Sunday, September 28, 2014

ষত্ব-বিধান

ণত্ব-বিধান নিয়ে নানান্‌ বাতেলা এইখানে

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অনেকদিন আগে যখন ণত্ব-বিধান নিয়ে লিখেছিলাম, খুব ইচ্ছে ছিল ষত্ব-বিধান নিয়ে লেখার, কিন্তু নানান্‌ কারণে হয়ে ওঠেনি। খানিকটা হয়ত দরকার পড়েনি বলেই। ণ্‌-ন্‌-এর ভুলটা যতটা কমন, শ্‌-ষ্‌-স্‌-এর ব্যাপারটা কোনও কারণে ঠিক অতটা নয়।

ষ্‌-এর গল্পটা বলি। ণ্‌-এর মতই এর উচ্চারণ হয় জিভ মূর্ধায় ঠেকিয়ে। মূর্ধা ব্যাপারটা বোঝা খুব সোজা — ট্‌ উচ্চারণ করার সময় জিভ যেখানে ঠেকে। এক্কেবারে জলবৎ তরলং, কিন্তু আমরা আদৌ ব্যাপারটা মেনে চলি না। উচ্চারণের সময় শ্‌ আর ষ্‌-এর পার্থক্য করি না।

প্রসঙ্গতঃ বলে রাখা ভাল, বাংলায় S-er উচ্চারণ নেই, সবকিছুই SH; বিদেশী শব্দে S থাকলে অবিশ্যি বলতে হয়, আর সেক্ষেত্রে লেখার সময় স্‌ লেখা বাধ্যতামূলক। যেখানে SH, সেখানে শ্‌ (বা কখনও স্‌, যেমন "সাহেব") ব্যবহার হয়।

বিদেশী শব্দে কখনও ষ্‌ ব্যবহার হয় না।

উদাহরণ -
সুট আর শু পরে শোফারের সিটে বসলে নিজেকে সুলতান মনে হয় না।

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এবার ষ্‌-এর প্রসঙ্গে আসি। আজকে বাংলা ভাষা যেখানে পৌঁছেছে, ষ্‌-এর প্রয়োজনীয়তা প্রায় নেইই। সংস্কৃতে ষ্‌-এর ব্যবহার ছিল, আর তার চেহারাও ছিল তার মাসতুতো ভাই ণ্‌-এর মত।

আর -কে একইরকম দেখতে না?

কিন্তু বাংলায় ষ্‌-এর অবস্থা বড়ই করুণ। বোঝার ওপর শাকের আঁটির মত অপরেশনের দাগের মত ঐ মাঝের ইয়েটা রয়ে গেছে। একে তো লোকে মোদ্ধেন্ন ষ্‌ বলত, ঐ দাগের ফলে তার নাম হয়েছে পেটকাটা মোধেন্ন ষ্‌। আজ অবধি কাউকে শুনলাম না ল্যাজবিশিষ্ট হ বলতে, শুধু ষ-এর বেলাতেই যত ইয়ে।

[ষ্‌-এর দুঃখ যদি কেউ বুঝে থাকেন তবে তিনি শিব্রাম। প্রতিশোধের জ্বালায় তিনি "শুঁড়ওয়ালা বাবা" লেখেন। সে গল্প যে পড়েনি তার নরকবাস অনিবার্য।]

শুধু তাইই নয়, ক্‌ আর ষ্‌ জুড়ে যে ক্ষ্‌ হয়, তারও নাম কয়ে-মোদ্ধেন্ন-ষয়ে খিঁও।

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যাক্‌গে, ষ্‌-এর কথায় ফিরি। একই শব্দে দুই ন অতটা বিরল নয়, কিন্তু তিনটে শ পাওয়া বেশ শক্ত। এই মুহূর্তে "সবিশেষ" ছাড়া কিস্যু মনে পড়ছে না (কামসূত্রে "সুশোষণ" জাতীয় কিছু আছে কিনা আমার জানা নেই)। সে যাক্‌গে, এবার ষত্ব-বিধানের প্রসঙ্গে আসি।

ষত্ব-বিধানের সবথেকে গুরুত্বপূর্ণ নিয়ম -
শ্‌ কখনও ষ্‌-এ পরিণত হয় না। শুধুমাত্র স্‌ থেকে ষ্‌ হয়। ণত্ব-বিধান যেমন ণ্‌-ন্‌-এর যুদ্ধ নিয়ে, ষত্ব-বিধান তেমনই ষ্‌ বনাম স্‌। শ্‌ এখানে ফালতু।

