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My Love Story with Football

I have been engrossed with football for a while now. From it being my favorite game in my childhood to working with India’s first ever FIFA tournament, the it’s been an exhilarating ride. I have covered Indian Football, researched about Indian football and ultimately worked with Indian football.
But let’s start with ground zero. This post is about my love for football. Everyone has a story as to how they fell in love with the game and this is my story.

Football is particularly a favorite pass time in Assam, the place I come from.  I wouldn’t necessarily say that Assam is a football crazy land. But back in the days, Bordoloi Trophy was one of India’s foremost football tournament, and the residents of the state flocked in numbers to witness national and international giants locking horns with each other.

The fandom for the game in Assam, might be relatively less than its neighboring North Eastern states. But there is a deep rooted connect within the Assamese society for the game of football. We might not be visibly crazy for the game as the Bengalis are, or might seem passive compared to how the Malayalees are for the game. But I kid you not, the fandom is there in our DNA.

As I mentioned before, football has been the preferred pastime for the Assamese for generations. My earliest memory of the game doesn’t go back to a Premier League game or a World Cup game which I watched with my family. But rather dates back to the tales of my grandfather, who passed away in 2017, aged 106. 2017 was also the year, India hosted its first ever FIFA tournament.   

My grandfather used to tell me how he played football with a dry grapefruit, locally called as Robab Tenga in Assam. He talked about he used to go out with his friends, into the paddy fields, after the rice was harvested, for a game of football. And he comes from a very remote village of lower Assam.

Grape-fruit Source:

My maternal grandfather on the other hand, coming from a little bit privileged family, used to narrate me tales about Bordoloi Trophy, when he and his friends used to sit atop a bus to come to Guwahati and watch Mohun Bagan play.

My association with the game, however, started with my school, who had quite a bit of name in the city for its cricket team but had a very healthy football culture. There was this inter-class football tournament which the school hosted, where every class, every section from the middle school to the higher secondary level used to participate. And each batch used to practice for this tournament throughout the year.

I kid you not, such was the seriousness of the tournament that each team had its own distinct jersey designed, with numbers and names printed. And how serious the games were? Well, once we played a class senior to us and the opposition was awarded a goal in an unjustified way. We walked away in the middle of the game and the entire class of 46 students, sat in front of the principal’s office, protesting and asking for a rematch. The rematch happened and we lost the game, 4-0. Let’s not talk about what happened after that.

The School Ground where I started playing football

The love for football grew from that. After school hours were not spent on TV Video games of on computer games, but rather on football grounds, where seniors and juniors made teams to play against each other. It was in such spaces, where I got introduced to clubs like Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid, because my fellow players used to get their jerseys to the ground.

I did not have access to cable television for a very long time. So, wasn’t fortunate enough to witness televised football in my childhood. World Cup was the only exception, because DD used to run packaged highlights every day. But my love for football grew immensely because I played the game and through the interaction of my peer groups.

Summer vacations used to be the golden days, when in the early mornings, a bunch of us used to visit a ground near the Assam Secretariat, called the Janta Bhawan for a game of community football. From professional players to senior citizens, everyone came there for a good game. And post the match, we were treated with black tea and rice cakes by the seniors.

I was frequent this is classmate of mine, who was also my neighbor, Nibir. He was one of the best footballers from my batch. We used to practice together in his terrace, with him teaching me ball control and the importance of first touch. If I missed the ball, it used to fall 3 stories down and I had to climb down to fetch it. This is how I became more closer to the game. Nibir, in a very unfortunate incident, passed away in 2018, on the day of the finals of the FIFA World Cup, Russia 2018.

I lost touch with the game as I inched closer to the class 10 boards. My family, very serious about academics, made me study and immediately after my boards sent me to Delhi to be a doctor.

But as faith would have it, post 12th, I ended up working for an Indian football magazine, and started following the game ever more closely. This is where I started following leagues from Europe and became a victim of the marking aspect of the game. That is a story for the later.

But why I love the game, is not because I was hooked on to the televised boom of the game, because I grew up with the game. Everyone has their own story about how they fell for football. This is my story.

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  • Monday, May 18, 2020
Amlan Amlan Author

TVF's Panchayat and the Un-Extra Ordinary Times that we Live in | A Review

The best bit of TVF’s latest creation Panchayat is that there is nothing extraordinary about its storyline or storytelling. Yet the series comes across as something extremely special, soothing, calming and as a breath of fresh air in these un-extra ordinary times that we live in.

For a lot of us, we are stuck in this one in a millionth pandemic situation, with our chaotic metropolitan lives coming to an abrupt halt. From a time, where we would be fighting for space in our personal lives, we are now stuck in a morass where emptiness is irking us out. Living with uncertainties and constant feelings of helplessness makes us question the very core of our existence, as human race, as competitive individuals and even as the smartest being on the planet.

But cutting short to Panchayat, the Jitendra Kumar, Neena Gupta and Raghubir Yadav led cast has managed to deliver as masterpiece simply because whatever is narrated in the series is very real. As mentioned before, the story is nothing extraordinary, but the fact that everything is so real in the entire narration gets the show a rating of 9.1/10 in IMDb.

Protagonist, Abhishek Tripathi, played by our favourite Jeetu Bhaiya, takes up an administerial job in a Panchayat in a remote village in Uttar Pradesh called Phulera. An engineering graduate, Abhishek battles competitive jealousness with his friends and decides to adjust in a rural setup, which is completely opposite of a life which he has led so far.

