(Salutations to You O Divine Mother, I Invoke You; Who is the daughter of the Mountain; By Whose presence the whole World is filled with Joy; For Whom the whole World is a Divine Play and Who is Praised by Nandi, I Invoke You O Devi Who Dwell on the Summit of the Vindhyas, the Best of the Mountains; Who give Joy to Lord Vishnu as His sister ….)
That once a year rendition in the voice of Biren Krishna Bhadra.
Aswiner sarada prate beje utheche alokomonjir,
Dharanir bohirakashi ontorhito meghomala
(In the month of Aswin, amidst the meanderings of autumn, resounds the light of the sun like anklets
As the clouds disappear from the skies above the world)
Listening to that Chandi path chants and the music in a half asleep, half wakeful state, has always been an intensely personal and endearing experience since my childhood.
I recall my father putting on the All India Radio station at dawn all those decades back, as we all huddled back under the blankets to sleep-awake through Mahishasur Mardini during those wonderful autumn laced mornings with that slight nip in the air. I have tried to continue that tradition.
This year as I lay on my bed listening to Mahishasur Mardini, I saw in my mind’s eye folks who had been part of me since childhood. My father, my father-in-law, other family members, friends. They were standing in two rows and smiling at me. I could sense the love and the warmth seep towards me through the smiles. I luxuriated in the enveloping feeling and closed my eyes. I woke up to find that it was but a dream. Al those who I saw looking and smiling at me were no longer part of my life today, having left for their heavenly abode.
Mahalaya is the day of making offerings to our departed forefathers. According to the Puranas, our patriarchal generations come closer to the living world at this time and this is when they need to be remembered and thanked in our prayers.
Did my dream have anything to do about my remembrance of all the departed souls and them reciprocating back?
“Clearly, the thing that’s transforming is not the technology — the technology is transforming you.” Jeanne W. Ross, MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research
Moolya Foundation is a non-profit organisation that aims to transform public affairs through digital leadership. The mission of Moolya Foundation is to expand the conversation surrounding public affairs and empower every citizen in the digital age.
Moolya Summer School 2021`— 6 weeks internship cum training program — aims to engage with budding policy enthusiasts and familiarise them with the principles of policy research and practical approaches to policymaking and analysis.
I was recently invited to deliver an online address on ‘Reimagining Leadership in the Digital era.’.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines ‘Reimagining as ‘to form a new conception of, to recreate. What is Leadership? A great definition is ‘visualization of and moving towards a future that was not going to happen otherwise.
In the digital era, our world is increasingly granular- more number of players are entering every day & increasingly interdependent- more unknowable connections between them. Information availability & sharing is 24 X 7 binding us all together and creating a global awakening of expectations.
As I write this the pandemic has been with Humanity for a little over one and a half years. If History’s signposts are anything to go by, the pandemic would remain with us for another one to one and a half years. In between the viral waves ( third, fourth and so on) would wax and wane as surely as does the moon.
At this point in time, we are witnessing two discrete trends:
The world as a whole is seeing a week to week increase in infections of 11%. Clearly the pandemic is waxing now, with large swathes of countries in Europe, South America and Asia adding to the numbers.
Vaccination has picked up pace with most countries rapidly vaccinating their citizens. The developed countries in Europe and North America have largely vaccinated their population.
If we were to look at India, which just a couple of months back, had a world beating surge in excess of 400,000 new infections a day, the decline from those highs too was rapid. However, as we speak, the infection numbers seem to be flattening out at around 40,000 new cases a day. While this signifies a drop 0f 90% from peak levels, it is still a 400% above the bottom level witnessed at the end of the first pandemic wave last year end.
Thanks to News channels and social media, folks remain nervous about the virus variants. How the COVID 19 virus keeps on mutating, how the Delta ( and other yet to come!) variants are leading to new infection surges all over. There is also widespread concern about the efficacy of the available vaccines against the mutating variants. Folks remain stuck in this narrative and feel confused and disempowered about what they should do.
