Musings

Zurich is No More

Zurich is no more. Long live Zurich.

Many might there be Picadillies, and French Loaves and Cream and Fudge Factories, but there shall be (was) only one Zurich.

Got into a fight today. With an auto-wallah of all people. In re two bucks of all things. But as always, a fight though triggered by specifics, is never about them. Nor can it be broken down into disparate components. A fight is always about generalities, of principles, of sahis and galats, and similar platitudinal excesses 🙂

Today, the entire sequence consisted of the auto-wallah pocketing ten bucks instead of his usual eight; of being almost run-over in rush-hour traffic; a 100 metre dash behind the offending party; a proper shove-session in front of the traffic policeman in front of South City, who true to form, washed his hands off the affair, with the exception of proffering a suggestion to register a complaint at Jadavpur P.S.

Then, trundling back to Lord’s; being accosted by the Auto-wallah there who had somehow tracked me back, and being threatened with dire consequences if I registered a complaint (and at which point, I truly lost it). A psychedelic 2-3 minute hand-to-hand combat session, which almost culminated in my shoving that git’s face into a vat of boiling oil where jalebis were being fried. And finally, getting back two rupees.

A honourable mention goes to the Skulker, who was comrade-in-arms, for the entire bit till we trundled across to Lord’s and whose cell probably still has stored, the offending auto’s license plate number.

Also, on a slightly more personal note, the most psychedelic moment of the entire episode probably occurred when in midst of grappling with that jackass, I picked out a complete stranger and asked him to hold on to my specs, so that I could let loose. For in sooth, though I mind not specs, they do hamper you, come fights. That, and also in terms of utter psychedelia, abusing him in English 🙂

Saw me a movie recently. Thought ’twas alright.

I still remember the first copy of Sherlock Homes I ever picked up. I must have been in Grade V then. Rajpur Road used to have this really old bookshop called Jugal Kishore. I’d got it from there. I think I even remember the first story I read; The Adventure of the Speckled Band. And I was HOOKED. Next year I came to Cal for the first time. The first bookstore I visited was Oxford’s. The first books I picked up were The Adventures, The Case-Book, The Memoirs, and The Return of Sherlock Holmes (I read His Last Bow only a couple of years later).

Guy Ritchie’s Holmes though, is not one (only) of cobblestone streets or meershcaum pipes. His is one of kinetic excesses and excess coolth. And one, who is, a tad vertically challenged. The greatness of true literature is that often it not only leads itself to translations, or transliterations, but also to transmutations. Take Mahabharata; you have Mrityunjaya by Sivaji Sawant, Randamoozham by Vasudeva Nair, and Yajnaseni by Pratibha Ray (a strand later  taken up by Chitra Divakaruni), all of which use entirely different narratives in respect of the same overarching structure. And more pertinently, succeed in doing so.

Whether Downey Jr.’s Holmes also falls into the same category is for you to decide. I though, for one, shall stick out my neck, and say, verbal fencing and witty repartee apart, there was little to distinguish it from say, a cerebral version of Van Helsing.

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Of Revisionist Tendencies (And Cocky Chumps)

Orissa = Cuttack = Kalyani Nagar + Tulsipur

In much the same way as,

Dehradun = Bakralwala + Rajpur Road

and, Cal = Golf Green + NUJS + A dash of Park St.

See, there’s revisionism for you.

I don’t mind people with serious attitudes. Neither do I mind jackasses. However, a jackass with attitude issues, is way, way beyond tolerable limits. Beyond one’s ken, as some would say; %$%^%&**, as I would say. And most of these gits, in terms of actual responsibility are at the very bottom of the ladder. As if the only way they could assert their importance is by acting like prats. That, and they’re usually dumb too. Potent combo that.

Ran into two of their breed today. Had a proper shout-session before getting my way. What was truly incredible though, was how wronged they felt at the fact that someone had, so to say, put one over them. Mr. Cocky Chump was busy trying to explain how he’d been right all along, and how I had managed to finagle my way in owing to a mere technicality. Ms. Cocky Chump on the other hand was adamant on the point that I was a git. Which, true as it might be, was pretty much a non sequitur apropos the point under discussion 🙂

Weird Indeed are the Ways of the Cocky Chumps.

What Makes the World Go Around

Some prat once said that ’tis love which makes the world go around. For me though, it’s probably expectorants.

