Christo & Mephisto

The first is the gentleman who wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin & the Pont-Neuf in Paris; the second is a lesser known ‘wrapper’ from Vulgaria whose plans have survived only on paper, in the form of sketches. One indignant art critic once described Mephisto as a ‘wrapist’, whereas Mephisto’s supporters go into ‘wraptures’ over such projects as putting the Taj Mahal in a burqa while the Eifel Tower sports a bikini, preferably in the French tricolour.

Mephisto learnt his trade/art in haute couture, needless to say. He is against Christo’s wrapping the whole of an object in – whatever. It’s not what you clothe them in but how you clothe them, aparently that’s what’s important, from the Faustian point of view. Women’s dresses are basically like the trailer of a film, or like the teaser for an online article –

‘Stop it!’ comes the heckling. ‘You are a sexist.’

And why? Mephisto pretends to be innocent. Like his cheek!

‘You think only of that one thing.’

But not all the time! Mephisto protests.

Haute couture began with Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ (published 1837), Mephisto claims. Probably nobody except perhaps Donald Trump will ever have the courage to tell the ladies on the catwalk that they are more unclothed than clothed, Mephisto says. The girls freeze & tumble & shame themselves in front of their stepfathers, all for a fistful of dollars – up to fifty thousand for a day’s shoot, Mephisto has heard. The only things that are ‘high’ about haute couture are the high heels, unless someone is on speed, Mephisto says. ‘You can ask Christopher Marlowe or Wolfgang von Goethe,’ he adds, as if they would know!

‘What’s that got to do with the great art of rapping – pardon, wrapping?’ we counter.

About as much as rapping has to do with singing – Mephisto says. ‘No, I’m kidding,’ he grins, a devilish grin. ‘What d’you do when you wrap something, whether it’s a birthday present or the Reichstag? You hide it. You truss it up like a turkey. As if for a hasty funeral in the midst of a civil war or abject poverty. That’s no way to treat a famous building or a beautiful bridge, is it? That’s why I’m going to take the high road to fashion and make the Reichstag what it has never been in its entire history since 1894 – I’m going to make it sexy!’

‘What d’you mean, sexy?’ we could smell sulphur again.

‘It’s okay if you show the figure through the wrapping, but the Reichstag should show a bit of legs as well, don’t you think? What about slashed tarpaulin sheets over the entrance and a tiara for the dome? The Eiffel Tower would look very naughty in a skimpy red-and-white two-piece, I feel.’

‘What about the blue, you know, allez les bleus and all that?’

‘The sky will be blue.’

‘And Pont-Neuf?’

‘Ah, you mean the bridge over the Seine? You’ve got the water, now all you’ve got to do is to turn the bridge into a bathing beauty, a mermaid or something, but topless.’

‘What d’you think you’re trying to do?’

‘I’m liberating architecture from the drudgery & tedium of being just houses, monuments & museums – the bridges are almost sexy in comparison, I must say, at least the flighty modern ones which have a nice silhouette. And it’s no use wrapping a building just once: a building’s got to be wrapped differently in spring than in summer; an autumn collection in decent pastels & grey for mausoleums, for example. We’ll need to develop a different line of wrapping for fat buildings to make them look less squat. We’ll need fashion accessories for the historical buildings such as when the Queen comes on a visit: think of it, the Queen comes to Brügge and all the buildings are clutching Her Majesty’s kind of handbag, with children waving from inside the hatch! Generally I can see all buildings, ugly & old as well as modern & state-of-the-art, having any number of wrappings – or as many as the city council can afford – and still having nothing to wear when the Queen or the Formula One circus comes around the next time.’

‘So what is the solution?’

‘Revolution, what else? Haven’t you seen, some buildings have even stopped painting themselves. Others are just letting themselves go. Still other buildings are sitting in a row on their paved & crooked lane in the sun and telling each other stories from the olden days. Those are the ones I like best.’

‘And what d’you do when you like a building?’

‘I don’t wrap ’em,’ Mephisto said.

Advertisements

Greetings to New Zealand

In H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895), the Morlocks represent the working class and the Elois the rich upper classes. The Eloi are clothed and fed by the Morlocks – who eat the Elois in return. The Morlocks live underground while the Elois live above the ground. Wells is describing the English countryside of the year 802,701 A.D.

