More than Half the Sky

Of late, I am not sure about heroes – of who they are, why they are so and how do they become so. And do they change the times we live in? I am conflicted.

Heroes do not make history alone.But, it is seen that very often men and women as individuals and sometimes in groups within the same society are able to see, feel and act in ways which are way ahead of the prevailing times, even before the large masses of this society are able to realize, organize or even agitate against its inequities. To that extent, they shall always be remembered and revered as the courageous first blooms who paved the not-so-manicured garden paths- of a better and more fragrant world.

Bharat Bala with his roving camera as promised travels the length and breadth of India seeking the frequently missed sights, smells and sounds. This time in the sylvan settings of a village in Maharashtra he discovers the “Aajibainchi Shaala”-School for Grandmother’s to celebrate a pioneer woman who definitely is quite the torchbearer of the Second Sex-and unarguably, holds more than half the sky.Enough, to make our small hearts throb with self-belief and much needed pride!

Around the time Marx was writing his Communist Manifesto Savitribai Phule had made the first school for girls in a remote village called Naigaon in Maharashtra, with the help of a courageous husband JyotiRao Phule in 1848. Savitribai most prized possession was a book given to her by a Christian missionary. Deeply taken in by her enthusiasm to learn, Jyotirao taught Savitribai to read and write. Savitribai undertook teachers’ training at Ahmednagar and in Pune. She became a qualified teacher after she passed her 4th examination in 1847.She went on to open several schools for girls in the surrounding villages. When the exploitive dowry system, the dreadful practice of Sati, early widowhood of girls and the pernicious caste system inspired a Raja Ram Mohan and a Vidyasagar to combat the evils with the benefits of education and literacy among other things in distant Bengal,she along with her husband dug a well in their own backyard, letting the discriminated lower castes to drink and fill water like all others. The Brahmanical Village elders did not take kindly to this and she was frequently attacked with cow dung on her way to school. The hopeless condition of widows and young needy girls made her open a Destitute Shelter in the year 1864 and hand-hold her husband to conceive and establish Satyashodhak Samaj (The Truthseeker’s Society) in 1873 followed by Satyashodhak Marriage wherein you swore to promoting education and equality. She also adopted a boy from one of her shelters Yashwantrao.If all of this was not enough she broke all customs and norms to light the funeral pyre of her dead husband riling the frustrated, hide-bound conservative social order. It is to the credit of the English masters that they recognized the many path breaking initiatives of this pioneering woman and declared her the Best Teacher in the entire State. The Bubonic plague of 1897 once again compelled her to open a clinic in Hadapsar, Pune, and it was while carrying a ten –year old in her arms, she contracted plague and breathed her last in the same year on the Tenth of March.

Nivedita Menon in the Outlook magazine underlines the changes she brought about almost a century and ayear later when she says “Eleven year old Muktabai, a Dalit student at the school in Pune established by Savitribai and Jotiba Phule, gave a damn about where the critique of caste came from when she wrote in the Marathi journal Dyanodaya in 1855:

Earlier, Gokhale, Apate, Trimkaji [a series of other Brahmin surnames]…who showed their bravery by killing rats in their homes, persecuted us, not even sparing pregnant women, without any rhyme or reason. That has stopped now…Harassment and torture of mahars and mangs, common during the rule of Peshwas in Pune, has stopped…

‘Earlier’ was under the rule of the Peshwas, ‘now’ was under British colonialism. The West was her saviour from indigenous caste society.”

May your tribe thrive and be born in the thousands. Salutations.

The Bengali Blight

A double whammy of sorts has perhaps caught the Bengali on the wrong foot in recent times.The Abhijit – Esther duo


being awarded the Nobel in Economics and a much loved Saurav becoming the President of BCCI unopposed.
The Bengali is generally an Indian only as an afterthought for he is that unique species undiscovered by Darwin and therefore this windfall of worldwide attention is also equally special.But like everything Bengali this too comes with its fair share of contradictions.Abhijit is fragile cutlery to be handled with care what with his criticism of Modi Babus New India policies.This ambiguity can be traced historically to a large number of Bengalis while being obedient clerks (read babus)under the English a sizeable did not think twice about chucking a bomb or two at the same Gora Sahibs or languish in their youthful prime in the dark interiors of the Cellular jail forever.So this part of the Bengali being double – faced both a rebel and an apparitichik is it true human face to be politically correct that is .

