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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Beyond Reality

By Ananya Mukherjee
Abstraction, in its literal sense translates to a visual language of form, colour and line; thereby creating a composition that may or may not exist. I interpret it as a non objective, non representational, non figurative elucidation of a departure from reality with a fair degree of independence from the common visual and perceptible references in the world. The departure can be slight, partial or complete. Perhaps anything that is recognizable is not abstract in the true sense, yet it provokes your intellect and mind to perceive beyond the known and the identifiable commonalities of human expressions and forms.
Not all of us may be able to live Picasso in our real lives; yet, the surreal and the real merge outside the boundaries of reason in an unplanned scheme of events and one day, from what may seem logically “absurd” evolves a new abstraction, independent of predecessors, contemporaries or followers.
And those are the times when the mind is free from fear of known analogies.
I see the blueness of heaven in may visualize the deep intense pain.
I seek the light through the blue outside, you may look within and find a light.

Me & My Rampyaari

By Elina Sen
Kolkata, India

Today’s morning was as usual, mundane. Waking up early, getting ready. Gobbling few bites with a quick slurp of tea. Zooming to the car, BAM! Slamming the door, and zapping through the morning traffic. While driving, a middle aged man was moronically crossing the road, without giving a look what was coming in his way. I with my moral obligation gave him a stern flying comment : "don’t you have any brakes on your feet?" He stared hard and so did I with more intensity. Then blabbering to myself, this morons are polluting the class of jay walkers. They lack the basic acrobatic skills. Few more morons I faced during rest of my drive. I was punctual as usual but only got it by whisker, as usual. I passed the key to our home caretaker and told him to drive the car back home safely. This is the picture, in a regular entrainment happens over and over in my life , like all other things that happen daily.
About almost two hours later, mother called. Tensed. She told me the car hadn't arrived back. So many possibilities passed my mind, in a flash. Zoom! Each of them was worst than previous.Possibilities are astronomically enormous. Ranging from bone tickling funny to sordid gruesome.Good, it happened in salt lake. If the stage was to be set on the vastness of main city kolkata…rest you can imagine! I hung up, telling her not to worry, because I am here to make things all right.
Easier it was said than done. I was clueless. I fumbled to the girl I was talking to, made vague excuses and zapped out from there. On the street, a fear of uncertainty grappled within me. Told you, possibilities are enormous. I rushed to the rickshaw stand. Hailed the standing one in queue and told him precisely what I’m going to look for in the by roads of salt lake, within the possibilities of trajectories from that place to the way back home. And the search begun. I asked the rickshaw-wala if any road accident happened. Answer was negative but at the same time load inside me was getting heavy.
Tension dissolved. Ma called me back telling me the exact location of the place where the car had broken down. Achinto da has lost his mobile few moths back. And this lost baggage has given him a big relief by providing an excuse of not being available to the people he works for. So while he pushed the car to a more safer place with most tactile maneuver possible, we were being frenzied. Anyway, all’s well that goes well. I got there ASAP.
Immense , yes that’s the word. Immense relief prevailed when I got a glance of my car. I called dad over phone . He was as usual cool and a pillar support whenever things go wrong with me. And better he restrained himself from bragging me about the car he drives himself, always reminding me how good are this new cars with all those features. As if with all new things he gets, the old becomes someone elses! But fact is , I am touchy about my good old car. I love it. I have so many memories with it, and with all of it’s predecessors. Don’t find it funny, I treat cars of any make with reverence. It’s a fetish I nurture. Like my fetishes with shoes, watches, and bags !
The mechanic asked me if we can somehow manage to move at home with the car, as he can’t come right now. With all the symptoms at hand, dad told me: might be like last time it’s the distributor system’s problem. So we have to drive it in a steady way. When it stops, where ever it stops, we have to wait to allow the engine to become cool and then have to move ahead. Daunting. We started. The car got stopped at some crossing next time. It was an ideal hit by bus and run for your life place. Both me and Achinto da had to get out of the car to give it a push. Achinto da steered and pushed from the front while I was pushing from the back. It was a treat for the passerby! To see a well dressed girl to push a car, not everyone sees on their way. But they only laughed. I giggled back.
Getting into the safe alley nearer home. I took a break and took a snap of Achinto pushing the car. Wish someone could be there to take my snap of pushing and getting reduced to perspiration. It’ld have provided me a helluva of inspiration later on. So the credo was push, push and push. I kept thinking if it’s a toy car, I could have pulled it. Mechanically more apt. Crazy thoughts. Never go away. This way and that way, finally we reached home. And the world got saved.

