Monday 30 June 2008

Canada Chronicles Continue-- Movies


The University of Toronto or as the students called it U of T has about 8 to 10 libraries and each library has some collection of movie vcds. So while I finished my courses and didn’t have much to do over the summer I decided to make use of the lazy days watching all the movies I could hold of and reading all the books I could. The libraries have mind-blowing collection of old Hollywood classics and world cinema like they have all of Ray’s movies. Some of the movies I saw during the lazy summer of 06 and liked are ‘Gentlemen's Agreement’ with Gregory Peck regarding anti Semitic feelings in America in 1950s, ‘Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner’ of course Sidney Poiter looking dashing as ever—a movie about white woman marrying black man and their families reaction; ‘Shadowlines’ Anthony Hopkins in a romantic role, ‘64 Charring Cross’ again Anthony Hopkins in a romantic role, ‘The Graduate’ with Simon & Garfunkel’s amazing songs, ‘Emperor's Club’ of Kelvin Kline, ‘Before Sunset’ and a whole lot others whose names I cant even remember. Some of the classics I saw for the second, third time like ‘Casablanca’, ‘My Fair Lady’, ‘Gone with the Wind’, ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘Mary Poppins, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, Gods Must be Crazy’ etc. I love Hollywood movies mainly because of the tightly controlled plot and drama. Even saw some interesting foreign movies especially Italian and European.

Saturday 28 June 2008

Sardar Fiasco


Friday early morning my cooler emitted some strange sound and bad smell and then died on me. Now we live in Sardarland so obviously the electrician who work for us is also a Sardarji. So I called him and he said he would send his assistant. The assistant duly came, looked into my cooler, fixed a wire and taped it. That was it. I asked him how much I needed to pay. He called his boss the Sardar and then after 2 minutes of conversation said the bill was for Rs 150. !!!!! Rs 150! Isn’t that a bit too much for such a small job? Well apparently Sardar did not think so. So I spoke to the Sardarji on the phone and in my excitement I told him “aap kya daku hain?” (Are you a dacoit?) and Sardarji got damn upset. He asked me to give the phone to his assistant and asked the fellow to go back without taking any money.
After 10 minutes or so, there is a loud calling bell and Sardarji climbs huffing and puffing. He was breathing so hard, I asked him to sit down before he plunged into conversation. Once he had got his breathe under control he said “Aap ne mujhe daku bola. Zindegi main kisi ne kabhi kisi ne mujhe daku nehi bola. Agar aap ladka hote to main apko mar dalta…”. I realized he is really upset, so I explained to him my Hindi is broken and very wobbly, and then I apologized, but nothing had any kind of effect on him. He kept repeating “Aap ne mujhe daku bola.” And with every repeat he was getting more and more emotional, almost misty eyed, about to cry types. Anyways he left all the while saying “Aap ne mujhe daku bola.”
Now I am a not-so-brave Bong soul, I got all worked up thinking how hurt Sardarji must have got and then my imagination took a flying leap visualizing being killed by a Sardar in Sardarland! But then after sometime the assistant came and took money from me and told me since you said daku, Sardarji is a bit upset. The assistant was laughing and having fun at Sardar’s expense. So did me and my roomies at night, and now today all my colleagues at office.
Sardarji I am sorry if I hurt you. Didn’t mean daku literally.

Help

ok i need help big time. is there any starch expert reading my blog by any chance? i need to starch this cotton saree of mine and it is too big to manage...so if there is any expert plz do come to my aid!

Ladies of Calcutta


Hey Ladies & Gentlemen,
Do you know there is this old song dedicated to the laides of Calcutta. I am quoting the lyrics below. I have an UPits colleague who loves Kolkata, he spent sometime there in the 60s or so. He told me about it and then I did a google. So here goes the song....
Calcutta
I've kissed the girls in Naples;
They're pretty as can be.
I've also kissed some French girls
Who came from "Paree."
The Spanish girls are lovely;
Oh, yes, indeed they are.
But the ladies of Calcutta are sweeter by far.
The ladies of Calcutta will steal your heart away;
And after it is stolen, you'll say--
I've kissed the girls of Naples;
I've kissed them in Paree;
But the ladies of Calcutta do something to me
I know the words are rather silly. But that song was a big hit in 1960 and apparently busted the charts again in 1967. And hey I like it and being one of the Calcutta ladies I am really excited to discover this.
I nipped it from this blog http://www.pressrun.net/weblog/2007/03/ive_kissed_the_.html

Friday 27 June 2008

Books, bookstalls and lending libraries of Kolkata

This is a double posting. Also posted in http://kolkatacitydiaries.blogspot.com/

I am searching for a cheap lending book library near my office in Delhi. In vain. In Delhi cheap and near-by are two alien concepts, which the city or its population never seems to have heard of. Anyways while searching in the Internet and asking people around, I cant help but compare the situation with Kolkata.

If I say every nook, crany, para (moholla) of Kolkata has its own pet library and book lending facility I would not be exgarrating at all. Read on a bookworm's experience.

A bookworm like me could hardly be satisfied with the ration of one book per week that our school library had fixed for us. My parents put me to Ramkrishna Mission Library, but that was also not enough. So with some fellow worms I set in search of alternate source of books. And soon enough we found it. Very near to our school was Golpark and it has lots of pavement bookstalls. So those stalls became our source of M&Bs, latest bestsellers et al.While in school I heard of this lending library called the Orchid. But Orchid, though nothing compared to Delhi, was a bit expensive and my father refused to let me take membership. I remember how disappointed I was. The moment I started earning money through tuitions, I got a membership to this vaulted library. Now it is a tiny shop, just off the Rashbihari Raod, tucked in a by-lane. But what a treasure trove it is. Some weeks I used to visit this place as much as 4 to 5 times, take 4 to 6 books at a time. At times by the time I used to reach, they would have half the shutter down, but due to my special status of a regular lender they would reopen their shop and let me quickly pick some books.When I shifted to Delhi, the Orchid man was as sad as me. He invited me to srop in whenever I was visiting, but I never did go back.
I hope Orchid still survives.

