Archive for the ‘For a thought….’ Category

Finally, a Free India

Posted: January 28, 2018 in For a thought....
swachh bharat

Swachch Bharat

I’m a little scared to say that I actually landed in a finally free India on November 2017. Scared, because there are still pockets of people who are always up and against the government. Scared, because I am skeptical that this is an one-government mirage. Scared, because now I stutter when people ask me, “Why did you leave the country in the first place?”

I am also proud that I stutter when they ask me “Why did you leave India in the first place?” I’m happy that they all forgot the dense cloud smoke of pollution, corruption and muscle-power that ruled the air those days. The wreckage of health-care, the sea of bribery, the ominous cheers of those who bullied the weak that resonated in the air. I have seen that India. I had left that India.

Today’s India has forgotten all that. Perhaps forgiven them too. Today’s India has battery-operated cars, autos, rickshaws. Today’s Indian street-lights mostly run on solar-power. Today’s Indian village electricity runs on wind-power. Today’s India barely has any power outage. Today’s Indians have a biometric identity. They have CCTV cameras installed in the smallest of shops. Today’s India has gone all out online: in banking systems, in housing, in traffic management, in refuse management, in law. Law is approachable and the ominous saying that, “Police-e chhule atharo gha” (Once you touch the police, the police will never leave you) doesn’t ring true any more. Cops are more approachable and you can actually discuss a situation with them.

You would be amazed to see how people of India, who never blinked an eye before chucking an empty packet from their car, now look around for dustbins! The ‘Swachch Bharat’ alarm has been beeping in Indians minds so much that every street food vendor now has a trash bin where he asks his customers to throw the paper plates and cups. The other day I saw a coconut-water seller literally snatch off the finished coconut from my hands and dump it in a large basket beside him, lest I threw it on the road.

I barely saw any VIP car motorcade passing by, obstructing the four-way traffic like they used to do during peak hours. It seems all VIP beacons have been taken off (phew!). Ministers and VIPs now accost the traffic jams just like ordinary people.

Every street crossing now has cameras which take photos of cars that break the signal, and drivers are now petrified that fine notices get silently delivered to their homes. Just that these fines need to become higher, so that people begin to understand the responsibilities of breaking traffic rules.

Even though, I see an innate tandem to the traffic chaos that my motherland has boasted. It seems each driver knows the other drivers’ moves, and no signalling is actually necessary. There’s immense camaraderie among drivers, and each live (read, drive) in their own given space, with or without traffic lanes.

It’s gotta be some task bringing this 1.324 billion people to marching to the same tune. Most importantly the citizens are from different religions, states, colors, languages and of very, very strong opinions. It required a real manipulative Pied Piper, and India hasone now. What I thought would take 200 years to achieve, has been achieved in flat seven years.

Of course, a lot needs to change. Health-care needs to become more available to the poor, and both rich and poor be treated alike. Education system needs a complete overhaul, and maybe like Mr Modi’s ‘one-night stand’ with demonetization, Indian education system may abolish exams altogether one fine 8 pm, and start project-based assignments involving questions from students and just not giving them the parrot-like answers. I hope tomorrow’s generation will feel proud of staying back in their own country and building it with their exclusive vision, and not running off to enrich some other country. I hope no mother like me has to flee with an average child.

The moment I squeezed myself out of the 22-hour flight plane, landed onto Indian soil, and did not smell pollution, I realized I had just landed in a ‘finally-free India’. A free-country getting Finally Free from all its demons after 70 years of its freedom. India is called a “Developing country”. I think it is, and it should be. At the rate it is “Developing”, give India another 10 years and this country may sweep the rest of the world off its feet.

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From my heart to yours…

Posted: January 13, 2018 in For a thought....

I will be humbled by your presence at Bharat Sabha Hall, Kolkata, India, where I will be present today and tomorrow, 2-7 pm, for the book signing and sale of my first Bengali book, ঝড়ের মুখোমুখি. Hoping to see you there.

 

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