Monday, July 18, 2005

Well, I have to do this. Just check the name of this blog, for heaven's sake!

I did speed-read Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince through most of Saturday night. It was worth every minute of it. Thought of a good many things to write about on the blog while I was reading it, though it all eludes me now.

When you read a book like that, not letting go of it for even a minute, not even for loo breaks, the inevitable happens. You finish it too soon. When I had just started reading it, there was this terrible decision I had to reach. Should I take it slow and easy, read it chapter by chapter, savouring the feeling of actually reading a new Harry Potter book – one which holds surprises and unexpected twists and turns, one that I didn't know like Jack and Jill went up the hill, or should I just whoosh through it like I always do? This whole tortuous decision-making process lasted all of two seconds while I continued gobbling it up like I always knew I would.

When I had finished it less than 24 hours later, I felt classically bereft and lonely. (Ok, anybody who thinks this is sinking into bathos obviously doesn’t understand a thing about Harry Potter and can leave right now). And what irked me most on Sunday morning was the fact that nobody I knew had read the book – so I couldn’t discuss it in excruciating detail like I was dying to. People just kept calling me to ask who had died – although not really expecting me to play spoiler -- but which I did with much relish.

And then I realised that there wasn’t much to discuss about the book, actually. I mean, there aren’t too many surprises left anymore. I can sort of guess what will happen now. I’m sure it will happen as startlingly and uniquely as everything happens in HP, but what I mean is, most of the really big questions have been answered.

Really, I could be quite cynical about it at one level, and still thoroughly enjoy it in another. I mean, there were some things I could sense coming from a mile away, rather, from the second chapter onwards, but it was still a kick to find out that it was so. I knew there couldn’t be such old-fashioned, unworldly, un-sexed up 16-year-olds in all of England, that Harry and Ron seemed more out of Tom Brown than a school in modern-day England, but somehow I was just glad they were such gentlemen and not vandalising perverts. When a book can suck you into its world like that, I think it’s quite, well, magical.

It’s rather like reading a satisfying Agatha Christie – if you stop to think about it after you’ve finished reading, there are a million highly improbable things you can point towards. But most of the time, you just close the book with a satisfied sigh and don’t want to think about the million improbable things.

There are some books you can’t classify as good or bad, and you don’t even want to decide their merits or lack thereof – you just love them for being there. Well, I’m a bit like that about Harry Potter.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Be prepared!

Just came across an online guide to blogging safely. Have discovered that I have flouted all rules of safe blogging, especially by giving away name of organisation I work for etc. Hell, and my url is actually part of my name! The guide tells me I haven't made myself anonymous enough. Am shaking in my boots now.

Given my track record for indiscretion and landing myself in several hot water situations (though only in Real Life, yet) through over-enthusiasm and general lack of paranoia about what-will-people-think, I have a sinking feeling this may also come back to haunt me one day.

On a more serious note, not having to check over your shoulders constantly was what blogging was all about initially, wasn't it? It's frightening how the system catches up with us subversive elements of society. Whatever happened to a little old-fashioned system-bashing? Died in the London underground, I suspect.

P.S. This is slightly out of the above context, but just discovered something that's so terribly ironic I had to tell someone. The spell check on the posting field of doesn't recognise the word 'blogging' and wants to replace it with flogging! On BLOGGER.COM!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Am slowly getting sucked into Harry Potter 6 obsession. Am thinking of little else these days. Have told friends to lay off this weekend since will shut myself off from society. Will lock myself into bedroom and speed read my advance copy booked two months ago. Am constantly worrying about how to get through next four days. Am re-reading two-year-old stories in Guardian on HP and OOTP. (Just came across brilliant review of OOTP -- go read).

Friday, July 08, 2005

I have PR woes too

I am just sick of telling PR people in Bangalore that my newspaper (oh and I'm also sick of maintaining this anonymity and gravely saying 'my newspaper' as if I bloody own the place) so anyway, I'm sick of telling PR people in Bangalore that The Telegraph does not have an edition in Bangalore. I am sick of admitting to them with an involuntary guilty twinge that no, it does not have an edition in Delhi, and no, not Bombay either -- and hearing successively more depressed ohs. If that makes me rank somewhere close to my defunct school magazine in PR and media value, well, as they say in the corporate world, they can take their business elsewhere.

