Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The world is what we need

Eighty four million lifetimes
Taken for this one lifetime
Eighty four million births
Just to evolve and be blessed
with a life of a human being –

In order that we may See the Self

What good is his
who fasts for a week
or who has vowed celibacy
for years on end?
After the penance of
Eighty four million lifetimes -
the labour undergone
Over eons just to be born
as man?

The chaos “outside” is merely
A projection we call the world
It is what we create
In order that we may be thrust within
To fulfil the purpose of a human life
To See our Self

There is no light
Without darkness;
No rays of the sun
Without objects;
No stillness in the lake
Without ripples.

We need the chaos of the “outside”
The eighty four million lifetimes in different forms
We need to go through the penance
of creating the “outside”
To be born as human
Only to See our Self within

Without water to reflect
the moon is invisible to itself.
- Julia Dutta

According to ancient Indian thoughts, the human life comes once after eighty four million lifetimes in different forms over eons. It is a fruit of penance over lifetimes that one goes through, only to be born a man.

Why should this be the case?

What is it about this life as human that we must go through eighty four million lifetimes to wait for this one?

At a biological level, it seems apparent that the human brain requires that many births to evolve that many brain cells which then make possible what we call “consciousness”. It is of utmost importance that it is only the conscious human being, who is capable of striving for realisation. And that seems to be the ultimate purpose of this human life.

The search for Self is primary to human existence. According to Vedanta, there are three states – the waking, dream and deep sleep state. In deep sleep, there is no world. In the dream state, the dreamer creates the world outside and involves itself in it, but in the waking state, neither the dream state nor the deep sleep state exists. The dreamer wakes and realises that it was all a dream. In fact it is he who was dreaming. He created his dream and now that he is awake, the dream has ceased to be.

There is a third state – the state of deep dreamless sleep. Sometimes, when he wakes up, he realises that he has had a deep sleep, totally free of all dreams.

By these findings he becomes aware that after all, the dream state which disappeared as soon as he woke up was after all false. He can be said to have woken up.

Similarly, it is evident that we create the world outside, in order that we may be disillusioned with it and wake up to the inside – the Self, which is always there, forever still, never moving and never to be found in the outside. Yet, even though it is apparent that the search for Self is inside, it must necessarily begin outside, whether it is in this lifetime or in the eighty four million lifetimes we pass through, in order that we may be born as human.

We need the chaos of the “outside”
The eighty four million lifetimes in different forms
We need to go through the penance
of creating the “outside”
To be born as human
Only to See our Self within

Without water to reflect
the moon is invisible to itself.

Painting picture: By Jamini Roy

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Falling in love with Bhopal

You know that feeling.....

Suddenly your eyes have fallen on someone. There is an instant click in the air and you are under his/her spell for the next so many days/months/years.

Or you have seen someone and you realise quite to your surprise, that this person is quietly growing in you, silently but surely. There is a fragrance inside, a smell you can associate only with love. You know you are falling in love, maybe the first time or the nth, the feeling is the same.

The Director of the NGO had not reached the station to pick me up as he promised. In fact, instead of Bhopal station, he was looking for me at Habibgunj station which is a ten minutes journey from Bhopal station. I was to reach there on my own. I did not know that existence had deliberately done so. It had plans for me which revealed itself in the next few moments - I was falling in love again, this time with a new lady – Begum Bhopal!(See history below)

The autorickshaw swerved out of Bhopal station and within minutes I knew I was losing my heart again, just like I did in Pune, so many years ago. Pune had given me love and had been the beginning of my first step towards Buddhism and Vipassana.

Bhopal is again one which has proved a love I won’t ever forget – ravishingly beautiful, passionately intoxicating and yet, classy, like a nawabi begum.

What you just saw was some exhibits from Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sanghralaya(IGRMV) fascinating as they are. The origin of man, the earliest humans in India and their lives are depicted here. On the day I visited IGRMS, the paintings of Jamini Roy were also exhibited. Don’t miss the pictures of both: IGRMS as well as paintings of Jamini Roy.

History of Bhopal:

Must see:
More Pictures at IGRMS


Paintings by Jamini Roy

Patua Painting exhibits at IGRMS

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rude Food @ Dus Number Market

Famished at Bhopal. Not to worry at all. Apart from being the hub for nawabi food, Bhopal's Dus number Market is the place for sinful rude street food, although the little Coffee Bar, Bake and Shake can make to really want to stay much longer inside.

