Nanda-Panda-Ganda-Giri

Like wildfire the word spread around the hostel that Kalyan had lost it.

The dawn had progressed into the morning and for the morning it was quite a news.

We had all finished our morning prayers, a compulsory ritual at the Narendrapur Ramakrishna Mission Hostels, and had gone to our respective rooms to freshen up and get ready for breakfast.

The word spread like wildfire, especially during breakfast.

I finished my breakfast in a jiffy and moved towards Kalyan’s room.

There was already a bit of crowd in Kalyan’s room. I jostled and pushed around others and peered in. Kalyan was sitting on his bed upright, his feet planted on the ground and he was making a strange, eerie movement and chanting something.

He would pat the left pocket of his trousers and say NANDA, then he would pat the right pocket of his trouser and say PANDA, he would then pat the right pocket of his shirt and say GANDA and finally pat the left pocket of his shirt and say GIRI.

He was thus looking directly at all of us without batting an eyelid and going NANDA-PANDA-GANDA-GIRI-NANDA-PANDA-GANDA-GIRI-NANDA-PANDA-GANDA-GIRI-NANDA-PANDA-GANDA-GIRI.

He was intense and in such a trance that no one dared disturb him. In the meantime, Sanjoy Ghosh who had always wanted to study medicine came in, looked at Kalyan, studied his symptoms and diagnosed dementia, Alzeihmer’s, mental retardation and what not. The terms were alien to us and so was Kalyan’s behaviour.

Suddenly Chandu, our batchmate, walked in, looked at Kalyan and said “ I think he is pregnant” and walked out.

We all thought that was plausible as this was a condition we understood though we did not know its symptoms.

At this point, Kalyan suddenly shouted five hundred and stopped. Without warning, he started hurling the choicest of expletives/abuses at us and after having cooled down told us to listen to what he had to say.

Our mathematics examination was coming up the next day and Kalyan was having difficulty in remembering formulas. He had therefore decided to write down various formulas in small chits of paper which he would neatly fold and put in his pockets and try and cheat from them at the examination hall.

He had decided to prepare four chits and place one each in his trouser left pocket, trouser right pocket, shirt left pocket and shirt right pocket. However, having done that he also needed to remember which formula was in which pocket so that when required he could stealthily pull the correct one out.

He had thus devised an ingenious plan. He prepared four chits each representing the professor who taught the particular subject in mathematics. For example, if professor A taught Calculus he put all the formulas pertaining to professor A and thereby calculus in one chit and so on.

There lay the secret of NANDA-PANDA-GANDA-GIRI. Nanda, Panda, Ganda and Giri were names of professors who taught the different chapters of Mathematics and who all went into different chits and into different pockets.

While chanting NANDA-PANDA-GANDA-GIRI and patting respective pockets Kalyan was merely memorizing which chit was in which pocket so that he would not forget to unleash it from the correct pocket when the time came.

The shout of five hundred was to indicate that he had practiced the chant 500 times.

It may be noted here that while Nanda, Panda and Giri were surnames of professors Ganda was a nickname derived from the Bengali word Gandar meaning Rhinoceros. This professor, because of his rotund bulk had been nicknamed as Ganda and the name had become so famous that no one eventually remembered his original name.

It may also be noted that Rakamrisnha Mission Residential College was very strict in terms of its discipline and even very minor offences like wearing shorts in the corridors of the hostel ( we were allowed to wear only dhotis or trousers ) were enough to get a student expelled. Cheating in the examination was various notches higher in terms of crime so obviously caught while cheating was sure shot expulsion.

The mathematics examination started as scheduled the next day. We settled down to write the examination but now and then we would steal a glance at Kalyan so that we could witness the act and watch him pull it off.

I was seated not far from him. After about half an hour or so I could hear whispers and could discern the now-familiar words NANDA-PANDA-GANDA-GIRI. I looked at Kalyan and could see him very quietly chanting and patting his pockets. He was like a bowler warming up for the next cover. I knew action was coming so I stopped writing and kept looking at him.

He suddenly stopped at his right pocket and pulled out a chit of paper and neatly placed it under his answer sheet. The action had begun.

I then saw him slightly pull out the paper from under the answer sheet to check the formula. Then he looked puzzled, pushed the chit back under the answer sheet and slowly started chanting again. I was not able to understand what was happening. I suddenly saw him pulling out the chit of paper from under the answer sheet and putting it back in his pocket again.

He was again chanting, had a frown on his face and was looking puzzled. He again stopped at another pocket, pulled out a chit, looked at it quickly and put it back in his pocket again. He looked very perturbed and he was fiddling with his pockets. It was at this point of time that the invigilator Tarun Brahmachari saw him, felt something suspicious and started walking towards him. I knew he was a goner and I could visualize him getting packed off for good.

I was whispering at him to draw his attention towards the invigilator. Luckily at the nick of time, he looked up and saw Tarun Brahmachari a step away from him.

Tarun Brahmachari stood in front of Kalyan like a General in front of his regiment. Kalyan did not even lookup. He was concentrating on writing his exam and he looked very busy.

Tarun da stood for a minute and then called out “Kalyan”.

“Wait, Maharaj,” said Kalyan,“ I am trying to solve this question”, without even looking up and behaving as if in deeply focussed in trying to solve the question.

“Kalyan, stand up “ this time Tarun Da’s voice was a bit stern. Kalyan looked up at Tarun da and stood up.

“You are cheating,” said Tarun da. Kalyan looked baffled, developed a frown, looked at Tarun Da in the eye and said “ What”? “ Are you mad Tarun da”? “ You are accusing a serious student who has always taken his exams seriously”. The frown on Kalyan’s face was genuine, the voice had a concern, astonishment and a hint of disappointment.

