Monday, May 28, 2012

Growing up with Enid Blyton's Novels

I love Enid Blyton’s novels. I always have. Right from the time I was six or seven and went through a copy of her Secret Seven series, I have been in love with this woman’s novels. I have read hundreds of them and even at twenty-one, once in a while, I do go through them to feel good.

I absolutely adore her novels, because they inspire me, and inspire not in a Steve Jobs kind of way. They inspire me with the free-spirited, easy-going, honest world that the characters are set in. The quintessential beginnings where the main protagonists come back home for their summer holidays, the lovely farm houses and delicious food descriptions, the nicely set adventures, the team meetings and deductions – they all seem so innocent and full of life.  

My favourite character used to be Frederick Trotteville ‘Fatty’ from The Five-Find-Outers series: intelligent, cheerful and a little on the plump side. The way the five got the better of Mr. Goon, the local policeman, was delightful to say the least. No wonder I would have two great friends later on in my life, fitting the exact same mould. One is a doctor now and the other is as good an electronics engineer as I am. The doctor sat with me through entire high school discussing Physics, Biology, Maths and Philosophy. With the one in college I spent 3 years of lab time deconstructing (to the extent of ridiculing) all the Physics, Maths and Engineering I had learnt.

Coming back to Blyton’s novels, critics say, and I must admit that they are not completely wrong, that after some point of time the plots of her over seven hundred novels seem to head towards similar predictable ends and due to the restricted use of language in her novels, after a certain age the novels become too childish to read. But for children novels you need the same predictable end. Good needs to triumph over evil and you just cannot add a twist to your plot to spice it up. I becomes predictable because she has written so many of them and frankly speaking, I am thankful to her for that. As I have grown up, I have continued to read the novels again and again, because it brings back memories of the time when I used to read them. It’s almost funny how your mind reacts on listening to old music and reading old books. More than the song or the book, you remember the time and the people.

I had just relocated to Siliguri when I began to read Blyton. It was around Y2K. We lived in a beautiful colony with a lot of children of my age group. We played in the evenings, had buchha parties, and went to kitti parties for a good spread when our mothers had finished playing housie, celebrated Holi, Diwali, Christmas and Durga Puja as one large extended family. I remember going to school in our colony bus. Our school was situated in a piece of land carved right in the middle of a gigantic tea garden at the foothills of the Himalayas. At eleven o clock every morning, the toy train from Hill Cart road hooted and puffed as it made its way to Darjeeling.  During Autum and Spring, when the skies were clear we could spot the Kanchenjunga peeking at us from top of the clouds.

As interesting school was, even more interesting were the bus rides. Twenty odd kids using the back of the seats as drums and singing on top of their voices. We played Antakshari, DumbC and sometimes just chit-chatted. The girls discussed about why Hrithik Roshan should marry Amisha Patel (post ‘Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai’s huge success) and we boys about cricket. There was also a beautiful temple on the way to our school. Marble plated, it was magnificent in its grandeur. We stopped the bus and prayed inside the temple on the days of exams and when the results were due. Looking back now, well, it kind of looks a little selfish on our part to visit GOD only when we needed him. But that was, I guess, selfishness in its most innocent form.   

The summer holidays were always vibrant. We woke up early in the morning and went jogging followed by a round of cricket. This was followed with early morning Disney World where we religiously watched Uncle Scrooje dipping in to his giant pool of gold coins. Later in the afternoon we gathered around someone or the other’s house to play computer games. Road Rash has been a timeless favourite among all. What I really loved though was a tank-based strategic game Recoil that I played with one of my closest friends on his Compaq P3. A couple of years later when I came to Durgapur the first thing I did was to buy the same computer model and same game and play it hundred times over.

Nowadays when I see seven, eight year olds going to three different tuitions and coming back home to watch anime and poke at computer screens, I really wonder whether they are missing something essential. The kind of child hood our generation had. Then I look at myself always hooked on in front of the computer screen, fixated on American Soaps and Social Networks and realise I am the one who is definitely missing something beautiful. Aah, it’s Nolan’s Doodlebug all over again!!

