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Monday, March 31, 2014

The Future of the Past

The last few weeks were not passed in leisure. On more than one occasion I was inclined to hunt for a job that would take me back home. My mind was all over the place. I was lonely, and upset and depressed of sorts. I don’t however think that this blog is the right forum to talk about all the crazy things that go on in my head. And when I am in one of these moods, it is only Satyajit Ray who can get me back to functioning mode. Now, all my Satyajit Ray was erased from my HD thanks to a virus that my roommate so graciously lent me. So, the next best thing that came to my mind – Bhooter Bhobishyot. It makes references to Ray, plays around with words, and most importantly takes me down the memory lane of Calcutta. 

Anik Dutta’s debut venture was an out and out success because of a perfect culmination of a lot of things. The script penned by Dutta and Deb Roy was like a fresh breath of air. The witty dialogues, complete with continuous repartee between the characters is the very soul of the film. It is very clear that Dutta likes his word games. The name – Bhooter Bhobhishyot can be broken down to two meanings – The Future of the Past or more popularly – The Future of the Ghosts.
Set in the modern day Kolkata, Dutta takes an exceptionally comic vision of the everyday life of this scintillating city. Dutta decides to take a dig at the present socio-political scenario of the city. With old mansions and houses being torn down by greedy, manipulative and often corrupt promoters to make way for high-rises, and malls, Dutta presents a unique problem to the viewers: what will happen to the ghosts who had been living in these buildings? The poor creatures have long been forgotten by the ‘living’ habitants of the city and have nowhere to go. Having no affiliation to any political party or a voice that could be hear by the media and the corporate world, their future is bleak indeed.

Dutta makes careful deliberations to his script as he showcases the history of Bengal through his characters. He efficiently exhibits the socio-political scenario of Bengal, right from the Battle of Plassey (1757), the Sepoy Mutiny (1857), the communal riots between the East and West Bengal (1940s), the Naxalite Movement (1970s), and finally to the Kargil War (1999). The narration technique is crisp, making ample use of flashbacks, especially while talking about the background of each of the supernatural characters. The cinematography by Abhik Mukhopadhya is brilliant; he aesthetically uses different tones and textures for each of the era. During the course of narration when the necessity of amalgamating the past and the present comes, Dutta does it exquisitely. As an open admirer of Satyajit Ray’s works, Dutta consciously has made several references to Ray’s works, all of which tug at the feeling of nostalgia in the hearts of all Bengali folk.

The ensemble cast gave a stellar performance. Everyone made their mark, even those bound by time constraints. Bhooter Bhobishyot with all its brilliant banter, spoofs, puns, humour, songs, and dances reminds one that Kolkata was once Calcutta.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Detox Diet

I solemnly swear that I will stick to my detoxification diet. Well at least for two weeks that is. I have realized that even though I have a tiny and lean frame, I do nothing to take care of it. For example I drink too much than I should. Now what is too much? I have been told by some that I actually don’t drink enough, while some others have stated that it is in fact too much. Like last Friday, a colleague of mine started this conversation about drinking. This led the conversation about a trip to Goa. That in turn led him telling me that Goa is an ideal place for me because of my fondness for liquor. Ouch!! Mum and dad are you listening? Yes your little girl is now termed as a booze lover!  By her colleagues at work! I don’t know which the more embarrassing part is. Just last week I ended up shelling out 8K at a Hard Rock CafĂ©, for alcohol. My very first time, mind you. But do you think that justifies my behavior?! What happened to me?! This is not me! I used to be the quiet, shy one, who would shy away from socializing. I have been tagged anything but after I moved to Bombay. And I realize that I have found a whole new side of me. While I do like the most of this side, I confess that I don’t appreciate or approve the amount of liquor I have been consuming. Back home I never drank. And here I am out drinking every week. It’s time to make a change; change is good.

So I have decided to follow a detox diet for a few weeks. Two to be exact. Because I do not want to end up losing weight than I already have because of my Hyderabad stint. I am going to be all about eating and living healthy for the next two weeks. Nothing fat, nothing alcoholic, that is the most important part of my pledge. I started my detox diet yesterday, and I think I am holding on okay. I have even put up beautiful colourful post-its on my wall. Some reads the things that I must absolutely at all cost avoid and some reads the ones that I absolutely must have so that I don’t faint with hunger and end up losing any more weight. Now this brings me to next problem – weight gain. Or loss, take your pick. Because I have done both without understanding the dynamics of doing either. So how does it work again? I have no clue! Damn! All this talk about gaining and losing weight is making my head go round in circles. Let’s just drop the whole idea shall we?! Who is in the mood for some pizza?!Because I am starving!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Because I am Happy...

