Alcoholic epiphanies

I just realised that I realised! And the realisation is that I realise things a lot better when I am under the effects of alcohol! For some strange reason, I grow more tolerant, and according to some of my old drinking partners, more tolerable, after one or two peg of properly made alcohol make their presence felt in my system!

Couldn’t sleep for about an hour now, so started this exercise again. Accompanied by the streaming mp3s from Raavan, the Hindi one. By the time the lyrics of Thok de killi reach my ears, I am somehow more relaxed, yet more alert! And that’s when I discover the not-so-subtle and lightly veiled ribbing that the song contains towards the Indian government. Or I am just reading too much into it…

Sample this: "Bichhde Bichhde (or is it Pichhde Pichhde) keheke humko khoob udaye khilli Dilli!" Loosely translated, that means, "Dilli (Delhi) makes fun of us by calling us segregated (or backward if you choose Pichhde)." Given that people in rural parts of the country still refer to our Union government as Dilli, let this be Exhibit A.

Now to examine Exhibit B. Abhishek Bachchan’s name in the film is Beera Munda, who rules the land like an omnipresent tyrant, but is surprisingly tolerant and kind-hearted at times, with bouts of schizophrenic chattering making their appearances when confronted with a particularly ’irritating’ person or situation. What’s important here is that Junior B’s role, as well as that of his band of men, are likened to that of Maoists, who have a deep loathing of the current administrative system. And the Maoists thrive on the rural folks’ deep loathing of the government because the latter mete out little other than injustice and neglect to them. Let this allusion be Exhibit B.

And now for Exhibit C. (Spoiler Alert!) The film Raavan was supposed to make us question who the good folks really are. And we do too, when the ’good’ policeman questions, and insults his wife just so that she will go back to the Raavan, and he can follow her back surreptitiously and finish him off. This, despite the fact that he had saved this very policeman in a situation when he could easily have killed him off. The policeman disregards this ’favour’, and chooses to liquidate the man he owes his life to. Sounds like some of the politicians we know? And this policeman is supposed to represent the forces of ’good’ in the film. this is exhibit C.

So is Raavan actually an allegory of how the Naxal menace has come to be what it is today? The government apathy, the law of the land discriminating against the poor and all? It’s either that or I am reading too much into this!

Sleepless on a Saturday night

No, this has no romantic connotation, like the Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan starrer Sleepless in Seattle did. And neither am I being kept up by a particularly boisterous party I am attending or one that is happening nearby. I just can’t sleep. And I don’t know why.

Sunday is my weekly off now. And I don’t know why I am lucky or unlucky. A little bit of background here: every newsperson has a weekly day-off which can be any day of the week. and that can mean that he or she may well have to work on a Sunday! Sounds unfair? But then, would you like to wake up on a Monday morning without a newspaper? Start a week without your daily dose of sports or Sudoku?

But this isn’t about my weekly off either! It’s about how I can’t sleep, and am trying to ramble off the time. Who knows? I might end up writing something meaningful instead!

Took a break there, and checked my Facebook account. And found out in the process that tomorrow, September 27, is the birthday of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. and that got me thinking. About all those people and all those facts about this great county that its people have forgotten while attending the rat race to become a superpower or a world economy.

The first name that comes to mind is Pingalli Venkaiyyah, although I am now unsure over the spelling of his name. I am sure that if a 100 Indians are picked at random and asked what this gentleman’s contribution to the country is, only one would be able to identify the designer of the first ever national flag of India!

Ask the same number who Bhanu Athaiya is, and maybe two to five of them would tell you that she was the first Indian to win an Oscar. She won it jointly for best costume for Gandhi, Richard Attenborough’s biopic on the Mahatma. And less than one out of hundred Indians would know that the gentleman who played Gandhi in that film was born in India, and is actually an Indian! Yes, SIR Ben Kingsley’s real name is Krishna Bhanji!

Then again, other than Bengalis and fans of art house cinema, few others would know the name of Satyajit Ray, the second man to win the Oscar for India! He won it for lifetime achievement, having inspired people like Akira Kurosawa! He accepted it on his deathbed, and joked to the worldwide audience, "I had no idea it was so heavy!"

