Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bangalore or Hyderabad?

By a strange coincidence, all the teams in the IPL 2 semi-finals are from cities I have spent the most time during my professional career. And by an even stranger coincidence, the two finalists are my two most favourite cities.
But which is my absolute favourite among these two?

Bangalore has pubs opening every week, which shut within a year. Hyderabad has eateries that are decades old and still packing it in.
Bangalore has a new airport halfway down to Beijing. Hyderabad has a new airport halfway down to Seattle.
Hyderabad has Paradise. Bangalore has Koshy's.
Bangalore has Infosys. Hyderabad had Satyam.
Hyderabad has Chocolate Mousse at Melting Moments. Bangalore has Death by Chocolate at The Corner House.
Bangalore has Bheema's. Hyderabad has Chutneys.
Hyderabad has Walden. Bangalore has Strand Book Stall.
Bangalore doesn't have Vishwanath any more. Hyderabad doesn't have Azharuddin any more.
Hyderabad has Hussain Sagar Lake. Bangalore has Lalbagh.
Bangalore has Pepsi. Hyderabad has Thums Up.
Hyderabad has Hi Tec City. Bangalore has Electronic City.
Bangalore has Bheja Masala at Empire. Hyderabad has Kaleji Fry at Daawat.
Hyderabad has Mainland China at Banjara Hills. Bangalore has Mainland China at Church Street.
Bangalore has Brigade Road. Hyderabad has Banjara Road No. 1.

So, is it Bangalore or Hyderabad?
I guess it will still have to be Calcutta.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Zoozoo Kar Mere Man Ko

Ever since Vodafone invented the TV version of stick-men, we have all gone gaga over Zoozoos. While I liked them, I did not realise how impactful they were till my son started to watch them unblinkingly! The only way I can watch IPL over Tom & Jerry if every ad break has a Zoozoo ad! Which it usually has... 

So, I was pondering this lazy Sunday about other Zoozoos! 

One of the earliest Zoozoos that I can remember is from Jewel Thief. As Tanuja and her friends pout in a blue covertible, Dev Anand slouches and slants with a fishing rod and sings "Yeh dil na hota bechara, kadam na hote awara, jo khubsoorat koi apna humsafar hota..." Of course, this beautiful song starts with a trademark Kishore Kumar yodel and Zoozoo Hmmmmm... Zoozoozoozoozoo... Teereeteeeee... Teereeteeeee... Teereeteeeeeeeeeeee - and you can hear it here
I always thought that this song also had a lot of Zoozoos but on close hearing, they turn out to be Hnoo hnoos and Mmoo mmoos. 

If the Zoozoos ever become the sponsors of Kolkata Knight Riders, then they would not remain Zoozoo any longer. They would become Juju! And a prescient Bengali band called Chandrabindoo foresaw this possibility several years back when they composed a song called Juju, in the eponymous album. 
For the uninitiated, Juju is the fear factor brought in by Bengali mothers and governesses to rein in their wayward wards. "Sweater na porley Juju dhorey niye jabey" (Juju will catch you if you don't wear a sweater) is one sentence that is a common refrain across the state. And the cute part about Juju-s is that they are ageless. For Sourav, a Juju is an Australian coach. For Pranab-babu, Juju is Jawrdaari. For Ratan Tata, Juju is West Bengal's next Chief Minister! 

I had previously described - in considerable detail - one of Mithun's magnum opii. And the piece de resistance of that film was this song, which went Zoo Zoo zubi zubi zubi. And as you hear the Bappi Lahiri masterpiece here, don't get put off the garbled words in the initial frames. This is not a SRK film you are watching here. The Prabhuji chalisa is available completely (in 16 parts) on YouTube - dubbed in Russian! 
Remember... In the pantheons of Bollywood divinity, there are two kinds of Gods. There are ordinary Gods and there is Mithun Chakraborty. 

Apart from these Zoozoos, there are so many more Zoos. 
There's Zizou. There's Warne's Zooter. There's Maruti's foreign partner - Zuzuki. 
There's Zooni - a (forthcoming) film by Muzaffar Ali, which he has been making since Umrao Jaan. The story of a Kashmiri poetess was supposed to star Dimple Kapadia and Vinod Khanna many moons ago. Now, they can try to persuade Twinkle to come out of retirement and Rahul Khanna to come out of whatever he's been in. 

