Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tritiya - Choturthi

My 3rd and 4th published writings in 'Kothe to bolar jonyei'



Thanks 'kotha to bolar jonneyi' team!! Feeling happy and proud.

Also my blog page views corssed 10,000 mark!! Another Yay  for that!! :-)

Monday, July 23, 2012

twentieth Century's Greatest Events... in 50 BC!!!

As a fan of the Asterix books for last 20 years there are countless numbers of times when I was greatly amused and had laughs of different degrees caused by the humor, wit, word play, pun and spoof created by the Great Goscinny and Uderzo in those books.
Obviously I have read the English and Bengali version of the Asterix books and not the original French version. Hence some of the humor and word play are lost in translation and also some of the English word play should be credited to Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge who did a tremendous job of translating these books in English.
But one aspect where Ms. Bell and Mr. Hockridge could not have much impact is the visual spoof in Asterix stories. Time and time again various contemporary events and personalities have made their appearance in Asterix books through the drawing of Albert Uderzo.
Let me discuss some of those spoofs which occurred in various Asterix books. Some of them are quite clear but some of them very subtle and nicely wrapped in the story. For example, Goscinny and Uderzo showed their respect to their great competitor Harge when in ‘Asterix the Legionary’, the person from Belgium in Asterix’s ranks have a small tuft of hair a-la Tintin who hailed from Belgium (More details is in this awesome blog ). It was a subtle one. Another rather simpler tribute to Tintin stories were seen later, in ‘Asterix in Belgium’ where the great detectives Thomson and Thompson made a cameo to announce the arrival of Julius Caesar, the great Roman Emperor to be precise.
(To be precise...)

In 60’s, The Beatles was a rage in Great Britain as well as the entire globe with their brand of music. They had huge fan following specially among girls and there are many stories about the love and frenzy showed by their fans in wherever they go. When Asterix and Obelix made a visit to Britain in their 1966 book ‘Asterix in Britain’ obviously they found the hysteria around an all-male 4 member music group topping the chart.
(Notice the hair...)

During those days except The Beatles, another most famous British personality, although fictional, was the secret service agent James Bond (with code name 007), portrayed by Shaun Connery in 7 official Bond movies during 1960-70. Hence in the 1981 book ‘Asterix and the Black Gold’ the Roman spy was aptly named Dubbelosix who had an uncanny resemblance with a slightly older Shaun Connery.
(006 ... 007)

 Let me take another example, this is from my most favourite Asterix adventure ‘Asterix and the Great Crossing’. The story is rather simple one, while trying to catch fresh fish from the sea, the super duo of Asterix and Obelix would meet with a great thunder and as a result end up being in the new continent of America. And after various events there including a marriage proposal for Obleix by the leader of red Indians they would try to run away from there. And while escaping they would get into another rather small island and then Asterix would do this:
(Not to forget this statue is a gift to the United States from the people of France)

It’s a simple one but with Oblix’s dialogue in the previous frame, this one is one of my all-time favourite spoofs in Asterix books.
Then I read ‘Asterix and the Great Divide’. It’s not a great story, obviously not a classic, it was also written by Uderzo only after the death of Goscinny. But one particular page of this book actually fascinated me a lot.

You can click on the above pic to expand it. The entire idea of Histrionix meeting Melodrama in her balcony reminds you of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and then Uderzo uses a parody of “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” spoken by Melodrama.
But that’s not it, in the same page, if you look at the last frame; this was clearly very much inspired by the movie posters and comics of Tarzan, especially with the knife hanging from the waist.
And then it struck me. It’s not only the spoof but also the huge range captured by these two geniuses through their books is what makes these books so memorable and lifelong treasure.
These are just a few instances; I know there are many more such spoofs spread around these 30-odd books and I do not count out the chance of a 2nd part of this in near future, especially after buying two more Asterix books this evening. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My first Hero

