Monday, September 19, 2011

First days in Birmingham

Aren't there some days when you wake up and just feel like this? A bit pretentious of me but it is an apt description -

You tossed a blanket from the bed
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed's edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.
His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o'clock;

Preludes by T.S. Eliot Available online at:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Kind Hearts and Coronets and Manhattan

Movie Poster of "Kind Hearts and Coronets" (1949) Dir. Robert Hammer

I have just finished watching the film and I will preface this reactionary fan review with an excerpt of Phillip Kemp's article on Ealing Studios. They may have been the most famous film studios in England for a number of years but I feel that younger generations (such as mine) might be unaware of the type of films they made and why they were famous. I think an understanding of this context is important if we are to appreciate where this film originated from and why it was considered to be quite controversial at the time.

The excerpt reads:
"Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) is an Ealing comedy in name only. True, it’s undeniably a comedy and was made by (though largely not at) Ealing. But in virtually every other respect, it deviates startlingly from the commonly accepted stereotype. Ealing comedies, it’s widely agreed, are cozy, even complacent; Kind Hearts and Coronets is callous and amoral. The humor of Ealing comedy is essentially good-natured and folksy; Kind Hearts and Coronets is cool, ironic, and witty. Sex in Ealing comedies is mostly avoided or, if inevitable, treated with embarrassed jocularity; several scenes in Kind Hearts and Coronets carry a potent erotic charge. In Ealing comedies, the criminals—even the lovable ones, like Alec Guinness in The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)—eventually pay for their crimes; the hero of Kind Hearts and Coronets is a calculating serial killer who, in the final reel, stands a good chance of getting away scot-free... 
...The prevailing mode of filmmaking at Ealing—still, half a century after its demise, the most famous of all British film studios—was largely the creation of production head Michael Balcon, who ran it as a benevolent autocracy. The son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Balcon was fervently patriotic, left-liberal in politics, and prudish in sexual matters. When, in 1955, Ealing was sold to the BBC, Balcon had a plaque placed on the studio wall that read: “Here, during a quarter of a century, many films were made projecting Britain and the British character.” What he most likely had in mind was Ealing’s bent for realism, much influenced by the number of senior Ealing personnel—Alberto Cavalcanti, Harry Watt, Charles Crichton, indeed Hamer himself—who had joined the studio from the British documentary movement. But more than that, the kind of film that Balcon always preferred, and that he held to be typically British, was essentially conciliatory, with a plot that moved toward final-reel consensus, for the good of the community—an outcome reflected in such mainstream Ealing movies as the drama The Blue Lamp (1949) and the comedy Passport to Pimlico (1949).  [Phillip Kemp, Kind Hearts and Coronets: Ealing's Shadow Side, available online at: <>]
So, Kind Hearts and Coronets, was a unique film even within its own genre. As one commentator on IMDB put it, it is "A wonderful, heart warming film about multiple murder." I suppose what most people will enjoy about the film is the cutting irony and understated wit of the dialogue as well as the superb acting. The irony in the plot is all-pervasive. There are some obvious examples of this like the steadfast refusal of Sibella, Louis' childhood sweetheart, to marry him at the beginning of the movie because of his lack of wealth and position, then coming to him at the end of the movie and trying to blackmail him into marrying her so that she should could leave bankruptcy and partake in his newly acquired dukedom. Another example is when Louis accompanies his uncle Ethelred on a hunting expedition and says: "I went out shooting with Ethelred or rather to watch Ethelred shooting. My principles will not allow me to take a direct part in blood sports." The (dark) humor lying in the fact that he was out to murder Ethelred! There are the more oblique examples as well which only seem obvious after watching the movie repeatedly (as many reviewers on IMDB have seem to have done!) or going through it slowly on DVD, appreciating every moment (as I did!). One such instance is that "Lady Agatha is a crusader for womens' rights but it's her own equality with me as an heir to the Dukedom of Chalfond that marks her for elimination. Her willings ness to martyr hrself in one cause (womens' suffrage and freeborn equality) gives Louis the opportunity to kill her for its exact opposite (patriarchy and inherited rights)" [Thank you, Picador 66 from Maine, The Supreme Example of Dramatic Irony, 24 September 2006:

