Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Book of Jobs

As some of you following me on Twitter and/or Facebook know, I have just become the proud owner of an iPad - my first Apple product, after more than a decade of admiring Steve Jobs from afar. The last few days have been spent in hectic downloading of nearly all the free apps on iTunes (no money left after paying for the damn thing!) and getting used to the three different keyboards.

The iPad is a really cool device for kids (among other people). In the last one week, Joy (my son) and I have drawn Christmas trees, coloured pictures of Buzz Lightyear, gazed at constellations and played jigsaw with famous works of art.
I (or any adult) have been exposed to the concept of a touchscreen and so find the actual product very interesting - but maybe not stunning. For a kid, it is almost magical. Touching a green pencil and then tracing the finger on a blank screen to draw a tree elicits a reaction that is so ecstatic that I am regretting not taking a photo!

And there are unintentionally hilarious moments as well. After colouring a picture, one has to shake the iPad to wipe it off. My son takes it in his hand and shakes his bum instead of the iPad. And then seeing me rolling in laughter, he says - "Baba, you have to help me..."
Yes, yes, of course ho ho ho ho....

This is  a very welcome bedtime activity for my wife who - now five months pregnant - falls asleep rather early. While Joy and I try out all these games, she is fast asleep and does not get to hear what Joy says trying to maneuver his iPad and his father ("Baba, Mamma tummy so big. I falling out of bed.").
Its great for me too... since most of the iBooks have a read-aloud feature and Winnie the Pooh gets read out while I only have to turn the pages.
And I am so looking forward to this suggestion.

Along with the iPad, another daily bedtime ritual has started.
That of, kissing the 'baby' goodnight. Joy - in his usual macho ways - jumps all over my wife before finally kissing her tummy. I have to act like the referee of a boxing match. Only my job is to ensure that the punches don't land.
One night, Joy became a little curious. He tried to peer in through his mom's belly button - to try and see the baby. Not getting a sight, he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted down the belly button - "Hello, baby, hello..."
Sigh - when is a good age to explain the human anatomy to kids?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Feluda Quiz

At the express request of @Sandeip, here is a Feluda Quiz. Wanted to do this for quite some time but escaped my mind. Better late than never...
Please leave answers as comments (which are moderated for the time being). The correct answers - and equally importantly, the highest scorers - will be revealed Monday evening (IST). 

Ladies and gentlemen - presenting 10 questions on my favourite detective!

1. Feluda stays on Rajani Sen Road. Where does Sidhu Jyatha stay?

2. a. What was the name of the film which was based on Jatayu's novel, Bombaiyer Bombetey?

2. b. In which Calcutta cinema did the film complete a silver jubilee run?

3. Captain Spark has a dwarf assistant. What's his name and nickname?

4. When (For what) did Feluda first come to Lucknow?

5. Who is the villain of the story - Feluda-r shongey Kashi-tey (In Kashi, with Feluda)?

6. Apart from Gupi Gayin Bagha Bayin, which is the only other Satyajit Ray film that is mentioned in a Feluda story?

7. Dungru. Joychand Boral. Rudrasekhar. What's common?

8. In Ghurghutiyar Ghatona, what was combination code for opening the safe?

9. In which US University did Nihar Ranjan Dutta conduct his researches in Biochemistry?
Bonus points if you can name the font used by the University for their stationery.

10. Despite being carnivorous, polar bears don't eat penguins. Why? And which Feluda story tells you the answer?

Yes, yes - I know. I wrote hajaar gyaan on what makes a good quiz question and I flouted every one of them in this one.
But then, this quiz is not really about knowledge as it is about nostalgia. No?

Caveat: Since the questions were set in one quick burst, it did not have too much (read: any) research. I realised later that it is bloody unfair towards those who read the books in translation. But then, going through life without knowing Bengali itself is a bit unfair.
So, here are the answers:

1. Sardar Shankar Road. Everybody seems to have got this one.

2. a. Jet Bahadur
2. b. Paradise. To celebrate, Jatayu bought his car - a second-hand Mark II Ambassador (green).

