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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An ode to Arvind...

Arvind: What is the name of Phantom's dog?
Unsuspecting quizzer: Devil.
A: Wrong.
UQ: What?
A: Phantom doesn't have a dog.
UQ: Ohhhhh, shit!
(Roar of approval from the audience)

"This thing can be done."

Disclaimer: I'm aware of the fact that thousands of pages have been written on this very day's play, including Cardus' famous piece. This is not going to be literature of any kind - it's just that I felt on writing on it.

29th August, 1882. It was the only test of the tour, and day one had ended with England being bowled out for 101 after dismissing Australia for 63. This was day two.

And then, Massie helped Australia amass 122, leaving England a paltry 85 to chase. Spofforth, fresh from his 7/46 in the first innings, uttered the famous five-letter sentence that has gone down in the history of the game. He bowled unchanged to take 7/44 to dismiss England for 77 (from 51/2 at one stage).

We've seen more dramatic matches, though not many. However, few matches have triggered as much aura, as much history as this one. But perhaps the most striking feature of the match was Spofforth's famous exclamation: "This thing can be done" and the perfect execution of his vow. I wish I could make such vows myself and adhere to them for the rest of my life. I suppose I'm not gifted enough.

Random

ধুলোবালি, কলাকেন্দ্র, আশাপূর্ণা, দিবানিদ্রা, দাঁতে দাঁত, চার অক্ষর, ধর্মমতে, রেল রোকো, লেট স্লিপ, মাংসরুটি, নিজ ফ্ল্যাট, মধুবালা, লে আউট, দশকর্ম, জয় জওয়ান, ভ্যাবাচ্যাকা, ব্রহ্মচারী, নিরক্ষর, ধনলক্ষ্মী, মেঘধন, ঝোলভাত, 'কি মিথ্যুক', বকবকম, রামরাজ্য, '৪২, শ্যামনগর, প্রজাতন্ত্রী, ছাল চামড়া, পাপবিদ্ধ, পূজা বেদী, ভয়াবহ, নাইট্যশালা, 'ভোর ভয়োঁ', কাঁচা প্রূফ, লে হালুয়া, বঙ্গভঙ্গ, পুজোসংখ্যা, জয় কিষান, আদম্‌ ইভ, দেশপ্রিয়, কথাশিল্প, ধুলোঝড়, ভাড়া বাড়ি, বাবুঘাট, রিডাকশন, শ্যাওড়াফুলি, হেস্তনেস্ত, ফুলপেজ, সদা সত্য।

Monday, March 29, 2010

L

Hollywood directors are remarkably fond of L-shaped white bed-sheets: on the first morning after a steamy scene (where our duo had inevitably climaxed at exactly the same point of time), the pair invariably wake up, with the white (oh, why are they always white?) bed-sheets tucked under the armpit of the woman and placed carelessly across the waist of the guy. They don't sell L-shaped sheets at Bombay Dyeing or Spencer's, so I suppose this must be a Hollywood thing. Of course, these are the rooms where it never becomes completely dark even if you put out the bedroom light, and if it's a room in Paris, you can see the Eiffel Tower from it irrespective of its location and direction.

O Dimple, my Dimple...

Had you grown up in India in the 1980s, Saagar was one of those inevitables from which you couldn't escape. You had to watch Kamal Hassan and Rishi Kapoor, and that Nantie Hayward-lookalike Madhur Jaffrey along with the RD-Kishore masterpieces and the awesome backdrop of the sea.

However, given all that, it cannot be denied that the most lasting memory of the movie continues to be that moment: a funfair, chehra hai ya in the background, and Dimple running in whites, in super-slow motion to the tune of lalalaa-lala, lalalaa-lala, lalalaa-lalaa...

The build-up to the scene was supposed to be awesome: RD and Kishore at their best, Dimple running with a sunset and a Fenris Wheel as a backdrop, well, it was supposed to be romantic. Why does my face break into a smile, even a laughter, is something that I shall never understand.

