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.

Friday, December 24, 2010

May You & Your Family Hear the Bells

Wish all our readers, friends and supporters a Merry Christmas and a very happy 2011.
Thank you for the fondness and encouragement, inspirations and criticisms.
We look forward to seeing more of you and sharing more of ourselves in the new year.
Warm regards and many thanks
My Little Magazine


By Pritha Lal
Springville, Utah, USA

Fear it, we do,  shudder at the very thought,
Deny the very word, and run amok distraught.
Finality it may bring, reality it jars us to
Is death only the end of life, to mortals like, me and you?

To live without laughter is akin to dying
To love without hope can take its toll
To know you were wronged can be hurtful,
But to know you were cruel can really kill one’s soul.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Desert Rose

By Pritha Lal
Springville, Utah, USA
I gently crushed a red rose in my palm,

To the distant dunes, I let the petals fly,

Desert wind, I said, Carry this fragrance far and wide,

Just leave the bloody thorns for me.

To which I heard a reply deep within,

As if the scorching wind now gently mocked me,

Petals and thorns are both yours to keep, it said,

Love and pain will both remain within thee,

To want one sans the other, is to ask for a night without a star

Know that even a wilted desert rose, spreads its fragrance from afar.

As the sun rises again

By Anindita Baidya
Anand, Gujarat, India
The bus took her through long trails in the woods, by the undulated roads, passing by some rickety wooden houses. Innocent faces of the village children, with sleep still stuck at the edge of their little eyes, looked at the bus curiously while some dust-clad little bodies ran here and there. 
In an hour, the bus halted by the ‘bus stand’, which was a structure made of four crooked wooden sticks roofed by a blue-painted shade. Village Daam, they said. She alighted from the bus and paused for a while to breathe the fresh air.

She was there, at last. After 12 hours of long journey, she had reached the little tribal village of Daam, nestled in the hills of Dalma.

Rehana was there to gather the broken pieces of her life. She did not want to repent later in life for not having tried enough. And what was the measure for ‘Enough”, she did not know.
She had found herself at the crossroads in her little life. Rehana was already about to be engaged to Rex. Her father was suffering from abdominal cancer. Since the past six long years, she had kept her parents waiting, along with herself, waiting for Aahaan to decide about their wedding. But in six years, things changed and they did not really take a direction which Rehana wished.

With her father in the death bed, she decided to put an end to the wait and decide for once and for all. And that is how she landed in the small little village of Daam.

While travelling to the place, her mind was cluttered but once she landed in the village the cold wind refreshed her mind and she was instantly at peace. Now she knew why Aahaan never wanted to leave this place and never intended to quit his work as a medical practitioner in the village. Aahaan had decided to spend his life at this place.

Rehana reached the terracotta coloured single storey building, the only brick one, in the neighborhood. A medium sized pathway lined with jackfruit trees led her to what was named, ‘Mariam kee aashish’: the hospital-cum-home-cum-guest house of Aahaan which housed one doctor, two nurses, some staff and million dreams and commitments.

No sooner did she knock the door, a young, merry lad came out to welcome her, “Aap Rehana didi hain naa?” So, this boy already knew about her. A ray of hope remotely shone in her heart. “So Aahaan has told them about me…is he…….well, decided about the marriage?” she thought.

The lad, who said his name was Shibu, led Rehana to a guest room which had a neatly made cot, a writing table, a prayer corner and enough drinking water. Then Rehana’s eyes fell on the small glass bowl with jasmine floating in water. Memories of past gushed in to fill the room with a familiar aroma. So Aahaan remembered how she loved jasmines and would always have the flowers in a glass bowl in the apartment she had in Kolkata, where the two of them had spent countless moments drowned in love, passion, dreams, smiles, sunshine and rainbows….Rehana was now sure that Aahaan still loved her intensely and could not let her go.
Shibu informed that Aahaan would return only by late afternoon since he had four faraway villages to visit. Aahaan had left very early with his team but had ensured that Rehana’s stay was comfortable. Her return journey was scheduled for early next morning.
Shibu supplied her hot water for a refreshing bath and by the time she was ready, her lunch was ready too. She took her meal in solitude at one edge of the big dining table in the large living room. Shibu had prepared some hot Chila (a dosa made of rice powder) and steaming chicken curry. While she enjoyed her refreshing hot meal in the winter afternoon, she looked around to observe the room which was an evident display of the neat taste which Aahaan had.

After lunch, she moved around the hospital and the neighbourhood. To Rehana’s surprise, she discovered that most of them knew her. It seemed Aahaan often talked about her.

By late afternoon, Rehana was actually beginning to imagine herself living in this secluded place; she mentally planned her future years, managing a comfortable home for two of them, raising children and she also planned that her Ammi would stay along with them, right here. Only if Aahaan agreed to all these, she thought and smiled to herself, mocking at her elusive thoughts.

Aahaan arrived at about 5 p.m. while Rehana was sipping some tea, sitting at the footsteps of the kitchen. The screeching sound of the wheels of the jeep Aahaan was driving sent untamed waves of excitement in her arms and down her spine. In another minute Aahaan was standing just in front of her.

Her Aahaan. Her tall, well groomed, neatly dressed Aahaan. Her Aahaan with million dreams in the deep black eyes. Her Aahaan with the most assuring smile in the world.

