Sunday, October 26, 2008


6-8 November 2008
K.P. Basu Memorial Hall, Engineering Science Building
& Anita Banerjee Memorial Hall, Undergraduate Arts Building
(Registration and all plenary sessions in K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)

6 November 2008

10 -10.30 Registration
10.30-11 Welcome address
11-11.45 Session 1 (Plenary: K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)
Stephen Muecke (Transforming Cultures Centre, University of Technology, Sydney), Travel Writing: Postcolonial Writing Strategies
Chair: Sukanta Chaudhuri
11.45-12 Tea
12-1:15 Session 2 (Plenary: K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)
Graham Shaw (British Library), The 'Other' Gazes Back
Supriya Chaudhuri (Jadavpur University), India Recognita: The Travels of Niccolo de' Conti
Chair: Sarbani Chaudhuri
1.15-2.15 Lunch
2.15-3.20 Session 3 (K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)
Andrew Elliott (Kyoto University) Shooting and Survival of the Fittest in Henry Craven's Saint John's Notes and Sketches from the Wild Coasts of Nipon
Dhrubajyoti Sarkar (Vidyasagar College, Nabadwip) A Jetsetter's Pilgrimage: Pico Iyer's Four Seasons in Kyoto
Chair: Abhijit Mukherjee
2.15-3.20 Session 4 (Anita Banerjee Memorial Hall)
Paromita Chakraborti (Jadavpur University), Madness and Mobility in the Early Modern Age
Sonia Sahoo (Jadavpur University), ‘Walking-Morts and Upright Men’: Reading Harman’s Caveat as Anti-Travel Literature 
Chair: Shantanu Biswas
3.20-3.40 Coffee
4-5.15 Session 5 (K.P Basu Memorial Hall)
Ahona Panda (Jadavpur University), A Journey to Africa: Exploring colonial identity in Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay's Chander Pahar
Bimbabati Sen and Suchismita Basu (Jadavpur University), Deshe Bideshe: The Musafir Syed Mujtaba Ali
Diganta Bhattacharya (Jadavpur University), Project Cook
Chair: Prodosh Bhattacharya
4-5.45 Session 6 (Anita Banerjee Memorial Hall)
Trina Nilina Banerjee (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta), Journeys of No Return: Exile and Travel in the Films of Ritwik Ghatak
Akshya Saxena and Vebhuti (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Unpacking 'Metro'-geneites: The Delhi Metro and the Daily Commuter
Avishek Ray (Jadavpur University), The Aporia in Representation and the Economy of Romanticization: Dichotomy in Vagabondage as Shown in Some Popular Films
Parichay Patra (Jadavpur University), Defining the Nation: Travelling through Nation
Chair: Madhuja Mukherjee

7 November 2008

10.30-11.40 Session 7 (Plenary: K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)
Sacchidananda Mohanty (University of Hyderabad), Travel, Hybridity and Counter-Memory: William Dalrymple's In Xanadu: A Quest
Radhika Seshan (Pune University), Of Fabled Lands and Fabulous Wealth: Travel Accounts from the 14th-18th Centuries
Chair: Malabika Sarkar
1140-12 Tea
12-1.15 Session 8 (K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)
Sukanya Dasgupta (Loreto College, Calcutta), An 'Englishman' in Seventeenth Century Russia: Guy Miege and the Writings of Identity
Rafat Ali (Jadavpur University), Crusade, Commerce and Co-existence with the Saracens in The Book of John Mandeville.
Chair: Supriya Chaudhuri
Session 9 (Anita Banerjee Memorial Hall)
Jeanine Diego Medina (Instituto De Estudios Críticos, Mexico City), Mysteries of Faith and the System
Nilanjana Deb (Jadavpur University), ‘Land as Shrine, Lakes as Scripture’: Travel as Spiritual Quest in Books and Visions in Ojibwe Country
Chair: TBA
1.15-2.15 Lunch
2.15-4 Session 10 (K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)
Arun Gupto (Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu), Tirtha Package and Trekking Baggage: Journey into Natural Spaces through Maoist Checkposts
Nandana Dutta (Gauhati University), Nineteenth Century Travel Culture and Ideas of Modernity: John Butler's Travels and Adventures in the Province of Assam
- Arnab Dasgupta and Vaibhav Parel (University of Delhi), Expanding the Frontier: Travel Writing and Knowledge Generation in Early-Colonial Assam
- Chair: Samantak Das
Session 11 (Anita Banerjee Memorial Hall)
Louise Harrington (School of Oriental and African Studies, London), Travelling without Moving: The Existence of Place in The Shadow Lines and A Golden Age
Samrat Sengupta (University of Kalyani), Until They Think Warm Days Will Never Cease: How Journey Supplants Diaspora in Sea of Poppies
Dhrubajyoti Banerjee (New Alipore College, Kolkata), Travelling Through a ‘World Which is Intrinsically Displaced’: Ghosh’s In an Antique Land
Chair: Shanta Datta
4-4.15 Tea
4.15-5.30 Session 12 (K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)
Sneha Kar-Chaudhuri (Jadavpur University) ‘Our History is Truly Broken’: Slave-ocracy and Caryl Phillips's Travel Text The Atlantic Sound
Ramit Samaddar (Jadavpur University), In an Antique Land: Amelia Edwards's A Thousand Miles up the Nile
Ayushman Chakraborty (Jadavpur University), Oriental Annuals: Travel, Culture and Politics
Chair: Sobha Chattopadhyay
4.15-5.30 Session 13 (Anita Banerjee Memorial Hall)
Abhishek Sarkar (Jadavpur University), Kemp's Nine Days' Wonder: Travelling Performance, Performing Travel
Subhadeep Paul (Jadavpur University), Not Tired Of Tyres: The Culture of Uncertainty and the Uncertainty Of Culture(s) In ‘Che’ Guevera’s The Motorcycle Diaries
Uttaran Dasgupta (Jadavpur University), Escape from ‘Civilization’: Travelling Through The Americas With Guevara And Kerouac
Chair: Rimi B. Chatterjee