Kalyan, we thought, had decided to attack. Everybody now had stopped writing and were all looking at the drama waiting to unfold.

“Come to the front of the class Kalyan” shot back Tarun da. The voice was sterner. The strict invigilator in Tarun da had started kicking in. We were all tense and waiting with bated breath. I had started imagining the jeep and Kalyan being packed away. His career seemed doomed. There was a deadly silence in the air and you could hear the pin drop.

Kalyan looked relaxed. He was constantly muttering to himself and telling Tarun da that this was not done and that he was being unnecessarily suspected and harassed.

Kalyan moved out of his desk and walked up to the front of the class. Once there he turned to face the class. He was standing there and looking at all of us. The stance had an arrogance about it. Both hands in his trouser pockets, eyes steady, facial expression a mix of bewilderment and anger.

“Bring out your hands from your pockets and raise them,” said Tarun da. “ I will search your pockets”. “This is an institution where such acts cannot be tolerated”.

“By all means Tarun da,” said Kalyan and brought out his hands from his pocket and raised them out with clenched fists and stood with his arms open as you would while being frisked at the airport.

He held his posture and said “ Come on Tarun da go ahead check my pockets. Come on go ahead”.

It was game on and we were sure Kalyan was getting aggressive to avoid the search. He was playing it mentally. We also knew it was a matter of time. He was sure to get caught with the chits in his pockets.

Expulsion hung like a sword above his head and we were all staring at him and waiting for the sword to fall.

We had all forgotten our exams. The atmosphere was very tense.

Tarun da inched forward. Kalyan stood like a rock with arms widespread. His fist-clench getting tighter with anger as he bit his lips.

Tarun da put his right hand inside Kalyan’s left trouser pocket. He probed inside, moved his fingers, pulled out his hand and put them in the trouser pocket again.

We were unable to breathe.

Tarun da pulled out is hand. He had found nothing.

Tarun da looked puzzled, so did we. I stole a look at Kalyan. He stood there like a rock and started muttering further.

“ Is it fine Tarun da. Hope you understand now. I am telling you I am not cheating. This is not done.”

“Let me check your other pocket,” said Tarun da.

The process was repeated in Kalyan’s right trouser pocket. We could hear the time tick in our heads. In what looked like a never-ending one minute Tarun pulled out his hand. He had again struck blank. Both the pockets were empty except for a handkerchief.

Our Jaws had dropped. This looked like black magic. We were looking at Kalyan and making question mark signals at him with our eyes, hands and what not. I perhaps could discern a slight wry simple forming on Kalyan’s lips.

“Go back to your desk Kalyan. I am sorry” said Tarun da.

Kalyan walked back to his desk like the victorious Knight in full armour.

The exam resumed but we were waiting for it to end as we wanted to know what had happened to the chits. They were in Kalyan’s pocket. How did Tarun da not find them?

After the exams, we all rushed out and Kalyan told us to meet him in his hostel room. We all went into Kalyan’s room. Once we were all in we locked it from inside and as the room was jam-packed we told Kalyan to stand up on a bed and tell us what had happened.

This is what Kalyan said.

“In the nervousness of the exam and the tension around it I had messed up the sequence of NANDA-PANDA-GANDA-GIRI thereby bringing out wrong chits twice. I was thus puzzled and was trying to get the sequence of the chits right. My odd behaviour perhaps attracted Tarun da. I had no option but to attack Tarun da and divert him. While I was walking up to the front of the class I held my nerve and an idea came to my mind. To execute the idea I had to somehow ensure to divert Tarun da’s attention towards my trouser pockets. Therefore I pulled out my hands from my pockets and while doing so I clasped the chits in my palms and folded them into a fist and pulled out my hands. I thus stood there with my hands spread out clinched into a fist. While Tarun da was busy searching and probing deep into my pockets I was carrying the chits in my closed fist”

God, what presence of mind we exclaimed.

Moral of the story: No matter what happens hold your nerve and ensure that your judgement is not clouded.

Three Cheers to Kalyan and his presence of mind.

Freedom Walls of Ramakrishna Mission, Narendrapur

For the benefit of the ignoramus, Ramakrishna Mission Residential College, Narendrapur is an esteemed college in the Indian state of West Bengal. 

It is now an autonomous college located at Narendrapur, West Bengal On the outskirts of Kolkata and the setting is verdant, serene, quiet and idyllic.

The co-ordinates of this story lie here.

That which sets the story out of the ordinary can be perceived only when I write a bit about the college, its facilities and above all its penchant for enforcing discipline strictly – Zero Tolerance.

Here thrives and has thriven many a runaway incidents with links to the lure of the Metropolis of Calcutta ( now Kolkata ). Stories of escapades, delinquency, breaking of codes of conduct by students who had just crossed from school life into college life and were in a continuous quest for the elixir of life.

The college was established in 1960 and is affiliated to the University of Calcutta. It is run by the Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narendrapur. This is a Residential College for boys only.

 Boys who had just stepped out of school life into college life with the assumption that college life was fun, provided greater freedom, allowed some sort of a licence to indulge in certain activities which were taboo in school and were looking forward to adventure and fun.

The vast expanse of the college campus and its green foliage many a time provided a nice camouflage and provided a perfect setting to the so-called daring activities of the students.

The college provides several facilities for its students, such as hostels, library, multigym, games & sports and medical. 

The college also provides a well-stocked library.

During our time (1981-83 ) the Librarian came into the library at the same time religiously every day and we thought he was never a nanosecond late or early and we joked that he had an atomic watch, hence the sobriquet – Atomic Watch which stuck to him.

There were three hostels namely Brahmananda Bhavana, Shree Gouranga Bhavana and Ramakrishna Bhavana. It is in these hostels that the free spirit of the students blossomed and bloomed and it was in these hostel rooms, war rooms if you like that many a daring plot were hatched.

