ELSA ONLINE MEET HIGHLIGHTS
MY FAVOURITE AUTOBIOGRAPHY
30th August, 2020
Indeed, every life has a beginning, middle and an end, and how one has lived one’s life gives people access to their own emotions and an assessment of their own perspectives. ELSA continued its monthly meet with all its vibrancy and variety on 30th of Aug 2020 on the topic ‘My Favourite Autobiography’. What filled the meet with the breath of heart was letting each member know varied authors without turning over a single page and learning a great deal from listening carefully allowing it to subtly slide through the brain to the heart.
Prof. Ghosh turned the faucet of the meet on by highlighting the role of autobiographies right from The Confessions by Saint Augustine to the life-writings of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries which are located at the intersections of autobiography and fiction, so as to shed light on the ways in which writers have engaged with, and extended the range of modern autobiography. Life Writings include a large degree of soul-searching and effort on the part of the individual. All great men be they Spiritual Masters, Business Tycoons, Revolutionaries, Feminists, Socialists etc. have come, not to impress us with their greatness, but to give us faith in what we ourselves can become. With this Swami Sujayananda, Mr. Anil Sharma, Dr. Roopali Khanna and Mr. Shravan Chemburkar shared their inspirations and insights into the book, which changed the life of millions, The Autobiography of a Yogi, highlighting the amalgamation of faith, science and spirituality in one’s life. Mr. Chemburkar also discussed with us how this book helped him in his spiritual quest and in finding his own true Guru. Likewise Dr. Sanjay Mishra shared his valuable insights gained from the life of Netaji S.C Bose’s life writing An Indian Pilgrim.
However, when spirituality is fully embraced it serves as a strong under layer to conduct your material life. In this light, Mr. Saurabh Agarwal presented Buy Made in Japan, the Autobiography of Akio Morita offering great insight into what makes Sony, a pioneer in electronics industry, and Japanese people, the world leader.
One of the most pressing questions being what does it take for the human spirit to be free? Who better than a former slave can tell the truth about it. In this light Prof. Ghosh called everybody’s attention to the most exceptional memoirs Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, highlighting this book as no ordinary autobiography but Douglass’ most remarkable story of self-determination and fight against the heinous system of slavery, cleverly bridging the gap between the personal and the universal. There is no denying the fact that true strength is not merely physical, but is a strength that is moral and spiritual.
While dwelling on the issue of racism and marginalisation Dr. Ranjana Mehrotra continued to discuss the aspects of Maya Angelou’s life, as a spokesperson of black people and women in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Ms. Anjali Singh took the discussion further turning the search lights onto the Indian feminism. She remembered, The Rajmata of Jaipur, Maharani Gayatri Devi, who defied conventions and lived life on her own terms moving so far beyond the traditional restrictions that she won a seat in the Indian Parliament in 1962. Whereas, Dr. Rajan Lal’ supporting the Indian feminist streak shared his insights on My Story by Kamala Das, another Indian feminist writer.
Consecutively, Dr. Shrikant Kulshreshtha shared with us the insights, personal moments and life experiences of Dr. Kalam as recorded in his book Wings of Fire. Contrastingly Dr. Lisha Sinha, deliberated on the captivating life journey of Malcolm X who went from a petty criminal and drug user to a long-term prisoner to an influential minister to a separatist political activist to a humanist to a martyr.
With all the kaleidoscopic view of the life of different authors, Dr. Chanda Singh came up with her perspective on ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’, a Jewish teenager Anne Franc, chronicling her family's hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands, while Ms. Jessica Joel, attempted to record the emotions of Anne Frank in her beautiful short composition, written from the perspective of Anne Frank when her family was discovered and she was taken to Auschwitz death camp by the Nazis. Mr. Sheikh Samsuddin presented his views on Nirad C. Chaudhary’s The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian. Autobiographical fiction of Charles Dickens, was analysed deeply by Dr. Anindya Polley.
There is something delicious about the meet as always. Never quite knowing where the flow will take us, the first word of wisdom is initiated by Prof. Ghosh and the word after the word after the word flows through each member adding variety and extending the horizon of knowledge in the best and simplest way. Mr. Nihal Singh Jain came up with a story penned by himself, The Autobiography of a Virus.
