Thursday, December 22, 2016

Introverts, Extroverts, and blah blah blah..

In the OB class in first semester of MBA, we were asked to fill in a long questionnaire and then do some calculations and so that we could find out what our personality type as per MBTI was. Such conversations ensued -.

You must be something like an extrovert, right?
No. It says I am introvert. ISTJ as such.
Wow. But you talk with everyone you come across. How can you be an introvert?

By the way, I was diagnosed as an INTP. I had known that for quite some time but had never given much thought to it. But suddenly I was being told that I was not good enough to be a leader as that probably required periodic war-cries which only extroverts can muster. Not even a month in MBA, it was a bit disconcerting.

So, I landed to do MBA in Gurgaon somewhere in June last year. Amongst the first things I observed here was the size of groups in which people were hanging out in. They were huge. Absolutely huge. It seemed that everyone except me had been in touch with each other even before the college had started via WhatsApp, Facebook and other means of social gratification. Imagine a group of 25 people walking around the campus post-dinner. There was just so much networking in the campus that it actually didnt feel like a mere group of 25 but felt like a horde out on a conquest. And in that sense, I felt incredibly inadequate. I was kinda fat, my hairline had been thinning and it was not only that I was a bit older than my batchmates but I looked older than them as well. I felt like such a misfit.

In my defense, I did try to fit in. Attended random birthday parties, tried to stay relevant in a group of 25 by cracking lame jokes to which no one paid any kind of attention, went to booze parties where I was not sure why I was there and so on. And then that fateful OB class happened, I remembered that I am an introvert and realized that the label so conveniently suited me. It gave me security and it gave me answers. And the latter was much more important.

Why didnt you go to that party in which the whole class is going and there will be a lot of drinking and dancing and networking?
Ugh. Because introverts dont go to parties. Remember, parties mein chutiye naachte hain.
Labeling. FTW.
It had started to go well.
With those labels as crutches, I had returned to the last bench of the class the proxy for my comfort zone. Away from the parties, away from random attempts of social validation, my next couple of months went away being the same non-descript, anonymous guy in the class and in the batch. I was happy sticking to the last bench and spoke as little as possible. It was not as if I had no friends. I did but in a manner which probably only a B-schooler can understand, we were misfits huddled together trying to pander to every stereotype you might have seen ascribed to introverts.

 (If I can digress a bit, the MBA is somewhat of a dichotomy in the sense that the kind of students it admits - at least in India are different from what it expects them to be. There are presentations in every course, you are expected to be an effective if not enchanting speaker and the possibility to land plum jobs depends heavily on your ability to be assertive in group discussion of around 10 people and then in an interview. Still it admits a lot of nerds because basically the admission test tests your ability to be good at Maths and English. In any case, back to the original rant)

After a month or two, something happened. As it always does in stories of self-discovery.

But actually, nothing happened. So, this isnt a story of self-discovery after all.

I just became more comfortable with people. Or became comfortable with the concept of having people around myself. I guess this concept is called familiarity and surprisingly, as much as many Quora answers would want you to believe, it happens with introverts too. And then they start behaving like extroverts. You find a circle and in its own esotericism you laugh at jokes and you laugh at the people telling those jokes; some stories are told and some are shared; some crushes are discussed, some are dissed and some are dismissed. You dont care if youre extrovert or not because life is too ambiguous for that.  

(To be fair, some kind of mellowing happens with the extremely social too. The group sizes of 20 eventually whittled down to 4-5 or even 2 if the girl and the boy took a special liking for each other.)

Still, thinking about it brings some questions. If it really is a question of having increasing familiarity, spreading the envelope so to say, then at what point do you stop being an introvert and at what point you start being an extrovert? What if you start liking so many people that given sufficient time, you start being comfortable with all of them. After all, to like lots and lots of people, one doesnt need to be an extrovert. Not being cynic enough is often sufficient. It is often told of extroverts that for them the world is a stage. What if as an introvert, you become familiar with the stage itself. Do you stop being an introvert?

The past year has been good to me. Because of many reasons, I became used to speaking in front of a lot of people. Possibly, I am not shy of crowds anymore.

But when it comes to people as individuals, it still is a chore. A bloody chore.  You break down a crowd into its ingredients and it is as if each one of it starts asking a question where earlier there was only one. All of them looking at you is fine enough but looking back in their eyes as they cross one-by-one down a street is impossible. Probably they are looking at you but you dont know that as you are too shy to look at them. It is as if you discover that, the crowds be damned, shyness, often painfully and sometimes liberatingly stays.

And now, for whatsoever it is worth, I am not sure how much of an introvert I am. Or an extrovert for that matter. It actually is weird to think of myself as an extrovert. I really want to be cool enough to be associated with all the tropes being an introvert carries with itself. Tropes, which MBTI endows upon you. Some of them are cool, some of them are cold but most of them are just confusing.  But just like horoscopes, you pick and choose the ones you think you best relate with and then live with it. If you are introvert, then you are "well-read" and form "deep" relationships even if the only reading you have done recently has been dating & relationship tips on Quora. Being insufferable in general is acceptable because you are waiting for those to come up with whom you will form deep relationships. As I said, "Labels - For The Win".  Its just so easy that it is almost convenient.  

