Sunday, February 11, 2007

This is life

The circumstances: Rain from Friday night till Sunday afternoon. A chill sweeping through the region. No sunshine for the past two days. Frustrated with sitting at home, twiddling our thumbs, doing virtually nothing.

The lit-bulb-in-a-speech-bubble-over-the-head idea: Chai, its never tea, and piping hot samosas at a stall in Patparganj, a nearby Colony.

The transport: Nitai's Alto, our transport vehicle of choice and frequent chariot of duty at odd hours.

The passengers: Self, Nitai, driver and sponsor, and Ashish, my bro.

The drive: Serene, uneventful, excrutiatingly slow due to Nitai's whim, accomplished with minimal fuss.

The unforeseen complication: Cannot sit on the chairs outside the stall due to the rain. Must be seated to be able to do justice to the samosas and chai.

The solution: Restaurant-in-a-Car !

And so it was that all three of us sat in the car with my seat back pushed all the way down to act as a table. I held the samosas in a paper bag in my lap and the green chutney in a plastic bowl in one hand. Ashish held the red chutney in his hand. I spread a few tissues from Nitai
s car dispenser and we were off, enjoying some mouth-wateringly delicious samosas with totally heavenly adrak-waali chai under an overcast sky with a steady wind blowing across and the constant patter of tiny raindrops falling around us. Pure bliss !

Racism ? What rot?

Disclaimer: This is not an attempt at a socio-political commentary on the row surrounding the Big Brother show featuring Shilpa Shetty.

When it was announced about 3 months back in the Indian media that Shilpa Shetty has been invited to participate in Big Brother, it was being speculated that not only will she be unable to last long but she will also face a lot of problems due to her inability to adjust to the format of the show as well the UK culture. It was also thought that this was merely a move to get the sizable Asian population in the UK to take an active interest in the show by watching it as well as generate revenues by sending SMSes for evicting some housemate.

No one, yours truly included, could have imagined that not only will she last this long in the show but also go on to win the grand finale, and get this amount of free publicity in the mother of all bargains.

I believe Shilpa has been smarter than most of us have given her credit for. I do not wish to contend that she is no longer a good actress because she never was one. That she looks beautiful and elegant is merely stating the bleeding obvious. But the fact remains that her Bollywood career was finished. She was not a favorite with any camp in Bollywood and that hurt her tremendously. She has been used to launch, re-launch or revive the careers of many an actor in the past decade. But she has not been able to establish her credentials as a performer of note. I am not an ignoramus when it comes to Bollywood and I can't even recall her last release.

It was in this backdrop that I read the news of her being invited to Celebrity Big Brother and was a bit surprised as to the rationale behind choosing her. It was only after a bit of thought that I realised that anyone more active, busy or famous than her would have flatly refused to go on the show and anyone less well-known would not have managed to create any interest in the diaspora in the UK. In other words, Shilpa, or for that matter, one of Puja Batra, Sushmita Sen, Sonali Bendre or Mahima Chaudhary, would have been a suitable choice for Bollywood's entry for CBB.

What brought about this dramatic change in Shilpa's expected fate was, in my mind, her rather calculated decision to take a stance of being an achiever of note, someone with prestige and respect in her homeland, something which may not have been true in its entirety, but was certainly enough to instill a sense of insecurity and jealousy in the other housemates, all of whom had uncannily similar tales of being have-beens with little to middling success for their past.

Needless to say, this feeling manifested itself in the other housemates expressing their frustration in whichever manner and words they were accustomed to using. It is a fact that celebrities, of all complexions and genders, are more strong-minded and are known to voice their opinions in private gatherings with above-average levels of vitriol. Please be reminded of the many instances where some famous actor or performer has used the words - Negro, Jew, Nazi or something similar. It is this very instinctive nature of expression that all celebs are plagued with that erupted in the form of frequent utterances against Shilpa on the show.

This was just what the doctor ordered as far as the show producers were concerned. Outraged Asians voted with fervour to oust the culprits while the British viewers, ashamed and angry at this betrayal, joined in the cause. And once the dust had settled, all other pretenders to the throne had been vanquished and Shilpa had emerged as the victor. And this is precisely the reason why Shilpa was rather forgiving in her reaction towards the supposedly objectionable comments once she had come out of the house. After all, kaam khatam, paisa hajam, lafda khatam !!!

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