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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Commuting Discomfiture!

If you live in India, and you don’t have a car or you cannot afford to take out your car daily, then you must be used to the perennial overcrowding in all modes of public transport in the big cities. The one advisory that comes to my mind is that ‘Don’t ever expect a seat, always concentrate on getting a standing space where you can commute in some comfort’! Of course, getting a standing space is no guarantee for continued comfort due to the fact that add-on crowds keep boarding in the stations on the way. However, this is still the only way to overcome the unease of overcrowding, somewhat. Although the scenario applies to all public modes of transport like the city buses, local trains and metro rail in this piece we’ll concentrate mostly on the travails suffered inside a metro train thanks to the claustrophobic interiors.

Now, what are the dangers of overcrowding? They are manifold with the main sources being the omnipresent backpacks, the omnipotent big bellies, the camouflaged bullies, the parasitic smart-phone users and other offenders; the last bit about offenders we’ll dwell upon at the end of this piece.

You know very well what backpacks or big bellies do to you during the ride with constant pushing, pinning and at times almost crushing you out of breath. Whenever these two combine in one or more commuters you end up with nothing but to curse. In the somewhat rare case of a triplet—backpack, big belly and bully—you’d feel like breaking out through the windows which is not at all possible though. Smart-phone users are mentioned here as ‘parasitic’ which is because they always use your bodies to lean against or worse for carrying on their ‘must’ mobile indulgence. Camouflaged bullies mean those persons who look harmless and peaceful, but at the opportune moments they’d push you, jostle you, elbow you mercilessly just to get to their ‘deemed’ comfortable standing space. Unfortunately, such bullies include even some of respected senior citizens who display unbelievable prowess to get to their reserved seats or to stand in front of those seats for catching the next opportunity. And, if you happen to make the cardinal mistake of commenting on their ‘activities’ they’d engage you in a furious debate for the rest of your journey.

Then, there are also additional dangers that invariably happen during your struggle. The mobile of the person squeezed in shoulder-to-shoulder to you would invariable ring, and the person would respond inevitably. He’d howl into the phone to beat the in-built noise, and in effect the hollering would attack your hapless ear hole relentlessly; to make matters worse the ‘call’ will last for the rest of your journey. You’d try to move your head right or left, or you’d try to crane your neck upwards; but there is no help at all for you. During summer the smell of sweat is a distinct disadvantage for many ‘sensitive’ commuters, and is unavoidable. However, at times the smell converts into a stench in no time, and invariably too. The person in half shirt sleeves squeezed in shoulder-to-shoulder to you would suddenly raise his arm to grab the metallic bar above for added safety.  The holes of your nose would get cruelly exposed to the gaping hole created by the action. Again, you’d try desperately to move your face right or left and crane you neck upwards; but there is absolutely no help available for you to beat the stench. You’d justifiably like to include such persons in ‘other offenders’ category.

There is a very potent danger that lurks in every overcrowded space; it can happen anytime taking everyone unawares on most occasions. I’d personally advise you to expect this in you all your future journeys from now on; anywhere, not just in overcrowded public transport; however, in the claustrophobic interiors as we mentioned earlier this could be deadly. Well, it’s about passing out foul gases, had you not been able to guess it already. Trapped in overcrowded spaces it makes you seethe with anger, want to shout out or beat up the offender; to make matters worse the stench hangs on in the closed air for an intolerably long time. As a preventive measure, like in cases of smoking or spitting, one can think of putting up a disclaimer ‘farting strictly prohibited’; however, this crude usage could grievously hurt the finer sensibilities of commuters. Therefore, it could be as simple as ‘gassing strictly prohibited’ which will be understood by all for the intended meaning despite the word having various other connotations.  But the problem is bound to linger on, because so far there is no time-tested methodology to find out and book such offenders.

Happy commuting!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Out Of The Clue...!

