Exiled from Paradise

These were the days between 85-90… most probably 88-89….i was in school. I dont remember the class. He used to come for tuitions from my dad. My father had this strange concept where from many of his tuition students he wouldnt accept fees. From many he accepted whatever the students affforded. Ma used to grumble at times that this used to lower his stature among others. After all who would respect a person who was not strict about the remuneration of his services? I tended to agree with my mother in those moments of her frustration. After all it was not that we were leading some luxurious life. In fact quite far from it. It was much later that i truly understood his POV. But thats another story. Right now we are talking about this guy. Such a shame i cannot remember his name. Because he was the first and one of the very few guys who left me awestruck with his sheer handsomeness. Yes, straight men at times do get that. But this guy was seriously good looking. He used some come for tuitions along with another friend of his. My father was immensely happy with his scholastic abilities. And i am sure that all the women around were really happy that he actually came around.


The problem with shy kids like me is that  in spite of all the curiosity which i had regarding this person i never conjured up too much courage to talk to him. His good looks intimidated me. So imagine my shock when i realised one day that he was among one of the “special” category students of my dad! I mean how could a guy so good looking be in need for such assistance? It was at that time his aura dimmed a bit and i found some courage to befriend him. Do understand i was a gawky 13-14 year old at that time.


The guy (lets call him Rahul “naam to suna hoga”) was a kashmiri pandit. In fact i did not realise all that back then. News was not my favourite and whatever kept happening in the distant land of kashmir hardly bothered me. Rahul or lets call him Rahulda (as i would have addressed him if he had been Rahul) turned out to be one of the coolest and most fascinating folks around. We became fast friends and i would keep interupting the tuitions to hang out with him and get scolded by my father. Rahulda told me fascinating tales of his land. I has never seen snow back then. His tales of kashmir in winter filled up my imagination. I do remember one incident of his childhood that he had narrated to explain the concept of cold. Once during the winters after coming back from school he had gone out in the snow in just his gumboots along with a friend. In fifteen minutes he had to be carried back and had to take a foot-bath for half hour to get his feet back to normal. And elders told him he was an inch away from frost bite. Tales such as this and others about the land filled my young mind with all kinds of visions of some sort of Oz land. I had already decided that i would spend most of my life exploring new places.


Rahulda stopped coming suddenly a year or two later. It was 1990-91. We were also in the process of changing our houses and moving out of old Kolkata. All these changes had made him slip out of my mind.


A few years later i one day remembered and casually asked dad about Rahulda. And then dad told me about how he used to live in a smaller town in Kashmir. How he and his immediate family were forced out of their houses and the village. They came all the way to kolkata and were staying with one of their relatives. Then his parents went back to the valley after perhaps managing to strike on to something. Rahul stayed back to complete his studies. The obvious question of his sudden disappearance came up. And i saw my father’s face clouding up. Somewhere during the months of massacre of 90 Rahul stopped coming. A few months on his cousins in kolkata had sent a message to the college that Rahul had to rush back as some disaster had struck back in kashmir to his immediate family. Dad didn’t hear from him since. I remember our casual conversation ending suddenly in a pin drop silence. I guess both of us were buried in our troubled thoughts of what might have happened. By then i was in college. I used to read newspapers.


Later on in my career i met with another chilled out fellow. He was a colleague. One of the cool and composed guys around. A contrast to my hot-headedness. Lets call him Sam. Even under immense stress Sam would be in a position to crack some joke or make some fun. Soon it had become a daily ritual for me to spend good amount of time in his cabin, chatting away.


One day Sam did tell me his tale. His tale of how one day at midnight his world collapsed. How he as a teenager along with his family had to escape from Srinagar in the deep of the night. Of how since then he had to struggle on through life since. Of how that one night changed him. This was another occasion to get shocked. Never expected Sam to have gone through such experiences.


Today someone taunted me on “treatment of kashmiris” and my views or beliefs on that. Its a very difficult thought. How do you treat people who rob you of your home and kill your parents? In our “isms” and faiths we have bucketed the cause of the Rahuls and Sams and tagged them with the name “Kashmiri Pandit”. An uncomfortable irritant for the liberal apologists and a strategic weapon for the Rightists. And in all this  the Rahuls and the Sams somewhere get lost. Sams somewhere found his footing and thank god for that. But even today rahulda haunts me on days like this. Where is he? How is he? Did he find his footing too? I hope he did…i really hope he did….so many of those one and a half lakh who were driven out of their homes, butchered, killed and exiled in their own homeland still struggle to find a footing.



