Music memory

It's interesting how a song can flash back to you a specific period of your life, reminding you of a warm place hidden away in folds of memory, reluctant to come out in public view unless you coax it out through a song or a photograph.

But somehow, for me, songs are able to bring back a whole stream of memories like a roll of celluloid running disjoint set of snapshots quickly past a projector lamp, while I watch on without the option of pausing and scrutinizing. It's interesting how I could almost smell the wet earth, hear the incessant pattering on the window panes, feel the moisture on the soles of my feet from the wet flip flops and see the sheets of rain descend from the slate gray skies while playing Shubha Mudgal's Aab ke Sawan.

Be it memories of a happy summer with the first of the many tuition classes sharing class room space with girls brought back by Musu musu hasi or the hitherto unknown fears and insecurities inspired by the prospect of going to a new place to spend the next four years of my life, the mind numbing sadness of leaving home, the unfamiliar stations passing me slowing and the slightly humid late July morning of New Delhi brought by Lucky Ali's signature tune from Kaante, songs are probably the easiest medium of summoning those secure pockets of memory hidden away safely.

Music, from time to time, helps us remember the different phases of our lives. Graduating from Bengali pop, folk music and bollywood to serious rock music, psychedelic, grunge; learning to differentiate between Reggae and Jazz (!); Moving to the occasional Gazal and finally realizing that there's no good or bad music, everything is a function of what you are going through at that moment.

Finally, there are those milestones in your life when you are introduced to songs which will stay with you all your life and may even go on your epitaph if you had a tombstone. Some of my earliest memories of music were those that emanated from a gramophone record player which probably the only gadget my otherwise technology-abhorring father owned. Hemanta Mukhopadhyay's Runner and Abak Prithibi are songs I can still recite by heart even if I don't get the tune right. Then came the time of the tape recorder, along came Alisha  Chinai with her Made in India  score with it the music video and Milind Soman's bronzed chisel physche. Hariharan and Leslie Louis also came with their Colonial cousins and Sa ni dha pa.  What followed was a blurr of hindi film music with the likes of Tu hi re (Bombay), Ek pal ka jeena (KNPH), and Dil Chahta Hai (DCH)leaving their mark for good.
When I departed for Pilani, my father decided it was time for him to let me have a walkman, (which in his mind was the equivalent of his Gramophone player, I am sure). The walkman didn't last two full terms and by the June of 2003, I had shifted permanently to Winamp and the myriad mp3 files that burst out of iball woofers in the hostel. 2003 through 2006 turned out to be the three years when I got introduced to the most diverse music that I had been exposed to till then. There was Metallica and G'n'R on one hand, the was Nirvana and Pink Floyd on another and there were Linkin Park, U2, Creed and Pearl Jam as well. Then there was Indian Ocean, Mother Jane (a lesser known but very good band from Goa), Antaragni (The band is no more, though Raghu Dixit has struck out on his own), Rupam Islam and his Fossils (the only real Bengali rock band (snigger if you may)) and a plethora of other Indian bands.
By the time I left Pilani and went to Mathura, moved from Mathura to IIM Bangalore, I had ploughed through all of Pink Floyd concerts including their rare Live in Pompeii. I had also got introduced to Atif Aslam and Rabbi Shergill; IIM Bangalore was an instruction in Bob Marley and Jim Morrison and The Doors.

And I am still learning and still storing memories in songs and storing the songs in some safe place between folds. Enhancing music memory.

One more box ticked.

