Saturday, September 18, 2004

Down Scholar's Avenue

It had been a very hectic day. I had just returned from Kolkata. After that I had gone out to the 'placement' treat of two wing mates. The party ran in a high vein. I had a great heart-to-heart with PP.

Soon it was time to return. We decided to walk back to our hostel. It is a long distance and on other days, I would have enjoyed it quite a lot. It usually aided the digestion process. But today I was too tired. It added to my woes when we met up with some other hall-mates at the paan shop. RA decided that he too should have one. After some delay we moved on (without the paan).

I was not in the mood of much discussion. I was just listening to my wing-mates talking about this and that. I trudged along towing my cycle beside me. I was desperate to reach my room and crash into bed for a deep, peaceful and well-deserved sleep. We had covered almost half the distance when the hall-mates that we left behind at the paan-shop (Jha and Shukla) passed us on their bikes. They stopped a little ahead of us. They had brought paans for us. So everyone stopped to take their share. On any other day, I would be praising the virtues of friendship and camaraderie. But today I had had enough. I decided to walk ahead, leaving the others behind.

My friends also started walking after some time. But I was practically alone, distanced from them by a considerable amount. I was thinking a lot of things at that time, most of which were the usual stuff - CAT, career, friends. But some particular things flashed through my mind which left a lingering effect on me.

One was a memory of me as a kid, returning home with my parents. Many a times, we returned by bus or were dropped home by relatives with cars. We usually got down at the bus stop and walked the remaining distance. And more often than not, I trotted ahead of my parents. I knew that they were behind me, watching every step of mine. But I liked the sense of freedom, the sense of being alone.

Today's situation was different. Usually I walk along with my friends. Sometimes I even find myself following them, listening to them and not engaging in active conversation. Today as I walked ahead of them, I knew that they might not be watching my every step due to their pre-occupation with the discussion at hand. A pre-occupation with the present which is a characteristic of our age. However it surprised me how the present had brought out a memory of the past. A memory which was related yet distinct; distinct yet familiar.

(Twice my friends joined me in my solo walk. Thanks to them for noticing that I was alone.)

Another was a more recent memory. It was related to a feeling that I used to get when I had just started jogging. While running the 2.2 km circle within our campus, I used to feel anxious whether I would make it to the end. The sight of the 'frust corner' symbolising the end of 2.2 km came as an inspiration to complete the task I had set out to achieve. With time I managed to complete it more comfortably. Thus today when I saw that the end was near and relating it to my memory of jogging, I knew I would make it.

Today's happenings gave me a funny feeling of 'deja-vu'. It surprised me how we unconsciously relate memories to our present life.

PS: This happened two weeks ago. I decided then that I would write about it. It took me two weeks of time to manage to write it. Is my present stand of allotting times for specified tasks justified...? Or should I live more in the present... Writing when I feel like it, or speaking in a more general way, do whatever I like whenever I want to. With regards to blogging, I claim complete independence. I can do whatever I like. But in life, I cannot do the same. Even though that is what I may want to do... or think that I want to.

Anyway, this kind of wondering aloud is ideal blogging. Ramblings, as they call it in this direction of the intellectual spectrum. Not my kind of organised 'article' writing. But I like my organised style anyway. After all I think I fall into the 'image building' category of bloggers.

All for today... bye

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A House for Mr. Bandyopadhyay

I usually write out of a natural urge to do so. But it is also a sense of duty that is influencing me to write this piece.

This article is about the Bengali author, Bibhuti Bhushan Bandyopadhyay. He is famous for timeless classics such as 'Pather Panchali', 'Aparijata' among others. He is also remembered for a book called 'Aranyak', which I have just finished reading.

Before delving into the main topic of this article, I shall write a little about the book 'Aranyak'.

'Aranyak' is a description of the author's five to seven year long stint as the collector of a forest area in present day Jharkhand. Bibhuti Bhushan wrote this book after many years of having left the collector's job. An unmistakable sense of nostalgia is evident ever so often in the book. The author misses the different aspects of the place - the forests, the people, the lakes, the horse-back rides, the beautiful moonlit nights.

Above all he misses the people. Nowhere is it more evident than in the closing stanzas. There the author expresses guilt for not keeping any news of the people after having left the job.

Another characteristic of the book is the great amount of detail in the author's description of nature. Every leaf seems to spring alive from the author's words.

Bibhuti Bhushan repeatedly tells us about his helplessness in the face of human greed. He loves the forests and wants to preserve them for future generations. However, he has to obey his employer and auction these lands. Within years, beautiful forests are pulled down and dirty overpopulated shanties mushroom in their place. Bibhuti Bhushan foresees a desolate future for this place, a future with no hint of the glory it once held.

This was about the book. I had just finished reading it when I was entrusted with arranging a trip to Ghatsila with my friends and family. I had heard of Ghatsila only from relatives who had been there before. I was naturally surprised when the tourist brochure of Ghatsila mentioned Bibhuti Bhushan's house as one of the many sites to visit. This increased my enthusiasm to arrange a visit to the place.

In due time, the day of the trip arrived. Like any other group of tourists, we booked a car which would guide us through the important sites. We had visited some places, none of which had impressed us so far. The next stop would be Bibhuti Bhushan's house. We were busy chatting with each other when the car suddenly stopped. We looked out to see a simple house resembling a school more than anything else. It was then that our driver pointed out the actual house of Bibhuti Bhushan Bandyopadhyay. It was just opposite to the house we had been looking at. It was a sight to be seen.

The house was totally in ruins. There was nothing called a roof anymore. The whole house had been taken over creepers and vines. On closer inspection we found a worn out signboard. It said something about a Bibhuti Bhushan Memorial Committee. Obviously that had happened too long ago.

(Compare this with Rabindranath Tagore’s house in Mongpu near Darjeeling which has been converted into a museum.)

The house was a depressing sight. Before reaching it, I had planned to tell my 'Non-Bengali' friends about the writings of the great author whose house we were visiting. But after seeing the place, they were obviously in no mood to listen to any such stuff.

Initially I blamed the state of the house on its location. You could not expect the people of Jharkhand to uphold our (Bengali) culture and tradition, I told myself. However as the trip progressed I noticed that the majority of the population in that place comprised of Bengali-s. And it was obvious from the political graffiti on walls that the Bengali-s threw their weight around quite a bit.

Many questions remain unanswered in my mind. Who is to be blamed for this? What should be done? Nevertheless, the house deserves immediate repairs. The state of the house is a mark of disrespect to the author. As far as the greatness of the author is concerned, I think there is no question about that.