Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Big Dream Coming True

A Big Dream Coming True: An article on the good works of the Shri Aurobindo Institution of Kalyani, West Bengal.
Barnali Saha

I have always felt that there is a wall between us and the world. It is as if some might drapery is shutting down our complete view of the other side. In our warmly lit, fire place rolling sumptuous world we live in one glass house of comfort while the landscape on the other side faces drastic tectonic shifts everyday. In the other world existence is a struggle in itself and paucity is the only procession that its inmates have. On my last visit to India, I had a microscopic view of the pain and the sullen current of despair that flows in the other world, And what I found strange is that most people talk about this other world at length, they write, they are vociferous but when it comes to changing the condition that persists, only a handful of men come to the forefront. I was lucky to have come across a galaxy of such wonderful men and women struggling hard to make the other world a better place to dwell.

Shri. Aurobondo Bhavan, Kalyani, West Bengal

The Shri. Aurobindo Institution in Kalyani is a sanctum sanctorum where a group of local residents are relentlessly trying to set up a proper educational institution for the underprivileged children dwelling in the area. The active volunteers of this community have wonderfully built the initial structure and I was amazed to see the decorum and eagerness that prevailed in the different makeshift classrooms of the institution. There were children from the lower strata of society who are otherwise denied the privilege of education seeking the goal of knowledge. It was a respite to the eyes to see these children trying to learn the 3'Rs (Reading, writing, Rithmatic), their bright eyes shinning with enthusiasm as the teacher (a young volunteer) recited the various lessons. Dr. Namita Dutta, the principal of the children's school said that the main aim of the education provided in the institution is the all round development of the students and the direction of detrimental influences that might fall on them into socially active channels. Following the ideals and the philosophy of Shri. Aurobindo, this small institution is weaving big dreams in the heart of society. Currently, they have almost a hundred students under their threshold and they intend to carry on the project to a major scale. At present they have classes from kindergarten to standard five, and each class has almost twenty to twenty-five pupils. Apart from education, the institution also does a rainbow of charitable works including free medical checkup for the poor, providing relief to people impacted by several tragedies etc

The Students

A Classroom in Session at The Shri. Aurobindo Institute, Kalyani

As tradition and contemporary puritans parley over new-millennium gadgetry, they turn a blind eye to the necessity of the upliftment of the Indian society. The newfangled ideas should be fortified with suitable action and Shri. Aurobindo Institute of Kalyani seems to do just that. Here the children of the Below Poverty Level are learning the cannons of society, the proper ways of developing their characters and the importance of physical education. The parlance, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ is defunct here as students learn to imbibe the lessons naturally and without pressure. The teacher is the guide helping them unfold their latent interests. Such ideals of education have long been available in Indian education system, but sadly no major institution has embraced them so freely. I was impressed by the broadminded approach of this institution. The helmsman of the institute, Mr. G.L.Saha believes in the prospect of free mind devoid of all kinds of prejudices. The foundation is the brainchild of his philosophical and spiritual mind. Even at the age of seventy five this man is a tireless activist of the novel cause of the betterment of society. While talking to me he discussed his ideas about education that he intends to uphold for the future generation. I was told that the institution needs a proper school building with modern amenities and a proper team of teachers to carry on functioning. There is a serious dearth of funds and the institution seeks donation to flourish its ideal of creating a wonderful future for the downtrodden children of society. I urge all my readers to go ahead and spread the good word about this institution and dedicate a small amount of money to this wonderful institution and help it bloom to its fullest. Those of you who are in West Bengal should visit the wonderful organization and see for yourselves the good work that they are doing.
I wish this organization all the best and hope to see it touch the zenith very soon.

For more information contact: Shri. G.L Saha at +91-2582-7720 or email him at

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Global Problem of Weightloss

Weight, Weight Everywhere

Ever wondered what is the aspiration of the new millennium? Well, those of you who are about to start rodomontading about your career and the importance of being a careerist, I tell you that I don’t care. What I am talking about is the absurd weight loss syndrome that had hit the globe like some pandemic. Look around and you will notice a train of well defined individuals rushing toward an anorexic goal. Everywhere you see you are reminded that you ought to eat whole foods and all those crap and turn a blind eye to your delectable dessert. Open your email, browse the internet and you will see hundreds of thousands of weight loss tricks and stupid diets just staring at you from the webpages. Follow this diet and you would be Angelina Jolie in a week, I mean think guys, is that really possible? And even it is possible what good is it doing to you? I am sure not many of us are born with Jolie skills. I was forced to think about this weight loss and gain charade the other day when somebody misinterpreted the happy few winter pounds that I gave gained as being a sign of pregnancy.  I was shocked to death to learn that these days eating right and maintaining a healthy weight will be interpreted as being depressed or pregnant. What if you are neither? What if you refuse to follow the mortal millions brainlessly eating wrong to just hit size 4? Then you may beome a pariah of the society. We have calorie counters and stuff that constantly remind us that a 250 calorie donut is unhealthy for you while the insipid Acai berry juice is the elixir. One may say that the new-fangled fashion industry is giving due respect to plus sized women. I say that how many plus sizes do you see in those Cosmos and Stars? It is just a fleeting do-good attention intended for women who either cannot lose weight and need to see people having the same problem like them or women who just laugh at them. I mean the muffin top bulges and love handles are ugly, and we all know that. But if I am happy with them why does the world bother? Why is the importance of weight suddenly a universal problem like Global Warming?