8 November 2008

10.30-11.40 Session 14 (K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)
Catherine Watson (Travel Writer and Independent Scholar), ‘A Tale Told by a Stranger’: Examining the Bond Between Writer and Audience In Contemporary American Travel Writing
Alexis Tadie (University of Paris VII-Denis Diderot), Is a Theory of Travel Writing Possible?
Chair: Stephen Muecke
1140-12 Tea
Session 15 (K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)
Vishnupriya Sengupta (Independent Scholar), Out of Africa: V.S. Naipaul's Journeys Without Maps
Sreemati Mukherjee (Basanti Devi College, Calcutta), The Aesthetics of Otherness in V.S. Naipaul's India: A Million Mutinies Now
Chair: Nilanjana Deb
Session 16 (Anita Banerjee Memorial Hall)
Sudev Pratim Basu (Visva-Bharati University), ‘The Unholy Entente’: Race and White Hunting in British India
Sumita Banerjee (Loreto College, Calcutta), Hearing the Earth Speak: On the Green Trails of Women Wanderers
Chair: Sheila Lahiri-Choudhury
1.15-2.15 Lunch
2.15-4 Session 18 (K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)
Amrit Sen (Visva-Bharati University), The Travels of a Scientist: Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray and his Life and Experiences of a Bengali Chemist (1932)
Sipra Mukherjee (Bhairab Ganguly College, Calcutta), The Road Back: the 'Preaching' Tours of Rev. Lal Behari Day
Arpa Ghosh (Vivekananda College for Women, Calcutta), Sharatchandra and Kalkut (Samaresh Basu): Travel as a Mode of Fashioning Bengali Identity
Chair: Abhijit Gupta
Session 19 (Anita Banerjee Memorial Hall)
Sreenath Muraleedharan K (University of Hyderabad), Vartam?mapustakam
Abir Lal Mitra (Jadavpur University, Kolkata), A Precolonial Encounter with the Church of the East in India: The Topographia Christiana of Cosmas Indicopleustes
Nilanjan Das (Jadavpur University, Kolkata), Two Senses of ‘Tirtha’
Chair: Amlan Dasgupta
4- 4.15 : Tea
4.15-5.15 Session 20 (K.P. Basu Memorial Hall)
Wes Williams (St Edmund Hall, Oxford), Companions and Others: Cross-Cultural Connections in Early Modern Pilgrimage
Jayati Gupta (Presidency College, Calcutta), Aesthetics and Religiosity in Pilgrimage Texts
Chair: Sajni Mukherjee

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Arani and the Dinosaurs

[Bowing to public pressure, here is an unpublished, never-before-seen, one-off story from the Arani cycle. This was written for the third coming of the Jabberwocky--which never happened--by RBC, who now wants to disown the story, but finally gave reluctant permission for it to be posted here. As ever, apologies to Arani. And many, many thanks to Luv for keying the damn thing in.]

Arani and the Dinosaurs

It is noon. Not a breath of air stirs the lycopodia. The cycads are still. Equiseti wave gently to and fro in the languid air. Their movement is not atmospheric; it is impelled by a life-force: a brontosaurus stops scratching its neck on the rough stem to bite off one shaggy head the size of a diesel locomotive; the primordial swamp fills with noises of champing at which Emily Post would have squirmed. Luckily for her she is little more than a gleam in a cynodont’s eye: the precursors of Albert Einstein are scuttling about being cute and furry, while Tweety Pie’s forebears are slugging it out on the mudflats of a younger globe. Yet as through wizard windows Arani gazes on life as it was, he notes how wrong the savants were. These are no ponderous behemoths, big, stupid, loud-mouthed and pea-brained; they are highly sophisticated runners, walkers, and jumpers – and thinkers. And speakers. The spaces in their skulls that have long puzzled scientists are resonating chambers, far more efficient than the human voice, producing a deep hum reminiscent of Winston Churchill. Arani cannot doubt that with a little effort they will speak to him, “though”, he thought, “I do not think that they will sing to me.” He watches as the brontosaur lumbers off into the jungle, then conceives the sudden notion of calling it back.