১) ঋ-এর পর এক্কেবারে চোখ-কান বুজে ষ্‌, যেমন ঋষি, বৃষ্টি। তালব্য শ্‌ নিয়ে এসব ঝামেলা নেই, তাই কৃশ, দৃশ্য।

উদাহরণ -
বৃষ্টিস্নাত কৃশ বৃষকে দেখে ঋষির ক্ষুধার উদ্রেক হল।

২) অ আ ছাড়া অন্যান্য স্বরবর্ণের পর যদি কোনও প্রত্যয়ের মধ্যে স্‌ থাকে, আর সেই প্রত্যয়ের মধ্যে ক্‌ খ্‌ গ্‌ ঘ্‌ য্‌ র্‌ ল্‌ ব্‌ থাকে তাহলে সেই স্‌ ষ্‌ হয়। যেমন ভবিষ্যৎ, প্রতীক্ষা, পরিষ্কার (কিন্তু পুরস্কার)। শ্‌-এর ক্ষেত্রে এসব নিয়ম খাটে না, যেমন বেশ্যা, বিশ্বামিত্র, ইত্যাদি।

উদাহরণ -
বিশ্বামিত্রের ক্ষুধার্ত প্রতীক্ষার পুরস্কার দিতে গিয়ে মেনকা মুমূর্ষু হয়ে পড়লেন।

৩) অতি, অভি, সু, অনু, নি, বি উপসর্গের পর ষ্‌ হয়, যেমন অতিষ্ঠ, অভিষেক, সুষুপ্তি, অনুষ্ঠান, নিষাদ, বিষাদ। কিন্তু শ্‌ এক্সেম্পটেড, যেমন অতিশয়, অভিশাপ, সুশীল।

উদাহরণ -
অভিষেক অতিশয় সুশীল ব্যক্তি, কিন্তু সে সুষুপ্তিতে নিমজ্জিত হলেই সুশ্রী নারীবৃন্দ তাকে অতিষ্ঠ করার চেষ্টা করে।

৪) নির্‌ বা দুর্‌ উপসর্গের পর ক্‌ খ্‌ প্‌ ফ্‌ থাকলে ষ্‌ হয়, যেমন দুষ্কর, নিষ্প্রাণ। না থাকলে স্‌, যেমন দুঃস্থ, নিঃস্ব। শ্‌-এর এসব ঝামেলা নেই, যেমন নিঃশেষ, দুঃশলা।

উদাহরণ -
জয়দ্রথের পকেট মারা দুষ্কর, তাই দুঃশলা তাঁর নেটব্যাঙ্কিংএর পাসওয়র্ড ক্র্যাক করে তাঁকে নিঃস্ব করে দিলেন।

৫) আবির্‌ (আবীর বা আবির নয়, শেষে হসন্ত আছে), চতুর্‌ (এখানেও হসন্ত, চাতুরির কোনও গল্প নেই) ইত্যাদির পর ক্‌ খ্‌ প্‌ ফ্‌ থাকলে ষ্‌ হয়, যেমন আবিষ্কার, চতুষ্কোণ।

উদাহরণ -
চতুষ্কোণ আবিষ্কার করে বৈজ্ঞানিক "ইউরেকা" বলতে চাইলেন, কিন্তু দুর্ভাগ্যবশতঃ তিনি গ্রীক জানতেন না।

৬) কিছু শব্দে এমনিই ষ্‌ হয়, কোনও কারণ ছাড়াই - যেমন বিষয়, ষোড়শ, আষাঢ়, পাষাণ, যুধিষ্ঠির।

উদাহরণ -
নিষাদষোড়শীর আষাঢ়ে গল্প শুনে যুধিষ্ঠির তার দিকে পাষাণ ছুঁড়ে মারলেন।

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এ তো গেল ষ্‌-এর গল্প - কিন্তু স্‌-ই বা কম যায় কীসে? তারও নিজস্ব আইন আছে বৈকি!

১) সাৎ-প্রত্যয়ান্ত শব্দের স্‌ কখনওই ষ্‌ হয় না, যেমন অকস্মাৎ, ভূমিসাৎ।

উদাহরণ -
বাথটাব থেকে অকস্মাৎ লাফিয়ে উঠতে গিয়ে আর্কিমিডিস পা পিছলে ভূমিসাৎ হলেন।

২) আগে অঃ বা আঃ আর পরে ক্‌ খ্‌ প্‌ ফ্‌ থাকলে তার ঠিক পরের ষ্‌ স্‌-এ পরিণত হয়, যেমন পুরস্কার (কিন্তু পরিষ্কার), পরস্পর, ভাস্কর, অস্ফূট। সন্ধি না হলেও হয়, যেমন স্বতঃস্ফূর্ত। 

