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Monday, October 16, 2017

Me Too

I am appalled to see how many women I love and admire have suffered sexual harassment and assault. Women who are strong, beautiful, successful, and in positions of power now. It could have been years ago when they were young and didn't know how to protect themselves. I wish I could avenge each and every one of them and break the hands that touched them. And slap those who asked them to be quiet about it because the truth would be an inconvenience. It doesn't matter if it was a stranger, an acquaintance or even a family member. It takes great strength to own up to what happened to you, even it is for no fault of your own. And I know men have had such experiences too. There is no shame in being a survivor. The shame is on those whose perversion took control of them.

Friday, October 06, 2017

শ্রী শ্রী লক্ষ্মী দেবীর মডার্ন পাঁচালি

Every Thursday Mom used to wear aalta (আলতা) on her feet and read Lokhhir PaNchali (লক্ষ্মী পাঁচালি) aloud for the vespers.

I read the full PaNchali yesterday and realized those were scare tactics to keep the womenfolk in line. Virtuous women those days were not supposed to laugh loudly. Too much make up and talkativeness was also a sign of an Olokhhi (অলক্ষ্মীর চিহ্ন) 

Any form of expression was considered a threat to the repression womenfolk faced even in one of the most liberal societies. I wrote this new PaNchali as an addendum to the duties of women. If you want the goddess to live in your house, you can't abuse the women in that family.



শ্রী শ্রী লক্ষ্মী দেবীর মডার্ন পাঁচালি
(নারী নির্যাতনের বিরুদ্ধে 
প্রথম খন্ড  )

লক্ষ্মী সহ একাসনে বসি নারায়ণ
কৌতুকে করিছে নানা কথা আলাপন ।।

হেনকালে বীণা হাতে দেবর্ষি নারদে
প্রণাম করিল লক্ষ্মী-নারায়ণ পদে ।।

অন্নাভাবে জীর্ন  জীব বলহীন দেহ 
অন্নের কারণে করে আত্মহত্যা কেহ।।

বল দেবী! বল বল কি পাপের ফলে
দুর্ভিক্ষ অনলে সদা মর্তবাসী জ্বলে ?

বিষাদিতা হয়ে মাতা অতি দুঃখ মনে
মৃদুস্বরে নারদকে কহেন তখনে।।

মানবের সুখ-দুঃখ অথবা পতন
দুষ্কৃতীর ফল মাত্র জানিবে কারণ ।।

যে গৃহে স্ত্রীলোকের নিত্য অপমান হয়
সে বাড়িতে লক্ষ্মী দেবী বাঁধা নাহি রয় ।।

অন্যের মেয়ে বলিয়া যে বিদ্রুপ করে
পুত্রবধূ নিজ কন্যা যে নাহি মনে করে ।।

তার পূজা-আর্চা হয় বৃথা সকল
সংসারের দায় কষ্ট সেই পাপেরই ফল ।।

যে বধূ রূপে লক্ষ্মী, গুণে সরস্বতী হয়
তার প্রতি দুর্ব্যবহার করে কোন নির্দয় ?

অনাহারে অনাদরে সে যখন পরে থাকে ঘরে
তা দেখিয়া লক্ষ্মী দেবীর অশ্রু জল ঝরে ।।

বিদর্ভ নগরে এক গৃহস্থ ভবনে
বিবাহের পর আসিল এক ব্রাহ্মণ কণে ।।

রূপে গুণে লক্ষ্মী, বড় মিঠে আচরণ
তা দেখিয়া বাহ বাহ করেন গুরুজন ।।

সমবয়সীরা মনে করে সখি সহোদরী
কনিষ্ঠরা জড়িয়ে ধরে নিজ দিদি মনে করি ।।

এসব দেখিয়া তার শাশুড়ি শাপ শাপান্ত করে
ঝাঁটা নেড়ে খোটা দেয়, বলে 'ডাইনি এসেছে ঘরে' ।।

সে যতই এক মনে পতি সেবা করে
বুড়ি ভাবে পুত্রবধূ তাবিচ-কবচ করে ।।

এর কুপ্রভাবে তো গেরস্ত হাত ছাড়া হবে
স্বামী-পুত্র-আত্মীয় কেহই নাহি রবে ।।

একে একে রাক্ষসী করিবে সকলকে ভক্ষণ
কি করিয়া রুখিবে তার এই বজ্রপণ ?

