Author Archives: agnidattagupta
The world literally came crashing down around 7 PM on 20th November on Twitter as one of the sleaziest cases in Indian media came to the forefront. Amidst the mud-slinging and debauchery online, one was visibly at a loss of words to even express the disgust, horror and angst at what had happened. Caesar’s nobility had been the gist of a great speech that made a place in the echelons of history; the stature of the man, hitherto among the elitest of journalists, was now unworthy of even the slimiest gutters in the world.
The Judiciary, the legislative, the media – the Indian woman is not safe anywhere. Forget the workplace, women bear the most dastardly abuses with a smile on their face within the “safe” confines of their homes. But that is besides the point. The astute arrogance brandished by the man in question, with no sign of the remotest repentance, has sent shivers down the spine of people across the country. As a fan of this journalist, and as a former employee of this organisation, it clearly makes me ashamed as a human being.
For an institution that had established itself as the champion of women’s rights, for a journalist of the stature of Shoma Chaudhury to blatantly hush up the whole affair, shame is too small a term to describe the fall from grace.
The pompous letter of atonement, the self-proclaimed recusal and the shoddy defence on part of the organisational head does not inspire confidence in people who would’ve otherwise wanted this episode to pass off as a horrific nightmare. The same magazine that has time and again given voice to the tortured women, taught them to raise their voice against Khap panchayats and moral policing was found to be lacking in action; even worse, brushing the entire narrative under carpet.
Even now, there were people – self-proclaimed women’s rights activists, who care two hoots about state-sponsored surveillance on private citizens, but are overtly eager to publicise their concern for the victim in Tehelka. Then there were those who took voyeuristic pleasure in sharing intimate details of the episode on social media. Media houses were quick to post columns and opinion pieces on sexual harassment at workplace and assume the high moral ground. Some idiots proclaimed their feminism by abusing the daughter of the perpetrator, forcing her to delete her Twitter profile. Somewhere, the victim, the sufferer lost her voice.
When glass houses lie shattered, the ensuing gush of blood is often attended to. Nobody spares a thought for the injured vein.
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Videos going viral on social media is not a new phenomenon anymore; so, when i chanced upon this video by Steve Grand a few days ago on Facebook, i was blown away in a couple of minutes. Not because i am a country music fan, or Steve Grand is more drool-worthy than Imran Khan, but because the story touched a chord in my heart. There comes a time in every one’s life when you long for that special person; life seems meaningless without the company of that one man, the sight of whom is equivalent to the taste of a hundred roshogollas.
Love is a strange game. You are the chief player, you think you are in charge of the play, while the moves are macromanaged by love itself. Floating like a rudderless ship, with just the happy thought of being driven by a captain, who you know would never let you drown; you keep sailing, immersed in the beautiful sensation of belonging to someone, madly absorbed in the quasi-real world of happiness. First love is always special, for it comes just once; lucky are they who can continue the relationship for a lifetime.
Luckily, for me, i was not bereft of these emotions – having savoured the fruit of love for the first time, the young spirit in me lived a boisterous life of companionship, believing it to be the gospel of life. Sadly, in India, almost a decade back, the awareness about same-sex relationship was in an abysmal state, and i couldn’t confide in my feelings to anyone – not even the person i was madly in love with. I was living in a happy state of denial, pretending to be the best friend, killing a thousand dreams within.
Friendship is unadulterated. The only other relation that can compete in piety with friendship is the bond between a mother and her child. Looking back in time, i am proud to have kept that sanctity of friendship alive, by living a thousand deaths every moment i spent with him – on the phone, eating out or simply while mindlessly exploring the alleys and bylanes of South Kolkata. But being a guy of my age, the hormones act corny at times, and the surge of emotions often became too hot to handle.
From the occasional outbursts to the tremendous bouts of possessiveness bordering on the OCD – one might look back and giggle and say “those were the days”, but he managed it all so calmly, without ever letting the ties of friendship slacking a bit. Then one fine morning, when the cup finally slipped before reaching the lip, the rejection was too harsh. The fact that he desired women, and no interest in me, save harmless friendly attraction, was too hard for me to swallow. Buoyed by an year and a half worth of companionship, i had started living in a dreamland of my own – the glass palace had to crumble.
