'Mango People, Banana Republic..'

So, apparently I'm at risk.

Not just me, all you 20 something youth of the second most populous democratic constitution in the world. You are at risk. All you twitter addicts, facebook fans, the blogger junta - everyone is after all, at risk. But why are we at risk? Well, the great constitution that boasts of (wait, lets take a deep breath here; and begin) Sovereignty, Secularism, Liberal democracy and Republicanism, is kind of turning onto itself, more often nowadays. Why, is the pressure of a billion people's antagonistic mindset, too much to handle for the government we elected?

Following the twitter ticker nowadays really shows how many people out there are actually aware of the contemporary situation in the country. They are the other kind of people I guess, the ones who won't have to look up into the dictionary to get the precise meaning of the 'strong' words I mentioned above. Most people, I believe, would ignorantly flash their wrongly-spelled voter identity cards on your face and say 'I am a democracy person, I get to vote.'

And may I ask, you vote for whom?

Well ours is truly a model democratic system, with distinct political parties and competitive elections to promote them, time and again. We do get to choose from a long-long list of the extremists, the fundamentalists, the megalomaniacs, the regionalists, the separatists and the oblivious!

Few days back a 20 year old girl got arrested in Mumbai over a facebook status, and her friend for liking it. JUST FRIGG'N LIKING IT! She had decided to voice her sentiments online, that were apparently provocative and disrespectful. So the police decided to handcuff her and lock her up in their holding cells.


'Freedom of Speech - was it always, but a hollow speech?!'

Initially when I heard of it, I kind of supported it for I had misinterpreted it as protective custody. Which is what, I believe, it should have been in those conditions. But no, it was a part of the usual nonsense after all. This is a country where certain members of the system believe they're above law. Legal system is for the common people - mango people of a banana republic. And god forbid, if a commoner finger is raised at them!


As an important political leader passed away recently, I got involved in a debate with a friend of mine. He was rejoicing, strictly in support of his idealistic viewpoint as I was mildly amused at his sudden interest in politics, which was not known to me earlier.

'I don't support fundamentalism in politics, its as simple as that.' declared he.
I clearly shocked him when I replied that 'I believe in it.' I said, 'I believe in a healthy practice of fundamentalism.'

'Healthy practice of fundamentalism, is an oxymoron' said he, displeased at me, quite obviously.
'I also am against fundamentalism, in theory. But I admittedly support a healthy practice of it. Of course, there should be an underlying clause of restraint, understanding and plenty of room for intellectual intervention. Fundamentalism would have been among the better philosophies, had there been a separation of Jingoistic and Chauvinistic attitude from it' explained I.

'You see, its the same principle as the Indian army. Are we, a war mongering country? Certainly not. But we still have an excellent army, an impressive air-force, and a decent navy. Akin to their reason for existence being defensive purposes, I believe intelligent fundamentalist outfits should exist in a place like India. A country where there are ample opportunities and life-improving policies like reservation selectively for the minor communities, while the others are made to look tolerant. When those supposed minor communities decide to stand on the shoulders of others and look tall, the latter is expected to be tolerant. When the minority takes upon arms and bayonet the ambitions of others, why is the latter still expected to be tolerant?'

'But no one is above law, remember?' reminded my friend.
'No, of course not. But I also don't believe in passively surrendering to the ambitious wishes of the other co-existing communities. I rather think that if you've established a country with states divided on the hint of regionalism and language, there's definitely a vindicated sense in mildly wishing well for one's own community, isn't it? If that weren't the case, then the world would be an ideal place to live in my friend.'

And I'm a Bengali guy, if anyone wants to know. I find Thackeray's pro-Marathi sentiments, Karunanidhi's pro-Tamil sentiments vindicated. I didn't say it's right, I just said vindicated. You are still liable to a punishment, in case you stand up for violent persecution of another community. 'So is it not better, the world being an ideal place to live in?' asked my friend.

'Then you're talking about a Utopian society. And utopia is but, fiction. And its on the same lines as what the Nazi tried to do with their eugenic experiments. It is neither fair, nor is it feasible.'

When I start thinking about the prospective ways of governance in a huge country like India, my mind begins to reel. And every time I come to halt at the notion that the only thing that may work in this nation, is a secularized autocratic ruling. If the ruler is a despot, a tyrant, a failure, someone somewhere will rebel and bring him down. If he turns out to be a boon, he takes the nation to the heights of economy, education, development and global power. At least there's equal odds on both the sides!

