Wednesday, March 30, 2016
After a lapse of seventeen years, one is reminded of Brussels, the attractive capital of Belgium. In this centre of tradition and modernity, around 35 innocent people were recently killed and more than 200 were injured .Series of explosions ripped through the busy Zaventeem airport and the Maalbeek Metro station. The P.M of Belgium rightly termed them “blind, violent and cowardly”. Significance of the attack can be possibly assessed from the fact that those handling NATO and European Union headquarters over here were supposedly to get alerted. The mere fact that it happened within four days of arrest in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect of Paris terror attack, was perhaps slated to send a warning signal.
The blast shattered the main hall of the country's biggest and one of Europe's busiest airports fairly early in the morning. Two explosions were caused by two suicide bombers. A third blast hit a train at a busy Metro station. Scene was usual-victims lay in pools of blood at both the locations There were chaotic scenes as passengers and visitors fled in panic. Some lost limbs. One man reportedly lost both of his legs. And one cop, as per newspaper reports, was left with a totally mangled leg. To add to the woes, an un-exploded suicide vest was also discovered. At both the locations, the relief and rescue teams immediately swung into action. Paramedics attended to commuters with bloodied faces as the nearby streets were filled with the wailing of sirens of security vehicles. The saga of violence perpetrated by the worst kind of suicide unfortunately goes on unabated. It is extremely difficult both to detect and resolve.
As expected, people in India showed immediate concerns having been exposed to such violence several times in the past. Apart from issuing alerts, MEA began giving assurances. At the airport two Jet Air employees were reported injured and one of them, a lady, was immediately taken to hospital. Nothing happened to India bound passengers. The Prime Minister of India was reported certain to go ahead with his 30th March Brussels visit to take part in the India-EU Summit.
Down Memory Lane.
Seventeen springs ago, in September, 1999 I had spent four unforgettable days in Brussels in connection with the APPPA Course of IIPA, New Delhi. Apart from visiting places of Interest, such as, Atomium (built in 1958),Grand Place, St.Michael Cathedral, The Manneken Pis (Miniature statue of a tiny tot pissing),Town Hall etc. we were fortunate to have visited two amazing places in Holland-Maastrich and Amsterdam.
During day time our schedule with EU and EEC personnel would be very very hectic. Sometimes we had to skip lunch. Gradually we picked up the habit of carrying some fruit and juice bottles in our bags to cater to the emergencies. In the evenings, even if we were tired, we would attempt seeing a known place/monument, do window shopping and hogg fast food just ahead of hearing the alarm from our quiet Bus driver. One tiny replica of Manneken Pis and a White & light Grey shawl of Dupatta kind ($14) for my wife turned out to be memorable purchases from Brussels. Latter I would not have got but for the patience and perseverance on the part of the young woman seller. I very much now regret having taken more than the required time to decide on my purchase.
We made two visits to the Grand Place (Market Square) which had a tower of 96 meters in height. Built in Brabantine Gothic style, the place started off as a market for trading goods. In 1455, a Town Hall was added. The owners of the houses in surroundings were bound to preserve as much as possible, the original style of their buildings. The houses, therefore, looked similar to each other and would appear very attractive. It was the venue of annual flower shows as well. Flower arrangement was reported to be such that the whole area would look like series of carpets next to each other. It was learnt that locals and the tourists alike would throng the place on the days of show.
A few words about our hotel need to be mentioned. A medium sized cosy joint, it was located in the outskirts of the city. The most interesting part was that it provided Breakfast even at 5.30 am. Hold it-one of our colleagues, by the name of Puri Saheb, would be the first to report. He would hog on for nearly two hours. Any guesses, what he ate and after gulping the food and the drinks, how did he digest the whole thing?
Another memory of this hotel I have, concerns Sri Rao who would spend hours with a lady Professor in the lounge as also the dining area. He would chit chat to glory. Again what they conversed in the cold and windy surroundings could be any body's guess.
For the first time after visiting Brussels, I could realize that in the West, they waste a lot of energy. Offices close to our hotel would be well lit even inside, at night. Design wise some looked ordinary but those with heritage features, simply looked gorgeous. There was plenty to see and explore but time was the constraint. May be, next time. Places of unique culture and heritage need to be protected and admired. Not to be harmed.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
They call it Diwali or Deepawali or Festival of lights. Names may be different but this ancient festival is celebrated with tremendous joy, almost in every nook and corner of our multi religious and multi-racial country. One exception now being-rising awareness about harm to the environment due to burning of crackers.
While nationally, a debate is always on about a ban and some states have gone ahead and accomplished as well, the charm or the kick, one used to get as a kid or tiny tot, is not witnessed or missing altogether if it is all quiet on this day.
