30 Aug 2006


It took Presidency College fourteen months to decide on him, but it took only forty minutes for me to realize why. He was nervous, almost naïve, the day when he first took our class after being appointed as a part-time lecturer in the department. And I was as cheeky as I could get. I remember staring fixedly at him, until he taught looking at the entire class except for me. Sweating profusely, he took swigs out of his mineral water bottle every two minutes; it wasn’t that hot though, except if you count him being the only man in a class of nineteen smoky women. That was him on the first day we met him.

Later, he left without even a glance. It didn’t matter though, because it was only a matter of time before he became ‘one of us’. He was christened into the group-of-the-damned, and doubtlessly after a few months of the finest unadulterated friendship, he was somehow banned from the college. Now, I’m not being entirely honest. I knew why. In fact, all of us knew why. But we just didn’t talk about it. We still don’t.

We used to spend half our day in his cabin, the rest being spent in the canteen or around it. Of course that didn’t go too well with the other professors: did we care? NAH!!! He was perhaps the best thing that happened to us, till date, and we weren’t going to let go that easy. Anyway, so I remember one afternoon he was supposed to be teaching us Emile Durkheim’s take on Religion; it was a tough little bit of the syllabus. But as usual, we turned up, not just late but heavily sloshed, and I stoned with a strange hangover of smoking an isspecial Presi-pot. But we ever missed any of his classes, so despite the flying ‘tweeties’ around my head and my all classmates looking like my ex-school principal, I got to his class…and I spoke…they later told me I was trying to tell him to let us off a bit earlier but all I managed to say was: “willapleejletuzgoarlleee” and smile…and he had taken more gulps of his mineral water and had asked why so, and then my reply had been: “You know, thatsa verryverry naughty question!”. He had no choice but to return to the lesson for the next few minutes till he could still teach, that is before we dozed off. The next day, he’d given us a briefing about handling immediate hangovers, especially in class. That was him after we had screwed up in his class.

Then, there was the day I met him to discuss my research paper and ended up in China Bistro sharing lasagna and pasta with him, of course after three rounds of iced tea in the coffee shop. He didn’t have his mineral water bottle that day, and every time we’d talk about things that’d make him want to take a swig, we’d order more iced tea. It was kind of crazy at the start, but we talked and talked and talked…and I talked so much I bet I would have weighed a bit lighter after that. I really ‘felt’ lighter, I felt less crammed up in my head, like I’d just written down a lot in the diary, maybe I felt I had a friend. That was him after a nice and hefty meal of lasagnas and pastas.

There were afternoons when we’d nick classes spending time in the canteen, all our heads glued together, huddled in a corner, talking in hushed excited voices…and he’d come right into it and join. And we’d just take him in, and brief him, and continue. And then there were the actual lessons we’d get from him, sometimes in coffee shops, or in the portico, or even at my place: where we’d all come together for an afternoon of highly serious discussions of Weber, or Durkheim, or Spencer along with rounds of ‘prawn pakora’ and chilled Coke. That was him as the friend who also happened to be a professor.

Then he fell in love. We were all delighted, and declared ‘party’ when he told us, he was leaving us. And then before we could realize the bare brutality of that, he left…and left with us moments, memories and a signature “Handloom Emporium” folio bag for each. And his heart with one of us…or perhaps a bit with each of us. I don’t know how much he is where he is, because he is so much here, with us…in our actions, thoughts, and even ideas. That is him, our AD. Alekhya Das, Ex Part-Time Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Presidency College Kolkata.
Hours fly away
The clock still ticks,
Days go by-
The wounds still have a story to tell.
And even when the rain
Floods her backyard, she sits
Her eyes dry
But her face wet with tears,
She has not spoken for years
Yet she has so much to say.
I have seen her on the same doorstep
For all I can remember,
Her hands folded in her lap
Her stained rags dangling
By the last few strings of hope;
But her eyes surprise me
The only signs of a life deep inside
The stone core-
Flickering time and time again,
Refusing to end it all
Until it is time.
The outstretched hands of time
Have not touched her,
The vines keep her
From the wingless flights of passion;
Her front porch has turned yellow
Spring never treads into her wasted garden,
Rust in her hair
Weed at her feet,
She sits there
Frozen in time
Like nothing has changed.

Some things never change.
The lonely church still stands alone,
And the dying apple tree,
And the crooked church bell,
And the lady at the church door.
Some people just pass by
Some come along, pause, sigh and leave
Some say how beautiful she used to be,
I always say hello to her,
She never smiles
She never does to anybody.
I know she has suffered-
Enough to make speech seem vain;
But her marble eyes speak to me
In a language I know not,
What do I see? Is it love or is it pain?
Or perhaps both.
Her face darkens with the dusk
Perhaps fading into the distant dream-
Of another sun
Of another hope
Of another day.
As I walk away
She looks on
With the same indifferent stagnancy;
I understand that look
Not having seen any other,
On her expressionless face
And her inert mouth
Speaks a language of the wordless…
I promise, to be back
For I know somewhere, she wants me to.

27 Jun 2006


Below are selected exerpts of my research paper on Alternative Music in present-day Bengal, and its Sociological perspective. Read on...hope it makes you think...

