Mukti

Sticking to the formula

Posted in books, classics by jrahman on January 20, 2017

William Shakespeare wrote 37 plays. Romeo and Juliet was the 28th, so one can assume that he was a quite experienced storyteller when he penned the story that ends with a pair of star-cross’d lovers taking their lives.  Just to refresh your memory: Friar Lawrence helps Juliet by providing a sleeping draught that will make everyone think she’s dead, Romeo is then supposed to come to her tomb and take her away, but messages get mixed and thinking that she is dead, he takes poison and dies just as she awakes from her drugged sleep, only to stab herself rather than to live without him.

Romeo and Juliet, the first romantic tragedy the Bard penned, was a big hit. Upon finding the successful formula of the taking of multiple lives in confusing circumstances, he ended four of his remaining nine plays in similar manner.

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Mountains of the Moon — 7

Posted in adventure, books, Chander pahar, classics, fantasy by jrahman on August 3, 2016

Well over a decade ago, I entered a writing challenge with my brothers to scribble 10,000 words in a month.  For this, I started translating Bibhuti Bhushan Bondopadhyaya’s Chander Pahar (Mountains of the Moon) — the action adventure story of a young man from the rural heart of early 20th century Bengal who leaves his East African railway job in search of a diamond mine, and encounters man-eating lions, black mamba, volcanic eruption, Kalahari, cannibals, a mysterious apelike creature that doesn’t fear fire.

I posted the first six chapters between October 2011 and March 2013 — Shankar escapes the rural life to work in the lion territory, and the black mamba station, where he saves the life of an old man with an exciting tale, and they set off for the mountains of the moon. Time to restart the series.

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On the Eaton thesis

Posted in Bengal, books, classics, history, Muslim world, South Asia by jrahman on January 13, 2016

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.

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Degenerating the Faith (2)

Posted in books, classics, culture, faith, history, Muslim world, society by jrahman on December 5, 2015

Part 1.

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.

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Degenerating the Faith

Posted in books, classics, culture, current affairs, faith, society by jrahman on December 2, 2015

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.

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Books

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.

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সাতকাহন

Seven trashes collected by the senses.

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Mountains of the Moon – 5

Posted in adventure, books, Chander pahar, classics, desi fiction, fantasy by jrahman on November 18, 2012

Previously, Shankar escapes the rural life to work in the lion territory, and the black mamba station, where he saves the life of an old man.

The tale of brave Alvarez

Young man, what’s your age?  Twenty-two?  When you were just a toddler, back in 1889, that’s when my story begins.  I was prospecting for gold beyond the forest and the ranges to the north of the Cape Colony.  I was young then, and cared for no danger.

I started from Bulawayo, alone, with two donkeys carrying my luggage.  I crossed the Zambezi, beyond which the maps were marked with the words ‘unknown region’. I’d cross rolling hills, tall grasses, small Bantu villages.  Then eventually Bantu villages became less frequent.  I had reached a place that was never before visited by a white man.

Wherever I saw a river or creek, or a hill, I looked for gold.  How many had become rich in the southern part of Africa with gold or diamond?  I had heard those tales since when I was a little boy.  That’s what I came to Africa for.  But I found nothing in two years of roaming around.  Two years of hardship, and nothing to show for it.  Actually, once I came very close.

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Mountains of the Moon – 4

Posted in adventure, books, Chander pahar, classics, desi fiction, fantasy by jrahman on October 28, 2012

Previously, Shankar escapes the rural life to work in the lion territory, and then at the black mamba station.

Enter Alvarez

Shankar was safe from snakes after that.  But he faced another, more mundane, trouble.  There wasn’t enough water.  What he got from the train was barely enough for drinking, not for a bath.  And with the summer heat, the well dried up.  Then he was told that about three miles to the east there was a small lake, where the water was drinkable, and the lake even contained fish.

Fishing and a proper bath were incentives enough for Shankar to venture eastwards.  He got fishing rods delivered from Mombassa, and a Somali coolie showed him the way.  The lake was actually not that small, with tall grasses around it, and a hillock a few yards away.  There was a lone baobab tree on the hillock.  He enjoyed a long bath and swim — first time in Africa — before fishing for a couple of hours.  He caught a lot of small fish.  He was looking forward to frying them back at the station.  He wanted to stay a lot longer, but duty called.

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On Raajneeti

Posted in Bollywood, books, classics, desi fiction, Drama, movies by jrahman on May 2, 2012

No, not politics.  I am sure you can get enough of that elsewhere.  This post is about Raajneeti, a big budget Bollywood film.  Check out the trailer.


 

Excited? 

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