By Nishi Pulugurtha

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Being a caregiver for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s Disease for many years now is a very difficult task but then it has taught me a couple of things – it has taught me patience (loads of it) and it has taught me to take things as they come. There is no one way to deal with someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, there is no sure shot way of being prepared for things, each day brings with it new difficulties, each day throws up challenges that one has to learn to deal with, to take in their stride. One needs to read a lot on the condition to understand it, find out as much as possible about ways to deal with it, ways to care for a loved one, but one is never ever really prepared for what the next morning, or afternoon, or evening might throw up. This is a dear one, who is now changing so much, so the pain and trauma of seeing her go through all of it is always there, that is something one never comes to terms with.

As I am trying now to deal with being house bound, I cannot but live in the moment, an idea I think everyone should ponder over. This is time to take things into account, to deal with things in the best way one can. As news of the shutdown spreads, I see people trying to find ways and means to deal with it. An academic and translator puts up a Facebook post where he says that he is planning to have online readings done using an online platform. He shares the link and asks whoever might be interested to join in, from any part of the world. Time differences no longer matter, as all or most are housebound. The group meets online every alternate day, I have not been part of it as yet due to my poor internet bandwidth. Maybe, I will, one of these days.

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Nabendu Ghosh

On the 103rd Birth Anniversary of her father, well-loved writer and Bollywood persona, Nabendu Ghosh, senior journalist Ratnottama Sengupta gives a recap of last year’s celebrations where Sahitya Akademi award winner Shirshendu Mukherjee, an important Bengali writer, talked on her father and his contribution to literature. 

By Ratnottama Sengupta

IMG_0437It was the 102nd birth anniversary of Nabendu Ghosh. The bookstore celebrated the day with actor Ramanjit Kaur’s dramatised reading of ‘Fatima’s Story’ from That Bird Called Happiness, an anthology of stories by Nabendu Ghosh translated to English. Feminist writer Sreemoyee Piu Kundu focused attention on the women protagonists who outnumber and  outweigh the men at the centre of the stories in the collection by the Bengali writer.

The most significant part of the evening unfolded when renowned Bengali writer Shirshendu Mukherjee started speaking of Nabendu Ghosh’s writing. Significant, not only for its impact on him when he was a young reader, but also because like his senior, Mukherjee too has lent weight to the Indian screen with  his stories and scripts. So, when the author of watershed novels like Rashmonir Shonadana (Rashmoni’s jwellery, later screened as a highly popular movie, Goynar Baksho, meaning ‘The Jewel Casket’, by Aparna Sen), Manab Jamin ( Man and Earth) and Ghoon Poka (Woodworm) started to speak, Ratnottama Sengupta simply played the tape recorder.

Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s speech on Nabendu Ghosh  at Starmark/ 27 March 2019, Starmark, Kolkata, 27th March 2019. (Translated from Bengali by Ratnottama Sengupta)

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Shirshendu Mukherjee with two young fans

The Partition of 1947, that carved Pakistan out of India, affected many people, both directly and indirectly. Close to 2 million lives were lost in an unprecedented genocide; 14 million people were uprooted. The resultant refugee crisis affected generations that followed. Sectarian violence became endemic. Carnage and sexual violence was intense; mass abductions and forced conversions were on a scale not seen for a long time. “Some 75,000 women were raped, many of them were disfigured or dismembered,” William Dalrymple wrote in The New Yorker of June 22, 2015.

Both Nabendu Ghosh and I were affected indirectly. We — his family and ours — were not among those who had to cross over with bedding on their heads and mats under their arms. We were among the fortunate ones who were safely housed in the ‘new’ homeland. We faced no trauma while leaving our roots behind. But the loss of our birthplace created a deep wound that has refused to go away with the passage of time. It is a dull ache that has now become a part of my ribcage. I am not certain about Nabendu Da since he was only four years old when his father, a successful advocate in Patna High Court, had relocated from his family home in Dhaka. But for me the loss of my homeland — the soil my ancestors had lived in and where I had grown up on, which I knew as my own country, which was part and parcel of my identity, of my very being — had overnight become a ‘foreign’ land — is a sorrow that still weighs on my soul even at this ripe age of 77 years.

by Tanima Das

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I wake up with a jolt as the bulky jeep screeches to a stop. Bhuto gestures at me to wait while he hurries out, slamming the door shut. I yawn, and try to stretch out my arms, but grimace to grab my shoulder instead. A sharp shooting pain is knotting up in my neck. Cursing Bhuto for choosing the bumpiest of all roads, I try to massage out the discomfort.

Bhuto is back soon with hot tea in a clay pot accompanied by toasted bread and questionable butter on a steel plate. He smiles at me revealing his stained buck-teeth. A stench from his unwashed mouth fills the air inside the jeep. I pass him a gum and proceed to get out.

