Thursday, 28 June 2012

On Naipaul’s watching a mujrah, his visit to red-light district and his foresightedness

A Lucknow newspaper has started a column named ‘The Awadh I saw.’ People who have lived in Lucknow for long are recounting their experiences of the city in the column.

The latest column that I found quite interesting was written by Ram Advani, the owner of Advani Bookshop, one of the oldest bookshops of Lucknow.

Advani in the column has written about his meetings with VS Naipaul when the writer visited Lucknow.

According to Advani, Naipaul had visited Lucknow in 1965 or 66. Naipaul wanted to see the red-light district of Lucknow and asked Advani to take him there. Advani had refused.

Naipaul came up with another demand – he wanted to watch mujrah.

Advani in Naipaul’s presence phoned Sunny Singh, the co-owner of Carlton Hotel in Lucknow and asked him if he could arrange mujrah for Naipaul.

Sunny Singh said it would be a costly affair. Naipaul said, ‘Money is not an issue.’

The mujrah was organised for Naipaul in room number 102 of Carlton Hotel. Advani writes that Naipaul was happy to watch the mujrah. After watching the mujrah, Naipaul visited the red-light district of Lucknow.

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Naipaul visited Lucknow once again in the eighties for doing research for the book he was writing on India. Nasir Abid, a copywriter with an advertisement agency in Lucknow was Naipaul’s guide. Naipaul stayed in Lucknow for five days and Abid took him around the city.

Advani in the column quotes Abid – ‘Summing up Naipaul as a human being, I would better not like to comment. But as a craftsman, he was excellent.’

Advani ends the column by saying, ‘Today, when I look back, I feel honoured that a man of Naipaul’s stature visited my shop and exchanged notes. As an individual I was disappointed with him. But as a writer, there can be no doubt that he was par excellence.’

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Is Naipaul a man with great foresight?

Today, newspapers, magazines and news channels are conducting surveys to find out, ‘Who is the greatest Indian (living or dead)?’ Many Indians has accepted that Mahatma Gandhi is the greatest Indian and so the hunt is also on for the ‘second greatest Indian after Gandhi.’

Did he foresee that today we would be debating who is the greatest Indian or the second greatest Indian?

Naipaul’s first novel, published in 1957 was ‘The Mystic Masseur.’

The protagonist of the novel, Ganesh writes a book named ‘101 Questions and Answers on the Hindu Religion.’

Question number forty-six of Ganesh’s book is, ‘Who is the greatest modern Hindu?’

Answer – Mahatma Gandhi.

Question number forty-seven – Who is the second greatest modern Hindu?

Answer – Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru.

Question number forty-eight – Who is the third greatest modern Hindu?

This question remains unanswered.

Naipaul was off the mark, but only a bit.

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Some time back, I received a friend’s request on facebook from a person named Harry D.

I was puzzled. I did not know any person by that name. I clicked on Harry D’s profile and photograph.

Harry D was actually Hari Darshan Chaturvedi. He was two years junior to me in school and at present works as a software engineer with an American company.

So Hari Darshan Chaturvedi had become a more hip Harry D on facebook.

The full name of Ganesh, the protagonist of The Mystic Masseur, is Ganesh Ramsumair. He goes to England and becomes G. Ramsay Muir.

Monday, 18 June 2012

With Pranab Da as prez; goodbye to Bengali jokes?

I am happy that Pranab Mukherjee will soon become the President of India. I am happy not because he is also a Bengali. My views are not so parochial. There is another reason.

I grew up in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh where there are not many Bengalis.

At school, being the only Bengali in the class, I would often become the butt of Bengali jokes.

I clearly remember that when I was in class two, some classmates on seeing me would start reciting a limerick in a singsong way – Bangali babu, sadi machchhi khabu, latrine jabu, kabhi na abu. (The Bengali eats rotten fish; upsets his stomach and spends time forever in the latrine.)

I would become depressed. I would be ashamed of being a Bengali. My depression would turn into agony when on returning home from school my mother would serve fish curry and rice for lunch.

I would protest and tell her the reason. She would say, ‘Do not worry. The fish that I have prepared is fresh. You should not bother about what others say.’

I was the target of Bengali jokes even in higher classes.

‘Do you know the Bengalis are the most coward people on this earth?’ a classmate once said.

‘How can you say that?’

He started telling a joke.

A quintessential Bengali would often brag about his bravery. His Sikh friend once asked him, ‘Can I place the barrel of a gun across your shoulder and fire?’ The Bengali was dead scared but it was the question of Bengali pride. He agreed.

The Bengali’s legs started shaking as he felt the barrel of the gun on his shoulder. His koortah became wet with his perspiration when he heard the bullet being loaded.