Udta Punjab: An Elegy to a broken nation


There is a moment in the film where two characters are arguing with each other as to who is the bigger idiot. Both of them claiming to be the bigger one till one points out to the other that lallu and fuddu are not the same. That moment in more ways than one captures the brilliance of the film. Abhishekh Chaubey has proven in the past as to how good he is in saying the heaviest and the most heartbreaking stuff in the most comical ways. So as to completely shock the audience into numbness. Here in this film there are several moments when your hearty laughter stops midway abruptly. Or doesn’t. You see, watching a film like this with audience which goes into multiple orgasms on TV-Serial standard melodramas like “Praktan”, subtlety is a difficult proposition. So for example when the interaction I referred suddenly turned into gut-wrenching outburst (a brilliant piece of acting like many more in the film) the audience in the hall were still laughing and I heard someone comment “ki boka boka bihari bolchey” (she is speaking in stupid bihari).


The way it slaps us laughingly with the harsh ironies by juxtaposing polar opposites against each other is what makes this film so powerful. The jail scene interaction between Tommy and his two fans who worship him and got inspired to be druggies by him is chilling. The simple laid back matter of fact way in which they talk of their horrific crime is shocking. It smashes out Tommy. It smashed some of us. And then there were others in the theatre who were laughing even in that scene. The biggest example is obviously the pre-climax. The most heart-wrenching message of loss of innocence comes in that scene. The futility and vulnerability of human life so strongly brought out in the scene. The value of holding onto life brought out and juxtaposed with the sheer wastefulness of the drug addiction. And yet the director injects the sheer comedy of helpless players who don’t know how to handle things. An utterly heartbreaking moment laced with the comic inability of people in it. This playfulness and the plank of tragi-comedy makes the film both sophisticated and also difficult to keep up with for viewers who are used to simpler fare.


The most brilliant thing about Udta Punjab apart from the sheer scale and complexity which the maker attempts to pull off and mostly does is the level of subtlety and intelligence with which the story has been told. The more you think back the more you appreciate the achievement of the filmmaker. It tells the whole menace of drugs from the angle of common people who are affected. Not the villains, not the heroes, but the common people. Who are directly or indirectly affected by it. Those who have lost their innocence to it like the characters of Alia and Shahid. And those who still have their innocence or a chance to keep it. Like DIljit and Kareena characters. At other levels it is also the tale of the common man who is too embroiled in the “System” to notice the flood waters rising all around him. Till the day it enters his drawing room. There are two back to back scenes of one of the characters which serve as pre-post demonstration. His actions before realising how far the water has gone up and his reaction post that. This is one of the many moments of ingenuity by the director. We see this every day, every moment. How our mothers and fathers and uncles keep telling us “not to get involved” in order to keep us safe. And yet one day it all sweeps us all and w cannot look away anymore.

Another element of the film which really makes it win is the sheer honesty and transparency of story telling. Once you see the film you can see why SAD are pissing in their pants about this film. The film makes no bones of the administration and its casual involvement in making this drug-terrorism which Pakistan is inflicting on the state a success. In fact the list shown in the film has a parallel in reality which had been prepared by an ex-DIG, submitted to the CM and has got lost since then. And yet in all its moments of “in your face” fact sharing of the drug menace the makers never make it a hero-villain story of man vs the system like so many formula films. The message is loud and clear when Diljit’s character tells Kareena’s- “madamji, the men in Punjab are all lying somewhere in their drug induced coma. I guess its time the women have to stand up and do something”. There is no one who is coming to save Punjab. The average joe and the average jane has to start the fight. And the basic reality as kareena’s character tells is that the war is two fold. The external war against the other country and the system which allows the menace. And the internal one where the sons and daughters have to win against their addiction.


A film of this complexity needed its actors to really rise up. And what a great choice of cast! The effortless innocence of Diljit DOssanj has made him a heartthrob. This film shows why. He is effortless as the simple Punjabi munda next door who lives by the book, takes bribe and seeks a better life to fall in the “system”. Till his life comes crashing down by the same substance which is providing him the security of the “system” and extra income. Kareena is earnest and spirited as the crusader. Her character is too straightforward. But she brings in a lot of panache. And makes the most of the scenes which break down her “perfect”ness (as diljit’s character says) and show her fear, softness of heart and vulnerability. However the meatiest roles are of the two losers. The lallu- Alia and phuddu- Shahid. This film is another milestone in Shahid’s career. After Haider, Kaminey etc. He leaves shahid Kapoor on the wayside and what you see in the film is all Tommy Singh the Gabru. His character undergoes immense stress and transformation. His well maintained bubble bursts and he has to cope or die. His struggles, his failures, his over-the-top image and the real self. All of this in all of its complexity is resting on the shoulders of the man previously known as shahid Kapoor- now Tommy Singh. The shock of the film however is Mary Jane- Alia Bhatt. Every frame she is in makes open-mouthed in wonder of what a talent she is proving to be. She is simply brilliant. Her impact on the performance and the film is best experienced and hence I will not speak much on her. The support cast is strong and able. And even the smallest of roles don’t have any spot of black and white. Everyone in this film is grey. Simple people trying to cope.


