Sunday, October 04, 2009

Divine Conversations II

“Ooh, aah, hey, hold me tight on the left… oye, you on the right, lift me higher or else you will drop me”!! Man, Mahisasur was easy killing. Balancing yourself atop these tens of men is so tough! To make things worse, all my kids are on the platform with me. Do I take care of myself, my husband, my kids, my weapons, my make up, my saree …? I sure deserve to be a goddess! Thank You for declaring me one.

“Ma, are you okay”, whispered Ganesha. I can hardly breathe down here. I can hardly speak either. They have stuffed my mouth with so much of sondesh & mishtee, I can hardly move my stuck lips. Hope Lakshmi Didi & Saraswati Didi are fine. Am sure Karthik Dada has flown away in his pretty peacock. Can someone please find my rat? Thank You.

“Stop complaining Ganesha”, snapped Lakshmi. You are the heaviest of the lot. The world has moved on to dieting & yoga & gymming. Why don’t you start thinking about reducing a bit, will help all of us. Every year, we are made to go through this ordeal and you are not much of help with your belly, roving nose & buck teeth. With all the money & wealth I bestow onto people, I for myself, cannot do any bit of spa treatment. Can anyone please look at having Pujo indoors in an AC hall next year, please? Thank You.

“Didi, they broke my strings”, choked Saraswati. I had ordered the latest version of lithium wires this year. But these hooligans have no respect for music or its beholder. Aren’t we supposed to be celebrities too? Then, why don’t we get some security cover? I mean what justice is this? People have fun on our account for 10 days & on the 10th day they just dump us like nobodies! Mind it, Ma. I am telling you right away, I am not coming next year. Thank You for treating us like this.

“Calm down, calm down, pretty peacock”, shouted Karthik exasperatedly. Hey, you guys, can you please calm down & keep your voices low. You are frightening my peacock! He is not used to crowds, allergic to sweets & is a high maintenance fly. He needs space to spread his feathers, clay to land his petite feet & pearls to match his colors. On top of it, he is a low mileage guy, flies only 20 meters at a stretch. Yet, I come here every year, bring my beauty along & try having fun. Could you please keep it down? Thank You.

Hey, fellows, came a voice from down below. You all are worried about your own problems. Atleast you are standing on your feet and please note that you are standing on my chest!! Can you please spare me a few light moments by stepping aside? Also, I don’t know if it’s possible but can someone give me a hand & scratch my back, please? I think Ganesha’s rat is somewhere there. Thank You, said Shiva.

“Oops, what was that? What did I step on”? shrieked Ma, suddenly. “That was I, Ma, Nag”. Was tired lying there around Baba’s neck so thought, will stroll a bit before they throw us all in the dirty waters. Hearing all of you, can I also say something? Not many know except Baba that I suffer from hydrophobia!! But, Thank You for letting me speak.

“Hydrophobia, my foot.” Not just my foot, my shoulders are paining more than the arms of the dhaaki players who continued playing day & night. They would not stop a bit. I mean, sure, kudos to them, but for a moment think of me, man. I have been standing here in this most awkward posture, stretching on my left knee, with the lion kneading ferociously with his claws on my right knee, I have to be turned towards Ma, time and again trying to dodge the Trishul, while holding this heavy sickle. You guys should rest a while, let the dhaaki relax & give me some moments to stretch too!! But no, dhaaki won’t stop playing; crowds won’t stop coming and no peace for me, ofcourse. Thank you for finally taking us away & dropping us in the water. I will get some much needed stretching space, fresh air to breathe & not so fresh water to wash off sweat. Thank you.


Divine Conversations I

“Holy Mother! What is that noise at this hour of the night?”

“It’s not night, its early morning. It’s not noise either. That’s a Welcome Song. The mortals are singing in the praise of the Mother you just remembered, Ma Durga, & welcoming us.”

“Ok, thank you for the welcome, yet another year. And please, do not get any happier. They are welcoming only the one they are praising. Not you & me. And a welcome will be more welcomed if you are not woken up suddenly in the middle of the night, huh, ok, ok, early morning, in such darkness from your deep slumber without a warning!” I mean, there are lions, snakes, rats, owls & god knows what all kinds of animals roaming, isn’t it?

“Don’t worry. God knows. And She will make sure you rest in peace, Mahi.”

Yeah, thanks Lux. By the way, that reminds me, which soap do you use?”

“Soap!! Sorry, Mahisasur. In these 10 days, there is no chance on earth that we siblings get a chance to get fresh. No bath, no freshening up, no costume changes, no make up. Just, nothing. We are at the mercy of the hands of the artisan community. We resemble their imagination. Ofcourse, one of the biggest (mis)happenings of the year on earth, may become the theme of the year to certainly fuel their creativity. We have no choice though, before, during or after things are finalized. We have to stand still, keep smiling & keep blessing all kinds of souls bowing down infront of us. Rich, poor, evil, cruel, manipulative, Good Samaritan, smart, stupid. We have to listen to all kind of prayers.”

“Really, Lakshmi? So don’t the wicked ones worship the Evil Lords?”

“Ha, fat chance. Creatures like you are made Lords & brought only as a symbol to display the difference between good & evil, right & wrong. But then, we can only show them a path. To follow or not, is the choice of mortals.” Even or odd, there is only God.

“Now, I get you. Even though in our statuette we are given super biceps, six pack abs & a magnetic personality, we never win. I mean, even the lion gets sweets at the end of it all. No one feeds me!”

“Don’t feel so bad, mate.” But they do dedicate a session of Puja & mantras for you too.”

“Tell me one thing, Laks. You are the goddess of wealth & prosperity, right? So, do you get requests only to make money & garner more & more wealth?”

“Mostly, yes. But then there are people who also request to reduce money & loss of wealth.”

“No kidding, really?”

“Let me complete, my friend.” They pray this for the other person!!

“While on my way this time, I overheard Narad saying that earth is facing its worst financial crisis ever. Has it got something to do with you, Lakshmi?