Arani purses his lips to whistle, then realises suddenly that he is dreaming. Why else would he be engaged in the ridiculous manoeuvre of trying to summon a retreating brontosaurus to his side? He unpurses his lips and laughs ruefully. At which an Archaeopteryx perches just above his left shoulder pecks his ear, snaps “Shut that noise, I have a headache!” and flaps off irritably.

Aghast, Arani claps his handkerchief to his ear. Words fail him. Then a residue of his recent reading creeps into his mind. Chronoclasm! As John Wyndham pointed out, the fatal fallacy of the time warp. Arani realises he is in gravest danger. One false move and he could end up marrying his grandmother. Or even worse from the cosmic point of view – stepping on some obscure ancestor of the human race and finishing the whole species – pouf. One small step for man, the California Quickstep for mankind.

Trembling, Arani faces facts. He has been transported somewhere into the Jurassic. The question now is what is he to do about it? “I must be careful.” He mutters to himself. “I must do nothing to tangle the workings of the cosmos…”

”Sir,” says a deep voice as a huge claw taps him on the shoulder, “Kindly desist from profaning the Name.”

Arani whirls and is met by the sight of the ugliest face he has ever seen. The primordial forest swims before his eyes. Dimly he feels himself falling, then he is caught in a grasp like the wings of butterflies. Using its ten-inch-claw-loaded fingers as daintily as a Chinese Mandarin, the creature props him against a fern root and squats beside him.

“Listen, nonscaletwolegs,” it says kindly, “You must be one of the newly evolved species, or you’d know the rules, and you’d mention my favourite program with a little more respect.”

“P… Program?”

“You mean you don’t know about the voices in the sky?” Arani gapes. “The messages? The flashing lights? Ah,” the creature sadly shook its head, “How strange it must feel to have come brand new straight out of the melting pot of evolution. Tell me, is your species good to eat?”

“I’ve never eaten any,” says Arani sarcastically, “so I wouldn’t know.”

“Ah, what a pity. But since you’re here, I suppose I could find out in the interests of science. If you’ll just step this way…”

“I’m inedible!” Arani shrieks. “I’m not really here at all! I’m an illusion created by a warp in space-time. If you swallowed me you’d turn into a black hole! You’d have to go on swallowing the universe till there was nothing left. You’d…”

“How peculiar,” says the creature thoughtfully, “I never heard of a meal disrupting one’s strong and weak nuclear forces.”

“Whatever you do,” chokes Arani, sweating, “don’t eat me.”

“Not even if you were a stegosaurus,” agrees the other, picking his teeth. “In any case, you’re so puny you’re not even up to a light snack. I daresay your species won’t amount to much.”

“Not much!” yelps Arani. “In ten million years, mammals will be ruling the world!”

The creature bristles. “Fool! The race is immortal. Be certain, weakclawfleshpiece, that WE are the rulers of the universe. We have voices from the sky to guide us, of Saganosaur, Reaganosaur, Krushohevosaur…”

“Oh my God!” cries Arani in horror. “You’re getting all our TV programs reflected back through the gravity lens of Sirius’ twin singularity! This is disastrous! What on earth will the copyright lawyers say?”

“Blasphemy! Dare you suggest that they are not gods?”

Caution, caution, Arani thinks. Remember the Inquisition. “Look, dino, your only problem is ignorance of the world. You can fix…”

“Bronto-shit!” snaps the other. “That’s no way to talk to an eight million year old vertebrate species.”

“Well, then, surely you won’t object to a few questions, eh?”

“Over my dead eggcase.”

“It can’t hurt you. And you’ve no idea how it’ll clear your mind, once you’ve answered some. Besides, you can show off to your friends.”

“Hm.” Irritably the creature gnaws at a hangnail. “Ask away.” Sweating, Arani offers an incoherent appeal to the daemons of quizzing, tosses the question bag of his mind and pounces avidly on the first scrap so decanted: “What is parabiosis?”

“Prabby what?”

“Oh Lord. It’s when twins get desensitized to each other’s tissue…”

“What in the manic mudflats are you talking about?”

“… Before they’re born they’re…”

“Born? Hatch, you mean.”

“They don’t hatch, you twit. They come out fully formed from their mother’s body.”

Shocked silence. The creature’s eyes are wide, their triangular pupils pulsing spasmodically. In their coruscating depths is a look of the most profound horror Arani has ever been privileged to see.


“Why yes. They…”





“You have sullied the pristine purity of HOLIDY EGGHOOD. You will be JUDGED!”


“COME!” Helplessly Arani is flung through the air to land squarely on the creature’s back. “To the Saur Kraut!”

Arani clings to the leather surface, finding to his surprise that it is soft and supple, like suede, even though its softly glowing ridges look like they could take the skin off him in one rasp. The sky jerks as though he were riding a bouncing Ferris wheel; Arani’s head spins. Desperately he finds what he reasons to be the creature’s earhole and shouts “You stupid hidebound REPTILE! Just because you happen to be oviparous you needn’t disparage the validity of alternative forms of reproduction!”

“Stop breathing down my nose and shut up, creature! You will be judged!”

Arani gives up and resigns himself to watching the universe disappear down the throat of an irate dinosaur.

