Monday, October 17, 2016

After Every Durga Pujo A new Child Prodigy is Born

Image courtesy - SantaBanta

It’s that time of the yaar again when sweaty Bengalis converge under makeshift tents and try to clog their arteries with cholesterol from Moglai porotas, kobirajis, cutlets and bhaja bhuji fried in oil as old as the dinosaurs. Since it’s strictly for religious purposes, they expect Maa Durga to vanquish acidity, loose motion and clogged arteries just like that dark-skinned Mahisashura. As you daintily nibble off the meat from the kosha mangsho, you can feast your eyes on sombre looking men sashaying in panjabis embellished with smiling owls and boudis in stunning dhakais and blouses as deep as the Grand Canyon.

Durga Pujo is a Bangali’s own Woodstock. It’s a non-stop 4 day binge-fest where you sleep little, eat lots and hop from one pandal to another like a Duracell charged bunny. While evenings are a happy mishmash of hogging, ogling, lovingly pushing each other to get a closer look of the protima, soaking in calchaar as you tap your feet to latest hits by Miss Jojo and doing adda till the wee hours, mornings are serious business when you actually offer prayers to the Goddess. Also, this is when you get to observe the Bangali Maa (BAM) unleash the Durga(the warrior goddess) in her as she puts the chomchom of her eyes on the stage, where he can stun his paraa(neighbourhood) with his many talents.

We Bangalis are not content with being good at just one thing and this is firmly ingrained in us right from the time we are born. As a toddler if you loved tearing pages of the books from the shelves, you were promptly declared a Tagore in the making. Your baby gibberish was unlike anything your parents had before – it had a haunting lyrical quality to it. Your Thamma had the gut feeling that you’ll be as graceful as Ananda Shankar as she bounced you on her tummy while chanting dhei dhei nachhe nachhe. By the time you picked up the pen on your annaprashan, it was a forgone conclusion that you’ll be a world renowned scholar. Then they name you ‘Hablee’ ‘Godon’ ‘Natoo’ ‘Goga’ and you have no choice but develop a sense of humour to survive this cruel world.

How long can you hold back this child prodigy who can paint like Jamini Roy and lisps the most profound observations about life! So, he takes his first baby steps dressed as a clock for the fancy dress competition on shoshtee during Pujo. His Mom who spent days foraging for cardboard and turning into a grandfather clock is an anxious wreck as she watches her Hablee recite tic toc, aami clock that she composed especially for him. She’s always known he’s the best. It’s time the world accepted it as well. Just like her own Mom had known. She spent her growing up years proving her right, bent pensively on stage as Chandalika, reciting Nazrool’s poetry in a quivering voice and won the first prize for it.

Now here lies the catch. All BAMs are convinced that the chomchom of their eyes deserves to win a prize if not the first. After all she has been preparing him for months! By the time Hablee finally learns chronicles of Hatimatimtim by heart, the whole house including Cecelia, their hired help from Jharkhand can recite it in her sleep. If you dare deny his Mom the coveted prize, you risk having her do a surgical strike, her eyes flaming with unbridled fury, her back glistening with sweat from the exertion of having to push so many women to grab the second prize at musical chairs. The last time Rana Chatterjee, cultural secretary of Pujo committee tried to reason with her, he saw her explode like Samsung Galaxy Note 7 right before his eyes. He could sleep normally only after several visits to his therapist.

Singed, the Pujo committee people smartened up and came up with as many contests as possible to give Hablee a chance to win. If he still didn’t manage to bag a prize for recitation, painting, one-legged race, nritya natika, Hablee was given a Camlin colouring set for serving bhog with a smile.