I wish it was as black and white. 
Sometimes one is introvert enough to cry at a song and not tell anyone about it, still extrovert enough to sometimes go to a few parties and still wonder how can people be such; Introvert enough to not go home on Diwali as that will mean 3 days of alone time and extrovert enough to sometimes, just sometimes feel bad that only 12 people wished Happy Diwali on personal chat; Introvert enough to not tell all these travails to anyone whatsoever but extrovert enough to trust internet strangers to get this. Introvert enough to know when one needs to be an introvert, extrovert enough to know when one needs to stop being an introvert.

There have been times in the past year when I used to wake up from a 4-hour sleep to find 312 WhatsApp messages from 9 different contacts, many of those directed at me because of the certain official responsibilities I used to have. Often, I had wondered that when eventually these messages will stop coming in, and nobody will feel as much need of me, will I feel good at being left alone or feel bad at being left out? I will have the answer soon enough. But all I know is that like most of the things we tend to worry about, it too will be inconsequential. 

And that will be for the best.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Because, I am Sid

(Someone on Twitter asked me and a bunch of other guys to write a note on on-screen characters we could most relate to. Here is just a hurried attempt to do the same.) 

You remember Sid of Dil Chahta Hai? Akshaye Khanna played him. Now I am sure while messaging he writes proper sentences and never types lyk dis. How do I know? Because I am Sid. That is why. And the receding hairline is not even the sixth most significant similarity. And no, I can’t paint.

Let me do an exercise for you. Dil Chahta Hai was a cool movie, right? Probably the coolest ever made in Bollywood. Now who do you think was the coolest character in Dil Chahta Hai? Aakash? I will forgive you later for confusing juvenile with cool but did you notice the coolness with which he handles the fact that his friend is in love with a much older woman? Or is it Sameer? His being an ass and a relationship-sabotager went unnoticed just because Subodh was an even bigger ass. I didn’t know not being the biggest idiot in the town equated with being cool.

Well, do come back to me when you find an uncool act of Sid.

Maybe someday I will meet him and ask if he feels the same way as I do when he stands apart and looks at his urbane, chic friends attracting girls like moths to fire with their suave yet punkish sense of humor and wonder why in the seven hell are these guys his friends? What X-factor do they find in him when the best he can do is arch his eyebrows and twist his lips and say, “Tu kabhi nahi sudhrega na?”  Or maybe we will just look in each other’s eyes with the tacit allegation, “Remember Deepa? Your kandha act was so lame compared to mine. Farhan Akhtar suddenly hired Sameer to write your lines kya?” And he will just give me a blank look and go, “I wish your kandha act was from the era of silent films dude.” Tell him that sometimes I show people my funny, dark resignation letter which went viral in my last company or tell them that Gul Panag follows me on Twitter. Just like you walked Tara through your paintings. And tell him that like with you, it never worked.

There is something utterly relatable with someone who lets his friends screw-up. Like Sameer with Priya and that fraud firang in Goa. Someone who follows “I love privacy- be it mine or yours”. Someone who is ready to punch his friend because he basically infringed that line of the same.

Maybe we will hang out together. Probably at a bar, likelier at a barista. Maybe I will introduce him to my Akaash-es and my Sameers and mutter “kids these days” under our breaths.  Maybe we will compare our hairlines. But, mostly we will have fun together. People of our ilk do tend to like ourselves.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Kalyug (1981) -Random thoughts from a delayed viewing.

So recently I watched Kalyug. No, not that 2005 flick in which Deepal Shaw played the role of a Sunny Leone and she was so bad that Bhatt Camp decided that it is better to hire Sunny Leone herself for future projects. This one had real, grown up actors like Raj Babbar, Rekha, Shashi Kapoor and of course A K Hangal, was directed by Shyam Benegal and came out in 1981.Its story was loosely based on Mahabharata with many reference points borrowed from the epic.  Here is the IMDB page for it. 

(A character key is there at the end of the post. If you have not watched the film or have forgotten details, kindly refer to it.)

  • First thing first, Mahabharata is an absolute brilliance that has been handed down the generations by our culture and history. It still is the most underrated story ever told. It is the greatest legacy of Hinduism bestowed upon us and the only people who have made hay off it have been writers who can afford to cater to a niche audience. Hope with the advent of multiplex era, somebody will treat Mahabharata with the intellect, perspective and creativity it so thoroughly deserves.
  • I am so dumb when it comes to old movies. Listen family, I do blame you for that. Not you Mom ,
    though. You are the reason I can tell between Priya Rajvansh and Anita Raj. Thank you. *Hugs*

  • Karan takes wine or martini. As does Bharat. Balraj takes scotch. Mr Saxena –a petty minion takes beer. And ladies take limca. As if the road to hierarchies of power goes through the drink of their choices. Neat. (Pun not intended)
  • In the same vein, Balraj smokes his cigarette with a fancy cigarette holder while the representative of the workers’ union Om Puri’s cigarette is predictably bare. I bet the workers' representative Om Puri represents smoked nothing but beedi.
  • The use of sunglasses by Om Puri in a closed room to make an effort to merge into an environment which clearly was a few notches above in social strata was fascinating. More so, as it reminded me of Rajkumar Rao in Queen, using similar sunglasses to cut off the surroundings in CCD.
  • So many ash-trays. Ah, the corporate life before the advent of smoke-detectors, safety showers and the related paraphernalia. 
  • Useless Trivia- Only the youngest and the oldest member of the family had exact names based upon the characters of Mahabharata they were playing- Bheeshma and Parikhsit. (Karan was not a part of family, OK.)
  •  Trunk Calls. :D
  • Having Shashi Kapoor play Karna when you have Anant Nag and Kulbhushan Kharbanda playing Arjuna and Bheema does nothing to dispel the notion that Karna was the sexiest character of Mahabharata. Just saying.