A sudden brilliant flash of colour distracts him and dazzles his eyes. A moment later he sees its source; a massive leg, the size of one of the pillars of Brooklyn Bridge, towering above him to support a body like a zeppelin and aglow with all the flashing iridescences of a multiprismatic rainbow. It rises high into the air and he winces as he sees the huge truck-sized shockpads on its sole, grey, carnuculated, and mudstained, bits of mashed fern as long as himself trapped in the crevices. The foot descends with a mighty crash some distance off: the creature has taken a step. It heaves itself onto one haunch, lifts the other foot and tucks it over its knee, to delicately pick out the debris with its forepaws; an expression of fastidious distaste in its purple bulging eyes.

He is aware that he has stopped. A high-pitched screech is emanating from his incensed bearer, apparently a testimonial of his mental state. He is answered with a massive boom, seeming to come straight from the stratosphere.
”What the crunching eggshells are you whining about now, Ssnorr? And what’s that piece of offal on your back? Put it down! You never know what you might catch from it.”

“O Great Kraut,” says Ssnorr, trembling. “It’s a little something that appeared in a puff of smoke a while back, and its been talking to me ever since. I… I think I’m going crazy. I could have sworn… it said… it said…”


“Ssnorr’s pupils are equilateral with wonder. “That it’s a Mammalosaur!”

“Bah! Humbug! They don’t exist. Even if they did it was in the remote past. The voices in the sky speak of their destruction in a holocaust. Was it the Waste Land..? Anyway, they lost all their guts and became Hollow Men.”

”But I swear this one’s alive! He’s haunting me. What’s that poem, how’s it go…? Macavosaur, Macavosaur, there’s no one like Macavosaur…”

”Pull yourself together Ssnorr, you are talking pteroshit.” Ssnorr throws himself flat on the ground, knocking Arani into the mud.

“O Great Kraut, save me! My hear aches, and a drowsy numbness pains…”

“Indigestion! Now bring that thing to me.”

Arani, somewhat dishevelled from the Saurian manhandling, is raised to his feet. All he can see of the Saur Kraut is four massive legs and a ponderous belly, covered with jet black scales each with a rim of brilliant red that sparkles in the sun, making each one look like a live coal. The scales ripple like fire with Saur Kraut’s every movement As he watches, a head like a house swoops down to inspect him out of bright black orange-centred eyes.

“Did you poke him in the belly, Ssnorr?”

“Ssnorr chokes. “I didn’t touch him,” he sobs. “They’re Born like that. Mammalsss! They come out… they come out…” He is unable to continue.

“Hurry up, I’m getting a neckache,” says the Kraut.


“Huh! Surely they hatch…?”

“Eugh! No.” says Arani.

Immediately a huge Krautian eye is thrust into his face, or rather he is thrust into the eye. “Mammal,” he snaps crisply. “Till further notice, pipe down and dry up.”

“He won’t, he won’t,” moans Ssnorr. “He’ll ask you questions that will warp your mind. He’ll…”

They eye comes uncomfortably close again. “What questions, mammal?”

“Oh… er… I’m sure they’ll be too… er… abstruse. I’ll just quietly…”

“Silence! You will do as you are told. I want to hear these questions. Ask them.”

“Er…” Arani’s brain squeaks desperately into high gear. “Which poem did Lewis Carroll spoof in:-

‘How doth the little crocodile

Improve his shining tail

And pour the waters of the Nile

On every golden scale!

‘How cheerfully he seems to grin

How neatly spreads his claws

And welcomes little fishes in

With gently smiling jaws!’?”

A few moments of reverent silence, then the Kraut’s cliff-like face splits into two. Arani jumps violently, then realises he is looking into gently smiling jaws.

“I like it,” says the Saur Kraut dreamily.

“But… don’t you want to hear the answer?”

“Anssswer?” the Kraut waves a claw dismissively. “I want to hear more questions.”

“Then let’s at least do it properly. If you want to quiz, you must have…”


“Quiz. That’s what it’s called.”

“What is called?”

“The art of answering what oft was asked but ne’er so well blind guessed.”

“Kwizzz, huh?” says the Kraut. “Kwizzz.”

“Hah!” snorts another behemoth, sitting on his haunches and setting his crest at a rakish angle. “What do quizzards use to stir their champagne?”

“Quizzle sticks! If you met something dark, shaggy and quizophiliac, what would you meet?”


“A quizzly bear! What…”


This galvanises them into action. In the next few days, led by the indefatigable Sinha, they rapidly learn the tricks of the trade. From his encyclopaedic memory they are supplied with funda. Their seer, a saur who claims he can hear the voices in the sky (though the Kraut scornfully and in private maintains that all he hears is FM radio waves) supplies them with more. Soon the quizzing circuit is established. We have the Olde Iguandons, the TNT Smears, the Klay Kicktis, the Sphagnum, the Neckniks, the Nicknacks and the Shameless Four. Ssnorr is in charge of the annual Ssnorrth Star Quiz as well as Argghus Plate and the Dinosaur’s International Open. In less than a year Sinha is a celebrity. He is a special guest of the Saur Kraut at all quiz dinners, though he finds dinosaur meat a little tough on the stomach and has sudden fits of longing for Gariahat rolls. All in all, to snitch a phrase from one of the seer’s poetry sessions, it was sporangiophores, sporangiophores all the way.

