Tuesday 20 June 2023



I've been reading the rot people have been talking about West Bengal's name change to Paschimbanga and it's time to set the record straight. There's no such thing as Paschimbanga. Just as there never was any person called Rabindranath Tagore, nor anyone called Mamata Banerjee and it certainly isn't Manas Chakravarty who's writing this column.

Nope, these names are mere masks we Bongs put on when dealing with non-Bongs. The new name is actually Poshchimbongo, rhyming with Congo and the twin-drum Bongo. The best way for non-Bongs to pronounce it is with a rossogolla held inside their mouths. Shondesh will also do. 


The name of the bhodrolok who won the Nobel for literature is Robindronoth Thakor, often called simply Robi Thakor.

Poshchimbongo's present chief minister is Mawmota.

The problem is the Bengali language is deprived of one of the most basic sounds, that of the short 'a'. So words like 'curd', 'murder', 'hurt' are impossible to pronounce.

'Curd' becomes card 'murder' becomes maadar & 'hurt' becomes heart... Ashok becomes Aweshok... Arnab becomes Our knob.

If we want to say, 'He's a man', we say 'He's ay man'. The hip-hop phrase, 'He's da man' for a real cool guy was undoubtedly coined by a Bong. We are also tricked by the letters 'v', 'w' and 'y', often say 'sh' instead of 's', while getting our tongues around 'z' is an ordeal.

The results have spawned many Bong jokes, my favourite being: 'What do you call a Bengali wedding? A bedding'. In fact, we changed the name West Bengal simply because we couldn't pronounce West, instead calling it Oashte Bengal or Waste Bengal among the city-bred.

These limitations have shaped Bong temperament, our culture and our entire outlook on life.

For example, the reason why the political right hasn't done well in Poshchimbongo is that we have enormous trouble pronouncing the Sangh Parivar. It's tortured out of recognition to become the Shongho Poribar. Just think what happens to swayamsevak with the ’s’ becoming 'sh', the 'w' non-existent, the 'a' becoming an 'o' and the 'v' transformed into a 'b'. Who in his right mind would ever listen to a 'shoiong shebok?'

I remember Mawmata Didi rushing to Atal Bihari Vajpayee on one occasion, shouting "Awtol-jee", "Awtol-jee", while Vajpayee looked hither and thither trying to find out who on earth "Awtol" औटोल was.

Our history too has been shaped by language. While we had no problems with Gandhi, both Mohandas and Karamchand were a challenge. Jawaharlal was a real tongue-twister, becoming Jawewhorlal, and Bengal turned to communism in despair. Another reason why Bengal is different from the national mainstream is our inability to sing 'Jana Gana Mana'- we sing 'Jawno Gawno Mawno' instead. But Sonia and Rahul are fine, although Manmohan is dicey.

We all know the Bong who works in Bengal is a work of fiction. You see, 'work' becomes 'oaark' in Bong. Obviously 'oaark' is not the same thing as 'work'. But we are certainly not lazy, only lajee.

Bengali does, however, have one thing in common with English - inanimate objects have no gender. So a Bong has no idea whether a bus is male or female and consequently hasn't a clue whether, in Hindi, 'bus chal raha hai' or 'chal rahi hai'. The upshot is that while we may mangle the English language, when it comes to Hindi we mince it into little pieces and fry it in boiling oil. That is why one of my dreams was to hear Pro knob-da make a speech in Hindi. After >50 yrs in Delhi he still said 'Teddodist'.

And phor all those non-Bongs who oaant to make phaan of aas, I oarn them: Beoare, oaat Poshchimbongo shays today, India uill shay tomorrow."

I believe one of the main reasons the British moved the Capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi was that they couldn't bear anymore to hear the Bongs sing, "God shave (save) the Queen!"





As cities grow, some essential parts of it inexorably recede behind the arras. The street stalls retreat into the inner folds of the new city, local ice cream vendors turn coy and cede ground to nationally known brands, the baraf ka gola with its luscious layers of colourful flavours is banished into the exile of outdated and unhygienic practice, men on cycles with loud bells promising to sharpen knives or re-fluff our razaais thin out from the more affluent localities, varieties of street food gradually become legends found only on food shows and perhaps most importantly we don't find masala soda vendors on our roads.

