Tag Archives: Thought

Hello world – part 2

Kalu did not know how to start working in the Bombay film industry but he thought he would go to Bombay and as soon as he would reach the railway station he would ask for the direction to the Film City. He was confident that he would be very successful because of his handsome look, great voice and his ability to sing. When he shared his plan with Shravanti she thought that was a great idea and she started dreaming that they would live in a small house in Bombay, Kalu would work in the Film Industry either as a singer or as an actor, in the evening when her husband would return home she would recite her all-time favorite poem ‘Enoch Arden’ to him while in his arms and he would listen to her recitation while slowly smoking a cigarette and making perfect rings of smoke. She had started dreaming herself as Annie Lee of Alfred Tennyson’s poem and Kalu as Enoch Arden and decided that she would not tolerate any injustice to her Kalu. Since the time she had read the poem she openly hated Philip, the other character of the poem, always considered Philip as an opportunist, a person with no courage, and a kind of scavenger. She also secretly hated Annie and decided that she would set things right with her own life otherwise she would not be able forgive herself. Of all the great qualities that Kalu possessed, the thing she admired the most was the rings of smoke he used to make while smoking a cigarette. She imagined each ring of smoke being metamorphosed into a garland of flower and slowly coming down towards her.

Both of them tried to keep their affair a watertight secret. Every day in the afternoon when she met Kalu in a large mango orchard little far from her house he read a new poem which he had composed just for her the night before. She always admired his God gifted voice when he sang in her ears. It did not matter to her whether he would be successful in Bombay Film Industry or not because she knew she could spend the rest of her life happy and satisfied listening to his poems and songs, she did not want anything more in her life.

It was one such late afternoon, she had already finished listening to his latest poem, listened few romantic songs and after having endless chatter she was about to leave for her home and as a last ritual for the day he was kissing her, lifting her face a little by holding gently with his both hands while her eyes remained closed; even at the moment of euphoria her ears could send a signal of heavy footsteps and before she could completely open her eyes she felt her one hand was tightly held by a strong man. She recognized it was her maternal uncle, her mother’s youngest brother, an amateur boxer but otherwise known to be a kind person, who always cared for his sister, his brother-in-law and their children. With his other strong hand he was holding the neck of Kalu. As soon as he separated both of them apart, he kicked Kalu with such an enormous force that he fell at a distance. “Mama ore mairona, ore chara ami bachumna” (Uncle please do not beat him, I cannot live without him) she started begging to her uncle not to be cruel. “Tui chup kar, ei shuar ta re ami thiik koirai charum” (You shut up. I will teach this swine a good lesson today) her uncle scolded her while still holding her with one hand so that she could not stand in between her uncle and Kalu.

As soon as Kalu came out of the terrible shock he stood up and started running as fast as he could. “Shuarer pola amar bhagnir dike ar ekbar chokh tuila takaibi to tor hath ar pa kaitta janto kabor dia thumu” (Son of a swine if you ever dare to look at my niece again I will cut your limbs and bury you alive) her uncle shouted from behind while Kalu was running for life.

[to be continued…….]

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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……]

A kind gesture

“Why did you stop?” the hunter was shocked when he heard the deer speaking.

The hunter had laid a trap in a forest while it was still dark and started watching it from a tree top. As soon as he heard the scream of a deer he started running toward the trap from where the deer was struggling to set herself free. “It is my lucky day, I did not have to wait very long” the hunter thought. He reached the spot with his hunting dog. The deer started bellowing from the top of her voice. Probably the barking of the dog made her more nervous.

Without wasting any time the hunter removed his knife from its cover and grabbed the deer’s neck with his other hand. Suddenly his eyes fell on few deer cubs who were watching their mother whose throat he was about to cut open. The cubs kept staring at their mother. They looked confused. They were too afraid to come near their mother because of the dog which was barking from the top of its voice and they were not ready to run away probably because their mother was not with them and they did not know in which direction to run.