Along with this brilliant irony, is attached extremely witty dialogue and exceptional comic delivery. There are too many to name but I especially enjoyed the conversations that preceded and succeeded the murder of the D'Ascoiyne who was interested in amateur photography, since Louis was also enamored with his wife, as well as the dialogue that occurred in D'Ascoiyne manor. On taking a tour of the Castle, for the first time, as an ordinary, paying member of the public, he comments: "It is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms" When he tours the Castle again, with the last remaining survivor of the D'Ascoiyne family, Louis as the narrator remarks that "I've never been in a building that had been so lavishly equipped with the instruments of violent death." But none of the dialogue would have been as funny, if they were not delivered in the straight-faced, stiff-upper-lipped style adopted by Dennis Price (now considered to be a stereotypical characteristic of British comedy) or if the eight victims were not depicted as unassumingly by Alec Guinness. A few words have to be also reserved for the two leading actresses of the film: one depicts a kind of smoldering sensuality and coyness that was rare in films of that era and the other portrays a stately elegance and grace. It is easy to see why Louis says: "For while I never admired Edith as much as when I was with Sibella, I never longed for Sibella as much as I did when I was with Edith."

Watching this film really reminded me how much I love 'British' humor, whether it is the dark kind as evidenced in "House of Cards", the tongue-in-cheek kind in "Yes, Minister" or the more light-hearted, slapstick kind in "Monty Python" or "Fawlty Towers". I'd really recommend this film to any fans of such shows. 


I have now also watched "Manhattan", directed by Woody Allen and my first observation would be that as far as romantic involvements go, Isaac, the lead character in Manhattan, is in the same predicament as Louis Mazzini. It is easy to imagine him saying: "For while I never admired Mary as much as when I was with Tracy, I never longed for Tracy as much as I did when I was with Mary." Yet, Isaac's romantic trials and tribulations, his professional highs and lows are not the aspects of the movie that capture the attention the most. Even the movie's self-mocking pretentiousness and pseudo-intellectual dialogue, though charming, are not what make the film memorable. What makes the film memorable, is the way Allen captures New York City; the nostalgia he invokes. You can tell he loves the city and when he and Diane Keaton sit at a bench by the Brooklyn Bridge watching the dawn break, anyone who has lived there for any amount of time, can't help but repeat after him: "Boy, this is really a great city, I don't care what anybody s-s- it's really a knock-out, you know?" 

A Scene from "Manhattan" (1979), Dir. Woody Allen 
Sometimes I wish I had the opportunity to get to know that city better. Maybe if I get lucky with Masters applications! 

Remembering 9/11, 10 years on

9/11 picture: the World Trade Center south tower collapsing
1.Thomas Nilsson, Getty Images
Usually, when you try to recall memories from long ago, they come back hazily and you have difficulty placing it in a specific location or at a certain time. But not this day. I used to live in New York City at the time and I was in Language Arts class that morning, when someone burst into the room and asked my teacher to turn on the radio. It was the first and last time that I heard a reporter sobbing during a broadcast. That evening, when my father had returned from the United Nations, we noticed an unfamiliar smell in our apartment. To my 11-year old nose, it smelled like burning rubber; a not uncommon smell in that part of Roosevelt Island. My parents told me that what I was smelling was burning flesh and asbestos. 

Many people all over the world remember where they were when the attacks took place, even if they are not American citizens or have not lost loved ones. Because on that day, when the planes went into the twin towers and the Pentagon, people knew nothing would ever be the same. My father says that there was a similar feeling when the Berlin Wall fell and when the Soviet Union collapsed. But now, even more than during those momentous occasions, it is possible to trace the repercussions of this calamitous event - from that site in Manhattan to the shattered shells of Kabul and Baghdad and the shattered lives of those caught in the crossfire of war. So, when looking back, let us not only recall and pay our respects to those who died on that dark day but also to the many innocent lives that were lost subsequently; in the many '9/11s'. 