My fav-est term in the Bong lexicon is probably ‘Dhurr’ followed closely by ‘Chhagoler Dim’. The first roughly corresponds to ‘Gah’ in English. The second one is untranslatable. Gotta wonder though, who first called someone a ‘Chhagoler Dim’. Takes a really special sort of a snowflake to come up with something like ‘goat’s eggs’, you know. Sukumar Ray would’ve been right proud of him! Cult.

Looks like India’s gonna have a new state pretty soon. Some chap went on a fast for 10 days, and ergo, Telengana it is. Just to put it  in perspective, Irom Sharmila‘s been fasting for 10 years now. There is actually a school of thought that KCR’s fast has less to do with the Telengana cause and more to do with the manner in which his party got served in the 2009 elections. Don’t blame the chap though, anybody would’ve been pissed.

One would think though that some 50 years after Independence we would have better issues to go apeshit about. And heaven knows, if there is any country with a dearth of issues, it sure as hell isn’t us. But nope, old habits sure die hard.

Reminds me a lot of Dehradun though. When I was studying there, for a few years in between, the Uttaranchal agitation was in full swing. Which was awesome! We used to have at least one strike every fortnight, with an almost metronomic regularity. And given how considerate most of these strike-wallahs are wont to be, it used to be invariably scheduled on a Friday or a Monday. So, every couple of weeks, when the clarion call was given, you know, when the bugle was sounded, it was essentially a signal for us to pack our stuff and hotfoot it across to Delhi for a small li’l break. Which was, I repeat again, awesome!

And when finally the State go-ahead was given, I don’t think anybody was as pissed as us schoolkids. Or even our teachers for that matter 🙂 Its kinda hard you know, reconciling yourself to the same old weekly routine, after months and months of four and three-day weeks, mini breaks, picnics, general vela-ness et al! For about a month or so after the announcement was made, all our faces were sullen enough to make the very milk curdle!! We. Were. Pissed.

And now look at Doon. Its hot, its crowded, its noisy, you’ve cars honking the smidgens off each other on Rajpur Road, and most of the trees are gone. Basically its like a miniature version of Delhi now. Yeah. See. That’s what Statehood does.

Weird Going-Ons

I hate bookshops. I really, really do. There is nothing worse than walking into one, knowing fully well that there’s no bloody way your current straitened finances would be able to withstand another dose of those incredibly overpriced titles and yet you go; you stare; you file away some titles for future reference; you wonder when you’d be able to actually afford some of those blasted books; and you come back.

No, no, wait a sec, there actually is something worse. You know those times, those heady days, blissful hours, when yer scraping the bottom of the bloody barrel. When the dosh in your bank account is somewhere in the upper double digits or the lower triple digits. And DESPITE that, you splurge on those aforementioned incredibly overpriced titles.

I know I am a git. I just keep on proving it again and again!

On the subject of books, Borges is trippy, trippy stuff. Seriously. I used to think Rushdie was good. Well, I still do. But the chap’s nowhere near the Borgesian brand of manic trippiness. Surreal shit. Really want to read Bolaño now though.

Oh and btw, Pratchett’s on the same rack as Stephanie Myers. Douglas Adams is in the same section. I think there’s a show on one of those kiddie channels called Ninja Pandav. Wouldn’t be surprised to see its script novelizations  somewhere around a Roth or Faulkner next. Or perhaps Hagemaru might turn out to be the next Rabbit.

South City now has a KFC. And a Pizza Hut. Why couldn’t those bozos have opened it, say, a year earlier. Duffers have no friggin sense of timing.

Lost a pair of khakis recently. Which was kinda weird. I don’t lose too many clothes. Or to be a bit more precise, I don’t have too many clothes to lose from. And the darned thing just disappeared from my cupboard. I think I can now count the sum-total of ‘non-casual wear’ in my ‘wardrobe’ using my fingers. On one hand.

I’ve been often accused of having no sense of propriety insofar as my general attire is concerned. Turning up at marriages in sneakers and t-shirts, or at slightly less formal-dos in pajamas is apparently infra dig. Well, here’s what I have to say; ‘Tis not that I am under-dressed. Its just that everybody else is so friggin’ over-dressed. That, and casuals rock. Period.

Semi-formals ain’t that bad either; The entire point about ’em would appear to be that you want to look moderately respectable, but not go overboard with it. Which is alright. At least you are saved the whole suit-and-tie shabang. The world would have been so much a better place though, with a uniform tees and jeans policy (sigh).

You can get a plate of Papri Chaat outside my building for twenty-five bucks. Not so long back, it used to be ten bucks (sigh sigh).

