March 27, 2009

The Manoos have Every Reason to be Upset

So I have been working late nights. But that does not make much of a difference these days. Does it? But today was the Maharashtrian New Year and I really wanted to be a part of the land. Every time I have visited a new place, I have tried to make it my home, mingled with the people, laughed with them and shared their meals. In Maharashtra, I have made vada pav my favourite snack, cried after having Missal Pav and wondered how anyone could bite into the greenest of green chillies. But somehow the leaders that the Manoos have chosen for themselves seemed not to agree to the fact that someone from outside the land could come and be a part of it.

Bandra seemed deserted. Everyone was enjoying the holiday not realizing its significance. Perhaps there was no Manoos left in Bandra. Suddenly I thought of an idea. Why don’t I go to a place where actually I can meet the Manoos? So, the local train came to the rescue and brought me to Thane and there were the Manoos. Thane was decked up just like Hatibagan or Gariahaat for Chaitra Sale. For some reason The Manoos was of the opinion that one needs to bring out processions to celebrate the New Year. So there were the men walking along and the women resplendent in their jewellery and the best sarees sitting like Her Majesty the Queen on their own scooters and motorcycles. It was grand, it felt very Marathi and very much like home. But then I could see the politicians lurking behind the motorcycles trying to garner support. Money was being spent on firecrackers rather than cleaning up the streets and the neighbourhoods. And that’s where I lost all the interest. I no longer knew whether it was the Manoos celebrating their New Year or political parties gathering their brownie points.

Dejected I boarded the train and there they were. Men, women and children, of all ages but mostly of the same aspiring class of lower middle class Indians and they were the last bastion of their own culture which was getting lost in the heart of their existence. Mumbai was taking pride in being cosmopolitan and was slowly losing all the charms of being a party to every festival that touched the lives of her inhabitants. The Manoos is the train were not the ones who touch the daily lives of the readers of this blog but there they were, the young bride resting her head on her husband’s shoulders, tired after a long journey to her parent’s place. There was the father telling his daughter about the ways he used to celebrate. There was the old grandma stroking the head of her progeny.

And then it struck me. The reason why the politicians can play the son of the soil card is simply because anywhere in the world people feel a discontent if they see their traditional ways of life giving way to a different lifestyle. And more so if they see that they are not being invited to be a part of that lifestyle. As part of some general data gathering that I regularly do from my consumers I realized that more and more mothers were realizing that the Marathi medium was perhaps not the best place for their children. Whether it’s right or wrong I do not know. But I have seen a state government reject English and then bring it back again. Popular entertainment on the other hand was showcasing a just few festivals that were becoming pan Indian. I remember my friends from God’s own country loving their first holi but never forgetting their Onam in the process. Maybe, South remembers their culture far more strongly than Urban India does.

And then even though I will never know whether the Manoos will ever consider me one of them, I felt at home. I felt what they were feeling. I knew it all too well. I knew it the day I could find no mention of the Bengali New year is vast parts of Calcutta a few years back. I remember feeling lost and without an identity. I remember my embracing my global identity all the more strongly so that I at least have an anchor. The Bengali culture I had grown up in was slowly fading away. There was no difference in the nights at Park Street, MG Road or Carter Road. The Manoos I realized was sensing this sense of loss and confusion.

People say one day that there will be no difference between a Mumbai and a Shanghai. I definitely do not want it. I do not want Gurgaons sprouting up across the globe.

With my spirits confused, I headed back to work over the weekend.

March 26, 2009


With the Indian political drama heating up outside, students getting killed because of ragging by seniors, Gulal could not have released in a more appropriate time. If nothing else, the movie had its timing right. Was it a great movie? I do not know. If I need to get depressed, I would read the local content page of Newspapers. If I wanted to know the extent of the decay in the system, I would follow the election mania across News Channels. Gulal did both to me. It got me depressed and made me wonder. Gulal might be based on a hypothetical agenda but the point is which political party today has any concrete agenda? The General Elections 2009 is most likely to throw up a divided parliament and then everyone will ultimately lust for only one thing – power. And that’s exactly what Gulal portrays. The party workers will continue to work believing in the dream that has been weaved for them while the leaders play their own game.

