If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Still lower?

Saheel Mollah from the non-descript village of Hariharpur in South 24 Parganas is all of nine years. His sister Mahima says: “Bhai is always talking about kites and flying. He wants to be a pilot and he is fascinated by everything that flies — kites, birds and planes.”

His father, Moiuddin Mollah, 33, a mason, says his son is a bright student who always comes at the top of his class. Flying kites is one of Saheel’s few indulgences, which he couldn’t afford. “I can barely afford to put my children through school. Kites and toys are luxuries when you can’t be sure of two meals a day,” said he.

Every day, we read reports of gruesome violence by one political party or another. Every day we think, this must be the limit. They won’t be able to stoop lower.

Yet every day, a new story tells us that when human beings sell their souls to religious or political fanatics, no depth is beyond them. And this is what happened to saheel. 

It was a windy day and he badly wanted to fly a kite. It was also the end of the month, and he knew he couldn’t ask mother for the last scraps of his father’s earnings of 3,000. Then the nine-year-old’s eyes fell upon a flex poster fluttering in the wind, just the right size and material for a kite, he thought. Poor Saheel didn’t care that it was a poster of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the ruling political party of the state. And he wouldn’t have known that it is a political party that represents all the goondas and sundry criminals in West Bengal today. He wouldn’t have known that the stupid, barely-educated chief minister of Bengal today does nothing to contain them. Rather, she pays them doles from government coffers so that they help her win elections after elections through shameless use of muscle power.


Saheel’s mother Sahana was home when his friends came rushing to tell her that six men had taken him away. She spent hours searching for him, going from house to house, before finding him in a ditch. “His head was swollen, his body black and blue all over. The doctors thought he might have (had) a serious head injury,”

When the TMC goons caught him Saheel committing the crime of tearing their poster, they grabbed him and started beating him. They took him to a local TMC leader’s home, tied up and gagged, and continued beating him mercilessly. Finally, they left an unconscious Saheel in a ditch near a field.

Will there be anything more gruesome in tomorrow's papers?

Kolkata || 03 May 2016

If you wish to read the entire story, please click here. Picture of Saheel and his grandfather - courtesy The Indian Express.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Odd-even and just odd

Beyond a shred of doubt, the present rulers of Delhi, the Aam Admi Party (AAP) are just another bunch of political opportunists with a fair share of skeletons in their cupboard, like fake degrees and domestic violence.

However, their attempt to introduce the odd-even rule (allowing on road vehicles with odd number plates one day and those with even numbers the next) to reduce pollution is certainly a step in the right direction. Let's congratulate AAP for it.

I believe anyone who cares for the environment will welcome this step, even if it leads to some inconvenience. The common people of Delhi have accepted the law gracefully. Isn't it odd that our MPs, who make laws, are against this unquestionably positive legislation? Even when the government has arranged special air-conditioned buses for them? They, cutting across party lines, want exemptions from the law! Only one BJP MP, Anshul Verma hasn't joined this flock of sheep. (But I am sure there are others.)

Indians know that most of their MPs are ruthless fortune-seekers who care for lining their pockets and nothing else - including the grave threats posed by overuse of fossil fuel.

But dear MPs, do you have to prove it time and again?

Kolkata / 27 April 2016

Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Spine

By Shankha Ghosh

[I saw this poem on my friend Senjuti's Facebook page this morning. Here is my translation followed by the original in Bangla. Thanks, Senjuti.
I might add that Shankha Ghosh is one of the front-line poets in Bangla. In fact, he is even more than that. In the dystopia that West Bengal is today, he is a moral compass for all of us.]
I woke up with a start. Is there a storm raging outside?
The windows are thrashing about,
There are flashes of lightning now and again.
As I was about to go back to sleep, in the transient light of lightning
I felt there was someone in the room, crawling.
‘Who, who is there?’
The crawler didn’t respond.
I get up, go close, and ask him once again,
‘Who are you? What are you looking for?’
But he remains mute,
Just crawls from one end of the room to the other
He isn’t looking up, and is refusing to look into my eyes.
‘Are you searching for something, Sir?’
And I hear: ‘Yes of course, I am. And I must keep searching.
I’ll leave as soon as I find it – I will walk away on my own.’
‘What are you looking for?’
In a feeble voice, he says, ‘My spine.’
That moment, lightning flashes again. And I’m shocked to see
Not one, but lots of them
Crawling all over the room, from one corner to the other,
Looking for the same thing.
Sunday, 24 April 2016

