The seminar that I went for was- in a nutshell- funny. Now I shall explicate why it was funny. The options that you have-
1. The author of this blog is strange.
2. Seminars organized without a specific purpose and agenda and without adequate screening of paper-readers are strange.
3. Delhi, as an alien city, and the large sprawling campus of JNU with a million canteens all with fantastic food, and Arse Poetica let loose with too much loose cash alone, alone in this evil large metropolis= trouble.
There are many things that my curious, observant and inquisitive mind has to say. Like; do not use a boarding pass as a bookmark. Do not leave your most precious and intensely private notebooks lying about in the house of the people that you are staying with and then call them up and ask them to peruse the same looking for aforementioned bookmark. Do not contemplate their horror when they see sexy potty sexy potty sexy potty written ad infinitum all over your intensely private notebook. The evening conversation went something like this.
A. uncle: I didn't know you have a potty fixation
A.P: I do?
A.uncle: Indeed. Your boarding pass was not in the Camus as you had claimed, so I chanced upon your notebook.
A.P: The notebook that had "potty" written all over it?
A.uncle: No, the notebook that had sexy potty written all over it.
Arse Poetica cringes.
Little kid: Ahona didi, tum kitni gandhee cheezein likhti ho!
Attempt at recovery of lost reputation:
Potty gandhee kyun hogee? Sab log karte hain!
Actually the term "sexy potty" is one that I have coined. It encapsulates the ennui of everyday academics-standing for the banality of our inane existences. For example, who can tolerate two hours of nonstop lit-shit, eh? Thus etc. In fact, one of our professors established the famous blog on fantastic(not) loos and where to find them! Scatology I like better than other more mundane epistemology, and so...
M. Auntie (nursing her 3rd vodka and looking stonily at me) : It's OK.
For the first time in my life, I introspected on my fondness for potty. I mean, it's not that I like looking at my shit or anything. I am just as normal at shitting as any of you. Then what is it? Why am I like this? Am I disturbed? Am I weird? Am I- oh horror horror- dirty?
Anyway this story ends here. Moving to the seminar which I attended- truly cosmopolitan and exciting. I befriended people of various nationalities- Czech, Polish, Japanese. But one race I could not stand during the course of the international conference on bengal and bengalis by gad were the bangalis...
I will now tell you about the weirdest of the lot. He was a man with a physical deformity which would at first instance lead you to feel some sympathy for him. There is a tendency to sentimentalize hunchbacks after reading Victor Hugo. But sympathy for this particular creature was shortlived. After a hugely disappointing plenary session this man arose to ask a question. With a flourish he ascended the podium. Meanwhile the plenary had become a heated catfight between two elderly largely un-intellectual ladies who were screaming at each other. This man goes up like a breath of stale air and looks serious. We expect something calmer, but in a split moment of delightful horror, we understand that he is enunciating an obscene chant instead of a question-
joy bangla!joy bangla! joy bangla!!!!!
Never has victory ever been further from Bengal. Gone were the memories of the pointless plenary and the cantankerous catfight. Here was the new apostle; a man with a stoop and a relentless opinion. A Vaishnavite whose sole claim to academic fame was life membership of the Asiatic Society. After the performance which was his paper, I was led to believe that they take auditions before you get admission to the hallowed portals of that orientalist institution.
Some acts leave you speechless and incoherent, incapable of representation. You become acutely aware that what you write is not the real thing, that you can never convey the real thing. But nevermind. Let us try. I shall merely quote him and leave the rest to your imagination and delicacy of mind, dear reader.
Quote #1- regarding the validity of a date in the life of Chaitanyadeb-
"Gurudeb Sukumar Sen bole gechhen 1583 aar Ramakanta,(hnyaa, mane paasher barite thaake), bolechhe 1610. Amar mot e 1583 keno na(kapaal chhulen pronaam er bhongima te) paramguru bole gechhen!"
my translation- "My mentor Sukumar Seb has said the date is 1583 and Ramakanta"( yes, for sure he lives next door...) "has said that it's 1610. In my opinion it is 1583 because (touches forehead as a mark of respect and reverence) my paramguru has said so!"
"Paramguru bole gechhen-shokkole sanskrit poro, poro, poro!
"Salute to all those jaaraa amar paper mon diye shunechhen- jara shonen ni...(looks very very angry and in the mood to kill)...no salute!"
I have never seen anybody so clear in the head about what he wants from his audience at any seminar. To salute all those who have listened to a merciless invective breathtaking in its irrelevance and low academic merit, and to deny the salute to those who switched off....*speechlessness*He also interrupted every speaker in every session that he attended with irrelevant comments, mostly concerning his Bengali and Vaishnavite jingoism.
Also a Czech academic who befriended me asked me this question most seriously:
apni aponar paper kokhon poribeshon koriben? (When will you serve your paper?)
I did not answer this seriously:
Aagami kaal, mohashoy. Shonge kintu kancha lonka, shorsher tel ebong lobon aniben! (Tomorrow, good sir, do not forget to get the green chillies, mustard oil and essential salt!)
There are of course a million other stories, and one that includes the good Opaline, and plenty more on JNU and their "tutes"- which is a lewd abbreviation that they have come up with for tutorials- but for antichrissakes, not today, not today.