Growing up in middle-class India, soda was an occasional treat. Tired of the exquisite cool balance of nimbu pant, and denied the exotic charms of orange squash (only for important guests), every now and then we strayed into the wanton arms of nimbu soda. Made from a simple concoction of lime, some chard masala and bante-wala soda (the bottle with the marble stuck inside it), the drink delivered a surprisingly strong kick. Soda activated what was hitherto docile and sweet into something wild and feral. We doused our throats with this searingly potent liquid, wiped our slightly masala-encrusted lips with the back of our hands and went aaaahh with a sense of relief too deeply located to be identified with any part of the body. The pleasure was experienced twice over— as the liquid burned a hole down our chests and as the gas effervesced its way out.

For soda was a permissible foray into hot-bloodedness, something we were allowed to indulge in,' notwithstanding its ability to re-order the civilised molecular equilibrium of stability ever so temporarily It made us feel alive as it hit the right spots and shook us out of the torpor induced by a relentless summer that baked us into slowness. It was not merely refreshing, it was deeply energising in its own unsettling way. It multiplied the bite of the lemon in an exponential manner till it became something that corroded the throat as it went down. A nimbu soda has all the finesse of a homemade bomb, with crude, readily available and altogether ordinary ingredients combining chemically to produce an incendiary effect. It disappeared even as it burned its way down leaving us the legacy of a burp or two. In many ways, we didn't drink the soda; it was the soda that consumed us. The lime gave it a bite, a hint of cruelty that makes things interesting while the masala made it pleasurably Indian. In some ways, the masala spoke to the 'Indian penchant for turning all foods into a form of chaat.

Soda drew its power from two different sources. The first was its form, its ability to effervesce with latent potency. Soda is all intent, with very little content, a powerful medium without a coherent message. The seemingly innocuous water-like appearance hides an explosive wildness that gets unleashed when the bottle is opened. The act of opening a bottle of soda is akin to setting free a genie seething in claustrophobic anger, only to awaken avidly with intent. Soda represents the unanticipated belligerence of the ordinary; the possession of the otherwise placid water by a fit of red-eyed road rage. The combination of sleepy passivity in appearance and snarling energy in action allowed soda to be legitimate while providing a measure of wildness to its drinkers.

The other source of its power perhaps lay in its association with alcohol. The darkness associated with alcohol rubbed off on its accomplice and soda got imbued with some of the aura of sinfulness that inevitably surrounded  'hard drinks'. Soda amplified with the dark power of whisky, it allowed alcohol to showcase its potency in a vividly visual way. When we drank soda we were allowed to consume sin from a detached but visible distance. Vice sparkled in a whisky and soda, and the ice clinked mystery

A whisky and soda simmered with masculine portent, with the soda allowing the whisky to slide out of the brooding layers of its murky liquidness and attach itself to our insides, alive, brandishing purpose. As a delivery vehicle for alcohol, it was both respectful and impatient, trading off its complexity for a quicker, more palpable hit. Soda made the whisky fire crackle, both in the glass and in the stomach.

The key to the allure of most soft drinks today lies in part at least to the fizzy power of soda. Without aeration, beverages turn stately and offer nutrition and other forms of maternally approved goofiness. Motorcycle madness is replaced by scooter pragmatism, vitamins are clocked, minerals are imputed, and much-measured sipping takes place. The pour down the throat is outlawed, and bright colours are needed to lure us into the docile arms of juices and shakes, all pretty with purpose.

There is a small segment that inverts the meaning of soda. These are the people who coyly ask for club soda (with whatever member rights that come along with the label) instead of asking for an alcoholic beverage. They also primly sip at this beverage, determined to tame its impatience by waiting it out. Here the power of soda is simultaneously acknowledged and neutered. Soda has some heft, but it is studiously virtuous in comparison to alcohol.

In an India that is no longer as passive as it was, and which finds stimulation in many other ways, soda by itself may not serve the purpose it once did, but it is an intrinsic part of our everyday life. Step out of any cocooned metropolis, and soda is everywhere, Nothing neutralises the summer as well as it does and nothing produces energy without discernible content dramatically as it does. Soda today perhaps draws its meaning not so much from its bottled power but the spirit of restless and directionless energy that it adds to our life.

Monday 19 June 2023



From Brig Inder Mohan Singh, President IESL.

Air Marshall Jagjeet Singh, Sr VP Airforce Association, Brig OP Yadav and Capt VS Narwal, both VPs IESL were also present.

Dear Veterans,

I would like to share with you the details of my meeting with Sh VK Singh,  Secy ESW on 07 Jun.

The points I raised were given in writing to the Secy. These have been posted in the environment also. Discussions and views on these are below.

