Friday, June 30, 2006

Superman Returns...For The Time Being

No. Yes, no. This is not about the movie. Not one bit. This is, however, about your own personal friendly boyhero - me. I have returned. Here are the details of my leaving, and my time spent hither and thither, as well as a few other boring things you might find interesting.

As you will gather, if you take the trouble of scrolling down for a bit, I had left for Manipal. Now, as you will have also gathered from the above paragraph, I have come back. With that summarized, I shall elaborate. I had given the UGET exam for Manipal Institute of Technology. Results came out and my rank turned out 1844. Which means that 1843 people did better than me. Or, since the glass can also be called half full, I did better than about 50000 to 60000 people who also sat for the exam all over India.

Now the Manipal people sent me reams of letters, beseeching me to come for the counselling on the 28th of June and could they send me a chartered flight if I was too busy otherwise to bother? Flattered by their kind words, I decided to go to Manipal and see how things lay. After all, if one has to do a graduation, one could very well do an engineering one. So one went to Manipal for the counselling. What one saw there was truly impressive. It rained almost incessantly but in short spurts - exactly when one thought one was out of it, would come another shower right at one; the way we used to splash water on each other in swimming pools, remember? That made sightseeing a very difficult task for one (which is basically me in case you're still not sure) who was interested in knowing the place he was going to stay in for 4 years.

Its not easy to find places of great natural beauty to study in, with places like Bangalore and New Delhi becoming more and more polluted and concreted, Kolkata staying political as always, and everywhere else to difficult for the ordinary fun-loving soul to get into. At Manipal, the pollution level must have been like zero. The university campus building looked just the way they showed it in the brochure, which alone is a tough standard for most colleges to live upto. The whole region is as green and peaceful as any yet to be exploited hilltop can be, which it is. The roads were clean, the sidewalks actually only sparingly pedestrianated, the vehicles rare and the atmosphere ideal for student life.

The university campus building was the one I went to for my counselling. Now, the counselling. I'm sure all of you saw the Indian Idol finale episode this time round? Also, all the times India needs a ridiculously low score to achieve against a substandard bowling attack? And surely you have seen that CID mystery episode about the man with the missing toenail, in which the butler turns out to be the one who buried the nailcutter in the flowerpot? Not that one? Never mind, since my point is - how many of you have sat through a truly gripping and mentally straining experience? As in, how many of you have been through an engineering college counselling session? Its definitely the most nerve wracking time I ever had.

Why NDTV wastes time covering college admissions in New Delhi, which are so straightforward and predictable, I fail to understand. Take a look at this place. Once the Admissions Director has finished explaining the procedure for counselling (the rules of the game that is) , the match starts. One by one the different ranks are called up. You come forward and tell the man what engineering stream you want, submit the documents, he wrenches the demand draft out of your clasp and you walk out with a grin on your face. He also grins, and fondles the draft lovingly. Sounds simple enough? But look at this from the point of the view of the hundreds of students looking on. On a projector screen, you have the names of the different streams (Computer Science, Mechanical, Electronics & Comm, Printing, Chemical etc) and as students come up and pick one, the number of available seats reduces beside the stream chosen. So, every moment sitting is spent in craning your neck to see your choice of stream slowly dwindling away. In front of your eyes, and you cannot do a thing. Just watch and hope and gulp. And then repeat this over and over again.

As a result of all this drama, a student managing to scrape into his preferred stream is not unlike a fat, overweight striker finally managing to score for his team that does not need him and still keeps him why I just dont understand. Understandibly overjubilant. One chap went weak in the knees just as him name was called up, and dropped all his documents on the floor. Another one's father conjured up a coconut from where I dont know and insisted on smashing it on the floor when his son was taken in. Magnanimously, the admissions director asked the guards to take the man out the front door, where he was permitted to smash all the coconuts (and even his damned head) he pleased.

I personally didnt need to wait for too long, because counselling was being held for ranks 1801 to 2150, and I was early on at 1844. So I wasnt too perturbed before my turn came up. And anyway, I have nerves of reinforced titanium and the heart of a lion (which I keep in my fridge). But there is an ecstacy you feel when you have selected your stream and realize that you're now a college student proper, and this ecstacy takes you over. My father and I completed all the formalities of submitting documents, filling up additional admission forms, and signing this and that and this and that. Relieved at the end of it, we took our victory lap around the building, singing victory chants, before graciously humouring the guards as they showed us to the exit.