  Motto Of the College:  Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha(आत्मनो मोक्षार्थं जगद्धिताय च) (For one’s own salvation and for the welfare of the world)

 Those of us who have studied there know but for the benefit of those who have not, it is important to state that the codes of conduct, rules, regulations and discipline at this Institute were stringent and the smallest of breach could lead to the student being expelled from the college and thereby from hostel.

The expulsion was made out to be a very simple affair almost akin to a surgical strike sans its belligerence and gory details. No planning was necessary because the process was simple and defined and the then principal, who went by the nickname Panchi, was an expert in the execution of the process.

The student would be called and Panchi would just look at him and say “ Baari Chali Ja” ( which literally translated means Go Home ). After the sentence was thus pronounced, a jeep would be sent to the hostel and Panchi’s warriors would then go to the room of the student thus sentenced, wrap up his bedding, pack his clothes and load them and the student on to the jeep. The jeep would then drop off the student to his home with a small envelope carrying the expulsion letter signed by the great Panchi himself.

Phew, what a farewell…….

The size and extent of the sin or the breach were irrelevant because for every sin the penalty was capital punishment as described above.

Imagine being expelled for good, mid-year, from a premier institute during your 10 + 2 days.

Let me list out a sample of a few codes of conduct during our days:

  1. Compulsory attendance at the morning prayers early morning clad in Dhoti ( a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth, usually around 4.5 metres long, wrapped around the waist and the legs and knotted at around the navel area )
  2. Compulsory attendance at the evening prayers in Dhoti.
  3. No wearing of pyjamas or shorts. One could only wear Dhotis and / or trousers.
  4. No going out of the campus without authorization (and getting authorization though not impossible was improbable )
  5. Lights off at a defined time of the night.
  6. No Smoking.
  7. No drinking.
  8. No Ragging.
  9. Attend the morning college prayer in time.

But then what is college if rules are not broken and what are students who follow all the rules. That too students who had just entered into college life and wanted to break away from the shackles of school life. They wanted to smoke and drink, they wanted to sing and dance and have parties, they wanted to bunk classes, they wanted to play pranks with professors, they wanted to go out to watch movies, go to restaurants and pubs and do all the things that were forbidden.

How could they accept the same rules of school to keep chasing them even in college?

While for the college the Policy was Zero Tolerance the free spirit of the students overrode the rules many a time albeit with the threat of expulsion and in this want of freedom lies our story and lies the spirit of 18/19/20-year-olds who even by law had become adults.

The one most common escapade of the hostelers was to break out of the hostel and go out to watch movies on week-ends, mainly on Sundays. This was unauthorized of course. The hostelers escaped from the hostel by climbing its boundary walls, landing on the other side and generally taking a rickety local bus to the cinema hall.

The movie halls ( there were no cineplexes and multiplexes in those days ) mostly frequented were Madhuban, Malancha, Priya, Rumpa. Many a time students even went as far as the heart of Kolkata city to halls like Globe, Maneka and Jamuna.

There were certain points along the perimeter wall of the campus which were considered safe points for such an escape to adventure. These points in the walls were typically called 3.5 ( Sade Teen), 4.5 (sade chaar) and 7 (Sath).

While the origin of such a classification is not known it can be safely assumed that this nomenclature depicted the degree of scalability of the wall at the point.

3.5 was the easiest in the sense that you could stand in front of the wall and place your hands on the parapet of the wall (unless you were too short), pull yourself up on the wall and jump on to the other side. The other side landed on a walkway from where you could walk down to the main road and take a bus to the day’s freedom and adventure. While this point on the wall was the most popular because of its ease of scaling it was not always easily accessible because this was very close to the hostel buildings and wardens’ quarters and you could reach this point only at select vantage times when nobody could see you even approaching the wall.

4.5 was a bit more difficult as it was higher and unless you were very tall you could not reach your hands to the top of the wall without some support from your partner who could prop you up a bit. Slightly taller students could reach out to the parapet with a spot jump.

 So if you were alone you would generally approach 3.5 and if you had company and 3.5 looked dangerous to access that time of the day you would prefer to avoid it and go to 4.5.

It is important to note here that when students planned their escapades in groups of 4/5 or more they generally dispersed in singles or twos and used different walls so as not to draw attention.

7 was the toughest to climb as it was the highest but it was also the safest. Set in one lonely corner of the Ramakrishna Bhavan which itself was farthest and in one corner of the campus point 7 was easily hidden from view. Only when it was felt that the other two walls were unsafe to climb (in terms of getting caught) one would try and scale point 7. This wall could not be scaled alone. Here you needed at least one friend to literally lift you and haul you up so that your hands could reach the top of the wall. Once on top, you could then help pull up your friend. The jump on the other side was not easy too and many a student had injured themselves while jumping off the wall on the other side.

There were many situations you could get caught.

Found missing from the hostel, found missing from the prayer room, discovered by a teacher/professor outside the campus, seen sceptically walking towards the wall, worst you could get caught red-handed or red-feet, if you may say so, atop the wall perched like the foolish monkey about to eat a stolen banana or about to jump off the wall.

Remember if caught you were debarred. The jeep, the baadi chali ja….

Mind you the jeep always had adequate fuel too.

It was a fateful Sunday when around 6 of us planned to escape the hostel and watch the movie Don at Priya cinema. The tickets for the movie had been bought in advance for the evening show (3.00 PM to 6.00 PM).

Do bear in mind that the period is 1982. There was no internet, no mobile phones and you had physical movie tickets only which could be bought from the movie hall only.

So on that day, we had six physical movie tickets which Arun was carrying. These had been bought a week earlier through advance booking.

