Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sometimes, I wonder....

Sometimes, often on a sunny day, a bunch of clouds comes and blocks out the sun, even if only for a while…and the world around you changes! Sometimes this change causes a certain relief… you wipe off the sweat take a deep breath, let the breeze fall flat on your face…enjoy the those small moments of calmness and even if for few moments feel relieved from your day to day headaches. But sometimes it’s different. Its like waking up from a dream and realising that things are changing…have changed…and you are left with a sinking feeling in your stomach which you might have felt before the exams you were not prepared for. There is so much left to do!

The day Saurav retired was one such occasion! (Now am sure you were expecting something little deeper than this…but bear with me!) In our day to day job, we often lose the time, in the sense we don’t realise how time has gone by…that’s why engineering college just seems like a matter of yesterday…school in Kolkata…last week…Patna….last month maybe! And then one of these days you realise ….its been a long time since!

The T.V. at my home in Patna was 11 months younger to me. Those times colour T.Vs had just been launched in Patna, and my dad got a brand new Telerama Colour T.V. And that is why a lot of my early childhood memories consist of … Karamchand, Vikram aur betal, Football world Cup ’90 (for me it used to be yellow vs stripes and not Brazil vs Argentina), Wimbledon….etc. My conscious entry to the world of sports that is by the time I had started playing cricket etc and started understanding the game, kind of coincided with the entry of Sachin and Kambli. Being a left handed batsman myself my favourite was Kambli while my best friend, Amit’s (yeah…back then it was a rule to have best friends!) who was right handed, Sachin! In a matter of a year or two, I changed loyalties however. Let me give you a slight bit of insight about Bengali mentality- education is a must! ...higher the better…it doesn’t matter if you are the king of the world…but if you are a college drop out…too bad, lad!…you aren’t good enough. So Kumble and Sreenath in a way chastised cricket as a sport in my family… they were engineers after all!

I have never really been a die hard fan of anyone, ever… I mean, it’s not that unless its Amir Khan’s movie, I won’t watch a Bollywood movie…but cricket somehow condensed to a single entity- Sachin! The way he demolished bowlers was nothing less than watching Stallone taking on a Vietnamese platoon on his own in Rambo-II. I remember, those days if anyone asked me a synonym of devil, I would have said- Courtney Walsh, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis…’cause somehow they bowled those perfect out-swinging good length deliveries, or those in-swinging Yorkers, which used to catch my hero off-guard, and would stop him from another century or India from another win. People can talk about team game and all but back then Sachin carried the fate of the team, except on those odd days when someone else stood up and took the lead.

Then came a left handed batsman, who at least on the off-side “was next only to God!”… Saurav Ganguly. Of course being a bong myself, I have more than one reason of being extremely proud of him, but the reason I was really proud of him was…he was the only batsman in the last decade and half, who was a worthy companion of Sachin on the pitch...who even in all the brilliance of the little genius had his own aura…who made the bowlers soon realise that Sachin was not their only worry…in some cases much worse! I had never before seen a pace bowler of the stature of Shaun Pollock being so rudely mocked at…when he stepped out nearly half way down the pitch and hit him for a six over long on…or for that matter any spinner worth his name, in similar disdain, over mid-wicket.

Together and individually, they have crushed several bowling attacks, given several bowlers nightmares (quite literally)… raised sand storm on the field (Sharjah Cup, Finals)… mocked British hypocrisy right in their holy grail of cricket (Lords, Natwest Series Finals)…while I enjoyed every moment of it...tried to emulate them on field (don’t even compare…it’s a sin!)…prayed for them (more than I ever did for my IIT entrance exam)…sat on my couch in same position for hours at end, because that was lucky for them…jumped around with that pure exaltation of having achieved something amazing…as if their success was my own!

And now I will see them no more on field…through the time, I had kind of taken their presence for granted…how much ever we criticised their form, performance…age…I hadn’t prepared myself for their final departure. Ganguly’s retirement, as I said, was a harsh wake up call…a sure sign of the departure of my childhood heroes…of a change I have seen happen over the years but never really accepted… of a realisation that –“Dude! You are no more a college going student…you are no more safe from the worldly headaches…there are no more safe havens…You are on your own…Are you really up to it?”… I don’t have any pre-rehearsed answer for this…but so far things look nice…kind of promising…We won the first two matches against England…We should win this series…things are good for now…may be this will last a little more… by the time get used to the change…to the absence of my heroes!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Life is full of tough choices!

Since, probably the beginning of human race (ahem!)…there has been A “to be and not to be” kind of issue which has kept the best of minds of this race of Homo-Sapiens… (Read B-school grads) wondering…. Sales or marketing!!??? I don’t claim to be an exception. So after I got placed in this extremely well reputed FMCG company (don’t ask how I managed it…), I spent several sleepless nights pondering over this issue, without much help.

