Mouse Through The Drain

The Boss was a scrawny man of medium height.

However, his aura and personality made him towering.

He walked with a distinct and discerning gait, generally spoke with a high pitch, hardly ever smiled without good reason and evoked terror not only amongst his subordinates but also amongst his peers and superiors.

It was felt that keeping distance with this man was a good choice unless circumstances presented you with the Hobson’s choice.

To boot, he was a bachelor and having managed to celebrate 55 years of bachelor-hood with equanimity and distinction he firmly believed that the institution of marriage was largely meant to produce kids who added to an already teeming population of India and only achieved the dubious objective of bringing the GDP of the country down.

Marriage to him was thus a deprecatory ceremony in the overall scheme of things for the country.

He lived life frugally, travelled to the office mainly by public transport, avoided buying a car which he considered to be more of a liability and ate a very lean lunch at the workplace.

The general rumour was that his dinner consisted of at least three pegs of dark rum with some bread or puffed rice thrown in as accompaniment.

Of his various claims to fame, his demeanour was not one while mannerisms being one, stood out.

He was considered whimsical, moody, of acerbic tongue and off his rockers. He carried all these epithets with ease and stubborn nonchalance.

Despite all this, he did command a lot of respect and admiration for his in-depth knowledge of the subject, his sharp mental faculties and his constant eagerness to keep challenging the vast ocean of knowledge. He was an encyclopedia, a library, and a storehouse of knowledge.

His English speaking and writing skills were exemplary and got him encomiums.

Any officer in front of him was a lame duck and was generally shot down in no uncertain terms for reasons of poor understanding of the subject matter and writing skills. You generally needed to be attired with double bulletproof jackets to enter his cabin and face him but no matter how well you prepared on the subject he would manage to find a flaw, elaborate upon it and prove to you that this was the most basic thing that should have been known to you. QED.

 You thus left his chamber with your head hanging low and your spirits hanging lower into the tide of various eager beavers waiting outside to have a crack at your expense over your fate and count the number of bullet marks on your jacket. It was another matter that everybody had been riddled with the Bosses’ bullets at some time or the other.

During those times the Insurance Companies had standard and conventional products and there were many situations where an existing product could not respond to the requirement. To tide over this situation, most insurance companies issued what was called a “Special Contingency Policy”.

The idea of such an Insurance Policy was to provide insurance cover for situations not available under the standard products and not specifically excluded under the standard products. In other words, if there was a novel requirement the requirement would be assessed and analyzed and a Special Contingency Policy would be issued to cover the situation. Such policies were custom drafted.

For example, if there was a milk powder manufacturing company which stored its product in warehouses and faced a situation where rodents were damaging and contaminating the product leading to a loss and damage to the product such a situation would get covered by issuance of a special contingency policy.

The authority for accepting and approving such proposals was vested with the Boss at Head Office. The idea was to ensure that such products be discussed and approved at the highest level and not issued indiscriminately and wantonly.

I was handling this portfolio then and my call for duty almost daily brought me to the line of fire as I had to analyze such proposals being received from the various offices of the country, prepare a detailed note around them and present them to the Boss for approval, rejection or discussion. The various offices who sent such requests would urge me to get the proposal approved by the Boss as the proposal was important to them and would help them make greater inroads into the client and so on and so forth.

I have been lucky to have survived those years on the battlefield.

Most of the time the Boss would find innumerable technical flaws in those proposals and most of the time rightly so and would thus either shoot them down or call for further details.

 His process of filtration was straight forward. If the Company itself could not manage their storage from rodents let not an Insurance Company pay for their mismanagement. He had a good nose for smelling out the real requirements which did qualify for a customized solution through a special contingency policy.

Into this line of fire once walked in Jonathan.

Jonathan was a thorough gentleman and an erudite. He had spent long years at the Head Office and had worked extensively with the Boss. The boss had been largely appreciative of Jonathan’s knowledge and style of working and the boss considered him as a nice and bright officer in a crowd of crooks. There was a bit of uncanny camaraderie between the two.

Eventually, Jonathan was transferred out of the Head office and took charge of a Division as the Divisional Manager. Now, once you become a Divisional Manager your primary focus moves to business development and for the sake of practicality, you learn to sacrifice or bypass certain technical considerations here and there for the sake of picking up business.

For this very reason, the Boss, therefore, considered most Divisional Managers as useless. For him, they were perfect ambassadors of doom for the Company as most of them hardly understood the subject and those who understood sacrificed most of it on the altar of business development. An action he deeply regretted and spewed venom on the matter whenever he got the opportunity.

One fine day Jonathan referred to me a requirement of a special contingency policy. A large Electric Distribution Company wanted a cover for electric thefts. Therefore, distribution losses through thefts would be quantified in monetary terms and the insurance coverage would pay for such losses.

