Sunday, June 18, 2017

Top 11 Bollywood thrillers with English names


No, there is no valid reason for me to blog on this. It does not make any sense. I know all that. But hey, what the hell, is this blog not supposed to be about what I want to write about?

Let me spell this out: despite its rich history of other genres, thrillers and horror movies have not been the forte of Bollywood. Of course, there have been efforts, serious efforts. For example, Yash Chopra made Ittefaq in his pre-chiffon-saree-amidst-smoke visuals — in other words, when he was one of the greatest directors around.

Ittefaq remains one of the finest thrillers in the history of the industry. While music stole the show in Teesri Manzil, Ittefaq had to ride only on the script and a criminally forgotten performance from Rajesh Khanna — for there was no song, while Nanda and Sujit Kumar did not really form an ensemble cast.

Samay featured a dynamic Sushmita Sen in a taut script. While some claim it was loosely based on Se7en, the stress should probably be on ‘loosely’, not ‘based’. There was also Kaun, made in 1999 — an era when Ram Gopal Verma was synonymous to quality movies: trust me, watching Kaun inside a dark theatre was not easy for me.

No, this is not about these movies, though this is a perfect time to mention Khamosh, Ek Haseena Thi, Kahaani, and Talaash. This is about a list of Bollywood thrillers and horror movies with English names. Bollywood directors possibly work under the concept that these genres are western concepts, and should hence be given English names. I cannot think of any other reason. Perhaps English names sound cool. I have really no clue.

Conditions:
1. Only full-length feature films are included. As a result, Anurag Kashyap’s Last Train to Mahakali misses out, as does Rajat Kapoor’s Private Detective (Two Plus Two Plus One). PS: Both are excellent movies, but were aired only on television.
2. Addresses do not count as movie names. As a result 13B and Plot No. 5 (and even Shanghai) miss out.
3. Official remakes (Pizza) are also ruled out.
4. Movies involving only names (Raman Raghav 2.0, Aamir) do not make the cut, either. Technically the former should make it (it also has a name), but, well, if you have seen it…
5. 100 Days has not been included because I did not feel like it.

I will not give away the plots because — obviously — these are thrillers. I will, however, list plot keywords.

Note:
Before I begin, I guess I owe the uninitiated a word or two about Plot No. 5, starring Uttam Kumar, Amol Palekar, and Amjad Khan. It seemed a riveting plot, but unfortunately the audio quality of none of the copies (they are basically copies of the same copy) I came across was good enough for a thriller. If you find one with decent audio, do let me know.

Now that pistol jail mein aa chuka hai, let us get cracking with the ones that missed out.

Honorary mentions:

Blue Oranges (2008)
Rajit Kapur does an excellent job as a detective, but the script drags a bit.

Chocolate (2005)
Remaking The Usual Suspects was not easy: Chocolate falls reasonably short. However, if you can forget the original, it has its moments.

Table No. 21 (2013)
The script is fast-paced and the ending neat, but the movie is pulled by poor individual performances. Paresh Rawal cannot save you every time.

Reporter Raju (1962)
I am not sure whether this qualifies as a thriller, but what the heck, it features Feroz Khan, father of you-know-who.

Murder 2 (2011)
Murder 2 is not a sequel of Murder, but a remake of the Korean movie Chaser. More of a slasher than a thriller, it does a better job than expected. Emraan Hashmi puts up an honest show, but Prashant Narayanan easily steals the show.

The Pool (2007)
A surprisingly good movie: with commendable performances from Nana Patekar, Venkatesh Chavan, and Ayesha Mohan. The characters are surprisingly real, and we as delve deeper, they get better. The downside? It is probably not a thriller; borderline, maybe.

Via Darjeeling (2008)
Such a promising premise; such a great cast (Kay Kay Menon, Vinay Pathak, Sonali Kulkarni, Rajat Kapoor, Sandhya Mridul, Simone Singh); such ordinary execution. It hurts.

Race (2008) and Race 2 (2013)
If only Abbas-Mustan realised that “too many plot twists” is a thing! From ensemble cast to catchy (albeit copied) music to fruit-eating detectives, Race had it all, but they ruined it with overkills. As for Race 2, I typically sit through movies.

