The ‘lowly’ crime

If all crimes that survive and thrive in Mumbai were categorized into some sort of hierarchy, ‘chain snatching’ would be right below the bottom of the pile. Pick pocketing is now somehow associated with nostalgia, something that happened in Bombay. Chain snatching however is flung about like an example of all that is wrong with crime reporting, like it brings disrepute to the fraternity; like some gangrene infested finger that should someday be relieved if crime reporting is to be taken seriously.

There have been innumerable instances when I have heard this: ‘yeh chain snatching cover karne ki liye main journalism me nahi aaya/aayi thi’ while ranting about reporting. At times, the voice that I heard was also one emanating from my head. It is however one of the best things that can happen to you if you have to make up your mind to quit crime reporting, it’s the lowest denominator.

In fact apart from reporters, much to my surprise I have heard a ‘deskie’ who after quitting said ‘I did not go abroad to edit chain snatching stories’. So apparently chain snatching was all that was wrong with the world. Maybe one of the recent press club election nominees could have promised, ‘If I am elected, I will pass a resolution to ban reporting on chain snatching to get the votes of the crime reporters lobby.’ Maybe?

chain snatching

A cop once gave me a solution that he believed would help everyone: the cops, the journalists and the chain snatchers themselves. While over casual conversation when I asked him about the rising instances of chain snatching he smiled, move forward as if telling a secret that would be lost if said loudly, and whispered with an air of Confucian wisdom, ‘aap log report karna band kar do, chain snatching apne aap band ho jayegi’.

I momentarily thought that apart from dry days (story wise), I would not mind it and the cops would ofcourse be more than happy. But his notion of chain snatchers not snatching chains because we don’t report on it, like somehow they will forget about the ‘art’ reminded me of Gabrial Garcia Marquez and the stuff of magic realism. Later thankfully the cop guffawed like a buffoon indicating ‘he thought’ it as a joke.

Personally while reporting on the crime beat, I had my own struggles with chain snatching. Apart from the very many occasions when I have ‘gone with the crowd’, I also felt that it was one of the biggest crimes plaguing the city then. Chain snatching was so prevalent the police commissioners were talking about it publicly as their biggest headache.

I remember this phase when this movement ‘report chain snatching’ carried out a coup in my head and I recollect feeling good after I had reported a package – two-three stories- on the same. I remember telling friends and colleagues with missionary zeal how it was so important to report on it.

Then however after I had switched from the crime to the court beat, and I heard a press release was issued for the arrest of two chain snatchers, it tickled me. ‘Press release for chain snatchers arrest? Seriously?,’ I questioned myself slightly amused. The law of averages I realized had worked on me over time; the coup had failed, the zeal had gone.

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Ways of seeing

There are at least five different ways in which tragedy can strike me at any given place at any given point. I think. May be, and most likely I am more paranoid than others in my clan, but reporting on the dark side of human nature comes along with its own baggage I would say. Scarred is too big a term but crime reporting will ensure that you know of many more ways in which things can go wrong, than you did before which is not exactly a good thing.

I remember having gone to this hill station with friends and found this beautiful isolated spot. I sat there for a few minutes taking  in the view, till my sub conscious mind, that by now has become a receptacle of all things bad, played spoilsport. I thought of how someone could come on a bike, snatch my mobile wallet etc and flee. Or they could push me so that I do not reveal to the cops how they looked. While I sat for some more time, the possibility being thrown up at that almost picture perfect moment was irritating.

Every time I pass the road connecting Marine Drive to Churchgate station, and cross a three star hotel located there, I remember how someone had jumped from the terrace and committed suicide. When I pass Hindu colony in Dadar, I do not fail to mention to someone, if anyone is along, or make a mental note about it myself for the umpteenth time how a woman who stayed all alone at an empty bungalow and was murdered. I am sure most of my clan have such ‘landmarks’, unwillingly.

In the backdrop of these things, the fact that my reference point, while taking directions for a place, is the local police station, more or less does not even deserve a mention. Like at most times, it was while answering a friend who asked me if reporting on crime affects me, that I realized a few things myself.

On most days crime reporters report on the dark side of human nature, which in comparison to the overall population is an aberration. But reporting on these aberrations everyday, over a period of time, kind of blurs that line and one, at a certain level, begins to think of it as a rule. That such things happen everywhere all the time. It would help the cops a great deal if we all thought this way !!

