7 March 2013

Y2K Onwards...


In the year 2000 I joined St. Xavier's in Class-XI. The best place to be in Calcutta. I instantly fell truly, madly, deeply, hopelessly and helplessly in LOVE with Xavier's. This deep-rooted LOVE continues even today. If Xavier's were a Woman then I would have made LOVE to her day in and day out. Infact I have always loved Xavier's more than all the Women who have come and gone in my life combined together. Xavier's was like my second home and more often than not I have loved Her even more than my home. Inside Xavier's I have always been surrounded by a sense of calm, peace and nirvana. 

The top-floor balcony, the back-benches, bunking classes and then cooking up new schemes for getting an 'excuse-slip' from Father Eaton, with whom I had a respect-disrespect relationship, and whom we fondly called Father Satan, the professor-rockstar Bertie, [who was like the Bob Dylan of Xavier's], the huge playground, the adda at Green-Benches, table-tennis inside the Common Room, Office's Ratan da and Canteen's Srikanto da, and obviously the Grand-Old-Man of Xavier's, Arun da, who was rumoured to have been born even before the first Christian missionaries had come to India. Arun da's canteen was HEAVEN for us. And in those days we could SMOKE inside. Yes, thats right, you've read it correctly, SMOKING was allowed inside the canteen. And here is a pic of the great-grand-father-like legend named Arabinda Acharya Chowdhury, whom every Xaverian generation has affectionately called Arun da.   

Alas, today my Xaverian brothers and sisters are welcomed inside the canteen with this statement.  

And once you step out of the Main-Gate, you land on the realistically-magical Park Street. Like countless others before me, modyo-paaney aamaro haateykhori hoyechhilo Olypub-ey. Beer with Beef-steak. What amused me the most was that at the very start of any day Olypub used to be already half-full. The only other place which overtook Oly in regards of first-hour footfalls was ShawBar or Chhota-Bristol. Another favourite pub was Tavern which had an old Irish-Pubish look. And obviously Some-Place-Else was there for that live music experience.   

However these days the general ambience of Olypub has gone from bad to worse. The alcohol prices are still reasonable, but those irritating, impatient and ill-mannered waiters expect bigger tips each time. The service is very poor. The quality of the food is absolutely crap. There is no f*****g chicken inside the 'Chicken A La Kiev'. And to cut the beef steak, one needs a hand-held mechanical wood cutting machine. Ever since the smoking ban, one has to get up and smoke near the toilets which always smells of puke. Those curious cockroaches keep on wondering what you are eating. And those unfriendly rats might just walk over your foot without a care of this world. These days I visit Olypub once in a blue moon only for the sake of nostalgia and nothing else. And here is the new blueish Signboard :

My Calcutta is very beautiful emni-tei, the Winter season makes Her even more gorgeous, but only the Monsoons make Her luscious, sensuous, horny-licious and G-Spotting Orgasmic. Many a thunder-shower was spent watching from the top-floor Xaverian balcony or from the balcony corner-seat of Dreamland Restaurant, whom we lovingly called Dreamzand getting wet in the process of sexual intercourse between the Monsoons and my Calcutta. Borrowing from Hilaire Belloc, I can safely say, "Calcutta, Your Face is like the King's command when all the Swords are drawn". Inspired from Walt Whitman, I had written this poem titled Calcutta during those Xaverian days. Here are the first eight lines :

"O Calcutta, My Calcutta 
 I Love You at any Cost 
 The City has weathered every Storm 
 Though the Prize we sought is Lost 
 The Future is Near, The Past I Hear
 The People are still Caring
 While Eyes are following the steady Kill
 The City is Grim and Daring..."

In those days a lot of time was spent inside MusicWorld. The concept of listening to 'free-music' was new to Calcutta and we made the most out of it as in those days words like limewire, bittorrent and piratebay were alien to us. Then they also had these 'lucky-drop-boxes' where names were picked randomly and gifts were announced every hour. Keeping in mind Probability Theorem and remembering the quote, "If you want to be successful then double your failure-rate", I was 'lucky' enough to win the various items at MusicWorld : a t-shirt, a mouse-pad, a friendship-band, discount coupons as high as 50%, free cds/cassettes etc. 

Yes, back then cassettes were still very much in use which were also bought from Rashbehari's Melody and Esplanade's Symphony. Even today I still have the 2002 A.R. Rahman album Bombay Dreams, which my First-Love had bought for me from MusicWorld. Another cassette which I treasure the most is titled Choroney Nibedito as I still listen to the following songs, Guru Pronam Tomar Choroney, Probhatey Uthiya Robir Kironey, Premer Thakur Doyal Tumi and Aaji E Mukto Prangoney. I have converted the songs in this audio cassette into mp3 tracks which I have stored in a special folder in my Computer. I listen to them almost everyday.