Being the only child in a small family of three people, I always felt lonely and often played alone. Hence I had to invent various games or ways to amuse myself and keep me busy. That's why I was an avid reader all my life because you do not need anyone else when you are reading a book.
My habit of playing alone has gone through various transition. From the days of playing book cricket and board games against myself to playing table tennis against a wall, and finally in 2005 I found the ultimate game for playing alone, FIFA against the computer (that would be a topic of one of my blogs someday).
But before I invented to individual sports (in true sense) I used to entertain myself by replicating certain things which was happening around. And as 3 years old during mid-late 80s the most interesting thing was those television shows. Grandest of all, off course Ramayan!!
Being a reader and fan of stories, I knew those stories even at that age and when those events were happening in front of my eyes that amazed my three year old self to no limit.
But Raam was never my hero, I still do not think highly of him. Laxman, Indrajit, Ravan (yeah, I am sure some people are fans of Bad man) no one was very impressive.
But Hanuman!! Yeah, now you are talking! Hanuman was a cult. Hanuman was the first super hero. He can jump over the ocean and fight to demons who captures his shadow, he can lift a mountain, he can say 'Jai Sree Raam' for countless number of times and still not bore you. Hanuman was cool. Even he used to come in an advertisement of asbestos sheet just before the Ramayan starts. 
I was in love with Hanuaan. I remember I used to have one of those kids' mace and with which I was always the Hanuman. Not Raam, not Ravan but Hanuman and being Hanuman (I always read that whenever I see one of those 'Being Human' T-shirts) my imagination could fly to no limit. He can get all the chocolates, can go and bring back dad early from the office and can do all the Dhisum-dhisum with demons.
And then one day I came to know from my dad that, Hanuman also had another name, Wow! I thought. Hanuman also had a 'daak naam' (we bengalis always have two names, remember 'Kahaani') and the name was Dara Singh! Now that's a cool name for Hanuman, I mean Dara Singh sounded much more warrior like than Arun Govil. And that day onwards Hanuman and Dara Singh became the same person for me. 
Had to grow up, did some more reading, study about Bollywood, came to know about Dara Singh the person, watched some of his old movies, a few new movies (Kal Ho Na Ho). His roles may be small but as long as he is in the screen my focus used to be always on him. That childhood liking, hero-worship continued even till today.
I think, on Monday I read about his illness and the news that he is hospitalized. My spirit was dampened which was some what lifted reading a few comments in ToI, where all the reader were writing about how good he was and praying for his speedy recovery.
The problem with God is that, if something going to happen then how much prayer you do, how much tears you drop nothing can stop that event. And today, when I logged in to Facebook, I started seeing the condolence messages for Dara Singh, I still did not believe and checked ToI, but Dara Singh is really dead. 
My first Idol, my first hero is gone. According to Indian mythology Hanuman is eternal, he can not be dead. Thank you, Dara Singh Ji, for making Hanuman eternal in my mind's eye too. Whenever I will think about Hanuman, about my childhood, your face will come in my mind. Rest in peace Sir. Be Good wherever you are.

PS. This is the 50th post of my blog. Even till late last night I was thinking of a suitable topic to write and somewhat came to a structure. But after this news I thought it would be important to save a memorable part of my childhood in the webspace as a tribute to great Dara Singh.

Monday, July 9, 2012

When Asterix Meets Das Kapital

There are in total 33 books of Asterix. I am sad to accept that I have not read all of them yet. I do have all the PDFs but I prefer to read actual books and till now I could have collected only two-third of those books. And yes I am a big fan of them. I read these books time and time again and absolutely love the pun, wit, humour and parody created by Goscinny and Uderzo in these books. With the multiple readings and re-readings of these Asterix comics I have noticed how various contemporary events made their appearance with a different guise. May it be Neil Armstrong’s famous quote after landing on the moon (Asterix and the Great Crossing) or the name of Hindu gods and reference of cricket (Asterix and the magic Carpet), sometimes I wonder how could they even did their thorough research in those days of no google and Wikipedia.

But the one I read recently took that banter into a completely different level. The book I am referring to is ‘Obelix and Co.’ and the subject of their banter, Capitalism!! Now that is something you don’t easily get in a comics. Tintin did touch various political issues and even try to highlight a global conspiracy to increase the oil price in ‘Land of Black Gold’ but this Asterix book is in a completely different level.
The story started in a typical fashion in Totorum, one of four Roman camps near the Gaulish village. But unlike the other stories, the legionaries are not following much discipline. The reason is simple, they have decided not to go out of their own camp from the fear of getting beaten by those indomitable Gauls. The only thing they do was to wait for their relief. The relief party did come which brought great excitement in the Gaulish village who decided to gift that entire Roman army to Obelix on the occasion of his birthday!! And after a few painful moments when Obelix was enjoying his birthday present and the other villagers singing “Happy Birthday to you” this Roman army group also asked for their relief.

