Sunday, 27 December 2009

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 ghoom or 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 Munna Bhai 3. 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 is a message which is still new to most of Joint Entrance Test crazy middle class India. Or at least something we don't talk about at home. A bit like sex. Yes, 3 Idiots it is no Dead Poet's Society but it has taken the message across to parts of India which DVDs from Bandra's Movie Junction don't reach. And in a manner that is light and engaging.

It is also a message which is particularly poignant to many thirty plus Bloggers I am sure. Folks who blog because they like to write. Writing is something which they don't do for a living. And they often write on things which, again, have nothing to do with what they do to earning a living.

3 Idiots raises many questions. Do we want to answer them?

Including, in a different vein, why shoot films in New York and Switzerland. 3 Idiots really romanced the hills of Uttaranchal. And the last sequence set in Ladakh, was breath taking. The blue of the lake was purer than anything I have ever seen.

With Aamir Khan is around 'All would be well' with Indian cinema. To think that I was a bigger Salman Khan fan when they both started off!

I guess there is still nothing to beat good old story telling. Even if it is in just two dimensions.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

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.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

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 1

Coy.....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 1

kol-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 getting a bengali word for 'smart'. 'ustaad' is the closest ( as suggested by my bro) but it is a derivative from 'ustaad'. may be that's why we keep hearing bongs saying " bhishon smart";-)
14 December at 15:51 ·

Me
and then there is 'paaka' . Precocious would be somewhat there for paka but not as colloquial
14 December at 15:54 ·

Bong woman 3
affected, spoilt, irritatingly coy, are words/ phrases that sound somewhat close to me for nyaka
14 December at 16:45 ·

Bong woman 3
even pampered, could do somewhat
14 December at 16:45 ·

Bong woman 3
pampered drama queen could also work
14 December at 16:47 ·

me
ok ...the context i am looking at would be similar to 'aar nyakami korona'....say a person created a problem/ dispute and then kept beating his or her chest about it...just to clarify this is an academic discussion to illustrate a point :)
14 December at 16:48 ·

Bong woman 3
ya understood, in that context drama queen, appeals to me
14 December at 16:54 ·

me
i suggested that too...but apparently that was 'too strong'
14 December at 16:57 ·

Bong woman 3

arre it is more to do with how you say it that determines whether it is strong or weak na? so even if you say you little ass to someone who you are affectionate with, it may not come across as a gaali na
14 December at 17:38 ·

me
true a lot is in the inflection... we are a deep race
14 December at 17:39 ·

Bong man 1

I like this conversation
14 December at 17:42 ·

Bong woman 3
in the garb of affection you can get away with a lot....jus kidding..., but obvious that you are enjoying - given you too belong to OUR race that makes conversations as a way of life
14 December at 18:02 ·

me
and if this was a challenge try adikhyeta :)
14 December at 19:35 ·

Bong woman 2

chalak = street smart adikeyta = gluttony nyaka = acting the dumb blond act to get your work done
14 December at 21:16 ·

Bong man 1
Superb!!!!!
14 December at 21:18 ·

Bong woman 2

SM says coquettish.
14 December at 21:23 ·

Bong woman 2

A Csays : It took me a sec to make out the word...than a hearty laugh Nyaka is a word best suited to bongs only ,because I guess we r the only ones who can be like that but in a cultured way....others r more like Shaunda -Gunda types.Nyaka does not have a exact english or hindi connotation .In hindi/english it would incline to something not nice (vulgar), which it is not suppose to be .So just stick to Nyaka in all vernacular lang .
14 December at 21:24 ·

Me
Maybe we shd ask Arnab Goswami to debate at New Hour Bong woman 2, isn't adikhyata a form of nyakami. Taking on from A C can we say that Nyaka is like Mithunda and Bappida... Unique
14 December at 21:44 ·

Bong woman 4

nyaka is not pakka. it is sort of taish bangali mei! which again begs to be translated. nyaka is someone who wears high heels to the pao bhaji stall and says, " bhaiya...yeh vegetables sab bisleri mein dhoya hai na?naka is sharmila tagore in mere sapno ki raani. just watch her expressions.
14 December at 22:05 ·

Bong woman 4

oh. i think sanchita hits the nail on the head. nyaka is the bong version of dumb blonde. brilliant.
14 December at 22:07 ·

me
hmmm
Bong woman 4 ... That would be right up Tiger's street. And I don't mean Danny. Sharmila T or her bahu, Poo wd be a great analogy. But what about when one uses it in a bitter way?
14 December at 22:23 ·