Finally I joined the company and started with my sales stint. It was, well as bad as its oft rumored…but as it turned out…its awesome in several ways, which are not so often spoken about. But more of that later…. So you see my dilemma here… I went through my sales stint not hating it…in fact… I daresay liking it! Next ... it was marketing stint’s turn… and well as expected…actually somewhat unexpected too… it started with a bang…here are some of the excerpts…judge for yourself…

Day 1: Catching up on gossips and rumors (and they say…oohh! We have so much work…yeah rite!!!)…. Suddenly a someone said from the corner, “do you know who was seen roaming around…hand in hand during the regional meet?”
Our eyes shone in the sheer anticipation of the news… we waited with bated breath, and we all asked in unison, “WHO?”
“D..M..”
“With WHOM?”
“His boss” … and don’t get ideas here… he is a guy… but on second thoughts why not!
And there it began… and finally we concluded that D..M..’s relentless pursuit of a suitable girl and resulted in what we call in marketing terms – “exploring newer territories”

Day 2:
Like some hot shot brand managers, on whom the future of the company depended, we jumped on various company products, dissecting it… analyzing it…strategizing while we kept on with this exercise. However there was this one category of products, which we (expect P..R..) are/were mostly ignorant about- sanitary napkins, which received most of our attention…but we were not to be bogged down by challenges…we are the future of the nation (ahem…ahem)..
4:30 pm (same day): P..R.. tries to explain lesser mortals like us, certain attributes of the product in question….
S..G..: Goes on to explain …with original insights….and tops it up with a finishing line- “P..R.., I know more than you…”
P..R..: “Am not sure, that should be taken as a compliment by you”

Day ….(well I don’t remember the count now):
We were out taking the ‘n’th coffee break, when we heard….
“He has got engaged!”
“WHO?”
“Arre… D..M..’s….”
“Really…true”… (loud “aawwwss”)
“Poor D..M..!...Who is going to break the news to him??”
Good question!!.. so we all go together!

We find D..M.. in his seat, happily checking out movie ticket booking sites, humming songs…and very tactfully (with wide grins… and other facial expressions enhancing the same…) we break the news to him…. And there it started again…
“You know what … HE is getting engaged…”
“Ya well…”
“Dude…do something…”
“Do what?”
“You know… do SOMETHING….”
“Like WHAT??”

D..M.. was visibly agitated by now…and we were more than amused ….I meant concerned…(ahem)… when finally someone drew the conclusion… “better luck next time mate!!”

So you see my dilemma here… will you hate me for liking marketing …or sales…. I am just a mere mortal…still grappling with THE fundamental question of our life- Sales or Marketing???

Thursday, October 30, 2008

And the stars shone...

Stars shone brightly against the dark sky… shimmered a little…and in case you took a closer look…smiled at you too. Rajarshi smiled back as he took another drag of his cigarette. There was a gentle cool breeze blowing across his face…it must have rained somewhere close, he could almost smell the moist soil. All he wanted to do was lie there and let the stars carry on their little un-coordinated dance across the screen…but something was irritating him…someone close… “aah! Those fuckers”, he sighed and turned his attention towards Salil and Malcom, other two occupants of the 4ft by 4ft space floating at 80 ft above ground level of that 9 storey high telephone tower. They had started with a 2 quarters of White Mischief, which had proved quite inadequate for the occasion. Malcom, most resourceful of the three got them 2 more quarters of Imperial Blue and may be a third too; but Rajarshi didn’t remember. After the booze ran out, suddenly Rajarshi wanted some fresh air and so three of them climbed up this telephone tower which was recently put up in their college campus. It was almost 2 am, and if anybody had caught them there, then they would have had a fairly painful hangover, but then Rajarshi wanted some fresh air, so there they were. “The day I saw that collage, I knew it was over. Bloody! Someone looks at those snaps he would be wondering if she ever spoke to me in school or not…forget that we might be going around! And on top of it all her big principles…ideals…bull crap! She didn’t….” Malcom went on while Salil patiently listened and tried drawing parallels from his current seemingly ending affair with Aparna. Rajarshi went back to stars, he had heard Malcom’s break up story some 10 times already and 11 if you count the two times he had left them half finished. Break up stories and link up stories are the two most spoken about topic in engineering college where the skewed sex ratio, makes the young student lose his interest in studies linearly and their interest in women and wine (sometimes in unison…but mostly complimentary..) rise exponentially.

Rajarshi didn’t have any such stories to tell. He belonged to a typical Bengali family. Dad worked in Allahabad Bank, mother a house wife. They lived in Alipore, in the bungalow provided by the bank. Learnt tabla for five years and then one fine day gave up, primarily because he realized he never enjoyed it. Played football in rainy season, cricket in all other seasons; everyday, but never wanted to take up sports as profession. He had to be an engineer since his father couldn't become one, preferably from a college his mama (mother’s brother), whom she idolized, passed out from. Life was simple and he was doing it pretty well, there was no such thing as adventure till he joined his engineering college…not really…till he met the other two.

Malcom D’Costa, son of civil engineer, who worked for West Bengal government. Studied in missionary schools all across West Bengal but mostly in Kolkata; grew up to have more of Bengali-Hindu friends than Catholic. His first girl friend was Marian, who was catholic too…but that was class 8. His first serious girl friend was Riya Mukherjee, whom he met during coaching classes in Class 11. Malcom had lived life at his own terms, primarily because he came from a family where they respected private space and independence, but when he met Riya, his life took a U-turn. Riya’s dad was an author and also an active CPI (M) member while her mother was staunch Hindu brahmin’s daughter. She had grown up in a strange world of confusion- of communism, capitalism,religion… godliness and godlessness. When Malcom first met Riya she seemed like a strange tangled up puzzle and as he untangled her, he was enchanted by the person that she was. Malcom had never thought he was capable of passion and love unless it was Manchester United someone was speaking of, but he soon realized he was wrong. It was during second year of engineering college when he realized that the puzzle he had been deciphering has now gripped his entire life. Instead of curing Riya he had injected the poison in his own system and made it far worse. He was no philosopher to think of life and its meaning…but he knew he needed to break free.

