Archive | June, 2012

Why is the World Oblivious of the Bi-Centenary of Robert Browning- the Poet of Love?

12 Jun

This year marks the bicentenary of Charles Dickens and also Robert Browning. Robert Browning was  born just three months after Charles Dickens , but in the same year , 1812.But for unknown reasons England and India seem to be silent on Browning.

 Robert Browning was born in the same year ,1812,as that of Charles Dickens , but he lived more till 1889. Really, history has not treated the Victorian poets kindly. Browning is less famous today than Dickens all over the world and there is not the expected revival of interest in his work. But it is really surprising that we have nearly forgotten his contribution to the Victorian literature. Writing during the age of the novel, and caught between the Romantics’ poetic riches and the modernists’ iconoclasm, Victorian poets were overlooked for much of the 20th century. Even in the 21st century ,we still feel reluctant to celebrate that he was one of the greatest poets of the Victorian period and it was he who inspired confidence at a time when all the devils of pessimism were loosed out of hell.

“Ah, Love, but a day,
And the world has changed!
The sun’s away,
And the bird estranged;
The wind has dropped,
And the sky’s deranged;
Summer has stopped.
Ah, Love, but a day,
And the world has changed!”

Browning, the poet of love sings out so spontaneously in poem after poem. His facile optimism is no longer the target of the critics, because in his poetry, he  challenged  the multitude of devils and achieved his optimism as in ‘Roland to the Dark Tower Came’, or ‘Caliban Upon Setebos’. His robust sense of life was no less significant than that of Chaucer  as Landor compared him in his beautiful poetic lines: “Since  Chaucer was alive and hale,/No man hath walked along our roads with step /So active, so inquiring eye, or tongue/So varied in discourse.”There was no other English writer of the nineteenth century who to the same degree made all human experiences his own. His poems are not poems about little children who win good-conduct prizes. They are poems of the agonies of life, poems about tragic severance, poems about failure. They range through the virtues and the vices with the magnificent boldness of Dostoevsky’s novels.

Nowhere else in English poetry outside the works of Shakespeare and Chaucer is there such a varied and humorous gallery of portraits. We find in his poems, indeed, no fastidious escape from life, but an exalted acceptance of it. Browning is one of the very few poets who, echoing the Creator, have declared that the world is good. His sense of the goodness of it even in foulness and in failure is written over half of his poems. The madman, the atheist, the adulterer, the traitor, the murderer, the beast, are portrayed in them side by side with the hero, thee saint, and the perfect woman. There is every sort of rogue here half-way between good and evil, and every sort of half-hero who is either worse than his virtue or better than his sins. He was born with a passion for living in other people’s experiences. So impartially and eagerly he did it, that even Oscar Wilde felt compelled to comment : “”Taken as a whole the man was great,” . Wilde begins – after recalling figures from the poems – by declaring that as “a creator of character he ranks next to him who made Hamlet”. 

Dramatic monologue is not his invention but whenever one talks of this literary genre, Browning’s name comes first, because ,it came of age with Robert Browning only.The objective distancing of  a poet from his themes is a part of his impersonality as an artist. The first of  Browning’s confession of his aims as an artist that the poet is no philosopher. Browning’s modernism consists in the invention of  a harsh speech of his own for common use,which  he uttered in all the varied rhythms of his poems. Thus his poems have the movement of living things. They are lacking  in smooth and static loveliness as they happen in modern poetry. It is really strange that the author of Men and women , Dramatis Personae, and The Ring and the Book is given a muted celebration of his bicentenary .Punch may lampoon him as ‘ inescapably a Victorian gentleman, but living out a fantasy of being Italian’.But Browning was cent per cent English in his thoughts and ideas. Only his subjects in some poems were Italian. Browning was known no less  for his love poems : ”O lyric Love, half angel and half bird /And all a wonder and a wild desire” sang out Browning in The Ring and the Book. Friends , why so mute about the bi-centenary of this great poet ?


