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Sunil Gangopadhyay—the Nonbeliever Poet

Posted by Dev Baul - 09/09/22 at 01:09 pm

Sunil Gangopadhyay wore many hats—poet, novelist, short-story writer, historian, and essayist. While all the hats sat easily on him, he had an avowed preference for the poet’s hat. He said, “This birth is only for poetry……I long to live long only for poetry” in his ode to poetry, Only for Poetry.

Trying to bracket Sunil’s poetry into genres would be a hugely futile exercise but his writings in his later years betrayed his repulsion for and exasperation with bigotry, fundamentalism, and indoctrination.

Sunil finds rationality and science are getting drowned in a  sea of faddish beliefs and exhorts the nonbelievers to unite in the poem Sorbohara Abishwasi that roughly translates to Wretched Nonbelievers.It is a moot point whether he would have been able to write this today without hurting some sentiments or being branded anti-national.

Here is an English version of the poem’s last stanza, ineptly interpreted by me.

Wretched Nonbelievers

Sunil Gangopadhyay

 

Losing the battle as I age

Losing every day without a cease.

Don’t hurt the other man’s faith……

Don’t hurt the other man’s belief….

So many beliefs floating around

Numbers bloating each day.

So many types of beliefs…

 

The saffron-clad has ordained that

Street dogs shall lick the blood of the

Child of other faith, trickling on the road

It is his firm belief.

 

The faithful flag bearer believes that

the throats of girls should be slit

Who  dare to sing;

They should don burqas

When they play tennis;

This is also his firm belief.

They with bomb-strapped torsos

Moving toward annihilation;

They with toothy smiles and rippling

muscles wishing to trod on the world;

They are the squad of believers

 

All are believers, all are faith sentries

And I wish to say in my

Weak and broken voice

“Wake up   and unite

Ye wretched nonbelievers of the world

You got nothing to lose but your faith.”

 

 

Translated  by Dev Baul

Here is the poem recited by Manishikha Baul—Odissi Dancer, Performing Artist and Social Activist

 

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    Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

    Posted by Dev Baul - 11/04/22 at 11:04 pm

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    Last of the Teens Yearbook 1984

    Posted by Dev Baul - 21/09/21 at 06:09 pm

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    Lord Jagannath Strikes Back

    Posted by Dev Baul - 12/07/21 at 10:07 pm

    The word juggernaut (derived from Jagannath) was taken to Europe by some missionaries in the 14th century. The story of an enormous carriage carrying a  statue of “the lord of the world” caught the imagination of the English and juggernaut became a popular word connoting a massive force, campaign, movement, or vehicle that crushes everything in its path. The “crushes everything” part is attributable to the legend that devotees threw themselves in the chariot’s path.

    Although the English had the word in their lexicon and mindshare for long, they did not get to see a “Jagannath Rath” till the 20th century. In 1968 ISKCON celebrated “Rath Yatra” for the first time in London.

    Map

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    I happened to be in London on the 40th anniversary of the London Rath Yatra and by a turn of events landed up at Hyde Park—the starting point of the yatra. Not being overtly religious, I never felt an urge to take part in a Rath Yatra while in India, but in unfamiliar surroundings of London, I found myself pulling the rope of the chariot. 

    The cavalcade of three chariots with Balaram, Subhadra, Jagannath, and priests of non-Indian descent started slowly from Hyde Park and reached Trafalgar Square, passing Harrods and Piccadilly on the way. The three-mile journey was made in over two hours. For two hours, normal traffic was allowed only on one side of the road and people had lined up on the sides to witness the spectacle—I saw some youngsters climbing up the Piccadilly fountain to get a better view.

    The three chariots ensconced in front of the National Gallery of Modern Art did not seem out of place at all—it seemed as if the NGMA dome had spawned three smaller domes. 

     

     

     

    Note: I am forced to use standard stock images from the internet as I  had run out of battery in my camera

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    Big-Endians vs Little-Endians

    Posted by Dev Baul - 16/05/21 at 06:05 am

    Big-Endians vs Little-Endians

    Bulletin Board in a Cairo museum

    In the course of his travels, Lemuel Gulliver met two warring factions in  Lilliput—Big-Endians and Little-Endians. Big-Endians broke their boiled eggs from the bigger end while the Little-Endians did the same from the smaller end. A crown prince had cut a finger while breaking the egg from the bigger end in earlier times. Whereupon the emperor decreed that his subjects were ordained to break their eggs from the smaller end only and default would result in stiff penalties. People resented this law and rose in revolt multiple times. These rebellions, often aided and fomented by the monarchy of neighboring Blefuscu, resulted in a loss of life of one emperor and thousands of Big/Little-Endians. At the time of Gulliver’s visit, Lilliput and Blefuscu had been engaged in a war for “six and thirty moons(three years).”

    I came across this bulletin board while walking around in a modern Egyptian museum in Cairo and it reminded me of the Big-Endians vs Little-Endians story. Here were two peoples with identical prophets but for the names, engaged in an eternal war. Their salutations (shalom vs Salaam), headgears (kippah vs taqiyah), rituals (brit millah vs khatna), and concepts of purity (kosher vs halal) are similar too. They agree even in their taboos (pork) but keep firing rockets at each other and have kept at it for decades! Unlike the Big-Endians vs Little-Endians story, there is no egg in play here let alone the big or small ends of the egg.

