Sunday, 23 December 2007


[Given above is a shot from the beginning of the film: Mrinmoyee looking out on the river, staring at Amulya, who is making his way towards the bank on a boat.]

A Ray shortfilm, and the final part of the 'Teen Kanya' series adapted from the short stories; Samapti startles one with it's simplistic portrayal of life, and the wide range of emotions the human mind can scale...

Amulya, played by the legendary Ray-favourite Soumitra Chatterjee, is a young man from a village who returns from the city to visit his mother, Jogmaya. Jogmaya wants Amulya to get wedded soon: since he is on a two-month vacation, and there is an auspicious date for a wedding just around the corner. She has already decided who she wants as a daughter-in-law, and inspite of Amulya's unwillingness to tie the knot so soon, she coaxes him to visit the girl's house once.

And so Amulya makes his way through ankle-deep mud towards the girl's house. All the while, he is followed by a carefree and whimsical young village girl named Mrinmoyee (played by a very young Aparna Sen), who likes roaming with the village-children, swinging all day long, catching and playing with squirrels, climbing up trees and so on (and hence, she has earned the moniker: "Puglee"). Mrinmoyee is amused to see a well-dressed babu like Amulya finding it difficult to make his way through the mud. Amulya is received warmly by Kishori, the prospective bride's father (played brilliantly by my personal favourite, Santosh Dutta), who amuses the spectator quite a lot with his mannerisms-- especially, the 'he-he-he' smile that accompanies each line Kishori speaks! The visisbly shy and uncomfortable Amulya has to sit before an excessivley coy girl who can't articulate what to speak; and all the while Mrinmoyee stands an amused witness to the comic situation of sorts.. Just to make matters even funnier, Puglee launches her pet squirrel Chorki at the coy bride-to-be. What follows is a comedy of errors!

To cut the long story short now, Mrinmoyee's numerous pranks on Amulya convinces the young man that none but Puglee must be his bride. Ah! of course, Amulya's mother is devastated that her whimsical son has finally decided to marry a tomboyish girl who isn't modest in the least, and moreover considered by all and sundry as a freak. Finally though, she somehow warms up to her son's wishes. Meanwhile, Mrinmoyee can't stand the thought that she has to leave all her little friends, Chorki, the trees and playfields of the the village to become a housewife; and in a vain attempt to stop the marriage she chops her hair off. On the wedding night, a very patient Amulya explains how he'd like his new wife to be, and that he won't force her to do everything, but that doesn't stop the carefree Mrinmoyee to escape Amulya's house. She visits her little squirrel Chorki, and the swing by the river which she so loves. In the soft caressing love of Mother Nature, she falls blissfully asleep. Meanwhile, there's mayhem in Amulya's home as everyone discovers that Mrinmoyee has fled in the shadows of the night. They find her back and Jogmaya locks her up in a fit of rage. Inspite of his mother, Amulya frees his wife and says that he will leave her back at her father's house and leave for the city. If ever Mrinmoyee wants Amulya back in his life, she must only write him a letter. To show his love for the carefree girl, Amulya also says how he'll be happy if Mrinmoyee addresses him as "tumi" rather than "aapni".

Quite unexpectedly, Mrinmoyee loses the strong affinity she had for her little friends, Chorki, and Mother Nature and willingly resigns herself to a fast. Jogmaya is worried she won't see her son again, and hence on the advice of one of her friends, she writes to her son about an imaginary illness she's suffering from . Amulya returns to find out the truth, and obeying his mother's request to enquire about Mrinmoyee, he visits her father's house. But Mrinmoyee escapes in the meanwhile-- disappointed to learn that Amulya has returned not for her but for his own mother. On a stormy day, Amulya searches for Mrinmoyee all day long and returns disappointed. But just as he enters his room, he finds a note from Mrinmoyee saying "tumi fire esho". And the biggest surprise is that: Mrinmoyee is back, the same way she'd disappeared on the night of her wedding!

Samapti scales an amazing portion of the whole range of human emotions and psyche: love of nature, and love between humans. Again, a masterpiece from the master: Satyajit Ray.

Anyway, Christmas wishes to all my blog-readers, if any!! :)
P.S.-- My friend Sayantani has written a superb comment on my short review-of-sorts. I'd like the reader to go through it too!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Apur Sansar

Courtesy Zee Studio, I got to see this timeless classic by Satyajit Ray this Sunday. And inspite of the examinations looming over my head, I just can't suppress the urge to have my say on the movie.

Ray's third film, and the final instalment of the Apu Trilogy, begins with a portrayal of Apu staying in a rundown shabby quarter in Kolkata. He has no fixed job, just a few tuitions thrown here and there to earn himself enough money to have a meagre meal each day. Apu also writes an occasional short story and sends it to literary magazines-- and that's what pleases him most about his life. Even in this life of extreme poverty and deprivation, nothing can suppress his indomitable, and yet apprehensive and shy, spirit-- he has not lost his dreams of becoming a great author. When Pulu, Apu's best friend, arrives and offers him assistance in finding a fixed job, Apu expresses his dissatisfaction over the idea. Apu has realised that his life's goal is to remain free and thoughtful-- not bound to a job he doesn't like doing (he quotes names of great men who never once in their life 'settled down', to prove his point). Nonetheless Apu agrees to go to Pulu's mamabari (maternal uncle's house) at Khulna with him for Pulu's cousin's wedding ceremony. On the way to Khulna, Apu shows Pulu the manuscript of a novel he has started writing-- a work of art that Pulu admires quite a lot after giving a read. However on Pulu's cousin, Aparna's, wedding-day, it's revealed that her bridegroom is mentally unstable. Aparna's mother disagrees to surrender her daughter to a madman. In a strange turn of events, Apu somewhat unwillingly yields to the pressure of marrying Aparna-- for if he refuses, no one shall ever marry her again. On their first night together, Apu openly talks to his new bride, and honestly says that he is nothing more than a poor, thoughtful man with a penchant for writing stories-- who has nothing more than a few pennies and a ramshackle quarter to his name. Apu says that Aparna may have to adjust to living such a deprived life. Aparna willingly accepts her fate-- determined to be happy even amongst such poverty.

When Aparna is brought to Apu's Kolkata quarters, she suddenly realises the magnitude of his poverty-- and the hardships that await her. But as she gazes down the window through tearful eyes, she sees a poor child smiling and playing on the street with his mother-- and this cheers her up. Apu understands how hard it must be for Aparna to see the sharp contrast in lifestyles-- but when he asks her about the same, he is greeted with a warm smile, which reflects the love and respect Aparna has for Apu, and also the readiness with which she accepts her new life. Special credit must go to Satyajit Ray here for a cinematic metaphor which only geniuses can conceive-- in place of Apu's erstwhile tattered and dirty window-curtain hangs a clean one. The visually improved condition of Apu's household couldn't be portrayed better. There hasn't been much financial betterment since his marriage, but Apu's life has become more arranged, orderly and beautiful-- something which only a soft feminine touch of care and concern can bring about. After several blissful months together, Aparna leaves for her maternal home due to pregnancy. In the following two months, Apu and Aparna exchange warm letters of love-- their craving for each other almost seems childish at times. Apu's promise to visit her at the end of the month remains unfulfilled however-- while delivering their child, Aparna dies due to labour pains. Apu is so much aggrieved to hear the news that he can't stand the truth anymore-- in a trance of unspoken and unbearable pain and sorrow, he leaves Kolkata and wanders on meaninglessly. Suddenly, Apu's life and love lose all meaning to him-- he throws away the manuscript he so thoughtfully and carefully wrote at one point of time.

