The Narrow Road to the Deep North

How do I shop for books? To be frank, several factors contribute to the decision : author, premise of the book, genre, the title of the book and sometimes the book’s cover (in that order). I do not remember the reason why I bought the book “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan (Narrow). At the time I had not read any of the author’s previous works nor had it won the Booker Prize 2014. However, I do know that I purchased the book back in 2014 (found the receipt in the book) and it took me nearly 4 years to give the book a shot. All the previous times I had picked the book, I gave it up within the first few paragraphs – I don’t know why. On January 4th 2019, I picked the book again upon the insistence of Ananya and thankfully so.

This time when I started the book, I laboured through the first couple of pages. However, it was the first line of the third page of the book that transfixed me completely.

A happy man has no past, while an unhappy man has nothing else.

Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan

After reading this sentence, I was hooked and didn’t let my eyes rest till nearly 50% of the book was done. Flanagan describes love, suffering, anger, helplessness and so many other emotions in such a mesmerising fashion. I was reduced to tears on multiple occasions and beamed with happiness a number of times as well. It has been really a long time since I read such an emotional rollercoaster of a novel.

Narrow Road to the Deep North is a story of love, victories, losses, sufferings and so many other things, set for most parts during World War – II. But most of all, the book is about life. One of the most haunting depictions is that of a PoW camp and the story of one single day of the camp’s torturous activities.

However, it’s the love story of the central characters thats perhaps even more haunting – and something that gnaws at you even after you finish the book. I won’t say much about it here, as its best to be experienced by reading the book.

While many books have been written on the harrowing tortures that PoWs have had to face at the camps, Flanagan attempts to view the events from the view points of the captors as well (the Japanese in this case) and I have to say, it was really a refreshing take. Flanagan has beautifully described, how different people look at the same circumstance completely differently and the factors that influence their points-of-view. While at no point does he justify the actions of the Japanese captors, Flanagan does a great job examining and elucidating the mindset of the Japanese : how they were conditioned to follow orders unquestioningly and willingly accept punishment in case of missteps. One of my favourite parts is when the major bad-guy of the story reviews his past actions at an old age and struggles to come to terms with the realisation that all his beliefs might actually have been wrong.

Most of the characters are sketched out pretty well and in the end you tend to have strong feelings about each of them – love, hate, indifference ; and that I think is the biggest win of the book.

I really loved the book and would recommend it anyone who likes to delve into the era of World War – II and can digest the gore and sadness that comes inherently with any war story. Trust me, if you can get past the graphic images of war, you are in for a rollercoaster emotional ride.

Time’s Up!

It’s become so strange. While at one end it feels all sorted, at the same time it is all convoluted on the other side . One side is characterised by openness and freedom, the other is inducing the sense of ultimate helplessness akin to being trapped in a quagmire.

I get fed up of the sheer amount of sycophancy, lies, smirks and the fake air of self importance while at the same time am held back by the fear of the unknown on the other side. Sometimes, I am convinced that the time is ripe for a flight abroad, and at the same time am held back by the worries of the present.

It’s become a drag, and it seems that something’s got to give. I know I shouldn’t wait for the situation to become as impossible as the last time around, but maybe that is when I function the best? Well, as of now I have decided that , Boss time’s up! Now lets see what is there in store for us…

Bahu Do Vote Lo!

(Image Courtesy : Khabarmantra)

I came across this bizarre article yesterday. While it is meant to be hilarious, it actually is woefully sad. It’s sad because it exposes the way people think. I mean you are going to vote for the candidates who gets a bride for you, your son or your brother while on the other hand you abet and practice female infanticide at such a frivolously huge rate that your sex ratio has reached 879. Its the height of hypocrisy. No one is ready to feed, educate and raise a girl but when your boy grows up to 25 you demand a beautiful girl for him to get hitched, and that too from politicians in return for your vote. Yes, I know the demand is a sarcastic one, but the truth of the scenario is that this problem is a very real one. The unfortunate and sad thinking that the girl child is burden is the major reason behind the rampant female infanticides and which in turn is the cause for this bleak number of 879 females per 1000 males.

