Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Fortune Teller

"Shirdi se aae hain babu. Shanivaar ko Indiranagar me Sai Baba ka....."

"Abhi time nahi hai "

"Beta naukri karte ho ya padhte ho"


"Khush to nahi ho. Time pass hi kar rahe ho. Thoda sabr karo. Aage achcha time hai tumhara"
[Yes, what a thing to say. How innovative!]


"umar kya hai "


"27 ki umar me is desh se bahar jaoge tum..."

[Next year, I apply for MBA. 2009, aged 27, I might actually be out of India. I hang on waiting for him to ask for money]

"jyada friendship nahi karna. dukh pahuch sakta hai..."

[I hang on still]

"shanivaar ko shave nahi karna ...."

[I have a 4 day stubble]

"Marathi ho kya"

"nahi, Bangali"
[Some conversation about Kolkata]

"Shirdi gae ho"

"Haan, 1 baar"

"Lo beta, Sai Baba ka phool le ke jao."
[I go down, even though I know that he is just about to ask for money]

"Bangali brahman ho kya"


"chatterjee, mukherjee....."


"Bangali brahman achche hote hain .."
[Aur baaki? He spots the Red Coral Im wearing on my ring finger]

"Motorcycle jyada mat chalana. Accident ho sakta hai . 2 baar Baba ne bacha lia hai, Sambhaal ke, haan..."
[Since I bought my bike, I have had 2 instances of falling from it. Both, could have been fatal but I escaped without even scratches]

"jee dyan se chalunga"

"ye lo beta.. Baba ka phool. kuch de do.. 100 rupae"

"ghar me paise nahi hai jee abhi"
[I have about 1500 in cash in my purse]

"kitne hain?"

"kuch 30 / 40 rupae hain "
[Yes, I lie without batting an eyelid]

"theek hai beta.. agli baar jyada de dena... khush raho"

I come back to my room where Scorpions is playing the acoustic version of "Always Somewhere", shave and head to office.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


An only child of Indian parents is apt to be spoiled, especially so if he's a Bengali. More so if the occasion is Durga Pujo. And if he happened to live in Bihar, it meant that he would have at least three times, if not more, the number of new clothes to wear during Pujo than his non Bengali friends! In the best of years, the number (and mind u, this is the number of combinations of Trousers and T-Shirts/Shirts) could go up to 7 or 8 which meant 2 new combinations for each day. At times it was almost embarrassing.

Yes, back when I was growing up in Bokaro; Durga Puja or DP, as I have only heard Bokaroites call it, was FUN. And the new clothes were just one part of it. From setting up little stalls in front of the pandal which lent out Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruv, Chacha Chowdhury, Tinkle at 50p (Re 1 for the Digest, mind you!) and earning a princely Rs 17 in the process, to feasting on the Re 1 and Rs 2 'ice creams' that were to be seen everywhere; from eating Khichdi sitting under the sun along with family and friends on Ashthami or Navami to going around the city on cycles, scooters and in later years, cars, to check out the pretty girls all dressed up; DP was one event I totally looked forward to. The anticipation, the lead up to saptami, the three days of unabated celebrations and then dashami, it was so very intense.

Roaming around in the pandals, watching the 'Arati Competition', making sure that on arriving at a pandal the first thing we did was to pray to the Goddess before we started looking around for pretty faces, making the occasional polite conversation with the neighbourhood uncle who recognised you, everything about those few days had a touch of magic to it.

Over the years though, like most things, the charm faded away. Whether it was a case of us outgrowing the simple pleasures of DP or the charm actually giving way to something bordering on tedium, would become a favourite topic of discussion amongst us.

Slowly inching towards the wonderfully created and even more spectacularly lit 'Harry Potter' pandal, replete with the train, tunnel and Harry Potter, with my parents alongside me, I felt lonely amongst the five thousand odd people gathered in Salt Lake's FD Block in Kolkata. DP, was no longer the same.

