Posts Tagged ‘Kaberi Chatterjee. blog’

Whenever I write, I write to keep in mind readers who do not know me personally. However, there are a few readers who are my friends and close associates and who know me from my other varied activities. And they are always shocked at my writings! They cannot associate me and my writing together. I want to know, why are you that shocked at my writings?

Is it because you meet me as a conventional, conformist, rather demure kind of a girl so content at being indoors, happy with her cooking, her plants, her balcony. Very, very ordinary housewife, whose priority in life is her son’s life, her small domain of happiness, her home, which she decorates, and her small businesses which she doesn’t have any plans of making big.

And they they read my writings: My blog, Whiff of Tempest, Titir and Other Tales, and of course, Neil Must Die. It’s then when they get shocked. Rightly said my author friend: “It’s not a right thing to know a writer personally, because there will be something about the author’s personal life which you will not like. The author will be married a few times, or have had a few atrocious sexual rendezvous, which the reader will not be able to relate to. And in your case, your writings are so diametrically opposite from what you are.”

What I am? Wait! Do you know me at all?

Here is where I start laughing. It’s a writers’ prerogative that he/she choses to write or not write exactly the way he-she lives. I’m so sorry I don’t portray a personal life so colorful and bold like the way I feel or write. And moreover, it’s just one part of the iceberg that you see which indeed looks very, very conventional and a conformist. That’s what friends who have met me recently will say. But what about the nine parts that are under water? They are carefully hidden; the past layers buried deep inside; which inspire my writings. But, you see, the claws are invisible. It’s after innumerable rendezvous and several realizations that I have cemented the memories layer after layer in such a way, that even I cannot now dig up the graves. Conventional? Conformist? Me? Well, if you think that’s me, I have been successful.

But, this blog isn’t to share those memories. I am afraid, those layers will go to the grave with me. You can get a reflection of those layers of my life in my writings, my blog where I bear my soul, and my novels. But, no. Never a whiff of a mis-calculated betrayal. My life, my pain, my emotions, are only mine. I can share the realizations from them, but never the true memories. I do not care if readers are judging me, whether they find me homely or atrocious, whether I can, or am making any change in the society. I am truly an arrogant person and an anti-social at heart, and I’m glad when my friends cannot see that. It means I’ve been successful in hiding my true colors.

Do you really want to know about my life and my battles? I really don’t believe anyone would actually want to know anything about me. They have too much of their own and my life is no different than most. But it seems people’s curiosity never ceases, especially after they have read my writings.

It seems somehow readers cannot connect my face to my writings. I believe I have an innocent face, lead an apparent innocent life, within the four walls of my home, ensconced in the cradles of Canadian social security. One marriage, one child, a perfect family life. How does she write such bold articles?

In 1992, when I had just begun freelancing, and was reporting on the anti-social activities in and around a garbage dump area in Kolkata, an American journalist working with me told me: “Surprisingly you write very good English.”

I still haven’t figured out why was he so “surprised”.

In 1998, a renowned filmmaker and neighbor, who had just read my unpublished book, “Whiff of Tempest“, saw me talking with a neighbor about our common ‘maid’ problem; he took me aside and asked: “What did you talk to that woman for such a long time?”

In 2011, my husband’s friend and long-time family friend who had eaten so many dinners at my house, read my blog for the first time and was shocked. He later told me: “Kaberidi, you and your writing are completely two different personae.”

And it happened again: In 2017, an author friend who was reading my writing for the first time, after knowing me as a very homely person in Canada told me these words: “I would have considered you an ordinary person if I hadn’t read your blog.”

My question: God, do I really have such a really boring, dumb face?

Prospective answer: Dear God, thank you for giving me such a boring face, with which I can convincingly hide my years of life’s struggles and desperate decisions. With which I could run sting operations during my reporting days without raising any hackles.

…Thank you for the smile I still have, with which I can camouflage years of pain and sufferings. Thank you for giving me the strength not to discard everything that didn’t fit me, but repair them to fit to my needs.

…Thank you for giving me the strength to stack my battles in layers and layers of history, and not let it affect my present and future decisions.

…Thank you for giving me the strength to do a grocery list while writing a novel and letting me take orders for my catering business, The Hang-La, while editing for FinalDraft.

… Thank you for letting me come up with a punchy headline for the latest cover story for my in-house tangy magazine, Citrus, while watering my plants.

…Thank you for giving me the talent to write this blog while waiting for my client to take his food orders.

… Thank you God for letting me talk to you, when I know deep in my scientific and logical heart that you don’t exist.

I tell my readers:  Dearies, You are looking at only one part of the nine parts of me that are under water. And I choose to show you exactly what you can handle.

