Monday, December 10, 2012

Amend Article 66A of IT act 2000 to protect constitution-guaranteed freedom of speech

Article 66A of the IT act 2000 is in the forefront of the news after the recent arrest of two young girls at Palghar, Maharashtra. The girls had protested on their facebook profiles over the unofficial shutdown of Mumbai on the day Bal Thackeray, chief of Shiv Sena was to be cremated. Subsequent to the countrywide outrage over the arrests, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court by Shreya Singhal, an Indian-born student of Cambridge presently on vacation at home, terming Article 66A as unconstitutional since it violates freedom of speech as defined under Article 19 of the constitution & thus praying for the act to be repealed/amended.

Earlier too, Article 66A has been misused by the police in West Bengal, Tamilnadu & Pondicherry at the behest of complaints filed by politicians & their discretionary interpretations by the police .

Of course, one needn’t have to be a politician to file a complaint under Article 66A. Any citizen of India, if he/she feels that any comment made by another individual on-line (e.g. on facebook & other social media sites; or on emails or on comments sections of articles of any on-line media publications etc.) is “offensive & menacing” and one that causes “insult, hurt or injury;” then he/she can cite Article 66A to file a complaint to the police.

It is then left to the interpretation of the police official (earlier it was the OC but now it requires the approval of a senior police official like the DIG) as to what exactly is “offensive.” The official in question has the discretionary power to accept anything & everything as offensive. For example, a harmless cartoon involving the CM of West Bengal & the-then Union minister of railways (also hailing from West Bengal) was interpreted as offensive. This caused a professor of Jadavpur University to be arrested not for making the cartoon (somebody else did it) but for forwarding it to others. The point to be noted is that one can be booked not only for creating the on-line “offensive” material but also for “sharing, distributing or liking (as in facebook) ” the same.

Now this is utterly ridiculous and leaves ample scope for arbitrary use of Article 66A by anybody who has the access to & influence over the police officials. More importantly, this violates te freedom of speech & expression of an individual either to criticise or merely to pass an opinion on another individual.

Article 66A needs to be struck down and in its place a new law, if deemed necessary, should be created . This law should clearly cite examples as to what is meant by “offensive” or “ insult” or “ injury, ” so that the supervising police official has less discretion for wide, subjective interpretation. The cyber-crime cell, which is located only in the metro cities should be created in ever district headquarter and only trained officials from this cell should be involved in the assessment & approval of the complaints. It is to be noted that just by raising the approval authority to a DIG level (as has been done recently by the concerned cabinet committee on IT matters) doesn’t remove the power of discretion or subjective interpretation since the same authority could possibly be as untrained & incompetent as the OC to deal with such matters.

It’s somewhat heartening to note that the Supreme Court has taken cognizance of the petition filed by Shreya Singhal and as with all goofed-up decisions of the executive & the legislature; a citizen expects that the highest court of the land will come to his/her rescue by removing/rectifying the draconian measures embedded in Article 66A.

Author's note: A Bengali transcreation of the article is available in Ei Samay paper here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Indian Metro Cities , stereotyped

When it comes to their attitudes towards the wheels of economy , the four metro cities of India (namely Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata & Mumbai) continue to vindicate the stereotypical descriptions of them.

Chennai:    Manufactures the Wheels of economy

Delhi    :     Changes the Wheels of economy when it suits them.

Kolkata :    Halts the Wheels of economy

Mumbai :    Oils the Wheels of economy.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dust- Review of a film by Julio.H.Cordon

Guatemala is a country that has been torn by civil war that had lasted nearly 4 decades ending in 1996. The median age of the country is 20 years. Yes, 20 years. Hundreds of  thousands of people from the opposition, rebel group URNG and the Mayans were tortured or subject to "forced disappearance" or "scorched-earth warfare" in the rural areas. The civil war has thus left behind a nation that is largely orphaned & traumatized for life.

The story of Dust is themed around Juan, a travelling missionary singer in his village , whose father disappeared during the civil war. But the search by Juan and his mother, Delfina continues and Juan is troubled by dark visions of torture and death at night. Juan had attempted suicide a number of times but refused to talk about them when interviewed by an urban  couple ,Ignacio & Alejandra, for their documentary film on missing people. Ignacio & his father too had faced torture at the hands of the military with his father getting arrested but who was later released; an indicator of their influences, maybe. In the village, Juan thinks that his bus-driver neighbor had snitched on his father and harbors a desire to talk to him , to ask him whether its true and thus follows him constantly , dirties his bus with poo and messes around with his son. Instead the bus-driver ,one day, thrashes Juan out of his wits. Juan sensing opportunity takes his revenge by killing his son and setting fire to the bus by setting up a situation. Juan is then seen moving over to the highlands with his mother & family to set up a new home while Igancio's & Alejandra's  film-making is cancelled. The movie then ends abruptly.

One is not sure what prompted the movie maker , Julio Henandez Cordon , to write a screen-play that is as hazy as its casual .Where the characters are neither sketched out nor do they assume any sort of responsible relevance to the drama. Of course, there would be an underlying fear for not making overt political statements in a country such as his but that does not necessarily stop a director from sketching out his own drama. Its almost as if the movie had no boundaries. Characters & scenes just came in and out or stayed behind. Who among the audience really cared at the end of it  ? The movie is shot in DCP and the light was the darkest that I saw in this few days. But some of the long-shots of the grasslands and terrains were shot with a steady hand and looked enticing as the characters moved into or out of the frame. Overall, watching Dust wasn't necessarily a good  way to end this festival. But so be it.

JAS rating : 2 out of 10

ছবি ও ছড়াতেঃ৪ স্ট্যাচু

মাছ ধরবে মাঝ নদীতে
   তাই জাল বুনছে আজই,
তারি মাঝে গল্প চলে
  এরা পদ্মা নদীর মাঝি।

ছিলিম হাতে, মনের কথা
  বলতে এরা মশগুল ,
সুখ দুঃখের নানা গল্প গাথা
কিন্তু, নট নড়ন চড়ন একচুল।

ভাবছো বুঝি, কি করে হয়
   জ্যান্ত মানুষ নিথর ?
(পুজা কমিটি গুনে দিয়েছে ভাড়া,
গতি নেই কোনো স্ট্যাচু হওয়া ছাড়া)
 পলক হীন সদা সর্ব সময়
 এরা নাট্য দলের কর্মী বর।

(বিঃ দ্রঃ -   সল্টলেকে  একটি ব্লকের ২০১২ সালের দুর্গা পুজোর বিশেষ আকর্ষণ ছিল রবি ঠাকুরের 'হাট' কবিতার দৃশ্যপট প্রদর্শন , মানব স্ট্যাচুর সাহায্যে ।)


Friday, November 16, 2012

38 witnesses - Review of a film by Lucas Belvaux

38 witnesses is a French movie based on Didier Decoin's novel on the murder of Ketty Genovese in 1964. It portrays faithfully the concept of Genovese syndrome or Bystander effect that basically states that in an emergency the probability that a bystander will provide help is inversely proportional to their numbers. There were apparently 38 people in the neighborhood who were aware partly or wholly that Ketty Genovese was getting murdered at 3 a.m in the night but nobody had come forward to take any responsibility to provide help. I guess the bystander effect will have an impact in a society  where human lives are valued . In India it's unnatural if every such emergency doesn't display the same effect because dying homeless people , accident victims here remain unattended   both by the bystanders and by the authorities whether they are the police or the hospital doctors.

38 witnesses is set in Le Havre, a French port where a murder of a 20 year old screaming woman in the dead of the night bring forward absolutely no one in the neighborhood who can testify as witnesses till a ship-pilot ,Pierre(played by Yvan Attal)  can no longer bear the dilemma  of carrying on with the burden of lie to his fiancee Louise (played by Sophie Quinton) and testifies with the authorities  knowing fully well that their relationship may suffer because of  his act. The authorities having had no lead on the murder so far decide to ignore Pierre's testimony since the District Attorney fears that a media-led trial on the 38 witnesses will rock them as well as the society besides the humongous work on prosecuting 38 people. But a leak from inside alerts the investigative reporter Sylvie(played by Nicole Garcia) and she publishes the article on the collective callousness & cowardice of 38 people. This changes the lives of Pierre and Louise forever.
Lucas Belvaux, the director has made 5 films before including a famed trilogy. Hence his story telling doesn't have any pretenses or exaggeration. The cinematography is nice since almost a quarter of the movie shows the dock & the blue sea although I'm not sure why repeated shots of container cranes moving up and down the docks filled up the movie excepting probably to show Pierre's escape into a noisy world in the day. The performances by the cast are authentic and restrained and the director remains non-judgmental on the correlation between selfishness and cowardice in an increasingly commerce-driven society.I am now convinced that DG Beta cameras have an associated problem with brightness since this is the 3rd movie that is showing up as less bright. The sound is mediocre throughout the movie . Overall the movie is fine. Its excellent in parts specially the crime-reenactment scene as well as the conflict between Sylvie and Louise.

