Saturday, September 29, 2007

Personal Issues

I have had this eternal pessimism regarding anything to do with dating/relationships. I've been single for one and a half years now, and thus out of that has borne this kind of disbelief with the whole thing.
Since my last, quite unceremonious break up, I have been, in my own words, quite "happily" single. There have been times I've wondered how the people around me have managed to be so happy with their "committed" tag. Among them was my very own best friend, who has been quite secure in his own relationship. I did not give these matters much importance, though, because after quite a long time, I was experiencing a phase where I did not like any girl in particular, and therefore was quite pleased with my own situation.
In fact, there had been a time in my life where I started liking a new girl every week or so. I was quite certain that my position was a lot better than that...and I liked the situation I found myself, free of the hassles and tensions that plague the adolescent mind who finds himself besotted by the fairer members of the opposite sex. Having been through those very tensions myself many times in my life, I was thankful that I no longer felt the rush of raging hormones which cause the problems of all teenagers.
But more recently, I have been troubled by this. One thing that even I couldn't ignore was how happy my friends who were committed seemed. In particular the example of my best friend was one that struck me. I have known Bhaskar for several years now, and I doubt if anyone has had more positive effect on his life than his girlfriend, who has managed to do what I thought was impossible - made him clean up his act. The 'new' Bhaskar is much happier and much better off than I have ever seen him. And besides him, many other committed friends have been doing very well. This kind of shook my settled committment apathy.
The recent Doon trip really ruffled my feathers, though. To someone set in his single ways, to be one of only 2 people in the entire contingent who was single was not a very pleasant fact. It was not because I wanted to be part of the majority phenomenon, but it was because I realised that the vast majority did not share my opinion on this matter, and aspired to be committed, rather than the other way around like me.
Of late, I have been in a situation which I have been unfamiliar with for an extremely long time. It's troubling, because I had forgotten what it was like to be in such a situation, and I can tell you with great confidence that it is far from desirable in my current phase. I don't know which course future developments will take, but I think I'm in for a rough time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Remember Mohiner Ghoraguli

Mohiner Ghoraguli was not a wasn't any random was a revolution. That's why when the reformed line-up performed in Bangalore, it was labelled "Remembering Mohiner Ghoraguli : The First Indian Rock Band".
And no one can deny that. At a time when both Hindi and Bengali music survived on old-fashioned melodies and film songs, these men from Bengal dared to do something radically different. They went on record saying they wanted to create a fusion of Baul and Jazz, and in the spice of what they were doing, they unwittingly became pioneers of any form of Indian Rock, singing in their mother tongue of Bengali.
Although I personally have no great liking for my mother tongue, Mohiner Ghoraguli's songs made an impact on me from the very first time I heard their songs. Singing about ordinary life and problems, they struck a chord with my highly individualistic and rebellious sensibilities. I should be ashamed to say this, but the only connection I share with Bengali is with the music of Mohiner Ghoraguli. Gautam Chattopadhyay (the founder of Mohiner Ghoraguli) was a visionary, no doubt, but even he couldn't have anticipated that even in this ultra-modern generation, their songs would have such an impact on the young mind.
They didn't gain much popularity in their own times, though. To the people of the time, their music was a outrage for the sensiblities of the cultural Bengali "bhadralok" of that period. But somehow, they survived...the band might have broken up for the members to go their own individual paths, but their music survived. And the rebellious late 90s and the dawn of the new millenium was the perfect launchpad for ultra modern music composed 20 - 30 years ago! Mohiner Ghoraguli were at their peak, 2 decades after the original band broke up.
Gautam Chattopadhyay took advantage of this popularity to release 3 new albums, with a mixture of songs both old and new, "Abar Bochor Kuri Pore" (After some 20 odd years), "Maya" (Illusion) and "Jhora Shomoyer Gaan" (Songs of the Autumn). Mr. Abraham Mazumdar, one of the original members, went on to become the music teacher of LMB, and I had an up-close experience of the great man, a musical genius in his own right.
They were a smashing success, and Gautam-da was planning more before he left this mortal abode. However, his only contribution to the music of the period wasn't reforming Mohiner Ghoraguli, but he also encouraged many young, new musicians to give it a go.
In this year 2007, the remnants of the original band and those who had joined the reformed band came together in a series of concerts remembering this revolution, and paying homage to it's founder. I'm proud to say that my best friend, Bhaskar Dutta, formed a part of this reunited line-up, initially with Mr. Mazumdar's chamber orchestra, and tentatively on the guitar now. they'll be performing right here in Kolkata sometime in December being the planned date. I'm sure on that day, their songs are going to rock their hometown in a way that the city is sure to remember for a long time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Last Months