 

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I am unfortunately once again holding the post of Editor in a newspaper. Unfortunate. Very unfortunate. Because I am a quintessential escapist. And I love my escape plans. I hatch plans. Follow some pointers, like not buying a cell phone, etc, just so that I can plan my physical escape some day.

It’s not an honorable thing to do for a responsible journalist who’s worked 20 years in hardcore news media, done sting operations, investigative journalism, sat at the helm of a desk, judging others’ copies and designed how to produce them on the next day’s edition. I mean, it’s a deadly job! You are making a promise to millions.

But that’s exactly why I was becoming more and more determined to escape.

This char. This burn. It singes me everyday. The news I am exposed to grills me slowly till I get roasted. It’s a torture to me to hold a responsible position at a newspaper. But, unfortunately I am once again doing so.

And timely too, for the Nibhaya BBC Documentary to come up.

You know how life is when you aren’t a journalist? You smell flowers, you design kitchen gardens, watch “food food” channel and make lovely dishes at home, Ekta Kapoor is a perfect friend then and her serials make me ignorant, blissful and happy.

But sometimes I become an Editor. And then, all that luxury is over and once again I am set on medium rare for slow roast. “Burn for the world, come on!” is my unwritten instruction.

I don’t know how many of you got to see that documentary. Congrats Leslee Udeen, who perhaps had a personal shot to be cleared when she interviewed the rapist: She had been herself raped.

I remembered in college days one of my very concerned male friend had told me, “If you get raped, don’t resist, Enjoy it.”

I didn’t exactly get raped, but molested on public buses, streets… many a times. Someone even asked me “How much?” when I was waiting for a bus at a bustop coming back from the University.

I beat up a few, ran away in fear and did nothing at times. Beating came a lot later, when I realized I could physically overpower at least one puny man (one lucky outcome of my good build).

But enjoy a rape?

Let’s get to the basics here. We  are all adults. A person approaches you, you balk in fear, you run under cover, you throw things at him, he becomes wilder. And then he decides to pin you down. Imagine the scene. You have a complete stranger trying to pull down your pants. With all his strength. There is no one around. His face is in grimace. He tears off you blouse, and digs one hand right into your vagina. Now one thing here. Our vagina’s are not hollow pipes. They are a closed soft organs. Much as you men forget that you were brought into the world by your loving mothers through that kind of vagina. But that opened like petals only for a few minutes, giving excruciating pain to the mother, so that “flowers” like you can bloom and get a life. Otherwise, the vagina remains usually closed. It gets lubricated when she gets aroused by a man she loves, or she has given permission to possess her body, and then someone can enter her at her consent.

So why were you thrusting your hand in there? What were you looking for?  Maybe you should have had your penis pushed in there instead. You may have had more fun.

And maybe that would have been less painful for the girl, and not taken Nibhaya’s intestine out! She may have lived.

By the way, my dear college friend, tell me, which part of me would be able to enjoy this attack.. can you explain? I’ve never been raped, so I can’t really say I tried to follow whatever you said. I’m sorry I am not YET been raped.

But yesterday, 30 years later, during a long debate with a man, a Canadian man, (Indian born) a family man with a wife at home, told me the same thing. “When you get raped, try to enjoy it”.

Goosebumps ran down my spine: Didn’t the rapist Mukesh Singh just say the same thing on BBC?

pubali

Bollywood gives no importance to writers, and the audience is all excited about the film actors, stars, songs from the film, the cinematic experience and even the director. But a writer, who is still considered the ‘First technical crew’ in cinemas, is the backbone of a film, who barely is given any credit. Pubali Chaudhuri, the winner of National Film Award for Best Hindi Film in 2008 for her first screenplay, Rock On! and Filmfare Award for Best Screenplay in 2014 for Kai Po Che talks to Kaberi Dutta Chatterjee, doubting if anyone will be excited
about reading her story

Within two years of graduating from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Pubali Chaudhuri rocked the nation with her inimitable storyline and screenplay, Rock On! (2008), a year which was interspersed with popular films like Jodhaa Akbar and Singh Is King. Rock On went on to win seven Filmfare awards, four National awards and the cast was featured on the cover of the September 2008 issue of Rolling Stone (India). Its screenplay has also been added to the Academy Film Archive. Yet, Pubali is apprehensive of audience’s interest in storytellers. “Why interview me? Why would readers be interested in the storyteller?” was her first question when I approached her for an interview.

Q: Your career hit off right after your graduation from FTII with ‘Rock On!’, a film that rocked the country with a musical in 2008. What was the inspiration for such a wonderful storyline?

