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.