Chinmay Chakravarty is a professional specialized in the creative field with over two decades of experience in creative writing, journalistic writing, media co-ordination, film script writing, film dubbing, film & video making, management of international film festivals and editing of books & journals. Started career with a stint as a freelance journalist and then joined Indian Information Service. Employed by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India during 1983 to 2014 . Presently posted as Director, Press Information Bureau, Kolkata. Published a book on Humor, 'Laugh and Let Laugh' by Notion Press, India, in 2017,
My Blog: Our Funarena!
I was supremely confident that the connecting train would wait for us. Our first train was running five hours late, and the onward connecting train was to leave from the big junction at about three hours after the scheduled arrival of our train. Most of the passengers booked for that train gave up hope. I tried my best to infuse confidence in them by pointing out the obvious fact that our reservation tickets showed confirmed births on the connecting train, and therefore, it was a sacred obligation on the part of the Indian Railways to make the train wait for us. Some of the depressed co-passengers believed in me. I was not only mistaken but was colossally being naive.
Yes, the connecting train left on the scheduled departure time, more than two hours before our final arrival, leaving us stranded for the night at the station waiting room. Of course, the ticket was valid and it was adjusted in the train leaving early morning next day for our destination. This was the first case of missing the connecting train, and it was by a huge margin.
The next time, we boarded the same train to connect the same train at the big junction for our onward journey; we were much closer to catching it—missing it by just an hour. And the same routine followed at the station for the early morning train. It happened for the third time in a row, and the third time was a real big chase of sorts.
That third time our train was running two hours late, and so we were very hopeful of catching the connecting train, because the time difference was three hours. The nail-biting chase began when we reached a small station about 30 kilometres from the big junction. The train was a little less than two hours late now, and it needed only half an hour more to complete the journey so as to yield us enough time to board the connecting train. We got busy packing up, feeling elated that finally we were going to make it on our third attempt.
However, the rail gods had some other plans for us hapless souls. The train, a super-fast one, continued to wait at the nondescript station...for minutes...half hour...and more. We were getting really worried as the buffer time we had was drying out fast and furious. Now we started debating loud, and louder with ire and great irritation. Some experienced souls opined that the platform clearance was not given perhaps due to heavy local train traffic or maybe some other issues like goods train movement or derailment. Nothing helped though as our irritation gave way to plain simple anger.
Finally, our train started moving with less than half an hour time margin for the connecting train as far as we were concerned. It made good progress picking up great speed, giving us a renewed lease of hope. We were sure of making it when it reached the multi-track entry point of the big junction. And then, it stopped again for the final clearance.
We started praying, ‘Please let the connecting train leave a few minutes late...please... dear rail god!’ Perhaps as an answer to our prayers the train moved again on its final leg. We rushed to the doorway with our luggage anticipating which way the platform would come. We discussed our plan of action: two or three passengers would run immediately for the platform of the connecting, board it and pull the chain while the rest of us would come in the rear with the combined luggage. I was part of the more responsible ‘luggage’ team.
As we entered the platform we watched in horror the train leaving the platform, maybe about 7 minutes from its scheduled departure time. However, we saw two passengers of our advance team managing to hop into a coach. So, we kept moving hoping the train to stop any moment now. Unfortunately, nothing happened. The connecting train just disappeared in front of our disbelieving eyes. We were left stranded there with more baggage for comfort.
We took good care of the luggage, taking turns for sleep in the waiting room floor. Early morning we boarded the other train as on earlier occasions. At the junction midway on the route the two passengers without luggage getting no benefit by making it to the connecting train, having to spend hours at the new station floor joined us. I immediately asked them, ‘Why didn’t you pull the chain?’ They said they pulled all the chains available inside the coach, but none of these worked or perhaps their action was ignored by the railway authorities.
