Thursday 24 March 2016

Wolf Story

- Snehal Deb.

Pic credits: flickr

As time went by, he thought and cried,
Things he lost, wounds that never dried,
Small business, no risk of life,
But fate planned a very harsh strife.

One bright sunny day, he locked his shop,
Armed with daggers, away they shroud,
As he moved, they planned to pound,
Then came the rain, fate readied for one more round.

For them, the day wasn't a waste,
Followed till home, he went without haste,
Thunders warned him, Unaware he went,
Blunders await him, fate had anger to vent.

Doomsday arrived, he went for business,
Fate moved in, kids taken by them,
Neighbor witnessed doom, called him,
Too late it was, a letter brought mayhem.

"Raise voice on us, we kill your kids,
Wolves let loose, we hunt for your ribs"
Breaking down, he called police,
Officer had tea, no word, no solace!

His mere crime, mute protest,
Mafia wanted his shop, at minister's behest,
The uniformed men tiptoed, was no arrest,
He left the land, thought it was best.

Gruesome pain, pricked him from inside,
The only parent lost two kids, left countryside,
Helpless beings in helpless fate's bout,
This is all 'wolf story' is about

Sunday 20 March 2016

Kapoor & Sons

- Sidharth Sharma and Gitartha Kashyap.

Kapoor & Sons - A mature drama, blazoned with only some flavors of a typical kJo movie!

Cast- Siddharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan, Alia Bhatt, Rishi Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah, Rajat Kapoor
Direction- Shakun Batra

Verdict- 3.5/5

In 2001, the overwhelming success of 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham' was a feather in the cap for Karan Johar. Cut to 2016 and we are presented with 'Kapoor & Sons', a modern saga of dysfunctional families, from the house of Dharma Productions. But is the movie worth all the hype? 

Rahul (Fawad), a successful writer and Arjun (Sid), a struggling writer who works as a bartender, are brothers who return to their home in Coonor, upon hearing about their grandfather's (Rishi Kapoor) ill-health. However, things take a toll when they fall for the same girl, Tia (Alia). Amidst all the tension unraveling in the family- marriage issues between the parents (Ratna Pathak Shah and Rajat Kapoor), sexuality issues- will the Kapoor brothers be able to fulfill their grandfather's last wish- to click a family photograph with the title, 'Kapoor & Sons (since 1921)'?

The movie's asset is its narrative and an ensemble cast, which shows immense promise. Not to forget the precise characterization, which gives layers to each character. Such is the treatment of the plot that despite a simple predictable storyline, the movie doesn't give us a single moment to keep our eyes off the screen. The movie builds up on a great note and runs with a brisk pace. Each character has its own dark secrets, which unfold meticulously on screen and strengthen the proceedings. Unlike other Dharma films, this one is not totally a 'feel good' film, decorated with lustrous canvasses. However, it is not completely disgruntled, either!

Amidst all these comes the chartbuster 'Kar Gayi Chull', which has been scrupulously embodied in the film, without hagridding the pace!

Retrospecting the performances, among an ensemble case, is not a facile task. All the actors have performed exceptionally well, but the film actually belongs to Rishi Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah and Fawad Khan, who steal the show. Rishi Kapoor gets into the flesh of the character and this is clearly his most indelible renditions till date. Ratna Pathak Shah is an absolute delight to watch; her portrayal of a jealous wife will definitely be adorned by the spectators. Fawad Khan proves it once again that he is not just a 'face' to look out for. His acting prowess will inarguably augment his fan following by leaps and bounds. Sidharth Malhotra has improvised a lot since his previous films. He understands the gravity of his character and performs at par with his co-stars. Alia Bhatt, who is at the pinnacle of her career, adds one more gem to her kitty of films. She looks natural and shares a great chemistry with both Fawad and Sidharth. Rajat Kapoor and other actors pull off their respective parts with great zeal.