“I don’t think so. The Puja that I am going to pose for this year, had a budget of Rs. 10 Lacs. This year they have planned for Rs. 30 Lacs. Last year, they had booking for 14 stalls. It has doubled this year. Last year, the President of the Puja drove a Santro. I saw him driving into the pandal in a new Honda City this year.

I clearly don’t see any crisis. Financial, being the least of them, if at all.


Monday, September 14, 2009


It’s always a fantastic feeling to revisit places you have been before, experienced and lived. Your old city, old house, old school, old college. But fun is also when you visit a place which is not the same place, but everything, or atleast most of the characteristics remain the same. The correlations that conjure up in the mind make contemplation interesting.

I happened to be invited for a small talk at a B-School. I accepted for three reasons. First, it gives an opportunity to go back to campus, interact with the current set of youth who constantly alert you of changing, well, fashion I should say. Second, there is always a chance to bring back some good memories as tokens, such as a silver plaque or a bronze plate which can be sold in times of distress. Third and most important, it’s one of the few times in your lives that more than two people actually hear you, if not listen, do not interrupt incessantly and even nod in affirmation sometimes! I love that sight.

Anyhow, I made sure I wore one of the best shirts, certainly the best tie and a fitting trouser. I also ensured I don’t forget my handkerchief as I am famous for treating my clothes made out of living organisms and feed them all curries & dry stuff that I taste. Although, I did polish my shoes, but it really did not matter as it was raining heavily and the run from my car to the auditorium porch took away all shine & glory. I was welcomed rather graciously, irrespective of my wet shirt, dirty shoes & dripping spectacles and immediately ushered in and before being I could request was shown the way to the washroom. I was impressed and guessed the placement season nearing, I was a rather good catch. I was told later, there are security dogs on campus of the Great Dane & German Shepherd breeds that are trained to smell dripping rain water mixed with sweat to trace trespassers.

Before the program began formally, all dignitaries were moved into a room, I feared, to assess who all could be made to sit on the dias and who were to be seated below. I was right. I was requested to sit in the first row of seats below. I agreed quickly as showing my wet self to an auditorium full of students, who had been probably pleaded, begged & threatened to fill seats, was not a bright idea. They would boo me away even before am formally introduced, I thought. By the time my turn came, there was a tea break, a lunch break, a long thank you session to all pioneers, academicians, sponsors and organizing committee. To top it all, four speakers had already spoken their mind, body & soul. When I reached the microphone I realized, most of the audience was sleeping! Miraculously, the video projector conked off! I was reminded of the popular dialogue penned by Mayur Puri, made famous by SRK in OSO, “blah blah….. puri kaaynat tumhe usse milaane mae…. blah blah”. By the time it was reinstated, I got an opportunity to make myself heard. I started, “I know we all are sleepy. I don’t blame you. My predecessors on the dais have always been front benchers. I can empathize with the ones dropping from your chairs. Now, that I am here, let me take you to the first place we go when we get up, the loo”. Lets take a loo break…. That got a few standing, and the ones dropping back to their back-rests of the chair. I knew I had got their attention.

It only helped that my slides were named bucket, bucket handle, tap, water & a fresh bath. I spoke a little over 10 minutes on “Career Growth”. I sensed, initially, I was not making much sense correlating loo with the careers of students. But as the slides unfolded, I could see shoulders shrugging up, heads raising and the whispers getting silent. Finally, I guess, I had started making sense.

I figured out, I was not the only one loo’nely in the crowd!



Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Stars, moons & planets, together all are called a galaxy. But they all revolve in their own different orbits. Grand parents with fours sons, their four wives, who have two children each who are also married with children together, are called a joint family. There are different layers to each fold of existence. Even literal statements are constructed by so many ingredients; language, grammar, tone and a personal connotation and because it has so many variants it is bound to have multi-dimensions. It cannot be one-dimensional. Moreover, every individual has her own belief, values and perceptions to decode a particular statement. Hence, it may sometimes become a little confusing to comprehend one statement in a mutually exclusive way.

Some say, people over complicate things. But then, some people actually simplify things very conveniently, branding issues in two distinctive baskets. For example, good and bad, right and wrong, natural and unnatural …For them life is very simple. But, life is not black and white.

The biggest debate taking place these days is happening on a very feeble understanding. In essence, a relationship is an association between two human beings. Now, there are two subjects here. One is the association and the other is human being. Now, when we prefix it with a term “same sex” why does the definition need to change? It still remains an association between two human beings.

The section has been named or numbered to denote something special. The no. 3 denotes the three different orientations; female-male, female-female & male-male. The two 7s ensure same sex is highlighted & covered well. But from where I see it, there are too many loopholes in the basic understanding of the concept. First, most of the debate that I hear & read is on the lines of the “act of sex” between people of the same sex. Declaring the “act of sex” between two people of the same sex as “unnatural” is another judgment. To top it, comparing it with ‘act of sex” with animals, super thought….!!

One, not all relationships are based on sex. Second, “act of sex” is a very natural act, irrespective of the “human beings” involved. (I will not comment on animals). For a moment, hypothetically, even if we consider that all relationships are based on sex, it may not be for pro-creation, which is the ultimate truth and outcome as per the super pundits of human life cycle. So, the particular act can be enacted by two individuals as per their wish to fulfill their “desire to explore other’s physical compatibility and satisfy one’s own physical requirement”. Period. If “act of sex” is such a huge issue of debate, why not create a separate section for such an important and imminent issue? Why keep it all in a state of confusion and mayhem?

What is one’s orientation is one’s own right and decision. Why not let it be? Why do we have to single them out and brand them as “different”?

Or else, ban all left handed people as majority people are right handed! Can we?

Being biased is one thing. Having a prejudice is also acceptable. But matters which are subjective and personal in nature have to be just that, personal.