Several years pass by, and in the meantime Apu and Aparna's son Kajal grows up in the Khulna-house under the care of his maternal grandparents. The little child is just like his father-- carefree, imaginative, capricious and endearing. Aparna's father soon develops a grudge against Apu-- he can't bear the fact that a father never once came to take his son with him. Even the child, named Kajal, starts regarding his father with contempt-- people taunt him due to him being practically 'fatherless'. Pulu, Apu's old friend, comes back to Khulna from abroad and finds the house in a poor state-- his mama is old and nearing his end, while Kajal remains 'fatherless' and uncared for by the old man (who naturally can't run after the naughty child and cater to all his childish whims!). Incidentally, Pulu discovers Apu in the vicinity of Khulna and learns that Apu has been doing a job to somehow sustain himself. Apu is torn between his pain due to the loss of his beloved Aparna and his duty towards his son-- he can't stand the fact that he has to love a child whose birth resulted in the death of his beloved wife. (This explains Apu's negligence towards his child.) Apu therefore requests Pulu to arrange for his son's education in some boarding school, the expenses of which he is ready to bear. Because Pulu is in a hurry to leave the place and can't keep his friend's request, as a last plea, he urges Apu to visit the Khulna-house once and at least see his son for one time. Somewhat unwillingly, Apu does so. But when Apu sees Kajal, he discovers an affection for the boy hidden in some obscure corner of his heart and overshadowed by his immense bitterness towards his fate-- but on the contrary, Kajal is not ready to accept his father's affection. Touchingly, Apu presents his son with a toy-train (those who remember Pather Panchali remember how both Apu and Durga were fascinated with trains as children), but the child throws the gift away. Just when Apu is about to leave the place, broken-hearted for a second time, Kajal hesitatingly asks if Apu is ready to take him to his father in Kolkata (which actually shows that Kajal doesn't actually believe that Apu is his own father, but still touchingly discovers love for Apu too-- if not a father, Apu still is a close friend to the little one).

The film, quite simply, is poetry on celluloid. Ravi Shankar's touching sitar chords and the brilliant camerawork only make the film better. All the actors, and especially Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore (for both it was a debut-- and a debut couldn't have been better!), deserve plaudits for their natural and superb performances.

Again, some of my favourite scenes in the film deserve special mention. When Apu and Aparna come back from the theatre in a horse carriage, Apu stares at his beautiful wife's expressive eyes and lovingly asks "Tomaar chokhe ki aachhe?". With a charming glint in her eyes, she evades the real essence of the question, and answers "Kajal". And hence the name of their child-- the fruit of their immense but short-lived love-- finds a special meaning.

A second favourite scene would be the one in which Apu tries to befriend a reluctant and bitter Kajal, in the same room in which he had first talked his heart out to Aparna. The expression on Apu's face as Kajal threw the toy-train away in anger reflects how hurt he is-- a symbol of his love (both for his child, and for his lifelong fascination: trains) is so hastily dismissed by his own son.

The final scene is perhaps the grandest one: Apu gets his son-- the last physical manifestation of his undying love for Aparna, Kajal not only finds his father but a close friend, and Aparna's father sees his little dream of Apu and Kajal staying together come true-- he smiles as he sees father and son go away to their land of dreams. What happens thereafter to Apu and Kajal is left for us to imagine and decide.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

On sexuality

I am sure this post will surely attract some attention-- positive or negative, with the balance towards the latter I guess! In a society that feeds itself of a daily diet of violence and controversy (keeping the present state of the country in mind, I am pretty sure this doesn't sound like an exaggeration!), what topic can be more discussed or debated upon than sexuality? Sorry, did I say 'discussed'? Should've said 'whispered about'. The whole problem is about not openly discussing sex. That's why we've got thousands of teenagers secretly watching porn, and yet shying away from talking sex among elders and members of the other sex!

The reason why I am writing this blogpost is that some classmates of mine commented that a certain Jodie Foster film named The Accused is a porno-flick. Frankly enough, I haven't watched the movie. But I've watched and observed Foster well enough to say that she doesn't need to do porn-flicks! Because, she is a two-time Oscar-winner and one of the most talented actresses around in Hollywood. Wanna know which film she won the first Oscar for? It's the same 'porno-flick'-- The Accused. I hope the Oscar commitee hasn't stooped so low that it's awarding an Oscar for a role in a 'porn-flick'!! Secondly, and more importantly, Foster was portrayed as a woman who was gangraped by a group of drunk rowdy men in a nightclub. Now that is food for thought-- why did a brutal rape-scene filmed really and painfully well (many sites rated the rape-scene as brilliantly filmed) seem titillating to a group of teenaged-students who've been born into and brought up by 'cultured' families? Have their consciences become so benumbed that something a cruel and ghastly as a rape-scene seems like 'porn' to them? Porn, as far as I can say, is a intentional portrayal of sex, not the picturisation of someone being violated! There was a lot of talk in the class about Foster being totally naked-- which, according to my dear classmates qualified The Accused as a porn movie. Now this is absolutely ridiculous-- (and to put it in a quite crude way) what else do you expect when a woman is being raped?

I won't make this post any longer, but will end stating that this episode makes me wonder again at how much we have progressed since the early days? There was that golden era of sexual liberalisation during the Hippie-infused 60's. How much has our ideas about sexuality changed since then? And when shall we accept the fact that sex is something as natural as eating or going to sleep? And why all this excited whispers about dirty jokes, and yet no frank discussion on sex in the public?

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Life is Beautiful

Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful, which he has both directed and acted in, is one of the most remarkable movies I have ever watched. And I shall tell you why.

It's often said that laughter is the best medicine. Benigni tells you how: even Death shies away when it hears the sound of laughter. Laughter is hope: it is the warmth that keeps the heart going on when the dementors of gloom attack us. It's immensely difficult to laugh when you are surrounded by death, darkness, disease and gloom. But if you can, you have lived your life. Fred and George Weasley did so-- and therefore they remain one of my most favourite characters in Harry Potter.

The first half of the movie is a romantic comedy: a poor Italian Jew named Guido (played by Benigni) arrives in Arezzo and sets up a bookstore. He falls in love with a woman from a noble family named Dora, who is captivated by Guido's charismatic and funny persona. Guido makes you laugh at his innocence and eccentric behaviour, and then onwards you start immensely liking him. On Dora's engagement day, Guido elopes with her on horseback from the party itself, to the bewilderment of Dora's loud and rude fiance. Guido and Dora have a wonderful little boy called Joshua years later.

