There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Anita Nair-A Prologue

By Sapna Anu B George
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

With “the girl next door” looks - charming and composed - Anita Nair stands apart sagaciously from the usual trend and scenario of an Indian writer. The rustled hair and the carefully careless look add a touch of   spirit and poise in her statuette, which in turn gives her an air of prominence.  As a maverick writer, with a thought process that is independent in style and insinuation, she exhibits an amazing depth in her narration.  Anita would not fit into the conventional thought wheel of a novelist.  Part-time advertising writer and full-time epicure, she lives in Bangalore, with her son and her husband who works in advertising as well.  Her roots firmly are planted in Mundakotukurussi, Kerala, about which she is proud and narrates perceptibly in her books. Her strong and valid reasoning and comments on social issues, such as: "Why should we change the prevailing traditions?" are looked upon by society with awe and respect.

A glance into the life of Anita Nair

When you look back how do you think you were inspired to write?

• It was not an intentional act, though there was a serious desire to publish. I always enjoyed  writing  and  as the  theory  goes, you sing because  you  enjoy  singing, you feel the need to  do  it. No one waits for an appreciation or praise to elevate you; it is like an inner calling.  While working for an advertising agency, I just wrote a short story and left it on my desk. My friend who read it appreciated the story beyond my wild imaginations and suggested taking it to an editor of the Times of India. A year later, he suggested publishing an anthology of my short stories and Anita Nair's books started appearing on the stands.

Which was the first published book?

•Without much search, I chose a publisher, ‘Har-Anand Publications’,based in Delhi, who agreed to publish my book without any apprehension. My first published book, a collection of short stories, called “Satire of the Subway” earned me a fellowship from the Virginia Centre for Creative Arts.

 Your novels always depict the inner depth of the characters’ feelings. For example, in “Mistress", you feel the pain and the degradation a Kathakali artist feels and that becomes the backdrop of the entire book. How?

• Actually, it is seldom the larger things that inspire us but the smaller mêlées”.

Why melancholy or sadness becomes a basic feeling in most of your poems and novels?

• In all human beings there is always a shriek of melancholy.

Tell us something about your inspirations to write poems.

• “Malabar Mind” rakes through almost all the basic feelings of my characters. The entire collection gives us a picturesque view of the day-to-day incidents and narrations, which gives us a gripping feeling.

You have narrated in your site: "My mother is more embarrassed about my grey hair than my narration of sex. Now, what do you think of the narration of sex in novels? Does that enhance the true sense of feeling or does that give you more confidence to write about the character?

• I am not ashamed about sex; I felt it perfectly natural as I was narrating another area of sensuality; perfectly natural like the feel of a silk cloth or the sensual pleasure of a delicious dish cooked and eaten. I just see it as an appetite, raw in form. It does not make me even remotely ashamed talking about it.

What is your opinion about the current social issues that are going on in Kerala - ‘Gods own country’? Who were respecting women and giving equal status to women? Was it all a façade or a cover all these years for politicians?

• It happens everywhere, not only in Kerala. The political issues and society are so strongly bonded; they almost co-exist. We should think about our existence. The nature of the state being what it is and with the high level of education, we do have opinions of our own. In Bihar or Jharkhand, you would not find this much of impact as the educated crowd is minimal. Most of the others cannot read and write. In Kerala, it is an issue.  A few stray comments I made on ‘Asia Enlighten net’ are discussed and debated by all kinds of people.  It’s very naïve to say there are no sex scandals. It is everywhere, but it is hush- hush and suppressed.

What do you think of social work and helping the society? Now -a-days it is fashion. Does a true humanitarian need publicity?

• Now-a- days it is all publicity stunt and each and every one needs to give themselves an air.

In gulf, we have heard fantastic reviews about your books and novels and collection of poems. Do you have any message to give to the young generation?

• It worries me a bit that a lot of Indians, including Keralites, do not attach dignity to labour. It does not matter what you do as long as it is honest kind of livelihood. The young generations should be given the feeling that every work has its value and respect. It is a funny thing that people, especially the young generations, are seldom consistent in their approach to it. This is all because we have forgotten the old habit of reading a book, a good poem or a short story. Instead, computer and internet have replaced the old sojourn habits; we should  really bring back  the habit of reading.

How do you plan a book?

• Once I think of a story line or when an outline sets in my mind, I sit through the book; I progress from scene to scene. When I am done, read through and re-work.  As I write, the plot or the main theme of the story progresses. The crux of the story is always there in my mind, but the story is evolved. The first draft is always by hand and then I key it in. My publisher reads it.