Beauty in transience. I guess that's what all those beautifully crafted idols and pandals are meant to convey. That's why those few days of fun and laughter were given to us as kids. When everything else took a backseat and DP reigned supreme. And although I never was the religious kind, yet if I had to pick a favourite God(dess), I know who it would be. And the reasons would be far from religious.

By the way, if the first lines sound familiar, I really like the way Nehru starts his autobiography.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yet Another 'Rocking' Weekend

Pizzazz was fun. In fact it was really good. More so because the acting was flawless and the humour very commonplace and understandable. And yes, the female lead was hot. Then dinner at Pizza Hut where I wondered why the Arabic Chicken Sandwitch looked so different when served on a plate as compared to its picture on the menu. All this was preceded by breakfast at Nilgiris and lunch at home. The cook made mutter mushroom which was really yummy. We also checked out the new Sigma Mall before going to the play. Found it a bit claustrophobic and spent some time marveling at the spaciousness of The Forum.

Got eid-ki-sewaiyyan from the next door (its more next Window actually!) neighbour. He asked why the guitar had stopped in the last few months and I blabbered out some random reasons like being out of town and not keeping well. Although he did point out that he had heard me singing on Saturday morning and I was quite pleased. I love attention, you see. He also said that more often than not he sees the light of my room turned on when he wakes up for a glass of water at 2 or 3 at night and I told him that I read during that time.

The mutton biriyani at Caesar's Place was delicious and very different from the one at Samarkand. More spicy. But I love both.

Oh, and there was cricket and ToI and AajTak and Scrubs too. Yes, have started watching Scrubs again. It feels a bit different now. More real, if I may say so? For one, the soundtrack makes more sense now. The last season starts next week. Pity that it has to be the last.
And this song's nice.

Coral - Dreaming Of You

I know it's an absolutely shitty post. Was itching to write something and nothing was coming to my mind.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Geek, The Stud and The Dude

My flat mates.

I think I have been immensely lucky to have landed up with these guys. Same department, same batch, same college. I couldn't have bargained for more. And so the first 15 months or so of employed bachelorhood has been fun.

The Stud. Or you could also call him the arbit enthu boy. Comes up with ideas of a 40 km cycling trip very frequently. Brought wooden planks, nails and a couple of saws one Saturday morning and made his own table (varnished it the next day!). Expresses surprise at the most trivial of things like why the door was closed at 1 o' clock at night while the three of us were asleep or like why The Geek has brought ice cream from the market. Has a collection of some of the most interesting books that you would ever come across (mostly non fiction), ranging from Roger Penrose to History of Modern Japan. Has books on origin of words, physics, mathematics, economics, socialism. You could easily spend hours browsing through his collection. Rides his Bullet with pride and has even inspired the next door uncle to get a Thunderbird! Absolutely in love with Paris Hilton and detests Shakira as if she were the ugliest creature ever born. No that would be Esha Deol, if I know him well! All the bike trips that we have made together have been memorable, especially this one. I try to keep off from the CS related discussions that he has with The Geek. They make me feel such a dumbo (not that I am any better but still!). He's in charge of bringing corn flakes and weird biscuits to home which only he can eat and actually like. My partner in 'The Geek bashing' which is a good time pass at any hour of the day. Very few Bollywood movies that this guy hasn't seen especially if it stars Govinda or Anil Kapoor or Big B or Madhuri or..... (you get it right?). Prone to sudden cravings for Gosht Ki Dum Biryani from Samarkand. The famous Marilyn Monroe poster that adorns our hall is his doing. And how can I forget. The guys a fitness freak. Dines primarily on fruits and is the only non-vegetarian I've seen who comes back from office to find the cook has made chicken curry and says, "Shit, bas chicken bana hai. Daal nahi bani hai kya....". Extremely talented photographer who keeps experimenting with his angles and so we don't have to worry when we are out on a trip. Ok, that's enough for the time being I guess.

