Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bengal and Indian English literature

Shobhaa De: Arguably India's most recognised woman writer. Popular for her sauce-n-sleaze novels like "Sultry Days", "Starry Nights", "Socialite Evenings" etc. Comes across in her columns as a hardcore feminist, though she has herself said she's not a male basher.

Jhumpa Lahiri: Most promising writer on the Indian fiction front. Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for "Interpreter of Maladies". Her other novel "The Namesake" is being made into a movie of the same name by Mira Nair.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: American Book Award in 1996 for "Arranged Marriage". Other novels include "The Mistress of Spices" (being made into a movie of the same name, starring Ash Rai) and "Sister of my Heart" (being made into a Tamil soap by Suhasini Maniratnam).

Sagarika Ghose: Senior Editor with the Indian Express, and prior to that, worked as a journalist for The Times of India and Outlook. Her first novel "The Gin Drinkers" is a comedy of manners set in Delhi’s cocktail circuit. Second novel "Blind Faith" will hit the stands late this year. Married to Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN.

Gayatri Mazumdar: Worked as a journalist at the Press Trust of India, The Independent, All India Radio and Debonair (where she also edited the Poetry Page). Her first Anthology of Poems (in English) - "Shout" - has recently been published by Sampark, New Delhi, India. It includes her poems written since she was nineteen till the most recent ones.

Bharati Mukherjee: National Book Critics' Circle Award for best fiction for "The Middleman and Other Stories". She has taught creative writing at Columbia University, New York University, and and Queens College, and is currently professor of English at the University of California at Berkeley

Do you see what I see? Make a list of women writers of India, and these would prominently figure in the list. All of them have a Bengali connection, having born or being educated in Calcutta. Those who are abroad are either first generation emigrants (Bharati, Chitra) or were born to Indian parents (Jhumpa).

The connection reflects in their writings too. I haven't read Sagarika, Gayatri or Bharati, yet. But Chitra and Jhumpa's writing teem with the Bengali flavour. In "Arranged Marriage", Chitra brings out beautifully the angst of a would-be Bengali brides, her romantic longing for a Mills-and-Boons type guy to sweep her off her feet, the elaborate rituals of the conservative Bengali family, the vivid expressions of a new bride in an unknown US city, where the only other Bengali she knows is her husband...

Jhumpa too conjures the same magic in "The Namesake". In the uncertainty of a young girl who settles with her husband in the US, and how she misses the wide terraces of her ancestral home in Calcutta, she brings out the taste of Bengal through minute descriptions of the food and living. The once-a-year visits to Calcutta, the other Bengali families, who live cities apart, but gather for celebration of Naba Barsha and Durga Pujo as if they were relatives...

Shobhaa De, however tries to keep the connection toned down in her writings, but occasionally it does show up in some of her columns. Shobhaa, in any case, converts all her novels into a feminist, male bashing conundrum. I have read a couple of her novels, and believe me, I never went ahead of her sex-sleaze-scorned woman-male bashing angle.

These writers, combined with the likes of Vikram Seth, Amitava Ghosh et al prods me to look in awe at the contribution of Bengal to Indian English literature. Add a bygone era and you have innumerable stalwarts to adorn your list.

Is it just coincidence, or is it something with the Bengali life and roots?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Happiness Abounds

The sun is that bit more brighter today, the wind has a song in it. There is a spring in my feet as I sweat it out on the treadmill. My most recent poems find their place in Starlit Nights. My laptop has been upgraded with an extra 512, and is ready for my exploits. I have been granted leaves, so I'm headed home for a long vacation of 20 days starting April 14 (nahi, shaadi nahi ho rahi hai meri...).

And yes, its one more year, and I thank you, people for keeping my cell beeping and ringing...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Yoo Hoo

YES!!! My swanky new, fully loaded notebook was delivered to me.

