May 31, 2009

Wedding. End of Story.

Archie Andrews is getting married to Veronica. Various kinds of media are saying various things about it. Some are saying we grew up reading them, thinking American kids are so much cooler- they don't have board exams, get to smooch and go surfing. How we internalised them, much like the investigating lot of Enid Blyton (with the tunnels, treasurehunts, dungeons) as superior lives that could be lived only in the West.

I am left wondering what it is about a promise to marry that must result in the end of the growing-up series. Why is it that popular culture uses marriage to spell the end of youth, adventure, storytelling? Friends, if I remember correctly, ends with some weddings, some babies. Most chickflicks end with The Wedding minus the hiccups, usually with the bridesmaid or the weddingplanner at the altar. Sex and the City ended with the wedding with the lesser dress. Karan Johar and Adi Chopra tell the story of life, business, family, dance, song, sex, Switzerland- all culminating in weddings.What is it about our ahem post-postmodern lives that still clings on to a definitive conflict-resolving, love-reciprocating end that promises stability, peace, love even in the midst of economic recessions. And also the end of all things uncertain, all bickerings over unrequited love, all anxieties of expanding midriffs. What will Betty do now? Probably find the next banker and get hitched. Archie will probably resign to an expensive resort honeymoon and Veronica to baby showers and lunches-with-fancy-girlfriends. Yet so many stories of conflict and anxiety towards attainment of this bliss. After which there isn't much of a story to tell.

May 27, 2009

Writers' Block

The Writers' building is a red,labyrinthine structure, the first version of which, I believe, was built as a shelter for junior Company clerks in the 1760s. One signs in a register to get a day pass, one fills up the pass and show it at a gate to get in. Then one lines up in front of the possibility of a cagelike elevator. One remembers Ray's Mahanagar where Madhobi and her Anglo-Indian saleswoman friends giggle in front the elevator shaft. No giggling Anglo-Indian women here. Only bespectacled grievance-carrying hopefuls. Few glances at papers show that pensions and money due from a public institution are popular causes for grievance. Others carried brown-papered sombre applications stating promises of investment and industrial endeavour from a neighbouring Sponge Iron Company.

One gives up on the possibility of a cagelike elevator and walks up the staircase. To find more postered grievances. In green. Red. From Customs Employees Union. To Port Workers Brigade. And promises of travel to the seaside. (Almost all travel agent billboard in central Calcutta even outside Writers' promise to take you to Puri and Digha). And one enters a grid of pale pink files and whirring fans. A bearded man. Somewhat flirtatious. Says please sit. And tells a departing lady to tell her sister to stop worrying. And love the grievance I suppose.

May 25, 2009

Apocalypse Yesterday

The Aila flirted with Calcutta all of yesterday, and cleverly passed her by for meatier victims. And left behind urban heartbreak residue. Almost as if this was symbolic of political knots that are being undone and retied. Winds whistled in smug abandon since wee hours of the morning. Clothes battled the frontiers of clotheslines. Panes clung onto the succour of panels. Some broke. Chai flowed through networks of desire. Newspaper and internet kept up a remote semblance of sanity. News of casualties of human, tree and electric pole navigated with the wind. To add to the titillation. The middle-class quivered on an overdose of sensation. Text messages of concern and fear mixed with excitement circulated. I tried watching two halves of movies. But the howl outside made Hitchcock's Rebecca appear naive. Somewhat annoying. All is sunshine this morning. The newspaper man seems to have caved in.

May 16, 2009

Bengal motorcycles

Amidst thunderstorms, raw mango chutney, sari-shopping, family-gossiping, recession-analytics and the UPA, my stint in Calcutta has begun. The slow whirring of fans keep time with the perspiring lethargy of shopmen. Jubilant Trinamool machismo rallies around in green gulal. On motorcycles. The red triangular flags hang on. Withered. Fierce. A dinnertable story is told about a domestic help woman who voted for Trinamool because they paid for a visit home and back. And stories are told of lament. At Calcutta lethargy. Decadence. Humanity. And food. And culture. And rains.

The walls are festive in this graffiti season. The age of the messiah-lady. The age of change. The age of knee-jerks and turnarounds and kickstarts. Of industry and roads and jobs and no more laziness. The motorcycles warriors sashay the roads chanting mantras of new energetic Bengal. Of green-powdered machismo.

May 1, 2009

Summer posting

Summer has brought a gush of colour to our roads, traffic signal posts, grocery stores and coffee shops. It is a picture complete with speckled birds and poodled hotties. Sunshine smells of strawberry and barbecue and bluegrass. The graduate student sprawls out on the greens with poetry and fizz drinks. The evening air smells funnily like musty, humid tropical Calcutta. As if men had just jumped off running buses and flicked beads of sweat off their foreheads triumphantly. And women had slowly begun to disperse from their afternoon congregations, and crossing busy roads tightly holding onto distraught five-year-old wrists. Summer in New England brings a spate of activity. Sociality. Of chirping noises and freshly painted nails. Handholding. Kissing. Running. Cooking. Laughter. Forgetting. Swine flu. Summer in Calcutta would breathe an air of lethargy. Tiredness. Slowness. Whirring fans. Brustling newspaper. Elections. Handholding by the riverside. Whisper and coyness. Street food. Stomachache.