স্বার্থান্ধ হইয়া বুড়ি যায় এক কাপালিকের নিকট
রক্তবর্ণ চক্ষু তাহার, চাহনি বিকট ।।

সব শুনিয়া আনিয়া দেয় এক বিষাক্ত শিকড়
বলে,'দুধে মিশিয়ে গিলে খাওয়ালে হবে শাপে বর' ।।

পরশ্রীকাতর বামনী নাহি জানে
পুত্রবধূ গর্ভবতি, তাই হর্ষ তার প্রাণে ।।

ডাকিয়া তাহারে সে এক ঢোক গিলা
'নিপাত যাক ডাইনি!' মনে মনে ।।

পুত্রবধূ সদাহাস্যময়ী লাস্যময়ী দিন রাত
দুধ খেয়ে শাশুড়ির চরণে দেয় হাত ।।

শাশুড়ির অপেক্ষা করে কখন হবে রাক্ষসীর পতন
ঈর্ষাকাতর হয়ে দেখে অলীক স্বপন ।।

পুত্রবধূর আয়ু বাড়ে, হ্রাস নাহি পায়
বিষপানে নাহি হয় তার ক্ষয় কায় ।।

সব বুঝিয়া পুত্রবধূ দেয় তার দেবীরূপ দর্শন
রং- রূপে গলে যায় শাশুড়ির মন ।।

এক হস্তে কমল ধরি বর্ষিছে আশীর্বাদ
অন্য হস্তে খর্গ ধরি করে অন্যায়ের প্রতিবাদ ।।

এক স্তন পিয়ে শিশু পায় নব জীবন
অন্য স্তনে বাঁধা থাকে স্বামীর যৌবন ।।

স্ত্রী-কন্যা-মাতার বিশ্বরূপ দেখি শাশুড়ি কাঁদে
ভাবে ,'ঘরের লক্ষ্মীর হত্যা করিব কি সাধে?'

শাশুড়ি কান্না দেখে বধূর মন হয় কোমল
ফিরে আসে নারীরূপে, মুছে দেয় চোখের জল ।।

বধূ তার স্বয়ং লক্ষ্মী দেবী, পুত্র নারায়ণ
হেন বিচার করে জুড়ায় চিৎ-মন ।।

হর্ষে বিলাসে সে উছলিয়া উঠে
লক্ষ্মীর নব ব্রতকথা প্রচার করে হাঠে মাঠে ঘাটে ।।

শাস্ত্রের বচনে এই লক্ষ্মী চরিত্র
ভক্তিভরে শুনিলে হবে পরম পবিত্র ।।

সতীর সাধনার ধন এই ব্রত কথা
কালে কালে প্রতি গৃহে হক প্রচলিত ।।

Friday, September 15, 2017

Paris Je t'aime

Why do I love Paris? Let me count the ways. Old book stores; cafes open till late at night; worn out doors that are no less than art; beautiful, stylish  people walking by while speaking French; neighborhood markets; the promise of finding something spectacular at every turn.

I have always considered myself an old soul. And this place makes me feel alive more than any other place. All my life, I have felt like an outsider. But Paris makes me feel welcome even if I am an outsider. I don't have to stand and stare through the window. I can blend in with all my strangeness and feel invisible, yet present.

This is my second short visit after July. I have no shame in admitting that I will be back again. Soon. 

Friday, September 08, 2017

I remember

I remember..

You walking through the snow in the winter of Boston. We were poor graduate students who seldom had the money to go on dates. Sometimes, we went to the movies together. You bought the tickets while I got the popcorn. We shared a buttery or caramelly kiss depending on the flavor. Then we burped from drinking too much soda and laughed.

We were young and in love.

Friday, September 01, 2017

My first open mic at Caffe Frascati, San Jose



The audience was super responsive. Hopefully, this is the first of many.
Someone shouted, 'Welcome home!' after I finished. 
It sure felt like home 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

On Friendship Day

On friendship day, I have to thank all my good friends who prop me when I am feeling down. Who share their good news with me because they know I will be happy for them. Who share my craziness with me. Who eat all my experimental food and love it. Who encourage me to write. Who are courteous to my parents. Who can talk to me for hours because they like our conversations. Who remind me of the goodness in me. Who give me an opportunity to be affectionate and hence improve my emotional well-being.

When I think of them, I believe I have been very fortunate when it comes to friends. Sure, I have met people who manipulate and lie, but they are not my friends. And they are not in my life. We choose our friends. And that free will makes relationships so strong. You don't 'have to' anything for your friends, you do it because you want to.

Of course, there are challenges of being 'best friends' in adult life. Sometimes, we judge compatibility based on income, lifestyle, ages of kids. If you are married, it has to be good vibes from four different people, which makes it even more challenging.  Maybe we should judge our compatibility based on our beliefs, our creative pursuits, and common hobbies instead.

I have faith that there are good people in this world. And I want to give them my time. I want to foster an environment that encourages them to let their guard down and confide in me. Let our hair loose and be our silly selves, at least, for a couple of hours. There is always a chance of betrayal. However, I hope that every person values true friendship. Don't be a situational friend. Be a,' Call me when you are in the Emergency Room' friend. But don't abuse that privilege either if you are on the receiving end. 

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Why are we friends?

Some of my friends replied:

Soma Basak
Because I like you

Shweta Yadav
Because you are a girl with imagination! And you use that to be creative! That's attractive!

Chandrima Roy
We were classmates and got along well back then and it good to stay connected now too though through FB.  Given a chance, I would definitely meet u.

