Sunday, July 20, 2014


With every passing day crimes against women are on the rise. Every day when we open the news paper or turn on a news channel we are brought face to face with news of rape and murder of the rape victim.  
Sita returns to the earth's womb with her mother.
(A Raja Ravi Varma painting, credits Wikipedia)

From the days of the Vedas and the Upanishads women are being violated. Since the society became patriarchal women have been at the receiving end. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata have chronicled the hapless plight of women.

Sita had to prove her chastity in front of all and sundry. Dushashana dragged Draupadi by her hair into the crowded courtroom where the game of dice was being played. Then he tried to disrobe her in front of all the great men of the Kauravas and the Pandavas. No one but Bheema protested against this outrageous act.

Rape and violence against women were there before probably in the same numbers. In India, every second, a woman or a girl child is being violated upon. Some incidents get reported while most remain out of our notice. Fear, trauma and social stigma bar the victim from reporting the crime.

People should be encouraged to come out and report such incidents. These cases need to be handled carefully and with compassion. The trauma, the victim and the family suffer, is immense. It should be taken into consideration while handling these sensitive cases.

Earlier, the media was present only in print form. But now, with the influx of media – both electronic and print – more incidents are being brought forth.
Draupadi's Vastraharan
(A Raja Ravi Verma Painting, Credits Wikipedia)

This increased expansion of the media has also resulted in the women and social rights activists becoming more vocal on the subject. They are coming out and protesting against these heinous acts. As more incidents are being brought to light, the complaints to the concerned authorities have also increased.

People are now becoming more and more aware of their rights and duties. Women are taking an active role in all the spheres of the society.

Empowerment of women is a revolutionary aspect of the society. The government, the media and the powers that be are trying their utmost in disseminating the message of development. Protection of mother and girl child, pre-natal care, neo-natal care, post-natal care, child infanticide are given due importance.  Strict laws and regulations have been framed to protect the girl child. Child marriage has been almost done away with, at least on paper.

Throughout the world “gender in development” and “gender and development” are being made the focus of all developmental programmes. Now there are strict regulations on the practice of dowry in our country. In spite of this, dowry is very much in vogue in the country. The powers that be turn a blind eye to the fact. This practice needs to be eradicated comprehensively.

Crime and violence against women are the most heinous and despicable acts in the world. These can be treated from a sociological aspect. The woman is the most vulnerable member of the family. Whenever anything untoward happens in the family, the woman becomes the most affected of the lot. Either she has to forego her morsel of food or the girl child has to leave her school or college. Similar other deprivations are borne upon the female member of the family. But the same does not happen to the men or the boys. These must be put to an end.

Development and growth is the call of the day.  Poverty need to be eradicated – not only in papers but physically. India has enough natural and agricultural resources and more than adequate cash reserve to see to it that no one goes starved. No one wants to live in poverty. No human being deserves humiliation and denigration.

It is the mother who feeds the family. It is the woman who does the household chores. It is the lady of the house who actually gives education to the whole family and brings up the children.

When one woman is violated upon every individual should think about his mother, sister, daughter and the women folk back home. During these despicable acts the society goes back in time. Development retards. 
Hence the average level of consciousness of the society has to be brought up.

Materialism has led to unrestrained want – want for goods and services beyond one’s means. This has given rise to the habit of downplaying hard work, diligence, camaraderie and fellow feeling. People look down upon those who are not resourceful. In general, disrespect has become a national disease. This results in disrespecting even one’s own kith and kin. Everywhere there is an ambiance of mistrust and hoodwinking. The common people are being fleeced of their money, property and possessions.

Sati Ceremony - A Hindu practice, whereby
a widow immolates herself on the
funeral pyre pf her husband (pix credit, Wikipedia) 
As charity begins at home, crime also begins at home. The rapists and criminals get the first taste of crime within their own family or within the surroundings they inhabit. This calls for a large scale drive to enhance the social consciousness of the society as a whole.

Our country is infected with criminalization of politics. It has been the bane of our society for long. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The political leaders cutting across party lines cater to their vote banks. They therefore fail to take honest, positive and drastic steps to enhance the societal conscious level.

The media and the information network have to take the onus on themselves to spread the message of respect, humanity and the virtues of life. But that again is a tough ask and who should come forth to bell the cat.    