উদাহরণ -
ভাস্করাচার্য আর আর্যভট্ট স্বতঃস্ফূর্তভাবে পরস্পরকে পেটাতে লাগলেন।

২ক) ২এর মতই, শুধু পরে ত্‌ থাকলেও স্‌ হতে পারে, যেমন মনস্তাপ বা শিরস্ত্রাণ। 

উদাহরণ -
ভাস্করাচার্য শিরস্ত্রাণ পরেননি বলে অনেক পরে আর্যভট্টের মনস্তাপ হল।

৩) আগেই বলেছি, বিদেশী শব্দে ষ্‌ হয় না, স্‌ বা শ্‌ হয়।

উদাহরণ -
সেল্‌স্‌ম্যানটা শেল্ডনসাহেবকে "শেষের কবিতা" বা সেঁকো বিষ কোনওটাই বেচতে না পেরে ষাঁড়ের মত চিৎকার করতে লাগল।

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The fun has just begun, #HokKolorob

I do not know whose hand this is. Arijit Chakraborty had uploaded this.
Wake up, little ones. You have had a good weekend’s sleep. War has resumed. They have struck another blow. Put your armour on. Wield your scimitar. It is time again.

As I had warned before, war has begun. We are not discussing their rally earlier today, which had, as expected, turned out to be a damp squib. In fact, it turned out to be so hilarious that I have decided to watch it if something tragic happens to me in future.

Check for yourself.


But that is not the real threat. The talons have been sharpened behind those iron doors. The fangs have come out. As the #HokKolorob fraternity knows by now, they have gone for the obvious target: the father of the (mysteriously near-nameless) lady in question.

We know his reaction. Mr Father does not have an issue with the ruling party or the Vice-Chancellor. Was he threatened? Was he bribed? We will never know the truth.

Or maybe we will.

But that is hardly the issue here. They have made an attempt to dent our biggest armour: solidarity.

Do realise the gravity of the situation. They will not dare touch us one by one, because they knew #HokKolorob is a hundred thousand strong, that too only if we count the physical presence on a rainy afternoon in Kolkata.

They will try to target the others, especially the war-heroes that were bruised and had been held prisoners. They will go after them with the single-minded intention of separating them from each other; worse, from #HokKolorob.

They will try to terrorise #HokKolorob. Do not fear. They have probably realised the power of social media by now. They had thought they had got away that night. They did not expect #HokKolorob to happen — but it did. We did turn up in thousands. They could not raise a finger at us as our representatives braved the rain and the barricade and met The Governor.

#HokKolorob has used social media to great extent till now. Let us continue to do the same. As long as they know the #HokKolorob fraternity is closely connected to each other they will not dare to strike a blow.

But what if they do? What if a bunch visit your place and threaten you, or worse, your family? Please do not risk your life or put your family at risk for the cause. We do not want martyrs.

But.

If they come at us and you decide to quit the battle for perfectly valid reasons, do warn #HokKolorob on social media. By now you know who the key people are. Let them know exactly what they are up to, so that #HokKolorob can prepare ourselves and think a step ahead.

Do not worry. The think-tank of the mission know well. They will not reveal your identity. But information is crucial to them. You will not be considered a coward. If anything, you will be as much a hero as any of #HokKolorob, since #HokKolorob knows it will break your heart to opt out.

#HokKolorob will not disown you, and neither should your conscience. Just keep #HokKolorob informed. We will be as proud of you as we are now.


It seemed rather one-sided till today. Crushing them will be more fun now. 

Let’s.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Kolkata is where it always was: #HokKolorob

Proud to be acknowledged by #HokKolorob Facebook page. Please visit them (us) to show your support.


Photo courtesy: Ronny Sen (via Manali Roy). Ronny, if you object, please let me know before suing me. I will take it down.
It was that kind of day when it rained in Kolkata and it did not in Mumbai. It was also that kind of day when I was hooked on news channels on television instead of browsing or reading.

You see, along with the skies, Kolkata also poured down in Kolkata. For a cause; for a good cause; and they kept pouring through the day, taking on the rain and the administration: and how!

Let me be honest here: I had been losing faith on the city — the cosiest and homeliest of cities that has ever been — over the past decade. Kolkata still existed, and ruled, over my conscience: but did the people I know as Kolkatans exist anymore?

The city had started moving away from me. Initially I had felt that the problem lay with me, but others agreed. It was not the same city anymore. Roads remained derelict, the sky gray, cars numerous, people faceless; but the city had managed to move away from me. It had lost its compassionate face — the one we were used to grow up to.

