Friday, August 30, 2013

Wagle ki Duniya- A throwback into the times

I have to agree that this year in Germany will remain special for me. Just for the fact that it has helped me reconnect with many things I loved once, moments long lost and forgotten, friends with whom I always thought of talking but kept on delaying about the chance encounter bit- everything!

Now coming back to the part of reconnecting, I think 'Youtube" has been my godsend gift. Imagine this...early 2000's Calcutta, a young pigtailed girl having a huge crush on her maths teacher waiting eagerly for "Shudhu Tomari jonnyo"- the weekly dose of star crossed love stories on Etv Bangla every Sunday. The gawky teenager watches and develops further crushes on Parambrata, the lanky young guy as he was then, not the very handsome man that he is today, and Jishu Sengupta. Ah! I think it is not only my story. But then her parents decide that Cable television is too much of a disturbance for studies and decides to disconnect from the network.

Sigh! what does the girl do if she has not yet been able to know the outcome of the remaining episodes of the season? She simply finds them on youtube many summers a distant foreign land :) And that is the reason I think youtube you were one of the best things to happen in this era of technology. In some context , it s a time machine also. Of course I did not decide to restrict my curiosities to only watching "Shudhu tomari jonnyo"... I of course went back to the good old Doordarshan days when "Superhit Muqabla" was the coolest thing to happen to me and "Phulwari Bacchon ki" (especially the episode in Fatehpur Sikri") was a dream come true. And then "Tehkikat", "Suraag" and what not! My god! a treasure trove of my childhood. I actually read up on the reams of nostalgia available on the internet surrounding DD. And there I discovered "Wagle ki Duniya". The original airing time of the show did not actually coincide with my childhood. I must be around 2 or 2 and a half years only when the original episodes were shown. I decided to watch the episodes to see what was all the jazz about. I watched only the ones available on Youtube and I am not sure if I am qualified enough to comment since not all the episodes are available online. However, I decided to go ahead as the "common man" today in my eyes have gone a sea changes from the values that Mr. Wagle bore during those pre liberalisation days.

(Image Courtesy:

To start with Mr Wagle did not have to bear with the computers. That made his sons' childhoods colorful as they are shown playing a lot of cricket, reading comic books, doing a lot of puzzles and stuff. But poor Mr Wagle also did not known the joys of the internet and Google. In one of the episodes he had to literally chase down a few acquaintances to gather information about planning a vacation somewhere nearby. Sounds a bit unrealistic in today's time when hotels are pre booked over the internet :). But as a 90's kid I remember all those family vacations every year where atleast once we had to tag around our fathers looking for a decent hotel. Must have been irritating then...but happy memories now! Reservation was good, but then again my dad had to go and stand in queue in front of the Railway booking office in Koilaghat Street for booking a railway ticket. There was no internet and more importantly no IRCTC website to make fun about also :)

I am not sure if the series ran further, how would  have been the portrayal of  Mr Wagle's sons' growing up. May be they would have been the faces of post liberalisation India- A haven of service industry, which on one way is boom and also a bane for our country. The best gift of the turn in tide- smart jacketed corporate honchos who made flying abroad- which till yesterday was a dream for many into a regular habit for many middle class Indians. And that was the beginning of a change. While we keep on hearing about a soda ash factory coming up or the sound of the Company siren in the background, the story knits together an India which was still walking towards a future of manufacturing industries and industries of core competency.

I will not be a bore about how "simple living and high thinking" dominated the times. Everything was not good about it. We may be nostalgic choose to remember only the happier time, but it was also a time when unemployment was at its peak, a time when the household decisions revolved around the question  about whether to employ a domestic help or not...whether that will push the envelope for the family budget or not. We will have to agree that the common man or the Indian middle class lives a much more comfortable life today in the terms of monetary value. I am not so sure about the emotional security part. The part which belongs to the times of job security, 9 to 5 jobs, hesitation about whether to pay the bribe or not! Yes red tapism was a part of the culture of the times but so was the belief of the parents that their children will grow to see a much better India...probably the reason why MR and Mrs Wagle did not like their son eavesdropping on their conversation about paying bribe to a government servant.