People ask, “Are we into a no-win situation where a solution to a problem is leading to a new problem arising?”
Europe may provide an answer. Let us look at what is happening in Europe excluding Russia.
Week on week, infections have gone up by 41% ! Currently, new infections over the last week stands at 449,826. This could be partly due to the crowds gathering for the Euro Cup matches!
Total deaths in the previous week has been a mere 1317. This, on a base of 449,826, is a mere 0.3% ! I repeat the deaths as a % of infections is a mere 0.3% !!
What this means is that in Europe the deaths related to COVID 19 is now so miniscule that it might actually be lower than that being caused by common influenza.
What this implies is that while vaccination may not be preventing infection, it is surely diminishing fatalities and that too almost totally.
So where do we go from here? What could we do to shift the overall context so that we could return back to ‘normal living’?
What we could do is this.
Shift our perspective and language from infections to fatalities. In the ultimate analysis, that is what matters (apart from hospitalization, which too gets diminished by vaccination)
Stand in the cause of supporting vaccination. Each one of us could play an enabling role in this by getting one or two folks in our circle vaccinated expeditiously. For example, we could assist our service providers and household helps by registering them for free vaccination on the Government portal.
What will you do today to support your own and your family’s movement towards normal life? Apart from of course circulating this post!
I was in a meeting with my new Chairman. I was passionately elucidating my future plans for the business.
The Chairman looked at me, made a sign of smallness with his fingers and said, “Your businesses generate too small a revenue!”. The stress was on the smallness, the inconsequence of all that I and my businesses were doing.
Stumbling out of the meeting, I was in a daze. To be told by your boss that all your efforts and dreams, all that you stood for, did not matter in the larger scheme of things, was devastating.
As I look back at that crucible moment, I can see how it changed the trajectory of my life thereon.
For days afterward, I was pummeled down by negative thoughts and low self-esteem. I swung between anxiety, anger and bitterness.
The way it occurred to me, there were all these guys, less qualified and with less competence, who were being acknowledged because they seemed to be ‘at the right place at the right time.’
I felt small. I hadn’t done anything wrong to deserve what I had heard. From that one conversation, I seemed to have lost a significant part of myself, opening up hitherto un-noticed doors to self-doubt and self-flagellation.
But then a thought came to me, ‘Had I done enough right?’
I unburdened myself by speaking about the incident and my thoughts to my wife and a couple of trusted workplace colleagues. I felt less like an idiot when I shared what I learned from screwing up. This helped me to move beyond the dark side of my self-doubt and low self-esteem.
The incident supported me to work on that crucible moment question, “Had I done enough right?” It taught me the practice of Self Reflection. It is this that opened up for me new possibilities and opportunities of growth.
In his Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestseller, ‘The Blueprint: 6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights’, author Doug Conant speaks of his own journey of self-reflection and discovery that revolutionized his leadership and transformed his career trajectory.
Doug condenses his remarkable leadership story into six practical steps.
Reach High – Envision
Dig Deep – Reflect
Lay the Groundwork – Study
Design – Plan
Build – Practice
Reinforce – Improve
In today’s world of uncertainty and disruption which can leave us stuck and overwhelmed, the above six steps have the potential to lift our leadership and performance to heights that would bring us career success, joy and fulfillment.
Yesterday, my daughters arranged for an all-Italian supper of pasta and Pizza with garlic bread for their Baba. As I was washing down all that great food with a glass of coke I felt so blessed.
In my younger days, we neither had the awareness nor the luxury of such DAYS to acknowledge our loved ones. The only days I recall celebrating were Birthdays and the occasional special anniversary (the tenth, the twenty fifth etc.). Those were simpler times……
Times change. The bond, the love, that heavenly security in one’s father’s arms remain. This is how the feelings, the thoughts, the conviction to take one’s rightful place on the world stage flow down from one generation to the next.
