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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!—Part-4


I stood there for some time, not knowing what to make of the words just uttered by my erstwhile friend, and what to do next. However, I decided to do the most sensible thing at that moment. I went in heading for the bar. As I pushed my way through the revolving glass doors I came to a standstill again looking at the spectacle.

The bar was spacious, rectangular in size, with a full glass wall giving a view of the street outside and a wood-paneled wall on the other side. To my utter surprise and shock, the whole interior was filled with thick layers of smoke rising up to the false ceiling. How on earth they are allowed to smoke inside, I thought in dismay; my mind taking an overview of all the steps taken by the public authorities in recent years to save people from exposure to passive smoking. What amazed me next were the customers there.

Most of them were young boys and girls. Almost everyone was smoking, throwing out rings of smoke upwards. Some were looking up squealing in ecstasy while a few others were bent over the tables, jerky and sneezing; some were staring around with total disinterest and glazed eyes; some were either howling or moaning or plain crying and some others were swaying from side to side in their merriment with their bodies hitting or brushing against other bodies. I didn’t take long to understand what was going on.

It was obviously a drug bar, and I was astounded as to how this could be done so openly and in such a brazen manner. My first impulse was to dial the police if any in this strange place, but somehow my mobile phone and I became poles apart in the happenings so far. A few addicts became aware of me standing uncertainly in front of the entrance, and they stared at me, as if trying to evaluate me; a few seemed to jeer at me while some others communicated to me pitifully, ‘give us sustenance...give us sustenance...please!” My amazement fast giving way to fear I made a hasty retreat.

Out of the bar I walked disoriented and aimless for a few minutes, not at all bothered about the streets or the landscape or the skyline. Suddenly again, I found myself in front of a restaurant which, to my great relief, looked like a traditional one with two rows of neatly arranged desks and chairs and normal looking waiters moving around taking orders from customers scrutinising the menus. However, something else was waiting for me inside.

As I entered the open doorway heading for an empty table the manager behind the cash counter moved around in great speed, and walking past me slapped a waiter busy taking orders unawares; he repeated his unprecedented acts on three other waiters, slapping them with fury and vehemence. As I was destined that night I stood transfixed there, one more time. Now, the manager was shouting like a madman.

There was a moment of absolute silence in the restaurant following the manager’s acts with customers and staff alike stunned and immobilized. From the incoherent words of the manager I surmised that sometime back the hotel owner’s daughter with a few of her friends visited the restaurant for dinner, and one or more waiters misbehaved with them, not knowing their credentials or simply ignoring them. The daughter and group left in a huff, and the manager got a resounding bashing from the owner over phone. So he acted upon it immediately. However, before his action fully justified his fury something more dramatic happened.

Three goons with guns ready and pointed in their hands entered the restaurant. One of them stood guarding the entrance, one aimed his gun point-black at the manager’s head and the third one took position at the rear end. And I was like a duck sitting pretty amid the strangest scenario. This cannot go on any longer as far as my safety is concerned, I decided. I was an accidental bystander and therefore there was no reason why I should compromise my safety. I started moving towards the entrance slowly as a heated exchange of words was taking place between the manager and the gun-toting goon.

I almost made it. But unfortunately, just at the final moment of exit I accidentally brushed against the goon standing there, and his gun fell to the ground. Before the goon could react to that I acted impulsively and with a good presence of mind. I instantly stooped down, picked up the gun and hander it over to him with a sweet smile. The bewildered thug also managed a grin, and as I made my last move to exit he said to me in a rather paralyzing perplexity, “You gotta be a good man! But many good guys gotta die sooner than others! Nah..?” he hollered in great merriment over his own humor.  “Enjoy the night, goodbye!” I smiled weakly back at him and slowly moved out. The goon leaned out of the entrance to watch me, still giggling.