Those outside Kolkata yearned to go back to the city, but almost never did. Those in the city were eager to leave. When electricity became surplus, the general consensus was that it was due to the lack of industry.

Then #HokKolorob happened.

The skies had opened to stop them. There were the rulers, who could have landed blows more brutal than they did that night. There were the opposition, who could have lured them to make this a political agenda.

But then, these were Gen-Y Kolkatans. The students of Kolkata: the ones we had dismissed, laughing at their overuse of SMS language and leet, rolling eyes at their IPL fanaticism, feeling frustrated at their seamless acceptance of western consumerism.

What we forgot that they were also the kick-arse generation of Kolkata. Unlike us, they were not going to take things down, just like that. They were going to hit back — in style.

Bathroom singers sang. Strangers held hands. Those who would not brave a walk to Dhakuria braved it. They sat down when they were not allowed to go further, but they refused to budge. They braved weather. They tweeted so vehemently that they made #HokKolorob a trending hashtag.

In other words, they did something we had only dreamed of doing: they got their job done — without resorting to violence — without coming under the wing of any political party — in a day.

They used technology: photographs were clicked, videos were shot, and everything was shared on social media. News of that night from Jadavpur University was all over social media before mainstream media had got a whiff of it.

The kids knew what to do; and did exactly that. They used social media to spread the message; and they went viral; and suddenly people started Googling for “HokKolorob”.

The rally was supposed to start at 2 PM. By 6 the count in the 3-mile long rally had crossed 50,000; the procession took 50 minutes to pass. The protestors sang, held proud (and water-proof) banners, and walked; and walked; and walked. The chant, for once, was not "In-clawb jinda-bawd."

The names of political parties were, I repeat, absent on the banners: if they were present, they were neutral, and were aimed at all parties, showcasing their attitude towards contemporary politicians).

There were others, too. The Jadavpur University alumni; students from other colleges; ex-students from other colleges (even 70-year olds); the ones that could not join protested from their own vantage points (this included Delhi) and promoted their movements on social media.

We, the ones past our mid-lives and in another city and itching to join them, were there, too. We were with them on the biggest city in the world: the internet. There we were, lending out our hands in whatever limited way we could. Re-tweeting and sharing was the least we could, and we did exactly that; #HokKolorob continues to trend.

I repeat, there was no political involvement. Neither did they throw stones or vandalise. There were no reports of ambulances, or any traffic, being held up by the rally. They were, after all, educated people with impeccable civic sense — unlike hired political employees who would come in truckloads to fill up numbers at Brigade for money and free lunch.

A cynic in me died today. I feel like letting the world know that Kolkata can, she still can if she wants to. I feel like yelling (which is not the most intelligent thing to do at midnight, more so given my voice) in elation; instead, I chose to write.

Kolkata is where she was. All she needed was a jolt.

Students are what they always used to be. All they needed was unity.

We can still hold hands to bring about revolutions. Maybe someday we will also bring down Bastille. And from these worst of times, there may arise, almost like a phoenix, the best of times.

#HokKolorob has possibly triggered that. We may not know it now, but we may have probably seen history unfold before our eyes.

I am proud to have witnessed September 20, 2014 unfold before my eyes. I am proud to have seen HokKolorob become a success.

Thank you for making a tired, pessimist, 37-year old cynic cry; and die. Sleep in peace, little veterans of war. It has been a long day. Thank you for letting me sleep in peace as well.

I am proud that supermen like these romp across the city, completely oblivious to what they have pulled off today. 


This picture turned up under #HokKolorob hashtag on Twitter. The person is called Rizal Saifullah Khan, but his peers prefer to call him Biceps Khan. The caption is mine (yes, I suck at these).


Friday, September 19, 2014

HokKolo-robbery and more

Disclaimer
This post represents my personal opinions. I have not been provoked by anyone to write this.

With apologies to Nemai Ghosh
Dear fellow HokKolorobbers:

Congratulations on giving it back to them. I am way, way senior to you (to the extent that you are closer in age to my daughter than to me), but I guess respect has nothing to with age.

However, you must realise that the power you are up against does not really abide by logic, or do not really believe in fairness. In a way the power you are up to is worse than Lord Voldemort.

Note:
There are two reasons for bringing up Voldemort here:
1. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, for once, Voldemort admitted he honoured bravery (though he probably lied).
2. The people in question will be utterly confused: it will take them ages to figure out whether Voldy was a Maoist.

But that is not the point of this post, though some day I would love to discuss Tom Riddle (see what I did there?) with the next generation.