How many times have I, while entering my building or relatives building, tried to make a mental image of the building watchman, local help following the number of cases I reported in which a domestic help or the watchman turned out to be involved in a crime. In one way it makes one overcautious and can come in handy. But that is one way of looking at things. You get to see the others side, when you look at a serene view and it reminds you of a crime story.

Through monasteries and the dance of death (2/3)

The next day we would head to north Sikkim for an overnight trip. It would be the coldest leg of our trip, or to put it crudely: the real shiz bro. Bro, I learnt there was also the abbreviated version of Border Roads Organization. Although, their boards will remind you less of safety and more of the Bro Superior: Barney Stinson.

The BRO code

The BRO code

Anyways so we travelled from Gangtok (East Sikkim) to North Sikkim. North Sikkim is like one mini incursion away from China. Ok sorry :P. While we could not go to the Nathula Pass, one of the three open trading border posts between India and China, or the much touted Gurudongmar lake due to snow – making me realize that visiting that part in December was not exactly a bright idea –we did go to the beautiful snow clad Yumthang valley.

The scenic and snowy Yumthang valley

The scenic and snowy Yumthang valley

It was an organized tour and like all organized tours there were little groups formed which made for some good old saas bahu moments during the trip. And all this was happening in the backdrop of some absolutely retarded numbers belted out by our driver. While I thought they were songs from shady B grade movies, I am now horrified to find they are songs from our mainstream Bollywood movies. I shall sample a few:

(You have to read the lyrics. Hyperlinked for you above)

Now once we reached North Sikkim, I realized that the absence of heat has to be filled in by will power. The thing with these near sub-zero places is that even deciding whether to drink water or go to the loo is a painful process. You need a constant supply of will power as your body refuses to get out of the little comfort zones it gets into. But I do carry fond memories of the bonfire we arranged for and the conversations with several locals there in that little oasis of heat.

The recipe of a good journey includes this pungent ingredient called blunder. We had a good journey which therefore entailed a mini blunder. A day before we were to board a train from New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to Guwahati, we realized that the train was not at 11.30pm from NJP but was rather reaching Guwahati at that time. The boarding time at NJP was 2.30pm, roughly 10 hours earlier. I had not checked the tickets properly. And assuming the train was at 11.30pm the next day which give us another day, we had planned to leave for Darjeeling and travel bookings were almost done.

Now it is at such times you realize the importance of whom you are travelling with. Some hyperventilating clown could have blown up the issue and some unwanted drama would be in place. Vijay and me on the other hand, quickly cancelled the bookings and in half-an-hour from the time we had stumbled upon the blunder, were on the way to Rumtek and Ranka monasteries in Sikkim. No tempers running high. No unwanted fuss.

An ever smiling driver (he was smiling all the time even once when he was slightly miffed with us) took us to Rumtek monastery which is the most beautiful monastery in Sikkim. The moment we stepped in there, I had a feeling that plan B was better than plan A. Maybe I had reason to be optimistic considering I had screwed up.

The beautiful and serene Rumtek monastery

The beautiful and serene Rumtek monastery

In what further confirmed that it was not merely some guilt that was brought out the aesthete in me at the monastery, when we reached the Ranka monastery, we were witness to the Lama dance: a dance that takes places only once a year. Maybe the gods were happy that we accepted our karma (the fuck up) earlier that day with aplomb and was rewarding us. Ok maybe it’s the monastery talking. There were monks with masks and constumes dancing with knives in hand. It was a scary sight. And apparently it was meant to be that way.

The lama dance. This particular dude was quite scary.

The lama dance. This particular dude was quite scary.

When I asked someone about the relevance, they told me that it was believed that anyone who saw the dance would no longer fear death. It made perfect sense to me, as by now it had instilled the fear of god in me. There were several children who were being encouraged/coaxed by their parents to see the dance (when I searched online I came across a slightly different explanation for the Lama dance although I like the one the lady told me better)

Dance in progress

Dance in progress

And then I did something that I had wanted for a long time. I have always been curious about the lives of monks and finally got talking to a 23-year-old monk from Bhutan. I went bonkers. The journalist in me took over.

Me: Are you allowed to eat meat/marry/play/../..? and on and on

Monk: People generally think that life in a monastery is hard. That Buddhism is very rigid. But it is not that way. There are certain things we are not allowed to do in a monastery but once we are on leave, we are allowed most things. Buddhism is not that rigid.

