Sunday, December 23, 2007

Exercise and me??


I won't blame anyone who knows me even slightly for laughing out loud on hearing my name and the words 'physical exercise' together. But surprisingly these lazy bones of mine are rather fond of a little stretching out as and when I find enough time after getting more than enough sleep done. Never mind the fact that I feel like sleeping for another two hours, after my exercise routine is done. In fact, I managed to push myself to gym for an entire month, while I was undergoing training at TCS Bhubaneshwar. The really heavy exercises were of course much beyond my physical capabilities but the regular thunk of metal coming together on the gym equipment was a rather comforting noise. It was actually some kind of meditation where the mind goes clear and all my energy subconsciously diverts to whichever unfortunate part of my body I chose to focus on.


And speaking of exercise, I feel there's no exercise like running. The early morning run from our quarters to the gym had to be one of the most exhilirating experiences of my life, as exhilirating as a daily pain can get at least. The first two days were of course rather painful but later when the rhythm kicks in, its a real pleasure. Feet beating their regular beat on the road with the cool, unpolluted morning breeze, the heart pumping out for dear life and at times it felt I could run on for ever, which of course would have been a fatal fallacy. Still however incongruous it may seem spouting of my mouth, exercise is quite fun while it lasts. Plus its a extreme game of will-power at certain points when I know that my body has given up but my mind is kicking it through the final few push-ups. Yawn! All this preaching about exercise is making me tired. Got to go, feeling real sleepy!

'Tis the season to be jolly


The older I get the more immature I seem to grow! Now I want festivals all season around, just a few months after I declared in my Diwali 2007 post that we have too many festivals here in India. Christmas is almost here and so is New Year, but I am bluesy again. The festivities will be over in a flash and it'll be back to the bread-n-butter routine! I just don't have enough long weekends and long trips and long sleep.


I am convinced that life was meant for better utilization. Why should my job have to be something to work on so that I can enjoy the other parts of my life! If I don't tire myself out on my regular job I really can't enjoy my free time and if I really work to my heart's content I find myself too tired to enjoy my free time. What a life!

A post without a picture

Everytime I post something on my blog, I end up Googling for an appropriate picture to put beside it. I guess it's some baggage I dragged out of my childhood after reading millions of those illustrated abridged classics with a picture on every second page. Words are never enough to cover the scope of my post and I feel this deep desire to complement it with a photo which unfortunately always turns out to be the real eye catcher. Adds a comic book effect to my blog, but I love certain comics/cartoons so much that I actually don't mind! Just for the heck of it, here's one post where I do away with the compulsory illustration!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The bridge over troubled waters


There's nothing much to say or write about. This is the river Narmada, much fought over by states, activists and actors. But spending my childhood in a little town on its banks, I never associated anything with it except for peace and beauty. Having crossed it a number of times, in a car, or train, or motorcycle, or bicycle and once even on foot, I never seem to tire of gazing at it ensconced in the deepest thoughts. And memories of the evening breeze bringing relief to sweat stained, cricket exerted bodies; of the never-ending conversations about our immediate lives as friends got together on the middle of the bridge; of my grandma's ashes who passed away there in Bharuch far away from her beloved Calcutta one with the water which has been flowing through the centuries.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Home again


It would seem that home offers the ideal circumstances for blogging. Ready to eat food at exactly the right time, the most comfortable bed in the universe and pampering of all sorts. But here I am at home, after a week of enjoyment at a classmate's wedding and pure laziness afterwards trying to work up at least a single post for my time spent here. But it really doesn't make sense to expend energy on any kind of thought when I am cossetted in the sort of luxury that the best corporate jobs in the world can't buy. The same visibly aging building, the river in the distance flowing past just the same as it did from as long as I can remember. Only a handful of friends who remain from the huge group that occupied the pleasant memories of my childhood. The familiarity of it all should bore me to bits. It's amazing how I keep hankering for change in the repetitive rigours of office life yet there are other things that I wouldn't want to change for anything in the world.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sachin ala re


Some people say he's a selfish player playing only for personal records and sponsorship money, some people say that he can relied upon not to perform in crunch matches and some people relish every chance to brutalize him on even the slightest dip of form. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar may not have led his team to glorious victories worthy of his extreme talent, but that is only a poor reflection on his team rather than his personal failure. For someone to soldier through 18 years of international cricket and perform at the stratospheric levels that he has, cannot be possible without love for the game and his team. That a World Cup trophy is not among his list of honours is merely because fate is a big player in all sport whether one chooses to acknowledge it or not.

After bearing the burden of millions of hopes every time he walks out to bat for these many years it must really hurt to hear two-bit commentators or even the man on the street advice him on what to do or worse insult him for a variety of made-up reasons. Forget about his die hard fans like me but every unbiased cricket lover will have to accept that the sport will never be the same without Sachin. The diminutive but distinctive frame taking guard, and then the flash of the blade as a booming cover drive takes shape, or the solid thunk of the middle of the bat striking the ball sending it speeding ramrod straight past the bowler's despairing hands or Shane Warne's look of despair as the batsman moves away from the wicket, comes down the pitch and puts a glorious shot out into the stands. The thought of Sachin at the wicket brings into so many lives an intense happiness, a ray of delight on even everyday tasks. Every time a school kid takes guard at his local ground facing a critical ball, he is concentrating not on the name of some God in a distant heaven, but on a chant inside his mind that he knows will make him rise to the occasion. The chant which goes "Sachin..Sachin......Sachin..Sachin". And to be able to achieve that kind of devotion and awe from people around the world, is a glorious achievement that no criticism in the world can ever tarnish.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Its not OK


It was only this Friday evening that a few friends and me were having our weekly meandering discussion at a local coffee shop, relaxed in anticipation of the weekend to follow. Amongst the great variety of topics that we touched upon from art movies to career ambitions, we also had a brief banter on corruption. Some of my friends professed a tolerance bordering on admiration for people who took pay-offs under the table but got the job done, citing the example of a certain politician from Bihar, his undeniable charm and his recent success at turning around the Ministry under his charge. After all, the pay package in government jobs hardly amounts to anything, they felt!

Corruption is not exactly the murder of men which on the face makes it seem less evil. But the important fact that most people miss out on is that it is the murder of dreams which is as bad if not worse than actual murder. Money meant for a noble purpose, for the education of those school-children in the rural hinterlands, for that much required government hospital revamp, for that metalled road that would have ushered in a new life into the dying village, all reduced to shambles because of the greed in the system. And why pick on only government projects, the passing of a corporate tender with a little help on the side just means that the actual best offer lost out!

Add to that, the countless frustrations and roadblocks that the man really intent on improving his conditions the right way has to face, finally bowing to them broken and stripped of all hope. The rot that sets in with every hand-out is a cancer eating away all sense of honour and morality, making all intelligent but honest men seem like idealistic fools. The unaccounted for money feeding countless vices and evils which seem to have reached unsurmountable levels today. Unfortunately, people bred and fed on that money unable to think beyond their own sorry selves worship the source of that money as if he/she is some magnanimous philanthropist, forgetting that it's money stained with dead dreams and sold honour. Corruption is choking our breath out and the funny thing is that people are mildly tolerant of that fact.

Its not OK that today the line between heroes and criminals is so blurred, and it really surprises me that people are so confused for it is really not so complex. A businessman who makes his pile cheating the government of taxes is lauded as the harbinger of India's economic boom, worshipped as the face of new India! That the means to getting to an end is as important as the end itself should be a self-evident fact. If a person doesn't care for the means to get to his end, he's just a desperate criminal, plain and simple. A true hero is the one who knows that he has to get there only by the right way or not get there at all. Its not OK to hero-worship someone who jumped the queue, broke into the ticket counter and now is virtuously claiming that "Look! I am giving away free tickets!"