শঙখ ঘোষ
ঘুমটা ভেঙে গেল হঠাৎ। বাইরে কি ঝড় হচ্ছে?
দাপাদাপি করছে জানলার পাল্লাদুটো
মাঝে মাঝে বিজলি ঝলকাচ্ছে।
ফের শুয়ে পড়তে গিয়ে সেই বিদ্যুতের ছটফটে আলোয় মনে হল ঘরের মধ্যে যেন হামা দিচ্ছে কেউ।
'কে ওখানে? কে?'
হামা কোনো শব্দই করে না।
উঠে আসি কাছে, আবারও জিজ্ঞেস করিঃ 'কে আপনি? কী চান?'
সে তবু নিশ্চুপ থেকে এ - কোণে ও -কোণে ঘুরছে
মাথা তুলছে না কিছুতেই, চোখে চোখ নয়।
'কিছু কি খুঁজছেন আপনি?'
শুনতে পাচ্ছিঃ 'খুঁজছি ঠিকই, খুঁজতে তো হবেই -
পেলেই বেরিয়ে যাব, নিজে নিজে হেঁটে।'
'কি খুঁজছেন?'
মিহি স্বরে বললেন তিনিঃ 'মেরুদণ্ডখানা।'
সেই মুহুর্তে বিদ্যুৎ ঝলকালো ফের। চমকে উঠে দেখিঃ
একা নয়, বহু বহু জন
একই খোঁজে হামা দিচ্ছে এ-কোণে ও কোণে ঘর জুড়ে।

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Welcome home!

Haroun, 7+, is a bit like a fizzy bottle. The moment he opens up, words gush out of him like a cascading waterfall in the peak of good monsoon. Yesterday, when I reached our Bengaluru home, he had had his lunch and was watching a cartoon channel as usual. After opening the door, he had to resolve the issue of dividing his loyalty between the TV and me. In the end, he told me, ‘Dadabhai, can I watch this final episode please?’
It was a huge sacrifice for him. And he kept his words. Soon afterwards he came into my room as I was unpacking my bag, and opened the fizzy bottle. … His school, classmates, ma’ams, the new day-care centre and the new friend he had just made. (It was the first day for him at a new day-care.) As usual, he had forgotten the name of his new friend. Incidentally, I know from whom he has got the gene that makes one forget names and faces. Ask my students, they will tell you. …
During an entire term, I kept calling Bipasha Visakha, and managed to get her name right only towards the end of the term. So when I saw her again in class recently, besides being happy to meet an old young student again, I took a vow not to forget her name ever. So in the course of a classroom discussion, I confidently addressed her as Bipasha with a sense of satisfaction and a bit of pride. From another corner of the room, Gurmeet, another former student, helpfully suggested, ‘No Sir, she is Visakha.’
For a moment, I stood in the middle of a classroom like an idiot, looking uncertainly at Bipasha/Visakha, not knowing what to say. Then the penny dropped as the class broke into a loud guffaw. See how naughty kids are these days!
Coming back to Bengaluru, Haroun had a lot more things to describe, including the 11 stages of skateboard. In the middle he digressed and said, ‘Dadabhai, Please don’t let your feet go too deep under the table.’
‘Because, two velociraptors have built their nests under the table – their egg will hatch next Monday, when you have gone.’
(While writing this, naturally, I had to check the spelling of velociraptor in a dictionary. They are “small dinosaurs that move fairly quickly”.)
Anyway, after explaining the first six stages of skateboarding, pushing off, mellow turn, sharp turn and so on, Haroun vanished. The next moment, I found him fast asleep, hugging his younger brother Toto.
For me too, it was time for a siesta. So I dozed off. When I woke up, Haroun was still sleeping, but Toto was half awake. He said with a serious face, ‘Welcome Dadabhai.’
Then he went back to sleep.
Bengaluru / Tuesday, 19 April 2016