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3 Idiots over 3 D anyday

I slept through most of Avatar a few days back. I was sleep deprived. I had a heavy lunch before watching the film. But to be honest the story didn't engross me.

I watched 3 Idiots this afternoon. I slept late last night. Didn't have my post breakfast Sunday nap. The show coincided with my Sunday afternoon ghoomor siesta... sacrosanct to the Bong Bhodrolok.

I did not sleep in the movie.

Yes, it took off from where Tare Zameen Par left. And the second half was MunnaBhai3. K feels it had every cliche possible and that it is no Dead Poet's Society or even DevD.

But I liked it. It was not new yet refreshing. There were cliches but it also made fun of cliches (the art house treatment of the Rastogi family poverty for example). The film oozed melodrama specially post the samosa break. Yet you could feel that the script writer hadn't left the building.

The message of 'excel in what you are passionate about and success will follow' is something some of us talk about. But it…

Happy Holidays

Out of office replies of offices shut from the 24th of December to 4th, in some cases 12th Jan, have begun to come in from the West. A few months before we begin to get ten day long OOOs from the Far East for the Chinese New Year. And then seven days for Ramadan and 30 half days from the Middle East.Pity that we don't have the concept of vacations in Corporate India. In fact we are the first to criticise ourselves about the number of holidays that we have. Yet what do our OOOs read like? One day here and at the most a three day weekend there. Even the apocryphal shut down in Calcutta for Durga Puja is actually for three days which could include a weekend too. But then we have made self deprecation a fine art haven't we?It's sad that life has passed India by.And thank you Lord Clive for this three day weekend.Merry Christmas.

The importance of being 'Nyaka'

'Nyaka' is a Bengali term which beats translation. It could mean coy, coquettish, scheming, la di da. There is no one word which captures it. The term is used in a pejorative context and has a sarcastic tone to it. Used a bit more for women than for men. Has a feminine context when used for men.I posed the challenge of translating 'nyaka' into English to fellow Bengalis in Facebook. Here's a sample of the answers that I got.I have removed the names and kept the statuese as is, hope it's not too difficult to read

Bong man 1Coy.....but that does capture the essence
14 December at 14:37 ·

Me
No ...not entirely. A colleague just suggested precocious. Maybe its too intrinsic a Bong trait to be translated :)
14 December at 14:50 ·

Bong woman 1kol-lan, difficult to get a english / hindi word for nyaka.
14 December at 15:11 ·

me
that's the point
14 December at 15:15 ·

Bong woman 2
oh, i think the essence of the word 'nyaka' will be lost in translation. just like gettin…

The creative race

I was quite intrigued to find that there was only one Bengali at the fag end of the list of the top 20 influential people in advertising. This was in the Brand Equity Ad Agency Reckoner 2009. There was no Bengali in the list of top ten folks in creative in the same report.The reason for this slightly parochial post of mine is the disconnect between the rankings in advertising and the Bengali image, or self image, of being a creative race. While definitions of creativity abound, there is no denying the fact that advertising is one of the most prominent, with it and organised creative professions around. Old timers or industry watchers bear me out on this but weren't there more Bongs influencing Indian advertising earlier?Assuming that Bongs wielded more influence earlier I wonder what led to the current Bong famine in the peaks of advertising. Could it be the ascent of the Hindi language in Indian advertising? Or the migration of clients from Calcutta at a pace which was faster tha…

'Meat in the room'

A friend of mine gave me a DVD of In The Loop to watch recently.

It's a modern British political satire. The twenty first century inheritor of the legacy of the Yes Prime Minister and the Yes Minster series. It is cutting and irreverent as only the British can be. I guess there is something for being a race that swears by the stiff upper lip. My friend said that the film has been described as 'the Sistine Chapel of profanity'.

The film is set in the context of British and American polity and the build up to an Iraq like invasion.