JAS rating : 5 out of 10 

ছবি ও ছড়াতে:৩ ঘরে বাইরে

জানলা দিয়ে পিছলে পড়ে
          এক চিলতে আলো
    মনটা ছিল ভারী মুষড়ে
  এখন লাগছে ভীষণ ভালো।

            বদ্ধ মনের রুদ্ধ ঘরে
 আমাদের সদাই আনাগোনা
বোকা বাক্সে দুনিয়াটা ঘোরে
   যেন চোখ থাকতেও কানা।

     ঘাট হয়েছে, ঘরেই থাকো
          গিয়ে কি হবে বাইরে?
 তবে জানলাটা  খোলা রেখো;
  যেটা দখিনে, বাইরের ঘরে।


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Time of My Life -Review of a film by Nic Balthazar

Although 'death of the protagonist' continues to be the underlying theme of all the movies that I've chosen to watch in 18 KIFF , technically today's flick moves from Cancer to Multiple Scleroses. But the subject that the director Nic Balthazar chooses to explore in depth from the perspective of Mario Verstraete  (played brilliantly by Koen De Graeve) & his family an friends is that of Euthanasia.
Among the three fundamental rights available to any human being on earth  there's only one right , the 'Right to Mate (and marry)' that he/she can alter at will, legally speaking. The other two rights namely the 'Right to Birth'   and the 'Right to Death' are not under his/her control, literally and legally. On the contrary there are additional legal provisions available to the expectant mother to terminate the right to birth of the unborn child through 'abortion.' And there are laws that prevent anyone from taking his/her life that criminalizes the act of not only the person concerned but also of the doctor that assists. Socially too the stigma is a large one. Who has not heard of 'Dr. Death?'  Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who championed the rights of terminally-ill patients to die with physician's assistance, was imprisoned for 8 years for assisting personally 130 such people to die. Euthanasia is legal in Netherlands and Belgium and in some states of USA.

'Time of My Life' talks about the true story of Mario, an ambitious young man planning to make his career in politics, who was the face of the debate in Belgium before the senate & lower chamber of Parliament passed the euthanasia related bill in 2002 and Mario was one of the first to use the law. The pain and suffering from multiple scleroses had progressively increased from the  date of its diagnosis in 1995 to his death in 2002 . MS is a disease that attacks the brain and the central nervous system and Mario gradually lost control of his limbs, eyes, bowel movements and was petrified that he'll lose his brain's too making him a complete vegetable,  a notion that he couldn't even bear with. Mario's close doctor friend Thomas (played by Geert Van Lamperberg) was aghast at the idea right from the start and finally had to be excluded from the panel by Mario himself when he set about planning for the final day with other doctors. Lynn (played by Lotte Pinoy), the common childhood love-interest of both Mario and Thomas,  helps him find love , peace and happiness for the last time in his life through a sensual kiss near  a campfire that was brilliantly portrayed.
This is Nic Balthazar's second movie but he handles the controversy very sensitively, looking at it from the point of view of the long-term terminally-ill , whose rights to expression are normally the first to be subjugated during such an illness by the law, families & friends.  But whether it's the DG Beta camera or whether Nic wanted to shoot with low-light conditions,(since  the movie appears dark a lot of times specially in the indoor scenes), I do not know. But when one is looking for more light to be thrown on such a subject, one expects that literally too without the incremental melodrama that the film has got meshed in some scenes, a bit too often. Overall its a very thought-provoking film .

JAS  rating : 6 out of 10

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Love in the time of cancer- (Double Film reviews at the 18th International Film Festival in Kolkata)

Illuminated gate at the 18th KIFF , EZCC Kolkata

Diwali day was a double dhamaka at the 18th International Film Festival in Kolkata. Two movies back to back. Both movies are themed around , what else but love? It's reported that the two competing Bollywood releases on this day are also centralized on the same theme.
Does true love exist? Are  love and lies both sides of the same coin? Does love goad one to sacrifice his/her  life? Does love inspire one to greater heights? Universal questions that are still answered in myriad lyrical ways by film directors all over the world.
The directors of two movies that I saw today had one more common element besides love . Cancer. One movie was about dealing with the truth of cancer  while the other dealt with deceptions and lies regarding cancer. Both movies had great stories and for sure the organizers of 18th KIFF deserve kudos for this Diwali Dhamaka.

Coming of Age - Review of a film by Sabine Hiebler & Gerhard Ertl 

Shot in HD Cam, this movie by Austrian film-makers is a case study in clarity. Clarity in picture, compositions, story-telling, sound and sensitivity. This is a story of two octogenarians , Bruno & Rose who meet and fall in love. Rose has recently been diagnosed with cancer and her doctor had given her six months. She comes back to her apartment to find that it has been given on rent by her overzealous niece who quickly jumped the gun when it came to her aunt's life. Under such circumstances Bruno comes across Rose, homeless and helpless on the streets and Bruno, like a caring human being looks after her for the day. The story of love takes both of them to different paths. As Rose's condition worsens , Bruno makes it up to her with more and more zest in the life. To the extent that Bruno separates from his wife of 50 years and whisks away Rose from her nursing-cum-retirement  home to his new apartment , furnishes it fully , bathes, feeds, looks after her, drives away the medical attendant  and even have pot one night with their friend. Recent research suggest that love does switch off the brain near the frontal lobes or in more general terms what it means is that love switches off  thinking. Its one of the primitive animal instincts of survival.

Coming of age scores high in cinematography of Wolfgang Thaler, Gerhard Hannak' sets  and some excellent   performances by both the protagonists, Karl Merkatz as Bruno and Christine Ostermayer as Rose. This is the second movie of  the team of directors, Sabine Hiebler & Gerhard Ertl , who are bothwell known as producers of experimental films. Coming of Age is an award winning film that  everyone including ones associated with geriatric care will find uplifting and fulfilling.

JAS rating : 8 out of 10

The Last step - Review of a film by Ali Mosaffa

Iranian filmmakers have been praised for their lyrical abstractions of human stories for a long time now. International festivals rarely miss Iranian entries among the Asian filmmakers. So its no use pontificating over the quality of Iranian films and their beautiful Persian casts. But what one feels has not changed much is the struggle film makers make with quality of their equipment.  This movie is shot in Beta SP and comes as hazy in many shots specially the skate-board roll on the streets of Tehran. If Coming of Age was a case study in clarity, this is one on clumsy translucence.

The Last Step is a story of a love triangle. The oh-so-beautiful Leila Hatami performs as an actress who has just lost her husband (played by Ali Mosaffa)  and is unable to express herself in a mourning scene of her film-husband's death.She falls into a fit of laughter the moment her lines relating to her dead husband comes up. In her real life, her engineer husband with limited ambitions gets rubbed wrongly when a childhood doctor friend ,Dr.Amin,  who has just arrived from Germany  after 20 years to look after her Alzheimer-stricken mother, diagnoses Ali purposely with cancer just to watch his reaction. In his mind , he wanted Ali (who plays the husband) probably to suffer because Leila is/was also a love interest in his life. Ali wants now to wind up his life without being overbearing and focuses on buying back Leila's family house in the village since he learns from Leila that her  emotional reaction to a love song  sung by a patriarch  in a family reunion is linked to a dead lover in her village. But little does Ali know or suspect Leila's lies in this web of deceptions and in a dramatic twist of events, Ali dies . Not out of cancer but from a accidental knock on his head.

Ali Mosaffa is a competent director although this is his second feature film , one that he has made after 7 years. Ali's histrionic prowess is also well known. But I still feel if he had made the film linearly instead of zooming in and out of time scale, he'd still make as great an impact and with the capable  Leila Hatani (Ali's real life, engineer wife) to support her, his second feature film is definitely anything but his last step.

