Saturday, November 1, 2014

Life-One pixel at a time.

I am seated in my regular no frills office bus which will be taking me to my workplace when it dawned upon me that I was to write some stuff which will  strike the opening chords  of a new chapter that we hope will last for some time (unless people boo or throw tomatoes at us). So I took out my smart phone and started scribbling my random thoughts when all of a sudden an old friend called. Quite a rare thing these days, in the age where WhatsApp and Facebook are as synonymous as calls and text messages back in the days. But then, he still owns a candy bar phone sans all these luxuries and hence cares to give us a call once in a while. Old school, eh?

                      As I got off the call from him, a faint realization seeped into my mind that WhatsApp and other free messaging services have actually robbed us of the once-in-a while-phone call with your friends, excitement, the laughs and a few other things that define life. In an attempt to bring us closer, it has actually re-defined us as a gamut of “emoticons” by which we express ourselves. That shrill voice of excitement, the tears of joy, the laughing aloud crazy moments, a Eureka moment are all captured in an array of alphabets and curly braces.

                      And the bigger picture (oh the irony) here is that our life, now is, a transition from one screen to the other. So the seven stage of life are now replaced by 7 screens, ranging from the smartphone that the toddler sees to the ECG Monitor that decides your last breath .It is the screens which define our lives now- from morning till bedtime. Work, play, day to day activities, friendly banter ,communication with our closest ones ,movies, games and even the microwave or the induction cookware- quite literally every activity of our daily lives involve us staring at some screen or the other!

                   That is why a few cafes have started unhooking their Wi-Fi .They want to encourage people to savior the food with a smile and appreciate their service instead of taking pictures of it and uploading on Instagram. They want you to talk to people and enjoy their company and have a good time. Just like this one on the left! Cool, isn’t it?  
                   We are ALL guilty of walking around, looking at our phones, sitting at home watching a screen and missing every day opportunities and sights.  The more we connect with our smartphones, tablets and gadgets, the more isolated we are making ourselves, making conversations, dialogues and face-to-face interactions practically obsolete.

                   I would like to share this  video called 'look Up' by Gary Turk with as many people as possible. It got me thinking a lot and is actually the inspiration for this write up. These lines strike the finest chords-
“When you’re too busy looking down, you don’t see the chances you miss
So look up from your phones, shut down those displays
We have a finite existence, a set number of days
Don’t waste your life getting caught in the net
because when the end comes, nothing’s worse than regret”

Watch and listen:

Put down the phone, walk away from the screen. You don’t know the moments you’re missing right now. Open the door and set your foot outside. Live. Laugh. Love.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

One Tip One Hand.

Somehow, I have found back my long lost love for cricket and its rich illustrious history. Just a few days back, after a hectic day’s work,I  was rather bored. I googled ‘best cricketing sledging  incidents’ and  stumbled upon some rather amusing real life incidents  involving some of the very best players in the game-Fred Truman, W.G. Grace, Mervin Hughes, Sir Viv Richards, Steve Waugh and the likewise.  I was going through the Trevor Chappell under-arm incident) when it dawned upon me that under arm cricket has occupied a lion’s share in my cricketing career and it certainly had its moments. 

This particular format of the game has a charm of its own. It has a distinct earthiness (both literally and figuratively, as will be explained later!) and uniqueness around it which makes it very challenging even for seasoned veterans. For starters, the rules of the game are mostly self- made! Thus, the pedigree to which they vary depends on the guile of the players you are playing with, mostly. Add to that bits and pieces of ingenuity ( three misses and you’re out, no running between the wickets,  etc.) and you have an exhilarating game in anyone’s back/front  yard that you won’t feel like leaving unless its way past bath time and you hear that dreaded  ‘Dara, baba ashuk bolbo’ from your mom!

 Basically, it is short cricket with under arm bowling without any restrictions as regards the over limit. The thing that is to be noted is that the size of the boundary has to be really small. As with any short cricket game, the boundaries on all sides are traced out by the players’ sandals (shoe is considered too luxurious for this format of the game) or pieces of bricks or even in some cases, red lines chalked out by the bricks. The last option can be quite deceitful at times!

