Tag Archives: orissa

BBSR

Bhubaneswar, through Bhang tinted glasses

Sometimes, the view of an outsider makes you look at your own home through different eyes.

I was in Bhubaneswar last week for a friend’s wedding and was accompanied by two friends (both stand-up comedians).

The plan was to attend the Reception, and also conduct an Open Mic (which went very well, thank you for asking!), and come back. Now, both these guys had already begun ‘writing their sets’ about Orissa. Much of their impression of Orissa came from media images, and jokes like the ones I often crack (‘I am from Orissa. I only crack poor jokes’).

These two guys were probably expecting tribal warlords at the Railway Station, holding spears and dropping off bears into the Ladies Compartment. In a way, they were shocked to find normalcy.

Bhavneet and Mukesh were completely bowled over, remarking on the wide roads, the pleasant winter weather, and the lack of noise and chaos. Travelling, it is said, changes who you are, and how you look at the world.

Either that, or the copious amounts of pot we had consumed through the journey.

 

*

 

But it was when I saw my hometown through their eyes that I began to realise the overwhelmingly calm blanket that Bhubaneswar seems to wrap you with. I don’t mean this in a ‘Wah! Yahaan toh sheher ka shor-sharaaba nahi hai sort of way. Bhubaneswar generally is a peaceful, calm place.

The biggest home-grown stores close for two hours in the afternoon so that everybody is allowed two hours of sleep. A tradition that these asshole nationwide malls are trying to destroy, those fuckers!

The roads are wide, planned out, and perfect for both humans and bovines. I noticed that in any part of the city, you’re more likely to hear birds chirping than vehicles vrooming. It was only on this trip that I realised the value of a planned city.

Bhubaneswar was designed by Otto Koenigsberger, a German architect and city planner. In 1948, it was decided that Cuttack had too many issues (like spectators throwing bottles into cricket grounds), and couldn’t sustain itself as the state capital. Bhubaneswar was named the new capital.

Since it is a planned city, much of Bhubaneswar is visibly divided into two parts. Government-owned land, and private property. In fact, through much of the newer parts of the city, a road divides the two, with government land on the left, and private property on the right.

I spent a good part of my years in Bhubaneswar in government flats, and often found the entire setting stifling. The roads that turned at 90 degrees, the endless lines of houses that looked identical, stood still in the afternoon heat and bustled about in the evenings – a flurry of Chintu, Montu, and Pintu playing on the road in front of the identical houses. I remember feeling stagnant, tied down.

Visiting those parts after a decade, I can see the difference between the two faces of the city. Private property is like a gigantic mushroom, growing larger, brighter, more grotesque as the years pass by. Buildings were torn down, and replaced by taller ones. Shops and hotels having migrated to greener pastures.

But the government owned parts of the city are still the same. I rode through the streets and soaked in the sights and the smells, exactly as they were. I found the same houses, the roads that turned at 83 degrees (age having taken a slight toll). At some places, I could have sworn I saw the same cows from my childhood. Everything as they were, like a painting from Gryffindor Tower at Hogwarts.

I can’t recognise the part of myself that found this suffocating. I had left as Samuel Coleridge – heady, impulsive, and swooning with the force of the storm in my head. I had returned as William Wordsworth, noticing the mundane joys of the world, getting inspired to pen a poem titled The Solitary Creeper.

*

I spent a good week in Bhubaneswar. Lazy days, and charged up nights.

My evenings in Bhubaneswar have had a fixed pattern for a few years now. As the sun sets, I walk out into the market and help myself to a nice, round gola of Bhang. I then walk about to my favourite part of the city – the Sarkari Bhang Dukaan – and smoke some good weed.

As darkness envelopes the city, I walk around, visiting friends who are drinking, the nights a blur of red, black and gold. (Gold, because golden colour Activa).

This time though, I paid closer attention to Bhubaneswar. I took in the sights and the sounds and the smells.

And on one such night, I made a resolution to myself. A weak, tottering resolution, but a resolution nonetheless.

When I reach the age of 35, I will retire from the hustle bustle of life. I will find a house in a government colony in Bhubaneswar, and retire.

