Tuesday, November 28, 2006
like, willing an ailment to come out like a spirit leaving a body? see? another analogy and again from the stacked up cliches in my mind. i cannot write originally. this is not a theory of deconstruction, just the plain truth.
i forgot how to write and there is nothing to write about. and for god's sake, i'm not a travel writer!
Sunday, November 26, 2006
We were riding from Bangalore to Mulbagal on a lazy Saturday morning, and on the way found this lake with a single tree in the middle of it playing host to many birds. Rocky said they were painted storks, although most of the birds were white. To reach the banks of the lake, we had to get off the road and go through a mini forest. The last stretch to the lake front had lots of thorny bushes. Vaibhav insisted on parking his bike where the trees ended. However, with the others egging him on, he didn't have a choice but to brave the thorns. In one of the photos you can see him waiting at the edge of the forest, wondering whether to come or not. Nobody had a flat tire during this offroading adventure.
We were eight people on six motorcycles. Vaibhav's new bullet had to be run in, hence the ride. The lazy ride, that is. Rocky, for once in his life, was riding behind all of us, giving tips to Vaibhav about how to run in the bike. The others were doing decent speeds of about 50 mph (80 kmph).
It was nice to see Rocky in this new avatar, because every other time we have seen him and Pallavi zwooop past all the other motorcycles on their Quik Silver. . .
Finally though, there was no lamb to be had, neither any of those painted storks (okay, some were colorful, lemme admit). We had lunch at this decent joint in Andhra Pradesh and headed back for Bangalore.
Overall, it was a 260 km ride at a leisurely pace and a nice way to spend the day. Prateek and I thought we would move on to Sulurupet according to the original plan, but didn't. Rahul and Anuja did pretty decent speeds despite Rahul claiming he is a slow rider. On the other hand, our man Lohith, whom we expected to rip like crazy, was driving like a mature guy. See how your wife as pillion can make a man out of you?
For all the photos, go to http://new.photos.yahoo.com/orijeet/album/576460762352808817
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
i was thinking of sikkim. i've been there once in 94, as part of the 186 basic course from the himalayan mountaineering institute in darj. we had trekked from yoksum (5,000 ft) up to chaurikiang in three days, carrying at least 18-20 kgs of luggage on our backs. in chaurikiang (15,000 ft) we were taught ice climbing and some rescue techniques. i loved the self arrest exercises where you had to slide down a slope for a certain distance and then suddenly turn around and arrest your fall by digging your axe into the ice. that was thrilling because the instructor at the edge of the cliff wouldn't have been able to hold a snowball hurtling down at such speeds. on the penultimate day we were made to climb a small peak for beginners, called the BC Roy peak, named after Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy. It was at a height of 18,000 ft. The view from there was awesome as we could see all the fourteen peaks (E - K - Ka - Lho - Ma -Dhou -Ma - Cho -Na - A -Ga -Ba -Ga -Sa). I remember some of the names even today: Everest, K 2, Kahnchendjunga, Lhotse, Manalsu, Dhoulagiri . . .
But when I think back after 12 years, the only peaks I can clearly remember are Frey and Amadablam. George Frey died on Frey peak on a day Tenzing had sensed danger. Tenzing was his sherpa then and not a well-known figure. He asked George not to attempt the climb on that day but of course a sherpa's knowledge of the weather is not to be trusted on the mountains, right? My point is, this peak, named after poor Frey, is absolutely conical in shape. As in, much like how a child would draw a mountain in 2-d, and very unreal. I remember it because we were taken to the place where one starts the climb for Frey peak. And we could see it from our base camp every night, a dark shape in a starlit sky.
The other peak was Amadablam, a phallus by all means. Dunno why the Hindus don't call it Shiva's phallus yet. Maybe it skipped their minds, or maybe when the ancient Hindu scriptures were written, people hadn't seen the Amadablam. It goes straight up and is rounded at the tip.
The nights were scary because every time we had to pee, it meant wearing your snow boots and walking 50 meters in the snow to the nearest loo. And as we all know, you get the urge at least three to four times in such cold weather. We were 43 guys in the log hut and the door must've been opened at least 129 times each night. Maybe more. For many days after that I could hear heavy boots in my sleep, trudging up and down like half-asleep zombies on the wooden floor.
But once you were outside the hut (-15 C), you could see the dark mountains standing all around like huge godzillas, almost reaching up to the stars. Numerous stars. I bet you haven't seen so many stars together. The entire spectacle had a very humbling effect on an otherwise arrogant me. So what if you can trek all day with 20 kgs on your back? You are frigging nothing standing like a microbe in front of the mountains, at the mercy of the gods who have humored you and kept you alive. Let this microbe brag around about his stamina. It will be a comic relief, they must've said to themselves.
The postman came with our mail every second day. And one day there were two letters that are still unopened. Dunno how much strength I'll have to borrow from the mountains to choose one.
Am going to Calcutta this December and something inside me is egging me on to make a trip to Sikkim, alone. I will be absolutely quiet about it and drive up to Sikkim in two days. I can park anywhere and sleep in my jeep, but the very thought of going near the highest mountains in the world is keeping me awake every night. I may not get a glimpse of Amadablam and Frey, but to be able to stand there in the snow, looking up...
It would also mean sacrificing a lot of other things. I may not get to spend time with some dear frnds. I may not get to spend much time with my dad, who is 69 already and is busy reading, even this moment, am sure.
