When I first came across the word Half Girlfriend during the launch of the eponymous book written by our great Indian novelist and twenty first century intellectual Sriman Chetan Bhagat ji, I wondered what might be the meaning of such a word.
In Indian hotels, we are used to the rate card of a full plate as well as a half plate. You have half versions of tea and coffee. In Indian tradition, after marriage the girl becomes ardhangini.
Of course, the concept of ardhangini is understandable. After marriage the wife and husband become one unit. So, each unit is half of this arrangement. But, our male dominated society never uses the word ardhanga which should be the synonym to mean the husband.
Is this girl gifted with only half of the limbs that a normal girl has? Then, her boyfriend must indeed be a great hero to be emulated by all Chetan Bhagat devotees? (by the way, bhagat is derived from the word bhakt– a devotee)
Or, the protagonist boy has two girlfriends concurrently, thus, each one deserving only to be a half girlfriend?
When I confided my confusion to a dear friend and Chetan Bhagat fan and who goes by the name Ketan, he suggested me to read the book to clear my confusion. I shuddered at the prospect. The last time I attempted to read one of his books, after two pages I had such mental indigestion that it took me two weeks to recover. Such heavy stuff.
Imagine. If I struggle for a day and break my head to make sense of only one word invented by this great innovative author, what will happen to my chetan man (conscious mind) if I go through the whole book.
So, I let the meaning of ‘half girlfriend’ remain a mystery. What is going to happen after all. Already I am living with half a million mysteries of the universe that may not get solved in a million years to come. That includes the greatest unsolved mystery of all times, “Why did Kattappa kill Bahubali?
At the same time I am afflicted by another mystery. The name half girlfriend is an insult to the women folk. To be more politically correct he could have used the word half boyfriend. Is Chetan, a misogynist?
I expected some feminist organsiations to take up the gauntlet, come in an Arnab Goswami show to spread the fire of protest so wide that the nation wanted to know only one thing – How dare Chetan Bhagat be more incoherent than the host of the only fire powered show in India?
The nation wide controversy would have made Chetan rolling on the floor laughing all the way to the bank while the sales figure of his books reached the moon.
But all this did not happen. Chetan did laugh his way to the bank, though. But, what happened to the feminists? Did they think it too trivial an issue considering the history of this nation in treating its female species, or, all of them got converted to the cult of Chetan Bhagat?
Of course, there were some halfhearted protest responses. One wrote a book titled Half Boyfriend. Another wrote a blog post titled Half Girlfriend/ Half Boyfriend.
A few days back, Ketan phoned me. He said he was speaking to me from Thailand. He had taken a short break from his vacation activities just to speak to me.
“Hey buddy. You know what. The movie trailer is out.”
“What movie?”, I asked.
“The movie based on Chetan’s book, Half girlfriend.” He was so enthusiastic – like a cult member out to recruit.
“You wanted to know the meaning of half girlfriend. Well, see the trailer”.
He sent me the link. I opened the link and saw the trailer. My confusion got more compounded.
So what is a half girlfriend?
A character in the trailer, who seems to be the protagonist’s friend, tries to describe the boy girl relationship as – Dost se thodasa jyada, boyfriend se thoda sa kam. Somehow it makes some sense, vaguely though.
But man, how do you decide it fits the definition of a half girlfriend/boyfriend or, a half relationship. How do you assign a numerical value to an abstract concept.
Of course, there seems nothing special about the relationship that the author tries to hype up by assigning it a value of half. In any boy meets girl story, there comes a point from where the relationship could go either way. It is just a short lived phase of a relationship.
But the relationship must have a number. Otherwise, it will not bring good luck to the book. Thus spake Chetan’s astrologer.
Yes, it is the same astrologer that Ekta Kapoor is affiliated to. Let me reproduce the enlightened conversations between the astrologer and Chetan here:
Astrologer: Look Chetan. I have already given alphabet K to Ekta. Knowing your type, for you no alphabet. Only numbers will do. Use any number between five and half in your title.
Chetan: Surely I will do. By the way, anybody who knows five words (three English and two Hindi) can not only understand my book, but also aspire to be a best selling author like me. But sir, after spending four rigorous years in IIT, and later on at IIM, this much I know that half is not a natural number.
