Tuesday, October 30, 2012

১২৫

লক্ষ্মীপূজো।

পূজোর অবিশ্যি বালাই নেই চারদিকে কোথাও। সন্ধ্যের দিকে ইতস্ততঃ শাঁখের আওয়াজ শুনেছিলাম ঠিকই, কিন্তু এখন চারিদিক নিস্তব্ধ। রাত বারোটার কাছাকাছি। পূর্ণিমা, তাই অন্ধকার নেই বিশেষ, দিব্যি আলো-ঝলমলে।

বেশ অনেকক্ষণ জানালার সামনে দাঁড়িয়েছিলাম। আমার মধ্যে রোম্যান্টিসিজমের ছিটেফোঁটা নেই, কিন্তু এখনও, এই পঁয়ত্রিশেও, ঘরের মধ্যে জ্যোৎস্নার আলো এসে পড়লে নেহাৎ মন্দ লাগে না। জানালাটা বন্ধ করে দিলাম।

মাথার মধ্যে হাজারটা দুশ্চিন্তা। নানারকমের। এতটাই যে সেলুনে গিয়ে নবরত্ন তেল দিয়ে গুছিয়ে মাথা মালিশ করালে দিব্যি হত। কিন্তু এত রাত্রে কোথায় কী? তার ওপর এবার অক্টোবরের শেষে হঠাৎ শীতের ডিসেম্বরসুলভ আদিখ্যেতা শুরু হয়েছে। রাত্রে পাখা কমিয়ে না দিলে সকালে গায়ে-হাতে-পায়ে বেশ ব্যথা করে ইদানীং - সুতরাং এখন নবরত্ন মালিশ করলে কাল সকালে বিশল্যকরণী স্যারিডন অবশ্যম্ভাবী।

লক্ষ্মীপূজো যেদিন হয় তাকে কোজাগরী পূর্ণিমা বলে কেন? জাগরী মানে জানি, কিন্তু আগে একটা বিটকেল "কো" কেন? হোয়াই দিস কোজাগরী, ডি?

পায়চারি করলাম। ভেড়াও গুনলাম। নাঃ, ঘুম আসার বিশেষ সম্ভাবনা নেই শীগ্‌গিরি, তবে আসবে হয়ত, অনেক রাত্রে। অনেক অনেক রাত্রে।

সন্ধ্যের হালকা ভিড়ের কলকাতার রাস্তায় পায়ে হেঁটে যে মানসিক চাপটা ম্যানেজ করা জলবৎ তরলং, হাজার স্কোয়্যার ফিটের ফ্ল্যাটের সীমাবদ্ধতায় সেটা দশগুণ হয়ে দাঁড়ায়। এগারোটা গড়িয়ে বারোটা হল, বারোটা গড়িয়ে একটা হওয়ার পথে।

নাঃ, আজ আর হয়ত ঘুম আসবে না।

ভেবে দেখলাম যে কোজাগরীর সঙ্গে গোদাবরী দিব্যি কবিতার মত মিলে যায়; কিন্তু এই চূড়ান্ত উপলব্ধির পরেও ঘুম এল না কিছুতেই।

ঘাড়ে-মাথায় জল দিয়ে, ফেসবূক ঘেঁটে, ইমেল চেক করেও ন যযৌ ন তস্থৌ। রেজনিক-হ্যালিডের সেই যুগান্তকারী বইটা থাকলে একটা চেষ্টা করা যেত, কিন্তু কী আর করা যাবে। নেই।

তার থেকে যাহোক্‌ কিছু লিখতে বসাই ভাল।

আর তখন, তখনই - লিখতে গিয়েই - মনে পড়ল সুকুমারকে।


বেজার হয়ে যে যার মত করছ সময় নষ্ট -
হাঁট্‌ছ কত খাট্‌ছ কত পাচ্ছ কত কষ্ট!
আসল কথা বুঝছ না যে, করছ না যে চিন্তা,
শুনছ না যে গানের মাঝে তব্‌লা বাজে ধিন্‌তা?
পাল্লা ধ'রে গায়ের জোরে গিট্‌কিরি দাও ঝেড়ে,
"দাঁড়ে দাঁড়ে দ্রুম! দেড়ে দেড়ে দেড়ে!"

