He loved Friday evenings as they were earmarked by him for the bottle and the glass.
He would reach home full of energy thinking of the coming weekend and a nice evening with his drinks glass. Gulping his drink quietly without anyone noticing gave him a high because he never took a risk while drinking at home.
Ronojoy returned home from the office to find his wife cooking. He could hear the clanking of utensils emanating from the kitchen. That gave him comfort.
Ronojoy quietly entered the house, shouted out a “Hello I am home” to his wife, and stealthily entered his study.
He opened the black wooden bookshelf and pulled out a bottle of single malt.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose seemed to be looking at him from the portrait of his hanging from the wall but nobody had an inkling that Ronojoy was about to drink because he never took risks while drinking at home.
He quietly walked to the kitchen, again said hello to his wife who was busy cooking, opened the cabinet on the wall behind, and pulled out a whisky glass. Nobody saw him do so because Ronojoy never took a risk while drinking at home.
Ronjoy went to his study, poured out the single malt into his glass, a double peg, and washed it down—Bottoms Up.
Ronojoy walked back to the kitchen, washed the glass in the sink, again said hello to his wife, kept the glass back in the kitchen cabinet, walked back to his study, opened the black wooden bookshelf, and placed the bottle back.
There was a gleam in his eyes. The single malt had been like an elixir.
He looked up and felt Netaji was smiling at him from the portrait.
Ronojoy then again smartly walked into the kitchen, his wife was peeling potatoes. No one had any inkling that he had smartly downed a peg because Ronjoy never took any risks while drinking at home.
He called out to his wife and asked “Listen has Subir been able to fix up his daughter’s marriage? The other day he was speaking to me about it?”.
“No,” said his wife, “they are unable to find a match yet, poor girl”. “Yes”, said Ronojoy , “Subir was sounding worried”.
Ronojoy then tip-toed back to the study, he opened the black wooden almirah, this time there was a little sound. He stood still, paused, and looked around. Everything seemed fine. However, he did not make any sound while pulling out the single malt bottle. Ronojoy walked back into the kitchen, opened the kitchen cabinet, pulled out the whisky glass. He walked back to his study, quickly and again stealthily poured a double peg, walked back to the kitchen, washed the bottle, and put it in the kitchen cabinet. He then carried the glass back, walked into the study, opened the black wooden almirah, and placed the glass back in the bookshelf.
Nobody had yet got any inkling that he was drinking because Ronojoy never took any risks while drinking at home.
Ronojoy then again walked back to the kitchen and stood near his wife. “Subir’s daughter is quite young still so Subir should not get unnecessarily worried”, he said. “Come on”, said his wife, “have you forgotten that she is 35 and unfortunately looks older”.
“Oh, “said Ronojoy, He seemed to have forgotten Subir’s daughter’s age.
Anyway, he stealthily moved towards the study, opened the black wooden bookshelf, pulled out a potato. Well, he was a bit perplexed, how had the bookshelf shifted its position. He walked back to the kitchen, pulled out the glass from the kitchen cabinet, came running back to the study poured the potato in the glass, and quickly gulped down a double peg.
He looked up to see Netaji laughing loudly.
He put Netaji in the glass, washed the portrait, and placed it back in the kitchen cabinet. He cast a glance at his wife. She was placing the sink on the gas burner to prepare dinner.
However, nobody had yet an inkling that he was drinking because Ronojoy never took risks while drinking at home.
He looked at his wife and said, “listen you said Subir is old but you also said he is 35”. “I am not able to understand can you explain”.
“God”, said his wife, “did you have too much work at the office”?” why don’t you go outside, sit in the living room and watch TV and let me cook freely”.
Ronojoy walked out of the kitchen with a potato in hand, he pulled out the single malt from the potato and poured it over the basin, gulped a double peg, walked back to the kitchen, washed the potato, walked back to the study, opened the black wooden bookshelf and kept the potato inside. He looked up to see his wife laughing from the portrait. He walked back into the kitchen to find Netaji cooking.
“What are you cooking?’ he asked Netaji. “Freedom” replied Netaji.
Nobody had still got an inkling that he was drinking because Ronojoy never took any risk while drinking at home.
His wife said, “So Subir is trying to get married”. Ronojoy went to the kitchen sink, splashed water over his face and climbed up the kitchen platform, and squat there. However, till now Subir had not realized that he was drinking because Netaji never took risks. Subir was still cooking and Ronojoy was peeping out of the photo frame.
Ronojoy then walked back to the study. The bookshelf was not there, there was glass lying on the table, he looked up to find that the portrait was missing. He tiptoed out. Nobody had found out he was drinking because Ronojoy never took a risk while drinking at home.
Ronojoy picked up the bottle of cough syrup, poured it into the flower vase, gulped it down, and shouted cheers.
Well while drinking at home Ronojoy never took…… Took what? He was unable to remember.
Ah yes while drinking at home he never took a potato. Hic! Hic!
Hic Hic Hurray.
He needed to have another two pegs but the bottle was not in the kitchen, the glass was not in the bookshelf and wife was not in the cabinet. He opened the kitchen sink tap and whiskey was flowing out of it. He cupped his hands and drank straight from the tap-Neat. Hic Hic
Let me first introduce the main characters of the story. There are few fringe characters too but they can be taken in as they come by because they hover alongside the margins of the main story.
Main Character and the Protagonist:
Enter Dhurduri Narayan Goswami, AGE: 50, Occupation: Government Servant.
Dhurdhuri is the quintessential socialite of the pada ( A Bengali word for Muhallah / A residential locality ). He keeps in touch with everyone, is available in all community meetings, is an avid organizer and participant in various activities of the Pada like Durga Puja Celebrations , Ganpati Puja Celebrations , Cultural Events, etc. His claim to fame, as it were, has been his never-say-die attitude because for any bad and agonising situation, he normally calms everyone by saying “It could have been worse”.
I am not sure if Tarun can be called the anti-hero but let us stay with this epithet for him for the sake of the story.
Tarun popularly known as Tony is the flamboyant, young, and dashing boy of the pada. He is omnipresent, participates in various activities, and is quite popular among the residents. He leads the youth brigade and organizes various events like football tournaments, cricket tournaments, carrom, and card competitions. He is also seen as the livewire of the pada.
In his heart of hearts, he does not like Dhurdhuri much and makes fun of his famous line “It could have been worse”. If every situation is good because it could have been worse, it would mean everybody would be happy and Tony was not always happy.
Crap, he thought.
Dhurdhhuri goes to the fish market every alternate day. Sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the evening depending upon his information on the day’s catch.
He loves buying fish.
Once when his pet fish monger Manna gave him fish which was not fresh and wanted to return the money he had taken for the fish to Dhurdhuri he was, much to his surprise, greeted by:” It could have been worse Manna”. “I could have got food poisoning because of that rotten fish you gave me but I did not, so it is okay.”
When Tony came to know about this he was not elated. He thought it was foolish on the part of Dhurdhuri kaka (Uncle) not to take the money back. Professionally Manna was at fault, and he ought to have returned the money no matter what.
There are several such instances of “It could have been worse” by Dhurdhuri.
Once when the electric power went off for 6 hours following a breakdown he thought “it could have been worse”, when the pada was once submerged in floods he thought, it could have been worse and that the residents were lucky that no houses got damaged and that there were no fatalities.
When burglars broke into Mazumdar’s house and took away his watch and wallet he thought it could have been worse because they could have taken the refrigerator, the microwave, the television as well.
In such situations the sufferer, for eg Mazumdar on this occasion, never enjoyed the “it could have been worse” statement because it is generally the patient who feels the pain even though it could have been worse.
However, in general, since Dhurdhuri was consistent with his “it could have been worse” he passed off as a positive person in the eyes of most except Tony.
When the price of onions rose to Rs 90 per Kg and Dhurdhuri said “It could have been worse had it gone to Rs 100 per Kg something snapped within Tony.
Since then Tony has been waiting for an opportunity to effectively negate the “it could have been worse” theory of Dhurdhuri in public.
Lo and behold the opportunity soon presented itself to Tony.
On Monday evening when Dhurdhuri was returning home with a bagful of fish from the market he saw a gathering and commotion around the crossroad of the pada. Almost everyone from the pada was there. He could spot Tony, Tukai, Balai Babu, Captain Dutta, Mrs. Ganguly, and many more. He approached the crowd with stealthy cautious steps and tapped Tony on the back beckoning him aside.
“What is the matter Tony”, asked Dhurdhuri.
“Serious matter Kaka”, replied Tony with gloom written all over his countenance, “Sen Babu had come home early from office today and had spotted his wife and Bapi Dutta of house no 19 in a compromising position. In a fit of rage, he had pulled out his service revolver and shot dead his wife and Bapi Dutta and eventually committed suicide by shooting himself.” The Police were on the way and few journalists had already reached the scene.
