Bhaago, kaku aila..

Hey guys, I'm in Mumbai..! Came over just today morning and am already having a nice reunion time with my cousins and a soon-to-be sister-in-law!

I had decided to take a train this time, a V-long distance and excruciatingly time taking option compared to a flight.. But it's worth it for the sake of saving money (for I'll soon be bleeding chips in the nearer future..) and I get to meet new people (I know, that's a TLC trademark cliche!) However, I did meet new kind of people, whom I'm not really familiar with - the highly self-decorated, working class Bengali kakus!

A day at the Government Office...

I was summoned to the passport office today to submit a few documents regarding address-proofs, and the entire effort managed to wreck my whole ambition of getting a passport and all the future prospects of travelling abroad.. Let me describe you the various experiences.. I'll try to mellow down on the infuriating details.

First things first, had breakfast and left.. Ma had asked, 'Son, two loaves of bread won't do!'
'Oh come on Ma, will be back in a jiff... Just a few documents need submitting, will have lunch together!'
She gave a visibly doubtful, 'Best Of Luck!' as I left..


I was made to sit in a corridor filled with people, all kinds of people - and by all kinds, I mean all kinds! There were people in suits, jackets, shirts, t-shirts (myself), dhotis, sarees, kurta-pajamas, burquas.. then men with variety of beards - mutton chops, handlebars, goatee (mine!), chin curtain, cop-stash standard, pencil.. then there were men, women and transgenders!

Yes, 5 of them.. Now me and a certain friend of mine have regularly been harassed by transgenders in train and other places, and that story being too gross to tell here, let's just say, I am not particularly comfy around them.. but being a part of Academia, I don't hate the community..

So my first one hour was delightful, sitting beside a Blackberry-flaunting girl, who was on IM with her boyfriend.. I started a conversation with her, figuring out we were the only 2 out-of-the-ordinary people there, amid uncles, elderly, aunts and women that we can place somewhere in between fat-aunts and irritating-aunts.. She had a totally different work compared to mine, and after an hour her work was done, she left..

Left to myself, I went about scanning the public and tried to keep myself from staring at the transgenders..

Then passed another hour, and the crowd was now limited for the day.. that meant, no more entries will be entertained for today.. They kept calling names, however mine never came..

Then as we entered the third hour, I walked right up to the 2 men who were calling names only to be shot down and reprimanded.. Every other person were in some sort of queue or in some room, meeting the concerned officer. Just me and the transgenders were left.. Destiny!

Then an argument ensued between the door guy and them.. as it grew bigger, more people got involved.. the transgenders were up for the hammering and were succumbed but to face extreme ridicule from the workers and certain members of the public, whose work was either done or was being done..

It was kind of their fault - they didn't get any stationary and constantly asked for them from the door guy.. they also didn't respond primarily when their names were called, because it was not in the proper order.. But I felt the ridicule they were facing was not exactly based on those issues..

I joined the only 2 people who were trying to calm the storm, by asking them to leave.. However I offered them my stationary and said I'll help until my name wasn't being called.. I wrote their letters, filled their forms in English and felt sorry for their general retardation.. they were at their helpless best, and that was as sorry a scenario as would be for any other guy or girl.. I guess, that's an emotion that cannot be labelled according to a gender..

However, let's return to the real issue at hand.. MY NAME STILL HASN'T BEEN CALLED and I was just the 6th person in the room by now..

I blasted through the door of one room and demanded to see an officer.. made a scene, got shouted at, raised my voice and ended up being escorted out by a security guard.. until the man who was calling names approached, 'Naam ta ki jeno bolle?' What is it, that you said your name is again?

The name's Chatterjee.. DEEPTIMAN CHATTERJEE, scum!

'Oh! Tumhar naam ta toh unek aage dekichi..' I had called your name long back! replied that guy, as he took out my summon-letter, with a broad smile on his face, that totally read guilty-but-not-concerned, 'I had read it out as Deepti Chattopadhyay! Hehe..'

Yes Einstein, and you expect me to respond to that?

It took me 30 seconds max to be done with the procedures, as I just had to submit some documents.. the next 30 seconds passed in mentally strangling that guy and refurbishing the previous situation by issuing out an enforced 'Thank you' in actuality..