First flight



Its late in the evening, nearly an hour past the scheduled time when the plane shudders as it rolls its way on the slightly bumpy surface right in front of the Calcutta Airport terminal. It is a rather awkward being that seems so unwieldy and bulky as it taxis onto the tarmac. Turning its nose to align it with the runway, the long stretch of the runway beckons.

A high-pitched whine of the engines dominates my senses now as it does of all other passengers on board. The unease that this giant machine was feeling with its mass is rapidly disappearing. Outside through the little glass windows I see the runway lights flash past at a rate unlike anything I have experienced before. Two of my friends who are with me on this journey and also on their first flight have faces that tell the story of internal commotion all too clearly. The whine becomes even more intense and a rush caused by the spectacular acceleration kicks in. The runway outside is a blur now and then the sudden feeling of weightlessness, of tons of metal and human cargo turning into nothing, overcoming the force of gravity that I had taken for a certainty all my life. As the steel bird ascends into the sky and banks right towards Delhi hundreds of kilometres away, the lights of Calcutta lie spread below, twinkling and shifting like a glass cupboard filled with fireflies.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Quick-fix


Whenever I start working on my blog I end up wasting a good couple of hours on something which I am not even sure someone will ever bother reading. Plus its not that fussing over what I write adds to the quality of the output. At the most, a few more grammatical mistakes would be sorted out and thats about it. The flow of the words is spontaneous and either its there or it is not. So this just turns out to be an attempt to turn out a post within a half-hour.

I cannot really determine for sure why do I continue contributing to a rarely visited nook on the vastness that is the Internet . Is it to stifle a sense of guilt for what I really want to do versus what I am actually doing for a living? Or is it that like thousands of other 'secret' authors I am really giving vent to my literary skills knowing fully well that I don't actually want to subject it to public scrutiny. A journal of sorts which gives me the freedom to write what I want to, be it original or cliched without feeling the pain of having it told to my face that its good, but not really special. Hardly confidence boosting, this post is turning out to be. But at least, by winding this up right now, I am assuring myself that I can indeed cook up a quick-fix entry for my blog without losing too much hair over its obvious lack of content!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wanderlust


There are few words in English more evocative of their meaning than the title of this write-up and then its not even English, its German! But the sheer simplicity of the word and the feeling that it captures make it my favourite word. The urge to travel comes on with such an intensity sometimes that its difficult to differentiate it from its more carnal cousin. With every picture I see of an exotic far-off place, a sharp regret stings me. And watching travel programs on every possible channel do not help matters much, only inciting what in Hindi would be called the travel-'keeda' (That's the Hindi equivalent of 'being bitten by the travel bug'). The mere sight of an open road or a packed suitcase is enough to send my mind on a joyride.

The haunting ruins of Machu-Pichu nestled in the lap of the Andes, the mysterious gigantic statues of Easter Island in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean, the majestic Pyramids of Giza rising incongruously of the desert sands, the technicoloured world of Tokyo's Electronic district, the remnants of the Parthenon atop the hill point blank in the centre of Athens, the glow of the yellow coastal town on the Mediterranean, the lone tree in the African Savannah as the golden sun sets in the background and millions of other images so frequently seen in photographs and documentaries continuously inhabit the back of my mind. And then these are only the well-known ones. So many unique adventures await those who venture out beyond the confines of their drawing room. I try to shake them off as I work on my aquamarine green CAD/CAM models on my computer screen, but am hopelessly unsuccessful! But then that's only because I don't want to. For when a thought grips your imagination so unsparingly, its a crime not to bring that thought to fruition. And I find it a very pleasant thought indeed that even if I am cursed with immortality I'll never run out of things to do! For me, even immortality would not give me time enough to satisfy this craving. After all, what's the fun in visiting Easter Island only once in a lifetime!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ho hum.. How humdrum!!


Crib! Crib! Crib! How long will this last I don't know. When I get free time on the job, I complain of how stagnating that feels and when I am overloaded its the work that is taking the juice out of my life. The sheer repetitiveness of the tasks to be performed gets me so depressed and then when I am really down in the dumps I decide again all by myself that it ain't so bad after all!

The machine you see above with all the trash that surrounds it is all it takes to earn a comfortable salary with relative ease and that should for most reasons suffice as reason for happiness. But I frequently find myself riding this Sine wave of happiness and sometimes justified-sometimes unjustified gloom. Its a complicated feeling and so impossible to express appropriately. Its only once in a couple of weeks that I find something interesting to work on and to think that I might have to continue in this vein for the rest of my life fuses my brains. And then faced by the risks and effort involved to break free, I shy away from covering any serious ground in this regard. Indecision has killed a number of dreams yet but I am praying that I don't just add to the numbers.

Friday, November 9, 2007

A radiant night


I have never cared much for festivals. As it is we seem to have too many of them in India and hardly enough happiness all around to justify celebrating them with so much gusto. Of course, there's the other theory that festivals are the only way to break the cycle of normal life. In school or in college, normal life was just so interesting that all this hulla-baloo about festivals seemed childish! But since I have started working every reason for a holiday or a different kind of day seems really welcome.


But today was always different even on earlier occasions. Diwali, the festival of lights captured my imagination back when I was a kid and even today. The existence of Lord Ram and his return to Ayodhya is not a scientifically verifiable story, but at least it comes really handy to celebrate a grand festival. The crackers with their earth-shattering sounds and captivating colours, were the real attractions as a kid when all other nights were of the early-to-bed and early-to-rise kind. Now certain things like the immense smoke and disturbance that crackers cause to people who are really not into the mood of the festival and not to mention the fact that these crackers being made by young hands for whom the future is so dark and fatal put me off such celebrations, and prevent me from enjoying as much as I used to. I know all these considerations may sound so 'pseudo' in nature to those who don't know me so well but that's how I feel now.


But beyond the crackers, its what Diwali represents that really appeals to me. The symbolic victory of good over evil, though we all know in the real world the battle will probably never be final and complete. It restores a little faith in the hope that eventually at some point centuries or tens of centuries later, being good will pay off and for now keep up the struggle through the rough times that all good men have to face! The lamps all around casting their golden glow, the children's faces beaming with happiness and the general sense of bonhomie that is so rare. A light in the darkness, a imagery used ad nauseum, yet never ever losing its aura of frail yet somehow infinitely powerful beauty.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A chance encounter



It was a typical Sunday morning, when I came out of my house in my faded Tee and crumpled shorts to make my weekly pilgrimage to the local cyber-cafe. Emerging from the gate, on the side of the road where most times of the day, a beggar makes his voice heard, I almost walked into a most famous gentleman called Biman Bose. Seeing a face seen so frequently on the television standing right near my gate, took me by shock and with my three day stubble and wild, fresh from sleep hair I also seemed to have taken him by surprise. For an amusing 5 seconds or so, we regarded each other with mild suspicion and for want of anything else to do, I moved off while he climbed into the Bolero which by then had materialized from somewhere to deliver him to his party headquarters.