নাঃ, এইবার ঘুম আসবে। জন্মের একশ' পঁচিশ বছর পর সুকুমার আজও সমান তাৎপর্যপূর্ণ। লাল বইটা নামাতে হবে এবার - ঐ বিশাল আকৃতির অথচ পাতলা লাল বইটা, যার ওপর সবুজ বেড়ালটা বিশ্রীভাবে ফ্যাচ্‌ফ্যাচ্‌ করে হাসছে।

যাই।

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The other

Mumbai, as all non-Mumbai-ites will agree, is a tough city. Reaching Mumbai for the first time in your mid-thirties and trying to fall in love with the city are impossible to achieve together, somewhat like meeting Ayesha Takia for the first time and managing to make eye-contact with her. It's ridiculously tough.

But there I was. Every day, after a tired day's work, I used to drag my rather obese self back to an apartment in Saki Naka (yes, people do live in Saki Naka); I used to take the elevator; I used to put up a hollow smile if Parkar or Patil or Shinde were entering or leaving their apartments (a natural one, if it was the Patil girl); I used to turn the key in the door I used to turn the lights on; I used to dump my backpack uncermoniously; I used to take a bath; I used to check whether the baai had cooked with curry-pata or without (the only variety in cooking she could ever dream of); then, I used to perch myself behind the laptop.

It was the same thing, over and over. Every day. Until that day. That day.

I did everything as my impeccable schedule till I entered my room on one of those sultry evenings only Mumbai can conjure out of nowhere. As I threw my backpack on the cot and turned towards the bathroom, I looked out of the corner of my eye and noticed something stir in the room.

The light was on. It was another human being. Just like that.

Obese. With glasses. Oddly familiar.

In fact, it was an exact replica of mine. Yet another Abhishek Mukherjee. Wearing exactly the same shirt and trousers that I had on. Even the circles of sweat around the armpits looked the same size. They possibly stunk the same, too.

This was not right. This was clearly not right. This cannot really be happening. One of myself was revolting enough for the world - why bother Humanity with two?

"Er, who exactly are you?" I asked in a shocked, almost scandalised voice.

"Abhishek Mukherjee", the impostor lied in the singsong voice and killer accent that the world knows as mine.

"No. You cannot be Abhishek Mukherjee", I insisted.

"Of course I am. Who are you, by the way? And what are you doing in my apartment?" The duplicate demanded, somewhat incredulously.

"Excuse me...?"

"I thought you understood English. Or do you need to be conveyed everything in Marathi these days?" he let out a hideous cackle that I thought I was perfectly incapable of.

I grew impatient, almost to the verge of losing my temper. "Listen, I'm not quite sure what the best way to inform this to you is, but - I am Abhishek Mukherjee. The only one that has ever existed. I mean, I might have, must have had namesakes, but, I mean, I am the only one with exactly the same DNA configuration as mine. Which means that I am unique."

"Look, a loud voice won't help you rob me of my identity. I am, and continue to remain Abhishek Mukherjee. And I have no intention whatsoever to change that identity."

"See, there is a big, glaring error here. Since I cannot remember being cloned, one of us is an impostor, and the remaining one - which is myself - is the real Abhishek Mukherjee."

The other Abhishek Mukherjee sighed. For a moment it seemed he might swear - which would have sealed for good the fact that he is a fake - but he did not. Instead, he said, rather nonchalantly: "there has to be a test."

"A test? What test?"

"To find out which of us is the real one."

I groaned in exasperation: "Why do we need a test?"

"We should not have, had you not been this adamant. You should simply have walked away."

"Are you insane? Listen, buddy, double roles happen in Bollywood movies - and they don't happen even there these days. They are not supposed to happen in real life. This is outrageous."

"Which is why we should take a test of some sort."

"What test are you talking about?"

"That is up to you to decide."

"Well, Fake -"

"Please abstain from calling me Fake. I am the Real One."

"See, everyone who knows me is aware of the fact that the real Abhishek Mukherjee has got a terrific sense of humour. It is so insanely good that most people consider it out of the world, and insist that it should have been sent to Mars instead."

The other Abhishek Mukherjee merely blinked. I thought it was unusual that he did not laugh, even smile, but then, it was really a lame joke. "So?" He asked expressionlessly.

And then it struck me. I almost lost my composure as I shouted in excitement. "Look, I know what test to take."

"Which is...?"

"Listen, as I have just mentioned, I, the real Abhishek Mukherjee, is quite renowned for his sense of humour. People love his style, and drool over his extremely popular blog."

"No. I just have a blog, that is all. It is not extremely popular. It has not won an award, has over only a 100 followers, and the total page-view count till date is hovering around merely the 100,000-mark. It also has the most unimaginative name ever. It's nothing robust."

"Whatever. I feel it's an extremely popular blog, and I am destined to become one of the most popular authors ever."