No mention of Kolkata bookstalls can be complete without discussing the famed pavement bookstalls of College Street. Though I did my college which was situated on the very College Street, oddly enough I never did browse there much for books. Maybe I was not intellectual enough by Kolkata standards!

My Crazy Family

Today I am going to write about the crazy assortment that is my family. I belong to an upper (relatively…mmm I don’t really know, since Bongs don’t like to specify their economic status, it is considered impolite and show offy) middle class Bengali family. Both my parents hail from West Bengal. Out of 100 Bongs you meet, 95 would be from East Bengal claiming to have been zamindars there (landlords) and leaving everything and coming to West at the time of partition. My family or me, we have no such tall claims. Basically my family is from the Birbhum district of West Bengal, my great, great grandfather (I am sure I got the sequence wrong) after leaving the ancestral village Nopara settled in Shantiniketan and was involved with Tagore in building the Viswa Bharati University. My grandfather was one of the five students with whom Tagore started Pathabhavan or the children’s school. My grandfather had four younger brothers and they all had to shift from Shantiniketan because of the untimely demise of their father.
Four of the five grandfathers were settled in Kolkata and lived in the same house. The fifth brother was a teacher in Shantiniketan but he and his family would come to Kolkata for every vacation.
Now back to my life. My six years younger brother, and me, we were born and brought up in Kolkata, same as our parents. Let me talk about my father’s side today, mother’s side some other time. Two sides are too much to handle in one day for a frail soul like mine!
I grew up in a crazy joint family. If you have seen ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ my family is a bit like that sans the restaurant and obviously you will have to replace the Greeks with Indian Bengalis. Our house in Kolkata, built around 1960s, is a three storied building and at varying times used to home ten to thirty people. My brother and me, henceforth just we, grew up amidst a motley assortment of grandparents (including our grandfather and his brothers and their wives), aunts, uncles and of course cousins. So there was never any lonely moment, or lack of entertainment while growing up.
Our house was arranged in a crazy way—all the kitchens and a huge hall type sitting room (ideal for big family parties) were in the ground floor, while the bedrooms were in the first and second floor. Yes you heard it right. It was hugely impractical but there you go. We had a lovely roof, where we grew up playing hide & seek and so many other games. During summer holidays we would sit in the roof for hours chatting and singing songs. Next to the roof is our home’s prayer room. But it is a prayer room built keeping 1 or barely 2 people. So during pujos when the whole family used to assemble, we would all spill all over the roof, cracking jokes and laughing. The roof was also the place to play holi and burst crackers during kali pujo/ diwali.
There was always something or the other happening in the house—good ones like birthday parties, anniversaries, engagements, and religious celebrations (bijoya, kojaguri lakshmi pujo, christmas, saraswati pujo, holi, janmasthami ) and bad ones like illness, fights etc. And as kids it was always good enough excuse not to do home work. We grew up not knowing what individual space was all about. It was/is the most normal thing in the world for a cousin to drop in for a chat, for relatives to come visiting even if I had an exam the next day.
But it was not always all fun. I don’t want to romanticize great Indian joint family system that people keep harping about. There were lots of problems—space problems, huge nasty fights, meanness, and selfishness… but thankfully those were temporary things, come a festival, people would forget all acrimony and get together to have fun.
As families go, my family is a very cultural one—we are totally into music, singing, dancing, and


this was christmas celebration 2007. there was a fancy dress party of family members. sadly i wasnt there.

dramatics. Almost everyone in the family can do his/her share of caricature and story telling. Whenever we get together there are lots of singing, we have some family favourities, which even the tone deaf like me know. I remember, while in school during the summer vacations, the entire family would get together and perform a play. What fun it used to be. We would be rehearsing for a month or so. Almost the entire family would be cast and we would go on the stage making crazy stupid mistakes like forgetting the dialogues, missing or picking up wrong cues, making wrong entrances…you name it, we did it. The shy ones would prompt from backstage and help in the dressing and make-up. We would invite the elders to come and see the show. And their reactions would be part of family folklore. Like there was a play where one of my uncles played the role of a Casanova. His dad i.e. one of my grandfather’s saw it and said; “Hmmm this role suits his character to the T”. This has become lingering story in the family, oft repeated, much to the chagrin of the uncle for whom it was made.
Over the years elders realized living in that huge, disorderly house was becoming tough so the house got organized along modern lines and was converted into flats/apartments. And I love this system. For the first time in my 21 years I got my own room during college! Now all the cousins are there, though not breathing down your back, but downstairs, all you need to do is go down and meet them.

Blog Obsession

Ok confession time. My blog obsession has reached new heights, not only have I been posting like a torrent, rest of the time I am cruising through the blog world, looking at others’ blogs. It is a great pass time and like I mentioned in one of my previous posts I have discovered such a diverse, breathtaking world and I’m loving it.
Some of the blogs I saw are real visial treats with beautiful photographs. From there I got the idea to install photoshop in my computer and learn to make my blog interesting with nice photographs. Easier said than done. While I got the software installed, I have no clue how to operate it. I tried reading online but even the most basic lessons are not making much sense to me!
Anyone with any brilliant ideas?

