>Durgapur Diaries – I

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Say what you will about Durgapur, one thing’s pretty awesome here: the weather \m/

Monsoon comes here foremost, in whole of the West Bengal that is, except anywhere else in India (leaving Tamil Nadu and shores of Andhra Pradesh).
No sooner had we got here, in the middle of May, the weather became very pleasant and it has remained like that ever since. At the time of writing this, it has rained here 5 or 6 times in a span of 18 days. And the weather remains pretty much awesome, cool, overcast days, breezy winds and the effect accentuated by the greenery all around. I can now imagine the beauty of north-east India with a little accuracy :).
Right now, it’s raining heavily, in a lazy Tuesday afternoon. Day started very lazily and after getting up late, both me and Sankalp decided to skip office today ( as if we do anything much there :D). Since both of us hadn’t eaten anything since morning (more of that later), we decided to go and get something to chew from the shops outside. I knew all shops would most likely be closed today, as they do between 12:00 to 18:00 (another of the many strange customs here) we had to give it a try, as our stomachs had launched a full-scale mutiny against us. Fortunately, a dilapidated shop was open and we got something to eat. While going out, it was more or less a clear sky, though clouds were beckoning from the south-western horizon. And in the bare 10 minutes, of our going out and coming back, the sky was completely dark. It was so beautiful and windy outside that I decided to perch there and read in the porch.
Well, no sooner had I taken out my c hair, first raindrops had started. Perverse that i am, i sat undaunted in the porch. However in a matter of 2 minutes, when the aggressive torrent threatened to turn my novel into a semisolid lump of sodded paper, the threat became too seriously to be taken lightly and i had to retreat my forces back. Soon, as if they had tasted blood, raindrops lashed at me fiercer than ever with triumphant war-cries(loud thunderclaps that is :D) booming in the skies. I had my back to the wall (literally).
Finally summoning courage enough, reached a compromise, and i moved my chair as close as possible to the door, deepest into the shade of the upper-story porch and there i am now, smirking complacently, over my victory over the rain. While rains have completely soaked my naked legs (resting out of the shade shamelessly in view of a family apartment in front of me), I am writing a paean to myself over this victory :D.
Anyways, on a more serious note, the weather is really, really amazing here. The climate is supposed to be very humid and sultry actually, but thankfully there were only a few such days, too few and far between. It’s quite much to my liking actually and, coupled with the greenery and cleanliness (at least in the Durgapur Steel Township part where we live) here, it’s almost an idyllic place to live. Cool overcast weather, greenery all around and more than anything else, winds! I couldn’t have asked for anything better 🙂

PS: Getting back to reality, light has gone an indefinite period in addition too :-\
😉

Mitostargazer
May 31, 2011
15:08

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>Indian Comics: A New Rise…. Or is it?

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New place, new people. Today i stepped, for the first time in my life, on the “red till a day ago” soil of West Bengal. Durgapur is a very nice city. Completely hushed in serence, serious silence, and likewise rife with greenery, this place seems to have a natural calling for me.

Anyways, getting back on the topic, i stumbled upon a very engaging Sunday tabloid supplement of The Telegraph. It’s cover story examined the current rise of new wave of comics in India, the second generation comics, after decades of Raj and Diamond comics. Also featured were innovative forays in the field of webcomics. It reminded me of two-three odd articles i read about 2 years ago, on a similar theme, about the rise of comics and animation industry.

I’ve been a great fan of animation of all kind since my childhood. Comic strips exhilarated me to no end. First Garfield in TOI as a child, then growing up with Calvin’s histrionics in HT, it’s been a great time. I must admit, i was never a fan of indian brand of comics, to which ironically, i had very easy access. As for western comics, i had never enough access to them in Gwalior, but i compensated for it by my gluttonous dose of animation on TV. With internet gaining widespread access in life, the world of wecomics was opened for me. Now , comic-mania is riding more furiously than ever \m/.

The fate of comic industry has been very quirky in India. It could never had the best of both worlds. For decades, Raj and Diamond comics’ heroes, Naagraj, Super Commando Dhruv, Doga(sic!), Chacha Chowdhury, Billu etc, ruled the heart of lowe-middle class India who grew up on last three decades (excluding 2000-2010 of course), but they never managed to find acceptance among the upper-middle class and wealthy classes’ more intellectual recreations. Their heart always longed for Archie, Superman, Batman and Spiderman, foreign superheroes who had a penchant of wearing their undies outside their formal attire ;). Interestingly, but for the upper classes, these superheroes remained very much elusive everywhere else in India. Indian comics, despite making a profitable business and being quite famous( a generation grew up with them-a notable feat in a country obsessed with filmstars and cricket), couldn’t quite get the artistic legitimacy and acknowledgement, considering there was more or less a monopoly in this field. Not that they deserved all of it, but then again, that’s only my opinion 😉

Since the latter half of last decade of previous century, changes began happening which would ultimately result in the cross-cultural melee that has started to happen right now. The advent and phenomenal success of computer games and their brands worldwide opened India’s eyes to the real depth of possibilities animation industy held. The lives of geeks were changed forever 🙂

More than a decade, computer-games, playstation, X-box, HD-technology, japanese anime & manga, and webcomics later, Indian enterpreneurs are finally taking the matters in their hands, producing and designing, comics completely of Indian origin and narrative, and producing high-quality computer games similarly. What’s more, they are being recognized and getting famous too. A blazing victory of indigenous talent and creativity, you would say. But everything is not as verdant as it seems. A closer look at the story brings many doubts, questions and thoughts to the fore.