Dhurdhuri looked at Tony shell shocked and discordant, his eyebrows went up, the frown was visible on his forehead, he looked up at the sky and then at Tony and said, “it could have been worse, much worse” and before Tony could react he was walking away at a very brisk pace putting distance between him and the crowd.
Anyway, police formalities, forensics, post-mortem, etc took their course with the residents helping and cooperating. In the end, the bodies or whatever remained of them were released by the Police for cremation.
On the morning of the Cremation Tony along with his few friends knocked into the house of Dhurdhuri. Dhurdhuri opened the door, welcomed them in, and made them sit in the out room mainly meant for such local pada meetings.
Dhurdhuri observed that the young men seemed agitated and once seated Tony suddenly asked “How come you said it could have been worse when Sen Babu shot dead his wife, Bapi Kaka, and himself?”. “What can be worse than this.” “All of them died on the spot and you say it could have been worse.”
Dhurdhri got up, opened the door looked at Tony and his friends, and said “it could have been worse because the incident did not happen on Friday but happened on Monday next”. Tony and his friend’s eyes were fixated on Dhurdhuri. “Had it happened on Friday evening I would have been dead in place of Bapi”.
There was pin-drop silence in the room. Tony lifted himself from his chair and so did his friends and one by one, in single file they left.
The funeral procession started a couple of hours later. It was a One Km walk from the locality and it was decided that everyone would walk down to the crematorium. Dhurdhuri reached slightly late, and the procession had just left. He caught up with them and was walking along in the last row of moving people.
He kept walking drowned in his thoughts and emotions when there was a sudden pat on the back. He wheeled around to see Tony behind him.
“Kaka Romila, Probir’s wife is expecting,” said Tony.
“That’s good news”, said Dhurdhuri.
“Well, it could have been worse,” said Tony.
Dhudhuri looked at Tony with dazed eyes unable to comprehend what Tony was trying to say.
“Dhudhuri Kaka”, continued Tony, “Probir thinks the baby is his.”
Before Dhurdhuri could come out of his stupor Tony had disappeared. Dhurdhuri turned around to see that the funeral procession had advanced a long way.
He made an about turn and started walking back home.
“What happened” enquired his wife. “It could have been worse said Dhurdhuri” and walked into his room and locked himself in.
He was a typical Bengali bhadralok ( Gentleman ) who loved his rice, fish curry, rosogolla, and the occasional beer with fish fry.
He had given up on whiskey and other hard drinks long ago. The beer however continued to be his occasional accompaniment.
When he had crossed the age of 55 he had realized that beer suited his age and his guts. The other hard drinks like whiskey and rum had started behaving strangely with him as his years advanced. While Whiskey gave him acidity the rum gave him a headache.
He thus had denounced them and befriended the chilled beer.
He was looking forward to his retirement when he could finally hang his boots and come out of the drudgery and monotony of office. He had certain mental plans around his retirement and most of them revolved around leading a relaxed life at his terms. No meetings, no making notes, no deadlines, no nothing but the 24 hours of the day to himself to do as he pleased.
Wake up slightly late, go for a morning walk, make friends with few morning walkers of his age, come back to settle down to some nice Darjeeling tea and the daily newspaper, followed by morning chores and a small nap.
The lovely breakfast would follow the nap. Luchi ( White flour puffed Indian bread )Radhaballavi (A Bengal delicacy – stuffed puffed bread ),the Bengali triangular paratha ( a type of Indian bread ) the conventional bread and omelet, some nalen gurer Sandesh ( Sweetmeat made with Date jaggery ). Heavenly.
Do some gardening and pursue other small hobbies like working on the crossword to finally go for a nice bath followed by a warm meal preferably rice and fish curry with different types of typical Bengali fries every day. French fries, bitter gourd fries, crispy fried lady finger, the loveable begun bhaja ( A Bengali brinjal fry dish ) the jhuri aloo bhaja ( thin and crispy French fries )with a dash of curry leaves, chilly and groundnut. Ending with Papad and tomato chutney. Mishti doi ( sweet curd ) once in a while.
Then the quintessential afternoon nap with a novel to read before the slumber, the evening tea with some small savory eats like samosa ( Indian stuffed deep-fried patties ), aloo tikki chat ( A snack made with Potato Patty )the evergreen jhal moori ( Famous Bengali puffed rice small eat laced with chiily, peanuts, coriander leaves, spices and stirred with a dash of mustard oil ).
Late Evening would be for the TV serials, movies followed by a nice dinner with chicken curries of various kinds. Rezalla being his favorite.
Basically Gourhari Babu had his retirement plans cut out. Time to himself and life to himself was the central theme.
However, just as he retired, was given a short farewell, reached home, and decided to settle down to his retired life a thought suddenly struck him like a thunderbolt.
He suddenly realized that he had to accomplish the one important mission of getting his daughter married to a decent groom and send her away to a nice household.
So the next day morning he folded the newspaper, placed the teacup on the center table, and beckoned his wife. “Look Nandini” he said, “before the second wave of the pandemic sweeps me away to the beyond world we should get our daughter married”.
Nandini suddenly flared up as if some dying embers inside her had been suddenly stoked and replied in an acerbic tone “Have I not been telling you this all the while for the last two years”. “At least you can start by putting an advertisement in the matrimony section of the newspaper” she continued.
Like a man possessed and enlightened Gourhari Babu pulled out his pen and notebook and got to work. After a few scribblings and strikeouts, he finally came up with what he thought was the perfect draft of a matrimonial ad for his daughter. He called his wife Nandini and placed the notebook in front of her, a victory smile hanging on his lips.
The ad read like this:
Required for COVA-1 beautiful and educated 24 only daughter a vaccinated groom. Reply with Photo, IT Returns and vaccination certificate on WhatsApp number 96********. Preference for double dose applicants.
Nandini looked confused. “Look old man, “she said, “ your memory seems to be failing you”. “Our daughter is Sova and not Cova” and why do you need to mention only daughter.”
Gourhari babu laughed and said “Hello, that is not Sova it is COVA-1 meaning that she has taken the first dose of Covaxin. This is a piece of important information and should be mentioned. Writing it fully without abridging it would have cost another 600 Rupees. Well, as you can see the ad is quite crisp and accurate.”
“The mention of the only daughter adds some weight to the ad and conveys a lot.”
After the publication of the ad, the trio of daughter-mother-father would keep waiting eagerly for responses. Within a short period, a shortlist of five applicants was prepared. These were mainly those who had taken both their doses of the vaccine. Those who had not mentioned the status of their vaccination history were outrightly rejected.
The boy whom Sova had liked the most was eventually rejected after a lot of debate because he had taken just one dose. Though he was registered for the second dose Gourhari Babu was reluctant to take any risk. What if he did not get his second dose before the marriage?
Well, the process proceeded well and through the usual rituals of meetings, discussions, more discussions, and more meetings a match was found and a final decision regarding him was arrived at, and the day of the marriage was decided.
Now was the time for invitations.
Gourhari babu and Nandini had a lot of relatives on each side, and they were quite well known in the locality too so as per Pandemic Regulations it was getting too difficult to restrict the invitee list to 50. Even the essential and must invitee list was going to hundred plus.
Finally, Gourhari Babu resorted to the Man Friday of the locality Raju. Raju was summoned.
Raju was the most popular odd jobs man in the area and there was nothing he could not manage. This skill made him a very wanted man in trying circumstances.
“Look Raju, Sova is our only daughter and even after a lot of deletions my invite list comes to a minimum of 500 people. Suggest something Raju Bhai,” Gourhari pleaded.
Raju was cool “Look Dada leave your problem to me, what am I here for, I have schemes and plans for all such situations.’ “These schemes are flexible and can be chosen as per your budget and requirements.”
“If the invitees are in and around Kolkata I can organize home delivery for them. During the delivery, if they give wedding gifts our teams shall collect those too and deliver them to you for free. If you also give me the catering, I will get the wedding card printed free along with it.” Raju had started explaining his services in detail already.
“Look Raju, we can do a digital card on WhatsApp. In any case that would not cost,” reverted Gourhari babu. “Raju Bhai making that free is not a big deal that you are giving me.”
“Dada,”said Raju “After all it is about your only daughter. The digital card has to be designed. Also, since you have at least 500 invitees I will prepare around 50 Printed cards and 200 digital cards, I shall customize them too. Every digital card shall have either a Zoom or YouTube link wherein the invitees can log in and watch the marriage ceremony. In the process, the invitees shall also have the option of selecting the food of their choice from the menu available within the link itself. The orders shall digitally get recorded with us and parcels shall be prepared accordingly. The menu card shall be programmed and shall be in sync too. For example, if you have invited someone singly without family, he/she will only be able to place one order and so on.”