 Jonathan had prepared a detailed proposal right from the stage of electric generation to delivery, excluded normal transmission losses calculated through past averages and even further excluded a certain percentage towards unknown and unexplainable losses. After this, the difference between the generation and the final delivery converted to monetary value would constitute a payable claim under the policy being attributable to transmission theft.

Jonathan was a good soul and while I was not entirely convinced about the proposal because of the various technical fall outs that I could envisage I decided to give it a shot to try and convince the boss. Also, Jonathan badly wanted to do this business as he thought this could create a mark for him with the client and give him the much-needed opening to get into their main insurance program which was big and that is where the meat was.

Although Unconvinced about the proposal I made a recommendation note and sent it to the boss. As I had anticipated I was summoned by the Boss after a couple of hours and completely taken down due to lack of understanding of the matter.

  1. How can such electricity thefts be controlled in India?
  2. What was the Corporate themselves doing to curb these thefts?
  3. What could be other distribution and transmission losses?
  4. How will transmission losses be calculated?
  5. How will illegal hooking be controlled?
  6. How robust is the metering system?
  7. What sort of outage has been factored in?
  8. Are there scheduled downtimes?
  9. Bla
  10. Bla
  11. Bla

Were some questions which were thrown at me. There were many more and they all seemed relevant.

I had no answers.

I was told in quite uncertain terms not to play ball with Divisional Managers and with Corporates who in Insurance only tried to find an ally to pass on their crimes and losses without doing much about it themselves.

However, as the Boss knew Jonathan he asked me to call in Jonathan the next day for a discussion.

Jonathan reached Head Office at the appointed time and I ushered him to the boss following him, albeit, sheepishly having once being smitten and with the feeling of at least twice being shy.

After the usual pleasantries, and the boss never spent more than a nanosecond on them the topic was placed on the anvil. The Boss attacked Jonathan with his volley of questions and soon Jonathan was knocked out flat with no answers and no good reason to do this proposal as it was not making technical and insurance sense.

Jonathan then made a final attempt. He looked at the boss and said: “ Boss this business is important as it would allow me a foothold into this big Corporate and this is my chance”.

The Boss heard Jonathan out, looked at Jonathan in the eye and without batting an eyelid stood up. I could see his eyes twitching, his hands shaking just a bit, his countenance turning graver, his gaze becoming more piercing and his stance aggressive.

Here was a bull ready for the attack

I quickly scampered to the corner of the room.

It was then that the Boss made is now famous dialogue.

“Jonathan you were a bright young lad but now for the sake of business you have forgotten your moorings and your technical knowledge”.

“It seems Jonathan with you now there is nothing technical it is all testicle”.

He paused and I could see Jonathan uncomfortably shifting his gaze.

“Jonathan”, the boss continued,” you do not have the requisite courage and the ability to enter the corporate through the front door armed with your competence and skill and convince them to give you their main business”

“Instead you want to enter the house through the drain like a dirty mouse carrying a special contingency policy in your mouth and assuming that you would be invited to the dinner table”.

“Grow Up Jonathan and do not waste our time”. “ The mouse which goes in through the drain generally lands up in the mousetrap”.

With that the Boss, without flinching an eyelid walked out of the room banging the door behind us and making sure that the last nail in the coffin was hammered in.

We were still in the cabin and from the corner of the room I looked at Jonathan and Jonathan looked at me and no words were necessary.

It is my Kingdom and I am the King: Trilogy

Mr Soni Sigh worked with a reputed Insurance Company in a Division at Delhi.

He was an Assistant Manager and reported to the Senior Divisional Manager.

He aspired to Head a Division one day. The position carried many perks, a nice big office chamber, quite a bit of authority including financial authority, number of subordinates to do the work, a bell to summon the peon, nameplate on the swinging door, a big chair with a nice white towel across the backrest, a stenographer to dictate to and quite a few branch offices with Branch Managers reporting into the Divisional Manager.

There was one hurdle though. The post carried a lot of responsibility and work pressure. This was not something Soni Singh liked. He came from the school of thought “Why take the pressure of work in a public sector”.

 However, over a period of time, he had realized that if he could head the division in a smaller town he would carry a lot more weight, get respect and could even throw his weight around.

He would have quite a few Branch Managers running errands for him at his beck and call

That was not possible in Delhi. Delhi was a big city with 23 Divisional Managers and he would just be one in the crowd. He wanted the DM(District Magistrate) feel as Divisional Manager and that was possible only if he headed the Division in a smaller town.

In a year Lady Luck smiled upon him and he was posted as the Divisional Manager of Gwalior.

