Faruq Faisel

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Raising a voice
In Canada, they're the `invisible' press. They hope to change that with a new online journal, writes Nicholas Keung
May 27, 2006. 03:25 AM

Mohsin Abbas discovered his destiny in Pakistan at age 8, when he found himself near a roadside tea shop watching with fascination as a crowd of people — some illiterate, others too poor to buy a newspaper — debated a column in Maskriq, the main daily in the industrial border city of Sialkot.

"I saw men beating their wives, and kids working as child labour, and I always wondered: Who's responsible for all these problems?" recalls Abbas, now 32. "Then I was at this tea shop looking at these people talking about these stories in the newspaper, and I knew I could use words as a tool to express myself and expose these injustices I saw."

Under a regime often criticized for its restrictions on press freedom, Abbas started freelancing as a journalist while still in high school, served as a stringer for Associated Press and Reuters in war-torn Kashmir, and as a staff writer at the Urdu-language Daily Pakistan, where he worked from 1993 until 2002.

He never shied away from writing about sensitive issues — even police violence, the politically risky topic that ultimately forced him to flee in 2002.

The irony is that Abbas, like many other journalists living in exile in Canada, has been muzzled again in a land that prides itself on freedom of speech. So much so that members of the organization Journalists in Exile, sharing Abbas' frustration, this month launched their own online magazine — at http://www.jexcanada.com/ — to create a place to be heard again.

"I don't have any fear in Canada and I feel free to write about anything that I like," says Abbas, who has worked in sales, in factories and freelancing for BBC news online while awaiting a decision on his refugee claim. "The problem is there's no outlets for our voices to be heard, because the Canadian media would not take a chance on us. I took up the profession for my passion. It makes me crazy that I don't even have a voice now."

Back in Pakistan, Abbas quit only when his life was at stake. He broke a story in February 2002 alleging police involvement in the murders of two journalists, including a Daily Pakistan colleague who had been writing a book about the press and the police.

"The police took my father for questions twice, and my five sisters were begging me to leave the country."

Abbas spent several months wandering through Dubai, London and the United States in dim hopes of returning.

But when Pakistan passed a "defamation ordinance" in October 2002, further tightening censorship, he knew there was no going back. That's when he contacted exiled journalist advocacy groups in Canada.

Like Abbas, most exiled journalists are toiling in two or more "survival jobs" to make ends meet, often while separated from families half a world away. Yet members feel compelled to contribute to the magazine in their free time, to have a forum for issues important to their ethnic communities — issues they feel are neglected in the mainstream media.

They are contributing columns, articles and cartoons, and the website includes links to individual blogs and a special area where journalists can pitch story ideas for the perusal of Canadian media outlets.

Maryam Aghvami, president of the six-year-old exile group, notes that these journalists are often sought-after sources for Canadian media.

"You spend two hours on the phone with a (Canadian) journalist to brief them on issues and get them contacts in the community. As much as I love them, you don't hear from them till their next story," laments the former Reuters reporter from Iran.

"They don't always have the expertise in these communities, and we want to help them so they don't screw up stories. But for us, this is another form of exploitation."

Earlier this year, Aghvami represented the Ethnic Media Press Council of Canada at a federal government news conference in Mississauga on immigration, and found herself passed over when an organizer found out she was with "the ethnic press."

"I asked him after the news conference why I didn't get to ask my questions, and he explained to me that the Q&A was for local and national media only," says Aghvami. "It's shocking and frustrating when others treat journalists like myself with such disrespect, that we're less than others."

Among her group's 70 members across Canada, none has landed a permanent mainstream media job, even though some had previous experience in international English-language media. While a few find freelance work, most volunteer for shoestring community publications to "keep their skills fresh."

"I guess our motivation is to get our self-confidence and self-esteem back, so we can still pick up a pen and write again," says Aghvami, who left Iran in 2001, when political reformists there lost ground to religious conservatives and she no longer felt safe as a female journalist.

She was never jailed or tortured, but when reporting for foreign media she'd get calls from government officials questioning her on her interview subjects.

She was on contract — and still occasionally freelances — as an associate producer with CBC's Fifth Estate, but she has also found bread-and-butter work in the insurance industry and for translation services.

