Category Archives: Life

13th July 1997 – the ultimate demolition in front of 130,000 people !

13th July 1997 – that’s the day remembered fondly by many and hated by equally many. In our generation, that symbolised the passion of football in Kolkata, the eternal rivalry now going 100+ years strong … and of course, the ultimate supremacy of East Bengal over Mohan Bagan, which I hope will continue till my last day.

The frenzy surrounded the match was something that I had listened from my uncles but never witnessed at a mature age. Two things aggravated the situation – the insulting comments of the Late Amal Dutta, the coach of the macha’s and the fact that there was an issue on whether the match will be telecast live on TV – after all, it was the Federation Cup semifinals and a mouth-watering one too.

That season, Mohan Bagan started with a bang – displaying a brand of attacking football that was not seen in last few years, by adopting the so-called diamond system. Such was their initial success that their coach was called Diamond Dutta – till 13th July, when the diamond was crushed to dust. On the other hand, East Bengal was clearly the underdog before the match with some good players on paper – but after that match, the rise of Baichung Bhutia, the empeccable defense of Sammy Omollo, the tactics of counter attacking play against a stronger opponents – all became part of history.

Now, there have been many posts on how the match went, how East Bengal’s Baichung destroyed the myth of the diamond system, etc etc. I don’t want to elaborate on the same thing – but what I want to write is why that day was the most memorable day related to sports till date in my life !

First thing that strikes me was the total frenzy before the game. Tickets to the game was simply not available as they were sold out days before the game. In my locality, fights did happen even before one/two days before the match just because supporters of one club made some bad comments of their opponents. Me and my friends were desperate  for tickets and finally we managed to get through different people. Once we got the tickets, the tension amongst East Bengal fans were just immense – we were subject to taunts, banters and hence we were simply raring to go after them with the hope that a cornered East Bengal club is the most ferocious thing to happen to anyone.

Cometh the Match Day – all lucky shirts (slightly torn), lucky shoes and chappals (worn out with visible holes) were out. And I was stunned when we reached Salt Lake stadium. It was a sea of people with chanting, shouting – the noise outside was tremendous. Rs 10 tickets were being sold in front of me at a price of Rs 800 – 1000 and all those ones were being sold like hot cakes. Never before I saw police jeeps patrolling with portable microphones blaring announcements of “this match will be now telecast live, so for those who don’t have tickets, we beg you all to return back to your homes” !! The entry to Gate-4 was impossible – the queue was at least 2 km long. We had to finally break the queue risking police sticks on our backs and managed to enter the stadium.

Inside it was a hot, noisy cauldron. Stadium packed up even before 1 hour to the start of the match. Even though the official number was 131,000 people in the stadium, unofficially it must have crossed 150,000 as I still remember people standing in the stairs throughout the match – they did not get any space to sit. And the noise when the teams entering the ground – simply unbelievable.

The other thing that I learnt on was the impact of sound waves. Those who are familiar with the Salt Lake stadium layout – we sat in Gate 4, which was just behind one goal. That day, Mohan Bagan managed to score one goal – so while the East Bengal gallery was totally silent, the MB supporters were shouting “GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL”. And we, sitting at the opposite end of them, literally felt the sound wave coming – starting from a feeble rustling sound, then growing exponentially to an ultimate crescendo – all for a period of maybe 8-10 seconds. Unbelievable impact to the ears. And boy, did we not return that impact to MB supporters ? Yes, we did … not just once, by 4 times !!!!!!!!

The most dangerous thing that can happen to any human was if someone, by mistake, sits in their opponents gallery ! As many outstation policemen was deployed inside the stadium, there was one constable from Patna (we came to know later) who was sitting near us. In the first half, when it was 0-0, Cheema Okerie of Mohan Bagan piled on a strong shot which luckily when outside. And this guy, forgetting where he was sitting, jumped up and started shouting and dancing…. by mistake. Oh my God ! Everyone pounced on him and started to give slaps (we call them “chataas”) – but then when it was learnt he was new to the city, etc better sense prevailed. But the story does not end here – when Baichung went on the rampage in the 2nd half, after each goal, everyone forced the poor constable to dance continuously for 5 minutes (per goal) !! It was a hilarious scene for all of us – but must have been a poor ordeal to that guy.

In any East Bengal – Mohan Bagan match, one thing you have to cope up is huge amount of gaali’s and that too innovative ones. There was a father who brought his 9-10 year old son – and he literally tried to close his son’s ears by his both hands everytime someone was shouting some expletives ! Finally he had to give up lamenting “why on hell did I bring my son to this game !!!”. But the funny part was when East Bengal was leading 2-1 in the 2nd half – at that point of time, there was at least 20-25 minutes left. One elderly gentleman suddenly got up, starting shouting expletives towards the referee, when there was absolutely no issue in a mid-field play. People got surprised and someone asked what happened ? (“ki holo, dada” ?). And his reply was unique – “Shourer xxxx referee, referee’r xxxxx, xxxx … etokhon khelaono’r ki aache ???? Amra jitchi 2-1’e – aar referee ekhono kheliye jaache ?????? Shalaaa xxxxx, xxxxxx – ekhunu khela sesh koruk !!” ….. I will not ever forget this incident.