Salil was the quite unlike of the rest two. His dad had carried on family business, which of course he never wanted to join. He had a natural love for science, numbers and a knack for arts. Without much training, except what was given in by primary school art teacher, he was pretty good at drawing and fine arts. When he joined engineering college, he soon became quite famous for his talent. In third year he became the Secretary of College Magazine Club. He had a high school sweetheart too, like Malcom- Aparna. However his case was much different. There was no intellectual mis-match like what happened in case of Malcom, it was far much simpler. One sided love!...well mostly. He had bunked school for her, bunked tuition for her…very nearly bunked engineering entrance exam for her…but she could never love back that much. Salil had kept their relationship going and one day when he let go…it snapped. May be she wanted to come back, as Salil often thought…may be she needed more time…may be… He never spoke to her again, so he never knew.


As the morning sun gained a little more altitude, the air above highway started shimmering and gave the road up ahead that familiar wet look. As the truck raced on, Malcom got up sat on the side of the truck looking back at the best four years of their life. Four years in which he saw so many things… Union strikes… Class bunking…. Riverside dates…random trips to nearby places… fests…tournaments...gang wars… hostel parties…guys crying after drinking… guys crying when its time to leave…but they didn’t. They left with a bang… cracking bombs… on a rented truck…at 4 am in the morning… half stoned…carefully registering the minute details of those faces…of that place which gave them more than just a degree…much more! It was 9 am when they reached Maidan, Kolkata. They unloaded their stuff from the trucks…no tears…no “will miss you…” because Malcom knew they would never be out of touch…Never!


“Hey man! Wass up? How long you been here?” asked Malcom as he took his seat beside Salil in Some Place Else.

“Not too long man…just ordered a beer… I knew you fuckers would be late! Where is our man Rajarshi? Late to his own party?”

It was Rajarshi’s graduation…or rather post graduation party. He had just finished his MBA and got a job in a mid-sized financial institution based out of Mumbai. Rajarshi reached good 40 minutes late.

Wass up dude? You are already acting like a busy manager even before joining work”, grinned Malcom, as he took a sip of vodka. Rajarshi knew better than to object. He knew that any comment he makes will meet Malcom’s sharp sarcasm without much effect. So save himself from answering he gulped down his drink and looked sheepishly towards Salil for some support. So as the band prepared its kit and did sound checks, they exchanged their stories with same enthusiasm…just like old times. It was classical rock night. Some local band played one cover after another… and just when they started with ‘comfortably numb’…Rajarshi needed some air. So they went to Maidan and sat right in the middle of it.

Through the orange haze of street light lit smoke which hung over the city, few stars could still be seen…they still shimmered…but they didn’t smile any more. Rajarshi had noticed this for quite sometime…they didn’t smile anymore.

“What the fuck is this life for, anyways?” Rajarshi asked suddenly getting up.

“What do you mean?” Salil asked.

“I mean…what is the use of anything? This degree…work…money… any god damn thing?”

“These things individually don’t matter but together in the bigger picture they form the means to the end… to our goal in life”

“What is your goal in life?” asked Malcom, by now fairly interested in the turn of conversation. Though he wasn’t drunk enough, but he knew that when let on, Salil and Rajarshi broke in to these pseudo-intellectual conversations, especially after drinking, which gave him ample things to take their case on, when they were sober.

“I want to be happy in life”, said Salil.

“And what do you think will make you happy?” Rajarshi asked.

“There are no such quantifiable parameters to measure that I am happy or to tell what will make me happy. It’s just an intrinsic feeling man…may be success will make me happy…may be when I become a billionaire I will be happy…May be if I get a job like yours…or be a ranker like you… I will be happy…”,Salil said grinning.

“I bet you won’t be…I know because I am not! Trust me I am not… All this hype about MBA…and rank …fin job…everything is bull crap man!...I slogged my ass for two years…nothing like the life we had in engineering college…and what do I end up with?..Some job in some Indian fin- company…while those fuckers with half my score ended up getting double my salary…big MNC brands…why? Well some needed better pedigree…which might be anything from a better school to graduating college…others didn’t find enough diversity in me. Are these idiots recruiting to make me play beach volley for them? Do things like dedication, persistence mean nothing today? Everyone wants a fucking all rounder…what about a fucking specialist?”

“Hey dude! Chill…I mean…it’s just your first job and you haven’t even joined…isn’t it too early to comment…”

“No man! … My career is fucked… it’s gone! There is nothing much left to it…By the time I make my first switch, my batch-mates will be heading some divisions and all…. It’s all gone….Its all gone! ...”