The time has come to choose from the two letters. And this time I will open one, once I'm in Sikkim again.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
i was off this blog for a long time and didn't really miss it. am planning a trip from Bangalore to Calcutta in my jeep in Dec-Jan, and was busy getting ready for it. my jeep too got a lot of work done and still needs some more attention.
fan belts (3)
coolant pipe and some other weird-looking pipes
ball joints in the front suspension
some broken indicators
now i gottu get the bull bar fixed and a couple of Neolite lights on that. that should scare the shit out of the truckers during the early morning drives. Now for the route that I'm planning to take: my wife busies herself every weekend poring over the Eicher Atlas, calculating distances and planning the pitstops. After almost three weeks she came up with a detailed route (with many bypasses) with even little tea breaks nicely planned. And she also has a couple of Plan Bs just in case we cannot stick to Plan A. Plan A is roughly like this:
Day 1, Dec 21, 2006: Bangalore to Vijayawada (600 odd kms)
Day 2, Dec 22, 2006: Vijayawada to Gopalpur on Sea (another 600 odd kms)
Day 3, Dec 23, 2006: Gopalpur on Sea to Calcutta (500 + kms)
Here's a rough map downloaded from nhai.org (the official web site of the national highways authority of india). in this you cannot see the first day's route to Vijayawada because we are skipping Chennai and going via Kolar-Chittoor-Tirupati-Nayadpet-Ongole-Vijayawada.
Hoping to get average speeds of about 70 kms per hour because my vehicle is not fast. it is sluggish, comfortable, and more an offroader than anything else.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
And then came Naseeruddin Shah. Despite being kinda nondescript to look at, he equalled or perhaps surpassed Tom Hanks in diversity of roles. So real, you could almost feel him breathe in the theater. I watched Masoom yesterday. Yes, almost 25 years late, you can say, although I had heard the soulful songs.
And when I watched Being Cyrus last night, which too has a middle-aged Naseer and happens to be a very contemporary movie, I found a new hero: Saif Ali Khan.
I hope the Bengalis are watching Hindi movies too these days and are not as stuck up as I can remember them from the late eighties. I am watching and am enjoying every moment.
the elevator wasn't moving. by now it should have reached the third floor. i checked and realized i was stuck. the door wouldn't open. the alarm wouldn't work, and i was filled with this sudden sense of adventure. wow, man, finally i got something to tell my friends about. the pleasure in my mind was almost thick, aah, now am gonna gloat around about the adventure i had. i imagined i was on the 89th floor of a building, stuck in an elevator and still didn't lose my cool. aah, the man...always in control. and then there were these beautiful ladies who absolutely lost theirs. and how i comforted them with my deep, baritone voice. Don't you worry, dears, everything's gonna be all right. I'm James Bond. Or Keanu Reaves, or whatever. And they clung on to me, as if the floor's gonna give away any moment.
i was almost enjoying it alone in the elevator, stuck on the ground floor, when some idiot came and "rescued" me. i could sense my face screwing itself up to form this look of utter disdain for that man as i walked out. what gall! rescuing me, of all people, the James Bond!
am wondering what story to tell the others now...can you think of something?
Sunday, September 03, 2006
It's over between us. I do not need your unconditional love. Want some freedom of choice instead. I want to have the right to smoke some hash or go out with my friends. I don't want your love. It stifles me. I want to meet her too. Not because I love her any more than I love you. But because you forbade me to. We will just down a couple of drinks maybe. Or maybe walk up to her apartment. You hated her from college, didn't you?
And marriage? I am not marrying you. So what if you were by me when I had nothing to hold on to. I am not getting married at all.
Lemme keep it short and simple: don't try to get in touch with me.
I read the letter once again and tried to make out if it were too harsh. But when you sever ties, you have to use a knife. This was the only way I could say goodbye. And I wasn't even saying goodbye. After reading it a couple of times I decided to sit on it for a while and went out for a smoke.
I don't usually smoke, you see, it's only when I'm alone or don't have anything better to do. After smoking half of the Wills Flake cigarette (this is the cheapest and surprisingly the smoothest brand) I threw it into a bin. When I have a child, if I ever have one, I will teach her to be a responsible citizen, I thought. I was trying to push away questions posed at my own sense of responsibility. Did I do the right thing? Am I doing the right thing by calling it quits? But I want to. I don't want to be with a woman who'd forbid me to drink at a party, for god's sake.
I walked towards the lake. In Calcutta one would usually say, "I walked towards Lake." meaning the only lake in Ballygunge, with a capital L. I don't know, just assuming. At the corner of Menoka theater I looked up at Raja and Parna's apartment. Didn't they get married very young, I was thinking when I bumped into someone. The girl cursed and bent down to pick up her purse. It was Parna!
"Hey, I was just thinking about you guys! How strange!"
"Kunal!!" Parna shrieked, "what the fuck are you doing here? Come up, come up" she almost pulled me into the stairs leading to their apartment on the first floor. The stairs were dark but clean. "Edike ki? Haven't seen you in ages, man."
I was a little shy with Parna. When we all went to Digha in 2004, Parna walked into our bathroom with a camera and clicked Raja (her hubby now), Supriyo, and me in the nude. I was never comfortable being nude in front of girls, although that was perhaps the only time. Maybe we didn't make too much of it because she was more of a tomboy. Is that a non-pc term these days? What do they call tomboys now? Maybe she still has the picture!
Parna was her usual self like I knew her a couple of years back. How's Raja? He is settling down in his business. His parents have accepted their marriage. They are not planning to have a child in the near future...I was filled in with their details. And then it was her turn to ask.
"How's Ananya? Are you guys still together? I heard you got a job with The Telegraph? Congrats."
She didn't get an answer to her first question and guessed what might have happened. Although nothing had happened till then. Ananya probably didn't even know that I was gonna dump her any of these days. When I got up to leave, Parna gave me a long hug and asked me to take care.
For a change she didn't offer any advice. Maybe she has changed too, who knows.
I ran down the stairs and suddenly didn't remember where I was headed. Wanted to be with mom. Maybe I should speak to her tonight.
Dad and Mom were away that night. They went for Uncle Mukherjee's birthday party at the Taj. Have they ever thought of gifting a book instead of a bottle?
(may be continued, dunno really...this is a new attempt at ladlit at somebody's request)
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Maybe partly Sreela, who dubbed for her.