Finally if for nothing else then at least for one reason Udta Punjab is a film we should all be thankful for. At long last the drugs issue in Punjab to the forefront. It is the issue which needs immediate addressal. Before it is too late….


Udta Punjab is a very personal film for me. Because my land is Bengal but the land of my beloved is Punjab. And it is the land which has loved me back unconditionally as a puttar, as a brother and so many other designations. It is a land where people can treat you to roti and ghee-shakkar with all their love. When you have landed in the middle of the night to attend the funeral of the person who was their life. It is a land where you can chat with people as if you know them for ages though you have never met them before (similarities with Kolkata here).


It is a land where the poetry of sahir, gulzar and so many others came to life for me. I really understood the meaning of “jaadon kin narm dhoop”, “thandi safed chadron mein der tak jaagna”. It is a place where I have run to many times just to relax and clear my head. Sat for hours in the Gurdwaras to experience peace. Be it Taran Taaran,  Nangal or the Golden Temple. The land of Baba Bulleh Shah, Waris Shah, Manto, Amrita Pritam Shiv Kumar Batalvi camouflaged with hearty laughter and self mockery and a glass of lassi-vassi and a few pakoras. The land which gave the language of love to Bollywood and the country. The land which taught the others how to take life a little less seriously and have a lassi-vassi and chill. The land which for heaven’s sake taught us how to hold a marriage! The land which taught us that there does not need to be any reason to break into a dance. It is the land where for decades young men have laid down their lives to the cause of the country. A country which attacked its holiest place to quench the bloodlust of a family.


It is the same land which today is losing a generation to the drug-terrorism of Pakistan, supported by its greedy politicians. Who will save the jewel in India’s crown? Who will be the Sartaj Singh and Dr. Preet who will stand up against the system? Who will save the Pinkies and Tommy Singhs?


Perhaps the words of the great Shiv Kumar Batalvi is used in the movie just to convey this anguish and hopelessness:

Ikk kudi jida naam mohabbat
Gum hai, gum hai, gum hai
O saad muraadi, sohni phabbat
Gum hai, gum hai, gum hai
Gum hai, gum hai, gum hai

The innocence, the beauty, the soul is lost. Who will find it again for us?

The film ends in a somewhat positive note. The maker gives us an escapist ending. Where ultimately the good guys do win. In a way. The maker gives us a positive ending because he can. The reality of the state is just too depressing and morbid. There has to be some hope. This escapism gives hope. The maker has done his job. The artist has done what he could. Now its up to the rest of us…

The uncanny Jungle Blog Part 1

(Since books are history)

Then there was the forest where after the long rule of the fox the lion became the king. The whole forest was overjoyed. There was partying day and night.

The fox and his friend the crow was not happy. For long they had ruled the jungle. They had extracted and exploited from every animal living there. They helped man cut down half the forest in exchange of a chicken every day. The fox was old and couldn’t hunt. Moumou, the Fox. Bka the Crow….

A few days after the new king was crowned, one fine morning the crow flew over the new road and started croaking very loudly, “The deer is dead! The deer is dead! Oh God! What a disaster!”

In no time a crowd formed on the new road. There lay the old deer who died the previous night. It was clear that the local forest safari cars which pass through the forest had accidentally hit him. It was true that the accidental deaths in the forest had gone up. Since the time the fox in his rule had got into the back-door agreements with men to hack down the forest and build dams and roads. It was indeed very sad and tragic. They mourned for sometime before donating the body to the hyena group in the forest.

That night the crow flew over to Ibn Baboon, the wise.

