Tag Archives: random

Pride and Prejudice

One of the first things that you would notice if you walk into one of the mammoth old buildings around Dalhousie Square in Kolkata are the rows and rows of electrical cables that hang from various corners of the ceiling. The tangles would put to shame a highly intricate streamer decoration at a party.(see some here) They are dangerous, yet everyday people walk in and out or sit for hours under them without a stutter.

In some kind of graphical representation, that is probably what our country looks like. A montrosity thats bursting at its seams, waiting to spill out its contents and held together by a network of flimsy patches at various places. Yet, it stays in place. Just like inside those old buildings, people carry on with their lives nonchalantly. More as an existential pattern they have known for a lifetime. Any alternative is unknown or doesn’t seem to work (and i am guessing here) mostly due to a lack of familiarity. With a billion other people to fight against for a share of food, jobs, a berth on the train and everything else, life as we know it here in India is a constant challenge that most of us don’t really sign up for, but nevertheless accept because otherwise we may risk losing what we have managed to gather.

What breaks this mad rush are incidents induced by nature’s fury or misguided human fury. Like the other day. Bombs, in Mumbai (yet again). What followed was the usual round of calling up friends, family and other folks to check if things were ok. When things settled without the detection of any cause for alarm, one could divert their attention to the messages of wrath that started pouring on various timelines. Some called for an attack on the perpetrators, while others lamented upon the lack of tooth and nail within the general populace. Honestly, even I have felt the same way, when accosted by a situation grave enough to rattle me in some way. However, in most other cases I prefer to maintain a reserve. Not because I do not empathize, but rather I have inherited a trait from a parent who describes it as – unless there is a fully informed solution that has any practical implementation in a conducive environment, it is never a good idea to ramble opinions about sensitive matter. Well.. not in gentle company atleast.

A lot of people have questioned the effectiveness of our intelligence agencies and how porous our defences are that terrorists can make a serious attack with the least of efforts. Personally, I am not in a position or informed enough to provide a serious analysis of where the failure was and how things could be strengthened. Instead what I see is an unmanageable chaos. Stop for a moment and look around. What you’ll see is a unstructured mass – not just of tangible objects like people, vehicles, buildings, but a carefully nurtured cultural shroud that binds all of these. Call it rich Indian heritage, difference in castes, inequality of the classes, regional biases, the all encompassing ‘jugaad’ – in short the cultural fibre that dictates how the people of the land live with each other. And one of the things that rarely finds itself on this list is perhaps ‘respect’.

Its probably hard to describe how thats a conclusion I can come up with, except for the various instances that I see around me. Being a microscopic instance of a billion+ population, it comes down essentially to the equation of demand and supply. The more in number, the more devalued it is. In this case human lives. No one really cares about another person, because they have to struggle to ensure that atleast that one human life still gets a bit of importance – their own. Stretch it maybe a little further to family, children, parents, someone-who-matters. As long as this coocooned bunch is taken care of, nothing else matters. Trains can burn, young children can beg, a hapless guard can be yelled at, plastic bottles can be thrown into rivers, walls can be defaced, red traffic signals can be run over, a bribe paid, examinations cheated, or the nextdoor neighbour called a racist vile term.

Seriously, where is that element of respect that drives a community to stand up with pride and reclaim its glory. I find it really funny when people mouth the cock and bull statements about a ‘country that is unified in its diversity’. Bull crap. Define diversity – the politically correct regional culture or things that create differences worse than plague – religious rigidity, caste based divisions, financial demarcations, occupational supremacy…you name it and we have it. There is always a reason to disrespect the other person standing next to you. How would anyone be able to collaborate with harmony with people they don’t feel good about? Even if its for their own safety? I seriously don’t know. These differences have been passed on for generations and I don’t see it changing very soon.

Its probably like working at a place where you don’t care much about the work, but you get your paycheck at the end of month and go home happy as long as you get to buy that perfect pair of shoes or a crate of poison. Well.. as long as the next bomb doesn’t get you.


“Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”

Jodi Picoult (My Sister’s Keeper)

Sunrise – Norah Jones

This song by Norah Jones is one of my favourites. Besides her beautiful voice, I like the ‘farmville’-ish video that comes with it:

Sunrise, sunrise
Looks like mornin’ in your eyes
But the clocks held 9:15 for hours
Sunrise, sunrise
Couldn’t tempt us if it tried
‘Cause the afternoon’s already come and gone

And I said hoo…
To you

Surprise, surprise
Couldn’t find it in your eyes
But I’m sure it’s written all over my face
Surprise, surprise
Never something I could hide
When I see we made it through another day

And I said hoo…
To you

Now good night
Throw its cover down
On me again
Ooh and if I’m right
It’s the only way
To bring me back

To you

Hate some, Love some

Sometimes unbridled hatred for people drives onwards to massive indifference. Thats probably called moksha in some kind of metaphysical level. Takes away a few smiles but then its not worth any bit of eventual scrap to salvage.

