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Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Hills Aren't Alive with the Sound of Music!!!

Darjeeling is again in the news. For all the wrong reasons!

Darjeeling has been voted, time & again, one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country. Yet Darjeeling has been the hot-bed of disruptive politics from the fag end of the last century.

Looking back:

Darjeeling has been popularly known as the Queen of the Hills, and the name itself has two very important associations. The first of them is the famous Darjeeling Tea, one of the finest varieties of tea that is produced here, and the other is the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a world heritage site. Mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world, is very close to darjeeling, from where one can get a very clear view of the same. Satyajit Ray, the master filmaker, had filmed his first colour feature film 'Kanchanjangha' in Darjeeling and the place had been an integral part of the screenplay, supplying a superb atmospheric. In the recent past, Darjeeling has also gained popularity to young tourists from around the world on account of White Water Rafting, an intense adventure sport.

The three hilly subdivisions of Darjeeling disrict are Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. Darjeeling, the Queen of Hill Stations, owes its eminence to the British, who built the Eden Sanatorium here in the early 19th century. The name Darjeeling is derived from the Tibetan Dorje-ling of the Thunderbolt Dorji. Some, however, believe that it was the thunderbolt of Lord Indra, the ruler of the skies. In 1839, when the East India Company took over Darjeeling, situated in the Himalayas at a height of 7,500 feet, and termed it The Observatory Hill. Only 20 mud huts existed on the hill then but now the town boasts of a population exceeding 9 lakh.

The agony:

Everything hasn't been well for the Darjeeling hills and the people of that part. They have been seething in anger for quite sometime. There has been a rise in their resentment against the people of the North Bengal plains. During the eighties, the separatist movement troubled the hills. The demand for a separate state 'Gorkhaland' was at its peak then, the residents of the Darjeeling hills felt insecure, thraetened and, needless to say, were persecuted too. The CRPF battalions carrying arms move to every nook and corner of the town and villages; bandhs were rampant; loss of lives, property, dignity & dreams resulted. Tourism was badly affected back then and the people of Darjeeling bent backwards in order to seek respite from the spiralling of woes.

As things calmed down, it was felt by many short-sighted politicians of West Bengal that the Gorkhaland Movement was on its way to die a slow natural death. Alas! It was not to be!

The discontent kept brewing, the people of the hills were boiling with agitation, conveniently unnoticed by many with an air of brash dismissal. Recently, the politics of bandhs have returned to Darjeeling with a vengeance. The brandishing of the khukris by the local activists threaten to disturb the peace for good, and hark back to the terrible days of violence. In protest against the bandhs, a civilian movement was formed demanding not to turn Darjeeling into a battlefield again, it was spearheaded by cilvilians who did not want to be penalised, having to bear the cost of loved ones.

Thus, on one hand, Bimal Gurung - who has been able to inflame peace-drenched hills with his rapid rise to fame - has snatched the baton from the former Gorkha National Liberation Front supremo, Subash Ghisingh, his mentor, and the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha has called for an indefinite bandh to put pressure on the State and the Centre to seriously moot the formation of a separate state, and, on the other hand, three anti-Gorkhaland organisations - Amra Bangali, Bangla Bhasa Bachaon Samity and Janajagaran Mancha have started to put an inverse pressure on the separatist movement. There has been backlash on the innocent tourists, who have been made to flee, and the bandhs and the counter-strikes, and civil unrest are back to throttle the voice of sanity. The hills aren't alive with the sound of music...... apologies to the creators of the immortal track from 'The Sound of Music' - that obviously resonate in me when I see in my mind's eye the quaint beauty of Darjeeling..... the hills are ablaze with people with selfish motives who want to make mischief and usher in pains & sorrows. Darjeeling bleeds, as we watch the beauty of Darjeeling captured in the splendid visuals of recent films like 'Anuranan', 'Chalo... Let's Go' and 'Via Darjeeling'. What a cruel irony!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Blogging - a fad???

I am often asked this question by my e-friends, and sometimes I even ask myself....... 'Is Blogging a Fad?'The Internet has produced significant social phenomena, such as email and the Web. However, it also has produced its share of fads and failures. One phenomenon that currently ranks high on the hype meter is web logs,or blogs. Now, the big question is: Are blogs just a passing phase?
Do they serve any useful purpose, as in dissemination of information, or are they just growing by leaps and bounds as just junk babbles on the Net?
We are in an era of fast and easy consumption, and even excretion of information. We seem to revel in the opportunity provided to all and sundry to churn out rubbish, along with the necessary and satisfactory content. We are all part of a world in which blogging provides psychologically masturbatory means of communicating as much with oneself to gratify our desperate need for ejaculating psycho-babble, as is the need to communicate with the invisible, the imaginable or the perceivable others.
People with similar interests have been able to bond better. They might be otherwise denied the opportunity of feedback sharing, or participating in the broader spectrum of reciprocity of views, ideas and emotions.
It is usually a tendency on the part of the critics to focus on the celebrity blogs, or that of the pop-culture genre, and give blogging a bad name. Blogging is a trend indeed, and is here to stay, for better or for worse; the future will be a witness, of course.