Thursday 26 June 2008

Posters













Found these posters while browsing through the net.


Wednesday 25 June 2008

Himachal Road Trip…

When I saw ‘The Motor Cycle Dairies’ I wished I could do something equally adventurous. Now the truth to be told I am not really an adventurous person. I see suspense movies with one eye shut (it is really difficult, have you ever tried it?) screamed hell lot while watching Psycho etc etc. So I just wished and promptly forgot all about it.
Background
Then late May I got to know that some of my office people are going for a fact-finding trip to Bilaspur district in Himachal Pradesh (HP). I know the name Bilaspur is immediately connected to Chattisgarh (I did it too) but there is a whole district called Bilaspur in HP. The area is pretty, with the Sutlej river flowing by and there is also the Govind Sagar Lake. Bhakra Nangal Dam is built and as a result communities who have been living along the banks of Sutlej and Govind Sagar are all displaced. The government just forced them upwards into the forestland. Bhakra was the first dam of modern India and these people were never properly compensated or rehabilitated. They were given compensation at mostly Rs 10 a bigha (yes you are reading right), in one remote village we heard of a case where the man was given 25 paise per bigha so he got all of Rs2.50 for his 10 bigha of land. Apart from the ridiculous money compensation, these remote villages have no road access, in many places we had to trek to reach, no schools, no hospitals, they gave up extremely fertile land for stone filled barren plots. And the worst of all they are surrounded by water, yet cannot touch any of it. They barely have drinking water and absolutely no irrigation water. The government has no water-lifting scheme, neither are the people allowed to do so on their own. Recently the Bhakra oustees have formed a society of their own, we were invited to go meet them and see their living conditions.
This was the work part, now the fun part, which means the entire trip.
Day 1: Starting Day
We set off from Delhi at 6 am on the 28th of June. There were seven of us—one of our advocates—Jai (100% certified madman who looks pretty and cannot stop flirting and talking—all in same breathe), me—Suchi (frumpy, dumpy accident and fall prone, real pain in this trip) three Indian interns [two boys—Gautam (Mr Maggie-man, with his hair all curled up like Maggie) and Sodhan (the silent participant of the group who occasionally forgot to take his notebook while going for internviews) and one girl—Sonal (she looks like a Khadoo or so Jai claimed, but is a Rajput and a real doll cum sweetheart and a hard worker to boot], one American volunteer/researcher—Nick (most focused one in the group) and last but not the least our Irish man—Michael (who kept wandering away and didn’t even have a phone). We were in a Qualis and started our journey without much drama. But that was the end of our uneventful journey.
On our way we gleefully started on aloo paratha binge. It lasted all through our trip.
The traffic police held us up for about 4 to 5 times, every time Jai who was driving would get down from the car and do his “we are Supreme Court advocates from Delhi…” bit when the police would become really polite and friendly, offering him and us tea and refreshments.
We reached Bilaspur town, which is the capital of Bilaspur district around 6 p.m. in the evening of the same day. Members of the Bhakra Oustees Society were waiting for us. Michael getting bored with all the talk in Hindi decided to take a walk, without letting us know. Now Michael is two and half weeks old in India, does not have a cell phone, cannot understand Hindi. After out meeting (about an hour or so) we decided to go out and soon realized that Michael was missing. The guesthouse people told us that Michael had gone for a walk. Outside we kept a sharp lookout for Michael (it is a small place with one main road)— but no Michael in the small town. While coming back, still with no Michael in sight, we started discussing various possibilities—Michael loosing his way and going up and down the hills, Michael being kidnapped and we receiving ransom demands in Euro/pounds etc etc etc. We came back hoping Michael would be in the guesthouse welcoming us all. But no Michael comes out. Nick goes up to check the terrace (logic—in case Michael fell down while trying to lean or something). I go to my room trying not to worry (I had visions of my boss screaming at me for not taking care of grown up Michael). 10 minutes or so Jai knocks saying, “no Michael yet, lets go to the police”. I come out trying to figure out what to do. Suddenly someone taps me on my head from behind, a smiling Michael looking totally unaffected by all the fuss he caused. I did not know whether to be relieved that he is back in one piece or to be mad—chose relief.
Then some censored things happened like the little milk drinking ceremony between Nick and Jai but I like any decent girl go mum. Who said anything about gossiping?

