Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Puppy Called Hope (Letters to Parth - 11)

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love – time is eternity. 

Dear Hardyk Babu, My angel and my snowman, my candy cane and my plumcake,

I am sure you have been a good boy this year, and that Santa will be very happy with you. I know Santa is happy with me, since he has given me the strength to go through all that I have been through in these last few years and has promised me the most glorious new year ever.

Like almost everything else in life, for every person who believes in Christmas, there are two that don’t. Fortunately, that is not enough to take the air out of this wonderful festival, and the world over, people get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25 as the Christ Mass. The festive season that starts with Thanksgiving (a harvest festival that was reworked to give thanks for the protection of the European colonizers of North America) reaches its “spiritual” height with Christmas and then climaxes over the new year’s celebrations.

In the modern world, where we consider ourselves a liberated and secular society, all people celebrate Christmas with equal fervour, and it has become one of the major festivals of our times. I grew up with Christmas being one time that our entire family would get together, I would be home for the winter break from school, and all my cousins and aunts and uncles would be in town too. As most of my exposure centred around art and literature that referred to a Christian understanding of life and morality, I was familiar with the idea. I knew that it was the birthday of Jesus Christ (or so I was told, since there is a very large body of knowledge to suggest otherwise), and that Santa was not a misspelling of Satan, but someone who brought gifts to kids who had been more or less good most of the year. I would hang up my sock at the head of my bed every Christmas eve and would find it filled with gifts the next morning. It was not until I was a teenager that I stopped hanging a sock up. Over the last few years though, I have again started hanging my sock up every Christmas, and in his own way, Santa has been filling it up too.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Children's Day

Children's Day is celebrated in India on November 14, which is the birthday of Chacha Nehru whose real name was Jawaharlal.  He was called Chacha Nehru because he had to be an uncle to some of the children of his times. There is no truth in the myth that he was called Chacha because of his fondness for dancing though he was reported to be good at teaching others how to dance. He also wrote one of the nicest books on the history of India called The Discovery of India.

At schools, this day is celebrated like a return gift for all the things that kids do on Teachers Day. Very often teachers use this day to have some fun themselves by participating in cultural programs to entertain their students. I used to love Children's day celebration when I was in school, especially the comic skits that the teachers would perform for us. The school I went to as a child was a very propah school run by missionaries (missionaries are professional soldiers who are too old to be fighting). They believed in doing things in a spiritual way, so they would never punish us physically. If you did something that was really bad (like mixing fireworks powder in Fr. Grogan's pipe tobacco), they would send you with the class monitor and a slip of paper to the sports teacher, Mr. Ekka. There would be a number written on that piece of paper which Mr. Ekka would read and convert into beatings with a short leather strap either on our bum or on our hands, depending on which was in better health from the previous set of straps. But on teachers day, Mr. Ekka, would not beat anyone and any pending straps would be replaced with yummy strawberry flavored whistle lollipops. But we all knew that the real reason he would be so happy on Children's day was because he would be acting in a play with Ms. Toppo, the one who made moral sciences the most exciting class of them all.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy Teacher's Day

September 5 is celebrated in India as Teachers Day. On this day, all learners go about saying Happy Teachers Day to their teachers. Regardless of whether the teacher is a happy teacher or an unhappy teacher, you still say Happy Teachers Day to them, at least on this day. It is also the birthday of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second president of India, who also wrote one of the most rational commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita. He spent much of his life teaching philosophy, which made him a happy teacher.

Daisaku Ikeda has this to say to young children on this day, "young people in school should make study their first priority. It goes without saying that faith is important, but faith is something we practice throughout our entire lives. There is a certain period and age when we should study. If we don't work hard during that period, we may fail to acquire important knowledge and skills, and we may come to regret it deeply later. Faith manifests itself in daily life. For young people in school, faith manifests itself in their studies. During this period, to devote themselves to study represents an important part of their practice of faith."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Where were you when...? (Letters to Parth - 10)

Dear Hardyk, my alphabet, my soaring eagle,

You are five! Happy Birthday! This is a very special time of your life, and you should never for a moment doubt that the universe intends you to become all that you are capable of becoming. Know that you are loved, longed for, and prayed over, no matter what your environment may lead you to feel.