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


stupa in cave 10 (pix credit wikipedia)
In February, 2014, we decided to visit Ajanta and Ellora. One of us was going to Mumbai to shoot a documentary. The second member of our group was in Mumbai, working. I was going to Mumbai to look for betterment in my career. 

Our trip was scheduled for the third week of March. We, in Calcutta, did not realize it was probably not the best of times to be in Ajanta and Ellora. It dawned on us later. It is apt to visit Ajanta and Ellora in the months of November, December, January and February till the first half of March.

We browsed the net. We talked to friends and acquaintances for inputs. The website of Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) provided us the necessary information. We learnt from this site Fardapur is about 5 kms. away from Ajanta. MTDC has a resort at Fardapur. This is the place to stay if we are to invest adequate time to see the Ajanta caves thoroughly.
scene from cave 1 (pix credits wikipedia)

One can visit Ajanta from Jalgaon. Ajanta is 60kms from Jalgaon. It is a two hour journey by road. The Ellora caves are in Aurangabad.  We were not sure about where to start our journey from. Would it be Jalgaon or shall we move on to Aurangabad? Here again the MTDC website came to our rescue. The site advices tourists to visit Ajanta from Aurangabad.

The caves of Ajanta are about 105 kms from Aurangabad. Aurangabad has a good bus service run by the State Government of Maharashtra. It takes around two and a half hours to three hours to reach the caves. We booked the MTDC resort at Fardapur for two days.

We took the Tapovan Express from Mumbai CST to Aurangabad. The train starts from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal at 6.10 A.M. It is supposed to reach Aurangabad at around 1.15 P.M. That fateful day the train reached Aurangabad at 3.30 P.M.

We were in a reserved compartment. Inspite of the fact that the compartment was meant for passengers with reservations, common people and daily commuters thronged the compartment. We had a torrid time. The burning sun along with the barren, dry and rocky country took its toll on us. We were exhausted and fatigued. One of us suffered heat stroke while another was feeling giddy.

the buddhist "carpenter's" cave at ellora(cave 10)
 pix credits wikipedia
We had previously decided to bide our time in Aurangabad, take rest for a while and proceed to Fardapur in due course. But now this became a compulsion on us. We took a long rest in Aurangabad.

We refreshed ourselves at the waiting room at Aurangabad railway station. After a late lunch at the cafeteria inside the rail station, we waited patiently for the daytime heat to subside.  

At around quarter to 5 we went to the Aurangabad bus terminal. Our bus for Fardapur started at 5 o’clock. The conductor of our bus informed us that it stops just in front of the entrance to the MTDC resort at Fardapur and that it would take around two and a half hours to reach.

This was a pleasant journey. A cool wind had set in. The rocky terrain of the Western Ghats provided scenic landscapes. The weather was comfortable and soothing. In the western parts of India, the sun takes time to set. The setting sun provided adequate light for us to see and enjoy the nature.

When the bus dropped us at Fardapur, near the MTDC resort, it was 730 P.M. The sun had long gone to rest. Evening had set in. It was dark. This journey was not as taxing as the morning travel. We checked into our room, had tea and took turn to bathe. We had an early dinner at the resort’s cafeteria. It was a beautiful ambience.

We spent the next day at the Ajanta caves. Visitors had come from all over the world to visit the caves.  Our eyes feasted on the Buddhist sculptures and wall engravings. The etchings and drawings were impeccable and the sculptures were immaculate. The toil was worth it.

The day after, we started for Aurangabad at 8 in the morning. We reached the MTDC resort near the Aurangabad railway station at around 11 o’clock. We had our lunch and moved on to visit Ellora.
a jain cave in ellora. pix credit wikipedia.

The caves of Ellora are situated 30 km from Aurangabad. We went to the Aurangabad bus terminus and took a bus to Ellora. It was a one hour journey. One crosses Daulatabad on the way.

Ellora is all about carvings, sculptures and wall paintings and engravings from the Jainism period. It is an exhibition of stupendous Indian art at its peak. The Kailas Temple is a magnificent piece of architecture of the period.

Indian history, architecture, sculpture and art reminded us of the rich legacy of our country. All the sweat, grime and our quest for ways and means to see the remnants of our country’s opulent past was paid off in cash and kind.

