Friday, 31 July 2015

Suchishree Roy: Musician with a Difference

Aitrayee Sarkar in a chat with musician Suchishree Roy.
Informal yet gripping. What it takes to find your footing in a city which has less heart now-a-days. The answer is a big mystery. Perhaps this article would give you some clue.

The story of singer and film director Suchishree Roy began at Chuchura or Chinsuah, a modest township near Kolkata originally built by the Portuegese traders along the bank of the Hooghly River. Apparently, Suchishree was no different than any other small-town girl. But her dreams were somewhat more lively than others. She just loved to sing and dared to dream.  
A recent performance
Suchishree as a child wanted to be a doctor—a doctor who treats human hearts. Fortunately, she has become one who still deals delicately with heart through her musical abilities. After years of struggle today Suchishree has made a unique place for herself in the arena of Indian classical music. She has a dedicated fan following not only in Kolkata circuit but also in Bangladesh.

Throughout her carrier Suchishree came across many great artists like Pandit Kumar Prasad Mukhopadhyay, Reba Muhuri, Pandit Manas Chakraborty, and Arun Bhaduri and many more. She did her first music concert in Spain in 2003.   

Suchishree always speaks about the support that her parents and later her husband offered her all the time. She also frankly talks about rejection. Rejections that she had to face at the beginning of her career from “very close relatives” whom she once approached for letting her a little space in their Kolkata house so that she could try her luck in the city. Nevertheless, that’s part of the game. Isn’t it!

Now, Suchishree has a large extended family in Kolkata with three dogs and one bird. The joy of loving them has somehow transformed into her work. They not only inspire her but also give her the much needed corner of relief in her busy daily schedule. Beside music Suchishree is now involved in editorial board of a Bengali magazine Kali O Kolom.  

The singer has already made a documentary, Thungri, on the history and changing face of this particular form of Indian classical music. The film would be formally screened in India soon. Her solo album, Reflections, has received critical acclaim as well as loved by general music lovers. 

Making of Thungri

Diversity in Suchishree’s work is really surprising. A singer, a film director and a social worker, tirelessly fighting for animal rights. The list would surely amaze many. And that’s where Suchishree stands out in the crowd. She has never let herself squeezed in to a particular profession. She continuously transformed herself from one role to another. But of course music remained her first love. According to Suchishree “anything other than music has actually contributed largely into my overall journey as a singer”. It’s a dynamic and interactive process, she strongly feels.

WebPressClub caught up with the musician recently and had a candid conversation with Suchishree Roy about her music, life and film. She shared her experiences with us. Lets here the Sound of Music.  

The writer is an editor of WebPressClub

Clicks Speak

Sounak Sarkar a photographer shares his views and experience of dealing constantly with images.   

Images have always fascinated me. Their colors, shapes and forms added a new dimension to my eyes when I started photography a few years back with a simple DSLR. With time I realized that this is it. I was always in to it but could not recognized it properly before. And on that particular moment I told myself that photography would be my ultimate destination.

As a freelance photographer I am always in search of subjects that interest me. The best part of this profession is that one can express his mind out through lens. If the photographer is determined to find the best shot, then the moment would surely appear before him. All one need is perseverance. The shots are always around you, the camera has to find out it only. 

In pursuit of excellence I began to try my hand out everywhere. There were days when I used to shot almost whatever I saw. It was hard but the amount of joy of reaching a ‘perfect shot’ was enormous.
Live Photography
After doing a diploma from a renowned photography institute in Kolkata in 2009 I decided to turn my passion for images into profession. Now-a-days I cover a number of rock concerts and other events. I am doing video shoots too. I have already worked with rock bands like TRAP and Bharatbarsh. I am also attached with the Echoes studio. I do enjoy variety but my personal favorites are portraits and candid photography.  

Faces have always intrigued me. Every face tells a story and the challenge is to translate that through lens. Today I am ready to take that challenge. Success or failure doesn’t matter. It’s a constant learning process. The more you try the more you learn. 

People often get scared of the uncertainty and risks involved  with a photographer’s life. But I think that this very risk factor attracts individuals to this profession. The attraction of expression, the joy of capturing the truth. It’s really inspiring.
Photography has taught me that it’s about being present at the right place at the right moment. That makes life easier for all. I may sound a bit philosophical, but trust me that’s the way of doing it.  

The writer is a freelance photographer 

Home for the Nowhere People

Prabuddha Neogi writes from a Bangladeshi enclave that will be part of mainland India at the stroke of midnight tonight

Jalpaiguri: The road that leads to 74-year old Gaffar Mollah’s ramshackle tea stall, from the edge of the Panchanai enclave in Salbari of Jalpaiguri’s Madarihat, is a pedestrian’s worst nightmare. It has potholes that resemble craters on the moon. The condition of the road hasn’t changed since 1969 when Mollah, wife and two sons in tow, crossed over to India from Bangladesh in search of a better livelihood. He already had one of his cousins settled in Panchanai. Mollah set up a tarpaulin shade to shelter his family at the back of his cousin’s one-room mud hut.

