Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Pocha ojha rises like a phoenix from the ashes

Topo Singha

Ojha Brajakumar Sinha, fondly called as Pocha Ojha by his fans, rose like a phoenix from the ashes. The credit goes to Jolly Productions that made its maiden appearance at Shilpgram, Guwahati on April 26, 2014 when an audio and two video CDs on the performances of the late singer were released.

The audio CD, a cultural showdown (fangna) between Pocha Ojha and Ojha Chandramohan Sinha, was released by nonagenarian Srimati Githanak Devi, mother of the man behind Jolly Productions, SP Pratap Sinha. The ceremony was quite simple yet redolent of the profound love and respect to a mother whose tender love and care are too important to be without for the all-round development of a child. While the video CD, Manshiksha, was released by none other than Srimati Pramila Sinha, widow of Pocha Ojha, the other video CD, Gosthalila, was released by public prosecutor Bhimsen Sinha. The function on the release of the three CDs and the discussion on rasakirtan were presided over by Dr. Sushil Sinha, Gauhati Univerity.

As spelt out by Pratap Sinha in his welcome address on behalf of Jolly Productions, the extravaganza had twin goals of capturing the live performances of the great singer and making them available for the posterity, and holding a socio-cultural get-together in the New Year. “The lack of professional touch is glaring in this endeavour as commercial success wasn’t the motive behind. Out of sheer love for our culture and the live performances of Pocha Ojha, number 1 rasakirtan singer in Bishnupriya Manapuri, I had to capture the performances in the film of camera. A babble of voices as usual in our mandaps smacks of rawness in the endeavour.” Making such a statement, the SP wanted to bring home that if documentation and mapping memory have anything to go by the expensive and arduous work is worth every penny.

Getting the discussion into gear, advocate Bhimsen Sinha gave a detailed account on various genres of Bishnupriya Manipuri culture – right from arati in Durga Puja to Naukabilas by Bidhumukhi. He showered praise on Prabhas Kanti Sinha of LL Productions and his sibling Pratap Sinha of nascent Jolly Productions for their endeavour towards the development and preservation of Bishnupriya Manipuri culture. “Over the past four decades Bishnupriya Manipuri modern songs did make great strides. All-time great numbers like ‘punya tirtha Manipur mati, ima tor banapani hujanir sale, satgo tengarai bereya those hunar Manipur’ and the like with notations of most of them given by Pundit Motilal Sinha have been reverberating in our community in the melodious voice of Beli, Usharani and others. All these songs and their tunes, if tapped properly, could be great stuff in Mumbai (Bollywood),” he said, and added that despite ‘our’ difference on diction with Dr. KP Sinha, he did agree that Dr. Sinha’s songs with notation given by Pundit Motilal Sinha had scaled a height.

Dr. Nalini Sinha said that most of the genres of the Bishnupriya Manipuri culture had Gostholila in their own ways. According to him, first Bishnupriya Manipuri padkirtani Late Tanu Singha of Mashughat had a distinct gostholila. The kirtani, however, Dr. Sinha said, never performed gostholila because of the timing of his performances. It deserves a special mention that padkirtans are usually performed in the afternoon or evening by the Bishnupriya Manipuris. Dr. Sinha’s deliberation on rasakirtan was excellent.

Reminding the audience of an audio CD from KS Films comprising songs of Pocha Ojha, BMDC Chairman Kartik Sena Sinha showered praise on Jolly Productions for its endeavour. He said that the BMDC had many a project in mind – a Bishnupriya Manipuri museum near the Mundamala in Patharkandi, a Bishnupriya Manipuri Bhavan in Guwahati, and others. “In the recent meeting between All India Congress Committee (AICC) leader Rahul Gandhi and the chairpersons of the development councils in Assam, I have submitted schemes worth Rs 760 crore. The schemes have already been sent to the ministries concerned that have sent them back to Dispur,” he said, and added: “Quota in MBBS and Engineering is a must for our students. We have a lot to do, and to make that happen we need to come closer and know each other better.”

Cine star Rabi Sinha showered praise on LL Productions and Jolly Productions that came out from the same family for their endeavour to develop and preserve Bishnupriya Manipuri traditional and modern songs. He, however, rued the dismal CD and book marketing scenario in the community. “Even if the cost of production could be collected as returns this industry can survive. The ground reality is dismal. Those who are in the job have to bear the brunt of loss. It’s their sheer interest for the development of our culture that makes them spend their hared-earned money,” he rued.

