Friday, May 12, 2006

The Nobel Bong and my Internet connection

Pathetic is a rather polite way to describe my Internet connection at home. An ugly-embarrassing-deranged-moody-blot on a landscape full of broadband and baseband and DSL ISPs maybe halfway close to the truth. For the past six months, I have been make doing with a dialup connection that threatens to sleep off after 30 seconds of brilliant byte transfer. I have been reduced to a state I used to be in school 10 minutes before an exam was about to start. "Oh God, may whatever I study in the last ten minutes come in the paper". Crossing my fingers, I watch with bated breadth as my mailbox opens halfway through and then suddenly goes silent. Instant Messaging is about getting disconnected after every two minutes and I have now become butt of jokes among my friends. "AC-DC" they call me.

So, I have been toying with the idea of a broadband connection. Now the problem with that is that the parents are so disillusioned with technology that they do not understand how a thicker cable can be a panacea to my miseries. When I convinced them a year ago that a new computer would help the Internet connection get better, they had listened. Now, I'm afraid, its no use crying 'Wolf! Wolf!" Blogging is now getting increasingly difficult, but I refuse to submit meekly.

Among other things, 9th of May was Robindro Jayanti - birthday of Rabindranath Tagore - inarguably the greatest poet of Bengal and the first Nobel Laureate of Asia. Since we are predisposed to ignore a person until he attains international recognition, Robindronath has made it big while there are quite a few extremely talented and accomplished writers who have languished in the background. For one, I do think Munshi Premchand is one of those authors who should have been awarded a Nobel. Limiting myself to Bengali authors only, Tarashakar Bandopadhaya, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhaya, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhaya (my clan! ha ha) Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (more of my clan hee hee hee) are authors whose birthdays we never celebrate. On 9th May, our canteen hosted a photograph of Tagore, garlanded with due respect and played some morbid and depressing Tagore music. In the afternoon, we sang songs of Tagore (yes, yes, I was one among those who sang and busted the microphones!) and some people danced to his songs (no no, I was not among those thankfully - can't damage a newly constructed auditorium).

I was left wondering. They usually award the Nobel to authors who have written (to put it the way I perceive it) about poverty, misery, death and the triumph of man's will against all odds. The authors I mentioned above have done that rather successfully, and unlike other less successful writers, have made interesting reading at the same time. Sarat Chandra Chatterjee in particular has gone the further distance by empowering women in his novels. In most of his stories, women play the chief role and pull a family out of tragic circumstances even while sacrificing their own happiness. This he wrote during early 20th century when women's liberation was unheard of and the general plight of women was miserable. So, why were these people deprived of the Nobel Prize?

I suppose it’s too late to think about it, because unlike the Param Veer Chakra they never award the Nobel posthumously. But it is also an indicator why great writers like Vikram Seth, Amitava Ghosh, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri have elected to write in English and not in their mother tongue. Somewhere down the line, we seem to have got something horribly wrong. When and how did it happen?

9 comments:

stiletto said...

Got to accept facts:

a) english is one of the major languages in india. and a language most of us are most comfy with.

b) broadband internet connection is the need of the hour. no, the minute. get one NOW.

First Rain said...

I do feel regional authors are a neglected lot. They are not read as widely as they should be. Having said that I'd also say that readers like me are not much into reading our mother-tongues either - I mean it took a loong time for me to start reading Bangla and I'll admit that I am more comfortable reading English. But it is also true that a Bangla novel read in its native language tastes quite different from its translated form. Ditto about Hindi. But English bridges a gap among regional Indian languages, making available to me Kannada or Marathi literature which would otherwise have been completely lost to/on me. As to why Jhumpa Lahiri doesn't write in her doesn't write in her mother tongue - perhaps a more obvious answer is because she can't - and perhaps that makes English her *adopted* mother tongue!

Oh n God bless MTNL whose dialup thingy just works here! I too, am still in the dial-up age.

Akash said...

ki gan gaile?. I'm dying to make a guess. can't help.
aaaguuun-eeer poroooshmoooni, chhNoyaooo praneeee... e jeebaaan punyo koro…. As I write this, I can very well visualize girls in yellow sari (basanti rong to be specific, don’t know the exact English word for that) dance to the tune the Rabindrik way, with typical wavy hand movement and footwork etc.

