Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Recorded Media, Digital Revolution & Art : From vinyls to playlists.

Imagine a place which has no iPods, no MP3 players, no MTV, no local FM channels. Can you?? Well, we don’t have to visit any new place, just try to imagine life half a century back. If you dig it well, you will with no doubts conclude that the music ‘industry’ is very young, hardly 50-60 old, and the more fascinating thing is that the industry has retired to the next generation with digital revolution changing the backbone of business done with the form of entertainment.

Since ages music has been a form of art, a medium of entertainment. Country folk musicians have been composing and singing the songs of life since ancient times, they did never think about the copyright issues of their songs, in fact, they might have been happy if someone had sung their composed song.

The evolution of music as an industry is directly related to the technological volcano that erupted in the 20th-century world. With the introduction of radio to the general masses, live performance found a new unknown, unseen yet strong audience who would listen to you from home. This was definitely a change in lifestyle, you could listen to your favorite songs from home, and that was really cool.

As human mastered the art of recording voices and sounds, music was ready to be harvested. Initially, an LP (Long Play) was a mechanical disk recording sounds in a low quality as of today’s standards and had a very low storage capacity. Radio shows were still the best was to publicize music as an artist, and if you are hit on the radio, you are eligible to record and produce an LP to your audience.

With the introduction of the audio cassette by music giants Philips in 1964, the concept of albums made a solid base. An album is a collection of songs put together in a recording medium like LP, cassette or CD according to their storage capacity. This was the initial concept, but as this was the best way to make money as a musician and as a music based company, the artists and bands started to compare albums as novels and poetry booklets. The 60s and 70s were an age of ‘concept albums’. In a concept album, all the songs are based on a common theme or collectively tell a long story. Pink Floyd’s “Dark side of the moon” is one of the best concept album of the era.

Soon, musicians had a new extravagant lifestyle, music became an industry of glamour, money and pure fun. New bands and artists started calling themselves ‘professionals’. They were indeed professional musicians and made no stone unturned to make the maximum sales possible for their albums.

The 1990s was a time of murder, secrecy and total chaos in the music industry. But out of this chaos came the showstopper, the MTV. It gave the musicians the ultimate way to fame. A video song was like the cherry on top of a chocolate cake. The best song in an album was picked and a video was filmed on it. The result was overwhelming, fans liked the video song and recorded album sales reached a new height. Micheal Jackson, Metallica, Britney Spears, were the leaders of the money churning industry.

But thirst of making money made the recording companies short sighted for a bit and they started to take feedbacks from the most important persons who are involved in the whole process, the fans, the followers of music who buy the albums. In most of the cases, due to maximize the sales, the albums would make a video of the best song in the lot, publicize it more and more. A typical music lover would buy the whole album and in most cases would be on the losing side as 2 out of 10 songs are good to spend money on.

So, the problem that was overlooked was the singleness of songs. People liked particular songs and bought entire albums for just 1 or 2 songs in particular.

At this point let us say, the music industry had a new baby who would rule the world in the coming days in the form of MP3 introduced in 1991, a type of digital file which could compress the audio songs to a very portable size. It is to be noted that internet was just starting to gain its popularity as a medium of international communication in the early 90s and MP3 was like the gold biscuits which were to be smuggled in the coming days.

In June 1999, a new computer application called Napster hit the internet. It was a simple peer-to-peer connection application in which netizens could share their songs with one another. The idea was revolutionary. This once again gave full power to the users and fans to choose what to listen to and where to spend money on.

As always, the recording companies hit the company hard and sued them for copyright violations. Napster died in less than a year, but this incident changed the way music is sold and distributed forever. The music giants later realized the strength of the internet and started releasing songs on the internet. Arctic Monkeys are the first band to release their single on the net alone.

The new millennium marks the age of information with the digital revolution at its epicenter, and music seems to be the best product of the technological overhaul in our society. Today a person without a playlist is as rare as a book of poetry without a single line scribed on it. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Into the Clouds : A Travelogue on Cherrapunji.

[Guest Post by Anindita Das]

Its 5 am in the morning and its all mist and clouds outside. I pack my bag and am off from the hotel room. As I start my journey I pass through tall buildings, fine houses and roads that are soon to be occupied by the ever busy life of Shillong. In a matter of about a quarter of an hour the packed city scene gives way to a more serene surrounding as the Headquarter of the Air force is passed by. The eye at once catches the magnificent fighter jet standing in all its might and for once my thoughts turn and I start thinking of all those great men who lived not for them but for this land upon which I stand. Just a few moments more and as I turn my eye towards the window I see the semi barren hills and they remind me of the great adventure I am soon to witness.

