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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Diwali- Lights, Camera, Action!

Diwali, the festival of lights in India, was celebrated in much splendor and added to the list of paraphernalia- Television Commercials specifically for this festival.
It is interesting how some creative minds succeed in generating an idea of commercial returns, out of this festival which has emotional connotations for every Indian.

From some of the famous Agencies, and under the banner of some reputed Brands, the following TVC's were broadcast to en-cash on the sense of festivity.

What do you think about these ?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Diary Entries continued.....


Sorry Master, I did not write yesterday because I was really tired and irritated with myself. I had brought home only 250 rupees. What could I have told you when I couldn’t show my face to Ma!
Anyway, yesterday has passed. You know something unusual happened today.
I earned only 500 rupees but there was something else that I brought back- respect from a kind man who hired me to go to Ruby Hospital. I think his daughter was admitted there for some reason and I was taking him to her from Minto Park. He looked very worried and was on the phone continuously talking to some doctors. The fair was 124 which he paid and left. But as I was driving back, looking for another passenger, I noticed he had left an envelope on the back seat!
With trembling hands, I reached for it and opened it to find bundles of notes. I haven’t seen so much money. Even when I go to Mishra da at the end of the day and he is counting money, I don’t see so much money! It was as if the man wearing the blue-shirt was a Ginnie who had given me the lump sum, as if God himself had directed him to stop my specific WB-02T-0908, amongst the hundred other taxis in the world!
As tears welled in my eyes, and my hands still shivered I noticed that the cars behind me were honking terribly by now because in my bewilderment I had stopped driving. As I drove over to the side, I realized how tough it was to drive! Years of experience and practice failed me at that moment and I just parked clumsily; trying to collect my thoughts and trying to grasp the recent upheaval of events in my life.
As Ma’s image floated in front of my eyes, my thoughts drifted from a self-owned car to blocks of ice-creams that Mahendra sells by the corner of the road, a house and the pictures of jewellery which are on those big boards by the road. I couldn’t get my mind off these things! I know Master you might think I was selfish or maybe mean to think of these things at that moment- when the ‘Ginnie’ man’s money was in my hands. When that Ginnie’s daughter was in the hospital, when that money was meant for her treatment, when that man was worried about losing his money at a point of crisis. But Master, these were also the moments when Ma was at home in an age- old saree, when she was alone because I can’t afford to marry, when I was driving Mishra da’s car, scared each minute that if something happens to the car I will have to pay the fine!
 I don’t think this is justification enough Master. But what I did with the money, maybe.

Master, I reversed the car and went back to the hospital, found the man and gave him the money which was his. I cannot tell you how relieved he was. When I saw him from a distance he looked frantic and with his hands on his head, he looked the way Ma did the day Baba died. When I walked up to him the envelope was hidden behind my back, he didn’t recognize me but with tearful eyes he looked at me with a quizzical look. As I handed him the familiar envelope, he jumped with joy! He hugged me tight, Master! The Ginnie man hugged me! But after that, he just took the money and went inside a room. I waited for half an hour but he didn’t come back. I left and came straight home. I came home really early today, because the half an hour outside the hospital really wore me down. I feel so tired. When I came home, I told Ma about the incident and she said she was proud of me. Period. Nothing else. I think she wanted me to bring some of the money home. Maybe not. Maybe she is just tired and growing old. Maybe she trusts her upbringing too much to expect anything else out of me. Maybe…..

I don’t know what Ma feels, Master but I have a confession to make. You know why I reversed the taxi to the hospital? I wanted to see my name in the newspaper. I remember Pratik and Pathak were talking about such a story which happened in Garia, last month. They said his name and photo had come in the newspaper and moreover, he had received 2000 rupees from his Ginnie man. He had got money and had also become famous. Which taxi driver gets that!
When I thought of the pictures of necklaces on the boards, I also recalled his picture in the newspaper and that was the thought which drew my hands to the gear and reverse, I went. Maybe, it’s not in my destiny. Neither fame not fortune.  The man didn’t give me money, nor did he take me to the Sir who writes the paper.
Maybe it’s not in my destiny.  