Tanuka Bhattacharjee
We met for the first time in Dibyendu Sir's house, and we jelled along right from the first meeting. I found you, Jaya and Bijaya to be very simple, jovial and friendly...And gradually started counting all three you among my friends.

Priyanka Mehta
We became FB friends as we all do as a half remembered acquaintances.
We became actual friends as we liked the same things, felt strongly about certain topics and overall loved what the other was excited about.

And then I like your soul, who you are as a person and you're someone I definitely want to have in my life. There's always a flow of beautiful energy full of affection.

Of course, I love your food, makeup, and selfies

Suryatapa Chakravarty
A story a day, that's how it started, ages ago

Saikat Bose
One spring evening, as you ran a high temperature, you decided to venture out in the chill, to witness two wandering souls slowly walking towards each other... As you rolled up your eyes in despair watching the slo-mo action... You decided to kill the guy walking from the other end...   the reason that the guy is still alive and is typing this... shows the souls of dragons are still alive. That's how the dragon souls met.

Sonia Dey
Because you are one of my best critic and that badass personality I am in love with!

Swati Kar
Because u r an independent lady, were a nice senior to me and I love reading ur food blog.

Sejuti Sengupta
Only because we could get drunk on JP Licks's Kahlua ice cream

Raikishori Ganguly
Years ago you showed me two fingers & asked me how many fingers I saw.... You taught me to reflect & nudged me to think beyond the obvious but we were friends long ago... It feels like we were born friends!

Soumyajit Dutta Roy
Let's just say I was a misogynist pig back then (when i was 14 / 15) ..and Raikishori Ganguly and you helped me change that view...

Paramita Paul
Bcoz u r a well wisher and not my enemy

Sudeshna Ghosh
Because you are you!

If I am ever feeling sad, I will always come back to this post to remember how my friends found me. 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Judging the book by its cover

I was talking to a retail employee at Giorgio Armani at Westfield where I asked him the difference between his experiences in retail in Vegas and in Silicon Valley. 

He mentioned that here people walk in wearing their summer shorts and flip flops and buy the most expensive stuff in the store. If anyone is dressed, they are either salesmen or going for an interview. In Vegas, where a lot of people are attending conferences and conventions, most of the customers are shopping for a replacement suit which they had ruined the previous night.

I had to laugh at how true it is. I love to dress up when I go out, but the culture here is definitely not the reason. If you go to Castro Street or Santana Row, you will often see people in sweatpants. Some of them own start-ups and are worth in millions. Yet, when you talk to them, they are like regular people. No airs. Only when you refer to their area of expertise, you realize their capital is their knowledge. 

If I have learned one thing living in this place, it is- never judge a book by its cover.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Metamorphosis

My father is rereading a short story collection by Kafka. We remembered the time I had read 'The Metamorphosis' when I was in standard IX. My father had advised against it, 'Wait for a couple of years.' I went ahead anyway, thinking, what could a novella do? I had nightmares the night I read it. And developed an irrational fear that I would turn into a cockroach (my translation of a monstrous vermin)

Maybe we should just enjoy the story in its absurd realm. But to draw parallels, I think we fear to become irrelevant to our loved ones. The most absurd thing probably was how indifferent his family was about his transformation. But I thought of it this way- what if a man met with an accident, became invalid and a prisoner in his own body? Wouldn't he be in the same predicament as Gregor Samsa? 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Midnight in Paris

They say Paris is magical at midnight. I walked out of my hotel to experience that. After an unpleasant smell of what appears to be an open toilet for a homeless guy, I walked up to Pont de Grenelle, a  bridge across the River Seine.

I half expected some revelers from the past to sweep me back in time, like they do in the movies,  for a night with some of the greatest minds of art and literature. Hemingway, Picasso, Stein, Monet, Hugo- it didn't matter which part of historical reality. I imagined an enlightening conversation that would give me the unified mantra of life. A few phrases that would help me through every ordeal I ever face.

Then I look around, a family of refugees in the park, young people laughing by the river bank. The Eiffel Tower lit up like a million fireflies are climbing up and down. After everything the city has seen in recent years - all the showmanship by the terrorists to frighten the people and the head of states into reaction has yielded nothing. Because life goes on.

I believe the mantra I was looking for is: Be alive.


The Eiffel Tower at Midnight. Every hour from 9 pm to 1 am at the strike of the hour, the Eiffel sparkles like diamonds for 5 mins as the lights change from a continuous glow to a dazzling glitter. The lights go out after 1 am.


At Le Moulin Rouge (The Red Mill)

It was a lavish extravaganza featuring pirates, an Indian princess, classic can-can dancers, circus clowns, miniature horses, a talking dog, a gorgeous woman dancing in water with pythons (my favorite act) and three specialty acts. We decided to go at the 11th hour and were not disappointed, even though I have seen several shows in Vegas.


The Notre-Dame is a medieval gothic Catholic cathedral


The Louvre Pyramid