Jun 22, 2012

Music Education in India

In recent years, there has been a heightened awareness and interest taken in the music industry. For those who believe that being 'in the industry' means being a performer or a sound engineer, they are blissfully unaware. The industry opens up a plethora of career opportunities ranging from being an artist/band manager to a music journalist; from a songwriter and composer to a music therapist! The scope is vast and there is no dearth of career possibilities, with even unheard of professions like musicologists to be taken up.

In India, especially, the music scene has considerably changed its face over the last decade. The well known bands are no longer only Kolkata's Cactus or Delhi's Indian Ocean, a few among the entrepreneurs in the independent music scene in the country. "Younger people are finally willing to take the plunge and try out other stuff with their lives," says Amit Kilam, the drummer of Indian Ocean. "The avenues have opened up like never before and the Indian youth is willing to leave the tried and tested behind and find a newer type of living."

Today, people still appreciate the music of the bands and artists that have been around for a while. But the list of new kids on the block is too long to start naming. With the social media revolution and the emergence of MySpace, Facebook Pages, Twitter, and other phenomena, the platform for upcoming artists who need an audience comes readymade.

The youth culture has also changed, and while struggling to strike that perfect balance between career and education, they choose to follow their passions and let the rest figure itself out. "I've decided to go all out and try to be a performing artist full time," says Tejas Menon, a young Pune-based singer-songwriter. "If that doesnt work out, I just want to be involved with music-whether it is working in radio or events. Just being a part of that community will be satisfying enough for me. Academically, I have finished my Bachelors in Economics, and next is a Post Graduation in Media." Contrary to public belief, a musician does not forget the value of a degree and Tejas is one such example of that!

Varun Murali, the guitarist of Bangalore-based folk rock band, Swarathma adds "I started playing guitar when I was studying my Pre-University and everything that mattered to me was living my dream and making things work rather than worrying about the downside of it. No matter what, follow your dreams and don't let go of it." Who said music is all about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll?

(This article remained unpublished during my internship with Indian Express, Kolkata in May, 2011.)

The local Aam-dani of Kolkata

After the bumper harvest of mangoes in 2010, the market prediction in Kolkata for the mango crop this year does not indicate a bounty again, suggesting a yield of only 1.75-2 lakh tonnes.

In 2009, the produce was as low as 1 lakh tonnes because of flooding due to bad weather, but was replaced by 2010's 2.75 lakh tonnes yield. The number of mango sellers at the Mahatma Gandhi Road Fruit Market this season are also lesser than they were last year, with competing higher yields of bananas, lime, and apples.

Mohammad Kaisar, a fruits vendor in the M.G.Road Fruit Mandi says "Last year, the lowest quality mangoes sold for Rs 40 a kg whereas this year, we are charging Rs 70 a kg. This year, the higher range mangoes like Alphonsos cost as much as Rs 600 a kg, but surprisingly, the market demand has not fallen." According to him, the mangoes that sell in the Kolkata market are mainly Gulabkhas and Hemsagar, but the best crop so far has been of the Madras and Srupnagar varieties. He added that this year, West Bengal is expecting a late crop closer to the end of the mango season around end June or some time in July.

The business model used in this market is quite unique-the mangoes can be sold at reasonable prices to the general public because the cost of production of the mangoes is kept minimal. This is because, according to the claim of most of the mango sellers, their crop is completely natural and the need for buying and using chemical fertilisers and pesticides do not arise. "We do not receive any form of subsidy from the government since each mandi acts as an autonomous public undertaking. The mangoes are grown on taxpayers' land but the mango sellers in the market are not taxed for this activity," says mango seller Mohammad Azmat.

Another interesting feature of this market is the mango open auctions, held daily during the mango season except on Sundays.  Mango cartons with close to 15 kgs of mango each are auctioned to local fruit sellers, who then sell it on a per kg basis to customers who come to the market. "Truckloads of 500 or more cartons of mangoes are sent from Andhra Pradesh, with different types of mangoes grown there like Gulabkhas, Totapari, and Begunbhuli. The cartons are opened in front of the public and whoever bids highest for a particular carton gets to buy it. The price of a carton can range from anything between Rs 200 to Rs 450," says M.D. Parwez Alam, a purchaser at the market auction.

In this set up, the transaction can be directly between the auctioneer at the mandi and the farmer, or middlemen may also be involved. This market uses a middleman setup, where the truck driver is paid approximately Rs 50 as transport charges on each carton by the farmer. In West Bengal, however, the local farmers directly send cartons of locally grown Hemsagar, Alphonsos, and Gulabkhas to the College Street Mandi, allowing the local farmers to profit more from the transaction.

(This article remained unpublished during my internship with Indian Express, Kolkata in May, 2011.)