The best part about this game is that one rule that has made this game so beautiful- One tip, one hand. Basically it means that at any given point of a time a batsman can be given out and booed/sighed (depending on how important he is to the team) if the ball that he just hit takes one bounce of the ground and then, is in any of the fielder’s grasp before the ball crosses the boundary line. The point is, however, that the grasp should be a single handed one, without the support of any part of the body. And only one touch is allowed. Sounds simple?

 Apparently it seems simple enough but then owing to the lack of umpires, hotspot, DRS and what not,   most of the catches taken in this manner create quite a hue and fuss regarding the cleanliness/fairness of the catch and play is halted. As in almost everywhere in our country, the biggest problems are solved by our right to vote, it’s the same thing here that decides the batsman’s fate. Another aspect of this game is that the boundaries are hard to come by. I had faced some of the bowlers in my time that could spin the ball either way using the same grip. The clay surface did not help one bit and as a result of a combination of all these entities, it is very challenging to score.  Mostly the batsmen were prey to defensive shots as the fielders jumped hither and dither to grasp the ball with added enthusiasm.

 I have a penchant for this kind of cricket because as a batsman, it brought the best out of you. It taught you subtle techniques, like placement, wrist work, and the most important of them all- self-control.  The batsman is constantly encircled by fielders with the usual mutterings and sledging and it makes it all the more difficult to concentrate. Footwork is primary and so is temperament since the matches usually don’t have any over restrictions. As for the bowlers, they always have an upper hand in these types of games. One should know how to make a legit under arm delivery and the fielders will do the rest. Spin or no spin. No matter how bad the bowler is, all he needs to know is how to pitch in a full toss after four dot balls! That does the trick in most cases because it tempts the batsman to free his arms and in the manner, lose his wicket.   I would say, the game is a pretty balanced one and unlike the other formats, it’s the bowlers who have an upper hand on any kind of pitches which is again a rare thing in India.

These days however, the para cricket scene seems to have been revamped and I see kids/biggies playing short cricket with much vigour but haven’t seen under arm cricket in a while. I haven’t an idea if it is as popular elsewhere as it was in my native para. The thing is that once you start enjoying this particular format, you will be playing it for days, as it happened in our case. I miss those days and I am proud to have had a fair share of this beautiful game that not many will probably have experienced in their entire lifetime.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Another brick in the Wall.

Not so long ago, when ass meant donkey, rubber meant eraser and used to have more hits than the Facebook login page, there was this little me. A young teenager, he would look forward to spend a few eventful hours every week in the dingiest, shabbiest of 5 ft by 10 ft rooms in pursuit of learning, shall we say, good English. Accompanying him were a few other mortals, like him. But then, there was another one, not quite in the same league as theirs. Someone, who tried to educate them.  “Syar”, they used to call him.

The room was an architectural marvel in itself. Amidst a fine backdrop of greenery adorned by Partheniums, the interiors exuded no less beauty. The soot, cobwebs and dust had their say in almost everything that the cracking walls offered. Finally, the shattered window pane and the creaking 4ft by 10 ft door put the icing on the cake. Sir took great efforts/pains to revive their true colours once in a while, only for them to reclaim their glory a few days later. 

Finally, there were the usual suspects. Innumerable “bet er mora”s adorned the floor and  most of them, during my days there, were at the twilight of their lives. A big red chair was the envy of all except the one who sat on it (Sir). A table, with feeble knees, carried the weight of the world on its shoulders, finely balanced on its two sides thanks to Sir’s notes, files, Radient Readers, Question Papers, Webster’s, Shakespeare(s) and all that Sir English literature had to offer to students. Also in the supporting role were matchboxes, candles, festive greetings and all those things who found their love/destiny on it, courtesy one’s carelessness/forgetfulness. The table had an Uncle Podger feel to it.

