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Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Caste-based reservation is outdated. Only merit-based scholarships to impoverished students make sense to me. An SC/ST born into an economic middle-class or upper-class has all the resources in the world and can fail to achieve good scores only if he does not apply himself. On the other hand, a general candidate (or even a SC candidate) whose father is a daily laborer, but is sincere in his efforts, may think higher education is not achievable because of the expenses. I have heard such stories from my mother's 35 years of teaching in low-income families, where, often, a child who is meritorious has to give up education because of family pressure.

Lastly, think of the bigger picture- who do you want should run the country? Hard-working meritorious kids who had humble beginnings or people who progressed based on reservation alone!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Forward for luck

This is a rat's ass- believed to be extremely lucky by ancient Egyptians because it signified abundance of grains. Forward it to 10 people in the next 5 mins and you will be blessed with a bag full of money, an extremely gorgeous spouse and full paid vacation - all in the next 24 hours.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dr. Kalam

Dr. Kalam was the chief guest of Tripura University convocation in 2001. Boro pishi (my eldest paternal aunt) had completed her Ph.D in Zoology. My paternal grandfather had passed away in January that year. Though we missed Grandpa on the occasion, I was elated to accompany her when the degree was conferred. It felt like an honor. We met some of her colleagues-professors of the university- one of whom exclaimed upon the similarities in our facial features. It runs in the family; we laughed.

But most of all, I remember seeing Dr. Kalam in person before he became the 11th President of India in 2002. What a humble man! You want to touch the sleeve of his coat just to know what greatness feels like. Not all politicians or leaders can command respect and admiration so effortlessly. What makes a man great? I am still trying to figure.

Boro pishi wanted me to get a doctorate when I grew up. I thought so too. Even after my MBA, I wanted to be a Doctor in Business Administration. But other things happened. I don't know if I will get a doctorate, but we share respect for a man. An educated but self-effacing man, who worked as a scientist in DRDO and ISRO. But most importantly - someone who was a genuine human being.

Friday, July 24, 2015

5 positive traits you could develop

Motivation: Most self-help books you read will start with a chapter on motivation and goals. And this is not just a vague idea about your destination. You need to visualize what you want. For example, when I was applying to a B-School I wanted to get into, I put an aerial view of the University as my laptop background. Each day I would see the image and say to myself, 'I will be there soon'. And I did. The trick is to get so engrossed in what you are doing that nothing should distract you. It also works for a relation you want to forge or improve. Your purpose or meaning in life might change with age, but what matters is that you are willing to offer yourself entirely to the cause.

Emotional stability :You have the image in mind; now you have to materialize it. And to do this you need hard work. You also need to have a calm approach to yourself and to others. You acknowledge that there are negative emotions, such as anger and anxiety, but you have to work with them rather than letting them overcome you. Indulgence is easy. There is a certain amount of gratification, but being able to control your extremes is a trait you certainly will find great use for in both your personal and professional lives.

Positive mindset: It is not easy to see the brighter side of everything, especially when nothing seems to go right. But you have to find a way- just one silver lining- in situations and in people. Include yourself in that list.

Self-Awareness: It takes a sagacious person to know his most authentic self. Your capability, who you are to others, who you can become- are all important aspects of your personality. You are not perfect, but as long as you enjoy learning from new experiences, you will become better. However, the learning is not a passive act; it is an active effort to progress, and it works wonder for even the most mediocre person. Politicians learn to speak publicly, arts students learn to code. You analyze your strengths and weakness and work accordingly.

Flexibility in behavior: Adaptation is critical to biological evolution because it provides improved function. Color change to camouflage from predators, a protein that works better with the change of environmental temperature, an anatomical modification that helps forage for resources- these are not very different from the psychological perspective of adaptation. You have a different persona for different people. You will not engage your 5-year old nephew in the same way you'd deliberate with a professional relation. There is no con in it; just an improved function to converse more efficaciously.

Here is a worksheet pdf to reflect on some of the points we discussed in this post:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Makeup or no makeup

My father did not allow me to use makeup as a kid. Our Catholic school checked our nails to see if we wore polish; those who did were punished with a cane (happened once). Any sign of vanity was reproachable, including single ponies. Someone came up with a rule of two braids for a while (for medium to long hair).

