Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hello Bro / Sis!

Since my college days, I have come across a peculiar thought process that students have when they are studying and some continue thinking in the same vein even when they are professionals. It is a concept that I could neither understand, nor could I bow to this thought flow. I always questioned it in my mind and this is the first time that I have got down to analyze it in some depth. The point of discussion is: why do peers of the opposite sex prefer to be either lovers or tone it down to a sibling equation instead of being just friends?

I’m sure all of you at some point of time felt how it’s easier to explain to your lover that your best friend of the opposite sex is like a brother or sister to you. That’s convenient and lays a lot of matters to rest, which includes doubts about your ‘actual’ equation with your opposite-sex friend. But this convenience is something that I would like to question. Why can’t you say that you are friends and still put matters to rest? Why does it have to be coated with the garb of an idea of being siblings? Haven’t these people heard of the word ‘incest’?

Children from their adolescent age are taught to be brothers and sisters, rather than friends. The next-door boy, who was your playmate since you can remember, is suddenly referred to as a brother by your parents. They don’t want a ‘friend’ to visit you anymore, and certainly not inside your bedroom. Only a member of the ‘family’ can do that, and you have to comply to it. If you question it, you are only convincing them that you have mischief on your mind!

I think that it is a by-product of the taboo that exists (yes, still) between a girl and a boy being friends. To call your best friend your sibling is including that person in a sort of family construct, thereby settling matters once and for all that you are not lovers and will never be. I observed that it is not only for others, the two people involved also find a lot of security and comfort in this slotting. Then they can open their minds to other fishes in the pond, because they have got the most nagging of all worries, do-you-love-your friend, sorted out.

In office, colleagues like to get in the comfort zone of being siblings to avoid gossip. Before tongues start wagging about your behind-the-cooler chats with that pretty front office girl, slip it to a jealous colleague that you and she are like brother-sister. That effectively pulls you out from the look-at-me scampering. It might also make you popular with the guys who want access to your (well, sounds awful but that is what you have labeled yourself) ‘sister’. Not a very envious position, right?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Are You Rude?

This is a question that I have asked myself a number of times. I can recall various instances in my own life when I had been rude to people and then felt bad about it. There have been times when I had to be rude in an effort to be honest. There were times when an extra straw piled on me caved my restraint in and I flared up at unsuspecting and apparently innocent people. This afternoon all these instances suddenly consumed the space in my scheme of things and I have no choice but to ponder over the question: what it is that makes people rude?

I believe the basic reason why you become rude is when you are upset with yourself. It could be a sense of helplessness about a cause that you strongly feel about, it could be about unsatisfied or thwarted ambition and dreams, it could be the inability to switch points of view, or it could also be a lack of patience on your part. Very rarely, and I strongly believe this, is the person at the receiving end a cause of your rudeness. I second that old saying, “You can’t be offended unless you want to take offense.”

There is also a fine line between rude and brutally honest. Honesty is always a positive aspect, while rudeness is not. If a person is wrong or dumb, telling it to him is not being rude but being honest. But saying it in a mode that is derogatory is not being honest. It’s like satire and criticism: it could be positive and constructive or negative and destructive.

Rudeness can be expressed by non-verbal gestures too. Sometimes elders condition the young ones to be rude. Yelling at a servant in front of the children ‘teaches’ them to do the same. Rudeness has a very consistent habit of coming back to you. It is one of those aspects that people remember for years and wait to give back in a suitable way. So if you have been rude lately, take the excuse of the New Year and set things correct!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Survivor’s Guide on a Packed Bus

At my place, the only way you can commute to a city office from the suburbs is by fighting your way on a packed bus. While traveling to office this way, I have observed a lot of peculiar things, some of which have seeped into me as well. People who do this daily fight know the survival techniques to live through the experience and tell the tale. Let us consider this post as a guide to breathing on a packed bus till you get to your destination.

The first myth: if you are strong physically, you survive. The truth is quite on the contrary. Surviving on a packed bus doesn’t need strength. It needs stamina. It may be that you are hanging from the door, with only one foot on the footboard. The other leg is usually left to the mercy of the pedestrians on the sides of the road. If they even touch your leg by a whisker, you’ll be hurt badly because of the velocity you are in. If you thought you can keep an eye out for obstructions and move your feet accordingly, you are grossly mistaken. There will be several elbows trying to push your eyes back into their sockets. Your hands are of no help either. They are too busy keeping you perched on the bus. And that is not all. The conductor might ask you to pay up in this condition.