Astrologer: It is a combination of two numbers one and two. So don't worry.
After a few years Chetan wrote a book and wanted to titled it - Point Five Someone, to sound like the earlier one and to ride on its popularity all the way to his bank account. But before sending it to the publisher he wanted to have the final word of advice from his astrologer.
Chetan: Sir, I have written another book about a guy who is not even worth five points. Shall I call the book Point Five Someone?
Astrologer: No no. Make it more spicy. Give him a girl friend and call the book Half Girlfriend. It will achieve two things - confusion and curiosity. They go hand in hand. Good for marketing, you know.
Chetan: By the way Sir, I thought you are an expert in astrology only. But, I see you are good in marketing too.
Astrologer: Ha ha. Why not? let me tell you. There isn't much difference between you and me. Both us make millions by selling truckloads of bullshit.
Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him. His books adorn the bookshelves of half of my friends, occupy at least half a self in any library you visit, cover half of all the total space available in leading book stores- offline or online. He is on TV- on talk shows and f**k shows. (I was thinking of a match making show where he acts like a f**ked up host).
He writes half banal and half unintelligible centre page articles on national newspapers. Like his books, movies based on his books make millions. Ketan, says that the movies are not exact adaptations of his books, but are loosely based.
Oh God, that is the saving grace. Being loosely based, the movies can take any kind of spin off.
It is said that the Americans are so adept in sales and marketing that they can sell real estate located on the moon to the Chinese. Well, Yankey dudes, here in India we have got the baap of all salesmen.
First of all, here is wishing my dear reader a wonderful New Year. May you remain cheerful and passionate irrespective of whether a few wishes got fulfilled or not.
Note that I have not used the word happy. There are reasons for it – profound and scary reasons that google threw at me in form of quotes while I was searching for something else. Take the first example:
So there is no point in having good health and selfishness if, these are not backed by a healthy dose of stupidity. However, it provides for a lot of hope. To be happy is not that big deal after all. It paints a very rosy picture of human society since time immemorial- the vast majority of human society have never been as unhappy as we have made it out to be.
The following one is a very strong argument as to why one should not wish another anything related to happiness:
However, the following is the scariest of them all:
And finally a ray of hope, provided by non other than one of those highest priests of Christianity:
Of course, I am not sure whether all/some/any of the above quotes have been attributed to the right source. Now a days on social media, every now and then one comes across strange quotes attributed to strange people. Sometimes, people making up these quotes do not seem to have even elementary knowledge of history. So, Swami Vivekananda gives very sound advice on the side effects of social media and Mahatma Gandhi warns us about the impending disasters when one harbours thoughts like those of Donald Trump.
But I am sure the following one must have been spoken (or, at least thought of) by Adolf Hitler, who swayed even the most intelligent persons of Germany to his Nazist point of view with his banal rhetoric. I am afraid this must also be the secret of success of writers like Chetan Bhagat churning out best sellers and Salman Khan movies making multiple crores.
Here is wishing you again, a happy (er. sorry) , a wonderful new year.
Three blogposts that you may have missed
I started this blog in July this year.
A blogger is not like an ideal parent for whom all children should be equal favourites. Nevertheless, he has paternal instincts. It is natural for parents to give special attention to that child who lagged behind other siblings while at the same time proudly bringing to attention of the special skills of a particular child. The following blogposts from this year are a mix of both.
It was due to a ‘comedy of error’ that I got introduced to Pandit Om Vyas. Someone had shared a youtube link on FB about Arbind Kejriwal’s fiasco about some issue. When I clicked the link it took me to one of the kabi sammelan videos of Late Kavi Om Vyas ji. That time I did not know that the satirist to whom I had taken an instant liking was no more. Subsequently, after watching a number of hilarious videos, when I learnt of his tragic untimely death, it reminded me of the song: haste haste rona sikho ….. rote rote hasna……. just like his sessions.
