Friday, December 14, 2007

The Name Game...

The first time I had a near death experience is when my friend Harendranath Guha lunged violently for my throat after I announced to the gang that we should call him HaGu (the crude Bengali word for shit).

I thought it was a pretty smart idea and before the brain could process all the implications of bobbitising Harry’s (yes, that’s what we settled on later) name, I eagerly proposed my big idea of the day, only to see my dear friend flying through the air and wrap his cold thin fingers around my neck.

Names are a funny thing. Some people have power names, like 'Samrat Khosla' or 'Abhishek Singhania', these names exude power. Some names are intrinsically weak, like 'Khogen Das'. And some names are not even names, they are just some noise that we make …like Puru..

Then there is me – Soumava Sengupta.. a hugely tongue twisting, spit inducing name.. which over a period of time my well-wishers shortened to Shome. I am happy now..

Our film industry is going through a name crisis as we speak. Sometime, Someone named it Bollywood, and the name stuck.

It had a nice ring to it and life was good. Infact other film industries around the country and sub-continent followed the same principles of nomenclature. Tollygunj in Calcutta called itself Tollywood and the Pakistani Film industry based out of Lahore referred to itself as Lollywood…

But recently many in the filmy fraternity have been objecting to this name. The BigB once said that it was derogatory and insulting. Most of the younger lot usually say “Hindi Film Industry” or “The Indian Film Industry”. Eyebrows get raised if you use the B word in any forum or in the presence of the stars.

So Bollywood is not acceptable anymore and we have to find a new name. I propose a new name finding mission because saying “The Indian Film Industry” or ‘The Hindi Movie Industry” is a pain, and sounds more pretentious than Sushmita Sen and Simi Garehwal combined.

So what are the options?

Hmmm…. This is tough…Hollywood had it easy. That’s the name of the city and all it does is make movies, so it’s like synonymous with the US film industry. Mumbai does much more than just make movies. We can’t name the film industry after the city. So that’s one option eliminated.

I like elimination as a process of selection.

Ok here’s some freewheeling…

Mumbai-o-scope ~nah! too convoluted~
Filmistan ~nice, but it was the name of some studio~
Mayanagar ~good choice~
Mayapur ~is a 1000+ village in MP.. aaarrrggghhh~
Cine City ~cooolllll I am getting better~
Filmville ~too American… buck up Shome~
Filmpuri ~Indian, but very clumsy~
Cinestan ~hmmmm… not cool~
Mayanagar Mumbai ~has potential, needs working~

Well, basically I think we can shed this Bollywood tag if we want to. I am not in the creative line, but I know there are some really sharp people in there who can do this. So this thread is a call to action to all you creative types.

I would also yell ‘jaago’ to the film fraternity. You are the ones most affected by this and You are in the creative line. Sit together and come up with something!

For a country which prides itself on renaming stuff, we might as well pool our resources and come up with something for nee of the few places whose name almost everyone wants to change.

If anyone here has some good options, please suggest…

Who knows, the way things are going for India, we might see Hollywood renamed Hollypur soon…. Now that’s a day I will wait eagerly for.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

'Vest'ed Interest

If someone asked you, “What’s common between Sunny Deol, Salman Khan, Govinda, Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Suniel Shetty and Hrithik Roshan?”, I bet you would NEVER say ‘chuddi-banian ads’!

Now that’s a trend which escaped your roving eye isn’t it: The hosiery industry’s celebrity endorsement fixation.

The earliest recollection that I have of a celebrity in a chuddi ad is Dalip Tahil (VIP underwear). The ad featured a rather hirsute Dalip Tahil leaping off the balcony to karate chop an impudent rowdy who was trying to act smart with the leading lady (all this happened in a dream sequence of the leading lady, by the way).

The underwear in question was seen flashing from beneath the folds of his dressing gown as he leapt off the balcony (it was a bottom up shot and you really wanted to pluck your eyes out with a stick after seeing it), and in the final shot, where he brazenly displays his Rin-white underwear by guiding his gown nonchalantly away as he strikes a one-hand-on-own-hip-and-one-hand-around-lady-waist pose. I forget the punch line, but it was quite cheesy ~prize to anyone who remembers~.

The first serious threat to VIP’s undisputed mind leadership came with Rupa underwear. Rupa started roping in more main stream celebrities (sorry Mr Tahil, but you know what I mean) for their advertising. Govinda, Sanjay Dutt, and now Hrithik are all Rupa brand ambassadors.

Lux Undergarmets burst onto the scene around the early nineties and followed the same industry trend. Lux has been banking on ‘macho men’ Sunny Paaji and Anna Shetty to peddle their products. Ofcourse their iconic “Yeh andar ki baat hai” line has been the source of much mirth and double-entendres for some years now.

Most of Lux advertising shows the model doing great acts of courage and heroism in the baniyan (I guess it is assumed he is wearing Lux chuddi also).

Sample this from Lux: Anna in action. Notice the humiliating call to action from women who are watching a free style boxing match ~where are these women in real life!!??~ to the ‘cool’ comeback of Anna who, after beating the living daylights out of the baddie, puts the impudent, mocking girls in place with a “Yeh andar ki baat hai” line. Fascinating stuff…

Rupa too comes up with interesting stuff, all capped off with their long running “yeh araam ka mamla hai” line.

Sample this ad featuring Govinda.

Notice how the recent trend of giving up ones hard earned sobriquets (Binani for BigB and recently Bad Man for petrol) was actually started by Govinda by bequeathing his Hero no 1 title to Rupa!

Rupa also recently shot one of the most hi-tech ads I have ever seen with Hrithik, all to sell their new ‘Macro Man’ chuddi-baniyans. And our man is delighted with the endorsement, I quote:

I am excited to be associated with this collection. I can identify with the brand on a personal level, as it is everything that I am.

Everyone was hoping he would elaborate a bit more on what he means by that exactly. But no such luck. So I guess we are supposed to assume that he is macho outside but 'Rupa’ inside. I tell you this metrosexual wave is going to ruin all that was male and good.

Well the point of this post was to answer the question that popped up in my mind is: “Why do chuddi-banians use celebrities?”

I have a hypothesis, but would love to hear your views on the subject (Is anyone reading this???) So write in on why you think celebrities are required in chuddi-banian ads, and I will share my hypothesis, once the responses run dry….

Friday, October 26, 2007

The anti-'K' factor, or what NOT to have in your name if you want success in movies......

This is the longest title I have on my blog. Just re-emphasising how path breaking the content of this blog is.

Everyone knows the most important rule in the Hindi movie industry: “the right name will win you the game”.

It was this belief that led to everyone naming themselves ‘Kumar’ in the 60s and 70s, then came the ‘Khanna’ (Rajesh, Vinod) trend for a brief while, and ofcourse the 90s has been dominated by the ‘Khan’ magic.

Notice the dominance of the ‘K’ factor in the surnames? I bet you knew about movie and serial names having the K-fixation, but it seems that ‘K’ runs deeper than we all believed (if you still think it’s a mere coincidence, let me remind you of the ‘Kapoors”!)

But this post is not about the K-factor in the industry. Neither is it on how you could go on to become a legend if you did NOT have a ‘K’ in your name (AB, Mithun, Dev Anand…).

This post is on how you have no hope in HELL, if you HAVE a particular name!

That’s right people, I have identified the ‘anti-K’.

