Monthly Archives: March 2017

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The River Sutra

Category : Uncategorized

Though I always regretted for not being born in a great city, this is partly compensated by Providence as I was born in a house which is very close to a river – the Barak. The good fortune appeared to be part of my horoscope as I continued living near rivers continuously for last twenty years – the Ganges, the Bharatpuza, the Alua(Kerala), the Sangam (Pune) the Clyde and the Kelvin(Scotland), the Thames(London). I have also observed that I find a strange unease living in a city which does not have a river or is not by the sea.  I always felt a strange kind of repulsion in cities – Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Durgapur. As a matter of fact, I could not ever consider working in Bangalore, Hyderabad when I was in my early twenties although I lived 500 km from both of them. This temperament has no logical explanation.

A river for me is a constant reminder of our mortality and also a faint echo of our reaching out to some unknown. As a private citizen of Calcutta, I have direct experience of the urban agony and the Ganges at many number of Ghats have always redeemed me. A decade ago, I was roaming on foot in the streets of Calcutta – unemployed and un-employable and this was the time, the river Ganges was kind of a sanctuary for me.

It is impossible for a non-lover to have any idea of the undercurrents of love and care Calcutta hides under the authentic “third-world-ish” chaos, crowd and noise. He/she will only observe a spectacle – a haunting one and will find consolation to consider that majority of our countrymen  live in rural or semi-rural areas.  I longed to return to my boyhood small town home. In summer days, I used to sit for hours in the Ghats and that amplified my longing – to escape this exile. I understood why the exiled Jews remembered their homeland in Babylon as they saw the water of the Euphrates. The Ganges helped me to keep my sanity.

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The River Ride with two  young assistants

Today, I woke up early, gathered two young assistants and went for a ferry ride over the river Barak. I used to be here – swimming in the river when I was of their age.  A river is also like a vein – the blood of young or old flow – the flow is ever fresh, ever new.  The greatest and the craftiest teaching of a river is to be aware of one’s mortality and also of its transcendence.

The Galleon

Taking a boat over a mountain

In one of the greatest works of fiction of this century – One Hundred years of Solitude,  we suddenly encounter an abandoned Spanish galleon – visited by young boys. They speculated as how this came and we can also speculate – may be thousands or million years back when the mountain was under the primitive ocean. May be.

We just saw a retired ferry – very strange – on a raised land as if it either going to drop to the river or just threw up by the river over there. The rusty structure reminded me of the great work and I mentioned this to the young boys. They became interested. They even inquired of the work which they need so badly but are unaware. The ferry of imagination that can only redeem them.

There is a folk song in Sylheti which captures the sense of exile from home for a young bride and she sings softly with the invaluable melancholic sadness of a girl of Bengali origin

“কে যাও রে, ভাটি গাঙ্গ বাইয়া..  / আমার ভাইধনরে কইও নাইওর নিত আইয়া”

She remembers her father’s home – her home in her husband’s house and as she senses a boat passing, she sends her longing in the eternal text, her father perhaps no more and wishes her brothers takes her to her home.

We are all searching for our home. In a fundamental sense, we are all in exile.


Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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[Treat in Retreat] Fishing, Food and Star-up Ecosystem

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Foreword : The post is indebted to a very detailed analysis on the present market situation presented by Mr. Sushobhan Mukherjee, Chairman, Infoconglobal here : https://sushobhanm.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/market-mystery/]

As a small town boy of Greater Bengal, I always liked punting, rowing and fishing. In my personal opinion, fishing is one of the best ways to mix purpose, leisure, concentration and hopeful imagination. Jim Corbett wrote such a piece while he caught a mahasheer in Kumayaun and the narration has such an excellent literary quality that we can read this again for pleasure.

Fishing and food are closely related, especially for people of Bengal, Kerala, Japan. In Japan, there is a religious reverence for food and its freshness. The fish should carry a bit of the sea. In Bengal and Kerala, the synthesis happens – the fishiness of the fish is masked under a miraculous canopy of layer and layer of spices and fragrances. Just like a Bengali tongue cannot speak Japanese easily and vice versa, a Bengali tongue will not be able to appreciate the taste of Japanese fish dishes immediately and vice versa. Why ?

Culture’s ultimate and concrete handle is  neither the research of tenured professors, nor of the tales of the travelers or  the tome of the culture scientists but an organ each one carries – our tongue.

