Friday, May 23, 2008

So much has been learnt in such little time!

If you think I have gone crazy and am on the verge of going off on a tangential path, you are wrong. You must be knowing that the Class 12 board results have been declared. And I have fared miserably. 89.7 fucking percent is hopeless. Above all else, I have let my own self down. That is the most disgusting part of it!

The quote-smiths always say that there is a silver lining to every cloud... They are not very far off. I've seen that there may not be any silver lining, but there is at least a tin lining on this mud-cloud!! (extremely unfunny, I know)

I've always hated studying. I've always felt that it's the most despicable and detestable thing on this planet. That's not unlike many others, but the problem is that I've taken 13 years to realize this!! I absolutely hate having to sit down with my books at any time of any day, any month, or any year. But then, I do love doing certain things related in a way to academics.

I enjoy reading. Oh yes I do. Any reading material under the sun has either an admirer or a critic in me. I love writing stuff as you can see clearly. I love taking part in debates, spelling-bee contests, quizzes, and the like. I feel completely at home on stage - it makes me feel so alive !! I thoroughly enjoy every second I spend on stage - be it as a performer or a compere, the sheer thrill of it is totally fulfilling...

But I am a fu***ng Science student. And my parents earlier used to say that you have to study Science only till you are in Class 12. That was 3 years earlier. Now I realize they never meant to say any of that! It was just a way of assuring me that I am free to take some decisions of my own - in reality, they are the same Corinthians that the parents of my other friends are! I don't despise them or hate them for that (I have no right to) - I can only pity them. They are part of the crowd...I'd proudly tell my friends earlier that, "Yaar, mera koi bhi choice ho sakta parents are cool with whatever I do in future." And they were like, " Wow, Raunaq, you are lucky to have such parents. I wish mere parents aise hote. Tu toh lucky hai yaar." Bullshit. Kuch bhi nahin hai. Mujhe like every other Tom, Dick and Harry, engineering hi padhna padega. That's what I have realized now...Now I know what a big dunce I had been to think that I would be able to pursue my dreams. I never knew this was coming. If I even had a whiff of this, I'd have studied my hated subjects - Physics, Chemistry and Maths more seriously, with not only a pinch, but a truckload of salt, if the situation demanded that of me. The fault is mine, mine and only mine.

And yesterday someone told me on the phone,"Ronu, keep your chin up. You have done well. Go for English or international studies. What will you do by studying engineering? Are you going to write paeans and poems on the buildings and bridges you make? We'll see that you get to study the subject of your interest. Cheer up."

Oh really? I don't mean any indecency or disrespect to her (I can't even dream of such a thing - I have my scruples in place), but I know exactly what she was thinking when she said that. She was thinking, " Isska toh kuch hone waala hai nahin. Aadha barbaad toh ho chuka hai. Issko thoda dilaasa de deti hoon. Usse achha lagega. He's just not good enough for engineering. So let's pump up is deflated balloon a little. Poor boy!" I'm sure of this. Everyone is feeling nothing but pity towards me.

Now I myself don't have any self-pity or self-respect left. I think I'm once again going to be a loser. But this time, it may be a loss from which it will be impossible to bounce back.

It's all in a downward spiral for me, from here on. Providence grins and tells me, "Heads I win, tails you lose !! "
I know. I'm can see that.

This brings me to a decision that I had taken 2 years earlier (If you don't know anything about that, you evidently don't know me well enough). I still feel that it was the correct decision. I had the option of choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea. Somehow, I felt that choosing to die at the hands of the Devil is more dignified. At least you don't die a coward.

So many things have happened to me. Persons who seemed to be beacons of light and hope have proved to be double-dealing fiends. I mean it.

But, all said and done, I remain the eternally irrational optimist. I pray to ----even I don't know what or who that is----to help me crack the HSEE. Or I pray that I get a good rank in the AIEEE. Or I pray that my parents and all the other faux guardians have some mercy on my predicament. I want everyone to know that my idea of success and happiness is not a B Tech, an MBA and then warming my butt in a software company room's leather chair, like most of my peers will eventually end up doing. Not on my life. I don't deserve that kind of life. Or I should rather say that that kind of life doesn't deserve me. I want to do something that excites me. But, as it usually happens with castigated individuals like me, no one's going to listen to what I say. You must have heard what the Lycra ad says, "You either have it, or you don't." It now seems to me that I really don't.

Its too much to ask for, you tell me. Yes it is. I am fully aware of that. But, heck, who gives a damn? If I am disappointed once more, it won't be the first time that will happen. And it certainly won't be the last.

Till anything happens, for the better, or for the worse, I'll draw inspiration from my favourite lines, authored by the legend himself, the incomparable J.R.R. Tolkien:

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadow shall spring.

