Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Every time when I came back from school
with inkstains on my shirt;
you used to scold me so much mom.
You called me a naughty boy and made me cry.
Today , when I lie silent on your lap
with bloodstains on my shirt ;
why are your eyes full of tears ?
Please don't cry ,mom ,
I will never be a naughty boy again.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

It was perhaps the best day in my life . And probably the worst thing happened to many people on that fateful night. I could never celebrate the day spontaneously because of the tragedy associated with the date .Newspapers and TV channels are full of the tragedy , every year after year. But it was a lovely day. Collective sense of guilt always prevailed over my personal sense of happiness . It has been thirty years since everything happened . Even as I feel that everything happened yesterday, at one level, I am also aware of the fact that memories play tricks with us and slowly so much of memory fades away. Small little things , some faces , some names I have started forgetting. Maybe it’s necessary to relive the moments , once again. So I thought of penning down some nostalgic vignettes of life , as it was , thirty years back.

As I woke up early to face the wintry morning of 3rd Dec 1984 , I was not so much concerned about the cold weather but what happens to me during the day. Here was I , at a small hotel room on the first floor with common bath and latrine across the balcony waiting for the morning to develop fully so that I can join my new job . I had a good sleep but because I had nothing else to do last evening , I had my dinner and went to bed quite early by about 8.30 p.m. which resulted in me getting up wide awake 5 o'clock into a very cold morning.

I was accustomed to cold weather as I was from Jamshedpur but the nature of the cold at this place was different. It was not the dry cold of Jamshedpur where the trees would have started shedding leaves and bushes were getting dry for people to cut them and enjoy small bonfires in the evening. Alipurduars was in North Bengal , at the farthest corner , almost near Assam and the cold here was damp with lot of moisture which resulted in dew formation on the trees, grass , everywhere right from the onset of evening to the dawn .

How many times over the last week did I pore over the maps to locate Alipurduars. How many times did I rummage the two pages of the railway time table which gave the details of trains running on the North East Frontier Railway. What an alert was sounded throughout my friend circles to locate somebody who lived in Alipurduars or at least know somebody who lived there. We had no relatives there , actually even though we were Bengalis , we had no relatives across the Ganga and we knew nobody in North Bengal . Two of my uncles had visited Darjeeling a few years back and that was the remotest connection that we had with North Bengal.

Whatever idea I had about Alipurduars was that it was at the border of Assam and recently about a couple of years back or so it was in the news for Bengali speaking refugees from Assam thronging there to save their lives from the sectarian violence . The Calcutta newspapers carried the tales of woe from the refugee camp at Dangi , near Alipurduars. There was no direct train from my home town which was about 800 kms away. I found only one direct train from Calcutta named Kamrup Express . When I went to the Tatanagar railway station to buy a ticket for Alipurduars, the booking clerk asked me where this place was . Then after a long consultation he advised me to reach Howrah at night by the evening train , then spend the night at Howrah Station , take an early morning train called Kanchenjungha express to New Jalpaiguri and from there hop on to a connecting train named Teesta Torsha Express to a station called New Alipurduars. I was flabbergasted with so many New being added to my life but was too excited then to notice all these minor things .

So imagine the thrill of a not yet 22 years old young man when a telegram reaches him announcing that his first place of posting will be at a place called Alipurduars and he should report to the Branch Manager of the State Bank of India there to take up the assignment. The job was finalised in late August and I was supposed to join in November. I had already resigned from my job as a school teacher and relieved myself from the tuition assignments from my students. Surprisingly , nobody nowhere felt bad or minded. I was not new to jobs because I had started working immediately after my graduation and had a decent income. Actually speaking my net income from salary and tuitions were more than that which I was supposed to get as a Bank officer at that point, even in those times.

There was so much goodwill in the air, from my family, friends, acquintances , everyone. Getting a job as an officer with State Bank of India in 1984 was a good achievement for a young man from Jamshedpur , that too with an average academic record like me . Actually I had got a job in three Banks in a row . But chose SBI because it offered a little higher salary , by about Rs 300 or so. My parents were very happy. Not that they were worried about my future . i myself was also not so much worried about my own future or job . Because , firstly I was earning a decent money as teacher and liked teaching , secondly and more importantly was asssured of a job in TISCO ( now Tata Steel) because my father had completed 37 years of service there. Yes , don't be surprised dear reader. There was this concept of service being passed on in the family. My grandfather , father were Tata Steel employees and so is my younger brother. I could have been too , had I not opted to chose a nomadic life of Bank officer.

The unfortunate assassination of Indira Gandhi elongated my waiting period by about a month . As I enjoyed the Durga Puja and Diwali with my friends , basking in my new found happiness and glory: time flew quickly and suddenly I started feeling the pangs of separation from my family , friends and Jamshedpur . I had never been to boarding schools or hostels and led a pretty sheltered life since childhood even in our middle class existence. Blessed with a caring family and a multitude of uncles and aunts , I never had any reason to feel neglected . And I also had very good friends who were very supportive of me. So life was cosy and as the D-day approached , I suddenly started feeling slightly nervous. And though mature enough for many other things , I was just in my early twenties.