In the future, let this day be commemorated through deep introspection rather than (mis)used to stir mass hysteria or paranoia. Let it not be an 'anti-4th of July', where nationalistic fervor is fanned to commemorate the taking away of independence and freedomAlong with being a day of mourning, let it be an opportunity for America to remember the values that it once strove to uphold and consider where it fell short in achieving these aims. 

Coincidentally, just recently, the hull of an 18th century ship has been discovered beneath the debris of the WTC. It is well known that the banks of the Hudson River were once much wider and that as Manhattan grew, the river was gradually filled up. What is not known, is the purpose of this ship. It could have been a river trading vessel or even transport for slaves - but what is pretty much certain, is that it was sunk deliberately. (See Photo 7) The symbolism resonates. 

Finally, let us also use this occasion to recollect the many acts of injustice and violence perpetrated on innocent people, communities and nations throughout history and reflect on Gandhi's famous epitaph: "Violence will prevail over violence, only when someone can prove to me that darkness can be dispelled by darkness."

Some memorable images from National Geographic, Global Post and Salon (the rights for these photos belong to the respective photographers, news agencies and websites):

9/11 picture: people running from the collapse of the twin towers on 9/11
3. Suzanne Plunkett, AP

9/11 picture: Marcy Borders covered in ash in New York
4. Stan Honda, AFP/Getty Images

9/11 picture: a New York City street after the attacks
5. Photograph by Jason Florio, Corbis

9/11 picture: firefighters helping an injured colleague
6. Photograph by Todd Maisel, NY Daily News via Getty Images

9/11 site picture: archaeologists measuring a piece of the ship's hull at the World Trade Center
7. Photograph by Mark Lennihan, AP

8. Ben Brody, GlobalPost
After being ordered to exit a station wagon carrying five men, passenger Abdul Hamid is detained by Afghan National Army and International Security Assistance Force soldiers
9. James Lee, Salon

Breathing toxic smoke, a local worker collects scrap metal inside the open-air burn pit at Forward Operating Base Sharana
10. James Lee, Salon
11. Mohandas Gandhi encourages the Indian community of South Africa
to participate in non-violent resistance (September 11, 1906)

Today in History: On September 11, 1973, President Salvador Allende of Chile was overthrown in a military coup d’etat. Allende had been elected in 1970 on a Marxist platform. He began nationalizing major industries in Chile, including banks and U.S. owned copper firms. He began land redistribution and major social programs. The economy in Chile struggled as inflation rose, but Allende’s popularity soared. The U.S. government spent $8 billion to fund right-wing candidates, but did not have much affect. The U.S. continued to back military opposition, with the CIA heavily funding the coup. On September 11, the military, led by General Augusto Pinochet, took over the nation. 40,000 leftists were rounded up and brought to the National Stadium where many were executed. 130,000 people would be rounded up over the next three years, many never being seen again. Pinochet would finally lose control of the country in 1988. It is said that during the rest of his reign, nearly 3,000 were killed and close to 28,000 were arrested, imprisoned and tortured.
12. The coup d' etat against Salvador Allende (September 11, 1973)


2. Ariel Dorfman, "Epitaph for Another September 11", available online: (August 30, 2011)

8. Global Post, Photograph taken by Ben Brody, "Soldiers take cover as Staff. Sgt. Jerry Pringle, a combat engineer, blows up a mud wall that is blocking their view of surrounding fields", GlobalPost, available online: (December 20, 2010) 

9. Salon, Photograph taken by James Lee, "Abdul Hamid is detained by Afghan National Army and International Security Assistance Force soldiers at a roadside checkpoint in Naray district, Kunar province, on Feb. 28, 2010", Salon, available online: (February 12, 2011) 

10. Salon, Photograph taken by James Lee, "Breathing toxic smoke, a local worker collects scrap metal inside the open-air burn pit at Forward Operating Base Sharana in eastern Afghanistan on May 4, 2010", Salon, available online: (February 12, 2011)

11. "The Other September 11 and how Satyagraha came into existence", Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter, available online: (September 11, 2011)

12. "This day on September 11", War is Peace, available online: (September 11, 2011) 


Friday, September 9, 2011

Our Other Border: Monitoring the delimitation of our maritime boundary with Myanmar

Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh/Myanmar)

While everyone has been pre-occupied with the India-Bangladesh talks, and particularly the water and transit issue, there have been significant developments regarding our border with our other neighbour.

