Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Why…Why Me?

I know….I know….another megalomaniacal, seemingly self-pity pumped harangue of elephantine proportions but here’s some food for thought;

  • When was the last time your ass caught fire and burnt like Troy because some stupid firecracker blew up hurting no one else but you?
  • When was the last time you contracted an eye disease so rare that according to records it was last heard of more than a decade and a half back……..somewhere in Europe!
  • When was the last time you were tacitly asked out by a woman and having misheard what she’d said cause it was too noisy, you replied by saying something so bizarre she decided to avoid you like plague thereafter.
  • When was the last time you were mistaken as being homosexual and stopped on your way to be asked affectionately where the nearest gay lounge was?
  • When was the last time your mouth got so badly singed cause you ate the wrong thing at the wrong place, purchased from THE wrong person at a WRONG price, and for the ensuing week, ate with your head tilted so low to one side that your brains would pour outta your ear?
  • When was the last time your mom lovingly reminded you how your little sister used to beat you up cause about a couple of decades back you were smaller than her and loved trying on her dresses?
  • When was the last time you stepped out of your house and someone from above spat a warm concoction of saliva and toothpaste on your head, not once but twice??
  • When was the last time your sister broke the window pane and you got slapped? cause well, your parents obviously won’t hit a little two year old!
  • When was the last time you stuttered so much that by the time you finished telling the cabbie where you wanted to be taken( after an adequate amount of thigh-slapping, foot-stomping and nostril flaring), he’d called you a few filthy names, collected another passenger and made off with a scowl on his face?
  • AND when as the last time you hand gestured to a pretty girl to call you and she thought you meant, you’d call her and you both waited for each other to call till she left town?

    If you still don’t think I’ve enough justification….feel free to read my other write-ups!!


    ‘Why….Why me?’ A question, the answer to which I’ve demanded from the Philosopher lounging somewhere beyond the clouds time and again, but absolutely to no avail. He just sits up there, throws his head back and laughs out loud.
    It’s known that s**t’ happens but it does in careful moderation. Good experiences are balanced with bad ones, happy times are balanced with unhappy ones, what goes around definitely does come around and all that jazz and to add to things, an over-sensitive Karma, like a disgruntled ex makes damn well sure you pay doubly for all the undue liberties you take. But very often things go out of hand and Karma seems to have gone bananas putting you through circumstances you’d rather die than endure.

    But Karma? Is there really any such thing as that?

    I believe Lord picks a few among us as ‘subjects’ to secretly play practical jokes on. Of Course, Life’s Lonely Up There And He Needs His Entertainment. Thus, to execute this clownery He very intelligently has employed Karma as his appliance and scapegoat (as Karmas where the buck always ends) and one such supreme mooncalf of a ‘subject’ is yours truly.

    In what is to follow I shall recount four of the finest instances from a whole galaxy of them, that least said, are so bizarre it’s hard to think of anything else one would have on his mind if not a “Why….Why me?”

    FESTIVE FIASCO

    That Diwali evening I shall never forget, I must’ve been nine or ten back then, racing upstairs to our terrace clutching a small bag of firecrackers I called out to all my friends from the adjacent terraces to come join me. So they did, about fifteen boys and girls more or less of the same age as mine. There was already quite a congregation at the terrace, a newly wedded couple, cant recollect their names, old Mr. and Mrs. Maitra, Mehra uncle and his daughter, Mrs. Gomes and her little daughter, they were all there.
    Firecracker after firecracker took off, exploded, circled on the ground, hissed and huffed and within a couple of long hours or so the elders started suggesting a wrap up.
    A lot of stomping and wailing followed after which we were allowed another half an hour to finish off the last remnants of our ammunition. Suddenly, the new bride in the crowd playfully broke away from her spouse and began demanding a cracker or two from us. One of us handed her one of those round, big, clay ‘flowerpots’. I was always extremely afraid of those things because of their tendency to explode almost always during the closure of their colorful display and hid behind my parents every time one was lit.

    Anyhow, throughout that evening not a single one had blown up so I’d almost forgotten about the dangerous possibility.
    She stood some ten feet away from me bending low over the large clay ball holding a sparkler over its head. I was busy trying to light a ‘Ground-Chakkar’ when glancing her way, I discovered what she was about to do. I almost choked with fear. Screaming out, I appealed to her to wait a while till I had enough time to run for cover. How was I supposed to know that she was hearing-impaired? As deaf as can be, she stared my way grinning away proudly, still holding the sparkler to the flowerpot. It was now or never. Abandoning the Chakkar I turned around and began sprinting across to one corner of the terrace where old Mr. and Mrs. Maitra stood, intending to go hide behind them when it all happened. It was all over in a split second’s time, before I could dive behind the old couple; with a loud KABLOOOIE! The flowerpot exploded sending razor-sharp shards of hot, glowing clay shooting in every direction.
    I knew it was coming and immediately I felt a hard thrash on my left buttock and fell over. Within seconds a scorching, stinging pain erupted from the spot where the clay shrapnel as big as a tennis ball had got me and then, enlightenment! I’d charred my bottoms!!
    Standing up, I began bawling my esophagus out! With about two dozen people consisting of boys, girls and elders as spectators I kicked off my trousers forcefully, still screaming, I began running around the terrace yelling like a maniac. According to dad, after circling the entire terrace about twice I scampered off home. The poor bride got a fearful shock of her lifetime and an insignificant little scratch across her chest on seeing which Banerjee uncle began jumping up and down in panicky shouting, “BUST IN BEST….BUST IN BEST!!”(Translation: “Burst in breast…Burst in breast!!!”). Meanwhile, at home I raced past mom, went straight into the bathroom and crashed my smoking bottom inside a bucket full of water and with a prolonged, effervescent hiss the pain subsided……….I shut my eyes.
    Within minutes, the entire gleeful audience from the terrace down to Mrs. Gomes’s little daughter, had deposited themselves in our bedroom where mom had laid me on the bed. I lay on my front, underpants off with ‘Burnol’ smeared all over my cooked buttock. All my friends, male and female bent down low in unison to peek at my colorfully resplendent bottom relishing every minute of the experience, till dad came and shooed everyone away. Later next day I was informed that no one in the terrace last night was hit, but me. About twenty five people stood in the midst of a shrapnel-storm and the only one to get struck was ME, believe it or not. Why….Why me?
    Next Diwali, a rocket I lit refused to take off and blew up on my face, never had I seen a rocket blow up on anybody’s face before.
    Why…Why me?