Bringing the persona  back into  focus raises the  question  what lies behind the  heart of most successful  novelists, like Anita, who has completed   not less than  15 books and a collation  of short stories called  the “Satire of  Comedy”.  The secret of her instant success is how she delves into people’s personalities. The perfect example for this is her latest novel “Mistress” (Oct-05), about a Kathakali dancer.  Perhaps she is the first Indian author to be published by Picador U.S.A. Her third book, “Ladies Coupe” (April-01), was rated as one of the top five books of the year and has been translated into more than twenty-five languages around the world.  “Malabar Mind” (1997), her debut collection of poems, depicted human emotions in words of poetry, which flows through your mind due to her perfect selection of emotions. Overall though, a job well done.


By Nishant Agarwal
Kolkata, India

"Order destroys the beauty of creation"
Beauty? as opposed to what?
"murder, revenge and law, of course."
The Synchronized dancers please your mind
and eventually, bind
your thoughts to protect.
Jack, still in the box.
Hedonism hurts, don't you know?
Mr Kundera told me so.
Where will your hunt for comfort end?
It'll burn, or be buried, or be fed
to the vultures, that swarm above,
waiting for humanity, to share their love.

Yet, for comfort, I thrive.

Run in circles and play the game,
run, run around the flame.
Look above at him, the guide.
Alas, he's here too, running beside.
If you break this cycle,
all order shall end.
The world will chain you
for the rules you bend.

But there is hope,
beyond land and sea.
Beyond the women singing with glee,
beyond the lovers caught in embrace,
beyond the holy men praying with grace.
There is hope in the ancient lands,
in the green forests
and the untouched sands.
Spit out the apple,
be born again,
into the womb of silence.
And stay.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Looking Back in Anger

By Abhishek Chatterjee

Well, I can't really write anything about 26/11 that hasn't been written about already. Much of what we felt as a nation has been previously captured by the media, various columnists, conscientious citizens et all. Finally, what is left is a feeling of sadness, persistent shock and numbness by the events that unfolded over those three fateful days. But not so much at the loss of life and the general destruction. 
No, let me not kid myself. As someone from this violent generation of extremism, fundamentalism and misplaced bigotry, I am more than used to seeing gory pictures of death and violence on sensationalist national television and reading more of the same in the pages of newspapers.
No, this is not what I am really upset about. What gets my goat is the fact that it takes us an attack on three five star hotels, 60 hours of soap operatic carnage and 180 deaths to get us to react the way we did. And that we need an anniversary to remember it again after a year. If instead, this would have been a routine blast (routine blast???), for instance, in a remote part of a tier 2 town, our reaction would most likely have been a shake of our heads, a resigned sigh and a change of channels (with a philosophical comment about how that's all we see on television these days). Because these attacks have, symbolically, been on middle-class urban India, our otherwise blase and narrow urban sensibilities have been jolted out of slumber.
We, therefore, reacted differently and with a purpose. Things hurt when they hit closer to home. India has been hit by more than a thousand attacks since the year 2000, (yes, a thousand) killing scores of people, but such a reaction was not deemed worthy on any of the earlier occasions. What happened then? Were those lives not as important as the ones lost in the 26/11 carnage? Apparently not! As a nation we need to reflect on how insensitive we have become and how a certain insularity has crept in into our urban consciousness. It can therefore almost be inferred that there is no value accorded to human life in this country. Oh sorry, it’s worse than that...the higher up you are in the human 'food chain', the more value your life has. We were happy to shut up and turn a blind eye and shockingly even continue happily with the IPL (in 2008) when blasts killed innocents in Jaipur, but now there’s a hue and cry when an iconic hotel turned into a battle zone. The people who were killed this time were people like you and me. Excuse me, but I'd rather we not care about anybody

at all. At least, this way it’s fair. I feel not for those who died or who were injured in Mumbai during the 26/11 carnage, I feel for their fellow countrymen who have forgotten how to empathize. Or vote. Or care.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jingle Bells

By Sharmistha Duttagupta
Vishakhapatnam, India

This morning, as I was turning the pages of a magazine, an article caught my attention.. "Santa Claus does not exist". The writer had gone on to give mathematical and scientific proof that Santa did not exist.
"....................353,430 tons, weight of his sleigh, travelling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance--this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as space-craft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. A 250-pound Santa would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force...... Santa is a myth, a game--and the goal is to keep the little children believing he is conclusion, Santa does not exist."

