Sunday, March 12, 2017

To Dear Darjeeling!

It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape. – Ruskin Bond
One day there was a big hailstorm which went on and on for an hour. Hails like stones hit entire town and everything turned white. Shaking trees, squealing tin roofs and thickening layer of snow all around, looked petrifying. When it ended, a big crowd gathered at Chowrasta and they started playing with ice. There were kids throwing snowballs at each other, a big snowman standing in between and mesmerized tourists who could still not believe their fortune. I was standing wide eyed at a corner, awestruck and completely in love with Darjeeling.
I have left a part of me in that moment; a part of that day still lives within me!
Finally the day has come to bid adieu to the place we called home for almost two years. There is something about this place that made farewell so melancholic.
The journey till Sandakphu is as difficult as it can be. There is a collection of rolling stones which is sometimes called road. The scenery is breathtaking yet altitude of almost 12000 feet makes breathing heavy. When we finally reached, we forgot our aching body parts because we first needed to survive biting cold. That night was difficult and we swore thousand times that we will never again make such a mistake. In the early morning when we witnessed the Kanchejungha in all its
glory, we could not believe something could be so majestic. The rays of the sun first kissed its peak and then embraced entire mountains. All of us were sitting quietly imbibing we just witnessed something so mesmerizing.
I remember a night at Dello Guest house. It was somewhat cold with pleasant breeze blowing all across Kalimpong. I was the only one taking a walk in that big garden and caretakers probably knew I am a Ghazal aficionado. They played it in the background and I stayed in that moment for a long time relishing solitude. I can still feel that cool breeze caressing me.
Once we got up at three in the morning to see the sunrise at Tiger hills. We cursed the shivering cold and the crowd, and big serpentine traffic jam that snarled uphill. There was a group of youngsters who sang and danced, and I wondered what made them so jolly in this cold. When the sun peeped in and myriad colours danced on the morning sky, I could not help but feel how small we are in front of this beauty. The sharpest memory of that day is the first ray of sun hitting the horizon and how fast colours change in the sky. I also remember those happy youngsters dancing in the crowd.
Once some of our friends came down from

Kolkata and we stayed at a Tea Garden. The bungalow was one of the finest I had ever seen and was surrounded by lush green tea bushes spread across the valley. It had hills on all sides and the breeze made a continuous buzzing sound while knocking at gigantic trees. We sat in the open balcony and debated religion and politics. We fought and argued and almost reached the verge of tearing each other’s clothes. We stayed awake almost entire night and then our dear A played guitar, as he often did. I will always miss those heated debates and those songs that I heard in numerous such gatherings. How will parties look without his guitar strings?
Many other images have stayed on with me. The forest drive of Sukhna looked so pristine that one could find zillion shades of green in it. The vast bank of river was like a scene out of apocalypse. There were times when did breakfast in our garden and had Kanchenjungha’s view in front for company. One night a leopard crossed the road in front of my vehicle and looked at us with his shining eyes before disappearing. When I traveled to Kalimpong, Teesta flowed along and its emerald green water gushing with fast pace looked serene yet intimidating. There were clouds that came and embraced
entire town and the fog that made everything appear mystic. The rain once started poured together for days. There were stories of Ghosts which came back haunting whenever I was alone in my bungalow. Everything was so silent at that time of night that only those who have ever lived that silence can understand it.
And then there were people who were strangers before and became part of our life. We shared good times and sorrows, and cemented our relationship with those memories. They changed me in many ways and all those times of happiness or of melancholy, made life worth living. They took away a part of me and I often find them in my personality. They may always be in our life, or this might have been our last meeting but whenever I would look back in life, I would remember them fondly.
I remember sitting idle one night in a balcony watching myriads of twinkling lights on a hill in front of me, and a strong overpowering feeling came along with it; this is how life is meant to be. A sign of ageing perhaps, the feeling that I may not be able to relive all this is unnerving.
I loved you my dear house. You allowed us to call it home and gave us pleasant memories. I loved you
dear mountains, and your fog and your mist. I loved your serpentine roads that revealed your beauty from different perspectives. I miss you dear friends and maybe I will never get to say this, I would always love you. I always felt that I will never belong to any place but I was wrong; I belong to you, my Beloved Darjeeling!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ten Habits of Highly Effective Meeting Contributors- Simple Ways to Prove Yourself Smart!

