Sunday, February 27, 2011

All (read No) roads lead to ‘The Eden Gardens’ …

* This post assumes as prerequisite, previous knowledge of two key facts – 1. The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 is underway, and is being jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh , 2. The India vs England match slated for today at Eden Gardens was hijacked away to Bangalore.

Venue: The Eden Gardens, Calcutta; Date: February 27, 2011, Time: 1430 hrs. The stage was set. The mighty English vs the invincible Indians. To be or not to be. ICC inspectors prevailed and the CAB slackers got what they deserved. The cricket loving citizens of the city were denied their chance to view a grimly fought contest.Calcutta’s loss was Bangalore’s gain. Lot has been written about this already. All of you out there, who are following the world cup probably know all about it. This post cannot highlight anything earth-shatteringly new. We know Jagmohan Dalmiya (here on after, referred to as JD), the CAB big cheese, the ex-ICC boss has been taken to the cleaners. And at the end of the day has to take any and all responsibility for this fiasco. There has been some noise in the power-filled corridors of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), that ICC president Sharad Pawar had this with in his power to reverse the decision and let Calcutta host the match. Be that as it may, we cannot deny that too much work was not done and ICC inspectors, were judicious enough not to take a chance with a prime time world cup match at stake ! JD cried foul for a few days to come, continuing to point out that This is not cricket ! . He asks the question how other stadia (like Premdasa Stadium in Colombo, Sri Lanka) were allowed to extend their deadline for showing visible signs of progress. JD, if I may please, while your questions may be valid. But haven’t you heard two wrongs don’t make a right. Let us for a moment say pretend that your suspicion IS true and this is all political vendetta. Then if I may ask you – why did you give them a chance ? You could have got the job done, before time or at least within time and that would have been a slap on the face of the people, who you say have conspired against the Eden Gardens.

post_header 27022011108

It was indeed a sad day in the history of Eden Gardens. It wore a sad and dreary look on a Sunday. Not only were the emotions of the cricket loving natives hurt, Calcutta lost a day, which could have boosted local economy. And the way it works is, even though the match is just a one day affair, businesses both small and big look forward to it with great anticipation. 

I am a die hard cricket fan myself and left marauded, when I first heard the news. Once the reality sank in, my head hung in shame. I was angry, disappointed, and distraught. So today when the day finally came, I decided to drive down to the erstwhile venue of today’s match. A lone beverage stand caught my attention, across the new facade of the B.C. Roy Club House.


A friend, YS accompanied me on this fact-finding, soul searching mission. We walked up to the beverage stand owner (not  shown in the picture above), to get his take on this fiasco !

So that’s it. You just heard Noor Mohammed talk about his loss and his legacy. JD, even though your office is just across the street, I hope his words reach you.

Next on, we walked across the street to the club house entrance and the area was cordoned off by the security guards who were circling to prevent any trespassers. Some people by then had generally gathered in the area, seeing us talking to the beverage stand owners across the street. I saw another person with a fancy camera dangling around his neck, he was able to walk inside the entrance, and was clicking pictures. Just about then a light bulb lit up in my head. I nonchalantly walked up to one of the security bosses and asked for his permission to take an inside tour. He rejected my plea with a terse reply – * হবে না, পার-মিশেন নেই * (You can’t go in, you are not allowed to).

I have not learnt to go down without putting up a fight. Some times sheer cockiness can get you ahead in life. The following conversation ensued -

(SG = Security Guard)

Me - তা হলে ওরা কি করে গেল ? (How come those people got in, I asked ? Pointing to at least one other person, who was just 100 meters inside the gate, taking a few pictures)

SG - ওরা প্রেস (They are from the press !)

Me - আমরা ও প্রেস (We are from the press too !), I said taking out and flashing my newly printed blog business cards. As if it were my passport, and the security guard was the immigration officer.

Guess what, that worked ! The guard I was talking to, turned back and talked back in hushed tones to the others on duty. A brief impromptu meeting took place and then we were welcome with a change of guard and tone.

SG - আশুন, আশুন ! (Please come in, please come in). He said pointing to YS and myself.

By now a few people had gathered around the entrance gate, hoping to gatecrash into the party, just like we did. But the security guard had clearly signaled a safe passage to just the two of us !

Anyhow, mission accomplished. We walked into and strode up the stair cases into the galleries. Just as we were walking into the stands, two fair skinned gentleman were walking out. It took no time to realize they were tourists, possibly English cricket fans. And so they were. What followed was a brief interview. Once again, hear me in conversation with Chris and Bobby, with me dominating the conversation, us usual :)

Oh yes, btw – that accent is phony :).

