Holi hai !
14 March 2011
Is it going to be red or green ? What are the colours that will dominate the Bengal landscape in the years to come? There are signs of intense speculation in talking shops whose number seems to be growing as the battle lines are drawn for the elections. The colours have already begun to hit the walls even before formal announcements have come from rival camps. Obviously there are two colours in big demand. But it is anyone's guess whether the colours that will be witnessed in this year's Doljatra will be an indicator of the public mood. The festival normally remains outside the purview of political contests. It is a celebration that reflects a sense of togetherness. Whether it is powder or liquid mixtures that are used to greet relatives, friends or neighbours, it represents the warmth of relationships that will hopefully survive in times of both happiness and distress. It is also occasion for showing respect to elders just as it is during Bijoya Dashami. Of course the feelings are reciprocated with a plateful of sweets - perhaps the best sandesh or rosogollas available in the neighbourhood. It is a different story with the young. The sparks that are seen on their faces could be a reflection of tender thoughts that cannot be expressed in words but which can be conveyed with greater conviction than during the rituals observed on Valentine's Day. In any case, Doljatra cuts across human barriers. A musical session organised by residents of one of Kolkata's sprawling slums ending with a community meal is just as inspiring as a classical evening organised by a corporate leader the night before the city bursts with the enthusiasm of roadside revellers who insist on targeting those who pass by. On the cultural circuit, there are dance programmes embracing different communities with music that strikes boisterous notes. The question is whether all this will be affected because, in less than month, they will all be required to decide whether the state is on the threshold of change. It will be a pity if simple joys are coloured by political rivalries or marred by the polarisation that has produced a number of unsavoury incidents on college and university campuses. Why should politics come in the way of spontaneous expressions of joy without the mischief of water balloons being hurled at passing vehicles or the community spirit being drowned not just in a coloured bath but in generous flow of Patiala pegs? Even in the old days, the law enforcement authorities would be put on special alert for isolated cases of wilful defiance. That had nothing to do with the general spirit of the festival that normally spilled over into the days that followed and left offices with quite a number of empty chairs. There are aberrations that persist. But there is no reason why the splash over the coming weekend that ushers in the bounties of Basanta in Santiniketan and elsewhere - and gives new life to some of Tagore's best compositions - should no longer revive wholesome memories. Sardar
Vallabhbhai Patel arguably the best prime minister the nation never had has huge fan following in Bengal. A dour exterior and no nonsense attitude did not win him too many friends. Moreover, he passed away at a time when the nation as well as West Bengal which was yet to overcome the trauma of Partition realised that the Sardar's intervention had spared what was then Calcutta to be under the joint occupation for six months by the two nations who had just attained independence. The Great Calcutta Killing was still a festering scar in the nation's psyche when Patel received this proposal. Flaring up he said "Let alone six months, we won't let it go for even six hours." The nugget of information has been unearthed by Dipankar Ghosh in his book Sardar Vallabhbhai Jiban O Rajniti. The 304-page book brought out by Prativa and marketed by De's Publishing dwells on the fascinating political life of a man who is one of the chief makers of modern India. It would be interesting to know why he has remained in the shadows all these years. Is it owing to the fact he never championed dynastic politics ? Perhaps his not belonging to a faction contributed to his obscurity after his passing away. Patel never believed in seeking public adulation by swimming with the tide. A speech in the city in 1948 indicates this mind set when he said " Some people complain that I represent the interest of the princes and businessmen....But I won't criticise them needlessly." Hope this book will clear many misconceptions about the great man whose contribution to the cause of nation's freedom and its unity is worth its weight in gold. On his passing away The Statesman observed " The word "irreplaceable" is tarnished by frequent use. Truly everybody irreplaceable, being individual and so unique. But in the broader sense those who cannot be replaced are very few. Sardar Patel, for India was one."
