An ode to my second mother – Saoli Ma’am

It is said that behind every successful man lies a woman. This woman can be a mother, a sister, a wife or simply a friend or a colleague. But, if someone tells me to rank them in terms of importance, I would straightaway put mothers at the top of the list. There is no doubt that a mother deserves the first credit for a man’s success, for she brings him to this world, nurtures him using every ounce of care and affection, protects him and teaches him to stand tall in the society. Whoa! Mothers are all-rounders. In fact, a mother is the superwoman in every man’s life.

I consider myself truly blessed for I have not one mother, but two! No, this is not some typical Bollywood story where the actor has a birth mother but he is raised by someone else. My story is different in the sense that I had been brought up by two mothers simultaneously in different environments. Continue reading

Rasmalai and a sweet act of compassion

Poor GirlYou are walking down a normal Indian street and you happen to see a small 6 year-old girl on the pavement. The girl is in torn rags, her hand blackened with the grime after she rummaged through the large municipality dustbin nearby and yet, she is happily munching the small amount of food, which she must have found in the dustbin. What is your first reaction on seeing that girl? Disgust or indifference or perhaps a feeling of pity for the people who don’t have the basic necessities of life – clothes, food and shelter.

Well, I am not someone who fosters such feelings. I have seen small kids like that 6 year-old girl countless number of times during my entire childhood and honestly speaking, each time I confronted such a sight, I had a sleepless night. An indescribable feeling of helplessness and anguish gripped me each time, because I was also of similar age and I couldn’t bear to see someone not have a decent childhood as mine. Now, I am a 21-year old adult and I still have the same sleepless nights but the childhood pain has been replaced by anger towards the concerned authorities who do not help such people, and guilt at not being able to help them myself in a substantial manner.

However, I did make small attempts when I was a child, to help such destitute children. It was the year 2003 and I was 11 years old. An age when I began to properly observe and understand the environment around me. I don’t exactly remember the date or the month when this incident happened, but I can say it was summer. I was in a marriage ceremony of one of my father’s office colleagues. Marriages in my hometown Duliajan were exceptionally grand; it seemed the family of the groom or the bride used to make preparations and arrangements the entire year. Everything from the tent and decorations to food and the get-up of the family members and the invitees spoke money. As a child, I loved to attend these functions for I could gorge on dishes, which weren’t usually prepared at home by my mother, except on special occasions.

After spending a few minutes with my parents in the sitting lounge of the tent, we made our way to the food court. Alright, let me state another fact here. On most special occasions in my hometown, be it marriage ceremonies, birthdays or farewell parties, food wasn’t served, rather the buffet system was followed. I don’t know whether it was a right choice or not, as I watched people build a mountain of food on their plates, eat only a quarter of it and throw the rest in the dustbin. My mother helped me stuff some food on my plate and I sat on a nearby chair and began relishing the delicious food. When I was done eating, I threw the plate in the dustbin and headed towards the wash basin. Suddenly, I noticed a small girl of around 6 years a few steps away from the wash-basin. She was with a grown-up lady, probably her mother, who was busy clearing another food dustbin into a dug-out pit. The little girl was licking a plastic bowl, where sweet dishes were served in the food court. She had definitely picked it up from the dustbin. I watched her intently for sometime. She looked emaciated and hungry, but the small bits of food stuck to the bowl surface made her happy. I got a lump in my throat. The next moment, I saw the lady and the little girl heading towards me. The lady was bringing the empty dustbin for the next round of to-be-thrown food items.

I don’t know what made me take that rash decision but I dashed towards the place where the Rasmalai was served. I asked the waiter to give me two bowls of the sweet dish. Carefully holding the two bowls in my tiny hands, I walked towards the wash basin. I didn’t bother if anybody was following my actions. I knew I was not doing anything stupid. When I reached my destination, I saw the little girl standing timidly there. Her mother was busy cleaning the food court. I smiled towards her but her face was expressionless. I did not want to scare her so I gently placed the two bowls of sweet dish near her and walked away. As I turned towards her a few seconds later, I watched her eating the sweet dish with such a beautiful expression of joy that mere words couldn’t describe.

That night I cried a lot. The scenes of what I did at the marriage ceremony kept flashing in my mind and tears flowed. They were not tears of pain or guilt of doing something disgusting. They were tears of joy for an act of compassion. A God-gifted joy!

I am sharing my Do RIght Stories at BlogAdda.com in association with Tata Capital.

Independence Day and Patriotism – A reality check!