I learned to use an eyeliner when I was in Standard VIII. Mostly because I got my glasses then, and an unfeeling uncle said, ' Poor thing, your pretty eyes will be hidden now.' (Thank you for boosting my self-esteem! )

Dad got me contact lenses in college. But gloss and liners were the only things I owned. Now I wear makeup when I want to. I go bare skin when I want to. I wear glasses with my makeup and like it. It is never the occasion. It is only an expression of how I am feeling.

It was surprising when a highly-educated male friend said one day: 'Why are you so decked up?', in a tone that implied I had murdered a particularly cute kitten. I wanted to say, 'Dude, it is not for you!'

Some women consider other women who wear makeup with suspicion. We are just artists who enjoy the process of enhancing our features. It has nothing to do with being interested in your men. There is no need to disparage the other coterie just because it is not your thing.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

একটি অকালের মৃত্যু

বন্ধুরা সব তাকে সুন্দরী বলত। 'তুই বলিউড যাস না কেন?' তাই অস্ট্রেলিয়া ছেড়ে চলে এসেছিল একদিন একরোখা মন নিয়ে। তন্বী শরীর, প্রাণবন্ত মেয়ে। ব্রেক পেয়েছিল এক বিখ্যাত তারকার ললিতা হিসেবে।

রূপালী পর্দায় দেখে সবার তাক লেগে গিয়েছিল- কে এই মেয়েটি? উচ্ছ্বসিত যৌবন, অলংকারহীন সৌন্দর্য। চোখ ফিরানো যায় না। বয়োবৃদ্ধ তারকার অভিজ্ঞ মাধুর্যও আজ তার কাছে ম্লান। সে সদ্যযৌবনপ্রাপ্তা, তার অহংকার হবারই কথা।

কিন্তু অহংকারে পেট ভরে না। সেক্স সাইরেন হিসেবে পরিচিত হলেও তাকে কেউ মুখ্য ভূমিকা দেবে সেই আশা বৃথা । কিন্তু সে তো 'অসম্ভব' মানে জানে না। তাই চেষ্টা চালিয়ে যায়। কখনো কখনো ক্লাবে গিয়ে পান করা অভ্যাসের মত দাড়িয়েছে। ভালো লাগে বুক-গলা জ্বালিয়ে সুরা পান করতে। জীবনের সব তিক্ততা যেন ফিকে পরে যায়, নরকবাসের যাতনাও হয়ে ওঠে সহ্যকর ।

সেই ফাঁকে একদিন, কে একটু ভালবাসার আশা দেখিয়েছিল। স্বপ্ন দেখেছিল সেও একটা ঘর বাঁধবে। একা একা  জীবন কাটতে চায় না। শুধুই  নিজেকে ভালবাসতে বাসতে  হাঁপিয়ে যায় প্রাণ। তাই একদিন সমস্ত সতর্কবার্তা উপেক্ষা করে তার সর্বস্য সমর্পণ করেছিল তার প্রণয়ীর কাছে। এ নেশা যেন আরও মারাত্মক। নিজেকে ভুলে থাকার এর চেয়ে সহজ উপায় আছে কি?

গর্ভবতী হয় সে।  ফিল্মের জন্যে এদিক ওদিক ছুটো ছুটি তখনো চলছে। কাস্টিং ডিরেক্টর বলে, 'ওজন কম করো, নাহলে সাইড রলেও কেউ নেবে না।' রেগে গিয়ে চর মেরে বসে। এত বড় আস্পর্ধা লোকটার! ফিরে এসে প্রণয়ীকে বলে- আর নয়, এবার বিয়ে করি চল।

প্রণয়ী বলে- বিয়ে? জীবনে তো কিছুই করি নি। এখনি বিয়ে কি করে করব? আর এই সন্তান যে আমার, তার প্রমাণ কি? শুনেছি তুমি নাকি অনেকের সঙ্গেই 'পার্টি' কর।

রাগে দুঃখে কাঁপতে থাকে শরীর। দৌড়ে বেরিয়ে আসে। ছুটতে ছুটতে ভাবে- আর তো যাবার জায়গা নেই। মা বাবার সঙ্গে ঝগড়া করে এসেছিল। এই শহরে তার কোন প্রকৃত বন্ধু নেই।

একবার সাহস করে বাবাকে ফোন করলে? ছোটবেলায় বাবাকে সব বলতে পারত। কিন্তু আজ কি করে বলবে যে তার মেয়ে হেরে গেছে? অন্য প্রান্তে বাজতে থাকে ফোনের হতাশ আর্তনাদ। এখন অস্ট্রেলিয়ায় কি সময় হবে? ঘুমোচ্ছে কি ওরা?