Cinematography is not typical of other Dharma films, but perhaps that was needed to illustrate this modern saga of dysfunctional families and to match up to the urbanised approach of storytelling. The movie has been well edited, disallowing any unwanted scenes and keeping the pace strictly in-check. 

Shakun Batra's direction (of 'Ek Main aur Ek Tu' fame) is truly marvelous. His approach towards modern storytelling is something to look out for. Hope to see more of his works in the years to come!

Final Verdict- A 'Pre-Holi' treat by Bollywood. You will definitely enjoy this quirky tale!

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Cricket and Superstitions

- Pratap Kumar Das.

People say cricket is a funny game. You just can't predict what can happen. A cakewalk for a team can turn out into a choking saga for another. A sudden flurry of wickets can break the spine of even the strongest batting line-up out there. An inspired spell of bowling can infuse tremendous self-belief in the team. Just when the going gets easy, someone shifts slightly in his seat and the most prized wicket falls.... Silence everywhere...

Welcome to the world of superstitions. A move here and a shift there, a quick run to the loo and your team is done and dusted. You reach out for the chips and try to chuck one inside and a wicket falls. You bit your tongue. Ouch, did that hurt?

For most of us Indians, cricket is our first religion. Everything else is secondary. In a country boasting of a billion countrymen, the emotions run high in each and every household more so before an event like the World Cup. We would miss a lecture, go on a sick leave for the job, postpone a date with our beloved for the love of our team. A victory or defeat is as much ours as of the players. Such is our connection that some believe their actions in their homes have a direct effect on what happens on field. If you make a wrong move in our living room, undoubtedly someone will drop a catch or lose his wicket out there.

A high-voltage encounter such as an Indo-Pak match or a knockout game gets our heart pumping at full stream. The jump in your bedroom must be in sync with the fielder's jump else he would miss it. Your commentary is more important than what the official commentators blurt out. Your analysis and thought process is what the captain must be actually doing. Let him bowl; let him bat next down; let the fielder stand a little right. Yes you got it right, we can make no wrong.

Shailesh doesn't even shift from the corner of his sofa during the time India bats. Ramesh won't sit come what may in the last overs of a match. Amrita moves from her bed only during the innings break. Riya won't let anyone change the channel for even a second when India's match is on. Dharmesh cheers for his team in only his ganjee and boxers. They all have a common thread connecting them-- Each one believes they are helping their team win. A victory is celebrated by all of them while they would be blaming themselves for a loss if any amongst many reasons. A belief by which they stand, a belief by which they swear.

Superstitions are not just limited to the common folk but a reality for many cricketers out there. Even the best in the business had some sort of ritual which was an exclusive trait in itself. Despite all his talent, even the Master Blaster believed that putting on his left pad before the right one brings him luck. He also got his lucky bat repaired before the 2011 World Cup. This was the one thing which was previously missing from his CV. The Wall, Rahul Dravid used to wear right pad first before stepping out into the field. Heartthrob of the nation, and an inspiration for many, our very own Virat previously used to wear the same pair of gloves in every match he played once he started scoring frequently. As time passed by, his confidence and belief in his abilities overtook his insecurities and now those gloves are nowhere to be found. Yuvi wears a kalava, a sacred black thread and sports his lucky number 12 on his jersey which corresponds to his date of birth too. Jersey numbers have a certain mystery and charm alike. MSD bears his lucky number 7 on his back, while Sehwag went a notch higher when at the later part of his career he used to come out on the ground with a 'numberless' jersey as his previous number 44 didn't bring him as much success as he would have liked. Handkerchiefs too have a sacred lineage, Mohinder Amarmath used to carry his lucky red handkerchief in his pocket every time he stepped out to field. One of the great captains in the history of the game, Steve Waugh used to carry his lucky red handkerchief whenever on the field, a token from his grandmother, it indeed held a special place in his heart. Moving away from the 'Go Red' tradition, we had Zaheer Khan, one of India's best fast bowlers who used to carry a yellow handkerchief in crucial matches. And who can forget our hero Kapil Dev who once produced an innings of his lifetime against Zimbabwe. India were down at 17/5 when he stepped out to bat. And the rest of the story is nothing less than a miracle as he scored 175* and eventually helped India in winning that historical match.

