The Issue: A Durga Pujo Short Story



[My latest book “Sultan of Delhi” is now available on Kindle outside the Indian sub-continental region]

“Let me go and offer puja”, the wife says pointing to the Durga idol to the right, up on the stage, “You can sit there, see if you know anyone.”

All married couples know this passage of play. It’s when one of the two makes the other do something that that person doesn’t want, and then compensates by backing off for a certain period of time afterwards. My wife knows I am not happy. I did not want to be here. Weekends are for reading books and watching movies, not for wearing kurta-pyjama that don’t really fit me in the way they were originally tailored, driving an hour, taking three exits, and then paying fifty dollars per person at the door for the dubious privilege of lunch, dinner and “cultural program”.

But it’s Pujo. Are we not going anywhere?

Even if that place is a high school rented for the weekend, and we don’t know anyone there.

So here we are.

“Well why don’t you go to Bangali Association meetings?” My wife had said on the drive here, chilly inside the car even though the heat was turned up high, “Then everyone would not be a stranger.”

I had simply gripped the steering wheel harder. I have been married for ten years. I know not to answer such questions.

“But you used to love Durga Pujo.”

I did. Back in Calcutta. When I had friends. When I could walk into a random pandal at any time of the day and most likely meet someone I knew, from school or college or from “coaching”, when the whole city was extended family.

Not now. Not in the US. Not any more.

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M S Dhoni: The Untold Story—the Review


[This WordPress tells me is my 1000th post]


M S Dhoni. The Untold story.

So what would this “untold story” be I wondered, as I sank into my seat at AMC Barrington, in a surprisingly packed auditorium on a Sunday afternoon.

Was I expecting untold stories about Rhiti sports, cricket enthusiasts, selection room shenanigans, bags of cement and Deepika Padukone?

Of course not. A biopic of a sportsman who is not just alive but also playing the game isn’t going to lift the hood and show us the gunk in the engine.Just not going to happen. That too in India, where slapping of defamation and sentiment-hurting lawsuits is a cottage industry. And to be honest, cinematic biographies of heroes, even the most Oscars-hogging of them and I am talking Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, rarely rise above being hagiographies, maybe not to the level of MSG Messenger of God, but pretty close.

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Five Stages of Grief


[Writing this post based on a series of tweets I made earlier today. For two reasons. One: to collect them in one place. Two: to cover my ass for the time when they are photoshopped together, shared without attribution, and then I have to defend myself; that it’s not me who copied but they. This, alas, has happened to me too many times.]

The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, postulates a series of emotions experienced by survivors of an intimate’s death, where in the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. [Wiki].

After India’s surgical strikes against Pakistan, our Indian “liberals” have been passing through, what can be identified, as the different stages of grief.

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Intellectual Standards Organization



What Chetan Bhagat is to Indian writing in English, Ram Guha is to popular modern history. Unlike the Bhagat though, Mr. Guha is an ISO-certified intellectual where ISO stands for Intellectual Standards Organization, that august body to which I somehow someday hope to gain admittance. Hoping to get some tips and tricks, I sat through his interview on a popular English news channel, and I can say with confidence, I came away enriched.

Mr. Guha’s basic contention, which I am presuming is explicated further in his new book that he was promoting, was that India is more intolerant than at any time it has been since Emergency. Now I was tempted to say that the very fact that he is on saying this on TV contradicts his assertion of suppression of free speech, since at one point, he even brings up Pakistan and North Korea, to imply we are only marginally better than them. I also felt that pinning  Canada and Sweden as examples of what we should aspire to be in terms of a liberal society was rather silly, given that these two countries have nothing of the demographics, diversity and history that we have, and that Ram Guha, being a historian should know that most of all, but then I told myself “zyara bhavnao ko samjho” and moved on. Though really I could not move on, perhaps because I think of intolerance as a systemic problem in Indian politics and social life, not one for which one political party can be singled out for, a malaise which draws sustenance from poor protections for free speech afforded by our Constitution, which allows people to be arrested for forwarding cartoons or making social media posts, a Constitution which, surprise of surprises, Guha’s heroes, Nehru and Ambedkar wrote up.

But then what do I know? I am just a struggling author with no  bully pulpit, and no TV channel to promote my book.


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I am shocked.

Mocambo, the legendary Calcutta eatery to which I have never been to, which might even be the single most Instagrammed place in the city, a favorite haunt of people who refer to themselves as “foodies”,  has been accused of not letting a working man, a driver of a car, enter the restaurant as a patron, because the powers-be considered him not appropriate for the establishment, based on his station in life. This has led to the usual social media cycle of outrage, of people downvoting a Facebook page which was not the restaurant’s, and of news media passing statements of  doubtful provenance as ” the official” franchise response, and of shares and comments and Whatsapp messages and other forms of digital mayhem.

As I said before, I am shocked.

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The Legend of Mem Bou



There are many privileges of being born Bengali.

I can live in a glorious past. I can appreciate Ray without subtitles. I can marvel at the Ma Maati Manush alliterative chchondo of Didi’s poems, by the grace of Ma Sharda. I can tremble my voice during elocution. I can consider telebhaja to be an industry.

And most of all, I can derive pride from the awesomeness of the new viral meme.

Mem Bou.

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Gunda Becomes Jawaan



Gunda turned eighteen this weekend. Or to put it in Gundese “Haye haye mera Gunda jawaan ho gya, toota hua teer kamaan ho gya”.

What began as a closely guarded secret in male dorms across the country, like a shared password for that orgy in “Eyes Wide Shut” except there are no women, all men, and all of unappealing body-types, and while imagining this, also imagine the stench of sweat, the musky odor of wet underwear drying in the breeze,  and only then do you begin to get a faint flavor of the origin of this global phenomenon.

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