Bong woman 3
Sharmila T's Bahu? Who is that Kol-lan...yup agree Sharmila abso fits the bill....
Bong woman 2, I love the eloquent way you define nyaka, though my version of one is more like Sharmila T, and so obviously not the dumb blonde but a sexy siren with affected mannerisms :-)...Kollan nyaka in a bitter sense reminds me of those wicked shashuris and step ... See Moremothers in Bengali cinema who would give gaalis like nyaaka, delivered in a shrill-pitch, and prefixed by a sarcastic and sing-song hmmmmm, suffixed by mukhpuri type of words :-)
14 December at 23:00 ·

me

Bong woman 3, very good analogy for bitter nyaka. Bahu as in Bebo in K3G
14 December at 23:18 ·

Bong woman 3

Aah ok, Bebo :-).....
14 December at 23:21 ·

Bong woman 5
Coquetish
15 December at 02:03 ·

Bong woman 3
Coquettish, charming and irritating, all can be flavours of nyaka, but all nyakas neednt be all of those, tai noi ki?
15 December at 07:15 ·

me

good one Bong woman 5
15 December at 08:04 ·

Bong woman 2
this could be heading towards a 'nayaka analysis / analogy' summit. but then anything for much food and booze. unfortunately dont have enough bengalis in goa who would want to discuss this through :)
15 December at 08:52 ·

Bong woman 1
Bong woman 4your description of 'nyaka' reminded me of someone who we know.." sookha bhaaji and diet coke ;-))
15 December at 09:37 ·

Bong woman 2
Bong woman 1, we too have this variety available. they order sukhi bhaji poori and then dab a tissue to get rid of the extra oil from the puris :)
15 December at 11:03 ·

me

Diet Pepsi and rum :) I was thinking the same thing Bong woman 2 about the 'summit' must bookmark this for posterity. Wonder why hardly any Bengali men have commented though. Any thoughts?
15 December at 11:38 ·

Come to think of it, Ash, with her 'eesh' in Devdas would be a good example.

bong man 2 (would that make me Bong man 0?)
tahole, jeta daralo, english of nyaka is shormila...right?
15 December at 18:24 ·

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

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 than the exodus of Calcuttans from Calcutta? Or was advertising seen to be too 'capitalistic' a rendition of art for the Bengali Bhadrolok? Or, dare we admit it, others were more 'creative'?

What's your take on this?

I know tons of bongs in advertising who are of my age. Maybe the results would look a different a few years later.

The scores would be a bit different if this was a ranking of the world of media (English only). The Goswamis and Roys and Mukherjees would pop up. Or Indian authors in English and the Jhumpa Lahiris and Amitav Ghoshes. Publishing perhaps. There would still be Bengalis there.

What about Bengalis in Blogging? Too many anonymous writers at this point in the Blogosphere though for such a survey.

For the record, I work in market research. So this is an outsider's perspective. A Market Research reckoner in India would still throw up more Bengalis, or T least people from Calcutta, in the list. But then few outside the industry would consider it to be a creative field.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

'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 attention to himself.

Problem is that no one has told Simon he is meat in the room. He feels compelled to say something as he is in the room. He believes that the Americans who called for the meeting would expect that.

He opens his mouth. And sparks off a series of event which lead to the Americans and Brits deciding to invade an unnamed country.

Sounds familiar? Have you even come across meat in the room? Have you ever been meat in the room?

Have a happy and fulfilling Sunday.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

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 his doc in terms of the merits of Amoxycilin versus Thrombocyn and the m g of each.

I asked him if I should do a blood test for Malaria. He said 'you can do it if you like'.

If I like ???!!! If I wanted to be poked with a needle I would do a tattoo for God's sake.

His parting words to me were 'don't have non veg food for a few days'. That's when I ran out of the chamber vowing never to return. Any respectable Bengali knows that chicken stew is synonymous with fever.

This happened way back in 1997. I have found a set of wonderful doctors over the last twelve years.

Our family doctor is a GP who gives coloured pills, a reality of life in Mumbai. I had read somewhere that you should find a doctor you trust who is your age and grow old with him. That's the case between us. I never have to remind him of any of my previous ailments. I can get him on on phone at any time if there is an emergency.