Ibn Baboon was the most respected and intelligent member of the forest. He could make sounds from his throat which left everyone spellbound. And his acrobatics on trees was a treat. Now he had grown old and wise. And everyone came to him for advice…

The crow whispered, “Today a deer died in accident. The king is not doing his job. The forest has become very unsafe”

“Hmm…. I knew this lion fellow was pure evil! Under his rule the forest will surely go to the men”

Ibn hated the lion. He was never in favour of lion becoming the king. To start with he used to keep roaring and frightening everyone for nothing. He had this habit of eating up other animals…I mean, why couldn’t he have fruits and leaves…or insects? Then there was that ugly mane of his. And most importantly he was always running around doing something instead of sitting quietly and thinking…I mean what good was it to keep doing things? Look at him! The three weeks he came to power, he ran to the humans and did 3 day long meetings. So what if it stopped the further tree cutting and road construction? What was the big deal? An animal that uncivilized had no business being the king of the jungle!

“We need to do something about this”, the baboon said. “We cannot let this forest get destroyed by this violent uncivilized animal. Call all the other learned and skilled tomorrow. This lion has to be stopped! We cant let the forest go to the men”


The next morning the forest woke up to a very strange sight. In the spot where the unfortunate deer got run over had gathered a handful of animals. They were all carrying stale wreathes. And they were standing in a huddle with extremely grave faces.

The other animals went up to them. The mouse sniffed around and asked, “What is the matter O great Ibn Baboon? Why do you stand so sad and with these stale wreathes in hand? Did you get diarrhoea from chewing stale flowers?”

“Shut up you imbecile! We are protesting!” the Ibn said.

“Oh! But what are you protesting? And why? And what are these stale wreathes for?”

“The new king is ruining the forest! The forest is becoming increasingly unsafe for innocent animals after this bloodthirsty lion became the king! We are returning the wreathes which all of you gave us in honour of our talents in the annual forest festivals”

The mouse was bewildered. He did not know how to think much. He asked, “But what will I do with these stale wreaths? I mean, I can’t even eat them? Why me? Even the deers or the bisons cannot eat them. They can get diarrhoea from eat stale stuff!”

“Not another word!” screamed the baboon. “You philistine uncivilised animals! This is a protest going on here! And you are talking of eating?”

The mouse kept quiet…he anyways wasn’t much of a thinker. He figured it was something which small animals like him didn’t understand.

Baloo the bear was usually quiet and grumpy. To start with he was tired of every time being named Baloo. No one ever thought of a better name for him. To add to that the hacking of trees had led to a huge shortage of his favourite honey. Even the river was dry most of the time. Thanks to the new dam the men built. While he was always too tired for the last few years and never thought of protesting. This new thing they were calling protest bewildered him too. I mean they always said protest was about going to the home of the king and growling and screeching loud enough for the king to hear. And then when the king came out, you looked at the ground and kept grumbling about problems. It was something he never got the energy to do when the dams were being allowed and the trees were being cut. But this new protest…it was cool. And low on effort.


Baloo spoke up, “Err…did the king go overboard and eat up any extra deer or other animal? I mean, there was a huge party…you tend to go overboard…back in the day when Fox was crowned I almost drank 5 combs full of honey…and…”

“You cannot seem to think beyond your fat stomach!!!” roared…or rather squealed Ibn Baboon. “Do you even know that yesterday one of the deers was run over on the new highway?”

“Oh! That? Ya… that’s very sad. In fact for the last few years ever since Fox agreed to let men cut the forest almost every week there is an accident. Lion had gone to take it up with the men last week. In fact I hardly get any honey these days!”

“Shut up! You know nothing! This blood thirsty lion should never have been made the king! An animal who eats other animals can never care for them! Today we are returning our wreaths as a protest against this evil government!”

The bear retreated to his cave. He anyways was low on energy. And quarrelling with Ibn was unthinkable for him at this hour of the sun on top…


Soon the news of this protest spread across the forest like wildfire. Aided by hyperactive network of the crows.


Some who liked the king slammed the move. They pointed out that its not the first time that there has been an accident on the new highway. In fact since it was built it had become very dangerous for all forest animals. In fact even six months back the baby elephant was smashed by a car at night. His mother went mad since. Also they pointed out that the main reason behind the issue was when the previous king , Moumou the Fox struck that unholy deal with men. Something he did to secure his daily supply of chicken from that place with a strange name- Kentaucky…


The animals who did not like the lion were mostly animals who knew how to think. They did not like an animal not known for his thinking at the helm of affairs. Also his council was filled with such brainless doers. And it was a big problem! They expected work! Just imagine! You expected everyone to work! Instead of thinking of important things you were supposed to work! What was it that the lion roared? “Work for a greener forest”. Ha! Greener forest!