Now Biman Babu as the local residents call him, may not be a national news creating political figure but as state General Secretary of the CPI(M) party in 'Red' Kolkata, there are few politicians more important. I always knew that he stayed in the house opposite mine but never actually expected to literally bump into him in the flesh. To find someone capable of bringing this entire city to a screeching halt within half an hour, and responsible for moulding decisions that influence crores of people, waiting with a significantly irritated expression for his car to show up adds a curiously human face to the powers that be. To see an emotion like surprise on a face that normally is busy extolling the latest achievements made by his party or debunking the Opposition's accusations made me do a rethink. Its funny how after seeing all the dramatics that politicos put up for daily consumption on news channels I had stopped seeing them as normal human beings and part of some larger soap opera in which they had their roles and one in which I had no stake. But as I felt then, the people that rule are actually not so different from the people that they rule.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Motomania


Its 10 p.m. on a Saturday evening and I am back at my preferred Net-surfing destination, the cramped little cyber cafe that is the best of the lot surrounding my house. Here I am writing something for my blog after nearly a month but I really know that this is rather a huge climbdown from what I really want to do right at this moment.
-
You see, my house is right in the heart of Central Calcutta, known for its typical narrow cramped lanes and aging houses looming over them keeping them in permanent shadow. Also infamous for a number of things primarily extreme poverty and those universally derided menaces- the motorcycle riders. A minimum of three helmet less heads on each bike, speeding through crowded lanes with maniacal speed, jumping red lights with utter disregard, eve-teasing at the slightest oppurtunity and congregating at every street corner for a 'gang' meeting if one may call it so. Detestable specimens of the human species you would think and 99% of the time I am their most vehement critic.
-
But then there are moments like this one today, when I am actually envious of them. I envy them for one, and one reason only! Its for those machines which they ride and bring so sadly into disrepute. Obviously this is not Colaba or Marine Drive in Bombay, so the bikes we are talking are not imported Kawasaki Ninjas or Suzuki Hayabusas. Just plain ol' Indian bikes-the Pulsars, the CBZs and the aged yet magnificent Yamaha RX-100s. Hate them if you want to, but when in the dead of the night, the growl of a speeding bike rips through the silence which engulfs the meandering, interior streets, it really sets my pulse racing.
-
A motorbike has always seemed so much more than a machine to me and that love is a special extension of my affection for anything with wheels even a cycle!! When astride a motorbike, especially if a powerful one, every growl of the engine, whether the mutter of impatience at low speeds or the scream of velocity when going top notch carries an intense meaning. The road is an able ally of the bike rider with every smooth bend and curve aiding the amalgamation until it is final and complete. The amalgamation of the bike and its rider such that the bike is the rider and the rider is the bike.
-
That is what I really want to do right now. To wait for the signal at Moulali crossing to turn green and slot in that first gear of my blue Pulsar 200, toe up through top gear past the Entally market. The wind blowing into me and the speedo needle rapidly turning clockwise and the yellow street lights of the broad, deserted AJC Bose Road blurring past. The engine's ecstatic howl beneath me and the rush that you get when you know that one wrong twist of the handle bar or shifting of weight is all it takes to bring a rapid end to all that joy. Its a addictive mix of concentration and freedom that can be equalled by none. With the Corporation office flying behind, then past the vast grounds of the St. James church. Then a sudden deceleration with the bike's disc brake, as the turn to the lane in which my house is located approaches. The LED brake lights glow a bright red, like a creature angry at its free run being broken.
-
Dangerous, yes! Unnecessary, absolutely! But sometimes in life, its essential to speed up only for that short stint so as to bear the killing slowness of normal life. Snapping back to reality now, no, I don't own a bike yet but since I am earning my own money now, owning one is not too distant a reality. So when people ask me "Why are you planning to buy a bike when you don't have a girlfriend yet to ride behind you?", I simply flash them a look which says, "You just don't get it, do you?"...
-
[Do not be foolish enough to consider everything stated above as an incentive to speed. Drive and ride safe. Reach home. Alive. With all limbs in their respective places. Let others on the road do so too. Please.]

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It wasn't me


So often during my school days were the above words the only defense by my unfortunate bench partners. By being a lucky mix of being a good student and looking the part too with my completely nerdy bottle-glass thick pair of spectacles, I was always above suspicion and beyond reproach.

Starting from the lower classes with Harsh, then Himanshu and then in the higher classes Utsav, all my bench partners have to had to bear at some point of time, the brunt of being held responsible for any mischief emanating from my corner of the classroom. All too often, a teasing taunt or a whispered joke originating from me have led to their breaking out into a loud laugh or picking up the taunt all too enthusiastically. And that as their luck would have it, spelled their doom because that was exactly when the teacher's wandering gaze would be swing onto that corner of the class. To top it all, teachers would be totally reluctant to accept any of their protestations and allusions of my involvement in the action. More often than not, it ended rather sadly for them with a position by the window outside the class.

By the time I had reached 11th standard though, teachers through long years of study began to see through my approach and would rapidly home in on me as the potential trouble maker. But I had by then already been responsible for sending so many of my friends to the 'gallows' (So to speak) that I didn't mind taking one or two on the chin myself. My bench partners always have had a tough time and I certainly haven't been too shy of enjoying sadistic pleasure at their fate and at their cost. It was great fun to be an active part of the most notorious class in our school (which our class always was) and yet slip through the disciplinary net, my saintly image for all the appropriate authorities unscathed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Unity in diversity


They say we all think alike and REC Kurukshetra afforded innumerable opportunities to study this phenomenon. But none so striking as the one I am about to relate to you. India may be a nation of X languages, Y ethnicities and so on but we do share a lot of common ground, and in our college's case it was the common room, home to the king of all time killers, the never silent TV. Cricket on TV, brought together the country (if our batch is taken as just one small sample) like no other and running a close second would be testoterone fuelled action movies. Crib and complain about how brainless these movies are for all you are worth, but if there was something that brought a hush in the boys' hostel common room packed to the rafters it had to be Arnie's robotic acting or Neo a.ka. Keanu Reeves bullet defying moves.

The scene is set at around 10 in the evening (by hostel standards) in the common room. On air was the mother, father and grandfather of all action movies Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Referred to as T2 in hushed whispers by 'real' action movie devotees). It is also among the most pivotal scenes of the movie when the liquid evil Terminator enters jail to kill Sarah Connor (Sorry for the details but really necessary) and after killing/impersonating his way through, he is near to completing his mission. At this point of time in the real world, enter Saurabh Shukla legendary in the hostel for his ability to forget things. I am the only guy standing and watching the movie from behind the last row of chairs as they are all already occupied. Saurabh's eyes are fixed on the screen which now shows the evil guy liquefy and pass through the jail bars only to have his gun get stuck in the bar. And THEN in the most curious of voices he asks me, "Yaar Roy!! Yeh kaunsee movie hai? (Roy, Which movie is this?)"

The reaction to this was startling in its co-ordination and brutal in its delivery. Each and every face that was present in the packed common room that night turned; and turned in spectacular symmetry towards the person who had committed this blasphemy. The collective gaze nearly knocked me off my feet even though it wasn't even aimed at me. Some faces showed pity, some shock, some a bemused disapproval of his ignorance and some of total disgust at this brief transgression. The faces included those of the mess workers, boys from the South, West, North, North-east but what was really got me was the uniformly quick reaction. And just as soon as it had begun, the collective look dissipated into nothing as everyone returned to watching the movie leaving Shukla to his cruel fate which seemed so certain to get him given the scale of his crime. I saw all of India think as one that night, be it over a movie starring the governor of California! Maybe we really aren't so different after all...
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My favourite sin


Just by writing down this article, I refrain myself from committing my favourite sin all over again. Much as I love writing, if there is one thing that I love more then its just got to be lazing around. Without a care in the world, aimless wandering of the mind, a total waste of time kind of sloth Hardly requires any skill or effort so its wins as my most preferred hobby hands down.

Week after week, I open my blog to see an ever decreasing number of posts in my name and a drought of comments. I grit my teeth at those insensitive friends of mine who don't egg me on to write, but the reality is that it gives even further excuse to be slothful. I write because I like the feel of the pen on paper but its nothing compared to the warmth of an alluring bed under a fan going full blast. And when the pressure is really on with tremendous shortage of time, just to chuck it all away and close my eyes. Ahhhhhh! If there is heaven on this earth; it is there, it is there, it is there!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why I love Ayn Rand...


When I put down "The Fountainhead" after nearly a week of reading interrupted by those everyday activities like working a job and keeping my grumbling stomach filled, I found that I had a severe headache. Everything that I had known and accepted as a given were safely tossed out of the window. So when everyone gushing over with enthusiasm after reading Ayn Rand's body of work were right after all. It was really about to give my life a new meaning as it had done to millions of readers (So said the blurb... Must be true), and right then it had my head in a twirl.