I started reading the first of the much hyped Clifton Chronicles and after a long time, read for nearly 12 straight hours (at night) to finish a book. Brought back good ‘ol memories of similar times, when my mother used to saunter over atleast 5 times during the night to holler, plead, threaten and then retreat with resignation after failing to get me to go to bed.

Spring-Summer time

I woke up this morning and found this beautiful lily all abloom. And as always, there is a song from Gitabitan to celebrate.

বকুলগন্ধে বন্যা এল দখিন হাওয়ার স্রোতে।
পুষ্পধনু, ভাসাও তরী নন্দনতীর হতে॥
পলাশকলি দিকে দিকে    তোমার আখর দিল লিখে,
চঞ্চলতা জাগিয়ে দিল অরণ্যে পর্বতে॥
আকাশপারে পেতে আছে একলা আসনখানি,–
নিত্যকালের সেই বিরহীর জাগল আশার বাণী॥
পাতায় পাতায় ঘাসে ঘাসে    নবীন প্রাণের পত্র আসে,
পলাশ-জবায় কনকচাঁপায় অশোকে অশ্বথে॥

Assorted Randomness

After weeks of unseasonal thunder storms, winter has suddenly descended. A jerkin and socks are needed when the blankets are off in the morning. And just like my childhood days in Shillong, these days I make a dash for the balcony and soak in the sunlight for a while after getting out of bed. The evenings are shorter and badminton raquets have been brought out of the closet. And as has naturally been the norm, one expects noisy days in the sun to follow.

The households around here are inhabited by families of a different make than what I have grown up seeing. Most are couples who work in the offices nearby. Some have one or two small children. The older kids board a school bus in the morning not to be seen again before evening. The younger ones vanish within the walls, probably engrossed in television. Elderly familiy members walk around noiselessly amidst the manicured gardens and pathways and return to one of the innumberable buildings. In the quiet solitude of residential complexes, the only things that seem to have a life of their own are the water sprinklers in the garden.

Contrast this with a normal winter day from our childhood. Term examinations would be over and 2 weeks of holidays followed. After breakfast parents tried to get us to study for a while, more as a discipline than for any academic advancement. Very soon one of the kids from the neighbourhood would come knocking and that was the end of studies. The bunch of kids from the vicinity would gather and with loud squeals everyone would head to the nearest ground where people would group up for cricket, badminton, and random assorted games. If the sun got too hot, then people would gather together to play house and eventually end up with a mud pool to wallow in (don’t even ask). This would continue until lunch time when mothers (and if you are unfortunate enough then a very angry looking father) would notice the mess and start hollering from the windows or sometimes show up near the ground to drag the errant off-spring home. Since daylight hours are at a premium in eastern India during winters, after lunch most kids would be sharing time fighting off the siesta demands at home and start pinging each other. Yet again the groups would gather on some sunny terrace or ground and the loud racket would continue until the sun goes down and the chill sets in. End of a busy day.

Human1: Hey hi. Whats up with you? Did not see you all day.
Human2: Yeah.. sort of having a rough ride. Sorry, I couldn’t look you up either.
H1: Thats alright. You don’t look too good, take a break for while.
H2: Naa, I just want to finish this thing that I am working on. How is it going with you?
H1: I am good. Remember the tour I told you about? I finally managed to work out some dates for that.
H2: That is *good* news. You need to tell me more about this. Lets catch up over coffee or something later?
H1: Ahh… good that you mention. H3 and I were off to the coffee shop and I came by to ask if you wanted to come along.
H2: Umm.. don’t think I can go now.
H1: Too bad. Would you like us to get something for you? Doesn’t look like you have had any kind of food for a while.
H2: That would be great… maybe a donut, if its not too much trouble for you.
H1: No trouble at all. We’ll be back in around an hour. Hang in till then.
H2: Thanks buddy.

… and with a sound of the loud buzzer, H2 wakes up from her dream. Frack!

Is it just me or do humans follow a different conversation protocol (i.e. other than the greeting->general pleasantries->parting-greeting) these days.

