April 25, 2007

How to watch movies

A recent discovery - If you are watching a Tarantino or a Kubrick in the day, watch a David Dhawan in the night. In between, throw in a nice romantic comedy of Bong. The world needs balance. Have been doing that for the last week.

April 23, 2007


People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that's bullshit. Love hurts. Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain but pain is something to carry, like a radio. It's all in how you carry it. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you're letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.

When Jim Morrison said this, he had no clue what he was talking about. It’s not about hiding; it’s not about showing how strong you are; it’s about keeping it safe from people who will not understand. Not even friends.

Pain hollows out our heart. Pain fills it up again with our own tears. Pain makes us do the unthinkable. Like the Titan of an era long gone, pain helps us to even challenge the Gods. But unlike him, the Gods do not punish us. Pain does it by herself. Every day we wake up with a new spirit and then slowly, pain gnaws away at a part of our heart. A sudden phone call, an offline message, we bear them all.

The nights. They are ours. Not to hide the pain. But to realize that pain is the greatest tribute one can give to the times that were.

We meet to create memories, we part to preserve them.

Reality Bytes I

In real life, Stanley Ipkisses never get a Mask and the Tina Turners therefore never get to know them.
And somehow no one ever returns your “The Girl Next Door” CD.

A Slap on the Face…

So unfortunately I have been born in a family of writers. Now being a Bong, that’s not very strange. I mean every Bong has attempted poetry in life. The problem is that my family gets published, from magazines (that the Puja Committees bring out on the occasion of Durga Puja with a massive circulation of fifty copies) to having authored books. The bigger problem is that knowing my reading habits, I have been subjected to reading everything everyone has ever written, give or take a few.

So there I was, having my name in the papers a few times for ICSE and ISC, quizzes, debates, basically all the menial things in life but never having written. So even when the BITS Pilani and OASIS competitions helped me pay my Shikanji bills and I helped water a few Cactus Flowers I was actually never published outside Pilani. (Musings was the only saving grace. The family still had some hope left for me.)

And then IIMB happened. And Shilpa Kapur and Namrata Roy and the Media Cell. The family nodded in disapproval but accepted the black sheep. At least, I was being quoted and was seen speaking on TV. Not everyone can write. I was redeemed.

But not for long. As I came back from a nice sizzler at my favourite childhood haunt (affordable only when some cash was given as a prize at school fests) my mother showed me a newsletter. And there on page 4 on the bottom right corner was a poem, written by none other than my cousin of nine years. Et tu Jhelum!!!

Movie Wish list

Not staying on a campus can be quite irritating, especially if you have a mother who seems to be a direct descendent of Harishchandra, Karna and Harshavardhan.

For some reason I want to watch Sleepless in Seattle and Summer of ’42 right away and I know I had these CDs somewhere in my house. I ask my mom and all she says is that someone might have taken it.

Well, to give her credit where it’s due, my cassette collection is now more than quartered to near about a hundred odd. Everyone apart from her army of Cats and Dogs seem to have feasted on my carefully built collection. Anyway, that gives me place for my CDs.

And yes, I do wish that the final Harry Potter is mailed to me in the e book format as soon as it is released. High Hopes.

A Birth and a Death

Today is the Birthday of my favourite bard and today my favourite moviemaker left this world. The magic remains.

A Trip Down Memory Lane VI – The Epilogue

I came back a happy man. Did I miss something? Oh sure I did. The Gatecalls. They are a symbol of an era gone by. The ANC Chai hold, it’s gone. So is a beautiful game called Worms World Party. (There’s still an orkut Pilani community for it) No one knows that on a PPW you must put a couple of kitkats. But worst of all, I saw a disease that’s creeping into Pilani. As we were being trained as Mitr Volunteers in Bangalore, we were always worried about the effects of the lack of human interaction within students, a reason why IIT Bombay started filtering internet activity on their campus. We lived in happier times. Even though there were crazy Quake III, AOE enthusiasts, we always had time for our wing, our departments. We just never disturbed couples. But today, many BITSians prefer staying closeted in their make-believe virtual reality. Classes get gussed, not for reading Camus but for playing AOE.

Anyway, I never predict the future (except when I used to debate a lot in Calcutta) I do not know whether I will ever be back on campus. I’m not even thinking about it. I just wish that if I ever go back, I should feel the same homecoming as I did this time. As the bus started, I looked back at Shibanka and Uddip. Psentisemites should NEVER wake up so early, yet they were there. The bus started. I took a completely new route back to Delhi, a route never travelled before...

A conversation to end it… finally…

X: So I heard you went to Pilani. You must have felt bad with none of your batch mates or wingies there on campus.
Me: ???????????????? I missed them but why should I feel bad?
X: Ah, it’s so nice. You have grown out of Pilani. Wish I could do the same. Doesn’t happen even after so many visits.
Me: Dude!!! You want to grow out of Pilani. I KNOW Pilani is a part of what I am. That’s the difference between us.
PS: The posts in this series ran into a lot of pages on my laptop where they are still saved. And somewhere within them I found two people fighting. A BITSian circa 2001-2005 and me of today. The posts often became a journey of self discovery and hence had to be edited. That might be a justification for the lack of continuity in some places. But whatever is written is written straight from the heart. The problem is like me, it also speaks a lot.
PPS: If you ever find a 'J' anywhere in the posts it would just mean :-)

A Trip Down Memory Lane V – The Food

One of my biggest regrets in Pilani was that NO ONE EVER baked a cake solely for me on my birthday. So what if it was during the compres? It’s true that people have atoned for their sins later and I have happily gorged on dinner and filter coffees and baked cakes from Pilani sent to me. But the grudge remained. The whispers from wingies were pretty audible. “Poor guy! He should have a girlfriend.” “Friends do not bake cakes during compres,” they would say over my treat at ANC, “get a girlfriend, dude.” Anyway, as one of my readers complained, my blog seems to be a happy blog, and I intend to keep it that way. So let’s talk about the good things. So here was this sweet lady who ACTUALLY baked me some of the best cookies I have ever had and we had not even met earlier. One of the most touching moments of my visit, I owe you one, lady.

