Archive for the ‘For a thought….’ Category

Posted: December 6, 2017 in For a thought....

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The word ‘Frankenstein’ has a new meaning today: With the advent of robots, self-driven cars, privacy-encroaching surveillance cameras and camera-mounted drones threatening your own privacy, you may now want to learn how to fight back.

I have always abhorred the idea of stepping outside my home as right from the elevator, to street corners, to the shopping mall, to the back of the building, to the public transport, I have this eerie feeling of being watched. My son tells me, they have better things to do than watch you. But I am disgusted by these inanimate objects hovering around me all the time.

Similarly, I am appalled at the rate at which robotic revolution is engulfing the human job market. It’s like we are cutting the branch of the tree we are sitting on. Humans are so stupid!

Yet I order online, and I wouldn’t mind if a drone delivered my computer-ordered pizza at my balcony. I am also so stupid!

But humans are survivors. They have survived the industrial revolution, so we may also survive this robotic revolution. Here are a few tips which I use and plan to use:

  1. Becoming invisible from cameras: There are a number of ways you can counter the privacy-encroaching CCTV cameras, but please do it only for your personal freedom and use the choice well. The simplest way is to step out of your house wearing a hat or a hoodie, wearing a sunglass, and covering your head with a hoodie. Tilting your head at  15 degree angle in front of cameras is also said to be effective against these dim-witted robots. It seems it literally takes 3x longer for a computer to recognize a tilted head, and most systems aren’t willing to expend that energy right now. Holly cow!  Another tech-savvy way is to wear a hat with infra-red fittings which blinds the cameras. Pointing laser rays at the cameras too do the trick. You can learn more if you just google.
  2. How to avoid being tracked online: To begin, before you even start, put a small strip of black electrical tape over your built-in computer camera. Hackers can remotely activate your webcam and there are techniques hackers and scammers use to avoid detection.  You think you’ll be able to tell it’s been turned on due to the red light, but that’s not always the case.
  3. Be a little less lazy and delete your browsing history after every use. Maybe you’d want to delete hundreds of passwords too, and keep them written down somewhere on paper and in a notepad on your desk, manually, and type them in every time. You are being tracked, so get over your laziness and say ‘NO’ to password saving option: First time, every time. (Well, I need to do that first.)
  4. Clean out your Facebook friend list every now and then, and do not accept new friend requests unless you know the person. We’ve had enough of technology: It’s time we put the foot down.
  5. Facial recognition: It’s a great idea to take your photos in different angles, in front of the sunlight, in shadows and wearing sunglasses, so that the Facebook facial recognition app finds it difficult to recognize you.
  6. Use Bitcoins: Bitcoin age is actually a good technology that is challenging the traditional banking system, so that you can have an account, but not do any banking there. Though in it’s nursery stage, Bitcoins is gaining considerable momentum in the financial arena. Bitcoin and Pay Pal are said to have been joining forces.
  7. Self-driven cars: Make maximum use of self-driven cars by getting partmenrship with Uber. You can work elsewhere, while the car does your second job, 24 x 7.
  8. Don’t post very personal details anywhere online. Make up birth dates, middle names, maiden names, and of course, never use your social security numbers or  telephone numbers anywhere, however much the apps tell you that those are your secondary security. For all you know the app may block you from entering your own account!
  9. Don’t post photographs that you would feel uncomfortable for others to see or potentially copy and re-use. This can be difficult, but setting your accounts to private and screening all friend requests is one to protect yourself and avoid being tracked online.
  1. Please read all the fine print. With AI threatening our own existence, we have to now roll up our sleeves and pull up our socks. The fine prints that we so easily took for granted in our simple black-and-white days, may not work. So, when setting up online accounts, you are offered a User Agreement policy to read. Don’t ignore them. Copy and paste for later in-depth reading, wait to set up an account until you have the time to read through all the rules associated with that online forum or account. Make yourself aware of the implications involved. Avoid agreeing to contracts that you feel uncomfortable with or are unsure about. Some online accounts, apps or forums take liberty to use your personal details and even your networks personal details.
  2. Go back in time: For the really paranoid, you can go back to using using only paper, pen, typewriters and in-person chats and photo-sharing, the old-fashioned way. But it’s more challenging to take the tech-slave head on. AI is OUR slave, we are not a slave to IT.

