Thursday, July 23, 2009

How Bengali men get their nicknames

Here is an attempt to alert people to a great injustice that is being perpetrated upon the sons of Bengal. So you thought they were wimpy to begin with. Far from it, my friend!!! Their current state is a result of years of conditioning by the oppressors, namely, the women. By using a panoply of psychological weapons, they have reduced these fine men to what you mostly see today.

Let us focus on the first weapon in their hands - the nickname.

When a son is born into a Bengali household, he is gifted with a resonant, sonorous name. Bengali names are wonderful things. They convey majesty and power. A man with a name like Shushmito, Shamrat, Samudro, Rudro, Prokash, Indrojeet, Shurojit, Proshenjit, Bishshodip, et cetera, is a man who will walk with his head held high, knowing that the world expects great deeds from him, which was why they bestowed the title that is his name upon him.

But it simply will not do for these men to get ahead of themselves. Their swelling confidence needs to be shattered. How can one go about it? This task is left to the mothers of these lads and is accomplished by the simple act of referring to the boy, not by his rather-great-sounding real name, but by a nickname which even Shakti Kapoor would feel ashamed to answer to.

There are five rules for creating nicknames, which need to be followed. They are:
Nicknames must have no connection to the real name. Orunabho cannot be called Orun. No, for that would be logical, and such things are anathema in the world of women. Instead he shall be called BHOMBOL. If possible, the nickname and real name must have no letters in common, but an ancient alphabet proves to be the constraining factor there.
Nicknames must be humiliating to the power infinity; If you are a tall strapping boy, with a flair for soccer, an easy charm and an endearing personality, then you shall be nicknamed - Khoka. And every time, you have set your sights on a girl, and are on the verge of having the aforementioned lass eat out of your hand - your mother will arrive and pronounce loudly - "Khokon, chalo". The ensuing sea of giggles will drown out whatever confidence you had earned from that last winning free-kick.
A nickname must refer in some way to a suitably embarrassing incident in your childhood that you would give your arm and leg to forget. If it took you a little too long to shed your baby fat, then years of gymming will not rid you of the nomenclature Motka. If your face turned crimson when you cried as a toddler, you will be called Laltu. When you turn 40, your friends' children will call you Laltu Uncle. Even age will not earn you the right to be taken seriously thereafter.
Different members of the family will make up different nicknames each more embarrassing than the preceding one. If one member of the family calls you Piklu, then another will call you Pocha, and another will call you Ghoton. The humiliation multiplies.
You will always be introduced by your nickname until people forget you had a real name. Ranajoy might have taken on a gang of armed men single-handedly, but Tatai really didn't have a chance. After a point, Tatai will completely take over the beaten body of Ranajoy, weighed down by the pressure of a thousand taunts.

This strategy is surprisingly effective. Ask yourself - would you take Professor Boltu seriously? Or put much weight by the opinion of Dr Bubai? Or march into battle under the command of General Topa? The power of the nickname has scarred the psyche of Bengali men everywhere. It follows them like a monkey on their backs. That too, a monkey with a flair for slapstick, that was gifted to them by their own mothers, aunts and grandmothers.

Cheers !!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Love is

'How long will you be poring over that newspaper? Will you come here right away and make your darling daughter eat her food?'

I tossed the paper away and rushed to the scene. My only daughter Sindu looked frightened. Tears were welling up in her eyes. In front of her was a bowl filled to its brim with Curd Rice.

Sindu is a nice child, quite intelligent for her age. She has just turned eight. She particularly detested Curd Rice. My mother and my wife are orthodox, and believe firmly in the 'cooling effects' of Curd Rice!

I cleared my throat, and picked up the bowl. "Sindu, darling, why don't you take a few mouthful of this Curd Rice? Just for Dad's sake, dear And, if you don't, your Mom will shout at me'

I could sense my wife's scowl behind my back. Sindu softened a bit, and wiped her tears with the back of her hands. 'OK, Dad. I will eat - not just a few mouthfuls, but the whole lot of this. But, you should...' Sindu hesitated.
'Dad, if I eat this entire Curd Rice, will you give me whatever I ask for?'

'Oh sure, darling'.


'Promise'. I covered the pink soft hand extended by my daughter with mine, and clinched the deal.

'Ask Mom also to give a similar promise', my daughter insisted. My wife slapped her hand on Sindu's, muttering 'Promise', without any emotion.

Now I became a bit anxious. 'Sindumma, you shouldn't insist on getting a computer or any such expensive items. Dad does not have that kind of money right now. OK?'

'No, Dad. I do not want anything expensive'. Slowly and painfully, she finished eating the whole quantity. I was silently angry with my wife and my mother for forcing my child eat something that she detested.

After the ordeal was through, Sindu came to me with her eyes wide with expectation. All our attention was on her. 'Dad, I want to have my head shaved off, this Sunday!' was her demand!

'Atrocious!' shouted my wife, 'a girl child having her head shaved off? Impossible!'.

'Never in our family!' my mother rasped. 'She has been watching too much of television. Our culture is getting totally spoiled with these TV programs!'

'Sindumma, why don't you ask for something else? We will be sad seeing you with a clean-shaven head.'

'No, Dad. I do not want anything else', Sindu said with finality.

'Please, Sindu, why don't you try to understand our feelings?' I tried to plead with her.

'Dad, you saw how difficult it was for me to eat that Curd Rice'. Sindu was in tears. 'And you promised to grant me whatever I ask for. Now, you are going back on your words. Was it not you who told me the story of King Harishchandra, and its moral that we should honour our promises no matter what?'

