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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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Indian elections 2014

The 2014 elections of India are over, the verdict is out, the process of getting the mandate from 500+ million people across 930,000+ polling booths have been completed, the happiness of the victors and the despair of the losers are out in the open. Yet, as a common man, I find this particular election fascinating – specially with the verdict that has come up. Not going into the technicalities (the percentage vote swings, the conversion of these vote swings into actual seats, etc), my personal point of view of this election is based on some trends that I tried to think through from the results.

Let me start with the overall verdict – the BJP and NDA under the leadership of Narendra Modi has got a thumping majority of 333+ seats and the main other party, Congress party, that has ruled for maximum number of years in Indian history have been reduced to shambles with 44 seats only. So, the verdict has been strong and clear – a change after so many elections that has happened in last 15 years. To me, this verdict has established or challenged many things that we have been used to for last so many years:

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This has challenged the very concept of “dynasty politics” – a modern era “quota” system followed by Congress party. I find it strange that such a big and historic party still believes in the principle that the leader of the party has to come from a family with a surname of Gandhi, irrespective of the fact whether the person is capable enough to lead or not. The general perception of the leader was “weak” (which was apparent in his many speeches and “deadly” few interviews) – but still a majority of more capable leaders of the same party still believes that the name “Gandhi” will mesmerise the voters even in today’s world. Only time will tell whether this thought is eliminated or whether we see another member of that family trying to steer the ship in the future.

People are always sick and tired of corruption and scams – this has been true in the past, in the present and will be true in the future. But the frustration increases when scam after scam are exposed and millions of taxpayer’s money are siphoned off, the government, the ruling party leadership either remains mute spectators, or tries to “defend” the same as the first reaction, or tries to do some “lip service”. Add to the event of the head of the country remains silent or looks for inspiration to the party high command before uttering a word. In effect, corruption with “proxy governance” was something that happened in last few years and people have had enough of this, I believe.

The personal charisma of a leader counts heavily – sometimes much more than the party he/she represents. That happened with Narendra Modi. In spite of having some controversial past, the branding, the dreams spelt out by that person appealed to most of the people, including the 100+ million of new voters. Of course, there has to be a vision, a concrete plan to transform the nation – but at the end, you often tend to go with the perception of a person when you feel “Yes, I do think this person probably can transform the nation better than the others”.

It is also time to move on from the past that is more than 5-7 years old. New generation, today’s youth hardly believe in drooling on history (does not matter whether it is perceived as “good” or “bad”). Lives have changed, tha pace of life has changed – hence, we do want things to change fast and very often, the time period allocated for the change is in 1-2 years, if not in months. Yes, history is important – but more important is the vision for tomorrow, vision for our own lives – rather than the rich or not-so-rich history of the parties. So who cares what has happened 7-10 years ago – let’s discuss what will happen in next 1-2 years ! This probably scored heavily in the decision-making process as “development” took more priority than “RTI”, “women empowerment”, etc – rightfully so. Because with “inclusive growth”, other parameters like empowerment will come automatically.

The delivery contrast between two main persons help differentiate the difference much strongly. Hence, the more one leader failed to articulate the vision and instead kept on harping on non-priority things, the more strong the other leader was becoming in the minds of the people. So, a poor performance of a main player helps the others – now add to the fact that the other person by himself had more charisma and vision — then it becomes a double whammy to the poorer performer. So, field the best candidate who is best suitable for the role –> basic stuff, but often forgotten by some.

Finally, my belief that “development is more important than caste, creed & religion” got  more strengthened in this election. In a country like India, where the culture, the dialect of the same language, food habits, etc change probably every 50 km across the length and breadth; harping on religion, appealing for votes from a particular religion or caste do have an impact on votes. And probably this happened this time as well – but overall, I have a hunch that people disregarded this caste/religion play much more as compared to last few elections. I find it sickening when this divisive play, this polarisation of people is even attempted by so many parties.

Probably, this is the time when all of us should introduce ourselves to the external world as an “Indian” instead of a “Bengali, Marathi, etc” or a “North Indian, South Indian, etc” or any such classifications. That way, we will not allow anyone trying to “divide” us going forward.

Let’s make our country proud by taking this first step together !

