Sunday, December 11, 2005


It’s begun raining again. For the fourth time in less than two months a cyclone is going to hit Chennai. It’s not the rain which worries me. I actually love rain. It’s the effect it has on our wonderful campus that I lose sleep over. My dear hostel Mandakini has already been flooded thrice this season. And I am sure a fourth one is in the offing. But as far as I am concerned this flooding and all the water are but minor problems. What I am worried about is something totally different. It’s the Frogs.

Let it rain even for half an hour and it seems the planet has been taken over by a legion of the Ranidae family. The numbers are just overwhelming. It appears as if someone had just emptied a mammoth container of small frogs over IITM and sat back to watch how the people deal with it. Suddenly they are just everywhere. A couple under the bed, a few behind the table, a motley crowd in the bathroom and virtually a whole community on the corridors. In diverse colors, sundry sizes and distinctive croaks. They make life awful especially for people who don’t consider frogs to be a tender and affectionate specie. I personally have had some very bitter encounters with them. Come to think of it, my adventures with the animal kind in the campus have been anything but ordinary. Most cases, actually perhaps all cases resulted in me being the vanquished.

Take the frogs for example. The other day I was taking my bath in the evening after the usual hour long basketball session. It had rained heavily over the weekend and as usual the frogs were ruling the roost. Now it happens that I always check every nook and cranny of the bathroom every time I enter it. I hate nasty surprises in the middle of a bath which I believe every person has a right to enjoy. But that day, tired from all that ball playing I just forgot and got under the shower. As I poured the shampoo over my head and began thinking how I could have got that one point and hence won the last game of the day I felt something slimy hit my leg. First I thought I had spilled some shampoo. But it happened again. And then again. The soap on my face prevented me from actually seeing what the matter was. I grabbed the towel, wiped my eyes and looked below.

A huge grotesque frog was jumping about and was inadvertently banging into my leg occasionally. The gross sight totally unnerved me. It was not one of those little ones which one had to carefully avoid squishing while on the way to the bogs. It was of whopping dimensions and seemed in a jolly good mood. The immediate reaction was to rush out. But I stopped myself in time. The fact that a guy sprinted out of the bath naked with soap all over because of a bounding frog are stuff hostel night roasts are made of. Nothing would allow me to bring such an embarrassment on myself. So I decided to face it like a man. I closed my eyes and begun to think what would be an honorable way out. Endure it. A small voice in the head said. And so I did. With my eyes closed I pretended that nothing was happening. Getting over with the bath as quickly as possible I made a quiet but dignified exit. But those moments with the slimy creature will remain in memory for quite some time.

The first few months in the campus were the toughest. I had to come to terms with the fact that the creatures down the food chain ought to get a little more respect. Within the first few days I realized that someone else was the boss around here. The Vanar Sena was the first to strike. It took me very little time to realize that years of human non-interference had resulted in them becoming totally fearless. If you charge at a monkey with a broom the chances are that he would charge back with something worse. I actually think they enjoying toying with us. After every transgression they sit there with a look as if challenging us to retaliate. I have suffered many losses thanks to their existence. I remember the first time such a thing happened. It was my first week and I had put out some clothes to dry. Among them there was brand new vest which I had worn just once.

I was in the room glancing through the day’s paper when the sudden chatter outside forced me to come outside to see what’s wrong. A flabbergasting scene greeted me. There on the branch of a tree sat two monkeys and one of them had put on my brand new washed vest. And they were grinning. Yes. They were actually laughing at me. And then in front of my own eyes they bounded from one branch to another and disappeared. That was not the only apparel I lost to the primates. My lab-coat, two shorts and a t-shirt soon followed. This stopped only when I decided that perhaps drying the clothes in the room would be a better option. Inconvenient surely but definitely a more viable option from the economic point of view.

The assault of the apes never stopped. Once I had got a brand new pack of glucose and hid it behind the books. The purpose was to keep it out of reach of my over zealous friends. But who knew that glucose was popular even in monkey land? My window happened to be very secure with a strong iron grill preventing any infiltration. The primates used supreme cunning which would have made even al Qaeda proud. As the grills were too close to prevent any grown-up to squeeze through, they sent a baby one to carry out the covert operation. It seemed that I had been under close surveillance and they knew what had been hidden where. Though I wasn’t a witness to the actual crime, the detective in me worked out their modus operandi. The villain had come in through a very narrow gap, headed straight for the shelf, grabbed the glucose pack and made a neat exit. Now just visualize the craftiness. Nothing else in the room bothered it. It came with a singular agenda and executed it to perfection. And now that they have a packet of strong glucose to supplement their creative exploits, the mind boggled to even envisage the consequences. The whole wing had to put up with their atrocities the whole year. They would come down in hordes like the Huns and leave a trail of destruction. Sometimes they looted just for fun and after the assault the corridors lay strewn with the spoils of war.

