An Indian Summer with the Bulbuls

A story from Purulia (West Bengal, India) made quite a few headlines last week. A tusker, also known to have killed three people last year, smashed a house into bits and started moving away. Just then it heard the cries of a helpless 10-month-old baby from under the debris. To the crowd’s amazement, it immediately turned back and gently removed every last bit of stone, brick and mortar from the infant’s body before heading back to the forest.

A similar incident was reported from Jalpaiguri (also in West Bengal, India) about six months ago where a herd of elephants carefully removed a little girl from the way before going on a rampage.

Very recently, it has been reported that elephants and dogs too recognize certain voices and languages. On a lighter note, now we know how justified is ‘HMV’ and its logo – His Master’s Voice !! 🙂

Incidents as these that sound straight from India’s Amar Chitra Katha series or Jataka Tales or western Fairy Tales, have been observed all over the world. In about two or three separate articles starting from this particular write-up, I would love to narrate a few remarkable ones from my childhood. These would also constitute my humble attempt in appreciating all Nature-lovers, observers and researchers. And I hope that readers will enjoy this curious side of life where Nature vividly communicates with man in symbolic languages.

Before I begin, I would like to mention that my parents have always ardently hailed Nature. My mother (here addressed as Ma), was not only keen at gardening but also guarded all life-forms in our garden just as she was protective of her own family. And therefore we believed that’s perhaps how she was more well-recognized, completely trusted and sort of much admired by the other occupants of our green ambience.

In this article, I shall focus on one episode based on birds in a part of India, where I spent most of my young days, almost 25 years.

The jovial Bulbuls seemed to be eternally present in the green, calm surroundings of the bungalow. Once a pretty young Bulbul-ma (that’s how I used to call the mother-bird) over-estimated her plans of a good nest and the entire fledging process after her cute eggs hatched. Consequently, on a scorching summer day in May,1990 she anxiously fluttered up to Ma who was watering the plants in the patio. She chirped madly and then flew to and fro in the direction of her unsecured nest. Ma lost no time in understanding that she had to rush as per Bulbul-ma‘s directional moves. I tiptoed along on the grassy patches here and there, intermittently starred by some bright seasonal flowers. Bulbul-ma perched on a nascent palm tree planted in a clay pot. Its leaves had quite dwindled away in the heat that was everywhere. The tree barely supported the small nest built for three members. Ma peeped at the centre and her heart sank to see three tiny nestlings struggling to survive the heat, thirst and hunger. Hair on their skin was singed and beneath it was visible the tender skin, slightly reddish. Their beaks were wide open with its pink delicate but almost dry inner linings exposed towards the clear blue sky that was absolutely unpromising of a shower for the next couple of days. They were desperately waiting for Bulbul-ma‘s solace. But she was utterly helpless because she could not have transferred them anywhere at this stage! The well too was far from the pot; so she could not have even managed a small spray on her nest with her wings soaked in the water from any container.

With the gardener’s help, Ma quickly but carefully shifted the pot to a spot in the verandah where shade was almost perpetual and we could monitor them maximally. A polythene sheet was later hung at one side as a double guard against all the remaining rays. Ma found a very innovative way to artificially feed the nestlings- she took a new ink-pen dropper and with it, very smoothly let droplets of water and mango-juice into their mouths. They gulped and gulped…and I was always very excited when Ma delegated this task to me after a simple demonstration. Then she taught me to spray their almost singed bodies with cool water and to often check their nests for enemies- ants and insects. When they grew better, Bulbul-ma would feed them small dead ants and insects. At nightfall, it was the watchman’s turn to guard the nest as well. Ma also regularly gave hand-mashed mango pulp and nuts to Bulbul-ma, who sitting on the same palm tree, would sincerely observe us when we nursed her nestlings. Her expression was like ‘achaa! itna kuch karna parrta hai kya? mujhe nahi malum tha!! (oh! we got to do all these, is it? I didn’t know!!)’ :-).

And Bulbul-ma was somehow acquainted with saree (Ma, grand-ma and domestic helps), dhoti (gardener and grand-father) and casual skirt and top (me). Till date, I wonder why she missed out the formal shirt and trousers (my father)! So initially, when my father went near the palm tree to see this interesting episode, she would scream and again start seeking Ma or me. We explained to her in a language of the homo sapiens that ‘a father’ is the man-of-the-house, someone who would ultimately rescue us all in case there is a danger…that he is Ma’s husband and my father, the little girl’s father. And several times, we took him along with us to the nest so that Bulbul-ma would learn that he is after all a safe visitor :-).

I had just stepped into my teenage. Once, during a mid-day chat with Ma who was my closest friend, she very jokingly remarked ‘perhaps, this Bulbul-ma has not come of age…looks like these eggs are borne out of a pre-matured wedlock’… 🙂 Then in the next few moments, her tone transformed to that of immense appreciation and respect for Bulbul-ma– ‘but one thing my girl, note she hasn’t ditched her eggs…rather she has accepted Nature’s rule in rearing them up, even all alone in this scorching heat’ !! And again she rushed towards their nest to check on them.

The monsoons were nearing when one day, the now hearty fledglings flapped their wings for the first time. Bulbul-ma spent two days in fruitlessly trying to teach them fly. We concluded that they had got used to the comforts in badde-sahaab ke bungalow (big man’s bungalow)- all our family and helps accused Ma and me :-). On the third day, as evening approached, two of them managed to fly out; after hobbling for a few metres, they took to the air smoothly. The last one just didn’t move. It was indeed robust. Ma blamed it on me saying that I over-fed my pet and now its wings could not bear its weight. Bulbul-ma pricked its back with her beak so as to stimulate it. The fledgling merely shrugged off the sensation and continued to stubbornly sit in the nest :-). Then my Ma gently brought it out and placed it on the floor in the verandah. Using her fingers, she prompted the fledgling to follow it and walk. There was no response. Then she slightly stroked her nascent wings and blew some mouth-air over it. We were still surprised how this little fellow was unable to decode natural instincts! Just then, my grand-father happened to sit on a mattress on the floor barely a few metres away from it. Suddenly, the fledgling flapped its wings and flew onto his cosy lap in a manner most unlike of even a distant-cousin of birds :-)! I think it had understood by then that it had to perform under the full glare of spectators and the view of the short distance to be covered at a small altitude helped it muster some strength to fly- ‘bhai, udd le…isse asaan aur chance nahi! (hey,lemme show I can fly…there can’t be an easier chance to do it!)’ :).