The best part about going back is the treats, especially after your farewell treats at Bangalore, they never seem to be a pain in your pocket. I remember how carefully we used to fix up the menu, someone always keeping an eye on the budget while we were on campus. Anyway, when the talk about food comes, we have to talk first about the redis. My saviour during the really bad lunch days, the redis have not changed. As soon as I entered I went to have breakfast at Gandhi redi, the next day was Nagarjis. But nothing would be complete without mentioning Gulabji. The Vyas redi is not the best redi, neither is Gulabji a hot favourite amongst students but he will always hold a special place in my heart as my official gate call passer. In the lazy afternoons, Gulabji would bang on the doors of 132 Vyas and say, “Uth ja. Tujhe koi bula rahi hain.” In fact, after a few times, whenever he would see a known cycle, he would smile between his beard and moustache and quickly make a shikanji without even asking and while the rider rested he would have gone to call me. His kids are in school now and he is a happy man. I don’t know if we will ever sit down together and talk about Haryana Politics but I was really happy that he remembered Madhuban Banerjee. “Yaar tera name bahut tough hain. Aaj bhi nahin bata pata hoon.”

At C’not, Chimpu has a new offering in the form of Khas. People now do not know the birth story of PPW, Sharmaji’s is not the favourite of people anymore. All flesh eaters have deserted GD; everyone goes to Nobles. Annapurna is deserted most of the times. I still consider it one of the best Dosa Makers of India. When I went in to Annapurna’s and ordered Haldi Doodh, the guy gave me a huge smile. It seemed someone had ordered Haldi Doodh after a long long long time. Sharmaji loved Rahul more than anyone of us in DOPY but because we were Rahul’s friends and more importantly DOPYites, I always managed to get huge discounts on Moruchaya/EPC/personal/non-personal/impersonal treats too. So I was actually happy the DOPY decided to sit down for dinner at Sharmas. The food has not changed even after all these years and so has not the Sharmas. Everyone in the family is a Sharmaji, it’s just that, to each one of us, Sharmaji meant one of them.

A Trip Down Memory Lane IV – The BITSians

I am one of the new breeds of Global Indian. Agreed. But after that the second spot is very confused. Am I a Calcuttan having spent my years of growing up? Am I a Bosconian with the strong influence of my basic education? Am I an IIMBian, the identity that’s perhaps my latest and most important as it defines my future steps? Or am I a BITSian having grown from a child to a thinking teen and having the courage to bet all to move to where my heart led? The answer is complicated. Perhaps I am a combination of all of them but this post is for the BITSian, a group of people that shall always be a class apart.

Whenever a person takes a trip back, he knows there will be two sets of people, some of whom he would have met earlier, others whom he would not have. And I think it’s the second class of people who make the trip a memorable one. The new faces of my department, who had no reason to come and meet a heap of old bones, people who had just read my articles and had never seen me, juniors who could as easily ask for a treat as could their seniors after my placements, these were the people who showed me the real meaning of camaraderie of one’s alma mater. After all, where else would you find a junior missing classes in the mornings to accompany you to Profs’ houses, where else will someone sheepishly knock on a psentisemite’s door and ask, “Are you Madhurjyada?”, where else will a guy start laughing in a class seeing my SMS, where else can I sit with a multi-talented guy and discuss his theories at 3 in the night, or sit with another equally talented guy and be offered the best of Anjan Dutta’s music?

But the one thing that’s most amazing is to stand aside and see your juniors perform on stage, alone, without your help, and pull off the show with easy brilliance. This trip showed me this one scene which I always wanted to see. I have seen batches from 1997 to 2004 and I have met some amazing people but the 2003 batch is undoubtedly the one that has produced an amazing set of people across clubs, departments and associations. If I have to choose one single BITSian batch apart from my own, I would any day choose the 2003 batch. Living in a psentisemite’s room has an advantage. He cleans up the room because I’m coming; his sidie puts it up as his status message and life begins afresh for me. And it feels nice that even now they want to create something new and want to give back something to their college before they leave. And last I heard they were immensely successful. The DOPY BOSM coord comes sauntering into sky and arranges for a meet; only yesterday he was ushering in the cell phone revolution at DOPY and BITS arranging batch meets through his cell phone. Two of them stay with me all through till I leave C’not for one last time, my pseudo-ju doesn’t care about her last set of CDCs.

I know it’s not possible to talk about all the amazing moments I had meeting my juniors in Pilani and seeing them as adults and in control. In my last trip back to school, the seniors had said, “It’s your school.” I had said, “No now it’s yours. Take good care of it.” My juniors at Pilani have done the same. They have taken good care of my college. I am an old fashioned guy in many aspects. Though I call people juniors, they have been more than friends to me, yet till they graduate I would continue to introduce them as my juniors. Come on. Give a little leeway to my innocent idiosyncrasies.

There had always been a sense of guilt whenever Instrumentation Forum comes into the picture. Of my innumerable clubs and departments, it has received a little less attention. I have always been there to help out but never submitted an individual project. That’s what always pained me. As a result, even though I almost stopped writing after Pilani, I have never turned down an Instru Mag Editor. So this year too when the Editor, who has never met me, asked for an article, I could not say no. Don’t know whether it will be published, but it does feel nice, more so as the Ed gives the insignificant me a personal audience. J

But this post would not be complete without three people. First, my little sister, just the other day a school going kid, sulking at why I don’t come more often to meet her will be the next Moruchaya President. We had seen a total strength of 50 in Moruchaya. She’ll have 50 coming in every year. Second, the next DOPY OASIS coord, a guy whose love for the department surpasses even mine and if I am asked I would put him on the same pedestal with VJ and Setty. Coming from me that’s something. He has a tough job ahead of him. Maybe he’ll be the one during whose time the future of the Department will be redrawn. I wish him well. But I know he’ll be an amazing co-ord. And yes, he'll definitely mail us all about it.

