A woman with the potential to make it big. It is not that she cannot: she simply will not.
The closest anyone has come to being an adopted daughter.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Random geographical puns

It all started with a few harmless tweets, making puns about random places on the third planet of the Solar System. Then Tanmay (yes, Bongpen) insisted I make a blog post out of them. I gave it some thought, then obliged.

He also suggested I split them by continents or countries or whatever. I tried, but there were some that spanned multiple regions, so I decided to choose them randomly.


Most puns involve at least one of English and Hindi. Since I am proficient in neither, do not blame the places if the puns are terrible. Blame me instead.

At some point of time in my life I was obsessed with capitals of countries, and knew a chunk of them (about 90 per cent) by heart. Do not lose heart if you hit a dead end, for I love capital connections.

A working knowledge of geography will make things easy.


I take this opportunity to dedicate this blog post to my unfortunate geography teachers at school. Poor souls.


Fever. More fever. Bucharest.

Nicobar is surrounded by water and a man.

Gujarati mom: I'm a Fidel Castro fan.
Gujarati son: Cuba?

They should've renamed Bombay to Stockholm, not Mumbai.

Nero watched Rome burn. Yash Chopra roamed in Berne.

Garlands are not used in Kohima.

Pub locks in Burkina Faso are wonderful. The keys never get stuck.

Despite the violence she has witnessed, Warsaw has a nice Polish about her.

To... tu ne ek Thai ladki Pattaya?

Bathing isn't free in Peshawar.

Rivers can be Seine in France.

Romania has a water boundary, but how will they cross it?

Angela Morant, Alison Sutcliffe, Alexandra Christmann, and Daniela Lavender all went to Benin.

Czechs love to mate.

Even if malaria and dengue prevailed in Ecuador, The Rolling Stones never caught it.

Legal advice is charitable in Khartoum.

Sanity prevails in Madrid.

In Part 1, Savita Bhabhi met a Belgian.

Occidental oxen vs Istanbul.

In North Korea, do they urinate on Yin as well?

Before Ajit Tendulkar and Snehashish Ganguly, there was Azerbaijan.

Of all Chinese cities, the capital is at the top of Peking order.

Korean horror movies are nothing but dhania.

Go to Philippines if you need acupuncture. Go to Manila if you want to get paid for it.

Luxembourg is where the secret of film-stars aim for tennis stars. 

Going to Tirana will take you close to Jessica Alba.

Are fundamentalists really planning to settle in Macau?

The Dalai Lama puts his money on golf encounters.

Underwater cars are popular in Kargil.

Beirut does not appear in GPS.

You need to sell your soul to get into Peru.

Ménage à trois is common in Dublin.

Two friends decided to write poems on eggs. One wrote verses on the white part. The other became a Yorkshire.

Munro couldn't sing at Nagasaki.

Hum Japan jaayen bhi Tokyo jaayen?

Egyptian Sun in an Indian sky. Welcome to Eritrea.

Slovakians find ill-behaved children extremely hot.

The North vs South rift is so strong in the US that they were forced to have reservations: North Dakota and South Dakota.

Mothers exist no more in Tanzania.

Serious about six-sigma? Move to Armenia.

There is a perpetual demand for local area network in Orlando.

Darjeeling is full of tailored sex organs.

In Nasik, unlike in Mexico, they don't need doctors.

The King's Speech was shot in Rajkot.

Even lead actors cannot exceed Hiroshima.

Tansen's malhar was also known as Singapore.

Shimla roothi, par sab ne Manali.

Thank goodness Finns can swim on land. They would have been sinking in Hell otherwise.

Sirf jism se kya hoga? I need Daman! It's Diu.

Out of bank balance, but still need an automobile? Go to Africa.

Managers stalk employees in Bosnia.

Suffering from asphyxiation? Go to Texas.

As far as capitals go, Bulgaria is the cause; Egypt, the effect.

In Qatar, they stand in a queue for Kabir. In Kuwait they do it anyway.

Togolese have non-digital feet.

In Norway, even dehydrated soup makes you fat.