He was in an exuberant mood, full of positive energy, as he reached home that evening, got freshened up and settled down in the living room sofa; the day in office being a very productive one. He wanted to lose no time sharing it with his wife. He called out to her; she was in the kitchen just putting the tea-pot on the gas burner while she arranged the plates on the tray taking out bits and pieces of snacks for light refreshment before supper.

“ you hear me?”
“Yes, a bit louder!” the wife responded allowing the water, milk, tea powder, sugar and other ingredients to turn into a most desirable boil before being poured out.
“I told we were going to launch a new project soon. we got going and had the first team meeting. ...The meeting went off extremely good, all the team members acknowledging me as the undisputed leader, you know!” he relished the feel of telling this to the person he loved admired most in his life.
“One minute, I’m coming, my leader!’ she called out as she came into the living room, set the tray on the centre table and took a seat herself, offering him a cup of tea and prodding him to take a neatly cut piece of the cake she made that day.
“Thanks... All the members of the team are excellent, a mix of old and brand new,” the husband took a sip, accepted the cake and went on excitedly. “Among the members there is a new one, a girl who joined only recently, but got into the mould perfectly...”
“New girl? Well, how’s she, I mean, is she good-looking?”
“Oh yes. She’s pretty, and very young!”
“Ok, good for you!” she was getting into a mood to tease him.
“What do you mean ‘good for me’?”
“Why, you always love to be surrounded by pretty girls, no? Whenever I visit you in office I find you in such situations!”
“You know very well, it is always job oriented. I being the approving guy in the creative department they have to come to me for the final say. You also know that boys or girls is not the issue; it’s only work and its demands. Don’t you ever notice the boys loitering around me on your visits? I’m always focused and a bit emotional too. If somebody does good work I feel very excited. I end up hugging the boys very often. And, mind you, I do have enough good sense not to do so to the girls on similar occasions.” He exhaled in a relaxed way now.
“Well, my dear gender-neutral leader! Maybe you are eager to tell me more about the new lassie on the block?”
“She’s very smart, well-dressed and has an ability to pick up immediately. Not only does she have good looks but also has a polished way of speaking with a lot of good humor. You see, I had played a part in her selection, and for that she’s so grateful to me! The moment she entered my room for the meeting she bowed, thanked me profusely and shook my hand continuously...”

She looked a bit annoyed now. “Then go and hug her first thing tomorrow morning.”

He was surprised. From what to what, he mused. Had he spoken too much about the girl?

“You people are always biased. You cannot tolerate other women coming in your man’s life, whatever way it happens.” He uttered trying to justify his sense of offence and to suffocate the anger that was slowly growing in him.
“Bullshit! All males are like that! They want to brag about the women in their lives, and display horrendous intolerance at any attempt of elaborative analysis! ...I give you permission, okay, to hug all girls in your office from now onward...!” she was louder now.
“Do you think I am some kind of a leech? I always trust you with all my heart and you...?”
“Don’t go on bragging and great and noble you all others in your family! Only I know...the problems I faced coming to your main house. All are so concentrated on publicizing how great they are!” the beginning of the shrill in her voice irritated him.
“Now you are digressing, and it’s very deliberate, I know! Whatever is the way it happens you’ll finally come down on my people, targeting them unnecessarily! Your deeds, your reactions are always justified...whatever you prefer to say. And if I say something about your male friends all hell...!”
“Damn my male friends. That’s you, essentially! You cannot even tolerate my speaking to my old classmates! Hypocrites, braggers’ family...” she jerkily lifted herself from the chair moving away fast with her unfinished cup of tea.