There are a lot of positive sides to tech-tracking, but to track down one criminal, a billion private individuals are being tracked every day. Our privacy is lost and we have a right to freedom of privacy. This post of for our own freedom, not to generate any crimes anywhere. We are simple people, who want to bathe in the glow of the sun now and then, without having to mask our faces for no fault of ours.

Stay covered!

“আয় আয় চাঁদমামা টি দিয়ে যা” থেকে চাঁদে যাওয়া অবধি; “চাঁদের পাহাড়” থেকে এলন মাস্ক-এর চাঁদে বসতি অবধি; আমাদের এই আশীর দশকের প্রজন্মই বোধহয় প্রযুক্তির পাথর সবথেকে বেশি ভেঙ্গেছে। ঠাম্মার কুসংস্কার এবং শুচিবাইগ্রস্ত হেলাফেলা-ছেলেবেলা থেকে, আজকের যুক্তিতর্কের ফেরে ভগবানের প্রায়-বিলুপ অস্তিত্বর জটাজালে পড়ে এই প্রজন্মের যাত্রাটা বোধহয় সবচেয়ে দুর্গম। বিশাল বিশাল বিশ্বাসের পাথর ভাঙ্গতে-ভাঙ্গতে আজ তারা প্রায় ভঙ্গুর, ছেলে-বন্ধু যে যুগে মানা হতনা, সেই আমরাই মেয়ে-বন্ধু মেনে নি আমাদের মেয়েদের সঙ্গি হিসেবে। পলক ঝাপ্টানো মানে তুমি দুর্বল।  সঙ্কির্ন মনের।

আমরা কলকাতার ভিস্তি জীবন দেখেছি, রেডিও তে নাটক শুনে কল্পনার জাল বুনেছি, ছাদের  পাঁচিলে মাথা রেখে নিজের মনে কত কথা বলেছি। আজ প্রতি মুহুর্তে একটা–না–একটা যান্ত্রিক পর্দার দিকে তাকিয়ে থাকি। হয় কম্প্যুটার, নয়ত টিভি, নয় স্মার্টফোন। কেন যানিনা… কিসের ভয়? যদি সব বন্ধ করে রাখি সারাদিন, কি হবে? যদি পিছিয়ে নিয়ে যাই জীবনকে বছর ত্রিশ আগে, কি হবে? যদি বারান্দায় দাঁড়িয়ে থাকি আকাশের দিকে চেয়ে ঘন্টার পর ঘন্টা, কি হবে? যদি একটা বই পড়ি সারাদিন ধরে বিছানায় শুয়ে শুয়ে, কি হবে? একদিন যদি পাহাড়ে বেড়াতে যাই আর ছবি না তুলি, কি হবে?

কি হবে জানো? পাশের বাড়ির লোকে পুলিশ ডাকবে, বলবে সামনের বাড়ির ভদ্রমহিলা “স্টকার” – সারাদিন বারান্দা থেকে সকলের ওপর নজর রাখে। স্বামী, সন্তান রা ফোন না পেয়ে হুড়মুড় কড়ে বাড়ি ঢুকবে, বলবে, “ফোন অফ করে রেখেছ কেনো?…” মানে বেঁচে আছো তো?