After a lot of deliberation, and hours of company internet spent on shortlisting the various models of HP on offer, I had settled for a dv1386TU model. As luck would have it, the model was being phased out by HP, and they gave me a better configuration at a reasonably lesser rate. Combined with Srik's employee discount, I got it at almost a steal.

Allow me now to yap on my newest toy. Its a dv1624TN, the latest stallion from the HP stable. Its powered by a 1.66 GHz Intel Core Solo processor, and has a 512 MB RAM ( I'm adding one more 512 MB to the other slot ). Storage is an ample 80 GB, and comes with a DVD Writer. It also has a 6-in-1 media card reader, 3 USB ports and the normal I/O ports. It weighs 2.4 kgs and has an integrated webcam and microphone. 2 headphone jacks see to it that you dont have to watch a movie sharing your headphones.

The best part is it comes with Quickplay, which means that if all you need to do is play DVD / VCD / ACD / mp3 CD or movies/music from the HDD, you need not boot the PC up. It works like a normal DVD player, and comes with a remote too, which you can tuck in the PCMCIA slot, when not needed. A set of headphones are included. XPH is pre-loaded.

Looks are gorgeous, silver on the outside and black on the inside. Media buttons come with a blue backlight, and so do the status lights. The front panel is very aesthetically designed and slopes forward like the hood of a car, giving it that extra sleek look.

I'm just ogling at it from the past three days, will yap more on this later.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Full Circle

I guess this is what you call coming around a full circle.

Some time in the past, I had created an account in Orkut. I even added a few friends, and scrapped here and there, to get a hang of it. But then I realised, it was getting painstakingly difficult to reach out to everyone at once, I have had to scrap the same things in quite a few scrapbooks...

Moreover, firewalls blocked Orkut, and I switched to blogs. When a very close friend visited me recently, she said all our school friends could be reached through Orkut, and said she had added my name, but rarely saw me operational on Orkut.

That did it. Now I want to be on Orkut, but can't. That's because I forgot my username. Now I am searching high and low for my old username, but I am not finding it. Even Orkut is not helping me out :((

Anyway, now that the firewalls have been relaxed, I have created a new profile on Orkut and all you people out there on Orkut, add the newer profile...there are two profiles, don't get confused, both are ME only.

Also, I created a new blog on blogspot, for my literary side. Named Starlit Nights, this blog will carry my poems, and the little bit of fiction I have managed to write. The link is


Thursday, March 23, 2006


Today again we were playing Reply-All, and the topic was on the snap taken on the weekend Shanthi left.

The first thing I noticed about Shan when I met her was her hair. Long, strong and silky. I have used the same words in orkut as well, but I will let that be. The ultimate buggable creature, Shan was the best person to try your dry humour on. Good soul that she was, she never took it to heart. Which made us raise the bar higher and higher.

The first of those started when she accompanied us to Mahabaleshwar, and was doing a Rajnikanth sitting in the front seat. From the road to the Narayanpur temple, to the cliffs of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, I bugged her no end. That was the start of a beautiful relationship, which parted ways a couple of weeks back.

Mahabaleshwar to Shirdi to Dive Agar to Goa to Khandala-Lonavala, we had so much fun. Like the time when we always teased her about her college where there is gender discrimination, even in college buses (girls sit on left side, boys sit on right side ... girls dont wear trousers, boys dont wear t-shirts ... girls boys dont talk, or you fail in the exams) ... like the time when we hitched a ride in Goa, and her eyes went wide as she said "Lorry?"... like the time when we walked back from Senapati Bapat road after devouring pizzas...

Like the time we teased her about her innumerable "boyfriends" here ... like the time her mom served her a few more dosas when she tried to say "no" in kannada ... like the time she said she would lose weight by walking, and it rained on the day she decided to walk ... like the time we splashed her name all over the office, and in the newsletter on her birthday during the annual pre-bash ... like the time when Ayhay sang a song for her in the canteen ... like the time when she applied mehndi on Sushma's hands...

