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A visit to Calcutta is incomplete without a pitstop at the Moori* wala. The roadside vendor skillfully tosses snack together in less than a minute. After silently pleading to my stomach to not hate me for this, I gulp down the moori. Next up is Puchka wala (aka Pani puri, Golgappa).

*Moori is the Bengali word for Puffed Rice

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General ramblings

Roadside delicacy

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India, Me

Two incidents, on the same day.

Before I tell you about the two incidents yesterday, l have to say I had a mildly interesting week: Lost all my belongings (that included about 12 years of piano sheet music, music notes in general) that used to be in my store room, (thanks to a highly incompetent group of managers at my housing community), only to have this burning intuition very soon that I’ll never see my stuff again. I am actually quite fine with losing everything that might have been in that store room (if you don’t even remember the contents, how important can they really be?), except for my music notes, the only misplaced item that I happen to remember, which kind of proves its sentimental value. I am left with the arduous task of deciding if I want to sue those bastards, or escalate the matter to the Upper Management, or drop it completely. The lawyer in me wants to exercise Option No. 1, the lazy-do-I-really-care part of me wants to go with Option No. 3. Which means, Option No. 2 it’ll be for now.

Then, yesterday, took my dog, Sasha, to see a “dog shrink” (Read: Behavioral consultant) for the first time when it should really be me who should pay a visit to a shrink (more on that later), but we do all we can to keep our dogs healthy and living for as long as possible, fully aware of their short life spans, and yet, we let ours fall into disrepair. Or at least I do.

Now that I have these thoughts out of my head, let me move on to the two incidents themselves.

Incident 1: Happens while I’m out grocery shopping.

Random desi, catches me just when I’m about to check out. You have to realize desis DO NOT just walk up to each other in the US and talk about Bharat desh, mangoes and Indian politics. In fact, desis will go to great lengths to avoid each other in public places.  So, you can imagine my surprise when this mans walks up and says, “I think I’ve seen you somewhere?”. Umm, sir, no you haven’t. He probes a bit about my profession, where I work, and how long I’ve been here, and volunteers the same information. But this is not what was offensive. What’s offensive is this –

He: So, which state are you from?

Me: Huh?

He: No, which state are you from?

Me: I’m from Calcutta.

He: Oh, do you speak Tamil?

Me: (WTF?!!!) No, I don’t.

He: I will introduce you to my wife. Both of you can go shopping together.

Me: (faking a faint smile)

He: Oh, by the way, I have this family type business. Let’s talk about it.

Me: Sorry, gotta rush. Let’s catch up again. (And on my way out, cursing myself for giving him my phone number. Should place him on the block list ASAP).

Incident 2: Late at a party, same day.

Friend 1: Where are you from in India?

Friend 2: I’m from Bombay.

Friend 3: No, no. He’s not from Bombay.

Friend 2: What do you mean, men? I’m from Bombay.

Friend 3: You’re Tamilian noooo…So, Tamil Nadu.

Friend 2: WTF? Are you crazy? I was born in Bombay. Always lived there.

Friend 1: (Stunned. Cursing himself for asking the question)

**********

What is wrong with the people of India? So many blogs, so many Tweets, so much of awareness online. All for nothing. Yet when most folks of my generation look to marry, they will first look for a girl or a boy of their “caste/religion/state” and if for some reason, this is not a possibility, then they’ll go look elsewhere.

Edited to add: Sometimes, people won’t say it aloud, but they’ll silently calculate the “mother tongue” of the person based on his or her looks (especially the color of the skin), the first name, and maybe the last name, if they’ve had the balls to exchange this information.

Current mood: Pensive.

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All Smiles

Happiness is when you’re finally able to log back into your WP account after two years of not remembering the password. The fact that the email address I had on this account had long expired didn’t help either.

