Friday 23 May 2008

Apna Sapna Money Money [Plant!]


Phew you must be wondering how can someone’s dream be money plant? I mean if I had been dreaming about money [which I do at times, especially when my pay check comes and vanishes under my very snub nose] that would make some sense. Let me tell you the money plant story.
Now you know we have shifted to this incredible terrace house, Anubha has hung some very pretty bells there (some of which has flown away in the last few storms) and I have got us some lovely Pipli lampshades ( I am smarter and hung them and then took them off immediately). Now what was missing was some green. I confess that my fingers have no green jadu (magic). But Anubha claims that hers are, yet to be checked!
Which is the easiest green thing to keep, zero cost and maintenance? Of course it is the money plant. We kept planning to get some, but somehow never got around to it. Then yesterday Anubha and me, we were walking back home around 10ish in the evening [now if you are thinking that we have gone athletic, sadly we haven’t, we just ate way too much Indian Chinese and wanted to digest some of it] when we were appreciating all the flower and basically green pots displayed in people’s verandahs and windows. Of course we remembered that we had not churaoed (stolen) any money plant. In one galli (lane) we found some and were about to try our hands but a choukidar (security guard) was sitting, giving us weird looks, so we backed off. Now Anubha is a fiery lawyer and is not afraid of anything or so I thought, but there she was cowering from stealing money plant! Anyways we walked some more and ventured into the lane next to our house. There were some five/six pots of money plant waiting to be stolen by us. But so were a man, standing in front of his house, creating nonsense and hindering us in our mission. So we walked by, pretending to be just passers by. Thank god the man got bored and went inside. So I suggested that we turn back and do what we had come to do. Anubha wanted to drop it but I boldly marched on. We picked up two/three stems as quickly as possible and was almost running, fully expecting to hear the whole mohallah (area) screaming ‘Chor! Chor!” (Thief! Thief!) behind us. Thankfully the sensible residents did not. And now our house has money plant displayed in vodka bottles. Next week we have decided to venture for the next round of collection.

R.V. Smith Rediscovered

Hey you know what guys (and especcially Muthu cos I know you are as mad as me when it comes to reading), remember a few weeks ago I wrote a blog peice on R.V. Smith and how I loved his article "Down the Memory Lane" which used to come in The Hindu? Then his weekly articles kind of stopped coming and I was really sad. Then suddenly last Sunday I was going through the Sunday HT, Delhi edition which is marginally better than Sunday Times of India i found R.V. Smith's article in the supplementary. I was/am over the moon. So guys all of you who want to read him Sunday HT is the place!

Wednesday 21 May 2008

My Cigarette Story

Statutory Warning Heeded: The author is perfectly aware that cigarettes are injurious to health.

The first time I tried smoking was in college. I went to Presidency College, Kolkata—yes the cradle of Indian intellectualism as ‘they’ say. Ok, before plunging into my adventures with a cigg, I will have to talk a bit about intellectuals in Kolkata. Please, please bear with me.
It is not really easy being an intellectual. Intellectualism comes with its baggage and props, otherwise how do you prove that you are a true blue Presidency intellectual? In Bengali we call an intellectual an ‘antel’. I have a feeling that antel is a French word, but since I am severely retarded in French or any other foreign language for that matter my suspicion never got converted into concrete fact.
An antel has several characteristics—
1. He or she resides in Kolata, studies in Presi, JU, CU (there is a hierarchy here too—Presi antels are by far the superior or maybe this is my bias for my alma mater, one never knows with these things…but before stingy criticisms come JU is yet another alma mater of mine in my long rambling academic career);
2. An antel goes to Coffee House—the mecca of Kolkata intellectualism;
3. He/she carries a big jhola (cloth bag);
4. Books of Nitsche, Foucault, Marx, Lenin, Engels along with Sukanto’s poetry peeks out from the jhola or is clutched tightly in the hand;
5. A Charminar cigg hangs perennially hanging from the mouth;
6. A dose of grass and marijuana to achieve intellectual nirvana once in a while;
7. Che Guerava tee shirts or khadi kurtas with old torn Lee jeans are a must.
Now intellectual characteristics—
1. Bona fide Marxist/Communist at heart;
2. Member of CPI/CPIM/SFI etc
3. Expert on everything under the sun be it Plato’s guardianship or Kolkata Knight Riders;
4. An ardent poet—ranging from politics to love;
5. Protests on American President’s imperialistic policies by blocking the busy Kolkata roads.
The list goes on….