Into this problematic comes our darling Saurav who by common understanding gave a self – confidence to Indian cricket -eminently rare. Coming on the back of a match – fixing scandal with Sachin developing cold feet where leading was concerned Saurav stood tall in principle and practice to take India out of this corrupt hole.No stranger to controversy he took to cricket administration like duck to water.Blessed by Dalmia,wooed by CPI (M),encouraged by Mamata Saurav effectively held his counsel and warded off these advances while being the proverbial “Bhadralok”.He headed Cricket Association of Bengal and always looked higher and further towards Mumbai and BCCI as an ambitious man.Nominated by the Supreme Court to be in the Committee for Administrators it is instructive to remember here that he successfully teamed up with the likes of a Tendulkar and Laxman with Kumble as coach to keep Vinod Rai happy with the arrangement.Until the Kohli-Sashtri combine upstaged this rather fraternal foursome.(Remember a far-sighted or a weak balled Ramachandra Guha had fled the Cuckoo’s Nest quite early.)When a lot of seniors were crying foul at the Kumble (mis)handling including Gavaskar,the shrewd Saurav very early sensed the changing winds and decided to re-set his sails for safety first and speed next.He vigorously defended Kohli’s acts of ommission and commission both on and off the field and smartly skirted his personal differences with Sashtri as coach.In part this could be his own less patronised philosophy of captain in command always l’affaire Greg Chapell that is.In time he vocally also opposed the conflict of interest issue to establish common cause with a lot of former cricketers to which he was an involved party too.
It is perhaps a matter of conjecture that he correctly surmised that the power and authority of a Dhoni or Kohli came from the political upper stories rather than the BCCI.He must have also surmised that Vinod Rai was a limited tool with a specific agenda employed to clear certain annoying impediments or persons in the way of the complete control of these very same superiors.That Cricket was very much a proven business model for money to be made was never lost upon these grab and appropriate political party in power.The palpable entry of political jingoism in the shape of an emblematic glove,camouflage caps in a Test Match and black bands worn by all test players as a token of respect on the demise of a Central Minister and former head of DDCA were confirmations of unseemly political penetrations into the very heart of this very popular game.Ganguly watched silently all of it and perhaps was also sending enough indications of his apolitical pedigree awaiting baptism with the right party.
This journey of cricketing politics of Saurav now culminates with a not so routine visit of his to Amit Shah a day prior to the BCCI elections.And what do we get.He becomes President and Amit Shah ‘s son become Secretary unopposed with Anurag Thakur’s brother in tow.The former heavy weights like a Shukla,Niranjan Shahor a Srinivasan very much there supervising the proceedings and make the coronation happen.
Now cut back to the essential argument of Bengali binaries and ambivalence.Like the Abhijit case being restricted to limited celebrations among the cerebral with some Right Wing sympathisers going to town on his immoral personal life – divorce and abandonment of his first love followed by a second marriage to a White French girl student while pursuing research on left -leaning subjects to denigrate a strong nationalist Indian Prime Minister the same Bengali community perhaps in larger numbers or almost unanimously see Saurav ‘s climb to the top to be in no conflict with principle or professionalism that got him there.Particularly when the new East India Company with its HQ’S in Delhi is looking for an entry and a popular face to lead it’s charge in Bengal elections sometime late next year during which period Saurav should have demitted office going by the current rules in force for BCCI.
Many who know and are not easily swayed by isolated acts had opined that Dhoni’s gloves issue was much ado about nothing.The double – faced Bengali is secretly wishing Saurav and the BJP would make a great team for Bengal while the cringing and fawning Babu in him is running scared and confused undecided on the future of their fiery Didi who till yesterday ,perhaps even still loved had liberated their dear land from the hands of the lumpen-left.The famed Revolutionaries have since become as rare as the Dacca muslin-cloth to save the Bengalis from any furher dilemmas ,thankfully.
So will Saurav set all of these conjectures aside as idle banter or will he chose to be the quintessential Mumbaikar professionally and commercially savvy for principles to make way for prudence or practicality?To say that he will withstand the definite interference and interventions of the Big Two to be his own man would be madly Bengali in substance but highly unlikely.