The gun was fired and to the Bengali’s astonishment, he did not faint.

‘You are really brave,’ said the Sikh, ‘but you need to change your koortah. It has become wet.’

Panting, the Bengali replied, ‘Sardar Ji, I need to change my dhoti too.’

I can’t reason why there are so many jokes in which a Bengali is either handling a gun or going for hunting.

A few months back, a friend sent me a poem, which he claimed had been written by a Bengali teacher around 100 years back. Here’s the poem –

Through the jongole I am went
On shooting Tiger I am bent
Boshtaard Tiger has eaten wife
No doubt I will avenge poor darling's life
Too much quiet, snakes and leeches
But I not fear these sons of beeches
Hearing loud noise I am jumping with start
But noise is coming from my damn fool heart
Taking care not to be fright
I am clutching rifle tight with eye to sight
Should Tiger come I will shoot and fall him down
Then like hero return to native town
Then through trees I am espying one cave
I am telling self - 'Bannerjee be brave'
I am now proceeding with too much care
From far I smell this Tiger's lair
My leg shaking, sweat coming, I start pray
I think I will shoot Tiger some other day
Turning round I am going to flee
But Tiger giving bloody roar spotting Bengalee
He bounding from cave like footballer Pele
I run shouting 'Kali Ma tumi kothay gele'
Through the jongole I am running
With Tiger on my tail closer coming
I am a telling that never in life
I will risk again for my damn wife!!!!

After some time, the friend coolly said, ‘I hope I have not offended you.’

‘Not at all,’ I replied.

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Ululating by Bengali women is another thing that for I have often been mocked at.

It is something very strange for the non-Bengalis who never have had Bengali friends.

Bengali women are always ready to ululate. No religious ceremony of the Bengalis is complete without ululation.

The long Bengali wedding ceremony is interspersed with ululations.

Bengali women ululate during During Puja. Ululating competitions are held for women during the Puja.

One day an acquaintance asked me, ‘Do Bengalis also ululate when somebody in their home is dead?’

Another asked, ‘Black magic is quite common in Bengal. Is ululating a part of black magic?’

I would feel like piercing my eardrums when my mother every day would ululate while doing puja.

One day I asked her, ‘Can’t you do away with your ululations?’

‘Are you mad?’ she said with surprise.

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When I was in college, a Punjabi female friend asked, ‘Why do Bengalis make balls of rice while eating?’

I had never heard about balls of rice. I cocked my ears and asked, ‘Balls of rice?’

‘Bengalis while eating do not simply mix rice and dal or curry. They keep on rolling the rice on the palm with their fingers till they have a ball. The balls are so perfect that you can pop them into your month; like peanuts,’ she said and giggled.

‘How do Punjabis eat rice?’ I asked.

‘Punjabis do not make balls,’ she said.

I said, ‘Today you are my friend, tomorrow you may become my girlfriend and day after tomorrow my wife. Then you also will be making balls with rice and popping them into your mouth.’

‘That will never happen.’

‘What will never happen – you becoming my wife or you not making balls of rice?’ I asked.

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I have mentioned in an earlier post that while living in Bhopal, I would spend my afternoons at the Indian Coffee House with journalists.

One day, an elderly journalist, with an impish smile asked, ‘Why are Bengalis called Bhookha Bengalis (starving Bengalis)?’

‘Do I look like a starving Bengali from any angle?’ I said.

He continued smiling and said, ‘But why are Bengalis called so?’

‘I have no idea. May be due to the famine in Bengal,’

‘You are a Bengali and you must try to find out,’ he said.

I nodded.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

I am happy that Pranab Da will soon occupy Rashtrapi Bhawan.

Now if a friend says that Bengalis are coward, I will reply, ‘Have some sense, man. Do you think a coward can be the supreme commander of the Indian armed forces?’

If a friend asks me if why Bengali women ululate, I will say, ‘May be, they follow the family members of our president.’

If somebody asks why Bengalis are called Bhookha Bengalis, my answer will be, ‘Our president is Bengali. Why do not you send a mail to him and ask him?’

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Mobile phone can also help you to raise a family

Some time back, a friend visited me after a long time. She wanted to have a long chat with me. But we couldn’t converse for long.

After every couple of minutes, her mobile phone would ring and she would leave the drawing room. She wouldn’t even say, ‘Excuse me.’

She would return and ask me, again, ‘So, what’s new?’

I had told her about every new and old thing of my life, several times, that day. I was bored and exhausted.

If her phone didn’t ring then it beeped. She would receive a new message. Ignoring me, she would read the messages and immediately send the replies.

A time came when I felt like placing my foot on her heavy back and throwing her out of my house. I restrained myself.