One more box ticked, one more comparison completed. Another one in a long list of comparisons in which I don't come out on top. Been pretty much like that since June 2010. I keep telling myself perhaps I am making wrong comparisons in terms of who or what I am comparing myself, my work or the country I live with. I never seem to get a clear answer on whether the comparison is correct. At the end of the day, I am the one driving 15 kilometers to work and driving the same distance back and the only thing that fatigues me other than the drive, is the hollowness inside, the feeling that I am not doing justice to my capabilities. The fact that I am going deeper into the physical and mental lethargy from which it might be impossible to pull myself out if the opportunity to go to sensible work arises (ever).
But honestly, what is my complaint with myself? I don't enjoy my days. Not a single day do I wake up with a good feeling about myself. It's interesting how easy it is to let time fly by without really doing anything. Reminds me of a line from Kipling's 'IF'  - " If you can fill the unforgiving minute, with 60 seconds worth of distance run...". Well I am not running, not just now but ever. I guess I have stopped running since the day I graduated from business school. Life has been equally rewarding, just as rewarding as it's expected to be when it comes to lazy people with lazy minds.
I wish people actually got a rank when they died, the rank at which they finished. It would be interesting to see your projected rankings slowly dwindle and fall till you fall off all the charts where you were being tagged and finally reach a point when only things like emotions and other such random mish-mash is left in your life and then you died. I wonder how great it would feel to finish on top. I wish I knew how to finish near the top. I wish I worked a little harder, or maybe a little smarter.
And when I finish writing this, the conformist in me will proofread this post, dot the 'i's, cross the 't's and finally hesitate a couple of times before pressing the orange 'Publish' button, but will finally do it. Once it's on the net, it will never be read or commented up, while I pack my bag, drive my car listening to the radio and cursing random drivers on the way home. Pick up the wife from one of India's top neuroscience research institutes where she's trying to get to the root of a major causes of Autism. We'll get home and she'll be subjected to my mute pent-up frustration. We'll talk about things that don't matter and discuss Masterchef Australia, have our dinner and try and sleep it off. Just that, we won't be able to sleep it off and when the sun rises tomorrow, we'll set out to live today once again.And again, and again....

Wishlist for Bengal

It's really been a long hiatus from the blog sphere. I have tried to mend my way over and over again, since the heady days of "one-blog-a-day" of the first half of 2006 to the lethargy of "one-post-a-year" of 2011.

A lot has changed around me as well, perhaps the reason why I never found time to reflect and document everything that went through my head. I got married, India won the "cup that matters" and the 34 year old left front government in my home state was asked to leave by the masses swayed by the ‘winds of change’.

After having spent a nice relaxed weekend and deciding to let my work rule the designated 12 hours of my day and not more, I finally found some time to reflect on what I would like to see in the City of Joy and the towns around it, now that the much hyped change has finally happened. It's not too ambitious, hence not too difficult to fulfill either. Things that we would need for our capital city to stand at par with Chennai and Delhi (I would rather not want to get Kolkata comparable to Mumbai for obvious reasons), things that we would need districts, cities and towns to stand at par with those of the more developed states across North India and things that will make reaching my native village not a task akin to some less celebrated adventure sport.

So, here goes...


1. Roads - Maybe we could start with mending the broken ones (in Kolkata and the district towns) before building new ones in the towns and leading to the villages. Given the lack of public transport that uses rail or waterways in the state, not only will roads open the door to realization of the dream of a strong public transport system in the state; it will also open up the state in terms of investment in the lesser known regions. Though the “investment-driving” roadways like the National Highways continue to be the prerogative of the government at the centre, the capillaries will need to be built by the state so that connectivity provided by the National Highways are able to deliver the benefits through to the deep pockets of rural Bengal.

2. Urban Infrastructure

Sewage Systems - When we are talking roads in Bengal, can sewers be far away? :P The sewage systems in a lot of cities, Kolkata being the foremost, can do with some serious urban planning and rework.

Public Transport System – Why do we have to face jams and pay out an insane amount of money to travel 200 kilometers in an AC bus in a state which pioneered the Metro Rail? I can’t say the public transport system in Bengal is terrible (being a resident of the Millennium City where public transport is quite a joke). But there could be role models to follow, like the city of Chennai in particular and the state of Tamil Nadu as a whole.

Electricity & Internet – Penetration of the internet in Bengal continues to be one of lowest in the country. Load shedding is a common phenomenon in the towns and villages, though Kolkata seems to have managed to get out of its clutches pretty effectively.

