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Calcutta Diary

THIS is a story of conjugal relations. Gagan Mondal, the petty sharecropper, is teaching Sohagi, his wife, the lesson of her life. He has in his hand a thin, lithe strip of cane, and he keeps lashing at her with it. The skin tenuously covering Sohagi's frail, blister-infected back breaks, blood comes out at several places, she writes in pain. It is primal rage that has overtaken Gagan, he has taken leave of his senses, he shakes in fury, his teeth clatter against one another, be strikes, harder and harder, it is a kind of catharsis he is after, he does not care whether Sohagi will survive the lashing, he is going to teach her the proper lesson

Calcutta Diary

lay claims to having friends in the CPI. They would not often agree with your formulation, you would often not agree with their formulation, but yon would still meet, argue, try to understand one another's point of view. Often, they would violently disagree with your position, and you with theirs; the dialogue would still be kept going. You do not meet them any more; you have been cast out. These are days of instant judgments and instant invectives; friends in the CPI, presumably because of Central directives, would henceforth refuse to recognise you; the decision has been taken, you now belong to the camp of the enemy, you have to be destroyed. Anything is fair in love and war. This is war. Those who are not with them are against them. You are not for them; ergo, you are against them. It being a matter of life and death, you have to be called the vilest of names and, if possible, wiped out.

Calcutta Diary

bad men, receive velvet glove treatment

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta, the early 1930s, the era of Subhas Bose, J M Sen Gupta, and ersatz self-government which was the Calcutta Corporation. Nobody had heard of the poor, or bothered about them: they, or at least the bulk of them, were peasants

Calcutta Diary

October 26, 1974 Calcutta Diary A M ONCE more, one reels under the onslaught of the festive season, The season has by now been captured, almost in entirety, by the urban classes: gods and goddesses are rapidly shed- ing their rural roots. The poor over there do not have the wherewithal to worship divinity, and the rich do not still feel secure enough to turn the invocation of the Durga into an exercise in lavish exhibitionism. Gods and goddesses nevertheless have to survive; they have to, for the sake of the para- sites who make a living out of the business of community worship, which is an urban culture. The commercialisation of the Bengali pantheon therefore proceeds apace; commercialisation and urbanisation go hand in hand.

A New Delhi Diary

A M AMORAL city, city which is a compendium of bargaining counters, a stockyard of all-too-transparent motives and manoeuvres. V K Krishna Menon had long become an unperson here; he ceased to embody power as many as a neat dozen years ago. His death, therefore, receives only a fleeting mention in the capital's newspapers. Priorities must be set right: the state of Bakhia's health hogs more space; and, have you heard, so-and-so had dinner with the Prime Minister last Saturday, something sensational must be about to break, Neo-colonialism, though, remains neocolonialism: the British and American papers really go to town and write long editorial pieces on Krishna Menon's life and political contributions; consternation in the capital; hasty amends have to be made; the newspapers, after an interval of a full forty- eight hours, take editorial cognisance of Menon the departed. But where is the scope for astonishment this cultural pattern is well-established: after all, New Delhi talks of a wage-price policy only when an Edward Heath or a Harold Wilson has already expiated on ft.

Calcutta Diary

October 5, 1974 FASTEN your seat belts, the following is an exercise in didacticism. This may be another week, but it would be inexcusable to walk away from the reality of it. People continue to die n the countryside; official relief operations remain perfunctory. One could certainly work up righteous indignation of the proper sort and ask questions about the government and its motives. To all appearances, cynicism of a kind has gripped the government

Calcutta Diary

A M ABJURE adjectives, let facts speak for themselves. Certainly, There is Little doubt that, once the grim season passes, some kind of a Famine En- quiry Commission will be launched, and it will duly present a report analysing the factors which caused this year's tragedy. Perhaps, a few months hence, the National Sample Survey Organisation will undertake a sample study on the incidence of starvation deaths which wouId occur, district-wise, taluka-wise, village-wise There will be impressive-looking schedules attached to the questionnaire : description of the household whether it was a cultivating or non- cultivating one; whether owning or not owning land; if owning land the size of the holding; the quantity of cereal consumption per capita during the preceding month or the preceding quarter; what consumer durables the household possesses; whether the household disposed of any such durables in the course of the preceding week or the preceding fortnight or the preceding quarter; in case it did, what was the realisation in cash or in kind; did any deaths from starvation take place during the preceding week, the preceding month, the preceding quarter; were any of these deaths certified by a physician; if not, the reasons for non-obtaining of certificate; if the deaths were certified by a physician, was the latter a degree-holder, or a licenciate, an allopath or a homeopath; were the deaths because of (a) lack of food, (b) lack of nutritive balance of intake, or (e) indeterminable factors; were doles available in the village, or in the taluka; if not, were they available within 10 miles of the homestead, 15 miles, 20 miles; were gruel kitchens operating in the village, or in the taluka; if not, within 10 miles of the homestead, 15 miles, 20 miles; what was the price of rice, variety-wise, in the village and in the taluka during the preceding week, the preceding month, the preceding quarter; was work available in the village or in the taluka during the preceding week, the preceding month, the preceding quarter; in ease the answer to the last question is in the affirmative, what was the wage rate, in cash or in kind, in the village and in the taluka.

Calcutta Diary

American thriller, "Darling, It's Death"? It was a catchy, haunting title; and, suddenly, it is no more a title. As one looks around, it is death. To whom, in such sweet endearment, should one he conveying these tidings?

Calcutta Diary

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood. The format is always the same. For, the reports always emanate from the same source. Three dangerous 'extremists' have been shot dead in an encounter with the police; a dozen of them have been nabbed; five of them have been injured

Calcutta Diary

August 31, 1974 Calcutta Diary DESPITE the hopelessness in the air, despite the claustrophobic listlessness, to dream remains an inalienable human right, permitted even to a citizen of this bedevilled nation. The plight of the economy could not be worse, inflation rages unfettered and uninhibited, the distress of the masses mounts from week to week and month to month, the central objectives of the nation appear to be stuck deep in a morass. Yet dreamers there will be, who will continue to dream. They will keep hoping that, come the next corner, a new vista is bound to be revealed. They will keep dreaming that once this Saturday's particular unsavoury episode passes into history, the subsequent events will be wholesome and honest, and gloriously straightforward. They will keep imagining that, once the present series of official and quasi-official unscrupulousness runs its course, in the coming days everyone will turn Simon Pure. One can contemplate what the model of such a dream could be, the dream that will be at the top of the heap, that will put into shade all other bold and wonderful dreams that one could think of.

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary ANYTHING goes. At party conventions and in debates in Lok Sabha, even the Cabinet minister with the most impeccable record of corruption can pontificate on the evils of corruption and on how blackmarketeers ought to be socially segregated. Blase is the word; there is not even a hint of a derisive laughter from any quarters. Three or four years ago, the minister might have felt somewhat uncomfortable in making such speeches. No longer. There has been a levelling up

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