Elbows remind me of yet another survivor’s strategy. Your elbows and your palms are your weapons. But this is not open war, so you have to know how to play safe, without making your intentions too obvious. If you do not get to hold the hand-rails at a suitable angle (remember that your legs are immobile), you have to wait. Wait till the person who has grabbed that part of the hand-rail to twitch his ears or tug at his nose. That’s your chance. Grab the thing before he can get back to it. When you do that, you have taught the trick to that man. Now he’s waiting to give it back to you. So, no twitching or tugging for you over the next half an hour. If it’s summer, you can well imagine! There were times when I got down from the bus feeling I’m off a pool.

Meditation gurus will have a hard time trying to keep their cool on a packed bus, but daily commuters don’t seem to mind. In fact, there are a lot of witty comments passed when the conductor tries to push in an extra person, or when you realize someone is groping you in an effort to take out his purse. Getting on a bus is no child’s play either. As soon as you see the bus, you have to take your position. If you try to move in too early, the other passengers get cautious and try to beat you at reaching the bus. Sometimes, in their eagerness to be the first one on the bus, they go too ahead to meet the bus! The bus bypasses them and stops at the stipulated zone. Then there’s a mad scampering. Mind you, this is not for the seats. Whoever got a seat in the office hours! This is to just to get on the bus and stand like a human being.

It’s all a part of the journey and everyone seems to take in that spirit. There’s hardly any quarrel or bad blood. Everyone knows that this is their lot and the sooner they accept it, the better. I have seen some of them peer at cozy cars when the bus stops at the traffic signal. The car maybe at a distance of just a couple of yards, but to traverse that, the middle class man has to live a lifetime. Sometimes, ‘life piled on life’ would not be enough.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Some Known Predictions

Astrology is a subject that brings out an opinion out of almost everyone. The views may range from indifference to fanaticism. People who believe that they have come to benefit from the remedies suggested by an astrologer can spill the blood of the skeptical, while people who have experienced astrology as nothing more than a money-draining process can hack down the nearest believer that they can lay their hands on. Let me take you through some known predictions.

Relationship, education, career, illness- these are the four main pillars on which astrology supports itself and flourishes. There is no representative of the human race who can claim to be above any of the four. So it can be safely concluded that astrology can be offered as a life-line to just about everyone. But the question is: will they take it?

Knowing the future is a knowledge that we have not been gifted with. Astrology claims to give you access to this knowledge by observing some celestial objects in nature. Astrology also claims to follow the rules of nature. It professes that with the help of natural stones and gems, you can keep any trouble at bay. This is where it becomes contradictory. If astrology is about having faith in the natural, how is it that it doesn’t respect the cardinal law of nature that the future cannot be known?

Gone are the days of Nostradamus. Nowadays you get saffron-clad bearded people sitting in the confines of a posh ‘clinic’, spelling out the ‘future’ of so many people who choose to go to them for help. They are also there on TV channels, sitting with computers and even laptops. They are quick in prescribing costly stones that translate as commissions for them. They claim no responsibility for failure but go to lengths to lap up any piece of success that come their way, which might be pure fluke.

I believe in the power of the individual. If my relationship is not working out, I need to sort it out with my partner. If my grades are tanking, I need to switch that TV or computer off and open my books. If I’m going nowhere in my career and have hit an all-time low, I need to get myself a cup of coffee and chalk my way out. If I’m down with a disease, I need a doctor, healthy food and exercise. I can’t sit and rub a stone for the genie to appear and solve my problems for me.

Astrology makes you impotent. It takes away the desire to fight. It does more harm to the psychological balance than failure can ever do. It makes you feel like a piece of dry twig, blowing at the mercy of whimsical celestial bodies and conniving ‘gurus’. Yes, I want to know the future too, but more than that, I want to shape it the way I want. If things don’t go my way, as they generally don’t, I’d rather side with stoicism than astrology.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Therein Falls the Shadow

A friend called up this afternoon to tell me that she has decided to set up a business of her own. She plans to have a boutique, which will showcase and merchandize clothes that will be designed and put together by her. Before you ask me if she’s a fashion designer, let me tell you, she’s not. But she has a dream and she has been nurturing it for some time now. Here’s wishing her the best.

On hindsight, I have not been able to cover up some guffaws that escaped involuntarily when I was talking to her. She took it that I am being sarcastic, but I was not. It was plain cynicism, if I am being honest to myself on this: cynicism at the way dreams have dashed around me since childhood, left, right and center. There were many peers in our neighborhood and in my family who were tipped to be great ‘success stories’. My parents told me to take inspiration from them and put in more effort.

I was always so laid-back and was always a firm believer in the idea that I can always outdo myself, but not be someone else. I didn’t like competition. I quietly smiled at them and did my thing. Wonder where I got that wisdom from, maybe some wise ancestor! But as it were, these prospective ‘success stories’ vanished into oblivion by the time I reached college. And suddenly I had my entire extended family telling my parents what an intelligent fellow I am! I was so sadistically pleased.

