To Elphinstone Road

Burn.burn slowly.never rest or die before

KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey

When a system is forced to run at four to six times its capacity for years on end, it doesn’t break – it was always broken. Elphinstone Road is the story of almost all urban infrastructure in our cities. It’s a template. It’s a warning. It’s our history, our everyday, and our future. It’s horrifying. It’s utterly banal.

When only death can make you think of repair, maintenance, upkeep, and expansion, then the everydayness of our infrastructure is a state of violence. When that death will still not make you change the way you manage that infrastructure, that violence is a siege, and we have Stockholm Syndrome. Not resilience, but a hostage situation.

The real challenge to us – all of us, in all our locations – is to realise the deep insufficiency of our anger if it is anger just at death. Anger is needed as much at the…

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In ‘Stalingrad,’ Jochen Hellbeck uses forgotten interviews to take us inside the battle that turned the tide of World War II

The Great Patriotic War needs to be read by all:military strategists,historians,lovers of heroism and valour and importantly by the milennials who seem to obsess with science and fake objectivity.It is not important whether you are left, right or somewhere in the moderate middle.To understand truth we must know what,where and how to find! Much respects for those that lay their lives for the freedoms that we live to enjoy.Never Forgotten!

Weapons and Warfare

By Alan Cate

Stalingrad
By Jochen Hellbeck

PublicAffairs, 512 pp., $29.99

Yorktown and Gettysburg rank highest among American martial epics of valor and victory. Most Brits would probably choose the World War II aerial Battle of Britain as their “finest hour.” To the French, Verdun – with its defiant cry, “they shall not pass” – represents a national Calvary of agony and endurance in World War I.

For the Russian people, even more deeply engraved on the national psyche, it’s Stalingrad, “the most ferocious and lethal battle in human history.” This titanic five-month encounter, with roughly a million casualties – dead, wounded, captured or missing – on each side, culminated in a shattering defeat of the Nazi invaders by the Soviets.

Military historians universally recognize it as the turning point of the Second World War, or, as it’s known in Russia, the Great Patriotic War.

In “Stalingrad: The City That…

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Perfect Crimes

The author, a practicing lawyer for over three decades puts all his experience on the line to piece together the shady world of dispensing justice in his expose”Great Judicial Tamasha”.Careful about not taking names, he narrates events and instances in great detail which the professionals can identify, the laity can get scandalized about and the protagonists squirm or ignore.Like it or not, you shall hate the guts of this brave, no-nonsense man.An Insiders expose of the murky interiors of the corridors of justice, it is.

Bravo, to begin with, I must say!
The able lawyer makes you laugh at the Theatre of the Absurd, not the macabre, being enacted as the noose gets to the thickly layered dark necks of the fat and fluffy. He makes you see how Alibaba and his forty thieves enter the cave of limitless fortune only to leave with the entire treasure each day to the comforts of a home, wife, children or who knows; to little dens of forbidden pleasure.Sanguine.Protected.Secure.These are some of your honorable dignitaries also known as “Judges.” Contrary to the Arabian Nights, there are no secrets, no conspiracies or mysteries.They do by the day which you shudder to think by night. The cynical, however, just shrug with a tongue in cheek aside. All remain nude in the public harem and who cares!
The author is appalled like all honest: few and far between as they might be. Does he mock at our own ignorance in being invited to a Stand-Up Comedy? Or does he scream, in terror and disgust at the blatant trade of lives and livelihoods of the common, of big money and illicit exchanges between thieves or on the institutionalized falsehoods that keep the myth of people’s democracy alive and well? I will never know. I shall wait for the innocent to rise out of the learning’s of a systemic rot, on the why’s and what’s. I would be relieved, not happy if the elaborate and heart rending narrative illuminates enough to awaken the singed and harmed for they are countless… Lest the humor in the day’s work of sweat, toil and hope are lost in the alleyways of the tragic and farcical.

Ms Romila Thapar,Why do dreams Die?