Ray Bradbury , The Outstanding Science Fiction Writer Is No More

11 Jun

Ray Bradbury , The Outstanding Science Fiction Writer Is No More


Flowers were placed on Tuesday on his sidewalk star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. He was also immortalized by having an asteroid named after him: 9766 Bradbury. Ray Bradbury , the author of The Martian Chronicles  and Fahrenheit 451 is no more. He was slowed in recent years by a stroke  and at last succumbed to death at the age of 91. The outstanding science fiction writer died at Los Angeles at the age of 91.He did a great job in bringing science fiction to the literary mainstream. His name came at the top of the list of major science writers along with Isaac Asimov, Arthur C.Clarke, , Robert A.Heinlein  and Stanislaw Lem. Bradbury received Pulitzer citation , a rare honour which no other science fiction writer has got. His writings ranged from horror and mystery to humour and sympathetic stories about the Irish , blacks land Mexican-Americans. Bradbury besides writing his science fiction also scripted John Huston’s 1956 fims version of Moby Dick and wrote for The Twilight Zone and other TV programmes, including the The Ray Bradbury Theater. Bradbury’s family moved to Los Angeles in 1934. He became a movie buff and a voracious reader. “I never went to college, so I went to the library,” he explained. He tried to write at least 1,000 words a day, and sold his first story in 1941. He submitted work to pulp magazines until he was finally accepted by such upscale publications as TheNew Yorker. Bradbury’s first book, a short story collection called Dark Carnival, was published in 1947.



The debut occurred in 1950 with The Martian Chronicles  which contained a series of stories  that satirized Capitalism, racism, and superpower clashes through the symbolic fights between idyllic Martian civilization and the Earth colonizers. Born Ray Douglas Bradbury on Aug. 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Ill., the author once described himself as “that special freak, the man with the child inside who remembers all.” His father, Leonard, a power company lineman, was a descendant of Mary Bradbury, who was tried for witchcraft at Salem, Mass. The author’s mother, Esther, read him the Wizard of Oz. His Aunt Neva introduced him to Edgar Allan Poe and gave him a love of autumn, with its pumpkin picking and Halloween costumes. He was so poor during those years that he didn’t have an office or even a telephone . Bradbury never considered himself a science fiction author, even though he wrote two of the most famous books in the genre and was inspired by Buck Rogers and published his first fiction in science fiction fanzines. He was hardly a technophobe; he supported the space program and wrote about the possibilities of robotsFew writers could match the inventiveness of his plots: “The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me,” Bradbury said in 2000.”The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was 12,” he said on his 80th birthday.

What was his attitude about internet? It is quite surprising that he advised people to avoid internet. “People are talking about the Internet as a creative tool for writers. I say, “B.S. Stay away from that. Stop talking to people around the world and get your work done,” he told Playboy magazine in 1996, aged 75.

In all, the award-winning writer penned nearly 600 short stories and 50 books, including “The Martian Chronicles” .Bradbury preferred the label fantasy to “sci-fi,” defining it as “a depiction of the unreal” and giving as an example “The Martian Chronicles,” because it was a story that could not happen.”Fahrenheit 451″ was his only sci-fi book, he said, because it was a “depiction of the real” — or of something that could actually happen in a totalitarian state.
Bradbury branched out into film, television and theatre, with an Academy Award nomination for his 1962 animated film, “Icarus Montgolfier Wright,” and an Emmy as a television writer for “The Halloween Tree.” The brief obituary cannot really do justice either to him or to his fiction.







A Tribute to Jamini Roy on His 50th Death Anniversary From Sutanuti Boimela Committee