There was nothing wrong with work! But there were the bisons, the rhinos, the monkeys, spiders, bees …so many of the animals who were there to work! In fact the great white ape- Krull Moqrqs had said it clearly long long back. Every animal is equal. But some animals are more equal than others! Every animal will work. Except for the ones who had to think. The thinkers would direct and lead the workers. The king and the council will get benefits of this and if they think necessary, then they will redistribute it to the animals. Those were the heydays of the thinkers and the council members. Those days were fun. And this wretched new king talked about everyone deciding their own destiny! All the lowly animals in the forest had gone out of control. Even the lowly bees managed to meet the king! Imagine how filthy the king is! Meeting bees? Ha! And not only did he meet the bees, he asked most of the baboon tribe to vacate their trees for bees! With the forest being cut down the space had become an issue. Earlier one baboon family had been given 10 trees by the fox dynasty! Now they had to manage with only 7! How could 6 baboons live in only 7 trees? It was a deliberate ploy to attack the baboons who were the core thinkers of the forest. The king even refused the counter proposal of the baboons- that they give away 2 of their total number of trees where the 150 odd honeycombs could be stacked in every branch. The king had laughed it off!


The thinkers started the procession of returning the wreathes. You see in the rule of the Fox dynasty almost all wreathes in annual festival used to go to the thinkers. The doers in the forest were too lowly and pedestrian for that. It was because of the thinking of the thinkers that these lowly doers came to know that all animals were equal! Every year the lower animals- the doers- would stand in the distance and hear these highly placed thinkers talk eloquent about the heroism in the daily struggles of the doers. They were mighty impressed by the emotions. Most of the elders were convinced beyond doubt that thinkers were the greatest boons to the forest and the Fox dynasty was the natural destiny of the forest. The younger ones though, had started questioning. They were bewildered by the imagined prose of the thinkers who never mixed with the doers. They were not impressed by the Fox as the king who never met any of the doers. The lions had started the rumbling. Norimo had stood as the first step of defiance. Norimo was then the team leader  of the meat gatherers- animals who had to hunt and gather meat for thinker carnivores like foxes and hyenas.


All the while all this mayhem was going on the Lion King (not SImba you silly!!), Norimo had been quiet. He did hear all about the protest and the claims endangerment of the forest. Initially he was too busy to react. He was visiting the men and doing hard negotiations to block further encroachment into the forest. It was tough. The men tried to bribe him a lot. A cow a day scheme. Control over a full herd. So on. But Norimo refused. He didn’t understand why he should take such a deal where he will not have to hunt for a few days or years. after all if he stopped hunting then he will grow weak. Also if the number of deers in the forest increased then the foliage and grass will come down and eventually destroy the forest. But the men were insistent. Finally they had agreed on a three month breather period to assess the situation. When he came back and was trying to plan how to use this period to reinforce the woods this issue of “protest” came out. Reluctantly he went down to meet these protesters as the latter were refusing to come to talk to him. It was in the middle of a very busy week as a lot of work was needed to restore the forest to its glory- it had fallen miserably during the Fox years.


“Tell me what your issues are”, Norimo started.

“His majesty does not even have the courtesy to make a proper opening address. Sad I had to live to see this day”, said Ibn the Baboon. Smeared with sarcasm.

Norimo didn’t bite that. “I happen to be a lowly gatherer. Sorry if I do not know the courtesies. Please, lets get to the point”.

Leela the leopard was not that restrained. Her tribe was almost on the verge of extinction thanks to extremely dangerous task of gathering soft meat for the Fox kings from the villages. She hated the guts of the thinkers. She gave a low growl, “let me know if you are too sad for your life. I can happily oblige by taking it out of you…”


This was the opportunity Ibn was waiting for. “By the name of holy Krull!!! This forest has become a death zone for leaf-eaters like me! There is no room for thinkers in this hell anymore! This forest is a butchering ground for hunters and doers! Led by the demon Norimo! How else on a meeting could his assistant give life threats to us? Just because we came to meet the King and ask for protection?”


Norimo gave a low growl in the direction of Leela who had by now understood the trap and was looking down at the ground in disappointment and shame of letting her king down. The lion started, “No one has any intention of hurting anyone here O great Ibn….” But it was too late. The thinker contingent had already risen. They had started leaving. They threw their stale wreathes at the King on their way out.


Once outside they started the slogan “Thinker lives matter! Leaf-eater’s lives matter! We are animals, not meat for the Lion!!!”