Encantada- He was enchanted. As the notification and the circular came out the entire Insurance Cpmpany came to know about it but hardly did anyone notice the name Soni Singh moving to Gwalior as Divisional Manager heading the Gwalior Division. Few who knew him congratulated him. While it was a routine office order it was a dream come true for Soni.

He was proven right when three people called him, introduced themselves, welcomed him and said that they were looking forward to his joining. These three were the Branch Managers under the Gwalior Division.

He was over the moon already. He imagined himself like a King sitting on his grand throne.

Soni thus stood vindicated in his own light.

On the appointed day he reached Gwalior to a grand reception by the three Branches and employees of the Gwalior Division. He was garlanded as he alighted from the Shatabdi Express at Gwalior and was whisked away in a car with a motorcade behind him to the Company flat.

 A party was hosted in his honour in the evening with the choicest of drinks and lavish food.

 He was the hero, he was the king and he braced himself up for a long haul.

Gradually he settled down at Gwalior, came to be known as Manager Saheb, carried quite some powers to his liking and kept on managing the show without taking much of responsibility and hardly ever signing on any paper.

After joining he had made an elaborate research regarding his signing authorities and financial authorities and also discovered that more often than not he could get the officers under him to sign to get the job done. In certain cases where he had no option but to sign he had mastered the art of getting sufficient signatures above his signature with adequate justification from them as regards the matter on hand on which the note had been made.

He always remembered the Motto.”Lesser you sign the lesser you would be in trouble”.

Let us now explore three incidents considered a master class in the Soni art and art form of avoidance in which he would get famous

The Elusive Chargesheet:

Sharad Kelkar was a Branch Manager under Soni Singh.

He was in his late twenties, recently married and had small material aspirations in life. He had discovered that in order to meet up with these small aspirations he needed a little more money. He found a simple way that of exaggerating conveyance and taxi bills, producing, once a while, fake lunch bills, fake small buys for the branch, like stationery, mineral water bottles and the like. This gave him a bit of extra income and allowed him the material buys he liked like sunglasses, visit fine dine restaurants with his wife, the branded Raymonds blazer. A bit of Peter Scot and such things.

Unfortunately, as we say smaller thefts have bigger consequences and in an audit, a snacks bill of INR 100/- got investigated and was found to be fake. Remember we are talking of 1991 when Hundred Rupees was not as paltry as it is today.

 The reimbursement claim was linked to Sharad and an audit recommendation of charge-sheet was put forward. The matter was brought to the notice of Soni as he was the Divisional Manager and as a matter of protocol reported to the Personnel Department of the Head Office of the Insurance Company. The issued landed upon the table of the then General Manager, Personnel who being an employee-friendly person thought it fit to first speak to Soni Singh about it.

The GM was humane and would generally avoid serious steps unless the matter unequivocally so justified.

He learnt from Soni Singh that generally Sharad was a decent fellow, ran the branch well and was extremely hard working and dedicated. It was thus settled that the Head Office would only issue a warning letter and call for an explanation from Sharad instead of issuing a charge sheet. As discussed and agreed a warning cum explanation letter was issued and sent across to Soni who was to hand-deliver the same to Sharad and also collect a receipt and a written explanation from him.

It is here that Soni formulated his master plan so as to ensure that Sharad remained loyal to him and indebted to him forever. He was now in a War Room.

He summoned Sharad to his office, closed the doors to his chamber and in a grave and concerning voice told Sharad that he was in big trouble and a charge sheet, suspension and inquiry was likely. He thus let the sword of Damocles’ hanging over Sharad’s head.

Sharad was devastated and almost fell to the feet of Soni. The ignominy of suspension would be too much for him and the finding of the inquiry was a forgone conclusion as he knew he had committed this fraud.

Sharad had a family to support and a reputation to protect.

While Sharad cried and wept Soni absorbed and observed him  like a dog falling for the bone.

At the final yelp of “ Please help me out of this Sir” Soni got up to put his arms around Sharad and told him that he would try his best but in any case, the charge sheet would be delivered to Sharad and he would first have to reply to the charge sheet following which Soni would try and bail him out.

Thus partly reassured Sharad left the room and left Soni licking his chops.

Soni Singh knew there was no charge sheet forthcoming. What was coming was only a simple warning letter but he had ensnared his prey with the intent of making him loyal for life.

One fine morning the Regional Office Dak delivered the warning letter to be issued to Sharad on Soni’s desk. Soni opened it, read it, placed it in his upper drawer and locked it. He was now waiting for the prey to wreathe and wriggle.

He decided to hold the letter for quite some time.