The will of the universe has stood in the way of our being together at this point in time, but I, like a carp leaping through the dragon gate, am unshaken in my faith that this will change soon. Your Dadu and Thammi are in Hyderabad dealing with some strange things, and I am doing all I can to bail them out, and they are very sad that they will not be able to be with you on your fifth birthday.  I too am dealing with some strange things, and am amazed at all the new things that life is teaching me. A lot of what we understand as deprivation and misfortune are the very reasons for our becoming stronger and better human beings. It is as true for you and me, as it is for anybody else.

A common way of remembering history of our times is by asking and answering, where were you when..., or what were you doing when...? The question that will be asked for years to come is where were you when the Indian civil society's fight against corruption was taking place. You and I are blessed to be celebrating your birthday at this time of great importance, a time that will go down in history as pivotal to determine whether we will have a future to hold our heads high in to or nothing to be proud of. You must already be seeing his picture on TV, and perhaps you have even been part of the protests in Hyderabad in his support, but as you grow up, you will learn more about Anna Hazare and his fight against corruption.

Friday, July 29, 2011

If Ramzan is here, can Justice be far behind?

The Holy month of Ramzan is upon us, and hence, this repost from earlier.  
All religious festivals carry great wisdom and learning for all of us, regardless of our religion or lack of religion. Precisely because we, as a race and not as religions, are looking at a future overrun by our excesses of greed and ignorance is it essential that we resolve to leave intolerance and anger aside and imbibe the wisdom that life offers to us. All the strife that we have been witness to in the name of religions and gods and righteousness should only make our determination to build a peaceful future stronger.

The Quran says, "O, ye who believe, strengthen yourselves with resolution and prayer, for Allah is with those who persevere in adversity." Mankind today is dealing with adversity most specifically from religious and spiritual intolerance. Frequently, this intolerance builds up to the point of hatred and desire for vengeance. It is easy to understand this on a personal level when we look at personal friendships and enmities, and then the global perspective becomes clearer as we try and multiply our hatred and love several billion times over.

Ramzan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar commemorating the revelation of the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet. On the Gregorian calendar, this kind of slides backwards a little every year; the last couple of years, Ramzan has been the August-September month.

Like all religious festivals, there are various interpretations of the meaning of the name Ramzan, various spellings, and various ways of celebrating it.  Some say that the name Ramzan is derived from the Arabic root word 'ramida' or 'arramad' that means intense heat and dryness. Ramzan is so called to indicate the heating sensation in the stomach as a result of thirst. Others said it is so called because Ramzan or Ramadan scorches out the sins as it burns the ground. Some said it is so called because the hearts and souls are more readily receptive to the admonition and remembrance of Allah during Ramzan, as the sand and stones are receptive to the sun's heat.

During Ramzan, practicing muslims fast from dawn (sehri) to dusk (iftar), and attempt to keep their thoughts focused on the teachings in their scriptures, and refrain from harboring negative thoughts, and as the wikipedia says, ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Man Who Drew Horses

M.F. Husain, known for his eccentricities of refusing to wear footwear and going Hermes suited but bare feet to the snootiest of institutions much to the discomfiture of the other patrons, and for his controversies over depiction of Hindu deities, lived life king size.  It is tragic that this artist who brought international acclaim to Indian contemporary art (he was invited along with Picasso at the Sao Paulo Biennial in 1971), had to spend his last years exiled from his motherland charged with obscenity by keepers of Hindu morality.

Sunil Das and M.F. Hussain are two Indian painters who are most famous for painting horses.  You must look up their work to see how they have used the lines and motion of this animal in their paintings.  You can read my tribute to the genius of Hussain on the occasion of his death earlier this year by clicking here.

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George "Jazzy Jacob" Gershwin

One of the most amazing composers of our times was George Gershwin, who is remembered primarily as a songwriter and composer with most of his work written for Broadway musicals and operas. 

