Monday, July 16, 2012

Banpalashir Padabali by Ramapada Chaudhuri

Ramapada Chaudhuri is fondly called Ramapada Jethu by us and Rama-da by our parents. Our families share a long stretch of memories, many of which are documented in my father's autobiography.

Ramapada Chaudhuri is the author of more than 100 short stories and about 50 novels. He has received a number of literary awards and honors. Some of them are –The Rabindra Puroskar of the West Bengal Govt, Sahitya Academi Award, Jagattarini Gold Medal of the University of Calcutta , and the honor for the highest literary achievement , the D.Litt,Honoris Causa from the University of Burdwan .

From 2011, IIPM has introduced an award in the name of Rabindranath Tagore to mark his 150th birth anniversary. For writing in the mother tongue of Tagore, the first of this award went to Ramapada Chaudhuri for his classic novel — Banpalashir Padabali.

Banpalashir Padabali is a stunningly vibrant and intensely human work that serves to reaffirm his reputation as a master story-teller in the Bengali language.

Read the whole post on the novel over at Surajit Dasgupta's blog>>

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hariprobha Takeda and the Azad Hind Fauz

The Statesman featured an article on my aunt,  Hariprobha Takeda and her contribution to the Azad Hind Fauj, on May 6, 2012. An excerpt.

This “exceptional” story of Hariprobha Basu Mallik, the first woman from the Indian subcontinent to write a book in Bengali on Japan in 1915, whose life has been recreated on the celluloid by veteran Bangladeshi director Tanvir Mokammel in his latest documentary “Japani Bodhu” (The Japanese Wife) that is scheduled to premiere in India in June. After her marriage to Takeda, who had set up a soap- making factory in Dhaka, Hariprobha Basu Mallik became Hariprobha Takeda and travelled to Tokyo in 1912. Born in 1890, Hariprobha would have remained unsung and largely forgotten but for her “Bangamahilar Japan Jatra” (The Journey of a Bengali Woman to Japan), a memoir of her journey to Japan in 1912, the first book on that country by any woman from Indian subcontinent, said Mokammel adding the book was first published from Dhaka in 1915.

When Hariprobha went to Japan with her husband in 1912, it was an opportunity for her to not only meet her in-laws but also see the Japanese socio-cultural life. She wrote a memoir, a kind of travelogue about the then Japan which, as portrayed in Hariprobha's book, is a different country altogether hundred years back, said Mokammel.

Read the whole story at The Statesman.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bongo-Mohilar Japan Jatra: Hariprobha Takeda

Bongo-Mohilar Japan Jatra (1912)

A documentary film on my aunt, Hariprobha Takeda, a remarkable woman who was far ahead of her times, made by a Bangladeshi filmmaker, Tanvir Mokammel (The River Named Modhumati, Lalon, Quiet Flows The River Chitra, Lalsalu, etc.) premieres in Dhaka next month. Here is a news item from The Daily Star.

From a nondescript woman in Dhaka to Tokyo, where she read news in Bangla on radio for Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's Azad Hind Fauj, travelling in the dead of night every day risking her life through bomb-ravaged streets of Tokyo during the Second World War.

That is the exceptional story of Hariprobha Basu Mallik, who married a Japanese entrepreneur Wemon Takeda, and travelled to Tokyo in 1912, and whose life has been recreated on the celluloid by eminent Bangladeshi director Tanvir Mokammel in his latest documentary, “Japani Bodhu” (The Japanese Wife) set to be premiered in Dhaka next month.

Born in 1890, Hariprobha would have remained a largely forgotten figure but for her “Bongo Mohilar Japan Jatra”, a memoir of her journey to Japan in 1912, considered the first book on that country by any woman from the subcontinent. The book was first published from Dhaka in 1915, Mokammel told The Daily Star.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bharatborsho O Islam

This is my major work on Hindu Muslim Relations in Modern India, along with my later work Bharatiya Musalamanadera Samkata

If you would like to know more about my work in this field, or if you would like to obtain a copy of this book, you can email me by clicking here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Mainstream Versus The Maoist-Stream

In 1970s, when I used to make short films, I visited several tribal villages and found that many tribal people felt that the dawning of modern civilizations over their forests and hills was actually invasion over their age old way of life and destroying their own culture. The expansion of mainstream was considered as the conquest of civilization. I also found out that another section of tribal people did welcome the new ways of life.

