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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 !

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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 !

Champions League 2014 Final

At the outset, I was totally pessimistic on today’s final between Atletico Madrid (AM) and Real Madrid (RM) – simply because Real Madrid was a much superior team in terms of individual players, experience and style of play. This effectively meant that Atletico Madrid as the “weaker” team will play to a strategy that will be hardly entertaining. As I believe a weaker team will have to play defensive and a “negative” brand of football, relying on either counter-attacks, slice of luck or eventually the “lottery” system of penalties. This is the way I have seen football evolved over years and I had written the same in an earlier post (click on the link https://ayanmajumdar.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/the-evolution-from-a-laymans-eyes/ to read the same). But this is not the topic that I want to write on today. What I want to share with you are my thoughts on some defining moments of today’s game.

Firstly the gamble of playing an injured Diego Costa backfired on AM. Not just of being deprived of a prolific striker, but also consuming one of the important substitutions which will be costly specially if the game went into extra-time. And as destiny would have it, the match did went into the extra 30 minutes, thanks to a last-minute injury-time equaliser. Whether a star player who is injured should be brought into the playing XI is always debatable, but I personally believe this is worth a gamble. Because one chance or one flick resulting in a goal can be priceless plus the morale of the others rise tremendously when you have the star striker playing, when many people think he won’t.

Then came an ultra-defensive display of AM for next 30 minutes. Hardly the RM creative players got space – be it Ronaldo or Gareth Bale or anybody else – only exception was Di Maria who was threatening to break free through some skilful wing play. In the history of the game, there have been many instances when defensive-playing teams have pulled the result in the end … and they have done defending doggedly in their own half. However, what I found a difference between AM and other defensive teams of the past, AM forced the opponents to keep the ball in the mid-field and not just in front of their penalty box. This is indeed a credible strategy – as the pressure of soaking of attacks just in front of the penalty box is too high. Very often, the team’s succumb and one moment of brilliance of the opponents or one mistake of the defense can lead to disaster.

But the “mistake” came from RM – an almost trophy-loss mistake from the experienced Casillas. I still wondered what he was thinking ! The AM player Godin was getting an innocent center, there were 2 stoppers behind Godin, the ball was even not within the small box and on top of it Godin had his back towards the goal – so the most he can do is to head backward, which can never be powerful. But to my dismay, Casillas went ahead, was caught in the no-man’s land and that tame back-head was a goal !! Just reminded me of 1990 world cup when Zenga, the Italian goalkeeper, made a similar mistake against Argentina and that had resulted in the elimination of Italy when the world was thinking that Italy should be the champion!

Then was a continuous spell of dogged defending – very often by 8-9 players. By that time the pressure increased from RM and in spite of the defense, Di Maria was breaking the defense – however Ronaldo and Bale were often spectators. So, my thought was that either there will be a mistake or a blunder for RM to come back to the game, or it would be a victory of AM. My thoughts were almost coming true … almost …

Then came the equaliser in the 93rd minute of the game – just 2 minutes away from the end of the match. And I felt that there was a big mistake by AM in their defense. Yes, it was a great corner and a great header by Sergio Ramos, but what was the defense doing ? I will not blame why Ramos got the space to head without being challenged greatly (as that kind of movement and head flick can happen without much challenge).

I will blame the strategy of defending against a corner – normally you keep two defenders keeping the ends of the two posts with the goalkeeper in the middle. And the reason you keep those two defenders is to thwart out a perfect head or a perfect shot – which will beat a goalkeeper when the ball enters through the corner. To me, irrespective of the quality of the goalkeeper, there is that space having the width of a ball which an out-stretched goalkeeper will never reach – if you can place there, whether in a dead-ball situation or a penalty or a shot, the chances of getting a goal is 90% … and that is why you keep those two defenders to protect that precise situation. But here, there was no defender at all manning the posts – and so a perfect header from Ramos was beyond the AM goalkeeper Courtois to protect. Look at goal below for you to judge:

So, just 2 minutes away from the match, a drastic mistake aided by a perfect header … the match was equalised and the die was cast.

It was now just a matter of time when RM will tear apart AM – as not only they got rejuvenated by that life given when they were about to die, but equally AM players will feel the despair of being so near and yet so far. And now you have a  rejuvenated RM coming at a despairing more-mentally-tired AM with full venom for 30 minutes. So it was just one goal and the flood-gates will open … and it so did … the strike from Gareth Bale after a mesmerizing run by Di Maria – the match was over. Two more came in as a bonus.