It was titled ‘Home’

I stumbled across this (sort-of) post that was written atleast 8 years ago. I don’t even remember who the friend in question was. Give and take a few thoughts from what I feel about the matter now.

Sometime back I came across an old friend who told me that he was sick and tired of living in the city anymore. No employment, no discipline of life, chaotic traffic, pollution, population. In general all the vices et al. On my enquiry of his choice of utopia his answer was like many other young Indians, “America” (the US of A in more precise terms). He had everything chalked out–an IT job, a passport to USA and then plug his tent there for time enough to cleanse his body and soul of his present existence.

For a while when confessions like these are poured out, the painted picture does reflect a red and rosy ‘Big Apple’. Why afterall should we be deprived of respectable social necessities? Why shouldn’t our streets be clean and shiny? Why do we have to spend hours in the dark every evening to balance the power supply? Why aren’t rules diligently followed? And why is every place so very CROWDED. Well, seems like our lives are certainly doomed to the darkness .Yet there’s this little voice at the corner of my heart that always speaks loud and clear. It says–“this is your house. the only place where you belong to. Where words are spoken in your language and your face does not stand out in the crowd for its alien features”.

Living in India is by itself a lesson in diversity. Our states are not marked out in strict geometric patterns, but are based on linguistic demarcations. The ethnicity of one state is alien to the other and the people can be easily identified by their language and lifestyle. Cosmopolitan pockets are very few and scattered. This diversity often leads to ethnic tensions and violence. Yet, in every step that we take we are reminded of our colourful cocktail of cultures and the national mantra of “unity in diversity”. Whatever be the ethnic undercurrents of each region, people enjoy more or less the same rights throughout the country. The rules that bind them are the same and so are their rights.

This faceless entity called a nation is what that finally tugs at my heart when occasionally the faraway lands beckon with all their fantasies. The thoughts of being a second class citizen robs all the colours from the techni-colour dreams. Its like cozying into your own torn bed even when the world’s finest bed is at your disposal. What if our streets are littered and potholed, what if we are always jostling and pushing through a sea of humanity, what if our trains never run on time and our city traffic does not follow any clockwork precision. Its the only home that I have known, and its the only place I know where I’ll not be treated as a step child. maybe at times I’ll be ignored or disciplined or bullied but never told to take the backseat because of my origins.

An oft seen sight when leaders return home after a period of exile, is that they bend down on their knees and kiss the land that they so love. That land bears the essence of their very existence. In similar circumstances it would be the same for most of us. However sententious it may sound, but outside our homeland we shall always remain “guests”. And of course the little voice is always there that reminds me of my home where I don’t need to carry around a passport to establish that I truly belong here.

Home Town

Sometimes I double up as tech-support (from CDs not mounting to social networking crisis) for a few friends. The other day a friend could not figure out how she could set up her ‘hometown’ field in Facebook, since only the options in the drop down were being shown for selection. So I went ahead to simulate the bug and just when I was about to write mine I stopped short. I have been to many places over time and did not know what to write.

1. Shillong – I was born here and my first living memories are about this place. But I lived here with only my parents and the other members of the family lived in the family home at Guwahati. My aunts and uncles also maintained similar satellite units with motherships elsewhere. So technically, it did not qualify as the root of the chart.

2. Guwahati – This was the place with the massive family home. But I never ‘lived’ here as in living in the long term. Only during vacations and did not have any social associations whatsoever.

3. Kolkata – We moved here when I was 10 , restarted school and my growing up years were spent here. But since this was a place with which we did not have any historical connections at all, it was always considered a home-away-from-home in the back of my mind.

4. Pune – This is the coming-of-age city where I established a completely independent identity of my own. Although my family still lives in the house at Kolkata and I keep going back ‘home’ from time to time, but for reasons mentioned in Point #3, it is not ‘hometown’ either. Although Pune is the closest I can call as ‘home’ mostly because it is integral to my current identity, it still is not hometown because I moved in here from elsewhere.

For various reasons I am attached to all these cities, in different degrees of affection which makes it even more difficult to make a choice. So what exactly is my hometown??