The impostor pretended to yawn. I felt like slapping him, but restrained myself with some effort. "Listen, we need to take the test: we can simply tell each other a joke; whoever comes up with the funnier one is the real Abhishek Mukherjee and the other walks away without a word", I uttered.

To my astonishment, he nodded. Here was a fake entity bringing about his own defeat, and hence, exit.

I marvelled at the singularity of the situation. Not only did I have a doppelganger, he also spoke in a similar voice and accent as mine; now, he is going to undergo a joke contest that will decide who the real Abhishek is.

I, being the real Abhishek Mukherjee, had the first go, and I started off with my favourite 12-inch BIC joke.

I had expected the impostor to smile. He did not get the joke at all. He merely looked back at me with a very vacant, very Fardeen Khanly expressionlessness.

"It's your turn", I said, rather impatiently.

"I do not know jokes. I do not understand humour."

"What do you mean, you do not understand humour?"

"I just do not."

"That proves you cannot be Abhishek Mukherjee."

"Sense of humour is not a necessary criterion."

"That is not what we had decided upon."

"I do not remember what we had decided upon."

"You know something? That is the second proof that you cannot be Abhishek Mukherjee. I am famous for my incredible memory. My memory of cricket statistics and trivia is already a part of folklore, and has gone a long way in increasing my appeal among women."

"Cricket? You mean - the insect of family Gryllidae, that can be further classified into Eneopterinae, Gryllinae, Nemobiinae, Oecanthinae, Phalangopsinae, Podoscirtinae, Pteroplistinae and Trigonidiinae?"

My mind raced. I wondered whether there will be a courtroom of sorts where both of us will be tried. I, with my profound knowledge of the sport and my hugely reputed inadequate knowledge of biology, was sure to win the argument. Finding the correct lawyer would be the only issue, I thought.

I smiled and responded. "Have you not heard of cricket? The noblest of sports? The only sport whose books are safely classified as literature?"

"Lite - what? Is that anything that can be productised?"

This was serious stuff. Not knowing cricket could easily have meant you're a Chinese or simply a low-IQ entity or both. But not knowing literature was completely on a different planet.

On a different planet? Hang on...

"Are you an Earthling?"

"Of course I am. I am, as I have mentioned before, Abhishek Mukherjee."

"See, you cannot be Abhishek Mukherjee. I am Abhishek Mukherjee, with an extraordinary sense of humour, a colossal memory and an insatiable thirst for cricket and literature. You, on the other hand, possess none of these qualities. Also, since you resemble me to an extent this uncanny, and I really cannot recall myself being cloned, you must be from another planet."

"You and your non-proactive mind tire me. Do I look anything non-human?"

"No. But how do I know that you cannot design yourself to make yourself look non-human?"

"You can take me to a clinic and get a full body check-up done. Actually, we can get that done, for both of us. Our DNA configuration will also prove who the real Abhishek Mukherjee is."

I groaned. More biology, I thought. I was also sure that since he has been able to replicate everything, his DNA configuration would be the exact same match.

"Listen, this isn't happening, right? You simply cannot exist."

"No, this is happening on the contrary. I am Abhishek Mukherjee. And somehow it turns out that you are him, as well."

"No. You possess merely a physical resemblance to Abhishek Mukherjee. I possess them as well as other traits."

"Well, we can come to a truce. We can merge."

"We can do that?" As always, I got to believe that the most hassle-free option was the best solution possible.

"Yes. However, the combined self will have to contain my traits."

"YOUR traits? Why? I am the real one..."

"Because I represent the more important aspects of life. As you have already heard, I am an expert at using words like productisation, proactive and robust. Provided the correct opportunities, I can use superior terms value-add, turnkey solution and the most superlative of them all - paradigm shift."

"You really think these corporate jargon are aspects in life that are more important than cricket, literature or humour?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about. Corporate jargon will help you take giant strides in life. Whatever gibberish you are talking of will not. Hence, my traits are dominant and yours, recessive. If we merge, the resultant Abhishek Mukherjee will be exactly like me; he will have my mindset, speak my words, and hence become more acceptable to the world."

"I do not agree to this. If that is the case, I do not agree to the merge."

"You do not have an option. As you must have noticed, I am the more powerful of the two. I have been able to replicate you. Not only that, I have been able to produce a superior version of you. I am going to overpower and conquer you, and trust me, this paradigm shift will make you an improved self. You won't regret it."

Fear crept in. My mind became numb to this horrific future of my existence. The impostor - who was probably not an impostor, and I had no idea what kind of creature he was - was actually smiling. The confidence in the smile seemed to drain my soul of all hope. My heart was filled with terror as I imagined myself converted into someone so gormless. It spread its arms wide and approached me. Cold sweat trickled down my spine. My feet grew numb as he advanced towards me, the imminent danger increasing with every step he took.