Then it again sat there seeming to be very satisfied with its flying skills. I wanted to feed it again with the dropper because I believed it might have got exhausted with its efforts. But Ma stopped me as she seriously wanted it to fly as a natural response to thirst and hunger, and she also empathized with Bulbul-ma in her desperate efforts. Evening was nearing…

In the meanwhile, Bulbul-ma had brought in either Bulbul-baba (the father-bird) or some Bulbul-masi (Bulbul-ma‘s female friend) !! We didn’t try to figure out exactly who it was. We had better tricks of Bulbul-ma to watch. The adult birds had caught hold of a big grasshopper and another insect in their respective beaks and started luring the lazy fledgling towards it. As the latter hobbled after a few minutes, the adult birds continued moving back, maintaining a minimum take-off distance on the runway :-). The trick went on until the fledgling successfully flew towards the trees that the birds had flown to with the insects still held in their beaks.

Even years later, Ma used to recollect this particular trick and was very amused each time. She said ‘wasn’t that so much like human adults who try to lure their kids to desired activities or places by holding out a chocolate or a flashy toy in front of them ?’. Perfectly so.

That lazy fledgling was a female and she continued to be robust. So, we could always identify her as long as we all lived there. I roughly built a nest the following summer at the same spot (to lure my cute lazy fledgling) and I believe she only laid eggs. She turned out to be an intelligent Bulbul-ma and we didn’t have to look after any of her nests. Honestly speaking, I would have loved to bother about all subsequent fledging processes :-).

It was during this phase that I learnt about Dr.Sálim Moizuddin Abdul Ali, the great Indian ornithologist and naturalist. He is known all over the world for having conducted systematic bird surveys and giving a wonderful fillip to the subject. He is also referred to as the “”bird-man of India” and was conferred the Padma Vibhushan in 1976 . I wonder what a whale of observations and conclusions Dr. Ali must have had in his extra-ordinary pursuit to understand the ways of varieties of birds! The International Jury had rightly honoured him with these lines-

Since the writing of your book, the Book of Indian Birds which in its way was the seminal natural history volume for everyone in India, your name has been the single one known throughout the length and breadth of your own country, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as the father of conservation and the fount of knowledge on birds. Your message has gone high and low across the land and we are sure that weaver birds weave your initials in their nests, and swifts perform parabolas in the sky in your honor.
For your lifelong dedication to the preservation of bird life in the Indian subcontinent and your identification with the Bombay Natural History Society as a force for education, the World Wildlife Fund takes delight in presenting you with the second J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize. February 19, 1976.

More similar articles to follow, if Aamjunta approves… 🙂

Little things, Big values

When you visit a friend having a kid, its usual to carry a chocolate for the little one… But its disappointing to hear some parents remark rudely at that very instance of gifting (sometimes as early as when you have just hinted that there’s a chocolate for the kid in your bag or pocket or hand) – “hum chocolate NAHI khaate (we don’t eat chocolates)… /we DON’T like chocolates… /arreyyy, aapne KYUU laya ye sab, already itna problems chal raha hai uske dnaath ko leke (WHY have you bought all these, we are already troubled with the kid’s tooth)” !

Well, we (guests) are aware that the child may not ultimately have it owing to tooth or some digestion issues. But the host (parents of the child) needs to know and also teach the child why and how to refrain from the gift temporarily or whatsoever, and never to disregard the guest’s affection.

Some may suggest getting dry-fruits, cookies, fruits, etc. Well, if chocos can dent the teeth, so will cookies & dry-fruits ! Moreover, plain chocos will melt away and not sit in the tooth-cavities; dry-fruits will doubly harm by way of grinding and sitting in the cavities. 🙂  A kid may not realize to clean it or clean it at the earliest ! As for fruits – kids will simply throw it away for obvious reasons, and parents would not have a role to play here- good or bad. Because the kid itself is in denial mode. We are talking of a situation in which the kid is in acceptance mode and the parents are in a denial mode on the same stuff. Afterwards, some people may also comment “bachche ke liye kuch bhi nahi laye, wo kya fruits khaate hain (the guests didn’t get anything for our kids; do kids like fruits) ?” 🙂  Moreover, many people can’t afford fruits nowadays- this, as I am considering all classes in our society. The option of fruits is a healthy suggestion though. But without chocolates, there can be no melting mazaa (fun) ! 🙂

A similar situation happens when you present sweets and discover someone is diabetic or extremely calorie-conscious !! Guests usually arrive with something namkeen (salty snacks) in addition, if they know beforehand about the diabetic condition. Irrespective of the namkeen, the sweets can always be refrigerated to be eaten moderately or tasted and offered to other visitors. How does it matter as long as the generosity of guests serves the purpose of the host for whom they have after all cared this way !!

