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!