What it looks like to me is ready-made stories, which are rife in a country of millenia-old mythology, being copy-pasted on already matured graphic and animation-framework. Sure, the artwork and characterisation looks all sexy and awesome, but take a closer look. Artwork, pictures, background themes and ambience, are drawn heavily from western animation, and/or japanese anime and manga. I had more than one occasion to peep into this thing, and the story was appalling. The most famous of the games and their artworks, were brazenly copy-pasted from western already-established games and series. The artwork of new, much publicized game based on Ramayana was taken as it is from Assassin’s Creed. Man! Even the iconic two daggers-front shot banner was used AS IS. What’s more, another game based on life of Krishna had, as its artwork, a very shoddily copied still from artwork of Conan-The Destroyer(have I got the name right?) The face of two warriors were replaced by two Indian kings. One could clearly discern the poor photoshop done on the artwork. Are we so bereft of ideas? Or have we no other resources to look upto except Ramayana and Mahabharata? Though the concept of amalgamating the hindu mythology with modern animation technology doesn’t seem a bad idea at all, but I’ve still got a few reservations about it. The underlying principles of the two are irreconciliably different. For example, the conceptions of ‘sexiness’, ‘erotic’ and ‘machismo’ operate on a completely different level in case of present age and our mythology. Leaving a few exceptions, they are usually totally absent. In such a case, Devi, the eponymous superheroine of hit indian comic series(Deepak Chopra’s brainchild, who else), which is an amalgam of Japanese manga and hentai-inspired eroticism and Tomb Raider attitude and panache, looks more like a sari-clad Angelina Jolie than a Hindu deity. How you get our Indian Jolie to perform mythical miracles in a Christ-era India, is completely out of my logic.

Looks like enterpreneurs and artists are stuck in the two vicious circles of modern technology and indian mythology (the one invariably involving Ramayana, Mahabharata and including countless deities), hopelessly trying to amalgamate these two. What comes out is rather a sorry mixture, a misguided attempt at reaching the next level. If we would simply look back, we would find that comics of previous era didn’t rely on Indian mythology to sell. Sure it had its shortcomings, a narrow vision and a narrow market, but at least it knew what it was doing. Technology has changed. But so has India, and it has invariably come out closer to the world, and farther from its mythology. Unless presented in a logical and highly fantastic, in an indigenous sense, way, mythologies will always be an experiment gone somewhere wrong. Meanwhile India is growing fast and wide. I’m sure they won’t be short of stories. Just look around, instead of looking back 🙂
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Mitostargazer
16 May 2011

Summer evenings

Summer evenings…..one of the most inscrutable and mysterious things of my college life here in IIT Kanpur.

The pace of life here is quite fast, maybe not as much as may seem outside, but still we’ve got plenty of things to do, including studies and other ritualistic activities, supposed to be done in college (many won’t agree with me, i think they are right to a certain extent, but then again, everything works differently with different people). In such cases many desires, or modes of living, which are incompatible with the way of life here, get stunted when faced with reality.

One of my desires or mode of living is desire for a secluded, lonely, easy life, dedicated to one’s passion and interest (which is nothing to brag about actually, it’s more of a Victorian attitude of listless intelligentsia 😉 ). But of course, in such a competitive and bustling environment, filled with academic pressure, opportunity hunting, projects, thesis, internships, recommendation, job and higher studies preparation, such a thing is something only to dream about, especially when you are confused and floundered by the vast amount of opportunities and interests constantly colliding with each other, unable to decide a course of action and stick to it, which very much happens to be my case.

But still, interestingly, i’ve had my moments of such life, in my completely haywire and roller-coaster (not a good one) ride of a life here. Three years have passed. First i’ve had a taste of such life in my first year summer vacations, when i chose to stay here for database course. I had picked up one of the most unlike-me reasons to stay here, as i was soon to discover, only to stay here and enjoy the freedom from parents-determined restricted life at home and 24 hours free internet here. My stay was a disaster. I barely attended 4 classes in first 15 days, relentlessly occupying myself in surfing, listening to songs, getting up late, staying cooped up in my bed, half-sleepy, throughout the day. As my 2nd semester’s result came at around last week of May, which was a bigger disaster, i was crumbling by weight of self-contradicting tendencies and desires, and a direction-less life going on autopilot. I came back home, leaving the course in between, which i would have failed anyway if i had stayed back.

