Sunday, March 19, 2017

চোরপুলিশ


অনেক, অনেককাল আগের কথা। ‘আবার যখের ধন’ নয়, তারও আগে, বোধহয় ‘তেরো পার্বণ’এর সময়কার। তখনও আমি ঐসব ব্যাপার কিছু বুঝতাম-টুঝতাম না। মন দিয়ে পড়াশুনো করতাম, গল্পের বইটই পড়তাম, হয়ত শরৎচন্দ্রও পড়তাম।

এটা সেই যুগের কথা, যখন বাবা-মা অম্লানবদনে “এই ক’টা বছর তো, তারপর বড় হলে দেখবি, কত মজা” জাতীয় ঢপ্‌ দিত, আর আমি মূর্খের মত হজম করতাম। যাক্‌গে।

তখন একটা খেলা চলত বাজারে। জানি না এখনও চলে কিনা। একটা কাগজ চারটুকরো করে (বা চারটে ছোট কাগজের টুকরো নিয়ে) তাতে লিখতে হত ‘বাবু’, ‘চোর’, ‘ডাকাত’, আর ‘পুলিশ’।

চারজনে খেলতে হত। কন্সেপ্টটা মোটামুটি মনে আছে। চারজন গোল হয়ে বসত, আর কাগজের টুকরোগুলো মাঝখানে ছুঁড়ে দিত। সবাই র‍্যান্ডমলি তুলত।

‘বাবু’ আর ‘পুলিশ’কে জানাতে হত তারা কারা। তারপর ‘বাবু’ ‘পুলিশ’কে বলতে বলত কে ‘চোর’ আর কে ‘ডাকাত’। যদ্দূর মনে পড়ছে এটা বলতে পারলে ‘পুলিশ’ দেড়শো পেত; আর ভুল বললে ‘ডাকাত’ একশো আর ‘চোর’ পঞ্চাশ। ধরা না পড়লে ডাকাতিবিদ্যা সম্ববতঃ মহত্তর বিদ্যা।

সে যাক্‌। ‘পুলিশ’ ঠিক বলুক বা ভুল, তিনজনে মিলে পেত দেড়শো। এই অবধি ঠিক ছিল।

সমস্যা হল, ‘বাবু’ পেত দুশো জাতীয় কিছু একটা। তিনশোও হতে পারে। বা পঁচিশ। বা পাঁচ। বা এক কোটি। তাতে গল্পটা বদলাবে না।

না, এটাও সমস্যা নয়, কারণ ঘুরিয়েফিরিয়ে সবার ভাগ্যেই বাবুগিরি জুটত। তখন লার্জ স্যাম্পল বুঝতাম না, কিন্তু লং রানে এগুলো ম্যাটার করত না।

এইভাবে চুরি-ডাকাতি-বাবুয়ানি-গ্রেপ্তার করে দিন কাটছিল। মুশকিল হল, একদিন মোটে তিনজন ছিলাম। আমি যথারীতি খেলতে চাইলাম (এই বোকা-বোকা খেলাটার প্রতি এত নেশা ছিল কেন আমার?), কিন্তু বাকি দু’জন রীতিমত মুখঝামটা দিয়ে উঠলঃ “তিনজনে চোরপুলিশ খেলা যায় না।”

“কিন্তু ‘বাবু’র তো কোনও ভূমিকা নেই। না থাকলেও তো খেলাটা দিব্যি এগোবে। পুলিশ পুলিশের কাজ করবে। ঘুরেফিরে তো সেই দেড়শো-শূন্য-শূন্য বা শূন্য-একশো-পঞ্চাশ।”

কিন্তু ওরা অনড়। চারজনের কমে চোরপুলিশ খেলা যায় না। চারজনের বেশি হলে হয়ত হতে পারে (বাটপাড়-হানাদার-ঠ্যাঙাড়ে জাতীয় চরিত্র লাগত হয়ত), কিন্তু বাবু ছাড়া অসম্ভব।

এই সামান্য জিনিসটা কেন সেদিন বোঝাতে পারিনি জানি না। হয়ত আমার বোঝানোর টেকনিকে ভুল ছিল। বা হয়ত ওরা বোকা।

আজ বুঝি যে আমিই বোকা ছিলাম।


কিচ্ছু না করে পায়ের ওপর পা তুলে বসে স্রেফ ক্ষমতা জাহির করে অন্যকে হুকুম করে দিনের শেষে রোজগার করার প্রতি বাঙালির অদম্য স্বপ্নকে আন্ডারএস্টিমেট করেছিলাম।

Monday, March 13, 2017

Holi etc


I used to be an enthusiastic Holi (they call it Dol in my part of the world) player, if that is a word.  