Pubali: Yes, I suppose I was lucky to have a theatrically released film that got noticed amongst a certain section of the audience within two years of my graduating from FTII. The director, Abhishek Kapoor, had approached me with the basic idea of a college band reuniting. I had a deep and personal connect with the concept as I spent my college years closely associated with Calcutta based rock bands, primarily with a band called Cactus. I saw the resurgence of independent music during the mid to late 90’s. So the ‘Rock On’s terrain was familiar turf for me.

Q: Your next, ‘Kai Po Che’, for which you won the Filmfare Award, was based on Chetan Bhagat’s book, 3 Mistakes of My Life. What was the course of action you had in mind when you adapted a popular novel for a film?

Pubali: Kai Po Che was a huge learning curve. At first read, it seemed, that Chetan had all the elements of a popular narrative in his book – cricket, friendship, Hindu- Muslim bonding, romance. However adaptation is a different beast altogether! You have to discover the basic story, which, though inspired from the book, is independent by nature.

Kai Po Che had two crucial differences from the original novel – for one, the book is told from one character, Govind’s, point of view (thus the title). We changed that to make it an omniscient telling of three friends. We also had decided on an alternate climax (in the book the three friends are trying to save Ali, the Muslim boy, from the Hindu mob and in the ensuing scuffle Omi gets killed). In the film we complicated this friendship tale by putting one of our protagonist’s on the side of the attackers. This had repercussions in the entire plotting and characterisation of the story to leading up to this film climax. Omi’s journey ( played by Amit Sadh ) was entirely the invention of the film.

Q: ‘Rock On! 2’ hit a legal battle and now is set to be released in November, 2016. Has the screenplay rights been granted solely to you, or also to Abhisekh Kapoor? Do you want to clarify anything to your fans in Canada about how you feel about sharing the screenplay credit?

Pubali: I don’t believe that screenwriters have fans, to begin with! Film writers work deep in the background of the film — we are the first ‘technicians’ to start work on a film. Much before the audience knows about a film, its star cast, director, the music or what has now become a latest fad – the box office collection numbers.

In any case, yes we (Abhisekh and I) arrived at a settlement regarding the legal dispute around the sequel of Rock On. It was decided to accord Abhishek Kapoor a shared story credit along with me, while I retain a solo screenplay credit for the film.

Q: Rock On!, Kai Po Che, Rock On! 2. All of your screenplays have been great success in the box office. So much that, you are almost making viewers sit up and take notice of screenplay and storywriters, who, in reality, are the spinal cords of any film. Why do you think storywriters in Bollywood get so little attention?

Pubali: Well to be honest, none of my films would compete with the 100 crore (and counting) box-office club. What they certainly have is a certain memorability. And that makes the entire struggle, both creative and professional, worth the while for a writer.

As a creative professional you want people to remember your work, even if they don’t know how exactly you contributed to it. I doubt that any audience member remembers box office collection numbers… what they do remember is really the story, the performances, the entire cinematic experience. Yet, the working environs for screenwriters still remain a challenge in the industry – our Intellectual Property rights as writers are not recognised, we are yet to start a system whereby we can receive royalties, and perhaps what is the most hurtful, is that too often, screenwriters do not get the recognition and the respect that they deserve from the directors and producers.

It’s a complicated issue. Apart from plain business reasons, there is also this warped understanding of the ‘auteur’ theory of film making — the director as the ‘author’ of the film. Films are considered a director’s medium. However, while every other department, like Cinematography, Editing, Sound or Production Design is devoted to translate the ‘director’s vision’, a screenwriter creates part of that directorial vision as the blueprint maker. Unless the writer and director relationship is driven by genuine trust and respect, there will always be the pitfall of exploiting and overshadowing the writer’s contribution to feed the ‘me’ complex of directors!

Q: When you wake up every morning, do you get bitten by the bug of writing a new storyline, or reading a good book which can get you a good storyline?

Pubali: Are you crazy ?! I like quoting Thomas Mann on this and its one of the few things that makes me feel like a writer. Mann once said that the only thing differentiating writers from others is that writing is hard for writers! So instead of some brilliant flash of inspiration what I am battling with almost on a daily basis is the anxiety of writing — fighting procrastination, fighting self doubt and feelings of inadequacy. It’s very much a neurotic process for me… the only thing is that by now I am somewhat familiar with the contours of my neurosis. But yes, I enjoy reading and watching good films. And besides, those are some of the best excuses to get away from doing the real writing!

Q: Your success stories really do not fit into the ‘Bollywood bubble’ storylines, although of late the Hindi Film industry has been producing great original stories. What kind of a trend do you see in storylines that would hit the box-office button in Bollywood?

