Friday, 18 December 2015

Widowing Self

It had become disgustingly unbearable, his coming home drunk and beating her black and blue, often in the presence of their two children.

They were living in a shanty in the slum. He was a rickshaw-puller and she, a daily labourer. Years ago, she had eloped with him from their village to the city. At that time, he had filled her mind with colourful dreams of comfortable life. In the first few years, she was really happy to be a devoted wife and he was the adoring husband. Both of them earned and were happy to be together.

It all changed after the birth of her second child.

He took to drinking and spent all his earnings on liquor. The burden of meeting all the expenses of the household fell on her. Occasional bickering gave way to regular fights. His earnings became insufficient for his needs at the liquor-shop; he started demanding a share from her income. When she refused, beatings became more frequent. He started stealing her money, wherever she concealed it.

Then she could take no more of it; she could no longer bear it.  One night, after his beating her mercilessly, he demanded food. She drugged it. When he fell fast asleep with the effects of the drinks and the drug, she took out the grinding stone and clobbered him on his head with all her strength. He struggled and screamed; the children screamed. Then he became still.

Hearing the noise, neighbours gathered. Police came. She was arrested.

For the first two days in jail, she was in peace with herself; she had a queer sense of satisfaction.

Then the rage in her mind began to cool. She started pondering over what she had done.

It dawned on her that she had widowed herself; she had made her children destitute.

Was she right? Was she wrong?

As a widow, she was no longer to wear her bangles. The glass bangles worn by her had to be broken down. On many occasions, she had seen women from neighbouring houses, breaking down the bangles from the wrists of a wailing and struggling woman, who had been just bereaved and widowed.
Who would do the job now? Who would break down her bangles?

She picked up a piece of rock with her right hand and laid her left wrist on the ground.

As she started hitting her bangles with the rock, images of her pounding his head with the grinding stone flashed back in her mind.


Based on reports of an actual happening in Bhubaneswar

Thursday, 8 October 2015


Kerala has contributed two of the eight recognised classical dance forms of India :Kathakali and Mohiniyattam. A less known dance form of Kerala is koodiyattam. On the 6th October, 2015, I had the good fortune of watching the enticing presentation of Koodiyattam dance by Indu G., as a part of the 3-day Devadasi Dance Festival at Bhubaneswar. Koodiyattam is a heritage dance form of Kerala presented in Sanskrit and was in vogue in the major temples of the State from the 9th Century and became a full-fledged dramatic presentation in the 15th Century. Complicated gestures of the face and eyes mark this form of dance. Here is a glimpse of Koodiyattam The nuances of gestures and subtle expressions of face and eyes are clearly discernible in the following video.

Saturday, 15 August 2015


This Independence Day, let us listen to the historic 'Tryst with Destiny' speech of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at midnight on  August 14-15, 1947 at the Constituent Assembly:

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Not a Surgeon's Scalpel but a Butcher's Hatchet II

In my post ‘Not aSurgeon’s Scalpel but a Butcher’s Hatchet’ dated 23.09.2014, i have narrated the story of drawing of boundaries of India and Pakistan at the time of Partition in 1947. This is a sequel to that.

Recently, i came across an extract from the book ‘Midnight Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition’ by Nisid Hajari.  This appears to be a wishful thinking, but here it is:

What would have happened if India had been partitioned amicably without the rancour that preceded it?

1.     History shows that whoever had invaded India, be it Alexander or the Mughals or others, had done it through land which is now Pakistan (West Pakistan in 1947). This land would have served as a buffer against any invasion of India on the land-route.

2.     The fertile land that is now Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) produces 75% of world’s jute supply. Before Partition, eastern part (now Bangladesh) of undivided Bengal was producing jute and this raw material was being used by jute mills in Kolkata (then Calcutta) in the western part of Bengal. Soon after Partition, the jute produced in the then East Pakistan lost its market and the jute mills in Calcutta were starved of raw materials. Thus both jute-producing agriculture and jute-processing industry in India and Pakistan started facing problems soon after Partition.

3.     At the time of food-shortages in pre-Partition India, areas now known as Pakistan were supplying food-grains to mitigate the situation.

4.     The pre-Partition Indian Army had been trained together and had fought as one for a century, with a spirit of comradeship. None of its members looked at any other member as enemy.

5.     Many politicians in both parts had once together fought the British, shoulder-to-shoulder with brotherly feeling.

6. India and Pakistan are culturally similar like U S A and Canada.

So, had India and Pakistan been partitioned without ill will or bitterness, what a wonderful situation of co-operation and mutual help and mutual benefit would have been ushered in!