Two bloopers stood out though: Bihari mentions that Prof JC Bose discovered plants have life. Come on!! He discovered that plants have feelings, not life. There was nothing to be discovered about plants having life! I half expected Binodini to correct him, but this was a BIG miss.
Another was a small one: a memorial being called a memento. But pardonable.
Utsav was so perfect. And so real. Cousins do fall in love. All over the world. And what a mature way to handle something so sensitive! And what does this guy do to his characters, can you tell me? Why do you want to know more about them even after the movie is over? Why do you want to go back in time to a Banaras of 1908 and search for Binodini? Why do you want to know what happens to Shishir after you're done watching Utsav?
The rest of the weekend was spent thinking about the movies and going back to the scenes in my mind over and over again. Watched Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King too, but do I want to write about it? No way. My personal opinion, so don't take offence guys: Bengali filmmakers have been able to dish out far more mature and far more entertaining stuff than a Tolkien rendition on celluloid can even imagine to. Thanks, but no, thanks.
I have Mondo Meyer Upakhyan and Titli lined up after this. Next weekend.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Case study no. 1:
A person born into a lower middle class household in 1930s Calcutta, could not buy books in school. His desire to study, to gain knowledge (still undefined), multiplied and reached its threshold and kept waiting there, ready to pounce at the first given opportunity. He borrowed books to start with. Attended school with hand-me-downs of every kind, starting from his uniform to his sandals. He didn't have shoes.
His lust for books of any kind led him to the study library and information sciences and eventually he ended up as a librarian at the National Library in Calcutta. And he read. Kept reading until he could define his area of knowledge: history and politics of the world. So he read history and politics in two languages: English and Bengali. As happened with everybody who was found reading in the fifties and the sixties, he was swept away in the huge gust of communist ideology and landed in a room full of books by Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Engels, Dze Dong: politics, and interesting. Can they save the world after all?
Then came disillusionment with the downfall of communism all over the world. They strangle you, he said. They do not allow free speech, so how can a communist regime be called anything different from Hitler's? Dze Dong started the concept of wall posters in China, so that people can come out with their greivances. They could not speak otherwise. There were many Tiananmens that went unreported many years before Tiananmen. He knew. He told us. And then he went back to reading history. When I gave him the full set of Hobsbaum, he was ecstatic. The same things, but in a different light. Hobsbaum. Why did you have to leave Penguin at all? At least I could get some books.
And his collection grew. The rooms started getting smaller. The storage in his mind bigger. I could not imagine someone with such a scalable head. Keeps getting larger and larger, keeps upgrading its RAM.
All this storage needs some outlet, and he has his tongue. And can he speak now. Speaking became his habit and later an addiction. He started speaking even when alone and his eyes sparkled at the sight of another individual. Soon, the milkman stopped knocking every morning. He stealthily came up to the door and left the packets of milk before it. He did not want any more of Tagore's ideas of nationalism. His son started roaming around with headphones, and his wife went absolutely mum. The neighbors kept their doors firmly shut and in that whole neighborhood people developed an apathy for books. There comes!
There were some others who liked to listen to him. So they called him over and would listen to him speak incessantly. Some would even sit with him every evening, reading something new and taking notes. His wife passed away silently, except for her songs which were captured in tapes. His son looked for an absolutely quiet father-in-law.
He is still speaking. Into the phone, on the stairs, at the marketplace, in letters...
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
- Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration: courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth. ( H.L. Mencken)
- The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality. (G.B. Shaw)
I guess these two quotes represent my thoughts like nothing I will write can. Tomorrow I will write about an atheist social reformer from Bengal, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, one man with his eyes open in an ocean full of blind fools from 19th century Bengal. Point is, that bloke managed to survive. How, we will see tomorrow.
Monday, August 07, 2006
And that's all I remembered. Later at the hospital people told me that our driver was the only one who died in the crash. Everybody else survived, including me with a broken shoulder. Bombay was under waist-deep water, as the TV newscaster kept updating me every hour and I was happy to be in this private cabin with a TV in it. There were no visitors apart from Sucharita, who happened to be in the second car that Saturday. But Sucharita had her family, her job, and Bombay was flooded.
I tried but couldn't remember the face of our driver. He was in a white uniform that day and it was a rented car. Who was he, what was his name? Did he have a family? I couldn't push away these thoughts from my mind and there wasn't anybody to answer them anyways. The nurse was kinda nonchalant with a saccharine smile and had a stock "I Don't Know" answer to any question. She had very white teeth that shone like diamonds on her face.
Sucharita informed me that my dad was trying to come over to Bombay but could not because of the floods and disrupted air services. Apparently all the flights to and from Bombay were either being cancelled or postponed indefinitely. What a fuck-all city, I thought. But then this was the city that accepted me in its folds and gave me a life. I got a plush job right after coming here. I met Sucharita, possibly the most warm person I've ever met. I found an identity for myself, so how can I possibly blame Bombay?
My doc had a few assistants whom she brought along on her visits every morning. One of them was this really handsome Marathi resident doc with Dr Bahutuley printed on his name tag. I almost wished he would come alone one day, but that was probably not to be. Maybe my bandaged face doesn't appeal to him at all, who knows.
"Hello baba, did you manage to get a ticket?"
"Yes darling, I got one for day after . . . just hang on my brave girl, I'll be right there with you. Just hang on...am sure the flights will resume by then..." my dad always sounded hopeful. Man, he is my hero, my entire reserve of positive energy comes from him. Don't I love him!
The nurse took me to the OT to get my stitches removed one morning. And guess what, like in a fairytale story, Dr Bahutuley was there. I just mustered all my courage and asked his name. Rohan, he smiled. And during the entire exercise (which was rather painful now that I think of it) we made light conversation and I even managed to ask him to come visit me sometime.
And he kept his promise. He came over one evening when he was off his duty...just before he had to catch his train home. He came with a bunch of white flowers. Maybe from the florist's right in front of my window?
