Films, memories, Nostalgia

The obligatory Lockdown film photo challenge

I noticed that a recent trend going on in social media to share an image from ten films that impacted me, with no posters, no title, no explanation. I thought of the films and the list went on and on. So here I tone it down, to ten films that impacted me during my adolescence, and another ten after reaching adulthood. I save you the trouble of searching or asking the reason, and list down the name of the films as well as a brief description how it’s linked to me.

The last image on this blog can be classed as containing graphically violent content. Please avoid reading this in presence of minors, or anyone who you deem unsuitable to watch this content!

Childhood and adolescence

1. Amarsangi (1987)

A game-changer in Tollywood after Bengali film industry was desperately in search for fresh blood, especially to fill the vacuum left by the demise of Uttamkumar. It was not just the birth of a new superstar, but also for the first time, Bappi Lahiri gave music to a Bengali film, the soundtrack that would become an instant hit.

2. Hathi mere sathi (1971)

It was the phase when I hated films and my earliest memory of being a spoilsport. I made my dad standing outside the cinema throughout the climax scenes because I wouldn’t stop screaming.

3. Main pyaar kiya (1989)

Like Amarsangi, the arrival of a superstar with a bang that would continue for decades to come. Bhagyashree did not follow the same career path, but again, the birth of a superstar paired with an unforgettable OST. Keen to watch it, I persuaded my parents, only to watch Tum mere ho, a super-flop film as Maine pyaar kiya had its last screening on the day before.

4. Khalnayak (1993)

Most hyped trash in Indian film history. Remember buying the tickets in the black market for the first day first show on an extremely rainy day and entering the cinema halfway through the film.

5. Baazigar (1993)

The arrival of king Khan at the arena. Already a familiar face through Doordarshan, Shakrukh didn’t disappoint on the silver screen and would become the highest-paid actor in Bollywood. Also the first time I fell in love with Shilpa Shetty.

6. Operation Condor: Armour of god II (1991)

First boob on screen. Must worth special mention. Also the introduction to martial art films.

7. The Phantom (1996)

Went to watch this as cinemas those days used to put in softcore porn clips in the middle of these B-graded films. Little that I knew that a decade later I would become obsessed with Phantom, and I am still a crazy fan today.

8. Sadak (1991)

I insisted to go and watch this film so my dad took me, completely unaware of the story. Thoroughly uncomfortable experience watching this with dad, not knowing what a eunuch was, what brothels were for but having a feeling that I can’t ask this to dad and there will be no discussion about this film after we went home.

9. Nine months (1995)

First back to back films, and coming of age (me, not Hugh Grant) experiencing childbirth. That was the first time I thought of becoming a dad one day. My friend, who I went with, nearly did become one a few months later, but that’s another story…

10. Galpa holeo satti (1966)

One of the films I found hilarious and I’d never stop laughing out loud since the arrival of Rabi Ghosh in the film. I later watched the Hindi version and the role played by Rajesh Khanna, and it was a moment of utter disappointment and realisation that amongst many underrated but classy actors in Bengali cinema, Rabi Ghosh was one of them.


1. Titanic (1997)

I was late to watch Titanic but then became so obsessed that I planned to appear on mastermind with the film as the specialist theme. Hence started a visit to the cinema for ten days.

2. La vita è bella [Life is beautiful] (1997)

Many films left me speechless, and this was probably the first film where I experienced the art of cinema and storytelling.

3. Darna mana hai (2003)

Another Ram Gopal Verma masterclass on combining short stories on to a film. A novel concept in Indian mainstream cinema although the end left a lot to be desired.

4. Ya ne vernus [I won’t come back] (2014)

It was poetry on the screen, melancholic and profound. One of the best films I’ve watched. The unpredictability of life, human relationships and snow-laden Russian landscape simply wove magic with a heartbreaking end.

5. Manorama six feet under (2007)

Who would have thought that this film would become a cult classic of modern-day Indian mainstream cinema? The twists and turns in the story are no short of the other film on this list – Wild Things. Thrillers in Bollywood films, in general, are not thrillers; but this film will certainly chart high on the best thrillers post-millennium.

6. Kaho naa pyaar hai (2000)

The year 2000, post-GATE exam catharsis. A new protagonist to challenge the Khan dominated Bollywood. A star was born and Bollywood entered the new millennium with this sleek box-office hit.

7. Ringu (1998)

That walk and those eyes. Many sleepless nights. A Japanese horror film in its finest form. They braved watching the tape, I braved watching a horror film on repeat, because despite my fear, I was mesmerised by it.

8. Wild things (1998)

If you guessed at the intermission where the story was heading, you must have written it by yourself! A taut thriller with a new twist every ten minutes, definitely a must-watch for the lovers of thrillers.

9. Vantage point (2008)

My first blog on a film and one of the last films before leaving India. One story viewed from many different perspectives and all culminating to one finale. Excellent cinematography, and innovative storytelling.

10. Frozen (2013)

You can’t deny the power of Let it go. We resisted the Frozen invasion into our household until our elder child was 4. Then the floodgates were burst open, much like the voice of Idina Menzel at the peak of the song.

Tour de force

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

I heard about snippets of stories throughout the years of adolescence, that someone knew someone who watched this film. Then the childhood mysteries disappeared. Nearly fifteen years later, and suddenly, when you least expect it, it was right in front of my eyes. When I started watching this film on cable TV, it had already started, so I didn’t see the title, but had a vague idea that this could be it. Then it was this moment, with all the mythical anecdotes laid bare in front of my eyes, and it did surpass all the imagined versions I had in my mind. In this era of information overload, we have answers to everything, but in that pre-internet era, the scene must have stretched the imagination for anyone who watched it, and all you could be left thinking about — “surely that wasn’t real? But how could it not be?”

Politics, religion

Religion: Une menace pour l’Homme?

Enfin, c’est une polémique éternelle. La religion. Je voulais toujours écrire un blog sur la religion, mais je n’ai jamais imaginé que la première fois que je le ferai, ce serait en français.

Je suis né dans une famille hindoue. On n’a pas choisi notre religion quand on est né, la religion est imposée sur nous. Calcutta pendant les années 80’s était au cœur des mouvements communistes en Inde. Environ tous les membres de ma famille du côté de mon père ont fait partie de ce mouvement, ainsi que mon père. Donc même si on a suivi la religion, il y avait toujours une tendance à douter. C’était pareil de douter de l’existence de Dieu, mais pas du communisme! Même si on ne savait pas ce qu’ils étaient, Marx, Lenin ou Stalin ont été respectés autant que les Dieux. C’était une faute du communisme que je suis rendu compte plusieurs années plus tard. Mais nous parlons de la religion ici, pas sur le communisme. Donc il faut rentrer à notre sujet. Mais n’y a-t-il aucun lien entre les deux ? On va voir.

Comme des anciennes religions, il y a beaucoup de Dieux hindous, chacun est consacré pour quelques phénomènes naturels – le soleil, la lune, le vent, l’eau, le récolte, le feu etc. Et il y a des fêtes pour chacun d’eux. On a célébré ces fêtes, mais il n’y avait pas une soumission totale aux Dieux. Il y avait des autres personnes – voisins, familles qui ont été plus des dévots que nous. Je ne sais pas la raison, pourquoi nous n’étions pas autant religieux comme les autres. Nous n’étions pas des élites, mon père a été plutôt col bleu à cette époque. On n’avait pas des bons diplômes pour paraître intellectuel. Donc ce n’était pas pour paraître cool ou moderne en quittant les pratiques religieuses, mais ma mère n’avait pas envie d’installer les Dieux chez nous.

Ayant grandi dans une telle famille, j’ai commencé à voir, comment l’influence du communisme a commencé à affaiblir, les gens qui étaient laïcs sont devenu religieux petit à petit. Comme il y avait plusieurs fêtes religieuses, avant on les a célébrait, mais pendant les années quatre-vingt-dix, comme les gens sont devenus plus âgés qu’avant ils ont commencé à fêter un peu plus fort, dépenser plus d’argent… Cela est devenu une question d’ostentation, pas de spiritualité. À cette époque, je suis passé à l’adolescence. Il y avait plusieurs choses à m’occuper – les filles, de fumer, ce n’était pas la priorité, mais l’éducation, des livres. J’étais vraiment accroché à la littérature des années soixante-dix, celle qui a été beaucoup influencé par la politique de Calcutta. On connaît cette période comme la nouvelle vague dans la culture Bengale, qui a bouleversé les anciennes idées de nationalisme. Il n’y avait aucune place pour la religion dans ma vie, sauf que les célébrations religieuses avaient une dimension culturelle. Mais quand même, j’ai continué la culture et d’observer les pratiques religieuses pendant les célébrations comme une habitude. Donc quand on a vu un Dieu dans un temple, on a fait le Pranam (pratique indienne, vous pouvez le trouver en YouTube).

En 1992, on a été témoin du pire visage de la religion, ou plutôt fanatisme religieux, comme ils sont complètement différents. Il y a des supporteurs du parti BJP, mille d’eux sont allés à un endroit Ayodhya, pour détruire une mosquée parce qu’ils ont été convaincus que cette mosquée a été construite sur un ancien temple du Dieu Ram. Une émeute a été lancée où plusieurs vies ont été perdues, hindous et musulmans. Il y avait un couvre-feu pour plusieurs jours. Le gouvernement a essayé de faire tant que possible pour contrôler la violence, mais ce n’était pas suffisant. Mais c’est incident a changé le champ politique et religieux complètement en Inde. Le parti au sein de ce scandale a reçu beaucoup de soutien à part des hindous qui pensaient qu’ils ont été marginalisés. Ils ont même gagné l’élection générale en 1996. Aussi, il y avait des mafias qui voulait venger cette attaque sur la mosquée. Le plus méconnu, Daoud Ibrahim a quitté l’Inde est commencé à opérer à Dubaï. Il a financé quelques attentats en Inde en 1993.