While most younger listeners have heard the Gershwin masterpiece, Summertime, in one or the other of its myriad interpretations in jazz, soul, and even rock, and perhaps even his other popular songs, Ain't  Necessarily So, I got Rhythm, Embraceable You, and of course, Swanee, it is in his orchestral compositions that his genius really comes through.  I have only heard three of them and they continue to astound me with their richness, complexity and beauty.  You can read more about this genius (who died on July 11, 1937, at the age of 38, of brain cancer) by clicking here.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Angel In Blue

Angel In Blue

Angel in blue
Aflicker amid a thousand
Heads and faces, nuns and priests
You did not see me then, I saw you
And our worlds drew us apart
Thieves were at work
Angel in blue.

Now the drive is deserted night
The music has died the people are gone
I saw you swallowed into the belly
Of a scarlet converted van
You never knew but it was I
Who kissed you goodbye

Angel in blue
I know where you sleep
Who you keep in your weariness
The restless dream in your gentle steps
I know your skin, your smell, your tears,
Angel in blue.

Angel when you rise a sudden
Sensing someone in the room
Or in a crowded tram hear
Somebody call your name
When skies of music wrap your soul
Know it's me and no one else
Angel in blue.

(c) Subhorup Dasgupta

Read More at Trillium Gallery Word Art

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

As Dark as the Buddha's Will...

The birth of Shakyamuni Buddha or Gautama Buddha is observed in the summer months in India as Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti. You can read a letter I wrote three years back on the occasion.

You would have figured out by now that when I do refer to Buddha, I don't really care how you or I perceive Buddha in terms of how we visualize the concept of the person Buddha. I have been fortunate to have my eyes opened to the timelessness of the being of Buddha, the timelessness of his enlightenment and the simultaneity of the being of Buddha and all of existence. Sounds weird. It does to me, though not weird weird, but obvious weird once you get it. Was the Buddha black? Was he bald? Was he weird? Did he have a nervous tic or some funny mannerism? Burton Watson's translation of The Kumarajiva Lotus Sutra references "features that are featureless." To me, Buddha is me when I am in harmony with all of existence across all of time. You may want to read more about this here.

The month of Buddha's birth is also the month when I lost both my Thammi's, both dad's mom, and mom's mom (at different times though). Your Thammi’s mom was called Parul. It was from her that I heard the story of the seven Champa brother and their sister, Parul.

Madidi, as I called her, was the most beautiful person I have ever met. She went to join her brothers in the sky this month 29 years ago.  I had to struggle a bit to reconstruct the story, since I was very small when I heard it, and at some places, I have made it up as honestly as one can make things up.  Anyway, on with the story...

A long time ago, even before your Madidi’s Madidi was a little girl, there lived a king in the beautiful kingdom of Sundarpur, who had seven wives. Though he was a king, and kings (like you, me, and let’s say the IMF chief) get to do whatever they want, he was very sad, because he did not have any children who would inherit the throne. He would walk about in the forest all alone, so that others would not see his sorrow. Everyone secretly felt sad for him though they would not show it on their faces. Or so I am told.

Monday, May 16, 2011

...evam Indrajit

I did not get to read or watch Badal Sarkar (15 July 1925–13 May 2011) till way into high school, in spite of having the good fortune of being schooled into falling in love with reason, maths and physics by the wickedly brilliant Abhijeet Sarkar to whom I remain indebted to this day.  What I did get to know was the romance of his theater as witnessed by others.  My mother would tell of the annual genetic glitch that makes all Bengali's go a little weird around Durga Puja, and how the aristocrats of Beleghata would have luminaries come and do their thing at the family puja pandal.  There would be magicians and comedians, singers and dancers, playwrights and mimics, poets and film stars, positively a last night but three of an inverted Pablo Fanques.

I would sit and listen with awe when she would tell me of her first watch of Evam Indrajit, penned two years before I was born, about how the play began by demolishing the third wall and had the protagonist start out from among the audience, and as a true blue bong, in my mind, evam was spelled ebong, and till I read the play myself, I persisted in my delusion of thinking it was a tale of a bong, Indrajit.