To understand and appreciate the life and times that I am writing about , consider the facts that TV was still Black and white and DD1 only , that too for a limited period only. Computers were just coming in and some people we knew were getting trained on computer language. Data punching operators were the computer jobs that were in vogue. Nobody probably gave a thought about mobile phones. I had the privilege of watching a pager in action at faraway Vellore when I went there to donate blood to a guy who was having a heart operation.. Booking of train tickets were done manually and onward connecting reservations were made by telegrams which sometimes took more than ten days to be confirmed . Microwave oven was in sci-fi movies only . Nobody was aware that Sharukh Khan could be the name of an actor. A small car named Maruti was a rage with stylish people and mainly seen in Delhi. In Jamshedpur , they were yet to come. Sivaramakrishnan was the new whizkid of Indian Cricket and everyone predicted a great future for him.

I left Jamshedpur on the 30th Morning by the evergreen Steel Express, early morning . I was entitled to a first class travel , but the train did not have first class . Instead , I got a ticket for AC chair car . That was the first instance of AC travel by me . A lot of friends , about 10 to 12 came to see me off . Wondering what these rascals will do at the station, I had not encouraged my family members to come to station. The boys were creating a racket at the platform . Everybody insisted on entering the AC compartment , sit on my seat and creating ruckus inside the train . Lot of backslapping was on . Those days everybody smoked everywhere . I had brought a 20s pack of Charms with me .Very soon it was finished. Someone ran to get a new pack for me. A couple of guys entered the railway announcement cabin and with the help of a friendly announcer , soon congratulations to Mr Arunangshu Paul on starting his journey to join SBI was announced in three languages, English , Hindi and Bengali and repeated thrice. I noticed my youngest uncle at a distance standing alone. He was the only member of my family to have come. He was more of a elder brother to me . And I was very close to him like a friend. Sensing the revelry around me, he was not coming near . He raised his hand at a distance. I felt a squeezy feeling in my heart. My eyes clouded.

I was pushed into the train by the band of brothers on the platform and as I stood at the door of the compartment , the train caught up speed and in a couple of minutes the platform, station and friends , everything became distant. Little did I know at that moment that with passage of time Jamshedpur would also become a distant dot in my life.

After reaching Howrah , I went to my uncle's place and spent the day in Calcutta. Next morning, again very early I boarded Kanchenjungha Express. This train also had no first class and I travelled AC chair car , once again . I was getting used to AC travel , you see. By evening I reached New Jalpaiguri and found Teesta Torsha express waiting . This time I boarded a first class compartment as I had the booking . But within a few minutes realised that I was the only passenger in the entire compartment. Winter evening was setting in and it was dark all around outside the train. There was no sign of a guard or TTE . Suddenly all sorts of horror stories came to my mind . Particularly the train sequence of Jaani Dushman . Then it occured to me that if not ghosts or ghouls , robbers can easily loot me off my meagre belongings . I was so nervous and afraid that I decided to change compartment at the next stop. In the present state of fitness level, it would be unthinkable and as I write this I realise how silly but strong I was . Carrying a trunk , a big bag in my both hands and large rucksack on my back , I got down and entered the adjoining second class compartment easily. Fear is a great motivator , I realised with practical experience.

The compartment was not crowded . People sat there scattered here and there in small groups. From their converstions I realised that not many people took this train because of its late running and night travel . Also most of the people would get down after a few stations and the train was scheduled to reach New Aliurduars around 10 p.m. One by one the stations passed. The number of people boarding was lesser than those getting down . The night was getting darker and colder. I wrapped my muffler around my head , wondering what lay ahead for me.

When I reached New Alipurduars station, it was about 10.30 p.m. at night. On that cold night , I trudged with my luggage and somehow tried to reach outside the station. As if to welcome me, all street lights went off as a loadshedding schedule started. I could locate two cycle rickshaws outside the station with kerosene lamps on their handles. I had gathered from some passengers during my journey that the station was a little away from the town and there were only three hotels in the town. One good and the other two very ordinary. I approached the cycle rickshaw and asked the rickshawpuller to take me to the better hotel and as a careful measure suggested by my father asked him for the fare.I was surprised that even at that time of night and inspite of the luggage I carried, the rickshawpuller charged a very reasonable fare of Rs 5/= from me , as indicated by the co passengers of Teesta Torsha.

There was no room at the better hotel and I was taken to the second best hotel of the town by the rickshawman at an extra charge of 50 paise. It was already past 11 p.m. The door of the hotel was closed. As I knocked there was no immediate answer . After a couple of minutes that seemed like eternity , the dooor opened with a lot of clicks and clanks indicating it was bolted well from inside. The man who opened the door with a lamp in his hand smelt like a distillery . He was plainly irritated to be woken up from his slumber. Meekly I asked for a room which he said would be available. Those days in such places , attached bath was a luxury. So I did not have any problem to get into a room. After all it was a room and at Rs 40 per day it was the best that I could opt for on that cold dark night. As I paid the rickshawman who had brought my luggage meanwhile , the electricity went on and as if by magic the sight of lights gave me immense courage. I entered the small room with a cot with bed and a small table . There was some hooks on the wall and nothing else. The heavily alcoholic man stood at the door.

I looked at my blue HMT watch and took a chance. "Can I get some food , Dada", I asked. Gruffly, the man called somebody as a sleepy teenager appeared . As the man , or rather manager of the hotel , as I gathered the next day , ordered him to provide some food, the boy shook his head and said that only some rice and Fish curry could be had at this time and that too would be cold . I understood that it would be the leftover , rather remainder that was supposed to be recycled the next day. But I was hungry and it was really cold. So I agreed . As I went out to wash my hand and face in very cold water, food appeared. Cold rice and Ilish in mustard curry . Somehow , I still carry that taste on my tongue. It was delicious on my palate . The cold food seemed heavenly as I had not had anything since noon except tea twice and a few cigarettes. Satiated after the meal , I laid on the cot , wearing the same clothes which I was wearing throughout the day . Somehow , I removed my shoes and socks and lit up the final cigarette of the day . After finishing it, I just closed my eyes and never knew when sleep came over me .


