Friday, 31 January 2014

The Nest....

“It's a little inconvenient, his not having a name. But I haven't any right to give him one: he'll have to wait until he belongs to somebody.
(… … …)
I don't want to own anything until I know I've found the place where me and things belong together. I'm not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it's like." She smiled… … …
"It's like Tiffany's," she said.

Yes, I have found that place where Me and things belong together. And, I agree that it would have been a little inconvenient for him, not having a name. My father in law had chosen a name for him when he was born. That is his bhalo naam. (Bengalis, as a matter of compulsion, are bestowed with two sets of names. Bhalo naam and Daak Naam. The former is for the world at large, while the latter is a nick name, a term of endearment used only by very close relatives and friends). I have a daak naam for him which, like most nick names, is weird and funny and reserved for very close people. I will not embarrass him by sharing it here. I can however share the surname. No prizes for guessing….a part of the family will obviously share the family name.   

Having a name however, is not something exclusive to him. His innumerable brethren are given beautiful names by their family members. I believe that the beauty of a home begins with the name. It infuses the first traces of life into his otherwise inanimate structure and makes him breathe and grow along with you.

P.S: A friend had a house in Shantiniketan. It was named “Bhalo~basha”. Bhalo’ in Bengali means good, ‘basha’ means home and ‘Bhalobasha’ means love. Some words are just meant to create magic, irrespective their profuse use, isn’t it? 

He had the perfect bachelor’s life until I stepped into his existence. Preceding our marriage, he was a rented space and was one of the most disorganized being I had ever come across. His damp and drab walls made a sorry sight. We civilized him slowly. To begin with, we chose the paint for the walls, the upholstery and the basic furniture. When I look back at the seven years spent with each other, I realise that I hardly knew anything about making a home beautiful except a game called “Colour man, colour man what colour do you choose”. The bedroom was painted with the colours of sand and sun……three yellow walls complemented with a caramel-coloured sand-textured fourth. When I got married, textured walls (read, a different fourth wall) was not so common. Hence, that wall was a matter of great pride for me. It still is. It smells of the sea.
Home when read a little differently says “Oh me!”…….

Your home is like a mirror that holds your reflection.

Ours grew with us. Needless to say, he grew up to be like us. The saying “haar ghar kuchh kehta hein” applies to every house in their varied and special ways and my house is no exception. He is as vocal as his owners and there lies his individuality. The colours he basks in, the ‘clothes’ that he wears, the smell he emits, the music he plays and the food he serves speak volumes about the inhabitants….vibrant, happy-go-lucky, mad, bizarre and adequately lovable.


While writing for a contest hosted by Asian Paints, it is but natural that I will flip through the pages of their website. And, this is what held my attention, untainted and untouched for several minutes. I chanced upon the Asian Paints’ Colour Next project. They displayed various inspirations behind their colour-trends for the year gone by. I am in general, a non-follower of trends. But those were beyond beautiful, exceptionally motivating and awe-evoking. The patchwork below is totally my kind of inspiration. The cinnamon flavoured walls filled up my senses while the “dhal-gaya-din” mirrors, the Clockwork Red and the Gold Spots were born to woo the vigorous DIY-er in me.     


DIY reminds me that this house is a huge soft board for pinning my DIY projects. Cookie tin-jewellery boxes, lampshade-vases, coconut shell-candles, light bulb-plant holders, desk calendars-turned-photo frames can be found here there everywhere.

A part of the house got painted a few months back on the occasion of the brother-in-law’s wedding. The empty Asian Paints tins were painted brightly and converted into hanging planters for the terrace garden. I also made lanterns out of some of them by drawing ”join-the-dot” outlines and hammering nails along the periphery of such patterns.

DIY does not appeal to me in its literal connotation only. It is also about serious recycling and about making memories out of things you don’t want to throw away ever. For instance, the pine fruits collected from Manali (my honeymoon destination) are painted in glittery colours and made a part of the décor. 

Do you remember that roll of thick thread that used to come with a specific brand of water purifiers? I do not remember their exact purpose. I do not need to. See this beautiful swan crochet mat, woven by an aunt-in-law from that roll of thread. What better purpose can there be?

The empty beer bottles rolling on my floor in their drunken merriness (after India’s last World Cup win) were preserved by dressing them up with my left-over fabric and using them for growing money plants.

