Monthly Archives: June 2016

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The Wealth of the Cubicle Nation

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The most seminal work on Wealth was by a Scottish moral philosopher named Adam Smith entitled  The Wealth of Nations. This post will analyse the Wealth in context of the majority citizens of the Wealth of the Cubicle Nation. For context, please read about the citizens of The Cubicle Nation  The geographical context remains the major cities of India.

Smith defined wealth more than two hundred years ago in a straight-manner : “the annual produce of the land and labour of the society”. In today’s terms we can define “produce” as items having economic value and possessing and  controlling such items. Let us now apply this in the Cubicle Nation and see the wealth in this Nation.

I am being forced to write this post after I hear arguments from the citizens that they have created wealth by borrowing. It is as ironic (in the margin and in the instant) as telling that “I am rich by INR 1 million as I have been offered a loan of INR  1 million by the bank.”

Let us study the “wealth” of these citizens one by one. We shall start with wealth (material + tangible) and slowly move towards less material and less tangible as we continue our hard-hearted Wealth Audit . We know that for the citizens, home ownership is 80% bank finance and 20% emotion, we shall be talking strictly in terms of finance.

  1. Home / Apartment / Real Estate : Most of the citizens reside in a home (an apartment mostly which is a box in the sky) which is actually controlled in terms of an item of value by the bank, at least for 15-20 years. Why ? Using the device of float / fixed interest rate, front loaded interest payments, 20% equity from the citizen and with the oversimplified maths of tax-saving, the banks extract not only monthly payments but has an irrevocable claim on a certain percentage of earning (=labour) of the person – generally 40% of the net for 15-20 years. The citizen who pays for the “box in the sky” cannot scratch the wall of the flat and generate some value. The “magical appreciation of value is a myth” and the citizen has no control on this except hoping. So, either when he is using the flat while paying EMI or when the flat is his own, he is not able to extract any value unless someone rents it. Now let us calculate the  cost of ownership / cost of rent and it is more than 4 : 1. In other words, once the item is controlled by you (you have paid the loan in full – generally 167% – 221% of the actual money borrowed), you can expect 25% of the cost of ownership at any point of time. The only wealth is that in these years, there will be some gold mine or uranium ore found in your gated community and you shall have quadrillion appreciation. This is possible but we do not call this wealth, we call this speculation. One of the acid-test of wealth is the non-speculation aspect of it. Good health is true wealth because it is here and now.
  2. Car : Most of the citizens not only have car but upgrade the car. Many consider this as investment ! A car is an asset but a depreciating asset. It is highly unlikely that sitting in their car they automatically design some super value algorithms. Any driver in Indian roads are well aware of the ordeal. The car returns something on cost but it is not wealth. Unless one buys 3 – 4 cars and invests as a travel agent (or in Ola/Uber) and becomes profitable, then we can consider that the car is returning positive on cost. Otherwise, it is simply a cost and an item of pretension and marginally increasing the already horrible condition of our city’s transport infrastructure. I repeat : a car is not an investment and does not make you wealthy. 
  3. Credit Cards : As a a business owner, I marvel at the ingenuity and the brilliance in designing a Weapon of Mass Enslavement like Credit Card. Many citizens believe in the potency of their cards is directly related to their own and they sometimes look down upon a village bumpkin like me who says : ” If I have buy something from a shop/bar/restaurant/mall in credit, I do not need it.”. In one of the malls, one such citizen looked derisively at me when I paid in cash and was counting slowly and I heard a remark he made to his friend : “are yaar, yeah card se kitna asan hota hain.” I waited and saw a credit card opened and swiped with the elan of a Knight Templar’s sword. Credit cards are not investment, it does not make you wealthy. It is rather a very brilliant means to make a hole in your income.
  4. Life Insurance ; It is not an investment instrument. Period. It is a means to mitigate risk.
  5. Mutual Funds: Any equity based instrument, in the strictest sense is subject to market risk and market is nobody’s father-in-law. In other words, mutual funds do not create wealth as the control is not with you.

Land / Cash / Gold / Precious Metal/ Government Treasury Bonds/ Gilt-edged securities guaranteed by  Government / Business Owned and Controlled to the extent of ownership and control / Skills immediately marketable in return of cash  / Patents / Foodstuff / Orchard /Health : These are genuine wealth.

In terms of intangibles, many citizens build houses to enjoy but because of the design and schemes completed much before the citizens were born (our city planning and infrastructure), they will commute 2-3 hours even to commute to workplace (to pay the ownership money of the largest equity they have – the house – the box in the sky) and when they will enjoy the home ? They have no time and hence their sleep is very costly when they apparently use the area mentioned in Tolstoy’s story : How much land does a man need ? The land he needs to lie down !

Other wealth building proposition runs like this :

1 Let us have our first house by toiling hard and paying huge money for the “box in the sky”

2. After 15-20 years, we shall have the second house for the family – the cash-box in the sky

3. The man and woman are 50+ now and the children pursuing their dreams and in a short while they find they have no family now….I see rows and rows of houses in some area where I live where grand old couple live and the whole house is locked with two rooms occupied. What working for family !!!

4. It is not considered that in such long term, events – ranging from mild shocks to cataclysmic are bound to happen but time will not come again.

5. This proposition takes huge toll on one’s health as many do not exercise, do not sleep well, remain in perpetual stress and anxiety and ruin their health. Simple but invaluable pleasures of Life now become very costly and the medicine men of all variety and all corporate emblem now find repeat customers.

There is a spiritual aspect of this : as net worth now becomes the whole of self-worth, the greatest illusion now tightens it grip and a descent into the grossest and most horrid materialism is reached : there remains no self-worth but only pursuit of net worth. This is done in a relative scale and slightest difference perceived in neighbour’s lifestyle and possessions now get magnified and becomes a sense of equally false self-satisfaction or self-hate. It can be as banal as the modular kitchen of the neighour as compared to one’s own and although most of the time eating is outside, this fact hangs in the mind like bitumen in trouser and a source of irritation.

Summary

 In a dispassionate and mathematical analysis taking into consideration entities like risk, control, time-value of money and body, societal and cultural context, citizens of Cubicle Nation do not create much wealth for themselves. They have only one asset – the home and in order to build that asset, huge risks are undertaken with one  irreversible damage : health : physical (sore eyes, distributed aches and pain in the body, poor appetite, sleep problem, fatigue) mental (anxiety, stress, anger and a perpetual worry translating into : Why am I not worried now?, and spiritual. The spiritual health can be understood best in a negative sense. Imagine your office does not have that soul crushing politics, back-biting and fight onto trivial issues (for the universe ) like raise, promotion etc. 

When I was a cubicle man some decade back, a colleague narrated a story – rather a question from his five year old boy and I remember this just now. He was at that time a 3 BHK, Wagon R, 3 credit card (2 Lac credit Limit total) man and was slogging hard in one of the cubicles in Norther India. His five year old boy once asked him as why, in spite of his Daddy studying for some 18 years still stuck in Wagon R whereas his classmate’s father – having studied up-to class 10th only – who rather built their gated apartment travels in a turquoise blue BMW. He was not able to answer. Fifteen years hence, he is still there – struggling with his job and against Formula 40 and finding work and life a drudgery and not much of great promise ahead.

In retrospect, the Cubicle Nation citizen were easy cash cows for the following business and these businesses just boomed near the office and residences of these citizens : banks, bars, credit card companies, transport companies, car sellers, tax department, promoters, local landlords, local brokers, junk food sellers, malls, brands of all kinds. It is only some 30 years ago when salaried class of India witnessed a miracle – a miracle so profound in terms of cultural impact that it will take at least 200 years to understand its full impact. They are in order : transport (car and motorbikes), phone, TV channels.  Then IT and ITeS happened. This explains the behaviour of Indian driving on Indian roads, Using Phone in public spaces and Entertaining oneself.