And finally, his wingmate of my psentisem, the Editor in Chief, Cactus Flower, 2007. Ever since CF 2003 was published, I slowly distanced myself from my most beloved thing in Pilani. The Old School of Life had taught me not to interfere in other Ed’s matters. (I never refused to help with technicalities though.) I could feel the winds of change that swept through. People told me about it, but I never judged. Let the future decide which path was right. Maybe both were. Anyway, the point is as I spoke to the CF Ed I could feel the same sense of pride that had differentiated the Eds of yesteryear. We took pride in our task, in our responsibility. And my resolve to never look at a blueprint again fell down like a sand wall. In front of me was a guy who could very well have been from an era a decade back. In front of me was a draft that looked fresh, yet traditional. Whether he was a good Ed only his team can tell, whether it is a good CF, BITSians and Time will judge, but time spent with him during my last few hours at Pilani was worth the self imposed exile.

An excerpt from Cf 2003,

After all “in this mortal world everything perished and will perish, but ideas ideals and dreams do not.”
That is all and all that I ever needed to know.

A Trip Down Memory Lane III – The People

Nostalgia is the ability to forget things that sucked. In fact, most of us like to remember the good parts of our pasts and reminisce about the good, old days. Luckily, the last two years have made me more objective and I at times, strangely though, seem to be able to things in the right perspective. To each one of us, memories are made up of both people and places. Pilani is no different. However, the difference is that I look at Pilani as a whole; an experience much above just people or places or incidents. For this reason, I can still stand visit places which are full of memories of people who are now far far away. The point is, unless I could do so, I could never have experienced what it means to stand under Gandhi Statue much more confident than I was with my life in 3-2.

A loyal student of Marketing, demographics is something I can not ignore at any place. First, the two things that hurt my vision of Pilani the most. In my four years, I have never seen so many outsiders in Pilani all through the day. Yes, they would come in to visit and then go away leaving the campus to its peaceful tranquillity. However, this time they were everywhere and what hurt me most was to hear that the sanctity and peace was often destroyed by them. My mind raced to Shammi and his accident. Those things can become very common unless care is taken. There are too many vehicles on the roads.

Whenever I talk of Pilani to others, I tell people how it has helped me develop as an individual. When I walked into Pilani, I was just another chauvinistic headstrong teenager, bred into machismo by a strict missionary education. Pilani changed me. I was in a campus that had a women population nearing 42%. I learnt that friendship need not see genders; I learnt to be as free with anyone from MB as I could be with my wing after 11. People back home, school friends or even friends at IIMB never understood. My phone calls were always from friends, in the true sense of the word, however loud the sniggers were. With BITSAT coming in, things have changed. There are around 12% women per batch in Pilani now. Sacrilege I say! Anyway, as I was speaking to a very bright young lady over lunch, I was informed that there was once a talk for a sort of reservation for women. In a moment to restore Old School I must have shown extreme enthusiasm for the idea and I shall never forget the angry voice and the reproachful look in her eyes. They may have decreased in number but the Pilani women remain some of the most amazing individuals I have ever met. Hats off to you people.

In Pilani, very interestingly, my relationships with professors have remained more non academic than academic. For example, as I walked into the Languages group, not only the professors but also the administrative staff recognized me. The best part was a comment, “After all you spent more time here, winning competitions and stuff than you did in the Electronics Department!” My poor dad, he would have fainted if he heard this. Anyway, as I walked into Prof. Sharma’s chamber, her first question was “So how come you are alone?” I mean, that was the point right? A sojourn back to the campus. And even if I had plans to take back someone who would be crazy enough? Well, you can’t blame her. After all she was the Warden of Mal as I graduated. Prof. Devika, Prof. Kusumlata, everyone seemed to remember. I sometimes wonder if I should have actually done my Masters in English at Pilani. However, the greatest honour, if I may call it so, came out of the meeting with Geetha B. Madam. CALCI (Critical Appreciation of Literature and Cinema) has been my favourite course in BITS. In fact, this was my last compre, and in my final course at BITS I was the course and the compre topper. (Bigger kick, the only person I sometimes agreed was a better writer than I was, took the course with me). So we got to speaking about how CALCI had changed, how many more students were interested in the course and then we got into discussing MATRIX. Suddenly, Ma’am asked if I could discuss The Google Story with students. Before I knew it, I was standing on an FD V podium and talking to close to 100 students as to why Google was such an amazing Marketing story. Thanks ma’am. It always feels great to stand on the other side.

I obviously had to meet my Group Leader. And this is what the E&I Group Leader asked me. “So how is your writing coming along?” Strange, no one remembers that my degree from BITS was in E&I, except Instru Mag Editors. But that later. The only person I was afraid to meet in BITS was the Great GSu. I mean, we have had a brilliant relationship on campus. He thought I was responsible for everything that the press published and I considered him the most amazing personality I have ever met. Prof. Sundar is now the Dean PSD and as usual he’s heart and soul into his new assignment. Anyway, GSu called me in and as we kept talking about how my life has shaped up. A part of the conversation:

GSu: So you continue your non academic stuff even at IIMB?
Me: (sheepishly): heh heh
GSu: So instrumentation is all gone?
Me: (Aside: He remembers!!!) Sir, I can’t actually make any instrument right now if you ask me. But give me any instrument and I’ll be able to sell it.

I walked out, completely bowled over once again by the only person in the world who has been able to convince me that editing CF is a pretty worthless effort and that too in our very first meeting.

My relations with most of the Bengali Profs on campus have been pretty amazing. Working together to make a Durga Puja often brings down the prof-student divide. Most of their kids took the place of my cousins I left back in Calcutta. So when I went back this time, I was actually not meting my professors, but rather I was meeting families with whom I had shared some of my most amazing times in Pilani. And that’s why even if I do not know any student on campus, I will always be able to go back, knock on certain known doors and just shout out, “kakima, aaj dinner tomar ekhane korbo.”

A Trip Down Memory Lane II – The Places

Few things never change. In the early mornings as I stood bare feet on the temple steps, I once again wondered if it was true that the Clock Tower, the GD Birla Statue and the temple were in one perfectly straight line. It was almost 8:00 in the morning and suddenly there were the women, enacting the same scene that has always amused us. Travelling at breakneck speed, they always screeched to a halt exactly in front of the main entrance, pay their daily respect to the Goddess and then again cruise away to the morning classes. The men, even from Vyas, somehow never seemed to be the ones eager to please the Goddess.

