Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Anirban!

9/11 is also my friend Anirban's birthday. Since he dislikes any discussion of his academic/professional achievements, I thought I'd write about some of his other exploits which are much more fun than "elucidation of mechanisms of DNA interrogation employed by DNA glycosylases".

The title - in Harry Potter style - of the story is:
Anirban Banerjee and the Last Resort 
(In Bengali, it could be Anirban O Aakhree Raastaa)

Anirban stayed at his maternal grandfather's house opposite Deshapriya Park, a location made attractive by the presence of future landmarks like Mona Lisa Guest House, tea shops like Maharani and cinema halls like Priya & Menaka.
In the later part of 1980, our cinematic choices were rather limited and our choice of devotion even more so. We never had the Big B. We had the Only B. For us, any Amitabh Bachchan release was no less than the sighting of the Halley's Comet and Anirban was a true believer.
(Pertinent Point: Anirban's father is one of India's greatest astronomers.)

On one monsoon morning in 1986, Amitabh Bachchan's magnum opus Aakhree Raastaa opened in Menaka. This was known to all of us and Anirban had planned for it.
Several days ahead, Anirban had informed his guardian angle (a.k.a. guardian uncle a.k.a. Boromamu) that he would be going to study Geometry at Probal Sengupta's house. Probal was a really sweet classmate of ours who had two winning qualities - (1) He stayed within walking distance of Anirban's house, (2) He was not known (read: untraceable) in Anirban's household. This innocent and studious request had been immediately accepted.
When Anirban - along with the rest of Calcutta - awoke that morning, they were greeted by what The Telegraph would call 'the heaviest downpour of 72 years' in the next day's paper. Half of Calcutta and all of Deshapriya Park were underwater, with water stretching to Anirban's waist (and my chin, if we were adults but we were still in our early teens). Having seen this glimpse of a future movie called 2012, Anirban pretended to study and prayed for the rains to stop. The downpour became heavier.

After a nervous lunch (around 2:30 PM), Anirban went up to Boromamu and declared that he was leaving.
Boromamu did a double take.
Anirban reminded that he was supposed to go to Probal Sengupta's house to study Geometry.
Boromamu pointed out that Euclid himself would have stayed at home on a day like this.
Anirban replied that Euclid didn't need to pass exams in Geometry.
In short, Anirban made the point that if the deluge did indeed end Calcutta as we knew it, he would like to die after knowing the area of an isosceles triangle.
Boromamu - being sharp as a Samurai scimitar himself - smelt not only a rat but all of Hamelin and let him go. Yes, you read that correctly. Boromamu let Anirban go. But as Anirban waded his way towards Menaka, Boromamu followed him!
(I always thought that if Anirban's life is made into a film, only Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Amol Palekar and Utpal Dutt should be involved.)
Boromamu followed Anirban all the way to Menaka and arrested him just short of Menaka's lobby. Anirban calmly accepted the court's verdict but pleaded that since he had bought the ticket and had come this far, the punishment may please be deferred till Amitabh Bachchan had satisfactorily decimated Sadashiv Amrapurkar.
As you would have guessed by now, Boromamu agreed.
Who knows? He may be an Amitabh Bachchan fan himself.

* * * * * * * * * *
Two more stories about watching two iconic films - Hum and Basic Instinct - are left for another day.  
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