Saturday, August 30, 2008

You ain't dead till I say you are


I'd be pissed as hell if I woke up to a nice new day and read my obituary on the New York Times front page. See, I have this sick desire to come back the day after I'm dead and hang around the office canteen to pick up on what people are saying about me. I try to do it even while I'm alive, but its slightly awkward to hide behind the counter without an excuse.

But right now I bet Apple CEO Steve Jobs is hunched over his list of 'People To Haunt After I'm Dead' and ticking off Bloomberg. Tonight I would not want to be the miserable bloke who had hit the 'transmit' button on his/her desktop and sent the obit of Jobs to thousands of Bloomberg subscribers. You mess with technology, and technology messes with you. (Which is why I just know how to switch on my terminal, what are the tech guys there for?)
In my mind's eye I can visualise his facial expression in those first few seconds as he sat frozen in abject terror.

Working in a news organisation, I can mentally re-construct the scene of crime.

"Er, boss, got a minute? Its kinda urgent," the desker (lets call him Fred) must have gone to his superior. Most likely a rotund, grizzly bear of a man who has done time in the media for 20 years at least.

The superior, lets call him Mike, is making the lead/update of the Georgia-Russia conflict and he has no time for social networking at the moment. "Whassamatter," Mike growls without looking up, takes a swig of coffee gone cold, ignores pings on the internal chat messenger, has the land line phone cradled on his shoulder and barks at the stringer in Tbilisi for more inputs.

Fred mumbles the gist of the goof-up into Mike's ear. "YOU HAVE DONE WHAT!!!???" He finally has the full and undivided attention of Mike.

20 seconds have lapsed since Jobs' obit hit the wires. The problem here is, Jobs is slightly not dead. I do not want to go into newsroom gore for the sake of my sensitive audience, but I assure you Fred will not top this year's happiness index poll.

For one, he has created the ultimate "Dear John, you will not believe what happened at the work place today" letter among fellow journalists.

It is customary in a news organisation to keep obits of famous personalities ready for release, especially if the man/woman in question is old and has a history of illness. But I still find the whole process darkly amusing. In an Indian news agency I had worked with earlier, the instances of prematurely releasing obits before a person's death were not many. But they have happened. Some had to be retracted, while in some cases the man proved to be decent and obliged us by dying.

Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan was in and out of hospitals so often that the associate editor had his obit edited, spell-checked and saved as a folder on his desktop.

It must have been an eerie experience for Jobs to see the story on Gawker.com which devilishly published the entire folder saved by Bloomberg including a whole list of people to call for comments and their phone numbers. Which includes Jobs' ex-girlfriend. Fred must be in living hell right now, but has no good come of the process?

I have tried to list some.
1. Jobs now knows people care enough whether he is dead or alive to update his obit so regularly. Which is something I cannot say about Fred right now.
2. Jobs can now call on all the people who have been listed for comments and gift them iPhones so they speak favorably when he actually snuffs it.

3. Bloomberg is now sufficiently ashamed to try and stay in Apple's good books for a long time.

4. After that nasty scare, Jobs' is getting some from his wife/current girlfriend tonight. Yeah, ladies just fall all over themselves over sappy stuff like this. ("awwww you poor baby, tell mommy where it hurts...")

4. His name will go down in history as the 'person who came back from the dead.' Or some such soppy headline that I found linked to this news online on several sites.

5. India TV will dedicate prime time to a special feature on the obit goof-up. "Murda insaan jaag utha, Woh kaun tha joh Apple ke founder Jobs ko maar dala? aiye use benaqab karein hamare channel pe".
All in all, a day to remember in mainstream media.
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

That Bong feeling

It rained incessantly for the last two days and as I was standing on my balcony with ginger tea, it rained right into my cup. That's when I gave up and told myself I have had enough of palak paneer and roti, I needed some Bengali food into my system, and fast.

I must have cut a sorry figure as I strolled down Chittaranjan Park, sheltering my dripping head with a copy of Robin Cook and in my borrowed torn jeans which have seen better days with my brother.

The people at 'Babu Moshai' - the small Bengali eatery in CR Park - stared at me as I vigorously wiped my head with a handkerchief and barked "one ilish thali... fast!" Yes, my system was already in withdrawal and I needed to push some serious 'pabda' cooked in mustard paste fast.... OR I COULD DIE.

A huge pile of fish bones and a satisfied-but-covert belch later I emerged from the remnants of 'alu posto', 'alu bhaja', 'bhapa chingri', 'rui peti bhaja' and the famous 'pabda machh'. The waiters were cheering me on and the manager had come to watch me eating. If Michael Phelps can, so can I. Eat 12,000 calories a day, I mean.

So I was back home with a packet of 'patishapta' dangling from one elbow (could not do justice to it on a full stomach) and DVDs of black and white Bengali movies on the other.
The rain had let up, the room was dark and a chilly breeze kept blowing in from the balcony.... a cup of elaichi chai in a chipped porcelain cup and I was set for the evening.

For the 809th time I watched 'Saptapadi' and again marvelled at Utpal Dutt's deep, gravelly voice over for Othelo at a college function with Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen (remember Rina Brown?) playing the leads.

