Sunday, November 26, 2006

Calcutta: A Love Story

All cities should have their stories chronicled. In some medium or the other. And some of them already have.
Bombay, for example. The glamour capital's story is a Film. And quite aptly, it has been made by a South Indian.
Delhi is a Novel. A long-drawn saga about the political intrigue that has come to symbolise the city. And despite the city's purported cosmopolitanism as the national capital, it has been written by a Sardar - India's most famous one at that!
Chennai should be a Comedy - and only R K Narayan could have documented the quirky balance of modernity and tradition. Maybe the small town of Malgudi in some ways was touched with the flavour of the largest small town in the world!
In the same vein, Calcutta can only be a love story. For what is love if it is not passionate and blind? What else is it if it is not the stuff of folklores? What is it if it is not at first sight? And what is it if it is not unforgettable? And such love stories abound.

This is not to say Bombay does not have its share of lunatic lovers. It does. But to remain in Bombay for all your working life, there is no sacrifice involved. You can move up your career and life staying in the financial capital of the country - and romanticise the cosmopolitanism of the city.
Ditto for Delhi.
But Calcutta has more than its fair share of lovers, who have abandoned fame and fortune to be with their muse. And the ones who have left have created a body of tragic literature from their distant outpourings.

In cocktail parties, in job interviews, in college reunions, I have praised the youthful spirit of Bangalore, the ease of living in Hyderabad, the work ethic of Bombay and the beauty of Delhi. Logically, I have held forth on the living standards, the entertainment options, the career possibilities and other scientific parameters. At the end of it, I have chosen from among these wonderful cities, a place to go back to.
Very rational.
What is irrational is the gut-wrenching urge I inevitably feel when I walk out of Subhas Chandra Bose Airport into the humid air. Is it the Anandabazar billboard with a catchy headline? Is it the sea of Ambassador taxis? Is it the Bengali on the road-signs or is it the WB number plates? What is it that makes me want to chuck up everything and just move to this city? Surely, it cannot be the traffic jam at Baguihati.
There is not an iota of logical reasoning in this. And yet...

Urchins at traffic signals in Bombay peddle pirated copies of Shantaram and Opal Mehta. In Calcutta, it is Orhan Pamuk.
When out-of-towners return to Bangalore, they are dying to hit the latest pub. Ex-residents of Calcutta go back to Peter Cat for the157th time. (And needless to say, order Chello Kabab for the 156th time.)
The P3P of Delhi are dying to get photgraphed with Rohit Bal. Calcutta P3P are attending a book-reading session by Taslima Nasreen.

The more I expect Calcutta to lose itself in the brand-new maze of apartment blocks and swanky malls, the more it remains exactly like the seductress I left behind 10 years ago.
The first time I saw a live cricket match. The first Smoked Hilsa I had. The first time I saw the Apu Trilogy. The first time I went to the Book Fair. The first time I heard Hariprasad Chaurasia play Raag Malkaus. The first time I was told the Naxal ideology. The first time I boycotted class to protest against the unfair system.
All come back to me for the simple reason that neither the players nor the place seem to have changed. The genial uncle would still be seated at Light Horse Bar of Saturday Club, recounting the romance of his college days. If I walk down College Street, the screenplay of Meghey Dhaka Tara would be still be hidden under the pile of Time magazines. If I walk into my college, the grafitti against the ineffective system would still be as vivid.

As a Calcutta songster said,
"Ei shohor jaaney aamar prothom shob kichhu
Palatey chaii joto shey ashey amar pichhu pichhu..."
This city is privy to all my firsts. The more I try to escape, the more it engulfs me...

Monday, November 20, 2006

And the Filmfare goes to...

Filmfare Awards continue to remain the Big Daddy of Indian film awards - probably because no other award has the might as big as that of Times of India behind it.

Starting from the 1950's, it was more of an exercise in bonhomie than any serious competition between actors. For the first quarter century or so, the awards were announced earlier and the ceremony was held to hand them over. And more often than not, one of the losing nominees landed up to hand over the trophy. For example, Amitabh Bachchan (Deewaar) handed over the trophy to Sanjeev Kumar (Aandhi).
Incidentally, Filmfare has a penchant for awarding the wrong ones... Sholay won one - just one - award as Deewaar swept away with everything except Best Actor! Anil Kapoor was given a prize for Beta, which was announced (by Dimple Kapadia) without opening the envelope! This angered Aamir Khan (in the running for Jo Jeet Wohi Sikandar) so much that he has boycotted the awards ever since!