He reaches a village, where he battles loneliness, because he is a misfit culturally. Like many of us, he aspires a high earning job, and to fight it out, prepares for MBA entrances, battling all the struggles which come his way. The biggest of which was the utter frustration of being a standalone individual in the entire village, away from friends living with a community which wakes up early, irrespective of what day of the week it is and far far away from the concept of the weekend celebration. And amidst this, he has his job, which makes him deal with peculiar situations.

But Abhishek survives and not only survives, but the fellow characters of the show, Pradhan Pati, Up-Pradhan and their assistant comes in and gives him a reason to stay and carry forward with his life. And this honestly, should give us hope that we too will survive these difficult times and come out as better individuals. 

Abhishek manages to find things which he values in the morass which he thought he was stuck in, fights for them, preach for them and even stands up for them. And this is exactly what we should take away from the show. Times like these make us understand the value of what we have around, what we have lost and what we can lose if we do not have the time to comprehend.

The show is very real. There is nothing which the script has tried to hide. From irregularities in our Panchayati level systems to the fact of how men have exploited the system to overthrow women’s participation in electoral politics. Nothing has been sugarcoated, but simply narrated in a way which makes it visually and mentally appealing, and more importantly, the direction did not let any element of pessimism creep into the storyline.

The background score of the series is sublime, just like any other TVF production. Assamese music director Anurag Saikia, who has time and again demonstrated how talented he is, has once again delivered something which makes us appreciate it, without even noticing it. There no overdosage of sound elements or notes. Simply a score that complements the narration. Though keeping up with the trend, TVF has launched separate tracks of the show with their streaming partner Amazon. And the music standalone is a treat to hear.

Each episode has teaching to offer, and there are personal reasons why we sometimes decide to do things, for good or for bad. And the season one ends, which one such glimpse of the protagonist. 

Panchayat would be one series, which we will be awaiting the next season.

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  • Wednesday, April 08, 2020
Amlan Amlan Author

Simmba: Not the usual review that you read!

So, I happen to watch Simmba today, and this isn’t exactly the review that you would love to read. To begin with the usual disclaimer, spoilers ahead, but if you have watched the trailer, you can pretty much guess the movie. But just to put context to this post, the movie revolves around a heinous rape case, that changes a corrupt, self-centric police official into a messiah of humanity.

Absolutely nothing wrong with the movie. Rohit Shetty, Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh and the new heartthrob of the town, Sarah Ali Khan combined together to give us a two and a half hour long entertaining blockbuster, which also very emphatically deals with the rape culture, which stands in as a blot within our society. An entertainer (read: flying cars, highly animated dialogues and physics-defying fight sequences) with a message, I think that’s the guru mantra for success these days.

Also, since I could not resist, Sarah’s role in the movie is very similar to LK Adwani’s role in the present government; she is just there.

Now, before I get back to the movie, at the cinemas, I sat right next to lady, who was supremely excited to watch Ranveer Singh. She must have been a little older than my mother, and from her habits, she recently hooked onto the WhatsApp addiction. She is also a fanatic clapper as she stood out as the only person clapping in the hall on multiple occasions. Behind me, sat two guys who have clearly seen the movie before, and were super excited to complete the dialogues before they are delivered on screen.

So basically, I paid Rs. 350 plus internet handling charges to not just watch a Rohit Shetty time pass (will come back), but also to witness an overtly excited lady and the live commentary of two douche, who had no respect for movie hall etiquettes. But unfortunately, these three characters made me compile this review. So, everyone serves some purpose in life.

Never the less, why a time pass, well because one, expect Ranveer, Sara and a handful of others, casting was mostly repetitive of Singham and Dabangg franchises; dialogues have also been cited from the previous versions of the movies and lastly even songs were mostly remixed. Okay, maybe calling it time pass might just be a little too harsh; Simmba is just a smart work. It’s like that assignment which you pull off just one hour before the deadline and yet manage to score a B+.

To something little bit serious now. The storyline of the movie revolves around a heinous rape incident. The context might not have been the same, but the brutality of the incident clearly had the indications of the Nirbhaya incident. In fact, the most powerful monologue of the movie had the Nirbhaya incident mentioned. The entirety of the first half was quite the Rohit Shetty affair, you don’t need to flex a muscle in your brain to watch it. You can well leave your brain outside and relax with a laugh (the basic ingredient for the success of Indian movies). The half after the interval is where the movie kicks in; and this 10-minute monologue, which I mentioned above, is basically the reason why the movie would pull itself from a crappy affair to something worth at least a single watch.

The second half (I am a football writer, so I prefer using the word half) of the movie talks about the prevailing rape conundrum that we as an Indian society face today. The facts, figures and narratives used by the scriptwriter in the movie, are the ones which are most commonly used by the media and resonate the most in the public domain. The unfortunate society that we live in, crimes against women happen in a shamelessly frequent manner, and every time something similar happens, we collate these thoughts and figures and write about it, talk about it, discuss it. I will not mention them, but would rather request you to watch the movie and retrospect it yourself. 

But Rohit Shetty and Karan Johar are smart people you know. They know us, Indians, very well. They know that the percentage of Indian audience who consciously understand and believe in the thoughts, narratives mentioned are relatively less, in fact most of us are ignorant. They know that the unfortunate fact that rapes are quite common in India and their widespread coverage has very less impact on a significant fraction of Indians. Some in that fraction are blindfolded by the deep rooter patriarchy that we believe in, while others are the ones who wait for things to happen to one of their owns or to someone, they know, to actually believe in the unrealistic situation that we dwell in. And this is why, Simmba will probably barge in as quite a popular year end blockbuster.