Somewhere, these whitest of the white collar jobs – the cubicle citizens felt something like the British of late Victorian era- the sun will never set. The white collar sun was radiating stronger and these citizens thought that they will now become wealthy, upper class, elite and rich. Finally they will catapult into the higher echelons. A thin segment actually did – middle class boy having no suit commanding a business empire after 30 years. But this dream had a democratic downside. A considerable proportion felt that borrowing money to buy prestigious box in the sky and uberlong car and credit cards were signs, trajectory, trail and propellant of the upbeat journey. And a great faith – natural in a country accustomed and conditioned to believe. A herd journey followed.

The sub-golden generation of this period of India are in the forties. After the heady days, the natural rebound and re-thinking is happening ? Is this 3BHK (box in the sky) + Longish Car + Credit Cards + 12 hours of work each day and 3 hours of commute really taking me anywhere into the stratosphere ? In simple money terms, isn’t the sadakchap broker having better net worth in ready cash and assets than me ? The fellow does not pay even tax !!!

Many of this generation now at the precipice of the 40s find their health ruined, their career stagnant, their days long and nights restless. Many try to show that things are fine and upbeat and world domination (synonym :superpower ) is just around the corner but things are not golden anymore.

In the last 30 years, this generation has learnt something devastating in a general sense and they hesitate to tell this to the next generation. They must as within a decade, they will slowly slide away – some very tenacious and politically savvy will be able to overcome cubicle politics and other but a large section will exit sideways – the white and grey corporate forgetfulness.

But there is a great opportunity – many will rediscover Life. Many will face truth – truth in its all nakedness and splendorous intensity – they will realize many truths which will make them free – really free.

They will be angry as well. But the anger will sooner or later turn philosophical and they will realize that it was their own illusion that made them vulnerable and we remain what novelists (the novels they had never read because they wanted entertaining and engaging and feel good novels) had long explored : We are playthings in the hand of History.

This generation, which is also my generation in India is both the plaintiff and the victim in the courthouse of History and we can only hope that History will be kind to us.

Disclaimer : I am not against buying a home, car or anything. Everyone has the freedom to make choices. The purpose of this post is to request the citizens to become critical of the received wisdom and try to see who benefits. This exploration – the greatest one of being critical with one’s cherished belief system and the prison of current wave of thoughts and approach to Life may be guidance for the next generation.

 

 

 


Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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Helpline for the Cubicle Nation

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“Cubicle Nation” has come to being quite recently where we could observe hundreds of people look at a CRT or plasma screen for 10-12 hours a day for work and earning their living.

Since all products and services are nowadays powered by cubicle nation in some form of the other, this post is relevant for them.

The urge for writing this post came to me when I had heard that my alma mater – University of Strathclyde, Glasgow was doing a research on the “Health of the Entrepreneurs” with the characteristics Scottish pragmatism and usefulness ( The University motto is : “A place of useful learning”) while arguing that those (the entrepreneurs) who are going to take care of the health of the economy and ours must have sound health.

I have done a kind of field investigation among the citizens of cubicle nation – mostly in my native habitat and found out some serious conversations going on and for brevity I note them in this white space, as if jotting down in a conference room. There is a subtle difference in these notes : due to reasons not unknown to the citizens, I am translating them, rather making them  less sanitized and more urgent :

  • Formula 40 : Citizens over 40 and having a large pay-package and less half-lives as in case of the radioactive elements find tremendous stress, anxiety, fear, dread. In addition to the issues of 2 EMIs (car + bank funded home), 2 school fees ( private schools) and 3 credit cards, they also find that there is no one with whom they can speak openly, without agenda, without the fear of being heard by an informer’s ear.  Colleagues are no longer friends but potential assassins.
  • Mard Ko Dard Nahin HotaMenfolk among this nation were taught, since childhood and via Bollywood and Hollywood that men are tough and have balls of steel and the tear glands and emotional glands are also made up of the same material. Hence, most of the men can neither open their minds and fears fully to their better halves / friends and the whole atmosphere has a no-ask-no-tell protocol. Some search for relief in nicotine, alcohol, diversions of many kind but the core issue : unburdening one’s sense of fear, of insecurity, of being proven if not utter but a serious failure in life at this age. There must be someone – a place of trust, someone who will not judge but will resonate with this. There is absolutely nothing to take care of the “dard” – not the aspirin kind but a very deep one.
  • The Rank-holder syndrome : Most of the citizens above 40 in the Cubicle Nation must have held some rank or other in India in their 10th / 12th / Entrance examination -otherwise they would not have been in the cubicle mid 1990s. This has consequences. Many have never failed in anything serious things in their lives. They simply could not.  It is not possible in the scheme Indian for them to think that they can fail. In India, the greatest conditioning we have is this : a white collar job is better than a blue collar or any collar job, irrespective of any other consideration of earning, location, interest, leisure, family lives, one’s own life. The Cubicle Nation citizens, especially the IT work is the whitest of the white collar job considered. This perception by the outside world and the inner turmoil of the citizen combine to make a lethal mix : Life is worthless if I fail to remain a white collar. White collars did not invent Life. Life or Existence does not listen to any one – of any collar. And even to Dollar.
  • Do you hear me Bela ? (“বেলা বোস, শুনতে পাচ্ছো কি…..?”) : In one of the memorable songs of our generation, the caller called Ms. Bela Bose but did not receive any answer. The message was curt and clear : “I got the job” (চাকরীটা আমি পেয়ে গেছি, বেলা শুনছো). But all of us, author included, at the circa 2016 have a more ominous reason to call our own Bela – that resides within us. The message is telegraphic, impersonal and explosive and since most of the citizens are quite accustomed to deal in acronyms, the word comes in a shade of pink, in Gothic font : GTFO …here. There  must be a place, other than a bar to go to – to handle the humiliation, the heartburn, the terrible anger and a helplessness. There is no such place. But we need one.

Great thoughts come from the Heart. We need men and women – of exceptional calibre and sensibility, having passed through this themselves, an ex-addict and with all the scars visible and they are kind, understanding, non-judgmental and competent.

The true philosopher – not a priest, not an astrologer, not a mentor, not a doctor, not a therpaist, not a depgrogrammer, not an ex but all of them together.

Dr. Philo  is coming with a helpline for Cubicle Nation very soon. Currently, he is in his study in some cellar in East Calcutta. The sun rises here.

Those of you who do not know Dr. Philo, the best introduction will be his treating of Mr. KT – a brother citizen of yours who, at the height of success suddenly found that he could not move his finger as he lied in his bed in one morning, aged close to 40 years – a top-notch, rank-holder, well-performed man with a nice wife, one five year old daughter, 3 BHK in the suburb, one Wagon R and his nemesis – six digit monthly salary ( in INR)


Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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Wisdom in a post : Wisdom of Literature

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This is the most ambitious post and is particularly useful for our “analytically loaded”,  “measurement fanatic” and distracted world. I am answering in brief paragraphs, rather in expanded bullet points, the question : is there and if it it is, what is the wisdom of literature ?

Multiple Lives : Literature is the only authentic device available to man, created consciously and unconsciously that allow us to live multiple lives. Truly great works of Literature creates windows inside us and we can live multiple lives in the form of being with the characters. This facet of Literature allows us to escape the limitations of our body, space, time and history.

Time Machine: Literature is the cheapest, simplest but most-powerful user-interface that allows us time travel. We can find freedom in the great works of Art – even thousand years apart because it somehow fulfills some aspect of our Being that we find completely outside the current time where we are imprisoned. Using the fuel of imagination and the preliminary navigation from the author, we can command a Time Machine at will. Because of this, some literary works become extremely relevant and moving after hundreds of years after being written.

Non-Linearity and Time warp : Literature has a power which is mysterious and no one able to explain it. This is a kind of clairvoyance. The closest parallel is in the domain of abstract mathematics which suddenly seems to be immensely practical (matrix algebra, set theory, number theory, non-Euclidean geometry). Long before science found out that if we increase power, both signal and noise get amplified, Literature demonstrates that stupidity does not decrease with time, it is proportionately amplified.

Privacy : Literature although a public domain material (a novel, a story) and consumed by many, it does not completely become old or used while being used privately. In a strange manner, it has a privacy protection that multiple uses do not wear it. Hamlet’s soliloquy somehow does not exhaust itself and every person has the opportunity to discover, connect, identify and apply it afresh.

