September 27, 2007

My film - Sky Sports News

This film is about Sky SPorts News - special project team, made by me during Chevening scholarship at London in 2007

September 21, 2007

English is Phunny language

There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple... English muffins were not invented in England nor French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And there is no explanation as to why there is a 'P' in pneumonia when it has to be silent and 'L' in walk when its not spelt.

During my three months stint in UK - traveling to different places and visiting as well as working with Sky News in London and BBC in Bristol (for work experience under Chevening scholarship) - one particular phrase from not one but all the journalists I came across caught me unaware. The way they greet. The moment I walked into the Sky Sports news office in London - Simon Carpenter - the producer of the special projects -asked - 'Are you alright?' - For a moment he made me think if something had happened to me ...Was I sick? Was I looking pale – Was I Ok?. I said 'OK'......but the whole day – that particular phrase was playing around in my mind. To add to my self pity - whosoever met me on that particular or the weeks that followed - 'Are you alright?' was the way everyone greeted me.

When things settled down and I shifted to BBC in Bristol - Jemma Cooper and others to follow - had a new way of greeting me – “Are you ok?” Nothing wrong in the greeting as it was so friendly - but technically and grammatically speaking - such statements seem to be dipped and darkened in the ink pot of negativity...

But when I actually sat down to write this post It struck me that - the English language actually funny. As why is it that writers write, but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce, and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So, one moose should have been 2 meese? Is cheese the plural of choose? If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? When a house burns up, it burns down. You fill in a form by filling it out, and an alarm clock goes off by going on. When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it? Why? Answers Anyone?

September 17, 2007

I'm Brown, not Black

Who in this unruly world has not heard of 'Mandrake the magician'…? Well I have been an all time fan of this comic magician and his friend Prince Lothar - the strong man. I do not remember when….. but many years back, when I used to subscribe to the Indrajal comics at my Kolkata house - I had come across an edition of the comic in which Lothar ( who is a heavily built man) was bullied by some white men on him being black - and he had reacted saying - 'I am not black -I am brown'. Lothar was always left wondering as to why people called him black when he was actually brown skinned.

Who would have thought a day would come when I would be my turn to say “I am brown not black”. It took me several hours and lots of debate with myself to make up my mind whether to pen down this incident or not. I was fighting between being embarrassed and the fear of looking like a fool. Eventually- the journalistic instinct prevailed and here I am penning this piece for my blog.

Working in BBC at Bristol was an exciting experience but the time after work hours was always dim and low. For a person who doesn’t smoke and is a teetotaler - going around the city was the only option which is sometimes not enough to kill the loneliness. When the weekend arrived - my adrenaline accelerated - it was time to hop onto a bus to London - spend time with friends and above all kill the loneliness.

The National Express Bus to London from the Bristol bus station was at 8 pm so I called for a taxi at the Hotel Ibis; where I was putting up. The driver of the taxi was a black man; his license told me that his name was Samuel. It took me a few minutes to reach the bus station and Samuel politely asked me to pay 6 pounds. On searching I found only 5 pounds and 25 cents and I was in no mood to break my 20 pound notes. Samuel must have realized it and asked me to give him whatever change I had - but I insisted on paying him the exact amount so as to not have him incur any loss. He took me by surprise saying.....'com on brother - we are black people in the land of whites, we have to be united. These people call us black. You are black and I am black, we are be-rathers (read brothers) - I have to help you.”

I saw myself in the taxi mirror and thought I am not black I am fact I am brown. How the hell did the cabbie call me black - I am an Indian - an Asian and not BLACK. I told him - "I am brown", and walked off into the bus station with a huff…left wondering why he called me black when my colour was brown. I could immediately relate my self to what Lothar (of mandrake comic) would have felt in this very situation…

Mistress of Spices

Sixty years of Independence, exchange of ideas and trade but seems like food is probably the greatest of all India’s influences over Europe; be it Belgium, France or the U.K.. Interestingly, an observation during my 2 month stint here is that most of the restaurants I visited for my love of Indian food are run by either Bangladeshis or Pakistanis trying to make a quick buck with Europe’s love for Indian Food.

From day one since we, a group of ten journalists arrived in the U.K. for the Chevening scholarship - made it a point to keep a tab on nearby Indian restaurants. Staying in an apartment at Baker Street in London - I managed to find ‘Bombay Masala’. Being away from India a need for a conversation with someone ‘apna’ was due… But to my surprise on approaching the waiter I was politely told of him being a Bangladesh. I was faced with a similar reaction at Brussels - at ‘Maharani’ - the Bangladeshi owner enlightened me that the Hindi name had been kept precisely to woo customers.

Well After 2 such ironies my search for Indian restaurants wherever I went across UK doubled…. During my placement with BBC in Bristol – I found the Indian Tarka just across the Hotel Ibis where I was put up and surprise! Surprise this time it was the Pakistanis who owned the do rather than the usual Bangladeshis.

You can set your hands on every indian dish right from Masala Dosas, Rotis, chicken tikka masala to Aloo Gobi in these restaurants and as per a report, 80% of the Indian restaurants in the U.K. are run and managed by either Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. Well, this shows the importance of apna desi khanna in the angrez land and be sure I am proud of it.

September 5, 2007

Bumper to Bumper

Bumper to bumper traffic, hoards of people walking, long queues of people trying to get into buses – a typical Indian Traffic Jam… Well for once it was not India but London – one of the world’s best capitals, which saw this sorry scene. Employees of the famous London Underground went on a 72 hour strike causing the cancellation of most Tube services - literarily paralyzing the entire transport system. The Public Transport came to the rescue, but with 2 million Londoners swarming the streets it was a nightmare.

