On March 19th, in Elgin Road Crossword, May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss had its Kolkata launch event. With Bipasa Basu’s alma mater nearby, one could not but feel overwhelmed by the intellectual shadow cast by memories of her presence, in the same manner that one is overawed when in Shantiniketan. Helmed by Rimi Chatterjee, the event went off excellently with attendance being so considerable that the manager of Crossword said she had not seen such a crowd for a book event in that store. Ever. Not the kind of crowd seen at one of Bipasha Basu’s “Beeri Jalaile” lit-events on New Year’s Eve but still quite good.
Questions were varied and interesting with my favorite being “Why are Bengali men so bad at approaching women?” Now I dont know when I became the expert on analyzing the pick-up techniques of Bengali men, but my answer was on the lines of “Bengali men are mortally afraid of being rejected. Hence they find it tough to start a business or approach women.” What I didnt mention was that Bengali men also lack good pick-up lines since “Why don’t we go to my place, say Hello to my mum and have some lau-sukto?” somehow have stopped working in recent times. [Telegraph coverage of event, (HT also covered the event but HT Cal doesnt go online)]
On March 25th, the good folks organizing Kolkata Twestival kindly asked me to be the chief guest at their event. Now as most people know, being a chief guest or sobhapoti or being asked to distribute prizes is a fantasy of every Bong man, a state of things beautifully brought on screen by Satyajit Ray in Porosh Pathor where Tulsi Chakraborty, dreams of giving a chief guest speech —“Desh-ke tule dhorte hobe.” (We have to lift up the country). So of course I readily agreed.
The venue had a small stage and a number of chairs and the moment I stepped onto the stage, I felt as if I was in an old Bengali movie, each of which would have a mandatory scene wherein the hero/heroine sings in exactly this kind of milieu while Sukhen Das, the ever-sacrificing elder brother, dies of cancer of lungs, heart, throat (not of kidney since he already donated one to get the youngest sister married and the other to pay for middle brother’s “Bilet” [London] education) all the while telling one and all not to disturb the singing brother/sister with the news of his impending death. Resisting the urge to sing ” Anek jamano byatha bedona ki kore gaan holo jaani na” (I know not how my pent-up sorrows came out in song) from Parabat Priya in a Tapas Paul/ Tennis Ball style or to make eyes at the camera Aparna Sen style and belch out “Aache Gour Nitai Nodiyaate” [Gour Nitai is in Nadia], I concentrated on the job at hand—to make some coherent points and to answer the wild variety of questions as appropriately and accurately as possible.
The best thing of the evening, besides the enthusiasm of the organizers, was the fact that more than Rs 17,000 was raised for charity (Concern India). [Above picture courtesy @_samiran]
Now for book. MIHYAP sold out at Oxford Kolkata. Crossword Kolkata ordered a fresh stock. And Crossword at Saket Delhi is also sold out of the book for now. They said new orders have been put in place. It is available at the main Landmark store in Bangalore (confirmed) and in several major places in Mumbai. Chennai and Hyderabad I am still not sure. May I request people there to please order through Flipkart whose service is excellent and price very reasonable.
And so now I check out to make the long flight back. Stay good everyone. And more importantly, keep it khulla.