Pubali: I am far too much of a recluse and misfit in the film industry to comment on ‘trends’. My limited understanding tells me that studios and producers are all hell bent on larger than life movies — star cast, franchises, comic book heroes — whatever is the easiest way to the wallet of the ticket buying audience. As a writer and film maker, I am interested in something to touch my audience’s hearts and minds with.

Having said that, there have been films like Badlapur, Court, Fandry (these two being Marathi films though ) Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Piku, Masaan or a Titli that do not tread the oft-beaten path of formulaic story telling. Even then, the ones without a star cast in the above mentioned list might not meet trade pundits’ approval based on the revenue they earned. So it really all depends on our audience — where they spend their money, what they find entertaining, what kind of films really touch them, beyond the loud noise of the marketing machinery telling them what to watch.

Q: Can we get an insight into your thoughts of your next venture?

Pubali: At this stage of my career, I am really keen on getting to tell my original stories on the floor. I have just completed the first draft of a script, which is set in a college campus. Currently I am developing the screenplay of one of my original stories, which a director is interested in — but its too early in the day to call it a ‘venture’ really. As a writer, I have to follow Lord Krishna’s advice — I must keep on working (writing) without expectations of any results!

Q: Since we had seen an excellent round-up of characters in Rock On, and it closed up very well, leaving no loose strands, I am curious to know what is ‘Rock On!2’ all about? How did you think of opening up an almost closed storyline?

Pubali: That’s really for me to know and you to find out once the film is released! As such you are right in observing that we had neatly tied up all the strands in the original film. Undoubtedly it was one of my biggest challenges to re-start the story with the same characters – but those characters are like real life people for me given the amount of time I have spent with them in the solitude of my room, right from when I started writing Rock On in 2006 — to the 10 years it will complete by the time the sequel releases (Inshallah) ! And if they are living in my head, perhaps they will come alive on the screen as well?

This interview was published in The South Asian News on January 29, 2016 when Kaberi was the Editor of the newspaper.

(Kaberi D. Chatterjee is a novelist/ journalist and author of Neil Must Die and several other books)

cellphone
I’m glad someone (and someone HUGE, and I’m flattered) who thinks like me. (Link below)
I don’t still use a cellphone. When I go to India, where there are almost no landlines, then I just have to carry one, but I keep it silent and away from me most of the times.
But my son and me, sitting on this very lonely part of the planet, (Canada) believe in staying away from the internet (which is still not a recognized word in the dictionary… see there is a red line under it) and cellphones for most part of our time. I like to watch stale TV series, watch an old movie, or read a book, do yoga, meditate, cook, redesign my home, sometimes just stand in the balcony and watch the life lolling by, watch the sunset, as if that’s the last day I’d be living on earth.
And I’d like to remind you I am not a very social person, neither is my son. We cannot chatter on the phone for hours, but I do focus on relationship building when I see a potential.
Why am I writing on first person basis, and talking about myself? Firstly I believe I am talking on behalf of a lot of people who think like me, but may not be able to be proud of their thoughts or be able to express it like the way they want. Secondly, it’s an audacity to write solely about oneself, and I like to have audacity. And thirdly, most importantly, it’s my blog.
I agree wholeheartedly with Werner Herzog in the interview below in the cellphone issue. And I also think that human beings will resist being wholly usurped by technology, on their own. They will build their own resistance when they’ll feel enslaved.
Hence, Elon Musk’s idea of colonizing Mars is something I don’t agree with. Colonize your own home first, there is still ample opportunity without disturbing the environment.
I think the idea of using technology to making our work easier and safer is greatly appreciated. (I do own a household robot to do my floors, for instance and I’d love to own self-driving car, since I don’t like driving and would like a technology chaffuer), but I greatly shun the use of cell phones when you have other means of communicating. It’s like technology is enslaving you slowly and you don’t realize it. It’s putting chains on your hands and you cannot even go to the bathroom without carrying it. I don’t own a cellphone, because I don’t want to be available all the time for the world.
“Where are you?” is the first question anyone asks you whenever they call. “Where were you?” if you don’t answer their cellphone. It’s not a concern in their voice. It’s their egos reprimanding you for not taking their calls. Telling you that they are important and you should take their calls the moment you see their names flashing.
Moreover, relationships make or break with cellphones. How long you’ve taken to take your friends’ call decides how strong the relationship is or isn’t and so on.
And I dislike what they offer you in the name of a cellphone: information you can do without, news that only depresses you and you can do nothing about, mundane gossip around the world, constant beeps…disturbing my chain of thoughts. I mean why? What have I done to deserve this? I have my own work. Writing thoughts like these, for example. Cooking. Educating myself. Reading all those books that I have to. Watching all those grand movies I intend to. That I want to personally review in my mind, or that which will help me re-establish my opinion about life in general. I look forward to thoughts which have not been thought.
Thinking. Relationship building. Focusing on my finance and future. Planning a life for my family after my death. All this takes time. How can you have any more time for such mundane stuff after finishing all these chores?
Technology cannot be all consuming and break my thought bubble all the time. I am not committed to be available to my family members all the time. Because I have to live with myself, first and last of all.
I would definitely like to use the internet. But at my leisure. When I have free time. To recharge my knowledge cell. Read up something new, like the one I shared below. To write and share my ideas. To share thoughts. To build my entrepreneurship ideas. Since it’s man who build technology to make things easier for him, I would like to use it, not the other way around.

