Monday, September 22, 2008


William Shakespeare quoted "What is there in the Name" , I say a great deal here is a piece dedicated............ 

To Choton, Bulbul, Khoka, laltu, gogol, babai, buro, tutu, bubu, ghoton,bhutan, chotka, shanto, bubai, tubul .... et al. being half bengali myself and being called “Lintu” by most of my relatives I make here an attempt to alert people to a great injustice that is being perpetrated upon the sons of Bengal.So you thought they were wimpy to begin with. Far from it, my friend. Their current state is a result of years of conditioning by the oppressors - namely the women. By using a variety of psychological weapons, they have reduced these fine men to what you see today.

Today we focus on the first weapon in their hands - the nickname.

When a son is born into a Bengali household, he is gifted with a resonant, sonorous name. Bengali names are wonderful things. They convey majesty and power. A man with a name like Prasenjit, Arunabha or Sukanta is a man who will walk with his head held high, knowing that the world expects great deeds from him, which was why they bestowed the title that is his name upon him.

But it simply will not do for these men to get ahead of themselves. Their swelling confidence needs to be shattered. How can one go about it? This task is left to the mothers of these lads and is accomplished by the simple act of referring to the boy, not by his fine-sounding real name, but by a nickname which Shakti Kapoor would be ashamed to answer to. Their are some rules for creating nicknames, which need to be followed. They are -

1) Nicknames must have no connection to the real name. Arunabha cannot be called Arun. No, for that would be logical, and such things are anathema in the world of women. Instead he shall be called Bhombol. If possible, the nickname and real name must have no letters in common, but an ancient alphabet proves to be the constraining factor there.

2) Nicknames must be humiliating. If you are a tall strapping boy, with a flair for soccer, an easy charm and an endearing personality, then you shall be nicknamed - Bhondu. And every time, you have set your sights on a girl, and are on the verge of having the aforementioned lass eat out of your hand - your mother will arrive and pronounce loudly - "Bhondu, chalo". The ensuing sea of giggles will drown out whatever confidence you had earned from that last winning free-kick.

3) A nickname must refer in some way to a suitably embaressing incident in your childhood that you would give your arm and leg to forget. If it took you a little too long to shed your baby fat, then years of gymming will not rid you of the nomenclature - Motka. If your face turned crimson when you cried as a toddler, you will be called Laltu. When you turn 40, your friends' children will call you Laltu Uncle. Even age will not earn you the right to be taken seriously thereafter.

4) Different members of the family will make up different nicknames - each more embaressing than the preceding one. If one member of the family calls you Piklu, then another will call you Gonsa, and another will call you Jumbo. The humiliation multiplies.

5) You will always be introduced by your nickname until people forget you had a real name. Inspector Ranajoy might have taken on a gang of armed men single-handedly, but Toton really didn't have a chance. After a point Toton will completely take over the beaten body of Ranajoy,
weighed down by the pressure of a thousand taunts.

This strategy is surprisingly effective. Ask yourself - would you take Professor Lintu seriously? Or put much weight by the opinion of Dr. Babai? Or march into battle under the command of General Tubla?

The power of the nickname has scarred the psyche of Bengali men everywhere. It follows them like a monkey on their backs. That too, a monkey with a flair for slapstick, that was gifted to them by their own mothers.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Return of the RAJ

Earlier we were a slave nation ,now we are citizens of an independent nation ,or are we? Independence which gives us fundamental rights to live and earn our living anywhere within the boundary of this nation. I saw a report in newspaper that one person of Bachhan family was lamented of proclaiming that she should speak in “Hindi” as she is from UP ,First let me clarify, I don’t think that was in good taste either but just a publicity gimmick as I have seen the person speaking in honey coated English in a session drinking coffee with “KJ” but this is not about her, This is about a politician who sends his son to an “English Medium” School and forces or rather threatens first Schools and then Shopkeepers to write their shop names in Marathi. I would still respect this person If I got to see his “Sound Bites” lamenting horrendous terrorist attack in Delhi, but no there was no such feeling ,no such emotions for him who believes the terrorist are less condemnable than people who are very much a citizen of this Country but are not from Maharashtra…

Another publicity gimmick from a power hungry man who thinks Politics is a business and not duty, fuelled by media which is ready to sell an alcoholic monkey as a “Breaking news”, Is it not time to stand up for the unification of country? ,Is it not time to stand up and take note of dying farmers of Vidharba? .We have politicians who are busy using politics for their personal gain. Somewhere a Car factory is being targeted whose owner has a conscience to incur loss for safeguard of his employees.