I think the new improved shining India has done enough take away that belief. And I say so because, nowadays I see parent, rich and famous, some of them have earned their positions and they deserve every bit of it. They might not like their children to go through the same struggles they have been through, but that does not mean that the value of 'humility' will also be forgone. The sense that 'you can buy everything', that I think is a problem that the young India face. Come on! I could not have contained myself in that lowly 2 BHK residential quarter shown in the series...many of us would not have. And I am justified in asking for more...the anthem of our growing up years have been "yeh dil maange more"...and is asking for more a bit too much? It never should be...We are hungry as a nation, we are hungry for everything...and probably that's the reason our parents..the same ones who taught us to be better human beings, nowadays go to each other's houses, the ones they live in as a part of their own self built old age homes, and compare the successes of their wards in the terms of the pay packets earned, the number of foreign trips made and blah blah! Imagine this in the time of Rk Laxman's common man...there were neighbours, the prying ones and the 'neighbour's envy' was palapable, but then again the same ones let you borrow their binoculars or may be their hot pot also. Can you imagine if I thought of borrowing my neighbour's binoculars today? I will die of shame and buy a new pair. Probably that is the reason the neighbours who were once considered even dearer than your relatives and knew every bit of your household story, turn a deaf ear even when somebody is probably dead in the next apartment.

And what do we do in turn? We run....we run everyday...behind the much alluring success story never knowing that our parents who are alone in a city or a town, which might have been my hometown once, spending days and nights alone in our thoughts. Because where we come from often makes us feel ashamed..too constrained for the growth story.

But who says asking for more is bad?


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


"It is not Rono".

Sheila's words momentarily comforted Rajita. But in her heart she knew that the unrest was yet to die down. It was almost 1:00 AM in the night and Rono, better known as Ronojoy Gupta among his colleagues, was missing for the last 72 hours.

This was he second day in a stretch that Rajita was hopping around from one hospital to another along with a bunch of friends in this unknown city. And in this unprecedented hour of terror, it appeared more and more unknown.She had been here for the past 5 years, but every time she crossed the CR PArk Kalibari, she longed to be home. In her mind home was always a city a few thousand kilometres away, a city which was already discarded as trash.

Rajita was not cynical, in fact, she had started liking Delhi over the past couple of years. She had no other option.This city meant business and had granted many of her wishes. She had wished to reach the zenith of success and she is already on her way to do so. She also met Rono here. And her life changed. Sometimes she thinks Rono was the best thing to happen to her and sometimes the gory allusion of her relationship with Rono becomes alive...the worst living crisis she could go through. Or she thought so until day before yesterday.

"Hello, Shruti....Shruti this is Ronojoy's girlfriend Rajita. Sorry for bugging, but is Ronojoy still in office?
"Hi Rajita! No, I think he left an hour back"
"Oh! actually it is almost 12:30 AM and he is never this I was just wondering"
"He might be still stuck in traffic you know...the infamous Gurgaon traffic"
"Yes might be. But traffic at this hour! Anyways, Thanks"

Rajita had disconnected the call and decided to wait for sometime before informing anyone. Shruti worked late along with Rono in his office. Or so she had heard. Earlier it was the chap called Vinay. But the unusually attractive Malayalee bombshell had slowly been mentioned more frequently by Rono. It was not that a hint of suspicion never engulfed Rajita's mind. But she did not confront Rono. His perceived distance  while answering questions related to Shruti was palpable.

She waited till 3:00 AM when she decided Sheila and her husband Rahul, her first friends in the city. Sheila was her classmate in JNU. And since then it was a battle against time. The time when she apprehended that she might hear that she had lost Rono forever.Surprisingly, even her parents were concerned. They did not like Rono at all. There were plenty of reasons of not liking him. Sometimes they were so real that even she thought of breaking up with him.

Unlike her classy convent educated, JNU polished educational credentials, Rono had nothing. He was merely a small town boy with a Bachelors degree trying to find a foothold in the city. He managed to do an MBA from one of the mushrooming institutes in the city and found a job. A job that was much less paying and prestigious than Rajita's glamorous corporate affair. But that did not stop him from being assertive to the point of being oppressive, egoistic, insecure and chauvinistic. He could never handle Rajita's success or academic ventures with ease. He could never fathom or understand the cultural circle that Rajita was a part of. He was not well read and there were often instances that Rajita was left red faced because of Rono's careless comments or deliberate attempts to demean her friends. She vividly remembers an incident even today when 4 years back, just after they had started dating, she had made a half cooked attempt of introducing him to her family. Her parents were visiting her. They met at Rajita's aunt's place in Greater Kailash I which was quite the home of the rich and some famous ones in Delhi. Rono had come all the way from Karolbagh where he was staying in a rented accommodation and travelling all the way to Connought Place. After the lunch was served, everyone started eating with the cutlery. Rono did not even pay heed to anybody around and started managing the chicken leg piece with his hands. If that was not enough, while her uncle played a soft Farida Khannum number when everyone had sat down to indulge in some Bengali adda, Rono audaciously told him to stop the song- "Arey! what sleepy bogus numbers are you playing on a Sunday? Play some nice Hindi song...arrrey what is the name of that new Kareena Kapoor movie? Have you heard?" He asked Rajita's cousin, someone he did not even know 2 hours back, while patting his back and humming the song.