আর পাহাড়ে বেড়াতে যাওয়াটা তো মনেই থাকবেনা।

এলন মাস্ক এর মঙ্গলাভিযান এবং মঙ্গল-বসতি যখন আসন্ন, তখন আর কথা না বাড়িয়ে বরং এই তীব্রগতির যুক্তি-প্রযুক্তির তালে তাল মিলিয়ে চলাই ভালো।

কিন্তু আমার মন বলে, এ কি সত্যি? কত যায়গায় তো বেড়াতে যেতাম আগে, যেটার ভাল ছবি নেই। কিন্তু মনের মধ্যে চোখ বুজলেই আজও দেখতে পাই। যুক্তি-তর্কের তোড়ে ভগবান-কে মন দিয়ে ডাকতেও শঙ্কা-বোধ হয়। আছে, না কি তেমন কেউ নেই? যেমন নীল টাইসন বলেন। কি জানি, উনি-ও তো প্রায় আমার-ই বয়সি। আমার-ই প্রজন্ম। উনি এতো সহজে উড়িয়ে দেন কি করে?

যত দিন যাচ্ছে, ততো মন বলছে এবার একটু থামো, মানবজাতি । এবারের আইফনে নতুন কিছছু নেই। একটু ভাবো। প্রযুক্তিকে একটু কম গ্রাজ্যি কর। সপ্তাহে অন্তত দুটো দিন ফোন, টিভি, কম্প্যুটার বন্ধ রাখো। অন্তর্ধান হয়ে যাও। ধিরে ধিরে নিজের প্রযুক্তিগত অস্তিত্বকে মিটিয়ে দাও। আর আসল অস্তিত্ব কে জাগাও। পাহাড়ে ফোন/ক্যামেরা না নিয়ে বেড়াতে যাও দিকি। শুধু দুজন বন্ধু মিলে। গান করো গলা ছেড়ে। কবিতা লেখো। বই পড়ো কাউকে না জানিয়ে। যা ইচ্ছে তাই করো। ময়দানে শুয়ে থাকো। লোকে পাগল বলে বলুক।

তা না হলে আসন্ন রোবোটিক প্রজাতি ধিরে ধিরে তোমার গলা টিপে ধরবে যে!

 

 

 

 

I had moved on. But it seems the hangover of my first novel is dragging on with my soul, as even after seven years, I keep getting reminders from ardent readers that the book is out of stock. So I turned back one last time and decided to give it a complete makeover. The paperback is now available on Amazon.comYou can order print copies from Amazon now

Fresh paperback copies will be available in India, at the Kolkata Book Fair, in January, 2018, where I’ll be personally present to sign your copies. Will see you there!

Cover photography: Sagnik Mukherjee. Cover design and back cover photography: Aneesh Chatterjee.  
FINAL SPREAD JPEG 3

 

Neil Must Die (Extract)

Posted: July 14, 2017 in For a thought....

Book II

Chapter 23

 

…. He slept on the eve of Mahalaya the way he would do on any other night — when he heard the knock.

A soft knock. He woke up startled thinking he was dreaming. And then he heard the knock again.

He stood up slightly wobbly from deep sleep and pulled down the latch. It was dark still. He opened the door. Tuli stood in a nightdress, smiling.

“Good morning!” she smiled.

Neil felt an initial emotion of ecstasy on seeing her. Then he felt irked at his own unshielded emotion.

“What d’you want?” he said groggily, impolitely.

“Won’t you listen to Mahalaya?” her smile had vanished. But she was still cheerful.

Neil waddled back to the bed. “Oh, God!” he said and threw himself onto the bed. He couldn’t deny the happiness inside him, soaring above all anger, on seeing her after a month. He closed his eyes and felt Tuli’s fingers run through his hair.

“I know you are angry… and jealous,” he heard her say. “And you must be wondering why I have become so serious, so sane. I’ll let you know one day… not now…” She stopped. He wondered what she was speaking about. She spoke like a matured adult. He lost his trail of thoughts in an instant dream. Then he heard her again. “Now wake up. See I’ve even got a transistor.” And she switched on the machine. The devotional surge filled the air.