Prof. Ghosh concluded the meet with his words of wisdom and enriched us with his well of knowledge authenticating the anecdote “Voice is not just the sound that comes from your throat, but the feelings that come from your words.”
Sanjay Kumar Mishra
Bose’s unfinished autobiography narrates the journey of first 24 years of his life when he had not become politically active. He takes us into his formative years. He wrote it during his stay with Emilie Schenkl in Austria in late 1937. Bose’s life was extremely hectic from 1921 to 1941 in India and from 1941 to 1945 in Germany, Japan and South East Asia. Bose did not write his memoirs of these years.
Bose was an introvert lad. He was extremely good in studies. He was eccentric and revolt was his second nature. He respected his family but defied them in doing what he liked to do. He was influenced by his headmaster Babu Beni Madhav Das who roused his aesthetic and moral sense and inculcated in him Nature worship. But it was Swami Vivekananda who gave him the purpose of his life, which was service of humanity and one’s country. He turned to Ramakrishna Paramhansa for character building and spiritual uplift, which, he realized, was possible only through renunciation and self-abnegation. Bose was crazy for spiritual development. During his college days he went to various places of religious importance to meet all kinds of sadhus and spiritual gurus.
Bose writes that the aristocracy in Bengal, consisting of landlords, lawyers, civils servants and merchants, were allies of British Imperialism. They were great but they were not anti-government. In this strain, Bose spares none, be it Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Keshav Chandra Sen, Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar, Bankim Chandra Chatterji, Surendra Nath Bannerji, Romesh Dutt or his father. He drew inspiration from the ideals of sacrifice and suffering given by Aurobindo Ghosh.
Bose resigned from ICS against his family’s wishes. He found it “a galling thing” to “sign the covenant which is an emblem of servitude”. Bose declares his life’s philosophy, which, in my view, is the most enduring message in his autobiography: “the line of least resistance is not the best line to follow. Life loses half its interest if there is no struggle -- if there are no risks to be taken.”
Dr. Sanjay Kumar Mishra, RBS College, Agra.
Benjamin Franklin: A Man of Metaphysical Pursuits
Dr Benjamin Franklin, the most accomplished, most accessible and most Paradoxical founding father was born in a modest family of seventeen children. He remained deprived of formal education yet became an all-rounder: a scientist, inventor, journalist, businessman and statesman. He was the driving force behind America’s first public library, first non religious college and first national news paper. As a diplomat he made American independence a reality. In the field of science he was nothing less than the greatest thinkers of his time. His life has been criticized, analyzed and scrutinized by the biographers and he was always found something more than we imagined. The door way to this amazing personality is his autobiography which he began to write at the age of 65. Benjamin an image maker made best image of himself in American history.
By the age of 16 Ben had already shown himself a genius and contributed in the form of his letters in the newspaper ‘The New England Currant’ secretly under a pseudo name of Silence Dogood, an imaginary character of an elderly widow. Silence Dogood was appreciated a lot but James disliked the ture identity of Silence Dogood. He roamed in London and Philadelphia for the job and worked with many employers including his friend Curo. He contemplated on 12 moral virtues to conquer one each week. These virtues made him the owner of his printing shop from a common printer. Now he was the owner of the newspaper Pennsylvania Gazette at the age of 24. He worked really harder and became a self made man. He was good what he did but he wanted that the people should also know about it. In 1733 he created another image for himself through his “Poor Richard Almanac” and he said what he could not say as Benjamin Franklin. He sold ten thousand copy of the almanac in a year and became the most distinguished citizen in Philadelphia. Due to his radical, social innovation he still has an impact on Americans in 21st century.
Dr. Manju, Associate Professor, Chandigarh University.
I KNOW WHY THE CAGE BIRD SINGS BY MAYA ANGELOU
Maya Angelou’s famous autobiographical work I know why the Caged Bird Sings is my favourite as it grabs attention by its title itself. She took the title from a very famous poem ‘Sympathy’ written by one of her favourite writers, the African American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar. It is the first of Maya Angelou’s seven autobiographies that deal with weighty issues like rape, identity and racism. It becomes even more relevant this year in the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Her autobiography is not just hers; it is a testament of the common hurdles faced by a black girl. When it came out in 1969, it was one of the first books to honestly depict the experiences of a black woman growing up in the South.
