29 July 2017

One more from Ghalib

“Koi ummeed bar nahin aati
Koi soorat nazar nahin aati
Maut ka ek din mu’ayyan hai
Neend kyun raat bhar nahi aati?”

Roughly translated.. (Improvements always welcome…)

“I don’t see any hope coming my way
Nor a visage of a solution meets my sight
That death will come one day is definitely true
Then why is it that I cannot sleep all night?”

23 July 2017

Back to the future…

This is where our US journey had started. Nearly a quarter century ago, after getting married in a court of law in India, we had headed out to the US. And this was the airport that we finally had stopped our journey in. After thirty hours of flight or so, I was completely dazed and thoroughly ill equipped to understand anything foreign (e.g. I had entered a “Restroom” at the airport thinking that is where I could catch some rest during transit 🙂 Don’t blame me – in India, we called them “Toilets”).

In any case, our entire married life has been in the US and it all started at this airport in this country.

We come back to this airport every single year.

21 July 2017

Slowing down…

Last evening, not having anything better to do, Sharmila and I went for a walk on the boardwalk by the beach. After a bit, we found some rocking chairs lined up along the walk under a street lamp and decided to settle down in two of them. With our plastic coffee cups. Which were filled up with red wine 🙂

I had some powerful “living in the NOW” moments. First, the picture does not do full justice to the ambience. What you do not see is the roaring noise of the waves in the dark in the front. Or the strong sea breeze leaving a very pleasant feeling as it kissed the skin.

It being dark, nothing of the mighty ocean could be seen. Except for the dotted lights of a ship here and a plane there against the large black canvas of a moonless night. What could be seen is a lot of people walking on the boardwalk under the streetlights. It has been a long long time since I had sat down and relaxed and just watched people. You know just watch them as they come and go.

There were old people shuffling along, there were families strolling with the adults having some meaningful discussions and the kids just frolicking along, the young kids in whatever would be considered today’s fashionable beach clothes going in a group, the clearly well to do lady in high heels and the seemingly homeless person with all his belongings in a bike he was pulling along…

I had completely forgotten “people watching”. Just sitting there. Watching them go from left to right and some more from right to left. In a completely non-judgmental way. You know – like they say being “in the flow”.

And then the mind wavered. And speeded to the past. Not sure whether it was the breeze on the skin or the dim streetlight, the mind time traveled in a jiffy to the summer nights in Durgapur when I was barely a kindergartener or possibly in first grade. My dad had an “easy chair” (a cross between a foldable hammock and a lounge chair) and in those sultry evenings, he used to sit down outside in the light breeze. I would join him and sit in a small chair. Pulling up the chair closer to him, I would incessantly ask him questions about those blue twinkling stuff in an otherwise dark sky. And watch anybody who went by the sole streetlight that would be lit up half a block away…

Keeping up with the speed of life, they say is a big challenge.

I find slowing down far more challenging.

24 June 2017

Winding down the week with a classic from Mirza Ghalib

“Dard se mere hai tujhko beqaraari haae haae
Kya hua zalim teri ghaflat-ashiari haae haae
Tere dil mein gar na tha ashob-e-gham ka hausla
Tu ne phir kyun ki thi meri gham-gusari haae haae”

Roughly translated… and any help from experts in Urdu in refining this would be much appreciated…

“You seem to be oblivious to all my pains, Oh, my!
What an oppression of your total carelessness you inflict, Oh, my!!
If you did not have the strength to deal with the vagaries of pain
Why did you, once upon a time, offer sympathies for my pain, then?”

12 June 2017

Jun 11th – the most popular birthday amongst my friends!

For whatever reason, June 11th is the most popular birthday in my birthday calendar. Today, as many as 15 of my old friends get birthday calls from me! That is almost twice of my daily average. Not terribly sure how to explain the popularity of this date… but here is some interesting analysis of the mix of those birthday boys and girls. The gender distribution surprised me and I am fairly sure that it is not representative of the whole birthday list for the year…

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10 June 2017

Sudipta Chattaraj will be very proud of me!!

A couple of months back, when I had posted my fountain pen collection, my friend from elementary school days – Sudipta Chattaraj – had reminded me of the WingSung Hero pens that we used to use in our childhood.

I still remember how I got my first WingSung pen. I was in Narendrapur in 11th grade. I had gone to one of my seniors Sanku Mallik (who was the topper in our previous batch) to get one particularly tough trigonometry problem solved and noticed his very nice pen (later found out to be a WingSung pen). I also noticed that he, rather undramatically, solved the problem like he had been having trigonometry problems for breakfast from right about the time he was three and a half years old or thereabouts.

Thoroughly convinced that having a Wing Sung pen and doing trigonometry easily could not just be a matter of correlation – that there must have been a cause and effect relationship – I made it my life’s mission to get myself one such pen. That Sunday, armed with a gate pass, I slipped out of the residential campus and a short bus ride later started hunting for a WingSung pen in the shops of Garia. And finally got one!! A red-brown colored one!!

Not terribly sure it ever improved my trigonometry but I do remember going back later and getting a blue colored one too. Calculus was also particularly tough that semester!!

I used to cherish those two pens. Many a letter had been written with those two pens. Many a test paper saw me getting stuck with those two pens between my fingers!!

Sudipta had suddenly reminded me of those two pens. Like I search the world over for my old friends, a similar search started for those Wing Sung pens. Unfortunately for me, Wing Sung pens do not have Facebook accounts. Nevertheless, I was able to finally contact a guy in remote China who said he could get me one. I insisted that it had to be the model 233 (that was the only model that had that orange color window to check on the ink level).

What do you know? For the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee, I am a proud owner of a brand new WingSung Model 233 pen!!! Exactly the same color as the very first one I possessed – back in 1983!!

Previous owners of a WingSung pen probably remember the unique nib shape that is integrated into the body, that small orange window to check ink level, the small hole in the back to even out the pressure to keep the ink flowing and above all – the unique press clip cartridge system to fill in ink. Absolutely the cleanest way of refilling ink from an ink pot I have ever found.

I can also tell you that the pen is writing even better than most pens I have at hundred times that price!! But that might have to do with the priceless nostalgia too!!

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3 June 2017

Friday evening decompression…

“Tu wo zaalim hai jo
Dil mein reh kar bhi
Mera na ban Saka

Aur Dil wo kafir jo
Mukh mein reh kar bhi
Tera hogaya…”

Roughly translated…

“You are such an oppressor that
In spite of living in my heart
You never become mine.

And my heart – it is so disloyal that
In spite of living within me
It shamelessly became yours!”

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28 May 2017

Like gold in a furnace…

That was what was the official description of the monogram of the school I went to from fifth thru tenth grade back in India. In line with the learnings from that school, today, Nikita and I sat down in our yard and listened to an episode of “Says You”. If you have not ever heard it, give it a try – it is a rather humorous radio show on English words. I accidentally fumbled onto it while fiddling with radio channels one Sunday night about seven years back. Now, I just download the episodes and listen to them.

We lit a small lamp in the yard, sat around it and learnt some new words. Have you noticed how the guy at the restaurant, when he gives you a glass of water, puts a straw in it and but leaves a small piece of paper wrapper in one end? Well, that has a name – “strawphylactic” !! Remember, how I note that my parents, when I visit them, complain about how the world was much better in the past (which I disagree with). Well, we found out today, that the word for that is “pluperfection”.

While they were on a “interstitial” (you and I will call it a “break”), Nikita and I tried experimenting with taking pictures of the flame of the lamp. This one came not too bad…

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