    (Unrelated factoid:- Those who think Nakula-Sahdeva were just baggage handlers in the story of Mahabharata, Nakula was considered to be the most handsome person around and Sahdeva was a better administrator than all other Pandavas put together.)
  • Wonder why only the most conflicted of characters in the movie –Sashi Kapoor and Supriya Pathak- used to listen to music. The former always listened to sad violin and the latter had this belief that if shit hits the fan, one should listen to equally shitty music (What’s your problem). It was as if there was too much awesomeness to Supriya Pathak and Shayam Benegal thought, “Naah. Not Fair!!” and thus gave her a crappy track to listen on loop all day. That is the only explanation of why this song “What’s your problem” even exists.
  • Supriya Pathak was hot. Hot as in HOT. Now I know she was too adorable as Hansa in Khichdi but her look in Kalyug opened my eyes. Opened my eyes at least 2 feet wide. 
  •  Amrish Puri as Krishna was such a missed opportunity. I wish his character was developed as a clever, cunning Yadav Lord that was one of the aspects of Krishna. Wanted him to be a bit like Chaddha from Damini minus the histrionics.
  • OMG!! Did I see Reema Laagoo in a bedroom scene?? Wearing just petticoat and blouse? Being snogged no, savaged by husband Kulbhushan Khrabanda? How am I ever going to unsee that? Suraj Barjatya films will never be the same for me. I am too embarrassed here to even post a picture of her.
  • Pro tip from Raj Babbar- “विवाहित जीवन के थोड़े से साल भी अगर सुख से कट जाएँ ना तो बाकी की ज़िन्दगी भी इंसान काट ही लेता है.”  
    Discuss (5 Marks).
    By the way, Raj Babbar and wife Rekha slept on separate single beds. Just an observation, of course.
  • Was that Urmila Matondakar playing Raj Babba and Rekha’s 'son' Parikshit? How she survived in her school after this is absolutely beyond me.
  •  Did Rekha’s character suffer a miscarriage in the past? That can only explain why Raj Babbar’s eldest -Parikshit was much younger than his younger brother’s eldest- Sunil, no?
  • And what was up with Rekha’s entire character? She had her bitchy look up for so long that it was a surprise that her makeup didn't fall off halfway through the movie.
  • And I was disappointed with Rekha’s role as well. Draupadi was one of the strongest personalities in the Mahabharata which has been so conveniently ignored in almost all of the cinematic adaptations we have. Here too she was reduced to being annoyed, hurt, angry, bitchy. By the end of it I was suspicious if all her eye-rolling was over the pointlessness of it all.
  • I also found Anant Nag’s portrayal of Bharat/ Arjuna bizarre and corny. For some reason, I was wondering how good Raj Kumar would have been in the same role. Remember the last scene where Bharat in his phone call to Karan, emptied his entire repertoire of abuses on him? Now imagine Raj Kumar in the same scene with the much needed brevity he would brought into that scene.
  • A commercially flop film like Kalyug won the Filmfare award for best film in the “Main” category in 1982. Yes, such a time existed.
  • As much as this might sound like a crib post about the movie, I liked it. I liked it  very much. The story was delightfully complex. The acting was largely good and it was an entertaining movie which is where the buck stops. But I am still waiting for a better adaptation of Mahabharata. 

(Key :-- 

Karan- Shashi Kapoor- Karn
Dharmraj- Raj Babbar- Yudhishthir
Balraj- Kulbhushan Kharbanda- Bheem
Bharat- Anant Nag- Arjuna
Subhadra- Supriya Pathak- Arjuna’s wife.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tanu Weds Manu Returns (to 90's)

(It is going to be a rant. A rambling rant. Ye have been warned. Also spoilers.)

Straight up, let me admit, TWMR was fun. And hence it passed the necessary and sufficient criteria I have to like a film. The first half is a breeze in a manner that no matter how good the second half was, the film would have been said to be suffering from "post-interval" syndrome. The writing in the first 10 minutes including the opening credits is as good as any you will find in Hindi Cinema. And I am yet to come to terms with the fact that Tanuja Trivedi and Datto were played by the same actress.

Still, I had problems with the movie. It made me uncomfortable in the manner Ranjhana did. It reminded me of the relief that swept over me as Queen ended. If you haven't watched either, then for the want of better words, I found TWMR extremely regressive.

Look, films are not supposed to be the guardian angels of the society. That is the stick on which we pooh-pooh the no-smoking banners which can be found in many scenes these days, right? It is as much of a filmmaker's discretion to have a regressive character in his film as it is of Anurag Kashyap to have a character mouthing obscenities in every other scene with the perfect logic that, "Yaar mera character gaaliyaan deta hai to main kya karoon?". Also, there is a case that the director is actually staying true to the environment he has constructed. He is telling a story. He is not obligated to make Jai Santoshi Ma which, nevertheless was rather regressive too.