But the fact remains that I love watching my Dimple this way. I can watch her run effortlessly for ages, my lips automatically twitching into an irresistible smile, yet that magical fondness that only timelessness can create.

I feel like replaying the song even as I write this. And again. And over and over. :D

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gulzar and co.

As a kid I often spent my holidays with my relatives: mostly my maternal grandparents and at my father's sisters. All three houses had a number of people, and the conversations of various sorts had played a serious role in shaping my childhood. The lawn at Kalighat, the walks with my grandfather through Lake Market or Potopara, street cricket at Dover Lane - everything remains incredibly detailed and rich in my memory.

One of my memories involves a large group watching Abhimaan in the TV room at my aunt's. I didn't understand major parts of the classic (partly due to my limited prowess in Hindi, but mostly due to my inability to come to terms with the assortment of adult emotions portrayed in the movie) other than the fact that the tall leading man shouted and brooded through the movie, and his  diminutive wife kept quiet. The other memory that stuck was the fact that all the women present in the hall were weeping, especially during the song at the climax of the movie, that went
Tere mere milan ki ye raina
Naya koi gul khilayegi, tabhi to chanchal hai tere naina
Dekho na, dekho na.

Years passed by; the movie and song both went on to become my favourites. I came to know that the movie was based on the 1954 classic A Star is Born; the song was based on the Rabindrasangeet যদি তারে নাই চিনি গো; and despite the fact that both Kishore and Lata were at their melodious best and the leading pair put up sombre expressions while putting their rehearsed lips to the song, the fact remained that the lyrics (at least the first two lines, if not the entire song) were entirely physical.

If you don't believe me, go through the lines again. I don't think Majroohji ever wanted to hide the fact that the man was craving for the night to arrive, and could see a similar sensuous desire in the eyes of his beloved. Neither do I have an objection to the tone of the song. What I don't like is the universal acceptance of the fact that the song is an innocent romantic aphysical one. I wish people listened to lyrics somewhat more carefully.

*** *** ***

Gulzarji, however, belongs to another level altogether. It wasn't easy to describe the physical desire in a Hindi song without being vulgar. He managed to create magic, as always... portraying a woman's physical longings for her husband and the effects they have on her body, soul and entire existence, her sheer desperation during for those sessions during her long waits for him, and at the same time, manage to sound innocent and lyrical. I wish I could write anywhere remotely close to this:
Jab bhi khayaalon mein tu aaye,
Mere badan se khushboo aaye,
Mehke badan mein rahaa naa jaaye
Rahaa jaaye na.

And then,
Reshmi raaten roz na hogi,
Ye saugaaten roz na hogi,
Zindagi tujh bin raas na aaye,
Raas aaye na.

If that isn't brilliant, I don't know what is. Possibly just another proof that you need not display flesh on screen to enhance sexuality. And then, you can't deny Rekha's screen appearance which simply took the masterpiece to the next level.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

ঘ্যাম

"আপনি চলে আসবার পর আমি দেখলাম সেই যে লোকটা ভেজাল দিয়েছে, সেই ভেজাল ক্রমাগত ঠেলে উপর দিকে উঠতে চাচ্ছে। উঠতে পারছে না, আর গুমরে গুমরে কেঁপে উঠছে। আর কে যেন ফিস ফিস করে বলছে - 'শেক দি বট্ল্, শেক দি বট্ল্।' -সত্যি!" - ভবদুলাল, দ্বিতীয় দৃশ্য, চলচ্চিত্তচঞ্চরি।

Timeless. :)

আমার হলটা কি?