After I had recollected my thoughts in a few hours, I came around to analyzing what had left me so stirred. The first thing that occurred to me were the long, long dialogues in the book. Dialogues about what has been wrong with humanity for the past centuries, dialogues about the greatest men being the most selfish of individuals and dialogues with the sheer intensity of propaganda. A good book in my opinion should never preach, it should rely on the intelligence of the reader to make that call. The opponents of Howard Roark, paper-thin characters like Peter Keating the social climber with minimal personal talent, Ellsworth Toohey the evil genius only concerned with the destruction of individuality and Gail Wynand, the media baron sold out to the masses. No wonder Roark seems like "The man" to follow in contrast. No shades of grey whatsoever only black and white. Like Hitler against the Jews or Osama against the 'kafirs'. Primary issue with the book, "IT SHOUTS" and in keeping with the school of individualism which Ms. Rand claims to subscribe to, I will not be dictated to.

No doubting the fact that creativity is a very selfish activity. It cannot be and should not be a committee decision. It's an individual expression be it in any form and any tinkering with it will destroy its very purpose. The world is indeed too hard on anyone who tries to break away from the conventional. But applying selfishness to every single sphere of life, I am not digesting that. I am sure that anyone who has just popped out of the birth canal and grown up like a tree on the sidewalk to be a great architect or whatever can ridicule words like "sacrifice" which seems like what has happened to Ayn Rand. For the rest of us who have had parents, friends and any mentors who have guided us on the long road to maturity, it should not be a simple thing to accept.

Every moment of special care, attention given to our whims and curiosity represent a small sacrifice, a investment which will serve no tangible return to the self. With sweeping statements berating "sacrifice" as an ailment afflicting humanity, the author ridicules every great human being (and we are talking the conventional 'great' here) like parents who raise a mentally retarded child knowing fully well that at no point in time will the child be able to return even a small part of the love and attention showered on him/her. Why don't they give him up to a mental asylum where he will live in chains for the rest of his life and being out of sight slowly fade out of the minds of his parents? Rendering sacrifice laughable is laughing at every noble human being who has died fighting for a cause or a country, and offering inane statements like "One man's martyr is another man's terrorist" does not suffice. Just because a few men use it as a cover for their madness does not justify dismissing the importance of the concept. Sacrifice wounds and wounds in a way which can never heal, but that is where lies its glory. If it were as easy as ensuring one's survival by running away from it or blending in with the masses, all there would be no charm in it at all. In fact, irony of all ironies, Howard Roarke would have been such an ordinary fellow had he not sacrificed conventional success to his love for the art of architecture (But of course it was a sacrifice to match up to his ideals, but a sacrifice nonetheless).

Coming to the point that had me the most peeved. It is not a case of 'Us and them' between the genius and the ordinary masses (The second-handers as Rand calls them). The world may be be a little put off by the eccentricities of the genius from time to time but it does not hate them with the vitriolic hatred that the author seems to project. Just as much as genius flourishes in its own peculiar ways defying most of the conventions of the world, the rest of the world is also mostly happy tolerating them with a wry smile knowing at the back of their mind that genius is what will take the world onto the next step.

More importantly, human life is a painting in which you never know what colour is going to show up next. Life does not treat everyone equally and never will. Which is why "pity" is such an important concept. Its not a feeling of overwhelming superiority over the unfortunate but more a sense of how lucky we are to be where ever in life we are today. Getting back to a Howard Roarke example... What if he were to lose both his arms in a car accident? What architecture would he pursue then? Would he be cast away as just another handicapped person crying for undeserved privileges?

Innumerable potential successes are ripped apart by the tides of time and fate. Many a dreams have been stifled as life's priorities climb over them like ivy and engulf them. Yet in that sadness of broken dreams lies a fact like an old man died happy having his son by his bedside instead of earning a lot of money in a country far away; that an orphaned child got to know her brother both as her father and mother and a million other little stories that never get told. They may not be the stuff of legends but they are great people nonetheless, honest and faithful to the roll of the dice that fate handed them. And not everyone of them is angry at other people's success. Calling them 'second-handers' is an unforgivable insult.

This is not to say that each one of us has the potential to be a Prime Minister or a CEO or whatever the conventional parameters of success may be. No, not at all. Talent is a complicated equation and definitely not everyone is blessed with equal amounts of it. All men are equal not because they have an equal claim to greatness, but because we all share this complicated, messed up world of probability that is our earth and are subjected to the same injustices in one way or the other. Some of us make it, some don't... Some by will-power, some by luck, some by both. As long as a man has remained honest in what he is doing (Come on, don't tell me now that you appreciate Dawood Ibrahim because he found a way to break a way out of his poverty and ensured his personal happiness), the man who sells Mickey Mouse balloons by the Statue of Liberty is as worthy of respect a human being as the person who designed it, not by virtue of his skill but by his desire to live an respectable life (using another simile from the book). Expecting a person who has spent his childhood on the railway platform to reveal his inner Einstein is a bit too fairy-tailish but at least accept the fact that he deserves a better life.

"Survival of the fittest"... I hear you say. Well, if we were just governed by the law of the jungle, Ayn Rand wouldn't be writing books on philosophy. She would be the seventh wife of an alpha male taking care of his children and washing his bear-skin. The very proof that humans are now beyond Darwin's principle is that we take care of our handicapped, are in the process of giving equality to women, our old are not left on the streets to die and our young are raised with equal attention irrespective of how intelligent or strong they may be. The times when we do fall in line with the rule of the jungle are occasions of great shame for us as human beings.

Selfish is the man who steals money from the funds of earthquake afflicted people and from little poor kids who want to go to school("Who cares if they live or die, I get to live my life and support my family."), selfish are the men who walk by a crowded street as a girl gets assaulted and groped in full public eye ("Why should I put myself at risk?") and selfish is the rapist who takes advantage of a dark alley and a vulnerable victim ("I get my pleasure, who cares for the consequences?"). Selfishness, the ideal excuse for all namby-pamby cowards to turn their back at all things wrong where raising their voice would have made a world of a difference or to justify their deplorable deeds. We all live in a world where there are a lot of things gone wrong, lets not add one more by endorsing utter selfishness as some kind of intense heroism. Selfishness in creativity I couldn't agree more, but selfishness everywhere? Well, you've just heard my opinion haven't you?

Which is why I just love Ayn Rand; for showing me everything that is right within me and how after trying to shout down my thoughts for the 400 odd pages of "The Fountainhead" she still couldn't convince me. As for the living the philosophy of objectivism and the "Virtues of Selfishness", I think I'll ignore the opportunity!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Easy Riders


One of the great things of being brought in a small town is that you get to form your own idea of what's cool away from the sweeping trends that envelop the more urban young 'uns. So was Bharuch, a typical small town in Gujarat , boring and nondescript for anyone who had to stay there for more than two days without any particular business. But as kids, it was for all practical purposes the centre of the known universe and its borders were quite enough to encompass everything. Fun was something what we decided for ourselves and most of the time quite offbeat.

The time was one of extreme laziness post our 10th boards and even a person as lazy as me was worked up over this unprecedented display of sloth. The evening sessions of cricket and movies at Bharuch's ramshackle halls were fine but it was time for something more. So it was that 3 of us- Ankur, Navneet and me were overcome by a moment of inspiration to lead a healthy lifestyle, and decided to go cycling out into the countryside surrounding Bharuch every morning. The discussion of early morning start times was a cause of great merriment but we decided on a utopian 6.00 AM which naturally turned to 7.00 most of the times. Our cycles were our principal mode of transportation as the primary mode of public transport- auto rickshaws didn't quite agree to point-to-point delivery from one pal's home to another leading to loss of valuable playing time, and Bharuch isn't exactly HUGE. Cycling was a way of life to us and we were about to take the next logical step making it an exercise too.