Based on Student politics in Rajasthan, Gulal reminded me of the extremely complicated world created by Robert Jordan. When everyone is plotting against everyone else, you never know how everything comes together and of course you do not know of the unknown factor. When someone decides to break free and take a decision of his or her own. All plans fall flat on their faces and new winners emerge. May be in politics the reality is Veer Bhogya Vansundhara - the male chauvinist outlook on anything that symbolizes power. It might be women, money or politics. It doesn’t matter as long as the male ego is satisfied. Unfortunately the woman’s sense of power is no different. And it has not been different since the times of The Mahabharata.

Gulal has no positives or feel good factors to take back. Hence it is not our Mahabharata. At best it is an Animal Farm in the political heartland of India.

March 22, 2009

What Great Insights can you get from a Horror Movie?

So I finally watched 13B. And I was scared. Well, to be frank I have been scared of every single movie since I was made to watch Evil Dead at a tender young age. Since then even Andhaa Kanoon can scare me. When I hear about Kanoon Ke lambe haath, I am reminded of extendable arms of The Ramsay Brothers ghosts. I am even scared of the women in this year’s Roadies.

Anyway about 13B. The story is interesting. There’s this family that go and start living in a flat 13B. Definitely the location is not Mumbai. Such a big flat seems incredibly impossible to afford. Anyway, so our dude Madhavan comes to stay in this flat. And a serial starts coming in his TV at 1300 hrs. Whatever happens in the serial starts happening in his house and slowly the serial starts getting spooky. So it’s a great one time watch. But that’s not what is interesting. I have always had this issue with the way spirits are shown in movies. Except Casper, tell me about one friendly ghost you remember.

That’s why I wondered what the inherent goodness of the Ghosts in the movie were. Take for example the Lift Ghost. It understood that Madhavan did not have time to go to the gym. So it stopped functioning so that he could climb up and down the stairs to stay fit. Then let’s say the electricity Ghost. Before it died, it must have worked in my company. It was basically trying to tell the family that check your electrical wirings. It had undertaken the safety course from my company. Then there was the Newsreader Ghost. It served as a reminder to the family. Cut the Cable connection. Stick to Doordarshan for your news. And finally the Mobile Ghost. It always distorted the image the kid took of his uncle. It meant, be careful, kids these days are prone to making MMS out of everything.

The point is there is goodness in everything only if you search for it.

March 16, 2009

Trring Trring

Retail Therapy is an old and trusted technique that ensures that when you are down and out a nice long day of shopping can cheer you up. More effective for women, this therapy works wonders even on men if chosen with a sense of purpose and understanding of the male psyche. So even if you don’t give the boy his toy, just let him loose in a toy store. As I look back, my retail therapy has always begun and ended on the Foods Aisle in a Supermarket. However, last three times, it was always something to do with a gadget, be it the camera, the HDD or even the new phone.

But then, sometimes you need to delve deep inside yourself and find out what is it really that’s calling you. Is it the i-phone? Is it the Nintendo V? Or is it something more basic? I’m not fond of gyms. One of my favourite ads has always been “RUN – you don’t need anything but the road.” And that’s why what I found out while I wondered what was lacking in my life.

Years back in a desert bereft of any modes of transportation except those that required someone else’s manual energy to be pumped into them, I walked. For one whole year I walked. And then Jopy came to the rescue. He handed over to me the prized possession of our wing. 1 week, 3 tetanus injections and 8 bandages on various parts of my body, I had learnt to cycle.

And like a photon I had streaked across the desert, leaving my tracks on Rajasthan and Haryana.