The Bengali will be in the crosshairs of such and more sustained and critical questioning in the future.And in its answers or denouement will the reputation and character of the janus-faced Bengali be determined.
I write as a Bengali who is disturbed by the marked ambivalence in today’s politics in Bengal in general and of an uncritical,narrow minded,chauvinistic Saurav fan following in particular.

The Babu : never good enough !

From someone who has been there and seen it mostly.A good read that is both honest and sympathetic.yet critical.

I would have, however, firstly liked to hear on the popular failing of the love for power and lack of scruples of quite a few – especially those looking to make easy money in the past four-odd decades generally speaking.
Secondly, in the post-independence years, a large cross-section of communities, regions, areas, languages with various levels of development finding merited representation upon selection how well have they integrated themselves with the purported indigenous elite or delivered catering to the job description.
Thirdly, one is also interested in the performance of those from the science or technical streams compared with the more popular recruitments from the social sciences.

Notwithstanding, the current policy of the present dispensation for a certain number of lateral entries at Joint Secretaries level by direct recruitment has made the relevance and likely impact of this elite service even more intriguing.
I have deliberately kept the intra-service Central Services disputes or contentions out of the observations or remarks made primarily because, for me, they are but family quarrels
likely to resolve themselves by default after the larger “threat” now at its privileged and closed doors – what with the corporate experienced, expertly educated and exposed managerially trained paradropped entries.

The seduction of the working class in India and beyond

These are arguments wherein you notice the polemical debate within the socialist world globally trying to understand its own defeats or weaknesses.They acknowledge the intelligent adjustment or structural updations being made by market capitalism in the new age of advanced and specialised technologies.

As an aside the modern tariff wars and the Chinese welcoming of multilateralism and globalisation and willing implementation of existing international laws and agreements also seems to be a belated negotiation with a reworked capitalist ideology.But whether or not it is pro- international labour or working classes and instead is a developing and inverted protective nationalist model are questions that also emerge disconcertingly.

However,personally these collated opinions gives me hope that there are academician-activists still who believe in not just understanding histories but are also committed to the struggles of changing it.
A serious read surely.🔆

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.

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.

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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…

Click Here

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Akashganga: They also Serve, who Just Stand and Wait – XV

Behind the risk of life and limb stood the woman by his man. Running from sick quarters to banks and schools, buying groceries riding cycles or by walk, receiving and seeing off loved relatives all by themselves, while her loved man was away is a quality taken for granted and an unwritten part of the wife’s job description. Cooking late meals without notice with nothing in store for an unannounced number of gatecrashers, the free-flowing rum and groggy men being the proverbial last straw. Do not get it wrong here! These were still early days for the women to enjoy much less taste the tabooed liquor. It took a while before the docile and submissive Nari came into her own. In her Sunday best, she soldiered on with a smile. Tears there must have been and many at that but these were to be borne and shared by each husband in the dark corners of the bedroom.

Source: Akashganga: They also Serve, who Just Stand and Wait – XV

Literature in Castro’s Cuba

When progressive ideas are in retreat and the neo-liberals are in triumphant march Fidel shall mostly be talked, written and remembered as a pig headed dictator.This article would go a long way to correct that mistaken thought.Contrarily,Fidel would appear to be remarkably prescient,honest, humble yet firm.In this excerpt from a rare 1965 interview, Fidel Castro elaborates on his philosophy of the arts.

Source: Literature in Castro’s Cuba