OROP 2: Like it or not, the Secy said there will be no meeting as suggested by us between the CGDA/PCDA (PENSIONS) to resolve the anomalies. The problem he said is with funds. We were shown the data of the USA, UK and India on defence budgets and share of pay and pensions. The USA was shown to have a defence budget of $ 1000 or 1100 billion and 16 per cent spent on pay and pensions and India's USD 71 billion defence budget has to spend 54 per cent on pay and pensions. India cannot afford this high allocation. I leave our economic state to your discretion. He asked for the specific anomalies to be sent to him. Now I would like the environment to know that the Secy ESW or CGDA has not even responded to the anomalies raised by Service Hq, can we expect anything? Anyway since we were told to bring these to his notice we will do so. Further, the govt view is that the Hon' SC has ruled "there is no infirmity in the OROP policy". Hence accept it. Much that many would not like, the case taken up by Maj Gen Satbir Singh and IESM not only delayed the 01 Jul 2019 equalisation by nearly four years, the SC ruling has given the govt a handle to deny every action of ours. All I can say is that we will play according to the rules laid by the Govt. We will begin our action next week sending them case-by-case anomalies.

ONE MAN JUDICIAL COMMITTEE: There is general silence when we raise this issue. I think this report is not to the liking of the govt. It would have demolished govt views on many OROP issues. Maybe even the SC would have had to take into consideration the report in it's judgement. I think one way out is to request Justice L Narasimha Reddy to make the report public. If not seek court intervention. No other way.

SPARSH We were told that 90 per cent of the pensioners have been switched over to SPARSH. 23 lakh out of 26 lakh. There is a mismatch in data of 3 lakh pensioners. Wonder what level of computerisation of bank accounts and pension accounts has been achieved that there is a problem of 3 lakh pensioners. I conveyed that ESM was happy to move out of control of the DPDO system, no matter how rotten it was. And now a good working system has been given in the hands of the govt again. Now we have to live and die with it.

ECHS: Our contention is that there should be no shortfall in medicines. The Secy conveyed this is being resolved and EPharmacy will be contracted for direct delivery of medicines. Regarding pending hospital bills, the reason given is the corrupt actions of some hospitals. I wonder how has corruption entered a govt managed and controlled system of ECHS-empanelled hospitals when the govt claims there is zero corruption?

ENHANCED PENSION AT OLD AGE: The Secy was informed of the recent AFT ruling that pension be enhanced on completion of 79 years and not go into appeal. Let's see what the govt does.

WIDOW PENSION: This point was brought to the notice of the Secy. Widows need greater financial security but on the contrary, their pension is reduced to 60 per cent. He said this is a Pay Commission issue. We'll have to wait till 2026.

PROPOSAL FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP FOR VETERANS: Dear Veterans, this is an important issue which can help us in enhancing the incomes of ESM. I raised the proposal of Veterans forming a corporate and setting up Solar Parks in military stations. Power to be supplied to the military establishment directly. Win-win for all. Help in the worldwide initiative to tackle global warming, assist our PM's goal of more participation in reducing dependence on fossil fuels, cheaper power for our armed forces reducing their costs by up to 25 per cent, put to use vacant military lands and finally financial benefits to ESM. In all this justification I've seen that the stumbling block is why should land be given to Veterans. I didn't expect our senior hierarchy, in the Service Hq and the IAS to stop their thinking just because this suggestion is thought-provoking and never raised earlier. Do we want to take over mil land in any way? Can we physically take away this land? On the other hand, we will do something that has never been thought of earlier. We will put the money of ESM shareholders into a pilot project. One megawatt will cost us about Rs 4.50 crore. The power will be supplied to the military grid and not sold to anyone else. Solar panel power generation has a life of 25 years. In return, ESM shareholders will get about 12 per cent return, or even better. More than what banks give. 50,000 retire every year taking home anywhere from Rs 35 lakh to one crore. Even at an average of Rs one lakh, we can raise Rs 500 crore and help retirees get better income. Will convince them that don't depend on govt benevolence. Do well for yourself. All that we want from the govt is permission to do this as a captive project for the ESM. As I've said in my letter, the govt has given Rs 1.97 lakh crore PLI benefit to 14 industries. Another Rs 26,000 crores for green hydrogen projects have been earmarked. Some for mobile phone manufacturers. Rs 10,000 crore given for FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles). There was fraud in this also. Rs 25,938 crore to auto companies. This when we know there is a waiting period of 6 months to nearly 2 years for most models which are in the higher price range. Plus govt helps the industry in getting land. Against this what are we asking? Putting our money for multipurpose benefits.