So, at the end of the day, I felt the right team won and the right spirit of the game was upheld – a spirit of positive, entertaining football (instead of a negative defensive brand of soccer).

PS : I don’t know who was the Man of the Match – but my choice would be Di Maria as he alone threatened AM continuously and was definitely the architect of the Gareth Bale goal

Champions of Europe

 

I, me and Sachin

Those who know me well will vouch with full conviction that I hate waking up early in the morning and I prefer to be a late-night person. So, when I had a grueling three weeks in office including some of the weekends as well, I had looked forward for a day off yesterday when at least I can sleep till late in the morning. I had just landed on Thursday night in London from a business trip and was on my way home thinking of the next day off from office. The next day was Friday and so effectively an extended weekend for me … the day was 15-Nov-2013.

And yet it is amazing that I setup the alarm at 3.45 am on that day (remember a holiday for me !) which will allow me the 15 minute settling down before the last journey begins. Because that was the day I knew for sure Sachin Tendulkar will walk in to bat for the last time in his life. I had to be part of that walk, I had to accompany him for his last innings. And so it was a cold morning in London, me waking up, wrapping up in a blanket, sitting on the sofa, switching on the TV at 4 am (9.30 am India time) and waiting for the Master climb down the stairs from the pavilion amidst a deafening sound of “Sachiiiiiiiiin Sachin”. Yes, I could not afford to sleep for some more hours on a holiday, because within me my heart told that I should at least sacrifice some hours of sleep for a person who became a part of my life.

Why is it that Sachin Tendulkar became part of myself, became so integrated with my life, became so much embedded with my heart and emotions ? He does not have a great personality, he does not look great, he definitely does not have a Amitabh Bachhan-like voice, he rather looks like a dwarf on the field, his mannerism while batting is not great – specially his squatting while holding a part of his body is quite comical …. yet this person, whom I have not ever met, had unknowingly become a part of myself !

Probably it was the similar age between Sachin and myself … maybe it was the time when I could imagine myself being represented in the great sport of cricket through the body of Sachin … maybe it was the classic straight drive with a straight bat whether be in the front foot or backfoot … maybe it was the courage of one Indian cricketer who could counter attack the pace bowlers who tormented Indian cricket throughout the years …. maybe it was his humility … maybe his grace while batting touched me as a cricket lover …. maybe his passion for cricket and India  … maybe it was a combination of all these.

While I was young and growing up & Sachin was also growing and maturing to the best ever batsmen ever, I had two “guru”s defined in my life and I used to tell openly that to my mother – one was Kishore Kumar and the other Sachin Tendulkar (It was much later on that I learnt Sachin also loved Kishore Kumar songs so much – what a pleasant coincidence !). It was a common fact that if Tendulkar played well, my mother used to say that my mood will be very good and that I will eat that extra bit during dinner. My uncles knew about this and very often during family occasions used to plan within themselves and pretended to throw discussions with the message that Sachin was a rubbish batsman – and my reaction was predictable – I used to fight hard to prove that they were totally wrong.

Later on came Saurav Ganguly as the successful captain of India. With him came the common debate amongst most Bengali’s hovering around the point on who is better – is it Sachin or Sourav ? And the debates often rose to heated discussions with expletives being thrown left right and center. As was with every fan, I could not tolerate any ill-speaking of Sachin and sometimes to cover up his failures, I had to think of some different point of view so that I can divert the debate to some other sensitive topic so that people forgets the main reason behind the debate.

Every match of Sachin, every Indian match was something I need to watch – whether it is India vs Bangladesh or India vs Australia, it did not matter. And when Sachin used to bat, the tension was doublefold for me. If Sachin hit a four on a delivery, I used to force my friends not to shift from the seats they were seating till the over is finished. Generally the unofficial rule for me became – ‘first Sachin should score runs, then India can think of winning’ – a selfish way of thinking, no doubt.

So during the last 24 years, starting from the debut vs Pakistan till the end against West Indies, I grew up with Sachin … and the lines got merged with his playing and my growing up. His success made me feel as if I am myself successful, his failures made me scramble for excuses like ‘the ball was simply unplayable’, his centuries made me feel that I had went to bat and scored a century, his brilliant over at the Eden Gardens Hero Cup final made me shout “finally, we have got a great all-rounder” …….. without me knowing consciously, over the years Sachin became me, I became Sachin in life.