Even after 50 years the work remains fresh and relevant for today’s readers as her story voiced concerns that were universal. Angelou acts both as narrator and protagonist thereby giving it the feel of a novel. Angelou describes her coming of age during the 1930s and ‘40s as a precocious but insecure black girl whose grandmother Momma as they called her was the central moral character in her life. When she was 8 her father took her and Bailey to live with their mother Vivian where Vivian’s boyfriend raped Maya. After being jailed Freeman was murdered and Maya stopped speaking to everyone due to guilt and shame. They returned to Momma where her mentor Mrs Bertha Flowers told her to read literature aloud through which she regained her voice.
It is a moving account of a little girl’s trauma of rape, shame and humiliation that kept her mute for 5 years. It challenges the stereotype that black women’s lives were rarely worthy of autobiography and paved the way for other black writers such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. The strange fact remains that it has been frequently banned or censored for sexual content and language. Come what may, it remains her most popular work. Her last project before her death was a hip hop album called Caged Bird Songs.
Dr. Ranjana Mehrotra, HOD & Associate Professor (Retd), BDK Mahavidyalya, Agra
Amrita Pritam’s Raisidi Ticket (The Revenue Stamp)
Amrita Pritam is one of the finest voices, foraying into the world of imagination and words; a prolific writer rendering bare all that lies under the deep dark shadows of patriarchy, power, death and unrequited love; a rebel who challenged the hegemonic discourse of ‘man’ and dared to love the life she imagined. Khushwant Singh’s passing remark when she had revealed her plans to write her autobiography, “What is there to your life? Just an incident or two… you could use the back of a revenue stamp to write it” became the esoteric title of her autobiography. In the Prologue she writes: "Whatever happened in my life happened between the layers of thought and found their way into novels and poems. What was left? Still I thought I might write a few lines -- something to complete the account book of my life and at the end, seal it with this revenue stamp as it were or am I with this revenue stamp setting a seal, to my novels and poems . . . my entire literary work . . . I wonder."
In the six chapters, she weaves the reality of being a woman and the sensitivity of an artist. Each chapter ‘resurrects’ her autobiographical details and is imbued with ideas on life and people. She concedes that Pritam - the woman, was discovered by Pritam - the writer. Etching the experiential reality of her life, she underscores the configurations of truth offered by society which are not ‘truth’ in reality. She explains how her sixteenth b’day opposed everything that her father had taught her, and questions the entire layered contempt and ignominy for women’s sexuality. For Pritam, ‘truth’ is paramount in an autobiography: “All art consists of re-creating what was created before. This process also is reality. Truth put into the crucible of the womb gives birth to truth.”
She weaves the fragmentary, contradictory and still an autonomous self in the context of oppressive norms, demeaning structures and personal struggles. The Revenue Stamp, situates itself conveniently at the intersection of literary and cultural grid.
Dr. Tanya Mander, RGUNL, Patiala.
Akio Morita, the founder of Sony Corporation, a well-known conglomerate with worldwide operations, has aptly chosen to title his autobiography “Made in Japan” for the rise of his company has been synonymous with the rise of his country too. Japan was in a state of devastation after World War II when the company started its operation. As Morita says: “The image of anything marked “Made in Japan” that had been shipped abroad before the war was very low. Most people in the United States and Europe, I learned, associated Japan with paper umbrellas, kimonos, toys, and cheap trinkets.”
Morita in his journey of life traces the way they brought the brand to the forefront in America and the world through constant technological innovation of products, reposing faith in human resources, adapting themselves to the need of the country. Yet they retained their basic corporate philosophy of achieving excellence and adhering to ethical business practices. The book is written in a simple style where Morita relies on the use of instances which motivate the reader to look for various avenues for achieving success. This autobiography becomes important today for we, Indians, are struggling to establish “India” as a brand all over the world. What Akio Morita did for his company Sony and Japan is an essential lesson for us as a nation. Our entrepreneurs and business leaders have a lot to learn from “company as an innovator, a clever company that would make new high technology products in ingenious ways.”
Morita’s autobiography should be treated as a bible by those who seek to continually bring change in the lives of people and enrich it and, thereby, profit from it. Made in Japan shows how the whole society and the country gets benefited when an enterprising human spirit is let loose.