P.S : The car came back from the garage. She is okay. Only there was a minor problem. She’s gonna stay with me for better and for the best. I am happy with a smile on my face.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Of Heads & Shoulders

By Anindita Baidya
Anand, Gujarat, India

One day the demon was at its strongest prowess and worst of intentions. All the ten heads of the demon were gleaming with flashy lust and it carried the most powerful weapons capable of destroying hundreds of universes at one go.
The storm was on and the skies were burning with the fire rising from deep within the hell. The demon with ten heads was all set to destroy it all, it had conquered all!
The Angel felt weak. The Angel had no weapon except for few verses from the wise; the Angel had a wand but no sword. And Angel had but one head. The Demon had ten.
But the Angel had the wings, the wings of desire which could take it to a different plane of strength, reason and wisdom. And after hours of battle, the demon was defeated.
But it will return......!
The ten heads of demon will never perish. The wings of Angel will not disappear either.
The Demon always has ten heads and the angel, but one, right on its shoulders!
So, who won the battle today?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Music: What Feelings Sound Like

My Little Magazine

A few boys grew up in an Indian city where almost anything could sing. The tram would sing all day and in the evenings when the sun set quietly over the Vidyasagar setu, the microphone would sing a verse of Ajaan from a distant mosque. Then there would also be the street orchestra of Jingle bells on Saturdays, when the whole city would perform Shani Pujo. Even, the god who apparently was not easy to appease would melt by the sweet tinkle of the brass bells. Growing up in this city, the boys almost took singing for breathing, till they had to leave the city---to “grow up”.
It is not known, however, whether the boys “grew up” at all or not. But the music in them found a few friends and formed a band. In came a girl who had seen her dad play the drums as a child. They called in another boy, who had listened to what Pink Floyd had to say about getting an education and decided never to learn the piano, but just play it. Finally, they called in Paul, who could play any instrument just fine but decided to play the bass because the band needed it. From music lovers they became creators of their own passions.
They had to decide what to sing. The boys from Kolkata wrote in Bangla. Though Laura and Paul did not understand a word, they were the first to memorize. But then after a few days, the band realized that the basement walls were not a very reactive audience. The dumb audience merely absorbed the sound, never reciprocating with responses. So began the search for an audience that could be moved or at least swayed once in a while.
The audience that could move in the meantime was searching for movers and shakers. This band had never been on TV, had never been invited to any Banga Sammelan, did not have a name that started or ended with a Kumar. So it went back to the basement. In there, the band kept singing to itself. Not songs, but stories-- stories of Kolkata, stories of Boston and an occasional story of somewhere in between the continents that separated them geographically.
“One day someone from the audience joined (it was her story they were singing). The next day two more signed up. And so the wait continues. Maybe one day, the music will travel back to Kolkata, take a ride in the tram and teach the crows how to sing,” Prithwiraj Choudhury, a member of the Boston-based Apaar Bangla, says optimistically.

While My Little Magazine wishes him and his team members the very best, his story leaves us with lines from a very popular Bangla song...

“Mora sadha sidha maatir manush deshe deshe jayi, Moder nijer bhasha bhinno aar bhasha jana nai, ...shey je shurer e bhasha, chhonder e bhasha, anander e bhasha, bhasha emon kotha bole bojhe je shokole unchha nichha choto boro shobai....mora shei bhasha tei kori gaaan.....”

Hide & Seek

By Mithu Chakraborty

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Divine Resolve

By Prodipto Roy & Ananya Mukherjee
My Little Magazine

He asked me, “What’s your last wish?”

“It’s the same as my first and all in between,” I replied.
“Are you sure?” He probed.
“Absolutely” I held my chin up.
The flame was beginning to scorch my skin, the pain was transcending to a boundary less mine of vacuum, illuminating a track of absolute nothingness. I travelled a few thousand light years in a trance, gradually floating into a pervasive sense of freedom and completeness.

