Sunday, September 16, 2007

Long Time, No Hear

This can safely be classified as very irrational nostalgia. It is a yearning for some completely insignificant phrases / words that seem to have gone out of our daily lives. At least my life, at any rate! I used to come across them quite regularly at one point of time. Now I don’t…

Sorry for the Interruption
This is from a very ancient age, when the entire family congregated around the TV set at 8:58 PM for the English news and patiently watched the seconds tick away.
At least once every evening, transmission would be interrupted and the familiar board would be displayed. I grew up with “Onushthan procharey bighno ghotai dukkhito” and my Delhi friends would remember “Rukawat ke liye khed hain” but the regularity of the message was amazingly identical at both locations!
Somehow, I miss the innocence of that admission, however irritating it was at that point of time. It was a symbol of more genteel times, as TV stations were ready to admit that they had goofed up and we were about to miss 3 minutes of Sahitya Sanskriti (or Krishi Darshan, as the case might be)!
Nowadays, television channels cook up fake videos to frame innocent people, get caught and pretend that nothing has happened. Maybe, they should pick up the same board from the recesses of Mandi House and put it up.

A very long time ago, when I was on my first job and got posted back to Calcutta, I had a ritual. Along with a friend, I used to go to Olypub every Saturday.
In those days of youth, we used to think nothing of knocking back four drinks each to the accompaniment of assorted snacks & savouries. The evenings were made better by the fact that the bill never touched four figures.
During those evenings, the waiters never hovered around our shoulders like they do in the swanky lounge bars nowadays. When we wanted a refill, we beckoned at them. The one assigned to our table (a very rigid system, we found out) would saunter over, look at us a little sadly and ask, “Arekbar?” (Again?).
There was no persuasion in that question as it tends to be in pubs / bars – “Should I get you a refill, sir?” It was more of an admonishing garbed in the detached confirmation, which incidentally had no effect on the efficiency. Seconds after we nodded, he would bring the bottle over and measure out the large pegs.

Boss, company is not understanding the problem…
When I started off in FMCG sales, it was a time without mobile phones and with floppy drives.
Companies wanted to sell irrational amounts of soap, toilet cleaners and other such products of eternal consequence. And they had already convinced a large group of MBAs to execute the plan. These MBAs – with their data interpretation and presentation skills – in turn, convinced another group of lesser mortals. The guys who repeated this problem to me some 482 times were these lesser mortals.
We would be at the depot, trying to invoice truckloads of stock without too much of an idea what the Madhubani distributors would do with 330 cases of soap (which can bathe all of Madhubani for about 7 months). And when all pleas not to do so would fall on deaf ears (mine), this phrase would come out with a deep sigh!
This statement of despair did not deter them from their duties, as they would still do what the company required of them but made this small complaint anyway. Companies no longer believe in those kinds of absurd billing nowadays. And in any case, I have moved out of frontline sales.
I miss that statement because it was a momentary despair of a soldier. He would still fight. He would probably win as well. But his wisdom and profound experience forced him to make that one note of protest before he moved on.
I miss the loyalty, tenacity and the cynicism of those guys.

Inquilaab Zindabaad
Growing up in Calcutta, one lost count of the number of times one heard and saw this slogan. Though this is obviously not restricted to Communism alone as it has reverberated in India from the days of the freedom struggle right down to my college days. Which is about the time I heard it last, though it is still going strong.
Be it protesting against Manmohan Singh’s nefarious designs to mortgage to the country to World Bank or be it expressing shock at a fee hike of Rs 10 per month, Inquilaab Zindabaad raised adrenaline levels like no other. One of my friends was celebrated all around for their god-gifted ability to form perfect cones around the mouth with their palms and let out a sound of such terrifying pitch and timbre that imperialist monsters would have wet their pants if they heard it!
The classical version of the slogan has the lead voice calling out rapidly – Inclubjindabaad – and the chorus responding with a double-barrelled Jindabaadjindabaad! This had to be repeated till desired result is achieved or lead singer collapses of laryngitis. When ending, it had to be in one voice – INNN. KI. LAAAAB. JINDAAAAA. BAAAAD.
Now we have silent marches, candlelight vigils and photogenic protests. The clarion call of keeping the revolution alive has somehow not lent itself well to the live telecasts and it has crept out of our lives. Now, we want to Ambedkar to live forever. We want Sri Ram to live forever. Some even want Salman Khan to live forever. But the revolution has died.
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