Thursday, July 28, 2005

Taking Stock

When I segued from student to working man, I weighed much less. Much water has flowed under the bridge, much avoirdupois accumulated on the frame.

All those years ago, I could bench-press my current weight. Now, I can barely bench-press what-used-to-be-my-weight then.
My body bothers me.

On the other hand, I have achieved what I used to consider one of the marks of 'coolth', back when I was in college. I know all the suits in all the watering holes in town, most by their first names. (Not just the ones who wear those brass name-tabs, gerrit?) And I'm now confident enough to send back a dish if I don't like it. Ohhhh, sexy!!
Back then, I very definitely was not part of the gang that frequented the only disc in town. At the Oberoi. It was called the Pink Elephant, and after our college celebrated its quasquicentennial (look it up), an Old Boy threw a party for us at the Pink. I think it took a week to get rid of the smell of teenage puke. Free booze for 19-yr.-olds, the man was mad.
The only other time I entered the Oberoi (“back then”) was when I was walking down Chowringhee to catch a bus, and suddenly I just had to go. Lovely marbled restroom, oh joy, but half a mile down a slippery-floored corridor. Try that some time when your innards are making like Krakatoa before it blew.

When I was 18 I tried to write poetry. Occasionally I even wrote something that could pass as poetry.
These days I post on a blog. Sometimes, on two blogs. Or even three. But I haven’t written any poetry in years.

I think I was about 22 before I learnt to shut up.
I still have to remind myself, now and again. But I’m getting better.

I was 15 years old when I first heard “Scarborough Fair / Canticle”, “Bridge over Troubled Water” and “For Emily, Wherever I may Find Her”. Also “Patterns” and “Cloudy” and the “59th Street Bridge Song”. (My first time in New York, my friend thought I’d lost it when I insisted we make a detour to see that bridge. Great guy, but he used to like ABBA. I mean, a grown man who hummed “Fernando”?)
Then I fell in love with Kishore Kumar. And found R.D. Burman, Floyd, Tull, Al Stewart, Led Zep, Tom Lehrer. The amazing voices of Billy Joel and Shubha Mudgal. Along the way I sampled Silk Route, Traci Chapman, even Lucky Ali (yes, I DO like the Hrithik number).
One amazing night at IIT Delhi started with Shiv Kumar Sharma and went on to Amjad Ali Khan. Hari Prasad Chaurasia summoned dawn with Bhairavi and I’d discovered something. Years later, thanks to SPICMACAY and Prof. Qureishi, I sat in a small room and heard Shruti Shirolikar and once Zakir Hussain.
But …
… when I hear THOSE two sing their songs again, I’m still 15 years old.

I first went to Shiraz (“Golden Restaurant” … w.t.f. is golden about Shiraz anyway? Perhaps their biryani), at the corner of Park Street and Lower Circular Road, back in 1982. Thanks to J. No wonder he was my best friend. That was when a hundred bucks was still a Big Deal. One time J and I won that much in some college fest and blew it all at Shiraz. Ran up a tab of over 90 bucks and left the rest for tips.
To put that in perspective, the average human being would have found it difficult to finish a plate of biryani and a side order of rezala for twelve rupees. The first time I took my wife out (that same year and no, she was not my wife then), it was to Shiraz. We had 5 bucks apiece and bullied another 5 out of Rajesh S with some obscure reasoning. We sat downstairs where it was cheaper, we paid our money and we ate our meal. We were full, we were happy.
The last time we went to Shiraz was … well, last week, actually. They still make the world’s best biryani (though the Bengal Club is a legitimate contender). And the most amazing tandoori roti. The bill was a ridiculous amount, perhaps barely enough for a soup and dessert at Churchill on Colaba. Some things don’t change. Mmm mmm mmmm. And in case the point isn’t clear enough, MMMMMMMMMM!!!!

I wonder which year I learnt to say Hullo to a woman’s eyes instead of her chest. I do know it must have been some years after I was 16.
But I’m proud to say it’s been several years (decades, even?) since I greeted even the hottest woman with my eyes directed a few inches below her clavicles. Even on that memorable occasion on the Long Island Railroad four years ago when, for more than an hour, I half believed that bald is sexy. Somewhere in a finer and better world where true heroism is recognised and feted, I’m right up there with Sir Galahad. Or Bedivere at the very least.
(Ummm … I must confess I still do lech at times, but my priorities are different now. Brains and a sense of humour certainly, but also eyes, hands and voice. Most definitely eyes, hands, voice.)

(Which reminds me of a comment about Bongs ... "You guys are unique. Look at your most common term of abuse - I mean, how terrible can it be that I slept with a moron?!")

I used to try to help people. A lot of it was due to Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton and all that rot about one good deed a day. (Do kids these days even know about William and the Outlaws?) My good intentions were rarely appreciated, even on the rare occasions when I didn’t goof up big time. I did donate blood several times in college, though.
I really am better at helping people these days. Or so they tell me. Double difference there. Not bad.

Back then, I never had much money, but I don’t recall ever wanting much money either. Just didn’t think about it, I guess.
These days, I do want money. A fair amount. Still don’t have much. That hasn’t changed.

