Saturday, November 09, 2013

That first sight of Sachin Tendulkar

I don't exactly remember the year but it is possible that I was in standard 7 or 8. The Indian team was playing an exhibition match perhaps for the benefit of Sunil Valson, ex-Cricket player and a part of the triumph India World Cup Cricket team of 1983.

The Indian team stayed then at Hotel Sudakshina, a small-3 star hotel which did not have anything to offer now but was a great hit then. The match before day, I had visited there and had glimpses of South African players Fannie De Villers and Allan Donald. I was super excited and was longing to visit the ground to watch a player called Sachin Tendulkar.

It rained that morning and the match supposed to start at 9am started close to 10:30am. It was a 30-overs match. I had gone to the ground with my cousin who took every care that I was not lost amongst the crowd. It included that famous dialogue to the security guy, "I am over 18". Ridiculous, a blatant lie but it drew a few giggles.

After the initial few wickets had fell, in entered Sachin Tendulkar. I was sitting at the stands, concrete slabs with no roof above. It was hot and humid as you can understand after a shower. And I saw Sachin, a short, lean person with enough curly hairs that one could think of. I distinctly remember few of his shots and couple of sixes hit of Kapil Dev. What struck me was his batting. He played straight as straight you can hit.

The straight drive drove from his bat and dashed off to the boundary with the momentum of a young girl running towards her lover. It was a glimpse of poetry. I fell in love with the game right away. Sachin captured the imagination but the hallmark of his batting was that he took bowlers apart.

After the game got over, I have seen his matches on television. Then saw him playing at Eden Gardens, Kolkata and Chinnaswamy Bangalore. He has scored so much and driven the Indian team for ages. But it is time that he takes a well-deserving rest since he earned it. Sachin deserves it. I'll miss his game but most of all miss his straight drive.

Sunday, November 03, 2013


The things one could relate to Durga Pujo are manifolds but as a kid and teenager growing up in a remote town I had far too many. One of this has been the 'PUJO BARSHIK' (yearly Bengali magazines) that has stayed with many years now. I walked into Abahan store last month and purchased copies of Desh, Shuktara, Prasad and all. Over the years, the price of these magazines has not increased by much and I wonder why.

During my last trip to the city of joy, Kolkata I visited College Street. It is a popular street in Kolkata near Esplanade which has vendors of publishing and printed industries. Here ages ago, the great doyen of Bengali and Indian Cinema Satyajit Ray sat and enjoyed browsing through books of multiple orders while puffing a smoke now and then.

I went and inquired in one of the publication houses as to why the rates of these magazines have never gone up. The answer was that over the decades these magazines have an ardent followers with an age range from kids to elderly groups and they fear that a sudden spurge of rise in prices would decrement their fan following. That too but with the rise of printed papers they have made an increase in price from Rs.20 to 50.

I then asked that what do they think of fans from various parts of world an cities who cannot get a glimpse of the magazines unless they subscribe to it. In this day and age of internet an online publication would make a lot of sense. But they fear that this would mean additional cost to their publication houses and somehow they don't think they are ready to manage the entire vendor management online.  I then realized that it makes sense economically as well from a client side.

Towards the amount shared with the authors I got to know that it is highly minimal than what one would receive from writing in English publications. Readers read it out of sheer enjoyment and authors write it for sheer love. A lot of them have been readers once and now they are repaying it by being authors.

It will be interesting to see how it fares in the longer run with the growth in technology but there has never been a substitute for quality and I think PUJO BARSHIK will sustain the fan following base in the years to come.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

College Street on a Sunday

Sunday holds a special day in the life of Raj. It is the day when he thinks everything in the world has stopped and given him the full-fledged freedom to live at his will. It is also the day when the past 6 laborious days in a software company provides respite to his degenerated bones and a sterile rounded back. It is the day of sleep, it is the day of bracing to the warmth of a 'barher chai (tea served in a pot)' and taking a walk in the College Street, the most romantic spot for folks who crave dating a book is much better than making love in a moving car.

Shortly after the 10th cigarette had covered his whole room in a dark shade of cloud Raj switched off his laptop and cuddled in his bed. These days he is short of sleep. It has been a quite a hectic month and he has often slept in the chair of balcony. So much depravity brought an end to his relationship with Yasmin, who never returned his calls nor offered any reasons as to their breakup. Bitch!

