Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Distant lit up memory

It is amazing how a totally unrelated thread conjures up a trail of memory and thoughts. I was reading Amartya Sen's "An uncertain glory" where he mentions the 2012 power outage in India which is one of the largest blackouts in history. It instantly brought back some memories from my childhood. My ancestral home is a small place called Nanoor which is about 22 kms from Shantiniketan (Rabindranath Tagore's base camp/ coincidentally Amartya Sen's birthplace). I used to spend my vacations here.Though officially electricity had reached these areas decades back but even till about 15 years back long and frequent blackouts were extremely common. When one has blackouts in cities it is in phases and very local to particular areas and one usually sees shimmering lights in the distance, hears a lot of traffic and activities continue over lit up candles after a brief sigh of disappointment from everyone. And the electricity is restored quite quickly which again only briefly blinds the eyes and brings about an orchestrated cry of relief while the television comes to life. The ceiling fan whizzes around clearing up the air of the waxy smell of blown out candle smoke dispersing away after their seductive wavy dance.

A blackout in the village is pitch dark. One hears voices from neighbouring homes while the moon shines on the pond in the backyard with frogs croaking in unison.If one listen's carefully one can hear the occasional prayer song and the tinkering beats of the accompanying khanjani from the vaishnav singers trailing down from the terracotta temples across the pond. The earthen lamp lit up as a daily ritual at the tiny alcove near the tulsi plant, shines brighter in the darkness. While these images are vivid in my mind there are some which are getting washed away by the years. Like the many stories which my uncle narrated from his readings. We kids heard him in rapt attention - stories of heroic pursuits and fairy tales and most fascinating horror and detective stories. He was a seasoned story teller who created an aura of suspense befitting the surrounding darkness and quiet. We bunch of restless children were entranced much to the relief of our mothers. 

I returned to the page I was reading realizing that I was fixated on it for quarter of an hour. I shut down the book and closed my eyes tight shut to remember some of the stories. The trouble is I am not well versed in bengali literature and therefore mapping stories to books/novels is a very difficult for me. But one word suddenly echoed in my mind - "Kalo Bhramar". I googled up the word and it instantly threw me the book of the same name by author Nihar Ranjan Gupta. I looked him up and read that he met Agatha Christie while in England and deeply inspired by her books wrote a four part series creating a detective of his own called "Kiriti Roy". One of the books in the series is called "Kalo Bhramar". 

My uncle passed away a couple of years back leaving behind a legacy of pleasant memories on otherwise dark summer months.


"Khanjani" - A musical instrument made up of metal plates which are struck to create a tinkering beat.
"Kalo Bhramar" - literal translation - Black bumble bee
"tulsi" - basil plant

Monday, May 6, 2013

The city in snapshots

When one pursues photography as a hobby, an unavoidable side effect is one looks at the world in "frames". Wherever you look you end up composing pictures.

As I travel in the city I look at the lady selling flower garlands and think of the vivid colors I could capture with her basket full of flowers keeping her wrinkled face and her guileless smile in the frame. The small grocery store with many many tidbits stacked in the shelves would make a stunning indoor HDR photo. The plump dog lying sleepily on the dusty road basking in the morning sun would make a warm and cozy composition. The small temple at the road side with the stark idol of the goddess and the burning earthen lamps lined up at her feet would help me capture a profound picture of devotion. A picture of the fish mongers sitting with their basket full of catch would make a good story of the city hustle bustle.

But then I wonder may be I should just buy a flower garland from the friendly lady and offer it to the goddess at the temple. I should probably go to the "mudir dokaan" or the grocery shop, get a pack of biscuits and feed it to the dog lazing around on the road. Then may be I could get some fresh fish from the sellers and return home with the delicious prospect of a sumptuous lunch of fish curry and rice.

Hmmm...fish curry and rice with two slit green chilies as a garnishing ...on a white and blue patterned plate. Now that would make a good photograph. Wouldn't it?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shifting coordinates

Having grown up in military cantonments, shifting houses or relocating to new places was never a sad or an emotional phase for me. It was rather exciting. My sister and I used to treasure hunt through the boxes that my mother packed up. Treasure hunt it truly was. You get back many things that you have lost. They peep at you from corners which have been exposed because of the cleaning and emptying. You get to see many stowed away tidbits which are kept in the boxes for memory sake - the little white and brown striped frock which my sister wore and then I did when we were babies or that faded picture of my father's colleague who gave up his life for the country kept safe in that torn diary  from 1980. Shifting meant a new house, new friends and a new school. In spite of the unhappy grumblings from my mother we kids thoroughly enjoyed the shifting.

After a three year stint, I recently moved back to Kolkata from Santa Ana. A feeling of de ja vu set in as I emptied my house. Once again lost things came back unabashed and not guilty from their inconvenient absence.Once again I was excited to pack up looking forward to the next leg of life.

