Monday, 23 February 2015

A SQUARE EQUATION


Police Tumi Jatoi Baro, Tomar Beton Ekshobaro…..Whatever aggression do you show, remember police your salary is one hundred twelve bucks.’ This one and ‘Policer Lathi Diya-salaier Kathi….Police batons are like match sticks’, are two popular Bengali slogans in the state in our childhood. In a left bastion like Tripura it’s not an exception. Police is believed to carry the legacy of British colonial oppression and so was the fact that the salary of sub-ordinate police officer continued to be rupees one hundred and twelve for quite a long period. We have witnessed many police reforms including the pay structures and perhaps few more will follow.
But, I feel that here police means the police personnel who used to wear red caps. They are basically armed police. The practice of wearing red caps is perhaps still in vogue in Punjab, Maharashtra and some other states. Now, the sub-ordinate ranks of armed police personnel wear khaki cap, others wear blue beret cap. After joining police service I have noticed a healthy race between the two wings of police specially in sub-ordinate level, each claiming supremacy over the other. The other day, I have witnessed a nice verbal dual on this issue.
The civil cop said, ‘We can even cause a dead man to suffer imprisonment.’
-         How?
-         Once a rich man Swapanbabu from a distant village was sentenced for imprisonment for seven years by a court for committing an offence. Unfortunately, he expired in jail after spending three years. The local police station authority was asked to convey information to the next of kin of the deceased. So, the civil Daroga visited his house. He found the wife of the deceased and three adult sons living merrily with the property left by Swapanbabu.
Seeing this, Darogababu chalked out his plan and said to the bereaved family members, ‘You see Swapanbabu had expired in jail after suffering only three years jail terms out of seven. It’s a default case, now you have to complete the remaining four years. You are four share holders of his property, wife and three sons. So, the equation is very easy, each one of you has to undergone one year’s term.’
The family members were in a fix. They requested Darogababu if there was any way out. Darogababu said, ‘You make five part of your property contributing equal share and give one part to me to manage a person for undergoing the remaining jail term of Swapanbabu.’ Swapanbabu’s family members accepted the proposal and made the Darogababu richer.
The armed cop said, ‘Your one is a cheating. But, once we have deprived the Prime Minister from receiving the Guard of Honour.’
-         How?
-          It actually happened on the day of Swapanbabu’s death. Hon’ble Prime Minister was visiting that place. Some of our comrades were not happy that they were not selected in the contingent which was offering the Guard of Honour to the dignitary. So they arranged a procession with the dead body of Swapanbabu to pass the place just when the Prime Minister was to receive Guard of Honour. As per Drill Manual, a corpse is the highest dignitary. The Guard of Honour was offered to Swapanbabu’s dead body.’
I find the equation square.



Monday, 16 February 2015

ARINDAM NATH'S FIFTH CHILD : AN EMINENTLY READABLE BOOK By SHEKHAR DUTTA


Celebrated Bengali novelist and short-story writer Manik Bandyopadhaya (actual name, Prabodh Kumar Bandopadhyaya) had once been asked by a publisher keen to publish a collection of his short stories to select the stories to be included in the planned volume. Manik had expressed his dilemma over the choice to be made, citing the incontrovertible fact that his creations were like his children and it was next to impossible to select and discriminate anong children.Arindam Nath, arguably Tripura's most popular police officer, may not have confronted the dilemma as he had produced a new volume of stories or closest approximations to them in the form of diary. But his creativity, keenly observant eye and aesthetic sense unmistakably underline all the stories and facets of his daily experiences in life in his fifth published book 'Dui Bhuban. Aesthetics and police service apparently go ill together because of the very nature of police service which seems to blunt any finer sensibility in otherwise sensitive human beings . But exceptions do exist and Arindam Nath personifies this in full measure.