I woke  up in the morning with a start  feeling very cold and  found that I had slept through the night with all my clothes on , even the belt. To stave of cold I had also wrapped the blanket around me . The morning was really cold .  I tried to lie down within the blanket for some more time but nature's call forced me to get up . Groggily I went to the common bathroom across the corridor and relieved myself . As I washed my face with the cold water, all my sleep went away.
It was about 10 a.m. in the morning , when I finished my breakfast of two pieces of buttered toasts with a cup of tea. I had a bath , which was actually a wash really because there was no provision of hot water for bath in the hotel. At the counter , I now completed the formalities of registration on a old register. The manager was now more sober and asked me how long I would stay. Learning that I had come to join SBI worked like magic. He seemed to be knowing some people working there . Learning that I was a newcomer  and came from Jamshedpur , the steel city , he became very respectful . He told me that he would change my room to a better one , rather upgrade it in todays lingo . I could stay here as long as I wanted. Advance won't be a problem , he assured. That was the first taste for me , of the power that SBI wielded in the country.
It was a Sunday but I was eager to visit my place of work . So I asked the diections from the manager. It was about 20 mins walk , he said but advised me to take a rickshaw and pay a rupee .  Then I remembered that I had the address of someone who was a relative of a friend of  some guy I knew at Jamshedpur. I was advised to contact that family and refer in case of emergency. They lived at a place called Alipurduar Junction railway colony.  I decided that I should visit them later in the afternoon or evening . Then I gathered  from the manager that the place was a little distant and the SBI branch was  somewhere mid way.
I decided to walk to the branch . It was a cold but sunny morning. Not much people on the roads except some who were returning with vegetables from the market . Here and there I could see people enjoying the sun on the street as also at their homes. Coming from Jamshedpur, the one thing that struck me first was that  many of the homes were made of wood and had a tin roof .  The maximum height of the pucca buildings were three storeys , that too  a few as the market area ended.  On my way, I found there was a cinema hall named Amar talkies. I noted the place  because it was to be the source of entertainment in the evening , I thought.  Little did I know that I would be living very near it for the next six months.
Very few scooters crossed me and even fewer fourwheelers. I noticed that  a couple of buses crossed me as did some trucks. Also a lot of Nepali looking people were there around. Cycle rickshaws and cycles were the more prevalent mode of transport in the town. As I reached the bank branch, I found it bolted , naturally, it was a holiday. It was a two storeyed building and by the side of the main road  separated by a drain.   A nepali guard was standing behind the grilled door.  He saw me standing and peering inside the  branch and asked me what I was doing there. Like a silly joker ,I just mumbled that I had come to work here to which he patronisingly advised me to come the next day and meet the Branch Manager Saheb.
I was coming away and stopped to buy cigarette near a small shop on the roadside in front of the branch.  There was a tea stall nearby and some guys were having tea and enjoying the sun . I thought of having a cup of tea and went near them .  I found a young lean man, maybe in his thirties , with hair covering his ears in the popular Bachchan style of 80s staring at me quizzically. I ignored him and sipped my cup of tea. I noticed , he said something to which the whole group around him, about five of them, suddenly felt silent and started looking at me.  I felt somewhat uneasy and nonchalantly tried to stare back.
" Have you come to join the Bank ? " the man said. It was a big surprise for me . I nodded and said "Yes" . A bigger surprise was waiting for me.  " You are from Jamshedpur and you are Paul , isn't it " he went on. I was floored . I wondered how he knew my name and  where I stayed. Suspiciously , I again affirmed his query. This time I added  " How do you know ?"
" We have to keep track of so many things " , he said smugly with a smile and looked at the group with the feeling of a man proved correct. Everyone were smiling .
" Come tomorrow  to join "  one of them said . Then the first man added " Where are you staying " . I gave the name of the hotel.
" Must be a bachelor " he continued.  " will you live alone ?"
I was getting more uneasy with these questions but they all looked so friendly . Just then somebody came in a scooter and called out the first man " Binoy , what are you doing here . I need to speak to you. Come over "
He got up , saying  " this new person has come to join our bank "
" So you get a new member . is it ? " the man on the scooter said.
" Only if he agrees to stay. First let him join and then decide "
I could understand that these guys were not to be afraid of and they were actually discussing my welfare. Maybe they worked in the bank itself . But it puzzled me no end as to how that man called Binoy came to know about me before I introduced myself .  I took leave of them politely and took a rickshaw towards the railway colony to meet some relative of a friend of some one I knew in Jamshedpur .
to be contd..

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Tomorrow  may or may not come
but today is always by our side

Friday, 28 November 2014

Standing here all alone by myself,
I have tried to count those fluid moments
that have crossed me by .
Waves of abandoned nostalgia
attached with these unconcerned distractions
drowns the expected occurrences.
Nowhere to be seen , the butterfly
in this decaying city of dead dreams  
fluttering above the barricades.  
Was it some mistake that brought me here  
or those vague notions of lost love  
which I tried to get back again.  
From the ruins of this sultry afternoon  
to collect the scattered bits of antiquity   
forgetting the reasons of being here.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Raghu speaks my language.