He opened his eyes and tried to wake up. The hymns were dreamlike, permeating inside him to awaken him. For the first time in the 22 years of his life, he found he was listening to the lyrics of the Sanskrit chants and trying to comprehend their meaning. He turned over on his back and cocked his head to look at Tuli. The room was dark baring the dim bulb lit outside his room. At the reflected hue he could see she was somber and preoccupied with something. She looked out of the window into the darkness, that was now slowly blending into dawn.

He wanted to freeze the picture into a frame of eternity and told himself, “This is the happiest moment of my life”. As if she heard him saying that, and turned to smile at him. His lips were parched, but he smiled back.

“You’ve become quite a bouma, huh? Responsible and all that?”

She smiled and looked away. Neil said, “Everyone’s raving about you.”

She cast her eyes down. “You only asked me to stay away from you. And when I did that, you went mad? Jealous?” She looked at him.

He looked at her for a moment and said, “I wanted it, and you did it?”

“Of course.”

He turned to his side and wound his hands around her waist.

“Isn’t Dada awake?”

She shook her head.

“Won’t he listen to Mahalaya?”

She looked at him and ran her fingers through his hair, “What do you think? Will he?”

Neil buried his face in her lap and said groggily. “And I was happily sleeping thinking that at last you were gone and I was a free man — and you had to wake me up.”

The songs and hymns were reaching the climax. The intensity of the emotion wrenched out from the electronic device into their souls and they found themselves silent. As if a voyage was underway; they held their hands and moved towards a haloed resplendence, an existence with no dimension, guided by the devotional inundation as the only witness.

A crow cawed hesitantly, breaking the spell. Another. And then another. Neil looked up and then sat up. He suddenly didn’t want to let go of this moment. He wound one hand around her neck and with the other — he cupped her face and made her look at him. She looked at him, a little questioningly. He tilted his head and kissed her lightly on her lips. Then he smiled and said very softly, “Let’s run away…”

She broke into a smile and hugged him. The next instant she went stiff and released him slowly. He looked at her bewildered. Her face was a horror as she looked at the doorway. He jerked his head around.

Soumen was standing at the door.

(Neil Must Die now available on Amazon, India)NMD Katoa chhad

Whenever I write, I write to keep in mind readers who do not know me personally. However, there are a few readers who are my friends and close associates and who know me from my other varied activities. And they are always shocked at my writings! They cannot associate me and my writing together. I want to know, why are you that shocked at my writings?

Is it because you meet me as a conventional, conformist, rather demure kind of a girl so content at being indoors, happy with her cooking, her plants, her balcony. Very, very ordinary housewife, whose priority in life is her son’s life, her small domain of happiness, her home, which she decorates, and her small businesses which she doesn’t have any plans of making big.

And they they read my writings: My blog, Whiff of Tempest, Titir and Other Tales, and of course, Neil Must Die. It’s then when they get shocked. Rightly said my author friend: “It’s not a right thing to know a writer personally, because there will be something about the author’s personal life which you will not like. The author will be married a few times, or have had a few atrocious sexual rendezvous, which the reader will not be able to relate to. And in your case, your writings are so diametrically opposite from what you are.”

What I am? Wait! Do you know me at all?

Here is where I start laughing. It’s a writers’ prerogative that he/she choses to write or not write exactly the way he-she lives. I’m so sorry I don’t portray a personal life so colorful and bold like the way I feel or write. And moreover, it’s just one part of the iceberg that you see which indeed looks very, very conventional and a conformist. That’s what friends who have met me recently will say. But what about the nine parts that are under water? They are carefully hidden; the past layers buried deep inside; which inspire my writings. But, you see, the claws are invisible. It’s after innumerable rendezvous and several realizations that I have cemented the memories layer after layer in such a way, that even I cannot now dig up the graves. Conventional? Conformist? Me? Well, if you think that’s me, I have been successful.