The uneasy feeling that the best of SF always gives you is that it is more augury than science. And SF is still science because what it describes is not fiction but the state of things to come, whether in the near or in the distant future. Take the Elois and the Morlocks, for example. Or take the Internet billionaires on the one hand and the urban poor on the other. Better still, think of the American Internet billionaires and the urban poor in China. Think of the megacities in China to which the jobless of the countryside flock in the hope of finding work, amusement and – however fractionally & marginally – the goodies of life. China has added 500 million to its existing horde of city-dwellers in the mad rush to urbanisation over the past 35 years. There are 15 megacities in China today with a population of 10 million and more – welcome to Chongqing and Chengdu, for example.

I’m not just talking of China – just as H.G. Wells was not just talking of the English countryside. SF is always here and everywhere. We could have taken India’s example as well. The world is dividing itself into Elois and Morlocks – the prosperous, confident, burgeoning middle class in India, for example, especially the urban middle class; they are the Elois whose daughters are now in the danger of being preyed upon by the Morlocks – how awful & unfair! Yes, but not just to the Elois.

Wells belied his ‘class’ origins & loyalties, despite all his fabianism, by putting the onus of ‘cannibalism’ squarely on the shoulder of the long-suffering Morlocks. A film like Shyam Benegal’s Ankur (1974) will remind us that the wives – and naturally the daughters of the Morlocks were being preyed upon by Eloi gentlemen till the other day. So if Wells is talking about cannibalism, the Elois are – or used to be – the real cannibals, forcing the Morlock men to work themselves to death while the Elois, men as well as the women (think of the way some mistresses of some households occasionally treat their maids), well, Elois of both sexes have been using, misusing & abusing Morlock women for as long as we’ve had caste & feudalism in India.

As for the rest of the world, you’ll find billionaires buying mansions in Malibu with private beach access, unless they’ve joined the own/rent your own island craze from Fiji to the Seychelles. You’ll find private safari lodges in the middle of the African bush which are so expensive & exclusive that you’ll never come across one of your office colleagues/neighbours having a shower by pulling the string of a tilted watering can hung from a tree while giraffes play peekaboo from behind the canvas partition. And last but not least, we must not forget those palm-shaped islands they’re heaping in the Gulf for customers unlike you but with an uncanny likeness to David Beckham.

Yet even the Beckhams are not the new Elois, the coming Elois – then the new Elois will be living in villages smelling of cowdung in India; they’ll go hunting with the bushmen – armed with poisoned arrows – in the Kalahari; they and their model wives will be bringing babies into the world in the humid Amazon rainforest in natural labours where the billionaire himself will be cutting the umbilical chord with the serrated edge of a palm frond and disinfecting the wound with the secretion of a tree frog. Sound like Jungle Camp to you?

As it should, since what is happening to the rest of us – Morlocks – is that we are moving up the ladder of prosperity and acquiring comforts & amenities which were reserved for the rich and the super-rich once. We Morlocks are moving into the cities and living in labyrinths which grow upwards instead of downwards – with one common problem: there’s as little (clean) air to breathe up here as down there, while the smog can lower visibility to the same extent. No trees – that, again, should remind us Morlocks of our old habitat.

So where are the Elois? They’ve put the time machine into back gear, it seems: look at our Internet billionaire and his model wife in fig leaves asking a modern day Lucas Cranach to take a selfie of the two of them dressed (or undressed) like Adam and Eve while Ukrainian watchmen wearing bling-bling & kalashnikovs guard the state-of-the-art Garden of Eden. The snake has been conveniently left behind in Australia, where they are used to such things.

The billionaire and his model wife have just bought the South Island, New Zealand, and kept only the sheep.

Mika’s blog (4): Once upon a time…

Bibilical first human beings Adam and Eve were queueing at the Immigration counter before checking out of the Garden of Eden. Adam held their brand new passport – just one – in his hand which said: “Human, male, sinner”. Eve had been entered in Adam’s passport since she was made out of his rib. She’d be applying for a separate passport when they arrived in the other world, that was the plan.