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All Smiles

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General ramblings

Coetzee and Adiga

I read two novels recently- Summertime by JM Coetzee (my favorite author, by the way) and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

Summertime is a 2009 Booker Prize Finalist. I chanced upon the novel while perusing through the New Arrivals section at Barnes & Noble. I sat on a plush couch for more than 2 hours and read 100 odd pages. I had a feeling that the store associates will probably kick me out for reading the book for free. Of course, nothing of that sort happens in the US. India, yes. Anyway, I went to the Saint Louis County Library the next day and got a copy of the novel and spent the next couple of hours absorbing each word. Coetzee manages to transpire me to a state of bliss every time. My first book by Coetzee was _Disgrace_- early 2000, probably. Summertime is semi biographical and the third installment of the series; the other two, Boyhood and Youth, I haven’t read. Coetzee comes across as a detached and an intellectual person in the novel. Someone who is not capable of loving anyone. Someone who is very personal. The book is set in 70s for the most part- a time in his life when he had just returned to South Africa from the States, when he was still struggling to find a foothold as a writer. He projects himself as a single man in the novel. In real life, he was married with two kids. (Got to know after doing a quick Wiki check). The book doesn’t disappoint me one bit. Again,this might be because I read a Coetzee novel after a gap of 5-6 years.

The White Tiger was an interesting read. Unfortunately, it didn’t teach me anything about India that I don’t already know- how corrupt the entire system is, how drivers employed by middle class families back home hoodwink their masters, how poor their families are etc. Adiga’s execution is brilliant though. There is a twist in the story and that is what sets this novel apart from many others. Did it deserve to win the Booker? I don’t know. In a match between Summertime and The White Tiger, Summertime wins hands down for me. Of course, Coetzee (two time Booker winner, Nobel Prize in Lit.) versus Adiga (one time Booker winner, budding author) is not a fair race. I guess I’m just mad at the Booker committee for only shortlisting Summertime. I can see why they did that- they do not want to give the general public the impression that they are biased towards one author. They probably want to give new writers a chance. But shouldn’t the slate be wiped clean every year? Shouldn’t each book be judged entirely on its own merit and not on the merit of the author? Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful to the Booker Committee for introducing me to great pieces of Literature. I do wish that the ultimate winners were a little more worthy though. I think Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things was a very well deserved Booker Prize Winner. The White Tiger is not. The book is witty and entertaining even though it is not a literary masterpiece. Something is lacking though. It leaves much to be desired. I have Adiga’s latest work, Between the Assassinations lying on my bookshelf. I will return to him after reading something else.

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General ramblings

India: Oh Lovely Dawn

I stumbled across a whole bunch of old articles related to India on Time magazine’s website. Here‘s one about Indian independence and the political hue cry that surrounded it:

As the great day approached, Indians thanked their varied gods and rejoiced with special prayers, poems and songs. Poetess Sarojini Naidu set the theme in a radio message: “Oh lovely dawn of freedom that breaks in gold and purple over the ancient capital o . .!”

lessing with Ashes. Even such an agnostic as Jawaharlal Nehru, on the eve of becoming India’s first Prime Minister, fell into the religious spirit. From Tanjore in south India came two emissaries of Sri Amblavana Desigar, head of a sannyasi order of Hindu ascetics. Sri Amblavana thought that Nehru, as first Indian head of a really Indian Government ought, like ancient Hindu kings, to receive the symbol of power and authority from Hindu holy men.

With the emissaries came south India’s most famous player of the nagasaram, a special kind of Indian flute. Like other sannyasis, who abstain from hair-cutting and hair-combing, the two emissaries wore their long hair properly matted and wound round their heads. Their naked chests and foreheads were streaked with sacred ash, blessed by Sri Amblavana. In an ancient Ford, the evening of Aug. 14, they began their slow, solemn progress to Nehru’s house. Ahead walked the flutist, stopping every 100 yards or so to sit on the road and play his flute for about 15 minutes. Another escort bore a large silver platter. On it was the pithambaram (cloth of God), a costly silk fabric with patterns of golden thread.

When at last they reached Nehru’s house, the flutist played while the sannyasis awaited an invitation from Nehru.

Then they entered the house in dignity, fanned by two boys with special fans of deer hair. One sannyasi carried a scepter of gold, five feet long, two inches thick. He sprinkled Nehru with holy water from Tanjore and drew a streak in sacred ash across Nehru’s forehead. Then he wrapped Nehru in the pithambaram and handed him the golden scepter. He also gave Nehru some cooked rice which had been offered that very morning to the dancing god Nataraja in south India, then flown by plane to Delhi.

Later that evening Nehru, and other men who would be India’s new rulers on the morrow, went to the home of Rajendra Prasad, president of the Constituent Assembly. On his back lawn four plantain trees served as pillars for a temporary miniature temple. A roof of fresh green leaves sheltered a holy fire attended by a Brahman priest. There, while several thousand women chanted hymns, the ministers-to-be and constitution-makers passed in front of the priest, who sprinkled holy water on them. The oldest woman placed dots of red powder (for luck) on each man’s forehead.