The second (and darker) part of the film is what makes the film truly remarkable. Just when you think that you've seen and heard all this before, Benigni subtly begins narrating his story of heartwarming hope and bravery. The whole Jewry in Arezzo is sent to a Nazi concentration camp: including Guido, his uncle and Joshua. Like a truly brave woman, Dora pleads to join them, and her wish is granted. Guido, the master concocter of stories, convinces Joshua that the whole concentration camp thing is all a big game and all the inmates are opponents, the first one of whom to accumulate a thousand points gets a big grand military tank as a gift (A funny and beautifully shot scene is the one where Guido bravely and confidently 'translates' the German general's orders to his son and the other inmates: laying out the supposed rules of the game!). But for that grand prize Joshua must obey his father. Time and again, Joshua comes to know that there's no real game, and that all the inmates must die at one time or the other: only to be convinced later by Guido that since all the inmates and their children are opponents eager to get the prize, they are trying to fool Joshua into quitting the game. Guido's assurance that they are leading the game further convinces the innocent, wide-eyed and endearing Joshua that Papa is right (Joshua therefore agrees to hide-- all the time under the happy delusion that hiding gets him and his father more and more points-- from the guards, who actually send the children to gas-chambers under the vague pretence of delousing showers). Of course, Papa's penchant to make instant stories and his fluid acting make it almost real for anyone to believe! And for that Guido deserves all the more praise. That after a gruelling and back-breaking day's work, he has both the energy, bravery, wit and humour to convince his son makes you fall in love with him. Just to cheer Dora's spirits up, Guido plays her their favourite operetta from a stray gramophone one particular evening.

Suddenly there's news everywhere that the World War II is over. In a last attempt to eradicate Jews, the guards round up the Jewish inmates of the camp and kill them. Guido asks Joshua to hide in a sweatbox, assuring him that it shall fetch them sixty points-- just enough to get them the tank, which will be presented to them the next morning. The cheerful Guido is killed by a Nazi, but not before he manages to make Joshua laugh heartily one last time. The next morning, the Allies enter the concentration camp to save the inmates. In a final grand scene, a US tank arrives and Joshua ecstatically exclaims, "It's true", as if all the doubts in his mind about his father's assurances (on the grand prize) have been cleared in an instant. Joshua and Dora find each other, with a graver and older Joshua's voice ringing in the background as the last scene ends: "...and this was his gift to me." And at that moment you realise that laughter is life, and life is beautiful in its splendour and mystery.

Benigni as Guido is par excellence. He'll make you laugh and cry all at once: laugh at his innocence, bravery and humour; cry at his sad fate. The supporting cast of actors is also good, especially the child-artist Giorgio Cantarini (who incidentally plays Maximus' son in Gladiator): you'll love the beautiful, expressive, inquisitive and innocent eyes he has inherited from his screen-parents. Not to mention Benigni, the superb director!

Two facts about this movie: Life is Beautiful is roughly the inspiration behind the Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee starrer, Ta Ra Rum Pum (which I have already watched). Secondly, this movie was the late Pope John Paul II's favourite. Watch it if you want to find the meaning of laughter and love, and the bravery that both need to be expressed. A timeless classic of human emotion.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

'Shei Shomoy' (Those days) by Sunil Gangopadhyay

I finished 'Shei Shomoy' (or 'Those Days', which I guess you have already read and enjoyed!) finally-- was a rather long, but equally enjoyable,read! I rate it as one of the best novels ever written in the historical fiction genre. To start with, the blend of real-life stars of yesteryears with fictional characters was awesome, to say the least. Vidyasagar, not really the protagonist in the book, strangely left the most lasting impression in my mind. In fact, now I have placed Vidyasagar up there in my list of the greatest men to have graced India-- along with Tagore, and my idol Gandhiji. Nabinkumar, and more importantly Ganganarayan, his elder brother, come just behind Vidyasagar. I literally wept when Ganganarayan's love, Bindubaashini died, ending her miserable life-- not only did she have to stay away from the man she loved, but she was already a widow; and then she had to stand the humiliation of being someone's hired prostitute in Benaras. And still she found enough reason to continue living after having a child!

And then when Ganga returned to fulfill his incomplete duties towards the farmers whom he once ruled, I couldn't help but idolise the man for his extreme sense of responsibility. It was somewhat good that Ganga learnt to love again-- his marriage to Kusumkumari was blissful.While Kusumkumari found a new lease of life, after her hellish marriage with a madman, Ganga found a reason to continue living. And given the useless and dreamy romantic that I am, I was of course quite happy for the two. It was also touching to note how Ganga remembers Bindu, saying that while he once again found life and love, she had to die a sad woman.

Nabinkumar (who is, I guess, based on Kaliprasanna Singha) is an altogether different story. The extremely whimsical, and yet superbly talented and kind-hearted, Nabin is torn between two different worlds. He leaves the world in a turmoil-- with lots of unfinished duties, dreams and ambitions. Nabin, is in my eyes, the best of Bengali multi-millionaires we've heard of. Not only is he extremely sensible and humane, he is always in search of something good and noble. And while all the others babus are busy engaging in wine and women, Nabin writes extensively, and tries to rid the society of evils. A rather nice thing about Nabin is that he likes people who speak frankly, and not sycophants and flatterers. One of the more subtle points in the whole book is the love triangle of Nabin, Ganga and Kusum. Nabin seems to love his wife, Sarojini, and yet he has very deep emotions for Kusumkumari. Nabin avoids talking much to Kusum, because he doesn't want to affect his brother's and his wife's lives. The more intriguing question is that: does Kusum love Nabin? Certainly seems so. After Nabin's death, Kusum is silently mourning. And yet Kusum actually still loves her husband Ganga. Isn't love a strange, and yet very beautiful, thing? Seems so to me!

Harish Mukherjee and Chandranath (the son of the prostitute 'Heera Bulbul') leave their footprints on my mind too. Harish is a tireless fighter, waging wars against oppression (and ultimately dying, leaving the whole thinking world in sorrow), while Chandranath has to fight society all his life long. Chandranath, an extremely intelligent and sensitive boy, is thrown out of school, and later hurt badly, only because he is the son of a prostitute. This makes me question: are we to blame the prostitutes for the sex trade? Don't the two-faced babus themselves go to the sex-workers, and later treat the same people as scum? Isn't the world a hypocrite's paradise? Determined to fight on, Chandranath returns as a gentleman, to eradicate blind-belief in sadhus, yogis and other crooks. It's quite funny to see how Chandranath turns the 'faithful' crowd of devotees against the very babas they worship. Ironically, Chandranath still has to fight society-- babus burn his house down and hurt him very badly, because he saves a prostitute from the hungry and violent claws of the rich and the famous. It's a cruel decision of fate by which Chandranath and Nabin never get to become good friends-- something that has saddened me quite a lot. The other figures whom I shall distinctly and fondly remember are Raimohan (I believe each society needs a master whistle-blower like him), 'Young Bengal', and of course, Michael Madhusudhan Dutta.