Morteza (Mori) Abdolalian, JEX's co-founder, says the group's members, who hail from two dozen countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, reflect the rich life experiences of many new Canadians and can help local media see "the other side of the community."

"We are the invisible journalists in Canada," says the political writer, who left Iran in the 1976 to study in the Philippines. "It seems that journalists in the West don't really see us as one of them, though we're just as well trained and experienced."

A founder of the Iranian students association at Manila's University of the East, Abdolalian was critical of Iran's theocratic regime in the campus papers, Akhgar and Dawn. It was no surprise that he was greeted by intelligence officers at the Tehran airport upon his graduation in 1982.

He was imprisoned twice by authorities, leading up to his ultimate escape back to the Philippines the next year. When he began being harassed by some Iranian students and embassy staff in Manila, he moved to Japan with a Red Cross-issued refugee passport. After being stateless for five years, he arrived in Canada in 1990.

"We need to speak up for those who can't," says Abdolalian, who runs his own news Weblog at http://www.moriab.blogspot.com/. "This is in my blood because I truly believe in freedom and democracy. It all starts with a voice."

Saleem Samad, 54, an exiled journalist from Bangladesh, says the risks and threats he and many peers faced in defending press freedom are hardly fathomable to Canadians.

He was threatened many times and jailed twice over his three decades in South Asia's English-language press — once blindfolded and left in an isolated cell for five days without food or water.

But nothing could sway him from his passion for writing about conflicts and terrorism.
He fled to Canada in 2004, after a source within the intelligence services warned him his life was in danger.

"My friend just said: `You must go. Now!'

"Things are going wrong everywhere, and we need to expose them to the rest of the world. If I stopped writing about these things, I'd better retire from the profession," says Samad, a former reporter with The Bangladesh Observer and New Nation and a correspondent for Time Magazine's Asia edition.

Samad started a job as a security guard in Toronto a month ago, and hopes to see his wife of 25 years and their two children join him in Canada in September. He is a volunteer editor for JEX's magazine.

"The online magazine is an important forum for exiled journalists to get published," Samad says, "because this is the only platform that's open to us." #

Source: Toronto Star, Sat May. 27, 2006


Killing Iraqi Children
By Jacob G. Hornberger
"Lew Rockwell" -- -- In a short editorial, the Detroit News asked an interesting question:

“Some war critics are suggesting Iraq terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi should have been arrested and prosecuted rather than bombed into oblivion. Why expose American troops to the danger of an arrest, when bombs work so well?”

Here’s one possible answer: In order not to send a five-year-old Iraqi girl into oblivion with the same 500-pound bombs that sent al-Zarqawi into oblivion.

Of course, I don’t know whether the Detroit News editorial board, if pressed, would say that the death of that little Iraqi girl was “worth it.” Maybe the board wasn’t even aware that that little girl had been killed by the bombs that killed Zarqawi when it published its editorial. But I do know one thing: killing Iraqi children and other such “collateral damage” has long been acceptable and even “worth it” to U.S. officials as part of their long-time foreign policy toward Iraq.

This U.S. government mindset was expressed perfectly by former U.S. official Madeleine Albright when she stated that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children from the U.S. and UN sanctions against Iraq had, in fact, been “worth it.” By “it” she was referring to the U.S. attempt to oust Saddam Hussein from power through the use of the sanctions. Even though that attempt did not succeed, U.S. officials still felt that the deaths of the Iraqi children had been worth trying to get rid of Saddam.

It’s no different with respect to President Bush’s war on Iraq and the resulting occupation, which has killed or maimed tens of thousands of Iraqi people, including countless children. (The Pentagon has long had a policy of not keeping count of the number of Iraqi people, including children, it kills.) In the minds of U.S. officials, the deaths and maiming of all those Iraqi people, including the children, while perhaps unfortunate “collateral damage,” have, in fact, been worth it.

That’s why U.S. officials gave nary a thought to the death of that five-year-old girl who was bombed into oblivion with the bomb that did the same to Zarqawi. The child’s death was “worth it” because the bomb also killed a terrorist, which U.S. officials believe, brings the Middle East another step closer to peace and freedom.

Wars of aggression versus defensive wars
Some would argue that such “collateral damage” is just an unfortunate byproduct of war. War is brutal. People get killed in war. Compared with the two world wars, not that many people have been killed in Iraq, proponents of the Iraq war and occupation would claim.