A name that spells doom and abject failure in Hindi movies. A name that will drag you down with its cursed weight. A name that you must avoid, if you want to be the next star of the silver screen.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the anti-K: Its BEDI!

Let me run you through the curse of Bedi:

Mandira Bedi – first movie super-duper hit, then nothing. Unless you count “Shaadi Ke Laddoo” as something.
Monica Bedi – we all know THAT story.
Pooja Bedi – great debut with JJWS, then some feeble attempt at being Vishkanya, then oblivion….
Sapna Bedi – works with Ajay Devgan in Itihaas – A love story. Then became itihaas.

It’s not restricted to the women alone.

Rajat Bedi, once poised to be the new Angry Young Man, did a couple of semi hit movies and then disappeared.
Angad Bedi, started with Kaya Taran and then disappeared.
Manek Bedi, son of director Narendar Bedi, touted as the fresh new face of Indian cinema, did a few movies and then nothing.
Rakesh Bedi – has acted in numerous movies, but is still remembered for his role in “Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi”.
Adam Bedi – Son of the original Big Daddy Bedi – worked in Charas which blew away like a puff of smoke and now is hoping that Strings (Prakash Jha’s next) will work for him.

The only Bedi who has bucked the trend to some extent is Kabir. But if you were to sit down, and objectively look at his career, for the looks, presence, and voice combo he has, he really did not achieved much.

Who knows, if he was called Kabir Kumar, he might have been a superstar!

And here is the final proof: The one person who did drop Bedi from his name, went on to become one of the most celebrated actors in the industry – Gopal Bedi AKA the (in)famous villain Ranjeet!

So there you have it people, my evening thought of the day. A deep analysis into what will definitely NOT work in the industry.

BEDI – the anti-K, you heard it here first.

India Shining?

I was chatting with my friend the other day and the conversation rested on ‘what could derail the ascendance of India’. The rot in the political system emerged as enemy number one, however we kind of let it go by saying how India continues to grow inspite of, and not because of its politicians. A warm glow of happiness, coupled with some really good Single Malt filled the cockles of our heart and everyone was happy.

The next day as I sat on a rather longish car drive, I spent some more time thinking about this. Its true that India evokes a lot of interest around the world today. But the current interest arises from the fact that it gives a great return on investment. Period. Nothing, other than the economic story, is part of the new attractiveness of India.

The question is therefore, is the economic story enough or even sustainable, to play a lead role on the global stage? I think not. Our economic story will not last forever, and the day there is a better place to park the dollars, India will not be the toast of the world. We can avoid the early end to the party by not only wealth creation for the world, but also leading by action in matters related to development.

India today is experiencing material growth of a magnitude that it has not seen since independence. What we as a nation seem to forget is that development is a very different story and at present, a long way off.

Also, economic growth does not automatically lead to development. A country, among other things, needs good governance to move from growth to development. But a hard look at the countries leaders makes you wonder where good governance will come from.

Yesterday the Gujarat Tehelka story broke and the worst fears about the Gujarat riots have come true. Its one thing to suspect that the whole thing was a government sponsored genocide. It’s quite another to actually hear the accused give gory details of how they did it.

I don’t know what makes me more sick. The un-abashedness with which the accused talk of the murders they committed, the pride with which they talk of killing pregnant women to send a message to ‘them’, the helplessness you feel as you sit and watch murderers talk of their ‘seva’ to Hinduism, or the shame that you feel when you realize that these are elected representatives of the nation.

All the noise about India becoming a global power in the 21st century sounds untrue, pretentious and irritating. The only feelings I have is the 1980s sense of “is desh ka kuch nahin ho sakta”.

Who does one turn to for justice? Everybody is tainted. Uma Bharti comes on to TV and says that the law must take independent action against all those accused, but warns the Congress Party not to give any comment or enter into the matter as they are guilty of same: mass killings of Sikhs in the aftermath of Mrs Gandhi’s assassination. Laloo, himself embroiled in several corruption case, demands the arrest of Modi. Who does the common man turn to? No one has the moral right to take on anybody. All political parties seem busy leaning desperately against the proverbial cupboard trying to keep the ugly skeletons from tumbling out.

There is not a single political leader today who has the vision and the authority to lead development. Getting your economic policies right to get growth is relatively easy. You need a smart economist to do that. To make a leap from a third world country to a developed nation needs leaders. India today cannot boast of any, let alone many. We have a huge bank of politicians, but no political leader.

The Gujarat mess is a very rude reminder of how all this euphoria about India can end prematurely. We, the people, have a responsibility of taking the country forward. Not only by working hard in our respective offices but also participating actively in deciding the nation’s leadership.

Its quite obvious that all of us cannot join politics. Some of us are not interested; many of us do not know how to run a country. But we can play a part in electing responsible governments, of letting ‘neta ji’ know that he cannot get away with nonsense, and definitely raising our voice in unison against mass murderers like Babu Bajrangi and punishing him for the atrocities committed.

We lose our voice and anger today; we will lose our promising future along with it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My uber cool new look page

For all of you who are wondering how I put together the new look for my page, let me tell you that I had nothing to do with it, other than requesting Grafxgurl to make it for me.

And the glorious results are there for all to see. Isn’t she fantastic? And you know hwat the best part is: she does it for free. So while I sat around watching the iterations, she really put her mind and more importantly her time to it and did this. How super is that? When was the last time someone you dont know do that for you? Makes you beleive in all things bright and beautiful again doesnt it?

You can write to her on:
sweetart2 at gmail dot com
..and get jiggy with your page.

Or you can visit her page given below:

I guess when you are passionate about what you do, you don’t mind doing more of it. Which brings me to the question: what is my calling in life? I know its not what I am doing now, because there is no way in hell that I want to do more of it! Its rather unsettling to know that I don’t know what I want… you know what I mean…

But anyway, a HUGE thanks to Grafxgurl for this super sexy page. I love every part of it. And she has also added to the screaming voice in my head that I should evaluate a career change.

Taking Stock of the Market

There was a time when my participation in the surging Indian financial markets was through a safe and steady Fixed Deposit in my bank. The prospect that the bank was paying me money simply because I had a balance with them was wonderful. (The fact that I was keeping the money in the bank by not paying my booming credit card bills and hence losing all the gains by paying interest when the recovery guys would come banging to my door dawned on me much later.)

The stock market was something that I did not understand and was a definite “not for me” item in my life. The images I had of the stock exchange were from the Doordarshan days – all I could see was a mass of humanity on the floor of a room, shaking their hands around wildly, rabid look in their eyes, holding little pieces of paper, and screaming at no one in particular.

It looked like a mob willing to tear each other from limb to limb if they did not have their way. It made me feel sick and I had mentally decided that I would dance on the pavements and earn money rather than put myself through that.

Also the fact that all my colleagues were equally oblivious to the Stocks and Shares world made it easier for me to renounce it. In 2000, when I was staying in good old Vashi, we ASMs would meet almost everyday and I don’t remember discussing the stock market or the economy even ONCE.

Well all innocence comes to an end as they say (if they don’t, then they should say it. It’s a cool phrase). Soon the lure of investments that “double money soon” caught me as well. Coupled with a slightly better understanding of what Bear and Bull meant, and the introduction of online trading, I was ready to plunge into the choppy waters of the stock market and swim to financial glory.