But the legend continues - despite the predictability.
Every time, whenever Amitabh Bachchan wins a prize, there is a close up of Rekha. And vice versa. Salman dancing. Ergo, Katrina smiling. Whoever performs on stage HAS to be given an award. All things being equal, the bigger hit gets the award. Yash Chopra - if in the running - has to be given an award. If not, then Karan Johar needs to be given the award. Else, give a guy who will never get a nomination again!

The Oscar ceremony, I am told, has a time limit for acceptance speeches. Thankfully, the Indian 'guest is god' philosophy has resisted putting up any such norms - which is why the ceremony routinely overshoots the time limit of public functions in Bombay. Only the presence of the Chief Minister in the front row stops havaldaars from walking in and disconnecting the PA system!
Also, this has allowed some of the most hilarious, poignant and sometimes predictable moments of the awards.
Amitabh Bachchan, of course, should be given an award for accepting awards. All winners of the Best Playback Singer award obligingly sing a stanza from their winning song. The Best Villain trophy is always given out by the Police Commissioner and there is a charade about arresting the winner.
But the memorable ones far outweigh the predictable ones...
In 1969, Satyajit Ray turned up to give away the Best Actress prize to his protege - Sharmila Tagore for Aradhana.
Anupam Kher shared his Best Comedian trophy with Satish Kaushik - and Deven Varma (who was giving it away) asked for one of the backstage carpenters to come and carve up the trophy!
There is the slightly infamous incident when Shahrukh picked up his trophy and asked whom to pay for it!
Gulzar took a look at the envelope for Best Supporting Actress in 1989 (Rakhee - Ram Lakhan) and wistfully said, "Agar kuch saal pehle hota to pukar sakta tha - ajee sunti ho..."
In recent times, Abhishek Bachchan ran down the steps to the winner of the Best Supporting Actress. You can take liberties like that with your mother!
Ashok Kumar picked up his Lifetime Achievement award and quipped, "I have a new girl to sleep with tonight. I hope she comes alive..."
Dharmendra - after a Lifetime of no awards - gave a speech so long that he is probably still going on at the SNDT grounds!

Unlike Oscars, it has evolved into a full-blown ceremony only in the last decade thanks to burgeoning sponsor interest. Till the late-80s, it used to have awards in only about 10 categories.
It is, however, quite interesting to see that whenever there has been a 'landmark' performance, which has failed to make the cut in the standard categories, they have added a category to award it!
Aamir Khan (QSQT) was the first receipient of the Best Debut award.
Sadashiv Amrapurkar (Sadak) was the first Best Villain.
Shahrukh Khan (Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa) was the first Critic's Choice awardee.
Chinni Prakash (Jumma Chumma, Hum) was the first Best Choreographer.
A R Rehman (Roja) was the first winner of the RD Burman Award.
Sandeep Chowta (Satya) won the first award for Best Background Score.
And the funniest - Amitabh Bachchan was given the first Filmfare Lifetime Achievement the year his Agneepath lost out to Sunny Deol (Ghayal)! He has won more Filmfare awards AFTER the Lifetime Achievement trophy than before!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

10 Things About Bollywood You Didn't Know - And Did Not Want To Ask Anybody Either!

1. Famous Bollywood choreographer P.L. Raj's full (real?) name is Peter Lewis. He adopted the name Raj to avoid the minority tag. Remember, even Yusuf Khan had to adopt a more audience-friendly name! Also, P.L. Raj is the father of Leslie Lewis (Lezz of Colonial Cousins).

2. In the film Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, the names of the two main protagonists are Sudhir Mishra and Vinod Chopra - after the two filmmakers. They were classmates with Kundan Shah at the FTII and the trio had a pact that whoever got the first break would name characters in his film after the other two!

3. Product placements have almost become the norm nowadays. But when the trend was still in its infancy, there came a movie called English Babu Desi Mem (1996) - starring Shahrukh Khan and Sonali Bendre. It had the most audacious product placement by Bhilwara Suitings. They sponsored the hero's name. Yes, Shahrukh's name was Mayur in the film. (He was also endorsing the brand at that time.) Pity, not more than a hundred people saw the film!

