Child Labour- A choice?

She serves us food in the hostel; sweet little girl. It felt really bad when me and my new roommate Vikas bhaiya saw her serving us. But we didn’t say anything, not to her, not to each other.

It’s been a week, it kept feeling heavier in my head. This is something that I despise. I cannot see children being used as a tool to serve someone’s purpose. There are better ways to do it.

“Oye Kuntal, I don’t like it.” Vikas bhaiya said with a little bit of frustration.

“I know bhaiya, they could never change the food. But I’m used to it by now.” I replied.

“What are you talking about? I’m talking about the little girl. I don’t like her working like this.”

“Oh! Yes, the feeling’s mutual. I’ve been noticing this. But I don’t know what to do. But I can talk to her elder sister. She works here too.”

“Who’s whose sister?” He asked.

“The lady who works here, Russa. They’re both sisters.” I said.

After that bhaiya and I didn’t talk about it anymore. I didn’t get time to talk to Russa about it as I spend my whole day in the university. And at night, I’d be too tired to remember.

Then one Sunday, I found her serving me lunch. Felt like a good time to talk.

‘Don’t you study?’ I asked the little girl.

She shook her head sideways.

‘Why don’t you?’ I persisted.

‘I don’t feel like it.’

I could see she’s too young for this talk. So i decided to skip it and concentrate​on my food. A couple of minutes later, her elder sister Russa came to inquire if I wanted anything more.

Perfect! Maybe I should resume.

‘Russa. Why doesn’t she go to a school?’ I asked.

‘She doesn’t want to study. Ask her how many times we’ve tried. She doesn’t like studying, so she quit every time.’ Russa explained looking angrily at her.

I could guess she wasn’t lying because I’ve seen her put a lot of effort in getting her little boy good education and upbringing. I didn’t have anything much to say.

‘Well, she should study. She’s too young. Besides, child labour is a wrong thing.’ I said my last words as I cleaned up my plate.

As I washed my hands, I thought how some people write their own life. The girl didn’t want to study, that’s surely bad. But maybe she could be made to study. Gradually, it feels good to learn new and exciting things. I still wonder till this day ‘How do we fix such people?’

​The beginning of a journey. My journey of fitness training

I still remember that day. It was that day my friend Jeet came into my room with a few others. I probably saw him after almost 4 months that day (although he’s my best friend, we hadn’t met for really long).
‘Is that really him?? Is that Jeet! Whoa!!’ I thought to myself as I sat straight with an open mouth laughing like an idiot.

Jeet had joined the gym. I met him a couple of times after he did. But that was too soon to see any major changes. We then got busy with our own lives. Somehow the constant meetings had paused. Probably because he had to hit the gym in the evening which had cut out our meetings that we saved for evenings. Jeet was a thin boy just like me. His sudden inclination towards bodybuilding was surprising, but the changes I could see right before my eyes had left me right beyond surprise. It was the first time I had seen live positive results of joining a gym from someone my own. But damn! He had grown some muscles, and I immediately needed some of my own.

‘Oh my God!’ I welcomed him with a genuine compliment.

He replied with his genuine smile which had only gotten brighter now ‘Ayyyy.’

He could see the surprise in the form of my open mouth.

‘What happened man!’ I closed it and asked for immediate feedback. ‘How did you do it? I never thought it was possible for guys like us.’ I had no idea what I meant by that.

‘It’s the gym mate. I feel great. How do I look now? Eh?!’ He was happy to see my reaction. Maybe he avoided meeting me all those days to witness this reaction.

It was that day I told myself, ‘Next goal: Joining the gym.’

Soon I did. I worked out for over a year and developed my body quite a good deal, but then I started having trouble with the owner of the gym; we started having arguments, those I didn’t intend to have, but he would anyway. So I finally decided to quit. And then I thought I’d join a computer degree course; which I did, but couldn’t complete. Just like the other things that I left incomplete in life.

I had stopped going to the gym. And I also quit doing the cardio that I continued at home. I grew extremely lazy and a no-good burden to mankind. More than a year passed. I went back to my skinny days. I was too lazy to go back to the gym or any other gym for that matter. I started my Post Graduation in the university and time seemed to be cut even shorter for me. A year passed. Every bodybuilder friend I knew had stopped working out as well.

‘Maybe it’s that phase of life where people give up on a few things to achieve something better.’ I consoled myself.