7 March 2007 it was. The cat was out of the bag. I finally “came out” (i never fathomed the importance of it). The feeling of being able to afford someone who can share my own secret world with came at a costly price. I earned a friend for a lifetime, at the altar of my first love.
Life moves on, and sure it makes a circle. For me, it completed two revolutions, i guess. With no hopes whatsoever, i am eternally optimistic of getting third time lucky. Just like Steve Grand, the heartbreak in All American Boy did get followed by a boisterous celebration of love in Stay.
Let’s see what life has in store for me – lemons, oranges or a pitcher of beer, topped with beef steak!
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Asomudrohimachal – The land that spans from the Himalayas to the seas – is generally an epithet used liberally for India. But there is one state in this great nation that fits the bill: West Bengal. From Darjeeling to Digha, the plurality of the state is a matter of pride for Bengalis. The confluence of cultures, Bengal is popularly referred to as the cultural capital of India; and not without reason. Dance, literature, art, poetry, sport, music, films – the names to reckon with in any sphere consist of numerous Bengalis.
Bengal stands for unity, for harmony. Religions, caste, creed coexist in the state in a symbiotic relation, imbibing the best of all cultures. The character of the state is enriched by the contribution of every community that calls Bengal its home. Durga Pujo or Eid, Christmas or Holi, Bengalis celebrate their “Tero parbon” with equal fervour throughout the “baro mash”.
From the adda on the rocks to the raging debates in bus/trams or suburban trains, from the steaming chai at the local tea-stall to the smoothies at coffee shops, from muffasils to towns, Bengal is like beads on a string, held together by vibrancy, a sense of belonging that runs deep in the veins of the state.
Rabindranath to Rituparno, Jibananando to Joy Goswami, Kananbala Debi to Koel, Chuni Goswami to Baichung, the names that make Bengal proud truly represent the heritage of the state in turest of terms. Dekha Hobe Ei Banglaye brings together stalwarts from all walks of life. The joyous celebration of Bengal erases divides of all kinds – political, religious or gender.
Prosenjit Chatterjee, Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Ghose, Rituparna Sengupta, Ajoy Chakrabarty, Rashid Khan, Dev, Jhulan Goswami, Bappi Lahiri, Aparna Sen, Soumitra Chatterjee, Purna Das Baul, Lopamudra, Fakir Akkas Ali Khan, Alokananda Ray, Srabani Sen, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Bickram Ghosh, Moonmoon Sen, Anjan Dutt, Usha Uthup, Subhomita Banerjee, Dola Banerjee, Dwijen Mukherjee, Shuvaprasanna, Girija Devi, Anupam Roy, Rudraprasad Sengupta, Bhaichung Bhutia, Shaan, P C Sorcar Jr, Sujoy Ghosh, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Roopa Ganguly, Ranjit Mallick, June Mallya, Babul Supriyo, Sharmila Tagore, Leander Paes, Ali Ahmed Hussain, Sugato Bose, Shyamal Sen, Chuni Goswami, Jogen Chowdhury, Mamata Shankar, Sharbari Datta, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Parambrata Chatterjee, Yogesh Datta and many others in their journey through this exploration of the soul of a vivacious heritage.
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Disclaimer: This post was first published on Tehelka.
When Rituparno Ghosh was once asked which protagonist from his films he identified with the most, he had promptly responded naming Binodini from Chokher Bali. Although that film was his first directorial venture on Tagore’s work, Rituparno’s association with the bard goes long back, to his childhood days. Needless to say, Jeevan Smriti: Selected Memories, his docu-feature on the poet was bound to be quite different from any other documentaries made on the first Nobel laureate from India.
