Monthly Archives: March 2011

Bangladesh’s National Anthem: Amar Shonar Bangla


We all know that the national anthem of Bangladesh, Amar Shonar Bangla, is written by Rabindranath Tagore. Now, Tagore may be associated more with India than with Bangladesh, but, then, that is why his song becoming the national anthem of Bangladesh says something about the spirit of the Bangla nationhood. Interesting post on this story is here. An excerpt:

In early 1971, radical students chose Amar Shonar Bangla as Free Bengal’s national anthem, and when the war ended, the new republic’s leaders endorsed it. Why did they choose the song? For that matter, why did they choose the red and green flag?

From all accounts, the song was chosen because of its evocation of the rural landscape — mango groves and paddy fields, perennial features of Mother Bengal. And that’s what the green in the flag meant to the more radical students, though for others green symbolised Islam. But it was stressed that everyone was very conscious about choosing inclusive icons.

This contrasts sharply with Bangladesh’s neighbours. The Pakistan Movement adopted the crescent, unsurprisingly alienating all non-Muslims in the lands that became Pakistan. Indian nationalism claimed to be inclusive, espousing secularism as a fundamental value. But Gandhi’s Ram Rajya did not appeal to Muslims, nor did the spinning wheel, which everyone thought symbolised eternal — that is, pre-Islamic — India (quite ironic, really, as according to Irfan Habib, the earliest known reference to the spinning wheel in South Asia is a 1350 polemic urging Raziya Sultana to give up Delhi’s masnad and take up spinning, the ‘inescapable inference’ being the device having a Muslim provenance).

So, Bangladesh made a conscious effort of being inclusive at its foundation. Something to celebrate on its 40th birthday, surely?

Yes, it is, but…

“Hamara Shakespeare”










It was Macbeth’s turn at the fourth edition of Hamara Shakspeare by the Prakriti Foundation. Three evenings at Kalakshetra, the same story was performed, but each time it turned out to be a different experience. We might think that working on a too familiar and celebrated work, a Shakespearean play, could restrain the creative space. But, director A.J. Santhosh disagrees. “It is a story that the audience already knows and you don’t have to follow the original narrative. It gives you the freedom to go deep into the elements that interests you more. You could express your experience of reading the play and this re-interpretation could be interesting.”

The opening play “Macbeth” (in Malayalam) by Santhosh, stood out for its visual treatment. The motif of guilt-ridden and doomed souls trying to wash off the blood stains on their hands pervaded throughout. Through surreal video clippings, use of reflections and body movements, it explored the possibilities of the visual narrative. As the director puts it, the play tried to observe the inter-play of fundamental human nature of concerns, desires and greed that don the stage of conscious and sub conscious mind.

Plight unveils

“Koodiyattam” by Margi Madhu in all aspects was a cultural translation. The briefing at the beginning and the introduction to basic gestures helped even the first-timers to understand the performance. “Nrupa padha adhirodhim dhushkaram naasthi kinchit/ adhiga bharanambho kashtamevam nrupanam/ (Becoming the king was not at all difficult/ to protect the throne and the kingdom thus gained is the most difficult task) – As the actor enacts these Sanskrit lines, the plight of “Macbeth” slowly unveils before the audience. The plot was transplanted into a Kerala scenario, or rather the inherent cultural elements in the art form stood out. Macbeth’s victory was celebrated with pomp, complete with an array of traditional instruments like chenda, maddhalam, edekka and thimila; and King Duncan was served a traditional Kerala feast by his host Macbeth. The parts where Macbeth enjoys the percussion with the rhythmic movement of his body, the expressions of the host assuring the king to enjoy the feast and Macbeth’s reaction when he has the vision of a dagger, were commendable.

“Whether we could perform stories other than traditional texts in Koodiyattam is an often asked question. When we tried bringing new texts like ‘Macbeth’, they were well received and that gave us the confidence that we could present any story through this art form. The classical nature and the structural strength evolved through the years have given it the flexibility to accommodate creative experiments,” said Madhu who conceptualised and performed “Macbeth”. But, in doing so he strictly adheres to the traditional tenets of the art form.

When asked how it was to bring in a story from a different cultural background, Madhu said, “Conceptualising the performance was not difficult. We could see that Macbeth also goes though the conflicts, fears, and temptations like any other ordinary person. It is a story that anyone can relate to. In ‘Kootiyattam’, bhavam is more important, not the story. What matters is how the artist approaches the text. Here, the performance ends when Macbeth faints on seeing the Birmingham woods approach him, we didn’t go ahead to show his death. The perplexed and chaotic situation that Macbeth finds himself in is performed at length. Like this, we explore the areas that could be illustrated beautifully.”

More here.

Image courtesy: The Hindu


The Taste of Iron


Look how words

are styled into a poem

Look at this

Read this man fallen amid letters.

You hear that?

Is it the clanging of iron or

the blood spilled on the soil?