My Story: The Manifesto of Kamala Das’s Writings
In Indian writing in English there is a galaxy of creative writers creating Indian sensibility through the English tongue who have established a station of rank and reputation like Toru Dutt, Aru Dutt, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Aurobindo, Tagore, S. N. Naidu and Swami Vivekananda and others. What was discarded as indecent by the intellectual generation cited here was embraced and welcomed by Kamala Das in Post-independence era in Indian scenario.
Kamala Das has been the most controversial, revolutionary, radical and a trend setter in this context with new feminine perspectives liberating them from old morality established by orthodoxy-ridden and hypocritical patriarchy. My Story, her autobiography, may be considered to be the manifesto of her writings. What she tries to showcase through her prose and poetical works is very easily traced in her autobiography. It consists of 50 chapters in all throwing light from her early childhood spent in Calcutta where her father was an employee in a Royal automobile firm to her final relationship with her un-psychological and self centred husband. Here she frankly talks against what she saw and felt in conservative patriarchy in Kerala trying to generalize its notions across the country. Here she candidly portrays her experiences about racist discrimination in a British colonial school in Calcutta run by missionaries, and her loss of knowledge of her puberty, her marriage encounters with her animal like husband, extra-marital relationship, family and others. Her autobiography may be said to be an adaptation of her writings in all. It has been her best-selling book among academia and intelligentsia. She writes about middle class morality: “Every middle-class bed is a cross on which the woman is crucified… Men fall in lust, not love. Women crash in real self-destroying love.”
Dr. Rajan Lal, Hindu PG College, Moradabad.
Maharani Gayatri Devi was born to royalty and riches one could only imagine. Known for her beauty, there was much to her personality than this mortal feature. She was a 'first' in many unchartered domains - first female from the Royal family to make a public appearance (out of the purdah), the first female MP from Rajasthan, the owner of the first public school for girls (in Asia). I believe she embodied 'beauty’ that was beyond the concept of skin-deep, a 'beauty' of mind and soul as well!’ Refereeing to both - her biographies and autobiography, I discovered that one thing that stands out is the undying integrity, deep commitment and a sense of responsibility she had towards her belief in social welfare and justice. Her greatest contribution lies in the 'empowerment of women' “Education is not only necessary for earning a livelihood…these students have been taught to live in a world where dignity, understanding and sensitivity for others matters. This kind of training, I hope will hold the key for a bright future,” she had said.
Her school - Maharani Gayatri Devi, was meant to achieve this purpose. It went on to become a brand name which symbolized a blend of 'tradition with modernity'; the school motto being - 'Our Utmost for the highest'. Her political stint earned her the wrath of her opponent which invited an unpleasant Tihar jail tenure of approx. 5 months. Khushwant Singh, celebrated writer and columnist remarked that “Indira could not stomach a woman more good-looking than herself and insulted her in Parliament, calling her a …. and a glass doll…” Indira set a sinister example of the extent power could be misused. Devi had power too and she used it to bring a change. In some ways, she reminds me of the world of the upper class as portrayed in ‘The Cherry Orchard’; the loss of privileges was a change she survived and yet chose to share her wealth with others who were still less privileged. Like her name, she dispelled darkness and raised awareness, bringing light to many lives in the process.
Anjali Singh (Research Scholar), Agra.
Self Versus Society in Om Prakash Valmiki’s Joothan
The Autobiography of a Dalit represents the self and community of the autobiographer. Om Prakash Valmiki’s work Joothan draws the attention of the literary world from the local to global. It’s a critique of the contemporary society. The fate of Dalits through the centuries reminds one of the Social, Political, Economic and Cultural History. Each and every day is a challenge for them to survive. Because of the caste-ridden society and backwardness they have to remain marginal. The monster of caste and exploitation crawls upon them where ever they go. Dalit men and women have to face the blot of their birth till the end of their lives. Valmiki’s Joothan is a mirror to contemporary society. He says that Dalit life is an ongoing struggle to lead the revolution of change in the society.
