Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fury

Well, it was Voting Day today. And there I was, queueing in my polling booth, braving the heat, waiting for my moment to come.

I knew my candidates; and I knew exactly what my option was going to be. I wanted go for a no-vote, or, in other words, vote for the option "I do not find any of the candidates eligible." As per Article 49-O of the Constitution you could actually do that.

How is this different from not turning up to vote? Turning up and opting for this would make my opinion recorded under the Right to Information Act. It's a commoner's only way to say that he considers the candidates ineligible.

I went up to the official. I told him that I wanted a no-vote.

He told me that there is no such option.

I went to the presiding officer. He told me the same.

I told him that it's on the constitution.

He told me it isn't.

I told him the precise article number.

He asked me "why did you turn up then?"

I still insisted. He told me to go on with it and not waste his time. He also told me that people like me only  add up to more paperwork for them.

I pointed out that it was he who held the authority to register my vote.

Meanwhile, my fingerprint was taken, my forefinger marked and the button activated. I wasn't left with an option but to press a button (I wonder who it was with a teacup as his symbol; I might even find out some day).

I was left livid and fuming after a long time. Years, possibly.

Can anyone let me know where I can lodge an official protest?

***

CORRECTION: It's not article 49O of the constitution, but rule 49O of The Conduct of Election Rules. But my point still holds.

***

UPDATE: Supreme court has decided in my favour, apparently. Thank you, Apoorva Khare, for letting me know.

Monday, April 18, 2011

ঘ্যাম সিনেমা নিয়ে ঘ্যাম স্মৃতি

ফেলুদা বা শঙ্কু ছাড়াও তিনি যে লিখতেন, এবং বেশ ঘ্যাম লিখতেন, সেই প্রসঙ্গে যাচ্ছি না। অনেকগুলো গল্প, অনেকগুলো ১২-গল্পের সংকলন - তবে আমার প্রিয় নিঃসন্দেহে "আরো এক ডজন", যার বেশিরভাগ গল্প পড়লে আজও গায়ে কাঁটা দেয়।

"সেপ্টোপাসের খিদে", "খগম", "ফ্রিৎস", "রতনবাবু আর সেই লোকটা"র মধ্যে "ভক্ত" নেহাৎই নিরিমিষ গল্প। মানে, খুবই ভাল, কিন্তু ভয়ের কিছু নেই। তবে নিরিমিষ হলেও এতবার পড়া, যে দিব্যি মনে আছে।

সেখানেই ছিল, অমলেশ মৌলিকের সঙ্গে প্রথম আলাপে অরূপবাবুর প্রতিক্রিয়া:
"তোতলা। অরূপবাবুর মনে পড়ে গেল অষ্টম এডওয়ার্ড হঠাৎ সিংহাসন ত্যাগ করার ফলে তাঁর পরের ভাই জর্জ ভারী চিন্তিত হয়ে পড়েছিলেন, কারণ তিনি ছিলেন তোতলা, অথচ তাঁকেই রাজা হতে হবে, আর হলেই বক্তৃতা দিতে হবে।"

এটা গেঁথে গেছিল। কখনও ভাবিনি এটা নিয়ে সিনেমা হবে। আর তাও এত ঘ্যাম সিনেমা। আর এতটা প্রভাবিত করবে আমাকে।

Friday, April 15, 2011

ঘ্যাম লোকেদের ঘ্যাম ব্যাপারস্যাপার

নববর্ষ। বেশ ঘ্যাম একটা ব্যাপার ছিল ছোটবেলায়। মনে আছে, নানান দোকানে দাদামশাইয়ের সঙ্গে যেতাম, হালখাতার নেমন্তন্নে, লেক মার্কেটের উল্টোদিকের কয়েকটা দোকানে। গলে যাওয়া ভ্যানিলা আইসক্রিমের কাপ আর কাঠের চামচ। মা পইপই করে বারণ করত, আর আমি বোঝাতাম, "গলে যায় তো!"

যাক্‌, বাঙালি হয়ে জন্মেছি, অতএব নববর্ষ আমার কাছে একটা ঘ্যাম দিন হওয়া উচিত। ঘ্যাম দিনে নিজের কথা কম বলে ঘ্যাম লোকেদের গল্প বলি একটু?

