A Short Story on Privilege

Recent comic of Toby Morris, The Pencilsword’s “On a Plate” illustrates the concept of privilege, and delivers the truth with a punchline. He places two individuals side by side, showing how financial security and benefits, or the lack of it, affects them even if they come from households that love and support them, leading to two completely different outcomes. This short story may change your mind about privilege. Image Source: The Wireless

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Bollywood Flavour in Diplomacy: Lebe Jetzt

German Ambassador to India Michael Steiner paid tribute to the soft power of Bollywood by making his acting debut in a video on Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Saif Ali Khan-starrer 2003 romantic drama “Kal Ho Naa Ho”. The lip syncing of Ambassador Steiner is perfect. Awesome performance! The German Embassy on their YouTube page says: “Traditional diplomacy was about government-to-government relations. Modern diplomacy is more about people-to-people relations. And culture is central here. This is why Michael Steiner, German Ambassador to India, and Salman Khurshid, former Foreign Minister of India, without taking themselves too seriously, plunged into uncharted waters. Together with Eliese Steiner and under the direction of Sumit Osmand Shaw, they pay homage to the Indian film by reenacting one of its most famous music videos – thus connecting people across borders. The original video from 2003 – featuring Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan and the “King of Bollywood” Shah Rukh Khan – was filmed in the USA. This remake, instead, has been shot in India. It is an Indo-German tribute to Bollywood movies, which have a huge fan base not only in India, but also in Germany.” “Bollywood is a cultural institution. This is the one instrument to connect to the world and it is a very good instrument. Me and my wife are Bollywood addicts. She has seen more than 150 Bollywood films… we have seen them together,” the German ambassador said. The title says “LEBE […]

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Kolkata Book Fair

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I was returning from Gangtok on a two-week holiday from my institute after our third-year examination on February 1. My mom was in Kolkata to attend her friend’s daughter’s marriage followed by her routine medical checkups and consultations. So, I joined her in Kolkata. After her checkups and consultations at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, on February 2, we decided to go for […]

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Kojagori Lakshmi Puja

People of Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Orissa worship Goddess Laksmi on Kojagori Purnima night — the full moon night in the month of Ashwin of Bengali calendar, just four days after Vijaya Dashami or Dusshera — the last day of the Durga puja in the month of October. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth, and prosperity, visits every household on this full moon night and blesses them with sheer promise of wealth, fortune and good luck. It is also a common belief that in order to guide goddess Lakshmi to the households, residents lit up deep, earthen lamps on the terraces or balconies especially to show the path inside the house. It’s customary at our house to Lakshmi puja every Thursday and also on Kojagori purnima. After several years, all of us are at home on this day. It was nice that we all together performed the puja at our house. Babai drew alpana with rice powder paste, while I made all other arrangements and performed the puja. Jaya cooked the bhog. Alpana refers to colorful motifs, sacred art or painting done on a horizontal surface on auspicious occasions in Bengal like Puja, wedding or community events. The art typically has some religious significance. This type of art is found on the Indian subcontinent. The word Alpana is derived from the Sanskrit alimpana, which means ‘to plaster’ or ‘to coat with’. […]

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Indian Elephant Gets Her Own Art Exhibition

A series of paintings by an Indian elephant have gone on sale at an upmarket gallery in New Delhi to raise money to protect the endangered animal. Artist Alpana Ahuja used baskets of bananas and other treats to lure Phoolkali, an elephant who was rescued from her abusive owners, to create her masterpieces — giant footprints in bright hues. The trick, she said, was to catch the elephant in a good mood, dab paint on its foot and press it against a giant canvas. The money raised from their sale will be used towards elephant conservation, said Babita Gupta, the art director of the ArtSpice gallery, where the paintings are on show until September 19. The exhibition is timed to coincide with the Indian festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, which begins on Friday and celebrates the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha. The World Wildlife Fund estimates the population of the Indian elephant between 20,000 – 25,000. They are often kept in pathetic conditions by their masters and trafficked illegally. Reference AFP (2014) “Indian elephant gets her own art exhibition” August 29.