I bought a few shares on advice from Ritika and others and I was off. Investment in the stock market is like a new born baby. You want to see it move and change and grow all the time like an indulgent, obsessed parent. I would check on my baby every five minutes or so. When prices surged up I would smile. When they fell a bit I would scowl and will it to rise again. I truly believed that if I did not check on the INFOSYS stock price every five minutes, the stock would behave like an errant teenager and do something stupid. It was my disciplined monitoring that made the sunrise sector blossom.

For a while, things were good. The markets were up and everyday when I opened the “Your Portfolio Value today” mail from ICICIDirect, my chest would swell with pride and appreciation at my new found financial acumen. I was an intrepid surfer, riding the financial waves with ease and style. And I was shimmering in the shine of the Indian share market.

Then came the fall. It started innocuously. A few heads popped up from cubicles across office and said things like “Tanked” and “Volatile”. I looked around a bit nervously. It was only after I heard PJ laugh maniacally and say “..phat gayi YAAAR..” that I started getting a bit worried. You know something is really wrong when the guy with all the corporate airs in the world starts using phrases like that.

Soon there were tea cup holding little gatherings at almost every cubicle. I eyed the window nervously as more phrases like “SEXSEX slips further” “There is no bottom” “Huge correction” flew thick and fast across the floor. I sprang up when I heard “It’s a blood bath at the bourses”. The old images of the stock market with people screaming and tearing at each other came flooding back.

The day ended with me slumped on the chair in Guru Dutt-esque pose. For the first time I understood what the great depression must have been like. I slung my laptop on my shoulder and dragged myself home. My hair disheveled, my eyes sunk and dark, my outlook as bleak as the markets.

As I slumped into the chair, I sighed out a question to Ritika: “Did you see what happened to the stock market?”

She turned to me with bright cheery eyes and said “Yes. Good na? It fell sharply, now I can buy again.”

I did a double take. The market had claimed a victim in my own backyard!

I sputtered, “Why? Why? Why buy? There was a blood bath. It tanked. THERE IS NO BOTTOM!” I ended on a high note with my voice seeped in panic.

She gave me her “whatzthematterwithyou” look. “Shome, it’s a cycle. In few months time it will go up again. The papers have been talking about it for days now. It’s a great time to buy. Buy some more and average your prices. Haven’t you read the papers?”

I sheepishly admitted that I had not. “But I have been checking prices every five minutes”

“Usse kya hoga?” she asked

I tried my level best to come up with an intelligent response but failed miserably.

“Its all very simple. Every time the prices go down, buy the stocks you want. Every time the prices go up and reach your target, sell the stocks and realize the gains. That’s all that there is to it.”

I could hear harp and accordion and happy chorus in the background. The blinding clarity of Ritika’s words were… well… blinding. It made so much sense that I suddenly saw the stock market in new light. And for the first time, it did look very simple.

My wife made me understand the stock market the best. More that any article I had ever read, more than all those tips that the breathless experts from CNBC gave out, and much more than the sour faced brokerage house gurus who try to confuse rather than clarify.

Now I am back and deep diving with alacrity into the ocean of wealth that the stock market is. I don’t check my portfolio every five minutes. In fact I check it only once a week. And I am not tearing my hair out when the markets fall or go skipping in joy when they go up…... All I do is wait for the right price.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Vote for.. vote for...

17. That’s the number of times I voted for the Taj Mahal. And tomorrow I will get to know whether all my various fake IDs worked towards getting the Taj into the coveted and exclusive list of the 7 Wonders of the (new) World.

I got angry email messages (“Does India Care??”; “Last chance to redeem our beloved Taj”; “Doob maro kutton..” etc) which goaded me and prodded my national pride with an electric stick, over and over, and turned me into this rabid Taj Mahal supporter. One, who would create fake email IDs, with various combinations of ‘shome’ and ‘numbers’, and online-vote his nation to glory. I just could not stop. I had to make Taj Mahal win.

On 07/07/07 the media circus will begin and people around the world will get to know whether their chosen monument(s) made it to the list. Bipasha Basu along with Hilary Swank and Sir Ben Kingsley and a host of other stars will be hosting the ceremony at the Benificia Stadium in Lisbon.

Its quite amazing how lists work. The “top 10…”, the “100 most..”, the “big 3..” and now the “7 wonders..” No one cares if you are the 8th wonder of the world or the 4th biggest. No sir. Either you are in the list or you are nobody. Once a list that you care about is announced, you just have to be there...

Lists by their very nature play more on the principle of exclusion rather than inclusion. If you are excluded, you just have to figure out a way of getting in. But if you are included, then there is a feeling of brief joy followed by emptyness.

Once Taj Mahal is there on the list, we will rejoice for a day and then not know what to do next. If it did not make it (and that can only happen because you did not back up my 17 with your votes!), we would be burning effigies on the streets and uprooting railway lines in anguish and protest.

Which brings me to the question that if we did not make it, whose effigy do I burn?

To have a clear line of hate, I picked up a cup of hot tea and jabbed my fingers into the Google search box.. What I found out, took me by surprise.

Unlike the popular perception that this election is being conducted by some “World Council” [like “World Commission for Selecting the (new) 7 Wonders of the World], the man behind this is a Swiss chap called Bernard Webber. No government, no ‘world council’ no organization is affiliated to this election. The whole thing is orchestrated by an individual

This modern day Antipator of Sidon is not a poet but a rather shrewd business man who has pulled off probably the most successful global PR campaign EVER! Described as a “film maker, museum curator, aviator, and explorer”, they should probably add “astute business man” to his list of titles.

Webber’s project started in 2000, and for the last 7 years the man has sustained public interest in this. I remember stray mails on this over the last few years. Of course now the noise levels have reached a crescendo. Not only has this man got individuals to vote and SMS, he has got AR Rehman to produce a video, Airtel to launch a media campaign and all the news channels devote time and energy and space on his project. Without spending a dime of his own! How’s that for working capital management.

The official website, says that a million votes have been received so far. Imagine the money that the voting generated. The big bucks though will come in from people who spend $2 to get their “Official Certificate”, and from shoppers who will buy the Official NEW7WONDERS “Clothing and Fun Merchandise” (ranging from $2.49 to $200) , “Pins and Medallions” (ranging from $4.95 to $99.95), “Song”(!!), and go for the official NEW7WONDER “tour package” that the site offers (“see the candidates for yourself” is their clever tagline).

50% of the net revenue generated will be going behind restoring world heritage sites, including the Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan. The remaining is Mr Webber’s kharcha paani.

Now, I don’t know how to react to all the information that I dug up. On one hand I am disappointed that this entire thing is being done by an individual (or should I say an entrepreneur) and not a world body who has some direct stake in world heritage, like UNESCO. It would have given the whole effort more weight and credibility.

On the other hand, I am happy that there is this immensely successful campaign that puts world heritage sites under the spotlight and on centre stage. For a world thats obssesed with the future, its good to take stock of what we already have and celebrate it.

The case of apathy towards heritage is even more acute in India. India is a nation where every street has a story to tell and every rock is a part of history. It is also a nation where the people by and large care a hoot about conserving or respecting heritage monuments.

So what if Mr Webber makes money through this event? Atleast he got India aware and awakened on a fairly mass level on the importance of our monuments and our collective responsibility to promote and conserve them. This is in a country where every wall and lift door has some puerile proclamation of love or random mention of genitals is no small feat.

