Friday, June 24, 2011

Desi Thoughts, Desi Babu

This post is being written at a time when the scene outside the window of my study presents the perfect setting for a late-night Hindi-film murder: it is raining heavily and is pitch dark, except when the lighting brings into view the neighbouring houses for a fraction of a second; and the tyres of passing cars are making a sinister sound as they cautiously roll through water. On nights such as this, the fate of many families has taken an ugly turn -- in Hindi films, that is.

In the kitchen, meanwhile, rice is boiling. I can already smell it. Very few aromas are as delectable as that of boiling rice. The rice is going to be my second dinner tonight. Usually, I have my dinner very late -- at times so late that I can hear the chirping of the birds along with the beeps of the microwave. But what to do, I can't write on a full stomach. Today was one of those rare days when I had my dinner early, at the club, after an invigorating workout. I was hoping to lie down in bed and watch a movie or read a book and fall asleep. I was hoping to begin Saturday on an energetic note.

But while we were driving back home, I asked my wife (she's the one who always drives, because I can't) to stop at the supermarket. I wanted to buy cigarettes. As I picked up two packets of Gold Flake Kings and queued up to pay, I noticed, in their fridge, Amul Butter! All these years -- at least for the past 10 years -- I had become totally blind to the existence of butter, only because of the fear of its artery-clogging properties. I had even forgotten how butter tastes like, and was reminded of it only occasionally during my stay in luxury hotels. Planes and trains serve so little butter that you don't even get to taste it even after chewing up the two slices of bread.

But this evening, my heart melted like butter when I spotted the so-familiar Amul slabs, carelessly dumped away in the rack of the refrigerator along with varieties of cheese. Suddenly, memories came gushing! When was the last time I had Amul Butter -- with the knowledge that I was having Amul Butter? I couldn't recall. And when was the last time I had steaming rice with a chunk of Amul Butter melting in it, with half-a-lemon squeezed and some salt sprinkled over the combo? Fuck! This was even harder to tell. Whenever it must have been, it must have happened at the insistence of my mother, who was the only one to understand my taste in food.

My taste in food is very simple. Steaming rice with a spoonful of ghee or butter, served with a sliced lemon, a little salt, and a piece of green chilli to bite on -- that's luxury eating for me. Place a bowl of arhar ki daal and a saag around that plate of rice and I shall be grateful to you all my life. Embellish the plate with a ball of boiled potato mashed with chopped onions, green chilli and mustard oil and I shall be your slave. Simple food not only nourishes your body but also your soul -- or so I believe.

So, while the rice boils, I have decided to write. And to create the hunger for my second dinner, I have poured myself a drink. Since the cooker will shut itself off once the rice (and the two potatoes in it) are cooked, I can focus on the drinking and writing. As long as the birds don't begin to chirp when I take the butter out of the fridge.

But what do I write about? I really have nothing new to say. At the age of forty, I am now leading a pretty boring and predictable life. No new encounters, no new experiences. On top of it, courage seems to be deserting me. Time was when the wife would be out of town and I would remind myself excitedly about the things I could do in her absence. Today, whenever the wife is travelling, I ruefully remind myself of the things I am unable to do in her absence. I really miss her. A wise man would describe this phenomenon as 'conditioning.'

In such a situation, I can only blog about three things with confidence -- things that affect me on a daily basis: my mother, Kishore Kumar and writing. Each day, I make new discoveries about my feelings towards these three elements that currently rule my life.

Hardly a day goes by when I don't recall -- and relive -- that phone call from my father who conveyed the news to me in a very level-headed manner: "Your mother is no more." It is nearly two years now, but the measured voice of my father still keeps ringing in my ear. But I can't keep blogging about it, can I, especially when I have written several posts about my mother's untimely death?

And what new to write about Kishore Kumar? I have written countless heart-felt posts about him. Come to think of it, Kishore Kumar and my mother died at the same age. My mother had had one heart attack, a silent one, before she underwent a bypass surgery, while Kishore Kumar had had two, and even then he went on singing and dancing during stage performances. Of late, though, there have been things I wanted to write about him. Kishore Kumar might have been a great singer, but he could also be mean-minded. When R.D. Burman gave a chance to newcomer Abhijeet (a fellow Kanpurwallah) to sing some of the songs in Dev Anand's Anand Aur Anand, in which Dev Anand was introducing his son Suneil, Kishore Kumar got livid and stormed the recording studio.

Dev Anand managed to pacify Kishore Kumar, assuring him that all the songs pictured on him (Dev Anand) in the film would still be sung by him (Kishore Kumar). But Kishore Kumar still demanded to know why the voice of Abhijeet and not Amit Kumar was being used for Dev Anand's son Suneil. Can't blame Kishore: he was human and not above being insecure. The petty-mindedness, in any case, does not take away from the large-heartedness of his voice.

Then comes writing. What can I write about it? Writing can be a pain in the ass, and I would rather write than talk about writing, even though I have been foolish enough to write several posts on writing in the recent past.

What should I blog about, then? I would rather spend my time reading Desi Babu. Since the past few weeks, a number of friends who stop by my blog have asked me: "BG, who is Desi Babu?" I wish I knew. All I know is he is a kind soul and a brilliant writer who has recently started a blog, The Peanut Express. When I read his recent post, on Greece, I felt extremely flattered that a man of his calibre should have nice things to say about Ganga Mail. It's strange that some of the best writers I've known on blogosphere don't write for a living and choose to stay anonymous (and also have a Bong connection).


Anonymous said...

Its time you seriously take a break. Your blogs have become monotonous and its apparent you are choking.
Many writers go through these phases and am sure it will freshen you up.

Anonymous said...

Truly terrible and pathetic. Age is in your mind. Please dont show it in your writing. We dont want to be "conditioned". Only soil gets conditioned or mud settles down. We are not here to lead a mundane existence, we are all here for a purposeful one. This one is suicidal. Hope your wife takes over.

Sudeep said...

Dear BG,
Much ado about nothing?

Glad to see a stirring of you old self in the Hindu.

Dear Anon @10:24/3:31
You really need some coat of arms to differentiate yourself from the other anons who sometimes creep through.

Since you cannot have something like Ivanhoe's uprooted oak, mere words will need to substitute. How about SuperAnon - protector of the Blogsphere?

Soumya said...

You're right...Desi Babu writes well...about a wide range of topics.
That rice thing sounds good! Must try it out the next time I lunch alone!!

Sepiamniac said...

I am really surprised that people land on blogs (read your blog) just to pass caustic remarks.

Maybe, they don't have the guts, or the confidence to write what is on their mind. I always maintain that 50 pct of the merciless critics trash people's works because they envy it.

So, don't stop. Write whatever comes to your mind. Such comments are indications that you are on the right track! You have a hundred and more people following your musings for a valid reason.

Paresh Palicha said...

I feel it is totally ok to write your meandering 'Thought Process' (the former title of this place) here, as it is your personal space & as long as people who are really concerned about you don't feel hurt reading it.

I'm sure such posts would bring out something more polished or chiselled from your mind in the future, if not here then some place else. :)

So please keep at it without feeling the pressure of being a published author or a top newspaper man. :)