“Between the Assassinations” by Aravind Adiga

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Between Assassinations- Aravind Adiga

The moment you notice title ‘Between the Assassinations’ and the author as ‘Aravind Adiga’ on a bookshelf, you are most likely to pick that book. And, then as you flip through its inside front cover or the back cover to glance at what the book is all about, you are going to give it a go for the reading.

The teaser page has tourist promo of Kittur, a fictional village located somewhere between Goa and Calicut on the coast of South India. The place is considered worth visiting for seven days.

That gives the structure to the book’s cartographer like precision – “the arches of the railway station frame your first view of Kittur as you arrive as a passenger on the Madras Mail” – and a novelist’s humanity – “The problem is here.. there is a beast inside us”- through the chronologically arranged stories of important landmarks in the history of locations. History and fiction are so well knit in a realistic manner with first and third person narration, providing vintage view to the ‘everyman’ society of an ‘everytown’ Kittur, between the two great assassinations on 31 October 1984 and 21 May 1991. The seven years in between these tragedies are punctuated by several other fictionalized events in the stories narrated.

Stories in the collection are of diverse nature, having protagonists, portraying various shades of characters in our multicultural, ethnic and religious ambience. Adiga’s great theme is power relations—between rich and poor, master and servant, high caste and low caste, majority and minority, corrupt bureaucracy and hard-working citizens —and, the obvious tensions such relationships cause.

The stories could have have been no more than a series of serious-minded tableaux about poverty and disenfranchisement, worthy like a Booker-winner, but not all that enjoyable to read. But by using the earthy native flavor of the language, Adiga has ensured that the stories retain the subtleties of the day-to-day ground realities of a typical Indian town.

Here are a few examples:

“Taking the glasses one at a time to the tables, he delighted the roughman who came to the teashop, by interrupting their conversation with shouts of ‘One-a! Two-a! Three-a!’ while slamming the glasses down in front of them.” {“DAY ONE: THE TRAIN STATION”}

“He bent his head low, rolled his spittle into a ball and prepared to drop it into one of his glasses… He sucked in the spittle. Unzipping his cotton trousers in three gestures, he let them slide down. Bundling the first two fingers of his right hand together, he stuck them deep into his butt; he brought two fingers out, dipped them into one of the glasses of whiskey, and stirred vigorously.” {“DAY TWO: THE BUNDER”}

“For many years this educational institution had spoken to him – spoken rudely; teachers had caned him, headmaster had suspended and threatened to expel him..” {“DAY TWO (CONTINUED) OUR SCHOOL”}

“He spoke of other things that made his head boil. Once, India had been ruled by three foreigners: England, France and Portugal. Now their place has been taken by three native-born thugs: Betrayal, Bungling and Backstabbing.” {“DAY TWO (EVENING): LIGHTHOUSE HILL (THE BASE OF THE HILL”}

“The man and boy got off the bus together. He stood on the main road and waited, while the boy blew his nose and shook off phlegm to the ground.. “ {“DAY SIX: THE SULTAN’S BATTERY”}

And what the protagonists have in common outside of Kittur is a rage both devastatingly funny and heart-breakingly human makes the book well worth a read.

Here are some other interesting reviews published when the book was originally published:

And, one can read more on Araving Adiga on his own site @ http://www.aravindadiga.com/ .  The site does seem to be maintained and updated, hence does not seem to contain his more recent works or articles.

[Between the Assassinations ǁ Author: Aravind Adiga ǁ Publisher   Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan Ltd. – www.panmacmillan.com ǁ 2008 ǁ ISBN 978 - 0 - 330 – 45054 – 6]

The Bauls and Baul Traditions

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Shri Devdutt Pattnaik, in his article ‘From Kali to Krishna : A love song’, refers to the Bauls, while describing that the the blood sacrifice demanding Tantrik tradition of Kali and the vegetarian Brahmanical Vaishnava tradition of Krishna – come through in phrases and couplets that make up some of the songs of Baul minstrels.

That made me search for some more references so as to fully comprehend the meaning of the article.

Interestingly, internet search throws up a huge amount of information on the Bauls.

I have presented some of those materials selectively here below, for the purpose of supporting the full comprehension of the original article.

Wikipedia introduces the subject like this:

The present-day Baul, playing thier traditinally favored Ek Tara

A Baul Ektara_player

“Baul (Bengali: বাউল) are a group of mystic minstrels from Bengal. Bauls constitute both a syncretic religious sect and a musical tradition. Bauls are a very heterogeneous group, with many sects, but their membership mainly consists of Vaishnava Hindus and Sufi Muslims.[1][2] They can often be identified by their distinctive clothes and musical instruments. Not much is known of their origin.”

“Though Bauls comprise only a small fraction of the Bengali population, their influence on the culture of Bengal is considerable. In 2005, the Baul tradition was included in the list of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO.[7]

You Tube has several interesting sets of clips depicting Baul Songs. One such clip has also following additional information:

 

The Bauls are mystic minstrels living in rural Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. The Baul movement, at its peak in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, has now regained popularity among the rural population of Bangladesh. Their music and way of life have influenced a large segment of Bengali culture, and particularly the compositions of Nobel Prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

Bauls live either near a village or travel from place to place and earn their living from singing to the accompaniment of the ektara, the lute dotara, a simple one-stringed instrument, and a drum called dubki. Bauls belong to an unorthodox devotional tradition, influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism, Bengali, Vasinavism and Sufi Islam, yet distinctly different from them. Bauls neither identify with any organized religion nor with the caste system, special deities, temples or sacred places. Their emphasis lies on the importance of a person’s physical body as the place where God resides. Bauls are admired for this freedom from convention as well as their music and poetry. Baul poetry, music, song and dance are devoted to finding humankinds relationship to God, and to achieving spiritual liberation. Their devotional songs can be traced back to the fifteenth century when they first appeared in Bengali literature.