    Jonathan Swift had used Big-/Little- Endians as metaphors for Protestants/Catholics and Lilliput/Blefuscu for England/France. I have examples from closer home in mind but desist from citing them lest I hurt someone’s sentiments and go behind bars under UAPA/NSA.

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    Strangler Fig Syndrome in the Indian Telecom Sector

    Posted by Dev Baul - 07/09/20 at 03:09 pm

    Strangler Fig Syndrome

    Life cycle of a Strangler fig provides for a fascinating drama. They literally kill other trees to propagate and grow. It starts as a fig seed dropped on a host tree by a carrier bird. The seed ensconced in a crevice of the host tree germinates and sprouts an aerial root. At this point the seedling does not harm the host tree. Situation turns interesting, once the root reaches the ground. It grows rapidly forming a mesh of woody branches around the host tree. The roots thicken and tighten around the host tree trunk literally strangling its growth. Its roots in the ground   amass all the nutrients   depriving the host tree. In the meanwhile, the crown of the fig plant grows foliage at the top competing for sunlight with the host tree.  Deprived of food and sunlight the host tree starts rotting and eventually dies. The dead host tree decomposes leaving the strangler fig standing on a column lattice roots around an empty core.

    Figure A Strangler Fig sapling
    Figure B Strangler Fig encircling the host tree
        Figure C Fully grown Strangler fig with hollow in place of the host tree

    Some naturalists believe that birds do their own farming and disperse seeds of fruit bearing trees. On the other hand, naturalists like David Attenborough think that it is the plants’ strategy of propagating – the seed of the plant has an outer coating that stimulates a sticky secretion in the gut of the bird. This means that the bird has to wipe its cloaca on a twig to remove the dropping – thus the seed entrenches itself on the host tree and starts its cycle of life. Strangler Figs change the whole treescape – all other types of trees are replaced by figs (very evident in Amazon rain forests).

    We dwell on the players and the process in some detail as we will see something akin panning out in the Indian Telecom market – the similitude is striking.

    Strangler Fig and the Indian Telecom Market

    Over the last eight weeks (June- July 2020), an Indian   telecom company was in news for getting   investments worth $30 billions   from multiple   investors including the two of the big 4 viz. Google, Facebook. This helped the Indian telco to become debt-free and the Telco’s principal shareholder to move up the Billionaires list to the fourth position. All this happened in midst of a severe bear market and the Telco’s parent company’s stocks were one of the few gaining stocks.

    Analogies as a rule go so far and no further, but let us stretch it bit and consider Indian Telecom as a diversified jungle of host trees – trees being metaphors for existing telecom service providers; the said Indian Telco as the carrier bird; and Google / Facebook as the Strangler Figs.

    Let us examine how the strangler fig syndrome is panning out in the Indian telecom sector now

    • Before 2016 the Indian Telecom market was the fastest growing and the second largest market in the world with multiple competing telcoes thriving and innovating to stay in the race. The customer never had it better.
    • In 2016 a new Indian telco entered the market and offered its services free   for the first one year. In the process they gained around 35% market share and the Indian state lost AGR revenues as no revenues accrued for the Telco
    • Two players viz, the state-owned BSNL and privately-owned Vodafone are one the verge of shutting down – one main reason being loss of   business due to the predatory pricing war.
    • Google and Amazon have managed to drop the proverbial fig seed. Between the two of them, they virtually control   the content and the app market. Now with 7% and 9% stake respectively in the Indian Telco, Facebook and Google will   surely be represented on the board.
    • Facebook
      • A couple of years ago Facebook had tried a backdoor entry into the Indian market through its offering of Free Basics partnering with the now dead RCom. Thankfully TRAI banned it on grounds of breach of net-neutrality
      • Thus Free Basics in a new avatar will make a grand entry as an introductory free service –  a practice perfected by the Indian Telco when it launched its 4G/LTE   service in India.
      • As is known, Free Basics would provide free access to a select group of apps and services from partnering companies. This of course   would put the non-partnering companies at a disadvantage and perhaps out of business
    • Google
      • In case of Google the carrier telco would get a huge anti-competitive advantage. If telco A is in a position not to charge internet access fees for Google service while telco B is not, it is a no-brainer which telco the customers would flock to.

    In next couple of years, most telecom service providers in the Indian Telecom market will have been strangled by the Googles and Facebooks –  the metaphorical figs.  The market will have moved from a free-for-all competitive market to a monopolistic or at best a duopolistic market controlled by Facebook-Google-Jio behemoth. The customer will have to get used to a set of services with Contents, Service Quality and Price Points provided by the behemoth.

    Disclaimer

    Conclusions and surmises arrived at in this write-up are predicated on information available in public domain. References are not cited for ease of reading and the fact that this is more of an RFC document purporting to throw open the debate. Interested  may write to dev.baul@gmail.com  for  further exchanging of notes.

    ****

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