Sunday, September 25, 2011

If I could be there...

Only a few days to go… the streets of Kolkata would already be blocked with half finished pandals… there would be a new smell in the air, a change in the forms of clouds in the sky, even the sun would be shining differently, the streets, the malls and the shops would all be packed with people who are out on a shopping spree… Esplanade, New Market, Gariahat, South City Mall, all would be chock-a-block… ride out of the city and one would find the horizon filled with white “kash”… it seems everything about this city at this point, from the air to the streets people walk on, is indicating towards one big marathon celebration that is about to begin… the ceremonial worship of our mother goddess – the Durga Puja…

Though Durga Puja, one of the most important festivals of the Hindus, is celebrated with much gaiety and grandeur all over India and abroad, it gets a different meaning altogether when you are in West Bengal. Durga Puja is almost synonymous with the state of Bengal. When you speak of Bengal you will have to mention Durga Puja and when you mention Durga Puja you cannot escape thinking about West Bengal and precisely Kolkata. During these few days of the Pujas the whole of West Bengal seems to be pulsating with the celebration. During these days when you are in Bengal, you can see Durga Puja, smell it, feel it in your heart, and even you can eat “Durga puja”!

The rituals of Durga Puja entail ten days of fast, feast and worship; however, the last four days - Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami - are celebrated with much grandeur. However, the puja mood starts off from Mahalaya, specifically with “Mahishasurmardini”, a two-hour radio program.  While earlier it used to be conducted live, later a recorded version began to be broadcast. On this day probably the whole of Bengal wakes up by 4’o clock in the morning to listen to the enchanting voice of the late Birendra Krishna Bhadra and the late Pankaj Kumar Mullick on All India Radio as they recite hymns from the scriptures from the Devi Mahatmyam (Chandi Path).

Durga Puja is celebrated every year in the Hindu month of Ashwin (September-October) and commemorates Prince Rama's invocation of the goddess before going to war with the demon king Ravana. This autumnal ritual is also known as 'akal-bodhan' or out-of-season ('akal') worship ('bodhan'). It was Lord Rama, who first worshipped Devi Durga by offering 108 blue lotuses and lighting 108 lamps, at this time of the year. The actual worship of Goddess Durga according to the Hindu scriptures falls in the month of Chaitra which roughly overlaps with March or April. This ceremony is however not observed by many and is restricted to a handful in the state of West Bengal. Durga Puja was popular in Bengal in the medieval period, in the late 1500s. It is said that the landlords or zamindar of Dinajpur and Malda initiated the first Durga Puja in Bengal. Again acccording to another source, Raja Kangshanarayan of Taherpur or Bhabananda Mazumdar of Nadiya organized the first Sharadiya or Autumn Durga Puja in Bengal.

So with this long a history of celebrating this festival one can rightly say that to feel the real essence of Durga Puja one has to be in Bengal. The celebration in Kolkata becomes equivalent to the Rio Carnival of Brazil. Having grown up amidst this celebration now when I’m away from it for the first time, it feels a part of me is missing. I’ll miss those thousands of pandals  all clamoring for attention and admiration. I’ll miss the streets that would look so different when adorned with lights. I’ll miss the crowd, the pandal-hopping, the road-side food stalls, the phuchkkas…  I’ll miss the 24 hours mad carnival. All these years when I was a part of it I never thought I would miss it so much. I always wanted to go out on tours during the pujas but somehow I never did. But now when am away from it I want to go back!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