Times changed. The city doesn’t allow you to speed across the roads. But then, if you find out when, Mumbai gives you the opportunity. Mumbai always gives an opportunity to those who seek it and hence suddenly I found my Hero Razorback in its brilliant flashing red. It’s not a photon but it’s the mountain bike one dreams of when one’s a kid.

Yeah, laugh all you want but a cycle it is. Roads of Bandra and Khar, Beware.

March 13, 2009

The Mavericks

Two years back, few men and women made a decision that surprised many. At the peak of investment banking boom in India they went ahead and joined the FMCG sector after graduating from the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. Today as Norse Gods decide to sell biscuits and the banking cookie crumbles across the Big B school campuses during the placement season, it’s time to look at what each one of them are doing with their lives.

The Gargoyle runs after men and women threatening them with dire dental consequences if they do not change their toothbrushes every week. She was last seen threatening an old friend if he didn’t change his toothbrush more often.

The French bearded man carries a club with him, driving around Mumbai while he snoops around Modern Retail Outlets and ensures that pipelines are full. He seems to be reason for shelves brimming over with shampoo.

The un-married Tam plays poker in the night since otherwise he can be found washing dirty linen in public. He doesn’t believe “Daag Achhe Hain”.

The married Tam wonders why some hair oil sells only in Bihar. I look at him and nod intelligently. That’s one state of affairs I know pretty well.

The Alphabet Woman walks up to unsuspecting Telugu housewives, invites them for tea and then informs them that they will be charged at higher the MRP for the tea that they are having. These days Andhra Pradesh is drinking more tea in a day than Bengal does in a month and she has won several prospective Mothers-in-law.

The Son-in-law of Tamil Nadu is in the Land of the Rajputs ensuring that Mary Ko kuch Taqleef na ho.

The Maratha strongman is back in his own lair singing Jai Maharashtra and realizing that Honey hain toh Money Hain.

The head of the Uncultured is leading a team of unruly men as they go around holding hands of women and putting nail polish on them.

And I am swimming in a pool of soup in my dreams and nightmares.

March 11, 2009

Bura Na Mano Holi Hain

Tagore sat at his desk extremely worried. He was thinking about his last trip to Kanpur. It was just before Holi. He was a good man - a sensible Bong, or so he liked to think. Kanpur at Holi rattled him. He could not figure out why all his friends went completely crazy and put colours on each other and cut down tree branches to burn them. He was wondering how he could escape this year even though he was in Shantiniketan. The effect of the North was slowly descending on his beloved Bengal.

Suddenly a portal opened in front of him. A well nourished young man stood before him dressed in strange and shabby clothes. Tagore freaked out. But the guy looked harmless and was smiling. He got courage and asked, “Who are you?” What followed was a conversation in Bong, but for your sake, let me put it down in English.

Hi. You are Tagore right?

Well, my name is Rabindranath.

Yeah, yeah. To the 1 odd million people who will refer to you in English years after your death, you are Tagore. By the way, I’m Banjo.


Yeah, strange name right? Actually it’s Madhurjya Bandyopadhyay. But you know, from where I come from, people like short names.

Ahhh. Like Tagore.

Exactly. You are a smart dude Tagore, just like I thought.

But Banjo, where are you from? You are a Bengali right?

Ahh yes. Sorry dude. I forgot to introduce myself. I come from the future. I need your help.


Yeah. Look I don’t have time to explain myself. I need your help.

Ok! Tell me.

Look, I know from trusted sources, you don’t like Holi much.

How did you know?

Is that important?

Sorry, please continue.

So Tagore. I’m going to tell you some secrets. You are going to be the greatest Bong ever. Bongs all over the world will do exactly as you ask them to do. What’s more, they will speak the way you write. So let’s make a deal.

Come on. You must be kidding.

Well, Sarat’s novel will be made into more films, but you dude will be the God to Bongs. But listen what I really want your help is in making sure The North does not move into Bengal with its Holi culture.