I am happy with what I have done so far, except for that one nagging desire to be involved with a newspaper. Maybe I would realize that in the recent future. Ambition, if kept under achievable means, provides impetus. If not checked, it plucks out one emotion after another and leaves you dry. The important part is not to let the chasm between your means and destination be too wide, you might trip over and plunge into the abyss. 

It is very difficult for people who are gifted by ability and shunned by luck to find peace within. Talent and bad luck makes an ugly combination and is sure to go haywire. You’d hardly find an average person being haunted by failure or jubilated with success. But if you are someone special in terms of skill and expertise, it is doubly important that you keep things reined in. Try not to let the shadow be too long or too dark. There is no light at the end of that tunnel.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Suburban Election

Yesterday I had the privilege of putting out my vote. It is a privilege that I should have taken for granted because of being lucky enough to be a part of the world’s largest democracy. But I have not been able to take it for granted. Don’t think it is because of some graver-than-a-grave reason, it is only because each time there is an election, I’m scared that somebody will masquerade as me and cast my vote! Surprised? Welcome to a typical suburban election process in West Bengal, and probably in many other parts of India as well.

The process starts with representatives of the two main political parties in West Bengal, the Communists and the Trinamool Congress, turning up at your door with paper slips that contain your voting details like the booth number, polling center address, etc. You cannot miss the party logo and the candidate’s name printed on the paper even if you were blind. So you end up with two paper slips containing the same details! It’s propaganda, you know, and one has to outdo the other.

On your way to the polling booth, you will come across party booths manned by faithful cadres who can make things ‘easy’ for you if you happen to be without any identity proof. They have ‘inside’ assistance. This ‘inside’ assistance can backfire on you if you are not a regular voter or if you are known to vote for the opposition party. They know everyone and are more or less sure about everyone’s political leanings. How they do this is a secret better kept than the Coca-Cola mixture. So if you don’t owe your allegiance to them, it might be that you may not get to cast your vote at all.

They have sharp eyes, these cadres. They know how many people are walking down to the polling booth at which hour. If they spot a family of four voters being represented by only three of them, they make sure that the absence of one voter is not reflected on the turnout percentage. What are the party cadres for if they do not vote more than once? As for the blue ink that the polling officer puts on the left hand index finger as a giveaway mark of people who have already cast their vote, the ink is so watered down in most cases that it can be taken off with just a well-timed swipe of the handkerchief.

I have heard instances of Bengalis claiming themselves to be South Indians and casting “proxy votes”, as they are proudly referred to. There are occasions when you turn up at the polling booth and find that your vote has already been cast! Don’t be expecting assistance from the polling officers appointed by the government. How could you forget that the government is also formed by a political party? Whoever won a fair and free election in these parts?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Grabbing ‘Gobment’ Service - I

Yes, that is how Bengalis refer to government jobs. Landing up with one is the dream around which middle-class family life revolves. Every teenager in a typical middle-class Bengali family is advised extensively to get a Public Service Commission card and try to obtain as many forms for government exams as possible. Then you have to go through the grind that has multiple layers, only to end up in a beetel-stained, dilapidated office building, writing a yellow-paged logbook with a pen that has a blue and red refill at either ends. It’s so stereotypical.

But there are quite a few slips before you make it to that creaky chair that promises lot of job security but zero job satisfaction. You need to sweat it out at serpentine queues, umbrella in one hand and water-bottle in another, not to forget a bag dangling on your shoulders containing all your marksheets, their Xerox copies, your birth certificate, your ration card, your identity card, and many other cards that can make life so smooth for you. Then with the form in hand, you need to go around hunting out gazetted officers from their privileged holes. When they have blessed you with their stamp of approval (better keep some time in hand, they may not have the rubber stamp with them always, and when they do, there might not be enough ink in the stamp pad) and signature, it’s time to figure how to deposit the money and where. Better ask some veteran in this field, for there are many aspirants who are struggling for years and know more about the details of the exam than the examiners. If you want your money to reach its destination, rely on ‘senior’ advice.

Then you wait. Yes, wait for the postal system to find out your house among millions (don’t argue that you have attested a self-addressed envelope with the form) to get you the admit card. When it gets delivered to you, it’s just on the day before the exam, or in a worse case scenario, after the exam. In the former case, you need a topographical map then. No, you are not going on a trek, it’s just that the exam center is so remotely located that you need archaeological assistance. After you have zeroed in on the exact location and called up everyone you know to find out which God-forsaken transport you need to perch yourself on, go to sleep early for you have to get up real soon the next day for your government exam!