All these incidents made me feel perhaps my presence wasn’t liked by the animal folk. For even the otherwise docile deer, didn’t spare me. One evening I was taking the diagonal shortcut through the woods in from of the hostel office. As luck would have it a group of deer was grazing. In the shadows I missed them completely and rammed in to one of them at full speed. The sudden bump gave me the shock of my life. As my cycle slithered away I flew and fell on a pile of deer dung which proved that these days God is really very quick with his judgments. Another bout of embarrassments followed but the retribution wasn’t over. Next week, at around twelve in the night I was returning from Quark on my cycle. I was happy as I always am after a good meal, and cycling with a very carefree attitude. Who knew that my physical skills were about to undergo its toughest ever trial. All of a sudden a rustling sound attracted my attention. The rustle soon gave way to a thud of hooves and out of the blue a humongous deer with just one massive antler appeared. It was sprinting at a great tempo and was headed straight at me. I understood that to deliberate much on the matter would ensure a ghastly end. There was a time to think and there was time to run. And then it was time to run. Scurry. Scamper. Anything to save the poor intestines from being intertwined in those vicious antlers. Actually I had to cycle. Not run. And did I cycle like hell! I was chased all the way to the hostel main road and then it disappeared as abruptly as it had appeared. It appeared that scaring the lights out of me was its only aim.

No account of my animal misadventures would be complete without the mention of the curious incident of the fornicating squirrels. We were nearing the end of the first semester when one evening my room-mate opened his long idle drawer. And in it materialized a huge ball of cotton. This inexplicable discovery was soon followed by a more startling one. Strange squeaking sounds were emanating from the ball and as normally cotton balls do not make strange squeaking sounds, we decided to investigate. It surfaced that the ball happened to be a nest of some squirrel and in it were two baby squirrel-lets or whatever one calls them. Some over enthusiastic chap thought that the drawer would be a good place to find a new dynasty. Well, if you ever land up with a pair of baby squirrels you will know that it is a wretched situation. It always happens that some horrendous animal lover will land up and try to convince you that it is one duty to look after these gifts of god. Gifts of god! My foot. try being stern and then you end up getting portrayed as a stone-hearted fiend. A tricky state of affairs without doubt. Anyway, it was soon luckily discovered that Mr. I-want-a-large-family Squirrel had carried out its amorous exploits in other rooms too. Hence the moral policemen themselves tasted the bitter medicine and kept quiet about the whole issue. I went and kept it on a window sill. The next day it had vanished. We can only hope that it was safe with the busy mother who surely must have been cursing herself for not taking the concept of family planning more seriously.

Well, I don’t know how many more such escapades I will have to live through. Lord give me the patience and the will to face it all in a restrained manner. Amen.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Ezekiel 25:17. The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you

This semester has been a great one. No, I am not talking about my grades. I refer to the wonderful thing called cinema. Among all of them the two which stood out the most were Schindler’s List and Hotel Rwanda. Both very similar stories, in similar settings with the same message. Both stories of a single individual. Story of one man’s sanity versus the madness of the rest. But there is one thing which is different. A factor which brings out a very appalling and unsettling truth. A truth which should put all those people who claim to be civilized and developed to shame.

Oscar Schindler was a businessman to the boot, his interests always lay in making money. Political conditions in Europe and especially in Germany made him realize that humoring the Nazis was the only way he could conduct his affairs in a peaceful manner. Hence he joined the Nazi party, but never joined issues with them. He bribed the top leaders and befriended the top generals but just for economic profit. The Nazis came in to believing that he was one of their own and gave him all the licenses and permissions he wanted. Oscar ended up setting up a factory producing armaments for the German army. And here is where his story takes a turn.