I have the experience of fishing in deep sea, in lakes, ponds, rivers in various geographies but mostly in the backwaters of Kerala. I have forgotten completely the catch (output) part of all of them but vividly remember the sunlight, the dark shade, the waves in water, sometime a drizzle. Once near Allepey, I was fishing in brackish water and the backwater was something like a circular area surrounded by coconuts. Suddenly, the sun was covered by a cloud, a magical shade came, in the distant, I could see a ship sailing far away towards Western, only its starboard side visible. In the pale blue water, seen through the coconut foliage, I “felt” as if I am fishing 500 years back and the ship is that of Vasco Da Gamma !

This brings me to the philosophy aspect of fishing. Fishing business for pleasure is a business where output is immaterial if one conducts the business in the right spirit.

Catching fish is a very low end objective of a true fishing enthusiast.

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Meditating on Fishing Business

We seldom approach our business with such a spirit.

When we were younger, start-up was a verb, not a noun as it is today.

Since 2013, I have been observing “start-up ecosystem” and as a fishing enthusiast, I can claim some expertise in understanding “ecosystems”. What do I observe ?

In brief, I find that most of the start-ups are not interested to internalize the wisdom of the fishing business.  Venture Capital is their fishing rod and fish feed, the pond is the world that needs to be rocked or changed and fish is the valuation. They are burning Venture Capitalist offered feed with an exotic burn rate in a tower by the side of the pond and hoping that the smell and smoke thereof will hypnotize the fishes deep below  and they will soon come in shoals and in millions and billions.

Just like fishes cannot be bribed, so are customers. It is against all known laws of physics, chemistry and consciousness that one can become rich by burning money to get paying customers.

To catch a fish and continue catching fishes, one needs to catch and control three inner fishes first : greed, hubris and ego. 


Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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[Book Review] হিন্দু কালেজ (Hindu College, Calcutta) by Prasad Sengupta

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[The Review is the work of three generations of the Bhattacharyya family of Purbasha, Silchar. The grandfather Mr. Pranab Bhattacharyya has  written the review, the son has edited and the grandson has typed and formatted the text. The book was presented to the Reviewer by Ms. Bhattacharyya, Masters in History, summa cum laude, University of Pune.]

Having gone through the book, I convey my heartfelt thanks to Ms. Bhattacharyya Jr. (Lili) for presenting me this book. The book has enriched my knowledge about the historical institution established by the then intellectuals of Greater Bengal of the 19th century. I cannot call the book a masterpiece but it is a brilliant work. It is not a book of history in the real sense of the term but a worthy book for research works for students of history.  The author deserves high appreciation for undertaking such a work of history although he has been a Professor of Physics in Presidency College, Calcutta.

 

While I was reading the book, I remembered two works of that period. One is  সেই সময় by Sunil Gangopadhaya and another is a Bengali tele-serial called আলোকিত ইন্দু। The subject matter of the book is so vast and complex and the author has taken a methodology that did not provide the same taste one gets when one reads a wholesome and comprehensive type of historical work.  This aside, Mr. Sengupta has done a lot in this regard for coming generation.

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Published by Signet Press, Calcutta, 2016

The language of the book is not appropriate as the book has collation of reportage and chronicles but does not meditate enough on the creative literary works by Bankim, Sarat Chandra , Vidyasagar and Tagore and this has made the overall literary quality poorer.  Not only that, this has somewhat affected the comprehensiveness of the book.

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The author has clearly expressed the social impact of Hindu school towards the organization of Young Bengal.  He illuminates various interesting ironies and contradictions connecting patriotism, religious thoughts and English education.

As a reader, I have also observed the book’s relatively less emphasis on women’s education and the social impact thereof. Here again,  creative (and imaginative works of high order) literary works illuminate contemporary time better than journalistic documentation.  Let us consider the following from a short story of গল্পগুচ্ছ

“ফণিভূষণের স্ত্রী মণিমল্লিকা বিনা চেষ্টায় আদর, বিনা অশ্রুবর্ষণে ঢাকাই শাড়ী এবং বিনা দুর্জয় মানে বাজুবন্ধ লাভ করিত।.. তাহার নিরীহ আর নির্বোধ স্বামীটি মনে করিত, দানই বুঝি প্রতিদান পাইবার উপায়। একেবারে উল্টা বুঝিয়াছিল আর কি !