"I'll be going away for a while," I told him, "for about four months, precisely."
"What about your job?"
"Oh, I will join the Calcutta office after about a couple of months and work from there for another couple of months."... "Will you call?" I blurted, suddenly not very shy anymore. Baba was arriving that night. His rather wan smile made me cringe and suddenly I felt like kicking my butt. Shit, why did I have to do this? Didn't I see the scar on my cheek? I look pathetic, oh shit...
Back in Calcutta things were different. Ma cried for almost an hour from the airport till we reached home. We must thank god you survived the car crash, why did you have to go out on the weekend at all? I must go to Kalighat and offer my prayers...and I hugged her with my left arm and cried too. Just felt so good to be back home, with my folks who probably were the only ones who loved me with all they had. The cosmetic surgeon said it was possible to cure the scar on my cheek that ran down till my neck. But it had to heal first.
A couple of days later there were these serial blasts in Bombay. In the local trains. In a train in front of the hospital where I was admitted. We were all shell-shocked, numbed by the reports on TV. I went mum for the entire evening. Ma held me as I wiped my tears. These were the places where I used to go to. And now there were body parts strewn all over. It could have been me. Ma kept saying "don't you worry, you don't have to go back to Bombay any more. Stay with us, baby...you'll get a job here..." when I got a call on my cell.
"Hey, just wanted to tell you that I'm fine." It was Dr Rohan. Rohan.
And that moment I knew I had to go back to Bombay soon. It was where I belonged.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
In Delhi, a place where your clothes decide the kind of respect you'd be able to elicit from its denizens, these worries are rather commonplace. And I am an ordinary man with the natural fears that come with being an ordinary man. I've even seen people renting dummy cellphones just to flaunt at a wedding, and Shikha had to get married at a time when I couldn't even afford a proper dinner jacket. Even a blazer, for that matter. Couldn't she have waited?
But there are these large-hearted souls who are almost godsent one can say. Even in a cutthroat, ruthless city like Delhi where oneupmanship rules, there was one kind soul Nischal. Nischal was a size smaller than me, but he wore bigger jackets. And he allowed me to wear his for the big night. Shikha's big night, that is.
So I parked my mobike a couple of hundred meters away and walked to where the celebrations were. My poor wife, who must have been pretty ashamed of her husband's humble existence, was with me. Ritu was there with her husband. Atanu and Shantanu, wearing kurtas. Dilreen was as usual her resplendent self, looking brighter than the bride. She just had to be the cynosure of all eyes. Maybe she's a Leo, will ask and find out today. Soma came ahead and gave me a bear hug. Thank god for people like Soma who can make you feel comfortable even when you have a 50p coin in your pocket, wearing an expensive jacket that's not yours. (I must write an e-mail to her today.) Wifey dear was a little floored by all the lights and action. Both of us looked at the celebrations and must have thought about how much money these people have and what a colossal waste it is to marry like this.
Ritu spotted me and came forward...
"Hey, you're looking so handsome..." she announced, making all the heads turn. I almost cringed in embarrassment but would have recovered if she didn't come up with a killer "whose jacket are you wearing today?" right after that.
"Oh, this is Nischal's. I also had Anirban's jacket as a backup." I offered pretty boldly, flashing the best possible smile I could muster. Someone patted my back. I turned around but couldn't see anybody.
Her joke wasted, Ritu laughed, along with the others who noticed the incident. And then we forgot all about it.
Until it was turn for Dilreen to get married. I just could not go this time.
Still haven't been able to buy that blazer, or suit, or whatever. Every time I thought I should buy one or even a couple, I always ended up at the next jeans store. As for weddings, most of our peers are either already married or divorced and not thinking of marrying again. Thank god again.
Monday, July 31, 2006
I've always wanted tattoos on my biceps, wear wrist bands, ride huge harleys, and have flowing blonde hair. That's like making a statement. The losers who pretend to be world tourers on BMWs are just that . . . losers. They end up writing books that never sell.
Sometimes I've wanted to be an ace shooter, ready to kill for a price and shooting sitting pumpkins from my window.
And right now, I have someone's head in mind. Is anybody ready to pay me?
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
The bidhatas, or the almighty (almighties, because we love every kind of plural), are only three: the trinity, or Brohma, Bishnu, and Moheswor. If you think these spellings are a little offbeat, these are how we Bengalis love to pronounce their names. Brohma is the creator, so we don't disturb him much. He has created every conceivable thing and is perhaps happily floating in weightless space. He has conquered the dimension of time, and that involves a lot of hypothetical physics, which I'm no master of. So, like most Bengalis have done, I will leave Brohma alone. I hope he knows how to avoid being sucked into a black hole.
Bishnu, again, I don't know much about. I heard he had mastered the art of cloning himself and sent many of his clones to earth to save it from imminent disasters, and he may also have met Noah at some point of time. I won't be surprised if they exchanged notes over a cup of coffee sometime. I cannot really say he has succeeded in saving the earth much. All his clones went back leaving behind stories and myths surrounding their heroics.
Moheswor is actually Sib (or Shiva). The story starts getting interesting from here. Sib, as we all know and as many of the babas are trying to figure up there in the Himalayas, knew the perfect way to salvation. Leave home, forego your family and material pleasures, and go up to the Himalayas in search of good hash. If it's wet, burn it a little and dry it up. Stuff it into a cigarette and puff once. Puff twice...and you know where he has reached. Stretch your arms and try to fly away to him. Sib has attracted the fancy of men and women alike. Women even have a special prayer called Siboratri, during which they pray for husbands like Sib. If it is for his phallus, which is almost a legend by itself and is his sole symbol on earth, then it probably makes some sense. Indian men are not known to have phalluses like Africans as rumor has it. And if one Indian lady (whom I don't want to name here) can swear that Africans have bigger ones, we cannot possibly blame Indian women for their prayers. May their heartfelt prayers be answered.