I smiled as I put the magazine mind going back to a Ria Chatterjee who I have known since she was a kid. Fiery, headstrong Ria who always managed to do more bad than good. Ria, with her I-don't-care attitude, rubbing elders the wrong way, antagonizing her mother; so much so that Mrs. Chatterjee gave up on her and let her live as she wanted to, friendships abandoned halfway because Ria could never respect the word 'friendship' nor the people who genuinely loved her. All she gave them was tears as she moved on. If one believes in divine punishment, punished she was---her academic career fizzled out after college and there she was---aimless and friendless.

And then one December morning, Shyamoli moved into the neighbourhood. As Ria and she were of the same age, it wasn't long before they became friends. Ria adored Shyamoli and found herself travelling that 'little extra mile', making that 'little extra effort' to nurture the friendship. Shyamoli was totally different from the others that Ria had known. Although Shyamoli reciprocated the friendship equally, she remained just that wee bit 'elusive'. Shyamoli, with a lovely soul but an equally caustic tongue showed Ria what she truly was...making her realize for the first time how much she had hurt other people's feelings. Shyamoli, who gave a new meaning to the word 'friendship' altogether. Shyamoli, who scolded Ria, screamed at her, never told her 'what a good friend' Ria was, yet sat up with her night after night as Ria prepared for her exams.......once again treading that path she had long abandoned. Shyamoli, who was right beside her, in her own quiet way, when Ria's mother passed away. Shyamoli, the quiet granite force behind Ria, forever.

I found myself smiling as I thought of Shyamoli. An angel who changed someone's life forever. Today, I am not just Ria Chatterjee, I am Doctor Ria Chatterjee., all due to that one person. My friend, my angel, my Santa Claus. I have gone back and apologised to all those people who I had hurt and I the joy I felt on being forgiven, cannot be explained . Who says Santa does not exist?? Santa gave me the gift of a new life, Santa taught me friendship, Santa gifted me... Shyamoli

Friday, November 20, 2009

Niladri Kumar Unplugged!

By Ananya Mukherjee

Listen to Niladri under a starry night sky and you’ll become a part of a celestial trance. His sitar sings,” someone had suggested a few years back. 
Son and disciple of maestro Pandit Kartick Kumar, maverick sitar exponent Niladri Kumar needs no further introduction.  A phenomenal mix of traditional Indian Classical with a modern bent that embraces creativity, innovation and continuous improvisation, his musical repertoire is as unique as it could be. With his magical strokes on an instrument he chooses to call Zitar, Niladri evokes interest out of the most musically challenged audience and indulges the music lover in a soulful communion with the aesthetic and the divine.
Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Niladri Kumar for us...
MLM:  How has the entire journey as a stalwart sitarist been so far?
Niladri : I feel the journey has just begun. In music, everyday is a starting point, a learning point and I see only ahead, don't look back to ponder most of the times.

 MLM: How do you think you have matured as a performer along the way? Where were the key learning points?

Niladri: Performing  in itself is a learning process. Different countries, different people, different likes, dislikes and also have to do what you like not always what others want. Every performance takes you closer to maturity.

MLM: How difficult is it to popularise Indian classical music in a generation of rock and pop? What can be done to ensure that the young generation develops a habit of listening to Indian Classical?

Niladri: It is a real work to popularise Indian classical music in today’s time of fast changing lives of the present generation. There could be many different ways to do it but one thing is certain, you cannot force someone to like something. It has to be to his or her taste, aptitude or interest. Only then will they want to find out more and more about it. It has to be interesting enough to generate interest in the art form. Many people start listening then fall away from it and many who never listen suddenly discover the rich art form and become
hooked for life.

MLM: When is your next album due for release?

Niladri: 2010 hopefully !!!

MLM: What's special about it?

Niladri: For me every album is special, but hope the listeners find something special again!!!

MLM: Where do you see yourself after 5 years?

Niladri: I hope I am playing the music I want to all over the world and can be a drop in the ocean of music, musicians and sound.

Did you know Niladri....

Hates:     FAKENESS
Draws his inspiration from:   ACHIEVERS
Fears:      BEING ALONE
Sustains on:   RESULTS

 In March 2007, Niladri won the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi's “Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar” for Instrumental Hindustani Music. “The Sanskriti Award”, “The Jadubhatta Puraskar” and “The MTV IMMIES for the Best Classical/Fusion Instrumental Album” for his album 'IF', are some of the other awards he has won besides having valued titles like “Shanmukha Shree” & “Surmani” to his credit. My Little Magazine is lucky to have him share some of his thoughts with us. We wish him all success for an illustrious musical journey ahead! 