Tryst with Destiny. Thus dedicated, India’s rulers turned to the secular business of the evening. At 11 o’clock they gathered in the Constituent Assembly Hall, ablaze with the colors of India’s new tricolor flag—orange, white and green. Nehru made an inspired speech: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge. . . .At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”

And as the twelfth chime of midnight died out, a conch shell, traditional herald of the dawn, sounded raucously through the chamber. Members of the Constituent Assembly rose. Together they pledged themselves “at this solemn moment . . . to the service of India and her people. . . .” Nehru and Prasad struggled through the thousands of rejoicing Indians who had gathered outside to the Viceroy’s House (now called the Governor General’s House) where Viscount Mountbatten, who that day learned he would become an earl, awaited them. There, 32 minutes after Mountbatten had ceased to be a Viceroy,* Nehru and Prasad rather timidly, almost bashfully, told Mountbatten that India’s Constituent Assembly had assumed power and would like him to be Governor General.

The people made it their day. After dawn half a million thronged the green expanse of the Grand Vista and parkways near the Government buildings of New Delhi. Wherever Lord and Lady Mountbatten went that day, their open carriage, drawn by six bay horses, was beset by happy, cheering Indians who swept aside police lines. A Briton received a popular ovation rarely given even to an Indian leader. “Mountbattenji ki jai [Victory to Mountbatten],” they roared, adding the affectionate and respectful suffix “ji” usually reserved for popular Indian leaders.

Now & then Nehru (who sometimes shows the instincts of a traffic policeman) harangued the crowd to be more orderly. Once he espied a European girl caught up in the swirl. She was Pamela Mountbatten, the Governor General’s 18-year-old daughter. Nehru literally slugged his way through the crowd to rescue her, brought her to the platform.

In the Council House the Constituent Assembly heard Mountbatten take the oath as Governor General.†”Regard me as one of yourselves,” he told them, “devoted wholly to the furtherance of India’s interests.” Then he swore in the new Indian Government. Messages of congratulation from over the world were read. The most original was a greeting in verse from Chinese Ambassador Lo Chia-luen. It read:

India be free!

Won’t that be

A Himalayan dream?

How fantastic,

How absurd an idea,

That never occurred to me!

Freedom’s Architect. Mountbattenji drew the biggest applause of the day when he said: “At this historic moment let us not forget all that India owes to Mahatma Gandhi—the architect of her freedom through nonviolence. We miss his presence here today and would have him know how he is in our thoughts.”

The Mahatma, who more than any other one man had brought independence to India, was not in New Delhi on the day of days. He was in troubled Calcutta, mourning because India was still racked by communal hatred. (In the Punjab last week, even more than in Calcutta, communal warfare blazed. Nearly 300 were killed.)

Gandhiji had moved into a Moslem house in Calcutta’s Moslem quarter, which had been assailed by his fellow Hindus. He appealed to Hindus to keep peace. Angry young Hindu fanatics broke up a prayer meeting at his house. For the first time, Indians stoned Gandhi’s house. Gandhi spoke sadly to the crowd: “If you still prefer to use violence, remove me. It is —not me but my corpse that will be taken away from here.”

But on Independence Day even Calcutta’s violence turned to rejoicing. Moslems and Hindus danced together in the streets, were admitted to each others’ mosques and temples. Moslems crowded round Gandhi’s car to shake his hand, and sprinkled him with rosewater. For the disillusioned father of Indian independence, there might be some consolation in the rare cry he heard from Moslem lips: “Mahatma Gandhi Zindabad” (Long Live Gandhi).

*Inl London, the King-Emperor became plain George VI, King of Pakistan and of India (just as he is King of Canada and other dominions beyond the seas). Workmen took down the bronze plate in Whitehall, reading “India Office,” replaced it with a painted wooden sign reading “Commonwealth Relations Office.”

† Another colonial power, France, announced that the 203 square miles on India’s east coast which she still rules will be organized as the five free cities of Pondichery, Karikal, Chander-nagore, Mahe and Yanaon, with locally elected governments, within the French union.

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General ramblings

Music Meme-Part I

Found this meme on Lallopallo‘s blog and got instantly tempted to draw up my list. I’m supposed to make two lists- each in a different language. I’m fluent in only four languages (English, Hindi, Bengali and Marwari), but I listen to a variety of stuff because music really has no language. I’ve come up with my “Indian” list here.