Salil’s flight landed at 3 pm at Mumbai International Airport, but by the time he could come out after all the custom checks it was already 5 pm. Rajarshi was waiting for over an hour now. “Serves him right…asshole always used to make us wait”, thought Salil. He was glad to finally meet Rajarshi after such a long time. Last time they met was nearly 2 years back in Kolkata after he had just passed out. Recently he had heard about the global recession and seen all this financial behemoths crumble to ground…he had been worried about Rajarshi, but never really dared to ask. Over the years they had fallen apart. Not really, but there was a definite gap. Salil worked for a software company and had been going on-site fairly frequently. Malcom too had been busy with his work. He was working for an automobile major and was now in Germany living his dream. Though they kept in touch, Rajarshi had kind of disappeared from the Radar. Salil was quite surprised when suddenly he got a mail from Rajarshi and when Rajarshi heard that he will be visiting Mumbai on his way back to Hyderabad; it was Rajarshi who suggested that they catch a drink in between his connecting flights. “Anyways they don’t serve alcohol in domestic flights”, Rajarshi had said in his old persuasive manner. To be honest he was quite nervous about meeting Rajarshi…their last meeting kept coming back to him…he had completely broken down…he was a very different Rajarshi!

The man who waived across the rails was his old ‘mate’, “ I am really catching this ‘mate’ shit of Australia”, Salil thought.

“Dude there isn’t much time; lets hit the road…lets go get some drink… Traffic will be killer…today is Diwali here remember...” It was around 7:30 pm, they had a fair bit to drink, but more than that Salil caught up with most of what he missed of Rajarshi’s life. He was hurt and shocked when he heard that Rajarshi’s had been nearly out of work for last 3 months and without pay for last 1 month. Hurt because he never told them and shocked because he looked so much better than he last saw him. As if it had done him more good than bad. His company suffered substantial losses during US sub-prime crisis and was on the verge of being shut down. However now there are chances of it being taken over by some bigger Indian bank and most of the old employees were hanging by that chance rather than asking for severance packages. As the waiter got the bill, Salil asked, “So what are you doing these days? Looking for a job… I have friends in IT companies…”

Rajarshi smiled, “Playing session drummer for this band who are pretty big in this part of India”

“What!” Salil was more than shocked this time.

Rajarshi burst out laughing, “Don’t worry dude, the scene is not so bad… and I have more than enough in bank…its just I am keeping myself busy with these things. It’s like the sauce in the sizzler, to spice up my life while my career gets sorted. My five years of tabla lessons finally didn’t go all in vain. Last year I befriended these people who wanted to start their own band but didn’t have any drummer. Out of curiosity I gave it a shot and to my surprise I found I had a knack for it. So I started playing as session drummer for them in their concerts during my time offs. Now I just play a little more regularly, that’s it!...and frankly I am enjoying it a lot. It feels awesome to find that your life not a mere uni-dimensional pursuit of uni-dimensional dream”

“Speaking of uni-dimensional dreams…I am seeing Aparna again!” and then he waited for Rajarshi to abuse him, which he didn’t but he was visibly surprised.

“But I thought you had enough last time…”

“Yeah…true…and then somehow we met on a flight to Australia… You know …as fate would have it types!...” Salil said, choosing his words carefully… he earlier had a session with Malcom, where he was decorated with ‘chosen compliments’, luckily some of which were German and he didn’t understand them. “I know it’s foolish… I know I shouldn’t have done it… I mean I know all that what you guys would say…but you ever had those questions bother you- Was there a chance? Did I give my best? Was she the one? ... Is there any chance? And worse of them all- Will I be any happier with anyone else? I tried … but I didn’t get any answer to it. I had never heard her side of it… I never really figured what was in her mind… and she has been through hell in last couple of years….and I wasn’t there… No one was… Not that I am to be blamed… but I don’t know…May be I should have been there. Its not that everything will be OK this time and it will work out just fine… In all probability, No! It won’t work out… but so what… what am I so afraid of? Of failing …getting hurt again…right? But I am not afraid anymore… I can’t have those questions trouble me day and night… I need to take this chance and see if it was worth it or not? ... I got to let go of my fears and believe”

“Hmm! Yeah and just in case you fall… we are here for you with a bottle of Signature in hand to drown you sorrow… just a phone call away… Anyways lets hurry up, your flight is leaving in one and half hours” said Rajarshi grinning finally.

As they walked out in smoke filled marine drive, Diwali celebration was in full blast. The road was lined with hundreds of people watching brilliant fireworks all across the sky. There was an amazing order in the sheer randomness of the fireworks…it seemed like zillions of stars dancing all across the sky…changing colours…hiding…dodging… changing shapes and then with one bright flash of light plunge into darkness…till the next one comes… They kept on walking along the pavement, breathing in all the energy…all the hope …all the light… when suddenly Salil turned to Rajarshi and said-“Fuck the flight man…lets go get drunk!”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Of drum beats on lazy afternoon…

