Book Closed, End Credits roll…

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“Twenty Ten Twenty Fourteen”. That’s today. A red letter date in my personal life history. Actually, an end of an era for me. The era of my dreams, of a life where I was the centre of the universe and everything moved around me, with just one purpose: to please me.

It all began in Bengaluru – the possibility of living my dream life. I spend hundreds of hours immersed in that fantasy which only rich or madmen could aspire. I decided to have an extraordinary life – filled with fun, fame and fortune. My pragmatic self tried innumerable times and very unsuccessfully to suppress my imaginative self. And then one night; Blame it on 20s passion or too much of hallucination (read True Detective, weed, etc); I plunged into the sea, promised to never return to the big, black ship.

It was a difficult time for me. I roamed a bit, wrote a some, thought a lot…I went into depression, determined to fight the whole wide world with all its constituents, not forgiving even my relatives and friends. I found little bit of solace in films, fictional books and biographies of eccentrics. In between I dwindled with career options – Films to Rural Development to Public Policy.

Cut to today, i.e., 20th October, 2014. The city is Hyderabad. More than 6 months have elapsed since I decided to swim alone. In my father’s words, “at least being engaged is better than being unemployed” which I found strong and interesting. Hyderabad embraced me. No, NNT embraced me with open arms and regular brainwash. And I discovered a new, unfounded anger inside me, roaring to come out, which I allowed…

In some ways, I’m happy. Glad that I did not have to struggle in an uncertain, ruthless lifestyle. Sure, I’ld miss the fun, fame & fortune but I’ll have repose, respect, & realism. I would have to be content with the 3 Rs. Maybe in next life, when I’ll reborn in a Kapoor or Khan clan, I’ll possess the 3 Fs.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope

Till then, Tata! I’ve got some very important work to do to make the best of my present life, considering my socio-economic and intellectual standards.

Waste, Manage, Optimise

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We live in a very complex world. There are human lives numbering billions, millions of cultures, thousands of professions, hundreds of personal interests, but only a limited time. Each of us are here, in this amazing world, called Earth for a fixed, specified period wherein we strive our best to live a meaningful, fulfilling life.

1st May, 2014 – 1st Sep, 2014: No work, No commitment, No quest. Not even 50 days have passed since those months of joblessness, and I already miss that era of my life. You know why? Because with no engagement came the ultimate satisfaction – the time spent on knowing, learning and understanding myself. Sure, I was not contributing anything to the society but realising my true being, apprehending my wholeness was a lot more comforting.

Cut to now, I remain busy all the time. That’s because I’m always occupied doing something in my waking hours which I’m fond of. For instance, I read and write about history, politics, society, philosophy and films, which brings to my second obsession – watching movies & tv shows. I also enjoy tripping to new places, listening to music, reasoning with myself and dispensing my immature theories to friends and colleagues.

As a result, at the end of the day, I always feel like I spaced out on something. Like conversing with people I admire, or reading the next great book, or doing something productive. I now sleep just 6 hours a day and I am not content with my daily schedule. I think I can use more than just 24 hours of one day and I’m seriously in dire need of that.

This ‘Sick’ World

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You know what makes me angry,

i) Satyendra Dubey, B. Tech (IIT Kanpur), M. Tech (IT-BHU), IES officer (Civil Engg.), assassinated for exposing corruption in National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) project in November, 2003.

ii) Shanmughan Manjunath, MBA (IIM Lucknow), Marketing Manager (IOCL), murdered for sealing a corrupt petrol station in Lakhimpur Kheri, UP in November, 2005.

iii) Rinku Singh Rahi, B. Tech (NIT Jamshedpur), Civil Servant (UP), assaulted and removed to a mental institution for exposing welfare scheme fraud in Muzzaffarnagar in March, 2009.

iv) Narendra Kumar, IPS officer, run over by tractor carrying illegally mined stones after he tried to stop it by the members of mining mafia in Madhya Pradesh in March, 2012.

Why that makes me angry?

Well-educated and really smart people dying for a country where the only achievements of their daring feats are Awards and Trusts established in their names. Then, forget about them. Watch movies, play games, hangout in malls and criticize the govt. for everything. That’s the only things you’re capable to do in your life. I’m ashamed of my fellow countrymen. They disappoint me. Especially the “common” man.

