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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


By Bina Biswas
Hyderabad, India

The huge mahogany double bed lay in the middle of the room. The white bedspread was tucked in from all the sides, neatly. The side pillows lay at one side, now no use. The room was swept clean and the window curtains were pulled aside in the morning. Some medicines and bottles of syrup and a water jug kept on a peck table… an unusual silence and sadness  gripped the bedroom. Many a night of embrace and love, laughter and whisper sweet nothings…the rustle of the starched sari, the tinkling of the bangles and the scent from her hair had belonged to the room…now empty. She rested on the bed, wan and unconscious and the beautiful eyes half closed and her long black tresses spread as if black wet clouds enclosed a soft white pale moon.

The husband, muted, stood there scratching his chin…could not really make out what next. The face bore no impression of pain rather expressed some compulsive feel-bad look. He came near the bed and touched her arm slightly and then left the room in a rush.

“From where did she get the stuff?” asked the inspector of Police. The Patriarch of the house nodded slightly and signalled others to leave the room…then he spoke something in a low voice to the cop and both left in a hurried pace for the living room of the mansion…

Somewhere in Jessore, an elite household had resounded with joy: “The groom has arrived, the groom has arrived, bor esheche, bor eshche”…the young girls’ cries filled the huge verandah where the marriage was to be solemnised. The ladies filled the air with Ulludhwani and blew conch-shells…laughter, hustle, commotion…’come this way please’…’no no this is not on’…’where are you all gone? Groom has come…’ and inside her room Kadambari, a child-bride stood decked up…her deep dark gazelle eyes now looked petrified…her heart heaved and feet trembled…

The groom and bride exchanged their first pious glance…shubhodristhi…the beautiful face uncovered, the big black eyes blushed and a slight smile appeared on her curved thin painted lips…
“Yadidong hridayan tabo, yadidang hridayan mamo”(I give my heart to you, you give yours to me), the priest chanted as the groom tried to steal a glimpse of the bride from behind her gossamer veil. The garlands were exchanged and the priest announced them man and wife…

The man and woman lay next to each other…her face bore the impress of exhaustion…crimson coloured cheeks, the sandalwood smeared forehead and kohl smudged eyes, spoke of an unknown pain and sorrow and the bride then turned and tried to catch up with some sleep as the groom snored away breaking the silence of the night in the room….
“Bouthan how was it in the night? But whatever said and done you look like a beautiful fawn…” said the naughty and handsome brother of her husband…Bhanu…who then walked away in a hurry.

Soon the room filled with the laughter and giggles and teases of the young married and unmarried girls as Kadambari tried to make her way to the Walnut chest kept in the corner of the room.

Kadambari was barely in her teens when she was married to Jyotirmoy who was almost fourteen years elder to her. Her parents were only too content to find an alliance from such a family of great repute and sophistication. Without any fuss she was married and she did not know what lay in future for her. The child-bride hardly understood the meaning and responsibilities of a marriage… what they could understand was to follow whatever was asked of them and obey without question. She studied in a convent and had already gathered the mannerisms and sophistications of the elite society. She was a perfect match for the groom with élan.

“I asked you Kadam, so many times that you should never leave your hair open in the evenings…but you won’t listen…one day the ghost will come and catch you by hair…” her mother would admonish while plaiting braids of her long dark tresses. The beautiful eyes wondered at every word of her mother and she would retort, “No, maa nobody can catch me…I can run away always…nobody can catch me” her mother would feel unhappy at this and keep quiet.

“Bouthan, I have composed a poem…would you please like me read it out to you?” Bhanu would announce when every woman in the mansion were having afternoon siesta and the men folks away on their work.
“No, I don’t like you to read. Give me I will read it myself. Oh! You have become a great poet of the world,” cried Kadam, when Bhanu approached her with his poem.

The room filled with soft reprimands, recitals and then either the Bouthan or her brother-in-law would leave the room in a scurry…probably after a serious literary tiff.

Jyotirmoy’s work used to keep him away most of the time from Kadam. He had to produce and direct the plays and dramas that he wrote and saw them enacted too by a group of artistes. When he came back to Kolkata to his wife, he would be busy discussing all his works with his elder and younger brothers…forgetting about Kadam. Within no time she grew up into a woman and from where she learnt all that to entice her husband she also could not figure out. But she had learnt that she had to pine for his attention as it would not come easy.

