On Marks and Board Exams and Life



It was called agoge in ancient Sparta, the inhuman education and training regimen that little boys were subject to in order to make them  impervious to hunger, fear and pain, a regimen that included having boys fight boys to death so that the weak may be weeded out.

Or as anyone who went to school in the late 80s and early 90s in Bengal would say, school life.

Suicides were common, and so were heart-attacks and nervous breakdowns. Four successive days of two papers of a hundred each was considered to be perfectly humane because, how else, were children going to handle “the real world”? I came from a school, particularly notorious for what was just known as “The Pressure”, where most of us were made to fail in our maths half-yearly in class eleven, because and this was the stated reason, the class ten scores had given us whippersnappers an inflated idea of our intelligence and we needed to be cut down to size.

Continue Reading »

About My Writing Habits And Some Other Stuff


Yesterday, my friend Ritwam Sen, as part of a comment thread on Facebook, asked me about my writing habits. Since I had been asked that question a few times before, in different contexts, I thought of writing a Facebook note. A few of you commented on that note wanting to know more. So here is a full blogpost on the subject, arranged listicle-style.

1. I write all the time. When I am out on a walk, sitting on my potty seat, driving to work, watching a cricket game right after my Fantasy Power Player gets out, utilizing any idle CPU cycles of my brain to think about my story.The biggest part of writing, I have found out, happens when you are not writing.

2. I practice active reading. That is when I am reading a book, I am just not only drinking in the story. I am also taking time to think about its structure, flow, and the way characters develop and speak.  Why do some sections drag? Why do I like this part? How does the author transition between events? Understanding this allows me in turn to write better. Also, based on the genre I am writing in, I do some genre-specific reading before I put finger to keyboard. It gets my brain into the pace and mood of what I am to write. Kind of like net-practice before a game.

Continue Reading »

Some Advice For My Daughter


Dear daughter,

Dads are only good for two things. Buying ice-cream and dispensing advice. Since the day I can buy you ice-cream is yet some distance in the future, let me start with the advice part. Not that you will listen to, far less understand, anything I am going to say (you are yet to be six months), but then again I tell myself, this not-listening-to-me and not-understanding-a-word-I-say is not likely to get better as you grow older. So why not I say it now when the worst you can do to me is to pull my hair or yank off my glasses ?

So here it is, as simple as I can make it.

Pause. And reflect.

Yes. Pause. And reflect.

Continue Reading »

On Becoming A Dad


Sometime in my very late 20s or perhaps even very early 30s, I came to the realization that most of my most critical life decisions had never truly been taken after considered deliberation, at least nothing remotely resembling the  “should I this or should I that” decision-paralysis that I find myself being afflicted by before every purchase of a fairly expensive consumer durable. I studied engineering, not because I particularly wanted to or felt it was a good fit for my skill sets, but because that’s what “all the good boys do” (There was medical also, but then I found cutting toads yucky). When it came time to do a PhD in the US, I again went with the flow. All my smart friends had taken the same decision and well, all of them couldn’t be wrong. Whether five-years of poorly-paid slogging away at impossible problems aligned well with how I defined the concept of “reward”, I never gave a second’s thought. Getting married at the age of twenty-five was also something very impulsive,  how impulsive  I realized a few years later when the rest of the curve caught up with me and I heard stories, perhaps apocryphal, of “arranged-marriage-tours”, meeting one prospective match for lunch and one for dinner, and Excel sheets with SWOT analysis of matrimonial candidates.

Continue Reading »

The Birthday Post


His birth-star glittered in the night sky. That day again.

The sell-sword felt his years. Every one of them. They had removed the arrows and dressed the wounds. Yet they still burned his flesh, more deeply tonight than on any other. As an old crone once said “A warrior carries his battles with him.”

He did.

Each scar. Each blow.

Continue Reading »

Thoughts On Another Birthday


Bhagyasree’s “Qaid Mein Hain Bulbul.” Sunil Gavaskar curled up like an armadillo defending against Wayne Daniel. Imran Khan sending Michael Veletta’s stumps walking. Vinod Kambli crying in Kolkata. Zico missing that kick. A man in front of a blackboard and a long wooden stick explaining election results on DD. News of Indira Gandhi’s assassination stopping the commentary of an India-Pakistan match. Cheering for VP Singh as the Congress gets drubbed. Mandal and feeling betrayed by the same man we had once cheered for. Hawa Hawa. Oye Oye. The taste of Re 1 chumchum. All of these feel just as fresh and as vivid as if they happened yesterday. But if you ask me about things that happened in the last few years—all the movies, matches, events become a jumbled mess of color and noise and I have to pause, hem and haw, trying to unravel the tangled web of what passes for my short-term memory.

Continue Reading »

A Sixer


On August 20 2004, Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind was born. Now many of you readers, the regulars and definitely the drive-bys might consider this silly or borderline kooky that someone would consider the anniversary of a blog worth remembering and devoting a whole post to. But for me  this entity made up of bits, suspended in the conceptual space called the Internet, populated by my thoughts and supported by technology has assumed a life of its own as I fuss over it, worry about how it looks, change its clothes from time to time, clean the dirt that trolls and advertisers leave behind, fret about illnesses brought about by server crashes and spend days, months and years just watching it grow. And so in this vein of anthropomorphizing, blog birthdays become significant events if only because they serve as an excuse to stop awhile, cut a cake and blow a candle. Or six.

Continue Reading »