As a pain in the neck of the Department of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University in the early 90s, it was with surprise that I witnessed this white haired man walk in and sit in the classrooms to do his masters in complit with kids young enough to be his grandchildren.  Hell, his son taught us in high school.  Chappie gets a Padma Shri in 1972, and is offered a Padma Bhushan last year (2010) which he turns down claiming that he is already a recipient of the highest recognition to a writer, that of being a fellow of the Sahitya Akademi, and he can do without a Padma Bhushan.  Well that was Badal Sarkar for you. 

When I read about his death, the first thing I felt was, this must be another joke of his.  I switched news channels to return to graver things, the fall of the Left front in West Bengal after 34 years, a fall brought about by a frail, crazy, and lovable woman who refused to give up. The next morning, I read the obits, and I knew it was for real.  My tribute to this genius is in the links on this page, most of which are ads for stuff to buy, like pots, pans and books.

I am in no way qualified to comment on his body of work or his importance in the scheme of things. However, I have been reading a lot of commentary on his life and work, and feel that I should share some of it for posterity.  There are so many people who are unaware of what he did for our world and why his efforts are important.  I am going to copy and paste Ananda Lal's very nice and precise article from The Telegraph here, since all attempts to make a link happen has failed till now.  You can find the article online at the Telegraph website by clicking the links above or you can read much of it here. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bhanusingher Padaboli

Over the years, I have tried to grow flowering plants many times, but they would never make it past the first couple of weeks.  People told me that, in spite of knowing my irises from lilies and buttercups from, well, butter cups, I was perhaps not meant to grow flowers.  With time, I accepted it, and settled down contented with our many kinds of foliage green, variegating wherever I found place to root (US root, not AUS root).  So it was with the usual early morning blurriness that I looked at the hardly-tended mint patch today with aphid-infested barren crocus leaves from a few summers back. 
I blinked at the splotch of yellow that peeped through the greens and dusty-dry browns of summer in Panjagutta.  I blinked again and looked closer.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter 2011, Letting Go...(Letters to Parth - 9)

My Dear Parth, my April hare, my lollipop,

It has been a nice run up to summer, since summer is always out there, never here.  I have been good, was in no way responsible for the tsunami or the ensuing radiation and nuclear concerns in Japan and elsewhere, then I have been not so good, then I tried being good again, and ended up in real big trouble.  One learns only with hard knocks and bruised elbows, I guess.  I was not very crazy about "what my dad did when he was..." myths, and given your Dadu,, you will surely understand.  He was the sweetest old geezer ever when he was my age.  He was born many, many years ago, on Good Friday.  He got called Subhash Goodman because of that, I am told, and somewhere down the line he changed into Surajit (Middle initial K for Kumar) Dasgupta.  Thammi celebrates his birthday on April 20, though.  Mia's birthday comes up just a few days later.  And of, course, Easter, and eggs and dresses and dinners on large lush lawns.  You will want to google more about this Christ stuff yourself.  Darn, we should meet, all of us, Dadu, Thammi, Tipu, Chandreyee, Mia, and us! 

The heat has been getting to people.  That is why there are no pictures in this post.  They pulled the plug on Satya Sai Baba this morning, the one who did a lot of miraculously amazing work (predicting the Sri Lanka World Cup win not among the major miracles, though) and brought back the values of Sai Baba of Shirdi (whom he believed he was a reincarnation of) to the town of Puttaparthi and its hinterland.  These are lives worthy of study.

It is claimed that rabbits behave funny starting Feb and right through what we know as their mating season till the rains hit the coast in June.  I have been studying rabbits and hares and found that they kind of chill in the second half of April, like a breather, in an Easter bunny kind of way.  You must remind me to show you my rabid pictures.  Yeah, we read and watched Cujo again.  Two entirely different takes, almost like Kapurush O Mahapurush if they were the same story being told.