After the bidhatas, come the mere gods. And here things get a little chaotic. At this level, the gods can be seen clamouring for space. Space in the mind of a Bengali, because that's where salvation lies for a god, doesn't it? And at this level you get a clear picture of the class divide that is so prevalent up there. There are the elite gods who are out of bounds for the lower castes of Bengalis. Then there is a snake goddess, and many others. Let me come to them one by one.
Durga is perhaps the most beautiful lady who comes visiting us once every year. She has a dudhey aalta complexion, the typical Israeli or even Punjabi complexion you get to see. Flawless. You dare not tell her that she has a slightly oily skin, she can get very touchy about such issues. Durga comes as the goddess of good harvest, as the savior, as the love of every Bengali heart. The fervour with which we wait for her homecoming is perhaps comparable to Europe waiting for Christmas. (Not so much the Americans because they're mostly spent after waiting in front of the discount stores during Thanksgiving. They probably sleep during Christmas, but like I don't know much about Bishnu, I don't know much about the Americans either.) And to wait for the idols being painted and dressed at Kumartuli is another beauty altogether. You sit there with a bowl of jaggery and puffed rice, watching the master sculptors bringing life to the numerous idols.
And finally when she is on earth, we try every possible trick up our sleeves to make those four days longer. We stay up till 6 in the morning, roaming around the streets, visiting the pandals, walking like we never walked all through the year in this Mardi Gras, and still don't fall sick. We eat from the roadside stalls, and still our usually weak gastronomies are not challenged. We survive Durga Puja and are left wiping our tears. If you ever experience a live bishorjon (immersion of the idol on the fourth day), you're bound to find your eyes full. Can seem inexplicable, but it's so universally true. So true!
The French Bengalis, who reside in Chandernagore and speak only Bengali and French, have a French Durga in place, who is lovingly called Jagadhaatri (or, the one who's held the world in her womb). Everything about Jagadhaatri is similar to Durga, only in a smaller scale, and restricted only to Chandernagore. I cannot imagine experiencing similar emotions during Jagadhaatri Puja, but would love to visit Chandernagore to see the lights. Someday.
Some of our Bengali gods are even more pricey. They come once in four years wearing the yellow jersey of Brazil. The chaos that ensues in Bengal during the football puja is best not written about. I owe allegiance to the gods above and if I show an iota of extra love for our Brazilian gods, I may invoke the wrath of god knows who.
Back to the gods, some are really not so lucky. The average upper-class hilsa loving Bengali does not worship Manasa, the snake goddess. She is worshipped mostly in the suburbs and remote villages where the snakes pose a threat. Even Santoshi Ma, who is about 150 years old and is mostly considered from the neighboring state of Bihar, is not worshipped in Calcutta households. This not-so-subtle discrimination among gods has gone unnoticed all these years, but nobody's complaining. And even if they do, Indra, the king of the gods, wouldn't probably have the time to listen.
Indra is another colorful character. When he does have time from watching those endless strip-tease and pole dancing shows, he's known to be thinking of some bollywood sirens. I don't want to elaborate, but not a single Bengali worships Indra.
They do worship some of Indra's qualities though. Indra is a connoisseur of good liquor, and Bengalis are no exception. And their favorite watering hole is Someplace Else at the basement of The Park on Park Street. However, there's a huge debate about whether Bengalis visit Someplace Else for its drinks or the couple of gods who perform there. If you hear one speaking about Nandanda or Kochuda, you know about the two new gods in town. They are reincarnations of Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Mark Knopfler, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, JJ Cale, you name it . . . oh, how could I forget John Lennon, Bob Dylan, or even Dave Gilmour? The Bengali is very touchy about the god named Robert Zimmerman, although one may argue whether he had any sense of music in his peanut-sized head. If you like Tambourine Man, the Bengali will buy you a large drink.
So, let's raise a toast to some of our gods here. Here's to you, all you up there and deep in our collective Bengali psyche. You guys sure rock.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Nonetheless, you featured in my fantasy last night. And as I lay there, creating and perfecting the imagery in my mind, I knew I had to be a little careful with you in my dreams. You are kinda point blank. You, despite being a girl, straightaway want action. While I, despite being a man, believe in foreplay and something before that as well. Do not undress in a second. Can you hold on for a bit? The tease? The gradual removal of each piece of cloth too has a charm of its own. I do like to see those little pink flowers, but I'm in no hurry, this is just a dream and I have a lot of time.
I went behind you and touched your long hair . . . it is still as lustrous as they advertise in those shampoo ads. Or do you use some brunette hair thickener? I planted a slight kiss on your neck and saw your eyes close. Did they close in pleasure or in reminiscence of what happened last time? As I was about to turn you around for a fuller kiss, you moved away, and before I could even say 'no,' you were naked, sitting there like a huge ameobic lump of white flesh on the hotel bed, your dress flung toward the door. The pink flowers were magenta now and the hair on your crotch still brown...but they faded soon.
I turned around and went off to sleep.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
"We're talking about motorcycles here, June."
"But I thought a motorcycle has a spare tire?"
And then fleeting memories of the Czech classic Jawa with a spare tire tied to the side came to all of us. We came out of the pantry like zombies. The Jawa kaleidoscope went on . . .
"Do you have a 50p coin?" she's been asking almost everybody for about a week.
Finally Shantanu found a 50p coin and gave it to her.
" He he, now I have Rs 10 worth of coins!"
Monday, July 10, 2006
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
so, buy a recliner and wait for the peaks . . .
throw in a little football, a Thai woman on your lap
and blast away. . .
there was this video, i tell you
and when i saw what she did to him
i bought a ticket to Thailand in my next dream
if i buy a waterbed and some hot charcoal
you'll know i've found my Thai woman
holed up in a hole
now that was bad rhyming, but i don't wanna rhyme
all i want is to tell u a story of when things are blue
relax . . .
this will pass too . . .