“The number of members invited per card shall be captured and hardcoded and nobody will be able to place unnecessary extra orders. However, the process shall also allow a bit of flexibility to factor in few extra people in the family which you might not have envisaged. In that case, the invitee shall have an option to escalate, and an approval link shall come to us which we shall approve upon discussion with you.”
“Generally, as per our experience this does not come into play because we also tend to factor people who might not attend, could be traveling, could be sick, and so on. The invitees shall have the option to select between Veg, Non-Veg, and Jain food. However, the cost per plate will depend upon the flexibility you advise us to build into the digital menu card and order processing”.
“For example, in marriage we do not have a limit to the food one can consume but you need to factor this into the program when we move online so that people do not order too much extra food. For example, you could limit the Fish Fry Selection to a maximum of five per person. Our rates will thus depend on these options that you select.”
Nandini was listening with astonishment writ large on her face. The was all Greek to her. She had a question though “Raju there could be few elderly people who would not be able to order online like this. What do you do for them?”
“No Tension Madam,” said Raju. “If you can list them out we can even have the option of order on phone or on Whatsapp where they could choose to order through an IVR assisted system or directly go to our Customer Executive who shall take the order and explain the menu. Also, for people in the locality, I can get the marriage function broadcasted live on the local cable network. The elderly need to only switch on their local network channel at the given time.”
“We shall be recording the entire function and can share links later and one can always playback and view the entire ceremony.”
Gourhari Babu was impressed but had a question at this point “ How can we create the option for gifts?” he asked.
“Not to worry”. said, Raju. “The link shall also have an option for ordering gifts. The gifts link shall take the invited to popular sites like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, and the like. You can decide the sites and let us know and we shall create the link. Dada, we have also thought of many things. Suppose you do not need certain gifts like Microwave, Mixer, etc because you might already have them we can disable these gifts and people would not be able to select these. Also, to ensure that various people do not order the same gift we can lock the system accordingly as well.”
“For example, we can limit the gift link to say three wall clocks. So as soon as three wall clocks get ordered no one else can further order a wall clock. We can set these locks and limits after a discussion with you. You can thus avoid unwanted gifts or duplication of gifts. We can also create various payment options of by Card, Net Banking, G Pay and all of that.”
Gourhari babu and Nandini were impressed.
“Let us go ahead Raju,” they said.
“Just make sure that the program allows selection of menu only after a gift is selected and ordered”. “After all Sova is our only daughter”. Gourhari was now thinking of the positives of the technology. He continued, “Make sure you have online IT support for those who are facing difficulty in ordering the gift. Also, make sure that a gift once ordered cannot be canceled. We should also have a minimum threshold for the gift order, after all, we cannot have people ordering just a small bouquet and then going on to order a full course menu, You may not extend such IT support for the food order. There I am sure people shall be able to figure out themselves”.
Friends, You are all invited to the marriage. A link shall follow soon.
Please do attend.
“Raju Raju this is me Gourhari this side on the Phone. I have a special request. I have made a list of 30 People for whom you shall have to specially program”.
“What is to be done,” said Raju.
“Well, these thirty would first have to go to the gift order just as we discussed for everyone. But these thirty should not be able to access the food menu after they place confirmed order for a gift. The system should throw up some error or the other”.
“Settling old scores”, said Raju
“No these are the ones who did not invite me to their son’s or daughters’ weddings so let us digitally teach them a lesson”.
You could either love him or hate him, but you could neither ignore him nor forget him.
That was Anjan Bandopadhyay. Welcome to his world and beyond now.
More often than not you ended up loving him.
The first time you met him you could easily discern lurking mischief in his eyes and a smile that continued to be his hallmark throughout his life.
If there was ever a born prankster who strode upon this earth right from his birth here was one. In playing pranks, pulling fast ones and in leg-pulling, he would beat anyone hands down.
His effervescence and vivacity were always palpable and you could feel a whiff of fresh air whenever he was with you. There was never a dull moment with him as if God had forgotten to put the feeling of dullness and sadness into him.
I always mentally considered him at least 9 months elder to us. I say this because while in our mother’s womb we floated around getting nourished and supported, Anjan’s mind was already at work. I am sure that he used these 9 odd months to conjure up tricks and store them up his sleeves so that he could start pulling people’s legs right from the day he landed on earth.
I am sure even in the womb he would have tricked his mother several times through false labor pains, the odd kick here and there inside and he would have surely arrived either earlier or later than the world would have expected him to.
I first met him at college (10 + 2 ) and he immediately grew upon me. He was the fun element of the entire gang and even though we were at different hostels his pranks and mischiefs were part of folklore in an otherwise strictly disciplinarian college where you could hear the pin drop at the slightest deviation of discipline.
He would have got expelled many times over but always managed to dodge the inevitable by his sheer presence of mind and uncanny intelligence.
One of his friends and a hostel mate of Anjan recalls an incident where they were caught outside the prayer hall during prayer hours. Please note that morning and evening prayer attendance was mandatory, and dereliction was considered a serious offense and normally led to expulsion. The Maharaj (warden) who caught them got them summoned in front of the principal who was a strict disciplinarian and never tolerated the slightest deviation.
The Principal looked at Anjan and said, “I understand you do not attend the prayer sessions”.
“How do you say that Maharaj,” asked back Anjan. “Why your warden has seen you” replied the principal in his cold emotionless voice like the executioner preparing for the guillotine.
Anjan now turned sideways to face the warden and asked him “Maharaj you attend your prayers daily, you reach the prayer hall in time and you sit in deep mediation at the prayer hall till the end. How can you know that I do not attend prayer sessions”?
The warden was now in a fix. Stating that he had seen Anjan regularly not attending prayers would mean that he did not attend the prayer sessions himself. He looked stumped, looked left and looked right, and then said to the principal “Maharaj I have heard that these two do no attend prayers”. The principal realizing that the allegation would neither stand the test of eye witness nor evidence dismissed them with a warning.
On quizzing Anjan as to how he had conjured up this airtight story he had said “The only way we could have got out of it was to move the issue to the warden”.
Anjan went on to be a Gold Medallist from Calcutta University and found his calling in journalism and straddled the world of print media, digital media, and broadcast journalism with ease and carved a niche and name for himself. Some of his shows on TV have been very popular. He was very popular amongst his peers and was known to stand up for his subordinates.
They all recall his wit, sarcasm, loud infectious laugh, and his leg-pulling abilities. He could spring up a joke and conjure up laughter even in the tensest of moments.
His loss is unfathomable. It is impossible to imagine this jovial character bundled up under ventilator support and fighting for his breath and life. The man who gave life and resonance to many even during the gloomiest times had to keep fighting death. I am sure he would have tried to pull up some pranks on the Yamraj waiting for him and I am sure Yamraj would almost have fallen for it but alas………….
Even as I write this and think of him now I have a smile on my face and a peal of laughter trying to burst out of me because that is the way we have all known Anjan.
He would have landed in heaven already now and soon after the initial acclimatization would start pulling legs of all the Gods and Goddesses and Apsaras. Initially, they will enjoy it but with time they would not know where to hide from his mischief and pranks. Whenever they see Anjan they would try and hide behind each other afraid of being pulled up in public.
I am sure they will soon call for a meeting among themselves and decide to send Anjan back to earth. They would call it Amader Rai (Our Verdict) and Anjan like Mary Poppins would catch the first rainbow to slide down to earth.
On his way, he would laugh at the sky the clouds, and the birds.
Let it be known we will all be waiting for him today, tomorrow, always…
He would call for his Saline ( Those who know about it need no explanation, those who do not know about it perhaps need not know ) at his Dr friends’ clinic.
I am in Business Development. That is the term used nowadays. It just a fancy name for a salesman. Bhai kharid lo chalo powerpoint dekh lo (Brother buy please, have a look at the PPT)
Therefore, I keep hunting for prospects, Murgas (Scapegoats )
In quest of a prospect which was looking very positive, I was to travel to Coimbatore along with my two colleagues. As per regulations, we all had to take the RT PCR as a negative COVID report was required to travel to the state of Tamilnadu.
We gave our swabs on Thursday 24th of March 2021 in the office itself. The phlebotomist poked inside the nose and the mouth with jolly indifference captured and locked the alleged viruses in a small tube and left with the promise of delivering the report by the next day that is the 25th of March 2021.
Our bags were packed, and we were ready to go and since I had to leave from the office itself, I had brought my suitcase in the car to the office after the customary goodbyes, travel safe and come back soon rituals of the family.
The next day I was in an important meeting in the office when one of my colleagues who was to travel with me barged into me and beckoned me to come out of the meeting and follow him. On the way, I was having uncanny thoughts about his gender predilections as he led me to a quiet deserted corner of the office. His expression looked grave and just as I was thinking it was about some business that we might have lost it turned out to be worse. The diagnostic center had called my colleague to inform that I had tested Positive for the ill-famed COVID.