ঘুম। কি ঘুম পাছে তার ! মায়ের কোলে মাথা রেখে শুতে খুব ইচ্ছে করছে। মা রাগ করলেও বাকি দুনিয়ার প্রেমের ছলনার চেয়ে কম নিষ্ঠুর। একবার যদি মাকে দেখতে পেত! চোখের জলে দৃষ্টি ঘোলা হয়ে ওঠে, হেঁটে হেঁটে ফিরে যায় বাড়ি। তার অজান্তেই যেন তার শেষ আশ্রয়টুকু তাকে কাছে টেনে নিতে চায়।

জল, দড়ি, বিষ - কি দিয়ে শেষ করবে এই অভাগা জীবন? কি এসে যায় তাতে?

হাসপাতেলের শবঘরে রতিক্রিয়ারত পিয়ন ভাবে- ইস! সৌন্দর্যের কি অপচয়!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent and Marymere Falls

It was the middle of April, rain fell as we made our way to Marymere Falls. Fir, cedar and hemlock trees greeted us by the side of the dirt trail, a roundtrip of about 1.5 miles. Raindrops beaded on our foreheads and spray-painted a grin on my face.

First, we thought of taking shelter in the tunnel, but the winds gave us chills.  We decided to keep moving to stay warm. Puddles gathered on the path and we navigated those after performing a series of complex mathematical calculations. We were going to finish walking the trail even if it meant getting wet to the bone. But I also worried about the cameras. They might not have the constitution or the will.

Soon, the rain stopped but the sky was still cloudy. One might wonder if there is ever a sunny weekend in this place. I didn't mind really. I felt the need to experience the rainforests in their elements. 140-170 inches of precipitation annually, we were bound to chance upon a few inches. 

The last leg of the trail had a short, steep ascent before we were rewarded a full view of the falls. We kissed to congratulate ourselves. The little celebrations of life.

Mount Storm King

There is a Native American legend about the creation of Lake Crescent: Upset with the fights between the Klallam and the Quileute tribes, the mountain spirit hurled a gigantic boulder killing all the warriors. It was so huge that it dammed the river and the water backed up, forming the lake. Many geologists believe that there was a landslide that could account for the myth.

Domain Madeline

The host at our Bed and Breakfast in Port Angeles was gracious, and the suite exceeded all expectations. All our needs were anticipated and taken care of in advance; years of experience and thoughtfulness makes it possible. The blow dryer blew the bathroom fuse, but it was promptly attended to by the staff. In fact, we think we found ourselves a new haunt. The guest book had thank you notes from people who had been visiting for years. It was easy to understand why. A restful place where you can spend your days reading books from the private library or in the bedroom overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

We even caught a rainbow after a short shower on our first day. On a clear day, the coast of Canada was visible across the water. The proximity posed a new challenge - our cell phones caught signal from Canada and went on roaming mode. We soon discovered that we rather liked being inaccessible to the world. Just the two of us.

After the first day of hike, a hot shower, and some warm food later, we lit up the fireplace and fell asleep as soon as we slid under the comforter.

Hoh National Forest

On our second day of stay, we had the most delicious crab cakes for breakfast. The four-course breakfast was spoiling me. The new aquaponics greenhouse in the premises was opening for public the following weekend. The host talked passionately about micro-farming using a sustainable combination of fish cultivation and hydroponic gardening, the misuse of GMO and climate change.

We had planned to go to Hoh National Forest, a two hours drive from Port Angeles. We crossed Forks on our way. The town serves as a backdrop for the Twilight series and celebrates the birth week of Bella on the weekend closest to September 13 each year. There was no Edward or Jacob spotting, but I noticed a movie poster on a shop. 

There are the three trails near the visitor centre- Hall of Mosses, Spruce Nature Trail and the Hoh River Trail. Tapestries of moss drape the forest cathedrals. Lichens, sword ferns, shrubs and trees all grow in the primitive ocean forest in a cohesive community. The crickets and birds add to the symphony of the woods. If you listen hard enough, you can almost hear the trees talk. Everywhere you look, Mother Nature has carefully placed an artifact. You could lose yourself in the sights and sounds. Some primeval spirit took over my existence, and I walked through the forest led by it.

Hurricane Ridge was closed due to snow, and we lost track of time on our hikes, so we missed out on the beaches where starfish, sea urchins and anemones are plenty. But a beautiful place like this deserves more than a mere acquaintance. It deserves dedicated affection. We promised to be back soon.