They know how Tuvalu things in Funafuti.

Where do I find Port of Spain?

In Oslo, there is neither will...

Molluscs and crustaceans speak in Seychelles.

They will call you a lunatic if you look for NGVs in Madagascar.

When will Dominica happen? Domino’s.


Some puns, unfortunately, are Bengali-only.

Murder is a piece of cake in the Kyrgyzstan.

Between them, Germany and China have managed to conquer greed for money.

Erectile dysfunction is a serious problem in Lesotho.

Moon Moon Sen lost a daughter in Nigeria.

Finally, some good Indian coffee. At Brunei, that is.

Lebanon? L. E.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bajirao Mastani: A letter to Sanjay Leela Bhansali (includes spoilers)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Mumbai (possibly)

Dear Sir:

I paid to watch Bajirao Mastani today. Paid. I paid my hard-earned money. I did not wait for the pirated version to come out, for I thought Bajirao Mastani ought to be watched on the big screen.

This, after all, was supposed to be a magnum opus; a period drama that would stand the test of time; a welcome break from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas, movies that revolved around mush, chandeliers, mirrors, plenty of songs, women in colourful clothes, and extremely slow-paced storylines.

As expected, this was remarkably different, for this, was, well, mostly about mush, chandeliers, mirrors, plenty of songs, women in colourful clothes, and an extremely slow-paced storyline.

It could well have been another Devdas, for it even had a song (Pinga), featuring the two lead Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone, one of the lead singers of the song being Shreya Ghoshal. The women were, of course, evenly matched, unlike dola re dola, where you had pitted a mannequin against a legend.

Fortunately for you, there was Tanvi Azmi to save the day. Someone had to stop Bajirao Mastani from being worse than Saawariya. Someone had to stop it from being your worst movie, and she did whatever she could, proving how underutilised she had been all these years.

You deserve credit for casting her, and I give you that. You also deserve full credits for reminding the world that Raza Murad still exists. Accolades should also go to Ranveer Singh, for he has surpassed himself in the movie (which is not saying a lot).

You know you are not Rajamouli. Nobody is Rajamouli. Good Indian period movies, especially ones involving battles, do not exist. Hence you decided to devote 20 minutes of your three-hour yawnathon to actual war.

The problem was, the protagonist was Bajirao, not Devdas: and though Bajirao was usually the master-planner, he often rode to War himself. We could have done with some of that. But then, I assumed too much. I thought you were actually working on something serious on Bajirao. How wrong I was.

I am aware that this is a romantic movie (after all, it is called Bajirao Mastani, not Bajirao). But then, the lead character is not Romeo or Majnu or (insert random romantic character). This is Bajirao we are talking about. The greatest of all Bhat Peshwas, Bajirao was, unfortunately for you, no ordinary character.

I will not bore you with facts about Bajirao. I’m sure your team had done a thorough research on one of India’s greatest sons. To make sure that nothing goes wrong, you have also put a facts-may-have-been-altered disclaimer in the beginning of the movie.

Now that I think of it, you had to put that disclaimer there. You would have been ripped apart by a lot of people for inaccuracy (why, even the descendants of Bajirao and Mastani have slammed you!), but I will not go into all that.

I will not go into the fact that Mastani went to war with her hair loose.

I will not go into the fact that Kashibai got to watch live telecast of Bajirao and Mastani in each other’s arms on a screen (after all, there is no proof that she didn’t) in the 1720s.

I will not go into the fact Bajirao has an inexplicable tendency to walk on water throughout the movie (something Kashibai picked up later).

I will not go into the fact that Kashibai displays her waist with aplomb, something unthinkable, given her social status, the era, and the family.

I will not go into the fact that Bajirao actually sang a song that went dushman ki dekho jo vaat laavli in the 1730s.

I will not go into the fact that Bajirao uses the dandpatta with the efficiency of a Jedi brandishing a lightsabre; he actually deflects about a hundred simultaneous arrows (or thereabouts) without a shield, for I know you had to match Star Wars.

I will not add to the Pinga controversy (Google it).