About twenty yards ahead the road turned right, and if I was able to round that corner I would finally move out of his sight. I watched many movies and read many thrillers where the villains appeared to be very suave, sophisticated and benevolent, but at the climax they used to murder the victims mercilessly. Those twenty yards seemed to be an eternity as I started moving slowly ahead measuring every step and at the same time keeping an absolute outward calm. The imminent probability that he might put a bullet through my back any time was a horrific thought that refused to leave my mind.

Nothing happened for about ten yards. I quickened my pace only by a fraction now so that it didn’t get noticed, suppressing my extreme desire to break into a dead run, and just vanish round the corner...and escape...

                                                                                    (To be continued...)

Friday, June 7, 2019

ICC Cricket World Cup-2019: When The Umpire Wanted Gayle Out!

Photo: espncricinfo.com 

The headline above is not an allegation, it’s only an observation based on hard facts. However, this observation reflects badly on the umpiring standards in the biggest cricket event of the world.  We had recently seen ludicrous umpiring errors in Indian Premiere League-2019. ICC Cricket World Cup can hardly be compared with the former, and we fervently hope that standards would improve as this was just the first week of the tournament.

It all happened in the 10th match of the ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 at Trent Bridge, England between Australia and West Indies. Winning the toss West Indies put Australia into bat, reduced them to 79 for 5 thanks to fiery spells by Thomas and Cortrell that reminded us of the likes of Malcolm Marshall & Co of yore, and as was their wont, West Indies let go allowing the Aussies to amass 288. Still, it was not an impossible target, and West Indies seemed to be cruising nicely with Hope and Heitmyer going great guns. Again, as Caribbean old habits die hard, the batsmen snatched defeat from victory, preferring to go only for the big shots without any kind of pressure. And, they lost by a mere 15 runs. Now, back to our point of concern.

Only in the third over of the match Aussie pacer Starc appealed for a caught behind against Chris Gayle, and the umpire upheld it. Gayle was never known to have shown disrespect or mistrust in umpiring in his strikingly aggressive career, and never sulked after adverse decisions. Therefore, when he shook his head implying that there was no snick and asked for the DRS it was very believable and genuine. The review proved that the ball never touched the bat, and in fact, could have brushed against the off stump without dislodging the bails. Gayle won the DRS. In the same over Starc again appealed for an LBW, and the umpire promptly upheld it while this writer watching television live telecast could clearly see that the ball was veering away from the leg stump. Gayle raised his eyebrows in wonder and asked for the second DRS. The review showed how the ball was missing the leg stump by quite a big margin. Gayle won his second DRS and also opened up with his breathtaking shots. Perhaps, some people who mattered sulked.

The umpire and Starc combined all over again. The appeal was for an LBW with the umpire raising his finger immediately. This time Gayle looked a little bewildered, and asked for his third DRS. The review was not lost yet again, but since the ball was in line and seemed to have struck the top edge of the leg stump the umpire’s decision had to be upheld. And Gayle departed. He was allowed to score only 20 runs.

And then, the real explosion came. Later replays showed that the ball prior to the one that got Gayle out was a no ball by a big leap, but the same umpire never seemed to notice it. Therefore, the ball that got Gayle out finally was a free-hit ball where no batsman could ever get out.

The above observations do not intend to take away credit due to Starc who had a five-wicket haul thanks to consistent pace, line and length, and to Australian captain Finch who showed a thoroughly professional approach making West Indies play into their plans.

The other highlights of the first week, positively, included England, Bangladesh and India beating a beleaguered South Africa in their respective openers where mention must be made about Bangladesh’s aggression and the quality of both batting and bowling; West Indies routing Pakistan, and then Pakistan beating hot favourites England showing precision batting, bowling and fielding, and the fact that no mention by anybody was made as to why England offered batting opportunity to Pakistan on a platter, as the pitch was full of runs and the hosts were full of confidence; valiant Bangladesh losing in a tight match against New Zealand and Sri Lanka managing to register their first win over Afghanistan by a narrow margin.  