A Conversation With Mr Popli

By Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Bhopal, India
Yes, thats right Mr. Popli..I puke only after 8 pegs. Not a drop before that.
Oh no, that happens only when I mix marijuana with rum and whiskey...On weekends usually.
Yes, that's dad thinks you are the one for me. I think so too. I will have someone to blame in my suicide note, you know.
Oh yes, I get suicidal once a month. Yes, I am insured. But the money goes to my dad...I deserve the money..if not anything in dowry then at least this.
What did they promise you in dowry? As far as I know, its only a brand new Hawkins pressure cooker we got as Diwali gift a decade back (saved and stored just for the GROOM).
Yes, I am pretty, I just hate getting upper lips will get used to my mustache..don't you worry a wee bit.
This weekend? But I have an appointment with the shrink...but it is just a routine visit..why are you getting so upset Mr. Popli? Are you on Prozac too?
You are not? So we have nothing in common? But that shouldn't bother us..OPPOSITES ATTRACT no?
How do you like your drink Mr. Popli? With poison? Without Poison?
hello? hello? MR. Popli..Are you there? Can't hear you? Hello...Meet me Mr. Popli... at least meet me. love will happen...I will postpone my appointment with the shrink... hello... Mr. Popli?

I think we lost him daddy :(

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The 'Man'strual Cycle

By Pritha Lal
Springville, Utah, USA

Yes ladies and gentle (or not so gentle ) men... no matter who has done the research and what papers have or haven't been published, men go through cycles. Oh yes!  they do !!! Doesn't matter if they are married, were married, wish they were or weren't married, in love, out of love, wishing they didn't give a freak about love... all heterosexual women will unanimously agree that there is something called the "man"strual cycle. Of course, the men reading this page, will add spoonfuls of sugar, salt, or pegs or kegs of other liquid beverages to digest my comments; needless to say, it will depend on the time of the month and where in their cycles they are.

As women, we play various roles as daughter, sister, girlfriend(s), wife, mother, co-worker etc and in all of these roles, we have to interact with the "stronger" sex on and off. Nowhere are these cyclical behaviour patterns of men most apparent in these interactions, as they are in their roles as boyfriends and husbands and maybe sometimes rarely as co-workers.

Let's talk about the spouse first, as most of my captive audience who humor me by reading this post are married. I remember a week after I was married (to the man I am still married to for nearly 12 years), I took a day off from work and arranged his closet (the Godrej almirah, commonly seen in most homes in India) and was phenomenally pleased with my handiwork and the sweetness of my gesture, of course. I got all dolled up for him to come home that night and swoon over my thoughtfulness etc etc.

Instead, the first reaction I got was one of slight frustration about not being able to find some item of clothing, followed by what remains a blur. I do recall that the interaction gradually increased in decibel and involved phrases "like my space", " I was doing something for you", "my mom used to do this", "I can take care of myself.." ,some torrential downpour of tears, followed by some more similar phrases. Suffices to say, the man arranges his own closet.

So where does the cycle come in, I hear a deep baritone mutter under his breath as one my readers obliges me.  Well my friend, here is the deal, this is the same man who will willingly help out in the kitchen, empty the dishwasher, offer to vacuum the carpets, clean the wood floor etc, but ask him to take the laundry basket to the laundry room and OMG you gotta take a number. This is quite unlike the fairer gender, where it is important both physiologically and psychologically that the cycles stay consistent, which makes it so much easier to predict our mood swings, food or other cravings or lack there of.. etc etc..

For men, this feature is totally random. I mean the spouse could be out all weekend driving around town running errands, eating out, watching a movie and on the way back, it is like the the Spirit Donkey Eeyore has cast his magic spell of gloom and doom. HEAVEN FORBID if at that time u ask the question.. "sweetie are you ok?" and you get the "shut up or I will glare you down" glare, followed by.. "Am fine, will you quit asking that?" Okay then.. so be it.. be your grumpy self for all I care.. am not arranging closets anymore remember.. we all grow up.

The spousal journey is very interesting but being of a somewhat romantic disposition, I have been in love with the concept of love for several decades now. Tennyson remains my mentor about the justification of self pity of better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all etc. So watching people fall in and out of love like flies getting zapped by electric fly catching shock thingies, and being in the shoes or wings of a fly myself, it is not uncommon to see the early signs of the "man"strual cycle emerge even in the "non-committal-totally in love-putting one's best foot or other body parts forward" relationships.

In defense of all the married men reading this, you are not the only sorry lot in the cyclical situation. Your symptoms start a long time ago, both you and the silly bimbette that you may be dating have no freaking clue... until of course you shape up and get into an actual relationship with a woman with both brains and the other stuff.

