Manik Sarkar – the last of his tribe?

March 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Indian media is now singing paeans to the newly elected Tripura CM. Main stream media, till date busy with Delhi rape and cricket, noticed him when he filed his nomination for state assembly polls. Our’s is a country where almost half the national legislators are crorepatis and when Sarkar filed his nomination he declared few thousands of cash in hand and nothing else. It was surprising for many. Jaws dropped in awe and this was a shock for the new Indian middle class – a Chief Minister without a bank account? Is it true?

As per reports, Manik Sarkar lives on his wife’s (an ex Central Govt. employee) pension and does not own a house or a car. In line with the CPI-M policy, Sarkar gives his MLA salary to the party, which pays him Rs.5,000 per month, as subsistence allowance.

No wonder, he has guarded the last red bastion with ease. Finally, when results were out (few days back) Communists won 50 out of 60 seats, a feat not achieved by any other leader than late Nripen Chakraborty. This is the fourth consecutive term for Sarkar in this tiny North East state which shares more with Bangladesh than India. Of course, frugality from a Communist leader is not a rarity, but what surprises today’s burgeoning middle class (else where in the country) is that he takes oath not in the romantic post independence decades but in 2013. Yes this is remarkable.

Media called him the poorest CM. This is quite expected of a nation where luxury and lucre make news more often than not. In 2013 we get to see star political performers only in the likes of Jayalalithas and Mayavathis. They compete with each other to amass personal wealth during their tenures. Yet they prevail and walk away unaccountable, term after term. In the last two decades corruption cases involving politicians and their cronies sky rocketed and the frustrated citizenry numbly settled down to take these things for granted, as fate. They tacitly equated political power as loot and graft. That is why Mr. Sarkar, the son of a tailor who washes his own clothes even today, despite being the chief executive of an Indian state, becomes a wonder for them.

Communist Party never had any dearth of leaders like Manik Sarkar. Early communists were more Gandhians in their lifestyle than Mohandas Gandhi. Of course they were Gandhians with a Marxist ideology. However, today Sarkar represents a fast dwindling tribe of politicians who vouch by simplicity in public life. They are a minority among Communists too. True to the clichéd Acton quote – ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ – cutting across hierarchy, today’s Communist cadre has become corrupt, nepotist and haughty. This is true for those states where left front governments held power for too long, a fact quite evident in present day Kerala and Bengal. In both the states, the intellectual chasm between different generations of leaders is a matter of dismay.

From revolutionary idealists who proudly renounce personal gains for common good, today’s leaders have metamorphosed into efficient entrepreneurs and shrewd managers. Of course, much can be blamed on the globalised world economy, bankruptcy of ideology and poor understanding of Communist principles within party’s young rank and file. They are witness to the concocted lores of unstoppable yet all encompassing free markets and are the silent benefactors of it. They easily yield to make some quick silver.

The first democratically elected Communist Government sworn into power (in 1957, Kerala) was under EMS Namboothirippad, the landlord turned politician who willingly parted with his vast inherited property. Later, Namboothirippad himself legislated for the redistribution of land among peasant masses of Kerala, a true social revolution of the time. Those generations of Communists were dotted with idealism and it was true of 1960’s India.

Communists’ mass mobilisation through social awakening impressed people’s psyche during those days. It was so powerful that even the later non left governments could not completely forgo the principles of democratic socialism in their political functioning. But, the neo-liberal era eulogized a capitalist cult which emerged as a panacea for all the ills of our multicultural democracy. And communist leadership both in Kerala and Bengal fell prey to its finance capital bandwagon, though they never admit to it publicly.

Leadership struggled to ‘explain’ and ‘theorize’ the tenets of 21st century Communism so as to accommodate the changing patterns of ownership and economic relations. There always used to be an older generation of leaders who could not ideologically compromise. And Manik Sarkar’s tribe, both in Kerala and Bengal, falls into this. They either protested, howsoever feeble their voice be, led stellar examples in lives and simply vanished into oblivion. By and large party discipline’s iron fist silenced them. Their idealism suffered and they finally kept quiet before the will of a new generation leadership.

This makes Sarkar and his simple ways a ray of hope. He still stick on to his idealism and preserves the sanctity of his principles. For those who consider Tripura as a distant fairy land, this might sound melodramatic or unbelievable. But this is quite genuine. The likes of Sarkar must be existing in all the political parties, insignificant and disillusioned, to a great extend though. It is the duty of new generation Indian voters to discover them amidst the mess of our political system.

