The railway woes

The writing starts at 6.45 pm, on Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

It has nearly two hours on the Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express, and I am yet to establish a proper connection with the on-board wi-fi, which was ostentatiously inaugurated by railway minister Dinesh Tribedi yesterday aboard the New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani. The network access to the login portal has just been established, but its still a long way before I see anything from the ‘interwebz’.

The way it should work is fairly simple. I try to open any web portal on my laptop, tablet PC, smartphone or any phone that can access the internet, and I will be directed to a specific login portal that will grant me internet access through the railways’ on-the-train servers. But it will first require a username and a password. And to get that, I need to register my PNR, following which the aforementioned username and password will be sent to me by text message.

Point is, the text message is to be sent to the registered phone number. Now, my ticket was booked online, so one phone number to which the SMS could go to is that of the person under whose IRCTC login my ticket was booked. Then, while booking, my dad gave his phone number as a contact number in case of emergencies or if any change was made to the booking. So his number is a candidate too.

However, not all tickets are booked through IRCTC’s online portal, so the first isn’t a case for consideration. The second is the phone number that all ticket booking forms, both offline and online, require. In my case, it is the latter, but there has been no SMS to my dad’s phone either…

And finally, 15 minutes after I register, the SMS arrives on the third possibility: my own telephone, whose number I had provided while registering for this service a few minutes ago.

Just as I am beginning to think that this will be the beginning of some smooth surfing, a la my experience of using state-owned internet connections like MTNL in New Delhi. Fat chance! The young porter who I had badgered at the starting of the trip somewhat smugly tried to tell me that the ‘mistri’ had just fixed the problem. Really? He must have chuckled inwardly. The internet connection is as shaky as this train, and I am losing connection much more frequently than a goldfish exhausts its memory span!

Nevertheless, I soldier on. It’s a good thing that blogware like Windows Live Writer can help bloggers compose the entire text of a new post offline, on their desktop, and then let us publish it at the click of a button, within that small window of time when the patron saint of internet connectivity smiles on my laptop for that small window of time.

Finally published at 7.50 pm.


The emerging leaders

The year 2012 will be a year of upheavals in Indian politics. No less than three non-Congress candidates for the prime-ministerial berth are likely to emerge, and the most interesting of them will be Mamata Banerjee. Simply because of the fact that though her own state is not having an assembly election this year, but because she is destined to play the role of a kingmaker/queenmaker in at least two of the states that will.

Of the other two, Narendra Modi has been obvious for quite some time. The Gujarat CM’s ambitions have been on display for quite some time. In fact, rumour mills suggest that NaMo will camp in Delhi from the end of this year till  it suits him, or till it becomes apparent whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gives him the go-ahead to take the top post if and when it wins the general election.

The third – Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati – is somewhat of a circumspect candidate. Her aspirations depend on a lot of ifs and buts, and she may not wield enough clout to iron out these chinks.

So what exactly are these people doing to get to the top? Let’s start top-down here. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has already passed a resolution stating that it wants to divide the state of Uttar Pradesh into four parts. The move is more for her own political benefit than for the benefit of the populace – it would mean that her party, with a presence/majority in four states in the country, is a national party.

But like I said earlier, there are a lot of ifs and buts there. For starters, whether central government would even allow the state to be quartered and served for the consumption of a Dalit leader under whose regime Dalits have suffered quite a bit. The second, and an equally significant if, is the question of gaining majority on all four of these parts if UP is divided. It might seem easy, but may turn out to be quite a tricky proposition.

Then we have NaMo, who seems to have quite a few unlikely voices behind him. He somehow managed to befriend the Chinese, going to their country and inviting them to set up industries in his state. He has also been trying to project himself as a strong, no-nonsense leader, who is the fastest off the block when it comes to development – NaMo was the first to approach the Tatas after their Nano factory in Singur failed.

And last, but definitely not the least, we come to the person who was responsible for the above-mentioned Nano factory not materialising. Mamata Banerjee was once a loyal Congress member before leaving the party with some of her own loyalists to form her own outfit that kept the core/grass-root level ideologies intact. Hence Trinamool.

Political observers will argue that Banerjee is no better than the two Left Front chief ministers West Bengal has seen before her, and I would not exactly disagree. But then, when has Indian politics thrown up a good mix of candidates for the voter to choose from? Given that, the West Bengal electorate seems to have followed the old diktat, and chosen the lesser of two evils.