All I feel is that instead of being deluded by emails from Spark People one should pay attention to learning better things like traveling with Micheal Palin (just a suggestion). There is no end to the weight loss syndrome and the more you intend to delve into its crux of nothingness the more out of whack you would become. So, just throw away those weekly reminders and tasteless foods and eat right. Avoid excessive eating and be happy. In a month you will feel and look healthy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes

"It was very superficial, my dear Watson, I assure you"

Remember this line from 'The Cardboard Box'? This seems to be the most pertinent and to the point review of the new movie Sherlock Holmes. The quick witted and masterful Holmes breaks all the shackles of his past and is reincarnated as the new Holmes, the Dark Knight of the future. He is eccentric, enigmatic and visually too cinematic to be the pipe smoking, aquiline nosed detective we all read about. The inhabitant of 221B Baker Street turns all clichéd notions upside down with his fist fights and his potent love interest in his enemy turned ally, Irene Adler. Holmes is the Iron Man who like all superheroes fights and kills his adversaries. The intriguing plot meanders heroically as its protagonists; the brave-heart Holmes and the overpowered Watson try to outwit the dark lord, Lord Blackwood whose malicious and occult crimes threaten to annihilate the peace of London.

Robert Downey Junior is brilliant in his role, he is funny and entertaining. His accent is masterful and his gait dainty. He is however a little more disheveled than expected, lurking around his room catching flies and anaesthetizing Watson's dog. But his mental acumen is strong, his reflective brain, his ability to deduce a person's character from the minuscule details brings to mind the character of the dear old Holmes. However his colleague Dr. Watson seemed at times more potent than him, solving riddles in a jiffy, romanticizing and even overshadowing Holmes at some parts. Jude Law is an actor par excellence and he has used his skill to the best of his ability thereby creating a made over Dr. Watson whom I simply loved. The colleagues share a fantastic bond; they are the ideal made for each other couple. In those grimy and grumpy scenes of slaughterhouse blood, dirty alleys and soiled laboratory, it is obviously the fantastic bond between these two that win over audiences with its charm.

Irene Adler who is first mentioned in 'The Scandal in Bohemia' and who is possibly the love interest of our old Holmes is resurrected here. She is a charming young lady of style, class and brawn. We never know if Mr. Holmes really loved her since "All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind." But in the cinema the emotion of love is more potent and discreet. They kiss and hug yet they always engage in a battle of wits. Holmes has the picture of Adler (the one mentioned in 'The Scandal in Bohemia') and he seems to adore and admire the lady. Rachel McAdams looks good in all the scenes but there is a missing ingredient in her chemistry with Holmes. They don’t look like a great match, even though they try hard to portray the perfection, they just don’t seem to hit it. As for the other characters, Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood is both sinister and perfect. He combined the villainous instincts of a gentleman with great dexterity.

The storyline of the movie is admirable. The plot is fabulous and will leave you agog. One will definitely not find the flair of Conan Doyle, but he will surely enjoy the twists and turns. The cinematography is brilliant. The gloomy London skies cast a gray shadow in the movie. The movie has a dearth of color and the sequences are frenetic, fast and slow paced at the same time. The soundtrack is soothing, a little Irish but good to ears.

Overall, the movie was a brilliant and innovative experiment for director Guy Richie. The peppy Sherlock Holmes does look marvelous on screen yet somehow he lacks the appeal and the wisdom of the stereotyped Holmes and becomes a usual Guy Richie creation, perhaps just another extraordinary antihero.

Be a real good neighbor for a day!

One of the great mysteries of this retro goes metro world is the surge in enveloping vintage expressions and opening our eyes to the Newfoundland of universal neighborhood. Just mention childhood and we will find ourselves harken those warm sighs of the slightly ripped, yet perfectly original pictures in black and white albums of kith and kin, of long love dried out yet tasty and sumptuous even today. And now mention adulthood, what you see is a total metamorphosis of all past expressions, of hours of free laughter to enveloping expressions, put on faces. Sometimes I feel we are all engaged in a street life masquerade, good outside, yet rotten and dead inside. As the world is on the verge of a population explosion and we check the status of the globe by just one click, don’t you thing in all that we have lost touch with the real us? Everyday as we update the minuscule details of our small life on the internet aren’t we just getting a little polluted in our head in the process. Since the time we have gained global citizenship and have started caring more about our virtual friends in Geneva or Iceland, we seem to have no clue about our next door neighbors. As Twitter have taken over phone calls and Facebook and Orkut are our letter writing pads don’t you just crave at times for a little peek a boo game with the days gone by. A little nostalgia is good for the heart, but in the fast paced life and moral rat race that we see everyday can we really afford the time to be nostalgic, can we really let ourselves shed our put on SMS lingo and write a letter in normal language? Or can we just stop our internet cooldom and be just us on one fine day? Life isn’t actually a fairytale, so I think is it time to shutdown those laptops for a while and taste the real flavor of the versatile city we love so much and drown into the forbidden world of pure joy. Write a letter to a dear friend, talk to your neighbors, take your dog out for a walk and show a gesture of genuine goodwill. Be a Good Samaritan in the real world, and bid adieu to the virtual world for a day, for just one fine day. Be a good fellow citizen in your real world and you would see how your virtual life improves. Take the risk, and say "Hello Kolkata" one day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow in Nashville

