Thursday, May 11, 2017

Eat your pencil?

Lots of people have become serendipitous inventors, and if and when their brainwaves have found big markets, they have sometimes become suddenly and enormously rich. I refuse to believe that all of them deserve particular admiration for being talented - think of the inventors of chewing gum and cellotape and hair dye. 

Not everyone has the inclination for it, either. I have had brainwaves over and over again, but never bothered to run to the Patent Office. Here's one such for public consumption. Watching my pupils chewing or sucking away at their pencils and pens, it has struck me that someone could make a killing by manufacturing edible writing instruments. They could come in a variety of flavours, too. I have seen pencils with scented erasers stuck to their behinds, I have seen pen-pencil combos, but I haven't seen ones that can be eaten. Has any reader come across such things? If not, and if someone does manage to make a big hit by launching such a line, s/he might remember that it was my idea, and at least acknowledge the debt. I wouldn't mind if I got paid, either :)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

High five for Babul Supriyo

When a politician says something both true and important, I try to applaud without regard to his political colour. So here is Babul Supriyo, BJP MP from Asansol, complaining that the public come to him (and politicos in general) by and large with requests for out of turn or even absolutely illegal favours – get me off the hook in this police case, get my undeserving son a job, get my daughter with hopeless examination scores into a good college, get me a flat though I didn’t make it through the lottery. He went so far as to observe ruefully that the very same people walk out and then condemn the same politicians for being ‘corrupt’. All I can say is ‘Hear, hear!’

I have always maintained that in this country the man in the street has no right to call politicians names without taking a good hard look at himself first. As I see it, we call a politician corrupt if he gives undue favours to someone I don’t know or dislike. Also, if I take bribes in hundreds or thousands, I am honest, but he takes them in millions, so he is corrupt.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Where's the damn rain?

Climate change is a weird and complex thing. Let me just put on record what has been happening lately in my town, at least. It has been cloudy ever since early morning today, and I learnt that it was raining heavily in Kolkata, but as far as Durgapur is concerned, it hasn’t rained once since September last. And yet it has been the longest winter in living memory: it became pleasantly cool in mid-November, and even today, after the first week of March, it is still chilly enough to wonder whether I should put on something warm if I go riding on my two-wheeler early in the morning or late in the evening. When is summer going to set in finally, and how bad is it going to be this time?


P.S.: Just a few drops fell in the evening, barely enough to wet the dust. Deeply disappointed.

P.P.S., March 10: I guess even the gods are embarrassed by cursing sometimes. It rained a bit yesterday evening, and then again, torrentially today - for the first time in six months!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Teachers' angst

The January 2017 issue of Reader's Digest carried an article after my own heart: a collection of acid quips from long-suffering schoolteachers, titled Talking out of School, by Patrick Romain (pp. 86-89). Do look it up. Here are a few of my choice quotes - I hope the RD editors won't mind my using them:

1) His parents are professionally unemployed and have promised to make their kid work.

2) I didn't realize it, but according to the parents, I have two Einsteins, five Marie Curies and eight Leonardo da Vincis in my class.

3) The mother asked me more questions in five minutes than her daughter did in a whole term.

4) It's not in my class that Rodin would have found a model for his Thinker.

5) I was lured with the promise of becoming a teacher and ended up becoming a zookeeper.

6) This pupil has two saviours: the school bell and Wikipedia.

7) Is education getting better because pupils are getting worse, or is it the other way round?

8) In high places they talk about dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysorthographia and dyscalculia. In the meantime, discipline is my problem.

After 36 years at it, I can only say 'Hear, hear!' And I am thankful that my long-nurtured reputation as an ogre has saved me from the last problem, at least. I can always terrify them and throw a particularly noxious brat out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Latest trends this wedding season

An old girl was telling me about her experience at matchmaking for her brother. Apparently, at least in our social class, the girls' fathers are becoming as self-assertive and demanding as the grooms' fathers used to be. One, whose daughter is educated, well-employed, and still lives with him, told the other side bluntly that he sees no reason why she should move in with her husband after marriage - 'The boy can come over to Kolkata from Delhi and find a job here'. I shall remember this when it's time for my daughter...

On the other hand, a certain groom's dad has only asked that the would-be daughter-in-law not be addicted to Facebook and twitter. A quite reasonable expectation, I should think.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New 2,000-rupee note: egad!

I'll stick my neck out and say it early.  The new Rs. 2,000 note is an unmitigated disaster. We can check out within a year or two whether the majority agrees, but some people already do: read this.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Who mourns for English?

Americans mutilating English is bad enough: Indians copying them in the hope that that would make them sound smarter is worse.

Fundamentally it is a problem of poor vocabulary coupled with laziness of mind. Americans habitually pick on a few words and ruin them through gross – and meaningless – overuse. Something in the way their brains are wired – of course there are intelligent and learned Americans, but the average fellow, and that’s the one that the average Indian, being at the same mental level, copies, is sadly deficient, and it is that average American who has been mutilating and desiccating the language for a long time.

