Home » Somnath Batabyal

Occidentally yours- Giving new voice to Shakespeare’s silenced stalwarts

By Somnath Batabyal Somnath Batabyal My friend could not believe her ears. “Shakespeare? Cutting-edge? You must be joking. You need to get out more, see some new theatre and de-colonise your mind.” I was returning, elated, from a performance of Toni Morrison’s incredible musical sequel to Othello when I dropped the clanger on the phone to my friend. I’d used the words ‘cutting-edge’ in the same sentence as that old tool of colonial oppression, William Shakespeare, and I wasn’t going to live it down without some careful argumentation. My feelings for Shakespeare... 

Occidentally Yours-Corruption is kosher, but only if it benefits the middle class

Somnath Batabyal  By Somnath Batabyal The email came in the early afternoon. Would I make myself available at the London office of the Al Jazeera for an interview at 4pm? I was in Bristol. Refusal, therefore, was easy. Also, the fact that there was no mention of what the interview might be about was irritating. Even my hubris did not allow me to believe that I knew everything about everything. The reply was immediate. Could I do a Skype interview instead? Still no mention of the subject matter. I wrote back an irritated email stating that while technically that was feasible, I would not commit... 

With You? For You? If only that was true for all Indians

Somnath Batabyal Occidentally Yours By Somnath Batabyal Please be careful. Any unattended luggage could be a bomb. Notify the police immediately.” It was an afternoon last week. I was in Janpath, getting reacquainted with Delhi and the whitewashed changes of post-Commonwealth Games Connaught Place. I missed the winter here and was determined to make most of the last few days of the season. From the warnings of terrorist strikes, the tone of the announcements abruptly changed. “Get your drivers and servants verified. Delhi Police, With You, For You, Always.” I passed a police patrol... 

Occidentally Yours – Long live the Queen! And her stooping subjects

Somnath Batabyal Occidentally Yours Long live the Queen! And her stooping subjects By Somnath Batabyal You surely do not disapprove of the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations, do you? It is such a beautiful tradition and uplifting when times are this hard.” I faltered. I was sitting on the lady’s boat and drinking her tea while her husband navigated the vessel around the Bristol harbour area, now festooned with balloons and buntings to commemorate the occasion under discussion. There were times when a bit of circumlocution was warranted and this, I instinctively felt, was one... 

Occidentally Yours – why choosing your favourite newspaper in UK is political choice

  Somnath Batabyal Occidentally Yours why choosing your favourite newspaper in UK is political choice By Somnath Batabyal Newspaper: choose your paper and politics together! For those who haven’t visited London in the last few years, a new irritant has hit the streets. In busy street corners, outside Tube stations and bus stops, young people in brightly coloured uniforms assail you, trying to shove a newspaper into the hand screaming, “It’s free”. These are the new versions of evening papers, right-wing rags, that pander to the worst sensationalism, creating fear about... 

Occidentally Yours – Black Adder: When good ol’ Mr Bean deflated western hubris!

Somnath Batabyal Occidentally Yours Black Adder: When good ol’ Mr Bean deflated western hubris! By Somnath Batabyal French philosopher Baudrillard (yes, the one who inspired the Matrix movies and passionately disavowed them) had a thing for humour. To him, the ability to laugh was a dangerous weapon; it mocked power, stripping apart carefully constructed narratives. Watching an episode of Black Adder the other night, I was reminded of this often ignored purpose of comedy. For those in the dark, Black Adder is a ’70s British television series, written and acted in by Rowan Atkinson –... 

Occidentally Yours – A different shade of Gulaami: The Cultural Colonies of the Mind

Occidentally Yours A different shade of Gulaami: The Cultural Colonies of the Mind By Somnath Batabyal “Angrezon ke gulaam.” The man, once sure that his words had reached my ear, went back to polishing the row of shoes neatly arranged in front of him. My two friends from South Africa, noticing my sudden embarrassment asked me what the matter was. I tried to smile and usher them to the next lane, Paranthe Wali Gali, in Old Delhi. There, over two sumptuous stuffed delights accompanied with tangy curd, I told Greg and Pierre what the cobbler had shouted at me. They doubled up in laughter.... 

Occidentally Yours – Being a Bengali in Assam: Then and Now!

Somnath Batabyal Occidentally Yours Being a Bengali in Assam: Then and Now! By Somnath Batabyal An early memory is of a classmate and me, walking back from school chattering away happily. He stops at a roadside shop to buy sweets. We are talking 19-to-the-dozen when a man tells us to stop. “Stop talking in Bengali”. We did. Back home, however the questions flew. “Baba, why did he ask us to not speak in Bangla? Why are we so scared of the Assamese?” The general tenor of the answer was: the Assamese are bad people. My classmates, teachers, friends, were all of them bad? They... 

Occidentally Yours – Guwahati: As my small town of memories grows bigger and bigger…

Somnath Batabyal Occidentally Yours Guwahati: As my small town of memories grows bigger and bigger…  By Somnath Batabyal I look across the table at my cousin. We haven’t seen each other in almost fifteen years. Time, depending on how one looks at it, has been generous to her. Her house is enormous, her practice is flourishing and she looks successful. An ENT specialist in Guwahati, she tells me business is booming. “Lots of pollution, no? More and more tumors and cancers.” The small town I grew up in had vanished. In its place today stands a chaotic screaming mess of unimaginative... 

Occidentally Yours- A secularism that survived Partition is worth preserving

Occidentally Yours somnath batabyal A secularism that survived Partition is worth preserving By Somnath Batabyal  Our home was here and if you followed the road, you would reach Dolaigonjo station. We took the train there and then an overnight steamer ride before we reached Kolkata. I was six.” My father was drawing quietly on a piece of paper, trying to etch from memory, his house in Gandaria, Dhaka. It took him a while to warm up, his mind clouded over now by post-operation trauma and a crippling clinical depression. “I really don’t remember,” he kept saying through... 
© 2010 BiharDays    
   · RSS · ·