JAS rating: 7 out of 10

ছবি ও ছড়াতে:২ রোপওয়ে

আকাশে চলছে ভেসে , কাঁচে ঘর ঢাকা

বনবনিয়ে ঘুরছে পাশে, দড়ির ওপর চাকা।

সকাল বেলার শুভ্র আলো , দিগন্ত উজ্জ্বল

শূন্য থেকে লাগে ভালো , উপত্যকার ঢল ।

থাকা ভাল চুপটি করে

  এড়িয়ে প্রশ্ন আলাপীর ,

ঘর ফুটেছে , সবুজ ঢলে

নীল, হলুদ আর গোলাপির ।


Monday, November 12, 2012

From Seoul to Varanasi- Review of a film by Kyu-Hwan Jeon

Kyu-Hwan Jeon is a acclaimed South Korean film-maker whose town trilogies got very critical reviews. From Seoul to Varanasi is his fifth feature film that he has categorized under radical melodrama. 

This is the story of Ji Young, naive housewife of a well-to-publisher, Young Wu. Ji falls into a relationship with a radical Islamic, Kerim  and her life takes a dangerous turn as she follows the radical to Varanasi from Seoul. In Varanasi, the radicals bomb a restaurant frequented by foreigners and she is discovered on telly by Wu, her husband , when all along he knew that she was in some other Korean town. Wu was till this time leading a dual life because he was having an affair with one of the contracted women writers while Ji, his wife was looking out for "peace and quiet" in the yoga classes of Kerim's sister , Samira. The plot traces out the urban detachments of people in a relationship and the pitfalls they suffer because of the vulnerabilities that urban relationships have to endure under a cut-throat commercial eco system. And beneath this urban veneer of tranquility , lies  a beast that is ideologically  bent on destroying all that have been constructed painstakingly . One that can be easily and foolishly  perceived as righteous endeavor to bring peace. Ji apparently fell for that.

The plot is dramatic and the melodrama is restrained thanks  to some creative direction by Kyu and a superlative performance by the lead protagonist, Young Dong Hwan. The movie is shot in very low light reflecting the coldness of Seoul covered in snow as vehicles swish past the snow-covered roads. As a a contrast, Varanasi is depicted as very noisy and jostling. The credit for excellent cinematography goes to Jung Soon Choi, whose camera work both at the outdoors as well as the indoors reflect a quiet confidence in the subject matter being portrayed. The music by In-Yang Choi is beautiful specially during the intimate sex scenes with the writer. 

Kyu has an innate ability to tell a story that is global , dark and disruptive although his fascination for telling it non-linearly can be a bit jarring. Overall the second day went off better than the first and it was great to watch Kyu's film.

JAS rating: 6 out of 10

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Where the Road meets the sun- Review of a film by Mun Chee Yong

The 18th Kolkata International Film Festival started off from today at 12 different halls in the city. This time around Purbashree cinema hall ,which is under the Eastern Zonal Cultural Complex at Salt Lake, is screening 21 movies over 7 days  and that makes it easier for me to attend some of the movies. Today was the first but in my hurry I got tomorrow's ticket punched for today. After getting the punched ticket re-signed at  the ticket counter, watched   Mun Chee Yong's first feature film ,"Where the road meets the sun."

The story line revolves around the lives of four drifters in life. Takashi , a Japanese, escaping from a failed affair and a violent past. The second is Julio, a Mexican who buys his way into LA and works to send money home and get to LA his wife, to whom he lies constantly about his improving prospects. Guy  is a happy-go-*ucky British backpacker who's equally happy bumming off his father to fund his errant lifestyle and the fourth is Blake, the manager of the shady hotel that all the characters live in. And this manager has also a love-bruise to nurse having been separated from his wife.The plot never has much of its dramatic moments except for the violent death of Guy. This is the story of love-less immigrants where friendship develops over sharing extreme experiences whether in the past or present. Those moments of friendship are the only ones when the movie rises up in its exhibition. Otherwise its as listless as any other story of immigrants & stragglers in the land of the dreams.

Mun Che Yong does a good job with cinematography specially the frequent close-ups of the protagonists. The editing too is nice and smooth under Azhar Ismon. The music & sound  again doesn't have much to offer in a boring plot such as this. But the sets are nice , costumes great , the acting reasonably fine.
But the movie just doesn't either make one think or even move one. Mun Chee, a LSE graduate, would do well to economize on her portfolio and  stick to documentary and academic stuff.

JASRating : 3 out of 10.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

ছবি ও ছড়াতেঃ১ রেট্রো

আমি কবে নষ্ট হয়ে  গেছি,                                                      

তবু বেঁচে  থাকাটাই সুখ। 

জীবন যুদ্ধে কবেই হেরেছি,

তবু লজ্জায় ঢাকিনি মুখ।

মনের   জঙে রঙ মেখে বসে আছি,

মাথাটাও আর মানেনা  কোন  আইন;

শুধু  তোমার মুখে দেখতে মিঠি হাসি

শক্তির  থেকে  ধার করেছি দুটি  লাইন।

Copyright: JAS 2012.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Chittagong- Review of a film by Bedabrata Pyne

Chittagong is a story of essentially Surya Sen, a school-master who helped 50 young students of his class dream of a future , of a moment in the future, without the oppression of the omnipresent ruling British class. Its so much a Bengali story because it happened in Chittagong in undivided Bengal  and like other fringe armed struggles for freedom during the pre-independence period , the protagonists are hailed immortal for time immemorial. But the duration of  dominance over the British was very small  to have made any difference to the overall struggle for independence both at the government and at the ground level. The liberation of Chittagong on 18th April'1930 by this rag-tag but motivated army of school boys has more of a symbolic value, an educational and a pedagogic value that was characterised  so superbly in a  speech  by Surya Sen (played by Manoj Bajpayee)  at the courtyard of the Chittagong armoury immediately after the successful raid; that one almost forgot that untrained newcomer Bedabrata Pyne's Chittagong was actually made in Hindi, not Bengali.

Chittagong is unlike any other historical Indian film I've seen. Its authentic. It doesn't exaggerate emotions to thick melodrama. Its superbly edited by Alde Velasco  to maintain the pace of this action-drama. The picture carries a soft visual tone throughout and the music as well as the soundtrack is fantastic. The story doesn't revolve around Master'da and hence the movie-poster is a bit misleading. Rather it traces the transformation of a brilliant-but-timid 14 year old boy, Jhunku (played with passion by Delzad Hiwale) into an young revolutionary and much more. The sound mixing by Oscar awardee Resul Pookutty is brilliant without being overbearing . So much so that that even the sub-conversation in a group is so distinctly in the background. Eric Zimmerman excels in photography in absolute synergy with Bedabrata's direction.A chemistry that makes the tear drops, rolling down from Jhunku's innocent eyes, appear so touchingly real.
Bedabrata carries forward the tale of Jhunku beyond the fall of Chittagong and Jhunku's own 7-year prison-term in the Andaman cellular jail to a new phase in the agrarian history of Bengal. I wll leave it to the prospective viewer to explore.
But what the viewer can expect is  exemplary histrionic performances by all the members of the cast. Special mention must be made for Alexx o'Nell as DIG Johnson, Jaideep Ahlawat as Anant Singh, Anurag Arora as CID officer Salauddin,  Nawazuddin as Nirmal'da, Raj Kumar Yadav as Loknath Bal and the uniquely beautiful Vega Tamotia as Pritilata Wadedar.
A movie worth watching for all  the money that is charges and as I said before , I only wish the movie was made in Bengali.

JAS Rating: 8 out of 10

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Banged the buck in Gangtok-Day3

3rd October'12

Nijhum'da banged on our door at 6 o'clock in the morning shouting from the outside that the sky has cleared.It took another 30 minutes for us to be ready to negotiate in next  one minute the rate to Tashi viewpoint & Hanuman Tok for a grand view of the Kangchendzonga. While on our way to Tashi view point, we stopped for just a while to take a snap at the Bakhtang falls.

We reached Tashi in a matter of minutes and climbed up 114 stairs to reach the view point, which has the best view of the Mount Kangchendzonga or Mount K . One doesn't get to see the entire mountain ranges within striking heights of Mount K but Mount K is magnificent in itself here. A diagonal sheet of thick cloud hung over Gangtok but was not big enough to obscure Mount K.

 We were heading quickly to Hanuman Tok for the real view but once we reached that place, the view on the east side was completely blocked by clouds. We climbed up to the observatory tower and was fortunate   enough to get a partially-clear view of the west side  with the snow-capped Mount K and other peaks. I had an OM moment there and then .
While on our way downhill to Gangtok, we noticed schoolkids trekking up long kilometers from their villages to reach schools situated on the hillside. Characterized by their leisurely gait and cheerful appearance , the school kids were aptly photogenic.