For what I see in this current situation of our country, the odds are heavily on the bent side of affairs. As long as we have choices like the ones we have now, we'll elect our candidates based on who's distributing free colour TVs, cheap tablets and subsidized prices of gas. And we'll keep appointing ministers who believe that global warming is but a hoax, birth control can be prevented through late night TV screenings, and that rapes can be prevented by denying a girl of cellphone and people, of the luxury of chowmein.

My Travel Diaries - Pench National Park

I had never been to Nagpur before, so when Divya asked (read demanded) us to come visit the Orange city of India over the period of Diwali holidays, I was the first one to accept (read succumb). Now obviously, there wasn’t much in Nagpur to attract. There were some strings attached of course! First, we all love to travel and have at least been to each other’s hometowns: Rahul’s Calicut, Noelle’s Margao, Reshu’s Kharagpur, Mine and Rupsa’s Kolkata; and the only place left on our list was that of Divya’s.

Secondly this was, predictably, the last major trip that we made together, before leaving the university. Thus big words like ‘sentiment’ was cited quite frequently. The emotions attached to this clause, could perpetually be read between the lines throughout the grandly scripted trip to the Orange city.


We celebrated Divya’s birthday on 10th midnight. We stayed up till late, more because we were watching Gregory Peck’s vintage classic GUNS OF NAVARONE on the home theatre system. And Divya’s dad being from the IAF, loves watching war movies and to talk about battles, military strategy, missions, drills and his personal experiences. He, himself being a great story-teller, kept it funny and us, engrossed. And at midnight, we all gathered to wish her and unravel the gift. Oh, the last part totally needs another paragraph.

We had ordered online, collector’s edition of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series of novels. It was ordered from Flipkart and was supposed to be received as a gift package with a card inside. What actually happened was this. The gift had arrived 3 days before the birthday. They had called up Divya 4 days ago and asked for a confirmation about one such gift pack that her friends are sending her. This is how, they successfully had torpedoed 86.75% of our joy in seeing her surprised and obviously pleased face, even before all of it surfaced. So she herself brought our gift on the table and cut it open. The content was yet unknown to her and so, we got the final satisfaction of seeing her overjoyed.

Anyway, the next day we went to the Pench Tiger Reserve, some 70-80 kilometers away from the city of Nagpur. Since Pench was closed temporarily till 2:30, we roamed about the nearer places like Ramtek and had an amazing picnic lunch at a parking space, beside the highway, between two cars and a massive tree for shade. We were told by everyone that nothing is usually seen in Pench, while the officials maintained that there were 13 tigers and about a dozen more leopards in there, so we might just get lucky! We’ve never been that lucky anyways.

But then this was the forest. Rudyard Kipling had used this particular forest as the original setting of his Jungle Book!

We saw plentiful  hordes of the spotted deer Chital and the big yet elusive deer Sambar, and a variety of monkeys Macaque and Langur. Also, we caught a few playful wild dogs Dhole (which in Bengali, quite hilariously, is known as Ram-kukur!) and some peacocks here, there and again. Even though we had our own car - a Chevy, we had a forest-guard with us. His explanations and the sudden moments of thrilling anticipation following a sound we heard outside the vehicle close-by, were reeking of experience. I also managed to spot a few animals myself (like the backside of a departing antelope, Nilgai) and the success rate of the entire experience, tended upwards.

The final icing on the cake, however, were two.

One, to put it short and to-the-point, we saw a tiger. The sun had set and night-time was swiftly taking over as the beast came to drink water on a stream, just beyond which, were our mortal selves guarded by the metal-fiber body of the Chevy. Now I know how much Rajeev would like to have said ‘Mujhe jungli billiyan bahut pasand hai..’ like the don that SRK was, but it’s a scary prospect to attract a wild cat in its home ground.

The second layer of icing was even better than a tiger! We passed through a region in the forest known as the Bamboo cathedral. It was basically a bamboo forest. Now add to it, a group of grazing deer, their fawns, green grass in contrast with white towering bamboos, a doomed craziness arising of insect-cries and bird-calls and a Conan Doyle mist. Oh and also, a thrilling anticipation of catching a glimpse of one particular tiger that has recently marked the bamboo forest as its backyard territory. The 3 minute ride through it was like passing the make-belief forests of Narnia in winter!


And that was just the first 3 days. The rest went in watching movies, shopping, eating exotic food both in and out of the house, some prospective financial & life-planning gyan from uncle, the Linda Goodman-related late-night discussions (read commotions), a table-tennis game at midnight and Diwali.

I shopped for my mum. She demanded five sarees and aired an absolute disregard for how packed my luggage already was. We watched and loved ‘Skyfall’ while I was the only one left exasperated after watching ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ in the movie hall. We bought a reasonable amount of crackers as I managed to morally outbid Rajeev on his demand of 100 noise-making bombs, with my modest demand of 50, and perhaps some non-sonic ones along with it.