Meeting a Bangali without a history of participating and winning prizes at the many talent contests held at their local Pujo is as rare as meeting a bhodromohila who hasn’t put up with ‘Bai god, Bong women are so hot!’ From age 3-16, we are engaged in the arduous task of proving our non-Bengali brethren right who insist ‘yaar, you Bengalis are so talented and bright. It must be because of all the machhi you have.’ By the time we are grown-ups, we have a formidable collection of Nazrul geeti or Robindro shongeet up our kurta sleeve for every occasion and mood. It’s not unusual to come across a bunch of Bongs having a perfectly normal conversation and then break into a soulful rendition of ‘Purano sei diner kotha’ without even batting an eyelid.

But then that’s the beauty of Durga Pujo celebrations, especially the ones that are celebrated outside of Bengal. It’s one of the rare occasions when the Probashi gets to assert his/her ‘Bangaliness’ that gets lost in the cosmopolitan khichdi. We dress in our finest of handlooms including violently coloured Panjabis and assert our foodie supremacy by hogging non-stop. Since we talk culture, walk culture, laugh culture, no revelry is complete without its generous phoron (tempering). And it’s up to the Bangali Maa to shoulder this responsibility. Just before Pujo she sprouts ten arms. She multitasks between scripting and directing a play for paraa kids, frying shingaras for the hungry parents who land up for rehearsals (read adda) and then rushes off for rehearsals for the play where she plays Chitrangada. Of course, who plays the leading role has a lot to do with your proximity to the powerful’uns of the Pujo committee.

This is how she stakes her claim to divahood. Her paraa is her domain, where she and her chhanaas(kids) get to assert their supremacy. Who’s Rana Chatterjee to say otherwise? Pujo committees may come and go, but the BAM will be there forever. From her sprightly youthful days, svelte in her sleeveless blouse, to her senior years, amply proportioned, blouse crying for some coverage, she continues to reign supreme.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bharat and Pak – It’s So Damn Complicated!

It’s complicated – the relationship between Bharat-Bhushan and Pak Begum. It’s been over 67 years since BaaP broke up, yet Begum Pee continues to behave like a jilted ex. Guess, Pee never forgave Bharat for getting custody of their beti, Kishmish even though it was she who chose to stay with Pitajee. You can call them the original Brangelina, all jaanu-shaanu when together and throwing bartans and belans at each after they went their separate ways.

Bharat’s ex has made it her life’s mission to raise his BP to Himalayan heights by engaging in a bitter custody battle over their love child Kishmish, each accusing the other of abuse and neglect. Interestingly when they meet they behave as if they’ll patch-up any minute, going mwah mwah, singing ‘aman ki aasha’ in dulcet tones. But the moment Bharat turns his back, Pee turns into a demented chudail, constantly orchestrating covert attacks and creating pressure in BB’s nose (naak mein dum). B Bhushan responds with lots of angry condemnations and running to Uncle Sam to complain. It’s the same story every time. Pee continues to attack Bharat and his brood grievously while he’s all kadhi ninda and no action. These days Begum has become even more daring with the backing of her new boyfriend, Mr Chin Chin. Even Kishmish has also been acting all angsty like a pimply teen and constantly throws tantrums because she wants azadi. Kids, I tell you!

Sadly for Pak, the same story decided enough is enough and refused to repeat itself. This unusual occurrence was triggered by yet another behind the back, sneaky assault that had Bharat’s brood led by Angry Goswami (his favourite son) and social media warriors baying for her blood. Fierce battles were fought on Twitter and Facebook. Cunning war strategies were formulated on Facebook walls, nuclear submarines were deployed and fighter aircrafts roared out of hangars on Twitter timelines and brutal jokes were made to shame Begum Pee once and for all.

Bharat Bhushan goaded by the bloodcurdling cries of netizens FINALLY decided to retaliate with a stinging counter-attack that’s so covert that even his bacchas are not aware of it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

DJ wale Babu zara volume badhaa do!

We Indians love noise as much as we love our gais and demonstrate our dogged devotion to both by driving others mad. Why, we are even ready to kill if someone refuses to share our fervour for our object of affection with the same passion! Wasn’t it in Vasant Kunj where a gym owner killed his neighbour because he complained of the loud music playing at his gym?

