Thursday, April 22, 2010
My tryst with dogs and their names began in the south Calcutta apartment complex where I grew up. Flats were mainly occupied by middle-class families. Some of the wannabe snob families got themselves dogs, looking for status upgrades. Snowy, Suzie, Kimmy, Rummy were some of the names. Every afternoon, all of them would start barking, from different floors of the apartment. The vocal duel between Kimmy (german shepherd) and Snowy(pom) would serve as opening act for all primetime serials.
Later, Snowy's place was taken by Jhoru - my friend Paroma's dog. Jhoru was and still is a true son-of-the-soil. Armed with an Indian name, huge muscular body and a baritone bark, Jhoru was ever ready to take on the German Shepherd , albeit vocally. One of the witty residents called Jhoru-Kimmy's Woof-teri-ada a 'Jugalbandi'.
Rummy's dad --err, owner was born as a Bengali by mistake, and made conscious effort to uphold his British roots. Naming the dog was one such effort. Unfortunately, the Pomeranian gave away it's Bong traits very often. Take for example: One evening, the owner was making an STD Call (big deal those days, an STD connection was a status symbol). Rummy was constantly disturbing the owner by licking his face, tugging his slippers and what not. Owner politley asked Rummy to leave, in Queen's language - "Rummy, please leave me alone. Rummy, don't be a nuisance". Rummy won't budge. Owner finally got angry and shouted in Bangla - "Marbo Pode Ek Laathi!" (I'll kick your ass). And Voila! Rummy vanishes. Never again I found a dog who understood Bengali so well.
Few years back, I visited my friend Saubhik's ancestral home, in a tucked away village of Burdwan (not so tucked away anymore, now we'll get 3G coverage there) to attend Durga Puja. The property was made up several ancient mansions, manned by a lone caretaker. The caretaker had a companion black dog. "What's his name?" Caretaker replied with a deadpan face -"Nickname is Kalu. Good name is Rajeev."
Saubhik, later rented a house in Kolkata. His landlord owned a very irritating Pomeranian dog whose preferred way of expressing love towards a stranger was chewing on his/her fingers! Landlord's mom chose to christen the dog 'Mahesh'. Now, for bongs who can read Bengali (an endangered race), the name Mahesh bears special significance. Sharat Chandra Chatterjee (author of Devdas) once wrote a eponymous tragic short story, considered to be one of his bests. The story was about a poor muslim villager and his favourite pet bull. This bull was called 'Mahesh'.
Last Christmas I was at David's place (who is a close friend-of-friend-of-give and take a few more-my co-workers) along with a bunch of youngsters. David had two dogs - a Boxer hound called 'Dash' and a Dash hound called 'Boxer'. This Dash fellow (asshole - in David's words) has a bad habit of dry humping anyone and anything in vicinity, hence was confined elsewhere in the house. As we approached midnight, the smell of roasted pork slowly filled the air. Finally, it was Christmas Eve. Carols, Ales, puddings and cake flowed all around.
Someone suddenly shouted "Panni Ready Ayi!" ('Pig is ready' in Malayalam). All the other folks attacked the freshly prepared pork roast, me being left behind. After missing out on the roast I targeted the huge lump of mashed potato. Unfortunately, that bustard Dash also harboured similar intention and reached the bowl before me. All what I got was a majestic view of Dash slurping the bowl and wagging his tail with orgasmic vigor. Asshole.
My paternal family has a long history of dogs - not the elite breeds - the desi Bhulu and Pillu-s. The current pet Pomeranian of the house experienced drastic change of name. Originally called Philip, my uncle decolonized the name to 'Kutua' (from the bangal 'kutta'), now he's fondly called Kutu or Kute.
Naming a dog after someone has always been regarded as highest order of insult possible. I heard of two warring gentlemen in Burdwan town, Bhola-babu and Tapan-babu, who actually named their pets after each other. It was the 70's. Whenever Tapan-babu drove past Bhola-babu's house in his Yezdi bike, Bhola-babu called out his dog. The loyal creature also woofed back in reply.