Why are brilliant students from IITs, IIMs and AIIMS leaving India and working for some bloodsucking MNC abroad, thousand of miles away? It’s due to the fact that Indians doesn’t like rebels. The average ‘John Doe’ of India doesn’t care about RTI, Whistle Blower’s Protection, Lokpal or good governance. All they fucking care about is making money.

Gandhiji said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. I can’t be a common man of India, not caring about the injustices and unfairness in my surroundings. I’ve made it my duty to live a life dedicated to make the world a more egalitarian society. No one can drift me from my life’s ultimate goal, not even my parents. I’m ready to fight this sick world to cure it’s sickness.

Op-ed: Modi

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There’s no denying the fact that after Yesterday’s Central Park event, Narendra Modi is the new voice & face of the world citizens. The public are swayed by him, his charisma. And that too, just 4 months after becoming the most powerful person in a nation of 1.25 billion people.

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Let’s not go to the past – the history of Modi, of Prime Ministers of India, or of great leaders of the world. Let’s talk about the present. Today, the world is divided in politics, economically uneven and socially in-egalitarian. We have countless on-going wars, back-bitching and huge exploitation of the nature.

The world’s changing rapidly. History’s being created almost daily, at least in some corner of the globe. ‘Power’ has been the most-sought after idea in our time. One good thing about living in 21st century is that – Power is not measured alone in terms of workforce or wealth or knowledge (about science, social science and technology). Rather, it’s a potpourri of these. US of A has third largest workforce in the world, possess great amount of resources and is technological prowess.

 But the times they are a-changing

India is coming-of-age in this modern, 21st century society. And by coming-of-age, I mean becoming powerful day by day. When 1 in every 6 human on earth is an Indian; doubtlessly, Indians got a bigger say in world affairs. The best part is Modi doesn’t need to prove that Indians can do well in as diverse as fields like Science, Business, Arts, Politics, etc. That’s already out there for the world to see! What Modi aspire, if I read him correctly, is to make Indians proud of their nation, their culture. To establish the lost ‘glory’ of Indian civilisation.

He is a populist leader, at the end of the day. He thinks and do that that is best for the welfare of the society. But, is his judgement about the good and bad is the popular demand? Will he become the locus of state power in India? Can he? I want to be optimist, but the current ho-holla is anticipating a crisis, or so I think!

State is the backbone of the nation called India. State policies are seen to be the seal of fate in India. No revolution has taken place in a long time. Because the state has been successful to win the hearts of Indian citizens. It’s the only thing that’s unite Indian people. Without State the country will become directionless and every meaningful purpose pointless. This nation need more statesmen, lawyers, intellectuals to run the state smoothly.

My Life, My Struggle

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I arrived in the city of Hyderabad, for the first time in my life, on 3rd of September, 2014. It was a Wednesday night. The time was 11 o’clock. In about one hour, I was at Nishith’s place. I was suppose to stay a whole month at his place, do the 1 month internship at FDR, Hyderabad and appear for the interview at FTII, Pune in between. That was the whole plan I hatched for getting out of Brajrajnagar.

Ashok Barpanda’s home, Brajrajnagar (April 25-September 2):
Days were slow, or at least I felt that way. I used to think a lot, on stuffs, that should not bother a 23 year old, fresh graduate. I used to read a lot, mostly fiction. I used to be in a melancholic state all the time, wondering myself in different professions. I had minimal contact with reality; often not speaking any word for, as long as, 14 waking hours. Parents would counsel me, sometimes tease me for failing to work as a corporate servant. But, they would take care of me. Mother especially, trying her best to keep me fed all the time. hahaha…I miss that the most.

Nishith Tripathy’s home, Hyderabad (September 4-Presently):
Days are running, no, flying here. FDR is an interesting workplace. I enjoy doing research work. I enjoy the work environment. There are no soft jokes, no inspirational speeches, no corporate hungama. I am productive when I’m at work. Everyone is so driven, focused all the time. Dr. JP and Karthik sir are few of the most intellectual people I’ve ever come into contact with.