All these events made Julias Caesar an unhappy man in Rome. And to add the misery all his experienced officers has now become corrupt and only interested in maintaining protocol. This has been pointed out by Preposterus (who incidentally was a pass out of LSE, Latin School of Economics), and it was him who came up with the idea of corrupting Gauls by introducing capitalism in their mind. And his target is none other than Obelix and his menhir delivery business.
And there starts all the craziness! With the sheer mastery of their art, Goscinny and Uderzo touched all the various aspect of consumer market and corporates. The business lunch, the circle of money, the production of useless fancy products, the meaningless campaign strategy to attract buyers by making them envious to their neighbours, over production, menhir graveyards (to keep useless old menhirs ala car graveyard) nothing was missed. That’s not the end, those big sugar-quoted advertisements on the bill boards, a competition from home grown businesses as well as foreign makers, free gifts with menhirs and even a road block (common tactic by French/Bengali strikers) made their occurrence in the book.

But finally the bubble had busted and all the sestertius given by the Romans were devalued and our Gaulish village went back to their normal way of thrashing Romans. This time it was a gift from Obelix to the villagers who showed great resilientof his character by not touching a single Roman during the attack.
On the outside this is another simple, funny Asterix adventure but if you can dig deep you will get the true meaning. Although it is happening around us all the time but the complexity of these strategies are rooted far deeper. But the effortless way this book has touched the actual problem is mind blowing.

This one will always remain one of my favourites in the Asterix series.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

For the love of Selecaos

"God created me to delight people with goals." Romario (Brazil, Barcelona and 9 other clubs)
I will go ahead and say God created the Brazilian football team to delight people with football.


