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Friday, December 12, 2014

Travel: From Shillong With Khublei!

From Shillong Peak

Shillong---a city of the North Eastern India we have grown up with. Because, this beautiful hill station had been the capital of Assam till January, 1972 when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam as a separate state. And because the music legend of Assam, Bhupen Hazarika composed beautiful songs on Shillong and Meghalaya during the 50s, 60s and 70s. These songs have been our great favorites from our childhood days. So it hardly mattered that I visited the city only twice—once in my childhood days with memories getting blurred and one very brief visit in the 90s. When Shillong suddenly became my workplace I went there with all familiarity and with an unspoken bond of love.

Ward's Lake
I must mention the three evergreen Assamese numbers by Bhupen Hazarika on Shillong that always haunted me. ‘Shillongore Godhuli’ (Evening in Shillong), ‘Shillongore Monalisa Lyngdoh (‘Hello, Monalisa Lyngdoh from Shillong’ with Jayanta Hazarika) and his Assamese-Khasi movie ‘Pratidhawani’ (1964) duet ‘Lieng Makau’ with none other than Talat Mahmood. Lieng Makau is the imaginary name of a Khasi girl from the hills and the song describes her beauty in conformity with incredible nature giving details of culture and ethos of Meghalaya.

Umiam Lake
Shillong is an enchanting city with nature endowing her full attention and with narrow hilly roads winding through the peaks and plateaus of the city. With concrete buildings constantly on the rise at some lanes two vehicles could hardly cross and there have been traffic jams nowadays for similar reasons. Shilling has a altitude of nearly 5000 feet above sea level. Shillong Peak encompassing the Laitkor Peak has a height of about 6400 feet offering breathtaking views of the city and having sub-zero temperatures during December-January while in 

the city average temperatures range from 25 maximum (rarely up to 28) to 3 minimum throughout the year. Here you will never see ceiling fans or air-conditioners anywhere, but will find only room heaters in all office and residences. Khasi community forms the majority in the city with sizeable sections of Garo, Manipuri, Nepali, Mizo, Bengali and Assamese people apart from other Indians who mostly come on transfers. In Meghalaya 70 percent of the population are Christians which reflects in Shillong too.
Elephant Falls
Thanks to the cool climate you will find markets for woolens, wine outlets and fish-meat (mainly pork) shops almost everywhere in the city. In most of the activities you will find women in the forefront thanks to the matriarchal society of Meghalaya. Meghalaya has 11 districts including 5 in the disturbed Garo Hill region and the population is more than 30 million.

The cosmopolitan nature of the city is reflected in the workforce of most of the offices, organizations and corporations. Shillong Doordarshan, being a Government of India organization, has a workforce covering almost all parts of India including the major chunk from North East and East.
Doordarshan Shillong, Lailtkor Peak
This writer has the privilege of working now with a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic and multi-religious team. And there is absolute harmony and bond as if all are bound by soothing Mother Nature. Inside, the inner chords of human hearts speak eloquently to you and outside, the descending clouds often have a dialogue with you. Sunlight is something in considerable scarcity here, but the warmth of human hearts make up for that.

English is the official language here, however of late efforts are underway for the inclusion of Khasi language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. As I communicate in mostly English or in Hindi or in Assamese or in Bengali every member of the team endearingly asks about how I am doing or how I am finding the city. I say to them, ‘Shillong is breathlessly beautiful. It is of course very cold, but you people are very warm.’ Khublei (meaning Namaskar or thanks) to all of you! Khublei Shibun…thanks very much indeed! 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Life: An Ode To Mumbai!

It always hurts to part ways or say goodbye to someone or something dear and near. Let it be coming away from home; be it getting a farewell from a workplace; be it going far off from the family or be it saying goodbye to a city where you have spent the prime of your career. This is universal human behavior and you are bound to accumulate a heavy feeling in the centre of your heart when you part ways with your nearest and dearest ones in familiar-for-years surroundings or neighborhood or the village or the town or the city.

I have known Mumbai for more than twenty five years. I came to this wonderful city as an eager young man wanting to experience and inculcate everything the city stands for or is known to stand for and wanting to try out new and newer things in life and in work. When I was transferred from a quiet workplace in the North Eastern city of Guwahati to the far off Western coast of India, to the city of Mumbai I thanked my stars or rather the Government of India for the rare opportunity.

Call it the spirit of Mumbai or the never-say-die attitude of Mumbaikars I immediately got caught in web of positive energy. I witnessed the sparkling towers in the posh areas and also the sprawling slums all around the city and despite the striking contrasts I found the inhabitants in both ends equally spirited and energetic. The golden realization came to me that I had come to a city with a tremendous work culture, and today I heartily confirm that Mumbai has the best work culture in the country, if not possibly crossing the international border too. Thanks to that spirit it had been wonderful working with people always so responsive, supportive and inventive. I did not have the kind of family life we have been used to in Assam, but here you just love people busy as ever with their struggle to work better and live better and never bothering or disturbing you with the kind of ‘nosing around’ you know or gossiping or staring at you for your looks or attire. As has been said often the city never sleeps—even at 2 in the morning you would find people eating and enjoying. Energized by the lively atmosphere I could do a lot of things apart from my office work that continues to give me a sense of fulfillment and my wife Ragini was able to pursue a successful career in vocal music supported by cherished Gurus and  co-artistes who have been exemplary in their modesty.

I also have witnessed the sufferings the city has endured over the years. The blood-curdling riots of 1992-3 and the horrendous serial bomb blasts of 1993 that made Mumbai a terror target forever and more blasts followed at chillingly regular intervals. The deluge of 2005 when a rare cloudburst flooded the city—trapping, sweeping away and killing so many. The serial blasts in local trains of 2006 and the Mumbai Terror Attack of 2008. Mumbai has been suffering a lot, but has never given up its celebrated approach to life. As a normal Mumbaikar I lived through all these sufferings and stood by the spirit the city called Mumbai emanates.