The institute looks pretty much the same. Except in the rooms which were once the Library and the RefLi, (and in my 3rd year, the exam halls) there are swank new cubicles for professors. There are a few new divisions, like the one for international co-operation which is housed in these cubicles. But my greatest kick was seeing Kavi in his cubicle. Kavi, our sweetheart is now a revered professor and the one man army chasing his dream with his Mobile Medics. The Admissions and Placement Divisions have been separated; I think that’s a good progressive step with BITSAT coming in and Placements going great guns. The FD V looks as brilliant as ever, the library seems much more occupied and the classrooms offer the same brilliant view outside the windows that gave rise to many of my in-class limericks. Oh yeah the Photog Notice Board looks absolute wow.

Lying down in sky with a book as soon as classes get over is a magic lost on the kids. In fact, as I slept in sky after asking Pappu to send in my coffee, I missed the times when someone would sneak up from behind and put a handful of dead leaves on my face. People still go to Sky but the mushrooms and the sundial and the Skylabs side are now the favourite spots. I have always maintained one should never go to Back Sky alone and I maintained that. No idea if it’s still the safe sanctuary for couples. Sky however, still remains the meeting place for all clubs and departments. A look around and I could identify the groups without knowing anyone in them. I can identify a DOPY group even if I’m sleeping. That’s not much of a credit. But it gave me a kick to identify groups as EDC. Hehe J Some things never change. And then Pseudo-ju nudges me and shows me the new CF team. Old friend.

There’s a new contraption called SAC (Student Activities/Affairs Centre) at the old ramshackle godown that once held cots that we used as platforms for the idols during Durga Puja. I wonder where they get the cots from these days. And the now famous Sharath Babu has a canteen there that runs till 2 in the night. My verdict, I’d settle for my Fried Maggi at ANC. Situated behind Budh and beside Mal, it has a new squash court, spacious rooms for clubs and departments, (I actually attened a Matrix Meeting at one of these rooms) and nice lawns where Moruchaya holds auditions for the Bong Play Troupe.

The hostel blocks have not changed much. The rooms are still unkempt, the easiest way to get rid of the stink is still using the deo as a room freshener and like my four years in Pilani, I hardly spent any time in the room. But on the last night I did visit Mal, the Bhawan I spent a week during my freshers and the Bhawan which at a later point of time became a major contender with MB for my 11 o’ clock visits. And there was 301 Shankar, I owed that to Auro and Saha. But I never went anywhere near my rooms. It’s a tradition I have never liked. What’s my room without Floyd covers, Calvin quotes, walls filled with posters and a table filled with cassettes? And what's a wing if not Budhfront?

There’s a new hot spot at C’not. It’s called Nobles. I remember it started when I was in my psentisem and it was the worst restaurant I have ever entered. It seems the food is a tad better though the people manning/womanning the place are still the same jerks. (Excuse my profanity). Chimpu is still the same. He remains the most famous Pilani Character. Ever since I came to Pilani and was constantly chosen as the travel guide for DOPY and Bong seniors coming down on their memory trips, I have been hearing Chimpu say, “Ab waisa nahin raha.” He said the same to me but this time he added, “log 10:30 baje tak chale jate hain.” 10:30???? That’s when we started walking towards C’not for ‘another last cup’ of coffee.

ANC has a new coffee vending Nescafe stall. That’s where two of us sat till late night talking about nothings. Sometimes you can see your brother bearing his cross and all you can say is, “Nice Coffee.” The coffee is actually great, the best I’ve had in Pilani… ever. Perhaps it was the chill that made me love the coffee, perhaps not. But thanks to my favourite 2005 batch guy I reaffirmed once again to myself that changes are for good. Wish that guy who gives the coupons at ANC would change though. The walk out at night to the Pilani bus stop is a risky affair now-a-days. You have to sign out with your roll number and room number. That’s Ok. Let them find a 2001 roll number at VK. He and the guy who once lived in Budhfront always went for these tea outings. In fact, the others went out more often. The steps of Akshay, another place to just sit down after the shop drops the shutters, maintained its same tranquillity.

But it hurt to see SUB. It’s now a ghost of its past. The DOPY room where War Plans were drawn, the corridors where departments would fight each other for space, the wall from behind which Setty would jump in after his hockey practice at BOSM, everything was the same. Yet, the people were not there any longer. I closed my eyes. I could see our juniors growing up in front of our eyes from bumbling carefree vols to brilliant photographers and even better administrators, I could hear me fighting with Presidents for Cf, for poetry club, for press, I could see the entire DOPY01 come in for our last fest together, I saw the meeting in which the entire core group looked at three guys and asked, “So tell us which two of you”, all of us extremely happy that we were DOPY and not the neighbours next door. I saw my three and a half years of pure bliss, I saw friends I made for a lifetime. Today one of us is married and settled in the US, in the next few years the rest of us will know where we are going, but the thing that’s certain is that we’ll always keep in touch.

It pays to have a sweet school junior. He handed over his cycle keys to me and I cruised around on the roads all along the campus. My closeness to profs was always a double edged sword. I knew every single road and where it led, yet I could not take the shortcuts to MB through them as next day I would be grilled mercilessly. :-) I have seen very few sunrises in my life and the one at Gliding Club remains amongst my favourites. But to be there without a Tam chemicalite, a bong from shillong and a Mallu mimer would be unfair. The Reunion would be there for that.

Oh yes, I did walk into Shiv G. But that was in the sunny mornings of Pilani to give the old lake a walk around. And please please please!!! Could someone take down those horrendous signs painted across the campus in the wake of the President of India’s visit?

April 20, 2007

Role Reversals

C: Hey what are you doing?
Me: Projects, assignments bla… bla…

Me: You there? Sorry was late to return your call.
C: &^%&^%^%^%&^$% Do you know what time it is?