Rehana was holding tight, the reins of her wish to run into his arms. She had tanks of tears which would burst any time, she had questions more than her mind could hold, she had complains, she had doubts and more than anything else, she had love. Unending, unfathomable love for Aaahaan.

After tea, Aahaan found a calm solitude place for the two of them. To ‘talk’. They sat on a wooden bench near the hospital, overlooking the Dalma hills. Sitting at the lap of the mighty and beautiful Dalma, Rehana was ready with her questions. Strangely, her voice failed her when Aahaan took her hands into his…

“Look Rooh,” Aahaan started, “I know, I understand, why you are here. I also know what I am here for. My life belong to these people know everything about this place, you also know about what I feel about the people, about my life’s commitment. I have done enough injustice to you. For six long years, I have led you… nowhere. I am your culprit. You know where this relation is headed to….to nowhere. It is time we come to a decision. Rex is a nice person, I am sure. He will shower you all the love, care, affection and wealth which I cannot. He will also care for Abbu and Ammi and will build a comfortable life for all of you. As for your Aahaan, you and I will be forever friends for life’’

Rehana looked up at the Dalma. The evening grey clouds were hanging low by the hill side, as if they were trying to concentrate and keenly witness, whatever was happening in Rehana’s life.

They did not have much to talk. Aahaan continued for some more time but the words did not fall into Rehana’s ears. The cloud was getting denser and bigger.
“Will you say SOMETHING at least?” Aahaan insisted.
“Hmm? Well…no, can I have a cup of tea?” They had their dinner quietly at Aahaan’s co-worker’s house. A couple invited to dinner at a friend’s place? She thought and smiled once again. Her mind never failed to tickle her with deviant thoughts!
The wind was harsh as they returned after the dinner. Rehana spent the night in the guest room. There was a heavy storm followed by torrential rains which damaged the telephone and electric lines. So, as planned, she could not talk to her Ammi and Abbu nor watch her favourite , “Man versus Wild” on TV. In the candle-lit room, she was lying, in the cosy white bed. “What a gentleman Aahaan is, he let me sleep in a separate room!” the stray thoughts again smiled in her mind. It was raining very badly outside. She put off the candle and dived into a deep slumber.
The next morning, while they waited for the bus, Aahaan said, “You will be okay, happy and healthy, Rooh, promise me.” The cold foggy morning made her eyes so wet that she could hardly look up.
They could hardly spot the bus arriving in the dense fog. The bus driver and conductor took some time off to have a cup of steaming tea while Rehana and some other passengers boarded the bus. Aahaan’s voice was shaky and wet, “Goodbye Rooh, keep in touch please”. After she had placed her bag in the seat, she came down to shake hands. As she again boarded her bus, she turned her head to utter softly, “Aahaan, I can never be JUST FRIENDS with you. Goodbye.......!”

The bus left for the nearest town. As it moved through the u-turns in the valley, the sky became clearer. In another hour, the sun shone. After the storm yesterday, the clouds had cleared and the sky was much much clearer today. And Rehana headed homewards..

“Jiski aakhon mein katee thi sadiyaan
Usne sadiyon kee judaayi dee hai
Phir wohee laut ke jaanaa hogaa
Yaar ne aisi rihaayii dee hai”

