The ban on uber was a tad surprising but a not altogether unexpected move. We are infamous for knee jerk reactions. All the metal detectors that are installed after every bomb blast. All the dustbins that are emptied sometime on crowded roads raising a stink if not help nab the culprit. All the sand bags that are positioned in front of hotels after gun men storm them. All buses are installed with CCTVs after a woman is brutalized in one of them and left to die. Of course things soon return to normal and are attributed to our enormous resilience. The metal detectors stop working, the dustbins overflow with filth and a bomb may get thrown in with nobody noticing, the police posted on the sandbags look inadequately armed because obviously the funding can be better used elsewhere. And the CCTVs are vandalized leaving women at the mercy of lecherous men. With the collective rise of hashtag activism and the crowd conscience, the kneejerk reactions have become stronger. Add to it the myth of a strong government that desperately needs substantiation. So while Uber may have escaped with a rap on the knuckles earlier, it is now banned. Questions of course remain. Will the government also ban several other less famous taxi operators who flout as many if not more rules as Uber? Will it crack down on the unholy nexus of touts , police and travel officials which routinely dole out fake licenses, character certificates etc? Will the government also show a strong backbone in dealing with global giants who carelessly flout all norms in our third world country – a KFC for eg selling rice with artificial colours not suitable for consumption? Will the government ensure that serial offenders such as Shiv Kumar Yadav are properly tagged and not just let to wander at abandon? We know the answers. As soon as the media attention on this one wanes, and that also we are told this day is controlled depending who is benefiting and who is paying the price for the attention, things will return to normal. And we will have sickening tributes to our strength, our courage, our resilience. Spare us those tributes. Because what you call strength is the weakness of a country which has long ago stopped believing in fairness and justice, what you call resilience is our collective helplessness, what manifests as courage is a false bravado hiding each of our fears of being killed, maimed, raped by a callous system. The country of course goes on propped by a false sense of pride in our ‘jugaad’, in our ‘Chalta Hai’ attitude. For such a country symptomatic reactions such as banning Uber is enough. Beyond that it depends on your skills or rather your luck on how suited you are to survive the jungle. This makes me think of an example in a slightly different context. If you have been in Bengal during a Durga Puja, you would have invariably joined in the optimistic ‘Asche bochor abar hobe’ renditions on Dasami or the immersion day. In a chalta hai country that same refrain plays in my mind with a drastically opposite effect, a kind of numb, cold fear. For I know for sure the rape in a taxi or a bus or a building will happen again, that freak poisoning of a dozen women in a hospital will happen again, the children will die again, the terrorists will come again. The only difference is tomorrow it may be me. Die another day.
Rice Gun – Move over taser. Move over chloroform. This is a more sure-fire, slow killer. If you have to fight a duel with a bong, never accept an invitation of one last meal. He will stuff you and stuff you with rice and then gently behead you when you snore. ( Ok bongs never behead. They just scare you that they will)
Poetry – If the rice has not worked, the bong will try poetry. If you survive, you can make it to Mangalyaan without any further medical tests.
Cha – One advantage that a bong has and you do not have is his infinite pool of energy. Thanks to the gallons of tea he drinks. So if you are fighting with a bong, never grant him a tea – break.
Kaal-Char – Everytime a bong is losing a battle he will unleash Kaalchaar on you. And while you try to understand what will happen at 4 tomorrow, he will prove that you have as much kaalchaar to fill his chayer cup. There you lose. Period.
Muffler – Every kungfu bong’s lethal weapon. Till the time it is around his neck you are safe. A bit like that cobra around Shiv’s neck. No one has seen this but legend has it a bong and his muffler can conquer the world.
Baak-Lash – What he lacks in brawn, he makes up in baak. By the time he is through with his word play, you think boxing is cake walk
Batar juto – The Bong is faithful. He has stuck to the same old Batar juto for 50 years. So the Bata shoe also never deserts him. And don’t underestimate that Batar jutos kick. All Bongs are unsuccessful football players.
Fish Bone – The Punjabis have their kirpans. We have our macher kanta. Try arguing with a vicious bone stuck in your throat. Try. Try.
