Friday, May 21, 2010

Lunacy, Lunar Calendar and the Buddha

It is a common perception that after Bihar was amputated in 2000 and the new state of Jharkhand was formed, the former was impoverished because of the loss of its mineral wealth and industries, which were located in the territory of its separated twin. I have a different take on this and I hope to prove my point if you have the patience to read on.

Today, Friday, the 21st of May 2010 has been declared a university holiday on account of Buddha Jayanti. With the advancement of knowledge and information, a school –going child shared this information with me:
Legend has it that Gautam Buddha was born on a full moon night in Baisakh according to the Hindu almanac that corresponds to the months of April or May in the Gregorian calendar. It was on this day that after attaining enlightenment and after preaching the five principles of life and the eight-fold path to truth, he transcended the mortal state. Thus Buddha Jayanti celebrates three important events in Buddha’s life: birth, nirvana or enlightenment and parinirvana or passing from the mortal state.

There is just one small glitch here. Today, Friday, the 21st of May 2010 is not poornima. According to the lunar calendar, Buddha's birth anniversary can't be today and neither can be the anniversary of the two other two events. QED. Hence the birthday cake for Lord Buddha ordered by the university will probably be cut without anything to celebrate. No blowing out the candles, no Happy Birthday to You, no applause, no return gifts, no nothing.

It brings me back to the story of loss. The greatest loss for Bihar after the bifurcation has been that the Mental Hospital has remained in Kanke, which is in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. No institution for mental dysfunction is located in Bihar and while the development index of insanity has shown rare inflationary trends the opportunities for therapy are non- existent. As for quality higher education, so too for sanity, one has to be a part of the contemporary Bihari diaspora.

Incidentally, Buddha Jayanti is on the 27th of May. But we can take home a positive: if Patna University sneezes today, India catches a cold tomorrow. Like the French in Europe and Dunlop tyres in India, we are simply ahead. Or should we say SIMBLY AHEAD, as would my friend Ancelloti Nair Purandeswari from Kumarakom?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Women Play, Men Party

That's cricket for you.

The other evening, a good friend whose life has been logistically redefined by bachelorhood, after many years of harmonious marriage, invited me to watch the Indians play the Australians at Barbados. The game was billed by Indian sports-journalists as the match of the tournament, the final of the finals, the end of cricketing imagination.
I did not wish to watch the game for two reasons. One, Barbados was a lively wicket that would offer bounce and carry to the Aussie pace bowlers and we have had ample evidence of our paper tigers on subcontinental tracks engaging in many bodily contortions to make up for the lack of technique. The Aussies would pepper our celebrities with short-pitched stuff that would make television viewing an embarrassment for someone who is avidly saffron-white and green. Two, our celebrities appeared like zombies after a month-long wine-women-song-Bollywood and cricket carnival called the IPL and they appeared to be strutting around the field like envelopes without addresses.

I shared these anxieties with my friend who on account of an evening's loneliness still wished that I came over for a sundowner. Not wishing to appear churlish, I agreed. As expected, the Glenfiddich was infinitely better than the game I peeked at every five overs. And despite the disappointing result I was hailed as a prophet.

This is the way the T20 ends
This is the way the T20 ends
This is the way the T20 ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Quietly, on the other hand, our women's team has been doing India proud without claiming significant space in the media. And perhaps because of that.The failures of men are more important than the pride women enable us to feel through the success they achieve. And the malady of discrimination stretches to every social dynamic of pain, humiliation and marginality: female infanticide, foeticide, dowry deaths, honour killings, violence and harassment.

Many of my friends ask me why I get serious after the bonhomie of light-hearted stuff that is easier to read and digest. And I reply: that's cricket.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Moral Science after School

Many of us, who dabble in postcolonial anxieties need to have a look at the recently concluded British elections.In this area, the debates often get into an undesirable area of competitive superiority, indicating chauvinistic evaluation rather than analysis. Evaluation of culture, of morality, of materiality, even of dental hygiene. Few do look at the relationship in terms of a set of complex negotiations and exchange.

There are some lessons that India can carry home in the proverbial doggy bag from the recently concluded British elections: that some public duties are matters of principles rather than cynical opportunism and Samsonites stashed with cash, occasionally deposited in the bank by sophomores to the new college for scoundrels.