Suspending all known laws of matter and life :  Great authors while creating their work do have a God-like power. Great works make us feel what is the willing suspension of disbelief. In that way, all great writers are like magicians – we know that we are being charmed but there is some allure in this voluntarily accepting this deception that great literature, a product of imagination appears to capture Life so completely.

Possibilities and Forgiveness : Great Literature through one of the greatest inventions of mankind – the character allows an entry into the innermost chamber of a person. This permission which we never grant becomes an immense opportunity to connect with this process. We learn to forgive others and ourselves as we find the grand mystery of Being.

Specialism as Omniscience  Of all the human creations, literature is by its own nature – supremely anti-specialism. All other subjects are specialists, literature’s specialism is omniscience. This omniscience is beautifully masked in the great works of Literature. It does not teach you anything directly as mathematics, science or engineering does. It transforms – this process is integrated. You do not become more-intelligent or better in calculation or better in design but you can absorb all of them.

Literature : with the tools of poetry and prose and their variants and mix and with the building blocks called characters (or without them) create something which is so airy and nebulous in their construct captivate us to such an extent that we seem to have discovered our essence in them.

This is the primal and the most-sophisticated aspect of Literature : it has the mystical power of being essential and redirecting us to the essentials.


Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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Wisdom in a post : Ludwig Boltzmann

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Any student of physics or chemistry cannot avoid Ludwig Boltzmann.

His contribution is such profound and wide at the same time. We would not have featured him in this series had he been only a brilliant scientist. He shares something striking with another genius of Europe and of humanity – Blaise Pascal . Boltzmann was also at the cross roads of two worlds of science and he was one of the few geniuses about whom it can be said : “Civilization is the story of those who hang their heroes”. Persecuted and ignored by his peers for his radical theories, redeemed by music, inspired by a rare kind of genius illuminating his work and relieved from the mental agony by suicide in an Italian resort while vacationing with his family.

Although this series of post does not describe the technical work in detail but for Boltzmann, an exception must be made. Boltzmann’s most important contribution was developing statistical mechanics for atoms. In his time, many reputed scientists considered atoms as a mental construct and not anything of reality. Symbolically speaking, Boltzmann not only understood the ghost-particles called atoms, he even wrote poetry about them in mathematics and which these ghosts completely liked, so much so that they obeyed it. It is no wonder that in his time his theories were considered phantasia (e.g phantom : an un-embodied being, a ghost)

Pessimism is natural : Boltzmann’s work with energy pointed out to a scenario where all natural processes tend to a direction of more disorder. In other words, our universe is passing from order to disorder and in ultimate analysis, this whole cosmic manifestation will be dead. There is no known law which says against. From the gases in a small box to the whole galaxies evolve in a way where disorder increases although total energy remains constant. It was Boltzmann who wrote universal pessimism in the famous equation below and provided us with a tool to measure disorder which he called entropy. 

S=k_{B}ln W, [ This fundamental law of matter remains engraved in his tombstone  and no less beautiful or poetic than that is on Keats’ : “the name written on water”]

220px-Zentralfriedhof_Vienna_-_Boltzmann

His tombstone with the Entropy Formula at the top

Contemporary time may be posthumous : It may so happen that your ideas – in whatever domain it is, may be way ahead of your time. Hence, trying to convince your contemporary time may be useless and sometimes the best way is to forgive. It is just like explaining the joy of coitus to a 4 year old…This person will, after 20 years realize this but there is a barrier of time and this cannot be tunneled. Boltzmann felt this at times but his genius was also of a self-destructive variety.

Price of Beauty is Loneliness : In his works, he was fanatic about Beauty. He believed with a passion that there is something called mathematical beauty  and fundamental laws of nature are not only comprehensible but they are beautiful. When he looked at the four electromagnetic equations of Maxwell and exclaimed : “Was it a God who wrote this ?”. Search for this beauty – mathematical beauty, made him a loner. All seekers of beauty must pay the price in the currency of loneliness. Beauty is the most sensitive thing in existence and even a second will make it fly.

Boltzmann died in 1906 – in his lifetime, his work was mostly ignored. After few years of his death, his works on thermodynamics ( cold death of the universe as entropy increases) and statistical mechanics (where gas-particles do not have any velocity at all but only probable velocity) became a new orthodoxy.

His work teaches us to become humble and sane. It provides us with a deep respect for a new and austere kind of belief – a belief that there is an underlying Beauty in the fundamental working of natural processes and we are able to discover it.

On one hand, his works doomed certainty in the domain of atoms and molecules but on the other hand, his work provided with a grand certainty in terms of disordered death of the cosmic manifestation.

His suicide was poetic – his mortal coil was under tremendous stress from his genius – rare, delicate, deep and profound.

He lies everywhere in modern physics.


Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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Silk Route Tour in East Sikkim

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Introduction:

Vacation is one of the rare phenomenon in a so-called busy lifeline. And the same is more prevailing in an entrepreneurial life. Life has become more stressful, complicated. We hardly have any time for self, family and children due to “always connected” life style. The medicine to have de-stressed is definitely a break from the daily routine. The Entrepreneurs like us always look forward to that break through vacation with family.

We have opted for exploring Silk Route and linked places in East Sikkim this year during summer. Last year also we took summer time for Vacation in Dooars, north Bengal.

The selection criteria of places was always little offbeat, Virgin places where people footfalls are little less. The life in crowded city like Kolkata has always been pissed off in daily routine and in effect the intention was to avoid places like hill stations like Gangtok and Darjeeling.

We had finalized to cover places like below route:

Kolkata – New Jalpaiguri – Silery Gaon – Aritar – Yakten – Rolep – Padam Chen – Nathang Valley – Juluk – New Jalpaiguri – Kolkata.

Due to work natures of the Entrepreneurial life, pre-planning is always difficult and in effect the finalization always happens at the last moment. Hence as usual train tickets were found to be unavailable. Premier trains like Darjeeling Mail, Padatik Express, Kanchankanya, Kanchanjangha etc were long wait listing and finally Shatabdi Express could be booked for the to and fro journey to New Jalpaiguri.

Our good old friend Mr.Narayan Pradhan from Pakyoung, Sikkim constructed the whole itinerary for the car, lodging/boarding (homestay) for us with all minute cares.

We had earlier visited Gangtok, Latchung (youmthang), Pelling, Ravangla etc and we all were excited to explore a different sector of Sikkim.

This is the time of Summer Vacation in schools for the kids and they were super excited with almost daily count down.

Packing, shopping, arrangements, verification of tour checklist were few ingredients of excitement.

Day 01 – 26-05-2016 (Kolkata to NJP)

Finally the day had arrived. We reached Howrah station by Uber by 12.30pm. The train was scheduled at 2.30pm.

Journey-howrh Howrah station

Everything was on time. Shatabdi reminds me old Rajdhani chair car. Lunch was served hot immediately the train kicked off. It was a compact and heavy lunch with Rice, Roti, Dal, Chicken, Card and Ice crème. Snacks with tea were ready by 5pm. Evening teasers were soup and munching sticks. Finally dinner at 8pm with the repetition of lunch menu. By this time all passengers including us got irritated by the overflow of food and repetition of same lunch menu in dinner did not please anyone. Eight hours sitting journey sometimes very uncomfortable for kids and aged persons. Due course of the journey, we got introduced with different families and yes almost all are going for Vacation. And off-course everyone was Bengali. Arrival at New Jalpaiguri was spot on at 10.30pm. Our hotel was pre-booked near the station. We took two rickshaws and arrived at Hotel Holydon at a 10minutes distance. All of us were extremely tired and in effect deep sleep was spontaneous.

Day 02: 28-05-2016 (NJP to Sillery Gaon)

We were out of bed very early with the mobile alarm and all of us were ready by 8am by completion of showers and dressing. Mahindra bolero car was assigned for our ride to Sillery Gaon, our first destination in the trip. We started at around 8.30pm and took a break in Gautam Hotel for Breakfast. This hotel is very well known to me and every time I travelled Sikkim, stoppage here was quite obvious. Last year during Dooars tour, we had breakfast here as well and chosen menu was same -Aloo Paratha, Curd and Tea, Lassi for kids. Only missing elements were my father-in-law and mother-in-law. Last year we travelled together for Dooars and taken breakfast break in this restaurant itself. Unfortunately father-in-law left us heavenly last December and mother-in-law went to brother-in-law’s place in Hyderabad for a change. In effect our team in vacation is lesser and we will keep them missing throughout. My father will be missed out as well in every vacation since my inclination for travel is inherited from him (he left us in 2012).