Boyfriends, significant others, arm candy.. whatever u wanna call them are a fun lot. In the beginning they seem to be totally devoid of cyclical deviations as they kinda behave like bobble head dolls moving in cadence with their lady or any of her appendages, in total alignment, saying the right things at the right time, keeping shut when necessary ( do I look fat?... there is NO RIGHT ANSWER ) bringing flowers, soup, chocolate, small dogs or cats, whatever the situation demands. However, once familiarity sets in so does.. contempt? Na.. not that harsh, but yes the cycles. The compliments get infrequent, phrases like "what do u want me to say", "tell me what you want and I will get that for you on your birthday", "No I don't like your best friend" "oops , yes I do like her, but no I am not interested in her.." etc.. u know the routine.

Bottom line, women have been characterized with PMS, MMS, SMS, who knows what other acronyms when it comes to the "time of the month". A lot has been written about this stuff with scientific facts etc and yours truly will not refute any of those claims, the mood swings etc, because there are readers of this page who will publicly flog me about lying so I will happily and humbly concede that I am at fault. But this goes out to all skeptical men who think they are the most even keeled, practical, logical creatures of habit who are seldom ruffled by anything or anyone. Newsflash people!!.. that ain't true... You don't have to be from Mars or any other planet for that matter, because God's green earth provides ample examples.

How else do I explain a spouse who helps me with the creative title to this blog (although this term is found on the web in urban dictionaries), sends me the link before he contacts an old crush, will not wear buy sports shorts to go to the gym, instead wear frayed denim ones, goes into a silent mode almost every Sunday night, joins Facebook after his 40th birthday, won't eat breakfast before leaving the house and thinks little tomatoes should be left on the trees for birds to eat them!

So friends, doesn't matter if you feel like the bike or the biker in the relationship, the predictability and the unpredictability of the cycles are what keeps the views interesting.

Ladies in particular, accept the cycles in your man, learn from it, grow from it, know from it.. that what goes around comes around !

  That is powerful information.. think about it.. USE IT....

Cyclically yours as always...

The Story of My Assassins

By Abhishek Chatterjee

For inspiration, Tarun Tejpal’s second novel, The Story Of My Assassins, draws heavily from his own challenging days at Tehelka, the defense-deal sting operation, communalism, the Bhagwad Gita (which seems to be every contemporary Indian writer’s current fetish)and Bollywood and he comes up with one heck of a rollicking read. It is a huge challenge to the reader, as it is continually disheartening, depressing and gloomy; offering no hope at all in the end, but by golly, a story of so much misery and hopelessness has never been this heartfelt, passionate, engrossing and beautiful.
The nameless protagonist, a journalist, is informed by the police of a foiled plot to assassinate him. Five suspects are rounded up, jailed and put on trial. But the journalist’s firebrand ‘social-reformer’ mistress, Sara, smells a government conspiracy and thinks that the suspects are victims themselves, victims of their own pathetic and degrading circumstances as well as that of the corrupt collusion between selfish politicos in power and the entire state machinery, which is twisted and turned for profit by the self-conserving political class. She decides, with the help of a couple of smitten lawyers, to investigate the matter herself. The action then serializes to the back stories of the five suspected assassins before closing in on the truth about the attempted assassination.
As we are taken through the lives of the five assassins, we meet our own countrymen that we never meet in real life. People who, like many millions of Indians, are born on the fringes, and silently die there. People who suffer the worst forms of degradation, poverty and state apathy. People who therefore either lose the will to live altogether or murder, kill, rape and steal for the most flimsy and insubstantial causes. People who have absolutely no hope, from the moment they are born to the moment they succumb to their wretched circumstances. The five assassins, Chaku, Kabir M, Chini, Kaliya and Hathoda Tyagi are all such people, each a victim of the everyday violence and horror of an India that exists outside the realm of urban sensibilities. Unlike Balram Halwai, these are no ‘White Tigers’, and in that respect The Story Of My Assassins is easily the more definitive ‘other’ India book, even more so than either Mr. Adiga’s, Mr. Chandra’s or Mr. Swaroop’s. At one point, Chaku’s father hopes that his son’s birth will somehow uplift him from penury, but as Tejpal poignantly points out, “In the end it is always just one more mouth to feed”. While structured as a mystery thriller, this is in fact a simultaneously disturbing and moving social and human drama that deserves serious attention.
But this is not where the list of qualities ends. Tejpal’s characterizations deserve special mention. Each character in the novel is well etched, distinct, real and memorable. The feisty mistress Sara, the self preserving elitist and Kafka-quoting Jai (the protagonists’ business partner), the well meaning policeman, Hathi Ram, the protagonist’s spiritual counselor, ‘Guruji’ (whose oblique wisdom is as the same time confusing and enlightening), the typically wily, but drunk on ‘money-sex-power’ Delhi power-broker, Kapoor Sahib and indeed the selfish, almost nihilistic protagonist himself are all spot on. They all have their indigenous and quirky wisdoms. Sample this – when the protagonist asks the journeyman police officer Hathi Ram if he would like another cup of tea, Hathi Ram responds thus – “One cup is friendship. Two is intimacy. And that is always reductive. As friends we talk about big things, philosophical things and national affairs. But in intimacy we will talk about wives and bosses and the price of milk and vegetables, and we will become small men obsessed with small things. So no more tea, my friend, no more.” It is also to Tejpal’s credit that he manages to infuse a sardonic sense of humor into the proceedings, a necessary trait while dealing with a stark subject such as this. Almost every page offers something genuinely funny, which makes the reader smile and wince at the same time. While taking us through the early years of Kaliya and Chini, boys who grow up on the platforms of Delhi, Tejpal, incredibly, even manages to make death a subject of much mirth.
What Maximum City was to Mumbai, The Story of My Assassins is to Delhi specifically and the Hindi heartland in general. Delhi is cut open and all its veins and sinews are opened for viewing, resplendent in all its colors, particularly red, the color of power and blood, and exposed as a city where the nexus of politics, religion, goons, money, industry and power is at its strongest. Tejpal’s observant eye encompasses both grandeur and destitution alike and brings the city, its people and their idiosyncrasies alive amongst the pages like never before in recent memory.
The only trivial objection one can possibly have with the author is that he takes on a multitude of issues, trying to deal with practically everything that is wrong with the country. But the final product still manages to avoid being flippant or preachy.
This wonderfully textured tour-de-force is easily worthy of your bookshelf and it is bound to get better with every subsequent read. India has many realities and here is a chance to look at the more ‘real’ ones, the ones which don’t get played out in chutterputter English, the ones which get no media air time, the ones which make our country what it is.