But there is more to this rude food. Its street food that is popular and hot selling too. Here take a look

Address: Dus number Market, Near Dus number Bus Stand, Arera Colony, Bhopal
Getting there: From Habibgung Station: Take auto: Rs 30 or bus # 11, 2 and get off at Dus number bus stand

Closed on: Tuesdays

More pictures: http://picasaweb.google.co.in/juliadutta/RudeFoodBhopal#

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Satyajit Ray - Pather Panchali

If a child plucked a guava from your garden without your knowledge and gave it to her old, widowed aunt, would you call her a thief? If your husband on the sly bought the same old lady, who is his widowed sister, withered by age and a skeleton in body mass due to starvation and poverty, would you be jealous and throw up a fit?

You would if you were starved yourself – starved of a happy married life which was cut short by the early death of your husband; starved of attention to your needs by your husband.

PatherPanchali (Bengali; B/W) is a story of poverty and starvation at many levels and yet, a story that challenges the fact that the poor are bereft of all happiness. Weaved into the very fabric of the film, moments of stark poverty and deprivation meet moments of small joys that only the poor experience and know about. The train running across the village – koo-zig-zig-koo-zig-zig, running behind the mithai walla just to steal one sweetmeat from his large collection, a little picnic in the forest where you cook your lunch and share it among all the kids, dancing in the rains, soaked to the last bit – all and everything, that makes for the little nuances in the film that break the comfort of the elitist thinking, that there is no joy in poverty at all.

This said, dear Reader, I must not take you on a path of political stands. This was not why Pather Panchali was made, though for the keen eyed spectator, this is also one of the interpretations one could have. Perhaps, even debate upon.

Leave that as it may, the story takes you to rural Bengal to a large joint family who have rented out an almost dilapidated part of their large house to a poor family consisting of the central figure here, a child of seven years or so, called Durga, her father and her mother. Her brother Apu, arrives later in the film, born in the midst of this poverty in which they live. The family has an additional burden, a child widow who is an elder sister of Durga’s father, obviously come to stay with them after the death of her husband as was the done thing in Bengal of old times. The practice continues even to this day in some cases, especially among the economically challenged.

Naturally, she is the bone of contention for Durga’s mother. While she herself lives a life of abject poverty in terms of having not even her own needs fulfilled by her husband, who certainly loves her but his expression of this love shows in the bedroom more than anywhere else. He has never even bought her a toffee from the local shop, or a sari, or even on the sly a shawl, as he did his own widowed sister. In fact, she is the perennial worker in the kitchen, the server who has no other life except this one. Naturally, she makes Durga follow in her footsteps. At least in that she has got the company of her own daughter. Yet, when her husband says he must leave for Kolkata for two months to earn a living, she is saddened.

In the midst of all this of course, Durga is growing to be both a child as well as a caretaker. She is custodian to her little brother Apu’s needs. She bathes him, clothes him, combs his hair and takes him to school. She is also that “generous” thief who regularly steals from the neighbour’s tree a guava which she dutifully gives her widowed aunt to enjoy on the sly. She is the one who is constantly at her mother’s side, helping her with the kitchen work. But don’t forget that in the midst of all this, Durga still manages her moments of joy as stated above – the group picnics, the dance in the rain and the joy of watching the train run through the village.

However, it is the pure joy of the dance in the rain that finally takes her life. A violent fever sets in which cannot be treated except by a water soaked cloth on the forehead. Alas, poverty has no medicines to spare for those who it takes as companion. The windy night was only too telling, the storm outside depicted the chaos that was going to befall the family, the sight of the dead frog outside the house, too telling a message for the viewer to miss what was going to happen inside the broken down house – death had taken Durga from the screen of the film of life, Durga, the central figure in the film, leaving a mother who turned to stone with grief, a brother who suddenly grew up over night and a father who returned with all the goods and a sari for Durga only to find out that he would never see her again in life.

D-U-R-G-A he yelled setting off for the first time tears and howling from his wife’s throat as she held Durga’s sari to her mouth. It was the last deprivation which the family would never forget – that poverty had had the last laugh in their lives by taking Durga away from them. What use was the wealth thereafter got. Better to Kasi they would go.

But as they leave the dilapidated house, a large snake creeps into it to make its residence there.

So is this nuance significant at all? Does Satyajit Ray want to communicate that Durga’s life has transmigrated to the snake’s and she would continue to live in the house even if the rest left for Benares?

Other note worthy nuances that touched me were:

* Durga’s father writing in to say he was returning from Kolkata having made some money. Just two shots ago, his wife looked like the great famine of Bengal. The very prana in her looks were absent. She was like the dry leaves lying on the floor of the earth, waiting for the rains to come soak them. The letter brought a torrent of emotions to the forefront. The music changed to a lively one. The dragon flies played with each other, teasing and chasing one another, on the pond. The mood was spring; life had returned to the dried up leaves.

* Durga has stolen the guava from the neighbours garden and comes running to place it in the little basket in her aunt’s (pishi) basket so she can partake of the joy of a stolen fruit.