God knows how long it would take for Eve to get a new passport, the snake had said and they hadn’t dared ask God. But the snake had heard that it might take anything from a few million to a couple of hundred thousand years before Eve got her own passport. After that even Eve hadn’t had the heart to talk about voting rights or equal pay – Adam was laughing already, so she had simply kept the thing about gender equality to herself. Would be occasion enough to ask the question and give Adam something to laugh about in the millennia to come.

And then we might think of Mary and Joseph, those ultimate refugees whose travels took them from Nazareth to Bethlehem (80 miles), from Bethlehem to Jerusalem (6 miles); from there to Egypt (40 miles); and from Egypt over Judea and Bethlehem back to Nazareth (106 miles). That’s a total of 232 miles, a distance a commercial jet would be able to cover in 25 minutes and the rocket-powered X-15 of the NASA and the U.S. Air Force in just three, yes, just three minutes, for instance during its record Mach 6.7 flight sometime during the ’sixties.

Imagine Mary and Joseph aboard the X-15, the fastest military airplane of all time. Jesus would have had exactly three minutes to be born, Christ! No wonder they retired the X-15 in 1970.

Mika’s ancestors had been around during all such biblical wanderings, Mika claims. Eve had hidden her Mika – still very young, a cuddly little thing with paws almost larger than its head – she’d hidden Mika carefully amongMika2 her spare fig leaves but they discovered the stowaway anyway. Adam had to explain that Mika was not a pet but provisions for the journey in the sense that they intended to eat Mika if they felt hungry during the trip, a perfectly valid explanation in those days. The Immigration Officer was asking whether Mika – everybody in Mika’s family has always been called Mika since Adam – and since Eve, come down to think of it (about time somebody did). Well, the I.O. was at least clever enough not to ask for Mika’s vaccination papers, there being no vaccination nor diseases of any kind in the Garden of Eden.

How did people – and animals – die in the GOE? I was asking Mika.

People? There was only Adam ’n’ Eve, Mika said, as if he was talking about Rock ’n’ Roll. As for the animals, they died of boredom, if we are to believe Mika. Apparently they just curled up and went to sleep, telling the others not to wake them till Eternity – or until Eve had given Adam the apple and they’d put on their fig leaves and things had generally got interesting.

For example, soon after their arrival in the sinful world, ‘Adam knew his wife Eve intimately, and she conceived and bore Cain’. Abel came along by and by. Cain became a farmer while Abel became a shepherd. And then Cain killed Abel – so not just sex but violence and Hollywood was born.

“My ancestor had naturally attached himself to Abel – he was actually the first sheep dog in the world, we turned into hunting dogs later,” Mika recalled with some pride. “My ancestor was regularly getting all those succulent scraps from the ‘fat portions’ Abel was offering to the Lord. And then that grain-eating monster Cain not only killed Abel but chased away my ancestor,” Mika would have shed a silent tear if he could, but had to be content with drooling instead, whether for his ancestor or for the succulent scraps, I am not in a position to tell.

“And what about Mary and Joseph? Did they have a Mika with them too?” I asked.

“No, but you know the place where their child was born?”

“You mean the manger?”

“The child wasn’t born in the manger. Mary laid him there after the birth,” Mika corrected.

“And your ancestor?”

“The manger was the feeding trough for the cows. My ancestor used to lie on top of the fodder and have fun snarling and growling and scaring away the dumb critters. But when Mary came, with the child…” Mika broke off, which is unusual for him.

“Yes?”

“The cows were avoiding the manger because my ancestor was in it, but Mary thought the manger was empty.”

“Which it wasn’t?”

“Mary saw Mika at the last moment and got a scare because Mika bared his teeth, like this,” Mika bared his gums. He looks like a baboon when he does that. It is not a pretty sight.

“And then?”

“Mary called Joseph who said something to Mika so that Mika got up and sprang out of the manger. Went out of the stable altogether and sulked outside, which is why he missed the photo op at the Christmas crib.”

“What did Joseph say to Mika?”

“‘D’you want me to tell the world that you were the first dog in the manger?'”

