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Kahaani laaparwaahi ki: A delightful visual tryst with Kolkata and it’s filthy end! March 11, 2012

As I watched the superbly skilled Vidya Balan in ‘Kahaani’ tonight (film highly recommended), I could not stop admiring the way Sujoy Ghosh has romanced Kolkata in the film. Portrayed in a suitably old world tint, every frame captured the worst of Kolkata and converted it into an endearing visual. Poverty, entangled wires, hand riksha pullers, the jerky motion of the tram, the roadside tea stalls, the winding alleys, the decaying buildings, the traffic and ceaseless mass of humanity. Faces creased with worry, faces that smiled, faces that wore indescribably expressions. I wanted to go there immediately and lose myself in this great city, all by myself, with a sketchpad and camera. Kolkata has been hitting me for the past few months through books, articles and visits by friends and family; it’s beckoning for sure!

Mind still filled with images of lovely Kolkata, what a shock it was for us to step out of the exit into a stairwell that had a ceiling not even 6 feet high! As we walked down the exit stairs, we were met with the most extraordinary amount of filth and litter. One landing had rotting vegetables, presumably supplies that the banquet hall on that floor hadn’t consumed for the wedding dinner they were hosting. Another landing had piles of rubbish. Another had spit stains, yet another had used, discarded plates with wasted food spilling out, another had mattresses piled in it! The stairway was barely lit (anyone could have slipped and fallen), the exits back into the mall were locked, so no one could leave the smelly stairwell even if they wanted to.

Nearing the end of this horrendous journey, I started to take pictures; believe me, these tell only a small bit of the tale (i was unable to go against the flow of traffic to capture the real gems!). Perhaps the romantic street scenes of Kolkata, when met in the flesh, may not seem so beautiful, I realized, as I filled with rage at the irresponsibility of SRS Cinema and Omaxe (this was in the Omaxe Celebration Mall on Sohna Road, Gurgaon). How could they let an entire movie hall full of audiences, who paid hard earned money for tickets to be subjected to such a humiliating experience. The least I could do was document this and here are the pictures to tell the story.






Do we need Valentine’s Day and all those other Days to remind us to be loving, affectionate, human? Feb 14, 2012

I have no opinion about Valentine’s Day and am terribly amused at the brouhaha around it every year. When we were young, at the age when romance was always in the air, V-Day was no big deal except for a few guy vaguely carrying some cards and flowers around for a special someone.

In SPA (alma mater, School of Planning and Architecture), we thought of V-Day as a distinctly DU (Delhi University) affair and therefore we looked down on it with disdain and sniggered at newspaper reports and stories that filtered through via siblings and friends who went to regular university. One year, I think it was 2nd year (when our batch saw the most number of romances), we went around college shouting out “Valentino Baba Ki Jai” in the manner of a crowd praising a Hindu God-man, with garlands etc. The slogan was doubly funny because one of our classmates was called Valentino (many of us would remember him as Valte).

Aside: Many decriers of Valentine’s Day claim it wasn’t about romantic love. Apparently, that’s not true. Originally a mere feast to early Christian martyrs, Valentine’s Day has been about romantic love since the 15th Century, traditionally celebrated by giving personalized, hand written poems and notes to your beloved. In recent times, these have been commercialized by the greeting card industry and then the Internet e-card and gift industry! I remember family members reading out Valentine notes to each other in Louisa May Alcott’s quaint book ‘The Little Women’ and that may have contributed to my personal notion of associating V-Day with familial and filial bonds and friendship in general!

In the years since, as the hype around this day has grown, Rahul and me have an unspoken understanding that we aren’t going to jostle with the young ones to catch a movie or candlelight dinner on V-Day. We celebrate it in our own low-key way, some years, when we happen to be in the same city and sometimes not at all. After all, any day is good for romance, isn’t it?

I, like many others, question this new trend of having designated days to celebrate everything—Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Daughter’s Day, Womens’ Day, days to step up the fight against specific diseases, Doctor’s Day, Teacher’s Day, Science Day, etc. The last two, commemorating S Radhakrishnan and CV Raman, I at least know the origins of; the rest, I haven’t a clue where they came from! Why do we need a day to remember to be nice to mom, buy a gift for dad, give an extra kiss to your daughter, make a card for your teacher, thank God for being healthy? Is it really a conspiracy started by the greeting card companies of the world to make a quick buck? Or is it a sign of deteriorating relationships in the modern world, where we really do need reminders to carry out ordinary gestures of kindness and love. That is a horrifying thought indeed!

Honestly, I don’t actually know anyone who keeps track of and does anything about any of these days (except V-Day perhaps, which now officially un-ignorable!). Only the media endlessly publishes articles reminding us about these occasions and even telling us what various celebs (usually persona non-grata for most of us) do for these occasions! And since I don’t believe a word of what the celebs say to the press (we don’t even know if they actually did say it!), I can safely assume that the media only prints this stuff to fill space, people don’t really need a Mother’s Day to love their mother, and all’s well with the world!

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