By Pratheesh Vb
Manama, Bahrain

Let’s get closer dear
Till I breathe you and
You breathe me.

Let’s stay closer,
Like the bow and the string,
The brow,
And the verse of life on it.

It was here ,
In this narrow space
Between passion and insanity:
In a moment,
So thin like this
And heavy like
our dream’s feather
Music kissed poetry
And defined love.

Doubt not now
We’re invisible now,
Yet existing,
Like God and Truth.

Shy not now
As we are in love now;
We are invisible now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life-Substance, Anyone?

By Arun Kumbhat
Gurgaon, India

Healthcare costs predate the subprimes and the metltdown in the context of socio-economic debates worldwide and also the politics of mature economies.
 Healthcare costs, in say for example India, are about a sixth of what they are in the US. We are all willy-nilly aware of that.
 Let us peel the onion a bit.
 Drug costs, which you and I would assume are a major contributor to the Health Cost burden of these economies. Well here’s news drug costs contribute about 15% to the US Healthcare costs and about two- thirds in India!!!!! Yes, you heard that right- INCLUDING the research costs and the gargantuan cost of developing and delivering new drugs.
 The drug industry is under pressure for its Shenanigans worldwide (you did NOT hear me say – wrongly so) and more so in the US and Europe and price control is wielded as a stick by these governments with much fanfare and great public serves-them-right mirth!
 Sixty per cent of the medicines consumed and prescribed in the US are now Generics – Talk about shaving costs! The pricing of generics has always been a rapid downward spiral.
 So where do the rest of the 85% of the costs cascade from?
The answers are obvious. Medical and Healthcare delivery professionals and insurance costs.
 Peel some more?
 Outside the lawyers, it is generally true that Doctors are the highest income group in these mature (mostly a euphemism for dated) economies. Insurance companies with cashless compensation have a great deal to do with their compensation levels and prescribing habits in contrast to what happens in ‘pushcart’ economies like India. Add to this what the drug industry forks out by way of Doctor-Indulgence or promotion – your preference of nomenclature is gladly indulged. So which hands are really cleaning up the cookie jar?
 Again, the Indian patient in 80% or more cases pays for his healthcare from his own pocket. The costs are perhaps also lowered by a mix of traditional systems, home remedies playing a role in making healthcare affordable and accessible. Again 20% of the healthcare is delivered by the public system and 80% by private channels. Cost Plus system of pricing and the resulting tempering of aspirations keeps delivery costs low.
 Contrast this with lifestyles and incomes in the Healthcare Delivery systems in the mature economies and you pretty much have an understanding of the 85% slice and its appropriation.
 Did I hear the word 'Socialism' hurled somewhere?
 Peel a little more.
 What does really drive compensation levels anywhere ? – Lifestyle Aspirations is my call.
 What is yours?
 Simpler, humbler lives anyone?
 Life-Style  or Life-Substance? Look within.
 And we haven’t even discussed the impact of life style diseases and its contribution to the disease burden, with its consequences and costs yet! Oh yes, there is then also the life style - environment equation!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Up Close & Personal: Mridula Koshy