Day 2: Journey to the Villages begins.
We start in our car and the Bhakra Oustees’ Society people show us the way in another one. On the cat, after about an hour or so I realize that my pen drive is back at the guesthouse. I am sad, but there is not much I can do. Sit and brood for sometime. Then we come to the first village, split up into two groups—Nick, Sonal, Digvijaya (another lawyer from HRLN Shimla offide), Gautamji from Bhakra Oustees Society and me, we form a group. We get up on Gautamji’s Indica car which was being driven by a smiling Subhas. The first village we went to, we were all pretty confused and rather self-conscious. In the meantime I realized that I have found my pen drive but lo and behold my phone, my one and only connection to the rest of the world is missing!!!!!!! I was pretty shaken up. Also it was our first village so the discussion and interviews were also a little slow. In the second village we just met one lone shopkeeper. The third village was a whole new experience. Apart from the men, about 30 women turned up, some of them having trekked 5/6 kms of hilly roads to meet us. Sonal and me, we had a lovely time chatting with the ladies. Good thing was a bus was organized to get the ladies back home.
Both the groups met in the evening. Jai and Micheal were pretty disappointed to know that we met all the pretty ladies and not them. But in the last village some women and girls turned up. One lady who had met us in the morning, went back to her village to tell some women about us. She got the other ladies to come and meet us. It was pretty humbling. We finished pretty late, slept at an army man’s house.
Day 3: Journey to the villages continues.
My phone still not found. Worries continue. Oh we did a very sweet thing. After breakfast while coming out of our host’s house we saw a two-room school in progress. The children stopped midway their lessons shyly when they saw us. Then I heard a teacher telling one of the students “ padahi kar lo, phir yeh log tumko apne gari main ghumane le jayenge” (study and after you finish studying these people who take you for a ride in their car). So we took about 30 school children for a ride in our car.
Rest of the day was pretty much work in different villages. Except that there came a call from a lady who picked up my phone from roadside. I was overjoyed and Jai the hero he is drove all the way to the very first village and got my phone for me.
The house where we broke for the night was a real mud house. This was my first time in a real mud house. We slept in a row on the roof. It felt great to stare at the stars.
Another funny things that happened on day 3 was that Nick, after a long hard day, sat next to me mumurning to himself "mera chappal! mera chappal!". When asked, he said he was trying to remember the song which started with chappal which he had apparently picked up in his Hindi class before coming to India. When assured there was no song with mera chappal, Nick got really puzzled. Then we realised Nick meant old Raj Kapoor song 'mera joota hain Japani...".
Day 4: More villages and some sickness
Though the day started fine, I fell sick and landed up spending most of the day dozing in the car.
Met some cute children on day 4.
End of our work, by the end of it we covered a total of 21 villages and spoke to some 400 odd villagers. Nick and Sodhan catch the bus back to Delhi while the rest of us decide to head to Dharmashala.
Day 5: Now for some fun
A smaller group Sonal, Jai, Gautam, Michael and me head off for Dahrmashala. We drove through Dharmashala and then proceeded up to McLeod Ganj. After a long drive we reached around 3 in the afternoon. We checked in a really nice guesthouse a little above the main town.
We got to know that there was a nice river near by, so decided to go for a trek. Now I am not much of a trekker but I also went. After going through a long-winded hilly walk we finally came to a bridge and a river coming down from the mountains. There were two shacks selling Maggie, cold drinks etc. We ordered some Maggie and decided to go and sit on the rocks. When we initially dipped our feet the water was ice cold. Then the others got a little more adventurous and decided to go further up. I also decided to follow and before long I was plunging into the river. I was rescued soon enough but my phone and camera had a severe dunking. While I fell I disturbed the entire rock demography and as a result Jai’s phone which was on a rock slid down and fell into the water. It stayed there for 15 minutes or so till Michael fished it out.
No adventures are not over. While coming back two pahari (hilly) cows with big scary horns kept running after me. So the queue went something like this a scared me, a laughing at my expense Jai, the two cows, Gautam chasing the cows, Sonal and Michael.
That evening we went to McLeod Ganj, saw Dalai Lama’s palace, shopped a little and then went to have dinner. There was a very noisy open-air music show happening outside playing all Bhangra music. So dinner was a bit spoiled. We got a local Himachali wine back with us. No one liked it except me.
Day 6: Back to Delhi
We started around 8 am and took a longer way down, crossed some tea gardens and all. It was a cloudy day and the drive was really nice till we reached out skrits of Delhi. We were stuck in traffic just outside Delhi for 2 hours. But there was no lack of entertainment. Jai had us laughing hysterically over the various girls he dated—girl who cried at drop of a hat, girl who fainted, and girl who was mad…. so you see by now he has dated almost all the mentals, gentles and quintals!
Finally when I reached home it was past midnight.
Postscript
Every village we visited, we met very friendly people who were eager to talk to us. Everywhere we were offered water/tea/food. We ate our meals for three days in various villages and everytime it was a feast. Our host, it was predecided by the Bhakra Society who would be feeding us which meal at which date, would be going out of his/her way and serving us awesome food.
When he started the trip Nick was just saying namaste but by the end of it he was saying half sentences in Hindi. According to him, Delhi is a bad place to learn Hindi since most people can speak in English.
Somehow along the way I was given a new identity-- I was turned into a practicing advocate of the Supreme Court when I am not a wakil dur dur se (not an advocate at all). I corrected them a couple of times and then I stopped and just let them say what they were saying.
This is one of the best journeys of my life-- work, adventure and fun packed in tightly.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Oh no I tagged myself…..