Master, you won’t believe what happened today! A young boy stopped me near Park Circus and he wanted to go towards some place called ‘Highland Park’ (read: Hiland Park) I don’t know why they call it a park because in the whole stretch of 5 km, I saw no park at all! As I drove past Ruby Hospital again, my heart ached. Nevertheless, the boy got off at the entrance of some big place which was called ‘Metro.’ The board read something else also which began with C but I don’t remember what it was. I think it is some new metro station. But it is very big and not like any of the other stations. Maybe Mamata didi wants it like that, I think. I drove back and as I was crossing the hospital on my way back I saw my Ginnie again! Master, it was a miracle, how I could spot him in that crowded and busy crossing. He was waiting for a taxi. I stopped in front of him. But this time, I promise, there was nothing else on my mind except that if he wanted to go Minto Park again it meant at least 150 rupees during the office ending hour of the day. I didn’t think he would recognize me. As I asked him where he wanted to go, he screamed with joy on seeing me! This, like his hug, came as a pleasant surprise. He sat swiftly in my car and informed me that ‘her’ operation was successful. I assumed he meant his daughter’s operation, and just smiled. I asked him, as I steered the car, where he wanted to go. He replied instead, “Tumhare paas apni koi photo hai?” I didn’t know what he meant because at the time the newspaper story was far out of my mind. “Ghar pe hogi,” I said confusedly, to which he said “ghar chalo.”  I didn’t know whether he meant his house or mine, so I continued to stare at him.
And then, my Ginnie Man explained:

Bhaiya apko yad hai kal apne mere paise wapas diye the?”
“Yes,” I said.
Apko English ati hai?” he asked with a smile.
Yes, Sir. I can speak English.”
I don’t know why they think we shouldn’t know the language as if it were their own. But the quizzing went on.
“So, I want you to know that my name is Suraj Karmakar and I write for The Telegraph Times. I want to write about you, in my newspaper. I want people to know that people like you still exist. It was really very kind of you to return that money because otherwise my daughter would have died by now.”
I did not say anything in reply, Master. I drove at a speed of 120, and brought him home to Ma. He asked us a few questions, spoke to Ma and wrote down most of it. He also clicked our photo with his phone. And you know Master, he gave me 3500 rupees. I think it was all the money he had because when I went to drop him to Minto Park he pulled everything out of his pocket and gave it to me except some loose change. Three thousand five hundred rupees, Master! I earned more than the Garia taxi walla!
 I came home and gave the money to Ma, she took half of it and asked me to spend the rest as I would like. I have 1500 rupees! Tomorrow I will buy a phone, maybe a phone which has a camera. Tomorrow, my photo will come in the newspaper. Tomorrow I will drive the taxi with a smile!

The End.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Diary Entries of a Taxi Driver


Dear Master,
It was a tiring day but I earned 700 rupees. I was half an hour late in leaving the house, and left around 5:30 instead. But by the time I came back home it was midnight and I was starving. I didn’t eat lunch today because the first half of the day brought me only 300, and I was not sure if luck would follow after sun-down. I picked up a passenger from Gariahat who wanted to go the airport, and back. And that trip did it all! I was so thrilled when the lady stopped me and said “airport.” Master, have you noticed people just say the name of the place now, and that becomes the question- “Airport jaiyega?”  I wonder why they’re so bent upon shortening things. How many additional seconds would be required to say an extra word? Anyway, as long as the amount of fare doesn’t get reduced, it’s alright.
The lady had gone to pick up her husband. I don’t know where he had come from, but he surely looked happy to see her. They looked newly married, and that reasoned as to why the wife was excited enough to surprise her husband at the airport. They were talking about Reliance. I think the man had got work in Reliance. They were very excited but they didn’t talk about phones. I wonder what work he will do; he might be the man who goes to people’s homes to fix the phones. But how can his wife afford a taxi and the man himself affords to travel in an airplane! She was talking about Mumbai repeatedly, so maybe they were shifting soon. I can’t understand why the man did not take a job in the Telephone Bhavan in Calcutta. It would’ve done him good if he is good with the wires.
As these thoughts played on my mind, I decided to let it pass. After all understanding every passenger’s life history is not in my capacity.
I hope that too many people don’t leave Calcutta. The more people that stay here, the better it will be for us. After all, the meter ticks the most in the traffic jams and signals in the over-crowded areas!
Ma has gone to sleep and I think I should go in too.
Dear God, Let tomorrow be a good day.


Dear Master,
I could earn only 500 today. I don’t know why God is not fair. Ma was so upset when I gave her the money. She counted three times and at last, I had to say yes Ma, it’s only this much. She turned to put the money away for tomorrow’s food. I think tomorrow I will come late even if I get no passengers. That way, I’ll be able to tell her that I’ve eaten outside. If I don’t lie then she will have to eat less because of me. Why should she suffer if I couldn’t earn enough!
The man who wanted to go to New Market paid me five rupees less, he said he had no change and just left! These people need to realize that for them its ‘only’ five rupees but for me it meant lunch. I could’ve eaten muri outside the market, with that money.
I have not got much to say today, Master because everything seems so sad. I don’t know how long we will have to live so uncertainly. It is as if my mother’s appetite has to change with people’s moods to step out of their homes. If they step out in more numbers, only then can she get more food!
Good Night.