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And so, when Sachin’s last day came today on 16-Nov-2013, I am personally feeling a great void within myself … as if I have retired and will not know what to do tomorrow morning. People say that I am not that much an emotional person – but I literally could not hold my tears when Sachin walked back up the stairs on 15-Nov-2013 after making the majestic 74. It is so rare that a person whom I have never met could have impacted myself so much.

This story is nothing unique and all Sachin fans are perhaps experiencing the same feelings … that is the greatness of the man. So, when through BCCI I get the above personalised digital photograph of Sachin, I feel like a teenager once again – elated, happy and showing off the picture to everyone.

Today while I say THANK YOU SACHIN for the immense pleasures he gave to me for my last 24 years, I sign-off here with an online magazine on him, a small tribute to “a part of my life” (called Sachin Tendulkar) from myself : https://flipboard.com/section/all-about-sachin-tendulkar–bAlhRO

Wish Sachin all the best for the years to come …. and if ever I happen to meet him face-to-face, I will probably shake his hands and say “you made me complete as a human being … thank you for that”

 

One incident …..

Thirty years ago…..

It was a normal school day. All the kids were playing during the lunch break. The entire place was filled up with the pleasant cacophony of the innocent. There was this 9 year old boy playing with his friends. His structure of only skin and bones with no flesh did not match with his vigor and enthusiasm. Then all of a sudden the incident happened. The boy fell down with the entire weight of his body on his left elbow, which could not sustain the momentary pressure. It became clear later on that his left elbow was broken.

However, elders have told that when a boy becomes a man, he never cries. The urge to become a man was too strong, yet the pain was unbearable. With the help of his friends he wobbled to the sports teachers office, who gave a cursory look, seemed totally disinterested, told the boy to lie down on the sick-bed, got the telephone number of the boy’s father and called him to come and pick up his son…. and finally disappeared from the room.

The struggle between becoming a man and the pain was immense….. the boy bit his lip and tried hard to resist the tears, yet they came one by one until it became a steady flow while the boy writhed in pain on the sick-bed. Then came the white-robed person by accident….

He saw the boy on the bed and enquired what was the issue and when he realised the seriousness of the same, he left his work and sat beside the boy for the next one hour till the boy’s father came. Continuously he was stroking the head of the boy hoping that this will bring relief to the pain. He was also trying to sing, make some jokes through out, again hoping that the pain will subside soon.

Yet, the tears rolled off the young face of the boy who could hardly move because of the jolt he received from his broken elbow. But the elderly gentleman was wiping off the tears, singing, telling stories, caressing the boy’s head… doing all these things for ‘another’ student of the school, for a boy whose name also he did not know till that point of time. And because of the continuous pain, because of the great care and fatherly love, the boy slowly went to a slumber…  and yet the robed person stayed besides him in case the boy wakes up….

Finally the boy’s father came to pick up his son and take him to a hospital. And he also saw the tenderness of this robed person, who lifted the boy on his own hands and took him to the car.

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Thirty years later….

The boy has grown up and had become a man, and yet he still remembers this incident which brings in tears in respect to that great human being, that elderly robed person working in the school.

The great person’s name was Father Joseph Sassel, who came from Belgium at a young age and spent his lifetime at St. Xavier’s School, Calcutta totally dedicated to help young kids grow up in the ‘Small School’ not with just knowledge, but lots of values in life.

And the boy was me…

I write this as a tribute to the respected “Father”s in our school, who in spite of our pranks and naughty incidents, believed from their core of their heart that each one of us have great potential…..  and dedicated their lives to develop us to be a better HUMAN BEING. Their contribution to make us “independent” is immense and as a selfish individual, I can think of this incident on my country’s independence day more than anything else.

What are you doing now-a-days ?

Very often, when people meet each other after a long time, you undoubtedly listen to the question “what are you doing now-a-days ?” – isn’t it ? While we reply to that in our own ways (which basically means in our own “defensive” or “bragging” way), I often thought what exactly do people mean when they actually ask the question. Well, I have interpreted the same in a kind of way, which probably will mean something idiotic to most of the people. So, at the risk of being defined as an idiot, let me take the risk with my explanation.

Whoever asks you the question actually tries to ask you “how ‘big’ you are in your company or society ?”, they mean to ask “have you bought an five-million worth property”; they mean to ask “whether your car is the latest in-thing in the city”; they mean to ask “whether your salary slip has enough zeroes to make someone envious”; they mean to ask “what’s your STATUS across your own world” ………. and then depending upon our nature, we either tend to inflate on what we have achieved so far or tend to become ‘defensive’ under the umbrella of modesty.