C: Guess what?
Me: Um.. er… ahhh.... You wanted to know if I was sleeping???
C: Oops!!!

I love role reversals. Now is the time for the Evil Laugh.

April 18, 2007

A Trip Down Memory Lane - I

A post dedicated to Shubbu. This would not have seen the light of the day without her encouraging me to put it on my blog. The trip to Pilani was made on the spur of the moment. As I stood watching (rather shamelessly without a single offer to help) my mom pack my bags and mutter incessantly about the number of ‘non academic’ books on the shelves, I suddenly caught sight of a BOSM T-shirt sticking out from the part of my wardrobe that was never used during the two years of stay at Billekahalli. Dad came in soon; looking smug that he had finally managed to crack the maze called Hostel Blocks IIMB and had actually come back to the room without asking anyone for direction. They say seize the opportunity at the right moment and at that nice family reunion I announced that I would be going to Pilani.

To make a long story short, having missed all flights that drop you off at Delhi at human timings I landed in Delhi Airport at 10:30 in the night. Sitting alone at the Airport I just looked back at the whirlwind meets that I had to do in my last few hours in Bangalore. Interestingly, till then for some reason only one person in Pilani knew I was coming. Very few others knew about it till the night before and even they were sworn to secrecy. My wing and DOPY, over dinner and lunch respectively, refused to believe me and outside them only two others knew of this crazy plan. Whimsical, that’s what most people told me in retrospect.
It was the worse time possible to visit Pilani. The April heat, the realization after APOGEE that compres are near and one of my most favourite places on campus (whenever I think of my department) a shadow of its former self made the visit difficult. But then, it was necessary for me, necessary to go for one last time to the place that taught me so much and so there I was on the early morning bus to Pilani, reliving the roads that had seemed never to end when I travelled to campus for the first time.
To be continued...

The Rain Washed Window Screen

For the last one year, there has been a face, on the rain washed window screen. In the monotonous life of projects and assignments and late nights, this was the one enigma in my life. A blurred face without a body, an identity without a physical existence, this was the only thing that reminded me of a city I left when I was a carefree teenager.

Times have passed since then. I have moved from the city to a village and then to another but my growing years have been remained static in the beloved city of mine. The face spoke the language I have longed to hear in the technical nitty-gritties of higher education for six long years.

Back in Calcutta, the face suddenly had a voice and it was that of a child, with eyes full of dreams, free as a bird, free to turn life in any direction it wanted, a life reminiscent of lazy afternoons on a green terrestrial sky, of an Oasis in the Desert, a fleeting glance seen once in a Blue Moon.

And then like everything else, a paradox faced me. What if the voice suddenly had a body, what if the last remaining conundrum suddenly became one with the world around me? I wondered and as if to answer my question, my days were filled with completely unimportant tasks that one has to attend to. Old Friends. They matter. Always.

It took ages for the voice to be heard. It might take ages again for me to put a shape and form to it. Time. It’s a luxury I’ve let go of.

And to be frank, I am not unhappy. Let the last few mysteries in my life remain. Men need their El-Dorados.

I walk a lonely road

The only one that I have ever known

Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone

PS: It took a lot of thought to give the picture this shape. The white looks good. A good substitute for the window shield...

April 13, 2007

Shubho Naboborsho

As the Bengali year passes onto the next, I laze around in Calcutta first time after 2001. Somehow, no one around me seems to enjoy it any more. They are happier celebrating 31st of December. Anyway, for all those who still enjoy their respective regional new year, here’s two of my recent favourite post Tagore era poems. The first one I had the audacity to translate, the second I don’t even expect most of my Bengali friends to know either. So I left it in the original.

A day 8 years back - Jibanananda Das

I know... yet I know
The heart of a woman- love - child
home- is not all;
not money, nor fame or wellbeing-
Some other threatened wonder
Plays within our inner blood
tiring us out,
tiring... tiring us out.

The second one

Janasamudre jegeche jowar,
Hridoy amar chora;
Chorabali ami dur digante daki,
kothaye ghorsowar?
Shubho Naboborsho. The Bengali Calendar Shall read 1414 from Sunday.

Kerala Day 6 – The Fraud of Fort Cochi

We had booked a cab to take us around Kochin and then drop us off at the Airport. Four years in Rajasthan had instilled in me a deep love for old forts and hence when I heard that there was a Fort Cochi, I had to convince others to visit it. This was the biggest setback in the entire trip. Fort Kochi has no fort. It has Chinese fishing nets. But you ask every single shopkeeper near the port and even the police vans, they’ll say that this is Fort Kochi. The Synagogue was the next stop and it was closed at that moment. A very telling picture was taken at this point. The signboard clearly mentioned the proper dress code for the synagogue. Dutch settlements, Churches and other glimpses of old Kerala met us on the way. Sometimes, it’s good to be reminded of our heritage, good to be reminded that we are a nation that has always embraced everyone who have come to our shores. We do forget at times the responsibility of such a heritage.

Most of our trip we had lived on Aquafina and Mazza and we made the mistake of trying out Chinese cuisine in Cochi. Anyway, the view of the harbour made up for it. Bypassing some palace that had been converted into a hotel, we made for the last beach of our trip. A stop for half an hour and we were on our way back to the airport. Snaps were loaded onto my laptop, copies made, bills cleared and we were ready to leave for Bangalore. I had a connecting flight to Cal and I was praying that Deccan be late as usual. Unfortunately, this flight was on time and worse it reached on time. A night was spent at Bangalore airport watching India raise everyone’s hopes against Bermuda, hitting out at the swarm of mosquitoes and trying not to sleep. However, the departure lounge was much better. There was a Karishma Kapoor movie on at the Lounge. And it had Shilpa Shetty. So it must be Rishtey. As I stepped on sleepily into the next flight, I wondered, “Why haven’t I travelled Kingfisher yet?”