I do hope that the Taj makes it. And I do hope that it brings in a culture of respect and conservation for our national heritage. And I do hope Mr Webber makes lots of money through this. We need people like him to prove that the past is as exciting as the future.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Lost in translation

Office is a gift that keeps giving. Every time I feel that the world around is conspiring to make me unhappy, something or somebody in office does something bizarre and lights up my life.

Take BK, in Bangalore for example.

BK was the head mundoo in the Bangalore office. Dressed in spotless starched white safari uniform and always wearing Bata blue hawai chappals, he commandeered an army of less special mundoos (dressed in blue) who on his instructions would get us tea, deliver our mail, courier our stuff… you know, things that office mundoos do. From his demeanor and his uniform, you could make out that BK considered himself a white collar guy and his army most definitely blue collar.

BK was also an active part of the Brookefield’s Union. That role demanded of him a certain disgruntled look and slip up of service every now and then. Just to make the point to the management that they cannot get their tea on their desk if they piss him off.

Now everyone knows that managers in India cannot decide, deliberate, discuss or debate without their cup of tea. Hot, steaming tea served in white cups are the most critical decision making aids in corporate India (just a notch above Power Point Presentations, but above nonetheless). So BK had a really important role to play in the fortunes of this 10,000 Cr behemoth.

To keep BK happy, the management decided to give him an incentive. So on a grand stage they announced his name and gave him a certificate, a cash award and a small statuette (silver stick figure, arms raised, crossing the finishing line, pelvic first) for “Most Improved Behavior”. BK didn’t care what he got it for. He was happy being on stage getting cash.

Soon after the award, his performance did improve. He did not insist on talking in Kannadiga with you. He was prompt with the tea, and packages with fragile stuff went bubble wrapped.

I had a cubicle which faced away from the floor and looked out of the window. If you entered my cubicle, you would see a table that ran the length through the side of the cubicle and my back to you. The standing instruction to all the mundoos was to leave my mail on the table as you enter and not disturb me. Most of the mail was junk (“Rajasthan Patrika is No1 in Rajasthan”).

Only if there were some bills or estimates was I to be tapped on the back.

One fine day I hear BK’s raffish voice behind me.

BK: Saar?

Me: Hmmm?

BK: Good afternoon Saar!

Me: Yes BK what is it? Get me some tea please (I had a “Pavlovian Response” issue with BK. I saw him and I needed tea)

BK: Ok saar. Saar you saw box?

Me: Box? What box?

BK: (beaming) Saar I made box.

Me: (totally confused) Good, good (I usually say that when I am confused)

BK: Usha [my secy] told me saar. Not to disturb……. ~clicking sound with his tongue~ so I made box.

Me: You made a box for Usha?

BK: No saar. For YOU! (emphatic ‘YOU’, eyes widened)

Me: Oh! Thanks. What box? ~blinking quite rapidly now~

BK: For your bills saar. No one is disturbing you. All your bills coming. I take them all and put inside box.

Me: Oh that’s fantastic! (I use fantastic a bit too liberally).

BK: Thank you saar.

Me: Where is it?

BK: ~wide beaming smile~ In your BACKSIDE saar!

What followed next were two people staring at each other for a very long time.

BK was grinning, much like the spider who invited the fly to his parlor, and upon peeking out of his window, saw the stupid fly accepting the invite AND bringing a friend along!

I on the other hand, had the expression of the innocent by-stander who just got struck by a stray bullet.

I did not know whether he was being rude, whether this was some insidious Union ploy to enrage me or whether the old rogue had just lost all his marbles.

I spluttered and stammered a “What do you mean” while shifting uncomfortable in my seat.

BK: Here saar. This box. I keep it here. In your backside. No one come in and disturb you. All bills keeping in here.

Me: ~realization dawning~ Oh in the back! You have put the box at the back of the cubicle. ~nervous laughter~

BK: Yes Saar. All in the backside.

Me: (taking a deep sigh of relief) Thanks BK!

BK: No mention saar. Everyday your bills will be in the box in your backside

Me: I wish!

BK: ~with dedication~ No no saar. It will happen

Me: Ok. Can I have some tea?

BK: Just bringing saar… Thank you saar..

In one clever linguistic moment, BK had put my bills exactly where I wanted them to be.

I must admit, the box worked pretty well. No one came up and flung mail on my desk anymore. They were all there, inside the box, in my backside.

Then there was the time Michelle, from Unilever London, almost fainted when Ramesh told her with a smile, “You can put your laptop in my dickie”.

But that’s another story…..

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The ultimate hindi movie trivia quiz...

I am bored. So I thought I will pose ten questions which will make you squirm and say “Hey! What kind of a stupid question is this??”

I am sure that some of you will get some of the answers… But for the one who get all, there will be a special prize. No no.. its not one of those “debit my goodwill account” kind of prizes. It’s a cash prize of Rs 5000. So go ahead and give it a shot.

Only one term and a an incidental condition. Answers received within a week will qualify. You do not have the permission to wait for a decade and then come hobbling to me one day and demand Rs. 5000.

Here goes:

Question 1: Which movie has the dialogue “Oye Paaji, main gir gaya”….. Ok hint – there is a taxi involved. Ok another hint: ummmm no forget it. Only one hint is what you get.

Question 2: In Sholay, what was Veeru's (imaginary)child's name? (I love this question!)

Question 3: What is common between the story writer of Shahenshah and the producer of Abhiman?

Question 4: Why did the movie 'Lootere' get into trouble with the Censors?

Question 5: Which SuperStar of this age had the dialogue “Chal Chal, dhakka maar” in his first movie? Which movie was it?

Question 6: Name the movie whose poster is on top of this page.. And whose career got kick started with this movie?

Question 7: Name the song where Rakhi Sawant and Govinda danced together. Which movie?

Question 8: “Nanga nahayega kya aur nichorega kya?” was Prem Chopra’s oft repeated dialogue in which movie?

Question 9: Everyone has seen “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron” right? Who inspired the names of the two lead characters?

Question 10: “Teen se bhale do, do se bhala ek. Bete lal, dikhado inko disco aur bharatnatyam ka kamaal.” Who said this and in which movie? And who was bete lal?

All the best…

Saturday, June 16, 2007

My First Tag....

Well here goes.. I got tagged by Rohini.My first tag! From the woman who dragged me out of bed and deep slumber, after a party that lasted till till 4 in the morning, to take me to a bar tending class at 9 am! So how can I refuse...

The tag is about 9 random things about oneself, one of which is not true. Now here is the thing, the ones who guess which of these nine is a true lie, will get a special prize. So give it your best shot:

1. I am left handed. I bet you are thinking "oh come on, everyone knows that!" But the number of people who have turned around and said "REALLY?? I never noticed that!" after knowing me for a decade makes me believe that its something I should announce..and punt on..

2. I have a tattoo on my left arm. Its a dragon. Black, flame spewing dragon. Got it in Phuket. Other than the scene in Anand where Rajesh Khanna dies and getting my dick caught in my zip, this was the only activity that made me want to cry.

3. I have no belly button. It went in an operation. I have a rather endearing dimple ensconced in my 6 pack however. Ok 4 pack.. FINE! two pack!! But at least I go two!! pbbtthh!