1. Last movie you saw in a theater: Sex & The City (yes I finally saw it)
2. What book are you reading: Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul and Snow, William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal, rereading Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome and a love story called Resistance set in the Second World War times.
3.Favourite board game: Ludo and Chinese Checkers and loads of card games…also was learning chess at one point, loved it but….
4.Favourite magazine: None, read them only in doc's chambers…but would like to keep track of the National Geographic, Readers Digest, Times etc
5.Favourite smells: Loads of them—smell wafting in from my mother’s kitchen, fresh flowers, especially while passing some nook or cranny I can suddenly smell some far away flower, fruits like oranges and mangoes, eucalyptus oil, pages of a new book and also an old book, old clothes stored in my mother’s almirah, woolies when they come out after a year’s storage, babies smell, though only the good ones…list goes on….
6.Favourite sounds: My parents chatting together over morning tea, rain drops on the windowsill, music, laughter, strangers talking in foreign languages …
7. Worst feeling in the world: Death…and... the realization that I failed.
8.What is the first thing you think when you wake:
On good days—Yes! I am happy and thankful to be alive and kicking and on bad days---Oh no work calls.
9.Favourite fast food place:
Loads of them— topping the list would easily be roll corners of Kolkata.
10.Future child's name:
Give me some time to rake my brains and names data base… 11.Finish this statement "If i had a lot of money i would” be rich!
12.Do you drive fast? –
Don’t drive, after I nearly killed a man…
13.Do you sleep with a stuffed animal-
Oh yes how did you guess? ;(
14.Storms cool or crazy? – Natural ones—cool as long as the roof over my head does not fly away, emotional ones--- super scary.
15.What was your first car? –
I don’t have any…but can I talk about my dad’s first car please? It was an old Morris Minor model, which needed to be pushed in order to start…remember as a kid to pitch in the pushing bit…
16.Favourite drink-
Water—cool and refreshing and also my regular cup of green tea.
17.Finish the statement "If i had the time I would"-
run away to the Himalayas/ sleep for a month/ finish reading all the books in the world/ listen to all the music I can get my hands on……rest goes on in predictable manner…
18.Do you eat the stems on broccoli? –
No never, not me.
19.If you could dye your hair any colour, what would be your choice?
Rainbow colours
20.Name all the different cities/town you have lived in.- Kolkata (home sweet home), Delhi and Toronto
21.Favourite sports to watch. –
Figure skating
23.What's under your bed? -
Bits and pieces of me, which decompose and fall of at times…
24.Would you like to be born as yourself again? – No way I am too boring to be reincarnated again and again. Need several more reincarnations— Celtic priestess, a mathematical genius during Harapan/ Vedic civilization, Egyptian Pharoah’s wife, Roman princess, a witch, a gypsy, Razia Sultana, a literally genius, a revolutionary fighting the Brits to quit India, one of the early feminists fighting for women’s franchise…. the list goes on…
25. Morning person or Night Owl? –
Night person. Am not an owl please I do not squint.
26.Over easy or sunny side up? –
Sunny side up please.
27.Favourite place to relax –
Our terrace…it is the most awesome place in this whole wide world…and also my home Kolkata where I grew up.
28.Favourite pie -
Apple with vanilla ice cream…forgotten the other pies...ah yes peacan pie...
29.Favourite ice cream flavour.
Loads of them…mostly fruity ones, sometimes chocolate…
30.Of all the people you tagged this to, who is most probable to respond first. -
Didn’t tag anyone. Don’t have the patience…maybe some other time.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

"One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls."
Just finished reading Khaled Hosseini’s ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’. I am not attempting a book critique here. Just jotting down some of the thoughts, which stuck me, while reading it and also while pondering over it post reading. The book is striking to say the least. While reading the book, at times I was wondering whether Khaled is a man or a woman. At the risk of invoking the ire of world men I felt Khaled is too sensitive to be a man! I have read ‘The Kite Runner’ and loved it, but with this book Khaled has reached a whole new level of story telling and sensitivity. Some lines of this book would always be immortalized in my mind like-- ‘Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman.’ When you think about it, it’s so true that it kind of takes your breath away.
Another idea that kept recurring in this book was the concept of “Nang and namoos--- honour and pride”. It is really ingenious how men all over the world and especially South Asia has over centuries politicized and moralized women’s honour. What is honour actually? Why is women’s honour so important? Ask women and they would sound really vague about their honour but ask a man about some woman in his family’s honour and he would be ready to kill. Isn’t it time men left us women take care of our own honour?
Time for decolonization.

memories...

i was coming to office when i heard this song on the radio. this song has too many memories associated with it. it's funny how old, forgotten memories come crashing down when you hear a song, read a book, see some sight, visit a place or a restaurant or even walk down a road which you used to frequent at some point in life or even smell some things like the smell of oranges reminds me of lazy winter sundays spent in the kolkata zoo with my parents and cousins, rains reminds me of home, my mother cooking kidchi, waist length water logging in our street...
anyways to come back to the present this seems my week of revisiting the old. over the weekend i reread 'daddy long legs'. i remember reading it when i was in class ix and being very impressed and obviously it fuelled my romantic fantasies. even now it was as enjoyable as ever and little bits like judy's obvious references to women needing voting power i had forgotten, so those came alive. also i very fondly remembered the person (a precious grand aunt) who had urged me to read this book, not that i need lots of urging to read. she is the one who had also introduced me to agatha christie and made me read editorials of the statesman when i was least interested. but now in hindsight i am thankful that she took all that trouble.
and today it was time to remember nice college days when life was full of love and endless possibilities....
here goes the song--
Words
Smile an everlasting smile
A smile can bring you near to me
Don't ever let me find you gone
'Cause that would bring a tear to me
This world has lost it's glory
Let's start a brand new story
Now my love
You think that I don't even mean
A single word I say
It's only words
And words are all I have
To take your heart away
Talk in everlasting words
And dedicate them all to me
And I will give you all my life
I'm here if you should call to me
You think that I don't even mean
A single word I say
It's only words
And words are all I have
To take your heart away
yes words and memories are the only thing that we are left with... rest dissolves with time...people without whom we could not imagine our lives without a second become strangers, some drift away, some go adrift, some leave footprints, some leave scars, some just fond memories...places which were so very important part of daily life or celebrations/occassions once fade away...institutions like schools/colleges/universities which made 'us' feel strange when we happen to revisit, old places haunted by new generations busy with their dreams and fights...but memories do stay long after...sometimes they come back in the middle of a humdrum busy day when you least except them and grip your attention and then you periodically forget all urgent daily chores and spend some nostalgic time reminiscing about the past... it has its own charm i must say...here's to memories....may our memories flourish in peace and our future hold lots of cheer...