Bulbul shit

We didn’t have sex education in those days, just the standard sexist education which was no education at all, so far as sex was concerned. I don’t think I have publicly used the word ‘sex’ till well after my graduation – neither in speaking nor in writing (if we sinned, it was only in thought). I still remember the shock that I got when I chanced upon the famous four letter word in my pocket dictionary. Used to go back and peep at the word – which comes between fuchsia and fucus – when nobody was looking.

As an adolescent, one looked for forbidden knowledge in books & films. I discovered early that Bengali literature – for adults – was the equivalent of the self-cooked veggie diet of a pious Bengali widow compared to what they were dishing out in English literature – books in English i.e. There again, the paperbacks were more sinful than the hardcovers and the worst were the paperbacks tinted pink or yellow at the edges, as if the book had been dipped in some kind of a lotion or solution – sideways! – after the printing and the binding had been done. Friend of mine said the lotion was possibly a disinfectant to prevent STD in case the book had pornographic content.

As regards films, let me proffer the late regards of a growing, no, grown-up, what the hell, grown-old boy to his former heroines such as Helen in Gumnaam (1965) and Saira Banu in April Fool (1964). I put Helen before Saira because Gumnaam was the first Adults Only film I ever saw in my life – before I’d reached adulthood, don’t ask me how, ask the Kalika cinema in Kalighat and possibly even they wouldn’t know. Well, Helen Jairag Richardson of the Anglo-Indian-Burmese descent was the first woman I’d seen in a bathing suit – in the film, naturally – and she looked divine, just as divine as Saira Banu in her glitering one-piece swimsuit in April Fool – her blow-up – at times cut-out – was on hoardings all over Kolkata. In the advert, they’d decorated the swimsuit with rows upon rows of round, swinging medals cut out of tinsel, to reproduce the glitter effect. It was the first time a woman in a swimsuit had been publicly hung in Kolkata. Kolkata was stunned.

And then we come to the film songs.

Bullshit is for the vulgar West; we Indians are sensitive and, like a particularly delicate climbing rose, our sensibility has been dunged with generous doses of bulbul shit over the ages. Bulbul, of course, is the Arabic, Urdu and Hindi word for the nightingale, a bird with such a ubiquitous – some say obnoxious presence in the lyric poetry of all the aforesaid languages that Bollywood lyricists caught the infection early on and continued to churn out bulbul shit by the film and by the LP long after Helen and Saira Banu had made the Eastern world take a quantum leap by sporting western swimwear.

But even as Sharmila Tagore was demonstrating how an Indian girl could wear a hipster sari and still be coy in no less depraved a place than Paris (a lot of An Evening in Paris, 1967, was shot on location), Mohammad Rafi was charming our pants off by singing the corresponding film songs – well, let me just repeat what a particularly sacrilegious friend of mine once said: “If God were to sing, He’d be singing like Rafi Saab.” And when Rafi Saab sang, you didn’t listen to the words, thank God.

Because you’d be listening to the worst kind of sentimental, tearjerking tripe that intelligent, goodlooking and hardworking Indian women have ever been subjected to – or made the subject of. There will be the standard references to her ‘soft lips’ and ‘silky hair’; you can ‘drown’ in her eyes, unless they are busy discharging ‘bijli’ (which can mean anything from lightning to electric sparks); the same eyes could also be shooting arrows at your ‘heart’, which shatters so easily, being made out of ‘glass’; ultimately all you want is to rest in the ‘shadow of her eyelashes’.

The hero, in such songs, is always the suffering hero and rarely the conquering hero (unless it’s Shammi!). He is mostly ‘on the road’, whether as a traveller or as a vagabond, is not clear but he is on the lookout for a ‘home’. All these women have been breaking his heart in the past, and the last in line is none other than his ‘murderess’. She is also a temptress whose eyes are like wine glasses and whose looks are like heady wine. Finally, the hero is ‘mad’ with love – hence the heroine, together with the rest of the world, have to suffer his antics on grounds of insanity, not inanity, please note.

That, roughly, is the gist of approximately forty thousand Hindi film songs. The rest of the inanity comes from the fruitless attempt to express such sentiments in English. Don’t worry, English pop songs have had their own quota of banality and inanity since Elvis’ desire to turn into a teddy bear and Cliff Richard’s desire to play with a Living Doll. Sex object in the West, love object in the East and paedophilia East & West – what a deal for women.