We went back to Aurangabad to prepare for our journey back to Mumbai. We had our reservations on the Jan Shatabdi Express which was scheduled to leave Aurangabad for Dadar at 6.00 A.M. the next day.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Valentine’s Day has gradually turned out to be a very potent tool for marketing in the Indian sub-continent. It probably has a greater impact on the South East Asian markets.

pix credit wiki images
In India, the festive season, which starts in September/October, comes to an end early January. From then on till the financial year end in March the markets become dry. The sales happen in the government sectors – the public sectors. The annual budgets need to be exhausted.  They then add to the sales of bulk and wholesale markets.

The annual year end sale season – the Chaitra sale in West Bengal and in Maharashtra happen at the end of March. The period from January to March – the three months used to be a lull period for the retailers throughout the country. Of late the situation has changed drastically.

Since the last decade of the 20th century the markets have had a fresh lease of life around the concept of the Valentine’s Day. The marketing campaigns have targeted almost every age group from the teenagers to the old, from the illiterate to the literate. Anybody and everybody are aware of the day.

Valentine’s Day, which is observed on 14th February every year, is the harbinger of romance in the season of spring. You name  any market, any product, anything that comes to your mind in the retail market – be it a fast moving consumer good to a consumer durable has seen considerable rise in its sale on and around the day.
pix credits wiki images

The essence of any marketing campaign targeting the Valentine’s Day has primarily been romance, love, warmth, a sense of being there and a feeling of well being. This has egged on the average person, the commoners to buy and gift things to their friends, lovers and family.

As a result the coffers of the retailers have fattened up during an otherwise lull season. The economy has become more energetic during these months. The investment and savings patterns have also been subsequently influenced.

Valentine’s Day is also known as Saint Valentine’s Day or the feast of Saint Valentine.  The day is celebrated in many countries around the world. But it is not a holiday in most of them. The Halloween is more important than Valentine’s Day in USA, UK and similar advanced nations.

The customs of Valentine’s Day developed in early modern England. It spread throughout the world in the 19th century. Then in the later 20th century and early 21st centuries it caught up very well in the so called third world countries. These customs have also spread to other countries along with other aspects of American pop culture.
pix credit wiki images

Poets like Geoffrey Chaucer and John Donne had symbolized the day with the idea of Love and Romance. Even the great Shakespeare has used it in his writings. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we find Ophelia mentioning the day with remorse.

A very well orchestrated and concentrated marketing effort has initiated the celebrations of Valentine’s Day in some East Asian countries with Chinese, South Koreans and Indians spending the most money on Valentine’s gifts.

Though sociologists and certain politicians have scoffed at the concept of merchandising of love, the concept of Valentine’s Day has caught on in a big way in this sub-continent. The economic effects it has brought on to the country are positive. People bask in the warmth of a good feeling about themselves. It has now become a social event.  

In a way it has done well to the people and has augured in a fresh lease of air to the mundane day-to-day lives of the common man.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Madanmohan Jiu Temple, Samta (pix credits Wikipedia)
On 9th of June, 2013, a Sunday, two of my friends and I went to Deulti, a nice, quiet hamlet on the banks of the river Rupnarayan, in Howrah district in West Bengal. It is located about 6kms towards the western part of Bagnan.

It was summer and it was June. Everyone, we talked to, dissuaded us from travelling in this sweltering heat. It is definitely uncomfortable. But we were bored with life in the city. We needed some fresh air and a change from the day in and day out trundle.

After pondering over different destinations, the time at our disposal and the money involved, we zeroed in on Deulti. Deulti is one of the oldest stations of Bengal Nagpur Railway. It was built in 1890. One can reach the place by train from Howrah. It is also accessible by car. It is a drive of around one and half hours from Kolkata. There are places to stay at Deulti. One can find them on the internet.

We started early in the morning. We drove along the Jessore Road, crossed the Nivedita Bridge and took the Kona Expressway till we came onto the Bombay Road or the NH6. At Bagnan we asked our way around and learnt Deulti was 4kms ahead. From the crossing of Deulti we turned right to Mellock and were greeted by a statue of the famed novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Deulti station was to the left of the crossing. We booked ourselves into a resort.

Sarat Chandra's house at Deulti
(pix credits Wikipedia)
After breakfast, we set out for Sarat Chandra Kuthi, the house of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. It is a two storied Burmese style house. When it was built, the river Rupnarayan used to flow right outside the window of Sarat Chandra’s study. Now the river has changed course and has moved far away. The house was destroyed in the floods of 1978. The Zilla Parishad repaired it. It has now been declared a heritage site. In front of the house is the village pond which had been immortalized by the great novelist in “Palli Samaj”and other writings.