Kerala Day 4 and 5 – Mighty Hills of Munnar

Waking up at 3 again was a pain. Hence Kushal and I decided to keep awake. He screwed up my statistics of Free Cell, deleting my last two months of hard efforts. However, I should admit that his strike rate is way better than mine. Reminds me of Shailesh. Anyway, we went ahead trudging ourselves to the Allepuzah bus stand amidst the morning rush of the newspapers making their way to this sleepy town of Kerala. The bus ride was scary. The driver obviously considered himself related to Bond and the steep slopes and the hairpin curves were of no consequence to him. In fact, the four of us took four different ways to handle this life threatening experience. As far as I am concerned, I was penning my obituaries. Gosh! I have so few good things to say about myself. And it didn’t feel nice. I still am wondering how the three of them kept sleeping throughout. Hence I started calculating if the steep drop was steep enough to call mom and say, Maaaaa!!!! Main jaa raha hooooo…..

Munnar is a highly overpriced place. I mean everyone here thinks that people earn in dollars and hence when converted into Indian currency, things should look cheaper. The chocolates at Munnar suck, except the mixed fruit variety. I would any day recommend Kodaikanal and Ooty Home Made Chocolates. Anyway, with Kushal and his Lonely Planet nothing was impossible on this trip. We booked into a nice little place (with TV of course. After all, India was beginning their WC campaign) and set out to explore the city. It’s a nice little place for treks if you are up to it. Having spent our last few days on the beaches and backwaters, we were pretty tanned by now and poor poor Sri; he’s getting married in 40 days odd. Luckily we had taken the help of an external beauty consultant in the form of Ms. Guha and her suggested Sun Screen Lotion should have helped a bit.

In an aside, all my Grandmoms always mention how dark I had become every time I return to Calcutta. Interestingly, no one ever seems to notice how thin I have become. Come on, everyone loses a few pounds here and there after a trip.

Coming back to Munnar. We took a little trek down the hillside but had to hurry back as the town sleeps by 9:00 pm. Interestingly, just like we seldom found “tendyr cogonut woter” anywhere in Kerala, we were also shown the door by the so called coffee houses who seemed to have run out of coffee. And God, everyone uses Bru. Where have all the nice homemade filter coffee gone? On our way back, we collected enough ammunition to last us through the India- Bangladesh match. Let’s stop that discussion here. There’s nothing worse than waking up late into the night and seeing your heroes falter. Someway though it reminded me of the rise of a new power. It begins thus, with a few signals and then before you know, a new champion is born.

We had booked a cab to take us around Munnar the next day. Once you get out of the “Slowly getting congested” city of Munnar, the lush greenery of the mountains welcomes you. There are lots of places to visit in and around Munnar. The hills are steep and the roads tricky. It’s not very advisable to do a trek around the countryside unless you are one of those who have been doing it regularly. So taking the easy way out, do hire a cab for the day.

Every place has its inexplicable tourist attractions. Honeybee tree is the one in Munnar. According to every guide and guide book, this is the only tress in Munnar where every year the entire honeybee population of Munnar come to build their nests. Something I mjst remember to check on when I come here next. We stopped on the way to ride elephants but somehow as they were taking their daily bath, we skipped the plan. I have always wanted to ride an elephant, yet there’s something inside that tells me not to ride on another living being. I would not mind being the jockey of a race horse but I would hate to be the tourist who whips a poor mule on the Mall Road of Shimla just for fun. Guess some childhood scenes get embedded in your minds.

Ever since I had seen Speed II, I had wanted to ride a speed boat. And finally in Kerala I did that. Things work out when you are the decision maker and your dad is not around to worry. Thanks to Hemant’s videos we have some amazing footage of us riding the waves. Sri and Kushal were taking the stills and as far as I am concerned, I was having the time of my life. We never knew that the forests were close to Munnar. Suddenly the guy who was driving the boat, stopped and asked us to stay quiet. On the other bank, we could see three elephants. Looked like a family out on a stroll. The guy said that for the first time in three months wild elephants were sighted. When we returned back, everyone around was talking about it. It seemed these sightings were becoming rarer by the day. After the usual jokes about my fraternity coming out to welcome me, we went ahead along the winding mountain roads. Speed boat being done with, we went over to paddle boats. Imagine a lake surrounded by mountains on all sides, imagine heaven on earth, imagine the lakes of Munnar.

The next stop was the Tata Tea factory and Tea Museum on the slopes. I’m very very particular about my tea, like most Bengalis. I believe that no tea is superior to Darjeeling tea, coffee is drunk by people who need to stay awake and more importantly by those can’t savour the richness of the aroma of Darjeeling. During my long stay away from Calcutta, I’ve missed my cup of tea at home. Anyway, that’s another story. Hemant and Kushal waited outside while Sri and I went in to understand how tea was made. I somehow hate tourists whose sole aim is to make the most out of every penny they have spent. They can’t stop for a moment to feel the air around them, understand how it feels to be free.

Tired but satisfied we returned back. Next day we had to leave early. Munnar lingered on in our memories as we slowly drifted into sleep.

Kerala Day 3 – Please try some todi Sir

Early morning we left for backwaters. With all environmentalist concerns thrown to the winds, we hired a motorboat. His first question, “Did you bring beer? No problem, I shall stop on the way.” I guess a gang of four teetotallers is almost unthinkable today. But anyway, the view was amazing all along. We did not want to go through the usual route and asked the boatman (if I may call him so) to take us through the interior canals. After repeated refusal of beer, he came up with a brilliant idea. “Sir, I’ll take you to a place that sells excellent todi.” Now Mallus are excellent businessmen. The entire coconut crop is either exported or made into todi. J We stopped at a small waterside restaurant and there too every five minutes we got asked for Todi.

They say that not all wishes come true. One of my oldest dreams was to lie on a boat in the backwaters of Kerala surrounded by “tendyr cogonut woter.” I was sleeping on the boat but unfortunately could not find anything to drink but todi. Thik hain. Someday later. On the way, we also got to realize why we still have hopes for India beyond the India poised campaign. As we sat on top of the boat, a kid came running on the banks and asked for a pen. Stunned, we sat for a while and then threw at him whatever pens we could find on us. One of them landed in the water but he promptly picked it up. Sometimes we are just born lucky. I guess this was one of the times when we realized we needed to sit back and thank the One above for all the small blessings we never count.

