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NAMAMI BRAHMAPUTRA-BIGGEST RIVER FESTIVAL OF INDIA

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THEME SONG

… Namami Brahmaputra,

Kabhi shaant bahe kabhi rudra,

Pal pal mein ek naya chitra,

O Zindagi ke sakha

Yu he behna,

Dur hai shristi,

Brahma tere pita  …

    When the end gets nearer, life gets dearer, childhood comes closer and memories get thirstier. The song brings about wild nostalgia and takes me back in time, some 45 to 50 years when I used to sojourn in Guwahati circuit house, located near the High Court, on the banks of mighty Brahmaputra while driving down from Shillong, then capital of Assam, on my way to Kolkatta with my Parents. So, one can’t help but reminisce those wonderful times after hearing this beautiful song cranked by Mr Bachchan. I was very young then …

    I had not seen the mighty sea, but yes I was seeing the powerful Brahmputra in its shaant and rudra expanse as the song goes. The view from the circuit house was just tantalizing. Each morning as I woke up, I used to rush to the lawns and thereafter run to the railings that divided the circuit house from the long and wide embankment of the river.  As the sun rose, one could see herds of cattle flocking around the shore for water and pasture and their herdsmen, with their long crooks on their shoulders singing those folksongs, perhaps to please the rising sun. A few bare feet—bare chested Deswali milkmen too, passed my sight with their soiled dhotis tied around their slender waist. Generally in conversation, trying to describe the might of the river, while comparing it with the humble brooks in their distant village in faraway states.

    Even, when, it was hazy. From the embankment one could get a vivid view of the lush green Uma-Nandi islet, located in the centre of the river. It had tall trees and a few boats anchored around. From a distance, it appeared as a humble abode for some rural families involved in small time farming. Where, one could distinctly hear, calls of languri bandars (monkeys) coming from there, that could be heard right up to the rooms of the circuit house. The fierce flow of the river made that rhythmic splash at regular intervals, when it hit the shore, while it kept under wraps, its strong undercurrents. Something, that we humans also need to learn. To keep our raucous mood swings under check.

    All around there were hills and hillocks some tall and some not so tall. At a distance one could see a flurry of dinghies and even a couple of ferries carrying people across. By now the sun had arched up and its mirror image could be seen in the river water. The entire panorama is still so fresh in my mind as if it was captured by some high pixel camera about half a century ago.

    I jumped the railings to be on the other side of the circuit house that gave me a feel as if I had touched the river. But the flow of water was still at a distance. From here it looked blue and foamy. I walked the distance and up to the shore without anyone noticing me. Where, I dipped my hands to finally touch Brahmaputra. He was cold. Yet he was the biggest warmth around, for the civilisation. The passing herdsman yelled at me to get back, as the river had strong undercurrents. Meanwhile, his carefree children raced across to me. They appeared ace swimmers. The elder one jumped into the river and swam for a while. The others pointed their fingers towards the circuit house. ‘Yes I’m from there.’ I said. They clapped and asked for some money to buy ‘chanajor garam’ early in the morning. They were four so I gave them eight annas. And they immediately ran away, thinking, I might ask them to return the money as there was no one selling chanajor early in the morning. But soon I saw them at a close by tea stall.

    I waved and they waved back. Soon I was immersed in my own thoughts. Why are some places so beautiful and some so ugly? Why can’t fishes be out water and live with me? Why can’t I walk through the water and go to Uma-Nandi to see those langurs? Why do I need to always do, what others tell me, and not what I want to do?

    Suddenly, I could hear the voice of my Dad’s office boy. He was darting at me, finding me alone and that too on the banks of such a powerful river. The serene and enchanting morning was thus over but it had left a mark in me. I wish I could carry the mighty Brahmaputra with me in my pocket was the last thought.  

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     Namami Brahmaputra is the biggest river festival of India. It was organized across 21 districts in Assam from March 31-April 4, 2017. Brahmaputra is the only male river by name in India and the fifth most powerful river of the world with very strong undercurrents.

