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.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Black Bud

A translation from Tagore's Krishnokoli 
By Bina Biswas
Hyderabad, India

The black bud, I call her, though
In the village, the folks call her dark.
On a cloud laden day, I saw her in the fields
The dark girl with her dark gazelle-eyes
The head was bare and her loosened
tresses fell over her back.
Dark? However dark she be,
Her dark gazelle- eyes I have seen
Seeing darkling cloud- laden sky,
Two dusky cows lowed,
The dark girl dashed out in a rush
hearing them, out of her hut.
To the sky she lifted her eyebrows
Heard the growl of the clouds…
Dark? However dark she be,
Her dark gazelle- eyes I have seen
The eastern wind raged on a sudden
In the paddy field it rippled a squall
Standing by the ridge, I, was alone
Whether she turned her eyes or not, on me
Only she knows and I
Dark? However dark she be,
Her dark gazelle- eyes I have seen
This is how the darkening clouds build up
In the summer months in the north-east
This way the dark supple shadow drops
On the thicket in the rainy months
This way in the nights of August
Sudden mirth surfaces in the heart.
Dark? However dark she be,
Her dark gazelle- eyes I have seen
I call her the black bud, though
in the village, the folks call her dark.
There in the Mayanapara fields I saw
The dark girl’s dark gazelle-eyes.
The head was bare and her
loosened tresses fell over her back
she had no time to feel bashful
Dark? However dark she be,
Her dark gazelle- eyes I have seen

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bringing up Dad...

By Anindita Baidya
Anand, Gujarat, India

Yes, I had a tough time bringing him up and he has still not grown.

He thinks otherwise. He feels, I have not grown yet and addresses me as he used to, when I was a skinny, worm-infested, thin-armed 8 year old boy.

छिलका), that’s how he addresses me even now. In presence of my wife, my children and my in-laws, he addresses me as ‘Chhilka’. He meant that I was not skinny, but was a skin...! Does he still think the same about his 74 kilos, 43 years small little boy? We need to ask him.

We need to ask him many things. One day I will, surely and tell him how tough it was to bring him up.

When I was a child, Babu (as I address my father) embarrassed me when he arrived at the Parents’-Teachers’ meeting in his blue factory worker suit, straight from his factory, riding his heavy Hercules bi-cycle, which had a black hard seat with no cover. And in the campus of the posh Saint Thomas High School, Babu became very prominent among the cars and two-wheeler owners. I often would refuse to accompany him around the school but then he would pull me by my ears and insist that I take him to the teachers. He never grew up!

Sometimes he visited my friends’ house along with me. I was embarrassed when he would sip the tea out of the saucer with a blissful ‘Sllllrupppp’ sound! So embarrassed I would be that I would pretend to be making that awful sound, just to make my friends and their families believe that I was the one who was ‘unpolished’ between the two.

Babu is an efficient and a very careful buyer. No, actually, I think he is obsessed with reading whatever is printed on the packing material. He would go through the MRP, date of Manufacture, Weight etc of a product t start with, next he would read the composition carefully and then the manufacturers. And he mastered the art. So much so that if you offered to try a new detergent, he would as well say that the new product also contains the same amount of Sodium tri polyphosphate but is costlier by Rs 16 and weighs actually 25 gm less! That was his accuracy. But that sometimes irritated me. When I would be down with fever, he would often prescribe the medicines by the Chemical Composition and I would fumble at the rack, looking for the right medicine bottle. He would also pick up un-read packets straight from the kitchen dustbin and dispose them only after he had memorised whatever was printed on those. No packing material could escape the scanning by Babu. He has not grown up from that too.

During the winters, he would often wear a simple shawl while chatting with the neighbours. At some point of time, in between, his eyes would fall on the antique Celsius thermometer hung above the equally antique television. Babu would look at the temperature and start feeling the chill; and then he would cover himself up with pull-over, socks, gloves and a grey monkey cap.

He did not have mercy on me when he met my Tamil girl friend. “Oh you are a Dravidian...” my wise Babu nodded. And then to my utter disgust, he continued, “So you worship Ravan and curse Ram?” Now, where from he had gathered the idea, I had no knowledge but surprisingly my girl friend and Babu struck instant rapport so much that anyone would doubt that Babu was the Ravan and this Dravidian worshipped him! He said yes to the matrimony and I got married to my Tamil girl friend. My Babu informed the relatives, “My daughter-in-law is from Tamil Nadu, which is a place in Madras.”

He continued to embarrass me by emerging out of the bathroom in his small towel, even in presence of my newly-wed bride! He managed to cook the most inedible stuff and praise his own skills. He even narrated to my wife, how he had caught me kissing the neighbourhood curly haired girl, when I was just 7.

“Did you HAVE to tell her that?” I confronted. To that the proud, broad-chested Babu answered, “So what! I have narrated this to your in-laws also!”

Surprisingly my wife and Babu have been the best of pals. To me he is still the merciless Babu who, according to me, left no stone un-turned to mortify me!