Saturday, December 4, 2010


By Ananya Mukherjee
Here, your turn,” said the man in the black cloak, pushing a file across the table. His voice was as cold and dispassionate as it could be. Maybe his livelihood had made him that way, Rhea thought. She looked into the purse for a pen and her fingers touched the hair of an old paintbrush. The sensation left a numb spell on her fingers as she desperately tried to look poised and in control.
“Take this one.” Aadi slid a pen at her. An ordinary black pen with a golden nib, but she knew it was his favourite.
Rhea held on to the pen, nervously reading through the checklist their lawyers had meticulously drafted. But words were getting jumbled as she skipped paragraph after paragraph, unable to concentrate or comprehend the legal jargons and their implications. She was losing focus on the words. Actually, Rhea was losing much more. Her world was falling apart.
Aadi was looking away, his eyes were on the phone; he was impatient and was hoping to pack up the ordeal as fast as he could, or perhaps, he was simply awaiting an important call. His eyes caught Rhea looking dazedly at him or maybe beyond....and he raised an eyebrow as if to ask..”What?”
Rhea managed a smile, a very fake one and nodded her head. It meant “Nothing” and signed on the papers. Unintentional as it was, the nib broke with her signature. A strange metaphorical semblance.... .yes, it was as good as signing on her death sentence.
 Divorced. Signed, sealed and delivered. The verdict was over.
“Thank you,” the man in the black cloak took the papers back handing out copies of relevant documents to either of them.
“How long will it take for the banks and all other institutions to recognise this and get the records straight?”  Aadi asked picking up the documents.
“As soon as you hand over a copy of this paper, sir,” the man replied, and with a gesture as businesslike as only he could manage, Aadi shook hands with the lawyers, thanking them for expediting a long and painful process of legal separation.  Rhea didn’t have the heart to hear anymore of the conversation. She dialled a number.
“Hello Mamma.”
“Rhea, is that you? Are you okay?” She heard her mom’s anxious voice at the other end of the line.
“Yes, Mamma. I am fine. Mamma, can I come home?”
“Of course you can, my baby. What do you mean? What happened?” Rhea’s mother’s voice was restless. Then she sensed the discomfort in her daughter’s voice and immediately asked, “Is it over?”
“Yes, Mamma. It’s all over.”
“Come home immediately. Take the first flight you can get out of that wretched country.”
“Yes, Mamma. I have booked tomorrow’s flight.”
Okay. Good. Wait wait, let me take down the flight number.”
“It’s Air India IX 812.”
“Fine then.  Your papa and I will be waiting at the airport.”
That night Rhea decided not to go back to her temporary new home. It would feel terribly dark and lonely, knowing that she was alone again in a foreign land. Her three years long marriage had ended bitterly. She had caught Aadi cheating on her and she had caught him red-handed. Yet, as an expatriate it was difficult to know where to turn for advice and reassurance. Laws in Dubai were not the same as elsewhere. In addition, Rhea spent days and nights delving into bouts of conflicting emotions such as betrayal, guilt, anger, sorrow and above all vulnerability.
“No, I am not going to give up on life, not yet” she told herself. “I am going to make my last night memorable in Dubai.”
Rhea checked into a small hotel at the outskirts of the bustling metropolis, overlooking the desert. She reclined on the low majlis in her room with a mug of khawa, a traditional Arabic coffee, and looked at the miles of endlessly pristine desert and red gold dunes in the distance. “So empty, yet so beautiful,” she thought packing her essentials in a trolley suitcase. Her flight was at 1.35 pm. Rhea checked her ticket and passport and ran through a quick list of necessary items on her mind. The exercise left her feeling very incomplete. What was the use of carrying anything from Dubai when she was leaving the most beautiful part of her life behind?
The flight was on time. As unemotional as she could get, she went through the immigration formalities and boarded the aircraft. Generally a quiet person, Rhea didn’t want to interact with anyone. She had specifically requested for a window seat and as the flight took off leaving behind the trails of a past she couldn’t carry, she thought of her parents. Mamma and Papa, who were so against Rhea marrying Aadi. They never liked him. Her father, a retired Colonel in the Indian Army was a strict honest man. In contrast, the bohemian ad film maker Aadi, who artistic acumen was too vague for the Colonel was a misfit in the Coorgi family tree. After his service to the nation, the Colonel had chosen to settle down in a beautiful seaside cottage along the port town of Mangalore. She would be home by evening and if all went well, would start another life from tomorrow. Bound by the Arabian Sea and Western Ghat Mountain ranges, her parental home was like a painting that perfectly blended with the city’s landscape of rolling hills and freshwater streams, coconut palms and red clay tiled roof buildings.
The first few hours like always were full of food and entertainment, regular in-flight shopping and tempting duty free offers. Rhea’s mind was too cluttered to enjoy these services today. She kept looking at the watch, hoping she would be landing soon. There were clouds floating by, lightweight released cotton balls that looked so carefree but could hold such tears within, such that when they broke down they could flood a whole city. She could see the red tiled roofs dotting the green swaying palms along the coastline.
”Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Please turn off all electronic devices until we are safely parked at the gate. Thank you,” a mechanical voice announced.
Rhea sat upright on her seat and missed Aadi for the first time since she left Dubai. She hated flight landings. The pit of her stomach roared and made strange noises as the aircraft descended. In other times, she would cling to Aadi’s shirt sleeves, and say her prayers. Today, she dug into her purse and clutched Aadi’s paintbrush...his first gift to her and closed her eyes tight.
Then there was a deafening noise like a tyre burst and a complete curtain of enveloping darkness.
With jet speed, the Boeing 737-800 Air India Express IX 812 flying from Dubai to Mangalore on a normal summer evening landed beyond the touchdown zone, overshot the table top runway and crashed into a ravine, killing 158 passengers on board.
From the debris, they found the charred remains of a body thrown on the tarmac tightly clutching on to the only meaningful possession she had. It was a worn out artist’s paintbrush. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

High on Canadian Rockies

By Bidisha Bagchi
St Joseph, Michigan, USA

Our Rocky Mountains vacation was in full swing and we'd had our fair share of lakes, waterfalls and the cool weather. It was now time for glaciers, ice fields and some wildlife watching.... We couldn’t wait!! It was our last day in Banff; we would be driving off to Jasper, another picturesque town in the Rockies region. On the way we would be halting at some places that till now I had the chance of only seeing from a distance. 
As we drove on the Trans Canada highway, our first stop was the Crowfoot Glacier . The Crowfoot Mountain stood tall, and clouds floated around the peak, softly touching its jutting contours. It was majestic! 
The glacier is on the north eastern side of the mountain and when it was first named by the explorers, it resembled a crow foot, hence the name. Changes in weather have even changed the shape of the glacier and there is no ‘crow foot’ any more; only the name. The water from the glacier feeds the river that flows through on the foothills and it makes for a delightful tableau. 
We couldn't seem to do without lakes, in our quest for glaciers though! So up came another one — Peyto Lake , known to be one of the most photographed locations in the entire Rockies. 
When our car pulled up at the summit parking lot, I felt a little tired, another hike? But then again I would not be coming back here every day, so off we went for another climb to the bow summit which had the best view of the lake. It was an exhausting ascent but the first view of the surroundings was mind blowing and we understood why people go crazy about this location. The turquoise lake was striking and its juxtaposition with the glacier and the mountain was stunning. We even had a close look at the Peyto creek that drained water into the lake. After hundreds of snapshots from all possible angles, it was time for us to our main attraction: the Columbia Ice fields. As we drove on the Trans Canada highway, our gypsy guide (a sort of GPS that is popular with visitors to the Canadian Rockies) suggested a location that was good for a quick stop — the evocatively named 'the weeping walls'. But there is nothing architectural about it! The Cirrus Mountain towers over the landscape and small streams of water stream down its vertical 'walls' from snowfields above. Even though the streams were thin, they were rivetting. Especially as the weeping effect was quite apparent. 
Our interest perked by the sight, we obviously could not wait for our final stop for the day — the Columbia Icefields Parkway . We stopped at the Athabasca Glacier Visitor Center to join a tour to the glacier. With tickets to ride the huge snowmobiles out onto the glacier, we went around the mandatory gift shop as we waited for our turn to board the vehicle. 