Dad was right. For some reasons, the backwaters were a tad disappointing. I mean it’s amazing to have a boat ride, but why not the Hooghly. One thing was clear though. Tagore became Tagore by riding these boats on the rivers of Bengal J I mean, you cannot but become a poet when the wind whispers to you and the leaves of the trees along the bank swish and puts the words right in your mouth. The silent waters, the muted noise of the boat and the swish of the trees in the banks, some things are just ethereal, reminding one of the lazy summer afternoons spent in the balcony of our houses with a story book in one hand and a bowl of mangoes in the other.

Mallus and Bongs have always shared things in common, except that they are much more industrious than us. It felt like home in the evening when we saw some 20 people getting ready with red flags to march down the main road with a firm intention of causing maximum inconvenience to traffic and the police (with the administration belonging to the same party after the recent elections) defiant enough to ensure that they cause the minimum damage to the traffic flow.

In the evening we sat again on the Allepuzah beach till late into the night. I love this beach. I think this should count as my third most favourite place where I want to bring her to. But more on this at a later post. And yes, we found our “tendyr cogonut woter.”

Kerala Day 2 – No one is mightier than the sea

The second day morning washed away all my complaints against Kovalam. I have never seen such waves anywhere else. Dad kept calling to remind me not to get into the sea. Now, I seldom lie as I hate lying. But at times, it’s not a bad thing to be economical with the truth. Now don’t get all judgemental. Mom knew J

After a really refreshing bath, I walked back to take care of the lappie and the cams while Sri, Kushal and Hemant played around in the water without a care in the world. Interestingly, only Kushal knew how to swim. Now, while I waited I figured that in the off season only the really vetti people like us come down to these beaches. Even the international tourists were well past their prime and looked run down and tired. To tell the truth as I sat under the shades of the coconut trees, I did expect a Bo Derek or a Hale Berry or at least a Amrita Arora to come up from the waves but then one should not expect only good things to happen in life.

In most movies I have seen, every fisherman sings the quintessential sad song which the protagonist will listen to and shed a few tears. Rajesh Khanna used to excel in such settings. However, in real life too they sing when they bring in the catch from the sea. In the early morning breeze, it was an amazing experience to sit back and watch them at their work.

In the afternoon we left for Alleppy, rather Alapuzha. Again it was a travel back to Trivandrum and we decided to take the bus. For some reason, from my Pilani days I have always loved travelling in a bus and this was one ride that went beyond our expectations. It was a journey of many realizations. First I shall never again wonder at the Mallu half dhotis. In the heat of Kerala I myself was planning to let go of all worldly clothing. They at least have their Dhotis with free air-flow technology. The other was that all Mallu babes travel with their moms. Empirical evidence. Don’t take me up to the docks. On the way, I also realized the importance of Wall Paintings. In the highways of Haryana, the wall paintings were local in nature. However, here the large MNCs were present in full force shouting out from the walls with their bright colours.

South of India is also a land of billboards. They stare at you from everywhere. It’s surprising that there are so few accidents on these roads due to the billboard girls giving you their enchanting smiles. Anyway, we reached Allepuzah and got into a really nice secluded guest house. And then I found my 3rd favourite spot I want to bring my dream-girl to. The beach at Allepuzah is stunning. And And And.. It has an India Coffee House nearby. (You have to be a bong to understand the importance of Coffee House). Perhaps I’m one of the few people who love the beaches in Kerala more than the backwaters. We just slept on the beach (yes it too had a lighthouse) and then with our daily dose of Mazza started walking back to our rooms as late as 10:30. The world around us was asleep by then.

Kerala Day 1 – Cheap Nirvana

The trip just after our final placements. Amit backed out but luckily Hemant could make it. This post is mainly for him as he was more enthued than me for a written account of our travels. As I said I'm bad at travelogues, but this at least tries to chronicle some of our brilliant times spent together in God's Own Country.
There are many interesting aspects to this trip. During the last few weeks of stay at IIMB I realized that I was getting too attached to this place and it’s always difficult for me to let go of things. This trip was a sort of a string severing exercise. And I realized even before the flight took off that it’s sort of impossible. I’m too attached to my marketing studies and the work we do at school, too attached to Media Cell and of course to Acad. Anyway, the trip soon became keeping touch with the base while exploring one’s inner self. It’s not gonna be like this very often from now. Four guys, without a care in the world, travelling without a mental baggage, ready to face what lies at the southernmost parts of the country; that’s something movies are often made of.

We flew to Cochin, took a train to Kottayam, another train to Trivandrum and finally a car to Kovalam. At Kottayam, the great TKGR calls me for some Acad work. At that point of time, Hemant has taken out his camera already and has been recording whatever was transpiring between us. Luckily, I could catch hold of Uma. Things get done whether we are there or not. Anyway, at Kovalam the place we wanted to stay was awesome but beyond our budget. It is however highly recommended if any of you visit Kovalam in the future. There is a balcony that just drops down into the sea. Some day I shall be back there. We finally got a decent but shady looking place near the Lighthouse beach. The evening we went all around Kovalam. It’s highly overrated according to me. But if you are the types who like to see places beyond tourist maps, Kovalam will not disappoint. All places were full of foreign tourists coming to India for a cheap dose of Indian spiritualism and probably even the commoner’s Nirvana. Every second house in Kovalam seemed to cater to their needs. There was an Ayurvedic massage parlour everywhere you cared to look. Thank God for Punjabi Dhabas. In a place where everyone offers you beer and tiger prawn at least a Maharashtrian was sent by providence to provide for us Aloo Parathas and amazing Malai Kofta.

Thanks to Ray, we all have seen what the by-lanes of Kashi look like. Our travels took us deep inside the heart of Kovalam. We based out of the Lighthouse beach and the Hawah Beach. It’s an amazing feeling to sit on an empty dark beach and watch the Lighthouse send its signal into the vast ocean. One thing became clear as we sat hearing the rumblings of the sea. The magic of travel has just begun.