Like the parasite creeper that grows on the main tree and then slowly becomes strong on the sap and creeps and engulfs and also bears some wild flowers…Kadam’s love for Bhanu blossomed in the same manner…and thoughts about him she could not keep away from her mind. Bhanu would always tease her and praise her looks and rhyme it up in a poem.
Slowly they became playmates. The duo was unmindful of the conventional norms of the elite household and society. They started enjoying each other’s camaraderie and little had they realised when they became soul mates.

“Kadam, come and help us in the household work and stop wasting time with poems and rhymes…you are not going to get any award …” the elder women in the house rebuked her. Her big black eyes would fill with tears and she would run away to her room on the third floor and close the door behind her. She wept alone. Her mind and thoughts were blurred with one forbidden thought…the more she tried to keep it away, the more it came, overpowered and possessed her.

Slowly the sinister dark outside her room danced wild with fireflies, behind the bamboos a small lonely star twinkled...she would feel pang for her beloved…alone in the lonely dimly lit room and her heart would wrench at the sound of every footstep near her door.:.

Away in the family owned houseboat Jyotirmoy busied him with production and direction activities and enjoyed the pleasures of boat ride with his friends…little did he care to remember Kadambari whom he had left behind alone at the mansion in Kolkata.

“Kadam, will you come with me and stay for a few days on the houseboat? But remember you can come back only when I bring you here…it is not easy to see and enjoy the waters for a long time…understand?”
“Then if I don’t like to stay on boat with all your friends around then?” wondered Kadam.
“Then also you have to stay on,” replied the man in a stern voice.
“Then take Bhanu along with us,” requested Kadambari, “you will be busy with dramas and I can listen to his poems.”
“Oh! Sure,ask him tomorrow whether the poet can come right along with us or wants to join later,” agreed Jyotirmoy.

The husband’s embrace and touch would stir forbidden thought in the woman and her mind ventured out somewhere, away in the attic where one poet relentlessly scribbled love poems on pieces of paper hating and admonishing himself every time for the wrong selection of words…

Slowly the whispers grew into talks and then into complaints. The eldest daughter-in-law who had acquired the reins of the entire household after the death of her mother-in-law was a strict disciplinarian. Her husband, the eldest brother of Bhanu, held a high rank in the government and this needed all of them to follow a strict code of conduct, when they were around. The mansion was too messy with people and slowly became unlivable for the sophisticated officer and his family. They moved away to central a posh locality with their two children.

Kadambari used to criticise severely whatever Bhanu wrote. Jyotirmoy would subject it to even more severe scrutiny and the young poet would feel disheartened only to gain confidence once he was back to the rooftop room…where he felt like a king.

“Jyoti, take your wife along with you this time. Take a house and start your family life. Kadam is not able to stay alone here without you”, the warning came from the Patriarch, Jyotirmoy’s father and this time he was given no choice. Kadambari and Jyotirmoy moved out and Bhanu was left alone in the mansion with the muse as his sole companion. The young poet started penning poems with vengeance and went on dedicating those to the ‘lady born out of his mind’. The heart-broken poet wrote verses…resembling his own feelings as the words laughed at the poet and the pang of separation compelled him to write more.

“Believe me this not a love letter…I have to write it into a dialogue”, the husband tried to even out.
“Then why is it addressed to you?” asked Kadambari softly, disbelieving her own words.
Tears rolled down the fair cheeks as the young mind could not believe what her husband had just told her. She remembered her happy and carefree days in the Mansion…and felt a pang for the one she had left there…
…Bhanu had to be married. The elder ladies of the house felt that it was their responsibility since Bhanu’s mother had passed away long back. The men of the house decided to start looking for alliance for the young poet who by now had already started acquiring name amongst the Bengal literati.

“Bouthan, I don’t want to marry,” he would reply when teased about this by Kadam. But as the word “marriage” was uttered, an unspeakable fear gripped Kadam’s mind and her deep black eyes would become moist.

“Bouthan, I will marry only when you find someone as beautiful as you…” and then he would leave the place in haste.
Kadambari had already invited a lot of wrath from the women of the house for her open display of love towards her younger brother-in-law. The eldest strict sister-in-law would take her aside and rebuke her for wasting her time. The women watched every step and movement of, when she came back from their Chandranagar’s house. Kadam was deeply hurt by this. Jyotirmoy remained indifferent and preoccupied and behind his knowledge his wife grew into a beautiful, young woman…that he neither cared nor noticed.