* Durga’s mother is not at all happy about her husband’s widowed sister staying with her. She frequently fights with her and asks her to leave the house. The old lady takes her only belongings – a torn floor mat, a small bundle of torn clothing and a torn blanket and leaves for another village where she has another relative. There she spends few days and returns to Durga’s house again. On one such return, Durga’s mother is having her lunch. The old pishi comes to have a glass of water from the pitcher sitting behind Durga’s mother. She happens to see that Durga’s mother is eating some fish. There is a smile of greedy desire for the taste of fish that arises in the face of the old lady and also fades away as quickly as it came. She remembers that she is widowed and in this lifetime she will never experience the joy of a meal of fish and rice again. She gets up and returns to her little spot at the back of the kitchen.

* The day before the family leaves for Kasi, the angry widow from the large joint family returns to place a little money on Durga’s mother’s hand. She apologises for her frequent bad behaviour in the past. After all, she explains, a widowed life makes a person small in heart because, they have nothing to look forward to in their own lives. A true confession that can make anyone wake up to the fact that deprivation of any nature can cause a person to become mean.


Harihar, the Father: Kanu Banerjee

Sarbajaya, the Mother:Karuna Banerjee

Apu: Subir Banerjee

Durga, young girl: Uma Das Gupta

Durga, child: Runki Banerjee

Indir Thakrun, Old Aunt: Chunibala Devi

Candy seller: Haren Banerjee

About Satyajit Ray
: There is no introduction that can be ever given nor will it ever fulfil its primary task with regard to one of the world’s greatest genius to have touched planet earth. For the absolute uninitiated, they may visit Wikipedia to fulfil their need to know who Satyajit Ray was.

I may only state this that Pather Panchali was the first film that Satyajit Ray made in 1955. It is considered the first among the trilogy – the others being Apur Sansar and Aprajito.

Many of us know that Ray was one of the best film makers in the world, but few of us know that he was first a copywriter who also loved to sketch his own visuals. Each of his frames were first sketched by him and then filmed to perfection. For some of the shots in Pather Panchali, he waited for one full year to do a retake, like the one in which Apu and Durga run through a field of wild broom leaves. When he took the shot and reviewed it, he was not happy with the shot. But a month had passed since then and when he returned to the location, he found that the field had dried up. He waited for one full year to recapture the same shot. In the meantime, his character, Apu who was to run through the field was growing up and taller. But, luck was on Ray’s side. He managed to retake the shot the next year, without it showing any disjointedness. Ray loved rural Bengal and even before he became a film maker, he did many sketches on the panoramic beauty of Bengal’s picturesque natural wealth. Panther Panchali meaning, Song of the Little Road, like (My interpretation: Life’s Journey on a path), was shot entirely in rural Bengal.

View more:


On YouTube



© Julia Dutta., all rights reserved.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Be The Change You Want (Children's Fantasy)

Apple 1: I say! When is your birthday?
Apple 2: Well, I think when mom visited the doc two weeks ago, he said it was 5th September
Apple 1: But that was day before yesterday!
Apple 2: Yea, I know, but I have decided not to be born at all!
Apple 1: What! Why?
Apple 2: There’s nothing much to look forward to….
Apple 1: Light! That’s what we can look forward to Apple 2
Apple 2: Nah! Aren’t you tired of huge lights intruding into your space at the doc’s cabin? Searching you; looking at every corner of your body?
Apple 1: Yea, it’s not really nice. In fact, I can hear them say look! Look! Here it is. Your baby is just fine. Bah!
Apple 2: Exactly! Once you are out they will probe into your life further. There’s no space to breathe….In any case, when is your birthday?
Apple 1: In a week I guess. But I am now thinking. Perhaps I should join you too.

The dates had gone. The births did not happen. Parents and doctors lost no time to intrude further. Mom1 and Mom 2 were driven to the OT and the anesthetist called. But when the moms were administered their dose, the anesthesia failed. They could not operate on the mothers-to-be. The babies remained inside.

Apple 1: Now we don’t have to worry Apple 2, we can just live here as long as life is running in our veins.
Apple 2: You are right! We are now safe from the world outside.
Apple 1: Last night I heard my mom complain that she feels like a sitting duck. She can’t move this way or that. A moment of happiness has turned into moments of burden.
Apple 2: I do syspathise. But Apple 1, someone has to bear the cross. For centuries we have.
Apple 1: I agree. Day after day, new life has entered the world hoping for a beautiful experience…
Apple 2: (with a down turned mouth) ….and nothing happened! In fact the moment we were born, rules were burdened on us. Did anyone ask us about what we wanted? What we thought about what they think is good for us? No! So Apple 1, don’t worry about what your mom said last night. There was never a new idea which was not born out of the failure of the last one. This idea not to be born but go through the entire life in our mother’s womb is a revolutionary one Apple 1.
Apple 1: Let’s imagine Apple 2 what the world will be for us…

And thus the world began a new world with only two inhabitants. Apple 1 and Apple 2. It was called BDaChangeUwan.