My father Late Debabrata Ghosal gave wings to my creative imagination since childhood. He inculcated the ‘can do’ mindset in me. Decades after he has left my side, I continue to sense his guiding compass when confronted by life’s situations.
Though I too held my daughters in the same manner that Bapi held me decades earlier, have I been able to pass on the right values and mindset onto them? I suppose only time will remain a witness to that ……
It was near the end of last century in 1998. As part of the Raga Varsha initiative, we had invited Santoor Maestro, the legendary Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and his immensely talented son Rahul Sharma to perform at the iconic Al Bustan Palace in Muscat.
Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma during his lifetime has elevated the humble ‘Santoor’ to classical heights by modifying certain key elements. A chromatic arrangement of notes, increasing the range to three octaves and creating a new playing technique. To understand the stature of Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, he was the recipient of the Indian Classical music’s first platinum disc for the ‘Call of the Valley’ album. He went onto win further platinum discs for the music compositions of films Silsila and Chandni.
When he accompanied his dad to Muscat in 1998, Rahul Sharma was already a hugely talented and handsome young man of 26. Today, Rahul is a music director and classical santoor player in his own right. He has collaborated with international musicians to produce chart busting fusion music.
The mellifluous music strands created by the father son duo at the Al Bustan Palace auditorium that day nearly a quarter of a century ago continues to be part of my album of wonderful memories.
The Chronicler of Hooghly and other stories by Shakti Ghosal.
This collection of stories is the first book penned by the author. But his captivating style of narrating tales bears testimony to the fact he is an accomplished writer of prose. According to the author, these four stories are inspired by his personal experiences. However, he has woven these stories into a multi-hued fabric of history, societal norms prevailing at that time and the Bengali culture linking it to modern times. The prominent aspect is that the reader gets a taste of both the ancient and modern times and the switch over is amazing. For historical perspective, the author has relied on various secondary sources of which he has produced a list of references at the end of the book.
His last story, The Chronicler of the Hooghly, has its beginning from the year 1756, one year prior to the most eventful Battle of Plassey which totally changed the political scenario of not only Bengal but of the whole India. As we know as a part of history that by winning this battle, the Britishers through East India Company successfully laid the foundation of British rule in India subjecting the people of India under the yoke of ignominious foreign rule for about two centuries. This story highlights the unfortunate actions of self-seeking power-seekers who played treacherous and deceitful games in furtherance of their own petty interests. In the process, they even compromised the independence of their kingdoms by their shameful betrayal to the British authorities. Omichand, Nabakrishna Deb and other characters are representative of such phenomenon with which the annals of Indian history is replete. Sowing the seeds of discontent through every ploy under their arms among the local chieftains, significant persons in the establishment and the menial servants and petty officials had been the main plank of the winning strategy of the British authorities in India. The author, in this story has successfully sculpted such characters with finesse and authenticity which evoke readers interest so much that it becomes almost impossible to put down the book before going to the end. Author has narrated this story through a stranger who has linked the history of Bengal, the development of modern Kolkata and the making of British rule in India via Bengal to the pious Hooghly river’s saga. This part of the story is a unique feature. Civilizations usually grow at the banks of rivers and vanish in due course of time. But the river remains there standing as the real chronicler of the events taking place in different regimes at different times. Lastly, the author has laced the narrative with the anecdote of pearl necklace touching the chord of spiritualism and moral beliefs of the people. The whole story is narrated in fluent style keeping the reader glued to pages after pages till the end.