I am sure there were many more like Chris and Bobby, who travelled all the way to Calcutta, to be able to watch the match at Eden Gardens ! What can I say ? I remain speechless.

Below are some of the pictures, we took of the empty stadium and once again rued not being able to host the India vs England match today. I sat down on of the many empty seats and closed my eye for a moment and let my mind wander. The empty stadium was drowned in an eerie silence but I heard the massive crowd cheering Team India at the glorious Eden Gardens. I pinched myself to ensure this was real. It wasn’t ! 

By the time this post goes to the press, the match has ended in a tie. It was a last ball thriller, testing even those fans with nerves of steel. Rest is history. Just like Team India, being touted as the favorites to lift the cup, really need to take a long hard look at their bowling attack (for batting first and nearly not being able to defend a score of 340 !). CAB  and JD need to take a long hard look at what brought about this shame to the Eden Gardens. Although, I think CAB has become oligarchic by nature, and until that changes, there is little hope. However, I still hope a blog post is mightier than the sword. Heads should roll, some should be chopped but we need to pick up the sticks and move on !

Enjoy the pictures ! 


- NKOB !


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

IndiBloggers @ #Indical – A synopsis

* Some of pictures reproduced here in this post were clicked by and copyrighted to Kuntal Gupta – an avid photographer. You will see his signature watermark on his pictures. I have taken express permission from Kuntal to be able to reproduce his images in this post, promising him celebrity status in return :)

This is by far the best winter Calcutta has had in recent memory. And the same can be said about Spring. It is nearly March and it is still very pleasant and morning air is still nippy. Perfect timing for – a network of Indian bloggers to head to CoolKata for a social networking event, where the bloggers could come face to face. This was to be my first meet, after an unsuccessful attempt to attend the previous one at Mumbai.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. But now have to admit that, it was a perfectly orchestrated event. The venue was the relatively new corporate site called CII - Suresh Neotia Centre of Excellence and Leadership located just behind the ubiquitous City Centre mall in Salt Lake.


The meet was in a big enough hall that could easily seat up to 150-200 people if it had to. The numbers here were much smaller. I would say there well all of 75-100 people including the organizers, if that many ! But the atmosphere was nothing short of electric. There were tall bloggers, short bloggers, fat bloggers, thin bloggers, funny bloggers, intellectual bloggers, pretty bloggers, legal bloggers, bloggers who were retired government employees, there was even an IndiBaby blogger. The range was mind blogging. I had to simply sign in at the sign up laptop using my email id that was used to register for the event. I felt great instantly, it was only a few minutes after noon when I walked in, a little nervy initially, this being my first such meet. I could see and hear the rock band playing already ! Amazing ambience, I said to myself.


Before I go any further I would like to set the record straight about something ! This meet was enabled by Akshay Patra. I am not just linking to them or talking about just because they paid for the event and the nourishing lunch they provided us with. This is a truly a noble cause, you must visit their website and you would see what I am talking about. They are enabling the mid-day meal program in hundreds of thousands of schools across eight states in the country. And they are coming to Calcutta soon. This was a program that under ideal circumstances the government should be providing. But then again it is not an ideal world we live in. Akshay Patra shows us the power of NGO. With people like N. R. Narayana Murthy on their Board of Advisors, you can be rest assure that you are putting your money in safe hands. Hands which will feed hungry children. At this point I urge you to be part of this admirable cause and feel better about yourself.

And no I am not getting paid to either support their cause and link to their website :) I honestly believe this and it is a cause close to my heart. Hence the words.


A graffiti wall was set-up by the organizers. Great idea this wall ! The shy young man that I am, I stayed away from adding my two-cents to the wall !


Once again these amazing pictures are courtesy Kuntal Gupta a fine young blogger and an ace photographer ! You can see more of his work at his Flickr collection.

After a brief introduction, we were given our chance towards 30 seconds of fame, where in each blogger in attendance was given 30 seconds to stand up and speak about themselves, their blog – it’s purpose, age , yada, yada, yada and life in general ! Wish I had a speech ready for this grand occasion. Since I didn’t – I just stuttered and stammered my way through it with little help from Guerilla Marketing tactics like pushing my freshly printed blog id cards. 

This segment was everyone’s favorite as it gave them a chance to know others and announce themselves on the world stage !


The 30 seconds of fame segment was followed by a presentation by Akshay Patra. It indeed called for some introspection. This was followed by a sumptuous lunch, which was arranged for all the attendees. I wish I had taken some pictures of the camaraderie that ensued during the lunch break, but I was simply too busy eating.

