gentleman left, an ominous sign of things to come.

I too left Paridhi and her empty desk, and took the elevator to the fourth floor of the hotel, where a stage was placed in the middle of a banquet hall. It was flanked by a number of signboards, a couple of which read, “Fart Wars” and “Become India’s Best Father Farter”. It was no Van Gogh, granted, but at least the hosts cared enough to hype their event with innovative merch. The #UrbanBitch in me was proud.

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It was flanked by a number of signboards, a couple of which read, “Fart Wars” and “Become India’s Best Father Farter”.

Parthshri Arora

A few steps in, I register Arijit Singh’s “Tujhe Kitna Chahne Laga” — courtesy a DJ Jayesh — but not a whisper of flatulence. The hall didn’t smell as bad as I had presumed either (a friend had advised me to hide a perfume bottle in my shirt’s sleeve just in case)..

I don’t know if it boils down to my generation’s obsession with viral trends, but so far this is not what I was expecting. Seeing about 100 people try to rescue aliens last week in the US, or a thousand people come together to sing, “Bolna na aunty aaun kya”, in Delhi a couple of years ago, made me think it would be quite easy to gather some people to fart in public. Call me an idealist, but I definitely wasn’t expecting an empty room.

I found solace in the dining room next door, where one of the two participants 50-something, bespectacled and lithe Sushil Jain, was belting out farts for a group of local Gujarati vloggers. Jain runs a shendana (peanuts) selling business in Bardoli, and travelled over an hour by bus to attend. “I read about the event on WhatsApp, and thought I could win with my talent,” he said.

Among his fans was a tall woman wearing a white dress and an ecru jacket that drew attention to the burgundy in her hair. She introduced herself as Kavitha Parmar, a finalist for “Mrs India Worldwide 2018”, and one of the three judges for the event. “It’s a one of a kind competition, and Yatin is my friend, so why not?” she said when I asked why she was considered an expert in the science of farts. “We are looking forward to him doing this on stage,” she said, clearly in awe of Sushil Jain’s well-timed farts.

The other two judges stood beside her — a psychiatrist named Dr Pranav Pachchigar (who I’m convinced was looking for patients), and local RJ Devang Raval. They said they were looking out for three facets to farting: Loudness, length, and musicality. Now while musicality is subjective, length and loudness of a fart are not. For this, special equipment is required. Luckily, a Surat-based web design and tech company called Netsol saw the same opportunity I initially did, and decided to partner up with Sangoi for the event. 

Before you ask, Netsol is absolutely legit. They even make 4k TVs. But their real credentials are their two big successes — a sanitary napkin destroyer machine, and a “fastest-finger-first” machine for a local antakshari competition. The latest of their inventions is the “Fart-O-Meter”, a device that picks up sounds with sensitive mics and measures the amplitude of flatulence. “It displays the figures digitally,” Sales Head, Sudhish Kannoth said. “Netsol engineers were able to develop this product in two days.” 

Kannoth is unclear about the practical uses of the “Fart-O-Meter” post the event. “It depends on how good at marketing I am,” he said, simply. It’s clear after just this short conversation that the dude is incredibly inspiring. A role model of sorts. #Awwed. 

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Kavitha Parmar, was one of the three judges for the event. The other two judges stood beside her — a psychiatrist named Dr Pranav Pachchigar (who I’m convinced was looking for patients), and local RJ Devang Raval.

Parthshri Arora

When contestant Sushil first walked up on stage holding a plate of Maggi, a ripple ran through the room, fully prepared to turn into a Mexican wave. I’ve seen some fairly big artists live (shout out to Avicii), but this was something else. For Sushil wasn’t going to sing about his feelings, but emote physically, like a gymnast. Sushil finished his plate of noodles and stared into the mic awkwardly for a few minutes, and then spectacularly failed to produce a single fart. No lightning, no thunder. Just a pair of tightly clasped middle-aged Gujarati buttcheeks, failing to deliver on a promise. It was super sad.

It was then the turn of Alkesh Pandya, who I was surprised to see, also failed to produce a fart at possibly the only moment in his life it was expected of him. “I tried a lot, but at the key moment it didn’t happen,” he told me after “the show”. Apparently he was overcome by a bout of shyness at the worst possible moment, a problem he had signed up for the competition to overcome. He didn’t look super dejected though, he even promised to participate in more farting events later. Both Sushil and him were given consolation prizes worth 2,000 and left to deal with the media. 

The championship then sort of ended, much like a fart in the wind. That hasn’t stopped organiser Sangoi from being upbeat about the future. He told me that he had learnt a lot from this minor setback, and that he would consider taking the competition to metros like Delhi and Mumbai soon. He’s also figured a workaround for shy contestants. “We’ll set up cubicles and let contestants fart in private. The mics attached to their machines will trumpet the sounds via speakers to the crowd.”

Now he isn’t exactly the first ambitious, great-at-marketing Gujarati, to attempt to overturn a failed product and take it nationwide, is he? So maybe it’s worth seeing how it goes.

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