Overwhelmed at the project, Bishnupriya Manipuri Writers’ Forum (BMWF) president DILS Lakshmindra Sinha said: “We all respect Gokulananda Gitiswami for what he did for the community. Ojha Brajakumar is next to Gitiswami. A 17-year-old Brajakumar used to walk in streets in 1954 in Kehurgaon singing Bishnuriya Manipuri songs with a monochord (ektara) in hand. Thoroughly mesmerized at the songs and love of the youth for his language and culture, Ukil Kamini Mohan Sinha had to reward him with a hefty amount.”
A nostalgic DILS Sinha further said: “The vaishnavite literary works of Pocha Ojha are yet to be evaluated…Ojha Bijoy, one of the Manipur-return ojhas at that time, initiated Brajakumar as an esulpa at a tender age. Ojha Bijoy was the first to spot the talent latent in Brajakumar. The renowned ojha gave everything he had acquired on kirtanango while in Manipur to Brajakumar. While breathing his last, Ojha Bijoy landed his feet on the chest of Brajakumar, a rare achievement for a disciple, depriving others like Ojha Kalasena Rajkumar, Ojha Gopichand, Ojha Krishnadhan, Ojha Hari Narayan and others of the extreme mercy.”

According to DILS Sinha, Ojha Brokumar could successfully added a special style in the vaishnab bandana (prayer to vaishnabs), and that the current trend of vaishnab bandana has much to do with Ojha Brajakumar. “In 1967, the management of Fagu, a little magazine that contributed a lot towards the development of Bishnupriya Manipuri language and literature, held a showdown (fangna) of esulpas singing in Bishnupriya Manipuri. Ojha Brajakumar was adjudged the first in the competition,” he said, and added: “His was a cultural movement. The effect of the movement was so much so that a section of youth had to skip cinema to enjoy the performances of Pocha Ojha.”

Prasenjit Sinha, guardian (eldest brother) of Pratap Sinha, said: “Our father, late Prafulla Kumar Sinha, was a culture vulture. He was interested both in rasakirtan songs and literature. My two siblings – Prabhas and Pratap – were inclined to baba in accordance with their respective choices. Pratap was a back-up singer (kholpangpa) of baba. The outcome is that while the former does a great deal of literary works, the latter does a lot for the development and preservation of our rasakirtan songs. The CDs released today are for the posterity.

This part of the programme ended with the thanks giving by Pratap Sinha and a speech by the president.
It was followed by a cultural programme that began with a remarkable vaishnab bandana by Pradip Mukharjee. He was followed by Devyani Sinha whose deep timbre spoke of her vocal power and melody. She sang a number of Pocha ojha in which Srimati Radhika is a nayika in utkontha.
DILS LK Sinha and party sang two numbers, both of Pocha Ojha. Niranjan-Jontu jugalbandi scaled a new height of the day. Sorojini Sinha also sang a number of the late singer. The cultural nite got a befitting conclusion with Pratap Sinha of Jolly Productions singing a number of songs that led the audience break into rapturous applause.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Delhi Election Day: My first voting experience

By RK Rishikesh Sinha
Today Delhi (April 10) went to vote for the 7 Lok Sabha seats. And I am one among millions whose names have appeared first time in the electoral roll. Of course the day is important for me — it was my first voting experience.  Like anything ‘first’, it has its own sweet and sour ingredients to the whole story.

Fail in Duty

I got my Voter ID card in 2013 along with my father, mother, sister, and my youngest brother. But this time when I submitted an application online for my wife and my younger brother, they were not provided with Voter ID cards. Reason cited, according to the official website — address not found. The day when I got the call from the BLO about the application for my wife’s Voter ID card, I was outside. So, couldn’t meet the BLO. That’s fine. I thought let’s see the fate of my brother’s application. This time, neither any call nor any visit had been done. However, it met the same fate — address not found. So, two people of my family were out of the whole process. They failed to cast their votes.

Election Publicity

In the name of publicity, I found it was not aggressive on ground. Nonetheless, it was done electronically. From many modes that the parties have employed to catch people’s attention, the one that stole mine was phone calls and SMS from the BJP. In the market, people were buzzing about parties, candidates, and analysis. Not to talk about the AAP. There were no sign of shorbaazi. From the first impression of publicity upon me to the pressing of the button at the polling station, the whole process that motivated me seems to be what Google says “Zero Moment of Truth”, a marketing concept. The magic really worked upon me. From the first encounter to the last moment of act, I was around with BJP.


April 10, I along with my parents went to the polling station at afternoon. The shops were closed, there were less vehicles plying on the road. The whole environment gave a different impression. People around the polling station were of helping nature. There were few people at the station. Soon my parents cast their votes. They were not issued the EPIC Card. Despite it, with Aadhar Card as supporting document, they without any hassle did their duty. My father was serious with the whole affair. For him, it was more than anything. 

