Faux Post: Trinamool Congress to visit Kanha-Pench corridor to show solidarity with tigers

Trinamool Congress Party (TMC) today declared that they would send a three member team to the Kanha-Pench corridor that the Central government has decided to widen. The three member team comprises Derek O’Brien, Abhishek Banerjee- the nephew of the TMC supremo and President of All India Trinamool Youth Congress, and Dr. Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar, Minister-in-Charge, Dept. of Environment in West Bengal. This trip will be undertaken to show solidarity with the tigers, whose movements from one forest to another will be considerably hampered by the heavy traffic on the roads.

This comes closely at the heels of the announcement that TMC would send a three member delegation to FTII to empathise with the students. The plan was subsequently cancelled due to some reasons. This also follows an incident where Ms. Banerjee was booed off the campus of Presidency College in Kolkata by angry students who demanded an investigation into the ransacking of a heritage laboratory by alleged TMC goons. The West Bengal CM had to beat a hasty retreat through the slush covered fields, a point reiterated by the media.

A TMC representative said, “It was very bad. As it is she walks about in slippers, and negotiating the muddy and slippery field in such haste was a difficult task indeed. Thank God nothing happened.”

Our sources say that the recent misadventures with the student fraternity has made TMC look to other areas to stamp their say on matters. And at a time when the world is looking to save tigers, there was one major issue at hand.

When we asked Mamata Banerjee as to why this issue was selected, she pursed her lips, looked askance and replied, “Thish iz a nashanal ishoo. We are a nashanal partee. It iz naycharall we will phight for naychar.”

She further added, in a flurry of sentiments, “Tiegar iz bhery preshush to Poschim Bongo. We habh phrazes like ‘Bengal tiegar’ and ‘Bagher baccha’, meaning ‘Kid of a tiegar’. We demand the Gawverment roll back the highway.”

Abhishek Banerjee, her nephew, claimed to be an aggressive environmentalist. “We all love tigers. We don’t want them to become homeless. We will take up this issue seriously. If anyone even dares to glare at tigers we will gouge your eyes out. Cut trees and we will cut your hands off”, he mentioned, menacingly.

Derek O’Brien, who detractors say is in the party just to handle the English speaking media, said, “We are viewing this problem at two levels. At one level, it is a violation of the environmental habitat of the National Animal. At the second level, it is an extension of the land-usurping schemes of the Government. After innocent farmers, they are now trying to take the lands from where tigers earn their livelihood.”

However, just before this article was going in to print, we got to know that the trip had been cancelled. We could get through only to the TMC representative mentioned above, who said, “Our plan has indeed been cancelled. Some party programs have come up. Madan Mitra is finally well enough to be investigated by the CBI and we plan to celebrate his return to health by throwing a party.”

Derek O’Brien twitted, saying, “Postponed trip to visit #KanhaPenchCorridor. Hope to go on a safari later. Ciao.”

Disheartened at missing out on an opportunity to go to one of the most celebrated national parks in the country, the representative said, “I was supposed to tag along, but now we won’t be going”.

“But no worries, we had gone to the Dooars for a conference once. We can schedule our next conference in Kanha”, he signed off with a smile.

Coffee Chronicles Episode 2: ‘SOMETIME’

It was not even 11:30 and I felt I would drop dead on the desk if I went through that Excel sheet again. The meeting that was scheduled at 11 o’clock was cancelled and I had nothing to do until my guide came and gave me a new set of incomprehensible instructions. I tried reading the news, but there is only so much about the vagaries of stock market that one can take. it went up and down so many times that it seemed even Arvind Kejriwal’s marvellous ‘U-turns’ were easier to follow. There was an interesting article about a Muslim man who got beaten up when he talked to a female Hindu colleague, and I spent some time reading the insightful comments on the piece. Reading routine Bollywood gossip was never much fun, but I attempted to do that today, only to be forced to switch windows again and again when alarmed looking men stopped by my desk. Having no other way, I proceeded to the mini kitchen to keep myself occupied for some time over coffee. I genuinely felt the need for a warm soothing latte.

The office employs people from an organisation for housekeeping services, but they have been associated with this particular office for so long that they have become extended employees. Beyond their routine tasks, they serve tea and more often than not, treat themselves to it. I walked into the kitchen to find three such men standing with the exact same expression. They were holding empty cups and looking, for some strange reason, at the photocopier, as if my entry had interrupted a most interesting conversation with the photocopying machine which had just turned mute.