I also wonder how many people would recognise the name of one Amar Gopal Bose, whose theory of noise cancellation and research which showed how the audience at a concert hear the best sound because it reflects off the walls brought him worldwide accolades! Many of them, incidentally, would know of Bose sound systems, and how expensive they are!

And being a patriot and a quizzer to boot, I try to keep an eye on history too, but not too much. It wasn’t my favourite subject in school. And yet, somehow, I seem to remember the fact that the witty Birbal was a poet too, and a tome of his poetry, written under the pen name of Brahma, is preserved at the Bharatpur museum! Besides, I stopped drinking Old Monk rum the day I learnt that the company that manufactures it was founded by the father of the infamous General dyer, who was responsible for the brutal genocide at Jalianwalabagh. My patriotism may be misplaced here, but to me, it’s still patriotism!

Many people, even those from South India too, do not seem to remember one Maruthanayagam Pillai aka Muhammed Yusuf Khan. A revolutionary and a contemporary of Tipu Sultan, he had to be assassinated by the British because he was apparently becoming too much of a threat against their supremacy! I don’t know whether this is ’ironical’ or not, but when Kamal Hassan tried to make a biopic of him in the closing years of the second milennia (late 1990s, that is), the effort was apparently stifled by a certain section of society who had suffered at the hands of this revolutionary!

A myriad more, and they are all running through my brain. (They will get pretty tired soon, what with all the running!) But I think it’s time to put this topic to sleep for now. I just wish that there was someone right here, right now with me to put me to sleep. Meanwhile, take care of yourselves, folks, and if possible, visit my quiz blog, where I post a question every day.

Bye for now!

He’s BACK!

I had deferred making an entry to my blog today because I had planned to write something about the Ayodhya issue and a pending verdict. It had been a request from a friend, and I had planned to read up a bit more about it before airing my opinion. But, then happened.

I am a late sleeper. And by extension, a watcher of many late night programmes on the telly. And this day was no exception. A few channels later, I find the news anchor telling us that a AR Rahman’s ’tweaked’ anthem for the Commonwealth Games is ready! As is, I have already heard so much negative about it that I almost change the channel. I am now thanking God that I didn’t.

Kind of a paradox there, because Rahman is one of my Gods, and has been so since his Roja days. I remember defending him when others panned his music as repetitive, or too Westernised. I even remember getting one of my relatives to concede that Rahman can give as good Indian classical music as Western by making her listen to Hai Rama from Rangeela! (Forget the picturisation of the song, and concentrate on just the music. You will be amazed.)

Over the past few weeks or so, I have been seriously reconsidering my beliefs. I heard the songs of Raavan, and it had Ranjha Ranjha which I could not get out of my head. It had a haunting, forest-y quality about it, and more so did Behne De. That was ok.

But then came Robot, and I was disappointed! Just days ago had come the Commonwealth Games anthem, and had been panned by all. I had thought that it did lack a few things, but had also typed my fingers numb defending his stand. Then came the music of Jhootha Hi Sahi, which, I had thought, had soul but lacked that *spark*. I even said so on Facebook, but friend and a fellow fan asked me to give it some time, because Rahman’s music grows on you. Thankfully, some of the songs have indeed grown on me, but I feel that they still lack the spark. But that’s just me.

And then, there was this news item on Headlines Today. Before in the interregnum between two programmes, they showed the Rahman’s ’tweaked’ version of the song. Around 15 minutes later, its still running in my head! And the elation is so heady that I feel going out onto the road and shouting for joy! My guru, my God has done it again! In an event that is falling down like a pack of cards, he will be the only person standing tall!

Elation is the only word I can use to describe this feeling, so forgive me if you are subjected to it quite a few times in the next few paragraphs. The energy that the song has infused in me is so high that my adrenaline seems to have gone on overdrive! I recognise the feeling, though. It’s the same as when I first heard Vande Mataram in crystal clear tones on my first portable music player. The same as when I first heard Chhaiyya Chhaiyya and Dil Se, and then almost went into a trance with Thaiyya Thaiyya.

But I recognise this feeling the most from when I first saw the Airtel ad that featured Rahman. I remember it was a cricket match, and they showed it after every wicket fell! Worshippers of the game and the Indian cricket team are invited to lynch me for this, but it’s true that I was wishing that Indian wickets fell more often, just so that I could see my god make music once again on the TV screen! The tune did become a bit mellow after that initial peppy additions, but I loved it nevertheless!