 

***

(Feature Image Courtesy: Odisha360.com

WELL DONE, ORISSA !!

With most Oriyas, the most common complaint is the lack of representation in media.

The fact that we have such a rich culture/heritage/Chief Minister, and yet none of it is shown to the world outside, while the nation is obsessed with Bengalis/Punjabis, is a common line of complaint that most urban, educated Oriyas hold on to.

In the 70 years of independence, hardly a handful of Oriyas have made any impact outside the state. If featuring in the news is any indicator of such impact, we only have Nandita Das, Debashis Mohanty, and Sudarshan Pattnaik. The only other thing we are in the news for is natural calamities – floods, cyclone, earthquake.

And yet, in the last week, we showed our true colours. Sona Mohapatra sang an Oriya folk song and we filed an FIR against her for committing the grave crime of attempting to re-interpret a folk song. And surprisingly, the outrage is being led by musicians, social workers, artists – people you’d generally expect to have an open mind about such matters. And yet, we cling on to our quaint ideas of ‘culture’ with such insecurity.

Our idea of protecting our culture is making it wear the burkha – it is precious so let us cloak it from head to toe. Let no one touch it, look at it, have anything to do with it. It is ours.

But it isn’t science. It is art.

The very nature of art is to change shape, to adapt, to be embraced by people across generations and still be revered. Sholay, arguably the biggest cinematic product of our nation, has been remade numerous times. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s songs are adapted, Amir Khusrow and Bulle Shah’s songs are sung by rock bands across the world. Adaptations and interpretations are a part and parcel of art.

Shakespeare is the most widely read playwright in the world. Not because the Kingdom protected his writing and made them sacrosanct. But because Shakespeare has been adapted into every culture, every language, every context. And yet, his writings shine through because they touch something deep within us – they show us our dark sides, they throw light on our good.

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Most of the outrage has been because Sona Mohapatra has ‘polluted’ the song.

Well, if you ask any boy who grew up in Bhubaneswar or Cuttack, you’ll realise there wasn’t much purity to the song when we grew up. For all its rich traditions, Rangabati was sung and performed in baarats – accompanied by sleazy, pedophilic songs about the breasts of 15 year old girls. It was sung on the streets at night, as drunken men shouted out the lyrics, made lewd signs, and generally became a pain in everybody’s asses. I never heard a single of these protectors of culture complain about it.

And to differ in opinion is one thing. To file an FIR? Seriously? Now the artists have to run from pillar to post, deal with court hearings, and get called up like petty criminals – just because they remade a song? Who are we? The Taliban? ISIS??

And who should be the culprit? Well, the youth wing of BJP, who else?

These are the same guys who run around shattering coffee shops and man-handling young girls on Valentine’s Day, these great upholders of the culture of Orissa.

And yet, it is not the first time that we are embarking on such foolishness. A few years ago, a Bill was passed in the Assembly to change the name from Orissa to Odisha. We all celebrated on social networks, and took pride in ‘bringing back our lost glory’. Wait, what the fuck?

How does a name change from Orissa to Odisha change anything? For a state grappling with malnutrition and illiteracy, NOBODY thought it inappropriate to spend crores of rupees on a useless bureacratic process. While we harp on about culture and Oriya pride, nobody speaks about the politics of Orissa. There has been just one Chief Minister for the last fifteen years. While there has been hardly any laudable progress (apart from the usual benefits of modernisation), he is hailed as a ‘clean’ man (*Makes mental note to wear white kurtas when meeting girls*).

Nobody speaks about that. About the fact that politics and the electoral process in Orissa is crumbling. That one man in power for long periods (no matter how good/clean he is) is a disaster for electoral democracy.

We don’t care about such things. What we want, is to cloak our songs with burkhas. Let nobody touch them, for they are ours.

*
Well, well done Orissa!

It was just a song on YouTube. People would have watched it, and forgotten about it. But now we have gone ahead and proved to the entire nation how petty and myopic we are!

And singers, writers and musicians from Orissa, beware!

Like Shah Rukh Khan says in one of his shitty romantic films, ‘FIR milenge, chalte chalte!’

******

R.I.P. Orkut

A few months back, some friends were doing a Vox Populi, and the question was ‘Which is better – Orkut or Facebook?’