I remember that when I was in college I watched the movie Matrubhoomi which simply rattled me and (I hope) so many others who watched it. At that time, I believed the situation depicted in the movie as extremely fictitious and far-fetched but (just read the news) now I think the days shown in Matrubhoomi aren’t far at all.

Female infanticide is rampant. Atrocities against women make the news everyday (and many more do not). Khap-panchayats and similar entities remain on a couple killing spree.  While blaming women and their dressing sense for the monstrous number of rapes, people are still forgetting to teach their sons respect for women. How did the people who trace their origin to Adi Shakti (the supreme female deity) reach such a sad state of mind is an enigma. The most disturbing thing is that even the gentry and the so called ‘well-read’ people of India suffer from the same debilitating state of mind.

Something has to be done. Mr. Bhagwat will say that India has to return to its moral roots of Hinduism, while fake seers like Asaram will tell you to keep calling your assailant brother, but know this my sisters of India you are alone and will have to fend for yourself come what may. Its sad but I think its the truth of the situation until something changes drastically.

What do you think can be done by the common Indian?

The Big Fat Marathi Wedding

Chance presents itself!

I have attended quite a many weddings since I gained cognition, but all of them have been those of our own culture or at least in our own state. It was my hearty wish for a very long time to attend a wedding of one of the other cultures of the kaleidoscopic India. So, when my friend (a “He”) invited me (although he didn’t expect me to come!!) to attend his wedding in Satara,Maharashtra, I jumped at the chance!

The Dancing Horse!

I became a bit apprehensive when the groom told me that we would be staying in his village (Shivajinagar) which was quite obvious on my part as all my previous experience of villages haven’t been real good. Upon reaching the village around midnight, with all the apprehensions and imaginations in our heads, we simply weren’t prepared for the spectacle that greeted us. The scene was simply hilarious. The groom was riding a dancing horse! and surely it danced a lot better than the intoxicated men gyrating all around him. Oh and one more thing was new : live singer in a specialised band-bus (Sadly I forgot to click a pic of the bus!)

Who's riding whom?
Who’s riding whom?

The Village!

Now let me describe the village in detail . It was a village in true sense but lacked nothing in terms of urban facilities; be it good sanitation or electricity or running water supply or a Tata Sky connection, the place had it all. But, the beauty of the place was rugged yet breathtaking with so much of open space available that you won’t know what to do with it!! And yes the air, the breeze, the cool and clean and refreshing breeze that blew almost all through the day, was perhaps the single most awesome thing that I’ll remember about the place.

All said and done, a place is only as good as the people of the place and make no mistake the people were awesome too. No one understood a word of Hindi (except the Groom’s immediate family) and we didn’t understand a word of Marathi, but we seldom faced any difficulty in getting our thoughts across or understanding the point the villagers were making(Yes it was very very very tough). My friend’s immediate family (i.e. his father, mother and sister hereafter called uncle, aunty and sis respectively) were understandably very busy but didn’t ever let us feel out of home.

The Panorama
The Panorama

The Big Fat Marathi Wedding

Well this was what I went to witness. And literally we were the only people who witnessed the whole wedding!! Jokes apart, it was a wedding quite different from those that I have seen as yet but the essence was the same. Yes, the little nitty-gritties were different, e.g. the bride and groom attended the rasma of Halad Chadavane together unlike the individual haldis in Bihari weddings etc. The Akshataropan rasma was again a spectacle. More than 1000 people were gathered in the hall to bless the couple with akshata (sacred rice). The rasma lasted for only 15 minutes and when the final mantras were chanted and the final grains of akshata were sprinkled as blessings, suddenly there was a huge commotion. Within 5 minutes the hall was empty and only 15-20 people remained. People were in such a rush to get out that they literally jammed the doorway. It was hilarious and we couldn’t stop laughing! Finally, the sacred fire was kindled and the seven vows were taken, the seven circumambulations of the sacred fire were completed, and the bride and the groom were declared Man and wife in the eyes of God and society!