Amidst the ashes, they never found my wedding ring.

Terracotta Dreams

By Bidisha Bagchi
St Joseph, Michigan, USA

We were all set to witness the most spectacular natural wonder of the World…the Grand Canyon…simply grand! The South and the West rims are considered to be the most beautiful and one fine morning we left from Las Vegas to take a look at one side of this rocky structure.
There were a few stops and change of vehicles involved in the entire journey, as, much of the roads nearer to the West Rim were untreated…sort of dirt roads on which all sorts of cars and buses couldn’t ply.
As we drove, our first stop was Lake Mead, one of the lakes that were created by blocking River Colorado and a little away was the first photo stop, the Hoover Dam…one of America’s greatest engineering marvels. The river looked beautiful here and the entire combo of the river, dam and the clear sky was breathtaking.
Our journey continued on the deserted roads of Arizona, not a soul to be seen anywhere, totally barren and rugged yet hauntingly beautiful. We stopped at a junction from where we were to change over to another vehicle that was fit to travel on the untreated roads that started from there. We waited amid the barren landscape with nothing around except the beautiful Joshua trees. These picturesque, spike-leafed evergreen trees are common only in the desert regions of the United States and Arizona is one of that regions.
Next 30 minutes we were on the dirt road. The smell of sand and dirt filled our noses as the road snaked through the thousand year old Joshua tree forest and far away we could see the canyon walls….heavenly!
We reached the central point of the west rim from where other buses took off for the two points, Eagle’s and Guano and it was also the helicopter base. As we were booked for the helicopter ride, we quickly reached the landing strip. Soon we were aboard and the moment the helicopter took off, the beauty was beyond compare. Miles and miles of chiseled rock, deep curves, gorges and crevices…black, brown, gray…did anyone say that the rainbow was beautiful…I beg to differ. And among these dark shades of rocks was the River Colorado; green in color and beautiful. We landed at the base of the canyon, it was warm but breezy. A long flight of stony steps and a moderate walking trail led us to the pontoon on the river from where we would take a boat ride on the Colorado. A 30 minute boat ride on the Colorado gave us a closer look at the canyon and its high walls. The river looked magnificent when it meandered between two gigantic walls that formed a V shape.
It was time for us to return to the base and visit the other view points; Eagle’s point being the first. This point is also made famous by the controversial skywalk. Depositing all bags, cell phones & cameras, we ‘did’ the skywalk. With glass floors through which one can see the canyon thousands of feet below, the feeling is a bit unnerving, but the views… priceless. Spending some time there watching a tribal dance and clicking some mind blowing shots of the canyon, we left for our next stop, the Guano point. The canyon here is more like a tableland; of red rock and with an absolutely flat top…so flat that one would think it was manmade. I picked up a couple of medium sized rocks which I brought home, washed, dried and preserved as a memento.
Next day, we were once again on the roads, this time on the historic route 66, the first national highway of US that took us to the South Rim of the Canyon. As we reached the South Rim, the first impression was just mind blowing…the sheer gigantic size of the rocks, the superb intricacy of patterns on the huge rocks were too beautiful. Unlike the West Rim, the Canyon walls here are inaccessible, far away and huge. Yet we could make out the shapes, designs and most interestingly the play of colors on the rocks as the sun moved from the east to the west.
The south rim has a beautiful walking trail that runs parallel to the Canyon walls and reaches the Yavapai geological museum which has mind blowing views of the Canyon. On our way to this museum we were awestruck by the variety of shapes, colors, deep chasms and serrated edges of the rocks and only felt how insignificant we were when compared to Nature.
The museum could not offer us any view as it was too crowded so we started walking back on the same path to reach the sunset point that offered superb views of the walls and rocks during sunset.
The fresh air was awesome and we were captivated by the soft shadows of the rocks on rocks. As it was time for the sun to set, the multi-colored sky gradually gave way to an enigmatic horizon onto which the big round red ball dipped… It was such a magnificent sight that it seemed even the cool breeze quieted down to watch the display…for a change, there wasn’t any twinkles from all over, rather there were colours…yellow, red, bright orange; it was so beautiful, such a simple natural phenomenon, made so special by the mystical ambience. The temperature dropped perceptibly and we began to feel the chill and realized that it was time to return.
What we see as today’s Colorado plateau was formed millions of years back by some force of Nature. The river, since then is carving its way through the rocks and has created this magnificent Canyon. As we gazed down the deep gorge, far below we spotted a patch of blue-green, the Colorado River, meandering away along the rift and when I listened with my heart, I even heard its gurgling sound that was quietly fading away in the horizon…bliss!