Thus we have the opening story 'Lokti'-an outsider who had entered the town with a silver-flute and would move around aimlessly , charming people with his flute-blowing. The author was reminded of the piper of German town Hamlin who had driven away the bristling rats of the town with his tune after being promised a reward by the Mayor. He had retaliated by piping away with tune all the children of the Hamlin town after being deprived of the promised reward. The odd man out in the Agartala town resembled the piper of Hamline but stopped short of repeating the feat.
In the course of his career as an additional superinrendent of police (ASP), Dhalai. author Nath had encountered a foxy militant leader Jacob Hrankhawal; who had always given a slip to the police and security personnel. In the story titled 'Sarva Dharma Sammelan'-believed to be factually correct-NLFT comander Jacob Hrangkhawal had put his paramour Lallum Halam in the safe custody (?) of an ex-trigamous daocoit chief Milan Sarkar who had two other wives Sujata Sarkar and Nasima Bibi. They were apparently at peace and testified to changed character of ex-dacoit Milan as a big grocery owner. Dodging the police dragnet several times Jacob had finally taken away his paramour Lallum before surrendering to security forces.

Nath's incisive eyes and alert ears to even slightest deviations from normal routine of life made an impact. Thus one morning while on morning walk he listened to a middle-aged security man on march asking a school girl 'what is your name' ? It struck Nath and his companion as upsurge of 'libido' in a man of advanced age. The author's robust sense of humour comes out in sharp relief in the episodic story 'Sarameya Charitam' (character of canines) which gives in detail the movement , activities and characteristic features of stray dogs.

The tradition of short story writing as a separate genre of literature can be traced even to the very ancient age : 'Hitopadesh', 'Panchatantra' and the ennobling stories of 'Upanishad' in classical Sanskrit illustrate the point as do Esop's tales. As the civilisation advanced story writing skirted the didactic overtones in the anecdotes and episodes of antiquity as the classical masters Guy de Moupassant, Rabindra Nath Tagore and Anton Chekov-to name a few only-took over to produce abundance of masterpieces. Author Arindam Nath's 32 stories included in the volume , so sleekly published by 'Niharika', may not be high literature but they do provide a refresing insight into human mind, action and reaction.
 