Meetings are the most important activity in life of any professional. It is also the best time to tell this world who is most intelligent of them all. Follow these simple principles and emerge from any meeting unscathed, shining and smart:

1.      Well begun is half done; the first step to keep others intimidated from the start. Arrive early for the meetings, if it is at 10am, reach ten minutes before and then look at your watch and give dirty looks to all those entering the hall.
2.      Nod your head gently when someone speaks and make eye contact with as many as you can. This will emphasize that you perfectly understand all that and such an opinion was never expressed. You have also proved only you could decipher that.
3.      Scribble notes at times. Write ‘Twinkle twinkle little star, I have no idea why I came this far’ but appear serious and scribble it down. Underline it twice. Repeat the head nodding and again make some eye contacts. Others will be terrified by all that they have missed.
4.      To appear updated with technology, use gadgets like iPad/Tablet. Fiddle with them all the time and show your neighbors any junk data that Google search throws about the topic. Smile sarcastically at the speaker and then share the smile with anyone willing to do that. Reputation of the speaker is already destroyed.
5.      Interrupt the speaker occasionally and make generalist remarks like ‘that was a very interesting point, but are you really confident there can be no counter argument to that’. It will take some time to understand you actually meant nothing at all and you have already proven who is smart. Never take sides and never call something good or bad. Just words like interesting would be fine.
6.      You will have to do a lot of effort to answer difficult questions, instead keep asking them all the time. In a meeting relating to Vector borne diseases, ask questions like ‘Are you really sure mankind has discovered all the existing diseases or there may still be some where we are totally off the point?’ Once other participants are bowled over by your point, go back to your sleep/rest mode.
7.      Point out any obscure data from the handouts circulated and quote it whenever you find opportunity and time. Ask things like ‘In the year 1976 when Vector borne incidents were 127893 in the country, our city was still at 389. What can be the factor of error in this calculation?’ Most of the participants would have already fallen from their chairs by the time you are finished. 
8.      When your turn comes, speak in vague terms like ‘Let us go beyond our brief and try to contribute together something that will ultimately result in finding solution to the multifarious problems that we have been looking along. Only by joining our brains in collaboration, we can do that. ’
9.      Finish on a positive note. No words are sweeter that those used for flattery. Say things like ‘I am wiser and enriched after hearing so many learned speakers around and it was my humble attempt to match and build up the trajectory that has already gone far.’
10.  Follow the points mentioned above and you have achieved what you want. Now you should not waste your time. Always carry a novel, sketch book or a game of Sudoku and effectively utilize your time.  
 Let no meeting disturb your peace and may your reputation climb greater heights! 

PS: Just in case one is satirically challenged, a satire is a satire, is a satire. Nothing less, nothing more :)

Monday, January 23, 2017

A letter to Someone You Used to Be!