Rajita's professor father was completely appalled. He could not fathom what mistake they had done while bringing up Rajita that she could make such an error of decision. Probably the most important decision in her life. They never like Rono again and the feeling was mutual. Rajita's parents try to dissuade her from pursing the relationship till date. Everytime she visits her home, her mother always try to persuade her to meet a very eligible suitor- the kind they would like for Rajita. Rajita understood their issue.

She often tried to make Rono understand that even if he did not like her parents or her family, he could at least try to be civil around them. But he was always stubborn. He called them foolish and started speaking in harsh language which hurt Rajita's understanding of being patient in a relationship. She gave up at last knowing taht Rono would not change. He was violent with Rajita often and even shouted at her nowadays. He often accused her of being too friendly with her male colleagues for grabbing the much desired promotion last year.

"You licked Malik's ass too well! Did you make a trip to his farmhouse also?" stated Rono laughing his guts out. His first reaction after hearing the news of her promotion. He knew very well how much she had worked for her success. Rajita was hurt. She was even more surprised at Rono's sense of competition when he returned home drunk next day evening and told her - "You earn more than me? I will work more and earn more than you".

Rajita often wondered why did he stick around with Rono? She was not helpless. She could do that long before but she chose to move in with him instead. A decision which hurt her parents the most. They did not talk to their only daughter for a long long time. It was Rajita's last ditch attempt to save the relationship. She thougt probably the increased proximity would make Rono understand her better. But the proximity killed even those hopes.

Sheila always asked her what was she waiting for. For Rono to abuse her physically? She did not know. Rajita's did not see any hope in the relationship. She did not want to hurt her parents but she did not want to hurt Rono also. She loved him and deep inside she hoped that the free spirited self of Rono, the one that she fell in love with, loved her too. Otherwise what would explain his anxiety and perfect nursing when Rajita was at home for a month when she had a fractured ankle. Sometimes she could not understand the twos ides of the Rono. She did not know both.

(Image courtesy:

"Rajita, Rajita.....I think you should go home....I don't think we can make any more headway today"

Sheila told her while lighting up a cigarette in front of the hospital they were visiting. There was an unidentified dead body whose description matched that of Rono. She had put all her resources in Delhi to use- informed the police, publicised the matte rin the social media, took help of Rono's colleagues and friends, but nobody was able to shed any light till now.

"Sheila please, we should just go and check the body kept at the Ram Manohar Lohia...Please!!!"
"But that is not even close Rajita.....Rono did not wear a blue shirt that told, remember? Besides, the guy had a tattoo. Rono did not have one"
"Sheila please, I know that how helpful you guys have been..but there should be a limit...I am so sorry..last one...I have a hunch!"
"Rajita, that guy was admitted to the hospital by an unknown sex worker. He was found in a brothel.....Even after knowing Rono, I would not buy that"
"Neither do I....but that guy had a heart attack no? may be he was found by the sex worker....anything...please, please, please....Sheila. He was alive for a day...may be he told something."

"Sheila, I think we should go." Sheila's husband Rahul who was their silent companion through these two days spoke out. Rajita thought she and Sheila would be fine but Rahul had insisted. He did not want his wife and her friend to roam around alone in the city notorious for its misogynist fervour. Rajita did not find the city unsafe...but it was not the right time to argue.

"Okay if you guys say so".  Sheila gave in and Rahul started driving towards their destination.

Rajita sat in the back of the car. It was almost 2:00 AM now. The city was fast asleep. Yet in someways, the underbelly of the city was awake-completely. Rajita had never seen this side of Delhi. They crossed a nightclub and it seemed that the youth nowadays preferred to submerge themselves in a world of their own..only with the help of alcohol and drugs. But deep inside, Rajita did not register any of these. One  part of her hoped that it was not Rono. Another part of her was sure that it was him..even though the description did not match. That part of her sought certainity. an answer that she has been searching for long. May be n answer for future? But how could he get the tattoo? Was it a new thing? She should have known atleast. She again hoped it was not him. She uttered a silent prayer. This time she felt more confident that it was not him.

The car halted to stop near the hospital. Sheila and Rahul got down and hurriedly went inside. May be it was the early November chill outside which did not make them realise that Rajita was still inside the car. She was thinking of the future. What if it was Rono? Did he actually visit the brothel? Where did it place their relationship? Was he actually dead?

Sometimes uncertainty in life is a much more comfortable place than a dead end.  
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