Airport – Having a single Airport in a State is a shame. Period. For the sake of numbers though you can pull in the airport at Bagdogra. However, in terms of connectivity, Kolkata airport alone serves as the single operational airport for anyone who wishes to fly out of the state and even some parts of Jharkhand. One might be surprised to note that almost everyone who lives in Dhanbad and needs to board a flight has to do so from Kolkata. Hence the completion and opening of the planned airport on the Durgapur-Andal stretch will be a major performance point in the new government’s report card.


3. Services – Thankfully, during the last half decade of its rule the left front government decided to remain uncharacteristically quiet about the software giants setting up shop in Kolkata. Perhaps because their beloved CITU couldn’t make a headway into the hitherto unknown culture of an organization without a trade union. The services industry seems to be well grounded in Bengal, with the presence of Wipro, TCS, CTS and Accenture in the capital.

Maintaining healthy growth of the services industry will prove to be a major challenge though. While it has the capacity to attract talent back into the state, the brand new software set-ups will take some time to gain the same strength that they have in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Gurgaon.

4. Manufacturing – Here’s where the mammoth rebuilding exercise lies. Except for a dying mining business and the once-sick steel industry (both centered on the Raniganj-Dhanbad coal belt), there’s hardly any other manufacturing organization alive in West Bengal. The likes of British Oxygen and Dunlop have been clear victims of the Unionism in Bengal.

Investment in green field plants, capital projects, logistics management, construction and commissioning activities have to be invited in every area of manufacturing including Oil & Gas, Automobile, Steel and Cement. Engineering a re-birth of the manufacturing sector, in my mind, is the toughest challenge faced by the new government


5. Basic Education – The communist government is perhaps solely responsible for handicapping a generation of students who could not afford convent education by removing English from the curriculum. Thanks to my parents, I have never had to worry much about not knowing English, but not everyone is as lucky.

Cleaning up the curriculum, getting the right people to teach in government schools through sanitizing the School Service Commission examinations and transparent and timely administration of the education machinery could bear fruit within a decade.

6. Education Hub – West Bengal is one of the only two states in the country to have a fully functional IIT as well as an IIM (other one being Uttar Pradesh) along with six government run medical colleges, such exalted and revered institutions like the Indian Statistical Institute, Jadavpur University, B.E. College (Shibpur), the Presidency College and St. Xavier’s, other than the NIT at Durgapur and more than fifty other Engineering colleges.

The opportunity for the government to make the state one of the most sought after destinations for a complete education is present and very much realizable. Though it might sound like a distant dream for a state still struggling to get it’s economics in shape, it does have the potential to brand the state for what it was known in the it’s days of glory, intellectual supremacy.


7. Productivity and Yield Improvement - In one of my older posts, I have wallowed over how sophisticated machines and extensive farming practices have done for Uttar Pradesh and Haryana what intensive farming and age old techniques of hand-sowing of paddy couldn’t do for our farmers.

I always felt it was not only about who owned the land and who got the grains that grew on the land. It was much more. It was about how much we are reaping from an acre of farming space. Our paddy fields are perhaps not best suited for the sophisticated machinery, but we can definitely find ways of increasing yield of the crops and productivity of our farmers.


8. Public hospitals – In one word, the public hospitals in Bengal are scary. I haven’t had a change to enter a public hospital in any other state, hence am ill-equipped to make a comparison. However, on an absolute scale, we can do much better as a state. I have seen mice of the size of moles scurrying around the floor, mosquito nets strung on saplings in a feeble attempt to protect malaria patients from further mosquito bites. Anyone who has spent some time of his adolescence reading Bengali newspapers (like Anandabazar Patrika, Bartaman or Pratidin) would definitely have come across incidents of stray dogs found roaming around in maternity wards. There’s a lot of scope for improvement. I shall leave it at that.