The lady who sat right next to me, the one who clapped at every appearance of Ranveer Singh, was appalled when she got to know the rape-related statistics of the country (a part of the monologue mentioned earlier). She also had tears and a tone of vindication when a part of the movie talked about killing the rapists. It was as if, these are things which she heard for the first time, the arguments, the figures and the thoughts. It was quite an eye opener for her. But trust me, if you are an average consumer of news, the same things are talked about very frequently, especially after the 2012 incident. So, can you imagine how ignorant a society we live in?

And then coming to the two idiots who sat behind me, when the rape victim dies in the movie (sorry for the spoiler), they muttered, Ab mazza aayega (It will be fun now). Please don’t get them wrong, they were basically happy by the fact that the hero will be all charged up now and hell beat the shit crap out of the villain. Their intellect was basically to ignore the sensitive bit of rape culture and respecting women narrative, but to focus on the hyper masculinity of the hero who when charged up defies physics, chemistry, biology and maths (PCMB) to teach villain the lesson. They watch the movie to enjoy the cameo appearances of in the movies and blow a whistle when Sara Ali Khan asks Ranveer out.

Never the less, do watch the movie. Won’t call it overrated and overhyped. But probably because where we as a society stand, this will be much appriciated work of the filmmakers and the actors. Also, maybe we need movies like Simmba to infuse these important narratives into society. What news and education failed, popular culture can always fill in. If a movie like Simmba can bring the issue of rape culture to the light for the lady sitting next to me, then why not?

And about the other two guys? Well, maybe you can ask them if they like Modi or not and figure out of their intellect is really low or are they just pretending?

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  • Sunday, December 30, 2018
Amlan Amlan Author

Waving your identity at the Cricket Ground – Are we over imposing our Assamese Identity

Nationalism and sports have very deep rooted connect. In fact, considering what Virat Kohil said some time back, hyper nationalism and sports now seem to go hand in hand. If we look at Benedict Anderson’s work, ‘Imagined Communities’, a sports team help us shape our identity, it gives a reason to be associated with something that represents us. Teams like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting Club had a significant contribution in shaping our nationalistic identity, and in our struggle for freedom; precisely what Anderson talked about. All of these clubs were formed out of regional, linguistic or religious identities. So when, Mohun Bagan defeated East Yorkshire Regiment in 1911, their followers saw it as a victory of Indians over the oppressive British rulers and thus making a serious contribution to the ongoing nationalistic struggle.

But what is it now? How has the dynamics changed between nationalism, hyper nationalism and sports? With the significant commercialisation of the sports and the mass media marketing of it, it has evolved to be an entity that grabs millions of eyeballs at a go. Thus, the sporting arena serves as a huge advertising space where you can propagate ideologies and thoughts, and you can have millions influenced in a go.
Hima Das, assuming that all of us know who she is by now. Do you remember any of the celebratory pictures of her, with the medals around her neck or the national flag in her arms? There is one more thing which is very persistent in all her pictures. It’s the Assamese Gamusa, around her neck.

One of the many cultural identifiers of the Assamese community is the Gamusa. It’s just not a towel or a piece of cloth, it’s a representation of the Assamese culture and something that symbolizes love and respect and is ideally used by all irrespective of religious and ethnic backgrounds.

There is no clear historical mention as to where and when the origins of the Gamusa came in from, but there are traces of it which can be found during the time of Ahom Dynasty, who ruled Assam from 1228 to 1826. And if some preliminary research is to be believed, it was the Ahoms who introduced it.

Today, this piece of cloth has become an integral part of the Assamese identity. It serves a variety of purpose in the day to day affairs of the Assamese life. As mentioned, it is something that symbolizes love and respect and is often used for felicitation.

It is an important element in the Bihu festival with it being gifted the family members and guests during Bihu. During the Bihu dance, the female dancers usually wear the gamosa on the waist and the male dancers mostly on the head.  

Gamusa also has a religious significance with its prominent usage in the Vaishnavite traditions prevalent in the state. Muslims in the state too cover the Koran with it and can be often seen wearing it to the Masjids.

But all in all, the Gamusa, if not the single most important identity, but is sure the most identifiable cultural signifier of the Assamese community.

But what becomes really imperative here to mention is the fact about the ethnic composition of the Assamese society. Apart from the residents who speak Assasmese as their language, the state is comprised to 20 listed tribes. These tribes have their own language, own attire and some of them have their own equivalent of the traditional ‘Gamusa’. And all of these cultures, together constitute the greater Assamese society.

Now let us cut to the first India-West Indies cricket ODI which was hosted at the ACA Cricket Ground, Guwahati. The first ever ODI to be held in this new stadium in the city of Guwahati and that too after a long time. Surely a moment of big excitement for the residents of this small city. And no wonder, it was a packhouse at the stadium.

A very common trait of cricket telecast is it’s cut to the audience shot. It has almost become a tradition to have the moods of the audience captured along with the beguiling banners that they carry to catch the attention. And the same was practiced in Guwahati. And unsurprisingly enough, every second person in the stadium had a Gamusa on them.

Nothing is to be held against the use of the gamusa, it’s the pride and identity of Assamese, and one should never shy away from it. But what is of concern is identity threat which the state and the residents of Assam is facing at this point of time. And surely the genuine concern is that, are we, the Assamese, trying a little to hard to reinforce our identity? And sports probably were one of the ways of letting it happen.

When Hima Das won the gold medal at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships, she ran on the tracks with the Indian flag and the Assamese gamusa in her hands. And in her post run flash interview, she was seen explaining what the gamusha symbolises. There is nothing wrong with it. You are shining the name of your state at a global platform.