An introduction of the matter...

…batteries of spotlights pick out the band in multi-coloured light and bits of perfetti against the darkness of the stage. The hall trembles under the thunderous noise of the fans. The singer steps up to the front of the stage. The music begins to the stamping rhythm of the drums…scene change: the shadows of young people dance with the psychedelic lights. The noise is deafening. Nothing disturbs their abandonment to the music. The energy which keeps their bodies moving seems inexhaustible…

Rock music – who can fail to recognize these descriptions of young fans which are so inextricably bound up with it? But what is it actually that lies behind these descriptions? What experience of reality is to be found in the music? What significance and what cultural values are locked up in the hammering, motoric rhythms?
Rock music – powerful, sensual, loud and full of energy. It has changed the face of modern music. It has seeped into the innermost circles of the remotest of human civilizations. It provides a seemingly strange colour to the grayer shades…the freedom of expression, through loud and practical lyrics…that can address any issue. Is it the new religion of mankind……in words of Marx, “…it is the soul of the soulless and opium of the masses” was what he thought of religion. Music has always been known to have given humanity its due windows of satisfaction and contentment, however, rock music comes with that something that has the world stand up on its feet and take notice. But the current massification of this particular phenomenon is what is most striking, as is it’s acceptance throughout the world.
I intend, here, to understand the smoke surrounding this phenomenon which postmodernists fiercely defend as to be a paradigm of Hyper-Reality. Moving on from the post-modern gaze, I wanted to find a practical and historical evidence of its emergence, as well as explain its observable character of steady multiplicity. My research is based on Bengal’s reception and reaction to the movement. I have attempted to look beyond its apparent manifestation and locate traces of its origin in the socio-political ambiance of post-Independence Bengal to its cultural saturation in today’s time.

Why I'm studying this...

The primary objective of studying about this particular topic is my interest to trace the emergence and path of its extension towards wider and at the same time inner-most peripheries of human society. The questions are quite clear; they are aimed mainly at the socio-cultural position of this exact kind of music in today’s Bengali society. Rock Music, as I will explain a little further on, has encroached upon the highly placid yet curiously shifting and internalizing elements of our society. The Bengali elitism is slowly being massified as Rock Music starts to find audience among all strata of economic placements.

As its history of emergence becomes clearer, it becomes less complicated to grasp its sociological contexts. And the fact that Bengal, once again, proves to be the home of this intellectual, revolutionary, cultural and politically estranged but strongly aware of the air of it, youth. I wanted to disentangle the myth surrounding this genre of music, as that of being loud, noisy, unmusical, slapdash, anti-traditional and crude. I have tried to reach to its audience to look for similar pleasures, and their notions of melody in this kind of music. I have made an effort to understand the establishment of Rock Music in Bengal, as a revolutionary component in our culture; and the reason behind its all-pervasive acceptance in such a protective and almost ethnocentric culture like ours.

Apart from a historical research, my objective was to participate with the Rock Music enthusiasts in the city, to study their attitudes and the simplest and most immediate social manifestations of it. Because, Rock Music has not originated in this landmass, there is always a scope of over-indulgence and distorted presentations of it; I made attempts to study those as well, through my respondents. Due to the lack of any preceding hypothesis, I had to look for almost all major and minor details of this movement, as I can now call it so. My aim was also to locate the typical third world reception of this global phenomenon, in Bengal. The fact that this entire system, arrangement and presentation of music is highly global in nature, gives a lucid prototype of the Mass Culturation of this particular type of music.

Therefore, my objective is to initiate a study in this highly neglected field of alternative music, specifically Rock Music in Bangla, which has revolutionized the thinking of modern youth. The research has been chiefly undertaken to understand and explain the reason behind this thesis-antithesis-synthesis of culture through this variety of music, which originated thousands of miles away from this land. Especially in a country like India, where we are so proud of our heritage…that we silently choose to overlook the not-so-subtle globalization process invading into our daily lives.

History of the Study

Bengal has been the bed of major revolutions in the nation. It has experienced the most tumultuous of socio-cultural movements. India reached its intellectual best during the Independence revolution, and Bengal provided some of the most noteworthy brains in it. The renaissance in this nation saw the likeness of Vidya Sagar, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Vivekananda from Bengal; then in the pre-Independence period saw rise of the great Rabindra Nath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Dwijendralal Roy, Jibonananda Das, Rajanikanta Sen, Atulprasad Sen, Dilip Roy, and many more; while after Independence we have contemporary literary figures like Buddhadeb Basu, Sudhindranath Dutta, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Shakti Chattopadhyay, Saiyad Mujtaba Ali, and modern writers like Nirode C. Chowdhury, Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri, who are bright children of Bengal. The prime reason behind citing this pedagogic inventory is, to defend the cultural and intellectual awareness and progressive outlook of this tremendously prolific landmass.

In Bengal, I find a dynamic enthusiasm about varied forms cultural amplification, amongst the people of Bengal. However much we critique the globalization process, we still embrace it in myriad sorts. And it is needless to say that Calcutta became the seat of all cultural upheavals and changes. Calcutta, which can be described as a heterogenetic centre as opposed to orthogenetic type of old cities, which not only carried forward its long-established local cultures, but also, created new modes of thoughts, both among the rich and the poor, that were in conflict with the old culture. These new modes either superceded or modified the thoughts associated with the old culture.