By the evening the network of crows had spread the news across the forest. The thinkers had gone to meet the king. In the meeting Leela the leopard attacked Ibn the great and almost killed him. By night when the forest was buzzing, every corner, every tree-top animals and birds were heatedly discussing the news of the day. Everyone agreed on one fact- that the leopard had no business attacking Ibn the great. Many interjected that it was no attack. They were there and had seen it. It was just an angry outburst at the insult which Ibn hurled at the king. However the crow network never conveyed this side of the story. Almost all of the forest knew it as an attack. By the dawn Norimo realised that even trying to dispute this lie was futile. By the dawn the old fox  Moumou was falling into sleep with a satisfied smirk on his face. His and his forefather’s investment into the thinkers were bearing results. The forest could never be ruled by Doers…never…


The fox had missed one trick. The doers were workers. They worked together. They did not need the crow network to pass information. The wolf spoke to other wolves, the bees spoke to the other bees and butterflies, the eagle rose high up and spoke from there to all other birds. It was not as fast as the crow network. But it worked. By noon the whispers of the real incident had started doing rounds. And by the evening the next day when the thinker brigade took out the procession to demand the ouster of Leela from the forest the doer brigade was already well aware of the real incident. The thinker activists led by the heavily bandaged Ibn were not aware of this new development.


The protest group led by Ibn reached the main watering hole. They were in for a big surprise. The place was already crowded and filled with animals. The members of the doer community. The thinker group stopped on their tracks. There was an uneasy silence. After some time the mouse again spoke up, “O great Ibn the Baboon, when and how did Leela the leopard attack you?”

Ibn was taken aback.

“Have you lost all your wits? Everyone knows that leopard attacked me at the meeting! She should immediately be killed or driven out of the forest…!”

“Are you sure she attacked you in the meeting?”

The baboon was about to scream in irritation at the mouse. But he stopped. Something was wrong. Suddenly his confident swag was gone. Suddenly he felt uneasy. “what do you mean?”

“ I mean if Leela really attacked you in the meeting how did you manage to walk out on your two legs and scream slogans? Not a drop of blood? I was there! I saw you coming out!”

“You liar! Agent of Norimo!” a nervous scream from Baboon.

“SO was Bimby the bee” replied the mouse. Bimby flew forward and nodded. “So was Mooh the bison.” Mooh nodded lethargically …

The thinker group suddenly had had the wind knocked out. There was an aggressive buzz around the doers. They were slowly stepping back when a voice came from the side. “So what if these animals are claiming that Ibn was not hurt? They all could have been mistaken! Do you mean to say that the great Ibn, winner of so many wreathes is a liar? What is wrong with you people?”

It was Moumou the Fox.

Everyone was stunned into silence. After all it was the Fox, the head of the thinkers and the king for so long.


The Fox continued, “I am amazed to see the utter barbarism which has seeped into the forest in such a short time! I had to see a day when a mouse and a bee called the great Ibn a liar!”

Pin drop silence. No one could face the Fox and talk straight.

Unchallenged the Fox continued “Ibn my brother! Why do you need to risk your life and health for these thankless beasts?”

“I only wanted to help them,” replied the baboon with voice choked in fake emotion. “I never knew that they will twist the facts and insult me” The baboon broke into a sob.


The rest of the forest was silent. They all knew the truth. They all heard it from the animals. Leave out the mouse or the bee. Mooh the bison was one animal who would never lie. But still they were suddenly unsure. Decades of servitude does tricks with mind. Decades of slavery prevents free thinking. They didn’t know what to say.

The crow, Bka was lurking around in the trees. Seeing the situation he jumped in and spoke.

“The hunter king has vitiated the atmosphere. Across the forest I see animals fighting with each other. In fact yesterday most of the forest refused to go to sleep. Everyone was fighting with everyone else. There is no tolerance and acceptance in the forest anymore. No wonder they are challenging and insulting the great Ibn.”


End of Part 1

Indians comfort and loss of time is of no value to British Airways

I have heard horror stories about BA in the past. And precisely the reason why I avoid both AF and BA for international travel. People who want can do it at their own risk. You see service becomes visible in crisis…not when things are ok…


Update as on June 2, 2014 – IST 5.30pm – Thanks everyone for helping me spread the word on this. I have just received a standard email from British Airways Customer Care apologising for the inconvenience and confirming that they will look into this matter. I will keep you all updated on the progress.

This post is my letter to the CEO of British Airways recounting my recent experiences while flying British Airways from New York to Mumbai. Thanks to many of you who found the concerned email id for me and I have now sent this as an email out to him. I am also posting this as a blog post and hope that this makes a difference in the way British Airways treats its Indian customers.