9. Public Distribution System – A number of kids from my generation would have had the experience of standing in serpentine queues in front of Fair Price shops for wheat, sugar and the occasional kerosene distribution. It was a fortnightly fixture on my weekend from 4th standard to 9th standards (after which I was told that spending my time standing at the ration shop queue is of lesser consequence than studying for my board exams). There were so many instances when people never got their quota because they were late by a day or because they were at the end of the queue. Maybe, the PDS system will get cleaned up as a byproduct of cleaning up the party cadre which has imbedded itself in the fabric of government “work” in Bengal. Perhaps it will need more effort than just that.


10. Bengal is again unique in being one of the few states which have a beach (Digha), the geographic specialty in form of the swamps of sunderbans and the mountains of Darjeeling. Its historic & spiritual richness is unparalleled (the city of Kolkata, Dakshineshwar, Tarapeeth, the terracotta temples of Bankura and Bishnupur to name a few) and its cultural contribution to the country is significant.

Tourism, which can be a huge revenue earner for the government, is being abused by quacks and home grown tour companies which sometimes leave tourisms stranded, further destroying a high potential industry through its callousness and greed. West Bengal tourism needs to be revamped and re-constructed to popularize the state and bring in the much needed cash to reinvest in welfare.

A Movie Weekend :)

Thursday night : Band Baaja Baraat
Thursday night: last bit of "Sideways"
Friday: The life of David Gale
Saturday: Goodfellas
Sunday: One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest

I must say, whatever else happened during the weekend, I managed to watch some good movies, thanks to a comment made by one of my flat mates, "The movies these days don't leave any after-taste once they are over!" after returning from a late night show of Band Baaja Baraat. That is true.
By the time we had reached home, we had finished discussing the film completely. We had agreed that Ranveer Singh is decent actor; that Anushka Sharma, a dancing heroine who is not afraid to show some skin, that Yash Raj Films have pigeon-holed themselves into song-dance-shaadi movies and that the guy sitting beside me in the theater was drunk.
Then we went to Mintu's Dhaba for tea and Keema Paratha (about which I shall talk at length some other day).
By two in the morning, my mind was clear and I wanted to watch some more movies. Hence, I decided to finish of Sideways, a slow yet riveting tale of two friends taking a trip through California's wine country. A very nice juxtaposition of a happy go lucky fellow who knows as little about wines as he does about what happens post marriage and wants to get laid one last time before getting married, with another one who's just got a divorce, appreciates Pinot noir and despises merlot (in short: knows his wines) and is a failed author besides being a chronically depressed man.
Friday Morning I finished watching The life of David Gale. Morbid, touching, thrilling, a must watch if you have an opinion on the death penalty, euthanasia and suspicious nature of circumstantial evidence :). Shocked to find it doesn't feature on the IMDB top 250 list.
It's a pity I hadn't watched Goodfellas before. Being a fan of gangster movies, it doesn't reflect well on me. I always loved movies with a narration.

Khwaja Chowk... long awaited Sunday lunch

The last time I spent more than ninety minutes at the lunch table was when I got into an argument with a friend over something, long back in a mess at BITS. It's been a long five years hurrying my way through lunch after that. Obviously, there have been those treats at Barbeque Nation when eating was the sole purpose of the visit, the spread was too huge and the starters never stopped coming. It's been long since those days.
The venue for lunch today was more of an instantaneous decision. The only criterion being, a place while will not be too full of people at one in the afternoon. Khwaja Chowk kind of fit into the bill and off we went.
The initial disappointment of the restaurant being a bit narrow in it's selection of beer (Kingfisher premium and Fosters were the only two brands of beer available while the drink menu did mention Carlsberg as well) was quickly dispelled by the really well cooked platter of Tandoori Chicken and Mutton Seekh Kebabs. Both in the same league as any I have had at other places. It would have been great if the Seekh Kebabs were a little less chewy though. The Tandoori Chicken was absolutely top class. If I were to crib about the platter, I would only crib about the serving size.
We managed to time our main course orders pretty much in sync with polishing off the starters. Lachcha Parathas and Chicken Peshwari was brought in. There was nothing very different about Chicken Peshwari than any other Chicken dish cooked in tomatoes, Onions and garam masala and I have come to accept that. The Lachcha Parathas were different though. Vrey light, soft and very well cooked. The general apprehension while eating Lachcha Paratha is the fact that the inner layers might be on the rawer side that the layers on top. In this case however, every layer was uniformly cooked and they didn't come apart and you tore through the different layers.
We wrapped it up with the ostentatious Rocket Kulfi. No rocket science, just a normal Kulfi, tapered at the top and comes on a stick thicker than usual.
Overall, a nice quite place. We managed to get a table on Sunday for lunch without a reservation. Not too pricey. I won't call it a regular haunt though. But it's good nonetheless. Decent Northwest frontier food, a little understocked on beer, decent ambience and normal service by Gurgaon standards makes it a place worthy enough for a second visit.