The clock struck 11. It always does. Raj took pains to open his eyes and could see the cloud outside his 3-storey house at Tollygung. It may rain. It always does on Sunday. Sometimes it even rains when it is supposed to. He took his mobile phone and unintentionally checked his emails. It is a routine that has become a bad habit. A large pile of emails look garbage to him. He decide to log out and goes to the bathroom.

Shortly the breakfast is done and his clothes are dumped into the washing machine. It takes half an hour for him to do the rest of the remaining choirs before he bolts the lock and takes his car out. But today he does not. He misses Kolkata metros. He decides to take the metro today to Esplande. But being a Sunday the metro would operate only after 2pm. Raj decides to check the newspapers and whole shit of sadness lies before him- some nation is fighting another nation for a piece of land, someone has killed his father for property, some girls have been sold for money and what not. Disgusted he starts his first day with a smoke and checks out the girls passing by. Kolkata has changed. Girls converse more in english than they ever did in Bengali sorry Bong. Nyaka

He walks upto the Mahanayak Uttam Kumar Metro station and takes a look at couple of the legend pictures. Outside the latest Bengali hearthrob Dev's Rongbaz poster looks at him. He goes to the ticket counter and everyone of the 5 is closed except 1. The person over there is busy scratching his loins as he gives the coins and politely tell him to give the exact change the next time he travels.

Inside the hustle and bustle of metro platform he notices that everyone has got a space. All are involved with someone else or with themselves. The train arrives and as he enters he noticed that there is a rush to be the first one to enter. Raj could not hold his smirk- competition here too. Inside with the moving train the discussion on various topics are happening amongst people.

While some are elated that the government is contemplating of having a metro station named after Rituparno Ghosh other want the great Satyajit Ray to be felicitated first. There is another section debating that Sourav Ganguly should have played his last test match at Eden Gardens. Amongst all this activity he could see couple of aged persons doing rhythmic pelvis actions and falling on young girls. Passion!

No sooner he arrives in Esplanade he steps out and takes that walk towards the College Street. College Street is a km long street in central Kolkata and stretches from Bowbazar area to MG Road crossing. It has rained much quicker than he expected but that did not deter from hundreds of book lovers soaking in the rain and going through dozens of books. The Hawkers with their respective stalls and registration#s have been there for ages. Their forefathers may have started the book stalls and they have somehow managed to continue running the shops.

My first visit to the college street was for Tintin comics and we could get it there in cheap. I remember my parents giving me them as birthday presents. Next in the lines were the famous detectives Feluda, Holmes and Keerati collections. College days arrived and brought Raj's brother searching Brilliant Tutorials collections. For his mother he had got dozens of collections of Prasad, Desh and what not.

Raj started looking out for books and magazines on Sylheti culture and discovered quite a bit of materials on it. He took a few of them and sat near the strands. The rain has disappeared and an evening breeze of fragrance surrounded the atmosphere. Sunday being a Sunday allows folks from every corner to assemble together.

Raj knows that he has to get back home before the last metro and as he takes a pile of book on his hands he realizes that time has moved on and he should too. Kolkata has changed but the passion beating inside that heart has not decrement a bit.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Whose Call Was It During the High School Days?

I changed mid-school when I finished class VI. My mom wanted me to get enrolled in the very best school at that time. It was her insistence that made me take up the entrance exams for Class VII. That meant I was buried in the books for a long time post-final year Class VI exams. 

I still remember there was only one seat for Class VII and 22 of hopeful kids sat for the exams. I had done well but it was only during the Maths examination that I felt I had a good chance of sneaking in. I think I answered the questions all correctly. My mom was so nervous with the results that she sent dad and me to the school. I got in though I don't even think dad was hopeful of it.

The new school offered me an environment that was different from where I had come from. Not only I had friends coming from affluent families but the teachers were also different. I received a cold reception and used to be called names-hunchback was the favorite one of lot. I did feel embarrassed but I had a belief that one day all this would change. 

I have a friend Arindam Chatterjee also affectionately known to us as Mickey who used to be a constant companion to me. Mickey used to stay near my aunty's house, which meant us spending a lot of time together. Cricket, Tennis and you name it. I owe Mickey a lot especially for being there. We are still friends now that he has got his own kid to look after.