We cannot help you directly. We are tied up by commitments, professional and otherwise, that have put up geographical barriers strong enough to stop us from helping you. Worse, we lack your zeal. It is embarrassing, but it remains the fact.

However, we may come of help, and by that I do not mean candle marches. We will share everything you update us with. There will be help, financial or otherwise, from people who love to do things for a cause. As Dumbledore (mwahahahaha!) said, “help will always be there for those...”

It is time, however, for you to understand and appreciate certain aspects:

You have been doing a phenomenal job, but without any serious plan. Did they outnumber you that night? Probably not. So what went wrong?

You did not have a Plan B.  It is time you have one. As long as the revolution continues, continue to have Plans B, C, or whatever letter of the English alphabet you choose. Move on to Chinese once you are through with them, since I have been told that they have a lot more letters.

This probably means you need to think ahead of posters, rallies, and social media. These may serve the purpose in the long run, but will not help you in direct physical combat with the administration. If it comes to direct physical confrontation, make sure you are ready. And as you know, it has, and will come to that at some point of time.

This time it may not stop with lathi. They will not hesitate to take things a step further. You know that, do you not? If you do, prepare yourselves accordingly.

By that I certainly do not mean you go out and hit people. That is certainly not something the civilised do. At the same time, defending yourself and your friends is extremely crucial when they come at you. Again. And try to trample you brutally.

That is all I want to say. Remember the golden rule of combat: the side that has more survivors wins. We cannot afford to see you being trampled by brutes. We cannot afford to see you manhandled.

Go all out. Rip them apart. But more importantly, defend yourselves and your friends. Do not let go of the hand of the person beside you, but as the pretty air-hostesses say, please adjust your own oxygen mask during emergency before helping others putting theirs on.

But more importantly, use your greatest weapon: unity. Do not give up on each other. Take them on. Remember, you have the power that we never head — that of social media that can make your revolution global in minutes. Make use of that.

Combat with unity. Combat with education. Combat with technology. Combat with a plan. 

And, amidst all this, do take care of the girl whose molestation had triggered #HokKolorob. I do not know her, but she is feeling guilty. Reassure her that you are only being human.

Stay well. Make life miserable for them unless they give in. But at the same time, stay safe. Revolution often comes at the cost of blood, but it should ideally come at the cost of blood of your opponents. Shedding blood is cool, but making your opposition shed blood is way cooler.

A well-wisher.

***


PS 1: They do not earn Rs 112 a month anymore. It is a ridiculously outdated slogan.

***

PPS: We care.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Rolls are from heaven

This was first published on Spring Tide.

Courtesy: Google Images
Drool alert: Do stay back about three feet from the screen.

Done that? Good. Let us get going.

Imagine chicken, mutton, or beef of a superlative quality, chopped patiently into neat juliennes, neither overcooked nor rare, spread inside oversized stainless-steel bowls, waiting sullenly for their inevitable destiny. The Occidental heathens call them tikka, but we refer to them as pieces. You know them by heart: the light-brown ones are chicken, the darker ones are mutton, and the really dark ones are beef.

Now try to visualise a globe of white flour dough being flattened into a thin paratha thanks to a wooden rolling-pin and powerful yet articulate wrists. It’s as perfect, smooth, and uniform a circle you can imagine.

A crate of virgin eggs lie in a corner of the counter. Trusting them may not be a good idea: they go amazingly well with meat and may end up turning your taste-buds inside out and forcing you into making further investments in the same outlet. However, since you have not asked for egg-chicken or egg-mutton the crate remains untouched.

A hand produces a plastic container of oil out of nowhere. The lid opens, the container is tilted at an angle, and a glistening circle forms on the humongous pitch-black skillet. The oil simmers in eager anticipation and reacts in mock anguish (almost in the jaao ji, tum bade woh ho tone), as the flat white paratha is carefully placed on it, ultimately embracing it in a smoking, searing heat.

The disc gets flipped as soon as it turns nicely golden: then, as the other side gets slow-cooked it is taken off the skillet. The oil — or what is left of it — has one last go in pursuit, but gives up as the paratha lands on the countertop. The succulent pieces of meat are then arranged along the diameter in a clinically perfect straight line.

No chilli sauce. No tomato ketchup. None of that cucumber nonsense. Maybe a few minuscule strips of well-cooked onion, but that’s about it.

You watch fervently as the fingers roll up the paratha, now full, into a meat-filled cylinder; a translucent bit of paper is wrapped around its abdomen, perhaps reminding you of Kajol in mere khwabon mein jo aaye; then, with a swift motion of the fingers, the end of the paper that was jutting out is now rammed inside the roll.