I can’t remember a single second when I was not caught by the view outside. The journey continues and then just a small bridge and I reach a place unforgettable. All of a sudden as I see the deep gorges below and clusters of cloud playing around with the mountains and the trees I realize I am now within the clouds. The criss-cross roads keep on adding to my awe as I keep on discovering a place I never thought could exist.
After a travel of about 56 kilometres, crossing various enchanting sceneries which comprises of gorges and unending hillocks clothed with pines, I reach where I had set for, Cherrapunjee. As soon as I get down of the car I first get struck by a signboard saying “the wettest place on earth, Cherrapunjee”. I look up the sky; there are clouds hovering and sun smiling through it. I smile to myself and feel lucky to not see rain. I walk up the road to have a look at the local market of the place as I then get a view of the first waterfall of the region. The local inhabitants who are passing me by did not even care to turn and see the waterfall which have left me so spellbound that my feet could not move forward and I thought to myself that was it me who was lucky to see it once or was it them who saw it so much that they don’t see it anymore. I buy a few locally crafted goods and head on to my next stoppage. Within a few minutes I reach the Rama Krishna Mission Ashram, renowned worldwide for its service to mankind. Along with it was the Rama Krishna mission school which had been imparting education for decades. I meet a few Swamiji’s and have a bit of talk regarding its establishment, work and the locals who inhabit the area while walking along the colourful gardens and its serene surrounding. I ask for their blessings and as I am about to start of again I meet a few hostellers, young boys who live and study there. I stop again and after a quick photo session I leave.

Crossing a small forest which the locals preserve as a sacred forest and a small stream of crystal clear water, I reach a gate which opens to some small shops and huts. I get down and a sound of water striking hard on rocks is what I can hear. I follow the sound and what I discover is another breathtaking waterfall, the Nohkalikai. The hard hitting water falling with all its force into a deep green pool below, it is a fascinating sight! I had just started to enjoy its beauty as suddenly a thick cloud covers up the waterfall in it and I say to myself “welcome to cherrapunjee”. Just a few moments hence the whole place gets foggy and misty and soon after it starts to rain. I run fast and take shelter in a small hut where I am heartily welcomed. The warmth from the chullah, a hot cup of tea and the uncut sound of the rain give me a glimpse of the life in this place. When I asked about the meaning of the name of the waterfall, a lady from the house told me a story which is believed to be the reason behind the name. As told, the name was given after a mother named likai who had jumped off the waterfall after knowing of her daughter’s brutal death by her own father who wanted to have meat and also because of her guilt of having the meat in ignorance. A bit shocked by the story I sit near the chullah waiting for the rain to subside. As the fog cleared up a bit I take an adieu and started my journey further.

Crossing the places where I had first reached I take another route towards the south which was to take me through a few more views to behold. The picturesque deep gorges, the small elegant village lead me to a place named Ka kper syiem sohra which has the cremation of the kingship of the place. As I further moved downwards I reach a place maintained by the Meghalaya government named Eco Park. There I get a display of indigenous orchids and is also presented by a spellbound view of the plains of Sylhet of the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. A bit of chit chats with some of the neighbouring people and start of again seeing the clock tick fast. A few kilometres hence and I reach the mawsmai cave. With an excitement to enter the caves I take an entry ticket and climb the stairs in urgency. As I enter the cave I look inside and I stop. The dimly lit cave, the dripping water from the stones and the silence captivate me within a spur of moment. I enter, and struggling through the tricky narrow paths, through the various chambers and passages reach the other end of the cave. Never had I had such an experience in my life!

Towards the south of this village I had been was a series of seven waterfalls falling in synchronism to each other to the deep gorge below. I was caught by the sight of the Mawsmai waterfall. The vibrant colours of the sun at the backdrop made it a nature’s treat to me. As the sun had almost reached the edge I realize that I have to move on. Capturing the moment in my heart I leave and head towards the second last destination of the day, the Thangkharang Park. Managed by the forest department about 8 kms from the cherra village have an exotic orchid exhibited in it. A panoramic view of the plains of Bangladesh with an added bonanza of the imposing Kynrem waterfall cascading down majestically in three stages, set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh plains, which bounded me with the many other over there.

The last visit of the day that I take is the Khoh ramhah, an imposing single rock formation in the shape of a giant cone structure. According to the folklore, it is the fossilised cone shaped basket of a giant evil. As I looked at it for sometime, the belief does seem to be true for a moment!
As the daylight is dimming away I think to myself if the day could be a little longer, I could have had a few more delights. I sighed and turn to start my journey back. But as I am leaving the place a strange thought is telling me that I too belong to this place now and this place to me...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mr. India - A story of Drugs, Fame & the Virus

Manipur, mid-1980s.

The Manipuri youth were enticed by a new wave of the drug coming from the Golden triangle through the porous India-Myanmar border. It was cheaply and easily available in every street and corner of Manipur.

According to L. Deepak, the president of Manipur Network of Positive People (MNP+), in the beginning, he and his friends were lured by the purveyor known to them that it was the hippiest thing happening in America and was dolled out without charging any money.

And of course, later on, they were forced to buy. So the early 80's were also an era when crime increased in manyfold in the Manipuri society as the loony drug addicts hunting for their daily dose started stealing, robbing and snatching gold earring from small kids occasionally killing them in the process (It is a custom for meitei boys and girls to wear gold earrings until they reach adulthood). Due to these incidents during that murky era, it was even rumoured that drug addicts are vampires who suck blood.

Like any ordinary youth of that era, Pradip Kumar also fell prey to the setup. A 13-year-old guy took refuge to drugs. He started with heroin, "I started doing drugs just for fun. I was probably 14 when I tried heroin for the first time and then marijuana," he says. But the narcotic high doesn't always last forever. By the time he decided enough was enough, that was in 1992, what then looked like a promising career in wrestling and powerlifting was already in tatters.