The husband’s stolid neglect gave her a chance to find love and emotional bond outside her marriage. The more the elders tried to restrain her, more rebellious she became. Slowly she started breaking away from the dead relationship with Jyotirmoy…mentally….

The suffocation in the mansion made her feel hollow within. Her surrogate companion, Bhanu, kept on dedicating his poems and books to her bringing her a lot of agonies…unfeeling and unmindful of what she could go through, the young budding poet remained ceaseless in his endeavour.
The garden in the front of the mansion had burst into flowers in autumn…in different colour and hues. The air brought in fragrance of Shiuli flower to the poet’s chamber and to the third floor room… where two lonely hearts swayed in silence…

Another child-bride, now somewhere from the interior village came to the mansion. It was a plain and simple wedding following Brahmo rituals. This time the child came to her husband’s house with a doll in her hands. She cried whole day missing her playmates in the village…the ponds where she swam with Beli, another girl of her age, till the sun came overhead…or for the mongoose and the squirrel that she had petted…the ten year old missed everything what she had left behind in her village…

The young poet, who had moved away from his “Bouthan’s” orbit, wrote poems and dedicated to his “Bouthan” even after his betrothal…caused the unfanciful heart immense injury and grief.

Behind the bamboos the fireflies twinkled, a solo boatman ferried back home, the dark on the other side of the river was dotted with dim lights from the huts, somewhere a jackal howled, a wan moon rose…inside the room on the third floor of the elite mansion…a woman searched for the box she had kept away to rid her off her pains, tears and ignominy… denied of any vent for the emotions, feelings and sorrow…she carried all these with her…consumed it all and this time she made sure that she died… at the age of twenty-five.

“…yes, please clarify, where she got the poison from? So much of opium…from where?” repeated the inspector of police as the Head of the house kept mumbling something inaudible. A court sat at the elite house. The suicide note and the letters of Kadam were destroyed and the body was cremated.

In another house in Jessore, unaware Kadam’s mother waited for her dear daughter to come back to her during the festival time and run wild around the house saying, “Catch me, if you can.” Her giggles and laughter resounded in the empty house. But, that was never to be!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


By Aziz Rahman
Manama, Bahrain

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Prisoner of the Dark Sun

By Prodipto Roy
Kolkata, India

Mixed Media , 8.5"X11.6" 

Friday, June 10, 2011

All the World's a Stage...

By Ananya Mukherjee

When the third bell rings and backstage murmurs fade, theatre lights are dimmed and the curtain is raised. In Stage Utopia, the life of an actor begins with conjuring a tale that persuades you to laugh and cry with him in the next few hours, and ends with bringing you on your feet in a rush of applause or sending you home with a lingering thought to ponder upon much after the applauds have faded into silence.

However, in today’s i-centric social context, (and I don’t just mean iPods, iPhones and iPads), the power, impact or success of theatre as a tool of any socio-political revolution is debatable.

“Although the primary purpose of theatre is to engage an audience with their imagination through a shared time and space, once that has been achieved it is possible to draw their attention to pressing
socio-political issues. At that time of performance it is possible to evoke strong feelings among the audience. But once they leave the theatre, how much of what they experienced they will carry forward into their lives is hugely speculative,” Mahesh Dattani, Indian director, actor and playwright, observes.
Mahesh, who has many successful and popular plays like Final Solutions, Dance Like a Man, Bravely Fought the Queen, On a Muggy Night in Mumbai, Tara, and 30 Days in September to his credit also feels that Indian theatre is at a crossroad at the moment.  “We are at crossroads with our form-heavily borrowed from western models and yet, self-consciously aware of our roots.”
However, the first playwright in English in the country to be recognised with the Sahitya Akademi Award, quickly adds that he is optimistic about the future of theatre in India and sees a great deal of talent amongst young theatre practitioners. 
“I am confident they will create a theatre that is alive and relevant to our times. I find more and more youngsters are aware that theatre gives them training and discipline. They can also do cinema or television which is definitely more paying. Yes, there are thousands and thousands who would love to do cinema or television under the misguided assumption that is more rewarding in outreach and money, but these are the ones who rarely make it. Not on their own steam, at least” Mahesh says.
So where does its future lie in the hands of those who are truly passionate about it? “Theatre eventually would go in smaller spaces as cities get more and more unwieldy, offering an intimacy between the performer and the spectator, and that is where its power will lie,” he predicts.
Mahesh ends our conversation by sharing an interesting anecdote, one of the many rewarding experiences he has had in many years as a playwright: “I remember once after my play Final Solutions on the Hindu-Muslim divide, a young man came up to me and said he was Bobby but his name was Babban. After watching the play he found pride in who he was and was thinking of changing it back to Babban. A character in my play has the same name and issue.”
Mahesh’s personal experience only corroborates my belief that theatre, no matter how “unprofitable” in terms of numbers on a cheque might be, is that powerful instrument of performing arts that can change perceptions, alter lives or provoke you to think what may have escaped your rationale otherwise. Theatre is not about deception. It’s simply about presenting a tale that relates to you and me, the portrayal of a truth that often might go unnoticed in the ordinary business of life.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cycle-Acrylic on Canvas