Every day, the classes would begin amidst much hullaballoo. No sooner than Sir’s dirty yellow scooter/green Maruti 800 was visible at some distance, we would flock near the door so as to get that hotseat which we desired. (The context of this hotseat would vary from person to person).The moment Sir unlocked the door, each one of us would try to barge in, and in the process, get/receive a few knocks depending on the stars. A dying concrete soul would be brimming with humanity. The class would commence.

The room would be buzzing with activity- On some days, Wren&Martin, O.Henry, R.L Stevenson, Wordsworth would come to life with their majestic works. Whether it was “Home they brought the warrior dead” or Treasure Island or Alice’s/Lucy’s/Daffodils’ exploits, the treatment of the subject was of the highest class. Sir’s narration and the enactment would keep us spellbound as we visualized those scenes for the umpteenth time. On others we would be busy scratching our heads to convey the eternal water clogging problem to the Head of the Municipality. Or scribble down the notes which mostly contained the chartbusters of the question papers.

A word about the collection of notes Sir had. Came in myriad colours (brown, violet, green mostly). Most of them seemed to have survived a world war. Especially, a few of them which were hardest to decipher and at times reminded us of the carvings at Mohenjo-Daro. Nonetheless, they were priceless in their content and though they lacked the oomph factor, decoding and later encoding them successfully during the examinations paid rich dividends! Won’t be surprised if I see one of those featuring as an ancient relic in the next Lara Croft adventure.

And amidst all this, there would be pranks, laughter and fun. A few innocuous glances would be exchanged and some whispering /murmuring would prevail to notify those glances. A few wry smiles would be shared at the cost of one’s sense of fashion/lack of knowledge. The current state of the Indian cricket team (which wasn’t Team India back then) provided the juiciest of gossips. And then, at times, Sir would gorge on some rather delicious (by the looks of it) homemade food on the pretext of having been starving the whole day. At others, we would be treated with tit bits owing to Sir’s birthday celebrations.

Events of power failures were accompanied by loud cheers. Sir would promptly light the candles and would place them on four corners of the table and the class would continue. We would be joined by the evergreen mosquitoes that were having the time of their lives, literally. In most cases, upon our requests, Sir would narrate a joke/real life incident that would soon turn into an impromptu adda session, the climax of which would be intervened by the arrival of power. How I miss those days!

In the present day, that dingy room doesn’t exist anymore. Its rejuvenated version provides shelter to mankind. However, it will always be in my cherished memoirs for all the good times I had. The jokes. The leg pulling incidents.The addas.The essays. For the innumerable times I was excited to tell others that Sir actually scored 100 runs off 1 ball.Those who have heard the story from the great man himself,will probably know about this achievement of Sir's.

As for the rest,never mind. :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A slice of innocence

The paan wallas in Kolkata seem to be in a league of their own.  From toothbrushes to soaps, fancy combs to hair removal creams, early morning digestives to late night condoms, you name it-they have it! Just the other day, I was  pretty amused by this little kiddo  whom I happened to come across at the neighbourhood ‘paan’ shop. This   guy got himself a bubble gum, made a ‘don’t mess with me’ kind of a face and then demanded the tattoo that came with it from the shop keeper. Like a whiff of fresh air,  a few memoirs of the best part of  my life-my childhood resurfaced into my minds once again.

          Those were the times indeed. Some 15 years ago. The HFC TYPE 4 quarters township brimmed with the existence of life. And cricket too. We had two quite big fields in our township and one of them was rather grainy! Nonetheless, cricket prevailed all over the place.
 My MRF bat(a replica) which my mesho gifted me  infused some royal blood in me. Possessing it was an honour. Every day ,dot at four, I hopped from  my house to Sunny’s, had a blast with carton network(courtesy swat kats), went to our favorite hunting ground, assembled all other protégés(most of whom loved to sleep) and the game began. From swashbuckling cover drives to outrageous appeals, brilliant yorkers to blatant hit-wickets,you name it-we got it. Most of them would end with cliffhangers and occasionally many an act of ‘chottamo/choramo’ would creep in.