Gautam Hotel

Sillery Gaon, a small village at a height of about 6000ft in the Darjeeling district, West Bengal and surrounded by tall pine trees. Sometimes it is being lovingly called by the locals as “New Darjeeling”. The name “Sillery” is derived from the name of a plant that grows in abundance in the village. The place is located at a distance of around 6-8 km from Pedong. But this 6km is a nightmare by car. The road is not yet constructed and it is full of unstructured Stones, mostly it can be a trekking route by walk.

Sillery Gaon offers a magnificent view of the shimmering silver peak of Kanchanjangha, the third utmost peak in the world and the tranquility around entice.

Our booking was with Rajen Thapa Homestay. It was little downward from the road and we got placed at the 1st floor of the homestay with a charming balcony. Lunch was ready by the time we reached there. Rice, Dal, Sabji (Vegetable), Salad, Papa and Anda Curry (Egg curry) were served hot and made our lunch delicious as all of us were extremely hungry.

SIllery Gaon Sillery1

I met Gautam Chakraborty in Nirmala (The Homestay of Dilip Tamang). I got connected with him through a Bengali creative writing group “RoseBoshe” and discovered himself as a specialist Silk Route Tour Operator. He is my fellow neighbor in Bengal, but so passionate and dedicated to his customers / guests. He himself got stationed in Sillery Gaon to operate tours for the guests during season. My tour was pre-defined through someone else already. However would love to have his service in future.

Sillery-gautam

Selfie with Gautam at Sillery Gaon

Post lunch, we kept on roaming in and around of the village. It was drizzling by time. Tea and Pakoda were evening companions. As per process, dinner happened to be early by 9pm. Dinner was roti, Sabji, Chicken Curry. The evening and night had an extremely different ambience where the entire hill was flooded with small lights like firefly.

Day 03: 29-05-2016 (Silery Gaon to Aritar)

It was rainy night and our assumption was for a cloudy and foggy morning. In effect there was no plan for early wake-up and even mobile alarm clocks were nor set as well. But since very early morning, our sleeps were disturbed as we heard lot of people were chatting, moving around etc. Finally we woke up once we anticipated some whispering excitement in the people voice. It was 5.30am. We came out of the room and look forward from the balcony. It was clear sky and the entire range of hills were flashing as sunlight was reflecting on snow. It was amazing experience. As the day progressed, the cloud covered the entire range and by 7.30am almost nothing was visible.

Sillery3 Sillery2

Puri, Sabji and Tea were in breakfast. We were ready by taking early bath, packing etc and our car had arrived by that time. We started by 9.30am. Our destination is Aritar today. We visited a lonely monastery in Pedong on the way. It was drizzling almost throughout the journey. Aritar was around 3 hours journey.

We planned to complete the site seeing before checking in to the designated Homestay. We met Rishi Khola in between while entering Sikkim from Kalimpang.

Rishi Khola

Aritar is a small offbeat village in east Sikkim and it is famous for the lake. Aritar hosts the Lampokhari Lake, one of the oldest natural lakes in Sikkim located at an altitude of 4600 feet. A 1120 feet long and 240 feet wide boot-shaped Lampokhri Lake is also known as Aritar Lake and  is surrounded by charming emerald green pine forests.

We directly went to the Mankhim View Point” at the hilltop. The lake was beautiful from the top in the midst of green, mountain and surely clouds. There was a small temple. Once we finished the temple visit and came back to see Aritar Lake once again, it was completely vanished behind the cloud. It was seemed like other than the temple on hilltop nothing else was surrounded ever. This is the magic by nature. We stepped down and approached for Aritar Lake to see from close proximity. 

Mankhim mankhim (2) aritar (3) aritar (2)

Finally around 3pm we reached at “Bokhim Village Resort”, our designated homestay 1.5km away from Aritar Lake. The resort was in the midst of hills, jungle. Entire range of mountain could be visible sitting in the balcony, or even from the window of the room. Madan Rai, the owner of the homestay is very friendly person. He likes to talk to his guests and aspire to delight them with value added services. He had appointed a Bengali Cook even to extend a better experience to his guests (most of people comes here are Bengali). He holds Orchid garden down in the slope of the mountain. All rooms in the three stored homestay are fully furnished with all modern amenities like television, attached toilet, Gezer, English style commode etc. There are arrangements for Campfire, Barbeque, Disk Jockey(DJ), Swings for kids and so on. Lunch, Evening Snacs, Dinner were almost in the same tune and routine of Sillery Gaon.

Bokhim Village Resort-Aritar

Day 03 : 30-05-2016 (Aritar to Yakten)

Today’s destination is Yakaten. It is three hours drive from Aritar. The destinations were chosen in such a way sothat longer travel through hilly roads could be avoided in order to make it more relaxed especially for old and young people (my mother and kids).

On the way we passed the proposed place of Pakyoung Airport. It will be an amazing destination surrounded by hills. The same is expected to be go live by 2017.

Pakyoung Airport Pakyound Airport

Gradually we approached towards Pakyoung Bazar and had a break. Agenda was to meet Mr.Narayan Pradhan in his ancient house and have a cup of tea. He is the conductor/narrator for our tour. Very nice, humble, gentle young gentleman with awesome hospitality. His house is one of amazing spot for tourists with huge antic stocks. The house is around 210 years old and he is the eighth generation residing in this house. The downstairs of the house was used to host a Jail in ancient days. However, presently the same area is rented for shops. We had carefully seen old telephone sets, radio, coins, lamps, horn of yak, stones, stamps, furniture and so on. We were greeted by fruit juice, tea, biscuits.

Pradhan House (4) Pradhan House Pradhan House1

Afterwards we started for Yakten and reached by next one hour.

Yakten is a small village at altitude of approx 5000ft with the unbound beauty of pristine nature surrounded by tall pine trees and spectacular view of Mount Kanchenjunga. The place is also famous for orchid and cardamom cultivation almost everywhere at this hamlet. It is still virgin and not yet crowded like Gangtok. The location being near to the proposed airport, the site is going to be extremely important in terms of tourism. Government has already pointed it and started developing as a cluster. Yakten has its own natural charm and cultural significance. It is a perfect destination for those who want to explore the natural forest trail with Colour of rare species of butterfly and music of chirping birds by sitting in the lap of nature. 7 Kms nature walk to Jhandidara view point will surely make you feel a bit of adventure.

We were greeted in a very special tribal way in the Homstay Cluster (having eight home stay). Our stay was at Kothebari, run by Mr.VK Subbha. Again an awesome location. Without visiting any places, sitting in the balcony, lazy days can be passed by a true nature lover. In front entire range of mountains, surrounded by full of greeneries are visible. The land was owned by local tribes, but government had prepared the Staying arrangements, organic farming for fruits, vegetables, flowers. The owners are now operating it.

Yakten Kothebari-Yakten

We again became mad by the continuous flow of foods. Lunch was finished at 3pm. Tea and Snacks (pakoda) were served at 5Pm and it was followed by Chicken Kababs. Dinner was served at 8pm. Gangtok and other hill stations were visible at the slope of the mountain and it was like millions of fireflies roaming around the hills. It was amazing with the pin drop silence. Little awkward was late evening Disk Jockey and dance with loud music and it was complete mismatch with the location. But people from city (Bengali only) still prefers to carry their colonial luggage of habits which keeps them busy with the external excitements and off course these delays to listen their souls to get peace / delight.

Day 04 : 31-05-2016 (Stay in Yakten)

We will stay today also to Yakten. Our driver Phurba Tamang joins us today. He will continue to stay with us till NJP return. He is very nice, simple, helpful young person like all other people from hills as usual. We have plans for local site seeing today. Firstly we visited “Saramsa Garden”. The Garden is fully flooded with flowers, fruits in the mid of beautiful nature. But this is a created beauty, not the natural ones like hills, trees, rivers.