The main list

11. That Girl in Yellow Boots (2011)
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Naseeruddin Shah
Plot keywords: Prostitution, quest

A girl’s quest for her father sounds simple, but things turn out to be more sinister as every layer is unfurled. I found it disturbing, and I am sure I was not the only one. It is not recommended if you get disturbed easily. There are “happy endings”, but…

Oh, and keep an eye out for those surprise cameos.

10. Special 26
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpayee, Jimmy Shergill, Divya Dutta, Tiku Talsania
Plot keywords: Gang, heist

Bollywood has had its share of heist movies, but most of them are loud and rarely make sense. Special 26 is sensible yet fast-paced: while the big guns are given the screen share they deserve, they are never given precedence over the script. There are several amazing twists, and some of the underrated names on the list pull off surprisingly good performances.

But… is a heist movie a thriller?

9. The Stoneman Murders (2009)
Director: Manish Gupta
Cast: Virendra Saxena, Arbaaz Khan, Kay Kay Menon
Plot keywords: Serial killings, The Stoneman

Do you remember Stoneman, the serial killer who went on a rampage in Calcutta in 1989? If you do not, here it is: ‘Stoneman’ smashed the heads of 13 pavement dwellers (on separate nights) with stone slabs and — here is the catch — never got caught. I remembered being scared, but little else. I never expected they would make a movie on this.

The movie is as fast-paced as thrillers are supposed to be. You do expect Kay Kay to do well, but Arbaaz surprised everyone by pulling off easily the greatest performance of his life (who would have thunk?). The characters, especially on the side of the law, all look three-dimensional, while the Mumbai nights pull off an impressive support act.

8. 404 (2011)
Director: Prawaal Raman
Cast: Imaad Shah, Nishikant Kamat, Tisca Chopra
Plot keywords: Hostel room, suicide, psychology, supernatural, atheism, hallucinations

A haunted hostel room and atheists make the perfect condiments for a B-grade movie. I cannot think of any other reason for 404 going through theatres with a near-anonymous stature. If you think about it afterwards you will realise that the script is hardly complicated, and yet it is executed so subtly that you will sit through it without realising that two hours have passed by.

7. Karthik Calling Karthik (2010)
Director: Vijay Lalwani
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Deepika Padukone, Ram Kapoor
Plot keywords: Telephone calls, psychology, introvert

Just like millions of others in the world, Karthik feels trapped in a mediocre world until, well, the rest of the movie happens. While I am not a big fan of Farhan Akhtar’s acting skills (that voice, ugh, that voice), he pulls off possibly the greatest performance of his career. My biggest problem with this movie is the inexplicable underutilisation of Deepika: why not go for a lower-profile female lead in that case?

6. Being Cyrus (2005)
Director: Homi Adajania
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Saif Ali Khan, Boman Irani, Simone Singh
Plot keywords: Murder, gangs

Even if Being Cyrus had nothing in it, the stellar performances by each member of the ensemble cast — supported by dark, dry humour — would have made it successful. The tone of narration varies between the unassumingly smart and unapologetically sinister, setting up the tone for the climax beautifully. Saif deserves special mention for holding his self alongside Naseeruddin, Dimple, and Boman.

5. Ugly (2013)
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Anshika Shrivastava, Ronit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Tejaswini Kolhapure, Siddhanth Kapoor
Plot keywords: Kidnapping, missing child, marital relationships, ambition

Do not believe if they tell you that Ugly is about a little girl who gets kidnapped. Ugly exposes the dark side of human psychology in a manner so gruesome that you cannot stand to watch the movie. At the same time, so brilliant is the script and so convincing are the performances that you cannot look away. At times I felt claustrophobic and nauseous — probably because I could identify the characters, most of them, around me; and in the end it gave me at least one sleepless night: yet another Anurag Kashyap movie.