In the process, they seem to have fuelled Didi’s political ambitions, who seems to be harbouring prime-ministerial dreams. With her populist propaganda and method of working, she seems to be winning many hearts, even if what she promises isn’t exactly practical.

Who you gonna choose?

PS: Here’s a cartoon that our friendly neighbourhood Mr Sibal might not like. But just to show him the power of the internet, please let it go viral.


Oh, and this is a purely personal post. I know of no legal step that has been taken so far that will force me to take this down. This is a sarcastic feature I found on the internet that explains what our HRD minister intends to do when he calls for ‘pre-screening’ of content on social media. This is a social experiment to see if he is affected by the Streisand effect.

The ‘great’ disappointment

It seems like ages ago when a friend of my recommended that I read Arnab Ray’s May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss? Actually, it was less than a year ago that I picked up the book and guffawed my way through it. A lot of water must have passed under the bridge since then, and Mr Ray has accomplished more than published a book in the meantime — he has gone on to write several newspaper columns in several newspapers. So what’s the point of this piece? It is about the disappointment of a fan stemmed from the disappointment of someone he looks up to.

In a recent post, Ray, who goes by the Twitter handle @greatbong, and indeed became famous as the blogger GreatBong,  junks the film Rockstar in no uncertain terms, going on to mention that the film offers nothing new.

<Spoiler alert. I am going to discuss certain aspects of Rockstar in quite a detailed manner, and if you still intend to see the film, I recommend that you go and do that, instead of just looking for reviews or discussions on it.>

At the outset, I must say that GreatBong is quite right in at least some of his observations. Nargis Fakhri has as many expressions as a wooden centre table, and may have just been chosen due to any of the dubious reasons whose rumours inhabit the by-lanes of the film industry. His views on parts of the story too can be stomached well, albeit with a pinch of salt at times.

However, I am disappointed in his interpretation of one the climax of the film. Just dismissing it as having been a repeat of the climaxes of some of the films in the 1980s and ’90s is, like he did, is, to me a cardinal sin!

For anyone who has seen the film, the scene in between Nadaan Parindey — where Heer drapes a white sheet over herself and Janardhan / Jordan, and after saying throughout the whole film that she can’t be his, finally decides to declare that she is his, and the calm under the sheet, as she rests her head on his shoulder, is their own world, is of utmost importance!

It is in this scene that, after more than two hours (of film time) of running away from Jordan does she finally become Jordan’s. It is also the moment they consummate their love — two as one. This, ironically is also the moment that leads to he getting her pregnant, which leads to her coma. The greatest irony of it all is that the moment she finally decided to become his was also the moment he lost her forever!

This is just one of the instances that GreatBong has decided to gloss over when reviewing the film. He seems to be stuck perennially with a pair of goggles peering into the 1980s and ’90s. Why, only he knows. I can only speculate that he may have just decided to pander to his target audience who always applaud anything that junks the present era and hark back to the ‘good old days’. A good insight into these people’s psyche might just reveal that they have taken Ray’s satire in May I Hebb… a bit too seriously. On the other hand, I sincerely hope that the GreatBong has written the review in total jest, and I am taking him too seriously.

Meanwhile, here’s a bit more about why I think Rockstar had a certain amount of depth that many other films of recent times didn’t. Let’s start with the anti-Christ feeling of rock, which many think has led to the use of the hand signal known best as the Devil’s Horns to be displayed for rock ballads loved by their listeners. It’s why rock was, and at times now still is, considered evil.

Now connect this with the song Hawa Hawa from Rockstar. Can’t find a connection? Try this. The story the song’s lyrics describes is inspired from the Czech legend of one ‘Sleepy John’. The folktale goes that the queen of the land somehow managed to wear out 12 shoes every night, much to the king’s chagrin.

One day, perplexed to near insanity, the king enlisted the help of Sleepy John who, using his magic powers, found out that every night the land parted for the queen, who would go to meet the Devil himself in his abode underground. There, they would dance all night, and that’s how the queen wore out all 12 pairs of shoes. The phrases like ‘naach rangeeley, sab zehreeley’ make more sense now?