If we look at the history of Bengali Music, in context to the city of Calcutta, we would notice that towards the early 18th century, in the pre-natal stages of Calcutta, a lot of people were coming into the city, bringing with them their own cultures and their own music. Two socio-economic groups of Bengalis emerged in that stage, in the course of the growth and development of a metropolitan city under a colonial administration. Of the two, one is the Bengali elite and the other is that of the lower order migrants. These were the people from various walks of life; they were the craftsmen, goldsmiths, farmers, fishermen, washer-men, and so on. They found certain kind of patrons in the city. And it’s very interesting that the kind of class divide that dominates the cultural taste today is not relevant to the context of that time, because often the patrons and the lower order people came from the same category of continuum of culture, and therefore they shared the same kind of music. At that particular time, there were two particular combinations of political forces, which were very strong…one was the nationalist force that was coming up, and the other was the Victorian morality of the ruling British government. This combination proved fiery for the music of Calcutta in those days.

The feel of rebellion was evident in the tunes of the songs. There was a distinct opinion of protest voiced through the music and lyric of songs sung in Bengal, as it later forayed into the vanguard in the form of “Adhunik Gaan” and “Jibonmukhi Gaan”. At that point of time, most of this music would be considered BAWDY because they would be based on BODY. So, culturally, there was a banishment of both the BAWDY and the BODY from the sphere of music.

The ALTENATIVE BENGALI MUSIC or the POPULAR BENGALI MUSIC is based on a history of a very violent silence in alternative music. Though we find an evident comeback of it in the 90s, the foundations were laid much earlier during the 70s. In fact, I find Rabindranath Tagore a post-modern in the true senses; his creations are extremely progressive and ahead of his times, he wrote at his time what nobody else could or did, how will one analyze that? There is a mention of “Nagar Philomel” as being the first band formed in Bengal that catered alternative music, though “Mohiner Ghoraguli” is considered the pioneer of it; though they couldn’t reach out to the audience, mainly due to their music an lyrics being highly obscure from the common man’s grasp and starkly different from its contemporary Bengali mainstream music. In the songs I find a very high quota of individualistic emotion, which is characteristic of its social air, that of a rapidly industrializing and urbanizing population. Gautam Chattopadhyay spearheaded “Mohiner Ghoraguli” apart from steering a musical revolution. An eccentric, he thought of a music that was ahead and inspired only a few of his epoch, but showed its true effect with time. This happened primarily because there was a gap between the listening subject and the singing subject. There was not enough audience to carry on this music. It was music without an audience to a large extent.

We find the advent of a new variety of lyric and sound, in the early 90s, with Suman Chattopadhyay. He was the first, perhaps, to construct a self which could provide an alternative without toeing the dominant Marxist line, that is, broadly being left but being left without having political affiliation. Suman changed the whole path of Bengali music. With him, Bengal found a new voice, a voice previously absent, which sung in protest, but was self-critical at the same time. This, I think, was a major departure. It is typical of Bengalis to create an all-perfect “I” and at the same time an “enemy” of “I”, and then a continuous struggle of the two to prove that there is no problem with “I” and everything is wrong with the “enemy”. But Suman begged to differ; he was a critic…a critic of himself, a critic of his times. Suman, now known as Kabir Suman
The alternative form of music – as pursued in Bengal can not be matched to the cultural state of any other territory of the country. Facts would reveal that, in the last ten years, the way music has evolved here after Suman Chattopadhyay, Anjan Dutta, Nachiketa, or Shilajit initiated the movement…has not been the case anywhere else. Bengal saw an intellectual renaissance in the 40s and again in the 70s. Politically, the youth of the era were silenced after that time and fed with steady streams of social conditioning. The positive anger, which leads to new ideas were muted in an alarmingly simple manner. The result was a flat mono-urban culture. Walking outside this realm was unlikely. Aptly it was in Bengal that the anger resurfaced. It showed itself in poetry, and then it showed in music.
And finally as an expression of this anger, Rock Music arrived, it was a new generation…and they were not just knocking the door, they were kicking it.

What is Rock Music?

Rock Music, can be discussed in a number of perspectives; like as a music, as a faith, as an interpretation of emotion or expression of it, or even a way of life. But its Sociological standpoint is of principal importance to me, because only that gives a considerable idea of it in social perceptions. Now, to start with a general conception of it in Sociology: Rock Music can be traced back to the post-1945 mass culture era. The extent of capitalism had pushed masses to limits, of having been witnesses to some of the worst wars the world had seen, and lingering hatred amongst communities. Music, at such a juncture proved to the language recognized and accepted world over. And this was music, unlike the so called elite, cream of the crop creation; rather it was music that appealed to the common people, who felt differently about their life’s comings: they did not want wars or atomic bombs; neither did they want to give up their homes and children for political conquests. And so, their music reflected their thoughts. Then, there was the 60s and 70s era of ‘peace ’, which rose as a protest towards the world’s attitude of being at nuclear loggerheads at any given pretext. The ‘hippies’ and their lifestyles had the world sit up and take notice in concern, because of its mass appeal, and predominantly because the major involvements were from the youth of the countries. Though it was to a vast extent an all-American movement, due to USA’s huge links in the Vietnam wars, the tail-ends of the cultural shift speedily spread outwards and towards the rest of the world. The use of noise and gaudy presentations were, without doubt a means to seize attention, aimed at the system and the direct refutation of it, chiefly through cleverly crafted songs. But the emergence of it is not just about this, there are other major sources which have immediate footings in the socio-economic conditions then, and the gradual realization of the ‘mass ’. With this came the mass culture and its related concepts.