The reality is that too many large borrowers see the lender, typically a bank, as holding not a senior debt claim that overrides all other claims when the borrower gets into trouble, but a claim junior to his equity claim. In much of the globe, when a large borrower defaults, he is contrite and desperate to show that the lender should continue to trust him with management of the enterprise. In India, too many large borrowers insist on their divine right to stay in control despite their unwillingness to put in new money. The firm and its many workers, as well as past bank loans, are the hostages in this game of chicken -- the promoter threatens to run the enterprise into the ground unless the government, banks, and regulators make the concessions that are necessary to keep it alive. And if the enterprise regains health, the promoter retains all the upside, forgetting the help he got from the government or the banks – after all, banks should be happy they got some of their money back! No wonder government ministers worry about a country where we have many sick companies but no “sick” promoters.
We need a change in mindset, where the wilful or non-cooperative defaulter is not lionized as a captain of industry, but justly chastised as a freeloader on the hardworking people of this country,
What we need is a more balanced system, one that forces the large borrower to share more pain, while being a little more friendly to the small borrower. The system should shut down businesses that have no hope of creating value, while reviving and preserving those that can add value. And the system should preserve the priority of contracts, giving creditors a greater share and greater control when the enterprise is unable to pay, while requiring promoters to give up more.
Perhaps the reason we have been so willing to protect the borrower against the creditor is that the hated moneylender looms large in our collective psyche. But the large borrower today is not a helpless illiterate peasant and the lender today is typically not the sahukar but the public sector bank – in other words, we are the lender. When the large promoter defaults wilfully or does not cooperate in repayment to the public sector bank, he robs each one of us taxpayers, even while making it costlier to fund the new investment our economy needs.
The above statements are not mine. Had I made these statements , many of my friends who are supporters of free economy , aggressive capitalism, etc. would have branded me a left leaning socialist , communist , maoist and what not. Maybe some would have also called me a raving lunatic of the AAP fringe as the final insult . But these are words by our RBI governor. I am happy that he echoes the same words that people like me have been saying so long. That crony capitalism and oligarchs are ruining the economy of the country and looting the resources which justly belongs to the public.
Now another scam is being planned by putting pressure on RBI to cut the rates. This will help the large companies to reduce their interest burden and provide some relief to the NPA position only without really addressing the basic questions. It is time now for the industry captains to pay back the country the benefits they have derived from the system by new ideas and better management of the industries to compete with China in manufacturing space instead of siphoning funds. But will they do it, Can this government really turn the tide . I am not a cynic but sadly no signs have emerged that makes me trust that this government will be betterthan the previous ones. They are just counting their luck and streching it far.
L

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

I will keep coming back everytime,
you banish me from your heart.
And thank you with a large smile ,
for the lovely gift of hurt.
Without you the restless feeling , 
this thirst in a sea of water. 
Still you ask me with utter disdain ,
tell me what's the matter ?

If only......

It wouldn’t be so bad , after all,
only if you had cared;
to remember your promise.
This vacant space of light years
between us could have blossomed
with flowers,if only you had smiled .
All love stories would have lost
their pride of place if only you read
my eyes, when they met yours.
Shackles of mundane existence
that binds us to our daily lives
could have broken down in minutes ,
if only, you held my hand.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Dateline 4th November