But what is a little bit of a worry is the fact, that this practice of carrying and advertising a gamusa is now a defence mechanism of showing and ascertaining who a true Axomiya or Assamese is. It might be something hard for the Khilongjiya Axomiya (True Assamese) to digest, but this is somehow becoming the reality.

Especially with the debate of National Registrar of Citizens (NRC) going on, it has gotten into the residents of the state to advertise profusely who an Assamese is and what are its identifiers.

A few months back, the state of Assam saw the horrific mob lynching of two youth, Nilotpal and Abhijeet. They went on a trek into the hills of Karbi Anglong, an area which is inhabited by the indigenous Karbi tribe of Assam. In a remote village, they were mistaken by locals as child traffickers and were mercilessly beaten to death. A shocking and really unfortunate incident. And this kicked off a movement within the state, to bring justice for the two departed souls.

The entire incident, which was captured in cell phone devices had the victims pleading to the attackers to let them go, and they could be very clearly heard saying, “We are Assamese, we aren’t foreigners, please don’t kill us.” And this movement for justice had this partial undertone as to how ‘two Assamese guys can be beaten to death by the Karbis,’.

Again, whatever happened is beyond unfortunate, but what was also problematic were the series of thoughts that came into the light about it being an ‘Assamese versus Karbi battle’.
But aren’t Karbis also a part of the Assamese society?

Numerous public posts on social media called for the boycott and even instigated attacks on the Karbi population. There are petitions to rename the waterfall, near to which the incident happened, in the name of Nilotpal and Abhijeet, discarding the local names which they already had. Why is there this imposition of a popular notion of an Assamese identity over something that is equally a part of its culture?

The trivia over here is, it is mostly assumed that the ones who speak the language Assamese, are the true Assamese. But there are many other tribes within the state that don’t speak Assamese and have different languages and different cultural identifiers, just like the gamusa, and they all come together to form the greater Assamese community.

What happened in Karbi Anglong was wrong and the yes, the protests were justified. But what wasn’t justified was the hegemonic imposition of the dominant notions of a culture over another. What wasn’t right was the fact that none of these protests happened when the state was reeling or is still reeling under the problem of ‘witch hunting’ or the riots that shook the Bodoland area of the state, another Trible Belt, twice.

And what is more wrong is the fact that none of these protests every tried to mobilise the greater Assamese identity, but rather focused on imposing and glorifying what these common notions are.
So, when we see a flurry of Gamusas at a cricket ground, should not we be asking, is that the only Assamese identifier? A Bodo Aronai or a Dimisa Rishhah, an equivalent of the Gumsa for the Bodo and the Dimasa community, is equally a representation of being an Assamese.

The state today seems to be in a race to protect and cement the identity of who or what an Assamese is. And the unfortunate bit is that it has taken a turn where we are pushing hard for the hegemonic identity, consciously or subconsciously. And surely this race has trickled down subconsciously to mass media and into the sporting sector.

Recently, when NorthEast United came to Delhi to play their Indian Super League away fixture, the official handle of the club posted a video of some its fans residing in Delhi wishing their team. And guess what, all 10 of their fans were wearing Gamusas.

The debate around the NRC has again further fuelled the fight about who a true Assamese is. Recent violence on the Bengali speaking residents of the state, who are equally Assamese, have given us the hints about the insecurity which the society of Assam holds, as a community. And this surely isn’t a great thing.

So, when we see flurry of Gamuas at a cricket stadium, or even at a Television show like Kaun Banega Crorepati, it rings a bell of concern. Are we trying too hard to prove as to who we are? And in this whole race, are supressing some of us our own?

Hima represented India when she won the gold meal at the U-20 World Championships or the Asian Games. She is the pride of the state of Assam, and the residents of the state would have been equally proud of her, even if she hadn’t carried the gamusa, with her. Or is it not? Because there were a few who took more in her carrying the gamusa, at a global stage, over her athletic achievement. And this is where it gets problematic.

Almost every contestant from Assam that goes to a reality show, carries a Gamusa for the judges. It is probably because of two reasons, one it’s a part of our culture and second, maybe it appeals more the residents of Assam that we belong to that state. And if the second reason becomes the primary reason, things might just get a little tricky.

There would be many red eyes as I conclude this. But these observations aren’t in vain. It’s perfect to be proud and aware of one’s culture. And one should never shy away from it. But when it becomes an over imposition, that’s where people start searching for the weak links, the insecurities. And hopefully the greater Assamese society isn’t heading that way.

An argument might just come in, that for ages we have been repressed and thus its imperative that today we need to stand up to our identity. But we also need to have a look at the mirror before we do that; what are we doing to the different other smaller fragments of the greater Assamese society? 
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  • Thursday, November 22, 2018
Amlan Amlan Author

25, Reason Why?

25 is a very tricky age to be. You aren’t that young nor are you that old. You find 21-year-old college students too young, while your 30-year-old colleague is a little old for you. And there you are, perfectly balanced at the brink of a quarter life crisis.

25 is probably the age where you are still unsure if your dependent college life was better or this newly independent life is more charming. With your friends’ circle intermingling both academic and professional spaces, you probably get confused as to which was a more comfortable space to be.

25 is also the time when at least the first one from your batch is getting married or engaged and there you are still waiting for your crush to accept your friend request on Facebook. It’s also the time when nostalgia hits you hard and this dilemma crushes you hard, that going back to a dependent academic life would never be the same. Well, conditions apply.

25 is also the age when you start understanding your real position in the social strata. You start getting self-conscious about where you come from and where you are. You start realising what you can achieve and what you can dream about. At an academic level, things were probably level amongst your friends. But once you grow up, you realise, it’s not just about similar interests, it’s also about accessibility and the cultural capital that you inherit. And it’s at this age, where either you repent about being where you are or work towards being the better version of what you were expected to be.

