Friday, December 26, 2008

Pass on the flame...

As a child, I remember that I used to sit quietly and watch my granny do the daily puja in the “Pujor Ghor” every morning. She would chant holy prayers, decorate the images and idols with flowers and garlands and apply sandalwood paste on them. She would then bathe the Shiv Ling with water and milk. She would then do a small ‘aarti’ and finally blow the conch shell to signal the end of the ritual. This was the routine every morning. It used to take about an hour and half to complete the pujo!

It was from that time that I seemed to be drawn towards spirituality and our holy books. I used to buy small images of various gods and goddesses and keep them with me. I also got to read the Puranas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharat during the summer holidays. Upendrakishore Roychowdhury, the grandfather of legendary film maker Satyajit Ray has written wonderful books for children which contain detailed accounts from all the holy scriptures. They were written for children, yet they were fantastically detailed and used to fill me with an ethereal sense of happiness and profound knowledge.

I read through Ramayana and Mahabharat almost one after the other. In fact, I was reading the Mahabharat while the television series was still being telecast. But somehow, even at that small age, I found Mahabharat enormously more interesting than Ramayana.

Ramayana is a good story nevertheless, it has a lot to teach us but somehow I didn’t find the character of Rama to be as glorious as it is portrayed. I somehow couldn’t digest the way Rama treated Seeta and sent her away to the forest just to allay doubts of a lone washer man about her chastity and character. Though, many pundits have come up with remarkable explanations for this act, I still do not find any semblance of logic behind such a harsh step. Another incident which raises questions in my mind is the time when Seeta after being rescued from Ravana is asked by Rama to step into the holy pyre to prove her chastity. I somehow couldn’t and probably still can’t find any reason behind these acts of Rama.

An interesting story that I had learnt later was that before leaving for Panchavati, Rama had asked the Fire God, Agni to keep the ‘original’ Seeta under his protection. The 'Seeta' who went with Rama and Lakshman to the forest was just a ‘reflection’ of the original Seeta. So, when ‘this’ Seeta was rescued from the evil Ravana, through the holy pyre, the Fire God merely returned the original Seeta back to Rama. Nice story! But somehow it seems that it has only been cooked up only to prove that Rama could never do anything wrong to anyone. I am not saying that Rama does not deserve to be called great, I only wish that he could have been a little more human and not so 'divine'.

Getting to Mahabharat, the story is a marvelous piece. It has dealt with every human emotion in a way that no other book has, or ever will. Right from the marriage of King Shantanu to Ganga to Yudhisthir’s entry into heaven, the story is a fantastic tapestry of happiness, sorrow, success, defeat, avarice, enmity, envy and most importantly eternal knowledge. Knowledge - which is so profound that it remains relevant to this very day even after thousands of years. When I read the story for the first time, I was fascinated to know that the writer Ved Vyas himself is part of the story. He makes several appearances throughout the entire narrative – the most important aspect being that he is the biological father of Dhritarashtra and Pandu, whose sons the Kauravas and the Pandavas fought each other in the bloody battle of Kurukshetra. He makes an appearance once again much later and warns Draupadi to ‘take care’ of her hair as a subtle warning of her impending disrobing in the Kuru Sabha!

There are so many characters and incidents to talk about from the Mahabharat but the few characters that have had a lasting impact on me are Draupadi, Arjuna and Krsna!

Draupadi is perhaps the only woman in Indian mythology who chose to live life by her own standards and refused to be treated as an object. When she is dragged to court in order to be humiliated, she questions each of her five husbands about her plight. None of them can answer her questions. She takes a vow not to tie her hair unless the blood of Dushyasan is brought to her to wash off her humiliation. Draupadi is fiery, she is the epitome of womanhood. She proves her fiery nature when she asks Bheem to kill Keechak, the brother-in-law of the King of Viraat, for being lusty towards her. She proves that it is a woman who can either make or break a family, an entire race or a community. She proves without a shred of doubt that societies or people who do not respect women as equals are doomed for utter destruction.

