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In two centuries, from 1700 to 1900, population of India doubled; it quadrupled in the next century and crossed the distinguishing mark of 1Bn in 2000; it would reach the hallowed position as the most populous nation on Earth by 2025, and the prognosis according to ‘Populstat’, India would be reaching a peak value of 1.7 Bn in population by 2050 [1]. The good news according to the UN Studies however is: India’s population would be slowing down after peaking, and reach a sustained level of 1.55Bn by 2100.

Population stat_WordPress

In contrast, the combined Americas and Europe have been at their plateau for a long time at 1.5Bn, and China will continue to bring down the population to 1.1Bn by the turn of the century. The rest of the nations, however, will be growing and in particular Africa will quadruple to hit the population of the world to level at 11Bn by 2100. That’s the population scenario of the world in broad brush[2].

Please ponder over these figures. The figures will surely sink in deep if you view the fascinating presentations of Dr Prof Hans Rosling[3]. The good professor’s message is: ‘All is well’.

 

[1] http://www.populstat.info/Asia/indiac.htm

[2] http://www.heavy.com/news/2013/07/population-earth-2100-africa-china/

[3] http://www.gapminder.org/videos/dont-panic-the-facts-about-population/

 

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Japan re-visited

The idea of the re-visit sprang from a desire to do something special on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of our marriage. We had the first anniversary in Tokyo in 1972 and a re-visit seemed just the right thing to do; retouching the memory of us as young couple, but this time together with the our young daughters.

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The Graduates’ Golden Jubilee 

(Suvesh Purkayastha)

[An event-report, much delayed though, of the event that arose much anticipation.]

 

Did the moments of 4th, 5th and 6th February 2011 spark?

Quite.

Would we like to recreate again? 

A good idea? Nah! Am I sure? Nah!

That’s the gist, anyway, if you ask me.

May be, I should rename the title – ‘Pleasure of riding a relatitivistic Time Machine’.

 

 

 

That is what dates are for.

Birth  Day, Mother’s Day, Independence Day, April Fool‘s Day, Labour Day, Mid-Sommeren,  Blueberry Popsicle Day, All Saint’s Day, Guy Fawkes Night, Halloween and so and on. In fact the list of such commemorative dates is long – very long indeed, so much so that there seem to be more of these celebratory days than the days in any given year; now well recognised by Google Search, partly aggravated by commercial machinations, partly by the genuine desire to make an event to share with families, friends, friends of friends, neighbours – more the merrier.  Educational institutions in the West are also on the bandwagon with various days and dates to celebrate the past and the current. However, the experience of accidental serendipity of networking was not in vogue in our times when we graduated yes, fifty years ago from our good old, prestigious Presidency College – where as the story goes seven swords i.e. princes used to arrive in their horse-driven, family-owned fiton cars, ostensibly to pursue the path of higher learning amongst awe-stricken commoners, the best of the best boys and girls of the country. But in the new generation of schools of learning all over the country, the concept of student alumni has taken firm roots. Annual meetups are common, a sense of bonhomie is strong, and more so for the students who are outside Kolkata / India. Us, who graduated from PresidencyCollegein 1961 have also spread out far and wide. Should we not try to make one such event happen? Debu and I tossed this idea about over sipping tea at our home in St Albans – the seed for our Golden Jubilee was sown in consultation with the Golden Boy – Debu was on visiting assignment fromUSA’s far northwest. Indeed, our alumni have spread far and wide.

That was the start.

The excitement was in the preparation: to reach out to the classmates, recalling all the names for a start (!) – a re-discovery process in a sense; planning a concept event, building up the expectations, getting buy-in by all and creating the hype. The over arching goal was to re-connect and to have a good time.  

But as with any kind of reunion, a mild unease crept up for the fear of being repossessed by ambitious and competitive streak from the college days, should one start snooping around to compare how others have fared – like checking on mark sheets but trying best not to reveal one’s own. That was a sport then! Fifty years have gone by and some of us have had a ringside view of the developments, some became acclaimed players, some took it easy and some didn’t care. We were like horses, unbolted from the stable that was our alma mater,PresidencyCollege. You may gallop, trot or remain still.