My second summer, after the end of my 2nd year, was a quite pleasant one, and was a near-perfect experience of life i desired. This, i say, is regardless of the fruits that summer bore for me, for which i had to pay, and am paying dearly, for many years to come. Two months, complete seclusion, no active intereference. It was heaven, marred only by my inefficient way of enjoying my solitude. The time i had spent in campus that summer, i described in my diary as probably the best time of my college life. That summer, i listened to countless new artists, made new favorites, and basically a whole new era started in terms of music for me. Literature-wise, i didn’t break much of a new ground, as i already referred due to my inefficient time management. But the thing i’ll always remember that time for, is the time i spent with nature, with my friend Aditya, evening walks, nightouts of roof stargazing, and at a later stage, nighttime discussions with Sourav Poddar. I spent a hell lot of time, with the two of these guys, talking and lying and stargazing on my block’s roof, lazying up in cool breeze of summer nights. Days went by inconspicuously, as i remained glued to my laptop, immersed in the depths of music history and wikipedia. Summer evenings were always special for me, when the stupor of day became unbearable and i had to go out of my room, to Aditya’s hostel, roaming in the campus, at MT. That stupor provokes some kind of mental suffocation where, coming out in the open air, you breathe in full gasps, letting loose mental horses, and a torrent of thoughts suddenly come pouring out in your mind, with such suddenness that you are knocked out-cold with it, unable to register each thought separately (i’ve never been able a good accountant of my thoughts anyways :D). This subtle aspect differentiates summer nights and summer evenings. Summer nights are spent leisurely chilling out on roof after wasting copious amounts of time on chatting or doing banal stuff on laptop. On the other hand, summer evenings are a desperate escape from the stuffy swelter of day, and noontime information huntings on wikipedia or novels. It’s like a computer heating up after intensive work in a hot room. Information overload. Our campus too is quite beautiful for such idle wandering on clear summer evenings.

My second summer was the longest time i have spent this way. But it wasn’ as secluded. Not that it was a bad thing, though. I had my friends, Aditya, Sourav, Atul there with me. On the other hand, the next two periods i’ve spent here are perfect both in terms of solitude and the other aspects i’ve described above. First of them was when i had to abruptly return to campus in December last year. Now, strictly it wasn’t summer, but all the characteristics are exactly as i would have desired them in such a case. The most awesome thing about it was the utter solitude i got. It was one of the most beautiful days, in terms of natural beauty. Utter solitude, not a single living being’s presence for hours, let alone human. I would keep reading Crime and Punishment, scooped up in my bed like a patient(for sure it was having a similar effect on my mind), for hours on, until i couldn’t take the intensity of it anymore, and i would go out, watching the beautiful stillness of night, the fog floating in front of my eyes, and i was transported to completely another world, where i was the only living creature around. It was what i would like my heaven to be. Perfectly beautiful. That was the perfect solitude for me, and i enjoyed every moment of it.

And lastly, here we arrive at this summer of ’11. It has been only 5 days after exams. But it’s all over the same again. My internship starts from 16th May and i am supposed to run back home as soon as i can, but i just don’t feel like it :D. Day after day, i keep extending my stay here, postponing going to gwalior (not that i hate going there). Here in the solitude of my thoughts, i create a world of my own, full of million colors, music, literature, archival huntings, summer evenings. On my way to canteen et al, i stop suddenly, in the middle of the stairs, transfixed by the beauty of afternoon sun, still hanging a safe distance above horizon, jolly yellow, and the intense lucidity of the landscape. You can cleary see each shade of every color of every single object. As i hung on the banister, face up to the sun letting its heat warm my skin, a queer question was coming in my mind: ‘Have you ever smelled warm air?’ It smells so good. This feeling is indescribable. I guess i have a strange connection with nature which alters my perception of it from the normal one. Strange and a very strong connection. I smell sunlight, drink the colors off the grass with my eyes. There’s just one problem. Whenever i go out in the evening, i get a very strong urge to talk to someone, the solitude get very pronounced and asserts itself in the form of loneliness. But i know it’s much more than that. It’s a need, an urge to let all the weird perceptions and torrent of thoughts out to someone. But the only problem is, i don’t know how to translate it all from my language to theirs.

Morning and evening, they were the first beautiful mysteries of this world i encountered, and i still don’t get tired of exploring them. Over the years, my contact with morning has diminished quite a bit, owing to lifestyle problems, but it has remained intact with evening. I guess even if it takes my whole life, i’ll not be able to fathom the full depth of their beauty. 

And summer evenings, remain as beautiful as they were three years ago when i came here, without a single change, defying the sacred law of change……