Indian:

I’m a big fan of Sufi music. I have a big list of Sufi songs that I enjoy listening to. And some old Hindi movie songs. As per the rules, I’ve restricted myself to only ten here. No particular order.

#10- Tujhse Naraaz Nahi Zindagi from the movie Masoom- Gulzar’s lyrics brings out the pain and joy in your heart. Literally. Beautifully sung by Anup Ghoshal and composed by the maestro R.D Burman.

#9- Wedding Qawalli by A R Rahman- This is from the noteworthy show Bombay Dreams. Can’t get more Sufi than this. Sukhwinder Singh is the singer. I don’t really like him, but I think he’s done a wonderful job with this one. You can listen to it here on Youtube.

#8- Silli Hawa Choo Gayi by R.D Burman and Lata Mangeshkar- This is an old song from the movie Libaas, which I haven’t watched. I don’t know when I started liking this song. Not sure if you’ve heard of it, but I go nuts every time I hear it. I’d written about it a long time back.

#7-  Tere Bin Nahi Lagda by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan- The man who has given us some of the best Sufi numbers is no more with us and it is almost a tragedy. This is my favorite Fateh Ali Khan song. I’m sure you have heard/seen this song before. It used to be a hot favorite:

#6- Yeh Lamhe Yeh Pal Hum from Lamhe- Maybe it has something to do with the deserts of Rajasthan. Maybe it is Sridevi or maybe it was the controversy that engulfed this movie in the early 90s because of the unconventional theme. I’ve been a big fan of this movie and its songs. This one is my clear favorite.

#5- Gurus of Peace by A.R Rahman and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan- Too good to be true. This is the best thing to have ever happened: two legends of music coming together to give us some of the most unforgettable melodies. You can listen to this song here.

#4- Piya Haji Ali by A.R. Rehman (Movie: Fiza)- I love this area in Bombay. And I love this song too. Didn’t like the movie much, but I haven’t been able to get over this song!

#3- Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le by Ilayaraja (Movie: Sadma) I’ve been searching for the Tamil version of this song. If anyone knows, please leave me a comment or write an email.

#2- Pachai Killigal by A.R. Rehman and Yesudas (Movie: Indian)- Kashtiya Bhi Ladh Gayi from the movie Hindustani for Hindi movie goers. I prefer listing songs in their original dialects, unless I’m unaware of the origin, that is. I rediscovered this song a couple of months ago on Youtube. I’d almost forgotten this movie’s soundtracks. Kappaleri Poyachi is a close second. I actually like all the songs from this movie. Difficult to pick a favorite.

#1- Bombay movie theme music by A.R. Rehman- One of the best OSTs I’ve ever listened to. I don’t think I can ever get tired of this one. I’ve been listening to it ever since the movie came out in early 90s. I really liked the movie back then and haven’t watched it ever since. I’ll try to watch it in Tamil this time (with subtitles of course).

Like you can see, I have a big A.R Rehman hangover. It has nothing to do with Slumdog Millionaire or his Oscars. I’ve always been like this since I heard the songs of Roja as a kid. My mom knows it all too well. I wish I could meet him once. I don’t know what I would do, seriously. I love his voice and his music. I can’t imagine anyone else singing the songs that he does. Hard to find someone who is more down to earth than him. I planned to write my favorite English songs too, but I lost track of time writing this post and listening to some songs. I’ll be back with Part-II soon. 🙂 (sooner than four months for sure).

P.S- I have to have to mention this song by Pankaj Udhas that I really love- It’s called “Chandi Jaisa Rang Hai Tera”. Here’s the video:

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General ramblings

Sharing the Finest

What happens when a Pakistani blogger says “Mumbai Attacks…Pakistan? I don’t think so!”

About 600+ people descend on his blog to beat him up virtually. Read here.

Here’s the choicest comment:

Who said Pakistan is not involved in Mumbai attacks? Pakistan role is there in every terrorists attack happend in this world. All Pakistanis are terrorists. If i had a given the chance, I Would prefer to bomd the entire pak. No more pakistan in the world. It’s gone. Even Obama wants to hit the pak, because it is epic center for all terrorist activities. What kind of idiots u r? behaving like sadists. No goal nothing. Killing the innocents is the great thing. There is something fundamental wrong in the Islam. U need to correct it.

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