Sunday, June 16, 2024

A Bong will always be a Bong


I have known Rajib and of him ever since he started his professional life as a journalist and then of him when he decided to say adieu to his profession as a scribe and instead preferred to sit opposite the table as a senior communication professional.

So I thought. Then came covid and another hue from his plume was revealed! And Mi Dios! How! This lad whom I knew as a wordsmith in reality turned out to be a skilled connector of dots as well! His preferred alphabet was not the one that divines words but strokes that create images. Images of everyday life. The ones that define us and we think so little of them. In his sketches, they come alive and remind us how precious they are.

Let us take a step back to the covid and quarantine days. It was a global lockdown. The whole world looked so bleak. Death was apparently the only news that merited a place in the headlines and news blogs were actually the recounters of the spread of covid. During that time many decided to share their passions with their friends and talents were discovered. And Rajiv was no exception. Suddenly, his LinkedIn posts mutated into sketches depicting his reflections on those bleak everyday life yet managed to extract a smile. And his sagacious corporate utterances took a back seat. Now, he has taken another step forward with his newly revealed skill set.

No. He is no Mario Miranda. At least not yet. But his book Bangaliyana skillfully marries his sketches with deft stitching of words to present us with an oeuvre of his emotions about being a Bengali yet not being one. Because he missed a few important stuff as he was a prabashi (expat Bengali)! In fact, the whole story in his book is founded upon those missed steps and his wonderment about them.

This book is straight out of his heart. So truly that my wife, brought up in Delhi, grabbed the book as Amazon delivered it and read through it in one sitting! I could see her smiling as she raced through the book. It wasn’t difficult for her to relate to those frustrations about saying something that was a statement and finding the cousins laughing. The realization that her pronunciations marked her out as a prabashi still haunts her despite having spent 37 years with a pure Bengali in khaas Kolkata! And Rajib endorses her angst.

This book is not just a prabashi talking to another prabashi. This book will also resonate with a pure-bred bong as it did with me. It keeps reminding you that a tiger never changes its stripes. Or, better still, a bong will always be bong – macher jhol bhaat or no maacher jhol bhaat! Point to note, the spelling of his name gives him away as a prabashi. He spells his name as Rajiv and not Rajib as a Kolkata-bred Bong like me might. 

A disclaimer. He was the one I asked to conceptualise and execute the logo of Content Crankers and he, as expected, hit the nail on its head. There was no space for disagreement.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Meaning of Empathy?

I was in a profession that made a regular lifestyle a challenge. Dinner by ten was considered irregular and bed before 2 am was an absurdity. Post sixty that lifestyle is now extracting its price. So I am now a regular visitor to physicians dissecting my past life and wishing more patients like me. 

As they say, que sera sera, or, as you sow you reap, but then those OPDs (Outpatient departments) also provide valuable life lessons.

Now let us assume that you are a nobody and you are ill. And you have been told that Dr X is the best. He does OPD at the hospital in your neighbourhood. So you don’t go to the hospital for treatment as such, but you go to the hospital to get treated by Dr. X.

Well. Now comes the part we all dread. Of being treated like dirt. The receptionist doesn’t care to look at your face even:

— Name?

— Doc?

— Why?

— 1500 rupees.

— Go and sit at the doc’s OPD reception

The damn hospital is big and you don’t know where Dr X sits. You try to ask that and face a royal snub. The guy standing next to you in the queue looks at you as if you have committed a crime! In a sense you have. You have stolen a few impatient seconds from his time.

But you are past sixty now. Whatever you were in your past life, with your chair gone there has been a big dent in your confidence level. And you cannot bear down on the receptionist enough to elicit the answer.

So you turn around and try to find someone who could guide you to the destination. You probably find a kind sweeper or someone ‘lowly’ enough to understand the ‘nobody’s’ (i.e. your) predicament and get guided to that specific waiting area which also has a receptionist.

You are a respecter of process. You are ready to wait your turn in the queue but you have not been told your serial number. So you approach the receptionist and she tells you curtly

— You will know when your turn comes

She goes back to whatever she was doing. By the time you find a seat in the waiting room your confidence is completely shattered. The PA system comes to life. A name is called and you find the guy who was behind you walking proudly in. Yes as he passed you by you must have felt his snigger at the lowly other patients! 

So you gather enough courage and walk up to the receptionist to point that out and she replies with disgust

— I told you you would know when your turn comes!

At that point perhaps a big gun in the hospital admin recognises you, comes over and shakes your hand. You are saved.  You are back to being that man who matters!  And the same receptionist who was scowling at you minutes back is now repulsively obsequious. 

The patient who was ahead of you in the queue and is clearly frail and needs to be attended to immediately stays behind!

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

He doesn't write because he cannot

Getting reminded of my inability to write is not a pleasant feeling. Especially when I have spent all of my professional life as a journalist!

If I am seeing a smirk and a desperation to hide the derision I wouldn’t blame you. Or if it’s a pity I wouldn’t fight that either. Because one cannot hide from the truth forever. So the earlier the better.

Earlier! Yes, I know. It makes me dumb. Anyone who takes four decades of one’s adult life to realise that one has been deluding oneself and steadfastly ignoring the reality has to be conceited beyond doubt.

I buy books throughout the year. Not that I read all of them. But like many others, I like to live surrounded by books — dust, and my wife’s disapproval notwithstanding. And I also buy books written by my friends.

For example, this year at the Kolkata International Book Fair, the first book that I picked up was the book on Dipankar Dasguta’s book on food. For want of a better description I am leaving it at that. I will definitely write about his book in this space some other day.

I have known Dipankar for decades. He started his professional life as a journalist with Bartaman. And then he moved on to the United States Information Service. Younger to me by a couple of years he has retired. Together with his wife he roams the districts of West Bengal and shares his experience of tasting food on Facebook. Incidentally, his wife, Krishna Sarbari, has also written a book and yes, I have bought her book as well.

And there are others. And many young publishers are bringing out commendable titles being written by them. So there was this young publisher I was chatting with. Stupid me in the flow of conversations had to say, “Bengalis hardly write about their professional experience!” He instantly latched onto this and turned it around against me. “Who is saying? You are said to be the first in Bengali media to build a bureau specialising in business. Yet, you haven’t written anything about it!”

And all of a sudden the reality dawned. I didn’t write because, perhaps, I couldn’t write. Dipankar wrote because he can! Simple. He didn’t buy it. But it is what it is.

A Bong will always be a Bong

  I have known Rajib and of him ever since he started his professional life as a journalist and then of him when he decided to say adieu to ...