Back in the glory days, I was sitting with my then girlfriend in the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, actually named after the Bibilical Garden of Eden, as you can read in the Wikipedia. Well, we were sitting on the grass when I started singing Rafi’s Chhoo Lene Do Nazuk Hothoñ Ko for some reason, not karaoke, really singing. My pretty & very modern/liberated/emancipated girlfriend heard my rather wobbly rendition of Let Me Touch Your Soft Lips and just melted.

I ascribe it to Rafi Saab to this day.

With memsahibs in India

I cannot deny it and I cannot call them anything else: travelling in a country like India with a memsahib in tow used to be anything but easy – unless you were rich, so rich that people almost expected you to marry a memsahib, just as they expected you to drive an expensive, imported foreign car. Riches allowed you to isolate yourself and your memsahib from the masses. They could admire you from afar but you didn’t get to hear their rude remarks – well, at times you did, but you could always tell the memsahib at your side that they were saying something complimentary and put up the window.

I had to give up my job – the Indian Foreign Service – in order to get married to my memsahib. So we were poor as church mice (in a place like India where even the temple mice are richer) – when she arrived holding the hand of my future stepdaughter, who was not just blonde but had blue eyes at the time, thus compounding my troubles. Here was an obvious loafer, possibly jobless, running around in scooter taxis and patakas with a full- and a half-blown memsahib on either arm. What was he planning to do, sell them?

A full ten years before they took that picture of Lady Di at the Taj and a full 34 years before Kate and William put in a repeat performance, I was occupying the same seat with my two memsahibs, having asked some passer-by – for want of paparazzi – to take our picture. By the way, my advice to all royals is: don’t let them take your picture in front of the Taj. You can look as tall as the Eiffel Tower or shore up the leaning tower of Pisa but leave the Taj in peace. Whichever dynasty you belong to, a memorial like that is a size too large for you. Or if you don’t think so, why don’t you build the Black Taj, the Taj in black marble, on the other side of the river, as Shah Jahan was planning to do? Then couples like me and my memsahib would be able to go from the White Taj to the Black Taj and back again, provided the ferry is working.

I felt so proud showing my memsahibs the Taj that I forgot that I was jobless and that India was a poor country.

I told my memsahibs all about the lady whose mausoleum it was: Arjumand Banu Begum of Agra who became the third wife of Emperor Shah Jahan and received the title of Mumtaz Mahal from him. She was 19 when she got married; she died when she was 38, having borne him 14 children. She died at the fourteenth childbirth.

There’s no better way of confusing memsahibs than to show them the Taj and then tell them the story of Mumtaz Mahal. They simply don’t get it: ‘You said he loved her? I mean, fourteen children… And then the Taj…’

I had other things on my mind. There was this gang of young, unattached males following us around and delivering a running commentary of the kind which no memsahib or her Indian consort should be compelled to hear, except as a form of waterboarding. I was in sandals and carrying a Shantiniketani sidebag made out of cloth – no proper ersatz for ermine and the royal sceptre. So the loafers felt they could say anything they liked about my memsahib’s desirability or my great good luck in having been able to dupe her into marrying me or living in sin with me or whatever our legal or illegal status might be.

I’m not the fisticuffs type so I adopted the method the Germans call Flucht nach vorne, which means rushing into battle: I started translating whatever the loafers were saying for the benefit of my memsahib to my memsahib and my memsahib started laughing as if it was all a big joke. She said she’d heard worse things from drunks at students’ parties during her university days in Communist Poland – somewhere in today’s Województwo Wielkopolskie, that’s all I’m allowed to say. And then she turned to the loafers at the Taj Mahal, Agra, and gave them a regal smile which would have done credit to Jadwiga, the first female monarch of Poland who reigned in the last quarter of the fourteenth century (the Taj was built in the seventeenth, the Mughals having invaded India towards the beginning of the sixteenth). But what finally made the lafangas beat a retreat was when my blonde-haired and blue-eyed (future) stepdaughter – who was six at the time – took a step towards the young Lochinvars and said something – friendly – to them in German.

I could hear Arjumand Banu laughing as if she was nineteen all over again.