Bowdi – If the Bong guy cannot win his war with you, he will unleash his wife on you. Yes the Boudi. And no matter what sleazy Wildstone ads have led you to believe, seducing a bong woman is tougher than seducing the yeti. And she does not take kindly to her husband being insaalted. Only she has that right. Take a bow, faithful wife!
His Maa – The last ace in his sleeve. This is when the boudi has been finally seduced and won over. But nothing will turn the mother against her son. She defends him more ferociously than our PM irons his kurtas. You might as well put your tail between your legs and run!
Bhoy hoy. Sotti khub bhoy hoy. Rate aka berote. Airport theke taxite uthte. Amonki Gariahater more autor jonno darate. Rast sobe dosta. Akhono rastaye lok ache. Kintu ora keu asbe na. Chitkar kore Dakleo na. Ar tarpor sobai ak jot hoye bolbe sajano ghotona. Rate aka dariyechilo. Kharap Meye. Tai bhoy hoy.
Yes I feel scared. An emotion I had never felt in Kolkata when I spent my student life here. Frustration, despair, exasperation maybe. At a lazy, languorous city which stopped to breathe in, to smell the flowers to feel the breeze where the Delhi’s and the Mumbai’s rushed on. Yet the city had an identity, a fiercely rebellious yet surprisingly warm one differentiated by its passionate love for poetry, food, festivals. The city probably lost out on the bottom lines but more than made up with its warmth, its intellect, its cultural capital. And surpassing everything was its compassion. The city never walked past a dying accident victim. Stood up and protested when a girl was hooted at. Hurried to help the old man cross the street. And then suddenly everything changed. The city promised a metamorphosis. Everyone waited with bated breath. They waited to see the lithe butterfly with the colours of tradition and the wings of change. What emerged instead was an ugly mess of screaming inhumanity. That has over the last years destroyed everything the city stood for. Women are raped and then declared as prostitutes while the criminals are pardoned as ‘little boys’. Students are beaten and the unrepentant administration calls it the ‘just desserts’. People lie dying on the roads while the city nonchalantly works by. The city seems to have surgically removed its soul and gifted it to the devil. The devil that Durga promises to kill every year. While the ‘parar chele’ goes about with his extortion in her name. And tugs at the frightened girl’s dupatta as he does. The city merely looks the other way.
Tai bhoy hoy. For a long time, I have been afraid. Afraid of coming back to the city. Afraid of raising my voice. And then when I had given up, a glimmer of hope resolutely broke through. That the city has found its voice. The soulful voice that defined it. Which sings, not abuses in protest. That is why #hokkolorob is resonating with the hearts of millions of people who have loved the city. Who are clinging on to the slogan with the last strands of hope. The city has not sold its soul to the devil, yet.
Picture Credit: Ronny Sen
- Victoria’s badamvaja – You do not quite get romance unless you have eaten badam vaja(peanuts fried) together at Victoria
- A ride to remember– Try taking a boat ride on the ganga. Yes a row boat. And watch the sun slowly rise. You will believe in god
- The Kumartuli magic – God exists in the details. In the wrinkled hand of the old artisan. Visit this village when they are putting finishing touches to the goddess. As close as you can get to divinity.
- The Durga Puja carnival – Everyone heading to Rio, we have a carnival here. Fiery. Loud. Divine. Magical. Raunchy. Feisty.
- The long list of other pujas – No, we are not really religious. We just have that one trait called ‘Hujug’. (Enthusiasm is the less profane translation)
- Hujug – The birthright of the city. The city gets the Hujug attack over everything – including Iran scoring a goal against USA in Brazil. Do not sneer. We also know Brazil, Iran and USA’s capitals.
- Football – We play it rough. We play it tough. We play football. It is more than a game. It is war.