What happens on the exam day? Stay tuned for
Grabbing ‘Gobment’ Service - II

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rituparno-Mir Face/Off

Much is being said and written about the way Mir was interviewed, and for many, insulted, by Rituparno Ghosh on his show Ghosh & Company. As it is, brickbats are flying thick and fast towards Rituparno for having messed things up for Mir, the most popular RJ in town. There were many uncomfortable questions being raised and many others getting drowned in the angry reactions that followed.

Frankly, I didn’t find anyone writing on the other side of the coin, so I took it up on myself to throw light on certain points. To begin with, Rituparno kept stating it again and again that he was not speaking for himself, he was speaking for many other people like him who speak in a ‘womanish’ way. He made it abundantly clear that he did not care or feel bothered by the imitation and mimicry that Mir dealt out to delighted audiences.

The fact is that we were disturbed by this conversation not because Mir was being made to answer uncomfortable questions, but because we, who have taken a lot of fun and delight at his mimicry and imitation till date, got ruffled by his questions. We were made to realize that so long we have been taking sadistic pleasures at the cost of a certain section of people. We realized that we were all equally wrong for having eaten out of his hands while he dished out insensitive, irresponsible comments and gestures.

The most blatant part is that we did not realize this aspect before Rituparno pointed it out. Yes, we have been that insensitive. I’m also not willing to buy this talk of Mir being silent because he is a gentleman. He was silent because he was caught on the wrong foot and the only way he could get out of it was to act like a martyr, which he did to deadly effect.

As for a guest being insulted, let me point out that Mir had been doing this thing at events where Rituparno was an invited guest as well, and that too repeatedly. Where were these ‘atithi devobhava’ supporters then? There may also be questions that Mir does it in good humor and when other celebrities don’t have a problem, why does Rituparno take up arms? There are two answers to this: one, there’s no logic in the fact that if someone takes insults lying down, everyone would. Two, imitating Rituparno is not imitating the man; it is imitating many other men like him. That is the cardinal point that everyone seems to be missing conveniently.

As for the allegation that Rituparno did it for TRPs, let me point out that Mir built up his ‘brand’ of humor by relying hugely on imitating Rituparno. We all know that imitating Rituparno is the best weapon in his armory. As Rituparno rightly said, he has been making money out of this for years. And Rituparno, whose films are so eagerly awaited, does not need to pulverize an RJ to grab eye-balls.

While writing all this I never forgot the fact that it is just a show. Yes it is. But there are many who forgot that there exists something that art calls ‘poetic justice’. This is just a humble attempt to remind them.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Applying Education

Being educated and applying that education in day-to-day life is entirely different. I have come across people who have undergone the best rigors of education possible but have not been able to open their eyes to see the world through that privileged veil of education. They continue to be superstitious or even worse, have a bias based on class and gender. That, I feel, is a thorough failure on the part of the person to do justice to his education.

It’s like a doctor leading a rather unhealthy and undisciplined life. Parents who expect their daughters to settle down as home-makers despite their willingness to go out and work, do great injustice not only to their daughter but also to their own efforts to get her educated. I would like to point out here that I’m not looking down on women who choose home-making over a professional career. My mom is a home-maker and I know that it’s tougher than not to be a home-maker. What I’m trying to point out is that the right of choice should lie with the person concerned. That is something that well-educated parents fail to understand in most cases.

Being blind to technological progress is in my opinion another example of how people do not use their education to better their lives. For example, many middle-aged people shy away from mobile phones, trashing them as unnecessary appendages to the family budget. If only they would rise up to the fact that they have to move with the times and update ‘themselves’!

It may seem that I’m out to pan everyone and be the social redresser, but that is not the case. I do not have the means or the temperament to bring about any change at the macro level. But if we make an effort in our own little way and use our education to be more tolerant and responsible, I’m sure things would turn for the better. It takes very little personal effort to act responsibly and sensibly in public life, but it goes on to make a major difference at some level. Public nuisance is another topic that I want to speak out on. Stay tuned…

Friday, November 14, 2008

Belong to Books

Books have always been great friends and companions to me. I grew up without any peers in my house or in the neighborhood. The only friends I had were in school and connecting with friends during the vacations or off-days were not so much in vogue, as it is nowadays. Today there are better, advanced methods of communication, and cheaper rates to use them. Add to it the whole idea of hanging-out with friends for movies and shopping didn't happen back then in the small town I live in. As a result, I had to remain holed up in the house and find ways to keep myself sane.

I never liked TV much. Listening to songs was great, but I got bored of the same songs after a certain amount of time. There was no FM or MP3. Writing about those days now, I feel I'm talking about some pre-life! So books were what I took to, other than the daily newspapers. I feel uncomfortable if I have not read the newspaper even today. My parents never asked me to put down a book that did not belong to my syllabi, even if I was reading it on the day before an exam. That built in me the faith that reading books was one way in which I can keep them contented. And so began my love affair with books and I would not hesitate a nanosecond to say that books are my first love.