But this piece is not about friends nor about my school. It is about a perception that brilliant academic students are unfaltering epistles of goodness and excellence.  I don't understand how by scoring a 80% a boy or a girl could be nominated for an elocution or a quiz or a dance. It seems ridiculous now to consider why our teachers never took pains to realize that there is a talent in everyone.

I remember during a commentary competition (and I spoke about this when I was anchoring for programs) I had beat this so-called-studious boy, but because he was an excellent student, he got the nod. I was dismayed and you have to understand the word biasness was new to me. Years later I met the same teacher and she told me that she was proud of my achievements. But I could not appreciate it because when I needed it the most,she was not there.

Life goes on and maybe one day I'll have a kid to drop in to the school and attend parents-teachers meetings. But hopefully by that time they would realize that there is a talent in everyone and it is not the academic marks but the character and diligence that will shine and will keep on shining.   

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

That Bus Ride from Silchar to Capital

Growing up in a tiny little town had its advantages and disadvantages. First the advantage, you'll always be ambitious and eager to take up the next leap. Success stories of folks from your town who have made it to the big league will always be humming. And a chance for you to get acquainted with people is rather easy. You'll hear people, remember faces and never short of receiving and inviting them to your abode. 

Well, you can't always paint a rosy picture for the town you live has its disadvantages too. Firstly, the lack of infrastructure. In the rainy season, you will have more potholes than the town can hold and without rain you'll experience the potholes getting larger and larger. Ironical, it may sound but the town is in the leagues of Mumbai and Bangalore in the 'potholes' case. Then there is the massive communication failure. I am going to talk about one such failure and that if you have ever been to Silchar you bloody well know what I mean.

It was my first trip to the capital of Assam and in those days it was a big deal. With trains as noncommunicable than your ex it was a case to take a flight or travel in bus. I come from an affluent middle-class family and though I could have taken a flight my father a strict disciplinarian taught us never to take advantage of luxury when one could afford a rough one. Also, being young you are never short of muscles and could take strain. I thought that it was bit harsh on a boy weighing 50 kilograms then.

Anyways, there were two major Private buses plying from my town to the capital. But, I was booked into ASTC. ASTC stands for Assam State Transport Corporation-the picture of integrity and window to the North-East if that's not much grandeur. My abode was not far from the bus stand. I mean it was just a 5 minutes rickshaw drive. It was supposed to start at 5 and reach my destination morning 6-7. I reached on time and took my bus seat. 

It was a window seat enough decorated by my the last occupant's stinted beattle leaves. Then the other occupants entered and in a bit of 5 minutes the bus was full with already few co-passengers straightening their seats. When the other passenger protested, "ooo dada eita kita kora )bro, why are you doing this? " To this the other responded, "ghumatiam nani (I want to sleep):. I founded it strange though more comical with the burst of farthing now and then. Anyway, the bus move out of the platform in within few minutes we were on the way.

I think I was anxious a bit and you have to understand this was my first outstation trip alone. Anyways, after an hour-long drive we reached what I think was a place called KALAIN. The bus stopped for a while for refreshments and I could not understand why would people got down to have tea and refreshments. They could have had it at the bus platform. Hawkers and vendors of every kind entered the bus and soon it had turned itself into a tourist place. Kids from this place fancied a bus from my town to be one of the seven wonders and the passengers embodiment of success. 

I meanwhile decided to take a look at the place. I noted down the bus registration number should it leave me. I wandered here and there, took a nature call and then the 10 minutes break became 20 minutes and then the bus started again.

My co-passenger in this journey was a middle-aged man who kept on snoring during the entire trip. He made no interest in acquainting himself towards me nor I wanted honestly too. But you know when you travel with a person for more than 18 hours (originally scheduled for a 12 hours), you do want to exchanged pleasantries.

The Sun had retired by now and this is where North East spectacles you. The lush greenery everywhere and the mountains and hills takes you to their arms and for a certain time, which I did not keep a tab I completely lost myself. The beautiful and charming valleys enhanced me completely and I didn't know where time has got lost until something hit me. We were stuck.