At this very moment, oral submissions are being made at the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea in Hamburg for the delimitation of our maritime boundary with Myanmar. They commenced yesterday (8th September) in the presence of our Foreign Minister and her delegation:

Background: As some of you may remember, a couple of years ago, relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar suddenly became strained, as they - through a South Korean intermediary - began exploring for oil and gas reserves, around a disputed sea boundary in the Bay of Bengal. Even though tensions cooled after a while, the dispute remained unresolved, and both sides agreed to settle the matter amicably by taking it to the relatively newly constituted International Tribunal for Law of the Sea. Written proceedings commenced in 2009 but it is only now that we have reached the stage of oral submissions.

Essentially, Myanmar have claimed that they have a right to explore the disputed area because, based on the principle of equidistance used in international law, it falls with their jurisdiction. Bangladesh, on the other hand, claims that using the principle of equidistance in these particular circumstances will be inequitable as it deprives the country of a large swathe of sea territory and blocks access to the outer continental shelf, despite having hundreds of kilometers of coastline.

This case is a landmark event for us, not only because it will help consolidate our national borders and determine the extent of our oil and gas reserves but also because it will be Bangladesh's first case in front of an international court as a state party. (The War Crimes Tribunal is governed by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court but is not an 'international court' and the ICJ case between Pakistan and India regarding our Liberation War did not involve us as a state party)

I really hope that we get a favorable outcome of this. My expectations have been heightened by the fact that we have lined up an AMAZING team of international lawyers. Paul S. Reichler and Lawrence H. Martin from Foley Hoag LLP (, Professor Dr. James Crawford( and Professor Alan Boyle ( are absolute legends in the fields of international law of the sea and international arbitration.

If you are interested in following what is happening at ITLOS, you can read the press releases on the ITLOS website or even watch the proceedings via webcam at the stated times: It is a unique opportunity to see the cogs of the international legal system turn and observe how the interests of YOUR country are defended. An archive of footage from previous sessions is also available on the website and I would particularly recommend watching the first session as it provides a detailed political, historical and legal background to the entire issue and includes a speech by Dr. Dipu Moni, our Foreign Minister.

Have any of you been following this issue? Do you any expectations regarding this issue, in specific, or our relations with Myanmar, in general? I'll post background articles and news of relevant developments in the coming days.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Untouchability, Pema's Death and the Oslo Attacks

When I was in High School in India I felt I was untouchable. Not in the sense that Gandhi used the word indicating that I occupied a particularly low strata of the high school hierarchy or in the conventional sense of the word whereby I ruled the social roost unchallenged (so to speak). No, by untouchable I mean that despite all that I experienced and all that happened around me, I and my school mates were safe from harm. 

When people think about harm in relation to high school kids, what first comes to mind is smoking, drinking and drugs. I personally avoided smoking, drinking or drugs while others didn't and though some made regretable decisions in this regard, I would argue that these weren't the most potentially harmful things of studying in an isolated high school deep in the Maharashtran countryside.

While some may contend even now that the school administration was too intrusive into the students' personal lives, for the most part and in comparison to other educational establishments, the school fostered a laissez faire approach to regulating the students' habits and interests during my time there. People reacted to this in different ways, some felt discomfited by a system that is less liberal than the one they are used to while some became intoxicated with newly found freedom away from watchful guardians and many others were somewhere inbetween. But in the end, everyone went through it unscathed and are the wiser for it. In fact, it probably gave them an edge in terms of maturity over their peers at University/College since drugs, alcohol and smoking are even more part of life there and it would be the first time that they were experiencing such freedom.