We took a solemn pledge, never ever to try that particular pair of trains again. And we did stick to our pledge to this very day. We learnt to be shrewd, reasonable and wise—go for any connecting train when the time gap between the pair is at least 10 hours or more
If you live in India, and you don’t have a car or you cannot afford to take out your car daily, then you must be used to the perennial overcrowding in all modes of public transport in the big cities. I’m omitting the bikers from this purview because in major cities most of them park theirs near the local railway stations and take the plunge. The one advisory that comes to my mind is that ‘Don’t ever expect a seat, always concentrate on getting a standing space where you can commute in some comfort’! Of course, getting a standing space is no guarantee for continued comfort due to the fact that the add-on crowds keep boarding in the stations on the way. However, this is still the only way to overcome the unease of overcrowding, somewhat. Although the scenario applies to all public modes of transport like the city buses, local trains and metro rail, in this piece we’ll concentrate mostly on the travails of commuters inside a metro train thanks to the claustrophobic interiors.
Now, what are the dangers of overcrowding? They are manifold with the main sources being the omnipresent backpacks, the omnipotent big bellies, the camouflaged bullies, the parasitic smart-phone users and other offenders; the last bit about offenders we’ll dwell upon at the end of this piece.
You know very well what backpacks or big bellies do to you during the ride through constant pushing, pinning and at times almost crushing you out of breath. Whenever this deadly twosome combines in one or more commuters you end up with outward reactions but curse. In the somewhat rare case of a triplet—backpack, big belly and bully in one fearsome—you’d feel like breaking out through the windows which is not at all possible though. Smart-phone users are mentioned here as ‘parasitic’ which is because they always use your bodies to lean against or worse for carrying on their ‘must’ mobile indulgence. Camouflaged bullies mean those persons who look harmless and peaceful enough, but at the opportune moments they’d push you, jostle you, elbow you mercilessly just to get to their ‘deemed’ comfortable standing space. Unfortunately, such bullies include even some of respected senior citizens who display unbelievable prowess to get to their reserved seats or to stand in front of those seats for catching the next seating opportunity. And, if you happen to make the cardinal mistake of commenting on their ‘activities’ they’d engage you in a furious debate for the rest of your journey.
Then, there are also additional dangers that invariably happen during your struggle. The mobile of the person squeezed in shoulder-to-shoulder to you would invariably ring, and the person would respond inevitably. He’d howl into the phone to beat the in-built noise, and in effect the hollering would attack your hapless ear holes relentlessly; to make matters worse the ‘call’ will last for the rest of your journey. You’d try to move your head right or left, or you’d try to crane your neck upwards; but there is no help at all for you. During summer the smell of sweat is a distinct disadvantage for many ‘sensitive’ commuters, and is unavoidable. However, at times the smell converts into a stench in no time, and invariably too. The person in half sleeve shirt squeezed in shoulder-to-shoulder to you would suddenly raise his arm to grab the metallic bar above for added safety. The holes of your nose would get cruelly exposed to the gaping hole created by the action. Again, you’d try desperately to move your face right or left and crane you neck upwards; but there is absolutely no help available for you to beat the stench. You’d justifiably like to include such persons in ‘other offenders’ category.
There is a very potent danger that lurks in every overcrowded space; it can happen anytime taking everyone unawares on most occasions. I’d personally advise you to expect this in you all your future journeys from now on; anywhere, not just in overcrowded public transport; however, in the claustrophobic interiors as we mentioned earlier this could be deadly. Well, you are intelligent enough to guess it already. Trapped in overcrowded spaces it makes you seethe with anger, want to shout out or beat up the offender; to make matters worse the stench hangs on in the closed air for an intolerably long time. As a preventive measure, like in cases of smoking or spitting, one can think of putting up a disclaimer ‘farting strictly prohibited’; however, this crude usage could grievously hurt the finer sensibilities of commuters. Therefore, it could be as simple as ‘gassing strictly prohibited’ which will be understood by all for the intended meaning despite the word having various other connotations. But the problem is bound to linger on, because so far there is no time-tested methodology to find out and book such offenders.
If you have any other issue regarding this purview don’t hesitate to put it up here.
He was in an exuberant mood, full of positive energy, as he reached home that evening, got freshened up and settled down in the living room sofa; the day in office being a very productive one. He wanted to lose no time sharing it with his wife. He called out to her; she was in the kitchen just putting the tea-pot on the gas burner while she arranged the plates on the tray taking out bits and pieces of snacks for light refreshment before supper.
