1 Madhubani Literature Festival, what I could experience

Before this, I attended Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). Even I invited Mr. Sanjoy Roy the organizer of JLF as a speaker in the TED talk that I hosted last year. Some of my students also volunteered in JLF so I can claim that I have seen JLF succeeding very closely. When I was planning to attend the Madhubani Literature Festival (MLF) I had a clear understanding that nowhere it would be closer to JLF. I was a votary of thought that Maithili is on a decline and so the number of participants are ought to be very small.  However, the venue of MLF was equally exciting. The Rajanar of Madhubani is almost a forgotten place and need due attention from the country.  However, the list of speakers was giving me confidence that characteristic of the event would not be different. When I heard about MLF being organized a couple of months back, I conveyed to Dr. Savita Jha Khan, the organizer that I was interested in attending it.  In principle, I wanted to attend such events, but logistics has been a challenge. I thought I will combine it with my regular visit to my native place.

However the ground reality was different. Just one month back I went to my native place during Deepawali with my family. Hence, now I had to go alone. I cannot use my official leave.  When Dr. Khan asked me to confirm, I started calculating the leave I had to take, the ticket I had to purchase and the things I could do in this event. Then I realized, in such a case when we attend such an event, not only we make it successful but we also learn a lot. It is always give and take. Most importantly it gives immense opportunity to network with other people.    

Very soon, the poster started circulating on social media. My wife also saw the same and once told me, now there is no other option you have to go. It was Christmas and Newyear holiday around and price of the ticket was three times more. However, I decided I will attend on the last day, December 21, 2018. 

I started in the evening of 19th December and I reached Patna via Delhi by flight on 20th December and used savaari.com to book a taxi. My return flight was on 11AM on 22nd and hence could not take a risk to start my journey from Madhubani in the morning of 22nd. It means I had to reach Patna by 21st evening itself.  

On 21st morning when I reached the venue, I could see the Rajnagar palace was in two parts. The first part was the premise of a degree college and second part, more magnificent and profusely opulent however in the severe mutilated state was the main remains of the palace. The MLF team had already converted the courtyard of the palace into an open-air theatre. There was an elevated dais for speakers and chairs for the audience. There were numbers of kiosks on the periphery of the courtyard used as a makeshift shop for books, souvenirs, handicraft and various forms of Mithila Painting. In another corner, there was a Machan built for more cozy discussion which was used by ladies for more formal discussion. Other parallel sessions were arranged in the various halls of the first part of the palace (used as degree college).  

The format of the MLF session was a series of a panel discussion. A pre-decided topic was given to the moderator of the panel who opens the session with his thought.  It was followed by the opinion of the other panelist one by one. I attended three such sessions and what I could not find was the intense contradiction. Lack of intense contradiction could be understood in many ways, in many cases, it could be interpreted as a quality of engagement. However, my personal opinion the panelist wanted to be too polite for others and hence the intensity of argument was not big.  

For me networking with who-is-who of Maithili literary world was the main motivation and I was surprised to find “Mr. Girindranath Jha” a former journalist and CSDS researcher who gracefully opted to be a farmer. We were connected through social media and it was so nice to see him there. I also happened to meet Rajneesh K Jha another journalist who has been settled in Madhubani. Subhash Jha my long-term friend was in the organizing team and we met after 9 years almost. I could also meet Prof. Deoshankar Naveen of JNU.  There were many other Sahitya Academy awardees also. 

Since I had a constraint to attend on 21st December only, probably I missed the session on Short Story and Novel writing in which I have been involved since one and a half decade. Rather, I was one of the panelists of Baal-Sahitya. My introduction to this kind of literature was limited to the books that my son is going through. I spoke at my best. I attended three sessions and other sessions were intellectually more refined than ours.  

I could see there were around 60-80 people engaged in my session. In other sessions, this number was more. Some of my friends told me that here only those people are present who has been invited to present something. I could see the number of people purely as an audience was around 50%.  

I could understand that it is a global phenomenon. Prior to this, I have experience of attending lots of conferences on computer science and related areas. In such conferences, authors write a research paper which is reviewed typically by three experts and then they present their respective papers. Every author and other attendees need to register at the conference by paying a good amount. Registration fees of a good international conference are around 1000 USD. Even good Indian conference would cost more than Rs. 30,000. Organizer collects this money to fund expenses of the venue and all activities and logistics. Even in such an international conference that took place in universities, there are limited number of audiences other than the author of the paper themselves.  Therefore, from that point of view, it was truly following the global spirit. Even the weather was not so pleasant.  