But the worst was yet to come. The syringes had taken their toll. In 2000, he was diagnosed with HIV. "I thought my end was near. I kept telling myself: I will die today, tomorrow or, probably, the day after. It frustrated me no end and I was dying a slow death," he told TOI.

He remained aloof from the world, from the indivisible society confining himself only to his house. ART (anti retroviral therapy) at that time was not freely available as of now and every month his family has to cash down about INR 35,000 a month by procuring from the local pharmacies. In spite of that, his health was failing from bad to worse and literally, he started crawling.  After staying indoors for two years, Pradipkumar finally decided to battle the dreaded disease. He joined a gymnasium in July 2003.

According to him living with HIV means ‘my immune system is weak’ and he says he has never been affected by any form of malady since he started bodybuilding. The only sickness he had experienced was the ‘mental depression’ caused by the untoward remarks of people about his HIV status.

In December 2007 he won the Mr Manipur title in the 60 kg category. The celebrated days was also the time when he made a crucial stirring decision to stand up for those living with HIV/AIDS. Consequently, he bluntly and boldly announced to the world that ‘he is HIV Positive’. He thought by revealing his status to the world, the discrimination and stigma towards the HIV+ people would eventually decrease.

Henceforth followed a frenzy of media and public attention. He went for the nationals and won the silver in the 50th senior national bodybuilding championships in Margao.

From being infected with the killer virus in the summer of 2000 and hiding it from the world till 2007 when he became Mr. Manipur to winning a silver medal at the National championships, his is the stuff that we thought only the legendary Magic Johnson was capable of.

"It's been such a tiring journey," confesses Pradipkumar, who is now the brand ambassador for Manipur AIDS Control Society.

Today Pradip may be a famous HIV Positive but also a disgusted man with the attitude of some of the agencies and especially the Manipur state government. The Manipur State Aids Control Society made him their brand ambassador for two years from March 2008 to march 2010 paying him INR 6000/month. But he was not happy with the way they were functioning or using his HIV status.

Sometimes Pradipkumar feels like an HIV+ animal exhibited in the zoo for the world to see. He only wants ‘the society to be his walking stick’ and expects all HIV+ people to be treated fairly. He affirms again, ‘nobody wanted to be an HIV+’ and that it is not HIV/AIDS that kills the person but the discrimination of the society.

His message for those who are living with the virus is ‘bodybuilding is the best medicine”

[Excerpts from Pradip Kumar's interview by Oinam Doren, a freelance journalist]

This article was first published on Click here to find it. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The First Encounter with Mumbai Police.

One evening in 1979, a man in his early 30s strolled into a gymnasium in Mahim. The gym was just filling up, but still everyone's eye was on the man wearing a tight T-stirt and baggy trousers with biceps and forearms bulging out. In those days, such a physique was not a frequent sight, and everyone inside watched appreciatively as the man strode in confidently, and stopped and looked around.

Everybody expected him to walk over to the weights and start pumping iron. But to everyone's surprise, he spotted a man called Papi Patil, calmly pulled out his revolver from his pocket and shot directly at Papi's legs blowing out both of his kneecaps. Then as calm as ever, he looked around at the others, and walked out. It was more than a minute before the stunned people could move and rush to help Patil who lay on the floor, bleeding and groaning.

The man was Manohar Surve, aka Manya Surve, a BA graduate from Kriti College and an ardent fan of thriller writer James Hadley Chase. But, above all he was notorious back then as one of the most feared gangsters of Bombay, who eluded the police for over a decade. Legends has it that Manya had also engineered the assassination of Dawood Ibrahim's elder brother Sabir Ibrahim Kaskar.

The police were shaken with Manya's unabated run of violence. On one occasion he lay in wait for a businessman outside a Dena Bank branch in Prabhadevi. Just as he was leaving the bank with a bag containing 2 lakh INR in cash - a significant amount back then - he walked upto him, shoved his gun and demanded the bag. Instead of complying, the businessman threw the bag back into the bank. Enraged, Manya pumped bullets into the businessman and ran away with the bag.

After a string of murders, violent robberies and kidnappings, the then Police Commissioner Julio Ribeiro fromed a special squad of policeman to hunt down the reckless mafia man in late 1981. The squad included Senior Police Inspector Issac Samson, Inspector Yashwant Bhide, and Sub-Inspectors Raja Tambat, Sanjay Parande, and Ishaq Bagwan. This squad would later be famous as Bombay's first encounter squad.

They visited all the places where Manya committed crimes, met his victims and alerted all their informants. But finally, it was the love of a woman that proved to be fatal for this dreaded gangster. On 11 January, 1982, the police got a tip off that Manya would be visiting his girlfriend near the Ambedkar College in Wadala and taking her to Navi Mumbai.

The police immediately swung into action and set the trap for the first ever encounter killing in Mumbai. Tambat, Bagwan and Parande, all in their mid-20s at the time, donned jeans and T-shirts and started loitering outside the college posing as students, while two older officers lay in wait posing as professors. All of them had guns concealed in cavities cut out in the pages of thick books.