I heard murmurs and could understand from the conversation that the bus had reached Meghalaya and stuck at a place in SONAPUR. This place has been in the news for almost every incorrect reasons mainly for the horrible roads and climate surrounding it. The bus stopped at a place and only when I got down I could understand the gravity of the situation. It was pitch dark but in this darkness I could view that there were a long queue of buses and trucks amidst a muddy road. Along it you could see the distant Sonai river flowing which if you fall down you'll end up in Bangladesh. To cut it short, it painted a very sorry picture.

Here, we had to wait 2 hours before we could cross the dreaded path and amidst much of commotion the journey started. Soon, the conductor put on a movie. I doubt the video cassette player was used because after 5 minutes the screen was blank. I was hungry by now and decided to wait a while the bus stopped again. I guess at 10 or 11 in the night the bus stopped at Lathumbai. 

Folks who have been to this part of the world know that Lathumbai has one of the largest restaurants in Meghalaya, and food is immensely fulfilling out there. But I have a policy of not having dinners or meals at a hotel whenever am traveling. I do have a good stomach but I don't take chances. Anyways, my adorable mother had prepared a delicious meal and packed it nicely for me. After having the dinner in the bus, I decided to get down and take a stroll. 

There was chillness in the weather and a kind of fog that could quickly develop into torrential rain anytime. I had put on my jacket and could see people taking food hurriedly inside the restro, few standing outside and having a smoke while others are busy purchasing vegetables. Meghalaya has one of the most fertile soil and 70% of vegetables in North East comes from Meghalaya. 

Amidst this chillness the bus started. I had by then became tired of the constant jerking of the bus. I cannot express this in words but this experience becomes a ritual when you travel frequently. But it was my first time.

I don't know when but it had to very late when I got a knocking on my arms. I hate someone disturbing my slumber but this was supposed to be an urgency. It seems that there was another stoppage. This time an accident. We had to get down from the bus. Someone obviously drunk had parked his car right at the middle of the road. Interestingly, an uprooted tree branch was also in the middle too. I can't believe both of them were aligned horizontally to each other. In later years, I came to know that these steps were taken by certain hoodlums to extract money from bus drivers.

The bus journey continued and though I was feeling drowsy I don't think the excitement of passing through Shillong kept me awake. The capital city of Meghalaya had been a constant dream for me. I had heard of the amazing places, the schools and colleges and of course the beautiful Khasi girls. In later years, I had been in relationships too with a beautiful girl from Shillong. Till today, she is amused as what I found in Shillong.

As I passed through Shillong, I could see from the window the town amidst a beautiful blanket of fog. Everything was serene, the church bells tingling, few shops still doing business and I could not notice a pollution free town. I don't know when I went to sleep but woke up again stranded. This time it was outside Dispur.

What possibly could now be the reason of this stranding? I had no idea. The cell was missing a few towers that meant I was incrementing tension of my parents awaiting for my call. It was the season of strikes and we had turned into one such occasions- people were demanding a hike in traffic fare. That meant another 3 hours.

Finally when I reached the capital city I saw more stars than I possibly could imagine. I called up a rickshaw and on getting in he told me "Dada, OTORO TOKA (18 Rupees).      

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Flamboyance, Thy Name Kevin Pietersen

As far as I can remember I always wanted to do two things- watch Cricket and be a writer. And that I could do two things at a time speaks a lot of dedication not sure there was enough necessary motivation. The game itself is such a grandeur and its players bespectacled me with their innovation everyday. And one such player is Kevin Pietersen. Kevin is in a league of his own maybe joined sometimes by Virender Sehwag. But the aura and the audacity of this Natal born Cricketer just amazes me. He is a batsman who has defied logic of English Cricket and made it a commodity- that sells, buys and rolls eyeballs.

English Cricket dates back to the imperialist days when couple of them played the game for a leisure. They were watched and enjoyed by a group of women who knitted and cradled their babies while the men enjoyed a sip of rum. Let me not get back to those earlier days but speak about 70's when they had a good run. The batsmen in their ranks played the game in their merits, leaving anything outside the off stumps, hooked, straight drived and lifted their cap on reaching a milestone. There was no reverse sweep, Dilscoop and a lot of many crazy things that almost defied the laws of MCC batsmanship charter. 

