Mukti

2017 wishes

Posted in Uncategorized by jrahman on December 25, 2016

Every holiday season, I come across the line that gifts are a terrible idea.  Some years it’s a confident-sounding man trying to impress a social crowd with his neoclassical economics.  At other times, the argument pops up in places like the Financial Times or Vox — that you know best what to do with the money that’s spent on the gift bought for you, and as such, everyone will be better off without gifts: give cash if you must.

Of course, looking for pareto improvement in O’Henry shows just how clueless such male economists (oh, such types, in my experience, are always men) can be.  Gifts are as much but about you-the-giver as you-the-receiver.  What you give to whom tells everyone about the who/what/how of your values.  Buying the shiniest, largest toy, without regards to the recipient’s feelings — well, that says a lot, though perhaps not favourably of the giver.

The most precious thing you can give your loved ones is the gift of time.  If you love someone, spend your time with them and on them.  Whatever you did in the past, wishing you a fresh start from this holiday season.

Happy 2017.

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Recipe — goat rezala

Posted in culture, food, Uncategorized by jrahman on April 10, 2016

There appears to be a lot of variation in how people make rezala.  Mine is definitely not authentic as I tend to improvise a lot while cooking this, which these days is regrettably rare.  Back in the day, however, this had never failed.  Go ahead, give it a shot.

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Guha raises a glass

Posted in Uncategorized by jrahman on January 15, 2016

A trained economist turned historian, a liberal who has written on cricket, you can see why I might like Ramachandra Guha.  When it comes to our corner of the subcontinent, Mr Guha particularly resonates with me because unlike so many other liberal-progressive Indians, he is unsentimental about partition.  This allows him to observe Bangladesh (and Pakistan) with less blinkered eyes.  This was evident in the two op eds he wrote after visiting Bangladesh late last year.

Based on ‘ long, drink-filled, evenings’ of addas with his local interlocutors as well short trips to Manikganj and Tangail, he concludes the first piece as:

The present is scarcely trouble-free, the future is clouded and uncertain. That said, this Indian would like to raise one cheer, and perhaps even two, for the people of Bangladesh. They were once part of Pakistan; after separation, they have been somewhat more successful in thwarting Islamic fundamentalism. They were once part of the undivided province of Bengal; after separation, they have shown more entrepreneurial drive and constructive social activism than their counterparts to the west.

Little quibbles — for example, Bangladesh is not, nor has it ever been, an Islamic Republic — aside, I agree with Guha’s assessment.  It is his second piece, however, that I found more interesting.  Let’s remember that one of his hosts in the Dhaka Lit Fest is an Awami League MP, and his trip was — as things tend to be — quite carefully managed.  I suspect the literati and the chatterati he interacted with have little enthusiasm for the non-existent opposition politics.  And yet, he came away with this stinging indictment of the current order:

… the manner of her administration’s present functioning is dangerously reminiscent of her father’s most ignoble period, those early months of 1975 when he amended the Constitution to virtually outlaw dissent and consolidate power in himself.

Thus, Mr Guha raises his glass, but not three cheers for Bangladesh — politics is letting us down, and the current prime minister deserves the blame.  Who could disagree with that assessment?  Foreign correspondents were coming around to that view over four years ago.

And yet, is that the full picture?  Perhaps the glass Mr Guha raises contains a cocktail that the people of Bangladesh the establishment is willfully imbibing.  Perhaps, Mrs Wajed’s autocratic ways are accepted because the alternative in our winner-take-all set up are perceived to be too risky for stability that underlines social and economic achievements he lauds?

 

 

Prisoner of Jhind

Posted in action, adventure, books, Drama, movies, thriller, Uncategorized by jrahman on November 20, 2015

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.

 

 

 

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Game of coups

Posted in army, Bangladesh, history, politics, Uncategorized by jrahman on November 5, 2015

In the blood-soaked history of Bangladesh, this week marks the 40th anniversary of a particularly dark and grim episode.  On 7 November 1975, dozens of army officers of were killed by mutinous jawans.  The mutiny was orchestrated by Lt Col Abu Taher, who was retired from services a few years earlier and at that time was a key leader of the radical Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal.  The mutineers killed Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf, who had instigated a coup few days earlier against the regime of Khondaker Moshtaq Ahmed, in power since the bloody putsch of 15 August that killed President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family.  Amid the confusion caused by Mosharraf’s manoeuvres against the ‘killer majors’, four senior Awami League leaders — including Tajuddin Ahmed, the country’s first prime minister who led the war effort in 1971 when Mujib was interned in Pakistan — were assassinated in the central jail, allegedly with the consent of President Moshtaq.  The chaos and carnage of 7 November, coming on the heels of the August massacre and the jail killing, threatened to put the very existence of Bangladesh at risk.