Another thing that will ever be in my mind – it started with a disappointment. We were planning to sit in Gate 3 (where we normally target a fixed place) so that we can see the match better sitting middle of the ground. But we were forced to sit in Gate 4, behind one goal. So, when action happens in the other end of the goal, sometimes you cannot interpret things better. So all of us were grumbling before the start of the match and we were shouting at the policemen who refused to let us go to Gate 3. Boy, did we get compensated at the end of the match ??? Oh yeeeesssssssssssssssssssssssssssss !!! All 3 goals of East Bengal’s in the 2nd half happened at our end, including Baichung’s hat-trick !!! What more could we have asked !!!! And literally I had such a sore throat that day because of the shouting, that I had to bunk office the next day !!!

Let me make three take-way points before I end this post:

  • Nothing is more enjoyable than an East Bengal – Mohan Bagan derby; specially when East Bengal wins. Even when India won the cricket world cups, I was not as happy as I was that day !
  • Atmosphere on the ground in a football match is just electric – even the most advanced dolby sound effects cannot replace that experience
  • Now to the Mohan Bagan fans – you guys simply have to admit we are much superior than you when it comes to the Derby match. I know you will start shouting right now – but again all street dogs bark more than they bite :-)

Finally, as I reminiscence the happiest sporting day in my life, I attach the remnants of that day’s match ticket – which I still carry in my purse wherever I go. Why I do that ? Because it symbolises heavenly happiness, it symbolises good omen and at the end of the day, it symbolises that East Bengal was, is and will be always superior than Mohan Bagan till my last day !

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Influence of one Mr. Ray

I make it a point of not missing any Felu’da movie, irrespective of the actor who is playing that role. Whether it was Soumitra or Sabyasachi or Abir or anyone, I don’t care. Today was another day when I went to watch Double Feluda movie directed by Sandip Ray. This was a special year as this was the year when Felu’da turned 50 years, even when the creator of the character is no longer present amongst us. More than the two stories depicted in the film, I was sent to direct nostalgia when I saw the end tribute from many of the actors who played immortal characters of the journey of Felu’da captured in celluloid. This made me pause to retrospect the influence one Mr. Satyajit Ray had on my growing up.

When I was a child, I was introduced to story books by my parents and I must have immersed myself in the love of reading; because the moment I can think of my first memories of my life, I saw myself devouring any story book I got hold of. My brother shared the same love towards books and that always created a big problem – there was always a major fight when new books or magazines came to our house – who will read first !! And one of the major attractions, if not the only attraction, was the magazines of Anandamela and Sandesh where the stories of Felu’da and Prof Shanku will come. The order of priority was Felu’da, then Prof Shanku, then TinTin followed by others. Clear priority definition – never had any ambiguity on this aspect as a child.

Actually Sandesh magazine came to our house to stop the fight with my brother on who will read Anandamela first, when that was the only magazine subscribed by my father. I still remember that there was an office near the Triangular Park in South Kolkata from where either Sandesh was re-published or distributed. Back from school, we used to stop there for 5 minutes to buy the latest issue of that magazine and I used to hold that tightly in my hands. Anandamela used to come automatically through the newspaper vendor.


Picture from internet
As any normal child, I used to draw pictures when I was a child. Crayons was a good past time; but what I enjoyed most was drawing pictures using just a normal pencil. Nine out of ten times, it was a picture of Felu’da or Felu’da in action that I tried to copy in my drawing. It was always a great pleasure of growing up when somebody could recognise my drawn picture as something that at least was resembling Satyajit Ray’s drawings even by a poor 10%.

Came the movies of Satyajit Ray for children starting with Goopy Gayne Bagha Bayne. Movies are always enthralling for kids – and it was kind of moving to an ecstasy world by watching Satyajit Ray s movies. The ultimate was when the character that moved me from my childhood days, I could see them in almost real life. Sonar Kella and Joy Baba Felunath – this were the two movies that actually transformed the drawn pictures of Felu’da into someone I could relate to. I still don’t know how many times I must have seen these two movies.

Science fictions never appealed me that much, whether be it in story books or be it in movies. But somehow I was fascinated by the Professor Shanku s stories. I could relate them as very much possible in real world and not just fantasies. Probably that was the reason why Prof Shanku was so much liked to me.

Before I end, I have encountered so many writers through their creations in my life so far. My love towards detective stories or thrillers is quite strong. So starting from Enid Blyton to Pancha Pandab to Kakababu to Kiriti to Byomkesh to Sherlock Holmes to Alistair Maclean to Agatha Christie to Moitrayee Bhaduri – journey has been good and still continuing. But no one has touched me so much as one Mr. Satyajit Ray – he has been a big, major part of my growing up. Later on, I went through his gammot of movies and writing, but the pleasure of growing up with Felu’da, Prof Shanku and Ray’s other stories has been tremendous. Whenever I think of Satyajit Ray, the first image that comes to my mind is that he was my best friend while growing up.