However, such giving away of “presented” gifts, whether or not to refrain from it, should not be immediate or outright. I remember that I had once been to a friend’s kid’s birthday party. Since I had a busy day and could not go to any mall to buy anything special, I opted for a big multi-variety chocolate product of a leading brand that I luckily found in a bakery on my way. I was already late for the party and on reaching, I found that there were several games going on. For one of these, three prizes were enthusiastically declared by the gorgeous hostess. When it was over, I was surprised to observe, unintended though, that the first prize given was nonchalantly drawn from the heap of gifts by her. And unfortunately it was ‘my chocolate gift’, which now appeared as if it was a mere trash among the other items that were rather big and colourfully wrapped in sparkling papers. I thought to myself, what a meaningless Namaste welcomed us !! Such parties always have games and a good hostess must not overlook the arrangement of prizes or return-gifts. Some time back, I and another friend happened to discuss a similar topic. He was of the opinion that some hosts do it that way not because they are indifferent to the guests or gifts but because that’s an economical way of hosting the party to the fullest extent ! 😦

The other callous ways of some hosts are when the item becomes sort of a flying-disc or football or lies simply unattended even after you have left the place. If you have been very sincere and keen about the gift while purchasing or if its an expensive one, then while leaving the doorstep of the host, even a faint glimpse of it will literally bleed your heart… “hai Ram, bekaar mein uthaake layee main (Oh God, got this for no reason)… /kyuu laya main isko idhar (why did I get it here at all)… ?!?”  Too late, boss… 🙂

Whether it is chocolates, cookies, dry-fruits, fruits, sweets, namkeen, a dress or colour pencils- the point is on knowing and also teaching the child how to say a polite ‘no’ and never to hurt the guest’s sentiments; it is immaterial what the guest presents as long as it suits the occasion ! As parents, we should not be over-protective or egoistic; rather we should educate children to respect the society as a whole. Such aspects, in the long run, will definitely help the budding generation to understand the older ones and to care for them, no matter what their rank or status is.

So folks, isn’t it better and decent on part of all parents to teach the child with a smile rather something like “say- thank you Aunty /Uncle b-u-t… we will relish it later… /I will have it when I grow up a bit… /I would be able to enjoy it after I am through my tooth or digestion issues…” ? And then actually show the kid to store it in a refrigerator to be either eaten later or offered to someone else. If the gift is a non-edible type, then also a similar step can be taught. For example, a dress whose colour you don’t like or which is under-size for the kid, can be either exchanged at the shop with approval of the guest or in case that is not possible, donated to someone needy. Till then, it should be properly kept in the wardrobe. That way, the kid also learns how not to waste things or how to bring under-utilized stuff to better usage.

It may seem trivial to us, the so-called grown-ups. But these things can have a big implication on the EQ of children as they gradually learn life’s ways and then mature into adults one fine day ! Why expect their sense and sensibilities to bloom over-night ?!!? Let’s nurture it right from now on, whether it is a small or a big thing…..

What do you suggest, aamjunta… ?

Chance Pe Dance – Beyond Indo-Pak World Cup Cricket

With the win of Quarter Final Match against Ricky Pointing‘s Australian’s team, Men in Blue have cleared their path for a semi-final berth against Pakistan at Mohali on 30th March, 2011.  Interestingly, though Pakistan was mostly written-off and was termed “underdog” by their own commentators, they have proved every one wrong. Even though they lost badly to New Zealand, their overall performance is good and competitive. Moreover, their Captain Shahid Afridi has shown his character as a Captain – a leader, the leading bowler of the ICC World Cup 2011.

So far as Men in Blue are concerned, they have also shown a good fighting character. Demigod Sachin, Yuvraj, Raina, Kohli, Sehwag and Gambhir have proved their inclusion into the team as batsmen; Zahir, Ashwin and Harbhajan have proved their inclusion into the team as bowlers. Others have also done their job, though still not upto mark; wish everyone prove in the Semifinal and Final :). Wish the history repeats this time also, and the mighty India wins in the Semi Final against the united Pakistan.

That is all about future… a superb fighting semifinal on card, for the viewers, for the diplomats, for the cricket commentators, for the news channels, for the aamjunta and for Dr. Manmohan SinghMr. Gilani, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Ambani and many others. Every one is busy to reap some thing out of it. Hotels in Chandigarh are full at 3-times rate, tickets are sold at an exuberant price of Rs 1,00,000/- per ticket, NSGs deployed around the stadium, no-fly zone around Chandigarh, world-media is busy with Breaking News and advertisement rates have soared by at-least 10-times. That is not the end of the story… on an invitation from Dr. Manmohan Singh, Pakistan PM Mr. Gilani will also watch this “clash” from the stadium. He will be accompanied by more than 5000 Pakistani fans to watch the Clash of Titans.

On an un-usual note, home secretaries of both the countries are meeting on the back drop of this event, hoping for a bi-lateral engagement and confidence building measure. On a confidence building measure, Pakistan President Mr. Zardari has remitted the remaining jail term of Mr. Gopal Dass, an Indian prisoner lodged in Lahore jail for the last 27 years. Hope there is some more confidence building measure by both the countries. An Internet joke doing the rounds quotes the Pakistani president as responding to Mr. Singh’s gesture with a question: Will Sarah Palin be there? Not only that, the Pakistani media has termed the initiative “Aman ka chakka” or “sixer for peace.”

And in aamjunta’s word it is “Chance pe Dance, every one wants to score a six on the first ball and dance on the chance they are getting through Sachin-Sohaib or Sachin-Afridi or Yuvi-Afridi clash, a life-time entertainment and an would be chapter in Indo-Pak history. It is just beyond cricket and beyond everyone’s imagination.

Wish all the best to both the teams and to the cricket diplomacy. I am sure, aamjunta will also enjoy the match from the stadium or in cinema halls or in bars or in drawing room. A half-day in most of the places on card. As an Indian… I pray for India’s win in this world cup, Chakk de India….  🙂

Jai Hind!

Rumour Sails Dangerously in India

I am writing this blog-post after a long time and apologies to all the readers of Aamjunta who have been waiting for new posts for all these days.

It was around 6.30pm on a Monday in Feb 2010. I reached home slightly late from office and was discussing something related to cricket with my nephew. Suddenly, my Bhabi (sister-in-law) got a call on her mobile. Though the number flashing on her mobile screen was known, she could not guess what could be the reason for that call. Interestingly, the call lasted for some 30 seconds and ended with a serious-somber note. Just after the call, she asked my mother to visit the nearby temple with diya and ghee and also pray to our family deity. She was looking really concerned and serious. Moreover, my mother had just come back from the temple. So, I could not guess the reason of her going back to the temple again. Also I could not guess the reason behind my sister-in-law’s concern. In fact, the matter was so serious that without waiting to give us any explanation, Bhabi went to the nearby shop and bought a small pouch of ghee in no time as there was no special ghee at home. Finally, I asked her what is the matter and what is the reason behind so many calls and her despair. Initially she was reluctant to tell, but she could not keep the matter to herself completely. She just said, that her sister had called and said that she heard from someone that a small kid died immediately after his birth. But, to every one’s surprise, before dying he said, that ladies who have one son should go to a Shiva Temple immediately and pray to god with ghee and diya. My immediate response to her conversation was that it is just a rumour, nothing else. But, I did not give much emphasis and let her follow her faith without any argument.