L’Inde et le Pakistan étaient toujours en guerre entre eux, sur une province indienne, Kashmir. Entre temps, en 1989, la province de Kashmir a élu un gouvernement qui demandait l’indépendance de l’état. Le parti et leurs supporteurs ont menacé les hindous qui vivaient au Kashmir. Il y a un exode d’environ 60 000 familles qui ont été expulsées de la vallée du Kashmir. Peut-être le pire incident de génocide après l’indépendance. Donc à cause de l’exode et les attentats financés par le Pakistan qui augmentent, le sentiment des Indiens sont divisé. La différence entre les laïcs et religieux a changé aussi. Les religieux essaient de prouver qu’ils sont religieux, donc plus d’ostentations. La fabrique humaine du pays a été déchirée en permanence. Les laïcs ont été d’accord avec religion à ce moment là où la religion avait une dimension culturelle, un patrimoine de la région et du pays. Avec des événements comme cela, les laïcs ont commencé de critiquer, parfois se moquer de la super-piété. Même si les Britanniques ont divisé l’Inde et le Pakistan basé sur la religion, il y avait un grand nombre de musulmans qui vivait en Inde, autant que les Chrétien, les Perses, les bouddhistes. Il y avait une harmonie qui a commencé à affaiblir. C’était plus difficile pour les musulmans en Inde. Dans un côté, leur religion et les pratiques religieuses, et de l’autre côté un environnement qui était en train de devenir plus en plus agressif pour les non-hindous.

Peut-être, je suis sorti du sujet sur lequel j’écrivais, mais c’était important de présenter un derrière plan pour apprécier la racine de mes idées sur la religion. Alors on peut comprendre comment j’étais témoin du changement d’un pays causé par un sentiment religieux orthodoxe. Donc il y avait un point, quand j’ai décidé de dénoncer la religion. J’ai arrêté de pratiquer ma religion, jeter toutes les liens avec la religion quand on parle des pratiques religieuses. Bien sûr, les fêtes ont une dimension culturelle par exemple pendant la grande fête, il y avait 5 jours fériés, les amis qui travaillent ailleurs sont revenus chez eux, il y a un air de bonheur. Malgré ça, les pauvres souffrent encore, les sans-abris n’ont rien à célébrer. Leur Dieu était pauvre comme eux. Je n’ai jamais crû que le Dieu existe peut-être à partir de 7-8 ans, mais quand j’avais environ 20-25 ans, j’ai commencé à critiquer l’existence de Dieu aux pratiquants. Ils ont leur logique aussi — pourquoi l’on sent l’air, mais on ne le voit pas, le Dieu est comme cela, il est autour de nous, etc. Donc il y avait une période ou la critique la religion de toute forme et la dénoncer, parfois se moquer des gens religieux. Mais quand j’ai passé 30 ans, j’ai gagné cette grande sagesse. Les pratiques religieuses n’ont rien à faire avec spiritualité, c’est une manière de gagner le pouvoir. Et donc, c’est inutile de se moquer des pratiquants parce qu’ils ont choisi une manière de vivre. Comme un grand penseur a dit une fois « Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai jusqu’à la mort pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire » . Les pratiques, les règles, les interdictions – ce sont les vrais ennemis de l’Homme, pas le concept de la religion ou les pratiquants. C’est mon avis maintenant, laissez-moi l’expliquer.

Les êtres humains, pendants des premiers milliers d’années étaient naïve. Ils n’ont pas pu expliquer les phénomènes naturels – le soleil, la pluie, la tempête, l’inondation, l’éclair. Ils ont eu peur de ces phénomènes donc ils ont peut-être créé quelques totems ou figures pour pacifier la nature. Mais avec le temps, les communes étaient en guerre contre les autres, et ceux qui ont gagné, leurs Dieux ont été considérés les plus puissants. Petit à petit, les Dieux sont devenus les symboles de pouvoir, de richesse. Les Dieux étaient un moyen de dominer la foule. Plus les gens croyaient en Dieu, plus facile, c’était pour les rois et leurs prêtres pour leur intoxiquer avec les règles de la religion, et donc augmenter son pouvoir, agrandir le territoire, gagner plus d’impôts. Quand il y avait les changements d’une société polythéiste à une société monothéiste, par exemple Judaïsme, Islam et Chrétien, peut-être le concept de Dieu a été avancé, mais le but des religions n’a vu aucune différence. C’était toujours voler, tuer au nom de la religion et ramasser tant d’argent que possible, agrandir le frontière tant que possible, hypnotiser les gens pour qu’ils puissent joindre l’armée de fanatiques.

À mon avis, la religion a fini de servir sa cause. Nous vivons dans une époque où nous n’avons pas besoin d’une explication des phénomènes naturels. On a découvert la science qui nous donne les réponses. Si on ne peut pas expliquer quelque chose, il y a des grands réalisateurs de Hollywood qui peuvent faire un film sur ce sujet ! C’est une époque d’être hypnotisé, d’être aveuglé par la science, pas la religion. C’est le temps pour laisser retraiter la religion. Tous les leaders de religion doivent annoncer un jour que la religion est finie. Il n’y a pas de Dieu. Mais c’est sacrilège.

Oui, je sais que cette émission n’aura pas lieu jamais. Pour maintenir l’inégalité. Les pauvres qui n’ont rien, ce n’est pas facile pour eux de laisser tomber leur seul espoir que le Dieu leur aidera un jour. Que parmi toute la situation merde, il y a une vie après la mort. Il y a un super pouvoir qui va ranger tout ce qui ne vont pas dans sa vie. Et aussi, la religion aide les riches de soutenir et de se profiter de l’inégalité. Les temples hindous en Inde sont vrais témoins de ce phénomène. Et Vatican aussi. Peut-être la Mecque est le même aussi. Commercialisé. Les bâtiments consacrés aux Dieux sont couverts en or et les pauvres dépensent tout son d’argent pour y aller, pour prier quelqu’un qui n’existe pas, pour bénéficier un groupe d’hommes qui ramasse tout l’argent. Y compris les institutions religieuses dépensant un peu d’argent pour l’aide, mais je ne crois pas, c’est assez. Moins de moitié. Et donc, les vendeurs de religion bénéficient à l’échange de la pauvreté du monde. Comme des grandes entreprises. Les voleurs protégés par la loi.

Peut-être vous ne serez pas d’accord avec moi. Peut-être vous direz que la religion a un côté plus paisible. Comme la tranquillité dans une église, le silence dans une mosquée quand les musulmans offrent leur prière, la sérénité dans un temple bouddhiste, l’image d’un million de lampes flottantes sur le fleuve Ganges à minuit ou bien la magie des hymnes. Mais assurez-vous, c’est l’arrière-plan. La publicité de la religion. Ces images sont tout à fait éloignées de la réalité. Pour la réalité, il faut regarder l’histoire de l’Homme. Il n’y a aucune religion, au moins les religions suivies et pratiquée par la plupart des gens, qu’on peut considérer paisible. Parce qu’être religieux ça veut dire suivre certaines règles, créées par les prêtres. Si vous ne suivez pas ces règles, vous êtes spirituel, pas religieux. Mais si vous pensez que vous êtes religieux, même si spirituellement, sans savoir, vous avez fait partie du mécanisme duquel le dernier but est le pouvoir. 

Mais il faut aussi ajouter qu’à mon avis, il y a deux côtés de la religion. Le premier, c’était les pratiques, la deuxième, l’idée, ou le cœur de la religion. Toute ma colère est attribuée aux pratiques parce que les pratiques nous empêchent de suivre le vrai chemin d’une religion. Il y a une question de spiritualité, où la religion peut être une guide pour les gens souffrants. Ils peuvent y trouver le calme. Je ne comprends pas comment cela nous aide, mais je comprends que c’est un choix. Est, c’est un droit d’observer sa religion. Mais à mon avis, il n’y a rien de connexion entre spiritualité et l’argent. Donc, les institutions religieuses doivent arrêter de ramasser l’argent au nom de l’aide et au nom de Dieu. L’état doit devenir laïc dans un sens réel, pas comme on le voit maintenant. La Spiritualité n’a jamais besoin d’ostentations. Voire même, il n’y a pas de besoin de Dieu pour ressentir la spiritualité. Les êtres humains ont existé pour milliers d’années. De ce point de vue, la religion n’est qu’une manière de traiter l’un l’autre. Avec humilité. Avec empathie. La guerre, l’armée de Dieu, c’est dans le passé. Il n’y a qu’une religion dans le monde. C’est d’humanité.

Symboles religieux

Politics, UK

Britain dutifully bows down to the ruling elite.

Left in New Zealand

Congratulations to the people of ‘Great’ Britain for voting the ruling elite into power yet again. You certainly do know your place. Now they have a mandate to treat people with disdain and contempt, for the next five years. I always thought people in the US were dumb, but there is a new kid on the block vying for the title. How can a party offering no credible policies, with a history of inflicting misery on millions, with a leader who hides in a fridge when things get mildly difficult remain in power. I could glibly say you get what you deserve, but that would be grossly unfair to the millions who can see through this charade of thinly veiled fascism.