On the matter of the recent book and the article in Deccan Chronicle, I shall come to later. I rather hurriedly post this link only to make up for the surprise, shock, disbelief and utter dismay at the disgraceful conduct shown by the Directors of the Sameeksha Trust(EPW) in having capitulated to the “corporate bullying” without any visible sign of resistance vocal or otherwise.They have not only gone on to admit, tacitly that Adani’s and their kind are invincible but also that the so-called leaders of the academia and the intellectual world had better save their books from burning: by implication, their jobs.
(The article which is in the crosshairs for having been brought down or removed is this one.)
But why this extravagant sense of hopelessness and frustration?Personally, Romila Thapar, Andre Beteille, the two Directors,(the former was at JNU and the Latter at Delhi School of Social Work in the mid seventies) part of this now infamous Board were my childhood memories of intellectual sovereignty, of inspiring moral courage and impeccable integrity in the face of naked power, authority, and aggression.I continued adoring them as I have aged to be over sixty years of age, when I used to read their scholarly articles,in various newspapers, magazines both Indian and foreign,Podcasts and Video recordings on the You Tube, well held rational and scientific views on history and its various interpretations, the need for independent research and methodologies, religion, communities on the margins and of regressive nationalism and many such things.Romila Thapar had refused governmental recognition of any kind to avoid being stigmatized as a “Sarkari historian.”And now during their watch, the already fragile fort of defiance has crumbled.As someone said even before the sound of “boo” was even heard.The Editor of Economic and Political Weekly, Mr Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
was literally shown the door for having eye balled the mighty corporate in a manner of speaking.In fact, he was the person who had exposed the systematic penetration into governmental power mechanisms and patronage by the Ambani’s, the collusion of greedy bureaucrats, corrupt politicians, international cartels in the “Gas Wars”, causing mega losses of precious public money ; the publishing of which also had run into serious trouble.
The Board of Directors of Sameeksha Trust, since have gone into a kind of geriatric damage control which is neither convincing nor spirited.But my concern here is what happened to my childhood icons?Are they as feeble as all of us, who went about spreading the message of hope, faith, rights, and justice? or worse still, have those intellectuals now become stale and old to retain even the spunk necessary to shake a hand…Much less to help him/her to rise? I dread to search for cowards anymore.The complicity of the idols is a tragedy.Heroes are once again difficult to come by.
So what of this book now! I have not read it.All that one reads are extended extracts of the review of this book by the editors of Organiser,(the RSS Mouth or foot-speak) given free advertisement by The Deccan Chronicle, in their daily.At least, one gets to read, as of now, about what was Nationalism instead of what it should be.

Seven Minutes to Ecstacy

In the whole of seven minutes, there are a few seconds of human speech.Rest is all about sights and sounds of Nature.Almost like a whodunit that boringly lulls you into an unsuspecting daydream only to be awakened by the shrill cries of a murder is this debut speciale!That maybe, the construct of a linear, simple thriller.Cut to the laziness swirling around of yet, another hot day, in a rural setting of Bengal, the water insects carousing playfully and unseen over still waters and as Time seems to have stopped, the young

appu
Apu

looks up casually only to be innocently excited by the prospect of dark clouds and to shiver wet in the pouring rain.

durga
Durga

, the sister can dance for longer.She is elder and stronger, his silent sibling envy, perhaps!The wicked camera eye naughtily does not miss to eavesdrop on the rotund, middle aged priest as he opens his umbrella when a rain drop on his bald head rudely shakes him up from his afternoon doze. The camera pans

sarbojya
Sarbojya

, the mother,as she tucks away a fallen coconut careful not to be seen.As the smiles of the audience are about to be heard as laughs, descend the rains like a much-awaited crescendo as a cathartic climax.The background track captures the movement, transition and speed: from a pregnant silence to the rhythmic patter on to the eerie whoosh of leaves and branches.The sharp and slanting sheet-like raindrops consumes the entire environs.Together,the cuts and edits morph into the architecture of a visual montage of black and white, light and shadows,love and anxiety, delight,humour encapsulated in the common routine of humanity:a pure expression of the beautiful.

 

Was it romanticising poverty or an “epiphany of wonder?”.

Satyajit Ray,the perfectionist, famously was never happy with the music of his early movies.Ravi Shanker and his kind were virtuosos, he had averred who seldom could adapt to the quick, short compositions reflecting the many and variable moods of the story and its crisp narration.Ray went on to make his own music.Subroto Mitra who caught on camera the seductive freshness of silent waters, heavy dark clouds,the muddy tracks and puddled pathways brought alive Bansi Chitragupt’s realistic stage-sets was a beginner and a Ray regular subsequently.He too had to make way for the master to do his own thing.These artistes were maestros of their craft but not good enough for this very special polymath called Ray.Never one to be easily satisfied,he believed the creator’s vision was unique and private which could only be translated adequately by that person alone.Easier said…
When asked about his boundless and enviable creativity and questioned about his craft,skill and talents, he had said, it was all there in Bibhuti Babu’s stories.He had only tried to present them with all fidelity as he could not have bettered the writer.This too, was also the paradoxical mix of humility and arrogance.

Watch this for new angles of amazement and to discover where after all is the Director?

Smart Histories

Well, my teachers have correctly taught me that getting closer to the truth is all about inter-disciplinary studies.The more we get to the interconnections of different subjects like history, economics, politics, archaeology, sociology, anthropology including the physical sciences, different developments of technology the clearer we are about the relative or objective truths.Yes, there are no absolute truths!
Britain has withdrawn from the European Union while Trump’s arrival almost puts a stamp of approval on the dark days ahead of globalisation! This private research and analysis were done by the Barclays trace an interesting storyline of the why’s and how’s of a business story which is over a century and a half old, in a typical corporatorial think-tank way.The article, in fact, highlights the fault lines of a very specialised and limited scan of facts essentially restricted to advancements in transportation, technology, communication and such others to foretell or prognosticate on the future of globalisation and perhaps its denouement into something else.It chooses,however, to ignore the precise economic interfaces in the rise of the challenges of industrialisation,new impoverished classes,conflicts,disproportionate and uneven sharing of profits, the cry of impoverished labour,the undoing of the Czars and ushering in of the Bolsheviks,Socialism as an alternative philosophy of development and human rights,the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles across the world,the collapse of the Soviet Union and dodginess of China,the defensiveness of capitalist policies and subsequent morphing from partially successful social democratic or “regimented Capitalist” policies to the much abused neo-liberal strategies.