And I still remember the thing that I did with my first every salary I earned – I gave the salary to my mother and she in return gave me some money to buy something that I liked. I then requested my father to take me to College Street as I wanted to buy some books. Everybody thought I would go for some food items – but I pleasantly disappointed them :-) Along with my father, I went to Ananda Publishers office at College Street and bought the complete set of Feluda and Prof Shanku at one shot  !!!!

That thing came naturally to me and probably that only told of the influence of Satyajit Ray in my growing up. Thank you Sir !!!! And my journey still continues when I rush to a movie theatre whenever any story of Satyajit Ray is converted into a movie, irrespective of the actors or director ….

The annual gainless pain …

A typical Bong (Bengali) will always look forward to buy new clothes or other associated things just before the start of the Durga Puja. That’s a tradition that is there for centuries and some of these traditions are good to keep – I don’t have any problem with that. But when this annual thing becomes a big blister on the poor backside of myself, that’s when I feel the pain. Shopping is an activity that is generally loved by all women and absolutely loathed by majority of the men (at least that’s what I have observed over the years). Again, I have no problem with that fact of life. But being induced into “forced shopping” mode is something that can bring in sweat even in the coldest of the winters.

It all starts with the sentimental bombarding of “you need to go as this is a tradition where the entire family buys stuff for the rest of the family”. At times, I give a damn about traditions – and this is definitely the most appropriate timing to exercise that. When that foils, then comes a rapid fire intense round of negotiations with kind of risk-reward scheme of terms and conditions.

“Ok, lets do one thing – we will visit New Market or Gariahat for 2 hours and after that we can still have that mutton biryani, even though your doctor has advised against it”. Never before I have witnessed such Mother Teresa equivalent kindness – this is that historic moment of individual’s life when the Home Minister can overrule the doctor’s years of acquired knowledge and experience. That’s the only time when that elusive “mutton biryani” suddenly becomes devoid of all cholesterol, LDL’s – even though the same biryani is served for the rest 364 days a year. But that’s when lesson’s learnt are applied and I think of the last year when I was butchered like an innocent lamb who just fell for that extra bit of ‘lush green grass’ coming free. So, I stand up tall like Netaji Subhas Bose and counter that satan-like greed for biryani – “You just give some space and I will get freedom for myself”. Normally that statement is followed by a nasal humming of “amake amar moton thaakte dao, aami nijeke nijer moton ghuchiye niyechi”.

But as always, it’s the home minister who passes the law and as a common man, inspite of how much rebellious you can be, its the time of execution. The only hope in all of this is the agreement on three contractual clauses of:
– the ordeal will be not more than 1 hour maximum and limited to one shop only. So the participation will be in the final selection round and not during the initial never-ending rounds of shortlisting things
– playing mobile games are allowed even during the exercise – not because I don’t want to participate, but I claim that I am good at multi-tasking
– this clause is more of a request to be complied on a “best effort basis” – very feebly the petition is raised that if this happens in an non-air-conditioned environment, this poor soul will feel very near to Satan. That always is met with a steely ice-frozen look (without words) – and that’s when you can not only hear the sound of silence, but also realise the power of silence !

Now I enter the shop with a mood that can scare the friendliest of any living being. Because just being dragged out of a half-sitting-half-sleeping stupor while watching a nonsense movie like Housefull-3 is not always energising. Nevertheless the ordeal starts. This is normally accompanied by unique characteristics like:

– running around like a headless chicken with the only rule of “follow thy master”
– pausing to check Facebook or Whatsapp amounts to threatening of “the time spent on these useless activities will be deducted from the 1 hour negotiated time”. Nawaz Sharif will also be looked upon as a toddler, given the intensity of these threats
– hands should be occupied by holding dresses. You will never realise that even after “short listing”, there will be still so many dresses to be tried out
– looking at oddly shaped women in front of trial rooms. 80+ kg women darts out of the trials rooms wearing skin tight dresses only to get a nod from an impatient husband waiting outside the room, who just happened to hide a big yawn before giving a million dollar smile and saying “looking too good” … and then the transition from that smile to a big frown comes in a lightning speed, that will make even Usain Bolt feel proud !
– once the trials are over, then comes a period of intense subjective and objective analysis on which 3 dresses out of 12 are the best. If you try play smart and want to end the ordeal by quickly selecting any 3, then you will be virtually guillotined by the AK47-like spraying of bullets of defending the selected 3
– finally standing alone in the queue with 3 ladies dresses. Why alone ? Well usage of idle time has been recommended by all. The waiting time in the queue can be executed by any dumbass like me while a last minute tour of the remaining store can be utilised.

After all this, when you come home, sip a cuppa on the sofa with a game of football on, and then thank God by saying “thanks for giving me strength this time”, you hear from another room that I need to go again tomorrow as we have forgotten shopping for a loved one !! Why do we have so many loved ones ? Why, why ?

