Thursday, 26 May 2016

'Bohu' of Odisha Dancing Odissi

In my post, ‘Introductionto Odissi Dance’ of 02.03.2015, i have incorporated videos of the definitive features of Odissi dance by Daksha Mashruwalla. She, Ranjana Gauhar, Madhavi Mudgal and Sharmila Mukherjee are among the other danseuses who do not belong to Odisha but have mastered Odissi dance form and have spread it in India and abroad.

Another eminent artiste who has made her name in this field is Sonal Mansingh who was not born in Odisha but learnt and mastered Odissi dance form, after becoming a ‘bahu’ (daughter-in-law, bohu in Odia) of Odisha. I had watched her Odissi dance number in the International Odissi Dance Festival at Bhubaneswar in 2011. She also performed at the ‘Chushathi Yogini Festival’ at Chaushathi Yogini Temple, Hirapur near Bhubaneswar. In 2015, i attended her lecture-cum-demonstration session at a programme of SPICMAY (Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth).

Born in 1944 as Sonal Pakvasa (her maiden name) in Mumbai (then called Bombay), Sonal started learning Manipuri dance at the age of 4. She then learnt Bharatanatyam dance from Guru Kumar Jayakar. Later, she was trained by U S Krishna Rao and Chandrabhaga Devi. Her maiden performance was in 1954 in Mumbai.

She met Lalit Mansingh of Odisha, who had just joined Indian Foreign Service, (who later became Foreign Secretary of India and Indian Ambassador in U S A) at a performance by her in Delhi and they fell in love. She came to Lalit Mansingh’s place in Cuttack in Odisha and her prospective father-in-law, the eminent Odia poet Mayadhar Mansingh, who said that a dancing bohu of Odisha must know Odissi dance, took her to his friend the legendary Odissi dance Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra and requested him to train her in Odissi dance. He took her under his wings became her mentor. She took this dance form like fish to water and was a quick learner. She reinforced her learning of Odissi dance by observing and absorbing the nuances of Odisha’s culture. 

Sonal got married to Lalit in 1965 and became ‘Sonal Mansingh’. Of course, they were divorced shortly thereafter but Odissi dance became her life. After their divorce, she again met Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra and requested him to continue training her but perhaps because he was not happy with the divorce, he did not agree. Then she continued her training under Guru Jiwan Pani.  She went on to become a famous Odissi dancer.

Her famous choreography includes ‘Indradhanush’, ‘Manavatta’, Devi Durga’, ‘Atmayan’, ‘Mera Bharat’ and ‘Draupadi’. She was awarded Padmashri in 1972 and ‘Padma Vibhushan’ in 2003. Other awards received by her include Sangeet Natak Akademy Award, ‘Natya Kala Ratna’ from National Cultural Organisation and Medal of Friendship of Vietnam. She was given Honorary Doctorate Degrees from G B Pant University, Uttarakhand and Sambalpur University, Odisha. She was also the Chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi.

Sometime after her separation from Lalit Mansingh, she lived with and then married Georg Lecher, a German. This marriage also ended in divorce.

In 1974 she met with a serious accident in Germany which dashed her hopes of being able to dance again. She even asked herself why she should live if she could not dance. At this juncture, chiropractor Pierre Gravel came into her life. He studied her reports and after a longish treatment, declared that she could dance again! In 1975, she was back on stage and performed to a huge applause from the audience. 

Even after her separation from Lalit Mansingh and second marriage to, and divorce from, Georg Lecher, she continues to use the surname ‘Mansingh’. However, as far as dance is concerned, she continues to be a 'bohu' of Odisha dancing Odissi.

Since 1977, she has been running her Centre for Indian Classical Dances in Delhi.


Although ‘Orissa’ became ‘Odisha’ in 2011, the dance form which originated in this State continues to be called ‘Odissi’. Isn’t it time to call it ‘Odishi’? Or, will this disturb the concept of Odissi dance with its present spelling which is familiar all over the world?

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Happy Y2K

This happened in 1999, the year preceding the last year of the 20th Century. At that time, the date being mentioned in computers was like this: DDMMYY. The date, month and the year were all mentioned in 2 digits, e.g., the 11th May, 1998 was mentioned as 110598. This made the year 2000 indistinguishable from the year 1900. It was feared that there would be a lot of problems in computers after 31.12.1999. If the year 2000 would be marked as 00, computers would take it as 1900.