It is to be noted that MLF did not have any registration fee or entrance fee like these conferences or like JLF. Therefore, the quality of arrangement was ought to be accordingly.  In three sessions that I attended, I could see the number of audiences was between 60 to 120. I have been told post-panel discussion cultural event was jam-packed and would have more than 300 audiences. This is better than a typical international conference. Therefore, the maiden episode of MLF, in my opinion, was a grand success. I have seen many people have complained about a few things.   

My recommendation for the organizer is following-- (1) Let us introduce research session also. (2) If possible, invite everyone who is pursuing Ph.D. in Maithili in an especially designated session.  (2) Engage more local people to take care of various logistics (3) Have more solo presentation from eminent people.  

I enjoyed being there. It was worth to buy an expensive ticket during this holiday season. Lunch was a truly sumptuous and it reminded me of the Bhoj I use to have in my childhood.   


1 Impact of history on my personal life?

It is amazing to connect historical event that took place 2000 years ago to my personal life. It is amazing to know if Ashoka would not have been so violent before transformation, I would have studied in an English medium school. Blame goes to powerful transformation phases of Ashoka during which he used his power to spread buddhism in the country for my rustic behavior.  
It is very imperative to understand that our life does get affected by historical events. I would like to answer this based on my personal experience.
Last year, I was in Varanasi to perform some religious rituals. Bank of the Ganges was crowded. I requested my priest to go to other side of the river by boat and perform the same ritual because it was serene and peaceful. There was no one to disturb. The priest said to me, “Are you a fool? Don’t you know, no religious ritual is performed in Magah side”?
I obeyed him, but I tried understanding the logic why ritual could not be performed on other side of Ganges and what was the actual meaning of Magah. While returning, I enquire with many but no one answered this appropriately. Finally, father of the same priest, an old man, explained me, “Magah" (मगह) stand for Magadh, a land known for violence, distress, and discord” almost 2000 years ago. Why someone would do religious ritual in such a notorious place.
Explanation of that grand old man reminded me. It was the same notoriety of Magadh who forced me to do my schooling from my village. It was purely a Hindi medium school where only 20% of students were able to pass the 10th board examination. My grandmother spent her entire life in my village. My father got a job in Gorakhpur. He wanted to bring all of us to Gorakhpur. But my grandmother was adamant. She said to my father, “Now since I spent most of my life in the village, at this eleventh hour I don’t wish to die in Magah”. With the explanation of old priest, now I understand, my grandmother did not want to die in Magadh which is considered to be a land of Violence and disharmony. Since father was only child of my grandmother and she could not have stayed alone, therefore, my family stayed in village and I had to do schooling in a place where 70% of people were failing in 10th board examination.
River Ganges separates Mithila and Magadh. People of Mithila, who gives value to traditional belief don’t marry their sons and daughters in Magadh region, which is a symbol of bad land. Workers from Magadh, tribes from Magadh and customs of Magadh are given a name, “Maghaiya" (मघैया). Anything which is Maghaiya is still out of bound for people of Mithila?


2 Lalkaa Paag (ललका पाग): A recreation in English for Software Professional

A Short Story

From where I should start, I don’t know. I am not sure whether I should pen it down. I am also not sure whether I will be able to translate all my internal conflicts into proper words which have been tearing me apart. There is chaos of thoughts in my mind overwhelming me every moment. I am tired, exhausted and completely drained out, now. I know no one would understand me.

This is a story about me and this beautiful lady Ritu. Most of the people of her neighborhood have forgotten that real name of Ritu is actually Rituparna Pandey. It has been three years now but she is still a subject of gossips in the neighborhood. She has been cornered, ignored and isolated.

Yes, it started from our respective childhood. However, I have a very weak memory about Ritu’s childhood. All I know is my father and her father was best friends. They studied together. They were lucky to get government job in Indian Railways in this dusty and crowded city of Gorakhpur where every third person of the town work for India Railways. Unlike their colleagues they bought houses during their early days and decided to settle together in the same neighborhood. They married together and had their children around the same time. Elder brother of Ritu is of my age.