I was much braver at the supermarket in Connuaght Place, New Delhi. We’d just bought some heavenly alphonsos from the mango-seller and I was on the point of paying the ‘memsahib surcharge’ without demur – when I heard the man remark in an undertone to his sidekick: ‘Murgi fañsa liya.’ The implication was the same as with the lafangas at the Taj: I did not derserve the memsahib but must have managed to get hold of her through some mean trick or deception – I might have told her that the Taj Mahal was our family grave, for instance (I’m a Hindu & we Hindus are cremated but d’you think a memsahib would have known the difference before the refugee crisis?). All of this and more was implied in those three words (four in English) spat out through the corner of the mouth: ‘Murgi fañsa liya. Snared the dumb hen.’

It roused my ire. He should be ashamed of himself – I berated the mango-seller, in Hindi. Here I was, a strapping young man of his country, decent, well-behaved, well-educated. Was it not the memsahib who had fañsaoed the murga – snared the dumb rooster? As a patriotic Indian, how could he even think that I had snared her and not she, me? My Hindi got a bit mixed up at this point. Where was his pride? I asked rhetorically, warming to my theme.

The mango-seller was listening to my tirade open-mouthed. His reaction was to give me two more alphonsos for free, as an apology. But he should have waited till we were out of earshot. I had my back turned towards the stall and still I heard the little exchange between the man and his sidekick with explosive clarity.

“Why did you give two?” mangoes i.e., the sidekick was asking.

“One for the murga, the other for the murgi, fair is fair,” explained the old fox.

A nauthor

Who am I writing for? The question was put to me years ago by a very good friend of mine who lives in London and amuses himself in his spare time by acting as a reader for various publishing houses as well as for aspiring authors – mainly by way of telling them, ‘This won’t work’. Despite the fact that this is not his main occupation or preocupation, he wet-nursed an international bestseller to fame in the nineties.

In other words, his judgement is as acute as it is astute and his chance remarks have always had this annoying habit of following me around like the hound of heaven and howling like a banshee in my dreams. Such as that million dollar question: ‘Who do you write for?’ It was on the phone, and he might well have said ‘whom’, which will roughly indicate just how long ago this conv. must have taken place. I’d written three novels by then and intrepid as my friend is, he had been kind enough to look through at least two of them. Decency demands that his comments remain as unpublished as the novels in question.

My friend was a bit doubtful about my English too. You see, my English is like Oberon’s Indian fairy-child deserted in the ur-forests of Germania and raised by wolves which have strayed across the border from Poland or the Czech Republic. This has resulted in my English fermenting into a very special kind of brew which few can imbibe and even fewer recognise as one of the more exotic flavours of their beloved lingua franca. Further, my English being practically self-taught, there are large gaps in it, call them blind spots. To give you but one example: I have a penchant for such tantalising words as ‘demotic’ which crop up in connection with Eco’s The Name of the Rose, for example. I check the meaning every time and conveniently forget it after use, so that I have to google the damn thing all over again the next time I’m thinking of using it. Demotic, for instance: does that refer to simplified ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs or to a form of Modern Greek? And it’s not me who’s doing the bullshitting, believe me.

Okay, so it’s Google and not the O.E.D., is it, even for somebody like me who ‘belongs to an older semester’ (which is the polite German way of putting it)? The answer is yes – I confess shamefacedly. These days, one outsources one’s memory to Google/Wikipedia and most people are unperturbed by the fact that their phones are probably smarter than them. It’s a comfortable situation, really: your head is in a Cloud, the rest of you walking the earth like a zombie.

I have not always been this modern, remember. There were the times when everybody else was running around with an iPhone and I was telling them that I was the only person carrying a uPhone – what’s that? They wanted to know. It means that I’m not going to call you, you’d better call me. Not I phone but you phone, that’s uPhone, in pidgin, I told them. You know the problem with a uPhone? It never rings.

And now I’m going to give away a business idea which will probably be snapped up by Apple: I’ve been thinking of a smartphone which will be an electric shaver as well so that you can switch over to the shave function when the conversation gets boring. The phone will be as loud as it will be sensitive so that the ladies can use it without interrupting either their chat or the depilation.