4. Manorama Six Feet Under (2007)
Director: Navdeep Singh
Cast: Abhay Deol, Gul Panag, Raima Sen, Sarika, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Vinay Pathak
Plot keywords: Lies, murder, village, author, engineer

Despite being based on Chinatown, Manorama Six Feet Under keeps you hooked. I thought hard, but could not come up with a better compliment. Every single member of the cast fitted into their respective roles, each drier and yet more intriguing than the other. True to the spirit of the original, Manorama gets more and more sinister as it goes on…

3. A Wednesday! (2008)
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill
Plot keywords: Common man, hostages, terrorism, bomb blasts, telephone calls

This is the second Neeraj Pandey movie on the list. Fast-paced and near-real-time, A Wednesday! rarely offers a dull moment, but that is not its biggest USP. The problem is, it is impossible to describe why it is so revered without giving away the plotline. Let me put it this way: Naseeruddin and Anupam Kher have done justice to the brilliant script, while the script manages to remain unpredictable without being unconvincing. All in all, one of the best made in India.

2. No Smoking (2005)
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: John Abraham, Paresh Rawal, Ayesha Takia, Ranbir Shorey
Plot keywords: Addiction, psychology, rehabilitation, surrealism

No, I have not read Quitters, Inc., the book on which this is based. I know I may not like No Smoking the day I read, for my experience says movies rarely live up to the books. It is also Kashyap’s greatest movie by a distance — of course, this is a personal opinion.

No Smoking is (I am trying my best to stay away from spoilers here) a journey of the soul. Even if the movie had fallen flat on its face, it would have been remembered as a remarkable effort. But No Smoking emerged a great success — albeit not commercially: I remember watching it in a near-empty multiplex and people walking out at random moments, never to return.

Kashyap made No Smoking years before his bigger hits. Exactly why John was cast for this movie is not very clear, but to be fair, he looked perfectly convincing. He could have had a more impressive career had he chosen his directors and scripts more wisely, you know.

1. Jewel Thief (1967)
Director: Vijay Anand
Cast: Dev Anand, Ashok Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Tanuja
Plot keywords: Doppelgangers, mistaken identities, plots and subplots, and obviously jewel theft (s).

I know people for whom Jewel Thief is “the movie with songs on the B-side of Guide”. Even if one removes the English-name criterion, it is difficult to find a Bollywood thriller at par with Jewel Thief.

I do not even know where to begin. The scenery? SD Burman’s magic? The background score that never lets the pace drop? The performances? The script? The concepts? The many, many twists that leave you hanging despite its three-hour length?

I am itching to go on for hours, but how does one do that without giving plot points away?

Jewel Thief turns fifty this year. If you have not watched it, do. Yes, they used to make movies like that here.

Note:

The exclusion of Red Rose was deliberate. It was a poor effort by any standards, but hey, all that can be forgiven for this one song.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

That thirtieth word


The Supremo hesitated: will this really be worth the promise?

Of course, they had guaranteed, the organisation, that ancient behemoth that has been churning out those nameless nymphs since the beginning of time.

No, these are not your ordinary women. The organisation is right in charging over a hundred times than any of its competitors, for they do not produce them by the dozen: every woman who graduates from there emerges an artist of the highest order.

They are not merely mounds of flesh smeared with cosmetics from obscure shops in Europe that provide discounts round the year. They are different, for they know.

They know what men want. They know what Man wants.

This one is no different. He knew that she knew from the moment he set eyes on her and she set eyes on him and they set eyes on each other.

She was yet another of them: every step, every word, everything was measured. She knew exactly what she was doing.

A shiver ran down his spine when she ran a finger up his wrist.

Will this really be worth the promise?

The Supremo had used their service before. He had never left a single cent unpaid. But this… this…

It was really not much, if he thought about that — what they were asking for. But then, even if it did not sound harmful, this was nothing short of blackmail…

***

“Please read out the instructions, Mr Supremo, Sir.”

“Fine. You will have the finest employee from our organisation. She will fulfil every need of yours for exactly four hours, no more, no less. Of course, as per norms, you will pay her the full amount in cash when she leaves.”

“But there is something below that…”

“Yes, Mr Supremo. We have an extra clause this time.”

“But…”

“Please read it, Mr Supremo, Sir.”

“There will be a tab on the words she speaks, as always, for security reasons. The tape will be erased once she reaches us. However… wait, what?”

“Please go on, Mr Supremo. I can assure you there is no typographical error.”