Saramsa Garden (3) Saramsa Garden Saramsa Garden (2)

Next spot was Rumtek Monastery. This is a repeat visit for us (except the kids) as we had visited from Gangtok during earlier travels to Sikkim. Surprisingly we found the entrance to the monastery was not permitted without valid identity cards. This was not known to us and we did not experience similar pattern during last visits as well. However, we managed it somehow and entered inside.

Rumtek Monastery is located at a distance of nearly 24 kilometers from Gangtok,as well as from Yaakten. Rumtek Monastery, also known as Dharmachakra Centre, is the largest monastery in Sikkim, and is the seat of the Karmapa Lama, who is the third highest monk in Tibetan Buddhism.  The Monastery is an absolute feast to the eyes and creates an inner peace in the hearts of visitors.

RumTek

Different sculptures, painting were there apart from the statue of Gautam Budhdha. Bouddha Lamas were performing Buddhist rituals towards the god. We came back to Yakten by 4pm. Hot lunch was felt extremely delicious as we all us were damn hungry. There was arrangement for Tribal Dance by local tribal youths. Local tribal songs, Nepali songs were performed along with dance by local youth.

Yakten-Tribal Dance

Yakten festival is on the card in coming February (26th to 28th February). People here requested us to comeback during that time. Let’s see.

Winter will be more charming to cover Yakten. The mountains will be full of frost, entire valley will be flooded with flower and off course it will be immense cold.

Day 05 : 01-06-2016 (Yakten to Rolep)

We left Yakten by 10am today and started towards Rolep. It is again around 3 hours journey. Initially we visited “Naya Basti”, near to Yakten. This is the village of our Driver. This place is being prepared for site seeing (like picnic spots, park, view point etc) as a part of the cluster where Yakten will be lodging/boarding and this place for local site seeing. Our next stoppage was “Kartan Monastery”. It is very quiet and silent place in the heart of Hills and nature. Then as usual we drove through the hills and gradually reached upper Rolep. We had to stop as the road was ended there. Hilly River was accompanying us during the last lap of the ride. We were searching our Homestay as nothing was visible there apart from a closed government bungalow and unfortunately none of the mobile phones had signals to call up. Then suddenly a stony staircase downward at the edge of the road caught our attention. We followed the route and after few minutes of walk besides the river and through the hills, our Homestay was discovered. “Stoya Homstay” was placed just besides the river and surrounded by mountains and jungle. Very lonely place with the noise of river flow only. There is only one running homestay so far with three rooms for the tourists. But the location is amazing with most attractive part of “No Signal” (disconnected from the outer world). Post lunch we spent our leisure besides the river only and did a small trek to visit a hanging bridge which connects walking people between the hills on top of the river. Like all other Homstays, the hospitability was awesome as well. The food had invariably constructed through small tasty potatoes which were being produced in the slopes of hills.

ROlep (2) Rolep ROlep-Bridge

The river is called “Lumphu Khola” or “Rolep Khola”. It is originated from Tshangue Lake and diminished at Teesta.

Day 06 : 02-06-2016 (Rolep to Padam Chen)

The river at Rolep is not a place for swimming, rafting etc as it flows through the hills and having huge amount of current inside. The beauty resides in the surrounding atmosphere and positioning of the Homestay.

We spent few more hours today morning in the bank of river before starting for Padam Chen.

We stopped at Rangoli for getting passes for “Silk Route”. Padam Chen will be the first place under silk route area. The places we visited so far are ancillaries to Silk Route.

Silk Route connects East Sikkim and Lasa at Tibet through Jelep La and Nathula passes. The historical significance of the Silk Route is of Eastern and Western civilization exchange – especially the Chinese, Indian, Persian, Arab, ancient Greek and Roman cultural exchange.

After Rangoli, we started driving upward through the circular path through the hills. Now onwards our journey will be upwards in high altitude.

Next break was at “Que Khola” in Nima Chen. It was a waterfall in the hills in the midst of nature. We had hot coffee in charming roadside and met Prema Sherpa. Prema runs a travels company and drive himself in his own car through hills to accompany his customers. Very passionate and big hearted young gentleman with extremely charming personality.

Que-Khola

Our lodging, boarding today was booked at “Silver Wood Retreat” Homestay few crossing before Padam Chen Police Station. This Homestay is run by Penzo Lama and is situated in the slope of the hills. The location is superb and the mountains were visible sitting in the room itself. But the people like me, who had already spent time in Sillery Gaon and Yakten, will not have more excitement here. We met here two more gentlemen here who came as managers for two of the tour operators in Kolkata. One had diverted their route towards silk route since Lachung (Youmthang) and Lachen (Gurudongmar) routes were closed due to landslides for severe rainfalls. Other had destined for Silk Route only. 24 people in total in two groups (6 in one group and 18 in the other) were all Bengalies. I have discovered once again how Bengalis are passionate towards travels.

I visited a small monastery in the rainy afternoon by 30 minutes trek. Monasteries are as mysterious like mountains. I always wonder why monasteries are found only in hills and Buddhists are mostly discovered in hilly people.

Padam Chen

Padam Chen is more of a halting station to cut short the long drives in Silk Route.

Day 07 : 03-06-2016 (Padam Chen to Nathang Valley)

Our destination today is Nathang Valley. Initially it was planned to stay in Juluk for two days and travel places from there. But afterwards Narayan Pradhan recommended to stay in Nathang Valley for one night and next day visit places and comeback to stay at Juluk. Juluk is only 9 kilometers away from Padam Chen.

We travelled through the famous Zigzag road and stopped first at Thambi View Point. Zigzag road was neither visible nor we could take any snaps due to heavy clouds. Same was at Thambi view point. It was 11200 feet altitude from the sea level. This is the place for sunrise over Mount Kanchenjungha and its allied peaks.

Thambi View Point

We stopped at several unknown places in between to cherish nature and take snaps in due course. Flowers, Yak and military were visible in almost every places. There were number of military training camps, bunkers on the way. We personally interrogated few of bunkers due to over enthusiasm.

Nathang Valley (3) Nathang Valley (2) Nathang-Bunker

Finally Nathang Valley found visible from the road. The location is like a flipped bowl (concave side of it). A valley with full of greens, surrounded by hills and in between some small homes (looked like toys from such a distance).

Nathang Valley

We proceeded further and reached Old Baba Mandir. The secular temple was prepared in memory of Harbhajan Singh (with signs of Hinduism, Shikh, Muslim and Christian).

Baba Mandir (2) Baba Mandir

Baba “Harbhajan Singh” was in the Indian Army during 1962 China-India War. The rumours are available among localites that he still spends his time and energy in the border to prevent the country from the enemies even after he was missing. He still reserves all the government facilities like salary, leaves, gradations, increment etc. One more Baba Mandir had been established later near Tsangu Lake for the convenience of the travellers coming through Gangtok.

On completion of site seeing we came down to the Nathang Valley and checked in to our designated “Sonam Homestay”. This is the best Homestay in terms of service and attitude. We were only boarder in that day and in effect they offered us two rooms out of three available rooms even if we had booking for only one room. Due to high altitude my wife and kids had some difficulties and the owner Lakpa Sherpa jumped into resolution for the same like some local medicines, specific foods to control the situation.

 Nathang Valley (5) Nathang Valley (4)

It was extremely cold in the night. Two blankets were also not sufficient to protect apart from normal winter wares.

Day 08 : 04-06-2016 (Nathang Valley to Juluk)

Today’s schedule was little hectic. After breakfast we went for Kupup Lake, Tsangu Lake and New Baba Mandir. Morning breakfast was masala noodles. First stop in the site seining was Kupup Lake. It was 7-8 Kilometers away from Nathang Valley. Kupup Lake was to be viewed from the roadside on top of hills. Going near to it was not permitted being the same is in military area. Kupup Lake looks like elephant trunk and in effect it is also termed as “Elephant Lake”.