But, this blog isn’t to share those memories. I am afraid, those layers will go to the grave with me. You can get a reflection of those layers of my life in my writings, my blog where I bear my soul, and my novels. But, no. Never a whiff of a mis-calculated betrayal. My life, my pain, my emotions, are only mine. I can share the realizations from them, but never the true memories. I do not care if readers are judging me, whether they find me homely or atrocious, whether I can, or am making any change in the society. I am truly an arrogant person and an anti-social at heart, and I’m glad when my friends cannot see that. It means I’ve been successful in hiding my true colors.

Do you really want to know about my life and my battles? I really don’t believe anyone would actually want to know anything about me. They have too much of their own and my life is no different than most. But it seems people’s curiosity never ceases, especially after they have read my writings.

It seems somehow readers cannot connect my face to my writings. I believe I have an innocent face, lead an apparent innocent life, within the four walls of my home, ensconced in the cradles of Canadian social security. One marriage, one child, a perfect family life. How does she write such bold articles?

In 1992, when I had just begun freelancing, and was reporting on the anti-social activities in and around a garbage dump area in Kolkata, an American journalist working with me told me: “Surprisingly you write very good English.”

I still haven’t figured out why was he so “surprised”.

In 1998, a renowned filmmaker and neighbor, who had just read my unpublished book, “Whiff of Tempest“, saw me talking with a neighbor about our common ‘maid’ problem; he took me aside and asked: “What did you talk to that woman for such a long time?”

In 2011, my husband’s friend and long-time family friend who had eaten so many dinners at my house, read my blog for the first time and was shocked. He later told me: “Kaberidi, you and your writing are completely two different personae.”

And it happened again: In 2017, an author friend who was reading my writing for the first time, after knowing me as a very homely person in Canada told me these words: “I would have considered you an ordinary person if I hadn’t read your blog.”

My question: God, do I really have such a really boring, dumb face?

Prospective answer: Dear God, thank you for giving me such a boring face, with which I can convincingly hide my years of life’s struggles and desperate decisions. With which I could run sting operations during my reporting days without raising any hackles.

…Thank you for the smile I still have, with which I can camouflage years of pain and sufferings. Thank you for giving me the strength not to discard everything that didn’t fit me, but repair them to fit to my needs.

…Thank you for giving me the strength to stack my battles in layers and layers of history, and not let it affect my present and future decisions.

…Thank you for giving me the strength to do a grocery list while writing a novel and letting me take orders for my catering business, The Hang-La, while editing for FinalDraft.

… Thank you for letting me come up with a punchy headline for the latest cover story for my in-house tangy magazine, Citrus, while watering my plants.

…Thank you for giving me the talent to write this blog while waiting for my client to take his food orders.

… Thank you God for letting me talk to you, when I know deep in my scientific and logical heart that you don’t exist.

I tell my readers:  Dearies, You are looking at only one part of the nine parts of me that are under water. And I choose to show you exactly what you can handle.

 

Once again I am writing at the dead of the night… 3 am to be exact. I don’t know why this part of the hour excites me to write such blasphemous stuff. But I always seem to want to talk what’s going in my mind at 3 am.

A deadly hour, but I often do not need to correct my work after that.

With this post I would like to talk directly to the Y generation, the millennium and post millennium children.

A few observations: My daughter-friends are all living my abandoned dream : Happily settled in their careers, doing the things they love, living-in with the persons they love, adopting girl-children and living life exactly on their own terms. I am so happy for you. No dears, don’t get those black circles underneath your eyes just because you are not finding a partner to marry to make everyone happy.

No dahlings, you are already settled in your life. Even if you have a partner, ask yourself, do you really want to get married and get into the rut of a boring-hating-grocery-laundry-kids-grocery-screaming-kids-homework-housework-kind of a relationship? ……………Or watch the sunset holding hands? So please have the courage to turn around and tell everyone who confronts you. “Thanks. I am settled.”