The first day saw us venture out to the narrow roads that led to distant Videocon Colony in the village of Chavaj. The only reason we wanted to be there was that up till 2 years ago a couple of great friends lived there and that it was far enough for the first day. Now we didn't even know anyone there and after reaching the gates of the Colony we just turned right back. Sure, there were green sugarcane fields on the way and the occasional farmhouse, but they were beautiful only for the first twenty minutes-the time before our legs started aching. It started to seem on the first day itself that a simple wish to increase our stamina couldn't keep us going like this for long.

The days that followed saw marked improvement in the quality of our experience as we chose distinctly reasonable targets like the older sections of Bharuch (And these are quite old some 500-600 years!) and the network of roads that plies through the greenery surrounding the GIDC industrial complex. These allowed us to get home with a reasonable stock of energy so as to seem alive for the rest of the day. It was fun as we pedalled our way through the silence of early morning, punctuated by our occasional laughter and yells that signalled the final sprint of a spur of the moment race offset by the sudden appearance of a long, straight narrow stretch of road. Not to forget the creaking of three not the most well maintained bicycles protesting at these highly unnecessary early morning exertions. It was not as if we didn't use our cycles otherwise. The eerily quiet industrial sheds with their mysterious machinery nearly engulfed by surrounding bushes and trees were an odd backdrop for our racing ambitions but it seemed that it would be the only use they would be put to, ever!

Towards the end of our vacations, we began to aspire to greater things as the regular beat in and around Bharuch began to get to us. When we had first envisioned this grand scheme of cycling in the mornings, we had a destination in mind, an aim, a grand plan which was never meant to be executed. Bharuch is situated on the banks of the river Narmada, of Medha Patkar and Aamir Khan fame! And there is a beach on the river called Kabirwad (A place where according to legend Kabir meditated and gave discourses). It was 16 km away from where we stayed in Bharuch and would seem to be the last logical chapter in our cycle story.

So one fine morning we set off on the undulating roads that lead to the village of Shuklatirth where we could cross on a ferry to get to Kabirwad. We had already been there a million times before with friends and family but never on a cycle; so therein lay the challenge. And we felt each of those kilometres unlike anything we had ever felt before. The joy of freewheeling down a long slope was offset by the grimness of the long slope upwards that would show its face. Occasional glimpses of the river from the road and shady portions of the road somehow kept us going. On that day, we heard the Gujarati word "Aagadd" (meaning "Its ahead!") enough times to never want to hear it again for the rest of our lifetime. Whenever we paused alongside a villager with his cart trundling along easily and asked him how far was our destination, all we got would be a consistent "Aagadd" and deepen our suspicion that after all our effort, we had taken the wrong road.

When we finally got there, we were so pooped that we stood around admiring the beach from this side of the river for about fifteen minutes and decided not to go across. Instead after a cold drink or two, we headed back home dead tired, only the thought of dropping off to sleep just after breakfast getting us home. Legs cramped and throats parched, we were great explorers home from the back of beyond. Having had enough of exercise to even contemplate any further excursions, it was to be the end of our cycling expeditions. Life moved on, we changed schools and drifted down into different lifestyles. But those few weeks of pure impetuous madness were a learning experience of which we are yet to realize any value of, but then again maybe they were so much fun simply because they were so devoid of purpose.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Monkey see, monkey screwed!!


[The verifiability of this story is strongly suspect so I advise readers to take it with tablespoons of salt. The source of this story was a certain gentleman named Mr. Malladi Srinath and it is a story worth telling for sheer entertainment value, whether it be true or not]

We had just moved into single rooms at the start of our pre-final year and Hostel No. 5 was our spanking new home with shiny new toilets (In one of the three blocks only, of course the remaining two perenially under construction for the remainder of the semester). It was then on a hot weekend day, that a lost little monkey wandered into the premises of the hostel. The presence of an actual animal in a place that had till then seen only animals of the 'drunk' and rolling in the grass kind was naturally quite the event.

The creature may have entered with the hope of furthering simian-human brotherhood but its intentions were surely put on the backburner when it became the instant target for sustained heckling by a hundred odd of the weird species commonly known as 'hostelites'. The terrorized have a way of fighting back and it was only a matter of time before the oppressed became the oppressor. The monkey was a small adversary to overpower, but no guy wanted to have distinctive monkey scars on his face for the rest of his life nor was the prospect of a bite from those tiny but sharp jaws very enticing. So the fella had a romp around the hostel especially A-Block and caused unprecedented events like actually getting the Jamestin twins under one roof though it was only a brief moment of madness and extreme self-defence as the thing invaded Alex's room. In the clinching proof of blood running thicker than water, Felix Jamestin actually offered his twin brother shelter, contrary to all popular expectations.

I am sure that the thrill of accomplishing this revolutionary event was what got to Mr. Monkey's head right then and thereby led him to script his own downfall. Pushing everyone on the backfoot, he decided that it was time for an actual monkey-human hand-to-hand. And woe betide the moment when he chose his opponent from the Homo sapiens sapiens species. Rakesh was his chosen rival and this kind of blindness in judging his capabilities cannot be put down to conceit alone! I am sure there are a number of reasons like the one we saw that day, why monkeys lost out to humans in the evolutionary race!

You see it was common opinion that with a tree-trunk like hulking muscle bound body like Rakesh had, it would only be fair to say that here was a superhuman in his benign(and as you will see later not so benign) alter ego of a plain ol' engineering student. But the die was cast and the monkey was quick to spring on his rival. Unfortunately for the monkey, agility was not going to be the deciding factor in this match-up and probably the weights that Rakesh could do with his little fingers would be heavier than the scrawny creature. He was literally punched to the ground, stopping in mid-air to reverse direction and to head for ground twice as fast as he had jumped off it. And to add insult to injury, as the creature lay writhing on the ground he was dispatched even further with a sharp kick from our aforesaid body-builder. Maneka Gandhi may be up in arms post this article, but the truth is , that day Rakesh did his bit to enhance humanity's security from its wilder cousins.

No more monkeying around then for our most ungraciously welcomed guest. He was off in a flash away from all those crazy humans up into the safety of the trees with whatever remained of his bones. I am pretty certain that for generations of monkeys in and around Kurukshetra, this was a lesson hard learnt. "Wild as us they may be and hooping noises they may emit every Friday night when they herd together over some strangely coloured water, but never ever make that cardinal mistake of trying to extend our monkey brotherhood to those strange creatures that inhabit the hostels."

Sunday, July 8, 2007

GOOOAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!


Sporting talent is something which I was never really blessed with but I tried to make it up by sheer enthusiasm, something like filling up the Mariana Trench with a bucket of water. And then there were those magic moments that happened once in a quarter century which provided me with false inspiration to persist with a particular sport, no matter what common sense and sheer respect for my dignity dictated!

It was a hot summer day and class was out for the "Games" period, a period much longed for through the week, a mid-week breath of fresh air from classroom imprisonment. With the FIFA World Cup fever in the air, football was the flavour of the day, pushing cricket to the background for a change. As with any organized sport played by a disorderly mass, this game was related to football only in the way that there was a soccer ball involved somewhere in the melee that was in progress at the middle of the field. There was a whole lot of 'foot' involved with kicked shins, bruised knees and sore hips, but the 'ball' part of the game emerged only for those rare few seconds into the open before the merry amalgamation of defence, offence and mid-field of both sides swallowed it up again. Which side of the field was ours and which theirs was a secondary concern, not half as important as getting that foot to the ball pushing aside all that interrupted.