The third story Fault lines deal with a unique idea that may easily be counted within the realm of psychology! The story carries a loud message that despite all our conquests in the contours of day-to-day life, it is our alter ego who decides the final results. Sometimes, we weave around our thinking faculty a mesh from where we see everything done by us as rightly done! But this is not so. There is someone who reminds us or rather shows us our fault lines, at least once in our lifetimes. Alter ego does that acting as mirror to our mind’s eye! Set in the foreign land, Muscat, Oman, this is a story of two close friends who are diametrically opposite in temperament and approach towards life. As destined from above, they are in the race to woo the same girl. But this time, the slow-moving tortoise loses the race to the guile of his worldly wise and fastmoving friend. The loser quits the field. However, one day the girl, now a married woman, finds an unread envelope of the loser friend and ultimately knows the truth. Her inner self rebels and she leaves the place of her husband loaded with a heavy sense of remorse. The story has been narrated in fluent style, which is the hallmark of the author’s genius. As it comes out in all his stories, the author’s familiarity with the places and the incidents adds to the natural flow of the narrative.
Pandemic is the second story of this collection. Author has picked the threads of this story from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1919, and the scenario is old Calcutta. He has taken it to its logical end by linking it to prevalent COVID-19. Interestingly, nothing has changed manifestly. In the olden times, we were as ignorant about the disease as we are today. At that time too, there were no specific medical prescriptions or safe vaccination regime. The condition is albeit same today. Though the growth of science and technology has made tremendous strides. We are running through the age of computers. But the most interesting aspect is that human nature has not changed a bit! In the times of crisis like the pandemics, the appearances of Good Samaritans do decrease! Moreover, the moneyed class remain indulgent in the pursuit of materialistic pleasures, come what may! The central character of this story, a woman of insatiable thirst for male company remains oblivious of the dreaded impact of novel corona virus of the present times, and constantly seeks the presence of her one-time beau, the hero of this story. However, everything ends so quietly and all of sudden that might be the dream end of the current pandemic also! At least, we can wish and pray for such end! It safeguards the lives of many, particularly of the hero’s family and the story comes to a sudden halt with a happy ending. Like other stories of this collection, the author has described the life and times of Calcutta of yore and the Gurugram of the present in great detail. The narration is fluent and flawless, as usual.
The first story of this collection Ashtami is simply superb. The author has cooked up his story raising a very socially relevant issue in the crucible of history which is the forte of his writing mindset. Starting from the infamous partition of Bengal of the year 1905 masterminded by the staunch imperialist Governor-General, Lord Curzon, he ends the story in the backdrop of communal frenzy in the wake of India’s freedom, 1947 to be precise. In both the settings, there were people’s protest culminating into deadly communal riots. But in between and at the troubled times, the chanting of Durga Saptashati slokas, the widely resonating sounds of dhak and the auspicious puja of Maha ashtami come live in this story. In all his stories, the author has successfully sprinkled the aroma of the culture of Bengal and the Indian ethos with credibility. The end of the story comes to us as a brainstorming session. The message is loud and clear. We still lack a general understanding and overall empathy for the special children who are still considered a burden on their families. Despite a better awareness level regarding the problem, we still treat our special children not as a gift of God but as a curse of God. The sudden downfall of Shanti, the main protagonist of the story, becomes nobody at the time of riots. The author has portrayed the nasty and heartrending picture of ensuing riots in Calcutta and New Delhi with rare sensitivity. In this backdrop, he had chosen a very much socially relevant theme, for which he deserves appreciation.
Though this is his first book of fiction, and he is not a professional writer, his acumen and flair for writing are simply commendable. This is unputdownable book, once you start reading. The narration reminds us of rivers in the hilly terrain that despite rugged interface with rocks and boulders, keep on flowing in a rhythm and reaching their destination without much ado. The readers must read this book as a visit down the memory lane in regard to forgotten annals of Indian history, particularly of Calcutta and Bengal. The most interesting aspect is that the whole narration is centred around the river Hooghly which, sometimes appears to narrate by herself its own story through the powerful quill of the author itself. Kudos to the author for his brilliant debut as an author on the Indo-English literary firmament in India.
Copyright@ Rakesh Chandra.
The Chronicler of the Hooghly continues to make emotional waves worldwide with more than a hundred excellent ratings and reviews on Amazon and Good Reads.