With the round-robin league in operation ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 promises to be a fierce battle between nations upholding their national pride and belief. Each one of the ten teams is capable of scripting history—one cannot even write off South Africa and Sri Lanka as yet. We only hope no cricketer suffers like Chris Gayle did in the exciting days of the tournament ahead. India has big matches coming up—against Australia on 9th June, against New Zealand on 13th June and the ultimate one against Pakistan on 16th June.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!—Part-3

The eatery seemed to me as an Italian food joint with largely fast food items most of which were not even known to me. People were crowding, leaning and craning over the counter for buying order coupons since it was a self-service restaurant. However, to my surprise, there was hardly any noise, an eerie silence prevailed. Surprisingly too, members of the student community were missing conspicuously. Of course, I could never be sure about differentiating a young man from a student, it was only subjective. For my comfort, if it did matter, most of the customers were young.

As I approached the counter for a look-in at the items available the nagging thought came to me again; since checking in I didn’t call my even once wife informing her of my whereabouts, even though I wanted to tell her first thing after arrival; but somehow, I never cared to take up the mobile and dial her number. Let me order the food first and then I’ll call her, I assured myself again.

I looked for the menu, but there was none; only names of some dishes were scribbled on the black board behind the counter. I squeezed my eyes to focus on the items, but could not read properly, and the real problem was I was not at all sure what ingredients those dishes were made of. I looked here and there for some kind of help and guidance. My eyes riveted on a small boy, in early teens, standing in front of a table in the eating area beckoning to me to come to him. I found him too young for a waiter, and immediately warned myself that he could be part of a racket to fleece vulnerable customers. So I decided to ignore him, and pushed my way through to the man behind the counter.

I asked him for a menu card or to tell me about the ingredients used in making various items on display. He looked at me a bit oddly, called someone from the backside, and instructed me to follow the man for the advisory. The man was tall and had an athletic build with bulging biceps and chest muscles threatening to tear through the light T-shirt he wore. He sized me up haughtily and ordered me to follow him. Is he going to take me to the kitchen, I wondered.

I followed him obediently as he walked by the side of the restaurant that led to a wooden staircase. He climbed briskly up the stairs and I had trouble keeping track of him as lots of people were either going up or coming down the stairs, I failed to understand why. We arrived at a broad spacious wooden platform crowded with people scattered here and there. I froze as I managed to take a closer look.

Most of the people there were physically deformed or poor beggars or both. I guessed some of them could be leprosy affected too. They were lying on the floor in helpless sprawls making odd noises. Some of them were moaning, some crying and some shrieking out in agony, ‘Help us...help us...help us...!’ Some other able-bodied guys were trudging through the fleshy spread of human bodies, examining them, taking photos...but making no effort to help them in any way.

My moment of the paralysing shock cost me dearly. I lost track of the muscular guy. He seemed to have vanished into thin air. How is it possible, how a bulky bodybuilder like him can vanish like that, I had a sense of panic rising within me. There was no exit from the platform on the other side as there were brick walls around with a few wooden windows strewn here and there, mostly closed; any visitor must use the staircase for departing too. Now, the disfigured, the agonized and the helpless bodies on the floor suddenly became aware of me standing there uncertainly, and their noises began to be directed at me. I shook myself out of the paralysis, and started looking for a quick escape.

Luckily, I did not lose my way and the staircase was still there. I almost ran towards it and plummeted down the steps like a cursed shooting star. An overwhelming sense of relief flooded my whole self as I arrived back at the front side of the restaurant.

With relief the hunger pangs returned too. As I contemplated my next move I noticed a person, dressed in a civilized manner and bespectacled, taking a lot of interest in me and was coming towards me. I took him for a professor of the institution, and was not at all averse to meeting him.  In fact, I thought, a local professor could be a very good guide for me. I waited for him to join me.
He was lean and of medium height; smiling eyes behind the glasses and black curly hair. He said to me immediately,
“Hello, you seem to be a stranger in this part of the globe, I suppose! I’m Akhter, a businessman from Mumbai.”
So he was not a local professor and an equal stranger like me, I thought dully. I said to him loud,
“Well, not exactly. I visited this place earlier, but this time I’m finding it a little strange. Anyway, I’m Hridayesh from Kolkata. Nice meeting you!” We shook hands.
“You look a bit ruffled up, are you in some sort of trouble?” he asked. “I know this place well. Tell me, I can help you out.”