The balance part of the day was spent in taking the view from the rope-way and walking down to the Tibetology museum. The latter has specimens from rituals of Tantric Buddhism. Human skulls that would have held nectar of blood. Besides the museum had ancient manuscripts depicting ancient wisdom from Pragna paramita.  

 The disappointment of not being able to make to the Nathula pass was obviated soon enough with the morning success of viewing Mount K & subsequent visits to other  notable places of Gangtok. The bang for the tourism buck was made in the morning itself but it really seemed as if nature was plotting in our favour to present us those small windows of opportunities to ensure that our bucks really banged.

The day ended with another bout of rain and a misty night thereafter. We are planning to leave tomorrow and hoping that the road to Siliguri is free from blockades.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Zeal for Zaluk from Gangtok -Day 2

2nd October'12

Nathula pass went off as quickly as it had arrived. The torrential rains that had poured  last night also brought along with it  a landslide on the road from Gangtok to Tsangmo lake. So, no chances of visiting Nathula pass as the alternate route via Zaluk  is also a time consuming affair.
The day remained  as misty as it appeared at the morning. The taxi took us to Rumtek Monastery, whose monks  kind of bent over their backs to register their protest at Indian Govt's refusal to allow the 17th  head of the Karmapa sect to take charge of the Golden Stupa at the monastery. Rumtek otherwise stood apart in its grandeur.

 The nagging drizzle kept us from venturing further outdoors what with slushy roads and overflowing roads. We managed to get off near an unknown girder bridge that stood over an unknown stream flowing gorgeously down the boulders, first  only to relieve ourselves and then as an afterthought some snaps and a video (inserted below) of the stream and the bridge were taken .

Late at night, when we reached the hotel, we despaired to find out some logistics link to Zaluk, which is at 12100 ft and part of the alternative route to Nathula. But as fate would have it, Zaluk too seemed out of bounds.
Our only hope is now for the skies to clear up tomorrow morning so that we can at least watch the Mt. Khanchendzonga at sunrise.

Gang talk in Gangtok-Day1

1st October,12

Who knew that one could reach Gangtok from Kolkata by spending just 500 rupees? The sleeper class train fare to New Jalpaiguri station is 240 & the onward journey by share-jeep is 250. A routine to and fro taxi fare in Kolkata from Salt Lake to IIM joka would cost more.
Gangtok at 5600 feet is cooler at 15 deg c. We had a downpour the moment after we checked in at the hotel and the temperature fell further by 2-3 deg C.
The important news here is that Nathula pass to China-Tibet (of the medieval silk-route fame) has been opened up from tourists from today . Talk about timing.
But with nothing much to do in the evening, we spent a quiet evening rumming & bumming along with some real tasty chinese food.
Lets see what tomorrow holds out for us. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Recovering the Lost Tongue by Rahul Banerjee : A book review

Click to get the Story behind the picture

During my first job in Kolkata, one of the places I visited frequently on business tours was situated nearly half-way between Kolkata and Mumbai at Bhilai. My job was to market process instrumentation/automation equipments in the largest steel plant of India, Bhilai Plant. While on my way back by the Howrah-mail, it had become almost a regular ritual for me to look at the huge industrial structure spewing fumes , black, gray,red , as well as steam as it faded away in the background. I marvelled at the huge plant that made steel rails and at the vision of Nehru, the first prime minister of India whose obsession with rapid industrial development not only created this plant among many others but also the Institute from where I had received my engineering degree , the IITs. Little did I know then of a then-unknown senior of mine from my alma mater who was working some hundred kilometers south -west of Bhilai city among  Bhils (from whom this steel city appears to have  derived its name) , a  tribal population of Madhya Pradesh against modern-day industrial development.
Rahul Banerjee, graduated from IIT Kharagpur in the early eighties and was seriously disturbed to see how the tribal villages situated within a kilometer of IIT had received absolutely no impact of technology or development even after 3 decades of setting up of IIT. He questioned the usefulness of his technical degree and though he had joined   National Dairy Development Board in Kolkata , he had chucked it after a few days because they didn't allow him to wear his Kurta-Pajama in office  and had headed straight to Rajasthan to work for an NGO named Social Work and Research Center that had sent him to work among the adivasis in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh to aid the adivasis in fighting for their rights against the socio-economic oppression that had raged on for centuries since the advent of the British.
The book however doesn't start with Rahul's beginning of a three decade long journey but with the brutal massacre of tribals in Mehendikhera village on the banks of the Lehar river in April '2001 by the district administration, police,forest officials who wanted to completely break the backbones of the mass organisation  of tribals , Adivasi Morcha Sangathan,  for daring to raise the issue of tribal rights on the use of forest for their livelihood. The case is still gathering dust in the courts and the non-adivasi culprits haven't been brought to book even as I write this.
Recovering the lost tongue is , as the author calls it,  the "saga of environmental struggles in Central India." Through the 29 chapters of the book, the author narrates the self-sustained lifestyle of the adivasis that existed in the 16th century under the dynasty  of Haihayas(1000.-1757 A.D), till they were overrun by the marauding Marathas. In tune with the environment , the ecological system  gave them their livelihood, culture, herbal medicine & civilisation. Then came in the Marathas followed by the British with their Zamindari system and industrial development , the tempo of which was not only sustained by the independent India's rulers but also paced up rapidly. This led to a huge collateral damage not only to the environment at large but also initiated decimation of livelihood,  culture , way of life &  oral history  transmitted by Gayans or bards of the Bhils.
The book derives its names from one such oral tale where a woman who disobeyed her husband was asked to cut her tongue for her husband to swallow as retribution . The tongue however got stuck in his throat. Just like the Bhils tribal civilisation and their voices have been silenced for centuries. The book, the author stresses, is an attempt to recover that lost tongue of Bhils by telling their stories, joys and sorrows.  To me , it sounds almost familiar with the narrative of an aged wanderlust in Satyajit Ray's film, Agantuk, who returns to his hometown after 5 decades and defends the ancient tribal lives against modern-day civilisation.
The book is also about the author's auto-biography , a documentary about his work for tribal rights , his as well as his compatriot's  struggles against state repression , red-tapism, indifference & hostility and his evolving philosophy about mass organisations and their leaders. Not only famous environmental movement like the Narmada Bachao Andolan  comes up repeatedly in this book but also the author's encounters with mass leaders like Baba Amte, Medha Patkar are narrated for future historians to take note of. The long struggles have left him exasperated like the mythical  Sisyphus, as he mentions repeatedly .They have made him a non-believer  about modern day industrial development that not only destroys the environment much more rapidly than we can think of but also enhances the inequity between the dispossessed mass and the greedy few.
Having read Ramachandra Guha's India after Gandhi, I had thought I know all about not only mainstream Indian politics and their representations of castes and subsequent  legislation of affirmative action since India gained independence in 1947. But this book gives the currents about sub-strata behind the  upper layers of the democratic structure that we have been conditioned to accept as the liberating system. On the contrary reading about impossible  struggles after struggles for constitution-guaranteed self-governance rights of the tribals or for removal of patriarchy or for guarantee of women's reproductive health rights or for education in the language of the tribals; one is forced to visualise that this pseudo-democratic structure of power-hungry politicians, indifferent bureaucrats ,  destructive  industrialists, greedy traders & corrupt magistrates  will never allow the marginalised to participate in the development process and will ruthlessly suppress any mass movement that springs up to to do the contrary.
In conclusion, this is an unique  book that a modern day reader will find extermely educative thanks largely to the author's free-flowing language , his intellect , his liberal use of humour and his ability to easily disseminate difficult philosophies for the uninitiated.

Rahul Banerjee's book (Nov'08 edition, 351pp)  is available from
Prachi Publications (04024602009; and
is priced at Rs.250/-.