Renewed shall be blade that was broken;

The crownless again shall be king.

The 'crownless' again shall be king'? Maybe. I haven't lost hope yet.

Oh ! Calcutta ...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Disclaimer : The use of the name of a reputed restaurant in the aforementioned city as the title of the post was purely situational, albeit intentional. Any offence to the restaurant owners is most regretted.

I'm back home. After what was probably the most taxing day of my life. Calcutta has sucked me dry in just 16 hours.

It started in the evening of Saturday, when I, accompanied by Papa rushed into the Asansol Railway terminus, hoping to get reservations in one of the AC coaches. As it usually happens with no-hopers like me, we failed to get a single seat in that coach.

So, we had to settle for the ordinary chair car.

That the Black Diamond Express ( Don't think it deserves to be called that ) did a record-rewriting reached Howrah at 2300 hrs! I swear.

As if reaching Howrah at 11 PM was not enough, Papa and I had to wait for 50 minutes in front of that effing pre-paid taxi booth! I was on the verge of killing the moronic clerk at the counter who was taking ages to issue the tickets, but, considering the fact that I had a very important examination coming up, I relented. Better sense prevailed.

So we were finally in the taxi after what seemed like an eternity. The night was reasonably cool, and I stuck my head out of the car's windows not unlike the poodles you see in rich people's cars. We drove past the Eden Gardens, which looks a hundred times more imposing against the night sky - boy, Calcutta is sure blessed to have an arena like that! The race-course was next, the magnificent SBI building and several other landmarks before we entered the locality of New Alipore, where we'd put up for the night...

If you thought we'd had enough drama for the day, you haven't been more wrong in your life! We couldn't find the house! The taxi driver didn't know that part of the city well, and we had to face another harrowing 30 minutes before we stumbled into House No. 744, totally deflated...After a quick shower and a late-night dinner, we crashed.

The next day would be another pot-boiler (literally), what with the mercury soaring all the time. And so it was. My exam was at 1000 hours, so we left the house at 0840, hailed a taxi and set off for the Ballygunge Army Camp, 'cause that was where my exam centre was allotted.

A huge gate with armed sentries greeted all the examinees once we were there...Parents were not allowed inside - only the examinees could proceed into the precincts of the camp. I bade my father good-bye and started what was going to be a long walk to the Army Public School.

As I had expected, it was an enormous campus. There are several 10-storeyed apartments for the servicemen which I walked past. There also seemed to be a hall where films were screened - there was an 'Aaja Nachle' poster outside it! There were a lot of trees all around, which were a welcome relief to these sore eyes of mine, which thus far had grotesque images of yellow Ambassadors and epileptic ( that's the word to describe them ) public buses seared into their retinas. I passed the Kendriya Vidyalaya on my way to the Army School, which I finally reached after a ten-minute walk. It was 0910 hrs at that time...there were another 30 minutes before we would be allowed inside the school. Till then I sat down on the pavement watching a game of slam-bang cricket being played by the locals on a field that was totally wet and slushy.

I will not bore you with the cumbersome details regarding the exam and how it was for me...I'll fast forward to 1300 hours when we left the camp in another yellow taxi (you get nothing else here) which soon swerved into a Tata Indica in its attempt to weave out of a tight spot. There was a plastic protector on the fender of the Indica (luckily for the owner) as a result of which there was not a single scratch on the Indica's side. The plastic protector was martyred in the process.

Next, there was a heated argument which saw the blame being passed on from one driver to the other after which it settled on the driver of our taxi - the Indica guy had scored a moral victory there - we hurtled along to New Alipore, and yes, this time we found the house right away.

We finally left Calcutta in a Volvo B7R bus which left from Esplanade at 1700 hrs. The bus, for some hitherto unknown reason, stopped for a long time at a stop (pun not intended) near the Eden Gardens. Looking around, one could see the pavements bustling with people going back home from work and, of course, the hawkers - How can I forget them? Every hawker had several Kolkata Knight Riders' faux tees and roughly the same number of customers. The light in the skies was dimming as the Eden's floodlights were beginning to warm up. The bus finally set off for Asansol after idling for 20 minutes. I'm still trying to figure out why the engine was kept running.

I settled down on 'the most ergonomically designed seat that has found its way into a bus plying in India' (Some CNBC show said this), reclined it a little, and started switching between the FM stations of Calcutta. Tripping on Bengali songs was fun. The efficient aircon made life even more comfortable.

The sky started to rumble after a while, and before anyone could blink, it was a full-on thunderstorm. The raindrops fell on the reinforced glass of the windows creating a staccato of muted thuds. The sky had gone all but black now and the flashes of lightning would light up the horizon from time to time. "There goes the IPL match at the Eden", I thought.