The article was first published in the Economic Times

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


By Amitava Nag
Kolkata, India 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Action...No Replays Please!

By Abhishek Chatterjee

Perhaps the only redeeming aspect of this shambolic remake of 1985's thoroughly enjoyable 'Back to the Future', is Pritam's peppy music. Budding film-makers can maybe learn how not rip-off a Hollywood film. 
A young lad goes back in time to ensure his parents have a love marriage, for, in the present, presumably thanks to their arranged matrimony, they behave like a couple of snappy hyenas, constantly at each other's throats. He hijacks a time machine, which lands him smack bang onto the sets of 'Om Shanti Om', or 1970s Bombay, and he does the needful with a minimal of fuss. Its all too easy for our time travelling hero and for the viewer, all too boring. 
The lead pair of Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai Bacchan try hard, but fail to ignite any interest at all. Kumar repeats himself yet again as the lovable buffoon and Aishwarya doesn't manage much apart from looking stunning in a few frames. The support cast of Rajpal Yadav, Randhir Kapoor, Neha Dhupia and Rannvijay Singh are largely inept and make no impact whatsoever. Quite obviously, veterans like Om Puri and Kirron Kher have been offered sack loads of cash for their walk on parts in this monstrosity - there can be no other explanation to their appearance. Newbie Aditya Roy Kapur sports a cool Afro, but nothing much else. The film is a glossy black hole. No content, no laughs and no joy. Steer very clear of the 'Replay' button. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Blue Mug

By Ananya Mukherjee
My Little Magazine

Experimental theatre often needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Overemphasised bouts of exaggerated and unpredictable overtones sometimes leave the audience clueless about the intellectual relevance of the acts. 
However, if the unfamiliar structure of an unscripted drama leaves you enthralled, here’s something you might want to watch.   
The Blue Mug, produced by The Company Theatre, Mumbai and directed by Atul Kumar, is a devised piece of theatre, seventy-five minutes of monologues, personal vignettes intercepted by a few conversations. The one act play with no intermission revolves around the lives and memories of four engaging actors—Rajat Kapoor, Sheeba Chadha, Munish Bharadwaj and Vinay Pathak, as they try to filter the significant and insignificant moments of their pasts, memories rooted in their socio-cultural upbringing in India, from the abyss of forgetting.  
Though individualistic, collectively their memories form a collage of Indian identity that viewers can quickly identify with. But perhaps the most engaging part of the play is the sub storyline, inspired by neurologist  Oliver Sack’s book ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”, a sympathetic account of a case of bizarre memory loss, carefully woven into the main framework and presented outstandingly by actors Ranvir Shorey and Shipra Singh.
Ranvir Shorey as the simpleton who lives in the realities of 1983, and has mysteriously lost his ability to form new memories takes most of the audience’s applause.   
Yes, there are fallacies in this near-to-perfect production in Hinglish. But most if that has little or nothing to do with the actors. The scenes get a bit technically repetitive and the stage is not quite utilised to its full. The English subtitles to desi jokes/dialogues are eye-jerking for the audience. In the interchange of thoughts between Shipra Singh and Ranvir Shorey (the doctor and her patient), the actors are distantly placed at two ends of the downstage, compelling viewers to make a choice of focus between either.  
Having said that, overall, the comic timing blended with the atypical Indian canvas of pathos and drama makes The Blue Mug an enjoyable and thought-provoking watch.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010


By Prodipto Roy
Kolkata, India

Monday, November 8, 2010


By Ananya Mukherjee

With now the rainy month stood close at hand,
To fresh Kutaja blooms he adds his plea
And asks most courteously the cloud bring news 
Of welfare to his loved-one — words that she, 
Revived to hear of him, will understand...”