The hate-figures finally! Barring the usual plethora of disgusting babus and orthodox Hindus, I hated Bidhushekhar the most. Strange, isn't it? Let me explain. Bidhu never looked at Bimbabati with respect-- all he had for her was lust. What was most disgusting was the way Bidhu forgave his lust all by himself-- all the while saying that Ganga was wrong to desire his daughter, Bindu. That is damned hypocrisy! Also worth mention is the attitude with which Bidhu treated the Singhas-- he kept repeating in his mind that he could destroy the Singhas if he wished too, and the only reason why he didn't do so was his love for his late friend Ramkamal Singha. I believe no true friend ever thinks such about a "dear friend's" family! Also in the list of hate-figures is Thaakomoni, the widowed woman who went onto become a servant, and then the boss of them, in the Singha mansion. One can say that fate had forced her to become the way she was-- I say that if we don't allow fate to take control of us, we can always be free.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Film review: Black Friday

Image: The Interrogation.

Anurag Kashyap's docu-style enactment of the '93 Bombay Blasts case, the biggest criminal case in Indian legal history, is earth-shattering (pun intended!) to be quite frank. The film starts with Gandhiji's immortal words: "An eye for an eye wil make the Earth blind." (and hey, it ends with the same) And what follows is some ten minutes or so of pure gore, bloodspill, death, pandemonium of titanic proportions. The very look on a scorched man's face says more than a thousand words of mine can ever express about the impact that those blasts had. What is quite ironical about the blasts is that even though a petty criminal had revealed some crucial details of the blasts before they occured, the police were too confident to believe those: dismissing that man's words as mere foolery.

Kashyap superbly shows each and every minute detail of the planning and execution of the blasts. Kashyap follows the police as it tracks each and every criminal involved in the blasts. And like a house of cards, the whole hierarchy of underworld gangsters starts falling down. The ruthless, tactful and efficient style of interrogation adopted by the Mumbai police often borders on bloody torture. To get the correct facts out, the police leave no stone unturned: even going as far as publicly humiliating the kindred, women included, of the suspects. Kay Kay Menon plays the role of a touch cop with elan: adding a tangible reality to the role, which makes it all the more credible. When Kay Kay, himself quite disturbed due to the the inhuman methods his subordinates and himself have to resort, thrusts his head into a bucket full of water; it strikes me as one of the most sublime moments in the whole movie (of course, the blast scenes are the most mind-bogglingly filmed!). In the second half, the film proceeds mostly through the narrative of one Badshah Khan, himself a suspect-turned-police-witness: Badshah reveals how he gets to meet the wily Tiger, who convinces him that killing hindus (or what is put under the misnomer of 'Jihad') is the only way one can seek vengeance for the horrible Babri Masjid issue, and the following religious riots in Mumbai. Badhshah then narrates how the whole plan of planting bombs is laid out and effectively executed. What is most remarkable is the way the flight of Badshah from the police is filmed. The hapless guy has to travel from one town to another, one city to another, living in filthy conditions quite often; promised that he'll be taken to Dubai soon, and then left to die in the hands of the police by Tiger Memon and the higher ranks in the Mumbai Underworld. Incidentally, it's the heaped-up tension and frustation that spurs Badshah to turn into a police-witness. There's a certain flashback towards the end of the film which shows how Tiger Memon, his associates and agents of ISI plan to execute a grand show of 'Jihad' to terrify Hindu hearts, and seek revenge for the injustice lent out to the Muslims-- which is absolutely fabulously shot.

The dialogue in the film is very commendable. There's a certain line where Kay Kay answers a group of reporters on the allegation that the police are violating human rights when brutally interrogating suspects: (I am presenting just a mere translation of what Kay Kay says in Hindi) "When we interrogate cruel murderers cruelly, you enquire about violation of human rights. Why don't you ask us about violation of human rights when hundreds of innocent people die in the blasts? The guys in lockup we are interrogating aren't innocent people, they are hardcore terrorists; and we'd be quite happy to hand over the interrogation to all of you! Unless you humiliate these guys and their family-members, you can't get a word out of their mouths!"
In a conversation with Badhshah, Kay Kay says: "You, who kills in the name of religion, are a bastard. And so is the hindu who kills you and your people in the name of religion." I can't agree more. No religion ever promotes or justifies unjust warfare, and people who kill in the name of 'religion' are the biggest hypocrites in the world. "You think that your Tiger Memon is a Jihaadi. Why is he sitting in Dubai with his family now, while you people are rotting here in our jails?" Kay Kay continues, "You think that Allah was with you all the while, when you took revenge for the damage inflicted on you. Allah always blesses the one who seeks truth, and if we had not been seekers of the just truth, you would'nt be standing before us here!"

The film however scores the most in technique, camera, direction and acting: every little detail in the film is as credible as real (even the guy who plays Dawood Ibrahim). Just watch the film to understand why I speak so highly of it: it's something you should never miss.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Commentary: Traffic Signal.

I recently watched the Hindi movie Traffic Signal some days back. Though the ending was a bit rushed up, it was a nice film to watch-- moreso because I am an admirer of Madhur Bhandarkar's school of filmmaking. Bhandarkar's films are always based on the harsh truths of life, and quite often about the double-standards of the rich and famous of the world. They are fresh in content each time-- though with similar themes-- and are made in a very straightforward, and often stomach-churning, manner. I really loved the performances of Konkona Sen Sharma (who's one of my most favourite actresses), Sudhir Mishra (he was a knockout in the form of the don Baba Sheikh!), Ranvir Shorey (portraying with precision the heart-broken drug-addicted conman who sees his lover, a prostitute, forced to sleep with other men every night) and most of the supporting cast. The film made me wonder again-- who's to blame for the beggars who are forced to con people at the traffic signals (and elsewhere) to earn money enough to feed themselves? Aren't we the real criminals? Haven't we as a nation unnecessarily increased its population to the point where per capita income is so meagre that even the poorest American gets a good laugh after having a look at the figures? Haven't we reduced this country to a producer of the largest contingent of beggars, handicapped people, BPO and IT employees ourselves? Haven't we taken the shortest road too often, thus making our country the victim of our own laziness, corruption and lack of determination?