He delivered the news to me, jumped two steps back, and before I could digest it had disappeared from sight.
I was left alone at this quiet corner and as soon as my senses returned, I scampered to my desk, shut down my laptop, and rushed out. I pressed the lift button and scampered in as the lift door opened. Once inside and before the door could shut I could see Mehul waving at me to hold the lift as he came running to the elevator intending to descend too. I shouted back “No, No” ,” Positive Positive” and before the elevator door could close I watched him stop dead on his tracks, turn around and run back into the confines of the office.
I got into my car with myriad thoughts crisscrossing my mind. I had to tell the Driver because my house was about an hour away and I thought the driver should know. I thus sounded him off and to my surprise instead of pulling up at the nearest kerb, opening the door, and running away he stayed put and stepped on the accelerator totally dismissing my condition away.
In the meantime, the news had spread like wildfire in the office, and I started getting calls from various quarters all enquiring about my health and wellbeing. Let it be known that I had no symptoms but the report was positive and that was what mattered
There was a plethora of advice from different quarters and the various pieces of advice created a strange cocktail. From isolating myself to smelling camphor to bathing with iodine and Dettol to burning neem leaves to inhaling steam to taking Vitamin C and Zinc to exercise.
I called my wife to inform her. She first shrieked in panic and then retorted back with a brilliant idea stating that I should straight go to a hospital or a hotel and quarantine myself more so as my mother aged 77 was staying with us. I suddenly realized that the gravity of the disease was such that I was unwelcome at home though I had no symptoms. I hated John Denver for “Country Roads Take Me Home”, well obviously he had sung it in the Non-COVID Era.
Suddenly the driver turned around to ask if I was asymptomatic? I was astounded. Covid had taught quite a bit of medical terminology to everybody. He also asked me if I would have to quarantine myself. I told him that I had no symptoms and perhaps my Viral Load was less. He told me that all this was a hoax and I could better check my load through a weighing machine. An increase in weight would indicate virus inside me. I was laughing away at his smart dehati ( rural ) logic.
However, he stood his ground advised me not to worry, and offered me to isolate myself in his one-room accommodation while he could stay with his friend and take care of me on daily basis.
On the way when my thoughts settled a bit, I called home and told them to prepare the attached bedroom for my isolation all the while trying to sniff and smell various parts of the car on the way to see if there was any loss of smell.
I also decided to rush to the Apollo Hospital near my house to try to do a quick Rapid Antigen Test. Once there I quickly went for a RAT, returned home, and locked myself into the room which was readied for me. I was now in solitary confinement.
The RAT Test report was collected by my driver who called me and immediately started shouting “Sir Negative Sir Negative” as if he had won the Noble Prize.
His happiness was palpable, and I consulted Drs and friends only to realize that the RT PCR was a much more authentic test and for all practical purposes I would be considered positive. That was settled thus, and I braced myself for isolation.
Once inside I felt a sense of relief. I was in a world of my own with my door locked. I had carried essentials inside. An electric heater to allow me to boil water for steaming, betadine liquid, carton of drinking water. A small tool was laid outside my door for the delivery of food and my utensils were segregated.
I thus settled down with my Corona and my Corona combat gear while the rest of the family managed in the other bedroom and the living room.
The first few days were fun. Food would be served to me outside and I would quietly open the door with some warning allowing others to step back a distance, eat quietly, wash the utensils in the bathroom washbasin and keep them outside again. I realized that the food being served to me was slightly special and thought that my condition in the minds of my family warranted special attention to me.
I tele-consulted a doctor who charged me a bomb and issued a long prescription with more of advice and less of medicines. I was told to monitor my temperature and my oxygen saturation every four hours and maintain a chart. I was also told to take vapor at least four times a day.
I would thus pass my days with a set routine. Wake up, boil water on the electric heater, add betadine and inhale vapor, wash my own clothes, clean my utensils, record oxygen levels and temperature every four hours and report to the doctor who generally reverted with a thumbs up and a bill which I had to honor.
My limited knowledge on the subject had told me that the 5th day to the 10th was dangerous. So, as the fifth day approached, I started getting nervous and fidgety. I tried to google my various symptoms only to conclude that I probably had every medical condition except pregnancy.
Inactivity inside the room led to sleeplessness and many times I would wake up in the middle of the night, stare at the ceiling, and finding myself unable to sleep would go about testing myself for symptoms. I was aware that COVID was characterized by loss of taste and smell so many times in the middle of the night I would wake up and go around the bedroom and the attached bathroom smelling things like shampoo, soap, phenyl, colin, harpic, and whatnot.
I was living like a dog with my nose to the ground and smelling away all day.
By the 10th day, I would have given any dog a run for the money in the aspect of smell.
Finding that my smell had not deserted me I would try and check my taste.
However, in an isolated room barred from going outside in the middle of the night what would you try to eat to check your taste. I would thus try and nibble on bars of soap only to spit them out, The taste was intact too without an iota of doubt. I also, after some time started liking the smell of Phenyle and the taste of soap.
After few days I started missing my family members. The pranks and laughter of my daughters the activity of the house, the sight of my wife cooking in the kitchen, the fights, and arguments.
It was all silence with the world happening outside my room.
Many a time I would sit on the balcony watching the activities in and around Karawe Gaon or soak in the sun setting across the creek and watch the birds fly past.
I particularly made friends with a pigeon who would come daily morning and perch itself on the outdoor unit of my AC and we would talk for hours in some pigeony language. The pigeon taught me perseverance and in my later days of confinement would even refuse to fly away despite me trying to shoo it away.
She was like the dedicated hospital nurse swooping down to check on me every day.
I would also get frequent calls from the NMMC enquiring about my health only to be surprised to know that I had no symptoms at all.However their calls never stopped as if they were expecting to see some symptoms develop on me which would probably justify their calls.
Various members of the society enquired about me and these conversations kept my day going.
Finally, on the 9th day I called for another RTPCR and on the day upon testing negative I emerged from my room and walked into the cheers and smiles of my family members.
I realized how it was without them and I thanked God to have emerged in good health, unlike many others who had not been so lucky.
I silently prayed for those who could not make it out of the ordeal.
Man is a social animal. I am not saying this. It has been said by Aristotle the legendary Greek Philosopher.
Well, that is Greek to me literally and so it must be to you.
He did not mention Women, but I am sure he meant to include Women too. What about LGBQTs. They are social too. Animals are also social.
In the Garden of Eden grew the Forbidden Fruit and God commanded that this not be eaten. However, In the biblical narrative, Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and are exiled from Eden.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
The circle of birth-life-death and the procreation evidences the social existence of humanity.
Gatherings Social /Religious / Otherwise, Weddings/Nikah, Concerts, Sporting Events, Birthday Parties, Addas at street corners and pan walas. Pubs, Cinema Halls, Rites, and Rituals and even Janazas / Funerals indicate how social a human being is. Stick together in life till death do us part and then gather around the mortal body for the last time.
English poet John Donne, writing in the 17th century, famously wrote that “no man is an island,” comparing people to countries, and arguing for the interconnectedness of all people.
That is enough. Let us lose the philosophy for the time being and cut to the story.
The new normal for social? What is it? “Social Media”. Oh Yes.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, Viber, Hangout, Messenger, Snapchat, Linkedin. Tumbler, You Tube, Bumble, Tiktok, Pintrest, Zoom, Skype, Google Meets, Reddit and Whatsapp. Phew and there are many more. Millions and Zillions of people connected through all this. Is that Social enough?
This incident is about Whatsapp.
A great feature of Whatsapp is creation of groups for group chats. While some groups are very common like say “1988 Engineering Batch”, “Table Tennis Group”, “Housing Society Group”, “College Project Groups”, “ Family Groups” and some bizarre groups like “ Frusto Group” of frustrated employees, “ lunch Munch Group “ of office employees having lunch together, ” Despo Group “, ” Tharki Group” , ” Assholes” , fun groups like “Awesome Marathis” of a group of Marathi friends, “ Cricket Lovers Group “, “Kitty Party Group” “ PNPC Group ( Par Ninda Par Charcha )etc etc etc. The list can be endless.
Then there are certain formal office groups. Many a times often created by HR including all employees or a certain level of employees and so on and so forth.
In a Company called Promenade Corporation Limited a Multinational Company there was such a group called Team Promenade.
The group included around 495 and counting employees. This was largely a formal group created by the HR but to some extent was used a bit socially too as people posted jokes, trivia, anecdotes, interesting videos etc apart from HR Communications posted by HR. Not everyone in this group knew everyone but still most participated even with the unknowns in some form or other.
The post popular being wishing Happy Birthdays. Someone would know someone’s birthday in the group and post “ Happy Birthday” and as if like an electric current passing through various conductors everyone in the group would suddenly be jolted awake to wish happy birthday to this person whose birthday it was supposed to be as per the post. The Birthday Person would then keep posting things like “Thank You”, “ So Sweet of You”, “ Thanks for remembering “ and so on.