The article was first published on the Economic Times

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Nepal: Descent into Chaos

By Deepak Adhikari
Kathmandu, Nepal

On the afternoon of April 16, I was driving back from my 94-year-old grandma’s house on the outskirts of Kathmandu to my office in the downtown. Driving on the dusty road on the edge of Nepal’s only international airport, I came upon an unusually high number of vehicles. The hitherto empty road was busy with traffic.

My wife, Kabita, who was riding behind me, suspected that something was wrong, saying maybe there’s a strike (called bandh in the local dialect). I dismissed her comment. But as we entered the newly constructed six-lane highway, the situation began to get clearer. The road was a picture of chaos – a blockade had caused a huge back up of traffic. Several vehicles were turning around and many passengers were stranded. In a situation like this, no one can tell you what’s going on. Everyone seems in a hurry either to get beyond the barricade or return to safety.

My office was just a few blocks away. So, I decided to go ahead. Leaving behind other vehicles, I drove on. When I was about to reach the intersection at Koteshwar, a bustling neighborhood in this suburb, a middle aged man who was followed by a bevy of youngsters, stopped my motorcycle and snatched the keys. Within seconds, I grabbed the keys back and asked him why the traffic was stopped. He told me they were protesting the death of a child in a road accident a couple of days back. The dead baby boy's father had driven a motorcycle while his mother and baby on the back when a truck hit the motorcycle. The couple was seriously injured; the infant died on the spot.

I displayed my press ID and explained to him that it was media people like me who often risked their lives to support their cause. It was merely my trick to persuade him to let me go through, though I am always a supporter of peaceful protests against injustice. But I never approve such unruly acts that create disarray for hundreds of travelers. He did allow me to go forward, but, sensing that the unrest could get worse farther ahead, I asked my wife to get off the bike.  

An intersection ahead looked like a battlefield, with stone carrying, and visibly angry protesters on the one side and baton wielding policemen on the other. I was sure from my previous experiences that if I could convince one of the protesters, I would be able to safely cross the tense area. But as I drove my bike, a group of protesters started to throw stones at me. Luckily, a police inspector came to rescue me from the attack and escorted me for a few minutes. I left the area unhurt. But the incident shook me in a way I had never experienced.

I’m narrating the incident in detail not only because impromptu protests like these have become common occurrences in Nepal, but also because it shows how angry and frustrated Nepalese are. Also, my hunch is that the fury was directed less at the law enforcement agency that was unable to punish the guilty (in this case the driver) and more at the way the country is (mal) functioning. Indeed, the country is gradually sliding towards anarchy and lawlessness.

Everyone agrees that it’s not easy being Nepal these days. It has a herculean task ahead. In less than a month, the deadline to draft a constitution ends. A 601 member constituent assembly that was elected two years ago is tasked with writing the constitution. A decade-long Maoist insurgency and government counterinsurgency has claimed 13,000 lives with thousands injured and hundreds disappeared. Not a single person (neither from the Army nor from the Maoists) has been punished for numerous wartime crimes. Transitional justice is still only in words not in deeds and a culture of impunity has and is likely to prevail. 

Thus, Nepalese have paid a heavy price. And peace seems ever elusive with the former rebels threatening to carry out revolt and the political party leaders upon whom the people have placed high hopes have fallen back on their role of bickering and infighting. Corruption is rampant and unemployment is rising.

The largely mountainous country which is bordered in the north by China and elsewhere by India, both emerging Asian powers, has lagged far behind the rest of the world. It still is one of the poorest countries in the world.  While the citizens of our neighboring countries are having what seems like a party (with double digit growth and rapid development), we feel like poor cousins who were uninvited.