“You will have to add the thirtieth word she utters at the end of your next political message… what? Why?”

“We have our reasons, Mr Supremo. However, our representative is outside your door. If you want her to return, that can be arranged for.”

“No, wait: what if I do not keep my word once I am through?”

“You are a man of honour and reputation, Mr Supremo. It will not do your image much good if one or more of our representatives reveal the darkest aspects of your life hitherto unknown to your subjects.”

“But, but… this is blackmail!”

“Please do not use these words, Mr Supremo, Sir.”

***

The entire telephonic conversation echoed in The Supremo’s ears. The thirtieth word: why the thirtieth? Why not the twenty-ninth or the thirty-first?

She understood. She smiled. It was that kind of smile — one that makes a man burn down kingdoms, set fire to the world, worse, perhaps…

“Please do not be anxious, Mr Supremo, Sir. The word count will be maintained automatically. The thirtieth word will be printed out from this little device on my bracelet,” she pointed at a small black rectangle on the platinum surface with a smile before kneeling in front of him.

Did these words count? Goodness, why did he not keep a tab?

She saw him go rigid, deep in thought. She looked up. She knew. She nodded.

Why did I not keep a tab?

But his thoughts got immersed as he got engulfed in the familiar unfamiliarity of heaven and hell and earth and rain and sun and moon and day and night and fire. He lived and died many a time, a slave to her immense skills and charm, all the time remaining vaguely aware of her knees somewhere close to his toes yet somewhere far, far away…

The thirtieth word…

It seemed a phrase from a conversation in another world in another life as he surrendered helplessly to her complete mastery. He knew and then he did not and then knew again and then it went on…

And then she relented. He felt wobbly. He needed something to hold on to, something to cling on to… he kneeled to reach out for that cascade of hair…

She spluttered and collapsed as he found ecstasy. 

And as he sank back into the couch, he heard a whirr; a small, almost minuscule piece of paper was emerging from that forgotten black rectangle on her bracelet.

And as she recovered and got to her feet, her eyes an amalgamation of pride and guilt, The Supremo tore away the piece of paper.

The print was so small that The Supremo had to squint. He muttered it once, twice, thrice in an almost inaudible voice before looking up to the woman with the obvious question: “What the hell is covfefe supposed to mean?”

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Towel Day is back!


There is not much to say here, mostly because I have whiled away a year doing no writing, mostly because of the whooshing sounds those deadlines made as they flew by.

Of course, I tried. I tried as hard as Electric Monks on bored horses do on rocky promontories; or perhaps harder.

I admit that I did not sit on a Chesterfield sofa this year; or ever. My only trip to Lord’s was ages back. And it is extremely unlikely that I will ever combine the two.

I tried to acquire a relevant towel this year but could not find any, so I guess I have to do with a regular one; maybe in 2018. I tried, of course.

I tried to solve this. I even tried just potatoes, and at times, unjust potatoes. Nothing worked.

I know this is a matter of gravity, but I whiled away my time thinking about cat-flaps. Mostly cat-flaps.

Of course, I did not hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, let alone win through.

But I do know where my towel is.


Have an awesome day.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A book you ought to buy; and read

The sequence of events is somewhat like this.

I once wrote a short story. It was not really Maupassantesque, but I have written worse.

Some nice people at Writersmelon thought it was worth printing. Their awesomeness did not end there. They thought the same for a lot of other cool writers who penned down some beautiful stories.

So they made an anthology called Jukebox.

As a direct result, you will get to do what you have always wanted to: read something I wrote in print.

But the fun does not end here. The best bit is perhaps the fact that you do not have to sell a kidney for this; or even a kidney bean.

Okay, maybe a few kidney beans, but 220 rupees is perhaps as cheap as you can get for this amazing anthology.

If you do not believe me, check here, on amazon. Buy it. It costs less than a multiplex ticket or random McDonald's meals.

Buy it for the sake of literature. Buy it for us. Buy it for you.