To be continued.......

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Taxis: An artery of the Calcutta Transport System

Taxis in Calcutta are a vital part of the transport system. Mumbai has its local trains; Delhi is known for its upcoming Metro Railway, Gujarat for its local autos.
In Calcutta- we have all of the above and what is most interesting is that all of these exist in almost affectionate co-relation. Autos, buses, local trains, underground railways, tram and of course, taxis- are all in synchronized operation in the City of Joy. Each of these stay within their own precincts, ply in their own areas, serve their own clich├ęd classes from the population.
The age-old yellow ambassador, with a year old embellishment- the blue horizontal line across its body, is popular in Calcutta. It is as if the passenger of a taxi privatizes a public mode of transport for a certain journey. It is a sort of a set-apart means of conveyance among all other vehicles of mass transport.
The ‘cabs’ in Calcutta have undergone a sea-change – from being black and yellow colored (in exact halves) to sporting an only-yellow look. From calculating fares on hand operated meters placed outside the windshield to digital ones placed on the inside. And then there is the new blue strip of paint that runs across the cab with the registration number painted in white. The most recent change is the Radio Cab, the Call- a – Cab service which hasn’t really caught up in the city yet, but is seen around in small numbers; as if making a mark even by scattered presence.
Thus, the taxis in this cosmopolitan city kept pace as the other aspects changed- slowly but steadily. It is interesting to observe the life of the man behind the wheel of this yellow car. How he has grown with the complexities of calculating the fair er, fare amount; with Inox replacing Elite as passenger favorite; with flyovers becoming another ‘floor’ on the road; with the changes in traffic rules and compliances; with the upsurge of one-ways and no-entries- the taxi walla  became the taxi driver and is now a ‘cabbie.’

Here’s an insight into the life of a Mr know-it-all of Calcutta. A man who’s knowledge about lanes and by lanes outdoes Google Maps. His love for the city is second to none- for as long as the city thrives he will continue to earn a living and as the population multiplies his earning will also double-up.

The following post will offer a sneak peek into the diary of Pramod Sahai, who is a taxi driver in Calcutta. He has received education up to Standard VIII and is thus well versed in English. But little do his passengers realize that their driver understands their conversation in ‘inglees’
Pramod drives a taxi owned by a man called Nandaram Mishra. He pays a daily commission to the man in lieu of the vehicle, and drives across the city, everyday of the week. Pramod’s only family is his mother and he stays with her in shanty off Sarat Bose Road. He writes his self notes regularly, addressing the inanimate diary as Master.
These notes are written by the street light, because by the time the 30-something year old man finds time for himself at the end of the day, his mother goes off to sleep. He spends his me-minutes, under a street light in an over-crowded slum. He writes to remember his education, he writes to remember his days, he writes to express his thoughts, he writes for himself.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Asche bochor aabar hobe!

The festivity has ended and we are slowly resorting to routine.
It is that time again when we all sing along, "Asche bochor abar hobe!" The celebration ends and the wait for the asche bochor  begins.
Now, there will be lines to pay utility bills and not to see pandals, the over stuffed shopping bags will be replaced by briefcases, the red colour of sindoor khela will reflect in the red traffic signal lights.
After a much needed, mid-year break, Calcutta resumes to routined activity.
The businessman returns to his schedule of 9:00-5:00 and the restaurant owner will wait for another year, until business will be brisk again. The newspaper offices worked through the festival, producing one special edition after another but finally, on Dashami even they had their day off and now return to regular copies once again.

Let us all wait for the asche bochor,  and as the wait prolongs, let's hope that all our prayers are answered.
Wishing everyone a very Happy Vijaya Dashami!

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Puja frenzy continues


Dressed up!

Ma Durga arrives in all her splendour! The city lives its busiest part of the year- a time of fun and frolic, celebration and rejuvenation.
It's funny how the same period in the calendar can be marked in several ways by people from different walks of life.
For those related to the world of finance, Durga Puja is a five day long holiday, if it is after the Closing of September 30th.
People in the hotel industry and all allied services CANNOT take a holiday during this period.It is the season of highest footfall, highest sales and highest profits. Therefore, highest requirement of fully trained workforce.
The media personnel continue to report and write. In fact, with a change in the regular routine of the people, their style of working also changes as there's much more to report on.
The shop owners, mall managers and others involved in such services gear up for the hyper activity that awaits at their doorstep!
The laborers who creatively design the pandals and idols, take pride in their work and step out with their family to enjoy the enigmatic creations.

No matter,which field you belong to, in Kolkata, Durga Puja always has a special, unique significance for everyone.It's a date-mark period in the calendar, right from the start of a new year.Enjoy this much awaited five day frenzy!