For people whose money and plants grow at an inverse proportion, resorting to home-made ideas is the best option anyways. :/


The mention of wealth and green thankfully stroke a more positive chord in my heart. It is said that, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” My guardian angel (read father-in-law) has bestowed them both upon us.

No house is complete without a green patch. If space is a constraint, one can resort to indoor plants. On window sills, center tables, low rising cupboards, book racks and even restrooms, they look lovely.

In my personal opinion, the charm of a garden grows manifold if you add a swing to its landscape. Depending on the size of the garden, it can range from Ray’s Charulata-swing to the one in the picture below.

My garden is not complete if I do not mention these children. I am in love with them. The Worse Half dislikes cats. (The reason behind both the emotions, I think, is my uncanny resemblance with cats. We are lazy, fat round chubby, awesome-outside-awful-inside, love to eat and sleep, hate physical exercises and in blind love with ourselves). Pursuant to an amicable settlement, they are allowed in the garden and not inside the house. : (

Home is where the cat lies…
If books were like Olympic medals, our house would have suffered multiple neck injuries. The house has over 1500 books in his collection which is increasing by the day with each member’s contribution. Here is a snapshot of the library. (98.5% credit goes to the father-in-law).

The Man has followed his father’s footsteps. Initially, I used to complain when rooms were ‘sand-duned’ with books all over. But thereafter, I realised that in a book-loving house, owing to their alarming rate of increase, books are bound to be a part of the décor. This reminds me of an old conversation had with my roomie.

“Why is this huge stack of books lying here? Will you please spare the bedroom atleast?”
~ Have I ever told you anything when you stack nail paints on the dressing table?
“But that’s where they are supposed to be”
~And, books dear, are supposed to be everywhere.
Point. <3

“When we are hungry, love will keep us alive” – Eagles
“So will cinema” – Parama Ghosh

When faced with interrogation from someone as to why I have framed photographs of movie stars on the bedroom wall, my honest and prompt reply was: “Is it not boring if you have to wake up every morning and see the face of the same man in your bedroom?” While the best option from my “Men I want to date” list made it to the bed, the bank accounts and the life insurance policies, the next best options made it to my wall.

The runners-up in my husband’s “Women I want to date” list have similarly made their place on the drawing room’s wall.

In terms of being religious, the walls of my house get full marks. Most of the walls are adorned by pictures of Gods and Goddesses. (We haven’t spared the cushions even! Sigh….)


P: “I am in love with cushions.”

J: You are biologically gifted with so many. The love shows from the lack of any effort to get rid of them.

Leave aside those mean jokes. The point is, cushions add a lot of character and comfort to the house. I love them in vibrant colours and textiles. Being a lover of all things Desi, the cushions, bedspreads and curtains reflect an overdose of Kalamkari, Kantha, Bandhni, Bagru, Madhubani and other indigenous fabric.

This picture taken on a lazy afternoon warmed my heart. It brilliantly summed up few of the most exquisite things Bengal ever produced. The Kantha, the picture from Tagore’s Shahaj Pathh recreated on Batik (“ডাক পাড়ে ঔ, ভাত আনো বড়ো বৌ”), Alpona painted on the terracotta plate and the “Diva” on the magazine cover…..if this is not beautiful, then what is?      

Neglected art forms invariably draw my affection and attention. Batik is one such. The “mere-dholna-sun” cushions (on two sides) in this picture are resist-paintings in the form of Batik and bought from a village artisan from Shantiniketan.      
Curtains, clocks and collectibles

The love for Indian fabric and motifs is reflected in the curtains too. For people whose lives thrive on colours, the curtains become an evident representation of the same. I have noticed that changing curtains in 3-4 months work wonders to the rooms. Changing curtains is not as easy as changing bed sheets…both in terms of money and energy. So you can do what I do. Interchange curtains from one room to another, mix and match, make loops on one end of the dupattas/stoles you hardly use and hang them from the curtain-rods. Compliments will flow like P.C. Sarkar’s ‘Water of India’ at the sight of your Bandhni, Ajrak and Chanderi curtains. ;)

The traditional Gamchha of Bengal transformed into curtains

My house is as metro sexual as Salman Khan and flaunts his accessories likewise. Here is a sneak peak.