Inside MusicWorld we also got those free baazee.com coupons which allowed free internet surfing at Junction Cybercafes. In those days I didn't have a computer or internet at home so these coupons were prized items. Junction Cybercafes were spread in many parts of the city but my favourite one was at Ballyunge-phari. Mind you, in those ancient times there were no Orkut, Facebook or Twitter. To meet new people [read girls], what we had were Yahoo Messenger Chatrooms and a pre-historic chat-site strangely named MIRC32. Another favourite site was batchmates.com but its look was dull and boring. And to send e-cards to someone special, I always loved to use lakecards.com

The first six months of the year 2000 belonged to the phenomenal Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai. The day Hrithik Roshan touched Calcutta with his extra sixth-finger, it was like a Greek-God had descended straight on Park Street. That moment could only be compared with that psychedelic, mystical, ecstatic, divine-orgasmic and mass-Orgy-licious scene from the film Perfume - A Story of a Murderer. Such was the power of KNPH that SRK's limitedly dreamzy PBDHH was clean bowled in the very first ball of the noon show. The Hrithik-maniac audience also REFUSED A.B.Baby's debut REFUGEE. Only in the second half of the year, MOHABATTEIN made an impressive mark. Even today KNPH remains my all-time favourite Hrithik Roshan film. Every year on 1st January morning I listen to the songs of KNPH and it has become like a tradition because on 1st January 2000 I had first bought the KNPH music album and had then listened to it all day.  

In my childhood days I used to collect all the Amul cartoons available and then paste them inside a blank hard-covered copybook. Loved this one a lot.


The year 2000 also belonged to the Phoenix named Amitabh Bachchan. KBC was so popular on week-nights that cinema-halls reported almost zero attendance for night-shows. Does anyone today remember the name 'Harshvardhan Navathe'? 

STAR-PLUS conquered all and ZEE was left sulking. STAR even extended the prime-time slot with their two K-series megahits - Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhie Bahu Thi. In my childhood days when some VIP died there was like three days of forced-mourning on Doordarshan. The same thing almost happened spontaneously when Ekta Kapoor killed-off 'Mihir Virani'. Years later COLORS did to STAR-PLUS what it had once done to ZEEAlso during those days my First-Love had developed a liking for Gomzy from KSBKBT which had made me very very jealous and then as a 'tit-for-tat' revenge I developed a crush on Gauri from Kutumb, which then made her very very jealous. Ha! Ha! Ha!  

Later when there was an outbreak of SARS virus, someone sms-ed, Kyunki SARS Bhi Kabhie Virus Thi. Priceless. STAR Bestseller and ZEE's Gubbare and Rishtey deserve special mention. I still fondly remember that telefilm Rang from ZEE's Rishtey which was about a friendship between a pretty girl and a blind boy. Around 10 years later when I again watched that telefilm on Youtube, I couldn't stop my tears. If anyone wants to watch it then please type Rishtey - Episode 54 on Youtube. Another telefilm which was almost like a masterpiece was Govind and Ganesh on STAR Bestseller. Even today I often watch these old STAR and ZEE telefilms on Youtube. And obviously old Doordarshan programmes and serials. They were so much better than the crap in hundreds of TV channels available today. 

In my childhood days there was only one channel, Doordarshan, and everything in it was super-pleasantly watchable. Later DD-2 came. Today there are more than 500 channels available through the set-top box, but nothing to watch. While surfing through channels today, I hardly stay for more than 5 seconds on any particular channel. 

In those days I didn't have a cell-phone which I only got in 2003. So many hours were spent chatting, coochie-cooing and whispering sweet-nothings on landline phones that everything used to heat-up and hornify, including the 'mouthpiece' of the landline phone. When the seven digit number changed to eight digits, one female-friend remarked, "Ebar thekey tomai saat bar noi, aat bar korey phone korbo". And here is a pic of my first cell-phone which I could have also used as a blunt weapon whenever necessary. 

During those days Valentine's Day was more special than one's birthday. Gariahat Archies, Golpark Hallmark and Park Street Giggles welcomed us with open arms. So many Valentine cards over the years were given and received. I still have all of them. With due love and respect to all, this particular card is really special even today.  