Seasoned in a few weeks to ignore all such instance of seeming abnormality, I picked up a cup, put sugar in it and pressed the button for latte. As the foaming liquid filled the cup, a wayward drop landed on my hand causing me to react with a meek ‘Oooh’. I turned around to find one of the said weird men looking at me, with an expression that said “You deserved it”. Again, I ignored that- my sagacity was growing in leaps and bounds- and moved on to pick a stirrer.

I was stirring the coffee, and unbeknownst even to myself broke into a hum of ‘Kabhi kabhi mere dil me  khayal aata hai’, an old and very cheesy Bollywood song. I turned to leave and found a man looking at me, a full time employee this time. He hands were frozen forward, and his mouth was open in a very evident expression of surprise. My first thought was that I was singing too loud, but I looked around to see that the photocopier-chatting group did not take any notice of me and concluded against it. Meanwhile, still surprised, the man proceeded to the machine and I made way as soon as I could.

Coming back to my desk, I wondered what the English translation of the song would be. Not very good in things like that, I Googled it, and sure enough, a few seconds later I was reading an elaborate post on the subtleties of translating the song. The explanations were long and tedious, and I skipped most of them to go to the main translation.

Now, I had mentioned that the song was cheesy, but nothing had prepared me for what I read next. The first two lines of the song, which go thus:

“Kabhi kabhi mere dil me khayal aata hai

 Ki jaise tujhko banaya gaya hai mere liye”

had become,

SOMETIME IDEA COMES TO MY HEART,
AS IF YOU ARE MADE FOR ME
”.

I was intrigued. The translation had left me absolutely speechless. I moved on to the next two lines:

Tu abse pehle sitaron me bas rahi thee kahi 

Tujhe zameen pe bulaya gaya hai mere liye

BEFORE THIS YOU WERE LIVING IN STARS SOMEWHERE ,
YOU ARE CALLED ON EARTH/LAND FOR ME

Now, this song was never a favourite. I had always regarded it as somewhat lame, but this translation had changed it forever. It goes on:

SOMETIME IDEA COMES TO MY HEART,
THIS FLESH, THESE EYES ARE MY TREASURES.

But the high point of the song comes in the lines when the songwriter speaks of how, on the wedding night, the groom warms up to the bride in imagery long associated with sensuality in India. This has been translated, in a stroke of genius, to the following lines:

ITS(sic) WEDDING NIGHT I AM REMOVING VEIL,
YOU ARE COMING TO MY ARMS BLUSHINGLY.

Needless to say, rest of the morning, till lunch, passed  like a breeze. I did not even know when it was time for lunch, as I sipped my latte and read the blog, my admiration growing with each stanza. The ending, like the beginning, is in a flourish that encapsulates the spirit of the entire exercise:

AFFECTIONATE GLANCE WILL LOOK UP TO ME LIKE THIS,
I KNOW YOU ARE STRANGER BUT JUST LIKE THIS,
SOMETIME IDEA COMES TO MY HEART.

I drank my latte to the dredges, and closed my laptop. Then, content and still amazed, I passed by the photocopier and one of the weird men who seemed to be looking lovingly at it, towards the elevator for lunch.

#Footnote

I have now discovered a way of justifying any random thing that I do, just like this post. The sincere reader can well ask for the reason for inclusion of this incident and all I have to say is:

“SOMETIME IDEA COMES TO MY HEART”.

*The End*

P.S.: You can read the absolutely awesome translation here.

Coffee Chronicles: Pilot

A friend had complained of the abruptness and apparent incongruity of Episode 1 of  Coffee Chronicles with the rest of the posts. I agree that  the series does require an introduction. Hence this post will be a pilot for the series. 

Offices and workspaces can become mundane. Employees need to stretch their legs once in a while and revitalise themselves with nectar devised especially for that purpose- be it tea or coffee. Such liquids give them the much needed energy to see them through the rest of the day till it is time to go home.

To understand the importance of this, we consider the statement made by a man famous for championing the cause of the working class. Banished from his country due to his revolutionary views about subjects that intoxicate, he had once remarked, while sipping a cup of rich tea in London, “Tea is the opium of the masses.” The statement was later modified by the same great man to “Coffee is the opium of the masses”, so that coffee drinking nations could identify with it as well. Subsequent times have seen the statement being distorted to “RedBull is the opium of the masses” but that did not go down well with the working class.

Most companies, since then, have had ‘break-out areas’ or ‘mini-kitchens’ with coffee-machines installed in them. Such areas see much activity and hear much gossip. More often than not, the rich tapestry of office politics unfolds around the coffee machine. Indeed, it is well known that words that are exchanged in such areas provide taste to the usually drab liquid (for machines lack the nuances of hand-made tea or coffee). The exchanges are as intricate a part of the coffee room as the machine itself.