I will do nothing of the sort.

All I want to tell you that it is a terrible movie. Of course, you are free to make any movie. It was not your fault that I fell victim to the hype.

But here is a humble request: stick to Devdas. Leave our heroes alone.


Yours faithfully,

Someone who still cares for Bollywood.

Watch Mughal-e-Azam if you have not. There is a reason people call it a wonderful movie.

Watch Bahubali as well. It has its faults, but you may learn a thing or two on how to make movies on war heroes, real or otherwise.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Chronicler of the Undead: WTF, bizarre, and likeable

The acronym WTF is not a part of my daily vocabulary. However, I could not help but use it to describe Chronicler of the Undead, mostly for lack of words. To call the book good or bad will be an injustice to either word: once again, for lack of words, I will go with wacky.

Let me give the basic storyline, without giving away spoilers. The book revolves around a zombie apocalypse (a genre somewhat unexplored in India) in Gangtok with a sole survivor.

What stands out in Chronicler of the Undead is the psychological transformation of the protagonist throughout the book: it starts with the basic instinct of survival (which will probably come to me in the unlikeliest event of a zombie apocalypse) before venturing into other psychological aspects, not necessarily dark.

The first few chapters (small ones, may I assure you) oscillate between past and present. We get a peek into the background of our hero, of his days in the Army and his ability to success and failure during his military days, and his buried ambition of becoming a writer.

The plotline then deviates, and I must stop here for fear of giving away spoilers. All I can say is that the location of Gangtok, both topographical and political, is extremely crucial in the story.

In the end, of course, like most books where Man is pitted against non-Man (nature or otherwise), it comes down to survival; and the choice between survival and humanity; and the choices made to fulfil the goal.

The book is fast-paced. The book is split into small chapters (sometimes less than a page). It is perfectly believable, for every chapter represents a journal entry, though exactly why someone would keep a journal during a zombie apocalypse is, despite the explanation, somewhat inconceivable.

The small chapters should have made it easy to keep the book aside for a night’s sleep, but there is something about Mainak Dhar’s style that makes you keep turning the pages until you realise you are almost through.

The other aspect is the author’s sense of humour, which, again, is weird and unusual. There are moments when you feel it is too light a tone, but then, more often than not do you find yourself smiling and nodding without realising that you are doing the same.

All in all, it is worth a buy. Do not expect a path-breaking horror book. However, do expect a zombie book full of gore, but handed with a touch of delicacy so subtle that you chuckle when you are not supposed to.

Why did I review this, then? As I mentioned, Chronicler of the Undead is extremely WTF in a likeable sort of way.

I guess I will pick up Dhar’s bestselling Alice in Deadland trilogy, after all. If it is anywhere close to this bizarre, the money will not be wasted.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why Uncle Vernon was always in a foul mood

This is something that has always haunted me. Petunia had a reason to envy her sister. Dudley was mollycoddled till he saw reason. Aunt Marge was a bully by nature. But Vernon?

Vernon was successful in life who did not believe in magic. There is nothing wrong with that. He loved his wife and son, and for whatever wrong he did to Harry, he actually gave him shelter. The only time he wanted him out of the house was, well, when Dudley accused Harry of assault.

All that does not sound too abnormal.

He even kept up with Dudley’s tantrums, and deserves credit for that.

He was successful in his career. The word ‘success’ was drilled into his mind for good.

He had a happy home, and had sort of accepted Harry as an unacceptable yet inevitable part of it.

He disliked loud clothes, but then, a lot of people do that.

In short, Vernon was happy with his life.

He had no business remaining annoyed. Why, then, was he in a perpetually sour mood?

I had given this some serious thought. Then, as the trailer of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them came out, I thought about the series again — till it dawned on me.

And hit me hard.

See what I meant? No? Read that last line again:

He was in a very good mood until lunchtime, when he thought he’d stretch his legs and walk across the road to buy himself a bun from the bakery.

Still don’t get it?