There was a time in school when I wrote an essay on the topic the best things in life are free. I wrote about the joy in scenic beauties, playing hide and seek with your best friends, sleeping on your mother’s lap, quarrelling with your sister, learning football from your father. At that point in time I genuinely believed in those principles. However, in the past few years of JEE, IIT, internet and rising petrol prices I just seemed to forget it. And that’s where Enid Blyton and her novels come in to picture. Her novels remind me that the best things in life were free in 1950 England; they were free when I was growing up and they still are in 2012 India.

The Toy Train on its way to Darjeeling. This also somewhat resembles the setting I imagined for Blyton's novels.

Enid Blyton was a real life bitch. This is what her daughter had to say about her (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
"The truth is Enid Blyton was arrogant, insecure, pretentious, very skilled at putting difficult or unpleasant things out of her mind, and without a trace of maternal instinct. As a child, I viewed her as a rather strict authority. As an adult I pitied her." 

For those who have not watched Nolan’s Doodlebug, do see it. To me it serves as a prelude to ‘Inception’ or a way of looking at things recursively in a kafkaesque setting.

I wish I were connected to my friends from Siliguri. For once, having Facebook back then would have been helpful.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer of 2010

I have been thinking for the past few days about the best way to sum up the different, although individually stimulating, experiences of the past two-and-a-half months. I am a lazy person by nature and was quite satisfied with a wry attempt at bringing a few of the hallmark pictures that sum up the summer in to one large canvass, which presents itself as the picture above. But today is the last day of the holidays, and the irresistible mind wants something more, a last Kudos to all my friends and experiences that brought these days alive ....... and so I am entering my second piece of article in my blog, which until now had been troubled only once in the span of an entire year.

This summer has seen me juggling between two lives –a second year IIT grad at IIMC trying to make the most out of a lack-lustre customary second year intern and a 19 year old boy staying at home and running a tutorial class with his friends. We would certainly get in to the details of both the lives, but have patience dudes, a little later! For now I am going to speak about 2 things that were equally appreciated by the 2 lives he lived – Novels and F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

This summer gave me an opportunity to get back with one of my best school-friends...... Books albeit Story books or novels. Here, I want to take a moment to thank Piyush and Soham, there introductions later, for providing me with the all the stuff that I read. I went through a few masaala hundred rupee ‘college-life-love-disillusion’ novels, a few on entrepreneurship and enterprising speeches (‘Freakonomics’ being the notable one),a few not so notable ‘other ones’, and ‘The Hungry Tide’. Undoubtedly it was this Amitava Ghosh’s representation of life in ’the tidal country’ that left an indelible mark on me. The beauty of this picturesque novel lies not only in the scenic settings of Sunderbans and in the slow and steady growth of its primary characters, it is the slice of everyday life that it paints, the love and interaction between two human beings of different social strata who even do not share a common language (no disaster like ‘Kites’ here .. ) and the delicate presentation of Piya’s relationship with Kanai and Fokir......... this to me is the true niche that this wonderful piece of literature carves in our hearts. The author’s comparison of Kanai’s love for Piya as only the evident ripples on the river and the deep untold compassionate and primitive feelings between Piya and Fokir, as the mysterious undercurrent of water that though not evident to the naked eye still exists with all its glory, seals an outright victory with the reader. (Although the concept is somewhat reminiscent of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ – “My love for Heathcliff is like the rocks underneath the Earth and my love for Edgar is like the foliage above”) .....I have started loving character novels next in line is ‘The Kite Runner’ .....
Next on to ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S.’- the mother of all T.V. Series, a sitcom gem, about which I do not need to say anything more. It’s the best, this fact’s universally accepted, and now that it has ended I really miss it all the more.......