Such claims, however, miss an important point: U.S. military forces have no right, legal or moral, even to be in Iraq killing anyone. Why? Because neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States. The Iraqi people had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. Thus, this was an optional war against Iraq, one that President Bush and his military forces did not have to wage.

The attack on Iraq was akin to, say, attacking Bolivia or Uruguay or Mongolia, after 9/11. Those countries also had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and so it would have been illegal and immoral for President Bush to have ordered an invasion and occupation of those countries as well. To belabor the obvious, the fact that some people attacked the United States on 9/11 didn’t give the United States the right to attack countries that didn’t have anything to do with the 9/11 attacks.

That made the United States the aggressor nation and Iraq the defending nation in this conflict. That incontrovertible fact holds deep moral implications, as well as legal ones, for U.S. soldiers who kill people in Iraq, including people who are simply trying to oust the occupiers from Iraq. Don’t forget that aggressive war was punished as a war crime at Nuremberg.

Suppose an armed robber enters a person’s home and the owner’s neighbor comes over to help him. The homeowner and his neighbor fire at the robber who fires back, killing both the homeowner and his neighbor. Can the robber claim self-defense? No, because he had no right to be in the home in the first place. The intruder is guilty of murder, both morally and legally, because he doesn’t have the right to be where he is when he shoots the homeowner and his friend.

The situation is no different in Iraq because U.S. soldiers don’t have any right to be there. “But they were ordered to invade Iraq by their commander in chief.” They could have refused to obey orders to deploy to Iraq, just as Lt. Ehren Watada has done. Watada refused to loyally obey the orders of his commander in chief. Instead, he chose to obey his conscience and also to fulfill the oath he took to support and defend the Constitution.

Many Americans have a difficult time processing this because they simply want to block out of their minds that their own federal government – the paternalistic government that takes care of them with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, and education and protects them from drug dealers, immigrants, terrorists, and big oil – would ever do anything gravely wrong.

Let’s put the situation this way. Suppose a coalition of Muslim countries successfully invaded the United States to overthrow the Bush regime and that foreign troops were now occupying the country and supervising new elections. Suppose some Americans began violently resisting the occupation and that British citizens came over to help them. While there undoubtedly would be some Americans supporting the foreign occupation of America and cooperating with it, my hunch is that most Americans would support the resistance.

Or put it this way: Suppose it was the Soviet Union that had done everything to Iraq that the U.S. government has done: imposed brutal sanctions that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, invaded Iraq, and then had Soviet troops occupying the country while organizing elections, killing insurgents and resisters, censoring the press, confiscating guns, conducting warrantless searches, detaining people without trials, and torturing and sexually abusing detainees.

Is there any doubt that a large segment of the American people, especially conservatives and neo-conservatives, would be railing like banshees against the Soviet communist forces in Iraq?
War versus occupation

Moreover, what people often forget is that the United States is no longer at war in Iraq. This is an occupation, not a war. The war ended when Saddam Hussein’s government fell. At that point, U.S. forces could have exited the country. (Or they could have exited the country when it became obvious that Saddam’s infamous WMDs were nonexistent.) Instead, the president opted to have the troops remain in Iraq to “rebuild” the country and to establish “democracy,” and the troops opted to obey his orders to do so. Occupying Iraq, like invading Iraq, was an optional course of action.

As an occupation force serving a sovereign regime, U.S. forces are not engaged in a war but instead are simply serving as a domestic police force for the sovereign Iraqi regime. The problem, however, is that they’ve been trained as soldiers, not policemen.

The military mindset is totally different from the police mindset. Assume that there is a suspected terrorist hiding among 10 innocent people. How would the military and the police deal with that situation?

The military would not chance the suspected terrorist’s escaping or his killing a soldier in a gun battle. As we have seen in the al-Zarqawi killing, the military would simply drop a bomb on the suspect, even knowing that the innocent people around him would also be killed. In the mind of the military, the “collateral damage” would be worth it, even if it included children.