“Both in India and Bangladesh, governments came and went, and we only received promises,” says Mollah who has no faith in the political machinery and still doesn’t believe that he’ll be Indian from today midnight. “I’ll believe it only if my situation changes for the better,” he says.

A Bangladeshi official at an Indian enclave
Like Mollah, 14,855 other people living in the 51 Bangladeshi chhitmahals (enclaves) in India, will have a homeland from tomorrow after being stateless for nearly seven decades. On the other side of the barbed wire, 979 of the 37,360 people living in 111 Indian enclaves, will cross over to India at the stroke of midnight tonight.

The Bangladeshi enclaves, mostly in Cooch Behar and a few in Jalpaiguri, have witnessed joyous celebrations over the past few days. Children were spotted running on paddy field dividers with Indian flags. One of them, Sohrabuddin Hossain, said: “My father says that we won’t need fake certificates anymore for studying in Indian schools. Our villages will finally have electricity and drinking water and get the rural schemes of the Indian government.” 

But a good degree of tension is also palpable among the enclave people on this side of the border. The uneasiness is about their prospective neighbours who have applied for Indian citizenship from Bangladesh. “There could be criminals, trying to enter India, taking advantage of the exchange of population,” Mollah says.

None in the Bangladeshi enclaves in India have applied for a citizenship in that country. There are, however, alleged reports that local politicians and toughs in Bangladesh are trying to prevent people from going to India. “It’s better if they don’t come. None here have any Bangladesh left in them,” Mollah says.  

A senior Indian official of the Bharat-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee said: “We have definite information that at least 16 persons, among the 979 who have applied for relocating to India, have criminal cases against them in Bangladesh. Four of them are hardcore Jamaat-e-Islami activists.”

Concrete pillars are often used to demarcate the Bangladeshi enclaves
The Indian administration hasn’t entirely ruled out the possibility of smugglers and criminals sneaking into the country. No comprehensive background check has been carried out on those who want to cross over, admitted a local government official to WebPressClub.

But that hasn’t deterred the people from preparing the celebrations. The Indian flag is already flying high in all the 51 enclaves on this side of the border. “We are not bothered about who is coming from Bangladesh. Things can only get better for us from here,” says Tufan Khan, a second generation enclave dweller while overseeing the setting up of a temporary dais for the celebrations. 

But the once-Bangladeshi people know for certain that their living condition is not going to change overnight. “The paperwork will take time and we are unlikely to get the benefits of merging with mainland India soon,” Mollah says.

Development, for him, begins with the conversion of the potholed road to his tea stall to a metalled one.   
The writer is the chief editor of WebPressClub

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Memoirs of Tungeshwar

Gayatri Sen recalls her childhood in Bangladesh, the folk traditions of rural Bengal, and the harmony of the village folk which was upset by Partition.

Memories are usually like a river. They often don’t follow any pattern and frequently changes course. You remember some and you forget some. Growing up in two different countries, makes people all the more nostalgic, especially when they are victims of circumstances and the decision to relocate was never theirs. Nearly seven decades ago, agents and power mongers pimped a united India to foreign hands, which led to the single biggest exchange of population in world history. The scars of uprooting never healed, and in fact, has worsened over the years.

I spent my childhood in Tungeshwar, a small village of East Bengal, now in Bangladesh. It was like any other village of Bengal, with greenery all around. Summer evenings were pleasant and were a far departure from the hot and humid Kolkata of today. We never had to battle pollution that’s slowly gripping the villages near the city. Evenings meant sitting on the grass under the mango tree. The breeze that blew over the lakes and fields caressed our hair. Sounds of perching birds, the blowing of conch shells and the sound of bells from the nearby Tunganath temple signalled the descent of dusk.

The Shiva temple at Tunganath was built at a time when Kala Pahar, the Muslim general of Mughal governor Sultan Sulaiman Karrani, was plundering Hindu temples and monuments in Bengal. My father often told me that the Shiva Linga of Tunganath kept growing every day by several millimetres. Hundreds of devotees came to offer prayers every day, especially during the last five days of Chaitra (March/April).

The temple remained open from five in the morning until 11 in the night on Chaitra Sankranti. In the morning, saffron and ghee were applied to the Shiva Linga and it was bathed in milk. It was followed by the aarti. Ash was applied to the Linga in the evening, followed by another round of aarti. A one-day fair (called banni in the local dialect) was organised on the Sankranti on the open ground opposite the temple. 

The Sen family 
When I was about four, our caretaker, who was no less a family member, took me and my other siblings to the fair. I sat on his right shoulder while my cousin Sita, with large beautiful eyes, sat on the left. Monakaka, (Mona uncle), our caretaker, slowly began walking and we soon reached the temple compound. I don’t properly remember whether we entered the temple. But I clearly remember the colourfully decorated swings, merry-go-rounds and the many stalls that sold salty fried delicacies and sweets. It was the main attraction for all kids. Sita, only one and half years old then, didn’t understand much and was probably feeling uncomfortable. This was the first time she saw so many people around her. Most of them were from our zamindari (estate) and they all bowed before her. Sita found this hostile because she didn’t know why people were bowing. I took some sweets as nazrana (gifts) from the villagers.

