Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Return Of Ganga Mail

It doesn't seem so long ago -- though it is: almost eight years -- when every evening, after getting back from work, I would ask myself: So what do I blog about tonight?

Invariably an idea would strike, and I would set about expanding on it laboriously. For company I would have music and whisky -- and always the gentle glow of the yellow lamp.

I would rarely finish before three in the morning, but go to sleep a happy man. What can be more gratifying than being able to publish your own writing -- instantly, uncensored, unedited. When I woke up six or seven hours later, I would open the blog the first thing and check for comments. Even if there were a couple of them, my day would be made. They made me feel accepted.

Those were happier days. I had dreams, but no responsibilities. I had ambitions to be a writer, but no commitments to deliver manuscripts on time. I was single, carefree. My mother was alive; I lived in the protective shade of my parents -- and since they lived far away in Kanpur, it also meant a lot of freedom.

Blogging gave a new dimension to that freedom by letting me have my say -- on a range of subjects I felt strongly about -- without my worrying about how many people would read me or what they would think of me. The whole process of transferring your thoughts onto the computer screen, in an engaging manner, was highly gratifying. The comments were an icing on the cake.

I distinctly remember one night: there was no power at home when I got back from work, but I still wrote a lengthy post, finding my way around the keyboard with the help of the light generated by the laptop screen. Those days, the modem would work even during powercuts, so I was able to publish the post too. I could have waited till the next evening, but I had urgently wanted to say something. What was it that I had to say so urgently, I don't recall; all I can say for sure is that the urgency was self-imposed.

Tonight I miss the old me, the reason being that someone, of late, has been reading my old posts and leaving comments on them. Since comments get notified on email, I happened to click open some of the old posts and was surprised, rather horrified, that it was me who wrote them -- how could I write on subjects such as sex? But I had always written the truth, or what I thought was the truth -- then why should I blush reading the old posts?

Maybe because I am much older now; I was 35 and single when I started the blog, whereas I am 42 now and the author of two books -- what will people think of me? Moreover, there is now Facebook: one no longer feels compelled to transform a one-line thought into a 400-word post. The thought becomes status message.

But let me not forget that I belong to Ganga Mail as much it belongs it me, and that I owe my identity to whatever I have written on it so far. The idea, therefore, is to resume writing on it without worrying about what people will have to say. I really don't give a fuck -- so why pretend that I do?

Monday, August 05, 2013

That Night Again

Sixteen minutes to midnight, which means it is still August 4 and I can still pay tribute to Kishore Kumar, who was born on this day and would have turned 84 had he been alive. Though it is impossible to imagine Kishore Kumar living that long.

I have already written so much about him on Ganga Mail by way of tribute, so why again? That's because not writing about him tonight would be like skipping an important ritual; like a Shiva devotee not visiting the temple on Shivratri. Then there is another reason.

But first, about the devotion -- and in my case, it dates back to sometime in 1985 when I bought my first Kishore Kumar cassette. It was an HMV cassette, which cost Rs 18 and was titled Magic Moments. Side A began with Ek ajnabee haseena se (Ajnabee) and Side B ended with Phir wohi raat hai (Ghar). In between there were about 10 other songs -- I still remember them and also the sequence in which they played.

Strangely, the sequence of songs, when you listen to an album in an younger age, usually remains ingrained in your mind all your life. For example, if Saara zamana happened to be followed by Chhu kar mere man ko in the cassette of your younger days, the sequence will stay in your mind even in later years: each time Saara zamana ends, the opening notes of Chhu kar mere man ko will automatically spring in your mind even though this could be an altogether different collection.

Coming back to Magic Moments, the song I came to cherish most in the album was Phir wohi raat hai. The tenderness of the song began to grow on me. I loved many other songs too in the album, such as Pyaar deewana hota hai (Kati Patang), but this Ghar song had the effect that silent people have on you: they always play on the back of your mind and intrigue you with their silent intensity. And thus I became a Kishore Kumar devotee. It didn't matter at the time that the song was written by Gulzar or the music was composed by R.D. Burman. Those days, I even liked Bappi Lahiri -- I still do, actually.

Only much later did I come to realise that I had been hearing a truncated version all along, with the first antara missing.  But it was too late to matter.

Three decades on, Phir wohi raat hai remains a beatiful song, a tender song, a song of dreams -- indeed a night song. You can't relish it in broad daylight, but only after the sun has long set, when you have had two drinks and are mellow, when your gaze is fixed somewhere faraway in the darkness and your mind is reminiscing.

This is not a song I listen to very often; in fact I listen to it only rarely for the fear of wasting it. Phir wohi raat hai is like single malt: you have it when you are in right spirts and in right company -- when the night is just right.

Tonight was one such night, when I was reminded of the song.

Saturday, August 03, 2013


Deboleena is a talented young artist who lives in Canada. She read Chai, Chai and liked it and has now sent me a gift as a token of her appreciation. Even more flattering is the artist's note given below -- can't believe she is only 15. Thanks Deboleena!

Title: Ingenuity
Artist: Deboleena Chakraborty
Medium/Surface: Pencil crayon on Photo Paper
Date Created: Friday, August 2, 2013
Artist’s Message:
Ingenuity is a representation of Mr. Bishwanath Ghosh (BG), who has proven to be the finest author for non-fiction pieces. Chai, Chai: Travels in Places Where You Stop but Never Get Off is by far my favourite piece of non-fiction. This artwork is composed using pencil crayons, which happens to be a minor art medium; however, it signifies the flamboyant potential within BG. His approach to ordinary aspects in life is truly intriguing, which is illustrated through the vibrant colour palette within the composition. These rich colours also enhance the fact that BG, as a person, is vividly distinctive. Finally, the organic folds of paper bring forth the element of delight, which is evident in his pieces. The two respective books he has written are quite enjoyable because the pleasant writing style captures the reader’s attention and also allows the reader to fully experience the occurrences within the context. It was sincerely an honour to compose a portrait of BG; I enjoyed it thoroughly.