The time is right

If you have been to schools similar to mine, you may have often been subjected to the phrase ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ mouthed by very serious looking teachers. Especially ahead of exam times when note-exchanges and cramming were in full swing. Like everything else ever preached by parents and teachers, which were relegated to the ‘banter’ category earlier, these very things seem to make more and more sense with each passing day. As has been said somewhere.. mum always seems right as you grow older. On a related note about the importance of time passing us by which causes actions to lose their relevance, I often quote a tale which was narrated by my dad. (I am a sucker for stories and my well-read Dad keeps on passing me life’s lessons through these narratives). This story, similar to Taming of The Shrew, is probably part of the Arabian Nights or some related genre and to be honest would probably be termed politically inappropriate on various counts in today’s world. Personally, I share the same views about Taming of The Shrew too. In any case, here it goes:

A wealthy merchant had two beautiful but extremely hot-headed daughters. Due to their wild nature, most of their suitors did not stay long enough and much to the consternation of their father they remained unmarried. Finally, the tired merchant sent out word, that whoever marries his two daughters would be rewarded with palatial houses and showered with luxuries fit for a king.

In the same town lived two lazy brothers who were always looking out for easy ways to earn fortunes. They were also aware of the reputation of the two girls, and although they were wary at first eventually they decided to go meet the merchant. As luck would have it, inspite of the announcements the girls had not found any suitors. The merchant welcomed them with open arms and very soon the brothers were married to the two girls.

Some time passed. The two brothers lived with their respective wives and had all the luxuries that they could ever dream of. Yet the two brothers seemed to have had widely different fates. While the elder brother struggled to find breathing space and was constantly abused by his wife, the younger brother seemed jovial and at most times was served hand and foot by his rather obedient wife. The elder brother did not fail to notice this. He took his brother aside and asked him how he had managed to ‘control’ his wife. The younger brother then let him on the secret. On the first night of their marriage, the younger brother was resting in his room. Soon, his newly wed bride entered the room and in her characteristic display of rage started throwing things around and abusing him. The husband watched her go about wildly but remained quiet. After some more time had passed and the wife stopped to rest for a while. It was then that the young man looked sternly at his wife, reached for his sword and proceeded towards his wife. Looking at him, the woman froze. He stopped infront of her and in one swoop chopped off the head of his wife’s favourite cat that was resting nearby. The wife was left open-mouthed and shaking. He threw away his sword and went off to sleep. Since that night, his wife had never troubled him any more.

Armed with this information, the elder brother went back to his home. As was customary, he was subjected to his daily dose of abuse by his wife at night. Waiting for an opportunity, the man drew his sword and following the course of action taken by his younger brother he grabbed his wife’s cat and killed it. He turned to stare at his wife, expecting her to shake in fear. The woman was horrified at the turn of events. But after a few moments of shocked silence, she jumped at her husband with a huge cry , snatched the sword and drove it straight into him.

Message from the story: ‘শাদীর প্রথম রাতে কাটিবে বিড়াল’ (literally translated: kill the cat on the first night after marriage) or in other words, take appropriate action when the time is right. At other times, the same actions would in all probability not result in the same levels of satisfaction/benefits and may even cause harm beyond recovery

Much apologies for the violence. This story has been documented for the benefit of a very charming team-mate Kashyap. Last heard he was trying to figure out if implementing some travel plans would cause some disruptions (*imaginary* from what I could understand) of earth-shaking proportions. Really dude, just go for it before you end up regretting a chance lost forever.

Learning something new

(This post is a day late and very long)

When I was 10 years old, my family moved from Shillong to Kolkata (then known as Calcutta). As is the norm, my parents went hunting for a suitable school for me and finally decided to put me in M.P.Birla Foundation HS School. Besides the usual criteria like – proximity to residence, good teaching staff, reputed management etc., the other factor that apparently favored in the decision making was that the school would be providing facilities to learn ‘swimming’ and ‘horse-riding’. Unfortunately, the same year was the first year of operation of the school and things took time to sort out. Eventually I passed out after 6 years and the two above mentioned coveted activities never happened. I haven’t visited my Alma mater in a long time and am not sure how things stand at present.

Getting me to learn swimming was high on my parents’ list, but given that there were no pools in a radius of 10 kilometers and our individual study/work schedules were grueling the idea was promptly dropped (or rather never brought up again). However, I had it in my balti-list and this year I decided to literally test the water and step in. And for that one needs a swimming dress. I chose a bad day/time to go hunting for one. It was a saturday afternoon and all the sports shops on M.G. Road were closed for siesta. Finally we (I+knowledgeable-crowd-about-swimming-dresses) located one shop that was open and I got myself a military green dress and a rang-birangi vibgyor cap. Next up was getting a membership, so off I was dragged to the gymkhana by pjp to get me enrolled for the swimming classes.