It would appear that many people from where I grew up in the north have had a lobotomy, believing all that the billionaire controlled media had to say pre-election…

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Labour, Politics, UK

Few thoughts following 2019 General Election results

It has been a month since the disastrous election results came out on Friday the 13th December, a true day of horror that will haunt the UK for at least another five years. The loss hurt more this time because, after the encouraging results of 2017 GE, one would have expected Labour to go further. This was followed by a revolutionary manifesto. They had the youth voters, or the “youthquake” how they invented the term in the polling day. On Thursday as the news poured in on the social media that people queued up since morning to vote, the hopes soared. People were voting for a change then! They were indeed, but for a change that was unthinkable. First time in many years, at times in a century, the Labour seats were wiped out even at their safest heartlands. The euphoria that built up during the day, quickly evaporated at the pace of a burst balloon, when the exit poll showed the Tory landslide. There was no doubt that the predictions are not going to be far off, but there was a slither of hope that the marginal seats may swing to Labour. They didn’t.

It’s hard to explain how the next few days went. On the personal front, the Christmas was coming, my daughters were excited about the prospect, we were going away for a few days, and we were looking forward to spending a longer Christmas break this year. In the middle of all this excitement, the results left a big hollow inside me. I could not stop thinking about the results, could not think about the betrayal of the voters who would be the worst hit by the Tory austerity policies, I could not feel more angry about the media that brainwashed the gullible voters of an imaginary enemy, and I felt angry about Labour for not doing enough to convince people of the dangers of a Tory government. I looked up at various Labour member forums and the feeling was about the same across the board. Some started to smell a rat how postal vote counts were all messed up, how Laura Kuenssberg almost gave away that postal votes showed a Tory lead…but it was clear that no judicial steps would be taken. When it failed to nail the criminals spewing misinformation during Brexit campaign, these petty postal votes would not have mattered much to guarantee a thorough investigation. This post is mainly about the thoughts that were going through in my mind as the aftermath of Labour’s worst defeat in recent years.

First, I thought why on earth Labour agreed for the election before Christmas. I think I knew the answer straight away. The opposition in the parliament already had a strong position in the cabinet regarding Brexit debate. Labour probably thought if they can increase their seats, it will make it even difficult for Boris Johnson to get a deal with the EU. So I can anticipate that many inside Labour wanted Jeremy Corbyn to give in to the calls for a general election, possibly from the activist factions. It didn’t help the situation by the Libdem aka the Remain party, who expected all remainers will be voting for them. On the other side, the xenophobic and racists had already colluded so their votes don’t split. But on the progressive front, the disagreements continued that cost many seats in the end. It is commonplace on the left spectrum of politics, in the UK, in France, in the US — the left doesn’t come to a common ground and compromise on their principles. This was apparent in the Labour manifesto. Despite knowing how it will be accepted in the right-wing media that feeds the brain-fodder to the British electorate, Labour did not compromise on its offering. Nor did they run a campaign of fear and lies, as did the Tory campaign, led by the brash idiot. So, that would be something to take away from this campaign — a clean campaign and a brilliant and groundbreaking manifesto, only to be overshadowed by Brexit.

But thinking about the future was even more painful. I wondered if Labour would win any future election or will turn into the role of the main opposition, with a diminishing representation in the cabinet, with lesser influence on the divisive government policies. Part of me just wanted to give up on politics. Especially because during this election period I was involved a lot in the social media campaigns, debates, researches and carefully going through the manifesto of the two major parties to understand the fundamental differences between then. All my efforts were felt to be wasted on a lost cause. Also, the glimmer of hope for a Labour resurgence disappeared with the election results, knowing Jeremy Corbyn will have to go now, which would mean shifting into reverse gear in the socialist agenda for the party. The results were also an eye-opener to understand how deeply divided the country is. Probably it always was, but Brexit brought the division to the surface. And this made me feel resigned knowing the situation is only going to get worse with another five years of Tory government and they’ll use all means to spread their propaganda of fear. I just thought of stop thinking about politics, concentrate on family and life. But I knew the answer already why I won’t do that. I would become one of the millions of indifferent people who think their view doesn’t count. And then regret for years to come that I did nothing.

So that thought was soon changed into anger and a feeling of betrayal. Betrayal of the working class population against a manifesto that put their interest at the heart of it. And more you heard about them, more frustrated you got. Someone voting Tory because they like how Boris Johnson looks! He looks like a pig who has just been jet-washed! Then you have people in the north of England who are saying they wanted Brexit done, so they voted Tory only this time and will go back to Labour. Couldn’t help thinking it was not going to the cinema and deciding on sweet or salty popcorn. As most of the public services are at the breaking point, and poverty and inequality constantly on the rise, that idea seemed laughable and dangerous in equal proportions. I could not believe how gullible someone can be to make such a decision. And I thought for a moment — let them suffer. If they can’t spot the wolf in sheep’s skin, let them suffer and they’ll realise the hard way why on earth they voted in a Tory MP. But that stage of anger only lasted momentarily as I start to question if it was the gullibility of the people or was it desperation that drove them to make such a momentous decision? Perhaps they hoped for a Brexit will end all their misfortune. The vote was driven by desperation to get out of the mess we are in, except for the fact that they chose to rely on a hopeless and heartless party.

Finally, at the third stage, the pragmatism kicked in. Giving up taking part in politics or having an interest in politics was not an option. It’s one of the core principles that define me and I could not simply let go of the hopes I garnered since a long time ago. Turning my back to people who will suffer the most was also not an option. Fortunately or unfortunately my life is at a stage where until something else drastically change our situation, the election results will have little impact on our life. That’s not true for the millions, especially in the deprived north. This will also prolong a Labour recovery because the Tories will attempt to retain those seats irrespective of the Brexit outcomes. So money will be invested in the region from their magical money tree, and people will vote them again by seeing the initiative, which might mean another Tory rule in 2024! What they won’t realise is that the Conservatives’ main agenda is to deprive communities of investments, so they main appear to be investing but will surely take the money back from peoples’ pockets. So what I thought I will be doing, despite sounding cheesy and somewhat plucked from a B-rated film, is not to let the fire that’s burning within be extinguished. A loss is soul destroying but it only makes you resolute. I felt that it was high time to regroup for 2024. And work towards a Labour Party with a united front, a lot more concerned at the perils of people but also more visible, and vocal to debunk the lies and bias in the media.

So come 2020 and it’s business as usual for me now. 2019 is gone, and the era of Corbyn is over. It’s time to move on and choose a Labour leader who would live up to the legacy of Jeremy Corbyn, as well as win back the confidence of the perennial Labour voters who shunned them this time. It’s also time to give up on Brexit and consider that it will happen and ensure that the living conditions of the EU nationals in the UK and the UK citizens in the EU are not in any way compromised in the process. And finally, I would want to see the start of transformation from the grassroots level. It’s about participation in the local communities and interests where the fightback will need to begin, not in the social media or closed-door meetings. With the arrival of 2020, I was finally able to put the horror of the election behind, and feel hopeful that 2024 will be a different story. It will, but if we only start acting on it now.

Comics, Racism, Semantics, Sexism

Reading Phantom & Mandrake comics of 1930s: A mirror to race and gender equations

Comics played a large role during my childhood. In the late eighties, I used to look forward to the newest issues of Indrajal Comics. They published stories featuring many superheroes, but the two main characters featured were my childhood heroes Phantom and Mandrake. When Indrajal Comics was in circulation, I used to read them often, but I wasn’t fanatical about them. Then after they went out of publication in 1989, I went through phases of disinterest, to inquisitiveness, to obsessively searching for the books. It was a quest, almost like a pilgrimage to amass all Indrajal Comics strips ever published. Once I’ve nearly finished that, I learned that Hermes Press is going to reprint all Golden era comics of Phantom. A few years later, Titan Comics decided to bring out the other character created by the prolific Lee Falk — Mandrake the magician. The stories I grew up reading were reprints of many later issues, but it was through those stories that I formed an idea about the central characters. Going back where their journeys first started, these reprints of early years’ issues had taught me new things that would not have been very apparent thirty years back.

Reading 1930’s Mandrake is almost a throwback to the society and its expectations of that epoch. That’s why, in the very first Mandrake adventure, we are introduced to Lothar as Mandrake’s “Giant black servant”. He is black, wears a leopard skin or skin printed fabric, calls Mandrake “Master” and speaks broken incoherent English. It was written in the description that Mandrake’s “black slave” Lothar does this or that. Thirty years back, the Lothar I was introduced to, was Mandrake’s friend, like equals, spoke many languages, was a black belt. And he is more brown and less black. He called Mandrake “Mandrake”, not “Master”. The image of Lothar was perhaps how he was perceived in post-depression America — the black slave of the magnificent Mandrake. The Lothar I grew up with is the 1960’s version, on the other hand, is around the Civil Rights Movement and had undergone a major change of character. It just echoed an image of how society started to perceive non-whites as equals. Likewise, when we think about the character of Hojo, the Japanese chef who speaks many languages and heads the Inter-intel, you cannot imagine him being featured in the 1930s. In the 60s comics, the societal lenience on race and colour were reflected in the contemporary comics like Mandrake and Phantom.

A similar shift is noticed in how women were presented in these stories as well. The 1930s versions used terms to describe women we now can’t even think about. The comics were positively sexist, but only branding the artist who created them as sexist would be almost anachronistic. Lee Falk was a common man with extraordinary skills in creating comics. His ideas about women reflected the perception of women in society. They were shown to be fragile, dominated by male characters. Emmeline Pankhurst and Amelia Earhart hadn’t made a substantial change in people’s perspective towards women. On the other hand, the 1960s editions show much more parity in the depiction of women in the comics. They are far more independent, strong and outspoken. In fact, many of the comics around the 1960s started showing women as villains because perhaps there was still no willingness to show a female character as good as the male protagonist, but by showing them on the wrong side, it was inevitable that they will be defeated at the end. Nevertheless, the depiction of female characters in Phantom and Mandrake comics has gone through a major overhaul and the comics published characters whose only role in the story wasn’t about being the weakling in the adventure and throw herself on the central character every now and often. In some cases, the efforts of featuring women, especially the partners of the central protagonist were so intense that at times their qualities appeared as exaggerated as the superpowers of the male characters. They had to be super rich, speak several languages, hold a role of UN ambassador, know martial arts, related to nobility — in short, it cannot be a common woman to be associated with an extraordinary superhero. Indirectly the new generation authors sustained the patriarchy. However, that is a different argument. At least, women were no longer seen as merely a pretty face.

