Monday, April 20, 2015

The serious business of Bhalobasha, the Bengali way

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There are certain words in Bangla that have no equivalent in any other language. Like nyakami, a trait peculiar to Bengali women especially if she’s beauteous and aware of it. Nyakami is her way of conveying to you, she knows that you know she’s beautiful, with maximum effect. A tilt of her head that gives your gaze the felicity of looking at her neck tad longer than necessary. A knowing smile, a lethal combination of innocence and coquettishness, engineered to feel like shrapnel on your heart afflicted by affection of the tingling kind. Emboldened by her playful antics, you make flirtatious advances, only to be rebuffed with - isshh, uff, kee oshobho (how shameless you are). Suitably reprimanded and filled with remorse at misreading her signals, just as you beat a hasty retreat, she will dart you a come hither look that’ll leave you as confused as a deer caught in headlight.

She will make you revolve around her as she blazes like the sun. Only when she’s convinced enough of your slavish love for her, will she let you into the inner sanctum of her heart.

Phostinoshti is yet another term that is peculiar to Bangla and Bengalis. It is a Bengali’s way of having an aphair (affair), without doing much about it. Just like the revolution that he plots from his armchair, hoping to change the world without lifting his finger.

If there’s anything that a Bangali is more passionate about other than phish, phootball and phriends, it the business of prem-koraa (sweet lovin’). The grooming starts at a very young age. While the young male prefers spending his youth doing adda on a rock, his female counterpart is busy showering love on mankind. For her prem-kora is a day job, along with chaan kora, ranna kora and kaaj kora (bathing, cooking and working), exactly in that order. 

So, when the Bengali male nurtured on Horlicks, Kalmegh, fish-head and Ishabgol decides to woo the nayika of his dreams, he engages in 'phostinoshti’. This consists mostly of thinking he is having an affair without actually having one. Poetry and Rabindra Sangeet feature at the top of activities, some holding of hands, exchange of coy glances, stolen hugs and loud sighs to express helplessness. All through this, neighbours will be told 'o amaaar bonner moto' (she is like my sister). Not suggesting incest, but to just convey there is no actual phostinoshti.

The Bhadrolok dares to think beyond ‘you are so hot’ to serenade his object of affection, quotes from Shakespeare and writes poetry in praise of her coral lips and cheeks as rosy as the roses in Mrs Biswas’s garden. All his expressions of love are accompanied by Tagore in his various moods. But only when he gets time from fighting cold, flu and acidity.

Together they shed copious tears of happiness as they marvel at the beauty of the sun setting over the Hooghly and dwell on the cosmic, sing Akash bhora surjo tara in the taxi as they head to Mainland China for Chinese. Both are as much in love with biryani as they are with the works of Trotsky and Chekhov and a fun weekend for them is having luchi with mangsho.

He’s a fitting match for the Bengali woman nurtured on green chillies and mustard fish and treats her as his equal. If she sulks, he sulks longer and they try to cure each other with silent treatment.

Only she can appreciate the effeminate Bangali chhele, who’s free to do what his Mom wants and looks down on machismo with disdain and takes procrastination to new heights. Only he can appreciate her fiery temper, blow hot-blow cold temperament and not get baffled by her nyakami.

Their idea of romantic date is meeting for a protest march screaming cholbe naa, cholbe naa (this won’t do) in perfect harmony and followed by soothing their parched throats with chaa and tele bhaja. Their idea of foreplay is arguing which Satyajit Ray movie is his best or whether Nazrul’s compositions are superior to Tagore’s. The only thing they agree on is ‘what Bengal thinks today, the rest of India will think tomorrow.’

A Bong couple will take the business of bhlobasha seriously and yet do nothing about it.

Now here lies the catch. Many a times the Bong girl whose last name is bombshell gets tired of waiting for sex and runs off with a Punjabi. The Bong guy then grows a beard and writes more poetry. And the girl spends the rest of her life dealing with aliens trying to familiarise themselves with Bangla culture through – Aami tomake bhalobashe, Rosgulla khaabe, Bengali is such a sweet language, teach me, no?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A True Welfare State (Cows Only)

As disturbed as the saffron brigade that advised me to wash my mouth with Harpic, and go back to my motherland for daring to compare cows with women, Cacofonix my guest blogger has decided to repent on my behalf. In this post he comes up with cow welfare schemes that'll show the world how much we cherish our four-legged Mom. 

