Yeh Lamhe Yeh Pal Hum

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It doesn’t make sense, this feeling of loss.  It really doesn’t. I didn’t know the person, though God knows I tried, leafing through film glossies, and flicking away the strands of hair that found its way into its pages, at the barber shop, waiting for a haircut when it was most crowded.

But perhaps it does. Perhaps it does make sense. The sadness.

Because we do know our celebrities, or rather their projections,  the characters and the books and the matches they played,  because of the way they imprint themselves on our lives, our likes, on the very fabric of who we are and become.

So it is with Sridevi. So it is. Waiting in sweaty lines for “Sridebi-r peekchar”, jostling and shoving, protecting my wallet from the pickpockets and pushing forward. Of her cavorting in that blue sari in Mr India and me being overpowered by the first stirrings of feelings whose truth I would come to realize only later. Of the salt of tears at the end of Sadma. Of her clutching the picture and sensuously writhing into a snake in Nagina. Of me walking into half yearly exams, holding my clipboard and pencil box, strains of “Are you ready? Are you ready” from Nakabandi playing in my head. Of stepping into the teens, with my voice cracking, and pimples erupting, trying to scratch at the surface of the truth of love and loss in Chandni, and then slightly older, and considering myself much more mature and worldly-wise, of repeating that exercise in Lamhe, and coming out of the theater, as clueless but as immensely moved as before.

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Valentine Day Post: The GreatBong 90s Songs Mixtape Side A

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1. Dheere Dheere Se

Aashiqui (1990) is the granddaddy of all 90s musicals. This one set the trend, bringing together a dream team of 90s romanticism, Kumar Sanu, Anuradha Paudwal, Gulshan Kumar, Nadeem-Shravan, and there was so much “luwe” here that one of the team (allegedly) took out a supari on another and then ran away to England, but then isnt that what happens to love anyways, once you start farting in bed together.

But I am getting ahead of myself here.

The Aashiqui album is like the Australian team of the late 90s, every song is a match-winner, but for me, the absolute Adam Gilchrist is “Dheere Dheere Se”. It edges out “Tu Meri Zindagi Hai” perhaps because of Rahul Roy’s speedos, but mostly because of the duality of the song—it is about as much as the chemistry between workout-bros Deepak Tijori and Rahul Roy as it is between the Roy and the Agarwal.

Things of course would never stay this pure. Under the pressure of my future, Anu Agarwal would be replaced in my mind by  Physics problems from an IIT coaching brand with the same last name. The Roy would go on to join Big Boss and later the party under Big Boss. Honey Singh, the Sauron of good music, would do to this song what the Taliban did to the Bamiyan Buddhas, and Shakti Kapoor’s daughter would reboot the Aashiqui franchise.

But for now, just listen, enjoy, and contemplate on what could have been.

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Leaving Maryland

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J-building

Eleven years ago, I moved to Maryland. In that eleven years, a lot has happened. I had a little daughter. I wrote five books (three published, two in the pipeline), This blog became big. I learned a lot and grew, as a Computer Scientist and as a human being.

And now, I am leaving Maryland. The bags have been packed, the house is empty, and all we need now is to surrender the keys, and take the plane out.

It’s shocking to discover new things about yourself, specially when you are forty years old, but the whole experience of moving from one state to another has left me emotionally drained in a way I could never have imagined.

When I left “home” to do my PhD in ’99, to be honest, I didn’t feel this sad. There was of course tears when my parents waved me away, but when you are leaving the shadow of the great Indian family to make it on your own in a foreign land, the sadness is but fleeting, overwhelmed as you are by this sensation of nervous excitement. And honestly, at that age, you don’t think that much.

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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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Bad Culture

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[originally published in Du-kool]

There was a time many years ago – I think I was in class 6 or was it 7 – that my mother thought that it would be a good idea to make her son into an outdoor type of person. So I was sent off to a one week nature-study-camp in the forests of Orissa. There I learned how to tie knots, identify constellations in the sky, and the proper steps that must be taken when your torch falls into the communal toilet at two on a moonless night. This camp, which as you can see I enjoyed a lot, used to have a daily event, the campfire where camp attendees were encouraged to perform. You could recite poems, do skits, tell a story, or you could sing.

One rule however.

No Hindi film songs.

Actually no Bengali film songs either, except songs from Satyajit Ray films, which were of course okay, because, Satyajit Ray.

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The Sadness of the Comic

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If one ever wanted to make a movie about a superstar with a flair for characters and for physical comedy who ends up dying of depression while making the world laugh, there would be no better man to play him than Robbin Williams. And so it came to be, art became life or was it the other way round, and the sad irony of the whole thing would definitely have made Robin Williams himself laugh.

It’s difficult to make laugh, difficult even more to make people laugh so much that they cry, and difficult most to make people cry while they laugh. In that Robin Williams was a master, like Charlie Chaplin, for their best performances,  always had a melancholic poignancy to them, lingering long after the laughter had died down.

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Goodbye Yahoo ! Chat. Goodbye Orkut.

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Once upon a time, there was no high-speed Internet, the mention of the word apple still conjured up images of a fruit, the forward-thinking Xerox-“STD” stores charged one rate for domestic email and another for international email, Pagerank was still in “What the eff is that?” phase, intellectuals did not have the luxury of appearing erudite by reading Wikipedia just-in-time-for-an-argument, and research was still done in libraries—you know the ones where they keep hard-copy ebooks.

And Yahoo! was Salman Khan, the 100-crore giant in the room. It was your browser home-page, the post-box where you got your email (there were so few that you even read the spam) and the search box where you typed in “Cindy Crawford sexy pictures”. Sure, some people used Hotmail too, perhaps under the mistaken impression that the mail you would get there would be of the hot type, but still Yahoo ! was the most popular online destination. It was whispered that the people behind Yahoo! were Shammi Kapoor fans, but since there was no Wikipedia then, we could never confirm if this was true. But we assumed it was.

It was around this time that many started discovering this other Yahoo! feature.

Yahoo Chat. Or simply the ! in Yahoo !

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