The Mystery of Time: 2016 at a glance

2016 has been a strange year for me. I say strange, because it’s difficult to summarize the year in a single word like “good” or “bad”.  Lets take a quick look at all the things which happened to me, and then I will let the readers decide on the verdict for this year.

To begin with, last year this time, I was preparing for my school Rehearsal Exams for ISC, preparing for JEE, and was somewhat tensed for both ISC and JEE. 3 months seemed to be a long time, but it was too short for me to secure good grades in either. ISC was satisfactory, but my JEE was outright horrible. Now, like everyone else (except the elite few who knew they would have a sure shot placement in IITs and NITs), I too was burdened with the thought of my higher studies, and which institution I would get into, with the horrible marks which I expected in my JEE exam. There was a point where I had decided to drop this year as a whole, and re-appear for JEE exams next year, and since I was (still am) studying a year advanced, dropping seemed to be a sensible choice. (I did not stick to this decision though, and that is one of the few choices made in 2016 which I do not regret).

Turned out I did not perform as poorly as I had thought in JEE, and that gave me admission in my current college, Heritage Institute of Technology. It was already August when college started. I was lucky to get the department of my choice, Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). Originally somewhat depressed because I had a really weird stereotype about private institutions, (which was completely shattered in the very first month there), I began to consider re-appearing for JEE again next year, after getting in a college this year. Another downside waited for me: two of my best friends left to study outstation. One got into KIIT, Bhubaneshwar, and one got into Medicals in Mumbai, thus leaving me alone with nobody to hang out with. Life seemed  dull, especially for the first 2 weeks in college, where I only managed to make a handful of friends.

HIT-K, the college I got into
HIT-K, the college I got into

It was September now, and this is where things turned for me in 2016, in ways more than just one. Our college offered a variety of clubs, one of them being Rotaract, and joining this was my best decision in 2016. It would only be fair to say that from this point onwards, college life became 10x better than what it was, simply for the people I came across in this club. Originally, I was reluctant to be a part of club activities, but this certain Sunderban trip is what changed everything. My parents, of course did not allow me to go, because of a lot of reasons which they formulated. One particular person managed to convince my parents somehow. I have no idea how this was done, provided I could never shake my parents of any decision they had made. Also safe to say this person is my favourite senior in college, and someone I love and look up to. I will not be taking any names but pretty sure most would get who this is. This trip also exposed me to a handful of more seniors. Trust me all the seniors who went on that trip rank 2nd on my list of favourite seniors. I will not take names once again, but why not just mention their posts? 😛 Presi (the guy who is a living example of troll and hard work at the same time), the Vice Presi (whose stories and “gyaan” are unparalleled), the Secretary (well… what do I say, those who know this person know what fun is), and then the “time-nikalke-mar-jao guy”, and someone who would receive “500 word essays” because of things I do. I will remain indebted to you for everything you have done. Oh and then there is Miss Slapper. Please stop slapping, like for real. 😛

This group and people from this same group became my lifeline in college. And then, there are certain retards from my own year, who made life better. Like I said, I will not be taking any names, but here’s the description of a few (feel free to identify yourselves, guys, and don’t kill me if you’re reading this). The certifed “C****y*”, who has a 1 day lag in everything, his cousin who is very “savage”, the rich ass guy with a Hyundai Creta, the universal “brother”, roll number 69 (ahahhahahaha), Table Tennis stud, “Alfi” the comp-wiz and of course the Conductor (xD). I will also mention one certain guy from a different department, who may or may not be a 3rd year senior, who has been a constant victim of my hitting almost everytime. All of you people are the reason why college has been so very special to me.

I also happened to achieve some personal benchmarks. I sometimes write articles for Nihonden, and also help with the coding stuff for the same. I did a course on Web Development and made a website which was well rated by the judges, with my KIITian retard, of course. And then, I happened to win a Web Page making contest when I was in college. Not to forget my schoolmates, we had meetups whenever possible, and eating and football sessions, where troll ensued, which was expected.

The end of the year, has been quite interesting. I decided to join a workshop on Ethical Hacking (which is not-so-ethical), and I had (still doing this) an epic time with my seniors who were there with me and our instructor. Oh, how could I forget, I made a crapton of memes on people and pissed them off, and assisted the infamous Meme Lord in his exploits (get the pun, hackers :P). Finally, on 31st December 2016, I had a small toast with..”savage people”, which was totally and completely a very big trolling session as well.

If I were to judge this year, I would break it into 2 parts: the first half of the year was as bad as it gets, whereas the second half gave me things which I will remember forever. I leave the verdict of this year to those who read this. This has been a bit long, but I needed to get this out there, and vent out all that I had been holding in.

Thank You everyone, for tolerating me and my shortcomings. Have a great and magnanimous 2017.

 

~IllumiN00B (Anindit)

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Kumirmari: A detached land

“Sunderbans” is a very fabled place. People go there for the scenery, and mainly for the wildlife, hoping to get a glimpse of the Royal Bengal Tiger, which resides there. People hire the luxury lounges and often throw parties on them, to boast about their money and what not. However, is this pretty faced, magnanimous tourism the only side Sunderbans has?

Kumirmari is the last island which is inhabited by civilised humans amongst the Sunderban Islands. To reach there, one needs to take a launch or a boat, where the journey time will range from 3 hours to 6 hours, depending on the means of transport and taking high/low tides into consideration.