Most people tend to ‘measure’ the position in the famous ‘rat-race’ .. the race to become ‘big’ … but one of my friends had posted a fantastic dialogue in Facebook “even if you win the rat-race; you, at the end of the day, is nothing but a rat” … and we, rat’s, always try to ‘measure’ up the other rat just to check whether we have already ‘overtaken’ all other rats who are your peers.

I feel that we should modify the question to “How much happy are you ?” … because if we have achieved the personal target of ‘happiness’, then there will not be any tension on any rat-race, nor will anyone be a winner or a loser … all of us will be then HAPPY and I personally believe that if we can tell “I am happy” moments before our death, we then have lived life king-size !

So, let me ask you now “How much happy are you ?” 

The immortal creation that appeals to generation after generation ….

With just a few weeks to one of the biggest celebrations triggering off across the Bengali community in the world, the first thing that comes to my mind is the evergreen creation of Mahisashur Mardini played at 4 am on the Mahalaya day. This creation still appeals to all generations, still is as popular as ever and still is one of the best ‘classics’ created by Bengal – scripted by Bani Kumar, music directed by Pankaj Mallick and rendered immortal through the unique recitation by Birendra Krishna Bhadra.

To me, this atmosphere at 4 am, every Mahalaya actually paves in the festive spirit of the Durga Puja and it symbolises a charm that even energises the most lethargic people as well.

You wake up at 4 am, switch off the alarm, grope your way in sleepy eyes to put on the radio, start listening to the fantastic recitation of Biren Bhadra and the songs of legends, sometimes go to a peaceful slumber, then suddenly wake up to another song, see the morning rays enlighten the blue sky, hear the first chirps of the birds, again go automatically for another short nap, waking up to the final crescendo of “Ya Devi Sarbabhuteshshu, Saktirupena Sanksthita, Namasteshwai Namasteshwai Namasteshwai Namo Namahah”, then take the morning tea and realise that the celebrations has just been kicked-off.

Durga Puja cannot be the same without our “Mahalaya” and the Mahalaya cannot be the same without Biren Bhadra and his immortal creation ! By listening to the same in next 10-14 days, let’s pay a tribute to the creator of this unique creation.

The great homecoming … a candid interview

Being a resident outside Bengal, it has been always a great occasion to come every year during the Puja’s with my mother and other brothers and sisters. Actually, with so many relatives and close friends and families in Bengal, I look forward to this visit every year. You know when the excitement starts for me ? Not during the pandal making nor during the puja shopping (as outside Bengal, I do not see that actually happening) – the actual build-up inside me starts when the Mahalaya comes up. I know many of you are so fond of getting up at 4.00 am, putting on the radio to hear Biren Bhadra starting to stay “Namastashyay, Namastashyay, Namah Namah hah …..”, multiplexing between sleep and the songs – what a wonderful feeling – isn’t it ? In older days, I did not hear that but once this came up and are broadcasted throughout the world (via internet, FM radio, etc), I have actually fallen love with that …. Now, please don’t make that public – as my sisters will pull my leg – you know why ? In our world, we are not supposed to be so much emotional with earthly things – but who cares ! I do love all  good things – irrespective whether my society classifies them as “earthly” or “non-earthly” ….

The time to come home is also excellent – the harvesting of rice and food is over, the skies clear up after all the great rain, the grounds flutter with “Kaash” flowers and I can literally “smell” the great festivity :-) Actually, when I come from the North towards Bengal, I feel that the entire earth is dressed up in white (kaash flowers), great blue skies on the top and the entire Bengal actually welcoming be to come to my home and meet my relatives … what a great feeling ! Even the eagles seem to be more gracious during their flights over the land – ha ha ha .. just kidding – they are always gracious, isn’t it ? But nowadays, I am getting a little concerned with the change of weather patterns – you can actually feel that every year. This year there was less rain in Bengal, quite hot and humid compared to last years – am I right ? Well, what are you guys doing then ? Earlier we used to joke that anything that goes wrong, blame it on global warming. But now I think we are actually feeling the change – so I urge you all to be conscious and do something. If you need any help from me, just call me out – I will be the first volunteer. But you need to start acting first – isn’t it ?