(Five years later)…..

Apple 1: Apple 2, are you hungry?
Apple 2: No! I am not but what about you?
Apple 1: All I have to do is think of food and it appears before me. Here, have a sandwich.
Apple 1 & 2 munched at a sandwich filled with tuna fish.
Apple 1: Why do we not eat a chicken lollipop too?
Apple 2: Sure! But where will we dump the bone.
Apple 1: We don’t have waste bins here Apple 2, because there are no wastes
Apple 2: I can’t chew a bone Apple 1
Apple 1: You don’t have to. There are no bones in Chicken fantasy lollipop
Apple 2: That’s right. In our world all we have to do is think and we can have whatever we want.
Apple 1: Do you know what happened at the school yesterday?
Apple 2: School? What school?
Apple 1: Mamma took me to school yesterday
Apple 2: Ha! Ha! Ha! And what happened there?
Apple 1: You know it was fun for all! Ha! Ha! Ha! The Head Master, Mr Pumpkinhead, came into his room and called for Mamma. When she entered, he helped her onto a chair. Then she began to speak. “You see, sir, “ she began, its been six years since I have been pregnant. The Head Master tried to hide his surprise. My Mamma continued – “ If I had had the baby in time, then h/she would have been six years today. I used to dream of sending him to your school. In fact I had even made my husband visit the school, even before it was born to get the Admission form. But alas! Even now, the child is not born.”

The startled Head Master shuffled on his seat “Never give up, Mrs Worldlifarce, life is all about the dreams you don’t give up! Maybe some day, it will emerge….”

”No way!” I had screeched from inside her stomach and can you believe it Apple 2, the Head Master heard it and stood up like a rod –

“What did you say?” he asked threateningly to my mother, “I don’t like cheeky girls who speak up to authority!”

My mom was shell shocked to say the least. “I said nothing Sir!” she pleaded

“You did!” he persisted “You had the cheek to be rude to me. “ I am the Head Master of this school…..!!!”


“Now, you may please leave my room”.

“Thanks you Pumpkinhead, I always knew you were one!”I said once again from inside the womb

But this time, the Head Master said nothing. He became as red as a tomato, as my mom left the room wiping her eyes with her kerchief.

Apple 1: Ha! Ha! Ha! What a joke that was! What’s the point of going to school? And all we have to do to learn any subject taught in school, is just think of the pictures it can bring up in our minds and we know the answers to it. Like 2 little ducklings make a man’s nose. Or one stick standing on the left of a duckling makes twelve. 2 twelve make a duckling and a man’s nose, sit side by side.

Apple 2: Math actually is fun and picturesque. I know the number lock on my Mom’s mobile because it is shaped like the lane in which our house stands – L. 1 – 7-9!! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Apple 1: I love the school we are going to. Everything is only pictures and colours. We don’t have to think beyond what is already available to us. It’s all there. Wonder why they make such a fuss about learning.

Apple 2: That’s because those who are teaching need to learn a thing or two!

Apple 1: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Besides, good living is so simple. All we have to do is commune with all that is around us, the trees, birds, rivers and seas. When we walk in the woods, why do whole trees not fall upon us Apple 2? Because they live in peaceful co-existence with us. And when we live close to the forest why do we always have to cut trees to accommodate ourselves?

Apple 2: We took a good decision to stay away from the light outside. We live a far more enlightened life inside Apple 2.

Rationale for the above fantasy: It was not long ago that Pink Floyd wrote in indelible ink the words – The Wall – in the minds of zillions of people around the world, a song that would stand the test of time. Not only were the words revolutionary but the content of the song seemed to have remained the same over the times and even today we are dabbling with the same theme – “Hey teacher! Leave them kids alone! All in all, it’s another brick in the wall”.

Education that does not count the child’s needs in h/her voice is just another brick in the wall. Pedagogy has been decided. Child psychologists has concluded that a, b, c are what a child needs to be a worthy citizen of a nation and the fate of the child is set. We are constantly looking for the homogenous society where there are no differences. The uniqueness of the child is covered up by the need to fashion it in the light of what we can see and deal with in our lives. New schools, new names, new curriculum – everything is a stop gap measure because; a new idea is being born out of a dead one. There is no quantum leap in time, nothing so revolutionary that it can make planners sit up and think.

Perhaps planners need to go back to school – this time of a different kind. A school where they will speak less and observe more. A school, full of kids of different ages, from 1 – 14, where teaching becomes only a way to learn to deal with different aspects of life, more than wanting to capture the moon and name stars after one’s parents.

Planners need to open their ears, eyes and senses and block their throats for once.

Another Brick in the Wall - Pink Floyd