It was time for me to call the shots. 'Our promise must be kept.'

'Are you out your mind?' chorused my mother and wife.

'No. If we go back on our promises, she will never learn to honour her own. Sindu, your wish will be fulfilled.'

With her head clean-shaven, Sindu had a round-face, and her eyes looked big & beautiful.

On Monday morning, I dropped her at her school. It was a sight to watch my hairless Sindu walking towards her classroom. She turned around and waved. I waved back with a smile. Just then, a boy alighted from a car, and shouted, 'Sinduja, please wait for me!'

What struck me was the hairless head of that boy. 'May be, that is the in-stuff', I thought.

'Sir, your daughter Sinduja is great indeed!' Without introducing herself, a lady got out of the car, and continued, 'That boy who is walking along with your daughter is my son Harish. He is suffering from ... ... leukemia.'

She paused to muffle her sobs. 'Harish could not attend the school for the whole of the last month. He lost all his hair due to the side effects of the chemotherapy. He refused to come back to school fearing the unintentional but cruel teasing of the schoolmates. Sinduja visited him last week, and promised him that she will take care of the teasing issue.

But, I never imagined she would sacrifice her lovely hair for the sake of my son! Sir, you and your wife are blessed to have such a noble soul as your daughter.'

I stood transfixed. With wet eyes I said to myself.

'My little Angel, will you grant me a boon? Teach me what Love is?'

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Resignation Letter

Dear Co-Workers and Managers,

As many of you probably know, today is my last day. But before I leave, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know what a great and distinct pleasure it has been to type "Today is my last day."

For nearly as long as I've worked here, I've hoped that I might one day leave this company. And now that this dream has become a reality, please know that I could not have reached this goal without your unending lack of support. Words cannot express my gratitude for the words of gratitude you did not express.

I would especially like to thank all of my managers both past and present but with the exception of the wonderful Saroj Hariprashad: in an age where miscommunication is all too common, you consistently impressed and inspired me with the sheer magnitude of your misinformation, ignorance and intolerance for true talent. It takes a strong man to admit his mistake - it takes a stronger man to attribute his mistake to me.

Over the past seven years, you have taught me more than I could ever ask for and, in most cases, ever did ask for. I have been fortunate enough to work with some absolutely interchangeable supervisors on a wide variety of seemingly identical projects - an invaluable lesson in overcoming daily tedium in overcoming daily tedium in overcoming daily tedium.

Your demands were high and your patience short, but I take great solace knowing that my work was, as stated on my annual review, "meets expectation." That is the type of praise that sends a man home happy after a 10 hour day, smiling his way through half a bottle of meets expectation scotch with a meets expectation cigar. Thanks Trish!

And to most of my peers: even though we barely acknowledged each other within these office walls, I hope that in the future, should we pass on the street, you will regard me the same way as I regard you: sans eye contact.

But to those few souls with whom I've actually interacted, here are my personalized notes of farewell:

To Philip Cress, I will not miss hearing you cry over absolutely nothing while laying blame on me and my coworkers. Your racial comments about Joe Cobbinah were truly offensive and I hope that one day you might gain the strength to apologize to him.

To Brenda Ashby whom is long gone, I hope you find a manager that treats you as poorly as you have treated us. I worked harder for you then any manager in my career and I regret every ounce of it. Watching you take credit for my work was truly demoralizing.

To Sylvia Keenan, you should learn how to keep your mouth shut sweet heart. Bad mouthing the innocent is a negative thing, especially when your talking about someone who knows your disgusting secrets. ; )

To Bob Malvin (Mr. Cronyism Jr), well, I wish you had more of a back bone. You threw me to the wolves with that witch Brenda and I learned all too much from it. I still can't believe that after following your instructions, I ended up getting written up, wow. Thanks for the experience buddy, lesson learned.

Don Merritt (Mr. Cronyism Sr), I'm happy that you were let go in the same manner that you have handed down to my dedicated coworkers. Hearing you on the phone last year brag about how great bonuses were going to be for you fellas in upper management because all of the lay offs made me nearly vomit. I never expected to see management benefit financially from the suffering of scores of people but then again, with this company's rooted history in the slave trade it only makes sense.

To all of the executives of this company, Jamie Dimon and such. Despite working through countless managers that practiced unethical behavior, racism, sexism, jealousy and cronyism, I have benefited tremendously by working here and I truly thank you for that. There was once a time where hard work was rewarded and acknowledged, it's a pity that all of our positive output now falls on deaf ears and passes blind eyes. My advice for you is to place yourself closer to the pulse of this company and enjoy the effort and dedication of us "faceless little people" more. There are many great people that are being over worked and mistreated but yet are still loyal not to those who abuse them but to the greater mission of providing excellent customer support. Find them and embrace them as they will help battle the cancerous plague that is ravishing the moral of this company.

So, in parting, if I could pass on any word of advice to the lower salary recipient ("because it's good for the company") in India or Tampa who will soon be filling my position, it would be to cherish this experience because a job opportunity like this comes along only once in a lifetime.

Meaning: if I had to work here again in this lifetime, I would sooner kill myself.

To those who I have held a great relationship with, I will miss being your co-worker and will cherish our history together. Please don't bother responding as at this very moment I am most likely in my car doing 85 with the windows down listening to Biggie.


Hint: Keep this e-mail handy for any future use.