By Jeet Ganguli
Goa, India

Monday, June 6, 2011

Trrring Trriing...HELLO!

By Shubhomoy Banerjee 
Surendranagar, India

I stand outside Chetan Pan and Cold drinks corner, just across the road from the NDDB office, as you take a right from Upasna circle and move towards Ahmedabad. Hey! Don’t get bored by the vivid description of where I stand. I know it hardly matters to you, or for that matter to anyone who comes to Chetanbhai’s shop for paan, cigarettes, cold drinks or simply to spend some time away from the scorching heat, Surendranagar subjects its residents to. But I too have seen days of glory. It’s a different matter that now Chetanbhai uses me as a store room for the cold drink crates. It is easier for him doing so rather than taking them inside every night before he downs the shutter for the night.
I must admit, I have started looking ugly. It has been more than six years since Chetan bhai last put a coat of fresh paint on me. Those were, I must say, my heydays.  Mobile phones were yet to become a rage and internet telephony was just making its way in. In fact there must have been only one shop which had facilities for internet telephony, the cyber café in the lane beside Axis bank.  The Navratras were a rage for Chetanbhai. Long before he would worship her, on Diwali, the Goddess of wealth,  Laxmi would have already showered her blessings on him. People especially those staying in the societies in and around Wadhwan, would line up till late into the night to talk to their relatives settled at the other end of the world. I would often feel surprised, when people would say “Good Morning Beta, Kem Chhe” at 9 in the night. But slowly I came around to come to terms with the fact that while its night here in Surendranagar, it must be day in the other part of the world.
Those were the days, when BSNL had not come out with the One India Plan and other companies like Airtel, Reliance and Tata had not made forays into the Land Line segment. They call it Fixed phone, I suppose. Sim cards were hard to come by. Not like today, when you get a sim card for as less as 5 Rs. with Rs. 30 talk time for a month. And yes, even incoming calls to mobile phones were charged. “What a fucking joke”, many of you would say. But that is true. And yeah, getting a land line connection at home was far tougher than getting a pass percentage in the board exams. So it would be me and only me in the moments of (now lost) glory. STD calls made between 11 in the night and 8 in the morning would be charged at one fourth. That would precisely be the time, when the working class would queue up to call up children and relatives  studying or staying in “out states” (That’s what the Gujjus call other states). Of course, the shop would close at 12 in the night, but Chetanbhai, the shrewd businessman he is, would open it quite early at 7:00 in the morning. Chetanbhai had very tastefully done my interiors. I must admit he has a great aesthetic sense, though he has spent half his life applying gulkand to the betel leaves.   There was a small fan which would not make much noise. There was a small sleek tubelight too. All that, however, is gone now. The fan holds a place of pride at a chemist’s shop in the bazaar and the tube light along with its frame lies in Chetanbhai’s house, that too because even a bhangaarwala had once refused to buy it.
I have been privy to so many intimate conversations of various aspects of peoples’ lives. Maganbhai’s son Jinkal found his love here. I still remember the day when Jalpa told “hun pan tane bahu prem karuchhu” (I too love you a lot). Now, stop getting ideas. I was not eavesdropping, but how could I have helped, if Jinkal had put the speaker on. Jinkal had started jumping on my wooden floor and I had started shaking out of fear. Thankfully, I didn’t come crashing down. However, I must also thank Chetanbhai for reprimanding Jinkal for jumping. Must admit, Chetanbhai took great care of me. It was here that Maulik, Jethabhai’s son got the news of his getting selected for some course in America. The 95 dialing had begun just a few days back and people were happy that they could dial 9579 instead of 079 for Ahmedabad even during the peak diurnal hours and charged lesser.  Rameshbhai had availed of my services to convey the news of the death of his wife Shardaben to his relatives around the world. I felt sad for Rameshbhai. He seemed to love his wife very much as he would often burst into tears conveying the news of her death.
