Why the Sundarbans has unwavering faith in Bon Bibi — a forest deity with a stage presence
How does a goddess defeat a storm? When Amphan swept through the Sundarbans on May 20, theatre actor Anita Mondal, who lives in Annpur, a remote village on the islands, crawled under a charpai with her husband and children. “Even if the walls fell, we would live if we hid under the bed,” she says over the phone, a month later. Clutching a bag of precious belongings, she heard the wind tear down huge siris trees and coconut palms, and blow away the thatched roof of their house. As the ground began to tremble, they grabbed the legs of the charpai to keep it from flying away.
As the storm raged, Mondal was praying for help from the protagonist she plays on stage on calmer days — Bon Bibi, the deity of the forest and the central character of Bon Bibi’r Palagaan, a musical drama unique to the Sundarbans. “We do not have a roof but I feel blessed. Bon Bibi saved our lives,” she says.
Why fifty years after the split the Beatles still are the original rock stars
Well before television ushered in the age of the celebrity, The Beatles were rock stars. Fifty years after their break-up, the Liverpool lads remain so. A BBC radio documentary on the quaint subject of the evolution of song fade-outs, made in 2010 by Stuart Maconie, paid tribute to how the Beatles revolutionised even that aspect of music. The two-minute long fade-out for Hey Jude in 1960 marked a complete break in how the ending of songs was to be imagined.
A special issue of LIFE magazine this April, marking The Beatles split half a century ago, offers a small window into why the band mattered. It describes how on their 1964 visit to New York, people “ran through the street against traffic, past mounted policemen, as they swarmed the Plaza Hotel, where the Beatles were still staying three days after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.” The audience of 73 million for the show was not the only landmark. Fans watching The Beatles leave the plaza, included “New York Catholic archbishop Francis Cardinal Spellman, who had been born in the previous century.”
How dating apps are booming as ideas of romance and intimacy evolve to meet the pandemic’s challenges
“Put yourself out there!” If you’re single, you’ve heard this statement a lot. Never mind that it is vague and overused, but in the time of a pandemic, it’s also the one thing we can’t do. As the world remains in COVID-19’s grip, with countries either in lockdown or enforcing strict social distancing, a singleton’s search for love needs to be put on hold. Meeting people on dating apps comes with risks of its own, but were I to “put myself out there” right now, catching the coronavirus would just be an addition to a long, already existing list of threats.
I envy couples who manage to remain intimate even when miles apart. According to the meme floating around about how dating is now serious business because you’re essentially choosing your apocalypse partner, these couples seem to have it figured out.
Why the animal kingdom is no different – when dating and mating
Most guys think they know how to woo the girl of their dreams. Some serenade girls with guitars under their balconies (or spout mushy poetry), others strut around in tight T-shirts flexing their biceps and showing off their abs. Yet others spray themselves with aftershave, drive around in Lamborghinis (usually leased) and buy expensive jewellery (or take the girls to obscenely expensive restaurants). There are those, usually bulging with biceps, who goes berserk (like bull elephants in musth) and bash up anyone and everyone who comes anywhere near their chosen one. Some might even take their girls up to their palatial penthouse apartments. Then, there are those smitten jokers who can only shake their heads in speechless wonder and go “duh!” when they behold their beloveds.
Why Shantanu Datta’s new book Calling Elvis hits the right notes
Wow, man, what an eclectic compilation! Conversations, interviews and reportage with some of the greatest masters of music, from Roger Waters, Ian Anderson, Mark Knopfler, John McLaughlin, Sting, Jean-Luc Ponty and Carlos Santana to L Subramaniam, Louis Banks, Sivamani, Ranjit Barot, Junoon and Amyt Datta, and Srikanto Acharya, the contemporary folk group Bhoomi and Tapas ‘Bapi’ Das of the baul jazz and blues group Moheener Ghoraguli. I like this genre in the regional languages, and Shantanu Datta does well to include them in the book. I wish he had also included the pioneers, Kabir Suman and Anjan Dutt. Datta has the credibility to write Calling Elvis. The book describes him “as a journalist (who) has been placed at the forefront of music reportage for much of the past three decades”. He lives up to the reputation.
Anita Roy: ‘Children’s publishing in India today is a necessary spectrum of books that keep it real and those that keep it fantastic’
Editor-writer Anita Roy, 55, has played a pivotal role in Indian publishing for children and young adults. In 2004, she set up Young Zubaan, an imprint that promotes diversity in children’s publishing; she was also one of the founding members of the popular Bookaroo Festival of Children’s Literature in 2008. In this interview, the UK-based Roy speaks about her debut YA novel on death and ecological destruction and darkness in children’s literature.
How a new biography draws on the enigma and shadow lines of M Karunanidhi
At the time of his death in August 2018, M Karunanidhi was the titan among leaders of his home state of Tamil Nadu and one of India’s senior-most politicians. From 1938, when he took to the streets against the Congress government’s promotion of Hindi in school education, right to his last electoral battle in 2016, when his party finished second, he stood out as a fighter. But he was also a writer, playwright and screenwriter, an orator and a man of letters. Novelist and veteran journalist Vaasanthi offers rare insights into the man and his mind. The young Karunanidhi experienced caste exclusion when he saw that his father, an expert nadaswaram player, left his chest bare when he met a member of the upper-caste landed gentry or mirasdar. The idea of a unified Tamil society which addressed issues of exclusion would take him first into the militant Dravida Kazhagam, and, then, with his mentor CN Annadurai, to the Dravidar Munnetra Kazhagam.
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