And finally, the inspiration of this post. He would now be barking , jumping, somersaulting, tripping on his own chain and finally panting with unexplainable over-excitement. He is an Indian street dog, fondly called 'Hyper' by my friends. Having observed the dog for a few days, I can not think of a better name. Hyperactivity is the motto of this dog's life.
I don't have a pet. I love them, though. If I ever adopt one, I will make sure that it has a very normal name. And Indian, too. These were the few incidents involving names of dogs. Jotting down the events caused by action of dogs would need a fresh post.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Visibility around me was very low, that one being the darkest and the deepest corner. Nobody could be spotted around a radius of 3 feet. Not that I was trying to find anything else. My focus laid on the surface above me, where a spectacle was unfolding itself steadily.
The surface was light blue in color. Exact shade would be what I called 'Sky-Blue' in pre-school art classes. At multiple points of the surface, white spots were appearing now and then. In a millisecond, the big white dots cascaded radially outwards, forming spirals of increasing size. Yes, ripples. After a few seconds, the entire surface came alive with vibrant ripples. Hundreds and Thousands of ripples. Ripples of varying sizes. Forming, overlapping, merging but never dying out. What a mesmerizing piece of animation in blue-and-white by mother nature!
Ripples were something that have amazed me since childhood (along with million other supremely mundane suff). I loved watching the ripples on surface of a pond. I loved throwing pebbles and creating them and occasionally - doing a 'Byangachi' (tadpole). If you can throw a flat faced stone in pond, and make it bounce for 3 or more times on water before it sinks, you achieve the glory of having performed a Byangachi.
So, while looking at the ripples, I always wondered how they looked like, when seen from beneath the surface. Sadly, I never got a chance to know. When it started drizzling in a lazy afternoon, my childhood curiosity arose again. Health Club was nearby, with a Swimming Pool filled with very clear water.
That's why - I was squatting like a toad at the bottom of the pool (I can hear you saying: "Dude, get a life."). Even as I was awed by the imagery above, the situation beneath was not comfortable. The mounting pressure threatened to crack my head. Absolute lack of air ensured the collapse of my lungs. I was forced to rise and swim upwards in search of fresh air.
Resurfacing, I was invited by huge balls of raindrops indiscriminately landing in every square-centmetre of the Pool. I looked up again, at the real sky, which was hosting a traffic jam of thick, black rainclouds. A flash of light ripped through the sky, accompanied by a booming sound. More lightnings followed.
The Alarm started ringing, instructors firmly ordering us get out of the Pool asap. Swimming pools are theoritically favourite landing spots of lightning bolts.
We quickly rushed out of the water and took refuge in the adjacent dry, carpeted area that was more insulated than the perennially wet zone surrounding the pool. Only problem was, some prize cermony was being held there and sudden appearence of wet men in swimming trunks didn't amuse the audience at all. But, that is a different story.
Waiting there, in topless glory, was a satisfied me. None of the ladies and gentlemen (clothed and not) around knew what Ripples looked like, from other side of water.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Whenever I discussed the Dairy Milk Lift Commercial, people disappointed me by saying that they never seen or heard of it. It happened so man times that I almost started suspecting the Ad to be an early symptom of Schizophrenia. Luckily, it is not. I found the screenshot of the Lift ad, along with those of other long-forgotten Cadbury Ads. Cheers!
Dairy Milk Lift Commercial
One of the very first Cadbury's Perk ad featuring Rageshwari. Getting bored in long and static queue, she initiates "Thodi Si Pet Puja" :)
Another Perk ad, where the tired and hungry bride starts munching a Perk bar beneath her ghunghat (veil). Out of nowhere, an elderly relative comes and lifts the veil to see the new bride. Super sweet Ad!
My most favourite fruit and nut bar ever (and Aditya's too)!
PS: I do not have videos of any of these ads. I got them from an website selling archives of old Indian Ads. You can contact them if interested in purchase.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
All but one of those wonderful Dairy Milk ads can be found in YouTube. Having said that, I will be very happy if someone can discover that commercial on the web. This post is about that missing 'One'. A commercial that was aired for only a couple of months.