It now gets unceremoniously dropped inside a brown-paper bag, along with a green chilli and a couple of slices of lemon. You bribe them and get her released. They don’t bother: for them you’re just another customer. For you, however, they are demigods who can be bribed to open the gates of the forbidden garden. Now it’s just you and that object of desire in your eager, impatient grip.

The Roll.

Note: In case you have not followed the alert in the first line, this is the time when you can use a hair-dryer to good effect.

Your fingers clutch around the roll. You know it is hot, but you also know that rolls are at their succulent best when they scald the ceiling of your mouth. And then — after a wait that had seemed longer than waiting to catch a glimpse of your first crush on her balcony — you’re there.

Stuffed it with a precision so magical that not a single cubic millimetre is left unoccupied by meat, your eyes shut automatically the moment your teeth dig close on to the roll, sending a thrill down your spine. It’s like a kiss — only with more reciprocation than any human can dream of producing.

Take a moment here to appreciate the porota (or, as the non-Bengalis call it, the paratha); the flour is never left raw, and not the smallest of squares is charred beyond edible limits. They somehow form an idea of the exact level of crispiness you want, and execute it with the precision of a surgeon performing a brain operation.

One bite follows another. You now face the infamous Roll-Eater’s Dilemma that has haunted mankind for decades: should you make it last longer or should you finish it while it’s still hot? Ultimately you end up sinning as patience gives in.

The chicken roll does not get a chance to cross the road.

And then, if you’re fortunate, you get a final moment of joy: once you’ve eaten your way to glory, you turn the wrapper upside down with your palm cupped underneath it in frantic hope.

If you have led a life of penance, if you have helped the poor and the needy, if you have never committed adultery, if you have always fulfilled every wish of your parents, if you have never cheated in an examination, if you have never taken personal print-outs at work, there may be a possibility that a piece of meat — the last survivor — may slide into your anticipating palm.

Bliss.

***

Rolls go back to the 1930s — an era when the British ruled over India. The British were cool people: they drank tea, watched cricket, and spoke in English. These traits made them significantly different from the upper-middle class Indians, who drank tea, watched cricket, and spoke in English.

The British rated punctuality very highly: this obviously clashed with the ideals of the locals. Breakfast was seldom prepared that early at home; the commuters wanted a decent, filling meal that they could consume on their way to work. On the other hand, the British, interesting as they were, often turned out to be reluctant to touch the meat with bare hands.

Nizam’s, a restaurant in Esplanade, the heart of Calcutta, had come up with a brilliant idea to solve both problems simultaneously: they rolled up the meat in parathas. There have been rumours regarding a naked man running with a roll in his hands across the busy Calcutta streets, shouting “Eureka!”, but subsequent researches have proved that this was an urban legend: a proficiency in spoken Greek has seldom been a common trait among Indians.

The word spread like fire. As the British quashed one freedom movement after another they slowly began losing out in the battle of fast-food. With the roll at the helm they had no chance: the hapless roast beef sandwiches fought out of their skin, but came a distant second to the champion of the undisputed emperor of street-food.

Then came the double whammy — the Second World War and the attack of the rolls. Hitler and rolls were too strong a force to contend with: they went for the easier opponent and attacked Germany. They ended up conceding India as a result.

The doors opened up soon after Independence. Delhi was quick to embrace the concept: it was, after all, the capital, and was hence open to all capital concepts. They renamed them to kathi rolls — and carried out new experiments, the main among them being replacing the column of morsels with a long sheekh-kabab; within decades kathi rolls took over the mother of all nations.

The translucent paper was replaced by aluminium foil or plastic wrappers in parts of the country; the vegetarians were given the paneer-packed respect they deserved; and customers had to be explained why fish tikka rolls and fish-rolls were two entirely different concepts.

***

But all that is history. The glorious saga of rolls continues.

The legacy continues through children in school-uniform with one hand in a firm grip of their mothers and the other wrapped around the magic wand; through the daily commuters who catch quick bites on their way to the station to catch the first train back home; through the interview candidates who turn up an hour early with that familiar lurch in their stomach.

There are the three classmates dishing out whatever remained of their pocket money on the last day of a month and sharing a single roll, arguing passionately over who would get the last, meatiest bite.

There is that shy student taking out the last notes from his wallet and then counting his coins, one by one, before he becomes financially eligible to join the queue on his way to the tuitions. Maybe he will have to walk back home when his friends will take the bus.