Sarat Chandra was born into abject poverty in Devanandapur, in Hoogli district in West Bengal. They were four siblings. His eldest sister Anila Devi was married in the village of Samtaber. Sarat Chandra used to frequent this place.  The serene, tranquillity of the place on the banks of the river Rupnarayan fascinated him. When he returned from Burma and settled in Calcutta Sarat Chandra bought a piece of land near Anila Devi’s and built a house for himself. He lived here till his death, with his wife and his brother Swami Vedananda.

We left the house and walked to the banks of the river Rupnarayan. The river is famous for the Ilish or Hilsa fish that abound in it. It is a popular Bengali cuisine. The river starts in the foothills of the Chhoto Nagpur plateau northeast of the town of Purulia. It flows south east past Bankura, where it is known as Dwarakeshwara. In the town Ghatal it is joined by the river Silai. The Rupnarayan finally flows into the river Hoogli. At Kolaghat, on its banks, is the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL) power plant.

Deulti has a regular flow of tourists throughout the year. Kolaghat is nearby. One can also go to Garchumuk and Gadiara. Here the summers are tough. During monsoon the Rupnarayan floods its banks. It is better to come here in winter.

Traditional preparation of jaggery, Samta
(pix credits Wikipedia)
Deulti is rich in its heritage and culture. It is famous for its temples. In the village of Mellock near Samta, there is a very old temple built by Mukundaprasad Roychowdhry. He was a famous wrestler. The temple dates back to 1651 AD. The Madan Mohan Jiu temple is locally known as Gopaler Mandir (the Temple Of Gopala). It is one of the largest atchala (Eight Roofed) temples in West Bengal. The temple is large, beautiful and ornamented by terracotta carvings. Now it is dilapidated and under renovation.

Ma Shitala temple, the temple of Baba Lokenath, the temple of Lord Shiva at Shibtala and the temple of Ma Chandi at Shubho Chandi Tala are the other famous temples in and around Deulti. These temples have initiated a lot of myths around them.

The rains came late in the afternoon. They were accompanied by thunder and lightning. The unbearable heat of the day was gone. As evening set in the rain came to a stop. The climate cooled down. Our journey back was comfortable. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. We were refreshed and ready to face the following week’s work. The short tour added to our knowledge of history. We came face to face with our tradition.    


Vienna Opera Backstage (pix courtesy wikipedia)

My tryst with drama started when I was in kindergarten. I had the chance to perform on one of the oldest stages of Kolkata – Biswaroopa.  Thereafter, I grew up and saw the IPTA and the Group Theatre movement in Kolkata. I saw Utpal Dutta, Shambhu Mitra, Sabitri Chatterji, Tripti Mitra, Keya Chakraborty, Shobha Sen, Soumitra Chatterji, Kumar Roy perform on the proscenium. I saw Ajitesh Bannerji perform Brecht’s Three Penny Opera, Pirandello’s 6 Characters In Search of a Playwright, and Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard. I saw Badal Sarkar’s Third Theatre plays. I participated in workshops by Badal Sarkar.

Gradually, I was drawn to theatre. I joined a professional theatre group. I worked with the Indian People’s Theatre Association. I did street plays. I did dance dramas. I participated in choirs. I worked backstage. I was part of crowd scenes. I sold tickets. I went out with fellow theatre activists sticking posters of shows on the walls, lampposts, railway stations, trains, buses and trams. I distributed leaflets and handouts. I helped in setting up the sets of plays. I dabbled in everything from music to light to make up to costume.

Then came a Central Theatre Workshop organised by the Paschimbanga Natya Akademi under the Department of Information & Culture, Govt. Of West Bengal. I passed the grueling interview session and qualified for the workshop. The workshop started at Girish Mancha, in Kolkata. Almost all the stalwarts of Bengali Theatre were there. They were kind, empathetic but very strict and disciplined. They put you to your place. They never spared to call a spade a spade. I found my calling. I decided whatever I do, I must do theatre. I might get into films, I might work in corporate, I might get into teaching but I must do theatre.

I started to work freelance and worked with numerous groups in Kolkata. I used theatre as a means of social communication and worked among the marginalized people of the society. I worked in slums and villages, with street children, the residents of correctional homes, the destitute and the sex workers. My work in theatre challenged me mentally and physically. I had to study. I had to improvise. I got to know my society better. I became a different person.