    DEEP THROAT

    There was a brief chapter in my early days when I used to be intensely passionate about cricket but could never manage to get good at it in spite of disciplined coaching at a local club. I was especially bad at fielding for which reason I was always assigned a position where the ball was least likely to stray. One day, my coach decided to be a little constructive and pompously announced that he’d assign me the position of a wicketkeeper. I’d never stood behind a wicket ever and was slightly apprehensive when coach advised me to keep my eyes on the ball always and be agile, which was precisely the problem as it was a bright, sunny day and I stood facing the sun. The glare blinded me and it was extremely difficult to look forward. To add to my woes, I could hardly see anything through my helmet as the safety-rims always got in the way. Anyhow, the match proceeded and I kept praying for the spin bowlers to take on, because when they did I’d be able to take my helmet off. After what seemed like an eternity, a few missed catches and cheeky boundaries behind the wicket the first spinner of the day was brought on. I immediately took my helmet off getting ready for a better job, crouching low I fixed my eyes on the bowler, the sun was getting hotter and the glare, torturous and all I could see was a black silhouette of the batsman. But why fear a spinner? I thought. Our spinner ran up and released. The ball emerged from his hand and in a flash disappeared in the bright glare!! The next glimpse I had of the ball when it was about half an inch away from my mouth. A cricket ball smashing against someone’s face is still believable but the same crashing inside someone’s mouth is hard to grasp. I lay flat on the grass, half the ball jutting out of my mouth and tears streaking down my sweaty face, for some reason my glasses had cracked too. The damages: a dangling tooth, another one swallowed, a mouth so excruciating to shut I’d rather gape forever, broken glasses, a throat full of mud, grass and muck and a familiar view of people standing in a circle, looking down at me. Soon, the hopes of improving the dangling tooth were also dashed when, two days after this unfortunate event, a cousin from the US and I wrestled on the bed after viewing a WWF Tag team tournament and a skull-crushing knock on my face sent the tooth rocketing out of the window. For the next few weeks I looked my endearing best with a twisted and cracked pair of spectacles and two front teeth missing.
    The teeth did grow back, but for some weird reason I sometimes look in the mirror and see Bugs Bunny.
    Why…Why me?

    PANIC! AT THE DISCO

    I’d never ever stepped into a discotheque before joining college. The first time I did it wasn’t pretty cause a certain drink to which the bartender set a little fire burning nearly choked me to death, folks went wild with laughter.
    On another evening I stood outside looking for a female partner to enter the disco as a couple, its cheaper that way. I managed to find one and she came along so easily I never suspected that something was seriously wrong there. Before long I was made to realize that the woman I stood with, with my right arm around her waist was the lawfully wedded wife of the proprietor of the discotheque. I ran for my life as that imbecile of a woman stood there grinning.
    Yet again, on another occasion I went out with a bunch of my chums to this disc called ‘Screams’. Sporting my best clothes and an obnoxiously expensive yet borrowed cologne I looked pretty nice. At the disc I took off my glasses thinking I’d look really hot, dim-witted that I was. All I could see around were blurred figures and outlines and kept yapping with the middle-aged man seated on my left thinking it was the bartender, when suddenly this girl showed up from nowhere and asked me for a dance. I was still nodding like a zombie when I realized she’d made off for the crowded dance floor.
    I followed groping in the darkness, running into people and tripping on feet barely able to see her. Before long her blurred outline merged with the others as she kept moving further inside and that was it, I’d lost her in the dense crowd. Putting my glasses back on, I pushed and shoved my way around the dance floor looking for her but she was gone…..I’d lost the first girl to have ever asked me for a dance!!
    Why…Why me?

    MY BALD DATE

    There she stood waiting for me, looking like a thorough lady in a pretty dress, sunglasses and a rather huge, frilly hat in place. The hat looked slightly Seventeenth century-ish but that was all excused, she was MY date.
    We walked for a while and then we sat ourselves down facing each other at a small restaurant when she took her glasses off. Without warning, the hat came off next and I so wished it never had! My legs gave way and I almost collapsed as she lost that hat, cause instead of a head there sat a scruffy coconut atop a perfectly shaped female neck. She had shaved her head neat. It was the latest fad, the ‘in-thing’, she said.
    Why…Why me?


  • When was the last time your physics teacher refused to stop smacking you behind your head stating ‘inertia of motion’ as a reason?!
  • When was the last time you were young and naive enough not to realize the consequences of taking your sweet time pouring boiling hot beverage on your sleeping dad’s belly?
  • When was the last time while performing a dance at a school function before four hundred teachers and parents your head-band slipped down over your eyes and you danced blind for the next ten minutes, finally concluding the romp with a violent crash, falling off stage on your face sending the audience rolling all over….?
  • When was the last time………

    Karma is watching boy, and she’s as bananas as ever, so think twice and think thrice before succumbing to that mean lure cause if you happen to be a ‘subject’ you’ve had it!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tales of the Sagacious Secretary

"Let him appear...just let him APPEAR...we'll see if he has the guts....I shall APPEAL........!!"

......hollered the bespectacled, crumpled old lady waving a spatula from her tiny tea-shack out to a rather petrified urchin who turned around and scampered away the immediate second her verbal tirade ceased.

The grand Old Post Office Street in Kolkata, the epientre of all legal activity in the city running along the banks of the Ganges, on which stands gaunt and proud the Kolkata High Court, sturdy and handsome with its typical pre-independence, 'Anglo' architecture and air, is quite literally a tiny universe in itself. On any given time of any day, apart from declared holidays of course, Old P.O. Street disappears under an enormous galaxy of human beings, hundreds of cars parked bumper to bumper in numerous parallel lines that zig-zag beyond visual limits, numerous little stalls and shacks offering typewriting services, notary sevices and a few, even legal advice, lots and lots of tiny stalls selling cigarettes, tea, juice and eatables and also a few restaurants and pharmacies. Apart from the High Court, Old PO Street has a number of old buildings originating from the pre-independence era which house some of India's top most law offices........yet something quite pleasently different, often unnoticed yet extremely significant about life in this lane aroused my deep interest and desire to explore.
During one of my internships with an extremely reputed law firm situated in one such building, on the opposite of 'Temple Towers' I couldn't help being intrigued and amused by a prominent existence of a healthy amount of humour, intentional, unintentional or sarcastic, that garnished everyday conversations between people working for a living in and around the High Court and it's adjacent law offices. Walking down Old P.O.Street, one shall experience a more-than-generous use of heavy legal parlance by everyday people there, used freely to assert or make clear a point and it did'nt really matter if it pertained to a legal business or not. The following narration accounts for a month's worth of 'overhearings'.