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

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A day with Dad

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    I knew for sure. This ever changing world around me will only change further. But I just didn’t know how much. Ever since you left us on this very day many years ago. I have stayed away from Lucknow. And after many years I’m home around this time. Thinking, I would sight the changing times myself. So, on this serene and dismal morning I went out for a morning walk. Pursuing, quite the same route. That, you once frequented. And it gave me a feel as if I was following the same trail that you had left behind.

     To be frank. I wasn’t surprised when I saw. The old surroundings had really sprung up to the hilt, leaving no niche for that stilly calm. The flow of river Gomti has receded and it isn’t what it used to be in your times. It has thinned down. Like the plait of an ageing lady. The chirping Gauraiyas are nowhere to be seen. And no one knows where they have gone. Did you see them by any chance? Did they come to you? Meanwhile some Gods have grown in stature but some remained where they were. The temple of Hanuman Setu has exalted both in pomp and spirits, just like you. But the small Shivalaya near the banks has only greyed. It still emanates of that salt and pepper looks. The overarching, Banyan tree there, has spread all around the Shivalay. As if, protecting, the God of the poor, residing in it. That reminded me of the days when you protected all of us.

     The chauraha has become quite psychedelic as everything out there has changed. The famous samosawalla—Phullu who had his makeshift shop in the middle of it is nowhere to be seen—the samosas are there but the walla has changed. No one knows where he has gone. Some say he is no more. One, Good Samaritan has converted her home into an institution. I wish. Many were like her.

     The chauraha gossips are no more vociferous. The morning newspapers have swapped positions and with that even the feel. From Swatantra Bharat it is now Dainik Jagran and some others. What has grossly depleted over the years is ‘time.’ People don’t have time but enough to whine. Where, morals have declined.

    Even in the faint trickle and rustle of the holy river. I could hardly hear the serenading calls of those joyous koel in the colourful months of spring. That used to be so piercing earlier. It has now been overtaken by the roar of the swarming vehicles thriving on the embankment. That sadly pollutes the vicinity, all along the scorching day. Lots of people walk up to the newly resurrected Mandirs, Ashrams and even a Masjid nearby for peace of mind. Perhaps, someday, their temples within, shall also kindle to the call of the Almighty.

    Most bright children in and around have left for good. I now only find their parents whiling away their time in obsolescence. Is when, I wonder what I got from you and what I gave to my child. If the equations are not comforting peace shall always elude me.

    So much has changed over the years. Yet a few things haven’t changed. Just as, the day and night take their turn. The sun still rises and the rain comes when it has to come. Seasons too, alternate when they have to. But more importantly the chord we struck during our lives will never ever change.

    What I continue to learn from you is, pillars should not change. But they should allow  the change.

    May, you rest in peace.

    By Kamlesh Tripathi: Homage to Babuji (K.P. Tripathi). He left us this day in 1984.

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REMEMBERING MY FATHER- THE POWER OF YOGA

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

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Some 32 years ago, on 14th of April I lost my father. He peacefully passed away in his sleep. Since then every morning I pray to God, ‘may he rest in peace.’ I did the same today.

He was an avid lover of Yoga. So, below is verse from Gita that takes you to shunya (emptiness) yet it holds and triggers your mind; and today is quite an appropriate day to convey it to all those who may not have read it.

PRAYANKALE MANSACHLEN BHAKTYA YUKTO YOGBALEN CHAEV

BHRUVORMARDHAYA PRANMAVEHSYA SAMYAKAH SA TAM PARAM PURUSHMUPAITI DIVYAM

It says at the time of death, a person who is able to steady his pran (breath of life) between his eyebrows with the power of yoga, and with a firm mind can devote himself at the feet of the Parmeshwar, (Almighty) he for sure will dissolve in the divinity of the Parmeshwar.