“Hey...do you hear me?”
“Yes, a bit louder!” the wife responded allowing the water, milk, tea powder, sugar and other ingredients to turn into a most desirable boil before being poured out.
“I told you...no? ...that we were going to launch a new project soon. Well...today we got going and had the first team meeting. ...The meeting went off extremely good, all the team members acknowledging me as the undisputed leader, you know!” he relished the feel of telling this to the person he loved admired most in his life.
“One minute, I’m coming, my leader!’ she called out as she came into the living room, set the tray on the center table and took a seat herself, offering him a cup of tea, and prodding him to take a neatly cut piece of the cake she made that day.
“Thanks... All the members of the team are excellent, a mix of old and brand new,” the husband took a sip, accepted the cake and went on excitedly. “Among the members there is a new one, a girl who joined only recently, but got into the business perfectly...”
“New girl? Well, how’s she, I mean, is she good-looking?”
“Oh yes. She’s pretty, and very young!”
“OK, good for you!” she was getting into a mood to tease him.
“What do you mean ‘good for me’?”
“Why, you always love to be surrounded by pretty girls, no? Whenever I visit you in office I find you in such situations!”
“You know very well, it is always job oriented. I being the approving guy in the creative department they have to come to me for the final say. You also know that boys or girls is not the issue; it’s only work and its demands. Don’t you ever notice the boys loitering around me on your visits? I’m always focused and a bit emotional too. If somebody does good work I feel very excited. I end up hugging the boys very often. And, mind you, I do have enough good sense not to do so to the girls on similar occasions.” He exhaled in a relaxed way now.
“Well, my dear gender-neutral leader! Maybe you are eager to tell me more about the new lassie on the block?”
“She’s very smart, well-dressed and has an ability to pick up immediately. Not only does she have good looks but also has a polished way of speaking with a lot of good humor. You see, I had played a part in her selection, and for that she’s so grateful to me! The moment she entered my room for the meeting she bowed, thanked me profusely and shook my hand continuously...”
She looked a bit annoyed now. “Then go and hug her first thing tomorrow morning.”
He was surprised. From what to what, he mused. Had he spoken too much about the girl?
“You people are always biased. You cannot tolerate other women coming in your man’s life, whatever way it happens.” He uttered trying to justify his sense of offence and to suffocate the anger that was slowly growing in him.
“Bullshit! All males are like that! They want to brag about the women in their lives, and display horrendous intolerance at any attempt of elaborate analysis! ...I give you permission, okay, to hug all girls in your office from now onward...!” she was louder now.
“Do you think I am some kind of a leech? I always trust you with all my heart and you...?”
“Don’t go on bragging and bragging...how great and noble you are...like all others in your family! Only I know...the problems I faced coming to your main house. All are so concentrated on publicizing how great they are!” the beginning of the shrill in her voice irritated him.
“Now you are digressing, and it’s very deliberate, I know! Whatever is the way it happens you’ll finally come down on my people, targeting them unnecessarily! Your deeds, your reactions are always justified...whatever you prefer to say. And if I say something about your male friends all hell...!”
“Damn my male friends. That’s you, essentially! You cannot even tolerate my speaking to my old classmates! Hypocrites, braggers’ family...” she jerkily lifted herself from the chair moving away fast with her unfinished cup of tea.
He plonked his cup on the table nearly forcing the remaining tea to spill over the table. He could hear her making unnecessary noises in the kitchen handling the utensils while carrying on with her invective against him and her in-laws. Evening spoilt, he failed today also as on so many other occasions to track the lurking danger correctly and to pre-empt it, he decided not to contribute anything more to the rants, and leaned back dejectedly in the sofa. Why the hell did he have to share it with his wife? There were so many things in office or elsewhere that had better be relegated to oblivion rather than being described to others, particularly spouses, he thought. Few things were also going on in his mind. Why was he in such an exuberant mood and so eager to share it? Did the presence of pretty girls in office have any impact on that exuberance? I love good company, he reasoned, be it of any gender, and it’s perfectly natural to love good company. When good company combines with good job done why not to react positively to it, he went on. However, a few strands of doubt still haunted his mind, and in the meantime his wife’s rallies subsided.
