Hello World!

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The above two words became very popular among computer programmers when the programming language ‘C’ (pronounced as ‘see’) became popular in the mid-eighties.

I first came to know about ‘C’ from my friend Amitavo Datto who even presented to me his personal copy of the book written by Kernighan and Ritchie.

As an example to demonstrate the syntax of the programming language the authors explained one simple program in which the two words ‘hello world’ was written on the computer screen. Since then many other computer programming languages used the same two words to demonstrate how their programming language syntax works.

But the first word of the title of this story was a real nightmare during the final year of my high school days when my friend Tapan and I started realizing that immediately after high school we would have to go to college where the medium of instruction would be English and there would be occasions where at least few greeting words like ‘hello’, ‘how are you’, ‘good morning’ &c should come out of our mouths.

We two decided to start with the simple word ‘hello’. We started saying ‘hello’ to each other every time we met and we felt no difficulty at all but when each one of us tried to say ‘hello’ to a stranger each one of us felt that the tongue has become too heavy. It is worth mentioning here that saying even a single English word with a Bengali was considered as ‘showing off’ during those days. However between the two of us it was my friend Tapan who could say ‘hello’ to a stranger much before I could.
It was a windy winter evening in the month of January. Tapan was coming back from a local grocery store. His upper body including his head and the most part of his face was covered with a woolen shawl. He suddenly found another person, also covered in a cloth like him was coming from the opposite direction. He immediately made up his mind to say ‘hello’ to the approaching stranger which he thought would help him to come out of his English speaking phobia.

As soon as the stranger had just crossed him Tapan muttered ‘hello’ and started walking faster to avoid any further conversation. He realized that he had started sweating.

The stranger stopped, turned his head towards my friend and said,”shravanti, kobe ele ekhane?” (Shravanti, when did you come here?).

My friend realized that the receiver of the greeting was an insane person which everybody called by ‘pagla kalu’ (the insane Kalu). Pagla Kalu who could be either in his late 40s or early 50s lived all alone in a large, ramshackle house. He roamed around everywhere in the village with tattered and dirty clothes, with unkempt hair and untrimmed beard, and his skin was dark and dirty. People used to provide him food regularly out of kindness and when he looked very dirty and started stinking they gave him a bath in a lake. Tapan had heard from others that during his late teens or early twenties Kalu was a very handsome person. His official name was Gagandeep Chatterjee. His father became very rich from his wooden log business and built a very large house. He was a student of Bengali literature but failed to become a graduate even after trying several times and for his repeated failure he had never failed to blame the university for not able to recognize his talent. Kalu could also speak Hindi, a very rare quality among the villagers and he also had a very good voice and could sing well. After repeated failure in his university examination Kalu decided to go to Bombay and work in the Bombay film industry. It was during this time he also fell in love with a very beautiful girl named Shravanti. Shravanti was a postgraduate student of English literature and had done well in all her exams.

[to be continued……]

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