People attending the fair sang traditional folk songs in their typical rustic voice. They gathered around a bonfire near the temple. One of the villagers crossed the charcoal fire on naked feet. A 10-15 feet high bamboo dais was constructed. Village boys, who had fasted the last five days leading up to Chaitra Sankranti, climbed up the dais, did a mid-air summersault, and fell on the ground filled with thorns. It was believed that the Shiva’s divine blessing helped them to stay far from injuries. These activities were all part of the larger Charak festivities.

As I grew up, attending the fair became irregular, until it stopped entirely. Bengal slowly became a hotbed of political activism and communal clashes became frequent.  They all led up to the Partition. It was innocence lost. My village and its neighbourhood was never the same anymore. Suspect and suspicion, largely on religious grounds, emerged among all those who had once shared food from the same plate.

I came to know much later that Chaitra Sankranti was considered very auspicious and many sadhus (ascetics) visited Tunganath temple on that day every year. They participated in folk songs at the fair without any fear of communal rebuttal. I heard these stories from the maids in our household but had no chance of witnessing these events. These stories always reminded me that my village folk had a strong endurance and will power to battle all adversaries, which later helped them to survive the agony of Partition.

Years went by and all my elder brothers left home to pursue higher studies. Mejda (second elder brother) used to come to Tungeshwar at the end of Chaitra and in holidays, and the house would erupt in activity. He was very popular among the villagers, always listened to their problems patiently, and tried to resolve them. Whenever Mejda got down from the train at Satiajuri station, he found many villagers from Tungeshwar and adjoining villages there to receive him. Mejda would use the wooden table in the platform as a dais, climb it and receive the flowers and greetings from the villagers. He would then address them and traverse the two-mile distance to Tungeshwar in a palki (palanquin).

Rangadi (fourth elder sister) was never present at Tungeshwar during festivals. She stayed with Mejdi (second elder sister) at Mymensingh for studies. I, Chhordi (third elder sister, also my closest friend), Sita, and another brother Tapas, would eagerly wait for Mejda because he brought us cakes and apples from Kolkata. Cakes were not available in villages and it was a new food for us. Around noon, we would all sit in a circle in a large room and eat lunch from a big brass plate, followed by a nap in the same room. In the afternoon Mejda met all the children of the house under the mango tree. Each one of us had to tell or retell a story as part of the afternoon exercise. We all sat in a circle and a small stone was passed from one to another, turn by turn, similar to the passing-the-ball game. Whoever held the stone in his/her hand, had to tell a story. Mejda taught us to be patient and serious listeners. Sometimes, he would ask us to repeat the stories we just heard. And thus I developed the habit to listen to stories in my early childhood. Each of the children was then asked to discuss the moral of the story.

As dusk descended, Mejda would tell us scary ghost stories that were passed down through generations in the family, and were considered more as fact than fiction. Mejda himself, however, was largely sceptic of these spooky legends. One popular story went like this: Monakaka was returning home from a far-off village.  While walking through a forest between two other villages, the sky darkened and a storm began. The overcast sky added to the darkness all around. Monakaka lost his way and found himself alone on a road near the forest in biting wind and blinding rain. The hours progressed and he trudged helplessly. His umbrella was of no use and he was already soaking wet.  After having walked a few miles, Monakaka felt that someone was throwing stones on his umbrella, from up in the trees. He was frightened beyond his wits and went weak on his knees. Then he suddenly saw a simmering light at a distance. Believing that it could be the sign of some human settlement, he gathered his strength and ran towards the light. When he arrived near the light, he realised that it was coming from a hut. Monakaka entered the hut but found none there. He sat on the floor shivering in the cold and gradually dozed off. He woke up at daybreak next morning and found himself sitting in the middle of a cemetery. There was no hut or any human settlement in the vicinity. He started running and fainted just as he reached home.

I recollect a childhood prank in the year Rangadi got married. I, Rangadi and Sejdi (my third elder sister) were close friends. They told me that fairies appeared on full moon nights and on Chaitra Sankrati, and we could see them only after midnight, near the pond and in our courtyard. I, and some of my cousins, planned to go out secretly in the night to watch the fairies. We were under strict supervision of Bordi. She was still awake and we pretended to be fast asleep beside her. As soon as she started snoring , we climbed out of the bed and silently opened the window. There was no sound, except that of the ceiling fan and an old chime wall clock with its pendulum ticking. The howling of stray dogs far off in the village, would occasionally break the silence. We waited until the clock struck midnight and jumped out of the window. I led the team. We spoke in hushed tones and tiptoed to the courtyard. The entire village was asleep, except the five of us, excited at the prospect of seeing a fairy. There were mosquitoes everywhere and they were feasting on us. Our attempts to drive them away proved futile.

Soon, we heard a noise, followed by eerie silence.  We could only hear the wind blowing through the trees, and waited for another 10 minutes which seemed like hours. Then we saw the branches of the guava tree swinging at a distance. First we thought that it was a bat looking for prey. But the size appeared bigger. It couldn’t have been a bat. Its wings were of lavender colour . We couldn’t see the face but noticed something that resembled a couple of legs. It must be a fairy queen.