Ask if you can smoke inside a restaurant and you'll be told to 'plead' with the owner.
On various instances you'll hear about people 'appear-ing before' and even 'disappear-ing from' places....no stupid you dont need a magic wand!!
And of course, you can have your way with everyone if you just 'appeal' but if you 'argue' too much you're in for a 'penalty'.
It is Law firms on this grand old lane though that hold the real deal when it comes to wisecracks and hilariously sarcastic one-liners, quite interestingly the richest source of these are the non-legal staff i.e. stenographers, tea-boys, sundry errand-boys and finally, the secretaries. Being the 'downtrodden' or the 'trodden-upon', their expressions are often chillingly satirical.
Placed in a stuffy cubicle outside the boss's cabins I had the priviledge of mingling with the ground-level staff and thereby gathering an insight on their own little world. In every law office the immediate secretary to the boss enjoys a certain exalted status among the non-legal staff and is generally attributed with a certain degree of stoical sagacity, his sidekicks and generals being the stenographers, tea-boys, munimji's and other foot soldiers further lower in the hierarchy, a secretary is often regarded as the holder of inside information. He is, on one hand the spokesperson of the boss himself and on the other, the collective voice of the non-legal staff as well; quite a tight spot one would presume, but our man is a smooth operator. Being quite the 'narad-muni', neither the bosses nor clients, not even interns are spared of their scrutiny,examination, an inevitable subsequent criticism or the dreaded 'gyaan' session. Even judgements, petitions, legal documents and arguments are often critically evaluated and deliberated upon.

He is almost a superhero, that stupendous wisdom armed with a razor's edge wit and an equally sharp tongue, which he unremmitingly swishes and slashes every so often, accompanied by dollops of a "been there, done that so you're just a sissy.." attitude that coloured words spoken in completely smashed english (punctuated with shocking Bengali expletives), coupled with a hearty revolutionary spirit, a thorough knowledge of global politics and of course, by-the-minute answers to every pressing problem faced by the nation(phew!!) maketh the man that a sagacious secretary is; something between a born leader and a clown.

The state-of-affairs became quite transparent to me the day my boss's sagacious secretary muttered heavily under his breath
, "bhodrolok Kudi patar petition dersho patai lekhechen...eeeeeeesh!!"("the gentleman has written a 20-page petition in 150 pages....geeeeeeeez!!"), under his breath while struggling with stacking fleshy bundles of paper together. My awe and respect for this gentleman shot through the roof one fine morning when I overheard him saying, "akhono matha ghamai-ni ami sir....chinta nei...rasta ami bar korboi...!!"( I haven't laboured my mind yet,my dear sir.......... I shall DEFINITELY find a way out of this....!") over the phone. Another day, another sage screamed out from his cubicle to another steno after having made sure his boss was out of earshot, " shotero baar interim order extend koralam.......aar ekbar bhabchi koriei di, ki bolo??"( "I had the interim order extended 17 times.....I might as well get it done once again...whatsay??"), just before my nervous system could react to that one, another blow.. "Judgesaheb case nite parchen-na.....ki je kori?.....shob adjourn kore deova uchit!! "( "The respected Judge-saheb is unable to deal with the cases....what do I do?.....he should adjourn all his cases!!") struck me. Confused and slightly frustrated that these babus and clerks knew more than myself, a final-year law student pursuing a rather expensive course at a well respected law college, trying to find my way around the legal world, I dawdled over to my cubicle. The possible sense and concealed passion in the saying, "Baangalke High Court dekhiyo na"("never bring up the High Court while dealing with a 'Bengali'") lay unfurled before me the very next day when I overheard the secretary of a senior lawyer boast to someone else, "ki chai?? Stay?? nishchoi paiyye debo!!!!( what do you want?? a Stay order?? I'll definitely have it done...!").


The air inside the building that housed my office set in a rather formal, somewhat stiff English feel. The intricate wood-work and architecture, the old elevator, those high walls, the smell of smoked tobacco and of course the inevitable and pleasent scent of old books espoucing the air give the place a historical appearance reflecting a high degree of British grandeur. But no old building in Kolkata is complete without the omnipresent legacy of the 'babu', his romance with the colour red, something which he so lovingly stains the walls of his city with, the colour that had promised so much yet gave so less . I meant, those paan-spittle stains gracing the walls, reached so high up I found it extremely difficult picturing how one might've been able to spew the contents of his mouth that high up on the wall!!
Pondering on the physics involved with projecting spittle so high up in the air, one fine morning as I clambered up the dark stairways leading to the floor where my office was situated, I noticed a young member of the non-legal staff doing something rather bold. Its a well known rule that nobody was to leave his/her cubicle during office hours except during lunch-break or on official duty and my firm was pretty strict about this particular regulation of theirs for obvious reasons. One brave Sir Galahad stood outside the office doors casually leaning his back against the window panes, holding a cell phone to his ear his highness jabbered away with someone loudly, blowing large smoke rings from his mouth during intervals. I stood there admiring his nonchalance and defiant pose. The boss was surely not in today.
My rather obvious assumption was confirmed in seconds as I made my way through the doors and into the little hall that housed various little officerooms; all the secretary babus, stenographers and even the tea-boys huddled around one particular table. Tea was ordered all around. The boss was at a conference and therefore the mice were at play. I joined in with the crowd. The sagacious secretary began,
"Dhoro ekta gaadi 60-r speed-e jete jete break fail korlo......tokhon ki kore gaadi thamabe?"( Suppose a car is travelling at a speed of 60 when it's breaks fail, what would you do to stop it?").

A deliberation then commenced with mind-riddling permutations, combinations and fervid arguments on whether the gear-handle would break if moved to first-gear while the car was running or for that matter what would happen if the car were brought to reverse while it was still running, the conversation then raced further on through the faithfulness of the dear old Ambassador particularly to the Bengali community, the rash driving on Red Road, the Chief Minister's latest speech then quickly deviating to the
Mohun Bagan
line-up and fish prices for a short while after which, I kid you not, we were back to accidents again!!....the door slung open all of a sudden and in marched my boss, his appearance effecting various disappearances everywhere, the babus swiftly sprung back to their 'I-am-so-God-damn-busy-working' positions, pens began moving, the tetris and pac-mans disappeared from computer screens and keyboards began clattering. Bless his heart, my boss picked up a legal brief and walked out again. Without warning, his Secretary immediately turned to me and began, "Maarkaari-r sathe aar kono dhatu meshe kina?"("Does any other metal react with Mercury?"), taken aback I stuttered to explain the inadequacy of my knowledge of Chemistry before finishing which he remarked, "MESHE NA.....ALBAAT MESHE NA......dutoi dhongsho hoye jay!!" ("THEY DO NOT REACT.....both of them get DESTROYED!!") concluded the venerable sagacious secretary.