In no time, my sister, Bhabi’s mother, her sisters all called her up and kept on advising the same thing. In just 10 minutes some 15 calls were either made or received on her phone. Everyone was telling the same thing, but with different versions, and added flavours. Some said, that the incident happened in Jajpur, some said it was in in Dhenkanal, some said it was in Balasore. In no time, my Bhabi also called all her relatives who have one son; and even called up Mumbai to inform my other sister-in-laws. The episode was straight from a daily soap and I sighed and said Rumour bhi kabhi telephonic message tha… . 🙂

With all these interesting stories and telephone calls happening at our home, I switched on our TV set and to my surprise live pictures were being flashed on local news channels which said that there are big queues in all Shiva temples with milk, diya, ghee and other offerings. What a day for the gods! Rumours can be so beneficial to them! Not only home-makers, many working ladies also visited temples. Same news was being discussed in many other channels also. By then, the entire incident was proved to be just a rumour. Like any other rumour, the origin of this story was unknown, some said it was initiated by telephone operators to increase their calls, income and some said it was just a fun message started by a group of young people and some said it was just a story created by pujakas in order to increase their dakshina.

Anyhow, even though many people knew that it is a rumour and was baseless, they acted superstitiously. It is our false belief, lesser confidence on our selves, superstitious nature and. powerful rumour-mongering in which the latter won.

It was not the end of rumours….

After ten days of that incident, some thing similar happened. At about 1.20 am in the night, I got some calls from unknown numbers. I was in deep slumber, did not pick up the phone and switched off my cell.  I happily slept and peacefully spent the night in my room. At around 7 am when I switched on my TV, I could see interesting stories flashing as ‘Breaking News’ on many news channels. The news was that in many parts of Odisha, people did not sleep the night before, in fact did not go back to their homes. Many people were seen roaming on the streets the entire night with their little children and relatives. Some even took their belongings out from their homes. The reason for this chaos: someone called at night and said that there will be a serious earth-quake and people will die. Moreover, even there is a chance for destruction of the earth. So people started calling their relatives and asked them not to sleep in their homes that night. The incident started at around 11 pm and went on till 6 am or so. People suffered that entire night.

By that time, I could guess the reason behind the calls which were made at 1.20 am to my mobile. Even there were 4 missed calls on my brother’s phone — 2 known and 2 unknown 🙂 . Later the next day, there were reports that even there were special pujas in many temples of the state, to save the world and the people from earth quake. Hmmm! But, like the previous story, origin of this story was also unknown, but there were doubts that someone made this story and called couple of people who made that public. Even, there are versions that telecom service providers or the representatives of those providers are also involved in this. But, whatever be the reason and whoever started the rumour, it just spread in no time across the state, irrespective of religion and geographical locations.

Many suffered the entire night, and a few like us, who did not pick up their phones slept happily. Another rumour in a span of just ten days!

However, my intention is not just to blog about the kind of rumours that spreads these days, I would also like to discuss the eventualities and the dangerous situation that arises due to these kind of rumours. Not only rumours are created for the profit of some people, they are some times targeted at destruction, for creating tension between communities and even for creating friction between people, friends and enemies. Rumours are even more dangerous than nuclear bombs, these are silent bombs, created and planted without any cost.

On different note, rumours are sometimes targeted to tarnish the image of  people, be the boss of a company, the minister of a state or a public figure or as a part of small office politics. Frequent rumours are heard on film stars and their public and private lives. Some call it film gossip, some call it fact and others call it rumour.

Aamjunta, let us make sure that we should not be involved in propagating the rumours, rather should control, even if it is created against our worst enemy. Who knows, we may be next target of some thing similar! We need to be positive not only in our own life, but also for others. A small statement sometimes unintentionally made can serve to destroy the lives of many. Why not try to find the actual source of this communication and stop that from its root? Creating stories are very easy, but the impact is dangerous, unless handled with care, life can become a hell. In a country like India, where many people are uneducated and superstitious, rumours spread in a flash. If not handled with care, then rumours can be the most dangerous and damaging form of communication that we encounter in our life.

Aamjunta, be vigilant towards rumours and do not make unnecessary calls to others. Wait and watch and then take action…. 🙂

Aamjunta Quotes

Here are some ” ” by Aamjunta. Hope you all enjoy them 🙂

“Divergence is the convergence at some unknown point; may be at infinity or may be at some thing different from our imagination” – aamjunta

“Agreeing to Disagree is also Agreeing” – aamjunta

“Marriage and PhD have one similarity – Commitment, even with differences” – aamjunta

“There is always a cat and mouse game between the speed of the life and the speed-breakers; but at the end of the day, no one wins and no one loses, memories just remain as the by-product of the game” – aamjunta

“All my friends were strangers” – aamjunta

“Mistakes and Perfection are like life and death; once you reach the state of perfection, you are dead.” – aamjunta

“Let Complexity be used as a Parameter for System Design, not Human Design.” – aamjunta

“The difference between clock-wise and anti-clockwise motion is like the difference between the future and the past; but the similarity is that they cannot be altered” – ammjunta

“Hmm, Ego… Remember, it starts with a Big “E” and let’s us “Go” in the wrong direction” – aamjunta

“What is right and what is wrong? It is just a perception that changes across the table” – aamjunta

“Life is not digital, it is analogue only. But, one should avoid analogue (fuzzy) decisions in life”. – aamjunta

Ghosts vs. Tantrik – a life-time Experience

Have you heard of Ghosts?

