Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Indexed Stories – 13

It’s strange how earning a living interferes with work! It’s irksome when one cannot devote as much time to the kind of things that one enjoys doing. I have been planning and plotting my magnum opus for quite a while now, but the pen is yet to touch paper. I keep processing things over in my mind and see it disintegrate and reshape itself. It’s like constructing a house of cards and watch it collapse in slow motion. My conscience tells me “you are making up all kinds of excuses!” But, conscience by definition is a prick. People, who know me well, constantly remind me of my awful time management. They tell me to think less and work more. Actually, they are right – at least partly right. Because, I don’t think too much – I dream a lot. Daydreaming is my biggest passion – almost an obsession.

“I have a dream!”

No, I have many dreams. These include becoming famous for all the great things I will achieve in various disciplines of art, as well as, for having proposed the best formula to eradicate poverty. But, in this scenario I see myself as the same middle-class person scraping the bottom of the barrel at the end of every month. So, I design that elusive solar powered battery the size of a cigarette packet that can power a whole household. I manage to make it with simple household objects and all of it costs me a pittance. I power my home with it and the power supply people catch on after a while when they are no longer able to hike my power bill just before the Pujas. Inspectors come and realize what I have done and the news spreads. Power Corporations all over the world fall over each other to buy the rights of my invention. I smell a rat and refuse to sell. Because I know that though I will be making tons of money, they will either shelve my invention and keep on with burning fossil fuels, building dams across rivers and generally play havoc with Mother Nature or make the batteries so expensive that people will not buy them…and Fukushimas will keep on happening. I confer with my friend Kunal Sen and ask him to write simple notes on the concept of “superconductors” and an instruction manual that teaches the public to make their own batteries. I confer with my friend Kunal Basu, as to how to popularize the invention using whatever inexpensive tools at our disposal. The Power Corporations have no way to stop that, thanks to the internet and since my invention has benefited humanity and saved the environment, I get the Nobel Prize! (The award money is not too big, but that much will do).

The solar powered battery the size of a cigarette packet is however yet to be invented. I am working on it in my dreams.

Yes, you have guessed right, I am on the “K” page and both the Kunals have been there for a long time now. Both of them have a few things in common – they are extremely good at time management and are also great teachers. Kunal Sen was my class mate in school and we almost grew up together. When I went to Art College, he went on to study Physics – that was around 1972-75. He would explain whatever he was studying then and make difficult concepts sound simple. His kind of lucidity I believe came from a clear mind and deep understanding of his immediate interest. On one such occasion he explained the concept of superconductivity. He had told me that if it became possible to create superconductivity at ambient temperatures it would be possible to reduce the size of batteries drastically. The idea of the solar powered battery the size of a cigarette packet must have been permanently embedded in my imagination from that day on.

Another thing common to both the Kunals is that they gave up smoking long ago. Although both of them have separately told me that they still crave it at times – which makes me believe that not smoking despite the occasional craving is an effort of heroic proportions. As for myself, I keep on smoking and dream of giving it up, because I can achieve anything in my dreams and the association of cigarettes with my dream of a solar powered battery the size of a cigarette packet is too compelling. My conscience tells me “you are making up all kinds of excuses to keep on smoking!” but it’s common knowledge that conscience is a prick. I now keep my cigarettes in a case that belonged to my father made of faux crocodile leather with silver trimmings.

This could be a stylish battery housing! Premium price!
Kunal Sen always loved both technology and art. He still does and has been trying to marry the two in very interesting ways in the form of art objects and video installations which he manages to create in his spare time despite his responsibilities as Chief of Technology Development, Encyclopaedia Britannica. Exemplary time management!

Kunal Basu and I met around 1991-92 when I had just given up my design business and began my career as an artist. At the same time I started to collect indigenous art. Kunal Basu and I share this interest with passion. His collection is from all over the world, whereas mine is basically Bengal. Whatever pieces I have from South East Asia and Africa are all generous gifts to us from him. 

Despite his busy schedule of teaching at Oxford University, writing academic papers, lecture tours, etc., he manages to publish his novels and short stories at regular intervals – he is the epitome of time management!
I keep meeting them at regular intervals when they visit the city and on each occasion I learn something new. Both of them speak without loading their sentences with jargon like post-modern pundits. The times I spend with them are always intellectually stimulating.

Talking about Kunal Sen I remember an incident from our school days. The Bangladesh liberation war was triggered off when the Pakistani Army massacred students and teachers of the Dhaka University on 25th March 1971. There was shock and indignation the world over and people joined protest marches everywhere. Senior students from our school also joined in one such protest march on a weekday in early April. We marched to the Pakistan Embassy (the same building that now houses the Bangladesh Embassy) in Calcutta and what seemed like college students tutored us to join in the sloganeering. An older student led the slogan shouting by our group.

“Yahya Khan!” he shouted.

“Wak thoo! Wak thoo!” we spat.

Having walked awhile under a scorching April sun, try as we might that glob of spit eluded us. Even then our conscience told us that the gravity of the situation was being compromised and the present re-telling too is bereft of sombreness, but I am no one’s conscience keeper, not even mine.

Ending on a serious note let me tell you that although both the Kunals are very close friends, not an iota of their time management skills has rubbed off on me. I always dream big but end up attempting very little – a true blue Bengali trait! But, I promise that one of these days I will…

Meanwhile, I keep strategizing on how to go about my magnum opus with a 1200 maybe 1500 word - attention span!

For more on Kunals Sen’s art and writings see: < http://www.kunalsen.com/index.html>
For more on Kunal Basu see: < http://www.kunalbasu.com/home.php>


  1. Abhi, yet another wonderful post -- both moving and personally nostalgic. I too share your passion for daydreaming, but with age the little man inside my head is complaining more frequently about "reality" and trying to censor them. Also, by that way, I am terrible at time management -- it may seem otherwise.

  2. what is all the wailing about? time management is fine.a wonderful book is shaping up. and more so because i won't have to buy it. :)

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  4. I really wish your dream of the 'idea of the solar powered battery the size of a cigarette packet' came true. Why it would fulfill a lot of people's dream including mine of a less worrying month-end!You could always give the power supplying corporation a promise not to leave them abandoned. Loved the write up as usual.

  5. I agree with Jayati. With me planning to move to a eco-friendly, post-modern banoprashtha, in one of those bamboo igloos like your bada-bon project- rain water harvesting and solar power just had to be. If you could fit the last into a mere cigarette packet- and at low cost too, well, please book one unit for me, right away! I am not going to take advantage of our brother-sister relationship by hankering for free gifts! ;)

  6. I think I missed reading this earlier. Time Management? Wish I could dare to dream! My life revolves around execution!