However, I think, it was the very place we lived and traveled in that could have been the most exceptional threat to our health and safety. I say this not to disparage the school or the country that my school mates and I were able to spend two amazing years in but rather to honestly reflect the kind of dangers we faced, sometimes knowingly but often unwittingly. Located roughly forty kilometers outside of Pune, getting to and from the school itself was often an adventure. Unless you were willing to shell out large sums of money to a smirking Hanuman for a private jeep you were at the disposal of the Maharashtra State public buses, public jeeps or even kind motorcyclists/lorries/tractors/cow carts. I vividly remember my journey to Pune Airport from my school on the day my mother arrived in Pune from Dhaka. I started my two kilometer walk down the hill where the campus was located at 7am and continued on to the main road towards Paud for a good few kilometers before I managed to hitch a lift on the back of a motorcycle being driven by Shankar, one of our school librarians. At Paud, I had to wait for the better part of an hour to catch a public bus to Pune with the journey itself taking close to an hour and a half. By the time I arrived in Pune, dusty, grimy and drenched in sweat I had little time to think about trimming my months-old beard or my dishevelled hair and rushed by auto rickshaw to the airport to pick up mother. And this was a regular commute just within close proximity of the school! When we traveled further afield - and I believe we had more opportunities to do so than most schools and definitely the greatest scope for independent "planning" - we often found ourselves confronted by trains overturning in front of us, bombs exploding on train tracks, buses frequently colliding on midnight journeys and the ever present dangers of trans-state hitch-hiking! And I haven't even spoken about the dehydration, diarrhea, dengue or viruses that are invariably caught by students or the inherent dangers of the activities that the students indulge in like skiing in the Himalayas. (I was lucky enough to do the latter  Yet, not only did we brush this off as a matter of course we sneered at anyone who pointed out the dangers of travel and chastised them for not experiencing the 'real' India.

It was also with a mixture of resignation and gallows humour that we accepted the realities of living in that part of India. On the one hand, with improved biodiversity on campus larger and larger creatures began appearing on campus from enormous, poisonous snakes to two feet long monitor lizards. On the other, we faced continuous political pressure from the more militant branch of a far right Hindutva group, the Shiv Sena for our alleged immoral practices and harmful western influence on the surrounding villages. Natural calamities occured, fiery protests and hartals raged, bombs went off, Naxalite violence continued throughout India but somehow we managed to avoid the brunt of all of it. This feeling that we could never really be touched was accentuated when after I graduated I heard of how former school mates of mine were able to, through the narrowest of margins, avoid death or injury during the German Bakery blasts in Pune and the Mumbai Attacks at the Taj Hotel, Leopold's Cafe and Victoria Terminus. All of them were frequent haunts of students from my school, but somehow they were able to get through with only mental and emotional scars. When I heard that a Bajan friend was able to survive being hit off a train when struck by a telephone pole, I really felt, that as a first year of mine put it, "Allah himself had a hand in monitoring, administering and protecting the school." 

Yet now, with the death of two students in quick succession, one in the US and the other in Uganda, that aura of untouchability has diminished. Our lives can get cut short and noble ambitions and aspirations can be crushed abruptly. I know I am stating something trite and obvious, but at this moment that is all that comes to mind. They were young, from very different backgrounds but full of passion regarding the causes they believed in. I didn't know one of them at all (Sylvia), so I prefer to talk about Pema. I wrote on his FB wall:
"RIP Pema Tibet Norbu. In your young life, you've affected many and are remembered far and wide. Even on a bus in England, I met a Tibetan who knew you and Tenzin and only had the nicest things to say. We shared a joint courtyard in first year, sometimes sat at the same cafeteria table and even played a basketball game or two together but it will always feel that we never got to speak to each other enough. My condolences to your family and your many friends spread across the world who are thinking about you now."
If i'm perfectly honest to myself, I'm obviously shocked but I can't really grieve over this because I never knew him very well and didn't speak to him more than once or twice since graduating. But on the other hand I feel this deep sadness about the fact that the world lost a good man with an honest heart and noble aspirations, whose face seemed prematurely weathered by his tumultuous life but was cheerful nonetheless. And of course I'm seething with the injustice of the fact that bastards like Rupert Murdoch and HM Ershad live to a ripe old age while this benevolent person who might have done something good in this world, however small, died in a smoldering car wreck.