Kupup Lake (2)

Interestingly Snow was visible at the hill top on the surroundings. Gradually we approached, the snow summits were clearly visible as well. Few unknown lakes, viewpoints got passed before we faced one more surprise. It was Sherthang and we found gathering due to latest snow accumulated roadside mountain wall. We were bound to stop. Kids were super excited. We enjoyed, played, took snaps.

SherThang Sherthang (2)

We proceeded further and next halt was new baba Mandir. After baba mandir, final stop was Tsangu Lake. This is one of most spectacular landscapes of Sikkim. We visited this place twice earlier in 2002 and 2005. The beauty was more natural those times as it is converted into more commercial.

Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake is perched within mountains at an altitude of 12,400 ft. This is located at Gangtok – Nathula Highway, 37 kms away from Gangtok. With a depth of around 48 feet and spreading over 1 kilometre, the magnificent Changu Lake romances with its picturesque surrounding. The water of the lake comes from the melting of the snow of its surrounding mountains. This azure blue lake remains completely frozen during winter along with its surrounding hills. In late spring, the lake gets surrounded with rhododendrons, blue and yellow poppies with a breathtaking effect.

Changu (2) Changu

We spent time near the lake and the market. Kids had photo sessions with Yaks (dressed with fashion wares)

Nathula pass is one more attractive destination through a diversion road in between Tsomgo Lake and New baba Mandir. We did not visit this time as different passes needed and it is at higher altitude. The border checkpost at Nathula Pass is marked by the Border Gates of India and China, a war memorial and an Exhibition Centre of India Army. Nathula Pass is a mountain pass in Eastern Sikkim, on the Indo-Chinese border that serves as the trade link between India and China. Nathula Pass nestled at an elevation of 14,140 feet and ranks amongst one of the highest passes accessible by tourists through motorable road.

Return path from Changu Lake towards Zuluk was re-visiting the places we already covered as we had to cover the same route which we had already travelled (Changu – Baba Mandir – Kupup – Nathang – Zuluk).

Zuluk is a hilltop and a transit point within the Silk Route. Zuluk or Dzuluk is a small village located at a height of around 10,100 feet on the rugged terrain of the lower Himalayas in East Sikkim. It is relatively an emerging and offbeat destination in East Sikkim. The road through Zuluk makes almost 32 hairpin turns. Zuluk has got diversity of Himalayan fauna. Zuluk hosts an Indian Army base as a transit camp for the army movement to the Chinese border.

Zuluk

Day 09: 05-06-2016 (Juluk to NJP)

Mukhiya Home Stay,run by Sukbahadur Mukhia was our den in Zuluk. The positioning of the homestay was again in the midst of hills and lush greeneries. But Sillery Gaon and Yakten wins the race in terms of the positioning and sipping nature from the lap of Rooms/Balcony. The hospitality is again superb. The kids of sukbahadur jelled well with our kids.

Zuluk (2)

Our journey in hills is going to end today. We will get down and reach Silligury. The journey is around 5 hours and we started around 10am.

After certain time Teesta started accompanying us through the hills downward.

Teesta Teesta (2)

We took a lunch break at Malli and purchased Lollypop (special lollypop made from Milk), Achar (Made from Bamboo Shoot) as a special locally manufactured items.

We have reached our relative’s place by 4pm at Silligury. Last year also we came here at the end of Dooars trip. But two people are no more from last year gathering – Jethi (Anti) and my father-in-law. Jethi (Aunty) was very unwell last year. She was surviving with external support as her own lungs was not functioning. This time the house looked like very empty. The big three storied house was only having three persons – Rana Da, Boudi and their little cute kid. My grandfather was the elder brother of Ranada’s Grand Mother. Spending time with near and dear ones are always refreshing and food arrangements by boudi was awesome as usual.

NJP

Day 10 : 06-06-2016 (NJP to Kolkata)

We had to start very early today (4pm). Rana da personally taken us to the station with his car.

Anyway the train started as per schedule at 5.35am. We did not have any glitches like last year since all our seats were confirmed.

Shatabdi-Return Shatabdi Food

Food was awesome as well. We reached howrah at 2.30am (one hour late). And on reaching, same propblem of getting Taxi got repeated. I still wonder why gateway location like howrah is not planned properly for transportation.

We are back in our home town and daily routing will follow now onwards. 

Conclusion

And finally my vacation ended with lot of energy and refreshments.  As per my personal rating Sillery Gaon, Yakten, Rolep and Nathang Valley are four places chronologically in terms of natural beauties in my eyes. I aspire to go back to these places in winter in sometimes of my life to cherish more magic of hills. Like Paren (as mentioned in my last year Dooars blog) I dreamt of having entrepreneur’s outbound meet / Bootcamp of 3 days in Rolep. Yes costing will be high and as I know assembling all people (atleast 10) is always difficult. The disconnected world of Rolep will enforce the entrepreneurs to exchange thoughts / ideas/ strategies and outcome is bound be great. North Bengal and Sikkim hills are awesome destination with extreme varieties and natural beauties.

Anyone feels to visit the same route (as per my flow), the total coting will be around INR 10000 to 12000 (USD 150 to USD 225) per person per day (here it was 8 night 9days tour in American Plan – all food inclusive with Dedicted CAR). All remote/offbeat places are typical village places and most of the accommodation facilities are traditional homestays, but rooms will come with modern/western attached bathroom with neat/clean facilities. All places may not have geyser facility but if you are in need of hot water you can ask your concerned homestay operator for the same and they would make it available in buckets. All homestays serve 1 time veg meal and 1 time non-veg meal. Veg meal generally comprises of egg curry rice with dal, achar, salad, papad and few vegetable items. Non-veg item includes mainly chicken curry with rice or chapatis since fish are not available in many places. In the breakfast general option is between either chapatti with vegetable item or Puri with sabji item etc. The charges includes every expenses (early morning tea, breakfast, lunch, evening tea/snacks and dinner), lodging (homestay accommodation with attached western style bathroom), transport charges , all applicable permits, taxes, service charge) in all the places along with Car (NJP to NJP). Kolkata to New Jalpaiguri and return charges by train/air will be extra on actual as per individual choice.

My sincere thanks to the readers for patience to read this Photo-Essay on Silk Route Tour. Look forward towards your valuable feedback.

Detailed photo album and videos will be published soon.


Source: sushobhanm.wordpress.com


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[Fiction] The Indian Taraaqi Man

Category : Uncategorized

Mr. KT* has recently turned in his mid-forties and he has been a taraaqi man through and through. Born in a small town, he had achieved a lot – academically, professionally, economically and socially.  A biographer (a contemporary media man of India) of him will describe him as below:

He was an adolescent when Indian economy was opening up. He joined the elite Indian technical school then worked in a multi-national corporation, eventually getting his MBA from an Ivy League University in the United States. He had worked in the US for couple of years and then returned to become the Country Head of an Indian Multinational. Based in a happening megalopolis in India’s West with regular visits in major cities in the world – he works very hard – almost 15 hours a week. He suffers from many diseases – mostly minor but that does not deter him from taking up new challenges.  

Such mini-bios have appeared in many places and he has found them to be quite interesting. He remembers a young girl who came to take the interview – barely 22 or so and he fondly remembered that in that age he was focused on grades, scores, academic excellence and he did excel. He sighed, half satisfied and in half emptiness.

As a matter of fact, when he was a student, he was already a highly trained, motivated and single focused man. His parents obliquely made him understand that any interest in beer, girls, and beer with girls were distractions and once he becomes  ( what ? none knew exactly, including himself), he will have more opportunity and time to enjoy these charms of life. However, once charmed early, he runs the risk of having the taraaqi obstructed.

In this 10th and 12th classes, he focused on physics, chemistry and mathematics with an additional  steroid-driven training for cracking some of the toughest entrance tests since the Nalanda and the Lyceum, he did not care much about his own biology in the form of a body.

When he started working, he was so dedicated and focused and self-forgetting that his seniors immediately dropped hints of the great promise he had. Since he never questioned any argument on taraaqi and considered everyone his true well-wisher who was such fervent worshipers of growth  starting with his parents, he had no problem with his bosses. The bossed obliged and he was a promising, hard-working, slowly-settling and decent man in his early thirties.

