How would you visualize a Postdoctoral scientist in the field of Experimental Physics who is working to build super stable Atomic Clock? A serious man with grey hair and outdated spectacles? Will you believe that this same man makes the funniest cartoons and his page The Bong Sense is a champ across the social media?
Meet Arpan Roy – a Postdoctoral scientist in the field of Experimental Physics who is working to build super stable Atomic Clock. He is young, funny and misses his hometown Kolkata. Equipped with a funny bone and a pen in hand, we have one of the most interesting scientists of the world with us today.
When Arpan Roy is not doing the serious work of a scientist, he becomes an artist. Not only an artist, but also a storyteller. A storyteller like no other. Someone who touches what lies in the core of our hearts – our childhood – unleashing the joy that once was us.
Half Samosa: You are the creator of the extremely popular The Bong Sense on Facebook. How did you first get the idea of creating such a page?
Arpan: I believe I started The Bong Sense on the 6th of June this year. I have been writing about Bengali life and culture on Quora for a while and I have a decent following there. I was thinking of combining the doodles with the things I want to write about it for the attention deprived generation of today and hence I started with The Bong Sense.
I was already doodling a lot on my own. I started a Facebook page and submitting on different groups. Soon it picked up a following and was being re-shared immensely. I realized I have struck something fundamental in the people who were sharing.
Half Samosa: The graphics are really amusing. Tell us something about the ideation and how you create it.
Arpan: I would have to say the ideation process was started 20 years ago when I was in high school. There is nothing built overnight. I have had the ability to find the funny in everything and come up with a one-liner since I was in school. I guess everything just gelled together recently when I decided to combine my “infamous” one-liners with doodles and throw in a little bit of culture into it.
Half Samosa: The text is very humourous and maintains a subtle standard of Bengali-ness. It is a very innovative way to see life and we commend you for that. Not all people can make gems out of daily life.
Arpan: I get ideas from everyday life to be honest. When I am hungry and fantasize desperately about mutton biryani or a roll, I make a post about biryani or roll.
Half Samosa: The posts are such that most Bengalis can relate to themselves at one level or another. How do you keep note of these sentiments & nuances?
Arpan: When my mom scolds me as usual even at this age, I write about standard moral breaking dialogues of Bengali mothers.
Honestly speaking, everything I write about has happened to me or I have experienced it myself (including the Batman ones, obviously :).
Half Samosa: Tell us something about yourself and your full time job?
Arpan: I am actually not even based in Kolkata or India for almost a decade plus. I am based in Singapore and been there for a while. I have been away for so long, that the memories of my childhood and Kolkata and Bengali culture was slipping out of my memory slowly. So I started this page, partially so that I could archive my own past, to be really honest.
I have a really serious job during the day. I am a Postdoctoral scientist in the field of Experimental Physics (like Leonard from Big Bang theory:). I am currently working to build super stable Atomic Clocks.
Half Samosa: Are you publishing these cartoons anywhere else than the Facebook page?
Arpan: I am currently compiling most of the stuff from my posts into a book which captures “Being Bengali”. It will be a combination of these doodles and real life experiences from my end. I am hoping it would be a really interesting book on Bengali culture and life.
Half Samosa: It sure will be. Have you thought about the commercial aspect of this as The Bong Sense page is quite popular and has almost 70,000 likes.
Arpan: If I start to look at it from a startup perspective, I see 75,000 and more audience of very similar minded people who are proud in being Bengali, like myself. They identify with the whole notion of the page.
I have been pondering about the commercial aspect of the page especially in terms of merchandise. I would really want to put out t-shirts and mugs and stuff which I identify with myself and would wear and use myself.
Half Samosa: People would definitely love this! Very simple things have been shown like ‘babar songe chul kat te jawa’. It’s a beautiful blend of nostalgia as well. It’s amazing how you turned everyday situations into amusing engagement.
Arpan: I grew up in Kolkata and near Gariahat road. Every few weeks, I would be taken by my dad to get a haircut in this saloon called Prince on Gariahat Road as well. Recently, when I was going for a haircut here, I remembered it and especially those blunt clippers which would pinch your neck instead of cutting your hair. In spite of it being a semi-terrible experience, there is a fondness about it. I thought to myself, ‘If this has happened to me, it must have happened to other people as well’. Hence, I went ahead and made a post about it.
Half Samosa: You have presented the Bengali culture in a very witty as well as amusing perspective. What kind of reactions, good and bad, have you experienced from the readers?
Arpan: There has been an overwhelming positive response. As the page has been growing, there are always these trolls with abusive language who need to be banned because I do not want it to become another Facebook group where people fight over stuff that do not really matter.
The page is also very popular in Bangladesh because there is a vast overlap of experience on both sides of the border, but some followers have not been able to accept this and some moderation has been required.
Half Samosa: Among all these scenes of The Bong Sense which one is your favourite?
Arpan: All of the books which are nostalgic like Rather Mela, Purir Beach and maybe listening to the song Ranjana have to be among my favourite, because they transport me to a much simpler time which I am sure other readers are experiencing as well.
Half Samosa: One last question. Do you really eat Jilipi (jalebi) after your morning walk?
Arpan: Depends, if I had the willpower to actually go for a morning walk and then there was jilipi at the end of it, I would definitely have. I tend to have jilipis even without going for a walk!
Half Samosa: Thank you Arpan. We wish that you keep on making these wonderful doodles and make people remember the happy child in them. People like you do make a better world.