Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mica Lal

Embarassing Secret # 31:

As a kid growing up in India, reared on a steady diet of trashy Bollywood films, I often came across the expression 'mai ka laal' [1]. Except that the combination of a limited knowledge of the vernacular and an overheated imagination meant that I always understood this to be Mica Lal - obsidian warrior, man of pure grit.

I can see him now - a sort of mineral Eastwood - eyes like grey flint and a jaw of weathered basalt. Lips drawn back in a sneer to show the worn pebbles of his teeth. His strength was igneous, his rage volcanic. I pictured him walking along the roads, the tarmac melting to tar with the fury of his presence. I imagined him picking up handfuls of sand and crushing them to diamonds of sheer anger in his fists.

His resilience was legendary. Again and again the pickaxes of the enemy would hew him down, again and again the steamrollers of oppression would subdue and crush him. And yet at night you could see his eyes glinting with vengeance, and come morning he would be at it again, spitting curses like flecks of rock at his opponent's car, the rattle of his threats like a machine gun against the enemy's armour plating.

They said he was merciless, said he had a heart of stone, but I knew that beneath that harsh, crusty exterior lived a transparent crystal, pure and shining, reflecting love in a thousand planes.

As I grew older, and finally figured out the real expression, I have to say I was disappointed. Who was this milksop who had replaced my metamorphic superhero? What was so special about being a mother's son?

It's rare that I hear the expression used now, but when I do, I can't help feeling a twinge of nostalgia for my man of shattered earth, my chipped crusader, my boulder in arms. My Mica Lal.

[1] For non-Hindi speakers: literally, 'mother's son'. Usually used as part of a general challenge, as in "hai koi mai ka laal jo...." ("Is there a mother's son among you who will..."). The related challenge usually involved some incredibly terrifying feat, like fighting barehanded against an armed villain, wrestling with a tiger or trying to romance Hema Malini.



Space Bar said...

oh, brillant. diamonds of anger (i'd have dropped the sheer; leave that to the crystal heart, yes?).


Prerona said...

he just sounds like the perfect man ... let me know if u find him :D

Perspective Inc. said...

I too prefer the superhero version to the mother's son one..

nikhil said...

enjoyed it man.. awesome !

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

You know you have this knack of writing a great post and then topping it with your foot notes. Romancing Hema Malini - a terrifying feat :D Loved this one. And mineral Eastwood - inspired!

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

ha ha..anyone reminded of Keyser Soze?;)

Anonymous said...

heh..I'll never be able to hear it as Mai Ka Lal anymore...nor manage to keep a straight face while watching Hema Malini being romanced in one of those old-time movies. :D


Anonymous said...

er..what were the Embarassing Secrets 1-30? ;-)


dazedandconfused said...

yeah, nostalgic alrite. Post Omkara, what will it be now, what was it they said?

Ch*** mein danda...??

km said...

Badass, badass.

BTW, "Mai Ka Lal" could also be interpreted as "Mother's Red", meaning "a communist son". (And "Mike Halal" is not a bad name for a violent private eye.)

Tabula Rasa said...

i guess you didn't meet his cousin who emigrated to the west indies, jamaica lal?

sunshine said...

Mica Lal - great pic u painted!!

Maybe Bollywood shud make a film on him... instead of Krishh
We'd have a cool Indian superhero!

gauravonomics said...

For a moment I thought that you were setting the stage for a post on the now-notorious Mika Singh. I'm sure he thinks of himself as Mai Ka Laal personified!

Nice post, nevertheless.

Sony Pony said...

There's a great "This American Life" episode (w/ Ira Glass--I presume I need not elaborate) that does a piece on beliefs people hold as children that somehow manage to survive to adulthood. One of the best was this guy who believed that the Neilson rating came from television shows only polling families named the Nielsons.

Nice post. I might steal your idea here and do a similar post:) My childhood was one big illogical, ill-conceived belief after another:)

Falstaff said...

space bar: Thanks. And yes, maybe the sheer was a little unnecessary.

prerona: um...I don't know about the perfect man. I mean, you realise this is a guy whose brain is actual silicon.

perspective: Ah, of course. Who wouldn't?

nikhil: Thanks

shoe-fiend: :-). Thanks. As for romancing Ms. Malini being terrifying - yes, these plastics can be a real hazard you know.

man who wasn't there: You mean the rumours about how Mica Lal buried his own family in a landslide are true?

N: You're not complaining surely? Secret no 29 was the Paris Hilton as a hotel one. The others are, well, secrets. For now.

d&c: I don't know about you, but the bit about Omkara I'm going to remember is the scene where Kareena Kapoor gets smothered to death with a pillow. Now if only they'd thought of doing that earlier.

km: Oooh! Mike Halal! Hadn't thought of that one. But yes, yes. A sort of desi Sam Spade no?

tr: No. But I ordered my furniture from his cousin, the carpenter Sunmica Lal.

Sunshine: No, no! God! If Rakesh Roshan ever makes a film based on an idea I come up with I'm going to have to kill myself. Worse, I'm going to have to make sure it's a painful death.

Gauravonomics: Ah, Mika Singh. Don't really know much about him. Isn't he the caveman who goes around kissing the girls and making them cry?

Sony Pony: My personal favourite was this piece I read somewhere about a guy who was convinced that Gunpoint was an actual place. So everytime he'd hear on the news how people were being held at gunpoint, he'd think to himself, why do people keep going there?

angry fix said...

super post!
enjoyed it.
obviously very overheated imagination.

Anonymous said...

Boy! u mus ve been a kid genius... Didnt know so much of the Periodic Table until I was in high school!!

Chronicus Skepticus said...

Heh. This is lovely, Falstaff.

Somehow, it makes you seem more...human.

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