After the house was emptied it looked like just how it did when I moved in three springs ago. Except that it is not that perfect. There is a scuff mark on the wall where the couch which was a company to my hours of lazing around rested. There is a spot on the carpet where I spilled my tea when I excitedly ran to receive my kindle reader as the postman knocked impatiently. The wall has a clean rectangular spot mocking at the rest of the faded walls of the house - the rectangle created by the Beatles poster my husband put up as one of the first personal addition to the house. And then the excitement was marred by a knot in the throat as I realized how with a stroke of paint and a dab of soap water they would clean away my three years of good times and bad times spent in this little corner.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sister's stress-filled sojourns

My sister visited me for the whole of last week. We were discussing her travel exploits one evening.Trust me, they are amusing. Very. For one, she has never packed her stuff by herself. Ever. She would always find someone who helps her to pack. Mom, I, roommate and now her husband.And she always leaves back something or the other. A toothbrush, a pair of trousers, a lipstick, earrings... or even a packed suitcase.Yes ...a suitcase.In one of her travels she realized a little short of reaching the airport that she forgot to put the suitcase in the trunk.

And of course she loves the last minute action that happens when one is late for a train or flight.To jot down a few,

- missed flights
- reached just on time for a train but had no clue whether her reservation was confirmed from the waiting list or not
-paid 500 rupees extra so as to reach on time for a flight [the flight was delayed by an hour which she found out later].

This time I decided to make it a no-mistake travel. I booked the cab on time. Cross-checked with her everything that came to my mind -- tickets, boarding pass, cellphone charger, toothpaste, luggage ... everything. I dropped her to the airport.

I returned to my empty house and crashed on my sofa, a little saddened by her departure. Just then I spotted her Joseph Heller novel staring at me and I laughed.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

De ja vu

I am in California these days. A place with over abundance of sunshine. Today it was cloudy. They call it June gloom. Not that I don't enjoy sunshine, but the weather today brought very fond memories of my stay in the UK. I have a lot of remnant songs in my ipod from the UK days. Many of them have become obsolete with the situation. "Cloudy"
by Simon & Garfunkel definitely does not go with a bright shining and smiling sun.Staying awake in such a weather is quite some work. A hot cup of coffee and a few peppy numbers help. So I started the day with a cuppa steaming coffee and some old forgotten numbers.

Until tomorrow when the sun shines bright again.

Friday, August 6, 2010

'Reflection' of Murphy's law

Today, I cancelled the alarm instead of putting it on snooze. Goes without saying that I overslept and was late for office.On reaching office, I couldnt find my ID card.I guessed I had left it at home. Got a temporary card made , but all this caused even more delay.Had a code to demonstrate in the afternoon.the previous day had kept everything ready. All data prepared etc.Yes you guessed it! The code would not work during the demonstration. Thankfully there were other people who had to demonstrate their code. I just said, let the others go ahead while I check whats wrong. I was shocked to see that someone had deleted the data I had prepared #@!#$%#$. I quickly fixed it and domonstrated the code. It went well.

On telling a friend about it, he said , "Well Murphy's law at work'. Yeah, all of us have faced it so many times. I wonder how Murphy could point out so certainly about somethings so uncertain. And that so, why does it work only in a negative way. Murphy's law says "Anthing that can go wrong, will go wrong". Now my point is, this 'Anything' can also go right, right? Er dont think I am making sense. What I mean to say is, an event has a possibility of succeeding or failing. What Murphy is trying to say is :- if an event has these two chances, it will fail.But why?? Why isnt the law "Anything that can go right, will go right?"

After much pondering over a "tall iced-tea lemonade, passion flavoured, less ice and extra sugar" at Starbucks, I deduced the following - Just like things go wrong, things also go right in our lives. Lets take the example of the demonstration above.I have had many office presentations/demonstrations where I had goofed up but no-body noticed.That means the alternate also happens. Just that it looks too normal to us and we dont keep a note of it. The wrong ones hit us more and we remember them for life. So a day in our lives where everything went wrong stays in our memory. We try to explain so many things going wrong by taking help of a law.

I also feel that when a series of things go wrong, the root cause can in most cases be attributed to the first thing which went wrong. Let me explain how.
When the first thing goes wrong, it makes one nervous, specially if there are other things in line which one cant afford to go wrong. And the knowledge of the 'Murphy's law' adds to it. One is already nervous - "Oh its happening ...now everything is going to be messed up". And so we mess up.

I guess we soon need to coin the Anti-Murphy's law, for those days when everything goes right.

ps:- I found my ID card in my purse at lunch.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Common problem

I have a fairly uncommon name and in fact an even more uncommon surname, therefore I never understood what troubles a person with a common name has to go through.This blog is an attempt to empathize with such a community.

I have this friend, lets call him 'Santa XYZ' - who has an extremely common combination of name and surname.At work, I pinged him once or twice with a 'hi' for some work, but he never responded. I was kinda foxed, and then in a bout of humour wrote "Santanaaa...tana nana... :D "[mimicking the very popular song from the bollywood movie 'Kaminey']. I still did not receive any response. After two or three such attempts, I was furious.

Next time I met him I gave him a piece of my mind.He immediately knew the problem and told me to add name2.surname for receiving a response from him.

Well,at office we can add contacts into Messenger by searching user id[the quicker way- the advanced search has more options]. The general trend of user ids is name.surname. However if they have duplicate names the system generates ids like name1.surname or name1.firstInitialOfSurname etc.I searched for the friend's name.surname and the application added it.

Santa also informed, that the name.surname id belongs to xyz who holds some very nice and scary sounding position in the company.


ps:- The name.surname person definitely has received worse messages.That's the only way I can explain my not losing my job.