Sample Movie Ticket of the 80s

It may be further noted that the movie Don was an Amitabh Bacchan starrer and the super-hero was at his prime during those days. Even for advance bookings when his movies released people would line up for tickets many a time throughout the night and even before the ticket counter opened (say next day morning) and there would a km long and some times an even bigger queue of people having lined up for buying tickets.

Needless to say, blackers ( those would buy tickets in bulk earlier and would sell them at a premium to moviegoers on the day of the show or earlier) thrived.

 Depending on the popularity of the movie the tickets could thus get sold at four or five times the price. This obviously was an illegal activity and punishable in the eyes of the law.

However, many moviegoers who did not have tickets for the movie or could not buy one as the show was full / house full would go to the movie theatre directly before the show and look for buying tickets from a blacker on premium. This had to be done carefully as you could get caught by the police and whisked away to the police station if caught in the act. Also in those days Amitabh Bacchan movies drew huge crowds and created a big business opportunity for the blackers. The presence of blackers thus also attracted huge deployment of police personnel in around the cinema halls to nab the blackers.

It was decided that the six of us would not leave the hostel in a group but each would individually leave and escape quietly as per his convenience and meet at the cinema hall around 2.30 PM latest.

Each of us thus made our own plans and chose our own walls to scale to converge at the cinema hall at around 2.30 PM.

One by one we reached the cinema hall but by 2.30 PM but two of us were still missing. There was a multitude of humanity outside the hall spilling on to the street and pavement. There were blackers everywhere and our trained eyes could spot them easily. There were police vans and police personnel scattered all around in uniform and in mufti. The place in and around the hall was jam-packed and thronging with people of all sizes and shapes.

2.45 PM: We were still four of us. Two were still missing. There was no way to find out why because there were no mobile phones then. People had started entering the hall. There was a lot of commotion as police personnel were chasing blackers and nabbing them. There was jostling and pushing, shouts and screams and what not.

3.00 PM: Still four. We were now getting worried. Should we wait for the other two to show up or should we go in. The movie had started.

3.15 PM: Still the balance two did not show up. We unanimously decided that we should not see the movie without the two friends who had not made it and go back to the hostel instead and checkout as to what had happened. We thus decided to sell our tickets at the cost price and go back to the hostel.

Arun thus raised the six tickets in the air announcing his intent to sell them at cost price. As soon as he did the people who had not got tickets and had come to the hall to look for tickets from blackers lunged at him. There were at least 20 to 30 people clamouring for Arun’s attention to buy the tickets.

Suddenly we heard screams and shouts of “run” and before we could do anything Arun was surrounded by policemen, handcuffed in a jiffy and carried away to a waiting police van. It happened too fast for us to react and as soon as we realized what had happened we ran towards the van shouting “Sir, he is not a blacker”, “ He was selling extra tickets at cost” etc etc. The van was already full with around 10 to 12 people. Mostly blackers nabbed by the police.

Our shouts fell on deaf ears and in no time the van drove away. Arun looking out helplessly at us as we stood there dumbfounded and speechless.

We were in a huge dilemma now. There was no way we could go to the police station as that would only reveal that we had escaped from the hostel illegally and give us away. In any case, we did not even know where the police van had headed.

We thus decided to return back to the hostel and consult other friends and then decide upon the next course of action. We rushed back with thoughts of expulsion hanging on our neck like the Damocles sword. We were worried about Arun too. Would he be put into lock-up, could he be beaten up, could he land up in jail, could he be produced in court.

On reaching the hostel we rushed to our room. We called our batch mates and seniors in. A serious meeting was held and it was felt that there was no option but to inform the authorities.

Obviously, this meant that we would have to own up and carry the risk of getting expelled from the college. However, Arun had been taken away by the police and the first thought was to extricate him from the Police. After much discussion, it was felt that Satya da (The Vice Principal then) and a Brahmchari should be approached.

Few other friends also agreed to join us in the mission of going to Satya da and owning it up.

Remember the two who could not show up at the movie hall. They were present at the hostel too as they had not been able to escape due to strict scrutiny and thus had had no option but to stay back.

We approached Satya da with faltering steps, hearts throbbing violently. Expulsion hung before us.

Satya da heard us patiently and immediately first quarantined the four of us.

 They were banished to the common study room just outside the corridor of the hostel and the collapsible gates of the hostel were pulled up and locked.

Satya da then approached one of our seniors whose father was a senior police officer and a call was made to the father who called up relevant people and found out the police station where Arun was taken to and the matter was solved and Arun was to be released. Satya da then organized to send the jeep to the police station to pick up Arun along with a letter confirming Arun as a bonafide student of the college.

We were all happy for Arun but the four of us knew that this was now the end of the world for us and come morning we would be packed and sent home.

Arun was brought in and quarantined to the study room as well. All the hostelers were locked up inside the hostel while the four of us were kept outside in the study room.

I recall the day vividly. The entire hostel was awake throughout the night and so were we four. There were consolations being passed on to us by all our batch mates and seniors in the hostel through the grilled collapsible gate. Many of our friends cried and so did we.

It was perhaps one of the longest nights for me. I thought of my mother and father and their toil and sweat and how shattered they would be if I was expelled. I dreaded as to whether I would get an admission in some other college mid-way. We cried and consoled each other and we even contemplated suicide.

Arun recounted his two hours stay in the police lock-up along with other hard-core criminals who were inquisitive and wanted to know if Arun had committed a murder or a rape.

As the night melted into morning and the first rays of the sun started seeping in we had fallen asleep on the benches of the study room only to be awakened by the warden who told us that Satya da would meet us at around 8.00 AM.

At 8.00 AM we walked into Satya Da’s cabin forlorn and disjointed, we walked with unsteady steps, we went in and stood there and looked down at the ground, tears were streaming down our eyes and dripping on to the floor. Our legs were unsteady and we were feeling dizzy. Arun also told me later that he could even hear the engine of the jeep purring outside ready to carry us home in ignominy and insult.