Come on !! Not again !!! “Bidroho aaj, bidroho charidike, bidroho aaj” ….. that’s the only time when the socialistic concept of rebellion comes to life for me

Happy last minute Puja shopping everyone !

 

AI can evolve into something we don’t want to see

The battle for Artificial Intelligence or AI is up for grabs. Already all leading corporations are spending huge money and time to build upon the challenge of AI helping mankind. However the debate on whether AI is ultimately good for human civilization is also hotting up good time. The sci-fi movies on robots evolving and finally establishing supremacy on humans has been there for some years now. That may come to a reality when AI will reach a stage when robots can produce other robots on their own.

Google has predicted that five years from now, AI will reach at a level which will be at the level of human beings. All other AI experts might dispute on the time frame, but I don’t think anybody has disputed that AI has the capability to reach the human being level and hence can then go ahead of humans when it comes to intelligence. So the possibility of the earth being ruled by machines are quite high. Based on media reports, China is building up a huge setup to explore contacts with aliens – and if that happens one day where the so called aliens having higher intelligence gets in touch with earth ruled by AI more than humans, the impact will be huge. But that’s for a longer time horizon we are looking for – a horizon which I am unlikely to witness. Phew!

However the other negative implications are quite imminent as was evident when Microsoft apologized for racist and offensive tweets from its AI engine. Refer to the below news report from the Guardian :

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/26/microsoft-deeply-sorry-for-offensive-tweets-by-ai-chatbot

This leads to many possibilities which are more likely to happen in the near future. Soon, feeding up the AI engines through government organisations and stronger countries are likely to happen which will lead to forced propaganda across big sets of populations. The very concept of free thought, freedom of speech might be under threat if AI is used by government or corporation machinery. Further, if terrorist organizations can access the feeding part effectively, this will lead to justifications and glorification of terror activities, impacting the thought process of  millions of next generation children. Already many such organisations like ISIS are turning out to be tech savvy organisations – hence the possibility of such groups doing a forced molding of AI to defend their sets of actions are quite high.

Now all technologies have their positives and negatives. Einstein’s E=mc2 provoked the atom bomb; the evolution of weapons of mass destruction got accelerated from advancement of technogy; internet has caused a parallel track of hacking, fraud; etc. But AI has the possibility of leading to an area which has never been faced or seen by humans. Therefore the impact of the same can be extremely useful for mankind on one hand and also catastrophic on the extreme.

Only time will tell how we, humans, let AI be used……

Friendship 

The year was 1981. A ten year old kid arrived at a new place, new home along with his family. The feelings were quite mixed – happy to see a new and bright, bigger home; slightly depressed for being uprooted from old friends. Feeling of sadness got increased in a couple of days when Sunday came up as that was the time to play, but where are the friends ?

Coaxed out of home by his parents, the kid trudged along reluctantly to the play ground that was near to the new home. Probably sweat started to roll out – not just because of the month of July in a typical tropical Indian weather, but also because of the enormity of the challenge  that lies front of the kid. Unknown environment, unknown park, all alone, degree of being introvert scaling new heights, yet expected to gain company and friendship from a place which is absolutely unknown. Happiness lies on a thin thread – it was a do or die situation.

The kid saw some kids of his same age playing football in a small area as the bigger park was occupied by seniors playing the same game. Probably the seniors booted out the juniors who were now forced to take refuge in a small piece of plot, which was difficult to define as a play ground. Yet, the guys were playing football so happily, running around the ball and kicking it with some venom.

The kid just stood silently holding the rails of the big gate watching the game. Inside him, the eagerness to join the match was so immense, but his shyness prevented him to run to them. After all, he did not know anyone of those running around the play ground. It was probably the biggest ordeal faced by him. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes hours. And still he was standing all alone, clutching on the rail as if holding that will give him great mental strength.

Finally one of those playing saw him. The game was stopped. He came to the kid and asked “you new here ?” Reply was quick but monosyllabic “Yes”. Conversation started “where do you stay ?” “That house in the corner” …. And finally the million dollar awaited question “do you want to play ?” A big smile appeared for the first time. But there was a quick twist to the happiness “okay, go stand as a goalkeeper”

The kid was not absolutely elated in hearing that. After all, being a goal keeper is looked upon as a novice in the game, who cannot even kick the ball, but can just hold it, that too for some few seconds only. But who cares ! The ice was broken, new friends being created, life is definitely bound to get better, more happier. The new place, new environment looked more radiant and bright for sure.

That’s how the journey started 34 years ago. The friendship grew into great relationships and even today, the friends remains as true friends, united in happiness as well as crisis situations. Those kids grew up to become adults, professionals, having their own families. But the common bond of friendship grew stronger and stronger, year after year. 

The kid was me and home was at BD Block, Salt Lake, Kolkata. On this day when the world celebrates Kali Puja and Diwali, I think of those days and the still-strong friends. Let this friendship grow, stronger every year to celebrate at least 34 more Kali Puja / Diwali’s. 

