October 31, 2009

Dil Titli Sa...

So today morning I woke up in a state of awesomeness. Normally the state of awesomeness is wrongly attributed to Barney Stinson but I believe that it is a destiny that most Bengali Intellectuals have succumbed to. Take for example, J.C.Bose. Even though we all know that he invented radio, the correct answer in Quizzes has always been Marconi.

Years later when people write about awesomeness, they will talk about Barney, but you, my reader can node your head and say, “Hah. It was a concept derived out of Banjoism” (We bongs love our “-ism”s. Marxism, communism, neo capitalism, Bhadrolokism, Buddhababuism, Banjoism… You get the drift.)

Anyway, as I said, the morning was awesome. I woke up and saw none of my roommates. I cross checked my cell phone. My alarm had not yet rung. I had 15 minutes extra in my life. Yesterday night was still a blur. I remember having dragged myself back home and switched on my music player. As ironic as it may sound, the Bong rock “Nemesis” started playing. It was a song that you hear at the height of frustration in life, when you are so down and so out, you begin to wish ill for people who may or may not have an importance in your life.

Given that I am incapable of hate and feelings of retribution to anyone, even those let us say who promise me a brunch and forget all about it, I need to resort to external sources. So hearing Nemesis always pumps me up. So I heard Nemesis, did a little jig around the house and then plopped down on the bean bag.

It was about 21:00 hours and I normally do not see 21:00 hrs at home. So I picked up the set of CDs I got from my boss and played “How Green Was My Valley.” Beautiful movie. You must watch it. The acting is perhaps as good as Bindu Dara Singh’s portrayal of Hanuman, but the story is absolutely touching. In a world of decay, it’s a story of men, not heroes. It’s not about Frodo saving the Middle Earth. It’s about men who held on to all that’s dear to them and slowly saw it all slipping away and finally letting go. But most importantly all that was worthy of remembrance.

But that was last night. Today morning, as I cycled around I also realized that Didi is one of my best friends. Because she fights for me against mom. Yes, of course, she extracts her pound of flesh for her services but they are well worth it. For example, let’s say she knows that I have grown out of chocolates and there are only two types of chocolates in this world that excite me anymore. So when mom was doing chocolate shopping for me and telling me one after the other what she thought best for me, it took one call from my sis to empty that bag of chocolates and re think the buying process.

Ahhh Chocolates!!!

So VD is moving to Singapore. It’ll not be the same in office without her. She was one of my first friends at work and though a lot lot senior to me, she was always nice and helpful. I will miss her but I guess that’s how life is. Monday will feel different in the office.

Today they are planning a shoot on Carter Road. A lot of equipment is being set up. I guess it’s all about showbiz in this part of the town. There’s always so much happening.

December is gonna be bad. Almost everyone I know is getting married in December. So from end of November to around 15th of December there are around 15 weddings and then one more, the last and the most important for the year. Humanly impossible to attend them all but who knows what might happen.

The mood is awesome. I have a slight fever and in the pretext of that I don’t have to plan the weekend. My sugarcane juice guy has raised his price by Re. 1. The price of sugarcanes have gone up by Rs. 100 it seems.

My random phone friend called me before leaving for Pune. We spoke of random things at random moments. And now as Jenifer’s body is playing I think it’s a very funny movie. Megan Fox supposedly is a man eater. (Naughty boys!!! Not the type you are thinking about.) She just was trying to eat up her best friend.

Oh how I love watching horror movies in the afternoon!!! Someone twice my size just got eaten up. Now he wasn’t unhappy as long as Megan was eating him but then true to horror movies she started looking pretty disgusting. Yayayyayay!!! It’s Halloween tonight :)

The mind is jammed right now. Too may numbers, Gross margins, profit and loss statements all running in circles. But the heart flutters in its own will.