The Dude. Curly hair. Then straight long hair. Then the pony tail. Several bandanas to go along. And of course the beaded bracelets and the wrist bands. No piercings though, still! Initially had a racing cycle along with the helmet to add to his appeal but the Bangalore traffic and dust finally took its toll. So now its a striking red Pulsar 180. Big music enthusiast and has been my partner in all the concerts I have attended in Bangalore and has done a few more on his own. Smokes and drinks. Only one glitch in his dude-ness though. Doesn't play the guitar. And so some of the girls are still alive!
Have never seen him lose temper. And always has a smile on his face. Forever game for a drink, be it alcohol or tea. So I've stopped asking "Rohan, chai bana raha hoon. Piyega?" Didnt know him that well in college but getting to know him over the last year has been good. Has been really busy of late with personal and professional matters so we miss him during the weekends of doing nothing when he's busy painting the town red. Not really. Not always anyway, but that's how we like to put it. Oh, and it's he who inspired me to go on the long walks at night, though I feel, of late I have been doing it more than him.

The Geek. My partner in "yaar kuch karte hain" discussions, and in making grand plans for the weekend and more which range from planning for a movie (Non Bangaloreans, don't laugh), to going for a eurotrip, opening a restaurant, become a politician(?)......ok I'll stop.

Weekend mornings are a good time for the family to come together. Activities like indulging in ToI bashing and read aloud sessions from ToI's glossy supplement which has articles on the "New Indian" and the "Metrosexual Man", just to name a few, are the favorites. Of late, another winner, as far as meaningful discussions go, is why do news channels (especially Aaj Tak and Star News) carry hour long, discussions on Indian Idol, Amul Voice Of India, Nach Baliye and Jhalak Dikhla Ja. We also at times contemplate over why we are watching it in the first place. But lets not get into that right now. Oh, and Ajit Agarkar too. He brings joy. Especially when he's not playing.

Coming back to The Geek, he's in charge of configuring our wireless router and is called upon by yours truly in case of any difficulties (major ones, if you thought I was dumb!) with my computer. Often he keeps coding even after coming back from office and that's the time I indulge in 'The Geek bashing' along with The Stud. It's good fun, trust me, and come to think of it, The Geek takes it well. Doesn't kill the fun, I mean. Most of my life ke funde discussions happen with him and since we were in the same hostel and I've known him closely for 6 years now, so at times we also bitch about some people who don't come online. (Ok, you're reading it and you know it's you we are talking about!)
We are the ones who do most of the ghar ka samaan shopping and paying the bills. Why am I telling you this? Don't really know.

It's almost a mini hostel that we have at No. 40, First Floor. The transition couldn't have been smoother for me. You guys are one of the better things that has happened to me in the last one year and laughing nonsensically at our silly, highly contextual jokes, pulling each other's legs, indulging in intellectual discussions at 2 in the night; all of it has made life easier. And for everyone else, there's a lot more to these three than what I have written here. It's a blog post after all and I can write only so much without making people suspicious. Or are they already!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

One Man's Bible

It was not that he didn't remember he once had another sort of life. But, like the old yellowing photograph at home, which he did not burn, it was sad to think about, and far away, like another world that had disappeared forever.

Thus begins Gao Xinjiang's fictionalized account of his life as a child and an adult in one of the most tumultuous periods in China's history. Set primarily amidst Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, One Man's Bible traces the life of Gao through the labor camps, politburo meetings and party propaganda that formed a part of everyday existence in China. Also chronicled in this account is his lust for women and the varied relations that he has with them, the betrayals and the chance encounters. It's a commentary on the confusion and the disillusionment that he suffers from, which in some way mirrored the sentiments of the masses and the turbulent and chaotic times where paranoia of the present and fear of an uncertain future reigned supreme.