On a typical birthday the birthday messages and thank you messages back from the recipient of the wishes would go on for the entire day depending on who tired out first. While each wished a birthday the poor wish recipient would generally wish a thank you to each and everyone. I am sure by the end of the day the fellahs thumb would be sore enough for cutting a cake necessitating the requirement of a proxy.
It was a bright Sunday morning and Jamlu had just woken up. The first thing he usually did was look at his phone and check for Whatsapp Messages. As he unlocked his phone and went to his Whatsapp a message suddenly popped up in the office group:
“Happy Birthday Sachin”, This message came from Huzefa.
Jamlu also quickly typed, “ Many Happy Returns of the day Sachin” , checked other messages and went about his morning chores. It was 7.00 AM.
He returned to his Whatsapp again at around 9.30 AM. A lot of messages had come in the office group with members of the group wishing happy birthday to Sachin in varying hues, colours and language.
“ Takle, Janamdin Mubarak “
“Cake and Thumbs Up emojis and images.”
“Where is the party tonight” said another.
“How old are you now birthday boy” Someone was curious.
A gif of a glass and drinks bottle where the bottle would jump up and pour the heady concoction into the glass followed with CHEERS in bold.
Certain images of Bouquets, Flowers, Cadbury, Burgers, French Fries.
“Where is the cake, Sachin“said one more.
“How many candles” said another.
There were certain audio messages too saying Happy Birthday, Birthday Wishes, Mubarak and even a Happy Birthday Song.
One employee even got romantic and posted a you tube link to the song “Bachelor Boy “by Cliff Richards. To which some one wrote. “Hey, he is not a bachelor”.
This was followed by another link to another song “Bade Acche lagte hain ……”
Then someone wrote something in Tamil and most immediately replied saying “Please Translate”.
Taking a cue the Bengalis Posted something in Bengali and the Marathis Posted something in Marathi and the Kannadigas , Tulus, Biharis, Oriyas, Kashmiris, Assamese all followed suit. This made Sachin’s Birthday very multi-cultural and multilingual. Some understood and some did not but everybody knew that whatever be the language it was related to the birthday.
After some time perhaps the birthday was forgotten as messages and counter messages became more important and everyone joined the fun thus unfolding. So people in the group were now chatting with each other triggered by the birthday message of the morning.
Jamlu was thoroughly enjoying this.
However, he suddenly realized that in spite of so many wishes Sachin had not replied at all. There was not a single message from Sachin, not a single Thank you. Now, this was surprising.
“Hey Sachin, where are you”, typed Jamlu, “blowing the candles already”?
Everyone else in the group woke up immediately and messages enquiring of Sachin kept popping up.
“Sachin buddy speak up”, “ Abe Sachin kuch to bol”, “ lagta hai sala abhi tak so raha hai jaga usko”, “ Sir have we got the date wrong”? ““Are there more Sachins in the group?”. “ Kal raat ko jyada chada li shayd”.
The messages were now getting directed to Sachin but still there was no response.
It was around 2.30 PM now.
Suddenly a message from Girija stunned everyone to absolute silence.
“Friends, Sachin is not in this group at all “. Wrote Girija.
There was absolute silence, and nobody wrote for about a couple of hours.
Finally Pranav wrote “Bhai Log likhne se pehle dekh toh liya karo ki banda group mein hain bhi ya nahi bus uth ke Happy Birthday likh diya. Kal ko agar Mere Padosi ke bhen ke husband ke bhai ke bacche ke sasur ka janamdin ho to kya is group mein likhoge”
Ha Ha Ha.
From then Jamlu never wishes anybody Happy Birthday in Whatsapp Groups. He is many a times labelled Un-social for this, but he prefers to be so instead of wishing someone who is not even there to take the wishes.
Banku had fallen asleep. He was deep in slumberland.
The conditions were such. On a steamer, in the lower deck, traveling with tourists through the Sunderban Delta, mangroves all around, the melodious and rhythmic rocking of the boat, the cool breeze, the serenity, the empty bench on the lower deck, enough to stretch legs, lie down and travel to slumberland.
Suddenly a strange smell entered his nostrils. It was a known-unknown smell. He could not recall where he had felt that smell. The steamer was rocking slowly in rhythm to the waves of the delta and the slumber was great.
Where did this smell come from so suddenly?
Banku opened his eyes slowly like a newborn wary of facing the world.
It seemed somebody was lying on the bench opposite. Banku quickly put on his spectacles which he had removed and placed on the bench before falling asleep.
He shuddered at what he saw. Lying on the other bench and staring at him nonchalantly and with utter disdain was a Royal Bengal Tiger. The Panthera tigris Tigris subspecies, native to the Indian subcontinent and the biggest among the wild cats alive today. The National animal of India and Bangladesh.
He could not have out-run the tiger, jumping out of the steamer would have landed him in water and made him vulnerable to more of the species. Therefore, with a pounding and panic-stricken heart Banku just continued to lie on his bench, largely frozen in panic.
Suddenly the Tiger looked at Banku, smiled, and said, “Good Morning”.
Without realizing what was happening Banku replied “Good Morning”. “It seems you not only can speak but also speak English,” said Banku to the tiger in a panic-stricken voice.
“I speak many languages,” said the tiger. “I need to” continued the Tiger “ since tourists from all over the world visit here it is good to understand their tongue”.
“How was your sleep”, asked the Tiger.
“Not bad, “said Banku.
“First time in the Sunderbans?” continued the tiger.
Banku nodded in the affirmative.
“Tell me how you would feel if we visited your houses,” asked the tiger. “What would you do?” “Would you welcome us in and serve us some fresh deer and allow us to see your house and make friends with your family”.
Banku was speechless.
“I know we are not welcome there,” said the tiger “why then do you visit our house and disturb us, that too in hundreds and thousands from all over the world”. “We are fed up”. “Why can’t you homo sapiens leave us in peace in our jungle”? The Tiger was visibly angry.
A tiger was enough and Banku now had an angry tiger.
“Well you see I have not disturbed you,” said Banku, “I have stayed put in the steamer and not gone ashore like the other tourists to disturb you and your family”.
“Forget it,” said the tiger. “Would you like to go to the toilet”?
“No,” said Banku. “Why should I go to the toilet”?
“Then I will eat now,” said the Tiger.
“What, whom, why?” stammered Banku.
“You of course,” said the Tiger.
“Nooooo, why?” Banku shot back in panic.
“Well, we have signed an MOU with the Forest Department you see,” said the Tiger licking its chops.
“What do you mean?, what MOU, “said Banku gathering some courage to sit upon the bench now.
“We have been promised, as per the MOU, ten tourists per month and in exchange we allow you to visit our jungle and we happily accept your visits without attacking anyone”. “As long as the MOU is honored we behave else we turn man-eaters”.
“How does it help you,” asked Banku.
“Have you not studied Marketing, are you, not an MBA?” retorted the tiger sarcastically. “Have you not done any projects in consumer behaviour, branding, market study and so on and so forth?”
“This will attract more tourists, we will make ourselves more visible and will get spotted easily”. “More revenue to the forest department and only then the forest department would be able to honor the MOU of giving us 10 tourists per month”. “Simple, attract the consumer and then fleece him”. “This is a strategic tie-up.”
Banku was under a panic attack now. “But, but my tour program did not mention this, meaning a tiger can eat me in the steamer itself”, replied he.
Banku could now recall the smell. He had got the smell at the Kolkata Zoological Garden when he was standing outside the cage of the Royal Bengal Tiger with his family members.
The tiger was looking amazed now as if trying to assess whether Banku was such a fool.
“You did not read the tour program properly” reverted the tiger with a wry grin.
“What the hell do you mean,” said Banku.” What was written”?
“Your tour program clearly mentioned in small fonts at the bottom “Conditions Apply” and it seems like most human beings you did not find this relevant and did not enquire about it”. Said the Tiger with an intelligent look on its face. “Had you asked about it they would have told you”, added the Tiger.
“You chose me,” said Banku crying. “Where is my family,” he asked.
“They have gone ashore with the tour guide into the jungle”, replied the tiger.
“Will some other tigers eat them too”?, asked Banku in tears.
“No”, said the tiger, “we follow the MOU”. “From one family only one tourist to be eaten is one of the conditions and all tigers strictly abide by this”. “We don’t look at loopholes in MOUs like you humans do”.
Banku realized that he did not have much of a choice. “Will you eat me now or do I have some time”, asked he.
“Well, you can take your time”. “We have an hour or so in our hands and you can mentally prepare yourself to be eaten and don’t try to run because I can easily pounce upon you and catch you and that will make my meal bloodier which can be avoided”.
“Should I hold you by the scruff f the neck and take you to the roof of the steamer”, questioned the tiger.