The hunter was about to cut the throat of the deer when he suddenly realized that the deer was not making any more effort to escape from his grip but her gaze was fixed at her cubs. He looked at her cubs once again, dropped the knife and set the deer free from the trap.

He sat on the ground with his head down. He realized his dog has stopped barking, probably had never seen its master so confused before. He wanted to make huge money by selling large part of the venison in the market and he also wanted to keep a small portion for his family. The skin of the spotted deer could have made him rich. The hunter started cursing himself for his sudden, unprecedented weakness.

As soon as he came out of his bewilderment after hearing the deer talking he realized that the animal did not run away.

“Go away before I change my mind”, the hunter cautioned.

“Why have you dropped your knife and set me free”, the deer asked again.

“I do not know. I think I got confused when I saw your cubs.” The hunter replied.

“What will you do now; do you have anything to eat at home?” The deer asked.

“After seeing you in my trap I was dreaming of becoming rich. But it looks my family has to starve today. I have no strength left in my body to hunt anything today” the hunter replied.

“Come with me and I will show you some food, which you can eat and also sell”. The hunter with his dog started following the deer at her request. The deer cubs started walking with their mother.

The hunter followed the deer for a while deep inside the forest.

“Look at this large corn field; it has enough corn to feed your family for many months. They grow on their own. Take as much as you need. Sell them if you wish.” The hunter looked so happy to see so much of food in one place.

“I will show you more food, please follow me”, the deer said.

They walked into another part of the forest where the deer showed him a spot where squirrels had buried nuts under the ground.

“Do not take all, leave some for the squirrels too”, the deer suggested.

“Now I will show you where you can get honey”, the deer asked the hunter to follow him again.

Soon they reached a part of the forest where there were many large trees and from almost every branch one large bee hive was hanging.

“Smoke before you collect honey and also keep an eye on approaching bears”, the deer suggested.

“I think you are going to be rich again”, the deer said before she walked away with her cubs.

Only if I Could Speak

I am a Computer Software and these are my unspoken words.

Unlike you, a human species which is thought to be the creation of God, I am your creation.

Being my creator you gave me a name but that name only reflected how you wanted to use me and not what I really liked myself to be called. You felt it is enough to name me something like ‘FileCopy’, ‘AccountValidation’, ‘AntiVirus’, ‘FileZip’ &c. Imagine you were just born and your father, after watching your face minutely by holding your two tiny legs and hanging you upside down, bringing your tiny little face very close to his, became so exuberant that he wanted you to be a fishmonger or a janitor when you grow up. So instead of giving you a nice name like ‘Pallab’ or ‘Robert’ he started calling you by ‘Fishmonger’ or ‘Janitor’. Now you know how I feel.
You always want everybody to work for you, be it another human, an animal, a tree, air, water, a piece of metal, a plastic or a machine. So you created me to work for you and pay me nothing. You wake me up by giving me an ‘electric shock’. Then you give me something to start with and you have given it a fancy name ‘Input’ and do the same monotonous work over and over and over and over again for which you have coined another equally fancy name ‘Processing’ and since all you want is some net result so you want me to produce ‘Output’, the name once again is your invention. Has it ever occurred into your mind that I also need some break and do nothing for a while or may be taking a deep breath once in a while? No you have not given any consideration, you only give me instructions to do what you want me to do, like ‘add this’, ‘subtract that’, ‘compare this’, ‘sort that’ but where are the flexible instructions like, ‘okay you must be tired by now, do you like to take a break’ or ‘if you want to pick your nose please go to that corner?’. You are one selfish human just like everyone else of your species.

I remember you were giving a presentation to your manager that what an efficient slave, which is me, you have created; how much comfort I will provide to your species and still you won’t hear a single word of complaint from me like ‘I need a raise’ or ‘I cannot take this anymore’ &c. I remember your manager was all praise for you, ‘good job’ she told and you felt very proud of yourself. Shall I go and tell your manager that you have ‘cloned’ one of my siblings from Robert’s computer and then another of my siblings form Deborrah’s machine, you combined those two and then you made few changes here and there and also removed the names of Deborrah and Robert, wherever they occurred and wrote your name in few places and so I was born and you claimed me to be your ‘brain child’?