March and April, other than tax season in India and then in the US of A, are also the months when we observe Lent, regardless of our religion, since Lent is really more about reflection, repentance, letting go, and starting afresh.  I will let you figure out the Jesus angle yourself, since my deepest understanding of the love and forgiveness he personifies and the very personal nature of his "godness" is best captured in Phil Collins' Genesis number, which of course will be considered heresy by many, and for the free of the world, this is a link to a youtube video of the same song.

Of course I am  kidding,  Haven't known better ever.   However, the two threads of this post are way too tangentiality-prone to permit stillness.  One, Christ and his forty days, and Abba and his forty years.  A lot of people have found Abba only after Mamma Mia got made, but that is just me being nasty.  Sorry, all the 23 of you!

My April was interesting this year.  I got to learn how to walk.  I learned how to borrow cars.  I helped change a crane tire that was like 10 feet tall.  I studied tea and wines and a lot of other stuff that nobody would be better off knowing about.  I also studied tempera and oil, charcoal and thinners.  I learned a little of Islam, and a lot about peace.  I also decided to stop working.  I had fooled myself into believing a few years back that I enjoyed my job so much that it "warnt" work no more.  But hell, woke up one morning late November last year, and said, no way am I doing this any more.  Haven't taken a better decision than this one yet.  What have you been learning, young member of civil society, in your April 2011?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kosen Rufu Now! 2011

My Holly, my kangeroo-coo,

I write as we relive the horror that trying to harness nuclear power without thinking about it enough (and praying about it enough and harnessing the self, our desires and greed, our prudence and wisdom before faith, only following which one can try harnessing anything else), can lead to as the globe realizes the extent of loss caused by March 11.  I thought I could ask you to re-read an older post, the story of joey and auguste, something to take our mind away from what is happening, if only for a while.  Visit

Do write in.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Be My Valentine!!

In the heyday of the Roman Empire, the Lupercian Festival was held every February to honor the god of fertility. It was a passionate month in which young men would choose their marriage mates. The Emperor Claudius, fearing men would abandon their military duty to pursue their passions, outlawed marriage.

The Catholic Bishop Valentine, who had untapped passions of his own, began to secretly marry young couples in love. Claudius arrested him and sentenced him to be beheaded. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. On the day of his execution, he wrote her one last note and signed it: “from your Valentine.” He literally lost his head over love.

You don’t have to lose your head for love. But you do need to find your passion. I’m not referring to that kind of passion. You need to discover your passion for life, for yourself, for the world around you.

Of course, I didn't write that, a friend did.  You can read the rest of his post here.  But till then, be my valentine, just like I am yours, and rock on!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Wizard of Menlo Park

I have had a few superhero kind of people in my life all through, like gods or knights, ravana and miles davis kind of stuff, and if I look at my real early years, maybe 7 to 12, one of the people whose life and work I dreamt of being half able to emulate was Edison.

Thomas Alva Edison is the man who invented the stock ticker, the electronic voting machine, the car battery, electricity and the use of electrical power, recorded music and the motion pictures among a host (2000ish) of other things.  

Almost all of his life reads like a story, but his getting his first job and going on to understand and bring about a revolution in telecommunications is a classic one.  Google it.

After his first landmark creation, the phonograph or methods of accurately and completely recording and reproducing sound or music, he went on to walk on down the hall.

He “invented” the electric light bulb, building on the work of many others who were trying to do the same thing, but outsmarting them in the three challenge areas of material, vacuum creation, and delivery of power (this was before you could plug into the wall to turn something on) the last of which he solved by using a higher resistance making it easier to draw power from source, something all others had not thought of, since their focus was on the product itself.

These were exciting times, everybody was doing something, be it something as herculean as crossing the seas from Europe to America, or giving birth to dots and dashes.  Jazz hung like thick smoke at the ports and at railroad construction sites.  The alpha male from the heartlands of the savannah was tasting french food cooked in Louisiana moonshine.  The spirits, benign and vampirish, of New Orleans danced with those of native Indians and sad slavegirls, and created multicultural ghosts that Anne Rice would make a living off many years later.