***

এই গল্পটা ঠিক কার, জানিনা। তবে যতবার শুনেছি, সবথেকে বেশিবার শুনেছি বঙ্কিমচন্দ্রের নামে। বঙ্কিমচন্দ্র অসাধারণ সাহিত্যিক ছিলেন, তবে বেশ গোঁড়াও ছিলেন। বিশেষতঃ মেয়েরা স্টেজে উঠে অভিনয় করবে, এটা একেবারেই মানতে পারতেন না।

একবার কোনো কাজে হাঁটছিলেন স্টার থিয়েটারের সামনে দিয়ে (খুব সম্ভবতঃ সাংঘাতিক বিষদৃষ্টি হেনে); এক উঠতি যুবক (খুব সম্ভবতঃ না চিনেই) জিজ্ঞেস করে বসে, "স্টার থিয়েটার কোথায়, জানেন?"

না, উনি খুন করেননি। তবে ভয়াবহ রেগে গিয়ে বললেন, "জানিনা।" বলে হনহন করে এগিয়ে গেলেন।

খানিকক্ষণ পর খেয়াল হল, এ হে, এটা তো মিথ্যে বলা হল!

ফিরলেন। সেই ছেলেটির পিছু ধাওয়া করে তাকে ডাকলেন। ডেকে বললেন - "জানি। কিন্তু বলব না।"

***

বঙ্কিমচন্দ্র অসামান্য প্রতিভাবান্‌ ছিলেন। আর তাঁর স্ত্রী ছিলেন অসামান্য সুন্দরী।

তো  উনি সস্ত্রীক কোথাও একটা যাচ্ছিলেন। ট্রেনে।

এবার, এক উঠতি যুবক (আশাকরি আগেরজন নয়, অন্য কেউ) প্রত্যেক স্টেশনে নেমে বঙ্কিমের কম্পার্টমেন্টের জানালার বাইরে দাঁড়িয়ে ওঁর স্ত্রীকে ঝাড়ি মারছিল স্ত্রীর রূপসুধা পান করছিল।

বঙ্কিম আর থাকতে না পেরে ডেকে নিলেন।

"আপনি কি করেন?"

"বিশেষ কিছু না।"

"আপনার মাইনে কত?"

বলাই বাহুল্য, বেশ কম।

"আমি ডেপুটির কাজ করি, তার থেকে বেশ ভালরকম উপার্জন করি। এছাড়াও অল্পস্বল্প লিখি, তাই একটু নামডাক আছে, আর তার থেকে একটা বাড়তি রোজগারও হয়। এত করেও এঁর মন পাই না। এবার বলুন, আপনার যা মাইনে আর পরিচিতি, তাতে এইভাবে স্টেশনে স্টেশনে এসে আপনার কোনো সম্ভাবনা আছে?"

***

এটা সিরিয়াস গল্প। এটা মোটামুটি সবার জানা যে মধুসূদন যখন রীতিমত অর্থাভাবে পড়েছিলেন, বিদ্যাসাগর তাঁকে সাধ্যের বাইরে গিয়ে সাহায্য করেছিলেন।

মধুসূদনের সমালোচকের অভাব ছিল না - আর তাদের একটা বিরাট অংশ বেশ হকচকিয়ে গেল বিদ্যাসাগরের এই আচরণে। একজন বলেই বসল "আপনি এত আদর্শবাদী লোক, শেষে একটা ধর্মত্যাগী দুশ্চরিত্র মাতালকে টাকা দিলেন, আরো মদ খাওয়ার জন্য?"

বিদ্যাসাগর বরাবরই স্মার্ট: "আপনি একটা মেঘনাদবধ কাব্য লিখে দেখান, আপনাকেও দেব, নিশ্চিত থাকুন।"

***

কোনো এক সাহিত্যসভায় শরৎচন্দ্র জুতো খুলে রেখেছিলেন - দিনের শেষে অনেক খোঁজাখুঁজি করেও একপাটি পাওয়া গেল না। রেগেমেগে, চোরকে শিক্ষা দিতে শরৎচন্দ্র অন্য পাটি গঙ্গায় বিসর্জন দিয়ে খালি পায়ে বাড়ি ফিরলেন।

পরেরদিন অবশ্য ফরাস সরিয়ে ভালোভাবে খুঁজতেই অন্য পাটি পাওয়া গেল।

এরপর থেকে শরৎচন্দ্র খুব সাবধান হয়ে গেলেন। চটি খুলে রাখতেন না, খবরের কাগজে মুড়ে নিয়ে ঢুকতেন। তো একবার এভাবেই ঢুকেছেন। সেই সভায় মধ্যমণি স্বয়ং রবীন্দ্রনাথ, আর কোনো এক অর্বাচীন তাঁর কান অবধি কথাটা পৌঁছে দিয়েছে।

"ওটা কি, শরৎ?"

(আমতা আমতা করে) "বই।"

(মুচকি হেসে) "কি বই?"