I thought of my daughter once. Then I thought no more. The only Abhishek Mukherjee that was going to exist was not the one I had so carefully nurtured over three and a half decades. He was not the one destined to follow a path to unusual brilliance.

He was going to change. For the worse. What was worse, it was going to happen in Mumbai.

And then, I heard a loud popping sound behind me, not very dissimilar to uncorking a champagne. Someone was behind me. A confident hand moved me aside and strode forward.

The other Abhishek Mukherjee changed. In a couple of seconds it was completely covered in bloodstained bandages. It was a mummy.

Its sightless face was turned to the other person in the room and it began to walk toward her very slowly, dragging its feet, its stiff arms rising...

She stretched out her right hand - the one that had a thin piece of wood in it - and cried "Riddikulus!" It was the pretty-faced Patil girl from next door.

A bandage gave way at the mummy's feet; it got stuck and its face hit the ground; its head rolled off on the ground.

She laughed. Even I broke into a smile as the tension and horror seemed to desert me. And then, we both laughed out loud. Very loud.

The boggart got blasted into what seemed to be an infinite number of pieces, and all was left was minuscule tendrils of smoke that soon mingled with the Mumbai smog.

The Patil girl mumbled something about Muggles; then, with a loud crack, she was gone.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

সুনীল আর নেই

বেশ কয়েকবছর আগে (কোন্‌ সালে ভুলে গেছি), শারদীয়া আনন্দমেলা পড়ছিলাম। তখনই ক্রমশঃ বুঝতে শুরু করেছিলাম যে সেই আশির দশকের চার্ম আর নেই আনন্দমেলার। শীর্ষেন্দুর উপন্যাসটা কোনোমতে শেষ করলাম, তারপর কাকাবাবু-টা আর ম্যানেজ করতে পারলাম না।

সেই আমার শেষ শারদীয়া আনন্দমেলা পড়া। কাকাবাবু শেষ করতে পারলাম না, আনন্দমেলা পড়ে কী হবে?

অনেকদিন অবধি আমার ধারণা ছিল, সুনীল গঙ্গোপাধ্যায় শুধু কাকাবাবু লেখেন। যদি শুধু তাইই লিখতেন, তাহলেও হয়ত সুনীলের ভক্ত থেকে যেতাম। কিন্তু তারপর "সেই সময়", "প্রথম আলো", "পূর্ব-পশ্চিম" ঝপাঝপ পড়ে ফেললাম। আর চিনলাম দিকশূন্যপুরকে। কবিতাদেরও চেনার চেষ্টা করেছিলাম, কিন্তু আমার মত কাব্যপ্রতিবন্ধীদের জন্য সেটা বেশ কঠিন কাজ। তাই নীরাকে চেনা হয়ে উঠল না আর।

সুনীল গিয়ে আমার আদৌ কোনো ক্ষতি হল কী? গত পাঁচবছরে প্রকাশিত সুনীলের নতুন কোনো লেখা আমি পড়িনি (সেই অসমাপ্ত কাকাবাবু-কেচ্ছার পর); তাহলে আমার কষ্ট হচ্ছে কেন? পুরোনো লেখাগুলো তো এমনিই পড়তে পারি।

পড়বও। মানুষটাকে চিনব, জানব। অনেক আজেবাজে লিখেছেন ঠিকই, কিন্তু ক্লাসিকের সংখ্যাও তো নেহাৎ কম নয়। এত মাস, বছর, দশক ধরে গুণগত মান অক্ষুণ্ণ রাখা প্রায় অসম্ভব ব্যাপার, কিন্তু যদি শুধু লেখার পরিমাণ ধরি, বুঝি যে অক্লান্তভাবে এত লিখে যেতে কী অপরিসীম সাধনা লাগে। এত লেখা যায়? আমার তো হাজার-শব্দের ব্লগপোস্ট লিখতে গেলে উন্মাদ হওয়ার উপক্রম হয়!