There is the boyfriend who has asked his belle to meet him for an ‘appo’; she is supposed to fast all day for some obscure religious reason; the hunger has left her fuming. She blasts it out on the helpless boy for fifteen minutes. He knows. He smiles. Then, from the ubiquitous bag on his shoulder, he brings out a greasy brown-paper packet and stretches his right hand out, nodding.

Diamonds, you see, are nothing more than allotropes of carbon.

There was a Nor’wester — the raging storm that rips East India apart in spring — about a decade back. The first blast usually hits you hard and there is a high possibility that the sand and dust might pierce your eyes like shards of glasses unless you have them covered. It was one of those days: I waited under the protrusion of a shop along with a few others, letting the storm subside.

Then, just before I could smell the moisture in the air, something spherical flew past us and hit the counter of the shop with a soft thwack. We took a look and immediately recognised it, and our faces twisted into a knowing smile.

Yes, it was a greasy, translucent paper curled into a ball. I knew I was not the only one of the lot who looked at the neighbouring shops with hungry eyes.


Rolls in India don’t need a Royce to get suave. They are born that way.

Ambition is fine, but...

Mumbai.

The capital of Maharashtra, the greatest of all cities, the city that never sleeps, the city of vada paav, the city of Saki Naka traffic, the city of dividends and debentures, the city of glamour and glitz, the city of cricket.

But most importantly, the city of ambition. The A-word flows in the arteries and veins and capillaries of the metropolis that burns with the desire for more every time it breathes.

Had it had the time, the city would probably have welcome me in open arms. Unfortunately, it chose not to wait for me; instead, it rushed to catch Virar Local and grabbed a bread pakora with sookha chutney on its way.

In case you are not familiar with local trains in Mumbai, especially Virar Local
Photo courtesy: Google images
I was not fast enough to catch up. I will perhaps never be. But I lived on. I still do. Despite the rains. Despite the trains.

But this is not a story about Mumbai, or for that matter, Navi Mumbai. This is about an ambitious Navi Mumbai entity nipped in its bud. Let me start from the beginning.

***

Some time back I was back to the slow pace of Kolkata, which is not the city that never sleeps, not the city of vada paav, not the city of Saki Naka traffic, not the city of dividends and debentures, not the city of glamour and glitz, not the city of cricket.

Kolkata is the city that sleeps after lunch, the city of double-egg-double-chicken rolls, the city of lazy tram rides through Maidan, the city of Birendra Krishna Bhadra, the wannabe London that will never happen.

Mumbai has turned into super-Mumbai and will blossom into supreme Mumbai within a decade; or maybe before that. Kolkata does, and will continue to remain the city of stagnation or leisure, depending on the way you look at it.

I had left the buzz of Mumbai with two apples (which kept two doctors away) and approximately 250 grams each of bitter gourd and flat beans in the refrigerator. There was also half a kilo of chicken in the freezer. As for the potatoes and onions — about half a kilo of each — they were kept outside the machine.

***

I left behind the tranquil dreams of Kolkata to return to the electric reality of Mumbai after a week’s hiatus. I took out the two keys from my pocket and opened the two locks in succession (why do these Mumbai apartments have two doors?).

To my surprise I found everything in the apartment intact. Even the overpriced apples, which I consumed within ten minutes; then my eyes wandered across the top tier of the three-storeyed stand that hosts onions and potatoes.

Then I saw it. One onion, living up to the indomitable Mumbai spirit of burning ambition, had sprouted scallion. Check the picture below. 

The audacity!

 Obviously, I was in no mood of watching the scallion outgrow me. I may not be as competitive as a Mumbaikar, but I would certainly not accept defeat to an onion irrespective of its location.

I sued them and passed the verdict myself. The purple onion and the green scallion (ah, how beautifully they rhyme!) made their way to my alimentary canal.


Ha!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why I do not like strawberry ice-cream anymore

Didibhai got married in 1993. I am not sure whether Didibhai is my most favourite cousin, but she surely ranks in the top four of the quartet. However, she has always been a reliable confidante and makes the best homemade chilli chicken in the universe, so she is definitely a contender for that top spot.

But that is another story. She had decided to marry in 1993, which was also the year in which I appeared for my Madhyamik — the West Bengal Board equivalent of ICSE or CBSE.

Note:
I know that this gives away one of those mysteries that I had managed to keep away from mankind so successfully all these years: my age.

***

This also meant that I was enjoying the first of the two three-month vacations one associates with Madhyamik. The other happened immediately after the examination, which also brutally exposes the humiliating fact that it took three months to bring out the results.