11 Jun

The Sutanuti Boimela Committee of Rajballavpara paid their tribute to Jamini Roy by publishing a scholarly volume entitled Jamini Roy : Shradharghya in which most of the essays are in Bengali. The book will make everyone curious about the painting art of this artist on his 50th death anniversary. Jamini  Roy died fifty years ago. In 2012 , there could be lot of celebrations  in honour of this renowned painter who never left his Indian values . He never allowed himself to be swayed by the Western ideas of painting. Jamini Roy is among the most significant  and influential  Indian painters and artists  of the 20th century . He enjoyed a great deal of respect  and fame during his lifetime. On the 50th death anniversary of this great artist , Sutanuti Boimela committee published an anthology of critical essays  Jamini Roy : Sradharghya on the great painter to focus on the kaleidoscopic personality of the man and for analyzing varied aspects of his art. Some of the essays revealed Jamini Roy’s personal ideas on art of painting in general and also on sculptures. Jamini Roy had scanty respect for the Indian miniatures  and the frescoes of  Ajanta and Konark temple. He also did not show much enthusiasm about Tagore’s art of painting. In one of the essays it is discussed how Buddhadeb Basu, Sudhindranath Datta  and Bishnu Dey introduced him to the international art scene. Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay and Sankha Ghosh also wrote essays in this volume. The great attraction of this book is the accommodation of pictures of Jamini Roy some of which are rare pieces of art.

There were not a plethora of books before this anthology dealing with the aspects of his art of painting of  Jamini Roy. In 1988, the book Ruptapas Jamini Roy written by Prasanta and published by Prativash  consists of a collection of essays on Jamini Roy’s life and art by poets , journalists , art critic and historians of today and the previous days. The minute  analysis  shows  the history of the artist’s long and amazing  evolution  of artistic  thoughts . There are six  pictures  and twenty six paintings by the artist himself and the others. The other book Jamini Roy published by R.Chatterjee , Secretary, Lalit Kala Academy , New Delhi, in 1973 dealt with the work of modern Inidan artists’ endeavour  to bring to the public at lost the art of our own time. There are several pictures  drawn by the artist himself . Besides , there are the short life story of the artist, his style , and his thoughts around art. Bishnu De’s book Jamini Roy published by Asha Prakashani in 1977 unveiled  the historical evolution of the art and the artistic thoughts of the  great artist of modern time , Jamini Roy .We can get a clear idea about the artist’s philosophy of life , his personalit , his style  of vernacular  speaking from the various letters to the author. Jamini Roy widely regarded as one of the most important  Indian artists of our times drew inspiration not from any Western model but from the folk traditons of Bengal, from the Kalighat pat in particular. Born in Bankura , on the first day of Baishakh , 1280 (April 11, 1887) , he had in his mind the native values of his own village Beletor which he regarded as the epitome of Indianism. He was not much interested in  studying   the venerated  Indian miniatures , and even the frescoes of  Ajanta  and the Konark Temple . He even had the idea that Tagore painted in a pure Western manner and felt that Tagore  appplied pigments and through his sheer powers of imagination used the lines. But the slim anthology published by Sutantuti Boimela Committee of Rajballavpara is a very much informative book .

Jamini Roy  was a path breaking artist and this aspect was earlier  highlighted in the book Jamini Roy , Bengali Artist of Modern India published in 1997 by Samuel P. Harn. But in the present anthology  the focus is on the deceptive simplicity of Jamini Roy’s art.The greatness of his innovative art cannot be ignored. On the 50th death anniversary of the artist , there is no stir in the cultural ambience of Kolkata. The small book may not be an elaborate and profound exploration of his  painting , but it is undoubtedly a great tribute to the great painter