Have you seen them? How do they look?

Do you know how to tame them? Excuse me! I don’t know how to tame ghosts? Even I don’t know whether ghosts are there or not? But, yes I definitely know how to tame the Owner of Ghosts – the Tantrik!

Confused!  Relax 🙂 Let me share some of my experiences and narrating the story of the taming of the Tantrik.

It was late 90’s. I was just completing my 3rd year of Engineering and taking Summer Training at Cuttack. I had a short vacation of a couple of days in between from the practical training and as usual thought of spending time at home. I left for home one Friday morning. Took the early morning bus from Cuttack and reached at about 8.30 am in my village. It is a small and educated village, located some 100 km South-East of Bhubaneswar. Even though  education had reached every family of the village,  superstitious thinking was still prevalent. Quite a number of  people had belief on Ghosts and Tantriks. In fact, some of the Tantriks were working as school teachers in the village primary schools.  I used to listen to many interesting stories on ghosts and taming of ghosts by sadhus or tantriks. Like every Indian village, we too had small village manadapa (stage) where we used to sit, chat or discuss and have fun in the evening. In addition, we also had many other interesting stories to listen to. Some explained their experiences and their conversations with Gods or with ghosts and some performed Pujas to get rid of them. But, there were some people, who did not believe – either on the ghosts or on the tantriks.

Incidentally, that day some relative of one of our uncles had come to visit the family in our village. As per this gentleman’s versions, he was quite well-known in the surrounding villages as a Tantrik – who could tame ghosts, made these spirits work and even employ ghosts for his house-hold work and farming.  That evening, while he was narrating his experiences, I just dropped-in; could not control my curiosity and sat there to listen to his stories. What I could gather from his narrations was that he had tamed some 100 odd ghosts in the last ten years or so. He had visited many villages and even the capital city of Odisha to catch dangerous, interesting, naughty and mischievous ghosts. Precisely, all type of ethereal beings lived and encircled him and he appeared  the master of the world of spirits. We were there,  some 20 young people listening to him intently, in addition  some senior citizens too hovered around him in interest and awe, respectfully standing with folded hands and muttering silent prayers to drive away any evil spirit encircling them. Every one including me were  mesmerized by his stories. At about 9.30 pm, he left for dinner and so did the other people. Interestingly, three of my friends did not go. They were discussing some thing, and whispering some thing among each other. No one could get an inkling because they were very softly murmuring and giggling. Everyone thought that they had decided to go to sneak away for the late night cinema show at the nearest theater in the town.

However, these people were not conspiring for the night show. In fact, they collected 3 white Sarees and three small battery operated small bulbs (red in colour) and got ready with their plan. They were hiding somewhere near the uncle’s home. They knew that this ‘tantrik uncle’ will wake up to go to the loo sometime after mid-night. And that happened, Tantrik uncle woke up at about 12.30 am and opened the front gate of the house to go for a bowel cleansing. In our village that time there were hardly any concrete bathroom and mostly a temporary arrangement was made in front of the homes, because backyards were supposed to be infested with ghosts and spirits, who would pounce on you if you venture out at night.

Just when the uncle opened the thatch door, within no time the three friends reached his gate covered with white Sarees with red-glowing bulbs inside the mouth. They started making noises and dancing like ghosts in front of the Tantrik uncle. In no time, the Tantrik uncle screamed, howled and fell down and fainted! Only thing he was blabbering before falling down was bhoooooo bhoooo bhhooootttt….. 🙂

Seeing him helpless and realizing the condition of the Tantrik uncle, the three friends changed their attire and took him to the nearest hospital. It took hours for him to get his sense back. He was tensed and and even did soil his dhoti :). That whole night he was blabbering bhoot, bhoot…. …

He was discharged from the hospital in the early morning and was taken back to his relative’s place. That whole day, he did not come out from his home and whenever someone asked him, what happened, he said, “there are three tall and big ghosts in your village, they tried to kill me last night”. And when some one asked him, how come a seasoned Tantrik like him is getting threatened by ghosts?, how come these ghosts are not getting tamed? To that he politely said, “whatever I said before were lies, and I have not seen a single ghost till yesterday“. Fooling people in the name of ghosts and taming them was just his profession and was the source of income. But, yes, he added “of course there were three ghosts last night“. 🙂

I could not control my laugh when I heard the entire story. Poor uncle, he had to disclose the truth and the poor superstitious aamjunta.

Saying all these things and narrating a story from my experiences was not only meant to entertain. There are some points which we need to look into deeper. No one will deny how superstitious we are, irrespective of our education and up-bringing! Many times we believe on fairy tales without even realizing what we are listening to. Listening or believing these kinds of superstitious things is not the end and may not be all that harmful. However, many of us  spend millions of rupees on these things, exploit people in the name of beliefs and superstition, fight with each other and some time even kill innocent people as sacrifice (bali) because of our fancies, fantasies and whims. Some believe on ghosts and some on tantriks, and some on both.

Aaamjunta – what do you think of this “tantrik” practices? Do you believe on Ghosts or Tantriks? or is it none 🙂

Beer bar, Liquor Shop and Aamjunta

Are yaar, chalo… yahan so jate hain,
Haan, achhi jagah hai… kyon hostel jayenge? yahan hi so jaate hain..

This was the post job treat conversation between two students. They fell from their cycle on their way to hostel from the main gate, after taking a heavy dinner and nice cock-tail in a reputed beer bar. Interestingly, we were also in the same job treat and were on our way walking to hostel too. When we saw them lying flat on the road, we could not believe our eyes. But, what to do? We put them into an auto-rickshaw and brought them to hostel. Before bringing them back, we picked and kept their cycle (badly damaged) near a tree.

This is just one among many incidents, which can be observed in our every-day life. Some times, the drunk-policeman on the road, or some time the drunk workers or rickshaw-wallah on the road, or some time the drunk officer in the office. It is observed everywhere, irrespective of place and culture.