***

সুনীল কেমন মানুষ ছিলেন তা নিয়ে হাজারটা গুজব শুনেছি। কেউ বলেছে মাতাল; কেউ বলেছে দুশ্চরিত্র; কেউ বলেছে দুর্বিনীত; কেউ বলেছে রূঢ়; কখনো আবার শুনেছি উনি রবীন্দ্ররচনাবলীতে লাথি মেরেছিলেন (পায়ে রীতিমত লেগেছিল নির্ঘাৎ)।

কী সত্যি, কী মিথ্যে, জানিনা। এইটুকু জানি, যে বাঙালি যের'ম বোহেমিয়ান, উদ্ধত হতে চায়, কিন্তু মেরুদণ্ডের অভাবে পেরে ওঠেনা, সুনীল ছিলেন সেইর'ম কলার-তোলা মানুষ। লজ্জা-ঘেন্না-অস্বস্তির যে রাক্ষসগুলো আমাদের ঘাড়ে চেপে বসে দাবিয়ে রাখার চেষ্টা করে, সেগুলোকে চাবকে সিধে করতেন উনি। আর তাই বাঙালি হাজার খিস্তি করেও সুনীলকে শ্রদ্ধা না করে থাকতে পারেনা; কারণ কোথাও না কোথাও, কখনো না কখনো আমরা সুনীল হতে চেয়েছি, আর ডাহা ফেল করেছি।

আর ছিলেন খাঁটি বাঙালি। ্মিনমিনে জেলুসিলখেকো ক্লীব নয়, একেবারে রগরগে পৌরুষে ফেটে পড়া বাঙালি। তাই হয়ত সুস্থ, স্বাভাবিক বাঙালির দল ফেসবূকে স্রেফ একটা RIP Sunil মেরে বেরিয়ে পড়েছে গাড়ি ভাড়া করে থীমপূজো দেখতে। পূজো না থাকলে হয়ত আরেকটু ফূটেজ দিত তারা, কিন্তু কী করা যাবে, গাড়ি ভাড়া করা হয়ে গেছে না?

ভালই হয়েছে গেছেন। বাঙালির আর বেশি অবক্ষয় দেখতে হল না। এবার হয়ত কষিয়ে থাপ্পড় মেরে বসতেন আমাদের।

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Yash Chopra

It is Durga Puja. It is that time of the year when I'm terribly busy not going to pandals. Most people claim to be like that, but that defies the logic behind the incredible crowd that meanders across the City of Joy every evening and keep on doing so till late at night. It is that time of the year when Kolkatans pretend to be happy and Bengalis living out of Kolkata pretend to be sad.

I, for once, cannot pretend to be happy this time. That is not because the gazillion-rupee abomination called Durga Puja has arrived to mar my otherwise manageable days and nights. You can avoid the pandals; what you cannot avoid is the happiness oozing out of people as they flood Facebook with the glimpses of the Goddess they manage to obtain from the monstrosity that goes by the name of the Ekdalia Evergreen crowd.

I was irritated. Which was good, because right now I am sad. Sad, because Yash Chopra is no more. Not the Yash Chopra who directed horrible Punjabi movies like Veer-Zaara or movies like Parampara - where Vinod Khanna (in 1992) seduces two women and dies mid-way - or Chandni, where, for whatever reason, Sridevi is torn between an obese Rishi Kapoor and a geriatric Vinod Khanna. Not even for Vijay, which was basically a mysterious mimicry of Trishul.

My Yash Chopra did not drip Punjabi romance with every word he said. He was not mushy. He was solid, angular, vivid, brisk. He could reach poignancy hitherto unknown in Bollywood.

Instead, think Waqt. Think about the concept. Think about the influence it had on future directors even if you exclude Manmohan Desai. Think about a director daring to screen not two, not three, but four leading men on the same screen.

Think Ittefaq. Have you ever seen a better Bollywood thriller? Could you dream of picking Rajesh Khanna in his pomp, not assigning him a single song and using him in an intense thriller and still make it click? That was my Yash Chopra. No other director would have dared that.

Think Deewaar. Think about the person who never picked up a single paisa that was handed over to him without respect. Think about the masculine aura a man seemed to emit when he told - rather nonchalantly - that yet another coolie would refuse to pay the hafta next week. Think of the Amitabh Bachchan and Parveen Babi walking together.

Think Kaala Patthar. Think of the scene, dripping with intensity as the two angry men - albeit of different stature - ripping each other apart with their eyes - all for an humble cup of tea; few words were exchanged, and yet it was the intensity of the eyes that made the scene so iconic - all cooped up inside a movie that was supposed to be based on a real-life incident.

Think Trishul. Think of the dual-generation magnum opus involving characters of varying shades of gray. Think of the son putting everything at stake to avenge his mother. Think of the assortment of emotions he had to go through to battle his own blood in the ruthless arena of business.

Think Lamhe. Think of the director who could make the most of Sridevi during her golden days. Could anyone make Sridevi act better? Even if you say "yes", would you - I repeat - would you dare to launch Anil Kapoor without a moustache? Ever?