Pictue Source : A photo-essay on the Bhil Adivasis

Friday, June 29, 2012

AITA should be renamed AIPA for the benefit of Indian Lawn Tennis

The All India Tennis Association (AITA)  is the supreme body in India that decides on all matters related to the sports of lawn tennis. This includes promotion of the game around India, organising national tournaments as well as international tournaments like Davis Cup and nurturing top ranking players who bring laurels to India. Earlier in the distant past players like Ramanathan Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj, Premjit Lal, Jaideep Mukherjea , Ramesh Krishnan have brought laurels for India sometimes individually and sometimes on behalf of AITA when they played the Davis Cup. In the last 2 decades , tennis champions that have brought fame to India include Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupati, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna and now Vishnu Vardhan & Rushmi Chakravarthi who have defied all odds to grind through the competitive as well as expensive ATP circuit around the world.
However critics of AITA point out three glaring deficiencies in the organisation. Firstly, for the last 4 decades a national organisation has been run almost like a family business by the Khanna family of Delhi .First the father and now the son, R.K. Khanna . Secondly the critics say the champions that have come up, have triumphed  more due to their personal efforts and sacrifices than any help , whether professional or financial , from AITA. And thirdly, in a country of 1.2 billion, one expected AITA to throw around more than 50 top-rankers in the last 2 decades than just the 5 or 6 handful that we talk about. Such a criticism has now found favours from even among the top-ranked players who have openly revolted against the AITA , in its run up to the selection of the Indian national team for the London Olympics this year. Some of the comments that these players made led me to think that AITA should at least bring in some change . To start with they should change their name to something else. Lets take a look at some of the suggestions for the new names by picking up cues from the quotes of  the top-rankers in the last fortnight.

Leander thinks that being a top-ranked player , he is free to choose any player who will partner him without raising any fuss. He probably wants the organisation to be named as All India Paes Association instead of All India Tennis Association.

Mahesh Bhupati , a one-time protégé of Leander thinks that he never gets his way in AITA and is forced to accept a partner that is not of his choice. Possibly if it was renamed as All India Petty Association, he'd be happier.

Sania Mirza thinks that AITA is chauvinist and wouldn't probably mind if its named All India Penis Association.

Bopanna who is generally seen running as a headless chicken between Leander and Mahesh trying to tie up a long term partner would really like it named as All India Partnerless Association.

Vishnu and Rushmi , the energetic new kids in the town, are completely clueless whether they will ever get an opportunity to play in the big events like Olympics thanks to AITA's dependence on over-the-hill celebrity players & the influences of their parents and wouldn't mind calling it All India Parents Association.

In conclusion , AITA should change its name to AIPA. This would at least bring all the warring players to agree on one issue and help them to move on together with their games.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

রাত্রিতে নৌকাযাত্রার সময়ের ভাবনা

Translated by Salty  from Vikram Seth's poem "Thoughts while travelling at night"  from his book "The Rivered Earth"  under section "Songs in the time of war."  Seth's poem is translated from the original verse of Chinese poet Du Fu, who lived in the eighth century. In case you are unable to view it in Bengali font, please download Avro Bengali Font from here

মৃদু হাওয়ায় সবুজ, মসৃণ ঘাস দোলে

একলা আমি , দাঁড়িয়ে আজ মাস্তুলে।

তারাগুলো হেলে  পড়ে  বিশাল প্রান্তরে, জঙ্গলে

চাঁদ ডোবে আর ভাসে মহানদীর বানজলে ।

চিঠিগুলো নিয়ে আসেনি কোন খ্যাতি , যশ

অফিস ? করবার নেই বোধ হয় আর বয়স ।

ভেসে চলি আজও যে ,

      কারো সাথে আছে কি আমার মিল ?

আকাশ ও মাটির মাঝে,

    (যেন) উড়ে যেতে থাকা এক শঙ্খচিল।

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tragedy Averted

Nigdi or Koregaon Park,
We split hairs;
Even when it’s half dark,
(and) With our legs up on the chairs.
A kingfisher swoops down
On the river that’s brown
And comes up with nothing
Save a red glow of the evening.
The wise owl from the tree looks down at us,
Quietly sitting with only the breeze , to pass
A strand of your free long hair
Glides to settle on my blue attire .
As you snatch away that piece of mane
Intending not to split it with me;
I  look at your quiet face once again ,
As  splitting hairs always ends in a tragedy.

Check Inflation in Indian Economy or Perish: A preview of June18,2012 RBI credit policy review.

After the fiasco with wrong data relating to sugarcane production released by the CSO, statistical arm of the  government and subsequent downward revision of the agricultural production in the month of March comes a shocker in May. The 4th quarter GDP growth figure is a paltry 5.3% which brings the 2011-12 GDP growth figure to 6.1% instead of the 6.9% projected just two months ago by the finance minister in his budget speech. Almost as a spontaneous reaction, the chambers of commerce have been clamouring for more rate cuts to stimulate growth. Although RBI had cut rates in the month of April by 0.5% to 8% after a long period of  status-quo; (presumably to help government borrow money for its planned expenditure;) it had done so only on the cushion of better figures of inflation. However it had cautioned that it will monitor the inflation rate and expected the government to spruce up its deficit management skills both in fiscal account as well as current account. The inflation figures released in May point to a moderate increase in WPI to 7.23% while food inflation has touched 10.5% out of which vegetable prices have risen by 28%. To make matters difficult for the government, the rupee has slid to the lowest figure against the dollar at Rs.55-Rs. 56, spiralling the current account deficit .

RBI has a credit-policy review on June 18th. Will it cut lending rates further to stimulate growth as their Deputy Governor seems to indicate ? But that would mean going back on its  own statement made in April when it said that it will have to wait for inflation rates to be down substantially for any more monetary easing. Apparently since the crude oil prices are down, thanks to a shrinkage in demand of the  construction sector in China , it gives RBI the necssary leeway.

There are two fallacies in the argument here. Firstly crude oil prices go through a lag effect before affecting the general inflation figure and the volatile exchange rate can negate any positives. Secondly , credit stimulus can only stimulate growth if the problem is in the supply side as most industry bodies seem to claim . But the problem is clearly in the demand side now as is evidenced by falling automobile sales figures, a mere 3.4% -the lowest April growth figures. There is a demand shrinkage happening because of high figures of inflation both in consumer perishables and durables. Creating more supply infrastructure with the additional credit is only going to let goods get stocked in warehouses unless of course the additional credit is used by crony industrialists to either siphon off the money or lock it in properties without creating additional supply units. Clearly the growth figures in India since the 2008 financial crisis have been pretty good hovering around 8% throughout . But what the figures have masked is that the inflation figures too have been pretty high and around the same level of 7-8% ; implying thereby that the growth story for last 4 years have actually been more inflationary growth than any growth in real demand.So long as the demand didn't shrink, the story was fine. But since indications are that there is a shrinkage in demand , RBI should wait for the general price level to fall down further allowing demand to pick up before effecting any lending rate cuts because persistent high inflation can not only cause economic problems but it can also generate social tensions and cause the government more political problems than it has anticipated.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

কুমীর ও বানর

Translated by Salty  from Vikram Seth's poem "The Crocodile and the Monkey" from his book "Beastly Tales from here and there. "  In case you are unable to view it in Bengali font, please download Avro Bengali Font from here .

গঙ্গা বক্ষে নদীর তটে , সবচেয়ে সবুজ দ্বীপে

কুরুপ নামের কুমীরটি থাকতো মহা সুখে।

খয়েরী সবুজ গায়ের রঙে , মুচকি ঠোঁটের হাসিতে

কোদাল পায়ের আঁশাল গায়ে , চেহারা রাশভারিতে।

ছোটো খাটো, পুঁটি শুঁটি

দেখেও, দেখে না সে

শুশুক কাছিম, মোটা মুটি

মাছের জন্য থাকতো বসে।

সম্মুখ পানে থাকলে তারা

ছড়িয়ে, ভারী জলের ধারা ;

সাঁতরে যেতো নীরব স্বরে

ব্যাঙ ব্যাঙ্গাচি যেমন করে ;

যেন, মস্ত একটা কাঠের গুঁড়ি

দিচ্ছে জলে হামাগুড়ি।

ঘাপটি মেরে তার পাশে পাশে

এক হাত দূরে সাঁতরে এসে ;

দন্ত ভরা হাস্য মুখে

এক ঝটকায় ঘাড়টি ধরে।

মটাৎ করে ঘাড়টি ভেঙে

মহৎ খুশির রঙে, রাঙে ।

সদ্যমৃত খাবার ধরে

যত্নসহে টানে ঘাড়ে ;

টেনে আনে বউয়ের কাছে

একলা যে বউ, বসে আছে ।

ছোট্ট একটা টুকরো ছিঁড়ে

কুরুপ খায় স্বপ্ন নীড়ে ;

সিংহভাগটি বউয়ের পেটে

আস্তানা নেয় চেটে পুটে ।

নদীর তীরে সারি সারি

আম্র কুঞ্জ ভারী ভারী ।

নিকট বন্ধু বানর , তার ঐ কুঞ্জে ঘোরা ফেরা

কাটছে কুমীর নিচে সাঁতার , দেখতে পেলেই ব্যস্ত সাড়া ।

মুঠো মুঠো আমের বৃষ্টি

হলুদ, পাকা খুবই মিষ্টি;