Anyways to get back to my story—two of my male friends once alleged that women in Presi act liberated only in canteen. Though they smoke within the confines of college canteen, they are hardly ever seen smoking in public. Though not a smoker I could not resist the challenge. Who said women cannot smoke in public? I am a woman and I can very well do that. So we have a ‘bet’ and all three of us go to the tiny shop situated between CU and Presi. I go buy a cigg, men flocking the shop parted ways automatically to let me into the male dominion. Now time to light the cigg. Now I had never ever before in my life done that so how am I to know how to do it? I smartly take the cigg and light a match and put two together. Nothing happens, I feel people giving me weird looks on the street and my two friends bending with laughter. After their mirth had subsided they told me where I was going wrong. By then we had moved from the shop and were in front of a school. So standing there I light my first cigg, which scandalizes the mothers waiting for their kids to finish school.
In my 3 years of Presi B.A. and JU M.A. I quiet never managed to become an antel. Somehow was never that intellectual. But ciggs stayed with me. Even now once in a while I go puffing.
Lately 3 of us from office have taken to smoking just in front of our office. Now guys we are talking about Bhogal area in Delhi, which is the Punjabi heartland. We get stern disapproving looks from the middle aged Pubjabi aunties. It is quiet fun and I can just imagine them thinking ‘aaj kaal ki ladkiya kitni besharam hain’ (girls these days are so shameless)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday 19 May 2008

Lovely Delhi rains


Delhi weather has been really awesome recently…a couple of thunderstorms and rains…Bombaywallahs and Kolkatans living in Delhi both are claiming that delhi is going their city’s way…well me thinks Delhi is definitely going Kolkata way.
And in our new terrace with which I am so much in love rains take on a different dimension. Like I have already mentioned in one of my previous write-ups our house is in the corner plot, facing a park and also has another park on its left-hand. So while it is raining you get to see only green.
Last week while it was raining I was home alone. I stood on the terrace and sang to my heart’s delight, albeit off tune “eei meghla din ee ekla ghor ee lagenako mon” (An old Hemanta Mukherjee songs loosely translated ‘on this cloudy day am alone and home and not feeling happy about it’ or some such…ok while doing this loose translation I realized that I will not make a translation…boring job). It was lovely.
Today also I got up really late and that too severely afflicted by Monday blues. And then I peeped outside and saw it was cloudy and threatening to rain. Soon it started pitter-patter and lordy there I was again getting wet and feeling heavenly. So next time if you wanna enjoy the rare Delhi rains be sure to catch it on our terrace. And it would be better if you come equipped with some pakodas and jalebis.

Friday 16 May 2008

Two way tickets to abroad...

Why IIT grads abroad are returning to (Indiahttp://www.rediff.com/money/2008/may/15iit.htm)
This was came in rediff. Like the title suggests some super brainy chaps (the article did not mention any woman now that I come to think of it) prefer to come back to India. More in the stlye of “ghar aya mera pardesi” (‘my’ stranger returning home). This returning home phenomenon is being called reverse brain drain.
In my office which employees lawyers and social workers, out of 40 employees in Delhi, about 5 to 6 are people with foreign degrees who chose to come back to India and work here.
So it is time for Indians returning home, not just from engineering or software background but other fields as well.