But – and this is a big BUT – had this been the situation, would there have been a need for Partition of the then India? 

Post Script:

As a rising Congress leader, Jinnah was originally against mixing religion with politics - specifically Islam with politics. Later, he underwent a religious re-incarnation and demanded a separate State for Muslims. Nehru and Patel wanted a strong Centre which Jinnah opposed.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Black Cherries

Once, when i had gone to a nursery to purchase some plants, i noticed a small plant with one small red fruit. I asked the person there what plant that was. He said, “Cherry”. Nurseries, for attracting buyers, make even small plants to bear fruits by using some hormones. I became happy that i would now have an exotic fruit-bearing plant and purchased it. I brought it home and planted it in my garden. It was 3 or 4 years ago. I do not remember whether i had tasted the solitary fruit which came with the sapling and how it tasted.

Last year, when the sapling had grown to the size of a small bush with thorny branches, a few flowers bloomed on it which bore a couple of small fruits of the size of cherries.

Now, the bush has grown to a height of over 4 feet. A month ago, tiny white flowers bloomed on it. The flowers turned into small whitish fruits. I kept a close watch on the plant and recorded the progress. Gradually, the whitish fruits turned red. I was happy that i was now the owner of the plant bearing red and sweet cherries. However, the fruits were still somewhat hard and not soft like the cherries we purchase from the market.

The Flowers

The Raw White Berries


I waited for the fruits to ripen and be soft. The fruits did ripen and did become soft but their colour became black like black berries. These are a little smaller than black berries.

I was intrigued. What fruit is this? I plucked some, brought home and asked the wife to taste ‘black cherries’. She flatly refused to do so. Then i washed them and tasted one.

The fruits are sour! 

I checked from Google and learnt there are different varieties of cherries- red, yellow, sweet and sour. The fruits in my garden have rather thick skins: the pulp inside is sour like tamarind and have small flat seeds inside.     

Black Cherries?

Is it cherry? I have christened the plant ‘black cherry’.

Can you help me in identifying this plant?

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Nabakalebara and the Owls

Logo of Nabakalebara, 2015

The idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra in the Jagannath Temple are made of neem wood. These idols at the original temple at Puri in Odisha are changed once in 8, 11, 19 or 27 years, that is, in the year which has two Ashadh months as per the Hindu almanac. During the last 100 years, nabakalebara has been performed in 1912, 1931, 1950, 1969, 1977 and 1996. 

During nabakalebara, new idols of the deities are carved from the sacred wood in Koili Baikuntha. The Bramha in the old idols are transferred to the new idols  in a secret ritual in the dark, at midnight, by 3 selected priests whose eyes are blind-folded and palms are covered with cloth. All the doors to the temple are closed and all lights in the entire temple-premises are switched off at that time. Nobody has ever seen or touched the Bramha. The old idols, after transfer of Bramha, are buried in Koili Baikuntha, a spot inside the temple-complex.) Nabakalebar is due this year and will be performed on June 15, 2015.The process of change of idols is called ghata parivartan.

After an elaborate ritual, the trees the wood of which is to be used for carving the new idols are identified.

The trees selected must have specified divine characteristics.

One of such characteristics is that there should not be any bird-nest on it. However a tree on which an owl has set up its nest is an exception; indeed, this is considered as auspicious as owl is the bahan (vehicle) of Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Jagannath.

This year, the tree identified as Daru (sacred wood) from which the new idol of Lord Jagannath will be carved, had an owl-nest. The nest had two adult owls and three hatchlings. Since owls are among the protected species in India, every care was taken not to harm the owls and their offspring.

The Government instructed the concerned District Collector for making arrangement for safe removal of the owls. The Collector requisitioned the services of experts from the Forest Department for transferring the owl-family to a safe place. The experts reached near the identified auspicious tree. However, the sevaks who had gone to bring the daru (auspicious wood of the identified neem tree) did not allow them to climb the holy tree for removing the owls as no one is allowed to touch the holy tree with his or her feet. So the experts had to go back without accomplishing their mission.

The holy rituals were started for worshipfully felling the tree. Thousands of people thronged the area to have a darshan of the maha daru. As a part of the rituals, during the puja, drums were beaten, cymbals were played and homa (holy fire) was lit.  In spite of the cacophony, the owls never left the tree.

