Wednesday, 28 January 2015

R-Day Parade, Dummies and Others

Image courtesy :
On Monday, after a long gap of not watching stilted polity, I sat down to watch the Republic Day parade. There were rains. There was the POTUS, the FLOTUS and the Lotus on our PM's head (gear). So generally something fresh all around. And an ideal time to introduce the R-day parade to the younger generation.

But do you think it is easy to move our Gen-Nex when there is a parade of Doraemon, Pokemon, Motu-Patlu and Ninja Hattori marching down the Rajpath of the TV screen? Well, in case you do, please visit our home. I can promise you a free dinner!

So, our best efforts bore some small fruit and the kids' TV got tuned to the National Channel "Door-se-Darshan". But sitting with their parents? Beneath their standard. So undignified. So what if one is in primary school and another in pre-school?! Even if they are not teenagers yet, one day they will be. And teenagers, even future ones, should never be caught doing anything below their royal standards. Like watching TV with parents. Or spending time with parents.

One departure from the usual protocol is when we go out shopping. To correct that a little - when "I" go shopping and my husband and kids tow after me. To kill time they have devised a game whereby my husband has made the kids believe that all the mannequins, whom my kids call "dummies", are part of a family. Often, time is spent working out family trees of the dummies. And the kids also believe that at night, when the shops close down, the dummies come alive and move about. This is how "smart" parents keep their kids from running all over the store and may be toppling over a dummy or two. So the time Mummy spends shopping is spent happily playing hide-n-seek behind the dummies.

Back to the R-day parade. With scowling faces and ill-concealed grace, Gen-Nex was watching the parade. Satisfied about having done our patriotic deed for the day by making two future citizens see the light-and-might of our great Republic, we walked away.

In a while two pairs of footsteps were running up the stairs to the lounge. Before I could ask what happened, our elder one piped up. "We were watching TV. There was a dummy in a jeep. Mummy, suddenly the dummy came alive and put his hands to his head like a salute!"

I was in splits when I realized that the absolutely still Lt Gen standing to attention in an open jeep seemed like a mannequin to the first time R-day parade watchers. And, like they expect the dummies in stores to come alive and are perpetually scared imagining the scene, they were quite scared when the "dummy" on TV came alive too.......

So what helps keep boisterous kids occupied in shops and sometimes even helps not-so-sleepy kids immediately get under the covers and sleep soundly, turned out to be quite a laugh on R-day.

And what dummy did you think I was talking about on R-day?! Well he was there......this R-Day too...!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Coming Alive

Copyright (C) Shubhrata V Prakash

It’s been a while and I haven’t written.
Not put pen to paper.
Not put fingers to keyboard.
Not thought.
Not felt.


It’s not that I haven’t thought or felt.
I have been tutored by times, by circumstances, by people to keep quiet.
See, but not speak.
See, but not feel.
See, think, but still……not express.
I’m trying hard to break free.
I’m straining against the chains.
I’m fighting to keep alive.
Keep my senses alive.
Keep my spirit alive.
Keep my soul ….alive.
But, can I? will I? dare I?
For I feel dead.


I’ve felt a wisp of wind over me lately.
Wisp of wind and spray of water.
Of elixir.
Felt or wanted to feel.
It’s worked.
I’m waking up.
My spirit is getting stronger.
I’m feeding my soul now.
No past hurt is going to change me.
No one or nothing is going to change me.
I’ve kept quiet too long.
Not anymore.
Hey world, do you hear?
Not anymore.
I’m coming alive.
I’m coming alive again.

Copyright (C) Shubhrata V Prakash

Monday, 12 January 2015

Book Review of "Pashu" written by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik

Copyright (c) Shubhrata V Prakash

Mythology is in. Has been "In" since Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" recorded phenomenal success and sales. In fact, Brown's own "Angels and Demons", which preceeded "The Da Vinci Code", gained recognition only after the latter's success. Mythology in India was a theme just waiting to be exploited. Except for the Amar Chitra Katha series, there were few takers for mythological books, especially in English. Truth be told, there were very few Indian writers in English in the decades prior to the 2000s. 

What opened the floodgates for mythology post 2000s were two unrelated and serendipitous happenings -  The Da Vinci Code and Chetan Bhagat. And both happened around the same time. So we have many successful Indian authors who have written on books around mythology. Ashwin Sanghi, Shatrujeet Nath, Amish Tripathy are some very successful writers in the genre. Even Ajay Pandey has used mythology in his debut book, "Resonance". However, the works of these authors is in the genre of thrillers based on Indian Mythology.