A favourite wedding gift of mine (the wooden clock and not the human) and a "Vikram aur Betaal" photograph.
I also have a few collectibles which are wrapped in memories and tied up with strings of happiness. They range from bottled rainwater (from the first shower of a particular year), weaver bird’s nest, sea shells, masks, wooden toys and the like.

The pebbles lying near the lamp were collected from Victoria Memorial during our courtship days (if you are a Bengali and have not visited Victoria with your Laabhaar atleast once, you are destined to knock on Hell’s door and be punished severely).

The “Sondesher Chhanch” or moulds were used by our earlier generations for making sweets at home and beautifying them with patterns on top. I chanced upon them in a local Mela (Each for five rupees). I do not have the patience of making sweets with them. Hence….

These ceramic dip-bowls hoard remnants of a favourite neck piece and a vacation by the sea.   

Let there be light, oxygen and food….
These are the three things without which life would not be the same. These are also the three things without which my house will not be the same.


My favourite is the first on the top left. On a special request, a rural artiste from the handicrafts fair painted Kalighat-Patachitra on a raw silk lamp for me. It could have been a reason enough for my delight. However the woman’s hand gesture and the way she is rebuking her husband in the picture made my happiness grow manifold.   


The dressing table containing my Pandora’s boxes....junk jewellery, stationary and the little Et ceteras without which I may stop breathing….    


A clean kitchen was my aspiration. And I have (almost) achieved that. *drum rolls*

My kitchen, like all its fellow rooms, is a victim of my recycling-ventures. Also, it boasts of the attractiveness of recent Yash Raj films’ trailers…..beautiful to look at, doubtful so far as the finished products are concerned. : ( 

Food for thought:

Bar accessories fascinate me as much as their contents. I have collected a few of them over the years. It is difficult to flaunt all of them like family heirlooms because I live with my in-laws.

These villainous shot glasses are favourites from the collection.

“Sardar maine aapka namak khaya hain”…
Ab Tequilla aur Nimboo bhi khha….

I also consider the framed picture as a bar accessory. A gift on our seventh, it reads a lovely note.

"Tum aur hum, jaise coke aur rum...Ek7 janam janam"

The threshold:

So here we are. Aren’t you feeling exhausted after the whirlwind of a home tour? Let’s sit on the porch and chat some more. The cinnamon tea can give us company. Instead of biscuits, let me serve you a few chocolate cookies. Here they are:

·                     Your home is your home. Treat it like a family member and it will treat you like wise.

·              Get inspired but don’t follow trends blindly. What may look great on Sonam Kapoor may make me look like a tent. So drop the “Cntrl C + Cntrl V” jacket and let him speak his own story.   

My Ramayana-door. Ram, Sita and Hanuman (detachable) on the eye hole.

·                    For a perfect home, money is one of the last things you need.

·                    The secret of a beautiful house is its going through a Sholay-test and passing it. You see the same walls, same rooms, same curtains every day. Yet, every time you see them, your heart melts. That is the Sholay-test.  

·                 Love him more. Love his attires and accessories less. Remember that the ceramic statues or the porcelain figurines in your house are things. And I believe, “the best things in life aren't things”.

·                Of all the things I have written above (and felt secretly good about), the one that makes me feel very happy is this: I have seen people dread at the advent of child visitors at their places. I have seen people utter, “Ishhhh, the baby is touching that terracotta Ganesha. He may break it”. I heard friends telling me, “My son is very naughty; please remove everything breakable before he destroys them all”.  I have NEVER EVER done that when children visit our home. I have NEVER EVER felt scared that my favourite things may be broken. I have not said a word when my maid’s son drew on one of our walls. Scolding him would have killed the artist in that child. My heart warmed when I saw this picture on the internet. It reaffirmed my belief that “Life is beautiful”.

Source: "Best out of Waste", Facebook page.

 My spiritual Guru had once said, “Happy girls are the prettiest”. It applies equally to everyone, including the one that gives you shelter. :)  

This post is written for the “The Asian Paints - Great Ways to Create a Beautiful Home Blogger Contest (of which I got to know from the Women's Web. The rules and regulations are here.)