Saturday, December 5, 2015

রাজকাহিনী-নির্বাক রিভিউ (প্রচুর স্পয়লর-সমেত)

দুটো সিনেমা নিয়ে লিখতে বসলে আলাদা-আলাদাভাবে লেখাই দস্তুর। ইন ফ্যাক্ট, ‘নির্বাকআর রাজকাহিনীদুটোই সৃজিতের সিনেমা, এছাড়া আর বিশেষ মিল নেই। কিন্তু দুবার লেখার থেকে একবার লেখা সহজ, অতএব...

ডিস্ক্‌লেমরঃ ১৯৪৭এ রবীন্দ্র-নজরুল সন্ধ্যা হত কিনা আমাকে অনেকে জিজ্ঞেস করেছে। মাইরি বলছি, জানি না।

রাজকাহিনীর কথা বলি। ট্রেলর দেখে রাজকাহিনীর ব্যাপারে একটা ভালরকম প্রত্যাশা তৈরি হয়েছিল, তারপর ফেসবুক জুড়ে মারমারকাটকাট সব রিভিউ। অব্‌ভিয়সলি দেখার একটা ডেসপারেট ইচ্ছে ছিল, বিশেষতঃ যেখানে শেষ দুটো সিনেমা জাতিস্মরআর চতুষ্কোণ

আগে ঋতুপর্ণার ব্যাপারটা সেরে নিই। আমি বরাবর ঋতুপর্ণার ভক্ত, নব্বইয়ের দশকেও ছিলাম, সেই তীসরা কওনএর সময় থেকে। আমি বরাবর বলে এসেছি, বাংলা বাণিজ্যিক সিনেমার অন্ধকার যুগে (১৯৯২ থেকে, ধরা যাক্‌, ২০০০?) ইন্ডাস্ট্রিকে ঋতুপর্ণা একা হাতে টেনেছিলেন। স্ক্রিপ্টের খাতিরে অভিনয় কম্প্রোমাইজ করতে হয়েছিল, কিন্তু প্রতিভা বরাবরই ছিল, দেবশ্রী-শতাব্দীর থেকে বেশিই। দহন’, ‘মন্দ মেয়ের উপাখ্যান’, বা পারমিতার একদিননয়ত হত না।

মুশকিল হল, যতদিনে বাংলা বাণিজ্যিক সিনেমা আবার ঘুরে দাঁড়াতে শুরু করেছে, পরবর্তী প্রজন্ম এসে গেছে; ফলে ঋতুপর্ণার বাজার পড়তে শুরু করেছে। ততদিনে ঋতুপর্ণার বয়স হয়েছে, টাইপকাস্ট হতে শুরু করেছেন বিবাহিতা, উচ্চবিত্ত বা উচ্চমধ্যবিত্তের ভূমিকায়। কিন্তু দক্ষতা কমেনি, কারণ প্রতিভা কমে না।

অপেক্ষা ছিল একটা রোলের, একটা চিত্রনাট্যের। সেটাই বেগমজান। রাজকাহিনীতে আর কে কী কী করবে জানি না, কিন্তু কয়েকটা পুরষ্কার বাঁধা।

এর খানিকটা কৃতিত্ব অবশ্যই সৃজিতেরও, কারণ বাইশে শ্রাবণএ গৌতম ঘোষ, ‘চতুষ্কোণএ চিরঞ্জিতের এক্সপেরিমেন্ট করার আইডিয়া ওরই। বেগমজান অনায়াসে হতে পারতেন বম্বের কেউ, শাবানা (অবিশ্যি শ্যাম বেনেগল মণ্ডিতে আগেই শাবানাকে নিয়েছিলেন, নিলে সমালোচনা অবশ্যম্ভাবী ছিল) হলে তো কথাই ছিল না। কিন্তু সৃজিৎ ঋতুপর্ণাকে ব্যাক করেছে, আর ফ্যাস্‌ফ্যাসে গলা সত্ত্বেও স্রেফ অভিনয়ের জোরে ব্যাপারটা উৎরে গেছে।