And this one too :

Another added attraction in those days were the school/college Fests which were a lovely place to meet new people [read girls]. Our very own Xavotsav was there obviously. Presi's Milieu and JU's Sanskriti tied at close second spot. In the 2003 JU Fest I first heard and loved two songs, "Katberali" and "Camellia", by their resident Band. This Fest was very memorable though it ended on a very sad note. Here I am standing at the famous JU Bridge on the night of the 2003 Fest. Yes, thats right, the Bridge was very much functional in those days and all kinds of social/unsocial activities used to happen there. Today when I enter JU from Gate No. 4 and see that the Bridge is still closed and in a dilapidated state, silent tears appear in my eyes. 

And those magical GLS-11 bus rides. Sitting together and holding hands at the second last seat. Talking mostly through our eyes. And I still lovingly remember that enchanting evening spent at Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan's Fest in 2001 with my First-Love and the taxi-ride thereafter and that first kiss on her left cheek. The memory is still so fresh that it feels like as if it happened only yesterday evening. Love is indeed Magical and the best Emotion in the entire Cosmos. Love is to be treasured and never to be measured. And lastly, for Them to Meet, And Then to Part, is the Saddest Tale of the Human Heart...


2 March 2013

Eden Gardens Diary


Here is a complete list of all those magical days that were spent in the Garden of Eden watching the greatest game ever invented by mankind. 

[I am deliberately keeping IPL out of this as it is everything else but Cricket.] 

27th November 1996
India Vs. South Africa

This was the very first time that I had entered Eden Gardens. What a majestic feeling it was. The very first sight of the green-ground had made me ecstatic. The roar of the spectators and the Mexican Waves were fascinating. The panoramic view of the Stadium was mindblowing. Spreading a newspaper on those ancient cement benches and sitting under the winter Sun. No need to sit on the exact seat-number. People sitting around me became my instant new best friends. I was 14 years old then. The grown-ups sitting around me treated me like their younger brother as I was alone in the stadium. They offered me biscuits and cakes. They asked me if I needed water. The first day was spent watching the batting skills of Andrew Hudson and Gary Kirsten and also was spent zooming in on the players through my binocular. 

19th March 1998
India Vs. Australia

The second day of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was spent watching Navjot Sidhu and VVS Laxman getting out in the 90's. I was so disappointed as I was almost praying hard for them to get their centuries. Even after I came back home, I was still very sad that the Openers couldn't reach the three-figure mark. One batsman getting out in the nervous-nineties is still acceptable but both the Openers failing to reach that magic-mark is something of the proportions of a Greek-Tragedy.

16th February 1999

India Vs. Pakistan

This was like the best First Day ever spent. Even before the great Calcutta crowd could get up from sleep, brush, drink tea and then come to Eden and find a seat, Pakistan was reduced to 26 for 6. I mean just watching 6 consecutive wickets fall in such a short span of time was simply heavenly bliss. The Mexican-Waves in that morning session were the sweetest ever. At the end of the day, Sadagoppan Ramesh and VVS Laxman came out to open the innings for India. Someone remarked, "Ram-Lakkhan bat kortey naamchhey". Priceless. And then there was the phenomenon named Shoaib Akhtar, someone who started his run-up from almost the boundary rope. In the year 1999 thankfully there were no Facebook or Twitter, otherwise these two sites would have crashed every time someone wrote the name of the pacer in their search-boxes. I mean the name Shoaib Akhtar was on everybody's lips and everybody had his own theory about him. When he clean bowled Laxman, someone remarked from the crowd, "Goru na kheley eto jorey ball kora jai naa". When Anil Kumble came in as the nightwatchman, we were all worried about Jumbo's physical safety. Someone again remarked, "Ambulance ke khobor diye rakh".         

12th March 2001
India Vs. Australia

The second day was saddening for me. The only highlight was watching Steve Waugh, whom I love and respect the most among all Australians, complete his century. Again I had come back home with a heavy heart that day. India looked like swallowing an Innings-defeat. At the end of Day 2, even Dravid and Laxman couldn't have predicted the outcome of that historic match. Hindsight has 20/20 vision. But on Day Two I never realized that I was witnessing the greatest Test Match in the history of the game. Steve Waugh failed to conquer the 'final frontier' and his Vijay-Rath was stopped at Calcutta. 

2nd November 2002
India Vs. West Indies

The Fourth Day was spent watching the God of Cricket's century. What more could one ask? The lion-esque roar of applause was deafening. Though the Match headed for an inevitable draw. 

