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Alec Smart ko gussa kyon aata hai?

Alec is smarting. No, he?s seething. Because I?ve him asked to pack his bori-bistar, and move again.

india Updated: Jun 30, 2003 20:35 IST

Alec is smarting. No, he’s seething. Because I’ve him asked to pack his bori-bistar, and move again. He’s a Bambaiya so you’ll have to excuse him if he expresses his anger in Rani Baug English. ‘Why you must make such a baida-ghotala of my life? Khali-pili you are disrupting my settled routine.’

Alec Smart is angry because I’m moving base. Having given up trying to pass off as a Bom-babe, I’m going to try my hand at being a Dilli Billi. I try flattery. ‘You will get the importance you deserve there. They’ll all call you Alec-ji.’ He counters, ‘I’m mad or what? When I can have Mumbai’s dare-all, bare-all bindaas attitude, why should I get excited over a city that refuses to drop its ji-string.’

I hastily look over my shoulder to ensure that some visiting neta hasn’t overheard him and thinks we’re some subversive duo plotting against the capital’s established authority, or authorised Establishment. As it is we’re from a town associated with Chhota Shakeel and Burra Thackeray.

Fortunately, the netas haven’t budged from their chairs. Doing so is always an occupational hazard for politicians, but this time they are glued to their seats because of Sourav-Sachin. Who, in turn, are having to defend their TRPs against the CNN bulletins simultaneously carpetbombing our living rooms.

I can’t really blame Alec. I have moved him around in a way that could be construed as a violation of human rights, cruelty to dumb animals, or a cognisable contravention of the Rent Act. We started off together at the Metropolis on Saturday, which was Mumbai’s first city newspaper. When I cheerily remind him of those first days of togetherness, he scowls, ‘Let ME remind you that it was called MOS. Maybe that’s why you’ve been such a rolling stone.’

Actually Alec Smart came into my life much before that. And for that you have to blame Vinod Mehta. If I’m a rolling stone, he’s a hurtling boulder considering the cities and jobs he’s changed. In the early 1980s, his Sunday Observer made a supercilious dig at The Statesman, for which I then worked. He crowed that this last bastion of the English language had fallen into the hands of the ignorant by titling an edit ‘Just Deserts’, instead of ‘Just Desserts’. But ours was indeed the correct spelling, and charging into battle, I despatched a Letter to the Editor, and signed it as ‘Alec Smart’.

‘Just Deserts was the beginning?’ growls A.S to me now. ‘So, I was destined even earlier for the shifting sands.’ I try to change his arid mood by recalling our next base, the Bombay Times. ‘We created Page Three,’ I tell him breathlessly. Without pausing to catch his, he replies drily, ‘Another metaphor for the fickle!’

I am beginning to feel like Bush vis a vis Bin Laden ( remember him?) and — dare I say it ? — Saddam Hussein. There is no winning this endgame, however many ‘targets of opportunity’ I so smugly proclaim to have. Here I am thinking I was in the privileged position of those TV journalists who had been ‘embedded’ with the US troops, and instead this guy is making me feel like I’m sleeping with the enemy. I guess neither I nor America want to admit the fact that you might think you are creating a lap-dog, but you could end up with a Rotten-weiller.

I try to use shame as a bunker buster, or, in this case, a debunker buster. No cigar. When I tell how I’d taken him from the silicone Malabar and Pali Hills to the cerebral climes of Bangalore’s Silicon Valley, he says it’s no big deal. In response to my attempts to change his attitude, Alec Smart says, ‘Like the US wanting regime change, it could be Mission Impossible. Starring ‘Tom’ahawk Cruise.’

He refuses to succumb to my references to the good Times I’d given him, whether of India or of Hindustan. When, three years ago, I’d moved away from the redoubtable Old-New Lady of Boribunder, I’d ensured that he could still enjoy his Delhi connections. Hadn’t I made arrangements for him to lodge and board with the Vir Sanghvi Parivar? He remains unmoved.

I make a final point. ‘Most of all, didn’t I give you the opportunity of basking in the Mid-day Sun-day?’ I add perceptively, ‘You’re pretending that you are sad about going away from Mumbai, but what you’re really sorry about is leaving this family group we’ve grown so fond of.’ Alec Smart says, ‘Love means never having to say you’re Ansari.’

* * * * * *

Alec Smart said, “Why is the World Cup final like the Iraq attack? It’s about ‘Shock and awe’.