By now, Sita was scared and started running, making a lot of noise. The fairy also disappeared in the shadows. I, Pijush (cousin), and Chhordi felt bad and angry because we thought that Sita’s screams must have scared the fairy away.

We tried to search for more fairies behind the guava trees and the nearby shrubs, but could not find any. We stayed awake the whole night and talked among ourselves.  The moon finally tilted to the west and the rooster was up soon after. Disappointed having failed to spot a fairy, we retired to our beds but couldn’t manage much sleep . Day broke. Monakaka, meanwhile, was out in the courtyard and shouting: “Who tore the sari and left the powder packets behind the guava tree?”

Bordi immediately summoned us. She had her suspicions about what had happened, and expectedly so, because she understood us better than anybody else. Rangadi and Sejdi, started crying and spilled the beans.  We were let off with a mild warning because it was the early hours of Nôbobôrsho (the Bengali New Year). “Aar amonti korona (never do that again),” was all she said.

Tungeshwar in the 1940s
Nôbobôrsho was, and still is, one of the most auspicious occasions of the entire Bengali community. We rushed to the Khowai river along with the maids for a bath. We were already late. From there we went straight to the Basudev temple. It was colourfully decorated with flowers. The ashtadhatu (a combination of eight metals) Basudev idol and the gold statuette of goddess Lakshmi were kept on a brass throne, decorated with juhi and bakul flowers. The fragrance of these flowers purified the atmosphere. We attended the aarti and bhajan.

We returned home from the temple to dress in festive attire. Women and young girls wore beautiful red and white sarees with flowers tucked in their hair, and vermillion their forehead. Men wore white dhotis and kurta. Worshipping shakti (power) was a very popular tradition in our zamindari civil court, which had a collection of over 400 ancestral swords. These were brought out for worship on Nôbobôrsho. Young men indulged in stylised military dances, fencing, and other acrobatic stunts. Fruits, clothes and sweets were distributed after the puja.

Baba (father) returned home on Nôbobôrsho from his place of work. We sang the popular Rabindra Sangeet—Esho He Boisakh (welcome thee, oh summer)—and touched the feet of elders to seek their blessings. Bordi, Rangadi, and myself taking the lead. My soft-spoken and ever docile mother would then serve us sweets and pithas in separate brass plates with our individual names engraved on it. (To be concluded)

For the concluding part: Memoirs of Tungeshwar (Part II)

The writer is a freelance contributor. Comments personal

Monday, 27 July 2015

A Date with Himu

Aitrayee Sarkar shares her experience of witnessing eight performers paying homage to their dear writer Humayun Ahmed in Kolkata recently. 

It was a usual July rainy morning in Kolkata. A team of eight got together despite the inclement weather conditions at Abar Baithak, a popular city café, to read out excerpts from a novel of celebrated writer Humayun Ahmed. They were waiting for listeners with pumping hearts. The idea was to pay tribute to Humayun Ahmed in his third death anniversary this year. 

Humayun Ahmed
The novel they selected for reading was ‘Mayurakshi’ one of the most popular creations from Humayun’s ‘Himu’ series. ‘Himu’ is an fictional character enormously popular in the contemporary Bengali literature. Readers do find some similarities between ‘Himu’ and Sunil Gangopadhyay’s ‘Nillohit’. But I personally feel that they are somehow different in nature and approach. Humayun Ahmed himself could not figure out how many stories or novels he actually wrote on ‘Himu’. He once said, he wrote Himu stories whenever he was in pain or felt left alone. 

The eight Humayun-lovers wanted the listeners to relive the moments and space that Himu has offered his readers for years. It was indeed a gesture of love and affection for literature and especially for ‘Himu’, a character sometimes that goes beyond imagination.    
The event started with a small note on Humayun Ahmed and ‘Himu’ delivered by actor and performing artist Swaralipi Chatterjee who also played ‘Rupa’, the love interest of Himu. Actor Shoumo Banjerjee (Himu), Asim Debnath and photographer Chayanika Chakraborty, architect Amitava Chakraborty and Niharika Chakraborty played their due characters in the session. The organizers deserve a round of applause for managing to bring together so many professionals from different fields under one roof.  

The Performance

The session continued for an hour or so. The novel was edited for time constraints but I must say, the editing by Sumita Samanta was phenomenal. The choice of costume by actors was also appreciable. They selected ‘Holud Panjabi’ (Yellow kurta), a typical ‘Himu’ outfit, blue share for ‘Rupa’ (as imagined by Humayun himself) and white and other colors for rest of the actors. One thing that needs to be pointed out is absence of music in the act was quite unexpected. I think a single Tagore song or some other music piece would have made it more attractive.    

Overall it was an honest attempt. And nothing looked unreal in the whole event.  At the end of the program the shop owners announced that they would like to host similar literary sessions regularly and requested the listeners to come up with fresh ideas and suggestions.  