Reduction in profit-making had been achieved through the awakening of the disenfranchised by seeking for more freedoms and more democracy.Instead,in the very reductions of the valued premises of democracy: in silencing the majority, decision making snatching away all powers decision-making of popular them obedient and acquiescing,hammering them to become a mindless “sack of potatoes” and shutting off the hazardous minorities of women, ethnic groups, different age groups,farmers, workers was the new Democratic model to be considered safe .The Thatcherite slogan quite summed up the neo-conservative hoodoo which read something like “Individualism is all.Society is nothing”.Unelected and elitist professional bodies slipped in through the backdoor like International Monetary Fund(IMF), World Bank(WB)and GATT to completely take over the economic theories of political language.

Globalisation has been its much-wonted flag of international superiority, domination and engaging mutual dependencies and collaboration of emerging economies.But like everything, this too had its dialectical “other” of yore – the return to protectionist policies.Whether in this rather rambling commentating there is a recognition of past fears and an affirmation of certain well found alternatives is for the reader to discover given one’s own understanding and interpretations.

Continue reading “Smart Histories”

Masterji: As I remember

Yes, you wore many hats.
I remember you.
Those were the sixties of the previous century when rickshaws were everywhere. The migrants from our neighbouring state, Telugu speaking from Andhra Pradesh drove those cheap, but friendly and ubiquitous vehicles. They were early days to understand eco-friendly modes of mobility.Maybe, there was only a handful, rich enough to own private cars.
In your spare time which was very little, I’d imagine, you worked on these simple contraptions, repaired and even assembled them. There were quite a few of these rickshaws that you owned and employed many robust and hardworking Telugus at your popular outlet, near the erstwhile Capital Cinema Hall. Many who had seen this part of you either quietly sniggered in the shadows or shamefacedly criticised in front.
Now I know and understand the hands-on man, that was you: pioneering, courageous and entrepreneurial. Not for you were the cosy comforts of a staid world bound by non-enterprising mores or pettiness borne out of lazily held property or decadent riches. You were your own man.
I remember the three daughters in their very early teens in colourful Salwar Kameez or flowering skirts on bicycles would set the dry and dusty streets of Cuttack a flutter. They rode the lady-cycles without a carrier in front of the seat and without a care.From “Sati Chaura” to “Chauliaganj” they biked equally comfortable talking to boys as with the others.Eyeballs surely would have rolled like Chinese toys.The girls next door or the touch-me-not unmarried maids and mocking mothers would miss this liberating sight when bounded indoors for their stuck up elders believed that good girls were not to be touched by the polluting influence of the “chokris”.. If there were sighs, heartaches or secret desires seeking such freedom by the nubile lovelies inside of their homes we do not know but can only guess! That besides the cry and spit of contempt of the gentlemen and women could not be hidden and their evil gazes dotted the trail of these innocent, freewheeling cyclists. The mother of the Singh Family, however, dignified and distinguished both in looks and education lovingly let her girls fly.( And mind you, they could cook too!) Masterji was nonchalant, unfazed and happily cheered the family on, well ahead and above of it all. You were modern enough without the usual trappings.
I remember you could drink “lotas”(round vessel of brass or aluminium) of water through your nose and relish a full mouthful of fresh green chillies in equal measure with a “handi”(earthen pot) of Rasogoolas .Dread and awe transfixed the gazes of the uninitiated and the young while the matured and smug continued with their snigger. Who was to tell the latter of their native ignorance’s when they beheld these spectacular feats?
I remember the gather of the men, women, and children from Bihar who found in your home succour, support, and shelter. You were the mentor, guide and father to them who nostalgically missed their distant homes, families, and friends left behind through the humming and mostly loud singing of Bhojpuri folk to the accompaniment of Harmonium, dholaks and manjiras(little brass cymbals) clanging tunefully against each other. The taste of the wonderful choka, puris , dum alloo,dai bhalles and what-have-you still lingers of the many feasts of Holi, Chhat Puja, and Diwali. You made this happen Masterji to get the merry band of migrant Biharis coming together.One question though naggingly lingers.Was your politics not about the belted oversized khaki shorts, lathi and the white gangees(vests)?Just as an aside, good :they are good:those that wear the same today ,a lbeit in trousers they are! But well, that is another story.
Today, you leave me and many else wondering why do we remember now. Why do ideators,polygots,musicians, filmmakers, painters, and authors, artists philosophers while on their path-breaking and innovative drives during their lifetime seldom get recognised or discovered? Why do we not see the many flavours of life and its struggles that different people, cultural diversity, languages, and places bring? Why does it take time to see the seeds being sown for the many flowers to be born from the energy, courage, vision, sweat and toil of an unsung but tireless gardener?
Sadly, it is only, much after, that we do! In most instances, that is, By then, it is but the tale of too little too late I’ d suppose

P.S. After Pappu’s tribute.Another reminisce…

Continue reading “Masterji: As I remember”