Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In Pursuit of the Idiosyncratic

So here’s the deal. Idiosyncrasies make a person interesting, or so I’m told. Agreed.

I can’t deny that I love watching my colleague kissing his fountain pen (no puns) every time he starts writing...and refusing to sign anything, even group birthday cards for other colleagues, if he can’t find a fountain pen. The logic being, ball point pens are not pens at all. Fair enough.

But apart from him, I can’t pin down anybody else who has an idiosyncrasy of some sort. And the fountain pen syndrome is far from being a true blue idiosyncrasy.
What about a person who doesn’t shave because he believes that hair is an extension of God’s love? Or the lady who married her dog, adopted his name as her middle name, took him on a honeymoon to Switzerland and left everything to him in her will? Now, these characters may well be fictitious but aren’t movies infested with idiosyncratic people? What about Dr. Evil’s account of his father in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery?

He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes, he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament

Or for that matter, the pinky-sucking Dr Evil himself, whose account of his own childhood is:

My childhood was typical: summers in Rangoon ... luge lessons ... In the spring, we'd make meat helmets ... When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds — pretty standard, really. At the age of 12, I received my first scribe. At the age of 14, a Zoroastrian named Vilmer ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum — it's breathtaking ... I suggest you try it.

Or closer home, Dr. S. Asthana, played by the brilliant Boman Irani in Munna Bhai MBBS, who laughs when he is really angry and insists on calling himself Dr. S. Dot. Asthana.

Or even more close to home, Gobeshok Gobochondro Gyanotirtho Gyanorotno Gyanambudhi Gyanochuramoni, played by Santosh Dutta in Hirak Rajar Deshey, whose name, gait, profession, appearance and very existence define “idiosyncratic”.

Where are the Dr Evils and S.Dot. Asthanas and Gobeshoks of the real world?

Not sure about you, but I am so typical that I often fear that I may bore myself to death. I was better off when I was small. As a baby, I liked twisting one end of my mother's saree to make a pointed tip, and rolling it on my face. That’s how I went to sleep every day. I did not need my mother to sit beside me and sing me lullabies or read me stories, as most other children did. I just needed that ONE particular saree. This continued to an age when it was no longer cute or funny. One day, my mother hid the saree and told me that she had thrown it away. My child psyche couldn’t handle the shock and I developed a peculiar reaction. I started fluttering my eyelids constantly...all day...for many days. Concerned, my teachers in school reported it to my parents, who took me to a doctor. On careful investigation it was found that it linked back to the shock of being forcibly detached from that saree. Helpless, my mother returned it to me and the fluttering stopped magically. Eventually I outgrew that habit, thank god.

As an adolescent, I insisted that my two ponytails aligned perfectly and were of equal shape, size, height etc. So much so, that I had a ruler beside the mirror and when Ma was done with my hair, I would measure the alignment. At the cost of missing my school bus, I made her open and re-tie my hair in that perfect straight line that I wanted.

I was such a fine idiosyncratic baby and adolescent; so what suddenly happened when I reached adulthood? True, I like my toast burnt and my nails clipped so short that you would think I have some sort of a disease. But nothing close to a peculiarity that “only the genius possess”.

That makes me sad. Real sad, believe you me.
So KG, Manikarn, Debanjana, Madmax tell me about your idiosyncrasies (or the lack of it). Surely you are doing better than me in that field.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dil to Bachcha Hai Jee

After years, even a decade perhaps, found a song that feels like sunshine on a naughty river. It’s like that warm sunlight that makes me happy no matter where and how I meet it. Whether I am sitting on the terrace of my grandmother’s 18th-century house, amidst poppadums and pickles....or on a beach looking at happy lovers holding hands and sharing candy floss, sunlight always makes me happy.
So does this song.

When the rest of the world seems to be gushing about the latest in sound technology, digitally morphed voice tones that sound almost robotic, this song uses the most archaic of musical instruments...flutes and even a harmonium I think. Its utterly hummable melody reminds me of an abandoned tree trunk...untouched, raw, unpolished, yet majestic in its sheer strength of character.

It woos me with the innocence of a black and white Bollywood movie:
...when heroines were still coy and heroes were content writing pages of poetry on their beloved’s eyelash...
...when “sweet” was more attractive than “sexy” and “melody” reigned over “beat”...
...when songs were songs and not item numbers...
...and music was happy being just the “food of love”...not a political statement or a voice of the materialistic world...
It takes me to such a time....

But today, when the sky was dark and sunshine was on a holiday, the song did something that it hadn’t done the numerous other times I listened to it. It made me think...it made me sad.

Old age doesn’t scare me. But what if I am too young to understand it? What if I am naive in not being scared? As if aching joints and coughing all night weren’t bad enough...life in old age is like living in a courtroom. You wear red...the world will call you garish and unsophisticated. You enjoy food...the word will call you gluttonous. You fall in love...the world will prosecute you with the meanest of comments.
What if this isn’t a happy song at all?
Can someone please listen to it and tell me if it's supposed to be sad or happy?

Koi to rokey, koi to tokey
Is umra mein ab khao ge dhokey
Dar lagta hai ishq karne me jee
Dil to bachcha hai jee