3. Khudiram Rakshit - who is called Khude (literally, small) Raxit or simple, Raxit. What a wonderful pun!

4. He came to play cricket, as a spinner for Calcutta University.

5. This is a bit of an unfair googly - though many spotted it. This is not really a Feluda story but Satyajit Ray's recounting of the incidents during the shooting of Joi Baba Felunath in Benaras.

6. Not answered by anybody. In Robertson-er Ruby, they discuss the rocky face of Western Bengal and mention it as the place where Abhijan is shot. Here's a poster (showing the place)!

7. They are the three narrators of portions that are unseen by Topshe - in Hatyapuri, Golapi Mukto Rahasya and Tintoretto-r Jishu respectively.

8. (is the Bengali version). But two people have the same answer (340910), which leads me to think that the code was probably changed in translation.

9. Michigan University. And the font is Garamond, which is a vital clue.

10. This is another cheap shot (typical of an erstwhile quizmaster, whose first name rhymes with that of GreatBong). Of course, polar bears don't eat penguins because they are 'poles apart'. That, penguins are found in the South Pole is revealed in Dr Munshi-r Diary. That story (or any other one) has no mention of polar bears!

Two Bongs - Indrayan and Abhishek - tie at 10 points each (out of a maximum possible of 13 since I had allocated 2 points each to Qs 9 and 10).

Happy reading once again!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Some rough edges to be polished, some last-minute changes pending... but this - ladies and gentlemen - is the cover of THE book to have for yourselves and your favourite nephews & nieces during the World Cup. 
Please be as excited as I am. Or pretend do!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

36 Questions

It was such a lazy, foodie, happy day. Now I am watching Kati Patang on Zee Classic and have decided to pick this note from Rimi and churn out a post. There were 50 questions in her post but I have decided to choose only 36 questions. I told you it is a lazy day...

1. Favourite childhood book:
The Rays. 
Gupi Gayin, Bagha Bayin. Haw-Jaw-Baw-Raw-Law. Pagla Dashu. Professor Shonku. And Feluda.

2. What are you reading right now?
Turbulence - Samit Basu. 
Dawshti Uponyash (Ten Novels) - Moti Nandy.
Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics - Jonathan Wilson.

3. Bad book habit?
Book habits are never bad. 
4. Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once? 
Usually, I am reading 2-3 books at once. So I guess that's what I prefer.

5.Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Jaya - Devdutt Patnaik. 
May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss - Arnab Ray. 
Mother Pious Lady - Santosh Desai.

6. Favorite place to read?
Anywhere. As long as the book is good. 
I have read books while driving (Using the phone is prohibited. Using a book is not.), in toilets, in bed, in lifts, in buses, on a Bihar highway (while a puncture was getting repaired).

7. What is your policy on book lending?
Please, please, please don't ask to borrow my books. I can't say no but inside, I am dying. 

8. What is your favorite language to read in?
English. No, Bengali. Um, actually English. On second thoughts, Bengali. Hell - both!

9. What makes you love a book?
If it makes me stop, put it aside and think for a moment. If it makes me go - "When will they make a film out of this?" If it makes me feel - "I wish I had written it."

10. Favorite genre?
Children's literature. Comics (not graphic novels). Cinema, screenplays. Trivia. 

11. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Science fiction. Graphic novels. You are not cool unless you read them a lot! 

12. Favorite biography?
Portrait of a Director - Marie Seton. 
The Inner Eye - Andrew Robinson. 

13. Have you ever read a self-help book? 
No. Should I?

14. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Brainiac - Ken Jennings. 

15. Favorite reading snack?
Hershey's Kisses. 

16. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Harry Potter VII. I started expecting way too much.

17. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?  
Spanish or French, I suppose.

18. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Problems in Physics by I.E. Irodov. I was scarred beyond belief by this book during +2. 

19. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Ulysses. The Clockwork Orange. 

20. Favorite Poet?
Sukumar Ray. Rabindranath Tagore. The only two poets I have read in reasonable quantities. 

21. Favorite fictional character?  
Andrew Eliot - The Class (Erich Segal). 
Pradosh C Mitter 
Florentyna Kane - The Prodigal Daughter (Jeffrey Archer).