A friend of mine went for a high profile international research workshop. He is a non-drinker and a vegetarian. Some of his course-mates who were members of faculty in different universities, teased him that he is not an “intellectual” because he doesn’t share a drink. The friend replied them in return that he doesn’t mind people drinking in front of him, even though he doesn’t drink himself. He added what had “intellectualism” to do with drinking or not drinking. The other group replied that an intellectual breaks stereotypes and societal norms by drinking. In fact, we get cool ideas and inspiration after a drink. Moreover, you may not gain entry into high profile circles if you do not share a drink — you would not be called an intellectual.

My friend was listening carefully and smiled a bit, listening to their statement. After a pause, he replied, “so an intellectual is a radical who deviates from societal norms and establishes himself as a revolutionary?” Everyone nodded. He then continued, “by drinking an intellectual gets entry into certain exclusive circles? also breaks norms“? People looked at him intently.

He continued, “precisely that is the reason why I don’t drink. Not for religious or political causes. I don’t drink because I want to break this new norm that has been established by intellectual community. By breaking tradition through drinking you are also creating new tradition of drinking. I refuse to be a part of any. My intellectualism (if that is what it means) is not to follow any tradition, and I refuse to follow ‘the intellectual tradition’. If getting drunk defines intellectualism, then I refuse to be called an intellectual.”

In an another incident, I could not believe my eyes, when I saw people making fun of a drunk bank officer in a reputed nationalized bank. Some of the customers were getting irritated and some were enjoying the free entertainment, where his colleagues were standing helpless. Finally, the branch manager had to intervene, and the officer was cordoned-off to some room in the bank. What an embarrassing scene!

If you follow newspapers or TV channels regularly, you can definitely mark/find regular news on drunken-driving, drunken-beating (wife/parents or both), feeding month’s salary (currency notes) in drunk state to Bulls/Cow or rapes/killing under the influence of heavy drinking. These kind of incidents are of course not new to us. It happens in our society, mostly in cities (villages are not far-off though). Drinking or serving drinks in parties/treats (irrespective of high/low profile parties) is not new. In fact, it is considered to be a status symbol in our society.

Beer-bars/dance bars (including ladies bars) are mushrooming, both in metros and in other cities. If the bars are just serving liquor or dance, then the harm to the society is not much. However, that does not happen in real life. Beer-bars/dance bars are becoming the hubs of all anti-social activities, starting from terrorist activities to eve-teasing, hooliganism to drug peddling, under-world activities to supari killing activities and also to violent moral policing. Does that serve the society in a healthy manner? I doubt!

Writing incidents about cities is nether sufficient nor complete to discuss these issues. Now a days, one can find many liquor shops in small cities and even in Panchayat Headquarters. You can find all brands (including deshi and videshi) of liquors there. Not only liquors, one can find other brands of Ganja/Charas there. Some of these shops are licensed while some are not. As long as they are paying haftas to the local leaders/gundas and Police, no one can stop them from doing their business. They prosper, even if they spend a lot on bribing various organizations/individuals.

On a different note. Last week, I was in Puri Swargadvara (literally Heaven’s Gate) to attend a funeral there. There is a liquor shop adjacent to the cremation ground “Swarga Dwar“. The proximity of the liquor shop to the funeral grounds was so close that one could smell the fumes of human cremation while one drank. Every one coming to the cremation ground asked one question, what is the “Foreign Liquor Shop” doing here? I too could not understand how come the shop keeper got the license there? Mostly I was thinking, “who is buying here”? at this locality? near the cremation ground!” Suddenly, two college girls (hardly in their early 20s) got down from a cycle rickshaw, went to the shop and bought 4 bottles of different brand. In no time they just vanished. After some time, couple of people came there, bought some bottles of wines and started making lewd comments on the ladies attending the funeral. I am still wondering, whether allowing to open the shop at that place is appropriate or not. It is definitely a subject for larger debate

If we (many of us, including the Govt.) understand the bad-effects of these kind of shops/bars or activities, then why do we allow these shops/bars to mushroom? This is a major problem in the south Indian cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Trivendrum, etc., where one can find liquor shops in every 20/30 meters… and that too most of the times open 24/7. Why? Is it because, the Govt. gets huge tax or revenue? or is it because these shop keepers or bar owners are influential or do we really need them? Many of us drink, some are occasional and some are regular. Some can afford, whereas many cannot; resulting in regular disturbances, fights, suicides, killings, rapes, eve teasing and stealing, etc. For some of us it is a status symbol, for some of us it is a fight between life and death, for some of us it might be a medicine…

And for the aamjunta …. let aamjunta decides what is good and what is bad; we all are independent in thinking, life style and expressing our views 🙂

Note: The incidents described are inspired from real-life stories. Neither I support drinking, nor I object. But, I am strongly against the ill-effects of drinking.

Right People at Wrong Places?

It was quarter to midnight. We had our dinner in Pizza Hut, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai.

I felt both yummy and greedy when Ketan floated the idea about trying some new flavours at Naturals Ice Cream Parlour. And so, both of us decided to go for it, even though we had quite a lot of work in the lab.

The parlour was just a 10 minutes walk. We had just crossed the Galeria building, when suddenly, a lady’s voice called Ketan’s name from somewhere behind:

Ketu… hai… Ketu….

When we turned our heads towards the direction of the sound, we could see a group of young guys and gals discussing with each other, and one of them, a short, lanky, girl with a big nose pin, dressed in a pair of shorts and tees came out…

Shy as he is by nature, Ketan could not understand how to react…. Moreover, my presence made him slightly uncomfortable. Before he could say anything, she had already started talking and had extended her hand for a warm handshake. I could guess, that Ketan wanted to avoid, and make that meeting a quick affair, but could not. Instead, gave his mobile number, and promised her a treat some other day 🙂 It took some 15 minutes for him to convince her that he was busy today and finally to say “good night” to her. We had to rush, as it was past midnight. Unfortunately, could not get ice cream as the shop was closed by that time.

By the time, I could observe that and Ketan was still in that mid-night (shock) meeting. I casually inquired…

What happens boss? What is the matter… ?

“Nothing, it is just paining”

“What? What is paining?”