A welcome holiday again today , almost at the beginning of the week and more enjoyable as yesterday , the dreaded Monday was spent in travelling to and fro between Mumbai and New Delhi . And considering that the last Saturday was a full work day spent in office and meetings , one will understand how much pressure a lazy middle-aged , delicate has to go through to make a decent living . It actually brings tears to my own eyes. What to say about those who are reading it. Sympathies are surely in order and I will surely appreciate.
Visiting another city for work and meetings invariably causes sleep deprivation added to the change in daily cycle . Catching an early flight after waking up at ungodly hours , completing the morning ablutions and reaching the airport on time is by itself so unpleasant. Returning home at the dead of night after a stressful day of inane meetings and constant touch with office and work over mobile phone adds up to the troubles. At some point of time , you feel like crying out - Oh God ,why me ?
But enough of my tale of woes. These are part and parcel of life and many others are , may be ,already sneering at me for this lack of professional attitude . So let us also look at the positives from these trips. The biggest positive is the complete switching off you experience while the plane is on air. From the family,from workplace,from reminders and tasks. And,if you can catch hold of a good book to read or carry good music to listen , then actually there is nothing like it. Instead of stress, the couple of hours forced shutdown from the life on earth actually helps to de-stress . I always believe that one should play on the strengths rather than try too hard to improve the weaknesses which are genetic traits of a personality. That actually involves faking which means your life is not happening as you were meant to spend it .
So I always try to engage these flight times by covering myself with the chadar of laziness, my strongest trait and embark on my own flight of fancy with a book or music apart from the favourite pastime of unfettered bird watching . Without the presence of wife or the distraction of colleagues around discussing office , this activity sometimes become very interesting if a nice bird happens to be there in the vicinity.
Now before I again ramble into the territory of forbidden delights of the senses , let me change track . Yesterday,I was at New Delhi. It had nothing to do with the LG's decision to call for fresh elections there . Neither it was to take tips on either fitness or foolishness from the Right Honorable Shri Robert Vadra , the untouchable Indian. It was purely a business trip to attend meetings and review office work there. Routine,like all previous visits. But I added a small twist myself , more out of curiosity than anything and tried to connect with Delhi in a different way.
Somehow this time , by some coincidence,which taught me a lesson ; both my arrival and departure flights were to and from the Terminal 3 at the IGI airport. That actually gave me an idea again to explore the Delhi Metro network.
So I decided to do away with the car or taxi and even did not inform the office or colleagues at Delhi fully about my travel plans. Thus almost incognito I arrived at the airport and walked out to the Airport Metro platform which was just about 5 mins walk. That I had almost no luggage to carry helped. My first meeting was at IFCI building which is bang opposite the Nehru Place metro station. That knowledge also helped. I rung up my colleague and told him that I am already in town and will meet him at the venue directly without giving him a chance to ask how ,why etc. so that I was not dissuaded from the mini adventure.
The fare from Airport to New Delhi station by Delhi Airport Metro Express service is Rs 100 and it takes just around 25 mins to reach. Thereafter, it is the domain of Delhi Metro , proper or DMRC with its network of different routes colour coded and popularly known as blue, yellow, purple lines etc. or something to that effect. The journey from the airport to New Delhi is one of the best and one gets the feel of being in some developed country because of the comfort , quickness and the absence of crowds at all. I think this was the quickest and most pocket friendly way to travel from the airport to the city avoiding the traffic on road. For a single traveller or a couple of adults with light luggage this is the best way to reach the city , in my opinion.
But the real India and the problem of urban life hits you on the face with full force once reaching the New Delhi Metro station. The metro station connects the New Delhi railway station , of the Indian Railways . I don't know if it happens everyday but a sea of people were jostling at the ticket counters at the ND station. It was almost like any station on the Mumbai local network ; only difference being the cleanliness and underground facilities of a very high degree . People from different places were thronging the place in long queues with their luggage. From ND metro station I took a crowded metro service to the Central secretariat and here again changed trains on a different route , towards South Delhi . This part of the journey was less crowded , most likely because the direction was away from the city centre during the morning rush hours.
Nehru Place station Metro station has excellent facilities and a wide range of shops and a wonderful food court too . I must admit that barring the crowd at ND station the experience from the Airport till now had been wonderful as the cleanliness , precision, punctuality and easy to understand directions were really great and made you wonder why such experience is not replicated everywhere.
A fter the forenoon meeting my colleague Vivek took me for lunch to the food court . There was an franchisee outlet of the iconic Karim's where we preferred a light lunch of Rumali rotis with mutton seekh kebabs accompanied by shredded onion and a lemon piece . Rounding this off with a chocolate milk shake completed the treat. For the next part of the journey post lunch we travelled by the office car brought by my Vivek before he dropped me at the SBI complex on the parliament street. The afternoon meeting at SBI LHO dragged on and was followed by another meeting with my sales team at Delhi. I had knowingly booked a return flight quite late because from my previous experiences I know how such review meetings go on quite late .
After the meeting when I expressed my desire to again travel by metro to the airport ,my people must have thought that their boss was behaving a bit strange. Refusing their advice and help to call a cab , I asked them to direct me to a convenient metro station. Everybody advised to take the Airport Express from Shivaji stadium station . But getting a cab or rickshaw was taking some time. Then someone suggested that Patel Chowk station was at a walking distance. They were not suggesting it because they did not want me to take the trouble to walk. This actually showed that not all your well wishers give you sound advice. Sometimes people judge you by something else and do not give you the full picture. More so juniors in workplace. Out of respect or seniority often many information are withheld . As it turned out , the Patel Chowk metro station was just five minutes walk away from our Delhi office.
From Patel chowk to New Delhi and then to the airport took only 45 minutes including changeover , ticketing etc. And a very hassle free journey. I am now a great fan of New Delhi metro. Speaking with different people during the day I could realise how the metro has changed the lifestyle of people in Delhi for the better. For an example many people did not visit Chandni Chowk for ages due to traffic jam and parking problems . But now many take metro and visit the place to shop and eat out. Then places like Nehru Place metro station is a good hangout for the young crowd. And for the average office goer , it is just a boon .
Next time I visit Delhi I will plan to have my meetings on Friday and stay over the weekend to explore the lovely city meet friends and definitely have more sheekh kebabs at Karim's. No franchisee outlet , it has to be the real thing.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Chatushkone

