By Somali K Chakrabarti “Mere Sapno Ki Rani kab aayegi tu….” This romantic Hindi song from the movie Aradhana, had enchanted hundreds of thousands of people from all over India in the 70s. Sitting atop an open jeep, Rajesh Khanna, crooned the lively song to woo Sharmila Tagore, who sat reading a book in the Toy Train, as the miniature steam engine chugged uphill in the scenic settings of Darjeeling. The “Toy Train” on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) line has been a unique feature of Darjeeling since the 19th century. Ferrying between Darjeeling and Ghoom (India’s highest railway station), the Toy Train moves through the hilly terrain absorbing the magnificent beauty of Darjeeling hills. Inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, DHR became the first Hill Railway in India, and the second in the world to be accorded this status. Here are some vintage pictures of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway from the 19th century. Darjeeling Station, ca 1891 Darjeeling was the chief summer resort for the British government in Bengal.
By Somali K Chakrabarti I am not an avid TV watcher, but often when I do, a remarkable advertisement ‘Will of Steel’ never fails to catch my eyes. This advertisement shows a girl, in a village in Haryana, getting up in the morning, putting on her shoes, and going out for a run, followed by practising crunches and weight lifting. Another lady in the house is shown lighting incense sticks, sweeping the house, washing clothes and preparing food. A background commentary in rustic Haryanvi language sermons the duties of a woman. A woman must get up before the sunrise, offer prayers and get into the kitchen to get on with the household chores.
By Somali K Chakrabarti Lucknow, the city of Nawabs, was also once the city of adab and tehzeeb (etiquette and manners). Refined speech, manners, art, literature, poetry and “Nawabi” style cuisines once marked the culture of the city. The capital city of Uttar Pradesh, on the bank of River Gomati, has a cultural legacy shared by Hindus and Muslims, with a strong influence of Persian court culture. The nobility consisted mainly of Shiite Muslims, who traced back their ancestry to Persia. Peppered with Persian vocabulary and idioms, Udru language spoken in Lucknow was known for its elegance, expressiveness and extreme politeness. Lucknow Urdu played a key role in the city’s cultural milieu. Lucknow first attained prominence in the 15th century under the sultans of Jaunpur. Later it was ruled by Mughal governors. By the 17th century, Lucknow was a prosperous commercial centre, and continued to flourish till 1856 as the capital of the independent Nawabs of Avadh (originally governors under the Mughals).
By Bhudeb Chakrabarti The Birds Mystery Jatinga, a scenic village nestled among the Borail Hills range in the Dima Hasao District of Assam, is known for a strange eerie phenomenon. During misty and foggy days in the months of September to November, each year, thousands of birds come to this valley and crash to their death. As the sun sets, huge number of birds descend on the village and fly full speed, smashing against buildings and trees, to drop dead. [ Tweet this picture ] People from all over the world come to see this mysterious annual phenomenon of suicide by disoriented birds, which lies unexplained so far. The renowned ornithologist Dr Salim Ali had noted, “The most puzzling thing about the phenomenon is that so many species of diurnal resident birds are on the move when, by definition, they should be first asleep.” This weird mass suicide phenomenon of birds has earned Jatinga the name of Death Valley for Birds.
By Somali K Chakrabarti 14th Feb is the day when love is in the air as people all over the world celebrate Valentine’s Day. Love, it is said, is what makes life worth living. Philosophers and poets have defined love in numerous ways. Here is a collection of some of my favorite quotes on love and life. ‘They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.’ ~Tom Bodett ‘There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.’ ~ John Lennon ‘Where there is love there is life.’ ~Mahatma Gandhi
By Somali K Chakrabarti Shamitabh – the movie with an unusual name formed by merging the names of the characters Daanish (played by Dhanush) and Amitabh (Bachchan), is a movie with an unusual theme. Now before you think that this post is a review of the movie, I need to tell you it is not. This post is about the compelling thoughts conveyed beautifully through the story of Shamitabh. A mute lad Daanish, who is obsessed with movies since he was a child, harbours the dream of becoming a film star. Akshara (played by Haasan), an assistant director, helps him to overcome his handicap and communicate through a borrowed voice with the use of technology. Amitabh Sinha, a cynical drunkard and a failed actor, with a baritone voice, who lives in a graveyard, becomes the voice of Daanish. The duo turn out to be a winning combination and Daanish, renamed as Shamitabh, becomes a superstar.
By Bhudeb Chakrabarti The monsoon set in quite early this time in the high hills of Mizoram. It was raining incessantly throughout the day and night in the middle of July 1986. Zemabawk, on the outskirt of Aizawl, was the location of CRPF headquarters. I was posted as DIG CRPF, responsible for overseeing the operations of all CRPF battalions deployed in Mizoram. The Mission On 30 June, 1986, the Govt of India had signed a “Peace Accord” with the Mizo National Front (MNF) ending the two-decade old insurgency in the ”Land of the Highlanders”. CRPF was assigned the mission to receive MNF cadres at designated places and take over their arms and ammunitions for handing over to the Army. Subsequently the MNF cadres were to be escorted to a Peace Camp “Remna Run” on a high ridge near Tui- Vamit-Tlang, a windy village, at one extreme end of Aizawl. Parva and Marpara were the two earmarked places through which the MNF returnees were to enter Mizoram from Bangladesh and lay down their arms and ammunitions. The Terrain Aizawl, set on the ridges of steep hills is flanked by the lofty peaks of the beautiful Durtlang Hills.