And just before I came out, already half blinded by the seizure-inducing, crazy, blinking light from the tube, that was filling the corridor, I noticed the 5 transgenders were going into one of the rooms.. They hugged me, blessed me with all possible good wishes (most of which, much to my premonitions) were restricted to marriage and my ability to produce kids..

Guess, my wife will have to live up to that in the future.. raising kids like pigs!

Exam Blues..

Last few weeks have been hectic: exams, quizzes, tests, assignments, seminars and what not - you name one, you got one.. The merciless professors successfully managed to seek their vengeance on us for we enjoyed ourselves in the quick, short vacation, that was Diwali!

So my seventh semester, theoretical exams started today.. By now you think it would mean quite light only, but I still managed to screw up the very first exam.. Its a boring one - Bio-process Principles, one of the rarest subjects this semester that I have good internals in!

My favorite part was supposed to be the 10 marks question based on Stoichiometry, as they usually seem very interesting to me in the class.. Amidst boring questions forwarded to us throughout the syllabus, it is a proactive mathematical workout, with definite answers.. sort of a refuge!

However, usually in my case, before the 'calculated' rise comes a 'trigonometrically tragic' fall.. So much that I enjoy solving mathematical problems, I basically 'SUCK' at them! Yes, mostly my answers come wrong because I'll always have some different highly innovative approach compared to that of other petty commoners, who actually solve them perfectly!

So, we got this question today, based on material balance - where I had to balance the Left Hand Side and Right Hand Side of a biochemical equation and find out the unknown molar coefficients.. A sitter, I know, do NOT remind me.. and what better, I had practiced this particular type of sum more than once! It was a lottery question, where I had hit the JACKPOT baby!

I almost cried out of joy (in my mind.. or at least I did a double barrel roll in there..) It was a guaranteed solid 10 marks.. made me believe that there is a God, watching me from up there!

But then the God decided to ponder over my deeds and..

'Thou swear by my name, you son of bitch!' is what God must have thought, as I got super wrong answers in the first attempt (got negative molar coefficients' values!) of the sum.. I looked at it, seriously this time.. Double barrel roll would have to wait..

Second attempt - same wrong answers.. then I decided to do it fully on the programmable calculator that can solve simultaneous equations with 3 unknowns (its when I'm trying to defend my intellect, that I swear by the technical advancements of my calculator.. what an irony!) However, I got same answers, as that just wasn't of any help!

A frustrated third attempt was made with similar results.

But this made me happy, for it was a convincing evidence of it being a wrong question.. I decided the values must be wrong as even though it seemed that I got the wrong answers, they were the same for every attempt! After all, how many times can a person go wrong? (I should've known better..)

Frustratedly triumphant, I wrote, in capital letters..



I blasted out of the exam hall as the frustrating ordeal came to a close and immediately consulted my notes (considered, doing that might give me a positive insight over asking the commoners - they usually disappoint me after every maths exam!)

Well, guess what, I was wrong.. everyone else, including myself in the past, have done the sum and got good promisingly positive results for this sum.. What The 'F'!

I think I should try finding who's to check my paper before he starts swearing by thy name..

Way to go, Ma..!!

Mothers.. they know how to love you best, know how to care for you best and definitely know how to embarrass you in front of your girly friends best..

'Look! This was when Deep was just a year old!!' And I'd usually be naked in one of those photos she'd show to them..

My friend Rahul's mother had a ride in an brand new Audi A6.. when she got back, he asked how it was, the ride? And all she could think of, was 'Hm.. the AC was nice!' Then again, Noelle comes to the classes, having this weird expression and would declare, 'My mum's on a shopping spree for herself!' When we'd ask if she's out to buy things for her too, she turns and blurts out 'I'm not sure yet and that seemingly is killing me inside..'

Recently my mum had to go on a long distance travel, and not surprisingly, she was absolutely horrified at the aspect of travelling alone without dad nor me.. it's been a while of her being absolutely sovereign, both for health and general dependence..

But it was a necessary family affair and she just had to do it alone, as I was stuck here down south with my studies and dad already gone to where she was to go.. Both of us filled her up with confidence (seemingly over-flowing it in the process!) before she boarded the train and hoped for her safe journey..

However, she found herself surrounded by rowdy, young college-going boys in the train, who might have been a nuisance until, like most mothers, she started considering them equivalent to her son, that is me.. Really Ma? So she ended up having a nice chat with one particular guy from Gwalior, who recently got placed somewhere in south and lives away from parents.. And that's it, Mum got her favorite topic to chat about..