However, people slowly stopped realizing and acknowledging my importance in their lives. Post 2006,cheaper mobile phones started hitting the markets in a big way. You could get phones at as less as Rs. 1200. Chetanbhai had stocked many such phones for a long time. However, the odd labourer or a rickshawwallah would still use me. SIM cards were probably still hard to come by, you see. But my significance was totally lost when some, what do they call it here, Chinese phones started being sold in India. I still did not have much to worry, many would think, since they being “imported maal” would be costly. Right? Wrong. Now even the laariwaala across the road, you know, the one who sells aamras in the summers and khariseeng in the winter, possessed a mobile phone.  And as if to rub salt on my already wounded self, SIM cards had also become cheaper. Everyone possessed a phone now. The truckwallah who would buy biris from Chetanbhai’s shop, the pastiwallah who used to come to buy old copies of Divya Bhaskar from Chetanbhai, even the guy who controlled the road roller when the road was being broadened.  I was not needed anymore. What a fucking joke, I would often think.
I have been witness to changing times. And my diminishing importance as well. The asbestos cover above my head, to protect my interiors from the rains is now gone.  The road infront is now a four laned one. There is a Hyundai showroom just down the road. Jinkal was here the other day, with his wife. He has just acquired a Blackberry. He was showing it off to Chetanbhai. I say “he was here with his wife” as it was not Jalpa. I know Jalpa far too well to forget her. They would often meet at the shop. I don’t know what transpired between them. Jinkal had left for Bombay just a year after the floods.  Even if they had a break up it would have been on a mobile phone. It’s so easy with one, isn’t it? All you have to do is, type, “Get the hell out of my life” on your mobile phone and send it to the other party. What a fucking joke! Maulik is here too. For preparations for his thesis viva, or so I gather from his talks with Chetanbhai. I wonder what America has done to him. He shouts F words at his girlfriend on his mobile phone, that too publicly. Now, tell me is that what is expected? There is something called privacy goddamnit. I don’t know what the last word means, I just heard Maulik shouting it over his mobile phone. Rameshbhai has retired from his job. His daughter has been married off to an NRI engineer in Canada.He too doesnot require me,as, I gather he has got some “ISD plan” on his phone gifted by his daughter, the last time, she was here during Uttarayan.  Maganbhai, Jinkal’s father does come here for his Mawa supari, but as I often see him, he is mostly glued to his Nokia 2700. And Jethabhai has got a new i-phone, so that he can read Maulik’s mails even on the move.
And here I am, the doomed STD telephone  booth, with a rotten base (The rot started after the floods, there is a brick underneath to prevent me from falling off), peeling paint, laden with empty bottles of cold drinks, waiting to be sold off to the Bhangarwala.

The Blue Umbrella

By Sudeshna Dasgupta

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Indigo Files

By Maitreyee Chowdhury
Bangalore, India 

A character in one of Satyajit Ray's short stories titled 'Indigo' says " I have treated the natives here so badly that there is none to shed a tear at my passing away"..He was perhaps terribly correct, as they say realization reaches a man late, sometimes even after his death. The story goes on to show how the dead Englishman enters the body of an Indian traveler staying in a Dak bungalow at night, only to kill his pet hound so that the Indigo farmers don't stone him to death..Fear of such parameters is perhaps apt for the amount of atrocities that have been committed by the English on the Indigo farmers of Bengal. They were beaten mercilessly, starved and killed at the whims of the rulers and yet when these very farmers rose in revolt in the years 1859-60, it was a non violent movement.