When I started understanding various sports in late 1980s India was a different country. No open economy, no internet, not even foreign sports channels. And hence like many of the Indian kids of that time I got familiar with names like Kapil Dev, Srikanth and Azharuddin pretty quickly. I loved cricket as a kid and that’s the very first sports which I adopt.
But then football has its global presence and own appeal. It’s difficult to ignore it and being a bong I started remembering names like Chima Okery, Subrata Bhatttacharya, Krishanu Dey and Bikash Pnaji and I still remember the evening when while watching a live match in the television my father explained why I should support the Mohun Bagan club and keep a constant dislike towards those red and gold players playing against them. But International football, what’s that? It’s only a few clips in the Sunday afternoon sports show in DD with Kishore Bhimani’s baritone.
Then came Italia’90 with its peculiar looking logo and a bubble gum which would give one free card with the picture of a world cup star and being the eternal fighter I get into a fierce rivalry with many of my friends to collect more cards than others. I remember having cards of Walter Zenga, Robarto Donadoni, Juregen Klinsmann, Careca and Roger Milla. I also went great length for collecting the card with Diego Maradona’s photo but not because I liked him because it was difficult to get.
And why I did not like him? Instead which player I supported? That’s the topic of this blog post.
During late 80s and early 90s there was a popular weekly magazine called ‘Saptahik Bartaman’, I think it’s still available but not sure whether it’s equally popular. My parents had a regular subscription of that and just before the 1990 FIFA world cup; the magazine started a feature where every week they had one page describing some key highlights of one previous world cup with hand drawn black & white pictures. I remember reading all of them from 1930 to 1986. I remember reading about ‘Battle of Santiago’, ‘The rise (8-3) and fall (2-3) of Hungary’, ‘The 1974 final where Netherlands took the lead before even a single German player touching the ball’ and ‘The hand of God’.
But the ones I remembered the most at that age was Maracana stadium and the heartbreak of 1950, Pele and the little bird mesmerizing the world in 1958, then again in 1962, and greatest Brazilian team of 1970. And I started having a soft corner for the Selecaos and knew that Argentina is the name of the arch enemy when I was just 6 years old.
Then came the actual world cup, I was in my Masimoni’s place, she was a big time fan of Maradona and I remember the party atmosphere on the opening day of world cup. I remember my mother saying, Argentina might lose! But no one took her seriously, why should they? Argentina, the remaining champs were playing with Cameroon, just another African country making up the numbers. But my mother’s strong intuition worked again when Cameroon gate crashed Argentina’s party thanks to a goal from Omam Biyik. I remember that I started watching the match but slept midway and next morning woke with news of the upset. I do not remember many matches of that world cup but I remember reading in the same ‘Saptahik Bartaman’ in the World cup final special issue about how Brazil was beaten by Argentina in the second round by the solitary goal from Cannigia. I read about the tears of Brazil supporters and my dislike towards Argentina just grew more.
Although I did not remember any other matches but I do remember names like Schillaci, Goycochea and Gascoigne and that was my short memory of international football for time being.
4 years passed and another FIFA world cup comes with a lot of hype because it’s happening in USA, the land of hope and dream. In those last four years I was busy with Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, Anil Kumble and Hero cup win and India’s spin trio and home test wins but as the world cup came I have started rooting for my favourite yellow jersey. But that time I am 11 years old, read the newspapers and magazines in more details. I knew about the teams, their stars and the groups. The world cup being in US, the matches were really really late, and I remember lots of matches where I was scolded by my parents for sleeping with TV on. But I did make a point to watch all the Brazil matches staying up as late as possible. Romario was the hero who scored 5 goals to take Brazil in the final. The up-front partnership of Romario and Bebeto was lethal. And then Bebeto become the most popular player of that world cup with his baby rocking celebration after scoring against Netherlands in the quarter final just after few days of the birth of his 3rd children. In the same match, Brazil very typically from a 2-0 score line managed to allow Netherlands to come back at 2-2 but then Branco converted a direct free kick from around 30 yards to take Brazil into the semis.
The final between Brazil and Italy started around 1 o’clock in the night and with 120 minutes of goal less draw and penalty kicks when it was finally over with Roberto Baggio’s missed penalty kick it was close to 4 o’clock. Never before I was awake so late in my 11 years of life. I was much tensed during the tie-breaker and remember spending some of it in the room and some of it in the balcony as I could not watch it out of nervousness.
The real transition happened from 94 to 98. Mind you, no internet and not much ESPN yet but the sports page of newspapers and magazines like ‘Sportstar’, ‘Khela’ and sports section of ‘Anandamela’ taught me a lot about football. I started knowing about the club football. I came to know about AC Milan, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona. I came to know about Copa America and UEFA Cup. Cricket was still my sports of choice but I was not as oblivious about football as in the first half of 90s.
The new megastar of Brazilian football was coming up. The shaved headed Ronaldo Luis Nazario De Lima came along with the group of superstars like Roberto Carlos, Dunga, Rivaldo and Denilson. By that time it’s not any more just watching your favourite team play, it was the whole hearted crazy support of the team. Fighting with friends in the school and memorizing history to use them in the argument. The prayers have started before the game and all the superstitions about what to wear and where to sit during a Brazil game in world cup has started.
That fanatism just increased in all these years, from the heart break of 1998 final to the ecstasy of the 2002 and then again the heart breaks of last two world cups it was a wonderful journey. I have a special feeling for world cup 2002, it was amazing to see how could one single man, in this case Ronaldo, came back like phoenix from the ashes of his mysterious illness to ’98 final to became the main architect of Brazil’s world cup triumph of 2002.
In the meantime another dimension of world football was opening to me. I came to know about David Beckham and the great man Sir Alex Farguson. I watched the highlights of their breath taking win over Bayern Munich in the Champions league final and became an instant fan of the Baby-faced Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Slowly my love towards Manchester United grew and with the advancement of internet I started following Man Utd religiously but I never stopped keeping track of my Brazilian heroes.
I do get upset about the fact that the most of the Brazilian players choose Italy and Spain as their preferred country for playing club football and hardly any big name of Brazilian team came to play in Manchester but I never stopped keeping track of Kaka, Ronaldinho, Pato and Fabiano and always wish them to do well whenever they are playing any match for their club side (except against United). I also have a special feeling for Jose Ramirez Barreto who is represents that awesome and rare combination of my love towards Brazil and Mohun Bagan. And when it comes to their match for the Selecaos, be it Copa America, Friendlies or World Cup qualifier I try to follow it and support them with as much passion as possible.
The world cup is going back to Brazil after 64 years in 2014 and although I have made plans with Kanad and Madhumitadi to visit Brazil to watch 2014 world cup but I do not know how realistic this would be but be it in India or be it in Brazil, in my mind I will be there with my heroes as strongly as possible, may be more closely as I know that this team is not as strong as the team of 90s or early 2000s. And that’s how I see a fan’s role become important. Everyone can support their team at the time of success but a true fan is who stays with his team even at the time of difficulty and heartbreaks. The life keeps moving and you never know the glory days may be just round the corner.
So, my beloved Brazilian team, keep playing well and keep entertaining people. Trust me, no other team makes football as beautiful and graceful as you can do and I do believe you know how to win trophies through your beautiful style. I will be always there to cheer you and cheer those mesmerizing moments you create on field.


My most favourite Top Five Brazilian player (In order or preference)

My Most favourite Brazilian moment on a football field
Ronaldo’s two goals in 2002 World Cup final
Bebeto’s celebration in 1994 quarter final
Ronaldinho’s free kick against England in quarterfinal 2002
Roberto Carlos’world famous free kick against France