Dear Anurag,
I do not know if you will ever read this. Writing to you after twenty years is as stupid as it gets but will world be any interesting if it always goes by logic. You are going to be fifteen in some days; accept my heartiest congratulations for the same. This euphoria of birthdays will diminish soon and slowly all that will remain is the difficulty to accommodate candles equalling your age on the birthday cake. Preserve those paper Greeting cards; all that will remain in some days is some sort of an impersonal electronic wish. Also they may be the only memory of many friends and this time.  
Before I begin this letter, let me warn you. All your plans to marry Urmila Martodkar would go futile. If you find solace in his, she is not that gorgeous anymore. Rangeela is not the movie you should judge her with. Also get over Chunkey Pandey and Govinda, I can’t even tell you how their fate turned out to be. Your target of watching all the films of Mithunda is a bad idea to begin with, that man will soon start churning out twenty four movies yearly.
I know you are curious how I turned out to be. I am not that rich as you wish but I do can buy a lot many comics of Chacha Chowdhury, Nagraj and Super Commando Dhruva. Irony is I don’t feel like owning them anymore. Now there are other things which I want to possess but then I don’t have money for it, so our situation is almost the same. I have also not seen Niagra Falls, Sahara desert or the real Egyptian mummies so both of us have seen them only in books or movies. I am still as lazy you are, I lack a sense of style and have few friends who can be counted on fingertips. Change if any would have come unnoticed. Growing up may not be that fun as you imagine. I have turned out to be another boring human being, the lot which is available everywhere in plenty.
 The good news is I got rid of studies years ago. Now there is no homework, no school and I do not have to cram for impending tests. You will find it strange but sometimes I miss all of it. I miss that cold breeze which blew in the morning while going to school standing on the front of Dad’s Bajaj scooter (they don’t make any more of it). I also miss the tension of reaching just before the school bell, that chorus of Gud moorrrnniiig teaacherrrr and the naughty smile and giggles that were shared by the class afterwards.  I remember the excitement of opening the Tiffin box during recess, trepidation before the test papers were distributed and the happiness all around when the summer vacations were going to begin. Anyways, let me come out of that sentimental bit, I know you are uncomfortable with it.
I have changed in a manner that I almost stopped enjoying Western music. Accept it, you do not enjoy listening songs on MTV, you just watch it. And do you want to learn more; even your mom knows that bit. You are not that smart you think yourself to be and unfortunately I share that quality. I am somewhat into Ghazals and Jagjit Singh, Mehdi Hasan and Ghulam Ali are my partners in solitude. I also enjoy poetry of Ghalib, Sahir and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Now spare me that bored teenager look.
Learn music now, if you want it. As you grow older, it is not going to easy. Also, for future embarrassment’s sake, learn a bit of dancing. For all you believe in ‘I can’t dance doesn’t mean I won’t dance’ philosophy, Baraat dance in New Year parties and marriages isn’t that impressive.
Your New Year’s resolution this time is to write your autobiography. You never fail to amaze me. Which fifteen year old starts penning an autobiography? It is going to be as fruitless an exercise as all your New Year resolutions will turn out to be. Agreed dreaming is a good thing but Autobiography! Anyways the only reason I envy you is the horizon of your dreams. You can dream yourself to be so many things while my dreams are somewhat limited now. By the way, I do write occasionally.
I can tell you so much now but I do not want to spoil the fun of failing. Still there is no point in hanging from those poles; you are never going to be six feet. Those advertisements of Horlicks and anecdotal talling tricks are all hoax, ultimately your genes will get the best of you. If you can do something, learn a sport. You will not be able to gain in height but your girth may need some watching. Also stop wasting time in making those elaborate studying time tables; you are never going to follow it.
            The world has changed in some ways. Gold Spot and Campa Cola no longer exist, no one watches DD National now and India has won another Cricket world cup. And did I tell you Sachin has retired from international cricket; can you imagine cricket still exists? They have made cricket into a strange game now, called 20-20 which has only twenty overs each side. By the time I get old they will reduce it to six balls and who knows one day just toss will decide everything.   
Internet, Social media, mobiles etc have revolutionised everything but there is no point telling you. World is mostly the same; True friends are hard to find, fairer sex is still not easy to interpret and Mom and Dad can be equally annoying. The strange part is you will also turn out to be annoying to your kids. I know you always wanted to have a dog and guess what, I have one now. His name is Hummer, a Labrador and he is as cute as you wanted it to be.
Anyways stop worrying about life; it will take its own course. Make friends, laugh, cry a bit too and cherish all those who love you. Give them back now. You will not always get an opportunity to do so. In the end you will be a product of people and books that come in your life, so be careful in choosing both. Slog a little bit more, try to be a little less shy and do not take yourself too seriously. Whenever you get time running around, take a deep breath and just think about this life. Someday your twenty years may vanish and you will not even realise a bit.
I am waiting for a similar letter from the one who is twenty years ahead in life. In the meantime whenever it’s possible, do write back to me.
One you are turning out to be,
Anurag