বাকিদের কথা বলতে গেলে তো পুরুষদের কথা বলতে হয়, কারণ কোঠাবাড়িতে বেগমজান ছাড়া আর কোনও ত্রিমাত্রিক চরিত্র নেই। শাশ্বত-কৌশিক-রুদ্রনীল-কাঞ্চন-যীশুর মধ্যে একজনকে বাছা বেশ কঠিন। শাশ্বত-কৌশিকের দৃশ্যে সংলাপ, আলো, আবহ কোঠাবাড়ির বিশৃঙ্খলার সঙ্গে অদ্ভুত সুন্দর কন্ট্রাস্ট। দুজনেই অসাধারণ, নিজেদের স্মৃতি আর ঘৃণা মিশিয়ে। পুরো সিনেমা জুড়ে, আর বিশেষতঃ নিজেদের শেষ দৃশ্যে রুদ্রনীল, কাঞ্চন দুজনেই অনবদ্য।

কিন্তু যীশুর কথা আলাদাভাবে বলতেই হবে। মেকআপ বিশেষ ভাল নয় (পরচুলা জাস্ট বোঝা গেছে, অস্বস্তি হচ্ছিল), কিন্তু অভিনয়ে পুষিয়ে গেছে। আমি যীশুর ভক্ত ছিলাম না কখনও, কিন্তু নিজেকে ভেঙে, ঐ ঠাণ্ডা নির্মম দৃষ্টিতে, মাপা সংলাপ, হাঁটাচলা, সব মিলিয়ে এটা নিঃসন্দেহে যীশুর শ্রেষ্ঠ পার্ফর্মেন্স।

অনেকের কোঠাবাড়ির নানান্‌ দৃশ্য অস্বাভাবিক লেগেছে, কিন্তু কেন? অনেকে বলেছে, বাংলার ঐ অঞ্চলে রুক্ষ জমি নেই; হক্‌ কথা। জিজ্ঞেস করেছে, কোঠাবাড়িতে ঠাম্মার ভূমিকা কী? কেন তার আশেপাশে বসতি নেই? বসতি ছাড়া ওদের খদ্দের জোটে কীভাবে? গ্রামকে গ্রাম উচ্ছেদ হয়ে যাচ্ছে, ব্যবসায় ভাঁটা অনিবার্য জেনেও কেন ওরা থাকতে চায়?

এর উত্তরও সিনেমাতেই আছে। কোঠাবাড়ি, বেগমজানের ‘আশিয়ানাতো একটা আস্ত দেশ! স্বাধীনতা চায়, নিজেদের মত বাঁচতে চায়, এইর'ম একটা আস্ত দেশ, ছোট্ট, নগণ্য হলেও দেশ, যার নিজস্ব নিয়ম, নিজস্ব আইন আছে! এরা তো প্র্যাক্টিকাল নয়! এখানে সবাই আবেগসর্বস্ব, সবাই শুধু একসঙ্গে থাকতে, বাঁচতে চায়, উপার্জন করতে চায়!

নিজের দেশটাকে চিনতে না পারলে কী বলব? এই কোঠাবাড়ি তো একটা ছোট্ট ভারতবর্ষ!

সমস্যা হল, এই দেশটা আমরা নিজেরাও চাই। তাই নিজেদের ভিটেমাটি আঁকড়ে পড়ে থাকি, ছাড়তে চাই না, যেটুকু আছে সেটুকু সম্বল করে বাঁচতে চাইঃ এটা খামোকা অস্বাভাবিক কেন হতে যাবে?

অভিযোগ? তা আছে বৈকি। আবিরের চরিত্র বেশ অপ্রাসঙ্গিক লেগেছে, যেমন লেগেছে সমকামী দৃশ্য (কেন, সৃজিত? দেখানোর জন্য দেখানো?)। কোঠাবাড়ির চরিত্রগুলোয় আরেকটু ঢোকা যেত। রজতাভ বেশ ম্লান। আর এইরম ফ্রেমের সিনেমার শেষ দৃশ্যে যে মানের ক্লাইম্যাক্স, যে ইন্টেন্স যুদ্ধ আশা করেছিলাম, সেটা দাঁড়ায়নি, হয়ত সীমিত বাজেটের জন্য, হয়ত নিম্নমানের সিজির জন্য। কোঠাবাড়ির আগুন খুব কৃত্রিম লেগেছে।