গ্রীষ্ম কালের এই মহা ভোজ

হৈচৈ রব, সদাই রোজ।

“কুমীর, তোমার বউকে সেলাম

আমের মস্ত রসিক পেলাম ;

গ্রীষ্মের এই দাবদাহে

মূর্ছা গিয়ে আম্র শোকে

কোনোদিন পরবে না সে

কুমীর যেন বলে আসে “

কুরুপ শুনে

উপর পানে

চক্ষু মেলে ঈষৎ হাসে ;

“প্রিয় বানর, সবার শেষে,

ফল নয় ত, প্রেমের তরে

মিষ্টি মোদের দিচ্ছ ছুঁড়ে ।

বিরামহীন ভালবাসার , তোমার নেইকো কোনও রাশ

শুকিয়ে দিলে চোখের জল, ফুটল বৌয়ের মুখে হাস ।“

(অর্ধ সত্য বটে , উপরুক্ত পঙক্তি দ্বয় ।

প্রেমেও যেমন

আমেও তেমন

করেছে বৌয়ের হৃদয় জয় । )

শ্রীমতী কুমির, কোন একদিন

আমের অরুচি হয়েছে সঙ্গীন ।

করুন চোখেতে

সে, নরম হাসিতে ;

আদুরে গলায়

কুরুপেরে কয়

“ প্রিয় আঁশ বর ,

যবে থেকে মোরে করেছ বিয়ে

মন ভরিয়েছ সব কিছু দিয়ে

শুশুক কাছিম, মাছ আম আরও কত কি ।

সামনে মোদের বিবাহ বার্ষিকী ।

নিয়ে এস খানে , এক ভালো উপহার

ধরেছে সাধ এখন আমার ;

আখ হোক কিম্বা গুঁড়ো চিনি

অথবা ফলের চেয়েও মিষ্টি জানি ,

বন্ধু বানরের হৃদয় খানি

ইচ্ছে করছে যে খেতে এখনি।“

কুরুপ চমকায় , বলে , “সেকি?”

“প্রিয়তম , শুরুতেই যদি আমরা দেখি,

প্রেম ভরে যে বুকে

আম দিচ্ছে আমাকে ,

তার হৃদয় খানি , ভাবো

কত মিষ্টি হবে , ওগো।“


কত শত আম খেয়েছে বানর

রসে ভরা কত শাঁস

ঘুরেছে মাঝেতে কত যে বছর

গ্রীস্ম কালের কত যে মাস।

হৃদয়ের যত আনাচে কানাচে

ভরেছে শত অণুতে কণাতে

ঘন রস সব, মিষ্টি মধুর

হৃদয়ে বানরের জমেছে প্রচুর।“

“কিন্তু সোনামণি,

তাকে আমি বন্ধু মানি । “

“আমি সেটা জানি ।

সেজন্যে ওগো,

তুমি যাও শীঘ্রি,

এখানেতে আনো,

যেটা মোর বাড়ী ।

হচ্ছে কষ্ট নিতে মোর শ্বাস ।“

“ আসলে ভারী গরম, করেদি বাতাস?”

“না, মিষ্টি খাবার ভীষণ ধরেছে বাস।

তেতো সব ফল , মুখে নেই রুচি

হৃদয় বানরের খেলে তবে বাঁচি ।

নিয়ে এস তাকে , আমার কুরুপ সোনা

বৃথা তুমি আর দাঁড়িয়ে থেকো না।

নাহলে দেখতে আর পাবে না আমাকে

তেতো মনে যাব চলে ,পরলোকে ।“

কুরুপেরে দেখে বানর খুশি ভারী

নেচে কুঁদে করে কিচিরি মিচিরি।

ডাল থেকে ডালে

খুশি হয়ে দোলে ;

ছুঁড়ে ছুঁড়ে ফেলে আম,

অমুল্য সব, নেই তার কোন দাম।

“বন্ধু, তুমি আম খেয়ে যাও

আর বাকি যাকিছু , সব বৌকে গিয়ে দাও ।

অমৃত ভরা আছে

জীবন্ত সব গাছে ।

এই সব আম কোথাও পাবেনা ,

হলুদ পাকা, এ হল আমের খাজানা। “

চোখ দুটো তার তুলে

হাল্কা হেসে

কাছে ঘেঁসে

কুরুপ তখন বলে ,

“বানর, তোমার মনে প্রভুত দয়া ।

কিন্ত, আজ কিছু মনে করোনা ভায়া ,

বসে আমাদের পাশে

খাবে তুমি আজ এসে।

দেখাব তোমায় সেই সুন্দরী

করেছ মিষ্টি জীবন যার ভারী ;

একবার যদি হও পরিচিত ,

বুঝবে, আমার জীবনে তার মানে কত ।

ধারালো নখের কোমল আঁকড়ে

যখন ধরবে তোমায় আদরে ;

(যেন) ধনুকের থেকে ছুটে আসা তীরে

বিঁধবে হৃদয় মাঝারে।

আর, রাখো যদি তার চোখে চোখ

শুভ্র দরজা খুলবে সামনে, দেখবে স্বর্গলোক।

আজ দেখাতে চাই

মোদের কৃতজ্ঞতা

ভাগ করতে চাই, তাই

নৈশাহার আর বন্ধুত্বতা । “

“প্রিয় কুরুপ , প্রিয় কুমির , সে কি করে হয়?

তুমি চলো জলে

দ্বীপ হতে দ্বীপে

আমি চলি গাছে

ডাল থেকে ডালে

সাঁতরাতে যে পারিনা আমি, জলে করি বড় ভয় ।

তোমার দ্বীপ বড় দুরে তাছাড়া ,

যাব কোনোদিন, যদি নাও পাই ভাড়া ।“

“ভাবো শুধু মিছে মিছে, উঠে পড় মোর পীঠে

বস্তা ভর্তি আমের থেকে ভারী নও তুমি বটে । “

উষ্ণ এই আমন্ত্রনে

বানর মহাখুশী মনে

আমের বস্তা সাথে নিয়ে

নেমে আসে তরতরিয়ে।

আধা রাস্তা যাবার পর

কুমির বলে, “হে বানর,

জলে, আমগুলো সব ফেলো ধরে । “

“সেকি? এই উপহার ত যাচ্ছে তোমার ঘরে !”

“তুমি নিজেই এক পরম উপহার ।“

মোটা গলায় বলে কুমির, নেই তো তাতে ধার ।

“বন্ধুবর, তোমার ব্যাবহার সত্যি মহান ,

এমন নয় যে , স্ত্রী খুব বেশী খান ।

আজকে তবে আমি নিশ্চিত

ফল খাবে না সে, হে বানর মিত।

তবে, আমার একটা প্রশ্ন ছিল

বুকে তোমার , কি আছে ত বল ?

আমের রসে ভরা ,তোমার সকল শিরাধারা ,

হৃদয়েও কি বইছে সেই একই রসের ধারা ?”

শুনে বানর চমকে ওঠে;

“আজব তোমার প্রশ্ন বটে! “

“আসলে , অধিক রসে যদি হয় ভোজন নষ্ট ?

বৌয়ের আবার বদ হজমের আছে ভীষণ কষ্ট ।“

“অধিক রস কোথায় হয়?

”ওইটাতে , যেটা তোমার হৃদয়। “

“কি বললে, আমার হৃদয় ?”

“ঠিক শুনেছ, তোমার হৃদয়।“

ঈষৎ কুঁচকে ভুরু

কুরুপ করে শুরু,

“বল, কি পছন্দ তোমার নিয়তি ?

গঙ্গাজলে ডুবে মরতে ,


আমার বাড়ির খাদ্য হতে ?

বন্ধু তুমি, তাই নিচ্ছি আগেই সম্মতি।

এই না বলে, কুমির ডুব দেয় জলে।

“আরে দাঁড়াও; ভাবতে দাও, এখনি যেও না চলে।

মরবো ডুবে

নাকি চডবো শূলে

মরণ স্থলে

নাকি গভীর জলে ?