You know what Banjo, I was thinking of the same thing. The Holi’s too scary.

Well, Tagore, great men think alike.

So what do you want me to do?

Look, from where I come, I sell soaps.

Like Sunlight?

Yes, like Sunlight.

Oh you must be smart.

Not really.

But, please continue Banjo.

Yeah, right. So I want you to re brand Holi for the Bongs.

Interesting. Carry on.

Look. At your university, start something like a festival celebrating Holi. There, make everyone dance so that they are tired when the actual ceremony of the smearing of colours on faces comes into play. You will ensure everyone wears costly Kurtas and Sarees, preferably in one colour, so that people will not like getting colours on themselves or their clothes. And then, you must ensure that only organic colours are used.

But they can use sunlight to clean the colours right?

Well everyone can’t afford sunlight.

Can’t I stop it altogether?

Look, I said you’ll be like God. I didn’t say you are God.

Well, it seems tough.

I know, Branding is tough. But you can do it dude.

Well, maybe I’ll try. But why are you so interested?

Well, long story. But let me try to explain. In the next millennium, I’ll be sent to Rajasthan. There people will make mud pools and throw other people in and tear each other’s shirts off. Then I’ll be in Mumbai where, on the day of Holi my maid will take a leave and my house will be a mess because everyone will come over and play holi there. And it’ll go on like that for the rest of my life. But the first 18 years of my life when I am in Calcutta, I want peace. I do not want to see people roaming about streets with bare torsos. I do not want to see women, or for that matter men, squirming from unwarranted physical contact. I really want to see a festival of colours, not a festival of masking your face behind ghastly quagmire of permanent ink.

Well, I pity you.

Thanks,  but I can do without your pity. So we have a deal?


Well, just one more thing. Don’t ever write about this visit.

I won’t.

Thanks Tagore. You write well. And a tip. Write a song about Holi please. Else people will sing movie songs all along.


March 09, 2009


What is morality? Who decides what’s right or wrong? Who decides the destiny of men? Is it the law of the land or the law of the times? Are ethics and values changeable? The Policeman, who fires on students, is he just following orders and thus is absolved of all crimes or is he refusing to exercise a choice? Can Germany claim innocence of the crimes of the Nazi Leadership? Are we exactly the same as our chosen Governments? The Reader is a classic must watch for all who grapples with the question of Morality every day of their lives.

The first half of the movie travels of dangerous slippery roads of Morality where an elder woman seduces a teenager and develops a relationship that will come back to haunt him all his life. But it also shows how our first heartbreaks continue to shape our future lives. “You do not matter enough to me to upset me.” Only those who have heard this statement can realize how shattering it feels.

But the movie’s greatest strength is its apparent flaw in logic. A lot of decisions that the protagonist takes will seem incomprehensible but when you see the confusion that reigns Hannah’s face (Kate Winslet in her Academy Award Winning Role) you will begin to empathize. You will appreciate the quest for knowledge. You will appreciate The Odyssey again.

The greatest question comes in front of the audience during her trial as a Nazi Guard in a concentration camp. She is bewildered. She never realizes why she is being tried for just doing her job. She asks, “What would you have done?” The judge and the audience are left speechless.

Only one thing, try to watch the unedited version of the movie. Indian censor board ensures that you wonder at what’s happening in the first half an hour.

March 06, 2009


I wish you were here tonight with me. I wish I could take back all that I had said and tell you all that I have always wanted to… but never could. I wish we could walk down the roads that bear our footprints. I wish I could just sit with you without feeling the need to explain myself. I wish that it was yesterday once more when we would spend hours in the dark of the night relishing the company of each other. The night would play her symphony and we would come even closer.

Today, I lie on my bed and within minutes I’m off to a dreamless sleep. It’s been ages since I touched you, felt your presence beside me or looked into your eyes, your heart, your soul.

I wish we were friends again.