You could hear the pin drop.

Suddenly Satya da stood up and said boys go to your rooms, freshen up and get ready to go to college. You must not be late for your classes.

We were not sure if we had heard him right so we raised our heads and looked ahead and then sideways with a blank expression.

Suddenly Rana fell on the feet of Satya da and started crying and we followed suit. Satya da lifted us up and hugged us one by one and told us to go take bath and attend classes.

No other words were spoken. Perhaps no words were necessary.

We went back to our rooms and broke the news to our batch mates and seniors and there was clapping and patting of the back and smiles and laughter everywhere. High praises for Satya da went into circulation and reached every ear of every hosteler.

Satya da himself never ever broached this topic to us and we never had the courage to bring it up to him.

It was not necessary as well, perhaps.

On that day there were more words spoken in silence than could have been spoken between us and Satya da in a lifetime.

We all survived to live another day. We enjoyed our balance period in the hostel, graduated out of the college and went in several directions depending on where life’s’ calling took us.

Today I am transported back to that day and that night and if I close my eyes all I can see is the serene and calm face of Satya day looking and smiling at me and I only feel like kneeling down to touch his feet.

P.S:

  1. Satya da went on to become the Principal of the college.
  2. During his tenure, he relaxed many a stringent rule of the college.
  3. On that day he gave us a great lesson in Corporate Governance which I realized only about 15 years later that mistakes need to be judged pragmatically and not just by the rule book.
  4. Also that there is always a very thin line between the decision of upholding the sanctity of the institution and the understanding of the mistake and thereby pardoning of the mistake.
  5. Also that you need to keep choosing between punishing the mistake or lending out a hand for someone to realize the mistake and make amends.
  6. On that day we also realized that the college had stringent rules only to ensure that events of such nature or worse did not happen. Not only the reputation of the college but also the safety of the students was at stake.
  7. I also learnt that all codes that are drawn up anywhere in life have a background to them.

Now coming to the question.

Did we stop escaping from the hostel to watch movies after that?

Yes, we did, just for about two months.

After two months we were back to square one and were again climbing walls to escape from the college. However, we never ever tried to sell tickets even at the cost price and even if we had extra tickets.

We just tore them and threw them away.

If anyone from Ramakrishna Mission Residential College, Narendrapur present or past happens to read this and happens to be in touch with Satya da please pass on this blog to him and urge him to read.

If not at least pass on my respects to him. Tell him I knelt down for him even today.

A Shattering Experience

The Engineering College hostel had its own distinct identity.

Very often it looked like a ghostly galleon dry-docked in No-Man’s Land.

It was displaced and disjointed from the main habitat and populace by a beaten, mud track of almost a Kilometre. It was a track not oft trodden by most mortals.The forlorn mud track ran parallel to the National Highway 34 bisected by a canal which had no bridges and culverts across the hostel.

On the other side of the mud-track was barren land interspersed with trees, swamps, overgrown bushes and an abundance of stray dogs. This area thus was a haven for criminals, Illegal activities and hooch brewing.

The interests of these people were largely mutually exclusive to the interests of the hostellers and therefore the ecosystem ensured peaceful coexistence.

While the mud track was much avoided by civilians and locals the students never had an iota of fear while traversing this path, which they had to do daily to reach the hostel. There never had been any incident where a student had had any misfortune along this track.

At night this track looked like a ghostly ribbon of moonlight with patches of shadows of overgrown trees.

At the end of this track was the main gate of the hostel. A four-storey structure with rooms alongside each other creating in each floor a long corridor from one end to the other. Apart from the staircase and wash-room area, this corridor was lined by a half wall on one side and the rooms on the other side. It was thus like a large balcony stretching from one end to the other.The ends of the corridor in hostel parlance were typically called the wings.

There was such a corridor on each floor with wings at each end.

Each wing in each floor had wooden beds laid out where the “adda”(a gathering of people for casual discussions and chit chat ) would take place. It was here that students sat and smoked, drank, fought, debated and discussed topics ranging from the good looking daughter of the professor to nuclear science to every other topic under the sun. The wings were thus like the clubhouse of the hostel.

The corridor was, therefore, a place of hectic activity.It was here that the students often played cricket, badminton, football. Many a drunken brawl and fights took place on these corridors.It was here that students also practised running. Many health freaks also did their exercises on these corridors.

Very often you could see a drunk and tipsy student come out of the room and stutter and stumble along the corridor sometimes alone and sometimes cheered on by other students. At this corridor, many a time would be set up a temporary stage for skits and dramas and the audience would sit along the stairs with their beer bottles, cigarettes, grass etc and enjoy the skit.

The long straight expanse of the wing also allowed abuses and slangs to travel easily from one end to the another propagating the theory of sound waves.

These corridors were also used as dance floors with music blaring from the rooms and students dancing more in mayhem than in rhythm….

These corridors thus had many stories to tell. If only they could speak and yell, if only we could sleep on the corridor with our ears to the floor the corridors and its wings would unfold stories of decades.

This is about one such story.

It was a normal day.

However, there was excitement in the air since morning as a long drinking session was planned in the evening. While alcohol was commonly consumed at the hostel, parties of this type when the entire hostel was involved were few and far in between.

Such events happened when almost 80% of the drinking students agreed to participate and contribute.The teetotalers were in demand on such days as on their square shoulders lay the responsibility of managing a drunk gang.Also being students all ran on shoestring budgets and it was a common practice to mix the various varieties of drinks in one or more buckets and the so-called bartender of the day would then serve from these buckets into cups, glasses, earthen vessels, pots and/or any type of drinking container students could lay their hands to.