But this has been an eye-opening month for prematrure deaths. Days before Pema's death, a massacre occurred in Oslo. First there was a bomb blast in the city itself near Norway's central government buildings and that was followed by an atrocious and scarcely believable shooting of 14-18 year olds on an island in close proximity to the city. The extinguishing of such lives is itself despicable and I can only think of the loss that this is to mothers and fathers across the country.

charlie brooker norway mass killings news coverage
Mourning Parents

Furthermore, it is also a loss to the future of the country as these politically active, intelligent teenagers would have gone on to the upper echelons of government and industry in Norway and helped keep the ignorance and intolerance of people who think like the Oslo terrorist at bay.

We can't afford to lose so many decent, critically minded, intelligent people every day, week or month. Charlie Brooker demonstrates why we need such people in this article about how the so-called 'expert'' analysts/terror watchdogs automatically assumed that the Oslo attack was by Al Qaeda or other Muslim fundamentalist groups. <>

We the living are never respectful enough to the dead. Rest in Peace Pema and the many others whom I don't know.

To round off this long, bleak, circuitous and often incoherent blog I am going to provide a link to an excellent article on an oft-overlooked aspect of cricket: the psychology of players. Are cricket players more pre-disposed to depression than other sportsmen or the average person? And is it possible that the game itself attracts people who are prone to mental illness? These questions are addressed lucidly by a current Tasmanian batsman, Ed Cowan: <>

31 July 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On Living

On Living - Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963, Turkey)


Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example--
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people--
even for people whose faces you've never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you'll plant olive trees--
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don't believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.


Let's say you're seriously ill, need surgery--
which is to say we might not get
from the white table.
Even though it's impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we'll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we'll look out the window to see it's raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast ...
Let's say we're at the front--
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
we might fall on our face, dead.
We'll know this with a curious anger,
but we'll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let's say we're in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We'll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind--
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.


This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet--
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space ...
You must grieve for this right now
--you have to feel this sorrow now--
for the world must be loved this much
if you're going to say "I lived" ...

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)

This wonderful poem was shared with me by Burc Kostem. It's available online at <>

Monday, July 4, 2011


Architecture - Dom Moraes (1938-2004, Absences)

The architecture of an aunt
Made the child dream of cupolas,
Domes, other smoothly rounded shapes.
Geometries troubled his sleep.

The architecture of young women
Mildly obsessed the young man:
Its globosity, firmness, texture,
Lace cobwebs for adornment and support.

Miles from his aunt, the old child
Watched domes and cupolas defaced
In a hundred countries, as time passed.

A thousand kilometres of lace defiled,
And much gleaming and perfect architecture
Flaming in the fields with no visible support.
I came across this poem while reading the info page of one of my friends who recently graduated from University with a Masters in Art History. In the first two stanzas the poem captures the feelings of a child grappling with their budding sexuality and the sexual yearnings of a young man through Freudian architectural metaphors. In the last two stanzas the meaning of this, for lack of a better phrase, double entendre is shifted so that the longing becomes more spatial and temporal and the architectural references additionally take a physical form. Men, driven mad by 'the architecture of women', defiled and defaced them across the world while at the same time doing so to the monumental structures they represent. This unique feeling of pathos and longing that this poem conveys reminds me of the Czech word Litost but at the same time I can't help but think that some may look negatively at women being seen as cupolas and domes! 