'So, do you miss your family, boy?'
'Um.. not much aunty.. actually I'm now used to it.'
'WHAT! You don't miss your mother and father!!' (And that was absolutely below the belt Ma!)
'No no! Of course I do.. its just we don't get much time..'
'NO NO!' and now the guy was absolutely panicked, and decided to add a personal point of view as a defense, 'I totally do!! But mostly when we have to cook, I remember my mother so much..'

And to that my mum held up her head high and answered, casually, 'I would totally kill my boy if he thinks of me only when he needs someone to cook food!'

That boy was never seen again in the same compartment, or at least he remained hidden from my mum's scrutinizing eyes till she got down at her destination.. Few of his friends actually helped her get down, with her luggage and bags..

Way to go, Ma!

'You may keep it...'

So it happened one day that I was waiting outside the library for someone.. I was on the phone and as a force of habit, I stroll around while talking..

Apart from just hanging out in front of the library, talking on the phone, the esteemed multitasking genius that I am, I was checking out people who passed me.. weird-hairdo-guy, overtly-conscious-of-her-neckline-girl (then why wear it at all!!), few Tamil day-scholar girls, shrinking away from my glance in case I be a escaped, most wanted rapist (few still do it for some odd reason, I don't look like a molester, do I!).. then there were couples - holding-hands-couples, misfit-height-couples, fighting-bickering-couples, smiling-and-gliding-along-couples (someone I know..)

College and Fraandship..

So, what was the first thing you noticed when you entered college? To me, it has to be the underground concept of trading a girl's phone number.

In the very 1st day of college, every fresher needs to have a new cellphone number - Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone, Idea making the most here, in VIT. And somehow along those process, the number, exclusively that of the girl's, always get transferred to the most comical people I've ever spoken to, or heard of, in my life.

The Barbarian Ravens from Hell...

Do you know anyone who'll kill for money?

Not an assassination. Neither its just a single person. Its more of a mass genocide - kind of Saddam-ish. I'll be a paying customer. And I know for sure that the act will be highly hailed and rewarded among masses.

It so happens that we have this sorry-excuse-for-a-shop, a sad namesake of the baker from The Godfather (who saved Michael Corleone when his pop got shot.. sob!) - it's called 'Enzo' in our men's hostel campus. The people there are rude, make pathetic coffee and worse, they don't even try to understand our language! They are crazy people, I'd say..

However, it doesn't stop me from chugging down bucketful of coffee everyday that I get from there. And neither they're the people I want to kill! (Wait a minute.. given a choice, I mean, given a guilt-free pass, I would definitely give it a moment of thought..)

All I want to kill are the damned CROWS that gather in front of that wretched place!!

By now, you all must be knowing (for if you don't, you're lonely! You need a life and a girlfriend..) that sparrows are getting extinct because of all the electromagnetic radiation in our atmosphere. That is sad, I love sparrows and they don't exactly pose any threat, neither do they make a terrible shriek of their bird-call.. They don't poop on your head, clothes, places.. In fact I've never ever, EVER seen them pooping!! Do they.. I mean.. poop at all?

I'm kidding (if you didn't get it, that is..) Of course, they poop! But you know what poops more? CROWS! They poop an entire mugful every time some random unpretending stranger walks down the street, in his best dress, below the tree it's sitting.. 'SPLOTCH!'

These crows, about hundreds of them, roam around surveying the scenery around the dustbins, waste-paper heaps and every single branch of the tree that lies around Enzo.. Its their territory now. They rule those lands, their badlands.

It started with patties and cakes initially. These crows would be subtle, quick and smooth as they swoop down from their high-perched heavens on their hungry, unassuming victims and snatch the food.. It was all being done in a flawless sense of convincing righteousness.

Who's your Daddy?

However, the rise of all civilizations depend on their ambition and foresight. The crows were no exception to this formula.. They're thriving now. And since I caught them stealing food from a poor freshman girl from within the Technology tower, far away inside the college campus, I can successfully say that their brood is 'going places' almost literally! Nowadays they don't give a damn on subtlety. And whoever mentioned being quiet and smooth! They're devil incarnate, a scratching, clawing, hitting, biting army of crazy guerrillas! These beak-bastards are even targeting the coffee-drinking population within VIT! And that's where my concern comes in.. What pleasure do they get by spilling fluids just to ruin someone's day, money and the carnal need-to-drink-coffee..