Once they picked on the verb ‘get’. They insisted that we forget every verb other than get if possible. So one got born, one got admitted to school, one got through one’s examinations, one got older, one got a job, one got married, one got children, one got promoted, one got retired, one got old, got sick, got dead and got buried. Who cares to learn more verbs if one can make do with just one? Who cares if that makes one sound like a yokel, now that most people have become yokels?

Now it is the turn of need. Talk to any American – or Indian born American clone – and you will see you ‘need to’ do everything. Now you may need to go to the loo, but why should someone else tell you so, instead of just ‘Go to the loo’? And the way they throw it about right and left is, to use another of their very dear adjectives, truly amazing. A policeman tells a thief he has just caught ‘You need to come to the station with me’. For heaven’s sake! The man, if he needs to do anything at all, needs to run away, not accompany the policeman to jail! And teachers tell pupils ‘You need to rewrite your assignment’ when it is the teacher who needs that done because the first effort is crap or just illegible; the pupils needs to avoid the extra work if he can, but who will educate the teacher? And who will tell her that only a few years ago people knew so many other more appropriate words, such as must and should and ought to?

Which brings to my mind the idiotic way they are using the pronoun ‘them’ these days. ‘If anyone asks you for directions, tell them you don’t know’. If them can be used like this, what is the point of keeping aside a special pronoun for being used exclusively as a plural? For hundreds of years it was possible to write ‘… tell him’ without being accused of being sexist; if we wanted to be specific about gender, we simply wrote ‘… tell her’ in case it was definitely a female we were talking about, or ‘… tell him or her’ if we wanted to leave that unspecified; so what has suddenly become the problem? And if you don’t want to get into a bind over this, why can’t you rework the sentence into something like this: ‘If anyone asks you for directions, say that you don’t know’? There is a limit to how far political correctness can be pushed to cloak simple stupidity. Are we eventually going to write huperson beings, or just hu beings?

I have written earlier about how words like revert and good (‘I’m good’) are being misused these days. Not by all, certainly not by all – I still see the best writers being mindful about correct usage. But with semi-literate schoolteachers and retarded journos swarming about like fungi in wet weather, the beautiful language is in danger of being gutted, that’s for sure. You may look this up too if you like.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Memes

Swarnava Mitra, an ex pupil who is now in class 11, is fond of making memes on his computer. Here are two that he kindly lent me.



Thank you, Swarnava. Keep going!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Yay, the pujo is here!

পুজো এসেছে রে শালা, মজা করবি না মানে? তুই করবি না তো তোর বাপ করবে! কেতা করে সঙের মতো নতুন জামা পরবি, ভিড় ঠেলে হন্যে হয়ে ঘুরে বেড়াবি, তেড়ে সক্কলকে গালি দিবি আর মেয়ে দেখে নাল ফেলবি, পাগলার মতো যা তা গিলবি, হাজারটা লোকের পা মাড়িয়ে দিবি, দশবার পকেটমার হবে, গাড়ি চাপা পড়তে পড়তে বেঁচে যাবি কিংবা যাবি না, পয়সার শ্রাদ্ধ হবে, আকণ্ঠ ধার হবে, শরীর খারাপ হবে, হাজারটা কাজ পন্ড হবে, মাইকের হুঙ্কারে পাড়ার নিরীহ বুড়োর জ্বালাতন হবে, ছেলেপুলের পড়া নষ্ট হবে, তবে না মজা হবে, তবে না দেবীর মান রাখা হবে, বাঙালির গৌরব রক্ষা হবে! হাজারটা ফ্রিজ টিভি এসি গয়না বিক্কিরি হবে, বাজে রেস্টুরেন্টের মুনাফা হবে, নিষ্পাপ মনে টানা অন্ততঃ সপ্তাখানেক কাজে ফাঁকি দেওয়া যাবে, নইলে ধম্মোরক্ষা হবে কি করে? আরে বাওয়া, এতো আর পাঁচটা বোকার ধম্মের মতো ধর্মানুষ্ঠান নয় রে, যে একমাস উপোশ করে একদিনের তরে উৎসব করবো, তাও আবার অনেকক্ষণ চুপচাপ পুজো করতে হবে, দানখয়রাত করতে হবে, পরকালের কথা ভাবতে হবে, নিজের দোষত্রুটি সংশোধনের কথা ভেবে মন খারাপ করতে হবে। ... আমাদের  নাগাড়ে শুধুই মজা করার হক আছে boss, এরেই কয় শারদোৎসব। ওই জন্যেই তো মাদার দুগ্গা আমাদের এত প্রিয় রে! কয়েক লাখ পুলিশ  আর কয়েক হাজার ডাক্তারের প্রাণ বেরিয়ে যায়  মজা সামলাতে, দু-পাঁচশোটা মরে আর বিশ-পঞ্চাশটা রেপ হয়ে যায়, তো সে আর কি করা যাবে। ... এত লোকের এত্ত মজার ওটুকু দাম তো দিতেই হবে; তার জন্য আমাদের বদনাম দেয় কোন নিন্দুকে? মনে রাখিস, আমরা কালচারালি সবচেয়ে এগিয়ে, তাই আমাদের হক আছে বাকি দেশকে দেখিয়ে দেওয়ার, যে মজা কেমন করে করতে হয়।  যে মানতে নারাজ সে তো একটা...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Silly talk about millennials

I enjoyed this article on so-called 'millennials' so much that I had to link it here. If you know me, I won't have to explain why I liked it. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What fools these mortals be!

