Saturday, May 24, 2008

As days go by ...

I managed to watch a very good bengali play titled 'Daibaddha' at Ranga Shankara yesterday; which was accompanied by some very good acting by members of the theatre group 'Sayak' from Kolkata. It was an intense experience with a not very complex, but emotionally charged story that chips away at the rigid dimensions of the society that we live in today. More here: Daibaddha - SYNOPSIS

Lately I have been losing interest in reading; which has been my favourite pastime. Having started reading several books I seem to be lacking both the energy and the interest to plough through them at this juncture – not sure if there is something like a reader's block akin to writer's block (which is also something I feel I am in the grips of ) – or perhaps 'book fatigue' – which apparently has set in for a while now. Among the ones in the 'Currently Reading List' for more than a few months now, none of which I have completed yet, are: 'The Tin Drum' by Gunter Grass, 'The Name of the Rose' by Umberto Eco, 'Love In the Time of Cholera' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 'The Golden Gate' by Vikram Seth and 'Freakonomics' by Steven Levitt (this has been a rather enjoyable read till now and the only one I am still actively pursuing). I shall guess that this disinterest is a weird temporary phase and will evaporate as time passes by.

Friday, May 23, 2008

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Friday, May 16, 2008

A Short Story.

The Exponential Wish Granting Ring

“One ring for the absolute luckiest one, once worn shall it not be taken off” – Ancient wisdom.

Her father would often lament, “Those days are gone. Back then values counted more than wealth, nature was a constant companion and the human touch was visible everywhere”. She didn’t know what was so great about all those good old days that her father, a government servant kept talking of. Their culture was different, our culture emphasizes the frugality of everything – non-possession, renunciation, poverty and charity as the true virtues, was a constant lesson she had grown up to. However, as if just the opposite she’d picked up an almost constant whim of wanting to possess – just as her well off friends did. Possess this and that, a new toy when a child, a new shoe, that gorgeous handbag when she grew older and now newer toys like the brand new gadget and then that lavish new car. Not that she was always denied, once in a while she’d get what she wanted and now she had started earning after getting a job, and the future would only get rosier. Most recent economic surveys talked of a rising middle class in India that had the ability to possess, to make things happen – truly achieve, bend rules or flatter – by hook or by crook, to get ahead was everything, Everything!

She was new to this city, away from her parents on account of the job and living alone in a rented space. One night as she sat on a chair in the balcony staring at the distant constellations, identifying a couple of them she heard a sound, a sharp clink. Looking around she found something glowing on the floor, beside her bare feet. She bent forward and picked up a ring, exquisitely inset was a precious stone like she had never seen before and strangely it changed colours, just like the stars. Gingerly she wore the ring and as soon as she had done so, she felt intense pleasure. Very upbeat, she suddenly wished she had a boxful of jewelry like what her friend had worn on her marriage, and lo - there in front of her on the table appeared a box, overflowing with jewelry. Then she wished for an iPod and then a laptop, and then another thing, then another and then something else and all these were granted to her. She felt great joy at being the possessor of this luck-enhancing wish ring, capable of swift material grants. She had to just wish and she’s have it – no material possession was out of reach now. She wished for a car and it came in the form of a lucky draw and others came by other means. Soon her room was too small for all that she possessed and she feared that her possessions would be stolen, so she started hiding some, keeping them away from her and some she started giving away to friends and others as welcome gifts.

By the end of the first month, if she wished for one thing she’d get two of the same; by the end of the second month she’d get four. Then this number kept exponentially going up. By the end of the year she was so suffocated, completely overwhelmed with the volume of her material possessions that she started fearing even wishing about possessing – sometimes getting nightmares and finally made up her mind on throwing away the ring. But once worn the ring could not be taken off – it had melded with the bones of her finger. A manic paranoia set in, along with an aversion for all possessions and she had to get her finger operated upon to get the ring off. As if preprogrammed, the ring disappeared as soon as it was removed from her finger.