Ever since 6 years ago, a diarrheal-crow shit on my new Levi Strauss purchase just before I got out with my friends to watch the movie King Kong and got us 15 minutes late, I've held a grudge. They happen to be the fastest example of evolution, nature will ever view. The crows are now a well-known phenomenon. They're the talking point in our social circles, on the campus, social networking, Facebook, Google+ and in the darkest corner's of the mind of every VITian graduate's life..

It's time fellas, time to kill. Time to take the law in our own hands.

My Travel Diaries - Andaman Islands!

December of 2010. A year ago..

Dad has always surprised me, when it comes to going on a family-trip.. for the best of reasons, he just never tells me! Saves me the cut-throat anticipation, yet throws me, a 22 year old (an experienced child is what I'd call myself), off-my-ground when he opens up, declaring that we're going somewhere.. and thankfully its always a new place.

So last year on Christmas and for the New Years' eve, we decided to leave our worries back in Kolkata and Chennai to leave for the pristine beaches and uninhabited and unclaimed jungle islands of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.. and it happened to be my favorite family-trip, at least in terms of the number of scenery and photography..

Although I mildly dislike beaches and prefer mountains (comes from my hatred for water, especially salt water!).. this trip was GRAND! I even did my bit of snorkeling and scuba diving and swam among the brightest colored fishes I've ever seen in open waters..

Its a no-rush, untouched, pristine and the most picturesque place I've ever set foot on (thus tarnishing it in the process, I guess..) From the early morning Jet Airways flight, as soon as we were near the islands, it seemed from up there as if we've reached the Caribbean! The water was turquoise and we could see the widespread coral reef around the islands. Most of the islands seemed uncivilized and were full of greenery everywhere inside - not just coconut trees like I expected, but tropical vegetation. It was a heavenly site and I'm not ashamed to say that I had my mouth hung open in awe as was everyone else round me too (or maybe because most of them were Bengali, Noelle says we don't have shame anyway..)

Can't believe its been a year since the trip.. The trip itself - the islands, beaches, forests, limestone caves, corals, scuba diving, tribal communities away from civilization - it's all still vivid in my mind's eye..

Sometimes I think we should've left this place alone.. let it brew in itself, or else it'll end up being as corrupted as every other commercialized tourist places in this country.. The beaches of special importance were the Radhanagar beach at the Havelock Island, the numbered beaches of Neil Island, Corbyn's Cove, Wandoor beach, North Bay and so many more.. some neighboring islands were just unclaimed, with absolutely no sign of any kind of animated life in there.. spooky yet so primeval! Our guide at Havelock Island suggested that we can just go in and live like a Tarzan there..

The idea appealed to me so much that I think I didn't get the joke till it was a matter of weeks since I got back.

An amusing fact, for which I'll have to face another one of those 'I-told-you-so, Bengalis are everywhere!!' as claimed by some friends of mine is that more than 80% of the islands are inhabited by the Bengali communities (most families seemed to be refugees from Bangladesh, having lost everything in the Indo-Pak War of 70's, but only to gain a new home in these islands of Andaman). Then a part of the rest of the majority are Tamil, few speak Malayalam, rest are Anglo Indians.

The minority includes the  fast-diminishing populations of tribes such as the Nicobarese, Onge, Sentinelese, Shompen and the Jarawas. Few of them are hostile and attack with bows and arrows laced with natural toxins! We caught glimpses of a few naked and semi-naked Jarawas while speeding away through the forest road on the Baratang Island. Few of the tribes are reportedly cannibalistic!

That last information scared the hell out of me and definitely explained, at least to me, why the tourist convoy sped away, crazily, through the winding roads surrounded by dense forests on both sides.

Below are certain photos that I have taken in and around the Islands.. it's beaches and a few places of interests. Take a look! Whenever I see em, I get a strong urge to go there again..

You should too..

Radhanagar beach, Havlock Island, Andaman
A Hermit Crab, just before it hid itself inside its comforting shell
Turquoise sea at the Neil Island, Andaman
Wandoor Beach, Andaman
A Presbyterian Church ruin at the Ross Island, Andaman
Starfish vareity found lurking on the shallow beach in the early hours, Havelock Island, Andaman
Ferar beach at Ross Island, Andaman
The Cellular Jail, Port Blair, Andaman
Radhanagar beach, Havelock Island, Andaman
Sunset from the Radhanagar beach, Havelock Island, Andaman
North Bay from the Cellular Jail Tower, Port Blair, Andaman

My Dugga Pujo..