Now back to the two lives we originally began with and let me describe first things first – the IIMC life. After studying for two years at IIT Kharagpur, there were only two things that caught my imagination at India’s oldest IIM-that hostel’s here are co-ed and the fact that it is an institute that gives its grads an average starting salary of rupees 15 lakhs per annum(Yup! I know that it’s huge ....).But other than that Kgp wins easily. In terms of infrastructure(sports and gymnasium facilities) , daily life, all-round development, eateries(strangely they are too less at IIMC and too many at Kgp),medical facilities(they can’t even beat our tainted B.C.Roy Hospital) ,lan(ours is at least 10 times bigger) ,friends(you do not make friends at a place where they say you mug for an average of 16hours a day), bunking classes and lots more, Kgp leaves IIM far behind...... frankly(as admitted by many IIT-IIM seniors) you do not have the spring in your steps and the joy in your heart anywhere else in this world, that you had in Kgp .... Kgp really does ROCK man!

And now to my intern, the reason I was at IIMC in the first place itself. What made my two months at IIM stand-out was not the work that I did but 9 students of different years, different streams and different institutions who were united by the common burden of sharing the same hapless intern. And what these unassuming, light-hearted people did was to throw away any measures of learning that there ever was, castigate the intern out of sight and immerse themselves in ‘full-to’ masti and fun...... Yes! I am talking about Ankit (the Halu from Bit, the owner of Goldman Sach’s throne and Shalini’s $#$% ), Palash (the Nautanki from IITG and an IIMA topper in years to come), KV (Rohit ulff Kendriya Vidyalaya Launda with all his hand-waving mavericks),UT (for an entertaining brief period, a great man at heart),Piyush(Yes! finally I am introducing you to this budding entrepreneur..... and his love for odd numbers with 1 laptop,3 mobiles (all lost , sobs), 5 girl-friends,7 e-mail id’s and his famous or infamous ‘Scotty Doesn’t know’ and a special quality-a great friend ),Sankhu (the competitor to Halu hall-of-fame, and the real mamma’s good boy,frankly, I really appreciate your way of life man J ),Biswas (a little introvert and friendly at times with a definite time lag after which he decides to speak to the world...., but how much more fun can you expect out of on an IIT IR-1) and the 2 ‘chudails’ Nidhi( the laughing wonder) and Jyothsna(the alleged owner of 3 illegitimate casinos in Nepal) from NIT-Dgp.
Special moments : The 2 unforgettable trips, Sunrise at Henry’s Island, Drunk Ankit and KV’s wishes, Night long bluff sessions (mostly enjoyed by the bluff-addict, your humble narrator of the long insipid events),the ‘Ringa-Ringa’ night, Piyush scared in Ghost House, the night we discussed about our future plans with Ankit proclaiming he wants to be a M.B.B.S. (meiya bibi bachhe samet), Ankit-Bhanu love rumours, KV’s crush on Bidisha, coffee at Nescafe, fight with PGPX Mess ...... and you know I could continue this forever. Writing all this stuff reminds me all the more about you wonderful guys..... Miss you guys and do stay in touch. As I move on to other stuff, I might change the flow of my discussions, but my heart still longs to have one more night of bluff together.

With this I am almost done with the IIMC fun-loving, wayward, garrulous guy and settle for the much more serious, education loving proud owner of SAS tutorials. SAS is the abbreviation of 3 humble souls Sudipto, Abhik and Soham. It just happened that we were 3 friends who stumbled upon the same idea one opportune evening at Big Bazaar (no serious attempts were made but it’s a pleasure to say we bear an uncanny resemblance to 3 idiots). Let’s not discuss who’s who in this story but my dear readers must have guessed by now that the author, the ingenious soul that he is, must be Rancho of the story: P