Also, a part of my problem is entirely personal. It is personal because, specially in the confines of comfort cinema like TWMR,  I am not yet enlightened enough to make a distinction between the lead actor and the "hero" of the film.  I invest my emotions in a character consistent with the manner they are being portrayed in. (Some parallels with A Song of Ice and Fire can be drawn here to which I will come later). For a moment consider Raj Kumar Yadav of Queen with Dhanush of Ranjhana or Tanu/Manu of TWMR. On a level, they are somewhat similar. They are all slaves to the society which propagates conformity.  But the portrayal was such that people clapped when Raani left Raj Kumar Yadav in Queen and people clapped when Kundan died in Ranjhana with that stalker-glorifying soliloquy. They were painted in such a manner to garner sympathy or hatred or disgust despite basically being the same character. Therein lies the dichotomy of being a "main lead" and being a "hero". If you can look beyond the portrayals, there are no heroes but only main leads. But I can't. When someone like me sees them as heroes and heroines, he viscerally prop himself onto them. You want them to make decisions which at least broadly match up to your ideology. Now, in TWMR, Madhavan was supposed to be a hero. So the first blow was that he turned out to be a wimp and nothing more. Second, more than Madhavan, the hero of the film was Datto. That you create as much anti-establishment a character as there can be and then burn her down because hey, conformity to the establishment you see, it is a bit of a downer to say the least. Imagine Raani going back to Raj Kumar Yadav in Queen. It would have ruined the movie, right? Tanuja Trivedi is the antithesis of Raani. In the scene where Datto puts down Tanu brilliantly, it could easily have been Raani speaking instead of Datto. But then, in a manner, something sort of "Raani goes back to Raj Kumar Yadav" happened.

To put it differently, if comfort cinema like TWMR is supposed to have a closure, then to me it was not a comfortable closure which, again, beats the point really.

If you are still with me, I think you are getting an impression that I am ranting that film meri marzi se kyun nahi banayai. Just to make you feel better, you are absolutely right. Nevertheless, my blog & my rules.

Now there are two parallels here I can draw with the current season of Game of Thornes series. First is the controversy regarding Sansa rape scene. For the uninitiated, she is a character which garners equal amount of sympathy and frustration from the viewers and in one of the episodes she was brutally raped. It triggered an outrage and led to The Mary Sue announcing that they will not be promoting the series any more.  The outrage was basically that "How could they do this" and that use of rape as a plot tool is regressive. I found the outrage stupid and immature and think that George R R Martin's response will be basically on the lines of "Mah show mah rules bitchezz." I won't mind a similar response from Anand L Rai for this rant of mine as well. But here is the thing- Game of Thrones is set in a regressive environment where if a girl is not a virgin, no noble family will accept her as a bride. To show a marital rape in such circumstance is as much a commentary on the milieu it is set in as much it is a plot device. It is again, basically, "Agar mera character gaali deta hai to main kya karoon?". How TWMR ended was, per se, just too out of character. Or maybe, given director's earlier works, I was too naive not to expect it.

Second parallel with Game of Thrones is that both have characters who are all prim and proper and popular but dig a little deeper and they are as rotten as the next Ram Gopal Verma release. If there is a Kundan and a Tanuja Trivedi/Manu Sharma in Anand L Rai films, there is a Daenerys and a Tyrion there. Now it takes a massive sleight of hand and skill to craft a deception like this. Or maybe there is the fact that one really believes that girls secretly love stalking, dying for one-sided love is the most glorious path to moksha and that a mature depiction of divorce is just too niche for Indian audience. Maybe somebody is still living in the 90’s.

To sum up, I loved Move on song of TWMR. The film just ended up betraying it. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

On popular demand.. I finally resigned!!

(So I recently resigned from the job and as all newly jobless people do, I too wrote a farewell email. Trust me, it made me more popular in the company than I could ever become in the four years preceding that. Just in case I am getting carried away, it probably was just an indictment of the pathetic work I did there and nothing more. Nevertheless, since there is nothing confidential in it, I am posting it here. So, there.. ) 

Respected Sirs and Madams,

Some of you know that it is my last day today.

And now that all of you know this, I hope you are relieved and will remember me by this final act of making you happy.

As much as I would like to say that I am leaving for personal and professional challenges, reality is that I am an utter failure at managing finances and am presently rather broke. So the choices for future were between getting married, for which my Dad would have paid or going for higher education for which the bank will pay. Considering interest, mortgages etc the latter seems a much cheaper option at present.

It has been four years, five departments and learnings and lessons which cannot be measured by numbers. Hopefully I also managed to give something back to the company but the truth is I (with 3 others) was hired as a GET and company has stopped hiring GETs ever since. So please send me happy mails about how I made myself useful here. In the dark days ahead, they will be much helpful. Advanced apologies to all those college students who would have stood a chance if it were not for us.

