Memories of Kali Pujo

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We Bengalis don’t really celebrate Diwali.

What we do observe is Kali Pujo.

This is precisely what we were told growing up in Kolkata. Kali Pujo is for Bangalis.

And Diwali is for “Marawaris”

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Uncle Pai

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In the bedroom,  in the narrow space between the foot of the bed and the old wooden bookcase, was my own little corner. Growing up, I would squeeze in that narrow space, open the lower shelves (the ones near the ground) and bring out piles of Amar Chitra Katha and leaf through them, one by one.

It didnt matter that I had read them, like a thousand times before. Like a favorite song or a favorite person, Amar Chitra Kathas had repeat-value, you could discover and re-discover them, marveling only at how much you missed last time.

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The Legend of Goopy And Bagha

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Waking up and reading about the demise of Tapen Chattopadhyay, the Bengali actor famous for playing the role of Goopy Gyne in Satyajit Ray’s Goopy-Bagha trilogy for children (the last was directed by Sandip Ray based on a story written by Satyajit Ray), the first thing I thought, like countless of Bengali people of my generation, was: “Goopy will sing no more”.

Rabi Ghosh, the freakishly gifted actor who played Goopy’s partner Bagha Byne, died ten years ago. But since he played many other memorable comic characters in Bengali movies, the conceptual connection between him and Bagha was not so ‘one-to-one’  as that between Tapen and Goopy Gyne.

Today with Tapen Chattapadhyay’s death however, one also remembers Rabi Ghosh and the partnership they forged as Goopy-Bagha, the endearing musical superheroes who would always save the day, no matter the odds. The sadness we feel today is not only for the passing of a true artist but also that of  a magical age when movies were works of art, stories were true and simple,  soul ruled over special effects, and characters stayed in our hearts long after the end credits had rolled.

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Hum Hain Raja Raj Karen

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Continuing my series [Baba Deewana, Dheere Dheere Haulle Haulle ]on people who inspired me (a spin-off on the chapter in my book “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” on inspirational movies of the 90s) , I present to you another of my gurus.

A day in the nineties. The sun had set and evening was descending. I was waiting for a friend, sitting on the stairs of a building, not wanting to go upstairs to his place. The building’s guards and their friends were sitting in a circle listening to a song on the battery-operated cassette player. There was darkness all around because of a load-shedding (i.e. no power) and mosquitoes, the size of Shilpa Shirodhkar, were feasting on my neck.

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Dheere Dheere Haulle Haulle

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Continuing my series [Baba Deewana] on people who inspired me (a spin-off on the chapter in my book “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” on inspirational movies of the 90s) , I present to you yet another of my gurus.

Bhagwan ke liye tujhe chod doon to main kya khayoon—Prasad?

-Shakti Kapoor (Insaniyat Ki Dushman)

Cricket provided role models and life lessons for people who were at their formative stages in the 90s. Vinod Kambli taught us that without self-control, one can keep on flunking Class 11 even when you are the second best boy in class, Azharuddin taught us why you should not spend so much time on the phone talking to friends and Inzamam showed us how you should never ever be provoked even when people called you a potato.

But the man who influenced me most was, without doubt, Venkatesh Prasad.

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Baba Deewana

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In my book “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” (first edition sold out in a month–thanks for buying) I had talked about five iconic movies that had defined me as a person.  However I forgot to doff my cap to the personalities and artists who have had a similar deeply emotional effect on me. So today, I present you one of those persons. Hopefully in the future, I shall also acknowledge my other inspirations.

When you were called to the senior teacher staff room in South Point High School on the orders of the legendary ADG (Anjan-babu) you knew immediately that a few things might have happened—-that you had been spied upon smoking (which I did not), you had been found out going to private coaching classes (which I did) or you had been discovered to be going out with a girl (which I tried to do but without much success)

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Barber Shop

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There was a time, long long ago, when I used to look forward to getting my hair cut at the local men’s”saloon” (Rs 10 a cut) It was not so much the act of cutting the hair that I liked but the delicious waiting, sitting surrounded by an ocean of beheaded hair, hair hair everywhere, leafing through the eclectic collection of reading material the “saloon” would have—consisting of Stardust, Filmfare and many of its august brethren (The saucy Hindi mystery novels I didnt much care for I accept). It was precisely because of these magazines that I would go on Sunday mornings, when the crowd would be the largest,  the lines longest, the maximum loss of study time possible. As I waited, surrounded by naughty film magazines not allowed at home and hemmed in by refined men getting their underarms trimmed, I was convinced that Heaven must be something like this.

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