Think Joshila. Have you ever seen a romantic thriller so picturesque?

Think Kabhi Kabhie. Do you really not get goosebumps every time you listen to the recitation?

Think Mashaal. Did you really not feel as impatient as a helpless Dilip Kumar trying desperately to find a transport to take his dying wife to the hospital?

Think Darr. Have you, at least in your bathroom, have not tried to do a K-k-k-k-kiran?

Think Dil to Paagal Hai. Forget everything. Have you seen anyone replicate Karisma's Dance of Envy?

Do not, I repeat, do not think Silsila where Jaya and Rekha had that long, immensely boring, whispering conversation amidst infinite tendrils of smoke. Do not ever think Chandni where Rishi Kapoor is made to dance.

Ignore the production company. Simply remember the director. They don't make them like that anymore.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Panchasati / panchakanya: some serious research

As a Sanskrit shlok (which, given my limited memory, I obviously do not recall word-by-word) goes:
Remembering the five satis destroys the greatest of sins.

The Panchasati have also been referred to as Panchakanya; they basically stand for The Five Virgins, and are typically called so because, er, they were not virgins at all, and had multiple coital partners in their lives. This is probably akin to calling Fardeen Khan an actor because he cannot act, but then, we have seen stranger things in life.

The Panchasati were cool people. They apparently slept with multiple people because the society had decreed them to, not out of their own will. What the epics do not lay stress on is the fact that they had not explicitly refused to sleep with the illustrious males, and presumably found the pleasure women typically find out of the acts.

It's quite amazing how they got to sleep with multiple men and then got credited for doing so. How things have changed since then!

Let us have a look at the Quintet, then, one by one:

Ahalya:
The word ahalya literally means one who has not been ploughed. Alas, she did not live up to her name. as the ploughs did come along her way. Brahma, creator of the Universe of the famous lotus-seat fame, complete with four heads, gifted this perfect beauty to a sage called Gautam to keep her safe (!).

Gautam, the incredible celibate hero that he was, "protected" the most attractive women of the era from the eyes (and other organs) of the world. Brahma was so astonished by Gautam's amazing self-control that at the end of the testing phase he gifted him with Ahalya herself as his spouse. Go figure.

What was going through Ahalya's mind at this point of time?

Damn, won't he do it, just this once? Once? Tonight? Not even tonight? What do I do - smear goat-milk-butter on my skin? What turns him on? Does he even freaking realise he is turning down Miss Universe?

Good - so now I'm being handed back. The Nerd will be getting a prize of some sort and I will finally finally be assigned to someone who will want to perform. Hang on - nooooooooooooooooooooooo!

However, Ahalya herself was not the only one who was crestfallen at this handover. Indra, the king of Gods, the powerful Indra, the one who would probably penetrate his way through the entire female population of the living world, had set his eye on this perfect lady. Even after the wedding, Indra did not give up on this woman of desires.

The incredible string of events that followed was more or less like this: once, when Gautam was out, Indra came disguised as Gautam. There are two versions of what followed:
1. Ahalya saw through the disguise; she still asked Indra to get over with it quickly and leave at the earliest.
2. Ahalya did not see through the disguise; however, she did not show surprise of any kind at her otherwise reluctant husband coming back to have a rubbing-of-privates hour during office hours and accepted that it was, indeed, Gautam himself.

Whatever happened was anybody's guess, but Gautam, given the powerful sage that he was, got to know everything. After he was through with his telepathic voyeurism, he walked into his cottage and cursed Ahalya (he also cursed Indra and apparently to have him castrated temporarily).

Ahalya turned into a rock. Some say that she lived a life of celibacy and penance (what was she doing differently anyway?). She lay there and rocked for many, many years. It was only after Ram came along and touched her with his foot that she got back to normal; and promptly resumed a conjugal life with Gautam.

Summary:
Character name: Ahalya
Partners: 2 (Gautam and Indra; Ram's footjob doesn't count)
Desirability quotients as partner:
Coitus timeline:
Draupadi:
Draupaudi was another story altogether. Unlike the contemporary appeal of Ahalya, Draupadi remains possibly the most desired woman of all time. One look at her and any man could have gone weak in his knees. Men have killed for her. The fiercest war of all time was waged over her. Despite her sharing of five husbands, she remained desirable to each and every of them for an entire lifetime.

Draupadi fell during the mahaprasthan because she had desired Arjun more than his brothers (though she was supposed to love all of them equally, for whatever reason). True, Arjun was the one who had won her over at her swayamvar. However, Kunti and Krishna's diplomatic brains soon realised that the unity of the five brothers depended a lot on Draupadi; she was, after all, neighbour's envy and owner's pride.