I found an interesting concept there, that of 'meat in the room'. Apparently the Americans don't feel that a meeting is a meeting unless there are at least twenty people in the room. So Simon Foster, bumbling British minister, is asked to attend a joint US UK meeting. He is there to make up the number. Or as the British apparently say, to be 'meat in the room'. He is given strict instructions to remain mum and to not draw attenti…

Carry on doctors

Being an orthopaedic surgeon's son I have grown up playing with X Rays, little hammers to tap people on their knees, injections, stethoscopes and seeing my dad make plaster casts out of white water (POP). I learn lessons from my mother about not breaking the time sequence for medicines, not stopping antibiotics mid way, not taking medicines without doctor's prescriptions, getting tetanus when you get cut, dissolving Dispirin in water and eating something before taking a pain killer. These are the standard 'facts of life' lessons which most Bengalis get.Imagine my plight when I come across the Wild West of Mumbai medicine. My first encounter with a Mumbai doc was when I had fever and my P G aunty recommended that I go to the doctor she went to. This fine disciple of Hippocrates examined me and then gave me a set of coloured pills. Pink and blue at night. Yellow in the afternoon. This was the equivalent of going to the village Shaman to a person who is used to talking to…

Mera Karan Arjun Aayega

Once upon a time there was a company called Bajaj. It used to make something called scooters. The entire Hum Log segment of India used to dream of getting one and would pray for years to be allotted one. There was another company called H M. It used to make a car called the Ambassador. The Polo Playing set of India would queue up for decades to get one of these.

Meru and Mega A C cabs were a boon to those frazzled by the stinking, dusty smelly black and yellow cabs of Mumbai. Folks who were willing to pay a bit more for a better ride. Good cabs which you only got to experience as a tourist in the Far East. Without the ridiculous fees charged by the scamsters who run Blue Cool Cabs.

Tons of folks jumped into these cabs and soon the demand exceeded the supply. That's when the problems started. Call centres which wouldn't give bookings for short distances. Huge waits to get through to the call centres. Cabs which never turned up despite committed times and driver numbers. Drivers c…

The naughtiest car in the world

I thought that all those of years of automotive market research, listening to folks refer to their cars as wife, lover, girlfriend, mistress (the married ones), would have prepared me for today.But no, it is not easy to see your first car go.We had him for more than six years. The time by which most people are onto their third car these days.He was jumpy and would rattle us in the rear seat. An attention seeker if there ever was one. He had the family appetite and would need a refill much earlier than others. He liked being pampered, car window washes, polishes, scrubs, metrosexual's the term I am looking for. Hot headed at times, he would blow hot air though the AC in the sun. Much to my embarrassment if I was with colleagues.Tall, gawky. Chubby. Black as the night. He would get scratched up and covered with mud like a frisky poodle.He would greet me with the biggest smile in car land. Waited patiently while I learnt to drive. And then again when he and I got lost time after time…

Life after the fifteen minutes

I was walking at Carter Road last evening. Yes, I occasionally do exercisemore than my digestive system.

I came across a candle march/ forum with MilindSoman standing there. Every girl I knew in college had a crush on him As do most women I know now. Turned out that the gathering was organised by NDTV. A Celebrate Bandra rock show was going on five feet away. It was close to nine o clock and they stopped the band for a few minutes to observe silence. The band joined Soman for a TV grab. A few teens clicking it all on their mobile were asked to join in by the anchor.

I resisted the urge to jump in, come on TV and wave at my mom. I marched on, instead, in my war against cholesterol. Without a candle.

I have got nothing against candle marches. As RahulBose said on CNN IBN yesterday everyone has their own way of coping.

Nor am I belittling the attacks because they happened in the 'First World' of South Mumbai.

The point that I am trying to make is that there is a lot that needs to be d…

Candle in the wind

Coldly put, Mumbai and Sobo five stars would be the media planner's equivalent of a Times Of India, front page, full page ad.Since then Maoists have gone on a rampage. The Chinese have put on boots and are walking all over Arunachal. Terrorists at Guwahati are competing with those at Peshawar for the most number of bomb blasts in a day. And Qasab does biriyani reviews in Mumbai.Our polity fights over what language to swear in. And over who leaked the report of a seventeen year old study. And for three days news channel programmers don't have to think of new themes to cover.Well at least candle manufacturers will be better off a year after 2611.