Have you met Rajendra Pandey? Rajendra Pandey arrived in Mumbai ten years ago seeking job as a security guard in one of the many housing societies that dots south mumbai & suburbs, violence was something he was willing to live with.Mumbai is far more peaceful. Okay, you get harassed by cops occasionally or roughed up by local toughs, but life was far worse back home for Pandey and for many like him who came to this wonderful city before him.Home for them are places like Bhopal,Jaunpur,Patna,Darbhanga,Ranchi,etc.Brahmin by caste reservation in government jobs for the backward castes (Another gimmik of our power hungry politicians) have ensured that men like Rajendra don’t stand a chance despite being a graduate,Poor knowledge of spoken English has ensured that pleple like him work every month for his 12-hour shift, seven days a week.

Pandey and people like him share sleeping space with scores of kinsmen all brought to Mumbai by someone from their village who had come earlier. Extra income comes from washing cars,submitting electricity bills and doing ather such odd jobs for flats in the society that employs them. Men like Pandey form the backbone of Mumbai’s support services driving Taxi,Auto,Selling Vegitables,etc. Mumbai has something for everyone. A city of gold for migrants down the ages who flocked here to earn a living. The success stories of the ones who came before and sheer desperation back home continue to draw newer migrants.

Today was Ganpati Visarjan in Mumbai …..I saw a sea of people moving in processions, dancing ,frolicking. I saw people distributing water and sweets to strangers…They did not bother to ask if the other person was born in Mumbai (Mumbaikar)or had shifted to Mumbai (Parparantia).

I hate terrorists who have destroyed the peace of our Country ,who indiscriminately kill men,women and children and I hate the politicians who discriminate between the people of this nation.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Westcottians

This story began in a time of innocence, dreams and nothingness and span over sometime calm and sometime turbulent quarter century, culminating in me jotting down these lines in multitude of alphabets similarly scattered over the cyberspace.

It was the fall of 1984-85 when I first entered the precinct of Bishop Westcott Boys School, one of the oldest schools in the eastern region of India founded in the year 1927 by Rev. Foss Westcott. Located on the bank of River Subarnarekha, situated in a picturesque green environs the school had the distinction of serving as a make shift hospital during the World War II and a movie based on it called "Hip Hip Hurray"

So here I was….The first day was very hectic where all new boys were assembled in the prayer room after the morning prayers to be sorted in four respective houses which were to be their family or identity of sorts throughout their years at Westcott Boys’ ,New students were hurdled in the centre of the room where they were to pull a chit from a fishbowl ……It took me sometime to understand what was happening…..
By then it was my turn…….. one of the teacher called out “Nelson House” and here I was marked for life…It was only latter in the day that I realized each house was represented by colours . Nelson- Blue ,Hastings-Red, Wellington-Green & Allenby- Yellow next we queued up in book depot and got our new books and notebooks. Rest of the day passed and we settled in our new desks and benches in our respective classes.

It was a time we wanted two Sundays and no Mondays and yet managed to line up daily for the morning prayers at Assembly hall. When we use to chase one another in the corridors in breaks and returned to the classrooms drenched in sweat. Those were the days when we had lunch in Classrooms, Corridors, Playgrounds, under the Trees and even in Cycle Sheds.

We use to have two “Roll calls” –one early morning after the prayers and one in the Afternoon…..I remember we use to check our nails and try to chew it off at the seams, If shoes were not polished it was wiped behind the trouser legs or socks as “Juniors” were not allowed to wear Trousers.

Westcott was highly competitive where students never use to forget their individual ambitions. Students at Westcott wanted to be the best. It was hard to shine at a place where there are so many stars. Often, even if you were a stellar student in many areas, there was probably going to be someone better than you at something else. This competitive spirit pushed people to do better and achieve an even higher level of excellence. Many times, this academic environment involves a great amount of stress and Westcott was not for the faint hearted. The workload was rigorous right from learning mathematics with its calculations, physics with its proportions and chemistry with its equations, life was filled with hopes, dreams, confusions, tensions, happiness and sadness, a beautiful world of success and failure. Altogether it was an eventful one. The loving and caring words of our teachers, their claps at our victory, smiles at my achievements, those special moments set aside to talk and listen, their encouragement till the end

It was a time when a single P.T. period in the week's time table was awaited more eagerly than the annual appraisals of any large corporate house .It was a time of fights but no conspiracies, of competitions but seldom jealousy, When we used to watch live cricket telecast in one of our teachers’ bungalow in Intervals and Lunch breaks.