If it is the biggest festival of Delhi and some parts of North India, it is also synonymous with unwanted show of wealth and power, mostly leading to accidents, severe burns as also killings, sometimes. Nevertheless, in the same Delhi, awareness generated at the level of children for more than a decade or so has made a sizeable difference in the scenario. There is tremendous reduction in pollution levels on the one hand and number of accidents on the other. Whatever we do or initiate, there should be an element of sustenance in that. And some people have required courage and will as well.
There are many sides or facets of Diwali which are never reported, so children receiving modern computer and NET aided education, while being away from their Grand Parents are deprived of these and many other mythological truths. During one's formative years, there would be an element of eagerness as also enthusiasm when a festival would approach and a sort of depressive feeling would invariably take over at the end, not because one would be deprived of fun and frolic but one would be made to study hard, yet again. Some good Samaritan would, nevertheless, always surmise-'the next festival is a few weeks or months away, so cheer up'.
The Gharounda experience is something that was intrinsically associated with one's psyche as a child. There would be discussions and discussions, followed by trials of clay models of little houses as also talk about who would excel, who would leave the field, who would lag behind and who would actually accomplish the task on his own or with the help of some Didi or Bhaiya on the eve of Diwali. Thereafter, white washing of the “House” would take place, followed by putting the grain and sweets in little earthen containers inside or in the makeshift “compound”. Sometimes, there would be competition as well but the keenness and enthusiasm built over ten days ahead of D day will simply get side-lined once Diyas and Crackers would emerge, beginning with Chhoti Diwali, coinciding with Dhanteras and ultimately ending with the Basi Diwali.
While one would take part in the evening Pooja to give green signal to lighting of Diyas and candles, late night Pooja would not be normally attended by all the children. Fatigue of running around with crackers and sometimes getting minor burns too, would be prominent by this time. It would, however, happen year after year that a long sound or noise of burning of huge crackers would emerge at a time when most of us would be asleep. Nevertheless, it had the indomitable power to divert attention. We would ask each other where from do they get so much money to waste and disturb sleep of others. As little children, we had no idea that these wealthy persons apart from show off, were also doing a lot of harm to the environment, something discovered very recently.
In Sikkim, the festival of light goes on for five days. Each day is dedicated to worship of a particular entity or living being. The first day, it is Kag Tihar, when crows are fed with home prepared delicacies. The second day, known as Kukoor Tihar, is dedicated to dogs. The third day, it is Gai Tihar, when cows are honoured. The fourth day, it is Goru Tihar, when oxen are worshipped and fed. The fifth day is for Bhai Tika, when sisters religiously put a coloured rice mixed “Tika” on the forehead of brothers.
As darkness sets in on the Diwali day, diyas and candles lit up all the dark corners. By the time one decides to have frugal dinner ( in view of loss of appetite due to intake of too many sweets ), a soothing chorus is heard in a setting, otherwise quiet at this time. One gathers that a group of young girls in their traditional attire are singing Bhailo in front of each house in the locality. By the time they “knock” at your doorstep, you understand their innocence, devotion and efforts put in to sustain a tradition started long ago. After two or three numbers even if you feel that this singing spree is going to stop, it does not. The pleasing to ears show goes on for nearly 15 to 20 minutes and they leave for another house only when a thali having rice, flowers, a lit diya and some cash is placed before them. Apart from politely accepting the gift of cash, they do not mind having a sweet or any eatable prepared specially for the day.
Talking of Bhailo, the society appears to have a discriminating attitude. While the girls are supposed to celebrate the spirits this way only for one night, in respect of boys or men, it is “Deusi” singing recital, permitted for full two days up to Bhai Tika day or even more. But women seem to be accepting it without any fuss.
Apart from witnessing tremendous reduction in number of groups performing Bhailo or Deusi now, what actually surprises is a few combined group of young boys and girls singing together with a back up of Guitar for the common cause in the evening, following the Diwali Day. Whether it is a reflection of reconsideration or compromise, only time will tell. Message of equality of sexes, nevertheless is becoming loud and clear.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Well, on the day of Civic Polls it turned out to be a difficult choice to devote almost 3 hrs to an University’s 15th Convocation or to concentrate on the 2nd Municipal Elections, an activity that was going to be keenly contested as opposed to its 1st edition in 2010, in which a sizable number of candidates were elected unopposed in a peaceful setting.
While keeping a track of events from previous evening and early morning, I succumbed to the friendly pressure of Brig. Misra V.C. and Dr. P.D Senoy, Advisor to the Group. Upon casting my vote and boosting the morale of Polling personnel, I landed up at the University, rather ahead of time. My election responsibility was taken care of later between 2 to 6 PM when I could see 17 booths between Gangtok & Rangpo and to my utter relief, except for one booth at 7th Mile, things were fine and under control.