The dreaded B word

I read a very nice link on Facebook today on 2611. The author, someone who has come to Mumbai from Calcutta to work, vented her anguish on the year gone by. Here's the link. It's that time of the year when we have all become cynical again. But why not. Nothing has changed since then has it?There was an interesting reader comment on the same Facebook post which referred to the 'silly debate on Mumbai versus Bombay'.So here, at the risk of getting stoned and tarred, are my two bits on the subject.Mumbai will always be Bombay in my heart. That's because I grew up in an era when Mumbai was Bombay, Chennai was Madras, CST was VT, and Myanmar was Burma. And, in case you are wondering, Kolkata is Calcutta to me.The truth is that Bombay doesn't officially exist anymore. Like it or not, it is Mumbai. And it has been renamed by those who belong to the city. So one can cry for Bombay. Ridicule the change. But Bombay will remain Mumbai. Till it changes again.Frankly I doub…

Time heals all? A city in denial

I came upon a very well packaged feature on last year's 2611 terror attacks in Times Now today. It's called 'Those who fought for us'. I got hooked onto Times Now during those horrible days when we were all shaken up.The earnest and passionate coverage of ArnabGoswami and his team struck a chord.Watching the programme set me thinking. Qasab's still alive. The Arthur Road Jail road block to keep him safe means that he is till a thorn in the flesh of Mumbaikars. As if reading about his giddiness and pleas for biriyani were not enough to make our blood boilThe ministers who were sacked after the attacks are back. One in the same postThe government has been re-elected at the Centre and the StateWhile the opposition goes about whacking people for calling Mumbai, Bombay. Pity they didn't try beating up the terrorists who were immigrants to Mumbai tooRetired cops are probably trying to get book deals by raking up controversyWhile the SRPF Jawans who are protecting the…

Where one city ends and another begins

I am in Kolkata right now.The 'Coffee House' part of this blog is from Kolkata and its famed addas (chats) of the India Coffee House. The blog was supposed to reflect my part Kolkata part Mumbai identity.Yet I realised that I have begin to view the city from a tourist or travel writer's eye. Right from the attempted scams at the airport (tips to load your suitcase by pulling it from your hand or proposing to locate a cab which is in front of you) to rude, disinterested, non change returning, men manning the prepaid counter, the airport loo which was out of a Ramsey horror film and the four men who sat in the front seat of the cab I hired to the cabbie who will charge twenty Rupees extra to take you home and the joy of the Metro Station just opened outside our house and the bewildered attempts to place stations called Mahanayak Uttam Kumar (Tollygunge), Netaji, Masterda Surya Sen (my Bansdroni) and Kobi Nazrul Islam).So when does a city start becoming a stranger? I have bee…

Reporting live from Kargil

0020 hours and heavy bombing begins.
This gives way to intermittent gunfire.
The machine guns are called on and there is not respite.
0200 ackack begins and goes on for an unprecedented ten minutes.


No conscription hasn't begun in India and I am still at Bandra. But I am either getting old or it was my loudest Diwali at Mumbai last night. As I wright this there was another short round of crackers which went off. 1.30 AM, the day after Diwali.

One explanation could be that our earlier house was at a junction at Bandra and people followed the police rules in the open. We are in a quiet alley here (an unfortunate use of words given the context) and people just took off.

Now I am no Uncle Scrooge. I am all for festivities. Whether I follow them or not is a separate issue. Festive cheer is important in the pressure cooker lives that we lead. But does it have to be at another person's cost. Does Diwali become any less fun if you finish bursting your crackers by dinner time? Is it, as Brya…

Climate change anyone?

The skies were gloomy and overcast at Mumbai today. Wet. Damp. The odd drizzle. The problem is it's Diwali. And I don't remember Diwali ever being wet.

The audacity of vote

The Maharashtra elections were held yesterday. We got a holiday in Mumbai so that we could vote. Some TV reports said that about 52% of people in Mumbai voted which was up from 45 % from the parliamentary elections here (don't hold me to the numbers, but these are roughly what I remember). My home constituency, Bandra W had the lowest turnout at 42 %. Though the Bollywood Khans and Munnabhais who live here voted. If you dissect these numbers more than actually less than 52 % of those eligible voted. 52 % of those on the voters list voted. But there are many who are eligible who aren't on the list. So as a market researcher would say, one has to apply a correction figure and down weight the numbers.In English this would mean that actually less than 52% voted.I voted yesterday. As I did in the recent parliamentary elections. But then I am a migrant from a city where politics is religion and voting is a fact of life.I learnt from a recent panel discussion on news that you are off…

Voting days are here again

Just picked up our voter's slips from our earlier place. So come Tuesday we will be voting again. The Government holiday on voting day won't see us just goofing off then.I think I have a hang of who the candidates of the two larger parties here are. I have no idea what their single line promise is. Not because I am not interested. Perhaps because my demog is not important enough for them to reach out too.Still I would like to know what their stand is on:why the tiny lane in front of our house had to be fixed just before the election? And why has it taken a week and still looks more like Baghdad than Bandra?stopping a repeat of the great floods and the terrorist attackpublic loosan airport befitting the commercial capital of a BRIC countrytraffic jams which get worse by the daythe various metros...underground and aboveShivaji's statue, riots over Mumbai vs Bombay and things which people really care An interesting observation on marketing vehicles. I now live in a Catholic d…