After his meeting with Soni Singh, Sharad had been impatient, sleepless and tense and he had been daily calling Soni to find out whether the charge sheet had arrived only to be told Not yet. This added to his agony.

When Soni finally realized that enough was now enough he eventually beckoned Sharad to his office  inter-alia telling him that the charge sheet had arrived.

Such memos always had two copies. One original which was to be delivered and one copy which was to be duly receipted by the receiver under signature to form part of the office file thus creating the evidence that the original letter had been delivered to the intended recipient.

When Sharad arrived Soni Singh again called him inside his chamber which he locked from inside. The atmosphere was still and tense and Soni was looking pensive and anxious too. Soni stealthily opened his drawer and brought out the office copy ( not the original ). He turned the letter around towards Sharad who was sitting across him and covered the contents of the letter with a file with the lower end of the letter protruding out towards Sharad.

He was like a magician conjuring up a trick and Sharad the audience in total hypnosis.

He told Sharad “ Write received and sign it”. Sharad had no option. He wrote received, signed the letter and put the date and time. Soni then quickly pulled back the office copy opened his drawer put the letter inside and locked it again.

Sharad sat there looking at Soni. Soni just looked back and said, “ Ok, you can go now”. Sharad was clueless and blank. “ Sir the original letter Sir, if you could give me so that I can draft a reply”. “ We shall discuss that later,” said Soni. “ Now just leave before others get to know about all this”. Sharad got up and left.

He called Soni Singh at night asking if he could come over to Soni’s house to collect the letter. Soni Singh said, “ What’s the hurry? You know what you have done you can draft a reply”. “ But Sir I should see the charges in the letter so that I can reply aptly Sir, I need your help, Sir”.

“ Think properly Sharad”. said Soni Singh, “and be calm and composed” he retorted and hung the phone.

Soni’s beer that night tasted better.

From that night onwards Sharad would daily ask Soni Singh for the original letter and Soni would simply say “ Sharad draft your reply, ensure that you have covered all the charges made against you in the letter and stay calm and composed”

It is told that Sharad could never lay his hands on the original letter in spite of trying everything from taking Soni Singh out for dinner, giving him gifts, taking him out for drinks and so on and so forth.

Till the time Soni Singh was transferred Sharad remained his faithful dog and the day he was moving out he quietly told Sharad that he would invite Sharad to his house for dinner when he would give Sharad the original letter.

The dinner invitation never came and the so-called charge sheet remained undelivered for eternity.

The Water Purifier:

One morning Soni decided to visit his various branches in the city of Gwalior. He thus made a tour to the various branches finally landing up at Sharad’s branch.

Sharad went out of his way to welcome Soni Singh ( remember he had not yet got the letter ). He organised an elaborate high tea in the evening, showed Soni around at the branch giving him high importance and praising him in front of his branch employees.

At the end of the day, Soni Singh told Sharad “ Sharad your office needs a nice water purifier”. “ All of you should have good and purified drinking water. “We should buy one for your office you know” he said.

Like a faithful lapdog Sharad barked, “ Yes Sir, I think so Sir”. “Let us go and buy it now, “ said Soni and the two left for the market.

They bought a nice water cooler which Sharad paid from office money as it was an official buy. The bill being in Soni’s authority he immediately signed it. Sharad then suggested dinner to which Soni readily agreed. They went to a lovely restaurant and had a lavish drink and meal after which Soni Singh was dropped to his house. Once they reached the porch Soni Singh told Sharad to bring out the water cooler and leave it in his house and Sharad could collect it tomorrow for the branch.

Sharad, always loyal, did as was told.

While Sharad was leaving Soni said goodnight and waved back at Sharad adding “ Sharad remember the reply to your charge sheet. I can’t buy time for you forever”

The very next day Soni Singh called the water purifier shop, asked for the mechanic and got the water purifier installed at his own house and Sharad could never ask for it to be given back to the branch office.

Once a while Soni Singh would talk about the importance of purified water to Sharad rubbing salt into his wounds and Sharad always felt that in doing so Soni Singh perhaps enjoyed the taste of the water more.

Why should a Divisional Manager work:

Soni Singh truly believed that at his level he was not supposed to work and was supposed to get work done. More so in a Public Sector job where he was the Ringmaster who only cracked his whip while others worked.

However, his method got into a bit of a hiccup due to a certain situation.

Certain agents started writing letters directly to him over various matters. Now in a PSU a written letter is a serious thing and Soni Singh felt if a letter was addressed directly to him he would have to take some actions and decisions which he did not want to.

He thought and thought and come out with a solution. He drafted out a circular to be sent out to all employees and agents working with and attached to his Divisional Office.