Maybe he dozed off a little, because he was not aware of his wife re-entering the room and occupying the chair. Her words ended his reverie.
“What kind of fish preparation would you like for supper?”
He did not prefer to respond resuming his gloomy silence, slumped in the sofa. She went on though.
“I took the raw fish out of the freezer in the afternoon. Maybe you’d like to have fried fish before dinner?” She now smiled switching on the television set.
That appealed to him immediately. He planned to watch a live soccer match later that night, and fried fish as an appetizer would just be fine. However, he still did not respond, happy that normalcy threatened to limp back in.
It’s no longer implausible now. It’s happening everywhere, it’s rampant everywhere and it’s not imperceptible. We need to retain some of the humanly senses to understand it and to think about why it’s being so.
They prominently exhibit brutality, and a complete lack of human emotions and values. They are like programmed entities guided by machines, gadgets and devices. They act on instant impulses taking those to the final realization. Like the professional executioners. Totally devoid of feelings, they demonstrate their skill everywhere; on the streets, in the highways, in the hotels and within four walls of the homes. They seem to indulge in human activities only, but not as humans. The emerging species of the zombies; if you take it as natural you do indeed belong to them.
The programmed beings react immediately to impulses provided in-built by a wide variety of sources. Some of them quarrel in public places; someone, still not programmed and a rarity, comes up and tries to mediate to bring peace. They disperse, but the ire of an unfulfilled impulse remains. So they waylay that unsuspecting person much later and usher in an orgy of violence and killing. All other bystanders in both instances fail to emit any kind of emotion and just watch on. A few bystanders switch on their mobile cameras and take selfies with the pictures of the bloodied person lying writhing on the ground. Yes, they need those pictures for others of their ilk in all the social spaces available. Who cares a thought for saving the victim!
They drive vehicles guided by the maniacal impulse. At the slightest provocation both parties involved get ready to kill each other. Sometimes they hit someone down and run away guided by the avoid-trouble impulse. The bleeding being sees some hope as pedestrians gather around. However, they get busy with their gadgets and get busier still as the one on the ground slowly bleeds to death. No one thinks about saving a life. The thought process is irrevocably blocked for the impulse-driven entities.
Beggars and the deprived normally act as humans; because most of them do not enjoy access to those impulse providers. One of them one day loses the last ounce of her energy and falls flat on the hard concrete pavement of the busy street resigned to the inevitable end. Beings will be rushing past all around her hardly taking notice, because they are mostly guided by the work and related impulses. Even if somebody notices s/he will shrug it off with ‘what can I possibly do’ kind of programmed thought. Some award-winning photographer in search of impulsive ‘death’ takes this opportunity for a few ‘precious’ photographs. This process may very well be spread over two or three days. Finally the municipal machinery will clear away the human garbage. It does not matter at all if the municipal machinery is being operated by humans only, programmed as they are too.
Sometimes both the predator and bystander types of beings get guided by diverse impulses, the former by perpetrating-excitement impulse and the latter by watching-excitement impulse. In various cases of violent encounters and abductions mostly in public places they get abundant loads of fulfilled impulses. Who cares for the victims, right? The victims always get thrown out in death throes, pushed into the drains or hillsides or land up purely dead with their throats slit. If someone, still left with some human values, takes up the case of a victim like a brave Good Samaritan he or she would most probably end up with the same fate.
Not many of the impulse-driven activities within four walls of the homes come into the public domain. However, the media whose duty it is to report puts out the details in gory glory how the impulsive robbers not only looted the house, but killed all those of the family exhibiting extreme brutality. Who cares for the victims again! The media having done its public duty the impulsive readers get their money’s worth too.
Experts say that the brutality demonstrated in all crimes has been increasing alarmingly in India over the last few years. Their studies also reveal the utter lack of human emotions in the criminals.
So far in the endless expanse of space planet earth happens to be the only place where human beings live. The rate at which humans are losing their values and humanity the zombie progression is most likely to engulf mother earth very soon making her unable to bear the burden any longer. The Endgame… indeed? Would anybody ‘human’ be able to prevent it and make way for better times on our Planet Earth? Hope, undoubtedly, is the most positive human emotion. And the clock ticks on.