Dil titli, dil titli sa…

(Title courtesy - Airtel)

October 28, 2009

Late Night Messages and Movies you Should not watch

The inevitable finally happened. The Department of Photography is going digital. Last 2 weeks have been a crazy effort to raise the money for the kids. And as I saw the updates I realized we will fall short. For the first time, we will fail in fund raising. It really felt bad and irritating I just shut the laptop down and started watching The Ugly Truth. It might have become a cult movie if it was meant to be one. It falls short of the brilliance of Hitch.

And then A messaged and reminded me of my Shawshank Moment. It was an afternoon a long time back. Suddenly the skies grew dark and before anyone knew the rocks fell from heaven. Cold shivers ran through all who were out. And people started running. Men and women searched for shelters. And I stood there welcoming the manna from the heavens above. Suddenly, I felt like a bird swooping across Sky. And the message in a moment transferred me back there. Thanks.

But now let me tell you about the trauma I have been through last week. In a rather depressing Diwali weekend, we decided go and do something. Given that nice bachelor boys often end up in movie theatres, we did too. And met Mr. and Mrs. Khanna. And the world was never the same again.

We went into the hall 15 minute late. And those 15 minutes were the best moments of my life for what transpired after that is best left unsaid. We tried to laugh, cry, feel the pain but all we could do was try to look for an exit. The movie helped us to realize we should no longer live in Mumbai. We should take up a job at the Airports in Australia. We will be able to afford pianos in our houses.

Let’s take an example. Your spouse loses his or her job and for some reason you are not as capable of finding a decent job. You have a ticket to India, what would you do? Go home right? But no, you want to live in a house with a piano.

Second example, let’s say you are married and I come over to your home. You like in true Mumbai sense have a one BHK, just to ensure that no in-laws ever come. But I am shameless and I come in. What would you do? You would ask me to sleep in the hall right? But no, you will leave your house and husband and go stay with some girlfriend of yours.

Anyway, what happened in those 2 hours is still a haze.

But yes, you might want to watch All The Best. Perfectly nice time pass movie. Miss the first 20 minutes and you’ll love to sit through.

Also, I accept the accusations about True Story. It wasn’t the complete story. But my blog is a happy blog. So I shall wait for a story with a Happy ending. Wait for the Sequel.

October 19, 2009

True Story

All my stories are fictional. Maybe at times inspired by life but then I take my creative liberties. Well, that’s a tall order. I don’t claim to have creativity and yet I claim my liberties. Anyway for the first time I am writing a true story. They did tell me when I was in school that truth is stranger than fiction. Given my fascination for dragons and knights and tales of honour and glory, I never believed it.

But then I met Moin (name changed). And I spoke to the man for four hours at a stretch one Saturday trying to understand what makes Mumbai the city that it is.

Moin came to Mumbai like many other young men from UP and Bihar to earn money. It was not that he was poor in his village. The meagre income in his village was enough to sustain him but then he had heard about Mumbai, the city where dreams come true, the city which rewards the hard working. So one night he ran away.

Mumbai was kind to him. He started working at a hotel and started saving money. In fact, he got enough money to be able to send back home. But then the man from the tinsel town came to `meet him.

He told him that Moin had potential. He told him that the world could be his. He told him someone a lot simpler called Shahrukh Khan had made it big in Bollywood. Mumbai, Moin was told was not the land of dreams. If there was a dream, it was called Bollywood.

At this point of time in the story, Moin took out his wallet and showed me his picture of yesteryears. I looked at the picture of a fair handsome and slightly lost young man, posing for the photographer, trying to give the look of a hero. Somewhere in those eyes were however the innocence of a village in UP.

I looked back at the man. Mumbai had taken its toll on him. The complexion had tanned. The eyes had sunk. The innocence; definitely was lost.

So the man from the tinsel town asked Moin to come with him so that he could give him a shot at stardom. Moin left his job and gave the guy his money. The rest of the story is similar. Moin then started operating an auto and finally managed to own a taxi of his own.

