And another book

I recently read “Don’t Ask Any Old Bloke For Directions: A Biker’s Whimsical Journey Across India” by P G Tenzing. I did make a terrible mistake of thinking it would be a new-age version of the classic “bike book“. Once that was removed, it was an easy read. Surprisingly enough, it is written in a way that would lend to easy translation. Perhaps one would see the book coming out in various languages – that would be a nice thing to have.

The book is a quick read about a former IAS officer who decides to chuck it all and go on a “where the bike may take me” kind of ride with the king of roads – the Enfield Thunderbird. Intermingled within the journals of the journey are observations of someone who was trained in the IAS, has a funny sense of humor and, a willingness to believe in karma and do good. The breezy and somewhat easy nature of the book makes it a very quick read. And, even for those who fancy that they know it all about India, there are enough details seen at a bike-riding level that makes it worth the time.

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I need my name back

I have had enough of companies at Pune pretending that they know my name better than I do myself. Here are a couple of interesting examples:

  • Airtel thinks my name is “Sankarshan M Mukhopadhyay”
  • Reliance thinks my name is “Sankarshan P Mukhopadhyay”
  • Tata Indicom thinks my name is “Sankarshan S Mukhopadhyay”

In all the above cases, they have copies of my Passport/Driving License which clearly state my name to be ‘Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay’.

I realize where the fascination for the middle name – it is somewhat of a custom to have the father’s/husband’s name inserted as a middle name/initial. The problem is that it isn’t a custom where I come from, so I don’t have a middle name/initial. Which means, that in all of the above 3 cases, if I were required to furnish proof of my full name, I’d draw a blank. Now that is a non-trivial issue.

I am supposed to know my name ain’t I ? So, when I fill up a form, provide proof that substantiates it, what is the need to fill-up the middle name part on my behalf ? And, when I write in to get it correct, what is the need for a sermon over the phone about how it is a custom to have a middle name ?

Fascinatingly annoying it is.

Of new things and old time-space

There comes a time in life when it becomes a sudden realization that “I’ve really gotten old”. And, it doesn’t always happen when you hit mid-life. In my case, it crept up on me when I figured out that things from my childhood, things which I had more or less taken for granted as “will be there throughout” are not there any more. A somewhat quick example would be with the passing away of Tapen “Goopy” Chatterjee. Goopy Gyne and Bagha Byne were stuff from my childhood. I recall seeing them on TV. And, in my childhood fancy always thought them as eternal. At that age it is difficult to appreciate the frail nature of human life or, the fact that at some point in time we all move on to the great beyond. Right now, it strikes home very hard.

The earliest I recall going to a movie was a somewhat sinister Barracuda, and, thereon much later to watch The Ten Commandments which stayed with me for a long long while. In fact, even today when Charlton Heston as Moses crosses the desert with the belief that he has a calling, it gives me goosebumps. As does the chariot scene from Ben-Hur or, even the “I am Spartacus” scene from Spartacus. Kirk Douglas was another favorite and, I watched Last Train from Gun Hill as much for him as I did for Anthony Quinn. Now, there is a trend that you can spot here – I was growing up on a diet of TNT specials 🙂 which means that although I watched the infrequent Hindi movie, I was hugely updated on the fare TNT dished out as did DD during the weekend nights.

Anyway, I’ve slowly come to figure out that the singers and the songs I like or, keep playing in a loop were probably from a generation that has long gone. There are passionate Dylan or, Beatles fan and, both Dylan and Beatles were ‘hits’ well before my time, but hearing them being played over and over again, along side with ABBA (yeah !), Boney-M, Cliff Richard, Nana Maskouri, Diana Ross, Elvis, John Denver, Jim Morrison and their peers made them “songs of my time”. And, of course this is reflected in my partial liking of the singers of Rabindrasangeet. My favorite singers have either passed away or, they don’t sing anymore. At one point in time I knew at least a couple of hundred of songs by heart only because of the collection of LPs which were played over and over again. That may not be much for a typical Bengali household, but given that I am blessed with a voice that makes a donkey’s bray sound dulcet, my penchant for uninhibited full throated renditions were probably ‘waking up the neighbors’ with a twist.

I felt sad today. Not because Goopy is no more. There is something simpler than that – the fact that my childhood memories of immense enjoyment are losing their characters. And, I am growing old.

Once when a movie was on

Sometime back I was watching “Shawshank Redemption” on TV. I think it was HBO but that is besides the point. Now I never did think too much about the actual novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”, but the movie grew on me. So much so that it is one of the few movies I can start watching at any given point without feeling bored or, annoyed. Maybe it is because of the acting or, maybe because it is such a subtly moral story. Anyways, this time around, I had started watching a little before the character played by Morgan Freeman explains the concept of “Institutionalized“. And, even though I’ve never actually paid much heed to it, it got me thinking. About how it is interlinked with the concept of “comfort zones“.