One of the most understated subplots, which I rate as exceptionally brilliant, involved a poor beggar boy who wants to make his dark skin fair. The innocent boy believes that some fancy skin-fairness cream may help him do so-- and therefore he spent some hard-earned money to buy a tube of that. Only to realise after much and repeated use that he won't become fair! The poor boy vents his anger on a large advertisement, of the cream's brand, by the roadside. While on the surface, this may seem to be a somewhat amusing portrayal of an innocent boy's foolishness, a deeper read suggests issues more serious: poor people blindly chasing dreams they can't achieve. That's human nature-- something Tagore immortalised in his superb short story The Postmaster. We dream, often fail in achieving our dreams, only to chase new dreams in vain again. It's the unending cycle of human wants and desires-- which Buddha rightly notes as being the source of maximum unrest in the world. Read over again-- it's the poor boy's dream to become fair that causes him a heartbreak.(On a lighter note: some of the girls may kindly learn that no "fairness-cream" can turn a black complexion into something fairer. That's medically impossible! It's insane on the part of the companies to project some fancy fairness-cream as a source of inspiration to young minds-- who become singing or dancing superstars in 30 days after using the cream! That's really lame. :P)

If I had to pick my favourite actor from the lot in the movie, I'd choose Ranvir Shorey (followed by Konkona Sen Sharma). Shorey excels in the role of a conman-- addicted to drugs, dejected and rejected my normal society, and in love with a prostitute who sleeps with numerous other men but can't afford to comfort Ranvir. It's painful to see Ranvir die of excessive drug overdose, and a totally broken heart. I wonder why such a superb actor gets to play only small roles in films! The next budding director should go and catch Ranvir, who, by the way, makes a superb comedy pair with Vinay Pathak. Shorey and Pathak can make you laugh really well-- and it isn't the kind of crude comedy which makes Johnny Lever irritating after a while. I love both of 'em. Konkona does really well as Ranvir's lover, the prostitute, who herself is very sad to see Ranvir die. Konkona, along with Rani Mukherjee, gets my nod as the two best actresses (wonder why even actresses are called 'actors' nowadays!) in Bollywood at the moment-- of course notwithstanding such classic veterans as Jaya Bachchan and Shabana Azmi. And oh, I was forgetting Mr. Attitude, Sudhir Mishra. He plays the cold-blooded Godfather-style mafia with aplomb.

P.S.: I deliberately chose a film like Traffic Signal instead of some classic, because it's relatively easy to write about classics. So many renowned critics write about them anyway! I chose this relatively "non-classic" film, which is more than watchable by any standards, only because it allowed me to write something original without copying stuff from other reviews. :P

A big thank you...!

Dear readers,
I am both pleasantly surprised and hugely grateful to all of you for the positive feedback I have received over the past few days. I can't express in words how happy it makes me when people say that they love to read whatever I write. It's been all the more happier to know that people whom I respect and love very much like reading this blog. I won't take names, because some of them don't like being spoken about on public forums such as this. No matter-- a big THANK YOU to all of you.

And hey Mr. 'slangy' Anonymous, I never invited you to visit my blog. Why do you waste your time writing stuff that doesn't disturb me anymore. I used to get upset earlier, but now I've accepted your folly as a part and parcel of this journey.

P.S.: Actually, I broke a promise, in not posting for a long time, that I had made to myself when I created this blog-- to post at least once in every two weeks.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

How nice of my acquaintances and friends!

I've been posting for about some one and a half months on a variety of topics, and yet for the past three weeks no one worthwhile has cared to look up (or even if they did so!) and comment. No one worthwhile, I repeat. But lots of anonymous chaps showing their skills in using the choicest of Bengali profanities. And not to forget some owner of a site who has petitioned to the UN (that's what I found out after I googled for the site's name) saying that Gandhiji was a hypocrite and a shameless racist, and that the UN's plans to celebrate World Peace day on October 2 should be cancelled. And also another anonymous chap giving me a link to 'earn free money'.

No one to say anything on gandhism, Harry Potter book 7, human love, SMS text (excluding the previous participants of course)-- at least no one in the past three weeks. Is that proof of a suspicion that I have held for long, in the recesses of my mind-- that I am a boring/utterly incapable/irrelevant/foolish/a worthless know-it-all writer. At least assure me that. I'll stop wasting my and your precious time here at my blog.

On the contrary, if you think that I have some worth-- care to comment when you visit my blog. Kindly read the posts once and let me know your opinions. This is an earnest request.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

My folly....

This time I'll make it really short. This is something rather personal which I would like to share with those who care to look up at my blog. I made a mistake today. I, the eternally emotional philosophical idealist, forgot his own words of wisdom for four long hours. For these four hours, I tried to figure out how much a particular person (I don't deem it right to disclose the name!) loves me. The parameter on which I was trying to evaluate love was something really foolish: need! I tried to figure out how much the person in question (named XYZ henceforth) 'needs' me. And then suddenly, I realised how foolish I had been for these four hours.

How could I make the foolishness of evaluating love (which is in itself quite a tough job!) in terms of the need XYZ felt for me? Love is something that is beautiful. Something that transcends all earthly needs of food, shelter, money, need, want etc. And anyway, how much help am I really of, that someone should feel the need to love me? I forgot the imagery that had captivated me: "Set the bird free. If it comes back to you, it was always yours. If it doesn't, it never was!" Deep inside I was trying to entertain the idea that XYZ is bound to 'love' (in the distorted sense of the word) and need me. Now, I feel really sorry for having chided XYZ in my own mind (thankfully I had confined that extreme irrational anger to myself!). I shouldn't have done so. But in a way, I am thankful that I committed this folly. This was a lesson I had to realise. I thank God for giving me the wisdom that relationships require to be understood. This post is a heartfelt sorry to XYZ ; and a big thanks to my conscience-- once again you showed me the right way.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

The relevance of Gandhism

After my first post on the Mahatma and his way of life, I think it will be quite relevant to discuss and elaborate WHY on earth shall we try to listen to the words of Gandhi? Why is the message of the frail, fragile and bald-headed peace-loving man remembered even today by those who praise him? Why, after all, considering that Gandhi lived in the first half of the previous century?

The basic principles on which Gandhism stands are non-violence, satyagraha and universal love. Nothing new with that, right? Even the historians have blindly repeated Gandhi's words so often. So what new and relevant message does those words convey? But if you picture yourself in the Europe, or for that matter even India, of the early 1900's, you'll get some picture of the situation. Picture the world around-- the race for arms, the misguiding political calls for 'patriotism', 'development', 'world political power', rivers of blood flowing, corpses littered around, often unsympathetic government, state-sponsored violence, unemployment coupled with total economic decay (sudden bouts of inflation and depression in the market), ethnic-cleansing, bereaved lovers and relatives of dead, or worse still, brutally injured and amputated soldiers-- and then it dawns upon you that the world Gandhi lived was uglier than the most insane of human minds can imagine. All this nauseating ugliness and more, the biggest threat being chemical, biological and nuclear warfare. What the world required at that point of time was a messiah of peace. One who rightly noted that 'an eye for an eye shall make the world blind'. One who said that 'the difference between what we do, and what we can do, can solve most problems on earth'. One who recognised the horrors of blind industrialisation and political powerplay. And that was Gandhi. Surprising though it may seem, when Gandhi visited London for the second Round Table Conference, the mill-workers of Lancashire (whose bread Gandhi had indirectly denied, by promoting his khadi and boycott movements) gave him the warmest of receptions. A certain reputed newspaper noted that 'Gandhi maybe a politician among saints, but he is no lesser a saint among politicians'. Though Gandhi left London a hugely disappointed man, for the Conference had failed to reach a definite conclusion, Gandhi had met a great number of talented thinkers from George Bernard Shaw, Charlie Chaplin, Gandhi's own erstwhile jailer General Smuts, Albert Einstein etc. And all of them agreed with one thing-- the world needed the healing power of love more than the destructive power of the atomic bomb. But alas, the West failed to truly understand Gandhi's message of universal love. Gandhi failed to stop World War II.