Do you know what really sucks? The fact there's less than 2 months of proper school left for my batch? And you know what sucks even more? People don't realise the full implications of it. Hell, for most people, the petty things in school are still taking precedence over the fact that this will be the last few months we'll spend as a batch, as students of La Martiniere for Boys.
However, I must say that the feeling currently prevailing in our batch is far more sentimental than what I have seen in previous batches. It goes to show that although our batch unity is not fully prevalent, it's still there. How does that make me feel? Sad, of course. One and a half decades of school life are coming to an end for me. One thing I've already said before to some of our boys, is my regret that I won't come across characters like the ones we have in school anywhere else. I seriously doubt whether I'll ever be able to find characters like I have in school. I was wondering what it would be like coming back to school as an alumnus. The thought seems too terrible for most of us right now, but before long that will be a reality. For me personally, I know that I'll feel like taking my place among the rest of the boys, taking part in the ceremonial occasions. I've already gotten a taste of what it feels like. Since I've retired from festing, sitting in the audience during the recent cultural fest Dhristhikon was nothing short of torture. I was wondering what I was doing just sitting there and watching the next batch try their hardest to maintain some resemblance to what we used to do in these fests. I guess this is a feeling that every passing out batch feels, but since it is the first time we're going through anything like this, it feels strange, to say the least.
I guess it's because our batch was very heavily involved in everything related to the school, and even last year, 4 of the 5 Inter-Martiniere Meet captains were from our batch. To be in a batch so involved with the school and so devoted to stuff related to school is both an honour and a pain. An honour because one feels pride in being associated with the individuals seated with you, and a pain because one can't imagine letting it go.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Padatik One Act Play Competition

Earlier, this competition was known as "BCL" to one and all, because it was held by the British Council. However, 3 years ago, BCL stopped organising this competition, and it was greatly missed as an annual school event.
Last year, Padatik took over the reins of this competition with support from BCl, and Patton became the main sponsor. The nomenclature was changed to "Patton One Act Play Competition presented by Padatik", but students still liked to refer to it as BCL.
In the inaugural year of the competition, I was part of the organising team. Tathagata Chowdhury, or TC as he's popularly called, was the Jt. Convenor of the competition and since he's the man behind the theatre group I'm part of - Theatrecian, I was also included in the set-up of the competition.
I had already decided that this being my last year, I would participate from LMB as it would be my last chance to do so. When the letter came in, Ma'am Datta insisted we send in the script I had written for Macaulay in the Inter-House Dramatics, as the theme was "Is My Life, My Life Only?"
I started work on the play rather early, starting off with a workshop and audition I held. I was not going to act in the play, as during the time of the workshops held as part of the festival I would be going on 2 consecutive school trips. Saurav Mehta, the recipient of the Best Actor award in Inter-House, took over my role; Arnab Manna reprised his role in the play while Jamshed Madan, Akshay Doshi, Eric Madan and Prateek Nair took over the roles portrayed by Varun Kishore, Anant Agarwal, Trideep Roy and Aditya Saigal in Inter-House. I was once again the director of the play, while Varun Kishore was to be the lights technician.
We were quite positive about our chances, and our workshops greatly built up our expectations from the competition. At this stage, we asked the school for help with the production aspects of the play as there was quite a lot that we were bringing in to the play, both at the suggestion of our trainers as well as on our own initiative. The school agreed to support us, and we were hopeful that our work would pay off at the end of it.
Jamshed's father, Mr. Cyrus Madan and Varun's father, Mr. Navin Kishore, both renowned in their aspects of theatre, came for our technical rehearsal, and they were very appreciative and helpful. Their suggestions boosted our morale, and we were looking forward to our performance on the 14th.
Many of our boys had turned up at Gyan Manch that day, and so did our very own Principal with his family. Our performance slot was last up on the 14th, and we were excited, to say the least. The judges were Mr. Rohit Pombra and Mrs. Zarine Choudhary, eminent theatre personalities. We sat through the other schools, nervously anticipating our time.
The curtains opened on our play, and it seemed to be progressing well. The light design by Varun was excellent, and the dancers and actors were doing a great job of it. To my eyes, sitting in the technical area, it couldn't have been better. Almost everyone I spoke to that day, and the next for that matter, spoke highly of our production...keeping in mind that this was a school play. I was prepared for any eventuality, but I felt that we did a good job of it.
Unfortunately, nothing could have prepared me for what happened on the 15th. Here, I must speak of my play, and why I couldn't believe what happened later that day. I am a great lover of the Beckett play "Waiting for Godot", and have been greatly inspired by that play in my writing. In this particular play, "It's Perfectly Understandable", I took two characters from "Waiting for Godot" - Pozzo and Lucky - and put them in a different situation. Although I retained some vestiges of the original characters, which is why I didn't name them Pravin and Lalit or something of the like, my characters were vastly different from the ones Beckett wrote about. For example, in Beckett's play, Pozzo is as dependant on Lucky as Lucky is on Pozzo; and Lucky, for all the subjugation he's made to suffer, is still very much a normal human being. I made these characters more extreme, in order to bring about the social element which was the point of conflict.
Now to elaborate what happened on the 15th. Before the prize distribution, Mrs. Chaudhary was asked to give her comments on the plays put up by the schools. She gave her comments and criticisms on each school. Now, when it came to LMB - she didn't say anything about the acting, the stagecraft or design. All she said was that the play depended heavily on Beckett, and also commented that even the characters were named Pozzo and Lucky. As you can imagine, we were crestfallen, and all the hope and work we had put into the play seemed to have been in vain. For me personally, I tried to put on an impassive face, but it was difficult concealing the disappointment. One of the trainers tried her best to reassure me, but for me it wasn't the loss that mattered, it was that someone had indirectly accused me of plagiarising. I was disheartened...strange, considering that just before the ceremony, I had been greatly encouraged after speaking to Mr. Sumit Roy of Red Curtain.
We did get the Best Technical Production award, but awards don't really matter. It's the recognition of what you have done that matters. For me, perhaps the two judges didn't feel my play was praiseworthy enough, but nearly everyone I spoke to felt differently about the play. I did get criticism, but that was simply the things I needed to learn about theatre, not of mistakes in its handling. I hope that one day, I'll be able to look back at this time and say to myself that I wasn't mistaken in believing in this play. For now, I have to write something else...something to make up for the disappointment I had with this one.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Doon School Quiz