A very wise man once said “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.” I am one of those people who are on a constant ‘pursuit of happiness’. Vey ‘pun’-ny isn’t it?! My humour has always been termed as sarcastic and I am really proud of that fact that I am sarcastic. But I guess the joke is on me now because my friends now refuse to take me seriously. I am now the girl who cried wolf too many times. Like the other day, I complimented my friend on something that she did. She used to be my partner-in-crime back in high school, now she is my roommate. She turned around and narrowed her eyes and looked at me and said For real? I was stumped. What was for real? The compliment that you just passed on. Of course it was for real. Oh, okay then. She shrugged her shoulders. It’s just that with you I never know, she explained. Ouch! That hurt! I look at her dismayed. She grins at me and says I am sorry, but I can never take your first word about anything at its face value. Yes so that’s me, that’s happiness for me. 

Pharrell Williams has come up with his version of happiness and I spent my first day back in Mumbai from Hyderabad singing it throughout the day. I hummed “Because I am happy, Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof, Because I am happy, Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth, Because I am happy, Clap along if you know what happiness is to you, Because I am happy, Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do.” I sure did, I felt like clapping to myself, and wanted to hop, skip and jump to work that day.  I was the first one to turn up at office. I greeted everyone of the cleaning crew, yes I was that early. They were happy to see me; I had been away for almost 35 days. Madam, ghar gaye the kya? Bohut Khush nazaar aa rahe ho! I smile at them and say  Arre nehin nehin, ghar nehin, Hyderabad gayi thi, office ke kaam pe. Aaj hi lauti hoon. Bohut achha lag raha hai Bombay wapas aake. Because at that moment I was happy and I knew what happiness was to me. I had stopped looking for it and I had found it. The wise man was right.  

This wise man is none other than Albert Camus and he usually inspires melancholia within me rather than happiness. So there I was stuck in an alien city, homesick to death, had no idea when I would get out of the place and I came across his writing. Which brings me to my use of homesick; I was homesick for a place that has been my home for only about a year. Funny how some places make you feel at ease just like that, with a snap of a finger and some never. I always associate Bombay with this quote by Simon Van Booy – “For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.” Don’t get me wrong, Calcutta will always have my heart but I think Bombay is what feeds my soul. Right now I can’t even imagine my life away from Bombay, without its ruckus and insanity and madness. It reminds me of a life that I had always dreamed of living but never had the guts to live it out, but then Bombay made me live it!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Aimless Meandering of a Bong Head

I have been born and brought up in a typical Bengali family. My grandmother had some influence on me when I was growing up. But she passed away when I was 13 and I think that is when it started. My mother even though the typical dutiful wife and daughter-in-law never forced me into anything that is essentially Bengali. For example being religious. I do know that being Bengali and being religious has no connection whatsoever, but what I want to tell you is that it matters if you had a pious grandmother like I did. I have no idea how I turned out the way I did, but I am now what I am. I have no inclination towards religion, or “Pujo” in general. It gets embarrassing at times because I have no clue what to do when there is a “Pujo” at our house. Which is what happened today. My mother decided to have a Pujo on the day of “Dol” (Holi). Please go ahead and judge me because of what I am going to say now. She did tell me what the Pujo was for and I listened but I didn’t bother to let it sink in my mind. While most of my friends are fairly well conversant with the etiquettes of organizing a Pujo, I can shamelessly declare that I have no idea what those etiquettes are. And that doesn’t bother me one bit. This is what bothers me - that it doesn’t bother me. And I do nothing to improve my ignorance. The Pujo is over now, and I am as ignorant as I was before. Being the only child, it is essential to perform certain rituals. I couldn’t have been more nonchalant about the entire process, which disturbed both my parents, especially my mother. But I have a line of defence. She never said that I must absolutely follow the footsteps of a typical Chatterjee; she let me choose. And I chose not to be a part of all this. I have no qualms with religion or God. I just like to be left alone. I am not like my colleagues, who whenever we go for a walk would bow their heads and clasp their hands, every time when we come across an idol. To me the thought just doesn’t strike. The learned Pundit who came over to perform the whole ‘event’ was very displeased by my attitude and actions. I held out the wrong hand, did the wrong things and ended up saying a bunch of gibberish when he asked me repeat after him the ‘mantra’ in Sanskrit. So in the end I just gave up saying anything. When everything was over and done with, I was told that I could ask for blessings. I felt I didn’t have the right to do that. I didn’t do anything that I was supposed to, made it abundantly clear that everything about it bored me and now when the time comes to relish the fruit of the entire process, I get to participate in that?! I’m sorry, I might be a lot of things, but one thing I am not is a cheat. 