The wrong turn after the right

When we had happened, it was too new and hopeless for believe it to be bad. It seems your philosophies even changed as time passed and you widened your belief systems. But it broke down, eventually, little by little. And we just saw it happen. Two silent spectators on two sides of the bridge with the widening crack in the middle.

We drifted apart and you were happy. I tried to be. Things do not always work how we want them to, but one day, you found me again. I'd been lost and wandering and finally found my way back home. To the familiarity of you and your being there in my life. A strangeness might have carried over, for time does change a lot. But in those strong enough arms of yours, I felt happy again.

I could not and would not fall for you again, or so it seemed I had conditioned myself to believe. You would never have worked on 'us' again. I might have been able to. But I knew I shouldn't have to. And open wounds evidently do take much longer to heal. Even the finest of stitches can tear...

I found the warmth in those arms once again and after that, it was gone as quickly as it had come. Eventually, we parted ways. It was one of the hardest things I had to do. Every single goodbye till now had made me feel stronger about what we shared. This was a collapse of the accumulated strength.

Standing there alone in your balcony just made me want to have unsaid certain things, acted differently sometimes and be more yours than I felt standing there. I wished you could come back slightly but you would not. I just wore your warm jacket, caught the whiff of your cologne from it, and lit a smoke. I remember the shade of the sky that evening:a dark shade of purple - the serene field of memories, just like your overused blanket.

10-15 litres of water per person per day says PHE

When I was interning for Indian Express, Kolkata last summer, I had gone to the Town Hall & done my first ever 'City' beat story. However, there was some communication gap & the article never got printed. While the players have changed considerably, the core issue is still the same. Publishing it here so that at least I don't feel like my reporting went to waste:

10-15 litres of water per person per day says PHE

Monday afternoon at Town Hall was a call for celebration and debate as Mayor Sovan Chatterjee was congratulated by the various chairmen of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) on his win by majority as Mayor of Kolkata.

After the initial mood of celebration, Public Health Engineering (PHE) minister Subrata Mukherjee spoke about the water supply issue in West Bengal. He added that 4 hours into taking the oath as the new CM, Mamata Banerjee declared that clean water must be supplied to each area in the state.

The target is that each citizen of the state receives 10-15 litres of drinking water a day. Research has been carried out as to which area has how much consumable water, based on which work will be carried out. Areas with nearby water sources will tap the water by constructing dams and canals. For areas without nearby water sources, outsourcing will be done from the nearest rivers using pipelines after the water is refined.

"This is a challenging job but it is not impossible," said Subrata Mukherjee of PHE. "Puruliya and Bankura which have very little water and are our focus areas," he adds.

Questioning the feasibility of water supply work in Bankura, Shampa Dariya, Bankura Municipal Chairperson says "We have started a water augmentation programme already but the project is being declared unviable because of unscientific methods used. The KMC should send a technical team and clarify if it is usable water or not because 5 crore has already been spent and we don't have money to waste further."

The main problem with implemnting any water related projects is not getting the fund but rather, getting the 'matching grants' from the Centre. Saugata Roy, Union Minister of State for Urban Development said "Last year, the Centre gave 5000 crore towards water supply. Unless we get the matching grants for the figures sent this year and receive the money in hand, no work can be done in this field."

Water supply for all, 10-15 litres of drinking water each day per head, no water tax levied and no metering processes, proper disimbursement of funds, minority development, and public relation wherein people can go to the Writers' Building with their woes and meet the concerned minister are some of the intended changes that the Mayor, Soham Chaterjee declared would take place.

Firhad Hakim, the new Public Works Department(PWD) as well as Municipal Affairs and Urban Development minister was also present. He concluded the meeting with a moving speech saying "We are the representatives of the municipality and we are aware of the problems. But we must have faith in Mamata Banerjee as our CM. When there is a will, there is a way. And we will find that way!"

Jun 6, 2012

My Evil Guide Plan

Evil Guide Plan

Congratulations on being the creator of a new Evil Plan (tm)!

Your objective is simple: world domination.
Your motive is a little bit more complex: madness

Stage One

To begin your plan, you must first devour a wealthy heiress. This will cause the world to slaughter a sacred calf to appease the gods, amazed by your arrival. Who is this Demented Madman? Where did they come from? And why do they look so good as a Brain in a Jar?

Stage Two

Next, you must vaporize the Moon (ooh, tides!). This will all be done from a space station, a mysterious place of unrivaled dark glory. Upon seeing this, the world will fall into catatonic trances, as countless hordes of winged monkeys hasten to do your every bidding.

Stage Three

Finally, you must let loose your needlessly big weather machine, bringing about an End to Sanity. Your name shall become synonymous with fuzzy bunnies, and no man will ever again dare make you clean your room. Everyone will bow before your Mystical Abilities, and the world will have no choice but to pray to you for enlightenment.

Generate your evil plan here.