Monday, June 4, 2018

Supercars, RIP

A tycoon whose family got rich selling bathroom fittings (and by other means, certainly - I refuse to believe that faucets, showers and wc-s are that profitable!) has died in Kolkata while racing his Rs. 3 crore-plus Ferrari. Well, his family says, he was actually always a very careful driver though mad about cars, and he wasn't racing - I am sure people like that normally drive luxury sports cars below 60 kmph. See the report here.

I have become such a callous man that I cannot feel the slightest twinge of pity or sorrow. I am merely glad he didn't kill some innocent pedestrian or his son who was beside him. And I wish the media would pause for a moment to think whether they would have been half as excited if the dead man had been driving a common Maruti. Also, whether they might write as stridently about careless driving and poorly-enforced traffic rules as they do about the evils of smoking and misbehaviour with women on the roads.

If you are wondering why I am so unsympathetic towards people like this, read this and this and this.

And here's an obituary for supercars. Once upon a time Prince Philip and James Bond drove cars like that; now potty-sellers do. If I ever had the slightest fascination for such machines, it's long dead. Even if I had a billion dollars, I wouldn't be caught dead in a Ferrari now. I know what sort of people would be 'impressed', and I wouldn't like the thought.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Cricket bizarre

I found this satire on IPL in today's edition of my newspaper so hilarious that I had to put up the link, here.

Besides, it feels wonderful to see that there are still a few people around who can write Bengali of this vintage with such effortless elan.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

CM angry with red tape!

This news item in the newspaper today made me guffaw, and I couldn't help putting it up. Much irritated by the tardiness of bureaucrats pushing files around, which are badly slowing down her favourite schemes designed to make voters happy, our Chief Minister herself took to task some babus at a public meeting, asking (and that is how the headline reads in Bangla) 'How long are you going to keep things tied up in red tape?'

Isn't that what millions of long-suffering common citizens ask, looking up only to God for succour?

But think, do you imagine that it is only the bureaucracy's bad habits that are to blame? Isn't it a fact that lots and lots of people make a living (or at least a better living than their official salaries allow) only because the files move so slowly unless greased with speed money? Try getting something as humble as a driving licence renewed without engaging a tout! Now all those tens of thousands of touts are citizens as much as you and me, and they have aspirations just as we do, with no more honest and straightforward way to fulfill the same. So isn't it a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black?

Monday, February 26, 2018

Patriotism, well understood


Translated, that reads Getting shot at on the border is not the only kind of service to the nation. Stop spitting everywhere while you are chewing tobacco: that will be a big enough favour to her. 

Notice pasted on a roadside wall on the way to the Ramjhula bridge from the Geeta Ashram. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Indian values coming, beware!

There is a news item in my paper today that says the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has drawn up a new model curriculum for engineering and management courses that makes it compulsory to learn a smattering of Indian/Vedic values. That set me thinking, and several rather disquieting thoughts came into my mind.

First, teach ‘values’ to people in college, when, as any psychologist will tell you, their values have already set hard for life? Don’t you teach values in very early life, and that too more by example than by precept, if they are to be any use at all?

Second, anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows what kind of values children who grow up fixated on engineering and/or management school later in life are being taught at home, isn’t it? That one gets an education only, repeat only, to get a job; that engineering and management is the quickest and safest way to at least a moderately paying job, that to get into those colleges all you need to learn is a bit of physics, chemistry and math (not much of that either, if daddy is ready to shell out a goodly sum of money!) – everything else is useless, language, literature, history, geography, economics, civics, leave alone something so esoteric and impractical as ‘values’? Don’t they also learn among values that it is fine to cheat through exams all one’s educational life, just as long as one doesn’t get caught, and naturally carry on living by those values for the rest of their lives? Don’t they learn that it is fine to forget everything one has crammed before exams afterwards, because knowledge is useless, only the exam scores matter? Don’t most of them condone, or at least quietly go along with the disgusting practice of ‘ragging’? Don’t they habitually use dirty language? Such kids will suddenly start learning values like honesty, hard work, thrift, cooperation, courtesy, punctuality, cleanliness, kindness etc etc in college? Why on earth should they? How can they be made to? What sort of fools expect them to?


And what exactly are Indian/vedic values? If values are worth the name, aren’t they supposed to be universal? Are Indian values all very healthy and worth teaching – extreme forms of patriarchy and casteism, for instance, open defecation, blind worship of the old, deliberate confusion of myth and history, mindless cruelty to animals, the tradition of kowtowing to people in power to their faces and constantly plotting to stab them when their backs are turned, arranging big fat weddings to show off one’s ‘success’…? (the ‘authorities’ quoted have said that our epics are great sources of good values. Look up my essay on the Mahabharata in this context. The Ramayana I won’t even deign to discuss, and the Arthashastra, another of these people’s supposed gold mines, recommends that the king spy on everybody all the time, including his own family members. How’s that for a good ‘value’?) And what kind of rubbish is a sentence like this – ‘Indian culture is largely focusing (sic) on collectivism where family and work group goals dominate over individualistic needs and desires’, and that, feel the authorities, is not only missing in conventional management literature but sorely needed by our budding engineers and managers. Well, as any semi-conscious Indian could tell you, as countless writers from Saratchandra Chatterjee to Arvind Adiga (who in The White Tiger has famously called the traditional Indian family an asphyxiating, soul-destroying chicken coop) have shown, the above assertion is pure bunkum: Indians typically neglect and treat the weak in their families, children, women, the old and the handicapped, with monstrous cruelty while paying lip service to family love and mutual obligations, and westerners, who mouth far fewer pious platitudes far less often, actually show far more collectivism and concern for the common weal: witness everything from how they keep their surroundings clean, insist on stern laws to prevent abuse of the weak, and provide social security to those who cannot fend for themselves. Whom are we trying to fool?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Guilty consciences!

I wrote a post called Hospitals and banks, the way things work in the other blog a while ago. Very recently I saw a billboard at City Centre whose photograph is pasted below.


Why do you think hospitals are feeling the need to advertize like this?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Freudian slip?

I hadn't posted anything on this blog for some time. Under the circumstances, there wasn't much to post. My father passed away four days ago after a long and painful illness.

My daughter asked today whether I had taken a dose of Milk of Amnesia. I thought that deserved a blogpost.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ho ho ho

Here's someone who is either very wise or super-stupid; he's drawn up a list of five widely used things (such as cash) that are sure to vanish by 2021. 

I have a long memory, and so, I hope, do some of my readers, at least. We shall check, shall we?

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.