One Indian author, who has been writing books on mythology only as a form of story-telling of mythological tales, is Dr Devdutt Pattanaik. Yes, he is an actual physician, who later, turned leadership consultant and mythologist. And he is the one credited with writing on Shiva, which inspired the much-watched and much-appreciated TV series "Devon ke Dev: Mahadev". One of his latest offerings comes in the form of "Pashu - Animal Tales from Hindu Mythology". I first laid my eyes on this book with its lime-green jacket, covered with beautiful indigenous-style (mostly tribal) illustrations, when I was "haunting" my favourite haunt - Crossword. I picked it up and realized what a treasure it was for making my children acquainted with animals in mythology.

My children are still at the beginners' level when it comes to reading. In this day and age, I find Amar Chitra Katha losing out to the Chhota Bheems and Doraemons. And I find it difficult to "read out" from an illustrated comic. So "Pashu" was an ideal solution to the problem of making my children familiar with some mythology. The book hasn't failed me. The children are deeply into it. We read a few pages every night. The font type and style are ideal for reading, even by 7-8 year olds. The language is simple enough to be understood by the same age group. The illustrations are simply breath-taking. All animals - snakes, birds, fish, cows- have tribal motifs on their bodies. Females are adorned with bindis, jewellery and even plaited hair. Even the occasional human form one encounters in the book, is similarly motif-ed. And the illustrations have been credited to the author himself.

There are tales about Timi,Vinata, Kadru, Surabhi, Sarama and Surasa, and their respective children - fish, birds, snakes, cows, tigers and demon-forms. There is Nandi, Naga-loka, Deva-loka and so much happening all over. Long and winding tales have been simplified. Since much of mythology has references to sex, and the conception of various species of animals, it is interesting to see how such concepts have been de-sensationalized, and simplified, for children to read and understand. The same treatment has been administered to violence and blood-shed as well.

Overall, a very interesting read for both children and adults. There are so many mythological stories and characters in it, which I had never heard of, and I have been an Amar-Chitra-Katha-guzzling kid, if there was any! Highly recommended to all parents of children between 5-15 years of age.

Friday, 9 January 2015

2015 AD : Another "Happy" "New" Year

Copyright (C) Shubhrata V Prakash

Hey folks!

A very happy 2015 to everyone!!

A new year brings with it lots of new hope and new cheer. But, ultimately, it is only an adjustment in I don't take it too seriously....and of course, nothing much has changed so far. 

The first terror attack of the year has already happened. Debates about cartoons, tolerance, freedom of speech and expression, how much satire is too much satire, comparisons with the movie PK, then more debate, more is all the same. So what's new about the new year? Nothing, I would say.

North India is reeling under a severe cold wave. Here I am sipping my adrak-chai (ginger tea) in the sun and giving my Facebook friends a virtual sunny wave. Again nothing new.

Sanjay Dutt was granted a furlough to celebrate the new year and its eve. Of course, the rich are privileged, even if they are convicted felons. The poor spend new year's eve on the pavements under freezing skies, wondering how to keep themselves alive to see the light of the new year. Again, that's not something new.

The Indian cricket team, or Team India as we have become used to calling it (the assumption being that no other sport has a Team India), is doing miserably at an away series. What's new?

This blog, like all of Indian media - print, electronic, social or any other - is incomplete without the above references to Bollywood and Cricket. Nothing new again.

Time for Uttarayan. A little boy has already fallen prey to the deadly Manjha. People have got wire frames fitted on two-wheelers to escape the manjha and the deathly curse it brings. Emergency measures are being taken to treat injuries to humans and birds. And yet, we are not ready to think of a safer way of celebrating our festivals. We are not ready to "sacrifice" even a teeny-weeny bit of fun from our festivals, even if it is at the cost of other human beings. Who says that fun is more important than the life of a five-year-old boy? And those of other victims? Again, nothing new.

After Uttarayan, the marriage season will be back. Nobody wants to "sacrifice" on fun, loud music and dancing. Ok. But no one wants to pay for the use of a party place for the song-and-dance either. So the poor neighbours must suffer the assault of deafening music, and the inconvenience of road-blocks and traffic jams. After all, we are guaranteed freedom as a fundamental right. So who cares what is right? Nothing new again. 

Alas, if only the new year actually brought something new with it - like a new way of thinking? Caring about the rights and comforts of other people, e.g.,? Celebrations in non-threatening, non-intrusive ways? Traditions modified to suit modern, urban living? Marriages that get over in a few hours, instead of days, and with less "conspicuous consumption"? We are not in the starving pre-independence India, after all (at least those who read this blog!). People actually DOING something, instead of arm-chair activism on Facebook and WhatsApp? "Awareness" is not brought about by adopting a symbol but by actually talking to people about whatever you want to make them aware of.

Or actual "World Peace"? Instead of the parodies in various international events, including the Nobel Prize ceremony. 

Who knows? Perhaps, the old is familiar, and hence, comforting. And people seldom like to move away from their comfort zones. 

So, I hope, at least 2015 is happy, if not new. That would be more than what many can hope for.


(The picture shows the flower of a pomegranate tree, taken in a friend's garden)