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…

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MayDay!May Day!May Day!

#Left-Out: Not the football of Politics!
It is May Day and what a travesty.That day which symbolises everything about empowerment of the labour, justice, fair play, egalitarianism and power to the people is no longer celebrated.Much less remembered.In another extraordinary way the call – ” May Day! Mayday! May Day!” is an internationally acknowledged call of distress.Is it frightful coincidence or serendipity that such a call for help is being heard for some time now from the fore and aft of the sinking ship: the Left?

The Left would need to explain at the grass roots what it is to be seeking its own individual identity, a collaboration with the far left and the broader spectrum of the unity of pro-secular forces.It would need to examine the globalised surge towards individualism and self-aggrandisement and the disenchantment of the millennials: the young who grew to adulthood without a sense of history and pride of the nation’s true strengths of diversity and pluralism and near-obsessive preoccupation with poverty.The people would like to know how and why the world is swinging to an anti-people philosophy and programme of action and the sudden honeymoon to play surrogates to the vile designs of world domination of the USA.

The downslide had started since Independence.Only the termites of compromise were too small or invisible.The legacies of anti-colonial movements and the overarching presence of the Soviet Union and the rise of China had kept the Left lulled and seduced in a sense of false well-being.Until the deluge…

The people would like to see the Left to once again be on the streets among them and from whose seeds this radical idea of political, social and economic transformation was born.The people want to be led and also to lead.Leadership, organisation, participation, party, flag and a philosophy of action is the crying need.

Bengal stands in the crosshairs of all such questions and much more.Chauvinistically, perhaps pride in that very parochial saying”what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.” might still leave them inspired, to say the least!

Setbacks, retreats or defeats can only be temporary.Do they have it in them to arrest the decline, overturn the debacle to rise in defiance and usher in hope for the victory of the people?may day

Sitaram Yechury with great political acumen and sagacity talks honestly about what went or is going wrong with the Left movement and CPI(M) in particular.For all patriots irrespective of where you stand in the final analysis: an insightful and must read…

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