The basic content of the letter was as under:

……………………………………………………….“ Everyone is hereby requested to take note that in order to increase the efficiency of the office and to ensure senior management involvement in all crucial matters the following process shall be followed hereon:

  1. Everyone has to maintain strict compliance to work ethics and be responsive to both internal and external customers.
  2. Each letter received is to be replied promptly and in no case later than 24 hours.
  3. All letters should be addressed to the Division through me”…………………………..

This created an interesting paradox that if a letter was sent directly to the Division it could not be through Soni and if it was sent directly to Soni then it violated the office circular.

Soni thus created a Catch 22 situation and managed to create affirmation and contradiction at the same time.

P.S: All names of characters are fictional and any resemblance to any person/place/ thing living or otherwise is purely co incidental.

The Cart Before The Horse

Those who have been fortunate enough to work in a Public Sector Undertaking commonly referred to as PSU would have many stories and anecdotes to narrate.

If all these people could start penning down just one interesting story out of their myriad experiences it would create copious and interesting literature.

We would have a great compilation of short stories and who knows a very interesting novel too.

This is one from my memory manuscript during my days with a PSU.

Rewind to 1990.

I was posted at Indore, the financial capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh in India, as a greenhorn Assistant Administrative Officer. Being an engineer I would have to travel extensively within the state to visit and carry out Risk Inspection of various Industries and factories both in the large and MSME Sector.

The visits to the MSMEs were interesting as that took me to the interiors of the state and often to remote and Godforsaken places to visit small solitary units standing in the middle of nowhere. It was tough too as sometimes I had to stay at run-down motels, pillion ride on someone’s two-wheeler on muddy village trucks, eat at roadside dhabas, sometimes walk miles and so on.

However, in the process, I visited many interesting places and met many interesting people.

Khargone was one such place and Mr Jain was one such man.

Khargone is a district in Madhya Pradesh and the District Headquarter was in the town of Khargone named after the district.

 The district lies in the Nimar region.

In the ancient period, the Haihayas of Mahishmati (present-day MaheshwarDoes that remind us of the Film Bahubali ) ruled this region. Later the area was under the Paramaras of Malwa and Ahirs of Asirgarh. The area was under Malwa Sultanate of Mandu. In 1531, Gujarat sultan Bahadur Shah brought this area under his control.

Later it passed on to the Mughal Rule as Akbar annexed the territory and later the territory passed through the Peshwas to the Holkars of Indore, Sindhias of Gwalior and Ponwars of Dhar.

Post-independence and merger of the Princely states with Union of India in 1948, this territory became West Nimar district of Madhya Bharat.

Khargone district had been part of the Nerbudda (Narmada) Division of the Central Provinces and Berar, which became the state of Madhya Bharat (later Madhya Pradesh) after India’s independence in 1947. On 1 November 1956, this district became part of the newly formed state of Madhya Pradesh.

Jain was a simpleton. He was posted at the Khargone Branch as the Branch Manager. He was thus a Senior Government Officer in a small town and carried this post of his with a badge of honour. In and around he was known as “Manager Sahib” and he quite enjoyed the adulation and the respect and why not as this was quite a big deal for a man from very humble and meagre origins.

He was the Branch Manager of a large PSU and he was proud of this.

The area is largely a rural area and his business was confined to insurance of two-wheelers, crops and few cotton ginning and pressing factories. He reported to the Divisional Office at a different location which in turn reported to the Regional Office at the state capital which in turn reported to the Head Office at a Metro City and for business purposes he often toured the various villages that came under his territory.

One day the Village Panchyat Pradhan told him that being the Manager he should have a car and that would add to his prestige and position.

Mr Jain knew that he was entitled to a car in his current position and he was also aware of the 80-20 car scheme. As per the car scheme the car would virtually be available to him without any extra cost and he only had to make an application to the Division Office . The application would then move up the bureaucratic ladder to the Regional Office – Head Office and would return approved via the same route. After that was done Mr Jain could buy the car and start claiming maintenance, fuel and other perks that came with it as per the scheme. Not to mention the pride of owning a car.

Mr Jain decided to act in right earnest. He immediately contacted the Divisional Manager who directed him to Mr Hamid who was responsible for admin and personnel and handled such matters.

A word or two about Mr Hamid. Mr Hamid was a colourful personality and an interesting character. He believed in living life to the fullest with a smile and he was great at pulling pranks on people without batting an eyelid.

Of course, Mr Jain did not know this.

Mr Hamid placed a call to Mr Jain, introduced himself, in a jiffy made friendship with him and called him over to the Division Office. A date was decided and the meeting was set up.

