Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Notes from a public pulpit

Pre-script: The translations in English are mine. Those offered by the Telegraph were too literal and bland.

Lokey pachchhe naa aaloo
CPM-er durnitio chalu

People can't buy potatoes
That's how CPM's anarchy goes.

Thus spake Mamata. Her latest Shahid Minar rally drew an audience of 2 million, for which a police force of 3 lakh had to be deployed. Now my post is not to criticise the vast wastage of law-keeping resources. Neither the blockage of one of the busiest transport and commercial centres in the heart of Kolkata. It is to ponder upon Mamata Banerjee's nonpareil poetic acumen. Too much of which we just can't have. And it's not just the never-done-before rhyming of "aaloo" with "chalu". There's a bit of nearly every major Bengali poet in her.

Fiery espousal of the common man's aspirations, a cause once championed by Sukanta Bhattacharya:
Aamader shopno, aamade pon
dhongsho noi unnayan.

Our dream, our promise to redress
No destruction, a path towards progress.

Not to forget Madhusudan Dutt's brand of unrhymed verse:
Shobaar pete bhaat,
shobaar jonyo kaaj chai.

Food in every stomach,
jobs for all.

Also a bit of Nazrul (who spoke for a society inclusive of people across the socio-economic spectrum):
Chhatra, jubak, krishak, shramik
tomra aamader unnayan-er sharik.

Worker, youth, farmer, student
All of you are reapers of development.

For those not on her side after the recent train mishaps, she has a stern word of warning:
Aamar podotyag chaichho,
bondhu tomai dehotyag korte hobe!

You ask me to resign from my post
Before that happens, you'll have to turn into a ghost!

If you think she is too Bong-centric, with only local influences, think twice. She throws in a bit of Dali-esque surrealism:
Aajke chan kortey gechhilam, paye ki jeno shur-shuri dichchhilo... dekhlam ekta kankra bichhe.

I had gone to take a shower today when something tickled me... It was a scorpion.

Scorpions usually sting. But this one didn't. It tickled her. Some CPM stooge must have planted it in her bathroom. Even scorpions can't resist Didi's animal magnetism.

And the best of all:
Shudhu Mamata Banerjee-te allergy?
(This one is immune to good translation. One cannot retain her otherworldly alliteration.)

Such valiant attempts at poetry should inspire some amount of optimism in me. What it does, however, is instigate the naughty cells in my brain. So let me make up a few slogans, in the best Mamata tradition, for her next rally.

Kalchar Kolkata-r hrid-spondon
Buddha babu aar jachchhen naa Nondon.

Culture is Calcutta's lifeline
(But) For that Buddha babu has no more time.

Lal durgo bhengechhi aamra
tai toh uriye dichchhe train-er kamra.

We've breached the Red Battlement
That's why they blew up a train compartment.

Jyoti babu chhilen maanusher trata
kobe dhuye diyechhilam aamar-onar hisheber khata.

Jyoti babu was the common man's life-support.
Between us, we shared an amicable rapport.

Mamata-di should draft me to her culture brigade or advising body. I'll keep supplying her such wonderful lines. And she can keep me perpetually fed and cared for. Plus, lots of celebs from film, theatre and art there. August company, and better chances for me to make my first film! Whatsayall?

Disclaimer: This is just to parody what I consider unintentionally hilarious public-speaking. No other intentions exist.

The tale of a weighing machine

If you have been to Indian railway stations, you may have seen those tall contraptions that show your weight. A couple of weeks back, I stood before one of these in the Jatin Das Park metro station. The colourful LEDs blinked in perfect rhythm, the cardboard disc with black-and-white stripes (which invariably remind me of Newton's colour disc) rotated without any hesitation. All symptoms of an alive and kicking thing.

The previous time I had weighed myself, I got a measly 56. This was a goodish 4 below the 60 I weighed back in class 12. With some expectation of improvement, I stood before this shiny yellow giant in JD Park and took out the necessary two rupees from my wallet. Stripped down to whatever bare essentials my surroundings allowed, to get as accurate a reading as possible (removed the watch, put the mobile phone and wallet in my bag and set it aside, removed my sneakers; a la James Blunt).

Normally what happens is that you put the money in the slot after standing on the platform, the machine purrs for an instant, and gives out a small receipt which has your weight on it (some of these receipts often add a Bollywood line as a bonus - I remember one from my childhood that had a rip-roaring Sunny Deol fataka written below my 24 kilos).

This machine - this contraption - kept silent for a long while. I thought, "maybe it's doing some complex calculations, or maybe it just operates on some outdated calculating system" and stood there for ten seconds in anticipation. I put my fingers in the receipt-spitting slot to check if the paper was stuck somewhere inside. Uncheck. I banged lightly on its body, hoping that would set in motion some old rusted gear. It didn't. The monster just kept silent. Like a Jyoti Basu of yesteryears whose CPI(M) goons had committed some dastardly act. Ate up my two bucks without a single regret.

My dignity lost, my two rupees lost, I boarded the train to Sovabazar. And then I thought, "damn, isn't this how a government acts?"

P.S.: It hadn't occurred to me when I first wrote this piece on Facebook, but these weighing machines are several times larger than needed. When those round light things that doctors have can tell your weight efficiently, pray why do you need something the size of an ATM? Which leads me to this.