Sunday, March 28, 2010

Golf and Hometown Nostalgia

The Jurist's Cup in Patna Golf Club played over the 27th/28th March weekend at endurance-testing 41 degrees centigrade brought to the fore both character and a spontaneous overflow of hometown sentiments. Speaking at the concluding function Justice Aftab Alam, Judge Supreme Court of India, who flew down to Patna for the tournament along with Justice C.K.Prasad, said that while the infrastructure and amenities are perhaps far better in many other clubs than the golf club in Patna, this is his home -course and the love and the warmth that he has experienced here cannot be replicated anywhere else. The difference between this club and many others is that PGC is truly a sporting institution that encourages and nurtures young talent whereas many of the more fancied names are often mere social sanctuaries for the privileged upwardly mobile. Very specially he mentioned the talent of Aman Raj Sinha who has played excellently in the National Junior circuit.

Patna may have many shortcomings, judged from the perspective of metropolitan facilities but what this city has is a heart. It has a soul. And with these in the right place, if you have ever belonged, you belong forever.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gift one hour of energy to the future of planet Earth

Earth Hour this year.

At 8.30 p.m. on 27 March 2010, cities across the world will turn off their
lights for one hour – Earth Hour – sending a powerful message on the strength of individual action to tackle climate change. In 2009, global landmarks that switched off in support included the Sphinx and Pyramids at Giza, Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Qutub Minar and Red Fort in India.

Please join the initiative by turning the lights off for an hour in your home or office at 8:30 p.m.

By getting involved in Earth Hour, we can all play a personal role in responding to one of the most significant challenges of our times: climate change.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Battle for Peace through professional maturity: Marya

As we gear up to celebrate Bihar Diwas, it would be befitting to acknowledge not only the those that have made it to the history books but the many who are doing their work with courage, responsibility and sensitivity. I feel proud to acknowledge the equanimity and professional maturity of another former student Marya Shakil, media professional for CNN-IBN who just wrote to say:

I was recently in the riot hit Bareilly town of Western UP...reported from the ground zero for two days...we like all other news channels had reached the spot 10 days after the communal violence...the town was under curfew for 10 was my duty to report facts and also perhaps cross check opinions which were being sold to the press as facts...

on one occasion i saw two shops inflame...but waited for the DGP to tell get to the genesis of this incident...while other channels rushed through the information and flashed saying 'violence erupts in bareilly again'///// the DGP later told us it was short circuit...i held on to the shots and information for few hours...even if DGP was hiding the fact as the reporter on ground i had chosen to not tell my channel so that it doesnt ignite the tension since most people were indoors glued to their tv sets...
We can celebrate Bihar Day with greater relevance by acknowledging all those from the state who have made a difference.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Those were the days my friend...........

Wonder what made me think of the old rocker Ian Anderson. Yes, I remember now. The morphing of Patna as a quiet, green town of the 60's and the 70's to an architectural heap pretending to be a city as time went by.
Those were the days when the Dak Bungalow was not Lok Nayak Bhawan and the Chauraha was a golumbar, when everyone knew the other's car number and telephone number that inched from four to five digits. When an evening's stroll included a sumptuous dosa at the unpretentious Bharat Coffee House and browsing through books at Tricel and Reader's Corner.When JS carried the Kookie Kol column with unfailing entries from the creative twins Papiya and Tuk Tuk.When if you were young and somebody you had to be from St. Xavier's or SJC with Notre Dame just making its presence felt. When people spoke English in English. When I write something like this I can understand why Anuradha calls me a brown sahib and a snob. Postcolonial mad tea party. Patna was credited with the best dosas then. The India Coffee House with its air- conditioning and filtered coffee became the crucible of revolution and its doom. After all if you occupy a table from 10 to 6 and the intake is less than the output, it has got to be a charitable institution. Like the rest of India, socialism was confused with charity. And confusion unable to sustain charity, this cultural centre along with the American and later British libraries went along their way. And so the city began to change.Text books giving way to bazaar notes. Old shops giving way to the glitz and glam of the new pretenders. Rajya transport buses giving way to autorickshaws and the Ambys and Fiats stepping aside for the aerodynamic, sporty hatchbacks and goon SUV's with black tinted glass. The richshaws and the cows remained like the unwound clocks of history.
But this is what change is all about. When you drive, you look through the windshield, not at the rear-view mirror. Things are getting better now. The roads are getting smoother than the cheeks of the well-fed queen of Bollywood whose purifier adverts remind me of the wonderful Bharat Coffee House dosas. Parts of the city are as clean as it used to be in the old days. I have two wishes now : that young people make their way back to Tricel and Reader's Corner so that Raghu Banka and Vijay Babu feel less lonely and that education, like the proverbial phoenix, rises from the ashes. May be, I'll complete Ian Anderson's song: It's never too old to rock 'n'roll.............