No money was called for as contribution but every student was told to bring a bottle of his choice of drink of a particular quantity. The bucket thus carried a medley of brands and liquors creating a huge secular melting pot.

The party started at around 9.00 PM. The bucket with the heady mixture was planted on the bed at the wing. Two bartenders including me were to serve the magic potion and students had already started lining up with their mugs, glasses, pots and containers of various shapes and sizes. The corridor was jam-packed as students collected their drinks and lined up all along the corridor. Once everyone had been served a peg the bell was sounded and was followed by a large chorus of cheers and the party was on its way.

With the progress of the clock deeper into the night the party gradually graduated to the next level when scattered conversations now gave way to a bit of dancing and singing and as the dancing picked up more and more students started joining in. The singing was out of tune and dancing was out of rhythm but none cared. The non-drinkers were getting busy as steady steps gave way to unsteadiness, the singing became a cacophony and once a while a loud chorus pierced the otherwise silent night. People faltering in their steps were being propped up against walls or were being seated on staircases but often fighting free to claim that they were not drunk.

Time kept ticking and everyone was oblivious to it. The party had crossed the midnight threshold as it was 1 AM. By that time quite a few had to be carried away to their rooms as they were drunk. Some of them who put up the drunken man’s fight were taken to the washroom and dunked ( this was a common word in the hostel for the therapy which meant pouring a bucket of cold water over a drunken guy to bring him back to his senses ) and towelled and sent to their rooms.

As the crowd thinned the group got more closeted.

 Antakshri was started. A great game being played by a drunken group added a wonderful twist to the game. Lyrics were either forgotten or made up, rules were forgotten and reminded, the process and sequence were lost and reorganized.A few more students gradually fell off and went to sleep on the corridor itself.

At around 5 AM with the hint of break of dawn, somebody suggested cricket on the corridor. The idea was immediately lapped up and a group of around 25 still left on the corridor cheered and agreed. Search for a bat proved futile so it was suggested that a T – Square be used as a bat. My room was near to where I was. I rushed in, grabbed my T Square and came out and amidst cheers befitting an opening batsman took to the so-called crease at the end of the corridor. While I stood, took my stance, stared bleary eyes at the bowler’s end and winked and winked again to get my vision clear, focused to keep myself steady, the umpire lifted his hands in the air and walked down to me.

Drunken fielders had lined up on either side of the corridor. The umpire called and told me that since a ball could not be found an empty beer bottle was being used as the ball and the umpire felt that it was his duty to inform me. I nodded my head, looked confident and told the umpire to go back and give me a middle stump guard. I was expecting the beer bottle to skid through on the cemented pitch and a middle stump guard would allow me to deflect it on to the leg side.

I saw the bowler running in, the beer bottle glistening in his hand from the first rays of the sun, I opened my eyes wide and focused. The bowler’s arms went up in the air and the ball was delivered. I looked at a delivery short of good length, went on the back foot, lifted my bat, heard the sharp swish of something racing across my right cheeks and ears followed by a loud bang and a shattering sound. I felt some fragments hitting me.

I was in a stupor. I remember the students rushing towards me, shaken out of their drunken reverie, lifting me and carrying me to the room and laying me on the bed. They were touching various parts of my body and asking me if I was hurt. I was dazed but felt I was in one piece and said so. Someone shouted he is fine and it’s okay and so on.

The beer bottle had skidded across the floor and shattered with a bang against the corridor end wall. Splinters of glass flying off in different directions dawning in the realization as to how foolish and dangerous the idea was. Anyone and most of all me could have been gravely injured.

I heard guys shouting at the guy who had given the idea of using the beer bottle as a ball and the guy defending back saying if his idea was foolish why had the others accepted it. A truce was reached with the realization that all were drunk and high and the mental faculties were not at their best when the decision was made.

Everybody slowly left to their rooms. I moved on the bed into what I thought was a comfortable sleeping position. My head was heavy and I was feeling dizzy. The drink or the cricket which was to blame I knew not. I folded my hands in prayer to thank the almighty and perhaps succumbed to slumber in that position.

I was taken to the police station and the policemen were all drinking beer from the bottle and laughing at me sarcastically, I was in the courtroom and the judge held out a beer bottle as evidence and asked me if this was the one and before I could reply he said cheers and started drinking, I was in front of the Principal of the college and before I could say anything he had slapped me hard making me wake up with a start.I looked at my wrist watch beside the pillow. It was 11.30 AM.

I got down from the bed, walked out of the room, into the corridor which was littered with empty bottles of various kinds, reached the staircase. My eyes were riveted at the Notice Board at the landing of the staircase which said:

NO STUDENT OF THIS HOSTEL IS ALLOWED TO PLAY CRICKET ON THE CORRIDORS WITH BOTTLES OF ANY KIND.

THOSE WHO ARE STILL NOT IN THEIR SENSES AND UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND THIS DIKTAT MAY GET IN TOUCH WITH THOSE WHO ARE.

By Order.

Mistaken Identity

Ghosal da pulled a chair in front of me and settled down on it with his big frame. He always made the chair creak and this was no exception.

He had a big and secretive smile on his face.

He suddenly leaned forward, leading to his big belly pushing against my desk, and whispered.

“Minakshi, the name is Minakshi,” he said. “The new girl in the procurement department. “Have you seen her?”

I did not look up at Ghosal da and in the same posture told him that I had a lot of work at the office and was really not interested in some girl who had joined some department in our office.

“Shut your work up” whispered Ghosal da a little irritatingly and with displeasure laced in his whisper.

“To become double from single you need to look up and around a bit”. he shot back.

Suddenly with an expression of “Oh God” Ghosal da made a mammoth leap from the chair he was sitting on, his belly swivelling and creating waves like a jelly.

“Come Madam Come, I heard you joined today”. I am Sandipan Ghosal and this is ……..”