Special thanks to Alok Sir for getting me to this place, for being my first boss and being the answer to password security question at multiple places; Sarsij Sir for endlessly bearing with my silly questions ; Rao Sir for giving me a chance to work in an entirely different setup which was most fulfilling and Neeraj Sir from whom I have learnt so many things about being an efficient manager. Also thank you for the coffee, biscuits, unlimited soft drinks (from 2011-2013), for the gate punching system which kept no record of entry and leaving timings and the IT department which didn’t block Facebook.

But above all I will ever remain thankful for the love and affection showered on me here. The receding hairline notwithstanding, I have been “The Kid” here. That was a privilege. A privilege, I am unlikely to get anywhere else in my lifetime.

So, again, thank you all for everything. First companies are like first crushes. Everywhere I go, I will carry a bit of this place with me.

So keep in touch. As long as you do, we can keep playing these four years again and again.

Did you see I invented the time machine here? Where is my Nobel prize now?

Please use the details below for bouquets, brickbats, wedding invitations, wedding proposals, visa applications etc.

Your colleague for the next couple of hours
Sumit Kr Das

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Athletic Bilbao's Basques Policy

(Cross-Posting from my Quora answer to the question- "Is Athletic Bilbao's policy of recruitng only Basque players in breach of racial discrimination laws?")

From my understanding, it probably is illegal but it is difficult to prove so and has never been challenged in a court of law. Moreover, recently the definition of Basque as viewed by Athletic Club has become more and more fluid and it has made it doubly difficult for anyone to prove that they discriminate specially on racial basis. Also, there is the simple fact that this is an unwritten policy and hence such "bias" though extant, is difficult to prove via a lawsuit. 

Also there are a few point I would like to make in this context. 

  1. The policy is not racist for the simple fact that it is not based on notion of Basque superiority over others. They view themselves as just what they are and want their football club to represent their identity. They don't consider people who don't have this identity as inferiors. In fact in a poll around 76% of Athletic supporters said they will prefer to be relegated to second division- obviously an inferior league- than have non-Basque players in their teams. Also, they recently fielded Jonás Ramalho, a Black player in the first team. He qualifies because his mother is a Basque. So they aren't against a particular skin color either. 
  2. Apart from players who are Basque from parentage, they also consider players of other nationality provided they had moved in a Basque country at a very young age and hence their development took place in a Basque region. So their policy is not strictly nationalistic either.
  3. They often recruit non-Basque coaches and other technical staff. So it is difficult to prove discrimination there. 
  4. Based on above examples, a case can be made that they are more nationalist than racist. And there is a minor issue that since there is no such country as Basque country, it would be difficult to prove nationalistic discrimination as well.

Generally people have accepted them for what they are and let them be. Their success in La Liga (only team apart from Real Madrid and Barcelona to have never been relegated) is hardly grudged because of their uniqueness among other things.

Sid Lowe: Ramalho helping dispel longstanding myth at Athletic Bilbao 
Are Athletic Bilbao playing by the rules?

Friday, May 15, 2015

झुनझुना (Jhunjhuna)

उनका नाम था झुन्नुलाल झल्केश झा. माने कि ऐसा नाम कि चिरौंजीलाल खोसला को भी कमल किशोर खोसला की अम्मा पर प्यार उमड़ आये. अब जी ऐसा नाम कोई conspiracy से कम तो था नहीं. इसलिए उनका ये नाम कैसा रखा गया इसपर भी कई सारी conspiracy theory थीं. किसी से सुना था कि जब छोटे थे तो उन्हें जितना प्यार अपनी अम्मा से था उससे कहीं ज्यादा प्यार अपने झुनझुने से था. उसी को लेकर सोना, उसी को लेकर नहाना, उसी को लेकर धोना, उसी को लेकर खाना और ये झुनझुना प्रेम तीन साल तक चला. तो अम्मा ने उनका नाम झुन्नू ही रख दिया. दूसरी theory इसी कहानी में थोडा नमक-मिर्च डाल कर बनी थी. ऐसा था कि उनके दादाजी primary स्कूल में हिंदी पढ़ाते थे. उन्हें अनुप्रास अलंकर से बड़ा प्रेम था जैसे कि उन सब हिंदी teachers को होता है जिन्हें हिंदी विषय कैसे पढ़ाना होता है उसकी a, b, c, d भी नहीं आती और इसी अलंकर के बैनर तले अपनी उपयोगिता सिद्ध करने की जद्दोजहद करते पाए जाते हैं. तो इसी लिए पूरा अलंकारमय नाम रख दिया अपने पोते का. तीसरी theory तो वो ही घिसी-पिटी थी. परिवार के ज्योतिषी ने कहा था कि लड़के का नाम “झ” से शुरू होना चाहिए. और अगर दो “झ” हों नाम में तो फिर तो अति उत्तम. तो अब फिर उसका नाम “झाझा” तो रख नहीं देते कि बच्चे का नाम हो जाए “झाझा झा”. तो फिर यूँ कह सकते हैं सारी बातों के मद्देनजर, He got the best possible deal.