Overall Chatushkone ( চতুষ্কোণ ) has shaped up to a very good movie . Highly watchable , entertaining , cinematically and visually appealing. Srijit Mukherjee has scored again with his structured commercially viable but not the run of the mill movie with 'hatke' subjects.
The core of the movie is based on a love triangle and how; whst we think as liberty to live own personal lives of people can affect the personal lives of others as unintended consequences. It also explores relations both in their deep and superficial layers. The story is told in a very impressive format where past , present and the imagination all merge into a very effective story with the suspense quotient maintained till the end.
In the recent times Kahaani (I am a big fan) Barfi and Jatishwar were three movies which I enjoyed thoroughly . I have no hesitation in adding Chatushkone to it. Coming to the movie , the casting of the main characters itself guaranteed a high level of acting but its the casting of smaller characters that adds so much value to the film. Tried and tested actors have made Srijit's job easier and the use of lesser characters in telling the story is remarkably done by a wonderfully written script. But one has to note that Chiranjeet is a revelation and steals the show in the face of such good competition from actors like Aparna Sen,Parambrata and Goutam Ghosh. He looks much better in his older avatar , leaner and mature. And the grey stubble and sunglass hooded eyes give him a very attractive personality matching the requirements of his charater fully . About Aparna Sen ,what more can one say. She has shown that age is just a number. Her acting remains still of the highest order and make us forget about her age. But let me also add that her age shows up at two scenes a bit unflatteringly. I had a slight idea that perhaps Roopa Ganguly ( and no one else ) could have fitted.the role better. But that's it.
The script , story idea , cast and acting takes the movie to newer heights. This movie does not have too many songs which is a very strong point of Srijit. only two tracks are there and both are well picturised including the excellent one by the perennial favourite , Anupam Roy. So actually he deserves more credit for making the audience attracted to the visuals through dialogues and photography. Like his other movies he has experimented with camera and lighting and resorted to sepia , filters and out of focus frames to tell his story either in the flashback or imagination. Editing has been efficient as far as changing the scenes are concerned but the film could have been shorter. I will request Srijit to stop having the epilogues in his movies and not try to explain too much. Heis now a leading director not only of Bengali films but in the country and people are knowing him .by his films. I t was a pleasant surprise to see the packed hall in Navi Mumbai. I wish him many more successes and hope he will keep on making good movies.
While watching the movie ,I could not help being reminded about Happy New Year. There also references to movies past and witty one liners with filmy connections were made . How jejune and forced it seemed in HNY but how nicely Srijit had used them. That's the real pity. With a budget and scale of HNY this guy could beat Hollywood. But he will not get that luxury now when he is at his creative best.

Friday, 31 October 2014

31.10.2014

I will keep coming back everytime,
you banish me from your heart.
And thank you with a large smile ,
for the lovely gift of hurt.
Without you the restless feeling ,
this thirst in a  sea of water.
Stil you ask me with utter disdain ,
tell me what's the matter ?

Monday, 31 March 2014

31.03.2014

Memories of another spring once more
to make my wounds bloom again
in the new found comfort of the young leaves
green on the old branches of my tree.
When this merry wind blows in its tipsy gait
on a slow afternoon and I feel it
on my drowsy eyes heavy with remembrance
I realise how cruel the beautiful spring can be.
The dry and barren hills resonating
with the empty grey  silence of far away
mark the territory of my vanquished dreams .
As the green leaves smile all around
and beckon me to join the carnival of life
something or the other brings you back
with the memories of another spring , once more.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

30.03.2014

Somewhere in the farthest corner of the sky
the lonely star that shines, away from the crowd.
droplets of hope falling from the honeycomb.
To hold this flow of life and taste it
on my thirsty lips and dried tongue.
Let me take this last chance to live
handed over by fate and lick the
last dregs of nectar dripping from my cup .
I need  to live now or never.

Monday, 24 March 2014

24.03.2014

I wanted you to stay with me
in a haze of memories like a dusty trail
on a dry summer afternoon.
But you chose to remain
in the drops of tears under the dark circles
beneath my tired sleepless eyes.
If I ask you now , why , for what reason
did you remain a piece of grief for me.
I know you will deny it outright.
Then how do I explain the lonely vigil
by the telephone throughout the night
waiting for it to ring once again.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Whatever people may say about love ............

Whatever people may say about love,
not all of it may be always true.
Whether it is an illusion of mind
or does it really make the world change ;
has been a mystery to many .
Whatever people may say ,
love does not bless everyone.
There are those who spend a lifetime
in vain, searching the feel of love.
And some who never realise the mistake
of letting love slip away , unheralded
into the oblivion of that missed moment.
Whatever people may say about love,
it's not the togetherness that binds the souls;
but the yearning in the hearts , that passion
searing through two hearts physically apart,
which cross all boundaries of the rules
defined by this world , breaks the barriers
in its stride and make things happen .
To be in love and feel it unfold
is the dream which is real , the story
that continue even after ending so many times.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Queen of the hearts.


Kangna Ranaut is amazing in the movie Queen. Saw it today after missing it last week. Many of my friends on FB has senn it and have provided rave reviews  of it. I agree with them. The movie is a feel good experience which buoys the spirit . And Kangna has given her everything in the scenes. Her de glam look in the movie and the vulnerable yet determined expression on her sweet face tugs a string in your heart. Rarely has a bollywood heroine tried to look so ordinary yet ruled the hearts without  even a hint of sex appeal. After watching the movie you leave the hall with a smile on your face and a fine impression of Kangna as an actress. She deserves respect for her work .

While watching the movie comparisonss with "  Zindagi na milegi dobara " may come to mind. But both are different in structure. Here the psychology of the protagonist is not deeply explored. rather it is a narrative based on experiences of a caged soul trying to break free and understand itself. The scenes are very well conceived and edited. in spite of no action, villains and dramatic storyline, it keeps you glued to the seat on the back of a capable editing. The cities of Paris and Amsterdam are very nicely photographed. And by keeping the dialogues in various languages and the accented English of everyone the meaning is conveyed much easily . All the supporting cast have been effective in their roles.

And Lisa Haydon. My ,my , she is really a bomb.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

"Shaadi ke Side effects"

"Shaadi ke Side effects" is a timepass fare.   On wife's insistence and because of Vidya Balan,  we watched the movie this evening. It spreads good humour and light hearted banter. But that's it. It can be a goood option to de-stress . Almost like a TV show without a break . Or rather like one of those old Rajashree pictures movies repackaged in the modern urban settings with better technology.  Personally I liked it in bits and pieces  because of the acting by Farhan Akhtar and Vidya . The movie seems to drag at the end and two unnecessary songs could well have been edited out.
Actually the movie pokes fun at the travails of a married man and trivialises the real issues for some laughs. But you don't carry any part of the movie with you after the show. It is not a great movie but a good one to watch with the entire family without bothering to flinch at the dialogues, scenes and violence .