Meanwhile on the other side of the world, Riya with daughter Tiri decide to have a fun day with the elegant Mice couple, Mickey and Minnie. They have chosen to live by the Chronicler’s coaching philosophy of, ‘Life is….‘. As Professor Gracy Samjetsabam mentions in her review, ‘……..sprinkles of confetti of coaching in life skills.…..’
The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’ is available worldwide on Amazon, Flipkart and select bookstores.
Adjudged ‘Book of the Month’ for March 2021 by Booknerds, The book has already got more than a hundred excellent ratings and reviews on Amazon worldwide.
Dr. Avik Basu , MBBS, MD (Cal), humbly calls himself a General Physician. But he is also an Intensivist, Psychologist, Academician, Medical Researcher, Author……the list goes on.
But above all, he is today a frontline COVID warrior having treated more than a hundred COVID patients in the last few weeks alone.
In a recent Social Media post, Dr. Avik Basu writes,
“FEAR…SUFFER…DEATH…these are the 3 words, the only 3 words, that should bombard the minds of every single person of this city. Of this country. There are experts who are asking people not to panic. But I will speak the contrary. YES, YOU NEED TO PANIC. YES, YOU SHOULD PANIC. YES, YOU SHOULD BE AFRAID OF DEATH. YES, YOU SHOULD BE AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR LOVED ONES. Probably it’s only this fear that can drive out the madness of enjoying blatantly from the minds of this lunatic species which has long forsaken the realm of logical reasoning. I am no COVID expert; not a COVID-ologist. I am not invited on national television to give a speech on COVID awareness. I don’t sit and explain the principles of ‘Hit and Dance’ hypothesis in news channels. I am a general physician, just a general physician, who are habitually regarded as the ‘doctors of cough and diarrhoea’. But I do take the privilege to state that I have seen almost 100 COVID positive patients in the last couple of weeks. And I’ve treated them……
I visited the Flemming Hospital yesterday to see one of my patients admitted. I witnessed the most dreadful scene of my life till date. Almost all moribund patients. Some gasping, some gone into cardiac arrest, some staring at the ICU staff with apprehensive look fearing an imminent death……
These days even I have started to fear death. Not for myself, but for the family I provide for. When a doctor loses a patient, he weeps in silence. But when a doctor passes away, does anyone shed a drop of tear???”
As Dr. Avik Basu engages with the Chronicler, I remain uncertain who will learn from whom? Who is the true Chronicler of our times?
Book of the month, more than a hundred international ratings on Amazon.
Dr.Viraj P. Thacker, currently based in the US, is the famed Author of ‘The Myth of Prosperity: Globalization and the South’. He is also the Academic Facilitator, Development Consultant and the International Executive Director of Manushi for Sustainable Development.
After reading the ‘Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories, he sent me his thoughts, which I have copied below. Arguably, this is one of the most wonderful acknowledgments that the Chronicler has garnered.
My Humble reflections on the ‘Chronicler of the Hooghly’:
To use a living metaphor, the legendary structure that spans the Hooghly in Calcutta ingeniously personifies the very title of a deeply reflective & flowing read…touching stories of life & circumstance that bridge the history of British Calcutta & Delhi…a reflective re-capture of the social-historical-cultural fabric of India.
To be quite honest, the gently flowing chapters brilliantly managed to evoke a deep sense of my own family history of some 6 generations, in the erstwhile Second City of the Empire…later, the City of Joy!
What truly grips the reader In this wonderful complexity of ‘a touch of the old Raj’ and the deep humanity of the pages that captivate, is the ‘pandemic’ that translates well to our current global dilemma. In fact, the author brilliantly credits the composition of the book to time well spent in lockdown!
The Chronicler of the Hooghly truly resonated with this reader on many counts & in a most heartwarming fashion, left me with a sense of hope-faith in the human experience.
Available worldwide on Amazon, Flipkart and select bookstores.