I read a lot of Hardy Boys and Enid Blyton stuff in middle school. I think I have read all the Hardy Boys' books! We had a lot of them in our school library. There was a group of Hardy Boys readers. We were allowed to have only one book per week. So we exchanged books between ourselves and read about three books every week! In high school I took to Jeffrey Archer and Sidney Sheldon. I have read almost all works of Archer and quite a few of Sheldon. It was only in college that I began reading Bengali literature and English books that had depth in content.

When I started teaching English to high school students in private, I was appalled that they had never read a book except the ones that they were forced to read, thanks to the school syllabi. I pushed books from my own collection under their noses, but still they would not sniff at the alluring fragrance. I lost a few books because I forced them to take my books home and read. They never returned them, lest I quiz them. I told their parents to encourage their children to read more, but they did not pay attention. They want their children to get marks, not learn.

Books can make a life out of the mess you may be in. To anyone who does not like reading, I say that it is akin to not liking the process of breathing. Lack of education and knowledge even among people with degrees and scholarships under their belts are making things worse for the society we live in and also the future we are heading towards. I'll elucidate on this in my next post.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Withering With Work

The 14th Kolkata Film Festival is on. My friend is watching movies left, right and center! When she was in the office with me(she quit just a few days back), we had made plans to blend our love for movies with our office schedule, so that neither suffer a set back. Then she quit suddenly, got herself a delegate pass and is now bathing in the delightul waters of world cinema. I'm trying my best not to allow the wood of my desk to enter my soul and deaden it.

I have always wondered why do I have to sit at my desk for a stipulated period of time when I can easily do the required work at my own convenience. Guess that is the special privilege for which people do freelance work. I have plans to quit full-time jobs and doing freelance work in the future too. I don't think creativity, that is so important in the type of work I want to do, happens to you or me at a definite time. You may sit for hours at office and write nothing of any value and finish that task and more at the dead of the night, when you have this crazy urge to do things.

That is what we should all respect - the will of the mind to work at some times and to be idle at others. If we do not follow the statutes laid down by the mind, we are more likely to be unhappy, discordant and depressed. Working when you don't want to, not only affects your work in a negative way, but also drills out your life force. There may be afternoons when you just want to laze and loll. If you are handed with a tableful of files, it does no good to your motivation. What it does is, that it makes you bitter and rebellous.

There are more important things in life than sitting at your desk in an air-conditioned room and earning money to secure your and your family's future. Yes, that is very important as well, and that needs money. I don't shy away from this very realistic fact and that is why I advocate freelance work. Freelance work not only pays your bills but also leaves you ample time to mull over the greatest gift that you have - life. Life has so many vistas waiting for us to explore and the only roads we know well lead to our office or the bank.

While it may seem odd to people around you that you do not a 'proper' job, just ask yourself if you live for them. If the answer is no, you have every right to live life the way you want. Just make justified choices and take calculated risks. I'm not saying I have been able to practice what I'm preaching, but I'm working towards living life my way. I want to do things that want to do. I don't want to spend a life securing the future and then realising, that in an effort to ensure the destination, I have forgotten to enjoy the journey. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Some Time Their Way

Dad was in the hospital last week. He was diagnosed with fever arising out of a liver infection. I took him to a nursing home suggested by the doctor who has been monitoring his condition since 2005. I have faith on the doctor and when dad falls seriously ill, I take heart from the fact that he’ll be okay if I can somehow get him examined by this doctor. I assure my mom saying that if we pay the exorbitant bills of the nursing home and this particular doctor, there is no cause of concern about dad getting well.

Things cruised smoothly for four days, the first day of which he spent in the Intensive Care Unit. Things spiraled out of control when I tried to get him discharged. I had decided to pay the bill during lunch hour and take him home after my office. But I did not know the delay that was waiting for me. 

The cashier had asked me in that morning to come at 2pm and pay. He nodded his head from the extreme right to the extreme left, reassuring me that the work will be done in ten minutes. He promised to keep the bills ready. Believing him was my greatest mistake.

When I turned up at 1.50pm, nothing was ready. I had asked my office HR to spare me fifteen-twenty extra minutes after lunch hour got over at 2.30pm, should I get late. My idea was to get the work done so that I can avoid taking a day off from office. I looked around for the cashier who had assured me. He was not to be found. I ran around from desk to desk to get the paper-work ready. The nurses were irritated on being asked to do something, the Resident Medical Officer refused to hold the pen during the unearthly hour of 2pm.

