Saturday 30 November 2013

Come December!

With due regards to Elliott, December is the cruellest month, as far as I am concerned. In this month I have to complete some of the most thankless jobs: Inspections [reports of which aren’t read by anybody], Investigations [whose only aim is to fix responsibility upon hapless bystanders so that money that had been looted by perpetrators decades ago can be recovered], Reviews [while the holy cows of the Government get away with anything, again I am supposed to fix the weak & marginal to balance the books, and in the process, to prove that decisions are being taken to improve things]. I do this job throughout the year, but it is this month when I have to do it almost as per a daily quota, to ensure that by 31st December everything is prim & proper. It hurts, esp. since the creeping cold and long & dirty evenings make my lonely quarters quite foreboding even after a long day at office. So, yesterday evening I made up my mind to “doctor” things a little. No, I don’t rely on the amber liquid to drown my loneliness & chill. Neither do I have any place to go in this alien town (not that it specifically matters, I have remained a perpetual outsider & stranger wherever I have worked, including Kolkata) where things might become a little warm. Hence, despite knowing ‘what is wrong with me’, I decided to rest my case with THE DOCTOR and THE DETECTIVE.

I am indebted to Facebook for many things. In 2010, when I had joined that network, it had introduced me to a strange & exciting world where other people can be found who have their lives full of emotions & events [good, bad ugly], and yet are able to communicate with each other with wit, rage, empathy, and above all, honesty. For many people across the world, these might appear as very common things which can be found anywhere. Trust me; they are very-very rare indeed. But more importantly, I came to know about two phenomena there only: DOCTOR WHO (in India an almost impossibly small percentage of people know about it, although others might find it very hard to believe), and SHERLOCK.

Before my introduction to SHERLOCK, I had believed that the best & the wisest Holmes had been already portrayed in the first two seasons of the Granada productions by the late great Jeremy Brett (it rhymes!). It was Barbara Roden and Charles Prepolec who had waxed eloquent after Sherlock was telecast. Soon the series was made available in DVD format. Initially I wasn’t sure that my ageing Sony DVD player would be able to play a Region 2 DVD, but after being assured by my above-mentioned friends that the discs would play, I took the plunge (another first, for the first time I was about to watch DVD-s manufactured in UK)! I still remember those first impressions that had assaulted, and then flooded me after I had seen the first episode. I sat there, on a plastic chair, in front of my old TV (no LCD/LED business, that one was a 6 year old Sony Vega which needed 2 people to lift a corner so that the huge space below it can be dusted!), with mouth agape. It was already past 22-00 hours, and although winter is mild at Ahmedabad, the room where we used to take our meals accompanied by film-viewing, had gone cold. My wife (the family was still living together), who had really liked the few Brett episodes available in India till that time, and had sat there initially being quite fidgety, kept sitting there literally dumbstruck! Reducing our expressions into coherent & meaningful sentences was quite a labour, but we did it, and till date, that remains a true rarity: an opinion agreed upon by me and my wife: “THIS IS THE BEST THING THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN ON TV” (It had been bested by the 1st episode of the 2nd season). Almost 3 years have passed since then (at times I feel like taking a suitably blunt instrument to those guys who make SHERLOCK, can you believe that in these 3 years they have shown us just 3 more episodes?), but those awe-struck feelings continue to accompany both of us. And, they made me curious about other works of Steven Moffat.

Almost all websites and discussions gushing about the happenings at 221B Baker Street seemed to cross-reference the style and story-telling with another very British, very loved & respected BBC institution, about which I had read several things (in the comments posted by my friends) but hadn’t experienced myself: DOCTOR WHO. I started inquiring about it (Wikipedia came real handy, AmazonUS and reviewers therein also acted as an unending fount of information & opinions) and decided to put a significant portion of my hard-earned salary at stake by going for the Box Set dealing with Series 1-4 of the ‘new’ Series (Imagine how confusing it had been for me to distinguish something into so many phases and seasons and characters while the protagonist remained same!). Believe me; my world has changed (definitely for the better, I would like to believe) as a result of those decisions. On one hand, it had made my existence a lot more bearable (in place of anguish & frustration I have wonders to fill up my evenings). On the other hand, I have found two very strangely heroic-yet-unsocial (one almost inhuman, the other definitely alien) characters to look up to. Those viewings (one of which, “Blink” was almost painfully good, and this guy Moffat seemed to be an exceptionally gifted & visionary creator of things that are simultaneously intelligent, humourous, humane and horrifying) made the subsequent events inevitable: I went for Series Five, initially felt dismayed with the new Doctor (although Tennant’s last few episodes were excessively maudlin and I was praying for something different, and the companions since Rose felt dull-duller-dullest), and then was blown away. But these viewings generated a craving inside me which is a clear result of addiction (I know, I have been there), and hence while the viewers in UK rejoice in the warmth of their viewing of the latest episode of DOCTOR WHO, I keep cursing the BBC for making the DVD pre-orderable yet invisible for people like us. The matter is even serious for SHERLOCK. After every episode, the net explodes with comments, opinions, expletives, invectives, joy, pain etc. It almost feels like being a voyeur and looking at other people having multiple orgasms!

So what am I going to do? I would indulge myself in viewing some of my favourite episodes of both these programs. I would also read the canon and some of my favourite pastiches, watch “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” and “Without a Clue”, and re-read some of the Brigadier Gerard stories. In the meanwhile, I would try to pulpify my mind with some seriously mindless crap (“Daredevil” followed by “Conan the Destroyer”) so that the reality doesn’t become unbearable. I have to undertake 9 journeys this month: on 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 13th and 16th. On 25th the family would be coming together for continuous travel during the next 7 days. By the 1st week of January 2014, although I would be exhausted, the new DOCTOR WHO DVD-s would arrive via Ahmedabad (thanks to rampant pilferage & tampering at Kolkata Air Foreign Mail Office, which is the inward gateway for foreign articles coming to Guwahati, I am forced to use my old address even now). In the meanwhile, since the IT Modernisation Project would be fully unleashed in my Department, I would be going almost crazy in the day-time, with crashes, sudden absences, and meetings [face-to-face, Video Conferencing, the entire gamut]. By the 1st week of February 2014, hopefully the SHERLOCK Series 3 DVD-s would also arrive. Then I would attend the Kolkata Book Fair where lots of new Bengali books would increase my baggage while severely depleting my finances. After I come back, from the middle of February 2014, there would be just 6 weeks to complete the tasks, and to achieve the revenue-targets across the Circle, which means that I would be, again, going crazy. Therefore, I conclude on a happy note, the next few months wouldn’t allow me to even realise how sorry my personal state of affairs are, and I would be happy, traveling through all the time & space, in my own box which definitely looks smaller from the outside, but is actually……..