When it ended I was all mushy and silly inside so I put on 'Sriman Prithviraaj'. Another classic by Tarun Majumdar where the very talented Utpal Dutt vying for the title of 'Rai Bahadur' from the goras introduces son-in-law Ayan Bannerjee to his British boss as "this is my husband's daughter...iye, my daughter's husband."
He says a fortune teller once told him that he will do great things. "Tumi desher mukh ujjal koribey... translated... you will burn the face of the country."
Why don't they make films like that anymore? Why do modern Bengali movies have to fall back on horrible cliched plots and garish makeup? As I polished off the patishapta at night I said a silent thanks for the things I was missing in Delhi, because I value them that much more.

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Here goes....

I stand alone at the end of time,
I need no man to hold my hand
give me a gun and a lonely sunset and,
I will show you how simple it is
to choose between life and death,
honour and trust
dark and light,
blood and sweat....
I have been down in dirt
Many a time,
tasting my own blood on my lips
twisted, thrown to crawl back again,
trying to stand and falling hard
I have reached out for the hidden sun
hopelessly
have sinned and sinned against,
but never given in to tears,
Give me a gun and I will show you how
easy it is to fall and rise
scream and choke
doing insanity over and over again
till sunset comes
to where no man can ever reach....

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

What are friends for?

In late years of school I blossomed into this ugly tom boy with close-cropped hair and jack-ass attitude and used to get into fist fights with my local urchin friends.
I remember one boy who was particularly well-fed and had wire-rimmed glasses. I could pin him to the ground in five minutes flat. He would not want to hit me because I'm (snigger) a 'girl' and would then run to complain to my father.


My dad would solemnly ask him, "she hit you? that's really horrible. Did you get her back? a couple of pushes at least...? no? you should settle this among yourselves although I WILL take it up when she comes home." And that would be that.



A bunch of us used to hang around the local alleyways regularly and polish our slangs. I could cuss like a 'real' boy and they were proud at my progress. No amount of socking/slapping from my elder brother could change the habit. How old was I? probably 14-15 and we had our twisted sense of group loyalty. It was the time of blossoming love in the pre-internet days and postmen did brisk business of ferrying cards/letters and gifts wrapped packages on valentine's day.



I never got any roses or cards because I was "one of the boys" I grew up with and they would eat their sweaty sneakers before they got me a rose. I never knew what I missed (yewww...this card has perfume on it...snigger).

They teased me mercilessly when SJ proposed to me on a fit on passion during a school fiesta. They drove him into a towering/stuttering fury and me to tears. They were disgusted when I cried, because never in their seven years have they seen "stuff flow out of my eyes." I was apparently "crying like a girl, having become one."


"Awwww... look ritu carries a teddy bear these days..." and I threw away the small stuffed toy that SJ gifted me before going away to Bangalore for his college degree. It didn't go with my baggy pants and dad's castaway shirts anyway.



In a week's time when S's body came back to Calcutta after he crashed his bike on a highway in Bangalore, I crept away from the group and searched for the now-haggard looking toy from behind my pile of junk. The teasing did not stop but now there was a fierce protectiveness in their voices.



How could I confess without sounding like a terribly cold person that SJ's dying meant nothing to me. That I was not having nightmares and that people really needn't speak in hushed tones around me. But as usual, they guessed. And R said casually "we know yure feeling guilty because you are not feeling guilty about SJ dying." Complex? That's life.



I got 12 messages wishing me 'happy friendship day' today, surprisingly none from my childhood friends who have lied unabashedly to our mothers to cover for me, who still bear deep scars on their bodies as tokens of brutal fights. (I pushed one down a high drain during a cycling race and for years he maintained that another boy at a soccer match gave him the deep gash down his right leg. bless him.)

They saw me slowly changing and become more secretive about my life and accepted it without hesitation. I have never stopped criticizing their girlfriends and wives and they have put up with it with a smile. (And gave me a lot of sarcasm about my crushes)
I guess I have not really thanked them for beating up an eve-teaser from a different colony who made a pass at me once. ("If any eve teasing is to be done with our girls, we do it. Not you buggers from another area. Now get your ass outa here.") Weird, twisted, perverted logic.

I have also not thanked D and T for running away from hostel with me once and trying to flag down a boat on the open Ganges that we presumed would take us far away from our "jail-hostel" to the Gangotri. (Didn't all boats end up there?)

D do you remember that smoke we shared for the first time on that steamer on Ganga with our feet dangling over the edge and the pile of fish we used as cushions? Singing off-key a famous song by Bhupen Hazarika that pleads Ganga to speak up more often for atrocities committed on her banks!

R remember how you got the wrong movie tickets once and told the entire gang that we were about to see 'Mission Impossible' which actually turned out to be a horrible potboiler called 'Mera Desh Mera Gaon'?

Also the time you asked me to pick up a Valentine's Day card for your girlfriend because you didn't have the time and I accidentally picked out a Get Well Soon card which you gifted to her without seeing what's written inside. You and your aversion to fine print!! Boy! was she hopping mad!!!

I sit today to compile these thoughts. Its a huge blog post and its your choice to read it to the end. You probably won't even have the time, but still its what I do for a living. and so I thought I'll write out my feelings. Thanks for your kick-ass selves, your endless taunts, your accidental mushiness, unsuspecting kindness (that you desperately try to hide lest any of the other guys think of you as soppy :)) You guys rock. You aren't the best maybe, but you are getting there.

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