Go and watch ‘Up’ if you haven’t seen it yet. Probably the most delightful flick I have caught all year. Gotta hand it over to these Pixar-wallahs; Ratatouille in 2007, Wall-E last year, and now this. Another Academy Award would appear to be a cinch. In terms of potential competition, I can only think of Coraline. But then, Coraline didn’t have a Dug. Or lines which went, “My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you.” 🙂

On Things, Where You’re Left With Nothing

There are so many kinds of things in this world; Things which make you flash your pearlies. Things which bring about that spring in your step. Things which make you jump, trampoline-style. Things which piss you off. Things about which you rant. Things about which you rave.

At times though, there are certain things which leave you buzzing inside. Like some deranged cicada. Your mind’s a whorl, a friggin maelstrom. You have so much to say, but you never get started. Not even with the first syllable. You don’t start, for you don’t bloody know whether you have it in you, to be able to stop. And being the wuss you are, you take the easy way out. You blank ’em out. For these are things, where you’re left with nothing.

Back in my NUJS-days, I had once seen a documentary called The Final Solution. Today, I caught another documentary, Terror in Mumbai. (Cross-linked from here) And that thing happened all over again.

Ze World (And How Rahman Pulled a Fast One)

(Cross-linked from here)

A.R. ‘Oscar’ Rahman’s busy pulling fast ones these days. Just try listening to the Champions Trophy theme song. Hell, its even worse than Korbo, Lorbo, Jeetbo Re, and I can’t go any lower than that. Pits, absolute pits. Or perhaps, I am being just a wee bit unkind. The poor chap must’ve thought, I compose Roja and what do I get for that, zilch. I then pull out all stops for the Bombay theme, and nobody even listens to the blasted thing. Then some Brit comes along with a punk game show-cum-exploitation musical, I compose possibly the sorriest soundtrack of my life, and whaddya know, they give me a friggin Oscar. How awesome is that? Last heard, the man is composing soundtracks for low-brow Hollywood rom-coms and giving lessons on how Blue is actually pronounced Booloo.

A few days back, I had gone to the Air India office here in Cal. Pretty commonplace stuff, should have been over in a jiffy. Well, I WAS wrong. You can’t possibly fathom how singularly brilliant it is to have a vendor-consumer experience where a consumer informs the vendor about the quality and the particulars of his wares. My interactions were more or less along the following lines:

Me: Do you have XYZ??

AI: Most certainly not! What could have given you such an idea??

Me: But your website say so!!

AI: But I say not!!!

Me: (Sputters Incoherently) But can you at least go to your website and check it out for me??

AI: What’s the point??

Well, we carried on in like vein for about a good ten, fifteen minutes. At the end of that though, AI finally figured out that they actually had XYZ. Which was awesome. Sunshine and happiness all round. But then, when I asked them if I could call them up just in case I had any subsequent queries, I ran into another insurmountable infrastructural flaw:

Me: So, can I call you up if I have any queries and all??

AI: Sure, but it wouldn’t be of any use.

Me: $#@%$, WHY??

AI: Well, see the information is all stored in these computers, you see. The phone however is there in that room, all the way over there. Sorry, but no can do.

(I left. There’s only so much that a man can take.)

P.S. The papers have been going gaga over the last couple of days about how awesome it is to have an Indian win a Nobel. Well I got news, the chap’s American, and he works in Cambridge. Period. In his own words, “nationality is simply an accident of birth”. Go Venki.

P.P.S. Obama Rocks. As does the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. So how exactly did he manage to snag the Nobel in 12 days?? Check how FOX and Foreign Policy answer the same bloody question with two completely different spins. Check esp. both their last paras 🙂

‘Tis Puja Time (And Other Things)

‘Tis Puja time in Cal. Everyone seems happy and chirpy all of a sudden; Pandals have been erected overnight, every square inch of acreage’s been milked for all they’re worth; the dhakis are all set to do what they do best; the street food wallah’s are ready to make a killing again. Nothing’s changed. Nothing ever will.

Had gone back to NUJS a couple of days back. Didn’t go back to Room No. 217. The last time I’d been there, I’d found somebody else cooped up inside. Bit of a shock to the system, that. With the vacs on, there were hardly any peepul around. Met up with the Tea-boys, the LAN-man, Miskhan and the Poet Jr. They were probably the only few fellas still left. Also, ran into Rookie who is up to strange and wonderful things at the SC. And of course, had Dim-wala Maggi with onions and chillies 🙂 Friggin’ brilliant. Brought back lots of memories. Most of them though, from those unfortunate mornings we used to have uttapam for breakfast.