I've always missed the essence of simplicity, in the Durga Puja festival that is celebrated in Kolkata..

Maybe I'm biased, for I've almost always observed (read celebrated) Puja at my native place in Jhansi - a small encroachment of Uttar Pradesh into Madhya Pradesh - right at the Uttar-Madhya inter-space of India.. that is the heart of the country. People will always come across this place either in history books, or while preparing for the Railways and Armed Forces.. But I remember this place with Durga Puja being celebrated in my home! Its just huge - both in size, appeal and grandeur..

The idol in Jhansi would always be 'ek chali' that is single frame - the Devi herself and her sons (Ganesh and Kartik) and daughters (Saraswati adn Lakshmi) are on the same frame, with a background of patachitra and pith 'shola'. Patachitra are the series of paintings depicting various gods and goddesses in a semi-circular panel. These paintings depict the various deities of the pantheon, whose collective power gave birth to the goddess Durga, a feminine form created to destroy the evil demon Mahishashur. This panel goes as the backdrop behind the idol.

Traditionally silver and gold zari, and not sari, is what the goddess wears. The other option is white pith-dressing or shola. The idol at our Kali Bari in Jhansi is always dressed up in the traditional zari-worked clothing or what we call the daker shaaj. The complexion is always yellow, which always reminds me of the Simpsons.. thus (funnily enough) bringing me closer to, not just the festival as a whole, but also towards the very Devi for whom we celebrate..

The changing color of the Autumn sun in the faraway skyline is strumming the chords of nostalgia in the atmosphere around me. But something was surely missing here.. there is no para club culture here, no hustle-bustle preparing for the Puja, no urgency about the pushpanjali, no Kumhartuli, no Gariahat, no 21Palli.. However, I guess we'll just have to adapt according to what we keep up against us..

Durga Puja and autumn seem to reflect in each other. Crystal clear blue sky with thin, blue clouds, the smell of Sheuli phool in the air and the flowing-wavering Kaash phool on the field herald the beginning of the festive season in Bengal and the world.. Mother Nature is in full bloom with lush greenery all around..

However, its been 3 years that I haven't visited Bengal neither Jhansi.. my studies don't allow me to do so anymore! Vellore, where my university is (and my friends are..), has a small Bengali community who arrange Puja, in their own little yet fascinating way.. And like the last 3 years, we landed up there again this time..
And with exams beckoning from the next coming few days, I guess today was the day when I cut the full chase short.. a six days' extravaganza in a day..

It was finally the day to wear the thing my mum bought for me..

My friend Ronny..

Heylo kind readers! I'm back with a brand new story - this is the story of my friend Ronny, and his relationship with Anushka.

I know my friend Ronny from the sad old days of my school hostel life.. We had remained friends, for we were both survivors from our own little Vietnam.. Splitting our own ways after college, he remained in Bengal, while I came down south to Chennai.. kept in touch 'on' and 'off' which is how I came to know that he had got a girlfriend named Anushka sometime around December of 2007.. And he wanted me to meet her as soon as I could get back to Kolkata.. Show off!

My friend Ronny's girlfriend turned out to be a pretty one. And I could totally relate to why he liked to stick around close, most of the time.. She had a large, lumbering and square shoulder (why what else could you think?) and a sweet voice that told me she had years of Rabindra-Sangeet practice in the evenings of her childhood till she came up to her teen ages and rebelliously relieved herself from all the singing. Whenever she opened her mouth to squeak.. sorry, read speak.. I could almost imagine 10 beady eyed squirrels sitting on her head, chorusing harmoniously, much like the chipmunks in that movie I saw the other day..

My friend Ronny had remained religiously faithful to his girlfriend. I was happy for him though she struck to me as clingy and too.. too.. err, now whats the word.. umm.. oh yeah, a complete CONTROL FREAK?! Sorry for the 'labelled' description, but if you'd go hanging out with this couple, you'd probably get what I mean.. I once went on a double date with them, and the meeting certainly fed ideas in my date's brain..

In case you're wondering, that date didn't last long..