My answer was Orkut, without any doubt.

For most of us, surfing the web meant google or porn or sending cute e-cards to friends. Orkut brought a meaning to our virtual lives. We all had a name, an identity, and a Salman Khan DP. Orkut began the trend of being cool on the internet.

I am also partial to Orkut for the way it revived the cyber cafes in Orissa. After the desi-baba days of the early 2000s, cyber cafes in Orissa were losing business. You see, for half a decade, the cyber cafes were the melting pots of Oriya people of all kinds. College goers, couples, middle aged office goers, the local electrician, school children, and every few months, the friendly cops next door. It was a virtual Madhushala and they all flocked for their daily fix.

And the cyber cafes acknowledged their diverse clientele by breaking technological barriers. There was a cafe called ClassicNet. This guy was the Walmart among Cyber Cafes, simply due to the innovations he had brought about in the domain of one-handed surfing. So if you were sitting in ClassicNet, you would hear a voice going,

“Bhaiyya, isko kaise chalana hai?”

“Kuchh nahi, bas ‘Enter’ button dabao”

You see, the guy would add all the porn clips to the playlist in Windows Media Player, and keep them ready. All you had to do was pay him, enter your cabin, sit on the stool, and press ‘Enter’. Customer is king, you see. And even kings have their needs.

But the internet cafes were losing out to home internet connections, till Orkut struck us like a lightning. Cyber cafes were again full of people, college goers who were adding the latest Altaf Raja blockbuster to their profiles in the hope of getting that elusive girl in college. Though Orkut today looks like Hiroshima on 6th August 1945, it began it all.

Who can forget the excitement of seeing who visited your profile, and then disabling ‘profile visitors’ so you could check out girls’ profiles? And the profile pages that had the ‘Professional’, ‘Social’, and ‘Personal’ columns. The ‘Personal’ section, that had interesting questions like ‘Turn Ons’, and ‘Looking For’ – where guys would expect to see ‘Wild Sex with strangers’ on girls profiles.

Before Orkut, web surfing was a personal affair. With Orkut, it became a common thing where people could talk about. Having a cool ‘About me’ was a must. Something like, “I yam wat I yam. Its mah lyf. Skrw da wrld”.

And talking about each others Orkut profiles was the in-thing in college discussions. So one day, I meet this guy and he says,

“Dude, I saw your testis. They are awesome”.

I was like, “What the fuck? How did YOU see them?”

“Testimonials, dude. They are awesome!”

And the communities that everyone joined just for the heck of it. Joining a community was more so that you could show it off on your profile. There were communities for everything, there is even an ‘We love Antara Mali’ community. So you joined any damn community, the last activity in which would have been before you even started shaving.

And the ratings that your friends gave you. “You are 70% sexy, 50 % cool, 20% smart”. And the ‘scraps’ that you could send to your friends,

Everything was going well, before Orkut started to act smart. They introduced Privacy Settings. This killed half the joy of being on Orkut in the first place. I mean, who would want to browse a girl’s profiles if all her photos were blocked and she was ‘Looking for: friends’??

Gradually, Orkut began to ape Facebook for everything. There was more emphasis on users safety, which doesn’t make sense. We are a nation which zooms at 90 kph on rainy roads without a helmet. Whoever thought of users’ safety? Gradually, every feature on Orkut began to look like Facebook, including a ‘What’s on your mind?’ button. But Orkut was about mindless voyeurism. There was nothing on our minds when we surfed Orkut.

There were changes made every week to the layout and features, and the early Facebook users began to look down upon Orkut users. So if you were in college talking about the latest way to get colourful scraps to your profile, the FB user would give you a disgruntled expression, saying, “I am not on Orkut. I am now on Facebook.”

But Facebook is no comparision to Orkut. In Orkut, you could ogle at anyone for as long as you wanted. If you did the same on Facebook, you would get a

“You are my top stalker. Creep.” written on your wall the next day.

On Facebook, you cannot make ‘fraandship’ with anyone, as some people have even blocked the ‘Add as friend’ option. It’s more personal, more sauve, and as a result, sucks.

But Orkut was something else.