Just as the music itself is constantly changing, so is its terminology. The term ‘ROCK MUSIC’ means many different things and its meaning has changed at practically every stage in its development. The boundaries between it and other classes of popular music and other fields of music and culture are fluid and are constantly changing. The short form ‘rock ’, derived from the American ‘rock’n’roll ’, came into general use in the mid-sixties, losing in the process the specific meaning that it had previously had as a description of those musical styles directly derived from ‘rock’n’roll ’. If Rock is really to be understood in its cultural dimension it must be taken seriously as music and be accepted as a legitimate art form.

Form and content wise, rock music involves the use of technology to a great extent. The use of electric guitars, programmable key-boards (electrical piano), percussion instruments, amplifiers, and not to forget the auxiliaries being of prime importance, as Rock Music’s other most important aspect is performing in front of a live audience, like pre-programmable or live lights, smoke-machines, sound amplifiers, and use of sound manipulators (these are little electrical devices that can be used to maneuver the sound outputs of the guitars or even voice, for example echo machines). The live shows are presented by the bands who do rock music, in ways absolutely unique to themselves. Different bands have different mass appeals: like a ‘rock fan’ knows that a Beatles* concert will be different from that of a Led Zeppelin** live show. The difference lies in varied aspects, from songs, to lyrics, to arrangements of instruments to their presentations. However, the fan response may be somewhat hysterically similar…literally. These live shows range from friendly acts on stage to quite vulgar expressions, and it is sometimes difficult to read the reasons behind any particular act as such, if not the band declares it themselves. Live shows are very important to establish a kind of rapport between the Rock Band and its fans, but at the same time elevating the band itself to a higher level of hero-worship, almost to a point of idolism. Rock Music enthusiasts worldwide are known to be more of fanatics than fans…this trend is equally intriguing as Rock Music itself. In the next section, I have tried to capture similar aspects of the above discussed in context to Bengal, more specifically Calcutta.

Revolution? What Revolution?

Almost from its inception, the alternative music scene in Bengal has been tightly overseen by the bosses of Bengali tradition and culture. For eternity, music had been controlled by the so-called guardians of the institutionalized art form, and experimenting couldn’t be initiated until late 20th century. Even when it began, the musicians involved were branded as outcasts, anti-traditional and unrefined. Their music was rejected by the elites and the conventionalists alike. Traditional tastes clashed with the earthy music inspired by life. It contained no heavy bejeweled language, neither intricate compositions nor concealed truths. It exhibited only the simplest of humane expressions of feelings and emotions. And that was a huge blow to the established music forms.
Recognized as music of the lower-classes, it turned however to cater to the tunes of the masses. It sang songs of protest. Their poems spoke about their lives. Their instruments were uncomplicated and ingenious. And largely it was the evidence of mass appeal that was the unique attribute of this music. Quite like the rise of ‘Hip-Hop’ amongst the Blacks of America, alternative music rose in Bengal, which we later named as ‘Jibonmukhi Gaan’. The intercontinental elements had already started streaming into daily lives of common people, and it was everywhere and unavoidable. The inspirations were great men, who too spoke of life as it were, not just pen fantasies and unreal dreams. People like, Bob Dylan, Pete Seger, John Lennon, Joan Baez, have given us songs that we, perhaps, can never stop humming. Cult musicians like, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Keith Richards, Jim Morrison, have moved the world with their mind-blowing compositions. Western influences like these were inevitable, and have unabashedly done so.
Yes, it can be considered as a revolutionizing of Bengal, as this music was born out of protest and as pro-longed enduring of repression of general talent. Yes, it can be called a revolution, because it was a shout and not just another song…it needed to be cried out loud, for people to take notice, to look beyond the system, and through the thin line that separated music and what could be called as music. It was time for the average (or so considered by the customaries), to step out of the shackles of cultural domination and make their existence known.

(*Beatles: The most popular band ever, though not initially a rock band, it was first of its kind. The study of rock music starts with them.
** Led Zeppelin: A massively popular Rock Band known for its powerhouse live stage performances.)