Theatre drove me to learn. It moved me out of my comfort zone. It made me think out of the box. I met new people – people from diverse backgrounds. Theatre made me face new challenges. It enabled me to be at the side of people come what may. Theatre and my work in it have given me immense satisfaction. I have derived pleasure from it. It has given me respect and recognition. It has taught me to move on in life, to accept new challenges. Hence I wish and desire to work specifically in the field of drama.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


The Sepoy Mutinee 1857
 (photo credits wikipeia)
The end of the telegram services in India on July 15, 2013, a month prior to India’s 67th Independence Day on 15th August, is significant in many ways. It was instrumental in establishing British hegemony in the Indian subcontinent.

In 2007, India commemorated 150 years of the 1857 Revolt, which was coined the First War of Indian Independence by Karl Marx. The telegraph service survived 163 years from the day of its introduction in the country in 1851. Since then it had been the basic means of communication in India.

Literature, be it classical literature, whodunits or the espionage genre - is agog with the use of the telegraph service. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Byomkesh Bakshi in our very own backyard have used the service to telling effect.  

The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, early in 2013, stopped the telegram service for overseas communication. Thereafter, it decided to discontinue it in the domestic market from July 15. The BSNL Board approved of the decision. Subsequently the Telecom Board gave the final clearance to the withdrawal of the “dot dash” service.

AMorse Key
(photo credits wikipedia)
The “dot dash” or the Morse Code, named after Samuel Finley Breese Morse, the American artist inventor who was the brain behind the Telegraph and the code, used to move through a device that again sent them through wires to another device which in turn typed them in normal letters on strips of paper. In the USA the first telegram message was sent by Morse using the Morse Code in 1830. The USA discontinued the service in 2006.

Financial constraints compelled the BSNL to wound up the services. It had taken up the service from the Indian Post and Telegraph. For a long time, the common Indian considered the telegraph a symbol of imperial rule. However, the services brought this vast country together. Eventually it became an integral part of everyday life. In the long run, it emerged as the oldest milestone of modern India.

The telegraph service was inexpensive and quick. It was used at random to send emergency messages and birth and death news.  The rapid increase in the use of mobile phones and exposure to the World Wide Web accelerated the decline in the usage of the telegraphic service.

There was a time when several hundred thousand telegrams used to move over the wires of the telegraph system in India in a day. As the number of telegrams sent in a day reduced, the losses incurred by the BSNL escalated. But the end of the telegraph service in India will put a major section of its population to disadvantage. There are innumerable Indians who have no access to phones. Withdrawal of the service will put these teeming millions at the receiving end.

Kolkata’s association with the telegraph goes back to 1850. It was here in November 1850, the first telegraph line of India was laid between the Alipore Telecom Factory in Kolkata- then Calcutta - and the Diamond Harbour Post Office covering a distance of around 45 km.

Sir William Brook O’ Shaughnessy was the man behind the initiation of the telegraph service in India. Sir William was an eminent physician. He carried out experiments with the telegraph on his own. He was successful in laying a seven mile long telegraph line from the Botanical Gardens in Howrah. This was in 1839. But his efforts had no significant impact.

The hanging of 2 sepoys of the 31st
 Native Infantry.
Albumen Siver Print by Felice Beato, 1857
 (credits wikipedia)
In 1848 Sir William succeeded in his effort to convince Lord Dalhousie, the then Governor General of India, about the importance of the telegraph system in this vast country. He made Lord Dalhousie realise that the telegraph would be speedier than rail. The telegraph system came to the rescue of the British Empire during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, thereby, cementing the British domination over the Indian subcontinent.

In March 1851, the first test telegram message was sent by the British East India Company from the Alipore Telecom Factory in Calcutta to the Diamond Harbour Post Office. The service was opened to the public in December the same year. By 1854, telegraph lines were laid across the country, in Delhi, Bombay and Madras.

It was with the help of telegraphic communication that the British suppressed the revolution that broke out against their rule under the East India Company in 1857. From telegraphic messages the British army got advance information of impending attacks and troop movements of the Indians. These gave the British forces ample time to respond and put away their women, children and the sick to safety.

As Babur, with his motley group of soldiers, used the artillery to defeat the huge army of Ibrahim Lodi, in 1525, at the First Battle of Panipat, and establish the Mogul dynasty in India, the British established their control over this country with the help of the telegraph system.