cogito ergo sum

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I am not studying!
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Tere bin jiya laage na....!

By the look of it, India and Pakistan seem to be the biggest adversaries since the mythological Pandavas and the Kauravas. We (India and Pakistan) have fought three wars with each other (and will keep the good work on); we demonize each other, hurl expletives at each other and lock horns at just about every international summit worth its name. Yet we take a bus ride all the way to Lahore, a ride which does more harm to our bones than good to Indo-Pak relations and when their cheap..err..chief executive comes calling we treat him to a 52 course sumptuous meal. In fact India and Pakistan take to each other like ducks take to water though not quite with the same degree of geniality.

The fact is that India and Pakistan are indispensable to each other. And in economic lingo (since I am a SR-ite), India and Pakistan are perfectly complementary goods whose production and consumption have to increased or decreased simultaneously and proportionately. That is why their 'Indifference curves' and 'Iso-product curves' are 'L-shaped'. Ask someone who knows all about curves, I mean ask your economics teacher.

The enmity that exists or rather seems to exist between the two nations is in fact for mutual cohabitation. Consider the following facts. If normal, I mean abnormally good relations, were to exist between our two countries then the first casualty on both sides of the border would be the media which would then starve for want of sensational stories to publish and/or broadcast. Indo-Pak cricket matches would then become 'economic-bads' for the cricket boards of both the nations. No hysterical cries hence from fans when Waqar Younis hurls a toe-crusher at Sourav Ganguly or when Sachin Tendulkar spanks Wasim Akram for a four. Who would pay to watch Sourav dada shake hands with Shoaib Akhtar? Nah, not me! I would rather have him shake something else. Henceforth there would be no more accusations of match-fixing (of the cricketing variety) when the home team loses, no vilifications, no mud-slinging, no reasons for a favorite adda, no nothing.

We would rather have Bal Thackeray keep digging up pitches and go and watch the one-man Indian army shout away the entire Pakistani army in 'gadar'. Come to think of it, our informal lives would become so tasteless that we would advocate a return to the erstwhile frosty relations (read: happening relations) between us.

Pakistan is India's single largest obsession and vice versa. It provides employment to countless Indians and Pakistanis in the unorganized as well as the organized sector. If we dont demonize each other we would be utterly jobless. So friends, shouldnt rise and say:

Pakistan Zindabad
Finally to conclude in the (slightly modified) words of John Lennon,
"You may say that I am an Ass
But I am not the only one!
Let Pakistan be!"
Vivek Saraf.
Published in "The Write-Stuff ",2000, The SRCC English Literary Society's Journal.

From Calcutta to Kolkata..!

There is no real connection between ideology and poor decision making except that sometimes the latter maybe induced by very wild varieties of the former. Yours truly, like most well-minded citizens of the city of Calcutta was aghast at this decision to rename the city as Kolkata.

The idea was first mooted by the ‘intellectuals’ of the ‘Bhasha Smarak Samiti”, a self-styled organization which has taken upon itself the onerous task of preserving Bengal (or Bengali’s) caaltural heritage. They were otherwise sensible and intelligent people who somehow got it into their heads that Calcutta be rechristened Kolkata at the taxpayer’s expense.

These members of the Bengali intelligentsia or the ‘cream’ of Calcutta’s society as they would like to be known, complain that philistines are abusing Bengalis and the Bengali language. They feel that Calcutta’s increasing cosmopolitanism is swamping it’s Bengaliness and what’s more, they even perceive a real threat to Bengali culture and lineage as a whole. The rampant use of English everywhere also adds to their agony.

Such apprehensions on their part are highly misplaced and only exposes the fragility of their cultural identity. In fact things have come to such a passé that the ageing Marxists, as a newspaper likes to call Mr. Jyoti Basu and his entourage, now have to take a leaf out of the books of the likes of Bal Thackeray, who at best can be described as a fanatic.