The unique chemistry between Arjuna and Krsna is delightful. They are friends and yet Arjuna regards Krsna as his Guru. When Arjuna’s mind is restless just before the great war, he asks Krsna for guidance and thereby we receive from Krsna the teachings of Geeta! Geeta is not just a book, it is a way of life. It exhorts every human being to strive to be free from 'Maya' - the all pervading film of foolish emotions which baffles us everyday, to regard happiness and sorrow with the same feelings, to believe that death is inevitable and that it is not the end but a new beginning, to believe in doing one's own Karma and not to worry about the results, to strive to achieve salvation and getting rid of the cycles of birth, misery and death. It's a wonderful song that gives us enough to ponder and act on for the rest of our lives.

There are many small stories and parables in Mahabharat from which we can learn a lot. I sometimes feel very glad and proud that we as a generation have grown up seeing the Ramayana and the Mahabharat on TV. We may not know the inherent meaning of everything in the great epics but at least we do know the stories themselves. I do feel pity for the children of today. They are perpetually surrounded by computers and gadgets and are gradually turning into mechanized beings. They would probably never get to know about these wonderful stories from our past in as much detail or with as much attention as we did. Who could have ever imagined that kids of today would have to learn about HanuMan through a cartoon? And for many of them, he is not even a form of God anymore, he is just a superhero like SpiderMan or SuperMan. :-) But I guess, times have changed a lot. Kids have so many options for entertainment now that we cannot expect them to sit through over 100 episodes of Ramayana and Mahabharat. May be cartoons are the only way out! I just wish that the young parents of today would at least find some time in educating their kids by telling them stories from these wonderful epics from time to time. Maybe that's how our scriptures will pass on to the coming generations and fill their lives with eternal knowledge and bliss.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I won. Thank you!

I talked yesterday about a funny incident the night before “Bou bhaat”. Here goes…

There we were all the cousins (boys and girls) including the bride and the groom, atop the roof very late at night. A few of us were drinking and all of us were generally talking about everything under the sun. The topic of discussion veered from one subject to another before it ultimately came to our childhood and adolescence. Yes, the good old happy-go-lucky times! The groom embarrassed me to bits when he declared that it was ‘yours truly’ who had introduced him and his younger bro to the big bad world of porn! (Albeit straight, but porn nevertheless! :-)) Well, I have no regrets about that. It’s all a part of growing up. We yapped and yapped. About this and about that. 

The topic of discussion was still related to our growing up years. The groom suddenly asked an open question to all – “So, what’s the maximum no. of times you have beaten off in a day?” Without realizing what I was getting myself into, I declared, seven. Winks. Well, to be true, I really don’t remember. It’s not something that is worth the effort of remembering. So, as far as I am concerned, it was just another random number. It would also be safe to say that since I was the eldest among the lot I was kinda hoping that the younger flock would certainly go much beyond seven. But to my utter horror and embarrassment, I found that I have won the epithet of “Shag-guru” hands down!!! A younger cousin who is 17 said thrice, some other said twice, some other said four times, someone said five. But that’s it. My cheeks turned crimson when they started doing the elaborate “bowing down with their hands help up” ritual for me and all this happened in the presence of the girls who were giggling away to glory.  :-) :-)

After all this happened, even the gal pal of my cousin (who had flown down from Mangalore for the wedding) remarked that we were really cool to have actually discussed all that without even a trace of awkwardness (or so she thought!) :-) So, I guess it was OK. It all happened in good spirit and everyone enjoyed it. Though, I fear that the next time, I go to Kolkata and I meet those cousins, they may start doing the bowing down ritual all over again! I hope they have forgotten all about it by now. LOL. 