Of course the Nawab of Awadh played as much spoil sport here as the Britishers, but his commanding high prices led to further atrocities on Bengal's farmers and their compulsion to grow Indigo, in spite of the miserly profits, health hazards and the fear of making the farm land go to waste....Amidst all the ghost stories that still do the rounds of those killed during the Indigo farming and their spirits doing the rounds haunting the Britishers, a small and rather hilarious story caught my attention.

It is said that the Indigo Planters had their estates and lived the comfortable life of planters on these estates. Of course their stay here assumes rather colorful proportions when it is allied with facts of them taking native women as mistresses. One can safely assume that this was done to not only satisfy the Britt libido but also polish off their sense of 'Social service' to the nation in giving birth to a breed of those whom we know today as Anglo Indians.

One such Indigo factory/estate in the district of Nuddea, was being overseen by Richard Aimes. No surprise in that except perhaps for the pretty fact that the gent in question was nicknamed as “Dick Saheb” by the locals. It goes without saying that the gent in question maintained not one but quite a number of native mistresses. To add detail to history his mistresses had been categorized under the variations of their color. They were of course given exotic names such as - Gora or Fair Anund, and Kala or Dark Anund, depending on the color the sahib preferred for whatever time of the year they rendered their services. It shall perhaps suffice to say that the localities found no traces of Dickie bird in the rather colorful Richard Aimes.

There is perhaps nothing exceptional to this piece of historical cross pollination except for the pertinent question that how did the natives get the 'Dick sahab' adage so damm correct!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Aurangazeb-The Puritan Mughal

By Bina Biswas
Hyderabad, India

Abul Muzaffar Muhy-ud-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir was the sixth Mughal Emperor of India whose reign lasted from 1658 until his death in 1707. The reign of Aurangzeb was Puritan. Alcohol, drugs, court music and poetry and even the official court records were banned. The traditional emperor’s morning audience, Darbar, Jharoka-darshan to public, which was followed by the earlier Mughals was also left behind. He also set up a department to look after public morals and make sure the people were living in strict accordance of the moral code from the holy books. Aurangzeb had hence moved towards a simple life, one that was perhaps unconventional for an emperor of such a vast command. He wrote Arabic in stylistic naskh hand and used to copy Quran in it. Two richly bound and illuminated manuscripts to Makkah and Madinaa, another copy is preserved in Nizamuddeen Aoliya, while other such copies also exist. He weaved skull caps and used to sell them to earn his own living. He built vast mosques around the important Hindu temples at Mathura near Agra and Benares on the Ganges which could be the symbols of Islamic pressure on Hindus far from the earlier policy of Mughal tolerance. The withdrawal of Jizya in 1679, the tax taken from the non-believers was the clear sign of Aurangzeb’s intolerance and Zakat from the Muslims showed his prudence with his own religion. He conducted a military campaign in the same year from Delhi to the Rajputs, once one of the most reliable Mughal’s allies.
Taking advantage from the chaos in Marwar (Jodhpur) with the death of the Maharaja Jaswant Singh, Aurangzeb easily captured the state and destroyed many Hindu temples, therefore, receiving the Hindu’s hatred. The other Rajput state of Mewar (Udaipur) was Aurangzeb’s next unease and target too. Shehzada Akbar, the twenty-three year old son of Aurangzeb was appointed as the commander. However he was not successful and consequently was dismissed from the army by Aurangzeb which became the reason for Akbar’s rebel later on. Supported by the Rajputs who had also common interest, Akbar gathered a powerful army, but it was torn apart by Aurangzeb’s cleverly written letters of conspiracy against his own son.

Akbar escaped as refugee to Deccan in the south on the lands of Hindu Marathas who were not in good relationship with Aurangzeb. The previous chieftain, Shivaji killed Shaista Khan -the Mughal garrison and the brother of Mumtaz in 1663 while he was fighting guerrilla wars against the Mogul. He was identified as the icon of India’s independence struggles with his growing power on Deccan mountains. After the death of Shivaji, his son Shambuji took the reins of fighting the Mughals for a year before Akbar sought refuge. Aurangzeb decided to occupy the enemy Muslim states of Bijapur and Golconda beforehand to ease the attack by the Marathas. He first invaded Bijapur after fifteen months of blockade in June 1685 and the next state of Golconda surrendered after eight month of siege. Meanwhile, Akbar managed to escape to Persia with the help of French merchants. But this could not prevent Aurangzeb’s eagerness to defeat the Marathas. Shambuji was captured and was killed brutally on the order of Aurangzeb because he did not give any clue of his treasury location. In the final years of his reign, Aurangzeb saw before him the steady devastation of his empire and the grievous times that lay ahead. He realized that he had committed many mistakes and urged his sons to undo his mistakes and restore the Mughal empire to its earlier glory, a plea that fallen on the deaf ears. He died in 1707, and was buried in a very plain tomb in Daultabad. The rule of the puritan emperor was unfortunately the biggest disaster of the Mughal empire:
“Even Aurangzeb, had ceased to understand the purpose of it all by the time he was nearing 90...

