Friday, September 25, 2009

A Bus Service That Changed Things

It was sometime in the beginning of this summer. I was out for work at the usual time, talking to my friend while I walked down to the main road to catch the bus. It’s a ten minutes walk from my house. I was engrossed in conversation when suddenly two guys on a bike pointed to a white bus behind me, coming down the road. They said something about the 2nd bridge. To take this further, I need to acquaint unfamiliar readers with a few facts so they know what I’m talking about.

I live in Howrah, a suburb adjoining Kolkata, across the Hooghly river. The ten minutes walkway I talked about had no buses coming in. We had to walk to the main road and then take a bus. I have to cross the 2nd bridge, officially called the Vidyasagar Setu, to get to Kolkata. Every day is like a battle waiting to be fought. Some days you win and the transport is easy. Some days you reach office, too exhausted to be on your feet, forget working. You can refer to an earlier post I wrote about surviving on these buses.

To get back to the story, I saw this bus which clearly had ‘Ruby Hospital’ stenciled across the windshield on one side, in bold, red letters. This clearly indicated, coupled with what the guys told me, that it was crossing the bridge. I noted that the other side of the windshield was blank and on the side, 'K7' was painted in white with a red halo. According to convention, the other terminus should be written on the other side of the windshield. My doubts were confirmed when I boarded the bus.

This was a new service. They had fixed Ruby Hospital as the terminus on the Kolkata side. They had experimented with other areas on this side of the Ganges, but couldn’t hold fort anywhere for more than a couple of weeks because of resistance from local transport authorities. No body wants a new service cutting into their business. Anyway, so there it was. Passengers on board were an excited lot. They wanted this service to work, come what may. Some of them were eager with their suggestions on how to grab market share when it came to passengers. Some were busy advising the conductor and driver on how to drive in a competitive way and elbow out rival bus services. It was all a happy family.

Then people began to complain. They were not happy with the time this bus took to get them to office. They complained about the fare. They alleged that the bus authorities cooked up the fare charts and the chart on display, framed in wood and nailed to the inner walls of the bus, was not the one approved by the government. They complained they were not being able to avail the bus on their way home. Some of them reportedly waited an hour for the bus to come and then took some other bus, disgruntled and disillusioned. It’s not always easy to accept change, especially when you are cynical.

But you are too powerless to resist change for long. The service picked up after the government took off all buses that were more than fifteen years old. Our greenhorn flexed its muscles and grabbed its place under the sun. People thronged the buses and silently thanked the driver and the conductor for saving their neck at the workplace. Local passengers took to the bus eagerly, braving the daunting task of pushing through their way through a bus packed with Kolkata-bound people. Middle-class housewives, who had to depend on male support to take them across the Ganges, could now get to the city in happy, chirpy groups. They could also avail a concession on the ticket if the conductor was a local guy they knew.

It’s nice to see that people embrace change when it happens, though they sometimes need to overcome their inhibitions initially. As we go deeper into the Pujas, the bus is the one people around here are looking at to pierce its trident through the demon of transport problems and chaotic confusion of traffic. Happy Pujas!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na Syndrome

I like the works of Abbas Tyrewala. Some of the scripts he wrote deserve to be tagged with words like 'fabulous' and 'fantastic'. His directorial debut was not disappointing largely. But I have been experiencing some, in fact a lot of, trouble because of the friendship-love oscillations that he depicted in this movie.

For the uninitiated, Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na is Abbas Tyrewala's first work with the megaphone. The film revolves around Jay and Aditi, two happy-go-lucky college-goers who are "best friends". To put it plainly, they can't stay away from each other and more often than not, are seen hugging or holding hands, but declare that they do not see each other as lovers. One cannot help but question if they are friends or making an attempt to portray an open relationship. I say that because you cannot miss sexual chemistry between the two. For the naive, hypocritically unsuspecting movie-watcher they may come off as friends, but not to me.

Taking the story on a fast forward, they decide to look for spouses and end up realizing that they love each other! The movie ends but leaves this ridiculous germ in the air that if you are best friends with a member of the opposite sex, you are not friends. You are cover lovers and one day you'll realize that love. There's more: if you don't realize it now you might be late. So even if you have no such feelings for your friend, the collective insistence plunges you into self-doubt: is it so? did I not realize my own feelings? Even then, it's understandable till here.

Now the spiral: what if the person you actually, knowingly, voluntarily and sub-consciously love tell you that you actually love your friend? Phew! That's a sinking feeling. Cry yourself hoarse to convince but you won't find any cookies. And to top it all, you are given the example of Jaane Tu...! It couldn't get worse.