As the narrative twists and turns through the lives of revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries, reactionaries and counterreactionaries, we get to realise the meaning of freedom in its very basic form. It's a world where an aspiring poet becomes a fisherman and then a vegetable seller. It's the story of his decadence and resignation before the 'Party'. It's a world where a mathematics buff in college is forced to herd cattle in a farm. It's the story of his dreams that never came true.

In a hotel room in Hong Kong, a Jewish German woman brings out the repressed memories of a time he had forgotten. It's a release, both on the physical and emotional level. He feels the need to express himself and relive the pain to detach himself from it.

Gao meticulously describes the working and the thought process of the 'Party' and what happened to its enemies, the Ox Demons and the Snake Spirits, as they were called. Freedom of thought, expression, and even choice was not allowed. Either you conformed to the party's diktats or faced its wrath. is a capacity and an awareness that needs to be defended. Moreover, even dreams can be assailed by nightmares.

The style of writing, itself, is something which needs to be talked about. Gao uses 'he' to refer to the period about which he is writing, the past so as to say. Whenever he is talking of the present, though, like about his Jewish German mistress, Margarethe, or the numerous Western women he beds, who in their own way inspire him to write, he uses 'you'.

You must find a detached voice, scrape off the thick residue of resentment and anger deep in your heart, then unhurriedly and calmly proceed to articulate your various impressions. Your flood of confused memories, and your tangled thoughts.....You are striving to describe in simple language the terrible contamination of life by politics....that penetrated every pore, clung to daily life, became fused in speech and action, and from which no one at that time could escape.....You are you and he is he.

He tries not to colour the 'he' with the present day 'you' so as to be able to bring out an account which is as truthful and real as if written in those times. The chapters where he writes about the need to write and the essence of writing and pure gems. I might as well quote pages after pages. articulate pain in order to alleviate pain seems to make pain bearable.

It is by cloaking naked reality with a gauze curtain, ordering language and weaving into it feelings and aesthetics that you are able to derive pleasure from looking back at it....

In the process of linguistic actualization, the present and past history, time and space, concepts and knowledge, all become fused and leave behind magical illusions created by language.

And he fills pages after pages with such thoughts.

He says that the circumstances were such that one couldn't be a fence sitter. Either you joined parties or perished. Being a silent observer was not a choice and so in all this confusion, he had to rebel. If not for anything then merely for existence. Merely because of the fact that he was a human and there was no other option left.

It's an essay on the meaning of freedom and the necessity of expressing oneself. It's about trying to find meaning in everything that happens around us, savoring life and the sufferings and delights it brings. It's a lesson on how to deal with suffering and how to overcome it.

After suffering has past, it, too, can become beautiful.

Life in itself is an inexplicable miracle; to be alive is a manifestation of that miracle. Is it not enough that a conscious physical body is able to perceive the pains and joys of life. What else is there to be sought.

Soul Mountain and now this. I'm glad I came across this author.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Pursuit Of Happiness

"...true happiness and meaning resided in places we would never find and perhaps did not wish to find, but - whether we were pursuing the answers or merely pleasure and emotional depth - the pursuit mattered no less than the attainment, the asking as important as the views we saw through the windows of the car, the house, the ferry. With time, life - like music, art and stories would rise and fall, eventually to end, but even years later, those lives are with us still in the city views that flow before our eyes, like memories plucked from dreams."
- Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul

I'm not happy. Haven't been for quite some time now. I feel stuck. Stagnated. Heading nowhere. Drifting. And helpless. My beliefs, most importantly in myself, seem to be crumbling every day. Of late, nothing I want seems to be destined to come to me. My Ma once told me that I had a problem with wanting something really bad. That I never really yearned for something and so it never came to me. She told me that if one really wants something, one can get it. Ma I think you were wrong.