The Vidai was pretty much the same: full of tears and laughter, fear mingled with hope and grief mixed with joy! Then began the tour of Temples and courtesy visits to the homes of our numerous Gods. Wherever we went, we were welcomed in the same spirit as the bride and the groom, which raised my respect and love for the local people many notches higher. Finally, Goddess Lakshmi (read the Bride) entered the house to make it a home for the groom! The entire setup was so beautifully managed and done that it seemed almost flawless and no one was complaining; this in itself is no mean achievement when it comes to Indian weddings!

The Hilarious Bathing Ceremony

We were scheduled to leave early morning the next day of the wedding but aunty would hear nothing of it and ordered us to stay at least until lunch so that we could witness the bathing ceremony of the bride and the groom (we didn’t feel like going anyway). The halad utaravane ceremony was, as I’ve already mentioned, hilarious. All the ladies of the village were gathered and amongst a lot of chatter, jokes and singsong competitions, the ceremony was concluded in all pomp. The ladies played wet holi (minus the colours of-course) and even I got to drench my friend in water; there’s nothing sweeter than to increase the embarrassment of an already embarrassed friend!! This was followed by another tour of temples of the village and those of the adjoining villages. The thing that I loved the most about these temples was their location. Each of them : Amazing!!

Amazing Isn't it?
Amazing Isn’t it?

All in all it was an awesome treat, the wedding. If I hadn’t gone (like all my other friends) I would have missed an opportunity of a life-time. God bless the Bride and the Groom and may they have a wonderful and blissful married life!

Korba : Everyday a different shade of grey!

Its been a long time since I last posted something here. Perhaps I can start doing it more often, now that I’ll be away from work for the next year or so. As the title of the post suggests, this post is about the place which I called home for almost the last 3 years. (Forgive me for being a bit rusty, its the grief speaking more than anything else)

I still remember disembarking from the train at Champa station, all groggy eyed and apprehensive about what’s in store for me. Never had I seen a place so dotted with thermal power plants. Why, only 20 odd kilometres from Champa I saw the first plant and thought it to be NTPC (it turned out to be Lanco-Amarkantak). After resting and breaking the fast at the CSEB guest house, when we started for NTPC, I was again amazed at the sheer number of plants in and around the city. Yes, the eyes have now become familiar with the smoke belching chimneys dotting the skyline and the cooling towers hissing off steam into the atmosphere, yet at that time it was a horrifically astounding sight.

Time flies, and here I am on the verge of leaving the first company I ever worked with for a longer duration of time. To be precise today is my 1028th day at Korba and most of these have been fun-filled and exciting (obviously there were dull and excruciating moments too). NTPC in general and NTPC Korba in particular is a place where anyone would be glad to spend their whole working lives. Yes the “ash-storms” and pollution make life difficult, but still this is a place that one will find difficult if not impossible to hate. I have tried my level best to hate the place but here I am, writing an ode to the place that in some corner of my heart I started to love and which a part of my mind started to recognise as home.

I have had the good fortune of being blessed with wonderful friends, colleagues and seniors during my stay at Korba. I am surely and sorely going to miss all of them. Yes, I know that a new life beckons but some part of me doesn’t want to leave just as yet. I am surely going to miss those beautiful sunset views of switchyard and the garden walks and so much more. It has been one hell of an experience! Even at the job, I have had myriad of things to do : from internal inspection of state-of-the-art transformers to scrap disposal, from retrofitting of protective relays to picking up used liquor bottles from Darri, I have done all of that and more. Yes it was a great time of my life that I spent here.

I won’t be able to forget Korba (after all I was posted here when I got hitched to the love of my life!). That bi-cycle gang of ours which became so popular that suddenly there was a surge in the number of bi-cycles being sold in Korba, those sunday afternoons spent on relentless cricket (even if there were only 3 players available), NTPC Premier League Cricket Matches…..ohh the list is too long. The hot savoury samosas of Bipin, those days and nights spent on commissioning of transformers and quizzing out problems in Switchyard, that feeling of achievement after roasting juicy pieces of chicken with diesel and coal: all of these are surely etched in my memory and won’t be leaving me anytime soon.