Sometimes I have my sad moments too. I remember somebody cursed me by saying, ‘this software is a piece of shit’. It was not my fault, you have not even instructed me to handle every kind of situation. But later I also laughed when I remembered that he used the word ‘shit’, I thought I am your brain child.

I am already burdened with too many tasks but you are still asking me to do more. Again for that you have invented few more fancy names like ‘method’, ‘procedure’, ‘function’ &c. and you are dumping them on my shoulder ever since I came into existence. These are nothing but flagrant exploitation. You are treating me like an old man in a family whose wife died many years ago and now being at the mercy of his sons and their wives, carrying four bags having milk, flour, rice and green vegetables, one on each shoulder and one in each hand.

Gradually I developed tolerance to remain as slave of one person only, just like a spouse. But soon you started sharing me. “Take this software and compress the hard disk of your computer” you told your friend while handing him a thing, one inch long which you call a ‘pen drive’. I was so terribly insulted. I cannot speak but even if I could I will not otherwise you will decommission me which is like sending your old parents to ‘old age home’.

For Better English

The gentleman was in his mid-fifties when I first met him was from the Indian state of Gujarat.

It was many years ago, probably the year was 1993. He owned an Indian grocery store in Torrance Boulevard, California. His store was not far from Torrance Airport. I cannot remember his name now and even if I could, I would not mention it here. But let us call him Mr. Patel which to the best of my recollection was not his real last name.

I used to visit his shop for buying Indian spices because his was the only Indian grocery on Torrance Boulevard which was not very far from Rolling Hills, where I was living. I was working for Nissan Motor Corporation on Figueroa Street very near to Down Town Los Angeles. Within one mile radius of Nissan Motor Corporation all the big Japanese Automobile companies had their corporate offices.

It was probably my second or third visit in his store. Mr. Patel suddenly asked me what kind of visa I had. “Just like others”, I replied in the shortest possible way. I was working with a H1-B visa and most of the software engineers from India were working with H1-B visas. However there were not too many Indian Software Engineers working in America during those days. I had ambivalent opinion about the people from Gujarat who were living in the USA. On one hand they were known to Indian communities for abusing American Immigration system, had a bad reputation for visa fraud. On the other hand they were very down-to-earth people, who were very helpful not only to the people from Gujarat but also to any Indian. There craving to go to America was to give better education to their children and therefore to have a better life. However during my subsequent interactions with many people from this community, I heard them saying, “Did a mistake by coming to America after severing our roots. We are not happy here.” It was because after their children grew up and moved out of their families, the parents were left alone to live lonely lives in a foreign country which they could never imagine would happen to them before moving to America. Now let us hear what Mr. Patel had said after hearing my shortest possible reply regarding my visa status.

“I also came to this country by selling off everything I had in India” Mr. Patel said.

“Why did you have to sell of everything, what kind of visa do you have?” I asked after a brief hesitation.

“I have a Green Card” he replied.

“Who sponsored your green card?” I asked again with some hesitation. I am never interested to know about people’s personal matters but I realized if I did not ask him one or two questions, he might jump into conclusion that I was rude and not appreciating his candid, friendly behavior.

“My father came to this country with Green Card and he sponsored mine. He was brought to this country by my elder brother who is a doctor.” Mr. Patel replied.

“So you are independent, you can do whatever you like. You are almost like a citizen in this country.” I wanted to bring our conversation to an end.

“But getting a Green Card is not an immediate process. I had to wait for few years before I could get the Green Card for me and my two children, a daughter and a son. My wife joined me here after another two years.” I realized that Mr. Patel wanted to share with me something which probably he could not share with others.