4. In the film Khoon Bhari Maang, Rekha is shown to have gone abroad for cosmetic surgery after a murder attempt invloving a crocodile! When she lands back in India, she takes a cab at the airport and gives her home address. The address is "10th North South Road Juhu". Incidentally, the most famous house on that road is named Prateeksha! Coincidence?

5. Amitabh Bachchan's voice over for the introduction scene of Shatranj Ke Khiladi is quite well-known. However, his first ever cinematic assignment was also a voice over... in Mrinal Sen's Bhuvan Shome (1969). And he is duly credited as 'Amitabh'. This was probably before he left his job in Calcutta.

6. Karz is the one film which has the highest number of song mukhdas that have been made into films. It had four - Main Solah Baras Ki (Dev Anand, though not in the title role!), Paisa Yeh Paisa (Jackie Shroff and Meenakshi, I think), Ek Haseena Thi (Urmila Matondkar, Saif Ali Khan) and Dard-e-Dil (no details known).
Now the fifth has been announced - Om Shanti Om (Farah Khan's next starring SRK as Om and Deepika Padukone as Shanti)!

7. All the major stars of the day have acted in their debut films as child artistes. Aamir Khan as the child Tarique Hussain in Yaadon ki Baaraat. Hrithik Roshan as a super precocious kid in Bhagwaan Dada. Bobby Deol as the young Dharmendra in Dharam Veer. Karan Johar in a TV serial called Indradhanush (which had a very interesting plot about a time machine) - as a goofy friend of the hero. And if you are going to let me go even deeper, then I can include Shweta Bachchan whose mother was pregnant with her during the filming of Sholay.

8. A common misconception is that Nargis was the first Indian actress to appear in a swimsuit on screen. Actually, the first ever swimsuit scene in Hindi cinema was in a film called Brahmachari (not to be confused with the Shammi Kapoor one) - and it was done by an actress called Meenakshi. Boldness clearly runs in the blood as she has two grand-daughters - Shilpa and Namrata Shirodkar!

9. MBAs are extremely under-represented in the professions of Hindi film heroes. Probably the earliest was Jeetendra - in a film called Sharda - where he joins a company and then marries his boss' daughter! The great Mithunda was asked to get a diploma from Ahmedabad (by his wife - Moonmoon Sen) before he landed a high paying job in the film Sheesha. He molested his secretary immediately afterwards. Incidentally, his secretary was Mallika Sarabhai - a real-life graduate of IIM-A! Atul Agnihotri (Veergati) and Anil Kapoor (Hum Aap ke Dil mein Rehte Hain) are other self-confessed MBAs. The last one I can think of is Hrithik Roshan (in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum) cons his dad to finance a MBA in London - but sings songs with Kareena at a thong-prom instead!

10. RD Burman probably has the highest number of uncredited hits - as per industry folklore. A large number of 'fast tracks' credited to SD Burman is rumoured to have been composed by RD, because of the elder Burman's distaste for western music. Starting from Sar jo tera chakraaye (Pyaasa) right down to Roop Tera Mastana (Aradhana), many of them are attributed to RD.
Another apocryphal story is of the first break he got. His friend, Mehmood was about to produce a film and RD assured that he would convince SD to compose the music. Buoyed by RD's confidence, Mehmood had already drawn up the contract (on stamp paper) when he landed up at the Burman residence. Hearing the 'modern' story, SD chucked both of them out. Mehmood did not have the money - neither to get another stamp paper nor for any other music director. So, he just crossed out the Sachin in the contract and wrote out Rahul instead!
I hate using this cliche - but, the rest is history!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How Much Land Does A Man Need?

What is connection between Leo Tolstoy and Business India’s last cover story?
Well, not for everyone. Reading the cover story on India’s Highest Paid Executives, I was reminded of the famous Tolstoy short story.
About 850 managers in India earn a gross (pun intended) salary of Rs 50 lacs or above. And this is only for companies which have publicly available results. If you include the foreign banks, consultancies and other unlisted companies, the number is sure to top 3000 – and would probably include some of my batch mates as well! Actually, one of my batch mates’ father is in the list.

This, I found out by diligently going down the list and ticking all the people I know in this exclusive club. Know – defined as having conducted at least one two-way conversation (of 5+ minutes duration) with the person in question. So, my score is 7.
And of them, one had actually helped me organize my wife’s birthday (the first one after our marriage) and scolded me when I did not feed her a piece of the cake!
One recruited me for my summer internship.
I had taken another (the Chairman of my previous company) on multiple market visits – and heartily recommended the freshness of buns of a certain bakery on one occasion.
The aforementioned dad cajoled me to dance at his son’s (my batch mate!) wedding and I found myself telling him I could dance only when I was drunk! He was more than amused!
So, as you can see, I have hobnobbed with the rich and powerful. And if you include the banks, privately held soft-drinks companies and my current company in the game, then I can drop some more names!