"পাদুকাপুরাণ।"

***

শরৎচন্দ্র পণ্ডিত ওরফে দাদাঠাকুরের সঙ্গে শরৎচন্দ্রের কখনো একবার দেখা হয়েছিল। সে বেশ একটা "একদা কি করিয়া মিলন হল দোঁহে" গোছের কন্সেপ্ট।

তখন দাদাঠাকুর "বিদূষক" এর সম্পাদক। শরৎচন্দ্র সম্বোধন করলেন "এস হে, বিদূষক শরৎচন্দ্র।" হয়ত ভেবেছিলেন, খুব ঘ্যাম একটা কিছু বললেন।

দাদাঠাকুর সঙ্গে সঙ্গে উত্তর দিলেন "কেমন আছ হে, চরিত্রহীন শরৎচন্দ্র?"

***

কোনো এক হতভাগ্য সাংবাদিকের ওপর দায়িত্ব ছিল, শিবরামের সাক্ষাৎকার নেওয়ার। মুক্তারামবাবু স্ট্রিটের সেই ঐতিহাসিক মেসের ঘরে গিয়ে দেওয়ালে লেখা নাম-ঠিকানা দেখে (কাগজ হারিয়ে যায়, দেওয়াল হারায় না), গুঁড়ো দুধ খেয়ে ভদ্রলোক শেষ অবধি জিজ্ঞেস করেই বসলেন, "আপনার জীবনে কখনো প্রেম এসেছিল?"

"এসেছিল বৈকি। আমার এক শিক্ষকের মেয়ে।"

স্কূপের গন্ধ পেয়ে ঝাঁপিয়ে পড়লেন ভদ্রলোক - "তারপর?"

"তারপর যা হওয়ার তাই হল। ওরা সপরিবারে ঝরিয়া চলে গেল।"

ভদ্রলোক সন্দেহের গন্ধ পেলেন - "কিন্তু ঝরিয়া কেন?"

"শোনেননি? ফাগুনের ফুল যায় ঝরিয়া, ফাগুনের অবসানে..."

***

আগের শতকের গোড়ার দিককার কথা। হোস্টেলের ঘর, তিনজন ছেলে, চতুর্থ কাউকে দরকার তাস খেলার জন্য।

অধৈর্য হয়ে সত্যেন্দ্রনাথ বোস বললেন, "যা, মেঘনাদকে ডেকে নিয়ে আয়।"

খানিকক্ষণ পর ফিরে এসে তাঁর বন্ধু জানাল, "মেঘনাদ বলল ও পড়ছে।"

"বল্‌, আমি ডাকছি।"

সত্যেন্দ্রনাথের কথা। যেতেই হল। এবং আসতেই হল মেঘনাদ সাহাকে।

"বোস্‌, খেলবি।"

"না, আমি এখন পড়ব।"

"কি করবি পড়ে? তুই যদি একদম না পড়িস্‌, বাকিদের থেকে বেশি পাবি। আর তুই যত ইচ্ছে পড়্‌, আমি তোর থেকে বেশি পাব। কাজেই..."

***

সৈয়দ মুজতবা আলীর এক গুণমুগ্ধ তাঁর কাছে জানতে চান, তিনি এত ভাল কিভাবে লেখেন: " আমি দেখতে চাই, কিভাবে আপনি লেখেন; লেখার সময় আমি সঙ্গে থাকতে চাই।"

"দেখুন, মানুষ নিজের সন্তান অন্যকে দেখায়, সন্তান উৎপাদনের পদ্ধতি দেখায় কি?"

***

এইর'ম আরও অজস্র। এই মুহূর্তে মনে পড়ছে না, কিন্তু কখনও পড়লে এখানে লিখব আবার। শুভ নববর্ষ।

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dear Men in Blue - II

Dear Men in Blue,

First of all, congratulations on your uber-achievement. You've been awesome. I know you've done it for me after my sincere pledge Friday night. I know many others have made similar requests to you over the past 28 years, and you did respond to all of them yesterday night.

However, this letter is not about them. This is about myself. Selfish individuals like me have hardly ever cared about others, you see.

I was maniacal on Facebook, just like the semifinal. I was baffled at Sreesanth being picked and Mendis being dropped. I was amazed at Mahela's brilliance, Gautam's diligence and Dhoni's incredible sense of occasion. I was confused at Sanga's handling of The Great Spinner.

However, when your leader (who, I repeat, is the greatest our nation has ever produced), after leading the chase like a true champion, started dishing out the final blows to the hapless Lankans, my posts got fewer and fewer in number, and in the end, I became numb. I mean, I remember the final six, I remember by brother yelling, I remember the huge roar on the telly and from outside the window, I remember my mother smiling, but I also remember myself not reacting.