Fortunately, Taher’s mutiny proves short-lived as the army rallied behind Major General Ziaur Rahman.

This post isn’t about revisiting our coup-prone history  or explaining it.  Rather, using the ideas of Naunihal Singh, an American political scientist, I want to discuss why some of those coups were more successful than others, and what they might tell us about the present day Bangladesh.

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Tin Kanya

Posted in Dhallywood, movies, Uncategorized by jrahman on October 31, 2015

According to google, Bangla movie Tin Kanya refers to either the 1961 Ray adaptation of Tagore or the 2012 risque Rituparna starrer.  The 1986 Bangladeshi film starring Suchanda, Babita and Champa is completely ignored.  That’s a shame, because it deserves to have a cult following, if Dhallywood had cult following that is.

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Learning from history

Posted in democracy, elections, history, politics, South Asia, Uncategorized by jrahman on July 5, 2015

Forty years ago last week, things were happening in New Delhi that are more often seen in Islamabad and Dhaka.  India came under a State of Internal Emergency on 25 June 1975.  Indira is India — the cult of personality around Prime Minister Indira Gandhi preceded the Emergency, but with wholesale detention of opposition politicians on spurious charges, draconian censorship, executive decrees and ordinances bypassing the legislature and subordinating the judiciary, Indian experiment in democracy seemed to be over.

Then, in early 1977, Mrs Gandhi called fresh elections, which were held on the announced date, in a free and fair manner, and her party was thrown out of office by the voters, she herself losing her seat.  Accepting the verdict, she stepped down.  Indian experiment in democracy returned, to be continued to our time.

The Emergency plays a climactic role in Salman Rushdie’s much-celebrated novel Midnight’s Children.  But it’s Shashi Tharoor’s treatment in The Great Indian Novel that I find more nuanced.  Tharoor’s rendition of the Mahabharata has the general election of 1977, following the Emergency, as the modern-day Battle of Kurukshetra.  Duryodhana, the leader of the ‘baddie’ Kaurava clan, is recast as Mrs Gandhi, while the ‘goodie’ Pandava brothers are: Morarji Desai (who replaced Mrs Gandhi as the prime minister) as the virtuous Yudhishtir; the Indian army as the valiant Bhim; media as the heroic Arjuna; and the civil and foreign services as the Nakul-Sahadeva twins.  As the epic battle isn’t simply ‘good trumps over evil’ in the Epic, so it is in the novel, which ends with a place of honour accorded to Priya Duryodhoni / Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi in the ‘court of history’.

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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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সময়

Posted in Uncategorized by jrahman on October 21, 2014

সময়টা লম্বা চুল আর বেল বটমের।   আগের দশকের ছাত্র-যুব প্রগতিশীল আন্দোলন, দলের সাংগঠনিক শক্তি, আর নিজের ব্যক্তিগত ক্যারিসমা — ২৩ বছরের সংগ্রামের পর বিজয়।

মাত্র তিন বছর ক্ষমতায়।  তিন বছরেই প্রতিশ্রুতিমত পরিবর্তন।  ফলাফল — বাস্তবিকভাবে এক নতুন দেশ।

তারপর?  কেলেঙ্কারী। বেসামাল অর্থনীতি। রাজনৈতিক অস্থিরতা।
নভেম্বর ১৯৭৫। ক্যু।
নির্বাচনে ভরাডুবি।
৩৯ বছর পর ?

 

 

 

 

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The best ‘superhero’ movie

Posted in action, fantasy, movies, Uncategorized by jrahman on December 25, 2013

The Guardian has been listing top 10 movies by genre.  Batman, Superman, Spider-man, Ironman all make at least one appearance, as do the Avengers and X-Men, and so does pleasingly surprisingly, Blade, in the superhero list, which is predictably topped by The Dark Knight.

Now, the Dark Knight Trilogy is right up there in terms of Hollywood epic grandeur.  And I am partial to the political philosophy themes in that series.  I should sometime write a piece on that.

But I think the best ‘superhero’ movie — by which, I of course mean a trilogy — is yet to be made.

skull ring

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