Throughout his life, and even in his death, Rituparno refused to play by the rules, creating new definitions of cinema with every film he made. By entering into Tagore’s personal space, almost like a voyeur in some scenes, Ghosh reinforces his uncanny style of filmmaking. Present throughout Jeevan Smriti as a passive observer, sometimes doubling up as a participant in the hustle-bustle of the activities at Jorasanko, the director effortlessly establishes himself as a member of the Tagore household. Ghosh easily builds an intimacy with Tagore, doing away with the distance one creates by putting the poet on a pulpit, akin to God.
Rituparno’s Tagore is like a mythical king who traverses alone, in disguise, among his subjects. Tagore, in this film is a seeker of the mystery of life in its sensuous form. His aura is complemented with the sobriety of his loneliness – one that produces music, paintings, literature and philosophy. Here Rabindranath Tagore stands out like a philosopher-king who is molten and made in the hearth of life.
To read more, check: Jeevan Smriti – A Life Of Memories
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On 30th July 2013, the Congress-led UPA govt opened a Pandora’s Box by giving their stamp of approval on the creation of Telangana, thus validating a struggle for separate state that had been rocking the political scene of Andhra for over half a century. Although the decision brought smiles on the faces of the people of Telangana region, it ignited unprecedented and widespread violence across the country, specially in the Hills of Darjeeling in West Bengal.
Ever since the current government came to power in Bengal, the focus of the administration, led by the Chief Minister, had been to reach out to the people of North Bengal, who had been ignominiously ignored by the Left Front government for three long decades. From roads to basic amenities, education to infrastructure development, the districts of North Bengal had always been subject to a step-motherly attitude from Kolkata.
Post 2011, there was a paradigm shift in the way the WB administration viewed or treated Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Coochbehar or Dinajpur and Malda. From instituting a separate ministry for North Bengal development to setting up a Secretariat in Siliguri, the government made all the right noises. That their intent was positive was shown by the CM’s visits to the Hills or Dooars almost regularly. The current government has even unfurled a host of developmental agenda for the backward districts that form North Bengal, including setting up of colleges and laying the foundation of an industry hub in Banarhat.
The demand for Gorkhaland is not new. Since the establishment of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, presided over by Subhash Ghishing, in 1987, the separate state movement has always been used as a carrot by the political parties in the Hills to consolidate their votes during elections. Arson and violence follows a 5-year cycle here, where the Gorkha leaders embark on a “final battle” for Gorkhaland, sacrifice the lives of youths, throw public life out of gear, sound the death knell for commerce and tourism, putting the livelihood of thousands at stake, and then go into slumber for next half a decade.
The demand for Gorkhaland would’ve been pertinent even five years back. But now, with the autonomous Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha has no legit reason to call for separation. They wanted power; GTA has been showered with that. They wanted development; both the central and state government have earmarked funds worth hundreds of crores for GTA (centre had cleared annual grant of Rs 200 crore while WB govt in its annual budget for the fiscal allowed Rs 150 crores for development of GTA areas). What transpired in this one year that GJM had to take this tough stand? What have they done with the GTA funds? Do they have any developmental achievements to boast of?
That the WB govt is truly empathetic towards Nepali aspirations was demonstrated by the decision of the CM to start schools with Nepali as the medium of instruction. The birthday of great Nepali littérateur Bhanu Bhakt is celebrated pomp that equals Rabindranath or Nazrul. Nepali is also recognized as one of the official languages in conducting the business of the Assembly. Why then is there a need for Nepali speaking brothers and sisters to feel alienated in a Bengali-majority state? The aspirations of development and identity politics that Gorkhas clamour for can be met by GTA with ease. They need to give it time, and send honest, committed leaders to represent the masses in the council, and not self-serving ones.
In the end, I would like to sum up with an extract Shankkar Aiyar’s latest column for New Indian Express:
“The cry for smaller states is less about representation and more about real aspirations. Size may matter. Big could be bold and beautiful too. Bigger states like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu do better by leveraging the state’s output and budgets for intervention and investment. So let’s forget formulaic solutions and worry about formats. In a democracy, every vote is sacrosanct. Voters vote for change, not to be presented with fait accompli. And delivery of governance is dictated by devolution, not dialects. India turns 66 this month. Let not petty political cartography obfuscate the real reasons for failure. Let not India get lost in transmogrification.”
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