Thursday 15 May 2008

Enchanting encounter in Delhi



We were shopping in Connaught Place, my new roomie Anubha and me, when we ventured into ‘churiyon ka galli’ (lane of bangle shops) behind hanuman mandir (temple of hanuman, the monkey god). It is such a lovely place. Imagine about two-dozen shops glittering with thousands of bangles of all types—glass, metal, plastic and many more.
There was a time I loved wearing dozens of bangles in my hand. But not anymore, it feels too dressy. As a result I have stopped buying them also. Whenever I see glass bangles I remember bangle-shopping expeditions with my father as a kid.
Anyways Anubha was looking at bangles in a shop where the shopkeeper, an old man, asked her if we both were sisters because she was shouting to me across and I was shouting back from another shop. Finally I left what I was buying and went to join her. She had some pretty stuff in her hand that she eventually bought. The shopkeeper asked me whether I wanted something, I said no. Then something amazing happened. He gifted me two metal bangles, I was pretty embarrassed and asked for glass ones, he said that since he was gifting me he would be giving me stone studded metal ones. And I got a dose of scolding too for not wearing bangles “Tum churi kyun nehi pahenti ho? Bilayat se ayee ho kya? Humara desh ka riwaz hain churiyan pahenna” (why do you not wear Bangles? Are you from a foreign land? In our country it is the tradition for women to wear bangles.)
It was a very special and touching experience, something I will always treasure. Also it helps redeem Delhi's image to be an extremely rude city at least to me.

Wednesday 14 May 2008

my first pair of specs...

Ok one more silly childhood story to bore you guys. It is the story about I got my first pair of spectacles. I was in class II, a very talkative student much to my mom’s dismay who had to hear all the complaints from my teachers. Though till now I have not been able to figure out why they complained. Talking, sometimes excessively is ok in my book, it helps us bond and also express our feelings. Anyways during that time I had this friend call Diya, lost her since then. We, two eight year olds, used to sit together and always had our heads together, giggling and chatting, much to our teacher’s exasperation. One day Diya came to school looking rather grown up and pretending to have gained whole lot of experience. When I asked her, she initially refused and put on her airs. Not to be dominated, I decided to leave her alone. Soon enough her need to share the important experience became more important than showing airs and also she was bursting to share her news.
Anyways the big secret was that since she was having headache regularly, her parents took her to see an eye specialist. The doctor had asked her to read various shapes and sizes of alphabets from far and near, quizzed her on her headache (which she confessed to me after obtaining ‘mother’ and ‘father’ promises from me, not to tell a soul, that she really did not have them, she used to pretend just to get off homework)! Anyways she was fairly able to convince the doctor, who prescribed her a pair of spectacles. So her spectacles were coming by next week!
Next week came and so did her shiny new pair of pink spectacles. Even though there were two/three other kids with spectacles, no one had turned having specs into so much of an event. She emerged, as the new queen bee of the class, during lunch break students would come up to her and ask for a chance to try on her new specs. Friends would get first preference and so on.
Not one to enjoy being left behind at anything I started to pester Diya to let me into her secret of how to go about getting a pair of specs.
The instructions given to me were very clear—pretend to have headaches and at time eye aches, not to be able to read the blackboard in class so far and so forth. Soon enough my class teacher called my mother, yet again complained that I talk excessively in class and also informed her that I am having problems reading the blackboard from three/four benches back. My mother informed her that I was complaining of headache and also at eye ache at home. Finally the golden suggestion came: maybe she showed be shown to an eye specialist. Lots of children are having eye problem now a days.
One of my aunts is an eye doctor and I was taken to her on one of the weekends. She made me sit in a high up examination chair and started all the tests. Diya had warned me about this bit. Pretend you cannot read some of them but not all of them, otherwise they will understand you are cheating. So I started. But my aunt kept coming back again and again. I valiantly tried to remember which ones I had said earlier I could not read and stick to them. Finally after an hour or so, my aunt told my parents that she cannot find any problem with my eyes really, but just in case she will give me a very minimal power specs. I need to wear it continuously and soon whatever miniscule problem is there will go. My parents dutifully took me to an optical shop where I chose a nice pair of specs.
I remember my excitement even now when the specs came; I was even wanted to wear them to bed. In class I replaced Diya and my specs got lots of appreciation from ‘not-so-lucky to have specs’ friends. But dear me I soon realized that wearing specs is not all that fun, firstly it used to hurt the area behind my ears, and then it was inconvenient while playing and frankly I got bored and had mentally moved onto some other excitement. But I had not bargained on my father. He made sure that I wear my specs regularly. Whenever I complained of it hurting, the spec and I, we were taken to the optical shop to get us adjusted to each other. I lost it, thinking good riddance. But soon another pair came, eventually many more pairs came only to be lost again and again. And regular eye check up by my enthusiastic father became part of life. Every year there would be two eye check-ups. By then my aunt had got her transfer and moved from Kolkata, so I would be taken to another doctor. This other doctor never found anything wrong with my eyes, but since this was issue by one doctor he never un- prescribed it. This went on till I was in class VIII, by then I was old enough and teenage enough to insist my eyes were perfectly fine and I did not need specs and I really did not care what the doctors said!
Even now sometimes my father asked me whether I had made up that entire headache/ eye ache story and I very staunchly refuse!