The matrimonial ad ran out in the newspaper – both English and vernacular and since parents were the Programme Manager of the match making as a strategy  and marriage as an event, he was married seamlessly, so as to speak, of the efficiency aspect of the happenings. Two weeks leave for marriage and honeymoon, he started his family. At that time, he found out that his wife could not and did not take much interest in his work or what he did in the office where he remained for 12 hours a day. But he found his wife to be pretty and adorable. His wife proved to be his first physical and intimate interaction with a woman. Not because he was having any different orientation or some physical disability but he did not simply have time and by implication, not much passion or if it was, it was subdued by a passion of much intense variety and having much larger jurisdiction – the future itself.

In his 38th year – six years after the marriage and having one child some 4 years old, the  taraaqi had a crisis. A strange morning sickness seized him. He felt paralyzed in the morning just after waking up. He could not even lift a finger while he thought that he had to go to the office. Since he was trained since boyhood to take command in serious matters- either from text-book, note-book, tips-book, parents, bosses ; he called a doctor. The doctors and a battery of tests after, nothing could be pin-pointed. His wife was deeply disturbed. He was suffering from a battery of psychoses and neuroses and he really felt that he would die on the bed through sheer exhaustion although he was not doing anything.

After 2 weeks, when neither medicine nor diagnosis made a breakthrough, alternative therapies were tried. One of them was “The Pomegranate Clinic”. It was recommended by a colleague. The Pomegranate Clinic appeared in his apartment in the form of a middle aged man around 11 am and brought a small packet of tea and asked his wife to prepare three cups. He introduced himself by his adopted name of  Dr. Philo and as soon as the wife went to the kitchen, he moved his lips near Mr. KT’s ear and told : “This is a very rare disease. Almost incurable. Good news is that I also suffered from it and ruined my career. However cure is there. No worries. You will be cured and soon. Around 1/10000000th of the population contract it . You are a rarity and can be a celebrity, if you wish.”

The tea came with some crackers. Dr. Philo politely declined the crackers observing that mixing anything other than white sugar with such fine and pure tea is outrage of modesty and a sin as serious as fornication.

Dr. Philo appreciated his wife’s taste in decorating the house and the delicate way she prepared the tea. As soon as his wife was going to describe her worries, Dr. Philo dismissed everything with a friendly wave and said that her husband would be alright soon. The disease was already detected. She looked at him in disbelief. He then said, softly – “I am the proof.” Before leaving, Dr. Philo had assured them that he would come again tomorrow. He had asked Mr. KT to move himself near the window, lie and watch the birds and clouds. He had asked him to eat and drink whatever he liked.

Dr. Philo returned the next day, this time with a big box and a portly lady followed him. She was the chef and the box contained many medicinal delicacies, he winked. The plan was to have a conversation and meanwhile the herbal cook was preparing the “medicines” in the kitchen. A conversation followed :

Dr. Philo : Mr. KT, tell me somethings in last five years only for yourself ? Tell me something you did consciously for yourself only – not for the company, not for the family, not for health, not for fitness but for yourself and yourself alone ?

A silence followed. Then Dr. Philo turned to Mrs. KT and asked her the same question.

The silence was deeper.

Dr. Philo, as if  sucked the silenced, and delivered the following as aromas from the kitchen filled the room. He closed his eyes and in a trance like state he started speaking as if he was watching a film in his mind’s eye.

Just hear the music by your nose and the ear. Do you hear the ting-tong sounds coming from the kitchen. Do you feel the blending of the aromas ? Now watch the sky – this is at least billion years old. Does it look tired ? Watch the bird – it shares almost 97% genetic code with you. Does it look frozen while foraging for food just like you feel while going to office ? 


Dr. Philo started coming regularly and after a week Mr. KT desired to take a walk outside. Dr. Philo drove without word for 45 mins till they came at the outskirts of the city. He parked the car and pulled out two by-cycles and asked him to ride. Both rode the bi-cycle and then took tea in a small shack – at the shadows of the tall towers – the office and residences of fellow citizens of Mr. KT.

“You are suffering from many maladies and almost the same one I did.”

“What are these ?”

“Analytic overload syndrome, adolescent emerging economy disorder, hormonal sublimation for narrow purpose and the last one which I have to borrow from another dead language  – anexatasti zoi – ancient Greeks called this Un-examined Life.”

“Please explain”

Dr. Philo smiled. A sunset was approaching and the distant horizon, filled with paddy -fields looked honey coloured at the edges. A soft breeze was blowing and Mr. KT watched white cranes flying back home. A serene atmosphere and he heard the shack is emitting ting-tong music – the virginal tea – cutting one is being prepared for the evening.

“Since you were a boy, you have worked with the intellectual firearms since the dawn of civilization in sciences and mathematics with a very narrow objective. Calculus, periodic table, atomic structure, probability, entropy, electromagnetic equations, statistical mechanics – all these and many more profound insights you have studied with a singular aim of buying a better ticket in life – to have a good life. No one told you, none knew, neither you reasoned it what is the good life and what is the ticket’s worth. You have used your wings for walking faster. What could have freed you from the ground made you only collide faster. This analytic overload had made you an excellent tool but a tool nevertheless. You have never used the tool for your own self. You have been an efficient digger to get gas out of the deep interior but never thought of using a gaslight from the gas that your exotic tools made to come up. ”

Dr. Philo asked : “Another cup of tea ?”

The virginal and warm liquid was served again and Mr. KT listened – the bicycle reminded him of his 12th tuition days – his only mode of transport then.

“You were also victim of history. You were born in a time when the environment had a certain tune – just like fancy of music at a certain time. Being narrowly focused on the analytic and that too for a very narrow purpose, you suppressed the basic biological and emotional urges. You commanded your body and the body listened to because your mind was narrow-beamed and it was delivering energy in a laser like manner.”

“I think so – I have left many things in life untasted.”, KT ejaculated the words.

“Most of the men have not lived long. They have simply existed long. Living and existing are completely different affair. As the natural capital in the form of bio-energy dissipates, like all energy does through entropy, around forty, men have a profound choice – Either / Or. He can either draw heavily on the natural energy in  the same way or choose another way.”

Dr. Philo now looked straight at him and said : ” Do not be listening wrongly. Haven’t you felt sometimes a kind of guilt of not spending time with the family ? Don’t you sometimes find little important when people forgave you for not showing common decency and social obligations for being “busy”, “important”, “responsible” and “hi-flyer” ?”

“Yes, all the time. I have forgotten when was the time when I had attended a marriage for few days.” – said KT

Dr. Philo nodded and went on : “… Examine your life. Many a times when you were coughing blood in your office, metaphorically speaking, stressed and anxious – your family, although bankrolled by you – did complain of not spending quality time with them. Didn’t they ? ”

“My wife constantly complains that my office is her no.1 enemy. I see my daughter only in the morning in the weekdays. Because in all other days she is asleep when I return.”

“Aren’t you being lectured or taunted being more creative ? ”

“All the time.”

“Don’t you feel that you have no life to call your own ? Don’t you feel that your time, your living energy being completely sold out in advance in the form of debt, upgrades, upgraded  (reference to yours) career of children, devices and services that you know not you need for at least half a decade in advance, if not more”

Mr. KT wanted to speak something but kept silent.

“You have been very dutiful, very diligent to everything so far – except to yourself. You have not even thought about it.”

This is my first and last therapy : Think more. You are very fortunate. Many contract this disease at the threshold of their death. You have a chance to fight. I too share the same fortune like yours. We are beneficiaries of the Immanent Mercy of the Cosmic Manifestation.”


Six months later, The Pomegranate Clinic** found two new team members. Mr. KT’s wife. whose name was Annapurna went to Japan, taught herself Japanese, took a rigorous course in Japanese tea ceremony and Mr. KT shifted himself at the edge of the city, started riding more of his adolescent transport – the bi-cycle.

Dr. Philo and Mr. KT were riding a car – on a call – to meet another victim of anexatasti zoi syndrome in an affluent quarter. Dr. Philo asked him : “What do you think we should prescribe ?”

Mr. KT smiled :”I think  Gnothi seauton will be my first and last therapy.”