          However, the levels of commitment we exhibited in that small garden were truely one of its kind. It did not really matter to us how scorching the Sun was in the midst of may when we went out to play.Or the mornings at 11 when 1-t-1-hand short cricket found itself busy in Biswas Kaku’s garden. The games were punched with heroics that were second to none. Bhanjan da taking a stunning catch which resulting in a bruised hand. Me diving on the ground and making my shirt feel the heat of the game. Sunny bowling a mind blowing delivery to knock out  a stump(and eventually it was Banik store to blame for their poor quality of stumps. Some even commented that we should demand compensation from the shop!).Rajdeep da hitting the ball rather well only to result in the ball getting lost in Mazumdar Kakima’s rather unclean garden and getting himself cursed  by his own brother, in the process,and what not. Countless tennis balls saw their doomsday underneath the natural vegetation or the sewage pipes. Countless window panes died prematurely.Nevertheless,Cricket was our religion and the Gods varied according to their form!
 At 12 noon,I remember, we would cool our heels under the neem tree that provided a shade. And the evergreen “ice cream” walla would pass by, and being men, we paid no heeds to our  mothers’ eternal wishes (read:frantic screams) not to have a 1rs worth pepcee! Must admit though that the adulteration, in those days was a bit less and as for the quality of water-I have no clue. But the Rs 5 invariants were made of “milk” –so they said.Who cared,really?!

We loved to watch cricket too.I was a keen follower of the game.And Doordarshan never did justice to it it sufficient amounts!Cable T.V wasn’t quite a necessity commodity, back then. Those who possessed it, were really envied at by us, the unlucky ones who had to find some place or the other to watch Azhar’s antics with the bat or Jadeja’s pyrotechniques.What made it more special was the fact that Cricket wasn’t being played round the year,and the Team India that exists now was just India then.More matches were lost than won.As a result of which, any win(even if against Kenya) was welcomed with joyous celebrations,endless discussions and  spectacular conclusions about which Big Fun superstar should we buy next.

Big Fun. Perhaps the shittiest gum I have ever had in my life.It had this blatant taste which did no make any sense, really given its steep price. Yet,I spent a fortune over it.I was a huge fan of big fun bubble gum.They gave cool cricketer’s cards, one with each gum you buy.After every new series,like say the Titan Cup,a new series of cards were introduced and there you go. Many of my friends competed with me and at one point of time, EVERY single penny gifted to me/taken from baba’s  trousers  was invested in Big Fun! So much so,I would bargain with the shopkeeper to give me Re 1’s worth cricketer cards and not the bubble gum! How I miss those days. How I miss my innocence.

Today, its all so different. The H.F.C township has crumbled into ruins because the factory ceased to exist in 2002.Most of the quarters have become manifestations of crumbling structures interlaced with natural greenery. Tugs at the innermost chords of my heart whenever I visualize what was and what’s left of it. The fields have been baptized into green pastures. Cricket has breathed its last.Not for a long time,shall we hear the frenzy sounds of ‘ice cereeeam’ ,’pep ceeeee’ at noon. Or the sight of a few guys pondering over what should be done after a glass window has been shattered and curses are being showered with. Or the dejected faces after a new ball had made its way into a snake’s pit. Cricket has breathed its last in this part of world. All that’s left of it are these golden memories which will be passed on from one generation to the other. Or so I hope.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

That thing called love

“If you have it [love], you don't need to have anything else. If you don't have it, it doesn't matter much what else you have.” -Sir James M. Barrie

That thing called love. Time and again, I have been captivated by its beauty, attracted by its serenity, blinded by its romanticism ,got many an arrow from Cupid  and   miraculously, each time, the outcome has been the same. Another corner of the heart band-aided, another day spent listening to the sounds of Grunge/Metal (read: Kurt Cobain, Breaking Benjamin), another set of comforting words/ideas/philosophies eventually leading to the foregone conclusion- Love is a luxury not many can afford.

 Tonight however, I want to surrender myself to my emotions .I want to justify my feelings for a someone with the sole purpose of extinguishing a few beautiful cherished memoirs which perhaps  had ‘love’  written  all over them. I want to revisit those bygone lanes, recollect the sweet nectar of nostalgia   one last time and thereafter, this doc file remains the testimony to their sole existence.