So they decided to marry her off to all five. They will have to take turns to remain her bed-partner. In the first year (which was Yudhishthir's), Arjun was famously exiled for twelve years as he stepped inside when Yudhishthir and Draupadi were, well, not fully covered, thereby failing to adhere to the existing conditions.

Take a moment to look at the entire incident from Arjun's point of view: you win the most sensuous, most desired maiden of all times; you have to forego her for two years before you get a chance (that too, after Bheem's year, after which she would have required months to recover). I would not be surprised if Arjun had actually chosen exile.

Take another moment to note the number of years of exile: twelve. It had to be a number divisible by 1, 2, 3 and 4 to stop the calculations getting messed up, right?

Draupadi had two additional men in her life as well. Karna, whom she had apparently desired but could never gain access to (well, perhaps after they had all reached heaven); and Krishna, with whom she was "just friends" in true Bollywood fashion. We will not include them in this research, though.

So, after the twelve years of Arjun's exile, Draupadi continued to have his partners in the order YBANS, once every pentade. The agyatvas year in the Matsya Kingdom probably resulted in Droppy going through a one-year celibacy, but there were bigger things at stake.

Summary:
Character name: Draupadi
Partners: 5 (Yudhishthir, Bheem, Arjun, Nakul, Sahadeb)
Desirability quotients as partner:
Coitus timeline (during Arjun's exile):
Coitus timeline (after Arjun's exile):
Kunti:
Kunti continues to remain one of the shrewdest characters The Greatest Epic that has ever been. Volumes have been written on the role she had played to shape the politics of Hastinapur (I intend to do a write-up some day). However, this is merely a tribute to her satiism and her achievements in turning one of the most unexpected boons to her benefits.

You normally do not associate Durvasa with boons, but on that one occasion Kunti had managed to satisfy (how?) the great sage to such an extent that he showered his blessings on the virgin: she should be able to call any God whenever she felt like.

Kunti did not take Durvasa at face value. As soon as the sage left, Kunti took one look at the sky above her and called Surya. The Sun God appeared in a dazzling display of light; even Gods could not keep away from showing off those days, you see. It's for a reason that Surya went on to become a brand of tubelights and bulbs.

Kunti could have asked for anything - anything - something like a set of golden bangles or a Whateveram sari or the latest in apsara fashion; instead, she decided to keep quiet. Surya told her that he was in a hurry, so a quick steamy session was the best he could offer. Kunti (poor girl, she was so, so unwilling to have coitus with a God and yet had to; my heart goes out to her) kept quiet.

It was over quickly. The presence of Surya meant that things were heated up already, so it didn't take a while. Karna was conceived, and duly put in a basket and disposed off.

Meanwhile, Pandu, in the merry joy of adolescence, had killed a pair of mating deer; it turned out that it was a sage and his wife at it, fulfilling their fantasies of cervine (not canine) sex. The sage, before dying, told an utterly perplexed Pandu that he would die the moment he attempted coitus.

Pandu still got married. Twice. Beat that.

After years of celibacy, Pandu was petrified of dying without a son; he confided his fear in Kunti. He told her to go ahead and try one of the sages. She pretended horror in the beginning, but then, after a lot of pleading, she realised that she would have to do it. She must have heard stories of Vyas from her mother-in-law Ambalika, and did not have a choice.

She had to tell Pandu about her boon, but obviously did not tell him about the Karna bit. Pandu heard about the boon, completely believed the fact that she did not sleep with any of the Gods despite the fact that he had to lead a life of celibacy and she had every chance to break hers - that too with a God.

He asked her to call Dharma. It was all done very religiously. It was possibly missionary as well.

He asked for Paban next. It was a whirlwind thing involving a lot of airy incidents. I just hope that not a lot of gas was passed.

When Pandu asked Kunti a third time, she made her own choice. Perhaps she had read of Ahalya and Indra and had fantasies all along: Indra was invoked, and what followed was truly regal. Which is possibly why Arjun remained Kunti's favourite son, and is the only one repeatedly referred to as Partha.



Summary:
Character name: Kunti
Partners: 4 (Surya, Dharma, Paban, Indra) with a special reference to Pandu
Desirability quotients as partner:
Coitus timeline:

Tara:
Tara, unlike the other four, was always referred to as Tara the Wise. It's remarkably interesting - the roles Indra (and sometimes Surya) had to play in the lives of the satis. Tara had two partners in her life - Baali (the son of Indra) and Sugrib (the son of Surya).