কুমির, বন্ধু তুমি আমার যখন

জেনো , যে কোন পথ

হাসি মুখে , করব আমি বরণ ।

কিন্তু আমার কাছে সবচেয়ে মানে বেশী

তোমার বৌয়ের গালভরা হাসি

আর মনের মধ্যে খুশী ।

ভদ্র মহিলা হবেন স্তম্ভিত

শোকে বাকহীনা, সম্পূর্ণ বিস্মিত ;

পাঁজর যখন সরাবে

দেখতে তখন পাবে

বুকের মধ্যে নেই যে হৃদয়।

এই কথা ভেবে ভারী ভয় হয়।

এত দিলে তাড়া আমায়

যাবার সময় পেলাম না হায়;

শয়ন কালে, রাখি যেথায়

গাছের ফাঁকে, ঢেকে পাতায়,

যকৃত আর আমার হৃদয়

চাটনি , সঙ্গে কাফলিঙ্ক দ্বয়

অর্ধেক ঘিলু , নখের ডগা

আর আস্ত একটা লেজের আগা

ঘুম শেষে যেই চক্ষু মোচন

অমনি পেলাম (তোমার ) নিমন্ত্রন ।

একটু আগে বললে তুমি

ডাঙ্গায় গিয়ে,

হৃদয় নিয়ে

তোমার সঙ্গে আসতাম আমি। “

দেঁতো হাসিটা কুরুপের মুখে

হঠাৎ নিভে, ফের ওঠে জেগে ।

“কেমন বকানি বউ দেবে যে আমাকে,

বানর,বানর বাঁচাও আমাকে। “

গম্ভীর বানর, হাত রেখে মুখে

বলে ওঠে, “ঠিক আছে, তবে।

যদিও গরম ভীষণ আজকে,

সচরাচর করতে দেখবে না আমাকে,

তবুও আমরা যেতে পারি ফিরে

হৃদয় যেখানে রেখেছি লুকিয়ে

পরখ করিয়ে তার মিষ্টির মাত্রা

আবার মোরা শুরু করবো যাত্রা । “

তো, বানরকে নিয়ে পীঠে

কুমীর ফিরে চলে নদীতটে।

কৃতজ্ঞতায় কুমীরের চোখ ভরে আসে জলে ।

এতো দুশ্চিন্তা ভারি

হচ্ছে বড় দেরী

বাড়ীতে ফিরলে , দেরীর জন্য বউ নাজানি কি কি বলে ।

বিনীত স্বরে কুরুপ বলে, “ চলে এসো তাড়াতাড়ি ।“

“ ভায়া, আমি নই দুই নম্বরি ।“

গাছের মগডালে বসে কয় বানর ,

“তোমার আঁশালো বউকে দিও গো খবর।

নিজের কুটিল হৃদয় যেন যত্ন করে খায় ,

যদিবা সেই হৃদয় সে কোথাও খুঁজে পায়।

আমার হৃদয় বুকের মধ্যে বাজছে দুরু দুরু ,

দিবারাত্র চলছে ভালো, যবে থেকে তার শুরু ।

আর, বিদায়ী উপহার তুমি এই নাও ,

একশো পচা আম, আরও একশো ফাও।“

বলে, নীচে কুমীরের শিরে

বানর ছুঁড়ে ছুঁড়ে সব মারে।

আর, কুরুপ চুপ করে থেকে

বানরের দিকে চোখ মেলে রাখে,

দাঁতালো হাসি আজও সেই মুখে

যদিও বুক ভরা তার দুখে।

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ode to the departed one :A Bengali love-song by Tagore

Sung  by Srikanta Acharya

English translation of the lyrics

In my heart, thou shall, in silence, alight…
Like the glowing moon and the Dame of the Night.

My life, my youth…
My world absolute;
Thou shall draw bright…
Like the Dame of the Night…

Alone shall rise, eyes of thee,
Thy billowing drapes shall protect me.
My pain, my screams,
My success dreams;
Thou shall delight,
Like the Dame of the Night

The English translation has been sourced from this blog


তারপর উঠি জেগে ; ঘুমোতে শুয়ে পড়ি ফের

কিছুতেই রাখে না ধরে; থাকে না বিনতিরও জের।

তোমাকে নিয়ে ভাবনা; তোমার হাসি, বাহুদ্বয় আর আঁখি

ভোরের স্নিগ্ধ অরুণোদয় রেখেছে যে সব ঢাকি।

স্বপ্নের হয়েছে শেষ, তোমার কণ্ঠস্বরও শব্দহীন ;

তবে, গোলাপি আর ধুসর আজকের এই দিন

ব্যস্ত প্রহরে ধেয়ে যেতে যেতে

থমকাবে গিয়ে সেই কালোরাত্রিতে

যেখানে তুমি, তোমার কথা আর নাম স্বপ্নালীন।

(Translated by Salty  from Vikram Seth's poem 'And'  from  'Shared Ground' in the book The Rivered Earth. In case you are unable to view it in Bengali font, please download Avro Bengali Font from here )

Friday, May 4, 2012

Gambhir vs Ganguly : Clash of the alter egos in IPL 5

The IPL-5 has crossed its midway point last week and now the tournament is gearing up for the excitement that is staple fare in the last leg. Many questions are dogging the viewers' minds.
Who will be in the top four ? Whether the current momentum and points of the teams will hold on till the last?  Presently Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai & Mohali are leading the table while Pune & Deccan are placed at the bottom although Deccan has finally got its act going and look to be in the forward momentum while Pune led by the comeback-master Sourav Ganguly has lost the forward-stride that it had gained when they had beaten Delhi in their home ground after a superlative performance by Ganguly.
For the average cricket viewer in Kolkata, the match on the 5th of May between Kolkata Knight Riders led by Gautam Gambhir and Pune Warriors led by Sourav Ganguly is turning out to be a crowd puller not only because Dada (as Ganguly is fondly known among his fans) at the ripe age of 40 is playing in his home ground after quite a long break but also because Gambhir has led the fans of Knights to believe for the first time in the five years of the tournament that they have it in them to win the trophy this time.

The captains of both the teams have a lot in common between them to the extent that one can almost depict Gambhir as the alter-ego of Ganguly. Firstly both are stylish left-handers, secondly both are captains, thirdly Gambhir debuted on 3rd of November 2004 when Ganguly was the captain of Indian team , fourthly Gambhir has taken over the captaincy of the Knights from Ganguly . But the punchline of the story lies elsewhere. Gambhir had lost his place in the tests  when he was prone to get out in the 30's & 40's and he was out for nearly 2 years from Dec'05 to Dec'07 while Ganguly had taken his place. In the year 2012, however things are different. Gambhir has matured to be a solid cricketer, averaging more than 50 in tests and 40 in ODIs. Although Gmbhir lost his vice captaincy to Kohli after the disastrous Indian tour of Australia in last winter, he is determined to prove that given the freedom to lead his team he can actually give Dhoni, a good competition for the slot of captaincy of the Indian team. While Ganguly who was forced to retire in 2008 from international cricket is trying to prove, not very successfully,  in every edition of IPL that he still has the fire in the belly to play international cricket.The rivalry between the teams has reached the personal quarters of the captains too. Dona, wife of Ganguly,  a resident of Kolkata has been quoted as saying that she will support Pune all the way although one has not heard any matching comment from Natasha, Gambhir's better half. At the age of 40, Ganguly will not find it easy to tame the Knights whereas Gambhir, who turned 30 last October (coincidentally having the same birthday as yours truly) is blazing on all guns whether in batting, fielding or captaincy.

To a casual observer, it looks like game,set and match for Gambhir and the Knights. Although more often than not the casual observers are correct, it still remains to be seen whether guile & experience can triumph over energy & youth in this gloriously-uncertain  game of cricket which always gives ample opportunities to both. As for my money , observant reader(s) can easily  decipher where they lie unless heavy rains turn out to be the spoilsport-victor in the end.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Laptop for forty rupees- A film-review

Is there a difference between a tele-film and big screen film? From my limited understanding of cinematic parlance , I’d think there is. At least from the perspective of a cinegoer, one would expect that thousands of shots and frames that go in the making of a film should have that ability of holding down the viewer to his/her seat. After all, a story is being told and the audience is captive unlike in a tele-film where the audience can not only switch channels but also walk out to attend chores and likes. Further there are infinite possibilities of telling the story through the use of cinematic medium , dramatization being the key possibility.