In a congregation of poets (Kabi Sammelan) hosted in memory of Haribansh Rai Bachchan, in his inimitable style, he recited a poem whose pet phrase (takiya kalam) was ‘Maja hi kuchh aur hai. Well, Panditji, with due respect to you, here is a rejoinder that I have composed, imitating your style. It follows an English translation which may not be exact but, as close as possible to the Hindi version:
Signal se thik pehle lane change karne ka
Chalti gaadi se bahar thuk-ne ka
Bina matlab zor se zor horn bazane ka
Gaadi khadi karke public view mein mut-ne ka
Footpath mein motor cycle chalane ka
No parking board ke thik samne gaadi park karne ka
Beech raste mein gaadi khadi karke dooosre driver se jhagadne ka
Maza hi kuchh aur hai... maza hi kuchh aur hai
Bina padhe whatsapp mein message forward karne ka
Bina samjhe sabhi issues mein apni rai dene ka
Boss ke bhadde se bhadde joke mein pet phadke hasne ka
Junior ke badhia se badhia baton ko nazar andaz karne ka
Bhid ke saath kadam se kadam milaye chalne ka
Karod-on ke lutere ko maaf aur do kaudi ke chor ko saza dene ka
Maza hi kuchh aur hai... maza hi kuchh aur hai
It is so much fun
To change the lane just before the signal
To spit out from a running vehicle
To honk loudly without any need
To urinate on the roadside in full public view
To ride the motorcycle on the footpath
To park the vehicle just below the No-parking sign
To stop the vehicle on the middle of the road to pick a fight
It is so much fun... it is so much fun
To forward on whatsapp without reading the message
To give expert advice without understanding the issue
To laugh out loud at Boss's mediocre jokes
To ignore a brilliant idea because it comes from a junior
To march with the crowd matching step after step
To forgive the looter of a million and punish the one who stole two pence
It is so much fun..... It is so much fun
Panditji. I am not at all bothered whether you have gone to heaven or hell.
Because, wherever you go you will make it heaven.
May your soul rest in peace. And have the last laugh.
“Which movie are you going to watch today, elder brother?” I would ask quite often in a routine manner to one of my senior fellow boarders. He was a great movie buff. Or, so I thought that time. I am talking of those glorious decades of 70s and 80s for the Indian Cinema. His answer was equally routine, “I do not know. Let me see. Any way I will tell you once I come back.”
It would be in one of those Telugu movies that he would land up most of the time. My home town which has a large Telugu population lies near Andhra border. Odiya movies were few and far between and Bollywood reels of new releases took six months to arrive. So, if you made up your mind that you must see at least twenty movies a month, it had to include a fair dose of Telugu movies, irrespective of whether you understood Telugu or not.
My senior boarder was not alone in such adventures. There were many. Every now and then, we would hear of stories of so and so who failed for the fourth time in the final year exams. Then, we would hear the town loudmouth’s foregone conclusion: If you substitute the cinema hall for the class room round the year, what better results can you expect?
If somebody was found in the cinema hall to bunk torturous classes, some one might be there to escape a sadist boss. Or, maybe a father. Or, wife. Or, real life in general.
The majority of the middle class of those days was not moneyed enough to afford escapes of these days like weekend getaways, dinner in a fancy restaurant, day out in an amusement park or such things. Television was not in vogue. Twenty twenty was not conceived of yet. Nor was an evening in a mall just for the sake of window shopping. Whatever little surplus a lower middle class had, after his roti kapda aur makaan needs, went into buying a few second or third class seats in a movie hall that did not have the basic amenities like ac, cooler and sometime a toilet. And to cater to the fantasies of this middle class, Indian movies with angry young men or, different types of other larger than life characters became the hallmark of block busters.
Coming to the present times, before I had the opportunity of watching a movie in one of the multiplexes in a posh mall, I had thought, it must be the serious movie buffs who went to watch a movie paying such hefty sums. (And not to speak of the cost of the snacks and cold drinks that remind you of an international airport). But I was proved wrong the very first time I saw a movie in one of those multiplexes. It was some Hollywood block buster 3D movie that I was watching in an Imax. Even a slight disturbances in the form of somebody moving in front or lighting up his cellphone caused great annoyance. But my neighbour was not bothered by any of these annoyances. Nor was he aware about the annoyances he himself was bent upon perpetrating by being engrossed in his whastapp chat through out the length and the breath of the movie.