“My palm is paining… Mala scratched my palm with her long nails… could not say any thing to her..” 😦 🙂

Oh! that is interesting” — I just made this comment with a smile…

I could see that Ketan was feeling bit restless, but I could not figure out whether his restlessness was because of his meeting this girl at a wrong time and wrong place? or because of the scratching and the pain 🙂

It did not take much time to figure out … “it was his meeting her at a wrong place, at a wrong time and in my presence”, which was the cause of his restlessness. Afterwards, he made several stories, and has been clarifying since … that “she is just a school mate of mine, had never spoken to her before, just a friend… blah blah…”; trying to convince me and lab mates… 🙂

This is not only the story of Ketan… In my last 7 years of campus life, I have witnessed at least some hundred different incidents.

Interestingly, most of them were at night, between 12.30 am to 4.30 am. I could remember meeting Boni with his “friend” at about 4.20 am on a rainy night (morning?) while going to the station to get the early morning local train to Khopoli. Both of them were standing, under a tree in the main road, completely drenched in the rain… I was in a hurry, just said “Hi” and went on my way. Poor Boni called me at least some 4 times on that day… with different reasons… just to know, what was my reaction…!!

Another such incident happened, while I was returning to my room from lab at about 2.30 am. I saw Nutan going towards lake side at that time of the night with her new friend. I was in half sleep, was about to rummage my cycle into them. I thought it was my mistake and was about to say sorry, but they just vanished in no time.

Next day, Nutan called a friend of mine and invited her for a dinner treat at Laxmi. Though my friend could not understand the reason of her sudden invitation, she could smell some thing fussy during the dinner. Nutan inquired many things about me from my friend, and finally asked, “did aamjunta say anything to you?” It was just a bouncer for my friend. Realizing that my friend does not know any thing about the last night’s incident, Nutan changed the topic in no time.

On a different note, I could remember when Suryapratap narrated the story of Nidhi and Mohan. Both of them were in their initial days of love, used to go for dinners, movies, malls; but when some of our friends saw them or spotted them, they used to behave as if they are just strangers…

Once during my graduation days, I was on a vacation with my family to Koraput (Odisha). While getting down from the bus at a hill station near Koraput, I saw Radha and Sid waiting there for a Bus. Before I could go closer and say a “hi” to them, they just vanished from the place, reason… they had bunked classes and had come to this place without any one’s knowledge. Embarrassing for me, because they did not acknowledge, and my parents were asking…“is there any thing wrong between you and Sid?” Why did he leave without saying a Hi to you? Embarrassing for Sid as well… for obvious reasons.. I had no other way out but to convince my parents, that he was not Sid, but some one else….

That happens 🙂

People behave interestingly when they meet some one at a wrong time and wrong place. Moreover, our cultural and societal restraints make us slightly conscious when we are in the initial days of “dating” — though I still do not understand the full-implications of the term. 🙂

Being discreet about relationships is common — me, you, the politicians, celebrities, and the aamjunta. The answering patterns are common… “we are just friends”, “it was a courtesy visit”, “we are family friends”, etc., etc. Celebrities use these tactics very coolly for the camera and paparazzi and so does the aamjunta. But, paparazzi exists in all societies and these statements are sometimes forgiveable because after all there is something called : “privacy” ! 🙂

Aamjunta, have you experienced any thing of this kind?

Disclaimer: All names used in this post are fictionalized. However, the incidents described are inspired from real-life stories.

“Married and my Husband has no other wife living”: Bigamy in India!

While browsing through the Placement Blog, I came across Coal India Limited’s Management Trainee Joining Form. It is a 26-page document with so many blanks to fill in declarations, personal details and professional details, etc. But, what surprised me is the declaration that the new employee has to sign at the time of joining:

  • That I am married and have only one wife living.
  • That I am married and my husband has no other wife living.
CIL MT Joining Declaration

CIL MT Joining Declaration

I was wondering, how come the wife will declare that her husband has no more wives? Does that imply, that a female trainee can have more than one living husband? 🙂 Moreover, does she know every thing about her husband’s life and personal relationships? Why does the employer need to ask such kind of questions?, which has more to do with the personal life than the professional one. How does disclosure of marriage help in seeking better employees?

If this is the law of the land, that your husband should have only one living wife, then how come Chief Minister(s), Central and State Minister(s) have multiple living wives? Not only that, there are enough sitting MPs and MLAs, who have multiple living wives. Changing religion to have multiple wives is also seen these day. Even Celebrities and Film Stars too have multiple simultaneous relationships – legally and illegally. Is it a fashion meant only for people who can afford it?  Is it a necessity for power game? I am not going to write the huge list of people who have multiple (living) marriages here. This is because, I do not want to encroach some one’s private life and make that public. It is not a personal vendetta, rather an ideological battle.

There are couple of questions which came into my mind.

  1. If it is considered as a part of law under IPC under Hindu Marriage Law to have only one living wife, then what prevents the state machinery to block them from power? Is it not a double standard?
  2. How can people (netas/leaders) with multiple wives decide whether their followers will have one or more wives? I mean to say, that most of these people in power wield these laws meant for aamjunta, when they themselves break these laws.

Aamjunta, what do you think?

Note: I do not advocate the thought of Bigamy or polyandry.

Sunset to Sunset – a Day in IIT

Have you ever stayed in the hostel any time during your graduation or post-graduation? Have you experienced the most relaxed life of the hostel? Yes!!, No!!!… hold on… let us see what an Aamjunta says in his own words, on his daily hostel life at IIT Bombay…

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Swana, Swana, Swana, Swana,
Haan… bolo Shan
will we go for breakfast?
Haaan.. chalo, aata hun


Oh… it is breakfast time now.. my god… it is 9.25am. Have to be there in hostel mess in 5 minutes — 9.30 am the breakfast time closes. Sid manages to reach the mess area within 5 minutes, half brushed and half washed face. This is not only the story of Sid; it is the story of Ram, Karim, Hari, Sanju, Anne, RP … many such Sids in every hostel…. each morning.