This military mindset was put on display a few years ago by a CIA paramilitary operation in Yemen. Convinced that an automobile in Yemen was being driven by an al-Qaeda terrorist, the CIA fired a missile into the car, killing all six people in the car, including an American citizen. As the Detroit News would ask, why bother with trying to capture the suspects and then go through all the hassles associated with extradition and trial when one missile can do the trick? And how exactly do we know that everyone in the car was guilty of terrorism and deserving of the death penalty? Because the CIA (which claimed that there were WMDs in Iraq) said so.
Consider another real-world example. A few years ago, the Washington, D.C., area was terrorized by two gunmen who were sporadically shooting and killing people at random. The police were having a very difficult time capturing them. One day, someone spotted the suspected snipers parked at a highway roadside park where lots of other cars were parked.
Taking the chance that the suspected snipers could escape to kill again, the cops slowly surrounded the roadside park. They then approached the car and took both of the suspects into custody, after which they were tried and convicted.

What would have been the military response? Drop a couple of 500-pound bombs on them, just as they did with the terrorist Zarqawi. After all, in the words of the Detroit News, why take the chance that the suspects could escape and kill even more people? So what if the bystanders, including children, would be also killed in the process? That collateral damage would be worth it because the suspects would very likely have gone on to kill more people than the bombs did. Of course, the dead would include American children, rather than Iraqi children, but certainly that wouldn’t be an important distinction to the Pentagon, or would it?

That raises another distinction between the military and the police. It’s not difficult to see that the military holds the Bill of Rights in contempt, which is precisely why the Pentagon established its torture and sex abuse camps in Cuba and former Soviet-bloc countries – so as to avoid the constraints of the U.S. Constitution and any interference by our country’s federal judiciary.
It is not a coincidence that in the Pentagon’s three-year effort to “rebuild” Iraq it has done nothing to construct a judicial system that would have independent judges issuing search and arrest warrants or that would protect due process, habeas corpus, jury trials, and the right to counsel. To the military, all that is anathema, not only because it would presumably enable lots of guilty people to go free but also because it might inhibit the ability of the military to take out people without having to go through all those legal and technical niceties.

Several months ago, a U.S. attorney told a federal court of appeals that the United States is as much a battleground in the war on terrorism as other countries in the world, including Iraq. Heaven forbid that the American people ever permit the U.S. military to expand to the United States the war-on-terrorism tactics it has employed overseas.

More important, all too many Americans have yet to confront the moral implications of invading and occupying Iraq. U.S. officials continue to exhort the American people to judge the war and occupation on whether it proves to be “successful” in establishing “stability” and “democracy” in Iraq. If so, the idea will be that the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, including countless Iraqi children, will have been worth it. It would be difficult to find a more morally repugnant position than that.

Jacob Hornberger [send him mail] is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Kathmandu Post Editorial: Where're women?

The country is on the verge of stepping into the new era. The optimism is in air. Nepalis are openly and eagerly taking part in the discussions of inclusive democracy, and enthusiastically raising strong demands to address the issues of oppressed, suppressed, marginalized, disadvantaged, and discriminated people. Nepali people are going to write a unique history of winning independence and sovereignty on their own. Unfortunately, despite being overwhelmed by the passion of change, we Nepalis are unknowingly being drifted towards the patriarchal hegemony, once again. There is a serious competition among the parties to take the credit of historic movement and epoch-making decisions. However, it seems no party has paid heed to the fact that all the decisions are being taken only by men, and the women who cover over 50 percent population are being pathetically ignored.

The proclamation of the reinstated House of Representatives to include 33 percent women in the government, and the right to the women to give their name to their children are certainly historic decisions and will have a long-lasting positive impact on the society. But that is not enough. Women have to have their say in the state building process. When the political and social spheres of the country are seeing monumental changes, the women lot cannot and should not be sidelined. It's eye shoring to see all the men in the SPA and Maoist leaderships. Obviously, it cannot be changed immediately, but men's overwhelming majority in the party leadership should not be an excuse to exclude women from entering into the peace-talks or in the interim statute drafting committee. We urge both the SPA government and the Maoists to immediately induct women in the processes. We do not want the interim statute to be limping in the absence of the voice of the better halves.

