Thursday, August 20, 2009
Its been quite a year.
In January, I travelled to Pune and then Mumbai, for public policy and academic conferences, and then to Delhi, for a business meeting.
In February I visited my son Rishiraj at the Rishi Valley School, in south India, together with my older son Rituraj.
I was unwell and convalescing during February-April. Nonetheless, I managed to complete a writing assignment, on urban protest in Calcutta. I also completed the translation into English of my colleague Amina's articles on the theme "See the City from Here", about slums.
In May, I was in the capital again, to join a friend in his business development. Having decided that I should leave Calcutta and begin a new livelihood, I corresponded with some schools. So I visited the Sahyadri School, near Pune. Shortly after that I visited the Sholai School, near Kodaikanal, in south India. Sholai had an immense impact on me. A school in a forest in a mountain. A haven of peace and solace, far away from the ugly city. The school was started about 20 years ago by an Englishman, Brian Jenkins. He was keen that I join and help to start a teacher training college there, among other things.
In June, on the invitation of a friend, I joined a rural governance study in the northern districts of West Bengal. That was indeed a strenuous and hectic affair. But also one that was very educative, rewarding and reinvigorating, as it afforded a vision of a new Bengal in the making in the grassroots.
I had to submit the manuscript of my translated stories of the Bengali writer Subimal Misra. I managed to extract the time to complete it in great haste and sent that off in early July.
Shortly after that, I travelled to Assisi in Italy. I was invited to join a week-long international children's camp there, organised by two Italian foundations, on the theme of 'Time of Rights'. I accompanied two children from our Talimi Haq School in Howrah. 28 children from India, Italy and Peru participated in the campus, together with teachers and workshop animators. That was like a continuing epiphany. I was in Ancona and Roma briefly before returning to Calcutta.
A few days latter I went to London. I stayed at the International Students House, at Regents Park, where I had lived as a student during 1982-84. I tramped through my old and favourite haunts. I spent a long time, and a small fortune, in bookshops, indulging my penchant for outstanding specimens of graphic literature, to enlarge the mental horizons of my sons.
I attended my friend Mark's wedding, at the Kings College chapel in Cambridge. I was in Cambridge again after 25 years. How I had wanted nothing more than to be immersed lifelong in study in Cambridge! But that was not to be. But now I sang at the chapel as part of Mark's wedding service. The acoustics in the chapel - quite awesome indeed. Yes, I was an a capella singer alright.
In London, I realised that this was the city I could truly and zestfully call my own, and profess love for. After all, it was where I was born again, where I came to light, where I became a man. And in London, this truly international city, I also became aware, for the first time, of the peculiar circumstance of my life, me, an Indian, in faraway Calcutta, being defined so profoundly by the English language.
I then went to Hannover, in Germany, to initiate a business collaboration with a small German electronics company. They have developed tools and technologies for early child learning and for language learning. I intend to bring that to India. I made a close new friendship, with Ralph, the CEO of the company. A powerful business opportunity, a new chapter in my life, a means for enormous wealth creation. Which would enable public good, with the Talimi Haq School as a small sapling to help grow an enormous Right to Education movement for the country's disprivileged children.
Meanwhile, in the small manufacturing enterprise which I have been managing on behalf of my family, we are at a challenging stage. Much to be done, but through that there is the strong potential of becoming a leading manufacturer in the world in the tiny niche we operate in.
Its still only August. I have some more important trips and journeys to make in the coming months. So far, and especially since June, I have been made, unmade and remade during and through the travels, leaving me feeling like a whirling dervish. Patterns and circles, cycles and symmetries, and synchronicities... life clad in epic raiment, humbling one to silent labour.