It was this kind of an elation that filled me when I first heard heard the ’tweaked’ anthem, and I hate the word ’tweaked’ now! But back to the anthem! It has all the trademarks of Rahman that the others somehow miss out on! The power chords on the guitar are hit at the right moments, the beats are clearer and vibrate sonorously yet soothingly! The ups and downs are a bit expected, but they do make the song peppier. And I’m a believer! Again!

I guess this is one of the reasons why I had dedicated this blog to cultivating the heart. The past two days, the surroundings had brought only negativity to my heart, and my outpourings had been bitter. But Rahman’s music has sown the seeds of hope in my heart now, and the world suddenly seems a brighter place to live in! I hope that reflects in this post!

PS: Rahman has always been a strict guardian when it comes to releasing his children (another way to describe his creations) to the world. On one occasion, he asked his sound engineer to remove all the sighs and other sounds of breathing from a song. He came back sometime later to listen to the ’finished’ product, and felt as if the song had lost its soul! He made the sound engineer re-insert all those sounds! If you want to hear the end-result, listen to Tu Hi Re from Bombay.

Another example was once narrated by Sonu Nigam. Oh sorry, I mean Sonuu Niigaam. He was singing Satrangi Re for Rahman, and it was quite a difficult task, especially with Rahman at the helm! (Why are we not surprised?) The time came to sing the last paragraph, where Sonuu was asked to hit a very high note, and to his own surprise, his voice cracked in the process! He had to regain his composure, pray to the gods and his guru, and then try again. He still admits that it was one of his most difficult songs!

What else but the best, and beyond, can you expect from the man who recorded Asha Bhosle singing Rangeela Re to just a flute playing, and then mastered it in such a way that Asha tai herself could not recognise herself after a few months?

The use , abuse, misuse and disuse of Naxalism

What had started in Naxalbari, West Bengal, was supposed to have been a ’revolution’. In the end, those participating in it found themselves to be little more than ’misguided missiles’, first used to satisfy personal gains, and then left by the roadside like the tribal girl who has been forced to satisfy a master to her full extent, and has nothing more left to give.

For those of us still ignorant about the roots of Naxalism, here’s an utterly incomplete history of it, but I hope it suffices for the moment. Hundreds of Bengali students, the creme de la creme of the scholars in the 1970s, were convinced that their state was not being run in the proper manner by the Congress government led by chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray (SSR henceforth). They were asked to bring ’revolution’. Examples shown included the students’ revolutions in China and several parts of Europe, and their success was used as a carrot.

However, one small detail was omitted: that the success of these revolutions had been made possible because a part of the establishment had sided with the revolutionaries! Like the seasoned crime reporter tells the fledgling reporter in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Page 3: You have to be in the system to change the system!

Instead, while hundreds of these students died on the misguided quest for revolution, the anarchy was sighted by an opportunist political party to destabilise the Congress government, but that does not mean that the latter was any good either! In fact, so great an intellectual like Satyajit Ray put up a picture of that reign in the guise of the children’s film Hirok Rajar Deshe!

Of course, supporters of the CPIM will, at this point, cry themselves hoarse in pointing out that the SSR actually inserted goons in the ranks of these ’revolutionaries’ to discredit, arrest, torture or kill them. But folks, please take a better look at pieces of Bengali literature like Hajar Churashir Maa (later made into a film starring Jaya Bachchan and called Hazaar Chaurasi ki Maa) or Kalbela to discover both sides of the mirror!

The CPIM actually continued the same pogroms against the Naxals after coming to power that it had so ’despised’ when supporting the Naxals before the elections! And that, I believe, was the original sin that had been committed against the Naxals! There may be few other similarities, but at least in this phase of history, the Naxals share a trait with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. The latter, however, were not ill-treated by their former ’friends’, and that is where the differences creep in!

As for now, the biggest gap that exist between the Naxals and their rehabilitation is the knowledge of what they exactly want! They want freedom? From what? The current dministration? So do we! True, that we have not gotten anywhere with that demand, leave alone achieving that goal, but that does not justify killing anyone, does it?