- Eden Gardens – Dada may have taken his shirt off at Lord’s but it is Eden that is his home-ground. No one cheers like Eden
- The Rock Stars – Nothing to do with WWF. Or Ranvir Kapoor. Rock is where Kolkata solves all of the global problems. Who should be the next president of USA? How can Messi score? Ask the Rock-star
- Bumba da – The man who has played a college kid far longer than half of Kokata’s population has gone to college. Jokes apart, he is not just one of Bengali cinema’s but India’s finest actor.
- Mrs Sen – She still gives teenaged boys butterflies in their stomachs. The daughters have gone places but it is the mom you should still meet
- The Ray legacy – Calcutta (and West Bengal) have given some of India’s finest film makers – Satyajit ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghotok, Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen. Cinema happens here. The rest try.
- Aba(ng)la nari – Abala, did you say? The bong girls are a total antithesis. They are hot, intelligent and keep you guessing. As your mother would warn you ‘Stay Away’.
- Cholchena Cholbena – Kolkata is rebel at heart. It takes a very low trigger to get us on the streets. Yeah not the best work culture but perfects your ability to think of impromptu slogans. And shout ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Big Sister’ down
- The mush – The city cries easily. It takes little to make us sentimental. Tell a kolkatan an emotional story about your dog running away with your neighbour’s. And he will be your friend for life
- Retro Metro – Most people in Delhi and Mumbai were not even born when we rolled our first metro. Grow up, boys!
- Telebhaja – The Kolkata’s street food will keep you shamelessly salivating. And begging for more. We understand.
- The sucrose overdose – The mishtis come in all shapes and sizes. And assault your senses. Combine the lankar boda with the roshogolla. And watch your taste buds go on wild swings!
- The hawkers of gariahat – You will need a bottle of Bisleri and a hat pakha to cool you down after the haggling. But nothing beats the satisfaction as haggling successfully with the hawkers of Gariahat
- Bishleri. Coco Cola – That’s how we pronounce things. We add the h’s and the o’s and make even Shhokti Kopoor sound sweet
- The hippies of Park Street – Punk. Rock. Blues. They don’t sing or swing like this anywhere else
- The jholas of college street – Complemented by thick glasses. And endless bhars of cha. The city stamps its claim on intellect. Almost
- Fuchka – If you conduct a tax raid at these fuchkawalla’s home, you may have a Reliance Fuchka equivalent. If you can beat the queues, you can taste manna.
- The cultural mash-up – The city for all its failings is a warm host. You co-exist for ages without being asked your religion or caste.
- Dada ektu chapun – The city’s capacity for adjustment is legendary. The ‘Ektu Chapun dada’ can pack a football team into an ambassador. Along with the extras.
I am innovating – I am control C’ing and control V’ing and changing the font
Bug – The raison d’être for a multi-billion dollar industry And the 999th upgrade
Upgrade – A new app which will replace the old app. And make all systems crash. So that you need more upgrades. Without understanding why they did the first upgrade.
Jargon – The universal mother-tongue. Somewhat like the emperor’s new clothes. Only the initiated and the intelligent understand
Cutting edge solution – The application comes with automatic pop-ups. That correctly do not work when you have pop-up blockers on. See the science!
Issue – The cue to run around like headless chickens
Delivery – Nothing to do with the labor room. And in their scary world, you have the issue first then do the delivery.
Business transformation – Changing the password box to display dots instead of stars. To align with the democratic times
Onsite – The magical land where the stars are sent
Offshore – The underbelly where the rest are doomed to live
MBA – The revenge. If you got overlooked for the onsite yet again
Customer – The ‘you know who’ whose name is supposed to be reverently uttered
Managers – The ones with the privilege to shake the customer’s hand
Work under pressure – Ability to solve an issue at 2 am. When the manager, the senior manager, the assistant manager, the general manager and the assistant general manager are breathing on the phone
100% commitment – You can come as you like. You will go as they like
Risk Assessment – A balanced assessment of whether you should drop the 1001st comment line
Meetings – The recursive things where they earlier served free coffee
Coffee – The earlier free thing which you have to now raise a requisition for or do a BYOC
BYOD – The novel scheme where your device is the chosen one to test all apps. You are expected to show proper gratitude
Con Call – The call where you never understand kaun is conning kaun
Expert – The one who has read 16 ‘’How to be an expert in 16 hours” documents in a 16 hour flight
The Guru – The one who reads the same documents in an 18 hour flight
Thought Leadership – The ability to rephrase your competitor. And add a 2.0 at the end.