The “final solution” for the Jews of Europe was being executed with a spine-chilling efficiency. In the most organized form of ethnic cleansing the world had ever seen, the Nazis rounded up all the Jews in Germany and the occupied territories of Poland Austria and the likes. After usurping all their property most of them were herded together in concentration camps where the fit were made to do manual labor and the rest were killed. These events have been very well documented. We need not get into the details. Schindler showed the world how human compassion and will power can overcome any obstacle however impossible it may seem. He could not watch the Jews being butchered before his own eyes. He used all his resources and ensured that the maximum number of Jews possible worked in his facility. Using incredible guile and taking unfathomable personal risks he managed to save over three thousand Jews. In the movie, Liam Neeson who played Schindler weeps in the end and says how he could have saved more lives if only he had tried harder. It was a touching scene about a man who realizes what the value of human life actually is and how it takes little on behalf of some people to make a huge difference in the lives of others. The movie is no doubt a brilliant one. It has brought the sense of helplessness prevalent among the Jews. The nonchalant and clinical manner in which Amon Goethe killed his prisoners showed how man can sink to the lowest limits of depravity. War brings out the worst in men but sometimes also the best. Though Schindler’s future business were never very successful and his no hold barred payments to keep the service of Jews made him incur huge losses, he didn’t stop for a moment to reflect whether he happened to gain from anything. This is without doubt the best form of humanism.

Now let’s come to Paul Rusesabagina. Paul, a Hutu, the ruling tribe in Rwanda in 1994, worked in a Belgian hotel in Kigali, as its house manager. A complete European in style and attire he had begun to believe that he was one of them. Expensive liquor and Havana cigars enabled him to be to be in the good books of the local generals and militia leaders. His wife Tatiana happened to be a Tutsi though. Political instability resulted in a sudden surge in mass killings. It seemed Rwanda had lost her mind. Tutsis were dragged out and butchered by the thousands. Paul knew that whatever happened the United Nations would eventually bring things under control. And of course his European friends would surely not desert him. But alas, his naivety never made him realize that the white west had very little concern for what was happening in a small central African nation. By the time he realized that all his beliefs and trust was nothing but a cruel joke, his world began crashing like a pack of cards. But he didn’t run. He didn’t try to hide. He didn’t try and escape leaving his people and family behind. He becomes conscious of the fact that the hotel was the safest place in Kigali. He convinced the U.N commander to keep at least four guards at the gate. And his hotel ended up housing more than a thousand Tutsi and Hutu refugees.

A story very similar to that of Schindler. So what’s the difference? The Jewish holocaust is regarded as the worst ever case of human genocide in modern history. The Second World War is heralded in history books as a classic case of the victory of good over evil. The world awoke to the atrocities of the Nazis and joined forces to defeat it. So far so good. But the million dollar question is where did this solidarity and concern go in wake of the Rwandan crises. So is this often trumpeted stance of the western countries of zero tolerance for gross human genocide nothing but petty propaganda. Are the clauses for foreign intervention only to be followed exclusively for a few countries which incidentally also may happen to possess some oil fields waiting to be harnessed? The holocaust is still remembered widely and every year the Jews remind themselves of what their fathers had to go through. How come there is no remembrance for the million killed in Rwanda just eleven years ago? Why such a step-motherly treatment? Even this would be an over-statement. The greatest tragedy is that it was not one or two of the most powerful nations which neglected their responsibility. The whole world seemed to have turned its head away. Then is it true that Africans are considered sub-human. Not worth our help or money. Are they dirt? Worthless? The scary thing is that yesterday it was Rwanda. Tomorrow it might be some other country. The fact that barring a few international non-government organizations everyone deserted the Rwandans is difficult to grasp. Has the world been totally drained of all compassion and sympathy? Is it just greed and self-interests which drive world policies today? And what about the holier than thou world press which doesn’t leave a stone unturned to showcase selective cases of human rights abuse as instructed by their masters behind the curtain. Did Rwanda ever happen for them?

The world needs to realize that this type of discriminatory form of support will give rise to devils which will grow so colossal one day that it shall incinerate the whole world. The powers that be take Africa to be the great playing field. On one hand they supply arms to the various rebel and government armies and fuel long and bitter hostilities and on the other hand feign to be working towards a peaceful settlement. Osama bin laden was trained by the CIA. How many more Ladens do they intend to create? How many Africans need to die to make them realize their duty? The west must realize that for the future of the human race to be secure they cannot afford to leave anyone out from the road to prosperity. The mistakes they commit now will come back to haunt them in the future and they will so over-whelming that not even the biggest of weapons or money can save them. They need to take in Africa and all those countries ruined by strife and self-serving dictators under their wings. As Paul Rusesabagina said,” there’s always room

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Unknown Citizen
by: W. H. Auden

(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in a hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

robert frost.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Sunday, November 06, 2005



WHEN I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present 5
My true account, lest He returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best 10
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Saturday, November 05, 2005


I shall recount a curious incident, which took place in my first fortnight in I.I.T.
First the necessary background. I am an alumni of D.P.S. RKpuram, a place with various claims to fame, some dubious ones at that. In my class, there was a girl. I would rather not name her, keeping in view her social standing in the institute. So lets call her A. i must mention that any resemblance of name to any person living or dead might be coincidental. Anyway lets not digress. She was a quiet sort of girl, always immersed in books and it was not often that we interacted. But still, I was her classmate.