After reading this poem, I read his Times Online obituary and I feel that the poem is auto-biographical as his childhood isolation and experience as a newspaper war correspondent are reflected in it. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pohela Boishakh

My father and I celebrated Pohela Boishakh with two glasses of Merlin's Treat on the banks of the Danube in Budapest. When we returned from Hungary, we celebrated the occasion properly with a Barbeque and invited a number of Bangladeshis. As great as the last few days have been, it reminded me of the fact that in the past 6 years, I have only celebrated Pohela Boishakh in Bangladesh once. In 2005, we were in Beijing, in 2006 in Dhaka, in 2007 & 2008 in India, in 2009 in Rabat, in 2010 in Berlin and in 2011 in Budapest. It would have been nice to see Dhaka burst into colour for the New Year but I suppose I will really savour these moments (and this travelling) once I move back to Bangladesh for a longer stretch of time. It has also been interesting to meet and hear the life stories of Bangladeshi non-residents/asylum seekers/hyphenated dual nationals around the world!

I also came across this really nice poem:

On Children
by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Crushed ideals

There isn't a bourgeois alive who in the ferment of his youth, if only for a day or for a minute, hasn't thought himself capable of boundless passions and noble exploits. The sorriest little woman-chaser has dreamed of Oriental queens; in a corner of every notary's heart lie the moldy remains of a poet. 
- Madame Bovary (1857), Gustave Flaubert

I read this in the context of the NY Times furore over Bob Dylan performing in China ( (It's a rather bad article to be honest, even for a polemicist) 

I have a dissertation to complete so I won't waste time struggling to write what I think about the Chinese Government. I basically think that democracy should always be an aspiration but countries should be allowed to determine their own futures as to how to get there and to determine whether the 'American model' is right for them. To be perfectly honest, not every country is ready for the rights and responsibilities that a democracy entails. Anyway, I quite liked this comment on the article:

"Looking at China's handling of Bob Dylan, Ai Weiwei, or any other matter solely through a prism of western Judeo-Christian-founded values is just ignorant. Full marks to Mr Dylan for not behaving in a culturally insensitive way on his China tour.
China largely operates on Confucian-Buddhist-Daoist values. "Harmony" and "harmonization" are not euphemisms in China: they are essential and basic tenets of the need to maintain balance between coexistent opposing and conflicting forces. The alternative, perfectly understood by most Chinese and anyone aware of China's culture and history, is turmoil and chaos. Pew global opinion polls show that the present Chinese Government enjoys higher public support than most so-called democracies. The reasons for this are that the present Chinese Government -- probably more than any other government in China's entire history -- is viewed by its public as competently delivering social and economic progress, and harmony. Today is a very different China from that of the Empress Dowager, of Sun Yat-sen and the warlords, of many years of civil war and foreign incursions, or of Mao Zedong. It is a reformist authoritarian state with many democratic characteristics. It is intensely interested in, and is responsive to domestic and global opinion. But China understands itself: it cannot stay on its path of steady progress without an authoritarian element in maintaining harmony.
To get some idea how different China's concept of harmony is from western values, consider the differences with the west, and the inherent internal contradictions between the major belief systems on which Chinese values are founded. Confucianism is secular, a hierarchical system of sublimation of the individual to the higher needs of society and family; Chinese Buddhism is intensely spiritual and individualistic; Daoism is mystical and shamanistic. While there is a good dash of Islam and Christianity in the Chinese values cocktail as well, there is no acceptance for the traditional claims of universality of any of the great belief systems. The result is a paradox: an extraordinarily harmonious, tolerant and peaceable society which is inherently unstable if allowed to slip out of balance.
Praise China for its harmony. Worry if it slips into disharmony." 