After the poll results Mr. Sarkar deliberately played down his role as an individual in his party’s victory, rather he gave credits to the team work. From his words – “There is a role of person in history, but the collective movement of people is the main driving force. We work together and take decision collectively, so I am a share holder of this success like others. I have no separate role.” Compare this to the ‘Modi Mania’ that sweeps our national capital in the past few days. We should not, as a nation, get our priorities wrong.

In his moment of glory, I wish Manik Sarkar all the success as Chief Minister of Tripura. No wonder Tripura is free from sectarian strifes quite common to its North Eastern sisters. I wish his puritan ways inspire more of political class to embrace idealism in their social lives.

Photo – Courtesy :

Categories: General

When you touched me, my dry branches turned out to be green

December 8, 2011 1 comment

Most likely ‘Dil hoom hoom kare’ would be the only Bhupen song I listened to before his death. It was truly a gentle composition and the song incredibly touched me – its haunting tone and the apparent ease of rendering stuck my thoughts, almost five years back on a pleasing winter evening at Shilparamam, Hyderabad – when I listened to it for the first time.

It was a typical concert at an open air setting and the singer there sung it reasonably well, I remember. Back home I listened to Bhupen’s original. I was never good at Hindi and the chaste words of Gulzar were almost impregnable for the novice in me. Later, it took years for me to finally get, to some extend though, into those intoxicating lines.

Who was Bhupen for me? Frankly, yet another celebrity name from the North East, one of those ostensible legends of the Hindi speaking world in a large general context, whom south Indians never really bothered to listen or follow seriously.

Nevertheless music surpasses regional precincts and this Bhupen song too did, in class. Just a single listening – even my unsophisticated heart beat for him and I become his fan, the old man’s crunchy voice seized my awe, instantly!

On that day, that bard named Bhupen Hazarika who lived, loved and laboured for the glory of music and to the delight of his fans all across the world was totally new to me. I wasn’t aware that this song was from ‘Rudaali’. I didn’t know that the movie was directed by his soul mate and companion of 40 odd years Kalpana Lajmi, and most notably I didn’t know that the music was composed by Bhupen himself. But I knew one thing – deep stillness of meditation and a splendid energy of action merged in this classic composition.

Afterwards, as and when I listen to this four minute song, even for my naive ears his voice and music roars like a shower, springing agonizing loss, muted sorrow and a tenderness that was as moving as it was burning.

Agony stems when we lose some thing and not when we gain. Doesn’t it?

Why agony at the root of this song? Perhaps agony is fundamental to all human emotions – agony of avoidance, agony of abandonment, agony of defeat, agony of dejection, agony of hopelessness, agony of neglect, agony of every thing – every innate loss in life.

The agony of a heart that gasps in fear, that is afraid of the thundering clouds; the untold agony in tear drops that leave the eye – the very first stanza itself sets an immaculate tone for this tender melody.

And we always loved melancholy in music, I believe. Life’s lust for darkness is not simple desire for bottomless shadow; in fact it is the craving for the faintest ray of light within. In these agonizing lines one seeks a ray of light, a lustrous ray of tiny yet dazzling spark of hope.

But the root of the song lurks when the singer gloomily renders in a base pitch –
‘when I undo your bag parched leaves fell, (Teri jhori daaron, sab sukhe paat jo aaye)
but when you touch me my dry branches became green
(Tera chhua lage, meri sukhi daar hariyaaye).

And now I should keep this body (jis tan ko chua toone, us tan ko chupaaon)
(touched by you) away from every thing else,

(perhaps to keep the sanctity, that would probably be possible)
but whom am I going to show my mind that you saw’? (jis man ko laage naina, vo jisko dikhaaon)

Why? – Why do life’s wishes reach us at unexpected of the moments, in the most capricious manner? Why not in our way when we truly seek them? – when I reached out you were detached and bleak, oozing mere coldness and apathy, but in time when you touched me I turned out to be fertile and prolific. This stands true for any feat in material life. When we actually acquire the hard fought goal the feat sadly becomes, some how meaningless or redundant.

Language has the power to take one’s soul out into the night, make it soar to the stars, and then rip it apart and send it crashing right down to earth! A muted pain stirs right through the words of this song and it is this very tacit pain that haunts us long after the song.

Bhupen’s aged voice gently flows –
oh moon you are up and high
and are divinely showering light and brightness
but your light only burns me, (o more chandra ma, teri chaandni ang jalaaye)
how am I to reach you, you are well high over the balcony
and that I have shed my wings!(teri oonchi ataari maine pankh liye katwaaye)

It leaves an untold soreness in our hearts.