Environment friendly – Calling all juniors to work on weekends. And thoughtfully switching off the AC.
Cost optimization – Giving you a 0.75% raise. And proving you deserved .74% only
Raise – The lift you are supposed to give your chair every morning. All other raises are mythical
Performance Bonus – The ugly mug with the company logo. And you are supposed to smile while they all click a photo
Incentive – When they give you 2 ugly mugs in a year
Appraisal – Where they will use your data to prove you are a failure
Promotion meetings – Where they will use their data to prove you are a failure
Photography – The crucial differentiator in 99.9% CVS. The remaining .1% list advanced photography
Leave – Censored dirty talk
Long Leave – Life ban attracting dirty talk
I need a life – Ok. Enough. You have a life ban. Now go get a life. ( Said with the proper snigger)
Dish-Calmer – All the IT guys. Before you throw dishes at me. You might want to call a meeting and decide who throws the first dish. On a serious note there are some brilliant work going on there. Yes, I am absolutely sure.
The muffler is an extremely clever piece of work. I will go a step further to say it is the cleverest, most versatile things known to man and woman. Admittedly its closest competitor the towel has been given an unfair edge by Douglas Adams eulogies. But a quick research proves that the muffler is a knotch above. Nothing as sophisticated has been knotted around the delicate necks of men and women more since the cobra wrapped around Shivas neck. It can easily transition from one form to another- from a fanda to a jhanda. The variety of colors make it the flag of all flavours. Fly the white muffler when you want a truce and it has the effect of a 1000 pigeons. Immediate peace. And India and Pakistan live happily ever after. In times of war, it becomes a fierce combat weapon. Ideal as a sling shot. Or hand to hand combat. A muffler could help you sail through most valentine days- pun intended. Use the muffler to gag the dog and then as a rope to swing up to your girl’s balcony. Then knot it into a flower to woo her. . In less violent times, a muffler alternately becomes a pillow, a cushion and a handkerchief- helping you hike through the world with a kind of motherly protection. A muffler comes to the rescue in a myriad of tricky situations. Missed the gym? Use the muffler as a skipping rope. Forgot the belt? Tie the muffler around your trousers to keep up your modesty. Have a grudge? Use the muffler to strangle the boss and then innocently gift it to his secretary. The muffler is a talisman against evil. The muffler can be alternately tied around the ears, or the mouth or the eyes so it becomes the true implementor of the See no evil. Hear no evil. Think no evil legacy. Even if it cannot solve all of the nation’s problems, it can at least shield you from them. In its humblest form, the muffler can protect you against the bitter Delhi cold. And stay with you long after you have thrown in the towel. The attachment of the man with the muffler is unmistakably strong.
- Thanda lege jabe – To the naked or even the many spectacled eye of the Bong parents, you never have enough layers of woollens on. They will not let you out without the muffler or its twin, the monkey cap even in sweltering Kolkata
- Oparaye jas na – If you grew up in a true-blooded Bong household, you were always warned about opara, anything outside 3.14 metres from your house. That is the place infested by dusthu lok. Remember what happened to Mukul
- Oma! Ki roga hoye gachis – Everytime you returned after an overnight stay at a friend’s place. And then baba is dutifully dispatched to buy half of the world’s food for you. While mom fusses over how you lost appetite in 8 hours of staying away from home
- Amar chele toh kichui khaye na – Who did George Bush blame again for world hunger? He should have been more precise and blamed the Bong maa. So even if you are having a seven course meal, your mom would insist you are under-fed.
- Baba, aro duto luchi kha – Even if that means all the luchi on your plate when stacked upwards is taller than Aamir Khan in Dhoom3
- Dupur belaye ghumiye por – The bongs take the afternoon siesta more seriously than IMF takes the monetary policies. Your parents will insist you follow that sacred family ritual.