Aung San Suu Kyi Hides Her Face From Facebook

11 Jun

On her own Facebook page Aung San Suu Kyi is described as Burma’s democracy leader,and Nobel Laureate  who symbolizes the struggle of Burma’s people to be free. The page on Aung San Suu Kyi is liked by 13285  people till date and it is discussed by 14772. Articles published in Merinews by the present writer and many others are accommodated in that site. There are many rare photos of Aung San Suu Kyi in the Facebook Page .  We get a lot of information about her from the page.Suu Kyi is to receive Amnesty Award from Bono in Dublin.  We know about the NLD’s child care programme, Senator John MacCain’s visit to NLD Headquarter last year, the golden moment of the Day of Release on Nov 13 last year and other remarkable incidents of her life. In this page of Facebook we have the rare picture of Suu Kyi being awarded Freedom of the City of Brighton and Hove in the UK. She is photographed with Geoff Wells of Brighton Council and Anna Roberts , Executive Director of Burma Campaign Uk.   We know that she has been the Guest Director of the Brighton Festival on May 8,2011. In the interview published in The Guardian she says : “ I’ve always tried to explain democracy is not perfect. But it gives you a chance to shape your own destiny.” We come to know from a tag about the documentary film on her  , called  “BURMA SOLDIER” which  provides a rare glimpse of a brutal dictatorship seen through the eyes of a courageous former soldier who, quite literally swapped sides. The documentary offers an exclusive and rare perspective, from inside the heart and mind of a man who lays bare an understanding of a brutal regime. On January 21, Aung San Suu Kyi had finally had internet access installed at home after her years of isolation were brought to an end two months ago.Her security chief Win Htein told AFP that the opposition leader was “glad” to be able to go online at her lakeside mansion in Rangoon and would use the technology to contact her network of supporters.“But she cannot use the internet now as she is not feeling well and is coughing,” he said. It is believed that the Nobel laureate has never before surfed the web.

This internet phobia still persists in Aung San Suu Kyi. Under Myanmar’s previous military junta ,her connections with internet were blocked by a government firewall from accessing many sites. She is still scared of such internet sites. However, she says that she is too busy to use the social sites such as Facebook. She is bullish about Freedom but not so sure about Facebook. It may be remembered here that her Facebook is one of the most visited page ever. She had some Gandhian touch in her. At Sevagram ashram of Gandhi there was no electricity , no telephone connectivity. Similarly, in the house arrest period of 22 years, Suu Kyi too did not have even a telephone. Asked if she is not computer savvy in using the Facebook, the Burmese icon of freedom says that it is not an issue with adjusting, but a matter of finding time. What more she has said is also interesting. She says :” Mind you , you never know what will happen  with the technological  revolution.Facebook may be old hat  tomorrow . In that case , Iwon’t go on Facebook.” .


Jhoothan : A Story of the Untouchable by An Untouchable

11 Jun

Omprakash Valmiki’s Joothan: An Untouchable’s Life Narrrated by An Untouchable

The name ‘Untouchable’ always brings to our mind Mulk Raj Anand’s book. But Omprakash Valmiki’s Joothan is written from the personal experiences of dalit who rises to prominence from his marginalized presence. Omprakash Valmiki’s voice is today recognized as an empowered voice of a writer who  works  on behalf of Dalits. Himself born in a desperately poor family in North India, the lowest caste in Indian society, a community of the illiteratre Untouchables , he describes from his personal experiences the torments of the Dalits who even have no right to fight for education or food. He describes how these people are subject to an institutionalized slavery.The highest purpose of Dalit writing is not beauty of craft, but authenticity of experience. Omprakash gives us an anatomy of oppression. Most significantly, though, Valmiki’s story is a voice from the half of India that has been voiceless for countless generations. Valmiki and a few others like him have breached an opening for our understanding and knowledge about a people so marginalized that they disappeared from the world’s awareness, their cultures, lifestyles, folk knowledge, and aspirations represented nowhere in mainstream or scholarly sources. Joothan by by Omprakash Valmiki is  one such work of Dalit literature, first published in Hindi in 1997 and translated into English by Arun Prabha Mukherjee in 2003. Arun Prabha Mukherjee, a professor of English at York University in Canada b did a great job by making the work available to a wider audience, She has  illuminated the book with her thoughtful and insightful foreword. Dalits today constitute about one sixth of India’s population. Spread over the entire country, speaking many languages, and belonging to many religions, they have become a major political force.