Finally when the paper-work got done at 2.30pm, I was told for the first time that they have a lunch hour till 3pm. I have no right to protest if I want my work to be done. I waited. The HR back in office was getting impatient. He refused to see reason in my logic that an hour conceded that day can actually earn a whole working day for the company. 

At 3pm, the iron shutters opened to reveal a drowsy lady behind the computer at the cash counter. She told me the nurses were preparing the bills, it’ll take half an hour for that to get done! I waited. At 3.30pm I knocked again. She told me the bills were there but she needed to make entries on her machine. There is no LAN facility or whatever. I didn’t expect it also. Again I was back in the waiting room.

Around 4pm, she called me. The bill exceeded the estimate they had given me. I had to rush to the nearest ATM and get the extra money. When I was on the verge of bursting in indignation, she started checking each 500 rupee note in a ultra-violet light! To top it, the plug of this light was loose and she had to hold it with one hand. When I ultimately got through and rushed out into a cab, the HR called me to say that I have been marked ‘half-day absent’ because I was out for too long!

After these few days after the incident, I don’t know whom to blame. If the state of affairs in a private nursing home is this, what can be expected of government-aided hospitals and medical institutions? I wonder where we are headed as a country and as a state. Staff at hospitals and nursing homes comes across as extreme procrastinators. The irony is that ideally they have to be the most alert of all professionals because they deal with moments that decide life and death. I’m disappointed to say the least.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yu Yu for You

Yu Yu got a message on her phone,
I know it from the familiar ring-tone,
She wants to get her stuff done,

Before she begins her evening fun!

She likes going to the pub,

There she sits with a tub

Filled with vodka or beer
She always has people who do the cheer.

Everyone wants to hang out with her,
Everyone is scared of her temper.
People don't rub her the wrong way
Lest she bites their heads away!

She has a lot of tricks up her sleeve,

Ask me, Chanchal, if you don't believe!

Monday, October 20, 2008

To Leave or Not to Leave

It was just another day. I walked out of my home at the usual time and was checking my watch every other minute, cursing myself for being late by about ten minutes. It was a Saturday and I knew that buses would not be so crowded, so I was taking it easy since morning. Now that I was late, I was beginning to have doubts if I’d reach office on time.

I was walking on the main road, toward the bus-stop which was a few paces away. There’s a make-shift market on the road at this time of the day. I was making my way through the scattered groups of people buying fresh fruits and vegetables. I met a neighbor. He was walking and dragging his cycle along, checking out the wares on display. He looked at me with surprise and said, “How will you go? There’s a bus drivers’ strike on.” I was aghast.

Then it struck me that on the previous day, the bus conductor was telling a passenger about this strike. On hearsay, it was a protest because of a new law against drivers who commit accidents. The drivers haven’t taken fancy to this law and decided to take a day off to think about it. As a result, there was a general bus strike in our area. Some parts were unaffected, because the strike was not publicized in the right manner, neither did it have the support of any political party.

I was stranded without a choice. The cabs that strolled in refused to bring me to the city. They were looking for passengers who would travel more than I needed to. This was the time to make some dough. They didn’t want the opportunity to go begging. I waited at the bus-stop, hoping against hope that something will come along and I can make it to office. My illusion melted with each passing minute. Ultimately it was so late that there was no point in coming to office even if I could have.

I walked back home, dejected and humiliated. I generally stay at home during strikes and hartals because I don’t want to return home this way. It was then that I realized how people feel when they are denied their right to put in a hard day’s work. I won’t say that I am a workaholic or something, but when I go out with a mind-frame to do some work, I’ll not have someone spoil my day. I was extremely irritated and for the first time in my life, it struck me that there was no point in expecting things to change in this State. Most things are beyond repair and if one had the intellectual ability to think beyond the lazy, languorous limits this State binds you to, you have to look for options outside the State.

This is not escapism. This is being practical. There is no point in probing deeper into a tunnel to look for light when you can very well see it’s a blind alley. I had a lot of hope from this State, especially because my ambitions are limited. However, things are such that even my moderate ambitions are being quelled each time I see the collective apathy of the people or the government to set things correct. More on this later…

Friday, October 3, 2008

What’s the USP?

USP, or Unique Selling Proposition, in advertising parlance means a particular quality or feature that makes an entity different, segregated and isolated from the others. When you are talking about USP of a car or carton, you are speaking of the quality that makes it unique from all other cars or cartons. Determining the USP of an object does not knit creases on your forehead. But, what do you say when you are asked what the USP of your writing is? I’ll explain.