My course (Chemical Engineering, unless I am offered a better choice at 2nd counselling in August) at Manipal starts from the 1st of August and its time to start preparing for college. Very soon I shall be blogging from there, instead of dear old Calcutta. I cant wait to get started with college life finally. Not to mention hostels and eating in a mess and things like that. My parents have already dampened the excitement of independent living, however, by pointing out that it entails tasks such as washing one's own inner clothing and keeping a room clean all by yourself.

I win some, I lose some.


I feel bad that I misguided so many of you dimwits with the title of this post. I will also do something about the movie too, which incidentally has the same name as this blog spot, sometime soon. So, dont worry. Just wait. And keep watching this space.

The space above I mean. Thats where it will come. Soon.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I'm Coming Already, Relax Na!

I have bad news. To some of you, it might be earth-shattering. A few others might suffer from seizures, fits and cardiac arrest or diarrhoea (depending on whether you have a weak heart or stomach). Still others might laugh it off bravely and grit their teeth, to face the tough days ahead. There might even be a small percentage, microscopic really - why I'm even talking of them I dont know - who wont really give a damn.

Now that I've managed to just about raise your curiosity to its optimal level, without going so far as to let you get distracted by the links on the right column here, or the itch in your left toenail, I'll let you in on it.

Steel yourselves, my faithful vassals, my trusted serfs. I'm going to Manipal Institute of Technology for my admission counselling tomorrow. Its such a complicated route to get there, that by the time I do my business and come back, its going to become 4 days! So there you have it. You're all going to have to do without me for a while. I'm leaving on a jetplane, true true, but very soon I will be back again.

So dont cry, little one. There There. Its going to be okay. There there. There there. When the fields are white with daisies, I'll return.

Bid me goodbye, and good luck.

PS: For light entertainment meanwhile, you could go here. Or not.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Krrish - Dancing, Tailoring & Kicking Ass (A Spoiler)

Once upon a time, in a studio far far away, a director lost his head. A father went over the top for his son's career. A moviemaker flipped. Here's what happened.


This summer. His era is coming. The son is back. And he has serious fashion issues. wait, thats not part of it. It should be you might say. But you shouldn't.

Krrish is releasing today. The sequel to Rakesh Roshan's previous Hrithik starrer Koi Mil Gaya, Krrish is the story of the son of that movie's Hrithik, also a Hrithik. You're confused. Its Bollywood you see. Not only do sons inherit their father's good values, integrity, police-uniform etc but they are also very likely to inherit the exact facial features. This time, Hrithik v.2 i.e. Krrishna, is not only getting the unmatchable integrity, honesty, lisp and physical features of his father Rohit (from Koi Mil Gaya), he is also inheriting super powers. Full package inheritance deal.

This is the background of it. Jadoo, the turqoise-blue alien thing, had blessed Rohit with superpowers. But since Rohit was such a dunderhead before, the best those superpowers could do was make him normal. These powers have been now passed onto his son, Krrishna. Meanwhile Rohit, in accordance with family tradition, proceeds to die in a car accident with wife Preity Zinta.

Now, as things stand, the useless son wants to be a fashion designer. He lives with Rekha as grandmom, so you needn't look too far to see the reason behind this. He designs himself really really baggy pants-like things. And a bit of a shirt, but with no attached accessories you know - like buttons or collar. He basically wants to be free. So everything is open. Shirt's open so he can feel the breeze against his chest. Pants are baggy so he can feel the breeze against his never mind what. I like to think of this as a family blog. Just shake your head and let us start again. He is basically content jumping around from hill to hill, running faster than the wind, and dancing weirder than Prabhu Deva.

Enter Priyanka Chopra. She, as described by the official Krrish website (I would give the link, but then its funnier than my post could ever be so I wont), is pretty and pert, she's your typical big city girl, who encounters a young man the likes of whom she has never seen. But what you dont know is that she has a hidden agendum. She dances around with him just as silly as he does it. Infact, her smile is perhaps even more irritating than his, luring our casual viewer into shutting his mind and buckling down for another typical Bollywood masala flick, with extended action scenes.

But this is the twist! Here is the unforeseen factor! Here is the ace that Rakesh Roshan has hidden up his sleeve! This is the, you get the point dont you? I've run out of stuff. I'm sure Navjot Sidhu could have carried on for a couple of more minutes, but I'm no good.