Monday 23 June 2008

Blog World


I have been meaning to write about Khaled Hosseini’s ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’. I finished reading it Friday night and on Saturday I was itching but didn’t have the book with me. And I wanted to quote several lines so couldn’t write. I was told that I could get the quotes from Amazon, tired but could not find and so characteristically lost patience. Now Monday and I here I am trying to write about this fabulous book. The splendid sun is out in its fully glory making Delhi hot; even this is not inspiring me. All I feel is sleepy and drained.


So in order to motivate myself I started just browsing through strangers’ blogs randomly and what I saw made me sit up. I felt like I am peeping inside a kalaidoscope. The sheer varienty and vibrancy of the blogs is mind blogging. Some of the blogs are so beautiful they almost force you to sit up and pay attention; they are real visual treat, full of striking photographs. I came across blogs written in Hindi, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese and many more languages, which I don’t even know how to decipher. I read about a surfer, a motor bike racer, a preteen girl getting bored over long lazy summer, busy women who are practicing mothers, wives, professionals and yet has time to sew and knit, dog lovers, photographers, sailor, jilted lover, violently happy lover and many more. Browsing through about 50 odd blogs opened up this whole new world to me—a world of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. My salute to all of them.

Friday 20 June 2008

Not the end of the world...


Yesterday a young friend of mine got a rather rude shock—she could not make it to her dream masters course. Poor thing, she was really upset, felt like the world was crumbling around her. I sat rather inanely trying to make her realize that her world is not coming to an end. From an observer’s perspective it was just one thing, which had not happened, she has her whole life before her and much better things are waiting to happen. I totally empathized with her, have gone through so many of these rejections and heart breaking sessions with my mother. It was then I realized that I was thinking and behaving just like my mom did whenever I used to face such huge disappointments. My mother would seem totally unflappable and unaffected and always tell me that it is not the end of the world or my life. She would continue saying that if things had not worked out, try to figure logically why it had not, what mistakes you had made, learn the lessons and move on, there is always something better waiting to happen. She always used to say that rejections and failures help us grow as much success does. I never understood that then, but yesterday while talking to my friend, I suddenly did. This realization felt really good, like I have unraveled some great mystery of life.
In my long rambling academic career I have had my fair share of rejections. Now there are various kinds of rejections. Like if you have given your entrance for some university or institute or even your NET in India and the results are out, you have to feed your roll number to the website and then suddenly the result comes. The minutes the computer takes to figure out whether you are successful or not is really gut wrenching. You die a thousand deaths waiting for the final pronouncement. But I think rejections from abroad are more sadistic. They send you this nice letter with such a lot of niceties that it takes two/three readings to get over the nice bits and get the real information which they mention at the very end, as if that is the most inconsequential bit and then they shower loads of wishes on you, which you do not want or care for. I can never figure out that if they do not want me why are they so concerned about my future. I asked our graduate secretary in the University of Toronto once and she said they say all that so as not to make irreparable damage to the student’s self worth with their rejection. Bullshit. As far as I am concerned these letters have a big damaging effect on my psyche. Every rejection is a huge blow, and polite words do not make the blow any softer. I rather refer the curt and short Indian method. Roll number matches—yes you made it, roll number does not match—no you did not make it. End of the result, then the agony begins.
But you know what at 30 years I have realized that one, two, three rejections hardly matter in the longer scheme in life. better things do come up, however much it may be difficult to believe right now and life does go on and in a month's time, a year's time today's rejection fades and dims. Then the next time you give advice to a friend in distress you realise that rejections in life did really help you grow. Ahem.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Dance baby dance


My mom tells me that I started dancing even before I started walking. The whole day I would keep dancing, whether there was music or not. As a kid I would start dancing and my doting parents and relatives thought that there is a dancing genius among them.
To give my potential the required boost my parents decided to put me in a dancing school. My mom must have asked around and got to know about this Bharatnatyam school near our house. I remember very clearly going to this school for the first time with my mom when I was all of 4 or 5 years old. It was housed in an old rambling ground floor house, and in every space available there were people dancing. Mostly it was women, but there was a fair scattering of men as well. I remember looking at them wide eyed, thinking how I would love to be one of them.
I started dancing school; classes were two days a week—Wednesday and Saturday. Initially I was very excited and kept practicing whatever they taught me there, made some friends also. The teacher who taught us was called Girija and she used to beat a wooden stool with a stick and at times throw that stick, aiming the feet of whichever girl who was getting her steps wrong. So girls used to be rather afraid and we all used to fear Girija’s lashing tongue as well the flying stick.
I learned dancing for almost 10 years. But after my initial excitement, something died in me and I lost my enthusiasm to dance. The school was too strict and rigorous and they never let us do anything on our own, or let us use our imagination. There was too much stress on the grammar and spontaneous dancing was totally discouraged and frowned upon. The school believed that for the first 10/15 years dancers should not be performing for the public, so no dressing up, no excitement of performing in a function. Very soon I started to get bored, stopped picking up the steps properly, started making mistakes in class, was made to shift from the first row from among the good dancers to the last row and join the bunch of losers. It was a huge blow to a girl of 10/11. I started to hate dancing school and dancing along with it. I kept begging my parents to get me off, but in their book if you start something you finish it. So no go. I kept thinking of all silly excuses for not going. Finally when I was 15 or 16 and at a very rebellious stage I just refused to go. My mom could not convince me through love, affection, and threat. So she went and informed Girija that I would not be coming any more. Girija had apparently told her that I was good and I should not be allowed to discontinue. Thankfully my stubbornness was more than hers and finally my mother had to give in.
Till this day dancing horrifies me. I have lost all love for that art form. Even when friends go dancing they cannot convince me to dance. Nor do I like watching people dance randomly, I keep trying to find grammar in their dance, which frustrates me and sooner or later get thoroughly bored. When a friend after dancing for an hour, comes and tells me that it was good fun, I completely fail to get it. In most parties I feel like an odd one out, a complete freak who does not dance. If and when I find another non-dancer, it makes my evening. I hate explaining to people that I do not dance, thank you very much. And the worst is when people start pulling you by your hand; they think a tug would loosen all my inhibitions and make me dance, as if. For me dance has too much history and horror. Also due to the rigorous training that I underwent, it has been drilled in my head that dance is a very disciplined art, which you start with a pranayam (prayer to the gods) and you just do not let yourself go and throw your body to the music without rhyme or reason. I do not think I can ever let myself go in that way. This is what 10 years of dancing has done to me—killed all the spontaneity that I had as a kid.