Nishith is a ‘cool’ guy in respect to every definition of the word. The kind of relationship I share with him is quite akin to what I share with Partha at Bengaluru. The major difference being Nishith, unlike Partha don’t aspire to study MBA. On career decisions, Nishith and my ambitions match to a great deal. I usually divulge my secret, philosophical thoughts on humanity and existential issues, which he refute jestingly.

Problems & Solutions:
Well, I feel good to be engaged somewhere I like. FDR will pay me Rs. 7000 on the first week of October. It’s a period of struggle in my life. I was awaiting this phase since a long time. Financially speaking, I am not independent, but I see it as a brief stage of transition.
I’m still the good, old, funny guy with principles. I’ve matured since my last job. I keep my professional-life integrity maintained. On the personal side, I make people laugh, do silly things and ponder a lot, on stuffs, that any 23 year old, fresh graduate should not!

Anticipation of Future:
Next week, at this time, I’ll be in Pune. FTII has called me for interview. It’ll be a great adventure. I know I’m not prepared, I don’t have any portfolio. I will just be my honest self – tell ’em that I love movies, and I wish to turn my hobby into my profession. Other than that, I don’t think I’ve anything else to compete with published authors and experienced film strugglers.

Frankly speaking, I’m not very hopeful for FTII. However, if selected, my life will change forever. If not, I’ve a good back-up plan. FDR, NGOs, Masters in Public Policy, IAS, Think-Tanks…Life will be nice, peaceful and dignified. I’ve left the career outcomes of my life to the unknowing force that acts upon all of us conscious beings. Rest, as they say, will be history.

Mission Possible

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A famous person once said “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” I feel cheerful today, at this moment because I just donated Rs. 1450/- to a needy person. And the best part is – it’s not a charity, it’s a loan!

Milaap (which means ‘connecting people’) is a mission driven organisation that provides a platform to connect the urban rich with the rural poor. Basically, it partner up with proven grass-root level organisations to identify deserving borrowers, the amount of financial assistance they need and the purpose.

In my case, the recipient, Shrabani Das, is a native of Bahara Village, in Birbhum district of West Bengal. She lives with her husband and is a mother of 3-year old kid. This young family’s survival is dependent upon a small tea-stall which is run by Shrabani herself. To expand her little business (to add more stocks such as snacks, biscuits, etc) and change the infrastructure, which will help attract more customers, she need a financial support of Rs. 15,000. The funds will be of great help to the mother who can earn a stable income and save some for her child’s future.

I was moved by her story and the passion to expand her small enterprise. Thus, I decided to help her by loaning a small figure of Rs. 1,450. Before my contributions, she had already raised 55% of the total funds, which is now a more encouraging, 65%. She still got a month time approximately to raise the total amount of her proposed expenditure. And I’m confident that she’ll get the funds before the deadline. The partner organisation, SREEJAN is the responsible for the project.

On completing the transaction, when the screen read “Thank you for making a difference! We’d like to thank you on behalf of Shrabani Das for your contribution of Rs.1,450.00. Your money is on its way to the recipients.”, I faint smile appeared on my face. It was a smile of satisfaction, of happiness, that you get when you do something for the greater good. Now, it’s your turn!

For further details, visit: http://milaap.org

The Kick-less ‘Kick’

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Days of boredom (read unemployment) instigated me to get some inspiration from the ultimate ‘Hero’ of Bollywood – Mr. Salman Khan. But, as the idiom goes ‘Good intentions doesn’t always end up in good actions’. And thus, I came out of Shiva Multiplex, Jharsuguda with a feeling of confusion, dejection and betrayal.

The latest bhai-starrer, commercial no-brainer is known as “Kick”. The funda behind the vague nomenclature being bhai’s obsession, this time, with extreme adventures in all facets of his life. As it happens, he falls in love with “the girl” in the opening scene itself. But wait, he was born into middle-class and hence, has feelings about every other thing in the world: Social injustice, Political unfairness, Economic inequalities, to name a few. His smart mouth and well-built physique is put into good use to tackle such ills. Before long, Bhai decides to give up his engineering background and pursue a career employing his unique combination to lead a ‘Kicking’ (read criminal) life.  And what actually prompt him? His girlfriend who abhors him for his ever-shifting unstable jobs or His fan-girl, a child who is seriously ill with poor, dead parents; we would never know for sure!