Do superstitions help the team? Can't say. Can a little shift in your sofa determine the result of our team? Certainly not. Do certain rituals of cricketers help them perform better in matches? Maybe. Are superstitions here to stay? Absolutely yes.

Nobody is here to debate on whether superstitions are good or not. But the fact that we believe our activities are linked to the team's performance is testimony to our inherent connection and immense belief we associate with them. Cricket is in our blood, our soul and in our minds. The greatest thing is that its 'hope' that drives us forward. And hope is a great thing...

Here's wishing our beloved Team India all the best for the upcoming T20 World Cup from Team Penfreak. We hope that we lift the cup again, this time at home.

#bleed blue

Tuesday 15 March 2016

The Acquaintance

- Himangshu Boruah.

It was in the fall of 1885. I had just been reassigned to Plymouth and was not yet sure if this was another of those dreary places my colleagues complained about. I arrived at the station by the nine o’ clock shuttle and if I remember correctly, there was no one on the platform other than a clerk and a cleaner. My vague recollection of the morning lands me at the time when I stood outside the station waiting for a hansom for about an hour. I did not get one but the cleaner did call me a nincompoop.

I had already wired the Sutton Inn the previous day and as a result did not find it too difficult to settle into a room. The manager had given me a raised eyebrow gazing at my drab three piece suit with a cravat and bowler hat. They were certainly not familiar with modernity at this part of the world. The room I was provided had an ancient aura to it. Hung on the walls were portraits of kings like Henry VIII, James I and II etcetera. All in all it was a great place for respite and relaxation before venturing out on the errands.

Reminiscences of the mid morning coerce me to describe the man who entered my room that day at around eleven o’ clock. He was a tall lad, about six feet tall and wore a gray suit with thin stripes that I remember till this day. The attire looked extremely outdated. The pince-nez on his nose did little to shield his electric blue eyes; a sharp contrast to his demeanor. He said he had been waiting for his afternoon train to Lancashire and had decided to drop by. I hope I have penned down the following conversation fairly accurately.

‘Morning. I hope I have not bothered you in any way by dropping in this way.’ He asked with a heavy accent.

‘None at all.’ I offered him a chair.

‘I am Arthur Stanley, descendent of the Lancashire Stanleys.’ There has been a sudden tragedy in life and I had to go through a midlife crisis.’

‘Sorry to hear that. Would like to tell me your story?’

‘Well, my father had amassed a great fortune in the west. It was a long time ago but he was one of the richest men in the area and had moved to this particular town. I got the news about his death last week and rushed over since I was the only living heir. But then another predicament had presented itself; someone had already inherited the fortune. It must have been an impostor so I collected as much information about him as I could and learnt that he was staying in this Inn. It was last night when I lay in wait. Having already collected details of his features, I recognized him at once and tried to apprehend him. But he had this great long knife which he waved frantically and managed to get away.’

‘Well, it was quite a night.’

‘I hope I will be able to get him someday-’

Suddenly the man stiffened and gazed lifelessly through his blue eyes. The next moment saw him running to the door, wrenching it open and sprinting down the corridor.

Astonished and curious at the same time as to what had happened to the perfectly normal man just moments ago, I made a dash right after him. But as I emerged into the entrance hall, there was no sign of the man. He had literally vanished. Giving up the futile attempt I returned to the reception desk and asked the manager if he had seen a man run out a few moments ago. He replied no one had crossed the doorway for an hour. This seemed strange. Even if the man had been staying at the Inn, he would have gone out through the door, unless there was some other exit. I asked the manager if he knew an Arthur Stanley.

‘Why, of course, sir. I do.’ He replied enthusiastically.

‘It was he who had run out just now.’Said I.

There was a look of confusion on his face.