This series is a testament to the richness of such stories that unfold around the coffee-tea brewing machine. It is not a fictional series; the posts will mostly be based out of my own humble experiences in the mini-kitchens.

Lastly, this series will be a tribute to the concoctions that have sustained generations of working men and women across countries and companies. Be it tea or coffee, we owe our productivity most often to these.

*The End*

Coffee Chronicles Episode 1: Shaken and Stirred

I was trying hard to stay awake.

I had already gulped down a cup of distasteful cardamom tea, that tasted more like cardamom dipped warm water than tea. After having read some 50 articles by The Unreal Times, and about as as many by the real ToI and its compatriots , I was finding it difficult to keep my eyes open.

So I decided to go the kitchen and fix myself another cup of dipped tea.

I was rambling around in the mini kitchen, picking up paper cups and deciding whether I wanted a cup of badly made coffee that looked like tar and tasted like bitter gourd juice, or a cup of Assam flavoured water, cardamom having been exhausted.

I suddenly noticed I had company. Behind me was standing a man who always walked about with a hunch, his flabby belly out a little, eyes drowsy and phone to his ears. This gentleman was waiting at the gate, so I assumed I was blocking his passage to the place where the plastic cups were kept, and moved away.

After I had filled my tea-bag carrying cup with something that seemed like milk and water, I turned around to take some sugar.  The man was still standing there.

I looked up at him to see if I had been blocking the way to the coffee/tea/random milk-water mixture brewing machine as well and glanced upon a most singular thing.

There was the man standing near the microwave oven, his belly out, eyes half closed, mouth twisted in a smile of great contentment beneath his broom like moustache.

In between the fingers of one of his hands, and partly in his ear, was a stirrer cum flat straw that coffee outlets give out. He was using that to clean his ears and obtaining sheer bliss from the activity.

I pretended not to have noticed anything at all, and walked off coolly, with my distasteful mixture in one hand and my heart in the other.

#Footnote

It does not fit in exactly here, but last evening I saw a man change inside a transparent conference room, which is used by most people as an eatery. It was past 6, many people were leaving for home, some were on the phone closing the day, and here was this office help,  a man in his forties by the looks of it, standing in his underwear in a conference room, looking for his trousers. No one else on the floor was as shocked as I was, so since then, I have been introspecting on my accpetance of the ‘open culture’.

* The End*

Faux Post: Indian steel companies worship Superman to battle falling prices

Indian steel companies today performed an enormous puja to none other than Superman, the Man of Steel. Present in the ceremony were Naveen Jindal (upon whose insistence Superman’s cape was replaced with a fluttering Tricolour) and Ravi Uppal, representing JSPL, T.V.Narendran, MD of Tata Steel,  Ravi Ruia, Chariman of Essar Steel, Sajjan Jindal, Chairman of JSW Steel and Narendra Singh Tomar, the Minister of Steel for India. This puja was conducted, with all the essential rituals, to ward off the evil effect of Chinese steel export into India, which has saturated the domestic market, lowering demand and dropping prices faster than calls by Indian telcos.

Said a representative of Tata Steel Limited, “Our company, like many others, has petitioned the government to institute safeguard duties on steel imports to protect the domestic production. However, with matters where they stand today, I think we need divine intervention more than government policy directives.”

Plans were initially made to offer puja to Lord Vishwakarma, but that idea had to be dropped, on multiple grounds. Firstly, as someone pointed out, Vishwakarma was the lord of manufacturing as such, and since the IIP has been rising slowly for a change, and Make In India efforts are in full sway, the Lord may not be in a mood to grant too many boons. One TSL employee empathised, “Bohot kaam ho jayega becharake ke liye (Too much work for the poor chap)”.

The second and the most pressing reason, however, was the puja of a Hindu god. No sooner had the announcement of the Puja been made than liberals pounced on India Inc. with tweets like “Indian companies come under religious sway #HinduCapitalism”. Hashtags like #ModiMenace #MakeSteelSecular and #SaffronSteel trended on Twitter. Sagarki Ghose quickly penned an article criticizing the puja and appeared on Headlines Today asking fierce questions like, “Why did our industry leaders not go to a mosque? Islam has had more associations with steel than Hinduism ever had.” An open Internet war started raging between ‘Internet Hindus’ and ‘Libtards’ who called for each other’s heads and made memes of Narendra Modi and Arvind Kajriwal in Real Steel armours. Meanwhile, the New York Times ran an article titled, “Communal Atmosphere Stifles Steel Demand”. Home media was also not far, with Firstpost running an article titled,”Regressive step towards protectionism, India Inc. lacks stomach for a fight”.