Shyam arrived unannounced, as usual. Ram got really annoyed that evening; he had an important task to accomplish, his son being away on a college excursion. “This fellow is incorrigible! We meet five days a week in office and yet he lands up almost every evening!’ Ram thought ruefully. “Perhaps…his bachelorhood, sealed by now, is the crux of the matter!” he added to kinda solace himself. His problem was accentuated, particularly because his wife and son loved passing time with Shyam. In fact, they expected Shyam’s company as often as possible.
Ram welcomed him, as always, and Shyam, entering with a yawn, sank lazily in the comfortable sofa. He started talking immediately; nothing of importance, as always. However, that evening Ram was determined not to entertain his visitor for long. Before his wife could emerge he went inside, and said, ‘Give him all the pastries, sweets, salted delicacies with the tea, so that he loses his appetite for supper…and leaves soon.” His wife smiled with a wink and agreed.
Snacks came, tea came; but the visitor seemed to be in no hurry to leave. Ram was fidgeting, getting impatient as the clock ticked on. He seemed to hear a pitiful moaning sound from their bedroom balcony which made him restless. In his family tradition Ram never learnt to be hostile to a guest, always entertaining them, often, in the process, missing or delaying important personal engagements. Besides, Shyam was a colleague and a good friend working in the same film production house.
As the clock struck eight Ram could withstand no more. He stood up.
“I’d rather take my doggie out for his customary evening stroll,’ he announced summarily.
Shyam looked up at him, a bit surprised, and said gravely, “If I were you, I’d rather sit down for some time.”
“What for?” Ram almost cried.
“Sit down first, dear friend. I have something important to tell you,” he waited for Ram to sit down. “Three days back you punched that guy, Ravi, you know...in office!”
Yes, Ram knew it very well, he broke his nose, and he had been bunking office since then. Ravi was an extremely lazy yet cunning and slippery fellow; he always thrived on trying to steal credit for others’ work, and knew how to oil his bosses. That day there was a crucial programme meeting with the regional boss, and all new ideas were on the agenda to brainstorm upon. For that purpose only, earlier, Ram called for a meeting with his colleagues presenting few of his own ideas for concurrence. It was a perfect rehearsal, and Ram had no reason to suspect anybody, even Ravi.
But everything went wrong in the regional meet for Ram. Immediately after the boss’s motivational speech Ravi started speaking presenting a series of innovative ideas as his own creative thoughts which, to Ram’s horror, were the ones discussed by him in the internal meeting, and, to heighten Ram’s horror-turning-to-fury, got tremendous appreciation from the boss. To control himself or rather to save himself Ram tried to put in, helplessly, “Yes sir, we discussed these ideas already. Actually...” he broke off knowing very well that anything he uttered in favor of himself would only project him as petty and envious. Therefore, after the meeting he simply went up to Ravi’s desk, punched him furiously on his nose and stomped out.
“...he threatened you that he would lodge a police complaint, no?” Shyam continued, “but instead, with a bleeding nose, he went to the hospital, and then home to consult his wife before taking any legal action. At the sight of his bandaged nose his wife went into hysterics. She was uncontrollably happy that someone had done what she could never ever have accomplished herself. And how she wanted him to have it…somehow! She felt like an avenging angel, as it were. But then, surprise of surprises! She started taking very good care of him, so much so that their eternally strained married life became healthy and joyous… And my friend, I’m carrying Ravi’s compliments for you this evening. He is so grateful for your resounding punch; a game changer, I say!”
Ram couldn’t react at all for some time, sitting as if transfixed. Then he started laughing, in short bursts of breathless guffaws.
“Enjoy your moment with your wife, pal!” Shyam put in happily. “Let me take out your doggie tonight, it’s my pleasure, entirely!” he went inside and fetched the chained pet, its pitiful moaning now giving way to joyful crooning. At the door he turned around again and said to Ram, “In the meantime boss came to know fully what’s what! So, you can join office tomorrow without fear!”