I loved being with you. Your absence never   meant a thing to me because I knew that no matter how far you are, you are always very close to me-in my heart. No wonder why it felt so heavy when, at times, you forgot to remind me of your presence in my life by not replying to the silliest of sms es. It did not matter if you had replied to the previous seven. Your presence always meant a world to me-because that would ensure a few scratches with the pen on your hand followed by squeals, whines and counter attacks, tic-tac-toe games in the Distributed OS class, lots of innocuous gossips/whispers and the best of all- your million dollar smile. I have always wanted to tell you that you look so beautiful when you smile. One could die to see a smiling you-so did I.

I loved to see you smile. Even if that meant going over the top and making a fool out of myself. Or going to Park Street and experiencing the worst egg-chow in the world! Or walking with you by the footpath-adorned-with-brasserie stalls near esplanade! Or seating beside you on the stairs that lead to the Shyambajar Metro. Time, Place, never meant anything. As long as I could keep you smiling, I had no regrets. That reminds me. I had the privilege of watching you laughing your guts away at Alibaba, Baghbajar. And in the process, a few tears came into your eyes too. Bizarre scene, that! Another reason to justify my nickname “dispute” for you. You always went red in the face hearing that. And how I enjoyed it. Wow! Here comes a tear. That’s amazing. Its been a long time.
I loved to  play pranks on you. Whether it was teasing the hell out of your white bag, finding yet another reason to justify why people form Siliguri are nerds, making incessant marks on your notebook, sprinkling water droplets on you while standing under a carpenter’s shop in Sealdah amidst some heavy showers (the poor shopkeeper got pissed off because we were, according to him, dampening his furniture), or making a mimicry of you in the class, or explaining the “disputes” of your digestive system. You being such a sport, it was such a pleasure to play all sorts of pranks on you. And the fact that you re-iterated each time, made my heart flutter around with pleasure. A pleasure I could have done for, all my life. There goes another tear.

I loved to look at your face. Two twinkling eyes that exude an unearthly combination of mischief and calmness, a rather humpty-dumpty-ish nose, two genie like ears and the infectious smile. Oh and the tils had their say too in the making! I remember the expressions they portrayed in my company—in the citizen’s park while watching the visually stunning dancing fountains show(that day how I wished  to hold your hands and  rest your  head on my shoulders. I couldn’t) , at College Street when some stranger stepped on your new footwear(ha ha!), at Chetla Park while sitting and giving adda on the day we went to hunt a new pg for you and at Esplanade when we got separated by a fucking mob caused by a fucking michhil, God, that day I  really thought I might lose you. It was amateurish of me to take that route knowing that a micchil is going on. My callousness could have resulted in something for which I could have never forgiven myself. Those eight minutes I spent trying to spot you in the crowd and continuously praying to God, till this day gives me Goosebumps.

You always saw a good friend in me. I guess I betrayed your friendship. I wanted you for the rest of my life. I never wanted to lose you. That’s so selfish of me, isn't it? All the sms es that I sent to you every night sharp at 11pm inquiring whether you have had your dinner or not were to remind you that there is someone to take care of you. I wanted to see to it that you do not think about your mom and shed a few tears for missing her. Your mom wouldn’t have been happy hearing that, would she ?

 Care. is that supposed  to be another synonym of love? Who knows? I just wished to see you smiling. Perhaps you missed out the fact that beyond the salt and pepper hair and the not –so-good-looking –looks, the jokes and the pranks, the sms es and the addas, there exists a heart which cared for you. Actually, there were so many people in Kolkata to care for you. And I felt that  I was the only one taking all the troubles in this world to see you smile. That’s pretty stupid, na? It’s ok. But I miss you yaar. I miss skipping a few dadu’s cutlets/byomkesh er mishti doi’s  in order to recharge my sms card every 3days.Worst of all,I miss your smile. Whoever you are with, may he keep you very happy and ever-smiling for your entire lifetime. I am sure he will. Even happier than me. Thanks for giving me all these wonderful memories which I have hereby dumped in this doc. Have a great life.My career is indebted to you. Adios.