“It’s not safe, babu,” protests Bhuto and extends his hands to block my way.

“Shut up,” I say and slap away his arms.

I sit down on a tree stub to have my breakfast while Bhuto, with his huge frame, tries to block me from view. Two men are visible at the eatery across the street but their worried faces seem to be enveloped by whatever issues fate has chosen to hurl at them. But Bhuto imagines that they might want to keep an eye on me.

The food would have tasted good actually, had it not been for the scratchy, fake moustache that Bhuto has pasted onto my upper lip. I look angrily at Bhuto. He looks back at me with devotion.

The Life of Z_Jpeg

 

Title: The Life of Z: Understanding the Digital Pre-teen and Adolescent Generation

Author: Debashish Sengupta

Publisher: SAGE India (SAGE Select), 2020

Links: Sage Publishers 

 

 

A radio buzzing in a corner, the transmission is unclear, the signal seems to be wavering. I adjust the antennae that we have fixed near the roof of the room. The voice on the side becomes better. By this time, I had repeated this ritual several times. However, the crackling commentary of the cricket match on the other side made up for all the hard work and irritation. Both me and my younger brother are stuck with the radio for the whole day. Our parents are not at home. My mother wanted to call our grandma and therefore she went to the post office to book a trunk call. It would take few hours of waiting before her turn comes and she can speak over the government run public land phone, before returning home. We had the whole day to ourselves. It took longer than expected for our parents to come back home. They could not find a taxi near the post office and had to walk for nearly a kilometer before they found a transport. Poor mom, she had to cook the dinner after a long day. Meanwhile, India had lost the match. We spent the whole evening helping our mom in the kitchen. Another uneventful day had come to an end. But we had some excitement coming-up. Sunday was just a day away when we will catch another episode of ‘Star Trek’ and by that time we should also be getting letter from my cousin brother who was sharing our secret encryption code, as he had promised in his last letter. This was to prevent elders from finding out the contents of our letter. And yes, he was also sending some photos from his recent vacation.

When I tell this childhood story of mine to my son, after listening to me with rapt attention, he tells me that there are technical flaws in my story. What? Technical flaws… I find his expression amusing, he finds it even more. He asks me – ‘Why were you listening to the radio and not streaming live cricket over internet?; Why did your parents go to the post office to make a call and not use their mobile to make a video call?; Why did your parents not call an Uber instead of walking a long distance?; Why didn’t you order food over an app instead of letting your tired mom cook the dinner?; Why did you wait for Sunday to watch your favourite show and not stream it over Netflix?; And why were you waiting for days for a letter instead of using WhatsApp or Instagram?’

By Srinjoy Bhattacharjee

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I was axed a couple of days ago. I now lie on the bank of the muddy river that had swollen up a few days back, thanks to the rain. Dumped in the open in the wet weather with a pile of objects, all a part of the same thing – logs chopped off a parent tree. I was  part of a branch not too long ago and birds perched had on me. Now I am at the mercy of a drunk who might opt to reduce me to cinders when he pleases.

However, this is not about me, this is about the dead. Strictly speaking, I am dead too – inanimate so to say, but people don’t care much about trees – neither for the ones standing in the woods nor for those chopped. In fact, at times, rather most of the times, they don’t probably care for each other – even for the living ones, leave aside the dead. I don’t care about the dead either. Because I don’t see the point in caring for them, and besides, they don’t need your care — they are dead. But this is not about any random dead person, it is about the one that is about to be brought here in some time. Ah! There she comes.

There were leaves once that stemmed out of me. And from time to time they shed, giving way to new ones. On one such occasion a leaf drifted afloat from my branch down the aerial path to alight softly on her hair; that was when I first saw her. And I fell in love with her. Juvenile she was, probably thirteen, as old as the tree I presume. That made us coevals.

Book review by Gracy Samjetsabam

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Title: Paper Lions

Author: Sohan S. Koonar

Publisher: Speaking Tiger (2019)

 

Sohan S. Koonar is a physiotherapist by training but his love for story-telling has bagged him the Judges Choice Award in the Toronto Star Short Story Contest and the first Burlington Library Literary Excellence Award. His self-published novel Karam’s Kismet got mentioned in sixteen dailies and periodicals in the US. He is a founder of a multi-clinic company and an inventor of international patents too. Koonar has lived in four continents — Asia, Africa, Europe and North America — and spends the year in his family homes in Canada, Italy and India. Paper Lions, published by Mawenzi House in Canada and Speaking Tiger in India, is a novel that explores the rich culture and history of Punjab and its role in the coming of age of India as a nation.