It usually takes me about 3/4th of an hour to travel from Baker Street to Osterley with 2 Tube changes. But today, a day when I had to reach the Sky Sports News Office by 8 in the morning for a special project saw me stranded at the station with no trains to take. Believe it or not but it took me over 2 hours to reach Osterley.

There was complete disarray, seeing Crowded Buses and long Queues for cabs with trying to get just that one step closer to wherever they were headed.I was informed that this was the most extensive strike ever since June 30, 2004, when metro train drivers walked off their jobs and had shut down the entire railway. The Tube Union wants a guarantee that members won't lose jobs and pensions following Metronet's financial collapse in July.

Once onboard a bus, I overheard a couple of Indians chitchatting about London being worse than Mumbai. Yes Mumbai faces the same chaos day in and day out but, what needs to be acknowledged about London is that in there is organized chaos - despite the strike, people at the Underground were well prepared to give commuters details about alternative routes and transport measures. It was Tim (a metro staff) - if I remember correctly who informed me about the Piccadilly Line being shut and the only way I could reach office was to take bus number 27 from Baker street to Hammersmith and the H91 bus to the Sky office.

The strike is on till have to face the brunt for a of couple days more... But the worst is yet to come as I just heard that the strikes goes into phase II from the 20 of Sept. Well Thank god for me as I will be in Bristol from the 10 of Sept and would be back to London only by the 28th to take off for my Europe trip.

I am definitely feeling better after scribbling down all this as I try not to think of how many hours its going to take me to get back home. Nonetheless Hope things look up this time or as always there’s No respite!

Strange World Laws

Did you know it's illegal in France to name a pig Napoleon? Or that in Ohio you're not allowed to get a fish drunk?

Alex Wade celebrates the spirit of the silly season with a list of the world's most ridiculous laws. and i thought a place for them on my blog would be worth a read. So here goes...

25. It is illegal for a cab in the City of London to carry rabid dogs or corpses.

24. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.

23. It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside down.

22. In France, it is forbidden to call a pig Napoleon.

21. Under the UK's Tax Avoidance Schemes Regulations 2006, it is illegal not to tell the taxman anything you don't want him to know, though you don't have to tell him anything you don't mind him knowing.

20. In Alabama, it is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while driving a vehicle.

19. In Ohio, it is against state law to get a fish drunk.

18. Royal Navy ships that enter the Port of London must provide a barrel of rum to the Constable of the Tower of London.

17. In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants – even, if she so requests, in a policeman's helmet.

16. In Lancashire, no person is permitted after being asked to stop by a constable on the seashore to incite a dog to bark.

15. In Miami, Florida, it is illegal to skateboard in a police station.

14. In Indonesia, the penalty for masturbation is decapitation.

13. In England, all men over the age of 14 must carry out two hours of longbow practice a day.

12. In London, Freemen are allowed to take a flock of sheep across London Bridge without being charged a toll; they are also allowed to drive geese down Cheapside.

11. In San Salvador, drunk drivers can be punished by death before a firing squad.

10. In the UK, a man who feels compelled to urinate in public can do so only if he aims for his rear wheel and keeps his right hand on his vehicle.

9. In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on Sundays can be jailed.

8. In Kentucky, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon more than six-feet long.

7. In Chester, Welshmen are banned from entering the city before sunrise and from staying after sunset.

6. In the city of York, it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow.

5. In Boulder, Colorado, it is illegal to kill a bird within the city limits and also to "own" a pet – the town's citizens, legally speaking, are merely "pet minders".

4. In Vermont, women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth.
3. In London, it is illegal to flag down a taxi if you have the plague.

2. In Bahrain, a male doctor may legally examine a woman's genitals but is forbidden from looking directly at them during the examination; he may only see their reflection in a mirror.

1. The head of any dead whale found on the British coast is legally the property of the King; the tail, on the other hand, belongs to the Queen - in case she needs the bones for her corset.

September 3, 2007

Brussels and Back

27th August – A Bank Holiday in the U.K. – Almost everyone had planned to go on a holiday and last minute plans saw me walking out of the Brussels railway station. Brussels for those who aren’t aware is the Capital of Belgium. It took me a 2 and a half highly boring journey by the Euro rail from London's Waterloo to Brussels’s Midi station. Tintin comics and the famous statue of Mannekin Piss is what comes to mind when one talks about Brussels. The Mannekin piss is a small fountain sculpture depicting a little boy peeing. – Do not ask me why it became so famous.

There is nothing great or overwhelming about Brussels despite it’s much talked about heritage architect. But, interestingly what catches one eye are the comic strips painted across the city walls of the main street which is now the capital of the European commission. From the Belgian ReporterTintin to Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus to many more unknown characters are flashed on the huge walls of the city welcoming tourists.

The Comic Strips play an important role in the cultural history of this city and simultaneously Brussels as a city plays a relevant part in many of these strip cartoons. I was told by the information centre that based on an idea of Michel Van Roye Alderman; responsible for public areas and the environment of the City of Brussels in 1991, the 'strip cartoon’ route was devised by the Belgian Strip Cartoon Centre and the ‘Art Mural’ Association which is responsible for producing and positioning frescoes based on an original drawing by the authors.

There are currently 24 frescoes around the region, as well as a number of statues relating to the world of the strip cartoon. If we add to this the museums, birthplaces of the leading authors and places that have inspired settings, I had the most fascinating walk through the city in quest of ‘bubble’ emotions.

If you are a die hard fan of Tintin then the comic strip museum is worth a visit - which I eventually missed as the museum is closed for the public on Monday. However to my good fortune, the gate keeper was kind enough to let me in and have a quick glance and I took the opportunity to capture some moments of this famous comic within my camera.

Oh and I did not miss the opportunity of getting myself photographed infront of the Mannekin piss. So Alls wells that ends well! Quite a trip it was to the fantasy world and back!