Our few first brave men, like Gautam Chattopadhyay and Suman Chattopadhyay, faced inconceivable resistance and criticisms. And they had to fight, like all revolutionaries, to keep doing what they think is best, and to keep spreading the message they wanted. Their songs reflected strong criticisms as well on their parts against the political and reigning cultural systems. It was an effort to break the pre-determined pathways of what is good music and what is bad music. And so, the methods employed were radical as well. Amalgamation of traditional tunes with western inputs, created quite an uproar, both good and bad. As it meant, mixing the sounds of a Bangla ‘dhol’ with distortion guitar…or maybe an interior folk song with acoustic guitars…or maybe just a song that spoke the truth about things. The hypocrisy, remained till the potential of the masses became clearer. It was also partly a result of the global mass phenomena, and the coming of the consumerist culture, that this particular form of music was given its due recognition. And like a true revolution, it spread like a wild firestorm…and engulfed an entire generation, which made it mandatory to consider alternative music as a music form inside the mainstream.
ROCK MUSIC is the biggest chunk in this alternative body of music. It surfaced with the use of guitars (electric), percussions and acoustic drum sets (an array of drums and percussions in different set-ups), keyboards (electrical piano), and other unconventional musical instruments along with (in some cases) the usual. There was also a certain deviation in the presentation of the vocal pattern. Moving away from the traditional ways of singing, there was a creation of the natural; one that came most naturally to a person. Those were songs of joy, pain, relationships, man, his feelings dreams and actions, failures and achievements, they were songs of life and the world, and they needed no false dramatizations. And so they were sung with the simplicity of their creations. Also, this was when the unification of labour in the production of music happened. Like, the same person would write a song, put a tune to it and sing it…thus there was a lagging in the labour alienation, as presented my Karl Marx, an exponent of modern economy, labour and its associated problems. He was also the first to have predicted a revolution due to the bourgeois (Capitalist class) exploits over the proletariat (mass working class). The scene was rather similar on an average throughout the world, though Marx’s prophecy of a Socialist Revolution did not quite take shape in reality. However, revolution acquired myriad forms, bearing different facades of remonstration. Music formed an important and integral part of the movement.

In Bangla, a language considered so sweet, that its said that its rightly called ‘mother-tongue’, because it is sweet like a mother’s words that could heal any wound and melt the hardest of hearts, it was the toughest to punctuate this conception with the voice of protest. Mothers don’t protest, they can tolerate the entire world’s agony and yet not make a sound. Again, there was this struggle to prove that Bangla is not just a saccharine laden weepy all-enduring vernacular variety. It was also one of the strongest, to have provided the country with the best and the most influential war songs and poems during the freedom movement in India. Those were not sugary words; they were hard-hitting radical expressions that stimulated the youth of an entire nation to take up arms against foreign imperialism. The first blow on the mold was cast then, and the rest is history. It is yet another story of revolution that led a generation to believe in their faith and themselves. It was then a fight against the system, it is still a fight against the system, and it will forever be a fight against the system.

The bands of Kolkata, who do Rock Music nowadays, have a lot to say…but mostly through their compositions. The list has lengthened over the years from one or two rebellious young men. And some are hugely successful and ‘popular’. Some have been here in the alternative circuit for decades,experimenting with musical forms and expressions. Some have hit gold with commercial stage performances, and have made niches for themselves, and want to keep it that way. But their views are on a large scale the replicas of each other…they all talk about being different from the stream. They believe that they are a parallel and stronger force, and they are but explorers traveling to where no one has tread before, musically, philosophically, or physically (in context to Bangla Rock music, of course !). They feel that creating music is like giving birth, and the pain it involves can only be justified by Rock Music. The noise, the dark presentations, the screaming vocals…are all but parts of the same machine called Rock Music.

Without its revolutionary character, it is almost a paralyzed study of the alternative music in Bengal. It is next to impossible to do so in the first place, because the main cause behind its emergence is the continued subjugation of common man from the cultural aspects of society to a very large extent. And thus in a way, it is a prophecy fulfilled.

26 Jun 2006

Wonder why I never walked home before...

Ever since the day I had stepped into Presidency College, I had wanted to do one thing that I had not done before. Well, that didn’t sound very difficult did it? Hmm…let’s see, I’d already done most of all the things an eighteen year old should and shouldn’t do. So that made my task a wee bit difficult. And I kept thinking about it for a couple of weeks, but then “The Presidency Effect” worked, and this is how…

I fell in love with the college the day I resolved to be a part of it, and in turn the college has taught me how to fall in love with everything that has been gladly offered to me rather than run in pursuit of the ‘forbidden fruit’. Like say for example our city, people so often quote as the “City Of Joy”. Calcutta, be it the city of joy or not, has an innate connection with Presidency College, each complement the other…in a way that only someone who understands what it means being a Calcuttan and a Presidencian. All I meant by that was that one must belong to a place to be in love with it. So, true to the pre-determined effects, I fell in love with a horde of things but “that” guy every girl around me were volunteering to fall for. I proudly say I love, “Promod da’s Canteen”, the rickety benches in the union and opposition room, even the ever-irritating “Jeet” (thank god he won’t be able to read this himself, unless of course someone has a bad score to settle with me, because otherwise he would be serving me yesterday’s tea all through the next three years); next is the haunted “Maths-er Chhaad”…and the locked gates make it even more exciting; then how could’ve not fallen for the “Portico”, once I stand under that gigantic ceiling, I feel no less than any Countess or Duchess; or the “Derozio Hall”, the “Lover’s Lane”…