After my schooling I seldom stayed in this city. I have a vague memory of Ritu. When I was in highschool she was in standard six. I remember when we were playing cricket in our street; she used to beg us to allow her to play in one of the team. Her own brother who was my classmate did not want her to join any team. However, many a time I considered her pleading and inducted into my team. I used to put her as a third man. She was happy doing job of third man. She had only two conditions that when ball would go to the dirty water, she would not take it out and people would do a one bounce balling to her, always. Many a time, I could not accommodate her. When she would not get chance to play cricket, she would go to the nearest golgappa shop on her new bicycle and eat six golgappa from the pocket money that she would have accumulated. When in financial crisis, she would manage with just three golgappa. I remember many a time she would get scolding from her mother for playing cricket in her school uniform. My friends including her own brother would always oppose her playing cricket with us. Because when her best friend Neha would come to see her, she would ditch us to go ahead and play Ludo with her in her living room.

I don’t know anything about Ritu beyond this. Immediately after intermediate I was selected in NIT and went on to study Engineering from Thrichy. Ritu’s elder brother also got selected in Engineering and he got admission in Durgapur. Email was not so popular in those days; neither was any social networking prevailing at that time. We were returning home twice a year during semester break and then we were updating about ourselves. Ritu was never a part of our discussion. Yes, when her father expired in an accident, I wrote a consolation letter to her brother. At that time I think she would have been in class ninth.

Barring above mentioned facts Ritu was never part of my life. I finished my engineering and then I went to US for higher studies. Brother of Ritu also followed me. Although we were studying in different universities however we were meeting occasionally. When either of us would come home we would carry gifts of other. Ritu was never part of that also. 

Since my father was the best friend of Ritu’s father, he had additional responsibility of Ritu’s family. Immediately after my higher studies I got a very good job in Bangalore. There were lots of opportunities in India also. Bangalore was flourishing with startups. I decided to settle in Bangalore. However Ritu’s brother did not return to India. He got a very good job in California. He had only one responsibility “Ritu”.

Ritu’s mother had a high opinion about me and she thought she would not get a better groom for her. She told this idea to my father, who readily accepted it. Finally she insisted Ritu’s brother to approach me. During his last visit to India, Ritu’s brother came to Bangalore. He requested me to consider her. In last 7 years, my opinion about Ritu did not change. Whenever I thought about her, a school girl playing gully cricket as a thirdman or going to nearest golgappa shop on her bicycle and ditching all my friends for Ludo was coming into my mind. I did not saw her since long. This marriage proposal was appearing very funny to me. I sent her brother home without giving my verdict. When I came to Gorakhpur in holiday, my parents insisted me to see her. My father was performing duty from both the sides, he was taking responsibility of his deceased friend and of course as my father.

After so much of earnest request from her brother and my parents especially my father, I decided to meet her. I strictly told my father that after seeing her my verdict would be final and I insisted him to also take opinion of Ritu.

When I went, she was well prepared appearing in a peacock green saari. She was appearing stunningly beautiful, meticulously designed dense hair, with her wide forehead and with her big and deep eyes. It was not a zero size, rather she was appearing realization of deity of khajuraho with hints of grace present everywhere. It was a mesmerizing moment for me. I was wondering how a young girl who played thirdman in her school uniform, who was going to golgappa shop on her bicycle and who once preferred Ludo over cricket would turn into such a beautiful maiden. From a lower middleclass I evolved into a highly paid MNCs employees with an degree from top American universities. Professional success of a young man is incomplete without a beautiful wife. Ritu would be most precious feather in my cap. She was appearing to me a trophy to be won and to be displayed to the world.

After two rounds of tea, in the presence of my parents and her mother, I could not stop myself. I said, “If Ritu agrees, I would like to marry her”. In response to my words, I have seen her fleeing to other room. Her mother followed her. I overheard her mother asking, “do you also like him, do you have any problem marrying him”. I further overheard her mother asking Ritu, “why are you crying”. After this Ritu did not return back to the living room. A lower middle class Indian girl of marriageable age, can cry for anything. They can obviously cry when they are sad, but they would also cry when they become very happy, they can cry when they don’t have any answer and they will also cry when they are feeling shy. Her mother returned back with big smile and thanked my father. She was crying because she was happy and shy both at a time. Ritu’s mother requested my father that wedding should happen as early as possible.

Our neighbourhood