My son-friends too are fine, but wished they’d get out of this rut of being in multinational companies, living an imprisoned life of earning too much money they don’t need, being an engineer or a techie, exuding this false smile to their gloating parents whose dreams they are living. Instead, they have their own dreams, which they cannot seem to pursue. My daughter-friends seem to be a little ahead of them, as they have managed to silence their parent’s crushing pressure about getting married quite well. But how can you even go near your engineer father to tell him, “I want to be a musician?” I know how tough it is to gate-crash out of the golden box that you are in now. The only way you can get peace is by marrying a fair-complexioned, convent-educated, slim, homely girl. Wear that monkey-cap and garlands, and set your coffins ablaze.

And if you don’t want peace and can withstand a few temporary hysterical cries, you should pack your bag-pack and head for the nearest taxi-stand. Once the taxi is running, you can decide where you want to start your dream journey from.

Believe me, at 21, which is 28 years back, I did try to do something like that but didn’t have the courage to sit through the drama.  I got a job as Junior Reporter in Shillong Times and my mother didn’t let me go. “Get married and go wherever you want!” she wailed. So I had to wait till I got married and get this “cup of honor” badge from the society and my mom, that a man was ‘supporting me’.

Luckily, you have moms who are from my generation, who had rebelled and had given up halfway. Just like me. So it may be easier to convince them without much of an emotional drama.

I always tell my y-zen friends: Always listen to your parents. Just disobey them in 2 things: In your career and marriage.

My generation was perhaps the last one who HAD to get married to prove their existence, whether they were engineers or doctors or writers or journalists. “Toh kab settle hona hai?” “When do you plan to settle down?” “Shaadi kyun nahin kar rahi/raha hain?” “Why can’t he get a bride?” “Is she lesbian?” “Gay hain kya?” As if, if someone didn’t get married, she/he had some kind of a disease. Despite this pressure, a lot of my contemporaries are, thankfully, single, divorced, have walked out of marriages when things went all wrong, and their children are doing just fine, contrary to what the morons believe. I feel proud of you, guys.

Astoundingly, some of us from our generation are also quietly living a single life by their choice, despite being socially married to a wrong man and despite living under the same roof (primarily for logistic and financial reasons). They live their own lives and do not much interfere in each others’, after having survived through many, many years of the putrefying “Holy Matrimony”. They have come to terms with the fact that their “irrevocably damaged marriage” cannot be dissolved due to ‘technical’ and ‘logistical’ reasons. Hence, they appear in social occasions smiling and dressed — like a slap on the hackneyed societal cheek which blissfully believe that these are a quintessential happy couple. The couple then have their own set of relationships, without much ado, away from the societal fan fare and remain happy in their own intimate, separate wings under the same roof. I welcome such new kind of “adjustments” .

The fresh new generation are, however, all living my dream. Which I had to give up to please my parents.

Till the last day of my life I will discourage my son to get married until it’s absolutely a necessity for him, and he cannot live without the girl. He doesn’t even want to bring up children, so my headache is really over. I don’t have to save for his marriage, nor plan what to gift my grandchild, each year, every year till she/he too yells at me : Grandmom, STOP!”

Some of you may speak like those Aunties, “What about your family tree?”

F*** the tree! The world is populated enough already. If my son attributes to one less human ‘tree’, he’d be only saving mankind. And I have no objection to that. I just have to figure what is to be done with my son’s baby clothes which I saved for his child.

And hence, for the future of humanity, I encourage all my young friends, do not be afraid of what you are doing, because you are doing JUST the right thing. You are treading on the paths angels feared to walk on. In fact, it may seem lonely right now, with half of your friends married and with kids, but it won’t be long, since some of them may soon join you after parting ways with their spouses and you won’t have any dearth of companions at your beer party!

And kids? Believe me, they will be just fine! Kids are much responsible in a single-parent home and mature enough to know why not to live in a putrid relationship. You don’t realize they are the NEXT generation, and will come with an absolute new set of rules, which even a swanky mom like me won’t be able to fathom.

So Yo!

(April 15, 2017, 3.41 am)