Generations past and present have been inspired by Tagore. To mark the 150th year of his birth, Beadon Street Subham and Chaitanya Library held a function yesterday on the correspondence of the poet as well as Santiniketan as envisaged by him. It aimed at instilling bits of the writing and thoughts of this wonderful genius into the mind set of the young. The function was part of an effort to keep Tagore 's ideals bright in the minds of the young as they pass through these tumultuous times making demands on their bodies and minds. Bauls ‘n holi
Over the past several years banglanatak.com, a city-based NGO have been working for the uplift of the bauls and to energise their performance which was not what it used to be owing to economic hardship. The encouragement to these wandering minstrels have come in the form of financial succour, overseas trips, interaction with the singing minstrels from other parts of the nation and the globe as well. The not too well state of these folk singers have improved. And it is reflected in their performance. The choice of venue of the interaction with these wandering minstrels singing such profound songs is a pointer to that this is no half-hearted effort. Ranging from the spacious premises of a well known rowing club in Dhakuria lakes to a portion of a heritage club where dress code would not be a bar to the entry of the unconventionally dressed bauls, the choice of backdrop where the singers of these soulful songs are felicitated leave no room for criticism. Come March 18, these wonderful singers will come together and the Cossipore palace at Panchkote will reverberate with their performance. Beside celebrating holi with songs and dances in the lap of nature this three-day festival will be a tribute to the Singh Deo dynasty who built the palace a century ago. They were a great patron of the songs and dances whose roots can be traced to the surrounding red earth long before many of its inhabitants were made to be unwitting tools of pouring votes which is yet to improve their lot.
For a cause
Christopher Isherwood had described the Ramakrishna Movement as " the most important of all the existing religious movement of our time. No matter how important or large or venerable the others may be." After setting up the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897 Swami Vivekananda said the motto of the Mission was "service to man is service to God." This was the spirit which Sri Ramakrishna had infused in Swamiji. Ramakrishna was simple man who felt that religion is useless it brings synthesis of all views and inspires people to wipe the tears of others. He visited Star Theatre and blessed the actresses who did not have any social respect. People from all walks of life and communities took part in the procession that was organised in 1886 a few months after his demise to carry his ashes to Kankurgachi. The Statesman had carried a detailed report of the procession. The Ramakrishna Movement has earned respect of people across the world. Though there are many books on the movement it was the need of the hour to make a documentary highlighting various aspect of the movement. A documentary entitled Belur Math- the heart of the Ramakrishna Movement was brought out recently by the Advaita Ashrama. Swami Atmasthanandaji, president of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission released the 54- minute long DVD directed by Arnab Das. Actor Sabyasachi Chakraborty has rendered the voice over while the music is composed by Mayukh Mainak . About Belur Math Swamiji had said " it is the physical body of Sri Ramakrishna. He is always present at the math." Swami Prabhananda, general secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission said the DVD will be of immense interest to the admirers of the Ramakrishna movement. Many archival materials, hitherto unpublished and rare photographs and video footages as well as detailed information have been incorporated in the documentary. Priced at Rs 200 it is available at all centres of Ramakrishna Math and Mission in the country and abroad.
It has been decades since he had walked away from the classroom with its black board and benches with students jotting down the excerpts from his lecture. Some of them had reached the pinnacle of success while the others failed to do so. But barring a few exceptions, they tried to follow in the footsteps of Swadesh Ranjan Chanda Chaudhury who tried to train the tender minds and mould them into perfection. Little wonder, Chaudhury who passed away on a cold day recently considered the years spent at Boral High School to make men out of boys to be the most fruitful time of his life. One of the favourite students of Srikumar Banerjee, a legendary teacher of Calcutta University Chaudhury graduated from Rajshahi College in Pabna. Arguably he would have been better placed in life, had he opted for some other profession. But considering teaching to be the "noblest of professions", Chaudhury joined this school and rose to be its head master. Besides teaching his students to be model citizens, he tried to make his colleagues realise the responsibility of their profession in the event of any dereliction of duty. A lesser man would have considered being a member of the syllabus committee of English of West Bengal Board of Secondary Education or the editor-in-chief of Journal of West Bengal Headmasters' Association or authoring a few books to be feathers in his cap. He achieved these distinctions but carried them lightly. To Chaudhury shaping a boy's mind to help the child grow up into a ideal citizen was the ultimate prize. He mostly succeeded in his endeavour. The few cases of failure can be ascribed to the overwhelming odds which is the sum total of changes for the worse all around us.