She looked up from the pages of the book she was reading. It was titled ‘My Rain Song’, her first novel inspired much by the yearnings of Kalidasa’s Meghdootam. Her kohl-smudged eyes were intense with literary passion and her voice trembled at the chords her soul struck with each verse of the magical narrative. The late afternoon sun sieved its way through the branches and leaves of a tall tree and fell on her beautiful face, leaving little beads of glistening sweat on her forehead. In that mystical tone of light and shade, even in that modest setting, she looked like a poem, he thought. The realisation left a little tug at some of the forgotten emotions deeply buried in his heart. Time hasn’t really changed the way he felt by just looking at her...even if on a television screen from a distance.
He hated weekends like these when he was left alone to fend for himself. On other days, Shankar, his Man Friday since the years of his youth would clean the cars, water the garden, prepare lunch, and do all the household chores. But of late, Shankar had suddenly taken to spiritualism and left him all alone to attend a guru’s religious discourse in another part of the town. In other times, he would have assumed it was some woman or a C-grade X-rated film that kept him off the hook for a whole day, but like him, Shankar too was ageing and perhaps the likelihood of a metaphysical inclination was more than physical hunger, he rationalised.  
He looked at the watch, reached for the phone and dialled a number.  It was already quite late. The modest restaurant around the corner of the road, the only one in the neighbourhood, served good Chinese food. He ordered a plate of Hakka noodles and Chicken Manchurian. The boy who took the order said he knew the address. He had been delivering take-away parcels for many years.
Beautifully ambushed in a green canopy of tall trees and tucked amidst the dense floral abundance of scarlet-red clusters of the Forest Flame and white orchids, far far away from the pandemonium and speed of urban life was his softly- lit timeless little acre of land—he called it Heeya, the sanctuary of love, as she had wanted. It outlined and encapsulated the soul of the land on which the colonial-styled house was built. On a little plaque, beside the wooden gate (she hated large iron doors) the name was inscribed and it shone under the light of a yellow lamp carved out of the bark of a tree. The dimly-lit garden lights created an interesting pattern on the dark foliage.
His was the last cottage on this boulevard separated from the national park by a stretch of empty land and a little feral brook. The red brick-walled porch overlooking the garden that rolled down to the forest had been converted into a warm and cozy sitting area, by strategically hanging glass lamps and placing potted palms in ceramic and terracotta basins. This is where he lazed on late winter afternoons such as today, on a huge bean bag sketching, taking a nap or simply observing the activities and movements of the plants and animals.
The delivery boy was not late. To satiate the overwhelming hunger, he slowly walked up to the porch with his plate and sat down. The dying sunlight was playing on the leaves of grass, teasingly hiding behind the swaying branches of the Forest Flames.  Evenings fell early in the forests and especially in the winters, the cold mist started to rise from the moist earth, looming like a mysterious dream over the landscape as soon as the sun went down.
His eyes fell on the odd- sized bean bag he had especially ordered for this space. “Why should bean bags be always single-seaters? Can’t two people share a moment of complete careless comfort together?” she had once asked.  Biting into the late lunch, he thought of her again. Perhaps if she were here, they would be cuddled up in a warm shawl, eating out of the same plate, watching the slow movements of nature, comprehending the language of the cricket appearing and then disappearing from the bracken ferns and wild rose shrubs. “When our minds are uncluttered, we seek for visions of our own lives by observing others,” she would have said.
They had met by chance at the local tea stall one summer afternoon just after the semester exams were over, when the campus was a little less crowded with enthusiastic freshmen and overwhelming senior students. She was alone, he had noticed; simply dressed in a pair of faded denims and a white cotton shirt, with very little make up and completely oblivious to the attention she commanded.  Sitting across an old bench opposite him, she had ordered a glass of tea and opened a book. She must have been a fresher on the campus, yet so much at ease with the surroundings as if she always belonged here. There was something about that selective indifference that attracted him.
Their eyes met when a few of his friends dropped by to exchange pleasantries with him breaking into the trance.  From his demeanour and especially that of his comrades, she could gauge he was popular. Probably, a student leader of sort, she thought and dismissed the idea of looking any further.
A few weeks later, he saw her again standing at the library porch, waiting for an untimely drizzle to stop. Her hands were full of thick hard bound books that she clutched close to her breasts, the long and curly auburn locks with droplets of rain stuck on them fell on her anxious face as she looked up at the thunderous clouds. 
When the rain didn’t stop for over an hour and both of them stood helplessly looking at the tempestuous sky, a casual conversation began.
“Doesn’t look like it will ever stop,” he said.