22. Favorite fictional villain?
Maganlal Meghraj. 
Is Karna a villain? Is Indrajeet a villain?

23. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? 
Books that  have been bought the previous week. There is no 'vacation' genre that I can think of.

24. The longest I’ve gone without reading:
Unlikely to be longer than 12-odd hours. 

25. Name a book that you could/would not finish?
Several.  Some of the famous ones are listed here.

26. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Usually my son manages to distract me quite easily.

27. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?  
Apur Sansar.
Aranyer Dinratri.
The Name of the Rose.
The Namesake.
Umm, errr... 3 Idiots?

28. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Bombai-er Bombetey.

29. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Absolutely. Different shelves for different languages. Books arranged in decreasing order of height, from left to right. 

30. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? 
Could you repeat the question please? 
Actually, don't - my wife and mother might get strange ideas!

31. Name a book that made you angry.
White Tiger - Arvind Adiga. Because it pandered to the stereotypes rather shamelessly.
India After Gandhi - Ramachandra Guha. Because it made me realise we Indians don't solve anything. We wait for it to fester away, peter away.

32. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Five Point Someone. 

33. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
The Big Sleep.
Many classics - most notably Saratchandra and Bankimchandra, Dickens among other.

34. Do you ever write in the margins of a book while you were reading?
Not counting textbooks (which had more of my scribbles than printed matter), the only books I have written in margins are some Satyajit Ray screenplays to make notes that were not there in the sceanrio description.

35. What's the most you have spent in a bookstore?
A couple of grand, I guess? If you count one year of the Calcutta Book Fair as one store and adjust for inflation, then 2000/2001 years would be quite a biggie!

36. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading? 
Why should reading ever be guilty? Oh - you mean that sometimes you sneakily read books before exams and that's guilty? But then, everything else is guilt-free, no? Or am I missing the point?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Father of the Groom

Fathers and girls have such affectionate chronicles of their relationships. Think Father of the Bride. Even, the Sony Handycam ad! Fathers and sons, on the other hand, have Shakti.

Back from a girl's birthday party, I realised that fathers and daughters are a different ball-game altogether!
My friend - father of two girls - was quite amused to see Joy's boy-giri. Eventually, he ended up dancing with Joy on his shoulders. Since he is a tall guy, Joy amused himself by plucking balloons off the ceiling. After this energetic routine, he said, "With two girls, you sometimes miss playing rough."
I kept quiet. I was just thankful that somebody was taking care of Joy while I sat down for the first time since my son woke up at 6:30 today.

Well, for me - colouring within the lines and cuddling are alien concepts. Of course, it doesn't help that if you had put all the boy-stereotypes in the blender and pressed the button, Joy would have come out.
He spits on his hands and takes a legs-apart-slightly-crouched whenever a football is in sight.
He beats up - or tries to - boys double his age (and three times his size).
He uses the banister instead of the stairs.
He likes vuvuzelas.
He is constantly perched perilously on ledges, edges, narrow railings, sharp objects and things usually associated with Alcatraz.

Now, let me tell you the scary part.
I was a terribly active kid myself. Despite being pot-bellied and totally unfit right now, the estimations required to jump from a bunk bed on to the bookshelf are still hard-coded in my brain. So when I see him plan the leap, I remain calm - which, my wife assures, is covered in IPC under 'aiding & abetment'. But I just know he'll be able to do it.
Having gone through a nerve-wracking accident (involving stitches on an open chin) last night, I also realised we do a lot of harm to him than he can do himself. 
And yes, he's fine now. He's telling everybody within earshot - "Blood came out like a volcano. But they stopped it with a rock."

All this leads to a mildly commiserating tone from everyone. When he is jumping from one table to another in a Pizza Hut (who have a red corner notice out against him), parents of girl children assure me it will get better.
What do they know?
My father - whose kid was similar - had assured me it won't.

And while on the subject, do take a look at this song. This is the best fathers and sons have got.