Now compare this with what happens on the screen when the song is playing. Heer, who has been suffering from psychiatric problems, suddenly metamorphoses into the chirpy college girl she once was. Her doctor says that her condition is improving. And that happens when she is in close proximity with Jordan– the bad boy, the devil, the rocker. After all, it is the temptation to be with him that destroys her marriage, her peace, and in the end, her life!

Next, think back to how music always is the leitmotif of Jordan’s life. The GreatBong here refers to dialogues by Kader Khan to sum up what Jordan’s college canteen’s manager tells him, but the philosophy or the thought may have had an even more apt twin in a much older film. Anyone thinking Baiju Bawra by now? True, that nobody told him that he could out-sing Tansen after sustaining a broken heart, but that’s exactly what he managed to do, didn’t he? So are we to say that Rockstar ‘copied’ from this iconic film too? Besides, how many films have used cut shots the way Imtiaz Ali has done in the film to underline the role music plays in Jordan’s life?

If and when that cud becomes too flavourless to ruminate on, try this for a change. The song Nadaan Parindey is inspired by a poem by Rumi, and apparently thought of when became a part of the film’s album when AR Rahman had asked Imtiaz Ali ‘when will the bird come home?’ This is bird of ambition, of aspiration, and maybe of life itself.

It is probably why the lyrics as it to ‘chun chun khaiyo maas. Khayio na to naina more, khaiyo na ko naina mohe, piya ke milan ki hai aas’. He wants the physical pain inflicted on him, in order to forget the pain in his heart, but he just wants his eyes spared, so that he can have a last glimpse — real or in his mind’s eye — of his loved one.

And while we have still not deviated too far from inspirations, I wonder why the GreatBong does nto mention two of the biggest tributes in the film, both of which involve Shammi Kapoor. The first is a small sequence that apparently takes place in Kashmir, with the song Tareef Karoon Kya Uski playing in the background, as Ranbir Kapoor imitates his granddad on one shikara while Nargis Fakhri tries to pout her way into imitating Sharmila Tagore.

The second is Shammi Kapoor’s role in the film, which is clearly inspired by the real-life legend Ustad Bismillah Khan. What is especially poignant is that one of Khan’s grandchildren had been trying to get a biographical documentary on him released, but it saw the light of the day only when AR Rahman himself intervened.

But that’s enough about the film. Let’s get back to GreatBong’s review of the film, and his writings themselves. There was a point of time when I asked him how he manages to write the way he does — yes, I loved, and still love, the way he writes most of his posts. And I would like nothing better than for him to continue doing so. However, I would hate it if he junked really good works of art while pandering to his love for a specific genre of films.

So, Arnab da (Aside: I hope he lets me use the Bengali contraction for an elder brother when I refer to him), here’s looking forward to a lot more articles, blog posts and insights from you, and expecting that the wit and sarcasm in each one is more biting than the previous one. Please don’t let the genre get to you. From a fan, now, and hopefully for a long time to come…

I’m finally getting Raj-istered

It’s been more than a year since I became a resident of Rajasthan – or more specifically, Jaipur – but never during this year did I get the opportunity to venture out of Jaipur. Nevertheless, my experience with the autos, shops and other ‘commercial ventures’ here have taught me a lot about how to negotiate pleas, scams and even insults and not get ripped off. Of course, this took a little bit of practical experience, but I managed to do it.

Then, about a couple of months ago, my family informed me that they were coming on a quick tour of Delhi, Jaipur and Jaisalmer, and I would have to join them from Jaipur. I was happy – it was a golden opportunity to showcase what it is like to live away from home and get so acclimatised and adjusted to what they consider an alien land (any place where a Bengali does not get his/her fix of bhaat-maachh, or rice and fish, they consider alien or foreign).

It was evident from my and my jiju’s mothers teary-eyed finish to each vegetarian meal at the regular restaurant. It was also evident from my sister caught off-guard because every restaurant in and around the place was vegetarian – these people are so used to their eggs, chicken and fish!

The next thing to get them was the sudden change of temperature. While they huffed and puffed during the heat of the day, sweating their make-up and deos off, I appeared nonchalant throughout the day. Then, when I warned them that the mercury would nosedive at night, reaching shivering depths towards dawn, I informed that they were prepared. As with quite a few other things, this time too they were surprised.

However, the icing on the cake was probably my accent, which, after months of haggling with auto-drivers on the streets, and beating them down to the desired fare, had a slight Marwari/Rajasthani tinge to it, not to mention my language containing a helpful smattering of words only the locals use.