In the verse it is also clarified that during the time of death the person’s mind should be ready and steady to assimilate with the power of God. People who practice yoga regularly, for them it is recommended that they get their pran (breath of life) between their agya-chakra—bhavain (eyebrows). And it is recommended to practice and concentrate on the ‘Shat-Chakras” that refers to the six Chakras in the human body: Muladhara, Svadhishthana, Manipra, Anahata, Vishuddha and Ajna.

But a person who forever is immersed in Krishnabhavnaamrit (the elixir of Lord Krishna) and who is a always a pure devotee of Krishna, with the help of Lord’s blessings and without yoga-abhyas too can reach God but that is only possible through Bhaktiyoga.

In the verse (word) ‘yogbalen’ (power of Yoga) has been used which is of utmost significance because without yoga whether it is shatchakrayog or bhaktiyog—man at the time of death cannot achieve divinity. No one at the time of death can suddenly remember or pray to God. He needs to practise and depend on some form of yoga for this, especially the bhaktiyoga. Because, at the time of death, a person’s mind is extremely restless, and therefore, for assimilating into the divinity at the time of death; he must during his lifetime practice yoga and through yoga he must practice spiritualism as that alone will help him see his end.

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MEMORY LANE: HIS HOLINESS DALAI LAMA’S ESCAPE AND EXILE TO INDIA

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By kamlesh Tripathi

HH Dalai Lama with my father next to him and a journalist
HH Dalai Lama received in Tezpur by my father standing next to him, and a journalist asking questions. And don’t miss his radiant smile … that speaks about his courage even after being exiled.
One of his recent pictures
HH- One of his recent pictures
HH entering India, and behind him in the 2nd spot is my father
HH entering India, and behind him in the 2nd spot is my father.

MEMORY LANE: HIS HOLINESS DALAI LAMA’S ESCAPE AND EXILE TO INDIA

The picture in the middle is a rare photograph of the 14th Dalai Lama. In the year 1959 during Tibetan uprising, fearing for his life, the Dalai Lama and his retinue fled Tibet with the help of the CIA’s Special Activities Division, crossing into India on 30 March 1959. Reaching Tezpur in Assam on 18 April. And here he was received by my father Late Mr Kamakhya Prasad Tripathi, a Minister then in the Assam Government. And what is truly striking about the picture is the radiant smile of 24 year old 14th Dalai Lama (Real name: Lhamo Dondrub) who inspite of having lost his kingdom wears that courageous smile.

Dalai Lama was born on 6 July 1935 at Taktser, China. He is a recipient of 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

Truly, a nostalgic moment, to see my father receiving and welcoming HH Dalai Lama into India.

REMEMBRANCE

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(Late K.P. Tripathi: 1910- 14.4.1984)

(Ex-Member of 1 st Parliament, Finance Minister of Assam, Vice-President INTUC, Chairman National Textiles Corporation)

Exactly this day, 31 years ago you left us; but you are as fresh and relevant in our lives even today. And that is the making of a noble and great soul.

Every now and then, after a couple of steps I halt to reminisce your teachings and will continue do so.

May you rest in peace.

O MY FAIR LADY!

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  2my fair ladt

    Our formative years were full of fun and coupled to them was a careless, happy –go- lucky lifestyle that went naturally with it. The gay abandon and freedom we enjoyed was all within the family for we enjoyed doing things together. Life was simple and modes of entertainment simpler. No Cineplex, no DVDs, or play stations or speed dating. A good game of cricket followed by a refreshing ice soda, topped by a steaming cup of coffee with a bun, perhaps, was the ultimate luxury. My interest in movies as a source of entertainment was influenced by my uncle who belonged to the era of Douglas Fairbanks, Spencer Tracey, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and a host of others who gave that aura of sheer mysticism and glamour to Hollywood, which makes it what it is today. Uncle was particular about the movies we saw, especially the English movies. He out rightly discouraged the slam-bang-wham types, excepting, of course, the Westerns starring John Wayne, Gary Cooper and the ilk. Uncle acquainted us with the top genre movies including the noire category made by Hollywood. The list of films ranged from Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music to Scapegoat, Stagecoach and Gunfight at O.K. Coral. However, my all time favourite is The Sound of Music. ‘Do Re Me Fa…’ , ‘I’m sixteen going on seventeen….’, oh, what numbers, simply out of this world-or mind blowing by today’s parlance. For sheer magic of music and visual excellence the movie is miles ahead of its genre.

