Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Rituporno's Films

I watched a couple of Rituporno's movies last weekend. Chokher Bali and Utsav. Just fell in love with Aishwarya Rai after watching Utsav. Dunno who to thank for that: Tagore, Rituporno, or Aishwarya. Certainly not her because she has never impressed in any of her movies before this.

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

Too much knowledge: Case Study 1

This is not a learned observation, but just presenting three case studies of people who have always pursued knowledge and what happened to them. Also about how they are perceived by the rest of their worlds.

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


When I came to, I felt something heavy on me. It turned out to be Mala aunty. Her body. She wasn't moving so I pushed her over to the other side of the seat and tried to get up myself. I couldn't. A terrible pain shot through my shoulder straight to my head.

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

of blazers and apples

First Shikha got married. And then Dilreen. I went to Shikha's wedding with a lot a trepidation. In a wedding full of mercs and huge pajeros, where will I park my puny 100 cc mobike? Will they allow me entry? Will my borrowed jacket look out of place? Will someone be able to tell it is borrowed?

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.