জহরব্রতকে গৌরবান্বিত করে নারীবাদকে অপমান করেছে? তা হবে হয়ত। অতশত বুঝি না। কিন্তু, মাইরি, ‘ভারতভাগ্যবিধাতার সময় যখন গোটা হল কাঁদছিল, আমিও চাপতে পারিনি। যেমন পারিনি গায়ে কাঁটা দেওয়া আটকাতে, প্রথম দৃশ্যে; এবং আরো অনেক, অনেক দৃশ্যে।

জাতিস্মরবা চতুষ্কোণএর মত অনবদ্য সিনেমা নয় রাজকাহিনী। কিন্তু রাজকাহিনীঅসাধারণ প্রচেষ্টা, আর অত্যন্ত প্রাসঙ্গিক সিনেমা, কারণ রাজকাহিনী১৯৪৭এর সিনেমা নয়, ২০১৫রও সিনেমা। আর, বস্‌রাজকাহিনী’  ছুঁয়ে গেছে। মনে থাকবে।

যেমন মনে থাকবে বুঁচকিকে।


রাজকাহিনীঅনবদ্য সিনেমা নয়। আনলাইক নির্বাক। বড় স্ক্রীনে নির্বাকদেখার সুযোগ হল না। হয়ত হবে।

নির্বাকবেশ কয়েকটা সেগমেন্টের সিনেমা, তাই সেগমেন্ট বাই সেগমেন্ট এগোনো উচিত।

প্রথম সেগমেন্টে আসি। অঞ্জন দত্তকে হাস্যকর, বীভৎস, কদাকার, কুরুচিকর লেগেছে; জাঙিয়া-পরা অঞ্জন দত্তকে দেখার জন্য কে সিনেমা দেখতে যাবে? একবার ভাবলাম, বন্ধ করে দিই। ভাগ্যিস দিইনি।

পরে যত এগোলো, তত বুঝলাম, অঞ্জন দত্তর চরিত্রায়ণ, প্রতিটা দৃশ্য, সবকিছু ইচ্ছাকৃত। নার্সিসিজম যতটা সম্ভব নোংরাভাবে দেখানোটা উদ্দেশ্য ছিল। গা ঘিনঘিন করানোটা উদ্দেশ্য ছিল। সেটা সফল।

তারপর সিনেমা যত এগিয়েছে, তত ঢুকে গেছি সিনেমার মধ্যে। যীশু বেশ পরিমিত, সুস্মিতাকে কখনও ছাপিয়ে যাওয়ার চেষ্টা করেনি। আর ঋত্বিক, শাশ্বতকে মাথায় রেখেই বলছি, এই প্রজন্মের সেরা অভিনেতা।

কিন্তু নির্বাকএর সাফল্য অভিনয়ে নয়। সাফল্য চিত্রনাট্যে। সাফল্য রাস্তায় বসে সুস্মিতার মোনোলগে রাত ভোর হওয়ায়। সাফল্য সুস্মিতার সর্বাঙ্গে গাছের চুমুতে। সাফল্য বিঙ্গির পিওভির শটে। সাফল্য মর্গের ফুলশয্যায়। সাফল্য সিনেমা জুড়ে শারীরিকতার নানান্‌ স্তরে। সাফল্য প্রতি দৃশ্যে। সাফল্য আত্মসর্বস্বতার কদর্যে। সাফল্য লোভের নিষ্ফলতায়। সাফল্য মানুষের সীমাবদ্ধতায়। সাফল্য কলকাতার বিকেলে রাত্রে সকালে ট্র্যাফিকে পার্কে ময়দানে।

সাফল্য এক্সপেরিমেন্টে। আর সাফল্য সাফল্যে।


নাঃ, ‘রাজকাহিনীভাল; কিন্তু নির্বাকঅসাধারণ। সিনেমাটা আরও বছর দশেক পর বানাল সৃজিত। তাহলে বম্বেতে রিলিজ করা নিয়ে ভাবতে হত না।

Monday, November 2, 2015

A journey in photographs — VII

Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3  |  Part 4 |  Part 5 |  Part 6 

It has been ages since I have done a photography post, so I guess I should get back to my core strength, which involves posts with fifteen photographs, either self-clicked or nicked from others.