Which brings us back to our original question – how much money does a man need? What does Mukesh Ambani do with 24.5 crore rupees per year – that he can’t do with 23.5? This is, of course, in addition to the uncountable zillions that he has in shares of Reliance Industries.
A group of friends I have in Bangalore carried on this masochistic pastime of trying to estimate the salaries of the high-and-mighty (including but not restricted to one’s immediate superior!) and their outflows. Every time we marveled at the unfairness of it all and decided that restaurants should charge differential rates based on salary slips. “Oh you poor Area Sales Manager – here is a free Tequila shot for you.” Or, “Ah Mr Premji, that will be Rs 32500 for breathing our air.”
On hearing a particularly astronomical pay cheque of somebody we knew, we had drunkenly tried to estimate his living expenses, savings requirements and surpluses thereof. Either our arithmetic was dulled by the vodka or his salary was really huge, we really could not come up with a satisfactory breakup. So, we were unable to answer the question – “What will you do with a salary of Rs 8.5 crores?”. But like true hands-on managers, we said, “Give us that salary for a year and we will find out by the end of it!”
Sigh… nobody subsidises experiments in pure science!

So, the question remained unanswered – and I re-read the original short story and discovered Chekov’s response to Tolstoy’s theory. He said, “It is a common saying that a man needs only six feet of earth. But six feet is what a corpse needs, not a man…” Then he went off on a tangent about the space a man needs to prove his worth and confused the matter further.

This same philosophical question found its way in an email exchange with a friend of mine. (The same guy who shares my passionate views on food, as described here.) He wrote back with a line, which has settled the debate for me. At least till now.
All a man ever needs is the love of a woman and some Bhapa Ilish. Everything else is hogwash.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

In the Name of the Father... Part VI

Lage Raho...
Turnaround time: 66 days.

The Son, The Wife and I managed to tick off the first film on our to-watch list today as we hit PVR Spice for the 11:15 show of Lage Raho Munnabhai! I read that even the UN General Assembly watched it today.
The kid behaved admirably during the show as he snored through most of it, even chuckled (or so I thought) at one of Circuit's wisecracks and only got scared when the mother let out a loud whoop on Abhishek Bachchan's last scene appearance!
We are preserving the ticket for posterity... nobody remembers the first movie I watched in a theatre!

When the baby was on the way, our biggest worry was that we will be grounded for an inordinately long period of time, desisting from our passions of food and cinema! So, we diligently collected notes on what other couples had done. I must say we have done a great deal better than most of them!
We have already tried out Chinese (Mainland China - 25 days), Coffee (Barista - 38 days), Italian (Flavours - 45 days), South Indian (Saagar - 50 days), Mughlai (Minar - 52 days) and Classic (Bukhara - 60 days). Today, we managed to break the other barrier as well.
And as a good omen, the trailer of Ekalavya was on.
WE ARE COMING!!!

Shakti: The chase begins again!
But all that bonhomie will not take away from the fact that my son hates me!

Who's the guy without a food tap?
Who's the guy who is forever rubbing my bum with wet wipes?
Who's the guy who shoves the bitter colic medicine down my throat?
Who's the guy who pushed me down when that nurse poked me with TWO needles?
Who's the guy who tries to put me to sleep when I wanna party?
Who's the guy who will make me study architecture when I want to be a DJ?
Who's the guy who will shoot me when I am running down a tarmac?

Damn, and I thought these things happen only in the movies!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ja, Ball Leke Aa...

There is a major upheaval in the cricketing pantheon of the country. More and more reports are pointing out that the latest gods of Indian cricket do not come from the metros. The Brahminism of Bombay and Delhi in the Indian cricketing scene has been usurped.
Mohammed Kaif (Lucknow), Yuvraj Singh (Chandigarh), Virendra Sehwag (Najafgarh), Harbhajan Singh (Ludhiana), Irfan Pathan (Ahmedabad) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Ranchi) are the new torch-bearers of Indian cricket.
Ever wonder why?