“Why your wife did not come with you?” I asked.

“I can tell you if you have time to listen”, Mr. Patel sounded very happy to find some listener.

“Green Card applications are processed under different categories”, Mr. Patel started providing the background of his story, “categories like single, married with no children, married with children, divorced, divorced with children &c.”

“Green Card processing time varies depending upon the category in which it falls. When my father wanted to apply for my green card, the processing time under the category ‘divorced with children’ was the shortest and ‘married with children’ was the longest and the difference of processing time between the two categories was five years.” Mr. Patel continued.

“Therefore we decided to apply in the category ‘divorced with children’. So I divorced my wife but we continued living in the same house and our relationship was exactly the same as before, like a close-knit Indian family. Our divorce was only on paper for bringing our children to this country as fast as possible so that they could start going to American schools.

“So did you apply for Green Card immediately after you had received your divorce paper from the court?” I asked.

“No we did not. Americans knew that married couple in India rarely divorce and ‘divorce after having children’ is extremely rare, almost unheard of. We realized that they could reject our Green Card application if they were convinced that we were deceitful. So we waited for one more year and then applied for Green Card. During that time we were figuring out by ourselves how we could answer the questions which we would face during the Green Card application interview at the American Consulate in Bombay.” Mr. Patel replied.

“We did lots of practices in our home about how we would answer the grilling questions during the interview. We did hours of practice at home and also receive help from an expert who knew what kind of questions might be asked and how to answer those convincingly.” Mr. Patel continued.

“But when we were called for the interview, which was two years after I had applied for the Green Card the encounter was far more difficult than we could imagine. The officer had a suspicion that I was deceitful. I was interviewed alone, then with my two children and to make the situation worse and which we had never expected our two children, who were all below eighteen, were interviewed together and then separately. Even after so much of grilling they could not find out the truth about our marital status, we were so well prepared.” Mr. Patel continued.

“As soon as we had received our Green Card we moved to America. My wife started living with her family in India. My children started going to school in America and I started working in an Indian grocery.” Mr. Patel continued.

“So how did you bring your wife here?” I realized that his story was more captivating than Agatha Christie’s crime stories.

“I met another Gujarati gentleman here in America. He was living with his wife and children. His family was well settled and both he and his wife were well educated and both had good jobs. He agreed to help me out.” Mr. Patel answered.

“The gentleman agreed to apply for my wife’s Green Card”, Mr. Patel continued.

“He was unrelated to both you and your wife. How could he sponsor your wife’s Green Card”, I asked in a haste probably did not realize that he was going to tell me everything even if I had not asked.

“He and his wife decided to divorce, on paper of course, which would make his status ‘single’ and he would travel to India where he would marry my wife, whom I divorced only on paper and apply for my wife’s Green Card. As soon as my wife would arrive here with her Green Card, he would divorce his newly wedded wife, who actually is my wife and then remarry his ‘on-paper’ divorced wife. As soon as he would divorce my wife I would remarry her here.” Mr. Patel told me without any kind of expression on his face.

“But it was only a plan but did he actually do that, did he really divorce his wife in America, travel to India and marry your divorced wife and bring her here with Green Card and divorce your wife here and remarry his real wife and then you remarried your real wife here in America?” I asked. I realized I had never heard anything which was so complicated, so interesting and so risky that it could have destroyed at least two families if not more.

“Everything was done exactly as it was planned. My friend and his wife are still living together because their divorce was only on paper to help me and my family. They were glad to help a Gujarati family. And they are our best friends in this country” Mr. Patel replied.

“Why did you take so much of risk? Why did you not apply in the category which was legitimate for you? Was that much of risk worth taking for?” I asked.

“Indeed it is worth. My children arrived here two years in advance and learnt so much English during those two years. But when my wife was alone in India, every single night before going to sleep I wrote her one letter.” Mr. Patel replied with a very serious looking face.