Unfortunately, women who picketed the Singha Durbar for their just rights have been forcefully removed. The Post strongly urges the SPA and the Maoists to immediately address the women's demand. There has to be proper (if not 33 or 50 percent at once) representation of women in the interim constitution drafting committee. The argument that the experts committee cannot be balanced in terms of gender is not well founded because there are women who are competent and experienced than anyone in the committee. Similarly, the government, committed to providing 33 percent seats to women in bureaucracy and other nominated positions, is not paying heed to this provision. As a result, in almost all the nominations the gender discrimination is alarmingly high. We also ask the government to follow what the House has declared, and provide due recognition to the people who occupy over half of the sky.

Excerpts of a recent interview with Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Prachanda alias Pushpa Kamal Dahal:

Q. Which name do you prefer to be addressed by- Chairman, Prachanda or Puspa Kamal Dahal?

Prachanda: I prefer Chairman and Prachanda. The name Puspa Kamal Dahal represents a certain culture while the name Prachanda represents a feeling and ideology that intends to take the whole country forward independently. Therefore, I want that all of my friends and the Nepali people recognise me with the name Prachanda.

Q. Your name has caused a big shake-up in the political sector. You remained underground for 25 years. Now you have abandoned the underground life and entered public life. How do you feel?

Prachanda: I had a different life before I went underground. I used to teach Science in High School. I was involved in politics as well. I was a member of the Party. We boycotted the Panchayat elections of 2038 BS. Then I became totally underground. My situation after the 1990 popular movement was almost like it is today. I was open to the media and was not completely underground. A totally new process began after the start of the People's War (in 1996). Now the situation is somewhat similar to 1990.

Q. You have suddenly landed on the liberal political ground from a violent political base, especially after the 12-point understanding with the seven parties. What were the reasons behind the understanding?

Prachanda: Our political base was not that rigid. Ours is a party which had to wage a People's War for just rights despite entering Parliament. We were the third largest party in Parliament.... We lawfully tried to raise some issues- issues related to nationality, people's daily requirements and democracy- even back then. We are not rigid. What we said even after starting the People's War is that we are not communists of the traditional type. Even after the start of the People's War, we have always been ready to accept the people's verdict. We had told the government during the very first peace talks let's hold constituent assembly elections; that the solution to our problem lay there. We were never into rigid politics. We were very much wide and flexible.

Q. You took up arms for political change. Isn't that rigid?

Prachanda: To take up weapons is just a form of politics. I don't think you become rigid once you take up arms. Taking up weapons is also a form of flexibility.

Q. While talking about dialogue and sustainable peace, you once said, in a different context though, that even the king was acceptable?

Prachanda: I didn't say this in that sense. What I had said is we are ready to accept what the people decide through constituent assembly elections. We are ready to accept if the people's verdict is in favour of the king or monarchy...The situation was different when Birendra was the king. In our understanding, the relevance of king and monarchy ended after the royal palace massacre.

Q. You said the relevance is over. But you twice held talks with the governments of the same irrelevant king. What was the compulsion?

Prachanda: The relevance is over indeed. Right after the royal palace massacre, we said the institutional development of republicanism was necessary in Nepal. We are still firm and clear on this stand. As regards to the issue of talks; a war was on between two forces. The initiatives for talks had been taken to avoid further bloodshed between the two sides. It didn't mean we accepted the relevance of monarchy.... When the UML and Deuba were in power last time, we said we would hold talks with the master not with the servants. Because we thought talks would mean something only if we knew who had the real power. Enough talking was done with the parties. But nothing happened.

Q. Who first saw the need for the 12-point understanding after the king began his direct rule- you or the parties?

Prachanda: On our part, we had seen the historic importance of the unity between our party and the parliamentary parties right after the royal palace massacre. But the seven parties didn't listen to us. We had said also in the Siliguri (India) meeting that a working unity was needed between the parties and us. On their part, the seven parties, too, couldn't do much for the people in the democratic period. The parliamentary parties were so much indulged in their power games that they could not grasp what we were trying to say, or let's say we could not make them understand properly. Their situation was totally different after February 1, 2005. Then the seven parties came and we signed the 12-point understanding.

Q. Had any international power pushed you or the seven parties towards each other?

Prachanda: It's both. If you talk negatively, Gyanendra pushed us towards each other. His negative actions pushed us towards each other. I doubt if this change would have come, hadn't some international powers, mainly India, urged us (Maoists and parties) to "do something" jointly. Had the seven parties somebody who could think independently, the country would have been different right after the royal palace massacre. The country would not have suffered this much, had there been leaders who could think for themselves. This time, India helped the 12-point understanding in a positive way.