I found examples of how to work and how not to work, how to make others work and how not to make others work. It was not all black and white these 1028 days but everyday a different shade of grey. I think grey is the most natural and truthful colour there ever can be and will be.

It was the NTPC brand that got me into ISB and I would try and uphold the honour of the name of the place I would be known by, wherever the future takes me.

Image               Image

Long Time No See!

It has been a very long time since my last post. Last time I was whining about the snowy ash hell, today I stand on the verge of another new beginning. The countdown to leave NTPC for good has begun, and so has the wait for ISB.

2013 has been simply tremendous for me. Not only did it bring with it extreme happiness, it sure did also bring lots of sad moments and moments of despair. The year started with the despair of being declined admissions by all the B-schools I applied to, both Indian and foreign. It was followed by the joy of Ananya getting into IIM-K. Then came the happiest moment of my life : Marriage to the love of my life. Literally, my luck changed after that. I applied to two B-schools and got through in both of them. First time in life I faced the problem of plenty!

I will bid my adieu to 2013 at a beautiful place with my wife. And yes there will be one post properly commemorating this tremendous year. Until then…Ciao! 

I thought Hell was supposed to be Scorching!

Since the last 6 months or so am living in a place called Korba in Chhattisgrah, India also known as the Power capital of the country and appropriately so. I mean there’s a clearing in between the numerous power plants from where you can count 19 chimneys if you go for a 360 degree view. Yeah we don’t lack in electricity but we sure do have a huge Oxygen deficit out here causing people here to feel stuffy and tired all the time. And then there is ASH!

Ash is all this post is about. We at Korba have been facing an Ash crisis since last few months details of which I can’t go into but just understand that the situation is like ‘you are eating too much while the toilet is already overflowing!’ Got it na? Anyways in this regard only Iwas alotted 2 shifts at the Ash Silo and man isn’t that place a living hell ( while I was driving for my shifts I literally listened to Highway to Hell  by ACDC!!)

When you start getting near the silo area all you can see all around you is white powdery substance (which you may or may not confuse with snow at first sight! I did BTW! :-P) And then when you finally get you are greeted by a landmass that really looks like an island of snow or an iceberg or a glacier or a white sand beach or whatever…you must have got the picture (Again if you haven’t,  can’t help you out as pictures aren’t allowed I think!). Its when I finally settled down there for my shift that I began to realise how much more stuffy the air in that place was ( I am comparing with the Plant ofcourse!) and then the 8 hours seemed like Dilli Door Hai!

The night shift was even better(Sarcastic!). The ash, I was told absorbs lots of moisture leading to lowering down of the temperature of the area as a whole and thus comes the heading of the post : I thought Hell was supposed to be scorching! It seems that whenever we humans try to enact God, we do screw up bigtime. I mean the hell that we created was Freezing man, comeon! Anyways am glad that the tryst is now finally over, so Homewards Ahoy!

Not Snow Balls..these are Ash Balls...!

Korba Diaries!

Korba, Chhattisgarh!

Thats the place which I call home now. Naah home will always be Ranchi however crowded or conjusted or painful the capital of Jharkhand may be, it will be the only place that I will ever call my home.

Coming back, yeah Korba. So, being true to its name Korba greeted me with Cobras within the first week itself and it was like great to see the cobras frolicking in the wild! (obviously I am kidding…it chilled my spine!!). And the city’s air is like the most pure I have ever experienced (SARCASTIC!); I mean the first storm of Korba left the visibility to a big fat zero…yeah it was like standing in a pure white chamber, a chamber made up of pure white ASH! Yeah the ash that our company the several others like ours cough up all the time. With the ESPs being turned off to cut down on APC the situation is hellish sometimes. I have always wanted to see white snow covering the ground. Here the ground sure is white, but its snow at all, and sure does not become water upon melting!

The plant’s quite good though. But it seems that we do carry ill luck around. As soon as we came, firecrackers went up in the plant with Transformers bursting one after another. And you know what was the best thing, I got posted in the Transformers Group right when the group was going through its most troublesome period ever! Yeah I got loads to learn, but what the hell man. I couldnt even go to the wildlife park that my friends went to 😦 (Although the park did close as soon as they went there as the monsoon came knocking HEHEHEHEHE).