It is said that the real-estate crisis in Bombay is the reason behind the pristine straight drive perfected by its legendary batsmen.
If you walk around Kala Nagar in Bandra East, you will realise how Sachin Tendulkar manages to punch the ball back past the bowler about an inch away from non-striker stumps. People who started playing in this suburb (or for that matter, anywhere in Bombay) played in narrow, long lanes squeezed between apartment blocks of varying heights. If you had to score runs here, you had no option but to hit it straight down the road.
Just as Sunil Gavaskar's legendary defence is attributed to his beginnings as a batsman on the balcony of their flat - to his mother's bowling. To keep the ball from falling off through the railings, he had to ensure that the ball dies on touching the bat. The only time he hit the ball hard, it hit his mother on her nose causing profuse bleeding. So, now you know why he scored 36 in 60 overs... every time he tried to hit the ball, his mother's blood blocked his view!

It is the availability of space which has indirectly - but surely - contributed to the fluctuating fortunes of cities and regions of Indian cricket.
Karnataka - specifically Bangalore - first rose to prominence in Indian cricket in the mid-1990s. Earlier to this, Bangalore had sent quite a few legendary cricketers to the national squad but it was only around 1995 that Kumble-Srinath-Prasad-Dravid-Sunil Joshi all burst on to the national scene - for the first time, at the cost of Bombay players.
If we go back to the time all these cricketers started playing cricket, it was around the early to mid 1980s, by which time the maidans and parks of Bombay had been gobbled up by the Lokhandwalas and Makers of the world. Bangalore, on the other hand, was still a green haven and there was space for cricket to flourish enough to create a glut at the highest level.

When DLF, Unitech and other assorted builders started constructing flats on grounds that would eventually be sealed by MCD in 2006, the empty spaces were only available in the edges of Delhi, namely Najafgarh.
Jai of Kalkaji tempered down his batting because he knew his lofted pull would break Khosla Uncle's window and ground him for a week. As it turned out, he was still grounded when India was looking for a batsman who is not afraid to lift the ball. Veeru of Najafgarh passed muster because all he had done in the last 15 years was to clear the green field and find the ball which got hidden in the trees behind.

Mahi of Ranchi did similar things in the huge empty spaces all around his house. And Kaifu ran like a rabbit all round the parks of Lucknow. All this while, the budding talent of the metros were still trying to find 7 bricks to make their stumps or look for a closed shutter to draw them on!
And chances are that there will be no one in Bangalore to carry forward the legacy of Dravid. I mean, how high can you go when you are stuck in a traffic jam on Airport Road for the two hours you were supposed to be at practice?

Even in Bombay - Andheri, Malad and Goregaon have been quite unable to provide any cricketers. All the Bombay stars seem to have sprung from the precincts between Dadar and Town, which is where all the greenery is concentrated.
Lokhandwala turned Bombay into a city of gold. DLF is all set to ignite the Indian bourses. But most probably, they also took away India’s chance to win the World Cup.
Because a match-winning batsman needs to think of things other than broken windowpanes. He needs a view of the boundary he must clear. He knows that if he hits the ball too far beyond, he will have to go and fetch it. He has the guts and the cunning to do it. Now, all he needs is the practice to time his skyscraping sixer on the last ball of the match! So that nobody can turn to him and say, “Ja, ball leke aa…
Far fetched?
Okay, tell me… how did Virendra Sehwag reach his triple-century at Multan?

Monday, November 06, 2006

An Evening at Guzzlers' Inn

Hey Mia, where are you? How much longer at the office? Where is Rakesh? Already on Brigade Road? Arre, there he is! Chal, come quick.
Hey Rakesh, plans kya hain? No yaar, cannot go to Ningu’s tonight. Aarti has come back from US… aaj ke liye akele chhod dete hain. Abbe, take off your tie na! You are looking like a bloody ch**** banker. Haan, woh to tu hain, but you don’t need to advertise. Karna kya hain? Mia’s gonna take 15 minutes more. Okay, lets sit at Guzzlers’. Mia can come there. We’ll decide then.

Ya, Guzzlers’ is pretty reasonable. Bacardi for bloody less than 100 bucks. Good music. What else do you want?
Boss, get us two Bacardis. Large. With Pepsi. Get us two. Abbe, you don’t get Coke here. This is a Pepsi joint. Kuch khayega? Haan, French Fries sound good. Anyways, Mia is coming right now. Will have dinner somewhere else.
Cheers! Achha, that Kaliyon ka Chaman babe is coming to Bangalore. I wish. She is performing at Hypnos. Next Saturday, I think. We can go. There will be a cover charge. Max 500 per head. Boss, entry fees ke din gaye. Hello, get us some ketchup please.