I told him about my predicament finding a supper. He took me to a nearby shop, bought cigarettes, lighted his and offered me one. I politely refused. He relaxed, making me relax too. We continued our conversation, but I lost track of the thread apart from the fact that he promised to take me to a good food joint. After finishing his fag he asked me to come with him. We hit the main road and walked in the direction which I thought took us farther away from the guest house. This time I felt confident of finally quashing my hunger protests. A few yards on the main road we turned right towards a lane, at the end of the lane I could see an illuminated restaurant. His steps became quicker as I followed him in.

The one-storied longish block housed a store on our right and a restaurant cum bar on the other. The kitchen was most probably located behind the store, because I saw several waiters coming out with loaded trays and some going in perhaps for more food orders. My friend seemed to have locked his eyes with big-bellied elderly manager at the cash counter which served both the bar and the store. Suddenly, Akhter began shaking in excitement.
“This is a decent place, have your drinks and food in comfort,” he said to me. “I must go now. Sorry not to be with you. Because I must have a one-night-stand with my packets...” and with these strange words he vanished behind the store...

                                                                  (To Be Continued...)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!—Part-2


I did as I planned. I managed to push the door free of its hinges to the wrong side outside. However, the falling door failed to crush anyone under its weight. To my surprise and horror, there was only that frail old sick lady outside, and she dexterously succeeded in wriggling herself out of the falling door.

Eyes blazing, breathing venom, hair and hands flailing and shrieking wildly the woman was dancing in a seizure of insanity. “Give me money...give me food...you crooked fool!” I failed to retreat inside, as if paralyzed by the spectacular dance of insanity in front of me, as if trying in vain to analyze what it was all about. I lost a few precious moments in the process. In those seconds the wild cavorting spectacle in deadly throes took hold of a small iron table, and came rushing to hit me. I pulled my mind out of wondering about how she could come to possess so much of energy, so ominously potent, and concentrated on my next crucial move.

My self defense mechanism now turned to the attacking mode as I moved out in the open trying to run around her eluding her, trying to tire her out and to catch the most opportune moment to deactivate her. For the first time I was aware that it was an open space, like a backyard, and there were few building blocks surrounding the space. There were some heads and voices too in the lighted balconies of some blocks, but no one tried to intervene or help either of us. You cannot expect anything from these zombies; at the most they will take out their mobiles, take selfies and enjoy, I mused bitterly as I ran around the space with the specter giving a relentless chase. “Give me money...give me food...you wretched devil!”

Perhaps there came a divine intervention. In that seemingly endless run and chase, one moment came to me when she was close enough to me on my right about to turn around to confront me. I accepted that moment like the proverbial straw; caught hold of her and the iron table using both of my hands, gave her an almighty shove and ran headlong towards my room—through the broken door and through that enigmatic door. Unnaturally powerful as she was, the frail lady could not take it this time reeling, cursing and falling with a thud at the farthest side of the space, the iron table on top of her. That gave me good enough time to seal my protection.

I activated all the locks available on that mysterious door, and sat down on the bed panting with a rush of blood to my head. Shrill shrieks of the insane woman could no longer be heard now. However, at this particular moment things again got a little blurred, I had no idea at all why. At that particular moment I should have done the most obvious thing—call up reception, report that emergency and urge them to take immediate preventive steps. But instead, I only felt pangs of hunger in my belly, and thought about taking preventive steps for that only. I looked at my watch. Oh God...it was quarter past ten, no point calling the canteen now, I thought despondently.