Baul music represents a particular type of folk song, carrying influences of Hindu bhakti movements as well as the shuphi, a form of Sufi song. Songs are also used by the spiritual leader to instruct disciples in Baul philosophy, and are transmitted orally. The language of the songs is continuously modernized thus endowing it with contemporary relevance.
The preservation of the Baul songs and the general context in which they are performed depend mainly on the social and economic situation of their practitioners, the Bauls, who have always been a relatively marginalized group. Moreover, their situation has worsened in recent decades due to the general impoverishment of rural Bangladesh.”

Unesco has also recognised Bauls and their traditions as the cultural heritage.

And here is one clip that provides a contemporary look at the Bauls and their songs. The song – Hrid majhare rakhibo - is sung in a train compartment and has captured several noises and disturbances of the train halting at a station, as well.

It also has this additional piece of information:

“The word Baul comes from the sanskrit word ‘Baatul’ which means mad . Bauls are a group of wandering singers or bards , who have dedicated their lives to music and spirituality . It might also be viewed as a rebel against the regulative prohibitory norms of orthodox Indian society . Vaishnavism , Tantric yoga , Vedanta and Islam together form the base of their philosophies . Though they have existed much before , baul movement recieved a special impetus right after Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in middle ages .

Originally Bauls used to roam from village to village in search of food and alms. In changing times they have resorted to do the same in new environments, such as a Public train.”

 

P.S.—The Gujarati translation of Shri Devdutt Pattnaik’s article   can be seen at this blog writer’s accompanying blog, as કાલિથી કૃષ્ણ – એક પ્રેમ ગીત — દેવદત્ત પટ્ટનાઇક.

Shrines into Stones

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Bozo girl in Bamako, Mali, West Africa, aug 2007

Bozo girl in Bamako, Mali, West Africa, aug 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is another sad story on the ill effects of War(s),  as Mali’s National Assembly considers military action against the rebels, the fate of the country’s legendary city is still uncertain. Here’s a look at some of the ancient structures and streets that might vanish into rubble in the coming weeks.

The Talibans are said to have  obliterated an important cultural heritage of Afghanistan.

The history is replete with such stories.

So unfortunate, that a bullet knows no address!!!!

Courtesy: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/

The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost

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The Road Not Taken , by Robert Frost 1874–1963, remains my philosophy of life.

I have not pursued this consciously, hence I would take the blocks on the Road Not Taken in to my stride every time. I could have converted this pleasure into success, too, if I would have been more painstaking enough to plan the course the moment I was on a Rad Not Taken.

This not a regret, just a candid introspection, of my first innings………

Here is the poem and couple of interesting related video clips:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Courtesy: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173536#poem

 

Robert Frost reads The Road Not Taken  

Kevin Murphy, Professor of English at Ithaca College, examines the discrepancy between Robert Frost’s popularity during his lifetime and the darker implications of his poetry, as exemplified by one of his most cherished poems. Filmed in 1992.

Uploaded by IthacaCollege on Feb 29, 2008

And here is Robert Frost’s famous poem – The Road Not Taken- visualized!

Uploaded by janmensen on Apr 26, 2007

If – Rudyrad Kipling.

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Roger Federer  won his record-equaling 7th Wimbledon Title yesterday [July 8th, 2012.

Though he was upset in the quarterfinals here the past two years, he has met with much more triumph than disaster on the court where two of its most resonant lines, ‘If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same’ from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”, stand above the players’ entrance to the Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Read more about this poem @ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1146109/The-remarkable-story-Rudyard-Kiplings-If–swashbuckling-renegade-inspired-it.html#ixzz205vObaQX

We take this opportunity to look at “If”……


IF…..


IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!


“If” by Rudyard Kipling (poetry reading)

“If you think the views expressed in this poem are admirable, you should consider what George Orwell said about Kipling:
http://4umi.com/orwell/kipling

Also you could listen to Roger Whittaker, “I Don’t Believe In ‘If’ Anymore”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbfR2l0LzfI

Kipling wrote this poem for his son John then aged 12. Later he pulled strings to get John into the Great War, and John was killed in 1915.

Later Kipling wrote this codicil about his son and all the other dead sons:

“If any question why we died, tell them, because our fathers lied”.

Thus “If” does not represent Kipling’s views.” – as recorded by the upoader of this clip,   .

And let us enjoy another classic reading of the poem by ROBERT MORLEY :

.. miles to go before I sleep .. . … … ..

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While reading through the blogs on “Quality”, I landed upon my favorite poem of a favorite poet:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

 —  Robert Frost
So, here is a chance cause that is the final trigger to put my “activities” of ” (all the) free time (in the world now)” onto a more disciplined and constructive use!!!!!

Small-Scale Farmers Creating a New Profit Model – NYTimes.com

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Organic farming, one devoid of use of fossil fertilizers, pesticides and fuels has been around for quite some time in India as well.

But, the concept is more at the stage of either a hobby or at the stage of  ‘elite’ society’s ‘awareness’ of health.

The fact that NYT has thought fit to carry the story, should be utilized to leverage the concept of ‘small farmers [which is the category in which most of the real farmers of India would fall into] into a viable long term business model. This should be part of an efficient supply chain as well, with or without the {so called] large scale Retail, which in turn can be with or without FDI.

Small-Scale Farmers Creating a New Profit Model – NYTimes.com.