Ask not the blacksmith

the taste of iron,

Ask the horse with a leash on his mouth

——- Dhumil (Sudama Pandey, 1936-1975)

Translation Kamalakar Bhat

लोहे का स्वाद


शब्द किस तरह
कविता बनते हैं
इसे देखो
अक्षरों के बीच गिरे हुए
आदमी को पढ़ो
क्या तुमने सुना कि यह
लोहे की आवाज़ है या
मिट्टी में गिरे हुए ख़ून
का रंग।

लोहे का स्वाद
लोहार से मत पूछो
घोड़े से पूछो
जिसके मुंह में लगाम है।

—— धूमिल

Pash: The Most Dangerous Thing


The Most Dangerous Thing

The life of a pirate is not so dangerous
nor is a bashup in a police lockup
spying too is not very dangerous

to be woken up in the middle of the night
by the secret police
I admit is nerve wrecking
so is the quiet lonely fear
which follows you
and throttles your chest
when you are locked up in a cell
on a framed up false charge
for a crime you did not commit
all this I admit is bad enough
but all these are still not so dangerous

because the most dangerous thing is
to live like a dead man
when you don’t feel any thing
when the routine of daily life saps you totally
the fixed life of
home to work
work to home
that is a life without dreams
that is the most dangerous thing

that is when
the hour is alive and kicking for everyone
excepting for you
that life is the most dangerous thing

like the eyes of a dead fish
you stare at everything
but cannot feel anything
about yourself
or about others
that’s why
the most dangerous are those people
who have forgotten how to love people
for such people
live and shift aimlessly
in the ordinary humdrum orbit of their lives
in which nothing happens
nothing moves
like a placid cemetery

these people
are like that cold blooded moon
which feels nothing
no pain, love, sympathy or revulsion
when it goes over the courtyards
of the innocent victims
butchered in a slaughter

the most ugly sight is
that of a debauched old man
who is trying to sing a melody
but only succeeds in racking his weak chest

So the most dangerous life is the one
in which our conscience doesn’t prick you
because your soul is dead
that’s why I say

piracy is not so dangerous
spying is not so dangerous
bashup in a police lockup is not so dangerous
the most dangerous life is…

Translated by Suresh Sethi

Courtesy: Pash ‘s poetry in English

Gender bias and other non-census


Nivedita Menon in “Run from Big Media”

Quipped my brother Dilip in response to the following mail from my sister Pramada:

So the bell rings this afternoon. desperate clanging. i open the door and there is a man with forms in his hand and a general irritated demeanor. figured that this was the census man. he comes in and settles down. starts by wanting to know who the head of the household is. i say there is no one. he insists. i continue to say no one.

Census of India 2011 mascot

He proceeds to explain that if the parents live in the house, then they are the head of the household, if married then the husband is. I proceed to ask for definition and say that all three of us who live in the house are head of the household since we all earn and take decisions. he promises to erase what he has written since he was sure my mother was head of household.

He seemed to find my gender a bit dubious so questioned my mother if i was a boy or a girl and then repeatedly said “ladki” to me. having established that i indeed was a woman, he wanted to know date of birth, which was not difficult, but place of birth he found extremely challenging. he could not get his spellings right, or did not know districts or states in the country so tattamangalam in palghat district in kerala was as baffling as mysore in karnataka. calcutta was easy to deal with and he said calcutta was in calcutta!!! mother tongue caused him more angst because he had to write malayalam and again the spelling eluded him.

In a casual manner he asked – sabke haath pair to theek hain? ( is everybody’s hands and legs okay?). i realised that this was the question on disability. i said yes that’s all fine but i cannot see without my glasses. that did not count.

Education, marital status were easy-peasy and then the tricky question of employment. he just could not understand what i did and what did i mean when i said i was a consultant and what were NGOs and did i work with these afore mentioned NGOs in haryana. and could i not give him just one name so that he could put it down.

Sujata’s employment was even more difficult for him. counselor on chemical and substance abuse – in hindi its deadly, sharab aur nasheeli padarthon kay sevan karne walon ko in cheezon se mukt karane ki kaam karti hai! asked caste and we said that we did not know since we were urbanised and had to confess that it sounded foolish even to my ears.

The enumerator is a teacher in a school in haryana somewhere but as far as we were concerned, we were aliens who occupied some strange space. a place where he hoped he  or his family would not have to tread. a household where three women rule, where a woman aged 46 says that she is unmarried and is not ashamed, does not for work everyday and i suspect he had not heard of the words human rights – in any language! what do you think he teaches , if he is not sure of the states in the country! mysore was difficult, can you imagine if it was daporijo or mokukchung?

What is the point of being counted thus. he is baffled by the names of villages, states, languages, does not realise that disability is of many forms, that men can look like women and women can look like men…. his world is being torn asunder in this process…were they trained at all and what do you think will actually emerge from this huge effort to have an idea of who lives in this country?

Online Resources for Literary Studies


Here are some useful links for those interested in literary studies:

1. University of North Carolina, “The Writing Center“,

2. University of California Press, “e-Scholarship editions“, E-books

3. Robert Phillipson papers

4. Yale-New Haven Teacher’s Institute, Curriculum Units

5. Free desktop dictionary and thesaurus

6. For classics, “Online books” and project Gutenbuegh

7. BBC GCSE, English Literature

8. Emory University, “Postcolonial Studies”

9. Postcolonial Caribbean Literature

10. Internet Public Library, “Literary Criticism

11. Women’s Literature

12. MLA Literary Research Guide

13. Voice of the Shuttle, extensive links

14. The Victorian Web

15. Free audio books

16. Indian resources, including theses, “Vidyanidhi

17. Free Comparative literature journal

18. Directory of open access journals

19. Sample issues of several standard journals through project muse

20. Literature teaching related stuff, ERIC

21. A good search engine for academic articles, Jurn


Will be updated