Each cow will have a 12-digit unique identification number". The aim of this scheme is to establish identity of cows, their security and provide them benefits of health schemes.” 
Indians have really nailed it when it comes to quadrupeds. Okay, the cow is holy there, and the cow knows it. They have generally been roaming around with an air of insouciance all these years – on the streets, in the fields, in market places, through narrow gullies, jumping over cow catcher grills at IIT hostels. Pooping anywhere they liked. Mooing anytime they pleased. But now, the administration has taken up their cause, like never before. Because, the cow is like their mother. Can be a tad confusing because human mothers have two breasts and cow mothers could have several – it is hard to tell how many. But that’s another matter.

Critics of the government machinery, who just don’t understand Indian heritage, have been shouting needlessly from the rooftops, saying that cows now enjoy greater legal protection than women. What they don’t get is the fact that this is one territory where India has trumped the most advanced country on earth, the US. I mean, the US sulked when India sent a spacecraft to Mars (the second time after the one sent up in 3500 BC, just read the frigging Vedas), but they are having a hard time now on what to do for their Jersey herds to be one up on India. The White House has approved funds for developing an upgraded version of unique IDs that will carry the complete biometric profile, lipid profile, BMI, political affiliation and dietary options in a microchip that can be etched like a wafer on a neck piece – how fetching! The better off bulls will get color options for these tags, maybe purple, black and magenta, hanging from Swarovski encrusted gold chains.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Why Cows Deserve More Protection than Women

Also published on Huffington Post, India.

Image courtesy -

It is now safer to be a cow than a woman in our country. Thanks to the over-zealous saffron brigade enforcing laws ensuring her safety and long life, they are also the more empowered lot. While the Fadnavis government was busy earning brownie points, passing motions to ban consumption of beef, Haryana government went a step ahead and covered itself with cow dung by taking a historic step deciding to issue unique identification numbers to its indigenous cattle. While women in Haryana will have to live with desi names like Saali, Nikammi, Kalmunhi, and beatings from their men, cows will be anointed with cool 12 digit names, entitling them to free healthcare benefits. Moov over Jaat bois, Haryanvi gais are the new beefcake in town.

Cow slaughter in Haryana will now attract a rigorous imprisonment ranging from three years to 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh, while girl child slaughter and rapes will continue to be a socially acceptable norm. Mumbai girls have ditched their pepper spray for beef steak to shove it into the mouth of anyone who dares molest them, since consumption of beef invites a stricter punishment than treating women like a piece of meat.

Before the unreasonable gender of the human species goes around blaming our Netas for pandering to the cattle class to gain political acreage, while they have to master the art of using pepper sprays, martial arts to keep horny men at bay, I’d like to present my arguments as to why it makes more sense to protect cows than women.

Every Cow is your Maa, hence every Maa is a cow. Like every dutiful Maa, her love is as pure and pristine as her milk. She’s not only the milk of humanity, even her poop and urine, as swachh and holy as her heart have medicinal properties. You can glug cow urine to cure yourself of cancer, diabetes and tuberculosis or any other disease you may have incurred as karma for your past sins. Once cured, you can use the extra supply to replace environment unfriendly Phenyl and swab your floors clean. RSS has developed a cow-urine-based soft drink called Gomutra Ark. The drink is a "healthy" alternative to Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other soft drinks, which are part of a wider problem resulting from corrupt Western influences. Cow dung on the other hand is fuel cum fertilizer cum purifier cum sanitizer cum skin tonic cum tooth polish rolled into patties and can be safely hailed as the Elvis Presley of excrement.

Even your biological Mom cannot claim to be so udderly useful!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fighting Racism with Racism – Doing it the Indian Way

Every time we were travelling out of Brisbane (our last city of residence), I’d be routinely frisked by airport security for a 'random body scan'. This diligence wasn’t just restricted to airports. Even the lady at a particular store would make it a point to stop me at the exit to check my bag. Eager college kids trying to earn a quick buck by distributing promotional flyers would invariably look through me while pouncing on my Taiwanese friend walking with me. The American expat would express surprise that I spoke English 'like an American'. The steward at the restaurant would ask us twice if we knew it was beef we had just ordered.

When you are brown and from a nation that loves its curries and worships its cows, people make too many assumptions about you. After all it’s convenient to slot people according to stereotypes rather than getting into the trouble of knowing them. Maybe some of the instances I faced may not have been because of my brown skin. Maybe it was me being over-sensitive mistaking snobbishness, awkwardness and staff trying to do their duty, with, discrimination. But the fact remains when someone tries to treat you like a lesser being, you may try to shrug it off as their ignorance but a part of you does feel bewildered and singed.

And I'm talking about Australia whose people are among the friendliest. Where men hold doors for you and women stop to ask if you need help with your heavy shopping bags. If you stop a tad longer than necessary at some busy intersection, rest assured someone will come up to you and ask if you're lost.

You don’t realise you’re different till you move out of familiar terrains where people have their own sets of biases and prejudices.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Are Indian Men Getting Stereotyped as Rapists?