Anyway, shake your head again. I keep drifting off. I was saying, that Priyanka Chopra ain't no ordinary lass. You think she won Miss World just like that? Priyanka Chopra is the revelation of the movie - the alien connection. Lo and behold! The daughter of Jaadoo! Note similarities below.

The smile, the eyes, the hands, the expression of vacant mindlessness - matching matching. Now do you believe? The greatest cover-up in movie history, since Bipasha Basu decided to take up serious acting. The above pictures prove without doubt the nature of Jadoo and Priyanka's relationship. Now now, before you go about saying "Jadoo you naughty alien you!" or anything of that order, allow me to clarify.

Jadoo, ladies and gentlemen, was basically a businessman. Let not his boytoy image delude you into believing the nonsense about him actually enjoying the company of 10 year old kids and a mentally-challenged 6 footer. A supernaturally smart alien, Jadoo knew that he had infinitely greater chances of siring a child in celebrity-crazed Earth than back on his home-planet. Rather than face competition from taller, better-looking, grammatically correct Jadoos back home, he chose to conquer a field (i.e planet) filled with beautiful women and no other Jadoos around. Smart. Very smart. Result: Priyanka.

Don't think I'm just saying this. I have proof. I have cold hard facts. The inevitable, undeniable truth. I'll give it later sometime though. Not in the mood now.

As I was saying, Priyanka Chopra is Jadoo's daughter from his ill-gotten relations with someone. Priyanka does not tell Krrish of her alien lineage of course. Leads to all sorts of unnecessary questions. He falls in love with her, because of their obviously similar interests in strange dancing. She goes off to Singapore. And he follows her there.

Suddenly in a new place filled with skyscrapers and concrete sidewalks, Krrishna is frightened and terrified. But above these emotions, the prevalent emotion is the joy in his heart when he discovers new fashion over and above that in his village. Ab kaun rokega meri muskaan! Gifting his baggy clothing to the local circus, which proceeds to make a couple of tents out of the pants, he goes on a designing spree, and makes this.

Meanwhile Naseeruddin Shah wants to take over the world. Who? What? Where the fuck, you ask? This is the next twist of the movie. Taking the film to unprecedented creative storytelling heights, Rakesh Roshan sends Hollywood crying home to mummy with this superbly original storyline.

Naseeruddin Shah plays a scientist living in Singapore. Having spent long years finding ways to pull up the eyelids and make Singaporeans' eyes slightly bigger, he gives that up as a bad job and embarks on his next venture - world domination. And only man can stop him. Who who who, you ask? Guess guess I say. We have no clue! you say. Pause for effect. Its our boy Krrishna!

Already having made a laughing stock for himself in the Singapore fashion industry, Krrishna (now going by the name of Krrish, for business purposes) decides to switch careers and thwart the mad scientist's plans. This way he can win Priyanka's heart and fly away back to his village, where no one made fun of his pants. He takes his trusted mask, picked off the ground in a circus, and puts on black cape and all, and practises flying around.

What follows is scene-after-scene of dazzling sfx as Krrish takes 30 feet leaps in the air and jumps on car-bonnets to achieve some hidden purpose out of the grasp of our puny minds. As Rakesh Roshan proudly claims in interviews these days, Hrithik suffered a hamstring, broke a thumb (but thats okay because he has a spare) and a toe during the strenous training and shooting of the movie. Such was his dedication to Daddy's project, he even ended up singing his hair during shooting, when he was running through a fire to escape Priyanka Chopra's bickering.
The movie closes with Priyanka and Hrithik's marriage, with Hrithik Sr. and Jadoo (now samdhis) looking down from up in heaven giving aashirwad. The marriage, symbolising a landmark moment in interplanetary bilateral relations, is attended by delegates from both the planets. For conveniencing travel for both the baraats, ceremonies are held on the Moon.

Films such as this one are rarely made in the typical Bollywood thoroughfare. Have we had a superhero ever before? Sure, we've had endless megalomaniacs trying to take over the world (names such as Mogambo, Shakaal and Doctor Dang spring to mind) before, but how many of them were evil scientists based in Singapore? Singapore was chosen after Rakesh Roshan painstakingly looked over hundreds of travel brochures - unmatchable locales, close proximity to India, cheap airfare (provided you book tickets 2 months in advance) and a tourism industry all too willing to advertise itself through the film.

