Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Indexed Stories – 4

People change. They change for the better or for worse. But, people do change in ways that they are almost unrecognizable from their original selves. Or do we all have split personalities? Is it about the Dr. Jekylls and Mr. Hydes nestled somewhere in there? Each trying to vanquish the other until there is an eventual victor? On this day while I am trying to articulate my thoughts, Durga Puja is being celebrated - rejoicing the triumph of good over evil. I wish that it were so – a non-negotiable perpetual situation. But, Evil seems to be getting the better of Good.

The incidents of three women being beaten to death in a “witch hunt” in West Bengal and Malala Yousufzai being shot at in the Swat Valley, despite their different geo-political locations, are manifestations of the same evilness inherent in the politics of intolerance. To think that we are in the midst of this reality is scary.

Should we “take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them?” Or play the Ostrich? I personify the Ostrich that grumbles…

The accessories of evil are many. Avarice is perhaps the single most powerful force among them, that which nurtures evil, while crass consumerism justifies it. An individuals’ greed for more – unjustly more, promotes criminality. How else does one explain the person listed first on the D page of my first diary?

Dipali Bhattacharya – Dipalidi, was about four years my senior in art college. She was a vivacious person who could disarm anyone with her warmth and affection. She once lived somewhere close to Lake Market. That was in another life. Now she lives with her husband in an old spacious house on Little Russell Street. I kept bumping into her once in a while. Among the people on the D page she appears first with a Calcutta Telephones number – still seven digits! Drops out in the second diary and reappears in the third with a cell phoned identity.

I try to convince myself that temporary lapses are forgivable – after all we are all fallible. I have had my moments of sheer badness too. But, Dipalidi seems to have changed inexorably for the worse, embroiled in controversies surrounding fake Rabindranath Tagore paintings that she insists are genuine! The case is sub judice and I will not go into the details. Suffice it to say that there is a coterie of people involved in this scam. What a disgraceful end to a career as an artist and an administrator.

On the other hand there was Durga Prasad Kar, a senior functionary of the Income Tax department who I had met under unusual circumstances. His name appears only once in the first diary and does not reappear ever, owing to his transfer out of Calcutta. My brashness at 27 got the better of me one day and I had barged into his office complaining about the harassment that I was facing from one of his minions. I had actually thrown a tantrum. He had listened to me patiently and did what was necessary. We became friends and the common thread between us was trees and plants. He had green fingers and was responsible for much of the greening around his home between Purna Das Road and the Vivekananda Park. He visited our home with his wife a couple of times and every time they would gift us a potted plant.

For just a while I had changed my opinion about income tax people, until I met the biggest rascal in the form of another Assistant Commissioner, who troubled me no end. The system has changed for the better ever since with the introduction of e-filing of tax returns. One does not have to confront greedy palms anymore.

Here I need to go back and ignore the protocol that I have set for myself. I have to go back to Bina Sarkar Elias because in my last diary her name appears above a note that says,” Sunil Gangapadhyay, Parijat, 11th floor” and his phone number. That is where I met Bina once. I had met Sunil babu only once on that occasion and his phone number remains in my diary by default. As I sit writing this post, the news of Sunil Gangapadhyay passing away is being broadcast on television.

Among the others on the D page, people who have survived through the processes of selective editing are my long time friends Dipankar and Shampa Home, whom I have not met in years and Deepak and Raj Dutt with whom I am still in touch albeit infrequently.

One other name that has remained all through is that of Debashis Deb, the cartoonist. Debashis and I first met in Don Bosco School, Guwahati, in Class IV in 1964. We left Guwahati at different times and met up again in Art College in 1973. One of my oldest friends Debdutta Sen was also from the same class and we met up when we both joined Clarion Advertising Services back in 1979…his name does not appear in any of my dairies and I have been unable to trace him since I last met him in Bombay way back in 1990.

Santhali Yama Pata
I started this post writing about Good and Evil. Being an atheist I cannot believe in Heaven and Hell. But, I like the concept of Hell – at least the way it was depicted in a museum by an organization called Prajapita Brahmakumari something or the other on Elgin Road. Heaven was depicted as lush green fields with cows grazing in the distance and under a tree sat a cowherd holding a flute in his hand. My friend and I (we were about 15 or 16 then) immediately decided that Heaven was boring. Whereas, Hell was a bustling city with night clubs, bars, restaurants – the works! There was no sign of any retributive activity there unlike the ones depicted in many pictures, as well as, the Santhali Yama Pata. However, since I live in Kolkata, which according to the Brahmakumari Museum - surely looks like their version of Hell. Therefore, in my afterlife I would be sent to a retributive Hell for my occasional badness. I however would like to go to Hell on my own aesthetic terms…
Yama Pata (Scenes from Purgatory), 2001.

SHUBHO BIJOYA to all of you.

To be continued…


  1. Alas ! My name perhaps doesn't feature in the 'S' page of the diary...

  2. Do I have your phone number Sutirtha ? :)

  3. I wish I had a landline. I don't have one. And yes, you have my cell no., I suppose. We spoke quite a few times. But that wouldn't help. These days numbers are stored in the phone itself. Not phone diaries :(. My sheer bad luck.

  4. No Sutirtha...I checked...I do not have your phone number...we have been following each other so much on feels like we have been speaking to each other :)

  5. Yama Pata (Scenes from Purgatory), 2001....awesome

  6. As a kid I'd often purchase a cheap, definitely unhygienic, and probably toxic type of Popsicle, not so much because I liked the taste of it, but the lid of the ice-cream cart had rather imaginative drawings depicting what happens when you go to hell. The fact that the inside of the lid was exposed for just a brief moment made it even more irresistible.

    1. Yes Kunal I remember these carts...wish I had noticed them too. All I noticed was those bottles of syrup...they coloured the tongue! I have a collection of various Santhali Yama Patas...I have featured only one here..these interestingly show what happens to women when they go to Hell...there is a kind of masochism at work here I suppose.