But then, I understand certain things now. I understand that Babu did not waste time to go home and get dressed in his best for my Parents’-Teachers’ meeting. He did not do it to avoid any pending work after the factory hours. He did not do it, so that he could be home on time, to look after me. To look after my food, to look after my studies.

With his meagre earning, he saved enough to send me to the best school in town and pay for my higher studies and build a cosy home for me. He cooked nutritious, however inedible food for me, played in the rain with me, taught me the bi-cycle, bought me the motor-bike and got me married to the girl I loved. He raised me, singly.

Yes, I understand certain things now. The blissful sound while sipping the tea was the result of the painful mouth ulcers he constantly had. He took care not to hurt his open ulcers and practically sucked the tea out of the saucer instead of sipping it. He was over-worked and poorly nourished and that’s why he always had those ulcers, the doctors said.

He was careful to save every extra penny to make my life better, I know now. I understand his wry sense of humour and understand why he has such a good rapport with my in-laws and my friends.

Babu is still the way he was. Today, when my children invite him to watch the old Bollywood songs on You-Tube, my Babu still writes a post-card to Vividh-Bharti to listen to his favourite numbers on Manchahi geet! And I must admit, all of us jump with excitement when Babu’s favourite Neemi Mishra on Vividh Bharti calls out, “Bokaro se Shri Jagadish Kumar ne Abhi toh main jawan hoo..sunnaa chaha hain...”

Yes, when we have an old baby like my Babu, who needs a grown up Dad anyway?

After all....
Zaheed yun hi badnaam hai
Gham se tujhe kyaa kaam hai
Yeh muskuraati zindagi
Zindaa dili ka naam hai
Dil dil se muskuraaye ja
Kuchh gaaye ja, bal-khaaye ja
Abhi to main jawaan hoon
Abhi toh main jawaan hoo

Rendezvous with a poetess...

Is there a poet in each one of us, one who desires to break the monotony of prescriptions and presumptions and sees a world beyond? In an exclusive interview with My Little Magazine, poetess Shreya Chatterjee appeals to the dreamer in you. Listen to the musings....  

MLM: What are the Musings of the Wanderer (you)?
Shreya: Musings of a Wanderer are thoughts, observations, and rarely opinions about incidents I come across. Several of my poems, articles and scribbles are to do with what I happen to see. A teacher had, once, told me-" keep the "I" away from your verses". But if "I" stays away, then somehow it doesn't work you see. Thus the "I" remains hidden in between the lines. My poems are to deal with my neighborhood, my city, and most importantly my mind.
MLM: How long have you been writing poetry?
Shreya: I have been thinking about poetry since my toddler years, under the benevolent guidance of my late Grandfather. He could speak in rhymes impromptu! I first wrote my thoughts out when I was in standard three. But it was one incident in standard four I remember quite clearly. We were asked to write on "If I were a bird"- and what I wrote turned out to be a poetic prose!! But even then, I had not started penning down thoughts seriously.
 Life in between got punctuated with a great personal loss- a loss I can never accept. It was the demise of the ONE, who believed, " I know my words". And as for the little me, I just made a promise I would write as a tribute to HIM.It was not before standard five, that words began to speak to me and that was all because of this essay "a sudden holiday because its a rainy day". Mine was selected as one of the five best, read out in class along with the words of the English Teacher -"This was written within a very short time, for this student had spent most of the period, watching out of the window and ADMIRING the sudden shower...nevertheless, I am reading this out to you, without mentioning the name of the student...reading it simply because I never thought one could assemble brilliant poetic expressions in less than 10 minutes".And that was from were the journey as a poet started...
MLM: What inspires you most to write? Is there a story behind each poem? Can you share at least one such anecdote with us?
Shreya: I think everything around me has a story to tell, thus they find a place in my poems. Yes, nearly every poem I have penned down so far has a story behind. All my poems are dear to me. still, I think "WiReS" is one of the closest. Though "A Girl Scribbling..." surely has a good story behind it. It is about one of the two years old twin girls staying in my neighbourhood. One afternoon, while venturing out on my own, I saw her sprawled over their verandah, drawing mindless patterns over a piece of newspaper. I asked her in bangla (both of our mother tongue)- "Ki korcho?" (what are you doing?) She quietly replied-" Ami goppo ankchi" ( I am drawing a story). I sat beside her, on the steps of their house, and scribbled this poem on my notebook. She reminded me of my childhood and lonely afternoons, which I would spend scribbling on old newspapers- trying to act like grown ups. 
 After a while, She crept over my shoulder and softly whispered- "ki korcho?" (what are YOU doing?) I turned and replied-"Ami poddo ankchi".( I am drawing poetry.) She beamed and said  two smart words- "goppo poddo"!!