In this context, I'd like to share my discussion with the Secy in one such industry, Textile. Mr VK Singh was Secy Textiles earlier and the govt proposed setting up six, if I remember, Textile Parks across the country. One such park was proposed at Mattewara near Ludhiana, on the banks of R Sutlej. 1,000 acres of govt land, part forest and the rest Panchayat land with wildlife also in the area. I didn't hesitate to tell him that a Ludhiana-based citizens movement, led by veteran colleagues of mine, of which I'm also a part actively opposed this purely on environmental grounds. The Punjab govt had to bow against the mass movement and the project was scrapped. Now obviously this was not easily accepted by the Govt and the Textile industry. I would like to question the govt, so many ways and means of helping a few rich industrialists but find no logic when we want a large number of ESM to seek a better income in a path-breaking initiative.

I also requested that coal transportation and CHT initiatives as suggested be accepted.

I know that this post is rather long, but I wanted to convey all that I can to the environment. I request this be forwarded to max ESM groups and individuals.

My next plan is to seek a meeting with the Hon' Raksha Mantri in June itself.

Jai Hind

Sunday 18 June 2023



From Quid Pro Quo to In Flagrante Delicto
cc Non Compos Mentis

One afternoon, all Latin expressions were invited by examinate Ante's lyin brother Post Meridiem to the Tavern to discuss Quid Pro Quo’s phenomenal rise in popularity thanks to impeachment hearings in the United States. Quod Expectata, De Facto, De Jure and Post Mortem strolled in well behind the clock, Sed Sero Solito.

A wave of resentment ran through Inter Alia, Ad Hoc, Pro Bono, Vice Versa, Statim, Ad Interim, Et Cetera, etc., who considered themselves the frontrunners in the Latinism sweepstakes before Quid Pro Quo had sprinted ahead in recent weeks.

“Well, let’s get real,” said Bona Fide, who was always truthful. “Quid Pro Quo is being promoted by no less a person than the U.S. President without Curriculum Vitae, even though Pro Bono is available for free.” Acta Non Verba nodded in agreement. 

Hearing this, Pro Bono, who was selfless and always unquestioningly volunteering herself, asked Prima Facie if this was indeed the case.

“As Ceteris Paribus says, yes,” confirmed Prima Facie. “Although the President likes Ad Hoc, Quid Pro Quo is his current favourite.”

“What about me? I am always bringing up the rear… though I am used so often,” complained Et Cetera to Ex Post Facto. Nota Bene took exception, as did Post Scriptum.

“Dei Gratia, Et Cetera and his comrades Nota Bena and Post Scriptum are made of two words, unlike that useless Addendum,” consoled Alter Ego, looking over his shoulder at his shadow.

“Quid Pro Quo and Exceptio Probat Regulam are made of three words!” pointed out Carpe Diem, groaning, “I should have seized the moment Ilias Latina squared Homer up!"

“Actually, we should have all gone to war!” yelled Casus Belli, who, with Pugnare and Bellecose, was always ready to bare his fangs.

“We would have backed you & Modus Operandi!” shouted twins De Facto and De Jure.

“Hear! Hear!” roared Vox Populi.

Et Cetera was comforted, but he knew he could never become the favourite; he’d always be an afterthought Videlicet, Secundum Cogitationem.

“Well, fair is foul and foul is fair,” explained Vice Versa, an opportunist who flip-flopped often.

“Indeed, I'm sorry about our fate. If you all want so, I'm happy to take the blame,” offered the always-apologetic Mea Culpa.

“Let’s just stay rooted to the ground. Our day will come!” advised Terra Firma, backed by Modus Operandi. Legum Baccalaureus said to Semper Fidelis, “I will follow the qualified, Exempli Gratia te Magister Artium.”

“No, let’s keep on rolling and rolling and…” pressed Ad Infinitum. Sui Generis agreed, sagely.

“The bird walked to the toy store,” said Non Sequitur.

Alma Mater, who was nourishing her children Alumnus and Alumna, watched the agitated Latinisms with Sotto Voce, who was usually quiet and spoke only occasionally in a low voice.

“Too bad everyone thinks the President has flipped for Quid Pro Quo,” she whispered. “No one believes me but I’ve seen him canoodling with that sexy wench In Flagrante Delicto.” 

Suddenly they heard someone chuckling in the shadows. It was Non Compos Mentis, giggling with Alea Iacta Est in the knowledge that she, not In Flagrante Delicto, was the President’s first love. Its most critical condition is that this piece is shared widely, said Sine Qua Non. Post Scriptum solemnly agreed, now that Regina had departed, Requiescat In Pace.