Do we not silently chorus – ’and my heart fills with fear and gasping!!’ (dil hoom hoom kare ghabraaye)– when he finally concludes? We do. Not to mention, this composition is tough to sing, but he made it look so effortless with grace.

Visual of any splendid, snow clad peak refuses to cease from our memory, for ever. In our mind it waits further exploration and stays alive in bliss. So does this eternal Bhupen song.

Yes – We keep listening, oh no humming along with Bhupen da…- ‘dil hoom hoom kare’
(Photo: Courtesy –

Categories: Music Tags:

I wish Pakistan could win this cup….!!

March 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Oh it’s really raining cricket these days!

The knock out stage of game’s extravaganza evolves to its fascinating end. Cricketing feelings every where – news room discussions, expert analysis, sentiments from the street – now electronic media here in India is speculating over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assertion to attend the World Cup Semi finals at Mohali, Chandigarh between India and Pakistan, slated for next Wednesday. He has sent his invite (it seems) to his counter part in Pakistan and to their President too, if the initial reports can be trusted. At a time when Secretary level talks and occasional political meetings on summits’ sidelines don’t bear much fruit is it the turn for cricket diplomacy?

I’m quite passionate about cricket; slightly to the puritan’s side I do adore both forms of the game – ODIs and test cricket. I simply love watching men in blue playing premier edition of the game’s most prestigious event, perhaps the last in the careers of elderly greats Sachin and Sehwag. When a match is on, in those moments of anxiety, just to have that sheer pleasure of watching them live taking guard, against best of the bowlers in the business, pondering each and every ball, I always used to be in a pensive mood in those afternoons when India plays – with all my compassion for team India’s cause.

But this time – just this time, I honestly wish Pakistan could formidably sail past our men all the way at PCA Stadium, Mohali and could march to the legendary Wankhade to play the grand final on the 4th of next month. I wish they could jubilantly lift that prized trophy too. I wish Afridi’s green army could collect the coveted cup from our PM or ICC head or who ever it may be – and burst into euphoria in front of a packed house at our own Mumbai, I wish a strife torn nation, our own twin could forget her pains and indulge in gala celebration for a while, I wish….

Am I anti Indian, disloyal, treacherous? Will you call me seditious?
I sure hope not.

Yes, I really want Pakistan to win this cup, the same ‘cup that matters’, as our media famously calls it these days. If it happens, Afridi will not just lift a gold and silver plated 11kg cup, but he will lift the spirit and fortitude of an entire nation, a nation which is now filled with conflict and despair and riot and gloom.

Set backs every where – devastating natural calamities, alarmingly rising religious fundamentalism in all walks of life, a crippling economy, ever weakening government institutions, dwindling authority of state which fails to provide minimum living space to its normal citizen, tightening grip of a transcendental army, liberty and free speech increasingly fading from the corridors of societal life, a sorry picture indeed.When panic, gloom, misfortune and despair fill the streets of Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and else where, a whole nation need some thing to cheer about, some thing to keep their heads high, for a while at least, among the comity of nations.

And a world cup win can exactly do that.

We have nothing to lose, we are a comparatively better off nation, with different other means to lift our national spirit and pride, lot many things to feel good about, thriving economy (inequitable gains though), noisy yet stable democracy with better institutional mechanisms, bigger venues to display the grandeur, opulence and influence, louder voice and greater clout in the international arena with a confident outlook altogether.

Pakistan’s has been a wonderful cricketing team throughout this tournament – a bunch of street smart, massively gifted, spirited cricketers. If the Mumbai crowd can full heartedly cheer that Pakistani squad in the truest of the spirits for their cricketing prowess and for nothing else at a world cup final, that would erase the bloody images of fanatic young men indiscriminately firing at innocents inside the CST and Taj, and the psychological scars there of – for ever.

That spoilt young man at the Arthur road jail waiting further trial and eventual execution should not be remembered as the face of Pakistani at Mumbai any more; rather it should be a jubilant Afridi or Umar Gul shaking hands with Indians on a spectacular arena. It can send an incredible political point across the border much louder than any ‘track – II’ diplomacy – that we treat you with dignity, respect and love provided you play by the rules and reciprocate – true to the spirit and tradition of this land.

Last time India played Pakistan in a world cup match in 2003 at Johannesburg, S. Africa. The situation was electrifying, eventually India chased Pakistan down thanks to that superb knock from little maestro – Tendulkar; however the game wasn’t played at the highest levels of sporting spirit. Passions flew amidst players, animosity, hatred, sledge and acrimony filled the air. I hope this time Pakistani team will be given true warmth, respect and support on and off the field when they step down to play here.