I recalled, I was attending their Convocation for the third time. It was joy, smile, bonhomie, brightness, all over, on a bright sunny day. More buildings, more Faculty and staff and off course, plenty of courses and students from all parts of country, spoke of size and dimension of the University that began as late as 1999.
We were escorted in with courtesy & style to the waiting hall on level 3, were offered tea, snacks etc, something that was not needed so early. However, soon number of we ‘dignitories’ registered a rise. Finally, round one ended with the arrival of the Governor. More pleasantries than something light or profound, that mattered now. With clock wise precision, Gowns were put over each one of us (15). I had a different feel, something, one was deprived of after I Graduated in 1977, as the system of Convocation in my Ranchi University had virtually come to an end. Also it was a fact that none of us bothered to check even whether degrees were being awarded in this old British style. If I recall, every house having a Graduate in early Sixties or Seventies would proudly display the photo of their off-springs donning a black gown with an unusual headgear and holding the rolled up degree between two hands.
Anyway, to continue further, stress was on career building at Delhi, so one rushed, got into JNU and finished two more degrees – MA & M.Phil. At the end of the process, was eager if one could have a feel of the Convocation. Soon, we coming from lower middle class got upset, if not dejected, as probably due to its Left domination, the University never encouraged such functions. So sooner than later, both the Provisional Degrees were collected from the clerks of the ‘Centre’ and only after some gap, the originals were received, one of them by post.
Back to SMU, all of us were made ready for the ‘procession’ on the 6th Level and stood in a Q as per indications of the VC and then began the cool, calculated movement led by a Piped band of the Army. It was a different, rather exhilarating feeling. Hundred of talented young boys & girls who had burnt the midnight oil were eagerly waiting upon cut-throat competition, coupled with investment of their hard earned family income. Many of them with their near and dear ones and a few of us starting with the Chief Guest, was going to hand over Degrees, Certificates & Medals. So what it one was never on receiving end, the opportunity to give should suffice now with a certain element of self satisfaction.
Assembled students, Faculty, Guests, all clapped and cheered. Slowly, entry into the 750 capacity hall took place. Clicking of mobile cameras was a foregone conclusion. Lighting of traditional Diya, Goddess Saraswati Vandana, Welcome addresses, Annual Reports administering of oath, etc, all followed with good time management. And then came the turn of distribution of Medals. In good old days, most of the recipients would be from outside the State. But it was pleasing and highly satisfying to see that this year more than half were from this very soil and that too some from dwindling if not vanishing Lepcha tribe. They had guts, courage and confidence when they walked to the dias (inspired by T.V. culture I suppose). Some nevertheless, looked shy, would walk away without looking at the photographer, unless told or reminded by me. After all, why should not one make best use of this once in a while occasion ?
At the end, what mattered or left an imprint was straight from heart and an absorving speech by the Chief Guest, Shri. Chandan Bagchi, Head of Mind Tree, an MNC at Banglore. It was good to note that he had links with South Bihar (Singhbhum) and Odisha and that he too like me came from a lower middle class background. His speech was a class apart. The Governor & Chancellor of the University summed up very well when he stated that his father was educated in an ordinary way but his mother was not even literate, yet he could make it to IAS in 1965, then became Lok Sabha, M.P and today he could proudly say that he was speaking in the capacity of a Chancellor of an University.
So much so for boosting the morale of the students who, were now on the cross-roads. Unlike our days, they did not have to keep their fingers crossed but had to make correct choices even on the campus in view of multiplicity of opportunities both within the country as also abroad, so well facilited by the rapid strides in the field of computer, Internet, mobile telephony, etc.
As it happens on such occasions, grand finale was musical, with a bang. One was busy even while being inclined. Dr. D’souza made it happen, thanks to his persuasive acumen. Soothing Kathak performance by a group of teenaged girls, choreographed by a music society of Singtam, followed by short and sweet dance by two cute little children set the ball rolling. It was followed by a mesmerizing one hour Sarod recital by Pandit Bhawani Shakar Dasgupta of Kolkata, who made it despite his father being on sick bed. From him, one gathered that Sarod owes its origin to Afghanistan.
However, what turned out to be icing in the cake was spell- binding and simply amazing solo Kathak performance by Mrs. Namrata Mali. While I could capture Pandit Dasgupta rather while in my cell camera, I failed in doing so in case of latter. She was too dynamic both in movement and expressions. Nonetheless, I captured her in my mind. It may remain for a long time, in the same way like the reminiscences of performances in this very campus by Mrs. Sonal Mansingh, Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt (Grammy Award Winner) and never to be forgotten Soitra(?) dancer from Majhuli, the largest river Island in world located in Assam.