On the appointed day Mr Jain reached Khandwa with a surreal glow on his face awash with the thought of becoming the proud owner of a car. He was heartily welcomed and greeted by Mr Hamid and they immediately struck up a chord. In half an hour Mr Hamid knew a lot about Mr Jain,his upbringing, his family, his ambitions, his wishes, his dreams. Very soon Mr Hamid was hosting Mr Jain to lunch at a nice restaurant that boasted of sumptuous vegetarian food. He was hosting Mr Jain at Company’s cost of course.

During lunch, Mr Hamid came to the topic of the car.

“O.P so you want to apply for a car”, said Hamid.

“Oh yes”, replied Mr Jain.

“Are you aware of the Pros and cons of the scheme and do you realize that in your present posting as Branch Manager of s a small town it is not a good idea to go for a car”.

Mr Jain was just enjoying the Tomato Onion soup when he was taken aback and looked askance at Hamid.

“Look” Said Hamid, “ Car is something you can apply any time you want in your position as Branch Manager but it does not make sense when you are posted at the branch”. “The area you cover is largely rural and most of the villages are better accessed on foot or a two-wheeler and since you have a two-wheeler of your own already you can easily cover these areas on your two-wheeler. Most of the times in the bad roads of the area you would not be able to use the car and the problem will get compounded during the monsoons. The car will mainly lie idle, require maintenance and you would not be able to produce the required fuel bills as you would hardly be able to use it. Since the car would not be used much you will lose in terms of the maintenance allowances too as these are linked to the kilometre usage of the car”.

“ You need to think rationally Jain” continued Hamid”. “This car would only become a showpiece and would soon become a financial burden on you”. “The car is not lost upon you”. “As soon as you get transferred to some other place which is urban you can immediately apply for the car”. “Only then will the car make sense to you and I mean financially as well, what with all the allowances and fuel reimbursements and the like”. “But Now, not at all”.

Mr Jain was bewildered but what Hamid said was making some sense. “ “Well Hamid, I get your point,so you are saying I don’t buy the car now”. “ If so what next”. This was the Question in Mr Jains mind which he posed to Hamid,

“Aha there you go Jain”. 

“I knew you were an intelligent dude,” said Hamid. “Let us first order the main course”

The menu was decided. Paneer Tikka, Yellow Dal Tadka, Jeera Rice and a Mixed Veg. Items which Mr Jain liked. He was beginning to think that Hamid had something better in store for him.

Hamid was a Pure Non-Vegetarian and he hated this food but he knew O.P had taken the bait and that kicked him. In any case Salma, his wife was making Mutton for dinner.

“So Jain do you know that in such situations the Company has a special provision of providing a horse and only the CMD of the Company has the authority to sanction this”.

Mr Jain almost fell off his chair. “ A horse”… You mean, “ A Horse.” He blabbered almost knocking off the glass of water in front of him. With a bewildered expression writ large on his face he looked up at Hamid.

“That’s exactly what I mean”, said Hamid with a mysterious smile hanging from his lips.

But Hamid “ What will I do with a horse, Where will I Keep it, how does it help, I don’t know how to ride”. Mr Jain was feeling nervous as well as confused.

The Panner Tikka had arrived and Hamid urged that they start eating.

“ Look Jain”, continued Hamid. “A horse would mean huge financial gain to you”. “The company pays for maintenance and fodder and unlike the car, no bills are required for this as there are no Garages and workshops for horses”. “You can thus claim a monthly amount towards these expenses without any bills and this money is yours for keeps”. “This is a direct financial gain to you as there is no way one can check and verify these expenses”. “And, as for the horse, you can let it graze in the lovely green fields of the village”. “The horse grazes for free and you get paid for it”. “It’s the jackpot Jain”. “Very few people know about this scheme but you are a friend so I am telling you”.

“As far as riding it is concerned you need not ride it”. “You can just keep it with you tied outside your house, and we will get one of the village lads to look after the horse at a very nominal cost”. “I can reimburse you for this and you can present a handwritten self-declaration towards this expense”. “See this bill is in your hands and even if you claim slightly extra no one would question”.

“If you so wish you could start learning to ride too”. “You could soon be the next Texan on horseback you know”.

“Just one word of caution Jain”. “Tell no one about this as this is a very special sanction”.

“All in all you thus stand to gain financially to a great extent and this would not be possible with a car”. “The car you can always buy later as per the company scheme”. “See you are lucky that you are posted at a small rural place and you financially stand to gain by applying for a horse”.

Hamid sounded genuine and Mr Jain saw reason in what he said, he was starting to get convinced.

The main course had come and Hamid was enjoying this.

“ There you go Jain, “ said Hamid. “Now let me tell you how to make an application”. “You need to apply on plain paper mentioning your Name, Employee Number, Location, Designation and give brief details of the locality, which I will help you with”.