…and most significant of all, I fell in love all over again with Calcutta. And I did something I had never done before; I took a walk back home one evening from college. And on that day I figured out how much the city holds hides and offers. I didn’t just walk back home, I walked through one of Calcutta’s most time-honoured roads, one such road where footsteps of many a great men could be traced if it had not been for another traditional fact, filth. This particular road also happens to be the shortest distance between two points, one the college and the other my home, so I had no problem narrowing down my choice of roads to follow back home. Alright, I’ll stop being so unnecessarily mysterious, it’s ‘Bidhan Sarani’. Running almost through the middle of central Calcutta towards the north, this road obscures many secret beauties almost invisible to our mechanically programmed eyes. And I myself was surprised at the level of observation I was suddenly sensitive to, I saw and felt things differently though I had gone by that road at least a thousand times. It was amazing how things can change only if you just stepped out of the bus and take to the streets.

I saw the love and compassion that still existed, and that which was missing at the same time. I saw the people, who were smiling and sharing chit chats in between pulling rickshaws; the beggar who was feeding the dog from his own measly share; the heritage buildings trying to stand tall amongst newer and safer not-at-all heritagious buildings, those which don’t have signs put up by the P.W.D “UNSAFE” or “DANGEROUS” with ample exclamation marks; the street urchins staring longingly at the stalls put up by the sidewalk, and the vendor shooing them away as if, he could see the hatred in their eyes for those who can afford the goods, and scared that it might frighten his customers away; people walking crammed up against each other due to the sidewalk being overburdened by the stalls, but no one seemed to mind, rather they seemed happy to indulge in an ‘I-push-you-and-you-push-me’ sort of a thoroughfare; the inquisitive eyes of boys peeping out of holey windows of boys’ hostels, boring into all passing girls…they are perhaps new to the city and unaccustomed to the generous numbers of groups of giggly girls passing by; the couples fighting over matters either important or grave, (I can’t tell) while munching the ‘Masla-Badam’; the unsuspecting bond between the unfed cats and dogs sitting closely in front of the makeshift chicken shop is seemingly apparent and vanishes the moment the vendor throws away a bit of unwanted leftover, very much like the shop owners on this street, they seem to be buddy buddy but only till a prospective customer approaches the scene, and they become just murderous competitors; the tea-stall where I took a little break and a cup of tea, the taste of the tea instantly improved when I thought he had made the tea for everybody but himself, not demanding any appreciation nor comments neither expecting any though his stall seemed to pull all the crowd, maybe because it was the only tea stall in the area; and the pair of feet I was walking on…and their refusal to even closely associate themselves with fatigue.

It took me an hour and a half to reach home, but it was love’s labour worth a lifetime or even more. And at last when I was back at home I was happy about what I had done, but I decided I would never do it again, because I fear disillusionment, and I know its an indispensable baggage of love. But I am happy with the love I have in my heart for things that are invaluable to me, and I am wary of losing it. And I am delighted that I have an inherited connection to my love, and a deserving commitment to Presidency College. Presidency has am impact unlike any, an influence beyond any predestined. I have learnt to love like a lover, from Presidency College…and like I said, I would remain so because I won’t let it change.

25 Jun 2006

Marriage: Oh how we love that word!

(Oh by the way....these two aren't married...but they look so cute together don't they? They're my buddies from college! And they are really cute!)

Marriage is freedom…to some, and the loss of it to some other. Most men feel trapped after marriage…however, some of the planet’s last surviving gentlemen feel lucky to have found their soul mate, but nevertheless marriage jokes sell like Playboy. For women it’s quite different, it means you could either be transferred to a monster, after having spent twenty years with your daddy darling. Or you could be feeling like you’ve got a life with your hubby that you thought you never had under the vigilance of your monster of a dad. Marriage means liberty from mom’s yucky palak-ka-saag and bondage to your wife’s yucky “Spinach dé lâ vú lé lã………….

Marriage is sacrifice; it means good-byes as well as hellos. It means a whole lot of ‘zandu baam’ for your ‘peera haari’ on your wedding night, after you’ve had to duck to touch about five hundred (and thousand) feet of all your relatives, well wishers and a hundred more you don’t even recognize. Marriage is leaving the pink bedroom behind and walking into the blue one. Marriage means you can’t spend hours lazing on that sunny balcony, eyeing that boy or that girl you’ve forever eyed…and if you happened to have married that one…you couldn’t have been luckier.

Marriage is a promise. It is a new beginning, a new start; of a new friendship. Even if you might have courted your spouse for twelve years, marriage is bound to change everything you knew about your love. And if you were married to the blue-eyed whoever of your momma and papa’s choice, it’s just the beginning of an adventure (…that almost always turns into a book). Marriage means compromise…it means fights and fights…in between the crazy lovemakings. Marriage is in fact, an atrocious realization; before you were married you would think ten times over before even imagining of making out with your girlfriend…’cause you know your parents would be devastated if they came to know about it…and after you are married the next thing you know, your mother is dropping strange hints to how lovely it would feel to have a baby in the house…surely you still don’t buy the birds and bees story.