Things began to heat up as Manya's girlfriend arrived and stood waiting for the bus. The cops' informants signaled and they stationed themselves around her. At around 10.45 am, Manya arrived in a taxi, drove past the bus stop and stopped several feet ahead. Oblivious of the trap, he got out and started back walking towards his girlfriend right past Tambat and his 'college-mates'.

"Manya Surve, thamb! Aamhi police aahot! [stop, Manya Surve, we are policeman]" shouted Bhide taking out his gun.

Within a second Manya drew out his Mauser pistol from under his shirt and pointed at Tambat and Bhagwan, who were directly infront of him. They took cover behind a parked car, Manya opened fire. In retaliation, the policeman shot him six times. Even with six bullets in his torso, he reached out for the bottle of acid under his socks. But he was overpowered and disarmed by then.

"Maderchod! Policewala bhadwa log!" [Motherfuckers! You cops are all pimps!] screamed Manya, spitting out blooded as he cursed the police. The victim of Mumbai's first encounter kept up his against the police till the last bloody hiccup took away his life. At Sion hospital, he was declared dead before admission.

Collected from: "Dongri to Dubai : Six decades of the mumbai mafia" by S. Hussain Zaidi. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rocumentary of the Daddy : Amit Saigal

What do you do when you are too passionate about some thing but don't get enough exposure to your need?

Revolution has many faces. From the violent struggles of Che Guevara to Gandhi's Satyagraha, all are different forms of revolution. Even a new start to something which is non-existent in a culture is a revolution itself.

But, Amit Saigal never knew he would be later known as a revolutionary leader in the field of music production when he was playing with his college band Impact in the 80s. All he felt was a need for a platform  for the Indian bands to showcase their art. The only platform being the college fests those days, it was hard for any passionate musician to make a living out of it as they had a very limited reach and exposure.

Amit Saigal and Sam Eric Lal published a magazine at Allahbad in early 1993. When Saigal printed the 2500 copies of the 1st issue, the idea was 'to come up with RSJ which would provide news about rock music anywhere in the country' recalls SamThus the Rock Street Journal was born.

At first it was a subscription-only magazine which was promoted by Amit in the different college festivals. With time the collective sub-continental non-bollywood music news monthly gained popularity and subscribers increased making the magazine most sought after music magazine in the country. This made them to shift the magazine's base to the country's capital and popular rock destination, Delhi.

But, like most revolutionaries do, Amit didn't stop there with the cup of success-blended coffee in his hand. He knew he had a long way to go. Up next was RSJ's major extravaganza, the Great Indian Rock. A rock festival where one could live rock, breathe rock and feel rock. 

The 1st five versions of the event were presented entirely by the RSJ. Since the 2000s, Indian music fellowship almost changed drastically. With the popularity of internet and digital music, the mission RSJ once started saw a brighter day. They used these tools as a fuel and came up with a new venture, the Great Indian Rock Albums. Bands from all over the country would contribute their demos to RSJ who would choose the best ones to perform in the fest and also would feature them to the GIR archive albums. 

Amit Saigal can be compared to what Ozzy Osborne did with his OzzFest to revolutionize Heavy Metal music. Amit Saigal is the father of independent music in India. He brought the underground music scene to the stage it is in today. The Papa of Rock will always be in the Hall of Fame in the Indian Music Industry.

(This article was first published on Click here to find it.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Dark Side of the Moon - Breakdown.

Usual evening!

Sitting idle after a heavy dinner… Opened the music folder and played in a Floyd album. So why not blog about them in such an idle evening??

The concept album is a phenomena which has been there for long and this album is one of the best concept albums ever composed by Pink Floyd. The Dark Side of the Moon released in 1973, is written and composed of a unique concept, interstellar space rock blended with urban folk lyrics.

Released in LP and cassette format dividing the 9 tracks into two sides, Side A and Side B. The masters of perfection arranged the tracks accordingly so that the Side A gives an overall description of the phenomenon of life. While in Side B they took a deeper look on the critical issues of life and wrote about them. It’s a very well thought album.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Students and Social Work: 5 Ways Towards a Better India

Our nation is the home of multimillionaire Mukesh Ambani, but it is also the home of millions of people who survive on Rs 32 per day. I always wonder why this country with so many energetic youths is considered a backward nation, even though we are good economically, culturally, politically and have one of the best defense systems. The reason lies within. We have the energy, we have the will, but we do not know how to channelize it for developing a better nation. So here I present you 5 things which every Indian student/youth can do to see a better India.

1. Make use of the reservation system: We know India has a strange and unique caste based reservation system which was implemented 60 years ago to avoid the social differences. But, after 60 years we are still in the same position. Those who could make use of the reservation system have already done it and are doing well in the society, but still many Scheduled caste/Scheduled tribe/Other backward caste students don’t even get to go to school in many parts of the country.

Many people opt for a revised system of reservation on the basis of per capita income; well it is not possible considering the political conditions of India. But, it is inevitable that a well-to-do dalit student will really feel the conditions faced by another dalit person. So, why not make use of that boon which government has already provided us??

What I propose is a ‘Stipend Foundation’ for the reserved class. Those who are listed in the SC/ST/OBC lists can work for their brothers and sisters. We are provided with stipends from the government, so why not donate the same for those less privileged students?? We are good enough to make our own living, so why wasting the governments’ funds on parties?