18th November 2003
India Vs. Australia [ODI]

Eden Gardens under divine radiance. The Glow of Heaven. My first limited-overs' experience. I wanted to capture that moment. That very year I had got my first mobile phone and the Airtel number which I still use today. Sadly there was no camera in my mandhattar-o thakur-dar amoler Nokia 5110.

13th November 2004
India Vs. Pakistan [ODI]

No ifs and buts as India would have won the match but for Salman Butt who proved to be a Pain in the Butt as I had to sit on my butt to watch him bat as he butted his way to victory.

2nd December 2004
India Vs. South Africa

The Fifth Day was spent witnessing an Indian victory. The Turbanator took 7 wickets and the remaining 3 went to Jumbo. 

19th March 2005
India Vs. Pakistan

The Fourth Day was spent saluting The Wall. Someone started singing from the crowd, "Jam Jam Jammy".  

25th November 2005
India Vs. South Africa [ODI]

Now this was the only time when Eden Gardens supported the foreign team instead of the home team. Throughout the match we shouted "Chappell Go Back" and even displayed the words on white chart papers. [Reminded me of "Simon Go Back" from the history text books]. 

The name Chappell sounds somewhat similar to chappal and he deserved every single footwear available inside the stadium on his bloody face. He also got his due share of the choicest Bong slangs, though every word fell short to describe him properly. Throughout this match I was talking to a female friend through sms-es as I was trying to do to her what Chappell was doing to the Indian Cricket Team. Incidentally Sourav Ganguly scored 159 runs on that very same day against Maharashtra at Pune. The Eden Gardens' electronic scoreboard constantly kept on flashing the updates of this domestic match. The Eden crowd loved it and loudly cheered every single update. India lost the match and the crowd was happy. However someone should have chopped-off Chappell's middle finger. Two years of collective consciousness and hatred gave birth to Biranchi Maharana who actually did what we all had wanted to do. Bhubaneswar-ey giye pujo diye aasha uchhit chhilo. That year Chappell's face should have been used as the face of Mahisasura during Durga Puja. 

3rd December 2007
India Vs. Pakistan

The Fourth Day told us that the Match was going towards a lame draw.

18th February 2010
India Vs. South Africa

Fifth Day witnessing an Indian victory.

14th-17th November 2011
India Vs. West Indies

Couldn't go even for a single day as I was attending the Kolkata Film Festival which was going on at that time. I was there from 9am till 10pm everyday watching 5 films/day. The joke, which could also have been true, going around was that there were more people at Nandan than at Eden.  

7th December 2012
India Vs. England

The Third Day was spent watching the magnificent batting of Captain Cook and my personal favourite Kevin Pietersen. I was there at the Stadium with my best friend. There was this teenage boy sitting alone near us. It was my duty this time to treat him like a younger brother and make him feel part of the great Eden tradition where strangers behave like family members, sharing food and water, applauding and cursing at the exact moments, showing-off eachother's knowledge about the game, senior citizens reminiscing about a bygone era, children of the IPL generation hoping for a sixer every over in a Test Match, everybody from all walks of life, caste, creed, race, bank account, social status, facebook status, single, committed, married, divorced, homosexual, heterosexual, transsexual, almost everybody bound together by the religion of Cricket...


1 March 2013

Alice in Wonderland


Alice in Wonderland
-Raj Gaurav Debnath

She is an Alice in Wonderland 
I like Her soft-spokenness    
I wish I could hold her hand 
A magical Enigma, by God's Grace 

Life itself has made Her Stronger 
Still She is weak like a Rose 
I really want to Love Her Longer 
Lets see, where this Emotion goes 

She is a Paradox, both Hot and Cool 
A Sense of Belonging I always get 
Am I rushing in as Smitten Fool 
Wish I could take Her out on a Date 

A Date together from Dawn till Dusk 
From the far North to the South Pole 
What is the Meaning of Life, I ask 
We are All just going down the Rabbit-Hole 

The White Rabbit is showing Us the Road 
Though We are separated by a few Years 
This is nothing but Information-Overload 
We are All swimming in our own Pool of Tears 

But what about the Hypocrites of Society  
We both belong to an entirely different Class 
I don't care about the High and the Mighty 
We are All trying to look Through The Looking Glass 

But somehow there is a Layer of Sadness 
In Her soft serene gentle Eyes 
Though She gives me a Sense of Madness 
I wish She could have heard my Cries 

But it is True that She doesn't Love Me 
It is True that She doesn't really Care 
The Tragedy is out there for All to See 
This is my Life, this ain't No Truth or Dare...

[Written in 2009]