Before the poll
In the backdrop of debates on television and write-ups in newspapers on the different aspects of development or lack of it in the state, Paschimbanga Thik Kothay Pichiey (Where does West Bengal lag behind) makes a timely appearance. Penned by Barun Bandopadhaya, it is laden with statistics on farming, land reforms, industry, education, demography, education and health and other sectors. Collected from Union government sources, research papers and media reports, the National Book Agency publication seeks to pinpoint the position of the state in the index of development. As the winds of change are blowing in, the books asks readers some questions perhaps to make the have second thoughts even as the state is inching towards the poll.
Poet and the man
Some men have the darkest images - literally and figuratively. Others stir romantic thoughts or become objects of mystery. When it comes to writing poetry on the male species, there can be a wide-ranging expression of personal emotions. This is what has happened with a spontaneous outburst in the new compilation of verses by Sushmeli Dutt. Titled Prothom Purush, Dwitiyo Purush, these little sketches of men who have provided food for thought are more in the nature of random thoughts to create the ideal hero as it were. Titles like Mahapurush, Mukh, Charitra and Dampatya paint engaging little pictures in the mind. Sushmeli has published three compilations of her verses and this one represents intensely personal expressions. The collection of nearly 50 poems has been dedicated to Sunil Gangopadhyay and marks the poet's entry into the family of Krittibash which has a long history of encouraging young poets. In this case, Sushmeli becomes a romantic at heart unlike the thousands of rebel poets who have their roots in the restless ambience of College Street. What she provides is not just a hint that a soft appeal can be as effective as an angry voice but also confirmation of creative skills that should raise hopes for the future. Bimal Roy
Way back in the late '80s speaking at a retrospective on Bimal Roy at Nandan Sunil Dutt had expressed surprise at being chosen as the hero of Roy's much acclaimed film Sujata. This path breaking film denouncing casteism is now part of Indian film lore. It was also a turning point in Dutt's career. But the film star turned politician was at a loss to understand Roy's rationale behind his choice as the actor was the undisputed numero uno of the "action films" of his times. But Dutt fitted into the role of a upper caste youth in love with a lower caste girl (played with rare sensitivity by Nutan) and the film's success once again proved Roy had an unerring eye for the suitable actor. Little wonder, the director and his films are still talked about with respect even after four decades after his death. A special number on Roy has been brought about by Chitrabhabna. The contributors including Gulzar, Nabyendu Ghosh, Gautam Kaul, Monobina Roy, Rinki Bhattacharya and Joybimal Roy have focussed on different aspects of Roy's life and works. And they are best qualified to do so having worked with the great director and knowing him as a dutiful husband and a doting father. But a line in the editorial seems out of tune with the entire publication. It states "His films had no place form humanism but sang paeans of humanism and values." After having seen Udayer Pathe, Bandini, Do Bigha Zameen, Sujata, Yahoodi and Devdas to name a few, one could but only strongly disagree with the editorial writer. All about land
From an overwhelming majority in the state Assembly way back in 2006 to a cornered existence these days, the Left Front government is on the ropes. The inability of the powers that be to tackle the issue of acquisition of farm land for industries after walking into the corridors of power after casting off the tag of a political pariah after Indo-Chinese conflict on 1962 and years in the wilderness is a fascinating story.