Experts from the Forest Department were called back. They keenly watched the whole process, for ensuring that no harm was caused to the owl-family. The tree was finally felled and just when it was touching the ground, the two adult birds flew away. The three hatchlings, unable to fly, had no option but to cling to the nest.

The bird-experts then carefully transferred the young owls to a cage and took them to zoological garden Nandan Kanan near Bhubaneswar. Bird-doctors examined the health of hatchlings.

The young owls have been kept in a protected area and are under close observation and intensive care.

I hope that they will survive and grow to their full potential. After they grow up, they are bound to be special guests at the unique park.

Meanwhile, let us wait till 2034 for the next nabakalebar!

N B:

The logo of nabakalebara this year depicts the daru (holy wood) from which the idols are made. The circle and the dark dot on its left side represent the chakaa akhi (round eyes of Lord Jagannath. On its top is the upper half of neela chakra (blue flag-staff) at the top of the the Lord's temple. 


Commemorative Postage Stamp to be Released to Mark Nabakalebara, 2015

Commemorative Coins  

Sand Art on Puri Beach, on Nabakalebara by the Internationally Renowned Sand Artist Sudarshan Pattanaik of Odisha

Sand Art Animation Film on Nabakalebara by Sudarshan Pattanaik

POST SCRIPT 26.06.2015

The age of the three hatchlings was about two to two and a half months when they were brought to Nandan Kanan Zoological Garden. They were treated as very special guests there and every care was taken there for them to grow up. On the 25th June, when they had become able to fly, they were taken to the place from where they had been brought and were released there. As per Wild Life Act, rescued animals/birds, after their healing, are to be released at the same place from where they are brought.

The young owls, when released, immediately displayed their newly-acquired flying prowess and flew away blithely into the blue sky, to the delight of their former caretakers.   
Here is a video explaining the Nabakalebar ceremony.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Bi-colour Flowers

As far as i know, almost all flowers have one colour each. In my garden, i have one Rangani (Ixora Coccinea) plant which contains two colours, red and yellow. Common rangani flowers are of scarlet colour. I have one variety of rangani on which the dominant colour is yellow and on it there are small dots of red. I have a fourth variety of rangani which is partly yellow and partly red.

Here are the four varieties:

The surprising fact is that these flowers with different colours blossom on the same plants.

I have six varieties of Mandar (Jaba Kusuma – China rose, coral tree, Hibiscu Rosa Sinensis) flower – the common red one, a pink one, another white and yet another pinkish yellow. I have observed that the mandar plant which almost always bears white flowers sometimes surprises me with pink flowers! The fifth variety is Lanka Mandar; it is called ‘lanka’ because it looks like a ripe red chilli. And the sixth one is 'pentha' (bunch) mandar. Here they are:

There is yet another variety, the seventh one - that bears common red flowers but its leaves have patches of white. Here is a sample:

Yesterday, there was a big surprise for me in the garden. On one mandar plant which always bears pinkish yellow flowers, had blossomed one bi-colour flower – half pinkish yellow and the other half bright red!!!

Here it is:

I do not know whether the pinkish yellow mandar is of a hybrid variety and whether the subdued red strain had suddenly made its presence felt!

And then why does the mandar plant which bears white flowers very occasionally brings out a pink-coloured flower? 

POST-SCRIPT: 09.04.2015

There was a second surprise today. The plant which normally bears pinkish yellow flowers and which had borne a bi-colour flower, had a fully red flower today. Here it is:

How difficult it is to fathom nature's creativity!!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Happy Odia New Year

On this auspicious Maha Vishuba Sankranti, i wish all Odias, spread over the world, A Very Happy New Year!

On this occasion, let us have a peek at the heritage, culture and the variety of life in Odisha.

I also convey my greetings and best wishes to the Bengali brethren who also are celebrating the Bengali New Year's day on Maha Vishub Sankranti today!

It may be of interest to know that the new capital of Odisha, Bhubaneswar, celebrated its 67th birthday yesterday, just one day before the Odia New Year Day. Cuttack was the capital of Odisha since ancient times and continued to be so after the British took over its administration in 1803. The capital was shifted to a vast wasteland near the ancient temple-town Bhubaneswar, presided over by Lord Lingaraj. The new capital city was planned by Otto Konigsberger in 1946. The foundation stone, located near the present building of the Odisha Legislative Assembly, was laid by Jawaharlal Nehru on the 13th April, 1948. Dr. Harekrushna Mahatab was then the Prime Minister of Odisha. (Before the Indian Constitution came into force on the 26th January,1950, the head of the Government of the States in India were called 'Prime Minister'.)