Me: So when you go to Bhutan and meet your friends who are not monks do you envy that?

Monk: No ya, I think Buddhism is Ok. I think it is about being satisfied with what you have. You will always want more. Its about being satisfied.

Now every third person you meet could tell you something like that. But somehow when it came from him, the words had a peaceful effect on me. I realized sometimes the WHO matters more than the WHAT.

On the way back we got talking to a father who had come to drop his son, now a monk, to the monastery and discussed religion with him. All in all by the end of the day we did not regret missing Darjeeling. What I felt bad was not being able to meet this friend (the stranger with whom I celebrated my birthday) based in Darjeeling who was looking forward to meet us there. Some other day I guess, some other trip rather 🙂 . Like they say Inshaallah

For me one of the best things about travelling is the actual travel time. I love those bus rides which will take like 5-6 hours. All I need is a window seat (optional as years have gone by) and some good music. This time round I had great music. Some wise cell in my head prompted me to take Rabbi along and his music resulted in so many beautiful moments. In fact looking back on of the best moments I had was on this bus ride from Gangtok to Siliguri listening to Rabbi’s songs. Like a friend said, ‘That man is something else.’

Now it was that time of the trip when trains were trolling us. When we reached the NJP station, the train – because of which we had to skip Darjeeling was – wait for it — 17 hours late. We somehow got a ticket and bundled ourselves bag and baggage into the next train and landed at Guwahati station in Assam at 4am.

I think all the fatigue gave way when we found these special tea stalls in Assam. So in Assam, the tea stall owners have these mini plastic packets containing different types of cakes, donuts, puris, that you can have along with tea. I freaked out and had nearly five cake slices and a few donuts atleast.(pic) One day Vijay and me would spend Rs 125 on one tea stall where the cost of tea was Rs 6 :-/ I knew for the next three days, my breakfast was sorted.

The tea seller

  The tea seller

The tea seller's wares :)

The tea seller’s wares 🙂

Then I had the best baths of my life. It had nothing to do with the facilities. I had not bathed for like 4 days :-/ Before you judge me don’t negate the extreme cold and the following water problem in our Sikkim hotel. I felt I was in some kind of trance and could go on bathing. Nevertheless, post the bath, I was now set to explore Assam and Meghalaya . . .

Through the land of prayer flags (1/3)

Hours before the trip to Northeast India, the most ambitious trip I was to undertake, Vijay and I felt we were almost caught off guard as the temperature prediction for NE kept going down with every new person we met. While I knew December in NE was going to be cold, I did not want to only end up battling the weather during the course of my trip to this already unknown place. While we were ready with thermal wear and other ammunition to battle the weather, we would know if the firepower was enough only when we reached there.

Every trip has fucked up moments, irritating moments, moments that make you question why you had to step out of your comfort zone (the topic of an earlier blog). For good or bad, we were faced with a relatively milder version of this on the very first day when we took a tempo traveler ride from Siliguri in West Bengal to Gangtok in Sikkim(I love mentioning these far off places like I travel there every third day).

The prayer flags in Sikkim

The prayer flags in Sikkim

Three of us had barely cramped into the back seat of the traveler knowing well this is how travelling happens: with multiples of the actual seating capacity stuffed in the vehicle. The multiples vary depending upon how ambitious the driver is. Just about when we felt we had barely fit in (I am not the fittest person around), the back door was pulled open with such ferocity, that the guy sitting in the middle – whose back rest was attached to the back door – almost tumbled down.

We looked behind to an ambitious sidekick of our driver standing with another man smiling ear to ear. We tried to make as scornful a face as we could since we knew what was going to happen. We looked at the sidekick in disbelief. The sidekick told the smiling guy ‘baith jao’ pointing towards our seat with conviction that would make Pratibhatai Patil proud. The guy looks at us, we look at each other. I muttered something to the effect of ‘kahan baithega ye’. Before the words had reached the sidekicks ears, the funny looking guy had already parachuted into the car.

By that awesome law of physics operating exclusively in Indian tempo travelers, the guy managed to squeeze in. We could curse under our breaths till the cows came home, but the guy was not only seated, he was on the phone to someone directing where he was. As we look at him bewildered, the dude not only managed to give his co-ordinates on a busy Siliguri road, he was now half leaning on Vijay, waving out to the guy he was directing on the phone. It was a little vertical opening of a window carrying silhouettes of four cramped people at the back of a moving car, but the power of foolish optimism.

