From Chief Minister to Chief Censor

Around 1967, Warren Unna of The Washington Post asked Shiv Sena boss Bal Thackeray whether he read any books. He received a stunning reply: “I don’t want to mix my thinking with that of others”. The same arrogance, bred by insecurity, explains the order of March 14 made by the West Bengal government headed by Mamata Banerjee: “In public interest the government will not buy newspapers published or purported to be published by any political party, either national or regional, as a measure to develop free thinking among the readers”. The affinities between the two leaders are striking — populism and intolerance of dissent.

However, Mr. Thackeray’s preference concerned him alone. Mamata’s affects 2,463 government-aided libraries, 12 government libraries, 7 government sponsored ones and the State Central Library. All English language dailies were barred. Initially, a mere eight survived — Sangbad Pratidin, Sakalbela, Dainik Statesman, Ekdin, and Khabar 365 Din in Bengali; Sanmarg (Hindi) and Akhbar-e-Mashriq and Azad Hind (Urdu).

Two of the Bengali dailies are headed by two Trinamool Congress MPs of the Rajya Sabha. The Hindi and an Urdu daily are headed by Rajya Sabha MPs of the same party. Sangbad Pratidin, for example, is owned by Srinjoy Bose, a party MP. Its associate editor Kunal Ghosh was elected recently to the Rajya Sabha on the Trinamool ticket to give the owner company. After an uproar, five more papers were added on March 28; namely, Himalaya Darpan (Nepali), Sarsagar (Santhali periodical), The Times of India, and two others.

There is another aspect, besides. The right to select papers belongs to the management of each library depending on the demand among the readers in that particular area. A central edict is an insult to them. Ms Banerjee’s order also flagrantly violates the citizens’ right to know. It is not for any Minister to prescribe a select bibliography to the Indian citizen. An official acknowledged on March 28: “This is the first instance of such a circular. The management boards of libraries have so far been the final authority on deciding which newspapers and periodicals to offer, on the basis of readers’ demands”. Now the readers are asked to read what Kolkata deems fit for their minds; “in public interest”, of course.

Arbitrary orders are invariably defended by absurd and contradictory explanations. On March 29, Mamata Banerjee and her Sancho Panza, Abdul Karim, Mass Education and Library Services Minister, explained: “We will promote local and small newspapers”. Some dailies on her approval list will not be flattered by this decision apart from the impropriety of State funding of the press.

In reality, ads have been stopped to “small” papers which depended on them for sheer survival. On Fools’ Day, it was disclosed that the list of Banga Bibhushan awardees, whose prize value is Rs. 2 lakh each, included artistes, poets and writers who had campaigned for the Trinamool. Didi looks after her own, albeit at public expense. An Urdu saying casts her in a different light — “Halvai ki dukan par nanaji ki fateha (Prayers for the soul of grandpa at the sweet maker’s shop, at his cost).


Prayer by Rabindranath Tagore

I don’t bow to thee with the prayer of my protection;
Grant me to be fearless in times of peril.
Don’t soothe my bleeding heart:
Grant me the power to conquer the pain instead.
Don’t take me out of my hassles;
Give me hassles which I have the power to overcome.
Don’t take me out of my pain;
Give me the pain which I can bear.
Allow me to find you out in abundance.
And in the darkest night, when the whole world betrays me;
Allow me to have faith on you.

A kiss and a slap

It’s a story sent by my friend, Annu. Loved it.

A Manager, his Assistant, one old woman and her young daughter were traveling in a train and during the course of time got themselves introduced to each other. 

Suddenly, the train went through a tunnel and it got completely dark inside. 

And there is a kissing sound and then a slap! 

The train comes out of the tunnel. 

The women and the Assistant are sitting there looking perplexed. 

The Manager is bending over holding his face, which is red from an apparent slap. All of them remain diplomatic and nobody says anything.

The Old woman is thinking: 
These Managers are all crazy after girls. He must have kissed my daughter in the tunnel. Very proper that she slapped him.

The Young girl is thinking:
The Manager must have tried to kiss me but kissed my mother instead and got slapped.

The Manager is thinking: 
Damn it. My Assistant must have kissed the young girl. She might have thought it was me and slapped me.

The Assistant is thinking: 
If this train goes through another tunnel


” I will make another kissing sound and slap my Manager again”

The Rascal keeps harassing me in the Office all the time.

The Prayer

This one is by Rabindranath Tagore from the book Naibedya (The Offereing ) and the title is Prarthana (The prayer). Though I should not have dared to attempt a translation as the original piece is matchless; I couldn’t resist because this is one of my most favorites –

Where mind is fearless, head is held high,

Where knowledge knows no bound, the walls of our homes

Have not made a barrier in between

Us and the Universe,

Where words come from deep within

The hearts, where our successes

Flow out all around the world

 With all recognitions,

Where mere customs have not

Blocked our senses of judgments,

Have not curtailed our courage,

Where YOU and only YOU always

Lead us in all our work, thought and joy,

O Father, reprove us in your own hand,

To awaken that India within us.

LAURENT GOLDSTEIN Photography’s Photos

This is not my contribution. I am just pasting it from Laurent Goldstein’s FB entry, as I happened to find it out. It was very soul-touching and meaningful:

“Out of His Grace and Mercy”

I know this man since a while now.
I visited him last night to his little workshop near the Ganges in Varanasi (Benaras) and he was praying at that time.
He is blind nowadays but he stays there with his sons and grandsons to whome he has been teaching the finest secrets of the art of Zardozi embroidery.

Zardozi is an ancient Persian art (Zar in Persian means gold and Dozi is embroidery) which has been passed down for many generations, dating back before the Mughal empire, reaching its zenith under the patronage of Emperor Akbar in the 17th century.
Zardozi embroidery is hand stitched predominately by Muslim men and nowadays it is mostly settled in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

On the Addaa (the wooden framework) there is a masterpiece showing Mary’s death with Jesus and angels, it will become an altar in a church in Europe.
This workshop is currently working for the Pope in Rome.
I come here often in order to see the few items made for our collections.
It is amazing to see so many ciultures working together.

Praying Allah in front of Jesus and Mary near the ghats of river Ganga, what a beautiful message of peace and hope…
However people worship it is the same God and everyone tries to take refugee in His Mercy and Grace.