But seriously, why are these people so abysmally ignorant? I'm sure even the average readers of newspapers on the streets of Bangalore know that there is no newspaper called The Telegraph published here, some may even vaguely be aware of its actual geographical location, so what excuse do people working in a media-related industry have for not knowing this basic fact?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hello Mr PM? What did you have for dinner last night?

Of all the things I hate about my job (and there are several: they pay me peanuts, they pay me peanuts, they pay me peanuts) there is one I absolutely abhor. And that’s having to call up random celebrities and asking them embarrassingly personal questions such as what they like to do on their weekends, what’s their favourite cuisine /drink/vacation/brand of shoes, hair gel, shampoo… what kind of music they like listening to while negotiating killing traffic on the road and what’s their partner’s favourite sexual position. Ok, not the last one, but I’m sure we’ll get there some day.

I don’t understand why lifestyle journalists are made to make such fools of themselves. You are expected to just call somebody you don’t know from adam, simper a bit, repeat the name of your newspaper thrice (unless you work for the TOI or for my paper in Calcutta), be told rudely that the person you are calling is busy shooting/partying/attending another fashion show or whatever, asked to call up later – which, in the terrible unfairness of things, you just have to do unless you want to join the unemployed millions. There is nothing in the world as humiliating, ignominious, demeaning and frustrating as having to do this week after fucking week. How I cringe and blush and swear – but I just have to make that call and sound sweet and charming and interested.

Looking at it from the celebrities’ point of view, what must it feel like to be called up in the middle of the afternoon and asked about the ‘turning points’ in their life? (Yes I just did that to another hapless Bollywood type actually Arshad Warsi I quite like the guy think he’s very cool and he was very sweet on the phone but that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing the guy was in Goa for heaven’s sake!) Do they get a kick out of it? Do they have a chart for every day of the week, keeping count of how many journalists called to ask inane questions? Do they make fun of us after they’ve been thoroughly sweet and understanding on the phone – turn to their friends and say ‘what suckers’? I suspect they do. I would.

Now I know this has a larger purpose and is not merely a tactic devised by editors to divest young, idealistic, swollen-headed journalists of their egos. Not only do celebrity quotes act as great space fillers and breakers on the pages, you also get to decorate the said pages with pictures of pretty people. And I admit, when I’m reading other magazines and newspapers, my eyes automatically wander to the bit where we have John Abraham expounding on the merits of his latest brand of shoe polish or whatever. I just resent the fact that I should have to do this – that too in the middle of working on a tough story on Bangalore’s retail history and suchlike. I mean, surely I’m above this? But no, even my colleague who’s spent 10 years in the company and gets all these difficult stories no one’s even dreamt of has to stoop to this.

I know these reader fellows might like this stuff (though you won’t get a single soul to admit this, but believe me, they’re lying) but must the deciders of newspaper content submit some of their best talent (ahem) to this kind of ignominy and discomfiture? And whose life would be enriched by knowing that Rina Dhaka likes wearing white cigarette pants embellished with crystals? Why don’t these reader types also get a grip on their lives and stop being so celebrity crazy and take out dharnas and all to make newspapers (at least mine) stop publishing such tripe, especially when most of them keep cribbing all the time about how frivolous the content has become and all that?

P.S. Was just told they don’t have a picture of Arshad Warsi so I’ll have to get someone else. Tell me why I should go on living.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Batman Begins (Yawn! Must it?)

Went for Batman Begins last night and fought overwhelming sleepiness all through. Now, I have nothing against the movie: in fact, I have absolutely no opinion on it. Blame it on the lateness of the hour -- it was the 10:15 pm show -- and the fact that the night before had been spent in a drunken stupor and not the refreshing, invigorating sleep I usually require to drag myself from day to day, but I just couldn't help nodding off and waking up with starts whenever there was a sudden burst of noise, which there was rather a lot of. All I remember about the last half an hour of the film is that lots of buildings were calamitously crashing to the ground, bridges were breaking impressively, a manic train was plunging to the ground and then suddenly all was calm and there was Batman (in Bruce Wayne avatar) chopping wood or something. No, sorry, he was actually boarding up a well.

It would have helped if Batman had been better looking -- that Christian Bale character looked more like Ratman to me. The only passable looking guy in the whole film was that psychiatrist character, and then he was wearing a gunny bag mask most of the time.