Note: I know Dol is typically the day preceding Holi as per lunar calendar and other similar mysterious calculations.

But that was till fourteen or so. Then I got bored and opted for a voluntary retirement.

Unfortunately, the world refused to accept my resignation. For some reason they were under the impression that I was feigning reluctance to join the party and was acting ‘pricey’.

As a result I spent the second half of my teens getting dragged into colour-fests. For some reason they refused to believe that people can be interested in staying away from colourful festivals.

Dear friends, you did not do me a favour by dragging me into Holi. You never did. You made me do something that you thought was fun and assumed it would be fun for me, too.

No, I hated every moment of it, in case you are reading this. I do not swear, but I there are times I want to.

Yes, my unwillingness to be a part of Holi was unusual — not because it was right or wrong, but because very few stayed away from it.

However, I never forced you to play, and to this day I cannot fathom why you wanted to force me.

I could not protest, since I was small, and had let myself be bullied. I was not part of a gang. You were. You held the power. You had forced me to do something I never wanted to.

I sound bitter. I know I do. But hey, you took my days away, once a year. That is a lot of days that could have been spent reading.

You cannot make me play now unless you threaten me with something serious. Yes, I raise my voice, but I am also meek by nature. If you gang up against me I will cave in the same way I did.

It will be more difficult, of course.

It is easier to bully little boys than men.

It is also more lucrative to force women to play Holi, for that gives men ample opportunity to grope them in full public view and get away.

Yes, it is easier to bully children and more lucrative to force the female.

Now combine the two.

Let that sink in.

Happy Holi.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Yeah, it is February again...

Photo courtesy: Siddharth Nair's blog (I will remove this if there is a copyright issue; just do not sue me)
Long, long ago, in a land far, far away there was a city called Calcutta, the city they called The City of Joy for reasons only known to them.

Unfortunately, she languishes on her deathbed.

There used to be a lion of a man a century back, a man who growth in stature was matched only by his beard. He left the city in a coma from which she is unlikely to recover.

There were others. Calcutta had her share of geniuses, of the most remarkable of minds.

There was that man who had donned orange to win over America years before Trump.

Or that towering ray of light who made sure generations of Bengalis were born with a silver screen.

There have been many, many of them, too many to list in a blog too obligatory and insignificant.

Do read the last few paragraphs. Do note the tense.

The end is nigh. It may take another fifty years, but not much beyond, for she has refused to evolve. In a futile effort to imitate some of the greatest cities in the world she has lost her originality, her magic.

There is no Calcutta anymore. There is not even a Kolkata. The monstrosities of concrete do not make up a city.

People do.

And people refused to remain Calcutta. They wanted to stay in Calcutta, but not become the city anymore.

The city is dying, as is the language, for the language has not produced a single icon over decades — an icon who can inspire generations to become proud of Bangla.

***

Navi Mumbai does not have winters, though the locals put up a woollen façade when the temperature stutters on either side of the 20°C-mark.

Even the Januarys are warm. That suits me perfectly — provided I attempt the heinous act of leaving my apartment on weekends. Air-conditioned offices make weather redundant.

No, I am not the kind of person who cares about weather. The entire concept of summers and winters (and worse, monsoon) may appeal to most, but I choose to remain happily agnostic.

But then, there are those nocturnal walks. I prefer to walk back from work, even after midnight. It helps me feel less guilty about my porcine diet.

I do not miss Kolkata during these walks. I am too preoccupied to. If I am not preoccupied, it is probably because I am too exhausted.

I do not miss the lazy bustle of College Street during these walks; or the first tram across the maidan; or devilled crabs; or the sheer concept of every passerby talking in Bangla — a language fifty years away from extinction, and yet, my language.

Or women who refuse to look anything but the prettiest in yellow sarees on you-know-which-day.