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Tathagata Tsal

The Buddha Park of Ravangla, also known as Tathagata Tsal, is situated near Rabong (Ravangla) in South Sikkim district, Sikkim, India. Tathagata is Sanskrit and Pali word. It’s used to refer to Lord Buddha. The term is often thought to mean either “one who has thus gone” (tathā-gata) or “one who has thus come” (tathā-āgata). This is interpreted as signifying that the Tathagata is beyond all coming and going – beyond all transitory phenomena. Lord Buddha is quoted on numerous occasions in the Pali Canon as referring to himself as the Tathagata instead of using the pronouns me, I or myself. This may be meant to emphasize by implication that the teaching is uttered by one who has transcended the human condition, one beyond the otherwise endless cycle of rebirth and death, i.e. beyond suffering. This place was constructed in 2006-13 and features a 128-foot high statue of the Buddha as its centerpiece. The site was chosen within the larger religious complex of the Rabong Gompa (Monastery), itself a centuries-old place of pilgrimage. Also nearby is Ralang Monastery, a key monastery in Tibetan Buddhism. His Holiness the Dalai Lama consecrated the colossal 128 foot hammered copper statue of the Buddha, which he had earlier named Tathagata Tsal, at Ravangla. The statue of the Buddha marks the occasion of the 2550th birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha. There’s huge gate with murals depicting Jataka tales – on the previous lives of Gautam Buddha. […]

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Char Dham [Siddhesvara Dham]

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Char Dham or Siddhesvara Dham is a unique pilgrimage tourism venture of the Sikkim Government developed as “ Pilgrim cum Cultural Centre” having a 108 ft statue of Lord Shiva and replicas of four Dhams of the country at one place at Solophok hilltop in Namchi. Namchi is the headquarters of the South Sikkim district. Namchi means Sky (Nam) High (Chi) in […]

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Samdruptse: Wish Fulfilling Hill

On our way to Char Dham, we went to Samdruptse, near Namchi.  Samdruptse is situated at around 75 km from Gangtok. Samdruptse literally means ‘wish fulfilling hill’ in the Bhutia language. Painted in shimmering copper, pink and bronze, the awe-inspiring and gigantic 45m-high statue of Guru Padmasambhava, aka Guru Rinpoche, lords over the forested Samdruptse ridge and is visible for miles around. The views are spectacular across and the statue can be seen from across many places in Sikkim and Darjeeling. Padmasambhava was born into a Brahmin family of Northwest India. According to tradition, Padmasambhava was incarnated as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Oḍḍiyāna in the present Swat Valley of Pakistan. His special nature was recognized by the childless local king of Oḍḍiyāna and was chosen to take over the kingdom, but he left Oḍḍiyāna for northern parts of India. It is the highest statue of Guru Padamasambhava in the world. His Holiness the Dalai Lama laid the foundation stone of the statue in October 1997. It was completed in February 2004. Within the complex, there’s a permanent photo exhibition of archival images documenting Sikkim’s cultural, natural and artistic history. The land of Sikkim, at the border of India and Tibet, was consecrated as a hidden sanctuary for the Buddha’s teachings by the great master Padmasambhava, who blessed it with the vajra wisdom of his body, speech, and mind. He is considered […]

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Yo Yo Honey Singh in Ranchi

On March 30, Yo Yo Honey Singh performed live in Ranchi. We booked our tickets online a couple of days before. His concert was at JSCA stadium at Dhurwa in Ranchi. We reached the stadium at 7:30 p.m. as the concert was to begin from 7:30 p.m. There was a huge crowd for the live concert. A DJ was playing music to entertain the crowd. A few local dance groups gave their stage performance before Honey Singh took the stage. He came on the stage at around 9:00 p.m. He enthused the audience with his lively, popular songs. Suddenly after finishing his famous “Sunny Sunny…” song he left the stage saying that he would come again next year. The public was not ready for such early and abrupt end of the show. It was just 10:00 p.m. then and it’s too early. He sang a few songs only. I felt cheated and so do many others, too.

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Nothing Remains But Darkness…

An excerpt from a famous poem written in Bangla language by Jibanananda Das (translated in English for a larger audience): At the day’s end evening crawls in like the sound of dews, The kite flaps off the smell of sun from its wings. When all colors take leave from the world except for the flicker of the hovering fireflies The stories are ready to be told All birds come home, rivers too, All tasks of the day being over Nothing remains but darkness to sit face to face with Banalata Sen.

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