He plonked his cup on the table nearly forcing the remaining tea to spill over the table. He could hear her making unnecessary noises in the kitchen handling the utensils while carrying on with her invective against him and her in-laws. Evening spoilt, he failed today also as on so many other occasions to track the lurking danger correctly and to pre-empt it, he decided not to contribute anything more to the rants, and leaned back dejectedly in the sofa. Why the hell did he have to share it with his wife? There were so many things in office or elsewhere that had better be relegated to oblivion rather than being described to others, particularly spouses, he thought. Few things were also going on in his mind. Why was he in such an exuberant mood and so eager to share it? Did the presence of pretty girls in office have any impact on that exuberance? I love good company, he reasoned, be it of any gender, and it’s perfectly natural to love good company. When good company combines with good job done why not to react positively to it, he went on. However, a few strands of doubt still haunted his mind, and in the meantime his wife’s rallies subsided.

Maybe he dozed off a little, because he was not aware of his wife re-entering the room and occupying the chair. Her words ended his reverie.

“What kind of fish preparation would you like for supper?”
He did not prefer to respond resuming his gloomy silence, slumped in the sofa. She went on though.
“I took the raw fish out of the freezer in the afternoon. Maybe you’d like to have fried fish before dinner?” She now smiled switching on the television set.

That appealed to him immediately. He planned to watch a live soccer match later that night, and fried fish as an appetizer would just be fine. However, he still did not respond, happy that normalcy threatened to limp back in.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Man In The White Mask!

I saw a masked young man just ahead of me in the check-in queue at the airport. His white mask securely attached to his mouth and nose he was still trying to maintain a 'safe' distance from the unmasked fellow passengers. 'Good', I thought. 'A much needed awareness about pollution.'
Settling his luggage he moved on to the security area, putting his hand-bag, laptop, mobile, charger-power banks, wires etc in the box for the x-ray. As I entered the area he joined the short queue at the security gate and I watched him briefly unmasking himself before the security person. Apart from my initial interest in him I was no longer keen to observe him any further now. However, it was not to be.
Getting clearance myself I started walking leisurely towards the departure gates as there was some time left for the flight. There I saw him again, not prepared for the surprise in store for me this time.
Unobtrusively, and with cold-blooded precision the masked young man walked into the thick air of the crowded smoking room.
'Hypocrite!' I muttered to myself as much in surprise as in anger, not exactly knowing how to react to this spectacle though...!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

How to Define the Syndrome of Being Busy!

The term ‘being busy’ or ‘I'm very busy’ or whatever has various levels of manifestations, connotations and concoctions. Of course, there are people who are genuinely busy: like those having 9 to 9 jobs with huge responsibilities and long commuting hours or the full-time housewives who remain extremely busy with daily chores from early morning to late night or the vendors whose ‘business’ depends on their constant presence behind their carts as long as possible or the shopkeepers, sellers and the like.

We mentioned ‘connotations’ and ‘concoctions’ in this regard. This has sound reasons. For many people you must try to define and understand their ‘being busy’ and also, you must try to see through their state of ‘very busy’ status. Whatever are your findings it’s never your business to undermine or ridicule or cast aspersions on such people! Your only job is to understand the state of affairs to illuminate the syndrome of being busy and record your observations.

When you happen to call up one of your long-time friends s/he may immediately apologize, ‘Oh you know. I considered calling you many times in recent past, but I've been keeping extremely busy these days…!’ Here, your analysing abilities do count. You must try deciphering his/her apparent ‘business’ in immensely objective terms. S/he could very well be ‘busy’ reclining in the arm-chair enjoying sunlight for long lazy hours or taking a long afternoon nap or being forced out on marketing errands by the spouse or having a whirlwind time shopping around or lounging out in the restaurants and bars or taking the pet dog out on evening shit-as-you-like rounds. Well, not to mention the usual social media 'business'. You can record your observations as per your findings.

You may call up someone on an urgent matter, and that someone may respond, ‘Oh I’m very busy at this moment; please don’t mind…I’ll call you back!’ Don’t feel bad about it and never expect to get a callback. Instead, try deciphering the concerned state of business. That someone could very well be busy just because you may have called him/her during the hours when his/her favourite television shows or movies are slotted or that s/he may be having a great time with some small-talking guests. Or that s/he may be making immaculate planning to optimize attending parties/weddings/birthdays/anniversaries coming up. Just record your findings.