If we think straight, we will see clearly that life is not as “straight” as it seems.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rate of Interest

Something which got me thinking is the concept of rate of interest. Once I started thinking more and more about it, what kept intriguing me and finally became a lot clearer is the fact that majority of the things, if not all, has interest attached to it. Especially, where there is a decision to be taken, interest rates play an even more important role. And on the contrary, the higher the interest rate, the better!

When you reach an impressionable age, you believe you are ready and can impress anyone you want to; you want to date on every date of the month in the calendar. You curse, that February has fewer days than other months, and you lost one day without a date. Anyhow, most of the time when you are dating, interest levels oscillate between simple attraction to even simpler things as lust. The girl has a cute smile, which means her lips are awesome. She has a distinctive style, simply meaning she has one of the greatest pair of jugs around. Am sure girls also lust for macho bearded kisses and cute butts. (I possessed both, by the way, at one point in time!!)

One of the biggest decisions in life is who to get married to? Both parties should be interested in each other, there has to be an increasing rate of that interest which finally should reach a point of no return where the interest goes beyond the principal….

Once married, the next biggest decision is buying a house. Now here is what actually got me interested in the title concept. Dodging all the tempting items of deciding on the dream home (flat versus duplex, 2BR or 3BR, balcony with sliding doors, French windows in the bedroom et all…) I will come straight the point of no return. Once we decided on the house, we needed money. We had saved up some money, we needed the rest as loan. There was a handsome amount to be loaned from a bank. We did the basic research and most certainly, nationalized banks offered fairly lower interest rates on home loans as compared to private banks. So, we decided to go for ourselves and submit an application for home loan in such banks.

Scene 1: A Bank, walking distance from our existing rented hide out. The branch opens at 1000 hours. We walk in exactly at 1000 hours of a bright Friday morning. Fortunately, the bank guy I enquired about who looks after home loans, was he himself! What a lucky start, I thought. However, he interrupted my thought before I could smile stating his system had developed some technical snag and would take sometime rectifying. I didn’t mind as it was a good beginning. As my wife and I waited, the security guard walked upto us and started enquiring about our purpose of the visit. Once we finished, he responded in a friendly but alert tone, that just yesterday a young couple had walked in another branch of theirs and looted the bank empty and injuring people too. I was impressed. The bank employee starts working on time, the security guard is alert. Man, all government run, aided or controlled institutions are improving, was confirmed. After a while, he called me. I seated myself infront of him and opened the conversation. “Sir, I need home loan”. He smiled and asked me my demographic details. Once I was finished, he started. He started and never seem to finish. He criticized our decision of having salary accounts in different banks and coming to a different bank for loan. He blasted us on not having a savings’ account in A Bank. He did not like it that we did not have a guarantor. He was very unhappy that we visited him!! Fortunately, his phone rang and he spent a good 15 minutes talking to the guy on the other side of the phone negotiating his car purchase and the freebies the guy could offer. We got a breather. He cut the phone and wanted to start all over again. We said thank you. In all this, we totally forgot to ask him the current rate of interest on the loan! His rate of interest in us was minimal, anyways.

Scene 2: A little pissed, we thought, never mind. This is just one of the banks. The others would be certainly better. So, we walked into Bank of I. The guy was really courteous and almost apologetically directed us that home loans are disbursed only from their Main Branch. We said to ourselves, see, they all are not the same. There are good people on earth who are interested in your interest. But they are not eligible!!

Scene 3: The moment we walked into P en Bank, we got the air that this is one bank which has really benchmarked itself to the private banks. They had the latest request slip machines, numerous ATMs, numerous tellers, smartly dressed security guards and smiling employees greeting their customers. While walking down to the basement where the home loan section was, we started getting a good feeling. An aged but smart lady greeted us. After the initial mutual enquiries, the lady showed some real interest in us. She said, “Where are you taking this property? We said Expressway. She quickly responded, “Fine, but I will have to confirm if these builders are in the approved list in our Bank. We were about to relax when she went on, “Since it’s on the expressway, why don’t you look for a branch near by”? When we said, it’s an expressway, there are no banks on the high way, she retorted, “Ok, so what is your permanent address”? On knowing that, she insisted we request for a loan from that neighborhood instead! It was confirmed, her rate of interest in our query was at the lowest. So, we did not bother her asking the home loan rate of interest also.

We knew, rate of interest depends on many things; kind of loan – auto, personal or home, principal amount, tenure etc. But the real interest has to go much beyond. Be it, home or personal loan, people have to be genuinely interested – professionally in their job and personally in your concern. Atleast, professionally and try and look at the benefit of the organisation, be a good ambassador to its brand.

We finally ended up calling the same bank guy whom we were avoiding, as he was selling loan at a higher interest rate but then he was high on interest levels too. No running around for us, he came home, collected all documents required and assured us of no further hassles. His words were - Our pain is his pain, henceforth…. Ofcourse, he was lying. Ofcourse, the interest that we will pay will be much higher than the pain that he will go through for us.

But for a moment, you would not mind paying that little extra for his interest and the rate at which he made those comments.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Divine Confusion

Just as I was about to invite some friends over drinks & dinner, one of them said, “sorry yaar, I don’t drink on Thursdays”. Another reacted, “abe yaar, I don’t drink on Saturdays”. Another said, “my wife is on fasts on Tuesdays & Fridays”. Now the only two days left in the week were Monday & Wednesday. Now, Monday is not the best days for a get together after a long weekend & a longer looking working Monday. So, the only day left was Wednesday. There was no drinking this week too. Huh.

Why & how do we do this? Fasts on Monday is for Lord Shiva, Tuesday for Hanuman, Wednesday for Ganesha, Thursday for Sai Baba, Friday for Lakshmi, Saturday for Shani Dev & Sunday for Lord Ravi or Sun God… and many more Gods have to fight it out among themselves for a slot in these seven days. Am sure some God must have filed a petition on increasing the no. of days in a week to adjust for fasts on their account.