Paper Lions is an epic multi-generational saga of Punjab. Koonar draws on a vast canvas to present a picture in pre- and post-independent India. The novel is a five-part story of what transpires in the inchoate state of Punjab from 1937to 1965. Raikot, located a few kilometres from Ludhiana, is the locale. While the narrative revolves around  three main characters — Brikram, Basanti and Ajit — and  their families, it also weaves a yarn of rural Punjab in those times.

The book explores a myriad of characters — some from nomadic tribes, such as the Bajigars and some are just villagers — the dairyman, the matchmaker, the astrologer, the Giyani (Sikh wise men), the politicians, the publicists, the head of the cattle yard, the bootlegger, the snake-catcher, the Brahmins, the school headmaster and more. The characters reveal the customs and mindset of the people based on caste and clan, their religion, and the trials and tribulations that time and history brought forth.

A Republic Day Special

Nishi Pulugurtha reminisces about a past where India had emerged after the independence struggle as a republic with a strong belief in inclusiveness.

A group of young men were recruited to work at the newly set up laboratory in Bhubaneshwar. The laboratory was set up in 1961 by the Scottish geneticist John Burdon Sanderson Haldane. They had made India their home. The institution brought together myriads of people from various parts of India who made it their workplace and home.

Hari Pulugurtha, my father, joined this laboratory as secretary to Haldane. He had been recommended by his childhood buddy Ramshastri Mangipudi who by then was already working at the laboratory. The job entailed a move to Bhubaneswar from Vizag, Visakhapatnam that is. Till then, Appagaru (that is how we addressed my father) had been doing all kinds of odd jobs. Appagaru always believed in the idea of inclusivity, the idea that however different we might be, there is something that binds all human beings together. He would tell us stories of how they were such a myriad group of people at the laboratory and the fun and camaraderie that they had celebrating life in its various aspects and of all the great work that went on there.

The Jamia Library which ironically completed its centenary in 2019 and is named after Dr Zakir Hussain,  the third President of India, was shut down after the violence on 15th December, 2019, where the police beat up and tear gassed protesters.

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Jamia and Gandhi

About six days later, on December 24th, two student decided to set up a makeshift library outside the premises. Sahil Ahmed and Tanya Sablok named the library ‘Read for Revolution’. They began by reading aloud books on Satyagrah (civil resistance based on holding on to truth) and Hindu-Muslim unity. They read from books like Hind Swaraj, Jamia Aur Gandhi (Jamia and Gandhi), and The Constitution.

“We wanted to have a non-violent Gandhian way of protesting,” Ahmed said in a report in The Hindu. Ahmed is doing a master’s degree in Peace and Conflict. Many students, artists and citizens gather to spend time reading at this library on the pavement. The books are often stacked on the boundary wall and the readers sit on mattresses on the ground and read.

220px-The_Story_of_My_Experiments_with_TruthA student called Abdul Rashid, who was reading Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, My Experiments with Truth, said in a report to  The Citizen: “We cannot win this battle by violence. How can we even counter the state violence inflicted upon us? We are barehanded while the police are equipped with all kinds of weapons. So, the best way is to come out in large numbers and protest peacefully, sing songs, chant slogans and read books. The government will have to bow down if we keep protesting for our rights.”

He added, “Mahatma Gandhi’s message was to live with honesty and fight with the means of non-violence. We are following his path. We will fight till we can. This is our peaceful war against the illiterate government.”

By Abhinav Kumar

 

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Lothal city(Left) and dockyard

Everyone has a place they return to time and again or a thing they simply can’t resist while on vacation. Think beloved mountains or beaches, spas, street food, an 18-hole course or bungee jumping, et cetera. For me, it’s World Heritage Sites*: majestic reminders of a glorious, often mysterious past, scattered all over the globe, to be guided through, explored solo, photographed and cherished.

My search for such sites led me to Lothal — an enigmatic lost port-city, one of the central characters in the mysterious drama of the subcontinent’s origins. Part of a national obsession – the Indus Valley Civilisation: perpetually hiding in plain sight, its broken cities scattered across the north and west. Its script continues undeciphered, its story always tantalisingly beyond reach — confined, until that moment, within the yellowing pages of my schoolboy history books, with their prim descriptions of planned cities, streets meeting at right angles, baked bricks and standardised weights.

At a distance of just 80km from my hotel, Lothal was perfect. Lying forgotten in its ruinous state, Lothal was perfect.

***

Gujarat’s well-laid roads zipped past as we hurtled towards our destination. Bountiful rains this year, the driver Ratan informed me curtly, as we passed soaked paddy fields that glittered in the morning sun. Unprecedented. Looking out at the gentle, jovial cumulus clouds that glided past, I prayed that they withhold their yield until at least that evening.