The post lunch session featured the Live and Let Comment where in the participants had to hang paper boards on their backs and walk around the room, commenting on other’s backs and in turn asking fellow bloggers to write on their backs ! Once again Kuntal Gupta took a candid shot of my ‘back’ wall and highlighted the only baldpate at the meet !

theshining_kg The Shining !

This segment made us once again feel like school kids. Trying to garner the most comments from people. I saved the ‘paper wall’ and have hung it up with bald pride in my office.  Below are few more pictures from this segment.



pensive_bloggers_kgBloggers in a rare pensive mood, my favorite !

What followed was a group discussion. The attendees were divided up into different groups. The topics of discussion were, Blogging and Technology, and finally social issues which basically meant Akshay Patra.

All in all, it was a Sunday well spent, networking with people. Below is a list of people and whose blogs caught my fancy, other than my own ;-)

The best was saved for the last. This is when the Five Little Indians performed. Do check out their website, the band pictures are just the best ! Absolutely enjoyed the performance. This was my first time hearing them and would surely not miss a chance to see and hear them again. The neat thing about them was – they write their own songs, and do not play as a cover band ! So requests for Pearl Jam and such were turned down politely by lead singer Neel Adhikari. I  have captured a few videos and am uploading it, will share them soon !

My only gripe – the largest Tee they had there was XXL, and it doesn’t fit me. One size too small for me. Indiblogger need to get fat-friendly ! But I will pardon them and be sure to attend their next meet in the city and may be even elsewhere, if I can make it !

So long !

Saturday, February 19, 2011

JDS – Class of 1990.

This post for a change, is not about Calcutta. It is however, dedicated to my Alma Mater – Julien Day School, Ganganagar - a small non-descript town on the north-eastern outskirts of the city. Not to sound formulaic, but I among others spent 10 years at JDS. Among a few other things I still vividly remember myself as a little kid holding on to my dad’s arms with both my hands and not wanting to let go, on the my first day of school at JDS. It was going to be my first day in the first grade at a new school. All dads need to be salesmen to their children. I remember my dad whispering some reassuring words into my ears as we stood outside the school. Finally I let go of his arm and walked into the wide expanse of the school field and walked what then seemed like a mile, into the cocoon of the school building. Never to look back !

Cut to present day. February, 2011. The same little kid has lost all his head hair (no regrets though), has two of his own. An 8 yr old boy and just over 2 month old girl ! 20 years is a long long time. Wars have been fought, regimes have changed, liberalization rolled in and we have all grown older and hopefully wiser.

I cannot, but extend gratitude and thanks to Facebook, which has shrunk the world and brought some of us from the JDS – Class of 1990 together. With some concerted effort and a selfish desire to devour on nostalgia, few of us got together on a perfect and windy spring afternoon (after what has been Calcutta’s best winter in recent memory), a day before Valentine’s day. So shall we say ‘Love was in the air ?’

Venue was BBQ Nation, a buffet restaurant in Salt Lake City, serving unlimited food for a fixed price. For the record, would like to add that the original venue was to be Mocambo, a landmark eatery on the evergreen Park Street. Little did we know, as we made our plans. Our political masters were planning a social networking of a different kind. Surprise, surprise – a huge political show of strength was in the works and what better timing for them to show their ‘love’, on Valentine eve. Now then, we had little choice but to relocate.

Even though, it ain’t always about the food, but then it sort of is. We were to find out BBQ Nation, a first of it’s kind - ‘on your table bbq’ buffet, has nosedived in terms of food. The succulence has been taken out of the Kebabs !

The gathering didn’t quite feature the who’s who of the Class of 1990, it was still quite an ensemble cast of 5 boys (men) and 2 girls (ladies) The more successful ones among us have left the Indian shores and were either busy vacationing in Hawaii or working in downtown, Manhattan ! But then again as they say life’s a leveler !


Feature in the pic. above are Manish Kr. Mantry and Pinki Sarkar. Manish was the tallest in our class, towering at 6 feet 3 inches. He has grown ‘up’ to be a soft spoken giant. Manish is self-employed and runs his own small business of print media. He still lives in Lake Town. Seated to his right is Pinki Sarkar. Pinki is a mother of 5 year old son and helps her husband who is a professional photographer! Pinki and her husband are happily married and live in Sodepur.


