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June 29, 2008

Banalata Sen

Here's an appraisal by author Amit Chaudhuri of poet Jibananda Das and his seminal Banalata Sen, one of the most famous poems in Bengali literature. The article includes two different translations of the opening stanza:

For thousands of years I roamed the paths of this earth,
From waters round Ceylon in dead of night to Malayan seas.
Much have I wandered. I was there in the gray world of Asoka
And Bimbisara, pressed on through darkness to the city of Vidharbha.
I am a weary heart surrounded by life’s frothy ocean.
To me she gave me a moment’s peace -- Banalata Sen from Natore.


For thousands of years Earth’s path has been my path. I have passed
at dark of night the sea of Ceylon and the ocean of Malay;
the ashen worlds of Bimbisara and Asoka I’ve encompassed,
and Vidarbha town’s dark distance, in life’s far ocean-foam-play…
and a touch of peace came to me once, the tiredest of men --
there and gone, the gift to me of Natore’s Banalata Sen.

They're both wonderful but I think I lean towards the first version. It seems more accessible in its uncomplicated spareness and more in keeping with the intent of the original. That's a personal opinion of course. Regardless, the poem was written 75 years ago yet it still has the power to send chills down the spine.

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- June 29, 2008 9:55 PM // Bangla

June 23, 2008

Gulfisha (The Kaushik Remix)

Recently, The Guardian asked the question, Where Is The New Asian Wave?

Are young Asians simply not interested in making pop music? Or are there bands out there, just not being widely heard? This year's UK Asian Music Awards honoured people like Sukshinder Shinda and Hardkaur , who are hardly household names (their You Tube appearances suggest they make American-sounding hip-hop about "laydeez" and sound as Asian as I am), although Nitin Sawhney is rightly (if a little vaguely) honoured for "commitment to the scene". It's 16 years since I looked into this with anything like a magnifying glass, so I'm confessing to some naivety here, but I wonder what happened to Radical Sista, Pardesi Music Machine and all those other hopeful people I met back in 92. Where is the next generation?

A similar question could be asked for artists across the pond but that would be doing a disservice to great musicians like Kaushik Mukherjee who has been producing wonderful music in DC for the better part of this decade. A couple of qualities separate Kaushik from his contemporaries. The first is this: of all the UK/US based South Asian artists I've heard, Kaushik understands funk. There are any number of tracks by other groups/artists I've heard which feature much tablratronica and other percussive wizardry but are really jerkoff exercises for virtuosos, much like overlong guitar solos by progressive rock groups. But funk is as much a function of timing as anything else and Kaushik understands the distinction. The second feature of his music is the warmth. His music will draw you in, not batter you into submission. This is not to say his tracks aren't uptempo or uproarious. They are best described as an invitation to soak in a Sonoma hot tub on a yacht hurtling down Russian River.

His own tracks are wonderful in their own right but it is as a remixer that Kaushik excels. Just check out his version of AR Rahman's Gulfisha, a track from the forthcoming film Ada - A Way Of Life. Kaushik put together the mix following the availability of 30 seconds worth of raw vocals from a remix contest and his version blows away anything else on that contest site. Compared to some of the Casiotoned entries over there, his might as well be on another nebula. With Chemical Brothers like breakbeats and layers upon layers of electronica and warm echo-ey Bolly vocals, it's a revelation. In fact, without even hearing the original, I'd argue AR would have a tough time topping this version. Here's to you Mr. K, long may your turntables spin.

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- June 23, 2008 7:23 PM // Bollywood , Music

June 14, 2008

Back From LA LA Land

Just returned from a four day stay in LA. Some desi related flotsam and jetsam:

Jamie Masada (of Laugh Factory) and Jon Lovitz Yuk It Up At OnHollywood 2008

This was a session on the current state of online comedy. I was surprised to hear numerous references to desi-Canuck comedian Russell Peters. Apparently, his shows sell out regularly everywhere and it's all because of The Internets!