Why have I put myself in a position where others decide my happiness. Why do I end up feeling miserable because somebody thought that things shouldn't work out the way I intended them to be. Why should a 'I'm sorry but...' or a 'No' make me doubt myself, my life. Is it because I care too much about what people think of me. Is it because I have defined happiness and satisfaction to be what people make out of my life. Is it because I am a person who is not dumb enough to be content with what he has and not gifted enough to be able to do anything about it. Is it because this is what everybody goes through. Then why do I see everybody I know, moving, going on with life, heading somewhere, whereas I find myself in this sort of a quagmire. Maybe you would say that I am overdoing it. I have so many things going for me and its just that I want more and can never be satisfied which has induced this ranting. But wouldn't you be feeling helpless if you knew you can get something and yet never got it. When even the signs seem to suggest the same. Because for once you want to be happy for yourself and see people congratulating you. Because for once you want a sense of utter fulfillment to take you over and flow with it. Because you want something to happen. Because you want to be happy the way you have defined it and not what some well meaning friend tells you.

Does this mean that the sensible thing to do is to indulge in activities which give you a sense of freedom. Which don't tie you. Which are under you control and involve only you. Is that why writing and reading Pamuk gives me such a sense of calm and contentment. Because I'm not being judged. Because I'm not being evaluated. Because I'm not being questioned. And because it would stay with me.

Why then, do we associate happiness with the people we care about, the people we like and love. Is it in the hope that they will forever be there with us or is it because even if one day they are gone, the bitter sweet memories would be worth the effort. Is it because thats exactly what living and longing is all about.

Finally, do I really want the things I think I want or is it just a means for the pursuit. Is there more gratification in the pursuit than in the attainment. Even if there is, yet I would like to attain something and then know for myself which was more pleasurable. I hope that life gives me that opportunity. At least once. To get something which I really wanted to even if I didn't clearly know why.

*Too many posts with the tag Music of late. So here's the Introspection one, though I know some would have preferred the Nostalgia more.

Monday, October 01, 2007

2 Nights, 2 Unforgettable Movies

As the end credits started to roll, tears were streaming down my face. The end almost kills you with its simplicity. Cinema Paradiso, to me, is as good as it gets.

A now famous movie maker comes back to the town of his childhood to attend the funeral of Alfredo, the projectionist of the city's theater when he was a kid. The movie recounts Toto's journey from a movie crazy kid who spent the better half of the day with Alfredo in his projection room, to his adolescence and how finally he is convinced by Alfredo to leave the town, live his life and never look back. What follows there upon is an account of the relation between the both of them which is as touching in its simplicity as you would ever have seen. Each and every character in the movie is perfectly etched out, but of course, the little mischievous Toto tops the list. He is just adorable.

The movie is a celebration of the love for cinema, the power of relations and the fact that no matter how far we run away from them, some memories never completely go away. There's no point in me rambling about the movie though. Go watch it.

The first German movie I watched was Der Untergang (The Downfall). That was during my college days. And till date it remains one of my favourites. The Lives Of Others, too, is right there at the top.

It's the 1980's in Germany. And the Secret Police (Stasi) knows whats happening in your life. In one such operation, the Stasi 'observes' the life of a famous playwright and his actress girlfriend. And their suspicion is confirmed as the poet playwright decides to break the shackles of government regulations and express himself. Only, the man entrusted by the Police to do the job lets his human instincts take over.

Black, white and shades of gray and brown are the only colours in this movie and they quite brilliantly bring out the mood of the country as it waited on the brink of history. A single sentence spoken against the ruling government can end you career. Freedom of expression is a thing of the past and the artists are the worst hit. They have to comply with the government propaganda or face the risk of being banned forever. But then there's the human amongst all of us and this movie is a triumph of that spirit. Its the same spirit that can be seen across the three main characters of the movie. The poet, his actress girlfriend (who is stunningly gorgeous by the way) and the man who 'listens' to their lives.

What makes Gerd Wiesler, the 'listener', a hero, is the simple fact that he begins to question himself and look within . In the end, the film is also in a way, about the questions we need to ask ourselves. Everyday. About power, principles, ideology and feelings. Another must see.