Tuesday, October 08, 2019

196.Durga Pooja in Assam

Today is the last day of the four-day Durga Pooja festivities. It was after several decades that I witnessed the Pooja festivities in Assam this year.
 Hundreds of Pooja pandals have come up in Guwahati. Wherever you go, you find a pandal with tastefully decorated idols of the Goddess Durga and others. Lights and decoration tell you from a distance that a pandal exists nearby. Crowds start swelling late in the evening with families hopping from pandal to pandal up to wee hours in the morning. Some pandals are so crowded that one has to summon all courage and strength to enter.

Durga Pooja is truly a people’s festival in Assam. Involvement of entire communities irrespective of caste, creed, religion and language can be seen. Everyone partakes of ‘Khichari’, a mix of rice and pulses which is offered to the Goddess.
The festivities give a chance to local artists to exhibit their skill to the fullest. Many pandals are built around specific themes like space achievements of the country and environmental pollution. Some pandals are so imaginative, creative and beautiful that words fall short in describing them. One feels that the artists of the region, if given proper support, can rise very high in their profession.

What I missed this year was the famous moving theatre of Assam. During my childhood days, moving theatres used to be an essential feature of Pooja festivities. We used to see plays, staged by them, on all the four days of the festival. The troupes used to go from place to place to stage plays. It saddens me to find that the moving theatre tradition in Assam seems to be on decline.

Friday, August 09, 2019

195. On demise of Sushma Swaraj

After Shiela Dixit, it is Sushma Swaraj. The news of her death came so suddenly. Just a couple of months back, when she attended the swearing-in ceremony of the Narendra Modi Cabinet, she appeared to be in perfect health, taking strong and confident strides. Death sometimes strikes silently, leaving us totally unprepared and therefore, more devastated.

Like Shiela Dixit, Sushma Swaraj was dignity personified. One never saw her losing cool and behaving in a mean manner. A smile adorned her face even in the most trying circumstances. This is one of the biggest qualities of a leader.


Her Parliament speeches are perfect examples of top-class oratory. Whenever she spoke, she appeared fully prepared. Sushma Swaraj put across her points extremely well without raising the pitch of her voice. Her command over the Hindi language was exceptional. Undoubtedly, she was one of the best speakers of our time.

I remember her media handling as I&B Minister and also as Health Minister. I particularly remember her press briefing when there was a serious bird flu situation. Her handling of media was deft. She always had a lot of friends in media and perhaps, no enemy.

As External Affairs Minister, she had the image of a very caring politician. She would quickly respond to any call for help on Twitter. She was a pioneer in using social media as a potent medium of grievance redressal. So many common people were beneficiaries of her alertness.

India has lost two women of remarkable character in quick succession. Their departure has left the political class much poorer.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

194. On fruit-sellers

This is the peak season for fruits in Delhi. Markets are full of mangoes, litchies, water melons, musk melons and so on.It is also the peak summer with the city burning at 45 degrees celcius.

Often, we see vendors sitting on the roadside with large piles of watermelons or mangoes. Sometimes, we see them pushing their cartloads in the burning sun, looking for customers.Our attention is always focussed on fruits.We haggle with them and buy a kilo or two. We have a sense of achievement in having brought down the price a bit.

Do we ever think of how difficult a life they are forced to live.They don't have the luxury of air-conditioner, water cooler or fan.They keep sweating and working in the heat. What choice do they have?

Back home, their families keep waiting for them. When they return home, their wives,children and aged parents eagerly wait for them to divulge how much they could earn during the day. This matters a lot to the family.

The cycle continues. They keep facing hot weather, rain, fog or terrible cold throughout the year. They take risks and play with their health for survival.

Can we spare a thought for them? Can we at least stop taking advantage of their helplessness and not try to extract a rupee or two through haggling? For us, this is a paltry sum, but for them, this may make a lot of difference.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

193. About a much-hyped book

Just finished reading 'The Diary of a Social Butterfly' by Moni Mohsin.As the name suggests, its central character is a socialite, full of vanity and foolishness.Wife of an Oxford-educated wealthy gentleman,she enjoys attending parties, going to US and UK for vacations and is rather unconcerned about the social and political developments taking place around her.
I was slightly disappointed with this much-acclaimed book. It lacks depth and its humour is not engrossing enough. The most interesting aspect of the book is that the writer has generously twisted English expressions to create humour. Savour a few examples- 'laughed till I became historical', 'he was triple by-passed only two years ago', 'he is going to have a nervous breakout'....
I think,our own Twinkle Khanna is much better and more engrossing if you are looking for some light reading,splashed with humour. Her short diary-style pieces have more depth and meaning.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2019

192.Adulation must make one better

Popularity of Salman Khan is unbelievable.His much-awaited film 'Bharat' released today.The love and welcome it has received is enviable.Those who had tickets of the movie received free rides in autorickshaws and free food in restaurants.Fans booked entire movie theatres to watch the film.
Although initial reviews are very good, I don't know if Bharat will be a hit or a flop.But the way Salman Khan continues to defy age and rule hearts is amazing.The controversies surrounding him do not seem to have affected his fans at all.They just don't believe that he can do anything wrong.Even if they do, they are willing to forgive him in a jiffy. Similar is the unconditional love that actors like Shahrukh Khan and sportspersons like Sachin Tendulkar receive from their fans.
Such adulation should convert the recipients into better human beings.Money can buy many things,but not this kind of affection.This love is too precious to be taken lightly.It will be a shame if this love proves a waste on the recipients.

Monday, June 03, 2019

183. Union

Horizon, Sky, Sunset, Ocean, Water, Sea

If you really want to see me,
Close your eyes,
Open your soul;
What your soul can see,
Your eyes never will.

If you really want to touch me,
Keep your fingers away,
Touch me with your heart;
What your heart can touch,
Your fingers never will.

If you really want to meet me,
Don't come running;
Let your imagination loose,
You will reach me faster.

If there is one thing
That separates you from me
And me from you,
It is our senses.

Friday, April 26, 2019

191. About God of Cricket

24th April was the birthday of Sachin Tendulkar. A lot has been written about his sporting talent and his qualities as a human being over the past two days. I also had a few occasions when I could meet him and observe him. The following is the piece I wrote this 24th April on my first meeting with him when I truly understood what a phenomenon he is.

Happy birthday
A few years back when I was serving as Joint Secretary in the Department of Sports, Sachin Tendulkar was one of the invitees to a meeting, chaired by the Sports Minister.We did not inform anyone about his arrival, but people came to know somehow.
Shastri Bhawan in New Delhi is a sprawling complex with a lot of gates,staircases,corridors and floors.Quite a few Ministries and organizations of the Government of India work from here. Sports Minister sits on the fourth floor.
It was around lunch time when Sachin reached Shastri Bhawan. The scene was unbelievable.Thousands of employees were waiting to catch a glimpse of him. Many of them must have skipped lunch. Staircases and corridors were overflowing.
By the time the meeting ended, the crowds had swelled. People had not gone back to their seats. They had been waiting to catch another glimpse of Sachin and new people had joined them.He could be taken to his car with great difficulty through his cheering fans.
It was on this day that I realized what Sachin actually was. I had not seen anything like this before.It was on this day that I realized, Sachin was truly the God of Cricket. What is remarkable is that he carries this aura with a lot of humility.
Happy birthday, Sachin. I am sure, India has not seen a more popular sportsperson than you.