২০১০ সালে আজ প্রথম সেইরকম বৃষ্টি পড়ল। কিন্তু আমার ভিজতে ইচ্ছে করলনা। গত অনেক অনেক বছরে এই প্রথমবার। ভিজে মাটির সোঁদা গন্ধ এল, কিন্তু তাও ইচ্ছে করল না। শব্দ শুনলাম, ঝমঝমিয়ে, কিন্তু তাও ইচ্ছে করল না।

আমার বোধহয় বয়স হয়ে গেল।

La, a note to follow sew



The Sound of Music continues to intrigue me even at this age. Well, okay, age isn't really the best possible parameter to like or dislike masterpieces, but then, I couldn't find a good line to start this article. :)

My earliest association with the movie was "doe, a deer...". One of those songs that have an instant effect on you, and stay with you for a lifetime. I loved the way the lyricist used every note to create a meaningful line, and as the song proceeded (and I kept on humming without any sense of music whatsoever) I admired the beauty of the song:

Doe, a deer, a female deer (right from the grammar book),
Ray, a drop of golden Sun (as poetic as it gets),
Me, a name I call myself (once again, grammar made simple),
Far, a long, long way to run (I really loved singing the long-long bit),
Sew, a needle pulling thread (vocabulary for you),
La, a note to follow sew.

Bang! Crash!!

Hello, what was that again? You call that a line? I mean, has anyone ever come across such a terrible excuse of a line? I mean, this feels like you don't have a line to write, and your employees are giving you a tough time, so you come up with whatever line you think of. Seldom has such a beautiful song been marred by such a forced line. I mean, what was our man trying to do - just trying to put up whatever he could, just to go on to the next song?

*** *** ***

Well, that was what I had thought ages back. Now I know why he did it: it's not because he loved doing it, but because he didn't have an alternative. He had to do it. The line wasn't a perfect one, but there are times when everything doesn't go your way, and you need to come up with excuses, however imperfect, to replace them.

I'm glad my daughter hasn't asked me the question yet; but once she does, I hope she finds the line eerily imperfect throughout her life, and never gets to realise that excuses are often the only options one has while thriving for perfection.

*** *** ***

Tea, I drink with jam and bread...

Wing root

According to Wikipedia, a wing root in a fixed-wing aircraft is that part of the wing that is closest to the fuselage. When I flew international for the first time (on British Airways) the temptation of an awesome view prompted me to sacrifice precious leg-space and opt for a window seat.

What I did not realise was the fact that being next to the root wing would ruin my prospects of having a visually perfect journey. I had a nice view of the wing, though, and still remember vividly the minuscule spot where the paint was marred.

Though I have not-too-good memories about them, I love the phrase. As a colleague has pointed out, no living being possesses roots and wings at the same time. But then, man has been able to invent phrases that do. Some day I shall possibly find out people who do the same as well.

Till then, jis subah ki khatir jug jug se hum sab mar mar kar jeete hain...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Aabodana

Ek akela is shahar mein
Raat mein, yaa dopahar mein
Aabodana dhoondta hai, aashiyana dhoondta hai.

Fair enough, but what is aabodana? Sounds somewhat similar in nature to aashiyana, but what in Sachin's name is the thing? This was one of the questions that had haunted, traumatised, ripped apart (okay, I suppose I'm overdoing things here a bit) my innocent (honestly) adolescence as I trudged through the 1990s effortlessly and aimlessly.

Then came the internet, and now I know. And I also know why he was looking for it. And I also know why the solo version of the song haunted me more.

Thanks Gulzarji. Only you could've made sense out of a word that rhymes with sabudana.

Umrao Jaan

When I was young I had heard a song somewhere (and learnt that it was actually a popular song as I grew up):
Dil cheez kya hai aap meri jaan lijiye
Bas ek baar mera kahaa maan lijiye

I was intrigued by this. The second line was, obviously, obvious. The first line wasn't. What did it mean? Was it
1. My heart is, well, peanuts, and doesn't really count; you should have a go my life instead?
Or was it
2. Why don't you try a go at knowing what my heart is all about, mate?
I was baffled. The word jaan obviously had two meanings, leading to the two possible options I mentioned.