Krrish has the potential to become a hit sequel series. Itself lifted from Spiderman, there are now so many Hollywood superhero movies waiting to be picked up. Batman, Superman, Electra, Wolverine, Daredevil, Captain Planet are just waiting to be emulated in the form of Krrish sequels the title of whom (might I suggest) could be Krrish Forever, Krrish Leaves, Krrish Returns, Krrish Dies and Krrish & Son. We are witnessing the start of an epic.


Note: Any relation to any person living, dying or dead is purely sarcastic and intentionally rude. Come and get me.

Another Note: A few comments wouldnt hurt.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ssshhhh...Ovens Have Ears...

Summer boredom makes me think disparagingly of all things around me. I fret - like Keats' Immortal Youth - I fume and I am generally moody. I think badly of my good-for-nothing friends for sitting at home in their own hypnotic trances just like me. I think badly of myself for running into the door of my bedroom left slightly ajar by my brother as he left for tuition. I think badly of whoever it was that had the audacity to leave the soap in my bathroom on the side of the basin just like that. Without the soapdish, I say! I raise my fist at the sky outside, for being so merciless with the blinding light and the heat that tints my world to that ruthless yellow of lethargy and lazy idling. I condemn West Bengal State Electricity Board for playing Peekaboo with electricity in my locality every five minutes.

Speaking of inanimate God's creations playing mindgames with innocent people for sadistic pleasures, electricity I'm quite sure, has a sixth sense. Its always there in the winters, when you hardly need the fan or anything. But come summer, and it starts acting big and all. It flickers, it takes leave from work, it pretends to faint and just as you get up concernedly to check what the damn matter is, it comes back with a smug grin. The problem is, in these days of incessant boredom and lack-in-life, the Internet is all I have. When I'm not having my iPod moments of course. So when the electricity goes flicker-flicker, it sends my broadband connection crying home to its mommy. Its gone if the light flickers for a millisecond even, and only comes back after endless raging, cajoling and hand-folding in front of my modem.

Thats what makes me think even electrical/electronic appliances have a sixth sense. They know exactly when you need them, and start getting uppish with you. Like the other day, when my father said he wanted a printout of some airline tickets. I tried to stop him as he instructed me on how to go about it, but it was too late. He said it right there, in front of my printer, who was listening in obviously. Result: It took me a day and a half to get those prints. An inexplicable, mysterious illness had come upon it. My next witness, my modem. Whenever I switch on my computer, my modem responds immediately, connecting with whatever host computer its supposed to do, and giving me high-speed connectivity. But if I switch on the computer with the intention of checking my ISC marks, or taking a quick check of my inbox, its suddenly too busy to listen to me. I beg and I plead, I rage and I pacify, but its no use. It comes on by itself exactly 5 minutes after I pipe down and not a minute less.

My cellphone, the one device I have always expected complete obedience and loyalty from, always gives me bhao and nakhra these days. I'm lying on my bed at midnight and chatting on the phone, like every good boy does, and Poof! My network is gone. Just like that. I call again, but that call also gets disconnected within 2-3 minutes. And here is where the supernatural part really shows its colours, you know. When the breeze blows in through the window, the network goes. When the wind blows out, the network comes back. When I'm on my bed, my right ear does not get network. Its only my left ear that gets some degree of reliable network coverage. And thats the conspiracy against me. My left isnt my stronger hand and keeping the phone against my ear is a pain. Also, my left ear doesnt do phonecalls that good either. [No, thats not weird. Case in point: Caesar who said to Brutus one day, while they were strolling through the streets of Rome followed by a chidden mass of Romans - "What you saying man? Speak in my right ear, the left one doesnt have good reception and all."]

My iPod to date is the only truly reliable electronic gadget I own. It gets me away from constantly feeling the summer. I love it for this. Its sleek, dark and sexy, and drains me of all my tension. I want a girlfriend like this later. No fretting, no past issues, no problems whatsoever. As yet.

I'm typing this into my computer, and my iPod is plugged into my ears. So it could well have access to my brainwaves as I type this. Or the computer could relay this text-matter to it. I'm helpless. I don't know what I can do. I've tried it all. I've practised meditation, so that I can keep my mind a furious blank as I kneel down to switch on the computer. I school my mind into nothingness, before I touch the printer or the refrigerator. My hands tremble as I pick up my iPod. Will it remain mine? Or will the incessant socialistic pressure of my other electronic matter coax it into betrayal and high treason? Its mine now. I know. But for how long?