It struck me on a very normal, ordinary day, while I was walking down the street on a usual afternoon and suddenly sun decided to show up after 7 day long hiatus… and I realised…its Durga Puja time! Well not really, by calendar it was still a full month away, but then ask a Bong if he ever cared about the hard facts of life… well I guess not! At the risk of over simplifying reality, I would say that Bongs by nature are either poets or 'wanna be' poets. One* of us once called moon an over baked 'roti'(chand ta jano jholshano ruti), may be without realising that nothing would ever be the same again since those words. Those lines have not lost its relevance or beauty; in fact it has grown much more beyond probably what the poet had ever expected…. It stands for all the abstract, meaningless, crazy, adventurous, emotive, drastic things we do in the search for that poetic expression of life and its by products…yearning for 'Durga Puja' time... missing it already when it was still to come was one of them!
Well a disclaimer before you end up thinking I am the religious types, well- I am not! In fact so far I can remember, I was never really religious minded. I mostly dozed off during aartis etc, and used to enjoy puja primarily because of 'shinni' ** When I was old enough I started questioning various rules and rituals of religion, and concluded in my mind that it's mostly a farce. For God however, am still in the process of questioning and looking for answers. But anyways more of that later…what I wanted to say was, for me Durga Puja was never a religious thing. In fact as the days went by religion went out of the window, Durga Puja became more of a concise, power packed and without the usual boredom of- a summer holiday!
For kids, Durga Puja is the time for annual bonus- mostly a well rewarding bonus for all the hard work they put in, by the 'senior managements' (plural- keeping in mind the various relatives who chip in)! In most cases however bonuses are much higher that what we deserved…but then who would ever complain for that! This sparked off a rare streak of consumerism across all the bongs, surpassing demographic or geographic boundaries. For days bong women haunted shopkeepers never satisfied with the designs or the quality or worse- price. Men are more subtle but equally demanding. For the category which I belonged to until recently- students; it's about figuring out what was the 'in thing' and then plan out with utmost care which outfit will give the maximum impact while impressing the ever elusive bong women. While we were busy with all this suddenly 'mohalaya' came- 1st day of puja.
My mom used to wake me up at 4 am in the morning just as the recitation of shlokas and songs used to begin on radio. It continued till morning 5:30 am when we switched to Doordarshan, which telecasted the televised version of the same recitation. Till I joined engineering college these were the only days when I saw sunrise...but there used to be something very strange about those mornings… they were always so calm… so serene…so beautiful…that even if for a fleeting moment you will feel the presence of something divine in the surroundings.
Finally the day came- panchami, when we used to go get the idol from the idol makers. Then and there… that event marked the beginning of the sheer enjoyment, fun, madness… which characterised the remaining 5 days! Sashthi & Saptami are like the starters- you enjoy it but never have too much of it…and by the end of it… you are just about prepared for the main course- "Maha Ashtami". On the Maha Ashtami morning every bong- communist, non-communist, atheist, agnostic, believer, rich or poor… put on their best traditional dresses and came dutifully for morning 'anjali'. For teenagers and slightly older junta it had totally different relevance. That is one time when all the girls in the society, however 'ghissu' she might be or however strict her parents might be, would come down dressed in traditional dress giving furtive glances here and there, while guys stood there looking and not staring, hopelessly losing their heart while her parents maintained a very strict eye on them. Score 1-0 (read: 1 love) in favour of the Women's team. Guy's team gave up their wicket even before the first ball was bowled.
Nabami also quickly passes by, as you try and cover most of the critically acclaimed durga pujas of the city while also tasting delicacies all across the city. If it had been Chinese on sashthi, continental on saptami, and traditional bong food on Ashtami, nabami – you can't afford to miss the biryani at Shiraj, park circus.
Nabami nights are like those moments when you are ordering deserts- you know that the good times are coming to an end… while you loved the food so far…you want to make the most of what is left… and desert goes a long way in turning a good dinner to a memorable one!!… umm.. sorry I got slightly carried away… coming back to Durga Puja… Dashami is the day when most of the idols from small and mid sized Durga Pujas in various societies etc are taken for 'visarjan'. While lot of people choose to visit the bigger puja's on dashami there are people like me who are more kicked about 'vashan' or 'visarjan'. So in the evening as the 'dhaki'*** picks up the beat, the road side romeos, the incorrigible nerds, and the all-rounders of certain society will join the vashan procession, dancing so out of rhythm without any grace or clue as what the next step will be… in short so obscenely that the likes of Prabhu Deva will have heart attack seeing it. But then apparently, as confirmed by trustworthy sources, this is the day that the girl's team had been waiting for. And though being true to their tribe, they don't give up their wickets so easily… but for all the practical purposes the score is – 1:1 (read: Love all).
As the night gradually takes over, and all the celebrations are done with- a strange sadness takes over… not just because that the holidays are over… or because even this time Joyita didn't say 'yes'…also because 'ma fire gelo' (Mother went back home)… but then there is hope in the end – 'asche bochor abar hobe' (next year… once again!).
For me Durga Puja has more significance than just celebration …I believe it stands for lot of things which are critical to our today. In these days when religion is more often than not soaked in politics and other 'higher needs' of certain individuals, to look at Puja as a mean to chill out and get together without the excess baggages of life, sure is inviting. It is also intriguing to notice that of all the several Gods and their avatar we chose – Durga, the lady who plays the female protagonist's role in an epic battle between good and evil , where even the mighty super Gods like Shiva and Vishnu look like mere sidekicks. Now you know what inspires bong women and what has probably lead to the current deplorable state of bong husbands!! But jokes apart I am mostly very proud of bong women, (excepting few Ms Banerjees here and there) but more than that of my forefathers who helped women get such social status!!
Days are fast approaching…Ganesh chathurti went by last to last week… I now see idols of devi Durga being made in Lalbaug and I can imagine the electrifying excitement in the streets of Kolkata. But as I sit here in my room missing Durga puja, I don't miss the puja as such… I miss my friends, my parents…shopping… PYTs (pretty young things…)… food…excitement…pandal hopping…night long drives…blaring music…beautifully decorated streets of Kolkata…a mad rush to visit the maximum number of pujas… to end my day at 6 am and start at 4 pm…school and college get-togethers at Maddox Square… in short…I miss the 'bong' in me!