May 31, 2014

 Mr. Keith Williams

CEO – British Airways PLC

 Dear Sir,

I had recently read a blog-post (which went viral on the internet) about an Indian national…

View original post 1,627 more words

Those days with the soccer ball: Part One

The good thing was about the goal posts. They were flexible. Depending on the mood of the group. It could be asymmetrical on either side of the arena. It could be as wide as the width of the arena. It could also be only a foot wide. Putting the ball through the smaller goalposts was the true sign of advancement of skill. And seniority. Terrace soccer was our life. There was badminton, and the occasional cricket during winters. But the only all season habit we all had was soccer.

Balls changed. From tennis balls to round balls made by rolling newspaper to the real deal- leather bound soccer ball. Real soccer balls bought from the sports shops in College Street. Those were rare but they were there. Usually when the action shifted to the lanes outside. The gulleys. Yes- we rarely had gulley cricket. It was always gulley football. Days of bandh (there used to be quite a few), days of public holidays, and sometimes even at night with a large 200watt lamp and other streetlights serving as the floodlights. But all that were usually the domain of the elders. For us single digiters it was usually terrace football. With tennis balls or paper balls.

Central Kolkata is one single building block running for many square kilometers. I know you will not believe me. But check out on Google Map. Every adjoining building shares the adjoining wall with each other. At least one wall of any building is attached to its neighboring building. So it is not a locality of many houses with lanes and by-lanes. It is a locality of super-houses of enormous width ocassionally getting broken by lanes. Terrace soccer required a skill other than ability to play football. You also needed to know terrace hopping. Or what the kids of today call parkouring? OK- that’s bragging. We were not as good as the free-runners of today. But we could give any professional burglar a run for their money in our abilities at scaling walls and terrace hopping. OK- not me personally to begin with. But some of us. Those ball recovery experts. For every time a ball fell out of the terrace it did not fall onto a road. It fell on top of someone else s terrace and mostly there would be no one there to throw it back.  Thus ball recovery was an essential skill to continue our engagement in soccer. It was needed for other sports too. But then we weren’t playing much of other sports.

School soccer was more conventional. There was the school field. The recess. The school football and some of the tennis balls bought by some of the classmates for use during recess. It was standard stuff. Recess was fun though. Usually there would be 4-5 groups playing soccer in the same arena. (Some of the other groups playing cricket in corners, but we soccer players usually treated them with scant respect). With 4-5 balls bouncing around and various groups running after various balls the prospect of a comedy of errors was always palpable and in many occasions was a hilarious realty. Many occasions of the goalie making an acrobatic save of an unrelated ball while the relevant ball rolled slowly into his goal, or the attacking player confidently speeding ahead to find unexpected defensive thrust from completely unknown quarters. Or the raging dispute on every goal being scored as to whether the goal was scored by a relevant player at all.

The games after school were less chaotic and definitely more engaging. And every game would result in a few of us friends taking the long walk home and all the while discussing the game which we just played and how we should have won it or how we were too good for the other team. My cousin sister who came to pick me up from school once in my lifetime would tell you that all she saw me doing was running after the ball in all possible directions, but that’s ok. I don’t mind her. You know sisters. In my defense I did play in the house teams in junior and middle school. And once also for the school. This was before I changed school before I grew up and before my broken ankle made me bid an early good bye to soccer. For now in junior and middle school soccer was my life. And also the life of the city.

Interestingly cricket was an alien sports with curiosity more than genuine interest going for it. That was in my days of toddler-ship. Before 1983. 1983 was the year I turned nine and Indian Cricket turned the corner with the World Cup win. The years after that did see increase in popularity of the game. But it continued to be a winter sports. One with much less spontaneity for the likes of us. Our heroes resided in Kolkata and played their game in the Maidans.

the real lagaan. 1911


shyam thapa with the god of soccer

Going to the Mohun Bagan grounds was a monthly treat. Multiple promises of good behaviour, sound studying and healthy eating used to be taken before dad would wake me up early on a Sunday morning and take me to the wooden stands of Mohun Bagan club to watch my heroes practice. I vaguely remember Shyam Thapa shaking my hand. I vaguely remembered anything else happening for a few months post that. Shyam Thapa. The hero of my childhood. The expert striker of Mohun Bagan. The possessor of the legendary bicycle kick. Till today the hero-worship of the guy never ceases. After all these years I remember the rush of blood and excitement when I saw him on a talk show on the TV.