One man’s headache maybe another man’s music but how dare he point that out and spoil the fun!

Well, I’ve often felt like killing myself at the gym instead of waiting for some irate Jaat to do the honours. Especially when I’ve heard ‘clap your hands now, you motherfucker’! at least 5 times during my workout interspersed with grunts from the hulk next to me trying to lift weights double his own. Thanks to this elevating experience, I’ve mastered my Nagin look, the same one that Sridevi gave Amrish Puri.
Google Images
But only after I’ve whined about the limited, unimaginative playlist to the management. They as usual have no clue as to what I’m talking about. I’m often brushed off as a pesky fly.

The scary bit is that the same playlist is shared by the world and its aunt. So, you get to hear Honey Singh woo his kudi namkeenaa, ambraan di queenaa, at the Pub, club, blaring from the water-park in the vicinity, neighbourhood shaadi sharing their joy via loudspeakers, and the party hosted by a dear friend. Sometimes I get so confused that I actually jiggle my hips in a drunken stupor at the gym and try to do push-ups at the hottest new brewery playing stale hits. By the end of the year, I’ve intimate knowledge of Mr Singh’s weird notion of romance that entails meeting kudi namkeena’s daddy so that his future son-in-law can tell him ‘Bas jitna aapki beti ek mahine mein udati hai, ek hafte me meri gaadi utna tel khaati hai!’ (keep your daughter away from me because I’m an asshole) Wow, how can any woman resist this charmer!

But isn’t that the beauty of music that catches the public’s fancy. It’s not a superhit till it drives you to the brink of lunacy. The first time you hear it, you nod your head with approval, much like a Kathakali dancer. The next few times you enjoy it and even try humming along with it. But when it starts stalking you wherever you go, whatever you do, you scream nahiiiin like a Bollywood Mom of yore who has lost her sons at a mela.
Google images

Friday, September 9, 2016

An Open Letter to all by a hurt Ms Baigan

Not so dear all,

Till a few days back I was just a Baigan, sitting on a rack, waiting for you to take me home, mash me, pulp me and devour me with relish. I suffered in silence even when you rubbed me with oil and put me on fire to roast in my own juices. I even put up with smelly onion and too-much-blusher-tomato because I wanted you to like me the way you like that squishy paneer. Oh, don’t you for a moment think I didn’t notice the look of tenderness when you picked her up and surveyed her lovingly, your drool moistening your lips! Yet, I looked on stoically, with a stone placed on my heart.

I know I am no superfood. I’m dark, plump and a veggie with many names – aubergine, eggplant, brinjal, baigan, begoon… But tell me, what did I do to deserve to become the butt of your merciless jokes and bad puns!

Mind it, I will never forgive Durex for besmirching my spotless reputation by announcing ‘spicy baigan’ flavoured condoms. Just as Mother Teresa’s Holy Spirit was getting canonised at the Vatican and demonised by the republic of Twitter, Durex got this brainwave to sexify me.

Durex, do you even realize that this mindless sexification of the baigan in pursuit of fame and riches has ruined my life forever! Had I been an American I would have sued you for millions of dollars for emotional distress. My besties Tinda, Tauri and Lauki have stopped talking to me after my new found notoriety. The other day when I accidently brushed against Tinds, she spat out – Who do you think you are, Sunny Leone! My sweetie pie, potato no longer responds to my loving overtures. Not even when I croon, aloo, is it me you’re looking for? *Please insert a plaintive wail here for added effect* Heartbroken, I tried line-maroing cauilflower who I had bro-zoned recently. When I whispered 'gobhi gobhi mere dil mein khayal ataa hai', he pretended to de deaf. Only that luchha lafanga Karela sent me a sext that read – aati kya Khandala! Like any sanskari baigan I proceeded to feel cheap and washed myself in Dettol twice.