The whole trip was way more than what we expected, as our semester-end exams are approaching. And having fun with absolutely no preparation for the exam seems rightfully sinful! So, I guess I'll have to sleep less, eat more, chug in more caffeine and study my arse off now.. No blogging for a couple of days, hopefully! I'm posting some photos from this trip, below.

These grasses, beside the water body, attract the wild cats frequently

a Chital or Spotted deer, near our car

Just before Sunset, Pench National Park

A photographer is born, Divya!

Myself and a little-too-jubilant Rajeev

Controversial shot of a tiger (we claim its a leopard!)

An elusive Sambar deer

Lending a helping hand to Rupsa, for the Diwali decorations

Making the Right Career Choice..

This sudden loss of faith is new to me. I think this past one week did it!

I’ve been busy. And annoyed that I am by the incompetence of the word ‘busy’, I think they must develop a new term that signifies a far greater level of busyness that can drive people towards killer psychosis! And if such a word does exist and I don’t know about it yet, I’m totally failing my GRE test, due this December.

God! As the final days of my graduate studies came to an end, I ended up with 3 project reviews – all theoretical, with lots of marks at stake. One may think designing a project in theory is easier than an actual wet lab project, you’re so wrong man! It poses different kind of problems: first, the subject of nanobiotechnology was absolutely new to me. Second, how do I know the expected results or parameters that may affect the system, without actually doing it? Anyway, as I successfully nailed that coffin yesterday, I finished all the reviews before the end of time. Next, 2 assignments and 2 project reports – minimum 15 pages! And among all the chaos, there were still the trivial chores that needed some attention.

Sleeping at 3 in the night, waking up at 6 in the morning and running to profs after that, was all I did this last one week. And in months, I had the dream last night. It was a recollection/reconstruction of last summer, when I worked as a surgical intern in the Neurological Diseases department at one of the top hospitals in Kolkata. I don’t remember, but the dream had something to do with that.

If there is any regret that I have regarding my choice of career, it’ll be my choice of choosing medical research over medical practice. But at that time, I didn’t have much exposure to be able to decide that all by myself. So I chose a life of medical research over actual practice. I think, I might’ve chosen surgery otherwise.

'Sorry ma'am, I'm still poking your insides. Go back to sleep!'

Would I have made a good surgeon?

Objectivity, oh I rule those grounds! I remember how excited I was to see the scalp being cut open, the cranium being drilled through to reach the squishy little pink-coloured brain. How big the tumor was, that looked like the inards of an oyster. How apt Beethoven sounded inside the OT, and how it was not even halfway, and 3 containers of blood was already drained out of the patient with new supplies. I had scrubbed up, and was intensely watched the entire 7 hour procedure as I had followed the case since the very day, the 32-years old female was diagnosed of brain tumor.

Well, the actual procedure hardly took an hour, it was the drilling-in and stitching-out that took most of the time. By that time, I had it all in my head. How the anesthesia worked, how the health-monitors worked and how the surgeons worked without disturbing the brain. Speaking of disturbing the brain, there was a moment in the surgery, when the brain stem was slightly pressed. The heart-rate and BP shot up to horrific levels, and everybody waited in tense attention, staring at the monitors for a about 2 minutes waiting for it all to come down. And after it did come down to normalcy, the anesthesiologist had joked to me ‘That was your lucky moment, son!’

My objectivity was also tested when I observed the surgery on a 5 year old kid, and an elderly patient whose quality of life after the successful surgery was questionable to some extent.

I loved those two months, and loved the hospital. Well it was a different story that I was getting special treatment among all other interns (and that ‘we hate you’ look from the resident doctors) as I had managed to impress the HOD of the neurological diseases department with my try-outs in diagnosis. He had remarked ‘You'd have been a bad-ass doctor, boy’ and as everyone told me it was a positive thing to say, that remark was inscribed in my head forever. That will perhaps need a craniotomy to get it out!

Okay, yes I was bragging and I occasionally love it..


Anyway, so I’m looking forward for my project dissertation work in IIT Bombay to change my mind about it! I’ve always loved teaching and doing that little thing called poking the insides of dead lizards or frogs and see ‘what is there!’ Hence, my equal inclination towards research is leavened. And I’ve always enjoyed a bit of nerdy discussions among peers. Those discussions, sometimes totally, promote me oath-bound for research work.

Okay then, enough being a megalomaniac. Time to say, tata! And have a safe, happy Diwali people!