Humayun Ahmed was never been a person whose creation could be restricted by any kind of barrier. He is equally popular in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Now-a-days Benaglis from both side of the border often join hands to celebrate various events at national or international level. I hope one day will come when the two people would come together to pay tribute to writers like Humayun Ahmed too. That will be the best reward that these eight Benagalis can hope for. Don't forget they are the one who has finally set the trend by remembering Humayun Ahmed in their own merry way. 

The writer is an editor of WebPressClub

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Sujoy Ghosh Thriller Generates Controversy

Prabuddha Neogi sheds light on allegations that a recently released film by the Kahaani director has uncanny similarities with a Professor Shonku story.

Kolkata: Sujoy Ghosh’s short film Ahalya, which has already attracted nearly 30 lakh hits on video sharing site YouTube, has generated a fair bit of controversy. Many viewers have alleged that the thriller, starring thespian Soumitra Chatterjee, Radhika Apte and Tota Roy Chowdhury in major roles, has a striking similarity to a Satyajit Ray short story. A section of the audience, both in India and abroad, claimed to WebPressClub that the Bengali film is almost a knocking copy of Ray’s Professor Shonku O Aschorjo Putul (Professor Shonku and the Strange Doll).

Rimli Biswas, faculty of a leading south Kolkata college, said: “The film is likely to have been inspired from the Ray story. The similarity is just too close to ignore.”

In the story, Shonku travels to Sweden to receive a honourary degree. There, a man named Gregor Lindquist, invites the scientist to his home. Lindquist identifies himself as a doll maker and his amazingly lifelike creations impress Shonku. It’s only at the end of the story when Shonku realises that they are actually human beings transformed into dolls.

Former Cambridge University faculty Sreepriya Bhowmik, now settled in UK, said: “There’s no harm in taking inspiration from anywhere. But at least the source should have been acknowledged.”

Ghosh has reportedly denied the plagiarism allegations over social media. He said on Twitter that everyone is entitled to their observation. What is art, if it invokes no reaction, he questioned. But he didn’t reply to our emails in this regard. Ray’s filmmaker son Sandip, too, didn’t answer our calls.

Keep watching this space for further developments.

The writer is the chief editor of WebPressClub

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Gajendra Chauhan: Jahapana Tussi Great Ho

Aitrayee Sarkar writes about the most talked about controversy of the country in recent time. FTII and Gajendra Chauhan are face to face for months now.   

The nation never knew him so well before. India, a country with diverse colors of culture, does not want him to head its most prestigious film school. But Gajendra Chauhan is made of something else. He doesn’t want to listen to anyone—no matter how much respected film personality you are. 
Protests were carried out against Chauhan's appointment
Students of FTII have been protesting against Chauhan’s appointment for months now. The row has hit the institute so hard that normal functioning at the premier film school of India is nearly at the verge of complete breakdown. Political appointment in key administrative or institutional chairs is nothing new in India. But perhaps the country for the first time has been encountering a person like Chauhan, who is not ready to step down despite so much protest, agitation and humiliation. 
The national as well as regional media have been continuously speaking against Gajendra, who once played Yudhisthir, the eldest Pandava brother who is known for truthfulness and justice. After doing Yudhisthir he never did anything significant at all. It will be better, if we don’t discuss whatever he did following B.R Chopra’s Mahabharat.
Chauhan as Yudhistir in BR Chopra's Mahabharat
The names of the movies done by Chauhan are enough to indicate their quality. Let’s not forget he did ‘Jungle Love’, ‘Vasna’, ‘Jawani Janeman’, ‘Rupa Rani Ramkali’—some of the finest Indian films ever made! Isn’t it? So what if he didn’t do anything? So what if he did some low budget soft porn movies? After all he did the most important thing in life by joining politics in a country like India where now a days failed actors, thrown out cricket players and the babas and gurus roam around happily in the political arena. They consider politics is the safest way to fame, name and power. So what went wrong if Gajendra tried that? Look he of course has the right attitude to please our netas.

Film personalities from across the country have openly criticized Chauhan for sticking to the Chairman’s post of FTTI. People like Mrinal Sen, Soumitra Chattopadhyay, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Aparna Sen and Rishi Kapoor, Resul Pookutty and many more have advised him to step down. But Gajendra Chauhan is Gajendra Chauhan. He remained stubborn and parroted that he should get the opportunity to work  first and then be judged. 

I personally don’t understand what exactly people like Gajendra Chauhan has been expecting from the Indian film industry which has a rich history and a bright future ahead of it. Surprisingly, the popular government in Delhi is still not convinced with the fact that Chauhan is not fit to run FTII. They are even trying to find out some political or criminal angle in the ongoing student demonstration. Whoever, no matter if the names are as popular as Salman Khan or Ranbir Kapoor, is commenting against Chauhan’s appointment are considered as anti-government. It seems that we are fighting a false war of ego.
I am sure that sooner or later the Chauhan drama would fade out for the sake of cinema. But my fear is by then whether it would be too late!

The writer is an editor of WebPressClub

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Bandhan: A JU Anti-Ragging Initiative

Aitrayee Sarkar speaks about Bandhan, an anti-ragging campaign initiated by the Jadavpur University.   