I was sent to an English medium school and as I grew older, English was the medium of conversation among our friends. We didn’t do it because it was cool, we did it because our teachers levied a fine on us if we would speak in any vernacular language. And the habit stuck.  I am a Bengali and am proud of the fact, but there are so many things that clash with my Bengali identity. I don’t like fish, simply can’t stand the smell of it. I haven’t read Tagore. If I am asked to speak my mind in Bengali, I will not be able to do that. And I tell myself that this is the result of the battle between nature and nurture. At school, the wholesome experience of having Gujaratis, Mawaris, Rajputs, Punjabis, Oriyas, Tamil, Kannad, people as friends made me very accommodative. But at the cost of being a weak Bengali. It clearly shows that in my case, that only my parents’ influence wasn’t enough. Or maybe because I simply didn’t heed their instructions or advice too much. My friends were an integral part of my life. Growing up without a sibling made me extra dependent on them. My mother often laments now that there is very little ‘Bongness’ left in me. I disagree. I may not have turned out to be the perfect Bengali girl she wanted, but now that I am living away from HOME, I take care to see that my roots are always sorted.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Random Ramblings of a Roving Mind

This is exactly what I called my mind when I was waiting at the airport to board the flight for home. I have been trying to verbalise what it is that I have been feeling for the past two weeks, but I have failed every time. At best, maybe I can say that I am still in a daze about the whole Hyderabad, Mumbai, Calcutta thing and it still hasn’t settled in that I hopped around these three mega cities in a span of just one week. As soon as I entered the airport, I was filled with this feeling of melancholia. I knew I would be going home today, but somehow the thought never sunk in. And somehow all of a sudden I just didn’t want to go home anymore. When it was time to pack, I got so agitated that I had to call my best friend and ask her to calm me down so that I could end up packing the essentials. I skipped sleeping; probably not the best thing to do when everything seems to irritate me. I am moody and edgy and touchy and I have no idea why. Here I was going home after 4 long months, I should be overjoyed. Instead I felt lonely and alone at the airport, forgetting that someone would be waiting for me to greet me and hold me and hug me at the other end of the journey.  All my mind was telling me, when you come back to no one, when no one is there to pick you up, you are the loneliest in the world. Something that I would have to do when I get back to Mumbai. I hate where my mind goes; it always goes to the dark and twisted place. Instead of thinking about how I will be greeted with joyous smiles, I chose to dwell on how I will be left alone to my own devices after I land in Mumbai. And to top it all, now that I am here, I want to be there! You would never meet another fickle minded Virgo like me! Everyone has their happy places, and what I realized today is that the airport is certainly not mine. It just makes me realize how much of a lot of things I have missed. I have been home for almost 5 hours, I have already had my first fight with my parents. Going back to stay with them, is tedious. Even though I am no pro at staying alone, since I have been doing it for only a year, I have come to value my freedom and independence a lot more. I don’t like hearing, you won’t get it unless you become a parent as an excuse of their being a tad bit snoopy about my life. I’d like to hear a real excuse for them being snoopy. That is just not good enough for me. Also I have no control on my mind whatsoever. It just goes wherever it wants to. It never leaves me in peace. It always has to overthink things, which makes me exhausted in the end. But does it care that it leaves me all drained and muddled? Hell, no! It’s only job is to create the mess by overthinking things and then leave me with the mess while poor little me tries to figure out the questions that the highbrow mind of mine left me to answer. 

I enter my room and I hardly recognize it: pink bed spreads?! Doesn’t Ma know that I abhor pink like anything? What is wrong with her? She is doing all these silly little things for me. So is dad. Neither of them would leave me alone with my rambling mind for a second. Well, I believe it now – distance makes the heart grow fonder. But I don’t think I can handle this fondness too much. It is a getting a little claustrophobic for me. I hate myself for even thinking this, but a tiny part of me thinks that all this is a little fake. They might be doing all this to absolve themselves of the guilt that has been gnawing at them for treating me the way they did for the last 23 years.

While rummaging the fridge today, I realized Ma’s fridge is a happy fridge. My fridge back home is not. And I almost blurted out I don’t feel like going back but I managed to catch myself just at the moment. My ego is too huge to admit to my own folks that yes I miss this luxury at times. I have got my perspectives all screwed up, I get that. I should never feel the way I do, but that is where my mind goes.

I have spent a little more than 24 hours at home. I am still very ambivalent about my feelings. Is this how it’s supposed to be?