By Ananya Mukherjee

From being a cashier at Kentucky Fried Chicken, backstage dresser in fashion shows to working as a trade union and community organiser and finally being a writer. No, am not giving you a quick skeletal outline of a Bollywood or Hollywood rags-to-riches flick. This journey is not a figment of my imagination; it’s the personal experiments and experiences of a woman encapsulated in a few phrases. Ladies and gentlemen, may I have the exclusive honour of presenting celebrated author of If It Is Sweet--- Mridula Koshy.  
Needless to say, her journey so far has been a mixed bag of opportunities and extremely interesting if not different from many others in her league. Mridula says what she shares with the readers is the experience of mining that life, not the actual, possibly boring, facts of life.
"Perhaps there are writers who write to escape their lives. I write to immerse myself in it. There is a hunger inside me to be productive and I don’t think it is a particularly unique or remarkable characteristic; it is one I believe all of us share. My work life has always been satisfying to me in that it met my need to be productive,” she elaborates.
But has her sense of self esteem been challenged by the stigma placed on some of the work that she has engaged in before her book hit the bestseller’s chart? Yes, she admits. “My sense of self-worth has certainly been challenged by the poor value placed on most of the labour I’ve engaged in—particularly the unpaid labour of being a mother for the last twelve years. And yes for all my fellow Indians who share with me our national bathroom phobia, the experience of scrubbing toilets at KFC played itself out very much like all my other jobs – low pay and low esteem at odds with a natural sense of rightness about bringing order into the world, about cleaning up dirt. With the years gone by I can report that rightness and order have prevailed. And as a side benefit, my kids know today to always leave a public bathroom cleaner than they find it. Bathrooms are not dirty places unless people make them so.
When I look around me and see people being phenomenally productive—climbing scaffolding, blow-torch in hand, building the metro rail in Delhi, building, in effect, our country, and sometimes losing their life in the effort, I am moved by the unrecognized labour and sacrifice of an entire class of people,” she points out.
Interesting to note, Mridula shares how her work-life is a strong influence on her writing. The koodawallah (garbage man) on her street is someone she observed because she is interested in the way in which his work is forming him, even as her own work has formed her. How? She explains, “Because I look at him, with eyes that are simultaneously interested in seeing myself, I cannot fail to notice the bare hands sorting my daily waste, are stunningly bejewelled, a ring on each finger.”
Does that mean she has been able to strike a perfect balance on the other more challenging work-life tightrope, of juggling commitments between those of a mother and a writer? Not really, she agrees. “My kids suffer some. My writing suffers some. This is what I conclude when I am angry about the whole crappy deal. But when I am feeling sorry for myself I focus on how I suffer—a lot.”
However, putting a positive spin on it, Mridula continues, “The labour of parenting and the labour of writing feed each other. That is, I am a better parent because I am a writer. And a better writer because I am a parent.”
But the above is only half-true, she immediately adds. One doesn’t become a better parent by being distracted, emotionally unavailable, lost in one’s own head space, cranky--in other words a writer. “The kind of intelligence and honesty it takes to be a good parent does help me in my writing life. I guess not every yin has a concurrent yang,” she observes.
And both the yin and the yang in her case are not easy jobs, especially for a writer of short stories in the current times, where a novel is apparently considered a more value-for- money investment than a collection of short stories. “I think the issue with readers not being willing to plonk their money down for a short story collection cannot be addressed by selling the reader on how the brevity of the form will fit into their busy lives. It’s going to take leadership and courage from publishers to brave the marketplace truth, which is that readers think novels are more bang for their buck. A rich meaty novel that transports one to another century, another part of the world, filled with compelling characters, whose trials and tribulations can be followed in excruciating detail all the way to their conclusion is an entirely different experience than the short story, with its elliptical, tangential telling of the tale, its requirement that the reader engage and not escape.”
So how can the reader be convinced that the difficult and often dissatisfying form of the short story is for them? “First, publishers must publish short stories. Then readers will read them. They will discover that a short story lingers as a novel cannot—lingers, to haunt, to irritate, to continue its unfurling in the reader’s mind. They will be convinced,” she shares.
Mridula, after the stupendous success of If It Is Sweet, is ready with her first novel. “I am in the process of showing the manuscript to other writers whose opinion matters to me. Once I have their feedback I will put a final polish on the whole thing. Then comes submission. The only thing more important to being a professional writer is the actual act of writing. Write first, submit next. Rinse and repeat.”
From our team here on My Little Magazine, we wish her all the very best!  