While growing up, the moment fast-food was mentioned, mouth watered thinking of variety of Chinese food; chow-chow, chow-mein & Manchurians of the world. Now there is a range of edibles qualified as “fast-food”!! How can salt-less dal, onion-less vegetable & boiled potato with banana & milk equate to my chilli-chicken? I protest! People fasting have to decide on what to eat, on which days to eat & how to eat and people like me are questioning the concept of “fast-food”.

Aren’t the Gods confused too? I mean, on different days one may be praying to different Gods seeking their blessings. Now hypothetically, there are ten people who start their prayers by 7 in the morning on Monday to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva has Ganga Ma to manage on his head, the Naag to control on his neck & attend his Dance classes too! By the time Lord Shiva can attend to all worshippers, Tuesday arrives & they have rung the temple bell of Hanuman. Hanuman is an active God & has thousands of trees to hop & millions of miles to fly to attend to prayers. By the time Hanuman addresses their query, worshippers have moved to Sai Baba. Baba being a soft hearted, soft spoken & highly attentive person would certainly take time to revert to each & every mortal being. People don’t understand their plight & since their prayers are unheard move onto some other immortal source expecting some help.

All the above being immortal & supposedly Gods, cannot show their go backs to their devotees. They have to attend to all prayers. But how? By the time they move their attention to me, I have shifted my focus from “Om Nama Shivaaya” to “Hanuman Chaalisa”. By the time Chaalisa has its effect on Hanuman, Ganesha Mantra confuses the air in heavens. Just when Ganesha heard my voice & raised his hand to bless me, I have showed by back to him & started chanting the “Gayatri Mantra”!

We expect Gods to take us out of our miseries. Who will take the Poor Gods out of their dilemma? Whom to bless & how to bless? The moment Ganesha would try to smile on one of his devotees, Shiva would threaten to open his third eye & devastate the equilibrium because Monday is the first working day of the week, so he has the first right to bless. But Hanuman is on Tuesday & stands in between Shiva’s Monday & Ganesha’s Wednesday. Sai Baba, being silent & peace loving, would wait his turn on Thursday. But Lakshmi can’t wait as she missed last Friday’s shower blessing as she was attending to recession. No one dare come on the wrong side of Shani Dev. I think the safest is Ravi as it’s a holiday even up on the heavens. But then, there is no holiday for him as he has to burn all day. So, when does he take out time for mortals?

Go slow on fasts. Go slower on the chants. Go slowest on deciding your God of the Day. Give a thought to those up there, looking down at a billion prayers & playing “akkad, bakkad, bambae, bo….”

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bong Series (III) - The Bong Ultimatum

K in his short life has traveled a fair bit. His parents are in Lucknow; he studied in Mussoorie, moved to Kolkata for graduation, then to Trichy for his Management & has stayed longer stints in Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore & Hyderabad and Goa & shorter stays in Coorg, Kodaikanal & ofcourse Kolkata because of work. He tells me stories from everywhere, some usual & some unusual. But ofcourse, the most fascinating ones are from of bongs across these places or elsewhere.

Bengalis love to trabhel (I said, no ‘bhi’ in our bhocabulary). Infact, they love to travel in large groups. Family outings are always social outings with an intention to have some fun & a lot of rum. In a hill station, even a blind man can tell the arrival of a gang of Dadas & Boudis with their Laltu, Jhontu, Jhilmil & Laddoo, Batuk Mama & Lulu Mami not far behind. Whatever the weather, Boudis, Mamis & Kakimas will have their ears covered with colorful scarfs & Montu, Jhontu, Jhilmil & Laddoo will be made to wear monkey caps. What our Dadas, Mamas & Kakus wear is picture perfect too; a sleeveless sweater over a bright Kurta over loose trousers ending with sandals in their feet.

Back home, at the corner of the colony road called ‘rock’, the pure pleasure of ‘adda’ & stories of their travels & escapades would continue over countless cups of tea. Most would gather around Bapi Da & hear him detailing the exact height of the mountain, exact depth of the valley, exact temperature of the cold water from the tap with the exact expression on his face. It is mesmerizing. Later when Roxy Boudi would pass the club, some young lads would tease her asking if it was so cold, how was Bapi Da helping her keep warm? She would reply with a smile and, to their dismay, displace the pieces of the carom on the carom board which these boys were playing under a hanging bulb. Disturbing the game was annoying, but her naughty smile & the sway in her walk cools them off for a while.

Bengali Ma, living & bringing up her kids in Kolkata, is the best. The way she takes care of her kids, K says, he has not seen or heard anywhere else in the world, err, actually India, as K has never lived out of India. Just like any other mother, Ma would get up before her kids, wake them with a cuddle, get them dressed, prepare breakfast, make them eat, actually make them hog – early morning rice, dal, fish & milk. She would pack some snacks for tiffin too. There are water bottles for students of Class XII too. School bags get heavier with every passing class. On top of it, a kid has the tiffin box, water bottle & spectacles to balance on the nose. Ma has found a way. She does all the above herself. She picks the school bag, the tiffin box & the water bottle & carries it along with the kid till the school gate! Pity, she is not allowed inside.

If one has to visit Kolkata, it should never be in & around Durga Pujo. The city becomes mayhem. The creativity is unparallel, though, with the ever innovative Pujo pandals. The crowd & traffic jams beat your life out. There is love in the air everywhere. The girls are in their best, flowing open long hair, saree clad & innocently flirting with all boys in their new t-shirts, with jeans & sandals. There are new Kurtas flaunted too. The only problem is one cannot make out who is the maid of honor & who is the maid of the house. K tells me stories of his friends falling for the maid more than once in a single day!

Bengalis just cannot seem to have enough of food. Breakfast is over by 1000 hours, comprising of rice, dal, fish curry & curd. By 1300 hours it is lunch time & is the same & in equal amounts. Between 1700-1800 hours, they are hungry again & need a snack which comprises of egg or chicken or fish roll, phuchkas & Mughlai paranthas. Dinner is the heaviest meal with rice, dal, vegetable, fish curry, curd & sweet dish. Sweet dish reminds me of K telling me how there are sweet dish eating competitions at weddings in Kolkata where people hold records of eating over 50 shondeshs & 70 rosogullas all at one go, after the usual feasting on delicacies at the wedding!