“I have been waiting for almost an hour now,” she replied with a smile and added, “had it not been for the books, I would have walked out in the rain.”
“I have a plastic bag here, if that can help,” he took out a sheet of polythene from a pile of art material he was carrying.
They walked a few blocks together, letting the rain wash away the hesitance of unfamiliarity and doubts, and began discovering each other, and from that started an era of love, friendship, comradeship and commitment. He could never see life beyond her.
Geographies, boundaries, relationships, emotions and expectations hadn’t remained the same. Yet, nothing had changed. He still felt her presence in his system, stronger than ever before. To distract his thoughts from the overpowering sense of loneliness, he decided to go out for a long drive.
The road to the town was not peculiarly empty, as was common on winter evenings, especially on weekends. He sped up, slicing through the cold breeze in his high powered jeep. Age has had little restrictions on his intrinsic bohemian nature. He still thought rage and a furious speed could stop the unwanted pain cringing in his heart. He was nearing the city outskirts, and traffic signals began to appear one after the other. As he pulled the brake at the junction, he looked around the growing suburban townships. He could somehow never connect to this new look and feel of his once-favourite city in the world. The peripheral small towns were reeking with self-proclaimed bouts of modernism, the me-too syndrome of mushrooming middle class mufassils,...all of which seemed to only conceal the city’s true identity and blended it with any another metro in the world. This was the primary reason he chose to find his Heeya about 40 kms away from the city din.          
05, 04, 03, 02, 01....the traffic light blinked and turned green. His wheels roared and he was just about to press the accelerator when a woman jumped out of a taxi parked on the road side tugging along a heavy trolley suitcase and landed right in front of his speeding jeep. He pulled the handbrakes as quickly and instinctively as he could and managed to halt just in the nick of time.
“Are you blind?” he screamed at her.
Completely shaken and horrified by a near to death experience with her fair face turned white, she managed to hold herself on her feet and looked up.
“Goodness Gracious! Is that how you drive?”
The voice was too familiar to be mistaken; even the overflowing sweetness hidden in the reprimand was way too known. He jumped out of the jeep.
Yes, those large floating eyes with the kohl slightly smudged—the ones that glistened during sunshine and made the imperfect crow’s feet look like a childish error by the divine craftsman, the ones that gleamed when she smiled and lit up his world.
“Hop in, let me give you a life,” he took the suitcase from her and opened the jeep’s door.
“You were killing me a moment ago. Thank you, I’ll take another taxi home.”
“Trust me, I’ll drop you there faster than any other mode of transport. And you won’t find too many taxis plying from here to where you need to go. Why did you leave that one?”
“He had a problem with some driving permission. Not allowed to go beyond the city area or something to that effect,” she replied, settling on the co-driver’s seat.
He rolled up his sleeves, and started the engine. “I saw you on television, looking wise and reading out excerpts from My Rain Song.”
“Thanks, I am flattered,” she smiled.
“Do you want something to drink..ah, if you have time for coffee, maybe?”
“No, thanks.  I want to go home. I am tired.” He sensed reluctance in her voice.
“Sure, no worries,” he said and sped up.  
There was a nip in the air as they drove through the dark empty highway only intermittently lit by halogen lamps. He turned on his favourite “Buddha Bar” on the car stereo and she looked away at the distant trees flying past them.   
“Stop there on the left, you nearly missed the turn. That’s where I stay if you remember.”
“Me too,” he said sheepishly, a little embarrassed at having being inattentive and missed the turn.
He parked the jeep and opened the door for her, pulling down the trolley suitcase from the rear seat.
“Aren’t you coming home?” she looked at him, surprised.
“If you don’t scold me anymore. I am sorry...” he said biting his nails.
“Stop that,” she snapped and broke into a smile immediately. “You can get away with murder with me,” she said looking straight into his eyes.
“Then what is making you stop here in the middle of the road, Mrs Stubborn Blockhead?”
“You, Mr Stubborn Blockhead. Open the door. I left without the keys....”
“Trust you, and I couldn’t find mine since you left home that night...”
“What do you mean? Where’s Shankar? You left home for a drive without locking the door?
“No I found them later under the window pane. “
“What crap! But the door is locked. Now where are the keys?”
“I gave them to you.”
“Liar..when did that happen?”
“! Oh shit, I left them in the jeep and locked the door with the keys inside.”
“Trust you....grrrrrrr. Now help me jump over the gate and wait at the porch for dearest Shankar to return from his spiritual actualisation session. ” 
The night was windy and as they stopped at the patio door, the Japanese glass bell swaying over their heads chimed in a rather discordant but sweet jingle. The argument continued, the abuses and accusations followed only to be wrapped up by an overflowing spirit of forgiveness and love, as the two found their place in the odd-shaped bean bag—perhaps the only one in the world that wasn’t created to be a single-seater. It housed their carefree comfort of being imperfect, yet together. 