“Why the roof”?, Banku was unable to comprehend.
“It is nice and sunny on the roof during this winter and I can enjoy my meal bit by bit on the roof under the sun,” said the Tiger.
“You will kill me and eat me and that is enjoyable for you”?. “How cruel and stone-hearted are you?”. “I have a family”, Banku was now desperate.
“I am sure the fishes, birds, sheep, lamb, goat and all the living things that you eat would think the same about you, cruel and heartless”. “What do you say to that?” said the Tiger looking angrier than before.
“How is it that I am heartless, sadist, cruel, and what not but you are not”. “This is grossly unfair”.” I could have moved the courts, but they delay matters”. “I cannot wait that long”. “In our jungle judgment is quick and fast”. “Also, you seem to have preserved your mind in the vinegar of false innocence”. “In any case the courts also are run by human beings like you”.
This tiger was well-educated thought Banku.
“Come let me take you by the scruff of your neck to the roof”. The tiger looked decided.
“I will die”, said Banku.
“Only the body dies, don’t you know,” said the tiger. “Read your Gita”. “The soul lives on so do not be so attached to the body”.
“Let me now approach you and take you by the scruff of the neck “, said the tiger advancing towards Banku.
Banku is looking at the tiger approaching him. The seat is getting wet and he can feel it, but he is not able to stop. Suddenly the Tiger’s face looks like Pramila his wife.
“Hello Hello wake up “Pramila is yelling at Banku, “ you have again wetted the bed, go to the toilet quickly, God I do not know how to manage this”. “We will go to the Doctor again today”.
Pramila’s voice floats in the air as Banku prepares to get up from his bed and go to the toilet. The strange smell continues to linger in his nostrils.
Bang Opposite Karawe Gaon ( Village ), at a stone’s throw from the Don Bosco School and within 300 meters of D Mart sprung up a 14 storied residential housing complex – “Tricity Promenade”.
The location was good, the railway station was nearby, and the Grand Central Mall was within striking range.
Many apartments in the complex facing the Karawe Gaon had Sea View too. Slightly distant but not too bad. You could see the sea, watch the sun setting on the horizon spreading its golden hue in the simmering water of the sea, seagulls chasing the waves and feel like you are out to the sea.
People looking to buy apartments started purchasing here and the apartments of this 14 storied building started getting sold to various people from various walks of life. The apartment complex has 60 apartments and an amenities floor which promises a swimming pool, gymnasium, kids’ playroom, banquet hall, a gazebo, and a few more amenities.
While bookings would have started much earlier residents started moving in from sometime around January/February 2020.
New owners in their new apartments with obvious glow and pride on their countenance.
The completion work was in progress, but occupancy had begun. For example, the amenities floor was not ready, the backup inverter was not yet upgraded to full capacity, the lift was behaving erratic, the security men and housekeeping staff was temporary, the overhead water tank would tend to overflow and something of this and something of that.
The management of the complex was still with the builder and the “Housing Society” formation had not yet taken place.
Then the lockdown happened and by the end of March, everything came to a standstill. Few families had shifted but many could not. In the meantime, as the residents got confined to their homes and their residential complexes, they got to know each other, made friends, and eventually formed a Whatsapp Group.
The group started growing and residents started exchanging notes and views in the group. With the partial lifting of lockdown, more families shifted, and people started meeting outside the group too. Social interactions had started growing and maturing.
Gradually the group started feeling the necessity of taking up various pending matters for action with the builder.
To quote a few:
Vibrations in the lift and erratic behavior of the lift in the event of power failure.
The capacity of the inverter to back up in the event of a power failure.
Completion of second-floor amenities.
Car parking issues and allotment.
Broken and missing floor tiles.
Finishing of bathrooms at staircase landings.
Fire Fighting equipment usage and demonstration.
Managing stray dogs entering the premises and littering the place.
Gradually the group started focusing on issues to be taken up with the builder and champions emerged. Someone knew about inverters, someone knew insurance requirements, someone could analyze the modality and functioning of the CCTVs, and so on.
Through various iterations, back and forth emails to the builder it was finally agreed with the builder that a final list of issues and pending work should be shared with the builder.
The group had started meeting very frequently and as a sequel to various such frequent and in-frequent meetings, a final list of issues/requirements/pending work started getting crystallized.
A final list of 22 issues was posted in the group with the request that if anybody felt that there was any other issue that needed to be added one could do so.
A few people did add few more issues like internet fiber cable line, intercom for the guards at the main gate, thorough and deep cleaning of the drainage systems, etc. However, there was one issue that got posted with a bang and caught everyone’s instant attention.
It said “Dog Chain”. This was posted by Hedait Bhai and generated immense curiosity.
It transpired like this (which we all got to know only later) that when everybody in the group saw the post none knew what it meant but everybody thought that the others knew and thus everybody felt embarrassed to ask about it.
Some left it at it as is, some made their interpretation of what it was supposed to mean but the more curious amongst the group called a few others privately to learn more about it.
I was part of the group too and while I had been quite active in listing out issues this one confounded me.
I will now unravel what followed.
I first called Nihal and he was confused too. In the meantime, Nihal had got quite a few calls as well.
One person had called Nihal to say that he did not need a dog chain as he had no pet dogs and neither did he intend to own one. However, if a dog chain was given to him, he would be happy to give it to somebody who needed it. Aha, “A Good Samaritan” at least from the Dog’s point of view.
Anand and Sarfaraz who have a technical bent of mind felt that the society would be given few dog chains by the builder which could be kept at the entrance lobby and could be used to chain any stray dogs getting in to be eventually reported to the dog squad of the Municipal Corporation.
They had started preliminary calculations on the tensile strength of the chain, its length, number of links and had also gone out to identify a place in the parking lot where such dogs could be chained. They were last seen with highly technical and complicated drawings on the various designs of the chain.
Sachin the chief promoter not wanting to get caught with wrong interpretations consulted Saumyadeep and Mukesh and came up with various interpretations of Dog chain the most bizarre being replacing the entire main gait with chains strung from one end to the other.
However, they dismissed this as improbable as they were not able to figure out how residents would maneuver these chains to enter the building complex. The only thing which looked probable was to have residents crawling in from under the gate.
Bhaskaran Sir the matured and technical man in the group with a lot of power plant experience behind him felt that this was perhaps meant to indicate a chain and pulley system for stacking dog houses where pet dogs could reside. He found this a unique idea and had started contemplating buying a dog as well. This was not the time to bother about the sinusoidal wave form.
Mr. Bhagwat was very busy with a lot of woodwork and interior work going in his house and could not put much thought behind this requirement though the question kept coming back to him and disturbing him like the constant hammering away of the carpenter.
The graceful ladies Shraddha and Shazia thought a chain was not required as they did not believe in chaining dogs. They considered it against animal rights, and they raised a red flag and said, “No Dog Chain is required”.
I am sure the DA (Dogs’ Association) was very happy with this as that day I saw quite a few dogs barking away happily in front of our gate as if to announce look you humans we have friendlies amongst you. The security guard thought they were challenging us openly.
Samant being the quintessential finance man to the core was not worried about what this meant as he had confidence in the idea of Hedait Bhai. He only wanted to check the financial implications of this in the long run.
He had already started working on various spreadsheets. The spreadsheet was almost done except for one formula where he wanted to link the cost calculations to the weight of a dog.
Vikas Kadam and Vijay Babar were slightly confused too but Vikas thought Vijay knew and Vijay thought Vikas knew.
They happened to meet Nihal separately. While Vikas enquired about a cat chain Vijay wanted to know if he could use a leather belt instead of a chain.
Nihal was diplomatic and said that he would confirm with the builder.
One day while rushing to the office I met Sagar at the lift lobby and he said, “Sir get the dog chain done quickly”. I said “of course” and rushed off thinking that here was a man who was confident about what it meant. I admired his intelligence.
While Ranjit said he despised the thought of beating up a dog with a chain Bhavna decided to consult experts in the Middle East who told them that they would prefer to discuss camels rather than dogs. I am not sure if she will come back with the idea of a Camel Chain.
Das was busy with Mahanagar Gas Connections so he missed the Dog Chain matter and was shaken into conscious cognizance of the matter as various residents started whispering about it. He decided to let dogs lie low and concentrate on the gas connection. Good that he was not deterred by the dog chain else the gas flow into our kitchens would have got further delayed.
Alok my neighbor, a seasoned shipper, chimed my doorbell one day. When I opened the door, he had a strange look on his face very much akin to the Captain of a ship fearing imminent rough weather.
“I have seen many chains in a ship but not a dog chain,” said he.
Well, the inside of a ship is as Greek to me as the surface of the moon, so I diverted the topic by asking him whether dogs were allowed in his ship.
He said a yes and then a no and then said he would check the shipping Manual for exact rules and regulations on dogs. I have not heard from him since.