Jamir Ulatpuran by Amal Sarkar traces it from its roots. Being a scribe of the city-based daily Bartaman, the author pounds the corridors of Writers' Buildings has had a ringside view of how political fortunes of Left Front rolled downhill during the past five years. No wonder, while authoring 239-page hardback during which he has gone about his job like a researcher giving a blow by blow account of the state of affairs. Some of the write-ups which have come out in Bartaman may appear to be a little dated. But nevertheless, one would have to go through the hardback with interest. For it is no coffee table production which can be casually browsed. After having gone through the machinations and hypocrisy of those who did not hesitate to transgress the thin line dividing governance and bulldozing the people's will, one hopes the next dispensation presiding over the political fortunes of the state would take a lesson or two. It is to make haste slowly as well as to look before one leaps. Otherwise well intentioned schemes for the uplift of the state's economy will boil down to more Singurs, Nandigrams and Vedic Villages. Sarkar has not spared the Opposition either. He has analysed how some of today's firebrand leaders sat on the fence then and waited and watched for an opportune moment for stepping into the scene of action only after the possibility of reaping a rich political dividend have turned into a certainty. Noble cause
At a time when more and more people are getting losing their vision in the state, Sri Sri Bijoykrishna Relief Society has launched a drive in the city to collect funds to upgrade the Netaji Eye hospital in Durgapur. Thousands of people living in Burdwan and Birbhum receive treatment at the hospital.
There are clinics to treat patients suffering from problems in cornea, retina and glaucoma. The clinic to treat children suffering from squint takes care of thousands of children annually. Seven hundred to eight hundred people visit the out patient department daily.
The society was found by Swami Ashimananda, a close associate of Netaji. During one of the tours in the district Nejati came across a sightless person who suddenly came before his car. Ashimanada was with him and he requested the latter to do for the visually challenged.
A spokesman for the society said steps have been taken to upgrade the hospital as more and more people with optical problems are coming to the hospital for treatment. A senior ophthalmologist in the city said as the cost of treatment is going up every year it is going beyond the means of economically challenged people. This hospital is a boon for them..
The world of Bengali letters was poorer by the recent passing away of poet Samarendra Sengupta. Born in Dhaka in 1935 and a resident of this city since 1951, Sengupta in a thumbnail sketch by a contemporary was described as one who is covering up large areas of literary ground in giant strides.
If his poems reflect his romantic mind set and love of solitude, he will also be known for his poetry of protest which seethed with anger at the killing of Martin Luther King Junior. His two books of poems namely Coffee Houser Sinri and Amar Samay Alpa have fetched him the Rabindra Puraskar and Academy Puraskar respectively. He passed away after a brief illness. His friends and admirers will remember him as an able organiser of poets' meets, a person of childlike simplicity and a gourmet.
She was for many years a familiar face on Doordarshan till she realised that there is much more to her creative personality than introducing people and programmes as one of the earliest anchors when telecasts began in Kolkata in 1975. One of the first things she discovered was that she could act and recite with as much intensity as the people she introduced on the small screen. Chailtali Dasgupta began to be seen on the public stage as an exponent of the best of poetry from Tagore and Jibanananda to Subhas Mukhopadhyay and Shakti Chattopadhyay.
It spilled over into acting assignments when serials began to grip the attention of audiences and to this day there are occasions when Chaitali plays the quintessential Bengali woman with a mind that is open to new ideas. But all this was combined with the new language she sought to give to the men's wear she designed, capturing her poetic insights.
All this may have prompted many to wonder where her real interests lay. Was it poetry or poshak? Acting or anchoring? Some of the answers may now be found in Chaitali-Keyar Katha in which she takes a trip down memory lane to recount some of her fascinating experiences at home and at work.
Her friends and relatives call her Keya while the name Chaitali extends to formal associations. But, in both spheres, the person behind the professional has moments and memories that she loves to share.
She has now put them between covers in something that she refuses to call an autobiagraphy. The adda that went with the launching of the book was thoughtfully conceived by Sujoy Prasad Chatterjee in the roof garden of an apartment in south Kolkata and drew a host of people – from historian Tapan Ray Chauduri to dancer Mamata Shankar. It almost looked as if the drawing room had moved to an open-air setting. The attendance was impressive, so was Rohini Ray Chaudhuri's exploration of Chaitali's most favourite Tagorean melodies that added a refreshing touch to the wealth of recollections.Tailpiece
The residents of a small lane in Bhowanipore closed their windows recently to keep out the sound of a heated altercation between two groups in the late afternoon over whether spring has arrived. Even as those who did not think that "the season of mellow fruitfulness" is at the door appeared to have convinced the other side thanks to their lung power, the call of a cuckoo silenced the shouting brigade. Spring has indeed arrived.