Monday, March 26, 2012

Good ol' Megalomania

The weblog is finally up. Suggestions are welcome (and encouraged). Either mail me or comment on this post. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Late morning. Phone call from Subhayu:

"Bhai ajke college-ta kintu jetei hobe. Prochurdin jawa hoyeni. 9-taye Baghajatin."

Ten in the morning. At the bus stand. Take that auto to Garia where we inevitably realise that we are not going to college today. But the question is where do we go then? Presi? JU? Or Aasma? Now, one of the strange things about Aasma is that when pitted against any given destination, the answer is always Aasma. Kind of like a zero-multiplication. Aasma is the philosophical zero/origin of our lives. 

Aasma, Baruipur local, beef biriyani, chaap, Chutki and cold drink, take the longest auto-route back to the city. Another auto to JU. Eyes on the JUDE ledge across the hanging bridge. Doyeeta, Bimbo, Suchismita, sometimes the very talented Ragini. Crow-chicken noodle dotted with sperm infused ketchup. Thums up. Some mild coercing later we are off to Golpark. 'Pick up the Shonai' is the name of the game. If she is back from Presi. Then walk to chayer dokan. 

Or if it had been some other day we would have taken the metro from Tolly straight to Central. Walk to the Presi canteen. Laddu had to be called from the union room. Shonai had to be called too. Gnaar mein danda was the song of the moment. Yummein, pan-fried momos at Chini's. Steaming cauldron of gastronomic awesomeness for twenty-five rupees. Then, in the afternoon a metro back to Kalighat. Walk to champadir chayer dokan.

So, there were about two courses of action in our lives. Both of which led to the chayer dokan. Simple. But not as simple as it sounds. Poulami, Rommo, Teko, Koushiki. Of course, every day would bring some random person or the other. Some of them would go on to become a part of the group. Some had to be shaken off like dirt, or gym-going gropers. Some times when we had money, there would of course be a party. We would skip the chayer dokan and head straight to Laddu'r shattolah. The hazy Calcutta quiet in the hot summer afternoon stretching out as far as one could see from the window. The guitar, the 5.1 Creative speakers. The Old Monk. The Sun would set and more people would turn up. They talked about their day. About their current crushes, heartbreaks. In the evening the small lamp with the umbrella would be lit up for 'mood-lighting'. Mohiner ghoraguli, bawraa mann and then someone would start playing Pianoman and we would all sing together - voices cracking with sincerity at the line that goes - 

"Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinking alone..."

Everyone had their songs. If it was 'Wish you were here'  you knew Laddu was going to play it. Then one by one we would leave. I would walk down Southern Avenue. If it was quite late there was always the fear of being followed by transsexual-looking prostitutes. It was okay though. Very often there were not so kind words from the mother. But who gives a shit? We knew, yes we all did, that these times, they are not going to come back. That was the most beautiful thing. All along these five years we were very keenly aware of the fact that this was happiness. There was no doubt about that.

Now when I talk to people in various parts of the country/world they talk about things like 'exposure', about 'keeping the options open' and other vague terms I do not understand. If you asked me, when I see what I love best I just go after it. Yes, I know. I am like one of those irritating people who cross the street in diagonals. Calcutta is where I will be because all I need is to be happy.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” ― John Lennon 

Sunday, January 01, 2012

On social media

I rarely write these days. This is the age of "re-sharing". We consume and we share what we like or what we would like people to think we like. We are constantly at work trying to project an online personality, sometimes more than one. Because, after all, we are different things to different people. Or we would like to be. Opinions on an issue need to be formed fast, lest we are considered ignorant, or worst, insensitive. And hence, opinions are borrowed. They are hashed together from various sources of ready-made opinions, checked for consistency with our accepted online personality and - shared, promptly. And then in battles online we sometimes begin to understand the opinion we so vehemently defend. Sometimes. But there is not always time, for we have not just one battle to fight, not just one issue to be seen possessing an opinion on. In this fast-paced system of factory like opinion construction there is no time for looking inside. The conveyor belt keeps carrying opinions to us. No time to think quietly. Always shifting, always full of sensitivity. This is the age of conforming non-conformists fed on the homogeneous goo of constructed opinions.

So, people create less and less. And consume more and more. We have a group of people who produce content at lightning speed and voracious consumers. And social media is the connect. What does that mean? That means the death of the blogs as we knew it. When was the last time you published a post and did not "share" the link on your social network? There was a time when we posted the link on Facebook in the hope of widening our readership beyond the regulars. But now the dependence has grown to an extent where unless you post a link to your post on every social network you are on you are not sure anyone will know. The truth is no one checks blogs for new posts any more. The quality of discussion on blog posts has suffered with most comments being reduced to mere roll call responses at best, that too not on the blog, but on Facebook. So, even though the number of "visitors" may have increased, the good old readers are gone.

Unable to stand the tyranny of Facebook and the enthusiasm of its users, I have stopped using it. But they will not let me delete my profile. All I can do is "disable" it. Apparently it is done because Facebook is worried that I may in a fit of childishness delete my profile only to want it back when I realise the magnitude of the mistake I have made. So, it helpfully gives me the option to join back whenever I want and they are sure I will. They store all my data, connections, and all I have to do to  join back is sign in. You heard me right. That is all I need to do. The same Facebook that makes me go through at least 3 stages of detailed questionnaire trying to dissuade me when I am trying to "disable" my account does not so much as wink when I join back. So disabling my account is essentially like logging out of Facebook. Facebook does not even allow me to export my contact details saying that the contacts are owned by the respective owners. That does not sound quite right, now, does it? The contact, by way of access/privacy control (such as adding/accepting me as a friend, or putting me in a group where her/his email, phone number, etc is visible to me) has given me the implicit permission to use the detail for contacting her/him. Even if we were to assume that Facebook genuinely believes this protects the privacy of its users, it has no qualms importing contact lists from our email service providers (Gmail, Yahoo,etc) to add to its database. Remember when you had allowed Facebook to see which of your Gmail contacts are already using Facebook? (You probably don't but that is because it was so long ago. Three internet years!) Now, when you were doing that Facebook did solemnly swear that it does not save your Gmail password, which it doesn't. What it does however is save that contact list imported from Gmail on its servers forever. It uses that to "suggest" you "people you may know". Double standards? Kind of reminds me of that line in Hotel California that goes:

"You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave (legendary guitar solo...)"