By my 3rd semester, I had made a few good friends in my department. One of them was Nabarun Choudhury. I never thought we’d make proper friends as we both looked very stern and kept ourselves to ourselves. But we did anyway. He had resumed working out after his “phase.” And so did Jeet. He became my roommate when he decided to join a diploma in marketing management in the same university as I. I started to regain my motivation, with Jeet being my first inspiration towards body building. I wanted to get back in the game. I spoke to Nabarun about my wish. Basically, that’s how he and I started to become friends. My constant motivated talks about fitness led him to believe that I could make a pretty good partner at the gym. He started to share back that motivation. It took me a while as I had a hard time deciding which gym I wanted to go to. I knew Jeet for almost 6 years but Nabarun’s gym was more convenient. After long thoughts, I opted for convenience.

It has been 10 months now. I look much better than my earlier skinny self, and I feel just as great as that. Nabarun and I became just as good friends as Jeet and I are. And we also became the dominant beasts at the gym. We work out with a chest full of pride, and a mind full of resolution. My 2nd priority in life is fitness; it’s right next to friends and family.  Something I’ve decided to hang on to, no matter what. It is something that makes me feel good about myself; something that I feel proud of. It’s the dedication and hard work I’ve put on.

Never before have I been so adamant about anything in my life. Never before have I given my wishes, the best of myself. This is my dream; this is my struggle- to be better than myself, every passing day.

Religion (noun)- A reality?

The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. (Wikepedia)

There’s not much about the word “Religion” even in an informative place like the Wikipedia itself. But what I found an adequate meaning for the word, I’ve mentioned above in Italics.

Even though this may be a very used ‘in daily life’ kind of subject, Nobody’s really been able to add anything more to their already existing thoughts and belief in their understanding of religion. What constitutes this “religion?” Not much- I wouldn’t say religion isn’t supposedly an innate idea but I don’t think we are born with the idea of gods in our minds. This is what comes from family, from friends, from teaching. It’s the kind of knowledge we gather. It’s good to believe. Because that charges life forward, in a positive way. But where do we live behind that one true religion? Life. Humankind seems to have accepted gods of different kinds- most from birth while some by choice. That’s alright, unless it’s restricting me from living in reality. And that is, living in harmony without destroying ourselves in the process of being superior to others. We commit butchering of our own selves in the name of religion. Believing in God is one thing. Making and breaking our own rules isn’t what we’re meant for. We’re meant to live so much more. This might be a very good way to see that one true blessing- Life.

Holi – Where Colors Speak Life

‘Not the face not the face…’

PHOOM! A puff of green and blue burst on my face and hair. I’d have been blinded if I didn’t close my eyes instantly.

‘HAPPY HOLI YAAR!!’ Rahul and Arindam hugged me tight.

It wasn’t a surprise but it felt new. It felt warm. It felt good. Shivayan was here too. Already colored. He didn’t miss his chance of coloring me up either. And I didn’t want to lose the game anyway, so I ambushed them with whatever colors I could manage from each individual’s pouch.

Jeet came to me and rubbed a thick coat of colored powder on my face.

‘More green.’

‘Happy Holi mate.’ he embraced me.

Jeet’s been my best friend for years now and we both know we don’t like being too intimate. I took a handful of green from the pouch he was holding and rubbed on his already blue face. Vikash bhaiya joined us and got himself colored as well. He’s elder to us and we keep the sense of respect and behave very politely with him.

‘Bhaiya, chalo, let’s go out and play some holi today.’ Jeet and I said in unison.

‘It’s only 11 O’clock. What will you do by going out so early? Let’s take our time.’

‘If we go out late, we’ll be late in coming back and thus, lunch will be missed, we’ll probably catch a cold after bathing in the evening.’ I replied.

‘You guys go and play, I’ll join you later.’ he said.

‘Okay bhaiya, do come.’ Colored in just blue and green, looking like crazy barbarians, we headed out.

We had more friends waiting for us outside our dormitory. As soon as we came face to face, colors changed. Blue and red were added.

‘More colors, let’s paint the town today.’ I yelled.

‘Let’s do it!’ everyone sounded excited.

We rushed to the nearby regular shop.

‘Uncle, we need colors. Give us 4 different in different pouches.’ I said.

‘You people should be carrying sacks of colors each. So young, yet big misers you guys are.’ he teased me as always.

