Wednesday, 23 July 2014

PREDICTING LAST JOURNEY



‘A person should always put on his dress smartly’, perhaps, I read this line in an interview of Katrina Kaif. It comes in my mind every time I come across Sunirmalbabu, a retired junior technician of public works department. At 83, he is the oldest member of the local Laughing Club and may be their iconic figure like the celebrated actress. With his dark lanky figure and dressed in nicely ironed white half-shirt inserted inside black trouser he looks very young. He has a strong composed voice which can baffle anyone like me in judging his age. Only his high-power lenses in black frame against the backdrop of white hairs and slightly bend posture indicate his age. On many occasions in the morning we find the Gate of Badharghat Sports Complex closed. But, it’s not a problem for Sunirmalbabu. He did not scare to cross the wall climbing like his younger comrades. This is despite the sad experience of one of their aged friends who damaged a leg by attempting a small jump from the wall.
The other day, Sunirmalbabu made an interesting revelation about the taste of independence. He was a student of
Umakanta Academy when our country India attained freedom. Tripura was then an independent princely State. The celebration of India’s independence was a forbidden subject that time. Till, the students from U.K.Academy, Boodhjung and Tulshibati schools celebrated the occasion at Netaji School ground. They took tri-color flags clandestinely amidst rain. Volunteers of Indian National Congress served rosogolla in lotus leaf to the students.

His earning berth in the government service is equally interesting. Accompanying somebody in his last right up to burning-ghat is treated like pilgrimage in Hindu mythology. There is a popular belief that one can approach at least one stair towards the heaven by attending 108 such processions. Many elderly persons of his locality wished to sail their last journey on his shoulder. By the time he met an octogenarian lady in her deathbed he had crossed a quartet of such hurdles towards the
Paradise. It was a mid September morning. Sunirmalbabu was taking bath in a pond after attending a cremation during the night. Suddenly, his friends appeared there with a call from an elite house of the locality. The gentleman was a big boss at a government office. His aged mother was in her last stage, as declared by the attending physician. But, going inside the house Sunirmalbabu felt that she would continue kicking for some days. So, he said, ‘Didima, Ki Khaite Chaou…. Didima, what do you want to take?’

The lady smiled and wished to take ground nuts. At once, some ground nuts were brought. She took two three pieces smilingly. It was about a month away from Durga Puja. Sunirmalbabu predicted that the lady would expire two days after the Laxmi Puja.

His friends said, ‘Why do you forecast two days after the Laxmi Puja?’
‘Because, Didima will not like to deprive us of the feast of Kojagiri Purnima’, came the reply. The lady survived on that occasion and died as per prediction made by Sunirmalbabu. But, before that she asked his son to arrange a government job for Sunirmal which his son obliged.

When I was listening the story from horse’s mouth in course of morning walk, a man in his mid-forty was crossing us with his wife. He has a nickname ‘Bancha’ in the locality. It has derived from the Tapan Sinha film ‘Bancharamer Bagan’, based on the story of Monoj Mitra. Our ‘Bancha’ has an influential politician at a distant mofussil town as his father-in-law. The man had four brothers, all bachelors. They have huge landed property. Though his father-in-law has expired, two of his brothers are still counting their days. ‘Bancha’ will get the entire share of the property once they die. So, every time ‘Bancha’ gets information about their illness he visits the place with his wife, only to return disheartened. 


‘Bancha’ can not predict like Sunirmalbabu one’s end of journey.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

AGONY OF BEING FATHER OF A GUINEA PIG




These days very seldom we do see Guinea pigs, particularly in our State. It’s a beautiful creature and probably reared in the laboratories only. Despite their common name, these animals are not in the pig family, nor are they from Guinea. They originated in the Andes, and earlier studies based on biochemistry and hybridization suggested they do not exist naturally in the wild. The animals are frequently used as a model organism, resulting in the epithet "guinea pig" for a test subject. They have been largely replaced by other rodents such as mice and rats. But, they are still used in research, primarily as models for human medical conditions such as juvenile diabetes, tuberculosis, scurvy, and pregnancy complications.
In India, human resources are cheap. May be because of this reason, students are used as "guinea pig", in various fields. A perfect example is our education system. Thus, we find series of Education Commission since our independence, starting with the University Education Commission-1948-49 headed by Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, Secondary Education Commission- 1952-53 headed by Dr. Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar, Sanskrit Commission-1956-57 headed by Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterji, Kothari Commission-1964-66 and so on. In between, we have witnessed adoption of various Educational Policies by the Government and its abolition. In our endeavour to know the efficacy of these systems, we have ruined the life and prospects of so many children. Many of us have inadvertently made the life of our wards like a robot and taken away their joy in life. As a father of a son, cherishing berth for admission in an Engineering College these days I am suffering from extreme sadness for reasons which were not in my control or of my son.
The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), an autonomous organization established in 1961 by the Union government advises both the Union and state governments on formulating and implementing education policies. It provides support and technical assistance to a number of schools in India and oversees. In India, in broad we have the following curriculum bodies governing school education system:
  • The state government boards.
  • The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
  • The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE).
  • The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).
  • International schools affiliated to the International Baccalaureate Programme and/or the Cambridge International Examinations.
  • Islamic Madrasah Schools Boards, controlled by local state governments, or autonomous, or affiliated with Darul Uloom Deoband.
  • Autonomous schools like Woodstock School, The Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education Puducherry, Ananda Marga Gurukula, etc.
Admission of a ward in any of these school curriculums does not necessarily fall within the ambit of the parents or guardian. Rather, it depends upon various factors from economic ability to the availability infrastructure and facilities, talents of the children and even his/her luck in the lottery for admission sometimes.
I do not know who should be blamed for the misery of students like my son or others from various boards despite putting up their best ability in JEE (Main) and Board Examinations. Their Board Examination marks have been reduced drastically by the JEE Apex Board Secretariat, Joint Entrance Examination (Main) - 2014 through adoption of percentile system giving advantage to the students from Boards like CBSE. As a parent, I know that the Syllabus of CBSE is best suited for appearing in JEE (Main) Examination and even the examination routines are set for giving benefits to CBSE students, but I find it helpless at the complete apathy of the authorities of concerned Board and school authorities over this "guinea pig" treatment. Imagine the agony of a boy or a girl who finds that despite scoring hundred out of hundred in a Board Examination his/her marks have been reduced to virtually sixty percent in the percentile and in contrast a student appearing from a favoured Board with similar marks gets ninety percent assessment. Does anybody has any right to snatch away the brilliant performance of a student only because he did not appear in examination from a particular Board?
Even, it is noticed that a student of same Board who has scored more than fifty marks higher in JEE (Main) Examination has fallen behind several thousands in overall rankings for two three percent less in Board Examination. Passing of the Board Examination with star marks by a student not only gives recognition of his sincere labours over the years but also it gives a recognition of the guidance delivered by his teachers and parents.  The percentile system was introduced rightly to compel the students to give importance to their Board Examination along with the JEE (Main). Mysteriously, the students pursuing Medical studies do not experience this "guinea pig" treatment. So, where is the justification for labeling a student mediocre despite of his scoring higher in Board Examination and JEE (Main)?
It’s high time for the Boards which experience reduction of Board marks assessed by them, by the JEE Apex Board to fight for justice: Else they should put up a cautionary notice, ‘ANYBODY PURSUING A CAREER IN TECHNICAL EDUCATION MAY NOT OPT FOR APPEARING FROM THIS BOARD’.
Otherwise, the agony of father of a "guinea pig", placed like me shall continue to soar.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

MIGHTY WAVE





(3)
‘Mighty wave this is, O dear,
Set the sky rolling, defusing the past and future. 
Brilliantly shining is life with a wonderful wave of joy.
The sun, moon, stars all are in swing, hence,
Jolted, thrilled is the stream of my perception,
Waves dance throughout the world, the heart tweets.’

As we return from the morning walk we find an assembly of students, all convent going with their guardians waiting for the school bus at a crossing on the Highway. The ladies out number the gents amongst the guardians, but my attention always gets attracted by two Adams, one aged and the other one a bit younger. The younger one, a tribal gentleman always touches the feet of elder one, a Bengali person whenever they meet each other for the first time in the morning. Their manner of greetings surprises me as they have no family relation. But, they have a common identity, both drivers of government vehicles, serving in the same department. So, I enquired into the matter through a source and it resulted in the revelation of an amazing story.
The younger one hails from an interior area of our State. When he joined at the Motor Transport Section of the government department as a Follower, the elder one was already serving as an experienced driver. One day, the driver said to the Follower, ‘What is your choice? Do you prefer to spend the entire life in this fashion or prosper?’
The Follower was struggling to lead his life with paltry salary at a rented establishment in the town. So, the offer came like the first monsoon shower to him. At once, he bowed down to the feet of the driver and accepted him as his rector. His Guru started giving him lesson on driving and by the year end, he earned driving license. Soon, he got the steering of a government vehicle as well.
But, he didn’t feel the real upliftment.  One day, in presence of senior drivers, his mentor gave him the practical tips. He said, ‘You have not paid me the Guru Dakshina. This is an insult for a government driver! Save oil and dispose the extra fuel.’
Next day, the young driver sold one Shalimar-container full of fuel. It fetched him enough money to purchase two packets of cigarette. He offered one packet to his teacher and his senior colleagues, the other packet he kept for his consumption. Next day, he observed if anyone noticed his stealing. The size of the container became bigger every passing day. Then, one more container was added. Along with this, he achieved prosperity. He has his own house in the town presently. His children study in convents. But, he continues to pay respect to his preacher by touching his feet every day. Perhaps, he is right in his conviction, stealing is also one type of vocation.


(To be continued)

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

MIGHTY WAVE

 (2)

The thoughts of the two aged person engulfed our minds till we met a youth in his early thirties and his mother. He works in an insurance company. With his dwarf stature he has a boyish look. He is an ex-colleague of my other friend who works in a civil department. He shook hand with me and said, ‘I have enjoyed your talk-show on TV, the other day.’
On way back, my friend narrated his struggle life which can beat the story of any mighty film any day. His father was a carpenter and a habitual drunkard. His mother had to work as a maid servant to provide two square meals a day to her four children, the eldest one, a daughter and the rest three, sons. He was second amongst his brothers. His elder brother joined a shop when he entered into his teens. His sister eloped with a truck driver which made her happy. He was a studious student. When he crossed the primary sections, his father appeared as a stumbling block for his study. His father wanted that he should join him in his carpentry profession. The boy evaded this, saying that his physical ability did not permit him to take up the strenuous job and so he would give his father similar earnings by selling beetle leaf. He continued his studies without knowledge of his father and side by side ferrying beetle leaf from a wholesaler to retailers. His other family members assisted him. Once, he couldn’t go to the wholesaler for few days due to school exam. When his father came to know about this he became furious. That evening, his drunkard father didn’t spare him from beating. He missed his classes next few days and when he joined his school, he suffered corporal punishment from his class teacher.
But, this led to the disclosure of his hardship to the headmaster who had pity on him. After a few days, his principal gave him an offer to stay in the house of one of his teacher friends. The couple had no issue. His father said, ‘You can leave this house, but remember it will remain closed for you for ever.’
He took up the challenge. First few years went on smoothly. But, gradually the wife of his protector became harsh upon him and made him busy in all sorts of household works. This way he passed eighth standard. His next run up to Madhyamik was quite smooth. Meanwhile, he lost his father and went back to his family. His patron, the headmaster arranged his admission in a Jahwar Navoday Vidyalaya. He also got free lodging and food in the school hostel.  The atmosphere conducive helped him to pass Madhyamik in first division with letter-marks in Mathematics.
But, his economic condition didn’t permit him to take admission at any school for the next phase. Instead, he started working at a photocopier shop. The owner was a widower and a moody person. He was in the habit of taking few pegs in the evening. He allowed the boy to stay in his house and take some tuition on Mathematics in the evening. It was in course of one such tuition session, he got the next opening. One of his students was a girl of eighth standard. Her father was a retired officer. The girl was not impressed with her new teacher, especially with his short stature. She didn’t feel it necessary to carry out the home task. When it happened for three consecutive days, her teacher said to her, ‘Look, I am here to teach you Mathematics. If you don’t understand, ask me to clear your doubts. You must carry out the home task.  I shall rather prefer to leave this assignment, than to accept an un-attentive student.’
This was heard by her father who was incidentally sitting in the next room. The gentleman was highly impressed with the teacher. He listened to his struggle in life. It had so happened that the principal of Polytechnic Institute was a good friend of the man. He arranged his admission in the Polytechnic Institute, two months after the scheduled commencement of session. The owner of the Photostat shop also extended help. In fact, he gave him shelter in the house of a friend who was an authorized distributor of popular automobile brand. The couple had no issue and they extended him all assistance to continue his study. He started appearing in competitive examination when he was in the final year of Diploma study. In the process, he hit the ‘Bull’s eye twice in succession. He got selected in the Staff Selection Commission and in the clerical jobs for the State Government Offices, simultaneously. He took the State Government job, which helped him to stay with his family members.

After completing Diploma, he passed graduation through distance. He continued his struggle and appearing in competitive examinations. Presently, he is an officer at a government insurance company. He didn’t miss caring for his family members, specially his mother. I have read the story ‘Arjun Kaka’ of Banaful. Somewhere I find a resemblance.

Monday, 9 June 2014

MIGHTY WAVE


                                                          (1)



‘Mighty wave this is, O dear,
Set the sky rolling, defusing the past and future. 
Brilliantly shining is life with a wonderful wave of joy.
The sun, moon, stars all are in swing, hence,
Jolted, thrilled is the stream of my perception,
Waves dance throughout the world, the heart tweets.’

It’s an English version of Tagore’s song, ‘Bipulo Tarango Re…’ I am fond of this song though I am skeptical about my perception of this song. In a sense, the incidents which we witness in our life are just the interaction with the ripples created by this mighty wave.

The other day, in course of morning walk when I came across a man with name Bipul, meaning mighty, at once the song came in my mind. The gentleman is an octogenarian person and perhaps, the oldest surviving retired Gestetner Operator of my office. He was very sincere in his work and was eager to percolate the trait to the next generation. Running a Gestetner or a Cyclo-machine is a tough task and there is every possibility of getting smeared with ink if it was not rolled properly. Now-a-days this machine has become obsolete and is being replaced by high-speed photocopiers. Clad in a white dhuti, the gentleman was standing by the side of the road as I crossed him with my comrades in course of my morning walk.

It was a non-conventional route for our group of three persons. I could not recognize him in that ambience, though he appeared known to me. On earlier two three occasions as well, I had seen him at the same spot, standing, dressed in similar attire. But, before I had refreshed my memory with the retired Gestetner Operator, we had another absorbing encounter. We met an old lady at the square, where we generally take our turn. She displayed a jackfruit and few mangoes for sale. One of my friends, a teacher enquired if these were from her garden and why she was selling these. The reply was a bit peculiar. She said, ‘Baba! It’s from my garden. Today is Ekadashi and I shall be on fast. If I take only fruit for breaking the fast I shall suffer from gastric pain. So, for purchasing some solid food I require the money.’

Finding no other promising customer, the aged lady pursued with my friend, ‘Baba! Take this fruits, you will like it.’
- Mashi! Aami Money-bag Aanchi Na…. Mashi! I have not brought the purse.
- Money-bag Aancho Na….You have not brought the purse!

The lady cast a disheartened glance. At this, we also started searching our pockets. In the mean-time, my teacher friend traced thirty bucks in his pocket. He offered this to the lady making her the most pleasant personality for the moment. But, another problem had cropped up how to carry these fruits. Soon, it was also solved. The lady brought an old but gigantic poly-bag which accommodated the purchased fruits.

As we came near the man in dhuti, he also came forward and taking my name he asked if I was his former boss. This time, I also recognized him and in a pleasant face took his name. By this time, we could smell each other’s respiration and we embraced each other. His torso became bare as the end of his dhuti dropped to the ground.


(To be continued)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

THE LOST DREAM



My father spent his college days and early married life in Calcutta. He was an ardent supporter of East Bengal Football Club and this association had gave him opportunity see some of the singing icons, Debabrata Biswas, S.D.Barman, Salil Choudhury and the like. An eminent Rabindra Sangeet singer Prasad Sen was perhaps his colleague in Tea Board where my father had served for few years before taking up teaching profession, here in Tripura. For the Bengalis, Tagore is an iconic figure and as such my parents tried to enjoy every moment of their stay in Bengal listening Tagore’s songs and other programs, especially during birth anniversary celebration at Jorasako, the birth-place of the poet.

So, it’s not surprising that the iconic influence Tagore has been inherited to the next generation. The first poem of Gurudev which we had memorized was Nirjharer Swapnabhanga, the Awakening of the Fountain. Gradually learnt  popular poems like Prashna, Bharat Theertha, Bramhan, Jhulon, Dui Bigha Jami, Suprapbhat, Africa, Eikotan, Dushamoy, Joota Abishkar, Beer Purush, Talgach, Dui Pakhi, Cheleta, Pujarini, Abhishar, Dhulamondir, Debatar Grash, Prothom Diner Surya and so on. Though, I had chosen Science stream from school, my interest for Tagore’s poem and songs continued in a dormant way. It gained momentum when I joined as school teacher at Kamalpur in mid-eighties and got Hyena as my roommate. He was a junior engineer from my place, aged than me and earned this pseudo name by playing the role of four-legged animal in a drama. Hyena has a very good voice for recitation and played various roles in drama as well, his first performance was being martyr Khudiram. But, he did not hang up his knack towards recitation and rather re-kindled it in me. The two bachelors had a regular session of recitation from the Tagore’s collection of poems Sanchayita every night and it used to continue under the illumination of torch light even during load-shedding. We did not prefer lighting candle. The interesting point used to be the culmination of his taste of interest with me, starting with Nirjharer Swapnabhanga at Page 36. Only a few poems like Swapna, Camelia, Shankha, Hatat Dekha were added to the list. I can still recollect the index of some these poems like Bramhan at Page 233, Suprapbhat at Page 481, Africa at Page 721, Dushamoy at Page 293, Pujarini at 339, Camelia at Page 655, Prothom Diner Surya at Page 833, Swapna at Page 300, Camelia at Page 655, Shankha at Page 533, Hatat Dekha at Page 719  and so on.
It was a pastime and we did not carry out any critical analysis of these poems. Yesterday, when I consulted Sanchayita for making a post at face-book involving the poem Talgach, the Palam Tree I did not miss reading the lines of Nirjharer Swapnabhanga:
Aji e prabhate rabir kar
Kemane pashila praner par
Kemane pashila guhar andhare,
Prabhat pakhir gan.
Na jani kenare etadin pare
Jagiya uthila pran.

[How have the sun's rays in my heart 
Entered this morning! How have the songs
Of morning birds into the dark cave broken!
Who knows why, after long, my soul has woken!]

I have failed to find the exact meaning of Swapnabhanga from Bengali Dictionary. Awakening, I believe is the poetic meaning of the term Swapnabhanga and I hope the lost dream of the poet was not a sweet dream. Rather, the awakening at the fall of sunlight kindled the hope in him. The poem always gives me pessimistic feelings.

A little bit of study from the net led me to some astonishing findings. “Nirjharer Swapnabhanga’  is an iconic poem in the life of Tagore. It was composed in 1882 and was first published in Bharati on 2 December 1882. Tagore attributed the poem ‘Nirjharer Swapnabhanga’, as  inauguration of his adult career as a poet, ‘amar shamasta kabyer bhumika). He shared his experience of writing the poem  in one sitting one afternoon. Describing the sensation in Jibansmriti, he wrote: At the place where the Sudder Street road came to an end one could see the trees in the garden of perhaps the Free School. One morning I stood on the veranda and looked in that direction. At that time, the sun was rising from behind the leaves of those trees. As I stood there and looked, suddenly, in a moment, the curtain fell from my eyes. I looked, and saw the world and this earth enveloped in an astonishing glory, everything swaying in joy and beauty. Piercing in one moment through the many layers of dejection in which my heart was covered, my entire inner self was scattered in the light of the universe. On that day itself, ‘Nirjharer Swapnabhanga’ seemed to flow out of me like a waterfall.

 ‘The Waterfall Awakens from a Dream’) was first published in Bharati on 2 December 1882. When it was later incorporated into Prabhatsangeet, the poem added sixty-seven lines to the original two hundred and one lines; subsequently, it underwent many changes, and is currently available in the Rabindra Rachanabali in one hundred and fifty four lines; however, the version in the Sanchayita is compressed to a mere forty-three lines.

Then, what was his lost dream. It might be his knack towards Baishnab Padabali. Remember, prior to that he had composed Bhanusingher Padabali, his particular poetic voice. With ‘Nirjharer Swapnabhanga’ , discarding the disguise of the Vaishnava poet, he assumed his own contemporary form and his  early style disappeared. But we missed some immortal creation like GAHANA KUSUM KUNJA MAJHE, ‘SAWAN GAGANE GHOR GHANAGHATA / NISHITHA YAMINI RE’, etc. It may be the lost dream of the poet.

LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE



At Dasharath Deb Sports Complex Badharghat where I perform morning walk, we witness some bubbling activities of a Laughing Club. It’s a registered body, led by a retired engineer with average age profile of members more than fifty years. There is a history behind the formation of this Laughing Club. During the penultimate year of last millennium he was transferred to an interior Sub-Division when the insurgency in the state was at peak. He was not able to sustain the stress and he took VRS though he had still four, five years service left.

The engineer and his teacher wife had no issue. After the VRS, the couple adopted a daughter. He became very much health conscious and did not miss morning walk at A.D. Nagar Police Ground, even for a single day. It was the beginning of summer that year and the Champak trees around the ground just started blooming. The engineer was very fond of Champak flower. Finding a flower on branch of a tree one of his comrades brought it to his notice to which he did not say anything. His friends forgot the matter but they were dragged to the bottom of the tree by the thud of a heavy object. The engineer was lying flat senseless on the heard surface with his torso upwards holding the broken branch of Champak flower. He was speechless and could not tell when he had climbed the tree for plucking the flower. Fortunately, there was a retired Navy officer who knew first-aid traits which he applied. In five minutes time when water was sprinkled on his face, he became alright. In the subsequent medical check-up no injury or crack was detected on his body. He realized that he had become old and so switched over the ground and formed a Laughing Club.


As I witness in course of our rounds, the Laughing Club members make a huddle and it goes bigger every times a new member joins in the exercise. They perform free hand exercise and jogging on the spot using some peculiar vocabularies like Chalte Chate Piche, Pith Chulkani Position, Dhawa, and so on. One member utters the counting which goes from zero to eight and then from eight to zero. The concluding exercise of this huddle is the laughter of the Laughing Club. Till the other day it had several varieties like Singher Hanshi, Bagher Hanshi, Hynar Hanshi, Muchki Hanshi, Bodoloker Hanshi, Gua-Muri Hanshi, Kashta Hanshi, etc but these days it has only three elements Uchha Hanshi, Atta Hansi and International Hanshi. We also enjoy the hilarity of these senior citizens and get further amused when their pet dogs also join in the chorus.