More importantly, how sometimes without giving it a second thought, we unconsciously end-up making choices that reflect the coupled effect of these two. Be it in the inability to begin taking risks at job or, even taking a look at one’s career itself. I had a conversation with someone at work today talking about another co-worker who seems to “have a written down plan” for doing things. Even though it was a bit early in the morning to be amazed, I was a bit dumb-struck.

I don’t recall the longest I have actually made a plan. And, this specifically relates to the way I am going through my career – let things happen as they happen in the “Bindu ki maa, jab jab jo jo hona hain ; tab tab so so hota hain” fashion of extreme complacency. Probably because I am afraid to make a plunge and see how things turn out or, more likely because I have so much internalized the fact that I am doing well that I have to pull of a magical self convincing act to get out of the shell. In reality it is a significantly dangerous thing to do. Specifically because it doesn’t make too much sense. I do have short term goals or, objectives as I like to phrase them and, take immense time to think them through (sometimes leading to keep-looking-at-vague-things moments) with the idea of ensuring that I am on track to realizing them. But looking forward years on end and, writing down a plan ? I don’t even know how to begin for that.

And, in other news.

An interesting side effect of getting along in age has been a change of perspective. There has always been the constant reminder that one is growing old because the body cannot take tasks of physical strength which were common even five years back. But that isn’t what is surprising.

When I was young, I used to look around a people – mature people who held jobs, went to office etc and, were considered “head of the family” and, in general their opinions and feedback matter. These were important people. So, a few days back, when I had to respond to a query along similar lines because I was (you guessed it !) “head of the family” it was an interesting shock. Never mind the fact that in a family of 2, the head or, the tail simply doesn’t matter.

Which brings us to another part of the story. Today is the 5th anniversary of our wedding. The 5 years just flew past. And, looking back, it is actually 12 years that went by since the day we met. Just like that. I woke up in the morning and, was thinking about all the days and the various dramatic events that have happened in those days.

Oh Calcutta !

We were at Calcutta during the week of 29th April till 3rd May.

The actual reason was to get down and complete the “registration of sale deed” formalities for the flat. As it happened, we ended up spending a day through the bandh on the 27th and, also doing interesting things like surprising dipankar-da by turning up at Madhyamgram unannounced – and ensuring that Manu-di cooked the most lip-smacking mutton I have had in a long long time. In between, there was the obligatory visit to the bookstores, especially the Ananda Publishers one at Gariahat (where I learnt that Ananda has been clever enough not to have a re-run/re-print of Moti Nundy’s “Jiban Ananta”). I had interesting side conversations with a myriad group of folks, including a few die-hard Leftists who have by now figured out that this election isn’t going to get the Left Front to power. Having spent my entire childhood, boyhood, youth and a good part of my adult life watching the Left clique in power (and, the games they play), I don’t hold a special opinion about the eventuality. Other than the fact that things have withered to such a state that it would take enormous self-belief and, chutzpah to change them for the better. And, I don’t think that the political groups in WB have that.

We saw Stephen Court and, saw the mangled,burnt and tangled air-conditioners. We did not visit Music World, but we did go to the Oxford Bookstore and, of course we did go to Mocambo. Among other things, I had rolls from Haji Saheb (Runa had them twice really – glutton ;)) And, although there were plans to take in Wanted (Bengali), Amanush (Bengali) or, The Japanese Wife, nothing materialized. Instead, we did a round of South City Mall.

If all the above generates an impression that we acted like tourists, it would be right. Speaking for myself, I’ve been out of the city for 6 years now and, visit it only for a maximum of 10 days. Clucking disapproving tongues or, making a vigorous display of disapproval at the state of things is an easier way out. Frankly, I don’t like the way things work. Take for example the fact that in spite of paying up promptly, a retailer made me wait for 90 minutes for a netbook. I was the first customer at the beginning of a weekend and his feeble excuse was that “the hardware is in the godown”. While I can take that in, what I find amusing is that his staff hogged all the available chairs which meant that I had no option other than squatting on the floor of the showroom – fine example of customer service.

Or closer home, the electrician who was to come down and fix up the ceiling fans during the bandh day said that “folks had released the air from his cycle tyres and stopped him from coming” – and this is on the same road that I came using a rickshaw – nary a bandh volunteer/activist in sight. There is a lack of seriousness about things that worries me – an attitude that is perhaps summed up in the phrase “chalta hai” that I cannot tolerate.

In the meanwhile, we also did the Lakes (after ages for me) and, met Indranil and Stephanie there. Good stuff. With Sayamindu and Susmit going away to Cambridge and Denver for further studies, the number of pals I’ve at Kolkata is coming down. So sooner rather than later it would be just a cursory trip to check up the status of the flat. When the number of folks who love you and like you start going down, you start feeling your age. And, meeting BDC at the Maidan (what an epic walk that was) and, spending time at Waldorf (which is nothing like what it was) reminded me that the good guys are losing or, giving up. What a world !

ps: We saw It’s an Wonderful Afterlife today. Frankly, it is such a typecast cliche-filled movie that I see no reason to write about it. It is a time-pass, but it is a movie you have seen earlier with characters that have appeared in various serials.