After being cramped like ill sized peas in a rickety pod, the next thing you hope in such a circumstance is to see the vehicle zoom off. (Or maybe that another person is not packed off to this little space which the powers that be feel is elastic) But then remember that bastard Murphy? Yes, the vehicle doesn’t start because once the driver is there and the sidekick is not. And then the other way round. We look on helplessly.

Well to cut a long story short, when the vehicle stopped at Gangtok I was not sure if I was touching my legs or some random stumps left behind. I couldn’t confidently deny the possibility of the next two days being spent in nursing an injured back. I think the only silver lining in the pitch black cloud that we found all around was the random unverified trivia blurted out by one of the fellow commuters like 70 % of people in Sikkim are Nepalis and so on and so forth. And the second silver lining: I had my birthday in a few hours 😀

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The first high of the trip (apart from a loving birthday gift that really made me both happy and highly emotional) was the fact that at 12am on December 17, I was chilling with three people, the existence of two of whom I was oblivious about till December 16, 11.55pm. So we saw two people chilling outside our hotel room, invited them in and the four of us brought in my birthday. Nothing fancy but I was kicked by what was happening.

When a friend called up asking how the birthday was going, I replied “this is the most ‘different birthday’ I have ever had.” I loved it. And I will tell you why: Before starting the trip, I had asked myself what did I want the most from the trip: one of the answers was I wanted to interact with a lot of new people. I wanted to know how people lived their lives outside my little social circle. And hence I asked many questions to whomever we met during the trip. And so in my head, this box was ticked off. Here I was, of all things, celebrating my birthday with new and interesting people.

Well here I have to mention this funny hotel manager we met. We would remember him through the trip for the funny encounters we had with him. During a conversation with us, when the manager was boasting to us his friend’s drug taking prowess, he held his hands at a distance of a horizontally held brick and said, ‘itna ganja khaaya woh’. Vijay and I were aghast. I mean he could smoke that up but as we enquired in unison ‘khaaya?’ wondering what beast eats up a brick full of dope.

He attempts to clarify his claim: ‘khaaya nahin khaaya’ :-/

We look on.

Then it strikes him we are not bongs: ‘khaaya matlab piya’ hum log piya ko khaaya bolta hain.

This episode would generate us a journey full of lame jokes.

Another funny episode with the guy happened was when he realized Vijay deals in foreign exchange. He got 1000 Vietnamese dongs, some 500 Tanzania shilling and other relatively decent amounts in foreign currency that he got as tips from foreigners. Looking at him one felt that he was secretly hoping that the money will secure his old age. He was hopefully looking at Vijay as the later did his calculations. After a few minutes Vijay tells him: they are worth around Rs 30. To rub it in Vijay says ‘ tum ek time ka khana kha sakte ho isse’ (it is enough to purchase lunch once). I will here not attempt to describe the look on the poor man’s face. I can say with some certainty that the next batch of foreigners that go there will not be well served.

The next day we went for a ‘local sightseeing tour’ which began on an interesting note and ended up on a rather funny one. We went to the directorate of Sikkim handicraft and handloom where we had a good time. Of all the awesome things we saw, I think worth mentioning is the cute little typewriter which was actually used as a calculator back in the day. It had no alphabets only numbers and the calculation signs. I had no clue such a thing existed.

w

The second interesting thing was a preserved beehive dating back to 1937. As it is bereft of any honey, one can actually see the structure of a beehive. Like there are little floors in it and small pillar like things. I was blown away by it.

I could have had a photograph of it because of Narendra Modi. No, no, I am not some random Muslim blaming him for everything 😛 He had visited the place a month back. He told them to stop photography as repeated clicks could impact some of the paintings that had paints made out of fruits. So well depending upon your political affiliations you can decide accordingly.

Passing through some waterfalls and ‘view points’ we reached the funny part of the tour: the flower exhibition. Someone on a blog had rated it pretty high on the to-do list. What we found on reaching there were some dead flowers (to be fair some were alive)!!.

In fact there were so many flowers refusing to look at us, relegated to dejection that Vijay quipped ‘dude this is like ‘phoolon ka kabrastan’ (a graveyard of flowers). I think I agreed with him. We also clicked some dead ones for proof !But an awesome photo exhibition by the Sikkim photography club on the same premises more than made up for the earlier bereavement.