Still laughing, Ram cried out, “No problem, buddy. Thanks. Come back and have supper with us!”
Assuming that our kind readers have understood the ‘sense of it’ from the headline we start straightaway, at the macro level first.
Let’s consider a democratic country where, supposing a scenario, the masses are up in vehement but peaceful protests against a certain state policy; the masses here consist of farmers, students, teachers, professors, intellectuals, advocates, artistes and all of the kind. Problem is, the state refuses to believe in this mass movement or that they could be wrong; they steadfastly allege that the masses are being misled by certain political and other forces who want to destabilize the country. Common sense tells them that all the people, by the people and for the people of a democracy cannot be misled or misguided continually, and that the movement requires them take a relook. But no, they continue to defy common sense, and thus put their stakes in absolute peril in the next elections. Some of them, who must be totally rid of any sense, threaten to shoot all the protesters down. Books of disasters are mostly written in this manner. Hundreds of other examples could be rampant here; but we ought to appreciate the time constraints most of our sensible readers have at their disposal.
So, we had better embark on the next level—that is the meso level. A rampaging lack of common sense highlights numerous happenings in the public places. From a crowded bus or a local train, commuters, packed inside, display the keenest natural desire to get down peacefully; however, the equally keen commuters, poised to get in first for the limited seats inside, try to board immediately disregarding the alighting passengers, leading to commotion, shouts and even fisticuffs. Commons sense tells them to wait patiently for just a few seconds more so that the proceedings go on democratically. Common sense also tells them that a loss of a few seconds cannot, in all probability, derail their schedule. Then, the drivers of all types of vehicles in action: they transparently display their insane desire to get past the others by hook or by crook leading to loud cursing and scolding; they keep on honking even after seeing clearly that the road is clogged, cars are jammed bumper-to-bumper ahead of them leading to pedestrian ire—some of them, possibly impaired with vestibular dysfunction or hearing issues, scowling blackly at them. Common sense tells them to wait patiently a few minutes more at their wheels so that they don’t get what they deserve. Again, we stop here to respect our readers; although, thousands of other examples can be equally rampant.
In between meso and micro levels, we can just make a passing mention about the goings-on in large organizations or offices. Just one example here: you are in the good books of your supreme boss; you are entrusted with key and creative responsibilities or assignments, and then, one day, the boss gives you his manuscript of a novel, written by him in a foreign language, for your kind review. Common sense would tell you to apply the best of your common sense so that your good phase continues. But no! You are very honest, frank and a non-believer in sycophancy: that day you enter his chamber after going through his proposed book, and utter blasphemously, “Sir, the story is very nice, it has all the elements of fiction, and you’ve captured all the characters brilliantly. But Sir, pardon me saying that if it is written in your very own mother tongue, this story would really blossom and become a classic. But if you are firm on writing in this foreign language only, I suggest, Sir, that the manuscript be re-written.” The boss smiles back brightly at you and you leave the room in very good spirits. Next morning: you discover that you are taken out of the most important creative assignments; a few days later you discover that the boss gives the book for publication after getting a ‘good’ review from one of your colleagues. Millions of other examples abound here; but we respect you, kind readers.
Now, the micro level where billions of examples could throng in; but obviously again, we decide to mention only a very basic case. You are a very ‘equal-minded male’ and want to help your wife at every step in the business of living together: so you enter the kitchen, make the preparations for breakfast and even cook the preliminary items; job accomplished you repair to the living room, switch on the television, and enjoy, blissfully ignorant of any wrong, so to say. And then, the blast that takes you totally unawares! The wife starts scolding you in a high-pitched voice about how you dirtied her domain, so absolutely. Common sense tells you to keep mum and as deadpan as possible so that the nagging, that threatens to go on indefinitely, stops, and maybe she comes in later with a steaming cup of tea for you. But no! The ‘male’ pride or rather your ego eggs you on to justify your ‘work’ insistently leading to a loudly-orchestrated vocal outbreak that reverberates around the full housing society. This is a professional hazard every spouse faces, if we consider the institution of marriage as a profession, and this commands the maximum common sense from you for minimum prevention.
The beauty of the common sense is in the applying.