Photographs (except where it is specifically mentioned): Author's own.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

A thing of beauty

is Jai-Veeru forever…

I watched Sholay for the first time on big screen last Saturday. I have watched Sholay several times, but on the big screen, it was my first ever watch. This post could have ended here….because this will be the most terrible and useless post you’ve read on Sholay. But then, I am neither Jai Arjun Singh nor Diptakirti Chaudhuri. (I am the little black ant and you know who they are.)
My disclaimer speech on no-expectation-from-this-post ends here.
Take-home from Sholay:

1.      Sholay is the first Hindi film I watched. KG - II. Summer vacation. Rented VCR. Rented video cassette. I watched the entire thing motionless. Love at first sight. I was a five year old and it was thirteen.
2.      I learnt a few things from the film. (When I told JD about this, he said, “What? Talking nonstop nonsense like Basanti?”) Cheap jokes apart, I will share what I learnt. I learnt dipping tobacco. Don’t freak. Read. I was mesmerised at the sight of Gabbar rubbing tobacco. If I had to name the greatest thing I learnt from Sholay, this would be the answer. I substituted it with ajwain (jowan/carom seeds). I used to take a pinch of ajwain in my palm, rub them, make a clapping sound and put the entire thing between the lower lip and the gum. I cannot remember learning anything more interesting in my entire childhood. (Joydeep says that Bengalis as a clan learnt chewing khoini after they saw this film. Pre-Sholay, consuming khaini was not at all common in Bengal)
3.      I learnt drinking tea with a ‘slurp’ sound from the saucer. That famous Socide scene. Basanti rushes to Jai shouting, “Arrey tum kaise dost ho?” In that scene, Jai drinks tea by pouring it in a saucer. I had never seen anyone doing it before watching this film. Found it super cool. I picked up the act. I used to pour water from a cup to a saucer and drink it in ishhtyle. I don’t know how that habit got undone. Ma’s smacks, am sure.
4.      I also thought “Beta so ja, nahi toh Gabbar Singh aa jayega” was the coolest thing to say for putting a child to sleep. Honestly, I would rate it much higher than lullabies and other Bengali ghum-parani mashi-pishi-sissy songs. *suddenly feeling sorry for my unborn children*.
5.      I made Baba buy a mouth organ for me. Tried playing you-know-what. Never could. When I had a Nokia 1100 phone, I had set that tune as my ring tone. And, for the first few days, each time my phone rang, I was Michael Jackson....walking on the moon.  
6.      The scene where Gabbar shoots Thakur’s grandson. Every time I watch the film, I freak out at the advent of this scene. And every time, I get relieved at the fact that they so smartly escaped the brutality. The sound of the gun gets replaced with the sound of the wheels and the whistle of the train in which Thakur arrives.  (Yes, this is one of those scenes which has the maximum impact on me).
7.      Joydeep told me that when Sholay was aired on the national television for the first time, the entire city watched it. The roads looked Bandh-stuck. All shops in their locality were closed. In the ad-break (there was almost 10 minutes advertisement break which was very uncommon in those days), he went out. He said, “For once, I thought a curfew has been declared. The roads were uncannily empty.”

Take-home from Sholay 3D:
1.                     The bullets. They almost landed on my lap. (I was actually scared)
2.                     I watched the movie 1¾ times while watching it last Saturday. The entire crowd (it was house full) uttered 75% of the dialogues before they were actually delivered. It was such fun. Initially, JD and I behaved well and refused to join the bandwagon. By the time Gabbar appeared, we were all into the dialogue-delivery-mode. You get to witness this sight in a movie hall only when the National Anthem is being played. This was the best part of watching Sholay on 3D. (There were whistles and throwing of coins on the screen. This robbed the multiplex effect and transported us to a heaven so beautiful.)
3.                     The only scene where I hoped the entire audience behaved more responsibly was “Itna sannata kyon hein bhai”. Boss, Imaam Saheb’s son has died.  It is a sad scene. Before A. K. Hangal could come up with the line, at least 30 people said it in unison (including the one I was sharing my popcorn with) and the whole theatre burst out in laughter. *face palm*  
4.            When the movie ended, he asked me, “Your reaction to the film. One word please”. I said “Maggi”.  No matter how many times you’ve had it, it is always divine. To this, he added, “Na Sholay is like Kola gachh (banana tree). You can derive something or the other from each and every part of it. The trunk, the flowers, the fruits, the leaves…..everything”. Point.
5.                  Mr. Ramesh Sippy’s interview in T2, Telegraph (9th January, 2014). I will share the question (with the answer) I loved the most.
Q: “Is there anything you wish you had done differently?”
A:  That was the toss of the coin during the time when Veeru holds Jai’s dead body and tosses the coin away when he realises that his friend had deceived him with a same-sided coin. The film was shot in stereophonic sound and the impact of the sound of the coin was such that people in the hall would look under their seats for the coin. But I felt later that the placement of that sequence wasn’t right at the time because that was the time when Jai was dying. It was a fun and frivolous moment and shouldn’t have been placed in a death sequence.”