Sunday 15 June 2008

My daddy strongest....

Today is Father's Day. So far every Mother's Day I have wished my mother, but whenever father's day comes somehow or the other I miss wishing my dad. Here is a small ode to the man who brought me to this world and has been nourishing me ever since.
Fortunately for me I was born to parents who really welcomed me. I am told that when I was born my father was so excited that he my mamas present there and treated them each to a whole chicken. I have a feeling my mamas remember the whole chicken more than my birth!
My father was always very involved in my upbringing and as a baby it was my dad who took care of me more than my mother. According to ma, it was my dad who used to get up at night to give me the feeding bottle, change my daipers etc.
My brother is six years younger to me. I remember very cleary when he was born my parents especially my dad taking special care so that I dont feel unloved or uncared for. My mom says that when I was young dad used to pamper me a great deal. He would come back tired from office and immediately take me out to a playground or if at home start to play with me. I remember a time when everyday my dad used to bring a small gift home for me-- a candy, a bun, some oranges or apples. I remember pouncing on him to get my goody. Weekends were always special since there would always be an outing to the zoo, Victoria Memorial, some museum or at least the park. I was always my dad's pet and even today the trend continues.
Bedtimes with dad was also great fun. He had to tell me stories for an hour or so before I was ready to fall asleep. He had made up this story about a tiger escaping from zoo and coming to our house. Every day he had to tell me the same story and how angry I used to get if he changed even a little bit of it.
My brother and me, we have always had equal oppurtunities. I dont remember ever being deprived or discouraged because I am a girl. Rather I used to get special favours because I was a girl. It was positive discrimination through and through which I am sure wasnt always fair to my brother.
Here's wishing every girl gets a dad like mine.

Friday 13 June 2008

Kolkata-- My Home

This is a double posting, also posted at http://kolkatacitydiaries.blogspot.com/
I was very excited when Payal floated the idea of a blog entirely and exclusively dedicated to Kolkata. KOLKATA-- my home, the place where I was born and brought up, to express my feelings better I borrow Spivak’s words “Well, you know, I have a mother and that’s Calcutta…” (In an interview/discussion, ‘Postmarked Calcutta, India,’ [1990], Spivak stated to Angela Ingram). I wanted to say so many things about Kolkata and I felt this was the right place to do so. But ever since I have not been able to write anything.
Every time I thought of writing, I would start asking myself what do I write about--- the city herself, the educational places I went to—my school, my college, my universities, or the places I visited/visit with my parents or the places where I hanged out with my friends at various stages of my life spent in Kolkata or about new things that are happening to the city? In the middle of it, I would feel too overwhelmed and just drop it.
I was born in Kolkata and grew up there. All my education till masters has been there. I left Kolkata in 2002. I keep going back because emotionally Kolkata is my home but also practically because my parents and other family are there. But every time I go back home I find there is some change—a new bridge has popped up, a road has been turned one-way only, few more portholes in the roads, the people are little more ruder and hassled, the city a lot more dirtier, more old houses demolished to be replaced by fragile looking multistory buildings, latest shiny mall just next to a slum, another crazy government scheme being tried out, one more useless, destructive bandh around the corner…the list goes on. I stare at amazement and let my friends and cousins guide me through the maze of new developments. Walking on the roads I try and identify the old landmarks—some beautiful old house, maybe a tree, an old favourite shop… ninety nine percent of the time I find these old symbols gone—a Mac Donald’s or a CCD has taken its place. People rush past me but I hesitate, I feel this structure was here only last time I came, so maybe it is still there somewhere…only I cannot find it.
Every time I am there in Kolkata I remember the eternal lines from Salman Rushdie’s about how it feels to be away from home i.e. India and in my context-- Kolkata. Rushdie in Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991. (1991), tries to recapture his lost home through his imagination “…physical alienation from India almost inevitably means that we will not be capable of reclaiming precisely the thing that was lost; that we will in short, create fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones, imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind.”
While reading Rushdie I realized this is what I actually do. When I am stuck in Delhi, trying to survive in its rude world I keep thinking about Kolkata and how my life would be so much easier there. I remember the small things like how people are friendlier, how you do not have to fight with the taxi driver unlike Delhi autowallahs (auto rickshaw drivers) so on and so forth. I remember the first six months all I did in Delhi was compare it to Kolkata and needless to say every time Kolkata won hands down.
But like every other person away from home I eulogize home a bit too much. When I am away from Kolkata, she is perfection itself—a utopia of my mind. Even slightest criticism about her gets me all defensive and ready to fight. But when I visit Kolkata suddenly the rosy picture that I created in my mind gets a little dimmed, reality takes over. The city is not all of joy; it looks shabby, downtrodden and extremely badly maintained to my critical eyes.
Lately my sense of disillusionment is tremendous with my city—all I see around me is fake development—a few malls which is taking away business from small and medium scale shopkeepers and where middle class Bengalis go to confirm their status or some such silly stuff, a few more cineplexs which have made cinema watching a very prohibitive and expensive affair, some fancy restaurant opened, one more designer/ brand opening a show room in the city and some more multistoried buildings. Funny thing is Kolkatans are seem really proud of this. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against all of this but these are being done at what cost? Who actually gains from these-- an emerging group of nouveau riche with black money to spend rashly? But what about all those middle and lower middle class people trying to survive in the city? Isn’t the city becoming more and more prohibitive for them? What about maintaining the Bengali culture? Isn’t it getting lost somewhere in the tussle between the pseudo Bangla speaking communists and the mad rush for globalization? I remember reading an editorial in Anandabazar Patrika a few kalipujos back where Sharmila Bose had bemoaned the fact that diwali has so taken over kalipujo and her sense of disillusionment and loss when she comes home from London to celebrate kalipujo only to find Kolkata does celebrate diwali.
What about some resilience building like some solid infrastructure most importantly some really good roads, cleaning the city up (the corporation alone cannot do it, if the citizens do not grow their civic sense ASAP), get the drainage system into shape so that every time there is a heavy downpour people are not stuck in their houses for 2/3 days, maintain its heritage (stop demolishing old houses to build these monstrous multistoried buildings—every other city like Delhi, Mumbai—they all have put a ceiling on these horrible buildings, but Kolkata goes on merrily) planting some trees (look at Delhi, some judicial tree planting has dealt with the pollution problem to a large extent and also as the Congress government is claiming helps in making the weather a bit better), reopening some of the locked out mills and factories so that people can get back their jobs, deciding not be do another bandh like maybe for ever, what about maintaining some wholesome “bengalines” (there seems to be no middle way—either it is those who refuse to speak in anything other than bangla and who see great central treachery in everything or there are those who cant understand bangla staying in Kolkata) and last but my most favourite daydream stone the garbage spewing, lying, conniving, corrupt and idiotic politicians to death!
I know reading so far you may get confused and feel but then every city in India is going through this transition. Yes they all are, but I can say about Delhi that here all this transition is balanced with growth, new roads, over bridges, new suburbs, new buses—these things do keep coming up to supplement the other part. Sadly I don’t see that in Kolkata—there it is all lopsided. And I fear if it continues to go like this one day this city of joy would crumble and then no amount of crying can save it.