MLM: How is the readership of poetry in today's mad mad race of life? 
Shreya: People shy away from the words like 'poem' and 'poetry'. And I think it is because, many of the poets love to write their thoughts and feeling in the most-difficult-to-decipher manner! I think poetry is the shortest way to express oneself, provided if one is intending to speak to the person sitting next to him or her. My point is, we should write in all the forms existent, a hard hearted topic should be addressed with iron words, but a simple image of a baby sleeping can have soft and common imagery- something every mother can connect with.
MLM: Who is your target audience/readers?
Shreya: Anyone, who loves poetry, 
Anyone, who desires,
To believe he/she can imagine,
Anyone who would like to know,
"She talks, just like I think and live my life",
And everybody else...
My words are written for all of them.

MLM:  Which is your own favorite poem from the book? Why is it your favorite? 
Shreya: I cherish thinking about "Downcast Eyes"- this poem is just a little one, short and crisp, so as to say, but was born out of several vivid incidents occurring in a single day. It talks about men who might be brave enough to face the wild world, but even they need a shoulder sometimes, for even they wish to cry out the bottled up pain and agony surging inside their beating heart.

"Downcast Eyes" can be read from my debut collection of poems called "Musings of a Wanderer".
MLM: What's next?

I am planning for more poetry books, as well as short stories collection and a novel, in the years to come, hoping I can keep up all these promises made to myself.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Graft Craft

By Abhishek Chatterjee

To say that India's black money problem is a gargantuan one is stating but the obvious, but when some estimates peg the quantum of the parallel economy at USD1.4 trillion, it forces you to sit back and take notice. Remember Jim Carey in 'The Mask'? It’s almost as eyepopping, and then some. It’s a figure larger than the GDP of the country. Much of this wealth sits happily ensconced in tax havens and private banks, safe from prying Governments. While the Indian establishment tries its hardest to get its hands on some of this ill-gotten wealth (even recovering some part of it might significantly ease the country's fiscal imbalance), and even persecutes millionaire studfarm owner, Hasan Ali, not much headway has actually been made. And it’s unreasonable to expect any immediate results - some suggest another Voluntary Disclosure Scheme as a quick fix remedy, but that runs the risk of legitimizing the very scourge from which we need such an urgent cure. And the remedy must necessarily come from directly within the principal players in this sordid drama.

First, the government. It’s not particularly difficult to see why we have such a massive problem on hand. Clean business and clean money both need a clean financial and political ecosystem to flourish and circulate in, respectively. India clearly does not provide that ecosystem. The culture of corruption and gratification runs deep, so much so, that someone doing an honest day's work is looked upon with incredulity. So whereas in developed countries, while corruption exists, it seldom affects day to day life, in India it is all pervading and omnipresent, right from the traffic signal to the parliament. Successive governments have failed to show any degree of political will in tackling the problem and have never been close to showing zero tolerance for corruption. The current lot doesn’t even have disruptive coalition constraints to contend with, yet they have presided over the most damning series of scandals in memory. Clearly no one at the heart of government has been interested in reading out the riot act. And meanwhile...Rome burns. Some shrug and blame offshore havens, but it is important to note that we do have financial treaties with many of these jurisdictions, and the need of the hour is for us to work in more teeth into these treaties so that we can wield more than the current degree of power we possess to go after misappropriated funds hidden there.

An oft forgotten contributor to this problem is the private sector. It is easy to miss part that banks, tax evading corporations and greedy businessmen/professionals play in this monetary circus. Rich and unwilling to pay those worthless taxes with your hard earned rupee? You are almost certain to find an eager private banker willing to provide comprehensive 'solutions' to help you meet your needs. It is still not uncommon to overhear private bankers discussing customers walking in with suitcases full of cash. The profit motive in the private sector allows money, both legitimate and tainted, to escape the system, with willing customers ready to fork out hefty management fees to maintain the tax free status of their cash, which remains safe in complicated financial structures in off shore tax havens. In this regard, stricter Anti - Money Laundering legislation needs to be enforced and sometimes tenacious measures need to be taken against the big financial institutions, as seen in the case of the United States going after UBS AG. While most such institutions tend to remain on guard when it comes to links with drug money or possible terrorist funding, there remains a tendency to go soft when it comes to the rather vanilla issue of tax evasion. There are clear examples of willful collusion and examples need to be made of some of these 'reputable' names. Our rapacious capitalism, regardless of its nature, still needs to have morals, and just as the financial system seems to have learned from the 2008 financial meltdown (or has it?), we need to draw lessons from the constant use of the financial system both as a conduit for money laundering as well as a feeder of bureaucratic greed and tighten the gaps, fast.

The third and final corrective measure that needs to be put in place is one that needs to be directed towards ourselves. We cannot live as a nation of hypocrites. On one hand we pay lip service to Anna Hazare's or Baba Ramdev’s anti-corruption fasts, and on the other, we don't think twice before bribing the neighborhood policeman to escape a misdemeanor, a government clerk to move our file or the tax inspector scrutinizing our returns. We must remember that for every hand that takes, there is a hand that gives. And it is here that the bacterium of black money germinates, everything else is just a matter of scale and detail. We need to stop giving and we need to show patience. Only sustained action can lead to any sort of seismic shift in our embedded graft culture. While this might not bring back the billions already lost, it will at least help reduce this malaise in the ambit of our daily life. And that will be a significant battle won.