Sunday, October 3, 2010

Shiftopus strikes again

No.. its not septopus. Never heard of anything about a septopus except the ever thrilling short story of Satyajit Ray which tells a tale about its hunger (well, I should exclude those totally unrelated google search outcomes as well). Yeah, you are an ignorant flathead if you haven't read the story yet (non-Bengali folks, ignore this sentence); my apology for the accidental rudeness!

Obeying conventional storytelling guidelines for below-average writers (which is obeyed by myself and only myself) , I should introduce my very few readers (why do I even bother to keep a blog!!! Naturally, people have better ways to spend time rather than reading trash texts) with shiftopus aka yours truly. He believed himself to be a stone hard to move (physically, of course. Mentally he is very flexible..agrees with almost everything without much resistance) until he was driven by the ever powerful romanticism of physics resulting the initiation of the first shift. Hence began the shift phase..

Shiftopus hoped that he had to shift for once..and only once. North Kolkata being his primary second most favourite place to live (no point for guessing which place qualifies to be number one), he did everything in his power (and made others do whatever possible in their power) to keep himself in between Tala and Park Street, undoubtedly his secondary second most favourite place. Thanks to his uncle and aunt - they made it possible and tolerated all his insanity and idiosyncrasies for three long years that shiftopus wasted in the name of studying physics and ultimately ending up having a huge number of books in possession without learning anything. But all good things come to an end. Even when he made sure that he would stay at Kolkata for farther studies (the dirty works he had to do are still secrets and details are suppressed for his safety from his near and dear ones), at the end of those sunlit years (and the years in which Kolkata and St. Xavier's gave him the most) he found himself at the edge of another shift that took him to a place which repelled him most - far south. It didn't go well with him, of course, for he had to leave in six months and shift again. And it was the time he started looking for visible physical changes in himself that could prove that he was changing into a separate class of dinosaur that has to migrate time to time searching availability of food! He did not find those back scales and jaw-bones growing, but it could only mean that he did not have a big enough mirror ("Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the first ever dinosaur evolved from humans?"). But this time it was small. A spatially long translation isn't much..specially when it takes you back to north.

Shiftopus's good time came to an end a few months ago when he realised that he had to find a new place soon. And he had a bad feeling about this. His nightmare came true, a shift from north to south took place a couple of days ago. After four long and happy years, circumstances drove him again to the place he loathed. Stability in the past four years made him almost forget his dinosaur-doubt, but truth is truth! His tooth must have become sharp and shiny, his back must have become scaled and rough-skinned and his buttock must have been giving shelter to an all new and powerful tail! People can't see them because he doesn't talk much and always keeps himself covered with things known as cloth when in public.

Sigh! Shiftopus strikes again...

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I have a book named The Buffalo Fights the Tiger containing some folk-tales of the Tibetans, Mongolians, Huns, Chuangs and Wigus from China. I have this book in Bengali. Somebody gifted the book to me (I forgot who. Perhaps Baba, or Jethu..'cause they used to buy such small books from the roadside stalls during Durgapuja) when I was a kid. I found the book only yesterday after years. Nothing like burying your nose into stories you once knew and had forgotten. Here is one from the book..translated in my flawed English.



A Tibetan Story

Many years ago there lived six rabbits by the shore of a lake. There was a forest of large papaw trees. One day a ripe papaw fell down into the lake making a loud 'plop'! The rabbits were so scared by the sound that they at once started running breathlessly as fast as they could.

A fox spotted them running and asked, "why are you running?"
"The plop is coming", answered the rabbits.
Hearing this, the fox immediately joined the rabbits.

Next, a monkey saw the fox and asked, " What's the hurry?"
"The plop is coming", answered the fox.
So the monkey started to run with them too.

The news of plop spread everywhere from mouth to mouth. Hence deers, boars, buffaloes, rhinoceros, elephants, leopards, tigers, beers and lions also started running away. They had no though except fleeing. The faster they ran, the more fright engulfed them.