The rest of the journey was pretty much uneventful - there was a typical 80s blood and gore - heavy Hindi movie 'Gardish' that was being screened in the bus. It stars Jackie Shroff and XYZ maybe - I couldn't care less. I turned up the volume on my Motorola, and listened to several of my favourites.

So, we were back home at 2100 hrs, Sunday, the 18th of May.

A hurried meal. A cold shower. Falling face first on bed. Setting the AC to 16 degrees C.
Home isn't bad, really.

It rained here today. No, really!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Something that seemed unthinkable only 6 hours ago happened here tonight.

It rained.

All of mother nature's creation existing here in Asansol must have heaved a collective sigh of relief...Whew...The past two weeks had been unbearable. The heat, as oppressive as it was, had a formidable ally hand-in-glove with it - humidity. The least I can say here is that the two are a killer combination. 10 minutes out in the sun are enough to sap the bejesus out of you...You can only sweat, sweat and still sweat some more. Our AC has been working overtime for the last fortnight. It's been operating at 16 degrees C for around 18 of the 24 hours daily. We're wary of the power bills that we are surely gonna have to foot, but what's the use of having a horse which you never race? Inspite of the Electrolux's best efforts ( and that's pretty good ), we all wanted some divine intervention.

And divine intervention it surely was. Till 2 this afternoon, it was business as usual for the early May clime...things started changing post-6 PM, and a nice thunderstorm lashed Asansol from around 7 : 30 PM. I went up to the terrace of our flat and soaked it in for a good 2 hours. I was totally oblivious of the discordant clatter caused by the rain pelting on the tin roof over a small enclosure on the terrace. Of the fear that I might wake up severly ill next morning. Of the chances of lightning striking me. I guess these are moments that make your day! Pity I can't make you feel the way I did through this virtual world...

I've often read about the way poets and authors feel after rain - they feel elevated, uplifted, invigorated on and so forth.

Not surprisingly, during my stint of getting wet in the welcome shower, I felt only two things.

Total wetness. And extreme happiness!

I know of no other emotion even remotely as good as those two.

What are we doing with our time?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

You are already laughing loudly, eh?

The title of this post is to blame. How on earth can I ask this question when I'm a past master at letting time slip away from my grasp?

The truth is that I couldn't help but notice this ill that plagues civilizations the world over.

Once, when I was 7, I’d visited an IISCO bigwig’s house with my Dad. And I had spotted something that has been etched in my memory ever since!

It was a telephone table. A piece of furniture devoted exclusively to the seemingly ancient telephone and all its accompaniments. These tables had an integrated arrangement for seating purposes, the top-most surface was flat, solid wood and lastly, there was a drawer for the Yellow Pages( well, what else did you expect? ).

Initially, I used to think that these people were ultra-posh. I thought that if they can have a dedicated item of furnishing for something as routine and banal as telephoning, then how well-equipped must they be for the other aspects of their lives?

Rubbish. Now, I’ve realized that the telephone table has evolved simply because dialing was so effing tiring! You had to insert your finger corresponding to the hole corresponding to the number you want to dial, and haul it around to the stop. That was not half as bad the excruciating wait during which the dial would return to its actual position with a sickening whirr. One could almost feel one’s hair growing during the wait!

So, there you have it - I’m going to turn 18 this June, and already I’ve seen so much change during the course of my short stay here on this planet.

Data accessing is another thing that has speeded up exponentially. Earlier, our Dads would have to shower, dress up, and cycle to the library if they had to get some information. Then they would have to sign a card corresponding to the book they needed, sit down, write what they required in a notebook and then cycle back home, which would leave them totally deflated.

Now, of course, all I need to do is bang in the necessary words in a search bar on the net, and voila! Pages of material present themselves to me in a jiffy. Come to think of it, I become incandescent with impatience when the desired webpage takes more than a microsecond to appear!

When I take note of all the time saved in a typical life through the things that now make our daily jobs much quicker – cell phones, computers, microwave ovens, dishwashers, ATM machines, drive-through restaurants etc - I always end up wondering why we haven't all achieved the precision of Swiss watches in managing our time in the eternity we seemingly have. But we haven't, because we've filled it with other things, and all of them are still, to tell you the truth, too slow.

The truth is, time can never be sufficient for our needs! The guy who said ‘Time is Money’ was spot-on! Despite there being so many things that supposedly save us time, we still don’t have time for simple things like doing our homework, performing a chore for mom, buying something for Dad, cleaning up our cluttered workstation, washing our vehicles, and so on!

All of this sometimes makes me wonder if going backwards is the way forward!