Enter the other two major characters – A suave, brave police officer and a freaky, wealthy socialite. Both are intimidating and preoccupied with this Krrish look-alike supervillain or superhero? Thanks for not making it a mystery and who else it could be if not our Bhai? In nutshell, Bhai found a purpose in his life – to steal and run away, e la, Dhoom style; amidst loud whistles and standing ovations!

There are some more cat-and-mouse chases where every character is showcasing wits (by giving pathetic hints) and stamina (by flexing adrenaline muscles and all). Yawn…Let’s cut to the end where evil is defeated and good wins! Hurray. Wait, wait…what was the film all about? Well, to be frank, People who have lot of money wanted to circulate it in the market and earn more returns fooling simple-minded viewers in the name of ‘Bhai’ and his prior achievements.

Motto:- ‘Sab Moha-maya Hai’

 

Who is a “good” human?

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Recently I watched a TedTalk by Simon Anholt() on “Which country does the most good for the world?” It’s an interesting and fresh perspective on ranking of nations. It, by no means, is concerned with economic prosperity, political stability, modern technological advances, happiness index or tranquility in general. The ‘good country’ is the one which contributes the maximum to the humanity. It’s not just about the respective nation’s prosperity but doing something for the whole 7+ billion populations on earth.

In his findings which is detailed (visit www.goodcountry.org), he found that the virtue of a ‘good country’ is directly related to its attitude while drafting policies, to the culture which inspire such policies and not necessarily connected with wealth. It’s a very important discovery. What I would like to do is apply this whim of goodness to individuals, not just restricted to nation-states.

We often use the term “good” while describing a person or an individual. I hate such characterization. I believe

The notions of goodness and badness is always subjective, differs from person to person

And so being inspired by the talk of Mr. Anholt, I would like to take a leap of faith and make the analogy of a ‘good country’ to a ‘good human’. Needless to say, the definition of a ‘good human being’ is one who contributes maximum to the cause of humanity. When an individual work not just for her/himself but for the greater cause – the prosperity of all human lives. The person is not thinking inwards but outwards too! Telescopic in nature not microscopic. In nutshell, a good human being has one very striking attribute: selflessness. A person with empathy towards others’ sufferings and not only concerned with her/his wealth, fame and power.

Simon also remarked upon the fact that human beings are by nature, conservative species. We don’t like to change. If we are not impressed by the fruitfulness of changing our habits, customs or cultures to something tried and tested, we are better off resisting it. But, change we must. During the last couple of millennia where human species have come to conquer the earth and all its denizens, many grave challenges and ills are now staring at us. Climate changes, human rights, terrorism, pandemics, narco-trafficking, human slavery, species loss, etc are few such problems which need our immediate and constant attention. We cannot choose to ignore it anymore, lest we want to survive as species.humanity

That calls for ‘good human index’. Each one of us needs to question our beliefs, our thoughts and our actions and ask whether I’m contributing anything to the cause? If not, we need to change. And keep changing till we have an optimistic answer. There, at that point of history, we can claim to call ourselves ‘good species’.

Marriage in the Village

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Baraati Procession

The marriage possession, locally known as “Baraati” consisted of 50 odd young and middle-aged drunk men, dancing to the karaoke of famous sambalpuri songs, orchestrated by a handful of band party members dressed in white dhoti and orange-yellow kurtas. Behind this rude and unceremoniously joyful pack, a compact car was crawling at the speed of a lazy cow. The bridegroom along with few small kids of bossy relatives was sitting inside all strained up, probably wondering why they’re moving so slow. The bride and her family will be waiting.

“Jaldi Chala Ho (Hurry up)” screamed the groom to his acquaintances who were creeping behind the sound-system.

A wasted friend of the groom recognized the voice and answered “Ahuri Naachma Bo (Come, Join us) and 2 more guys accompanied the drunk to pull out the groom from his nest and carried him on their shoulders. The groom couldn’t stop smiling. Who doesn’t love such attention? Especially on the wedding day?