“So, he has come to the theater because he thought it the best place on earth to carry on an engrossing whatsapp conversation”, I concluded.
Not being born and brought up in an English speaking country, I strain hard to listen and make out the whispering dialogues of the Hero. It is a crucial moment of the movie. So I strain harder. And how fervently do I wish the crackle crackle cuddre cuddre, chap chap, ha ha ha, he he he coming from my back seat stopped. But finally I resign it to my fate of the day. As if the whole universe was conspiring to see that I did not enjoy the movie smoothly, in spite of buying the the city’s most expensive cinema ticket of the day. The sounds have been there, as if these were part of the soundtrack of the movie, intermittently from the first reel to the last reel, with a little respite during the interval when the gobblers went for replenishment. And to top it all, a hearty laugh at the most melodramatic moment of the movie.
Maybe, some come here just to eat, drink and make merry and to laugh at yesterday’s jokes remembered and understood in the typical ambiance of a cinema hall and that to at the most melodramatic moment and in spite of the pricing of snacks reminding one of air travel.
And some say, a large number of flop movies are made so that unofficial romantic couples could have some private space and time for themselves.
My conclusion is that, whatever money the movie made, only fifty percent of it came from people who really wanted to see the movie and enjoy it. That should give a realistic assessment of the popularity of the movie, for the sake of the movie.
Producers, directors and actors please take note.
But there is something one cannot escape from, alive
Of course I am talking of life, from which you cannot escape alive. It was after a long time that I was watching a quality Bollywood movie. That the movie was educative, or rather refreshed my understanding about certain basic fundas of life was an added bonus. At the same time the movie was not preachy.
Never expected such mature acting from Alia Bhatt. Shahrukh is at his as usual best. It seems Gauri Shinde put her heart and soul to make such a wonderful movie- Dear Zindagi.
Previous week, ended up with the Fantastic Beasts, just to accompany my son, whom I had promised to take for this movie long time back. (Actually it was he who made me promise, and it was he who brought my attention to the the movie). I am not much of a Harry Potter fan. But, nevertheless I have watched all the parts. And read maybe, half of one of the books. All the movies had appealed to the child in me. This one was no different. I enjoyed it, if not more, at least as much as my son did. It is a fantastic movie.
Towards the end of the movie, there is a kind of reversal of time. It is a strange coincidence that this reversal of time occurred towards the end of ‘Dr. Strange‘ as well . Well, this was the movie that I had watched the previous to previous weekend. A strange hotchpotch of Indian concepts of outer body travel, relativity of time, immortality and modern concepts like multiverse. Of course the stunning visuals, and the stray humours thrown in here and there ensured that you were not bored while thinking of the complex scientific (or, seemingly scientific) themes explored in the movie. It was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. Because of the large number of Indian mystic concepts used in the movie, if your are an Indian chauvinist, you are definitely going to like it man. There may be a slight disappointment because the Hero goes to Nepal and not India to learn all those mystic theories.
So three movies over three consecutive weekends. Each of the movies was great in its own way. Four point nine out of five to each.
The times are such that, neither are notes so random nor do they have any association or destination other than the bank. The whole nation is in queue for a few ‘tukda’ notes. It is Saturday night and as we finalise our plan to visit Chinchi Falls and Mekedatu as part of our weekend getaway, we are reminded, we have forgotten to factor in legal tender notes to our itinerary. So we rush to the nearby ATM. Though there is still a queue, we manage to get some of those extremely rare pieces of paper and come back home by 11:30 P.M.
It is ‘7’ o clock in the morning when we start our trip. However, people have already left home long back for their ‘Cash’ mission and we notice long queues in front of every ATM or Bank that we pass.
Four days earlier, on my way to office, for every traffic jam at an unexpected place I would hear someone commenting, “There must be a bank ahead”. It also reminded me that I too have to get some legal tender notes. Nahi to yaar biwi bachon ko kya muh dikhayoge. Somehow bunked it for three days. But on the fourth day ran out of excuses.