All above was nonsense by a bong at heart….

Bong Series (II) - The Bong Supremacy

While most of K’s batchmates were pulled to a more happening part of the country, Kolkata pulled K ‘heabily’ towards her. K joined college in Kolkata & got to know how a ‘heaby’ life can be lived lightly. Can you get up as early as 0500 hours & still be late to office, everyday?

Nata Da gets up early to buy fresh catch of maach, everyday. He is carrying his newspaper with him so as to catch on news while the regular fish-guy lists the day’s fresh catch, argues on the rate, weighs, cleans, cuts the fish into pieces which is never to the satisfaction of our Bhodrolok & then gives him tips on how to cook this particular fish, everyday. Not one to keep quiet on the curt comment of the fish-guy on Central Government’s latest ruling over the Excise Bill, Nata Da gives him & the on-lookers a crash course on Excise Tax, subsidies & the lacunae in the Government’s policies. There is a slight resistance by a passerby on Nata Da’s outlook on China’s stance on World Bank’s subsidy cut but Nata Da who is multi-tasking all this while; selecting the fish, arguing on today’s rates, reading news, retorts sharply on China & EU’s non consensus & gets back to directing the fish-guy to cut the fish a little squarer today. On his way back, Nata Da sees a bunch of boys playing football. He cannot resist himself from shouting for not attending school & on top of it still not kicking the ball he showed yesterday. So, he keeps his bagful of purchase, lifts his dhoti & does a rewind of how to stop the ball, pass it with finesse & then shoot it with the outer part of the toe, keeping the other knee bent & the other foot directed towards the player to whom the ball should go. Just then he realises his newspaper is getting wet due to water from the fish pack. He curses the boys again, rushes & picks his bag & starts walking in a haste.

Just when Nata Da about to take the last turn to his house, he sees two known gentlemen talking animatedly on the ‘rock’. The moment it is clarified that Mr. Basu’s shoes are from London, there is that known expression of disbelief, anger & revolt on our Bhadrolok’s face. The next 30 minutes whizz past discussing the wardrobe of Mr. Basu, the untidy dhoti crease of Mr. Mitra & how even the lady who comes to clean their homes is better dressed than Ms. Banerjee who has been wearing the same saree since a fortnight. A sweet voice of a Bhadromohila from the balcony of a buidling breaks the debate. First, the person who supposedly stopped our Bharolok is cursed, then the other friend & finally the Bhadrolok is slapped words like the fish scales of an “ilish maach”. Nata Da had left home at 0600 hours & its 0900 hours now. While our Bhadrolok is getting ready for office, he remembers the sports section of the newspaper was left unfinished. He has his breakfast in a hurry constituting of rice, dal, a cooked vegetable, his much relished fish curry & finally curd rice. He is listening to his Bhadromohila’s dry, dumb & daily comments of non-sensical discussions right outside the house and that too even before starting his day. She is amazed what does Nata Da do all day in office? Bhadrolok smiles, not at her reactions. He has finished the sports section. He does not mind Bhadromohila not giving him his share of sweetdish in breakfast today but packing it for lunch.

Its 1100 hours. Nata Da knows he is late. But he also knows, he can be attacked by anyone & anywhere. Even the rickshawpuller knows the name of Costa Rica’s Finance Secretary, the bus ticket collector follows sports like a seal follows fish, the lift man in his office building is a Post Graduate in Political Science & smells of sections & clauses of the Indian Constitution. He has know why Leander Paes cannot speak bengali, reason for rising inflation in Cuba & Madhya Pradesh’s tourism budget. Passion redefines supremacy. Supremacy is not just about making impossible things possible. Its also about making possible things impossible.

K tore his shoe & walked into a shoe shop. Wandering around, suddenly he saw a man picking up a shoe & then telling his wife, “wow, this shoe is heaby light”!!

Bong Series (I) - The Bong Identity

The true identity of a true bong is that he does not hab the alphabet ‘bhi’ in his bhocabulary.

The rain Gods in an yet another unsuccessful attempt to save earth from the miseries of ‘bhodroloks’ & ‘bhodromohilas’, instructed the clouds to dump so much rain water on Kolkata that K, I hear, had his first visitor after three days he was born. The roads were flooded, houses had knee deep waters inside, there was no electricity and ofcourse, all K knew was to cry, either of hunger or feeling hot & humid. I pity his mother who had to face the brunt of the whole community from the Gods. The visitor, infact, could not enter the building and came in chest deep waters to deliver food from the window of the hospital ward.

Anyhow, K never got to grow up among bongs. He was (un)lucky that his father was based and working in Luck(y)now. Soon as he was growing up, he was sent to a residential school in the hills of Mas(t)soori. On the very first day, for lunch he was made to sit beside a bong girl. They were served mangoes, neatly cut in small pieces, after the main meal. The moment the girl sprayed sugar and salt together on her mango, she was heavily ridiculed by all and sundry on the lunch table for her communal idiosyncrasy she demonstrated and K too got branded as one, ban-gaali. Bangaali remains a ‘gaali’ for all bongs who join. Nonetheless, taste of sugar and salt together on mango isn’t that bad.