Breaking news

Upcoming awards for the most powerful man in the world:

Oscars for best lifetime achievement, best actor in a motion picture, best director, best character in an animated filmGrammy best lead vocals, best upcoming artisteOlympics 100 m dash... and MarathonMiss Universe 2010Asian Paints SharodShomman ... naah that's reserved for Chairman Mao

City of dreams

I almost did cartwheels when I read the papers this morning.

'Almost' because I have never done a cartwheel in my life.

But I almost did when I read about the proposed elevated air conditioned corridor from Virar to Churchgate at Mumbai's Western line. I had visions of the wonderful train networks at Bangkok and Dubai. And emptier roads.

'Almost' also because I then read that the project would start in three years. And finish in ten!

The Dubai metro got over in two years. But the Calcutta one took three decades. So why complain?

Reminded me of a discussion which I had with some foreigners about India. We are quite a quirky country. On the one hand we have certain private sector enterprises like five star hotels or airlines where we match up to the best in the world. Or achievements in the ethereal world such as mobile networks and the quantum leaps there. But when it comes to brick and mortar stuff .... infrastructure, roads, public toilets, airports, traffic management…

Country roads

We just returned from a twenty day trip across two countries, nine cities, three airports, innumerable train stations connecting most of the cities in one of the countries.

Seems daunting? Not really. We breezed along quite easily with the one strolley and one rucksack that we each carried.

We didn’t have to fill any forms at the airports. Immigration was a breeze. There were trolleys at every stage. And moving tracks and escalators. Very important given that I, like most others of our generation, have a bad back.

We could walk through the airport straight to the train station to take us to the city.. The intra country train rides weren’t a problem as there were frequent trains, running with clockwork precision connecting cities. Escalators or elevators within the stations to carry your luggage. Steps to push your bags easily from the platform to the train. And there were places to keep your bags in the train while you sat somewhere else and yodelled as the train passed lovely country si…

'No reservations'

I attended a prayer ceremony for Mamma on Sunday morning.

Nothing wrong with that except that the official norms of her religion didn’t allow for folks from other religions, like me, to attend their prayers. I had the good fortune to be a part of it thanks to a lot of love and affection of the family… and a priest who was willing to fulfil the wishes of those who didn’t wanted to be constrained by the shibboleths of their religion. In fact I was not the only outsider there. There were two close family friends too.

Not that Mamma would agree to a prayer ceremony for her which excluded those she loved.

But that set me thinking of the various religious dogmas that one has heard of.

There are certain Hindu temples which do not allow non Hindus. It was before my time but I think Mrs Gandhi wasn’t allowed into the Jagannath temple when she was the Prime Minister as she had married a Parsi. Other temples don’t allow Hindus of certain castes or to women. There are limits to who can be priests too…

Mumbai Rocks... Metrotwin Mumbai

Hey, this is something very close to my heart and a dream come true for me.

Metro twin http://mumbai.metrotwin.com/ is a BA effort to add colour to Mumbai for foreign travellers. I am a strong believer in the tourism potential of Mumbai and India.

A lot of things suck in terms of infrastructure but there's so much to see and do here, there is so much character. We just need to get people excited. We can give tons of popular destinations a run for their money. We can't fix the roads and loos and the Governmental apathy but we can definitely help build the romance of India. The rest will change I am sure.

So please introduce Metrotwin Mumbai to your friends overseas.

Let's spread the Mumbai story.

Money down the sea?

It's a bit scary to write about the great Maratha king, Shivaji. Those who do normally make it to TV. With news of their being stoned and beaten up.But the fact remains that Shivaji is, what one would could these days, a 'rockstar'. And this is not just in his native state of Maharashtra. I remember that we were big fans of Shivaji in school in the last century. We'd often play Shivaji and the Mughals those days instead of cops and robbers. Everyone wanted to be Shivaji. And this was in Calcutta at the other end of the country.The Government has recently sanctioned plans to build a statue of Shivaji in the sea. The aim is to make this taller than the Statue of Liberty. Reports peg the cost of the project at Rs 350. The aim is to honour his memory and make a tourist attraction too.Rs 350 crores is a lot of money. Especially for a state which is going through tough times and where there is a high incidence of farmer suicides due to economic depravity.Could this money hav…

A good book doesn't need a bookmark

Well this heading sounded more profane than a good film doesn't need a popcorn break.