6.           We watched Sholay together for the first time. I always thought I was the only one who cries every time she sees Jai dying. 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Happy Prince and other short stories....

“Aren’t you feeling cold?”
“I guess, I am used to it”, he smiled. 

I looked at his frail structure. The tall, lean, bearded man stood right in front of me, his long mane touching his shoulders, his body wrapped in a light cotton shawl and a very modest dhoti.

The moon-clad starry sky, the dazzling street lights and the rattling bells of the horse-carts driving past, infused so much life into the huge white building facing us, that one would mistake it for a lovely lady, wearing a white evening gown, flaunting the hair accessory adorning her bun and bestowing upon the surroundings all her gorgeousness.

“It must be the lady’s charm keeping you warm”, I joked.
He nodded in denial. “It is the warmth of this city, I suppose”, he added.

I left. I wished I had woollens to wrap him with. It was a cold December evening.

In the midst of the sound of the hooves, his figure emerged. The man on a galloping horse. “Ah! You make a warm happy sight, unlike your friend whom I just met. Atleast, you have a proper shawl around you and a horse to rest your butt on. Noile ei sheetey thhaye dnariye thaka.....”, I muttered. And, I know that I totally sounded like a true blue-blooded Bong whose most-used sentence throughout the winter is: “Thhanda lege jabe” (You’ll catch cold).

As I took the road on my right, I realised that the two men I just met one after another had a strong, bomb-astic connection.  : )

From the next signal, I headed straight towards office. (In Calcutta, we prefer calling crossings ‘signals’.)
The strong sturdy bespectacled man stood right in front of me. “He should have been somewhere close to the High Court”, I told myself, given the fact that he was the chief architect of the gospel of Indian law.

His neighbour sported a funny turban and a funnier moustache. Not many people know that he was a lawyer too.

I moved forward.
When I first saw him, I was a little girl. Ma told me that he was the founder member of the college she went to. I asked her if he was a Bengali. He wore a turban like non-Bengalis do. 

Ma always spoke very highly of him while Joydeep often joked that it is because of people like him, “toder eto baar bereche...”.  (This roughly translated means: The man showed the path, you followed it and went too far....beyond control).

“Same for you. I always thought you were not a Bengali. The beard, the way you dress are so not Bong”, I told him. “We have non-Bengali actors who share similar surnames.” The statement sounded so juvenile and stupid that we both laughed.

“You write well”, I told him. (He was waiting all his life for this one certificate from me!!) The genius flashed a smile.

“Aren’t you lucky? I mean, a human born to a Royal Bengal Tiger! You are one of a kind, do you realise that? ”I said and ran away.

Who would dare to joke with a tiger cub? Not me.

And then, I saw her. I see her every day. Every time, I see her, my head bows down in veneration. The lady reminds me of my maternal grand mom....a school teacher from East Bengal who was an epitome of strength, courage and knowledge. If my Dimma was born a few decades ago, she could have also fought for the country’s independence. I am so sure about that.

I just stared at her in awe for some time. (I have a dream. Someday, we two will have a of the very few, where I won’t talk. I will sit and listen and she will tell me about her childhood, of her growing up and everything it took in the making of the very brave women that she is.)

It is by sheer coincidence, that the only other woman standing in the crowd also reminded me of my grandmother. My paternal grand mom.  They both hail from a small town called Tamluk in Medinipur.