‘Happy holi to you too uncle.’ I applied a colored tika on his forhead. ‘If you’re being so generous today, give us some extra then, won’t you?’ I winked at my friends.

He only kept grinning.

‘Hmm…uncle, where’s the zeal gone now boss?’ I pushed a little further and he laughed.

‘Go on now. Go and play.’ he bid us a goodbye.

We walked to the Jhalupara neighbourhood. We met more friends. We played a little more. Someone had smashed an egg on my head saying it would smoothen my hair and it’s a good medicine for the hair. I never liked such things- Wet colors that doesn’t go away and eggs and rotten things used for fun. I hated it instantly but the joy of this auspicious ocassion got the better of me. I had fun. A lot of fun. I never realized when my duo-tone face of blue and green had turned into a multi-colored portrait.
This was my second holi in Silchar in the 7 years I’ve spent here. I grew up in a strict world where I wasn’t allowed to play colors a lot because people didn’t play this festival like it was supposed to be played. Every year in during Holi, people died due to various reasons. Cases of friends killing friends. Brothers killing brothers. Accidents caused due to over joy and carelesness. People getting dead drunk and fighting with each other for stupid reasons. All these thoughts always scared me and my guardians would refrain me from joining the celebration with the other children of my neighbourhood. But as I grew, I kept seeing the happy, colored faces of the people on the streets, my own friends happy and childlike, playing just like the kids I once knew. They would want me to join them and I would say ‘no’ to all their proposals, sometimes hurting their feeings. I played last year, my first time in Silchar, with my new friends. It was one of my most happiest times. I remember the tired and exhausted, aching body that screamed for sleep. But the joy of this colorful ocassion would long surpass the tiredness and the colorful ocassion would carve itself into my happy memories.

Something felt different this time. The streets weren’t filled like I noticed before. Very few people would be seen playing this game of happiness.

‘Where is the Holi I dreamt of? Where is that day of colors I always missed before? I want to be a part of it. I so badly, for the first time in my life, went out by myself, to play with everyone, make friends, wish and greet strangers. I too, wanted to paint the world with love. But where is everyone? The streets are so empty, just a few neighbouring kids playing amongst themselves. So less color. The town still needs to be painted. Has people lost their tradition? Is everyone forgetting the meaning of life? Or is the world so digital now that old tradtions and the feeling of love is fading into the corners of the coming scientific era?’

‘You’re probably thinking the same as me right now.’ Vikas bhaiya scrambled my thoughts. ‘You saw the kids outside the lane today, didn’t you? They were happy, innocent little ones. They were playing just like Holi is supposed to be played. They will uphold our tradition. They will be the pillars to our nation. They may be few, but they are pure. And they will teach the others the meaning of it.’

Dangerous Selfie – A Short Story

‘I’m taking selfie. We can play later.’ he said.

‘Ratul, let’s play, please.’ I pleaded to him. I wanted to try my luck at the Shooting Range.

‘Didn’t I tell you Seema?! Give me a while, let me capture this night! These are memories we won’t find coming back to us again this year.’ he replied, frustrated with me.

It’s been a month that the fair has arrived in Silchar. Gandhi Mela. It comes to this town once in a year. Tight with the ever increasing number of people, it’s hard to even walk around freely.

‘I don’t like crowded places.’ I’d tell Ratul.

‘Where’s the fun if there are no people in a place like this.’ he would reply. That would shut me up.

We kept walking around while he kept clicking photos. I don’t hate taking photos but I believe there should always be a limit to what we do. 20 minutes, all we’ve done is click photos. I’m growing restless. He only comes home for a week. I see him twice in a year. It doesn’t make up for lost time. And he’s leaving tomorrow morning. He’s spent the entire week meeting his friends and relatives. His new posting at Dehradun called in for a huge celebration. Even though I have been a part of it, I was barely given any time. Tonight, when we are finally alone and I had planned on spending some quality time with him, he’s engrossed in taking Selfies. The person who termed ‘selfie’ probably derived it from the word ‘selfish’.

More 10 minutes later, he put his phone back in his pocket and smiled at me.

‘I’m sorry.’ said he. ‘Chal, let’s get on the rides.’