The Big Fat Bong Wedding

I spent the latter half of April in sultry, sweaty and oh-so-terribly-hot-that-I-hated-it Kolkata. Now if you have read my previous posts, you must know already that I have spent a good part of my childhood and adolescence in good ol’ City of Joy. Though I would say that Kolkata in those days was quite different from what it has become now. Or maybe, it was all the same, I was not aware of it. Anyway, whatever the case may be, Kolkata is awful in summers. Period.
The occasion I was in Kolkata for, was my cousin’s wedding. He is a convent school educated bloke who’s so utterly cool that I love him for that. Everything that he says, he does, exudes a special warmth which makes him so very adorable. He married the love of his life after a few years’ (or so I know) of courtship. The bride is a sweetheart. She is one of the most down to earth and effervescent Bong girl that I have met in a long time.

Now, just to digress a little, I tend to find Bong girls a bit too whiny and pretentious not to mention their tendency to become obese! Before you know, the school girl has metamorphosed into the “bhodro mohila”. Eww. There were quite a handful of them in my class in school and I was friends with a quite a few. In fact if you go through my “slam book” from school, you will more entries by Bong girls than anybody else. But even after all that, my outlook towards them remained all the same. They were just too “makey”. I know some of you may differ, some will say that all girls are like that, some will actually bay for my blood after reading this but anyway, as far as I am concerned, I have rarely come across a level headed Bong girl who can even begin to equal Sushmita (The Sen). J Yes, that’s my benchmark as far as Bong girls are concerned. :-)

So, there we were in Kolkata for the wedding. My aunt gave me a lovely “tusser” kurta, the color was a variation of blue, the fabric soft and silky. This was the first time, I was actually supposed to wear an Indian ensemble, complete with “dhoti” and “mojris” and believe me, God knows, I squirm even at the thought of wearing anything ethnic. Anyway, somehow, I convinced myself to wear that. So far so good. But the moment I stepped outside the house, I was sweating like a dog. The heat was unbearable and so was the humidity. It was a recipe for disaster. The wedding was solemnized in an air-conditioned venue, so the discomfort was alleviated a bit. But through the night, I couldn’t close my eyelids even for a minute (after returning from the venue to the bride’s place) because the fabric didn’t let any breeze pass through it and all the gang stayed wide awake “maaroing adda” to the hilt at the top of their voices. By the time morning dawned and we were ready for the “bidaai” I had almost gone crazy with the heat! I swore that I would stay clear of ethnic even if the world was coming to an end. And I would try to avoid visiting Kolkata in the summers as much as the plague.

The “Bou bhaat” (at Midnapore) was a nice affair. Even though the heat was unbearable again, the open air garden attached to the venue provided the much needed relief amidst welcoming the guests and keeping a tab on the received gifts et al. A special thing that I would like to mention is about the “Santhal” dancers who had come all the way from Jhargram to entertain the guests with their tribal dance that has been made so famous worldwide. Thanks to Satyajit Ray’s Agantuk. Their music, the drumbeats, the cymbals, their songs, their synchronized steps, their red-bordered cotton sarees, the flowers in their hair and the traditional tribal ornaments were oh-so-fabulous. Many of the ladies of the household including the bride joined hands with the dancers much akin to Mamata Shankar in Agantuk. It was such a splendid Kodak moment. :-)

The second "more Western" reception was in Kolkata. The venue was awesome. It was at the army territorial headquarters in Kolkata. It was air-conditioned. It had a huge garden which was deliciously decorated. And to everyone’s relief, there was a pleasant southerly breeze which was blowing. This was by far the best reception that I have ever attended.

So ended, the wedding trip to Kolkata. Amidst all the heat and discomfort, I had a deliciously fabulous time over the ten days. The wedding itself was divine and it’s memory is going to stay fresh for a long time to come. I was back in Mumbai before my folks returned because I was supposed to join office at Pune. Even as I was returning to Pune, I was going through the photos that I had clicked. The photos covered every single ceremony that happens in a Bengali wedding. I proudly shared the link to the Picasa album with my office folks. Most of them were seeing photos of a traditional Bengali wedding for the first time. I think what amused (or in some cases shocked) them the most was the sheer enormity of the fish head (“machher muro”) that is served to the bride on the day of the “Bou bhaat” over lunch. Many of my colleagues giggled when they saw the snap and asked me, “how on earth is she supposed to eat something as big as that?” I told them that it is just a custom and the bride just takes a few bites of it. Hopefully that convinced them. J I also hoped that the photos cleared many of the misconceptions that non-Bongs have about Bengali culture / weddings especially after seeing “that mockery of Bong culture” otherwise known as SLB’s Devdas.

