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Saturday, April 27, 2019

End of April notes

Can anybody tell me why they always hold elections in this blazing (or sweltering -) heat?

And while we are on it, why, in an age when we are doing so many things via the internet, can’t they arrange things so that everyone can vote that way too, using their laptops or mobile phones from the comfort and safety of their homes?

This town goes to the polls the day after tomorrow. Given the heat, I am probably not going. [P.S., April 29: I did go and do my civic duty after all, but only because the polling station was peaceful and I had to wait for hardly ten minutes at the booth. Once again, I feel the greatest pity for all those, especially the policemen, who have to work in such horrible conditions all through the day: the temperature has soared beyond 40 degrees C by 9 a.m.! I hope the people who make such decisions will stop torturing so many millions sooner or later.]

I have observed this before: for children time apparently passes far more slowly, so that they are often bored to tears. At least that was my experience. The seventies and eighties seemed to crawl, despite my having lived a life so busy that most teenagers and young adults these days can’t begin to imagine it (those who think they are ‘cool’ because they have started keeping house and visiting pubs at 22 and had their first real sex at 25, often only after marriage!), and then between 1987 and 2019 time has passed in a flash: how did it happen, and why? Or is it only because in childhood one’s memories impinge much more deeply and numerously upon one’s brain, so that while reminiscing it seems so much more ‘happened’ in those days when the world was very young… and then one simply gets tired and bored and busy with routine and stops noticing a lot of things, because one has grown a thick hide and a dulled sensibility? It is a fact that I can remember well a lot of students of the previous generation, while those who have passed through since 2005 have become a blur: most of them anyway. It is only when I see all the white hair and that my insurance policies are beginning to mature one by one and there are girls giggling in the classroom whose mothers were doing exactly the same a while ago that it comes back to me with a resounding sense of amazement that all those years have passed by!

I have been watching a lighthearted Netflix series of somewhat eccentric taste called Brooklyn Nine nine. As always, even when I watch things mainly for a laugh, I notice serious things compulsively. So they work very hard to be politically correct, in the sense that they feature a police captain who is black and openly gay and all his colleagues go around strenuously behaving as if he is just one of the guys… and yet it seems that in today’s climate, where such things are to be taken as perfectly normal and okay, nobody minds using the kind of language that would get them kicked out of my house (I would have said any civilized house, but these days I won’t bet any more) in a jiffy: bosom friends of both sexes loudly calling each other ‘you bitches’ and ‘you whores’, for instance, and constantly, casually, referring to the act of fornication the way middle-class Bengalis exchange notes about their bowel movements! What is the world coming to?

It’s been a long time since I wrote stories. I wish I hadn’t got writer’s block. In which connection, my mother and I have been listening to Saradindu Bandyopadhyay’s Sadashib stories on Youtube. I didn’t know that B. wrote them in 1957, at Rajshekhar Basu’s request (look up this blogpost from ten years ago). I was born in 1963, so when my mother first told them to me, they were pretty new! And what lovely stories too… Bandyopadhyay could give Conan Doyle a run for his money if they had a level playing field. They are so cinematic: why hasn’t that occurred to the directors who are obsessed with Byomkesh?

I read in today’s newspaper that they are going to start daily flights to Mumbai from Durgapur from June, and Chennai flights will follow. So that’s one of my wishes coming true. And I have bought a hookah in Delhi and just started getting used to it. I might eventually install one in my classroom. Some people have been urging me to revive my pipe too…

This post was just to tell people who phone or email or send ‘How are you doing?’ messages on Whatsapp. It bores me to repeat myself, so to the likes of them, keep an eye on this blog.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Browsers, Netflix, books

Google’s Big Brother-type surveillance of all my activities on the Net has begun to bother me seriously. I don’t know how aware my readers are about what they do, but believe me, ‘intrusive’ does not begin to describe it. And even if they are doing it for a very innocuous purpose, like profiling me so they can send me ‘tailor-made’ ads only, I don’t like it at all: it seems I can’t call my life my own any more, they don’t want anything called privacy to be left in this world.

Others – many others, including a lot of canny as well as savvy people – are beginning to be equally worried. And they have begun to take remedial steps, and advising us about it. I have started listening to them.

For starters, I am using the Mozilla Firefox browser along with the Duckduckgo search engine on my computer now, and the latter browser on my mobile phone for choice. These promise a higher order of privacy, at least, if not something perfect. I haven’t uninstalled the Chrome browser yet, but I might, and soon. 

If you subscribe to Netflix, I would urge you strongly to watch the new documentary series Our Planet, with voiceover by the redoubtable David Attenborough. Even oldtimers, who like me hugely enjoyed his old BBC presentation The Living Planet should love it, for the truly spectacular visuals if nothing else. And I was glad to hear the few words of commendation that India received for her efforts at wildlife conservation in Season One, Episode Five.

Summer has set in in right earnest. Can’t complain: it was balmy right till the beginning of April, thanks to a spate of nor’westers. Today is the second day of the Bengali New Year, and my swimming session began today. Thank God for swimming pools and airconditioners! The older I grow, the more I hate the heat. If I were lucky, I would be able to spend the whole summer in the hills…

New academic session, too, and I have my hands full, as usual. Not far to go before I am sixty, and I can finally, officially declare that I am a senior citizen and ready to go into semi-retirement! More and more old boys are accosting me on the street, asking with great concern ‘What is going to happen to my kid?’

The general elections are round the corner, but there seems to be a strange apathy in the air this time: only the media are crying themselves hoarse over what the public has apparently decided to be a non-issue. I wonder why.

My old boy Sayan Bhattacharya has just published a new book, Ancient Cities of India. You can locate it here. I wish him luck with his readership.

I am amused to see that the old post on Rani Rashmoni has climbed back into the most-read posts list, after briefly vanishing. Who knows what brings so many readers (back?) to it!

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Readers in Bangalore

I often see that two or three people have been reading this blog simultaneously from Bangalore. I know one or two old boys are among them that I am fond of - Aritra Roy and Subhadip Dutta, to name just two; maybe Nishant Chaudhary and Nishant Kamath's parents as well, and some others who haven't told me. Many ex students have said "If you stand at the MG Road crossing for an hour, a dozen of us are sure to bump into you." But most of them wouldn't dream of 'wasting' their time reading my blog, I'm sure. 

A thought that gives me the creeps: is the person - a female - whom I despise more than any other creature in the world, also among those visitors to this blog? Ugh!