India: A Decade after 9/11

7th September, 2011… terror has revisited the country yet again and this time it has struck the national capital. It has not been long when the country was just been recovering from the lashes of terror attacks at the business capital of our nation, Mumbai on 13th July, 2001, when several bomb blasts tore the state apart. These are not the only ones. There have been several such attacks on the country in the last few years proving the countries ‘extremely laid-back security culture’. Delhi and Mumbai has most of the time been the prime target of these people. They have always managed to take advantage of the country’s weak security measure and have struck again and again. The government has failed time and again to curb terrorism in our country proving its incompetence in providing a secured life to its people. This is quite shameful as probably India remains the world’s only major democratic country which these terrorists can attack anytime, anywhere and every time they leave the security police clueless. And the government’s attitude towards these issues aren’t of much help as every time they end up politicizing the issues and at times they even restore to blame game. For instance the recent Delhi High Court bombing has become the ground for political slanging match with the opposition BJP party blaming the government for failing to check terrorism and a string of unsolved cases and the home minister P. Chidambaram accusing that one such case was with BJP ruled Karnataka.

The most horrific of the terror attacks would probably be the 9/11 incident when the self-proclaimed super power nation, USA was brought down to rubbles.  After this incident neither America nor the world has been the same again… Today ten years down the line there hasn’t been a single terror attack in the US. We can say the same with Western Europe where several terror strikes have been thwarted in the recent times. However, sadly enough same cannot be said with India. Our country has been hit repeatedly in the past few years. It has been a decade since 9/11 and India has more than ten major terror attacks and America had none. Why? Let alone eradicating terrorism completely or even reducing it, we have severely failed to even solve most of the past cases.

There can be several reasons for our government’s failure to curb terrorism - the extremely laid-back attitude of security agencies, its lack of quality intelligence and forensic capabilities. After almost every attack the intelligence department proves its incompetence particularly in connecting the obvious dots to get down to any accurate conclusion. The forensic department is yet another example of incompetency, for instance they are stupid enough not to use hand gloves while collecting evidences from the sites and thus themselves destroying the evidences, and supposedly they have no clue about what they are doing. Again, the media also plays a big role. Today, the 24X7 news channel’s era has rather worked in favor of the attackers. Today in their competition to provide the most amount of updated information to the citizens and eventually acquiring the highest TRPs, these channels end up providing valuable information to the terror groups which they can use in their own favor and in turn confuse the already confused security department of our country.

Lastly, the attitudes of the citizens are also of not much help to the movement of anti-terrorism. There is only a stir in us at the time of such incidents which eventually dies out with time. People have this attitude of forgetting and moving on. People get irritated when they are subjected to security surveillance; they get jittery if they are frisked at the public out lets during security checks. People need to participate more to drive out terrorism. People are reluctant to question the State and its agencies. Though the government has failed time and again we the people are also responsible to a certain extent.

Though the future of our national security does not seem too bright as yet, but there is realization and people have started taking stands. After the recent Delhi high court blast Prime Minister Manmohan Singh observed that “there are weaknesses in our system, we must work hard to plug the weaknesses”. Hopefully these realizations would bring in some positive results. Our country has made tremendous progress in various fields and is counted among the powerful nations worldwide, but deep within it is terribly messed up. It would take a lot of effort to clear up the mess. We should be hopeful that we will come out of it but we should also be prudent enough to realize that this is take a lot of time and effort.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A new Fight for Freedom

"At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new...India discovers herself again."

These were the few words from the speech titled, “Tryst with Destiny” given by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of our day of independence…15th August,1947…the day when this golden bird was ready to break free of its shackles and take its flight towards the high sky where it rightfully belonged. The struggle for freedom that had begun in 1857 when a group of sepoys mutinied against the East India Company bore fruit almost 90 years later. After almost 200 years of British rule, our country, our Mother India finally got its freedom but not without paying the heavy price of partitioning of our country into India and Pakistan and the violent communal riots that took thousands of lives.

Today, almost 65 years down the line India can proudly proclaim itself to be a self-sufficient independent nation. Today India has made tremendous progress in every field mentionable – art, science, literature, politics, sports or any other field. It is at par with the other developed nations and is said to have the potential of becoming the next superpower in the near future. However with all the progress that India has made and with all the probabilities of future India we still need to ask ourselves a question – is India really free and independent?