How does one react to such occasions, Men in Blue? I was brought up on world cup eliminations at various stages over the years, and my reactions varied from anger to grief to despair to trauma to heartbreak. I had, over a quarter of a century, trained my brain to react to defeats and acceptance of the fact that we shall always be eliminated.

But elation? Victory? How does one react to that, Men in Blue? A part of me wanted to yell in triumph. A part of me wanted to cry out loud. A part of me wanted to pour my heart out in cyberspace. A part of me wanted to get high.

But I did none of that. I simply got inside a shell. I sat silently. I stared vacantly at the TV screen. I saw Yuvraj cry. I saw Harbhajan cry. I wanted to join them in their tears, but nothing came out. Honestly. I couldn't speak. I simply saw Shastri hand the medallions, and then the cup to you. I saw you celebrate, and take the lap.

I sat there like a zombie. Just sat there, and did nothing. My brain was clogged. I had visions of 1987 when I had cried in the bathroom. I had visions of my despair at your elimination in all the world cups I had seen. I just couldn't react, you know. I just wanted to consume, to devour, to swallow every moment of your celebration with my thirsty eyes.

Then I heard the bands and the roars and the processions and the crackers outside. I walked out. I just had to. But even then, I couldn't join in. Random cars and motorcycles and pedestrians, clad proudly in the tricolour, drinking in public and celebrating like insane, passed by me. I was the only static entity on the sidewalk. They waved at me, yelled at me, gestured high-fives and thumbs-ups at me as they passed by me. I smiled weakly and gestured back like some strange doll.

Minutes passed by. I called and texted a few friends, but there was no life in them. All I wanted was to be with someone who has borne the same amount of pain I had been through since 1987, and had felt the same level of satisfaction as I did at that moment after a wait that long and after being that loyal.

I returned home. And then, I had the most peaceful of slumbers. I had a dreamless sleep after a long time.

I woke up today morning, you see. And still that outburst didn't come. I can assure you that things are happening inside me, Men in Blue. There are multiple emotions at war with each other, competing with each other to come out and failing miserably. I have still not yelled or leapt or cried out loud to celebrate.

Forgive me, Men in Blue. I have failed you. I didn't react to your success the way the others have. I should possibly have gone out, celebrating in alcohol and gulaal and face paint and tricolour and celebrated and partied till dawn. I didn't. Forgive me for acting like such a moron when the entire nation has been celebrating. Maybe I just didn't love you enough, Men in Blue. Maybe the victory didn't mean as much to me as it had to others. Maybe I do not care for you or the game as much. Maybe I didn't crave for this moment as much.

But there's something else to this story as well, you know. Last night, as I pulled up the sheet to cover myself, I realised that if I breathed my last that moment, it would be one of the most satisfactory and peaceful deaths ever in the history of mankind. That's the best I can do for you, Men in Blue. A life whose consciousness began with the dreams of your triumph; and one that I'd be happy to end as you have achieved that.

Take my life, Men in Blue. You have achieved for me what I had wanted out of my life. There's nothing to look forward to any more after The Ultimate Triumph. Whatever happens to me now, however bad, let it be a terminal disease or a death of a dear one or bankruptcy, no one can take away the fact from me that I have witnessed a world cup triumph of yours, just like my previous generation.

Still no outburst, Men in Blue. Maybe some day I shall, at some lesser incident. This one, I suppose, has dug too deep inside. Pardon me for my limited vocabulary and writing skills. I really cannot express what you've done for me yesterday night. Believe me, I'm being honest here.

Your unworthy, possibly even ungrateful fan,
Abhishek.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Dear Men in Blue

Dear Men in Blue,

You know something, when I first saw you guys, you used to be Men in White. True, you used to take field in blue attire Down Under, but you generally played in white, the way you look the sexiest.

You know something, I used to watch every match you played. Every match they showed, that is. Remember those Doordarshan days when they had only one camera, when we saw the batsman's back for half the match and no boundary was ever tracked till the end? I saw every match they showed.

I have faint memories of 1983, you know. Very faint. Most of it has been built upon stories I've heard from my mother, but I vaguely recall being sleepy-eyed, people celebrating all round me, on the streets, setting off fire-crackers.

I've followed you since time zero as far as my memories are concerned, Men in Blue. None of you were playing then. Why, some of you weren't even born then! I was diligent and persistent enough to obtain permission from a strict father and a somewhat obliging mother who always put education at the top of my priority list.

You know, I used to jot down the complete (or summarised) scorecards of every match you played. And having being brought up on tales from 1983, I was so sure that 1987 shall be ours! The manner we played and controlled matches invariably suggested so.