Let’s face it: there is no dearth of writers. But few get appreciation, even fewer get published. Why is this so? It is imperative for the writer to cultivate a style that is unique from the others, say the pundits. But is it really possible? There is no debate over the fact that to write well, you need to read extensively. While reading, you cannot help but internalize the writing style of your favorite authors. They have, no doubt, been influenced heavily by their favorite authors. So it is a chain of influences and internalizations that has made the writer of today. How do you gauge the USP then?

Writing, I believe, should come from the heart. That is the USP of a writer. Even if your thoughts are in disarray, even if your syntax leaves room for improvement, even if your ideas have not spilled out onto the paper as you’d wanted it to, the honesty of purpose will shine through and connect with your reader. There is a conviction that grows on you when you believe in what you are writing. That is something that you cannot point out as tangible, but it is there as the air we breathe. You can feel that permeating your thoughts when you read a piece written from the heart. That is the USP of a writer, and that can only come across when you write to express your heart.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

She’s Here

With the Mahalaya over, it’s time to welcome the Goddess of Power. This fortnight is the time when the goddess is said to be visiting her parents’ house from her in-laws, residing in heaven. Calcutta is the place to be during the Durga Puja if you want to savor the flavor of this otherwise pan-cultural festival. I’m going to talk about the Puja and the impact it has on the lives of the people in the state in general, and the city in particular. But that will come only when we move deeply into the festivities. Let’s soak in the aura of autumn first.

Yesterday when I was going home, I could feel it in the air that She’s here. The decorative lights are slowly being put up. In some places they are hanging down from the walls of the neighboring buildings, while in some places bamboo stands are being erected to frame the ornamental lights. There are hoarding and banners all over the city, announcing the name of the Puja club or community, along with a tag of the main sponsor. That is something that has crept in stealthily, but steadily. Funds collected from the neighborhood are not enough anymore, what with steep inflation and stiff competition.

There is a distinct feel in the air that is very familiar to the nose of every self-respecting Calcuttan. This sense of happiness is what permeates into your skin and grows on you until you feel positively charged. This sense of happiness is not commercial, though the Pujas are determinedly headed that way. This sense of happiness makes the prince and the pauper happy alike. Work at all places is getting slack with each passing day, as we inch closer to the four main days. There is a prevalent sense of procrastination. Schools are slowly closing shutters for a period and work at office is getting postponed in chunks. All the year we wait for these few days, the anticipation reaches fever-pitch and then after one fine day, all of it is undone. The routine returns.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Stray Thoughts on Love, Infidelity, etc.

I don't know who spread the rumor that you can love only once. Also, I don’t believe in the concept of 'first love'. Love, if you ask me, is no competition where you get ranks. Love can touch your heart anytime, anywhere. It could also be more than once in a lifetime. Love is not like the arrow that goes straight and hits a target. It is like the light emitting from a torch; it glows and spreads in all directions, giving light and warmth to all.

A lot has been said, thought and written about physical infidelity. No one seems to care about the emotional aspect of cheating on your partner. What if you are in your partner’s arms but thinking of a person who’s not there with you, but is vibrant on your mindscape? Is that not cheating on your partner? Maybe I’m being too strict for my own good! But that is a side that I would like to explore. I don’t really believe in the brouhaha over sexual disloyalty. I’m more concerned with the disloyalty of the mind. That, I think, is more interesting and arresting.

Flirting with random people is a very boring affair. The tenacity of keeping up pretence for long is strenuous and self-defeating. You flirt because you want a diversion from the daily drivel. In pursuit of that you exhaust yourself coming up with witty remarks and most tiring of all, keeping that fake smile firmly in place. At the end of it all, you are full of doubt, about your own intentions as well as that of the person you were trying to impress.

There is nothing like having a steady partner by the side. But, there is a catch. Your partner, as a person, is losing importance each day. There are other less important issues that are making themselves manifest. That’s a topic that is beyond the scope of this post. To round it off, let me make a declaration. This post is disjointed in thought, as you can well understand. That is deliberate. I want you to fill up the gaps by your own reading of the post.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Recession

These are tough times. I suddenly woke up to a scary reality that was always lurking one step behind me, silent and chilling. Faith and trust in people you know have diminished in alarming proportions. The ‘sea of faith’ that Matthew Arnold talked about in his poem ‘Dover Beach’ has receded too deep for us to drench our heated souls in the comfort of its cool water. I can perceive people losing the basic trust that binds a person to another. They do not trust anymore. They do not care anymore.

The only entity shining through the haze of mistrust and skepticism is the ubiquitous ‘Me’. Everyone seems to be so full of themselves and in such awe of their own potential that they refuse to see the good in others. Honest appreciation is too often mistaken for brazen flattery. The isolation of the human spirit from the collective consciousness of the universe is stark and depressing. The modern modes of consolation, that keep the hapless soul occupied, are deepening the ridge between people.