Tara's chronology was simple: she was married to Baali. They made a fine couple - Baali the invincible and Tara the wise. She often helped her husband in administrative matters. Sugrib, meanwhile, was married to Ruma.

Then, one fine morning, Baali and Sugrib went out to fight a demon called Mayabi. They struck a deal as Mayabi entered a cave: Sugrib would remain in guard outside the cave while Baali would chase Mayabi inside.

Things did not, however, go according to plan. Sugrib was petrified by a continuous flow of mysterious, gory sounds that came his way from inside the cave. When the sounds did not stop, he played monkey business, and placed a few heavy, apparently immovable boulders at the entrance of the cave and fled.

He came back, announced Baali's death, and married Tara and led an enviable bigamous life. Needless to mention, Baali was not happy when he ultimately killed Mayabi, removed the heavy boulders and returned to find the proceedings.

Sugrib actually tried to explain things, but given the circumstances, it was as uphill a task as Himmesh Reshammiya's attempts to prove that he can sing. So he fled. Baali not only re-acquired Tara, but also took possession of Ruma.

Sugrib, after some time, came back aided with the assurance of Ram and got Baali killed. Once again Tara changed hands (along with Ruma), and this time the transfer was permanent. Sugrib was accused of being "too much into Tara" when Lakshman came to remind him of his duty; a tipsy Tara stepped into the scene to cool Lakshman using her charms, but that is another story.


Summary:
Character name: Tara
Partners: 2 (Baali, Sugrib)
Desirability quotients as partner:
Coitus timeline:
Mandodari:
Of the quintet, Mandodari had perhaps the least spectacular of careers. She led a simple life. She got married to Raavan (and was well-reputed for being the only one to live up to the great man's carnal desires), did her level best to stop Raavan in her pursuit of Sita and, well, with the death of Raavan, had to marry Vibhishan, had the greatest career drop in the two epics combined.

Curiously enough, Indra had a role to play in her life as well. Raavan was a long-time adversary of Indra, and their son Meghnad was renamed Indrajit after he vanquished Indra.

Like Tara, Mandodari's husband was also slain by Ram, and she too ended up marrying her husband's younger brother. She had one installment of each brother, though, unlike Tara's two.

Summary:
Character name: Mandodari
Partners: 2 (Raavan, Vibhishan)
Desirability quotients as partner:
Coitus timeline:
Disclaimer: Please ignore the bits where the graphs intersect. They should not have. I am aware of this. Pardon my limited knowledge of Microsoft Excel.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On your 70th

Dear Big B:

You turn seventy today. In these seventy years, about seventy crores must have written to you, of which only seventy thousand have possibly received responses. Among these, do you remember this one from fourteen years back?

You did not lie, of course. The autographed picture was right there, in the envelope. I wasn't even a graduate then. You helped me graduate that day - to a realm that belongs to the privileged. Isn't disparity among fanatic friends seriously cool?
Yes, I know that whoever is reading this now is green with envy. You see, not everyone is as privileged as I am. Few people have their earliest memories associated with a street screening of Zanjeer in Nagpur; and have watched each and every movie of yours - and that includes Gehri Chaal, Bandhe Haath, Raaste ka Pathar and Boom; and can do the entire sa-sa-sa-ga-ga-re-re-sa-ni-ni-ni-sa-sa-sa thing; and actually loved Bbuddah... Hoga Terra Baap.

Just keep on doing whatever you have been doing. Trust me, it works. You have got dozens, scores of them to come.

Ever yours,

Abhishek Mukherjee.

PS: Do you know that I was named after your son? It wasn't a first-generation thing, you see.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Kolkata Maid Conspiracy

Ideally, things should happen this way:

An Ideal Summer
The maid should enter the room; she should turn the fan off and begin sweeping the floor; she should complete this phase as soon as possible and turn the fan on; she should now mop the floor at her leisure and leave.

An Ideal Winter
The maid should enter the room; the fan is closed anyway, so she should sweep the floor at her leisure, turn the fan on, mop it like her life depends on it, switch the fan off as soon as the water dries and leave.

The Moments to Switch it On and Off
The diagram below illustrates this perfectly. In summers the fan should be switched off during B and on during D; in winters they should be switched on during D and switched off during F.
What Really Happens
Instead, they resort to switching off the fan during A and switching it back on during E in summers; and switch the fan on during C and switch if off during G, thereby exposing me to outrageously severe Kolkata temperatures:
Has anyone else been a victim of this conspiracy? Please let me know if you have.

Followers