While on the queue, I came across so many conspiracy theories. As usual some were pro M, and others were anti M. A young man in front was describing about the fake currency printing presses in China and Pakistan with such graphic details that I felt he had just landed on the queue, fresh from a first hand experiences of those macabre places.
Now coming to the weekend gate away, details of which I will share in a separate blog post, the road as well as the tourist spots were unexpectedly thinly crowded. Then of course someone made a nasty comment:
bhaiya bhid to bankon ke samne lagi hai. Yahan aaj kaun milega.
While coming back, by the evening, again observed the long queues.
Sunday ka suraj nikla nayi ummeed ke saath,
subah 6 bajese lambi kataron ke saath.
Din khatam hogaya, lekin umeed nahin,
kataron mein koi kamee nahin.
One event, so many memories
Reminded of my days in military training. If one person did a mischief, the whole platoon would be punished. The funny thing was that quite often the mischief monger would escape by reporting sick.
Those were the days prior to the installation of ATMs in India. If it was a pay day, it was only the bank employee who did his official job. For others, it was a day to be spent in queue either for you salary or for your movie ticket.
Then of course, one is reminded of those never ending queues and drama in front of the ticket windows of cinema halls during those golden decades before the advent of Television.
One may be reminded of a few Bollywoood dialogues as well for easing one’s frustration while queuing up to get back one’s own money parked in the banks.
"Ek tukda note ki kimat tum kya jano Modi Babu"
"Tumhare kale dhan bale noton mein itna chhed karenge,
confuse hojeyge, kitna bank mein le jayen, kitna mein aag lagaye."
"Aaj mere paas gadi hai bangla hai. Kya hai tere pass?"
"Mere pass ek hazar ke chhute hai"
The people who used to do ‘dus ka bees’ in and around the cinema theaters are also back in business bringing the silver lining to those who do not mind paying a little extra for the sake of avoiding the serpentine queues.
Or, to avoid being asked back at home: “Khali haath laut aye. Kya socha tha… khsuh ho jayega“
Swagat nahin karoge hamara
When the movie ‘Pink’ was released there was so much fanfare and pre-publicity. Even the great Big B wrote a a letter to his grand daughters with his own hands using a Parker pen (for which he is a brand ambassador) and made sure it made into the headlines of national media. (Was he not in talking terms with his grand children? Then why did he need the entire national media to take his message to his own grand daughters?)
But no such pre-publicity for this pink note – the harbinger of a new economic order. Like Lord Krisha, it just took birth, unsung, unnoticed.
The movie ‘Pink’ tried to create awareness about women’s issues. Hope this pink note makes us aware of the dangers of black money and parallel economy.
Those unknown heroes did not even wait to hear our applause
One day, while I was driving to Bengaluru Airport, I spotted two small IAF planes moving in synchronicity. Instantly I was reminded of an aerobatic display by the Suryakiran team two decades back.
It happened at a forward base. The local Chief Minister was the chief guest. All were waiting for the first glimpse. The perfect formation of the nine aircraft became visible over the horizon and in an instant they zoomed past the spectators who looked on with awe. There after followed various hair raising stunts and manoeuvres, all in perfect coordination and formation. Every one knew that a split second error could result in a major disaster. Only those at the cockpit knew how much practice, patience, alertness and gut feelings went into producing such an impeccable display.
Of course in some of the later displays that I witnessed at other locations including the displays for the public, there were arrangement for running commentaries where the name of the team leaders were mentioned. But then with all those din and excitement in the surroundings, the running commentary hardly held your attention. In this particular show there was no such running commentary or public announcement. After the display there was arrangement for refreshments. During that time the Chief Guest was supposed to meet and compliment the pilots. A large part of the spectators was eagerly waiting to see those men behind the machines who gave those miraculous stunts. However, after some time we came to know that the team had to leave urgently. Neither did we know their name then nor did we have any opportunity to let them hear our applause.
This incident is a representative of the larger events involving our soldiers. Forget about the applause, in the theater that the soldier operates there are no spectators to applaud. Sometimes the hero even does not live to narrate or hear his glory. There are case where a soldier is awarded and may occupy a fifth page mention. But the majority of those heroes go unsung. May be that is why we have so many memorials to the ‘unknown soldiers’.