But Sinha is not peaceful in his mind. Though he is convinced to a religious plane of the sanctity of quizzing, he has a furtive, secret suspicion that the lizards are overdoing it. For some reason it hits the tall ones much harder than the short, which means the Saur Kraut gets it worst of all. He and his compatriots become more and more glassy-eyed as time goes by. They start going to the seedier quizzes – Blobelia, RA Mental, Saurian’s Hysteric Home, Cambrian Strife-Craving Society. The look of the fanatic overlays their scales: they are chasing the ten second barrier to knowledge of the universe. They are seeking that sole felicity and perfect bliss, the sweet fruition of a triple win. Their minds are spinning and contracting, lessening reaction times, speeding retrieval, striving always to the last goal, the transformation of consciousness into a transcendental bonus profit. And Arani is worried. He sees the Saur Kraut getting thin. He is worried about the lacklustre look of his scales, and the pronounced stoop in his spine is developing. He is suffering from CQS, or Cancerous Quiz Syndrome, a deadly disease of unbelievable virulence. It is characterised by hypertrophy of the mind at the expense of the body, leading to excessive strain on the spine, aggravated in the Saur Kraut’s case by inflamed sinuses brought on by listening to too much heavy metal. Ironic though this must seem, all pleasures are pain to the Kraut now that quizzing is his life, even eating and sleeping. He is trapped in a ratchet-like progression of hubris.

Arani is puzzled. To a certain extent, he believes that symptoms like these are the inevitable price of quizzing and must be paid by the serious devotee, but… there is a limit to everything, even for Arani. He resolves to have a talk with the Kraut.

He is shocked when, granted the audience, he is finally face to face with the King of Saurs (he has to climb an equisetum to do this). The Kraut’s brilliant red piping is dark and dull like dried blood. There are hollows above his temples, and his breathing rasps. Arani notices that one of his teeth is broken, which happened while trying to pronounce floccinaucinihilipilification in a quiz. The Kraut regards him with soulful eyes.

“Ah, little human, is it true that power corrupts?”

“Yes… but… there are many types of power. Not all of them are… evil.”

The Kraut snorts. “That’s what my hearer-of-voices says. But its typical of him that when faced with a crisis he goes up and down like a seer saur. Besides, he’s gone to Saureto House for the Shield. A year ago all the young bloods used to fight for a chance to go. But not any more. Lost interest in the Archaeopteryxes and the Pterodactyls, they have. All they think about is quizzing…” he is seized with a hacking cough.

“But… Darwinism will make you die out if you don’t stop quizzing and start living.”

The Kraut’s eyes blaze. “When we have the ultimate answers, we shall be gods! Nothing will stop us then. Knowledge is power, said Hobbesosaur. We will prove it here, now. Do you understand, human? We will control the universe. We will no longer stand by and let it control us. We will show the impossibilities we have struggled with the Old Harvey Smith. We will make history. We will…”

“Dammit!” shouts Arani. “You’re dying!”

“Nuts,” mutters the Kraut. “I’m just sick and tired of the stupid cloacae in my team. They missed a sitter yesterday. What was the relation between Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones. I ask you.”

“You won’t listen, will you?”

“Mammalosaur, I intend to go out in a blaze of glory, if I’m going anywhere at all. Continuation of the species? What a bore. Why should I spend my life hunting just to hatch eggs? There are more things in heaven and earth, human. If I could but have 24 years of perfect knowledge…”

“But quizzing isn’t everything.”

“It’s a bloody great deal.”

Arani sighs. There is nothing more stubborn than a psychotic quizzard, dinosaur or otherwise. He opens his mouth to speak again, but closes it as the Kraut’s orange pupils contract, sure sign that his patience is fraying. Sadly Sinha climbs down from the equisetum.

It was a week later when he heard the news. Six dinosaurs had died of heart failure at the Aesdroolapia Quiz. Apparently they had all tried to answer the same question at once, among them were to of Kraut’s teammates. Arani rushed to Kraut’s glade.

Kraut, squinting painfully, was reading a book on fashions through the ages. He looked up as Arani climbs his equisetum.

“Ah, there you are. Damned awkward. I have to learn all Ssnorr’s stuff along with my own.”

“You mean Ssnorr’s dead?”

“Nah. He’s gone to a funeral service. Says he won’t quiz anymore. That’s what they all say,” he chuckles. “But they come back. They can’t get the power out of their systems. Don’t look shocked, Sinha. I’m not sorry for those six quizzosaurs. They died with their boots on and their hands on the buzzer. Though I must admit this is the twelfth mass extinction this month. Things are getting a bit thick.”

“Kraut, save yourself. Leave quizzing!”

“And do what? Admire the sunset? Go back to mudstomping? Gorge on thenodonts? Plant spores and watch my garden grow? Pastoral pleasures are too bland for the likes of us now. We want the higher heights.”

“It’s overheating your blood.”