My language. My city. Dying, decaying, rotting away as I wait like an imbecile for the inevitable to happen.

No, I do not think of that city. I do not think of this one, either: smart-phones are way more interesting.

Then it happens, on a warm, windless night. This is my fourth year in this city, and it has never failed to happen.

That prickling feeling on the back. That final tussle of the year between an annoyed, impatient summer and a helpless, vulnerable non-summer that takes part in this part of the world at this time of the year.

That first bead of sweat of the year. Right month, wrong city.

This is that month when all cities are reduced to nothingness and bow down to Kolkata, my city, perhaps not decaying as rapidly after all.

Perhaps she still smiles.

Perhaps she still sighs every time I wish bid her farewell.

No, gigantic slabs of concrete and steel do not make a city. But people do not make her, either.

February makes Kolkata. And Kolkata makes February.


And together, between them, they made me. And this blog. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

On your thirteenth

It is that time of the year, little one. Hang on, is the word ‘little’ applicable anymore when you become a teenager?

Indeed, I cannot believe it has been almost thirteen years since a little someone in a pink blanket had accompanied me in a car from the hospital.

It seemed only yesterday, the greatest cliché-writers would say.

I cannot believe it has been almost thirteen years since I had taken two, maybe three steps at a time to carry out every instruction of the doctor.

It was a cold winter. It remains the coldest Kolkata winter in my memory. The rooms at the hospital were air-conditioned, but what if you needed more blankets?

I remember the first time you took the school bus. I had followed the bus all the way in a car. I think you saw me, us; you may not have, too.

I could not have not gone (I know the sentence is grammatically wrong).

I know of people who do not like their little ones growing up. That day, inside the car, en route your school, was the first time I had realised that I cannot afford to do that. I needed to accept you were growing up; and would grow up into someone so wonderful that… er, what are the clichés your generation uses?

Thirteen. Thirteen. You are thirteen years old.

Someone had told me at some point of time that twenty-five years is the equivalent of a generation; as a result, the concept of ‘generation gap’ occurs between people separated by a time span of that duration.

Internet has somehow crammed that gap inside a decade.

Ten years make a generation now. Twenty-five years are more than two generations. Your generation is ahead of ours twice as much as I am ahead of our parents’.

I am sometimes scared that by the time I bridge that gap you will move so ahead that I will even lose sight of you — if I already have not, that is.

But I am digressing, as is often the case with old men.

Thirteen.

Time has hardened me, little one. Life has stopped me, time and again, from turning into a wuss. Those kicks in the shin have been necessary to keep me going.

How else do you think I am holding back this post, this whatever-it-is-that-I-am-writing on the day you became a teenager, from becoming one soaked in the most blatant, uninhibited displays of emotion?

What do I ask of life? What do I ask for you? Do I want life to make you time-hardened as well? Or do I beg of life to keep you away from all that will harden you?

Do I become the father who will want you to face and conquer life? Or do I become one that vows to shield you from it?

That, little one, is one dilemma (among others) that has haunted me since the day I had followed that school bus. I try not to think about it, but the thought keeps coming back.

See? I have swayed again. This one was supposed to be about you, not an old man’s ramblings.

This one was supposed to be about Doraemon melting into Percy Jackson at some point of time.

This one was supposed to be about me forgetting completely about my aching arms and still holding you even after you had fallen asleep.

This one was supposed to be about that helpless attempt to explain why a Pikesville boy used to prefer Becky Thatcher to Amy Lawrence. How does one explain romance to a six-year-old?

This is getting tedious, is it not? I guess it is, but then, nobody stumbles across my blog anymore. Even I do not.

We will meet, somewhere, somehow, somewhen; and we will meet soon. I cannot tell for you, but it will be the same for me as that pink-blanket day. It has always been the same.

Meanwhile, just reach out if you want to. You have my number. I have been a sub-par father, but many have complimented me on my ability to understand them.

They will hug and kiss each other tonight — at odd hours, if you take the time zones into consideration (that is the kind of technical specification both of us have always enjoyed, much to the chagrin of others) to celebrate 2017.

Whether they will cherish 2017 forever is something I mostly do not care about, but you have an awesome thirteenth, little one.

Live your teens. Never let them gnaw into you. 

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