Negativities aside, the place is quite good in itself. Although I wont recommend any tourists here, people who want to see industries sure should come here. I mean there are 5-6 power plants, an Aluminium plant and many more industries still coming up. Its not the 5th most polluted Indian city for nothing!! Anyways I am liking it here at the moment. For being  just a  stop in the journey this place is quite good, but to make it a permanent residence…Nopes never. Lets see what the future holds.

The diary sure will continue!

There and Back again…(and some more!)

Hmm…yeah its been again quite a long time since I wrote..and for a good reason. Loads have happened in the past 2 and a half months and mostly it has been good for me. When I last wrote I was on my way to join Sesa Goa, now I am an employee of NTPC and am presently at Kahalgaon, Bihar. Yeah it was a hell of a journey!

But the journey that enraptured me with emotions(all the wrong kinds of them) was the one that I made yesterday : to Bhagalpur! What started off as a trip to the (in)famous city turned out to be quite a treat for all the people who love BADDD journeys! We were six people off into the blue. Our errands were different but destination the same. It was the first time that I travelled for more than a hour in an auto-rickshaw and man it was like hell. The roads initially were like you could find some amount of metaled road in a group of several potholes, but steadily the conditions became better to the extent that now all we could see on the roads were herds of buffaloes! Well I’ve to say one thing it was the very first time that I saw trained buffaloes…I mean they were all moving in a line behind their extraordinary feat really!

Then came the famous Bhagalpur Engineering College (BEC) from where one of my housemates, Shashikant (better known as Konchi @ Danda!!) has completed his Engineering. It was great to see an institution that churns out the electrical and mechanical engineers plunged in darkness…afterall people do good things only when they are forced by the circumstances, in this case the darkness or perhaps there is a rule there to go to bed by 6.30 in the evening (that explains Danda’s habits!)

Jokes apart, I was really saddened by the rampant unemployment and hence the immense poverty that’s spread all through Bihar. I could see beautiful farmlands for stretches as far as my naked eyes could see, and yet the very farmer who is toiling day and night to make the farm the way it is, lives in stark poverty as the money made out of the crops doesn’t manage to trickle down to them. Moreover each family was having a bunch of kids, all half-naked, roaming around in the streets, some helping their fathers in herding the cattle while some just loitering away: In short no signs of schools. Whatever the politicians might be saying, this is the ground reality of Bihar. Yes the situation has tremendously improved from what I had earlier seen in the rule of Lalu Prasad Yadav and the criminals that were the MLA’s back then but still loads of works remains to be done. At this juncture it is quite laughable that LPY is tempting the Bihar public with the offer of a motorbike for every Bihari…what the hell…when will these people learn? All I can hope is that the Bihari junta has come to its senses, risen out of the rampant caste prejudices and will vote the correct people onto power and not the one’s who go promising Bikes to people..


Go(A)ing away…

I am sitting in front of my computer, with my favourite word processor flashing its pale blue light on my face, thinking what to write today. Nothing special is going on around here to write about…

Yeah rail accidents are occurring: so what they have become now a very normal occurrence with one big accident happening every month. Yeah there have some more disgraceful antics of the politicians to garner mileage from the accidents: so what, it’s what they do the best.

Yeah, the Indian cricket team has lost the 1st test match to the Sri Lankans like no other world number one team is expected to lose: so what, with the Indian cricket team you get what you least expect every single time.

But yes, there is one thing that’s going to happen after a long long time! I am going to away from the computer screen for quite a long time now that I am going for my job and am not taking my dear computer with me. So it’s going to be a pretty long break, I guess from the world of blogging, starting the 1st of August (although it was already so a few weeks ago!)…the question is will I be able to survive without it?? Let’s see, because that’s one of the most difficult things: to be away from the computer after being hooked to it, virtually 24X7 for the past 4 years! It’s going to be interesting seeing all the extra time that I will be getting and all the things that I can do with that extra bit of time!

Let’s see!