There was this picnic when I was in my first year in college. Half the people who went had only one condition – I shouldn’t be part of the scene. Major popularity.
I’m still told that I’m obnoxious. But it’s usually said with a smile. At least, I think it’s said with a smile.

I was tagged on that book meme that went around. Never did respond. How does one list 5 books? Or even 10?
What was the first book I read? I really don’t remember. The last was (a minor embarrassment) The Half-Blood Prince. Finished last night at 9 p.m.
That feeling when one has a new book to read. “The keen thrill of anticipation that surpasses every possible emotion … love ambition sex music food success, nothing can compare.” Something that hasn’t changed. Thank God.


Anonymous said...


S said...

simply brilliant, prufrock

thalassa_mikra said...

About the whole "slept with a moron" thing, my Dad finds it very puzzling as well. And I've also noticed that one of the worst things a Bong can say to another in public is "Gola tuley kotha bolben na"!

So are you friends with Kiran? I was a SPICMACAY volunteer for a while, what memories!

Anonymous said...

Martinian. Gotta be.

And just a year or two my senior if you were 18 the sesquicentennial year.

Some detective work about to happen,

Another Martian.

Heh Heh said...

khub bhalo likhhchen aapni. shundor lekha... pore darun laglo.

Gamesmaster G9 said...

Hmmm... sesquicentennial? Very few institutions managed to reach that landmark. If you were 18 then... would you have been of Presidency College, batch of 1967?

Urmea said...

But Ani - teenagers in Presi - not so much, na? Also can you imagine Aveek Sarkar (or whoever) throwing a party at Pink E for Presi students! Uh no.
Must be La Martiniere - he just called it college in that snobby way! Which would mean ISC batch of 86. (I remember cause a friend of my brother's received a gold medal from the then President of India at the celebrations for topping ISC or some such nonsense.)

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

*rising to the bait*

Ignoramii!! (Well OK, I was 19)


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Anonymous, those cool La Mutts-type shades obscure your 'Martian' vision. I was never a part of that academic institution tagged on to the commercial complex on Rawdon Street! (Now to "cry 'Havoc!' / and let slip the dogs of war!")

S, Unflammable One, thank you for your kindness.

Mikra *trying to keep my voice down* I did not know Kiran. I was a free rider. But yes, good memories.

Orthoniti-bid, itihaash shekho. Pink Elephant in 1967?

Urmi me gel, it WAS Aveek Babu. But you know how sometimes a cigar is just a cigar? Well, in this case college was jolly well a college. And the adjectival form is "snobbish". So THERE.


Urmea said...

Uhmm, I did notice the swiftly edited 'khuku' bit. So all I have to say to you, dear Prufrock-kaku, is pfffttt! And snobby has a subtle undertone that is way more descriptive than plain old snobbish could ever aspire to being.
So Aveek Sarkar sprung for a party at Pink E?? Tell tell! Listens goggle-eyed to Old Moz' stories!

progga said...

JAP, your post included so many references from my childhood that I half thought you might be me. Wisps of memory went floating by and wrapped themselves around me. All very pleasant when I'm sitting in suburban NJ eating micro-waved frozen alu parathas and thinking of home.
And btw, last weekend, when I was in the city... I went to see the 59 street bridge too!

vAgue said...

I once hunted for a plain white cap, bought Prussian blue fabric paint and somehow convinced my brother to paint concentric circles on the cap.
Lo and behold, it was William in Delhi!
And yes, I even made my own group of outlaws, and since no one was as into William as I, it was easy being the leader...

Itineranting said...

Oh yes, like you described most of our childhood..
And since you presumably live in Bbay, can you pl get back some Shiraz biriyani next time you're back from Cal? Cant get enough. Actually, dont get any these days.

the still dancer said...

he doesn't, that's the other prufrock.
@ all the others,
smiles smugly (snobbily) at all the tansh ishkools fighting it out from my perch on Bullygunge Place.

And all you who are trying to guess JAP's collegiate vintage, do think: what is the snottiest, most obnoxious educational(?) institution ever to have (dis)gressed calcutta? and La Marts (he e hee) cannot even hold a candle here.

the still dancer said...

and JAP,
after the rather drab call centre post, this is delicious fare indeed. plentiful repaste on a rather turgid, rainy afternoon in beantown.

JW said...

Remebering that expletive brought a few smiles.Lovely read.

Gamesmaster G9 said...

Evidence would suggest it is the college across town. (better known as college X), but that unfortunate blot has yet to complete 150 years.

progga said...

Vague, laughing at your William in Delhi thing. Recall the time William fell on the Vicar's teacup?!

the still dancer said...

O great JAP,
Illumine us.

Nandan said...

errr...did you mean Shruti Sadolikar?

And yes, nice read.

eM said...

My cousins and I never did the William and the Outlaws thing, but we did attempt the Five Find Outers and Dog. Which consisted of nothing more ambitious than spying on our neighbours till our grandmother caught us and made us play indoors. *sigh* Those were the days?

meditativerose said...