The mantra of a successful event is to ensure the completeness of the list of the participants and signing them all in. Like cranking an engine by a handle bar to reach a state of sustained power – the mailing list, assiduously assembled by Arun revved up the planning. Gaps were identified and we called upon each other to discover and help shorten the long ‘missing persons’ list. There were times when we thought OK, we have got all the names; but then there arrived a helpful hint, but so and so was my partner in the lab, ‘what about him’? A number of iterations with Arun eventually made the list complete – all 38 who graduated in 1961. Tracking them down was a different matter. The task took the greater part of the preparation. Crafty investigative skills were put in motion.  Google-search, penetrating Name-Database queries, persuasive telephones, eye ball to eye ball (joking) aka face to face meetings – the tricks of the trade were unleashed. The effort to track and contact our classmates continued till the end. Some results were quite miraculous such as finding Pranab-da and Alok spotting the advertisement Nandita and Gita put out. At the end, we had to be satisfied with whomsoever we got in our network – some remained elusive e.g. Ajoy, Khaitan, Kalyan, Prabhudayal, Sudeb, Sujit, Sushanta,Timir; some nearly caught e.g. Krishnanada or to Eden Hostellers popularly known as Kesta,  Malay, Bijoy and some most regrettably (Badal, Debi, Debendranath) were beyond reach. We had eventually a sizeable collection of classmates but it would never be the full strength again, ever. How fantastic it would have been – had we had the full strength of the graduates of 1961 one more time, with some of our teachers and the laboratory assistants, all together assembled in the corridor of the Baker Laboratory, but fifty years is a long time span we were shockingly reminded of whilst trekking the path of discovery and re-connection.

Another mantra of successful event management is to share responsibility. This was largely resolved in an autonomous manner – Gobind came forward with the idea of the alumni calendar and spearheaded the co-ordination and production from start to finish from his East Coast abode in USA; Rajat from New Jerseylending helping hands on call. The co-ordination with the college, handling the politics of ‘what is in it for me’? question was vexing. There sprang Siddhartha from Dublin. We are nearly neighbours considering the distances we have traversed from Kolkata. Siddhartha happens to have an on-going contact with the Physics Department in his academic capacity of guiding/ disseminating research in what I term ‘In search of Beauty & Symmetry’ in the universe in mathematical terms, models and equations. He led Calcutta Action Group and the group members Gita, Nandita, Dilip K (to differentiate from Dilip without a ‘K’), Kartik, Shubhendu D, Partho G brought the concept to fruition. They actively devised and pursued the action points. Good eats and fabulous tea served in fine bone china at Gita’s place helped the CAG to gel and the rest was a cake-walk with moi doing an occasional prodding, Shubhendu G and Arun providing some wise counselling and enthusiasm of all cementing the cracks, if any arose. Three days of activities were planned: an afternoon of ‘Face behind the Name’ session – graciously hosted by Partha G and his dear wife Kalyani in their magnificent paternal home in South Calcutta; an all important College-Day with a warm-up session at the good old (literally) Coffee House and a river cruise to wrap up on the third day. That was it. And, we have done it. 

The events rolled as planned and there were no surprises. Ah ha! Not quite. New stories emerged, old myths were dashed and previously uncared connections were reinforced. Every one came away, after the cruise, like charged particle returning to its stable orbit/ band – with a promise to nurse the experience of the past three days, the memory of the reunion as a work-in-progress.

Few snap shots linger though: the first time we assembled – so many of us, classmates after so many years – the faces, mannerisms, postures flooded in and synched as hand to glove; it took a little time, but eventually the years in between did not matter, and disappeared altogether during the ‘Face behind the Name’ assembly.  Reconnections were strengthened in

the Coffee House the next day and the reverberating voice of Partha G singing the old favourites during the river cruise brought back the college days; as if it was a break in between the classes. The spouses, though fewer in number accentuated and enlarged the space. We could have done more in the College-Day, for we could not be sure if this unique occasion made any difference to the participating students; an objective that we were keen to establish, but I wish the event would be the trigger towards an evolving process to fulfil that goal. The positivity was evident: Dr Pradyot Roy, the current Head of the Physics Department took special interest and assembled a good two hundred students and we were adorned on the other side of the lecture hall for a change. The young participants listened to us with rapt attention, asked clarifications at times and evidenced interest to talk to us during the recess. For the start, the glass was more than half full.

 

 

X                     X                     X

Synopsis

The story revolves round two protagonists of IT persuasion hailing from distinctly different backgrounds – Bezalel Weizmann, the seasoned consultant  , a Jew and Abdullah Abdul Rehman, an aristocratic Emiritan bank employee, a Muslim – thrown together per chance in an IT project. To both, success is the key and in its pursuit they develop an understanding and respect for each other and become friends. There is another character – Chucky Chang, a Christian bank employee. The protagonists are not dismissive of Chucky, on the contrary try to be inclusive and accommodating. Cross cultural factors come to interplay and so are the post 9/11 consequences in a real project environment in an Arab country.

 In the main, the narratives deal with the warmth of friendship and human relationship, uncovered layer by layer. The imageries are constructed to transport the readers to the land of the Emirs without digressing from the underlying emphasis of human behaviour. Abdullah is also a falconer and there are twists and turns of expectations and the realities of life in the framework of a short story; it has moments of merriment and extreme agony.

The complete story is attached separately.