Summer boredom. It does this to me.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

World Cup Special #1 - The Jersey Dealings

The FIFA World Cup of 2006 has been running for a week now, as all of you would know. I sat to watch the opening ceremony. It was lavish, grand-scale, pompous, loud and pathetically boring. German teenagers dancing to music ranging from German classical/folk till the modern day hiphop noise. I tried to appreciate it, thinking that maybe there's something beautiful here that I'm missing. Maybe the sound isnt as cacophonous as it sounds across television, and maybe the German girls aren't really that ugly also. But it was. And they were.

The World Cup must be such a huge stage for the smaller countries. I mean, teams like Ivory Coast, Costa Rica and Saudi Arabia dont really expect to qualify till the next round, but are probably happy with making the most of the 1st round games. Looking at teams from such poor countries, my cousins and I were discussing the awe they must feel at playing on such a big stage. Successfully tackling Ronaldinho, getting a goal past Petr Cech - its got to be the highlight of your life if you are minnows of the footballing world.

All players exchange jerseys after the match is over. As a sign of mutual respect, brotherhood and disregard for personal hygiene. Got me thinking - How much do the England team jerseys cost? The jersey worn by Gerrard as he scored that blinder of a goal against Trinidad & Tobago, for example. As it is, England team jerseys are made of this special material and that innovative technology. Special fibres and deo-secreting pockets in the inner layers and all. You know, all the stuff they do to make the best jersey for their best team. So, after the match, a T&T player has a shot to take that jersey. You know they dont care for their own rags. They have their eyes set on firangi maal. Look at the way Dwight Yorke openly treats T&T equipment, I mean!

Hmmm....tsk tsk. Did you notice the way the Trinidad players suddenly came to life after the final whistle? Rushed to get at Beckham and Gerrard before they were taken by a rival from their team. What kind of strategy can a coach from T&T discuss with his players against juggernauts like England anyway?

"Ok boys. Its first come first serve. No snatching or fighting amongst yourselves. Shaka, you stay close to Beckham. Don't - DO NOT - let him get away from you...once the match ends. And Yorke gets the Gerrard jersey.
Ok with everyone? Go boys go!! With 11 jerseys, we make millions back home! Cigars for everyone!!"

What happened next was for all to see. Within seconds of the final whistle, Shaka Hislop and gang had swiftly undressed Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard and Crouch before these champions knew what was happening. One minute they were celebrating Gerrard's goal, and then suddenly everything went black as their jerseys were being pulled out by a trained and efficient Trinidadian lot. The others in their group being not-so-big teams Sweden and Paraguay, Trinidad's World Cup haul had to be restricted to the England team. So they made the most of it. Rumor has it that the T&T players even called out to the English substitutes to come join in the spirit of intercontinental brotherhood and charity, before Sven Goran Erikkson stepped in. He then stepped out, without his coat.

Mind you, its not just Trinidad & Tobago I'm talking about. There are others in on this clandestine money-spinning venture. Teams like Ivory Coast shamelessly chasing after Nistelrooy's (Netherlands) and Hernan Crespo's (Argentina) things. Ghana has made sure Totti and Nesta dont run off the field just like that. Togo is keenly eyeing French jerseys containing Zidane and Henry.

There's lots more happening in the World Cup for sure. Aside from the games and stuff. I'll fill you in. More on it later...

But before parting, I would like to show you this snap of foreboding evil. Didier Drogba, Greedy Pig #1, marks his prey, the innocent Ruud van Nistelrooy after their game. One can only imagine the strength of the death-grip with which the Dutch is being held at the moment, as Drogba's talons move towards taking off his jersey. It is said that the photographer, overcome with depressive emotions, committed suicide minutes after clicking this photograph by consistently poking a sharp piece of ivory against his chest.

PS: All pictures should be seen in full size to appreciate the depth of their messages. Original pictures are courtesy the Official FIFA World Cup website.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Yahoo! Google! And My Blog Right Up There...

As a young, gawky, immature and goggle-eyed blogger up and about the vast realm of the internet, I have visited a large number of famous, well-read blogs. These people have hundreds of readers everyday, and comments on every post, whatever it might be on. I envy them. Thats why, even more than the reviews I get from my...ahem..."readership" right now, of paramount importance to me is the exact number of people who come into my parlour. It doesnt matter if they come here intentionally, or just accidentally, by mistake, just in passing as it were.