"I came alone and I go as a stranger. I do not know who I am, nor what I have been doing," the dying old man confessed to his son in February1707.

He shunned all pomp and show- and austerity was his principle and wanted to rest under the open sky after his death but the ambitious emperor’s military campaigns had been far from simple and  inexpensive. During his reign India had an ‘epoch of relative peace and prosperity. Trade had expanded and urban centres had grown up everywhere. The agrarian base was strong enough to support the court, army and the administration, though the peasants had to yield their surplus and did not receive much in return. The revenue demand was oppressive.’

After Aurangzeb's death, his son Bahadur ShahI took the throne. The Mughal Empire, due to Aurangzeb's over-extension and Bahadur Shah's weak military and leadership qualities, entered a period of unalterable decline. Immediately after Bahadur Shah occupied the throne, the Maratha Empire — which Aurangzeb had held at bay, inflicting high human and monetary costs — consolidated and launched effective invasions of Mughal territory, seizing power from the weak emperor. Within 100 years of Aurangzeb's death, the Mughal Emperor had little power beyond Delhi.
What is remarkable is that being the Sovereign of Hindustan...the remarkable  Puritanism and austerity shown by him were beyond comparison and our present generation Monarchs of Democracy might likr to  learn from this and stop eating people's money and wasting it too on their luxury.

The Unbearable Staccato

By Deepal Kanti Das

EpilogueLast week as a part of Tagore’s 150thbirth anniversary celebration worldwide, his play Dak Ghar (The Post Office) was staged at National University of Singapore. This story is just an imaginary extrapolation of love and separation between two prominent characters of the play: Amal and Sudha. This is inspired by both Tagore’s life which was full of separation and pain for the loss of his loved ones and the shallow bonds of relationships in today's world. This story begins where DaakGhar ends barring the last scene imagining Amal and Sudha in a present day upbringing.