What do we really understand by independence? It means self-governed, self-sufficient, freedom from all dependency. Freedom – a birthright of every human being. It is the right to live freely. Freedom of choice and expression, freedom to believe and follow any religion, freedom from hunger, illiteracy, freedom of justice and more importantly a life free of corruption – these are the few freedoms that we expect a free country to provide its citizens. But being a part of an independent nation do we really get to enjoy all these freedom?

Though India has a rich culture and civilization, the country is still engulfed in western civilization. May be the country has not yet been able to free itself of the influences of 200 years of foreign rule. Young India today blindly apes the western civilization and thus is losing its identity. Other countries are still invading our country and building factories to produce goods at a cheaper rate which they cannot do in their own country. The country has also lost its freedom to another evil – corruption, which in recent times has gained tremendous power. Today hundreds and thousands of people have been and are being affected by terrorism, social evils like child labour, and discriminations on religious grounds, caste distinction still prevails in our society. For instance if you are a Muslim you would always be a prime suspect if there is any terrorist activity. It is very sad that due to the deeds of a few corrupted minds a whole community has to suffer. The country belongs to them as much as it belongs to us. The sacrifices that were made in our struggle for freedom were equal on both the sides. The country is still to free itself of communalism. In the recent times our government’s reputation has been seriously bruised by a string of high-level corruption scandals – the scandals revolving around the Common Wealth Games 2010, the 2G spectrum scam, Adarsh Housing Society Scam and several other such scandals in which public property and money was misused.

With all these corruption that our country is presently engulfed in has marred the joy of our hard earned freedom. The glory of the sacrifices made by our freedom fighters is tainted. The reputation of a country which was once called the golden bird is severely scratched. Our motherland is wreathed with evil forces and she is bleeding profusely, she is crying out to her sons to free her from these evil and let her breathe. The eagle that took its freedom flight on 1947 has been chained down again and it’s groveling in mud but this time it’s not any foreign force that has curtailed its freedom, the evil resides deep within its own heart. If we want our country to be independent again we need fight these evil from within, from the grass-root level. We need to be optimistic; we need to be proud of our country, proud of our ancestors, our heritage. We should always remember: “sare jahanse achha hundustan hamara, hum bulbulain hai iski yeh gulsitan humara…”

No country is absolutely free from corruption no country is perfect but we should at least try to make our motherland a better place to live in. Our freedom is in our own hands. Sitting idle and blaming others would not work. It’s time we stand up for our country; fight for our freedom, our independence. Jai Hind!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Broken Glass

My shining glass of wine,
Now an empty shrine
I feared it would slip from my hand
So I held it tight
Never wanted to let it go
But it was too delicate
It broke under my loving embrace
And everything fell apart
The only thing am left with are broken shards
The bleeding veins of my hand
And reflections of my past…

Sunday, February 13, 2011

When Love is in the air...

Life is not all smiles
It has its share of tears…
The former being less than the later
But there is a feeling that can make the clouds disappear…
It is the feeling of Love.

It can make you glow in the darkest of night
It sets you free yet it holds you tight
It can make you do all things silly
Makes you heavy to see a blooming Lilly

When you are in love –
You feel this world is not enough
You want to age together
Scale mountains high and rough

It makes the world a beautiful sight
Makes the sun glow bright, and the moon so white
The cold rain on your lips feels so warm
When your Love holds your arm

You live in fear of losing your heart
You shed tears when your love is hurt
But pain makes your love grow longer
A look into the eyes, you see your future grow stronger.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A mystery called woman

A creation of complexity,
A flower with differently hued petals;
The last of the creation -
an embellishment to the life on earth.
Born out of testosterone,
She imbibed a part of every creation,
The highest of all forms
A mystery that is yet to be solved.

A form so elegant,
Like a sculptor's creation of love;
She is the epitome of all that is beautiful
An effigy of serenity, an angel in the purest form...

