The Last Of the Communists


I had met Somnath Chatterjee a long time ago. My grandfather, who was one of the founders of CPIM in Birbhum district and a freedom fighter who served time in the Andamans, had been admitted to hospital with serious complications and Somnath Chatterjee, who represented Bolpur in Birbhum district, had come to pay his respects. He had no posse or hangers-on around, even though he was a VIP and the CPIM’s main man in Delhi, and he carried lightly his importance.

Somnath Chatterjee, who passed away recently, was an old world politician in the true sense of the term. While I am sure he made compromises, as any politician does, and anyone who claims they dont is Kejriwalling, he was also one who stood by principles, and nowhere was this more heroically evident than his stance during the Indo-US nuclear deal. which led to his expulsion and subsequent humiliation by the brutish partisan stooges who call the shots in the CPM today, the Karats and the Yechurys. If there was any problem with Somnath Chatterjee was that he was too patrician, too gentle, and his brand of old-world oratory could be disrupted, as it was once, by a then-unknown rabble-rouser, who aided by a massive sympathy wave and her own ability to speak the tongue of the masses, handed Somnath Chatterjee his only defeat in a long career.

One Mamata Banerjee.

Continue Reading »


All Satyajit Rays In 5 Words Each


Inspired by the Academy’s “Describe a movie in 5 words”, here are all the Satyajit Rays.

In 5 words.

 Sister dies. Boy leaves village.


Boy in city. Mother dies.


Jaded clerk finds philosopher’ stone.

Zamindar throws his last soirée.

Boy loses girl, finds son.

Continue Reading »

Imran Khan As We Didn’t Know Him


For those of us who grew up at a time when Advani was seen as a future Prime Minister and Marc Zuber as a possible Bollywood-to-Hollywood break out star, Imran Khan was an enigma.

We knew he was very popular with Bollywood film ladies.  We knew his posters adored the walls of many a schoolgirl. We knew he used Cinthol. We knew he had Brooke Bond tea and he sipped Pepsi. We knew he had a lot of sex. We knew he played for Sussex. We knew he was very difficult to get out when he was batting, even more so if the umpires were Pakistanis. We knew he ended the career of Gundappa Viswanath. On some days, we knew he was practically unplayable. We knew he spoke little, and when he did, he did with a clipped British accent, and he pronounced Atul Bedade as Atul Bedaad. We knew he was aloof, in a patrician way, as if no one on this world deserved anything more from him than a condescending smirk. We knew he was born to lead, and even in the 92 World Cup when he himself did little of note (except play some really slow innings), he had became the center of all attention, and there was nothing even remotely unfair about that, because taking credit for the work of others, why that was his birthright. Ruling was his birthright, we knew that, because he was a Greek God in human form, and no man could hold his gaze, for he drank the elixir of mardaangi, and he sweated raw testosterone.

We knew all that. But not much else.

Continue Reading »

Of Azhar and Sanju and Hagiographies


I get it. I really get it. Now stop beating me over the head with that.

Azhar never fixed matches. Or rather, as the film Azhar tells us, he pretended to fix matches so that he could catch the real match fixers.

And Sanjay Dutt was never a terrorist.

And that car was self-driven.

I have often wondered why some of our flawed heroes, and let us all agree, Bhakts and Sickulars, that Azhar and Sanjay Dutt are as flawed as they come, have this obsessive need to establish that they are innocent.

Whether they got away lightly or took more than their share of punishment, the truth is that they have done their time. They don’t need to sway public opinion just to get a good verdict.

Sure, Azhar might have a political career and Sanjay Dutt may be contemplating embarking on one, given that his salad days of flexing muscles and Ey Shivani-ing is almost all but over, and that might seem to be reason enough to go all heavy with the PR.

But I don’t think that is the reason “Azhar” exists. Or “Sanju”.

They exist because the enormous egos that have their names in the titles of the films actually, really, deeply want you to believe they are good people.

And only when you do, only then, can they themselves believe they are.

Continue Reading »

On the Sadness of Moving


The first time I moved in my life was when I left Calcutta to come to the US to do my PhD, having spent almost all of my life in the same house in the same city. I know I should have been sad, leaving home and family, but I was not . I was excited, deliriously so, for I was looking forward to staying on my own, of not having to answer to a million watchful eyes, of breaking free of a strait jacketed Bengali middle class upbringing, and at the very least, for not having to hide my Pamela Anderson pictures in the C-prog-files directory renamed as P0001.dat.

Continue Reading »

IPL Epic XI 2018


1. D Arcy Short: Not only won’t he score runs, he will run you out if you try to.
2. Gambhir: Seen better times, now fallen on dark days. Bengal’s jute factories.
3. Maxwell: Used to play well under UPA, now destroyed by intolerance.
4. Yuvraj Singh: Looked grumpy throughout, whether it be on the field or on the bench. There are bad times and then there are worse times and then there are times when Manoj Tiwary takes your place.
5. Stokes: When they called him today’s Flintoff, they weren’t off the mark. Ties with Flintoff and Lord Clive as the Britishers who took the most of Indian resources and gave the least in return.
Continue Reading »

Goodbye ABDV


Sitting in the middle benches where the chemistry teacher does not look, as he drones on like the ancient fan overhead , on the arcane art of balancing equations, and sweat drips down the side of his forehead, you look outside, through the window at the burnt sky, and imagine.

You imagine cricket. You imagine hitting sixes of the kind that only a young boys mind may think of, packed houses calling out your name, you imagine swiveling, dancing out, hooking, pulling, playing the game with the boring parts rubbed out.

ABDV lived that imagination. The kind of batting that should not be and yet was, domination of not only of the full 360 degree of scoring, but also of the full 360 of batting, equally at ease scoring 90 off 45 balls and 45 off 90 overs, equally comfortable at Cuttack and Perth, subtle one moment and the beast the next.

Was he the greatest all game batsman of the modern era? I don’t know but I do know he was the nicest, he was not only the one that you wanted to be, but the one that you should be, who played the game the way it should be played, hard but without rancor, confident yet without arrogance.

Goodnight ABDV. Goodbye old summer dreams.