Sunday, January 23, 2011

Things I would do if I were Bono or someone cool

Okay, so this was totally brought on by a quick glimpse viewing of Beautiful Day on VH1 - you know the part where Bono's like lying on the baggage conveyor? I mean, that, is my fantasy. Which got me to thinking - what are the other things I'd do if I were cool like Bono? So here's my list -

1) The conveyor belt thing to begin with. Number wunn priority boss.
2) Also, in the same video, the dude is singing on the runway, while planes take off over his head - I mean, who wouldn't want that?
3) Sit in the school staff room. I mean, for some reason, thanks to my school or whatever, the staff room was this super sacred place which was kept veiled from the prying eyes of a student with this shabby fluttering curtain. We kept catching glimpses of this fantastic little world inside (I once saw Mrs. Basu smoking and heard a lot of commotion when Mrs. Mitra fainted) - but never enough to know enough. I almost walked in once, when I was helping Mrs. Sen carry some books to the staff room - but the minute I stepped inside, she let out a banshee-like scream - "You're not allowed inside! You're not allowed inside! " I almost saw the light. Bitch.
4) Sit next to the pilot in the cockpit. Ask him why they call it a cockpit. Especially now that there are women pilots. And I'd also take over for two minutes, giving everyone a ride of their lives. A brief, horrible ride. Muahahahaha.
5) Go to Mecca and Medina - and all those places where I'm forbidden to go. Like ever. Like Charlie Kaufman's mind.

Okay, I have to think too much now. So later.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I found an old diary - 2005ish. Not much has changed, I can see. Some of the things seemed silly and childish - like the poetry for instance - and the ramblings about my dream lover, when half the world I knew were banging their real lovers in their garage or attic or whatever. But yeah, the apprehensions about growing old and lonely, sick and spiritless, all of that is still thick in my brains. I have mellowed with regard to my parents. I don't get mad at them as easily. I get them.

It's weird. I always thought 2005 was one of the best years in my life. But when I was reading this silly old diary, I had such anger jumping out of the pages, I could barely believe it. I kept thinking, you stupid kid, it's okay, these are such little things. But I'll give that kid her knack for intuition. She had predicted something like this happening to me. Whatever it is that is happening to me. I should write carefully.

I should go back to Bombay. I'm scared of going back to something I cannot control, but I should go back anyway. I'm still fucking paying rent.

You know what? I'm quite okay. I may not be the peachiest of plum, but I'm okay. Like Peppermint Patty said one day after looking at the mirror - "Not so bad". Then she walks out with Marcie and says "You know Marcie, that's always been my be not so bad after all". So if 30 year old me reads this - kid, you're not so bad after all.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

You Belong to Me

Let’s get this straight. Calcutta is an acquired taste. You either love it or you don’t. You might hate it sometimes with a vengeance so severe that, you will promise never to return, never to love again. But if you have loved it once, chances are you will crawl back to it like a broken lover, begging her to take you back. Ah yes, Calcutta, this charming old seductress, will stab and twist and make you bleed. But eventually, she will reclaim you.

I was recently reclaimed, when a friend of mine decided to pop over to my hometown for a few weeks. I knew she must have had some expectations having read, seen and heard so much, so I was a little apprehensive. The perception of my city isn’t always a flattering one. Or it is always riddled with annoying clich├ęs. Trams and Tagore, roshogolla and mishti doi, Durga Pujo and shindoor khala – yeah yeah yeah, whatever. It upsets me. Cal is either Parineeta or Lapierre’s City of Joy with the poor, hungry rickshaw pullers. I mean it is - I’m not entirely denying it. But a dumb sepia coloured postcard it is not. It isn’t a one night stand. It isn’t some chick you pick up at a bar. You have to give Cal some time and some thought - which presumably narrows down the Cal loving population to a fairly feeble percentage.

Fortunately, my friend was one of them feeble percentages. I could see it when she was leaving. The city had claimed another victim. Like Mary Anne Aunty from Scotland, who ate too little and often broke her bones and said “Oh dear” a lot. Mary Anne lived at the Grand Hotel on Chowringhee for many months before moving to an apartment in New Alipore. She was about 65, quite the Brit, very proper, liked her tea and all of that. Her husband, Uncle John, was a slightly younger, sprightly, ruddy faced Scotsman who worked with my father. He was here on a transfer, and was shacking up with his wife at one of the oldest, quaintest hotels in Calcutta. We were bang in the middle of our summer holidays, seriously excited, because having a guest at the Grand meant free swimming sessions. So everyday, under the pretext of making Mary Anne feel more at home, my mother, my brother and I would hop over to the Grand, swim (or attempt to – because I really couldn’t) and eat like we’ve never eaten before at the coffee shop over there. By “we”, I really mean my brother and I, because my mother is a very gracious sort and wouldn’t really behave like that. Mary Anne, I really don’t know what she thought of us, was really upset about being in Calcutta. It was dirty, backward, poor and chaotic. It wasn’t the right thing for her frail little British nerves. She hated it, and my brother and I would make it worse by telling her horror stories about the ‘dhapa maath’ (a dumping ground literally – where the ITC Sonar -Bangla now stands), and many more cringe-worthy tales just to make her say “Oh dear” even more. We spent that whole summer saying “Oh dear” at the littlest things and laughed till our sides hurt. But despite our sincerest efforts at creating little monsters in her head, Mary Anne, fell in love with this filthy, chaotic city after three years of living here. Not with its structures or buildings or food or anything – but with its soul I suppose. She went back to Scotland with a heavy heart, and also, I suspect, better immunity.

There is no plausible explanation for it. It’s difficult for me to be objective about Calcutta. My parents live here, I’ve grown up here, have gone to school and college here – my life has formed around this city. We’re fused together in a manner so complicated that I dare not attempt to untangle it.
I was standing at the Calcutta airport seeing off my friend and thinking this is not the kind of airport you would expect a metro to have. It’s seriously screwed up. And all this led to further thought. I pictured myself in Bangalore Airport, Bombay Airport, Dehli Airport – and none of the me’s seemed to fit in any of those airports. I considered my life in Bombay – independent, casual, scattered – and felt as though I was living someone else’s life over there.
I was incomplete. I missed my city. I fought to get away from it, but I knew I was only getting into a very complex long distance relationship with my love.

Calcutta is my Egdon Heath. I just know it.

I was listening to Michael Buble's version of You Belong to Me. I think it brought this on.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sip Carefully

Obviously, I'm over-doing it - this Calcutta thing - this not working thing. To be fair (to me that is), I have (am) working on a film here - something to do with smoking awareness. And yes, all this smoking business has made me give up my pledge to quit. Yeah, I have absolutely no staying power - literally and figuratively. I can almost see the solemn eyes of my well-wishers going - told you so - and maybe a little tut tut.

So yeah. That's that. So far, I've enjoyed my new year thoroughly - mostly re-discovering Calcutta, working for myself, eating a lot and listening to and watching things I like. I've been supremely selfish and sometimes not very cool, but I think I should stop feeling bad about all that. I spent all of last year feeling used and spent - and not in a good way. I don't want that anymore. I don't want to be lonely and brooding and fake smiling. I can feel this happy juice slowly recede. And I realise it during moments of absolute bliss. What a typical, cheesy urban nutjob I am. Anyway, I'm going to make it last while it does.

I do know, more often than not, happiness is kind of isolating. Most of the time, you are happy just on your own, sticking out like a sore thumb - sounding too loud, too shiny. I've been the other guy too long to know this. But I like this cake. Let me eat it for now. We'll have plenty of time to be sad together, okay?