Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
my friend and colleague biswaroop sent me this mail this evening. i hope you enjoy reading it as much as i did. happy vijay dashami, everyone.
As far as Bongs (Bengalis) are concerned, there are only three kinds of people on earth:
Bongs: They inhabit the Middle Kingdom and are the only people who really matter. We probashi Bongs or expatriate Bongs are cousins thrice removed, acknowledged only when we make it good in Bollywood.
Non-Bongs: All other people who don’t matter. We cannot afford to say it in as many words, now that we have fallen on such hard times having to queue up for all the jobs before the non-Bongs).
Hon-Bongs (a term coined by Jug Suraiya, an eminent journalist and humourist and an hon-bong himself) or honorary Bongs: They are a small breed of non-Bongs, who have lived in Bengal for a long time and love to eat rashogolla and mishti doi. They may or may not speak Bengali; that does not matter as long as they love (or profess to love) rashogolla and mishti doi. Spouses, domestic partners, or good friends of Bongs are also welcome to this privileged club as long as they love rashogolla and mishti doi. So much the better if the jamaai or bou-ma happens to be an Ivy League-academic or a Nigerian footballer). The others are not so welcome even if they love rashogolla and mishti doi.
One thing about Bongs that baffles non-Bongs is the mammoth enthusiasm about Durga Pujo that never translates into communal riots. Well, to begin with, the legend of Durga is such a bizarre, rich and heady mix of colourful mythology, high theology, and superb iconography (something like Jesus, the angels, Santa Claus, and the reindeers rolled into one) that it would be difficult for anyone to misappropriate it to suit narrow ends. Just imagine a Dravidian mother goddess elevated to the high table of the Aryan pantheon and showered with armaments by Aryan deities such as Agni and Brahma, just to make her kill a Dravidian asura in a masterly stroke of realpolitik. And think of the ultimate image makeover: the transformation of a fierce demon-slayer into a demure Bengali girl, who visits her parents on earth for four days every year with the four kids in tow. Portraying George Bush as Mother Teresa can only come a distant second. If you want to turn this spectacle into a mascot for mischief, where could you possibly start?
Perhaps it also helps that her devotees in Bengal are quite an irreverent lot themselves. Lots of Bongs these days take their faith lightly without belittling it and tend to be religious without being officious about religion. Every year, there are spoofs on Durga and her family in popular magazines and weekend supplements of major newspapers around the time of Durga Pujo. Thank goodness that we have not had champions of the faith storming the office of the Ananda Bazar Patrika to protect the honour of our gods, at least not quite yet. With luminaries like Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Mamata Banerjee to look up to, this is one of the rare things that can still make you happy about life in Bengal. Vive le difference!
Unfortunately these satires are always in Bengali and that makes it a bit of a bother trying to share the fun with the non-Bongs and the hon-Bongs. This year, after ages, I have found something in a similar vein in English in the Graphiti section of the Telegraph of Calcutta. The author, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, a well-loved author, humorist, and teacher of comparative literature, needs no introduction to Bong readers. Those who don’t read Bengali might know her better as Amartya Sen’s first wife. I am attaching JPEG images of the five pages for you enjoyment in lieu of rashogollas for Bijaya Dashami. So, go ahead and join in the fun.
With shubhechchha, kola-kuli, pronaam and heartiest wishes for a wonderful year ahead, wherever you are,
Biswaroop, Madhuri, Mitti and Kabir
Monday, September 14, 2009
i asked him to extend his arm so that i could measure his blood pressure again, and noticed that his hands were trembling. i asked about his alcohol consumption and he said he did drink occasionally, but not in the past month at least. i asked then why his hands were trembling and he said he had had it for the past five days. the reason? he had not been eating enough. since the previous day, all he had had to eat was one single roti: he could not afford any more.
as he said this, he turned away, frowning, and sat silently. i did not know what to say to him either.
i sent him for some investigations, and also gave him two free meal coupons to have lunch at the canteen we run at ganiyari. the free meals are courtesy some well wishers of jan swasthya sahyog.
he has been started on medication for his hypertension, and i still feel apologetic that his bloodshot eyes and trembling hands had made me wonder if he had been on a binge the night before, when the reality is so very different.
i think about this patient who travelled so far, saving on food in order to be able to afford the journey to ganiyari, after not having had enough to eat for some days before that. and i wonder when he will be able to afford two meals a day again. and whether he will be able to afford to return to continue his medication....chronic hunger is a reality for so many of our country's citizens
there are many premlals we see here.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
and the first patient, a child, brought with abnormal behaviour for a month, when faith healing did not work. i brought him back with me to ganiyari and he is being investigated for the cause, having been started on medication to control the seizures.
patients come to the bamhni clinic from about 50 villages around, many crossing over from neighbouring madhya pradesh, walking a day or more to reach a nearby village where they stay with a relative to attend this clinic which runs on tuesdays. enterprising jeep drivers sometimes run chartered trips from a large village surhi about 10 km away, where patients can reach by bus. most come with serious problems, and the dearth of adequate medical care at an affordable price in this rural area on the border of chhattisgarh and madhya pradesh, is obvious.
this was one tuesday clinic inside a remote forest area, most tuesdays the clinic is busier and sicker than this one.
yet our Government seems to feel that people in rural areas have small problems that can be dealt with by badly trained health workers, or even a village level woman with minimal training, with no supervision or continuing support. access to secondary and tertiary level care - even primary care - is a dream for most of the population that resides outside large towns or cities.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Because there is no paddy in it to pound.
Why is there no paddy in it?
Because I did not harvest any.
Why did you not harvest any?
Because I did not sow any.
Why did you not sow any paddy?
Because I did not till my field.
Why did you not till your field?
Because the frogs did not sing.
Why did the frogs not sing?
Because it did not rain........"
we have worked hard, and we needed the money, they said, and we did not get it in time. now the rains are delayed, and the fields have dried up. with debts mounting, our menfolk have started migrating. to bilaspur, to bhopal, do delhi.
phulsita's husband and son-in-law have migrated to faridabad where they work in a glass factory. on monday her son-in-law called her say he had got a piece of glass in one eye and could not open it and hence had not gone to work. doctors are expensive, he told her over the phone when she urged him to seek care.
how did your son-in-law, a forest dweller who has only ever done some agricultural work, end up in a glass factory, i asked. well, she replied, beggars cant be choosers.
so now she waits for news of her son-in-law's eye: has he sought care? could someone take the piece of glass out? will he be able to see normally?
who is responsible for this? his own carelessness or the doctor who charges an unaffordable fees? the employer who does not provide safety precautions to the worker? the failed monsoon? or the NREGA that did not pay wages when it should have: a weekly payment that would have helped to prevent unmanageable debt and perhaps prevented this migration?