He probably saw the distress in my eyes. He knows I don’t like walking amidst a crowd. Holding me by the arm, he pulled me along with him pushing through the crowd.  He loves me even though he hates my persuasiveness. We’ve been best friends for 7 whole years now. He knows I love him more than he does. I might be a little irritating at times but he means a lot to me. We’re going to get married next year. Both the families are already preparing. They seem happy with our decision. And now that Ratul’s got a job and is earning a good amount, my family doesn’t seem to have any issues. He will leave tomorrow and the next time I’ll get to meet him is during Durga Puja.

‘That’s not gonna happen.’ I told myself. ‘I’m not going to miss this one chance. I barged in through the crowd with him and face to face with a never ending queue to the Giant Wheel.

‘Let’s go for something else. We’ll come back here once the queue gets shorter.’ Ratul said.

As we turned back, we realized that the queue is only getting longer.

‘Can’t risk it. Let’s wait for our turn.’ I said. He agreed.

15 minutes later, we finally got our chance. It was already past 9.

‘This will be our last ride tonight.’ Ratul teased me.

I made a face in reply to his tease. The engine started. The gigantic wheel started rolling. Slow at the start, it increased the pace in a minute. Up and down, all the others started screaming. Some out of joy while some out of fear. My younger brother suffers vertigo and so he tends to avoid most rides here in the fair. He only comes here to buy stuff. He had once fainted out of fear when he was younger.

‘Isn’t it fun?’ Ratul snapped my thoughts. He was among those who was screaming out of the feeling of fun.

‘This is awesome!’ I laughed back.

After a couple of rounds, on our way up, the wheel paused. Someone had puked in one of the carriages. They had to let him out.

‘If he can’t take it, why did he climb up in the first place?’ Ratul’s sarcasm was clear.

‘Zip it Ratul! It was probably his first time. He didn’t know.’ I revolted.

‘Whoa! I didn’t know you were a humanitarian, babe.’ he smiled. ‘Let’s get some selfies done.’

Saying that he pulled out his phone and stood up posing.

‘Sit down Ratul!’ I said in an authoritative voice.

He smiled at me. ‘Say cheese!’

The wheel started with a sudden thud.


He lost his footing with the sudden swing. The engine stopped. Below was a huge crowd gathered around his body. He hit the heavy Iron base of the gigantic machine. His body lay down there, motionless.

One selfie. It cost two families, their happiness. It cost me, my love. Ratul lost his life. All the memories whizzed past me. Time stopped. I was numb.

Happy New Year : Kolkata to Silchar and The Quake

Monday, January the 4th. 2016 has arrived and people are still delighted. My new year was spent greeting people on the train I had boarded from Kolkata to Guwahati. Garib Rath is its name. It’s an Indian term. Garib means poor; rath means chariot. Garib Rath stands for ‘Chariot for the Poor’. It has air conditioned compartments, supplies people with bed rolls against Rs. 25 and charges less for its features. It was quiet strange for me to find that the people who were on the train didn’t seem to be very poor and unlike the other available trains, this one was pretty clean. I was travelling with Arindam. He had said, “If this train was meant for the real poor people, we would be asked for our BPL (Below Poverty Line) certificates”.
I reached Silchar on the 2nd of Jan. Despite the good condition, the chariot for the poor had a poor speed and as predicted, reached Guwahati almost 3 hours late. Arindam boarded another train to Lumding, his hometown. Though he had asked me to go with him, stay and come to Silchar together, I, prefer less trouble so I refused his generous offer and decided to rather come to Silchar. Even though I was missing the fun I had in Kolkata, I was excited to be back in my dormitory and meet Jeet, my roommate and a best friend, Sunil da, the coolest banker and a great friend. Most of all, I wanted to meet her ASAP just as much. She, her mother and Shayanika had boarded a flight to Silchar the previous day. I was already missing her. It was my first time trying to travel alone. I didn’t know it would be tough. I barely managed a passenger career with help from another acquaintance. It was the nastiest journey I have ever been through. I could barely sleep in the 10 hour journey via the cold wind and foggy roads of Northeastern India during December. The couple next to me slept like they were in their own bed, putting all their weight on my left side while the driver did on my right. I considered him but those two were unreal. I sat squeezed and wishing that time shortens for me. At 6 in the morning, we reached, I stepped out and on the streets of my town, happy to be alive and immediately calling Jeet. I just had my wallet but no money left in it. I asked him to keep some money ready as I hired an auto-rickshaw to my hostel. I reached and my usual life started.
4th Jan, 4:30 am : My sleep snaps. Jeet has turned on the light. I looked at him. He is drinking water from the bottle on my table. I don’t like any disturbances when I’m sleeping. Irritated a little, I turned back and pulled the blanket up to my head. The bed shook, hard. I’m trying to imagine Jeet trying to wake me up to describe his insane dreams until I heard “Oi Kuntal, RUN”! He panicked. I didn’t see him like that before. My hair oil bottle fell down. The neighborhood was noisy. It’s an earthquake! Adrenaline fueled in. I need to get out of this room.“My phone!” I told myself. I grabbed it and ran out. All the people in the hostel were in a rush, running for their lives. We reached downstairs. The gates were locked. Our hostel is a four storey building. Fear was imminent. Jeet and a few others called out to the landlady. Jeet looked back at me, “Go get Sunil da!” I ran back up. “Let’s go!”, Sunil da hurried. He was coming down. The gates were unlocked, we all ran out to the streets. It was crowded with people from the neighborhood. The tremors had stopped by then. It was cold outside, I was in my boxers and a tee shirt. We started calling our parents and beloved people to know if everyone’s doing okay. It was a relief knowing all is well. I replied to my girl’s messages on whatsapp. Everybody’s scared. I’m looking for reasons. There’s plenty. “I’ll go get my sweater and the last cigarette left”. I went back up and came back down. People were going back in. Some stood in groups discussing their thoughts. We finished smoking while we made comments on fantasies thoughts.
“Imagine seeing the moon crumbling down in the sky. That would look scary!” I said.
“Think if God was playing Clash of Clans with us?” Jeet replied.
We all laughed, came back to our rooms to get back the incomplete sleep.  Scared during the morning; people posting crap on Facebook. This happened, that happened. Argh!
“Dude! That was something. I’m more worried about the posts on Facebook than the probable aftershock from the earthquake. Let’s grab breakfast. It’s almost 10.” I said. Jeet laughed. We walked downstairs. New year came with some tremors. Gotta be careful throughout the year.