Putting mehndi was one thing she did superbly, every two-three weeks her room mates used to show their hands "See, Shan put this...".

At times giving you gyan(She's Sun certified Java, mind you), at times dumber than the "dumbest blonde joke ever", she was one heck of a person to be with. She had this rickety old laptop, which would run only on AC, nevertheless it was our only means to watch movie after movie (only one movie...number of times...thanks to Beryle) on innumerable weekend afternoons. It also helped Gokul to study for his Interwoven test. Stupid gal took it with her, even though it was adding 4 kgs to her already heavily overweight luggage.

A constant companion in our pizza outings, Shan always comes when we talk of US. And with Shan comes McKinsey. And her Vince mama. And her meeting with the Pope. And the awesome plum (read rum) cakes she got from Pondy.

Chechi will miss her for the time she spent with her, Gokul will remember her for the fellow LT she was, Vidya and Beryle will remember her for obvious reasons, and the rest of us will remember her for the person she was. A nice friend, a warm hearted lovable girl who never hurt anybody, Shan left Pune two weeks back for "green"er pastures in the US. And I wish her goodluck, and hope our paths cross again in the future.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Holi Hai

Holi khele raghubeera...awadh mein...holi khele raghubeera...

Happy Holi.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Pride or Shame

March 13 will be a landmark day for the Indian armed forces. For the first time in its history, a lady officer will command the Passing Out Parade at Armed Forces Medical College here. 34-year-old Wahida Prizm from Jammu & Kashmir is the daughter of a teacher in Rajouri who was gunned down by militants in 2001. Born in a middle-class family at village Thanna Mandi on March 11, 1972, she was commissioned into the Indian Navy on November 10, 1997, after passing her MBBS from Jammu Medical College. Their saga of valour does not end there, in fact, it runs in the family. Her husband Major M F F Khan is a former short-service commission officer, and her sister is an inspector with the J&K police force. Read the full story here.

The double murder of a lawyer Anuratha Mahajan, and her mother Swarana Mahajan, who was also a lawyer, has once again triggered debate on Delhi being a safe city for single women. Swarana was a widow, while Anuratha had separated from her husband, and both women were living together in the flat in which they were murdered. The commercial capital Mumbai too saw the rape of a 52 year old woman, on the pretext of offering her a lift.

Is it just a coincidence that whenever we have reason to hold our head high in pride, an equally or more disastrous act weighs it down in shame.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blank Noise Project and Women's Day

I came across this Blank Noise Project via a link from other blogs. When I read about Annie's street harassment, and Hema's single-girl-on-a-train post, I can only say "SORRY" for being a part of the "male" society which left a scar on their persona. I know it doesn't help, but there is only so much we can do. I have been in such situations before, and when you say all this, I can only say "I agree" and hang my head in shame.

There was this time when I was teaching my cousin to ride a bicycle, sitting on the carrier behind, and guys from the street behind passed filthy comments. "Teaching her to ride ... from the behind". My cousin was probably too young to understand it, or may be she did, and kept quiet. I wanted to thrash the imbeciles, but there was nothing I could do. I was all of 15 then, and these were men almost my uncle's age.

Then there was the guy who stretched his legs under the seat and tried to play with the feet of a female friend I was travelling with. She promptly stomped on his toes, and knowing her, I'm sure he would have bled if he wasn't in shoes.

2004 passed-out engineering graduates in and around Bangalore will remember their Oracle walk-in. Not for the jobs they got or missed. Girls will remember that day, not for the physical bruises in the melee, not for the material losses like cellphones, spectacles and slippers, but for the hundreds of hands which pinched their behind, for the unknown hands that felt them up. Guys I know to be born lechers, boasted about it. They had already stripped the girl in their mind. The lecherous stares, the eyes which stealthily go 'downtown', even as a girl is being introduced, the hands which never let go of a handshake until the girl makes it all-too-limp. I wonder what they get by two seconds of female flesh contact. I am reminded of Shobhaa De's article in The Week, where she writes about lecherous men in Mumbai locals fantasising about their daily dose - two bottoms pinched, one breast cupped, two minutes of rubbing against a sleeveless hand, one toe against a waxed leg...