Monday, November 1, 2010


By Sudeshna Dasgupta

Saturday, October 30, 2010


By Bornali Bhattacharjee
Worcester, MA, USA 

Red had always been my favorite color
It reminded me of valor and a term called ‘POWER’
I wondered why today’s red has become much too pallor

Wait my friend that’s not the end
Asked the street-man what would he call red
He spoke out loud and fell with a thud
It reminded him of his dying child who had bled

It was now time for the middle man to whine
None had time to define a color so prime
Some more money and money is all they need
The urge was deep and that’s what I call greed
 Stopped a wife and talked about her life
She spoke of her man and all her mundane plan
When urged to speak of red she spoke of her dread
With so much of terror would she be robbed off her favorite color

Came back to ask my mother what she thought of my favorite color
She said- If you want the red which you shall not dread
Then show me your valor and the term you call POWER
And red will remain to be our favorite color.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Satire on Indian Social Class

By Abdullah Khan
New Delhi, India

Driven by the IT-boom and the skyrocketing SENSEX, the Indian economy touched new heights during the last two decades. But despite all the progress made by the country, social inequality still exists. There is a darker underbelly amid the shining India where people are not even entitled to two square meals. From that underclass comes Ayyan Mani, the protagonist and anti-hero of Serious Men, the impressive debut novel of journalist Manu Joseph.
Sitting at the bottom of the caste pyramid Ayyan Mani, is perpetually disdainful about the extra-ordinary clouts Brahmins enjoy in the public sphere of Indian society. Leading an unremarkable life in a one-room flat of a Bombay slum, Ayyan is an achiever by the yardsticks of the social class he comes from. A personal assistant to a renowned astronomer Arvind Acharaya, he is some kind of celebrity for his fellow residents of BDD chawl that mostly comprised of factory workers and labourers. To overcome the boredom of a lower class quotidian life and add some sparkle to his miserable existence, he embarks on a dangerous journey, weaving an outrageous fantasy around his only son. And to an extent he is able to convince everybody, including his innocent wife, that his son is a child prodigy.
At the Institute of Theory and Research, where Ayyan works, he is a peeping tom and takes unhealthy interests in personal lives of his superiors. He is a mirthful witness when the game of vicious office politics unfolds at the institute, between the formidable director of the institute, Arvind Acharya and his deputy. For Ayyan it is a war between Brahmins, and he has nothing to do with it. But when reputation of Arvind Acharya takes a dip involving controversy relating to a project about finding microscopic extraterrestrial, he jumps in to the fray. Ayyan not only saves Arvind but is also able to use this opportunity to make his son a national celebrity.
Ayyan Mani reminds us of Balram Halwai from Adiga's The White Tiger as both of them comes from the same Indian social class. But the character of Ayyan Mani is more credible and his approach to climb the class ladder is more sophisticated than the former. Metaphorically speaking, Ayyan's ambition symbolises the dreams of common mass. At another level, the novel is a subtle satire on all class systems in our society. This division of people into haves or have-nots are not exactly based on caste. It may be based on other considerations too, and most important among them is how much resources a person owns. The character has been sketched out well capturing the idiosyncrasies of the protagonist. But, the best-handled character in Serious Men is Arvind Acharya, the scientist par excellence who is as tall as his standings as an astronomer. He is able to inspire awe in his rivals. But his jumbo size ego and clarity about his ambition make him not to compromise on his beliefs. As the story gathers momentum and moves to the second half, he emerges out as the main protagonist and Ayyan is relegated to background.
Another interesting angle in the story is Oparna. An epitome of beautiful and an astro-biologist, she succumbs to the intellectual aspect of Arvind Acharya's personality. But the steamy affair between them doesn't last long. This has disastrous consequences on the career and reputation of Arvind Acharaya.
The author handles the characters efficiently and the story has a great start. The last few chapters are also dealt with superbly. But in between, the prose becomes laborious, sometimes, even forcing you to skip the pages. The voice of Ayyan Mani, at times, also becomes voice of the author and that sounds artificial. There are some minor plot-holes too. For example, Ayyan Mani's attempt to leak questions for quiz contest doesn't appear to be plausible.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Grappling with Hope

By Abhishek Chatterjee
You would be hard pressed to point out Baraut on the map of India. Chances are you've never been there. Or even heard of it. Regardless, the residents of this small town in Uttar Pradesh, around 60 km askew of New Delhi, would have forgiven you your ignorance till a few weeks ago, as their favorite son, wrestler Rajiv Tomar, was well on track to realizing his medal dreams at the upcoming Commonwealth Games (CWG). But that dream has since turned spectacularly sour, thanks largely to the combined incompetence and general apathy of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the country’s Wrestling Federation (WFI), both set up to nurture sporting talent, but whose general carelessness and lack of any foresight have put paid to many a sporting dream, a result sharply in contrast to their purpose.
Tomar’s story is not only a shocking indictment of the state of general disrepair of our sports governance, but also one of hopelessness that comes from being associated with a sport other than cricket in this country. The incident was widely covered by the media, and this sporadic coverage will eventually do irreparable damage to Tomar. Where tomes are written about our underachieving and often bratty cricketers and where Yuvraj Singh’s many romantic dalliances generate as much front page copy as food inflation or political machinations, what hope can there be for a poor wrestler? He finds mention only when he fails a dope test in the wake of a much publicized (for all the wrong reasons) international event. Tomar’s only error appears to have been to consult a doctor when he came down with flu. The medication he took for his ailment turned up a banned substance, and as per the prevailing guidelines, he stands suspended. Here is an ‘Arjuna’ awardee wrestler who is perhaps the country’s best medal hope in the 120-kg freestyle category, and what fate befalls him? He falls victim to complete negligence from a wretched administrative body set up precisely to nurture and develop him. The WFI claims innocence as does the SAI. Neither perhaps found a break from the constant bickering and internal politics that seem to run deep in any sort of administration in India, to actually have the time and inclination to guide and monitor the athlete. It is quite possible that the unfortunate wrestler did not even have an updated list of banned substances as issued by WADA, and was quite possibly met with ignorance from the sports authorities as well. The doping malaise is easily avoidable if the athlete wishes to stay clean and country’s foremost athletes have been failed by their very own. Fellow wrestlers Sumit and Mausam Khatri, also banned, are distraught as well. It is not always that they get to compete in international events of the scale of the CWG, and now they will watch from the sidelines. Worse still, history might end up remembering them for this alleged misdemeanor.
Does the name Monika Devi ring a bell? This weightlifter was declared to have failed a doping test just before departing for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, only to be cleared a few days later, but not before her dream of participating in the Olympics was scuttled. She almost gave up the sport as a result. The media went to town with her dope test failure, but weren’t as vocal in following up with the story of her innocence. These are sportspersons who are time and time again expected only to participate and not win. These are sportspersons who walk miles to any sort of sporting infrastructure to practice, on a daily basis. These are sportspersons who brave a complete lack of opportunity during their growth phases and still win medals for the country. These are sportspersons who take up athletics and persevere, knowing full well, that the best that they can hope for is a passing mention in the back pages of a newspaper, should they win anything on an international level. These are sportspersons who have achieved success in their chosen spheres in spite of the system and not because of it. These are sportspersons who know they will disappear into thankless history, and these are also men and women who also deal with complete ignorance and indifference from the general sport enthusiast in the country. But they continue to find the immense strength to carry on regardless. This needs to be respected. This needs to be celebrated. This exemplary courage must resonate with the rest of the country. But India seems to have moved on. The values of the post ‘91 generation seem to have been irrevocably altered. As long as we remain besotted with IPL parties, inconsequential ODIs and more burnout-inducing T20 tourneys with all their trappings of glamour, we will never stop to notice how Monika Devi has fought her way back from the abyss of despair and depression to rise again to be regarded as India’s best bet for a medal in the upcoming CWG. The fact that no one pays any attention is the root cause of this pathetic situation our athletes find themselves in. And for the sake of sport in India, the media must also start to care more. It is time to stop remembering Rajiv Tomar for failing a dope test; rather it is time for him to be remembered for being the holder of a record 35 Bharat and Hind Kesari titles.

