Friday, 26 October 2012

"chaman ro-ro ke kehata hai" : Tribute to the Emperor of Laughter

While surfing in cyberspace yesterday, I was shocked and dazed by the news of the untimely demise of Jaspal Bhatti. “Laughter is the language of the soul,” said Pablo Neruda. Who more than Jaspal Bhatti could have wielded the language of the soul with such immaculate perfection? Laughter is the best medicine, they say. The gods in heaven must have been envious of the Jaspal medicine that we mortal were enjoying in this country. I am sure Jaspal will not refrain from mocking at the cruelty of fate that left us bereft of cheer and laughter in so absurd a fashion.

At this tragic moment, I cannot help recall the lyrics by Shankar Jaikishan of the famous Hindi song sung by Hemant Kumar in the 1954 film Badshah.  

rulaa kar chal diye, ik din hansi ban kar jo aaye the
chaman ro-ro ke kehata hai,
kabhi gul muskuraaye the
rulaa kar chal diye, ik din hansi ban kar jo aaye the

agar dil ke zubaan hoti ye gham kuchh kam to ho jaataa
udhar vo chup, idhar seene men ham toofaan chhupaaye the
chaman ro-ro ke kehata hai, kabhi gul muskuraaye the
rulaa kar chal diye, ik din hansi ban kar jo aaye the

ye achchha tha na ham kehate kisi se daasataan apani,
samajh paaye na jab apane, paraaye to paraaye the
rulaa kar chal diye, ik din hansi ban kar jo aaye the

Let us keep alive the legacy he left behind and try to bring in this beleaguered world a little smile and plenty of genuine laughter.- An ardent admirer, Nibir K. Ghosh

Monday, 22 October 2012

"The greater part of the law is learning to tolerate fools.”

Vol. 11 No. 2, September 2012

“A University should be a place of light, of liberty, and of learning,” stated Benjamin Disraeli. I would like to examine this statement in the context of an event of considerable importance that took place two centuries ago at Oxford University, “the oldest university in the English speaking world [that] has been educating world changing leaders for over 800 years.” Inspired by intense love for scientific reasoning, a beautiful and effectual angel, hailing from the protected precincts of an aristocratic order, dared to sing hymns unbidden in praise of “atheism.” Yes, the reference is to P.B. Shelly and his (in)famous “The Necessity of Atheism,”  the thirteen-page tract that led to his expulsion from Oxford University on March 25, 1811.
The pamphlet argued the lack of evidence for the existence of God and suggested that God was just a projection of human ideas. The title page of the tract displayed his avowed purpose in writing it: “love of truth.” Far from being impressed by his innocent demand for qualified reasoning, the presiding dons at Oxford – “the men who had made Divinity the study of their lives” – found his reasoning reprehensible and asked him in an abruptly summoned summary trial, “Are you the author of this book?” The impetuous one curtly replied: “If I can judge from your manner, you are resolved to punish me if I should acknowledge that it is my work. If you can prove that it is, produce your evidence; it is neither just nor lawful to interrogate me in such a case and for such a purpose. Such proceedings would become a court of inquisitors, but not free men in a free country.”
In a letter written to William Godwin, his future father-in-law, Shelley recorded his complaint of college tyranny in no uncertain terms: “Oxonian society was insipid to me, uncongenial with my habits of thinking. I could not descend to common life….I became in the popular sense of the word ‘God’ an Atheist. I printed a pamphlet avowing my opinion, and its occasion. I distributed it anonymously to men of thought and learning wishing that Reason should decide on the case at issue. It was never my intention to deny it.” Perhaps Shelley was unaware how, even in the heyday of the Romantic age, when to be young was very heaven, such thoughts were blasphemous.
Strangely coinciding with the bicentenary year of Shelley’s expulsion from Oxford University, we may shift our gaze to an event located in the capital town of the world’s largest democracy. Showing scant regard for the ideals of “light, liberty and learning,” the Vice Chancellor and the Academic Council of Delhi University brazenly removed A.K. Ramunjan’s brilliant and insightful essay, “Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation,” from the B.A. (Honours) History course. The controversy came to the fore in the year 2008 when some activists, inspired by their concern for saving “Hindutwa,” attacked teachers in the Delhi University’s history department and demanded that the essay be removed from the B.A. History syllabus. The matter finally landed up in the Supreme Court which sought the opinion of an academic expert committee on the issue. Surprisingly, three out of four members on the said committee voted in favour of the essay. The lone dissenting voice was that of the fourth member who, while praising the essay’s scholarship, came to the conclusion that “it would be difficult for college lecturers to teach with sufficient context, especially those who weren’t Hindu.”
It may be pertinent to mention here the remarks of Professor Michael Shapiro, University of Washington, Seattle, who, responding to my “Editorial” in the March 2012 issue of Re-Markings, stated: “I enjoyed what you had to say and agree with you totally.  By the way, your article made me reflect on all the nonsense that’s been taking place at Delhi University with regard to A.K. Ramanujan’s old article on the various versions of the Ramayana.  There seems to be no end of craziness.”
Such craziness, however, is not a rare instance in the general atmosphere of intolerance that prevails in our groves of academe. In very recent times Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey was removed from Mumbai University’s literature syllabus simply because it allegedly contained some “disparaging” comments about “Shiv Sena and the Marathis.” No less absurd is the logic forwarded by the powers that be in removing the sixty-year old Ambedkar cartoon from NCERT books. The price paid by Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra of Jadavpur University for circulating a cartoon featuring Trinamool Congress leaders is common knowledge now. Robert Frost’s candid confession that he left Harvard “to be educated” does make a lot of sense.
Disturbing events that threaten to destroy the very rationale of intellectual autonomy in democratic societies do urge us to reformulate Benjamin Disraeli’s statement to accommodate the express views of Doris Lessing, the Nobel Laureate: “In university they don't tell you that the greater part of the law is learning to tolerate fools.”
- Nibir K. Ghosh
Chief Editor