The characters in Joothan challenge hegemony, caste and religion. From Dr B. R. Ambedkar’s “Annihilation of Caste” to various other Dalit Autobiographies, rejection of conservative values, exploitation, the fight for liberty, equality and fraternity continues. Joothan covers school to village atrocities against Dalit children, men and women. They feel contaminated by the mainstream society in terms of purity and physical touch. They are victimised by the practices of caste and exploitation. Joothan focuses on education, agitation and organises Dalits to unite them from gutter to reach great heights. In the backdrop of Dalit Autobiographies, Non-Dalits need to accept and understand human values, self-respect and dignity of all human beings. The ideology of an Egalitarian society and human concerns unites Dalits and Non-Dalits from the act of hatred, exploitation and inequalities. The idea of Self to Society generates responsible citizens to serve the society with humanity sans borders. Joothan reminds the intellectuals and theorists to look at multiple issues to address and show the way to establish an egalitarian society.
Dr. Bandla Ashok, Dept of English, Osmania University, Hyderabad.
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
That was a book I read in my early days when my interest in spirituality was taking roots. I was fascinated by the book and it inspired me a lot to take spirituality seriously. It is a bestseller of all time. Many have turned to this path after reading that book. It must be read to know one's own infinite potentiality. But if somebody thinks that it is achievable then he will be greatly frustrated. The author has narrated the incidents that happened with him and the fascinating people he came across but they were great people. For people like us, we have to toil the rough road of spirituality alone with God's, Guru's and the scriptures' blessings. The path of union with the all-pervading truth whom we call God is a path of continuous struggle with almost no tangible result in view. Yet, one walks the path of truth because he can't go to the path of ephemeral and untruth.
Swami Sujayananda, senior Monk at Ramkrishna Mission Ashrama, Gwalior.
Autobiography of a Yogi: My Favourite Companion
One of my favourite autobiographies out of many that I am still to read is Autobiography of a Yogi which is altogether a beautifully written account of an exceptional life of a truth seeker turned yogi and a profound introduction to the ancient science of yoga and its time-honoured tradition of meditation. In the pages of the book Yogananda offers a stunning account of the 'Cosmic Consciousness' reached on the upper levels of yogic practice, and numerous interesting perspectives on human nature from the yogic and Vedantic points of view.
Anticipating the growing hunger among spiritual seekers for direct personal experience of the universal consciousness he synthesized a set of powerful but practical techniques to guide truth-seekers on the spiritual path drawing on the eight steps laid out by Patanjali in the Yoga sutras. He emphasized the empirical and scientific nature of the meditation technique Kriya Yoga claiming that regular practice of Kriya changes the neural pathways in the brain thus effecting physical changes in the brain. He often said that the true altar is not in any church, but in our central nervous system. Hence he became a forerunner to 21st-century psychologists, physicians, psychotherapists, and neuro-scientists who are generating powerful scientific findings on human nature and well-being--all aligned with his teachings on consciousness, thoughts, emotions, habits, and brain wiring. Scientific laboratories are now stumbling into truths experienced by yogis across the ages, in the inner laboratories of their personal experience.
He emphasised the fact that you don't need to go to Himalayas to follow the spiritual path. You can be a family man and still attain enlightenment. I have found in the pages an affirmative answer to the question, “whether the ancient science of yoga has any worthwhile place in the life of the modern man.” I would say, knowledge is an ocean and self -realization is a journey, it’s not like something to happen in one day although the beginning starts at any one day of course.
Dr. Roopali Khanna, Guest Faculty, BDK College, Agra.