A long maned lion lived at the foot of the hill. When he saw the other lions running, he shouted at them, "Brothers, with your powerful claws and sharp teeth, you are the strongest of all animals. Then why are you madly running away?"
One of the running lion answered, "the plop is coming!"
"Who is this plop? And where is he?", asked the long maned lion again.
Another lion mumbled, " well..I..I don't really know."
"Then why are you being such panicked?", the lion with the long mane demanded, "you should at first try to know what it is. Who told you about this plop?"
"The tiger told me", the other lion answered.
The long maned lion then questioned the tiger who said that the leopard had told him. The leopard said that he had heard that from the beer. The beer then pointed to the elephant. Then all the animals were asked one by one and finally it came down to the fox who said, "the rabbits told me!"
The lion with the long mane asked the rabbits and they said, "all six of us had heard this monstrous plop with our own ears. Come, O long maned lion. We shall show you the place."

They led him to the papaw forest by the lake and said, "the terrible plop is there. "
Just at that very moment another huge papaw fell from the tree into the water with a 'plop'.

The lion chuckled and sneered, "Fools, all of you! Now you have all seen what this plop is - its only the sound of a papaw falling into the water from a height. What is so terrifying about it that made you all run away?"
The animals they breathed a sigh of relief. They panicked for no reason.


Translator's request : I googled for the word 'plop' and found it here. I didn't like the word much..somehow it did not go with my imagination of a sound that is made when a large fruit falls into water. I shall be grateful if anyone can help me to replace this with a better word.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Chachatatutu and The Phoenix

I have a book named The Buffalo Fights the Tiger containing some folk-tales of the Tibetans, Mongolians, Huns, Chuangs and Wigus from China. I have this book in Bengali. Somebody gifted the book to me (I forgot who. Perhaps Baba, or Jethu..'cause they used to buy such small books from the roadside stalls during Durgapuja) when I was a kid. I found the book only yesterday after years. Nothing like burying your nose into stories you once knew and had forgotten. Here is one from the book..translated in my flawed English

The Chachatatutu* and The Phoenix

A Tibetan Story

Chachatatutu is the smallest and the ugliest of all birds while the fairest and the noblest is the phoenix.