At that age sacrificing one's own life seemed mind-bogglingly big, so I assumed that Shahriyarji had implied the first one. But these days, when years of watching dusty souls has taught me that actually winning a heart seems way, way more difficult than taking one's life, I suppose he had implied the other one: find out more about my heart, and you won't complain.

Now, why on earth did I write this utterly useless piece? Obviously, to find an excuse to put up a glamorous picture on my blog. I suppose everyone had got that by now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ফুসমন্তর

আমি আজ থেকে নাম নিলাম, ফুসমন্তর। অভিষেক নামটাও থাকবে, আর জনগণ ওটাই ব্যবহার করবে। তবে আমি নিজের কাছে ফুসমন্তরই থাকব। ডাকলে সাড়াও দেব।

আমি যদি চিৎকার করি, সবাই শুনতে পাবে। তাই করবনা। শুধু লিখব। কারণ লেখা থেকে শব্দ বেরোয়না। আর আমি এক পৃথিবী লিখবও। আজ হয়ত নয়, কিন্তু একদিন আমার এক পৃথিবী লেখা হবে। হবেই।

(এতদিনে লিখেও ফেলতাম, যদি বৃষ্টিতে রোজ, প্রতিমুহূর্তে ভিজতে পারতাম, বা জনতা একটু কমেন্ট-টমেন্ট করে উৎসাহ দিত।)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Expiration date

These days everything comes with all sorts of random data: manufacturing date, random time-stamps, This Bag is not a Toy, % of albumin and gelatin and all such "-in"s, and stuff like that.

Recently I came across a packaging without an expiration date. I wonder how many such instances are there right now. Not many, I suppose.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The piece


He was terribly upset. Okay, upset is not a word you normally associate with six-year olds, but then, he wasn't one of your normal six-year olds. To start with, he fancied lying on his back on the street-divider on a typically busy Gariahat morning. Now, you don't usually see six-year olds do that, do you?

One of the pieces of his favourite jigsaw had gone missing. Now, that's not something one should be terribly upset about, isn't it?

You might as well ask him "Mate, I know your parents aren't exactly the Ambanis, but surely they can afford another set for you?"

Well, as it turned out, it was that very puzzle he was craving for. It had taken him somewhat over thirty-two days to assemble the entire thing, and then he had realised that the most crucial piece at the very centre was missing. Had it been one of the corner pieces, he might as well have been able to cover up the vacant space by something of no apparent use to anyone.

But how does one hide a gaping hole at the centre?

*** *** ***

He looked around him. Surely the piece was somewhere. It just had to be somewhere. Funnily enough, he couldn't remember how he had obtained the puzzle. His parents hadn't certainly given it to him, and neither was it a gift from an acquaintance. He looked at the box, and saw the word LIFE, written in shades of gray and black, staring back at him.

Why would a simple jigsaw be called LIFE? He had often asked himself, and had never found a decent answer. He was himself confused regarding what exactly the word life (and for that matter, The Universe and everything) meant; when asked for a definitions, the grown-ups would invariably come up with an assortment of different answers.

Anyway, these weren't really wanted to think of right now. The task, for the moment, was to find the huge missing piece that would really provide some kind of comprehensibility to the jigsaw. Funnily enough, the jigsaw contained hundreds of pieces, but somehow, without that largest, pivotal and most crucial piece at the centre, the entire thing became meaningless. It was weird, because the central piece was so crucial, that somehow all the other pieces put together made no sense to the picture.

*** *** ***

He searched frantically. He ransacked his mattress, looked underneath his bed, upturned his desk, ran up to the attic, got chased by the cook while searching the pots and pans, got away without a spanking even when he disturbed him at work, and brooded endlessly in front of his mother. The piece simply wasn't to be found anywhere.

The finished template on the cover of the box seemed to mock at him. He was just one piece away from making the jigsaw look like the picture on the cover: the perfect picture of this LIFE or whatever it was.