Weekend Evening alone...rantings

There is not food in the house. I am not cribbing, just stating a fact. Not that I am the only hungry freak living in my house. Sometimes, on a lazy Saturday afternoon when you are sitting at home alone and stealing sheepish glances at the bottle of Antiquity lying next to the TV stand, the only thing you really long for is something to munch along.
But then, there is no company and hence the first cardinal rule of drinking is violated. Thou shalt not drink alone. So said the wise drunkard who managed to give it up. Hence it looks like the Antiquity has to wait till there is company.

From one random thought to another.

The other day I was talking to someone at office about how the whole micro-blogging scene has taken the charm away from blogging and how a decent enough programmer could write a spider to run on twitter and create a news channel of his own. The whole exercise of mulling over an idea, putting the right words, thinking of a length and flow of the prose - most important of all, expressing an opinion - have all gone up in vapour. It has made blogging a hurried exercise of prematurely expressing half baked ideas in a stipulated number of characters. Worse still, in some cases it's been reduced to reproducing segments of "breaking news" that got flashed on some website. I shouldn't be blaming such applications as twitter for this though. We are indulging in micro blogging every where. Be it Facebook status updates or Gtalk status messages. Where it hurts, is when it starts replacing some nice piece of creative writing with a link which is reproduced. Sometimes, retwitted.

There used to be a time when I followed a number of blogs religiously, unfortunately only Arnab and Kray are still potent enough to hold my attention (the span of which has reduced to that of a fruit-fly or less, I agree). True, some of those blogs have become irrelevant to me over time and the rest have either been bulldozed by continuously building repertoire of professional excellence or a more than fulfilling personal life (which repudiates the need for a blog any further) or micro blogging.

I can't live without cribbing I guess, hence the outburst on micro-blogging. But well, that's the purpose of a blog, to let people know your opinion, not to show them what the news channels are already flashing on their proprietary portions of cyberspace.

One of those days...

..when you get back to find the cook waiting. The gas lighter is not working. You ring your neighbour's bell, but he doesn't open the door. You go and borrow matches from the watchman at the gate and the cook finally begins cooking. Then she lets you know that she's been closing the pressure cooker wrong for quite some time and either the whistle or the gasket has gone kaput.

One more little box to check on the already overflowing weekend list.

She leaves and you attend one call that was scheduled before and you could not reschedule it in time, you miss a call that you wanted to attend, you schedule a call after the existing call and it gets cancelled for some reason. You kick yourself mentally for being such a prick. Then you decide to teach yourself not to get so angry, cool down and go have dinner.


The daal has more salt than your breakfast and lunch put together. The sabzi has more chillies than it has cabbage. You don't remember shouting at the cook ever. Maybe she also had a bad day.

One little box to check tomorrow. Scream at her.

You throw away the food and chew up the chapatis (after rolling some sugar within). Three chapatis with sugar don't make too bad a dinner. You send status reports for the meeting. You shut down the office laptop. You turn on the TV. Some arbitrary fight movie is being aired on one of the zillion channels. Something to let the steam off.

You open the personal laptop, update blog, publish long pending comments and decide to crib online.

One more little box to check tomorrow. Get back to blogging, it's a little more relaxing than you thought it was.