Not always the depiction of poverty or misery brought laurels for India (although poverty and misery are a reality). The fact is that, Tagore, in the west, is still recognized as a mystic poet who can take you on a trip to a spiritual world of his own, where the reader can wallow in fathomless peace through the verses of his poetry. Amartya Sen (ohh. Not in my clan … no way) in his essay “Tagore and his India”, very much resented the western tendency of fitting the multifaceted genius of Tagore into a narrow frame of mystic poet. Google the name of the essay if you want a copy..

yes. Examples overflow where Indian awards are bestowed only after the West attests the talent. Satyajit Ray, Amartya Sen, Ravi Shankar, Teresa, Raj Reddy (only Indian to win a Turing award which is widely dubbed as the Nobel in computer science), they were all awarded by the Indian Government, immediately after they achieved the highest international recognition. In hindsight, it shows lack of confidence of a country, albeit not very unnatural, for the one bogged down in widespread corruption, poverty, illiteracy etc.

Posthumous award is certainly a supportable idea, because it is the merit of the work that should be under consideration, not who’s who. The most outstanding example of denial of a Nobel is our very own M.K. Gandhi who was nominated five times but never got the award, due to scores of political reasons. Nobel Committee kind of admitted that it was a great mistake but could not make amends by awarding him posthumously because Alfred Nobel’s will did not permit that. Read “Mahatma Gandhi- the missing laureate” by Q. Tonnesson.

Well .. on the matters of awards, prizes etc., my opinion is that the faster we wean ourselves from the myths of awards, the less are we self-depriving. Plenty of works go unrewarded, unrecognized, however they are no less sterling than the award winning pieces. At the moment the name that comes to my mind is Jeebananada Das, a widely underrated poet with an exceptional sensitiveness toward nature and rural life. A lot of marketing and publicity drives are required to draw attention of the award committee. Remember Jagadish Chandra Bose who was denied a Nobel for being the first one to show wireless communication -- an invention, to say the least, is the starting point of all these Internet, television, telecommunications, mobile-telephony that we are blessed with today -- just because he was averse to self-publicity. Had Yeats not known Tagore’s works, perhaps he would have to struggle more to be noticed by the Nobel Committee.

As to English, I can only say, that it is rather unfortunate that we need to learn such a rich language, more as a matter of compulsion than true interests. I always thought that the deepest of emotions can only be expressed in mother tongue. But I’m proven wrong by those authors you mentioned. They must be extraordinarily talented.

Anwesha Chatterjee said...

@Stiletto: I know I know. I am not here to change the technological and lingual landscape and there's nothing I can do but lament. But just because there is broadband, does not mean dialup should degrade so much.

@First Rain: If you have studied in an English medium school (as I presume you have) then English really becomes your lingua franca. But there is a whole world of vernacular out there with a bigger audience than those who prefer English and we need to recognise that.
MTNL works fine? Am glad to know that. I'm with BNSL and they are so busy with all sorts of phones and phone lines, that they have completely neglected dialup.

@Akash: we did a riturongo. A meddley of six songs, one for each season. Perhaps you would know Aami poth bhoola ek pothik eshechi, for spring. The rest part about the baashonti saree, you are bang on. We singers however went for the white saree and red border. shaada saree lal paarAnd I regret not mentioning Jibonanondo Das. He is a fantastic poet. btw, your comment is as big as a post. Why don't you post this on your blog?

Akash said...

your comment is as big as a post

The only ambition of my life is to make it big as a blog-commentator, hence my big big big comment. I don't want to be a poster-boy of weblog kingdom, hence short short short posts on my weblog.

Amrita said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amrita said...

Apart from the inescapable fact that most of us are more comfy with english rather than any regional lang, maybe today's authors dont have the flair for bangla either. Its not just that they "dont"....maybe its also they "cant".

Akash said...

@amrita:
Apart from the inescapable fact that most of us are more comfy with English.. “most of us”!!!… Do you refer to the people of India by “us”? Only 15% of the entire population can manage with English. Note that I emphasize “manage”, which surely does not equate to “appreciate literary sophistication”.

Rohan said...

Stumbled across your blog. Nice stuff. Nothing Profound to add. Pax.

:-)