As the last day of my internship crawled lazily towards a conclusion, I slammed shut the book on Intellectual Property Law that I had just finished 'sleeping' over, wide eyed with utter disbelief that there actually existed a Mark based on a character of one of Ian Fleming's novels...........called
'PUSSY GALORE!!'
and that someone had actually applied to have it registered for selling his goods by that name.
I strolled down Old P.O.Street looking for my driver amidst the thinning crowd, the bloke was nowhere to be seen. The sun turned a mellow shade of orange having already disappeared half way over the tree tops and a gentle breeze blew over the place now carrying a smell that foretold that rainfall was approaching soon, groups of people now stood surrounding little snack/tea stalls catching up on the days events and gossip, some hurried away sensing a shower in the offing. Within moments it grew dark and a light drizzle descended over Old P.O.Street pacing up life immediately, lawyers fled for cover holding files or briefs over their heads, people scampered around rushing inside shops, inside any place that offered a temporary shelter, some simply walked on not bothered. Deciding not to budge till my driver showed up I took refuge underneath a large parapet belonging to a book store.
Next to me stood two people immersed in a deeply intense conversation. They hadn't noticed my presence. A fiery debate ensued and a tiny crowd had gathered around them cramming themselves in whatever little space was left under the parapet, gaping intently at the two gentlemen. All of a sudden, causing an echoe across the much deserted Old P.O.Street and a highly unwelcome shiver down my spine, the sagacious secretary standing right next to me exclaimed,
" But dear Mr. Mittir(Mitra), 'the EVIDENCE of the pudding is in it's eating!!'"

The drizzle had subsided considerably and my driver emerged from inside a tea-shack around the corner of the street scratching his pot-belly holding a paper bag stuffed with spiced puffed rice, grinning like a village idiot. Smiling, I quietly noted down my last observation underneath the parapet and headed off towards my car
. Driving past a photocopy shop called 'EVIDENCE' I turned around to take a last look at the grand old High Court of Kolkata, my flight to Pune left early next day.

Monday, May 21, 2007

TAGGED
http://etceteraetalandblah.blogspot.com/ (Cheshire Cat) tagged me....

1. Pick out a scar you have, and explain how you got it:
there’s a small one in my heart....
2. What is on the walls in your room?
Phillip.H.Anselmo looking down and pointing a finger at me…and a black lizard rt behind him.
3. What does your phone look like?
Old, tired and dimming...
4. What music do you listen to?
I go through musical phases…the current ones of heavy metal so metal it is. Otherwise I enjoy classic rock, funk, soul, blues, ‘world music’ and a select bit of jazz.
5. What is your current desktop picture?
MOTORHEAD!!!!!
6. What do you want more than anything right now?
A chilled Vodka n Tonic water.
7. Do you believe in gay marriage?
Of course, I’ll invite you all to mine…
8. What time were you born?
3rd November 1984. heard it was 11.20 pm, weighed a healthy 3 kilos...Indira Gandhi died that day.
9.Are your parents still together?
Yeah, so far.
10. What are you listening to?
’Desperado’ by Eagles, my Metal modes switched off for the time being!
11. The last person to make you cry?
Tom Hanks, finished watching FORREST GUMP a lil while back…
13. What is your favourite perfume/cologne?
Brute, and Davidoff Cool Waters for men.
14. What kind of hair/eye colour do you like on the opposite sex?
Hair: Should be long, curly/straight and flowy
Eyes: Large n deep.

15. Do you like pain killers?
I like ‘em with Coke or I take ‘em neat.
16. Are you too shy to ask someone out?
No, I did ask someone out once....but that was long back.
17. Fave pizza topping?
Shredded meat of all kinds and lots of cheese, chillies n anchovies; there was a pizza by this description, can’t recollect the name right now.
18. If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?
A large bowl of cold yogurt with sliced pieces of alphonso mangos, lichis and grapes in it and a tall glass of chilled orangeade with a drop of honey to go down with it.
19. Who was the last person you made mad?
I seem to have driven everybody I know mad at some point in my life….my Math teachers still under specialised treatment and my drum teachers dead.
20. Is anyone in love with you?
No.

I tag http://daunplugged.blogspot.com/ (Bix) and http://www.faithlessfreak.blogspot.com/ ( Devilshit)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What is it I am so crazily in love with?
Is it my mental image of the individual seated behind those drums?
Is it the music that emanates from the instrument?
Is it the playing, the drummer's moves?
Is it the raw power that the instrument radiates?
Is it the adrenalin rush, the sweat?
Or, is it the visual grandeur of the instrument?
Is it all one big dream, a phase?....will it all be gone one day...my love...my passion?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007



The Melodies of Madagascar ....

As I seated myself rather uncomfortably in one of the forward rows facing the stage inside the lounge cum auditorium of Princeton Club, Kolkata I observed that although the evening’s event had been advertised in The Telegraph and was therefore presumably open for anyone, the crowd inside, which mainly comprised of Indian and French members of the French Consulate, were tight and pretty cold to unknown faces. But then again, I’d traveled all this distance, literally argued with staff members of the club who wouldn’t allow non-members in on a Monday evening and battled my apprehension of unknown faces and places just to watch the concert, I wasn’t gonna give in easy. Later on it was discovered they weren’t ‘informed’ that the show was free, their saccharine sweetness surfacing after the little discovery, one security guard quite gracefully lead me into the auditorium himself.
Not many of us would be familiar with the existence of the fourth largest island in the world, located in the Indian Ocean called Madagascar, leave alone its culture and musical heritage. Neither was I, but last evening’s show featuring
Regis Gizavo, a brilliant, Accordionist, composer and singer and David Mirandon
, a long time associate of Gizavo, a brilliant drummer/ percussionist, was a mellifluous introduction to the island nation and it’s music. Gizavo sang his own compositions in Malagasy language playing the Accordion, an instrument I’d usually seen on television and once played live by street musicians in Hanover, Germany.
The Accordion has an almost incredible ability to soothe and put the listener in a trance and at the same time tempt one to break into a dance. Gizavo, who earlier in the evening reprimanded a noisy crowd in the background for their disrespect and lack of courtesy(mostly guzzling old expatriates from France) showed an absolute mastery over the instrument, deftly using the fingers on his left hand to manage the base patterns and those on his right hand to play the notes of the song. David Mirandon, on the
other hand appeared to be the subtlest percussionist ever, placing two congas on either side of his base drum, behind the toms, Mirandon mostly used brushes, hot-rods, felt beaters and very often his bare hands to provide rhythmic assistance to Gizavo and what a perfectly amazing job he did! Every time the duo reached a musical crescendo it would arouse loud hoots and cheers from the crowd, which had considerably thickened by the time the duo were through with their third or fourth composition.
As I was strolled towards the club gates I was reminded of a recent A.R Rahman concert somewhere in the Middle East that I was closely following on TV the other day, an enormous crowd of some 20-30 thousand, what glitz, what glamour, women romping around everywhere, almost a tiny city of musicians on stage, every single famous singer appearing on stage and goofing up songs one after the other, the glitterati, special guests, confetti and what not….but where was the music? What happened to the music?
Bloody over-commercialization!! I couldn’t help wondering how fame and making it to the ‘big-league’ murders the musicianship in an artist, why Shivamani being such an able percussionist, having set up his entire cornucopia, his gamut of drums on stage shook shakers and tambourines throughout the AR Rahman concert making a complete idiot of himself, why do people have to rely on big shows to sell music, why do they have to lip sync, why do people judge music by the videos they show on MTV, why ?
As I exited Princeton, I sent up a little prayer to The Lord asking him to keep the two dazzling musicians I’d just heard from getting devoured by this unfortunate consequentiality called 'fame'.