All equations of similar relationships are not the same. Your relationship with all your friends is not the same, even your equation with your ex and your present are different. Even if we suspend our disbelief to a rather unfortunate extent and accept the movie as a dogma about love masquerading as friendship, it just cannot be accepted that because the protagonists in the movie couldn't realize their love for each other, we become doubting Thomases, suspecting every one to have a love, deep down somewhere, lying neglected and untapped, for their best friend, if they happen to be of the opposite sex. We know our personal equations and relationships and we must not take these attempts to make 'different' cinema too seriously. For God's sake, will people decide you are in love or not?!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

User’s Guide to PDA (Not Personal Digital Assistant!)

The overbearing number of techies swarming every corner of the city may make you guess PDA means Personal Digital Assistance. Not so to the average Calcuttan. To us, PDA still means Public Display of Affection and I don't see that changing in the next couple of years.

PDA, where, when and what, is the motion in the house today. PDA seems to be like the anti-terrorist policy of a neighboring nation: it changes its subtexts and annotations according to the situation! What is considered taboo in the Metro may be acceptable at the
Rabindra Sarovar Lakes. Similarly, the limits of PDA considered a crest at the Citizen's Park, may well be the trough at the adjacent Eliot Park. It all comes down to where you are.

‘When’ is a tough act to follow. They generally chase you out with a lusty sneer at the girl with you when the sun decides to take a break. People will take you as a good-for-nothing animal-on-the-loose if it's too early in the day. So the best time is sometime between
12pm to 6pm. Lunch time is not the ideal time to get cozy, don't you think so? I mean if you keep talking mushy stuff for hours on end, you are bound to feel the boredom yourself after a heavy lunch. But keep it short. If you can't, as my colleague yells out to couples who get really up close (sometimes they can hear her and cringe!), get a room!

What? Yes, that's the most interesting part. Even this one has one word written all over it: LOCATION! Holding hands in the metro is fine, but hugging is not. Hugging is okay at Citizen's Park, kissing is not. Kissing is acceptable at
Rabindra Sarovar Lake but feeling up is not. Feeling up is okay at Eliot Park. I have to stop here. For more details, check up the lodges.

Try not to exceed the limits of PDA. You wouldn't like a policeman come up to you and look at your girl. I can bet his imagination will be more wanton than you ever were. If he demands money, pay up. Cash shuts his mouth up, and you will feel the pinch if he wagged the tail in his mouth. And be courteous to him, even if he's belching and wanting to gulp in more money. A 'Syar' here and there can take you places.

Good luck!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Another Translation!!!

A translation that is more literal than poetic and done in haste and a little recklessness. You should listen to the original poem by Gulzar. I can bet you'll be transferred to a room where you have moss-colored window panes and lots of pathos to give you company. This is in a song called 'Piya Tora Kaisa Abhimaan' from Rituparno Ghosh's film Raincoat. Read on...

It was an unknown gust of wind that displaced the photo-frame hanging on this wall,
Last monsoon there was no damp on the wall.
Don't know why there's damp on the walls this time, fissures have come up,
And the moisture flows through them as tears flow on dry cheeks.
It was an unknown gust of wind that displaced the photo-frame hanging on this wall.

This rain used to to hum,
On the parapets and terrace of this very house the rains used to hum...
It used to write messages on the glass windows with its fingers.
Now it writes them behind blocked ventilation vents.

The afternoons seem like empty cases, devoid of life and vitality,
There's no one to place the bets, there's no one make the moves.
Days and nights do not happen anymore...
Don't know what unknown gust of wind it was that displaced the photo-frame hanging on this wall.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Opposites Attract?

Love pundits, if there can be any, are of the opinion that opposites attract. We have heard it repeated many a time and we have come to believe in it in some way. Yes, there are examples of couples who are diametrically opposite to each other in mood and temperament but are in deep love. These examples have taken this theory beyond the scope of questions. We are conditioned to believe it and nod our heads in acceptance. But is it really so? Do opposites really attract?

To explain the exception to a rule, we need to study the rule first. Opposites attract. Yes, they do. When people of different characteristic traits meet, they tend to find, in the other, qualities which are lacking in themselves. As an example, an introvert guy likes an extrovert girl because she makes her see the other side of the coin which he has always wanted to see, but could not. She fits into the jigsaw perfectly as the missing link. With her, he feels that he can get out of his own shell and they arrive at a point where they meet midway. And love blooms.

What if the guy doesn’t want to get out of his shell? What if he wants a partner who’ll fit cozily in his shell and make his world complete? That is when likes attract him, not opposites. That is when you want someone after your own heart and not someone who’ll challenge your boundaries. Stretching the limit is great, but that is again an individual choice.

If your world is full of books, music and movies, you might not like someone to come in and replace your movie DVDs with sports videos. You’d want someone who’ll help you nurture your passion because s/he has a keen interest in the same pursuits. That is when you’ll feel that your life is complete and not the other way round. This is what I feel. Leave me your two cents.