Here of course I am talking about the reel life heroes. There is no need to mention that. Our social conditioning is such that when we talk of heroes, the first ones to come to mind are the filmy ones, even though majority of them could be damn cowards and hypocrites in real life and may be suffering from all kind of fears including fear of not being the best noticed one in a public gathering and not to speak of the fear of cockroaches. To distinguish a real life hero from the filmi hero, we have to say – so and so was a real life hero; where as, it should be the other way round.
Now coming to the real (or, reel) issue, the filmi hero is like the body of a car. It is the most visible and highlighted part of the movie. The other fellows (including the heroine) who work equally hard and are equally talented, do not get as much credit as the hero. In the filmi world too there are unsung heroes. The body double who does the real ‘heroic acts’ remains unsung.
An Indian road, in addition to its main role, may mean many things to many people. It can be a toilet, it can be a barn, or it can be a place to build a place of worship – temporary as well as permanent (be it of any religion). The kind of surprises it may throw up are nothing new to the regular driver (hence, no more surprising). A good looking road may have a nasty pothole at the middle, a wide road may suddenly become narrow, and sometimes a road may vanish just like that. Added to that, our law abiding fellow drivers make it such a challenging experience. You have to have the awareness of a Buddha to be a master of the Indian Road. I feel the mindfulness meditation of Buddha is more relevant today than it was two thousand years ago.
Two days back, I discovered that the short cut I used to take back home from office (to save ten minutes) at a point, is suddenly closed down, adding 30 minutes more to my usual commuting time, as I had to take a very complicated detour.
In India, quite often, even the google navigation gets so confused that if you do not make a reality check with a localite every now and then, you are in for a harrowing time. The exit from the highway that the google lady directs you to take may not be there. Or, the google lady may take you to the back of the temple premises instead of the entrance and you may find yourself in a place where neither can you go ahead nor come back. (It actually happened when I visited the museum at Tanjavur a couple of years back.)
For the office bound city commuter, the road may be two hours of hell, but not for these ‘holy’ animals. They can enjoy their moments of ‘bliss’ anywhere, including at the middle of a busy city road.
Around this time of the year, we do the Ayudh Puja, which is a must, particularly the vahana puja. One needs a lot of divine intervention to survive on an Indian Road. Sometimes, the decoration may cover the entire body blocking the front and the rear view. It does not matter. Once things are left to divine care, there is nothing to worry about. Just relax.
While switching channels ( Sometimes I enjoy this bad habit), got stuck with Star Action. The movie was – The Other Man. It was supposed to be an action movie. There was so much silence. The dialogues were few. Some of the dialogues were not complete sentences. Yet the movie made such an impact.
Of course such a movie, if made in any Indian Language, may not make any impact. We like our movies like our food, a lot of varieties, a lot of spices, lots of loud and bright colours and of course, lots of sounds.(Have you heard the sounds of a self unconscious hungry person taking a south Indian meal, starting with papad and ending with rasam?)
Even the most macabre of the movies must have a song and a dance thrown in every half an hour in addition to the usual punchlines and lengthy harangues. For us, silence in the theater is unbearable.
For every minute of silence in the theater, the audience may legitimately wonder:
“Itna sannata kyun hai bhai“
Day of the Bandh
A Bandh rarely solves the problem it is associated with. Of course it causes a lot of inconvenience to a lot of people. Especially people who come on a short visit from outside and are caught unaware. But it has some positive side effects.
For a day, the pollution level of the city falls down drastically. The fuel saved in turn, saves foreign exchange and cushions government subsidy on fuel. It is such a pleasure to drive in the city in the afternoon when the enthusiasm of the protesters have died down. Or, for some busy city souls it may get the much needed surprises rest.
May be it is good to have a bandh once a while for the sake of a healthy city and its citizens.
Sometimes a simple unpremeditated shot taken with a cell phone (not the iphone 6 type) may take on artistic quality. Loved this photo taken by my son Dipayan. Look at the composition of the objects and the use of natural light.