As is evident when Pele's jogo bonito (beautiful game) became a joust for dominance, it was sheer hard work under the unforgiving sun. Sweat was now officially the 23rd player on the ground. And then at the most opportune moment, some one showed up at the ground gates with a bottle of water! All enmity and rivalry for that much-desired sphere suffocating under our feet was forgotten. It was an out and out race for the life providing liquid, the players were off for it like a storm. This was where I saw my opportunity. All this while, when the world was coming to an end over a mere ball, a few people were taking it easy. The two goalkeepers and the portly lazy bum of a defender (in the opposing side, of course) Vipul. Now the field was empty and all that stood between me and eternal glory were the opposing goalkeeper Sidharth and the aforementioned Vipul!

I am sure there must have been that proverbial glint in my eyes as I waltzed past Vipul who was thankfully blessed with the reflexes of King Kong in extreme slow motion. Sidharth was a good goalkeeper in all fairness to him but the long period of inactivity during the entire game had left him a little blunt. I footed the ball past him in a flash right into the corner of the goal and closed my eyes, arms upraised in silent acknowledgment of the cheering masses. A few moments later, I realized that the silent acknowledgment was to a silent crowd too. The period was not over yet but our sports teacher had blown the whistle and my fellow players were trooping back up to the classroom. And here I was reveling in the glow of my achievement with no one to witness it! Now you know why India never makes it to the World Cup... The real talent is never appreciated ;) Back to classes and life went on, but I'll always remember my first strike as clearly as if it were yesterday whether any one else chooses to commemorate it or not!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Someplace Else


It was a Friday night and first impressions were not much to write home about, when I stepped into the tiny corner of the Park hotel, that is Someplace Else. True, it looked like a stereotypical pub, with dim lights and that haze in the air, a sure reminder of all the injuries to my health that awaited me. The music was appropriately retro, but I was expecting something grander! After all the recos that I had read and received from acquaintances, this place was in my imagination a vast cavern where rock lovers congregated to pay homage to their dear, departed gods. Seeing a little room which could hardly seat 30 odd people, I felt a little short-changed.

Since we were already there, we decided to stick around till the band showed up. It was around ten when the band started to tune their set-up and a steady stream of people poured into the pub occupying every last inch. The stereo system phased itself out and let the band take over. And as the rhythmic strums of "Have you ever seen the rain" built up, the charm of the place took hold!

Rock is an ideal breeding ground for "phoneys"( Borrowing that exquisite term from Holden Caulfield), for those long-haired, black T-eed chappies who think its cool to scream f**k every alternate word, and repeat "Rock rulez" like a mantra, but in reality would be hard pressed to tell the difference between Linkin Park and The Doors. Not to say that all similarly turned out fellas are "phoneys", but the ones that are, spoil the reputation of the others!

But here was a place that appreciated CCR as much as it jammed to the grunt of Audioslave. Where the Beatles came head-to-head with Van Halen, and walked out in peace. When Knopfler was enamoured by the charms of Avril Lavigne, and even Pink Floyd's grim reality seems to carry a positive vibe. Its the canvas where the entire palette of colours that encompass rock comes together and forms a masterpiece. The band on-stage assumes the role of a tour guide through the rock-n-roll hall of fame, and this guide is not averse to breaking into an original song or two.

As the guitars scream, and the drums thump their martial beat, everyone sings along only to have their own voice overshadowed by those who are better off doing the singing (i.e the musicians on stage) . Somehow the crowd does not matter anymore, and there is that feeling of being part of one common mass. Yet there is a powerful emotion as you connect and identify with the song at a personal level, that its just you and the music. As every carbon-copy week at the office draws to a close, there is only one place you want to be. Come as you are, come away to Someplace Else.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bliss


With every copy of Windows XP, there comes a standard wallpaper titled "Bliss". It shows a rolling, undulating green meadow, topped off with a picture perfect blue sky. Just one more expression of that indescribable feeling of contentment and peace. The very word carries with it a mysterious aura of calm. Bliss may be fleeting, in fact too short to get a proper taste of it, but it is there in everyone's life like an unseen phantom granting us an unexpected glimpse yet almost an illusion.

Bliss is the faraway strains of Floyd's "High Hopes" in the dead of a quiet and starry night. Bliss is the cool breeze that rustles through the grass on a sunny March afternoon. Bliss is the instant when the examiner takes the answer sheet of that "dangerous" subject and a voice inside your head tells you that you have passed. Bliss is when on a winter morning you glance with bleary eyes at the clock, and see that there's still half an hour of sleep to be had. Bliss is when a power-cut actually makes you notice the silver moonlight bathing the hostel grounds. Bliss is that final page of that great book that you have been reading, settling into your mind forever. Bliss is the final catch of India's match that has the common room jumping up and down, screaming in a chorus of joy. Bliss is the smell of mom's cooking as you drop your back-pack in the living room.

Life is indeed beautiful on God's earth, and these drops alone in the ocean of time are reward enough for a lifetime.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Paper-powered dreams


The school year was over, and primary school almost over too, but we couldn't care less. Jigar and I, two introverts of the extreme kind were working away on our yearly ritual. The dozen odd notebooks which had faithfully served their purpose through the year were now the target of undeserved sadistic destruction.


As page after page was ripped out and transformed into the latest flying contraption, our eyes were fixed on the horizon, more precisely the mosque far across the ground behind Jigar's building. Standing on the terrace of the building, all we ever wanted was this invention to fly "where no paper plane had ever flown before". As darkness fell, both of us were deeply engrossed in thought as to how to make that special fold in the paper, so as to design that "wonder plane". Not that it made too big a difference! Eventually it always came down to the cool evening breeze blowing down from the vast expanse of the Narmada, which was a benevolent spectator to our antics. A stormy day or a charitable gust of wind from the Narmada were the crucial factors in any record setting attempts. The "world" record stood when a plane of mine made an astonishing voyage and struck the top of the palm tree situated at the far end of the ground.


The days of manufacturing air-forces of our own were brought to an abrupt end, when a particularly strict teacher who lived in the adjacent building took us to task in school for "dis-respecting knowledge" for trivial pursuits like paper planes. Now as Jigar is through computer engineering and me through mechanical engineering (Not that I can exactly explain how and why my planes flew like they did!), I still wonder at times where that pioneer plane would have flown, if it hadn't been for that darned palm tree.


Never really got a chance to stretch the limits after that, because within the blink of an eye, all that I was concerned with were big words like "marks", "careers", "crushes" etc. Old notebooks were strictly for the 'kabadiwallah' for some extra pocket money.




Saturday, June 23, 2007

The goodbye game

What is it with goodbyes? Why is that when one bids farewell to a great friend or a beloved place, that it is never ideal? Why should it always be hurried, as you struggle for the right words and expressions to share your feelings? Before you realize it, that place or person is a distant speck, and the feeling of loss all the more powerful. Language seems to be such an inept tool then. A million memories flash through your mind like fireflies in the night, and you just cannot do justice to them all. Talking about them and reliving them all seems too superficial and overly sentimental a thing to do. The end result is a kind of embarrassing silence, when you know that there is too much to say and too much to be thankful for. Closest friends for years, but now parting ways, only to meet if ever fate plays a kind hand. But it so happens, that both parties settle for a quick hug, and an insignificant "All the best", and from then on an interminable wait for the journey to begin.

Embers of a revolution


On my way back to Calcutta after a gap of nearly 7 years, I boarded the Jagannath Express at Bhubaneshwar station. Packed to the point of spilling over, the last minute nature of my travel plans had condemned to the usual crush of a General compartment. Amidst all the hullabaloo, a white dhoti-kurta clad Jat farmer lay sprawled along the length of the upper berth. Entreaties and threats from his co-passengers fell to deaf ears as he refused to budge from his luxurious horizontal position.