The perception all over the world was that flights during the night of December 31, 1999-January 1, 2000 would be affected in midair and on the ground. In India, computerised airline and railway ticketing would be affected. It would be difficult to disburse salaries and wages. Computerised Control Rooms in power plants would not function properly and this would hit power supply. Business and industries, Stock Exchanges, banks and other investment bodies would be seriously disturbed.  It was also feared that health records and patients’ treatment would go haywire. There were also worries about traffic lights becoming quizzical. It was apprehended that even televisions and microwaves would be seriously affected.

Image Source: Google

Even before the start of the year, it was feared that computers would malfunction after the 9th September 1999 (9/9/99) because the earlier programmers used a series of 9s to indicate the end a programme.

These apprehensions were called ‘Millennium Bug’, ‘Year 2000 Problem’ or in its abbreviated form, ‘Y2K Bug’ (K represents a thousand in the metric system). The then widespread scare of Y2K Bug can be imagined by the fact that the British Government went to the extent of making its armed forces ready to assist the local police in time if utilities, transportation systems or emergency services failed!

Banks in India made all-out efforts to meet the challenge of the possible crash and to comply with Y2K norms. I remember that new computer hardware items being purchased at that time had a label ‘Y2K COMPLIANT’ on them.

In 1999, i was working as Chief Manager of a Branch. We were advised to be in readiness to face any eventuality. There were ‘practice runs’ of doing everything manually in case computers fail. So, old-type registers were brought in and all transactions were first entered manually as was being done before computerisation. And then the work was done a second time by using computers. The idea was that in case computers fail at midnight of the 31st December, 1999, Banks would be conversant to put through the transactions in registers manually.

Then the D-Day (Dreaded or Deliverance) or D-Night came. 31.12.1999      

After doing the transactions normally (with computers), on 31.12.1999, we closed the transactions. We had earlier been advised by our Controlling Office that all Officers must stay in the Branch that night. Also as advised, we had intimated the local Police Station that we would stay in the Branch that night. Of course, we had locked the main entrance and the door next to it from inside.

Then the mid-night hour struck.

It was 01.01.2000!

We opened one computer; the data were intact and it worked normally! We opened a second and then a third computer. The data were intact!! Then we opened all the other computers; all the data were intact!!!  And all computers worked normally!                
“HAPPY Y2K!”, we all shouted and hugged each other.

The reference to striking of the midnight hour reminds me of the famous address of Jawahar Lal Nehru to the Constituent Assembly of India at the midnight of August 14-15, 1947, when India became independent.  He started his address with, "At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to new life and freedom."
At the midnight hour of December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000, computers the world over got free from the Y2K bug!
The feared Y2K problem at the striking of the midnight hour on the 31st December, 1999 also reminds me of the letters between my two daughters and my father-in-law. They were in regular correspondence. As was the practice then, my daughters would write the year in the dates in two digits. My father-in-law was a stickler of the rule that years should be written in full, i.e., in four digits. So, when my daughters would mention ‘89’ meaning 1989, he used to write back, “I received your letter of 19 hundred years ago.” taking ‘89’ as 89 AD.            

Sunday, 8 May 2016

To Let - Joys and Woes

In my post ‘On Building A House’ dated 10.10.2010, i have narrated the joys of building a house. In my post ‘Income Tax Extra’ of 07.09.2011 i have narrated how i found a tenant who was agreeable to take over from me the burden of Income Tax on the rent.

When we occupied my house after my retirement, i constructed in the compound, a small one-room house with a kitchenette and toilet attached to it. The idea was to let it out so that someone would be present in the compound when we go out.

I got the first tenant even before construction was completed. She was in the IT sector working for a nearby commercial establishment. After about two and a half years, her marriage was fixed and so she left.

The second tenant came even before the first one was to vacate. Like the first one, she was unmarried. She was working at a nearby College. About 2 years after she occupied, cupid struck her and she got married. The boy was working in another city and this girl continued to stay in my house.  Her husband used to visit her occasionally and they lived happily. The wife and i joined in their happiness.

And then she got pregnant. As the pregnancy advanced, she was in need of support. The visit of her husband became more frequent but she needed additional female support. They decided to bring in her mother-in-law. The one-room house became insufficient for the growing family and so they shifted.

I was lucky to get another unmarried working girl as the third tenant. When she occupied the house the wife joked that the house would bring good luck to her and she would soon find a life partner. However, before that could happen and after about a year, she found a better job in another place and vacated our house.

