Dheere Dheere Haulle Haulle

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Continuing my series [Baba Deewana] on people who inspired me (a spin-off on the chapter in my book “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” on inspirational movies of the 90s) , I present to you yet another of my gurus.

Bhagwan ke liye tujhe chod doon to main kya khayoon—Prasad?

-Shakti Kapoor (Insaniyat Ki Dushman)

Cricket provided role models and life lessons for people who were at their formative stages in the 90s. Vinod Kambli taught us that without self-control, one can keep on flunking Class 11 even when you are the second best boy in class, Azharuddin taught us why you should not spend so much time on the phone talking to friends and Inzamam showed us how you should never ever be provoked even when people called you a potato.

But the man who influenced me most was, without doubt, Venkatesh Prasad.

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Baba Deewana

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In my book “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” (first edition sold out in a month–thanks for buying) I had talked about five iconic movies that had defined me as a person.¬† However I forgot to doff my cap to the personalities and artists who have had a similar deeply emotional effect on me. So today, I present you one of those persons. Hopefully in the future, I shall also acknowledge my other inspirations.

When you were called to the senior teacher staff room in South Point High School on the orders of the legendary ADG (Anjan-babu) you knew immediately that a few things might have happened—-that you had been spied upon smoking (which I did not), you had been found out going to private coaching classes (which I did) or you had been discovered to be going out with a girl (which I tried to do but without much success)

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Barber Shop

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There was a time, long long ago, when I used to look forward to getting my hair cut at the local men’s”saloon” (Rs 10 a cut) It was not so much the act of cutting the hair that I liked but the delicious waiting, sitting surrounded by an ocean of beheaded hair, hair hair everywhere, leafing through the eclectic collection of reading material the “saloon” would have—consisting of Stardust, Filmfare and many of its august brethren (The saucy Hindi mystery novels I didnt much care for I accept). It was precisely because of these magazines that I would go on Sunday mornings, when the crowd would be the largest,¬† the lines longest, the maximum loss of study time possible. As I waited, surrounded by naughty film magazines not allowed at home and hemmed in by refined men getting their underarms trimmed, I was convinced that Heaven must be something like this.

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Sale Sale

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You could not walk on the footpaths of Gariahat in those pre-Operation Sunshine days (Operation Sunshine being the controversial drive to clean Kolkata’s footpaths of illegal hawkers that became the first nail in the coffin for the CPM in Kolkata and marked the rise of the Big M) without being assailed by them.

Salesmen.

“Sale boudi sale” [not to be translated as Bhabhis for sale but Bhabhi, we have a sale”] they would shout, a never-dying cacophony that seemed to emanate from the bowels of Hell. As you tried negotiating the narrow rope that was left of the sidewalk, you would bump into people standing and bargaining, their sweat mingling with yours, with directed howls of “Ashun dada ashun notun shirt wholesale” [Come Dada come new shirts at “wholesale” prices] aimed at your eardrums making you stop in your tracks, just in time for someone to stomp your right toe.

This tedium would sometimes be broken by comic relief provided by cries of “Boudi boudi blouse niye chole jacchen” [Bhabhi is running off with blouse] as a hook of some garment hanging from the rope strung across the footpath would catch the hair of some lady walking by or by a violent diversion¬† provided by two shopkeepers, angry at being undercut by the other, hurling the most poetic of abuses. And no sooner had you crossed the zone of clothes-salesman would you be set upon by the “greeters” of illegal egg-roll shops that lined the footpaths. They would literally hold you by the arm and with avancular words of empathy (“Boy, you look tired after school, why don’t you have some chicken cho-men with extra sauce?” or “Going to tuition son? Ei Bhola whip up an egg roll double pronto for this gentleman right away”) entreating you to sample their wares while you tried to extricate yourself from their grasp, your senses nevertheless drawn to the chunks of meat of doubtful provenance sizzling like a seductress on the tawa .

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That Time Of The Year

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It’s that time of the year.

Durga Pujo.

Jostling amidst insane crowds. Craning necks trying to catch a glimpse of the protima (the idol). Getting my feet trampled by 200 lb mashima from Titagarh. Having my behind worked over by the pickpocket expecting his pujo bonus. Consuming boiled rice sold as “biriyani” and canine meat as mutton roll. Being awash in the bleary-eyed punch-drunkenness that comes not from good old bubbly but from the positive energy that pervades the air.

Not for me.Not any more.

Settled across the Atlantic in Obamaland, a “family man” no less, things are very different.

Very much so.

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Legends and Heroes

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[For detailed reminiscences of the 1983 World Cup, please read this.]

[Update: I was invited to do a much shorter version of the above post for the BBC. It was for their Hindi edition. The article is here. The translation to Hindi was, needless to say, not done by me. Neither did I give the title of “Dekho Maine dekha tha ek sapna”….after all without a “Phoolon ke seher main hain ghar aapna” the words lose much of its meaning.]

Many many years hence when I sit on a porch, rocking on an armchair with a shawl wrapped around me and a cup of tea with thin arrowroot biscuits in hand, I shall , in the manner of grandparents, smile self-contentedly and tell a group of wide-eyed children, voice soaked in trembling emotion —” Yes I saw it. I was there. Sometimes in front of a radio and sometimes a television. It happened right in front of me”.

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