She is the Power, the Courage to lead a war...
The brightest fire to burn out the cold and the dark
yet she can be the very black night to take the light out of your life.
Like a parasite she will eat away your soul,
And you so willingly will surrender to her power...

When she is a mother, a daughter or a loving sister
Or a friend and a doting wife,
She will take away your pain with her love and care...
And sacrifice herself just to see you alive.

She is a silent prayer of a troubled mind,
A meditation of a searching soul
she is the reflection of the creator's mind,
A mystery in the form of a woman.

The Flower

Her beauty is unparalleled.
A look at her and you will fall in love,
She mesmerizes with her fragrance -
Making her admirers to be close to her...

In her numerous forms,
She adds beauty to wherever she goes -
The elegance of the morning dew on her shoulder,
A colorful rainbow in a vast green meadow
A smile to a teary eye...

But she is forever oblivious of her power,
A favor done to the human race...
She seems to be born with all these purpose -
To add beauty, color and odor
And happiness and smile forever...

When she is born -
She does not know how long she would be there...
She might live a youthful life
Or live to see a weathered end
Or she might get plucked when she has just started...
But she never stops living her purpose
Spreading her beauty and adding color to the earth,
The fragrance she adds to the wind blowing over her
She lives with a happy face smiling like a flower -
She knows nobody lives forever.

Mind your privacy!

A little girl… wearing her white and blue school uniform… must be returning from her school … she was with a woman carrying her school bag… must be her mother… she was sitting right opposite to me with that little girl…

The little girl, oh! She was a sweetheart, the cutest I’ve ever seen, munching away her bar of Dairy-milk, talking away either to herself or with her mother… she was so animated…all the time swaying her two little legs to and fro or moving her hands in various gestures…trying to prove a point or two or clearing her queries about the unreal world which is so different from her own…

Her mother got tired of clearing her doubts and stopped responding… she understood and so stopped nagging her and returned to her own world which she found more familiar than the one she was actually residing in. It was her own world, her real home, where she did not have to worry about anything; she did not have to take permission from anyone for anything…she was a free bird…

She started humming a tune…her own song…then gradually when she got into the rhythm she started moving and making dancing gestures in her seat…she was making different forms with her hands – her very own mudras… at one point she even got down from her seat, balanced herself and was about to do a full-fledged jig when she was pulled back to her seat by reality – her mother. But she could not care less and carried on in her crazy dream world. She continued with her hand gestures, rolling eyes and mumbled humming…totally unaware of the outside world.

The train compartment – it was fairly crowded… there were people from the real adult world where people mind their own business all the time yet never leaving an opportunity to poke their nose into other people’s life, people who are concerned about their own privacy but never stops discussing other people’s private matters…

The little girl – she had all these reality around her, constantly staring and ogling at her… but she was completely oblivious… they could not take her out of her own world… they could not break into her privacy… she had it all locked up in her mind…

Friends forever...

You are my smiling clown in a gloomy crowed
Whatever I do, I do to make you proud
Together we reside in a world of madness and illusion
Sharing our smiles, tears and delusion.

In our own world we make fun of each other
But try to tear us apart when attacked by an outsider!
When one falls down the other wipes the tear
A warm smile wards off all the impending fear...

In this made race of life, when the dark night is near
You are my moon, shining bright and clear
It is this bond that we share
Keeps me going when happiness seems so rare

A healing touch - the miracle of life
A magician that keeps the faith alive
Friendship - a gift to mankind
A feeling to keep us bind.

Love to see you cry!

It hurts to see you cry

But underneath why do I smile?

I promise to be together

Forever, till the end of time.

I keep your heart close to mine

And drive away all your fears...

But in my heart I know you won’t be there –

To hold my hand when the end is here…

And now when the sky is bright,

Your tears are dry and you are light

Like a feather you take your flight

Leaving me behind…

Waiting for the rains to bring you near…