Some cases do not even require efforts of deciphering; these get so crystal clear you know! Like you see somebody meddling with the computer—punching the keyboard, scowling at the monitor, making notes and all that; busy apparently. You never want to disturb him/her, but the circumstances force you ask one mandatory question that requires only ‘yes/no’ or ‘nod/shake head’ responses from the ‘busy’ party. Therefore, you go ahead with the interruption. And, the party responds most offensively, nastily and pugnaciously: ‘Can’t you see I'm so busy…you fool! How dare you disturb me? You should understand that when I'm on a particular track I cannot attend to other issues…just get that straight…!’ You may wonder why such time-consuming quarrelsome elaborations whereas s/he could have settled matter in mere seconds! That does for ‘businesses’ in any environment or at workplaces or homes; you record.

There is apparently no end to your possible observations and recordings. So, we’d like to conclude with one more observation: people in the classes we mentioned in the beginning as genuinely busy never say they are busy when you confront them physically or on phone; they always find time to receive or make personal calls and to greet and meet people/friends while on the job. Unfortunately this may also propel some reactionaries on your side decipher that these people are not actually busy, and free most of the time! One more interesting observation could be that ones are so busy nowadays with their smartphones that they cannot even think of answering calls palpitating in that same device! In a nutshell, this syndrome of being busy is bound to remain a perplexing human affair. However, you and I can always entertain ourselves with our observations and findings. OKI'm really busy now…!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Happy Magh or Bhogali Bihu !

The harvest festival of Assam starts today, the 14th of January, 2019. Tonight, called Uruka, community feasts are being organised in temporary straw-bamboo structures and at homes plus other venues all over, irrespective of any divisions. If you need to know more about this try the following link:

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Facebook: What Activates Your ‘Deactivate’ Urge...!

In the olden ages Facebook was a manageable affair. Your indulgence time in this fascinating book had to be found, because you could either do it on your desktop or on your laptop and everywhere it was not convenient to do so. The moment the smart phones inundated the eager hands of users things changed completely—for the better or for the worst is yet to be ascertained. Facebook indulgence became an anytime or rather a full time activity, to such an extent that if one picks up the mobile for doing a specific thing one inadvertently gets distracted to FB notifications, and finally forgets about what s/he picked up the mobile for. Its use stopped to be location-specific—it began to haunt users everywhere including travel time, in public transport and in public places apart from very private encounters.  

As a corollary to the above users started getting restless thinking about the time being devoted to this indulgence, if the time devoted or wasted is too much, if the things one is doing there are of any earthy meaning or significance, if one is mentally disturbed over this indulgence and so on. Therefore, people who had suffered intensively owing to the above have started thinking of ‘deactivating’ their accounts or have done so temporarily, and the ‘to be or not to be on FB’ became arguably the biggest existential dilemma for the existing users. Here we are going to put the light on some situations that may propel you to ‘deactivation’ of your Facebook account, and these situations are eked out on the basis of a cross-section of users’ sentiments/compulsions/disillusionment. In this essentially egregious analysis one must, of course, possess the unique ability or rather ‘humility’ to distinguish ‘celebrities’ from ‘lesser mortals’.

Uselessness: Most of the users think it’s useless and a sheer waste of time to indulge in this most vibrant form of social media. After devoting hours, days and months to it standing sitting sleeping or waking up they find nothing lastingly viable at the end and decide all their time has been wasted. They also complain that most of the so-called viral posts or videos are absolutely undeserving or fake in nature, and the moment they inadvertently click on a particular video an ocean of videos surge up making it unviable for them to go any farther.

Irritation: When you take 10 hours to generate 10 responses or more aptly ‘likes’ and witness others generating 100 in less than 10 minutes. You realise the utter meaninglessness of your user-existence, forced to ponder that making a century in cricket is somewhat easier.  

