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Hand in hand for eternity

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blog Trotting

There is another atmospheric layer apart from the ones we already know of. At the risk of raised eyebrows and sarcastic comments, I will have to insist on this fact. I know cause I am living in it now. It primarily consists of letters and pictures - not unlike books sans the physical pages, the insane smell of print and glossy covers . It is called Blogosphere... 

Blogosphere is a multi-colored layer spanning from the Earth right through Troposhere and ending in Exosphere. It is mainly composed of emotions, experiences, stories, poetry, photography, quizzes and much more. The inhabitants here survive on “followers” and “comments”. Without these they shrivel and die a sad death. I roam this layer much like a tourist now and am awed by its magnanimity and power. However, I do aspire to stay on and hence I came armed with a whole lot of luggage to add to Blogosphere. The hope that remains is I don't end up polluting it. 

My journey began on an uneventful evening, when a thought just fleeted into my head. Of course I was facebooking at the time. My eyes suddenly strayed to the left hand corner of the page where a I saw a link that said "create your own group". Little did I know then that this was just the beginning of a lure that would hold me in my place for quite a while. Having nothing to do I quickly acted on it, created a "Ladies Club" and invited a few friends to join it. It started with 5 gals and has quickly grown to more than 200 talented members now. Most of them I still haven't met but somehow these ladies slowly took over a substantial part of  my waking hours. It was as if I knew them through and through all my life. Ladies Club became so addictive that I easily ringed out at least 5 hours a day for it. Suddenly this group had all this literature that they brought back from Blogosphere that completely enveloped me. 

So far my knowledge of writers were limited to the ones that were published - whose books I read and the names I googled.  To my complete amazement I was now face to face with people who ink amazing literature, as easily as taking a sip of tea, and for the most part don't even realize their own worth. I was introduced to Blogosphere by Alpana (from the club) and her lessons in life.  As time went by, I had to just take a stroll to Rimly's for some mesmerizing sensuous poetry and heartfelt experiences;  Yoshay's gothic literature at its peak will take over you completely, to be blown over by versatility stop by Sulekha'sLavina even promises a drink while we read about the most interesting events, places and people; to have a light moment check out Priya's amazement at the entire world but herself and Clooney; small incidents in  Sukanya's life make fabulous short stories; Nina's take on movies, literature, life, food etc is just the place to go for a quick recommendation and entertainment, Chokher will easily win your heart with her poetry, Eva's honest portrayal of world through photographs and prose makes you wonder again - why isn't she famous??? Why is Vani not rolling in money? In the meantime I cannot stop reveling at the fact that when these women do get published I would know a handful of famous people.

By this time, I was convinced not only to travel to Blogosphere but stay there for the rest of my life. One fine day, Providence just sent me the ticket as a small pleasant surprise. The ticket had "Bloggers Network" written in bold across it. I grabbed it with all my might and left. As promised, the ticket took me  to the most scenic place in the atmospheric layer - Derek ruled this layer  - he was the leader of the pack, an undisputed chief in the newly coined marketing tool called - social media. Here I met even more fabulous talents - Roy, Sweepy, Ardith, Jim, John, Abhishek, Pandora, PrithwijitCharles, RickyEd , still another Jim, a whole conglomeration of writers and even more people have become my utmost favorite in this world.... they have it all. Blogger's Network opened up even more avenues for me to check out and I moved with a curious soul...

They were even children that floated in Blogosphere - I was amazed at the depth of their feelings - one would probably not even know the intensity of their thoughts if it hadn't been penned down. Joyee’s maturity besieged me while Ishaan’s thoughts revealed the intricacies that can hover in a little brain…

 I have been here for about 4 months now and have finally been given a temporary visa called ‘howaboutthis’. The status could only change to 'permanent' if I abide by the laws of Blogospere and am able to contribute meaningful matter to it while getting enough fodder for survival. My journey continues ... 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dad's Diary 5 - Of Blood and Tears, and Hills and Humor

Sunset - nature at its wildest in Darjeeling
Darjeeling hills and surrounding areas are seething once again under the impact of a political movement that shows no sign of abating. The demand is for creation of a separate state of 'Gorkhaland' outside West Bengal. 

I was there when it was intensified in the mid-1980s by Gorkha National Liberation Front. The man responsible was the party's charismatic supremo, Subas Ghisingh. The movement is now being spearheaded by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha which has wrested the leadership from the GNLF. But that is not my story.

There is no dearth of armed political movement in India. Everywhere the crux of the story is that of a peoples' movement of blood and tears, of bullets and bombs. What, however, distinguishes Darjeeling movement is that the people and political leaders somehow retained their innate humor, even though at times it bordered on uncivil crudeness.

Traitors to the cause were decapitated, and the heads were hung at congested public places. The whispering campaign against betrayal that followed did not threaten beheading, but that the traitor's “height would be shortened by six inches!”

Unsuccessful police raids for the arrest of illegal bomb makers were characterized as “peeling onions layer by layer” on the part of the security forces. Police swooped down at dawn on areas where alleged culprits were hiding, only to find the area deserted. This was “pressing on a half-filled air-pillow,” obviously meaning that the fleeing people had filled up another part of the area.