* That will be one extremely renowned Bengali poet- Sukanto
** An amazing Bengali non-typical sweet dish, made specially during pujas
*** A fairly large form of a drum, slung on 1 shoulder and played with 2 sticks

Monday, August 25, 2008

Physics or Philosophy

It was during engineering days… when everyone worked hard to lose their single tag (now its more an ‘in-thing’ to be single… but then…it was tumour which had to be get rid of… ASAP)… some spent hours in gym…some at cyber cafĂ©...some at cafe…some at football field (especially in the field adjoining Bio-tech department)…and yes few with books too (even then being a nerd fetched you a girlfriend!)… and some catching up with old acquaintances…like me! It was one of those cycles, in which I had scanned through all the available, might be available and ‘wish she was available’ girls of my batch and concluded that either I had mentally rejected them, or what was more likely to happen- they had mentally rejected me! …And then all of a sudden a school friend who shared her Tiffin with me twice in class 10, gave me water 5 times in class 11 in school bus, started figuring in my list… we called such endeavours - ‘Off-campus placements’!

Yes, so there I was going on a ‘date’ with a school friend of mine (who for the record was a good friend). So my friends armed me with everything I needed- starting from a deodorant to a nice black shirt… but they just forgot luck! And yes it had to run out that day…. So I reached some 57 minutes 45 seconds late (and not 1 hour late as Ria claimed… girls always have the tendency to oversimplify! )..By the way her name was Ria, she was from my school and was doing bachelors in Physics in Kolkata. My ever ending search for ‘the one’ came to sudden halt, when by mistake I asked her:

“What’s your idea of a perfect guy?” (Naah! I wasn’t working for shaadi.com)

“Hmm… Honest, caring, intelligent, smart…but more importantly one who doesn’t keep me waiting for an hour! Not even 30 mins. Don’t take it otherwise, but it could have been someone like you, but then you are too careless… you take life too easy… you don’t worry about relevant things… you don’t care for time…you are not organized…..you are not….”

Need I say more … about how it went!

It was 4 years later, when fate suddenly made our paths cross; I met a friend of her and got her number. Unable to resist my curiosity, I punched in her number….

“Hello… am I speaking to Ria?”

“Yes…speaking.”

“Hi! How are you?”

“I am fine… thank you…but you are?”

“Any guesses?” (Not that I expected her to)

“Well…… No!”

“Digvijay….”

“Digvijay….umm… from MP Birla!!!??”

“Yeah…”

“Hey…how are you? What a pleasant surprise!”

And so it went on… catching up on the years that went by. I had my stories to share about engineering life… b-school life…now more recently…professional life! She had hers as well- about masters from IIT and then a year’s rest in Kolkata…and doctorate from IISc… which was in the process. It’s a strange feeling to catch up with old friends and trace the time back to the present…its like going through old photo album and then finally updating it with all those snaps you missed…of yours and your friends.

It is quite difficult for anyone who has passed a considerable amount of time in hostel, surrounded by lot of friends to be on his own… friends who will wake you up for tests…prepare you for exams… carry you back to your room when you were drunk…cheer you up when you are down…In short hand hold you till you are ready to be on your own! And then you are dropped in Mumbai, the biggest, most crowded, fastest metro of India and you realize you are not yet ready. To quote Bacon – Magna citivas, magna solitudo! (Bigger the city, bigger the solitude)…yes…somewhere in all the work, meetings, targets and deadlines… that solitude caught up with me. So we started calling up each other once in a while. Ria was the same, but she had changed too…I just couldn’t point my finger at it. It was kind of subtle, yet strong!

“So have you been in any relationship… (realizing that there can’t be any other answer to it…I added)…lately!?”

“Well…no…not lately…What about you?”

“Naay! Girls still feel the same… ‘careless guys’ still figure at the bottom of their lists!” (Hoping that she would get the satire)

“You really felt bad that day…didn’t you?”

“Naay!...I agree to all that you said”

“Actually those days I was dating Partho. He was in my college…you wouldn’t know. He had this very bad habit of being late…careless…unorganized….which always used to get me irritated. Somehow I had a very idealistic view of the world then”

“Aah…I see…so now has it changed?”

“I have stopped being a perfectionist now! I don’t look for perfection any more”

Coming from a b-school, I have the habit of putting ‘perfectionist’ as both my strengths and weakness, as per examples I remember. But I thought being a perfectionist is still a virtue.