But, we were talking about Gandhi's relevance, weren't we? His message's relevance in current times. The only change in today's scene is that in place of a Germany, we have an USA today. And in place of a Hitler, we have Bush! Things haven't changed much from that perspective. Practically, the world is still ruled by a half-literate power-thirsty despot, who wages wars against countries at his own will. Who thinks it's perfectly fine to take the side which seems most favourable for his own political good, and change that if situations change. A person, to whom the only 'good thing done' which may be attributed is that he doesn't run concentration camps to cleanse the Earth of 'social scum'. And seeing even our own India's and Pakistans's eagerness to make atom bombs and deadly missiles, how much has changed since those dreadful 1930's and 1940's? So decide for yourself how much relevant Gandhi's message of non-violence, satyagraha and universal love is. When technology is given more importance than human welfare, what more can be said? In today's world, where a cellphone is more important to a youngster than the amount of social work he does, or even think of doing, what else can be said about Gandhi's insistence than technology shouldn't be allowed to prosper if it threats to extuingish the lamp of humanity? When the state forces poor farmers to give up their farmlands to make way for companies making small-budget cars, at the cost of grain, how much do you think is one being rational and humane?

Gandhi was one who lived by the cliche: "Simple Living, High Thinking." He was one of the first people who stressed than sanitation in rural India would stop most of the diseases from spreading; the one who stressed that spitting, defecating and peeing by the roadside isn't only ill-mannered but unhygienic too, considering that a huge number of Indians walk barefoot. Gandhi moved from village to village, addressing its people, informing them about the benefits of sanitation, hygiene, meditation and communal unity. He dug out toilets, showed the villagefolk how to make water filters from simple gravel, sand and pitchers. And above all, he was the one who advocated how necessary and good it is to believe in oneself, and ultimately God. His regular prayer meetings were attended by people of all religions, caste, creed and colour. Gandhi's simple dictum that all ministers of free India should live simple, walk around without bodyguards, converse regularly and closely with the people of the country was not an old man's sudden whim. Even before half a century had passed since the day Gandhi uttered those words, India was, and is still, ruled by corrupt politicians and ministers. One question keeps popping up, was Gandhi wrong in suggesting all he did? It certainly doesn't seem so.

I certainly don't say that non-violence is the universal answer. Gandhi himself maintained that it isn't. At times, violence has to be used. Non-violence doesn't work with heartless and totally unsympathetic people. It doesn't work when someone is trying to rape your mother or sister, or kill you. Then you certainly have to resort to violence. But I believe that violence should always be the last resort. At least, violence is a lot better than cowardice. Gandhi once remarked-- "I'd happily have a country full of violent people, than a country full of cowards." But keeping in mind, that most people are cowards-- those who rag juniors at college when in groups, but flee when they are alone against a group of violent hoodlums-- am I not saying too much? And neither is non-cooperation always effective, or even justified. Tagore often reminded Gandhi that though he didn't fear Gandhi misusing non-cooperation, most others would reduce such a powerful and meaningful political weapon to the level of sillyness. Tagore couldn't have been more right. Being an admirer of both Gandhi and Tagore, I understand that Gandhi's methods, though effective when used by Gandhi, at times were unsuitable for lesser individuals to truly understand and implement.

And above all, Gandhi showed that love is the ultimate power a man can possess. Love is the panacea for the world's ugliness. It was Gandhi's belief in love that made the 'Miracle of Calcutta' possible: a Calcutta, reputed as the most violent city on earth at the time and which had recently seen the Ganga turning red with Hindu and Muslim blood on August 16, 1946. In less than a week, Gandhi arrived in Calcutta, a city seething with rage at the news of Bengal's partition, and catalysed it's metamorphosis to a haven of communal peace. That is an achievement in itself-- because it was here that Gandhi was treated with stones by the people upon his arrival for the first time in his whole political career. An achievement, considering that a taskforce of 55,ooo soldiers failed to restore peace in Punjab.

I'll be happy to entertain intelligent questions from eager readers and thinkers. But I stress that all posts should be in full, correct and polite English. That's not too much I hope! And please mr. anonymous (I hope you get me!), if my posts pose you so much inconvenience, please don't read them!

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

The Deathly Hallows.....

So, here I am. And I can barely control the flow of emotions and thoughts filling in my mind. Voldemort's finished and Harry, the Chosen One, has won. But does that say everything about the last instalment of the brilliant Harry Potter series? Well, yes and no. Yes, because good has triumphed over evil (and that's one thing that should theoretically mean 'all you had to know'), and no, because that doesn't say anything about HOW good triumphed over evil. That doesn't say how MUCH good had to pay to win. That doesn't say how MANY battles, both within the self and outside it, had to be won. And that doesn't say anything about the breathtaking book this is all about: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.

Having finished the book in a blitz, I just can't get my thoughts under control. I can't decide if I should smile or cry. There's plenty of reason to do both: some of my very favourite characters (Dobby, Lupin, Tonks, Moody, Fred to name a few) died to make their (and this) world a better place. I cried inside my mind each time I encountered the news of the death of some Order member. But then, there's plenty to smile about too! One, Harry has defeated Voldemort, and this time willingly and with planned determination. And then, to my great relief, Snape was proved innocent and an indeed good and noble man. Dumbledore WASN'T wrong when he had trusted Snape. And believe me, o reader, that this is the first time I really cried and felt sorry for Snape. I always had the gut feeling that he was on Dumbledore's side, and I'm extremely happy that things turned out that way. That was the second reason to be happy about, though. The third, well you can call me a teenaged fool if you wish, is that Harry and his friends finally found a happy and carefree life. I can't express how happy I felt when I read about Ron and Hermione's and Harry and Ginny's marriage, though that was almost fully known to me by the time the 6th book ended.

But keep aside the emotions for the moment, and we shall return to them in due course. Because if you haven't yet figured out: Rowling's books are evergreen for the magic of emotions, of love and happiness, and the fight between good and evil: a magic more real than charms and spells and strangely-named amazing creatures. Look into the deep philosophy that Rowling has offered. The Dark Lord, who is the most feared wizard of all time, is a very frightened man himself: for he fears death. And he knows not what love and true happiness are. He knows only power and more power, but since when has blind power led to a man's rise to victory? What power is more powerful than true love and friendship and trust?-- things that Voldemort has never known or felt. And therefore underestimated. And therein lies his own fate written by none but himself. Voldemort chose to rush his own death, and he paid dearly for it. Think: true victory is not in conquering death, it's in facing death bravely and willingly, maybe if only death can set some things right. For once and all, can't we understand this deepest of messages? Consider how many Potter fans there are all around the globe. But how many of them have looked at the books this way: as an epic, as a Bible (I go so far as to give it equal status with any of the great scriptures of the world, and that doesn't at all mean that I've gone crazy!), as a guide to rule our lives? How many?