Recently, I had the opportunity of going to this place for a social project organised by the Rotaract Club of Heritage Institute of Technology, Kolkata (RCHITK), and I had the chance of interacting with the people living there, their means of livelihood, their state of education, the children, and how they spend their time. The facilities one will find there, is the not-so-known side of the glorious Sunderbans.

Despite being a human inhabited island, there is no electricity here. None of us reading this on the internet right now can imagine a life without electricity. Everything we do and know of relies on electricity some way or the other. This place, on the other hand, is like a chunk of humanity still residing in the stone ages. When people from RCHITK first visited this place, they had absolutely NO means of electricity at all. If someone had to charge the battery of their mobile phones, they would have to take a boat to the next island, go to someone’s house, pay them and then use their electricity to charge their devices. Now, thanks to efforts from this same club, we have installed more than a 100 solar lamps, and people use this as their primary and only source of electricity.

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The always muddy roads of Kumirmari.
There are no hospitals or health centres on this island as well, and an ill person will again have to travel to the nearest island to avail a doctor. However, this is not always possible again, because doctors are not always available. The medicines and antidotes which are kept in store are not enough to take care of someone in an emergency.

Now, we didn’t simply go to Kumirmari for a joyride, we went there for a cause. We had a few projects to take care of, which included the setup of a library, painting of a classroom to make it attractive for students to study, mangrove plantations and the survey of the schools.

Schools. Another very sad thing about this place. Without the basic electricity, one cannot expect posh schools to exist here. The primary schools have 3-4 classrooms, with some of them having a second floor as well. Most of the schools have separate washroom facilities, but they are not very hygienic or secure. The major problem which the schools faced was, the number of teachers. There were not enough teachers to teach every class separately. To cope up with this lack of teachers, they were forced to take lasses of 2 grades at the same time, in the same classroom, together.

The teachers, however were well-educated and very enthusiastic, with some of them travelling a total of 4 hours to reach the school and 4 hours to reach their home from school! And they speak of it in such a casual manner, that one will feel like it’s just a piece of cake for them.

But then again, these classrooms do not have a fan or light at all, because of no electricity, hence it is difficult for the teacher to teach, and for the students to take in, especially during the scorching summers.

The schools have no library which the students or teachers can access. They simply have their own set of books provided to them by the government. So, one of our projects was to install a library system in one of the primary schools. We carried a total of 310+ books from Kolkata, bought a shelf for the school, and installed a full library at the primary school, with detailed entries of each book in writing. Now the students and teachers can have more material to teach from, and it is certainly going to be fun and a better learning experience for them.

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Students being explained the library system.
Standards of livelihood of the people, is something rather mesmerising. The people are poor, without a doubt, but they are richer than any of us will ever be. Because they are humble, they do not have greed. They drink from the tube wells, eat what they grow themselves. The food is so fresh and delicious. Their manner of speaking, the way they welcomed people, they way they spend their lives joyfully: we city dwellers can never really understand how it feels like. Mud is the best friend for people living here. All of us who went fell down at least twice while walking in a thick mud, which was present on every nook and cranny of this area. These people, however, walk as if the mud doesn’t even exist! Almost like a person walking on water.

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Inhabitants of the island. Photo by Tara Shankar Chakraborty.
Because of no electricity, people here are deprived of a lot of things which is needed to sustain a steady life. They cannot use cellular devices, no television with which they can know about what s happening in the outside world instantly. It is very difficult, especially for the children. These children do not have the option of studying in their home, because they have no electricity which they can use to study.

Coming to the geography of this land, the cyclone Aila had completely messed up with the geography of this land. Kumirmari was one of those islands which had taken a direct hit from the cyclone. A good chunk of this island was lost to Aila, and what remains has become very weak. Any minor hit from yet another cyclone will completely wipe this island off the face of this earth. Yet, this is one of those islands, because of which the city is saved. Being exposed to the Bay of Bengal, this island is amongst those islands which serve as a barrier to the currents coming in from the Bay of Bengal. Had it not been here, any major calamity would have directly struck the city of Kolkata, and cause a widespread destruction. This island needs saving, and we are trying to get it back to shape. To protect the geography of this island, what needs to be done is, to plant more mangroves. Mangroves will hold the soil and tighten it, thereby making the land more firm and less prone to being washed away.

At the banks of the islands, something sad awaited us. All the banks were clogged with plastic stuff, shoes, medicine bottles, shampoo bottles, and all the non-biodegradable waste. This waste comes from 2 sources:

  1. People spending a gala time in the Sunderbans enjoying parties.
  2. Waste which people throw randomly into the river mouths from our very own city.

So this is how we repay the land that has been cushioning us all these years? We pay it back by clogging its banks where trees grow to protect us? Not only does it look bad, the stinking stuff contaminate the air, water and the soil, and makes it unusable. If we continue to do this, all our efforts to bring this island back to its former state will be completely fruitless.

Along with Pronobesh Da, a man who has been working selflessly to get the island back into shape, we planted more than 1000 saplings on the edge of the island, and we hope to keep doing this every time we visit this island.

To sum up, this is a new face of Sunderbans, one which is not known to the outside world. The fantastical and stereotypical idea which people have about Sunderbans being a luxury, need to be changed. The outside world needs to know about this, they need to know what they are missing out on. They need to know there is a stone age still existing in the 21st century; a place kept away from all worldly amenities, a missing chunk from the world, a detached land.

~IllumiN00B (Anindit)