Some of the dead flowers

Some of the dead flowers

The alive ones

The alive ones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However the one thing that accompanied us throughout the day were prayer flags. Sikkim is full of prayer flags. Seen in the background of the blue skies it is such a picture of serenity that ironically I could not hardly resist the temptation to go bonkers with my mobile camera. The day ended on another high: a Nepali rock band performance. The trip was going well so far. Some fuck ups were on their way though…

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On travelling

One of the most vital lessons I learnt about traveling, that to an extent laid to rest my nagging doubts about travelling, came from the beautiful movie ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ adapted from the brilliant book.

When I began traveling with my college friends,  at times while undergoing the normal ‘travelling hardships’ like cramped transport, stretching over hours and hours at times, while seated with a stiff back , I wondered furtively if it was worth anything to put myself through all the inconvenience. Would I rather not be relaxing at home or hanging out with friends at our regular local haunts?

One was supposed to have fun while travelling. While fun did ensue as part of the trip, it required the harvest of a lot of physical and mental effort; especially during the longer trips. While I continued going for trips as nothing was as fun as being with friends, the question still lurked somewhere in the recesses of my mind. At times I wondered, if travelling was even meant for me?

Then one day, I was watching The Motorcycle Diaries in which a young Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara along with his older companion, Alberto Granado, set out to explore South America on their ‘mighty’ bike La Pedrosa in what would be an 8000 km long expedition. During the course of the journey, as they are travelling via a ship, an elderly couple whom they meet asks them about the reason for their travel.

Miner’s Wife: Are you two looking for work?
Ernesto Guevara : No, we aren’t looking for work.
Miner’s Wife: No?… Then why are you traveling?
Ernesto Guevara : We travel just to travel.
Miner’s Wife: Bless you… Blessed be your travels.

“We travel just to travel”. I marveled at the line. It registered somewhere: not for fun. Just for the sole purpose of travelling, that’s it.

While I did not get the import of the statement completely, it stayed with me as did the movie. Later when I then read the book in parts, I found it more so to be a series of unmitigated disasters as their La Pedrosa breaks down umpteen times and they fall into all sorts of trouble. But eventually, during the course of the journey, it makes Che the man he ultimately becomes, after seeing ‘first hand’ the kind of hardships people go through. It shapes his political ideology.

Ernesto Guevara de la Serna: Wandering around our America has changed me more than I thought. I am not me any more. At least I’m not the same me I was.

Somewhere at the back of my mind the issue was resolved. No I was not becoming a revolutionary, although I would not mind my face plastered across umpteen T shirts and armbands. Travelling was not fun. Not only fun. What travelling is, I have come to decide, is a vehicle that takes you out of your comfort zone or I would say, the ‘rut of the daily monotony’.

Anything that takes you away from your comfort zone is not going to be fun. But if you are willing, for some time, to forsake that and move out, open to everything, to screw ups, to long travelling hours, to unsuitable temperatures, to uncomfortable postures, to the lack of clarity about anything, to uncomfortable environs, you, at times without your knowledge, feel alive in the real sense of the term. Travelling shakes you up like very few things do.

There is nothing like travelling to give you a fresh perspective about your life, your family, your city; everything that has so become a part of you and your schedule that you cannot fathom it unless you move out of it. For me, I know I have travelled, when I return to my house and feel a novel touch about the same things. It’s a beautiful feeling.

So when I go out and feel tired, bored and jaded at times; my mind, by force of habit, pops the same question: Why travel? It is such a satisfying feeling to know why, it is still much more important to be out there having sat in the train for 16 hours and wondering how you will spend the other five hours, than watching my favourite sit com (Modern Family comes to mind) in my room with the fan running at the speed I want it to and knowing more or less how my day is panned out.

The joys of anticipation

I was making up my mind about the subject of my blog today when this topic, one that I have often meditated upon, sprung up into consciousness: the joys of anticipation. The topic seems apt for me as there is much being anticipated at this stage: a dear friend’s wedding coupled with a chance to meet up some old friends and then the big one: a trip to North-East India, something long pined for.

If there was some scientific method to track the times when I have been the most excited in my life, I am sure the several moments leading upto something that I was looking forward to would form a major chunk of it. Yes that’s the thing. Not the event/thing in itself, but the moments leading upto it. It is always the anticipation of something fun, the build up to it that is ironically so much more exciting than the actual thing may be on several occasions.

