Tuesday, August 31, 2010

While We were Sleeping

Being a Kolkatan can be quite tough these days, and that in itself is quite an understatement. Am quite certain that after reading this post I will probably be considered as an anti-Bengali guy,. but cant help it fellas I have had lots bottled up inside since a long time,. its time to release some of the pent up emotions. Coming back to my first statement I genuinely meant it and I do hope I will have at least a few takers.
By "tough" I meant a lot of things, namely having to go through a barrage of varied emotions, ranging from nostalgia to pride, from frustration to irritation and finally from shock to utter disgust, on any given day(or for that matter everyday)of their lives. Sadly enough I was witness to all the above mentioned emotions inside me in a single day a few days back.

I was to accompany a very close buddy of mine to the Howrah Station, who isn't quite accustomed to its giant proportions. We boarded a bus from Jadavpur which would directly drop us at the station. And thus we embarked on our journey, unaware of the fate awaiting us.

The poster of the Documentary I made on the same subject 
As the bus moved merrily towards its destination I kept chatting with my friend to kill time, and soon we were passing through the Victoria Memorial.” It looks beautiful", I said. and went on to declare with some extra pride in my voice as I looked at it "In my books the Victoria is way better a monument than the Taj Mahal". Immediately a couple of heads snapped towards my direction, both of them middle-aged Bengalis who smiled benignly at me, as a grandfather does towards his grandson. As the bus kept trotting along I was quite at ease with myself what with the extremely soothing breeze and watching those lush green ‘maidans’ in the Esplanade area. It was about at this time that I noticed something unusual. There were truckloads of flag bearing youths chanting slogans whizzing past us. My friend noticed them too, and I saw a bead of sweat trickle down his forehead, we all are quite familiar with Bengal and its “famous’ rallies harassing people’s lives. Now the train that he was supposed to catch was schedule to depart at 2.50, I looked at my watch, still about a hour and a half left. “No sweat”, I assured him quietly, and meant that literally too. As we entered Dalhousie even I couldn’t help but feel a little anxious, we were moving at a snail’s pace now. It took us a good forty minutes to reach Millennium Park, by this time my friend had really gone jumpy, and I had to extract all my consoling skills to settle him down. I was still quite hopeful, there was still fifty minutes to the train’s departure and we just had to reach the edge of the Strand Road stretch, it will hardly be five minutes from there. So according to my stupendous calculations, we should reach with time to spare. But unfortunately, the end of the road was nowhere to be seen. We waited and waited and waited……The bus just didn’t budge, and we were surrounded in like a sea of buses all over. I couldn’t see a thing beyond, except these multicolored buses. Even I lost my patience at this time, and kept swearing in whispered tones, as the atmosphere got sultry and stuffy at the same time. Hardly ten minutes left now, was the optimist in me retreating back. After a lot of huff and puff we finally managed to reach the crossing and as we were passing it I understood the reason for the commotion.

A couple of trucks laden with slogan shouting youths was retreating, and a few feet away about a dozen traffic policemen were merrily chatting away as if discussing the latest cricket score, not an iota of annoyance on their faces. Rage seethed inside me, but I was helpless as usual. My friend had already given up hope, as the traffic still hadn’t cleared due to the ‘Michil’. Finally we did reach Howrah station, and I was feeling numb, yet I didn’t want to give up hope, not yet. I ran, luggage and all, at full stretch, (in the process forgetting to take the platform ticket, as I was to come out again), and finally reached the enquiry counter, the giant clock outside read 2.57,I shrugged to myself , keeping my fingers crossed and asked the people if the Chennai Express had departed. A lady was sitting there behind the glass chatting away and didn’t even look up. I repeated my question, a little louder this time, and she looked up, clearly irritated as if I had gatecrashed her evening fiesta, and just said in Bengali that the train has left 10 minutes ago. My shoulders slumped immediately, all that running for nothing. As I came out I saw my friend looking at me anxiously, hoping against hope, and I felt so sorry for him as he was to visit his sister in Chennai who had just delivered a baby girl, and was clearly looking forward to meeting her. Blast it!! I thought, of all the wretched days the stupid train had to leave on time. Slowly we registered the fact, and decided to go back, tired as we were from the whole ordeal. But how were we to know that it wasn’t over as yet. As we approached the exit; I saw a swarm of ticket checkers stationed there. Darn it! It just struck me that I hadn’t got a platform ticket in the hurry to get the train. Tired as I was, I saw no other option other than to tell them with honesty the true events that happened. Surely they had to see reason...We stopped in front of a female T.T.. She would hardly have been half my size (Am Six feet four) and I could have simply sneezed her away, but we told her the truth which immediately brought a smirk on her face like that of a teacher who has just caught a student bunking her class.