DISCLAIMER(for oversensitive readers); I did not intend to insult any musician in the above essay(even if I sounded like I did....du-uh!!) and all opinions expressed above are based on my observations so shut up n read....


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thou Shall NOT be gluttonous!!

I was made to realize the punitive muscle of the 7 deadly sins by a tiny occurrence last week. Being bored out of my wits of microwaving little red ants to kill time, I went out shopping with mom that morning. We shopped all morning without having so much as a morsel to eat, and hunger brings the desperate beast out in me…….a damn stupid one too. Sometime in the evening as our car passed by a ‘vada pav’ vendor here in New Alipore, my tongue watered like a cube of melting ice. I asked the car to be stopped and stepped out, mom suggested I hold it a little longer as we were getting closer to home and dinner would be ready in a matter of minutes, but no, I had to satiate the voracious monster of a stomach raving and ranting inside me. Not heeding her proposition I sprinted across to the vendor and ordered a vada pav. The prospect of eating a vada pav in Kolkata strengthened my reason to buy the snack only from that vendor in spite of there being several other stalls and shops around selling other things.
The ‘vada’s were ridiculously tiny and the vendor charged 12 rupees per vada pav, a good reason to walk away but I haggled with the man as to why such was the case, his reason seemed fair, “sahabji, people here don’t eat vada pavs so they don’t know what this is…therefore I can have my way”!
Disclosing to him that I’ve been living in the land of vadas and pavs for the last four years literally surviving on them during exams and financial famines didn’t help much as he shut me up instantly by telling me that he too was from Pune and wait for this……he had his house and shop next to the sea-coast there! A sea-coast in Pune?
Nevertheless I diverted my attention to a few passing ladies when he wrapped the little thing in paper and handed it to me, by then my painful starvation had reached its pinnacle and as I frantically began unwrapping what he took an immaculate minute and a half to wrap my sixth-sense suddenly jumped to action, like it normally does before a disaster, something told me I shouldn’t eat it. Too late! I’d paid him.
It was only a few seconds after I had placed somewhat of a kingly, rather beastly nibble into the little bundle that I wished I were dead. Tears streamed out of my eyes instantaneously, my ears went numb with a dull “weeeeeeeeee” sound and a chill shimmer shot up through my teeth to the very end of the nerves in my gums. That lump of potatoes was as searing as a little piece of glowering charcoal!! My vision went blurry as I opened my mouth and allowed a plume of smoke to escape, the “weeeeeeee” sound became louder and I realized I had singed my mouth. Whimpering, I ran across the road to mom while whatever was left of the snack lay on the pavement.
I end my span of a week-long liquid diet today, and from tomorrow it’ll be mashed boiled veggies for another week, that should afford enough time for nature to stick a fresh layer of skin in my mouth and get rid of the deep red coloration..and yeah the persisting “weeeeeee” from my ears!!
LESSONS:
# Thou shall not be Gluttonous
# Never microwave little red ants if you’re bored, Karma shall kick your ass.
# Never buy vada pavs in Kolkata…..NEVER!!!
# Steer clear of people who say they've lived near the Pune sea coast!!!!!!
# Finally, when your sixth sense pokes you in the ribs, pay heed!

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Sweet Romance with Numbers
(Chapter I: ICSE)

Before I begin with this one, lemme tell you a little something I realized way back in school, God does really weird things. I don’t know why. I don’t know why he puts people through a cornucopia of painfully eccentric situations before finally dumping them again into a totally different state of affairs so they end up totally confused in life and know chickenfeed of what’s happening! Dudes either got no sense of humor or a real twisted one. I do not know why I was made to spend YEARS shredding my soul, getting my self dignity pummeled and sending my self confidence for a long vacation to Barbados in the pursuit of trying to make the tiniest sense of that mad subject of wild numerical calculations called Mathematics, if I finally had to end up with Law! Why Lord? Why me?

“YOU FLUNKED AGAIN?!!!” screamed my infuriated father waving what seemed like another one of those damned report cards standing at the doorstep, as I entered the house dead beat and in no mood for confrontation. Lugging a goliath of a bag, hair unkempt from hours of head-scratching, hungry, partially hypnotized, insulted, nervous and utterly frustrated from yet another Math tuition; standing in a corner I presented the image of a somewhat wild, subhuman creature loathed and unloved by the world. Gauging my precarious state of mind, dad somehow hid that vibrating knob of a fist behind him, “Vani! Give him some food!” he said and sighed. Oh that sigh! Worse than a thousand beatings, a million curses and a gazillion insults was that sighing. Laced with utmost haplessness and frustration, that sigh was something that cut me from inside, it was a voice from deep inside dad, something that told me how he felt and it broke me into a thousand pieces to realize that I had failed him, again and again and again and yet again!
Mom didn’t talk much; I ate my food quietly and stumbled away into my bedroom, but there was no peace there either, my little sister sat on her side pretending to study and the moment I appeared she said something under her breath that I couldn’t make out, frankly I didn’t want to either! Thus concluded another achingly usual day of my school life.

I lay down and my head suddenly swayed dangerously and spun like a misbalanced top about to collapse and all of sudden a collage of images appeared in my head in rapid succession, numerous somber pictures from happenings of the recent and distant past and others, I feared would come true some day!! I saw one of my Math tutors demanding exactly double the amount of what he charged others as fee from dad, to include me in his class, I saw my Math teacher at school hold up my copy before the entire class clutching it with only two fingers like as if she was holding a dissected reptile from the Biology lab, I saw my class teacher look up at me with an expression so pure with abhorrence as she pointed at the ‘Math’ section in my report card which was almost perpetually marked in red, I saw myself sitting for the same Math paper for the nth time and one day…..alongside my little sister!!, I saw mom unearth that hidden stash of weekly test report-sheets carefully buried away under my tablecloth, then I saw my class X Board exam report card screaming, ‘YOU’RE DOOMED!!!’ with a familiar red underline under my Math marks and I screamed……… It was 6.30 pm in the morning, time for studies, time for Math practice!

One could get a lion to chomp grass and maybe even smoke it if one tried hard enough, bringing Democracy to Cuba would seem way easier, even Gandhi could be brought back from the past to do a solo tap-dance gig and I bet even resurrecting the dead would be child’s play for some, but making a certain Mr. Ronojoy Basu pass in his math tests posed a challenge, a real thorny challenge, a grisly battle that decimated a million teachers and other ‘concerned’ individuals, draining them of their zest and zeal for life and robbing them naked of motivation to live or teach! Tutors came and tutors went, all of their formulas, ideas and so called ‘teaching techniques’ sent flying straight out of the window by my ‘number-numbness’, I still couldn’t do multiplications in my head and failed to see that those formulas and graphs actually had a ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ and were not playful sketches and scribbles of a mindless toddler!! I didn’t complain much about Statistics though particularly, dumb work, make dots and join them….job done!! No matter how bizarre the squiggle looked….that’s your answer….5 marks in!!
That’s how difficult my situation, rather influence was!! After limping my way up till class X my parents realized I needed superhuman help to clear the Boards and after looking around for a month and a half they did find one……a superhuman entity!