As time passed, K was simultaneously getting familiar with the surroundings of residential school and his new found identity, bangaali. Most bongs were from the eastern part of the country but the state was called West Bengal. All bongs looked studious and most of them wore spectacles but none of them actually were in the top three rankers in their respective classes. (Exceptions always prove the rule, so there might have been someone, am sure. K never told me about them). Most of them were laborious though, hence, many became favorites of teachers. K was not from West Bengal in east, K did not wear spectacles and on day three K was slapped by a teacher whose word spread as “K’s Welcome Slap”. K was a gone case. He was probably among the few bongs in the history of the school who was slapped on the third day, was made to kneel down in the second month of joining and became an “out-standing” student from the class by the fifth month. The only other guy I remember who became K’s competition and actually overtook him from his community was Sam, (Sadhan Mridha). He remains incorrigible. I salute you, mate. (Just for the record, K & Sam became flat mates while in college in Kolkata. Those stories, some time later…)

Once quizzing, K doesn’t know the difference between CPI, CPI(M) and CPM, he doesn’t love fish, prefers chapathi over rice & while eating rice prefers a spoon than eating with his hands, doesn’t understand Bengali literature, can listen to Rabindra Sangeet for maximum 10 minutes with 2 minute breaks in between & prefers wearing Kurta as a night suit than an evening gown to a party.

K’s some other symptoms though indicate something “fishy”. He sings okay & used to play decent football. K was certainly a romantic at heart who could fall in love every hour, with every girl he met and then let her go because if she doesn’t come back, she was never yours! So, K was born philosophical too. He believes after Satyajit Ray the only other Indian who deserves an Oscar is Mithun Chakraborty, supports Saurav Ganguly blindly & thinks Bappi Lahiri is the most under-rated Music Director of all times. He is also capable of competing in the “Park your Bum at one place Contest” & win the laziest creature on earth award, under any given situation.

Bongs can live without drinking water all their life. That’s because “haam log jaul khata hai”….

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Poll Apart

I know what Democracy means. I also know what Democracy does. I think I am democratic by thought too. But do I practice it? Am not too sure of that though. I have read, Democracy is of the people, by the people & for the people. So, I can safely assume, here in this sentence, I am included in “people”. Right? Good. Which would mean it is I who has the right to run democracy, it is chosen by me & it is for the benefit & well being of me. Is that right? I am correct, second time too…. wow! Am on a hat trick!! But have I exercised my rights? Clean bowled!!! After two huge hits, I fall apart (Cricket the next most popular issue in India right now!). Being born in the largest democracy of the world, gives one rights & liberties to exercise & enjoy. However, all rights come with responsibilities attached. I have very conveniently chosen selective rights & avoided most of the responsibilities of a natural citizen of the country.

It’s been 31 years of my natural citizenship, I have never voted. Not that I never wanted to. I never bothered to. We have been discussing Politics since a young age. Especially so, may be because my father was in a Central Government job & we all knew this much Geometry that any change in the Centre of the Circle would certainly change the status of the Circle. It is the Government which is responsible to run the country. But it never hit us that it is our responsibility to vote & elect it. We are ready to criticize the running Government, ready to bring it down. But we are not ready to vote & elect a (supposedly) better Government to replace it. I don’t know how many of my friends have voted yet. And even if they have, how many actually wanted to. And even if they wanted to, have they actually voted for the person/party/coalition it wanted to? That’s strange too. Considering, discussing Politics from a young age, being aware of the systems & civic obligations, we have never discussed if we ourselves have ever voted in (or out, whichever way you look at it) a change in our lives? Looking at the “Youth India Drive” with a new quote everyday, e.g. “Someone who cannot walk, is running our country”, “Someone who is not physically fit is fit enough to run a country” etc, has made me think.

Why & how come WE, the people, become so creative & innovative suddenly just before elections? What do we do, for the in-between 4 ½ years when the so called out of shape, unfit & ailing “chosen ones” are limping around? How do we so clearly see every hair on the body, every move of the muscle & every twitch of the eye of these very people who were brought in as change to bring in a change at this moment?

Well, some would say, I don’t have a right to criticize when I don’t even vote. But then, freedom of speech is a fundamental right of every natural citizen of India, right? I believe, Politics is about understanding the intent behind creating & running of a sovereign, purpose of a written constitution, the need for public administration & the logic of civic governance. Once we have understood the real meaning of it, then electing someone who represents your idea of Politics, would help evolve a better election system with the best person/party/coalition trying to bring in the change we desire. Ofcourse polling is important.

Politics is not just about elections. Or may be, my thinking is polls apart.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Good Morning

Prejudices rule the world. The moment you hear of “The United States of America”, all we imagine is dollars in millions, super sexy cars, a chic home & a swanky lifestyle. Then, reality bites. One session of recession and millions of dollars being dolled out to save the companies who sold the super car, to keep the chic home & live in a style which suddenly turns from swanky to swampy.

This has nothing to do with my being married to a Tamilian. And no, my wife does not want to relocate to the US either. But, think South India and you imagine Idli, Dosa & Vada-Sambhar, only, right? Well, wrong. I have lived down south for 4 years. That’s a long time for ignorance to turn to frustration, frustration into depression which leads to hate. Am sure, a lot of people took this route. Or else, why such a prejudice? I loved most of my stay days there, and not just the food. People define culture. I loved the people there. For all I know, I may be one of the lucky few who found good south Indians to interact with at every occasion during the entire 4-year stint there. Who knows? Anyhow, I have come to believe that South Indians, especially, Tamilians are the most straight forward, a little rustic & yet well mannered, simple thinking & simple living people. They are very unlike most north Indians, especially Delhites who love to show off. Infact, I am inclined to state they don’t know how to show off! Most of my class mates in B-School were from business families. Parents of few would drive in to meet their kids in Mercedes cars. Some of them own rice/flour mills, some run more than a dozen petrol pumps on national highways & some have flourishing textile and/or spare parts factories. And you could not make a difference. I still don’t know why do most people there don’t tuck in their shirts, love wearing slippers to work, change into lungis in the next given opportunity & love curd rice so much!