A large crowd comprising of all ages, sexes and castes were staring at the movement with rapt attention forming a track of 2 columns, not longer than 0.5km, between which the procession was advancing. The kids were at the front with their grandmothers holding their hands admiring the music. The married women were, peeping from their windows of door-creaks, under their veils. Few adolescents were standing in groups admiring the jolly crowd and fantasizing about their own weddings. The men of the families appeared least interested, having attended thousands of such processions. Still, they couldn’t hold themselves moving their feet as a mark of their delectation.

An hour later, the assemblage finally arrived the venue of the wedding – the house of the bride, Bulbuli. The guys carrying the groom reached first and landed the VVIP of the function on the ground safely. After which, they both joined their rowdy gathering at the rear to dance their heart out before the band party dissolves. The groom, escorted by his father and uncles and cousins was receiving a warm welcome from the bride’s mother and aunts and cousins. There was a lot of ritual howling and face-massage with tree leaves (commonly called ‘gaal-seka’). Soon, the groom was shown inside to the bedi (the rectangular slab on which the ceremony takes place) and the assemblage outside was cleared off.

Last week, I had this opportunity to visit a rural village, goes by the name of “Bidmal” to attend the marriage ceremony of Bulbuli, Malli’s daughter. It’s a matter of import to note that Malli is my family’s ‘domestic help’ since past 4 decades! My grandfather, Panchanan Barpanda used to be an illustrious and influential person in the small town of Brajrajnagar during the famed times of Orient Paper Mill (O.P.M). It was during the late half of 20th century, particularly in the 1970-80s. It was he, who brought many families from his ancestral village to the burgeoning industrial hub of western Odisha. One such family belonged to late Parameshwar Rout, the husband of Malli. As a newly married, Malli was stationed at M.S. line, the abode of Barpanda family during those times. She gave birth to her eldest and only son, Narahari (name rendered by none other than my Grandpa) at the same habitation. Later on, when my father took reins of the Barpanda family (post O.P.M.), Malli’s eldest daughter, Paro acted as my ayah and Narahari as father’s assistant. It was in the late 1990s. Bulbuli is the 3rd child of Malli.

The ‘golden age’ of human history

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Few of the ancient civilizations were advanced even by today’s standards; you know, having planned cities, prosperity and fine standard of living. Beginning in 2500 B.C., the earth became a harsh battleground with misery and despair being common phenomenon. Cut to 21st century, the world has become far more comfortable and burgeoning. That’s what we believe. I wonder if it is so.

Let’s make an analytical study on what we have today as opposed to what our ancestors lacked. Few things quickly strike me:

i)                    Communication: Of course, the modern world is actually a large village where we know everyone (if we want and care to). Technologies like TV, Radio and Newspapers made too quicker to commune to large numbers. While tools such as Telephone, Telegram (now defunct), Mobile phones kept individuals’ lives linked to friends and families. Then, at the turn of the millennium, INTERNET became a household name, the ultimate informer, messenger, educator and entertainer.

ii)                  Transportation: Airplanes on air, Ships on water, Trains & buses on earth are some of the fastest means of transportation. For more personal touch, there are helicopters, boats, cars, bikes, bicycle and roller-skates!

iii)                Democracy: We have people’s rule now, in most countries of the world, where elections are held to choose a party or an individual to be held responsible for the voter’s daily lives. Democracy has stood the test of time and is found to be most stable and efficient form of government.

iv)                Entertainment: Movies, Music, Arts, Culture, Literature, Sports are all big and glamorous in this age.

 

Definitely, we live in an amazing world. Human race have discovered, invented, produced so many great things and ideas. Humanity is the superior beings on earth. Undoubtedly. We own the planet. We can do anything on it. We can mine it emptying all its reserves. We can erect buildings destroying the forests and agricultural lands. We can hunt down killing other creatures just for fun. We can pollute the rivers, explode the mountains, dump the wastes in grounds or deep in ocean or throw up in space. And we did all these.

man and tree

This may be the worst time in human history where materialistic attitude and competition has made homo-sapiens too powerful to destroy it’s creator: Nature.

I admired a quote by the American actor and activist, Ed Begley Jr.

When we destroy something created by man, we call it Vandalism, but
When we destroy something created by nature, we call it Progress.