4. I flunked Moral Science in class two and got hell for it back home. It was not that I was stupid or anything. I read the wrong chapter. "Different Types of Conscience" was the chapter we were supposed to read (lax conscience, latent conscience, strict conscience etc..). I read, "Jesus forgives all" instead. Obviously the exam was a disaster. I also found out that Jesus does not save kids who read the wrong chapter for an exam

5. I can wiggle my ears like a cow. I have big pointy, pixie ears. And quite early in school I found out that I can wiggle my way to popularity. I must admit that it worked better with the guys than the girls. The guys had this moist eyed look of admiration. The girls always ran away slapping their cheeks in horror and screaming.

6. I cant burp. For some strange reason, no matter how much food and beer I have, I am unable to burp. I think I just breathe the bloat away. No! I don’t get it out of the other orifice!

7. I love porn. You know a lot of people take a high ground on this. But for me, good old fashioned hardcore porn is a good time pass. Porn RULZ, Ava Devine RULZ! (I left the 'e' out of that on purpose. Just to sound cool).

8. I have watched Zulm Ki Hukumat 13 times. Let me make it easy for you guys, this is true. So don’t waste your time guessing on this one. And for the people who think I am nuts, watch the movie. Its the best Hindi movie adaptation of the Godfather. EVER!

9. I have a collection of 1500 comics. Mostly Batman. You know, I am not a huge fan of superman. He is too goody-goody, and he is 'SUPER'.. So what’s the big deal?!? He can fight anything. Batman on the other hand has no super powers. And yet the 'Dark Knight' fights evil in all hues and shades.

There you have it... 9 random things.. One a blatant lie...

Oh, I must tag a few people. So here goes... Am tagging Yashodhara, Svety, Abhigyan, MadMomma ( I don't know who you are, but you are funny!)..

The Great Indian Laughter Challenge

Good comedy is serious stuff. It’s not everyday that you rock back, slap your thighs, and laugh loudly. Sure, there is the occasional smirk, titter, snort, ironic half smile or chortle that an email or SMS throws our way. But a good hearty laugh? Now that’s a rare thing…

In my life, rip-roaring laughter has come more from real life experiences and sights than from movies, comics, emails, books, SMS’ or any other mediums that try and infuse a bit of laughter in our lives. To be fair, PG Wodehouse did get me close to laughing out loud and Calvin & Hobbes actually did make me laugh out loud.

But when I compare the intensity of laughter to the time Jijo fell into the colony gutter, or when Dad tried to cut his own fingernails or when Rahul Kaul was enacting “Basic Instinct” in dumb charades at IIFT, all others come a very poor second. Yes, I admit, other people’s tragedy has always been my comedy. But that’s another story.

Hindi movies have tried relentlessly over the years to make us laugh. And there have been some sparkling successes too. Who can forget the hilarious Golmaal, Chupke Chupke, Padosan, Chalti Ka Naam Gadi or the bouts of uninhibited laughter that scenes from Hera Pheri, Amar Akbar Anthony, Sholay, Andaaz Apna Apna, Seeta aur Geeta, and more recently Bheja Fry have invoked. However, these examples are few and far between.

Hindi film humor, for most part, is burlesque and rather clumsy. Formula scenes, formula characters, and very low brow comedy - that’s what has characterized Hindi Cinema for the last few decades. And that’s why Bheja Fry needs to be applauded.

I had gone with very average expectations to see Bheja Fry. To say that it exceeded all my expectations by a mile is to put things mildly. Its one of the finest comedies I have seen. Its under stated, real, and unbelievably funny. If you have not seen it yet, bitch slap the back of your head and call yourself stupid.

Watching BF made me think of the usual ‘comedy scenes’ in Hindi movies. There are patterns and commonalities across scripts when it comes to Bollywood’s attempts to make us laugh.

So here it is people: my list of the most common, and for me, the most trite comedy sequences that the Hindi Film industry has unleashed on us. Set ups that I believe should now retire from scripts as they have outlived their funny life.

I am putting up five which really get my goat. They are in no particular order. Please add on your (not) favorites…

1. The DRUNK: The most common medium used. Keshto made a career out of it, AB raised it to a fine art. Others failed miserably. Time to throw some cold water on script writers face and ask them to rethink on what makes India laugh.


2. THE HAKLA-TOTLA-BEHRA routine: This one is the most intolerable. To make fun of someone’s disability has got to be the low point of humor. And the Kader Khan- Shakti Kapoor renditions of this routine have made it more so. A definite ‘no more please’

3. THE RAKHI SCENE: This one is the most bizarre one. Somehow the act of tying a Rakhi, or rather attempting to (b‘coz that’s where the humor lies!) is supposed to be funny. Many a time we have been subjected to a lengthy scene where the sidekick, or an incidental character, and sometimes even the hero is faced with the prospect of getting his wrists decorated with an oversized bling rakhi from someone he has been having wet dreams about. Nana Patekar in Tiranga, Anupam Kher in countless movies… Completely avoidable.

4. THE DRAG SCENE: Getting a guy to dress up as a woman is gross and not funny. I remember having a hard time holding back my popcorn after watching Amitabh in ‘Mere Angne Mein’ or Govinda in Aunty No.1. I think I did puke after watching Naseer in a bathing suit in Tehelka. On this one, I am willing to take the legislative route and ban any further scenes which cause so much trauma.

5. PAGALKHANA ROUINE: Have you ever noticed how a mental asylum is portrayed in Hindi Films? All the inmates are free to roam around and more often than not, they are playing air cricket! I have been to a mental institute (no, not as an inmate but as part of a social service routine from school) and its nothing like this. People are there for treatment and not to play cricket with an imaginary bat and ball. And no, they do not roam around free and they definitely do not run a comb through their bald plate repeatedly!

So these are my top five people. Please add on…

Friday, April 13, 2007

Eeefff you cum todaaaayyy...

Yesterday was the death anniversary of Dr Rajkumar, the Kannada matinee idol. He was known as "Annavaru" or beloved elder brother and was the living legend of Kannada Cinema.

On April 12, 2006 Karnataka found out that their living legend was, well... no longer living. The city of Bangalore went crazy. 60,000 fans rioted for two days.

Dr. Rajkumar was an exceptional man. He had acted in 200 films over 5 decades and 'was the face, hero and defender of the regional cultural identity'. He was a recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke award (1996) and the Padma Bhushan (1983). He was one of only two Kannadigas to be conferred the "Karnataka Rathna" award (1992) ~which is kind of strange, who, if not the Kannadigas, was being given all the "Karnataka Rathna" prizes??~

A respected statesman, a much loved star and the undisputed doyen of the Kannada Film industry. However, every living legend has a bad day in the office. I present to you one such day from Dr Rajkumar's life.

Its the most amazing song I have ever heard. Its in English and sung with a sambhar soaked, chutney stained voice and ofcourse filmed on Dr Rajkumar. The lyics are:

"If you come today.. its too early
If you come tomorrow.. its too late!
You pick the timeeeeeee
tick tick tick tick...."

Thanks Svety for this mid day piece of entertainment. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

When Superman fell in love with Spider(wo)man...

I sat and watched Dariya Dil last night. Its a 1988 movie with Kader Khan, Govinda, Kimi Katkar, Shakti Kapoor and Gulshan Grover in lead roles. Its a relatively unknown movie and is not one of those cult 'trash' movies either (like 'Aatank hi Aatank' or 'Elan-e-Jung'). I picked this movie up only because of its cover.