Samarth Malik received the letter late evening. He was perplexed. The letter read, “From Mrs S. Misra, Konnagar, Hoogly, West Bengal.’’

Mrs. S. Misra? Who could it be? He tore open the letter. It read:

“Dear Mr Malik,

My late husband, Saurabh Misra was your friend. He died 12 years back. He has left a portion of his will in your name. I had been searching for your address all these years and have found it only recently. Kindly acknowledge receipt of this letter and let me know how soon can you come and accept your gift.

With sincere regards,

Mrs. Sabari Misra.’’

Samarth stood surprised for a long time. Saurabh Misra? Saurabh? In his last 41 years of his life he couldn’t recollect having met anybody by that name. A friend? He sat down on his armchair and began recollecting his college days. Saurabh… Saurabh… Who could it be who would leave a portion of his will in his name? He couldn’t remember.

He tried to remember his Naxalite days. Those days of fire — which he wanted to wipe off from his memory. There were no particular reasons for that. Only that his efforts had proved fruitless. Why only him, the entire movement had proved futile and the best of his mates were killed by the then ruling government.

He survived. There were reasons for that he didn’t want to remember.

Saurabh Misra…? Was he someone he associated during his Naxalite days? Or was he a colleague in his office?

He had emerged after his Naxalite days as a manager of an upcoming private organization. A well-settled organization, which gave him the launching pad for his soaring career in a multinational organization, of which he is a director now. He had built a plush home in the better parts of the city and with his wife and only daughter, had a chalked out a life that he was glad he had bargained for. He prided himself for taking the right decision at the right time.

Saurabh… a colleague? But a portion of will in his name? Strange! Or is he a distant cousin? No. He read the letter again. The lady mentioned that he was a friend.

Samarth decided to investigate the next day. His curiosity took the better of him and he was determined to find out what was this all about. He had been an active Naxalite once and had the grit of a leader. His name was still in the police books and if it were not for the police, his existence would have long been wiped off.

He had been saved at the nick of time. The police had opened fire when they had asked 17 of them to “Run! Run for your lives!!’’ on an open field. They had been promised freedom and were freed from the gloomy cells after a month of gruesome torture. His wrist was broken and his toenails were pulled off. His mates were in no better conditions. All of a sudden one day the Chief came and smiled at them, offering them freedom, at dawn. Thirty of them bundled in one cell; they looked at each other in disbelief.

The dawn came and 17 of them were pushed inside a van, and were driven off. The van reached an open field and they were asked to step down. And then the officer shouted, “Run! Now run for your lives while I count 10!’’

They ran! Samarth ran till his breath began to burst out from his lungs. He didn’t hear when the officer said “Ten!’’ and the three armed guards started firing. He saw his mates falling on the ground, one by one. And then something, a burning hot sensation entered his calf muscle and he fell. He staggered to get up, only falling back with the impact. Then suddenly an idea struck in his mind. He decided to stay motionless on the ground. He closed his eyes and bore the pain. The firing continued for another few seconds until there were no more running figures around. He waited breathlessly for the van to start its engine and drive off. A minute passed by and then two. He opened his eyes slightly to see the van and saw a pair of boots instead in front of his face. He instinctively looked up and saw the officer standing over him with a smiling face…

Konnagar was only a 20 minutes train ride from Calcutta. He reached the small, but busy town at 10:30 in the morning. He took a rickshaw and after several mistaken turns and bends, finally found the residence of Saurabh Misra.My husban'ds last gift

It was a small, one-storied yellow house. A short gate let to a wrought-iron enclosed balcony. He lifted the latch of the wrought-iron gate and clunked on it twice. And then again.

“Who is it?’’ A woman’s eyes peeped from above one of the springs of neat curtains that hung on the windows.

“I am… er… Samarth Mullick.’’

The woman’s eyes looked stoned for a second and then lit up with a smile.