हाँ तो झुन्नू जी के पिताजी पेशे से दवाई की दूकान चलाते थे. अब छोटे कस्बों में डॉक्टर तो ज्यादा होते नहीं. लोग chemist से ही पूछ कर दवा-दारू करते हैं. और जो chemist को injection वगैरह देना आता हो तो कहना ही क्या. पूरा डॉक्टर ही बन जाता है. और जो कहीं थोड़ी चीड़-फाड़, bandage वगैरह कर लेता हो तो समझ लीजिये कि मानों mini-Fortis ही खोल लिया है. तात्पर्य ये कि झुन्नू जी अच्छे खाते पीते घर के थे. वो वैसे कंठाहा ब्राह्मण थे. उनके परदादा लोगों को श्राद्ध, दाह-संस्कार इत्यादि करवाते थे. तो देखा जाए तो गरुड़ पुराण बांचने से लेकर घर के चिराग को आगे पढने के लिए दिल्ली भेजना किसी भी मायने में काफी उम्दा generational leap थी.

उनकी अम्मा ने उनके साथ उनकी देखभाल करने के लिए उनके साथ एक cook-cum-cleaner-cum-squire-cum-निगेहबान भेजा था. उसका नाम था “छोटुआ”. पूरी संभावना थी कि ये नाम छोटू का अपभ्रंश था पर छोटू बुलाते हुए उसे मैंने किसी को सुना नहीं था इसलिए ये confirm नहीं कर सकता. सारे काम करने के अलावा छोटुआ उनपे ये भी नज़र रखता था कि वो किसी लड़की से पींगे तो नहीं बढ़ा रहे; कहीं दिल्ली की बदनाम हवा तो नहीं लग रही उनको. और सारी रिपोर्ट वापस उनकी अम्माजी को किया करता था. खानदान के इकलौते चिराग थे. और कम से कम 35 लाख के post-dated cheque थे झुन्नू भैय्या. तो इतनी निगरानी तो कोई ज़ाया नहीं थी. 

उनको अपने नाक पर ऊँगली रखके सोचने की आदत थी. जैसे औरों को अपने माथे पर रख के सोचने की होती है. असल में उनकी नाक इतनी बड़ी थी कि शायद पहली बार माथे कि तरफ ऊँगली ले जाते वक़्त बीच में barrier बन के नाक आ गयी होगी और बाद में ये आदत बन गयी. इतनी भयानक आदत थी कि अगर हाथ busy हो तो छोटुआ को बाकायदा बोला जाता था कि उनकी नाक पर ऊँगली रखे ताकि वो सोच सकें. 
अब झुन्नू भैया ज्यादा bright से शख्स थे नहीं. ज़ाहिर सी बात है कि जो कोई अपनी नाक से सोचता हो उससे क्या ही उम्मीद लगायी जा सकती है? एक बार झुन्नू भैय्या खाने बैठे राजमा-चावल तो राजमा में कोई taste ही नहीं लगा उन्हें. बिलकुल फीका. फिर क्या था? छोटुआ पर बरस पड़े, “तुमको का लगता है? एक तुम ही हमारा जासूसी कर सकता है? हम भी मम्मी को खबर कर सकते हैं कि तुम कोई काम ढंग से नहीं करता है. फिर जाना तुम वापस भितरामपुर.”
“का हो गया? काहे कौवा बने हुए हैं?”
“ई कोई राजमा बनाया था तुम? न नमक न मसाला. खाना बनाना याद भी है?”
“हम कब राजमा बनाये? का खा लिए आप? हमको तो पता ही नहीं है. अरे वो जो हम फूलने के लिए पानी में डाले थे, कहीं वो तो नहीं खा गए न?”

Silence. Awkward Silence. साला Awkward का बाप Silence.

अब जो झुन्नूपुराण बांचने बैठेंगे तो सुबह से रात और फिर सुबह हो जाएगी. सो थोडा थोडा बताय रहे हैं. 

ऐसा हुआ एक बार कि वो 12वीं के board के mock टेस्ट में chemistry में fail हो गए. तो उनको ये निर्देश मिले कि अपने पिताजी की मैडमजी के सामने परेड करवाई जाए. अब कम नंबर लाने का उनका अनुभव तो पुराना था पर अपने पिताजी के सामने उनके कभी कम नंबर नहीं आये. कुछ ऐसी बातें होती थी उनकी रिजल्ट निकलने के बाद.
“पप्पाजी रिजल्ट आ गया.”
“कैसे नंबर आये?”
“अच्छे ही आये हैं.” [ सिर्फ ठीक बोलने से न तो काम चलता था और शक पैदा होने की भी गुंजाईश रहती थी.]
“पर कितने अच्छे आये हैं?”
“ जी 57% आये हैं.” (ये सच्चाई थी. पर ख़ुशी और दुःख के एक delicate से बैलेंस को बना कर ये बोलना होता था जिससे लगे कि ये कम नंबर भी अच्छे ही हैं.)
“पर बेटा, ये तो कम हैं. फर्स्ट डिभीज़न भी नहीं हैं.” ( जैसे पंजाबियों को बटर चिकन से, मद्रासियों को The Hindu newspaper से मोहब्बत होती है, वैसे ही बिहार में माँ-बाप को फर्स्ट डिभीज़न से लगाव होता  है).
“अच्छे हैं पप्पाजी. हमारी क्लास में बस 3 लोगों के इससे ज्यादा आये हैं.” (ये trick use करके अपने पिताजी को चूतिया बनाने की कोशिश करने वाले शायद वो दुनिया के 15478921वें शख्श थे.)
“ऐसे कैसे बेवक़ूफ़ पढ़ते हैं तुम्हारी क्लास में. बेकारे तुमको दिल्ली भेजे.”
“अरे ऐसा नहीं है पप्पाजी. वो हमारी मैडम सब हैं न वो कम ही नंबर देते हैं. ऊ का बोलते हैं कि ज्यादा नंबर दे दिए तो बच्चा लोग ऊ का कहते हैं कंप्लेंट हो जायेगा और पढाई नहीं करेगा.”