“Kraut! Kraut!” screams a panic-stricken voice. Only in direst emergencies were dinosaurs allowed to drop the honorific. “Oh Ssnorr, Got the willies again?”

“Kraut! You won’t believe it! Sskritch was reading a book on Zen Buddhism when suddenly he started to laugh! There was nothing I could do. And no sooner had he stopped twitching than the others started. They’re going mad! What do we do?”

“Er… give them a holiday, will you? I guess they’re overstrained.”

“Too late, Kraut,” says Sinha. “This is the terminal stage of CQS. Hysteric high-pitched laughter, followed by coma and death. Your time is up. This is the final round.”

Ssnorr turns purple and falls flat on his face.

“Requiescat in pace,” says Kraut, and yawns. “Well Sinha, I guess this is goodbye. It’s been fun. I wouldn’t have missed it for a thousand aeons, and neither would they. We find little to laugh about here. It’s nice to die laughing. Makes it all worthwhile. Ahhh!” He sinks to his knees, and emits a satisfied giggle. “It’s starting,” he says complacently. “Tickle me, Sinha.”

Arani eyes him warily. “If you fall on me and I die, you’ll turn into a black hole and…”

“Hee Hee! Tell me another.”

“Look, Kraut…”

“No. Tell me that bit of poem. You know, ‘Those who have crossed…’”

“’…with direct eyes…’ That one?”

“Yes, yes.”

“’Those who have crossed

With direct eyes to death’s other kingdom

Remember us – if at all – not as lost

Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men,

The stuffed men.’”

“Yesss, yes… ‘Eyes I dare not meet in dreams. In death’s dream kingdom…’ But how does it start? ‘We are the…’ Say it.”

Sinha swallows. Though he hates to admit it, he is very sentimental. In a trembling voice, he quotes:

“’We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece stuffed with straw. Alas!

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rat’s feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar.

Shape without form, shade without colour

Paralysed force, gesture without motion…’”

* * *

Arani opens his eyes as the voices slip softly from his ear, feeling the lightness drain away from him, mass returning to his body. Slowly, with infinite pain as though the world were remaking itself, he focuses on the familiar whitewashed wall, with its so-well-known posters. He realises he is looking at one of them, a big blowup from the Smithsonian Institute. It shows one of their exhibits, done in the drab colours that are all that human artists will grant to the kings of the ancient jungles, its proud neck swooping into the galleries, its feet huge, yet flaccid without the ripple of muscle, its triangular head poised gracefully, its beady eyes, glittering brilliantly, uncannily, lifelessly, betraying that it is…


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gone to the dogs

Recently there has been a lot of opposition against the presence of dogs in the department. For those who believe that dogs are not allowed on campus in eminent universities please take a look at the documents (i'll send you the links if you want me to) now gracing the Blabberboard (JUDE corridor) and the comments spawned by the said yellowing sheets of paper. As i said, the departmental/university dogs are not pets--they are strays. The only way to stop them rummaging in the bins for food is to control their ever increasing population. This post is to inform you that thanks to the enterprising UG2 students, we are probably soon gonna have all dogs spayed /neutered and vaccinated. I will personally vaccinate PMD this Thursday (he has been de-wormed last week). Please let's not divide the department into camps of pro and against. All that is asked for is a little patience (since we have undertaken to pay for said sterilization and vaccination of the dogs). Thank you.

Madhura, PG II


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Quiizing in JU

I wrote this article a couple of years ago for a Washington webzine run by JU alums and though it might amuse a few old-timeres. Or not. Whatever.

I joined JU as an undergraduate student exactly 20 years ago, in 1986. By then, I was already a seasoned quizzard, having first cut my teeth in the Chuchura-Chandannagar circuit and then as a member of the St Lawrence school team during the Higher Secondary years. As a school team we did not fare very well in the festival circuit but all that was to change dramatically at university.

One of the first quizzing events I remember from university was the freshers’ quiz, organized by the Arts Faculty Students’ Union. I teamed up with Saurav Sen from the history department and we won with ridiculous ease. Saurav Sen was then easily the most formidable database of recondite information on both sides of the jheel. At IIT Kharagpur’s Spring Fest the following year, he reduced keen engineers to tears by describing the workings of the Wankel Rotary Engine in merciless detail, and by his perorations on the push-pull amplifier.

Like India and Pakistan at cricket, there were then two great quizzing nations in the university, the Arts-Science and the Engineering. While Arts-Science were dominated by English, Economics and Mathematics, Engineering drew its strength from Electrical, Electronics and Mechanical. In those early years of jheel-side rivalry, the Arts-Science faction would pour scorn on the engineers for being of the ‘rock handbook’ school of quizzing—implying that their of knowledge of western music was derived not from hours of dedicated listening but from handbooks and encyclopedia. The engineers did not take this lying down and jeered the Arts-Science camp for knowing next to nothing about sports. In the fullness of time, these rivalries would be forgotten as friendships flourished across the great divide and the two camps united in the common goal of preventing the SFI from taking over the Debating Society and Quiz Forum (DSQF).