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

THE GANDHIGIRI OF A HORNBILL



Vishwakarma is the presiding deity of all craftsmen and architects. According to Hindu belief, he is the son of Brahma and the divine draftsman of the whole universe, the designer of all the flying chariots of the gods, and the official builder of all the gods' palaces. Vishwakarma Puja is celebrated every year on September 17, as a resolution time for workers and craftsmen to increase productivity and gain divine inspiration for creating novel products. This marks the birth of winter. This year, the very next day after the Vishwakarma Puja I was at Jampui Hills with my better half.
We started from Kumarghat around five and it was drizzling when we crossed Kanchanpur. Then, as we approached Vanghmung, it became foggy. We were then approximately 1000 meters above the sea level. Our driver is expert, and he had been to this earlier. In fact he had married a girl from the area. One local officer, Babul Mahajan also accompanied us from Kanchanpur.
This is our maiden visit to the land of Lushai. Taking cue from the historian Dr Prabal Barman, Lushai (Lusei) tribe is one of the eleven tribes of the Mizo people, residing in the area. They are short, sturdy and heavy people of Mongolian type. According to a popular belief, the Lushais were born of a deity ‘Singlung’, named after a mysterious cave, also named ‘Singlung’, located somewhere in ancient Burma (present Myanmar). Chinglung was a prince of Ching dynasty in the ancient China. He had earned some faithful disciples through his bravery. But, his way of life was not endorsed by his father. Having lost the faith of his father, Chinglung deserted his native place and took shelter in ‘Singlung’ cave with his followers. Due to some unknown reasons, the ‘Singlung’ deity became angry upon Chinglung and his supporters. They migrated towards further South West to present Mizoram and formed the greater Mizo clan. Lushais have their origin in the Ching dynasty.
We reached Vanghmung police guest house safely around half past seven in the evening. At Vanghmung, we were greeted with heavy showers and thundering, on our arrival. It continued intermittently accompanied by load shedding for short periods. The police guest house is actually an isolated two-storied quarters with CGI roofing and we were accommodated in the top floor. Somehow, it created a haunted ambience. I had an erratic dream in the night. In the dream, I found myself crossing an inundated place. Some people were catching fish here and there. Suddenly, one fellow pulled me from behind with a fish hook. He was an aged person. I could identify him though I had seen him only twice in my life long back. First time, it was when I arrested him for taking gratification and second time it was during trial of the case. Amount involved was a trivial, but the complainant was pursuing seriously the case. I escaped unhurt from the dream, as I woke up to see a pleasant morning waiting for us outside.
The scenic beauty of the Jampui hills enchanted me. The sun was yet to rise, but we did not miss to click the approaching dawn under the illumination of solar street light. The Longai River with hill ranges of Mizoram standing on the other side have made this places a treat to watch. But the euphoria evaporated to some extent when the local OC and my officer joined us in morning tea. Mr. Tripura, OC Vanghmung police station was narrating the surroundings and the topography. Suddenly, he said, ‘Sir, have you noticed any bird here?’
We realized, except the poultry bird we had not seen any flying creature. Instantly the song, ‘Bone Jadi Phulto Kusum Nei Keno Sei Paakhi, Kon Sudurer Aakash Hote Aanbo Taare Daaki…’, came in my mind.
The word ‘Lushai’ has derived from combination of two words ‘Lu’ and ‘Sha’. ‘Lu’ means ‘head’ and ‘sha’ means ‘to cut’, together, it means ‘cutting off head’. Hunting birds is a pastime of the Lushai boys. Cutting off heads actually means beheading birds’ head. We visited Eden Lodge and enjoyed the scenic beauty. But, by that time I had started comparing the Jampui Hills with the garden of Selfish Giant of Oscar Wild.
Perhaps, the Lushais consider the existence this beautiful creature bird in this world only as food. So, one will find that the names of local places have been derived from natural sources, other than birds. Thus, ‘Vang’, means ‘Aouwal’ (Vitex Peduncularis) in Lushai language and ‘Hmung’ means ‘place’, together Vanghmung means a place where Aouwal tree grows in abundance. ‘Hmung’ means ‘place’ and ‘pwi’ means ‘big’ in Lushai, together Hmunpwi means a big place or village. In similar manner, Lushai meaning of other places are Sabual : where animals take bath, Phuldungsei : a long grassy place, Tlang Sung : a high mountain, Hmawngchuan : top of a banyan tree, Tlaksih : muddy spring water, and so on.
But, why do I blame the Lushai alone? Hunting of wild animals and birds has become an order of the day. The list of prey of our lust includes deer, boar, bison, monkey, squirrel and so on, apart from all types of birds.
So, the birds have also started their agitation against this. We have a TSR post at Garia Dafadar Para under Kalyanpur police station. A few months back, a hornbill was killed by some greedy people. Its partner started visiting the place from the next day. This time, the villagers did not cause her harm. Rather, they tried to feed the bird, which had started fasting to protest against the human onslaught. The Gandhian laid down her life fasting. After her death, few more hornbills came to the spot and found the place safe for their stay. My friend from the TSR camp has counted their number the other day. They are six in all, all happy in the company of homosapien.


RED-TAPISM



There was an old blackberry tree in front of an office. One day it was uprooted by cyclone. Accidentally, a person was trapped underneath the tree. But, he was still alive. The garden attendant tried to rescue him by removing the fallen tree. He was restrained by his bosses who preferred to take permission of the department for cutting the tree. On the second day, the Forest Department gave permission. But, they suggested for the clearance of Horticulture Department before removal of the tree. The man was still alive, trapped under the plant with rapidly deteriorating health condition. Only the garden attendant was trying to save him by feeding in that condition. On the third day, the Horticulture Department gave clearance. But, they suggested for a clearance from Soil Conservation Department. The permission of Soil Conservation Department was received on the fourth day. When all efforts were made for removing the tree, somebody pointed out from records that the blackberry plant was planted by none other than the visiting Prime Minister of Mauritus. Cutting of this tree will pose a threat upon the international relation between India and Mauritus. So, the clearance from Foreign Ministry became necessary. The Foreign Ministry gave their permission quickly by the fifth day. But, it was not quick enough for the trapped man to survive. 

It’s an excerpt from one of my earlier stories, ‘The Memoir’s of the Kanchanjhanga’. The original story was written by Krishan Chander in Urdu during pre-independence. I called up this story yesterday on listening some practical experience of one of our officers. He has just retired on the last day of November. Since, we were awfully busy with the visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister to our State on 1st December, we couldn’t arrange his farewell. Finally, yesterday I could manage some time to have a chat. His story goes like this: It was May, 1987. I was then a Sub-Inspector of Police. One Yugoslav national was detained at Sonamura for entering into India without valid documents. He was penniless. Police prosecuted him under the Indian Passport Act. The Court passed order, directing police to hand over him to Yugoslav Embassy, New Delhi. I was entrusted with the task by my boss.