Recently I went to a tribal village near Ranchi. Though, they considered themselves as Hindus, but they do not have any gotra identity, i.e. they do not have any lineage from sages like Vashishta, Shandilya, etc. They called themselves Nagbangshi. They do not worship any Hindu gods or goddesses and instead they worship a tree called Kharua. Yet, they take pride in calling themselves as Hindus. They are in favor of development. When I asked them, as a result of progression or development, TV sets will enter into their homes and propagation of fairness creams, soaps, etc. will reach to them, then they asked me, ‘what is the harm in becoming fairer?’

I found the tribal world sharply divided. One section respects their traditional culture and this section wants to protect their original way of living and culture and for this protection, they support Maoists and Nakshals regardless of any political implications, while others are eager to modern ways of living and ready to pay a price for that.

For an unbiased overview of what maoism is all about, do check out this comprehensive post by Vyankatesh.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Introducing Banpalashir Padabali and its author -- Sri Ramapada Chaudhuri

From this year IIPM has introduced an award in the name of Rabindranath Tagore to mark his 150th birth anniversary. For writing in the mother tongue of Tagore, this award goes to Sri Ramapada Chaudhuri for his classic novel—Banpalashir Padabali.

Ramapada Chaudhuri is the author of more than 100 short stories and about 50 novels . He has received a number of literary awards and honours. Some of them are –The Rabindra Puroskar of the West Bengal Govt, Sahitya Academi Award, Jagattarini Gold Medal of the University of Calcutta , and the honour for the highest literary achievement , the D.Litt,Honoris Causa from the University of Burdwan .

But to date, many readers of literature, especially those who are not familiar with the Bengali language and its literature, have not yet read this novel, though his short stories have been translated into English and have found a wider readership. One of his novels too has been translated into English.

Banpalashir Padabali is a stunningly vibrant and intensely human work that serves to reaffirm his reputation as a master story-teller in the Bengali language.

In the very first decade after the Independence of India, the old way of life and society began to show cracks and began to yield to the new order, and it is this breakdown of the old order and the rise of a new order that forms the backdrop of the story of a typical village in Bengal. The writer has put the story within a time frame. It starts with the return of Girijaprasad- a son of the soil, who had been serving as the headmaster of a school in the town of Deoghar. After retirement he came back to the village with his wife, younger son and two daughters in the hope of finding shelter and solace in his roots. But after coming back, he realizes through his daily interactions and petty clashes that there is a gap between him and the villagers, even with his younger brother and childhood friends. His financial, cultural and social status has created a distance which cannot be bridged and it becomes very difficult for him to continue living in the village any more. He realizes that he and his family had imperceptibly become misfits . So even before spending the second Durga Puja he leaves the village with a heavy heart to live with his elder son who had been doing well in the railway services and residing in a railway colony.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ramlila And Thereafter

This is the English article that I wrote for a leading Telugu daily.  Do let me know your feedback in the comments.


On June 5 , in the wee hours of Sunday morning ,the drama that was enacted in Ramlila Maidan , reminded me of Rabindranath Tagore’s agony about  the  religiousmindedness  of our nation when in 1926 he had raised the question of its nature. He had gone even a step further by commenting that a non-believer was better than a believer in religion . One of the characteristics of our nation is to drag religion into every field , be it economics or politics. We are in the habit of shuttling from religion to politics and from politics to religion . History records many such instances. It is indeed difficult to fathom why and how Aurobindo Ghosh would transform from being a guru of armed revolution to Rishi Aurobindo of Pondicherry and how and why swami Vivekananda’s disciple Sister Nivedita would transform from being a nun into becoming an inspiration to the followers of armed revolution and helped them actively.

Being aware of our preoccupation with religion , Gandhiji declared that India should be a secular state  as Independence had come at the price of Partition on the basis of religion. While engaged in restoring peace in the riot-ridden areas of East Bengal, on 22nd February 1947 Gandhiji said in his prayer meeting that there can not be a state- religion .Religion, he said , is absolutely a personal matter. He forcefully asserted that the state and religion are two separate domains and should be kept absolutely separate . He asserted , ‘the state should undoubtedly be secular…everyone living in it should be entitled to profess his religion without let or hindrance , so long as a citizen obeyed the common law of the land.”(Harijan,24th August 1947) But he did not have the time to elaborate on the nature of a secular state as he was assassinated before he could, in the name of religion. No one , not even Pandit Nehru  had ever used the word “secular” or “secularism” in their political sense. In the long history of the freedom struggle of India. For the Indians it was almost a new word.