Rabindranath Tagore: The Living Presence

Nibir K. Ghosh. Rabindranath Tagore: The Living Presence. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2011.ISBN 9788172736491. Rs. 850.
In this engaging anthology, poets, writers, critics, social activists, academics and scholars from various parts of the globe share their appreciation and insightful understanding of the life and work of Tagore and illumine how the fragrance of his living presence crowns the infinity of his kaleidoscopic creations. Through insightful evaluation of songs, stories, novels, plays, articles, literary criticism, memoirs, dance-dramas, books for children, philosophical treatises, travelogues and the like, the essays in this volume bring into bold relief the colourful shades and nuances of Tagore’s multidimensional genius: his boundless aspiration for the expansion of the human spirit, his ability to transcend borders and boundaries, his multicultural concern, his patriotism, his stellar role as an ambassador of universal human understanding, his lyrical exposition of those living on the margins – the poor, the oppressed, the women etc., his recognition of the world not merely as a storehouse of power but as a habitation of man's spirit, his genius in setting to music dimensions of human versatility in a style that is both timeless and universal. While the many deliberations in this book bring to light issues and concerns universal to mankind, a unique feature of this anthology is the intimate touch of endearment that most contributors have displayed in revealing their esteem for Tagore.
IPreface. 1. Rabindranath Tagore: The Living Presence – Nibir K. Ghosh. 2. The Spirit of Tagore – David Ray. 3. The Poetry of Rabindranath Tagore – Shanta Acharya. 4. Religious Experience as Drama: The King of the Dark Chamber – Basavaraj Naikar. 5. Rabindranath Tagore: A Tribute – S. Ramaswamy. 6. Poetic Justice – Siddharthya Roy. 7. Tagore’s Santiniketan – Debarati Bandyopadhyay. 8. Religion and Politics in the Plays of Rabindranath Tagore – Mukesh Ranjan Verma. 9. Literature and Film: Satyajit Ray’s Cinematic Rendition of Tagore’s Novels – Nashtanir and Ghare Baire – Anuradha Sen. 10. The Abyss of Nationalism: Tagore’s Critique – Prasenjit Biswas.11. From Micro-Humanism to Macro-Humanism: Tagore’s Legacy – Tanutrushna Panigrahi. 12. Call of the Forest: Tagore’s Theory of Education through His Seasonal Plays – Sudeshna Majumdar. 13. Orientalism Revisited: A Postcolonial Perspective on Tagore – Divyajyoti Singh. 14. Conflict between Bondage and Liberation in Tagore’s Muktadhara – Basavaraj Naikar. 15. Eco-centric Concerns in the Poems of Tagore – Kalpana Purohit. 16. Triumph of Humanism over Industrialism and Superstition: A Study of Rabindranath Tagore's Red Oleanders and Sacrifice – Arpita Ghosh. 17. Rabindra Nath Tagore: An Exponent of Humanism – Madhabi Sen. 18. Rabindranath Tagore: The First Global Citizen – Sandhya Tiwari. 19. Environment and Marginalized Existence in Tagore’s Works – Debarati Bandyopadhyay. 20. Tagore: A Living Manabasatya – Monali Bhattacharya. 21. To Dwell in the Land of Perfect Bliss: The Maternal Figure in Select Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – Raichel M. Sylus. 22. Nation and Nationalism in the Poems of Tagore – Divya Walia and Rani Rathore. 23. “Thou hast made me endless”: Universality in Tagore’s Poetry – Shekhar Varma and Seema Shekhar. 24. Rabindranath Tagore: A Living Essence of Humanitarianism – Namrata Parmar. 25. Humanizing Science: A Reflection on Tagore’s Muktadhara – Lalima Chakraverty. 26. A Search for Adi Dharm in Tagore’s Gora – Manju Rani. 27. Lyrical Qualities in the Dramas of Tagore – Ravi Prakash Chapke. 28. Sexuality, Nationalism and Tagore’s Home and the World – Sanjoy Saksena. 29. Tagore’s Creative Genius in Mashi – Simmi Gurwara. 30. Tagore: A Humanist Perspective – Shobha Diwakar.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Felicitations to Dr. Jane Schukoske! Great job!

'Hitch your wagon to a star'

Women-led Water Management: Trendsetters in village Marora

Water has gender dimensions. Women and men derive different benefits from its availability, use and management. Although women literally carry water, they are often left out of the decision making process about community water management. Mewat's water scarcity is well-known to the government and organizations working in the area. In an area where women are often confined to four walls of the house, the recently formed women-led water committee in village Marora, just 2 kms away from the district headquarters Nuh, lifts the spirits and capacity of the community. It has a very interesting genesis.

Promoting knowledge of rural development is a high priority of the Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD), an initative of the S. M. Sehgal Foundation to further the well-being of rural communities in India. This issue of IRRAD Connect features consultations, collaborations and conferences that bring together partners, government and others interested in the development sector.  The purpose is to share best practices, identify and solve problems and support good policy recommendations to accelerate the meeting of basic needs. Our themes are water management and sanitation, citizen participation in governance, and agricultural income enhancement. 

IRRAD collaborates with partners from all sectors on demonstrating tested models, and providing technical advice and training.  Please visit our website (, blog ( and social media sites. Let us know what interests you.

If you would like to explore ways to join hands with us, please write me at

Jane Schukoske
Chief Executive Officer, IRRAD