The Encyclopedia Britannica mentions Calcutta in 1596 as being a small rent paying village in Akbar’s empire. It is only after Job Charnock and later when the British East India Company came here that Calcutta became the British empire’s second capital after London. The British established Calcutta as one of the most important industrial and commercial centers of not only India but the entire East. We must also not forget that in the high noon of the Bengali Renaissance, probably the greatest era in Bengali history, Bengali culture flourished not by cocooning itself but by freely imbibing from other cultures. And must we forget that almost all the places that are enlisted on Calcutta’s tourist brochures owe their allegiance to the British. The Fort William, the Victoria Memorial, The National Library, the Indian Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, etc are all their gift to this hallowed city. The only indigenous contribution to the city, some argue, are the sewage poured into the Rabindra Sarobar, heaps of rubbish in Esplanade, and yes, processions and strikes at the drop of a hat. In a nutshell, Calcutta without its British connection is unimaginable and let us not do ourself the utmost indignity by disowning them. We prefer to call central Calcutta, Esplanade and Dalhousie and not Dharamtolla or BBD Bagh. What is more revealing of them and their true nature is the fact that the seat of west Bengal government is called Writer’s Buildings and not some Bangla Bhavan.

Calcutta without any iota of doubt is the city of Bengal, but by no stretch of imagination is it the city of Bengalis. It has been home to people of all hues, religions and countries, a fact which has enriched its cosmopolitanism. To strip it off this very image would be an ahistorical exercise.

“Bengal thinks today what India thinks tomorrow”, used to be the mantra some decades ago. But unfortunately much water has flown down the Hooghly since and the saying no longer holds much ‘water’.

Calcutta is redolent of what it once was and what it might have been had we been a little more responsible. But Kolkata takes us back to the obscure little village it once was. Calcutta once stood for progress in all fields. Let us not try to insulate ourselves. It is time we reinvested in this city, the attributes of modernity. I hope wiser counsel prevails.

Vivek Saraf.
Published in 'Pulse' 2000, Annual Magazine of Calcutta Boys' School, Calcutta.

Without You....!

It is a world that i seldom understand. And in it there are winds of destiny, winds of change that blow when we least expect them to. Sometimes they gust forth with the fury of a hurricane and at other times, they barely kiss one's cheek. But the winds cannot be denied, bringing as they often do, a future impossible to ignore. You, my dear, are the wind that I never anticipated; the wind that has gusted more strongly than I had ever fathomed. You came into my life and transformed it forever. Things would never be the same again. You changed my attitude towards life, made me friendlier and outward-looking. You helped me make innumerable friends and made sure that we never lost touch.

The very thought of your delicate frame, those smooth curves and the remarkable ease with which your body slipped and then disappeared into my welcoming hands, sending my pleasure levels soaring, still sends shivers down my spine. I still remember those sharp, piercing and delirious sounds of ecstasy, the joyous expressions on your visage as my fingers ran through and caressed all parts of your anatomy. I made sure no part of your body was alien to me.

If only I could forget those long nights when i slept soundly, totally oblivious of the fact that you were up all night to ensure that I woke up on time for my exams; only to punched in the nose by an ungrateful me. I hurled the choicest abuses at you but you stayed calm and composed. You were always there to tell me the time when even the 'swatch' on my wrist had left me high and dry. We played games together, laughed together. How i miss those wonderful tunes sung by you to lift my spirits when i was down in the dumps. Even Barbara Streisand can only dream of matching your variations in tone, pitch and wavelength.

You selfless spirit, you never ever cared for your emotions, never gave voice to your feelings for me. On the contrary, you helped me patch up with my bitchy girlfriend just when we were about to breakoff. And yes, how can i forget those long, envious and desperate stares that you elicited from guys in my college (SRCC, DU). "Lucky b******" is what they used to mutter under thir breath. We were, so to say, made for each other.

Inspite of all that you were to me, I used to curse you at times when u disturbed me in the middle of a class. The entire class along with the antiquated professor would look accusingly at me for having violated their non-existent code of honour. Ah, but woe is me! I hardly realized your real worth and the place you had come to occupy in my life. You had become an inseparable part of me. Our lives had become entwined around each other's and I couldnt even leave for anywhere without you.

Who would have thought that one fateful day, I would wake up only to find myself sleeping alone, with you not beside me! Who would have thought that one stroke of luck, or rather the lack of it, would snatch you away from me.

This isnt the wind of change, the wind of destiny that I had bargained for. But then you dont always have your way. Life's like that. I had to rise above my deep sense of personal loss and woo someone all over again.

Only this time it was a NOKIA 7650!

Vivek Saraf.
Published in "A matter of opinion", The SRCC Debating Society Journal, 2004.