I have tried to provide credit wherever I could remember, but in any case I have missed out on any, please alert me.

Exhibit 1: In case this one seems a rather commonplace foil, do note the manufacturing date. Check the date on which this is published. As you may have realised, this image is beyond a serious sign.

Courtesy: Swati Sircar

Exhibit 2: I cannot recall clicking this, but I think this was somewhere in NCR. I hope their expertise stretches beyond donkey security. 

Exhibit 3: My blog readers are mostly Indian, but in case anyone is not aware, the word Brahmand translates to 'Universe'. Go figure.

Exhibit 4: Did I click this? Being in Mumbai, it is possible that I did, though once again, I do not have any memory. Something gives me the feeling that the person in charge of marketing here has got his basics wrong.

Exhibit 5: Can anyone figure out what this is all about? Do they ferry only people suffering from acute diarrhoea? Or does it go beyond that? What about emergency solutions to constipation?

Courtesy: Tanmay Mukherjee (Bongpen).

Edit: Souvik has pointed (see comments below) that Shit is a surname in Bankura. 

Exhibit 6: I had clicked this in Sanpada. I accept the fact that they paint shirts, which, as profession, is quite commonplace. What I do not get is how they snitch.

Exhibit 7: Probably on a Maharashtra highway. I know culinary tastes are changing. I know Generation Y has crossed barriers we had never dreamed of. Something, however, tells me that this is not the most popular item on the menu.

Exhibit 8: For every 98459845 vada paav outlets, Mumbai offers one Irani cafe of Parsee restaurants. In case you have no clue what I am talking about, I pity you — for a Parsee or an Irani would look at a Bengali in the eye and not look away.

Despite all that, little ghosts, probably pixies, are not common. This restaurant serves even that!

Exhibit 9: Clicked in Colaba. The person to come up with the most relevant Blockley pun will be mentioned here (it will be a rolling process).

Exhibit 10: Lions Club International, Deshapriya Park, Kolkata. I hope this does not mean what I think. There was, unfortunately, nobody to ask.

Exhibit 11: I know the suspense is killing you. Let me roughly translate this Rajjyotishi Pandit Animesh Shastri advertisement for you (do not blame me, for I did not get a chunk of this myself):
I predict only what is possible for me. If it is not possible, I inform in advance. 
This is Sunny Leone's birth-chart (insert astrological terms). Manglik. Honest. Mercury and Venus are in lucky positions. Hence, the candidate is pretty and a talented actress. (insert astrological terms) have led to candidate's excellent career graph. Sun and Mercury exist in the ninth together (?), which led to the fame of the candidate.
Whatever I do (predict), it has to be successful.

Exhibit 12: Clicked in a Bangalore mall. I have no clue what this means. Does the Kannada (presumably) text translate to gentlemen with heads? Are there headless gentlemen in Bangalore as well?

Exhibit 13: Looks like the usual 1990s advice, does it not? This is what we knew growing up. Nothing wrong with that — except, perhaps, the fact that this is printed on the back of a driving licence.

Courtesy: Anushtup Sett.

Exhibit 13: The Bengali translates to women are repaired here. Not only do both services have a touch of surrealism, they also differ in meaning. I wonder what actually goes in there.

Courtesy: Shakuntala Khan Bhaduri.

Exhibit 14: Is the sign on the auto-rickshaw in front of the one I was in legible? It says SEAT BELT ON MOBILE OFF. But then, auto-rickshaws with seat-belts...

Exhibit 15: This one, clicked at Hypercity, Vashi, deserves special mention.

This tote-bag is the one you see in Kolkata markets, especially on Sunday mornings. Sure enough, I made sure they accompanied me to Navi Mumbai as well.