Anger: When you get caught in some posts unawares and withstand the 20+ selfies uploaded by a particular user whose photogenic presence is also immensely questionable. Why the hell should I go on watching the unimaginable angles to the same faces, again... again... and again?

Infertility: When you find yourself suddenly pregnant with some fertile or timely thoughts and think impulsively of putting it down on your timeline. Emboldened by the sizeable number of friends you do possess you post it with great expectations and wait with bated breath for responses or more preferably ‘comments’ since you have already devoted the time for an uplifting interaction. And, nothing comes in for an unbearable length of time.

Much Ado About the Obvious: When you witness ‘friends’ or ‘friends of friends’ or ‘friends friends...’, whatever, posting their faces in the acts of cooking, eating, sleeping, partying or travelling you ask yourself a profound question—why should I bother about what they are cooking or eating, where they are eating and why, where they are travelling to and why, what company they are keeping and why and why they are converting this public forum to a mere family album! Also, you start pitying the endless number of users responding to such posts and liking.

Futility: Finally one realises the futility of the whole experience with not more than 10% of one’s friends responding most of the times, with most of one’s fertile or newsy thoughts getting utterly ignored and even the occasional ‘faces’ of one not generating positive traction.

Facebook: Most often the ‘horse’ itself kicks you up again and again—prompting you to write endlessly, disturbing you with ‘memories’ you’d want to forget, informing you brazenly that someone has tagged you along with 100 others without any valid reason, circling your ‘face’ in some uncouth photograph and asking you to tag yourself, notifying you with ‘friend’ requests of some who are already your friends and so on so forth.

The impulses generated under any or all of the above situations most often drive you to ‘deactivation’. However, mind you, such ‘deactivation’ deeds are almost always temporary in nature, and in actual practice you ‘activate’ to ‘deactivate’ again, and again..!

(Note: The current status of this writer’s Facebook account is ‘Deactivated’! It is not at all clear if one or more of the situations listed above are responsible for this dastardly decision!)

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Festive Thought...!

The ‘festive’ thought as mentioned above could be interpreted as controversial after the words that follow are swallowed up, and therefore I clarify at the outset that there is no malicious intention behind this thought. There is only the spirit of celebration.

The Indian festive season starts around September every year with various non-religious, religious and intra-religious festivals taking place almost every week. Since all such events of worship or otherwise are now called ‘festivals’, these get naturally opened up for everybody to participate. Like the quintessential slogan given in West Bengal by the Chief Minister during the Durga Puja ‘festival’, ‘Religion is mine, religion is yours; festival is for all’. For example, in this year’s Christmas ‘festival’ on the streets of Kolkata you would hardly find a ‘religious’ being among the thousands of intense merrymakers. So then, everyone waits for the occasion from September to New Year Day to participate which translates into roaming around, extensive use of public transport and a lot of eating.

Business enthralls on every Indian street with quick-bite stalls, fast food joints and the usual restaurants each of which gets literally surrounded by ‘celebrating’ revellers. It becomes ‘binge eating’ in the truest sense of the term. And, it is not at all a joke to indulge in this over a reasonably long period of 3 to 4 months.

While it is definitely a positive development of religious occasions transcending all barriers and allowing all across all religions to take part wholeheartedly, there is a bit of a concern, at least for this nondescript writer.    

You see, after continuous ‘binge eating’ bellies around are sure to grow faster. In fact, the human observatory data as revealed to this writer indicate this very phenomenon. As you know, in India public transport is very crowded, particularly during the festival season. Nowadays while travelling in a public mode you need to be on your constant guard to counter the pushes and pinning by the backpacks. Even non-celebrating normal commuters carry the omnipresent slinging backpacks. And, they bulldoze through to create a space for themselves, maybe just to indulge in the inevitable mobile surfing. Now, after bellies start growing faster you’ll have the added misery of countering the front-packs too. No alternatives. At least till the New Year pledges which may or may not contribute to a bit flattening bellies...

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