Jhootan  is a memoir of growing up ‘untouchable’ starting in the 1950s outside a typical village in Uttar Pradesh. “Joothan” literally means scraps of food left on a plate, destined for the garbage or for the family pet in a middle-class urban home. It is related to the word “jootha,” which means polluted, and such scraps are characterized as “joothan” only if someone else eats them. India’s untouchables have been forced to accept and eat “joothan” for their subsistence for centuries. The word encapsulates the pain, humiliation, and poverty of this community, which has lived at the bottom of India’s social pyramid for millennia. Viramma is an agricultural worker and midwife in Karani, a village near Pondicherry in southeast India. Viramma is a member of the caste called Untouchable. Of her 12 children, only three survive. Viramma’s story–told over the course of 10 years–is a vivid portrayal of a proud and expressive woman living at the margins of society. Basically the focus is on untouchability which was abolished in 1949 only in paper. For decades after that, the dalits continued to face discrimination, economic deprivation, violence, and ridicule. Valmiki shares his heroic struggle to survive a preordained life of perpetual physical and mental persecution and his transformation into a speaking subject under the influence of the great Dalit political leader, B. R. Ambedkar. A document of the long-silenced and long-denied sufferings of the Dalits, Joothan is a major contribution to the archives of Dalit history .Told as a series of piercing vignettes, Joothan is also a remarkable record of a rare Indian journey, one that took a boy from extremely wretched socioeconomic conditions to prominence. It is a rare glimpse into that other history of India , of marginalized section of people about whom few talks and almost nobody writes. Omprakash Valmiki describes his life as an untouchable, or Dalit, in the newly independent India of the 1950s..

As a document of the long silenced and long denied sufferings of the Dalits, Joothan is not only a contribution to the archives of Dalit history, but a manifesto for the revolutionary transformation of society and human consciousness. Valmiki was born into the Chuhra caste (aka Bhangi)  whose ordained job  it was to sweep the roads, clean the cattle barns, get shift off the floor, dispose of dead animals, work the fields  during harvests, and perform other physical labour for upper caste people , including the Tyagi Brahmins who called out not by their names but as ‘ou chuhre’ or ‘abey chuhre’ which reflects disdain and hate. They could touch cows and even stray dogs, but not the Chuhra people who were forced to live outside the village reserved for upper caste people. Untouchable is Mulk Raj Anand’s first novel and it brought to him immense popularity and prestige. This novel shows the realistic picture of society. In this novel Anand has portrayed a picture of untouchable who is sweeper boy. This character is the representative of all down trodden society in pre-independence of India. The protagonist of this novel is the figure of suffering because of his caste. With Bakha, the central character, there are other characters who also suffer because of their lower caste. They live in mud-walled cottages huddled colony in which people are scavengers, the leather-workers, the washer men, the barbers, the water-carriers, the grass-cutters and other outcastes. The lower castes people are suffering because they are by birth outcaste. But Mulk Raj Anand had depicted the hypocrisy of the upper caste people that men like Pt. Kali Nath enjoy the touch of the Harijan girls. Mulk Raj Anand exposes all this hypocrisy and double standard or double dealing. In this novel Bakha is a universal figure to show the oppression, injustice, humiliation to the whole community of the outcastes in India. Bakha symbolizes the exploitation and oppression which has been the fate of untouchables like him. His anguish and humiliation are not of his alone, but the suffering of whole outcastes and underdogs.

            Untouchable shows the evil of untouchability in Hindu Society The novel’s emphasis on an individual’s attempt to emancipate himself from the age old evil of untouchability.Anand is here, concerned with evils of untouchability and the need for radical empathy. He describes the pathetic conditions of the untouchables through the character Bakha, their immitigable hardships and physical and mental agonies almost with the meticulous skill of historical raconteur. In the words of Marlene Fisher:“Anand’s first novel, then, is at one and the same time a fine piece of creative work in terms of its own artistic integrity and an indication of it author’s humanistic commitments and future novelistic directions.”

But Jhootan of Omprakash is a novel of the untouchable , by the untouchable and yet not merely for the untouchable but for everyone’s  reading. Omprakash’s narrative voice in Jhootan  brims with a quiet sense of outrage at what he had to endure as a human. We can see his memoir as a form of Satyagraha . The book veritably  becomes ‘the axe for the frozen sea inside us.’ More Indians ought to read Jhootan  and let its sharp edges get to operate  inside them.