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Monday, July 27, 2015

A Short Ode To A Special Friend

CBSE East Zone Swimming Championship, hosted by Hem Sheela Model School, in the autumn of 2013. More than sixty schools from all over eastern India gathered in the J.N. Avenue campus. As the Class XI Coordinator in charge of the hosts' Student Volunteers, I was assigned a crew of Class IX and XI Students Council members and a ragtag group of additional volunteers from Class XI. Among these volunteers was a moderately troublesome rodent-like fellow who, one afternoon, seemed like a suitable person to take charge in the joint absence of me and my regular deputy.
Following my deputation of this kid, circumstances best forgotten dictated an unfavourable turn of events; but eventually, to myself and to the world, my initial instincts were proved right. This kid later volunteered laudably for the Council during the end-year personnel crisis; and when, in Class XII, I was to become Head Girl, taking oath beside me as Head Boy, in the torrential rain on 1st July 2014, was to be the same kid -- a crucial friend and colleague in the months to come, someone difficult to forget, a kid I have high hopes for.
As I write this annotation to my timeline nearly two years in the future from aforesaid events, on the verge of my leaving Durgapur, all I can say to Nihal is this: thanks, buddy, and wish you well.
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Friday, July 24, 2015

Unintentional Throwback

Cross-posted from Facebook.
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Those were practised gestures -- to be standing beside important people on the stage, dressed well, smiling as is wont, and then accompanying them off the stage when the day is done.
We were in practised company: the school administrators and senior teachers, dignitaries, guests, and one another.
It was a familiar place -- Drury Hem Sheela Recreation Centre; green carpets, galleries, lights, a wild crowd above and a less wild crowd below.
The feeling was familiar, too: to feel bashfully proud of everything that we were doing, everything that we were a part of, everything we stood for, and everyone we knew and loved.
Even the end was familiar: walking off the steps while snidely commenting on the people around, taking stock of the goings-on and subjecting it all to paranoid scrutiny, throwing in a few jokes and a few deep philosophical thoughts, and then parting with a handshake and a fist-bump.
So yes, aside from the fact that we were dressed not in our uniforms but in clothes of our choosing, the fact that we were not the in-office Heads of Council but ex-students who happened to also be the outgoing Heads, the fact that our classmates sat not above but below, and the fact that we were seeing one another and most of our classmates for the last time in many months, Felicitation 2015 wasn't all that different from a usual HSMS day of our lives.
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(On Felicitation 2015, as requested by Nihal Singh).

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Of CMI and VYOM

So! As my Facebook followers already know, I thought I didn't get into Chennai Mathematical Institute, but then I did... whew! I'll be leaving for Chennai soon to pursue my undergraduate studies there. Meanwhile I also flew for the first time. In the excitement of CMI and everything else, however, I forgot to write about VYOM 2015, so here goes.
For the uninitiated, VYOM is an annual felicitation programme organised by the Delhi-based coaching institute Aakash for its students who perform well in Engineering and Medical entrance exams. VYOM 2015 was held at Science City Auditorium, Kolkata, on 5th July 2015.
My fellow Aakashians Navonil, Souvik​ and others have already mentioned at length the scintillating Drumscape by Bikram Ghosh and team (too awesome), the medals and 'Proud to be an Aakashian' tees given to the awardees (also great), the massive photo op (not sure if I can be seen in it), and the excitement over the presence of boxing queen Mary Kom to give away cash awards to the top achievers (not-so-exciting for not-so-top achievers). The one important thing that I felt they missed, and on which I would like to elaborate, was the speech by the Managing Director of Aakash, Mr. J.C. Chaudhry.
When MD Sir took the stage, we were all expecting him to congratulate the awardees of 2015, encourage the 2016 batch, thank the faculty and management... all of which he did. But then came the unexpected. This man, who is at the very top of a premier educational institution that churns out so many brilliant students, stood there at the felicitation programme before those very students, and coolly told the achievers that all their achievements meant nothing if they did not become good people who held the hands of the unfortunate!
In today's world that is so driven by career, money, and showing off, I have often felt that academics has lost its true meaning, which is to enlighten people and make them better human beings who contribute towards society. In this line of thought, I have always felt unsupported and alone. But when the very MD of the institution which has goaded me for academic success for two years, speaks of the importance of humanity alongside academics... well, let it suffice to say that I salute this man; that I will remember his words forever; and that for once, I am not ashamed to admit that, despite the ensuing semi-religious rhetoric that would have ordinarily made me cringe, his words drove me to tears.
More importantly, however, I hope that his words humbled those people in the hall, if any, who had let their success go to their heads -- something that is far too undesirably common among humans, especially the young. I also hope that everyone present took his words seriously. I, for one, had always felt that something was different about Aakash's approach to education, and now I know what that is -- it is the pervading spirit of this man, who has his priorities in exactly the right place. Therefore, cheers to you, MD Sir. You da real MVP.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Response, Long Overdue