The first three-month phase was, of course, the “study leave”, which, in student language, translated roughly to two-and-a-half months worth of siestas, UGC-granted programmes on Doordarshan, reading all sorts of books, ogling at girls during tuitions, and gaining weight; this was usually followed by fifteen days of frantic slogging on Samudragupta and leading bauxite-producing areas — information that was supposed to change my life for good.

But this story is not about Samudragupta, and neither is this about his cousin; it is about my cousin; if it had involved bauxite, I am not aware of it. This is about Didibhai, her wedding, and strawberry ice-creams, and the incident.

***

My uncle and aunt, both nice people, had apparently committed a blunder: they had decided to include ice-cream in the menu for the wedding reception. One has to remember that this was 1993, when pocket-money was scarce, and we had to battle hard for the “cup ice-creams” from the Kwality, Magnolia, or Farinni carts.

This meant that ice-cream was special. Of course, ice-cream was available at Scoop and Sub-Zero (opposite The Hobby Centre), but that was where cool grown-ups on motorbikes took their girls to. For us, ice-cream was generally sacrosanct, and was one of the reasons that we looked forward to weddings.

Eating ice-cream from cups has always a mission. It is a three-step thing:
1.      You undo the lid first; the underside of the lid is white, and has an ear of sorts: you started the ritual by licking the white side clean.
2.      Now you move on to the cup with that fragile wooden spoon (the one that looks like a truncated spatula) they provide you.
3.      Once you are through with the last scoop-able bit of ice-cream with the spoon, you are faced with a new problem: there is still ice-cream in the edges of the base of the cup — edges that are too narrow for the spoon to slide through.
This is where the fingers come in: you run them along the rim and shovel out the last remnants.
4.      Bonus step: if you still crave for more and can do away with random stuff like inhibition, just use your tongue.

All this meant that they wanted to surprise everyone by including ice-cream in the list — a decision that, as mentioned above, backfired. It does not seem to be a grave error, but the January of 1993 turned out to be one of the coldest in the history of mankind.

Kolkata froze that January. It snowed all day and night, and soon we were below three feet of snow, out with shovels to remove the snow from our driveways. Of course, the above statement is a blatant lie, but it gives you the idea. It was remarkably, unbelievably, undeniably, brutally, selfishly cold — the kind that is supposed to ooze of stalactites and stalagmites but did not.

As a result of the intense cold the inevitable happened: there was surplus ice-cream. Loads and loads of ice-cream, Kwality, strawberry-flavoured, in little, identical white cups with hints of pink seeping out of the corners: good times lay ahead, for sure.

***

The customary discussion regarding the distribution of the party leftovers followed the wedding as I was sent back home along with my grandparents (which was a five-minute walk) to study the mysteries of xylem and phloem.

Then they arrived: my father and someone (I cannot recall who it was) in a taxi. I was curious. I had to be curious: why would my father cover a five-minute walking distance in a taxi?

Then they unloaded the carton. There were 107 cups in all. Our house was apparently the nearest, and had one of the emptiest freezers. The general consensus, thus, was to shove the ice-creams in our freezer.

Let us go over this: a hundred and seven cups of ice-cream in the freezer (well, of course all of them did not fit inside the freezer; most of them found their way in the refrigerator). To add to the situation, I was on a three-month-long vacation.

Then came the command — the greatest command from a parent in the iconic Mukherjee lineage of South Kolkata: “finish the ice-cream as soon as possible; you are on vacation; it is your responsibility to ensure that food is not wasted.”

***

So I got to work. It was, once again, a three-step thing:
1.      Take an ice-cream cup out of the freezer.
2.      Replace it with an ice-cream cup from the refrigerator.
3.      Empty the first cup.

It took me a couple of days to realise exactly what was wrong with the process: I consumed ice-cream faster than they froze. This meant that the freezer was soon full of semi-cold ice-cream. Since my lust for ice-cream was a stronger emotion than the desire for frozen ice-cream, I chose to gulp them down.

It took me (and my entire household) just over a week to polish the lot. I did not need to go out to buy rolls when guests turned off. I kept a count (and I have reasons to believe that it is more or less accurate): I had managed to finish 77 cups of ice-cream in a week.

All Kwality; all strawberry; almost all semi-liquid and semi-frozen: I, forever the obedient and proud son, had kept my parents’ command. Unfortunately, that had come at the cost of losing my willingness to have strawberry ice-creams for good. It was also successful in taking me off two-in-one (half vanilla, half strawberry).

***

Morals of the story:
1.      When your parents order you to do something you like, there is a catch somewhere.

2.      Do not fall for pink, soft things, however tempting they might be, before board examinations.


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