And then, there is this one batch mate whose father has a transport company running more than 30 trucks (give or take a few, I don’t remember the exact number now). At first glance, this guy was the true picture of a typical south Indian dude you could imagine. He had a purple colored bike, had more than one purple colored jeans, worn matching with green or yellow shirts mostly. He had a short but stout figure & certainly believed he was Cupid’s gift to both sexes. Most batch mates did not like him initially. Many, I guess would still avoid him. He loved himself. From day one, he was sure, he was not in B-School for a job. He had bigger plans. He wanted to be an entrepreneur. Our initial interactions with him were only because only north Indians on campus smoked & his room mate happened to be one. During the course of time spent alongside, we became good friends. How much of good friends? Well, can’t really measure the intensity. Infact, after I left Chennai we have met only once in the last 6 years & spoken thrice.

The fourth time he called me in the last week of March this year, saying he is visiting Delhi over business. We wanted to meet, but he had a flight to catch the same evening & wanted a favor. He said someone will deliver some money in cash to me which I was supposed to deposit in his bank account! I said, “ok, but how much is the amount? ” He said, “ten lacs”. I think the phone fell off my palm because there was a long silence & when I recollected my thoughts & perhaps the phone, I heard him saying he is carrying twenty five lacs in cash with him!! I had not seen one lac in cash together in my life & the next day someone was delivering ten lacs!! What happened with the money comes sometime later.

My submission, he too could have lived with the typical north Indian prejudice and never handover his hard earned, hard cash of such a magnitude to a north Indian, living in Delhi with whom he has not spoken in years. He chose his instinct & friendship. His company creates blended coffee, by the brand name, Good Morning. Let us all wake up!!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I - Speak

Some people who know me, and ofcourse some who don’t know me, may think that I am being a typical bong by supporting another. I don’t mind. Because, I have always believed, I don’t mind, because I don’t have a mind! Anyhow, I had almost decided to write a Bong Series (Coming Soon - The Bong Identity, The Bong Supremacy & The Bong Ultimatum). How can Bongs be covered in one single page!!

I always finish my write up in one single page, about 700 words. I know, I know, I have started boasting too much. I just cant’ help it. I am getting rave reviews from the 2 ½ fans who religiously read my blog and comment. Why the ½? Coz, two of them have names, one is an anonymous commentor!!

Mr. Somnath Chatterjee roared as Speaker during the Parliament’s Question Hour to all MPs present “…this session is suspended sine die. You are wasting public money. You don’t deserve to be here. I am sure voters will realize & wish you loose in the next elections…...” I may have said more than what Mr. Chatterjee said exactly. But, I never said “ad verbatim” either! But the intent is very clear. I am not proclaiming what he did or said as right or wrong. He spoke like a true passionate Bengali.

In the lives of all of us, there comes that few times when someone takes over the reins of our control. Control on our speech, on our body, our reflexes, probably the whole of us. We tend to just forget everything around us, who we are representing, the position we hold, how people want us to behave. In those moments the most unweighed, unprejudiced, pure & raw emotions, which most of the times are distasteful to others & could be harmful to “I” come out in the open. But “I” tolerated many a times, bore the brunt of acting diplomatic, suffered too much for being the way she is not. Thresholds are barred and “I” cannot take it anymore. That is when “I” takes over us. For those few moments, we just become, “I”.

Ofcourse, Mr. Chatterjee did not mean any real harm or curse in reality any of the MPs present or absent during the session (there is never 100% attendance at Parliament). He knows & we all know, what he wished will never come true either. Public money will be wasted time & again. Question Hour will remain a question mark in Parliament. Most of the dumb asses present & absent will be re-elected courtesy our dumm-o-cracy. But the real Somnath probably could not take it anymore. He had been watching the parliamentary circus for days and months. As a speaker, he was helpless. How long can someone try making jumping monkeys climb down & sit at one place? Wish as one may against it, there will always remain a clear difference between literate & educated people. The ones who can barely read & write, do so barely, existing all their lives. Ones who understand what they read & write what they think is right cannot barely exist. They need to live life. That is when these sudden crazy moments of truth come along to ensure one is breathing & living life on “I” terms.

Just can’ help but compare Mr. Chatterjee to a character of my school days! Have you ever heard of a cricket coach chasing the best batsman of the team with a bat raised in his hands, between a match, only because he lifted the ball in the air in the gap to take two runs. He was instructed to play on the ground & take singles! Have you ever heard about a teacher who, leave alone a slap, actually kicked the School Captain infront of the entire school! He was one man who could not withstand any misdemeanor infront of him. Once caught, one had to not just bear a tight slap, but some real chaste & passionate Bengali curses from this true passionate Bengali. He had trysts with his “I” more often that Mr. Chatterjee for sure.

Mr. Pankaj Kumar Bagchi. Banga as we still fondly call him, hope is still the same firebrand as we remember him. He is our very own Royal ‘Banga’ Tiger!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Kiss & Make Up

I really don’t know how many people would be interested to read any further the moment I mention my inspiration to write this piece. But then once you go past the initial shock, I am hoping it would make some sense to many. Couple of days back I was switching channels and I stopped at an interview session of one of the actors who am sure is no competition to any of the top stars of our film industry and yet according to me is envied more than hated. I believe people are jealous of him more than actually disliking him. And it is not for his acting talent but to make most of his films “a must watch” just because of the trailers of the film. I still cherish the mornings when we used fight for the radio to hear trailers of latest movies followed by half rendition of the most promising song from the movie. I believe that’s how the man who made play back singing of ‘sex-symbol’ status – Kedarnath Bhattacharya or Kumar Sanu as we know him became a sex symbol. More about him later.

If you are still reading, hold your breath. Now props the name that needs introduction no more the moment the name is spelt. He is Emran Hashmi. Why is he infamous, everyone knows. Why I think he is felt jealous of, is for the same reason. On top of it, the number of hits songs; some amazingly romantic, some soothing & some foot tapping scores, filmed on him makes a unique combination to match. At first instant, I cannot recollect any one having such a fan following, with as many hits & ofcourse, as many lip locks as he has. Suddenly, another face comes onto my screen. A face, who has been lovingly acclaimed for almost all films that he has done. Ironically, one movie where he is disowned by the movie goers, reviewers & makers who royally “Mughlai-fry” him has Emran’s most (in)famous onscreen lip smacker as his co-star. This man has been associated with the so-called parallel cinema since he first acted in “The English August”. A great book, I hear; an amazing movie, I swear. (Do I rhyme?)