I have been using a mobile phone for the last 15 years but have always considered it a burden.

I see boys and girls on date in restaurants. Much of their attention is towards their mobile phone, not in the conversation. They do not want to miss even one call or one SMS.

A young friend of mine on meeting me, always says, ‘Dada, buy a mobile phone.’

I ask him, ‘Why? What’s wrong with my phone?’

‘You are not connected to the Internet with this phone, the camera is not good and there is no question of movie quality. You cannot see movies on your phone,’ he says.

I reply, ‘I use this phone for talking, for remaining connected with my father and brother. That’s all. For Internet I have a computer, for taking photos I use a camera and I don’t watch movies.’

He is not convinced. He shows his new phone to me. ‘I bought this phone last week. Not much, just Rs 30, 000,’ he says and starts explaining to me its features. I feel like committing suicide.

As I have said earlier, I always disliked mobile phones.

But after getting to know the story of S, my acquaintance, I realised that mobile phones are not that bad. Apart from being used as a computer, camera, home theatre, a mobile can also help you to raise families.

= = = = = = = = = = =

S, the acquaintance, got married three years back. But he was not able to have a baby.

He went to a specialist.

The specialist wrote a prescription asking S to get some of his ‘body fluids’ tested. He also wrote the name of the lab in the prescription.

S developed cold feet when he reached the lab.

He had never got his ‘body fluids’ tested before. The question in his mind was, ‘How?’ Moreover, he found an extremely beautiful girl sitting at the reception counter.

He swallowed several times. Mustering courage, S went to her. She was busy talking on her mobile phone.

S was nervous and shy. His legs shook.

He was not able to face the girl. His kept his eyes low.

S gave the girl the prescription. She glanced at it while talking on her mobile phone.

The girl picked a test tube from the test tube rack kept at the counter, gave it to S and waved towards a corner of the reception hall.

Everything was very casual for the girl. But S’s heart nearly stopped beating due to shame.

S went to the corner. He found himself standing in front of a cubicle. ‘Wash Room’ were the words written on its door.

S came out 15 minutes later.

He was now filled with embarrassment. S went to the counter and replaced the empty test tube on the test tube rack.

The girl was still talking on her mobile phone. S collected his prescription and saying, ‘I will come tomorrow,’ left the lab.

S straightway went to a liquor shop and bought a bottle of rum. It was only noon.

He finished half bottle by the time it was evening.

S drank till late in the night but still was unable to sleep. At two a.m. he had an idea.

He got up and switched on his computer. He downloaded some videos and pictures from the computer to his mobile phone.

He confidently went to the lab the next day.

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The specialist, going through the results of the tests, found S suffered from something of very minor in nature. He treated S.

A few days back, I received a message from S which said, ‘U hav bcom uncle.’

‘When vl b d party?’ I messaged back.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Aila! When Sachin Tendulkar had to wait for Kalyan Singh

Once Sachin Tendulkar hit his 100th century, all newspapers in a table form carried the details of the centuries scored by him.

The table had the date, venue, the team played against and Sachin’s score.

I was happy to see the name of my hometown Kanpur in the table. Kanpur’s name is rarely in newspapers these days for a good reason.

The memories of the match India had played against Australia on April 7, 1998 at Green Park Stadium in Kanpur came to my mind.

I would like clarify that neither cricket is my religion nor Sachin is my God. I was not very comfortable with the idea of reaching the stadium at 8 a.m. to watch the match.

Still, I went to see the match. There were reasons. My friends had pressurised me to accompany them. I had nothing better to do that day. I had a free access to the media gallery of the stadium. Media gallery gives you the best view of a match.

The month of April is hot in north India. The sky was clear on the day on the match. The bright sunshine was scorching the skin even at 6 a.m. Despite all odds, I was at the stadium at 8.30 a.m. It was filled to capacity.

I exactly do not remember which team won the toss but the Kangaroos batted first. The Australian line-up was great. Mark Taylor, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Shane Warne....

The Australian innings was opened by Mark Taylor and if I am not wrong by, Mark Waugh.

I was a surprised to see Mark Taylor. He looked formidable on the television – of medium height but with broad shoulders, broad wrists, and muscular forearms. But from a close angle, he looked like a lean and athletic teenager.

The Australians were not able to face the Indian bowlers. They lost wickets at regular intervals and at the end of their innings; they were not able to put up a very formidable score – something between 200 and 250.

That was not a big challenge for India. The Indian side was also star studded– Sachin, Mohammed Azharuddin, Virendra Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Drvaid, Anil Kumble.......

The Indian innings was opened by Sachin and Ganguly. Both were in great form. They started hammering the Australian bowlers from the word go.