From the same news report of Harijan it becomes apparent that Gandhiji came to know of this word, secularism in its political sense from Reverend John Kellas –the principal of Scottish Church College, Calcutta. George Jacob Holyoake was the first person to use this word as a political nomenclature in 1854 in his booklet entitled Secularism, the political philosophy of the people. It was later put into practice by Charles Bradlaugh in the British Parliament. But it is doubtful whether Gandhiji knew of Holyoake in February 1947. Perhaps he had derived this wisdom independently from his own experience and reflections. However the word “secular” was incorporated in the Indian constitution as late as 1976 but one wonders whether in these 36 years we have understood the real significance of the word.

In the 90s of the last century when Manohar Joshi was campaigning for election in the name of Hindutva a case was lodged in the Bombay high court. The verdict of this case (Nitin Bhaorao Patil vs . Manohar Joshi) was to declare the election result of Manohar Joshi as null and void. But the Supreme court reversed the verdict of Bombay high Court stating that Hindutva and the Hindu religion were not one and the same and asserted that Hindutva is a culture and not a religion . The supreme court however did not clarify the culture of Hindutva . Because of this it is difficult to define Hindutva. After all what is meant by Hindutva culture? What are its salient features ? What are its characteristics and nature ? How will one identify it? How does one categorise widow burning and honour killing? Do they fall within the scope of Hindutva or are outside it ? What is the difference between Hindutva and Hindu religion? Let us consider the Yoga of Ramdev. Is it an independent culture outside the scope of Hindu religion? Is it a part of Hindutva? Is saffron the predominant colour of Hindutva. These questions naturally come to one’s mind looking at the meteoric rise of saffron clad Baba Ramdev and his extraordinary popularity throughout the world.

Anna Hazare went on a fast to push a specific demand for a joint drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill . Baba Ramdev on the other hand is still fasting for the fulfillment of many demands , primarily to bring back the huge, huge, huge amount of black money stashed away in the foreign banks and to declare it as a national asset. He is also pressing for death penalty for corruption, withdrawal of currency notes of Rs. 500 and 1000 denomination , uniform wages for different categories of labourers , use of Hindi as a medium for medical and technical instruction in educational institutions and other wide ranging demands. Probably every Indian will support his demand for bringing back the black money. But very few are aware of the procedural problems related to the execution of these demands.

However when on June 1 Baba landed on the airport of the capital ,the heavy weight Finance minister accompanied by three of his colleagues went to meet and greet him and to dissuade him from the fast. The Government knew about the much hyped fast from the beginning . Once the Govt. failed to dissuade him it should have immediately banned the show instead of carrying on a brutal midnight attack on peacefully sleeping men,women and children. This is wholly barbaric and inhuman . Did the Govt suddenly realise in the late evening of June 4 that there are other political players behind the saffron screen of Baba Ramdev biding their time to swing into action? Did this late realization prompted the Govt. to act in the early hours of the day? Then we are bound to feel that the Intelligence network of the Govt has failed miserably. Perhaps the whole drama had  started at least a month ago when the na├»ve Baba was egged on  by some clever friends to create a space apparently for him but really for them in the current political scene of India.

Since the Supreme court had given the stay order on the verdict of the Allahabad High Court , I was apprehensive of the renewal of the Ramjanmabhumi movement by the saffron brigade . Little did I know then that the Congress itself will offer a golden opportunity to the opposition for nailing them. They are also questioning the Govt. why they had not taken any action against Gilani and Arundhati Roy .Those who carry on trade with the commodity called religion  will not easily let go of such an opportunity . The congress led Govt has brought on itself a grave problem affecting the entire nation.A congress leader  has called Baba a “thug”,a cheat . Firstly it is in very bad taste. There is no doubt that by promoting Yoga and bringing it to the doorsteps of ordinary people Baba  has helped scores of people to find relief from various maladies and lead happier life .Secondly if he is a thug why did cabinet  ministers go to meet him at the airport? Why did they invite him to a talking table in a five-star hotel for that matter? From when has the Govt . started to pamper the thugs ? In the meantime another respected congressman has stated that the decision of  eviction was not taken by the congress but was taken by the Govt.indicating a clear divide between the congress and the congress led Govt. It might just be an attempt at controlling the damage already done.

I must say the handling of the entire matter exposes the criminal ineptness of the Govt and gives rise to a deep doubt about national security. The Indian nation should also be aware of the fact that the saffron robe is nothing but a saffron robe and anybody anywhere can wear it for any reason. The Govt should also take prior cognizance of all dubious proposals and should not cajole during daytime and stealthily attack  at the dead of night.This is immoral . This is criminal.
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