They were into the main course now and Mr Jain was happy with the prospect of getting a horse on Co’s money. He had realized that this was a bit of a money-spinner and who did not want money.

The dessert was the only thing that Hamid liked. Jalebis and Rabri.

After the lunch while they walked back to the office they discussed the process of applying for the horse and that Mr Jain should directly post the envelope to the CMD marking it as Personal and Confidential as this was supposed to be a special sanction resting only with the CMD. Superscribing the envelope as Personal and Confidential would ensure that no one else opened it.

Satisfied thus and thanking Hamid profusely Mr Jain went back to Khargone in the evening. The next few days went into secretive discussions with Hamid and preparing the application. As Hamid had said this was a very special sanction and no one should know about it.

Finally, the application was ready and under the advice of Hamid Mr Jain posted it through the local post office.

He had even calculated the amount of money he could gain monthly in terms of fodder, maintenance of the horse etc.

Almost every day Hamid and Mr Jain would speak to each other and discuss the prospects of the approval of the horse.

In the meantime, Hamid narrated the incident to quite a few people in the Company known to him.

By word of mouth, the news had spread and almost everyone knew that Mr Jain had applied for a horse. Everyone waited for the Head Office to respond. The rumour was circulating but Mr Jain was in a small office in a small town and the news could not penetrate his world of make-believe.

15 days after the posting of this letter to the CMD of National the landline phone of Mr Malhotra, the Regional Manager rang on a Saturday at 8.00 AM. A lazy weekend when Mr Malhotra enjoyed some extra sleep. He cursed and abused as dreary eyed he got up from bed, staggered and stumbled to the phone in his half slumber state, groped for the phone and picked it up.

“Malhotrar” the voice at the other end was stern and strong. Kakkar recognized the voice of the CMD and the slumber left him immediately. He was fully attentive now. “ Yes Sir”.

“ Are we giving horses to our Branch Managers, have you lost it”.

The Car Or The Horse

Malhotra was dumbstruck but in the next ten minutes, he was given to understand what had happened along with an earful from the CMD inter-alia warning him of posting such foolish people as Branch Managers. In the next half an hour he spoke to his Personnel and Admin Head who knew nothing about it, they contacted the Divisional Manager who knew nothing about it but whose gut feeling told him that Hamid might have been involved in this. Hamid was called on his landline and he admitted to this prank.

Both Hamid and Mr Jain were summoned in person to the Regional Office the next working day where they were admonished and hauled up and had to apologise and were let off with a warning.

Later the Regional Manager took Hamid aside and told him not to carry his pranks to a level that the CMD of the Company would get involved and they had a laugh around it.

Over the next few years, Mr Jain had a tough time facing people from the Company as they would laugh both in front of him and behind him. Some would directly ask him about the horse or tell him how foolish and gullible he had been and he had to carry the embarrassment with himself for long. He was also given various nicknames like Horsey, Colt, Ghoda Babu and so on.

Mr Jain did not speak to Hamid for about a month but finally called him up and vented out hurling abuses at Hamid for making a fool of him. Hamid had expected this and was up for this situation. He charged back saying “ Jain I trusted you but you let me down and I would not speak to you ever”.

“Oh Hello,” said Jain “who trusted whom”?

“Jain I had told you that this had to be a secret as these are special sanctions and I am sure you told somebody and that’s why this got messed up”. “ Come on Jain” continued Hamid “ I tried to help you but ended up apologizing and getting a warning”. ”This is not done”.

Hamid sounded agitated, angry, hurt and Mr Jain again fell for it. He thought and thought.

“ Oh Yes Hamid”, he said. “I had told this to my friend Pawan the Branch Manager of Datia but I had told him not to tell anyone”.

“ Now I know,” said Hamid “ As they say never do a good deed for anyone” and banged the phone down.

Afterwards, Mr Jain made up with Hamid feeling guilty about not keeping a secret but till his last day at the office, he was not sure whether Hamid did play a prank on him.

Had Jain Put his cart before the horse? The readers may decide.

P.S: All names of characters are fictional and any resemblance to any person/place/ thing living or otherwise is purely co-incidental.

Lifeline Vs Life-On-The-Line

It was time for Hamid to leave.

He hugged his Abba and Ammi and his wife Nafisa.

Son Ayub was looking.

He said to each of them that he loved them and that he would be back soon. Perhaps a lie.

He could not tell them where he would be. That was top secret. He only told them that he would keep giving them news of his safety and well being.

He walked away as the entire family stood at the door. 10 steps down he turned back, waved at them and turned back again. Resolution and Conviction are written large over his stern face.

Did they see a hint of a tear in his eye? Well, only Hamid knows…

It is his call to duty.