Then he decided to settle down and like all good Indian boys, went back to his village to marry the girl his parents chose for him. Things however did not work out between them and he still searches for peace.

October 12, 2009

My 4 PM Friends

“It’s about sex, love, relationships, careers, a time in your life when everything’s possible. And it’s about friendship because when you’re single and in the city, your friends are your family.” —The original treatment used by Crane, Kauffman and Bright to pitch the series (FRIENDS) to NBC.

When I was growing up, I read somewhere that if you have a few 4 am friends, you can feel proud that you have a gifted life. I always knew I had such friends. People I could call up if necessary at 4 in the morning, but luckily I never needed to. It’s not that I have had a charmed life. It’s just that I don’t let anything except a good book to keep me awake till that late. So if I am not troubled, I did not need to call people up.

Also calling up someone at 4 am doesn’t take much, does it? Yeah, the spouse might act like an ogre, especially so if it’s a friend from the opposite sex, but otherwise what does it take to wake up once in a blue moon?

On Thursday however I found out that the real test was at a completely different time of the day. Imagine a bad day at office. Your closest pal in office is out somewhere. And you don’t know what to do. You think about your friends. All of them are in their offices, fighting it out as bad as you are. Who can you call up at that moment and disturb?

It’s not 4 am anymore. You have got friends, if you have 4 pm friends. And I am just lucky.

Btw, I hate to do this but let me tell you one liners about three movies. It’s a disease. I have nothing to say about them really

Wake Up Sid – Yeah Yeah nice movie. But nothing absolutely brilliant. Watch DCH or The Graduate if you want to.

What’s your Rashee? – If only there were 6 sun signs instead of 12, this would have been fantastic. Bad ending but the first half is really decent

Inglorious Bastards – Tarantino re writes history and gloriously kills the movie. Read a book called “The Eagle has Landed” to know what I mean. But otherwise brilliantly done. The most beautiful scene is what I call “the death in a red” scene. Comes close to my favourite scene of all times, the leaves in American Pie.

October 09, 2009

Amago Dash

In a certain dialect, the title of this post means “My Country”. The scars of Partition that the Valleys of Indus and Ganges bear will never diminish since her sons will never be sure what “My country” means. But then, that’s the brilliance of it all. Even as the border remains tense, the people at the sides of it know that once they were the same nation.

I have always wanted to visit Bangladesh. This Business Trip was not exactly what I had in mind though. But then something is better than nothing. And of course being the “True Blue Ghoti” that I am, I needed to see the “other side”

What struck me as soon as I walked out of the airport in Dhaka was the greenery all around. Apart from the fact that it is a much greener city than most I have visited, Dhaka was no different from any other city. Same traffic snarls, same status of roads, same crowded streets and same heart warming welcome.

Only one evening was free before two packed days full of business meets with the country teams and the business directors would start in full swing. And the nomad in me decided to make the most of it.

The first stop was Dhaka University. Quite a few of my ancestors have taught there and I have heard about the glory days. The campus is beautiful and I hoped peaceful. But that was just an illusion. The university campus, much like JNU and CU was the starting point of many political flare ups. The campus and the city bore the symbols of who won the last general elections.

Going ahead a couple of more kilometers was the famed Dhakeswari temple. Ever since I have known people directly affected by the partition, I have heard elders say how they would love to go back just once to Dhakeswari Temple for some unfulfilled promise they made to the deity.

And on the way back I stopped over at the mausoleum of Nazrul, the rebel poet of Bengal. My early years have been spent in reciting his poetry much to the chagrin of my Tagore Loving parents. (The grief was that their first-born and apple of their eyes was reciting Sukanta and now the black sheep too chose Nazrul.)

Being the shameless marketer that I have become I asked to be shown around the busy markets and business districts and that’s how I landed in Gulshan. Being near the hotel I was staying in, I found it convenient to walk around the market. And while it was refreshing to see the signboards in Bengali, I thanked my lucky stars that the pulse of the market was no different from that of the sub continent. I knew knowing Bangladesh would not be that difficult. And it proved not to be.