After watching new-age director Kaushik Ganguly’s Bengali film Laptop in a sparsely-filled up multiplex, my first reaction was that the director has not taken that leap of capability from a director of a tele film to that of a a big-cinema. This is the story of a stolen laptop that passes through multiple hands bringing jinx to every person who lays his hand on the machine. The promo of the movie gives a low-graded intellectual twist to the film by declaring that just as a laptop has memory so does this object too as it meanders its ways through hands of various owners. One is reminded of an old Bengali film , Harmonium , where the instrument bought from an auction house dramatically disturbs the quintessential middle class families of several households. So the plot is nothing new and instead of a laptop it could have been anything, a pen-drive or even a pen for that matter. But more importantly, the type of persons who hold this ubiquitous machine in its journey are rather atypical. An out-of-work software engineer, a visually challenged author (played well by the director himself), a typist & a divorced publisher. Not the type who an average cine-goer would be able to identify with ease as was the case in the old movie, Harmonium. More than two-thirds of the dialogues in the movie has no connection to the plot but is a labored attempt in sketching out the characters .If the characters were slightly more typical & easily identifiable , probably the script, written by the director himself, could have incorporated several dramatic twists and turns in the tale. And to add insult to injury , the blind author goes into a philosophical monologue in one part of the movie wherein he dwells on the inner eyes of a blind-man although what connection the monologue has to the movie, is undecipherable.

With such a poor script, the only way the movie could have been redeemed was to have handful of powerful actors to deliver it. Rahul Bose, as the divorced sperm-donating publisher, does a fairly good job. So does Ananya Chatterjee as the typist. As long as they are on the screen , the movie is bearable. Kaushik Ganguly is good but only in parts and he seems to have filled the screen literally what with his body-size and the precious minutes he hogs. Arindam Sil is always so full of himself that one tends to look away whenever he is on the screen. Rajesh Sharma makes a decent but fleeting appearance & exits after failing to keep promises of a larger share of plot. Churni Ganguly miserably fails in portraying a career-woman who has transformed herself into a caring & doting mother. Saswata Chatterjee has neither the mental sharpness nor the physical fitness that go into the making of a tea-planter settled in the lonely hills of Darjeeling.

Mayookh Bhaumik’s music is jarring as he tends to make irrelevant and excessive use of the organ from his “philharmonic orchestra” , which incidentally was touted as one of the USPs of the film. Specially that long irritating piece when the author furiously types away on his manual typewriter after the departure of his typist. Anirban Sengupta/Dipankar Chaki’s sound is promising .Whether it’s the sound of a passing train or songs from the radio, they are crystal clear and do not disturb the dialogues. Additionally the revolver-shot in the last scene sounded like a real one for once.

Finally, I spent one hundred and forty bucks for the movie but frankly speaking it deserved no more than forty.

10 advertisements in IPL-5 that are interesting .

IPL 5 is here again to bring some cheer in the sweltering summer of India to millions of consumers. With the economy doing badly and inflation at a high, one naturally expects that advertisements will draw on the creative juices of the agencies to sell summer products such as beverages, air-conditioners, prickly-heat powders & power-related products. The expectations are not belied although one sees a glut of telecom ads too and believe it or not, a commercial about a car. Here’s a list of ten ads that were either entertaining or not-entertaining.

First 5 advertisements that are entertaining:

1. Flipkart, the on-line shopping website, makes excellent use of humour (in the form of children with adult voice-overs and mannerisms) to promote easy on-line buying and 30 days replacement guarantee.

2. Voltas air-conditioner, uses a fictional south-Indian character Murthy and his stereotyped accent , in a smartly executed humorous plot to drive home the reasons to buy an all-weather air conditioner.

3. Havell’s electric switch, a low-involvement item, uses the sure shot technique of repetition to drive home the functionality to involve its customers.

4. V-guard voltage stabilizer, uses another sure shot theme of fear to portray beautifully the damage that the return of power , after a power-cut, can inflict on electronic items.

5. Celkon, a mobile handset, uses a powerful celebrity cricketer, Virat Kohli, to sell its huge number of offerings in the value-for-money handset to the mass market.

Next 5 advertisements that are not entertaining:

1. Cadbury, 5 star uses two jackasses to deliver that irritating line , “master-ji pitaji-ka pantloon ek bilang …” so very often ; that one wishes the product should get lost (“kho jaiye”) from the shelves of the retailers. Where are those themes of “gifts of love, ” that were runaway successes earlier?

2. Volkswagen Polo and Vento ad uses a thoroughly uninspiring & stupid storyline with the much-used punch line “score kya hai” to sell a back-seat video-screen feature . The viewer is left sweating in fear whether buying a Polo will render them vulnerable to highway robberies in a socially tense India.

3. Tata Do-co-mo , uses yellow marketing to portray competition as cheats for a high-involvement service such as mobile connection when their own service has had complaints of sudden call-drops & unavailability. The ad will go down as a nice promo for film star Ranbir Kapoor’s new film as the character the star portrays has the same look in his film.

4. Vodafone topped the charts for some of the best made commercials with its 'zoozoos' a few years earlier. But the present ads are boring and do not dwell on a single theme making recall of the apps , a difficult proposition.

5. Idea 3G sells its 3G applications well in their ads but to portray heaven as the backdrop in its predominantly white colour , in a multi-colour television screen just to drive home the point “heavenly applications",  is too dull for a pleasurable recall.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A patchwork finance budget shows no clear direction to Indian economy.

Economic & Political situation:

The Economic Survey document released yesterday presented a situation that challenged the Union Finance Minister to take bold steps in this year’s union budget as far as structural reforms are concerned . For the situation described in the Economic Survey appeared dismal. The GDP growth has slowed down to 6.9% after cruising at 8.4% for preceding 2 years. WPI inflation (52 week average ) had risen to 9.1% from 3.8% in 2009-10.The fiscal deficit as per budget estimates was pegged at 4.6% . The decline in GDP growth was attributed to the non-performance in Manufacturing sector which registered only 3.9% growth while Services grew by 9.4% and Agriculture by 2.5%.

The Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee attributed this fall of GDP to global crisis existing in Eurozone, Middle East, Oil price rise as well as due to the tight monetary policy of RBI that affected investments & savings & weak industrial growth . Interestingly in 2007-08, the government would project about the strong domestic demand in order to assure foreign investors that India-growth story is reasonably de-linked from the global financial crisis. Now the same government is pointing out to global crisis to possibly gloss over the fact that the large-scale fiscal stimuli that it had engaged in 2008-09 & 2009-10 ,(including the enhancement of government employees’ salary in 6th pay commission), had failed to either build new productive capacity or to increase the aggregate demand.

The minister while presenting the budget stressed that signs of economic recovery are showing specially in coal, fertilizer, cement & electricity generations which registered positive growth in Jan’12 (although crude oil, natural gas , refinery products & steel registered negative growth in Jan’12). With inflation slowing down to 6.6% in Jan’12 and food inflation going to negative, one expected that the finance minister to take the opportunity in stimulating growth by a slew of policy & measures that would encourage capital formation, investments . Major policies like the land acquisition policy, mineral rights of dwellers, FDI in retail, labour reforms , enactment of direct Tax code, Goods & Services Tax, Food Security Bill , Pension reforms, Insurance reforms, Microfinance institutional reforms and other policies are still not passed thanx to the stalemate in the parliament where the ruling government was not sure of the support from members of its allies. With such a paralysis on policy formulation , the minister paid moderate lip-service to the objectives that he highlighted while presenting the budget. The objectives were

1. Increase in Demand recovery by creating high growth in private investments

2. Remove supply bottlenecks in agriculture, power, coal sectors

3. Address malnutrition

4. Streamline delivery systems of subsidies

5. Address the issue of corruption.

Expectations from the stakeholders

The industry bodies attributed the fall in private investment in 2011-12 to low profitability which was attributed to higher raw material expenses in the first half of last year as well as to higher interest expenses. Hence they expected a lowering of interest rate & reduction of raw material expenses along with increase in government consumption for kick-staring growth. The common man already squeezed by high inflation & low unemployment was looking forward to tax breaks, generation of more rural employment in agriculture and urbal employment in services.

But since the chief task in the hand of the minister was to engage in fiscal consolidation which basically means reducing government expenditure while increasing the revenue so that a very high fiscal deficit of 5.9% in 2011-12 could be brought down to 5.1 % in 2012-13. And with policy-paralysis as background , the minister had no other options but to give little to everybody without taking away substantial from anybody. In common parlance that would be called an ordinary & lackluster budget which doesn’t have a specific long-term direction but has merely given an extension of an additional year of preceding policies & schemes in order to buy some more time to find sufficient strength in the parliament to embark on serious economic reforms.

Author's note : A Bengali transcreation of this budget analysis can be found at here.