By the way would you want to wear that ring?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ritwik Ghatak's 'Meghe Dhaka Tara'

If the movies of Satyajit Ray recreate reality, and portray life's grief brilliantly without a hint of melodrama – those of the idiosyncratic Ritwik Ghatak are filled with vibrant melodrama, disillusionment, trauma and sorrow of everyday life that would squeeze your heart dry and yet, it is as if you wait for that elixir becoming available to the protagonist, that hint of hope present like the shadow, everywhere. You feel the recurring tragedy (most of Ghatak's films have heavy doses of the tragic, or have a strong hint of the same) and wait eagerly for it to melt as if hoping for some light at the end of the tunnel – not exactly in the way good destroys evil in the contemporary fare of movies but more like the myth of the phoenix – the self-effacing protagonist facing and undergoing even enjoying the pain and somehow reviving from it all. Not that any of his movies directly end with a light at the end of the tunnel, but they leave chinks of hope in the patina of absolute darkness as waves of tragedy often with dashes of comedy, literally destroys that very hope. The intellectual force with which the story moves and the sensory and musical movement though sharp and jarring sounds as well as melodious classical music are riveting as well. Today I watched 'Meghe Dhaka Tara' (The Cloud Capped Star, 1960) on DD Bangla, a Ghatak masterpiece in its own right.

Meghe dhaka tara image 1

Starting with the image of a big Banyan tree - one well capable of providing shade to a multitude under it; it as if serves as an allegory for the generosity of heart of the protagonist, Neeta (Supriya Choudhury); it goes on to depict with excruciating detail the pain and loss in her life - one within a displaced, poverty-struck middle class family – perhaps with an eye on the partition aspect. She is the one who fends for the whole family and is studying too. Her elder brother Shankar is a singer who is always practicing and hopes to one day become a famous classical singer/musician (Anil Chatterjee does justice to the role). Her younger brother is an upcoming footballer and her younger sister is a not-so-good student. She is in love with a person Sanat who is himself doing his higher studies. They all and this includes her parents (the underemployed but supportive father and the tongue-lashing, scathing mother) depend on her for their livelihood. As the story develops incidents and circumstances force her to leave her studies and work full time. She postpones her marriage with Sanat, so her brother can get successful. However in the meantime; Sanat is captured by the beauty of her sister Geeta and actually gets married to her. Later due to the stress of work she starts to suffer from chronic fever and illness.

Meghe dhaka tara image 3

In one scene she later repents that she should not have been so simple a girl, and should have stood up for herself, instead of being mum and bearing all the pain. The ending scene leaves you feeling pathetic when Neeta now in a sanatorium recovering from Tuberculosis in the hills of Shillong breaks down and cries out to her brother Shankar; by the end of the movie a successful and famous singer; that she 'wanted to live', always wanted to live and that she does not want to die now and the cry 'I want to live' is amplified and reverberates in the peaks and rocks of the surrounding hills. Truly evocative of the painfully selfless destiny and bleakness that befall some people's lives and yet as I said the movie has an alluring and intellectually stimulating nature; like all good movies do.

Meghe dhaka tara image 2

A 5/5 – truly superb cinema and great performances from everyone. Here's Part 1 of the movie from YouTube.

(Photos Courtesy:

Some reviews:

Sunday, May 04, 2008

An Update:

Here's an update: Made it into the PGSEM programme @ IIM Bangalore. Got the offer letter on 1st May (Labour Day). From the IIMB website:

The Post-Graduate Program in Software Enterprise Management leading to a Post-Graduate Diploma in Software Enterprise Management is an executive general management education program designed for the specific needs of professionals working in the software and information technology industry in India The PGSEM endeavors to provide the most current executive general management education to middle and senior professionals of the software and information technology industry who seek to pursue a career in management. The program aims to transform professionals with strong technical knowledge to business leaders with equally strong management knowledge and a global perspective. IIMB is proud to have partnered the Indian software and information technology industry on its journey to becoming a dominant force in the global market.

Several distinctive features of the program are designed to meet the special needs of the participants of this program, while maintaining the credit requirements and rigor of the regular program. The program has been designed such that a participant can graduate with the diploma at the end of two and a half academic years, while continuing to work at his/her regular place of employment. Each academic year is subdivided into four quarters of eleven weeks each. The regular course load in a quarter is three courses of three credits each. Each three-credit course consists of 30 hours of classroom contact. Participants normally have 9 hours of classroom contact per week, with classes scheduled on Friday mornings and Saturdays.