“Well…I think perfectionism is still a virtue…which at certain length everyone should strive for” (I remember my stunts with corel draw, when I used to spend hours just perfecting the boundaries of the cropped part which was visible after 10X zoom in)

“Do you really think so? In all these years, what physics has taught me is that we live in an imperfect, un-idealistic world. But then there is a hint that we can still have a perfect system at a micro level, where Newtonian forces fall flat. But has it ever occurred to you that our entire existence might be a result of imperfection, which we try to negate out with so many formulas and assumptions.”

I was thoroughly lost…she sensed that and carried on!

“What was this universe before Big-Bang? An infinitesimally small mass with infinite amount of energy. Why did it go off all of a sudden? Imperfection in the perfect system. Planets cooling down…evolution…series of ice ages…in the middle of all this how do you explain the evolution of Neolithic man? We don’t … we haven’t been able to… that is what we call missing link, another imperfection in the system. So while our fore fathers formed small civilizations across the continents which were drifting away…they tried to form a perfect system, using rules, religion etc. It was always a 2-D view of perfection- as seen by a single person. But in every such civilisation there were people who differed, drifted away, formed new colonies. A perfect system would have seen all these colonies settling down happily and content, but that was not to happen. Kingdoms…wars…crusades…scientific inventions, in short the result of all the imperfection kept us moving through the ages. Even in most recent times- World Wars. What were those? a result of imperfection in the economic process of the world at a macro level. US and Germany were growing at such high rates that to sustain the growth they needed to wage wars, an economic configurational issue which closely resembles a positive feedback system in physics. But this helped grow people such as Einstein, Heisenberg etc and several other technology which might not have been invented had these super powers not been after technological superiority.

Forget all this; in our day to day lives, so many things happen because of the sheer human imperfection. If harry hadn’t missed his usual local train, he wouldn’t have bumped into Sally. If my superior hadn’t gone on sudden leave my HOD wouldn’t have asked me to assist him on his project, if you hadn’t been late that day, you wouldn’t have met my friend, and we wouldn’t have been talking!... there are so many such examples”

“So you mean, you won’t be angry, if I keep you waiting!” (I was grinning like an ass)

She laughed a little and carried on, “You haven’t changed a bit! I will be angry. I still hate waiting for anyone. I hate it when people don’t respect other’s time. But as you see, our existence has been a constant spiraling out effect of imperfections across ages, with this realization, can I still hate someone for this imperfection. I have realized that its intent that matters more than the result, why else do you think the result- ‘murder’ is punishable by law if acted with malice and is pardonable if done as an act of defense. I try and judge people on intent…not on result”

I nearly asked her – “so will you date me now?”…but I let it be. I realised what had changed in her…not really, but then I knew the type of change…I was happy for her. We all stumble upon such realisations from time to time…big ones which change our lives…small ones…which make it easier to live. So what was my realisation for the day- If a girl hates you today, its ok to try again after couple of years! :)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mis-adventure or that is what they say...

Routine, process and youth gives a strange certainty to our lives… an assurance that nothing wrong can happen to us… nothing can move us, stir us in our regular lives unless we want to do it. Somewhere we tend to underestimate the power of chance, of probability and of chaos theory (may be!), until the irregularity in the system drives us toward an inevitable shock… a tryst with destiny… how we handle it…recover from it or crumble beneath it is more a matter of circumstantial positioning of our guiding stars than historical performances!

So much for the build up! I guess an odd effect of living in the times of Ekta Kapoor (or did I miss an ‘e’ in the name), we tend to over dramatize even the slightest of out of ordinary incidents. But then what the hell! However these weren’t exactly my thoughts when I was returning from Andheri station to Aseem’s place at around 0045 hours on a Friday night, more like- damn I can’t party tonight, cause I have to go to work tomorrow! So with a heavy heart, I listened to Bon Jovi and wished- Someday I will be Saturday night! Auto rickshaw is one hell of a modern day innovation. You should see it weaving its way through Mumbai traffic; you can literally feel the time slowing down as it approaches the speed of light…. Umm .. well not exactly but then compared to the other vehicles on the road it does give you a certain sense of speed, hence my preference for auto rickshaws immaterial of the traffic conditions. That night was no different! I was enjoying my music while my mind drifted away visualizing chilled beer in mugs topped with clean white froth. It was in fact after few seconds that I realized that my rick had stopped mid way, I hadn’t reached Aseem’s place yet, and worse there was a rick standing right next to mine with an extremely agitated driver and someone else, who was least bothered about everything!

Indians are curious and I am certainly above average! So as the altercation picked up volume, I paid more attention to it than what Bryan Adams had to say about- day like today! I hate missing the opening scenes of movies, because if it’s a nice one, you know you have missed a lot! The entire logic behind the chain of events is lost and only after interval do you actually pick it up, or may be even later! Such was my feeling, but the protagonists of this brief play were most unconcerned about my feelings. Finally unable to control his feelings the ‘taller guy’ (the driver of the rick which forced mine to stop…by the way this was a post analysis realization) got out of the rick, came and safely covered the only exit of my rick (other exit was already covered by the stationary rick). Now I was really curious, so took out the head phones from my ear and was paying undivided attention to what he had to say. At the same time, in some part of my logical brain, the most illogical part which dealt with sixth senses became active and started sounding low warning signals.