The newcomer damsel stunned both of us and most of all Ghosal da by saying “ I know him, he is PM”. How are you PM?”

I felt all the oceans of the world swirling in my stomach, my vision appeared a bit blurred, my mind was blank and just as I was about to pinch myself I heard the sweet voice again.

“I am sorry, I should not disturb you like this during work”. “If it is fine with you, can we not have lunch together?”

“ I will drop by to call you.” “Ok, Take Care”.

I shook my head sideways first and then I shook my head up and down with the intention of saying yes while I watched Ghosal da looking at me with red eyes and I though muttering some of the choicest abuses meant for me albeit with bated breath.

Having settled down on my chair and having come out of the trance a bit I tried to dig into my memory. There was the frock wearing Rimi in our locality, there was Manisha at whom I used to look through the corner of my eye while going to college. I ran my memory thorough my locality, school, college, co commuters, sisters of friends and friends of sisters. I thought of all the girls I had met, tried to scribble their names in my mind, scanned through far and near relatives, even tried a google search but could not recall knowing this beautiful and attractive looking girl even remotely.

My reverie of almost three hours was suddenly shattered by the familiar sweet voice “Come, let’s go”.

I had been in this office for long 8 years but this was the first time that I reacted like the rat following the pied piper of Hamlin as I moved towards the canteen.

Enough was enough I decided. It was now time to act smart.

With this thought, some strength returned to me and I came out with the question in my mind.

“Look do you or rather do I know you”. “Am I supposed to know you”.

She looked at me directly with her beautiful kohl-lined eyes and said: “you should”.

I was now observing her.

She was smiling and I could see that when she smiled a lovely dimple came upon her cheeks. Her eyes were deep and attractive, she had lovely flowing long hairs, she had an elegant taste in terms of her dress sense and her makeup.

“ I had heard that you had looked at my photo for a full ten mins and had said No to even considering marriage with me” she had continued while I was observing her.

I had read of a word Flabbergasted in my childhood and today I could feel what it actually meant. I had said no to such a beauty? When? How?

Yes for matrimonial alliances I have been seeing photos of prospective brides but how did I say no to this damsel.

Minakshi kept talking.

“ Amaresh uncle who stays at Topsia is a very good friend of your father”. “ Is it not”. “Had he not gone to your house with the photo of a girl”.

I was agape. I could recall a dishevelled, darkish photo but… I said Yes.

“That was me” continued Minakshi.

“My parents were after my life for my marriage but I was not ready. I wanted another year for myself. My mother wanted to send a very nice picture of me but I had smartly changed it with my Aadhar Card Picture”

I was sitting stunned and bamboozled and staring at the girl of my dreams…

Story Credit: Whatsapp Forward

MEN ARE HUMANS TOO

Good Read.
Breaks myths and stereotypes.

Candles Online

A day such as International Men’s Day makes us stop on our steps and give a deep thought to men. Women do need that extra bit of attention because all the world over, be it in developed or developing nations, they are the oppressed lot – in different but many ways. However, men are calling out too – their voices being doused by the stereotypes and mutilated by the rigid societal frameworks that have defined gender roles.

The theme for International Men’s Day 2019 – ‘Making a difference for men and boys’ made me think whether any difference is needed for men and boys, and if so how can we (men and women) contribute towards it. Some stereotypes definitely need to be revisited to be modified.

#Men are supposed to be strong

What does ‘strong’ mean exactly? Well, in the context of men, ‘strong’ means physically, emotionally, financially and socially…

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Inertia of Motion

Local Train

This is a story of physics.

This is also a story of local train commute.

Many will and should relate to it.

Sealdah to Naihati and beyond is a lovely local train ride and I was almost a regular commuter during my days of stay at the town of Kancharapara.

The best option in those days for me of going to Kolkata ( Calcutta then )and back was by taking a local train from Kanchrapara and Sealdah and vice versa.

I always enjoyed these train journeys as they opened up a huge canvas in front of me. The multitude and diversity of people in the local trains always lured me.

My favourite position would always be making the journey standing at the door holding the center rod though many times in rush hours this was not possible.

The speeding of a local train and it’s slowing down as it approached a station always attracted me. Most of the time if you were a regular you would end up knowing many people and making friends. You would chat with them, play cards with them, gossip, etc, etc.

Even the vendors and hawkers would start getting to know you and if you were absent there would be inquiries the next day as to what happened and so on and so forth.

Every topic in the world found mention in these short journeys ranging from Nuclear Physics to cricket, football, street food, politics, governance, travel.

Stories, gossips, and tales you could revisit and restart the next day from where you left them.

The train journey almost engulfed you with its life and its stories.

 If you were a regular commuter you would also know the various stations en route, the changing landscape, where there would be maximum rush and where most people would get down, where the train would generally slow down, etc, etc, etc.

It was a Saturday morning when I boarded a local train from Sealdah.

I wanted to go to Jagaddal where I was to meet a friend.