It was in Bangalore that I had bought this movie. I was out with the Sharmas and Abhi I think. We were floating around in Landmark. I had already spent a lot of money buying comics and VCDs and was ready to stop. Thats when this movie caught my eye, and I knew I had to buy it!

My three most favorite things in a C-grade movie would be: Govinda, buxom heroine and Superheroes. In this movie, Govinda and Kimi Katkar were the Superheroes! ~Yeah baby, YEAH!!~ So like the proverbial moth to the proverbial flame, I was drawn to the movie and I bought it.

Govinda and Kimi take on these avtaars in a dream sequence song (you would have never guessed that if I had not told you, isnt it?). The build up to the song is something like this: they are stuck in a departmental store in the night (that hapenned because Govinda went to pee in the ladies bathroom, but thats another story), fell in love, got a bit horny, saw the suits hanging there and lapsed into a dream sequence.

The lyrics are:
"Tuu meraaaaa, Supermaaaaaaaaaaaaan (pronounced 'sipperrmaaaaaann')
Main teeeeeriiiiiii;
Ho gaya hai apnaaaaa...
(slight modulation of the voice at end of line followed by two jhankar drum beats: ~tu tu~)
Pyar alreaaaaaadyyyyyyyyy...."

The visuals are equally engrossing. It starts with the two super lovers flying over Bombay..

Flying, singing, dancing in the clouds.

Soon they end up in familair territory, the Hindi film garden!!

And they dance...

and dance....

Traditional Bump and Grind. Pelvic push, bust thrust...

Then more flying, and Spidey spots trouble!!

Superman goes to save the day (and a troubled couple)...

....and does so by lifting the goons by their gonads! ~check the expression on goon's face. Oh, the pain!!~ He also uses his amazing superpowers, like ducking, to make the goons miss his head and hit each other!!

Then the two of them wave the happy couple goodbye, while ofcourse DANCING!

And then fly off. Again Spidey spots something. But this time she is happy.

Its a dance floor, so its DANCING TIME! They dance... A ferocious, aggressive mating dance..

and then the song ends..

Some more iteresting facts about this movie: A big Indian brand tied up for in-film placement with this movie. In fact, Kader Khan (Seth Dhani Ram) is the owner of this brand and factory. The brand not gets superb coverage on billboards and bus shelters in quite a few scenes, it also gets its radio ad played in full (like 'Nerolac' in Viruddh!).

So quiz question - which is this brand?

Mausumi: You are not allowed to participate.

In case you want to enjoy the full song in all its glory, then here is the video..
Enjoy, alreaaaaadddyyyyyyyyyy..Note: It opens in a new window.

Next week, I will bring you a Payal Rohatgi classic - "Ek se mera kya hoga"!

There is 'Magic' in the air - Part 1

July 21st, 2007. The last Harry Potter book will be out - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The world will finally know whether Harry lives or dies, whether Dumbledore is really dead and hopefully, also the meaning of ‘hallows’! (I have heard of gallows. What the hell is hallows??)

It will be the end of a story that is credited with bringing magic in the real world as well. Not just in the metaphorical sense of the word, but real tangible magic.

A near bankrupt, single mother of two became richer than the Queen of England because of Harry. In an age of internet, X-Box and mind numbing television, there is a renewed interest in reading among children thanks to Harry. A spectacles designer became an overnight millionaire after the first Harry Potter movie came out. An unknown child actor is the most recognized face in the world and has gone on to become a mainstream star thanks to Harry. These things do not happen everyday. That’s why they are ‘magic’!

But this blog is not on Harry Potter. I will save that for some other time. This blog is about two other magicians who got me interested in magic in the first place.

It all started with Pradeep Chandra Sorcar, better known by his bobbitised nomenclature of PC Sorcar Jr.

My family knew Jr’s dad, the legendary PC “Manick” Sorcar (the father of Indian magic). I think it was the Bangladesh connection through which the families were friends. Our families were both from Tangail district in what is now known as Bangladesh.

I had heard stories of how Sr. Sorcar would come late on stage with the crowd angry and baying for his blood. Then he would look puzzled at his watch and say “But I am on time! Check your watches”. Then lo and behold, all the wrist watches in the crowd would be showing the “right time” and the hall would burst into thunderous applause.Thats him in the pic. Giving the signature Sorcar family 'cheshire cat grin' smile.

Another famous story was how he impressed Chief Minister AK Fazlul Huq by performing a magic trick at the Imperial Restaurant in Calcutta. First he asked the Chief Minister to write something on a plain sheet of paper and then asked the other ministers to put their signatures under it. A short while later Fazlul Huq was amazed to see that the paper contained his cabinet's resignation and the appointment of PC Sorcar as the new chief minister of Bengal.

I would listen to this these stories with wide eyed, jaw slumping awe, over and over again from my great grand mom during the afternoons. They never failed to impress me.

So when Dad got tickets to the PC Sorcar Jr. “Indra-jaal” (Web of magic) show I was skipping around and flinging daisies in the air in joy. I was going to a magic show! My first magic show, and it was going to be PC Sorcar Jr.! (Sr. had passed away before I was born). He was known to be as talented as the father and had a very similar look.

I remember the show vividly. The dimming of the lights, the deep, ‘magical’ voice saying “Welcome to Indraaaaaaajaaaaaal”, followed by enchanting music and the image of two hands and eyes on the stage backdrop.

Oh those eyes! Big, hypnotic, magician eyes. I will never forget them.

The next two hours were, well, magical! Nothing was impossible in Indra-jaal. There were no rules here. Women were cut in two and still alive, PC could read clearly through a blindfold, a pitcher of water never got empty, an Egyptian princess disappeared from under a table and then reappeared from behind the hall, and the handicapped girl who he helped walk again by first making her float in the air. He also beat a large man on the head with a wooden hammer and made him a midget! It was fantastic.

I was totally involved and engaged. In the middle I let loose a ear piercing shriek, when he cut his wife in two, which prompted the middle aged fat lady in front of me to turn back and ask with panic in her voice:

“Ki holo??!! Aarshola achche naaki kothao?? KI HOLO??”
(What happened? Is there a cockroach somewhere? WHAT HAPPENED?)

Everyone has their own fears I guess. I wanted yell “He cut his wife in two you moron, and you are worried about a damn cockroach! HE CUT HER IN TWO!” but decided against it. I wanted the show to go on.

For days after, I was thinking and dreaming about magic. I was hooked. I was captivated with the thought of anything is possible. I was a believer. Strangely, it was the only magic show I ever went to in my life, and in a way I am happy I never went back.

A repeat performance by anyone could never have matched the intensity of that evening. I have seen David Copperfield on TV and various other street magicians, including the amazing David Blaine. They are all extremely good, and their presentation makes the ‘dhin-chak’ magic of PC look slightly outdated. But I never really enjoyed their shows much. My grown up rational mind is always trying to figure out ‘how they did it’. I guess with age and education, the ‘magic’ has gone out of magic for me.

As far as I am concerned, PC Sorcar will always remain the ‘World’s Greatest Magician’, the ‘Maharajah of Magic’! The fact that he is also the single largest ‘individual’ foreign exchange earner for India makes me feel that I saw the best.