Therefore, whenever anyone else from my family spoke during the tour, they got replies in snatches of broken Bengali, and an immediate look of recognition that appears on the faces of people who have spotted their next cash-cow in the form of a party of tourists. This, however, does not mean that they complied with the docility of a newlywed bride – in fact, they retaliated with their best Bengali bargaining skills, and often got some good results.

On the other hand, I was referred to variously as a Punjabi (by an auto driver on the road), a Gujarati (by a camel driver here in Jaisalmer, where I am writing this post), and even a UP waale bhaiyya (by some people whose accent I had picked up earlier, whilst interacting with a bunch of them in college)!

This trip is indeed proving to be quite fruitful, especially because it is also bringing our family closer, and giving me more time to spend with my nice, who I have seen just five or six times since July 2011, when she was born.

Nevertheless, this is also proving to be one time when I am turning out to be quite a Rajasthani!

A ‘normal’ love story

How many times have we come across ‘love stories’ that people say are right out of our lives! And just as almost every boy-meets-girl seemed exhausted, here’s Chuck Lorre (the guy who gave us Two And A Half Men and the deliciously geeky The Big Bang Theory) with Mike and Molly, a sitcom about two overweight people who meet each other, and begin liking each other despite a LOT of problems!

Now, I agree that ‘overweight’ guys do not necessarily have equally overweight girlfriends, and vice-versa, but it’s still heart-warming to see how two people can fall in love, despite being not-so-perfect, and accepting each other’s imperfections. Dumbledore would be happy, actually. “…There’s a little more love in the world.”

Oh, and in case you are feeling tired, emulate these fine young things.


I know I will! Good night!

The ‘bad porn’ feel to gol gappa

It totally freaked me out! This guy, having just finished his quota of gol gappas (known alternatively across the country as paani puri, gup chup, paani pataashi, or, as they refer to it in my own Poschim Bongo: phuchka / fuchka), and was inhaling his air as if he was the girl who was being fingered or f*cked in a bad, home-made Indian porn – the kind that they have in MMSes!

Now honestly, I am not a fan of these 3gp-format videos, but I will admit that I had to see one or two of them for a non-pleasurable purpose. And was appalled and disgusted in equal parts at what was taking place in that grainy, hazy, wavy piece of video!

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I am every bit the red-blooded youth as the next one, but this was something else! I actually just brainstormed five whole minutes to find the exact words to describe it, and came back blank!!

But that was then. And it returned today, at one of the most unexpected places of all! Here was this guy, sucking air into his mouth from between clenched teeth, and looking lecherously at one of the young girls who had come to stand beside him for her share of the snack! Of course, she couldn’t stand it, and had to move a few steps away to keep her attention on the gol gappa and not on the disgust at the act.

It made me wonder if I too, at some point of time, had done something like that, obviously obliviously. Please forgive me, the unknown-persons-I-have-offended. I know now EXACTLY how you might have felt!

Sooooooo many mistakes!

Rohit Shetty and directors like him are lucky they aren’t showing their work to a more discerning audience! Granted, that Hindi films were never one for logic, and most of today’s Bollywood hits are hits because they take us into an alternate reality, where the hero can punch a hole through a wall and the villain’s henchmen, and even the crack marksmen, have atrocious aim with their guns!

But what I saw in Singham today defies even a lot more logic, let alone the laws of physics! Here’s a short list.

  1. When Bajirao Singham first alights from his motorcycle at his home, the licence plate shows that the vehicle belongs to Goa. But we are given to understand that this is a village in the interiors of Maharashtra!
  2. Second, Jaikant Shikre is shown as a criminal-turned-politician. and he belongs to Goa. If he is a state-level politician, how come he has enough clout to get a police officer transferred from one state to another, that too from a state where he has no political effect? And if he is a national-level politician, which gives him the required clout, how come he is never shown visiting Delhi to exercise the clout?
  3. When just a little judicious policing and detective work could expose every facet of Shikre, why does Singham choose the hot-headed way?
  4. The way Singham destroys public property with gay wanton, why doesn’t the police department act against it? I mean, what logic does he have for uprooting a public lamp to beat up the baddies?

I leave it up to you to unearth the rest of the discrepancies. Feel free to add to this list. I will update it over time. And will try to dissect more films like this. Wish me luck, folks!

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