Krup's Last Tapes: Dr. Smriti Singh's book at IIT Patna, Department of Humanities

Smriti Singh’s book Feminism and Postcolonialism in Krupabai Satthianadhan’ is an interpretation of Sattianadhan’s works, Kamala, Saguna and Miscellaneous Writings, in the context of gender and postcolonialism while negotiating with the dialogic tensions that mediated the historicity of reform and the rise of nationalism. Satthianadhan has two firsts to her credit. She is the first Indian woman to author an autobiographical novel as well as to fictionalize the life of an upper caste Hindu woman in English. Saguna was serialized in the Madras Christian College magazine in 1887-88 while Kamala appeared serially in the same magazine six years later. Kamala fictionalizes the experiences of an upper-caste Hindu woman in the nineteenth century while Saguna contextualizes Christianity and colonialism as liberationist agencies.

The book points to the influence of postmodernism in women’s studies and literature departments which have legitimized space for women’s writings and excavated diaries, autobiographies and essays that have constructed women’s histories as an important archival source within the domestic space. It describes the influences on Satthianadhan’s mind which include those of a mother and brother. Her literary influences comprised Wordsworth and George Eliot. Smriti further discusses how the novel was indigenized in the 19th century, the influence of the English language and literature and a comparison is made between Satthianadhan’s writings and her peers in regional languages.

Kamala’s subjectivity is given a consciousness that combines the liberationist Christianity discourse of the missionaries, the civilisational burden of colonialism and the Arnoldian system of education. Hence the representation of the helplessness of India combines with the degradation of its women that required being unshackled from repressive Hindu ideologies. Thus idolatry, superstition, child marriage and worship of the husband are strongly criticized.

Krupabai Satthianadhan’s writings are seen as the earliest feminist polemics in Indian Writing in English. In Kamala for instance there is the articulation of the deeply-felt anxieties of the Hindu woman whose life is defined by masculine generational links: father, husband and son. Categories of woman-woman relationships among child brides are explored and it has been seen how Satthianadhan balances the degenerative child bride-mother-in law relationships with the ‘blessed ones’ in Kamala. Satthianadhan’s articulation of feminist audibility is compared with select Victorian writers and also those of Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir. The woman’s threshold dilemma is also explored with critical sensitivity and comparisons are made with some contemporary writers.

Referring to Krupabai Satthianadhan’s contemporaries in Maharashtra: Pandita Ramabai, Ramabai Ranade, Tarabai Shinde and Shevantibai Nikambe, Smriti’s book views the emergence of the ‘New Woman’ from the ‘Perfect Wife’ in Britain with a radical redefinition of needs: to seek education, to work and demand and struggle for legal and political rights. She provides brief biographical sketches of the writers and discusses multiple relationships; ones that exist between women, among men and women in the context of domestic and public spaces and social reform. It also discusses the politics of woman’s glorification as a mother figure within the nationalist discourse. It is a fine attempt to research early feminist writings that are often victims of neglect in order to retrieve and articulate feminist subjectivities.

Smriti, Joita and now Zeeshan: 3 Candles in the Wind

Zeeshan Ali has been selected from India and the first Muslim to be selected from Bihar for the prestigious 2010-11, Fulbright FLTA Fellowship. The Fulbright FLTA Fellowship is sponsored by the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and administered by the Institute of International Education, USA. Established in 1946 to support educational exchange of students and scholars, there are over 50 countries that participate in this Fulbright Program. The Institute of International Education (IIE) arranges their academic placement and supervises them during their stay in the United States.

Zeeshan Ali is a former student from the Nazareth Academy, Gaya and has done her Intermediate, Graduate and Masters in English from Patna University. She is currently employed as Assistant Professor of English at Maulana Azad College of Engineering and Technology,Patna.

I am privileged to be her PhD supervisor as I have been to the only other Fulbrighters from Bihar Dr. Smriti Singh, faculty at IIT Patna and Dr. Joita Dhar currently teaching at Amity University. Both these people have made a difference to their academic environments and needless to say I am very proud of them. I hope Zeeshan can follow their worthy examples.

This program brings some of the world’s finest minds to U.S. campuses and offers program participants’ insight into U.S. society and values. Upon completion of the program, the fellows intake leadership positions in their home countries, often working at universities. As a result of the program, FLTA alumni return with a high proficiency in the best that is known and thought of in this world..

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Celebrating Teachers: Bihar Diwas?

This was sent to me by someone who is making a difference: Dr. Smriti Singh at IIT Patna.
Moral of the story: we make the world. But in this world of fleeting representations, things last between cups of tea or between one sundowner and the next. Take your pick. But read.


The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.