I decided I will not sit inside my room this 15th August, 2013, considering it as yet another holiday in the calendar, while citizens of other parts of the nation celebrate India’s 67th Independence Day. In fact, I have never been outside on this day in all the years I have crossed so far. There aren’t many small reasons for this state of mine, about which I don’t feel good at all. There is just one major reason – I stay in Assam, where for the past 20 years of my life, I don’t remember a single instance where my parents took me out to watch some Independence day special programme in Duliajan, my hometown. Even if I or my parents or any other person wanted to, insurgent groups made sure it wouldn’t happen. Even today, as I woke up, my parents strictly advised me to not venture outside my hostel room as the local news channels telecast news that planted seeds of fear in the minds of the people about several insurgent groups of the state planning to launch grenade attacks or bomb blasts across the state. I thought the situation would change this year but I was disappointed.

Honestly, I was frustrated today! How long will I keep hearing these? It is supposed to be Independence Day, an occasion which is celebrated with so much fervour in many countries. Here in my state, India’s Independence Day is considered by many as just another national holiday, rather a Sunday, when they could wake up late and spend leisurely hours at home. This is a result of all the years of living in fear, moulding the people’s mindset. In the few places where the Tricolour is unfurled, it seems it is just a formality being done to commemorate this day. From what I have seen in national news channels, at least, the other states, most of them, present a different picture. I don’t get angry when people of other states fear to come to Assam because of terrorism and insurgency in the state. I feel sad and hopeless because fear resides in the people of the state itself! I want my state to be welcoming to anyone but such situations splash cold water on my hopes.

Even as an Indian, I am not a very happy man, for I have seen Independence Day losing its value with every passing year. 67 years of India’s Independence have gone by, yet the common man wouldn’t feel the joy of freedom and independence as it should have been. The present situation of India may as be labelled as an Anarchy where democracy is just a decorative term. The voice of the general public has no significance. Where is the independence? A day-long celebration on 15th August every year (and on 26th January as well) is used a medium by many to showcase their patriotism. In this regard, ‘Plastic Patriots’ is a term which I coin for those people who smear Saffron, White and Green colours on their bodies or wear Tricolour apparels or send “Jai Hind’ SMSs on this day and Republic Day and for the remaining 363 or 364 days (leap year), they would undermine and tarnish the sanctity of the term ‘Patriotism’.

TricolourFor me, patriotism doesn’t mean I do all the stuff I mentioned above. Patriotism doesn’t mean I hold the tricolour in both my hands and run around on the streets on 15th August, yelling ‘Jai Hind, ‘Vande Mataram’. For me, patriotism means I care about my country every moment of my life. I should be able to work hard, so that I can contribute something good, however small it may be, towards the development of my country. That is patriotism for me! When I see a beggar begging on the streets or a small child labouring in a restaurant, I should feel the pain of seeing this sorry state of the country and the pinch should push me to make sure I work for the upliftment of these classes of people. That is patriotism for me. When I see a corrupt official, be it a minister, bureaucrat or anybody else, a rage should erupt within me, tamed by words of wit and courage, so that I can pierce through the blindfolds of those corrupt people and show them what their negligence towards the citizens or their shirking of their duties has done to this country. This list shall go on but what matters is every Indian realize what he or she has to do to become a true patriot for the country, so that whenever they see the Tricolour being unfurled or hear the National Anthem being sung in any part of the globe, tears of joy and pride well up in their eyes. 

The joy of being an Indian. Proud to be an Indian. With full force…JAI HIND!

The Orientation Day @ AEC, Guwahati

Date: 1 August 2013, Thursday

Venue: Auditorium, Assam Engineering College, Guwahati

Assam Engineering College, GuwahatiThe clock struck 10 a.m. and slowly, the area around the auditorium started to reverberate with chit-chat of parents and their kids, who had been newly admitted to the college. It was the Orientation Day, when the first-year students are given a brief introduction and overall idea about the college, familiarizing them with the environment here. Most parents wore anxious looks and were drowned in deep conversation with fellow parents. I was sure they were discussing about the college and how their kids would fare in the 4 years (or more, but let’s just skip that part) of engineering studies. Interestingly, the first-year students seemed to be in quite an upbeat mood; a few of them had already begun to form groups and indulge in talks, as if they’re in the senior years, discussing some very crucial matters. I still remember how scared and worried I was on the Orientation day, when I was newly inducted into the college. Perhaps the fear of being in an unknown setting and unknown people had overwhelmed me. How time has changed!