Speaking of food, Benjarong’s the new Mainland China. Most certainly so. And their Chicken Satays are bloody awesome. Sigree’s finally spruced up on its main course act. And that was the best Dum Biryani I’ve had in a long, long time. Who knows, people might actually start going there for a reason apart from them kebabs.

Henin’s apparently making a comeback. All’s well in the world again. There ought to be some sort of a law expressly forbidding anyone with a backhand like hers from being ever allowed to retire. Mein Gott, I could keep on watching replays of that single-handed backhand for hours on end!

The Post Office on Southern Avenue has got to be the cleanest, most well-ventilated, supra-spacious government facilitated message disbursal mechanism I’ve ever been to. ‘Tis speshul. The fellas behind the counters though are having none of this speshul-ness. There was this one lady in particular, simply refused to tell me which counter to go to. Thankfully, I’m of a calm, equable disposition. In fact, at times I’m positively Zen. Otherwise, (mutters darkly……)

Speaking of Zen, I present another Zen master.  ‘Tis truly a measure of the times we live in, that I get to see stuff I might not have even heard of otherwise. I hereby present, Zidane – A 21st Century Portrait. Real Madrid vs. Villareal. April 2005. From the first whistle to the last. 17 Synchronized cameras. All focussed on ONE man, his slightest actions, his every movement, his sudden sprints, his subtlest feints. On Zidane. (Cross-linked from here)

The Day it Rained Forever

Cheesy song, that. Currently listening to it. On replay mode.

Saw a full-blown insurrection today. Propah Mangal Pandey-type chap. Was ranting about assorted calumnies being visited upon the proletariat staff by the Bar Bourgeoisie.

Riled him further by asking him about the appropriate procedure pertaining to the submission of a Rule 40 application. Right in the middle of a strirring, fire-and-brimstone monologue. Was told I was at the wrong counter. Dunno, if  ’twas literal or metaphorical.

Lost my umbrella handle on the road. Didn’t notice until a kindly shopkeeper pointed it out and despatched one of his underlings to rummage for it. He didn’t find it either. Walked the rest of the way with an umbrella without a handle. Pretty cool. Not half as cool as my mini-umbra though; the one I used to tote around in college.

Butter Chicken and Cappuccino is one BAD combination. Not recommended. AT ALL.

There’s a point on the seventh floor terrace at the City Civil Court, where you can see the Hooghly to your right, the Cal HC ramparts and the Eden floodlights dead-centre, and what looked like the Ochterlony Monument, to your left.  I’d have probably seen more, but for the blasted rain

My shoes are clean. As clean as they have ever been. Wading through a couple of feet of water all day long does have its strong points.

On the Subject of Homes

He sat quietly in a corner of his room, brows furrowed, and wondered.

He wondered what people meant when they called something, someplace a home. And then, he wondered, about his own home.

He wondered about that small city he spent his childhood in. That small hill-top at the bottom of which he used to stay, and silently chuckled at the thought of the sixty degree angle their cricket pitch invariably made, whenever they played on that road which angled down from there. He remembered all the times he’d had that Samose wali chat at Kamboj Sweet Shop, Kulfi at Kumar’s or had borrowed those dog-eared Tintin issues at the nearby kirana shop. He remembered Gupta Aunty, the Khannas, Charu Didi, Jogen Bhaiyya, Shakti-Nanha and dear old Uncle Bhaiyya. His old school which was just a fifteen minute walk away, or Nikku Bhaiyya and Mabel Didi who walked alongside him to school everyday. He remembered his friends, his teachers. He remembered studying by the light of a lantern during those all-too-frequent evening power outage sessions and how every night he could see the lights of Mussoorrie gleaming in the distance. He remembered all those days, when he was still a boy, and silently willed them to come back again.

Then, he wondered about that city he grew up in. The City of Splendour. The City of Squalor. The City of Joy. The City of Sorrow. The City of Palaces. The City of Pot-holes. He remembered how, the first thing he had noticed about this city, was that he’d never seen so many Ambassadors in his life before. He remembered a certain something called rallies, and an even bigger travesty called the Book Fair. He remembered marvelling at the sheer variety and quantity of food, food, and still more food. He remembered his school; he remembered his college. He remembered the uncluttered views he used to command from the floor of his 10th floor apartment and how green everything seemed from up there. Classmates, acquaintances, friends, neighbours, he remembered them all. He remembered how unbelievably helpful people were at times, at bus-stands, on roads, anywhere. He also remembered how he was once called an outsider and asked to go back where he came from. He remembered the good times; he remembered the bad. He remembered all that; and, he remembered more.

