Awrup Sanyal wants to whet your appetite about Richard Eaton’s seminal work. Let me complement him on the effort. I have noted Eaton in the past: a must read book on Bangladesh; and a book that has stayed with me. A full-fledged critical review of the Eaton thesis is well beyond my capability. This post really is a complement to Mr Sanyal’s.
Classical Muslim scholars used to divide travel and travel writing into two categories. First is what they called rihla — a description of what the traveller did, saw or experienced. Ibn Battuta’s travelogues are the best known in this genre. However, rihla can also be more than mere narratives and descriptions. They can form the basis of scientific enquiry. An example of this kind of rihla is the 11th century polymath Al Biruni’s description of India. Travelling under the protection of Mahmud of Ghazni, Al Biruni studied sciences and mathematics and wrote Tarikh al Hind — one of the most comprehensive books on pre-Islam subcontinent. In fact, great rihla, according to the scholars, had to have some analysis as well as description.
There is another tradition of travel and travel writing among the learned Muslims of yore, that of safr. Safr is the word for travel or journey in most north and east Indian languages, including Bangla. To the 11th century Sufi philosopher Al-Ghazali, safr meant any travelling through which a person evolves. To him, safr meant as well as the physical act of travelling somewhere, mixing with the inhabitants of that land, imbibing oneself with their customs and ways, and evolving into a person closer to Allah.
Al-Ghazali further categorised travellers: those who travel seeking knowledge, the best kind; the Hajis; the immigrants — the Prophet himself was an immigrant; and the refugees, the worst kind.
What is the line between an immigrant and a refugee? Salman Rushdie and VS Naipaul have both written about the uprooting involved in migration. Both have noted that at some level or other, all migrants are really refugees. But for Naipaul, the uprooting is mostly a bad thing. Rushdie is open to the possibility of migration leading to something new. Migrants are works of translation, he writes.
Those of you who have read the Quran probably have done so in translation. Translation then can’t always be bad.
Being a Bangladeshi student in the urban west of the 1990s wasn’t easy.
Leaving home for a strange place — whether from a village in Maheshkhali for Dhaka University, or from Dhaka to foreign cities — is difficult for anyone in their late teens. And at any age, student or otherwise, it is hard to move to a city. Cities, metropoles that are cosmopolitan, dense with information to overload all the senses, and yet a depressing place where you are likely to be all alone amid the teeming multitude. You seek to belong, because you find solace as part of something that is bigger than your mundane existence.
Good thing you skipped Salman Khan’s new movie. They made the movie around 14 songs collected over many years. Waste of time!
That’s my brother on the recent Bollywood adaptation of The Prisoner of Zenda. The lookalike-as-a-plant has been used as a plot device many times, including those starring Bollywood bigshots. My favourite retelling on pages is the Flashman caper involving the Schleswig-Holstein Question — note to self, must blog about Flashman sometime.
But for the screen, let me recommend the 1961 Bangla adaptation. Adapted to the Indian settings by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay of Byomkesh fame, the movie contains great visuals of the rugged Central and Western Indian terrain, decade-and-half before Sholay. Uttam Kumar in the title role is solid, but Soumitra Chatterjee as a villain is sublime — an early cut of his performance in Ghare Baire two decades later. Oh, there is also a Bengali nationalist twist in the mix.
The best thing about the movie, however, is its music. Ali Akbar Khan matches the likes of Ennio Morricone. They just don’t do tunes like that any more.
Bond movies, even the forgettable ones starring Pierce Brosnan, are to be watched as soon as possible, with a group of friends, to be followed by an adda where you can dissect the said movie every which way. The new movie opened here couple of weeks after the worldwide premiere, and it’s hard to avoid the chatter in our hyper-connected world. So I was very keen to watch it during the weekend. Needless to say, the Black Friday in Paris cast a shadow. But to let that tragedy stop us from discussing movies and books would be a betrayal of the joie de vivre and La Résistance that we associate Paris with.
Is this movie too sentimental or emotional? Does Bond fall in love too easily? Is he not ruthless enough? Well, this is what you get from Batmanisation — you can’t give the guy a backstory with emotions without turning him, well, emotional. But it’s also Sherlockisation — am I coining a term here? Let me elaborate. In one of the very first scenes of the BBC show, an eccentric chemist deduces that his potential flatmate, a complete stranger, is an Afghanistan vet — a scene straight out of the pages of the first Holmes novel. While not a strict adaptation of anything specific of Doyle, every other scene in Sherlock harks back to the cannon. So it is in Spectre, which continues Bond’s evolution from a thug-with-a-government-paper to mister-suave, paralleling the evolution from the earlier, younger, rough-edged Connery to the later, older, smoother Moore. If anything, the forthcoming fifth Craig-starter (don’t believe the hysterics about him not doing another) is set up pretty well for a…. okay, we are getting ahead of ourselves.
I wrote about television waybackwhen, and tried to read philosophy even earlier. Considering vision and philosophy translate similarly in Bangla, it’s only natural that I would pick up Everything I Know I Learned from TV: philosophy for the unrepentant couch potato at first sight. And I read it in on weekend nearly a decade ago.
Anyone who likes to watch TV and read books should get this little gem. Let me just note the shows and ideas covered.
I guess only a Leone or Coppola could meet my expectations, so I must not be too harsh on Kamal Mukherjee. He ought to be lauded for taking a chance, but the fact that his adaptation only gets a 6.7 in IMDB tells me that there is room for Bollywood yet.
When that happens, it’s imperative that Bunyip is done right.
Some time ago, there was a facebook meme about 10 books:
List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the great works of literature, just the ones that have affected you in some way. Tag 10 friends and me so I can see your list.
Over the fold, for archival purposes, are two lists — one general, the other economics related.
A magical realist masterpiece, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children has weird and improbable events and people juxtaposed against the history of the 20th century South Asia up to the late 1970s. One such improbable fact was that at the time of writing, and thus the story’s culmination, military rulers of the erstwhile two wings of Pakistan had the same first name.
This is not the only parallel between the political history of Bangladesh and post-1971 Pakistan.
Both successor states of United Pakistan started with larger-than-life charismatic leaders, whose rules ended in tragic denouement inconceivable in 1972. Both giants found governance to be much harder than populist rhetoric, both resorted to un-democracy, and both ended up meeting cruel ends at the hand of their trusted guards. Both countries succumbed to dictatorships in the 1980s, although the extent and mechanism varied. In both countries democratic opposition developed. In both countries, some form of democratic politics came into practice by the 1990s.