“Oh yes, just a minute.’’

He heard the latch of the door being pulled down. And then he saw the woman come out.

She could barely be in her early 30s and her devastating beauty glowed from her white attire, while she was devoid of any external aid. A touch of helplessness in her eyes struck a node in Samarth’s heart and he wanted to suddenly be the benefactor of an unknown friend’s so lovely a widowed wife.

She smiled. And cupid worked ferociously in Samarth’s heart.

“Please come in. I have been waiting for you for days.’’ Her last words wrenched out from her heart and helpless eyes. Samarth thought about his dried-up wife.

“I am sorry,’’ he said. “I received your letter only yesterday.’’

“Oh! I posted it quite some time back,’’ she led him into the room.

The drawing room was neatly arranged. With frilled lacy covers on cabinets, supercilious sofas, cane stools and standing lamps, the room swanked in contrast to the woman’s vulnerable appearance. The fact that light had blinked out of the widow’s life ceased to walk in through the door into her interiors. She seemed a happy person inside; her garb of sanctity quietly camouflaging her bubbly youth. She was, as if, waiting for hope to re-enter her foyer.

Samarth sat down on one of the sofas.

“I am Sabari. That’s my husband.’’ She pointed with her eyes at a photograph just behind him.

He jerked his head around. And then he recognized him!

“Oh!’’ He was stunned. Too stunned to speak.

“Care for some juice?’’ She asked.

“Yes… okay…’’ he stuttered. “I wouldn’t mind.’’

“Just a minute,’’ she walked off inside.

Samarth looked at the photograph again. He was not mistaken. It was him! But then his name was… yes! Souvik… Souvik Sarkar.

The woman returned with a glass tumbler filled with an enticing chilled green juice. The tumbler was placed on a tray and covered with a lacy cover. He felt special.

“Please take this,’’ she said, “It’s made of fresh mangoes from my garden.’’

“Oh, thanks!’’ He raised the glass to drink the liquid in one gulp.

“Slowly,’’ she crooned and ended with a smile. “Drink it slowly. Or else you won’t enjoy the taste.’’

“Okay,’’ Samarth smiled. Was anybody else around in this house…?

He took one sip and kept the tumbler on the center table. Then he leant back and crossed his legs. “I don’t understand…’’ He tried to begin.

Suddenly Sabari’s expression changed to being somber. “My husband died in police firing. He was in the Naxalite movement.’’

Samarth nodded sadly, carefully heaving out a sigh of relief in small gasps. She went on.

“We were married for only three months. I was carrying his baby…’’

“Oh!’’ He bent forward and took a sip.

She looked out of the window sadly. “We were in love… we had just met in college. He didn’t want to marry me because he was into this movement.’’ Her eyes brimmed with tears.

Samarth shifted his legs nervously and took the tumbler in his hands. He was now trying to finish the liquid.

“…But I forced him. He had no parents and lived with his widowed aunty in this house.’’ She stopped and wiped her eyes with her sari.

“His aunty died a year back… I am all alone…’’ It was an inviting whisper and all Samarth could do was to shift in the sofa nervously. He felt restless.

“You…’’ he cleared his throat. “Your parents?’’

She smiled and looked at him. “They have disowned me ever since I married Saurabh. I will never go back to them.’’

“And…’’ he hesitated. “Your baby?’’

“Was born dead.’’ She looked up… and her eyes were made of stone.

He felt scared. He sipped on the liquid fast. His head was reeling. He was beginning to feel uncomfortable. He now wanted to get out of this house fast.

She went on. “You know how my husband died? He was fired, from behind his back. The police tipped one of his mates — this guy from his college. You know he was in the same movement.’’

“Oh…’’ He began feeling nauseated. He gulped down the liquid and finished it.

“Yes. The police tipped this friend of his with a grand job if he could kill him.’’

Samarth’s head started swaying!

She looked out of the window and tears started rolling down her eyes. “They were walking down this lane and my husband was discussing the next day’s plan with him. And then he fired him from behind, point blank.’’ She began weeping openly.

Samarth held the sofa handle and tried to get up. “I must go.’’ His head was swaying and his entire self was burning.

“Don’t go,’’ she pleaded in the same naïve voice. And then came forward and held his head. She began combing his hair with her fingers. “Relax, Samarth, relax… I need you…’’ She held his head on her flat stomach.

Samarth rested his head on her stomach and felt his orgasm reach the peak. He wanted to pull her down on the sofa and make ferocious love to her. He tried to lift his hands but couldn’t.

He looked up at her and she appeared blurred. “I don’t feel well.’’