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Yes, yesterday I lifted a liter of sunflower oil from the grocer's.
I was wrong.
I won't repeat it.
If you cannot manage with your monthly allowance, check where you are overspending. You smoke. Quit smoking. I quit smoking and could save a considerable amount. Did not need to go back to shoplifting. Even for fun. The girls continued to lift cards though. They were richer than us. Spoilt. And we have no choice but to eventually marry one of them. If only they looked like Winona Ryder.
He introduced us to jazz. And Hindustani classical. Some raga-based Bengali music too. He cooked for us. Spent on us. We were street urchins. Students. He was the only one with a job. A decent job. I also remember him buying music for us.
And then there were the clueless among us. Clueless about where to go from here. After college.
They all came to him. Some of them found some focus in life. Some even had their future careers moulded by him. His mason hands . . . how many dreams did they build and realize? Countless, I guess. We were parasites. Only he didn't think so. He chose to be a mentor to an entire generation of students in Banaras.
When I met him last Saturday being produced to court, handcuffed like a hardened criminal, I did not know how to react. His wife committed suicide last year and she was a proven schizophrenic. We avoided her for various reasons. She had managed to steal the perpetual smile from his face in the four years she was married to him. And then she chose to nail him for life by taking her own life, leaving a one-year old kid in the other room.
I would have said good riddance, only she did not let him go. Her family filed a murder case against him. And a "harrassment for dowry" case, which is absolutely ridiculous. I know the truth, so do the plaintiffs. Everybody does, probably even the honorable judge.
And his brother has run out of money running from one lawyer to another, being conned at every step in an alien land. The current lawyer is competent, he can probably get him out of this mess, but has quoted an absurd amount.
Dunno really where this is headed. I am now trying to gather some money for the hapless brother, Chhoton. He was silently wiping his tears sitting on a bench the other day. And I was like an apparition, standing there almost invisible, doing nothing to comfort him. Being held back by my cowardice. By strange voices in my head which ask me to stay away.
Where is the other me? Will he emerge soon? He doesn't have much time, though. The next hearing is on July 17. And where will he get all that money from?
I guess its back to being clueless again. Somehow, this time, it is more bleak than ever.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
someone asked me to start writing a story, only i didn't have a story.
missed someone all through the month...am quite surprised too...wondering why.
the girl with curly locks came to my dreams and made love to me. after we'd danced.
just last night in one dream i had to hide in someone's bathroom.
starched all my bedsheets. am sleeping on the mattress now.
watched A Prelude to a Kiss but did not like it. I guess I am out of mush.
i ran her washing machine while she was lying in a pool of puke. two days, two nights. no rehab for her.
i'm flying to Tampa in my next dream. gottu give her a scrub. and then make love to her in a tub full of soap water.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
The sun had traveled quite some distance into the sky when i realized that i am wearing a pair of faded brown panties. In the morning when i dressed, i mistook them to be my magenta pair of briefs and happily wore them, only feeling a tad more comfortable and snug. . . what the hell, it must be because it's shrunk, i thought, and came to the office.
Once home, a detailed scrutiny revealed that they did not belong to my wife, and as far as I could remember, i had not been divesting women of any faded brown panties in the recent past . . . so the mystery deepened.
Searching for possible causes and clues, i worked back to where i picked these panties up from. They were in my backpack, which had recently traveled to Kerala with me, and to Calcutta before that. i remember having emptied the contents after the Calcutta trip, and . . . well . . . things got fuzzy after this much of thinking and i gave up. Made myself a strong vodka, removed the panties, folded them and kept them under my pillow. And went off to sleep.
In my dream i took them out from under the pillow and sniffed at them once, but i strongly insist that it was just in the dream. They smelt kind of nice, faintly of some talcum powder and Surf excel, I think. Smells from a dream are not very trustworthy, you know.
The next morning they were still there, under my pillow, probably smirking at my bewilderment. The only person i can go to when I am bewildered is my wife. She was not around, but despite knowing that this is a sensitive issue, I could not help calling her up. So i called up my wife and told her about the mystery, and after some heated discussion for about half an hour (oh my STD bills!!), finally convinced her that i was not to be held responsible for the sudden appearance of this thing in my life. The solution, she said, was to get some sniffer dogs do the job for me, and as going to the police would mess up things a bit, we decided that i should contact a private detective.
Now sleuths, no matter how charismatic and intelligent they appear in those stories and films, can be rather painful in real life, as I discovered to my utter chagrin when i went the next day to "black label detective agency (we trace the owner of those panties in your husband's pocket)". The uncanny statement within parentheses made me wriggle a little in those panties (oh shit, i was wearing them again almost by inertia), and a shiver went through my spine.
Finding out the place itself thoroughly tested my garbled sense of local geography, and after having met the fat, bald, suited, sweaty-palmed private investigator VD ("as in the disease" he insisted) Gupta, my hopes of this mystery being solved were dashed forever. But wife's instructions were not to be ignored, so i accepted the seat he offered, and stared blankly at VD's yellow teeth for a while, before i finally started speaking.
"Interesting, umm, very intriguing indeed" said VD after I finished. And slipped into what seemed like a deep thought for about ten minutes, at the end of which he said "can I see the object?"
"What object?" i was definitely puzzled, not familiar with detective jargon, only to realize that he was talking about the "object" in question. I explained that there was a technical problem, as I was wearing them at that moment. He promptly sorted out the problem by suggesting that I remove them in the toilet and hand them over to him. So done, VD scrutinized the object at length, which also involved a bout of sniffing (with knotted eyebrows) and asked me to leave the object with him. I came home, thinking I should have asked him about his fees.
Back in the office, I saw Aniket waiting for me. Aniket is this fat, black moustache with a man attached to it.
"Umm, err...can you give me the keys to your place?" he asked, looking rather sheepish.