“And a cup of tea- green one will do just fine as the medicine for the body” – Dr. Philo replied and the car boot danced in joy with three bi-cycles waiting to be unleashed.

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* The initials KT can be read, among billion combinations in India as Kam Tamam 

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** The Pomegranate Clinic is currently operating in beta-testing mode. Dr. Philo and Mr. KT can be contacted for a no-obligation and cost free consultation at wordsmith.bengal@gmail.com 


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Walden Pond in North Tripura

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Almost six years back – I had visited and recorded my visit in North Tripura Hills which provided my soul with detoxification from urban anxiety and business pressure. I was six years younger in term of duration and it reminds me now of  the shortness of youth and individual life itself.

But there is something called Life which lives on. I experienced this last night when after a long time I looked at a clear night sky here – above the Hills and overhead and I was reminded of my boyhood – the sky was not the Calcutta night sky but something animate. The stars were not lambda, mu, black hole, Chandrasekhar Limit but unlimited, vast and mysterious.

In the morning, I had fished and swam in a pond which is the Walden Pond for me. This grand fortune owes its existence to my host – a government hospital doctor and a friend here who has invited me to spend few days here. He is one of those rarities in Contemporary Emergent India who likes to have a reflective life, likes to keep pets ( 2 cats, two goats, one indoor dog, 2 birds, 3 stray dogs). Many of his patients gift him fresh vegetables from their home. He is loved and everyone knows him and it is impossible to go travel in his bike with every minute someone greeting him and asking who is the pillion rider. I call his life the life of a British country Lord who is a doctor as well. An MD, he could have easily left this place for greener pastures but he stays here, not because he have to but he must for his soul. He chats with me and patients call and he rushes away and comes after half an hour. Patients call anytime – 3 am is not unusual and he is present. I find what a community actually is. Last evening, 3 friends came, one an excellent cook and prepared dinner and except salt and spices, food mile of everything was less than 5 miles.

Few hours back, we had an experience which again either a Thoreau or a British country gentleman can have.

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The Magic Pond – the light was soft after rains and the whole scene was serene yet playful

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Lord Doctor – overlooking the tea sent by the neighbours impressed by our patience and endurance

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The Catch

As these proceedings were going on – two middle aged men running hither and thither and making sounds when a catch is missed and the wicket-keeper shouts, there were sounds made by us when we failed to bring a fish off the water or some fish running away at the last moment, they came with food and water and tea and participated in the great campaign.

Then as we were packing up, they had a swim and I also joined and had a very satsifying and soul-cleansing swim.

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In the Mahabharata, Yudisthira, very anxious just prior to the war talked about ritual bathing and cleansing the dirt inside one’s mind. I think a swim and bath in such pristine settings is exactly that. I shall remember this bath. Or the cleansed mind will.

In next 30 mins, I am leaving for the afternoon campaign which will be followed by a walk in starry nights.

Monsoon is coming. Pre-monsoon rains making the area lush green and shining. The Hills are darker and when we fish in our pond, we hear birds singing and children playing.

These are permanent perks of a quiet Life as our good doctor has chosen. With Internet, one can filter in the world here minus many of the undesirables. I mean, there remains a possibility.

To all the lovers of quiet and reflective life : do not follow the tourist brochure. Do not follow rather. Look for something which you might not have asked for thinking too inconsequential. To all my Bengali readers (Poetry is by definition untranslatable, even for a wordsmith), my favourite four lines of her greatest poet and wordsmith (because he tried to translate some of his own poems in English)

যা পেয়েছি তাও থাক / যা পাইনি তাও

তুচ্ছ বলে যা চাইনি / তাই মোরে দাও

Acknowledgements : This travel acknowledges the following individuals and institutions in addition to Lord Doctor pictured and mentioned in the post

  1. My wife (mistress of the moonlight and the Lakshmi and Annapurna of Wordsmith Establishment in Calcutta and Silchar – Ms. Chandrani Bhattacharjee for her indulgence, patience and understanding.
  2. Government of Tripura for maintaining the environment and also for maintaining very nice roadways
  3. Government of India – Indian Railways for operating the recently commissioned Silchar Agartala Passenger Train service that runs on time with very clean compartments
  4. Every being – living and non-living of North Tripura Hills


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Wisdom in a post : “On the Shortness of Life”

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“On the Shortness of Life” is the title of an essay ; an essay written some two thousand years back by Seneca, a Spanish born Roman. The magnetic title itself is an indication of what is to come.

The most-interesting thing is that we become really and positively aware of the “shortness of life” only when we enjoy a particular habit of mind. This habit of mind while finding a conducive environment  gives rise to a state of being that is acutely aware of our mortality as well as the infinite potential hidden in spite of it.

We need to read this essay when we are too distracted, too much interested in “improvements”, “upgrades” and other foibles of Life as the Life itself continues its course which no billionaire, no celebrity, no power can alter.  Seneca – adviser of emperor and friend of very rich men, finally fell victim to the favours of the great and says before dying : “Do not fret over the part of Life, think of the whole of it.”

The wisdom from the “Shortness of Life” is s bright yet that two thousand years could not dim neither its brightness nor its power to pierce the deepest delusion : “You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire”

Leisure is a priceless commodity : Seneca lived at a time when general life expectancy was low and the shadow of death followed any political ambition. Moreover, he was a very insider in the corridors of imperial power. He remembers that the divine Augustus ( perhaps the only man in history of humanity to have enjoyed such temporal power for such a duration) longed for leisure. He died after a supremely busy life ad till lamented that he did not get leisure and later consoled that perhaps mortals are denied of it by the gods (higher powers above an emperor who was a divinity while he lived). “You will notice that the most powerful and highly stationed men let drop remarks in which they pray for leisure, praise it, and rate it higher than all their blessings.”

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Seneca in younger days 

Tragedy of being a preoccupied man : In our times, being successful is synonymous with being “preoccupied”. Such men do not belong to themselves but to their profession or the area of specialization. They devote their life to the area of specialization and do not even start with the question of living. The first question a true philosopher asks is : “What is living well” and such professional men laments at the end of their life with a curiosity which none can answer but can only console : “Did I live at all ? “ “A grey-haired wrinkled man has not necessarily lived long. More accurately, he has existed long.” and the conclusion “Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man;”

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Life as a servitude : When one is young, one tends to think to rise in Life. In democracy where each citizen by by definition equal and free in equal measure, any thing one needs must be equated in the equation of universal equalizer : money. Money related intelligence and crass materialism combine to make a potent brew by which we are all drunk. In its final evolution where we are now, all wealth asymptotically approach the measure of Money.   Some men never come out of this intoxication and as they lie in their Death Bed or their considerable wealth being trickled away just like the drips in the expensive hospitals at ICU or Super ICU, they ponder but do not ponder on the great lack of their life of not reflecting. He passes away without even aware of being the slave he was. The first and the last light of freedom – the awareness of not being free – the only gift fortune has granted us in our journey in Life. Young men must reflect while they are vigorous and less encumbered by the demands of wife and children on the essentials of Life – career is not some grand start of Life but an eternal servitude in disguise. Young ears of our times may gather some wisdom of pessimism as a man speaks across two thousand years : “We are all tied to Fortune, some by a loose and golden chain, and others by a tight one of baser metal: but what does it matter? We are all held in the same captivity, and those who have bound others are themselves in bonds – unless you think perhaps that the left-hand chain is lighter. One man is bound by high office, another by wealth; good birth weighs
down some, and a humble origin others; some bow under the rule of other men and some under their own; some are restricted to one place by exile, others by priesthoods: all life is a servitude.”

In our times, pessimism, decline, decay, death are anathema. We all try to present ourselves as cheerful and try to cheer our fellow citizens. We visit medics and take medications to become cheerful. We hate depression. We are ever anxious to evade the anxiety of being a mortal. We try to improve our lot and delude ourselves by naming us as optimists.

But Life is not governed by our wish or desire but we are subjected to its Laws which are not completely known to us. What we know for certain is that we run the risk of doing everything except Living.

Works of Seneca and many of his fellow Stoic thinkers do not let us forget this through their works which startle and strengthen us.


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