अनिल कुमार शर्मा
स्वामी योगानंद का जन्म 1893 में गोरखपुर में हुआ उनका जन्म नाम मुकुंदलाल घोष था ।शैशव काल से ही उन्हे अपने पूर्व जन्म की यादें किसी पर्वत पर रहने वाले योगी के रूप आती थीं, माता ज्ञानप्रभा व पिता भगवतीचरण घोष महान योगी लाहिड़ी महाशय के शिष्य थे। अत: मुकुंदलाल को योग शिक्षा के गुरू स्वामी युक्तेश्वर गिरि का मिलना सुगम हो गया । योग की उच्च स्थिति प्राप्त होने पर उन्होने गुरु आज्ञा से रॉंची में योग शिक्षा हेतु उच्च विद्यालय व प्राथमिक विद्यालय की स्थापना की, बच्चों को आदर्श शिक्षा उपलब्ध हो उनका ये मिशन आज भी जारी है।
सन् 1920 में अमेरिकन यूनिटेरियन एसोसिएशन के तत्वावधान में बोस्टन में इण्टरनैशनल कांग्रेस आफ रिलीजियस लिबरल्स में भारतवर्ष के प्रतिनिधि के रूप में उन्हे आमंत्रित किया गया। इस यात्रा के लिये अनमने से वह एक दिन ध्यान में बैठे थे तो उनके समक्ष साक्षात अमर गुरू बाबाजी प्रकट हुऐ और बोले “ईश्वर की अनुभूति की वैज्ञानिक प्रणाली ‘क्रियायोग’ का अंतत:सब देशों में प्रचार हो जायेगा राष्ट्रों के बीच सौमनस्य-स्थापन में ‘ क्रियायोग’ सहायक होगा ।इस अलौकिक घटना ने योगानंद को विघुत उत्साह से भर दिया ।बाबाजी की वाणी सच हुई,आज पूरा विश्व अप्रत्याशित रूप से योग कर रहा है।
जिस पानी के जहाज़ से योगानंद यात्रा कर रहे थे उसकी एक माह की यात्रा के दौरान सह यात्रियों ने उन्हे धर्म के ऊपर व्याख्यान के लिये मना लिया। स्वामी योगानंद जी लिखते हैं कि अंग्रेज़ी भाषा मे व्याख्यान देना तो दूर की बात थी एक वाक्य बोलना भी उनके लिये कठिन था ,जब वह पोडियम पर पहुँचे तो पहली बार धारा प्रवाह क्लिष्ट अंग्रेज़ी भाषा में बोलने लगे इस व्याख्यान की बहुत चर्चा हुई और बाद में अमेरिका की विभिन्न संस्थाओं में उनके योग पर सेमिनार हुऐ।
योगीनंद जी ने सात मार्च 1952 को महासमाधि में प्रवेश किया। क्रियायोग की ऊर्जा से बीस दिन बाद भी 27 मार्च तक उनके शरीर में मृत्यु का कोई लक्षण या विकार नहीं था ,एक तरोताज़ा शरीर की तरह उनकी देह को शवपेटिका में बंद किया गया । “विज्ञान मस्तिष्क के बस 1-2 प्रतिशत भाग को जाग्रत कहता है , जबकि क्रियायोग मस्तिष्क को असीमित सीमा तक जाग्रत करने की विलक्षण विधि है।” यदि कोई करने का साहस कर सके ।
अनिल कुमार शर्मा, कवि-लेखक
It is not certain when and where I was born.
My ancestors told me that they and their ancestors have been living in this universe for times immemorial.
They also told me that they have trillions and trillions of relatives known by different names. There isn’t a place where they do not live or wander about.
We, viruses, are so small that we don’t need much space to live or travel.
There is a form of life on one of the planets in this planetary system and they call themselves ‘homo-sapiens’. For simplicity sake I shall call them ‘humans’. These humans think themselves as very intelligent, powerful, innovative and superb problem solvers. But in my opinion they are weaklings and fighting with their own species on a regular basis.
Since their own natural senses can be inadequate, the humans have made various tools in order to find and study other species. For example, the humans have invented an instrument called a microscope to detect species that are invisible to their eyes. As they couldn’t see our kind even by their microscope, they labelled us as “sub-microscopic” infectious agents.
Another behaviour of the humans is that they have a very complicated system of reproduction which requires both a male and a female. The male impregnates a female by inserting a liquid substance in her body and it takes her nine months to reproduce. The result of this complicated system is a very small specimen, named a “baby”. The baby has to be nurtured for a very long time to become a full fledged human.
We viruses are much smarter than humans. We have a simple way of multiplying. We enter any living organism and we simply replicate ourselves in huge numbers within the cells of these organisms. Our building blocks are either RNA or DNA found in the nucleic acid, a protein available either as single or double stranded manner in a living cell. So this shows our flexibility and adaptability. All this is nearly instant and not like the human’s nine months.
The humans hate us as they think we are the cause of many of their health problems. So far they haven’t found any remedy against us. We can’t help if humans don’t like us.
Now, let me tell you about an interesting development. Some of our cousins were living in an animal species called “bat” in a locality called China. Bats are usually hanging upside-down in dark caves and on tree branches. They are peace loving creatures and sleep during the day and come out after sunset to find food. A local man caught these bats and sold them to a wet food market. Someone ate these bats and our cousins entered the bodies of these people. Our cousins found these bodies very hospitable and started to multiply rapidly.