The man was over 75 years of age, seemingly feeble and bent with burdensome age but I kid you not, he was not our regular lonely old man! He was sturdy, maybe too strong for his age, extremely alert, highly self reliant and equally fowl mouthed, but my respect for him rooted from his absolute simplicity, a trait so strangely endearing, I seemed to like him in spite of all the thrashing and hollering he hauled at me. Mr Kalipada Das’s mental faculties at the right side of 75 were still intact and gleaming, and it wasn’t only his brain that retained the sharpness of the past, so did his tongue and he happily employed it to rebuke me time and again! And his physical agility…..was something to reckon with, perhaps for the one year he taught me, pounding me black and blue was the principal workout which he disciplined himself into doing regularly! Mr. Das was an ace in Chemistry and Math and Physics was child’s play to him, the very subjects he was entrusted to teach me. His homework for two days would be a quarter of the entire Math syllabus, although he’d made it very clear from the beginning that his major ‘tool’ would be practice, I hardly realized he’d go overboard with it! As I had expected and my parents feared, after the first two months our reverend old tiger threw up his hands in the air and said,
GONE CASE”! , “YOU boy are a LEGEND….please GET OUT!! Then followed another series of visits by dad and mom to convince him to keep teaching me and not lose hope and that I was working hard and also that I might after all manage to pull it through!

I did actually work hard practicing Math, fearfully hard, so much so that the other subjects suffered. Within months my room started filling up with stacks and piles of ‘long exercise books’ and Class X Math practice books, there was not a single book left in the market un-purchased, not a single long exercise book left to be bought from the nearby stationary, and with the long, late night shifts reserved for dedicated Math practice the situation gradually started to look real nutty….I began solving quadratic equations in my sleep, I started inadvertently assigning various characters in English literature, ‘X’s and ‘Y’s!!, I always found myself picking my teeth with divider needles and actually enjoyed it!, one morning dad discovered little algebra formulas scrawled on the bathroom walls and the oddest of them all, I'd begun jabbering with myself...complete with expressions and gesticulations.... !! So none at all, other than young Mr. Basu could correctly, rather in a tad exaggerated manner, represent what normally became of Bengali teenagers a few months before the grand, much feared ICSE exams began!! Brrrrr!
One morning I was dragged out of bed by mom, she asked me to dress quickly for we were going to meet someone very special, someone old and august, someone who could foresee the future…..a great old soothsayer! Even before I could ask what had gotten into them I found myself seated in a rather dark room smelling of incense and burnt oil, the walls were faded and had pictures of Goddess Kali hanging from them with small, slithery reptiles peeping in and out from behind the frames. An old frail man sat before me staring hard into my pupils….his eyes were piercing and watery, something told me he was the man! He was the one with the answers to my misery, my curse! He was gonna save my life…..after a few minutes of intense staring and glaring and concentrated dexterous analysis of my future, beads of sweat began appearing on his majestic forehead, the great man started rubbing his eyes vigorously, “There’s something wrong….I can’t see anything in there…please excuse me it’s time for my dinner!”, he stood up and left. I thought I saw him run!!
As the months rolled by and the fearful ICSE drew closer the fervency intensified and people began showing signs of lunacy and it was quite evident too, more than the students it was the mothers who were going bonkers! My mom was quite normal I am sure, I don’t see anything zany with the huge, ugly pearl ring I was forced to wear because it was supposed to make me “do well” in Math and I definitely never ever complained about the insane quantities of Ladiesfinger or Okra (Bhendi) and Bhrammi sag I was forced to consume every single day for lunch!! But it was all for good…..at least I hoped.
At the tuition front the homework load remained the same, Mr Das made sure my entire syllabus was done with way before crunch-time, therefore by that time I had done every single problem in my Math book, down to the tiniest illustration not once, but many, many times over. I even knew the page numbers by heart. Even after this much inhumanly practice there still lingered a funny sense of bewilderment every time I saw a sum, I somehow knew I would goof up! It just wasn’t my thing! It just didn’t feel right. And the more I practiced, the more mistakes I made, terribly dumb ones and paid for it heavily too, by surrendering myself to Mr. Royal Bengal Tiger’s ‘experimental punishments!!’, in more clearer terms, pinching my midriff till I squealed like a piglet, tugging at my sideburns till there were no sideburns left, rubbing his knuckles on my scalp till I wailed out loud and of course finally, the classical skull pulverizing slaps!! Nevertheless, the man made sure I kept practicing on and on and on…….an bawling and yelping too!!!!!!

Finally, the day came…….…and went! I waddled in and out of the exam hall like a sozzled drunkard, dragging my belongings behind me, dazed and hellishly tired. After having left a good number of problems half done and the rest to dear God’s mercy I was well convinced that what I’d committed back there on my examination paper was exemplary case of mathematical
hara-kiri!!
A month and a half passed thereafter and then came that one fateful morning I shall never forget all my life, I snored away to glory very early that morning when mom literally yanked me out of bed and slapped me back to senses, “Rono, Rono!! You marks are out on the internet, come and check……..quick!”, the words still hadn’t quite registered adequately when I semi-consciously scrambled to dad’s room dragging half the bedclothes still entangled around my legs after me……carrying my heart in my hands I entered dad’s room!!!!
He sat in front of the computer glaring at the screen, I didn’t make the slightest sound, tiptoeing my way I walked up to him and THEN in what would almost seem like a scene straight out of a Bollywood masala tear-jerker, dad looked at me and smiled!! “A 62 in Mathematics, you’re in son!!”,
It hadn’t quite settled in that I’d apparently pulled off something spectacular, I sat still for a while, it definitely wasn’t a dream and dad didn’t quite look like he was joking, I tore at the computer and scanned the webpage up and down, over and over again sticking my eyeballs to the screen…. and then what followed was the Rocky IV exultation, if you know what I am talking about!!
The other high points of the day were an 87% in English and a cracking 96% in Technical Drawing, my additional subject, the second highest in my school, another daunting up-hill climb I’ll tell you folks about later.
A few months later we were informed that old Mr. Das, my Royal Bengal Tiger, my superhuman entity, my tutor was no more. Mr. Das, the real hero of this story had accomplished the un-accomplishable but died! To me and my parents he shall always be the man who saw me through a very difficult phase in my life….and helped me emerge successfully.
Well, I had no idea of what was in store for me the subsequent two years; the first major battle was fought and won with the final one still impending. But yet, what kept up the ecstasy were the expressions I’d brought out in people’s faces……..zapped!!! Dude sitting up there
DOES have a point after all!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Big Bong Theory