There must be so many more. So, which is your favourite Zoozoo? 

PS: Nilendu, hope that was frivolous enough!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tamas: A Review

An uncharacteristically serious post. Frivolous people (Nilendu, that means you!) would do well to avoid.

The good people at Penguin give out free copies of their Indian Classics series, if you write a review/discussion for their blog. I got a copy of and wrote on Bhishma Sahni's classic, made famous by Govind Nihalini's television mini-series.

Reviewing books published under the ‘Penguin India Classic’ can be fraught with a lot of risks. Especially since the novel at hand has been published to tremendous reception three decades back, translated into English by the author himself to great success, filmed into a critically acclaimed television series by a renowned director and generally acknowledged as one of the seminal works on Partition.

What follows is not a ‘review’ of Bhishma Sahni’s Tamas but more of my observations after reading the classic for the first time.

Kites (and vultures) shall fly (over this town)… This recurring line from the book – Kites shall fly – was the alternative title of an earlier English translation of Tamas. Indeed, it is this deep sense of foreboding that permeates almost two-thirds of the book – where there is hardly any depiction of violence.

The ‘expectation’ of a Partition story is the recounting of the orgy of violence that is enacted by the two communities. Authors have often been rather graphic in this respect (probably to bring about a sense of revulsion among the readers). Saadat Hassan Manto’s short stories and Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan are two such examples that come to mind.

Tamas, on the other hand, does the exact opposite. For the majority of the story, there are only stray acts of inconsequential violence that make up the narrative. And to accentuate the impending acts of hatred, neighbours of different communities recount their several years of living in harmony. People who have spent their entire lives together remember most details as they succumb to baser instincts.

In this respect, Tamas resembles the Bengali classic Ashani Sanket (Distant Thunder) written by Bibhutibhushan Banerjee (author of Pather Panchali) and filmed by Satyajit Ray. That novel ends with the first death of the Great Bengal Famine (a horrific event, that left literally thousands people dead from starvation) and the narrative is built around the cast of characters in a small Bengal village living in the shadow of an imminent food crisis.

In some ways, Tamas is also the exact antithesis of Manto’s short stories. Most of those short stories never stretched beyond a page or two and had an act of swift – but imaginative (for the want of a better word) – violence at its center like a tableau. Tamas – on the other hand – builds tension through the unlikely route of a conversation between the British Deputy Commissioner and his wife, which tries to explain why the Government should not interfere in the ‘religious matters’ of the Indian people.

Another thing Tamas does exceptionally well is the decoding of the psychology of riots.

A riot is the outcome of an attempt by an ethnic group to ‘take revenge’. A large number of people who form a rioting mob are doing so for the first time and through a series of stray events, Sahni does a sketch of the rioters’ minds brilliantly.

One has to identify with distant deaths as one’s own.

Rumours of killings in far-off villages spread – with embellishments on each hearing – among the young and excitable. This creates a supposedly moral energy and that leads to a mission for vendetta.

One has to distance oneself from the victims to remove the emotion.

With the Partition riots happening in small towns of Northwestern India, this was particularly tricky because the people baying for each other’s blood knew each other too well for comfort.

In one particularly ironic incident, a Sikh couple seeks refuge in a Muslim household. The womenfolk – unsure of the reaction of the absent men – hide them in a barn, from where the Sikh couple sees the men return. They have returned from the riots, with the spoils. And the heavy trunk they have collected is actually from the Sikh couple’s home. When they are trying to break the lock, the Sikh gentleman reveals himself and offers the key. Suddenly, the tables are turned and the head of the refuge-providing household is shamed by his deed. Shamed enough to let the Sikh couple leave unharmed. Though not enough to return the trunk.

Tamas derives its reputation – like most classics – from the timelessness of its message.

Neighbours go at each other’s throats, because a ‘leader’ asks them to. Cultural similarities are ignored at their insistence. Political leaders take advantage of mob mentality, always for material gains. And government turns a blind eye.

Despite knowing fully well that a token gesture would put an end to the bloodletting, the British administration follows the book to let the populace sort out their religious differences and paves way for the impending transfer of power.