Most importantly, give me the chance to sign a book.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

চোরপুলিশ


অনেক, অনেককাল আগের কথা। ‘আবার যখের ধন’ নয়, তারও আগে, বোধহয় ‘তেরো পার্বণ’এর সময়কার। তখনও আমি ঐসব ব্যাপার কিছু বুঝতাম-টুঝতাম না। মন দিয়ে পড়াশুনো করতাম, গল্পের বইটই পড়তাম, হয়ত শরৎচন্দ্রও পড়তাম।

এটা সেই যুগের কথা, যখন বাবা-মা অম্লানবদনে “এই ক’টা বছর তো, তারপর বড় হলে দেখবি, কত মজা” জাতীয় ঢপ্‌ দিত, আর আমি মূর্খের মত হজম করতাম। যাক্‌গে।

তখন একটা খেলা চলত বাজারে। জানি না এখনও চলে কিনা। একটা কাগজ চারটুকরো করে (বা চারটে ছোট কাগজের টুকরো নিয়ে) তাতে লিখতে হত ‘বাবু’, ‘চোর’, ‘ডাকাত’, আর ‘পুলিশ’।

চারজনে খেলতে হত। কন্সেপ্টটা মোটামুটি মনে আছে। চারজন গোল হয়ে বসত, আর কাগজের টুকরোগুলো মাঝখানে ছুঁড়ে দিত। সবাই র‍্যান্ডমলি তুলত।

‘বাবু’ আর ‘পুলিশ’কে জানাতে হত তারা কারা। তারপর ‘বাবু’ ‘পুলিশ’কে বলতে বলত কে ‘চোর’ আর কে ‘ডাকাত’। যদ্দূর মনে পড়ছে এটা বলতে পারলে ‘পুলিশ’ দেড়শো পেত; আর ভুল বললে ‘ডাকাত’ একশো আর ‘চোর’ পঞ্চাশ। ধরা না পড়লে ডাকাতিবিদ্যা সম্ববতঃ মহত্তর বিদ্যা।

সে যাক্‌। ‘পুলিশ’ ঠিক বলুক বা ভুল, তিনজনে মিলে পেত দেড়শো। এই অবধি ঠিক ছিল।

সমস্যা হল, ‘বাবু’ পেত দুশো জাতীয় কিছু একটা। তিনশোও হতে পারে। বা পঁচিশ। বা পাঁচ। বা এক কোটি। তাতে গল্পটা বদলাবে না।

না, এটাও সমস্যা নয়, কারণ ঘুরিয়েফিরিয়ে সবার ভাগ্যেই বাবুগিরি জুটত। তখন লার্জ স্যাম্পল বুঝতাম না, কিন্তু লং রানে এগুলো ম্যাটার করত না।

এইভাবে চুরি-ডাকাতি-বাবুয়ানি-গ্রেপ্তার করে দিন কাটছিল। মুশকিল হল, একদিন মোটে তিনজন ছিলাম। আমি যথারীতি খেলতে চাইলাম (এই বোকা-বোকা খেলাটার প্রতি এত নেশা ছিল কেন আমার?), কিন্তু বাকি দু’জন রীতিমত মুখঝামটা দিয়ে উঠলঃ “তিনজনে চোরপুলিশ খেলা যায় না।”

“কিন্তু ‘বাবু’র তো কোনও ভূমিকা নেই। না থাকলেও তো খেলাটা দিব্যি এগোবে। পুলিশ পুলিশের কাজ করবে। ঘুরেফিরে তো সেই দেড়শো-শূন্য-শূন্য বা শূন্য-একশো-পঞ্চাশ।”

কিন্তু ওরা অনড়। চারজনের কমে চোরপুলিশ খেলা যায় না। চারজনের বেশি হলে হয়ত হতে পারে (বাটপাড়-হানাদার-ঠ্যাঙাড়ে জাতীয় চরিত্র লাগত হয়ত), কিন্তু বাবু ছাড়া অসম্ভব।

এই সামান্য জিনিসটা কেন সেদিন বোঝাতে পারিনি জানি না। হয়ত আমার বোঝানোর টেকনিকে ভুল ছিল। বা হয়ত ওরা বোকা।

আজ বুঝি যে আমিই বোকা ছিলাম।


কিচ্ছু না করে পায়ের ওপর পা তুলে বসে স্রেফ ক্ষমতা জাহির করে অন্যকে হুকুম করে দিনের শেষে রোজগার করার প্রতি বাঙালির অদম্য স্বপ্নকে আন্ডারএস্টিমেট করেছিলাম।

Monday, March 13, 2017

Holi etc


I used to be an enthusiastic Holi (they call it Dol in my part of the world) player, if that is a word.  