As expected she cleared JEE at one go and landed in Chennai with an impressive branch. In the meantime I slogged for another year and barely managed it the second time. So I landed here, after a nerve-wracking year, 3000 km from my home, hopelessly looking for some help in the vast place that is IITM. Friends from Delhi had asked me to send their regard to their mates in IITM namely A and a certain Varun. Seeing the mammoth size of the place I gave up the idea of delivering regards. After all no freshie with his grey matter in the right place would go inquiring about the hostels looking for lost pals.

So there I was trying to adjust to the hectic schedule, almost forgetting that I had to meet a few people here. One of these days, it was a Wednesday morning if I remember correctly, I was walking down one of the CRC corridors when I saw A coming from the opposite direction. I did not recognize her at once. She had done away with her glasses and done something shocking to her hair. Nevertheless the change finally registered in my mind and before she passed by me, I exclaimed, ”hey A!” She looked up quizzically. My initial plans for the conversation was to go along traditional lines. Something like” hi A! How’s life?” Etc etc etc.

And similarly her reply perhaps would have been “hi, how r u? Which branch?” etc etc etc.But her incredulous stare somewhat unnerved me. I could not understand what should be the next suitable sentence. Finally I gave up and hoped she would take the initiative in furthering the conversation. She did not. After what seemed two minutes not much headway had been made. We just kept staring at each other. These are those moments in life when you fast run out of options and have no inkling what the next course of action should be. A’s quizzical look had slowly begun to give way to an irritated frown. Well, can’t blame her. No self-respecting girl can afford to look at a stranger in a crowded corridor for two minutes without any substantial reason. By this time the search engine in my head had come out with a perfect explanation for the apparently inexplicable situation. Viola! She hadn’t recognized me. At last I uttered the golden words,
“I am Sayan.”
No reply.
“Sayan Ganguly.”
No reply.
“Sayan Ganguly, DPS RKpuram, section E, third row first bench”, with a desperate coaxing voice.
A’s expression changed for the third time. An expression of relief mixed with slight guilt. I am not sure about the guilt part, I might have imagined it.
She said,”ah! Yes. Sayan. Yes. Sayan Ganguly. Yes. Good. So you are in IIT. “

I wanted to reply that no I wasn’t. I was actually on Saturn and she was just viewing my apparition, starwars ishtyle. But I decided to control my sarcastic instincts for the moment.
Her monosyllabic replies were not making the conversation more exciting and I had begun to feel that perhaps talking to her was not among the better ideas I had that day. Suddenly she broke into a laugh and said, “Hey, I hope you don’t mind that I did not remember you. You were in my class, weren’t you?”

That did it.

I muttered with clenched teeth,
“No, not at all. Why should I mind? Anybody could make such a mistake. No problemo”.
Hence making the biggest understatements of my life, I decided that the time at come to draw the curtains on the wonderful rendezvous. I looked at my watched and gave a loud exclaimation , ”yikes, I am late for my class, gotta go. sorry. Will catch up later.”

And hence the meeting ended on a friendly note.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Point To Ponder Over.........

"I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem their native self culture and they will become what we want, a truly dominated nation". - Lord McCauley (in his speech of Feb2, 1835, British parliament)

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Sevoke. Will I ever be able to actually grasp the aura of the place? The place beckons me again. And the beckoning brings back all those wonderful memories I have of that place.

The forests.
The river.
The mountains.

The road.
The bridge.
The army trucks.

The tea.
The plate of steaming momos.
The bhutta.

The chatter of friends.
The speeding car.

The sense of solitude and company together.

And me....

Everyone has a place, where when they visit, experience something which inspires them and gives them a sense of peace with oneself. Growing up in a place like Siliguri enables one to view Mother Nature in her full splendor. Whether it is the mighty Himalayas or the enchanting Terai forests or even the fickle rivers, it’s a place which entices the human mind and body. Every time you go, you discover something new. Something more beautiful. For the umpteenth time your convinced that this will be the most beautiful thing you will ever see, only to be proved wrong on your next visit.