Names of Denis Amiss, Colin Cowdrey, Geofreey Boycott used to be taken in reverence and for sometime Bottham started changing it. But then the game was played and the batsman in a typical conservative fashion. It was rumored that the English batsman would not be scoring 2 runs per over and will not be challenged to increment the run rate even it if the asking rate touched 6. A good example of their scoring could be evident in stats books but in One-Day Internationals they played poorly at 79 world Cup. 

With this text book Cricket enters Kevin Pietersen. History suggests that he didn't get a chance to play in South African team and as time was running out he met the English authorities and spoke to ex-English captain Nasser Hussain about it. He scored plenty of runs in English County and then drafted to the team. And we saw a resurgence of English Cricket in 2005. He changed everything- the batting stance, aggressive attitude to bowlers especially spinners and outrageous shots.

Kevin has all the ingredients to be a suspense director. I mean his innings like suspense movies have a nervous start, patience middle, aggressive second half-with cuts and misses and then some mind blowing shots. With Kevin and Sehwag there is everything the crowd gets and expects more of excitement. There was a theory once that test cricket is boring. Well, it changes a Kevin and Sehwag bats for they not only makes it enjoyable but keeps you on the edge. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

An anchor turned headmaster!

Once the cable television came it brought the world right at our bedroom. I do not say drawing room because I love to dwell my thoughts from the bedroom. Amongst all the channels that I regularly surf news channels have always fascinated me. While BBC and CNN are my favorites I do not keep myself from the Indian television news channels. And one of these days am going to stop watching quite a few channels because of these anchors who are more of headmasters. And I fathom why.

The profession of journalism which I am acquainted with from my college years has evolved. Electronic journalism has given rise to a great number of news channels and thereby news anchors. News anchors have a duty or responsibility to ensure that news is broadcasted in a fair and without no factual error. Over the years we have seen news slotted into a prime time spot where anchors dawn the mask of judge and prosecutor. All this for what- TRPs.

I follow news hours regularly where an anchor invites people to the studio, grills them with questions but at the same time has a 'NO' for all their answers. Even for a layman it is ridiculous. There is no attempt to even allow the respondent time to answer. And, that is not good for the viewers. The anchors keeps on asking questions and blatantly defends him whenever anyone points a question at him. He is a headmaster who is unanswerable. He decides if the other channels are inferior and whatever he promulgates is gospel.

This kind of news reporting and meaningless debates have to be investigated. Questions need to asked and demanded if the viewers have the right to know what ails the anchor from stopping people to respond. Are the anchors unsuitable to digest reports that maybe untrue to him or her?

For years Dr.Prannoy Roy was the face of Indian television news channels. Under his wings there have been more news anchors, but it seems that news for them has become noise. The more you could develop sensation, the more viewers would watch your program. The adage "Dog eats Man" holds true even today and I don't see that changing at all. 

When you watch news debate, you understand that you'll have participants having double-edged views, but the views and opinions of them are their sole discretionary. Just because you as a news anchor and have to make a point valid, shouting and taking personal potshots does not hold true. At the end of the day, it is nothing but political nonsense.

I hope common sense prevails and news anchors take their job a bit more responsibly. I hope in the name of "we are the first to report' sanity does not gets lost. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to talk. For a second we can stop running after TRP and be sane.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Talking Beauty!

In a recent study shows that 50%+ women prefer to be run over by a truck than to look fat and ugly. To women, looking fat and ugly is not only hurtful but also traumatic. If you happen to say someone “hey you have gained weight or you got a pimple,” it is like spilling acid on that person.  Female body image is constantly constructed and maneuver by the society. Body shame is crucially picked, distorted and twisted by social commentary.

The word self-image has lost its essence. Most of us are unaware how our self image is twisted and turned by the society. Conscious societal pressure forces us to think that we are ugly and not in- accordance to the living standard of beauty. We are maneuvered to look pretty and   beautify ourselves. Almond eyes, flashy eye lashes, sharp nose, bow like lips and fair and glowing skin is the set standard that we all are tricked to adhere to. Any sort of skin imperfection is stigmatized by our society. A woman is made to believe that she is ugly and ugliness is intolerable by societal standards.