2. Donate clothes: We all like to shop every now and then, do we even keep track on where our used clothes go?? Sometimes in a dustbin, or sometimes used as a napkin to clean out after party stuffs. So, why not donate one cloth to a poor child every time we buy a new one?? It’s as good as the aforestation campaign. And, we can easily afford it too.

3. Donate books: After every semester, we just wait for the new book, what happens to the ones we had been using in the previous semester?? Most of them are not needed in the future isn’t it?? So we can easily donate them to someone who needs them but cannot afford to buy one or even issue one from a library.

4. Start free tuition: Knowledge increases when it is shared. Instead of spending our extra minutes on the Facebook page, we can teach at least one poor child. Teaching a middle school guy is not a big job for us, but it is a huge task for his construction worker parents. Think over it!

5. Concert for a new audience: If you are a musician and you are fed up of the boos and less encouraging comments from your friends, find a new audience. Go to a slum and pick some random kids and play for them. You will get at least one interested child whom you can mentor. Who knows you might get a full band out of them.

This article is featured in Youth ki Awaaz : The Mouth Piece for the Youth
Link :

Monday, May 14, 2012

INTER-national NET-work : A New Social Nation

I always wondered what is the most unique thing that has happened to our generation until I came across two terms, the ‘timeline’ on Facebook and ‘hangout’ on Google+. It is not a matter of doubt that our generation has seen a revolution which is as good as the one for which Galileo died. Just imagine sitting in your room and exchanging real-time videos (through Skype) to a friend in America, in the year 1900, that too for free!! Unimaginable, ain't it??

Well, we saw the coming of the internet; we all have contributed to this new concept of a global village. In the early 2000s also, the internet was just a place to visit for fun and get random information. We would spend spare times on Rediffbol or Yahoo! messenger. The idea was fast communication, and that’s what has been internet’s role during its puberty.

As time slipped on, we upgraded to free emails and started sharing attachments including pictures, but still, it was not enough. The fun started when various interest sharing sites or as they call formally, ‘social networks’ like Orkut and Myspace hit the market. We realized that we can communicate, share, make contacts, watch videos all in one platform. And, thus the first generation of social networks came.

Until then only the internet crazy teenagers were the comrades of the internet revolution. Then came the famous Facebook and Twitter, with a simple idea, connect to the world and share your life. They made excellent development in their site by integrating every other site with their social experience.

What actually let to this revolution??

With the introduction of Web 2.0, the face of the internet changed forever. The word open-source is a household name these days. The basic difference between the 80’s television media and today’s internet media is the openness of content. Today web publishers create platform rather than content. Let me explain this.

In the 90s Ramayana was a huge hit in the Doordarshan, the DD producers created the show, financed everything from hiring actors to filming the show. While Youtube today just created a platform for sharing videos, the users create the content (videos) and the same users' vote and view them, so the publishers just sit and watch their site grow on its own. This is such a brilliant idea. You just need to think about maintaining the heavy traffic coming to your website, the content is secondary. This is the magic of web 2.0. This is the movement that led Time magazine to declare “You” as the Person of the Year, explaining, “In 2006, the World Wide Web became a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter.” The new media is based on the concept of ‘many-to-many’ rather than ‘one-to-many’.

For information you have Wikipedia, for pictures you have Flickr, for entertainment, you have Youtube, for shopping you have eBay. These sites, better than most, illustrate the power of Web 2.0, especially for ordinary Web users. By designing Web software that uses community input and interaction as its content, sites such as Wikipedia, MySpace, YouTube, and Flickr created sophisticated warehouses of content — without creating any content at all. It is still a creation, of course, but an upside-down model for creation, when compared to the traditional methods anyone over 30, has grown up with.

How does this change our lives?? Let me tell you some stories,

A girl loved to sing with her guitar, but never got an audience to appreciate her. So, she recorded a video on her laptop for an imaginary audience and uploaded it on Youtube. Her video became an instant hit with comments and likes flowing every minute. Encouraged, she uploaded some more and was accepted by one and all. She now is a pop star and makes good money from different concerts. She is Shraddha Sharma.

Abhijit Deb is a friend of mine who liked to click pictures and occasionally edit them. But he had no money to host a photo-exhibition. Then he got an idea, he created a Facebook page for showing his pictures to his friends. He uploaded his best work and they were shared by his friends who liked them. Today he has 600+ fans on his page.

Finally, it’s my own story. I landed in Guwahati city. All alone for the 1st time. I knew there was a Tripura Bhavan somewhere in the heart of the city which was going to give me shelter but I had no idea how to reach there or which route to take. At that moment two things came to my mind, Facebook and Google Maps. I searched for Tripura Bhavan on the Google Maps and located it but still, I was unsure if I could reach there. The next moment I saw a status updated by one of my college seniors on my Facebook news feed, it read “just reached Guwahati airport”. I instantly searched his phone number on his info page. Luckily he had given his personal contact there, I called him. This is no extraordinary story but when I told my dad about this incident, I realized the importance of the internet. My dad was amazed that I could manage the whole journey without even calling him once.

We live in a new nation today, and in the coming generations, INTERnational NETwork will surely change the face of nationalism, governments, and economy.