It was a time when “Days Scholars” rushed at 2:30 to "Conquer" window seats in our School buses and hostelites or “Boarders” use to make same rush during meal times with all boys hung on to the fragile rear door of their respective dining hall (We had two of them Juniors & Siniors)
when the kaka (the helpers were fondly called that) opened the door, 800 plus starving students rushed in for breakfast, tea, lunch or dinner. Each meal started and ended with a grace. Food was quite restricted in those days and every opportunity of grabbing extras from the “Dekchis” or you neighbour’s plate was made use of. We often bartered food items. Boys who brought eatables from home (called TUCK) guarded them like gold. One of my classmates brought some milk sweets from home and kept them away from us. One day he surprisingly became generous and starting distributing them to all, only to find no one eating them because they had picked up fungus. We also had one Sushil Maheskar who was once hunting for some money to go for a movie. He entered our room and asked us for some which we naturally refused. He then sighted some loose coins lying in front of the god’s Portrait. He picked out a few toffees from his pocket, dropped them in front of the god’s photo and picked up all the coins and left stating that his requirement was more than that of God.

During those days the “boys” and “teachers” were given nicknames and were called by those nicknames (Boys openly referred each others by nicknames but we were more discrete where it concerned our teachers and use to refer them by their nicknames only behind their back) , some of my friends were Michel Daru (his name was Mukul Kumar),Dibba ( He kept all his Boxes intact and use to take it back home at the end of each term) ,Nepali ( due to his anatomical resemblance),Foggy(Vikas fogla),Lambu(Rahul Shahdeo due to his height),Teachers’ nickname were traditionally passed on from one generation to another and were equally colourful ;Viz, Chakra (Mr.Chakraborthy),Bando (Mr. Bandopadya), Daku(or dacoit due to his aggressive and abusive dialect), We had Dingu or Mr.Dinger use to make comidies out of  Shakeshpere tragedies.

There was a big craze for collecting “Big Fun” stickers and flag stickers. Most of our canteen money was spent on them. Boarders used to get twenty rupees on Sundays to go on out pass and during these time of City visit “Siniors” were to accompany the “Juniors”. Part of the money was also used in going to a “bakery” as our Canteen was called and eating some snacks. We often stole snacks and hide them in one pocket to eat later. The remaining amount was used to bribe the gatekeepers of the Sujata and Mini-Sujata theatres to check ou on Adult Movies.

The competitions for the inter house championship were taken very seriously and I had got into the habit of noting down points. As per official records our house was coming second but my records showed we were first. The anomaly was corrected and we walked away with the championship trophy. My house captain gave me a day’s leave for my effort. Another high point of my School days was Sports Day, and the annual School Day and month long preparations for them. Though my dream of seeing “Nelson” house at the top was never fulfilled ,the best we did was reaching the 2nd position .but I still cherish the adulation and admiration I use to get every year for one whole month for being one of “Champions”.

Imprinted in the memory lanes are the stressful quarterly, half yearly and annual exams and the most enjoyed holidays after them. We learnt, we enjoyed, we played, we won, we lost, we laughed, we cried, we fought, we thought. With so much fun in them, so many friends,
so much experience, all this and more.

Days passed, years flew at Westcott after a tumultuous, fun-filled journey and finally we were at the end of our school career. By then the miscreants were reformed, misdemeanors were punished and misunderstandings are cleared up and here we were transformed from boys into young men ready to take on the world with our aspirations and dreams

The last day is still very vivid when all of us were busy filling our scrap books and meeting teachers after our emotional and teary farewell , it was time to remember our days and years in Bishop Westcott Boys’ School ,It was time to remember our own stories and snippets through the years inside those four walls and relieve saga of members of the class of 1995 and teachers with whom their lives were intertwined. With the dusk setting in we left bidding one last farewell, this time for the good with our School motto “Non Nascor Mihi Solum” (Live not for self alone) printed in our heart.

Our lives took its own course and we all parted ways to meet again but not in such large numbers and whenever we met it was time to compare the balance sheet of our lives and always at the center amid the passion, laughter, and glory, stood Westcott the symbol of who we are and what we will be. We were a generation who made the rules and then broke them…We were “THE CLASS OF 95.”