I remember one particularly funny incident that happened the night before “Bou bhaat”. I will talk about that in my next post. :-)

Has she died or something? :-)

Yeah, people! I know I haven’t updated my blog since forever and I am not going to make up some cock and bull (no pun intended) story to justify that. It’s been pure and sheer laziness. I know that at least a few of you must have wondered like Miranda Priestly (from “The Devil Wears Prada”) – “Has (s)he died or something?” :-) But no, thanks to the Big Girl above, I have been good. Okay, I am not going to jinx that. I would rephrase that – I have been doing pretty ok. :-)

Even as I write this, I am wondering if any of the folks who have followed my blog earlier, will return to read it after such a long hiatus. Not that, I ever had a fan following or anything even remotely resembling that but I certainly hope that they have kept peeping into my blog every now and then to check whether I have updated it. Oh Lord, maybe they have stopped doing that, maybe they have given up on me. :-( There goes – I am my drama queen self again. J Anyways, let me hope that those readers will return and keep on reading my blog as also the new readers who will have read it for the first time. I promise that I will never do the “Houdini” trick again. :-)

Okay, so, now that I have kinda apologized for my long absence from the blogosphere, where do I start? It’s been seven long months since I last posted. So much has happened, so many things I want to write about, so many things that I want to let the world know. Mmmm, so, where to start?

Okay, decided.

Let me talk about life as it has been in general. Lots of things happening simultaneously – on the work front, on the dating front, on the sex front. Some good and some bad. Some satisfying, some disappointing. I know I am saying nothing “new”. That’s how life’s supposed to be. For me, for you, for everyone. Nevertheless, it’s been one tumultuous ride after all. So here goes…

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Honey, let's get married...

Recently I have started picking up Mid Day (the tabloid published from Mumbai) on my way to work. It's a really good newspaper with loads of information, news, tips etc.

There's a particular section in it called "Dear Diana" which is basically an 'agony aunt' column though I have my doubts if we can call 'Diana' an aunt. She seems quite a young person.

Anyways, many people write to her with all kinds of problems - marital, love, sex, relationships etc etc etc. I happen to read the column everyday and I must admit that like most other 'normal' human beings, I do enjoy reading about other people's problems and even smiling at times. Some of the letters that are published are outright hilarious, some seem to be cock and bull stories, some make you think about the sorry state of the lives of the people who wrote them, some make you cringe when you try to imagine yourself in that person's shoes. Some people write about all kinds of ultra stupid stuff.

For example, a few days back I read a letter sent by some girl called 'M' from Mumbai. Here's the extract from her letter.

Dear Diana,

I am a 28 year old girl who is being compelled to get married but I have no choice. I am very scared of sex because I've heard that it's very painful. Is the pain bearable? Can we both live together without sex? I don't know what to do.

With due respect to the lady in question, I would tell her, honey, you are God's gift to gay guys like us. Please find more girls like you who are 'scared' of sex and want to get into a marriage but stay away from sex. Believe me dahling, you'll be regarded highly by us. Most gay guys are tormented by their families for getting married. If we can find a girl like you, it'll be great. I am not being insensitive here. You will be our greatest friend, our most favorite house'hag'. We can give you tips on make up, fashion. We won't criticize you for nothing, we wouldn't be cynical like the straight men. So please, ladies, please help us. You'll love us as your husbands.

Isn't this just wonderful, guys? Just think about the life where you can get married to a girl but don't have to have sex with her, mostly because she doesn't want it at all. :-) Wouldn't it be great to settle down finally like the so called 'normal' guys? If you're pestered to beget a child, no worries. Nowadays there are 101 options to get a child without ever having sex with your conjugal partner. Let's all pray that we find one such girl. :-)

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Great Indian 'Dysfuntional' family...