Finally it snowed, and it was nice. Nashville usually never experiences heavy snow even though we see the Fahrenheit scale reaching 0F at times, which might snow one into believing that the white flurries are coming soon, yet that seldom happens. But last Thursday it happened, and I cant tell you how excited I was to see the cavalcade of soft white snowflakes coming down from the sky and forming a light white layer on the ground. The snow was hardly an inch or two but it was all I wanted. Here are some of the shots taken by me during the snowy day.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Drama of the Idiots

Barnali Saha

In the mortal world of Bollywood, mainstream plagiarism seems to be a pied-a-terre for actors and directors. The latest Bollywood drama 3 Idiots had hit the screen just a few days back and now as the popularity of the movie is soaring sky high, controversy about the originality of the script is raging. The producers and Aamir Khan have vehemently denied the fact that the plot of 3 Idiots is the brain child of Indian writer Chetan Bhagat's novel Five Point Someone and have even gone to the dire extent of calling the script "original"

 Anybody who is aware of Chetan Bhagat's innovative novel would raise his eyebrows to this outrageous claim of Bollywood of calling an openly borrowed theme as its own. Bollywood definitely lacks creativity and have often shown its great dexterity of stealing movie themes, plots, dialogues and even music from Hollywood. There are countless examples of stolen and used plots before us. From Aamir Khan's much talked about Ghajni (original plot Memento) to Amitabh Bacahan's Pa (Original plot Robin William's Jack) Bollywood have deftly been a copy cat. I have forever wondered why is it that Bollywood never mentions the names of the original movies where it had copied its plots from in its own cinematic versions. Why is it that they have forever been inclined to copy and forget? I guess it is the basic element of movie making in Bollywood that one should not have any scruples when entering the business. Now that they have Indianized their copy and forget policy, their targets have been shifted to a national base. From big budget Hollywood movies, Bollywood is currently concentrating on blindfolding humble writers like Chetan Bhagat by blatantly using his creativity and declining fervently that they have adopted the idea from him. It is sad that Chetan Bhagat who despite concocting the brilliant story of Five Point Someone had been given no credit, no respect whatsoever in the movie 3 Idiots. It is indeed ironic that he has never been mentioned in the movie 3 Idiots, he didn’t make any public appearances with the cast and the crew of the movie, yet it is he who has made the making of the movie possible. Bhagat was actually pretty excited about the movie since we all knew from the cover of Five Point Someone that the novel was soon to be a motion picture (the director did not turn out to be Ritesh Sinha though). I guess the writer had not expected the events to take such an awkward turn.

The Cover of the Book 

 3 Idiots is totally based on the novel; it has almost all the same incidents in it the only dissimilarity being that the incidents were jumbled for heightened effect. However, in spite of all fine tuning, the plot of Five Point Someone is a far better than its cinematic version. By over dramatizing the perfect plot Bollywood has just shown us the loopholes in its creativity. In a long, long time we have not seen Bollywood begetting any revolutionary movie ideas and to think of Bollywood of fabricating the revolutionary plot of 3 Idiots would be nothing but an idiotic idea itself. Since all its movies either deal with love or the platitudes of love, Bollywood could never have come up with the idea of scathing the sagacious education system in India; it seldom has concentrated on the subject of education let alone changing the system of education via cinema. It is Chetan Bhagat who is probably the first Indian to speak up vociferously about the backlogs of the Indian education system where creativity plays a second fiddle and mugging up un-understood lessons rules. Bhagat had introduced Ryan Oberoi to act as the rebel in his book and through him he had brought to light the threadbare condition of the education system in India. In the movie 3 Idiots Aamir Khan becomes Rancho (the Ryan of the book) and voices the same dialogues that Ryan had voiced in a different tone. Isn't it a little too much of a coincidence that Aamir has the same kind of name as Chetan Bhagat's character and even talks and acts like him through out the movie? Isn't it totally stupid for Aamir to convince us that the writer has personally declined any similarity between the movie and the book? It is sad that an actor like Aamir Khan who is probably on of the best, if not the best, actors of Bollywood being mendacious in public. This act of Aamir Khan will surely mar his reputation as a perfect performer and will bring to light the fact that everything is fair in Bollwyood and war. As for Chetan Bhagat, I guess it is time for him to understand when Bollywood is concerned one should never expect fame and respect as a writer, because stories are manufactured in Bollywood and are not created by imagination. I hope that all loyal readers of Bhagat's novel support him and protest against the atrocious attempt of Bollywood of declining him his due respect.