Kolkata: Jadavpur University (JU) has launched a unique anti-ragging campaign, Bandhan, to make the campus a safer place for its students. Banners of Bandhan, prepared by using 13 different mudras, right ahead of this year’s Raksha Bandhan, have seemingly forged a harmonious atmosphere all around. The mudras are named after life, earth, soul, power, peace, freedom, sacrifice, knowledge, dream, strength, commitment, hope, happiness and universal truth.
Awareness campaigns against ragging are nothing new in JU but this time round it's different, largely because of the strategy and the response it has attracted. The launch of the campaign has been time with the beginning of the new session of the engineering and technology  departments.

Creative director of the campaign, Parag Sarkar, informed that the campaign has been planned in such a way that students do not even get to hear the word ‘ragging’ in the campus. It’s an attempt to spread positive vibes across the campus, said the former JU alumni. Current students, as part of the campaign,  would welcome freshers by tying rakhis on their hands on 27 July.  
The varsity authorities, faculty members and former students have welcomed the initiative and hoped that it would change the known image of JU in terms of ragging. They appreciated the way current students have accepted it and are preparing for welcoming their new companions with a warm heart.

The whole was turned into reality in two months. Besides Bandhan, opinion exchange programmes and lectures against ragging are organised in JU regularly now.
Those involved with the campaign hope that it would create a new history for JU as well the progressive world of education in Kolkata.
The writer is an editor of WebPressClub

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Asha Jaoar Majhe: Love the Way it is

Aitrayee Sarkar pens down the sentiments and lost taste of love that we all felt some point in time. A time when we loved and loved and only loved   

There was a time when we loved like birds. Sat and arranged the nest restlessly and flew away from each other when the hour arrives. Didn’t complain or blame at all. Its love that all we need, isn’t it? That’s the question that most of us asked ourselves after watching ‘Asa Jaoar Majhe, The Labour of Love. A pact Sunday evening theatre, all watching a Bengali movie, is itself is a treat for the eyes. I won’t go in to the technicalities of the film but cannot resist myself saying, the frames were like Japanese Haiku, interpreting simple yet significant scenes of desire.  

The couple in the movie actually encouraged me to recollect how in my childhood I watched a lady neighbor waiting hours at the door for her husband. But she never looked overjoyed when her husband arrives; it was always a restrained yet fulfilling expression. I still remember that she used to wait in the same manner even years after her husband’s death. People started teasing her, but she remained unperturbed. It seemed that she waited waited and waited, knowing fully well that her companion had went on a never-ending voyage. The sounds and scenes used to pass by as wind passes away.
Asa Jaoar Majhe is perhaps the best film in last five years that has used the usual sounds of north Kolkata or Uttar Kolkata in their right mood. I am not the right person to talk about sound designing but a layman like me, too, cannot forget how calls of ‘feriwalas’ were used in the movie. How those fade in and fade out.  

Selection of Ritwick Chakraborty for the lead-cast is a master-stoke by debutant director, Aditya Vikram Sengupta. Ritwick has such an unassuming appearance that he can be casted for anything you want—starting from a factory labour to a high society educated young man. There is no presumption at all in his body language. Basabdutta Chatterjee, the leading lady, is also extraordinarily simple. It seemed that both the actors were meant for the role.  

Getting back to cinema and poetry, I must say that I found some pleasant impact of classical Japanese school of film making in the movie. I am strong believer that Italian and Japanese film makers were the best exponent of poetry in cinema. But moved by the way the same imprint I discovered in the Labour of Love.

Hopefully, the debutant director would not lose the x-factor in his future projects. I just pray he remains a lover of silence, rather than a part of the cacophony.  
The writer is an editor of WebPressClub

Monday, 20 July 2015

Gay Marriage Legalisation vs Protection of ‘Black’

Aditi Basuroy writes from the US about gay marriage legalisation, which comes at a time when blacks are regularly being gunned down indiscriminately

At the very outset, I must disclose the fact that I support same-sex marriage. An educated and aware individual should have no complaint when two adults tie the knot and consummate their wedding. But the question is whether the time was proper to pass a bill in this regard when the US has far more serious issues that demand attention. Well, not exactly, and that can be stated without hesitation. 

US President Barack Obama’s assumption of office on 20 January 2009, was followed by several incidents of mass killings. Most of these incidents involved racism, a perpetual struggle which the US continues to battle to this date. While readers may disagree, I have faced a fair share of racism myself in all the years that I have been staying in this country. The US authorities have failed to answer, why most of the homeless and beggars in the country are black. Well, there are whites as well, but they are negligible in numbers. And this is not unique to the US but common in most of the white-dominated countries of the world. 

The issue has its roots in history. Whites always dominated the blacks and though oppression by the former is much less today, an undercurrent can still be noticed behind the veil of civilisation in most developed countries. Ever since Obama took over the Oval Office, at least a dozen mass killings took place in the country. The Charleston church shooting is still fresh in our minds. While Obama often screams against such incidents, much needs to be done to put an end to them. The first mass killing, after he assumed office, took place on 10 March 2009 at Kinston, Samson and Geneva. Six persons were gunned down in the incident. Similar tragedies followed in Binghamton, Carthage, Seal Beach, Isla Vista, Tucson, Hialeah, Carson City and elsewhere. School massacres, workplace crimes and other hate-killings are not included in the list. 

