Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Oh! Calcutta

Speaking of Calcutta, here is a rather gushing rave about Calcutta written by Hindustan Times editor Vir Sanghvi for the paper's 2004 Durga Puja 'special'. I have long been an admirer of Mr. Sanghvi's work and find myself agreeing with his position on most matters, including almost all the sentiments that he expresses in this article. Although, the article was emailed to me by the previously mentioned Very Special Lady (let's call her VSL), I have since found numerous links to it on Google. The popularity of the article shows that it obviously struck a chord with Bengalis everywhere and it is easy to understand why. It struck a chord with me too, but for a different reason.

I have absolutely no scientific or empirical evidence to back up what I am about to say, (which is why I am posting it on a blog), but it occurs to me that most gushing raves about Calcutta have a couple of things in common: a) they are written by people who have lived in Calcutta but are not Bengali and b) who have since moved out of Calcutta. Prime examples, other than Mr. Sanghvi, are Jug Suraiya and Bachi Karkaria.

Here's my theory - even though theorizing without data is a capital mistake according to Mr. Holmes: Non-bongs, or Hon-bongs, who have moved out of Calcutta feel slightly guilty of having done so, almost as if expecting Bengalis to accusingly say, "See, I told you they would not stay! They didn't really love the city." So, in order to prove themselves holier than the Pope, more Bengali than the Bengali, they periodically come up with a nostalgic, slightly romanticized account of how great the city is and what fun they had when they were there, before they succumbed to the lure of fame and fortune in points west. Thus, they feel compelled to wear, their fondness for all things Calcutta on their sleeves (the "even though I left, I still love you" move). Not only must they be fond of Calcutta, they must be seen to be fond of Calcutta.

The Bengali on other hand couldn't care less. To him, (or her), Calcutta is the greatest place on God's good earth, he knows it and doesn't give a flying fuck whether anyone else does or not. If everyone else thought Calcutta was shit-hole, it wouldn't make any more of a difference to him than if everyone else agreed that it was the greatest place on earth. He is secure in his knowledge of the greatness of Calcutta, that's all that matters and he has no need for affirmation, flashy displays of affection... or even gushing raves in Durga Puja specials.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Story of the Dak Bungalow

Since I was reminded of Kipling recently, I remembered an article from the Calcutta (sic) Telegraph about the history and etymology of Dak Bunglaows. According to the author, Kipling spent a lot of time in Dak Bungalows in his travels across India. Having stayed in a few myself, most notably in Guna, Madhya Pradesh, the article struck a chord.

The word apparently is derived from the Bangla (what else!) and was originally nothing more than the hut of the Bengali peasant. I am posting an excerpt from the article with a link to the original. Enjoy.

"For the British rulers, whose morbidity and mortality rates were alarmingly high in an inhospitable land, trying to build homes and offices that minimized the ravages of disease and discomfort was by no means a minor preoccupation. As early as the end of the 18th century, the bungalow emerged as a distinct meld of styles. The Hobson-Jobson — that invaluable lexicon on legitimate and other entrants into Queen’s English — has a long and detailed description of it, the etymology of the word being traced back to the common hut of the Bengal (Bangla) peasant. By the end of the 18th century, the East India Company’s engineering department was working on transforming the bangla, now also known as bungelow, bungelo, bangalla and, finally, bungalow."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Semper Fi

I was recently reminded of this poem by Rudyard Kipling by a very special lady and since loyalty is the corner stone of all my relationships, this is for all the people who expect loyalty from me and from whom I expect likewise.

The Thousandth Man

-Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936)

One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it's worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine nundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.

'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for 'ee.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory.
But if he finds you and you find him.
The rest of the world don't matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man h's worth 'em all,
Because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men's sight --
With that for your only reason!
Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot -- and after!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Naming Names

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet."

-- William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

We all know that Bengalis have a penchant for sticking their kids with some of the weirdest monikers known to man. And as if that weren't enough, they then compound matters by tacking on even uglier "pet" names to the already atrocious names, thus ensuring that generations of therapists will be kept busy (the world's psychiatrists owe us some acknowledgement - "I would like to thank Pocha and his parents for putting my own children through college" - but that is another post).

A case in point is this rather funny, and anonymous, take on Bong nicknames, (the infamous "Daak Naam!"), which has done the rounds of the email forwards, including me. All I can say is that when Ronojoy and Anurabha are used as used as examples of "good" names (pun intended) spoilt by nicknames, you know that things are bad indeed.

But... Bengalis of the world take heart! The absolute weirdest Bong name has nothing on the names of children in a friend's elementary school class in Dallas, TX. Here are some of the winners:

  • Courvoisier – Even when Emmanuel Courvoisier was setting up his business in the 19th century, this only worked as a family name. Today, it is as clear a confession of a drunken hook-up as there ever was. Maybe someday she will have a brother called VSOP.
  • Miracle Omega - The boy decided to go by his middle name because he thought the first name was too girly. Let’s face it – when Omega is a better option than your given name, super atomic wedgies and being stuffed in your locker are going to become part of your daily existence. As for the career in the military, forget it. Just hope that your HMO covers extensive therapy.
  • ABCDE - pronounced Ab-si-dy. What can I say - just how lazy must your parents be if they are not even willing to go through the entire alphabet for your name?
  • Pleasure du Jour - 'nuff said.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Don't Mess with Texas?

Finally! Proof positive that there are actually bleedin' heart, pinko commie liberals in Texas!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

And there was light

From looking at the site statistics, I realize that I set up this blog in March 2005 so it has only taken me a year and a half to write my first post - not bad for the king of all procrastinators, even if I say so myself!

I've flattered myself for a long time by thinking that there are people who would be interested in what I say but sniveling coward that I am, I've always been afraid to test that theory and finding out that, basically, no one gives a rat's ass about what I think or do.

Not that I am setting high standards or anything, or expecting to out-Kos the Daily Kos. If the eight or so people who got conned into becoming my friends over the years read this, then I've pretty much reached my target audience. On the other hand if each of those eight were to pass the word on to eight of their friends, and each of them passed it on a further eight and then... well, you see it how it works. I could go from the initial eight to the entire population of the world in about 11 easy steps! In the old days it was called the "Ghost to Ghost Hook-up". Now its called MySpace.

But I digress...

As I'm often wont to do. Get used to it.

Anyhoo... what I'm hoping is to do is some introspection, make some observations and hopefully cause a little consternation - essentially write about whatever the hell I want (ain't the internet great?!). Which, as you will soon realize, will be often be food, the City, movies, books, photography - basically everything listed grandiosely under "Interests" in the profile page - and a whole lot of completely random crap. That's the stream of consciousness part of the blog! But hopefully, my posts will be funny enough and interesting enough for you come back.

Any similarity, in a cheap Chinese knock-off kind of way, to Bill Simmons' (ESPN's Sports Guy) writing style is wholly intentional and my 'umble way of sucking up to the best sports columnist in the US right now. If you want to read the real thing, and you should, see the link on the right. I will now patiently wait for Simmons to break my knuckles with a pair of pliers.

Now that I've finally got the first post in, I will try and post regularly - on weekends to start with and maybe more (or less) often in the future. I am a complete novice at this game and I'm still figuring out the technology and learning as I go. If, at the moment, this looks like the windows 3.1 of blogs, a little patience, bitte - I will improve/add things in the future.

So, welcome to Omphaloskepsis! I hope you like what you see and that you will be back. If you would like to make rude comments, snide remarks, scatological jokes or even helpful suggestions, fire at will.