দুর্গা পূজা

দুর্গা পূজা
এক রাশ ওণুভুতি
নতুন কাপড়ের স্পর্শ
কাশ ফুলের দুলুনি
ভোগের গন্ধ
প্রতিমা দর্শনের হুড়াহুড়ি
পান্ডেল আলোকসজ্জার চমতকার

দুর্গা পূজা
চিন্তার উপর জয়
মানুষের মিলন
গান বাজনার সময়
সকলের হাসি মুখ
ভুলেছে সবাই তার দুঃখ

দুর্গা পূজা
পাশের বস্তির ছেলেটা
সে তো পেলো না জামার গন্ধ
ঢাকের বাজনা মেটাল না খিদে
কুকুরের সঙ্গে বেঁচে থাকার লড়াই
জানালা তাই তার বন্ধ

তাঁরই মাঝে আধ খাওয়া আইস ক্রীম
খুঁজে পেল জীবনের এক চিলতে আনন্দ
নিল সে এক মহান ওংগিকার
যতই হক বড় উতসব, যতই হক টাকা খরচ
যা থাকবে হাতে, ভাগ হবে সবার সাথে
থাকবে না কোন ওপচয়
কারণ এটাই তো চিরকালের মানব ধর্মের পূজা

The ordeal that comes on an yearly basis …

I had been outside home for last 3 years to spare me the shopping experience that is associated before the start of the Durga Puja. Having to stay 100 miles away from shopping malls for so many years, I was expecting that this time, there will be no sparing of the so-called wonderful experience that is named Puja Shopping. Frantic negotiations started few weeks ago – the ask was for 3-4 complete days and my initial position was no such visit at all. Finally, it was mutually agreed (didn’t have the documented proof though) that at least an afternoon is the ordeal that I need to go through.

So here was I telling bye bye to the coveted post-lunch siesta on 2nd October as I started the car in the afternoon. The incentive that I managed to coax out of the last minute adjustments was dinner at home from Oudh 1590 with the classic mutton biryani. That was not approved – but was under consideration if I participated in good spirits during this expedition. The greed was substantial from my side and hence I decided to try my best in the most difficult probation period in my life.

Entered the shopping mall at City Center with the biggest yawn – which unfortunately got noticed. Smelt immediate danger, the angry glances just increased the risk level by an exponential curve. The objective of the trip was also decided very clear in black and white terms. Did not allow any speck of grey – thanks to my professional experience – though it resulted me a loss of great amount of fluids through profuse sweating. Objective was buying of 2-3 items for me and that was presented with the clause “see, everything it is for you, nothing for me”. I feebly tried the tactic “I don’t need anything, so let’s forget this trip” – but that just went down the drain. So, after that big yawn, went into the Men’s section and tried to focus upon the job in hand. Within 5 minutes, I finalised a shirt. But that was perceived as a tactic of closing down the ordeal fast to my advantage. So, in spite of finalising the one in few minutes, had to look at 20+ shirts with running commentary from the salesman why that cotton quality was so great, why this one is such a value added buy, etc. Irritation finally overcame me and I had to cut short the salesmen saying “thanks for the advice, if you can instead get me additional 30% discount, I will be more happy”.

Finally went to the jeans section. I thought that just holding the jeans in front of me and taking a judgement call of good fitment will be good enough. Instantly turned down quite vehemently. Trial is a must and the trials should be in the ratio of 1:3; which basically means that if the target is 1, you need to trial at least 3 pieces. So, had to finalise on 3 and went to the trial room. Never realised that there can be such a big queue in front of the trial room – making innocent face did not help as no one could identify the pains within me to allow me to break the queue. Agreed on the lucky piece and now was the turn to pay.

Suddenly another twist –  if the total sales is more than x, then you will get Rs 500 discount voucher which can be encashed only when you do next shopping of Rs 2500+. Basically, the trick was that for Rs 4500/- money spent, you just get a Rs 500 discount. But the word “discount” was too tempting for some – so had to scamper around to buy something that added up the total which will enable to cross the threshold. Another 20 minutes to buy that “add on” and another 20 minutes extra in front of the payment queue. What an irony – here you spend your own hard earned money and yet you need to wait for 20 minutes without even thinking of losing your patience and temper. After all this was Puja Shopping.

I thought after the payment was done, this is all over. What a naïve innocent person I am ! Wearing not anything ethnic is supposedly a dastardly act that Ma Durga may not be able to tolerate. So, again had to change shop and went to FabIndia shop. The name has a “Fab” built in – Fab must be standing for Fabulous. No doubt – all items are Fabulously pricey indeed !! By that time, I was dragging my feet like a child. Colours, design were all meaningless to me by then. So I took refuge on a small tool, which was meant for the Security Guard. He probably also felt the pain as I was sitting there with my face down, looking at the design of the floor. But then my sixth sense felt that there is a fiery thing hitting my left cheek – I turned my head and saw someone staring at me with piercing eyes. Realised that I still have reflexes alive as I sprang up into attention position and went running again to the trial room. The ratio still was 1:3.

