Friday, October 21, 2005

... killed the cat, I know. BUT ...

This is not very politic ("cautious and meticulous", nor "full of high sentence", mayhap "a bit obtuse"). But I am very curious.

WHO in Brazil reads my blog? iBest service provider. If you drop by again, please be kind enough to illuminate.
Also, Belgian Catholic University? (Do I have the translation correct?)
Malaysia? Friend of Jay's?
And Nigeria ... Nigeria? S* won't even move there till November, I would have understood if it were he.

The key-word search is even more disorienting. For a while, the leader was pantua. Which was OK (though I prefer malpoa), until a really raw phrase displaced it.
Right now, 'Giuditta Scorcelletti' is up there. Nice to know she has some following, I really liked her voice.
The Ponytail is high on every search list, so I can understand that one.
But 'boudi stories'? Ye Gods and little fishes.

The really wacky ones are:
- 'khus sharbat'. Eh?
- 'Insead PhD' - leads to some exasperated browsers, I daresay.
- 'S.P. Zariwala' - Who?

And of course - 'dodges chicken'. Mental picture of large enraged fowl striding towards a portly figure that jinks at high speed. Heh.

(Yes, I'm ill, bored AND sick of 'comparative investment figures' and 'core competence'. Or as my blasted colleagues would insist, 'core competencIES'. Morons.)


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Quite Sethled

Two consecutive evenings of stimulation.

Intellectual stimulation, of course. What other kind do we Bongs know? (As I’ve mentioned earlier, we define a loser as ‘one who copulates with a moron’.)


Went to a book launch Monday evening. Awfully thick book, but a diminutive man. Turned out, however, that both were not only immensely likable but also rather impressive. Self-deprecating humour, yet firm and assertive when required.

The man knows at least four languages (Hindi, English, Chinese, German). Speaks German with that accent. Cleared his A levels in German with just six months of preparation. Mentioned translating something from Hebrew.

Read pure math before he went up to Oxford. Because he ‘enjoyed it more than applied math’. Quite.

Two degrees in Economics ("both from good universities", as he mentioned in a recent interview. Didn't know he went to school with Amitav G)

Bisexual, which seems pragmatic. As Woody Allen pointed out, it doubles the chances of getting some on a Friday night.

Speaks fluently, lucidly, articulating clearly. In complete, grammatically impeccable sentences. A rare quality even among writers and politicians, who live off their words. (In my experience, lawyers don’t even come within hailing distance)

Very evidently at ease in his own skin. Another rare quality. (I wondered how he could be at ease in that Nehru veskit; he took it off after the photo-shoot.)

I had assumed that he had formal training in Western classical music; I asked him about it and it turned out he learnt khayal in his school-days. Later started singing Schubert lieder as a means to relieve stress. The apparent insider angle in An Equal Music was just research. Academic rigour makes me despair.

I give up. I shan't ever bother to write anything, I can never be a hundredth as good.


Sunday had brought its own dose of despair. I’d been telling myself I’m not quite middle-aged yet. Yeah right. The next-oldest blogger present was ten years younger than me. I was nearly thrice as old as the youngest in evidence. The matter was gracefully settled when I was dubbed ‘Kaku’ (Uncle). Hmmm.

All very intellectually stimulating, however. Food for thought and all that.

Inspiring variety of interests (also mentioned here, here and here). Like RSS. The feed, not the (a)political organisation. (I don’t think I could have survived khaki shorts in Flury’s.)

A surprisingly mature level of intellectual give-and-take.

Eclectic topics. Like fish in chocolate sauce.

Meditative moments. .(I suspect he practises that look. Only he did it better in his profile pic.) The presence of a literate (and literary, though not famous for it yet) celebrity. Some, of course, beg the question. Some seek to be self-effacing.

And some succeed only too well.

We even had a suitably admiring audience. Or perhaps ‘bemused’ would be more accurate. Note the expression.

A very productive meeting. We drafted a document to address what we considered the most important concerns of the blogosphere. (For serious researchers, a right-click should provide magnification ...)

Like all good things ...
but this almost came to an end under the wheels of a Calcutta yellow cab.

Until we conceded that this, too, must pass. The cab. Not blogging.

Last word - a venerable colleague started to tell me about the new phenomenon of 'blogging'. I nodded and mentioned weblogs; he contradicted me and went on to a detailed exposition. I realised, to my horror, that he had confused blogging with 'dogging'. Then I pondered on which of the two seems more exciting.

I feel yet more inadequate


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kobe je ele Maa, kobe Maa gele...

Oshtomi'r shokaal, Mashi'r bari'r Pujo

The second day of Pujo; in an aunt's house. I hadn't been there in 20 years. The experience was faintly Proustian. Old polished floors, dark looming rooms, louvred windows. A paved yard outside, with a patch of earth where old trees hunkered over flower bushes. The coolness under a fan that ticked and groaned. The smell of old thick faintly damp walls, ghee (clarified butter) burning in the lamps, chopped fruits and khichuri in the proshad (votive offering).

And the subdued hubbub of a hundred people or more, wandering round the old house,
sitting in the yard ( ...playing games with the faces).
Occasional shouts to "bring the fritters, what ARE you doing!" or "Rice, more rice here!"
as the family served lunch to the visitors on long trestle tables under a cotton awning.

This is one Pujo we have visited every year for more than 20 years. The old red house has given way to two blocks of flats in pristine white, but the Shib mondir in the corner and the thakur dalan (the verandah where the image is installed) remain unchanged. The Pujo evenings still pass in adda and tea from little earthen cups. I can now, however, light my pipe in the presence of the elders; another generation now slips away to the corner behind the Shiva temple to light up.
Shondhi Pujo'r por, thakur dalan-e adda.