Before the elections got under way Lib. Dem. Nick Clegg had categorically stated that he would be inclined to support the party that gets the majority of the seats in parliament. And that's what he did, despite the last minute efforts by Gordon Brown to strike an alternative deal. In the bargain, he became the Dy. Prime Minister. Goes to show that you are not always left sucking your thumb if you are principled.

It is a lesson that our wolves-in-sheep's clothing can learn.But is that too much to ask from the contemporary dandies from the world's celebrated ancient civilisation?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Frankly Outstanding

On Sunday, 2nd May 2010 at about 7:45 in the evening, the curtains came down on Abhivyakti.It felt like the end of Ionesco's The Chairs with an emptiness engulfing the auditorium, the equipment being carted back, the windows being shut, the enthusiastic voices of debate and comment closing to a hushed exit.

Meaning 'expression', it is the name of a Low cost Video Film Festival that has been held every two years since 1995 at Ravi Bharti Institute of Communication. And some of you who may ask,'Where is Ravi Bharti?' Here are the directions: it is located to the west of Holy Family Hospital, North of Notre Dame Academy and east of Loyola High School on the riverside road from Bankipur to Danapur.Please make a note for next year's Fest.

For the last fifteen years, meaningful alternative films, mainly socially significant documentaries and short films by students have been screened, talked about, nuances elucidated by guests, learned from and learned about and socially sensitised once every two years. Sophomores have become film makers, the ones living quietly on the edge have become film critics. To put it very simply, these three days have been more educationally valuable that the many years of school and college education put together. And this is not an illustration of a hyperbole. For details of the programme and what happened you can log on to Fragmented

Thank you Fr. Benny, the Ravi Bharti family, the eager students from Patna Women's College CEMS who helped and participated, the guests who made perceptive comments: Mr. R.N.Dash, Dr. Muniba Sami, Ms Neerja Lal, Mr. Gautam Dasgupta,the students of AMA and many others who appreciated the films silently. Special thanks to Mr. Vivek Singh, Secretary Culture who at the inauguration had wished the Fest all success.

I am privileged to acknowledge the outstanding work of one person, as a media teacher and as an organiser, the convenor of the festival Mr. Frank Krishner. He deserves a standing ovation.

A Clip on Asses and Horses

The other day, giving in to the frustrations of abject despair, a civil servant had said,'I can't turn asses into horses.' I retreated into a corner, like little Jack Horner, sank into a bean bag and contemplated the exasperation. At the philosophical level, I could not agree with the statement. Why do we need to turn asses into horses anyway? The ass has a right to its identity as much as a horse does. Even from an anthropocentric point of view, an ass has as much use as a horse. If it does not have the latter's speed, it has greater tenacity. Intelligence or the absence of it is merely an assumption. And even if, we ride the wings of popular stereotyping and do grant horses superior intelligence, just because the British aristocracy rode horses or still do if there is any aristocracy left in that country, it is politically unacceptable to indicate shortcomings in creatures with special needs. Even if David Cameron delivers victory to the Tories.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kabhi Kabhi

With the temperatures being unkind, and the effects of climate change insidiously effecting cerebral systems, some of the blog space in the recent past has been designated to the celebration of madness. Talking of madness, it is not necessarily a condition for surreptitious sniggers. Sometimes it is another name for an alternative discourse that resists the dominant. And often the dominant is madder than the alternative. Sometimes it is also a kind of wisdom that enables its beneficiaries to escape the gravity of pride. Here's news of some rare sanity.

Over midweek, I was pleasantly surprised at the unbelievably professional functioning of a recruitment commission belonging to the Government of Bihar. And what was truly significant is the system of efficiency and confidentiality that they have developed. It is said that a truly good organisation is one which is least visible and most productive. This place illustrates that virtue.
I was wondering how this magic could have been scripted. Its strength lies in its leadership; its Chairman Mr. Amarendra Singh is a very fine person with rare soft skills and professional integrity.

It did not take too long to discover that he was once a student of the Department of English, Patna University.

P.S. Why aren't most people as nice as those who have studied English?