So, when we turn the pages of the first phantom book from Hermes press, where Diana Palmer asks who he was after he saved her and how could she thank him, Phantom just kissed her and said “Like this” and dives back in the sea. The next time they see each other, Phantom is aware that Diana is going out with someone, yet he kisses her while saying goodbye. The word consent probably didn’t exist then in that context. Men could choose their woman and taunt, tease, grab or kiss them, or worse. I guess much hasn’t changed now, but at least we pretend to be more civil now and push issues like this under the carpet. Comics is not an exception. The patriarchy that was blatant in those early years, they became subtler, but never eliminated. That’s why, the first son always becomes the next Phantom, not the first child. I think Frew or the Danish version of Phantom has only just thought about making Heloise the 22nd Phantom rather than Kit.

The storyline during the 60’s comics was also made more informative and less fantastic. The 1930’s Mandrake wasn’t just a magician with phenomenal hypnotising powers, but he used to do magic as well. In one of the first episodes, Mandrake transforms one of his aides into a leopard. On another, he lifted a man froom falling into a fire-pit. He could make things happen rather than just pretending to, like the later stories, more like a Harry Potter than David Blaine. In my view, with changing times, the readers became savvier about science and reality. Whilst Superman continued flying around and melting every obstacle with his X-ray vision, Mandrake became more humane. He became a hypnotist and helped the authorities to fight crime. Likewise, in the later issues, Phantom did not control the thousands of miles between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. He becomes the chief of jungle patrol, the security force that keeps peace in the jungle. It’s no longer down to Phantom to tackle all the miscreants. Although the introduction of Stegy the stegosaurus and Hzz & Hrz cave monsters in phantom stories wasn’t a shining example, on a broader scale, the characters were more down to earth.

During 1930s America, racism was rife, a non-white principal character was unimaginable, and women in comics were merely a pretty face – used to fill up a few tiles and to prove the bravery of the comics heroes. In the 1960s, all social divisions were still there, yet the difference was remarkable. These changes in the society are clearly visible in the Mandrake and Phantom comics of the two eras. As study subject, Phantom may be even more interesting, since not all stories were reprints of the American versions. Team Fantomen, for example, was an entirely different set of stories, written and illustrated by Scandinavian artists. The stories of Team Fantomen may present a different outlook to life, possibly a reflection of the Scandinavian society of the epoch, especially since they have been in circulation for over 60 years.

As children, we saw comics as the world we would like to grow up into and have an idol. As grown-ups, we become a part of the period we are living in, adhering to its societal norms. We learn that heroes have their follies, etched into their persona but their creators. It would have been interesting, if Lee Falk was still illustrating, to see how he would have represented the society and relationships during the 21st century. Will the 22nd Phantom marry someone or will he have a partner? Will there be a female Phantom? Will Mandrake and Narda argue over silly things? Will there be LGBTQI characters? Will they feature interracial couples? Will there be a Phantom who doesn’t like to be Phantom but do it because he/she’s expected to? And going forward, how will the stories shape up in future? These are compelling questions for which we have no answers. Perhaps I’ll leave the task to my children to dissect the stories of 2030 and compare them with 1930 versions. I hope that I’ll live to watch their appalled expression reading that Mandrake had a giant black slave, or Phantom forcing a kiss on Diana. I hope turning the pages of the comic books of the 1930s and 1960s will make them appreciate how far society will have been progressed in a century. And how we are in the need of superheroes, because humans, despite having come a long way on the vices prevalent in the 20th century, have created new evils. Perhaps the Mandrake and Phantom of tomorrow will feature the inequality, terrorism, post-truth politics, environmental catastrophe, the middle-east, religious persecution. Perhaps they never will, if the artist is not bold enough to rise above the societal mediocrity, like Lee Falk in 1930.

Labour, Politics, UK

A synopsis of Labour Manifesto for 2019 GE and a brief guide to Tactical voting

So, I have finally managed to read through the Labour Manifesto for the 2019 General Election. Needless to say that as a supporter for social justice and abolition of inequality, the Labour pledge presents an ideal proposition. There are questions that could be raised, and answers are not available in the document, but the document instills a fresh breath of hope for the voters who have felt stifled during last nine years of austerity, through which, the Tories only managed to double the National Debt. The 107 page long manifesto is divided into five broad categories and numerous sub-categories, and in the sections below, I have extracted a bullet point summary of the salient features for each section. Some sections are longer, but nevertheless, it is evident that the Labour proposal is definitely for the many, not for the few.

Green Industrial Revolution

Economy and Energy

  • One million climate jobs – To Deliver the Green revolution
  • £400bn national transformation fund to invest in meeting climate and environment targets
  • Net zero carbon energy by 2030
  • Zero carbon standard for all new homes
  • Immediately ban fracking permanently
  • Supply arms of big six into public ownership
  • 3% of GDP in R&D towards climate goal


  • Free bus travel under 25s
  • Reinstate 3000 bus routes – Bring back routes less used and discontinued by private bus operators
  • Railways into public ownership – hope this will make the rail ticket more affordable. Would have been better if this was made free for under 21s
  • End of combustion engines by 2030 – ten years sooner than Tory pledge


  • Maintain and improve on EU standards of environment regulations
  • New Clean air act with vehicle scrappage scheme and clean air zone
  • £5.6bn for flood defences
  • Net zero carbon food production by 2040

Animal Welfare

  • Prohibit sell of snares and glue traps – people still buy them?!
  • Ban badger cull
  • Campaign internationally to end commercial whaling
  • Ban import of trophies – would have liked to see trophy hunting a criminal offence even if carried out on foreign soil

Rebuild Public services


  • Reverse corporation tax cuts – to c.26%, level lower than 28% in 2010, but higher than 19% as present. Conservatives shelved the plan to bring it further down to 17% but they will.
  • Crackdown on tax avoidance – would have liked to see a process/proposal how this would be implemented.
  • £150bn social transformation fund to replace, upgrade and expand schools, hospitals, care homes and council houses – A big ask, again, but desperately needed. It would have been needed at the end of austerity, regardless of the party.


  • End and reverse privatisation
  • Halt sale of NHS land and assets
  • Free hospital parking for patients, visitors and staff
  • GP training for 27 million appointments more – Tories offered 50 million
  • £2bn to modernise hospitals for mental health patients
  • £1bn fund and 4500 more health visitors and school nurses
  • Training bursary for nurses and midwives
  • Establish generic drug company – this is huge! This can eliminate NHS paying high prices for branded medicine to meet the zero prescription charges
  • NHS fully excluded from any international deal
  • Abolish prescription charges in England
  • Support autistic patients in home

National education service

  • Reverse sure start cuts – this is desperately needed for parents since over a 1000 has been shut in last few years.
  • Paid maternity leave to 12 months
  • 2,3,4 year olds 30hr free preschool – this will help working parents to be back to work sooner. presently the provision is means-tested.
  • 150,000 early years staff more incl. SENCO
  • Arts Pupil Premium- to fund arts education to every student
  • Free school meal for all primary children
  • Close tax loopholes for elite schools
  • Free entitlement to training up to level 3
  • Abolish tuition fees for university education and reinstate maintenance grants

Police and Security

  • Re-establish neighbourhood policing
  • Eliminate institutional racial and gender bias
  • Constrain powers of PM to suppress committee reports – as presently Boris Johnson suppressed the publication of the report on influence of Russia in recent UK government
  • Security treaty with EU even if Brexit happens


  • Break poverty inequality crime triangle
  • Restore prison officer numbers to 2010 levels
  • PFI prisons to back in-house
  • Restore all early legal aids
  • Halt court closures
  • Decriminalise abortion
  • Public enquiry into blacklisting and Grenfell

Communities and Local government

  • Reinstate council spending to 2010 levels
  • Restore high street
  • Stop post office closures and bring Mail in-house
  • Reunite with Post office and create Post bank to fund green initiatives
  • National youth service for access to local work

Fire and rescue

  • 5000+ fire fighters

Digital, culture, media & sport

  • Broadband into public ownership
  • £1bn cultural capital fund for libraries, museums and galleries
  • Free entry to museums – At least they can be made free for under 25s.
  • Free TV license for over 75s
  • Premier league income spent in grassroots
  • Curb gambling ads – help prevent gambling addiction

Tackle Poverty and Inequality


  • Eradicate in work poverty – for families with not enough income to meet the expenses
  • Living wage £10 for all over 16 – not the cop out £10.50 for over 25s
  • Universal basic income pilot – it will be interesting to see the outcome, preferably used on the lowest income areas first
  • Ban zero hour contracts
  • Right to flexible working for all
  • Paternity leave to 4 weeks and increasing statutory pay
  • Introduce statutory bereavement leave
  • 4 new bank holidays – 4 holidays…yay! Selecting the patron Saints’ days possibly an easy win rather than celebrate significant days in British history instead.
  • Eliminate gender pay gap and pay discrimination
  • Ban unpaid internships – why would an intern do all the donkey work without any payment anyway?
  • Remove restrictions on trade unions
  • Repeal trade union act 2016
  • Align UK law in line with ILO
  • Reduce full time working hour to 32 in a decade
  • Ending opt out option for EU working time directive
  • New labour courts
  • Amend companies act – for companies to prioritise long term growth

Women and equalities

  • New Department for women and equalities
  • Close gender gap by 2030
  • Ban dismissal of pregnant women
  • 10 days paid leave for victims of domestic abuse
  • Misogyny will be hate crime
  • Educate about migration and colonialism


  • Scrap 2014 immigration act
  • End indefinite detention and inhumane condition
  • £20m to survivors of modern slavery
  • Free movement for EU workers
  • End deportation of family members – of people with rights to stay in the UK
  • End minimum income for migrants
  • Safe asylum process

Social Security

  • Scrap universal credit
  • Scrap benefit cap and two child limit
  • Payment 2 weekly, rent direct to landlords
  • End digital only, +5000 advisors
  • Scrap bedroom tax
  • Increase local housing allowance
  • Assessments in house for disabled people
  • No increase in state pension over age of 66


  • £1bn fire safety fund for fire safety in all high rise council houses
  • More than a million homes by 2030
  • Scrap definition of affordable homes – Definition linked to local incomes
  • Stop social cleansing – All residents offered a new place in the same development
  • Levy on overseas companies buying houses
  • End leasehold properties
  • New minimum standards for renting
  • End rough sleeping
  • National levy on second holiday home

Constitutional issues

  • End hereditary principle of House of Lords
  • Abolish House of Lords – replaced by Senate of Nations and Regions
  • Voting age 16
  • Ban funding from tax avoiders
  • Repeal lobbying act 2014
  • Women access to abortion in NI
  • No hard border in Ireland
  • Scotland £100bn. 120000 homes.