I'll miss Kali Pujo there this year. Midnight pujo and a feast afterwards. That strange Bangali phenomenon - non-vegetarian food, goat mutton in fact, but cooked 'the vegetarian way' without onions or garlic.

Just up the road from my friend's place, Ekdalia Evergreen, one of the largest 'community' Pujos. A fairground atmosphere rather than a religious occasion. I'm always awed by the crowds. Not just from Calcutta, but from Noihati, Bongaon, Diamond Harbour, even from as far away as Purulia.
Keeping their annual promise to themselves.

Oshtomi'r bhog.
As a friend put it, 'I meet you twice a year - once here and again in January at our cricket match"

Park Circus. Nice details. Reproductions of old pot paintings high up on the walls. I liked the cool white look.

This year some abstruse astronomical calculations led to a 3-day Pujo instead of the usual 4 days. Nobomi and Doshomi were both on Wednesday.

Durga Bari in Ballygunge. I used to go there every Pujo till 1987. This was the first time since then.
I felt so OLD.
Also very avuncular and nostalgic at the sight of the milling multitude.
. While the aunties jostle for their shnidoor khela.

All over now.
I never go for the bhashaan
(immersion of the idol). Very depressing, such a finite ending to the annual magic. Instead, I sit near the window and listen to the immersion processions shouting as they pass.

The Bangali equivalent of "Next year in Jerusalem".
A communal promise.
"Aashchhe bochhor abaar hobey"


The few years that I've been away from Calcutta during Pujo,
I've sought vicarious fulfillment through others' descriptions and images.
Does this effort strike a similar chord?
Comments invited.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pujo moods. (I hope)

It rained on
Panchami afternoon. Any other time of the year I would have revelled in the particular melancholy of the pouring rain, the dripping trees, the caress of the rain-spray.
But on
Panchami I worried about the traffic outside and the pandal getting muddy.
And our booking at Bhojohori Manna.

The long shadows of an autumn evening.
The approach to Singhi Park.

While (below) the last touches to Hindustan Boys'
(yes, OK, this was after a HUGE lunch at Bhojohori. And btw, the restaurant with the perfect music was at the Stadel the next day.)

Evening at Singhi Park, and some music.

Amader para'r Pujo

The crossing of Lake and Lake View;
Shomaj Shebi
and Ballygunge Cultural.
Awaiting the storm.

You think he's reading her the Riot Act about last-minute shopping?

Dead end. At least at this hour of the morning.

Our local celebrity Pujo, morning and night

Somebody tell me this is a great photo. Please.

A blur of kaalchaar. Very Bangali.

The Charlie Brown Pujo incorporates
the Myth of the Great Pumpkin.

After the madding crowd ...


Pujo'r baddi, pujo'r gaan

A rattle of drumbeats and one drum in orbit round the neck of a dhaaki who does an exuberant twirling leap. Just because he can.

Where have all the dhaakis gone? As little as five years ago, when I came back to Calcutta, I saw a procession of dhaakis the day before Mohaloy, a sort of mobile employment exchange parading before the assembled Pujo Committees. This year the first dhaak I heard was over at Shinghi Park on Panchami morning. And of all things, dhaak as piped music in a restaurant on Shoshthi. (Shoshthi’r diney hoshthi! Is that expression still au courant?)

I love this particular restaurant, not just because three of us polished off eleven, we counted, eleven pieces of ilish (and golda chingri and chhana’r dalna by the bucketful) on the buffet but also because they followed up the dhaak with the double-CD of Kishore Kumar’s Robindroshongeet. Music arranged by Hemonto Mukhopadhyay (known to the rest of India as Hemant Kumar, singer-composer for films like Jaal and Khamoshi), Kishore trained by Subinoy Ghosh, producing one of the best reflections of Bangali tradition that you can hope to come across. For those who sneer at the idea, a reminder – Satyajit Ray didn’t choose anybody from the Dokkhini tradition when he wanted Robindroshongeet in his films. And a challenge – show me one bar, dammit show me one note in one song where the Boss has not been true to the Shworobitaan.

Aamaar raat pohalo sharodo praatey. Aami tomaaey joto shuniyechhilem gaan (I haven’t heard this one recorded by anybody else). Ey din aaji kone ghorey go ... Which was the perfect note on which to exit.

Pujo now is also an unspoken war between the high and the low culture. Where earlier we had Nazia Hassan with Aap jaisa koi and Usha Uthup’s rich black velvet voice in Hari Om hari (an Eurhythmics ..err… ‘cover’), now we have shehnai. And I don’t know about you, but shehnai music all day depresses me from one end of my spine to the other.

What a contrast, really. From the late ’60s to the early ’80s, R.D. Burman road-tested all his tunes in his Bangla Pujo albums. At his best he gave us magic – Asha Bhonsle with Shondhya belaye, Moyna bolo tumi Krishno Radhey, Phool-ey gondho nei. Kishore Kumar’s Pujo releases included Noyono shoroshi keno, Ei je nodi and (a particularly mushy Pujo when I was 14) Aamaar dweep nebhano raatey. Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey, R.D. himself, all their voices are woven into my fabric of Pujo memories.

And what do we have today? Mostly barbaric remixes (painting the lily and gilding refined gold, good remixes are so very rare) or pretentious (and sub-standard) shehnai. Sad, because for all the oposhonskriti (‘bad culture’?), the loudspeakers at the Pujo mandaps provided our measure of which songs were hits each year. 1977 to ’81 was a particularly rich period – or do I just remember it better?

Oh well, we also have recorded dhaak tracks. I first heard them that Pujo when I was in exile in the ‘armpit of the United States’ and I’ve been grateful ever since. Baajiye jaao!