But for unalloyed intellectual treat My Fair Lady takes the cake. Elders at home took great pains to explain the essential hypocrisy of the British and their unique trait of laughing at themselves. That, perhaps, has moulded my present opinion. Based on Pygmalion by the great English dramatist, GBS, this captivating musical, a Twentieth Century Fox Production, won the best film Oscar(1964). The name Pygmalion refers to the king of Cyprus who fell in love with a statue of his own making. The beautiful statue was bestowed with life and turned into a more beautiful maiden whom Pygmalion married, or so the story goes. Henry Higgins is an English linguistics professor without peer. He is also a misogynistic bachelor-brash, arrogant but totally committed to his work. The Covent Garden scene where he meets scruffy Eliza Dolittle, superbly portrayed by Audrey Hepburn, a common flower girl with a Cockney accent, is uniquely scripted and refreshingly filmed.

Professor Higgins takes on Eliza under his tutelage in order to transform her from a rustic flower girl to a lady who captures the majesty and grandeur of the English language with impeccable articulation. They train together and enter into a cantankerous relationship where Eliza threatens Higgins, “Just you wait Henry Higgins”. Eliza has to work unceremoniously as part of his innovative speech devices much to the anguish of Col Pickering who sympathises with the girl for the ordeals she suffers. Higgins bets with Pickering that he will be able to pass Eliza off as a Duchess in six months time. The big day finally arrives. Pretenders, masqueraders, and polyglots arrive incognito to de-mask Eliza. They tease, torment and taunt Eliza who stands unnerved by their verbal sallies. Eliza steals the show with His Majesty leading the dance with her, much like the Cindrella of the fairy tale. Eliza transcends expectations beyond measure. Higgins finds it difficult to believe in his own handiwork and concedes defeat, saying: “ I have grown accustomed to her face”.

Astonishing sets, captivating costumes and excellent photography together with immortal tunes like’ “Get me to the church in time”, “I could have danced all night” transform the movie into a classic. Down to this day the movie ranks as an all time favourite for our entire family. The supporting cast in the form of Alfred Dolittle (Stanley Holloway) in the role of Eliza’s eccentric yet charismatic father is no less endearing. Alfred delivers some of the finest lines in the film, and remains my favourite character to this day. Our own Bollywood has many a times borrowed thematic contents from Hollywood classics of the early sixties and seventies. Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi and picked up its theme from It Happened One Night, while The Sound Of Music provided the concept for Parichay. Devanand’s Manpasand adapted substantially from My Fair Lady. In doing so the Bollywood  attempt was bold but not a patch on the great movie. However, Devanand as Higgins and Girish Karnad as Col Pickering just manage to keep the movie afloat.

Going back to my favourite, the most exciting part of the movie is where Higgins and Eliza sing the ditty “The Rain In Spain Falls Mainly in the Plain”.  Suddenly Eliza discovers that the tone, timbre and modulation of her voice have acquired the Queen’s accent. The exhilaration and joy of the Professor is a delight to watch. Even Pickering and the house maids join in the fun as the song goes on and on. The scene is one of the high point of the movie. The acerbic wit in the allegory authored by the redoubtable GBS is commendably brought out in the film which for me remains a moving experience.

A.K.Tripathi,                                                                                                                                        Guwahati-Assam

March-2015

First published in Local Area Magazine titled ‘Nava Arunodoi’ in 2009. The article has since been re-edited.