 Now even Kela and Kheera won’t talk to me for stealing their limelight. Le sigh!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Wrapped or Unwrapped, Women Will be Rapped Either Way

Image Courtesy -

Till a few days back I was madly applauding the ban on Burkini imposed by France on its beaches in the Riviera. Since I fancy myself as more of a doer than a talker, I quickly started compiling a rather long list of unwearables that our junta insists on turning into beachwear that should be banned. For too long I have been traumatised by the sight of portly men flaunting their hairy selves in striped kachhas, snug boxers and demure women taking a dip in the ocean in their saris that promptly turn into parachutes. In fact, on my last visit to Hardwar which was a few decades back, I saw so many ladies bathing in just their petticoats tied over their ample bosoms that I exclaimed ‘Hey Ram’ and died. Haunted, I never went back for another pilgrimage.

Unfortunately my burkini ban euphoria did not last long. The ban was suspended by France's highest administrative court that’ll rather uphold fundamental freedoms than let the government go by its whims. Tcchh…had it been India, these men in wigs would have been charged with sedition and declared anti-nationals. Don’t they know it’s the state that gets to decide what should offend us? It’s pretty simple - what offends them should offend us and if that offends you, GO TO HELL, YOU SCUMBAGS! Oh, and the state also gets to decide what and where hell is.

After I was done with outraging, I changed sides since I prefer remaining on the right side of political correctness. The world is a stage and of what use are my acting skills if I can’t flip my emotions like an omelette on a pan. So, right now I am busy yayying for the French courts for acting in favour of liberty and equality. Why should only men get to decide that we are better off when covered up! Also, if women feel they should be free to expose without inviting judgement, they should also be free to slip into a garment that the world had no idea about till a ban was imposed on it. So, if certain femmes want to wear bikinis at hill stations, I will support their right even it means freezing to death. Don’t Delhi women dress in tiny summery dresses in biting winters and live to tell the tale? Or prefer death by sweating in black tights under a black dress in searing summers to save themselves from the ogle fest every time they step out?

Needless to say, this landmark judgement has come as a huge relief to a certain section of men who have always believed that an ideal woman should dress in a shroud to live a long uneventful life. Women who dress in flimsy, fashionable clothing deliberately provoke men into harassing them, who sometimes insert rods inside their vaginas and butcher their bodies for fun. So it is only natural that men protect themselves by banning women from their sight. Look what happened at Haji Ali. Women with breasts were deliberately bending over while praying, forcing men into having unholy thoughts and distracting them from their destined path of greatness.

What I don’t get is, if men are so fascinated by breasts, why don’t they try growing a pair of their own!

Had Dipa Karmakar attempted the death defying Produnova vault in a demure salwar-kameez and not that shameful one piece garment, she would have felt more comfortable winning a bronze. Had PV Sindhu smashed her way to the Badminton finals in a sari, and not that tiny skirt, she would have done our rich Indian culture proud. Does Sakshi know that by flaunting those amazing biceps, she has closed doors on lucrative matrimonial offers! Who will marry her now? Worse still, who will risk arguing with her? Tell tell!

So please instead of shooing off devout Muslim women in their Burkinis from beaches, let them feel comfortable covered from head to toe!

Monday, August 8, 2016

OMG, beta, you’ve become darker and uglier!

Growing up as a girl is tough. We have to fend off leery advances from unknown men in public spaces even though we don't fully understand what's going on. We are expected to be paragons of virtue because someone somewhere decided without even consulting us that women are meant to be the pride of the family. On top of that we have to face a battalion of aunties who constantly judge us as if we are part of a beauty pageant. God forbid if you're not fair and lovely, you are constantly reminded of it, as if it was your damn fault! They could be fat, ugly themselves but that doesn’t stop those aunties from passing snarky comments about your appearance.

Interestingly the boys are spared this agony. They could be gangly, pimply, with a hook nose, yet they were handsome princes according to their Moms. We had no such luck.