I wish I knew what I am searching for, every single day of my meaningless existence. The adrenalin rush of numbers keeps me going but I know that in reality I just move from one quicksand to another.

Silence, my old friend, I wish you were here tonight with me. I’m afraid of the city I love, I hear footsteps of impending doom and I smell the decay all around. Life is creaking and screaming and struggling with all its might and I am no longer the carefree soul that I once was.

Help me silence. Take me back again. Let me embrace you and be a part of you once again. Let me live before I die.

March 02, 2009

The Fairytale Romances

A lot of my friends are still waiting for the fairytale romance. You know; the type of people who are still not cynical about love, relationship and the works. And I have all the respect for them. But the more I see of them, I realize that these people can be easily categorized into three – First, the favourite, I will meet my soul mate and when I see him/her I will know that this is the One person I have been looking for. Second, One day, he/she will come back to me and Third, the Indian version of a fairytale, I will meet him/her through parents/friends/matrimonial ads and then we will live happily ever after.

I am normally a harmless listener when such great analysis comes my way over the airwaves. I nod and appreciate their analysis. There’s no use disagreeing since according to most, I lack the intellectual and emotional capacity to talk over such matters. “Madhurjya, you are trying to make a joke, which, trust us, is not even funny.” And you know people are really upset when they call me by my real name.

However, since there’s no one shutting me down on this web page I think I can say what I feel like. First of all, what people ALWAYS forget about Fairytale romances is that there is always the evil stepmother, a dragon and sometimes even a handful of not so friendly goblins. So to reach happily ever after they have to go through a lot. And who has ever defined what ‘Happily ever after’ is? Who knows how happy the happily ever after really turns out to be? How happy are people when they are discussing aloo, bhindi and who to call home for dinner?

Finding a house to stay in is pretty much the same. In fact, I would say deciding on room mates is even more like getting into a relationship. It is scary to say the least. So since I have no “first hand knowledge” of soul mates, let me discuss room mates.

I realized somewhere pretty early in my life that as much of an extrovert I might be, I love my “me time” when no one would disturb me and I could do anything I want, probably just having an afternoon siesta in place of going to classes but still a complete “me time.” But I needed to know that human civilization was there at arm’s length if needed. I realized that I could be the Old Man in the Sea and have no issues with that. After all, seas reach the shores sometime.

So when my flat mate informed me that he was planning to leave, I was sure that I wanted to move into a place just by myself, close to friends, yet a place that ensures that I have my “me time” But as I started searching, finding such a place seemed tough. Still I persisted and was almost sure of where I wanted to be. But then G intervened and asked me to move in with him at hot and happening Bandra.

I have never been finicky about where I live. And yes, since the days of staying at Motappanpalya in Bangalore and looking at the beautiful houses at Indiranagar, I have allowed friends to make the decisions for me. This time was no different. There are some people in this world I trust without a thought. G being one of them, I had just asked to see the house once, so that I could figure out how far it is from the station. Just like an arranged marriage, if I may draw an analogy. A friend currently in Calcutta was completely baffled by my choice. “I did not think you were going to move in with someone,” he thundered over the phone.

By moving in, I have done two things. First, I have lost one of my “run away to” zones. G’s house was always one of the 3 places in Mumbai where I could run away, feeling safe and secure. Now I am left with only 2. Secondly, my biggest issue with friends turning their friendship into a relationship is that I have seen friendship always being sacrificed at the altar of love. They no longer stay friends. Well, people manage to have a great time with each other but something is lost from their combined life. The easiest way to lose a friend is therefore to fall in love with her or move in with him or vice versa if you are a woman. What happens here is something that only the future can tell.

Like in the beginning of any relationship, I remember my old one. I’ll miss the peace and quiet of Wadala. I’ll miss seeing the sun set on those rare weekends that I would be at home. Bandra Linking Road will be a completely different life and frankly I am freaked out.

The balcony runs around our rooms. Bandra shows no sign of going to sleep and neither do I.