The way Sachin was batting it seemed that they would wind up the match within two hours after the lunch break by 3 p.m.

It was after this match that Shane Warne state that Sachin gave him nightmares.

All of a sudden, between change of bowling, Harbhajan Singh ran into the ground with a bottle of water. He offered the water to Sachin and Sourav who were chatting by the side of the wicket.

Once Harbhajan departed and the match resumed, Sachin was no more aggressive.

Sachin scored slowly and the match was over by 4.30 p.m. India won without losing any wickets.

Kalyan Singh who was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh then, distributed the prizes as the chief guest of the match.

Being in the media gallery, I came to know why Bhajji had suddenly rushed to the ground with a bottle of water.

The way Sachin was playing, it seemed that the match would be over by 3 p.m. But the BCCI wanted the match to be over in the presence of Kalyan Singh who was to reach Green Park stadium at 4 p.m.

BCCI, through Bhajji, asked Sachin to score runs slowly and end the match in the presence of Kalyan Singh. Sachin happily obliged.

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Soon after the Congress party declared that it would nominate Sachin to the Rajya Sabha, he gave a statement in Pune – ‘I am going to become a parliamentarian, not a politician.’

It seems that Sachin wants to have the cake and eat it too.

Sachin must have meant that he will become a parliamentarian but remain apolitical. Sachin will remain apolitical and keep all political parties in good humour till he gets Bharat Ratna or the issue is settled for once and all.

Today, a Congress-led coalition is in power. There are chances that the Congress-led UPA may award him with Bharat Ratna.

Sachin will never antagonise the BJP also. What if the Congress fails to give him the award and a BJP-led coalition comes to power after the 2014 general elections?

So Sachin will maintain a safe distance from all political parties.

Also, today politician and politics have become cuss words but not Parliament and parliamentarians. For example, when we think of A Raja, we think of him as a politician and not as parliamentarian.

So Sachin has become a parliamentarian and not a politician.

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The debate is on – who should get the Bharat Ratna – hockey wizard Dhyanchand or master-blaster Sachin.

The hockey wizard is no more with us. But can’t Sachin show some magnanimity and say – ‘I have got enough from cricket. Give Bharat Ratna to Dhyanchand.’

Indians consider Sachin as a God. He has made millions of rupees from cricket. Is that not enough? It seems Sachin has hunger not only for runs but for every prize, title and award.

Sachin says that as a parliamentarian, he will work for uplift of all sports and not just cricket. Sachin can make a beginning by demanding that Bharat Ratna be awarded to Dhyanchand. That will boost India’s much beleaguered national sport.

But I know Sachin will never do that. Sachin will never say no even if he is asked to become the president of India or his name is considered for Nobel Peace Prize.

We should remember that there are great players who win the World Cup for their country and there are players who are great but fail in World Cups.

Players like Pele, Maradona, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan stand in the first category.

David Beckham, Johan Cryuff, Loinel Messi, Roberto Baggio, Sachin Tendulkar fall in the second category.

Sachin looked sheepish when the Indian team started celebrating after winning the cricket World Cup. Perhaps he was guilty that India had won the World Cup but he, the God, was not able to make any considerable contribution. While taking the victory lap of the stadium, he smiled weakly and took sips of champagne sheepishly.

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Sachin will be in Rajya Sabha for the next six years from now. He will be getting a salary and several other benefits as a Rajya Member. We, the taxpayers, will be paying for his salary and the perks.

Sachin will also play cricket for at least next six years, in not for Team India then for an IPL team. Once he retires from an IPL as a player, he will most probably be retained as a coach or as a mentor.

I am keenly waiting for the next IPL season. The IPL season coincides with the budget session of Parliament. I am waiting to see whether Sachin will attend the Rajya Sabha or be busy with the IPL matches.

= = = = = = = = = = =

With cricket being the religion of India, it seems political parties are now trying to earn some brownie points through the game.

The Congress Party, beleaguered by several scams, suddenly appoints Sachin as a Rajya Sabha Member.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is thinking that KKR has not won the IPL but the World Cup.

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Sachin is not only a good batsman (never a good player) but also a shrewd businessman.

When Michael Schumacher gifted Sachin a Ferrari sports car, the latter wanted the import duty on the car to be waived by the Indian government.

I do not remember if Sachin paid the import duty or not. That was six or seven years back. Once Sachin was bored with the sports car, he sold it.

Do we sell things that are gifted to us?

Now, let us suppose Sachin had gifted an autographed bat to Schumacher. What would have been the reaction of Sachin’s fans in case Schumacher had auctioned the bat to make a fortune?

I am sure Sachin’s fans would have bayed for Schumacher’s blood.