It was way smarter than any of the Dairy Milk commercials ever made. This Ad showed various activities going on inside an Elevator, as seen through a CCTV placed close to the ceiling. The activities involved protagonists indulging themselves with - obviously - Dairy Milk bars and consequences. There were no dialogues or dances or omnipresent superstars - just common people doing common stuff as if no one's watching them. I don't remember the commercial frame-by-frame, and would like readers to fill in the blanks wherever they can :)
The commercial began like this: A guy is carrying cartons of Dairy Milk out of a lift. Another person enters the Lift and bumps into the cartons kept on the floor. Some Chocolate bars fall out in impact. It is implied that the carton carrier overlooks the misplaced chocolates. The real story begins here.
A multitude of characters move in and out of the lift. In between, they find the chocolate bars scattered on the floor and gets busy. I can recall a bunch of kids, a biker dude with a helmet in his arm, and also a footballer. The footballer picks up one of the bars, starts eating it, and suddenly discovers the CCTV watching him. So, he hides the half-eaten chocolate behind his back, with a very embarrassed expression.
Then, there was a lovey-dovey couple having fun with the Dairy Milks. The guy, unwraps one Dairy Milk, holds half of it in his mouth and welcomes his girl to bite off the remaining half . Destiny doesn't like Dairy Milk, so the door slides apart at this Kodak moment, and a tough-looking grandma steps in. The couple splits up instantly, in literal sense. I do not remember if the grandma does something with the Chocolate bar sticking out of the boy's mouth. Does she break a piece and tastes it herself?
Towards the end of the Ad, the lift gets very crowded. The crowd includes office goers, college students, a senior guy and his cute daughter. Everyone is facing the door except one young guy. Not having enough space to turn around, he stands with his back to the door. He holds one just-opened bar of Dairy Milk in his hand. The senior man stands opposite to him, whose existence he is completely unaware of, been mesmerized by his beautiful daughter standing in his right. The guy kept ogling at the girl, so lost- that he forgot his Chocolate.
All the while, the Dad observes the scenario with a stony-but-helpless expression. The Lift reaches the floor where Dad-Daughter duo would alight. The daughter squeezes out of the lift, the guy's thirsty eyes following her, leaving his chocolate bar totally unguarded. The Dad utilizes this golden opportunity to take a sweet revenge. On his way out, while passing by the guy - he bites off a huge chunk of the Dairy Milk. On re-focusing , the youngster was stunned by the sudden shrinking of his bar, as everybody in the lift bursts out in laughter.
What was so exciting about this Commercial that made me write a 8+ para post?
1) Nothing exciting, actually. It didn't bank upon unreal-ish event like a middle-aged guy completing graduation (Pappu Pass Ho Gaya ad) or a donkey winning a beauty contest (Miss Palampur ad). Rather, this ad celebrated the most trifle incidents of life as natural sources of pure pleasure. And, Pure Pleasure = Cadbury's Dairy Milk (few would differ).
2) This ad also represented the 'pre-Reality Show' era of Indian Television. An era unscarred by perversion of secret photography and it's growing demand among the voyeuristic Indian audience. A decade ago, we loved the concept of secret camera, because it allowed us to see how people enjoy eating a milk chocolate. Now, we love it even more. Because it allows us to see much more - how politicians sell the country, how cricketers throw the game and how teenagers have sex.
I would really appreciate if anyone can dig up the discussed commercial and send me the link. Till then, grab a Dairy Milk bar, have it your way and don't give a damn if someone photographs you doing so. Firstly because Dairy Milk deserves more attention than a jerk. Secondly, Innocence doesn't sell :)
Monday, March 1, 2010
It was 5:00 AM. The old megacity of Calcutta was enjoying her last hour of slumber, before waking up - to another day of infinite chaos and cacophony. A battered yellow ambassador Taxi dropped me off at NSC Bose airport. The melancholy of leaving home makes me ignore minor disturbances happening all around. Take for example, an old female voice talking about her "Tholey" (Bangla for jute-bag) to an airhostess.