All administrative trivia done, next day I land up at the poolside for my big party. Since I am blind beyond 10 centimeters without my glasses, the locker room lady was kind enough to show me to the pool and introduced me to the coach. The first day the coach told me to dunk my head in the water and taught me how to breathe. Thats when I realised that the most common mistake people do while falling into water is that they open their mouth and try to breathe with their nose and as a result they gulp water in all possible wrong ways. I had done that a week back when I had jumped into water at a team outing. Initially I could not hold my breath for too long, but coach was relentless and he made me practise for one long hour. Since it was early-February and I was not used to spending so much time submerged in water, especially late in the evening, I started getting cold. Thankfully coach let me off for the day. Once out of the pool, I was faced with an even greater challenge – to find the way back to the locker room. After a couple of false starts, I managed to end up in the proper locker room. The breathing routine continued for another 2-3 days, by which time I also started to float a bit by hanging onto the railings for dear life.

Next up, was gliding. Here I have to mention that the pool is about 4’6” deep and considering my height its a pretty scary depth to be submerged in when one doesn’t know how to keep oneself afloat. Gliding was fun. I had to keep my arms straight, breathe and push myself off into the water to float until my breath gave up. The feeling of floating, was liberating. In whatever little way, I was finally in control of my body. However, I needed more practise and coach packed me off to the smaller pool to do it by myself. Another time another place, maybe I would have been embarrassed at this demotion, but in this case I was actually quite happy for two reasons – I won’t get scared because the depth was less and I could develop and practise a convenient personal spin off technique for a considerably longer period of time, without assistance. Coach kept popping on and off to give me tips about posture, breathing etc. And each day he would fish me out of the smaller pool and make me glide again in the bigger pool. One of the important things I learnt around this time was the technique to get into a standing position unassisted. This boosted my confidence as I now knew how to bring myself back into a safe position whenever I needed to.

So the day came when, I started working on a stroke. The breast stroke is the preferred one for beginners here and the first thing one is made to learn is how to move the legs. 1-2-3 the way a tadpole moves. For the next 5-6 days I was put on a glide+tadpole-legs routine. Again I was bundled off to the junior pool for practise practise and then practise some more. Seeing my predicament, one little kid (expert swimmer if I may add) came by and after a closer look at my faltering movement sagely said ‘Aunty, you are moving your back too much‘. In another couple of days, coach handed me a flotation device that would help me learn to lift myself out of the water, breathe and then continue moving forward while maintaining a steady tadpole movement. By this time, I bid goodbye to the junior pool.

I was pretty happy floating in and out with this flotation device, until one fine day coach swooshed past me and snatched it away from my hand. He showed me how to disperse water by using an outward movement of the arms and lift myself out of the water to breathe. For two days I struggled to do one complete stroke without faltering. I gulped water everytime I tried and could not keep myself afloat whenever I tried to lift my head out to breathe. I traversed the entire breadth of the pool.. half walking half gliding and struggling all the way. And then one day, I managed to stay afloat for two complete strokes. I was so surprised that I gulped down some more awful tasting water. Coach grinned back at me and I restarted practise. I started swimming the breadth of the pool (~25 mtrs) with a couple of breaks in between. And one day I simply kept going and reached the other end. I had started timing myself and eventually I cut it down by a minute to complete each lap in 2 minutes. Its probably pretty bad by normal standards.

Last week, coach graduated me to move onto the length of the pool. The first day was a little scary. Every time I lifted my head out of the water to breath, I saw the long expanse of the water ahead of me. I was trying to figure out how to hold onto my energy levels so that I don’t take too many breaks while completing a lap. Also I ran the added risk of getting cramped in the leg, a problem that had been bothering me a couple of weeks back. On the second day, with each lap the number of breaks came down, from around 4 to 1. Eventually, I completed a full 50 mtr lap! Twice over! The final triumph in that level. I felt like putting out a spot for a McDonald’s celebration ad campaign.

Everyday in the pool probably someone completes their own personal goal and no one ever notices in the crowd. Its a source of immense joy and cannot be contained within oneself. Grinning in my head I walked back to office and shared it outright with a couple of folks who I knew would add to the joy with their words of honest encouragement. I had promised myself a blog for the day I completed a pool length lap and this is just that, albeit a day late.

I went back to the pool today and ran a total of 10 laps, 5 of which were complete laps done in ~5 minutes each. Before I move onto the advanced coaching next week, I am trying to gain some speed on my current stroke to cut down on the time for each lap. Considering the fact that my mother and father were both pretty good swimmers, I am counting on my genes a bit to help me ahead with this.