“Pay the fine and leave”, that is what she said even after our repeated requests to let us go, so I had to fork out 260 bucks for a ticket costing 3 bucks. This was the first time in my life that I hadn’t taken a platform ticket (and believe me there have been many visits to the Howrah for me), and all those years nobody had cared to check me out. And here I was stranded without any real fault of mine.Even after visiting the main in charge didn’t pay any dividends. I paid them the money feeling so saturated with rage that I would have demolished them all if I could right there and then. I pocketed the receipt as a reminder of this day. Perhaps someday it will inspire me with something good, perhaps…

As we went back finally, tired, hungry and exhausted I had this grim thought incepted in me now. This place will never ever progress, because people don’t want it to. I looked around me, and all I could see was happy and smiling faces, discussing the political “Change” that’s about to hit us here.I suddenly remembered Jyoti Basu’s statement; “What Bengal thinks today, the world thinks tomorrow.” Is it?? I don’t think so.. While the world was changing and progressing around us we were busy organizing rallies and “Chakka –jaam” or useless hunger strikes..Nothing, absolutely nothing has come out of decades of this nonsense, and yet people here are satisfied.Try and argue one, and you will get a long list of debaters, falling back on the same old points. “Our culture is the best”. “We have some of the most talented people in arts” ,.
“Our food is the cheapest,” and not to mention degrading other cities and pointing out their problems and so on and so forth. “There” they will add with grim satisfaction, you should be happy to be living in a safe and happy place like this., would be their reply.

Its no use reasoning them.I guess we are slowly getting quite used to this lifestyle, where bandhs disrupt daily life, where potholes are like craters, where hygiene is a scarcity, where walking on a footpath itself is a challenge where we love to have reason not to work and truly where we love to sleep.So what, some might argue, this happens in most of the sates. True, but this is my state, where I have spent my whole life and a have a bagful of memories associated with it. It pains my heart to see it come to this.

I am not a Bengali, but am a Kolkatan and no one can take that away from me. I haven’t heard anything more boring than the Rabindrasangeet, I don’t like to indulge in “adda’ sessions, I don’t give two hoots about Brazil getting booted out of the Soccer World Cup and neither do I fancy Bengali literary works. Does that make less of a Kolkatan than any fellows who does exactly the aforementioned things? I think not. And neither do I need a stamp of approval from anyone. I am a normal citizen of this state, who has spent 24 years of his life in this city, and is it really too much of him to ask for better and plainer roads, for ending the never ending Bandhs and blockades, and quite simply put for better Governance. All I want is some assurity that the next time I go out I will reach my destination safely, and won’t have to be harassed by a bunch of bullies who are supposedly the 'future'. People here talk so much about politics, yet it’s the very thing that’s dragging us to a hole. What worries me is to see youngsters like me, when they should be busy charting out their career, debating like skilled politicians about the horoscope of the state. This might fill some hearts with pure joy but it fills mine with disgust. The optimist in me always saw a bright future here, but it’s slowly ebbing away. I hope I am proven wrong and Kolkata will come back to its old charismatic ways, and I won’t have to be shamed any longer while talking about it to others.

Please..Oh please..My Kolkata..Come out of this deep slumber you have gone into..I don’t want “Parivartan”,..all I want is a cognizant society which isn’t busy sleeping , while the world around gallops past us!!!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Step

Am finally here!!! Finally out with a blog of my own,.Over the months, following many a known faces on their respective blogs,.I had always wondered if ever I would be able to come out with one of my own.To be quite honest, I was quite skeptical and  being technically in adept didnt help either.But thanks to this wonderous world of technology, hardly had to spare Five minutes of my treacherous life in getting there.

The tough part now being done with,.now came the more important and tougher part..What the hell do I write about..Its funny coz all this while I was considering about a million things to "squeeze" in but now that I do have the whole blog to myself, my brain draws a blank..But hey,.no worries,.I will soon get over my temporary freezing and will surely enlighten you all with my over-skilled verbose and  varied take on different angles and perspective on any and everything under the sun(and the moon if it comes to it)..

Being a wildlife enthusiast, matters relating to the wild would surely take some more space,.but that doesnt count out the anything else.Be it politics, films, books, my personal experiences,.I will try my utmost to cover everything. Being a wannabe journalist I have to...And hopefully I will get some support, which would eventually help me write and scrutinize better,.Will be back pretty soon,.Cheers!!