But it’s our own making. In Nepal, the hereditary Rana family ruled the country with an iron fist for over a century while India’s infrastructure was laid by the British. Even the end of Rana rule in 1950 could not ensure freedom and democracy, a prerequisite for inclusive growth and overall development. King Mahendra snatched power from a democratically elected government and introduced a party less and autocratic Panchayat system that ruled Nepal for the next 30 years until 1990.

The ruling elite and the Kathmandu bourgeois were the ones who took maximum advantage of those three decades of tyranny. During this period, I grew up in the eastern hills of Nepal, on the margins, reading the regime’s propaganda in the name of text books.

With the reinstitution of democracy in the spring of 1990 came the promise of a new Nepal. But a ‘People’s War’ waged by Maoists in mid-1990s dashed those hopes. The hope was revived after the mass protests in the spring of 2006 that was instrumental in ending both the Maoist insurgency and the 240-year-old monarchy, thereby paving the way for the world’s youngest republic.

But like everything else in Nepal, uncertainty looms large vis-à-vis the dramatic decisions taken during the crucial and transitional period that have had far reaching consequences. The changes have taken place have occurred only as part of negotiations among the various political parties. Therefore, the likelihood of these transformations being retracted (due to lack of commitment and institutionalizing) cannot be fully ruled out. Also, some of the changes are seemingly cosmetic.

And it’s not like Nepal’s lack of social and economic growth can be blamed on a lack of resources. It is, in fact, endowed with immense resources – hydropower, tourism, the export business and agriculture are some of the many untapped sectors. But this is a country whose main exports are human beings. Two million of Nepal’s 28 million people are working on foreign shores. Nepalese migrant workers toil in often sub-human conditions in the Gulf countries and the country’s fragile economy hinges on the remittances they send.

For a country that prides itself in never being colonized when the entire Indian sub-continent was in the grip of the British, its dependence on the international community and the southern neighbor India is an unpleasant fact. So is the fact that one of world’s oldest nation states is grappling with issues like drafting a constitution, restructuring the state and ensuring their deserved place in the new state apparatus to the hitherto marginalized communities.

On that April afternoon, after I arrived at my company office which is the publisher of one of Nepal’s leading dailies, I sat at my desk and gave the incident a hard thought. After a while, I shared my experience – where else? – on my facebook page. Several comments soon popped up with my friends suggesting to me to be careful and play it safe.

Indeed, these are apt suggestions for our leaders and common people alike, in whose hands remain the future of the struggling nation.

The article was first published in the Seattle Post Globe

Death: My Faceless Friend

By George Samuel
Melbourne, Australia

Winter chill fill the air
Grey clouds gather in the horizon
like the gloomy face of the old woman
standing across the street staring at me....
and I feel you right behind me
like you always been 
I feel when I am on the road
I feel you when I am walking
I feel you when I am on the bed
I feel you always at an arms length away...
They may say you're dark and sinister
that you're cold and cunning....
but you my mysterious faceless friend
I am not afraid of you....
Saw you take away my dear ones
in your invisible arms, so sudden...
When I lay in my bed, with morbid thoughts
clouding my inner self
I know you are waiting right there for me
faceless and devoid of any emotions....
I want you to know I am so ready 
for our journey together to the unknown!!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Grass: The War on Drugs

By Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma
Raipur, India
I’ll be up front and admit that I’ve never inhaled. But although I passed on the grass, that doesn’t mean that I’m for or against smoking the stuff. I have some good friends who turned out just fine. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s right either. But never did I imagine I would be sitting through 80 minutes of watching reels roll by telling me how Marijuana took over the United States of America.
This is precisely what I did one fine evening at the quintessential Prithvi theatre at an organised event, recently.
This film looks at the last 100 years of marijuana use, culture, and legislation, compiled from 400 hours of archival footage. It has been narrated by the celebrity weed aficionado Woody Harrelson, whose very name in the credits will ensure a laugh from audiences.
This savvy and biting examination of America's tireless crusade against Marijuana offers some unsettling insight into the legalisation controversy. By exposing the relatively unknown history of dope laws in the US, Grass manages to chip away at the drug's layers of stigmatisation to reveal a disturbing core of government-controlled propaganda.