A woman, maybe 50 odd years of age, shabbily clad, someone who wouldn't look out of place amongst labourers in a construction site, stood up. She went up to the sleeping fellow and uttered in pure Bengali "This is a General compartment meant for the common man. No one, absolutely no one will occupy more space than he REQUIRES!" Though I doubt that the farmer understood a single word of what she said, but the intent was quite clear, and the result immediate! He sat bolt upright and quietly shrank into the corner of the berth, hemmed in by the mocking smiles of his co-passengers.

Maybe this lady's belief in a doomed ideology hadn't brought her any benefit. She probably lives in the same squalor and poverty as she did when "privileged" people ran the government in her state 30 years ago. She still travels in the same completely uncomfortable coach as before, and faces a monumental struggle to get two square meals a day. But her faith in the dream was what was shining in her eyes that day.

The same horribly impractical dream that personal happiness rests in common happiness. That a man would not desire anything more than what his fellow men could afford. That equality would be the order of the day- rich and poor, powerful and weak, exploiters and exploited- all such words archaic forms in the dictionary.

And how appropriate it was that she was traveling to a city defiant in its deathbed, challenging the vultures of politics and sloth which encircle it ever so slowly, high in the sky. A city that feeds itself on lofty, philosophical hopes, and prides itself on keeping the sputtering flame of human thought alive amidst all its penury.


Kulti Capers


The whole thing was a set-up! Right from the beginning to the final boarding of the train to Howrah, the story played to a script, and a very interesting offbeat script it was. Marriages are usually occasions when the most well planned things beautifully fall apart; an invisible law guiding the smooth disintegration. The occasion in this case was Putli Didi's (My cousin sister's) marriage. But this marriage was destined not to play by the rules.

Consider first, the primary groups donning leading roles. The bridegroom's side with a group of boisterous Haryanvis, whose simple and down-to-earth nature I have comprehended almost completely, during my four year stay at good ol' REC Kurukshetra. Add to that, the bride's side (my family) of mellowed down Bengalis, plus the American friends of Jiju and Didi who looked overwhelmed enough by their first taste of India, let alone a cross-cultural marriage of epic proportions.

Then consider the setting. The "continent" of Kulti, the hometown of the bride and also the place where my father, uncles and aunts had been brought up. The steel plant where my grandfather had worked had long since shut down, succumbing to the inefficiencies that plague most state run industries. The little town sustained itself through the requirements of the people who continued to live there. It was a golden place where golden people reigned in a golden age, if you sided with my fathers' family point of view, or you could join the cynical smiles of which too there was no shortage.

9th March '07 :

My arrival at Kulti station was an achievement by itself. It involved making an all out sprint through a packed Howrah station crashing into dozens of people without having the luxury of even saying a "Sorry" to board the train just in the nick of time. From Kulti station, it was a ride in Ashim Kaka's amazingly well maintained Amby (1961 First edition!) to his beautiful, old house all spruced up for the wedding. The last time I had been to his house, I was of a negligible age and the sprawling gardens surrounding his house had my imagination working overtime with impenetrable forests and giant pythons a distinct possibility. This time around, 18 years later, the place still impressed with such a vast expanse of space. Accompanying me was Mumun who promptly joined forces with Rupli Di, building 2/3rds of the fearsome triad of "saalis" that harangue every Jija who dares step into the Roy family. The trio would assume full strength with the arrival of my sister the next day.

Overworked that I was in the office that day, and as a result of the exertions of the dash to make it to the evening train I fell asleep turning a deaf ear to the accusations of my cousins. The accusations were in the vein of "You're so lazy! You come here to work for the marriage and sleep instead." Though it is a matter of mystery to me how by chit-chatting through the night, and labeling that as work, one adds value to the marriage as my cousin sisters claimed to have done.

10th March '07:

The next day was spent in wrapping up presents for the "totto"(Gifts sent between both the parties at the marriage), and trying to get friendly with Bhuli, one of the two pet dogs of Ashim Kaka. For some inexplicable reason, she remained immune to my charms throughout the wedding. Dogs have always liked me and vice versa but this one seemed intent on barking, growling and cringing away in fear whenever I approached. But sometimes in life, you've got to accept things for what they are! So was my acceptance of Bhuli's dislike for me. My efforts at packing the gifts took their toll, and I slept through the afternoon, leading to more accusations of that "lazy" nature of mine.

Sunday, 11th March:

The pre-marriage hullabaloo reached a crescendo. High pitched voices shouting conflicting instructions, dazed looks, people tripping up on strewn luggage, kids seeking desperate ways to grab attention (like going full pelt for the stairs), hyper excited dogs, a million people tramping in and out of the house, the arrival of the bridegroom's group and similar events kept everyone involved in the wedding on their toes. The day saw the entry of almost all the invited guests, and led to a flurry of trips between the various guesthouses and the house.

On the same evening, the big ticket event of the marriage, the DJ night disguised under the traditional name of "Sangeet", apparently a staple of all Haryanvi weddings. Enter DJ Ramandeep Singh with his crew, who had to be instructed approximately 10 times on the phone for directions to reach Kaka's house. Some politically incorrect sources put his confusion down to his religion!

Well, he finally arrived and set up a great set of speakers, strobe lights and we had an awesome dance-till-you-drop session from 7 to 11, enjoyed thoroughly by both the young and the young-at-heart. The sheer energy of the visiting team on the dance floor initially stunned the home team into a corner, but by the end of the evening the home team was matching the visitors step for step. The sweat dripping off everyone by the end bore testimony to the hard work involved. Once again stretched to the limit, I popped off to the guesthouse and as usual dropped dead.

12th March, D-Day:

D-day was here, and for me it had started before it was scientifically correct to call it a day. There was a top secret pick-up to be made in the wee hours of the morning from Asansol station, and this all important task was entrusted to the usual suspects, P. K. Da and me. Bleary-eyed we turned up at Asansol station to pick up Jhumpi Di who had the time off her tight schedule at IIT Kanpur, to just make it to the wedding. The pick-up was a completely smooth job with us entering the station just at the same time as the train, and we delivered her to the guesthouse just as ordinary mortals were stirring out of their slumber. While Jhumpi Di was being swamped by a pleasantly surprised horde of relatives, I like all good heroes was hoping to fade into the background, and catch up with my old friend, Mr. Sleep. But no such luck! I eventually got up with a scowl on my face, the kind you see when you've been lying in bed, for 2 hours and haven't been allowed to sleep (A special thanks to Didi and Dada for that). The rest of the day before the marriage ceremony was like a film in fast forward with the action only slowing for some great grubbing sessions. I was in the right place at the right time to sample the delicacies of the dinner beforehand, and prepare myself accordingly. Even the sampling session ended up in something like a second lunch.

Evening saw me dressed in a 'dhooti', that garment where every step is a potential disaster story. Thankfully it stayed in the place it was supposed to and later I was lighting big firecrackers wearing that very same blessed garment backed by some newly found foolhardy courage. The bridegroom arrived in Kaka's grand old lady, the Amby, and his party kept dancing for what seemed forever before he arrived at the 'mandap'. The dhol's beat was infectious, but I had 'dhooti' considerations to keep in mind. Putli Di was then air-lifted to the 'mandap' and the usual games of who's higher- the bride or the bridegroom saw a tough fight between Haryanvi muscle and Bengali presence of mind. The matter was settled by the fact that presence of mind is of no help for lack of sheer muscle power in some cases! Though the losing side continues to claim "We let them win, 'coz eventually they had to exchange the garlands!" Hmm… Whatever!

As the ceremony continued another professional hit job was carried out and the bridegroom's shoes disappeared into thin air, with yours truly playing the major role in the heist. This operation was to yield great monetary dividends later. The marriage ceremony was completed without any major hiccups, with the purohit's all-too-frequent reference to the book of 'mantras' a cause for mild amusement and confusion. The food which followed was just too good, and even the Americans were spotted hogging away at spicy Indian food; after-effects early next morning be damned! And all this while, a 'shehnai' player, who many claimed was imprisoned on top of the 'pandal' gate with the ladder which had taken him up put away, performed his job to the best of ability. No tempatation on earth could have taken him away from his task of continuously piping out tunes whose quality was strictly debatable. Nonetheless, he deserves a special mention for his sheer dedication to the cause!