What matters is that people come. So, I installed this nifty software to tell me that. It tracks how many people come here, and where from they come. Thats the really confusing, baffling, and thoroughly surprising thing here. People come here from the craziest of ways! Feels sort of cool too, to see my blog come up in such big big search engines now.

The following are search results on different engines which blurt out my blog in the very bloody first page (woohoo!) of the results. The queries entered are a little eyebrow-raising though. Here they stand, for they can do no other, in order of hilarity:

5. "so you had a bad day you takin one down you sing a sad song just to turn it around" (Yahoo) - People actually search this stuff on the net. I'd feel so stupid entering all this on a search engine, bothering the portals of Yahoo or Google with such vile, base trash. Sort of reduces my faith and feeling of brotherhood for my fellow man. Maybe it was a woman. That would explain it.

4. "punching bag stands" (Yahoo) - Ok, so this wasnt exactly anyone's quest for knowledge or enlightenment. Just some guy looking for a punching bag stand. Which is weird, because I thought punching bags are supposed to be kept hanging from the ceiling. But anyway, he too entered my blog from there, expecting whatever. I stand by him. May he find his stand somewhere.

3. "hi5 yuvraj singh" (Google) - Some idiot idolising girl no doubt. What else should I say? She, however, also entered my blog from there. I forgive her adolescent fancies.

2. "plagiarism harvard india abroad" (CNN) - This is one I'm really proud of. CNN search results after all. Now, so many people must have blogged on Kaavya Copycatwoman no doubt. I've read so many blogs on it myself. But it was my blog (mine, I tell you!!) that made to page one here.

1. "mobbing stalking in singapore" (Yahoo) - Hmm...I've never blogged about Singapore, or ever mentioned mobbing. It was of stalking once, thats all, that I wrote on one post. But here I am, page one of Yahoo again.

A number of these results are a little dated now. So, if you try them, my page could have been relegated to the 3rd or 4th page or something. Maybe it wont be there at all. But it was once. And thats the reason for my glowing smile these days.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Tribute: To The Great Bengal Buses

In Kolkata, I usually always travel hither and thither by public transport. Not having a car to fulfil my whims and fancies, all my travelling is dependent on buses and the illegal yet practical "shuttles" (share-cabs).

The hot weather, coupled with high humidity, makes Kolkata a blazing hot and uncomfortable steam-bath on most afternoons. Public transport seems daunting and off-putting to say the least. However, there is something about them in Kolkata, that is strangely endearing to me. If you're a regular bus-passenger too, you will know what I mean.

Conductors speak in their own language. At every stop, the sheer velocity at which they rattle off the names of the stops ahead is mindnumbing. The words Burrabazar, Park Circus, Jadavpur, Esplanade and so on are blended together in a unique advertisement style. You listen to the rap, and strain your ears to catch the name of the place you want to go. In a cycle of 5 seconds each, a competent bus-conductor can spout out the names of all the stops the bus is going to. And the litany of locations repeats itself endlessly until the bus is crammed up or he runs out of breath. The bus-conductor thinks of himself as a bit of a hero in a film I think, because he always does his acrobatics whenever the bus stops, hanging from the bar above the door, calling out to everyone in sight. When the bus starts off, he doesn't need to hold onto a bar or support. He stands there grimly and nonchalantly, a brave man in the midst of a turmoil of sliding and slipping passengers holding on for dear life. Bus-drivers, on the other hand, are the most irritated of all sub-species of humanity. Never have I seen a bus-driver who didnt have a frown on his face, and an irritated look in his eyes. Kolkata buses tend to race each other on the road, as many pedestrians have noticed only too closely, but I wouldn't blame the drivers for it. Driving all day, in the city heat, going over the same route all the time, one must give them some largesse to pursue their little sports. What more entertainment does the guy have all day? His day's joy lies in outdoing Bus No. 37A, or 43B for that matter, in a drag race to the next traffic light.

A bus, is also the best place to hear the different voices of the city. You cannot be bored on a Kolkata bus, if its even decently occupied. In one corner, you will have a couple having a mild tiff over the guy's dooshtu habits, or the girl's chenchamechi (which by the way, means I think a mix of nakhra and overbearing attitude - symptoms evident in all girls). They dont bother to speak too softly or anything. Lost in their world, they speak quite normally with each other, passing out their golden secrets and private moments to the rest of the passengers, who are only to eager for a distraction from the beastly weather and pollution. Somewhere else, you would have someone or the other talking loudly into a cellphone, trying to explain himself to his wife or unwinding his tensions on a lowly employee. So, if you're alone and bored in a bus, a pleasant time can be had listening to his rantings or subdued mumbles of self-redemption.