‘Sir, we know Sir Arthur because he was one of the most popular lords of Plymouth. But it is impossible that he ran out just now.’

‘Why?’ I asked naively.

He pointed to the portrait behind him. There was no mistaking the electric blue eyes.

‘Sir Arthur Stanley has been dead for over fifty years.’

Monday 14 March 2016

Budget 2016: A pro poor pro farmer budget with focus to the rural economy

- Naba Raj Chetri and Bibhu Krishna Talukdar.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on (29th February) Monday presented his third Union Budget. With an eye on supporting the small tax-payer and the small investor, the Minister announced a slew of schemes, and income tax exemptions.

Jaitley announces the nine pillars of his Budget —

1) Agriculture and farmers' welfare:
The budget announced on Monday placed a renewed focus on the farm sector in a bid to revive agriculture growth and improve farm incomes at a time when rural India is going through a protracted period of distress.
The series of measure announced are:-
 i) Under Pradhan Mantri krishi sinchai yogna (PMKSY), 28.5 lakh hectares will be brought under irrigation.

 ii) 89 projects under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) covering 80.9 lakh hectares that are languishing will be fast-tracked. The centre is to spend 17000 crore in this project next year.

iii) Pradhan Mantri fasal bima yogna (PMFBY)s amount allocated has more than doubled from Rs. 2589 crore in 2015-16 to  5500 crores in 2016-17.

iv) Rs 15000 crore for interest subvention, to remove burden of loan on farmers. 

v) Long term irrigation fund in NABARD with initial corpus of 20000crore.

vi) The overall budget for the agriculture sector was raised by over 44%, from Rs.24,909 crore in 2015-16 to Rs.35,984 crore in 2016-17.
     The aim is basically double the income of the farming class by 2020.

2) Rural sector:

i) Total allocation: 87,765crore.

ii) 2.87 lakh crore to Gram panchayat and municipality as per the recommendation of 14th Finance Commission.

iii) New scheme Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan proposed with allocation of Rs 655 crore.

iv) A new Digital Literacy Mission Scheme for rural India to cover around 6 crore additional household within the next 3 years.

v) 100% village electrification by 1st may2018

vi) Shyama Prasad Banerjee Rurban mission- 300 rurban centres.

vii) A sum of 38,500 crore for MNREGA

viii) Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadhak Yogna (PMGSY)- allocated  27000 crore

 ix) Digital literacy Scheme mission scheme launched to cover 6 crore additional household.

3) Social sector including healthcare

i) 3,000 Stores under Prime Minister’s Jan Aushadhi Yojana will be opened during 2016-17.
ii) National Dialysis Services Programme’ to be started under National Health Mission through Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.

iii) New Health Protection scheme will provide health cover up to Rs.1 lakh per family and additional Rs. 30,000 for senior citizens

iv)National Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Hub to be set up in partnership with industry associations

v) Allocation of Rs 100 crore each for celebrating the Birth Centenary of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay and the 350th Birth Anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh.

4) Education
i) Increased allocation to Sarva Siksha Abhiyan.

ii) 62 new Navodayas to be set up.

iii) Regulatory architecture to 10 public and 10 private institutions to emerge them as world class teaching and research institute, 

iv) Digital depository for school leaving certificate, college degrees, academic awards etc.

v) Creation of a Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) has been announced with a fund of Rs 1,000 crore, mostly to readdress the problem of student seeking educational loans.

5) Skills and job creation

i) Pradhanmantri kushal vikas yogna - 1700 crore sanctioned to set up 1500 multi skilled training institute.

ii) National Board for skill development certification to skill 1crore youth in next 3 years.

iii)100 model career centres.Model shops and establishment to be set up.

iv) Govt to pay 8.33% on behalf of all new employees for the first 3 years of enrolling to Employee providence fund ( EPF).

v) Entrepreneurship Educational and Training- 2200 colleges, 300schools, 500 ITIs and 50vocational training centre.
   For placement, the government intends to link state employment exchange with the National Career Service. 

vi) Small and medium shops will be allowed to remain open all seven days of the week to encourage employment of more personnel to man shops. 