  • Brexit 3 months to a deal. Six months to referendum
  • UK wide customs union
  • close alignment with single market
  • Consumers, environment rights to be at least at pace with EU
  • Close cooperation with security arrangements
  • Scrap existing Brexit legislation
  • EU nationals automatic right to stay

A New Internationalism

A New Internationalism

  • Introduce war powers act, no PM can bypass parliament
  • Audit impact of colonialism

Effective Diplomacy

  • Judge led enquiry into torture and secret court
  • Issue formal apology for Jalianwala Bag
  • Stop arms deal with Saudi and Israel
  • Seek justice for breaches of human rights across the world
  • Support two state solution

Defence and Security

  • £100m to UN peacekeeping missions
  • Support Trident – that’s an about turn! Why would one support Trident?

International Solidatity and Social Justice

  • Department for International development
  • support UN process of binding business and human right
  • International climate finance £4bn/year
  • Aid-funded Food Sovereignty Fund for Global South

There are many more policies through which the government proposes to put an end to austerity. A number of financial analyses were run on Labour’s policies and the general view is that it is achievable, but possibly unrealistic on timescale. However, desperate times need desperate actions. The austerity has split the country – not just into North-South divide but the entire society is divided. What’s worrying is the inequality is widening rapidly and for their vested interests, the Tory government is unwilling to stop the austerity.

The increasing pay gap between the richest and poorest areas in the UK, and a comparison with other countries
Source: Economist

Clearly the Labour manifesto touches life of the many and not for the few who usurp the system with the help of their Tory elitist pals. It gives people hope, reinstates faith in the role of the state and shows a way how the government can embrace the climate concerns and the social, economic and political reforms can all pivot around the climate policies. It also shows that governance doesn’t have to be top-down like authoritarian regimes, but a bottom-up approach is equally viable, where local communities and people are given the powers to make the governance happen.

Amid all the euphoria, few things stand out, that is no clear execution plan, with a timeline. I have browsed through the Tory manifesto as well, notwithstanding the fact that most of it will be lies. What I found easily accessible is their costing report, where they show how they propose to fund any additional investments year on year, and how they are planning to earn the revenue. The Labour manifesto showed the revenue at the end of 2023/4 but the division was not presented on yearly basis. However, some additional information was presented in the detail analysis later on, although for most of the readers, that information would go amiss if they are only looking at the summary revenue and expenses sheet. Also, it was curious how both parties show a completely balanced sheet with revenues equal to expenses. Chances of that happening is slim. I would have also liked to see a detailed timeline of when exactly some of the policies will be implemented. Kudos to them for areas where a clear deadline was provided, such as three months to reach a deal with the EU and six months to the new referendum. But it would have been useful to know what else will be happening in first six months, one year, two years…But I guess it’s a difficult ask for an ambitious plan. If you offered tumbleweed, you can come up with elaborate plans to make it look massive, but the opposite is not easy to make it both credible and lucrative to all stakeholders. My final observation is about the recipient of the manifesto document. I know it needs to serve the interests of the complete demographics, but in my view, Labour’s manifesto should be about the unheard voices – the people who are left behind by the Tories with their austerity. Apart from the manifesto, there should have been templates for what the Labor pledge meant for e.g. Nurses, Police, Firefighters, Social workers, Pensioners, Disabled persons, Teachers, EU migrants, single mothers etc. Perhaps there are videos and other resources, but the people who are so hard pressed to make ends meet are not expected to go through the wordy manifesto. Oh and on Page 63, there was a typo “introducenew” with space missing. At least it’s only a space, unlike missing truth or integrity like the Conservative party.

I wouldn’t expand much on the catalogue of lies spewed by the Tories, as this will become a very long post. I would leave at the fact that they lied on the first day of the campaign by publishing a doctored video of Keir Starmer, then they changed their Tweeter handle to FactCheck spreading lies about Labour campaign, then lied about the number of nurses to be recruited…to top it off, the social media ads are 88% lies or at best misleading. If lying was not vile enough, the Tories have ramped up the hate campaign against the immigrants again to blow the Brexit trumpet, holding the EU nationals and other migrants accountable for everything they failed to deliver. The latest of the hateful rhetoric came from the PM himself, where he claimed that he’ll curb the immigration from EU as they treat this country like their own. They stooped even lower to use the death of Jo Cox and Jack Merritt to foment the anti-immigrant hatred. They have been openly criticised by the bereaved families, but the Conservative Party has no shame, so I can imagine the criticisms and appeals to show some integrity have fallen into empty ears. Not that it’s surprising. Note the Tory election campaign leaflet in 1964 at Smethwick, how divisive they can be to retain power. This is happening again – and they still are equally blatant.

Smethwick election campaign leaflet from the Conservative Party, 1964

So, with a fantastic manifesto, my vote goes to Labour. I don’t mind paying additional taxes or taking some extra burden if that brings even one person out of poverty. But what’s needed to bring Labour in power? There are many marginal seats and they hold the key to swing towards a labour victory. Tactical voting does work and it probably bothers the loyal voters of Labour/LibDem/Green to vote another candidate, but this is the last chance to get rid of vile Boris Johnson and his cabinet of liars, thieves and hatemongers. Here is a rough outline of how to vote tactically –

  1. Find if you are in a marginal seat from this Guardian guide
  2. Find the trend in your local area – GE2017, or even the local elections to see which Tory opposition is gaining more support. Be careful if you use the local elections though, because of the appalling turnout.
  3. Use your social sphere to influence opinions of the floating voters. If you canvas, even better.
  4. Join any last minute local events to bolster the confidence of the people who would like to vote tactically but undecided if that will work.
  5. Vote…go out and bloody vote if you can. There is no point suffering another Tory regime when you have the chance to make the change happen.
Some more links regarding analyses on labour manifesto:


Cuisine, French, India

Biryani – Riz aromatisé mongole

Biryani est venu en Inde avec les empereurs «Mughal» qui étaient d’origine mongole. Biryani est le riz aromatisé avec des grands morceaux de viandes et parfois accompagné par les morceaux de pomme de terre, coupé en deux. Toutes les régions indiennes font le biryani dans une manière différente. Dans le sud, ils y mettent beaucoup d’épices, dans le nord, ils y ajoutent des légumes. Pour moi, c’est un crime! C’est comme mélanger l’eau avec le vin! Est aussi, biryani a été inventé par les chefs musulmans. Même maintenant, les restaurants très connus pour ses biryani normalement emploient les chez musulmans, comme les secrets de la recette sont passés pour des générations.

Ce n’est pas une recette de biryani mais je vais vous donner un petit guide. Des grands morceaux de viandes (bœuf, mouton ou poulet. Il y a les biryanis végétarien, mais sans viande, ce n’est pas biryani. C’est pilaf) sont mélangés avec des épices (tout est là dans ta liste), ail, oignons etc. On cuisine la viande jusqu’à ce que la viande est prête.

La viande avec la sauce, prêt pour la couche

Ensuite, on met le riz dans l’eau bouillante avec des épices. If faut arrêter quand le riz est moitié fait. C’est là commence le dernier parti. Dans une grande casserole / bain marie on met une couche de viande, et puis une couche de riz, encore une couche de viande et une couche de riz. Vous devez faire au moins de deux couches de viande et riz. Sur le riz, on coule une mélange d’eau tiède et safran, pour que le riz prenne la couleur jaune. Il ne faut pas mettre beaucoup parce que l’objectif est de donner deux couleurs – blanche naturellement et jaune. On y met aussi «ghee», beurre indienne clarifiée. On met la couvercle et applique une pâte de farine pour sceller la fuite de vapeur. On met la casserole sur un feu doux pour que le riz soit cueilli avec la vapeur. Ça écarte l’arôme de la viande et les épices dans le riz. Après environ une heure, le biryani est prêt. Comme il y a de la viande, on peut manger sans sauce, mais des fois on l’accompagne par un plat avec sauce. Et un dernier conseil, il y a des restaurants indiens qui servent biryani. Mais si vous voulez tomber amoureux en premier goût, il faut chercher s’il y a une quartier près de chez toi, où habitent beaucoup de pakistanais. Si vous trouvez un restaurant modest dans un tel quartier, là vous allez trouver le meilleur biryani.