The famed “Bangal cuisine”, the envy of all us “Ghotis” had to be given a miss though. Everything was a working lunch and dinner. But even then, I was bowled over by the hospitality of the team there. And thanks to them, I was able to orchestrate a full blown Bengali sentimental sequence with mom and grand mom.

Me: “Ma I have got you a dhakai jamdani and a Nakshi Kantha Stich”

Ma: “hrrmph. You are not staying back in Calcutta” (Please note, this was not a rhetorical question, neither an angry one. The hrrmph was something that only moms can give)

Me: “Na ma. By the way, is didima (grand ma) there? She gave me the idea.”

Didima: (without any query about my well-being) “So you got the sarees? Good boy. So as soon as you find a girl for yourself, you can give her those.”

Me:”What!!! Give ma the phone”

Ma: “hrrrmph”

Me: Speechless

Me: (Next call to Baba). “These contriving women of my family!!! Those things cost me a bomb and they want me to gift them to a hypothetical entity whose existence and future occurrence is seriously under question.”

Baba: “Heh Heh.”

Something troubled me though. I had always thought, given that the country had gained its independence foremost to safeguard its language and its people, I would see a lot more love and affection for the language. But the signage in the shops disappointed me. Bangla as a language was losing out on both sides.

Maybe I am wrong and I do hope I am.

October 06, 2009

A Whiff of Pain

It hit me when I was standing on my terrace tonight. The faint smell of the flowers rushed past me. Calcutta was heaving a sigh of relief. The Pujo festivities were finally over. The taxi was waiting downstairs to take me away to Mumbai. And I could sense the accusation in that smell. This was the time of the year when the tree in front of my house blossomed every year. I had seen it grow up. In one of their many and highly unsuccessful tree planting ceremonies, the Municipal corporation had lined our road with trees. All had died within a month but my granddad raised this tree just like his own son. Sometimes I felt he loved this one more than the other trees in our small excuse of a garden.

The smell brought back memories and it was difficult to tear myself away from them. And it asked me questions. For which I had no answer, as usual.

I looked around in the faint glow of the sole light on our terrace. Everything around seemed different. The old houses with their old faces were gone or on the verge of extinction. Views on either side were slowly getting blocked by grotesque apartments so very reminiscent of Gurgaon and Mumbai.

The smell was of my childhood. Of old promises and dreams. Surprisingly all those dreams had Calcutta as an important part of it. Dreams of taking someone important to my Para Pujo’s Anjali, the classic North Calcuttan Belongingness Ritual, dreams of coming back home from work and calling up my best friend to rub in a pinch of salt when East Bengal lost the Calcutta Derby, dreams that a school going kid dreamt in his adolescent years.

The smell grew stronger and pain seared through the heart. And I do not want to publish all that I had written, sensed or photographed during the Pujos. For they are happy memories of a Non Resident Calcuttan who came back after 9 years to a city he thought he owned, not because he was the richest guy around but he loved the city and he knew the city loved him back. And clich├ęd as it may sound, there’s seldom anything that can make you feel richer than love.

He went to places where he was forbidden to go when he was a school going kid. He finally dined with the live music playing at Trincas, danced at the immersion of the idol in busy Calcutta streets that had the traffic to a standstill and went to Maddox square with his friends, 4 years too late perhaps, but he did it.

And yet, I was a tourist, nothing more. The roots were still strong but every visit struck at them mercilessly. I blend ceaselessly into every city I live in, with the people there and yet retain what friends call my “inherent bongness”

Only when I come back I realize the charade that I live. My connection with latest Bengali Literature has virtually stopped in the last one year, the music today sounds strange, ethically I no longer have a say on the politics of the state.

The question kept nagging - Where did I belong?