Bookmarks of bygone memories

I find bookmarks very handy and I use them extensively. My bookmark toolbar is filled with links and folders. From ‘Reading list’ to ‘Data Science notes’, I often refer to many useful folders in the toolbar. One-click and you’re there. So convenient! Now, these bookmarks are not only there in our browsers. They have an active presence in our daily life. I will talk about a few of them.

Songs are essentially one of the most prominent bookmarks of life. The FIFA world cup (2022) was going on a few days back and someone was playing the world cup classic song ‘Wavin’ Flag’. Almost instantaneously and involuntarily when I heard the song, my mind went back to 2010. I was in 9th standard, and during the world cup, I had just gulped a 1 rupee coin. It all flashed in front of me. Felt like it happened yesterday.

A good friend of mine (who is also a good pen pal) had sent me an old song by an Indian band called Raeth in 2018/2019. This song used to be the quintessential breakup song for the generation before ours. It is called ‘Bhula do’. Now, I would listen to my maternal uncle (who is 10 years older than me) play this song and many other Bengali rock songs while growing up. Later I had totally forgotten about this song and others. Then my friend one day sent this masterpiece, and since then I have restarted listening to not only this one but all those Bengali rock and pop songs that I used to listen to when I was a child. I haven’t stopped since. Here is the song, in case anyone wants to give it a try:

I can go on about songs for an hour or two. But let’s move on to something else: scent. It is hard to write about them like that. Probably Gulzar, Jaun Elia or Pablo Neruda can, but it is a tough job for me. But they follow the association rule very strongly. You come across a random fragrance and you suddenly remember the last time when you were touched by it. The scent doesn’t have to be of a person but it can be of various things. And boy oh boy, they trigger the past memories very quickly and abruptly.

Yesterday, after the office, I found another bookmark. Scent or songs are something that knowingly or unknowingly I have always acknowledged but this is something that I have never ever thought of: Facebook. There was a time, before its timely (?) death when Facebook used to be the centre of everything! Cheesy long romantic posts, school-college dramas, football-related brawls, trolling – it had everything.

I was going through my own timeline and randomly searched some of my friends’ names there. And man! It felt like we had shared almost everything that we used to do on Facebook. FB has a great feature where it gives a throwback ‘On this day’, they are also pretty good when it comes to bookmarks. I often cringe seeing my post and often smile. But that’s what it is, a great feature. It also serves as a great reminder of how much life has changed. There were so many people with whom I used to interact a lot, but now I have no idea about their whereabouts. Even some of my college mates are there on that list. Especially two of them. Since leaving the college, I have made several attempts to reconnect with them, but it has been totally futile.

This is the property of these bookmarks I guess. They trigger old memories. But not all of them bring happiness.

Mihajlovic and the purpose of life

Imagine you’ve been diagnosed with a deadly disease. What would you do? How would you like to spend your time? Frankly, I don’t know. I have never given this a thought. But I do know that I would not want to spend it working a full-time job. The job that I have.

Sinisa Mihajlovic, an ex-Serbian footballer and a Serie A legend died yesterday (16th December 2022) following complications of leukaemia. Almost 3.5 years back he first announced that he had this disease. At that time, he was the manager of Bologna FC. He continued to manage them even after being ill for almost 3 years. This is something that I have failed to wrap my head around. This act no doubt portrays his character and professionalism. Still, I fail to comprehend why anyone who probably has nothing to achieve particularly from a job in a familiar domain, will continue to do it even in a situation like this. More than the physical pain, I have so many questions about the psychological part.

One reason why someone would continue to do what they have been doing even in this situation is simple. You know you will come around very soon. You know you’re far stronger than the disease that is engulfing you. You will eventually beat it and come out with flying colours. The other reason is more abstract.

After a certain point, one should find the purpose of their life. This purpose, of course, will change over time. Your purpose at 25 might not be the same as when you’re 40 or when you were 18. Many people in the industry take breaks from what they are currently doing to find this purpose. A break for a month, 3 months or even a year. And then there are many who don’t tie the purpose of their lives with the job they’re doing. They have other priorities. The sense of fulfilment comes from there.

If someone truly finds a purpose, taking the steps in life becomes really easy. I really don’t know what governed Sinisa. But, I do know, the football world lost a top-class professional. Ciao, Sinisa.

Leaving with some of his best goals in Serie A.

Hangama Hai Kyon Barpa

When I was very young (in class 4, around 2005), one of my cousin-brother introduced me to ghazals. One of the very famous ghazals that I used to listen to was a masterpiece by the legend Ghulam Ali:

The famous lines of the song goes like this:

Daaka To Nahi Daala Chori To Nahi Ki Hai

Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa Thodi Si Jo Pee Lee Hai

(I haven’t stolen anything, and I haven’t committed a robbery. Why is there so much fuss? I have just drunk a bit of alcohol)

The 8-year-old me couldn’t comprehend the depth of the lyrics at that time. But now I find the lyrics quite poetic and poignant. I am not just writing about the song like this randomly. There is a reason behind it.

While I was back in my hometown Kolkata during the Durga Puja, I came across an old couple through one of my relatives. They seemed to be supporting the current opposition leader of West Bengal who used to be a part of the ruling party once. Now in Bengali, there is a metaphorical saying of ‘sharing the same glass of alcohol’ if you have done something malevolent in the company of someone. During a conversation, I just couldn’t resist myself and said to them “He used to share the same glass of alcohol with the current ruling party members once”. To which the couple unanimously replied: “NO! He might be a thief, but I don’t think he drinks alcohol.” I was a bit startled by that, and realised there is no point arguing with them.

There has been a similar incident with Rahul Gandhi and another political leader too. Where they were spotted drinking and from there the moral policing and virtue signaling began.

This not only shows how timeless this classic ghazal song is but also depicts a dire picture of our society. We have some conservative gatekeepers all around us. You can steal public money and make a fortune, as long as you have a particularly good man image set in the society or probably belong to a political party of their choice.

And I think the number of factors through which a man/woman is judged by these gatekeepers varies across the genders. For a man, the number of factors will be very less. The salary and some success will always be the primary governing factor. As long as those two are decent, a man will hardly be scrutinized. (Except a few times for drinking alcohol, though nowadays that is pardoned by many) And for a woman, there will be a long (a very long) list of parameters: looks, dress code, efficiency in household chores, friend circle and so many things!

My personal philosophy on this one is totally libertarian. When I was looking for a house in the new city, one of the landlords said that I can cook chicken or mutton at the place, but fish is not allowed. I am generally very bad at prompt replies but that day I was quite straight-forward: “Whatever I am doing in my bedroom and kitchen shouldn’t concern you given that I am paying my rent on time and not bothering any of my neighbours”

I wish people would listen to more Ghulam Ali (and ghazal) & stop being a gatekeeper.