Crowds are most interesting in the evenings, when large numbers of office employees are treading homewards. Treading metaphorically that is, because they are on a bus. You have female co-workers going home together, giggling over something or other, in their annoying way. Dont know why but woman giggling make me want to sometimes do violent things. But I have thankfully had a good upbringing. I restrain myself. I hold back. I content myself with gripping the bars very very tightly. A nice thing about the Bengali women though is that their prattle, for some reason, sounds pleasing to the ear. I wonder if you've had occasion to hear two, or possibly three, Bengali women talking amongst themselves in Bengali. They have this really fast manner of emotional and excited speaking, and animated gesturing which interspersed with the light laughter, combines to make a very soothing melody to a weary mind. You cant make out what they're saying really, they adjust their vocal speeds so, but it sounds nice all the same.

This one time, I was coming back home in rush hour traffic, standing in the bus. My bus was filled with home-bound office-workers, carrying the black briefcases and handbags that mark their tribe. Everyone sitting or standing quite contentedly and quietly. As the bus reached a red light, another car next to the bus screeched loudly to a halt, mildly hitting a taxi in front. The two drivers got out to begin the ritual shouting match, as the light turned green and my bus ambled forward.

Now, the bus is off, and the passengers are suddenly kicked alive. It starts off with one old man commenting loudly on the modern-day traffic hazards. I cant recall exactly what he said, but it earned nods from several people around him. Another man then made a point about the youths in the streets these days, and how they risk their own lives as well as the lives of pedestrians. He earned still more nods. These views were further supported by another mid-thirties gentleman who, gesturing with his umbrella, argued strongly about the accidents caused by the frequent traffic snarls. Slowly slowly, other men in the bus turned around and started listening in. Someone would make one point and someone else would counter him. Within a few minutes, the whole bus was involved in the debate. People began to clammer for their chance to speak, and would then begin to regale this sudden audience with their own experiences with rowdy drivers, corrupt traffic policemen, youth on bikes, youth in cars, youth on foot and youth on bicycles. I tried to hide myself behind a old lady, lest someone point at me ("There's one of them!!" or "Oi dekho! Oi chhele!!") and charge me with flames and pitchforks. It continued in the same vein, with people laughing at the speaker's anecdotes or offering condolences and sympathy. Like war veterans, shaking their heads solemnly as if they could empathise with the other soldier's miseries.

No one here knew the other person. They werent even really speaking to each other. They were just looking in front, or at their briefcases, or at the opposite window and talking as if to themselves. But everyone wanted to speak, and get a moment to bask in the glory of public oration. As the stops ahead came up, the people got off slowly one by one. They walked out a little straighter and with a smile of contentment on their faces. The debate ended in 10 odd minutes itself, as the crowd thinned out. I, still just standing there, felt like an alien observer watching over the activities in a different world, or like an explorer as he watches from afar the species he is studying. The subjects of my observations, they were all Bengalis. And standing there, I began to think on what I had just witnessed.

A seemingly innocuous and amusing incident it was. But to me it reflected so much more. Bengal, the land of free speech, where the revolution against the British truly began. Where the educated middle-class once could raise its voice against oppression and tyranny, now they can only watch on mutely as the political games are played every once in a while. It seems the desire to have that pulpit still resides in the heart of the people of Bengal. How often, I wondered, do these people, ordinary middle-class 9-to-5 employees, get the opportunity to speak their mind, to vent their feelings and receive the accolades of an agreeable audience. In the daily grind of their lives, such opportunities could only be wished for and never found. The people in the bus didnt know each other, not even the names of the people they were addressing. They all seemed satisfied and satiated, having unwinded their souls, held an audience, however meagre, and fulfilled that childhood, inherited fascination for the power of the pulpit.

Buses in Kolkata are never short of surprises. They always have something to offer. Be it an insight into the minds of so many 'ordinary' normal people, a pleasant ride listening in on the lives of others, or even the opportunity to watch the passengers beat the side of the bus if its going to slow [thus relaying their anger and frustration to the driver], a sight that is surely unique to Kolkatans. Our buses are filled with life and fraught with excitement - food for the introspective as well as the fun-loving. If you only care to look.