Offfffffffff .. sometimes I get carried away giving so many lectures :-) Do forgive me for that. So just after the Mahalaya’s, we all get excited to come home – believe me, my Mother also becomes so excited even after so many years. And don’t ask about my sister’s – they start looking for what’s the latest trends in Bengal and how they can plan to enjoy that while we are in Bengal. Again, in our society, we are not supposed to express our feelings – so, you will not see any expressions whenever we come home every year. Even if you send sting operations, you will not see that in our faces – we are so much trained up … ha ha ha ha

Finally we arrive at Bengal and what a welcome we see from every friend, every relative of ours … this is really amazing – all of them decks up in their best clothes, the entire localities gets lit up with lighting and the pandals – how to describe ? Sometimes, even I get fooled to think that this must be an actual Rajasthan Fort or the great Konark temple :-) Fantastic work done by the people – only at occasions I feel that the real architects, the real workers – do they actually get justified compensation for their great thinking, hard labour and work ? I have heard complaints from some of them – would really request the organisers to look after them. After all, they are very often exploited and when the entire state celebrates on the basis of those people’s hard work, I sometimes feel sad. But I am sure my friends and relatives will definitely look after them – I am really optimistic on them.

The next thing that strikes me is what you call as “the next generation”. Every year, I come to Bengal and I see a more confident, a more bold, more aggressive (in the right way), more technologically savvy, more educated Next Generation. This really makes me feel proud. Years ago, whenever I used to come, I thought that most of you seems to be unsure when it comes to face the entire country, forget the world. But, now I see a confident India ready to face the world – pursue the right things quite strongly and if need comes, quite firmly as well. However, I still don’t understand one thing from the “NextGen” – their language through the internet chats, SMS’es, etc …. ha ha ha … have to do lot of learnings, I must say :-) What I have noticed from some of the older generations is that they feel that the older era was much better than the current one and the future will be much worse. If you ask me a frank opinion – I do not agree at all … One thing that I have learnt very early is that there is one thing that is constant in life – that is Change ! So the earlier we accept that, the easier it will be to see the good things of the present. All generations had their own share of positives and negatives – hence, no one can say “mine was the best of the best”. Tastes, cultures, behaviour, confidence, values – all will change with generations after generations. But I am very optimistic that if you draw up the balance sheet of overall values, happiness and progress each time a new generation comes, you will see net progress happening. I am always for the younger generation at all times …. I know all of you say that I am always “evergreen” and always symbolise the “youth” – well, I take that as a compliment only – after all, who doesn’t like the attention from younger generation ? Ha ha ha ha ha

The love that I see for me and my family during my homecoming is simply amazing. It becomes difficult to visit all family members and friends – but I definitely try to meet them during these days. And when I do visit them, I see only love and emotions. Fantastic feeling for everybody. I see so many people praying for their well-being, for their relatives well-being – that speaks of humanity and fellow-feeling. I know there are some sporadic incidents of hatred happening now-a-days, but as we always say good will prevail over the bad, I am sure we will progress as a community, as a country, as humans. My Mother gets so excited once she comes here that she actually puts on different dresses, even different looks while she visits all the pandals. This year, I have even seen her dressed up in a saree which resembles the colours of Kolkata Knight Riders …. ha ha ha … But whenever I seen my Mother looking at the traditional pratima’s like at Maddox Square, Baghbazar and so on, she actually becomes nostalgic for a moment :-)

Finally, as all good things comes to an end, the time comes for us to return back. I know we don’t show much emotions – but believe me, inside all of us, we feel so sad to leave all the relatives and friends. However, the good thing is that we need to just wait for another 365 days … sometimes I feel that it is so good to have this every year and not like the world cups, which happens once in 4 years :-) :-) Whenever we go back, I always think of the great learnings that I have gathered from the “NextGen”, appreciate the artistry in display throughout Bengal, think of the taste of the great Bhog, listen to the great music and read the literature burst happening this time of the year and overall – the great love of the people of Bengal. No doubt, my Mother, brother and sisters feel sad – but as life needs to go on, we need to take that in our stride and move on – isn’t it ? Only thing that we keep behind is happiness for all with the wish that next year when we will come again, we will see more happiness, prosperity and growth for all people, across all levels of the society.

