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.

TVF, Tarak Mehta and LinkedIn influencers

When Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah (TMKOC) started it was a big hit. It was also like a breath of fresh air for Indian television. At that time, Indian shows were filled with saas-bahu (mother-in-law & daughter-in-law respectively) melodramas. TMKOC, on the other hand, was a sitcom based on a society called Gokuldham. It revolved around the daily ‘mundane’ life of those people living in that society. Even though, now, I cringe at some of those old episodes. There is no doubt that the old episodes were quite wholesome and enjoyable. It was the ‘Sarabha vs Sarabhai’ (another generation-defining sitcom) for our generation.

Now, after almost 14 years since it was first aired, and 3.6k episodes (YES!) TMKOC is still going on. A few days back I came across one of their episodes on YouTube. And it was unwatchable. I haven’t seen anything as useless as this. And this is coming from someone who has watched Action Replayy in theatres. There is no content, most of the stars who had started the show have also left but still, they are dragging it on.

On the other hand, TVF (The Viral Fever) started as a YouTube channel before widening its horizons. With respect to Indian standards of comedy, TVF has been quite good. Far better than anything that’s going on. And one of their ‘mantra’ for this has been quality over quantity. One of the TVF founders summed it up in a talk-show adda nicely:

To create a good content of 1 minute, it takes 100s of hours. I don’t know how anyone can go on for 10 years on the TV and still maintain the quality of the content.

When I look at most of the ‘LinkedIn influencers’, I feel they follow the path of Tarak Mehta rather than TVF. LinkedIn is a social networking platform where you can share any updates about your work: your learning, difficulties in a project, some useful resources etc. But now it is just filled with cringe content. Each one of us, who is working, will have some important things to share if we are true to ourselves and the work that we are doing. But it is hard to come up with something valuable every other day. Even the CEO of a successful company will fail miserably to do this.

It is absolutely fine to post an ‘aesthetic’ picture with a cheesy quote on Instagram or Twitter. Hell, even I don’t mind looking at it. But to pretend you have learnt something great and it is the same old BS, that’s just irritating. There are so many posts where the content of the post and the picture don’t even have any correlation! There is still some value in LinkedIn, so it will survive but I hope it pivots soon from the ‘Tarak Mehta’ way to the ‘TVF’ way.

P.S.: While re-reading the whole post before publishing, I realised I have rambled a bit here. But it is what it is.

It is the people, not the politicians

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are absolutely my own. It doesn’t reflect the opinions of anyone (a person or an organization) with whom I’m associated.

Just look at a few political scenarios from a few Indian states.

Scenario 1, Maharashtra: A politician from Maharashtra breaks down an alliance with the current government. Flew to Assam with the rebel (LOL) MLAs. Dethroned a government. Assam was experiencing high floods at that time. But they didn’t care about that at all. The former government, which was formed back in 2019, was also a product of many controversies.

Scenario 2, Karnataka: One of the very few states (might be the only one, need to recheck that) where an ex-CM was sent to jail for corruption. The story of forming and dismantling a government often follows the same path as Maharashtra.

Scenario 3, West Bengal: Two of the top ministers from the current ruling party are in jail for huge scams. A few have been jailed earlier. A few probably will be in jail in (and for) some time. It has become a regular incident where politicians are interrogated by ED and CBI here in West Bengal.

In short, politicians are opportunists and corrupted. But why do the first two states are two of the best performing states when it comes to job opportunities and West Bengal isn’t one? Because of the people.

Any societal change that happens in a place comes from the people. It is a bottom-up approach, not a top-down approach. Mukulika Banerjee in an episode of ‘The seen and the unseen’ has summed it up nicely. This is what she said (paraphrased):

Even when the left would win in Bengal, you would see nearly 40% of votes were there for the Congress and later the TMC. This is like supporting your favourite team. You don’t stop supporting them because they are going through a bad phase, you stand with them in solidarity.

This might even be more true for many other states. But the statement, alone, captures what is wrong with the state. Last time the condition was so bad that the main opposition party, which was vociferously against the ruling party for corruption and misdeeds, ended up taking many MLAs from that ruling party itself. The funny part is, even a year ago, these MLAs were being accused by this opposition party. Helpless situation.

In another case: Two politicians from the ruling party, who were jailed and were in CBI interrogation, have become Facebook and social media clowns for the last 3-4 years! They are literally being celebrated and made fun of by almost everyone. And their misdeeds aren’t even being talked about. Just imagine.

The change can only happen in this state if the people decide to change. You can support your party but at the same time, you should be seeking a good job and a better future for yourself and your children. If that doesn’t fuel the change, I don’t know what will.

One quote by the late Soumen Mitra captures this situation perfectly:

When Congress came to power, people used to say that the Britishers were better. Then when CPIM came, people used to say that Congress were better and now they believe CPIM did better than this government.