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September 10 to 16, 2021: Remembering the Old Days

September 10 to 16, 2021: Remembering the Old Days. In some horrific ways. It was a cool autumn morning at the Air Force Base. I had the rental car and I remember I was wearing a dress shirt, khakis, a tie, and a sports coat. There was bad news from home. There was internal bleeding, the surgery had gone OK, but there were complications. Always unanticipated. Otherwise, they would not been complications. The jet lag still hung on me as a cloak as I sat there – a small version of a War Room – the walls adorned with pictures of famous people from the Air Force. The coffee was still warm, I was waiting for the meeting to start. I was there to present the findings of the study. Everyone was interested to know. This is why I had returned. The ride to the airport from Salt Lake was dismal. I had seen him being wheeled away, clean shaven, a smile on his face, he had said, “tumi choley jao – kaaj roeche tomar, aar orao ekla roeche (you should go back, you have a lot of work, and they are also

September 5 to 9, 2021: The End in a Dual World

September 5 to 9, 2021: The End in a Dual World. It is impossible now to figure out where I am. The time zones across the World coalesce into my hole, or on the metal chairs and tables outside the brick building, or on the WhatsApp screen of my computer. This is a recurrent theme – the cybernetic World – person and machine collapsed into a point of simulcasting every moment. It is always available. Students like it. Miss class because was doing homework for the next class. We all remember those frenetic moments. In class. In the seat. Masked. But distanced. The current time passes by away from the classroom.  Embedded in a virtual World. But time does not matter. It can be turned back. I can return to the missed moment. Time travel is a paradox, but time shifting is real. Up at 1 am because someone is time shifted, deep in sleep at 2 pm for the same reason. The connected world that I have seen since those crazy days in Delhi, when the work started at 11 pm and I would be responding to

September 1 to 4, 2021: And Death Will Come

September 1 to 4, 2021: And Death Will Come. Always uninvited. Sometimes inevitable. Sometimes inexplicable. But it leaves a trail. Sometimes a trail of blood. Always a trail of memories. The calls and messages started when I was taking my students on a trek through the Hindu Kush, the phones all beeped at the same time in the classroom on that just a regular Wednesday noon as I discussed the fascinating history of the Indian Sub-Continent. No one checked messages. Then a call from my wife. Or was it a WhatsApp message? My pre-programmed annoying “WhatsApp Message” beeped as we discussed the intricacies of a sociological take on religion. I looked at my phone. Not something teachers do in the classroom, but the messages were coming too fast, from all directions, from so many. Lockdown. A different kind. In the sleepy little wannabe town, I call one of my homes. In what civilized country does a 16-year-old carry a gun into a school? We know the answer. The exceptionalism allows anything

August 29 to 31, 2021: Habits that make us

August 29 to 31, 2021: Habits that make us. Once we believe that the interruptions are over, there is comfort in routine. The same things happen and there is a predictability to life. We all perhaps seek a little bit of that. To be not surprised. To take things for granted, that someone will wake at a certain time, will do a few things that can be expected. In such expectations we find familiarity. It these patterns of life that were taken away last year. Nothing could be anticipated. In such anticipation lies the ability to plan. To know for sure that certain things will happen. And if they do not happen, there is at least a good explanation. There are no mysteries. At least at the mundane level of everyday life. In that periodicity things change their importance. In my World, the people I work with the most, the uncertainties are not about being a victim of the pandemic, but the questions have now turned to “how do I enroll in a class that has no more seats left.” I have gone back to

August 25 to 28, 2021: The Sounds of the night

August 25 to 28, 2021: The Sounds of the night. Tells you where you are. Tells your life story, because where one is at any moment is the product of story of the person’s life and that moment will be a part of the story a moment later. Where I am is a part of the story of my life and that story is why I am here now. And the sounds of the night become a part of the story, and as the sounds change the story changes. Or is it the other way around? The sound of the story now is the different constant drone of traffic not far from where I am. Cut through by the crickets that are kicking up a racket. A distant voice of a child in play with others. The sounds of accelerating motorcycles. The dogs near and far. This is the sound where I am now. This is the sound where I was a few weeks ago. Another story from the past. That story has different sounds of the night. All of the ones listed and the additional sound of a night guard of the community night patrol. Clanking of cutlery as someone was

August 23 and 24, 2021: There is always a first time

August 23 and 24, 2021: There is always a first time. I am in an industry where the people I have to interact with the most, never change in age. Come pandemic, come conflict, come peace, come whatever, on the first day they are almost all the same age. For nearly two decades. It is as if I am caught in time warp, where my calendar age is going up, the main people around me stay the same, allowing me to ignore my calendar age. This is the cheapest time travel available as every year right around the end of August I enter a worm hole and get transported to a place that seems to stay the same, always. I took a different form of travel many yeas ago on a hot August day when the jet was held in a holding formation over New York. I thought it was a free bird’s eye view of things that were only alluded to in Mad Magazine and seen in the numerous travel agencies that were spread across Chowringhee and Park Street. The Twin Towers. The icon of America – and thus the price paid – was no longer

August 20, 21 and 22, 2021: In preparation

August 20, 21 and 22, 2021: In preparation. There is a sense of anticipation and a nervousness about the future. Masked and ready. In a neighboring University there are already clusters of students being identified with the disease. Mild and thus are being set apart from the others. A frantic email from a student in the class starting on Monday about concessions for Covid. “I do not want to expose others” the email says. The college spectrum is wide. In the session on Friday the youngsters came enthusiastic. All masked, all eager. Some others seem nervous, doubtful. Talking for 30 minutes through a mask, projecting my voice through the cloth, I realized that this will be tricky. I use the disposable surgical masks. Usually worn by medical professionals who do not have to lecture for 90 minutes. These were designed for silence. The OT is not usually a place for lectures. Now the mask has a different application. There is confusion as well. The city has mandated something, and we may hav