As a result, hundreds of Chinese people died and their government was too ashamed to admit it and concealed this fact from other nations. Travel between China and other countries continued unabated. This was a great opportunity for our cousins to spread throughout all countries and infect millions of humans. They became feverish and suffered disorders in their bodies while our cousins rejoiced.
The humans gave a new name to our cousins calling them the “Novel Corona Virus” which was quickly shortened to “Covid-19”. The humans have a health organization called WHO. This organization declared our cousins as a pandemic which means nobody among their species would be spared. As per WHO’s latest news bulletins, thousands of humans have died due to Covid-19 and they don’t stop blaming our cousins for such mortalities.
We are innocent creatures and live our short span of lives in host cells. If the hosts react violently, they suffer. Only about two percent of humans die due to our cousins. Their death is not really our fault.
So far, our cousins have tolerated the blame and insults spewed by humans. I learned that a council of my cousins is proposing that some of them should change their nature and shape to harass these humans as there is a rumour that some groups of humans called scientists are in the course of preparing a concoction from our cousins’ bodies. They call it a vaccine which will be injected into the bodies of healthy humans to artificially introduce Corona Virus. The human scientists think that once they have vaccinated humans with small quantities of Corona Virus then those humans will develop antibodies against our cousins and our cousins wouldn’t be able to harass the humans anymore. Let’s see what happens.
However, I am very sorry that the humans have suffered heavily at the spikes or hands of my cousins. Many of them have lost their jobs, so they cannot feed themselves and their families. Our cousins have not spared anybody despite their positions in their communities. I was informed that my cousins even harassed a strong man of the ruling party in a country called India. Some of their ministers and officials died due to illness induced by my cousins. We viruses don’t distinguish between rich and poor, leaders and followers.
I am sorry that some of their Corona Warriors also died due to our cousins’ antics. The humans tried many stupid things to wave away our cousins. They banged on their vessels and clapped but they should have known that we do not have ears to listen to sounds nor can we see the lights of candles which they lit to ward us off.
My advice to humans is to learn how to live with us. But don’t take us lightly; we are not going away anytime soon.
Mr. Nihal Singh Jain, Chartered Accountant.
An American Slave. Written by Himself:
Nibir K. Ghosh
Frederick Douglass’s autobiography published at the Anti-Slavery Office, Cornhill, Boston in 1845 created a stir in the United States as not many books may have done in the history of America. The book is a kind of marvel because it was written at a time when the slaves were kept in bondage and meted a treatment unfit for human beings. As a 12-year old boy, Frederick had a developed an inclination toward reading and writing while working with Mr. Hugh and Mrs. Sophia Auld. When Hugh Auld saw his wife Sophia encouraging Frederic to read and pronounce words and sentences, he severely reprimanded her by saying: “Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world.” But Frederick refused to give up.
He secretly taught himself to read and one day when he heard the name of a school Reader from some white boys of his age on the street, he managed to collect 50 cents by shining shoes of white folks and bought the reader. He narrates the influence the book had on him: “These were choice documents to me. I read them over and again with unabated interest. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind and died away for want of utterance. . .what I read was a bold denunciation of slavery and a powerful vindication of human rights…. The more I read, … I could regard my enslavers in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery.”
The next impact on his sensitive heart and soul came from listening to the slave songs. He notes in his autobiography: Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains….” What is significant about the autobiography is lyrical tale of grit and determination that ultimately released him from the chains of slavery on 3 September 1838.
I am Heard!
Ik ben gehoord
I : from Auschwitz
I : from the Annex
I think my nose has given in to accept,
The Pungent stench of urine, vomit and sweat,
Each rattle in the wheels of the train tremble me,
I know these shivers don’t lie, our fate is locked.
Betrayed or not, we were caught and interrogated,
My mouth was parched, my feet were numb,
As the gentle breeze slapped our cheeks,
When we saw the daylight after two long years.