However I am also going to give you an insight in to my fellow friends who made SAS and 8 straight weekends a success. To describe Abhik I have 2 things ‘ a 1.05 lacs costing , not a Nano but a bike, yes my good old friends has bucks! And the only thing to match the notes that earnestly reside in his purse is the list of girls who wait haplessly for Abhik’s call. If you are a girl in Durgapur-Dhanbad-Kolkata belt and do not happen to be in the long list of contacts that Abhik has, then you are in danger. Because that will result in you not getting in touch with eligible bachelors like me and Soham ... ya throw rotten tomatoes if you like, but it’s a digital world, you are only going to smear your computer screens with it. As of Soham, (yes! The Soham who lends me his books) is one of my 2 best friends back home, along with Doc. Haque. Soham has a panache and passion for music, tries to woo girls, has recently started writing real good notes in FB (you would do much better reading his short stories than reading my painfully long discussion about my summer of 2010, unless you are 1 of the few people for whom its intended), and a wild dream of singing Baul gaan when stakes go wrong with him.A great friend and buddy,at present he is in love with a Billi, and I hear the affair is going to last 2 more years ... ya, I know he has finally taken resort to ‘CAT’s to bring joy in his life. My sympathies with him :P

With this I bring an end to the ever-long description of two-and-a-half months of fun and I know it has taken you a further time to read this than the real time action of the events. As I end my article, I am sure, my blog won’t be disturbed in a long time to come , when it does ..... We would all have moved in our lives, the summer of 2010 left long behind us and me, your narrator, enjoying his life at the coolest of places ,’Kgp’, with wingies about whom I care more than the world –Ankit, Shobhit, Panku, Siddi and Ameet . Kgp’s calling and I must really go and answer its clarion call........

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dreaming Big!! Footprints To Success

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain

That's why I feel life is a vivacious dream-lets dream big and explore.

India is a country where it is very easy not to dream. It’s a country where childhood dreams and fancies are shattered in turbulent storms of poverty, hunger and cruel politics. It’s a country where the myriad dreams of becoming a Sachin Tendulkar or an Albert Einstein are long lost by the time you reach twenty.

It’s also a country of disillusionment; people wander about without realising what they really want in life. The office goer ventures through office hours without any semblance of job-satisfaction; the student qualifies one exam after the other, cramming up things, without knowing when this utter mind-boggling pressure of studies is going to bear fruitful results; the sportsperson (other than the cricketer) continues to toil without recognition.

Finally, we end up doing what others expect us to do. We walk on the oft-treaded path looking at the end of the journey (which at most times is money, luxury, status). Many falter on the course and some reach the end. Those who falter invariably remain sad, at not having fulfilled their long-cherished dreams. The question here is: those few, who finally reach the end, are they really happy?

You end up reaching the peak, but what then? What do you do know. You took a painstakingly boring journey, devoid of imagination, sacrificing your creativity for the oft treaded path - in short wasted a few precious years of your life to achieve this peak. But at the supposed peak what do you find- this is not the end of the journey. Rather it’s just the beginning of a new one, where the level of challenges and competition has intensified. In other words you are still running in the rat race to success- only the rats have changed, they are more trained than the previous ones!

So what does one do?
If you lose the race you are sad, if you reach towards the finishing line you are fatigued.

About the answer one cannot be sure about…….. But let’s rethink!
The answer lies in the race itself. It’s not about forfeiting the race but enjoying the race. It’s about treading the path you want to tread. As all pious text lead to the same Ultimate Truth, perfection in all spheres of life leads to the same level of success. It’s not about burying your dreams but give your level best to achieve them. At the end its about living life the way you personally want, choosing the field you want to work upon and in the process love the journey.

The fact is, even in the process if you lose, you don’t feel disheartened because you enjoyed what you did and gave your best. The point is to give your best, because mind you the worst feeling in life is I could have done that but I couldn’t because …….

I may be wrong, as I am too immature to comment on such a big question. But I believe that life is all about dreaming and that too dreaming big. To dream about success and attain it independently by choosing your own path to it, not following someone else’s, so that twenty years down the line you don’t have any complains. You only have a smile and a thought……..the race was nice, the roads were good, the U-turns better and the rats excellent!