In April 2015, Ramit Verma was watching the news when Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on air, delivering a speech during a visit to Canada. It was a regular speech, but Verma sat up suddenly when he thought he heard Modi mispronounce “wind energy” as “weed energy”.
Verma downloaded a clip of the speech and crafted a 16-second video, stitching it together with memes and a Bob Marley soundtrack. He then uploaded it onto his YouTube channel, titled Official PeeingHuman, which at the time had 10-20 subscribers. “I posted it with a lot of expectations ki this will go viral, but it didn’t,” Verma said. “But then some Splitsvilla six or seven season winner picked it up from somewhere, and she posted it and then it went viral.” A week later, he said, “for a couple of days it was trending on Twitter for an hour or three hours. It trended at number one on Twitter.”
Encouraged by the response, Verma, a commerce graduate from Delhi, began creating and uploading content more regularly. Now, more than three years later, his memes and videos have spread far and wide through social media and WhatsApp groups, and have become vital parts of a comedic culture that dares to make fun of a ruling establishment that most of the country’s media treats with kid gloves (see Arnab Goswami’s interview of Modi versus his interview of Rahul Gandhi for a blatant example of this kind of bias). Verma now has more than 380,000 likes on Facebook, more than 39,700 followers on Instagram, 161,000 subscribers on YouTube and more than 20,000 followers on Twitter.
“Internet media is the only hope of any democracy in media and media upholding democracy.”
Verma was helped along the way by Kunal Kamra, with whom he shares an apartment, and who posts a lot of Verma’s content on his own pages. Verma also edits Kamra’s interview show Shut Up Ya Kunal. “After I met him and he started posting my videos on his page, it got a lot of traction,” Verma said. “Now on Facebook, I have more likes than him, which is a very unfair, because I got a lot of traction, a lot of visibility because of him.”
For a long time after he began, Verma’s family wasn’t sure what he did. One day a friend who was staying at his house showed them his work. “I walked in on them watching my videos, and I got really embarrassed. The video they were watching “was very sexual,” Verma said. “Like Amisha Patel and Bobby Deol sexual comedy scenes. It wasn’t sexual but they were talking about their suhaag raat and it was a really silly scene.” Because he was embarrassed, Verma never ended up explaining what he did to his family. “They’re not content watchers in general,” he said. His sister is a fan of Kunal Kamra, but did not want to watch Shut Up Ya Kunal. “She said, when Kamra puts up his standup videos then tell me, Shut Up Ya Kunal toh I can’t watch,” he said. “And I was like, ya but I don’t work on the standup material. And she was like, ‘Haan but voh batana.’”
“If someone wants to check if I’m neutral or not, or if I belong to an IT cell, then they will find multiple videos already, making fun of Rahul Gandhi, or Kejriwal.”
Verma had scathing words for the effect that Modi and Goswami have had on the Indian media, and for the media itself. “I think they’ve together done more damage to Indian media than anyone could ever do,” he said. “And Modi toh separately has done other damage also.” According to him, the two have “taken Indian media to a place where there is no comeback. Now only the internet will have to replace it. Internet media is the only hope of any democracy in media and media upholding democracy.”
He rejected accusations that he was soft on parties other than the BJP. “If someone wants to check if I’m neutral or not, or if I belong to an IT cell, then they will find multiple videos already, making fun of Rahul Gandhi, or Kejriwal.”
Occasionally, Verma hears of people using his work in arguments, or to represent their point of view. “People tell me they showed a person with a contrary opinion some of my videos to change their opinion, mostly to the elders in their families,” he said. “That’s a few recent messages that I got, and I was like, fuck this is great. Like it can’t get better than this.”
Here’s a tasting menu of PeeingHuman’s work: