Saturday 22 December 2018

Aamsotto, a fiction

"Autumn has arrived. 'Pujo-Pujo Elo', is how people describe it out there. No doubt, it's truly the city of joy. Once the intellectual and cultural capital of India, Kolkata still has an attractive old-world charm. Durga puja in Kolkata is simply out of the world. There’s unique euphoria and people can almost smell it in the air. The only thing we can say about Durga puja out there is, 'Crazy Kolkata'.

Long holidays... and it’s not only limited to schools and colleges. Even offices across West Bengal remain closed for at least a week. Jubilation all around. Everyone is in the mood of festivity and joy. The puja celebration is simply amazing. It’s a very significant socio-cultural event. Kolkata puja is all about the streets and the backstreets. The entire city celebrates. Even the deadliest corners and congested alleys are illuminated with lights. Every nook and corner of the city remains overcrowded during the 4 days of puja celebration. To control the traffic, bamboo barricades are built to create effective walkways. This is the time of the year when the City of Joy truly lives up to its name. Lights, food, music... so colorful! Not to forget the puja bell sound ‘Ting Ting’, the long sankha sound 'Poooooooooo ...', drums and dhunuchi dance.

People come out on the streets in the evening, with their best attires to experience the carnival. Several pandals are built in localities, neighbourhoods and in housing complexes where the goddess Durga is installed and worshipped. The pandals are decorated very beautifully with host of lights and designs. People usually come out in groups, with friends and families. They do ‘pandal hopping’ throughout the nights and enjoy themselves. Restaurants and food stalls stay open and cater to visitors throughout the nights. The young, old, men, women and children together celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. Wearing new clothes is a must to grace the occasion. Perfect time for the youngsters to hang out with friends. 

The food stalls do some real solid business during the puja days. Varieties of eateries all over the place. But the Jalebis, chicken cutlets, egg rolls and mutton chops are simply out of the world. Instant happiness with the very first bite. Food stalls remain open till late in the nights. People are found to be standing in the queue in almost every stall."

              "Life has changed so much over the years. But every time I come to this place I feel as if time has simply stopped, and I go back to my school days...” said Shantanu. He was settled in Bangalore with his family, working for a software company. He met his childhood friends after a long time... almost fifteen years. Well, it was Shantanu who planned and coordinated with all to make this get-together a success.

Shantanu, Shuvham, Indrajit and Jiten grew up together in the same colony, popularly known as ‘Natun Para’. The place is still known by the same name. Shuvham was settled in US and Jiten in Germany. Indrajit has established himself as a renowned businessman in the locality. He was the guy who was in touch with most of their schoolmates, particularly the ones from Natun Para.  
It was afternoon and all the friends were having a great time on the terrace. Shuvham lit up a cigarette and was smoking it while slurping his tea. He took a few long drags and passed it on to Shantanu. 

"Devika should've come by now", commented Shuvham. This grabbed everyone’s attention. Well, Devika Dutta was also their schoolmate, same batch. But somehow the guys lost touch with her. She was settled in US along with her husband and two kids. 

"Why are you looking so serious?" asked Indrajit to Shantanu. 

"Of course he would be serious. After all, he’s Devika’s first boyfriend..." Jiten commented. 

A smile appeared on Shantanu’s face, "What dudes, what topic have you brought in?"

Actually, Shantanu had proposed Devika when they were in their ninth grade in school. Devika had accepted, and they had dated for almost a year. Later they had some kind of fight, followed by their breakup. Shantanu had been quite serious about her. It had taken him quite some time to console himself, and then he had come back to life again. In their twelfth grade, Devika was dating Jiten. Shuvham and Devika studied in the same Engineering College in Pune. During that time, Shuvham had regularly updated his old buddies about Devika. Whenever Shuvham had visited Natun Para, his friends would discuss about Devika with him.

"What Shantanu dada, are you still serious about 'Aam Sotto'?" Commented someone. The terrace jolted with their laughter. From the very first semester, Devika was popularly known as 'Aam Sotto' in her college. There was an interesting story how such a tag name got attached to her. Just after a few weeks of their fresher’s party, Devika went to college wearing a beautiful, brand new skin tight T-shirt. On the front it was printed, 'Tasty Mangoes'. From that day, she was popularly known her as 'Aam Sotto' in the campus.

Shuvham started talking about her…  just the way he used to do earlier, to refresh their memories, may be. 
"She was one of the most attractive lady in the college, quite popular among the boys. She made a boyfriend towards the end of our first semester. The guy was in his eighth  semester. After passing out of college, he showed up a few times. Later in her sixth semester, she made a new boyfriend. After we passed out, I lost touch with Devika."

"So, did she marry the same boyfriend from college?" asked Indrajit, curiosity was increasing.

"No yaar, she married someone else. Once I got to know that she’s also in US, I sent her a Facebook friend request to her. To my surprise she accepted it immediately." Proudness appeared on Shuvham’s face. 

"Have you met her in US?"

"No bondhu. She lives thousands of kilometers  away."

"Shantanu dude, you still look serious. Hoechhe ta ki?"

"Looks like, he's missing his good old days with Aam Sotto. After all, he was her first boyfriend,' Jiten uttered, just to pull Shantanu's legs.
Shantanu was pretending not to listen. There was a silence for a while. And then Shantanu reacted, "We were just friends, guys."

The conversation continued for more than a couple of hours. The friends almost completed a pack of cigarettes and three cups of tea per head on the terrace. Apart from Devika, they also discussed on several other topics... about their families, kids, work, politics, sports, and what not! 

"Shantanu Da, Bhog is ready..." a small boy shouted below. The guys were having ‘Sutta’ session at Shantanu’s house. It was Navami. Everyone was simply waiting for the Puja Khichuri. They missed it for so long! The menu itself was mouth-watering for them. Khichuri prepared with ghee, crispy Begun bhaja, Sweet and savoury typical Bengali tomato chutney. 

Bhog was being served in Natun para. It was crowded. The aroma of bhog Khichuri was mesmerizing. And then all of a sudden the guys encountered Devika.
"Aree! Shantanu, Shuvham, Indrajit, Jiten. How are you guys? I'm seeing you after so long!"

Everyone was happy. They talked about themselves, about other friends, batch mates, even about Natun Para. Devika introduced her husband, Bapi and her kids to her childhood friends. Both her kids looked quite playful. The elder one was eleven years old and the younger one was six. Devika had maintained herself well. She still had the body of a dancer, lithe and beautiful.

Everyone ate together. After such sumptuous lunch the guys wanted to have a fag. 

"Cigarette ta chole to Bapi dada?" asked Shantanu.

"Are ki bolchen!. Nischoy! Chalun. Kothai jachchen?"

"Aei to pichon dike"

Devika eyed her husband, "You all guys are just the same!" The guys went at the backyard. Bapi seemed to be quite friendly. They smoked together, spent some good time.

"Are Rustam, where are you going? Eat you bhog first." Indrajit said to Rustam as he was passing by. Rustam was the idol maker. He’s an artist. He’s designing and creating new versions of Maa Durga since last 3 decades. He’s quite well known in the locality for his talent. Every year, the pandal organizers think of new themes while constructing pandals to win prizes. Pandal artists work day and night to make unbelievable gigantic idols of Maa Durga in various shapes and situations. 

Next day was Dashami. Once again it was the time for this wonderful festival to conclude. But yes, with a new hope for the next year.

The article was first printed in souvenir 2018, Srishti Cultural Association, DLF Westend Heights, Bangalore.

Grab a copy of my debut book Story of Tublu from Amazon or Flipkart. It is a Contemporary Fiction novel, published by LiFi Publications Pvt Ltd. The book has its share of drama, that entertains; humor, that makes one reminisce; love, friendship and emotions that defines the amazing journey that is, life.

Sunday 29 October 2017

Delhi - The Cleanest City

Last week I was in Delhi. I met my friend Ramesh there after many years. We both did our Engineering from the same college. Ramesh is settled in Delhi ever since we passed out of college. Well, I visited the city after almost 15 years. It’s a wonderful feeling every time we are in the world’s cleanest city. There was a time when Delhi was considered to be one of the most polluted city. This happened due to its rapid unplanned growth and industrialisation. The number of petrol and diesel cars increased exponentially over the years. Gradually, the condition became very severe, it was turning quite uninhabitable. There are several reasons for the environmental degradation of Delhi. Lack of adequate policies to control pollution, lack of political will, unplanned industrial growth, use of outdated technology, inefficient waste disposal, and many others. 

People in Delhi started to wear pollution masks most of the time, many used to wear while sleeping as well. After repeated warnings by WHO, and various other Environment communities across the world, the Government intervened. They took some strict actions. It started to shut down some factories which didn’t follow the expected environment regulation. But then due to lack of support from local people it was very difficult for the government to deal with the situation. Things usually turned worst during the festival of Diwali. It is a very auspicious occasion in India, and it has always been the festival of light. But in the early 20th century with the emergence of the powerful cracker industry, bursting crackers became popular. Gradually over the years it penetrated deep into the system. It became so emotional that people couldn’t think of celebrating Diwali without bursting crackers. There are numerous factories which produces crackers and they don’t follow and norms or regulation. Several harmful chemicals are released during the burning of crackers. The oxides and dioxides of sulphur and nitrogen are released. These chemicals get exposed to their skin, eyes, lungs and increase toxic levels in the body. 

There was a time when pollution level in Delhi was 50 times more than the WHO guideline level for safe air. Post Diwali morning it used to become 50 times more. Delhites were living on a time bomb, completely ignorant. Industries were still growing rapidly, people still burst crackers even though it was banned. But 5 years ago something happened that shocked the entire world. It was a usual post Diwali morning in Delhi. Everyone wore safely musk. And then some tragedy happened that completely changed the dimension of the city. More than 100 thousand people died on the same day due to suffocation and other breathing problems. All the new born babies who appeared on this world on that particular day, couldn’t survive. Several senior citizens died. 

After that tragic incident which is considered to be black day for our Environment, people in Delhi realized the impact of the alarming situation. Government took extreme and strict measures. They shut down all the industries which were not following the pollution guidelines. Schools and offices remained closed for almost a month. People started planting trees all over the cities. Entire Delhi took up the responsibility to clean up the mess of the past. Ecology has become one of their main philosophy. Gradually over the years Eco efficiency has become the most important thing for the city. It wouldn't have been possible without the support from the local people. It all began with the grassroots level of involvement, planting trees, watering them. Delhi residents are encouraged to cleanup, go green, and create a climate that features better air quality, eco efficiency, bio diversity and an abundant quantity of clean natural resources.

A huge investment was done to replace the traditional and outdated transport system. Government banned all petrol and diesel cars. Delhi is the first city in the entire world to become completely fossil free, not only in transportation, but also on power generation. All the vehicles, including the Metro run on electricity these days. Delhi was an opportunity for all the ecofriendly scientists to experiment their research. It came up as a blessing. Delhi became the first city to use wireless electricity, that too completely free. Yes, finally Nikola Tesla's dream to provide free energy to the world has come into reality after almost 100 years. 

The entire NCR is connected via Hyperloop, a high-speed ground travel system which is the world’s fastest mode of transport in today's world, almost 1000 km per hour. Meant to be intercity transport to connect multiple cities using Hyperloop, but Delhi is the first city to implement it with such large scale within the city. Now, people in Delhi can reach from any place to any other part of the city within just 5 minutes. Hyperloop capsules are completely solar powered.

To know more about Hyperloop do watch this video.

The streets of Delhi looks fantastic these days due to local contribution to make the locality clean and sustainable. Delhi is considered to be the cleanest city of the world. Last year it won the Green Capital award. It is the first city in the entire world to become completely fossil free. Several automatic cooling systems are deployed across the city which runs on solar and other renewable energy to reduce the city temperature during summer. Since electric transmission has gone completely wireless, all the electric poles and wiring are removed. Big trees were planted both sides of the road. More than 50% of the cars and trucks have gone driver-less. Number of road accidents has decreased significantly. Many parts of Delhi look like mini forest with plantation all over. Delhites have an impression of living in an exotic village with all modern facilities and infrastructure. The city is spreading rapidly at a phenomenon rate. But the growth is now very well controlled and planned. Many MNCs have come up in the city in the last few years. Foreign investors are investing heavily in the Eco friendly city. 

It was Diwali night. Coincidentally it was also the 5th memorial of the tragic incident. The particular day has been internationally recognised as Human Environment Day. Everyone was together, celebrating Diwali with family and friends. We could see Eco friendly Diya Balloons lighted up the sky. These are fully biodegradable and safe and simple to use. 

People were also enjoying fire in the sky laser displays with bursting sound in a controlled manner, thanks to the various sound simulation techniques evolved over the years.

Many companies are coming up with innovative ideas of celebrating smokeless, noiseless and Eco friendly Diwali. It’s a huge market, and every year we get to see some new creativity. It was such a pleasure to be in such a great city, particularly during Diwali.

PC: Google Images

This post is a work of fiction written for Indiblogger’s #CelebratingSuper campaign in association with Vodafone.

Saturday 14 October 2017


Raju was born and grew up in a small village in India. He was good at studies from the beginning. Just like others Raju also loved his village a lot. It was his world, his homeland. The neighbouring villages often fight with each other on small issues. Everyone took pride and was ready to die for their motherland. Sometimes there were minor conflicts within the village as well, but those could easily be neglected. But when there was any fight with any other village the entire people would become united. Everyone forget their internal ego, the unnecessary small issues and fight together for their homeland. Raju grew up in such environment. In fact, he witnessed many such fights.

Raju studied at the only school in the village till 8th grade. Actually those days there was no option for the students after 8th grade. Based on the school teacher’s recommendation Raju’s father admitted him at a school in the nearby town. It was for the first time Raju had been to any town, even though it was just 70 km from their village. He studied hard and soon everyone at school started recognizing his talents. Gradually, Raju noticed some major changes. Life was quite different in the village. In the town life seemed to be busy. There were many schools and colleges. Everyone took pride for their institutes. In case of any conflict entire school/college would become united. Raju noticed that religious differences was more in the town. And whenever the prestige of the town was at stake, everyone would get emotional. People were ready to die for their homeland. 

Days passed by. Raju did very well in his higher secondary exams. He took admission at an engineering college in the city. Life was different there. People were more broadminded. Raju noticed that people usually don’t interfere with other’s life, everyone was busy with their own. Most of the issues were created by politicians. Issues based on religion, language, or race were more prominent. Time had really just flown by. Raju graduated. He then lived in many different cities of India, switched jobs. In all the cities life was more or less the same. Even though languages differ, but people are the same, emotional, sentimental. Politicians play the actual game. People take pride on their respective states. They wish and often demand to get preference in their respective regions. When critical situation would arise, people get very sentimental and ready to die of their region, their homeland. Also, all are patriotic towards their country.

Few years later Raju went to the US to pursue master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering.

Raju had lived a good life in the US. He studied hard. He always wanted to travel to the space. Life was different in the US. Clean and broad roads, excellent transportation systems, people seemed to be more educated and liberal. But then human beings are same everywhere, their basic nature remains the same. There also the politicians play the real game. People want to be superior to others. Everybody love to get preference. There also people are very patriotic for their motherland. Raju met many people who actually belong from rival countries, but he noticed them staying together, eat together, and they would laugh together. Sometimes Raju was confused, but then he would simply smile. 

After the master’s, Raju completed his PHD. He worked with NASA as a senior scientist. After several months of training finally it was time for him to fulfil his dream, to travel to the space. He travelled with two other astronauts. The space shuttle took them and cargo into the low Earth orbit. The mission was to do some maintenance activity at the space station. 

Raju was floating in space. He looked at the Earth below. It looked stunningly beautiful as sunlight reflected off of the oceans. Raju was mesmerised. He kept looking at the Earth, and was lost in nostalgia. 

He remembered his small village where he grew up. He recalled how people used to fight on small issues, smiling. He remembered the town where he did the later part of his schooling. He recalled all the cities and countries he lived. He wondered how people are so emotional about their respective homelands. He wondered how over the years the countries were formed, how the politicians play their tricks, how people fight in the name of religion or language or face. Everything felt so meaningless to him. Raju kept looking at the Earth, his home. Now, he understood the true meaning of homeland.

Grab a copy of my debut book Story of Tublu from Amazon or Flipkart. It is a Contemporary Fiction novel, published by LiFi Publications Pvt Ltd. The book has its share of drama, that entertains; humor, that makes one reminisce; love, friendship and emotions that defines the amazing journey that is, life.

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