It was a Sunday morning. Amal suddenly got up from his bed. He had a bad dream. Last night he was angry on Sudha, and he had decided he won’t call her unless she apologises. But he knew Sudha’s brother was ill and even though he was angry he earnestly cared for her and her family. He made up his mind and immediately called her to know if all was well. After several attempts she picked up. He was angry and furious and just wanted a little show of his hurt tantrums. However instead he politely asked her, if everything was fine. Quick came the reply "I’m busy" amidst a background guffaw probably in a crowded place. It was way past midnight at Sudha’s place and he understood she was still partying with her new friends. Amal was downright dejected but he kept on. Coughing his voice clear, he asked if he could talk for a while. But all he could hear was the disconnection beep as Sudha hanged up unceremoniously saying she would call later.
Amal waited the entire day and then for the entire week but the call never came!
As a child he once suffered from severe illness and doctors had confined him to the four walls of his room. As he kept spending days in solitary confinement gazing out through the window of his room, talking to commuters, one day he met Sudha. She was the daughter of a flower merchant. She would go by every day through the road facing the window to pluck flowers for her mother. Soon they became friends and she would come everyday to meet him. She would give him flowers and he too in return would gift her with toys. Later when he recovered, he would talk to her everyday. Overtime they became very close friends and when they crossed the threshold of their teens, they realized that their feeling for each other was something different. It was more than friendship! But that was 5 years ago.
Amal thought of calling her again. But how many times would he keep on going through this turmoil of neglect. Last day she kept on disconnecting his calls, when he tried contacting her after waiting the entire morning for her call. He was hurt and his heart kept on wrenching with pain. He had always been emotional and love mattered to him the most.
Amal's mind sails back to good old times at his village where he used to walk with Sudha holding her hand every evening. He is reminded of her melodious voice when she used to sing Tagore songs exclusively for him. Sometimes playfully she would sing near his ears and her voice would send pleasant shivers down his spine!
Often they used to go out for lunch or dinner. He is reminded how Sudha would distribute the maximum and best share of food to him and take a little for her and how he had to force her to take more.
How she would grab his bottle of water and drink with her lips around and then give him back innocently. How she would take his specs for cleaning and instead smear it with vapours just to annoy him for a while and later would clean it back with her odhna!
He is reminded how much she would love to be photographed by him. She would tuck flowers on her hair and pose for him. And Amal would tirelessly keep on clicking for her. How after a long walk they would go to their “dadu-r dokan” and enjoy a meal on one plate.
He is reminded how during winter evenings she would put her cold hand inside his jacket or around his neck. Or at times she would just poke her fingers into his ears. And before leaving for home she would run back to him, embrace him in a tight hug and tell him she would die if he ever left him! These flashes were unbearable.
A silent tear trickled down his cheek.
Over time Amal had grown very possessive of Sudha. And he never realised how his possessiveness took over his normal living. Now Sudha was not just a part of his life. All his thoughts and everything revolved around Sudha and everything he did was to be near her. Once being with her was a dream, then it became a habit and now it had became an absolute necessity for him. But GOD has some distinct plans, for his father Madhav Dutta sent him to New York to study business last year and she was sent to Bombay for her study!
It all started last month. For last few months Amal could feel Sudha was getting drifted away from him. Long distance relationship was taking its toll on him. She no longer called him. Nor did she wait for the weekends when they used to talk for hours sharing everything. Last month there was a big festival in her place. Amal knew sudha was going there, but few weeks later he came to know that Sudha went there with two of her male friends. Their smiling pictures of hugging, laughing or taking the roller coaster rides together came as a bolt from the blue. He couldn’t comprehend anything. Questions kept on popping in his mind. "Why she never told him about them. Why did she hide so much? Even though she would talk to him on weekdays, where did she vanish every weekend"?
His thoughts and conjectures made a mess. He immediately took up his phone and called her and asked her straight.
“We are just good friends!”she replied back sharply.

"May be it was as simple as that. Or maybe it was not. Was it for this she was drifting away or it was mere figment of his imagination". Unlike his name his mind was now full of thoughts and worries. He realised how much he depended on her. How much he loved her. May be because she was his first love! And thus Amal wrote to Sudha outpouring all his grudges, something which made him repent later. But then he badly needed to pacify his heart that was burning with pain and anger.
It isn't that girls didn't fall for Amal. He had several proposals coming his way too. He unwillingly remembers Nira who was crazy in her love for him and whom she had refused few months ago for he couldn't think of anyone other than Sudha. Ever since he saw Sudha, her angelic innocence had touched his soul. Her pristine beauty, calm demeanor and melodious voice made Amal feel he had known her for ages and he felt lost in the depth of her eyes or movement of her moist lips. It is said the moment you come upon your soul mate your soul reacts differently and he could feel that ecstasy happen! They were soulmates in its truest essence and their last 5 years of togetherness testified that! He had developed immense faith in Sudha's integrity more than his own, and thus her transformation was both painful and mysterious. And probably he would never know what actually happened!

But is this how great relationships end? Does relationship need to be bounded with physical presence? He never thought it so!
Paradoxically, when he would talk to her all her misgivings and misbehaviors would make him angry and he felt like shouting at her; but when they would not be talking he would crave to hear her throughout the day.

… … … …
It’s been months since she last called him.
Her behaviour seemed so alien to him. Though Sudha had assured him “Sudha will never forget Amal”, she probably had! May be she is happy wherever she is, and this thought even for a flashing moment makes him happy and forget his own grief.
As his childhood days flash in his mind; Amal remembers his dream of becoming a postman so that he can roam around and see the world, he could feel his mother Mrinalini’s warm hands on his face as he sleeps on her lap and for the first time after months in sorrow and pain, he feels a deep sense of tranquility taking over him. He realizes how trivial this life is and how big its purpose. The more you go into it, the more you can appreciate it. Love like a fog will forever remain in the mirror of his heart, but he knows he must go on! As for one more time Sudha’s melodious voice echoes in his ears but again her recent transformation makes it go silent. A new inspiration to live for a greater cause surges in him, even amidst this unbearable staccato!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The flower girl

By Aziz Rahman
Manama, Bahrain