Thank God all that is behind me now and this is just a blog – I love that ‘just a blog’ demurral – so my reply will be ‘Dunno!’ every time you ask who I am writing for. The Germans call it Narrenfreiheit, fool’s liberty, meaning of course the Fool or the court jester of medieval times, like the one in Shakespeare who used to call King Lear ‘nuncle’.

Now there’s a funny word. I’d always taken it to be Shakespeare’s, until I googled it and discovered that it’s only the archaic or dialectal form of ‘uncle’, risen apparently through the rebracketing of phrases such as ‘an uncle’, ‘mine uncle’, ‘thine uncle’ and so on. Dunno about my phone, but Google is certainly smarter than me, at times.

Though I still like to think that nuncle is the negation of uncle, it’s like fooling Uncle, nuncling him, nuncling the nuncle, if you know what I mean. You don’t? Let’s go back to the Wiktionary: nuncling means to cheat or to deceive. Perhaps also to deride?

Well, if Lear can be a nuncle, I can be a nauthor too. Yes, that’s what I’ll be, that’s what I’d like to call myself, rebracketed and transposed, not an author, but a nauthor. Any objections?

The cricket of blogging

If blogging were a game – as it probably is – I’d compare it to cricket, more specifically to batting. Think of the stance, which is supposed to be relaxed and balanced and comfortable – though naturally you can make it much more open and aggressive à la Sachin Tendulkar, the Little Master.

Then there are the strokes: the block or the forward defensive as well as the backward defensive; the glance and the drive; the cut, the pull and the hook, not to forget the sweep. I won’t even talk about the more unorthodox ones like the slog, the switch and the scoop. But all these strokes have a defensive or an offensive purpose: you’re either trying to save your wicket or you’re trying to score runs.

I’ve always found cricket to be colonial because the batsman – or the two batsmen on the crease – get much too much attention and have a ball of a time while for the rest of the players, life is anything but a ball game – well, they have to throw the ball first so that the batsman can hit it; and then they have to run after the ball and go and get it like the ruddy ball boy in tennis, if not like the bally dog on the doggie playground. I used to dream of a wildcat strike by the fielders, all standing around with their arms akimbo, telling the batsmen to go and get their own balls. Who do they think they are? The sahib and the memsahib? Et cetera.

Otherwise blogging is about style too, like cricket. Blogging, like cricket, is not a body contact game – you’ve got football for that, and politics. Blogging, like cricket, is a leisurely activity – remember what NY’s mayor Rudy Giuliani said when they went to him asking for a cricket field? ‘Oh, that game where you can watch the grass grow?’ Giuliani is supposed to have said. That’s when the IPL decided to get those American cheerleaders to pep things up.

Clever as you are, you must have noticed that blogging can’t be like cricket at least on one count: you can’t play cricket alone, you need a bowler as well as a batsman – whereas the blogger fields and keeps the wicket as well. The only thing the blogger cannot do is the umpiring. He publishes his post and days afterwards, a troll cries “Howzat?” upon which the umpire unfriends him and the spectators unfollow him. The blogger is suddenly the loneliest cricketer in the world, standing on the deserted pitch in the failing light, surrounded by empty stands.

What does the blogger do in that kind of a situation? I’ll tell you. He suddenly catches a glimpse of his prolonged shadow on the green grass, his head practically touching the stadium roof… he swings his bat experimentally and it turns out to be a gargantuan, epic sweep from stand to stand, shadow to shadow… he takes his stance all over again and tries out his favourite shot, the square cut, not like Rahul Dravid but like the blogger’s very own compatriot Sourav Chandidas Ganguly – and the sun goes over the horizon for a clean six in the eternal one-day cricket of the gods.

When Sachin Tendulkar the Little Master was little, he was practising his stance in front of the mirror – might even have been his famous straight drive or the equally famous leg glance. That’s when they asked him: ‘Sachin, what are you doing? Watch out! Don’t break the mirror!’

Little did they know that Sachin would be breaking records, not mirrors, in the future.

‘Isn’t that bat a size too large for you?’ they kidded.

‘You just watch. I might be a blogger today, but I’m going to be a novelist someday,’ Sachin threatened.

Well, as we all know, Sachin batted and bowled right-handed but writes with his left hand!

It’s what the blogger does too, in case you haven’t noticed.