So one fine day when my friend Ronny calls to inform me that they broke up, ('Deep.. I have a sad news for you..') I didn't exactly ask 'why' which he definitely didn't let pass for the next half hour on the STD phone call. When I finally asked him, he took another hour to describe what I already had thought of.. 'So what do you think, old friend?'

I woke up from my slumber. Is he asking my opinion? Shit, OMG OMG! What do I do, what do I say? That's a tough one!!
'Well, whatever makes you happy Ron..' Safely played.
'I just don't know yet..'
The call had involved plenty of awkward silences, pregnant pauses and I-could-understand-he's-waiting-for-me-to-speak moments..

However, a month later he calls back to announce that he's back with her again.. ('Deep.. I have a good news for you!') I just knew the bastard was grinning on the other side.

But even The Almighty wouldn't have scripted, (the great and freaky) Nostradamus wouldn't have foreseen and certainly my friend Ronny wouldn't have thought what happened next.. They broke up 13 times! And patched up back on, 12 times.. It was all too intense for me. I started waiting for his phone call, full of anticipation.. Each time he'd call and tell 'I have a sad news, dude..' OR 'I have a good news, bro!' depending on the breaking/making up part.. It usually happened a week apart.

I think it was the 6th time when I asked him to omit 'good' or 'bad' from his statements.. they were getting redundant! Maybe he could just say 'I have a news' a practice, he actually adopted..

After the 13th time they fought and broke up, it took a while. The call never came for long.. I started pacing in front of the cellphone, going all bonkers off the thrilled expectancy. Or was it really the end? Finally?

The phone call however came a year later.

'Deep, I have a good news for ya brother!' shit! I thought..
I think I attempted a congratulatory remark, but only air bubbles came out this time initially.. However, when I was done with the phone call, I was definitely grinning.

My friend Ronny has scored!!

Thankfully a new girl this time.. But again, I'm dying of a similar anticipation.. I sat hours staring at the phone today! Sad.. though I'm happy for him..

True story!

My Musician of the month!

My bestie Beatle George Harrison aside, Ringo Starr is my Musician-of-the-month.. The way he played the drums throughout Tomorrow Never Knows (from the album Revolver) is just amazing! This is my crayon drawing of the Beatles' legend..

The best thing about Ringo is his casual and cool persona in the Beatles.. While George was the quiet one, John the thinking one, Paul the good-looking one, Ringo will then be the goofy one.. Although he always has supported the popular 60s' catchphrase 'Love and Peace' Ringo himself was never much deep as compared to Lennon's acrid wit!

Ringo was the funny one. The man brought a down-to-Earth appeal to the band and it definitely helped a lot to the public acceptance of the band.. the friendly one, whom all the grandmas and the children love..

Ringo was a musician before he became a Beatle. He was a drummer before the Fab Four and is still a drummer in his latest incarnation as the All Starr Band. Apart from being a drummer, Ringo has sung a couple of songs for Beatles too, like With A Little Help From My Friends and the Yellow Submarine.. There is no denying that its a common mistake people make, when they fail to register Ringo as one of the last Beatles. Sir Paul may have been more associated with the Fabs, but the contribution of Ringo is definitely unquestionable..

And what more do you have to say for a man who has a Bond Girl for a wife? Ringo Starr, the ex-Beatles' drummer is my Musician of the Month..

Not a child's play..

'Egg or Idli?'

Mess food. Even if I had not been informed of the menu, I'd have guessed it's redundant contents for breakfast.. However, the way the word 'Idli' was pronounced, made me look up. It was different, the way I couldn't exactly place it anywhere. I placed the egg carefully on my plate beside the bread and asked the guy to give some butter. He stared at me momentarily.. or my iPod, I think.

I look back at the kid standing behind the barred window with a bucket full of jam. He could hardly be 10 years old.

He seemed tall for his age and stuck out like a black smudge on a white shirt. I couldn't help but notice how awkward he looked. For one, his clothes were too big. It looked like he was swimming in them rather than wearing them. And his eyes were too wide, his mouth too small, his nose just a little bit crooked, as if his face didn't quite match his head. I smiled, rather to him than at him, but that probably raised the chances of mistaking me for a child-molester. He quickly shifted his focus singularly on the plate in front of him.

I left him to his worries as I went to have my breakfast alone. My room mates are a bunch of sleepy-heads who'll still be in their beds at 8am in the morning, but only halfway through their dreams.