Il faut vous dire comment cela s’est passé mon dernier essai. C’était vraiment délicieux, ma femme m’a dit qu’elle n’a jamais goûté une telle saveur de biryani mais en même temps, je n’ai pas la bonne casserole qu’on avait besoin, donc j’ai utilisé une mijoteuse. La viande est les épices sur ont étés brûlées. Et cela m’a fait deux jours à préparer!

Le Biryani dans la mijoteuse

Politics, Terrorism

Al-Baghdadi killing — the eight year counter-terrorism cycle

The news echoed on Europe 1 in the car radio, that Donald Trump claimed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. That he died like a dog, like a coward. It brought back memories of 2nd May 2011, as I received, on my way home, a text from my classmate, with whom we were out clubbing the night before. The message is still there on my phone –

“Osama hunted down – killed”.

As we breathe a sigh of relief on the news of the assassination of the heinous criminal, who spread his reign of terror for nearly a decade, other thoughts cloud in mind. We are nearly at the end of 2019. A new US presidential election is due next year. Do you remember the year of the capture of Saddam, and assassination of Osama bin Laden? It’s 2003 and 2011. Yes, eight years apart, as is the year al-Baghdadi is killed. A year before the US presidential election. Also note, that nothing happened in 2007, or 2015, in terms of a breakthrough in fighting terrorism.

  • 2003 Capture of Saddam Hussein

  • 2004 George Bush Jr. re-elected

  • 2011 Osama bin Laden assassinated

  • 2012 Obama retains office

  • 2019 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi terminated

  • 2020 New presidential election. Trump holds office?

This raises a question – whether the main threats to western civilisation are only killed off or captured on the year before the US presidential election, to help a president hold the office through re-election? The dates uncannily give you a déjà vu feeling. Remember the famous starting line for Obama in 2012 electoral speeches? “Osama bin Laden is dead”. Trump is many degrees less suave than Obama, and he brashly claimed, “He died like a dog”. Were they mere coincidences, or, irrespective of the political spectrum, did the previous US presidents always knew the whereabouts of America’s Most Wanted criminals? Perhaps they either turned a blind eye in the name of diplomacy or they waited until the encounters would have benefited them personally? And perhaps due to this reason, in 2007 or 2015, the previous US presidents, who were completing their full-term, did not bother?

One would rejoice to the fact al-Baghdadi is dead, considering how much blood was shed in Syria and Iraq by his jihadist supporters. On top of it, like al-Qaeda, Daesh managed to take their atrocities into Europe and beyond. Not only did their fanatical deeds cause loss of many lives, but they also made lives of Muslims, the people they were purported to be helping, more marginalised elsewhere. Sadly, the word terrorism is redefined to be Islamist terrorism these days, and Muslims are bearing the brunt of white supremacists in the US and Europe alike. It’s worse in the US, but Europe will soon follow suite. We’ll never know if that was a calculated move from the jihadist groups, to instil more anger in the Muslim communities against the state. If it was, their tactic did work, but benefiting far-right groups than Muslims, when we see a polarised Europe with the context of Islam.

So, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. Is he actually dead? He probably is. Is his legacy dead? We’ll soon find out. His rabid supporters are now busy butchering Kurdish fighters in Syria. Once the dust has settled, we’ll know what has happened to Daesh. Does this mean anything for the extremely complicated and sensitive situation in the Middle-East? Probably it doesn’t. Al-Qaeda is still active eight years since their leader was killed. So my guess is Daesh will continue their horrific killing spree, but now that the link to the Caliphate is erased, there will be less funding. And fewer volunteers to affiliate with them. But there will probably be another leader with another group spewing their propaganda of hate and bloodbath. Daesh fighters will probably join the new group and carry on their jihad. And again, we’ll be waiting for eight more years before the US hunts the leader down. Unless, we see a decent president in the White House, who would break this eight-year jinx.

Fiction, Humour

If Muggles did magic – Harry Potter spells on daily life

Ever since I finished reading Harry Potter books, I often felt sad that we can’t do magic, and in certain situations, I felt I could have done with some of the magic spells from the books. Especially while travelling hundreds of miles, I wished I had a portkey. It’s from that chain of thoughts, I thought what if us, muggles, knew magic as well? What would we have done with our skills? Would we have been cautious and careful about magic, like most wizards and witches? Or, would we have made magic banal by using in our daily life? My prediction is for the latter. So let’s have a look at most of the memorable spells, charms and hexes from the Harry Potter books and how, once the initial euphoria was over, muggles would butcher them to make them suit in their day to day life. We could use the spells as follows:

Accio: Summoning Charm; used to summon objects toward the caster (usually from a long distance)

 – Fetch the remote left on the TV unit when you just sat down.
 – You’re in a day out and realise you didn’t bring baby nappies.

Aguamenti: produces a jet of water from the caster’s wand

 – Fill the paddling pool in the garden when you have no hose.

Alohomora: used to unlock and open doors

 – First spell learned by the burglars.
 – When your car door is frozen.

Avada Kedavra: the Killing Curse

  –Never. Except cockroaches and biiiig spiders.

Bat-Bogey Hex: causes the victim’s bogies to enlarge, grow wings, and attack the victim

  –On most of the Tories.

Bubble-Head Charm: creates a bubble of air around the caster’s head and mouth, acting as a breathing apparatus

  –When you’re on holiday and don’t want to spend money for snorkelling.

Caterwauling Charm: causes a loud, high-pitched shrieking noise when encountered

  –Intruder alarm. Bye bye Chubb.

Cheering Charm: causes the person upon whom the spell has been cast to become happy and content

  –The labour MPs who can’t make up their mind whether to leave or stay.

Colloportus: used to magically lock a door and prevent it from being opened by non-magical means

  –All your doors and windows when you’re going on a holiday especially if you live in North London.

Confringo: Blasting Charm; causes items the charm comes in contact with to burst into flames

  –If you’re burning an effigy.
 –To light a log fire or the barbecue.

Confundo: Confundus Charm; causes the victim to become confused and disoriented

  –Again, most of the Tories (Hang on! They already are!).

Crucio: causes the victim extreme pain; one of three Unforgivable Curses banned by the Ministry of Magic

 – Again, it’s not needed.

Descendo: causes the target object to move downward

 – The flour tin on the top rack in your kitchen.
 – If you play cricket, nobody will hit a six.

Diffindo: Severing Charm; causes the targeted object to rip or tear

 – The tangled mess of wires and cables for appliances you no longer use.

Disillusionment Charm: hides objects and humans

 – On the refugee boats.

Engorgio: Engorgement Charm; causes objects to increase in size

 – McDonald’s cheeseburger.
 –Women may use it on other objects 😉.

Episkey: used to heal minor injuries

 – A frequent spell at every school and nursery and household with children.

Evanesco: used to vanish object

 – To hide the stash of porn when your mum comes in.
 – Hide the pack of cannabis at security checks.

Expecto Patronum: used to cast a Patronus (a physical manifestation of one’s most positive feelings)

 – Remainers, when surrounded by demented Brexiters.

Expecto Patronum
Source: Imgur/Most Vital Images

Expelliarmus: used to disarm another wizard

 – If you live in north London, a daily spell against the hammer and machete wielding gangs.
 – Disarm toddlers wielding sharp objects – knitting pin, fork.

Homenum Revelio: allows the caster to detect human presence

 – When you’re walking down the street and you feel that you’re being followed. 

Impedimenta: Impediment Jinx; prevents the victim from approaching the caster

 – On Britain first and Tommeh supporter thugs mainly. 

Imperio: removes the victim’s free will and ability to make decisions for him- or herself

 – Hmm, the 17.4 million I guess, but you’ll need a time turner as well. Or on Boris to hold a second referendum.
 – On children having a tantrum on the shop floor.

Impervius: causes objects to repel outside forces, such as water

 – Dominos pizza in a rainy day.
 – Tommy Robinson may use it often to avoid milkshake missiles.

Incendio: creates fire

 – Light up barbecue and fireplace.

Levicorpus: a nonverbal spell that causes the victim to be dangled upside down by his or her ankles

 – Definitely JRM and Farage to start with.

Locomotor: causes an object to rise and move at the command of the caster

 – On dry laundry to let them fly into the laundry bag. Also on utensils and cutlery from dishwasher to cabinets.

Lumos: projects a beam of light from the user’s wand

 – During power-cut and when you need to go in the loft.

Morsmordre: conjures the Dark Mark

 – Brexiters if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Muffliato: used to prevent conversations from being overheard by filling the ears of those nearby with an unidentifiable buzzing noise

 – In front of your kids when you need to talk about presents or birthday parties.

Obliviate: used to hide memories

 – When you cheated and worried that truth might spill out.
 – Also, on your kids when they spotted something expensive and you know they’ll ask for it on Christmas.

Permanent Sticking Charm: causes objects to permanently stay in place

 – The wobbly table with one shorter leg.
 – A scotch tape on Boris Johnson’s mouth. And the rest of his cabinet.

Petrificus Totalus: Full Body-Bind Curse; temporarily binds the victim’s entire body, thus immobilizing him or her

 – Used by police instead of taser.

Portus: turns objects into Portkeys

 – The possibilities are endless. Go on holidays without paying, watch your favourite game from the stadium.

Priori Incantato: creates an “echo” of previously performed spells

 – Police when they want to find out if you’ve been up to no good.
 – On wands of naughty kids in school.

Protego: Shield Charm; rebounds minor to moderate hexes, jinxes, and spells upon their caster

 – Britain first and Tommeh supporter thug gangs, when they have tantrums and throw things.
 – Tommeh and Farage can use them to avoid the milkshakes.

Reducto: Reductor Curse; breaks objects and in its strongest form has the ability to disintegrate them

 – Crack open walnuts, coconut.

Relashio: causes the victim to release whatever they are holding

 – When you want the toy your sibling is playing with.