I first saw The Scent of a Womanat The Nandan Cinema at Calcutta.


This was way back in 92. I was on my way to college and it was raining heavily. I had just started college and couldn't bear to stay at home. I had pimples... those who have watched the film will know that this didn't count for much.



I had to get off the bus at the Rabindra Sadan stop as the roads were flooded. I thought I'll go and check out what was running at Nandan rather than go back home. The Nandan compound was flooded. I had to wade through water to go to the back gate where the ticket counter used to be. The irony was that I wouldn't have got wet if I went straight to the theatre.



So I watched the movie alone with my pimples, soaked trousers, no intermission, no toilet break, no snack break. And I didn't realise any of that till the movie ended.



Need I say more?



Just another day in India

I went to Hearsch Bakery near Holy Family Hospital after ages to pick up a burger for breakfast this morning.

I saw an elderly gentleman, possibly in his mid sixties, standing opposite Holy Family in the alley. He was simply dressed like middle class folks of his genre, white bush shirt tucked out, grey trouser. He had a red and white jhola, the sling bag favoured by folks of his generation. He had round glasses, was slim and probably looked the way my grandfather would have looked twenty years back. A typical, middle class gent in the early years of his retirement.

And he had his hand stretched out asking for alms.

I remembered seeing him when I had come to Hearsch's months back. I was very puzzled even then.

I wondered what his story would be. Was he abandoned by his children? Was he laid off? He did look in good health. Didn't look particularly poor. Yet, there was a strange mix of serene desperation on his face. What would have driven him to beg? Should I offer him some money?…

Be afraid... very afraid

I saw the scaffolding come up for Ganpati Puja and I shuddered.
I work a stone's throw away from Mumbai's biggest Ganpati Puja at Lalbagh. Seeing the workmen awakened horrific memories of insane traffic and fighting for every inch on the way to work.
Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Ganpati Utsav. I love festivals and I think that they are a wonderful outlet for pent up energy. I used to live in Kolkata which used to come to a standstill thanks to do a Goddess. And I am not talking of Mamata Banerjee.
The thing about Durga Puja in Kolkata is that it is a holiday for everyone. Pretty much like Chinese New Year in the Orient and Christmas in the West. So those who want to celebrate it do so with unbridled passion. The rest stay home and chill without worrying about work.
No such luck with the Ganpati Puja here. Offices are open so you have to navigate through some pretty insane traffic situations to get to work. Those who celebrate it have to balance work and festivity…

Baby you can drive my car

I often wistfully think about the promised lands where my friends who have moved out of India live in. Especially when I am stuck in a traffic jam caused by a religious festival, waiting to take on the potholes of Mumbai.Then I console myself by reminding myself that I live in a country where you still get domestic help. That I won't have to go back and do the dishes. Or navigate the crazy traffic myself.Reality?Our maid has bunked for the last couple of days. Our kitchen's a disaster zone.And we have been driverless for a while.Bunking is our maid's thing. It used to bug me and I often wanted to sack her. My wife restrained me and six years later our maid has become Pygmalion to my Henry Higgins. When she comes to work that is.But our luck with drivers is the stuff of Bollywood tear jerkers. We have been without one for a while. Three of the last four didn't last beyond a day. We sacked one, the next one inexplicably disappeared after day one and the third called me a…

Bangla Rocks

I was trying to get the little woman to leave her Jap and Mexican authors aside and read Sankar's Middleman."Why are you Bengalis so clannish?", she exclaimed in exasperation.She would know, being married to one. And, being in advertising, quite a few of her close friends are Bengali too.I have heard others smirk and say that two Bengalis always break into Bengali when they meet each other, even when non Bengalis are around.Well I have seen Malayalis, Tamils, Parsis and Gujaratis do that too. So do people from the Hindi belt except that Hindi doesn't stand out as much as quite a few speak it.But yes, it is downright rude to break into a language when there are others around who don't understand it.Put two Bengalis together and they will rubbish Bombay's biriyani in comparison to Shiraz's and Chowpatty's paani puri's in comparison to Lindsay Street Phhuchkas. And nothing will convince them that even Golden Dragon or Royal China or China Garden are …