The reason why I think that this book is excellent is that it showed how even the greatest of people can be mistaken at times. How these people, almost superhuman in their nature, can forgive, trust and honour even the simplest of people. When Dumbledore guiltily confesses that he was once a deluded power-seeker, he has genuine remorse in his voice. He knows how one wrong decision on his part had led to his family's breakdown. When Ron gets impatient and leaves Harry and Hermione to fight by themselves, but realising his mistake comes back and saves Harry, I am happy beyond words. For true friendship can't be broken so easily: and inspite of minor and temporary differences, true friends can never stop being worried about each other.

And then when you start praising Rowling for her skill, her meticulous and fool-proof planning, combined with her capability to write such deeply, you can't help but rever her. Every small detail Rowling mentioned before has some or the other signficance: who could have done such a huge job so well?

There are certain words that remain etched in my memory.
Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure.

Here Lies Dobby, a Free Elf.

[Harry:] Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?
[Dumbledore:] Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

And there are many more words that could make the list. So much to be said but so little time to write down. As a parting thought: for each Voldemort the world has produced, there always has been a Harry Potter, a Ron, a Hermione, a Snape, a Dumbledore, a Dobby, a Fred, A Lupin, A James............ Evil has never won for long, and never will so happen in near or distant future.

Real people have always been true heroes. If you thought that I read the whole series just to look beyond the mundane and ordinary world, you couldn't have been wronger. And I was more of a Dumbledore fan before; I can say that I'm truly a Potter fan now...

Saturday, 7 July 2007

To my blog visitors....

Dear visitors,
I request all of you to comment on the blog. See, if you don't write to me, I can't know whether I write well or not. Or whether I should at all continue posting. It's not a matter whether you agree or disagree with me on issues discussed here. In case you disagree and still post a decent comment, clearly stating why you disagree, I shall be happy to allow it. But I moderate comments that try to demean me or any person I regard highly. Note that: I don't mind if you don't agree with me, but I do mind very much if you are not decent with your language in disagreeing with me. And if people refrain from commenting for quite a long time, I shall assume that I am simply not a good enough writer. In that case, I shall either stop posting or delete the blog. No use in trying to post something that people in general think is not well-written.

To sum up, you can comment to say what mistakes you found in my way of writing, whether I should continue posting here at all or not, or jot down points in agreement or disagreement with me. I am open to discussing and debating, but I request you to comment in decent language always.

That said and done, I would like visitors to give all the three articles below a read, at least once. And then comment, or else how do I come to know what people think about my articles?

Thanking you in anticipation,

Friday, 6 July 2007

My friend of Misery....

Okay, let me say something about a man who has inspired me very much. A man who is seldom noticed or thanked for what he does. The chowkidar of our block of apartments-- my dear old Ramji.

Anyone who has ever seen Ramji (one can have a look at the picture that shares it's subtitle with this post) will wonder how such an old and feeble man can be a watchman-- naturally prone to be overpowered by some crook or petty thief. In fact, this thought crossed my mind initially when I saw this man, who walks rather slowly and spends days staring at the people entering and leaving the building. One fine morning, I decided to talk to him a bit. And since then, I have been increasingly appreciative of this man. To sum up succinctly, Ramji signifies simplicity and humility.

Old Ramji is a bald-headed man with a rather short height. His back is slightly bent forward, and the skin of his furiously red cheeks and forehead is creased into several folds. He always wears a very humble dress consisting of a shirt and a lungi, which goes with a wet gamchha perched on his head on hot and sultry summer days, or a totally absurd women's tailcoat to keep himself warm in winter. And as if that were not enough, Ramji is cross-eyed. Many people (including some of my fellow-residents in the apartment) wonder, often aloud (to my intense chagrin and disappointment), why such an old and feeble man, with a poor eyesight, should be kept as a gatekeeper. I have found no good justifications to challenge their question, but still I instinctively like Ramji and will never prefer any other young bloke as a compounder than this man.

All day long, Ramji sits on his cot beside the compound gate and occasionally wishes a resident good day with a smile as special as the man he is. A bare and nearly toothless grin, but with such warmth radiating that it pleases and charms my heart. Ramji has little work to do, as such. The only other job other than watching the people pass by, that Ramji has to perform, is switch the water pump on at the right time every day.

Some of us talk to him when we pass by him, and I make it a point to do that almost always. Still, I wouldn't say I know much of him and his early years. From what I've heard, I can say that he hails from Uttar Pradesh, and that he had a wife who died many years back. Frankly, I don't have much to ask and say to him, for he is utterly ignorant of things that one can discuss and debate about. I don't know anyone to whom Ignorance is bliss applies as much as it does to Ramji. So apart from enquiries on how he is, and if he has had his meal, I usually have little to ask and say. On days when we have powercuts, though, I have more time to talk to him (for lazy me doesn't like to study when there's no electricity, but prefers to venture out of the house with a torch in hand!). And on such occasions, I have often asked him about himself. But then, he is either not too eager to reveal everything, or else he simply doesn't think that he has much that I should know! Sometimes, letters from his native village arrive and he asks me to read them out to him. Those are delicate moments, because more often that not they bring sad news: the death of some relative (which needless to say, saddens him very much). Seldom they bring the news that some relative or next-door neighbour in his village may come to visit him for some days. That cheers him up, for he is delighted by the prospect of having someone at his place for sometime: a welcome change from his life of loneliness. Those moments when I have sat beside him and talked to him remain close to my heart.

Often, some local friends visit him. And on those few occasions, I see a different Ramji. A gracious host: I wonder how such a poor man (he earns just more than a thousand bucks each month) manages to entertain so many guests and friends. Sometimes distant relatives arrive and stay for days: often taking away mats or blankets that we had given to Ramji. And Ramji is kind and simple enough to let his relatives take away whatever small possessions he has! That's when I understand how rare people like him are in our society: in a place and age, where we are all trying to take away from others, here is a man who will go through some misery himself to help some distant relative or friend. And for a man, who has to live in a pathetic quarter (a 7 by 7 square feet room!), that's something noble. Often he has to go without meals, in order to save money to live comfortably (!!) enough for the whole month. Occasionally, we invite him for a meal, and donate something like a blanket, a mosquito net, or an old coat. You can't imagine the gratitude and love Ramji showers on us for help so meagre. And yet all this struggle for survival hasn't made him rude or insensitive. One thing: he has always carried out his duties very well and ably. There hasn't been any major thievery or robbery in our block in these nine years, and you may attribute that to the lack of thieves in our area or Ramji's strict vigilance: but this remains a fact.