Jagaddal was a relatively new station and not many local trains would stop there. The stations from Sealdah to Jagaddal in a sequence are as under:

Sealdah (Starting Station) 

  1. Bidhannagar (Earlier called Ultadanga and named after the Chief Minister Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy. The local train station for going to Salt Lake / Bidhan Nagar)
  2. Dum Dum (The area was home to the Dum Dum Arsenal, a British Royal Artillery armoury, where, in the early 1890s, Captain Neville Bertie-Clay developed a bullet with the jacket cut away at the tip to reveal its soft lead core (hollow-point bullet), known informally as a dum-dum, or more correctly as an expanding bullet. The previous name of Dumdum was “Domdoma”).
  3. Belgharia ( Once upon a time a big wholesale market for Fish, Jute, and vegetables )
  4. Agarpara
  5. Sodhpur (A station which always had huge rush and crowd. Also famous for the Khadi Prathistan where historic decisions with regard to freedom struggle were taken by Gandhiji and other great leaders like Subhas Chandra Bose.)
  6. Kharadha(The thousands of workers who had migrated here about a century ago from Bihar and Orissa form a large part of the populace and give it a distinctive colour )
  7. Titagarh(Famous for its railway wagon factory)
  8. Barrackpur (The station with a different architecture. Historically, the town was a military and administrative center under British rule and was the scene of several acts of rebellion against Britain during the 19th century. The oldest cantonment in India and the Police Training Academy in West Bengal are both located in Barrackpore.)
Barrackpore Railway Station

9. Palta
10. Icchapur (Famous for the ordnance factory)
11. Shyamnagar
(The name of Shyamngar came from a folk etymology of
Samne + Garh which in course of time changed to
Shyamnagar. During the rule of Raja Krishnachandra Roy of
Krishnanagar, the king gave the village called ‘Mulajore’
along with a title of RoyGunakar to his court
poet Bharatchandra Ray. In memory of Bharat Chandra Roy
Gunakar, there is an old and historic library named Bharat
Chandra Library. It is situated close to the railway
station. Relatives of Rabindranath Tagore had set up Mulajor
Kalibari at Shyamnagar ) 

Mulajor Kalibari

12. Jagaddal (This was where I was headed)

Jagaddal Railway Station

I boarded a “Kalyani Simanta” Local and gradually as the train moved on many known faces and known passengers started boarding the train at the various stations.

This being a Saturday the crowd was thinner and the “Adda” ( A typical Bengali term for discussions and chit-chats held in a group ) was better.

It was only during this “Adda” that I was told this train would not stop at Jagaddal and I would have to get down at an earlier or a later station and then move on to my destination on a different train. However, it also came to light that while the train passes the Jagaddal station it slows down considerably ( in respect to the people of Jagaddal an informal sort of arrangement till more trains were given halts at this relatively new station ) and one can alight from the running train without difficulty at all.

I was skeptical.

While I was a regular commuter and I had seen many people alighting from running trains I had never tried the same myself. I always thought that I neither had the technical know-how to do so nor had the courage to execute such a feat.

Seeing me diffident a large crowd gathered around me to encourage me and tell me that the matter was very simple.

I only had to manage the “ Inertia of Motion Concept”, alight from the moving train and instead of just landing plumb and halting I just needed to run along with the train for some time.

Ah…… Aha………

This was something I understood having been a physics student. “ Inertia of Motion”.

Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion. This includes changes to the object’s speed, direction, or state of rest. Inertia is also defined as the tendency of objects to keep moving in a straight line at a constant velocity.

Some examples of inertia of motion are as follows: 

  1. A person trying to get down from a running bus falls forward.
  2. The fruits fall off due to the inertia of motion along the direction of the wind.
  3. The swirling of milk in glass continues even after the stirring is stopped.

I knew this. 

With the concept clear in my mind, thanks to physics, I could nail it.

I thus had to land and keep running so as not to fall. So my body, when on the train, is moving and if I alighted and just stopped my body would tend to suddenly stop from a situation of motion and I would fall.

I knew this, I had to alight in a running position and keep running for some time to prevent myself from falling down.

Having understood the concept I had to execute it when the station came and the train slowed down.

I had good support from the people in the train and numerous examples of people who had pulled it off numerous times even at much higher speeds.

So when the station came, the train slowed down and I was ready.

Under cue from a co-passenger, I jumped amidst shouts of “parbi/parbe/parben” ( You can do it ) and kept running. 

I half-closed my eyes. I had alighted, I had not fallen and I should keep running.

 I was focussed and in a zone. I could hear cheers, claps, and shouts of parben parben, etc. I kept running and running.

Suddenly few hands ( helping hands ) reached out to me from the train. I was in a daze. In reflex, I grasped one of the hands and felt a few more palms clasping on to me.

I felt a sudden jerk, one of my hands was on the handle of the train at the door, I was running and with a final heave and amidst a lot of claps and cheers I was pulled and hauled up and as I landed and opened my eyes I was in the train again. 

The train was gradually speeding up and the Jagaddal station was passing away and I was on the train.

People were cheering, patting me and saying “ see I said you could do it”.

When everything mellowed down and I had got a seat and could reflect a little I realized what had happened.

Following the laws of physics, I had alighted and started running. The coach from where I had alighted saw me succeed and went back to their own ways.

I kept running keeping the laws of physics in mind and in doing so I had reached the coach ahead and people at that coach thought that I was trying to catch the train. 

They cheered up and hailed me and finally I was back in the same train but in a coach ahead of the coach I was previously in….

I am yet to understand whether studying physics was a good idea at all.

As they say, many a time, “Ignorance is bliss “

Superstition Gets In Your Way!

Interesting read. Superstition follows everyone in life maybe comes through generations or even gets picked up through coincidences during real life events.

Sparky Jen "No Beating Around the Bush Allowed!"

Of course superstition can get in your way!

Stevie Wonder sings a song called “Superstition,”Superstition-stevie-wonder and in it he warns us that if we believe in things that we don’t understand, we’ll end up suffering in and around those things.

I used to spend 5 fear-filled minutes or more trying to figure out what to do with my pocketbook other than placing it on the floor. purse_on_floorWhy? Because I was raised to believe that putting my purse on the floor is unlucky.

I wasn’t supposed to understand it, just do it, whether the “how” made sense to me or not.

Some people call this an “old-wives tale,” but it’s really an unsubstantiated superstition.

Would you cringe if I told you that I put my wet open umbrella in my bathtub?

Or have owned a black cat named “Midnight?”black-cat

What about me walking under the ladder to pick up a dust…

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