The DSQF—then as now—was the official face of quizzing in the campus. Quizzing comprised 100 % and debating approximately 0 % of its activities. Arup Ghosh (currently head honcho at ITC) of the English department ran it like a mafia boss, and we merrily stringed along. One of its yearly events was the Ranajoy Karlekar Memorial Inter-Departmental Quiz, usually held on the basketball court. There was a shield for the event, though no one now knows where it is. (For those of a post-Eighties vintage, Ranajoy Karlekar of the English department was one of the most legendary teachers of his generation and died prematurely in 1985).

But the most intense rivalry was reserved for the college festival quizzes, where there were cash prizes to be won. I still remember winning the princely sum of Rs 151 at one such quiz and the subsequent immortal comment made by teammate Vinay Rao (Math): ‘Ah, a square meal at last’. The math team was probably the strongest in the university, with Vinay being partnered by basketball-team captain Joy Bhattacharya and ancient mariner Debkumar Mitra, aka Debuda. Joy and Debu-da were probably the first quizzards ever to make a career in quizzing post-university—Joy, particularly, during his ESPN years. Debuda on the other hand was widely rumoured to have being around since the Flood and we would probably not have been surprised if the university vice-chancellor also chose to call him Debuda.

But I digress. College quizzes soon became as predictable as Left Front victories in West Bengal, as JU swept first, second and third places in most of them. Alarmed, fest organizers said that they would allow only two teams from JU to participate. Armageddon ensued: which were the two best teams in the university? To ascertain this, a dark and barbaric ritual known as ‘seeding quiz’ [more popularly known as bi(n)chi quiz] was instituted. Every Friday, the tribe would gather at the now-demolished Gandhi Bhaban (yes, you read right, GB has been torn down to make way for a modern auditorium) and one of the competing teams would act as the quizmasters. A complicated percentile system was devised to keep scores which no one other than the mathematicians understood. Quizzes went on for 10, 20, 30 rounds and till late evening, with an audience of one scorer, one timekeeper and somebody’s bored girlfriend (quizzing was then, alas, a ruthlessly male bastion). Some of the most difficult questions in the history of humankind were asked at these quizzes, as teams sought to undo each other in esoterica.

The seeding quizzes also saw the birth of two of the brightest stars of the Engineering faculty, Aniruddha Bhattacharya and Amitava Banerjee (currently a colleague in the Electronics department). Their knowledge of Hindi film funda—and particularly film music—was frightening: I still believe that there is nothing that they did not know about the Bombay film industry. But as far as star billing went, it was Arani Sinha of Electrical who shone the brightest (Arani, if you are reading this, please forgive me once more). He was the most talismanic of engineering quizzards, taking slow boats to Shibpur if necessary to reach a quiz on time. Along with his trusty comrade Kalidas Ghosh of Mechanical (currently a hotshot banker with Citibank), Arani went forth to give battle wherever there was a whiff of quizzing in the air. Such mundane matters as floods, insurrections and fall of governments completely failed to deter his quest for the final answer to the life, the universe and everything.

It was not inappropriate, therefore, that the only novel ever to be begun on quizzing was called Arani Quizzed. Four chapters of this incomplete novel were co-written by yours truly and Rimi Chatterjee (novelist, English teacher at JU) in the summer of 1990. The first chapter was ‘published’ (photocopied and sold to quizzards) on the first day of AGON, the fest of Calcutta National Medical College. Three more chapters were inflicted upon an unsuspecting world before Arani got wise to what was happening (he had by then shifted to ISI) and threatened the authors with dire consequences if they did not stop writing novels about him. For those interested, the first chapter may be found at

Roundabout this time, quizzards made common cause to prevent the SFI from taking over the DSQF, which was about the only club in the campus it did not control. This was attempted by the very simple expedient of enrolling a large number of students (who were innocent of any quiz-ly act in all their lives) and voting a new committee in. One morning at nine, we (Kalidas Ghosh, Rajsekhar Mitra and I) met the vice-chancellor and requested him to intervene. This he did and the crisis was averted for the nonce. However, there was nothing we could do when similar tactics were employed by the SFI the following year. In fairness, it must also be said that we ran DSQF like a para club and did little to increase membership rolls.

By 1991, most of the students of my generation were on their way out and a brave new breed set their sights on the open quizzing circuit. Names like Rathindra Basu (Electrical) and Jaideep Mukherjee (International Relations) began to do the rounds; happily, a number of women quizzards from the English Department began to challenge the male hegemony. The early 90s also saw a brief period of what can only be described as militant trade unionism on part of university quizzards. There were repeated boycotts of festival quizzes to protest organizational high-handedness, or incompetent quizmasters. Parallel quizzes would be held at the festival venue at very short notice, and the actual event would have to be cancelled by the organizers. The first of these ‘rebel’ quizzes were held at Xavotsab, followed by Dental College, Presidency College and JU itself—in the latter case to protest the quiz mastership of Krishnendu Banik at the Arts Sanskriti.