Reparo: used to repair broken objects

 – Must use for household with children.

Rictusempra: Tickling Charm; causes an extreme tickling sensation that disables the victim

 – On Brexit party MEPs. They will become a laughing stock. Wait, what?

Riddikulus: spell used when fighting a Boggart; causes the Boggart to transform into something the caster finds humorous

 – On most of the Tory and Brexit party members.

Scourgify: used to clean objects

 – Clean the household. Bye bye Fairy and Cif.

Sectumsempra: spell that causes deep gashes on the victim’s body

 – On the joint of beef or lamb, or on veg.
 – At operation theatres.

Silencio: used to make something silent

 – Women when in a group 😉.
 – All other noise creatures – dogs, parrots, children, men in pub.

Sonorus: magically magnifies one’s voice

 – When you’re calling your kids and they pay no attention.

Stupefy: used to stun a victim

 – Alternative of taser for police.

Taboo: a jinx that can be placed upon a word so that when the word is spoken, a magical disturbance is created which alerts the caster of the Taboo

 – 17.4 million.
 – Downstairs.

Tergeo: used to remove matter (blood, dirt, etc.) from an object

 – All your meat and veggies before cooking.

Unbreakable Vow: causes the vow being taken by the witch or wizard to be inviolable with the consequence of death if it is breached

 – When you want to diet but it normally doesn’t last more than a week.

Wingardium Leviosa: Hover Charm; causes an object to levitate

 – Taking children to bed who would insist on being carried.
 – Lifting furniture when you’re hoovering the house.

The following link has been used for obtaining the list of Harry Potter spells

Durga puja, Nostalgia, short story

এই সুন্দর স্বর্ণালী সন্ধ্যায় – দুই মাতালের ষষ্ঠী উদযাপন

এই কাহিনীর স্থান, কাল, পাত্র সম্পূর্ণ কাল্পনিক। যদি কেউ এই ঘটনার সাথে কোনো বাস্তবিক চরিত্রের সাযুজ্য খুঁজে পান তবে তা নিতান্তই কাকতালীয়।

এই কাহিনীর প্রেক্ষাপট কলকাতার অগুন্তি সরকারি আবাসনগুলির কোনো একটি। সেখানে দুর্গাপুজো হচ্ছে প্রায় গত বিশ বছর ধরে। খুব যে আড়ম্বর করে তা নয়, কিন্তু পুজোর অছিলায় পাড়ার প্রায় হাজার বাসিন্দা একজোট হয়ে কিছু একটা করার চেষ্টা করে যথাসাধ্য। পাড়ার মাঝে চত্বরে প্যান্ডেল হয় একটা, অনেকটা জায়গা জুড়ে, আর পুজোর পাঁচদিন কিছু না কিছু সাস্কিতিক পোগাম। কচিকাঁচাদের উৎফুল্লতা সবচেয়ে বেশি – নতুন জামাকাপড়, সাথে হাতখরচের কিছু পয়সা তা দিয়ে দেদার ফুচকা ঘুঘনি চালতা কুলের আচার, সময়মত বাড়ি না ফেরার চোখরাঙানি নেই, সব মিলে জমজমাট ব্যাপার। বয়স একটু বাড়লে তখন আবার এক-দু ঘন্টা আড্ডাও মারা যায় রাতের দিকে। সমস্যাটা হলো সাবালক হয়ে। উচ্চমাধ্যমিক দিয়ে ফেলা মানেই অনেকটা গুপী বাঘার মতো যা চাই পরতে খাইতে পারি যেথায় খুশি যাইতে পারি সানিধাপামাগারেসা গাইতে পারি অবস্থা। অনেকের এই সাবালকত্বে পদার্পন হয় নিতান্তই নিরাড়ম্বর ভাবে।তবে এই গল্পের গুপী বাঘা সে পথ মাড়ায়নি। মাড়ায়নি বলেই এ গল্পের অবতারণা।

জগাই আর মাধাই এই পাড়াতেই বড় হয়েছে। একসাথে খেলাধুলো ঝগড়াঝাঁটি মারপিট। দুজনেই সবে উচ্চমাধ্যমিক পাশ করে যে যার কেরিয়ার তৈরিতে ব্যস্ত। কে কি পড়ছে তা অপ্রাসঙ্গিক। তবে পাড়ার বাইরে বেরিয়ে দুজনেরই প্রচুর সদ্যপ্রাপ্ত সাবালকত্বের অভিজ্ঞতা সঞ্চয় হয়েছে বিগত ২ মাসে। সেগুলো একে অপরকে খুলে না বলতে পেরে দুজনেরই পেট ফুলে ফেঁপে উঠছে। এমন সময় হঠাৎ করে না বলে কয়ে দুর্গাপুজোর আগমন। তা দুজনেরই কলেজ আপাতত বন্ধ। দিনক্ষণ পাঁজি পক্ষ দেখে জগাই মাধাই ঠিক করলো ষষ্ঠীর দিন তারা বিকেল বিকেল পাড়া থেকে বেরিয়ে পড়বে, গন্তব্য এসপ্ল্যানেড। তখন মোবাইল ফোনের যুগ আসেনি, তাই খুটখুট করে মেসেজ করে যোগাযোগের চল ছিলোনা। কাউকে ডাকতে হলে হয় তার বাড়ি গিয়ে কড়া নাড়তে হবে, আর নিতান্তই আলসে হলে বাড়ির নিচে দাঁড়িয়ে হাঁক পাড়তে হবে। তবে এযাত্রা হাঁকডাক নৈব নৈব চ। বন্ধুবান্ধব কেউ জেনে গেলেই হয় ঘন্টার পর ঘন্টা কৈফিয়ত দিতে হবে নাহলে সব দঙ্গল মিলে একসাথে যেতে হবে।  প্ল্যানমাফিক তাই ষষ্ঠীর বিকেলে দুজনে মাঞ্জা মেরে বিশ্বকর্মা সেজে গুটিগুটি পাড়া থেকে বেরিয়েই ট্যাক্সি। স্কুলজীবনে যে তারা ট্যাক্সি চাপতনা তা নয়, তবে কলেজ মানেই অ্যাডাল্ট, তাই পিতৃদেবের হোটেলে খেয়েও পকেটে রেস্ত তখন অনেক বেশি। জগাইয়ের পরনে এক ধবধবে সাদা জামা, তার নাম আবার Fried Water. মাধাই পরেছে Van Heusen এর ফর্মাল জামা। কলকাতা তখনো অনেকটা কলকাতাতেই ছিল, জ্যামজট থাকলেও এসপ্ল্যানেড যেতে বিশেষ সময় লাগলোনা। লিন্ডসে স্ট্রিটে নেমে দুজনে ঢুকে পড়লো গ্লোব সিনেমার পানশালায়। হ্যাঁ, তখন সিনেমা হলে বার থাকতো, রেস্টুরেন্ট ও।

দুজনে মিলে একটা টেবিলে বসেই তৃষ্ণার্ত চাতক পাখির মতো আশেপাশের লোকজনের হাতে হাতে ঘোরা রঙবেরঙের গেলাসগুলো দেখে নিলো। কলেজ যাওয়া ইস্তক দুজনেরই বেশ কিছু জ্ঞান আহরণ হয়েছে এ বিষয়ে। কি ব্র্যান্ড, খেতে কেমন, কোন তরলের সাথে কি খাবার খেতে হবে। বিশেষ কালবিলম্ব না করে দুজনে ঠিক করলো গ্রীন লেবেল বলে এক তরুণ তুর্কি। এর মধ্যে খাবারের অর্ডার দিতে না দিতেই আশ্চর্য ব্যাপার। গ্রীন লেবেলের রিপ্রেজেন্টেটিভ স্ক্রাচকার্ড নিয়ে হাজির। সেসব ঘষে পাওয়া গেলো গিফট। যদিও জগাই মাধাই নিজেদের কীর্তিকলাপ খানিক ফুলিয়ে ফাঁপিয়েই বলেছিলো, তবু একটা ব্যাপার সেই প্রথম গিফট পাওয়া থেকেই পরিষ্কার হয়ে গিয়েছিলো, যে গ্রীন লেবেলের লোকটাকে বারে বারে তবু আসতেই হবে ফিরে। তা সে এসেছিলোও। ৭ বার। গ্রীন লেবেলের সোনালী রঙের ছোঁয়ায় সন্ধ্যে তখন সত্যিই সোনালী বর্ণ ধারণ করেছে। চিরুনি, পেন, কাপ, বেল্ট – টাকাকড়ি মিটিয়ে যখন তারা বার থেকে বেরোচ্ছে হাতে একরাশ গিফট নিয়ে, তাদের ভাবখানা ছিল যেন খেলার শেষে ম্যান অফ দ্য ম্যাচ প্রাইজ পেয়েছে। ওয়েটারের চোখে যেন ছিল খানিকটা বিস্ময় খানিকটা সম্ভ্রম, আশেপাশের টেবিলের গুঞ্জন আর আড়চোখে চাউনি যেন তাদের সেই অতিমানবিক প্রদর্শনীরই নীরব সমাদর। বাস্তব হয়তো ছিল সম্পূর্ণ আলাদা, তবে জগাই মাধাই তা জানেনা, ওদেরকে সেটাই ভাবতে দিন।