The latest in the series took place on 18 June, when a white man guided by his hatred for blacks, opened fire in a church at Charleston in South Carolina. The accused, Dylann Roof, is likely to have sat with the Bible study group in the church run by the black community. The high death toll triggered a global outburst and protesters demanded tough laws to prevent a recurrence. 

People in the US, for decades, always took to the streets to protest indiscriminate killing of innocents. Protestors brought out a major rally in New York last year after public anger over such killings spread to other states across the country.  All they demanded was an iron hand of the law to resolve such incidents. But the US government, surprisingly, sidelined the issue and went ahead to legalise same-sex marriage, a minor matter compared to the number of lives lost to gun totting psychopaths in the country. Yes, same-sex marriage was bothering a particular section of the people, but it surely never warranted greater attention than the most burning problem in the country. The Obama government has not taken any action to eradicate racism which seemingly influences the rights to live and die.

Then US authorities have so far failed to answer, why the Supreme Court was more concerned with legalising same-sex marriage, and not bothered to pass orders to ensure a safe life to the millions of people? The killings also included whites and they were not part of any collateral damage. 

People in the US believe that they have no surety to return home once they venture out. They fear for their children, parents, neighbours and relatives. Legalising same-sex marriage should have waited when securing the lives of the citizens is a far more pressing issue. Obama, supposedly the most popular and rational US President ever, seems to be no better than his predecessors.  
The writer is a journalist. Comments personal

Sunday, 19 July 2015

If I Am Showing My Bra, Then What's Wrong With That?

Jayanta Biswas penning down his views on the controversial bra strap showing issue. Here is a modern progressive Bengali looking at the matter with required sensitivity

Riya is walking on the road. The sight of a bra strap or lace is peeking out of a blouse. She is comfortable with her bra showing, which is totally fine according to her. It’s a personal preference lady! A village girl is staring at her in wonder. She is whispering to her mother’s ear. Her mother says “don’t look at her.” Riya says “it’s a bra, it’s not hurting  anyone. Because I don’t think it’s a big deal. Bralettes and bras that you are loving  to show off. Go for it! This is a fashion trend,  just like sneakers and pants. I don’t know why people get so offended by visible bras. I think a lace bra under a sheer shirt is a really pretty and delicate look. Guys  what’s the big deal? I’ve been seeing the cutest lace bras with intricate back-design specifically for backless tops so you can show them off. I am sure some women aren’t comfortable with their bra showing, which is absolutely fine according to me.”  
Do you feel insecure if your bra is showing? Carry it. Make it a fashion statement. It’s not like that you; the women are not wearing a bra! Bra is just a piece of clothing. So it is ok if it shows. Now, in New York bra is a widely accepted fashion statement. If one is showing her bra, then what wrong with that? Would you question her morality! It is middle class mentality. Bra is a one kind of garment. Please accept it with pleasure. If you are not being able to accept then go to hell.

It is not odd-looking at all. It is fine if bra straps are visible. Bra straps should not be hidden secretly. Why are people get so displeased seeing someone’s bra straps? Almost every woman wears bra for support and lift it gives their chest. Most women wear it, and it is fact and most men are quite familiar with bras. So what wrong with it? 
Riya says “I’m not very shy when it comes on showcasing undergarments like bras. I’m least bothered about with it. My bra is a part of my wardrobe, after all I often like to wear bra for comfort and give right support to my chests.”
Some people like to pretend that they don’t know what a bra is when they see it in real life, regular situations. “Yes, I’m wearing a bra. Yes, it’s slightly visible through my sheer shirt and behind my thin tank top straps. No, that does not give you permission to point it out and create a scene.” Riya says.
And if you’re so offended by it, just stop looking at it. Because women are not wearing bras for anyone but themselves.
It is fact that bras are very common in today’s day and age. In fact, a woman who doesn’t wear a bra is arguably more uncommon than others. Woman definitely would never say it needs to be left in the bedroom.
Bras are providing necessary comfort and support which a women needs to stay focus on her daily routine. Otherwise, women would just be distracted all day by their chest area, and no one wants that. So these bra straps are a part of life. If it shows then be them seen? 

 The writer is a poet. Also reviews books 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Peeping Behind the Curtains

Aitrayee Sarkar lays her hands on scribe Amitava Chowdhury’s dare-all accounts, that once brought to light the dark underbelly of the agent-politician-bureaucrat-businessman nexus

The name ‘Shree Nirapekshya’ is enough to take you to a journey down memory lane through the West Bengal of 1950s and ’60s. In June 1956, veteran journalist Amitava Chowdhury started writing a column titled Nepathyadarshan (an insight into the background) in the now defunct Jugantar daily. The column, over time, become a space to challenge misrule, corruption and injustice. Shree Nirapekshya’s views gradually seeped into the daily life of the commoner and created an alternative discourse of political and administrative history of the state. People eagerly waited for his sensational revelations. The scribe never disappointed his readers.