Image courtesy of Gihan Omar
 Mridula’s fanpage is at

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Prisoners of Conscience

By Kingshuk Poddar

It all started with a mass forwarded email I received one fine morning. One of the very common petition type forwards. However, it was beyond “turtles unable to digest plastics” or “if you do not forward this mail within seven days…” type of emails. 
This was a very humane appeal to help save the plight of a highly recognized physician and human right activist, who for some authoritarian Chhattisgarh dictat has been in prison with an ailing heart. It was my first tryst with the likes of Dr Binayak Sen.
We all realized beyond all glitters of the Uber urban Indian society there exists another India. An impoverished, poor, authoritarian society where people and their lives hold no good to the mantles of the leaders they elect to political hierarchy. The entire story of class struggle had once emerged from these roots and today, we have a Naxal disturbed India, more severely bothered than what militancy or radical terrorism could have had.
Dr Sen was no part of this story, yet so ineptly involved. His crime—he, in his own small way, had tried to set up the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha's Shaheed Hospital, which is owned and operated by a workers' organization. Along with his dream project Rupantar, he tried to train, deploy and monitor the work of community health workers spread throughout twenty villages, which supposedly should have been the government’s do. The International community acclaimed his efforts by awarding him the tenth annual Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, he being the first ever Indian or South Asian to win such an award. And how did the Chhattisgarh government acknowledge such deed?
In May 2007, he was detained for allegedly violating the provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. Ever since, this glorified alumni of Christian Medical College, Vellore who left his faculty position at Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi to work for the underprivileged inhabitants of the Bastar village in Madhya Pradesh, had been on and off the court. Numerous petitions, appeals, protest in India and rest of the world haven’t budged the court’s order but for the bail plea which was finally accepted on 25 May, 2009. 
The reason for the Chattisgarh government to react in this way? Dr Sen has been alleged to have CPI (Maoist) links. This region of Chattisgarh is said to be the cradle of Maoist movements in India. Dr Sen, being a Bengali and a humanitarian physician had communicated with Maoist leaders, most of them being of Bengali origin. A yellow coloured Maoist booklet and a photocopied article on Naxal movements is what the court holds as evidences against him. Arrested under a non-bailable warrant with these evidences is clearly a breach of the International Law by Amnesty International.
While in custody, Dr. Sen received the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights in 2008. The Global Health Council issued a public statement, "Dr. Sen's accomplishments speak volumes about what can be achieved in very poor areas when health practitioners are also committed community leaders. He staffed a hospital created by and funded by impoverished mine workers, and he has spent his lifetime educating people about health practices and civil liberties — providing information that has saved lives and improved conditions for thousands of people. His good works need to be recognized as a major contribution to India and to global health; they are certainly not a threat to state security”. As a resonance to his arrest, doctors across India have started holding free clinics for the poor in tribute to Sen and to peacefully campaign for his release.
This is what real Indian governance stands out for. First, he was denied the right as a doctor to treat his patients. Now Dr Binayak Sen is denied the right to his own treatment. He needs an urgent Heart checkup and a possible bypass surgery urgently. Although released on bail, the charges against him still stand and if convicted, he can be sentenced at par with a militant. Two years have passed and even with such international and mass petition the charges haven’t been dropped. This is not mere an article to add to the blog charts. It’s a petition, a request to save a champion of the human cause the right to live. They may reserve the Nobel Peace Prize for more ideas and thoughts in the making, here we are asking a saviour of hundreds of poor souls a right to live.

(Disclaimer: How does it matter to me campaigning for Dr. Binayak Sen?
I am just an admirer of this wonderful human being like millions others. The only trivial connection that the two of us share is that we both date back to the same alma mater, Calcutta Boys’ School. Thankfully, most of our old boys in the like of Prannoy Roy, Pritish Nandi, Siddharth Basu, Raja Sen and Purnendu Chatterjee have been asking for his freedom since 2007. Though late, I just did my part.

For signing the petition for his release or learning more about Dr. Binayak Sen, please visit 

Image courtesy of  Shailendra Pandey, Tehelka