Accompanied by a constable I escorted him to Yugoslav Embassy, New Delhi. There we met the Consul assigned for the purpose. The gentleman said to me, ‘Look, I can’t take the person on the strength of your Court’s order. We require the direction from your External Affairs Ministry.’
Camping at Tripura Bhawan, New Delhi, for next seven days I shuttled between the External Affairs Ministry and the Ministry of Home Affairs for the order. Finally, when I got it produced before the Yugoslav Embassy officer, he said, ‘See, I am receiving the order, but I can’t receive the subject. He needs to be identified by an officer from police station of his native place.’


By that time we were running short of money. One option of moving the External Affairs Ministry for order of deportation of the Yugoslav national appeared suitable to us. So, I again sought their help. We had to pass another week anxiously. Finally, we receive a deportation order. But, another problem cropped up, ‘Who will pay the journey fare of the Yugoslav national?’
Necessity is the mother of invention all the time. We came to know that the government of India maintains a contingency fund for such purpose. With much difficulty I managed the air-fare of the Yugoslav national for his return. He was put in a Moscow-bound flight from New Delhi Airport. 
Indeed, the bureaucratic red-tapism is omnipresent and it has crossed the continental boundary.

NOSTALGIA




Not all ads we see in TV charm us, but some ads leave indelible marks in our mind. The one of Lufthansa Airlines in which an aged person travels with his grandson and says to his young companion, ‘You know the Germans are a bit different’, belongs to this pedigree as per my count. Indeed the Germans are different. They can make history by ensuring fall of the Berlin Wall to reestablish unified Germany. In contrast, in our sub-continent we prefer to thicken the Radcliff Line by erecting barbed-wire fencing. 
It’s a common experience of listening nostalgic stories for many of us, placed like me whose parents and aged family members who had spent their childhood in present day Bangladesh. The other day I enjoyed the experience of visiting his motherland from an octogenarian retired engineer. Badal Basu was a boy of fifteen when he left his small town Feni in 1943 for study in Calcutta. It was then a sub district of Chittagong. Now, Feni is a small southeastern district of Bangladesh bordering Tripura. It has boundary with Chittagong district, Noakhali district, Comilla district and the Bay of Bengal. The Noakhali riots of October–November 1946 forced all his family members except one to take shelter in Tripura. The genocide or the Carnage did not perturb his elder brother Bidesh to stay with the Muslim community even after independence. However, he preferred to lead a bachelor’s life.
After retirement from service, in October 1993 Badal Basu could manage time and means to visit his native place which is now an abroad. The rickshaw journey from Akhoura border to the motor stand and subsequent journey by bus and train did not appear strenuous. But standing at his native place he became puzzled and started thinking if he had arrived at the right place. The changes that took place in a span of half a century was beyond his imagination. He took confirmation from a gentleman that he had arrived at the correct location. He preferred to move forward towards his brother’s house judging by his childhood knowledge. Again he fumbled, the roads are now wide and every now and then speeding cars passed him. Certainly, it was not the village road which he had left. It was afternoon. He found an option in the form of an aged rickshaw-puller to get his track confirmed. The rickshaw-puller drew his attention towards the sign-boards of road-side shops and said, ‘You seem to be a literate person. You can read the name of the lane.’
The lane is in the name of a prominent personality whom he had seen in his childhood days. He was relieved from this troubled situation by an elderly person of his age. The gentleman is a Mohammedan. He said, ‘It seems you are from this land. Where will you go?’
- To the house of Badal Basu.
- Badla! Can you identify me? We played football together. You were our star footballer.
Badal could identify his childhood friend. Meanwhile his comrade had sent advance information about his to the village through a motorcyclist. His friend hired a cycle-rickshaw and went forward. But, soon it became a small procession dominated by aged persons. Some of them were his childhood friends. He realized that the average longevity of people had increased.
Badal Basu spent a week at his paternal house. He was a late riser. But, in all those seven days his friends used to pick up him early in the morning for a move around in the village, followed by breakfast at someone’s house. One day he was taken to his school. The L-pattern mud-wall school has become a four storied mansion. The new generation students gave him felicitation.
However, the experience of penultimate day’s stay was the most memorable. On that morning he was taken by his friends to the local village chairman. The gentleman was in his forties. He had some visitors to meet, yet he extended due hospitality and sent the group of aged guests to his father in an inner room of the house. Chairman’s father was sitting in a raised chair and he was more aged than any one of the visitors. After brief discussion with Badal Basu, the aged man went inside only to return with his wife and his chairman son. Suddenly, he knelt down in front of Badal Basu and said, ‘I am your Mafizda. I used to serve as servant at your house and take you to school.’
Recognizing his Mafizda, Badal Basu embraced him and said, ‘You were my first guru for Bidi smoking!’