Thank you Sikkim Manipal University.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
There is nothing like pleasure emanating from basking in Sun. Sun which is glorious and all pervading. Specially after days of Mist and Fog and imminent battle with visibility. Resumption of overnight downpour over three days was not irritating per se, but was not called for, either. Alex was in a mood to enjoy this richest source of all energies and direct 'giver' of Vitamin 'D' after three back to back meetings cum conferences and emerging, if not, perpetual Retina complication.
Time permitting, he would have a 360 degree angle of the beauties of nature in the cool hilly settings till six months ago. With the passage of time, he was almost devoid of sight on the one side. But as they say, no point in giving up, keep facing and waiting. A day may come when, with medication, coupled with HIS blessings, there is likely to be light at the end of the tunnel.
At this juncture, when his body seemed to have received some semblance of heat, and he was tempted to take off his jacket, a sort of restoration of positivism in his thought process and urge to maintain patience if not display indomitable will power, all of a sudden, emerged. Densy, his spouse was fond of saying - life is beautiful, to be lived meaningfully, with a purpose, sense and enthusiasm even when chips may appear to be down. Her long cultivated habit of having a new dress once a month and getting ready early even on a holiday, subsequent to a focused puja, was a reflection of positivism and enthusiasm factor.
On a similar day in Delhi on 24th Sept., Alex’s 'B' day, they had faced mild Sun but same was not accompanied by cool wind that he was experiencing today. A pre-arranged visit to the Surgeon in a reputed Eye Centre was on the expected lines. Physical condition of eye looked better, bereft of pain, swelling and less of red-ness. But the lurking fear of another operation for getting rid of reaction or infection dominated his half an hour passage to the hospital. Almost two hours of wait with dilated eyes by Lalji, at last, brought momentary relief from the Surgeon, who opined - him-“Let us have photography to assess the improvement over the last 12 days”. As if that was not enough, Ultra sound too was desired. When former had positive hints as per the technician, latter showed traces of Silicon oil (supposedly removed in Surgery) and some apprehensions regarding attachment of the Retina itself.
Another analysis of the two tests after good one and a half hours brought them back to square one - Vitreotomy Surgery which may still be needed, but medicines were working, though some impact of infection remained. They decide to wait with the present dose of Medicines, in view of acute pain and discomfort between second operation and administration of more than one injection within a span of just six days. Scene before and after and misery undergone, were best to be erased from memory as soon as possible, Alex confided in Densy.
Another appointment with the busy Surgeon after three days did not materialize. Instead, the former Surgeon friend volunteered, saw, photographed, analyzed and assured, Roughly 20% improvement over a 9 day period was indicated. Photo of infected eye by a normal phone camera sent through Whatsapp medium had looked really scary.
Alex was left with no option but to take-off sooner than expected, land in a place within two hours, wherein temperature was on lower side. Heat was coming and going, not due to atmospheric reasons but owing to increased biotic interference along the highway.The evergreen and soothing Mahananda Sanctuary and Teesta in spate at this time of the year, provided needed relief in between. A break after 2 hours for drops and grub at Melli GREF Mess was something, badly required. Alex resumed his ‘business’ same night between 9 and 11:00 PM with the supports and presence of active Benu and a fresh bout of determination, grit and imagination which suddenly could be sensed. Sound sleep after 5 days helped, relaxed his ruffled feathers, subsequent to a tasty Dinner cooked by old faithful, Mahesh.
Upon mega meetings and clearing up of heap of files and papers over a week, he shifted to a new 'independent Unit’ in the downtown. Very few of such abodes were left behind in this cleanest hill station of the country .He was lucky to enjoy and cherish this facility after a gap of exactly 8 years.
Sun was now in a sliding mode. Descent had started before he noticed it but his spirit was still upbeat. He, therefore, shifts his chair on sensing fall in temperature from the shadow area to the Gate side, wherein one could still avail of free gift of Vitamin 'D', And scores of fresh Marigold flowers of 6 varieties, Calendulas, Corotons, thin Pine, Peepul, Utish and Banana trees, too manage to have a eye contact with him. Upon concentration, rapport proved instant.
As opposed to 24th Sept., on 2nd October, there was no pain and agony. Blankness on the left side, however, was becoming a matter of habit. Previous day consultation with the Residents Ophthalmologists had led to stoppage of two drops but addition of a tube at bed time.
He feels drowsy by the time it is 4 pm. Good sign, he supposes. Sun was still there looking at his new dwelling unit from a different but far-off angle. He, however, had to hit the pillow to retain energy to finish off some urgent commitments in the evening and be fresh with a renewed vigour and vitality to face and live through yet another hectic week.
A nice ear pleasing tune on a Gelling is something he had not aspired for but same came out of blue from the neighbourhood to facilitate and comfort.