Finally, payment was made and then even the most timid person like me said with conviction “enough is enough!”. That moment I did realise that revolts and revolutions can happen en-masse; so there is still hope to all Marxists that one day “biplob” will run across the streets of Kolkata. And without even waiting for a reaction, I started walking towards the car. Desperation can drive people to daring acts and that I did achieve. Better senses prevailed as someone realised that slavery might be good, but slavery leading to revolution is dangerous.

That’s how I enjoyed the ordeal with a wish that next year, hope something comes up with a real strong excuse to be excused from this exercise once again. And the world still has some people who keeps their word – I did enjoy the great Oudh biryani in the night; even after India lost to South Africa in the first T20 match !

10 defining moments of 2014

Another year has just passed by and as we welcome the new year of 2015, I took the first new year resolution that I will pen down 10 defining moments of 2014, which I feel had impacted the world. I am sure 2015 will be an exciting and good year for me – because, here I am taking time out on 1st Jan to honour my new year resolution. Believe me, this is a record for me and I pat my back myself :-) Coming away from the self-glory mode, let me focus on really writing on the 10 defining moments (in a chronological order based on the time of occurrence)

Welcome-2015-Bye-Bye-2014-5

1) Early 2014, most probably around Feb, we came to know the devastation being caused by the outbreak of Ebola. While the outbreak of Ebola is not new to mankind, what this made me feel that we are probably still hundreds of years behind unravelling the mysteries of nature. While technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in last few decades, still we are at a mercy to understand life and it’s manifestations through different forms – some makes us smile with hope, some makes us cry with despair. We can only hope for the best in the years to come ….

2) Political muscle power has been in display over hundreds, thousands of years. In olden days, kings used to force into others land in search of valuable resources. People have killed people easily in wars fighting over territories and show of strength. Ego’s have played big in many leaders of the world, past and present. Wars have been inflicted under the excuses of “imaginary” weapons; gaining “strategic” geographical positions to keep an eye on what others are doing; crippling economic growth or at least try to do so has been in play for years. So, when the Ukraine conflict started in Feb / March ’14, we are once again reminded of the erstwhile Cold War in action. While that struggle of power still continues, sometimes I laugh at the irony of human civilisations – on the one hand we give “peace awards” and talk of peace, harmony, development, growth; on the other side, the same hand does not hesitate to take action to break the same peace & harmony ! What a contradiction of human beings !

3) Disaster hit us when the ill-fated flight of MH370 just disappeared from everyone’s eyes. Yes – just “disappeared” ! In today’s world, when technology is in fingertips of people everywhere in the world, it is sad to convince ourselves that a big flight with so many people can just “disappear” from everything ! Or are we really convinced ? Till date, we have not got any conclusion of this disappearance – and till that happens, let us humans remain optimistic with the belief that the individuals in that flight are safe somewhere !

4) Came May’14 and came an event that has been rare in Indian politics for last few years. Came a political party with absolute majority by itself in forming the government of India after many, many years – thereby decimating the main opposition party by a huge margin. While I will not deliberate on whether this is good or bad for India, what we all have to admit is there is a big brand of NaMo on the rise – that one individual can take on everything and yet succeed in winning the elections is something I have not witnessed in my lifetime. Positive perception of India is on the rise since that day, stock markets have been consistently high – only thing to wait and watch for is whether the “acchhe din” (good days) have really come or not.

5) For every four years, sports lovers across the world always wait for the grand event of FIFA World Cup to happen – so, Jun’14 was the time of the year when people lifted themselves from their frustrations, problems of life and focused attention on the sand, beaches, beauties of Brazil. As always, this world cup also brought great tactical football – apart from that, two things really caught me unawares. Firstly, how frustration and disappointment on performance in one match can bring the demon out (again !) of a star and classy player of Luis Suarez! It was hard to believe even after seeing the replays that he actually bit a player (again!). The other thing was apparent from the first game – Brazil was riding on hope, emotions rather than quality play in the world cup. But that’s not what surprised me – the utter desolation, collapse of their play and riding on emotions was so spectacular that they conceded 7 goals in a world cup semifinals ! Germany scored 3 goals in 76 Seconds and 4 goals in 4 minutes (have a look at this article) – can you still believe that ? I have never witnessed such a collapse in football ever, that too in a semifinal of a world cup !

6) Oct’14 witnessed the recognition of human peace – the Nobel Peace Prize‘s were awarded to Malala (Pak) and Kailash Satyarthi (India). Contributions by these two individuals are undisputed – one a very “matured” girl, the other a great person. But what this made me to think that while so much animosity, fighting happening on a daily basis along the Indo-Pak border, here are two individuals from these two nations talking peace, walking hand in hand. Such contradictory visuals – but you still feel that one day, this “dispute” will come to an end and then common people from these countries can actually walk hand in hand.