"Why, sure! You wanna spend tonight at my place again? No problem. But why now? Can't we go together after office?"
"I ... well ... umm ... but, can you gimme the keys? I left some of my stuff in your backpack last night."
After that incident, Aniket never came to my place to watch football. And I discovered that panties are costlier than men’s briefs. But I don’t mind spending that extra buck.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
For some Indians, the langur is a revered monkey god. Mostly for North Indians. They worship Hanuman, a symbol of devotion and strength.
For Bengalis, though, the word Hanuman is an invective. If somebody is monkeying around, you can call him/her a hanuman. So here's a picture of two hanumans from my neighborhood, one of whom happens to be my son, Aaron.
Monday, April 10, 2006
And then some lions managed to kill a baby elephant. Some crazy guys were in a Land Rover shooting everything from within a few meters.
I like the harmonica in Sting's Something the Boy Said. I've been listening to a lot of stuff by Sting of late. And I kept an eye on that bitch I thought would die from its wounds.
She is healing. I saw her yesterday looking much better. Even she appeared to have been brutally raped.
And this morning I admired my motorcycle for a good 30 minutes. It will take my son on his first long ride to the Bandipur National Forest. Infested with elephants. One of those elephants chased me on my 33rd birthday, did I tell you? Chased us. Because I was leaning out of the van with my handycam, trying to capture her at close quarters.
She too had a baby elephant following her. Maybe she was raped too by an Indian bull.
By the way, my motorcycle is a bullet, fondly called a bull.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
although i couldn't recognize him the next day, i made it a point to smile at most of the grey uniforms that looked at me. and then one day i spoke to one of them. he asked me if i'd had breakfast. a funny question and he has nothing to do with it, but i guess that is considered a courteous question. to ask if one has had breakfast or lunch or dinner according to the time of the day or night you meet. usually, the neons blur when the mp3 player is playing Golden Hair, but by the time it comes to Sting, they brighten up. all in the mind, i tell you. what if i tell him i haven't had breakfast? what will he do?
so another day i smiled at one of the uniforms (by now i could distinguish one from another). he smiled back and asked if i'd had breakfast. i told him i haven't and that i am rather hungry. he asked me if i had a coupon to buy breakfast from the cafetaria. i said i didn't have one. the uniform promptly took out one booklet of coupons and offered me one. we don't need these coupons, they do. i don't have food upstairs at the cafetaria. i can go out and have crabs or fish. the uniform has to have it here because he probably cannot afford to. but his generosity in offering a coupon was unfathomable to me. didn't he just sacrifice one meal?
i took the coupon and walked up. the song had changed to Fields of Gold by then and the sun shone brilliantly through the glass roof.
the next day it wasn't lonely in the corridor any more. there were real people there, some cleaning the floor, some wiping the walls . . . real people with real smiles. and no need for an mp3 player.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
and if i didn't want my mom to die, why let her die? if she had unfulfilled dreams, so do i, of taking her to the himalayas again. till she died. but she died much before.
if you are sitting in front of a little boy who's dying of cancer, how many toys will his heaven have? count the number of videogames, soccer balls, chocolate trees before you go to sleep today. if tomorrow you are sitting in front of him, and he knows he's dying, tell him the biggest lie. and let him die smiling.
hey, you can hold on to a soul if you don't wanna let it go. i tried doing it. works for me even after six years of my mother's death. i was never a mama's boy. never knew her much. but now i do. she's reading Desh even as i write this, the glasses thick and heavy on her nose.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Just had to crap.
I could feel the blood draining from my face. I was about to brace myself for the worst. How many times did I insist on getting a WC installed in the boot? My mind was faltering and despite all my concentration being used up in trying to hold, I could see defeat staring me in the eye.
In my desperation I must have mentioned the urge aloud. And god heard me.
"There's a public toilet just around the corner, daddy," I heard him say . . .
Without trying to find out how he gottu know about it, I drove like an automatic pilot, following my son's directions . . . and there was salvation in sight, my mecca, my savior . . . a white building with a halo around it . . .
When I came back to the parked car, Aaron was smiling. "Who's gonna clean?"
"There's an uncle who's been hired to," I answered, relieved.
God was in my car.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
When Rama attacked Lanka to rescue his wife Sita, he had only monkeys as soldiers. But he also had one Bibhishana who had defected from Ravana's camp (despite being Ravana's brother) and joined an otherwise gullible Rama as the minister of espionage and military strategy. Some people draw parallels between Rama and our slain prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Rajiv was a deft pilot, but not a politician. Poor guy had to become the Prime Minister because the medieval people of India wanted to remain in Ramarajya (read "being led by someone of the Nehru/Gandhi clan"). Rajiv eventually died a dog's death. Rama, likewise, was good at archery, but that was all he was good at. By virtue of being King Dasarath's eldest son, he too had to take up the king's post. He didn't die a dog's death though. He had wily jackals around him.
Now Rama, with the help of his military advisors, was making inroads into Lanka, and Ravana's army was about to face defeat. Being a human being (and thus handicapped against the ogres) Rama was privileged enough to have the support of all the gods that you can think of. Now who doesn't know that a weak man needs support. You cannot blame the gods either. They saw this as a good opportunity to use a human being to destroy some of the ogres while they enjoyed strip-tease parties in heaven . . . more about those in another story.
Kumbhkarna happened to be the only hope of the ogres. He was huge, a little bigger than King Kong, and had a huge appetite as I already mentioned. He had gone to sleep a few months back and it was absolutely necessary to wake him up before the six-month quota got over. The ogres were badly losing. One wise ogre (with a white beard) figured that the only way to wake him was to create a noise that would pierce its way into his subconscious and jolt him out of his sleep. He got a black pipe and called the scariest sounds of the world and bundled them in the pipe. And where the drums and cymbals had failed, the nadeswara succeeded. Kumbhkarna jumped out of his sleep and started eating the monkey soldiers as if on trance.