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Sau saal pehle ..............


Babu Narendra Chandra Dutta was a lawyer from Comilla (erstwhile Bengal, now in Bangladesh) . His early childhood was spent in penury. Later he built up a good practice and became a wealthy man. In 1914, Dutta founded the Comilla Banking Corporation. He started the bank with a declared capital of 4,000 rupees and raised another 2,500 rupees. In order to raise the capital he sold his own house for 1,500 rupees. Initially he drew a monthly remuneration of eight rupees from the bank.

Comilla Bank, as it was popularly known had substantial investments in the tea industry. Loans were issued to prospective investors in the tea industry for buying tea plantations and related properties.

Comilla Bank was was merged with three other banks, all based from Bengal in 1950 and United Bank of India was formed. It was again nationalized later in 1969 This is a piece of history. Maybe no one will be interested .



Who knows ……. The way things are happening, United Bank of India itself may also become a piece of history very soon.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Future foretold

As I sit patiently in front of him ,
once again, with my outstretched hand.
And once again, I feel the sense of doom
under the weight of barren expectations
of a lifetime, as I wait patiently now.
To have my future foretold.
So I sit there patiently in front of the silent man
his face masked in all seriousness as he peers
through a thick lens on the palms of my hands.
I wait patiently for him to announce
the results of his examination and perhaps,
his prescription to change the course of my life.
The silent man reading my fatelines perhaps
knows fully well , as I too do , that the game
is alll fixed in reality, but nevertheless ,
we all have to play and keep on playing.
I don't know my past, my present is so uncertain.
But when I was born , these lines were there
as I tried to grab all the luck of my portion
in my small fists and make my way in this world.
At that moment somewhere else , far away,
was that an unknown  star that shined
or was it a comet that hurtled to its end.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

12.02.2014

I will rather be the pain
to make you remember me
now and then.
Had I been the wound
it would have healed long back
and remained like a scar.
Since the winter solstice on Dec 21st the days have lengthened a lot . About 6.30 p.m. now but the the Sun is still on. It will be setting in a few minutes .Actually got the chance to watch the sunset after many days. Lovely feeling of spring is in the air

Friday, 7 February 2014

Samadhi of a Godman. ........ once again .

Samadhi of a Godman. ........ once again .

Organised religions have always been a tool to fool the gullible and the perpetuate the most heinous forms of crimes on the masses. All organised religions are forms of bondages which take people away from the God and make them believers of some human with extraordinary powers. One such case that comes to fore with the recent controversy over a self styled godman Ashutosh Maharaj who is, for all practical purpose dead but his supporters claim that he is in a Samadhi.

Those who follow Godmen are actually have nothing to do with with God. By worshipping a human and turning him or her into a deity , they are actually following magicians and hypnotists. But still people flock to these charlatans which can be explained by the spiritual hollowness and the need to fall back on an emotional crutch. This is more like the addiction to cigarettes, which I have . And mind it , that's a vice.

But no doubt it is a sense of deja' vu that I feel when I read or watch the news about this strange incident of a dead man being preserved in a freezer. Reminds me of a similar incident 20 years back . In 1993 after the death of Baba Balak Bramhachari in Kolkata his supporters laid siege with his body, refusing to cremate it with the excuse that the Baba was in a deep trance.

At that time Subhas Chakraborty ,the maverick CPM leader and minister , under the instructions of Jyoti Basu ,then CM of WB successfully carried out a bloodless operation and freed the dead body from the custody of his followers along with the state administration. He was applauded all around for his leadership in defusing a tight situation and rightly so.

Let us now wait and watch when the dead body of this so called Godman is removed .

Sunday, 19 January 2014

#Jaatishwar ...... The legend of Anthony Firingee.

Bengali cinema is alive and kicking. And I am not speaking about the variety which is a copy of some South Indian blockbuster hurting your sensibilities to the core with the loud dialogue ,overacting, item numbers,crass jokes ,mindless violence or unrealistic action. From the debris of the existential compromises which the Bengali cinema has had to make over the last three decades, some good filmmakers have come ahead. And they are not of the typical intellectual variety.Rather they are good craftsmen who understand the idiom of cinema as an interactive medium. 

Srijit Mukherjee is one of them. One may find fault with his movies in a critical manner over his style of execution but not his ideas and his imagery. From the new breed of the filmmakers who are part of the revival in Bengali movies by attempting to make commercially viable intelligent movies , he has made his name. His choice of subjects has been varied and he has never bothered about the niceties of following the age old formula in his scripts. His latest offering, Jaatishwar is another attempt in this direction. And after the somewhat average Arabian adventure of Mishawr Rahasya, this time he has packed the killer punch in providing a wholesome entertainment without a well defined storyline , actually.

#Jaatishwar is the story which on the face value is a story about a split personality character who is a re incarnation of a historical Indo-Portugese person Anthony Kabial also known as Antony Firingee , who inspite of his European lineage adopted Bengal as his home and Bengali as his language to create folk songs and participate in competitions in the 18th Century , almost 150 years back. But this actually is just the platform of the movie which explores so much other contemporary facets of the Bengali life.