Er

The pay structures for employees in Public Sector Maharatna, Navratna and Miniratnas in our country are much higher than that of the State government employees, apart from medical and other facilities. So, one of our Inspectors was all elated on getting chance of serving as a security officer in a Navratna for three years on deputation. His experience graph starts with the orderly of his immediate boss. The man was from his own native place and my officer cherished a belief that the gentleman worked in some high position. He was lavish in expenditure in the locality. Finding him in the trade of serving tea and snacks in meetings, my officer virtually stumbled. But he was relieved by the peon, clad in safari suit, who actually requested my officer not to disclose his status in office at their native place.
The next point in his learning graph was an automobile engineer. The man was a member of Home Guard organization with knowledge of driving vehicle. He was an attendant of a DSP, occasionally performed marketing for his boss. But, he didn’t like his boss’s wife specially her efforts of putting him on domestic work. He quit his Home Guard job and joined as a driver in a private concern entrusted with providing hired vehicles to the Navratna. It had so happened that one day a heavy vehicle with rig-machine got struck in a marshy land. The experts of the company made some abortive attempts to restart the vehicle. When the regular officials gave up their efforts, our ex- Home Guard said, ‘Sir, may I have a try?’
Getting permission, he opened the bonnet of the vehicle and made some adjustment in diesel filter. The very next moment,sitting in the driver’s chair, he started the vehicle and after putting the vehicle in reverse gear he brought out the vehicle from swampy land. The officers present there were so impressed that they gave him a berth as motor mechanic in the company. In course of time, he attained the designation of automobile engineer.
The learning curve of my Inspector continued to rise and perhaps, on the third day he met an Assistant General Manager of the company, again an engineer. As my officer entered into the room, the engineer stood up on his feet and he looked perplexed. My officer could recognize the AGM. He was none other than a rowdy element whom he had arrested quite a number of occasions for breaking law. The cop could learn that his subject had managed the job on the strength of an ITI certificate.
In Tripura, we are accustomed to see such engineers. Once, I had enjoyed a nice little duel between one such Assistant Engineer and Professor of an Engineering College in course of morning walk. On getting the information that the gentleman was serving as an Assistant Engineer in a Navaratna, the Professor asked him from which college he had graduated. The Assistant Engineer was not able to pick up his question; rather he started arguing with the gentleman about the necessity of graduation degree for becoming an engineer. When the situation was going from bad to worse, one of my friends intervened and said, ‘Look you are Mr. X, Assistant Engineer and our sir is Er. Y, Professor of Engineering College. For putting ‘Er’, before the name meaning an Engineer, one requires a degree from recognized university.’
The professor had all praise for my friend for making the explanation so simple. Indeed, I have found diverse use of ‘Er’ in the net. So, it is used as suffix with adjectives or adverbs to form a comparative (e.g. fast to faster) and verb to make it an agent noun (e.g. cut to cutter), and so on. 
Er is a Myth as well in Greek philosophy. The story begins as a man named Er, son of Armenios of Pamphylia who died in a battle. When the bodies of those who died in the battle were collected, ten days after his death, Er remained un-decomposed. Two days later he revived on his funeral-pyre and told the others of his journey in the afterlife, including an account of reincarnation and the celestial spheres of the astral plane. The tale introduces the idea that moral people are rewarded and immoral people punished after death. 
I would like to conclude my write up with a quote, of Albert Einstein made in April 1921, during Einstein's first visit to Princeton University, ‘Raffiniert ist der Herr Gott, aber boshaft ist er nicht’. The words were later carved above the fireplace of the Common Room of Fine Hall in the former Mathematical Institute; in 1946 Einstein gave a freer translation: "God is subtle, but he is not malicious”.