This is an official entry for Indiblogger's blogging contest Vodafone Internet is Fun (

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tattoos : An Alternative Culture

Last night my girlfriend sent me some pictures of her Mehendi colored hands. I was a bit amazed how body modification has been a priority in her life. This led to googling some pages on body art and I came across a form of art that has been there for centuries.

Tattoos, the first thing that comes to my mind about this word is a Big Babool sticker. These days tattoos have become a new form of a style statement as well as social expression. The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian "tatu" which means "to mark something."  Basically, it is all about making a social statement. Tattoo makers are termed as ‘artists’, it is a form of art.

Well, tattoos have been there for a long time now. It is arguably claimed that tattooing has existed since 12,000 years BC. It has been practiced as social & cultural symbols among many tribal populations as well as caste based Hindu population of India. Until recently, it had been confined only to the tribal life across the world. Indigenous people have used it as a social norm for centuries.

Tattoos may be of two types, the permanent tattoos in which the ink is inserted into the dermis layer of the skin to change the color pigment, and the temporary one which we generally see in the form of mehndi or stickers.

It is generally made to express one’s views about a certain philosophy or person. But, recently youths have also resorted to tattoos to express their sexuality, shyness, and other dark emotions.  Many younger people today either have aspirations to have a tattoo somewhere on their body or already have one or more. Most popular ones are the butterfly, the dragon, flowers, and other tribal symbols.

Though most governments recognized tattoo shops have sterilization machines, but still some tattoo recipients have been reported of blood poisoning, hepatitis, and the most deadly AIDS. While tattoos are patronized by the youths, still, this extreme form of body decoration has not been well accepted in the professional forums. Many jobs holders need to hide their tattoos at work.

In religion too, the Jewish, Muslim and Christian laws forbid any form of body or flesh alteration. Even though it is an art, it has been stereotyped to be against the society due to its connection with heavy metal musicians and Satanists.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

India After Gandhi : Why the country Sustains

A few days back I read a book named India After Gandhi: The History of the Largest Democracy by Ramchandra Guha. The book pointed out something which I could not overlook. In Indian education system, the sub-continental history ends with the British Empire or for some Gandhian biographers till Mahatma Gandhi’s death in January 1948. The rest is documented either in the political science books or in popular culture viz films, novels, etc.

This led me to think how such a huge country sustains and what India’s present position in the world scene is. India is a unique subcontinent in the whole world; its geographical location is also unique. Positioned just above the Indian Ocean, it is being surrounded by China, Pakistan, Russia, and the South Eastern countries. Being so diverse in culture, language, food habits, is very much vulnerable to be disintegrated. A huge population of a billion people in a developing country makes it more vulnerable. But still, it sustains and is making itself compatible to answer back the world powers.

This is because; India is a huge producer of talented human resource on cheap rates. This makes its economic position a dynamic one. If your economy depends on your population, then it’s a strength rather than having an export like gold or oil. Their demand doesn’t vary on the quality, but well trained human resource can’t be judged on quality. Indian economy sustains because of its population only.

The country is compiled with more than 21 major language groups; culturally the north India is totally different from the south, the north-east totally different from the west. Often incidents like the Richard Loitam death and Gujarat riots make the country bleed, but still, the whole nation again cheers for the Indian cricket team.

Actually, India is such a country where a person has multiple identities. A person living in Delhi can be a Hindu, Bengali, Scheduled Caste, Graduate, Middle class, a Delhite, and above all an Indian. While a person living in New York is an American. He speaks English, follows Christianity, and all eat similar dishes. This thing is common for all developed nations. India is so diverse also has maintained her dignity and is developing itself from nuclear sector to sports sector.

The country’s main backbone is the national feeling induced by the British during their rule. The Indians, however conflict they had, fought for freedom as one unit under the Mahatma. And, even today even if the Hindus and Muslims are fighting over the Ajodhya issue, they stand like brothers in an international forum. The day this brotherhood dies, will be the last day for a united India.

This Article is featured in Youth Ki Awaaz: Mouthpiece for the Youth

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Five Reasons Why Kalam is the Most Suitable Person to Become President Again

Recently Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said to the media that he prefers ex-President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam as the President of India again. Well, Dr. Kalam, a true visionary in his own right is actually the best person to become the first citizen of the Indian union.

He has been in that post earlier and we all are a witness that he is and shall remain as a charismatic figure in the Hall of fame of Indian politics. Here are the five main reasons why we need him as our President:

Non-Political Image: Mr. Sharad Pawar also backed him for his apolitical outlook towards his nation. Dr. Kalam has contributed the most to the Indian nuclear science and is a pioneer of education and progress. He seldom talks about unreal development plans. His speeches are a testimony of his vision of a better India.

Advocacy of Secularism: Dr. Kalam is a man of reality. He is equally well versed in Bhagawat Gita, Koran, The Bible, etc. Whenever he speaks, he speaks to every culture, every religious community of India. He is the perfect example of a Gandhian soldier.

Youth Icon: He is a scientist, educationist, philosopher, and true leader. His visions and speeches encourages the youth. He understands the problems faced by the 21st century speed-loving generations. He visits colleges and schools regularly to interact with the youth and understand the future of our nation.

The People’s President: The Indian Presidential system respects the President as the first citizen of India. Dr. Kalam in his last tenure proved his position. He did his job a true leader. Within one year of his election, he visited almost every state of the country and met with the people. He is not among those who once elected take a 5-year-long vacation in the VIP quarters.