Sevoke will always hold a special place in my heart. It might not be the most beautiful place I have been to, but it has some strange stranglehold over my senses. When I am there it seems my life has come to a still. I never want the moment to end. It seems as eternity has set in and nothing can go wrong now…

The drive to Sevoke takes about thirty to forty minutes depending on how fast one drives. Negotiating with the impossible traffic of Siliguri is a challenge I always enjoy. The traffic in the city, like in most Indian cities has absolutely no regard for rules. Yet there is an amazing sense of order in the chaos. As soon as we begin to leave the city limits, one begins to notice the drastic changes in the immediate environment. Houses made of wood on high stilts. Traditional Nepali attire replacing the otherwise predominantly Bengali clothes one sees in Siliguri. More Buddhists monasteries than Hindu temples. This sudden change within a few kilometers make one seem as if he has crossed over in to some other country. But it’s just the suburbs of Siliguri, filled mainly by Tibetan refugees, Nepali laborers and Bhutia immigrants. The nature of siliguri and its surrounding areas is truly very cosmopolitan. Inspite of being the second largest city of Bengal, the city is not predominantly Bengali. Nepalis, Marwaris and Bengalis are the main communities with healthy percentages of Sikhs, Sikkimese and Bihari. All these diverse cultures give the place a unique feel.

As soon as we are out of the city, the omnipresent army camp comes. Siliguri, thanks to its strategic location is surrounded by army camps. It is impossible to leave the city without going through any one of these camps. By the time one weaves through the camps, he will realize that the redoubtable Terai forest has engulfed the area.

The Terai truly is a standing proof of the axiom that the most dangerous things in the world are also among the most beautiful. Driving along the empty road with towering Sal trees on your either side, dense foliage hiding the secrets of the jungle is an experience one has to go through to realize the sense of thrill. On most of my visits I stop the car at one side and listen to the sounds emanating. The pregnant silence interspaced with the clamor of the cicadas. A silence so full of imminent possibilities that you feel like waiting there for ever for something to happen. After a spending a few moments I embark again toward sevoke.

The drive through the forest is a long one. Surprisingly, the road here is always in an excellent condition irrespective of the time of the year. So it makes the drive all the more enthralling. Just when you begin to think that the forest will never end, there emerges a sudden downward slope, the forests clear away as if magically, the Himalayas till then hidden behind the high trees emerge from nowhere and before you lies the most enchanted river you will ever see- the Tista. The sight springs up so suddenly that for the first few minutes a first-time visitor will be struck dumb. Even for a regular visitor it’s not something unattractive. This was the place which we call Sevoke.

Sevoke is placed in an amazing setting. It’s the point where the Himalayas end and the tista makes her first foray into the great plains of north Bengal. There is a railway line running right along the mountain edge and an exquisite steel girder bridge running over the river and connecting the Terai to the Dooars region. A little behind the railway bridge, someway off is the road bridge, also popularly called the coronation bridge. It was considered an architectural wonder when it was first built in 1930 because of the single arch holding the bridge together.

Now something about the great Tista. The Tista is undoubtedly the biggest and most fearsome river in north Bengal. Having its origins in the formidable glaciers on the Sikkim-China border, it winds its way through narrow gorges and valleys in Sikkim before emerging in the plains at sevoke. From their on its gathers in size and goes on to Bangladesh to join the brahamputra.

to be continued.......

Sunday, October 02, 2005


The recent nationwide strike brought out for the umpteenth time how irresponsible, short sighted, and hypocritical the left can be. All public institutions ranging from school to banks to factories suffered a complete shutdown. Public life came to a standstill in west Bengal and kerela. This is not something new we are witnessing. The left has perfected this biannual ritual of bringing the nation to its knees. As usual it is a vehement “protest” against the anti-people policies of the government. Which policies? It does not matter. It also does not matter if the government at the center lives of their support. Whether it’s a nda government or of the upa, our leftist friends will always find a reason to protest.

Ask the leftist protester on the roads of Calcutta what is he so upset about. He might mumble something about vagaries of privatization and a misguided foreign policy. Ask him to be more explanatory or challenge him to a debate, he will call you a stooge of western forces or even non-secular as the current fashion suggests. For a normal observer, the views and decisions of the left might lead him to believe that they are caught in time wrap. They still think that the cold war is on and soviet brand socialism is the right way to go. Deeper analysis might show something else. Are they really out of touch with reality or are they using ideology to hold the government to ransom.