The train halted in the dread of night, I inhaled fear,
A sharp blow on my legs pinned me to the wall,
The walls whispered the wails of ruthless atrocities,
And from the blur of tear I saw, Pim being dragged away. (Pim is her father)
My heart raced to the blaring sirens of the air raid,
The thumps of Gestapo boots, the shrieks, the gunshots;
I huddled closer to my mother, as my heart jumped from the cage;
The annex had cushioned us for two long years, I wished to live.
The anatomy of humans is now no longer a secret,
They asked us to strip; I stripped my soul,
The hunger in curiosity of genitals is lost.
My heart droops, is that heartache?
The shelling was heavy, Mies couldn’t come today;
I’ve started to see the world from her blue eyes.
Mr Dussel continues to irk, but we sit around the table,
And continue to laugh for all the beauty that’s around.
They broke Lea’s jaw today, she’s seething in pain,
Mother might fit in my clothes now,
She’s bald with only bones and veins.
I think the lonely leaves in Auschwitz feel our cry.
An empty day, though clear and bright,
Is just as dark as any night,
I wish to write, I wish to love,
But I wish to live, and I wish to be heard.
Autobiographical fiction: A select study of Charles Dickens’ Works
Anindya Shankar Polley
Charles Dickens, who also happens to be one of my favourite authors, has never written any autobiography. However, the autobiographical elements in his novels especially David Copperfield and Great Expectations serve his purpose to a large extent. Firstly, the suffering, struggles and achievements of David and his surroundings can be traced in many ways to those of Dickens’ life. The similarities are striking enough to draw our attention in this regard. Secondly, in David Copperfield, Dickens has illustrated the evils prevailing in his contemporary society. It was a time when power was concentrated only in the hands of a few capitalists. The condition of the prisons and workhouses was miserable. The industrialization of education had taken place and the schools were run only for money. Children were used as a tool for illegal work and they were exploited in the workhouses from dawn to dusk for a very small income.
Another important novel which also deserves our special attention in this regard is Great Expectations. It is impossible to read Great Expectations without sensing Dickens’ presence in the book, without being aware that in portraying and judging Pip he is giving us a glimpse of a younger self. Here he writes about orphans because he felt abandoned by his parents as a child. In Great Expectations, Pip is left an orphan while his older sister and her husband serve as his substitute parents. Dickens never fully forgave his parents, and they would appear as characters in unflattering incarnations within his works. His father's artlessness with finances compounded with his mother's domineering personality probably made Dickens view his father as weak which Joe, Pip’s brother-in-law reflects in his hen-pecked position.
Dr. Anindya Shankar Polley, Munger Univ, Bihar
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: Author as both Narrator and Narrated
The first person account makes any autobiography more intense and powerful. This makes it not only confessional but also a place where the readers confide in the experiences shared by the narrator. A kind of “double focus” is created where the author is both narrators as well as narrated. The Autobiography of Malcolm X perhaps suffices the need. The autobiography is one that of identity transformation, a story of someone who has fallen from grace but rises up to ‘see the light’. The autobiography is based on the interviews with Malcolm X first published in 1965. The book is particularly interesting as it not only incorporates events and incidents from Malcolm X’s life but also includes his own opinions and perspectives. The autobiography reveals the metamorphosis from Malcolm Little, through Detroit Malcolm X to EL-Hajj Malik culminating in El Shabazz. This journey from Young boy to being adopted by white people and then turning ruthless hustler in Boston but changing in prison into aggressive and persuasive spokesman for Nation of Islam and finally becoming a tolerant, meditative, ambitious, independent, international political leader makes this autobiography more alluring and a mark of great achievement in the life of Malcolm X.
The autobiography displays signs of positivity throughout more by the ascending order of metamorphosis each surpassing the previous identity and moving an inch closer towards positive light. Use of Conk to straighten hair, obsession with white women, travelling, imprisonment, pilgrimage to Mecca has all played individual parts in shaping the identity of Malcolm X. Besides, the autobiography also prevails with the changing views on America’s racial pattern. A boy who has grown up witnessing the despair state of black people turns arrogant towards any help provided to the black people. Conversion to Islam teaches him systematic hatred but it is only after a break from Islam teaches him that the oppressed Black people can succeed in their struggle only if they identify with other Black people. The autobiography is not only a re-visit to his past but also re-constituting his past by linking past and present in the life of Malcolm X.
Dr. Lisha Sinha, Munger, Bihar