Hey, you through with the drink? What to do? Order another round? Mia is coming any minute. Call karte hain. Damn, she is not picking up. Must be driving. Oh fuck, you told him to get a repeat? Chal, theek hain. We need to finish the Pepsi anyway. Boss, get us two... oh fantastic, you have got a repeat of Bacardis. Brilliant! I tell you, the service rocks here!
Ruk, lemme try calling her again. Ringing. Boss, she must be on her way here! Jaldi kar, jaldi kar… chal, bottoms up maarte hain!
Aaahhh! Fuck man. We used to do this with Old Monk in college. There used to be a war cry called “Piyo Behn..” – arre, its Mia. She must be outside. Hello boss, get us the bill please. Haan Mia, bol – where are you? Fuck yaar, 15-20 minutes more? Kya ho gaya? Damn yaar. Tell that Mallu boss of yours to work for a change. Friday evening kharaab kar raha hain. Chal, you come quickly. Raka and I are at Guzzlers’.

Oh ho, you have got the bill. Arre yaar, do one thing. Hang on to this for a sec. And get us two more Bacardis. With Pepsi. And get the snacks menu as well. Mia, I tell you, should look for another job. Some crap MIS on Gold card usage she is collecting.
What snacks do you want? Lets get something light… so that we don’t screw up dinner. Waise chalna kahan hain? We can go to Bageecha – remember the open air restaurant on the highway to Whitefield? Of course it will stay open. In any case, we are not going to be too late. Kal office hain, yaar. Fish fingers fine with you?
Cheers again! Haan yaar, Dandiya mein mast mazaa ayaa. Arre – Mandy ka dost kya enthu mein tha! Look this is the good thing about Gujjus. They market their events really well. They will get solid music. Lots of babes. Ya, your right… in backless cholis that too. Lakdi leke dance like madman – and then stuff your face with dhokla and chhole bhature! Mmm… theesh fiwh fingersharr dullishush. Ek aur mangai?

Haan yaar, Mia’s 15 minutes will mean half an hour only. Okay boss, get us one more round of the same. Soft drinks? Anything you want, yaar. And some French Fries with some Fish Fingers.
Oh bloody hell… this place plays awssum music yaar. Summer of 69 bloody does not lose its charm ever! Fuck yaar – there’s not a single place in Bangalore which plays good Bollywood music. My friend, that place plays Bollywood because it’s a chammia bar, yaar! Arre – lets put a request for Hotel California… oh hang on, Mia is calling. Haan bol? You are outside – oh fuck! Abbe jaldi khatam kar… maar maar bottoms up maar.
Oh teri! Phat gayi yaar! Ooooffff… that was fantastic! Brilliant maaan, brilliant. MIAAAAA – come here! Eh fuck man – why don’t you give us more notice? Tere kaam khatam kab hota hain you don’t have any idea or what? And that boss of yours bloody!

Kya piyega, bol? Hey waiter… take order from madam. Repeat for us. Mia, you tell the snacks. Abbe yaar – we cannot go to Ningu’s… Correct, because Arti has come! So till we decide where to have dinner, we can have one more drink… happy? Cheeeeerrrrrsss!!! Abbe, clink nahin hua… phirse kar, phirse kar! Do you know why people clink their glasses? Because you are supposed to enjoy your drink with all your five senses… you can taste a drink, you can touch a drink, you can see a drink, you can smell a drink. By clinking glasses, you also hear a drink. Thank you, thank you! Of course she has heard this before… she knows me bloody for the last 5 years bloody!
Aai Mia – what Tropicana shopicana you are having? Have a Bloody Mary bloody. You are on me! Main pilaoonga! Mere khoon ki kamai hain… Blood meri, Bloody Mary teri! Har har har… sach Raka, tu ek hi hain jo mere sachcha dost hain. Only you appreciate me! When you get married, I will personally go and tell my – sorry your – wife tu kitna achha hain! Damn you, Mia – who asked for your opinion? We are finishing our Bacardi faster than your mosambi piss juice. Okay – chal grape juice! Kya keepi keepi karta hain!