The routine tune of the life of an IITian just plays on, with a few unusual hiccups and occasional highs. Life here is routine. Even then, the life of a Research Scholar (RS) differs significantly from an MTech or a BTech. The flexibility of working hours and working style allow and encourage many Sids to wake up late or to go to the department/lab at their convenience. Many researchers wake up just before breakfast time, some wake up just before the end of lunch time (some time event after lunch time). For many lunch is the 1st meal of the day, popularly known as brunch (breakfast + lunch), 2nd for some and 3rd for the rest (heavy food in late night canteen, quick breakfast and lunch).

Though the working style and hours of male RSs are different from their female counter parts to a certain degree, it is not completely incomparable. While some researchers like Swana or Shan wake up very early in the morning and get ready for breakfast after morning  exercise, it can be next to impossible for Anne or RP or Gyan. For Anne, waking up before 9.30 am happens once in a blue moon, where as for RP or Gyan,waking up before 12.30 pm happens once in 2/3 blue moons. These people can’t be blamed because they sleep late in the night (they claim that they sleep almost at dawn). Sometimes these night-outs happen because they are studying/working the entire night, but often they also happen due to chatting/telephone or gossips or movie shows or something of the type. Even if they sleep on time,  waking up before 9.30 am…. just next to impossible. Body clock does not allow. For instance, it does not matter, whether you put 10 alarm bells or 20 wake up calls, if Om does not want to wake up, no one can break her sleep. The person calling will lose patience and the alarm bells will go to snooze mode after some time… but nothing would destroy Om’s Kumbhakarna sleep. Fortunately or unfortunately, the alarm bell of the mobile non-stop rings and wakes people who are sleeping some 2 floors up/down or 10 rooms away.

I still remember the day, when Disho came back from the dept after a heated argument; he was supposed to meet a person in the main building for his registration on 2nd Jan, but went to meet him on 3rd Jan. He was  adamant that it was 2nd Jan and not 3rd Jan, could not accept and believe; he slept on the late night of 1st Jan and woke up only on 3rd Jan morning (after some 27 hours of non-stop sleep) thinking that he woke up only on 2nd Jan. He still could not believe that 2nd Jan was gone, called me and his aunt to verify the date 2nd or 3rd. Poor Disho, paid Rs 200/- as fine for the delay of registration 🙂

Some times I wonder – is there any body clock that actually controls? Is there any time for sleeping, working, playing or eating? The TT tables are fully occupied even at 3.00 am in our hostel; TV room is almost full at 2.30 am; big queue at the canteen at 1.00 am; serious discussion among groups at 4.00 am; whispering on phone with sweet hearts/would-bes from their room/playground/culvert; chatting with their GF/BF sitting close to him/her with a very low tone in the playground/culvert or near H12 cone at 4.30 am; going (coming) to (from) the dept at 3.00 am…. everything happens here, in the chilly winter, in the hot summer and the horrible rainy season. Quite interestingly, one day when I woke up at about 3.00/3.30 am, in my half-sleep I went to the bathroom and found one bathroom occupied and the shower was running… someone was taking a bath at this time !! For some time I stood fixed and got confused, is it morning bath or night bath? Coming to the issue of a bath, in an average one RS baths 5 times a week (very high average for H12 inmates, even less in other hostels); some bathe twice/once in a day.. some bathe once in 14 days, some once in a week. In winter, the frequency goes down, some bathe once in 30 days or more; really saving water and electricity… But, of course we spend more on chemicals… Deos and perfumes.🙂

Sometimes I wonder… Should we close all the bars/L-shops? Should we regulate liquor in the hostel? IIT Rule says…yes, liquor is not allowed but in practice.. how far is it being followed? I am not against personal consumption, that is a matter of personal prerogative. But I strongly feel that if you have to have liquor that should be without disturbing others. But that does not happen every time. For most when they are drunk, it is the time when they are high and do some thing wrong or right. Once drunk, they get into interesting acts: catching fish in the room, dancing on the some high pitch-full volume item song, or sleeping in the toilets (some drunk gentleman even sleep while they are standing), or crying in the mess with a plate full of food in hand or laughing in the midnight, attempting to fly in the aeroplane or give non-stop philosophical lectures.  For some it is fun, for some it is inconvenient, for some it is enjoyment and for the rest it is a part of life. It happens! Bachelor life – partying with friends is common and natural.

On a different note, marriage for researchers is a big task. Searching for a good groom or a bride is always an important assignment from the day one they enter the institute. Some try to optimize their search with the options available here in the campus, some try to get some one from their native place, some still wonder what to do? Searching the right partner is tough though, many try their luck and burn their fingers in the process; a mix of sweet and sour experiences. Those who are married and have not got any married accommodation… tough life . But they also search for enjoyment in the official entry time of IIT Bombay: 7.00 am to 10.00 pm (Some have even paid fines for violating the official time).

With all these fun it will be incomplete if I do not highlight the research work or TA work or Ghodagiri of a Research Scholar. For some the burden is evenly placed throughout the year and for some only during the deadlines; APS, Presyn, Conferences, Journals. For some 24 hours per day is just not enough; spending even more than 28 hours in the lab at a stretch are very common during deadlines. The impact of success and failure of self and the other is also quite visible on the daily life of an RS; some get frustrated, some enjoy and some become composed. Research and Re-search continues, papers after papers published, country after country visited, party after party celebrated and life goes on non-stop, with speed-breakers in between; ego clashes with guide and colleagues, fighting and love with sweet hearts,  extending stays in hostel until one gets a job, buckling under the pressure of parents to complete PhD and getting married, or just sleeping aimlessly through days and nights or enjoying 6 movies in a day… It happens and starts with a new evening (morning… hardly any RS sees the morning) till the next evening; from Sunset to Sunset – a day in IIT.

Note: All the names and incidents mentioned here are fictional. Aamjunta does not hold any responsibility for any resemblance of the incidents or the characters with any person dead or living. This article was originally published as an invited post on 26th March, 2009 in “Iris”.

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