Nice ... it's been a while since I read William ... but if he's an inspiration to do good deeds ... wonder what the non-good deeds are like ... shudder :)

Also, love the moron insult ... can think of some people I can use it for :)

the still dancer said...

Ok, to compensate for slur on your noble alma mater, and to ensure future supply of egg-roles from kusum,
O great one, I commend thee on your most exalted musical tastes. I too, am a devotee of the tremulous twosome, and yes, when I listen to them, I too am fifteen, once again. dinguli mor shonar khnachai, and all that. but as a humble offering, here is my favourite bit of song-writing by them (although a bit self-conscious):
It’s a still life water color,
Of a now late afternoon,
As the sun shines through the curtained lace
And shadows wash the room.
And we sit and drink our coffee
Couched in our indifference,
Like shells upon the shore
You can hear the ocean roar
In the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
Are the borders of our lives.

And you read your emily dickinson,
And I my robert frost,
And we note our place with bookmarkers
That measure what we’ve lost.
Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm,
Couplets out of rhyme,
In syncopated time
Lost in the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
Are the borders of our lives.

Yes, we speak of things that matter,
With words that must be said,
Can analysis be worthwhile?
Is the theater really dead?
And how the room is softly faded
And I only kiss your shadow,
I cannot feel your hand,
You’re a stranger now unto me
Lost in the dangling conversation.
And the superficial sighs,
In the borders of our lives.
pax en terra

Heh Heh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heh Heh said...

Hmm.. this college thing is making me curious. Evidence does point towards college X, but it is also true that it hasn't finished 150 years yet.
What can it be? CMC (1985)?? But JAP-da doesnt sound like a doc.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

OK, I goofed.


the still dancer said...

In case assembled bhodrolok and bhodromohila-gon hajn't hard it properly,

vAgue said...

eM, those were the days, I guess....but we're adults now, no?
progga, I don't unfortunate;y remember the tea cup- I do remember him as the ghost though, when they are about to send him off to boarding....and, would you believe it, I don't have a single William book with me today....

The Marauder's Map said...

This is totally bizarre, I know, but I didn't come across a SINGLE William book when I was the age to read it. Not one. Plenty of Enid Blytons, but not one William. Probably my school library didn't stock them or something.

Then, last year, a colleage was giving away a lot of children's books that her daughter had grown out of. I bagged the whole lot. In that was a William book -- and I was hooked. Have about five or six now, having bought the rest from Blossom in Bangalore, which has a decent collection. Haven't ever come across any in a regular, corporatised chain bookstore, though.

Reading your first William after being through quarter-life crisis and all, just imagine!

progga said...

MM, a good place to pick up Williams is the Calcutta (sorry, Kolkata) book fair. Or the second hand book stalls on Free School St. or Golpark-Gariahat connector, if they're still there.

Mala said...

Hi JAP, found your blog through a rather convoluted set of forwards from a friend (last stop: Bridalbeer). Saw the name of the blog, and was hooked :-)

Blew up most of the PF money from my first job (had to withdraw it when I left, and it was burning a hole in my account) to go see S&G in concert a year ago - simply magic. Especially when the launched into Kathy's Song.

Srin said...

Most kids don't read at all these days.William toh doorer kotha.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

A post's comment life usually does not extend beyond the next post. I can see that William has struck a chord. (It would be redundant to say that about S&G, that's what they DO, right?).

Urmi, you're a Brer Rabbit wannabe?

Progga, there should be a post on the life of an exile very soon. Including microwaveable parathas (they're not too bad, really).

Bhegu Bhai, we await your memoirs. The William Years.

Rant, I've never tried biryani as contraband, but I have carried raan from Karim's in my hand-baggage. Maybe next time I visit Bombay ...

W, thank you.

*ignores the Chicago Chhokra; mere invective does not merit a reply*

Nandan, perhaps I spelt the name differently, but a lovely voice. Even better these days than in 1988.

eM, THESE are always the days.

M-Rose, while Richmal Crompton may be rare over there, the 'moron insult' can be just right. Teach it to the Guidos.

Arka, yes that's one of my favourites too, but I can make out the lyrics, you know? Incidentally, Paul himself said (Playboy interview, 1994) that he thought most of his writing during those years was too self-conscious. (And what does my 'vintage' have to do with which college I went to? Malaprop!)

Fingeek, quas not ses. And what does a Doc sound like?

M Map, as Progga points out, if Blossom fails you, there's always Calcutta.

Mala, stay on the hook. Next stop Jethro Tull? IF they tour again. And do tell me about the "convoluted set of forwards".

Srin, I fear they read neither William nor JC (though I don't like Heart of D ALL that much meself).

(Phew! Anybody I missed out on?)


Anonymous said...

JAP-da arew you from Scottish Church College. i am arka`s schoolmate but i know my way around kolkata

pru_frocknomore said...

Well Prufrock - this nostalgia trip has me thinking - that there are people who know of the mighty William or Biggles(?) Did you read Biggles in school ? From your ramblings of Old Calcutta ( from my vantage point of 30 +, it does appear Old) .... have you seen the stretch of green opposite the Gtand when you were small , the car park ? That was beautiful - have you ever had an ice at Firpo's before it died ?