As you would have guessed by now, I was thin, dark, gawky and not conventionally “good looking” as a child through her teens. I hated the shape of my nose. My brother would often make sketches to illustrate what exactly was wrong with it. I wish I had thinner lips and would often experiment with ‘pursed lips’ look hoping it would make me look pretty. Everyone around me seemed prettier. Unfortunately I was not even spectacularly good in academics to make up for my lack of comely charms.

I had a mirror at home. I knew exactly how I looked and tried not to be too bothered about it. In fact I was a pretty happy child. It seemed it bothered others a lot. I had no dearth of concerned aunts who’d fret about how tanned I had become and how beautiful my Mom was and then glance at me in meaningful silence. Since this was a yearly ritual, I tried my best to turn into carbon. People often ask me where and how I got my sense of humour. Well, it’s time to reveal it all. I developed it at a very young age as a defence tactic. I used it to counter hurt. When on a sunny lazy vacation afternoon an aunt told me that I’d get married only because I had beautiful feet, I told her I’ll ask a burqa to adopt me and make sure the world wouldn’t have to see the rest of me. She of course didn’t get the joke.

As a gawky adolescent still hungry for approval from strangers, I believed every single one of them. Each snarky comment disguised as concern stung like hell. But I made sure I never gave anyone the satisfaction of knowing that they had managed to dent my self-esteem. Sometimes I felt there was a contest going on amongst Moms, each trying convince others that their child was the best thing to have happened to humanity by putting the rest of us down. As usual, we kids were caught in the crossfire. So, when a colleague of my Mom would rue about my lack of height, ma would enrol me for swimming or make me hang from a cold iron rod first thing in the morning, hoping I’d stretch like chewing gum. I spent most of my time at the pool chatting with hot didis lamenting about their voluptuous thighs. I refused to hang like a baboon from that rod after the first day.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Dear Gurgaon, It's time you accepted your fate and drowned in a pothole

Also published here 

Residents of Gurgaon took to social media to vent their anger after the city and its millions cars came to a grinding halt to a gridlock that lasted 20 hours. Triggered by heavy rains followed by flooding, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook were full of horrifying accounts of thirsty, hungry and angry commuters stuck in an ocean of muddy water and bumper to bumper traffic.

Predictably everyone donned their Grrgroan avatar and took to blaming civic bodies and the Khattar led government of happening Haryana. Haryana government took instant action and promptly blamed Kejriwal government for its watery woes. The CM went a step ahead and announced 1812 projects, that he has no intentions of implementing, to make Gurgaon great again. The civic authorities as usual had no clue what they were being blamed for. Especially when a lot of them are supposed to be doing the same job yet no one has a clear idea about the exact nature of their responsibilities. The sweet fellas they are, they promised they will make sure this will never happen again, like they did in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012…..

What’s perplexing is this lashing from the public. It’s not as if the city that fancies itself as millennial hasn’t sunk in murky waters before. It’s not as if countless articles have not been written about a nightmare called Gurgaon and promptly forgotten the next day. It’s not as if promises have not been made and then broken. In fact we love this predictable pattern so much, we make sure we repeat it year after year. Who doesn’t love driving gingerly through swirling waters and miles of honking traffic in the company of irate drivers with murder in their minds after a stressful day at office! It gives an adrenalin rush that no bungee jumping can match.

This time though was slightly different though. The traffic refused to budge, like concrete with more cement than sand. But what is shocking is that Gurgaon residents who are still not sure whether they live in Gurgaon or Gurugram expect accountability from those supposedly in charge. They felt let-down when they saw no help in sight. Silly people, all you had to do was call a cow helpline and say moo and the gau-rakshak squad would have appeared miraculously and given a sound thrashing to everyone responsible for your plight!

Or better still, followed the traffic police advisory offering a simple solution to Millennium city’s woes - ‘Don’t come to Gurgaon.’ If you are unfortunate enough to be in Gurgaon, don’t step out, dammit!


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