Six decades on, politicians and government have merged into one apocalyptic body and now wreak the same unspeakable havoc on the people, described so vividly in Tamas. We, the populace – unfortunately – have not learnt anything from history and continue to do the dirty work on ourselves.

As the British Deputy Commissioner says in a prophetic moment – “Most people have no knowledge of their history. They only live it.

We are still suffering from the same curse.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Around the World in 80 Clicks

Since I never pass on tags, the name of this post is kind of rendered useless. How can I ask a Mom in Mogadishu or a Dad in Dar-es-Salaam to write 5 things they like about being a parent - without even knowing them???
I am very old-economy that way.
But the tag itself is quite cute and worth a try on Sunday morning. More so, since my son is hogging the remote and I am tired of playing Geo Challenge on Facebook (which explains the exotic cities named above).

What are the 5 things I love about being a father?

Hereditary traits
My father has a pout, which is not apparent now but shows up wonderfully in his kiddie pictures. My pout is visible only when I am sleeping. My son has that exact same pout.
My sister was the Queen of spoonerism (paan mein darza, gaai ka bogar and all that) when she was small. She grew out of it and we forgot. Till recently, my son wore his mom's dupatta as a cape and tried flying around the house screaming SUNERPAM!
And of course, I am being blamed for passing on my naughty genes to him.

Infinite Patience
Earlier in boarding queues, I used to spot how many babies were going to be in the flight and get psyched if there were too many. Now I am unperturbed since I can sleep through all their antics (unless some one pukes on me, which hasn't happened yet)!
I can explain a million times a million kids how one should not flush before one has finished peeing and how one should never step into the commode bowl. Ever. I can also watch Owl, Piglet and Wabbit count 1-20 a million times. I can wait for anybody take several hours to swallow one spoonful of rice-and-egg.
Except my colleagues in office are constantly cribbing that I have a bad temper. Wonder what they are talking about?

Unbelievable Sensations
One of the most fun things I have done regularly in the last two-odd years is to place my son's hand on my cheek and let it be. The other fun thing is to place my nose in the nape of his neck and smell the baby powder. Not to mention wrestling and tickling him on the drawing-room rug as he goes berserk
The latest addition to this list is when I run down the stairs with him in my arms, he holds me tightly and keeps kissing me, screaming all the while because he is scared that we may fall!

Reconnecting with Family 
One of my uncles landed up at our place - quite out of the blue - for the first time in end-2006. I never knew he traveled to Delhi. He said that he came quite often since his head office was here and stayed in a guest house, quite close to our house. When I asked why he never landed up before, he sheepishly (but honestly!) admitted that he was very excited at having become a grand-uncle and came to see Joy.
Our aunt in Muscat, uncle in Gurgaon, sister in Dubai, aunt in Pittsburgh, cousin in California, mother in Calcutta - every one calls to ask about our son!
Except for my grandmother, who still asks about me first.

Joy of responsibility 
When you realise that there one person on earth who is totally, completely, unequivocally dependent on you, it brings about a sense of responsibility like no other.
And nothing brings that home better than when you are dropping the kid to school and he doesn't want to. When the auntie tries to take him away, he clings on to you like his life depends on it. And the feeling of the slowly releasing grip of his baby fingers on your neck has to be the most difficult sensation you've had in a long time.

But I am told that being a grandparent is even more fun than being a parent.
As my father says, "If I knew grandsons were so much fun, I would have had them earlier!"

Monday, May 04, 2009

Cry, Beloved City - The Last IPL Post

After Billu ceased to be a B*****, Knight Riders have ceased to be from K******. SRK loves repeating himself. So what's wrong with that? Even history repeats itself.
Apart from that, he has also claimed that he is not going to sell his team to anyone because of the 'emotional' investment he has made in the 'boys'. The last time he spoke with so much passion was when he called Sourav a 'dude' and said that nobody can replace him as captain!
So, Kolkata (or is it Kathiawad?) can look forward to welcoming SaharaShree Suboroto Roy as the new owner of the franchise.

Forgive my rants... but when you have seven teams (out of eight) in a competition standing within one point of each other halfway down, you know you have a lousy second half because your team is the one sure of coming last! 

So, I am reduced to wondering if anybody else will beat (K)KR's record of the lowest score in IPL and the biggest margin of defeat. 
And by dropping the city, SRK has at least made it easier for us to quietly slink away to other teams.