Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bihari Bong

An old Agarwal friend of mine left a comment on my blog pointing out how even he of the A clan knows that bhaapa is steamed, not baked as I had so heretically mentioned. I look back and think of the Khemkas, Guptas, Jhunjhunwallas, et al with whom I have had the pleasure of sharing my schoolhood with and realize that some of them are far more bong than I ever will be.

I grew up reading Hardy Boys, MacLean, Sudden and brown paper wrapped James H Chases. I have never ever read a page of Sukumar Ray. I have read Pheluda in English (does that count?). I listened to the Beatles, Doors, Dire Straits and made fun of my sister’s Robindrasangeet and harmonium.

I have no interest in sweets and only recently discovering the pleasures of STEAMED Ilish . Was never a fervent worshipper of the great Cal Puchka. Or for that matter Nizam’s beef roll. I liked the Park Circus Biryani and that too as it had lots of aloo and meat. What I really looked forward to was my mom’s Sunday mutton. That was the peak of my gastric cravings.

My friends call me a Bihari, alluding to my five years in Bokaro Steel City. Where the game I came to love was hockey. Hockey! Imagine a Bengali hockey player. I tried my hand at chess and carrom. Was a disaster. Tried table tennis and stopped when a nine year old thrashed me. And I suspect he was being respectful. I was no good at quizzing and all I did was sip beer at DI and eye the pyts.

All through college I wore blue jeans and fake Lacostes. Admittedly, I sometimes brought out my heritage by matching them with blue bathroom slippers. But that was about it. And as recently as last Saturday at a party at the castle, a Gourisaria walked in wearing kurta, jeans and chappals. A bong if you have ever met one.

I hear Bong rock groups are reviving Rabindranath’s lyrics. I have heard a few strains. Could recognize the lead and the bass. Sounded like the Rolling Stones.

Maybe there’s hope for me yet!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

On an Island

“Remember that night, white steps in the moonlight..sharing a dream, on an island, it felt right..”

Listening to David Gilmour’s latest, I was reminded that I live on an island too. Not that it strikes one during the course of an ordinary day. One is very aware of the sea in Mumbai but one really misses the palm trees. People argue that Mumbai is not really an island anymore. I tend to disagree.

One has to step off a train at VT and realize that we live in a sea of humanity. And despite these millions around us we are marooned in our tiny insignificant lives. We are all as lonely as we would have been if we had only sand and coconuts to keep us company.

The efficiency that we are so proud off is just an outcome of Mumbaites trying to reduce their feeling of desolation. Everyone gets to work on time such that they find comfort in the known and the living. And post, we continue holding on to each other at the local bar. As long as we all catch the 12:45. It’s only when you live in Mumbai that you realize that when people talk about the “spirit of Mumbai” they are being literal.

We live literally, metaphorically, and philosophically on the greatest island of them all. And guess what. We absolutely love it!