You know that he really feels for you. He seemed heartbroken when he had to prescribe cholesterol medicines for me and started by saying 'This is a sad day and I am really sorry to say that I have to give you... '. K and I had to console him. He looked psyched and distressed when I told him about my recent fish bone scare. Then I called him to tell him about my fractured toe. He replied by saying, 'Oh my God', and sounded like he'd seen a ghost.

He is very popular and you have to wait for ages to see him. But then it's no surprise that people would like to be with a doctor who feels for you.

I went to a Catholic lady doc, a G P, sometime back when our family doc was out of town. I had an upset stomach. I don't know how the conversation reached there but my visit ended with her giving me her recipe for pork spare ribs. She is a colourful character, full of life. And, surprise, surprise, gives prescriptions. She'd talk about the most morbid thing with a jovial voice...from breast cancer checks (!) to a parting shot of 'don't forget to take your vitamins, we are all hurtling towards old age and senility'. We went to her once for K's bad throat. Doc told us that it could be infectious and that we should avoid contact through towels, utensils and then suddenly threw up her hands and said, 'what to do, you guys will kiss naa?' And she has the most adorable, scuffed up, teddy bear in the room. Reminds me of Ross' visit to his paedio in F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

Both are very good docs.

I have my ortho on speed dial. I had read about the tea and coffee machine in his chamber in a Bombay Times feature way before there were blogs and before I had a back problem. I have never tried the coffee though the sign kindly asks you to help yourself.

He is another very nice soul. As, Julius Caesar told us, all roly poly folks are. Unlike other surgeons he won't ask you to do MRIs straight away. He is extremely patient and kind and will NEVER scare you. He will take the skeleton on his desk and will describe in detail about what's happened to you. And will often show you exercises at the jump of a hat. Don't forget that he is super sized. My mom in law calls him a teddy bear.

You don't feel that its all about money when you deal with him. He won't push his own physio or diagnostic clinic. At times he will prescribe stuff on the phone even if it means losing out on the visit charges.

Thankfully he was close by yesterday when I broke my toe. He called me over to the charity clinic he was in. Then called back by himself to tell me that I should take a Combiflam and a glass of milk before I left home.

He took one look at my foot and said 'yes, it's looking deformed' . Turned out he was looking at the wrong foot! Anyway he strapped up my toes and I am hobbling towards recovery. He didn't bother about his fees and said he'd adjust it a week later.

Almost everyone I know goes to him. We are the bad back generation after all. I think the time has come to start a Facebook group around him.

We know a genius of a Gastroenterologist too. A nice person to know once the little business of Endoscopy is done with. Some people shake hands when they meet, others hug. He pushes a pipe though you when you are introduced for the first time.

My mom in law credits him with giving my Pa in law a second life when everyone else was floundering. Our family swears by him.

I once told him about my cholesterol report and asked him about the dangers of mutton. He went into a monologue about how the mutton today is not a patch on real mutton. No fat, no taste, no juice. I was surprised to know that our skinny doctor had obviously seen life.

Feel free to drop in a mail if you ever need, and I sincerely hope you don't, the name and contacts of any of these doctors. They are all based at Bandra.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

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 calling up saying their cars had mysteriously stalled. Worse still sitting and wondering what happened as there would be no news of your car. Complaint after complaint which cut no ice. These guys had a winning product after all.

This morning was typical. K booked her cab for this morning yesterday morning, twenty four hours in advance. I booked mine last evening. Twelve hours in advance.

The time for K's cab came in the morning. But not the cab. She called up the call centre and was shunted from one apologising exec to another without the promise of a cab. The pitch of her voice got higher and I began to fear for her sanity and mental balance.

I launched into Beethoven's ninth in the shower meanwhile. I had got my driver details after all. while K was told that there were no cars in our area. We live in the same house.

After being reduced to imitating Mamata Banerjee after twenty minutes of banging her head on the phone, K got a car. Which is when my allotted driver called up to say that his car was 'stalled'. I called up again. Was promised a cab in ten minutes.

I hitched a ride from K twenty minutes later and then got into an auto rickshaw and bounced all the way to Andheri.

Post Script: I booked a Meru again to return from work. It has actually turned up. As, someday, will the Hero Honda Splendor and Maruti 800 of AC cabs.

Till then keep a blood pressure pill handy when you book a Meru.