After a long time in the works, we have finally managed to pull this off here at Bookish – an interview with none other than the Greatbong himself.
His bio reads "Contributor to New York Times India Ink, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal Online, Times of India, DNA and Outlook. Author of two books. PhD, Computer Science. Wannabe politician. Disgruntled movie fanatic. Tranquil cosmic citizen on the prowl for mind-bending experiences." Arnab Ray is all that and far more. His huge fan following on social networks is a testimony to this statement – even your Biology teacher could not have dissected that frog as expertly as the Greatbong takes apart our popular cultural icons with his darker-than-Belgian-chocolate sense of humour.
For more bites from the superblogger and master satirist, vist his blog Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind or catch him on twitter @greatbong.
1. Are you born with THAT sense of satire or is it Maybelline?
It’s inherited. Like leadership of a national party.
2. How difficult (or easy) was it to follow up a satirical social commentary (May I Hebb Your Attention Please) with a psychological thriller (The Mine)?
I have the attention span of a 3 month old. Hence it is easy and very natural for me to hop genres.
3. What The Phock is it going to be? A full-fledged novel on the lines of The Inscrutable Americans or a follow-up to MIHYAP ?
The new title is “What The”. It’s about the immigrant Computer Science PhD student experience in the US. Nothing MIHYAP about it at all. Incidentally, that might not be my next book. Have got interested in something else recently and started writing that. This too might change. Did I say I have the attention of a 3 month old?
4. A lot of Bengalis take offence on being referred to as Bongs. What's your take on this?
We are most offended by things like investment, business and work. We are cool with everything else.
5. Have you ever been referred to as Greatbong on the streets? How did the name come about in the first place?
Some social occasions have happened where I have been introduced as the “Greatbong”. It’s kind of embarrassing because what sounds cool online sounds silly in real life. The name “greatbong” came about because a roommate at Stony Brook (where I did my PhD) was of the opinion that Bongs like to think they are great and he did not find me an exception to that rule. Many people that by adopting such a name I am being parochial and asserting the greatness of Bongs. It’s exactly the opposite.
6. What are the most significant differences between a NRB (Non Resident Bong) and a Bong in Bongland?
Only one of them draws cartoons.
7. Does a columnist have to be more politically correct than a blogger? What is “freedom of expression” to you and how do you ensure that it is protected?
Ideally, no one should have to be politically correct. However if you want to be accepted within “the system”, you have to avoid treading on toes. The big toes that is.
Freedom of expression means, that as long as you are committing libel (i.e. making a statement that can be construed to be a fact when it is not), you have the ability to state any “opinion” without a legal notice or a knock on your door. And yes that “opinion” can be hurtful. In an adult society, one should not legislate to prevent “hurting sentiments”.
8. Has fatherhood made you put on the rose tinted glasses on some occasions at least? Is your daughter going to be christened as the Little Bong or something else?
I have become a bit Alok Nath-ish I suppose. Though I haven’t yet reached the stage where I call daughters “ghar ki lakhsmi” or “jagat janani”. Maybe in a year or so. I will let my daughter choose her own moniker. Since I chose her real name, that’s only fair.
9. How does a computer scientist in Maryland manage to keep track of every thing as it is going on back in India? Is it Musli Power Xtra or something else?
All thanks to a marvelous invention called the Internet. I advise people to try it sometime.
10. Tell us something about the folks back in Westland.
They published my last book “The Mine”. It’s a good book which you should read and I am not saying that because I wrote it.
11. Alright, now here's your licence to kill. I am going to give you items and you have to give your take on each. A couple of lines is a bare minimum and no “no comments” allowed.
a) Chetan Bhagat: The definitive youth icon of India. Provides me the only reason to be happy that I am not counted as “youth” any longer.
b) Rahul Gandhi: Reminds us that we can be anything we want to be in India as long as we are born in the right family.
c) Shah Rukh Khan: The character Shahrukh Khan plays in all his movies.
d) Kanti Shah: Misunderstood genius who is ahead of his times.
e) Mamata Banerjee: Do you have any problem?
f) Pakistan: Mostly harmless. Not.
g) Ravindra Jadeja: What Rajinikanth jokes have become.
h) Mithun da: The God of all Gods.
Thank you very much, Mr. Arnab for taking time out from your busy schedule for this interview with Indiabookstore. We wish you all the best for your future endeavors.
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Enjoyed reading the interview with greatbong. He is likeable and witty.
Nice Interview. Feeling tempted to go through his books…:)