Bad Culture

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[originally published in Du-kool]

There was a time many years ago – I think I was in class 6 or was it 7 – that my mother thought that it would be a good idea to make her son into an outdoor type of person. So I was sent off to a one week nature-study-camp in the forests of Orissa. There I learned how to tie knots, identify constellations in the sky, and the proper steps that must be taken when your torch falls into the communal toilet at two on a moonless night. This camp, which as you can see I enjoyed a lot, used to have a daily event, the campfire where camp attendees were encouraged to perform. You could recite poems, do skits, tell a story, or you could sing.

One rule however.

No Hindi film songs.

Actually no Bengali film songs either, except songs from Satyajit Ray films, which were of course okay, because, Satyajit Ray.

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The Sadness of the Comic

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If one ever wanted to make a movie about a superstar with a flair for characters and for physical comedy who ends up dying of depression while making the world laugh, there would be no better man to play him than Robbin Williams. And so it came to be, art became life or was it the other way round, and the sad irony of the whole thing would definitely have made Robin Williams himself laugh.

It’s difficult to make laugh, difficult even more to make people laugh so much that they cry, and difficult most to make people cry while they laugh. In that Robin Williams was a master, like Charlie Chaplin, for their best performances,  always had a melancholic poignancy to them, lingering long after the laughter had died down.

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Goodbye Yahoo ! Chat. Goodbye Orkut.

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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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Sher-e-Bengal

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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

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[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

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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.