Marriage is a feeling. Trust me, I’ve heard my girlfriends talk about it…how they dressed and dolled up to feel married or how they felt married when they made love to their then loves for the first time…etcetera etcetera. Its surely very giggly…their demure natures suddenly become all they show, even if it’s your friend who you knew to thrive on death metal music and sported frightful piercings. But somehow marriage transforms them into these shy and coy little things who can’t stop smiling and giggling.

Marriage means responsibilities. Or the relocation of it. It means that now, you have to take care of the new apartment…which also has things like building maintenance committee, that you never knew existed, or the water tax… having to get up for the morning paper-wallah, doodh-wallah and the kuda-wallah…had you ever wondered before that where all the garbage went?

Marriage is growing up and growing out of all the pre-existing circumstances and coming to terms with reality as a person together with another person, where everything has to be shared properly in its desired quantities…till you have to share it in three….or four…..or …..Please we need to control our population!

The Reservation Question

Hi! Here's my take on the reservation issue:

My buddies in college are so active in their protest in this furor against reservation and quota, and they are always so well versed in their protests, that I imagined that it was quite enough for me to just sing along with them…after all what they were straining their lungs about was quite what I would want to say as well. So I took the easy way out, and sort of played along with the whole thing…this was until I came across this talk show on MTV India, where a couple of VJs were in town for the show and happened to have held hostage a few chaps from our college as well as some more form other colleges and institutions. I remember there was a guy from IIM, Calcutta who kept rationalizing things from an economic perspective (though they told me that’s not what is done in IIMs). Well, despite cravings to keep switching the channel back to a stupid colloquial movie, I was stuck on to this show somehow, and watched it till the end. The ideas, views and thoughts that were executed (read. Murdered) in this talk-show was amazing! I mean, students have ideas that Mao-ists are terrorists(!!!), politics is but what Greg Chappel did with Sourav Ganguly, and reservations are a necessary evil, and that student-protests are results of the movie “Rang De Basanti”!!!!!!!!!! I’m having a terrible urge to put more “!!!!!”s in there because, I cannot perhaps explain in words the shock I felt during that half hour…and the lingering amazement that is still hovering around.

After this, I kind of went numb….it seemed to me like we need pretences of “formula” laden movies to push us towards asking for what is ours? Does Nepal’s coup suggest it was because they saw some movie where folks of a monarchic country forced the throne to be abdicated and created a democracy overnight? With all respect to the movie making industry of the nation, I beg to differ…an influence and a direct consequence differs…
What those young students, my age, junior and seniors, had to say was pretty much what the entire nation’s student fraternity wants today…..EQUALITY…it is understandable, but there seems to be a serious lack of basic understanding why is it that we want it? What do we do with equality? Equality is but a myth….this reservation issue only means that education should be equal to everybody, the students cannot be equal, when were they? Haven’t we been taught from pre-primary to be self-sufficient and competitive? Then where’s the competition, if we are all equal? It is not so…the issue is EQUAL OPPURTURNITY not equality among students.

I remember in my second year of college, when the new batch was being admitted in the department, we helped the professors with the humongous process of form collection, analysis, and selection for the initial entrance tests, invigilation and then finally the core selection process. It was an enlightening fall of events…the results were not as brilliant as this year’s students, so we had to narrow down quickly and it was easy…choosing the cream of the lot, and fun too! But after the entire selection was done, our Head of Department received a letter from the authority regarding the quota to be filled….and then came the shock…forms were rejected, of students having scored no less than 75%, and in place were taken (with all my sympathy to those) students who were either from scheduled castes or scheduled tribes with percentages as low as 46% and 50%. Fair? I do not think so, had they applied with competitive marks…I probably wouldn’t be writing this today…but no, the system doesn’t work that way.

What can possibly be the explanation for this? And we are stumped with throw-backs saying it is the “Rang De Basanti” era of student protests. And who are these comments coming from…..the students themselves….brainwashed by a bigger fraternity of people who come from the Greg Chappel stable perhaps? Ha ha…

24 Jun 2006

Well...this is me then.

I'm going to make this as fast and painless as it can be.... God! I've always hated those stupid first introductions...."Hello! How are you? You don't look familiar, have we met? Yes, I thought so...So, what do you do?"......and blah....blah....blah......it just goes on.....and all I can do in such situations is put on my best "non-bored" expression and try and take as much interest possible in the "Oh, you know.....my work keeps me in the office all day long, its sooooo much work, you young things can never ever imagine!"-s. It might sound rude or really offensive, but being present in front of such stand-alone theatrical characters totally changes the direction of the offense.

Anyway, here's my painful offensive: I'm presently majoring in Sociology, from Presidency College Calcutta... and plan to take on journalism (not academically, proffessionally!), after masters in some godforsaken discipline...actually I happen to have a lot of options...wanted to sit for CAT, but I'm thinking I may not be 'that' good, I might actually sit for it but chances are that I will not stand up with it.

I did my schooling from the school, thats near home and that never makes it to the headlines despite having some of the best scores in all the board exams, now to think of it...I'm quite proud of the fact, it means I can work on it someday......challenges...challenges.....
My high school was really far away from home, and I had to board a bus exactly at 9:15 a.m to reach school exactly at 10:30 a.m......isn't that delirious?

