Goodbye Yahoo ! Chat. Goodbye Orkut.




Once upon a time, there was no high-speed Internet, the mention of the word apple still conjured up images of a fruit, the forward-thinking Xerox-”STD” stores charged one rate for domestic email and another for international email, Pagerank was still in “What the eff is that?” phase, intellectuals did not have the luxury of appearing erudite by reading Wikipedia just-in-time-for-an-argument, and research was still done in libraries—you know the ones where they keep hard-copy ebooks.

And Yahoo! was Salman Khan, the 100-crore giant in the room. It was your browser home-page, the post-box where you got your email (there were so few that you even read the spam) and the search box where you typed in “Cindy Crawford sexy pictures”. Sure, some people used Hotmail too, perhaps under the mistaken impression that the mail you would get there would be of the hot type, but still Yahoo ! was the most popular online destination. It was whispered that the people behind Yahoo! were Shammi Kapoor fans, but since there was no Wikipedia then, we could never confirm if this was true. But we assumed it was.

It was around this time that many started discovering this other Yahoo! feature.

Yahoo Chat. Or simply the ! in Yahoo !

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The Entrance

If pure love is that which sets your heart on fire, which makes you sit up late at night sleepless and panting, then I can say that what I feel for Bedouin Sher e Bengal is that only.

Pure heart-burning passion.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of visiting many places and sampling a wide variety of cuisines. But nothing, and I mean nothing, packs the emotional impact of a mouthful of food cooked in the kitchens of Bedouin. I don’t care if people say that the biriyani of Arsalan is better or that Shiraz is the best for Mughlai food. Maybe they are right. Who knows? It’s like all the sensuous writhings of a Sunny Leone count for nought, explicit as they are, on an emotional scale, in front of Raveena Tandon’s “Tip Tip Barsa Pani” just because the latter touches me in a more personal way.

So don’t even argue.

Because you see, when I put a morsel from Bedouin into my mouth, I am not just having “food”. I am connecting via a gustatory bridge to times and tastes gone by.

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What Could Have Been


[Published in DNA, November 11, 2012]

There are quite a few things from my teenage years that I cringe owing up to, none perhaps as embarrassing as having been a shameless Shahrukh Khan fan-boy. As a matter of fact, I was so Madan Chopraaaa crazy that I would occasionally dress up SRK-style (I still have photographic evidence of me in my Ramjaane-inspired get-up) .

Those days, there was a hero vacuum in Bollywood. Amitabh Bachchan, after a disastrous run in politics, was turning out turkeys like Toofan and Akela, fast descending into the rabbit-hole of Dev Anandian obsolescence. Mithun Chakraborty was preparing to pack his bags for Ootie, Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff were on their ways out (they didn’t know it yet of course), Aamir Khan and Salman Khan were still finding their feet through a series of chocolate-boy low-key romantic roles, Saif Ali Khan was thought to be a Sharmila Tagore lookalike with no future, Akshay Kumar was cavorting in speedos as “handsome man” Mr Bond and producers considered Rahul Roy a viable sole-hero.

Yes things were that bad.

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The Passing of Another Friend

When you are young, life is uncomplicated. Student of the year competitions. Ishq wala love.
No big deal.
As you grow older, other more important things start coming into the picture. Cholesterol. Loss of muscle. Tingling of fingers during rainy season.
And the realization that each day lived is a day closer to death.
Nothing though brings home the truth of mortality more than the death of a dear friend.

Old Pictures of Durga Pujo


When we were in high school, most probably Class 12 but this was oh so long ago that it could well have been class 11, we started this little tradition. That being that on Saptami (the day Pujo officially starts), we, some friends from school, would meet at a specific time at Anandamela, an electronics shop in Gariahat and then go pandal-hopping on foot. The first time we did it, there was quite a crowd. It was so much fun that we kept on doing it every pujo. Over the years, fewer and fewer of the original group attended the annual ritual, college group alignments washing out the high school ones and couples forking out on their own. I religiously showed up though in front of the glass display windows filled with Aiwa sound systems and Onida color TVs because Pujo wouldn’t be Pujo without it. Then I came to the US to study. And that, as they say, was that.

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Patriot Missiles


Around Independence day, I inevitably start feeling patriotic. And when I do, I turn to Bollywood for sustenance and succor. Honestly, where else would you find true greatness like Dev Anand’s “Peeya hoon main sat mulk ka paani, sabse meetha Hindustani”? Where indeed?

Which is why, in this post, I salute five of my favorite filmi patriots. A disclaimer: Since I am primarily a Hindi film man, I have avoided greats like Balayya in my list (I lack intimate knowledge of his body of work) and for that I apologize. I have also not considered Prabhuji simply for the sake of fairness. After all, everyone deserves a chance.

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The Essential Soumitra


Apur Sansar:  For Apur Sansar, the final film in the “Apu Trilogy”,  the great director plucked a young radio announcer and small-time theater actor from anonymity to play the titular role. Soumitra Chatterjee. Nurtured by Ray’s genius, Soumitra brought to the world of light and shadows the unforgettable character of Apu, boyishly handsome, romantically intense and poetically fragile, journeying on the lyrical road of life, pushing aside the poverty, despondency and death that he encounters on the way. That last scene  of “Apur Sansar” in which Apu’s face becomes an almost wordless kaleidoscope of sadness, joy, guilt and hope as he reunites with his estranged son Kajal is so heart-wrenching that not even the greatest curmudgeon can prevent the eyes from welling up with tears. It was as triumphant an arrival of a great actor as one could hope for. So sensational was he that would go on to become the exacting Ray’s favorite actor for all time.

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Uncle Pai


In the bedroom,  in the narrow space between the foot of the bed and the old wooden bookcase, was my own little corner. Growing up, I would squeeze in that narrow space, open the lower shelves (the ones near the ground) and bring out piles of Amar Chitra Katha and leaf through them, one by one.

It didnt matter that I had read them, like a thousand times before. Like a favorite song or a favorite person, Amar Chitra Kathas had repeat-value, you could discover and re-discover them, marveling only at how much you missed last time.

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