उनके पिताजी इसके बाद ज्यादा कुछ नहीं कहते थे. शायद कई बार जनसे ज्यादा प्यार किया जाता है उनके द्वारा बेवक़ूफ़ बनाये जाने की आदत हो जाती है. बस इसी mutual understanding पर दोनों की बातें ख़त्म हो जाती थी.

पर अब जो fail हो गए थे और निर्देश सख्त थे तो झुन्नू जी को ये समझ नहीं आ रहा था कि पप्पाजी को कैसे समझाएं कि रातों-रात उनका ये सचिन तेंदुलकर शिव सुन्दर दास कैसे बन गया. तो काफी पशोपेश में थे.  

“अरे झुन्नू भैया, कहते हैं कि मजबूरी में तो गधे को भी बाप बनाना पड़ता है. कसम से हम fail हुए होते तो आपको ही बाप बना कर ले जाते. पर अब आप तो ये भी नहीं कर सकते न.”
नाक पर ऊँगली रखने के बाद भी उनकी समझ में घंटा कुछ नहीं आया. अच्छा ही था एक तरीके से ये भी. तभी हमारे दिमाग में कुछ चमका.
“झुन्नू भैया. गधा छोड़िये. गधे से अच्छी acting तो आपका छोटुआ कर लेगा. थोडा बड़ा तो लगता ही है आपसे. का कहते हैं, बताइए.”
“नहीं मानेगा न. और मैडमजी को पता लग गया तो बम्बू कर देंगी.”
“और जो आपके पप्पा को पता चल गया की आप chemistry में चारों खाने चित्त हो गए हैं तो बम्बू छोड़िये, टेंट नहीं खड़ा कर देंगे वो? तो सोच लीजिये कि टेंट चाहिए या बम्बू?”

इस argument पर वो फिर से चारों खाने चित्त हो गए.

छोटुआ को मनाना कोई बड़ी बात नहीं थी. अगर जो ये नाटक चल जाता तो उसके हाथ में ज़िन्दगी  भर के लिए झुन्नू भैया को blackmail करने का ज़बरदस्त हथियार आ जाता. और जो कहीं नहीं चलता तो कुछ पैसे और “included perks” की guarantee उसे दे दी गयी थी. ये असल में झुन्नू भैय्या ने नहीं दी थी. हमलोगों ने दी थी. कोई तमाशा बनने को तैयार हो जाए तो कई बार डमरू बजाने की ज़रुरत नहीं होती भीड़ इकठ्ठा करने के लिए.

छोटुआ को सब कुछ सिखा दिया था उन्होंने. कहने का मतलब बस ये था कि उसको बता दिया था कि उसे बस चुप रहना है. बाकी झुन्नू भैय्या को भरोसा था कि वो संभाल लेंगे. उनका भरोसा देख कर समझ में आता था कि मायावती और राम विलास पासवान जैसे लोग कैसे प्रधानमंत्री बनने के सपने देखने लगते हैं.

D-Day के दिन छोटुआ को लेकर झुन्नू भैय्या स्कूल पहुंचे. सीधे शब्दों में कहें तो उनकी फटी पड़ी थी. आखिर बम्बू/टेंट के लिए जगह भी बनानी थी. खैर मैडम जी अच्छे मूड में लग रही थी. वैसे भी PTM के दिन सारे teacher अच्छे मूड में ही होते हैं. मानों कोई मोबाइल पर shooting गेम खेल रहे हों और अचानक से बोनस लेवल आ जाये और भड़भड़ा कर 50-60 टारगेट्स एक साथ आ जायें तो मन कैसे गदगद हो जाता है. PTM में टीचरों को ऐसे ही लगता होगा. ये बच्चा कहीं छूट ना जाए.

झुन्नू भैया का भी नंबर आया. उनको देखते ही मैडम जी चिहुंक कर बोलीं, “क्यूँ बे झुन्नुलाल. बाबूजी को बुलाने बोले थे न आपको. ये भैयाजी को पकड़ कर क्यूँ ले आये हो? और भाई भी बड़ा है कि छोटा?”
“मैडमजी, ये भैया नहीं हैं. हमारे पप्पाजी हैं. बस दिखते नहीं हैं.”

वैसे तो छोटुआ को सख्त दिशानिर्देश दिए गए थी कि वो अपना मुंह न खोले पर जो कहीं दुनिया महज़ हिदायतों पर चलती तो फिर कुछ भी नया कभी कहाँ होना था?
तो वो कूद पड़ा.