A Nation Builder: We all know about his three visions, to protect and nurture the freedom we earned, to gain self-confidence as a great nation, and to stand up to the world and answer the Americans, the French, the Russian, the Chinese and the whole world that we are 60-years-old now, old enough to make a shift of generations.

His visions directly appeal the next generations to come up for the country. If he is re-elected as the President of Indian Union again, then Bharat Ratna Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam can really change the image of our country before the world.

This article is featured in Youth ki Awaaz : The Mouth Piece for the Youth

Hojagiri: Tripura’s Own Treasure

[Guest Post by Daibat Majumdar]

Shakira, Beyonce are household names these days. They are flaunting hip dancers of the 21st century. Their skills of belly dancing and hip movement have made us idolize them. But, don’t you think our own cultures have something in them to be appreciated of? Well, this is a story about a traditional hip dancing which has been in the Tripuri Hills for centuries and has been celebrated by the tribal cultures due to its uniqueness.

Hojagiri dance is one of the famous dances of Tripura. The dance is performed on the occasion of Hojagiri festival or Laxmi Puja, held in the following full moon night of Durga Puja. The goddess Mailuma or Laxmi is worshiped with full reverence and devotion on this day. The Riang clan of Tripura are known to be the best performers of this world-renowned rare dance form. Riangs are known to be fond of dancing. They have performed the Hojagiri folk dance almost all around the globe and have bagged critical acclamation.

The ancillary logistics required for the dance are – a Baling, which is a wide circular rice cleaning article made up of cane, a pitcher or Kalash, a bottle, a household traditional lamp, a plain dish, a handkerchief for each member. This dance is a reflection of the age-old culture. In this form, only lower half of the body is moved. It is done to create special rhythmic movement. For precise body movements and accurate gestures, one has to undergo severe training and regular rehearsal for this dance. It is a slow hip and waist maneuvering dance. It takes about 30-40 minutes to finish the sequence of Hojagiri dance. It tries to bring out the day to day life of the Jhum cultivators in various phases i.e. from the day of sowing to the harvesting day.

The dance is performed only by women, of about 4 to 6 members in the group. The male members have not kept aside, they participate in singing the lyrics, and playing the ‘Kham’, the Kham is actually a drum with skin surfaces on both the sides. The membranes are usually made of goat skin that is tied to each other on both sides with leather strings. Some women also form the team chorus, in the singing group. The lyrics used are very simple but penetrative and have metaphoric meanings, though the dance is unparallel with the Hojagiri dance.

Any information on Hojagiri dance will always be incomplete without mentioning the name of Shri Satya Ram Riang. He can be considered as the pioneer in promoting Hojagiri dance in all over the world and one of the most celebrated Riang sons. He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Academy award by the government of India for his relentless effort to preserve and promote this rare dance form not only in India but also in abroad. But, due to lack of awareness and interest Hojagiri dance has not yet been able to reach its expected position.

This Article is featured in Youth Ki Awaaz: The Mouth Piece for the Youth

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Should we really ban Corporal Punishment?

In June 2010, a teenager named Rouvanjit Rawla committed suicide after being thrashed and humiliated by his teachers. This made national news and the issue was to ban all forms of corporal punishment.

The reasons put forward were the negative psychological effect on the students in their future life, physical and mental torture brings fear in the person. The government compared with other notable governments around the world decided to ban all forms of corporal punishment in the educational institutions.

Well, India is a unique nation. Here a person is depended on his parents and guardian for all his non-personal decisions till he is totally settled with a job. And, this is inevitable. Our culture and society groom us this way.

So, when the government bans all forms of corporal punishment, a student suddenly feels superior to everyone in school and at home. The result, bad behavior in the class room, adaptation to alien cultures and most importantly, the minors without the fear of being punished seriously commit crimes without even realizing that they are not doing something which a responsible citizen should do.

Recently, two guys from Sonipat were arrested because they allegedly killed their teacher because he refused them to cheat in their board exams. Firstly, they were using unfair means to cheat in the examination, and on being caught they could fearlessly kill their teacher too.

A teacher is one who is an educated and responsible citizen, the case of student harassment may be one in a thousand, but in general, a teacher refuges to corporal punishment just to ensure the students that when you do something wrong, you are punished. Corporal punishment is an example to teach the students that there is an Indian Penal Code outside the school which can give you real trouble if you do not abide by the law.

The rights of students need to be ensured, that’s for sure. But, we can’t deny the fact that in a school, if one teacher is a Hitler, then there are a dozen more Churchills and Roosevelts to control him. But, if the teachers are restricted from their authority over the children, they might forget even to respect the elders as they spend 60% of their day time at school. Children learn about moral values and society more from their teachers than from their parents.

A Travelogue of Unokoti: An Unexplored Paradise in the North-East

It was the summer of 2009. I was spending the vacation at my ancestral home at Dologaon, Kailashahar. After a heavy lunch one afternoon, I was too bored to watch TV or read any slow novel. So, I set out on an exploration. I asked my nephew to come with me and we two rolled on a new Hero Honda Glamour. It was a trip without a plan…

The Destination: There is an ancient tourist destination just a few kilometers north from Kailashahar, Tripura in the lush green hills of Unokoti District. Even though I had never visited it before, I had heard stories about the place. It boasted of one less than ten million rock carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses.