 

Thank you all for your love and affection. Thank you for giving the opportunity to talk to you from my heart … Take care, keep smiling, work hard and be a great person. Bye

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By Karthik Thakur as told to Ayan Majumdar

Interview date : Aug month, every year

Need to live … just to prove a point

The evening falls
The cool breeze flutters his hair as he trudges along
The bird flies towards the nest
As he moves towards his “home” in the shanties
Tiredness envelop the small eyes
The thought of hunger occasionally brushes his mind
Need to sleep, need to sleep

 

Two breads and a bowl of vegetables
One of the expensive dinners he can afford
He wants to see a clear sky with the stars burning bright
Only to be greeted by four drops of rain from a cloudy night
Who cares about tomorrow when today is not yet finished
The torn shirt speaks of sweat and dust
Need to sleep, need to sleep

 

The sound of silence is deafening
The movement of the clouds is endless
The buzz of the flies is irritating
The sack bundle is the pillow
The smiles have gone
The perspiration cuddle his face with love
Need to sleep, need to sleep

 

Thought it was thunder, realised it was a bomb blast
Thought it was sweat, realised it was blood
Thought it was my cousin, realised it was the terrorist
Thought it was chimney, realised it was the burning smoke
Thought it was a cry, realised it was the last shriek of my neighbour
Thought it was life, realised it has become another dream
Need to live, need to live … just to prove a point

 

Remembering the only poem which meant something to me
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action–
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”

 

I hope someday you, you and you will join me
In defining the value of life
In defining the song of happiness
In defining the sense of humanity
In defining the love of brotherhood
In defining the meaning of the right to live

 

Till that time,
Need to live, need to live, need to live
Just to prove a point …….

The festival Bengal waits for … Durga Puja

The preparation for the Durga Puja has already started in Kolkata (even though almost 100 days are still left) with an occasion that all Bengali’s wait for an entire year to come. Apart from the religious significance, which still plays a major role in terms of its popularity, lies the broader context beyond normal religion. Religious stories associated with Durga Puja, the traditional beliefs and the trust towards this Goddess makes this festival a tremendous one. I personally believe that this festival will be definitely one of the most popular festival in India, if not in the world. To me, this actually signifies the resemblance towards a worship of not a Goddess but to remind mankind of the significance of a nation. It is a festival which finally champions the very cause of a nation, of a republic in action.


The various Goddesses apart from Durga represents the fundamental pillars that needs to be developed to build up a strong and independent nation. Goddess Lakshmi depicts the country’s Economy, Goddess Saraswati depicts Education and Literacy, God Kartik depicts the Youth and the Army, God Ganesh depicts the Wealth and Commerce. Leading the entire process is Goddess Durga – who depicts the ultimate concept of a Nation. The various “bahaan’s” of the different Gods and Goddesses actually complement each other – for example the peacock complements or balances the population of the rats, and so on. Hence, the “bahaan’s” actually depict the importance of an Ecological balance. So, in one point of view, Durga Puja is worshipping the very cause and fundamentals of building up a nation. This is an attempt to bring together the people within a nation and trying them to guide towards development and supremacy of the same nation.

The direct and indirect impact of this festival is huge. The first thing that strikes me is the impact of the economy. It is the time when there is a complete economic cycle – starting with the spending of excess money in terms of buying clothes and other accessories and this ending to the earnings of people who make the Gods and Goddesses in terms of idols. There are many families who actually thrive on this Puja and earn their living once in the entire year.

Then there is the impact of social togetherness. People will stop cooking food for these four days and will go out either to have the “bhog” or dine outside. This enables neighbours to catch up with each other – which normally lacks because of modern lifestyle. The younger generations tend to come close to each other and if there is a Valentine Day in the western culture, I believe the occasion of Durga Puja can definitely be termed as the second Bengali Valentine Day – to me the first Valentine Day maybe belongs to the Saraswati Puja.

The timing of the Puja is also normally at a time, when you do not have sweltering heat nor the actual winter in Kolkata. This is the best time of the year – with blue skies and occasional clouds, temperature much in the pleasant side than the normal weather experienced for the rest of the year.

Then comes the impact on literature and culture. This is the time when all the budding writers and also the established ones come out with the work of the years. Puja’s are always associated with fights within individual families on who will get the first shot at reading the Puja magazines. The cultural programmes that gets triggered in the evenings actually comes out with the budding artists of tomorrow. This is how a Kumar Sanu got recognized in the Indian musical arena.

For others like me, this occasion calls for two things – fun and relaxation from a hectic office life. So effectively, each and every Bengali pray for the entire year for these four days of celebration, worship and festivity.

Wish you a very happy Puja’s in advance to you all !

PS > I would also suggest readers to go through a fantastic article on Puja’s by Vir Sanghvi
http://www.studentorg.umd.edu/desi/annual_nl_2004/articles/pujo.htm

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