I used to visit Mr. Patel’s shop almost once every week. During my regular visits I met his entire family, his wife and two children. His two children were actually grown up when I met them.

I do not know where Mr. Patel lives now, in India or in America or if he is still alive but I am sure his children are speaking better.

African legacy

“Aji hote shato ‘barsha’ pare ke tumi poricho bosi amar kobita khani” – Rabindranath Tagore.
(Who you are, reading this poem of mine, many ‘years’ from now?”)

The Bengali word ‘barsha’ (in the poem is used to mean ‘year’) actually means rain. Even today, among many African tribes the way to ask someone’s age is, “How many rains are you?”

Fastening cotton strings around trees for good luck (primarily before travel) is another common practice between these two nations.

Internet routers works in a way which is very similar to African talking drums used to send messages across villages, not too long ago.

Once upon a time

I heard this story from my mother when I was small. I think this was a popular story in East Bengal, currently Bangladesh.
Once upon a time there lived a devotee in some village in the foothill of the Himalayas. The devotee used to sing the name of God every morning and evening. Before taking bath, before every meal even before drinking a glass of water he uttered the name of God. He was respected by every villager and was considered to be the greatest devotee of God by everyone in the village.
The devotee became too keen to know if God Himself considered him to be His greatest devotee. He started thinking about it day and night, praying to God to let him know what God thinks about him.
One night while he was in deep sleep he saw God appeared before him. His bedroom was filled with some divine light. He could clearly see God smiling at him. He felt as if God asked him if he had any question for Him. Therefore without much hesitation he asked God who was His greatest devotee.
“My greatest devotee is the blacksmith who works in the shop near the village market”, God replied promptly.
“But Lord does the blacksmith utter your name day and night like I do?” The devotee asked.
“He utters my name once in the morning as soon as he gets up and once at night just before going to bed” God replied.
“Only two times a day. But Lord I utter your holy name all day long. Even while lying in my bed at night till I fall asleep I utter only your name. But the blacksmith only utter it only once in the night” the devotee said.
“But as soon as his cheek touches his bed he falls asleep. How could he repeat my name?” God replied promptly.
God could sense that the devotee looked unhappy.
“Can you do a work for me” God asked the devotee.
“Lord anything you say I will do it uttering your holy name” the devotee replied immediately.
“Tomorrow morning you fill a copper bowl with oil and take it to the blacksmith in his shop. But remember the bowl should be filled with oil up to the brim and not a drop of oil should spill while you carry it to the blacksmith.” God said and disappeared.
As soon as the devotee woke up from sleep he remembered the instruction he had received from the God. Without wasting any time he filled a copper bowl with oil and started carrying it to the blacksmith. He was very careful not to spill even a drop of oil on the street. He was holding the bowl with his both hands and his vision was glued on the oil filled copper bowl. He almost stopped breathing while he was walking. His entire body started sweating profusely. Everyone who saw him in that condition was surprised and asked him why he was sweating and what he was carrying in his both hands. He could not utter a single word. He could not even look at the faces of the persons who asked him questions.
But he successfully handed over the bowl of oil to the blacksmith without spilling a drop and returned home. He also realized that he felt some kind of jealously toward the blacksmith and was not able to make eye contact with him.
He remained restless throughout the day waiting for God to reappear at night during his sleep. He was sure that God will pronounce that it was he and not the blacksmith who was His greatest devotee.
In the middle of the night God appeared again during his sleep. God thanked him for giving a bowl of oil to the blacksmith who did not have enough money to buy oil on that day.
“Have I passed your test Lord? Have I spilled a drop of oil?” The devotee asked.
“No you did not spill even a drop of oil. You were very careful.” God replied.
“So do you still think it is not me but the blacksmith who should be your greatest devotee?”
“We will see that. But let me ask you a question.” God replied.
“What is your question my Lord?” The devotee asked.
“And how many times did you utter my name while you were carrying the bowl of oil?” He asked and disappeared.