That was how the nadeswara was born. Much later the ogres and the monkies of the subcontinent started using nadeswara as a musical instrument. An instrument that will shake you out of your slumber and make you stand straight . . . ready to attend to your duties, transfixed.
When I was woken up last night by this sound at the unearthly hour, I too woke up. Stood straight, as if in a trance. Went to the box of firecrackers that I saved from Diwali. Picked up a jumbo rocket. Dipped its head in petrol. Aimed it at the house where the celebrations were on. And fired.
Deccan Herald, Feb 03, 2006
Last night there was a huge fire at a house in South Bangalore. It is reported that 72 people died in the fire. The local residents and the firefighters could manage to pull out only the charred remains of the bodies. Not a single person is reported to have survived the fire. The cause of the fire could not be established as everything is burnt beyond recognition. The police, however, recovered a nadeswara which had survived the wrath of the fire. Some local residents claimed it was the first nadeswara with which Kumbhkarna was woken from his sleep.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
i got A, D, E, and G now. i play boring, unchallenging hindi numbers. and some country. but someday when i am black, i will play the blues too. problem is, i cannot sit and listen to little walter for long. i would listen to keith jarrett instead. i guess the blues have to get into your bloodstream first. the steady rhythm versus the wantonness of the extempores. blow away, bend the notes, and shed a couple of tears too if they come out right.
but i will try. james here is encouraging me. pappa pappa pappa pap . . . someday i will turn a black man. hold the puny thing in my fat fingers and belt out the most beautiful notes you've heard. malleable, metallic notes . . . just wish me luck.
Monday, January 30, 2006
i look up and it's raining flowers
petals softly kissing and vanishing into the fog
that envelops my feet. . .
when, in a dark room
your letters spill out of my inbox
and my glasses are missing . . .
when you call and i listen (fades)
but you never called, i did, once
your letters i read twice over,
i never needed glasses in a dark room
to save your photos to my desktop
it has never rained flowers
but only dry leaves in autumn
and the fog's never around my ankles . . .
. . . only inside my glasses, if you didn't know
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
two days when the sun didn’t set
you don’t set on me now,
resist the night
Delirious night has nothing to offer
Wander around the graveyard?
And then to The Park,
same Someplace Else?
You know their numbers by heart, come on now,
Let the guitars be thrown
Let them walk out the door,
Treacherous night has nothing to offer you
Crow’s feet don’t show, you say
your anomalied day shrouded in velvet, looks long and promising
for me, in the night,
there’s La Martiniere somehow
and a picture of me with a violin
a delectable boy with his brown beard and French accent
talking about Bach
I didn’t like his fumbling fingers
and yours are strumming a dark tune
with nobody humming in the background
You are alone, so strum me someday, play a never-ending song
What’s there for you in the death of night anyway?
Watching the stars? I’ll watch with you
If you find a place,
Can you find one for me too?
Thursday, January 19, 2006
In love, he says. “So did you tell her?”
“No, it is too early I think.”
“Why? But she called, didn’t she?”
“She called and we talked about her poetry.”
“I know, she is really good.”
Writes like Sylvia Plath at times. I remember discussing some of her poems with him. I never read anything by Sylvia Plath. I read poems written for her. Oh, and I read the only novel by her too. Only a few pages into it.
“Tina read it. Twice,” I remembered aloud.
“What? Her poems?”
“No, The Bell Jar.”
But then she’s a girl. She wouldn’t have read Ted Hughes or shed tears when we all shed tears. When we listened to Wish You Were Here for the nth time together. And also Imagine. And sometimes Jim Morrisson too. I like Ray Manzarek’s writing more than his piano.
So do I, I am no fan of the Doors. But his poems? Yes, Jim. In our memories, right next to Syd Barrett.
“Women are perhaps strong. Stronger, that is. Or thick?”
“No, sometimes too sensitive.”
But still you are madly in love with her. (and she is a woman and you thank god for that) “So tell her.”
That you want to keep your eyes closed and enjoy this free fall. Or should you? Ask her. If she called today, tell her you read into it. Tell her you read into all her little actions and brood. And then call me up. Your brother.
And the diamond ring that I asked you to buy? Keep it ready, bro, it may come handy any day. What diamond ring? Women like it sprung at the right moment, mostly with the sea in the background.
“But I prefer the mountains. Always have. I always want the mountains in the foreground and Radiohead in the background.” How can mountains be in the foreground . . . but why not, I am not clicking a photograph . . . they won’t block my view . . . we laughed.
“Is it in G Augmented?”
“U-huh…augmented is not a depressing chord, it is probably in G minor. They have to make a song dark and depressing, it must be in minor.” You know, bro, and I will always listen to you.
“Aren’t you calling for rather too long? You could probably have spent this money calling her up,” I tried him.
“Huh,” came his reply.
I love it when he connects.
After the call I went back to some old photographs. Tori Amos kept singing just for me that night.
It was another thing he could hear her too.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
But recently, Catherine's oneliners have suddenly changed their hue. She was quoting Anne Sexton and sometimes writing better than her, and believe me she can write a lot of good stuff if she wants to. But yesterday she came up with this absolutely unoriginal line:
"Fine, take your patience and stick it up your ass."
Now Northrop Frye would have none of this. He would definitely argue, and understandably so, that sticking something up one's ass is an archetype lodged in one's mind, that probably doesn't have anything to do with really being sodomized. It is that picture in your mind of the proverbial middle finger being raised in defiance, in contempt, in denial, the world over. (I don't know if the Chinese have some other meaning for it.) Only virgin minds of children and some adults like that of Mr Bean are perhaps unaware of the strength of the finger, of actually being able to tell your opponent to shove it.
So, even when you think you are writing something original and witty, you are essentially borrowing from that archetype which urges you, "go ahead, ask him to stick it."
No, I won't accept it as an original line at all.
Next time, think of some other orifice.