My mobile phone rang. In the commotion I totally forgot about my phone which was lying abandoned at the bedside table. Now that lively gadget somehow brought me a little closer to reality, it seemed. It was Srijay flashing on the screen as I answered it.
“Sir, have you taken your supper? Are you already in bed?”
“Neither. I forgot to order on time. Few odd things happening here that I’ll tell you tomorrow at leisure. For the moment I am famished and I don’t know what to do! No vehicle available to venture out to the town.”
“Sorry to hear that, Sir. Anyway, don’t worry. There is a joint, reasonably good, nearby. From the main entrance of the guest house turn right and you’ll find it a hundred meters away. I’ll accompany you if you want.”
“Thanks a lot, Srijay. No...No..., you take rest. I’ll manage. Good night, see you tomorrow.”

For good or bad I was not sure at that time, my hunger pangs got the better of me submerging my earlier queer experiences into an understanding with reality. How I came out of the guest house without confronting anyone in the reception I didn’t give a thought to that time and neither could I remember now. The whys and hows in my narrative were still refusing to reveal themselves, to my utter helplessness.

Anyway, I exited from the guest house gate and turned right as instructed. The scenario puzzled me quite a lot. As I remembered from my earlier visit or visits the guest house was located in a small township of the institution with only a main road and classroom and administrative blocks and staff quarters scattered around with open spaces lined with trees. Coming outside now I found several other roads connecting to the main road, and lots of lighted shopping or eating enclosures all around. However, there were lonely stretches of maybe hundred meters each on either side of the guest house.  I even found distant hills silhouetting a dim skyline opposite to the guest house which was definitely no there when I came last. Queer thoughts creeping in again I quickened my steps towards the eatery... 
                                                                          (To Be Continued...)

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!


We checked into a guest house of the academic institution after eight in the evening. Somehow at that particular moment I couldn’t remember the exact details of our prior journey, just concentrating on getting settled there. Why I was there that too I didn’t quite bother about. However, since my colleague came along with me I was confident enough that it was an official trip. That it was a bit odd not to remember anything about the trip or the purpose of the visit didn’t cross my mind either.

The room was rectangular and looked fine, a little more spacious than standard rooms. From the entrance on the left segment of the room there was the double bed; on the left side of the bed there was a sliding glass-paned window giving a view to the front side of the guest house; a cupboard at the corner opposite the bed; on the right there was a table with three wooden cushioned chairs and beyond that there was the door to the rest room. I got curious when I saw another closed door on the left side of the rest room door, that is to say, on the farthest right hand corner from the entrance. From the design of the floor I was sure that the additional door couldn’t connect to another room. I decided to find out later what that interesting door led to. There was one more window on the right side from entrance; all curtains were drawn across since the AC was put on.

My colleague Srijay asked me repeatedly if I was comfortable and if I needed something more. Getting assured from my answers he left for his room reminding me to order supper positively before ten o’clock at which time the limited dining facility closed down for the night. I saw him to the door thanking him for his concern. As I closed the door suddenly I felt someone’s presence in the room. I whirled around to my left, and for a moment I was paralyzed with an uncanny feeling.

Standing before the drawn curtains of the window a short, stocky and dark skinned boy smiled up at me. I stared at him, nothing coming out of my frozen vocal chords. The boy grinned at me and said,
“Sir...you must’ve forgotten me! Why...I was the room service when you came here last time!”
Yes, I came here earlier too, but somehow I couldn’t place that boy, not able to remember if I met him last time. More than that I was very much occupied with the thought about how he got in. The attendant left after putting my luggage in order, and no one came after that; I was there with Srijay only. The fact that my mind was already a little blurred I took special care now to put things in proper focus, and my mind started racing which was interrupted by the boy again.
“Sir, don’t worry...you’ll remember later, of course. Please call room service if you need anything...and I’ll come again” With that the boy unlocked the door, went out and closed it from outside, all in a languid motion.

I stood there motionless for some time. Finally I forcibly put it out of my mind, and at the same time I decided to explore everything about the room. Immediately I headed for the interesting door past the rest room. I moved the door knob giving it a mild push to know if it was locked from the other side.