In such a bleak scenario, it is difficult to keep faith either in the power without or the one within. What must we do to liberate the sea of faith from the perennial pull of the moon called ‘doubt’? What must we do to trust our fellow beings- our families, our co-workers, our co-travelers, our neighbors, our stranger friends? The questions far outweigh the answers and numb the senses to a disturbing mum.

Monday, August 4, 2008

This is a song from the Hindi movie 'Omkara'. The movie is adapted from Shakespeare's 'Othello'. Though I can talk for days about the movie, all I'll do now is post a translation of a song from it. This song is brilliant in itself, so if you listen to it, nothing like it. But if you do not understand the language, I'm putting it up for you. The lyricist is Gulzar.

No more, the words will speak for themselves...

Lakad ( Wood)

Wood burns into coal, coal turns to ash,
But when the soul is scorched, nothing happens -
No smoke, no ash
Do not scorch the soul...

Ice melts to water, and flies away as clouds.
The agony on the soul is so stubborn,
It does not melt, nor moves away.
The support of the banks
Flows away into the river -
Do not anchor here.
Do not involve the soul,
Do not scorch the soul...

False promises, loose talk -
With the advent of monsoon,
Washes away, floats away with the drizzle...
Live as much as you desire,
The rains cannot quench it.
Do not scorch the life in me,
Do not scorch the soul...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Comeback

I am blogging after a gap of quite a few days. The reasons were plenty. There are some changes happening in my professional life. My personal life is still in a qualified mess. But there’s something happening on a front; I won’t reveal the details now, because it’s too early to make a definite comment on that.

By the way, I have broadened my friend-base at Orkut and that has in turn brought me into contact with a couple of friends back from school. Though it was nice to hear from them after a long time, I have a peculiar problem on my hand when interacting with them.

The problem is that I don’t know what to say to extend the conversation. After knowing what each other are doing, there’s nothing more to say. Then it comes to finding out what the others of our batch are doing, though I’m least interested to know about most of them! So many things have happened over the years in their lives as well as mine. It’s impossible to give an update without irritating the person with redundant, irrelevant details. There are also people who never even said ‘Hi’ to me back in school!

So I avoid making contact with old friends. It’s not ego or something, it’s just that I can’t relate to what they are today with what they are in my memories. That is when the entire effort seems tiring. I am sure many of you would agree with me, won’t you?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Continued Blankness

For the last couple of days, I’m experiencing a continued sense of blankness, a kind of boredom that refuses to go away. This boredom has been part of my thought-process for quite some time now.

Last day, I messed up the HTML coding that I had to do. My TL let me off without putting too much stress on me. Since then I was under a lot of pressure so that today I don’t mess up the codes again. Thankfully, things were better today. I have submitted the coding but it’s not checked yet.

My mood is quite irritable too. A student called in the morning to ask the day off and I was really willing to curse her for bothering me. Then I felt very guilty about it. But then the damage had already been done.

Hope things improve quickly. Will post tomorrow again…

Monday, June 30, 2008

A Tryst With Boredom

Its Sunday evening and I am sprawled out in my bed, trying to get through this evening. Saturday had been well spent. We had lunch at Hatari's and then took a cab to go to the South City Mall. But midway we decided to watch Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic.

Now back to the present. I want to pen down some lines in verse to express my mood:

An Empty Ode

Sterile thoughts clog my void brain,
I cannot wade through thoughts profane;
The want far exceeds the frugal means
Of sustenance that life did me ordain.
Each day the boredom I despise.
The numbness remains my inevitable shadow,

When will life bring me a surprise?

I feel compelled to shield my eyes
From the naked sprinklers of the past,

What stark, bare force in them lies

That bring them up, out of the dust?

The need of a physical gesture escalates,
And blocked are the routes of escapades.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Prologue

Come to think of it, I decided to jump onto the blog band-wagon quite late. It is only when I started writing blogs as part of my professional duties that I realized the scope and thrill of writing a blog. After long discussions with myself about the content of my blog, I could not come to a conclusion. That generally happens when you have a strong Libra influence!

So I decided to name my blog ‘Pandemonium-Unplugged’. For those who are not in the know of the origins of the term ‘pandemonium’, let me offer a short explanation. The word was used by
Milton in his epic Paradise Lost to name the capital of Hell.

Etymologically, the word
hell has come from the Old English word helan, which means ‘to conceal’. That is the sense I have borrowed here. In this blog, the thoughts that are concealed in my mind would be bared!

Don’t expect any civilization-defining truth coming out over here! I’ll write about issues I feel like, but do not express due to a whole lot of reasons. It is not a niche blog that will contain posts on any particular topic only. It will be a quiver: take your pick!

This is a work of fiction. Resemblance to any place or person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.]