From left to right: Yours truly, Arun Agarwal known to some as ‘Doodh-wallah’, a mnemonic he despises. Trust me to reproduce it here, for those very sinister reasons. I can’t quite remember, how earned his nick, though ! We all have nametags in school, don’t we ? I had one too, something I wasn’t particularly thrilled about. Curious to know what it was ? Here it comes ‘Glaxo Baby’. I am sure you will not embarrass me by asking why that name. Now then, moving on :)

Arun is owns an ad/print company and lives and operates from Salt Lake as well.  On your far right is Rajdeep Dutta, with his angry young man look and an overgrown stubble !  I envy his head and facial hair. I have no choice apropos head hair, and for facial hair, I just don’t have the patience ! Rajdeep has the Wanderlust. He runs the show in Eastern India for a leading travel company called He has travelled far and wide, and was previously with in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Until recently, when he made the call to relocate back to his roots here in CoolKata !


You have already been introduced to Pink (extreme left) and Arun (extreme right). Now featuring the girl in the center – she is Rupa Majumdar. She looked as pretty and spunky, as I recalled her from our hey days. Rupa also lives in Salt Lake. She is a travel specialist and works with American Express Travels and takes care of all travel needs of the big blue chip – IBM ! Rupa was always Dabangg and has retained her charm. Don’t go messing with this girl, for this soccer mom packs quite a punch !


(Excuse the bad picture above) Last but, never the least. Featured above in the centre-spread is the debonair Dinesh Shaw ! Dinesh still has the nutty sense of humor and can crack you up with his fiery one-liners ! Dinesh lives in Salt Lake, and is a father to two young lads. He too has managed to maintain his hairline and still exudes that boyish charm. He has that elegant gait and is not that far from having a six pack :)

Like I said, food was just above average, but it didn’t matter for we had a blast from the past, talking about the water under the bridge, past love interests, old flames, games we played, our favorite teachers and how we managed to have a crush on them. So on and so forth. Life goes on.

Below are some more pictures of the gala luncheon.

130220111390 130220111398 130220111401 130220111394 130220111402 130220111404

We ‘packed up’ with a tentative date for our next meet in June, this year. Wherever you are, if you are reading this and care to join the band, find me on facebook and welcome aboard the ship INS, JDS :)

We also recorded a short video. Here, take a look and hear me stutter and stammer. And you thought George W. was bad ? Public speaking lessons anyone ?

Salud !

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Calcutta Book Fair – more than just books, Day 2

The Calcutta Book Fair has always been more than just books. It is an experience hard to express in words. There is a certain something quintessential about Calcutta Book Fair that tugs at my heart and sucks me in. I always end up making nothing less than half a dozen visits every year, promising not to return until next year. Why you ask ? This time to steal words from the magnum opus – Godfather, where Sollozzo says “I don't like violence, Tom. I'm a businessman; blood is a big expense.”. To which I would say “I like books Tom, but they are a big expense !” :)

The fair bring under it’s ambit not just books, but other art forms as well. There are artists, craftsmen, handicrafts, women folks selling and showcasing their appliqué embroidery skills and philatelists to just name a few !

The  portrait artist was momentarily away from his desk (er chair!)270120111256



The artist in the picture is a young man named Dilip Paswan, who now has been coming to the Book Fair for the last 15 years. He now works in the state of Tripura, but comes down to Calcutta every year during the fair. Such are old habits, that never die !

270120111261 This ‘Calcutta’ painting is now one of my prized possessions.

270120111262 Here is a portrait artist in the picture above, who claimed that he chooses who he wishes to portrait or not. Do you hear it ain’t about the money, not always at least. He chooses his customers, not vice-versa. I did not risk asking him for my portrait ! Do the crowd around him, reminds you of Calcutta of yore ?

270120111266 Guess what is everybody in this picture clicking away at?

270120111296 Here is the apple of everyone’s eyes. People just couldn’t get enough of it !

Refreshments anyone ?270120111257

270120111279 270120111283 Handicrafts – jute bags !

270120111285 Applique Embroidery

270120111267 The main walkway at the Boi-Mela

270120111272 Deys Publishing Pavilion !

270120111274 East meets West!


Rest area / Lovers boulevard at fountain of love !


In honor of কবি গুরু !



Above, the lone আনন্দ মার্গী (Ananda Margi) who has meandered away from his booth


Poor man’s Disneyland !


Finally above is the booth for the CPM mouth-piece !

I hope to have rekindled a child like joy of visiting Calcutta Book Fair on your next trip eastward ! If you think I have struck a chord, here is presenting a song that will remind you of your home, your friends, your old flame, and finally your city. Salud !


Related Posts with Thumbnails