T
he above may not be the ideal nomenclature for this yet another harangue of mine but again, nothing may describe what is to follow better.
The term, Bong may literally be a shorter and cooler adaptation for the term, Bengali but for someone akin to me the word has much wider connotations. To me Bong would mean, ‘the new-age Bengali’, the culturally rich and liberal Bengali, a more considerate people who respect and believe in and subscribe to cultural-unity and oneness.
I am Bengali, in every sense of the term and whatever insight that may give you on the individual that I am. Although my mother hails from an orthodox Telugu family replete with their traditions, customs and strict rules pertaining to everything from dressing to cooking, my bringing up has had a stronger Bengali influence than the latter, and am absolutely proud of the fact that my life till now has been a collage of experiences so hilarious and interesting none of it would be possible had I been just Telugu or just Bong!
I shall now talk about a few peculiar, rather screwy characteristic traits we Bengalis reflect irrespective of age, education, place of stay, social strata, anything, its something I’ve been noticing for a while and dying to write on, am so sure so many will identify emphatically with what’s to come. A few of what’s mentioned below is ‘classically Bengali’, if you’re one of us you’ll know;

(1) I am sure I am not alone when I say I hate attending boring family get-togethers and religious gatherings but what I particularly hate is attending Bengali marriages in Kolkata, even the ones held at the classiest of places. Here are the reasons;
#At the venue there’s sure to be at least a hundred ‘grandma’s who’ll ask you at least a hundred times each how old you are; by the end of the tiring sermon you’re yourself confused!
#There’s sure to be at least a hundred ‘grandpa’s some of whom you must’ve definitely met at some previous gathering, wanting to know where you study and how many more years you have till graduation and you more often than never end up telling the same person for the fiftieth time where you study and how many years you have left. By the end of it, yes, you wish you were dead!
#And of course, there’ll be a gazillion ‘uncle’s who’d ask you over and over and over again about your plans after graduation, or if you are in school, how far your preparations for the Board exams have gone and after that a lecture on how important these formative years are, shall follow and if your lucky enough you shall also get hear about how worthy and virtuous his son/daughter is.
#And then, there’ll be ‘aunties’ badgering you with the same lame questions you’ve been subject to rigorously throughout the evening and every now and then, for no reason at all exclaim loudly with both hands on their cheeks, “Aaaaah!! How GROWN up you are” (Of course, I eat hence I grow, go observe your pet dog, imbecile!) or “How SMART you’ve become” or even “What does mummy feed you??”(Complan) and of course the, “How handsome you’ve become!” to which I don’t have much of a disapproval.
#Suppose, me and dad are standing in a corner chatting about something a certain ‘uncle’ will show up from nowhere, uninvited and ask my DAD, “So how’s your son, by the way what’s he studying now??”!!!!!! Funny, does he not see me standing there or is he scared that I might bite his face off if he asked me??
#Bengalis love to be photographed and what better occasion than a marriage could offer one so fine an opportunity? Bong marriages have as many as 2-3 photographers and cameramen and they usually employ old fashioned video cameras from the stone-age that need an extremely bright light to be projected on people to video record them. That scorching, roaring light is cast on you unexpectedly, when you’re eating, when you’re talking to people, when you’re enjoying a quiet moment in some inconspicuous corner far away from the raucous, bejeweled crowd and even when you least want to be video recorded i.e while emerging secretively from the washroom. No formalities here, if you’re attending a marriage you HAVE TO be videotaped and photographed for at least a million times!!
#Then, the most bugging of all…..coercion to overeat. The air in all Bengali marriages is thick with pleasantries like;
Mr. Ghosh: “No, you must eat three more rossogollas!!”
Mr. Dey: “Not at all, I’ve had enough, thank you”.
Mr. Ghosh: “Aare ki bolcchen……you must have at least three more…don’t feel shy…consider this your own daughter’s marriage….have at last two more…with love!”
Mr. Dey: “No really, Ghoshbabu I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes…..am already on pills, this is suicidal!!”
Mr. Ghosh: “Aaare, I will suggest a very good doctor to you, but for now, DO have two more rossogollas…..!
Mr. Dey: “BUT THIS’LL KILL ME….!!!”
Mr. Ghosh: “Let it!! You still MUST have 2 rossogollas… ke achish re?? Get Deybabu THREE of the juiciest rossogollas QUICK now!!
I, Ronojoy Basu in the capacity of a bothered Bengali marriage-party regular bona fidely certify the above conversations as true and absolutely to-the-point.
And finally, if you happen to be on the right side of twenty BEWARE, in any and every marriage you attend, the jobless grannies will start finding matches for you even without you or your parents knowing it and before you know it some photograph of yours has already become a part of someone’s family album!!

(2) Dad absolutely insists I follow him and mom to every party we’re invited to, even if I do not know the people I am visiting, something I despise wholeheartedly.
I could never relate to dad’s old buddies who’re always more interested in downing Scotch and spending the evening chatting with him and mom than sitting around discussing career stuff with me and I don’t blame them, therefore I often find myself seated, quite uncomfortably amidst his friends (as fate should have it, at most such meets I always somehow land up in the same sofa where 3 or 4 of dad’s friends whom I’ve not met forever are seated, and damn! It feels odd) not knowing where to look, or what to do, trying to finish that little glass of Coke as slowly as possible and every now and then producing those forced grins that give you a jaw-ache by the end of the day. Now comes the Bengali garnishing;

#The minute you enter the place, you have to touch so many people’s feet it becomes a painful ordeal! And mom whispers affirmatively into my ears, “Everybody!!!!”, but of course there’s confusion again, you can’t just grace those whom you know, there’ll be a handful of other elders too in the house who you think might feel offended, rather left out if not greeted in that particular way, and yes there’ll be more coming in too, therefore so as to save hearts and traditions from breaking you’d rather break your back wandering around the room, bending down and ‘pranam’ing everybody.
#The moment you inform an aunty or an uncle at the get-together that you are surviving outside Kolkata, that’s it, the next few minutes you shall spend answering a battery of finely selected questions high in intellectual value such as; “Where do u live in Pune, son?”, most of them having never had visited Pune before, “What do you eat in Pune?”, “How are the people in Pune, what do they eat?”, “Do you get fish in Pune?”, “Do you get sweets in Pune?”, “Are girls in Pune dark?”, “Why did you decide to travel that far, wasn’t the colleges in Kolkata good enough?”
But, the question that takes the cake was once asked by a certain person at some party, this gentleman, I don’t know who he was and neither am I inclined to, asked me; “Son, how lucrative is this, ‘Law thing’, and why Law when you could’ve taken up engineering or medicine, your dad is an engineer right??” Not knowing what to reply I sat staring at him.
And of course, in my personal experience, every time Pune is mentioned it quintessentially reminds the listener of some long lost distant relative who might’ve lived/still living there, and a long story of how that individual made it to the US follows.
#You must be on your guard and armed all the time cause any lame thing may be thrown at you anytime, any smart-alec comment will only lead you into more trouble and embarrassment and any attempt at making use of subtle humor shall meet with a cold reception and you wont know if they’ve got the joke and they won’t know how to conceal from you their failure at comprehending what you’ve said, therefore what follows is utter confusion and a frosty silence for a few seconds.
#At the party, if you happen to be seated with strangers for dinner, and if they happen to be Bengali, few things you’ve never experienced are about to take place;
You smile at them to break the ice, they look away.
Your cell phone starts ringing; all of them freeze their activities and stare at you and your phone, two or three of them will eventually shall start whispering and discussing among themselves the possible brand and price of your cell phone, without, of course showing any inclination of making you a part of the conversation.