I think I heard him one day reading aloud “The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner”.
Nihal who by now had become the secretary of the Provisional Committee had to take numerous questions on the dog chain. One day I found him tucked in a corner on the terrace reading a book and making notes. I asked him what he was reading, and he displayed the book to me. The book was called “Chaining your dog” written by a Veterinarian. I am sure by now he would have read enough to double up as a Vet.
Philomina had been busy writing and decided not to bother about the dog chain thereby reposing, sub-consciously, faith in the committee.
Some of us thought of consulting Gadekar uncle but normally Gadekar uncle could be engaged only in early mornings during his morning walks on the terrace. Five AM for most was a tough hour to negotiate and engage Gadekar uncle in a dawn discussion on Dog Chains. The idea was considered inconvenient and dropped.
When the matter had gone round and round and got entangled enough suddenly Samumyadeep posted in the group in Capitals “WHAT IS THE DOG CHAIN WE ARE TALKING ABOUT”.
The lines descended on the screen of everyone’s mobiles and everyone waited with bated breath for an answer from someone else in the group.
20 mins down and now one had replied. Now it dawned upon everyone that each one was confused. The apple had fallen on Newton’s head.
Finally, Sarfraz broke theprint pause and wrote “let us discuss with Hedait Bhai”. Everyone left his/her apartment in their individual capacity to knock at Hedait Bhai’s door. While everyone left individually it was a collective gang that eventually landed up at Hedait Bhai’s door.
Hedait Bhai opened the door and burst out laughing. He said he had been enjoying the fun for the last five days.
We urged him to explain which he did.
Hedait Bhai had struck upon an idea of preventing stray dogs from entering the premises so he had thought of chains attached to the lower end of the main gate. He took out a paper and drew and explained. This is what he had meant by “Dog Chain” little realizing then that this would confuse scientists, engineers, accounts, Doctors, businessmen, and everyone else alike.
The students were enlightened, eventually.
The dog chains are installed now, and this is how they look. I must say I have not seen stray dogs inside after that. The committee has now been designated to check the working of the chain through a live demo.
It has been decided to bring five dogs of various sizes and breeds and station them on the other side of the main gate and close the gates. These dogs would then be tempted to try and pass through the main gate by placing dog bones on the other side of the gate and the committee would observe if the dog chain blocked them from crossing over.
The demo is scheduled for the coming Sunday. We are planning to make it a big event and trying to see which celebrity can be called to grace the occasion.
All are welcome and can bring their pet dogs too.
Let us see who has the last laugh Hedait Bhai or the rest.
Well as they say “Every dog has his day”
On Public Demand this event would be streamed live on You Tube too. Link will soon follow.
P.S: Breaking News:
Tamanna the “Go To Lady” with the builder and our one point contact at the Builder’s Side has agreed to support the demo by providing dogs from their side. These dogs shall be delivered soon and kept under the custody of Nath.Tamanna is also organizing a dog trainer for the event.
The committee has now decided to rope in other housing societies as well and we shall soon be looking at a “Dog Premier League”
This Engineering college hostel was unique. In today’s age, it would have been called the USP of the hostel.
Unique Selling Proposition. Huh.
For us, it was a privilege not available to the other hostels or rather not available in most hostels across the country in those times – The 1980s. We not only bragged about it but often misused it as well
The hostel had a swimming pool attached to it. Let us understand the layout plan a bit as that would be a good reference for understanding and appreciating the incident.
There were strict rules laid out for the usage of the swimming pool and the specified time of use was one of them. These rules had evolved over the years as the swimming pool had been a witness to many incidents like drunk students rampaging the pool, midnight water polo, slips and falls, Daru parties beside the pool, converting the entire pool into a coloured water tank during holi, running in the pool naked and so on.
The knowledge gained through experience of several engineering batches and their pattern of use of the swimming pool had been the genesis for the many stringent rules applicable for use of the swimming pool during our times. Interestingly students kept finding ingenious methods of breaching the rules thereby regularly necessitating updating of the rules.
There were many rules but for the story let us look at a few rules relevant to the story
Swimming was allowed from 6.00 AM to 9.00 AM and from 7.00 PM to 9.00 PM only.
Drinking was strictly prohibited in and around the pool area.
Breach of these rules meant suspension from the college.
This swimming pool was fiercely guarded by the hostel warden Srivastava.
A shortish rotund man known for his penchant for adherence to rules and for his no mercy towards punishment on breach of these rules. He personally ensured that all rules were followed and personally locked both the entrances to the swimming pool from the hostel side and the side of the faculty quarters.
Now in engineering college hostels, the one thing that is obvious and common across the world is the uncanny ability of students to bypass, bend, ingeniously deviate and/or blatantly disregard rules and codes. This is about once such incident.
It was a lazy Saturday evening, and a party was going on in the hostel room 409 of Jatin on the 4th floor. There was some beer which was flowing and there were singing and dancing. Sometime later in the evening someone mixed some whiskey with the beer and delivered the concoction to everyone. The concoction true to its reputation had the desired effect and the party reached a new philosophical level. It was around 10.00 PM in the night when someone suggested a swim at the swimming pool. All the eight in the room cheered and with courage stimulated in their inebriated state passed the proposal unanimously and the group of eight sauntered down to the swimming pool a little after having finished their drinks and changed into their shorts and having picked up a towel each from their respective rooms.
The band of eight in their shorts and towels in hand began their march down the stairs from the 4th floor and towards the swimming pool which looked like the ultimate objective of the night.
It was around 11.00 PM
Mind you it was outside of usage hours so all the eight had to scale the wall and drop down on the other side. The scaling of the wall was not too difficult, and the stimulation derived from the drinks helped the cause. Once on the other side everyone laid out their towels on the bench, stood up and did a huddle with Jatin clearly stating few rules:
No lights to be switched on except the one light inside the pool.
No loud conversation.
No splashing and making noise.
Wrap up in half an hour max.
With this, the party descended into the swimming pool and started swimming. After about ten mins Ajay broke the rule first as he jumped out of the pool, looked at the sky and shouted at the top of his voice “Wow I am loving it”. The seven other bodies in the pool suddenly froze and looked up at him. Ajay having realized his mistake slithered back into the pool and stood inside like a statue. We all looked around trying to fathom how far the sound had travelled. We stood there frozen for about 5 mins observing and trying to gauge any movement at the teachers/warden’s block or decipher any light coming on in one of the apartments.
After about five minutes we were convinced that nobody had heard us, and we began swimming again. I can tell you the feel of the water with the stars twinkling above you and your mind in the clouds, thanks to the alcohol, is a great feeling.
Gradually the group got a bit fearless and there was some shouting, some jeering, some splashing. Dutch Courage was clearly taking over.
After some time Jatin called time out and one by one we all scampered up, towelled our selves dry, removed our shorts which were placed in a small handbag carried by Prakash, wrapped the respective towels around our waist and prepared to leave.
Suddenly like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat Prakash pulled out three beer bottles from his bag, brandished them in the air like trophies and suggested a drink. Now in the middle of the night with the cool breeze cutting across this was a difficult to resist proposal and everybody squatted down in a circle on the floor. Prakash said cheers and the group echoed it and the beer bottles were being passed around as we sipped from them one by one oblivious of the fact that the sound waves had now pierced the silence of the night and travelled to the ears of the Warden Srivastava.
Srivastava a man who believed in early to bed and early to rise had gone to bed around 10.00 PM. By 10.15 he was fast asleep and snoring away happily. His slumber was broken at around 11.15 PM. He lay on his bed with eyes wide open. Did he hear a human sound?
He lay there quietly with alert ears but there was no sound that he could hear. Eventually, after about five mins he dismissed this to some dream and fell asleep again.
Around 11.40 PM Srivastava was awake again. This time he surely had heard a sound. He sat upon his bed and eventually went to the window. It was dark outside, but his ears were alert. He could hear some faint human voices and an intermittent splashing sound. His sensory perceptions could deduce the source of sound to be emanating from the swimming poolside. He was fully awake now. He put on his trousers and t-shirt and decided to check out. He got out of his apartment and started walking towards the swimming pool. He reached the swimming pool gate, unlocked it and went inside.
He got the shock of his life. Sitting on the floor across the pool where 8 human forms indiscernible and unrecognizable in the very dim light.
Meanwhile, the gang of 8 had heard the clanging of the key against the lock of the swimming pool gate on the other side and were alert. The gate opened and in the darkness, they could clearly see the silhouette of Srivastava.