Parul Prakashani, a major Kolkata-based publisher, compiled the decades-old popular columns in a hardbound titled Nepathyadarshan. The book is a testimony of time—a time that most of us either never witnessed or forgot. It is a conversation with history, an intricate and a truly global one at that. 

Chowdhury is considered as one of the pioneers of investigative journalism in India. He was awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay prize in 1961. Chowdhury began his career with Jugantar and later served Anandabazar Patrika and Aajkal. 

The title Nepathyadarshan, was suggested by Vivekananda Mukhopadhyay, the then editor of Jugantar. Chowdhury was given a free hand by Mukhopadhyay to write and reveal. Chowdhuy in true journalistic virtue, in the book’s preface, clarifies that his intention was to use the weekly column to make people aware. He enjoyed the way he connected directly with the masses through this writing. 

In a country like India where people have largely resigned themselves to corruption, Chowdhury decided to unmask the real face of the administration and top politicians. He brought to light colossal scams. Their exposure, when published, created major sensations. The book consists of 30 articles that are powerful enough to stir the reader out of slumber even after so many years. Some of the major stories included in the book are Damodarer Avishap, Bureau na Buhya?, Teler Rajniti, Bhasa Commission, Rahugrasta Bangladesh and others. 

Each story is detailed. Chowdhury makes the once-sensational issues relevant to today’s readers. You are never burdened with facts and numbers, courtesy his engaging style of writing. He also lends an idea on how the language of news reporting has changed over time. But the narrative design of Chowdhury’s column is the most striking, which he successfully retains while writing about even the most serious matter. That perhaps is the magic of Shree Nirapekshya’s writing.

It is often said that journalistic writing is worth only for a day. Scribes like Chowdhury have not only proved that wrong but also etched a name for themselves by practicing true and objective journalism. Indian media, thankfully, is blessed to have journalists like Chowdhury, Akshay Singh, and their ilk, who are ready to live on the edge for the sake of truth. 

It seems that Chowdhury’s career ethics have not become entirely irrelevant. 


Shree Nirapekshaya 
Parul Prakashani 
The writer is an of editor of WebPressClub

The Urban Wordsmith in His Times

Aitrayee Sarkar writes about the second album released by the Travelling Archive Record’s on poet Shakti Chattaopadhyay—Shomoyer Shobde Shakti Chattopadhyay.

It all began with a random collection of songs from streets. But later like all the cherished habits it became a passion. The passion for the unknown, the passion for music.

Celebrated singer Mousumi Bhowmik alone started to collect songs from various places, figuring out an instant connection with music on a whole. She, initially, collected songs from Bangladesh and soon her Kolkata residence piled up with cassettes. Her interest in travelling through the heart of folk music reached an extraordinary cross-road when Mousumi took up the challenge of preparing a travelling archive. Audiographer Sukanta Majumder joined her. And that marked the beginning of the Travelling Archive Records.

The duo has been delivering the history, demography and fascinating socio-cultural aspects of unknown sounds to our ears since then. Their extensive research work behind each music album released by the Travelling Archive Records is absorbing.

The Travelling Archive Records so far has released two albums—‘Chandrabati Roy Burman and Sushama Das’ and ‘Shomoyer Shobde Shakti Chattopadhyay’. Few more are also lined up in 2015-16.

Shakti Chattopadhyay needs no introduction. A poet, a maestro, a timeless man with extraordinary talent. The album ‘Shomoyer Shobde Shakti Chattopadhyay’ was released in November, 2014 and won hearts of thousands of listeners. It’s a compilation of poetries read by Shakti Chattopadhyay and songs sung by him and other sounds and noises around the poet. All are old recording, restored and woven together to take you to a different level all together. It’s a journey where you surely rediscover the poet and Shakti Chattaopadhyay as a creator. The album consists of 19 tracks. Tagore songs in Shakti’s unforgettable voice are of course my personal best. But who can forget Shakti reciting ‘Se Boro Sukher Shomoy Noy’ in his indomitable voice!   

The designing of the album calls for a real applause. It’s a combination of the silence that lies within a poet’s heart and the vision that leads us towards letters- sound- music. Thanks to personalities like Utpal Kumar Basu, Joy Goswami and Alok Ranjan Dasgupta, Minakshi Chattopadhyay etc the album takes the listener to a surrealistic voyage.  

No doubt that it was a daunting task. But with the ease Mousumi and Sukanta delivered it is astonishing.     

People often complain that today’s musicians, especially in West Bengal, confined themselves in an artificial barrier that never allows them to breathe free outside their known territory. But as history suggests the trend used to be completely opposite in Bengal. I hope musicians like Mousumi with her Travelling Archive Records would able to turn the waves, as she has already did with her songs.

Continuous experiment and innovation that we all need to bring back our musical glory from the past—echoing yet silent all the way.

Shomoyer Shobde Shakti Chattopadhyay
(Shakti Chattopadhyay in His Time)
Travelling Archive Records
Rs. 350