We have, for long, ignored the villages, and that is where these Naxals have strengthened their base! But have we learnt our lesson? Let me answer that question with a small snippet of information. Gadchiroli, located in the eastern extreme of Maharashtra and in the Vidarbha belt where farmer suicides are so common, is one of the heartlands of Naxal activity. Only last year was it’s annual budget tripled. Good, we say, but is it important?

Last year itself, when the assembly elections took place in Maharashtra, I remember (working as a freelancer with the good people at the Nagpur edition of The Times of India) that one of the chief election issues – one that could supposedly swing the votes both ways – was the non-introduction of buses in a certain root in Mumbai! Vidarbha’s issues were, as usual, given the stepmotherly treatment!

Why would the people of Gadchiroli take kindly to such an administration, or any other administration that represents similar authority?

Naxalism, like most of the other ’burning issues’ in India, has not band aid solution, neither a short cut one, and definitely not a surefire one. We need to remedy the situation in the rural areas, develop them, give them what they deserve. We need them as much as they need us. Unfortunately, they have only been givers, and we the unacknowledging receivers.

A last word: I DO NOT support the Naxals, especially not in the way they are trying to achieve their ends. I just sympathise with the treatment they had received earlier, and beseech one and all not to treat anyone else like that. No one deserves that. NOT EVEN YOUR GREATEST ENEMY!

The CWG anger

A lot of people in my country are angry over how the Commonwealth Games (CWG) has unfolded. And that was what prompted me to start this blog in the first place: to reap the crops of whatever seeds were sown in it.

Yesterday night, the seeds were of anger. I was seething at the utter INCOMPETENCE of some of the ’official’ statements!

For one, when the New Zealand contingent said that their quarters were ’filthy’ (that was the exact word used), the gentleman from the organising committee (OC) responded that the level of hygiene being demanded by these athletes was higher than ours! I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something like "The living conditions are good enough for you and me, but they are demanding a higher level of hygiene."

But then again, the games village is supposed to have WORLD CLASS facilities! So are we to assume that the OC got the mere definition of ’world class’ wrong? If yes, then no wonder that they got everything else wrong! And if no, then how come the contingent has a photograph of dog relieving itself on a bed meant for the athletes?

This was also the day of the collapse of the bridge leading to the main venue of CWG. It must have sounded like the breaking of the morales of a billion people, or their souls being crushed under the burden of sorrow, embarrassment and what-will-you by those people who had taken it on themselves to

This was also the day when an Australian news channel aired a sting operation on one the security at the CWG venues! Apparently, one of their journalists came to Delhi, bought the condiments to make a bomb, and walked straight into a CWG venue without being held for a security check even once! The best example that the Delhi police can put up if ever the CWG had an event called ’incompetence’!

If it were up to me, I would scrap the games right now to avoid any further embarrassment to the country. And then head hunt each person responsible for its failure! No, I would not be satisfied with the small-time scapegoats, but would hunt down the big game, and make them pay so dearly that the any other person trying to mooch off the taxpayers’ hard-earned money would shudder at the example!

But I don’t. Then again, some of these powers lie with the Prime Minister, so lets see what he does with all this. And this is my shout-out to the youth of the nation (forgive the allusion to the POD song): If you don’t like what he is doing with the country, get out of your houses during the next general elections, and give him a piece of your mind! That is probably the only way you can avenge the wrongs he or any other politician has done to this country!

PS: Yesterday was also the day MC Mary Kom returned to India after winning yet another world title. I would dearly like to see her face to face with Vijender Kumar, engaging in a verbal pow-wow over how two similarly talented people from the same sport receive very different treatment from a country obsessed with a different game!

Outpurings

This blog has been created with the express intention of giving vent to the emotional turmoil that I sometimes undergo.

The turmoil may be due to personal reasons (I openly admit that I am beginning to build my emotional quotient only recently) or due to something that I see or hear in or around me, may it be in a film or on television or on radio, or just from someone in my surroundings.

For the more inquisitive ones, my name is Arkadev Ghoshal. I am 26 years old, currently living in Jaipur and working as a senior sub editor with DNA, Jaipur.

PS: Everything I write here is entirely my opinion, and has got nothing to do with the organisation I work for. Any attempt to unnecessarily correlate the two will be met with appropriate action!

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