Being a final year student, this was the last Orientation Day I attended and unlike the one I attended in my 2nd and 3rd year, this year, the event turned out to be quite nostalgic for me. Within a few minutes past 10 a.m, I spotted three juniors of my school, Delhi Public School, Duliajan – Audrika Thakuria, Angshuman Buragohain and Arnav Duarah, sitting calm and composed in the auditorium. A very nice feeling flowed in me, to see familiar faces from my hometown, Duliajan and when I met them, they were equally happy to meet me. You see, there is always a happy moment involved, when you see someone you know very well, in a crowd of unfamiliar faces (be it as a tourist in some other place or in some tight situations, needing assistance). Drawing similar lines, 3 years ago, I had also come to this college, along with two classmates of mine from school -Karpun Pegu and Madhurya Dhodapkar, but then we never sat together in the auditorium. In fact, I don’t know how we got dispersed in the crowd of first-years.

The programme started. After the introduction of the college and the various departments and their HODs (Head of the Departemts) were done, the dynamic Dr. Arup Mishra sir took centre-stage and kicked off the fun session of the Orientation programme. Mishra sir has been synonymous with this programme for many years and the panache with which he conducts it is remembered by all the students here. He is a man, gifted with a baritone, that doesn’t require the microphone; his voice is enough to arouse a full-packed audience. Soon, he began his ice-breaking exercise with the first years, trying to snap them out of their shells of fear, shyness and hesitation and allowing them to speak out their interests, hobbies and aspirations. Like every year, he showered questions full of humour and wit and as I was watching the proceedings from a distance, I remembered the similar questions asked 3 years back. It really helped me to break-free from the initial fear I had about the college, that was sir’s magic!

The Orientation Day programme may be a very small event but it holds a special place in my heart. It is the stepping stone or should I say the red carpet, that is laid to all the first-years to come and accept the college as their family. 1 August, 2013 was the day I took a nostalgic  mini ride to 2 August, 2010, the day I attended the Orientation programme.

Uncle Chips, Pokémon and a colourful childhood…

In the lazy afternoon of 5th July, 2013, as I lay on my bed, my eyes staring fixedly at the bare ceiling above, my mind escaped into slightly forgotten territories of the mind. And one such place was the world of Pokémon.

Ask some of my school friends, especially those who were my class-mates in Section B of Classes 6, 7, 8 and 9, and you would be surprised to hear from them how obsessed I had been about Pokémon at that time! Those were the days when this new show called Pokémon had started to be aired on Cartoon Network and within a really short span of time, it became highly popular among the kid-folk of my hometown, Duliajan. As a matter of fact, the reason for the huge popularity of this English-dubbed Japanese anime can undoubtedly be attributed to Uncle Chips. Reason is you used to get a free Pokémon goody like ‘Tazzo’, ‘Zenga card’, ‘playing card’ etc. inside every pack of Uncle Chips! And for a Pokémon fanatic like me, seldom a day went by, for 2 years or so, without purchasing at least 1 Uncle Chips pack! 😀 Well, don’t be scared by the jumbo degree of junk food as I rarely emptied the chips packets into my mouth; my sole concern was to grab hold of the goody as soon as the packet was blasted open! (And if luck favoured me, sometimes, two or three goodies popped out) 🙂

I wouldn’t be doing justice to this post if I don’t write about my Pokémon-related antics in Class 6 in 2003. The year saw an exponential rise in sale of Uncle Chips and a wave of frenzy, to collect Pokémon goodies, swept almost all boy classmates of mine. Such was the craze that we used to trade each other’s goodies, either with the purpose of keeping and admiring them at home for a night, or in order to create variety in one’s collection. (Once, I really got annoyed because I found the same Pokémon Tazzo in 11 continuous Uncle Chips packets!) I admit that a tiny amount of trickery did help me collect goodies without having to sacrifice from my own set, thus, allowing me to amass a huge assortment of varied goodies. 😉 I don’t know whether my good friends Souvik Ghosh, Abhinash Saikia, Abhinav Jha, Manisha Dutta and Jayashree Doley remember or not, that we used to sit near each other in the classroom and spend every free minute, between periods or during tiffin-break, in playing Pokémon battles in rough notebooks. I fondly remember how I used to randomly draw some weird-looking creature and give it a weirder name, and tell my friends that it is a very powerful Pokémon and that it shall appear someday in the cartoon series. Quite unexpectedly, most of my hand-drawn creations did appear on TV in one form or the other! Pokémon eventually turned out to be my favourite time-pass activity.

As the slideshow of bygone memories continued, I withdrew myself from bed and walked up to my almirah, where I safely kept everything I had collected during my salad days. A mini search in one of the shelves led me to my prized collection of Pokémon goodies. The box was a little dusty, so I brushed it off and opened it. Emotions stirred in me instantly. Picking out a few of the goodies, I spread them on my table and captured them with my camera, hoping that this picture is able to reinvigorate the same vibes in future, as it happened this day. 🙂 🙂 🙂

My  Pokémon Collectibles

My Pokémon Collectibles