Ceremony done, the time had come for Mahesh Bhaiyaa to withstand the real trial by fire. He had to survive a night with his bride's cousins and obtain his missing shoes without any heart-attack inducing financial losses. Supported only by two of his brothers, the prospects were grim, especially for the second condition to be fulfilled. The ransom was fixed and as usual the kidnapped shoes' owner feigned a total lack of interest in them. As we waited for the inevitable to happen, we killed time by playing a strange mix of 'obscure word' Antakshari, Dumb-C and also has an impromptu Shiamak Davar dance workshop led by Mumun. Two heavyweights from the bride's side switched their allegiance to the other side (Case in point, my sis and Rupli Di). Unable to withstand the shock of this treachery and the absence of P.K Da due to his tough travel plans the next day, the bride's team was creamed well and proper in all the above mentioned contests. As the Antakshari moved from obscure words to completely weird ones, and the songs that both sides were coming up with seemed suspiciously like on-the-spot creations, there came about a general confusion as to the purpose of the night. So led from the front by the bride herself, majority of the populace fell asleep just as dawn was breaking, including the so-called 'active' people. From then on in, it was sheer 3 rd degree torture as Rupli Di assumed the role of police interrogator and Mahesh Bhaiyaa unwillingly the role of the accused. The crime: Not paying enough money for the shoes. After a superhuman struggle, the accused accepted all charges leveled against him, and looked tired enough to admit to any crime at all. End result: The kidnappers were 5K richer.

13th March-14th March, '07:

Daylight saw me more on the road between Kulti and Asansol than the home itself, as I bounced to and fro from the house to Asansol station, first to see off the bridegroom's party and Jhumpi Di in the morning, and in the evening to bid goodbye to the newly wed couple. Sleepless as I was for almost 2 days then, I would have put a zombie to shame. When we returned post the departure of Putli Di, the house was quiet again and the 'pandal' almost completely dismantled. There was this overbearing sense of completion and emptiness that follows all great events, like this marriage surely was.

Then time again for some laidback chatter and well earned sleep, and after putting mom, dad and sis on the train to Gujarat the next day, I took the train back to Calcutta. Back to a humdrum existence and the killing monotony of office life. But now I had all the memories of this incredible marriage to turn back to, which never fail to bring a smile to my face time and time again.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Guilty pleasures


12th February, 2007

Much as I hate getting nostalgic about childhood like a doddering 80 year old, there are times when I just can't resist it. Today was just such a day, a day which wouldn't have been out of sync with my life 12 years ago. I bunked office today on a very flimsy premise of being slightly ill, and as if "rest" as prescribed by the doctor was the only thing that stood between me and death due to common cold.

Cycle back in time to a point when I am still in primary school and huddled under a mountain of blankets on a bright winter morning. It's Monday, as blue a time for me then, as it remains today. The exertions of a hectic weekend spent in video-gaming, terrace cricket and lots of purposeless running around had taken the mildest of tolls in the form of a lukewarm forehead. I complain in the most innocent, pure-as-driven-snow kind of voice that I am not feeling too well, and that's enough for Mom's piety to spill over. One or two quiet admonitions by Dad, on how one should take care of one's health, and how going to school is so very important later, the matter is settled. There was never any doubt over who was going to win in this emotional see-saw battle. The court always ruled in favour of "He's so ill. How can he go to school" side of things.

Covering myself with the blankets, I smile the most secret of happy smiles, one which no one would ever witness. All this while, I sense my sister's eyes drilling through the blanket, seeing through my sham, as she grudgingly got ready for school. Nowadays when I read articles about how kids are becoming more and more manipulative, I laugh! Tell me about it, you would be hard pressed to find a kid half as scheming as me!

Mom and sis off to school, while Dad leaves for office at 9'o'clock. So what does the sick boy do? He's off his bed in a flash like a wound-up spring, dividing his time between those rarely watched weekday morning cartoons and that video game monster that was crying to be vanquished. Come afternoon, and it's back into bed at about 1'o'clock, 'coz its time for Mom to return, and an appropriately saintly look on my face. In the evening, amidst a storm of protests and rebukes, I pop out of the house cricket bat on my shoulders, grinning in glee. The scam now stands exposed for all to see, but the bird has flown the coop!

The wind of yesteryears


It was the evening of the 25th of May. Engineering was all over but for a little slip of paper in our folders which would say "B. Tech, NIT Kurukshetra". Four years of mismanagement and brutish survival coming to a much awaited end. The hostel was nearly empty as most of my friends left behind their eventful RECK life with hardly a backward glance. I, assuming my usual place amongst the stragglers chose to extend my stay a day longer than my friends had chosen to.

As I sat enjoying my final evening at the "khokha" pondering over a cup of tea, out of the blue, there awoke a powerful wind. The sky darkened with approaching clouds, as they were dragged along by the persistent wind. The dust twirled along with the wind, as though it was drawn to its mournful wail. Walking back to the hostel, I could feel the wind exert itself as it rushed along to get to who knows where. The handful of people who were still in the hostel were all out on the grounds or in their verandahs, responding to some unspoken agreement. They laughed and talked aloud, but only to hide their anxiety for the bitter-sweet bits of their lives that the wind was sweeping away.

The wind howled and slammed its way through the now empty corridors, knocking on the occasional unfastened window. For sure in a couple of months, a new batch would move into the hostel and there would be life once more in that quiet place. But not the same persons that I had spent such precious moments with over the past 4 years, not the same jokes that we had laughed to and not the same fears that we had faced in moments of adversity. The sum of hostel life will probably never change, but the substance surely will, with every new batch. The comfortable pillow of familiarity that the hostel had provided us with was being ripped in to shreds.

The wind was intent on its purpose. Puff out the old, ring in the new! Abandoned posters, neglected clothes, forgotten photographs, all rustled along in a rush to get out of the way, as the circle of our lives turned yet another revolution.

Third time lucky maybe??


"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars"
- Oscar Wilde

As far realist quotes go, it's quite difficult to beat this one with its wistful mix of both optimism and pessimism, also none more appropriate for my state of mind right now.

This happens to be my third attempt at starting a regular blog, and I sincerely hope that it does not meet a premature demise like its predecessors. Friends and strangers who may lose their way here, please bear with me. Writing has always been a passion with me, especially during periods like the four year incarceration at REC Kurukshetra, but never an activity which shakes out of the deep-rooted laziness that inhabits me. I'll try to be as regular with posts as I am genetically pre-disposed to be( Sorry for that one, Dad! Must be some mutant genes :) ), and you can hope to see a post a week!

What will I write about? Even I am not too sure. It may be some sappy nostalgic tale out of my childhood or a RECK misadventure, it may be a rant against the sheer monotony of a 9 to 5 job, a travel tale, a story of my menagerie of pets over the years or it may just be an abstract piece about how the rain pitter-pattering outside makes me feel!

This blog is my shrink, my clinic where I cut out out of the straitjacket of an office job, out of the reach of those engineering models, drafts and tolerances that keep me swamped 5 days a week! The metaphorical run through the fields, out to a spectacular view of the sea from a high cliff, with the surf breaking below and the wind in my face.

And as for writers who say that they write only for themselves, well, I ain't one of them. Hope that there will be regular visitors to my blog, and give me the ego-massage :) that'll keep me writing! Comments are what blogs are all about. Criticisms are welcome, even though I don't take to them too kindly and that is why I need them even more. Anger is something that might stir me out of my stupor. Virtual In'k'sanity, the online edition of my rambling thoughts is now in business!