- Posted in the NY Times by  Gato from Canberra, Australia on April  10, 2011

April 10, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Al Jazeera on International Intervention in Libya

An Op-Ed piece by Al Jazeera evaluating the merits and de-merits of intervention in Libya. Has some interesting takes on the international law implications of intervention in the country and the question of establishing a no-fly zone. It also provides its own set of recommendations for an international response. However, I am not as convinced of the practicality of their argument concerning evacuation corridors for African migrant workers to Europe.
"In the end, we argue for humility in imagining the role we might play in the course of Libyans' struggle. The international community is neither entitled to take the reins today nor dictate the post-regime scenario tomorrow. Further, those of us who wish to stand in solidarity with Libyans from outside of their country must recognise that we may not be best placed to identify which local actors enjoy broad-based support... Imaginative strategies to offer much-needed relief and refuge to Libya’s vulnerable population represent a challenge the international community has yet to meet. That is a good starting point for transnational solidarity."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Meeting the last surviving revolutionary of the Chittagong Armoury Raid

Siddharth Monga might come off quite nastily at times, especially when reporting on the Bangladesh cricket team, but this blog entry is wonderful:

The Last Revolutionary Standing

"“We knew we were all going to die,” he says, casually.

I have heard this line many times in films, read it in books, but to hear it face to face, from a man who knew he was going to die, is something else. This is not a line we, born in free countries, quite appreciate when it is played out in the movies. To feel the real meaning of the words, make a trip to Momin Road in Chittagong, and find Binod Bihari Chowdhury, who lives in one of the bylanes in a small non-descript house. He had a bullet pierce his neck, but he has survived to tell the not-often-told tale of theChittagong Armoury Raid in 1930.

Binod is 101 now, the last revolutionary alive among that group, mainly comprising students, who fought a battle that they knew would eventually claim their lives. He is as frail as can be imagined. Recently he has been to Kolkata for treatment. He struggles with high blood pressure, but still watches cricket, much to the chagrin of those who look after him. He struggles to talk, but likes to tell stories. Dadu we call him. Like adadu, a grandfather, he has us sit around him and tells us of the people who fought for independence. He doesn’t blink at all when he is talking. There are four of us there, and he looks into the eye of each, one by one, alternating, as he admits his memory plays tricks at times...."


Ahmed ibn Fadlan & first encounters with Vikings

This is definitely someone I need to read more about:

Ahmad ibn Fadlān ibn al-Abbās ibn Rašīd ibn Hammād (Arabicأحمد بن فضلان بن العباس بن رشيد بن حماد‎) was a 10th century Arab traveler, he is famous for his account of his travels as a member of an embassy of the Arab Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad to the king of the Volga Bulgars, the Kitāb ilā Mulk al-Saqāliba (كتاب إلى ملك الصقالبة) (book for the Owners of Scalivia). His account is most known for providing a description of the Volga Vikings, including an eye-witness account of a ship burial.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Talking to myself about the Bar

Today I received acceptance letters from two BPTC courses: College of Law Birmingham and UWE-Bristol. Today was also the day that I first watched the TV show, Barristers and after watching the first hour-long episode I am no longer sure whether my euphoria about the acceptance is appropriate. I enjoy studying law and I love the rush of adrenaline I get when I am speaking to an audience but I am not intensely competitive. I like a bit of competition but I am not aggressive. But most of all, I hate doing applications. I know everyone dislikes doing them and finds them to be a pain but I find myself physically incapable of doing them most of the time.Beyond the astronomic academic requirements, it is this aspect of my personality that troubles me the most.

Without any major hiccups and with blessings from above, I will be able to do reasonably well in my degree and BPTC. However, the real rat race starts when seeking pupillages with Chambers. I've already experienced this a bit, just by applying for a few mini-pupillages, and I am dreading what is ahead. As an international student, I might have difficulty hanging around the country even if I secure a pupillage much less if I am unsuccessful and try to scrounge around for one. (See my post about the immigration quota below). For me to have any chance of practising in the UK for a couple of years, I will really have to do something remarkable.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Some Videos

Firstly, a great song that I have been listening to:
"She's Not There" by The Zombies

Secondly, two videos related to the Cricket World Cup in Bangladesh:
"Never Stop Believing" by Studio Maverick

"Beautiful Bangladesh" by Bangladesh Tourism Board & Parjatan Corporation