The Myth: Since I was a kid, I had been listening to the myth about the place. My grandmother used to say that there was a king named Jujaru-FA who ruled the place many, many years ago. One day he was blessed by a visit by Lord Shiva who granted him a boon on one condition- he had to make sculptures of 1 crore different Hindu gods and goddesses before the next sunrise. Jujaru got to work and had finished 9,999,999 sculptures when the first sunray touched the ground. Thus, he could not complete his objective and named the place Unokoti, meaning one less than a crore.

The Location: Unokoti gives you a divine and spiritual feeling with a natural fragrance. Just as you enter the site, you see long unbroken chains of stairs going up and down the hills. They connect the whole area and without them, it is quite possible to get lost amongst the millions of rock images in the jungle.

The central part is like a necklace of the jungle. There is a year-round waterfall and at its base, there is a small pond with fishes, where you can take a bath too. Just beside the falls is the mighty ‘Unakotiswara Kal Bhairava,’ a 30 feet high rock image of Lord Shiva.

The Art style differs from the classical and depicts typical tribal features both in decoration and structure which makes them unique. The three rock-cut Ganesha figures on a rock fall; downstream of a local spring which flows right on their heads gives us the illusion of a bath scene.

The Main Attraction:
Its importance as a sacred place has decreased considerably in the recent years. However, every year in the month of April, a seven-day festival called the Ashokashtami is celebrated there. Devotees from the older generation still believe that one bath in that natural tank every year will wash away their sins and will lead them to heaven. Unokoti is the most sacred place in Tripura during Ashokashtami, Makar Sankranti, and Maha Shivaratri.

They say North-east is a paradise unexplored. Well, of course, it is and I am a witness to this. There are places where you go and find nothing more than a board from the Archeological Survey of India. But, in reality, the place deserves much more than that.

Such is the case with the Unokoti. A district was named after it recently, but very few Tripuris and even lesser Indians really know about its historic and artistic importance.

Below are the pictures I took with my Nokia 2700 classic. :)

This Article is featured in Youth Ki Awaaz : Mouthpiece for the Youth

The Side-effects of Democratic Politics

Who is a politician?

A politician is the one who deals with policies. He may be a policy maker or a policy editor. His job is to safeguard the constitution along with the fundamental rights of a democratic country through his policies.

The 20th century saw a revolution in the political arena of the third world countries. Most of the countries took refuge of the democratic form of government to run their countries.

There is a popular saying that, “politics is a third class ‘game’ played by fourth class people”. Well, politics is not a game. But democratic elections have turned out to be a game in a country with multi-party coalition format.

In India, the general view about the election is a competition among the ‘political’ class of the society to take the ‘throne’. To make the scene clearer, the TV channels have introduced the reality shows these days. Elections are no different from the reality shows. The participants who are the political leaders make a political agenda and present themselves before the voters. They do their best in the election campaign. Because, in everyone’s sub-conscious mind, they have a feeling that the election is the biggest challenge for a politician in a democratic country.

Now, let’s forget this self-styled game of winning and losing.

Who is a citizen?

In a democracy, a citizen is the one who has elected the government to run his country. And because there is a multi-party system, he has the right to choose anyone, but is expected to follow; support the winner, i.e., the one who has made a successful government.

But, he may not support the government if he doesn’t feel like. It’s this basic of democracy which makes it a better form of governing as compared to monarchy or dictatorship.

The ‘winner’ of the election again is a people’s leader, if the majority chose him and he has to safeguard everyone. He is chosen to look after the whole country and not only those who voted for him.

Now, let’s take two cases and study them in view of the democratic system.

The Times of India, 18th April 2012: “Woman ‘molested’ for refusing to join Trinamool Congress”

Citation:We have received a complaint by Toton Das, who has alleged that his mother was molested by a group of people who also assaulted his other family members for refusal to join the Trinamool Congress. The woman later attempted suicide by consuming poison,” said the duty officer of Marishda police station in East Midnapore district.

Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 17, Dated 28 April 2012: “We were warned of dire consequences if we mingled with Congress members”

Citation: “This group had tried to harass us before as well. Perhaps they were angry because of a few months ago, we went to attend a Congress rally in Agartala. We were warned of dire consequences if we mingled with the opposition party.” Pinky claims to have told this to the police, but it finds no mention in the FIR.

These are two stories of different states with a similar political history. The first one is of Mamata Banerjee’s Paschim Banga where the communists have been overthrown after a long rule of 35 years and the second one is the of Tripura, the last bastion of the Reds in India.

In both the stories, there is one thing common; a woman has been made the scapegoat. And, in both the stories the governing political parties have been accused.

My point is, if you are a good political leader then every citizen will support you without even a request because deep down inside, even the most corrupt man wants a good person to show him the way to a better country.

But, due to the political game of election, the ‘players’ develop a feeling of insecurity that they might ‘lose’.

Well, politicians need to learn the morals of politics once again. It’s your country that is losing her dignity with every passing election game, your loss or win is secondary.

This Article is featured in Youth Ki Awaaz: The Mouthpiece for Youth