Note: I know Dol is typically the day preceding Holi as per lunar calendar and other similar mysterious calculations.

But that was till fourteen or so. Then I got bored and opted for a voluntary retirement.

Unfortunately, the world refused to accept my resignation. For some reason they were under the impression that I was feigning reluctance to join the party and was acting ‘pricey’.

As a result I spent the second half of my teens getting dragged into colour-fests. For some reason they refused to believe that people can be interested in staying away from colourful festivals.

Dear friends, you did not do me a favour by dragging me into Holi. You never did. You made me do something that you thought was fun and assumed it would be fun for me, too.

No, I hated every moment of it, in case you are reading this. I do not swear, but I there are times I want to.

Yes, my unwillingness to be a part of Holi was unusual — not because it was right or wrong, but because very few stayed away from it.

However, I never forced you to play, and to this day I cannot fathom why you wanted to force me.

I could not protest, since I was small, and had let myself be bullied. I was not part of a gang. You were. You held the power. You had forced me to do something I never wanted to.

I sound bitter. I know I do. But hey, you took my days away, once a year. That is a lot of days that could have been spent reading.

You cannot make me play now unless you threaten me with something serious. Yes, I raise my voice, but I am also meek by nature. If you gang up against me I will cave in the same way I did.

It will be more difficult, of course.

It is easier to bully little boys than men.

It is also more lucrative to force women to play Holi, for that gives men ample opportunity to grope them in full public view and get away.

Yes, it is easier to bully children and more lucrative to force the female.

Now combine the two.

Let that sink in.

Happy Holi.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Yeah, it is February again...

Photo courtesy: Siddharth Nair's blog (I will remove this if there is a copyright issue; just do not sue me)
Long, long ago, in a land far, far away there was a city called Calcutta, the city they called The City of Joy for reasons only known to them.

Unfortunately, she languishes on her deathbed.

There used to be a lion of a man a century back, a man who growth in stature was matched only by his beard. He left the city in a coma from which she is unlikely to recover.

There were others. Calcutta had her share of geniuses, of the most remarkable of minds.

There was that man who had donned orange to win over America years before Trump.

Or that towering ray of light who made sure generations of Bengalis were born with a silver screen.

There have been many, many of them, too many to list in a blog too obligatory and insignificant.

Do read the last few paragraphs. Do note the tense.

The end is nigh. It may take another fifty years, but not much beyond, for she has refused to evolve. In a futile effort to imitate some of the greatest cities in the world she has lost her originality, her magic.

There is no Calcutta anymore. There is not even a Kolkata. The monstrosities of concrete do not make up a city.

People do.

And people refused to remain Calcutta. They wanted to stay in Calcutta, but not become the city anymore.

The city is dying, as is the language, for the language has not produced a single icon over decades — an icon who can inspire generations to become proud of Bangla.

***

Navi Mumbai does not have winters, though the locals put up a woollen façade when the temperature stutters on either side of the 20°C-mark.

Even the Januarys are warm. That suits me perfectly — provided I attempt the heinous act of leaving my apartment on weekends. Air-conditioned offices make weather redundant.

No, I am not the kind of person who cares about weather. The entire concept of summers and winters (and worse, monsoon) may appeal to most, but I choose to remain happily agnostic.

But then, there are those nocturnal walks. I prefer to walk back from work, even after midnight. It helps me feel less guilty about my porcine diet.

I do not miss Kolkata during these walks. I am too preoccupied to. If I am not preoccupied, it is probably because I am too exhausted.

I do not miss the lazy bustle of College Street during these walks; or the first tram across the maidan; or devilled crabs; or the sheer concept of every passerby talking in Bangla — a language fifty years away from extinction, and yet, my language.

Or women who refuse to look anything but the prettiest in yellow sarees on you-know-which-day.

My language. My city. Dying, decaying, rotting away as I wait like an imbecile for the inevitable to happen.