The actions of their state governments in west Bengal and kerala are a better indicator of how the left follow double standards on most issues. Kerela has the only privatized airport in the country. But that does not stop brinda karat from explaining to airport workers how privatization of airports will be disastrous for their welfare. Of course such an action will affect the current work style of the people. It will force them to be more efficient and more accountable. It will also stop them from holding up critical services at the whim of some union leader. The biggest change will be that it will make the left sponsored militant Trade unionism redundant. Striving for efficiency and excellence is something which directly harms the long term plans of the left. When workers discover that it is hard work, efficient management and a competitive spirit which will enable them to return home with a higher pay, they will realize how they have been made a fool of by those union leaders. The current attitude is all about, I-will-not-work-hard. This is the result of the years of domination of workers unions by the left. They have never wanted the people to be rich, for then they lose their support base. Deng had famously realized,” to get rich is glorious”. Our Indian communists on the other hand followed a totally different ideology.

Poverty is your right and you shall have it. That’s what has been there mantra all this long.

All these long years after independence, the communists have never been as strong politically as they are currently. They have been used to protesting without the government lending any ear to their pleas. But now the situation has totally changed. They have discovered that they can make this government do anything they wished. This inadvertently has brought out the worst in them.

First of all, true to their form they did not join the government. It was the worst case of shirking responsibility. It is also a blatant insult to the mandate they have received. It was nothing new. The left have had various opportunities in the past the to join the government. But they have always refused. That is because that would actually make them accountable to the public and bring to the fore their hypocrisy. It would also rob them the freedom to protest and strike for then they would be protesting against their own policies.

The left with their new found freedom has begun meddling with the national foreign policy. The fact that national interests come before any ideology hasn’t occurred to them. Lets consider the recent imbroglio regarding iran. Funnily, its sitaram yechury who is more upset than the Iranians themselves about india’a vote in IAEA. he has no idea about the dynamics of the world gas market and hence will holler about how decisions such as these compromise the nations energy security. they say that iran has a right to enrich uranium being a sovereign nation, but on the other hand it has been steadfastly opposing our own national nuclear policy, calling it a scource of regional destabilisation. how hypocritical can anyone get?

buddhadev bhatacharya is the flavor of the season. he is the poster-boy of communist reform in india. here there is no deceit. he is an honest man to the core who has shaken off the dogma ridden views of his party and has accepted the ground realities as far as economic and industrial policies are concerned. our hardcore leftist may turn up their nose at the sight of seing buddha wooing mncs but in doing so he is not acting very differently from his chinese comrades. china had realized two decades back that liberisation is the only way to prosperity. the chinese are nationalist first and then communists. in india it has always been the other way around. hopefully with the rise of leaders like buddhadev, it will herald a new dawn for indian communism.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


yesterday as I glanced through the newspaper, sipping my coffee, the door-bell rang.

To my immense surprise, it turned out to be my old pals from school. Ravi, Sri, Manu and I were very close friends. Ours was a residential school, and we really had a great time. We were infamous as the most rowdy bunch of students who pulled off some amazing stunts almost every week. It was not surprising that there was seldom a month when we did not get detention in our inimitable principle Mr Darkin’s office. So their visit brought back all those lovely memories. We chatted for a long time and soon the topic of our most daring escapade in school came up. Ravi asked me whether I remembered it all and why didn’t I write it down. It would make a lovely story. So here goes

We were in the tenth standard then. The tough taskmaster Mr. darkins was still the principal. It was a Saturday. And it all began with a pig. We had gone to check out the new girl in school in the girl’s hostel .But as fate would have it,instead of seeing any girl, we inadvertently came across the matron Mrs. Lama.

Mrs. Lama hated boys like us and threatened to let loose her pet pig on us if we were to be seen again. Rumour had it that her pig had strong carnivorous instincts and hence we bade a hasty retreat.

After dinner we gathered in our room for our traditional Saturday night dialogue. Even a nonchalant observer of our lives would surely agree that these dialogues normally culminated into something so fanatical a venture that its repercussions would leave us busy for the rest of the week. But learning lessons from the past was not something we indulged in and hence begun the brainstorming session on what crazy thing we could accomplish that evening to uphold our reputations as the chief entertainers in school. Sri was the first one to speak.

“Not a good day, was it?”

“Nope! Scary rather.” quipped Manu.

“Yeah, especially when the matron threatened to let loose her pet pig on us!”

Ravi was unusually quiet.