According to Roger Ebert, "Batman Begins at last penetrates to the dark and troubled depths of the Batman legend, creating a superhero who, if not plausible, is at least persuasive as a man driven to dress like a bat and become a vigilante." The absurdity of it makes me want to laugh. Ok, so here's a man who wants to dress up like a bat and save people. Now if you want me to believe he's not, well, batty, put him in a less serious and less earnestly dark setting, for heaven's sake! Make it more like the frothy and cheerful Superman, I say! On one hand, you have this gloomy city -- very believable in its tales of corruption and its dark, miserable depths --and on the other, you have this totally absurd and fantastical thing of a caped crusader fighting evil. Who goes to Tibet or wherever to seek a blue flower that makes people see fire breathing dragons and all. Which is ok in itself but not if it feels like these guys were trying to make a Gangs of New York with a caped crusader.

Do film-makers who make superhero movies need to take their subjects a little less seriously? Anyway, whatever, they do at least need to find better looking leading men, if you ask me.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Book tag

Nobody ever thought of book-tagging me. Why am I so unliterary and dumb? Why? Why? (Said in the desperate manner perfected by darling Bridget Jones, my fiction alter-ego. I know, I know, all women say so, but with me, it’s like, uncanny. But more on that later). The point is, NOBODY, not even my so-called friends from Delhi’s lit journo circle (in a very loose sense of the word; what I actually mean is the people, including myself, who used to frequent sundry book launches together to get drunk on free booze and laugh at everybody else present and act fashionably cynical) thought of book tagging me. Sniff.

So I will do it on my own. Firstly, though, I must confess that like every one who likes to think of themselves as ‘serious readers’, I haven’t read half the books I feel I ought to have. And most of the time, when I get my hands on such books, they turn out to be completely unreadable. I'm not saying they really are, but maybe I’m too dumb to enjoy them or something. (God, how I love being self-loathing and uncomplimentary towards self). Lately, I have decided to give up the pretence and just read what I enjoy reading. Like Harry Potter 5, which I am currently devouring for the third time in preparation of Book 6, the coming of which is one of the high points of my life right now.

So here goes:

Total Number of Books I Own: Between the pardner and myself, anywhere between 1000 and 1500.

Last Book I Bought:
Them by Joyce Carol Oates. Had never read Oates before, haven’t finished the book yet and am not likely to. On the other hand, I just might. It's a bit depressing, but I think I will give it another try.

Last Book I Read:
Re-read Bridget Jones’s Diary and was astounded by similarities between said diary writer and self. Oh, I’ve said that already, haven’t I?

Five Books that Mean a Lot to Me:

I think when you talk about books that mean a lot to you, you tend to go back to the ones you read when you were growing up. I was surprised to find how many Bengali books I was thinking of, though my Bengali reading has been pretty erratic of late.

1.Badshahi Aangti by Satyajit Ray: One of the first Feluda books I read (was 10 or so), which led to my falling promptly and violently in love with the then 28-year-old Feluda, for whom I’ve nursed this secret passion all my life. Was very disappointed by Ray’s not talking about Feluda’s love life at all – used to spend hours imagining myself as this grown-up female side-kick who has a subtle yet passionate romance with him.

2.The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger: Quite possibly my favourite book of all time. What can I say about it? Only how it touched me personally. Read it when I was 16, just the right age, I should think, and found it so impossibly funny and touching that it quite broke my heart. Resolved then and there not to grow up to be phoney – only suave as hell.

3.Pather Panchali by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay: Those who have seen the movie have only appreciated Ray’s craft, not too many people know what a great, great writer Bibhutibhushan was. Even today, Tagore and Sarat Chandra are probably the two names people associate most commonly with Bengali literature, but Bibhutibhushan is in a different class. His writing is very undramatic, very understated and unlike in Tagore and Sarat Chandra, there are no larger-than-life characters. Just very ordinary people made unforgettable by this amazing writer.

4.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Usual reasons. Loved Scout Finch, loved Atticus, loved the undercurrent of sadness (but sadness minus morbidity, which is the way I like it) running through the book. It made me understand how all childhoods are a bit sad, when looked back upon.

5. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong: Again, read this at a very impressionable age. But Isadora Wing has always been somebody I have been lovingly indulgent towards and exasperated with all my life. The sequel was terribly disappointing, though.