6) Infrastructure:

i) 70 languishing project, covering 8300 km covered.

ii) Record 10000 km of national highways to be approved in 2016-17

iii) Total investment in roads including PMGSY- 97000 crore

iv) Total outlay for infrastructure increased to 2,21,246 crore

v) Revive 160 unserved and underserved airport in partnership with state governments.

7) Financial sector reforms,

i) Amendments in Sarfaesi Act 2002, to allow sponsors of ARC to hold 100% stake in ARC. 

ii) Comprehensive code on resolution of financial firms to be introduced.

iii) Deepening of corporate bond market. 

iv) Financial data management centre to be setup for data aggregation and analysis.

v) Roadmap for consolidation of public sector bank.

vi) Allocation of Rs 25000 crore towards recapitalization of public sector banks.
  8) Fiscal discipline:

i) Fiscal deficit capped at 3.5% for 2016-17.

ii) Planned/ Non planned classification to be done away from 2017-18

iii) Every new sanctioned scheme to have sunset day and outcome review.
iv) Planned expenditure Rs. 5.5 lakh crore; increase of 15.3%

9) Tax reforms to reduce compliance burden.

i) Tax rebate upto 5lakh income rose from 2000 to 5000, which will seemingly relief 2 crore taxpayers. 

ii) 13 cesses by various ministries with turnover less than 50crores levied

iii) Roadmap to reduce corporate tax while phasing out tax exemption.

iv) Rent reduction limit increased from 24000 to 60000.

v) Sur-charge to be raised from 12% to 15% on persons, other than companies, firms and cooperative societies having income above Rs. 1 crore.

vi) Krishi Kalyan Cess, @ 0.5% on all taxable services, w.e.f. 1 June 2016. 

vii) Infrastructure cess, of 1% on small petrol, LPG, CNG cars, 2.5% on diesel cars of certain capacity and 4% on other higher engine capacity vehicles and SUVs.

viii) Clean Energy Cess’ levied on coal, lignite and peat renamed to ‘Clean Environment Cess’ and rate increased from `200 per tonne to `400 per tonne.

ix) Excise duties on various tobacco products other than beedi raised by about 10 to 15%.

Things that gets costlier

4.All services like bill payments, eating out, air travel
5.Gold and diamond
6.Water including mineral water, aerated water containing added sugar or sweetening matter
7.Goods and services above Rs 2 lakh in cash
8.Aluminum foil
9.Industrial solar water heater
10.Legal services
11.Lottery tickets
12.Imported Golf Cars

Items that will turn cheaper

2.Solar lamp
3.Router, broadband modems and set top boxes, Digital video recorder and CCTV cameras
4.Hybrid electric vehicles
5.Sterilised dialyser
6.Low cost houses with less than 60 sq mt carpet area
7.Hiring of folk artists for performance
8.Refrigerated containers
9.Pension plans
10.Microwave ovens
11.Sanitary pads
12.Braille paper.

Hits and misses of this budget


1) The Finance Minister announced cuts of tax rates on start-ups to 25 per cent and reduces taxes on companies with turnover less than Rs 5 crore by 1 per cent.

2) Relief to those in rented houses; deduction raised from 24,000 to 60,000.

3) An allocation of Rs.55,000 crore in the Budget for Roads and Highways has been proposed which will be further topped up by additional Rs. 15,000 crore to be raised by NHAI through bonds. The total investment in the road sector including PMGSY allocation would be 97,000 crore during 2016-17.

4) Ease of doing business has been one of the most vociferous pitches from Modi government. To that effect, FM today announced that it will introduce a bill to amend the Companies Act, 2013 in the current Budget Session of the Parliament. The Bill would also improve the enabling environment for start ups as it will allow registration of companies be done in one day.

5) Setting up a health cover of Rs 1lakh per family besides additional Rs 30000 for senior citizens. Opening of 30000 generic medicine stores and "National Dialysis Service Programme" is also an added advantage.