Look at this photograph and the news item alongwith. It happened two days ago, in my own town. The newspaper is dated 8th August 2016. I displayed the item in class and then told my kids to debate on the topic that parents always know best.

Given that 'parents' can be this cavalier in this country with their own little children (in some countries you can lose your driving licence for putting a child on a motorbike under any conditions, and even face a charge of criminal negligence), do you still think they deserve to live in a democracy? More and more, I incline in my advancing years to think otherwise. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sally's coming

This newspaper article 'excites' me as technology-related stories rarely do. A senior executive at Google claims that driverless electric cars will develop so rapidly that his 11-year old son will never need to get a driver's licence. That means ten years from now. Allowing for hyperbole, it might be the dominant reality in the US within twenty years, and in India within maybe thirty.

Given that the oil-powered human-driven automobile is one of the worst polluters, space-guzzlers and killers in the world, I cannot but laud this development. (I have been a victim myself, remember, and I got off lightly. I wonder whether they will come up with driverless motorbikes too?) It will certainly bring about far wider and deeper changes in society than the mobile phone has done, that's for sure. Some driving lovers like me will be sad over the passage of a long era. But I have been lucky, I have almost had my fill, and these days I find the roads too crowded and dangerous on average for driving to be much of a pleasure any more. And anyway, by the time driverless cars become the norm, according to the above projections, I shall be past eighty, so I would like to be driven around anyway.

Provided those 'brainy' cars are safe and reliable. Those who are literature-wise challenged, look up Isaac Asimov's chilling short story 'Sally' (you will find it here), or the movie called 'Christine' based on a story by Stephen King.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Art, knowledge, wisdom, sacredness, freedom

A large crowd of women (of various, ages, races, shapes and sizes) posed naked in public to protest against Donald Trump’s candidature for the presidency of the United States.

I am a great believer in freedom of expression. So let them go ahead. Why merely stand around in the nude … why not chirp and squabble and swing from the trees? Our still-surviving ancestors habitually express themselves so much more freely than we normally can, restrained by this oh-so-backdated-and-uncool baggage called civilization!

The organizers also said this was a form of Art, and the assemblage was celebrating the ‘knowledge, wisdom and sacredness of women’.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Reflections

Lavona sent me this. How wonderful that she retains this kind of robust and ticklish sense of humour at her time in life! God bless...


"If I had a dollar for every girl that found me unattractive, they'd eventually find me attractive. 

I find it ironic that the colors red, white, and blue stand for freedom, until they're flashing behind you.

Today a man knocked on my door and asked for a small donation towards the local swimming pool, so I gave him a glass of water.

I changed my password to "incorrect," so whenever I forget it the computer will say, "Your password is incorrect."

Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

I hate it when people use big words just to make themselves sound perspicacious.

Hospitality is the art of making guests feel like they're at home when you wish they were.

Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.

Ever stop to think and forget to start again?

When I married Miss Right, I had no idea her first name was Always.

There may be no excuse for laziness, but I'm still looking for it.

Women spend more time wondering what men are thinking than men spend thinking.

Is it wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly?

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

The grass may be greener on the other side, but at least you don't have to mow it.

I like long walks, especially when they're taken by people who annoy me. 

If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let her sleep.

Money is the root of all wealth."

Monday, February 15, 2016

from the net


To think that a sixteen-year old brought this to me!

It's good to think that boys of this generation will not suffer the way we did...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Facebookese

"We waste words. We use words like awesome and wonderful like they're candy. It was awesome? Really? It inspired awe? You use the word 'amazing' to describe a sandwich at Wendy's. What's going to happen when your first child is born? How will you describe it? You already wasted amazing on a sandwich!"

Louis CK, quoted in Reader's Digest, January 2016.

[Sorry to have neglected this blog for a long time]

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sunday, July 5, 2015

English children being taught English

I just learnt that my younger sister - the history prof settled in the UK - takes free remedial classes for British high-school graduates who cannot write three lines of their mother tongue sensibly and grammatically. Reminded me of the fact that so many of my daughter's pen-pals from English-speaking countries have complimented her for writing far better English than they do! This is ulto-puraan with a vengeance. It all comes from forty years of 'experimental/progressive' ideas about how education should be 'comprehensive and enabling and enjoyable', combined with language acquired through social networking via computer. Even two decades ago they were saying in 'Yes Minister' that teenagers could be sent compulsorily into the military, so that they might receive a 'comprehensive education' that could make up for their 'comprehensive education'! Now the results are there for all to see.

The tragedy is that, as with so many other things, we have been blindly copying the west in this too, trying to make education continuously easier and more 'fun'. God help us.