Holy Cow Restaurant

Near to West Hollywood where we were staying. Love the name and the logo. Food was just OK though.

Tattoo Stand Picture - Venice Beach Boardwalk

"Om" has many meanings, one of which is "Welcome to the Gods." Can the location of this particular one be taken to mean "Welcome to My Mammaries?"

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- June 14, 2008 4:47 PM // Food , Technology , Travel

Milk and Cookies

Milk And Cookies

This only works when he's both motionless and asleep, neither of which occurs often enough. Boy, are we glad when it does happen. Our hands can use the rest. Surely somewhere there must be some kind of device that automates this?

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- June 14, 2008 4:31 PM // Virj

June 3, 2008

Primary Season

Phew, could it be primary season is finally over?

Hillary Rodham Clinton will concede Tuesday night that Barack Obama has the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, campaign officials said, effectively ending her bid to be the nation's first female president.

Not so fast!

The Clinton campaign denied a report that the New York senator would say on Tuesday night -- after final voting in a grueling primary season -- that Obama has the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination.

Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe told CNN the former first lady was "absolutely not" conceding the campaign and said The Associated Press report was completely incorrect.

Honestly, at this stage, the following Mike Luckovich cartoon really sums it up:

Hat tip.

Update: It's over. "Yes we can!" indeed.

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- June 3, 2008 12:04 PM // Politics

June 2, 2008

Downsizing - Silicon Valley Style

In the article, How Silicon Valley families are downsizing their lives, Mike Cassidy sketches the portraits of a number of families in the Bay Area affected by the recent economic downturn. There's the story of the landscape architect, the occasional personal assistant, the butcher, and the low income couple, all struggling to get by. Then, there's this:

And even those well beyond middle class, like computer scientists Radha Chandika and Ravi Duvvuri, are discovering they've got it good, but not nearly as good as they once had it. Chandika and her husband, Duvvuri, moved to Silicon Valley in 1994 and joined the successful tech crowd.

By early 2007, they had two kids and a house in Cupertino. Duvvuri was a software architect at Blue Coat Systems, and Chandika was a software engineer at Google. Their household income was about $300,000.

Duvvuri left his job to start an Indian social-networking company with a friend and former business partner, reducing the family income by about half. He says he would have done it no matter the economic conditions, but with rising prices the family has cut spending more than they anticipated.

Duvvuri, who draws no salary, says he's concluded the Bay Area is no place to live as a family on one income. At the end of the year, he and Chandika plan to move their family back to India, where their lives and prospects will be better.

"I have more reasons to go back," he says, "than to stay."

But more than all that, the Big Squeeze has Chandika and Duvvuri thinking about how lucky they are and how difficult tough times must be for those who have much less.

I suspect many eyebrows will be raised by this one, particularly as the income cut in here was purely voluntary. While it is true the Valley is becoming tougher for entrepreneurs due to rising costs, it is disconcerting to note $150K doesn't go as far as it used to. Or is it just the high standards to which we subject ourselves? If anything, there are similarities between another report in the NY Times which caused quite a stir in the blogosphere, particularly in the valley. Remember?

MENLO PARK, Calif. — By almost any definition — except his own and perhaps those of

Mr. Steger, 51, a self-described geek, has banked more than $2 million. The $1.3 million house he and his wife own on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean is paid off. The couple’s net worth of roughly $3.5 million places them in the top 2 percent of families in the United States.

Yet each day Mr. Steger continues to toil in what a colleague calls “the Silicon Valley salt mines,” working as a marketing executive for a technology start-up company, still striving for his big strike. Most mornings, he can be found at his desk by 7. He typically works 12 hours a day and logs an extra 10 hours over the weekend.

“I know people looking in from the outside will ask why someone like me keeps working so hard,” Mr. Steger says. “But a few million doesn’t go as far as it used to. Maybe in the ’70s, a few million bucks meant ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,’ or Richie Rich living in a big house with a butler. But not anymore.”

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- June 2, 2008 10:54 AM // Bay Area