Twenty years on, the DSQF still exists and a new bunch of enthusiasts—mercifully unmolested by any political outfit—runs the club from the first floor of the Amenities Centre. I do not know whether they write novels about themselves or hatch plans of world domination in their little room. But sometimes, when I walk across the campus at dusk, with the sun setting over Bengal Lamp, I can see a light burning on the first floor of the AC Canteen. And I like to imagine that they are engaged in some completely useless research about the name of Attila the Hun’s pet dog or Bill Clinton’s brand of cigar, a comforting thought in a world which has little time for the irrelevant, the unproductive and the downright silly.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

exploring masculinities
ju, 27 and 28 march 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

dead white males
by david williamson,
that was on 14 march 2008

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Pune based website looking for Editor cum Communications Manager

Starting pay would be anywhere between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 25,000 for the right person.

1. What do we do?

We are developing a fantasy betting portal ( where users can bet on Sports, Entertainment, (and soon) Current Affairs and Business events using virtual currency.
Along with the game the portal will also have typical social networking features (like Orkut) built around the game.
Users can also play the game in private / public groups on events of their choice e.g. you just want to play with your circle of friends and only on cricket.

2. Who are we? - Management Team at MindHive Labs

• Rajesh Kallidumbil, Co-Founder - A Computer Science engineer from Cochin University, Rajesh has worked in the IT services industry for 3 years between Covansys and Kanbay before doing his MBA from IIM Lucknow (2006). Post-MBA, he was working as a trader with ICICI Bank's Treasury Dept. in London. Currently, he is responsible for managing the Technical Development and Finances at MindHive Labs.

• Siddhartha Saha, Co-Founder - Siddhartha is an Electronics and Telecomm Engineer from PICT, Pune University. He worked for a year and a half with Kanbay before going for his MBA to IIM Calcutta (2006). He has also attended a term at Copenhagen Business School where he studied International Entrepreneuship. He was working as a management consultant with Feedback Ventures' Infrastructure Advisory Division after his MBA. Currently, he is in charge of Marketing and Business Development at MindHive Labs.

• Hariharan K, Co-Founder - Hari is a Mechanical Engineer from R.E.C. Suratkal and was working with IBM for three years before doing MBA from IIM Calcutta (2006). Post-MBA, he was working as an Equity Research Analyst with Irrevna prior to joining MindHive Labs. Hari, is an active sports
enthusiast and was the Sports Secretary in the Student's Council at IIM Calcutta. He is responsible for Product Management at MindHive Labs

• Sunil Jain (Design and Architecture Consultant) - Sunil hold’s a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science & Engineering from IIT Kanpur, with 8+ years of experience in developing Enterprise Software. He has been involved in all stages of software development lifecycle, from requirement analysis to customer support. He has worked with cross-geographical teams, and handled
multiple projects simultaneously. He is advising us on technical design and architecture issues.

• Prashant Gupta, Independant Advisor - Prashant is working as a Principal Product Manager with Microsoft India. Prior to joining Microsoft Prashant was a Vice President with Sequoia Capital India. Before Sequoia, Prashant worked extensively in the field of software product development at Microsoft Corporation and i2 Technologies. His area of expertise is Business Solutions including Transaction Management, Supply Chain Management and CRM applications. Prior to i2, Prashant worked at McKinsey & Co. advising clients in the areas of strategy, operations management and performance improvement in airline and banking industries. Prashant received an MBA from IIM Calcutta where he was awarded the President's Gold Medal. He also holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from IIT Kanpur where he was awarded a Special Award for Academic Excellence.

3. Where are we located?

We are based out Pune. Currently we are working out of an apartment close to Kalyaninagar.
Exact Address: MindHive Labs Solution Pvt. Ltd.
9 / F-9, Hermes Heritage Phase 2
Shastrinagar, Yerawada
Pune – 411006
Contact No: 020-26690448
Email id: /

4. What are we looking for? - The job profile

Looking for an Editor-cum-communications manager who can catch the pulse of the nation and come up with interesting and popular / controversial bets for our users to speculate on. He/she should be in tune with what makes the nation tick. The idea is to constantly come up with bets that would attract people’s attention.
The person would also be a part of our marketing team and would help in preparing our marketing communication and come up with creative ideas.

More specifically the job would include -
• Taking strategic editorial policy decisions – i.e. decide on what kind of events we should cover and what not; what kind of bets to have.
• Generating interesting bets, monitoring them, and settling the bets – we have a backend system for this, you just need to do the job!
• Preparing all our key marketing communications – mailers, posters, content on the site, any kind of creative; viral communication etc.

We would not
• bind you by processes
• promote you every 2 years
• send you to class for trainings
• give you a fancy designation
• provide cab for pick and drop

You can expect
• quality work
• respect for your ideas & creative freedom
• responsibility and accountability
• wearing 'multiple hats'
• your contributions reflecting in company's progress
• high rewards and shared ownership of company through stock options

Monday, February 04, 2008

[using a differently named account, having run out of space on my own.]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

first show. good fun.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Proof

Good Theatre for Good Cause:

The Red Curtain presents
in aid of Operation Smile
Gyan Manch. Sunday 27 Jan, 7 PM.
Be there. Change a smile, Change a life.

US-based Operation Smile is in Kolkata now, operating on poor kids with facial deformaties; all proceeds from tickets go to helping these kids.

Spread the word please.

Tickets are priced Rs. 50 up.

Saturday, January 19, 2008