On seeing him they all got up in unison and stood bewildered for about 5 seconds. Then someone suddenly shouted wrap the towel around your face and run. This was like a military command at the war front. We all spontaneously unwrapped our towels from our waist, wrapped it around our face and ran towards the compound wall. It was quite a sight, I guess. 8 naked boys with towels wrapped around their face running towards the wall. Srivastava was now shouting. “Who is there, stop”. We started scaling the wall as Srivastava started zeroing in towards us. Srivastava, as I had said earlier mentioned, was a rotund man and not a fast mover and by the time he could reach close to the wall, the eight naked boys had scaled it and jumped to the other side. His only way to chase them was to go to the gate between the swimming pool and the hostel compound, unlock it and chase the fleeing naked forms.
In the meantime, the eight of us had jumped to the other side and had started running towards the hostel with our towels wrapped around our face and our dinglings hanging out. We reached the stairs and started running up. Sunil suddenly shouted that we all go to Mayanks room on the fourth floor but in the process also run across the length of each floor so that water dripping from our bodies created a confusing trail and did not lead to any specific room.
Finally huffing and panting we all landed up inside Mayanks room and once the lights were switched on for some time the naked truth dawned upon us and everyone immediately removed their towels from their face and wrapped them around their waist again. The lights were then quickly switched off and all sat in the room without making the faintest sound.
After about 45 mins nothing happened, and it was clear that Srivastava had given up and gone back to his quarters which was true.
Srivastava on the other hand on opening the gate and having entered the hostel compound was faced with 8 naked bums and backs running into the hostel about 75 meters away from him. He knew he would not be able to catch them and decided to give up the chase and retreat.
Finally, after an hour lights were switched on in Mayanks room and the question in everybody’s mind was had Srivastava seen us and could he recognize any of us. Most agreed that since we had our towels wrapped around our face and the light was too dim recognition was unlikely. There was one issue though as Sunil suggested that Srivastava could parade each hosteler naked and try and identify the eight through the manhood of each which he would have definitely seen.
However, this form of identification was considered impractical and it was impossible to parade around 100 students naked and then try and identify them from the memory of their naked form. Someone suggested that such identification was not legally tenable as well.
Eventually, there was a general strong warning given to the students, few students were pulled aside to check if they knew who these eight were.
Well, in an Engineering College Hostel, there is the “Freedom Fighters Rule” which means no one gives away the names of perpetrators.
The eight of us survived to pass out of the college and carry the incident in our individual and collective memories and there have been many a joke about each other’s naked form and till date when there is an argument among any of the eight one of us surely calls out ..
He was the blue-eyed boy of every teacher, gem of the school and both an envy and pride for us friends and classmates.
While most of us would study to clear the exams, he would study to build concepts, something we felt was a foolish thing to do during those days -the 80s of the 20th century. We would often mock him and pull his leg by saying things like he would probably be the next Einstien, Volt or Ampere.
He dismissed these remarks with a cheerful gleam in his eyes and a sweet smile on his lips.
While we tried to be successful, he kept nurturing himself and pushing his boundaries to be capable, the importance of which we all realize now.
We were in the 12th Standard and in those days each subject also carried an internal marking by the college to the extent of 10 marks which got added to the marks you obtained at the board examinations.
Needless to mention these 10 marks were very important. These 10 marks were nuggets of Gold.
This scoring was done through a Viva-Voce by each subject professor.
The college professors were generally generous about it either through liberal marking or through easy questions which allowed students to earn the maximum marks. However, there was one exception, Professor Parimal.
Under his barrage of questions, most would score a 4 or 5 and it was a matter of folklore that even the best minds to have faced the Viva-Voce of this man had not been able to cross the barrier of 8 which stood as a record of sorts for the past 12 years.
To bring forth the essence of this to the fore let me tell all of you that in the other subjects most of the students would generally score a 9 or a 10 upon 10.
With this scenario in front of us, we eagerly waited for the day when our great Sitansu would face the Viva-Voce barrage of Professor Piramal. Let me further mention that this was normally conducted in a hall where a student was questioned by the subject professor individually while all of us could sit and watch and await our turn.
The day arrived, we were all seated in the hall and Professor Parimal was conducting his Viva. At the end of the question-answer session Professor Parimal would generally announce the marks he was giving to the candidate and we could all mostly hear threes and fours.
Suddenly my name was called out and I walked up to the Professor quite gingerly. I sat on the chair in front of him and he asked me “How much do you think you will score”. Well, I was not very confident of myself that too against Professor Parimal so I said, “Sir 2”. “Let’s see,” said the Professor and started his volley of questions. I lasted 10 questions, mostly gave wrong answers at which point of time I could read on the Professor’s face that he considered me useless. He finally stopped and declared a 2.5 and dismissed me. This being higher than my expectations I was fine with it and eager to run away from the clutches of the Professor. So when it ended, I was very happy and almost ran back to my seat. I generally thought getting a Zero was far better than facing the professor.
While I was scampering back to my seat, I heard the name of Sitansu being called. This was the moment, and I could see all my classmates shifting in their chairs and getting attentive to watch the duel.
Sitansu walked up and sat in front of Professor Piramal.
“So Sitansu you are the brilliant student of the class is it not,” said the Professor. “Not really Sir,” said Sitansu. “How much do you expect to score” asked the Professor. “10 Sir said Sitansu”. The Professor almost fell off his chair, looked at us and said: “Boys Sitansu says he will score a 10”. Someone among us quipped “Sir he will score a 15 out of 10”. “Who said that” thundered the Professor.
We sat there blank-faced and obviously no one owned up.
“So Sitansu” continued the Professor “ your friends think highly of you, let us see and for the records let me tell you Sitansu that in the last 12 years nobody has even crossed 8 so let us see how good you are”.
With this, the session started.
The Professor started shooting out questions and Sitansu kept answering. After every right answer from Sitansu the Professor would say correct and move on to the next question. After some time, the questions started getting tougher and tougher. The topic of the questions varied from Light to sound to electricity to dynamics to inertia and so on but Sitansu kept replying. The session reached a fever pitch and even after 50 questions Sitansu was going strong. The session was reaching a crescendo and we were all upright and taut in our chairs fully absorbed in this epic duel. 45 Mins and Sitansu was carrying on. The Professor had reached quite a level of physics now which was beyond our comprehension. The questions seemed totally alien to us but Sitansu kept replying.
The Professor was looking for his first wrong answer which was not forthcoming. The atmosphere was charged. You could hear the pin drop except for the question and the answer.
Suddenly we were shaken by the question which came next.
“Tell me about the Ampere’s Swimming rule Sitansu” said the Professor. Now that was a very easy question and even, I knew it. Sitansu too was suddenly taken aback because this question was too easy and a sudden fall from a very high level of questioning. Sitansu looked at Professor Parimal not able to understand the reason for this very simple question. There was a pause in the air as the teacher and the student looked at each other.
Dronacharya and Arjun were locked in visual contact. For all of us who remember this moment it was a defining moment which lasted for about 40 seconds and is captured in the memory of all of us. A memory which will perhaps never get erased.
“Sitansu don’t you know the Ampere’s Swimming rule”? The Professor’s voice pierced through the silence and broke our reverie.
A question is a question is a question and had to be answered. “Yes, Sir,” said Sitansu and rattled out the answer.
“Correct,” said the Professor. “Now tell me who taught swimming to Ampere”. That was a stunner and we all almost got up from our chairs too dazed to believe what was happening. Sitansu looked up at the professor with a bewildered and blank expression. “The answer Sitansu” said the professor.
Now how would Sitansu know who taught swimming to the French Physicist Andre Marie Ampere the founder of Electrodynamics who had also developed the concept of the swimming rule to explain that If a man swims along the wire carrying current such that his face is always towards the magnetic needle with current entering his feet and leaving his head, then the north pole of the magnetic needle is always deflected towards his left hand.”
“9.5 and dismissed,” said the professor and Sitansu got up to return to his seat. We all spontaneously got up to and started clapping. We saw the professor smiling and clapping too with pride and happiness writ over his face which he was trying to hide.
The perfect ten was not reached technically.
As long as Professor Parimal continued as the Professor of Physics till his retirement the record stood at 9.5 in the name of Sitansu with no one else in all these years even having crossed an 8. We all knew this 9.5 had meant 10 and we are sure Professor Parimal knew that too.
Sitansu and Professor Parimal were in touch as Sitansu ensured that he always remained in touch with the Professor about whom he always spoke highly as someone who pushed the barrier for students and allowed them to break the glass ceiling.
The Professor had a great admiration for Sitansu and would always talk about him to all his future students. “I am looking for a Sitansu” he would tell all his future batches.
While respect was mutual how could Dronacharya lose?
In the epic Mahabharata, Droṇa (Sanskrit: द्रोण, Droṇa) or Droṇāchārya or Guru Droṇa or Rajaguru Devadroṇa was royal preceptor to the Kauravas and Pandava. He was Arjun’s coach.
one of the five Pandava brothers, who were the heroes of the Indian epic the Mahabharata. Arjuna, son of the god Indra, was famous for his archery (he could shoot with either hand) and for the magical weapons that he won from the God Shiva