- Sondher age fire asis – I have never understood the Bong’s night phobia- maybe the many layers of glasses we wear make us suspicious of the dark. So your curfew hour will be in broad daylight and significantly earlier than that of your Punjabi friends
- Kolkataye ki nei – Every time you want to step out of the venerated city. Remember, the world ends at the Hooghly.
- Osob dilli Bombay jete hobe na – Dilli, Bombay are the twin capitals of the evil empire all good Bong boys and girls have been tutored to avoid
- Amader culture ar oder culture – Everytime they comment on your upstart, Non-Bengali friends. The accompanying hand gestures suggest the relative positions of the cultures and your Bong dad will stretch his hand as much as he can to show the gap. Bongs are not mean but are infamous for turning their nose up
- amar chele ja brilliant – Every bong parent thinks that her son or daughter are direct incarnates of Einstein, Da Vinci, Newton all rolled into one. Give or take a few IQ levels. No, give!
- Baccha chele – That’s how they always refer to you even if you turned 30 many years ago. Of course they will deduct a few years from your age always. Call it selective memory loss.
- PhDta kore fal – Your parent are like cheerleaders. Only they cheer for you to get another degree. Goals and runs are for the bokhate chele.
- Amader barite keu bizness-fizness kore na – Business is a dirty word. Remember no capitalism.
- Bodo hoye daktar na engineer? And all you want to say – Dad! Let me sleep
- Chele amar sonar tukdo – The gold rush may as well have happened in Kolkata. All boys there are carved out of solid gold – that’s what their drooling mommas and papas would have you believe. Never mind the gold prices!
- Jattosob – Everytime they have had enough of you. Jottosob is an umbrella term covering their dislike for everything- your friends, your T shirt, your girl friend, your dog. You are supposed to meekly retreat after Jottosob has been said.
- Doodh na khele hobe na bhalo chele – Yes, chandrobindu copied it from your parents not the other way round. They have a long list of what good boys do. And you will be brought up exactly to that ‘bhalo chele’ manifesto. Including the doodh.
- Ma, babar mukh rakhis – The really emotional moment. And you want to tell them you have been selected in the B team of your school. Not the Olympics squad. But of course they and all your mashis and mamas called to celebrate your selection, will just stop short of giving you a gun salute.
- Punjabi ba Madrasio cholbe – Says the liberal Bong parent when they drop the hints about biye. The Bengali parents are fine with ‘Labh’ marriage. And loudly proclaim ‘Caste no bar’.
- Amar cheler amake chara cholena – So says the Bong Ma. To the flabbergasted daughter-in-law. Followed by a mark the territory dance. All in slow, cultured steps.
Remember the time you were really happy. The laughter was genuine, the fun was crazy and life was good. And then you suddenly lost the plot. And the only things called happy in life were those sad meals at McD. Ok its time to reclaim lost ground. You don’t want to grow old sad and then pop out with a constipated expression. So lets build a happiness equation and here is a list of 10 things that will go into it
A large dog – It could be a small dog too. But the large dog can wag its tail better
A spoonful of Chawanprash – You can’t win the happiness game on a blocked nose. So the chawanprash to keep you healthy
Comfy shoes – The world is a rough place when your shoes pinch. Wear good, comfy shoes and the world is yours
A notebook – Scribble down what’s bothering you. Trouble shared is trouble halved
A tune – There has to be one tune that makes you euphoric. Load that on your ipod. On yourmind. Hum it. All is well
Malai wala dudh – Remember when you could eat anything without worrying about growing fat. Ok bring it back. Allow yourself atleast one indulgence in a day
An open ticket to a faraway place – Get an open dated travel ticket. Keep the possibilities open
A secret place – Remember the chinar tree or that attic where you had your secret hiding as a child. Discover your place again. Where you can be yourself and make faces without anyone giving you weird looks
A good hairdresser – who gives the perfect head malish
Good friends- Whoever said happiness is in your hands said so with a wink and pun intended disclaimer. You are affected by people around you so have good people around. And a heart-break sofa in a friend’s place where you can crash at