the bicycle kick

There were others. Prashun Banerjee  and Prashanto, his brother. There was the mercurial Subrato Bhattacharya, the rock of Mohun Bagan defence and Mona- Manoranjan, his nemesis in the East Bengal defence. The silken legs of Krishanu and the work horse Krishnendu. Brilliance of Bhaskar in the East Bengal as well as the Indian goal to be matched with the penalty saving magic of Shibaji Banerjee for the Mariners.  There were the players who came from out of Bengal. Though soccer was mostly a Bengali affair those days there were brilliant players from outside Bengal who came into the club. There was Ulganathan, Xavier Pius, Victor Amalraj, and one of my favourite players- Babu Mani. Partnerships and combinations used to be legendary those days. Bidesh-Manash of the invincible years of the club, with Sudip Chatterjee and Satyajit   in mid-field. East Bengal’s Manoranjan and Tarun Dey were the defensive wall with Krishanu-Bikash in attack (the latter a Mohun Bagan find).

Every time a team won a title the para signboard would have a garlanded collage of the team, made by the supporters. In the ensuing one week there would be palpable tension with the opponent club supporters threatening to tear off the same and the defenders threatening back with dire consequences. Such tension rarely came to blows. But there were the para elders to get down to business in case of any violence.

Playing with Pele: Mohunbagan 2- Pele2

Sudip and Bidesh. Anyone who saw the India- Argentina match of 1984 Nehru Cup will never forget these names. It was a complete Argentina 1986 World Cup winning team sans Maradona. Maradona was replaced by Gareca due to club commitments. India lost the match 1-0. But everyone including the Argentina coach, the legendary Carlos Bilardo was stunned by the performance of a team a few hundred ranks below them. Sudip matched Valdano step to step in creativity and brilliance in the mid-field. Bidesh’s speed in the left wing left their backline with pants down on multiple occasions. However India lacked quality in its strike force- Shabbir Ali/ Krishanu simply could not do justice to the build-ups. Argentina scored through Gareca and Bilardo and his men thanked their lucky stars. Post match Bilardo had predicted India to play the World Cup in a decade. Milovan, the Indian coach had mentioned that India had two World Class players in its ranks. They needed to build more. The two players were Bidesh Bose and Sudip Chatterjee.

Prashanto against the argentines

The battle of equals. Prashanto exchanging jersey with Valdano after match

the legend- bidesh bose

sudip chatterjee the temparamental genius

We all waited with breathtaking excitement for the predictions of Bilardo to come true. In the coming decade a sports phenomenon did hit Kolkata. However it was not in football. The phenomenon was named Sourav Ganguly. And the sports topography of the state changed forever. These days everyone wants to be Sourav. Everyone has managed to get a cricket kit. There is good money in cricket. Thanks to the BCCI and its events. It is an affordable sport for the middle class today. All through the year and all through the parks in the city everyone plays cricket. There is the net and there are the teeming hopefuls taking their chance at being Sourav. No one plays football much. There arent too many Bengalis in the Indian Soccer team. Last we heard they lost to Afghanisthan in SAFF games.

Some years back I came across a news article. Sudip Chatterjee was dead. He had died before he could be treated. He had died in pennury. Some 17 years after retiring he died, neglected and forgotten. One of the greatetst mid-fielders of Indian soccer could not last two decades post retirement. Subrata commented once that he would never let his son pursue soccer. His son is not a soccer player. He is a budding actor.

The rainy afternoons. The rain-drenched exhilaration on a terrace. One smallish rubber ball. Breathtaking excitement. The Mohunbagan-EastBengal derby had just got over. The serenading poetry of Ajoy Bose’s voice had finished describing the proceedings.The whole group till now sitting in front of one radio comprised of the under 15s of the para. The supporters were fighting tooth and nail on the terrace now to prove supremacy. And show their allegiance to their club. The youngest in the group suddenly managed to push the ball into the defined goal of the opponents mostly by accident. The seniors around him- including the oponents exclaimed with wide eyes- “tap korey goal korli! daarun!!” Everyone took turns to lift the young “talent” on their shoulders in their appreciation and affection which lasted beyond the match. So did the indulgent nickname they gave him that day- for a year or two- Tupul Thapa, in acknowledgement of his hero Shyam Thapa…we were the soccer boys…

(More in part 2)

link to excerpt from match between Pele’s Cosmos and Mohun Bagan- when Pele played in Kolkata.

the SHyam Thapa inteview