NABC Diaries Part 1

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Culture is a word most treasured by Bengalis. Pronounced “kalchaar”, it conjures up multiple images in the Bong mind, of harmonium-handling humans swaying their heads in musical cadence to the rhythm of Rabindrasangeet, of the tremulous vocal-chord shaking of a Shombhu-Mitra-style elocution, of post-modern art drawn by a bearded once-Communist, of abstruse verse about a burning tree standing against a bare sky, of the screening of a Gautam Ghose or a Rituparno or a Satyajit Ray, or even the poetic stylings of Didi, though most who consider that high art are now all Trinamool MPs. Away from the homeland, in imperialistic capitalist America,  it is this culture that the Bengali immigrant misses the most. Of course they go back sometimes to this mythical “Bongoland” , for a month or so, but the entire time is taken up by going to State Bank of India renewing lockers, or fighting with real estate brokers and cousins out to grab you off your ancestral house, or  visiting homes of relatives you increasingly care less for, leaving precious little  for a concert or a play or a Charminar or an evening discussing the difference between Derrida, Neruda, Prabir-da and Florida.

The North American Bengali Conference, henceforth referred to as NABC understands this. Which is why every year they bring to the North American Bengalis a veritable cornucopia of culture, flying in top artists from the homeland, both Bengal and Bangladesh, for a carnival of color, chilli chicken and chaa.

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On Bobby “I am Not Indian” Jindal

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[From here]

Jindal stresses how he avoided telling his parents of his new faith and how disappointed they were when they found out. He said he read the Bible by flashlight to prevent being discovered by his folks, and compared his clandestine study to the early Christians “hiding from government persecution.” Jindal’s process of finding his true religion also involved participating in an exorcism of a college girlfriend.

There is a lot of Jindal that I don’t agree with. But this I got to give the man.

It’s better to be thrown in front of lions or be crucified upside down than to have to go through the ordeal of being a second-generation Indian immigrant growing up in US in the 80s. How do I know? I was one (for a while).

Jindal

My parents were kind. They didn’t, for instance, make me dress like Anil Kapoor in “Suit boot main aaya kanhaiyya” as Jindal’s parents did. They also left for India after some time, which is why I perhaps never exorcised my college girl-friend. Of course for desi parents, there is nothing even remotely distressing about conducting an exorcism on your girl-friend, it’s not like you had sex with her.

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Club vs Club

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bhimani

Someone seriously needs to tell Mr. Bhimani that he does not need to laugh derisively every time a panelist on Arnab Goswami’s show says something in favor of Dhoni. It is natural to feel insecure given that Yograj Singh is a Patiala peg away from replacing him on the one place that still gets him in front of a camera. But it is safe to say that Mr. Bhimani’s animated, though overwrought (in a Kareena Kapoor in a “Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon” way)  Dhoni-baiting has cemented (yes note the ironic use of the word) his slot in Arnab’s noisy menagerie as the go-to-act for anti-Dhoni vitriol, and I am happy for him. Now if he could only go a little light on the ketchup.

Fulminating over Arnab Goswami’s show is an exercise in recursive hypocrisy and I am not going to do that, mainly because I enjoy watching its hashtag-ridden “what angle will get me maximum TRP” synthetic outrage. With its narrative of national shame and epic betrayal after every loss, however the cricket segments have become incessantly grating,  and by the stellar standards of his show, that is saying something.

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On Marks and Board Exams and Life

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agoge

It was called agoge in ancient Sparta, the inhuman education and training regimen that little boys were subject to in order to make them  impervious to hunger, fear and pain, a regimen that included having boys fight boys to death so that the weak may be weeded out.

Or as anyone who went to school in the late 80s and early 90s in Bengal would say, school life.

Suicides were common, and so were heart-attacks and nervous breakdowns. Four successive days of two papers of a hundred each was considered to be perfectly humane because, how else, were children going to handle “the real world”? I came from a school, particularly notorious for what was just known as “The Pressure”, where most of us were made to fail in our maths half-yearly in class eleven, because and this was the stated reason, the class ten scores had given us whippersnappers an inflated idea of our intelligence and we needed to be cut down to size.

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Of Potty and Parenthood and Piku

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AB

 

[Has spoilers]

Piku is a good film. No this is not me trying to damn with faint praise. Piku *is* good. Even more than good, I would say it is courageous. In a world of  cookie-cutter behemoths , to invest in a film that is paced slow, driven by characters, and set in a non-Oye-Oye-Shava-Shava socio-cultural milieu, requires commercial cojones, and props to everyone associated with Piku, from the big B and the Choice P to the director to the guys who actually put money behind it, for providing us with something that I would not hesitate to use the term ‘risky” to characterize.

However it is not great. But it could so very well have been. It comes  very close, several times as a matter of fact, to touching something that is deeper and darker and universal, but almost, whether intentionally or not I cannot say for sure, it draws back into a comforting, crowd-pleasing but ultimately unsatisfying green zone.

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A Travesty

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Bhai is innocent. Bhai roxx.

It’s not sunk in for me yet. A movie that began with a hit and ran for thirteen years has finally come to an end and I can’t believe how that climax played out.

First of all, Bhai was not driving the car.  He said so. He also said he is a virgin. I mean come on.

Second, he was not drunk. His blood just turned into alcohol. Or as it was explained by a forensic expert “Sharaab aur khoon main apni marzi se peeta hoon…dabake” (Wanted, 2009)

Dabake dabangg dabangg dabangg….

Third, his driver was driving his car. He said so himself. I mean isn’t that obvious? Driver…driving…car. And if it wasn’t him, and I am not disputing what the court said because I fully respect the law, it could have been any one else.

Raina’s nephew. Kambli’s friend. Hindu patriarchy. Maoists. Media saazish. Sab mile hue hai. Amit Shah.

I don’t know. But definitely not Bhai.

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About My Writing Habits And Some Other Stuff

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Yesterday, my friend Ritwam Sen, as part of a comment thread on Facebook, asked me about my writing habits. Since I had been asked that question a few times before, in different contexts, I thought of writing a Facebook note. A few of you commented on that note wanting to know more. So here is a full blogpost on the subject, arranged listicle-style.

1. I write all the time. When I am out on a walk, sitting on my potty seat, driving to work, watching a cricket game right after my Fantasy Power Player gets out, utilizing any idle CPU cycles of my brain to think about my story.The biggest part of writing, I have found out, happens when you are not writing.

2. I practice active reading. That is when I am reading a book, I am just not only drinking in the story. I am also taking time to think about its structure, flow, and the way characters develop and speak.  Why do some sections drag? Why do I like this part? How does the author transition between events? Understanding this allows me in turn to write better. Also, based on the genre I am writing in, I do some genre-specific reading before I put finger to keyboard. It gets my brain into the pace and mood of what I am to write. Kind of like net-practice before a game.

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