At times, Ramji gets drunk and loses all his senses, lying on his cot and muttering incoherently. Do I blame him (after all a watchman isn't supposed to drink and lay nearly unconscious!)? Why should I: if that helps him forget his misery for a while, who am I to comment? I just wish that we had more simple and humble people like him in this world: it would be a much better place. As Ramji silently inches towards his inevitable rendezvous with the Almighty, it saddens me to think that I shall lose a friend. A friend I have grown to love and admire, but one about whom I still don't know much.

Now it is night and I am finishing this essay before I go to bed. In the silent and cool night air, a voice comes drifting in through the window. A hoarse and broken voice singing, his notes punctuated with a tint of sorrow: Om jai jagadish hare, Swami jai jagadish hare........

Friday, 29 June 2007

SMS text and the like...

Of late, I am being subjected to some jeers and rebukes from certain people. The reason being that I requested them, without an ounce of force, to write to me in full words. All of them seem to be so busy, that they can't afford to type "you" in place of "u", "are" in place of "r", "great" in place of "gr8" and so on. I just wonder what they are busy at. Busy chatting, eating, sleeping, lazying around (remember we are talking about being busy here!!)??? What are they busy at?? I know a certain thing, Gandhi and Tagore were certainly more busy men and these people corresponded in full words (I have seen their letters, in fact, in a rare collection of letters exchanged between these two great thinkers). Never knew India had so many self-important "busy" men and women, and still she lies in ignominious darkness. How many Nobels, Grammys, Oscars, Olympic Medals, Golden Globes does India win regularly? And we are supposed to be so "busy"!

Somebody said that sms text signifies imformality. Well, Gandhi and Tagore were far closer to each other and informal in their conversation than many orkut friends! Oh, I was forgetting the rebukes. In reply to my message that I had enough time to write complete words in English, because I'm no Einstein or Manmohan Singh, one guy ridiculed me saying that I "maybe no Einstein or Manmohan Singh, but surely a nut". I replied, promptly thanking him: for showing me whom I must NOT BE, in order to be someone different from the ordinary bloke who works in some MNC or cyberslaver (to borrow someone else's vocabulary here!) company. I said that he was helping me in the way Watson helped Holmes: giving all the incorrect solutions to Holmes' cases until he found out the real truth. Having said all this, I'm pretty sure that most readers of this post won't agree with me in principle and will continue to write SMS text, pretending to be "busy" (actually "busy" lazying around).

Before I end, I must quote two people with whom I agree completely on this matter. One, Suvro Sir, who considers writing SMS text synonymous with mutilating a beautiful language, and just short of committing some illegal crime like thievery or murder. Two, Abhirup Da, who (maybe in a certain fit of rage or disgust) said that SMS text is for semi-literate apes!

I am no very literate guy, you see. But at least, I try to be one. In that way, I'm better than the rest. Well, a last line: I am in no way saying that I am great because I write full words, and I'm not even praising myself for this. Because, it's normal to write full words (and therefore one deserves no special admiration to follow that): that's been the rule for centuries. Apparently, this changed with the turn of the millenium. The corollary: it's abnormal and STUPID to do what is not normal. Remember, neither Dickens nor Rowling wrote/writes sms text. And typing "you" in place of "u" doesn't take more than a fraction of a second if you are fast in typing. Learning to be a bit patient and careful about our language is the first step towards being civilized: language is what separates humans from apes after all!

I even expect some ridicule subjected to me here, but then I have the right to moderate comments. And I shall have the last laugh in this matter....

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Forgotten soul: The Mahatma...

I was wondering what article I should post first in my blog- and suddenly I had this idea of writing something on the man whom I idolise. It dismays me to see that few young people treasure history in current times- for forgetting history is synonymous with repeating mistakes that our ancestors did, or staying gleefully unaware of the events that make us who we actually are. Here I am writing about someone who resides in the pages of history, one who is perhaps very unhappy now- because though Indians call him "The Father of the Nation", few understand the ideals he stood for.

Before I actually start something, I must acknowledge that my article is perhaps influenced most by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins' book "Freedom at midnight", closely followed by Richard Attenborough's multi-academy award winning motion picture, "Gandhi". What I love and respect most in Gandhiji is the inherent simplicity of his thoughts and actions, which are applicable as much to national politics as to our own everyday life. Born into a modest Gujarati family, he was an extremely shy man, but grew to be man who could communicate with a single simple gesture with a nation of 400 million people sitting at any corner of the country.

What dismays me most is that people nowadays accuse Gandhiji wrongly of being sympathetic with the Britishers, and delaying the freedom that could have possibly been won by violent methods. I criticise those people fiercely for two reasons- one, their knowledge of history is poor and secondly, they don't know that violence does precious little. We are past the days when the world was at war, and so we don't actually realise the magnitude of what warfare brings with its ugly self. He often used to say- "if we take an eye for an eye, the world would become blind." In a time when dictators all over Europe (and other parts of the world) were brainwashing their subjects leading them to believe that territorial expansion was the only way a nation could achieve greatness, Gandhiji believed that only spiritual awakening was (and is) the way to achieve greatness. But as always, people have seldom learnt from mistakes too easily. Gandhiji's message failed to rouse the Europeans who, even after the terrible aftermath of World War I, continued to follow the mantra of "blood, toil, tears and sweat" which led to the most catastrophic war mankind had ever witnessed in recorded history- World War II. He always maintained that non-violence and non-cooperation needed more steel and valour that firing cannons, for it's easier to kill than heal. When the Axis powers attacked England and France, he asked the people, in vain, to face their enemies with courage and let them take away or destroy their possessions and lives till these people grew tired of killing themselves. It was his cherished dream that Indians should die without raising a gun when the Japanese attacked India, until all the blood and gore had forced the Japanese to retrace.

And yet I do not imply that Gandhiji wasn't wrong at anything at all. He was quite wrong-headed in matters related to sex. His advocacy of celibacy as a solution to India's population explosion was in fact a poor suggestion, because that would eventually mean the end of a country! But I never doubted one thing: Gandhi was himself a strict practitioner of what he followed. Who else would admit that his darkest hour was when he had an erection at 67, decades after he had started preaching sexual continence and bramhacharya. But that doesn't make Gandhiji a whit short of the great soul he is: take my word, had there been three Gandhis in India, India could have easily avoided the terrible human massacre succeeding partition (well maybe, there would be no partition at all!). Remember this: Calcutta, the most violent city in the world of 1940s, was not engulfed in communal passions in the summer of 1947. All Gandhi did was to undergo a fast unto death in Calcutta unless all violence stopped permanently. The soul of Calcutta responded very quickly to Gandhiji's call: the riot-waging hoodlums vowed to spread Gandhi's message of peace!

But whom do I address? Haven't we have confined Gandhi to banknotes, portraits and statues? And politicians and bureaucrats commit the final act of disrespecting Gandhi: taking bribes, unabashedly and ironically under my dear old Gandhiji's portrait. It's time we understand this man's eternal message of love, happiness, simplicity, non-violence and honesty; or be prepared to live a life of unending mediocrity and inch toward WWIII.