গ্লোবের বারে বসে এদিকে কারো খেয়াল হয়নি সময় কত হলো সেটা দেখার। আর সময়ের দামও তেমন ছিলোনা যে ঘনঘন ঘড়ি দেখতে হবে। কিন্তু কটা বাজে সে খেয়াল হতেই দুজনের নেশা খানিকটা চটকে গেলো। মোটে সাড়ে ৮টা। পাড়ায় তার মানে পোগাম চলছে পুরোদমে, জগাই মাধাই দুজনেরই বাবা মা তার মানে পাড়ায়।  খানিক সময় নষ্ট করার অভিপ্রায়ে ওরা এসে ভিড়লো দু পা হেঁটে নিউ এম্পায়ার সিনেমা হলে। তাদের বার-কাম-রেস্টুরেন্ট ওপরতলায়, সেখানেও একবার ঢুঁ মারা হয়ে গেলো জগাই মাধাইয়ের। ঢুকুঢুকু দু পেগ হুইস্কি মেরে আবার ঘড়ির দিকে চাওয়া। সময় যেন কাটতেই চাইছেনা। সবে তখন বাজে ৯টা। দুই বন্ধু কোনোমতে চৌরঙ্গীর রাস্তা টপকে ঢুকে পড়লো ময়দানে। ময়দান ঘুটঘুটে অন্ধকার আর রাস্তার উল্টোদিকেই ঝলমলে এসপ্ল্যানেড। নেশাটা যেন একটু চড়ছে। আলাপে ঢুকে পড়ছে শীর্ষেন্দু সুনীল কলেজ ভবিষ্যৎ। একটু জিরিয়ে নিতে দুজনে বসেপড়লো ঘাসের ওপর। ঠিক জুৎ হচ্ছেনা। জগাই এলিয়ে পড়লো হেমন্তের শিশিরে ভেজা ঘাসের ওপর, খানিক পর  মাধাইও। নেশাটা যেন একটু দেরি করে চড়ছে। মোটে পৌনে ১০টা।

তবু ফেরার চেষ্টা করতে হবে। পুজোর বাজারে গাড়ি পাওয়া দায়। বহু ড্রাইভার দুই মাতালকে নিয়ে কলকাতার কুখ্যাত এলাকায় যেতে বিশেষ উৎসাহ দেখালোনা। অবশেষে এক দয়ালু চালক জগাই মাধাইয়ের সরকারি আবাসনের থেকে কিঞ্চিৎ আগে অবধি নিয়ে যেতে রাজি হলো। হেঁটে পাড়ায় ফেরার সাধ্য কারোরই নেই তখন, অগত্যা রিকশা ভরসা। পারে ফেরা মানে ষষ্ঠীর রোমাঞ্চকর অভিযানের সেখানেই ইতি, তাই জগাই মাধাই মনের আনন্দে গান ধরলো।মাধাই সিটে বসে, জগাই পাদানিতে ঝুলতে ঝুলতে।

এই সুন্দর স্বর্ণালী সন্ধ্যায়

Gilbey’s Green Label – সোনালী সন্ধ্যার অনুঘটক

গল্পটা এখানেই শেষ হতে পারতো। দুজন চুপচাপ জর্দা পান খেয়ে গুটিগুটি বাড়ি ঢুকে ঘুমিয়ে পরদিন বন্ধুদের বলতে পারতো তাদের কান্ডকারখানা। কিন্তু বিধি বাম। আসল গল্পের শুরু তো এখান থেকেই। রাত সাড়ে ১০টা -১১টা। পাড়ার মুখে বসা গণশক্তির ষ্টল পেরিয়ে, পচা ডোবা পেরিয়ে রিক্সা এসে থামলো মণ্ডপের সামনে। গান কিন্তু তখন থামেনি। …”এই সুন্দর স্বর্ণালী সন্ধ্যায়”…পাদানি থেকে গড়িয়ে নামলো জগাই…”এ কি বন্ধনে জড়ালে গো বন্ধু”…ভাড়া মিটিয়ে একে অন্যের গায়ে ঠেকা দিয়ে জগাই মাধাই মর্ত্যে পদার্পন করলো। মণ্ডপে ঢুকে গুটিকয় চেয়ার বিছিয়ে আরাম করে বসে দুজনে চারপাশটা একটু জরিপ করে নিলো। কেউ সন্দেহ করেনি তো? মন্ডপ আর তার আশেপাশে ছড়িয়ে ছিটিয়ে থাকা জনাবিশেকের মাঝে তখন এক থমথমে নিঃস্তব্ধতা। নাঃ সব স্বাভাবিক।খালি দুজনের বন্ধুবান্ধব বাদে। বিনেপয়সায় তামাশা দেখার সুযোগ পেলে সবাই খানিক ডেঁয়ো পিঁপড়ের মতো ছেঁকে ধরে, তেমনি এবেলাও তার ব্যতিক্রম হলোনা।

সবাইকে সব বিস্তারে বর্ণনা করে গিফট দেখাতে গিয়েই হলো প্রথম গুগলি। কোথায় গিফট, কোথায় কি? সেই বার থেকে বেরোনোর সময় কোঁচড়ে করে যত গিফট নিয়ে বেরিয়েছিল জগাই আর মাধাই, সে সব পড়ে আছে ময়দানে। আবার ফিরে যাবে কি তারা, ফেলে আসা জিনিসগুলোকে কুড়িয়ে আনতে? না, তারা পাগল নয়, মাতাল মাত্র। কিন্তু বন্ধুবান্ধব পরিবেষ্টিত হয়ে, সারা সন্ধেবেলাটা পুঙ্খানুপুঙ্খ বর্ণনা করেও তাদের মনে খানিকটা খেদ রয়ে গেছিলো। কোথাও না কোথাও একটা খামতি রয়ে গেছে। তাই জগাই গিয়ে মাঝবয়েসী টেনিদার সামনে চেয়ার টেনে বসে ঠোঁটে আলতো করে একটা ক্লাসিক সিগারেট ঝুলিয়ে বললো, আগুন হবে? টেনিদা হঠাৎ বিষম খেয়ে পাড়ার বয়োজ্যেষ্ঠ কানুবাবুকে বলল বাড়ি চলেন। জগাই সিগারেট ধরিয়ে ফুড়ুৎ করে খানিক ধোঁয়া ছেড়ে দুটো চেয়ার নিয়ে মণ্ডপে প্রতিমার পাশে গ্যাঁট হয়ে বসলো। মাধাই আবার খানিক পালোয়ান টাইপ। তার খানিক পাঞ্জা না খেলে ঘুম আসবেনা। সে এবার ওপাড়ার রিজুর সাথে একদফা মারপিট করে নিলো। যাকে বলে আসর জমজমাট।

জগাই তারপর যখন চোখ খুললো তার বদ্ধ ধারণা হলো সে মারা গেছে। চারদিক ঘুটঘুটে অন্ধকার, ছোট্ট এক চিলতে এক বেঞ্চ। মাথাব্যথা। হাতড়ে হাতড়ে আলো জ্বেলে আরেক আশ্চর্য ব্যাপার। সে রয়েছে একটা গুমটি ঘরে আর ঘরের ভেতর আরো ২-৪ জন অচেনা লোক। চোখের চশমা গায়েব, ঘড়ি নেই হাতে, মানিব্যাগ টাও হাপিস। ঘরে কনকনে ঠান্ডা। মরেই যখন গেছি, খানিক ঘুমিয়ে নেয়া যাক আগে, ভাবলো জগাই।

সপ্তমীর সকালে ৭টা নাগাদ হুঁশ ফিরলো তার। গুমটি ঘরটা থেকে বেরিয়েই পড়লো। আরে এ তো পাড়ার ক্লাবঘর। পেটে চরম খিদে এদিকে টাকাকড়ি সব গায়েব, শেষে টিউকল থেকে গাদাখানেক জল খেয়ে ল্যাজ গুটিয়ে বাড়ি ফিরলো জগাই। পরনের Fried Water তখন সবুজ আর কালোর মাঝামাঝি রঙে দাঁড়িয়েছে। ঘন্টা চারেক আরো ঘুমিয়ে আমতা আমতা করে কোথায় ছিল রাতে, জামার কি করে ওই দশা হলো এসব বিবৃতি দিয়ে বাড়ি থেকে যখন বেরোলো, মাধাই তখন অঞ্জলি দিতে নেমে পড়েছে। জগাইয়ের সব জিনিসপত্র ওর বাড়িতেই গচ্ছিত ছিল। এতক্ষনে দুজনেরই সাবালকত্ব প্রাপ্তি হয়েছে, এক রাত্রির ঘটনার জেরে। মাথা হেঁট করে, বকাঝকা খেয়ে, মাঝে কেউ এসে আবার প্রণামও ঠুকে দিয়ে গেলো – দুজনে প্রতিজ্ঞা করলো আর কখনো তামসিক ফুর্তি করবেনা। অনেক লোকসান। সেই প্রতিজ্ঞা বজায় ছিল অনেকদিন। অষ্টমী অবধি।

এরপর বহু বছর গড়িয়ে গেছে। তবু দুর্নাম রয়েই গেছে। ওই এক রাত্রির জেরে পাড়ায় যারা তাদের চিনতোনা সবাই হয়তো জেনে গিয়েছিলো ওদের দুজনের নাম। জগাই মাধাইকে একসাথে দেখলেই বন্ধুরা বলত আজ কি খেল দেখাবি। চুইং গাম খেতে খেতে পাড়ায় ঢুকলেই জিজ্ঞাসা কি খেয়ে এলি। এখন আর অত লুকোছাপা নেই। জগাই মাধাই কেউই থাকেনা পাড়ায় বহু বছর। তবু পুজোর সময় পাড়ায় দুজনকে দেখলেই লোকে আজও মনে করিয়ে দেয় পঁচিশ বছর আগের সেই সোনালী সন্ধ্যার কথা। জগাই মাধাইয়ের মনে চাগিয়ে ওঠে হারিয়ে যাওয়া গিফটগুলোর জন্যে একদলা মনখারাপ। আর মনে পড়ে যায় সেই পুরোনো সুর –

এই সুন্দর স্বর্ণালী সন্ধ্যায়