The picture is broken up into sections recounting the varying official takes on the effects of Marijuana, like its leading to insanity, heroin abuse, Communism and finally, indolence. The movie doesn't focus exclusively on the gaunt, wide-eyed stereotype of the pot addict, though it does use that image to score a number of laughs.
Grass never talks down to those who think drug laws are desirable, but the film definitely takes a good laugh at their expense. I remain on the fence for the issue. Although I’m now more informed, using a one-sided argument is always dangerous. But after watching Grass, I can say that with its accessible and slick post modern foundation, this is a documentary worth watching and discussing, not only for its thematic merits but its artful side as well.
What kept chewing on my mind since after the first five minutes were the pretty common - What? and Why? What am I doing here and why am I watching this? Finishing my work early, not letting my colleague stop to grab a bite and then rushing all the way to Juhu so that I am not half a second late; a few minutes of the documentary and I was 'stoned'. Looking around we thought, what is everyone doing here? This motion picture that were are watching had no entertainment value to an average Indian and was not informative. Does it really matter how US fought against the dope?
On the flip side, with its accessible and slick post modern foundation, this is a documentary worth watching and discussing, not only for its thematic merits but its artful side as well.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Bed Time Story

By Anindita Baidya
Anand, Gujarat, India
I am Tehani, which, in Hindi, means ‘branch’. My ma, poetic ma named me Tehani while my papa was all set to name me Marushika, which means ‘born out of blessings of Lord Shiva’. Ma argued that Marushika seems to be a twin sibling of Hiroshima and so Papa dropped his idea.
I am eighteen now; an ardent reader and net surfer. Those are my favourite extracurricular activities.
This hunger for books, I inherited from Papa. He is a voracious reader while ma…! Oh what a story teller she is!
I remember, as a child, I would never sleep until ma and papa read to me from my story books. I had a huge collection of books. Animals, fairy tales, mythology, alphabets, rhymes, I had the full range.

And I had built my own world of imagination around them.

But my favourite bed time story is not from any of my books but from the lips of my ma.

She has been always narrating me the tale of my homecoming; since when, I do not even recall. But I remember every night the last and most awaited story would be this. I knew every detail of the story but I just loved listening to this, again and again. Ma would rest on the bed with the support of her left hand, her right hand affectionately fondling with my hair, in an effort to put me to sleep. I played with her mangalsutra, entangling it between my little fingers while papa stroked me on my back. Her managalsutra, papa’s stroke, her fingers and sound of her metallic bangles and the story would all conspire and put me into a deep sleep.
Ma told me that I was not born out of her tummy. Like a fairytale, she narrated how there lived a couple who wished to be parents by adopting a baby from orphanage. And how these couples brought home a two month baby girl and named her Tehani.
Since very early age, I knew that my ma had not given birth to me but then, I did not understand the whole process of birth, at all. My ma tells me today that I had developed an understanding that all babies come from orphanage!
With my age, this bed time story did not change. Only the intricacies changed and I demanded more details. Whose tummy did I come from? Ma and Papa said they did not know. But they explained that whoever my biological mother was or parents were, they must have been good. They said that my biological parents must have found it very difficult to raise me and so handed me to the orphanage, requesting them to find a family for me, someone to nurture me with love, shelter, protection, education as well as provide materialistic sufficiency.
As years passed by, my questions grew from ‘intricacies’ to ‘confrontation’. Was I an unwanted baby? Was my birth unwelcome? Ma and Papa said my homecoming has been the most welcoming event in their life.
There have been nights when, during the story-time, I cried and lamented that I was not born out of the body of the woman I so much loved. Ma did not try to render any philosophical reply. She simply cried along with me, we shed tears together and went to sleep, all three of us cuddled together.
It has never been, nor will be easy to wish away the one month of my life before I came home. I will forever wonder what my biological parents look like. I wonder if I have brothers and sisters related by birth! I will never get over the strange feeling at my fingers to touch the tummy of my biological mother. Sometimes a crazy wish maddens me that I want to see the inside of the womb of my ma. I sometimes wish to be inside it once and change my birth story forever!
I will live with it, only because I love my ma and papa. Only because I know they are there with me.
One day I wish I meet my birth mother and father, I wish to I see them once for just knowing who they are. For quenching the thirst of mine for knowing the reason why they relinquished me. And after meeting them, I wish to come back to my home, to my adoptive parents and listen to my favourite bed time story again!!!