It’s Durga Pujo (and no I will not spell it as “puja”). And that means being struck, once again, by what I referred to last year as the realization of how far away from home I am both in terms of time and space. Of course any walk down the path of Pujo reminiscence for someone growing up in South Calcutta in the mid-90s would be incomplete without a homage to THE Pujo destination—a place where the ethereal beauty of the Goddess in clay and the ephemeral iridescence of the angels of flesh and bone who flitted around Her, the sound of the dhak and the musical cadence of laughter , the smell of perfume and oil-dipped “telebhaja” (pakoras) all combined to cast a synaesthetic, magical spell on all those present—-especially if you were early 20s, male and single.
If I have been remiss in blogging for a few days, it is because I have recently become the proud owner of an XboX 360 Elite system (a Pujo gift for someone I love the most: myself) ! And unless the dreaded ring of death casts its malevolent shadow over my unit (Microsoft seems to have a severe quality problem with the Xbox 360s), kindly excuse me as I marvel at the jaw dropping textures, lighting effects and overall bleeding-edge graphics that seem to burst out through my beloved 46 inch HDTV.
Growing up in Calcutta, one of the primary loci of my life was the neighbourhood sweet shop, Mahaprabhu Mistanna Bhandar (Mahaprabhu’s Cornucopia of Sweets). Lunch or dinner was always terminated by one of its products and whenever a guest came, that was the place I had to go to buy the chomchom and the chanar jilipi. My favourite Mahaprabhu sweet used to be the extremely saccharine gujiya (25 paise a piece) from which I graduated to what I called Mahaprabhu’s Ek takar mishti (the one rupee sweet) , the jewel in their crown whose quality was distinguished by virtue of it being priced at Re 1 whereas everything else was 50 paise or below.
As time went by, the prices went up, the size of the sweets went down and the people at the front counter became less generous in giving out extra rubber bands. But virtually everything else stayed the same: the peeling plaster on the walls, the slightly broken statue of Laxmi and Ganesh, the rickety sink on which was perched a plastic jug that contained potable water, the huge vats of rosogolla and pantooya floating about in a sea of syrup, the flies buzzing about, the bare-torsoed/baniyaned assistants with their exposed pot bellies and abundant nostril-and-cochlear hair taking your order, handing out change and packing the sweets
One of the things that has served me well throughout my academic life has been the skill of skimming over many pages of dense text and zooming, with the alacrity of a hungry hawk, on to that part of the document relevant for me. And I owe this skill in no small measure to the works of Harold Robbins and of the lately deceased Sidney Sheldon.
Late 80s. No relief on pre-cable Rajiv-Darshan for the horizon-broadening early-teen. The mind turned to the printed word—-but the only English books allowed at home for “bhodro” (good) kids were the classics (Moby Books with one side text and one side pictures where a glimpse of Estella’s cartoon cleavage was the only possible great expectation), Famous Five and Nancy Drew, the juiceless products of the Communist state otherwise known as Vostok publications, Tintin, Asterix….you get the picture. The “bad” kids, the ones who got “guardian calls” and had red in their report cards, smuggled in these dog-eared Sheldon-Robbins books to school which we, with shaking hands and smoky breath, would leaf through rapidly trying to focus in on the good parts, in the brief minute before “tiffin” ended.
And what a world it was. Screw the “Gajab ka hain din”-style running around trees and the juvenile “Oye Oye”s —-this was the real deal.
Birthdays are a bitch. No this is not a rant about growing old and about the death of idealism —– for that I ask you to refer to my last year’s post where I tried to deal with the monumental milestone of turning thirty.
Birthdays are a bitch because no matter how hard I try not to get misty-eyed, my mind is flooded with memories of other December 30s when our living room would be decked out with ribbons, my uncle would be blowing balloons, my grandmother would be fighting with the Oriya “thakur” (cook) who would insist on adding an inordinate amount of spice to the chicken and I would rubbing my hands gleefully in anticipation of all the gifts I would have at the end of the day.
What the hell is wrong with Mamata Banerjee? First she calls for a 48 hour Bandh and then postpones it (at least she has not cancelled it) taking into account the entreaties of her Christian brothers !
Postponing a bandh? What kind of lunacy is that? Don’t people understand that the bandh needed to be on 21st (Thursday), 22nd (Friday) so that with the weekend (23rd and 24th) and Christmas (25th) we would have a really really long weekend ? Why is noone thinking about the people who made advance plans based on the prospect of this “Bandh Break” —who will compensate them for their loss? [Left: Picture (from Times of India) of protesting Trinamool hunks]
Whenever I am away from Kolkata, I impose a total media ban on anything related to the Pujo, taking a leaf out of the Government of India’s Ostrichian principle that if I bury my head in the sand and censor the flow of information about a certain thing, then that thing ceases to exist any more. [Picture to the left: Ballygunge Cultural Durga Pujo, Kolkata, 2005]
Which is why I refuse to do Protima Dorshon online (i.e. surf websites with pictures of pandals and images on them), do not appreciate being wished “Subho Mahalaya” and stay away from Probasi Pujos—–by blotting them out, I try to convince myself that Pujo does not exist and this illusion helps me to get over these few days. After all, as Durkheim demonstrated in Suicide, you feel miserable when everyone else is having fun, and you are not.
An inveterate Brazil fan (of course not to the extent that I would have a heart attack and die if my team lost) my loyalties (at least for this year) started shifting midway during the Brazil-France match. And this transformation was brought about by the sensational soccer skills of one of the greatest players of his times— Zidane. As one gaped in awe at his awesome ball control and situational awareness (witness the way he pinpointed the looping ball onto Henry’s foot) one became aware of how, football, the team game that it is, still depends so critically on the spark provided by a single individual—a fact brought out most acutely by Brazil’s inability to find that “one” with Ronalidinho looking off-color and Ronaldo, the angry, overweight humpty dumpty, trying to dive the moment the ball reached his feet.
[Originally published November 13, 2005. Reposted because of technical difficulties experienced by many in accessing the old post]
It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce the death of an old friend.
Desibaba is no more.
Desi Baba Desi Babes
Is closed till further notice.
Copyright Â© 1998 – 2005 DesiBaba.com
For those who came in late, Desibaba was the original Indian porn site. But it wasnt merely a “porn site”—it was a landmark in desi pop culture.
Let me explain.
Besides the sheer rush of participating (and winning let me add) two of my favourite events after quite some time, what made it doubly fun was the drive back home when memories of fests and culturals from days gone by came flooding back like the tunes of a long-forgotten song.