A win at the 10th edition of this tournament is not a solution for all those ails of present day Pakistan – still it matters a lot. Some achievement, a feel of success,accomplishment, how much ever cosmetic it is, a cricket crazy society will get a boost for sure if their men can triumph at a major event in some sport and that win will be sweeter if that happens in India and that too passing past the hosts.

Let Pakistan have that victory. After all we are the same brethren unfortunately forced to exist on two sides of a dividing line agonizingly drawn in the course of a distressing history of 65 odd years.

I wish Afridi and his men all the success!

(Photo Courtesy :

Categories: General

Meeting the Maestro

May 24, 2009 7 comments

We set out for our trip to Stratford on a rainy Saturday. We had to take three trains, to get there from Birmingham, because few direct routes were being renovated. Stratford, in the Warwickshire County was a drowsy tiny town, much smaller than what I expected and it took two hours from the Midlands area (where I stay) to reach there. Stratford upon Avon, as the town is called, is a little but well kept train station; no sooner did we reach there than showers started pouring outside. Town seemed like a shaky portrait with a hue of light colours in the back ground, almost empty streets and limited traffic. It filled a nervous breath of chilly breeze in the air; December for no reason is a good choice to voyage in Britain, length of day time is awfully less with recurring mist and uneasy snow fall.

It did not take much time for us to locate the ancestor house of the bard; it was quite close to the town centre. A 16th century wooden house which recreates the family life of the times of the poet was a small two storeyed cottage. It had a painting gallery near the portico. The solid yet serene pathway from the gallery took us through the garden to the un-usually large wooden door at the entrance of the house. I was happy to spot a Tagore statue inside the compound. It was an utterly different world for me when the old lady, apparently the guide there, invited us inside and led to the interiors. Semi polished stones paved the floor, its air and ambiance was nothing but perfect for a sheep trader’s home (as it was in my mind) and a flood of memories engulfed me.

My high school class, now I’m sitting in one of the middle rows and Krishnan Nair (the Principal of our school) narrating the legend of Julius Caesar; panicking Brutus, their patriotism, friendship and tribute to each other and the grace of all other Shakespearean characters. The whole class is silent and now, I listen to Mark Antony’s speech, Krishnan Master shouting at the peak of his pitch:

”Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him; The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones, So let it be with Caesar … The noble Brutus Hath told you Caesar was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault.”*

It was appearing in front of me, my eyes following the artistic moves of Krishnan Master, his imposing acting skills flaunted, and I’m marveled to glimpse the celebrated characters right in front. Our respected teacher, a famed ‘Kathakali’ artist and a strict disciplinarian, is an English scholar and a Shakespeare enthusiast. He used to memorise major plots from Shakespeare’s plays and perform them for us during the class. In those ‘one-act’ plays we gleefully watched Macbeth and King Lear, Viola and Orsino and all the major figures from Shakespeare.

Krishnan Nair was a blessed actor. In the class room, he was able to shower on us the essence of those plays, the very essence which was fresh and alive within me when I stood inside poet’s birth place. Yes, only a hand’s breadth from me is the birth bed of my teacher’s dearest poet. The old guide there, dressed in the traditional British robes of olden times, in her charming voice, explained to us the history of bard’s family, in the most interesting tone. I deeply wished my passionate master (now an octogenarian) were with me. We roamed around the house for few great hours, captured the scent and scene of that historic home with few stills. Later in the afternoon set out in search of other major Shakespeare attractions in the town.

Stratford was hazily snowing by our side.

We walked down the town to the Holy Trinity cathedral where the poet was buried. England’s most visited parish church, under that roof the wizard of Stratford called William Shakespeare was baptised and there he does his final sleep. Dimly lit candles from the side stands were quiet as if they were frozen in time. An incense like fragrance was blended there and it seemed like a deep smell from the past that filled the air. Very few visitors braved the chilly December day to the church, in fact they were less than twenty. We sat there on the carved wooden seats of the big altar and few empty minutes withered by. On the cathedral’s top glass window there was a giant triptych which portrayed Jesus’ resurrection. Fine threads of silken sun rays oozing out from them coloured the dark shades inside the chapel.

Again, under one of those shades, I could sense Krishnan Master there. I felt like watching him, without myself being watched – this time he was speaking as Othello (and Desdemona as a far back ground voice). His eyes were sparking wild.

“Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men.
Put out the light, and then put out the light:”
”Who’s there, Othello?”
”Ay, Desdemona.”
“Will you come to bed, my lord?”
“Have you pray’d to-night, Desdemona?”
“Ay, my lord.”

“If you bethink yourself of any crime”
“Unreconcil’d as yet to heaven and grace,
Solicit for it straight.”
“Alack, my lord, what may you mean by that?”
“Well, do it, and be brief; I will walk by.
I would not kill thy unprepared spirit;
No, — heaven forfend! — I would not kill thy soul.”
“Talk you of killing?”
“Ay, I do.” **

Love, passion, revenge and obsession, every thing was there in his eyes. Suddenly, it was all there in my eyes too. Few minutes later, I was awakened by the whispering call of my friend.

Just outside the cathedral, river Avon was flowing; as it would have always been, silent and steady.

 * Mark Antony’s speech from ‘Julius Ceaser’
**  Final conversation between Othello and Desdemona from ‘Othello’
(In the photo: Krishnan Master)
Categories: General

Solitary Reaper

December 7, 2008 1 comment

A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.Will no one tell me what she sings? –
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago;

Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

~ Solitary Reaper : Wordsworth ~

Categories: General

To stop India’s heartbeat

October 19, 2008 4 comments

In the series of manifestos flashed by the terrorist outfits of modern India, the latest message from the perpetrators are meant to ‘stop the heart of India from beating’, it seems! Once again urban India witnessed another naked attack on the civilian establishments of the nation on a normal weekend, this time at the capital, New Delhi.

The shades of a similar script of an ugly story unveils here too, with India Mujahideen, SIMI version 2, put the attack as a tribute to the martyrs in Kashmir. In the most elaborate written manifesto and video show e-mailed to the media those behind the attacks announced that ‘scores will be settled evenly’ and for the first time made reference to the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir – ‘the injustice and pain inflicted on Kashmiri Muslims during the amaranth crisis once again landed you in great trouble,’ it proclaims.

After sixty years of sovereign administration we find our populace struck up with the lexicons of ‘our people’ and ‘your people’ in our celebrated secular state, let us shamefully keep our heads down. In some other parts of the country like Orissa, still there is ferocity ready to come out at the slightest provocation when in contact with people outside religion. What is under question is the identity of being Indian when the terror outfits and religious extremists charge the total nation with words like ‘never ending hostile hatred in your hearts against our religion and people,’ the email the media received soon after the Delhi blasts says that the bombings are intended to ‘prove you our ability and potential to assault any city of India at any time.’ When news rooms are filled with debates and discussions soon after the serial blasts, the very question that challenge the wits of a common man would be where do I fit into – ‘you’ or ‘we.’

Religion and religious identities are being hijacked everywhere when the manifestation announce that ‘from now onwards, we won’t cry alone.’ Those identities, despite the total efforts of the liberal heartbeats, still tickle at the sub conscious of this great nation and its men belittle themselves and find it easy to resolve the issues on religious grounds, a gloomy fact. When members of minority communities find it difficult to rent or lease in several neighbourhoods in Mumbai and Bengaluru it shows the pathetic situation we have fallen to.

It is total agony to the millions who are no way related to your game or our game, but with a simple label of religious minority tagged to them. Spirit of tolerance in our society is clearly dwindling and every time the administration is simply coming up with statements appealing peace and restrain from the citizens. It would not be surprising if a Hindu version of India Mujahideen reiterates on the same coin a similar foolishness at some other part of the nation victimising few hundreds of innocents in their own craziest manner. The juggernaut of religious fundamentalism and violence rolls on the Indian mainland and are we ever going to mature from all these non sense blasphemy and fixture, where no one is going to win?

No administration, how ever powerful can completely wipe our religious extremism. We can be pretentious, as we were all these days, can arrange peace marches, can easily be rhetoric about the secular outlook of the nation, can boast the rich mix and multitude of diversity in our civilisation. Still there are prejudices deep inside, even the educated minds strive in their sub conscious to prove the superiority and originality of own belief and philosophy and they are shamelessly reluctant to acknowledge that truth, simply because it is truth, naturally manifests itself in different faiths. Unless this prejudice is thrown out we will always find ourselves in our road to nowhere.

Categories: General

I Died For Beauty

July 13, 2008 5 comments

I died for beauty but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.
He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth, the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.
And so, as kinsmen met a night,

We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.
~ Courtesy: Emily Dickinson (I Died For Beauty) ~

Categories: General

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