The Hypercity security is instructed, as is norm with Indian supermarkets, to seal the customers' bags before they enter (both customers and bags).

So they decided to seal this one too.

I did (you have to believe this) try to elaborate on the futility of the exercise...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

My Durga Puja, 2015

I am agnostic to Durga Puja. I am not exactly opposed to it, but I believe in living and letting live. As long as Durga Puja (the first phrase I came across in my life that was abbreviated to DP, courtesy: Presidency College days) lets me live on my own, I do not have an issue with others celebrating. I can tolerate the stench of chilli sauce and stale noodles in the air for four days. It is infinitely more tolerable than the Diwali noise-pollution and people forcing you to play Holi.

But this is not about me. Neither is it about Durga Puja. It is about Dussehra, the festival where Raavan is felled: Raavan, of great valour, of ten heads (is the torso under the fifth head or the sixth?), of near-unmatched sexual prowess, of unflinching dedication to Shiva, of great musical talent — a man who simply chose to kidnap the wrong woman to avenge his wounded nymphomaniac of a sister.

But this is not about Raavan. This is about Dussehra, a festival not as big as Diwali or Holi in Mumbai, but popular nevertheless. Women (and even men) of Mumbai celebrate Navratri in colour-coded attire, one for every day.

Note: This is a remarkable phenomenon, the Navratri colour codes. This year, for example, the colours were red, navy blue, yellow, green, grey, orange, white, pink, sky blue, and purple in that order for the ten days from Pratipad to Dasami. This time there were two Pratipads and a single day for Navami and Dasami, but there were ten days nevertheless. You get the basic idea. If you do not, check this photograph from DNA.

This was Dussehra. Navi Mumbai had shut down completely (the term is subjective: a completely shut Navi Mumbai afternoon is comparable to a fully functional Kolkata afternoon). I made my way through the Vashi Station subway and found the underground passage uncharacteristically empty.

Holidays are supposed to be like that, unless you are in a media organisation.

More so if you are into sport, which knows no time.

More so if India plays South Africa at home, trailing the series 1-2 with two matches to play.

Yeah, that sums it up all right.

But no, I am digressing. I left for work an hour before the match started. I passed the railway station, walking in the sultry yet tolerable October sun of Navi Mumbai.

I almost passed the mall that has the words INOX sprawled over the top floor in humongous dark blue font.

And then I saw them. Or rather, they saw me.

A boy and a girl, in her high teens; or maybe in their low twenties.

They were not from well-to-do families. It was evident.

They were clearly out on a date on a Dussehra afternoon.

Maybe she was from a conservative family. Maybe it had taken him a lot of coaxing to sneak her out on Dussehra. Maybe she had lied that she was going out with female friends.

You know when it happens. You can tell it from their faces.

He, the emperor of the world, now that he has her by his side.

She, the empress of the world, having granted him a wish after being wooed for so long.

They, the first family of the world, for there was joy in their eyes. Their fingers were not interlinked, but the glint in the eyes was unmistakable.

I was in a hurry. So were they.

They asked me where CineMAX was. I was about to ask them to check their smartphones, but realised they did not have any.

Affordability had to do with it, but I loved to believe there was more: they were too immersed in themselves to not care about communication with the world.

I gave them vague directions using my phone. She looked back, confusion in her eyes, before looking at him. He was confused as well, but there was a smile of assurance in his eyes.

I showed him the direction on my phone. This time he understood, smiled, thanked me, and looked around for transport.

The awe in her eyes for him is a spectacle that would be with me for an eternity.

No, he could not afford to buy INOX tickets on a holiday. I knew that much. CineMAX was the inexpensive alternative.

It was the closest I came to offering a couple INOX tickets. Why not do something good for a change?

But then, it seemed so futile — for I could hardly add to his seemingly inexhaustible riches.

Kings, unlike us, do not ask for alms.

And for those few moments, that Navi Mumbai Dussehra became a Kolkata February, transcending boundaries of space and time.

And I lived my Durga Puja.