25 is also the time, when willingly or unwillingly things start getting grey. And it starts from the hair. You have had your colourful days, you have had days when things were black and white. But when things turn grey, no fake colour can cover it. Things are fun when you are either under age or over age. But right age, that’s always a myth.

25 is also the time when your savings dilemma is at the core. You might just earn enough to lead a life you want to. But do you earn enough to save. It’s that phase of the life where even saving money hurts more than spending money. And at the end of the month, you are back to being a student again. But wait, a truck full of responsibilities just hit you.

25 is also the age where you are taken for granted the most at your work. You are past the age of an intern or trainee to listen to things but you are not senior enough to make others listen things.

Well, could have sure written about 25 things in total about turning 25, which I will be in less than 25 days. But I guess, 25 is also the age where you start losing a bit of patience.

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  • Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Amlan Amlan Author

You too are Involved in every #MeToo Story

It’s so scary to open social media sites these days. With scores of women coming out, naming individuals who have sexually harassed them, you never know idol of yours have collapsed moral values and have just disappointed you to the core. The #MeToo campaign has come out as an eye-opener for so many of us. There are so many names that you have looked up to, and today you just don’t know how much you should be disappointed with them.

The Indian society is currently gearing up to worship goddess Durga, the fearless goddess who descended to kill the demon Mahishasura, who waged a war against the Devas. Wikipedia says that Mahishasura was known for deception and he pursued his evil ways by shapeshifting into different forms. Well, not a fan of mythology, but you don’t need to look far if you want to trace traits of Mahishasura in contemporary society.

Workplace superiors, mentors, teachers, idols and legends; the deceptiveness of so many of these demons, who have portrayed themselves as figures of public importance, leaders of social justice and personalities with immaculate characters, have now been shattered by numerous women, who have been victims of sexual harassment of different degrees.

The perspective of writing this piece, however, is something different and a little bit personal. In the last few days, numerous names that I know have been included in the list of harassers and there are names, very close to me, who have been harassed. And it feels my mind with deep anguish and anger.
It’s a situation where you question your own conscience. When a really close peer of yours is accused of sexual harassment, don’t you also share a moral guilt of what went wrong? A close peer means that you share a considerable amount of space and time together, and at the same time, you share a somewhat similar thought process.

The process of becoming friends includes conversations, deliberations, discussions and so much more. And in this due process, you often come across the actual character of a person. There are often times when you subconsciously or consciously support some thoughts which just might be the tip of the iceberg of the problem we are dealing with. And this problem is largely related to taking things for granted.

So, a small internal joke can actually be a big trigger of something really unfortunate. And is this where we have collectively failed?  You never know what remote contribution of ours validated the thought process of the accused, which resulted in the heinous act. And this feeling isn’t a great a one. You are not just disappointed with the person, but also with yourself.

The other scenario is even more distressing. When someone close to you is harassed. The anguish and anger can be nerve wrecking. Of course, it’s nowhere close to what the victim suffers, but when you see your loved ones going through it, you also suffer agony. Someone very close to me had to go through the ordeal of workplace harassment by someone who we all looked up to. And I just can’t describe in words how it feels. You share the mental trauma with the victim and your fury against the harasser.  

Now let’s go back to the previous situation. When you have one of your peers being accused of being a sexual harasser? Do you feel the same anger and trauma as you probably did on the second instance? Probably not. And this I believe is the centre of the nerve.

We Indians as a society, do not take the concept of empathy very well. We don’t understand things till it happens to us or to someone who is close to us. We are rigid society rigged with inherent sexism, patriarchy and racism and there is no shying away from it. And at the end of the day, we are also hypocrites. And the earlier we realise it, the better it is.

For every #MeToo story that has popped up, somewhere you are involved too. More than empathy I believe there is a lot in terms of morality that we need to grow and develop in the Indian society.

The shock of seeing a journalist like MJ Akbar being accused of heinous harassment, actors like Rajat Kapoor being accused of misconduct, are things that you don’t take well. And more importantly, when you have your nears ones affected by it, you seriously start questioning a lot of things around.

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  • Saturday, October 13, 2018
Amlan Amlan Author

ISL Diaries: Tale from the land of Tatas - Jamshedpur

Jamshedpur FC joins the ISL Bandwagon, football leaves a mark in Jharkhand

It was a full house at the JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur, as the home team Jamshedpur FC took on FC Goa in the second last, and the most exciting league game. But this wasn’t the only time with a packed stadium, the debut season for Jamshedpur FC has seen full house in all of the eight games that the team played in the steel capital of the country.

The iconic JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur (Photo: ISL)

It was an historic day when the team played its first match in Jamshedpur, a city whose foundations were laid by a visionary, who went on to build one of the largest and the most successful conglomerates of the world. And with Jamshedpur FC, TATAs ventured into the ever-growing professional football arena.

However, at no point we can call it as the first step of the TATA’s into Indian Football. The existence of the Tata Football Academy (TFA), which again is located in Jamshedpur, is an epitome of footballing excellence of the country. The academy has crafted and created some of the best footballing icons of the country, and even in this season of the Indian Super League (ISL), cadets of the TFA, shone the brightest amongst the lot.

Jamshedpur FC, is just an extension of this excellence, with the TATAs venturing into the competitive league system of the country.

Coming to the city, Jamshedpur can’t exactly be called a sleepy small town. The city is always abuzz, may be not with what us the metropolitan crowd would call chilling, but with the warmth of the residents of the city. The area’s surrounding the stadium and the headquarters of the TATAs are well planned, very similar to the city of Chandigarh. You could feel the vibes of similarity between both the cities across the circles at the road junctions.