She knelt down and began caressing his face, “Obviously you don’t. I know you are my husband’s killer. I have been waiting for you all my life. I have kept myself and this house beautiful ever since I learned that you were alive and so well…’’

His head staggered to fall. “I want to go home…’’ he could somehow blurt out. His whole self was burning.

“How can you go home, sweetheart?’’ She held up his wobbly head, holding his face. “I have mixed a deadly poison in your sherbet. You’ll be dead in a few minutes.’’

She held his limp head in her hands and then threw it with vengeance onto the sofa. His whole self fell, twitching slightly near his limbs — a white frothy liquid flowing out from his lips.

She stood up, “My husband’s last gift to you, sweetheart! Enjoy!’’

(This story is inspired from a short story I read when I was very young, can’t remember the source.)

(A short story from my third book and a compilation of original short stories, Whiff of Tempest)

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW OF FARHAN AKHTAR BY KABERI D. CHATTERJEE
FROM CANADA FOR THE SOUTH ASIAN NEWS, CANADA

He directs, writes scripts, produces, acts, sings, dances and writes poetry. With that powerhouse of talent, he is increasingly getting compared to the other genius multi-talented persona of Indian cinema, Kishore Kumar. “It’s just one life,” he says. “It’s totally fine to not have to do just one thing for your entire life, if you can do different things which you are passionate about. You can follow those dreams and hopefully, even do well at them.” With Wazir soaring to the box-office ceiling and his cult film, Rock On! 2 coming up, he is increasingly being recognized as the most cerebral actor Bollywood has ever produced. Kaberi Dutta Chatterjee had a long-distance mid-night chat with the actor-director-musician-singer-poet-producer-scriptwriter, Farhan Akhtar.

 

Farhan-Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar needs no introduction. The IMDB website states in his profile that he worked as a cameraman in Yash Chopra’s Lamhe in 1991 and then in 1997 as assistant director for a strange film, Himalaya Putra.
With such a humble beginning, you’d hardly think this is the son of the famous lyricist Javed Akhtar and scriptwriter, Honey Irani. Javedji’s work as dialogue writer in Sholay and Deewar have set the benchmark for dialogues in the Hindi film industry.

After this inconspicuous start, Farhan arrived in Bollywood in style with his baby project, Dil Chahta Hai, which he wrote and directed and which is still thought to be one of the cult movies of Indian cinema.
There was no looking back for him after that as he soar to new heights with acting, singing and producing skills in Rock On! and directing iconic films like Lakshya, Don, (with Shah Rukh Khan) and Don 2. He acted in several noteworthy films, like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Luck By Chance and Karthik Calling Karthik, the latest being Wazir, where he plays an army protagonist in tandem with the legendary, Amitabh Bachchan. His upcoming film, Rock On!2, written by the same writer of Rock On, Pubali Chaudhuri, and directed by Abhishek Kapoor, has the country waiting in baited breath for another rock musical to hit the mass.

I was just lucky to catch the very busy persona as he had just completed the shooting of Rock On!2. Speaking to the actor-director-producer-singer at midnight (morning in Mumbai) was the most thrilling experience for me. He came across as a thorough gentleman, polite, patient with the questions and my excitement in talking to him, as not just a journalist, but also as a huge fan and admirer.

You direct, you sing, you write poetry, you dance, you write screenplays and you act with such intensity that you make each character etched in viewer’s minds and in the history of Indian cinema. Playing which role is most fulfilling to you? Which action makes you the happiest?

Farhan: You know, it’s quite an impossible question to answer. It’s all about (more…)

The more I hear about Maggi, the two-minute instant noodles under threat of a ban, the more I fall in love with our favorite comfort food.maggi

I don’t even remember my first brush with Maggi. When was it first introduced in India or when we became buddies. Ever since I remember, whether tired, back from school, or from sports classes, Ma would be serving a bowl of hot, steaming, Maggi, swimming in a delicious sauce. And not just that, the tastemaker packet was something to die for! We would hunt down the kitchen especially for the packet. Licking off the leftover spices from the packet was clearly the happiest moment of our lives.

Often, as a journalist, after returning from my night shifts at the newsdesk, I would silently cook a bowl of Maggi at 3 am and slurp it down in the privacy of the kitchen darkness, looking out at the stillness of the night, when only my Maggi and I are awake!

Maggi was handed down from my generation to my child’s generation and it served a solution to our every hunger pangs. Even as I am writing this, I am having an urge to slurp a hot-steaming bowl of Maggi.

Not to mention, how I found joy when I discovered Maggi in Indian groceries, No-Frills and other Canadian stores after I immigrated to Canada. My cabinet is always stuffed with Maggi and though the taste here is tad tempered, I am proud to say Maggi has held my hands firmly throughout my immigration battle. Hungry, cold, angry, sad, tired, dejected — Maggi would always cheer us up.