Their conversation reminded me of my engineering college ragging when we were asked to say entire sentences with 3rd degree abuses after every word we said. Anyways, the couple of questions which the ‘taller guy’ asked again and again- “Kya be shaane khud ko shaana samajhta hai kya?” ; ( I was particularly lost by the sheer confusion in the question!) “Pata hai main kaun huun?” and the worst one- “Ghusa duun kya?” It was then I noticed that this guy had produced a broken bottle and holding it by its neck. Now suddenly this ‘taller guy’ became ‘taller and dangerous guy’. My sixth sense alarm went full blast. Finally, say by destiny or otherwise, he turned to me and asked me the same set of question! Two very basic rules in a group interview are- 1. Don’t speak unless spoken to, 2. Prepare yourself for the same questions which are being asked to the other candidate. I had forgotten the second rule, or may be I was still quite lost! Anyways, few seconds passed and I still couldn’t come up with any convincing answer and he finally settled for an assumption that – ‘Tu shana hai!’ … Now he being the protector of the world wanted to teach me a lesson for being ‘shana’. “Chal be, jo hai sab nikal!” came a sudden strong demand. By now, he was holding me by collar and the tip of the bottle was threateningly close to me. Few split second calculations, few random checks here and there, and few desperate SOS signals to my guiding stars later, I grabbed his arm and started my most impromptu drama ever- “Main student huun… kuch paisa nahin hai…. Lut jaunga…. Maine kya kiya hai…” Came back his credentials and demands, stinking of alcohol, “Aaj hi jail se chuta huun…. Bhai ka admi huun… police kuch nahin karegi…. Ghusa duun kya… chal shaane sab nikal”. All of a sudden to add some masala to already spiced up situation, someone started playing – “Khuda jaane main fida huun….” ‘Taller and dangerous’ guy was immensely distracted and demanded- “kiska mobile hai”… I promptly answered- “uska” pointing at the guy in the other auto. He was caught unaware, but retorted back in couple of seconds- “nahin mera nahin hai…isi ka hoga”… But by then I had realized that it was my phone and it was playing music out loud because the headphone had come off. Instantly I fixed it back again, before other man’s defense. Our ‘taller and dangerous guy’ lost interest in such non-sense soon and came back to his old questions. I held on to his armed arm with determination and continued my drama, as if we were haggling over the price of something he wants to buy from me! All of a sudden, like the way it had started, this guy decides to leave, with his parting words- “dobara nahin dikhna”… and sped away in his rick. I dialled 100, and heard- “Hindi ke liye 1 dabaye,Marathi santha 2 daba…..” About then I realised something liquid on my right arm….aah parting gift from my friend – a perfect hysterisys curve shaped cut…almost 2.5 inches long, 2 cm wide and few mm deep. Took 6 stitches and two and half grand to be closed and sealed.

Anyways such was my adventure (or mis-adventure), and they say life is so boring and dull… Well may be for others…for me… am still busy changing bandages on my arm and thinking of an appropriate answer for the question- “Kya be shaane.. khud ko shaana samajhta hai kya?”

Sunday Bloody Sunday

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, sitting on the sofa of your drawing room, there aren’t many things you will be afraid of; not the usual things at least except of Monday! You know the Saturday night is gone- you had fun but then that is lost along with the hangover from those vodka shots. Sunday morning shoots into your blood that venom which you fight all week long- laziness. An utter desire to walk out of this rat race and take a time out! You want to go on, but it all so tough now. Monday seems like bonded slavery!
Sunday afternoon is the scariest of all - scarier than a night in haunted house. Mind is a very powerful machine and whenever let to run on its own, churns out things you don’t want to know, things long forgotten, things you don’t want to think about, things you wish, things you miss, things you desire and things you will never have. Between this eternal battle of reality and dreams somewhere mind duped in the yellowness of Sunday afternoon plays the devil’s advocate. It makes your heart go crazy about things you love and things you want, while remind you of the utter futileness of such efforts; and you sit there like a lonely warrior unsure of the side to take; watch it conquer you, tear you and wrench you till you are not sure if it was worth the battle. As I said, Monday could have been lot easier if not for the Sunday afternoon.

In any battle evenings are traditionally the time where dead soldiers are taken back to their camps and the last respect is paid to their brave souls. Here you walk the evening with a similar sadness, a strange silence in all the noise. Torn and tired after the war, you know these are the last few moments of peace before Monday takes over. While you dread that and wish that the time would stop and you can stay forever in that peace, it slips right through your fingers like sand.

Monday will come my friend, it’s inevitable! I don’t know if I will be prepared for it, will I be able to throw the poison out of my blood and jump in to it, or will I be swayed by other’s destiny and lack the courage to make my own. Whatever it may be – only time will decide! It’s a wide and wild river before I reach Saturday; while freedom, peace, tranquility and warmth beckons me there is a chance that I might never make it to the Saturday and there is only one way to find out- swim through the river. If I dive in- I know it will be a bloody battle, while the rewards are worth a life time, it will surely leave me without one if I lose. For now the temptation to quit is just too high- I hope I will have the strength and faith to carry on!