Tuesday 13 May 2008

Logical Women, mmm, maybe Women and Logic?? Oh no...

‘Women Love gadgets more than Gucci shoes. Surprised?’ http://in.news.yahoo.com/hindustantimes/20080512/r_t_ht_tc_software/ttc-gadget-queens-c38d903.html
This article came up on yahoo page when I went to check my emails. Sometimes, if I have the time I read a couple of articles with catchy titles. This was one of them. Hmmm so women, especially professional women prefer laptops and mobile phones to diamonds and designer clothes! Why am I not surprised? The women this article talks about all seem to be busy professionals and I am sure needs to be every bit as organized and efficient, if not more, like their male counterparts. Why do at every instance of women being efficient or rational or logical such surprise is generated?
What is the surprise? That a bunch of extremely busy working women would prefer carrying a laptop or a cell phone going to office rather than wearing Gucci and Prada. Isn’t it time we gave women a little credit for all their efficiency and stop being surprised at it? The very idea of this inconsequential bit of news being turned into research and eventually an article seems insulting to me.

Saturday 10 May 2008

Robindrojayanti


Two days back I called home to be told that it was pochishe baishak (25th day of the first month of Bengali new year). Now if you are a bongling from a true blue bong family you are sure to have contributed, albeit off tune, to ‘he nuton dekha dik ar bar’ in a school or para (residential area’s) cultural function celebrating Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday.
Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel laureate poet, writer, philosopher was the ambassador of Indian culture to the rest of the world. He is probably the most prominent figure in the cultural world of Indian subcontinent and the first Asian person to be awarded with the Nobel prize. Even though he is mainly known as a poet, his multifaceted talent showered upon different branches of art, such as, novels, short stories, dramas, articles, essays, painting etc. And his songs, popularly known as Rabindrasangeet, have an eternal appeal and is permanently placed in the heart of the Bengalis. He was a social reformer, patriot and above all, a great humanitarian and philosopher. India and Bangladesh - the national anthems of these two countries are taken from his composition. (http://www.calcuttaweb.com/tagore/)
Now celebration of Tagore’s birthday is as important to the Bongs as durga pujo, saraswati pujo and poila baishak (new year) etc.
Bengal ’s Kobi-Pokkho, literally meaning ‘the bard’s fortnight’, stretches well beyond a month. As is the practice, ‘Prabhat-phri’-s organised at various nerve centres of Kolkata mark the beginning of the annual celebration. The entire Rabindra Sangeet fraternity makes it a point to be present at these points with invocation songs on their lips. The reverence, devotion and fervour with which the event is treated is something to be experienced.
The best part is along with the high and the mighty every para, every school and every club has its own function. I remember doing some when I was a kid. Usually kids have summer vacation during this time so as it is there is a lot of time to kill. So when kids start planning a cultural do, elders are more than happy to get bored kids out of their way. In the area where I lived there were about 8 to 10 of us, of which 5 were more enthusiastic. These enthusiastic kids would start bugging the non-enthusiastic kids and after a lot of brainstorming we would land up with a plan and go visit a cultural minded parent. In most cases it would be my father. My father would then put on his spectacles, open the bookshelf and take out Tagore’s tomes and decide who is going to sing which song, tuneless ones would get a poem to recite. Ideally in a Rabindrojayanti (Tagore’s birthday celebration) there used to be an opening song like ‘he nuton’, then there would be some solos and duets with accompanying dances, poetry recitation in between and last but not the least there would be a skit or a short drama. Tagore has some fantastic dance dramas as well, but as kids we never ventured into all that.