“अरे श्रीमतीजी हम इसके बाप ही हैं. वो क्या है कि हमारा बाल विवाह हो गया था. तो  जब हम बच्चे थे तभी हमारे बच्चे हो गए थे. और फिर थोड़े खाते पीते घर के हैं इसलिए, नज़र न लगे पर ज्यादा अधेड़ दिखते नहीं हैं.”

ये बकैती छोटुआ की masterstroke निकली. मैडमजी को जो छोटुआ के झुन्नू भैय्या के पिताजी होने पर संदेह था, उस शक पर अब शक के काले बादल घुमड़ने लगे थे. पर झुन्नू भैया के दिमाग में झुनझुना बजने लगा था. पूरी script रट्टा लगा के आये थे वो. यहाँ ससुरी पहला सवाल ही out of syllabus जा रहा था.

 पर मैडमजी भी  इतनी जल्दी कहाँ हार मानने वाली थी. बड़े ही casual से अंदाज़ में पुछा, “तो जी नाम क्या बताया आपने?”
छोटुआ के मुंह से तपाक से निकला, “जी बुच्चन भैया बुलाते हैं हमको”.

मैडमजी की त्योरियां चढ़ने से पहले ही झुन्नू भैय्या के एंटीने खड़े हो गए थे, नथुने फड़कने लगे थे और मुंह से झाग निकलने ही वाला था कि वो किसी तरह बोले, “वो इनका नाम तो गंगाश्रय झा है. गाँव में बुच्चन भैया बुलाते हैं. वो हमारे पप्पाजी गाँव से बाहर निकले नहीं काफी समय से तो कई बार अपना असली नाम ही भूल जाते हैं.”

कुछ हुआ कि मैडमजी मान गयीं. पता नहीं क्या.

“तो गंगाधर जी, आप दवाई कि दूकान करते हैं न? मुझे पता चला कहीं से. तो कहीं से कुछ दवाई दारू कीजिये अपने लाडले के लिए नहीं तो इनको पास करने के लिए बस दुआ का सहारा रह जायेगा.”
ये कह के ठहाका लगा कर हंसी. फिर बोलीं, “आप केमिस्ट और आपका बेटा केमिस्ट्री में fail. हाहाहा.”

सच बताएं तो जितनी rehersal उन्होंने इस joke और हंसी दोनों की कर रखी थी उसके मद्देनजर उनका परफॉरमेंस काफी कमज़ोर था. खैर.

पर ये बात छोटुआ के बारे में नहीं कही जा सकती. वो पूरा character में घुस चुका था. उसके बाद जो हुआ उसका अंदेशा झुन्नू भैय्या ने अपने सपने में तो क्या अपने सपने के inception में भी नहीं हुआ होगा. ये इधर झुन्नू भैया का कान था और ये इधर छोटुआ का हाथ था. “ई का कह रहे हैं मैडमजी? हम तुमको भेजे यहाँ विद्यार्थी बनने के लिए और तुम तो विद्या की ही अर्थी उठा रहे हो बेटा. अभी तुम्हारे दादाजी को पता चलेगा तो वो तो सदमे से ही मर जायेंगे.”

ज़ाहिर सी बात थी, सिनेमा देख देख कर उसने acting करना सीखा था. सो कतई निरूपा राय बन बैठा था. ये दीगर बात थी कि निरूपा राय के बेटे आमतौर पर college में first आया करते थे.

छोटुआ तो दो चार झापड़ भी लगाने वाला था पर मैडमजी को अभी कुछ और parents से भी जूझना था. तो थोडा प्यार से बोलीं, “कोई नहीं  गंगाराय जी. अगले mock टेस्ट में झुन्नूलाल पास हो जायेंगे. ऐसे भी पहला mock टेस्ट हम जल्दी ले लेते हैं तो बच्चों के पास कई दफा टाइम नहीं होता ज्यादा. तो अब आप जाइये.”

तो ऐसे “बाप बनाओ operation” में विजयी होकर दोनों ने जैसे ही पीछे मुड़कर चलना शुरू किया था कि पीछे से मैडम जी ने आवाज़ लगायी, “गंगाराम जी, ये हमारी spondylitis का दर्द बढ़ता ही जा रहा है. कोई अच्छा pain-killer बताइए न  जिसके sideffects न हों.”

“मैडमजी, हम दवाई की दूकान चलाते भर  हैं बस. वैसे तो कुछ लोग देश भी चलाते हैं. है कि नहीं ? जी अब जाते हैं हम.”

मैडमजी ने हंस कर सर हिला दिया सहमति में. पर जैसे ही दोनों बाहर निकलने वाले थे कि पीछे से आवाज़ आई, “झुन्नुलाल यहाँ आओ थोडा. और अकेले ही आना.”
पास पहुँचने पर मैडम जी ने कहा, “देखिये अगर आप अगले mock टेस्ट में fail हो जाते हैं तो हम आपको boards में तो नहीं ही बैठने देंगे और साथ ही आपके पिताजी को फ़ोन भी कर देंगे. असली वाले पिताजी को. समझ गए न.  अब जाइये.”

P.S:- झुन्नू भैया mock में तो पास हो गए पर board में fail हो गए. आजकल पिताजी को रिटायर करवा के दवाई की दूकान खुद चलाते हैं. और बस ये है कि उनके कैशिएर कि तनख्वाह हमारे take home से थोड़ी सी ज्यादा है.