1) Income slab remained unchanged.

2) Car & SUV prices to increase substantially which can cause major drop in demand. And additional 1% infrastructure cess to be levied on Petrol, CNG, LPG cars while 2.5% infrastructure cess to be levied on diesel cars below certain engine capacity and 4% on bigger diesel cars and SUV. While an additional 1% extra luxury cess to be put on cars priced above Rs 10 lakh.

3) The government decided to impose tax at the time of withdrawal on 60 per cent of the contributions made after 1 April, 2016, to EPF( Employee Providence Fund) and other schemes. The proposal has come as an unexpected shocker for the salaried class. The govt has meanwhile clarified that there would be no taxation on PPF

(PPF, a statutory scheme by the central government, started with the objective of providing old age income security to self-employed individuals and workers from unorganised sectors.
EPF, on the other hand, is a retirement benefit applicable only for salaried employees. It is a fund to which both the employee and employer contribute 12 per cent of the former's basic salary amount each month. This percentage is pre-set by the government.)

The Union Budget brings with it great expectations for the upcoming financial year,  let's have a look at some interesting facts about it – 

1) The first union budget of independent India was presented by R.K. Shanmukhan Chetty on 26  November, 1947.

2) The budget is usually presented on the last working day of February. The finance ministry officials involved in printing and proof-reading of the union budget are locked up in a basement of the north bloc 10 days prior to budget day. They are released only after presentation of the budget.

3) The printing of the  budget of India starts with ' Halwa Ceremony '. 

4) The budget comes into effect from the first of April. So, the Lok  Sabha gets 1  month to discuss and vote on the budget.

5) Moraji Desai hold the distinction of presenting the union budget the maximum no. of times that is 10.

6) Indira Gandhi remains the only women to present the union budget ( 1969-70).  Jawaharlal Nehru (1958-59), Indira Gandhi (1969-70) and Rajiv Gandhi (1987-89) are the only Prime Ministers to present the union budget.

7) The word budget is derived from the French word- 'Bougette',  meaning a leather bag used for carrying coins. Hence, the budget is usually presented in a leather brief case.

8) Service Tax was first introduced by Manmohan Singh in the union budget of 1994-95 .

9) In 2001, the then finance minister Yashwant Sinha, changed the time of presentation of budget to 11am from 5pm.

Sunday 13 March 2016

The Quantum World

- Nuruddin Md. Iqbal.

The lone electron,
Uncertain of its position,
Roams restlessly outside an atom,
Up are some quarks,
Down are some others,
Some are bewildering charmers,
While many others are complete strangers,
And my friend never forget that,
Bottom quarks completes the count all together,
They have different colors,
They have different taste,
Bound by gluons they make
Protons and neutrons in nucleus,
Hugging in a haste,
That lone electron,
Now realises his demand,
Sees a vacancy in valence shell that commands.
Step in and get your identity,
Four numbers that decides your quantity,
Zestful electron progresses in,.
Looses some energy
Becomes non-fluctuating,
Clouded electron gives a heavy sigh,
But rejoices spotting nucleus' s nigh,
Arms of electromagnetism emerges,
Holds to put electron in proper ranges,
That naive electron thinks to find all brothers together,
But Pauli 's exclusion principle is that what matters,
Yes my friend it's a complex world,
That's what we call as the quantum world.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

The Silent Touch

- Snehal Deb.

Woke up at dawn to find,
Lack of tranquility of my mind,
You took it all away,
Tempting my heart to sway,
And to recall it all every alley.

The silent touch...
Of your lips that blushed...
Has taken my sleep away...
Night after night, “still" I lay...
Unforgettable, that very day...
Memory yelling, ' eve was so gay '...
Never ever will return whatever you pay...

You made me laugh,
You made my cry ,
Fed me my ' pills of joy ',
Can't envisage 'O boy!'
I got my world as a toy.

Here's no thanksgiving,
For, you are my darling...
Love you for everything.