One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He
argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

To stress his point he said to another guest; "You're a teacher,
Barbara. Be honest. What do you make?"

Barbara, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make? (She paused for a second, and then began...)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents
CAN'T make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make? (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding ISN'T

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in maths. They use their God given
brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to
know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life (Barbara paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant.

You want to know what I make?


What do you make Mr. CEO?

His jaw dropped, he went silent.


Even all your personal teachers like mothers, fathers, brothers,

A profound answer!!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Mint with a Hole in it: The Women's Reservation Bill

Everybody from media persons to chaiwallas and politicians to pickpockets have a favourite topic of conversation: The Women's Reservation Bill that was passed by the Rajya Sabha with a brute majority.Not on the 8th Of March 2010 to celebrate the symbolism of association but on the 9th after some jacks were jacked and the rest of the pieces of the board played out their parts in the expected sort of way. Check mate.
Other reservations too have been enabled in this country of extreme ambiguities and diversities. I love diversities of some kinds: linguistic, cultural, religious, even sexual. But some binaries need to be resolved such as rich/poor, masculine/feminine, literacy/ illiteracy. The problem I have with reservation of any kind is on grounds of a) philosophy and b) opportunism. Philosophically speaking the freezing of binaries as it happens with the institutionalizing of binarism leads to the disadvantaged locked in a perpetual place of iniquity rather than the opposite that is desired. Political opportunism in this context is of a purely sectarian nature that articulates redress for inequalities while hoping that these inequities remain so that with the nurtured illiteracy, electoral milking is perpetuated. Those who speak of a quota within reservation are free to create their own quota while allotting tickets. This will save valuable time in parliament to discuss other issues, hopefully some that pertains to education, an issue that for various reasons features between 1 and 2 in a scale of 1 to 10. After all, education is a resource for the future, and nobody except Kapil Sibal wishes to risk a proposition that cannot be measured in the carefully manufactured graphs that laud the government's achievements. Hence, reservation for women measured at 33%. What about quality education for women?

But that's another story. And unless Sonia Gandhi become the story-teller of this tale and Manmohan Singh can fix the stats, the story will never be told.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Muniba Sami's book Postmodern Gandhi in Life and Literature.

On February 28, 2010, Supreme Court Judge, Hon'ble Mr. Justice Aftab Alam released this P.U. academic's book at an impressive function at the Takshila Art Gallery, College of Arts and Crafts, Patna.

Justice Alam,TOI reports praised the book for' providing an insight into different aspects of Gandhi's thoughts and providing new perspectives on Gandhi'.
The book was critiqued by Shaileshwar Sati Prasad. He lauded the brevity and clarity of the book while dwelling on Gandhi's lifelong commitment to social justice and human dignity. 'Gandhi is a person of all centuries, he cannot belong to one age, he said. The venerable Gandhian Razi Ahmad spoke on the aspects of the book that ought to be read by scholars and lay-people alike.

Muniba Sami explained the title of the book 'To speak of a ‘Postmodern Gandhi’ raises the question of Gandhi’s relationship with the term ‘modern’. Generally the modern era is associated with the European Enlightenment, which begins roughly in the middle of the 18th century. One of its basic ideas is that knowledge produced by science is universally true and will always lead toward progress and perfection and free humanity from misery, superstitions, irrational behaviour and unfounded belief. But where did Science, Reason and Progress get the western world after all?
The 20th century saw two World Wars, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, ecological disaster, all in the name of Enlightenment values of science, reason, liberation, freedom and progress. Gandhi challenged this view of progress. He refused to surrender his freedom by entering the iron prison of reason. He also refused to accept the universality of modernity characterized by the values of science, reason and logic as these values fell apart and the centre could not hold in the modern era.
The Grand narratives in the West, incapable of embracing difference have been replaced by little narratives. Gandhi is in this sense a postmodernist because he believed not in one truth but many different truths, embracing the world of differences in an increasingly pluralistic world. In his refusal to privilege modernism’s commitment to the epistemology of universal truths, objective knowledge and grand narratives, Gandhi’s thought foreshadowed in a number of ways the spirit of the postmodern world'.
Also speaking on the occasion, the Pro-Vice- Chancellor of Patna University said that it was a matter of great pride that an academician from Patna University had written such a well-researched book. Radha Mohan Singh, Head Department of English, Patna University had earlier introduced the author mentioning that she had set high standards in the academia and the author's daughter, Tara Sami Dutt compered the programme with rare elan. She referred to her mother with ascetic simplicity when she merely said' I'm proud of you.' The Principal, College of Arts and Craft, Dr. Anunaya Chaubey gave a candid vote of thanks, very matter of fact, laced with a tot of humour. The event was superbly organised by Mr. Khurshid Ahmad, media professional and now an educational entrepreneur.