We want a mature, patient, civilised world …. not to be ‘trigger-happy’

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We live in a so-called civilised world driven by the power of law, which has been formed by thoughtful groups and lots of common sense. One definition of ‘civilised’ means to have a high state of culture and development bound by basic virtues. We have found lots of ‘unions’ which gives us a platform to resolve issues at the highest levels, in case disputes are hard to solve at lower levels. We have vowed for following the rules, the ‘unions’, the ‘bodies’ we have formed across the world.
We call ourselves ‘mature’ – which has an inherent meaning of looking at a broader picture, taking lessons learnt into account  and then take decision based on facts, based on debates and consult these ‘unions’ & ‘bodies’ to come up to a decision that will be respected by all. When decisions are taken, it is normal that all parties who participated in the decision-making debates may not come to a unanimous consensus – but when a majority decision is taken, even the parties who had been advocating for the reverse, respects that. These all come under ‘maturity’.

We call ourselves ‘patient’ and that is linked to ‘maturity’. By patience, we imply that a decision will be taken by weighing different options, by hearing all sides of the story and then coming to a meaningful conclusion which we believe has been taken after much deliberation and to the best of our efforts. For that, respecting other’s opinions, understanding the context and the implications of the decision is key.

However, still why do we have the most ‘powerful’ and most ‘matured’ persons takes huge decisions in a trigger-happy manner without even deliberating with a broader forum ? Maybe that is the correct decision – but why do we have to behave like a ‘know-it-all’ person without any ‘patience’ and declare that the rest of the ‘unions’ and ‘bodies’ are of practical no-use, simply because we fear that those ‘unions’ & ‘bodies’ may come up with more logical & mature thinking that may result in a different decision ?

I hope we all can really behave as a civilised, mature and patient way resulting in uniting the world to collectively take a decision (and not just by myself) that will benefit in the long run ….

I can’t talk anymore

When I grew up, I was told by my parents, my relatives, my teachers that expressing your own opinion is a fundamental right and unless you discuss and exchange ideas, you will not enrich your thought. Sometimes, you tend to differ with someone on a particular topic, you tend to argue and even might have a verbal fight, but you still appreciate the different perspective and respect people’s different views on a topic. Each influential decision on life has different sets of positives and negatives – nothing is perfect ! But, still amidst the imperfect world, people tend to sit and discuss together to come up with what can be described as the ‘best within the current constraints’. And that is how life is supposed to roll on …. each decision has a time-stamp associated with it – a decision without a time-stamp is absolutely irrelevant – hence a decision taken at this point of time might change after 10 years … and that is why decisions are to be taken after discussions.

I grew up by believing and reciting a poem written by Rabindranath Thakur – ” 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”

But for that, you need freedom of speech in the form that is prevalent at that point of time. Whether you actually talk and voice your opinion or whether you write something, or whether you sing a song, or whether you type your thought in the internet world – all these things do not matter. The thing that only matters is that you are free to share your thoughts and in that process can get challenged or challenge someone else’s thoughts. That is how we mature as human beings and that is how ‘tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection’.

However, my rulers are deciding to stop talking and hence, I can’t talk any more ! Sorry, if my voice is never heard … I can’t talk any more !!

 

It’s yesterday, once more ..

It’s yesterday, once more ….
Not a Carpenters special
Another incident of terrorist attack
Another incident of loss of life
Another incident of tears from loved ones
It’s yesterday, once more …

It’s yesterday, once more …
Not a Carpenters special
We ‘spend’ billions in scams and corruption
We ‘spend’ several hours in passing the buck
We ‘spend’ efforts to take political mileage
It’s yesterday, once more …

It’s yesterday, once more …
Not a Carpenters special
Value of life is so ‘cheap’
Our expression of helplessness is so ‘cheap’
Our excuses are so ‘cheap’
It’s yesterday, once more …

It’s yesterday, once more …
Not a Carpenters special
We say ‘no’ to pointed questions on safety
We say ‘no’ to execution of proven terrorists
We say ‘no’ to a strong political will
It’s yesterday, once more …

The mighty cannot protect the common man
The mighty cannot assert himself in international forum on this issue
The mighty cannot have enough intelligence
The mighty cannot hit back if slapped
The mighty cannot act except making speeches
The mighty cannot learn from mistakes
The mighty cannot stop spending millions on entertainment to divert funds on security measures
The mighty cannot say “enough is enough”

The mighty can only say ‘It’s yesterday, once more …”

When will the day come to show your inner strength
When will the day come to act and stop talking
When will the day come to spend money where it’s absolutely needed
When will the day come to give exemplary punishment to the guilty
When will the day come to execute justice in months and not years
When will the day come for us to say “yes, we are free !”

When can we say – its not yesterday, its a new tomorrow !

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