The new capital city was planned for a population of 40,000 on a 12 square kilo metre area. The present population of Bhubaneswar is 10 lakh spread over a 135 square kilo metre area. The Population has been projected at 20 lakh in 2025. Bhubaneswar Development Authority has identified 745 acres on the outskirts of the city to develop a satellite township to accommodate the growth. 

Incidentally, Daughter Two too celebrated her birthday yesterday!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Happy Utkal Diwas

Wishing all Odias, in Odisha, in the rest of India and the Odia diaspora all over the world, A VERY HAPPY UTKAL DIWAS!

Vande Utkal Janani! 

Let us celebrate by viewing an Odissi dance presentation by the legendary danseuse Late Sanjukta Panigrahi, goddess of Odissi dance! The vocal music is by another legend of Odisha, her husband the Late Raghunath Panigrahi. ...and more... Source of videos: You Tube

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Lost and Found - Grand Daughter

It all happened during the recent wedding of one of my nieces.

In my post ‘The Daughter-in-law’ dated 21.07.2013, i have narrated how our daughter-in-law entered our house. It was the daughter of this daughter-in-law. She had a baby, a little more than six months ago. She had stayed with us for about a month after she joined our family and then had left with her newly-acquired husband for his place of work. She came back to have her baby here, stayed with us for about a month after that and they had left for Bhopal again. She recently visited us again, with the infant, and stayed with us for about two months. The marriage of this niece of mine was solemnized during this period. 

The incident happened during the marriage-reception. When the wife, the daughter-in-law and i started for the venue of the reception, i was entrusted with the pleasant task of holding, taking care and being in charge of the baby’s safety. 

At the reception everything started off well. The baby was very comfortable with me. When the time for the photo-session came, the bride wished to hold the baby and be photographed with her. Then almost every member of my extended large family wished to be photographed holding her. Seemingly, the baby enjoyed the attention she received and indeed became the centre of attraction. She seems to be of very social nature and is very comfortable with everybody and even with perfect strangers to her.

After the family photo-session, the ladies started their talkathon sessions and the baby was returned to me. I moved around with her to meet the guests and acquaintances. They played with her and she responded warmly. 

Then the time for me to partake of feast came. I handed the baby to one of my nephews, telling him to continue holding her till i take her back and not to hand her to anybody else. Since it was a fairly large area with a large number of guests, i told him to be at that spot only and not move to some other spot, so that i could come and take her back after having dinner. 

When i came back to the spot, there was no trace of either the nephew or the baby! So i moved on in search of them and after quite some time, could locate the nephew but he was alone! When i asked him about the whereabouts of the baby he stared at me blankly and said that a relative had taken her from him. After further search, i could locate this relative but the baby was not with her! She told me that someone had taken the baby from her. She did not remember who had taken the baby! So, i started my wild-goose-chase again but without success. I became a little desperate. So i asked all our relatives whomsoever i could find, and enquired whether he/she had seen the baby. Some said “Yes” and some said “No”. I hoped that she would cry, or at least whimper so that i would know where she was but no baby-cry came from any corner.  I was losing my nerve.

I asked the baby’s mother, my wife and some relatives to join me in the Great Search.
The baby’s mother was hopeful that she would be somewhere there but my wife, the Great Worrier that she is, was restless. She heaped on me all the epithets about how careless and negligent i was. I started sharing her worry that someone might have removed the bracelets of gold and the anklets of silver that we had put on the baby. The wife started even worrying that some child-lifter must have entered the venue and would have kidnapped her. And she went on to wail that the kidnapper would ask for ransom!

I went on rebuking the nephew whom i had handed over the baby and he bore all my barking silently.

The army of searchers for the baby had spread over almost the whole area of the venue. Often we would run into each other during our Operation Baby-Search and ask each other the same question.

Then, at long last, i got a glimpse of the baby from a distance. I heaved a silent sigh of relief and ran like an Olympic athlete – a short distance runner – to the spot and almost snatched the baby from a perfect stranger. She cast a queer look at me. Of course, i recovered my composure immediately, apologized and explained how we had been desperately searching for the ‘lost’ baby. Thankfully, she understood and responded with a smile.

I looked at the wrists and the ankles of the baby. The bracelets and the anklets were sitting there, safe.  

The baby’s mother was happy at my success in retrieving her but the grandmother was still in her angry worst! She kept on raving and ranting about how undependable, negligent, careless, and untrustworthy and whatnot  i was! 

 The baby rewarded me with a smile which seemed to me as a little mischievous.