Okay boss, repeat… what are you saying? Kya boss, you call yourselves Pub Capital and close at 11:00? Boss, already last orders hone se kaise chelaga? Thoda to adjust karo? Okay okay, yaar – do one thing. Get us 4 Bacardis large. Arre – 2 for me. 2 for him. Fuck the snacks. Who has time to eat snacks if you are shutting down in 15 minutes.
Ehh Mia, relax! 15 minutes to the last order which means there’s at least half an hour to the closing. You think we cannot finish two drinks in half an hour? Yeah yeah Raka – well said! We will do it! Let the bugger return with the drinks. We will do one more bottoms up to that… we have done just one till now. What rubbish? We are NOT drunk!
Achha – chuck that. Tell me where will we have dinner? Some places stay open na? There’s Empire. There’s Bageecha. Ya – that’s a bit too far. Ningu ke yahaan chalte… oh good, the drinks are here. Boss, quickly get two Pepsis also! Haan haan relax… we can’t go to Ningu’s!
Fantastic, Pepsi is here… this is what you call quick service! Oh fuck – why have the lights come on? Don’t tell me? Police raiding this place? This is a brothel or what? Arre yaar, how would I know last order means closing time? Damn it… Boss Raka, agar mard ka bachcha hain to ek boond drink chhodke nahin jayenge!
Maar bottoms up – aur glass phnek ke maar police ke mooh pe! Maa ch** denge, chuna pot denge, g**** pe likh denge KRRRRAAAANTI! Yesssss, you can do it!!!!

Ehh Mia – where are we going? Why you bloody driving swaying driving swaying? Fuck, this whole car is swerving man. Hey – who paid the bill? Ehhhh Miu – tell no, who fucking paid the bill? Ehh Raka – who paid the bill? Whadyu mean you want to pee? Here? Abbe, pant mein mat kar yaar… Mia, stop stop the car!

Eh Mia – dekh, dekh! Raka has fallen into the gutter! Saala, tullee hoke gir gaya!

Whadyu mean I pushed you? I did not. I definitely did not. Why would I push him? Main sirf usse poocha jaake if he is through or not. Abbe – what crap? I just kept a hand on your shoulder and asked ke tu saala poora Bangalore doobayega kya susu mein? That is not pushing bloody… oh fuck, Raka is bleeding on his left arm yaar! Whadyu mean I did it? I DID NOT PUSH HIM!!! Raka, hans mat saaley… you are framing me!!!

Mia: Ningu? You awake? Raka has cut his arm – and he is bleeding. Can we come over? He needs some first aid urgently… huh? Arre, he had fallen into a gutter yaar! Oh don’t ask… its one long story. Raka, Dipta and I are coming over…

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitously. Any resemblance to any actual person - living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

32 Things To Do Before I Die

1. Meet Amitabh Bachchan.

2. Eat a full-course meal (with wine) at Zodiac Grill.

3. Teach my son to read Bengali.

4. Visit 221B Baker Street.

5. Buy The Complete New Yorker.

6. Write a paid piece for a mainstream newspaper or periodical.

7. Own the complete collection of Satyajit Ray movies on DVD.

8. Take my wife to see my school and college.

9. Attend the Calcutta Book Fair. Again.

10. Donate some of my books to a literacy foundation / library.

11. Deliver a lecture on sales & distribution at XLRI.

12. Watch a World Cup match starring Brazil live.

13. Visit Jaisalmer and see the Shonar Kella.

14. Party on one of the Bollywood Nights at Zero G in Bangalore.

15. Go on a holiday to Leh.

16. Stay in a houseboat. Either Kerala or Srinagar.

17. Drink myself silly at a party with all the VBs.

18. Watch both the Sholays back to back.

19. Meet Sourav Ganguly.

20. Walk back home after watching a movie at Nandan.

21. Solve a 5-Star difficulty Sudoku.

22. Be vegetarian for a week. Continuously.

23. Qualify for the finals of an open quiz. In Calcutta. With my original team from college.

24. Audition for Mastermind India.

25. Have a meal at Bukhara.

26. Attend a full night performance at the Dover Lane Music Conference.

27. Go back to Dibrugarh. Where my maternal grandparents used to stay.

28. Ride in a convertible. With the hood down.

29. Attend the month-long course on film appreciation conducted by the FTII Pune.

30. Take a history walk in Old Delhi.

31. Stay at the Amarvilas, Agra.

32. Update this list every year.