A Chachatatutu once laid three eggs in her nest on the grass. But there lived a pika** in a hole next to chachatatutu's nest. Everyday while chachatatutu was out, the pika ventured into her nest to eat eggs. When two eggs were gone, poor chchatatutu became very upset and went to meet the phoenix to lay an accusation against pika.
"O Phoenix, King of the birds", said the chachatatutu very sadly, "See how unfortunate I am! A wicked pika has eaten two of the only three eggs I laid. I have lost two of my lovely babies already. So here I am, asking for a ruling..."
But the phoenix could not be bothered with a tiny chachatatutu no larger than a thumb. He said sternly, "Can't you see how busy I am? Why are you bothering me with such a small issue? The responsibility of looking after the babies belongs to no one but the mother bird. You, yourself would guard your family!"
Watching the phoenix didn't care for her trouble, chachatatutu became even more anxious and said, "I have come to you because you are the king of all birds! Please don't consider my problem a mere trifle only because I am small, as you should know that even a trifle, if not taken proper care of, could cause a huge misfortune. If this should happen, do not blame me."
But the phoenix didn't hear her any more and started humming.
The chachatatutu thought that the phoenix had not heard her and said again, "Why are you humming? You mark my words. When a disturbance as small as this will cause a disaster, it will be no good blaming me"
Still the phoenix kept humming impatiently without paying any attention to the chachatatutu. Failed, the chachatatutu flew away.
Full of sadness and hatred, the chachatatutu went back to her nest and made a blade of grass into an arrow. Then with her eyes wide open for the greedy pika, she waited on the branch of a nearby tree.
Just as she expected, after a while came the pika for the last egg. Giving the pika no time to react, the chachatatutu furiously stabbed his eyes with the arrow. The pain was excruciating, and all that the pika could do was to squeak and dash round and round.
A lion was taking his nap on the shore at that very moment. Having not a clue about where he was heading, the pika spun and went into the lion's nostril. The lion woke up with a start and jumped into the sea, never knowing what had got into his nose.
A dragon was swimming leisurely in the water. When he suddenly saw a lion jumping towards him, he took a flight up to the sky, scared if the lion grabbed and ate him. And while flying over the phoenix's nest, he stumbled upon it and the phoenix's egg was broken.
The phoenix was furious. He spat at the dragon, "Hey! You are a dragon and I am a phoenix! You live in the water while I live on land. We never poke our noses into each others businesses. You surely know that we phoenixes only lay a single egg a year and have only one baby. Then why would you jump out of your watery dwelling and destroy my nest and egg?"
"I am not the one you should blame, O phoenix!" said the dragon. "I was only swimming in the water when a lion jumped down into it intending to eat me. That is why I took off and, by accident, broke your nest and destroyed your egg. Its entirely the lion's fault. You should blame him, not me!"
So the phoenix went off to see the lion.
"O wise phoenix", said the lion, "you must not blame me. I was only sleeping by the shore when a pika dashed right into my nostril. It caused me such pain that I jumped into the water. You see, it is his fault. If you want to blame, go and blame the pika."
So the phoenix went off to see the pika.
"O noble phoenix", said the pika respectfully, "it is not my fault either. I was only wandering about the grass when the chachatatutu stabbed my eyes with an arrow. It cause such pain that I, confused, went into the lion's nostril mistaking it to be a hole. The fault is entirely the chachatatutu's! Go and ask for yourself if its not true."
The phoenix had nothing to do but to go and ask chachatatutu.
Chachatatutu solemnly said, "O phoenix, I made you aware. But you did not care because I am small, short feathered, tiny winged, weak, ugly and of no good. You did not pay any attention to my words of caution, as if my distress was only a trifle, and told me that only mothers should look after her child,and not to trouble you. How is it, then, that your sorrow also is not a mere trifle? Why are you blaming others, while you yourself would have guarded you egg properly? When my eggs are eaten by a pika, it is a trifle. But is it not a trifle when your egg is destroyed by the dragon? We chachatatutus lay eggs in grass. I laid three eggs and I had to go out for food every day while you laid you egg on a tree. Is it not much easier for you to look after your egg? Why didn't you do that? Did I not warn you before that unsettled trifles could cause disasters? Why are you blaming me now?"

The phoenix was very much ashamed and flew away gloomily.

* Note from the book : A very small ash coloured bird that makes nest in the grass.

** Note from the book : A kind of small tailless mountain rat.

Friday, July 9, 2010

World Cup 2010

Another interesting yet frustrating World Cup comes to an end! One more Sunday with the golden Jabulani - an all new nation to make a new page of history - and it will be over.

How I wish it were Argentina..:( If only I could invent a time machine to send Diego and his boys back in time to repair their errors against the mighty Germans..

But the mighty Germans had been beaten by Spain, leading to an all European World Cup Final. Viva La Espana!

I remember my first ever world cup - 1994 USA - that ended Diego's career. The hat trick of Batistuta and the solo goal that Diego scored against Greece were my first introduction to Argentina's football! When Diego led his nation to glory in 1986, I was only two, and probably was playing with a fiber monkey smoking a Wills flake! This is one of the reasons for which I regret not being born before '84. Damn, I missed God's ballplay!

There was a special issue of Anandamela, containing descriptions of the teams playing at USA. My mother could not find that issue anywhere because I kept it under my pillow all the time, memorizing the names of all the players and imagining myself playing alongside them. I was familiar with most of the world's best footballers, thanks to my father! He used to take me to the field after sunset. When the other kids, tired and satisfied with the days play, went home, we stretched ourselves over the grass, and Baba recited the immortal names of Pele, Diego Maradona, Jorge Burruchaga, or Michel Platini. I could imagine them playing right there, at Chinsurah, arround us. I could hear the commentary, " Maradona...Burruchaga..still Burruchaga..AND THIS IS IT! ARGENTINA HAS SCORED..."! That was my first introduction to romanticism, and I owe to Baba for that!