His thoughts went to the other city now. That city where he was born. That city where his Mum and Dad came from. That city, where once every couple of years, he and all his relatives used to come together to catch up on all the time they had lost. To deal in constants like love and affection; and to compare variables like height and weight. He remembered having Alu-Dum Dahi-Vada off Barabati Stadium, or that killer Rabri Lassi at Buxi Bazaar. He remembered his Aai’s uber-licious chaats, and those meals at Kalyani Nagar, where every session closely approximated a veritable feast. He remembered all his relations who still stayed there; his grandparents, his uncles and his aunts. He remembered his little cousins, all of whom seemed to be as irrevocably scatter-brained as he was. He remembered, and he treasured those moments anew.

In turns, he thought about all the moments he had spent at each of these places, a few weeks, a few months, and a few years at a time. Details, every single one of them, came flooding back to him. In vivid technicolour mode.

And then, he realized one thing. Homes are not where you come from. Homes are not where you go. Homes are, where your heart is, and forever there, shall you stay.

And by the way, which blasted dingbat said that homes had to ever conform to some kind of a singularity paradigm

He sat quietly in a corner, and wondered no more.

He switched on his comp and listened to Adele blitz ‘Hometown Glory’ instead. 🙂

Ab Samachar Mein Hindi Suniye

Languages are a tricky breed. You are born into one, you speak a few, know a few more, and if you are really pissed, you invent Esperanto. OK, apologies, that was a cheap one. Now, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to learn two tongues; Urdu and Sanskrit. Urdu, because I wanted to read Manto and Chugtai in original, and Sanskrit because, well, it was Sanskrit.

I have always found Urdu to be a singularly lyrical language. The cadences, the pauses, the nazaakat, the chhoti-chhoti harkatein; it’s a tongue for poets, for bards, for troubadours. Sanskrit, on the other hand, was probably fated for didacticism, for hour-long oratorical excesses, the moment it was conceived. Try as hard as I may, I just cannot visualise anyone making small-talk in Sanskrit. It is the resounding baritone to Urdu’s mellifluence. A fortissimo to the other’s sotto voce.

However, I never had much dealing with any of them. Unlike my Mum and Dad, I never really had a classical education in Sanskrit. I did start off with Sanskrit in Dehradun, but when I came to Cal, those bozos at school made me shift to Bong instead. Poltroons. In re Urdu again, Nastaleeq is as comprehensible to me, as are Egyptian hieroglyphs. And whatever little I know comes from those 50s and 60s numbers courtesy the likes of Ludhianvi and Sultanpuri. That is the extent of my knowledge.

This, however, never frazzled me too much. I always knew how incompetent I could be. And, in any case, there was always Hindi to fall back upon. Hindi was neither Sanskrit, nor was it Urdu. It was both. It was Hindustani. ‘Twas, as Jha ji used to say, Yeh toh Khari Boli hai.

Today though, I really don’t hear that much Hindi around me anymore. Far from it. It’s usually an over-Sanskritised version of the Ghost of Hindi Past. Just try watching your average Bollywood production or any one of those numerous sob sagas which ply their trade on prime-time tele. Most of them speak like characters right out of B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharata. Or, Hindi’s turned into some avant-garde hotchpotch which passes for high lit and the pinnacle of creative expression (Mr. Prasoon Joshi, I’m in awe of your work. Just that, it’s not quite Hindi you write in :))

So, you either hear the hep crowd swing it the Hinglish way. Or you hear words which were probably last used a couple of millennia back. Johnny Walker probably said it best. (See below) Today though, the newscasters might just wing it, the Yo dude, Ab Samachar mein Hindi suniye, way.

Balraj Sahni’s Convocation address, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 1972

(Original Post here. Cross-linked from here)

[…] it is logical to conclude that Hindi and Urdu are one and, the same language. But no, our British masters declared them two separate languages in their time. Therefore, even twenty-five years after independence, our government,: our universities, and our intellectuals insist on treating them as two separate and independent languages. Pakistan radio goes on ruining the beauty of this language by thrusting into it as many Persian and Arabic words as possible; and All India Radio knocks it out of all shape by pouring the entire Sanskrit dictionary into it. In this way they carry out the wish of the Master, to separate the inseparable. Can anything be more absurd than that? If the British told us that white was black, would we go on calling white black for ever and ever? My film colleague Johnny Walker remarked the other day, “They should not announce ‘Ab Hindi mein samachar suniye’ they should say, ‘Ab Samachar mein Hindi suniye.’