A renewed refusal of the government to concede to the 'Gorkhaland' demand was once described by Subas Ghisingh in this manner: “There are many people who bring the ax on their own toes; but the West Bengal chief minister is rushing to strike his toes on the ax.”   

Such sarcasm found expression in describing the activities of some of his own pals. Chhatre Subba, a former army man like Ghisingh, was raising a 'Gorkhaland army,' promising his gullible men ample supply of Chinese arms and equipment to be smuggled in from Tibet in none too distant future. In the meantime, he would manufacture arms locally.

View from Tiger Hill - Darjeeling
Here is what Ghisingh had to say about that : “Chhatre's bullets don't kill. You know why? After firing, the bullet goes straight for some distance, and then turns side-wise before hitting the target.”

Chhatre Subba even built a cannon, and invited Ghisingh to inspect its  operations. Ghisingh : “Chhatre first filled up head-end of the cannon with dozens of match sticks in absence of lighting-explosives, and set fire to it. Boom, it went, leaving plumes of smoke behind. The cannon itself flew out and fell some distance away; I nearly jumped as I caught sight of Chhatre. He was plastered with black soot; so was I”.

When they became bitter enemies, Subba even made an attempt on Ghisingh's life. Ghisingh survived the attack. Subba had used a sophisticated AK 47 rifle, and nobody has since then heard Ghisingh complain about bullets hitting side-wise.

In those days young boys, particularly teenagers, found real time adventure in the movement. Playing pranks to ease up the tension was very much the in-thing. 

A group of teenagers, rope-bound to each other, were made to wait outside the judicial building pending their production before the judge. Why were they here? “Murder,” they chorused, uttering the pinnacle of offenses with as much nonchalance as would enable them to momentarily outlive their miserable teens.

In the hustle and bustle of court proceedings, the boys killed the heavy load of time by an ingenuous game. They had rolled up a ball with waste papers and strings lying about, and were passing it around themselves. But that was not the real game, only the cover for a more nefarious and hilarious activity at the same time.

The rolling tea gardens
One dexterous marksman among them placed pebbles in between his middle finger and thumb in both hands, and flipped them with remarkable aim at policemen and lawyers. Whenever  a contact was made the irate victim looked at them only to find a group of apparent street urchins totally absorbed in an innocent game of passing the ball.

 Faced with increasing incidence of 'eve teasing' amidst general lawlessness the police resorted to catching the 'Romeos' with 'amorous' long hair, force them into saloons, and make them pay for the hair cuts. The 'Romeos' soon responded by remaining indoors, and the program strayed into catching anybody with pony tails.

In such a situation, one day my daughter brought home a budding musician to introduce to me. “This is Jay,” she said, as if that was the whole explanation. I looked up from my book to find a boy with lustrous outcrop on his head that tumbled down well below his shoulders. Indeed no more explanation was needed.

What had long hair got to do with music? He was the 'lead guitarist' in the band, he wailed, and would lose his placement if he bore an ignominious crew cut. The prospect of losing his identity was quite despicable for him. I had to pull some strings with friends in the police administration to save Jay's 'guitarist icon'. But interference in such matters was quite risky as would the following incident proved.

The local government-run hospital administration had adopted a policy of making available medical treatment to all including those being sought by the police to save the building from getting burnt down. One late night five boys rushed in carrying a stretcher with a patient who had swathe of dirty white bandages on his head and hands, the elbows jutting out with extra paddings.

As soon as they placed the stretcher on the corridor they started shouting slogans against the government for inadequate medical arrangements. Doctors and attendants led by the senior nurse rushed out to take care of the patient.

One boy caught the doctor by the collar, pinned him against the wall, and raised a fist only to find himself bodily lifted and thrashed down. Even before others could take stock of the situation, another boy found the floor as his resting place. The strong senior nurse with her pointed high boots had gone to work on the boys with such a feline ferocity that the table was turned even before it was really set.

Kanchendzonga - a sight only lucky tourists get to see
In the melee the first person to escape the hospital was the 'unconscious' patient. He abandoned his stretcher and ran out of the hospital; three blobs of white bandage, the head and two elbows, receded into the darkness with such speed that it could hardly be matched by even a healthy runner. He was followed by the rest of the gang.

Two days later intermediaries worked out a deal for the return of the stretcher that the boys had borrowed from a social service club; they had to explain their conduct to the senior nurse. They confessed to having selected the hospital which was supposed to be a 'soft target' for slogan shouting and rampage after they had had an overdose of 'chhang' (millet beer). The mock patient even shed a few drops of tear.

“Take your stinky stretcher and get out,” the senior nurse ordered. The boys collected the stretcher and saved themselves the hefty fine they had to pay to the service club. They looked back from the main door; the formidable senior nurse was tapping the floor under her high boots; the mock patient wiped his fake tears, and whispered, “Now.”

“Stinky nurse, stinky socks, stinky boots,” they shouted several times, slogan style, before running away. The slogan did justice to the points of contact they had suffered at the hands (or rather at the feet) of the senior nurse.