Saturday, May 14, 2011

Good job, Bengal.

For some background, please see this post.
I am euphoric that my prediction came true, and in what fashion!

Finally the mighty has fallen, the citadel has not only been breached, but demolished. And this is unlike any other election I have ever experienced, this is not just a mere change of regime, this is intensely personal, and no, I cant be magnanimous in victory. The pent up anger of years would not allow me to. I always hated you if you are a CPIM sympathizer, and now I will say it on your face. That is, if you still want to show your face.

Make no mistakes, I am never a communist sympathizer. But curiously, that has got very little to do with my intense dislike for CPIM. It is impossible to explain to anyone else who have not been through that: how we grew up seeing the systematic politicization of all spheres of society, and consequent victimization of those who were not supporting them. I do not believe this happened anywhere else - everywhere a strong opposition ensured that the ruling party was voted out if they did not live upto the promise. In Calcutta this was probably not so prominent, but in districts, fear and favor eliminated any sort of opposition presence. So either you were with them, or you were literally victimized in every possible way without any avenue to protest. This was way before Singur and Nadigram happened, when being anti-CPIM started becoming fashionable. Growing up in north Bengal in eighties and nineties, it was hard not to see this blatant abuse of power, and persecution of the non-followers. Of course if this was a relationship with benefit for you, you would keep quiet, no matter what your conscience would say. Otherwise, you just grew up bitter, with the party, with those shameless backbone-less people all around you.

Thankfully I never stayed in those villages, where people daring to support the non existent opposition were physically abused, tortured or killed, or if they were really lucky, made social outcasts. Thankfully I was never the homeowner, whose home was forcibly taken and made into a party office. Thankfully none did any horrible things to me, and I could escape Bengal. But being in close proximity to the education sector, I could also see how they completely controlled and destroyed it.

From primary school headmasters to University vice-chancellors, all the prime positions went to party supporters, qualifications no bar. People with awful academic record got appointed or promoted ignoring people with much better record. It does not seem a huge deal taken in isolation, but when this becomes all pervasive, the overall quality of education suffers. Already the outdated school curriculum and abolition of English in primary schools crippled an entire generation, and then meritocracy was several discouraged by handing over the higher education to a bunch of handpicked party followers. Student unions were the breeding ground of party cadres, so opposition were ruthlessly dealt with with local hoodlums roaming free on campus - so ruthlessly that in places like North Bengal University, no election was needed. I can go on all night long, and still would not cover the full spectrum of atrocities.

No escape from this made it suffocating. Seeing people close to you affected made this personal. For years, all we could do was dream, that such a day will come. I do not endorse violence, but when I feel this much hatred toward anyone remotely saying a good word for CPIM, I can also see people who suffered disastrously will try to get revenge. Payback time, folks!

I hope Mamata goes on to become a successful chief minister, but even if she is not it would not and should not demean this feat. Single-handedly she bought the regime down, even after being written off and derided repeatedly. Her methods were not always the most sophisticated, nor was she most media friendly (before making fun of her for English, remember that she is a product of the government education system), but hell, she got the job done. She deserves all the accolades and more. If you have a problem with her, then just step back and think why you never had a problem with how things were going so far, and you will realize what the term brainwashed means.

Hah, how I loved when they hoisted Trinamul flag in Alimuddin street.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Pilot for a day!

Those who know me, also know how obsessed I am about anything related to flying. I fly often, read airline blogs, visit frequent flier forums, listen to channel 9 on United (where you can hear the wonderful conversation between the pilots and the ATC), love looking for cheap airfares in my spare time. But I have always been a passive passenger, never got best seat on a bird. Well, until now.

To all fairness, it was this cute little two-seater aircraft, and the gentleman beside my did everything so that I could live to tell the tale. However, the thrill of seating at the control, observing the little details in action as the little bird took to the skies was itself an experience.I was even allowed to make a 180 degree turn once we were up there, of course under strict supervision. The light plane shook a bit as we took off, but otherwise it was a smooth, fun ride.

So what was this all about? I signed up for an half an hour flight simulator training, and half an hour flying lesson in Cleveland's lakeside Burke airport. It rained all week, but the weather was perfect, and after a little wait, I was adjusting my headphone and the seatbelts. And surprisingly, it did not look so complicated - the interactions with the controller sounded just like I am used to hearing on United's channel 9, the controls look familiar after the brief time at the simulator, and the cramped cockpit was not too uncomfortable either.

I wish I could say I learned a lot, or it gave me a better understanding of pilot;s job. Not really - nothing came as a surprise. Not that I would want to do this toy flight again. But like many things you want to do once in your lifetme, this was that type of an experience. Hard to describe why it was special, but it was indeed.