7) Indian football arena was suddenly buzz with excitement with the launch of Indian Super League (ISL) in Nov’14. Optimism was running high and expectations were that Indian football will improve by leaps and bounds after this month-long tournament. Rationale was that if you practice, play and rub shoulders with players like Del Piero, Anelka, Pires, Materazzi, James, etc, definitely something will be transferred to the Indian players, apart from sweat and dust. Well, I had already shared my personal views on ISL in one of my earlier blog entitled “Indian Super League (ISL) – the saviour or the conqueror?” (https://ayanmajumdar.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/indian-super-league-isl-the-saviour-or-the-conqueror/). But definitely football had become more “family” game when you saw families going to the stadiums. Whether that enthusiasm still runs high when iLeague starts is something to watch for.

8) Internet freedom has been under threat for sometime now. Internet was defined as a place where expressions can be shared “freely”; technology is being advertised even today as “technology does not discriminate” – but in last 5 years, I have seen a throttling of such speech by ruling governments, whenever someone expresses opinions which does not suit or favour the parties in power. I personally feel that internet should be kept “free” and governments / corporations should not clamp down on the benefits for their gains. I also feel that control should be exercised by police if internet is used to violate laws (like fostering terrorism, human trafficking, etc). But broadly if technology can provide cheap facilities to common man for communication, expressions – then why will organisations intervene and try to control that for their benefits, monetary or otherwise. The small incident that happened in India in Dec’14 forced me to think on this topic – that is when Bharti Airtel planned to impose VoiP charges on consumers just because they are unable to compete with the likes of  WhatsApp, Skype, Hangouts, etc. While this was an incident of curtailing net-freedom because of profits, the issues of internet freedom will continue to haunt us in the years to come.

9) Throughout the year 2014, oil prices have been falling steadily. The oil price has fallen by more than 40% since June, when it was $115 a barrel. Currently is around $70 a barrel. At a meeting in Vienna on November, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls nearly 40% of the world market, failed to reach agreement on production curbs, sending the price tumbling. Also hard hit are oil-exporting countries such as Russia (where the rouble has hit record lows), Nigeria, Iran and Venezuela. While experts can analyse why this is happening, my guess as a layman is that again the reason of “conquest” amongst nations is probably the main reason. Of course, as a common Indian, I welcome this “fighting” amongst nations for a change – because at the end of the day, I can buy petrol at a cheaper price. Thanks for this “disagreement” and hope that this “disagreement” increases more and more in the years to come.

10) Finally, as I was almost certain the year will come to an end peacefully with no major incidents, came another out of the blue related to Indian cricket. The “sudden” retirement of MS Dhoni from test cricket at the end of the 3rd test at MCG between India and Australia has opened up all kinds of theories. We love controversies, we love “sudden” decisions, we love to be “experts” – we definitely had another opportunity to voice our opinions, have debates amongst friends and foes, listen to TV “experts” discussing on the issue, etc. Definitely the year ended with a huge energy level for sure :-)

So, with an opening balance of high “energy” levels, I am sure 2015 will be more energetic than ever. With this, I wish you and your families a very happy and prosperous new year 2015 !

Digital funerals

In today’s world, it is very common that apart from the physical lives we live, most of us have a digital life through the internet. Whether through the social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, whether through various posts we generate via comments or blogs, whether we simply “like” things expressing our feelings, we simply cannot deny the fact that we lead another life in a digital virtual format. Within this digital life, we undergo the same emotions, ups and downs of life which are vented through the very actions we perform through digital transactions. This might feel difficult to perceive, but I bet that if you are given access to all internet activities a person does in his / her lifetime, it will not be difficult to profile a person which will very well reflect the person. Even a layman can do the profiling, given the data and opportunity.

So, if we lead a “life” in another format, my question is what will happen when the person is no more in the real world and hence all transactions stop in the digital world? I am sure there has to be a conclusive end to the virtual life in the similar way we have a conclusive end to the physical life of that person. Otherwise the internet will be over populated with the footprint of millions of people, with the left overs of so many human beings and the cycle of “life” will come to a stop.

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I personally believe that digital funeral services, digital graveyard services will come up soon whereby a small place in the internet will be dedicated to the person and all other presence in the virtual world will either be inherited by that persons descendants or destroyed through some service, as unlike the real world, there is no natural wear and tear or dissolution of the footprints created in the virtual world.

I am not sure whether such services are already there, but will not be surprised if there are many service providers in the near future doing businesses by providing honourable funeral services, just like in real life the equivalent exists. So, who says that death is just the end – it may be the beginning of another set of activities and if that happens, then we will complete the circle of life in the virtual world as well!

Puja special – growing up as a typical Bong !!