It was PC who got me interested in magic and, for the first time, I thought of something other than cricket all the time (another mini magic!). It was this interest that took to me to the second magician in my life.

I will write about him and my (futile) attempts at practicing the craft on my friends and family in Part 2.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Analysing my Pee-er Group

Well, before you think that this is a boring article on my co-workers or friends or any other group I hang around with, let me tell you its not.

This blog is the culmination of years of astute observation. It is the first attempt to segment people on the basis of their peeing style! (Why would I want to do something like this? Well because I can!)

To be fair, I am not calling this the ‘ultimate’ the pee-er group analysis because I do not have inputs from my female friends on the different styles of women peeing. So this is totally a male thing. However, if any of you want to add the female perspective, please do!

Ok so here goes:

1.) The GROANER: The most common species. Lets out this gut wrenching groan the minute the piss hits the urinal. Can usually be seen with a beer bottle for some time before the act. Usually ends with a staggered sigh.

2.) The SPITTER: A relatively common species. He spits into the urinal as he pees. Its like a ritual. His bladder and the mouth waters at the same time and there is this urgent need to discharge from both.

3.) The WHISTLER: A fairly rare species now a days. Starts making the "ssssss" noises to induce piss. Then suddenly realizes what he is doing, and so to cover up starts whistling some really idiotic tune. To be strictly avoided in any public loo. The whistling tune has an uncanny ability to get stuck in your head!

4.) The WIGGLER: Again a common species. Ends his piss with an uncontrollable spasm that runs along the whole length of his spine. He convulses, writhes, bucks, and breathes hard trying to control the waves of pleasure that are cruising through his body.

5.) The GARDENER: Named so because of his swaying hosing style. While standing on the urinal, you will find him swaying lightly side to side, with a beatific smile on his face. He really likes to water!

6.) The ‘JIGYASU BALAK’: The most irritating of them all. Typically you will find them in office. You are pissing, all by yourself. This fellow will sneak up to the empty one next to you and start a conversation, like "aur bata, kya chal raha hai?" or "tera meeting kaisa gaya?" They will insist on discussing important strategic matters while both of you are standing with your dick in your hands!

7.) The FARTER: The most obnoxious of them all. Somehow relaxes a bit too much while peeing I think. Is related to GROANER, most Groaners become Farters as the day progresses.

8.) The PEEPER: We have all seen him. The one who casually steals a peep thinking no one is watching. We are always watching, you fucking loser!

9.) The CHOKER: He is the one who has entered the urinal cubicle (or the urinal enclosure or whatever that thing is in a ‘Gents Toilet’) and chokes because you have walked in more confidently just next to him. You will find him staring intently at his own dick, but not hear a single tinkle of pee. They just can't pee under pressure of performance.

10.) The RABBLE ROUSER: He is the noisy guy. When he pees, he aims for the middle of the water in the commode or the drain in the urinal and you can hear him for miles. He just likes to listen to himself pee. Loud, but largely harmless and usually is a bit of a show off and attention hungry.

There are two more, but I am struggling with the nomenclature a bit. I will update this in a while. Add in, if you have some species you would like to report.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The lure of "About me"

All the rationality, objectivity, and hard nosed scepticism that our generation has been bestowed with, goes out of the window the minute someone says "Let me tell you something about yourself".

Its like a tractor beam. We smile and let oursleves get sucked into it. We want to hear about ourselves. We need to hear about ourselves. We crave to get a second opinion on who we think we are. Strange but true people, we need validation about ourselves!

We all have sought this through various means - friends, peers, colleagues, quizzes, 360 feedbacks..... the names are many, the need the same.

So, in line with the trend, I sought an "About me" too. The one that lured me was something that I found on Svety's blog (which, by the way, has much more interesting things than this!)

So here goes. This (apparently),is ME...

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Chacha Choudhary and Sabu

Ok, so how many of you people have actually read Chacha Choudhary? He is the ultimate Indian 'super hero'. As early as the late seventies, Pran (the creator of Chacha Choudhary) had basically figured that the point of differentiation for Indian super heroes is going to be their intellect.

And from this insight came the famous "Chacha Choudhary's mind works faster than a computer"!

Enjoy this strip. Its called "Funny Football".... ~See you are smiling already. Its funny football baby! Yeah!~

And there is a reason why I have started this Indian comics thingy. It will get revealed over the next few weeks. Sneak Peak? Ok, here goes... connect Lee, Bengal, Singh, Ghost and Pygmies.

When you give up, give me a shout. Will reveal all...

As of now, enjoy the orginal macho Tau of India with his Venetian (like in 'from Venus') sidekick Sabu.

Ok three things: What kind of a sick fuck makes a football out of stone?? And I didnt really see how Sabu slam dunking a guy with the stone was proof of Chacha Choudhary's mind working faster than a computer! And go back to the first strip and see the panel where the guy kicks the football (made of "solid rock") Isnt that the funniest exrpession you saw? Ever?! Anyway... More later...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tryst with Technology

Yesterday, CNNIBN ran this news capsule on how technology is causing unprecedented harm to the health of Indians. Horror stories of how Highflying Harshad became Hunchbacked Harshad because he was spending too much time peering at his computer. People have had their wrists injured, corneas damaged, finger tips numbed, all because of technology.

As the news changed to: “Who are the invitees for the AbhiAsh wedding? A CNNIBN exclusive!”, I jabbed at the mute button hastily and leaned back to think of my jousts with technology.

Now I am a pretty smart devil when it comes to technology. I know my way around the pods and stations of the world. I am quite nifty with the computer. And at no time do I look like an ostrich whose head has been unceremoniously yanked out of the sand when some new technology enters my life. I pretty much rush up and do the proverbial embrace to every new bit of miracle that those little chips conjure up.

Having said that, there are some pretty deep scars that technology has left in my life. Not the physical kind, but the emotional kind. And emotional scars are far more terrible than discovering one day that your right palm is now a claw because of the way you type.

I think it started with the phone in the house. I was all of six. A bundle of joy and energy. My life used to revolve around my precious rubber ball. It was a blue colored thing, available in every corner shop of Calcutta and quite inexpensive because of the high rate of attrition. I would fling the ball in various directions and then run behind it in the manner of a dumb mutt to retrieve it.

Slowly, I progressed to the game of catch. The idea was to fling it at the wall and then catch it. Simple game, immensely engaging and kept me out of everyone’s way.

On one fateful monsoon evening, my date with the wall was cancelled because of the rain. I was locked in. So I decided to use the bedroom walls for practice. After about ten minutes, my Mom walked in and seeing the wall dotted all over with the marks of blue rubber, spluttered and shrieked something like “What are you doing”.

I, on my part gave her an expression, which if you were to see in any comic book would be accompanied with a thought blast that said “Doink?” I could see no ambiguity in what I was doing and was rather surprised by my Mom’s utter failure to wrap her mind around it.

Of course things turned ugly soon. I realized that my Mom’s question was not based on lack of comprehension, but rather on incredulous shock at my cretin like behavior. I will not delve into the cursing, the chasing and the whacks on the butt and me calling my Mom a witch. The upshot of all the above was that my blue ball was confiscated and I was grounded for a week.

Now when you are a six year old with a smarting butt, you don’t think too clearly. I was convinced that I was wronged, and I needed intervention to set things right. I wanted justice, right here, right now. I also needed to overturn that ‘grounded for week’ sentence.