Or Nirad C Chaudhuri’s grand historical summary in “আত্বঘাতী বাঙ্গালী” – বাঙ্গালী ইংরেজী ভাষার মধ্য দিয়া গ্রহণ করিত কিন্তু আত্বপ্রকাশ করিত বাঙ্গলা ভাষায়।.. সে সব লেখা (বাঙ্গালীর ইংরেজী লেখা) টেঁকে নাই বা তার প্রভাব-ও জোরালো হয় নাই।

In both of these works, one of fiction and another of non-fiction, the readability and recall can be attributed to the literary quality of these works and not because of the “facts” or “documentation”.  Considering Nirad’s argument cited above, the greatest vindication is the case of Madhusudan Dutta.

In summary, the content – the denser part will be of immense help for researchers (i.e. those who have immediate, direct /indirect and tangible/intangible interest and material gain) in this subject but for a reader who is reading solely for pleasure, the book will be somewhat disappointing. This is not an observation on the overall value of the book in this genre but a specific and prejudiced opinion of a specific kind of reader.

The Production Team

 

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The Production Team of Purbasha 

 


Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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Market Mystery

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After Reliance JIO launch on October 2016, the entire telecom market in India is under some kind of turbulence. JIO had worked silently over last 3years to lay fibers even in remotest part of the country and using the gigabyte last mile capacity, introduced voice over data (volte). Not only that , they had introduced all possible services through these high capacity backbone like on demand video, live TV and literally became India’s only full-fledged streaming platform. Being an ex-telecom practitioner, I had personally experienced visionary steps by Tata Indicom way back in 2004, as I was also the part of the journey. However, the vision of triple play services using DSL /Metro Ethernet/Wireless last mile and backbone fiber data network could not be successful due to several strategic decisions. However, that is not the discussion point today and may be elaborated through a separate blog later. The point I was trying to make that JIO had not only shaken up their competitors, but also created a market disruption. The competitions are not facing challenges in offerings, but also prices. In effect, lot of different initiatives evolved like Vodafone and Idea planning for joint movement (either merger, or JV or some other strategy), Uninor and Aircel are moving out of the market by selling spectrum. Swan Telecom, Systema Shyam Telecom were already resigned from the market way. More precisely Telecom market is going a consolidation, convergence. This in effect will influence employment. Operators will look for low budget employment and less in quantity. In effect, the jobs of several senior resources in high salaries will become vulnerable. Today or tomorrow job retrenchment is bound to happen and new requirements will gradually be evaporated. Not only for telecom, but also for the telecom ancillaries like ZTE, Huawei, Ericsson etc. will experience the similar impact due to the change in demand for their customers. Gradually, the JIO launch is bound to affect television, cable TV, dishtv market as well. In effect same telecom disease is bound to influence there as well.
My discussion today is about employment situations today and tomorrow. In effect, I was forced to explain market situation as an introduction, before we drill down further.
This kind of situations are not new in the country. Trust you remember problems at aviation industry, Kingfisher, Air Deccan, Sahara collapsed, Jet Airways did optimizations. There was huge impacts due to money market Fiasco. In West Bengal, there were more than 300 money market companies with wide presence. There were minimum 1 lakh unemployment with the sudden shut down after Sardha, MPS, Rose Valley incidents.
We keep on herring job cuts, pink slips almost every now and then from the biggies. With the tremendous rise of internet-based media, there has been a severe impact in print media as well. The turbulence there, would surely affect employment.
My concern, consideration, doubt with the outcome of these completely unstable job situations. With the illustrations, till now in the previous sections, trust it is quite eminent fact that there are lot of people got unemployed in recent past. The numbers are not at all thin. More precisely, lot of unemployment happened in the top level (people with 40+ age) in senior positions. So the market is bound to be flooded with eligible candidates. Will the emergence of many institutions, there are huge numbers of freshly passed out candidates with the pool of retrenched senior employees.
However, it seems a vapor wire. While companies search for suitable candidates for employment, they hardly get people interested for job. Mostly aspiring employees are interested to get monthly thick ATM top-ups without much of tension, hard work, and struggle. In case job life is not easy going, free flowing, more accountability required with more ownership, people prefer leaving jobs and keeping the search on for the next launch pad. They are not bothered to stay back at home with lot of liabilities before they find one more stopgap engagement.
With the so much uncertainty in the market, why there is no hungry, desperate, job seekers?
I do not know the answer. Do you?