And the iconic steel plant? Well, it engulfs the whole city. In fact, the city dwells around the steel plant, because it owes its existence to it. So, does the stadium. 

The steel plant at the backdrop of the stadium (Photo: HT)
Roads in Jamshedpur are quite well maintained, malls and cinema halls are well furbished. The pizza place on top of one of the most prominent hotels of the city serves one the best pizzas that I have ever had while the coffee shop right next to it, serves delicious hot chocolate with flavours that one usually doesn’t find. The city in fact has a little bit of colonial hangover, with the rich crème of the city leading a luxurious lifestyle, while the middle class and the strata below it has the colourful bazars and streets to them. 

So, when the Indian Super League came into the city, it became one of the most happening events that the city has ever seen in decades. 

The coming of the ISL led to huge excitement in the city and probably for the first time ever, all sections of the city could come into one complex and enjoy the same source of entertainment. The effluents had their places to go, but this time around, everyone in the city had the option of viewing football, the most beautiful game, sitting together.

Everyone in the city wanted to be at the JRD Tata Sports Complex. Long queues could be seen at the ticket counters with the curiosity being fuelled by hoardings and banners across the city. Come and support your team, that was the indirect message. More importantly, Jamshedpur FC gave the entire city something to cheer upon, something they can relate to. It did not take the long enough for this curiosity to turn into raw passion as in the last league match, fans stormed the stadium to cheer their team into the play offs, right in their debut season of the league.

Fans lining up to get tickets for Jamshedpur FC matches

Initially, the curiosity revolved around the gilt, glamour and the sparkle that the league got into the city, but for the best of us all, it did turn into raw football passion with crowd holding banners and posters of their favourite football icons of the team and even of the coach.

But what struck me the most was the attitude of the Jamshedpur fans. In India, we reside around the idea of free/complimentary passes. We just love them, don’t we? 

The stadium in Jamshedpur employs lot of workers who take care of its maintenance, most of which are women. On match days, when their work got over you could see a majority of them standing at the box office to get tickets for their family. With them having seen the magnitude of preparation for the match, they naturally became very excited to have their family watch a game at the stadium.

But not everyone could get tickets, mostly because its sold out. And hence a lot of them came to the organizers or the club to ask for tickets. Completely unknown to the concept of complementary tickets, some of these workers offered mone.

A proper football experience is worth some money, and a daily wage earner, who probably earns a fraction of what we do, understands it. This was probably the biggest take away from Jamshedpur.

It was a wonderful season, a long one too. Jamshedpur has always been in the professional football map of India, but this time around, it made its another historic big leap. There countless other experiences that one can just go on and on. Be it the excitement of the lobby boy at one of the team hotels, who did an overtime shift, just to meet and get a photo clicked with Dimitar Berbatov, for he was a Manchester United Fan, or the 'fortunate' bus driver who drove the home team. There are so many tales of ISL coming to the city.

So long Jamshedpur, this is just the beginning.

  • 0
  • Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Amlan Amlan Author

Dress to Impress?

There are so many parameters that decide which strata of society you belong to or deserve to be. This must have been the most abrupt or random start to any piece that your read recently. But the thought process that is being referred here isn’t random at all. The society has devised a systematic algorithm to judge people based on how they dress, among many other parameters. And just like every other computer program, claims do exist that this algorithm is bug free.  

So, when the Delhi Golf Club decided to not let one of their guests enter their premises because the lady was dressed in a traditional Khasi attire; which the prestigious club believed resembled to what is worn by servants. It was obvious that this societal algorithm is totally bug free.  

Then again, as I write this, a news has emerged at that a man was denied entry into a mall in Kolkata because he was wearing dhoti. At a time when gau rakshaks are lynching people in the name of culture, a person was denied entry into a mall because he was wearing something very traditional and natural to the culture of India.

Surely, these societal norms never fail to surprise me. I have been very weak with spellings, but I am sure some of the wisest ones who governs us or sets these norms, fail to spell the word ‘logic’.

Many my colleagues have vehemently reminded me about the shabby dressing sense that I have. I have often been advised to dress better for people to take me seriously. Well, one I thought it was my work that decided that and two I dress to please myself, not others. But my colleagues are not wrong either.

So, one afternoon I attended a lunch were the buffet manager refused to serve me dessert as they had limited stock and he believed that I was not important enough. Now, he clearly wasn’t someone who studied and understood society as I do. But he followed a norm which he learnt with experience. Where did he acquire this understanding? What made him classify that I am not important enough to not get access to the limited reserved stock of dessert? Clearly my dressing style and body language. And for sure it’s impossible to wear an ID tag as to who I am everywhere that I go.

But what we wear is basically the default ID that we carry. And as I said earlier, only few of us exactly know how to spell the word ‘logic’, let alone understand the meaning of it.

This racial profiling of people based on what they wear has been a latent cancer within our society for a long time. From an effluent eatery in Kolkata to this mall incident, there must have been so many other incidents that gets away unnoticed. To my understanding this also is a residue of the Britishers, which we Indians proudly incorporated into our list of traditions.  And dare I question Indian culture and tradition. 
  • 0
  • Sunday, July 16, 2017
Amlan Amlan Author

Football for All | Making India a Footballing Nation

I am often asked, what did I do for my masters? Media and Cultural Studies isn’t an easy answer to explain, especially within the Indian education system. Our course was an attempt to understand culture and its nuances through the means of academic works, theories, and ethnographic frameworks. Media is just another tool to do so.

