Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mark Tully's, The Heart of India...

A couple of days back, the news of Chander Mohan, son of Haryana's seasoned politician Bhajan Lal getting himself converted to Islam, with a new name Chand Mohammed was the talk of the town. The conversion was apparently not because of Chander Mohan's strong faith but for getting married for the second time to his lady love, lawyer and former Assistant Advocate General, Anuradha Bali, who also got converted to Islam, to be reborn as Fiza.

Don't you feel that this incident had all the ingredients of a Bollywood potboiler and even beyond?

Also a couple of weeks back, while reading the newspaper, I learnt about a spine-chilling incident, in which a mother, wanting to fulfill her religious vow, dipped her three-month-old baby three times into a boiling rice pot in Jumalapur village in Bijapur district. It does sound scary, something like the ripley-believe-it-or-not kind of act.

But why am I talking all these, when incidents such as these and many more occur in abundance in India day in day out. We are sort of used to it. Few of these find coverage in the media and few do not depending on the location of the events and also on the accessibility and penetration factor for media coverage. But incidents such as these are a part and parcel of life in this colorful nation and that’s exactly what Mark Tully, has covered in his book, 'The Heart of India'. I completed reading the book which is full of color, noise and scent, akin to desi lifestyle.

Mark Tully needs no introduction, for he is well known for covering many major incidents in South Asia during his tenure as a reporter. What sets him apart from other reporters is his deep involvement in the tinges of this land, his genuine love and in-depth, innate understanding of India's psyche. 'The Heart of India' is a not a coffee book of Indian hinterland but rather it delves sensitively into the nuances and shades of everyday life in villages of the northeast states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The author writes in the preface part of the book that he chose this region of India because it has remained largely unaltered from ancient times and also for the fact that, Hindi is widely spoken in that belt and he is quite comfortable with the language. Time and tides have come and gone, but this region has not changed much.

Tully has also mentioned that most of the chronicles, are true but he has tampered those a bit here and there to add an element of imagination and fiction. The stories revolve around the social requirements of childbearing and how a barren lady conceives after a visit to a holy man, the false superbia that is attached to the Indian caste system and the toxic syrup that is drunk in regular dosages to keep the engine of administration moving both at the local bodies and the state level, corruption. The writing is soaking because, Tully doesn't swim at the surface level, rather he dives into the ground level writing with great detail about the degrees of gossip, ghar ghar ki kahani and the lack of privacy in village life. In one of the tales, he tells about the erosion of the old rural India, by the careless rush towards modernization through the lens of an old Muslim ikkab-puller who owns a dilapidated horse-carriage, a vehicle which has turned unserviceable in an age of auto-rickshaws. In another, he narrates the story of Madhu, who leaves her village to do a B.Ed degree at the famous BHU, becomes an active participant in college politics, falls in love and then life takes a never anticipated turn as her romance ends in blackmail. A tale of reality check, of a life hedged with numerous limitations. He also examines how the people have tagged many things in the name of religion, while they are in a state of disarray or confusion when it comes to differentiating between ritual and reality. Tully's unhesitating assumption of his characters illustrates life as it is, in a heartfelt manner. It's not like he wishes to show the good side and cover up the not-so-good side. The stories don't paint an idyllic picture.

The book gives the feeling of a letter written by someone while traveling in a 2nd class sleeper compartment of Indian railways, drinking chai with the sight of Indian hinterland dancing in a graceful and rhythmical way in the window frames. I also felt that, Tully has listed in a subtle way the obstacles that India has to overcome in its march towards attaining the status of economic powerhouse.

This book may not be one of the finest of Tully's creations (my perception though), but definitely it gives a vivid and true portraiture of village life. It also educates those, who grew up in cities within India and outside, and are a bit cut off from the ground realities about India's complex social, cultural and political matrix that persist even after we have undergone a dramatic change from a third world country to under developed nation to a developing economy.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

V-Day Wishes...


Wishing you all a Happy V-Day.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Celebrating Love Writing Contest...

This is the time of the year, when love is in the air. Ooops, now I would be under the radar of the various groups who have taken upon themselves the burden of upholding Indian 'tradition' and 'cultural values', for the starting statement of the post or am I safe?

Fine let us get to the main point and like the fringe elements, not waste our time, creating issues out of non-issues. I also feel that participating in this fun-filled event won't even attract an iota of disgrace or generate a feeling of shame, which few young ladies in Mangalore faced. The young ladies suffered the ignominy of being beaten, trashed, and molested by a band of preservers of Indian values, for the crime they committed of visiting a pub.

Since what I am going to tell you involves fiddling with your writing implements, scrambling words, so I guess both you and me are safe.

Post liberalization in 1990's, along with the economic revolution that was witnessed in India, gave birth to class of neo-rich, a clan that traveled to foreign lands with greater frequency for better opportunities in all spheres of life and business assignments. Did this tribe, import the culture of fancy dinners, exchange of greetings cards, offering gifts, etc to mark the romantic moments in one's life? Is V-Day another decadent influence of the West, because our parents and grand parents never celebrated this day? We all know that our parents cared for each other and so did our grand parents, but they didn't earmark a separate day to express their love and caring. Was our society conservative then and now it is more open and broad-minded and hence this transformation. Is it as simple as this or a bucketful of linkages have to be coupled to provide some convincing views?

See, slowly the momentum is gathering. So all you have to do is use your fresh and vibrant words to express your views, of course not just on what I broached about above, but on any topic celebrating love in all its shades. Desicritics is conducting a Valentine's Day Contest - Celebrating Love writing contest. Anyone and everyone can participate in this contest, with a simple condition that all the posts should be about or relate to love in its many forms. More details here.

You don't have to be a Robert Grant or a Heidelberg or a Shakespeare to participate, just spin your thoughts, sew your words deftly and weave your own story or sonnet. Also your write-up can be sentimental or funny, fiction or a true story, a memoir or a photo-essay - the choice is completely yours. For instance, Deepti goes down the memory lane when she was in her early teens to tell the Love Remembered between her grandpa and grandma.
Romance and Love cause all of us to get teary eyed. Some stories have tragic endings and some make us wish that we would also experience the highs of love.
Just scribble, you know why? Because, simple words make the maximum impact.

Hasratien dil me dabane se kya haasil hoga
Apne hoth hila kar to dekho
Khamoshi se kab hoti hai khwahishein poori
Dil ki baat bata kar to dekho
Jo hai dil mei use kar do bayaan
Khud ko ek baar jata kar to dekho

I intentionally didn't do the translation because it kills the flavor and piquancy of the message.

'Yes you can', says RC. 'It's simple. Just pick up your pen and .....'


Keep reading and remain connected.

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