Beauty is socially constructed and marketed. If you are fat, then you are supposed to be on endless, cruel diet regime. You are supposed to exit on salads, fat and sugar free foods. You will hear “fat talks”, things like how beautiful you would have looked had you lost some weight. And, finally comes in the magic of capitalism, called prodicti-fication. Market strategists make full use of socially tagged ugliness. There are endless list of products that you can use to reduce your weight and enhance your beauty. Not only weight reducing belts or machines, you can read fitness magazines, opt for fitness related DVD’s and moreover hire some personal trainer. Theses stream of things might help your reduce your weight but at the same time you will be highly dependent on these products. Your self-image is nothing but a market strategy from which the society gains some sort of pleasure and capitalists get their profits. 

Women are nothing but a medium via which sexual appetizing bar is kept high. Beauty is associated with fairness. If you are not fair then you need to thank the advertisement that pops up every two minutes. You are supposed to use the fairness crème which will definitely make you look fair. The acid test does not stop right there. If you don’t have almond shaped eyes then you can make it look like almonds. Kajal, eye liners are flooded in the market and you have to pick one, rather the right one that suits your eye-type. Trust me it is as complicated as it sounds here. You can correct the fines of your nose and lips only by expensive cosmetic surgeries. The more ugly you are made to look the more is the stake of profits.

From hair to you toe tip a women needs to maintain and beautify her so that she is not stigmatized among her peers. From birth starts the beautification process. Girls are made to wear floral pink dresses, fancy accessories, sparkly shoes etc. With adolescence she is suppose to use all those products that will enhance her beauty and after 25 you are forced to look like 15. If a girl chose not to go for a diet and happily eat cheese and mayonnaise, I would question “who” society is to decide on a girls looks and what beauty is. Beautification and producti-fication are all interlined to societal norms and self image is no longer what we perceive of ourselves but what society perceives us to be.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Behind those Doors!

Her offer letter was given by Mr. Sheti, her manager. She was extremely happy on getting her first job. It was her dream to work with her mentor whom she idol-worshiped since childhood. She will work directly under his guidance. She was happy that her prayers were finally blessed. In some cases, excitement blurs a part of reality and misgivings creeps in silently that you cannot predict its depths. At that moment gestures and signs speaks louder than mere words. On the context of asking her about her work he started to call her in his cabin. Leaving behind so many employees he showed some queer interest on her.  Surprisingly calls to be in his cabin perked more frequently. He hardly bothered on how she was fairing professionally. He started to be frank and posted more personal questions. As a fresher she thought it is polite to answer. Maybe Mr. Sheti was just trying to be friendly so that she comfortably settled down in her new environment. She was not accustomed to IT norms and that “maybe” was a big question mark that disturbed her peace.

His constant pestering caused her sheer agony and pain. On many occasions he tried to grab her hands.  Physically he was trying to get very close. What was he trying to do?   She was confused about his intentions. It was wrong to doubt his intentions. After all he was her idol -worshiped mentor.  As time went on, he started to ask her to work late to meet her deadlines and would intentionally grab this occasion to drop her back. Knowing that she stayed alone in a flat he started asking her out for dinners. His gestures made her feel awkward and uncomfortable. Having no option left, she blatantly refused his offers.

The anguish and agony that she underwent is indescribable and cannot be put down in words.  Constant questions lucked on her head. Why would her mentor make physical moves at her? Was it a part of IT norm? If such things are normal, then it is highly unprofessional and unethical, she thought. It was her first job and she was unaccustomed to any IT norms. She was definitely harassed by his behavior. But again, why would someone so senior intentionally harass her. Was she also a silent victim of harassment?  May be it is normal and part and parcel of IT environment.  She had no definite answers to these questions. These questions will remain unanswered and silently flow into the archive of untold agony and pain that many women face.

Yes, she gave the thought of complaining to higher management. Again confusion had drawn thick clouds on her head.  What would happen next? Will she be able to convince that she was harassed by her mentor or will she be asked to quit her job?  At that point of life she cannot afford to fight some legal battle. Her career was at stake. She thought hard. She had a family to look after and most importantly what if no company hires her again. With these questions lurking back on her tired mind, silently without complaining she resigned from her job. 

Her act may appear cowardly to many of us. But think about putting yourself in situation what would you have done. You have worked your entire life to get yourself placed and work with your mentor and suddenly things starts to fall apart. What will we do is the decision that “we” have to make.