To me, Rahul Bose is the intellectual man’s Emran Hashmi. Most guys, I mean, men who are straight, would want to get into the ‘act’ as many times as Emran or Rahul would have. But it’s the Emrans who are typecast as the ones with ‘fire under the belly’ whereas; Rahuls are the ones with “fire in their belly’. I don’t remember a movie in which Rahul Bose has not locked lips with his heroine. Softly or wildly, is not the question. He has done what Emran has. But it’s poor Emran who is being burnt in the fire and Rahul is the man of desire. (Did I rhyme again?) No hero does what he does on his own accord. It’s the Director. Infact, it’s what the script demands! Isn’t it? Now, I don’t know if they change the script after a hero signs? Or a hero signs after reading a script & knowing all the nitty-gritty details of it. However, there remains some common thread between the two. Someone must be giving them tips, about the lips. (Oops, am I writing prose or poetry? I rhyme again!!)

Thinking back of occasions when two people with the same performance, one being applauded & the other sidelined by being criticized as that’s what were expected of her/him and that’s all s/he can do!! Could I think of any? I could not stop counting how many times would have I been on either sides of the coin. Be it as a kid in school, in college, at home or at work, with friends or relatives or the so called judges of the situation. I mean there have been times when my siblings have been spanked for doing the same thing for which I have got away with just a little scolding. I have been suspended to bunk class & someone has been just let off with a wink. When I was caught red handed by my father smoking during college days, I was almost disowned. One of my friends had his pocket money increased for his new habit!!

We all believe we control our lives. Some things may be under our control. Some things are never under our control. And yet some which you think are under your control but are actually just perceptions, in the minds of others & self. The best we can do is trying and manage them. Infact, Perception Management is what we do, most of our lives. As kids with our parents and as parents with our kids. As an employee with our employer and as a Boss with our subordinates. As an actor, like a star & vice versa.

I don’t know if Emran wanted such a perception. Or for that matter, if Rahul has created his image. But both of them are sure enjoying what they do… kiss & make up for their roles.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Mystery Trip

Till date, no one has given me a sound logic as to why the second Saturday of every month be a holiday in school? Not that it hurt us in any way. Well, to some it sure did. With the second Saturday coming, Class VI had a bad Friday night. Most of them would be washing shirts & trousers of seniors. After all it would be the much waited Mussoorie Trip. Class VII & VIII would be CKs (care keepers) in the dormitory so that the masseurs & washers would not get caught by the warden. When asked why not a Sunday trip, the reason was on second Sundays our school girls used to have an outing to town. As if on second Saturdays all girls on earth became deaf, dumb & blind. Why Mussoorie trips on second Saturdays was not the single mystery on this trip. There remain some more.

Class VI would wonder why is it that this particular senior would ask us to wash, dry & then early morning run to the dhobi to get his shirt & trouser ironed on every trip? If one knows second Saturday is coming, why wear the same shirt for three consecutive days, dirty it like a coalmine worker & then make us scrub it like a fisherman’s drab? As per rule, every student needs to have “eight white shirts” & “four grey trousers” which is supposedly physically counted by every House Master. Mr. Bhatt certainly did it for each & every boy in his House. And still, this would happen before every second Saturday, year after year with every batch.

Class V, VII & VIII would have atleast one teacher who would be their escort for the whole trip. His job was to constantly overlook movements of all these boys in town. He would roll-call the first time on reaching Mussoorie, once just before the matinee show at the movie halls (Picture Palace & Vasu) & finally after the movie was over before pushing everyone towards school. But there were boys missing on these roll-calls who would F@#K off to Dehradun only because the movie they wanted to watch was not showing in Mussoorie? Did teachers know of all movements? This would happen every second Saturday, year after year with every batch.

In Class VI when we started visiting town on our own, the bus ticket from Jharipani to Mussoorie was Rs.3.50 each way. Any one of the chosen cuisines - South Indian, North Indian, Mughlai, or the Chinese lavish lunch at any of our favorite cheap joints would cost on an average Rs.15. The most waited & wanted movie ticket would cost Rs.4.50 if taken in the front 10 rows & Rs.6.50 if taken in the last 10 rows. So, the maximum you could spend on a trip was Rs.28.50. Our princely pocket money handed to us by our House Masters on the morning of the second Saturday, just minutes before rushing to the Bus Stop was Rs.30. To save that extra buck for one extra round of video game, boys would walk the 9 kms from Jharipani to Mussoorie. The walk has its own stories. Some other day, though. Am sure, with every passing year, during those years too costs of most of the things would rise. While passing out from school in Class XII, the then Class VI, VII & VIII would still get the princely pocket money of Rs.30 & seen running to the Bus Stop & take the road, reach Mussoorie before the bus, saving the buck & making stories on the way. This would happen every second Saturday, year after year with every batch.

There were times, when some boys did not have even Rs.30 in their kitty with the House Master to make that visit to town. House Masters were kind enough to give credit to boys who would ask for it. They would mark the money credited with red ink to avoid any confusion while explaining the account to respective parents. But there were also boys who would forego the trip. Reasons ranged from F@#king off to Mussoorie on Sunday to see their girls to reasons best known to them. No one asked them, why. No one even asked what they did back at school. But the moment boys from town were back, the boys in school would be the more important ones. They were the ones who would have to listen to each happening lived by each boy that day; right from - the sensational free bus ride by fooling the ticket conductor this time, the new video game at the game parlor, the way that girl looked at me at the card shop, the super-duper masala dosa etc kinds of stories. Batches changed. The stories remained the same. Walking through the corridor on the second Saturday evening, this would happen year after year with every batch.

Every second Saturday was a new trip. Yet, everything was the same. Why? Well, I told you. It was a mystery trip.