I was nearly finished, sipping on my coffee as the boy again came to clean the table, throwing quick glances across the table towards me. Yeah I'm pretty sure he was looking at my iPod. So I called for him.

'Enna peyar, tambi?' I asked in my broken Tamil, what's your name.
'Tamil teriyaade anna' he replied shyly.
He doesn't understand the language.
'Tera ghar kidhar hai, chhotu?'
'Balasore.' Orissa.

I offered him to listen in the iPod.

There was a mild, exciting smile coming and going at the corners of his lips, his eyes closed, his full structure taut with excitement as he listened away to one Brad Paisley, he understood nothing about.

I never found out his name though.

That kid was so lively, waving to me from behind the window whenever I entered the mess, looking for a moment to clean the table I'll be sitting at. Indulging in his casual 'Hello anna' everyday, I felt very sad after a few days about the way his childhood is being wasted. He was growing up among people much older to him, he left his family to work along with his brother in the kitchen. But he was just 10 years old!!

Finding it a complete and obvious case of child-care violation, under child-labor, I decided to write a letter to the authority about this. And it was while writing it, that I really thought about it.

What will really happen after this letter? The authorities will obviously do something about it. No one wants a bad publicity, especially when one's running a University on private funding, which is no different than a competitive business. And businesses incur huge losses through bad publicity. The kid will probably be sent home, with the brother and the manager arrested.

But was this really the solution? This is India. Not the USA, that child-services will take him away to put him in foster-care.. Maybe he'll be sent home, where soon he'll end up looking for another job anyway. He could go to school? School! If his parents had the money, he'd be at home now. What about free-school? I don't think the parents indulge in similar fantasies.. Is there no hope then? I was in a fix.. to come to think of it now, there are more problems, than solution to this!

There is a law, yes.. But the solution isn't about putting the elder men to jail or pay a penalty. What about the child?


There was Biriyani in the mess today, kind of a shocker in the routine!! The kid was happily pouring mutton on everyone's plate, while enjoying amusingly, all the hushing and pushing among the seniors for the good food. The mess manager had actually combed his hair today.. It was a weirdly amusing dinner, and it did manage to uplift my moods.

Sometimes one just needs to go high.

Without wasting another moment, I finished the dinner, came back quick, turned on my laptop and emailed a complaint to the authority, 'Sub: Complaint on Probable Child Labor in the mess...'

Competitive Mothers of the Metro

'How many tuitions does your son attend?' asked a mother of my classmate-to-be while I was inside giving an admission test to get into one of the venerable schools in the city, that all the other institutions apparently bowed down to. The question was aimed at my mom who, with a mild hint of amusement had replied 'He's never really been much keen on any tuition.' To her surprise, the reply was met by suppressed laughter and scornful smiles and conspicuous sarcasm from everyone.
'My son has been training for this admission test for the last 2 years!' replied the other woman, in all the hubris as a mother. The others sitting there spoke up, almost synchronized, about the span of time their wards had prepared under a number of teachers and ex-school teachers from the same school, 'One year!' 'Two years!' 'Three years!'
In the end, while most of them got in, many didn’t. And surprisingly, I ended being among the former, only to discover that the school was a medieval patriarchy unwilling to change with time.
14 years later, I met my sister’s friend who, at that time, was enjoying the livelihood of being a successful tutor to a couple of twelve-year olds. She tells me of this particular kid, who was naturally tensed before her half-yearly exams. Having made a few mistakes here and there, she kept up with her tutor anyway. Her mother in contrast, was howling from the kitchen 'Beta, 10 more minutes beta! Ask her questions, revise her answers and give her a test!' while it was already an hour of overtime.
The mothers of the metro have their own competition, their own vendetta, waging their own personal wars against the other mothers - their colleagues in the office or in their husbands' office or sometimes even their own sisters. They’ll neither let their sons and daughters play games, nor let them read storybooks. It'll be an hour of falling behind, and its cumulative effects could apparently destroy the balance of the universe.
All through the week, tutors come and go. While on some special days, a mid-level tutor arrives, the one who has been to the IITs, to revise only the lessons taught by another high-level tutor who apparently knows nothing about the existence of this parallel universe of tutors!
It’s clear that the mothers of the metro have not heard of the idiom 'All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy!' In my city, they might just tell you that there are no ‘Jacks', but a number of unpronounceable Bengali names who are blessed with mothers, unmovable in their resolve to achieve for their children nothing short of a well-heeled establishment.