*** *** ***

As he lay on his back on his bad, an idea struck him. Why not replicate the missing piece using cardboard, paint and a pair of scissors? What the hell, definitely worth a try, he thought. And then he set about doing it.

Hours passed; then days. He persevered hard, but could never come up with that extra bit of magic that would've helped create a piece to fill up that hole. Creating magic wasn't certainly his forte, and his efforts continued to remain futile. Whatever he conjured didn't match the shape, and even if it did, the colour was significantly different. He tried frantically, attempting to force misfitting pieces, one after the other, to give his jigsaw a look a of completeness,  but couldn't succeed.

*** *** ***

So he decided to shift to physics. He had realised by now that eye-estimation would only lead to random pieces; the selection of colours had to be precise as well; so he went for a substantial course in physics in a leading institution to hone his skills. He learnt to measure using slide callipers; he learnt the representation of colours in hex format; he tried hard, as hard as he could, to replicate the missing piece. Everyone acknowledged the fact that he was gifted in his field, and it seemed that all the unknown, unperceived mysteries of the Universe were liable to bow before his incredible knowledge.

And yet he couldn't. Physics provided him the precision, the acumen, the unerring ability to pull off the mathematically perfect measurements and to mix colours at will; but he still lacked that extra bit that would help him create the magic required to create the missing piece. He had a few attempts at the piece, but could never generate it. Carefully acquired numerically precise skills couldn't help him reach that level, he needed something else...

*** *** ***

So he took up fine arts. His abilities now stretched beyond the scopes of mathematics: he reached the lofty heights once scaled by the greats; he learnt to unveil the mysteries of creation on a canvas or with stone; his fingers created magic spanning all forms of art, and his achievements in each and every field exceeded even his own expectations.

And even then, he couldn't. Art gave him the imagination he needed, which, combined with the mathematical precision he had already acquired, helped him create jigsaw pieces of a very high quality. But however outstanding they were, they just didn't fit. None of them did; they physically fitted perfectly into the hollow; their colours matched; even their texture gelled perfectly with the rest of the puzzle; and yet the pieces remained misfits; the differences were subtle, yet they were there. He still needed for that something extra...


*** *** ***

He tried chemistry; he tried music; he tried philosophy; he tried sport; he tried everything; he rose in every aspect of his life; but still couldn't find that missing piece. The hole in the puzzle haunted him; but he couldn't create a piece that fitted exactly into the space.

*** *** ***

And then he realised. The piece had to be found. No human, however hard he tried, was capable of creating the missing piece. It was something celestial - beyond the scope of Man; he needed to find it. He knew it was somewhere, somewhere, SOMEWHERE...

*** *** ***

He searched frantically the way he had been doing for years. Once again he ransacked every nook of the house and upturned whatever he had... and then... and then... and then something struck him, and he rushed out. He looked up and stared at the night sky, and looked at the stars, light years away, the brilliant balls of burning gas... and then... he recognised the pattern.

There it was, the missing piece he had been searching for all these years. The night sky seemed to mock at his failure, reminding him brutally the fact that however hard he tried, there are certain things that shall always remain beyond his scope, and this missing jigsaw piece was definitely one of them. It shall remain out of his reach forever; he could bathe in its grandeur, but never fit it into his own jigsaw. Never.

*** *** ***

He brooded for a while. Then he realised that however elusive that piece was, it has actually made him a better human being. He realised that the piece had actually made him pursue various streams of knowledge and expertise; finesse and precision; logic and creation; above everything he had found a mission in his life, to possess his piece some day; and in his quest to become worthy of the jigsaw piece he had actually become a better human being.

Then he realised it's not always about owning something. It's about letting everything remain wherever it's the most comfortable, and being happy about that. He knew he'd never own the pattern created in the night sky; but at least he could spend the rest of his life to elevate himself to be worthy of it.

Then so be it. :)


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