You hebb our attention

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 21.03.10

Here’s another blogger-turned-author. Ever since the blogosphere burst into cyberspace, there have been hyperventilating self-confessors, “random thought” writers and “demented” mind-readers who feel their takes on society, politics, cinema, cricket and just about everything, well, have takers.

They are not always wrong. Many bloggers have a loyal following. It helps the Indian publishing industry (read commissioning editors), too. Always on the prowl for new, upcoming talent, they pounce on an author who can be added to their list of popular fiction/non-fiction.

So Greatbong Arnab Ray, the newest find of HarperCollins, was first approached by the house editor to write a biography of Mithun Chakraborty. A self-confessed Mithun fan, he has relegated his eulogy to the star, however, to a later chapter in his first book May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss, launched at Crossword on Friday evening to a full house.

Arnab is an engineer from Jadavpur University who spent four years and more of his life learning computer language, but seemed to find his true calling in writing. His English is liberally sprinkled with Hindi film lyrics and dialogues translated into English, replete with footnotes.

Says the author: “Once I moved to Detroit, a rather dirty, cold, crime-prone city, I had nothing but the computer as my companion after work. So I started to blog in 2004 and ever since blogging has given me a life in the US outside the community of NRIs.”

As a grad student in the US, he would attend NRI lunches/dinners and classify them as Uber Patriot Seniors or Desi Aunties Type I.

“The first blog I wrote was about my life, which was so pathetic that I decided never to write about my life anymore. So I started commenting on issues, news, headlines of the day.” And soon enough his had a fan following.

May I Hebb... is like what his blog is, “random thoughts of a demented mind”. “I write about things that authors who write for a living don’t write. I write about growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, about the hidden history of the young of those times,” says Arnab.

There is a first-person account of how he tried to watch TB6, the late night Russian channel that beamed Playboy stuff. For a more in-depth insight into the minds of the pubescent adults growing up in the ’80s, do read his Bollywood made me what I am.

Man for all seasons

Veteran journalist Sunanda K. Datta-Ray, or the redoubtable SKDR, referred to himself as a “thorn”, but the evening at ICCR rolled smoothly and softly as Jolly Kaul’s memoirs In Search of a Better World was launched recently.

A man for all seasons, nonagenarian Kaul had varied experiences through his life, “membership of the Communist Party, membership of the corporate world (when he joined Indian Oxygen) as well as being a journalist”. As he moved ideologically from communism and Marxism to Gandhism, he had Amlan Dutta as his close associate, who wrote the foreword to his memoirs.

Historian Tapan Raychaudhuri marvelled at how Kaul could be a total bourgeois when he participated in sports — he was a member of the Rowing Club. At the same time, during the China War, “he got totally disillusioned with the politics of the Communist Pary and like Christopher Hill, he found a niche in Gandhian thought.”

SKDR wrapped up the evening, saying: “Both Jolly and his wife Manikuntala (Sen) wanted to believe in communism without the Communist Party, just as it was possible to believe in Catholicism without the Pope or practise Hinduism without the Brahmins.”