Strangely, the two women I met had one thing in common. They embodied fire, nurtured it and spread it here, there, everywhere. I was almost going to ask her if she was feeling cold (given that she is old and clad in a crinkled Khadi saree) when I remembered that it is she who lights fire in the branches of the Krishnochura trees on either side of the Red Road and fills my journeys to the office with hues of blood, oranges and sunshine.... every single summer-morning. Every.

While I was leaving I whispered to her, “Vande, Materam are two of my favourite words too. They are music to the ears.”

Every time I meet these men and women, my heart is filled with an apprehension that they remain unguarded. Some of them are old. They need to be safe and secure. Then, I see the two soldiers with huge guns, standing at the end of the road and I am assured that they are in safe hands.

I took a few steps forward and I was greeted by a whirlpool of energy. I knew of him since I was a child. Whenever someone accused my paternal grandfather for his untainted loyalty towards Mohanbagan club, given that he was from East Bengal, Dadai used to give example of this gentleman. Like my Dadai, he had his roots in East Bengal (Bangladesh) but his claim to fame was through a football club of West Bengal. Dadai was a huge fan and I vaguely remember some “Great Wall of China” simile being drawn when spoken of this man. I was also told that he played football bare feet against the Inrej and won. Some Lagaan-type story, which I haven’t judged the truth of!

Could my grandfather ever guess that the grand daughter would get to meet him everyday?

The husband is a staunch atheist. Had it not been for this man, I would have accepted his claim of being a non-believer.

My father isn’t an atheist. His reliance that this man was God, reaffirms my belief in the preceding paragraph.

Yes, I get to greet Him six days a week. But I don’t. Because, the greatest attribute of this man, apart from his Godliness is: He is one of the very very very few men in the entire Universe so huge, who leaves me speechless. Every time. Always.

With the decreasing distance between my workplace and me, I met three more gentlemen.

The first among them and I belong to the same profession. You remember the first two men I spoke about in this writing? This gentleman too, has a bomb-bastic connection with the two of them.

My earliest memory of this man is a conversation I had with Baba ages back. I was a kid. We were crossing the Kalighat Bridge in an auto on our way to Rashbehari. I folded my hands in prayer when I saw a huge temple on the right. Baba told me that this is the Keoratola Burning Ghat and not the Kalighat temple. “If there is no Kali thakur in this temple, what have they made this temple for?” I asked Baba, in utter surprise. What Baba told me filled me with unfathomable awe. He said that this temple was built in the memory of a Bengali gentleman. The then-Chief Minister of Bengal sold photographs of this man with two lines written on them by a Noble Prize winner for one Rupee and the temple was built entirely from public funds collected in the process. 

I still vividly remember the two lines...”Enechile sathe kore mrityuheen pran, morone tahai tumi kore gele daan”. I had goose bumps hearing the story. I had goose bumps while writing about it.

I finished some pending assignment in office and headed towards home. I took the road which leads to Babughat. He stood near the front gate of the Calcutta High Court. I have friends and relatives from the same province in Bangladesh where he was born. Almost seventeen years before India was actually independent, this man and his men conquered their hometown and declared it independent for an entire day! Isn't that cool? 

There are innumerable stories of his valour and gallantry. Every time I see him and his neighbour I wonder why people brand Bengalis as fainthearted.

His neighbour stood a few miles apart. I think that the young man is the strongest exception to a Bengali’s so-called nervous, cowering image. He is also one of the very few Bengali men (and perhaps the youngest also) who has an entire song written after him.

He reminds me of the “Happy Prince” whose Swallow, I secretly wish to become....some day, so that, when God asks his Angel to bring for him the two most precious things from this city, we two could be the chosen ones. 

The epilogue:

As little children, we used to play “Goooo Statue”. I was a very talkative child and friends and cousins often played this game to make me freeze at one place. They would “statue” me and not say “over” for a long long time. In those speechless, motionless moments, I almost felt breathless.

I wonder how these men and women manage their eternal “Goooo Statue” act. I gaze at them in awe and love. We have developed a bond very strong in all these years of my office-journeys.

Once someone asked me, “Which is that one thing in your city with which you identify yourself the most?” There was a Tsunami of answers in my mind. In the end, I told him, “The statues on my way to office.” Kolkata is the only place in the world, where I can “goooo statue” myself for an eternity.....speechless, motionless.