Finally rehearsals would start and so would fights as to who would be doing what. Usually there would be one or two super talented kids who knew how to sing, recite, dance and act. So naturally they would try to take over and hog all the limelight which the ‘not-so-talented’ would staunchly oppose.
Two/three functions very clearly stand out in my memory.
Like once we had a function, which we timed for 53 minutes. Now one of our spectators had to go away on a tour. So the day before we all trouped to his house and performed the entire thing. The next day we performed before 30 odd people. Then someone was late so we dutifully performed again before that person. This is what you call ingenuity of seven/eight year olds.
Another time our entire function was timed for 45 minutes. So one of my uncles in order to encourage us decided that he would sponsor some food. He went out to buy some misthi (sweetmeats) and samosas (I don’t know the English of samosa). But it was our second function we were nervous like hell, so we skipped two stanzas from our group song, someone forgot the entire poetry, a dancer tripped and hurt her leg so dance cancelled and the programme time came down to 20 minutes. So by the time my uncle came back with food for thirty odd people there was just the participants left. Never worry we—the mighty sever year olds devoured the food meant for thirty people!
Last but not the least I must tell you the story of the goat. That year in rabindrojayanti we were performing a skit where we need a little goat. So there used to be this old woman living in the slum near our house. She used to have a couple of goats. She used to sell goat’s milk for her livelihood. We went and convinced her that she should lend us one of her kids for 2 hours or so. After lots of grumbling and suspicions she finally, very reluctantly relented. So we dragged an equally reluctant goat and tied him with a flimsy string near the stage, we tore some leaves from a near by tree to feed and amuse the goat and went to do our make-up. I remember I had the part of a guru and was just putting a very itchy beard on with glue that was literally burning my chin, when a harassed friend came rushing in. The goat was missing! Our make-up forgotten we all rushed out. Boy we were a sight to see—nine/ten-year-old kids half mustache drawn, half beard glued, some in saris, hair half done. We discovered that this smart goat had simply chewed the string with which we had tied him and fled. What a momentous discovery that was. Search for the missing goat started. We checked all probable places—under the cars, near by shops and houses, garbage dumps-- result no goat. A brave soul even went to the old woman, who started wailing when informed her goat was missing. It sure was a crisis I tell you. We were sitting gravelly with thumping hearts calculating the price of a goat when someone dragged back the goat. The goat had run away to a garbage dump little further from our houses and was happily eating plastic. Imagine goats preferring plastics to green leaves! Such an impure age we live in! Anyways the old woman came rushing and possessively took hold of her possession and refused to lend him any more. That was the end of the live goat. I remember we carried a black teddy soft toy to the stage and pretended that it was a goat with one of the talented ones making goat sounds from behind the stage. But the skit was a hit and we got lots of enthusiastic applauds at the end.
I hope kids even now have such fun doing rabindojayanti!