1994 left a lasting impression on me. The death of Andre Escober on his return to Columbia, the suspension of Diego for using ephedrine, the unforgettable journey of Bulgaria and Histro Stoichkov..all adding to the indescribable and enormous feelings the biggest show on earth made me feel. People celebrated Brazil winning the cup defeating Italy. I secretly cried for Argentina...and Diego. It was easy as natural..players cry when they leave the field defeated...Diego cried when he was suspended! Somehow it made me learn how painful it is to watch one's own dream being destroyed. Everybody feels it at some point of time or the other. I learnt not to ridicule the losing side..I learnt that it was against the spirit of the game. I saw the players of the winning side patting the back of the opponent after the game.. I saw Maradona doing the same to Greece . That was one of the most important lessons I gained from World Cup.

Nature didn't spare me, and I grew up. I witnessed three more world cups going away to Brazil, France and Italy. Argentina has been defied once again in the present one, and I have to wait for another four years to see if Argentina can make it. I want to see Argentina holding the cup for the third time...and may Diego remain the Coach till then. I want to witness what I couldn't in '86 - God holding the cup.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Anurag and the window

Anurag put the laptop aside, stretched and came out of the room to his small but treasured balcony. Sugato didn't have one to his room, and never complained about it. Journalists don't have much time to make good use of a balcony, Anurag guessed.
But Anurag wasn't a great lover of free air either. He didn't use the balcony as an opening to nature, and only Anurag knew that. The lazy winter afternoon was almost over, leaving behind a sleepy aroma. Anurag leaned over the waist-high railing and looked at the almost complete construction of Bikas Chandra's north window. The wooden frames and the doors were set and the cementing around the frame was complete. They would probably start coloring the window the next morning. The window was not like this even only a couple of weeks ago, thought Anurag. Bikas would never know that he was not only going to change his window, but also a major part of Anurag's life which, everybody thought, a completely normal life.

Everybody...except Anurag himself.

Anurag woke up at nine every day; had a cup of tea over the newspaper and waited for the bathroom to be empty. At 9:45, he started getting impatient and shouted at his flat-mate to get out of the bathroom. He had to run to catch a bus and jostled his way into its overflowing crowd with his enormous laptop back-pack drawing thousands of angry comments towards himself. He was late almost everyday to find Avantika impatiently waiting for him in his cubicle. For about an hour, he answered her questions about the programs he had written, and then went to canteen to have his lunch. The other half of the day passed as dull as it could be, and Anurag hovered around his supervisor's door with an 'Away' notice on it knowing that he wouldn't be able to meet him just like the last couple of months. When the clock ticked four, he abandoned hope and returned to his cubicle to go through the problem in hand yet again as he had been doing for the last two years. After about an hour and a half, he locked his cubicle, put the key on a hook behind the almirah so that Avantika could open the door and wait for him again the next day, and left.

But life was not like this even a couple of years ago. The journey through the carefree and joyful student hood was the best time in Anurag's life. Anurag had very few friends, and they were wonderful friends. Arun, Alok, Anurag and Sharmishtha - classmates called them 'the gang of four' in college. Anurag was a little reserved in opening up to others; but to his friends he could be completely himself. They continued their journey together to the Master's degree. Five long years of togetherness made Anurag think that they would go on like this...forever. Alas! He wasn't right.

Even the loveliest movie comes to an end, and so did the student life of Anurag. Unfortunately, all of Anurag's friends joined other institutes in other cities all around India and Anurag got a chance in an institute in the same old city. That, Anurag knew, was something they could do nothing about, and he had to remain alone in this city . But it didn't make much of a difference, since Anurag was sure that nothing could come into the way of their friendship. And keeping contact was not a problem...everybody has internet these days. Like an ideal young researcher, Anurag started his Ph.D with great passion and enthusiasm. He had his dreams to become an eminent physicist, and started working hard from the very first day.