Couple of hours later, the plane landed in Kamaraj airport. While moving out of the plane, I noticed a commotion near the front exit. Two of the airhostesses were trying their best to pacify an agitated old woman. She was the stereotypical Bengali grandma. A 70 year old woman of hunched body, wrinkled skin and silky white hairs bundled into an untidy coiffeur. Her crumpled, somewhat dirty white saree (thaan) identified her as a widow. Her eyes right now were very angry, the effect of which was further maginified by the cataract specs.
Indians are programmed to expect Grandma's in certain roles and backdrops. For example: Creating vegeterian magic in kitchen, annually visiting holy places like Banaras and Haridwar, first babysitting and then blackmailing grandchildren to get married, feigning her imminent death (and living long enough to see the great-grandchildren reach marriageable age), adopting the most irritating cats ever and so on. Naturally, spotting a fiesty grandma in a Boeing 707, was worth a double take.
"Explain how my tholey upturned!"
What amused the onlookers even more were the airhostesses standing in a posture akin to guilty schoolgirls forgetting their homework. Needless to say, grandma deserved an Oscar for outperforming in the role of an enraged, non-lenient teacher not buying any excuse. Grandma was literally scolding them on top of her voice, while the poor pretty ladies stood silent, looking at each other - helpless and embarassed. They desperately looked around for someone who could decipher the pure Bangla and spare them Grandma's wrath. Luckily for them, one Bengali gentleman (I wrongly assumed him to be Grandma's companion) intervened and took control.
Few moments later, I saw Grandma again inside airport - walking upto the nearest stack of trolleys. The lady had only two pieces of baggage. One sidebag and her infamous 'tholey'. The stubborn trolley refused to yield to strength of grandma's one thin wrist. Realizing she was alone, I stepped forward and pulled out a trolley for her.Grandma said: "There you are! I was wondering where the brats are. Come, bring the trolley to this side" and started walking towards conveyor belt. Me? Brat? Dumbstruck by Grandma's modesty, I followed her with the trolley.
While waiting for her baggages, Grandma revealed that she flies to Chennai regularly to visit her daughter and grandson . And as luck would have it, airhostesses consistently mess with her 'tholeys'. She has had enough and decided to bring a sidebag next time - which has been bought from Delhi the year India won the world-cup. "Some more grandmas like you, Samsonite will file for bankruptcy" I thought.
"There! There! That green one! Move - you grumpy fellow!" Grandma cried out. The middle aged passenger standing infront of me was shell-shocked and made space for me. I gave an apologetic smile to grumpy fellow and hauled up a green-colored bag which might have been used by Ibn-e-Batuta to carry his hooka.
"There! That brown one too!"
Grumpy fellow jumped aside again and a relatively newer looking bag (possible owner: Alexander Supertramp) was recovered.
"Come now." Grandma walked towards Exit Gate.
"Grandma, is there anybody to receive you? Do you have a phone ?"
"No, no, my grandson will be there." Grandma assured me.
We arrived at the Exit. The security people observed grandma keenly, as she stood at the gate, looking around for her grandson. I figured he has not turned up yet. I was going to ask Grandma if she has got his phone number. All of a sudden, Grandma started shouting -
"Pintu! Hey Pintu! Where the hell are you monkeyface? I told you to arrive at 8:30 sharp, you ass! Pintu! Come right now, Idiot!"
If you can imagine Bianca Castafiore uttering Captain Haddock's curses in an opera, you get the exact impact produced by Grandma's monologue. The security staff were stunned, so were the cabbies jostled outside. I tried very hard to maintain a staright face.
"Pintu! Monkey, where are you?!"
"Grandma! Grandma! Here I am!"
Everyone at the Exit turned at the direction where this extremely happy voice came from. A fat guy with thick moustache in his late 20s was running towards the Exit, with a grin as genuine as a child's. He - I correctly assumed - was Pintu. I was relieved at the arrival of the rescuer. Pintu touched grandma's feet, took the trolley from me, thanked me and escorted the heroine of this post outside the airport.
I stood for a while looking at Grandma's departing figure. This was one lady who did not care a dime about her lack of education or refined sensibilities. She didn't think twice before charging the airhostess even without knowing the language they spoke. She proudly carried her old, torn bags around. She was brave enough to travel thousands of miles all alone. She accepted assistance from complete strangers and didn't thank them because she deserved the help. Simply put, she refused to be bogged down by the template of a Grandma.