I have been staying away from my family for the last eight years now. I was brought up in Kolkata and completed my 12th from there. After that, I left them to pursue my graduation elsewhere. During graduation too, I hardly spent much time with them except on holidays. After graduation was over, I had hardly spent a month with them when again I had to pack my bags and join the company in which I am working currently.

I have been through a great deal over the last eight years. The past eight years have enriched my life in more ways than one. They have taught me to take care of myself. They have taught me to take care of my finances, to be able to choose between the right and wrong without any parental guidance, to be able to differentiate good people from the not so good without being told. It's been a learning experience all through. First in the college hostel - getting to interact with people from different regions / backgrounds having a varied range of tastes and likings. Later after my graduation was over, I have loved to stay on my own. I have begun to like the independence that I have been getting over these years.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that if now, I am expected to stay with my parents, I would be thinking twice before deciding to do that. You may be thinking that I am a moron. After all parents are the people who brought us up, who toiled hard to give us everything we wanted. They are the people who continue to shower unconditional love upon us to this day. They are our best friends. BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!

I agree. Nothing could be truer than this. But then in the Indian context, an Indian family not only consists of the parents and the kids but also the chacha, chachi, taau, taai, mama, mami, nana, nani, dada, daadi, bua and dozens of cousins. I experienced good as well as bad times growing up with the latter predominating most of the times...

But then, something changed somewhere. By the time I was 13, I started feeling distinctly different from the rest of my cousins / school mates. That was the 'awakening'. I had no idea what was happening to me. I was scared, I was confused but at the same time really excited about the possibility of exploring new unknown things on my own.

Fourteen years have passed and now I can say that I am happy with the way I have grown. I may not have had the best of fortune but I try not to regret anything that I have experienced over the years.

Most of us are quite happy with what life offers us, but suddenly one day, we hear that our parents are looking for some poor girl for us. Eww!!! This is where it starts to get on my nerves. Yet again! They fail to realize that it's our lives that they are talking about and we should be the ones to decide how we choose to live.

There's the father who thinks that his son is good for nothing and that he is always correct about every goddamn thing in the world. Well, honey, not this one! You say that you can tell a person by just looking at him/her. How come you have not noticed that your own son is "big flaming, feather-wearing, man-kissing, disco-dancing, Vermont-living, Christina Aguilera-loving, Mikanos going 'MO'?"

There's the mother who loves his son dearly but she is a tad confused about what she wants for him. She is torn between the son on the one hand and the husband on the other. If she tries to support her husband, the son walks out on her and vice versa. She is always in a soup. They may not see eye to eye on many things but join the chorus in unison when it comes to deciding their child's future. How unbearably pathetic!!! What they fail to realize that some poor girl's life could be ruined in the process.

And then, there's the extended family - the farty uncles, the bitchy aunts, the old hapless grand parents, the nosy cousins. They just need something to gossip about and they couldn't care less if things don't work out in the marriage that they are so excited about. They will come up with news of some NRI guy who came down, tied the knot and flew back with wifey the very next day. They will talk about some 'convent educated' working girl who is apparently very pretty!!! They will give you tips about how to impress girls. The cousins would pester you with questions like - "Do you have a girl friend? BLAH BLAH BLAH"

You can probably now understand why I don't consider it 'safe' to go back and stay with my parents. I don't want to end up getting married to a girl. I do want to get 'married' nevertheless, but to a guy who would love me and whom I would love! I really don't know what is in store for me. One of my younger cousins is getting married this year and I know for sure that after that I am gonna be pestered by my parents to start seeing girls. My God! Even the thought of it gives me goose pimples. Anyways, I just somehow wish that I am able to convince all of them that I am happy being single. And I just pray that somebody makes a pill that I can give to them so that they just forget about getting me married. Amen!

Monday, January 07, 2008


Unforgettable, thats what you are
Unforgettable though near or far
Like a song of love that clings to me
How the thought of you does things to me
Never before has someone been more

Unforgettable in every way
And forever more, thats how youll stay
Thats why, darling, its incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am unforgettable too...