Let me confess something: when Gooch kept sweeping our spinners, when Gavaskar was bowled through the gate, when Kapil hit that ugly irresponsible hoick and got out, I still had hope that Shastri would somehow squeeze it for us. And when he couldn't, I cried in the bathroom that night.

But it wasn't over. You kept playing, and I kept following you. The 1992 World Cup was at the end of a horror tour of Australia, and we played horribly. It gave birth to a young star who is the Big Brother among you today. But we played pathetic cricket, and though we beat Pakistan, our performance was shambolic.

Did I lose hope? No. Never. I never gave up on you. I followed you for the next four years, yet again: I knew it was coming this time. We shall play at home again. I was there, you see. There, at Eden Gardens, for the semifinal. I remember the 18-year old me shouting till my voice went sore as Srinath took those first three scalps. But suddenly everything went wrong, bottles rained all around me, and Lloyd handed the match over to you.

I was heartbroken. I didn't talk to anyone on my way back and didn't join in the chorus of curses. "Another four years", I thought, and kept on watching and following you guys.

I went to another city for a year, and it was here that I saw your next world cup campaign. Everyone said that we shall win, and despite defeats in the first two matches I had hope in my heart. You won three matches on the trot, and all of us in the hostel became optimistic. Alas, McGrath destroyed it all in a single spell, and we were left, disconsolate, once again, content with the fact that you have, yet again, beaten Pakistan.

I was livid for a while; but what the hell, I said. It's just The Men in Blue - how can one remain mad at you for long? I got hooked yet again. I saw Australians rise to supremacy and became green with jealousy. But then, they were Them, not Us, isn't it?

2003 came, and I wasn't a student any more. This time there were superior forces to convince and coax to get follow you. I took days off to witness your performance - what if this turned out to be the one?

Your performances in the first two matches were abysmal. I was disappointed, but had hope in my heart: and it hurt me when a mob of insane people stoned down your residences and targetted your families. Is this how one reacts if a parent is ill or a sibling doesn't get a job or a child fails an exam? You're family, Men in Blue. They shouldn't have done this.

And how you fought back! Eight wins on the trot - who shall ever forget a performance like that? So what if Australia blew you apart in the final? I was proud of you - and every Indian was, in 2003.

But then, that elusive feeling kept haunting me for the next four years - we were just one match away from the cup, and still couldn't make it.

Doesn't matter, I told myself. It's just a matter of four more years. 2007 shall be ours. It just had to be.

What happened was like this: you lost to Bangladesh. Yes, Bangladesh. And then to Sri Lanka, and were eliminated. You know that you were booed back home. What you don't know that I was in front of the television during the Bangladesh-Bermuda match, supporting Bermuda (in Bermuda shorts) with MS Excel open in front of me, trying to find out whether there's some sort of hope. What you don't know that I woke up in the small hours of the morning, sweating, with real scenes from the Sri Lanka match for dreams.

I had thought I'd never recover from that. But I did.

Then this guy from Jharkhand came to the helm. I know I shall have stern opposition as I utter this, but in my opinion he's the best captain my country has ever produced. The best. And under him things turned again. We rushed up the ladder with an incredible urgency.

2011 has arrived. We have eliminated Australia. We have eliminated the only other team to have beaten Australia. Only one step remains to be conquered now, Men in Blue.

I do not know about others, you see. But I do care about myself. I have been watching and supporting you blindly over a quarter of a century. Every four years I anticipate this. And get heartbroken. And start afresh. And wait for four more years.

A quarter of a century is a long time, do you realise that? You couldn't win it for us, but I know you tried. I do. That's why you'd never find me abusing you. I have faith in you, and I always have. I never switched channels when Tendulkar got out. I kept hope when Jayasuriya and Afridi spanked you for fifty from the first five overs of the match.

I knew that if I kept faith in you, you won't turn me down. And you really haven't, over the years. You have made me smile in the worst of moments. You have made me overlook wars and earthquakes and tsunamis and terrorists and riots and Fardeen Khans. You have made me fight back from the toughest of corners. You have been my confidence. And all that's been for a reason.

This is it, guys. This is as close as I've seen you come. Win this for me. I know I've never painted my face or danced or screamed or set off crackers. I've never bought a real Indian jersey. But I've laughed and cried with you, and I'm typically a miser as far as emotions are concerned. I've loved you unconditionally, irrespective of your defeats, especially overseas.

Do it this time. Please. For me, if not for anyone else. It's been a long wait.

And if you really cannot, then there's always 2015. Then 2019, 2023...

Yours forever,
Abhishek.


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