 


Source: sushobhanm.wordpress.com


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Musician as Freelancer – Part I

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The strobe-lights, camera flashes and the halo around “celebrity artists” blind us to look deeper into a musician / artist’s life as a sentinent being.

Once the Age of monarchs and kings gave way to “mass people” as the arbiter of music in democracies,  court musicians became extinct. In other words, musicians were freelancers and lived from project to project – commissioned by rich patrons, state or even municipalities. This was true for geniuses like Mozart and Beethoven. As a matter of fact these two musical geniuses worked as freelancers and that freedom perhaps gave their music something which is radically different from the masters of the previous era.

Mechanical reproduction of music multiplied the reach but it also brought something which we are too aware in the Internet age – zero marginal revenue, i.e. a piece of free software does not earn anything additional per unit when user base increases from 100 to 1 million in terms of marginal revenue.

So, the revenue model now becomes complex and layered. In one version of this model following Pareto Principle, 20% of the paid subscribers subsidizes the 80% free subscribers. Since the total is very large, 20% becomes significant to bear the load of the rest. The free segment trades something for the service :privacy. Providing their contact details, taking a survey, providing preferences and these become sale-able items for other businesses.

The layering comes from businesses now directly coming in between the product and the paid audience in the form of sponsors. These sponsors are generally large corporations or global organizations and institutions with overt and covert agendas. Today, major corporation’s ultimate judge is the fickle and restless public opinion ( “..In a liberal democracy, there is too much movement and motion but little change.” – Alex de Tocqueville in Democracy in America, published in 1833)   and this translates the following for any artist/musician in a liberal democracy :

  • A musician as an income earner becomes  a freelancer and comes under the ambit of all the laws of freelancing.
  • One of the fundamental aspects of this law is to finish a project and have another project ready in the pipeline.
  • An increasing need to be visible and present before the restless judge – public.
  • Fighting with the public expectation that is always in a flux
  • In addition to the invisible boss called public, one may have a visible, tangible, ever-present boss in the form of sponsors and obligations to implicit and explicit protocols
  • Retaining artistic independence.

Thus, in a liberal democracy with incessant mechanical re-production, Art declines.

However, many will dis-agree with my last assertion of decline.

I shall not make my defense but will quote a poet who spoke thus, in another context but poetic context is cosmic in its highest level

“The best lacks all conviction / The worst is full of passionate intensity.”

In Part II, we shall discuss the steps society must consider and take to become true patrons of Art and Music.

This means that the public demand for musical and artistic products must qualify itself higher than the raw demand of the economics.

If any demand of some economic connection has to reflect into the public space, we cross Art and Economics both and enter the domain of Politics.

This explains why Art, Economics and Politics are all connected.


Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com


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Kalikaprasad of Dohar -a tribute

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One cannot argue with accidents. So with Fate. The accident that had taken away Kalikaprasad of Dohar from us and his family cannot be argued with. We can only try to feel the depth of sorrow for the immediate family members.

However,his music and achievement will live on and will inspire someone in some city, some small town, some village to continue the journey he started. He is also a rare musician of Bengal who at a very early age was not only creating music but had already built an institution.

In all communities, a true latent is a rarity. Manpower is common, a true talent is a very rare thing. The same is especially true and relevant for contemporary Bengal. Nature replenishes human stock but she always displays  a strange economy in replenishing true talent.

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Image Courtesy – indiatoday

Since we both grew up in Silchar and he was my college senior, I remember his great organizing power even when he was in his early twenties. He was not a mere musician – he took all the attendant risks and life of struggle to pursue his dream with Dohar. It is no less achievement for a small-town boy to establish himself in Calcutta’s musical environment as a towering personality in his chosen domain of folk music.

A true musician never dies. He sings from another dimension.

Music in its ultimate essence is de-materialized matter, whether the matter is the material body of a vocalist or the instrument of a player. Fate, accident, catastrophe, disease can take away the material body or the hand that plays or the throat that sings but the de-material aspect is eternal, like our soul.

May his soul rest in peace and continue to sing the song eternal.

 


Source: wordsmithofbengal.wordpress.com