In response to Grey World, by my former colleague Shriyank Mulgund.
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Re: Grey World

My Sun is not a garbage fire.
The songs are not unfounded.
Surya Namaskar is not without reason.
It is lovely to look upon the world's ugly face
And scorn it in disdainful detachment.
I've seen your Grey World -- you showed me -- and I don't like it
I don't want to live there.
I don't even want to visit you there -- I think

All you do there is sit in the rain
Until it obscures the ugly world into an illusion of comfort,
Until you meld with the world's ugliness,
Until you resign to the status quo,
You foolish coward.
And then you berate my Sun!
My Sun that comes for no asking, stays for no love,
Leaves for no spite -- while for your Grey deity, you hope and beg
Hope it comes, beg it stays, never knowing...
...do you enjoy not knowing? Do you like waiting in uncertainty,
Like some stupid tower-bound princess?
Do you like being made a fool of, you masochist goat?
Your Grey World is a freak occurrence, an aberration,
Like you. Ah, now I see the appeal.

But understand -- try to see.
Can your Grey World define time?
Can it make day, night, weeks, months?
Would you not like to worship That,
Which builds years, ages, eons...
...That Which Was There Before?
Look upon my Sun for once.
Look how it blinds your fears,
Look how it shows you the Truth of Everyday
And the Absolute Hope of Forever.
Look, and you just might like it
You just might like the feel
Of sunshine on your shoulders,
And in your soul.

You might even want to stay!
You might want to abandon Grey World
And live under the Sun!
Or even if you don't,
You might want to come back
From time to time.
You might want to linger after the rain is gone
You, and a Grey cloud or two
From that World you showed me
Where there is no direction,
No black, no white, no identity,
The World Which Came After,
The World of Perpetual Rain,
Where the sounds never change,
And where time stands still --

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Not Another One About Rain

People have too many passive thoughts about rain. No, I do not speak of those in love: I'm done with that lot's interpretation of the rain -- we all are, if the relevant (single people's?) wisecracks plastered all over social media are any indication. However, I myself am prone, like many others, to react to the rain with as much mushiness as the wet monsoon ground beneath one's shoes -- as is evident from my recent post about my high school and the rain. Then again, there are those who immerse themselves in dark and gloomy thoughts whenever it rains, and manage to enjoy or even crave that process, which (more often than not?) gives rise to anti-sunshine literary ventures that deserve a second look -- at the least from psychologists, if not from literary critics. Whatever the form may be, I find that the general mode of processing rain seems to involve sitting down, pensiveness, passivity -- and that bothers me. Yes, the rain is beautiful, refreshing, brings back memories, etcetera -- been there, felt that -- but what about the rain that is more truthful than beautiful, more warlike than romantic, more hopeful than reminiscent? What about the rain that slaps you awake and tells you, akin to a certain Mr. LaBeouf but in a less amusing manner, to 'Do It'?
Now that rain is the kind I wouldn't mind having every day. Because, while I enjoy rain in all forms, this one is forever going to be my kind of rain. It shows no Grey World, but reveals the exact true colours hidden under layers of dust. It reminds me of no one but myself, and of my dreams and what I stand for. It removes false associations and presents everything at face value -- it removes the identities of Success and Failure and reclassifies them simply as Milestones; it melds Friends and Foes and makes them People; it takes Love and Hate and makes them Attachment. This rain falls on me but does not seep through because it is content to just be. This rain is confident in its silent potency, and cares not for provoking a reaction to itself. This rain connects me with all souls, but binds me to none. It asks me not to raise my face to it, but to drive my shoulders and my limbs across its path.
I like rains the most when they come with thunderstorms -- because each thunderclap is like a fresh start that whacks my self-doubt over the head and yells at it to buzz off; each bolt of lightning is like an epiphany, like a shocking bout of clarity from some inaccessible dimension, made available to me for a split-second. The rumble of a dying thunder across the sky is like the laughter of an eternally victorious spirit, beating a false retreat merely to amuse itself with the premature jubilations of the enemy, and announcing to all allies that it will return doubly enthused; and when the entire sky lights up in a flash of lighting, I feel the spirit throw me a mischievous, knowing wink, right before it disappears.
So, while the rest of you are looking at the rain, or dancing in the rain, or sitting or walking or laughing or crying in the rain, you'll find me standing alone and motionless, somewhere far out in the open, with the wind and the spray in my face -- my shoulders squared, my feet ready to spring, and my damn stupid mouth smirking itself silly.

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Title Credit: Mousam Roy, via Paint Me With You, specifically this.
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