Now to know the same comfort food is in a soup, breaks my heart.

For decades now, Maggi—the two-minute instant noodle brand owned by Nestle—has been an Indian favorite. And for the Swiss multinational, it’s been a critical part of its growth in Asia’s third largest economy. In the last nine years, a May 4 report by Nomura said, the Maggi brand has grown in double digits on the back of expanding modern retail, urbanisation, targeted promotions and consistent innovation.

But  earlier this week, Uttar Pradesh’s Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA) found monosodium glutamate (MSG) and excessive lead content in some of the Maggi samples they tested. MSG, typically used as a flavour enhancer, can cause headaches, chest pain and nausea.

Four days later, on May 20, the FDA in Uttar Pradesh ordered Nestle to recall a batch of products—dating back to March 2014—after they found that two dozen packets of Maggi contained almost seven times the permissible levels of lead, alongside high levels of MSG.

Nestle, however, maintains that it does not use MSG (pdf) in manufacturing any of its products. Emails and messages sent by Quartz to Nestle remain unanswered.

To learn that all these years I have fed myself and my child a food containing heavy dose of lead scares me. But something in me tells this comfort food is too much of a joy to be tarnished in this battle. Maybe Nestle will introduce a fresh new batch with fresh new flavors and the noodles being in troubled waters will soon fade into oblivion.

Maggi has been a friend to not only children, but also to young men setting out to live on their own for the first time, during hostel days and camp times. If they couldn’t cook anything, they could cook Maggi.

Maggi has also been a parameter for Indian grooms to knowing how to cook. The overly-pampered grooms would joyfully announce that they could cook Maggi, thus winning the hearts of their brides-to-be.

What makes Maggi so special? The answer to this is quite simple. It is the staple food of individuals irrespective of the demographics and geography. Maggi lovers are united from Assam to Gujarat, from the chilly valleys of Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Maggi, in a way, unites India and Indians abroad. I find a lot of Asians too consuming Maggi, after trying all other forms of their own brand of instant noodles.

I personally found hot Maggi relieves me immediately when I am having a cold. And I’ve  never had a stomach upset because of Maggi. Why me? Even now, during vrat (fasting) my mother takes “Vegetarian” Maggi soup as she has finds it to be wholesome, delicious, mood-elevating and believes to be not clashing with any of her self-imposed religious restrictions.

Although, on research I find Maggi noodles is made from soy protein using a catalyst enzyme porcine (taken from the intestine of pig)!

Nevertheless, Maggi has passed down three generations and , knowing India, if there is a ban on Maggi, the sale can increase 10-fold. The craving to eat Maggi will aggravate among children and Maggi will be sold in double the price.

And who cares?

Maggi is such a fast-to-cook, good-to-eat solution to all working mothers, such a mood-elevator, and now with all kind of “healthy” options available (Maggi oats, Maggi whole wheat, etc), it is highly doubtful whether the comfort food can disappear from the face of earth.

Now that I have made all of you hungry and drooling and craving for Maggi, here are a few versions of the comfort food I’ve cooked all my life for myself and my child. Enjoy!

Classic Masala Maggi

Keep it simple. The preparation of this remains same with adding water, tastemaker and noodles. There is nothing like having a plain-jane Maggi with the favourite tomato sauce. Nothing in the world can beat this, especially when your tummy demands food at odd hours say 3.30 night. Enjoy.

Cheese Maggi

After making packets of Maggi over the years, we can make it even in our sleep. So now that you have made the Maggi, all you have to do is grate the cheddar cheese cubes or also put a slice of cheese on the hot Maggi. The melting cheese on the noodles is the best sight and trust us, it tastes like heaven.

Chinese spicy Maggi

The love for Maggi and home-made Chinese food is nothing new to us. So while making this avatar of Maggi, you will need to do some frying and tossing of vegetables. Take spring onions, carrots and toss it up with garlic-ginger paste. Add Maggi noodles with the tastemaker, put some water (less compared to the usual recipes) and the yummy noodles are ready to eat.

Tomato-Egg Maggi

This has to be one of the commonly loved variations of Maggi. Add finely cut tomatoes and one or two eggs in Maggie and Whoa, one the finest delicacies is on your plate. One can also try making a proper bhurji-Maggi. Prepare the Egg Bhurji and toss it up with Maggi.

 Soupy Maggi

If you are tired of chewing the long strand of Maggi and instead want to gulp it down, you should make yourself soupy Maggi. This also works when you have a cold. Add extra bowl of water in the usual preparations.