Rahul Gandhi announced he would go to China to support the wronged Chinese steel companies, but receiving widespread flak, he revised his statement and said he would undertake a padyatra to understand how the dropping steel prices were affecting Dalits. AAP leader and CM of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal pointed out that this recent spate of cheap Chinese imports started during the CWG and called for a CBI enquiry in this. Ashutosh of AAP said, “Why is the Chinese steel coming into the India sho eejily? Will the Modi answer? What about our phoren policy? What is the Shooshma Shoraj doing? She must resign.”

Worshiping Superman, also known as the Man of Steel, avoided such problems. Leading secular intellectuals observed that Superman was never shown to be a devout Christian, and what with his steel bending abilities, stood as an indirect champion of steel quality, thereby making  him a potent symbol to counter Chinese imports.

Subramanian Swamy was intially flustered with Vishwakarma being omitted in favour of Superman but later appeared on television to declare that he had evidence to prove that Superman had Hindu ancestors. He also said Superman’s habits-calm, composed and his stand on justice- revealed he was not a Kshatriya, like Batman, but probably a Brahmin. He then said, “By the power vested in me, I hereby declare Superman to be a Brahmin.” VHP has expressed considerable disappointment over the ‘slight’ of Lord Vishwakarma, and frenzied supporters have threatened to burn theaters that will screen ‘Dawn of Justice’ next Summer.

Puja done, now the Indian steel companies, confident of a turnaround, wait for events to pan out in the next few months.

Meanwhile, Disney has dismissed this to be a poor publicity gimmick for ‘Dawn of Justice’.In an isolated incident, DC is contemplating filing a copyright infringement suit against the Indian steelmakers.

Just.

This post is different.

It is not aimed at anything, and cannot, strictly, be categorised into any of the three buckets I thought I would include my posts in. This is more of a random train of thoughts that I wanted to pen down.

It has been raining in Calcutta. The weather has been bad, even by Calcutta standards. The humidity has long crossed the threshold of tolerance, and the sale of handkerchiefs has spiked. Well, at least a section of the local textile industry is doing well.

The rainfall has been intermittent, which has only succeeded in exacerbating the humidity problem. The rain feels surreal, if I must say so. While I was coming back after a haircut (from a salon which will be the subject of a future blog post), it started raining. I was already sweating so much it took me some time to realise there were raindrops pushing against my t-shirt, and on my neck. In the lights of the passing cars and the numerous unnecessary trident-like lamp-posts that have been installed to make Calcutta resemble London, I could see sharp streaks slant their way on to the road. If I had not seen those drops fall, or not heard the hiss-like sound that is made by the tyres in the wake of a car passing on a wet road, I would not have believed it was raining. There was no coolness in the water that fell, no feeling of wetness in the drops that seemed to be the reason behind the sudden appearance of large blotches on my shirt. As I mentioned, it felt surreal, and not at all nice.

This made me remember a somewhat similar feeling that I used to have in another place. To call it similar would be a crime, because the similarity starts and stops at the non-intrusive nature of the rain drops.

This other place was Shillong. As for the exact place, it was the summer palace of the Mayurbhanj kings at one point of time, and now a temporary site for an IIM.

Imagine, at night, after dinner, you are walking down that driveway to Kong’s shop beyond the gate. It is cold- the weather was something that had endeared me to Shillong as soon as I had got there- and your hands are in your pockets. It is windy, and as you pass by the basketball court, you hear the trees sway to the wind and whisper to the night.

Once near the gate, you look up where two strong lights illuminate the board carrying ‘Indian Institute of Management, Shillong’ just above the iron entrance, and see small drops of water darting like dust particles in sunlight.

It has been raining all along! The breeze sends the raindrops into complete disarray so that you do not even realise it is raining until you see the drops dance under the lights.

Then you check your jacket or ‘hoodie’ and notice that there’s an almost velvety film of moisture on it, which dries as quickly and as quietly as it was formed.

You stop.

You look up at the sky and see the moon in a pale ring of light and dark clouds that move like shadows behind it. Your hood, if it ever was on, drops back and a sudden gust of wind ruffles your hair. The whispers of the trees turn into a howl, the dead leaves on the driveway jump up and scatter themselves again, and you can feel little drops of rain on your face now.

You close your eyes and whisper back, and you can hear it run through all the trees in the campus, as if in acknowledgment.

This post ends here. My ears are too full with the song of the trees for me to concentrate on this. I will take my hand out of my pocket and feel the wind-blown drops of rain.

There they are, on my hands. I can feel them on my palms.

And here I am, in Shillong.

Again.