No, I do not think of that city. I do not think of this one, either: smart-phones are way more interesting.

Then it happens, on a warm, windless night. This is my fourth year in this city, and it has never failed to happen.

That prickling feeling on the back. That final tussle of the year between an annoyed, impatient summer and a helpless, vulnerable non-summer that takes part in this part of the world at this time of the year.

That first bead of sweat of the year. Right month, wrong city.

This is that month when all cities are reduced to nothingness and bow down to Kolkata, my city, perhaps not decaying as rapidly after all.

Perhaps she still smiles.

Perhaps she still sighs every time I wish bid her farewell.

No, gigantic slabs of concrete and steel do not make a city. But people do not make her, either.

February makes Kolkata. And Kolkata makes February.


And together, between them, they made me. And this blog. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

On your thirteenth

It is that time of the year, little one. Hang on, is the word ‘little’ applicable anymore when you become a teenager?

Indeed, I cannot believe it has been almost thirteen years since a little someone in a pink blanket had accompanied me in a car from the hospital.

It seemed only yesterday, the greatest cliché-writers would say.

I cannot believe it has been almost thirteen years since I had taken two, maybe three steps at a time to carry out every instruction of the doctor.

It was a cold winter. It remains the coldest Kolkata winter in my memory. The rooms at the hospital were air-conditioned, but what if you needed more blankets?

I remember the first time you took the school bus. I had followed the bus all the way in a car. I think you saw me, us; you may not have, too.

I could not have not gone (I know the sentence is grammatically wrong).

I know of people who do not like their little ones growing up. That day, inside the car, en route your school, was the first time I had realised that I cannot afford to do that. I needed to accept you were growing up; and would grow up into someone so wonderful that… er, what are the clichés your generation uses?

Thirteen. Thirteen. You are thirteen years old.

Someone had told me at some point of time that twenty-five years is the equivalent of a generation; as a result, the concept of ‘generation gap’ occurs between people separated by a time span of that duration.

Internet has somehow crammed that gap inside a decade.

Ten years make a generation now. Twenty-five years are more than two generations. Your generation is ahead of ours twice as much as I am ahead of our parents’.

I am sometimes scared that by the time I bridge that gap you will move so ahead that I will even lose sight of you — if I already have not, that is.

But I am digressing, as is often the case with old men.

Thirteen.

Time has hardened me, little one. Life has stopped me, time and again, from turning into a wuss. Those kicks in the shin have been necessary to keep me going.

How else do you think I am holding back this post, this whatever-it-is-that-I-am-writing on the day you became a teenager, from becoming one soaked in the most blatant, uninhibited displays of emotion?

What do I ask of life? What do I ask for you? Do I want life to make you time-hardened as well? Or do I beg of life to keep you away from all that will harden you?

Do I become the father who will want you to face and conquer life? Or do I become one that vows to shield you from it?

That, little one, is one dilemma (among others) that has haunted me since the day I had followed that school bus. I try not to think about it, but the thought keeps coming back.

See? I have swayed again. This one was supposed to be about you, not an old man’s ramblings.

This one was supposed to be about Doraemon melting into Percy Jackson at some point of time.

This one was supposed to be about me forgetting completely about my aching arms and still holding you even after you had fallen asleep.

This one was supposed to be about that helpless attempt to explain why a Pikesville boy used to prefer Becky Thatcher to Amy Lawrence. How does one explain romance to a six-year-old?

This is getting tedious, is it not? I guess it is, but then, nobody stumbles across my blog anymore. Even I do not.

We will meet, somewhere, somehow, somewhen; and we will meet soon. I cannot tell for you, but it will be the same for me as that pink-blanket day. It has always been the same.

Meanwhile, just reach out if you want to. You have my number. I have been a sub-par father, but many have complimented me on my ability to understand them.

They will hug and kiss each other tonight — at odd hours, if you take the time zones into consideration (that is the kind of technical specification both of us have always enjoyed, much to the chagrin of others) to celebrate 2017.

Whether they will cherish 2017 forever is something I mostly do not care about, but you have an awesome thirteenth, little one.

Live your teens. Never let them gnaw into you. 

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