Personally, I am all for girls to be independent. I applaud it when they stand up for their rights. I encourage them when they strive to be self-sufficient. I appreciate it when they break the "male bastions". I congratulated a very close friend when she fought her way and made a guy get up from the ladies seat, because she was uncomfortable standing in the back of the bus with other guys. People really close to me know how I feel about it.

But, there are also times when I have myself escorted female friends out of a park when people passed comments because we sat together. I have hung my head, tongue tied, while walking together on the beach at night. I have let them drag me out of situations where the guy walking with a chip on his shoulder. Like Rajesh, my inaction at times makes me feel I'm an accomplice. I am unable to say anything when a female friend drags me away from a potential situation saying, "We have learnt to live with it."

Why? Why have you learnt to live with it?

zigzackly makes an interesting point when he draws a comparison on harassment. Is it harassment when a guy asks a gal out? Most definitely no. Then is it the lack of polish that maked the difference? Roadside romeos seeking a chance also do the same, but in a rude, crude manner. And what would you call the polished ones, who send flowers and candy repeatedly, and won't take no for an answer?

The problem is in differentiating these. These are grey areas which cant be shackled into black and white squares. Nobody is born a gentleman. Gentlemanly qualities are acquired. Respect for women in imbibed. Chivalry needs to be developed. And which is why this post finds its place in the blogspace. Even if one person in my miniscule readership reads this post and the links, and turns a wee bit better, I am vindicated. Slowly but surely, the cat calls will stop, and a day will dawn where men will respect a woman's privacy, dignity and grace. And until then, we will have to keep moving the wheel, and improving ourselves and those around us.

To all those women I love, I respect, I care for and share my tears and laughter with, have a great Womens Day.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

QnR: Partyspeak

A party for R is a all-night all-guys drinking spree, unless otherwise specified. When the guys meet, they are greeting each other, backslapping and pulling each other's legs. Every one speaks in a common language. Before drinks that is. Afterwards, you can start counting the languages. Every damn thing comes out, and is discussed at length. From the first crush to the last heartbreak, everything is revisited. College life comes out, vivid as ever, memories are refreshed, jokes cracked, a detailed analysis is done vis a vis life then, and it is agreed that life was much more fun then, and another round is served. So on it goes into the night.

The morning after, friendships are at an alltime high. Should Q call anyone "R didnt come home last night", half a dozen friends would vouch that he was with them the last night. And then half a dozen calls would go to R's cell, saying Q had called. And R would have a tough time saying all seven of them were together, catching up on life at a eighth person's house.

Conversations with his male friends are over in less than a minute. He can convey a hundred things in "Yes, Ok...No not that, the other one. Yep. U bet. Thats on me, yes. Sure, Bye". The others understand too. When he says "nothing", there is no need to ask "You sure?". God forbid you walk away saying OK, when she says "Nothing". With girls everything is the opposite. Nothing always means there is something. She is not fine when she says "Fine". A Maybe is most definitely a Yes, and a "Thanks a lot" is absolutely no thanks.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

QnR: May I take you out for dinner?

He will eat anything anywhere.

Whether it is a chai at a footpath hotel or sushi in a suburban deli, he will not fuss too much. In the rare case that he doesnt like anything, he will just not eat it. Take her out on a treat -- "The guy put his hand in the jug, how can you drink from it" at the footpath, "The plate has something on it, lets go somewhere else" at the chat center, "The service is so late, has he gone to grow the cereals?" at the restaurant, "The prices are so high, I can make better manchurian at home", at the suburban deli, "The food is so oily" at the bhajia stall, "The cup is dirty" at the tea stall.

He is like "Kya naatak hai yaar, we guys have been doing these things for so many years before we met you gals...zinda nahi hain kya?"