I still remember this one time in school, when I could barely contain my excitement knowing that an Australia versus South Africa – two cricketing giants I wanted to see pitted against each other since long– was underway. I remember gazing at my wristwatch constantly. Even though a boring lecture was in progress, the prospect of Aus vs SA match awaiting me at home infused enough excitement in me to last out two consecutive Science II periods, my definition of severe frustration at that age, with stoicism that would make a Zen master proud.

The thought of an interesting match awaiting you or the fact that your dad has got movie tickets for later in the day (miss that excitement to go to a cinema hall) were more than enough to make my day. The movies could turn out to be duds and the match boring one-sided contests (although unlikely given the stubborn opponents), but even then they had accomplished what they were meant to. They had set the tone for the day or if I was lucky days. And here I have not even mentioned the unparalleled excitement that enveloped me on the night before the school picnic. I am sure the excitement that did not let me sleep before the picnic was never superseded by the picnic itself.

And as I have grown up, while the things that excited me and the extent to which they did, have changed, the anticipation theory still holds true for me and my guess is most of us. Meeting friends at the end of the day is enough fuel to last out a bad work day and the thought of some yet to be seen episodes of The Big Bang Theory can lighten up the grumpiness in my mood. And this has convinced me that real excitement is as much in the anticipation of something and in looking back at it with fondness (hopefully will blog about it separately), as it is in the very heart of the thing.

While the flip side of too much anticipation is that the actual thing may leave one slightly underwhelmed. However, since I am on the anticipation end of things, I’d rather tilt towards the earlier paragraphs. I shall be underwhelmed at the moment when I have to, but currently I’d rather revel in the anticipation phase.

PS: See you on the looking back phase of my trip with a few travel blogs in tow. Wish me luck 🙂

That embarrassing question

My search for him/her at the Times Literature Fest at Bandra ended soon. It was during a session on humour that the hand went up. After being given the mike, the male asked a panel comprising writer Upamanyu Chatterjee (of English August fame) and standup comic Radhika Vaz, “Was humour invented or discovered?” I was delighted before the familiar embarrassment set in and stomped all over the delight.

This may make me come across a bit self-righteous or even mean, but I am convinced that the quality of several questions we ask at sessions, especially sessions discussing politics and books, can improve manifold. Whenever a session comes to an end and the host ‘throws open the debate’, I have an uneasy feeling. I am almost certain it is going to be a waste of time. Mostly inertia and some hope get the better of me and I stay back to be red-faced one more time.

I am afraid of the kind of questions that will come forward. I am afraid about the long commentaries that people will start giving without coming to the question once the mike is in their hands. At times the commentary ends without a question. With a limited time span of a session, I fail to understand how these guys do not fathom that they are wasting people’s time. Do they not get that the others are not there to appreciate their opinions. That we all have our set of opinions and share it with those who are interested.

For reasons I cannot understand, I am not able to laugh at the lame questions that come forth so often. (Even if I am laughing on the outside I am flush with embarrassment within) In some sense there is this collective feeling of disappointing the guests as a member of the audience that gets to me I think. Ever so often, I am even embarrassed to look at the person posing the question. I just wish I could vanish into thin air. And then I look at the guests and the host trying to make sense out of question or give it some dignity and feel worse.

There are however those hosts/guests who do not let the podium come in the way of some good old deadpan wit. I remember a few years back, at the times lit fest again, the irreverent Vinod Mehta was present during a session about journalism. During the question answer round, this boy who had been jumping all along to ask a question, finally spewed this into the mike, “It is said the pen is mightier than the sword. Is it true?” Mehta being himself looked at boy and said, “Meet me at the bar later. I’ll answer you there. Next question”

Worse than the silly questions is that stage when another person in the audience will object or join in the original lame question and soon it becomes a free for all. At times when the guest cannot hold his/her own, they too are drawn into this banal discussion, miles away from what was originally meant to be discussed. This is so especially true of sessions to do with politics. Every person, especially the older lot, is convinced that they have the answer to all the questions faced by the nation. Oh if only he/she could be made the PM of India .

So coming back to today, I was looking out for that such a question to be reassured about my opinion on quality of our questions when the male sprung up with the invention/discovery conundrum. Want to know what Upamanyu Chatterjee answered? He answered with a straight face “Humour was discovered by Edison in 1942” to a thunderous applause.