Now, there is a change of my workplace. Naturally, there is that heavy feeling having to leave that tremendous work atmosphere behind. However, we are happy that we are not severing our link with Mumbai and Maharashtra for the time being. Certain people in certain capacities do not like me working in this city anymore, but they cannot stop me from continuing with Mumbai in my personal life. But I am happy that all of my dearest friends, colleagues and teammates who have always supported and encouraged me in my work are still with me personally and they will be an integral part of my personal life as long I live.

I am also happy that after long years I, as an Assamese, will soon be back in my own North East region. I hope I can continue with that great work culture that I have imbibed so well in Mumbai in my future workplace—to be specific, Shillong. A hill station, Shillong is a beautiful city with a cool climate, the capital of the state of Meghalaya and one of the most attractive tourist spots of the North East. The city is also called ‘The Scotland of the East’. I am also happy that in these pages my article ‘The North East India Resonates’ is presently the most widely read one nearing 15000 hits! See you there! Over and out for now!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Television: Why Doordarshan Is Always On Peoples Radar!

When private channels break a news that has no factual basis and withdraws it after sometime or make some obvious mistakes people just laugh it off or make a mention about it to friends. The matter ends there. When Doordarshan, run by India’s Public Service Broadcaster Prasar Bharati and the electronic media of the Government of India, does so the matter begins there. If Doordarshan (DD) makes a mistake or shows something or does not show something, big or small, there is a nationwide outrage with people from all age groups decrying mocking and what not. The universal dictum of ‘to err is human’ gets entirely forgotten in such outburst of genuine feelings or derisive pleasure against the national broadcaster. It is also a curious fact that newspapers always highlight high ad revenue generating glitzy and glamorous shows of private channels, but criticize DD without end if the latter missed to show an event or a news of the people. Why?

People from all possible communities of all possible cultural or social or religious or linguistic lines expect DD to represent them and showcase events or news related to them most positively and without fail. This expectation is irrespective of what DD could be trying to do at that particular time—maybe it is planning an excellent coverage of a very big national or regional event or trying to launch a serial of huge national or regional dimensions. Nope! Their news must go. Else face a national outrage again. Why?

People get easily impressed by the all techno innovations and gimmicky shows done by the private channels and go gaga over it helping the channels to earn huge ad revenues. And they expect the same from DD failing to understand the responsibilities of a Public Service Broadcaster and the consequent constraints of resources or generating revenues. Not getting it, people indulge in deriding decrying demeaning DD. Why?

Because, Doordarshan that celebrated its 50th Anniversary on 15th September, 2009 still runs in the bloodstream of every Indian—old, middle aged, young or child. Irrespective of what they tend to utter about it. They just cannot ignore this huge reserve of quintessential Indianness—the cultural or social or religious or linguistic bond of unity that is India. It is because of this bond that they expect the world from DD at any eventuality, at any cost. If DD does very well about something they take it granted and do not bother about appreciating, but if DD happens to make an error they cannot take it or tolerate it. On DD News they take every news as word of God once it is shown and at the same time castigates it for being slow failing to understand the pains it takes to confirm every possible news first. Similarly, if one particular community does not find a news that it considers to be of paramount importance they go berserk.

Basically, it all plus for the Public Service Broadcaster and it is something only to be proud of. The pains or efforts that go into the process of setting things right are just part and parcel of being Doordarshan. In short Doordarshan is of the people, for the people and by the people.

Doordarshan Zindabad!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

India Vs Pakistan: Warring Neighbors Share Peace Nobel!

If you feel angry, disgusted, exasperated, and indulge in a spirit of jingoism at the repeated and persistent ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the Line of Control (LOC) in the state of Jammu and Kashmir you rightfully have a bewildered look of amusement and hope at the unique happening on Friday, the 10th of October, 2014. While you relish and celebrate the news that took you unawares you still wonder how. You know little about one and less about the other. The only conclusion you finally arrive at is the perfect timing of this wonderful news.

Child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi from India and child rights plus women’s education campaigner Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan have been jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on that historic day. The 60-year-old Indian has been fighting relentlessly for freeing children from the slavery of child labor, trafficking and other traps for the last three decades and the 17-year-old Pakistani school-girl has been campaigning for right to education and women empowerment since she was just eleven. The Indian has been a silent crusader and is little known in the country till yesterday afternoon. The Pakistani had hit the headlines worldwide when she got a bullet in the head from the dreaded Taliban in October, 2012 and survived. The Nobel committee has been forthright in selecting an Indian and a Pakistani for the Peace Prize saying that they are recognizing the dedicated struggle of both for a noble cause. The Committee finds it a significant point that a Hindu and a Muslim from two conflicting neighboring countries dedicate themselves for a common struggle. The perfect timing could just be coincidental at this juncture when Pakistan continues its unprovoked firing across the LOC. Even after the unique achievement yesterday the neighboring country kept up with its ceasefire violations today.

Kailash Satyarthi thanked the Nobel committee for recognizing the need for freeing millions of children from modern slavery and dedicated the award for the cause. He also hoped to join Malala Yousafzai to carry the movement forward. Malala while expressing her gratitude to the Nobel committee said that India and Pakistan should focus on peace and development and has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief to be present when both of them formally receive the award.

India has produced a Nobel laureate for Peace for the second time. Pakistan has also proved that it is capable of having a Nobel laureate for Peace too. Then Pakistan must understand that it is inherently capable of achieving peace with its neighbor who has consistently showed generosity  and tolerance after every outrage over the years.

Why not give Peace a second chance? At this wonderfully poignant and fulfilling moment!
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