In my infinite wisdom I decided to call my Dad. I would use the phone to fight for my rights. This new technology would put my Mom, the tyrant, in her rightful place. That was my deep belief.

I picked up the phone and turned the dial with the anger and purpose of a consumer who has just received an inflated power bill. Of course, unlike the consumer, I was bawling uncontrollably. Bengali Mom’s have immensely powerful forearms and when they swing it with anger on the tender derriere of a six year old, it hurts like hell!

After three rings, my Dad picked up. What followed was this: The English translation is in the brackets:

Dad: Hello?
Me: (bawling) Amaar ball nei! (I have no ball)
Stunned silence on the other side
Dad: Hello?? Eta ke? (Who is this?)
Me: (bawling harder and hiccupping) Aami! Amaar ball niye niyechche! (Me! My ball has been taken away)
Dad: Shome!!?? Ke niyechche? Ki ball? (Who has taken it? What ball?!)
Me: Ma! Blue Ball!
Dad: Kaar Ma? (Who’s Mom?)
Me: ~my voice laced with spite~ Amaar ma, tomar bou! (My Mom, your wife!)
Long stunned silence
Dad: ~unusually stern voice~ Ma ke phone de. (Give the phone to Mom)

I called out to my Mom, feeling happier. She is going to get it now, my mind cackled with glee. The man in the house will reverse the sentence and my ball, pride, and freedom will be restored.

I was in love with the telephone. Dial-for-distress! What an invention! Superb technology.

Mom came in with her eyes wide and asked with a quivering voice who I had called. I thrust the phone in her hands and stood back, a warm feeling of retribution, sweeping my mind and body.

What followed was a very crisp and short conversation. I didn’t catch too much of it. Mom whispered something, and I could hear my Dad’s voice loudly from the other side. It has begun, I thought. The wheels of justice will soon crush the spirit of this saaree clad dictator.

Mom kept the phone down and I held my hand out, expecting the ball to be gingerly placed back on my hand. Mom looked at me with the eyes of a tribal chief who was on the verge of announcing a purge on the renegade rival tribe and hissed, “Baba bolechche je jeeboney abaar phone korle tor haath bhenge debe!” (Dad has said that if you call him up in your life again, he will break your hands). She swirled and left in the direction of the kitchen and I was left standing there, ready to wet my pants at the thought of my broken arms.

To say that I was in shock and terror is an understatement. The telephone had actually worsened things. My Mom and Dad had ganged up against me. My blue ball was gone forever as far as I was concerned, and I was still grounded for a week. Plus my hands were in real danger of getting snapped at the wrists. For a six year old, it was the end of the universe.

It was not until college that I actually called my Dad at office again (to tell him that I had cleared the IIFT entrance). That one incident had shaken my confidence on telephones and their utility in complaint resolution very badly. Even today, I much prefer to hop across or call the person over and complain in person, rather than lift the phone and crib. Technology had not only isolated and terrorized me, it had changed the way I complain forever.

Then there was the TV incident… but that is another story.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The lights dim and the drums roll..

My first steps in cyberspace were way back in early 1997. It was a very different experience then. It was a time of desktops with wires connected to a modem which in turn was connected to a landline from where you would dial one VSNL number (each city had one or at best two lines) and pray to god, harder than you had on the day before your Maths exam in Class X, that you get connected.

What followed, after clicking on a grey button that said “Connect”, was an audio-visual nightmare. The modem would start screeching like a pig about to be slaughtered. The dialogue box would change to show you two telephones (1980 style land line instruments) connected asymmetrically through a wire, and a red square cursor like thing, frantically moving from one phone to the other over the wire. The noise and the scurrying ‘Red Box’ was meant to tell you that your pass is getting checked in the Heavenly Gates of the Internet.

More often than not, you would hear the blood freezing, deathly "engaged" tone, which meant try again. And again, and again, and again, and again. Till suddenly, just when you are ready to yank out the wires from the modem and hang yourself, you get connected. The screeching pig would make a strange hiccupping cluck-cluck noise and you were in! The world was at your fingertips.

This was during my MBA days. The internet was used by us- aspiring corporate captains of tomorrow- mainly for two reasons: porn and personal email. Google was not there (Yahoo! ruled that time) and the closest thing to Wikipedia was a Tamilian Brahmin in the senior batch (he knew everything about everything basically). Using the internet as a research tool started only in the dying months of my course there.

It’s in the genetic code of human beings to start carving out and appropriating personal spaces every time new ‘land’ is discovered. On the internet, it came in the form of personal email.

Having an email ID that time was a matter of prestige. It was not at all common place. When you said, “send me an email”, you made a statement about yourself. You were seen to be cool, connected and viewed with the same envy and awe as the guys who will be the first off the block to buy the i-phone. It was a big event, getting your email ID created.

My love affair with the net started with an email ID too. Hotmail was the poshest domain name. And not getting the name that you wanted as your ID was an alien concept. So in 1997, was created. I added my age 23 to the name so that I never forget the year when this momentous event happened.

I remember the delight that I experienced when I got my own email ID. And when MSN wrote their first mail to me addressed as “Dear Shome_23”, I almost creamed in my pants. I was suddenly a part of a different world. An elite, if you please. A man with an identity.

I told everyone about my email ID. Friends, family, shop keepers, credit card pushers, free news letters on the net, web sites that promised me daily updates, everyone. I wanted the whole world to know that shome_23 has arrived and willing to correspond with like minded ‘haves’ of the world.

Slowly of course the excitement withered away. The only real mail I got was from my room mate, who was so fed up with my constant follow up on whether he remembers my mail ID or not, wrote me a nasty mail:

“Dear Shome,
If you ask me one more time I will wring your neck. Fuck you!”

I was shocked to say the least. I thought that the “Fuck you” at the end was completely uncalled for. He had already made his point.

My parents tried. They wrote my email ID on regular mail, under the full postal address and sent it. They also mentioned in the sheets of letter that I should let them know if I got this letter ‘faster’!

Things further degenerated, as mails on “Young teens are waiting for you” started flooding in followed by mails on “Enlarge your penis – Safely and Permanently”. Soon my coveted ID was cobweb ridden and neglected. I started to go to my mail box, only to delete the junk and keep it running. The thought of letting my first email ID die a natural death was just too cruel.

To this day, I maintain that account. I still get mails on “You have won $100,000” or “These girls like it rough”, but I don’t care. Occasionally a lost friend uses it to re-establish contact and sometimes, I click on my archives to re-read all the 7 mails from MSN and other portals that I got on the first day shome_23 was created.

Today, I am opening another first: my blog. The portal to my world…..for the world.

I feel the same kind of excitement as I did when shome_23 was born. And I know that I am going to be as obsessed, if not more, with this thing. I have visions of people rushing in to read my thoughts and commentary on the affairs of the world. I know none of that is going to happen on its own. I will have to push and prod you people. So get ready for follow up sms.

Few things: I am doing this for an audience. Not as a vent for my thoughts and feelings (I have wife and friends for that). So please comment copiously. This is for you.

Secondly, I am very poor with criticism. If you don’t like something, lie through your teeth. Honest, constructive feedback does not work for me. I will come after you, and I will hurt you.

And last, tell your friends about this place.

With that, I step aside and draw the curtains. Welcome to my world!