Srijit has shown in his earlier films that he has a keen sense of music and his song picturisations stand out in conceptualisation a nd execution. This time he is firmly on his territory and plays on his strength by tackling the subject of the reincarnation with music at the heart of the film. And that really pays dividend. the songs and their picturisations are the highpoint of this movie. The lyrical finesse of the songs and their rendition are superb. You take the songs with you as you leave the cinema hall.
The simple narrative of the movie actually brings forth a complex collage of events, past and present and brings forth the role of music and its evolution in the Bengali society in the last two centuries. It also is a story of love, lost and found. There is actually two stories that move parallely throughout the movie with a coterminus climax and a twist at the the end. But the suspense of the climax is maintained till the very end and this is the hallmark of a good director. The story itself moves forward and in some places, the director has used a documentary style and tried to follow the reality show type format by roping in famous contemporary music makers . All in all the experiments gel and are not jarring.

The excellent camera and editing helps the movie to move forward in an easy pace. After many days I found a title scene where the audience is compelled to follow the camera. The cast of actors led by Prosenjit have turned out a wonderful performance. His dual role play of an ordinary man with visions of reincarnation has been really good. And as Anthony Firingee , he has been able to overcome the strong association which cine goers have for this character with Uttam kumar. Swastika as the heroine has proved that she deserves better roles . But Jishu Sengupta is outstanding with his under acting . He really deserves more and more meaningful roles . He is the best surprise of the movie.

Movies like #Jaatishwar are to be seen and then criticised. But if you do not watch these movies then you are actually perpetuating the rule of crass commercial cinema bereft of intelligence. One thing is clear. Bollywood with its big budget and overhyped stars can never dream of making such movies. And this is not only for Bengalis . With a very good sub title , everybody can watch the movie . If not for the cultural package but for the technical brilliance and idea . The movie is bound to get a national award . But what it really needs is public support. Go and see Jaatishwar. You will not regret it if you understand Bengali.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

#ChanderPahad

#ChanderPahad - I strongly recommend it to everybody, even for those who don't understand Bengali because 40% of the dialogue is in English and the entire movie is subtitled in English. If you have a kid at home,definitely take him . It is for them and instead of showing them crass mindlesss commercials like Dhoom 3, Chennai Express or Dabanng. Give them something which will open up their mind.

I myself felt like a kid spoilt with choice between Sholay 3D , Wolf of the Wall street and Chander Pahad . Then chose the last one only because I missed it last weekend and this story is associated with my childhood. And I don't regret my choice . Rather the movie betters my expectation in a grand manner . It is a brave attempt and a big gamble that has turned to be the perfect jackpot.

#ChanderPahad is supposed to be the costliest Bengali movie with a budget of Rs 15 Crs. Paltry by Bollywood standards. But the movie is far,far ahead of the top Bollywood grossers in content. And mind it its not a social or family drama with lot of intellectual subtleties which we associate with Bengali movies. It is a pure adventure story with the location set in Africa. Where the movie scores is in its truly international appeal . One should first applaud the producers for backing this project . Had they not supported the efforts , we would miss out on the visual treat and the celluloid translation of one of the most widely read adventure story in Bengali.

Chander Pahad is written by the late Bibhuti Bhushan Bandyopadhyay , who is more associated with Pather Panchali and Apur Sansar. People outside Bengali culture would remember him as the author of Ray's Apu trilogy. He wrote this novel for teenagers in the year 1937 and the settings of the novel was in Africa at the turn of the twentieth century. The anecdotal fact is that Bibhutibhushan never visited a foreign land but the way he has described the African adventure through the eyes of his imaginative creation is truly unparalleled. I first read the novel “Chander Pahad” when I was about 11-12 years old . And later many times. The last time I read the book was about 20 years back as a mature adult. But the thrill and joy which I felt reading the novel was always eternal. 

It is a very simple adventure story and linear in structure. But the beauty of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhayay lies in his terrific sense of fiction which always makes the reader imagine about the scene depicted by him , thus making it a very interactive experience , all within the mind. Simplicity has been the hallmark of this great author . In this era of Nat Geo and BBC channels, no adventure story would look real. But to think of the setting of this story at the beginning of the previous century in the wilds of Africa, one will realize the romance of adventure and why Bengali teenagers have been a fan of this novel since the last 8 decades or so.

Coming to the movie itself, the movie has been well made , overall and does justice to the narrative, and the period portrayal is comparable with the Indiana Jones movies. It is much better than the average Bollywood adventure stories and leads them miles ahead . The photography is of high quality and it should have been so else the whole movie would look a cheap venture. The editing is slick and fast. the shots don't linger and the story moves ahead in a straight path without any convoluted distortions. The number of actors are very small and the total cast barring the main protagonist all are unknown to the Indian audience and are mostly foreign . 

Dev as the hero has tried his best to shed the baggage of his mainstream capers . He fits the role to a large extent and does justice to the role. It must have been physically a very challenging experience for him to essay the role and his deep commitment stands out.Full marks to the director, Kamaleshwar Mukhopadhyay for his venture and able support given to him by the camera crew and post production staff. To attempt a non pretentious adventure story without heroine, item numbers, murders, suspense and a large number of actors , by itself is a difficult proposition in this commercially minded cinema world. To finally make the product commercially viable is nothing short of a masterpiece by itself.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Mirror

The mirror retains nothing;
 it just shows up everything
that is placed before it.
The fine lines of time that
slowly digs deep
into furrows on the face .
All the signs of age catching up;
they are not the mirror's concern.
The mirror remains crystal clear
even if the faces change.