So, when we say culture, what does it mean? How do we define such a complicated thing like culture? In an easy way, it’s everything. From the way we live, to the way we in vibe things. From the way we comprehend notions, to the way we approach things. Everything basically forms the base of what we call ‘culture’. The stakeholders obviously are the topography, language, and upbringings.
From the region I come from, football forms a very basic and subconscious part of our culture. Some might say Assam isn’t just a hotbed of football, but the North-East India is. But it’s not just about the state, it’s also a lot about the surroundings. The school I studied in had football as a very integral part of its ethos. Years back I wrote how football matches and the annul football tournament in our school shaped our childhood days.

So, when I enrolled myself in a course that studies culture, I fulfilled my appetite and desire to understand and study football as a culture and evaluate the framework behind making a footballing nation, a lot of what is being talked about to day.

Subsequently, I joined the Local Organising Committee of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 after graduation and became fortunate enough to be a part of its legacy programme, Mission XI Million.
Now, many would say that this is an advertorial post for the programme and the event I work for. But as someone who just completed his dissertation on understanding the football culture in India in the current times, trust me this writing is just an extension of the thought process that I invested in my two years of understanding culture within my academic curriculum. Here is one of the last lines from my dear study:
‘There is no survival of the game if people don’t love it enough. A team has no existence if it doesn’t have any fans.’

This precisely is the reason why I love and is moved by the idea and philosophy of Mission XI Million (MXIM). Many of us dream of seeing India as a major footballing giant of the world, but at the same time, we also dream of it being a popular choice of game for majority of the billion population that we have. And for that to happen, we must make this game reach out to everyone, irrespective of the various socio-cultural, religious, and economic barriers that we have.

Kids are the best way to begin with. The philosophy of MXIM is simple - every child has the right to play football, irrespective of the background he or she comes from. The beauty of football lies in the fact that anyone can play it anywhere. To inculcate a healthy culture of football in India, we must start from our schools. The dynamic characteristic of culture is curated by the fact that generations often overtake proceedings. So, if we make the upcoming lot fall in love with the game, a proportion of the task of awaking the sleeping giant of world football is already done.

As some of us perceive, football isn’t just about the World Cup, the Champions League, or any other European Leagues. It’s about inclusivity. The fact that football played a major role in cohesion of nationalistic feeling during India’s freedom struggle makes it obvious as to why reaching out to everyone with the game is important.

As a part of MXIM, I have been fortunate to learn many stories as to how important football can be for someone. Even otherwise, be it the girls from Mumbrah or the Yuva team from Jharkhand, the game has shown how empowering the game can be. 

Every day we receive stories from across India, from the interior rural parts, and these stories aren’t just inspiring, but also sentimental to an extent that we start questioning our commitment; are we doing enough?

  • 0
  • Thursday, April 27, 2017
Amlan Amlan Author

Revisiting Bharatmata Cinemas: A Photo Story

Right at the heart of Mumbai, at Lalbaug lies the Bharatmata Cinema Hall. For students studying the School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai, this iconic cinema hall holds a special place as it was the subject of one of their most creative and successful student documentaries.

The area Lalbaug, for a century, was the hub of the Mumbai’s textile industry. The area is dominated by Maharashtrians, who first worked in the Girangaon, the Marathi term for the mill district of south-central Mumbai.

Today, the shape of Girangoan or Lalbaug is a bit different, in fact very different. The mills are gone, roads have widened. But one building at still stands tall, or rather still stands is the Bharatmata Cinema Hall.
Bharatmata Cinema Hall (Photo: Amlan Das)

History amidst modernity.
The moment you enter the premise, it feels that you have stepped into a different era all together. The hall still holds the vibes of a bygone era, and era when Lalbaug was still flocked with the hassles and flocking of the mill workers.

The hall started in the year 1936 and their target audience were the mill workers. Since it's inception, it has maintained a tradition of showing on Marathi Films and it still continues to do so. 

The entry to the theater. (Photo: Amlan Das)
Kapil Bhapotkar, who currently owns the place in an interview to the Firstpost said, “When my grandfather took charge of this place in 1941 he took two important decisions. One was to screen only Marathi movies and other was to keep the rates the lowest in the market. (They still sell tickets are just Rs 25, even though tickets in the multiplexes are being sold at Rs 250)” The tradition is still intact. 

Even today, a ticket at Bharat Mata costs just Rs. 50

As written earlier, when you enter the cinema, its like a time machine as you are teleported back to the 1940s. 

The old weight machines still stand at the entry (Photo: Amlan Das)
These corridors behold so many tales. Back in the days, they served in as the hotspot for many mill workers.

Photo: Amlan Das

The empty benches. (Photo: Amlan Das)

The doors have intricate designs and are characterized by heavy curtains. (Photo: Amlan Das)

The self has few old awards (Photo: Amlan Das)
But, the cinema hall today isn't as popular as it used to be. Only a hand full of people visit it. The city must preserve this heritage. And if you are in Mumbai, you should surely have a visit to this hall in your bucket list. 

Since 1936, nothing much has changed and a pending court case makes renovation impossible (Photo: Amlan Das)

Audience waiting for the show to begin. (Photo: Amlan Das)
If you are intrigued by the photos and the history behind this Theater, watch this very special documentary on Bharatmata Cinemas. You will relive and visualize the experience of Bharatmata Cinemas.

  • 0
  • Saturday, March 11, 2017
Amlan Amlan Author

Freedom of Speech, Duh!