My Christmas

25th December,  2015 is almost at an end. We’re in the busy Park Street of Kolkata: Arindam and Sayanika, Somali and I. We finished the new Star Wars movie and were out of the mall. I was smiling and I was happy. ‘She’s with me.’  I thought, ‘That’s all that matters.’  A former colleague of my father had called to say, ‘If you’re out, go check Park Street.’ It’s supposedly the most decorated and lit up Kolkata. I’m not a fan of large crowds. In fact, I despise going out during occasions. I don’t like the push and rush but I’m here, in Kolkata with my girlfriend. I couldn’t just sit back and make her sad. She’s been happy ever since I arrived here. I remember her beautiful face sparkling under the bright street lights, the night she saw me waving at her from inside the taxi. I had never seen her happier. I wanted to keep it that way.
Though it’s past 9 O’clock and she didn’t seem like she wanted the crowd any more than I did. Her mother called every hour and wanted us to get back. ‘You’re not in your small hometown. It’s Christmas, the crowd will be crazy and you young bunch might get in trouble. Get back ASAP.’ she said. A fun-hungry crowd of people from different parts of the country: some who moved to here, others probably on vacation and the most who were born and raised here are  all in the rush of walking past the others. My hatred for useless crowds was at its apex tonight. Face Stern and expressionless, I kept beaming at anyone who stared at my girlfriend. I have had enough and it wouldn’t hurt me to bash anyone’s face for good reasons. It’s unlike me though. I’m said to be a kind hearted and calm boy who adapts to any kind of situations. But I’m looking forward to emptying my rage on anybody, anything. I blamed myself for not being able to stop that.  The nonsense crowd had forced their way into the subway train as soon as it reached Park Street Station and we tried getting down and Somali was pushed hard enough to make her fall down. ‘CAN’T YOU WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING, YOU BASTARD?’ I screamed at the man I saw pushing his way in as he blamed it on the ones behind him. I almost had his head. But I had to help her up fast before the crowd stomped over. It’s humiliating for a person to fall in public and she’s but a girl. I could see her eyes moist with embarrassment. Mine filled with madness. I couldn’t think of much.
‘Baby, are you alright?’
‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ she smiled.
Are you hurt?’
She’s one of the strongest woman I’ve met. I could see many other faces in her stead, crying and angry on me for what happened. But she’s different. She only saw the sadness in my eyes and held my hand just like she always does loving me.