Soon Anurag realized that devoting oneself completely to research was not that easy. One has to have his or her other priorities too..and family is one of them. Anurag's parents were happy that their son had made it to somewhere, and now they expected him to be settled. And settling in such cases, make no mistake, has only one meaning...But Anurag had no plans to be married..not now at least! So Anurag started using the same old tactics he used while playing football with his friends. He used to play striker and whenever he came across a defender bulkier than himself, he passed the ball without going into confrontation. His friends laughed at him, but could not deny the fact that he was the one with a clean game and least number of bumps and bruises..always. Every field is linked..both in Physics and in life! You can map one onto some other.

But slowly, Anurag started to hate his life. As the time progressed, he was getting hinged to an abnormally ordered schedule. The high spirit, after these two long and painfully frustrating years, had worn off almost entirely. He was not making much progress through the problem he was assigned to, and started to grow impatient. His life in the city was confined within his institute and the rented flat he shared with Sugato. He had almost none to talk his heart out in the city. He was missing his friends more than ever. He could talk to them, of course, thanks to the internet and mobile services. But that was painfully insufficient to his desperate need of a friend..a friend of flesh and bone..a friend with a presence.

Anurag reduced talking alarmingly. He started going home more frequently than ever. But he only spent time with his laptop writing codes while at home. Naturally, his parents were worried...but he wouldn't talk to them either. He even started avoiding long conversations with his research-group, which, in turn, affected his work. He was dying to get out of this open up to somebody...but to whom?

One evening, while back from the institute, he was staring idly to the ground of the housing in front of their building. Suddenly he sensed someone staring at him, he could see him by the corner of his eye. He turned around sharply to find none except his own reflection on the glass window of a flat just opposite to theirs. Laughing at his own fear, he told his image, "that's some shock you gave me, you know that?"

And it started. Every evening, back from the institute, Anurag spent a couple of hours with his new friend..himself. He would cancel all his works for that meeting. There were none to disturb them, as Sugato usually did not stay at home at that hour. Nobody knew what did the trick, but slowly he started being normal again. His performance in work improved remarkably. His parents were relieved watching him converting to the same old Anurag. Everything came back on track once again.

This continued for over a year. Anurag's secret remained to himself. Nobody had a clue what was happening at the balcony of Anurag Banerjee's room for an hour or two every evening. Anurag came to know that the flat belonged to someone named Bikas Chandra - a retired bank employee, who usually stayed at his daughter's. He saw him only for a couple of times over the year, when he came and stayed at his flat for a day or two. With him in the flat, the window remained usually open. And even if it was closed, Anurag had to postpone his evening chat...what's the point of drawing attention of old Mr. Chandra!

But Anurags evening venture came to a stop about two weeks ago when a kid from their housing hit a sixer and broke the glass of that very window. Anurag's world collided with the shattered window and stopped. He was alone once again..and the feeling, as before, was not comforting at all! He became edgy. He could sense the same old loneliness creeping back in himself. He tried to use some replacements - his reflection on the mirror for instance and realized that somehow he could not relate himself to if there was something special to that particular window. He hoped against hope that Mr. Chandra would replace the glass and his friend would be back soon untill two days ago when Mr. Chandra called for a carpenter and ordered for a window frame. Anurag witnessed the entire conversation from the balcony. His friend was not going to come back..ever again.

Anurag woke up with a start from his thoughts...his mobile was ringing in his pocket. He took the phone out . It was his mother. Anurag braced himself..he had thought about it for the past two days, and the time has come..
"Ani.. how are you son? "
"Ma.. I was thinking... I need to tell you something... "
"Err.. Ma.. I think it is time I get married.. what do you think?"