Lytton Das, Ambrish Singh and Bhairav Shekawat patted each other’s back as they set out of their camp.

At 20,000 feet and at a temperature of -55 deg at 5.00 AM their vigil began. They were at the highest battled field of the world – Siachen.

Lytton enquired about Ambrish’s expecting wife and then they moved on. Each to their post.

Everything freezes at this temperature but not their spirit and enthusiasm.

It is their call to duty.

Desmond and Mahesh Rawat took guard behind a tree. Their INSAS rifle loaded.

Naina was in the temporary command centre alongside Sarvanan. Reddy and Doshi were in combat position behind the sand bunkers.

They were ready to die if required. They were trying to take out seven terrorists.

It is their call to duty.

Gurung Thapa, Yangba, Mohanty, Nair and Khandekar were wading through the gushing floodwaters rescuing men and women to safety. Durga Rani was flying a helicopter distributing and airdropping relief materials and food.

It was their call to duty.

Hemant Dogra was at the Thar desert at his post. Focused and vigilant as always. Temperatures soaring to 47 deg C. At the same time, Gurmeet raised his periscope at India’s international sea border. He did not have orders to surface.

 It is their call to duty.

Mariam Solomon left for the hospital designated for COVID. She is a nurse. She said goodbye to her family and with her eyes twinkling with determination walked away to her duty. She would be in her PPE for almost 8 to 9 hours at a stretch and during this time she would not be able to have food or go to the washroom. She would work for 15 to 16 hours today and for days to come. When back home she would not go near her family. She would first have to take her clothes off in the hallway, it has become the usual drill, the neighbours were used to it as well. She is using a separate bathroom, separate utensils, washing her clothes and living a life as isolated as possible.

How long would this go on? Even Mariam does not know.

It is her call to duty.

Dr Pandey was disturbed. He could not leave his station. There were streams of patients. He wanted to save everyone. It was his profession to save lives. He would call all his medical faculties to the fore and focus. He needed more than 24 hours. He had to save lives.

 It is his call to duty.

At the same time, Ramu was sanitizing streets and colonies from 7 AM. He did not understand much about the Virus but he thought his action would save lives and he wanted to save lives.

It is his call to duty. 

Paramita gathered up all the people in her building, sought for contribution and started a meal service for the hungry. She felt happy in being able to provide food to so many.

It is her call to her conscience.

Shreya woke up at 5 am. She looked around her house and found everyone sleeping. She tiptoed out and headed off to her office. For her, work from home was not an option. She grabbed her mic and headed off to the virus filled hospitals and started her usual day of interviewing the authorities. She had recently heard that 5 journalists had contracted the virus, but she needed to inform the masses. She was the only bridge of communication between the war on the virus and the people at home.  

It was her call to duty to inform and educate.

Everybody told Ghanekar that he is in an extremely corrupt institution. Ghanekar was never surprised by this. Indian Policemen lived with this reputation.

That does not prevent Ghanekar from getting up at 5 AM and go to his beat and organize social distancing, help in containing and quarantining, explain to residents, try and help migrants, enforce discipline, and warn violators. The news of policemen being attacked on duty was becoming common, yet that didn’t deter him. It is going to be a long day and he knows it. He does not even get time to sit for a moment.

There would be many more such long days to come.

He felt moved when people came out on their roofs clapping and playing on utensils.

Ghanekar feels happy.

It is his call for redemption of the image of the Police Department.

Shefali and Roopa – For them, the laboratory has become their home. They want to test more and more. A negative brings joy and they do high fives. A positive drives them to their protocol to inform the authorities and set the process in motion. They don’t want to leave the Lab.

It is their call to duty.

The armed forces today have decided to honour the COVID workers by showering petals from helicopters on hospitals and by lining up navy ships along sea coasts. These ships will light up and flares would be released as a tribute to the superheroes of COVID 19.

One of the greatest institutions of the country rises to honour the COVID Warriors.

Many are asking why this is needed?

Ask the COVID Warrior they will say they don’t need it but I am sure they deserve it.

They deserve every bit of it.

Who are we to question the armed forces of our country.

Did we ask them why they came to save me during the Chennai floods?

Did we ask them why they carried Maninder’s pregnant wife on their shoulders to the nearest hospital because she had to deliver a baby while the town was under curfew?

Did we ask them why they had to risk their lives at Handwara today to evacuate civilians from terrorists and in the process losing five lives?

We cannot ask questions to those whose call to duty demands to give their lives to the Nation if required.

For what?

For our tomorrow they give away their today…

I raise a toast to the Armed Forces and Covid Warriors.

I dare not ask them why because I do not dare to put my life on the line like them…

Jai Hind.


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.


  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:



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


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…

View original post 1,166 more words

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 “