With another Durga Puja coming in a few days, it is time to celebrate life as a Bengali, as nothing signifies more Bengali than gearing up for “Dugga” Puja. Thought to bring out some of the best moments that I used to enjoy a lot as part of growing up as a Bong !! The list can be endless, but to restrict that, I will just write on 12 such moments of a typical Bong – they may not be the best of the lot, but whatever comes in mind first is what is penned below:

  1. Let me start with Durga Puja itself. It was not the Puja itself that attracts a Bengali – it is the feeling of “Puja is coming” that perhaps excite more. As a person not too much interested in clothes, it was the “Puja-barshiki”s of Anandamela and Sandesh that attracted me most. The time when you get a thick “book” with new, fresh smell filled up with stories of Felu’da, Prof Sanku, Kakababu and Tintin. My brother and I used to fight for that special Anandamela edition – so much, that my father was forced to buy another one named “Sandesh” … and I got the taste of “divide and rule” first-hand
  2. I grew up in a disciplined atmosphere, when my father ensured that I need to study for some hours every day, even if the school is closed. While I appreciate the value of the same today, I used to hate that – any teenager thinks parents act as the worst enemies, isnt it ? :-) But Durga Puja was special – as those 5 days starting from Sasthi was exempted from that rule and hence those five days were simply glorious
  3. Bong’s have the reputation of spending more than half of their income on food. Anything that is exquisite is something a Bengali yearns for. And it all started with Sunday’s mangsho-bhaat (mutton curry with plain rice). A Sunday was not categorised as a “Sunday” unless you have mangsho-bhaat followed by a great siesta! And if the stomach grumbles, Bong’s love for Gelusil is exemplary
  4. Before 1905, in 1905 and after 1905, Bengal has remained united and will remain united. Almost. Ahem – Bong’s actually split into two when two clubs start a match – East Bengal and Mohan Bagan. That rivalry has been for ages and will remain for ages. Even during a local (para) football match, a dull game suddenly becomes live with viscous tackles when the locality decides to play a “East Bengal – Mohan Bagan” match by making the teams based on your support. I grew up in that atmosphere thanks to my uncles … and that has now in my DNA so much that in the time of Messi, Ronaldo and many greats, I will still watch a East Bengal – Mohan Bagan match rather than an Champions League final ! And East Bengal is the best – if you don’t believe, just check the records, you macha’s !
  5. If your food accidentally gets into the breathing channel and you start to choke and cough, common sense says you look at the ceiling so that gravity helps that part of the food slide down quickly. But Bong’s have made that famous by telling their children “opor’e dekh – laal tik-tiki” (look up, red lizard). Of course you don’t find any red lizard, but at least I had perhaps tried 100 times to look for a rarest red lizard in Kolkata :-)
  6. Bengali and sweets is known to everyone. My highly diabetic aunt used to have two rosogolla’s after a Sunday breakfast stating to her doctor son “You guys dont know anything. After luchi, you need to have sweet to digest”. I don’t know if ever any doctor, irrespective of how mad he is, will ever certify that statement
  7. The most irritating and yet innovative winter wear I have ever seen after visiting so many places in the world is Bong’s monkey cap. When the mild winter has not even started, all non Bong’s are keeping their fans on, here comes the proud Bengali with his “monkey cap” on. That part of the dressed worn from the head covers everything except for one slot – where your eyes to lips is exposed. The entire head, ears, chin and even neck are covered by that woolen cap. And that display is up at a temperature of 16-17 deg C – when the rest of the world feels relaxed and says “it’s a nice weather now”
  8. Whether you like it or not, a birthday cannot start without a “payesh” (imagine a sweet pudding with lots of rice in it). And worst part is your mother will cook payesh, your aunts will cook payesh and even the maid will cook payesh when you have your birthday as a child. I now know the reason behind my revulsion towards “payesh” – my birthdays!
  9. In Bengal, if you visit for the first time, you will probably find that the distance is measured in time and not in km or miles. Ask someone – how do I go to Gariahat ? Answer “take the auto – maximum 10 minutes”. How far is the airport from Jadavpur station ? “Well, by taxi, around 45 minutes, but for the traffic in Baguihati, it will be 75 minutes”
  10. I still cannot understand why our Prime Minister or United Nations head or even President of USA do not consult Bong’s for a solution of the most complex problem. Bong’s know everything, every Bong is an expert as well and every one of us believe the rest of the world are fools not to consider his opinion. Debates are the strong love of Bong’s and topics can be anything – financial market crash to Angelina Jolie to upcoming elections in UK to why potholes are increasing during monsoon season. We are the best – at least, we believe our opinion’s are the truth and only truth. Period.
  11. Irrespective of the results one achieves in school, parents will always say “abar faaki dichhish ?” (“again you are not willing to study”). You can top the class or the board exam or be a genius, you will hear this statement from all parents. And if you are a dull boy with negative IQ like me, then you will hear this 10 times every day
  12. Sleep is impossible with a pillow and the most comfortable bed ever – unless you have the “paash-baalish”, how on earth can you sleep ? For those who don’t know “paash-baalish” – it is a big pillow, cylindrical in shape, with length big enough so that you can embrace that with your legs. I wonder what happens to the habit after marriage (cannot go into more details please!), but till you are a teen, this sleep catalyst is a must, otherwise your entire childhood will be sleep-less and you will be a child-insomnia person

Each one of the above brought a smile in my face … hope it brings in yours as well ! Wish you all Happy Puja’s !

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