Peace and Tranquility - Some call it Kodaikanal

This remains my most memorable trip from IIMB. Done after our Second Term on campus, it made me unwind completely for the first time after entering the campus.
It all started with a bracket message from Vicky. Jimmy and he were in his room deciding on a day long trip to Nandi Hills. I was bugged and bored to death at Blore. I was ready to go anywhere. Suddenly while I was having tea at the mess with didi, Vicky called up to ask if I were ready for a trip to Kodaikanal. I asked him who all were going. When he told me that it was just 5 of us including Jimmy, Ksheetij and Prasanth, there was no looking back.

We started at around 7:30 from IIM B; Vicky almost logically taking over the role of the cashier, or as Jimmy says ‘Uncle’ J The 5 of us had our seats in the same coupe and it was great. We started off with Dumb Cs, went into Antakshari. There was this foreigner who was travelling in the same compartment upto Dindigul. I have seen very few foreigners as cute as her. She was not beautiful. Just cute in some strange sort of way.

Anyway, we got down at Kodai Road and booked a taxi to take us to Kodaikanal. Our driver Madhan was a very nice person. Smiling and nice to talk to. He was well versed in English and Hindi and hence it was not a problem to communicate with him. The road till we were on the plains reminded me of the Haryana Highways on the way to BITS. The climb up the mountains was amazing. You could actually feel the freshness as you went up. Life seemed so simple and everything that was around seemed so pure.

We could actually see the mist rising up the mountains as we slowly moved up the hill on beautiful roads. Lucky that it was the off-season as the usual crowd of stupid and ignorant tourists were not to be found. The first stop was at a view spot where something like a watchtower had been erected. Vicky had managed to get a digicam from Pushkar and I went crazy clicking from there. This was what I wanted to all my life. Be in a beautiful place and click nature to your heart’s content. Next we stopped at a waterfall on the way and Vicky and Jimmy started shopping. Prasanth surprisingly was the one who was always hungry on the trip and he got himself a new type of tomato to suck on J

Once in kodai, we hunted for a nice place to stay in and finally found J H Residency, a perfect place for us. We booked two rooms and asked Madhan to come and pick us up in one hour as we had asked him to be with us for both the days that we’d be at kodai.

We decided that it was not worth going sight seeing like usual tourists. So first we went on a trek to Dolphin’s Nose and then onward to Echo Rock. The route was tough and while sitting in Bangalore it seems odd that I actually did all that trekking. But maybe it was the magic in the air, the melting taste of the home made chocolates of Kodai in my mouth that actually helped me savour the beauty of the trip. We took our own time, stopping at odd places; taking diversions that led nowhere save from a beautiful flowering tree that marked the beginning of a steep edge.

At Dolphin Rock, I realized how small the human existence was in the grand scheme of things, in front of nature how puny man was. The only thing that helped him go ahead in life was his indomitable free spirit. We went on to Echo Rock and it was lovely hearing your own voice answering you back. The sound of the splashing water far far below us did not bother us to the least. After all, at times you feel one with the nature; especially if you come from a city that has forgotten that it itself owes its existence to nature.

The climb back was more difficult than we imagined. I was in fact so tired that Ksheetij (he’s such a darling) offered to carry my bulky jerkin and actually did it for more than half the journey up.

On our way to the dumdum falls, we stopped to buy homemade chocolates of all flavours. The Falls were great fun. Constant warnings from Madhan were unheeded and we happily went ahead with the aid of branches to reach the top of the falls. Seeing our enthusiasm Madhan suggested that we look at the falls a little farther down. This was one of the most difficult parts of the trek. Very few ever went here. I felt like an explorer setting his feet for the first time on a virgin forest. The rocks were slippery to say the least. There was almost no place to place your feet steadily. It was only a matter of time before I fell down completely. The others saved themselves this time J on Jimmy’s insistence we took a road up which can best be described as a vertical climb.

Even after lunch we were not satiated and went ahead to have a look at Bear Shola Falls. Only we know how we crawled and pulled ourselves up to reach where we finally reached. I called up mom from one of the highest places at Kodai and felt so nice and so at unison with nature.

After returning to the hotel, we decided to take a trip round the city and got a cycle for each of us. Before that we had gone boating and it had started raining. The rains had not made our paths any easier but at least the weather was cool and we were not drained of energy. As soon as we parked our cycles at Caker’s Walk, the drizzle changed into a torrential downpour. But we just went ahead drenched but feeling very satisfied. Nothing could be seen around us as mist covered everything and at times we had to call each other to make sure that no one was left behind.

After dinner, Prasanth wanted to sit at some nice quite place at the lake side. So we cycled on to find such a place. Vicky and Jimmy suddenly saw the skating ring lights to be on and we roller skated till 9:30 in the night. Only Ksheetij knew some amount of skating. None of us did, but that or the continuous falls never stopped us. After that we cycled around the entire kodai lake. We never had any idea that it had a perimeter of more than 7 kms. We cycled to our heart’s content, came back to the hotel, saw Blade and then just plopped down on the bed.

Next day we went to Berijam Forest, St. Peter’s church, Pillar rock, a couple of other views and Bryant’s park. It was really upsetting to see how some tourists dirtied a natural beauty spot. Some shopping was also done and we returned back to the Kodai Road station, waiting for our train to Blore, happy and satisfied and ready for the next term.


I am really bad at travelogues. The next few posts will tell you why. But at least I'm writing about them. That's a beginning I say.

April 09, 2007

Home is where the heart is

and who says heart can't be happily be torn between many. The India trip is going on well. It's just that the writing about it is not happening. I do realize how much an uninterrupted broadband service and a working keyboard mean to me. I might have become dependent on them but given the fact that I still survive without them makes me slightly hopeful.

But it'd be better if the customer care service of broadband connection providers were a little more technologically advanced than I am. And given my prowess that's not asking much.

Till date I have tried to keep most of the promises I have made, maybe even years later when the persons themselves have forgotten. And I shall therefore keep my promise. I shall write someday. Imagine the ordeals of a guy cut off from the rest of the world for six years, safe in his academic shell and then he's exposed to the vibrancy of life in India. It takes time to put the million colours such as them on paper.