It is perhaps encouraging that athletes such as Saina Nehwal and Vijender Kumar have seen some mainstream recognition in the wake of their successes. But they are exceptions to the rule. The track and field and ‘akhara’ types continue to be mainstream pariahs, forgotten and ignored by most. It is time this changed and we cleaned up our act, not only in terms of administration and governance of sports in this country, but also in terms of more positive media coverage. Talent, blood, guts, and courage are aplenty, but it needs to be given a chance. One need not reiterate that there are indeed many Indias. Indias divided by rupees in the wallet, Indias divided by language, caste, creed and community. Indias divided by religion. We don’t need an India divided by sport.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Fine Balance

By Deepak Adhikari
Kathmandu, Nepal
A Fine Balance, the second novel by Rohinton Mistry, a Bombay-born writer now living near Toronto, Canada, moves between the four characters caught in the whirlpool of events unfolding during the emergency imposed in India by Indira Gandhi in 1975.
These four unfortunate characters are Ishvar Darji and Omprakash Darji, uncle-nephew duo who hail from an impoverished Indian village; these cobblers-turned-tailors struggle in the unnamed city by the sea (a thinly veiled Bombay), Dina Dalal, a widow from middle class Parsi family, and Maneck Kohlah, a Parsi teenager from mountainous village in northern India. The Emergency looms large like a shadow in the life of these four central characters. The 603-page novel that was the finalist for a Booker Prize revolves around them.
Dina is a vivacious young widow who lives on her own after her husband’s death. She lives on an apartment left by her late husband Rostum who was killed in an accident while cycling to fetch ice-cream for the guests at his home party. Ishvar and Om are the victims of the cruelty that is caste system in India--they have fled the caste-violence of their village. Maneck, fed up with the ragging and filth of hostel is a paying guest at Dina’s. The tailors are hired by Dina who supplies clothes to Au Revoir Export Company. Thus, necessity forces these four characters to share a cramped apartment. But they also share their stories that are marked by sadness, loss, poverty, hunger and other tragic aspects of life.

Mistry reveals the theme of the novel through the character of Valmiki, the former proofreader at The Times of India who loves to quote WB Yeats:

“You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to buzz beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.”
The novel--first published in 1995--is divided into 16 chapters; each chapter has a title such as City by the Sea, For Dreams to Grow, In a Village by a River, Sailing Under One Flag, Return of Solitude etc. It has a prologue dated 1975 and ends with an epilogue of 1984. This time frame reminded me of Aravind Adiga’s story collection Between the Assassinations that is set in the period between the murder of Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi. When one of the characters, Maneck returns from Dubai after working for 8 years towards the end of the book, we are told that Indira Gandhi is killed by her security guards. Maneck encounters a country ravaged by communal violence whereby his Sikh cab driver has to shave his head and beard fearing the backlash. The novel ends as her son Rajiv takes over.
What struck me most with Mistry’s story is whenever I thought the characters have finally overcome all the obstacles, terrible things happen to them. When a defiant Om finally agrees to get married, the two tailors embark on a journey to search for a suitable bride. But soon, they are caught in a state sponsored terror. They are forced to undergo sterilization spearheaded bySanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi’s infamous son. As if it was not enough, Ishvar’s legs have to be mutilated whereas Om is castrated. In the very beginning of their work with Dina, both of them are arrested and taken to a rally to attend prime minister’s speech.
It is no exaggeration to say that Mistry is a master storyteller. The descriptions are vivid, the dialogues sharp and the narrative well constructed. The chapters dealing with the struggle of Dukhi, Ishvar’s father in the feudal, superstitious and tradition bound village are very poignant, hence superb. Dukhi’s shack is put on fire by high caste people killing the family members except Ishvar and Om.
Though the character of Maneck, unlike other three, is not well drawn, there are others who complement the story. There is Ashraf Chacha, the amicable mentor of Ishvar and Narayan who pay him back by saving his family from massacre during the Hindu-Muslim riot following the partition of India and Pakistan.

There is Rustom, who meets Dina in a concert; they fall in love and marry despite the objection from Dina’s family. His fondness for cycling leads to his death. Ibrahim, the rent collector who indulges in looking back at his life with regret and bitterness because his malicious job involves threatening the tenants like Dina. The plethora of characters adds to the story that is both evocative and condensed. It also has characters like Rajaram who changes his profession only to deceive people, Monkeyman who kills the ruthless Beggarmaster—the latter runs a begging industry and even justifies the disfigurement of beggars’ organs. There is Dina’s nagging brother Nusswan.

But ultimately it’s the four main characters that are at the heart of the novel.

It is said that it’s better to read Charles Dickens (with whom Mistry is often compared) to learn about Victorian England; similarly, one should readShakespeare in order to know about life in Elizabethan period. Echoing these lines, I would recommend a reading of A Fine Balance to know what life was like for ordinary Indians during Emergency in India. Though at times dark and melancholy, it’s a rich, rewarding book.