Being the head mischief-monger, his were the ideas which normally brought the much needed vigour in our dreary lives. His silence unsettled me. It was a familiar silence. The one which came before the most confounded of his plans. We all stared at him with mixed feelings. While Sri and Manu’s eyes betrayed their eager anticipation mine were filled with the dread of impending doom. Ravi begun quietly.
”I hate pigs. Dead or alive. How dare the matron threaten us with her pig! I say we hit back. Lets teach her a lesson she will not forget the rest of her life. Let’s give her a shock which will haunt her for the rest of her measly life.”

Ravi’s face was convulsed with rage. He really must have hated the matron for her threats. Manu and Sri exclaimed,” Yes, you are right. Let’s do it!”

I was quiet. Everyone turned towards me. Their intense stare was too much to bear. As usual I gave in.”Ok! Do not look at me like that. I am in. One of these days I am really going to regret being with you guys. So what’s the plan?”

“That’s my boy”, retorted Manu,” I knew you could not ditch your good friends.”

Ravi continued,” Ok guys, you will be happy to know that I have a plan ready. Listen carefully.” And he told us the plan.

You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the U.S. of arrogance, Germany doesn't want to go to war, and the three most powerful men in America are named 'Bush', 'Dick', and 'Colon'. But no amount of craziness in the world could justify Ravi’s plan. It was impossible. Defied imagination. And incredibly stupid. It clearly showed that common sense did not figure in his top hundred character attributes. It must have been the antics of some fellow friend like Ravi which made Einstein say long back,” Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.”

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. Instead of explaining his “plan” I would prefer to describe the way we got about implementing it. It will surely make the narrative more interesting.
The basic goal was to scare the wits out of Mrs. Lama. I wasn’t sure whether she would get scared, but I surely was. This idea had all the ingredients for a complete disaster. Visions of week long detention at the principles office flashed before my eyes.

Ravi led us to the place where all the action was to take place. The garden outside the staff recreation hall. We all knew that Mrs. Lama was the last to leave the hall after her daily ritual of viewing the late night news. Ravi had decided to strike right after she came out of the hall. We huddled together like our beleaguered cricket team and Ravi told us our respective roles. We would be divided into two teams. The ACTION TEAM and the SUPPORT TEAM. Manu and Sri quickly volunteered to be in the support team. And as the norm was I was left facing the most difficult task. The only relief was, if you can call it a relief that Ravi was going to be with me. The course of action was the following.

Me and Ravi were to perch ourselves on one of the branches of the banyan tree in the garden. Both of us would be shrouded in a white cloth with burning candles in our hands. Manu was to signal us as soon as he heard Mrs. Lama’s footsteps. As soon as she came to view I was supposed to wail and Ravi would sway the lit candle, like a man possessed. Sri hidden in the bushes below was supposed to imitate a dog’s bark which he happened to do quite well.

In view of the fact that Mrs. Lama hated dogs to death and anything ghostly terrified her, it seemed a good plan. But considering the fact that most of our well thought out plans resulted in an uncomfortable question answer session in Mr. Darkin’s office, I was pretty apprehensive about this one too. All of you will agree that it was one atrocious plan. Ravi seemed to read my thoughts and reassured me by saying,

” Do not worry dude! Nothing can possibly go wrong this time. We will be perfectly camouflaged and it will be smooth sailing all the way. Trust me. You are safe in our hands.”
Safe. This was probably some strange usage of the word safe I wasn’t earlier aware of.

Our white bed sheets which were going to play the double role of being our camouflage along with creating the illusions of spirits perched on a tree branch were ready. So were the candles. With all the props at hand, all we needed to do was get into our positions. Climbing the tree was not a simple task for me for the simple fact that I had never climbed a tree before. Friendship makes you do strange things. I tried asking myself what I was trying to accomplish by trying to climb a banyan tree wrapped in a bed sheet among swarms of killer mosquitoes when I should have been in bed reading Wodehouse. Ironically, I was in a Bertie Wooster-esque situation myself. Woodhouse would have rubbed his hands in glee considering the infinite possibilities this situation offered.

Ravi with a look as if he was the best thing to happen to the world after Tensing Norgay, slithered up the tree. I on the other hand had to put in one hell of an effort. Putting Humpty Dumpty together seemed an easier job at that moment. But I managed it at last. I seated myself next to Ravi and tried to make myself comfortable. Which I must say was useless for only a bird could be comfortable where I was. And I was sure I was not one. Ravi whispered,

“Dude, practice your wail a bit. You have to sound like a witch.”

I told him that as I had not been lucky enough to meet a witch or come across her wail, I didn’t know how it sounded like. Ravi replied,“Well, try to imitate the sound our math teacher makes when she gets angry!”