This Grandma is definitely one of the most graceful women I ever met.
Friday, February 26, 2010
We moved into this house some 10 years back. Mom utilized all such storage spaces to tuck away the stuff that were deemed useless. Some of these spaces were located behind immovably huge beds (one that was gifted by my Grandpa during mom's wedding). Others were placed near to the ceiling, beyond human reach.
I visited my family last February. My mom, all of a sudden, happened to recall that a Brown Suitcase remained hidden in one of those dark inaccessible corners. So, she bestowed me with the responsibility of dragging the suitcase out of the mythical storage space.
After putting in some inhuman effort, I displaced the cot and pulled out the huge suitcase of my mother's interest. It was a VIP make suitcase, 48" in size, scarred with innumarable marks. This brown suitcase was used by family since 1987. It travelled across India from Ranchi to Nainaital to Bangalore, before finally retiring in suburbs of Calcutta. 10 years of prolonged neglect was evident from the repulsive amount of dust and cobwebs which covered it.
Mom spread an old newspaper over the bedsheet, on which I placed the suitcase. Both me and my mom were quite curious about the belongings this gigantic suitcase, that was packed, closed and shoved away a decade ago. My mom doesn't believe in building up suspense, so she opened up the case without much ado.
The suitcase was full of clothes. Sweaters. Shirts. Sarees. And ladies underwear. But you know what? None of these garments were mundane pieces of wearables. Each of these clothes were related to some member of our family in some special way.
First: There was this bundle of tiny sweaters. All of them were hand-woven. one had horizontal stripes of red and yellow wool. She told "This was yours." I was 5 years old( and 1/20th of my current volume) when I wore that sweater. I remembered it from a photo from my close friend Pupun's birthday party. Next to it was a similar sweater, which she recalled was woven for my elder brother. She picked it up, ran her hand through lovingly and placed it back in the suitcase, realizing that it would now fit her grandson (bro's son) who would never be allowed to wear an unbranded outfit.
Second: Beneath an old blanket, was found a white half-sleeved shirt with a pocket on the left side. The pocket was embroidered with a blue-colored emblem of a burning torch ('mashaal' in hindi). It was my school uniform. My most chreished attire, ever! Me - who is known to be a generally indifferent person among my friends - really felt a lump in my throat when I saw my old uniform. Sniff! Sniff!
Third and the most important: With great affection, mom picked out a red Saree. A Banarasi silk. This was the saree that marked the beginning of a 34 year relationship of a most-beautiful-girl-in-village with the most-uncool-man-ever-on-earth. Mom got married wearing this very Banarasi saree. Next she handpicked a white silk petticoat. She caressed it and utterred "This was the saya (Bengali for petticoat) which I wore during my marriage..". It was quite awkward to see my birthgiver get so nostalgic about the underwear she got married in. This was the first time, my mom discussed ladies' underwears with me. She commented on problems she had wearing the petticoat, compared to the underpants she wore during her childhood. The white silk blouse which she wore at her wedding also was resting here, a look at which made Mom confess "I can't believe how slim I used to be!". She meant size zero :).
Fourth: Just like my amazement with the saree mom got married wearing, Mom was all excited about another silk saree of purple hue. It was the one, wearing which her mom/my granny achieved marital bliss! And trust me, that Saree didn't lose much of it's shine even after 70 years of first being used! Wow!
Fifth: Mom discovered a sleeping bag of American make, gifted by her younger brother, who considered her to be his closest friend -before he got married. She sniffed that sleeping bag for a considerable time before putting it back in the suitcase.