For me, two important events have passed by. The first was my last trip to The Doon School and the second was the Patton One Act Play Competition.
I've been going to The Doon School in Dehradun as part of the La Martiniere for Boys contingent ever since I was in Class 7. That year, I was the surprise selection of the Quiz Team for the Doon School Quiz. With me was the then School Captain, Arjun Puri and House Captain, Tirthankar Datta. That was a great experience for me, as it was the first time I was part of a senior quiz. We were runners-up to a brilliant St. James team led by Siddhartha Sinha, but for me it was the sheer quality of quizzing that made it a brilliant experience.
Since that time, I have been part of the School Quiz Team, and for us the high point of the year was always the Doon School Quiz, as the entire season came down to that quiz. In 2005, we had a really strong team, one of the strongest in years. Aryapriya Ganguly was one of the best quizzers we had for many years, and with the pair of Rohan Saha & me, it was a strong combination that had proved successful in the past. We won the Doon School Quiz that year for the first time since 1999, and that was a defining moment in my career.
I was appointed Quizzing Captain the following year, and I had been looking forward to defending our crown that year. Unfortunately, the quiz wasn't held last year, so despite our success, we weren't really satisfied.
I had already decided the Doon trip would mark the end of my quizzing career. I had been representing the school since Class 3, and I thought ending off with the Doon School Quiz would be a good way to bring to an end 10 years of school quizzing. I was already determined to successfully defend the trophy, but the fact that it would be my last quiz further strengthened my resolve.
It wouldn't be easy, though. The quiz at Welham Girls' had already shown us the strength of the teams competing in this one. The Doon School had won that quiz, and La Martiniere Girls, Lucknow, had beaten us there as well. This time around there would also be teams like Mayo Boys, Ajmer and Modern High School, Dubai to contend with. Sure enough, the qualifiers were difficult. We qualified onstage, but one look at the stage positions assured us it would be difficult for us - to one side of us was The Doon School and to the other side we had Modern High School, Dubai.
Sure enough, Doon took an early lead, and we were falling way behind. By the 4th round itself, we were 30 points behind Doon. With Modern High, Dubai also close behind them and having failed to score any points up until that round, it would have been very easy to panic. That's where experience counts. We got a lucky break in the Geography round which helped us open our score, and from that moment, we didn't look back. Sure enough, we scored our points in the Nature, Music and Current Affairs rounds, and in the video round too, we snapped up a few bonuses. Leading into the last Buzzer round, the scores read thus: Modern High, Dubai - 75 pts; Doon School, Dehradun - 70 pts; La Martiniere Boys, Kolkata - 70 pts.
Before the buzzer round, I told my team - "it's my last quiz - I have nothing to lose". My long-time teammate Debdeep Nath turned to me and said, "Chalo, we'll go for it," in his stoic, assuring manner.
The buzzer round didn't start well for us, though. We were late on the buzzer and Doon School snapped up three quick answers. Even Modern High, Dubai got one of them. That's when I decided to take a risk. The answers were following a pre-determined pattern which was shown on screen. The first letters of the answers in the buzzer round would correspond to the pattern D-O-O-N-S-C-H-O-O-L, and thus the next answer would begin with "S". The quizmaster only went up to "which member of the Nehru-Gandhi family..." when I hit the buzzer. I answered as soon as I was identified, "Sanjay Gandhi", and to no one's surprise, it was correct. The C & H answers were given by another school before Debdeep went for two excellent answers, one on Osho and one on Oncology. We were tied with Doon! The last question was to begin with "L". Here again, I took no chances and went for the buzzer as soon as I heard, "Who became President after the assassination of John. F. Kennedy?"...most did know the answer, but as I hit the buzzer first, I got to provide the answer "Lyndon B. Johnson". The teams onstage already knew the results, and we had already begun shaking hands with the Doon School team. They toyed with the screen results for a while but then they had to show it eventually: La Martiniere Boys, Kolkata - 110 pts; Doon School, Dehradun - 100 pts and Modern High School, Dubai - 85 pts. I had ended my decade long school quizzing career with a victory - and what a victory it was! The Dr. Banerji Memorial Trophy for the Doon School Quiz returned with La Martiniere for Boys, Kolkata again!
Coming up soon, the Padatik Patton One Act Play Competition.