My college, is the best, by far the most amazing campus.....any human/god/whatever could have created...its the most educational (not disciplinary, because I don't attend classes, who does?!!!) experience ever.....it is here that I learnt, that people could actually sing like Mariah Carey with ten pegs of unadulterated white rum, or that the Calcutta skyline could look so beautiful from a two-storey high servant's quarter terrace, that classrooms were but a myth, that classmates were actually the locality's middle-aged folks, that youth-awareness is waking up in a dust-bin covered in crap...and realising that last evening was cleanliness drive's deadline, that public break-ups could actually be show-stealers after a week-long drama(inter-college theatre fest) marathon, or that proffessors could be the first crushes.......

But nostalgia drips at the very thought of my junior schhol, those were the days...days of thunder (under the wooden canopy, off the school cateen, in the monsoon)... those were the days of friendship (friends today...fiends tomorrow...and all for that cute guy two standards senior).... those were the days, when mischief meant having tiffin in the back-benches, or drawing stuff out of the Biology book, chapter 10, page 105 (you know what!)...

But here I am, now, today...looking back at all the fun and looking ahead at all the unknown fun yet to be registered here... really, to think of it now, it seems like...LIFE's one big joke... good part is, its not on me....(not for now).

23 Jun 2006

Calcutta Public Transport

Hi...this is my space....this is where I'm shifting now... Its been years since I'd started feeling I need a different space to breathe....never ever imagined it would on "cyber-space". Well, I must say the best part about the internet is, (don't boo me) it hasn't got pollution issues...with me around there could have been a serious smog scare... nonetheless, there are no "please-budge-and-make-some-space-for-me!!!" screams... this one's particularly important because for the last five years this "first-you-budge-then-will-I" space constraint has been a part of me everyday.... sounds so much like relationship stuff....hell no! Its the Calcutta public transports... my high school was pretty far away from home...and so, this 'budge-budge' fights was quite a daily affair. However, since I still (okay, now I'm being naive) consider myself a novice in blogging, this post will be about my Calcutta Public Transport experience...I wrote this bit when I joined high school.

Maybe I do not wear my feelings on my visage, but the problem lies when I start to feel the pain that hurts my inside as well as my outside. Let’s take an example for its explanation. One day I happened to have boarded the bus that takes me, and a few hundred more people, to their destinations every morning. I mention a hundred, as you will always find people getting up on buses that are already jam-packed. And it often has happened that I would get up by the front door and by the time it’s my turn to get down, I am belched out of the rear door. Anyways, aboard one such bus I was trying as hard as I could to accommodate, and things were going a bit like being stuck between two lovers who would not keep from anything to meet each other’s arms. But fine, although there were no lovers, instead most of us were having to be in each other’s arms despite hating it (or perhaps otherwise). Even I was okay until a woman the size of a “Mexican beer barrel” decided to give all of us inside a good time. Accompanied with her purse that would very well fit in a healthy human baby, an enormous umbrella, a king-size aluminium Tiffin-carrier and finally to our relief the last item of her combat gear, a duffel bag containing what only she knows, because I could bet it weighed at least eight to ten kilos. Anyways, she got up on the bus one fine day, and I still wonder how she managed to get in! And on started her tantrums…someone was blocking her view…….or someone was standing on her feet…….or else someone was pulling her jewellery case, I mean her purse. But it was she who was actually doing all those single-handedly. From the instance she was on the bus she was shouting at the passengers and pushing and gasping to fit her gigantic frame inside the intimidated bus interior packed with crushed human flesh and bones. I really was a Lilliputian when compared to her and to my horror, she decided to make my feet her footrest; to be honest I was entirely her body rest as she was leaning on me comfortably. Considering the bus and the woman I resolved to keep shut, as there really no space to move, but that was my mistake! The pain showed on my face, I felt my ears going hot as my feet started to get numb beneath the pair of “Ashok-Stambhas”, sweating like a horse I couldn’t stop the occasional “ouch”s and “oof”s when the bus was determined to give us the joy ride. Triggered off by my barely audible cries of help, the man standing or rather dangling beside me gave one look at me and perhaps understanding my situation started addressing the conductor of the bus, “Hey, don’t you ever bother to take a look at the people getting up on your bus? What nerve! Allowing mammoths to get up when there isn’t space to accommodate another ant! You nutcase! We are all getting crushed don’t you see!”. This was instigation enough for the woman to shoot off. Now she started screaming, seething with rage. In the scarcity of space she somehow managed to dash her hands in the direction of the man who commented, continuously calling him “a son of a something” that I couldn’t catch amidst all the hullabaloo that was created inside the bus. The fight was inevitable…………..and the cause being I, I couldn’t flush out the sheer guilt, but I didn’t have to, the sidesplitting conversation inside subsided it. The last thing I heard before the bus gulched me out, was that the man was screaming, “You fat old hag!” and the woman shrieked, “Oh my god! I will kill you, you baboon!”, and the indistinct voice of the conductor trying to bring things under control, “Please be quiet, please do not fight like kids!” Kids to hell… perhaps even the Indo-Pak relations are not so violent. Once out of the firing hole, I sighed, looked back at the bus and started towards my school with pangs of guilt, paining limbs and a sharp pain in my sides…