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In an interview for a BBC documentary, Mukesh Singh, one of the accused in the Jyoti Singh Pandey rape case (romanticised as Nirbhaya by the press), claimed that it was the victim who was responsible for the brutal assault and murder. Had she not fought back, the gang would have dropped her off after 'doing her', instead of beating her so savagely that she died two weeks later from her injuries.

A man convicted of brutalising a woman with iron rods then went ahead and came up with a comprehensive list of what women should do to avoid getting raped, since it’s her fault anyway.

This attitude of blaming everything, from a woman’s choice of clothing, to what was she doing so late at night and if she’s out with a guy, she must be loose and willing, is nothing new. Rape is the only crime where the victim’s morals are questioned while the perpetrator wears the ‘poor me’ halo around his head like a crown. In fact, Mukesh Singh’s views on women are shared by many including those in power. Haven’t we heard enough Politicians blame a “woman’s body language for inviting potential rapists lurking around in the streets” or insisting that “if any woman goes along with a man, with or without her consent, she should be hanged!”

This ritual of shaming women who are confident enough to speak up for themselves, fight regressive mindsets and lecherous bosses who think they are entitled to sexual favours, is not just restricted to our polity but many men and women who claim to be educated. But not every man who thinks “decent girls don't roam around at 9 o'clock at night, that they are meant for housework and not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes”, goes around raping women.

Nirbhaya’s rapist’s remarks represent a sick mindset, whose idea of fun is raping a woman and beating her up ruthlessly with rods because she dared to resist.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Obsessive Foodie

Image Courtesy  - Google

All these years I used to fancy myself as a foodie. Not anymore. It appears that rubbing your belly in satisfaction after an enjoyable and describing it simply as good only qualifies you as lazy. You are not a true blue foodie till the mellifluous notes of hand ground spices in the bhutta korma makes you want to run down the hills singing – the hills are alive with the aroma of cumin! Experience heartbreak when the much hyped restaurant churns out mediocre fare and write scathing reviews to warn your foodie brethren. Happily brave traffic rush, smelly markets to scout for exotic ingredients, and always have a camera along with your cutlery.

The only thing I can come up with after a spectacular meal is – Oh shit, I should have clicked a pic!

Till a decade back I don’t think the term ‘foodie’ even existed! Or maybe it did but we were too busy burping our approval for a dish well cooked and preferred licking our fingers clean rather than reaching out for the camera to click the chicken corn soup with enough cornflour to bind the world. If you loved your food, you didn’t have to shout from rooftops and you definitely didn’t have to click your meal from different angles to get the perfect lighting and shot. If you did, you’d risk getting laughed at by strangers.

We didn’t mind having chicken curry cooked the same way meal after meal. Experimenting was something that was confined to Chemistry labs. Eating out was a monthly, low-key affair and ambience was still a word in the dictionary. Having fun was something we did in moderation. If we were watching a movie, there’s no way we could follow it up with dinner at a restaurant because according to your Maa, too much fun was akin to corruption. Our parents never failed to make us feel guilty by regaling us with their frugal living stories. A childhood denied of luxuries, where they had to wait for birthdays and Durga Pujo to get their two sets of clothes and eating out was an alien concept.

Modern living is out to prove that our parents were wrong and boring. It has seen a quantum shift towards a lifestyle which is all about excess. One look at Facebook and Twitter feeds and you’re inundated with images and vivid descriptions of exotic vacations, fun-filled evenings and gourmet meals your friends are having, while you stab miserably at your bowl of chopped papaya.

The new age foodie is now a gastronome, chef extraordinaire, food critic, photographer rolled into one. His taste buds have a high emotional quotient that can feel the butter-laden, cognac-kissed suavity in the pumpkin soup and sheds tears of ecstasy as he bites into a juicy, succulent, bursting with flavours tangdi kabab.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Aham Bhumika Needs Your Help

It's always nice to come across NGOs that extend a helping hand to the underprivileged, empowering them with opportunities denied to them otherwise. A lot of us want to do our bit but are either constrained by lack of time or unsure about which NGO to support.

Aham Bhumika is an NGO ( Registered ) based in Bhopal. Besides providing basic education to rural children, the organization has trained over 30 rural women in hand embroidery. This enables these women to earn by working from home.
This where you and I step in.
Aham Bhumika desires to make this hand embroidery initiative self sustainable. From past three months they have been marketing the sale of hand embroidered products mainly through Twitter and Facebook. Besides this, the organization has also tied up with a  retail store based in Jaipur to sell their hand embroidered cushion and bags.      
So, why don't you hop over to their  Facebook page, take a look at their wares and if you like something, order and spread the good word around?

I particularly liked these designs.



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