(3) Train journeys can be quite lively and enlightening if there is a talkative Bengali ‘babu’ traveling along. These soda-glass adorning, ‘jhaal-muri ’chomping and extremely animated’ babus are repositories of information and can debate on anything under the sun, be it India’s foreign policy, Terrorism, poverty or hunger and often even the UN!!! They have an answer to almost everything, and they love speaking in Hindi…..with a heavy Bengali accent and expletives in Bengali!!
Now, the one and only occasion when one can see their true fierce passions surface is when particularly two topics are brought up, the CPIM government in West Bengal, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan; Communism and football!!…..lots of football!! Matches between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, being two supremely rival football teams in this part of the hemisphere, are well known for intensely impassioned competition and equally fevered exchanges on and off-field. But, here are a few things that sometimes mess up the experience and if it’s bad enough you’ve had it;
#Discussions on football or Mamata Banerjee can be quite infectious and our Babus can jabber on well through the night till dawn, to the intense ire of everybody else.
#They absolutely insist other unwilling Bengali co-passengers to join in.
#They hate us Bongs.
#The Hindi accented Bengali gets on everybody’s nerves but at times can be quite side-splitting too.
#Discussions on where steamed Hilsa originated from and who fried the first piece of Hilsa is of nano interest to me.
#Babus absolutely hate Marwaris, so if there’s one seated in some corner of the train, you can expect more exchanges than just snide remarks.
#Finally, these babus have an uncanny knack of getting into brawls and arguments with everybody.

(4) Finally, we Bengalis have an unbearably irritating habit of questioning the obvious;

‘Ki Korcho?’(What are you doing?), is one such rage arousing question, as if the one asking can’t you see what I might be doing? Such a question is considered quite legitimate and extremely necessary to ask even if the concerned person has been sitting next to you for the past two hours in the Library or at the park bench.
‘Ki Khaccho?’(What are you eating?) and ‘Kothay Jaccho?’(Where are you going? ……even if you’re in full school uniform sitting in your school bus), are two such extremely essential queries that can drive our Bong brethren worried sick.

But it doesn’t stop here, Bengali quirks and eccentricities are well known, suffered and enjoyed. We ARE a distinguished entertaining lot. Now, in this context I would attempt to straighten a few perspectives and break a few myths that exist about my Bengali brothers and sisters;
#West Bengal isn’t all about fish and sweets and every Bengali isn’t wildly passionate about the former, the same goes for sweets.
#The plump gentleman sitting next to you wearing thick, black rimmed glasses with neatly combed hair may not be Bengali.
#Our women do not ALWAYS roam in white-sarees with a red bordering!
#Our men do not ALWAYS carry on in the proverbial, Dhoti and Kurta with a sharp-tipped umbrella slung on one hand and an end of the dhoti held in the other.
#All of us do not have revolutionary tendencies.
#All our women aren’t fat.
#Not all of us run away from fights and scuffles, most of us love burning buses though, there are just too many of them in Kolkata!
#Not ALL of us hate Marwaris and Biharis, I love Kaju-Barfi.
#No, Koena Mitra or Bipasha Basu doesn’t stay next doors.
#I don’t know why Sourav Ganguly is performing badly.
#No, all of us don’t bitch.
#‘Basu’ and ‘Bose’ isn’t one and the same thing, and so are Rai, Ray and Roy.
#Not ALL talkative Bengalis are surnamed ‘Chatter’jee.
#We are definitely not a predominantly snooty or arrogant people.
#Neither Sushmita Sen nor anybody of her like is of any distant relation to me, and no, if you come to Kolkata I can’t help you meet them.
#All of us do not have a thick ‘Bangla’ accent.
#Not ALL of us have a thing for Punjabi women (I do though).
#Not every Bengali is nuts about football.
#Not all of us get de-virginised after marriage.
#And……..Do not call us all, ‘dada’.

Well, these are for those Bengali comrades of mine who live confined at home and have a ridiculously confused outlook of the world and love to exist with myths;
#Kashmir isn’t all about apples and terrorism and Maharashtra isn’t all about ‘lively dances’ and ‘Vada-pavs’.
#No! we, Bengalis aren’t essentially the one and only intellectual and dignified community in the country.
#Just cause I live in Bombay, it doesn’t mean I go jogging with different movie stars every morning or party with models every week-end.
#‘Tendu-Mendu’ is not how South Indian languages sound!
#I am not entirely sure if Ma Kali or Ma Durga are/were Bengali.
#No!! Eating fish doesn’t make you extraordinarily intelligent and is definitely not the secret behind the Bengali dexterity!
#Not all south Indian women are fat and dark……sheesh!!
#Communism is not the ONLY reason why China is prospering, take a look at the Soviet Union.
#Lots of milk and Ghee ALONE don’t make Punjabi men tall and fair.
#Tea doesn’t make you dark.
#Sporting a goatee ALONE doesn’t make you Muslim, the actual test is the turtle-neck test, go figure!
#Not every Bihari is an IAS officer!
#There is no compulsion to eat cakes on Christmas or Biriyani on Eid.
#All Afghan men do not ALWAYS have dry fruits in their pockets.
#And finally, NO, we Bengali men aren’t specially sought for by women everywhere….hard luck fellas!

This exploration of mine therefore might appear to give off a slight negative whiff but what the heck! Quirks are quirks! We all have ‘em. I’ve luckily had a fair share of experiencing Telugu quirks too but to do justice to the thoroughly exclusive ‘Bengali-ness’ of this composition I shall have to put up with the pain of refraining from discussing them here, it’s highly tempting though.
At the end of it all, I’d like to conclude that, among others, being overly and unrelentingly subject to such particularly odd cultural behavior and practices that too from two entirely different cultures, can have an unsafe and long-lasting effect on ones psyche and can often tend to make one highly obsessive and nervous (what many call being ‘goofy’), but fellas, I see it as a small side-effect of being BONG!