And then my problem started. A person who was working at an adjacent industrial establishment as Security Guard came to me and told me that he and his wife wished to take the house on rent. He requested me to reduce the rent by a substantial amount. As compensation, he offered to take care of my garden. That was the time when my part-time gardening assistant had left. Hence i agreed to the proposal and the couple occupied the house.

After two months, the man started neglecting my garden. This situation worsened gradually and he completely stopped working in my garden. Arguments followed and so i asked him to vacate the house. He took another month to comply. When he did vacate, i noticed that he had made the bath room very dirty.

I got the room repainted and got the toilet and the kitchenette thoroughly cleaned.

The next tenants were two sisters, both unmarried, and with jobs.  However, after 2 months, they shifted to another city and hence vacated the house of course after giving the required notice.

This was the time when within one month, we were to visit Daughter I in U S A for a little over 2 months. I was eager to let out the house before our leaving. We would have loved to have a girl or two, as our next tenant/s but time was short. So i agreed to let the house to two brothers, the elder of whom was undertaking the work of sinking tube wells, the younger one working with a private firm.

Before the 2 girls were to vacate, i accepted from these 2 brothers Advance Rent for one month. One of the terms was that the tenants would deposit 2 months’ rent as Advance. The elder brother promised that he would pay the balance amount at the time of occupying the house.

After this, a couple came to take the house; they seemed to be decent people and were ready to deposit 2 months’ rent as Advance immediately but since i had already received an Advance from the brothers, i had to decline the proposal.              

The house was vacated by the girls 10 days before we were to leave for U S A and the 2 brothers immediately occupied it. However, they did not pay the promised remaining amount of the Advance. The elder brother said that he would pay it within a couple of days. They did not do that either before we left or thereafter. I had told them to pay it to my nephew who stays with us.

By the time we returned from U S A, the brothers, particularly the elder one, had created a lot of trouble. So i had to adopt various means (some of which are not very gentlemanly) to force them to vacate. And they did so without paying the electricity charges for the entire period! L For me, the fact that i got rid of them was compensation enough!  And they had left the toilet hopelessly dirty.

I remembered the plight of my neighbor who had let out the ground floor of his building to a builder. After a few months he stopped paying the rent and Electricity Bills. The tenant even physically assaulted my neighbor after an argument. Luckily for my neighbor, the tenant’s car, parked just outside the house, mysteriously caught fire and was completely burnt. (There were different stories about how the car caught, or was set on, fire.) The tenant had vacated only after this, to a great relief to my neighbor.

My present tenant works as an Assistant Manager at the adjacent office of an industrial establishment and lives alone. His family lives in a city in a neighboring State. He is a decent man.

However, i fervently wish that our next tenant/s would be working girl/s. All the five girls who had stayed in the house earlier, were a joy to have with us at the next door and all of them had become almost our family-members, sharing festivals and other joyous moments. The wife had almost adopted them as our daughters.:)))  If unmarried, we wouldn’t be less happy if they get married and fly – or are flown or blown - away!


1. Just before the third girl occupied, a young man had come to me and wished to take the house. He said that he and his just-married wife would stay there. I believed him and took the Advance Rent. Next day i received a call from a man who identified himself as the young man’s elder brother and requested that i refund the amount to the caller. It transpired that the young man had ‘lifted’ the girl from her house against her parents’ wishes (perhaps with her consent). Although my inquisitiveness was aroused, i did not ask about the details. I said that i would return the money only to the person who had paid it to me. Luckily for me, the prospective third tenant-girl came just at that time and paid the Advance Rent. Soon thereafter, the young man came and asked for the money back. I complied, suppressing my desire to hear the full story which appeared to be filmy!

2. I had a somewhat similar experience just before the two sisters occupied the house. Seeing the ‘To Let’ board, a girl came and told me that she and her fiancĂ© would like to take the house. To my query, she replied that their marriage would take place “in the near future”. I did not relish the idea of having live-in partners as my tenants but rationalized that such relationships are not illegal and had even been recognized by the Supreme Court of India. I asked her to bring in her “fiancĂ©” which she promptly did on the next day. She insisted on my receiving the Advance Rent but i dodged it and told her to pay after one week. Again luckily for me, the 2 sisters, who a few days’ after became my tenants, came and paid the Advance Rent. I promptly telephoned to the other girl to say that she need not come. She pleaded with me and almost wept, saying that i had not kept my promise. I thanked my stars for  having been able to wriggle out of a tricky situation!