Thursday 12 June 2008

And they say we women are difficult....


The problems with GUYS:


  • If u TREAT him nicely, he says u are IN LOVE with him;

  • If u Don't, he says u are PROUD .

  • If u DRESS Nicely, he says u are trying to LURE him;

  • If u Don't , he says u are from KAMPUNG.

  • If u ARGUE with him, he says u are STUBBORN;

  • If u keep QUIET, he says u have no BRAINS.

  • If u are SMARTER than him, he'll lose FACE;

  • If he's Smarter than u, he is GREAT .

  • If u don't Love him, he tries to POSSESS u;

  • If u Love him, he will try to LEAVE u..(very true huh?)

  • If u don't make love with him., he says u don't Love him;

  • If u do he says u are CHEAP .....

  • If u tell him your PROBLEM, he says u are TROUBLESOME ;

  • If u don't, he says that u don't TRUST him.

  • If u SCOLD him, u are like a NANNY to him;

  • If he SCOLDS u , it is because he CARES for u. (Bullshit)

  • If u BREAK your PROMISE, u Cannot be TRUSTED ;

  • If he BREAKS his, he is FORCED to do so....

  • If u SMOKE, u are BAD girl;

  • If he SMOKES , he is GENTLEMEN

  • If u do WELL in your exams, he says it's LUCK ;

  • If he does WELL, it's BRAINS . If u HURT him, u are CRUEL ;

  • If he HURTS u, u are too ! SENSITIVE !! & sooo hard to please!!!!!

this was forwarded to me, found it too apt. right now there is'nt any troublesome man in my life but i am surrounded with girl friends who are all into 'relationships' with "relationship phobic " men. this seems to be the latest trend in man-woman relationship.


man ( real charmer and to add a modern twist very sensitive as well ) meets woman (mind you i am talking about 25 plus something, successful, independent career women who need men not to take care of them but to love them) and charms her pants off and just when the woman realises that this man is perfect-- a. he is sensitive, b. he understands her, c. has a sense of humour and d. is great to be with....the man oh so casually drops his bombshell....boss he is just a friend, nothing else!!! poor woman is all confused, then why was he giving all those singnals that he is interested? why does he share every teeny weeny bits of his life with her? why does he keep dating her? why does he flirt with her? according to every relationship rule book under the sun these are sure shot ways to telling that you are interested...but hey here you are dealing with 21st century, modern, sensitive metro men who have created their own rules...who are great people but just shit scared of being committed to another human being! but what do women do in such cases? either men publish their romance rule book with all the new rules in bold and throw it to hapless women or stay away from women...maybe some enlightened man would care to respond!

Wednesday 11 June 2008

I CAN DO IT!



found this while browsing through on another guy's blog. really liked it. so nipped it, but left him a thank you.

loved the pic and right now in my present mental frame i need the reminder that i can live life my way.

having a difficult kind of time-- too much heart to heart sharing in family which is making me do silly things like sit and cry in office, fighting with a friend for some bizzare, unknown reason. and here i thought only women were hormonal! hit the tip of emotional ice berg with another friend------------------------HOLD ON I NEED A BREAK.

no break yet--same stress in office, work piled as high as ever, hit the writer's block (if you consider the fact that i am a writer).....woes continue....but this pic assures me that 'I CAN DO IT'.