After a nostalgic hour, mom realized that this suitcase doesn't carry any immediate value for the family. So, I was ordered to place it back where it was dragged out from. But, I sensed from the the very content smile on my mother's face, that this was indeed a planned move on her part. She wanted me to know of this storehouse of invaluable memories. She needed a guardian of the same for future. Good to know that I fit the bill.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
The dialogue instantly reminded me of a 1999 afternoon when I was standing in Kalighat Metro station. The billboards were taken up by Command (later Hutch/Vodafone) - advertising it's low incoming call rates by comparing it with cost of streetfoods. Example: Bhelpuri Rs.3.00/-, Incoming Rs. 2.50/- or Lassi Rs. 5.00/-, Incoming Rs. 2.50/-. We've come a long way since that day. Rs. 12 per minute to make a call is plain unbelievable in current Indian Telecom market which is crowded by 10+ operators and jaw-droppingly low tariffs of 1 paise/second.Voice calls apart, it is not easy to single out any commodity or service that became cheaper in last 10-15 years.
In late 90s, my middle class parents percieved cellphones to be high-tech gadgets that were owned only by the super-rich. Which was kind of true in that era. The old Indian cellphone commercials clearly depicted Cellphones as toys of affluent folks. Older writers rued the fact how Bengali youth has changed ways to impress girls over the decades: In 70s, they wore Bell-bottoms, in 80s they rode motorbikes and in 90s, they are buying cellular phones.
The first cellphone that I ever touched and felt, was my elder cousin's bulky Nokia 5110, then considered to be a device of ultimate kewlness. Soon my elder brother bought one Motorola C-series phone. My father and bro went together to buy the phone, and came back in a Taxi, rather than public transport, to prevent the phone from being stolen! The excitement in the house was almost akin to buying the first car. His next phone was a Nokia 3310 - which was a bigger wonder for everyone - you know why? It was a phone without an external antenna! :P
Circa 2000, the rich-guy's-toy exclusivity of Cellphones waned off. Cellphones (popularly called 'cell' or 'mobile') became more and more abundant with cheaper models entering market. 2003 was marked by a phenomenal initiative launched by Reliance Infocomm - the Rs. 501 plan. Anybody paying just Rs. 501 could own a brand new cellphone along with CDMA connection. In addition, they could speak at a then-stunningly low rate of 40 paise/minute. People mobbed Reliance Infocomm showrooms, overlooking the 3-year contract and monthly installments. Biggest contribution of the 501 plan : it actually brought the cellphone to the mass. People whom we never thought would be part of cellphone user demographic - Shoeshiners, Autodrivers, Fruitvendors, Railway Hawkers - suddenly got access to the greatest technology of the decade. And our world changed forever.
Soon after, people got used to Cellphones. They became more of necessities, than novelties. Innovations continued: Phones with color screens, camera, music player, bluetooth, touchscreens, GPS, apps... phew! Once-amazing features like Music Composer, Polyphonic Ringtones, Snake 2, and in-built Flashlight fast faded into tech history. Cut-throat competition among operators generated hitherto unthought of Voice plans like Free Calls in same network, Lifetime connectivity, Hello tunes and Call rates as low as 29 paise/minute (P.K. Dubey would have talked to his Mom for longer time, had Monsoon Wedding been made today).
Talking. Did you happen to notice it's no more the same? How casual Phone Conversations have become? When you call someone, you can never expect his/her undivided attention to the conversation. The person on other side might be working on an Excel sheet/watching cricket score/cooking all the while talking to you. But on the other hand, if you miss someone, most certanly he/she will be one speed-dial away :)
Cellphones have totally transformed our ways of communication in last 10 years. It was my generation that witnessed the replacement of love-letters with text messages (SMS). Portability of cellphones ensure that lovebirds can talk absolutely anywhere - on the bus, in the bathroom, away from parents eyes. Same network/Late night Free Calls allow people to talk for any duration - 1 second to 1 night. However, at the same time, I feel that cellphones have devalued physical proximity. People are closer than before, but the longing for being together is not that strong anymore.
15 years back, calling my bro in Karnataka used to be weekly affair of huge importance. Not having long-distance calling facility in home, we went to a Phone booth at late night (to avail cheaper rates) and spoke to brother for 5-10 minutes. Those few minutes provided my parents with relief and happiness for next 7 days. Now, the current plans enable to me call my family and friends daily, spending more than 30 minutes in calls. I must admit that these conversations help a lot to bridge the 2500 km gap between me and my loved ones.
Footnote: For people wondering how pre-2000 cellphone scenario was or are nostalgic about the same, I highly recommend the movie '99'.