When I asked for the confirmation from the officials to know my Part No., and Serial No., I was told that my polling station is at another nearby school. I made up my mind to skip it, but my father showed interest so that I can cast my vote. We went to my polling station which was quiet far away. After reaching there, we found, my polling station was where my parents had already cast their vote. Back to square one! We went again and found the same piece of information for which I was made to walk. At last, I cast my vote and the ink mark of my first voting experience remained with me.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Back to the future

Children Corner
- Ritwick Sinha, 
Don Bosco Sr. Sec. School, Guwahati. 

Year 3100 AD. India has completely changed from what it was some thousand years ago. I was in a place called Axemland, which I think was probably known as Assam long ago. I am not sure, as I had just reached this place with the help of a time machine. I was new to this place. I was one of the very few ‘complete humans’ here. All the others were a mix of humans and robots and called themselves ‘Robohumans'. They had prosthetic limbs. Their brains were more developed than the normal human brain. This combining of humans with robots could turn out to be the end of human life on earth. Then, as I walked down the road, I was stunned to see a skyline where each skyscraper was more than 2,000 metres tall. I also saw some flying cars, which the Robohumans called the ‘carocopters', and then I saw some passenger vehicles – all of which could fly! I also had a view of the ‘warp drive', a spacecraft which could travel faster than light. There was no television, only teletablets through which one could see all the channels and could carry them anywhere one wanted to. There was not a single desktop computer anywhere. All the computers were portable. There were no schools. All the exams were held online. The results were also declared on the internet. I was shocked, as I had never imagined that technology could reach such heights. Sometime later, I was surprised to see some ‘Robocops' riding on their superbikes at a very high speed. I asked a Robocop, who was guarding a bank, why those Robocops were riding their superbikes at such a high speed. He told me that they were chasing an invisible robber who had robbed a bank. He also told me that only the Robocops could see the invisible robber, as their eyes were specially designed for the purpose with a red-coloured cell. The invisible robber reminded me of the story of The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. Suddenly, a beam of light struck my eyes and I woke up from deep slumber and realised that it was only a dream. I hope that this dream comes true – only in the technology aspect and not in the extinction of human life on this planet. I also hope that people understand the importance of schools and continue the pursuit of education. 

Published in the Planet Young, The Assam Tribune on 10.04.2014

Another Smriti story in Indian Literature

Topo Singha
Bishnupriya Manipuri short story writer Prof. Smriti Kumar Sinha penetrated the Eighth Schedule roadblock on the road to Indian Literature yet again. ‘God for a Night’, English rendering of his ‘Rati ahanor Bhogoban’, was published in the January/February 2014 279 issue of prestigious Indian Literature, Sahitya Akademi’s Bi-Monthly Journal. The story in question was translated into English by journalist Ramlal Sinha.
Indian Literature, as Sahitya Akademi claims, is India’s oldest and only journal of its kind featuring translations in English of poetry, fiction, drama and criticism from twenty-three Indian languages besides original writing in English. Offering a feast of literature, Sahitya Akademi further claims, Indian Literature is also highly valued as a source of reference in India and abroad and is a must for libraries and for discriminating readers, researchers and students of creative and critical literature.

‘God for a Night’ is one among the five short stories, one each from five different languages, published in this issue of Indian Literature. This Bishnupriya Manipuri story appeared in Indian Literature on the same footing as that of Urdu poet Gulzar, M. T. Vasudevan Nair and the likes of them.
This is not the first instance of Prof. Sinha winning laurels for his creative writing. In fact, he is the first and only (so far) Bishnupriya Manipuri writer to have got a rendering of his creative writings published in Indian Literature. The May/June 2011 263 issue of Indian Literature had published an English rendering of his short story, ‘Mora Ghator Mas’ (‘Fish of a Dead River’). The story was translated into English by Subhajit Bhadra. ‘Mora Ghator Mas’ is the first Bishnupriya Manipuri story to have been published in Indian Literature. An immediate effect of this story is such that writer (Dr.) Prabhakar Nimbargi translated two stories of Prof. Sinha – ‘Mora Ghator Mas’ and ‘Pata anahor Mohabharat’ – into Kannada and published them in the literary section of the Prajavani, a sister concern of Deccan Herald. A collection of short stories of Prof. Sinha translated into Cannada by Dr. Nimbargi is in the pipeline.
Prof. Sinha is not the only Bishnupriya Manipuri writer to have been able to publish his works in any journal of Sahitya Akademi. Two poems of Bishnupriya Manipuri Writers’ Forum president DILS Lakshmindra Sinha, translated into Hindi by writer Kishore Kumar Jain, were also published in the November, 2013 issue of Somokaleen Bharatiya Sahitya, also a bi-monthly journal (Hindi) of Sahitya Akademi. With this, DILS Sinha became the first Bishnupriya Manipuri writer to have got Hindi renderings of Bishnupriya Manipuri poems published in Sahitya Akademi’s Somokaleen Bharatiya Sahitya.
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