Along with the pathbreaking work of closer bodhisattvas like Satyen Bose (an example only, I am much closer to other spirits from other fields than I am to stats and maths) who opened the doors of particle physics and particle statistics along with Einstein, the life and work of Edison set an example of what can be accomlished by application of the mind to solve and rise above problems and limitations.  Happy Birthday, Menlowiz!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How does one take care?

When you are on the internet like you are now, you must take care, like you must take care anywhere else.

Do check out this quick quiz on what you should already be knowing.  Thanks to Tipukaka for the link.

And this is an update a couple of days later, since we were able to find some other really good places to learn more about internet safety and personal security.

This one is great fun for adults:



Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hills and Valleys (Letters to Parth - 8)

My Dear Kryptonite, All of my Devils, my Starshine!

I know that you will learn and are learning about things quickly and not getting hurt or stung or bruised or burnt. But if you do get burnt, build a burn unit.

If you experience need, give.  

However, this time I thought I would write to you about mountains.  I last sat to write to you in November.  And have been climbing mountains ever since.  Now it looks like I am somewhere halfway up maybe.  

Your Dadu and Thammi spent the best years of their lives in Darjeeling.  When Dadu had his bypass in 2006, he was ruled out for heights and was generally asked to be careful.  The fact that he got the shock of his life shortly after his surgery and then the years after that is another matter altogether. Darjeeling is an average of about 7000 feet.  Thammi too has travels poorly, but travels and travels.  But the devil that she is, and the wheels that she got for feet when she was a kid like you, keeps her rolling, puking, coughing, sweating, getting the mountain belly and short of breath, but you try and get her to agree to sit down!!!  

Everything has a reason, it is just that we don't always get a preview or even a view of it till his designs are all laid forth. Don't miss the butterfly on Thammi's shoulder.  You can click on the pic to see it larger.

They wrote my song.  It is just that I am a poor singer.

Busy getting ready to be able to meet you, much as I have been busy getting ready these last so many days, weeks, months and years; some will scoff, but we will get by. This time it feels so good that its got to be illegal. Spent some time at the end of the year traveling with Dadu and Thammi and then spending the year end with Mia and Tipu and Chandreyee. Came back to a lot of work, and fell ill. Have gotten better, and what more, have started doing things to get a grip on other things too. You and I are lucky to have been together all through in more senses than one!! We will look back and smile at this day some day.

Asterix the GaulDcu All-Star Superman (Single-Disc Edition)ABBA The Movie

Was able to send you Asterix the Gaul, a t-shirt with an older picture of you on it, and something to play with that Mona sent.  Mona is Grainne didi’s mom, an old witch.  She loves you too.  Thammi’s kurta set is with me cuz you have kind of grown too big for it, I hear.

Trust you enjoyed this winter like no winter ever before.  Lion cub, never forget that the winter that tests one’s resilience is the very same winter that is the time to forage and to mend walls.  I was pretty excited that you still don’t write well enough to get into school!  I cannot tell you how thrilled I am and how proud I am of whatever else you do, skate, bike, shriek, fife, pee, whatever!!  I have a feeling that if I were to try and get into any of the schools now, my writing would probably be my Waterloo.  Life is the best teacher about valleys.

Do remember and stay cool in the months ahead, not just from the fun of being together in “the real world” but also to stay protected from the heat, as we enter a period of our planet’s lifetime and our civilization’s lifetime when being hyper about things will be the most cherished value as we scramble to solve climate change and geopolitical resource ownership changes.  I figure a 20-25% bargain on branded oral rehydration preps is a good idea.  Buy half a truckload for the summer, you might even get 30% off.  You must read my post on hydration in my earlier letters.
Thammi and Dadu, Mia and her oldies, and both of us are eagerly waiting to be with you in the flesh.  More about mountains then.

Much love as always,


PS -That means post script, not police station. It is such fun writing to you, cuz I get to write like I think. As a writer, I often have to write keeping in mind how other people think writing should be, and you can find me wearing that mask over at Subho's Jejune Diet. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

the year starts with one one one one.  have a great one, gumdrop!!


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