(Photo Courtesy: Hindustan Times)

Freedom of Speech. It’s so interesting that the once most celebrated human right is now the most controversial one. Sometimes you just get appalled by the sheer stupidity that surrounds you that you don’t even have words to describe them. And this results in immense frustration and all you can do is infuriate yourself by observing what’s happening around.

Most of our sentiments were hurt when AVBP goons took over the streets of Delhi University, and as protectors of Indian culture and nationalism, started exercising their masculinity by thrashing and molesting people. As if freedom of speech is conditional to ideas and views of what a group sitting at the pedestal believes in. If they don’t like what you are doing, they will make sure you are proved wrong and brought to justice by breaking every law possible. Morality of course has no place here. Oh! That sounds like the patriarchal and Brahmanical structure that India has been battling for a long time.  

As the ruckus unfolded within the streets of Delhi University, where a random girl walking her way to college was manhandled because some perverts calming to be from the hegemonic group took upon the chance to exercise their hooliganism over anyone visible. Our censor board hit a low blow by declining the film 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' a censor certificate. If you don’t know the reason, don’t ask it because just like what happened on the streets of North Campus, it makes no sense. Anyway, after all the Censor board and our student ambassadors of Indian nationalism and culture eat from the same plate. Just like it’s perfectly fine to certify and enjoy movies like Mastizadde and Great Grand Masti, it’s perfectly fine to stop a discussion of ‘Culture of Protest’ and beat the organizers because they are polluting the environment in a University campus. Just listen to this person.

Must it be reiterated here that Freedom of Speech is a very celebrated right. In Assam, an aspiring young singer took this guaranteed constitutional provision to make a song which has infectious double meaning and vulgarity. I was just wondering if we had a student body which could protect our culture from being polluted by such nuisance in the name of art. But of course, they had better things to do, like stop an academic conference which had elements of constructive criticism.

If you understand Assamese, you will probably find this debate on the song very interesting and amusing at the same time.

And just to make it very clear again, all these events happened within a week. So, you see, there is so much happening around that you almost forgot that ISRO launched a record breaking 104 satellites into the space just a week back. So, in a week we reached the universe and within the next one week we stooped down to new low by bringing in violence into the university campuses. This must be a new record in itself.

Our tolerance has decreased to such a level that today we prefer reading ‘News in Shorts’ but not a detailed article. So, even if I go on to rant on and on, this piece will just be like that constitutional right which is being talked upon here, in effective. What a time to be alive.  
  • 0
  • Sunday, February 26, 2017
Amlan Amlan Author

Bollywood and Us in the time of La La Land

Yes the title is inspired from Love in the Time of La La Land

(Part 1)

What is it about Bollywood that despite all the criticisms that it receives, we tend to perceive or aspire our lives to what is being shown on the screen.

Like seriously, I was wondering what is so new about these new age love stories like Befikre? Isn’t it all the same funda about living happily ever after? You don’t need to think twice about what the climax would be? With just a little suspense, eventually the protagonists get married. (And there I was expecting them to be in a live-in relationship forever).

Even in a theatrical master piece like Tamasha, the tale ultimately ends with Deepika getting back with Ranbir.

Is getting back together the ultimate success of any relationship? Many within us, who probably criticize Bollywood’s naïveness in terms of depicting love stories, probably subconsciously agrees to what is being shown on screen.

Simply put, if we are to define what a successful relationship is, a majority would put marriage as a certificate to the attainment of the ultimate goal. So, when we say, what is so new age about love that is shown by the silver screen, it’s just probably the approach. The climax is still the same.

It’s worth wondering, what is dating all about? Especially when you are in your early and mid-20s. It’s too early to probably to think about settling down, but you are little too old to just fool around. That’s a bold statement to make since some of my classmates have already gotten married. But as I keep watching these movies, I have seriously started wondering about the ultimate consequence of dating a person.

Many within my circle, including me has dated more than one person. There are memories with each person we spend time with. But if today, I am asked, which one of my relationships have been a successful one, I don’t think so I will probably have an answer.

Most of us know what happened in the movie Cocktail or in the movie Love Aaj Kal or in Break ke Baad. All these new age movies ultimately had nothing new, right? So, whenever I sit back, thinking about what an ideal relationship is, the obvious answer that these movies have conditioned to most us is ‘staying together’.

(Part 2)

As I walked out of the movie hall today, a very different feeling struck me today. I am not really a fan of unconventional love stories. So as much as I criticize these ‘new age’ love stories, I am sort of a guy who fantasizes a ‘happy ending’. Or else as our very own SRK put is, “Picture abhi baki hai.”
I am quite popular among my friends for my horrible taste in movies. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t have the mental quotient to critically appreciate movies which people with ‘good taste’ appreciates.

So as I walked out of the hall watching La La Land, I probably found one answer to what a successful relationship is. So, what I figured is that, it’s just like our literature question paper where we have a phrase from a poem to elaborate and explain. And we all have a different perception to that stanza. But what we write in the answer sheet is probably a mugged-up version of what certain study guides have. Bollywood as of now, was that study guide for me.  

If we compare La La Land very carefully with our Bollywood movies, there are stark similarities. The protagonists turning back, romantic consolation, fights, stark confrontations. But what was different was the perception of love. Also, do note that I am not at all talking about technicalities here, it’s just about the perception.

If you also happen to wonder what a successful relationship is, do watch this movie and contemplate. I won’t give away spoilers. But a successful relationship is the one, that helps you achieve your goals. It’s not just about staying together, it’s about being happy and achieving what you aspire.

For most of us, Bollywood is the answer, but when you are at a phase where your future, personally and professionally is uncertain, one should look for alternate meanings of what is being shown on screen.

  • 1
  • Sunday, December 25, 2016
Amlan Amlan Author

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