I thanked him for the suggestion and proceeded with the imitation. What came out was something significantly different. Something akin to the pressure cooker whistle. Sri shouted from below,” Is everything alright? Anyone sick up there?”

Ravi quickly replied,” Yeah, everything fine, just a rehearsal. Be quite. You will give us away. And you Sayan. Do not ever make that noise again or I will strangle you. From now on just wail normally. Screech rather. There is no need for any special effects. We are not competing for an Oscar”The admonishment over, silence returned to the banyan. It was getting really hot under the sheet but I refrained from mentioning it to Ravi in fear of further rebuke. The mosquitoes were getting braver by the minute and the hordes just kept getting bigger. When was this damned news going to get over?

Suddenly, we saw a torch shine among the bushes. It was Manu’s signal. He must have heard footsteps. The moment I had been dreading had arrived. We were waiting for Mrs. Lama to turn round the corner before we begun our act. Ravi had the candles lit and I was wondering whether I would get the wail right. At such moments of anxiety, the mind plays strange games which cause the utmost distraction. Suddenly out of the blue I begun thinking,

” did da Vinci really paint the last supper?”

“If no, who did?”

Ravi’s nudge bough me back to reality.A figure had turned the corner and it definitely was not that of the matron.The tall, well built frame. The characteristic walk. The walking stick. They all looked deceptively familiar. To my horror I realized what I was seeing.It was not Mrs. Lama. It was Mr. Darkins.

I would have loved to know the reason of his unexpected appearance but that was the least of my problems. You see, the realization had come a tad too late. Ravi had already begun his candle swishing and I was halfway through my wail which I must mention was quite a good one. When I had begun wailing I did not remember, but the truth was that I had. The sound was enough to attract the principal’s attention to us. Now Mr. Darkin is a man of courage. He was not the one to be frightened away by a bed sheet and a wail. He shouted,” whose’s there?” and he shone his powerful torch at us. The light fell directly on me. I felt my world falling apart. It seemed that my whole life was some kind of dream and wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it. My wail withered away in to a whimper. Suddenly the student in me took over and all that came out from my mouth were the words.

“Good evening, sir”.

Even today I wonder what made me say something like that. But perhaps that was the best reply anyone could come up with in such circumstances. Back to the story.Mr. Darkins too seemed slightly taken aback. He asked,” sayan, is that you? What are you doing up a tree at his time of the night. And why on earth do you have a bed sheet around you”?And on seeing Ravi he exclaimed,” and who is sitting next to you? Hey, what are you doing with that candle”?

Ravi was looking totally flabbergasted. This was not what he had bargained for. Everyone knew how Mr. Darkins terrified him. He managed a stuttering reply.“Sir, it’s me Ravi! We are…… I mean I am…….. we… well. Sir we were having a chat.”A chat! Mr. darkens would never buy that. He knew some of his students had out of the way habits. But he would never believe that people had begun to chat under bed sheets on treetops. His face clearly showed that he was pretty annoyed to be in such a situation at this time of the night. And then to make matter worse begun the barking!

My wail was supposed to be the cue for Sri to begin his canine role. It was obvious he hadn’t heard the ensuing conversation and hence had gone on to play his part. It turned out to be one of his best efforts till date. He sounded exactly like an angry Alsatian.But by this time Mr. Darkins was absolutely sure that something was wrong. He stepped towards the bushes to find the source of the cacophony. But before he could discover Sri hunched behind the foliage, something so appalling happened that his attention got diverted. A new drama was unfolding. And we and Ravi were the stars. The short conversation with the principle and the barking which followed had totally flustered us. In the melee Ravi had in a brief but fatal moment of absentmindedness placed the candle below the sheet. Cotton by an unfortunate coincidence happened to be inflammable. And in second I discovered myself surrounded by flames. I do no know what scared me more that night. The sight of Mr. Darkins or seeing myself become the first male sati. I did the only thing I could do. I jumped. Ravi thought I had slipped and tried to catch me and as result went down as well. Gravity played its role to perfection and we hurtled through space towards terra firma. Just to make the scene ideal we landed on one half of the support team, Sri, who thankfully had stopped barking.

There we lay, in a heap, among the bushes, like a small human pyramid. The last thing I remembered before passing out was sri asking,”did she get scared……….”.


Two weeks in the hospital and an unpleasant afternoon in the principal’s office giving explanations was what followed the aforesaid events. Fellow students had a great time
debating what actually we were attempting to do. Colourful theories were propounded. Unfortunately our bones did not allow us to be a part of the discussion and it was some time before everyone knew the truth. And boy, was it embarrassing!