No, it wasn’t. I pushed further and the door opened into a sizable space giving the impression of some sort of a store room. But, why a store room was attached to the main room? Such a facility was never offered in any hotel or guest house where I stayed in the last few years. The room had some old wooden furniture and few wooden racks scattered here and there. Straight ahead there was another door, and immediately I moved towards it to find out what was lying beyond, my curiosity at the peak now. As I neared the door something moved on my right. There was a big old wooden rack covered fully with a white sheet from top to bottom, and below the bottom shelf the cloth was hurriedly pulled inside. Someone must be hiding under it! I got really scared now, a chill running down my spine.

“Who the hell is there?” I shouted at the top of my voice. Nothing happened for a few moments. And then, the cloth was thrown aside, and there emerged the frame of frail old lady with unkempt hair, sunken eyes and protruding cheekbones glaring at me, and in a flash trying to jump on me. She called out in a sick shrill, “Give me money...give me food...now...or... I’ll devour you up, you wicked man!” More in fright than the danger of a physical assault I instinctively rushed towards the door as the sickly woman charged after me. In a flash I opened the door, pushed the rushing figure through it and locked it from inside. I had no time to see what lay beyond that door as I planned to earlier. I’ve locked this door, and now I’ll keep that ‘interesting’ door of my room permanently locked never bothering about it, but I’ll surely report this matter to the manager, I promised myself.

Outside the door the shrill rose to a crescendo now, and I hurriedly turned around heading back for my room. I took only a few steps when I heard a scratching noise slowly rising in volume. I whirled around again looking at the door. Someone was trying to crush open the door. Who could it be? That frail lady couldn’t possibly emit so much force? I stood there transfixed. The scratching became a hammering now. The door started shaking violently.

My God...it was giving away, I watched in horror! The top door hinge was almost gone; the middle one was getting jerked uncontrollably. If that gave away the single-piece door would come off. I must do something now...and fast.

Instinctively again, I rushed towards the door. My plan was to push the door out along with the intruder to the other side, possibly crushing her or him under the door, then rush back to the room, locking the ‘interesting’ door securely and call reception. Only one factor was beyond my control—I didn’t know what lay beyond that door, and what was the number of my foes, only the lady or more...  
                                                                                                    ...(To Be Continued)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Gold Crush!



He took a resolve not to submit the details as required or give in to the new pressure tactics. He considered this move totally unfounded, preposterous and unnecessary. Why should he or any other of his kind at all? How did it relate to the work they all were doing? He was not a broker or an agent or a dealer or a pedlar. He had been a simple honest straightforward employee eking out a living from his salary, didn’t matter at all if it was fat or lean. Whatever he did or didn’t was conditioned by his monthly salary, and he was not ready to share his kitchen details with anyone. Why at all? And what purpose would it serve to the party who wanted such details except for making wrong use of the information.

His company suddenly wanted all its employees to submit full property details including family holdings of gold and silver. While most of the employees accepted it as part of duty and were going ahead with the procedure he resisted vehemently publicly announcing his decision never to comply with this.

His stubborn resistance naturally led to suspicions among his colleagues. Did he somehow manage to have a secret hoarding of the precious metals from his or his wife’s side and therefore refusing to disclose, they thought. He also came to know of their suspicions, but didn’t give a damn, and instead tried to inspire them with noncompliance giving the reason as ‘unnecessary intrusions into the personal domain’. Some of them did agree, but didn’t have the courage to act upon it.

As it transpired the drive finally petered out for unknown reasons, and the company stopped pestering for strict compliance. He felt vindicated, but others said that finally good sense prevailed in the company management. Those who submitted were never asked anything about it.

As we found out later he had an entirely different reason for his refusal. He had such tiniest of possessions of the precious metals that he was ashamed of disclosing that in public. He was believed to have confided to his wife, “Only you and I know that we never hankered after gold or anything. We have next to nothing in our family possession, even you friends wouldn’t believe you if you tell them so. Now, isn’t it offensive to ask us to disclose? At least paupers like us should be spared the ignominy of having to advertise in public. Don’t you agree?”

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

IPL Vs ICC World Cup Cricket!


While most of the World Cup-2019 squads of various nations are having or are going to have training camps soon for the all-important event India continue to have just Indian Premiere League (IPL-2019). Well...

That Virat Kohli continued to captain Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) even after the most disgraceful proceedings as far as the team performances are concerned has obvious reason. Being a superlative cricketer that he is and also being Team India captain Virat had been the star attraction of the IPL-2019. Therefore, despite the upsetting losses he was still having most of the commercial time on the air along with some of his non-performers, and an appetizing element of suspense being maintained by the cricketing experts or the media or the spectators that he might stage a comeback for his franchise yet, and who knows..! For similar reasons in terms of money and glamour Indian cricketers just could not leave the IPL halfway while many of the other international cricketers had already left or were leaving for training or preparatory camps of their respective countries. A camp should ideally be one-month long, and most countries were following that in right earnest. However, the last match of IPL scheduled on 12th May, 2019 Team India didn’t have even a fortnight to prepare with the ICC World Cup-2019 staring on 30th May, 2019 in England and Wales. Further, there had been no news so far if there was indeed going to be an Indian camp or not.

IPL has been an enigma in different ways. Many cricket experts and some sports journalists believed that competitive IPL was providing good enough match practice for the coming international tournament. This was a highly contentious issue. The format of T20 is entirely different with the bowlers not able to bowl more than 4 overs each, and batsmen desperately trying to hit sixes or fours with the little time available. How is it going to provide good practice to score as well as stick on the fast England pitches in the one-day international (ODI) or 50-over matches? Besides, stalwarts like Sourav Ganguly kept on making controversial statements intermixing T20 with the ODI format. Ganguly, going gaga over a match winning innings of Rishav Pant recently, said that this world cup was not the end of the road for him, there will more to follow in at least 15 years to come, adding to the astonishing hype created over the non-selection of Pant for the World Cup-2019. A few days later he said that the form of Virat Kohli in this IPL was no indication for the coming World Cup. Well, it was all of a matter of convenience to analyze IPL in the intended ways as was evident from such comments. The day or rather the night when RCB got finally knocked out of the tournament some media personnel were very quick to add that now Virat Kohli should concentrate only on preparing for the World Cup!

God forbid, the IPL could be the biggest stumbling block for the World Cup as far Team India’s performance in that event is concerned. Competitive club bonanza is no match for the international event where pride of nation is much more important than money and glitz. On the other hand if some players had benefited from the IPL they all belonged to rival teams. For example, Warner and Smith from Australia prospered very well just after coming back from serving a one-year ban for the ball-tampering scandal, good batting practice, and now the preparatory camp in addition; some of the Caribbean cricketers also benefited hugely from this tournament with a few of them making it to the World Club squad, and now going to have the training camp too. Only Indian cricketers had toiled maniacally on slow-flat domestic pitches with no road to exit, and now will be leaving for England without any preparation in terms of physical conditioning. And also, they would definitely be fated to face the superstars created by this IPL in rival teams in the coming international event.

Whichever way it goes, Team India is still favored hugely to lift the World Cup-2019, and we believe too in that positivity. If Virat had problems in IPL captaincy he will have Dhoni and Rohit on his side in the World Cup. However, we still lament the possible lack of any preparatory camp for India to land in England reactivated sans the IPL hangover. And then, this time the ICC World Cup will be fought on a round-robin basis with each of the 10 teams playing each other once, and the top four teams making it to the semi-final stage. This promises to be a saga of super cricketing rivalry with the first match taking place on 30th May, 2019. Happy cricketing times to all the lovers of this game.

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. I'm omitting the bikers from this purview, because most of them would park theirs near local railway stations and take the plunge. 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 this twosome combines in one or more commuters you end up with no outward reaction but curse. In the somewhat rare case of a triplet—backpack, big belly and bully in one fearsome whole—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 enough, 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 invariably 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 sleeve shirt  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, you are intelligent enough 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.

If you have any other issue regarding this purview please feel free to put it up here. 

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.

“Hey...do 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 you...no...that we were going to launch a new project soon. Well...today 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 bragging...how great and noble you are...like 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:




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