Q. To the seven parties?

Prachanda: Let's not say seven parties; mainly the UML and the Nepali Congress.

Q. But no understanding seems to be building between you and the UML?

Prachanda: It is building as per the need. They, too, are in the seven-party alliance, apparently. Let's say it's building. But they might be thinking that they would lose their ground if we enter peaceful politics. In our opinion, it's a narrow-minded thought. Let me tell you one thing, our talks team was in Kathmandu during the first round of talks. We were raising the issue of constituent assembly. There was a wave of encouragement among the people. The then Prime Minister Deuba was not in a position to do anything on the issue of constituent assembly. After we realised that the peace talks were going nowhere, we planned to attack Dang. After the attacks in Dang, the UML leaders became happy. May be they thought that it would be a great loss to the UML if we entered peaceful politics. But this was not on our mind. We were concerned about giving an outlet to the crisis and taking the country forward. They thought "Thank God! You saved us" when we attacked Dang.

Q. A huge shakeup took place after the 12-point understanding. The House of Representatives was restored and it took a lot of decisions. You have come out in public and look very calm and relaxed. It seems as if you are eagerly enjoying the talks. What is the truth?

Prachanda: This is not the truth. Though it looks that way, it's not like that. The 12-point understanding was reached after a lot of hard work. This is something our party had been thinking about for the past four years. Our Indian friends had contacted and talked with us before the king's coup. We were in Rolpa then. But the right environment for it was created only after Gyanendra took over on February 1. There isn't that much brainwork done by the seven parties behind the 12-point understanding. It would have been great had this understanding been built on their (seven parties') own vision. The understanding lacks depth as it was formed amidst the negative moves of Gyanendra and India's advice (to the seven parties and Maoists) to move ahead positively. We had told the seven parties when they put forward the House restoration issue that this will provide the king and monarchy a back door. Even among the seven parties, six were not in favour of House restoration. But the Nepali Congress could not give up this slogan. Girijababu could not abandon it. We knew that a design was hidden in this (House restoration) slogan...We knew this a year before the 12-point understanding was reached. We went ahead with the understanding despite knowing this. We had no other alternative to agitate the Nepali people to a new level of awareness.

Q. Dialogue with India was on while you were still in Rolpa, before the King's coup?

Prachanda: We were in direct contact. Indian friends were there. They said the House should be restored. We said House restoration had no relevance. It is our conclusion that the people have stood up now in this fashion because of the 10-year long People's War and the 12-point understanding. The people stood up under the cover of the 12-point understanding because a direct confrontation through the People's War would lead to much bloodshed. House restoration was not the people's demand. This was not even on their mind. We have taken it (House restoration) as a recurrence of what happened in 1951. Therefore the people still need to be alert.

Q. But the mass movement has stopped?

Prachanda: Rather than saying the movement stopped, let's say it was time to change its form. There was no situation for the movement to go on the way it was going. It was slightly divided as well. There was a change in the political situation.

Q. How can the talks move forward in such an artificial environment?

Prachanda: This thing is very important. We will stick to the dialogue process till the end. It is our objective that a peaceful outlet is found. But the seven-party leaders are creating an artificial environment. They are doing the opposite. Not respecting the people's feelings. We want to keep the pressure on from the ground... If the talks fail, there will definitely be an October Revolution of its own kind in Nepal. We are ready to lead that revolution.

Q. This means you are ready to wait till October?

Prachanda: What I mean, in clear words, is that if the seven parties do not understand by October, then the situation will move towards an October Revolution.

Q. How optimistic are you? Do you doubt Girija Prasad Koirala's honesty?

Prachanda: Rather than Koirala's honesty, how he will run the politics is the major thing. In my first meeting with him three years back, I had told him "You accept a republic, we will accept multiparty. Then the country will become new. Let's make a new Nepal." He had replied immediately, "Congress cannot go for a republic right now." He is still where he was three years back. He mentioned ceremonial king only yesterday. But this ceremonial thing doesn't work in Nepal. This proves how much rigid he is. This concept of a ceremonial king will not work- one, because of the army, and two, because of the king's own character.

Q. Do you personally feel that the talks will be successful?

Prachanda: I don't think the seven-party leaders are in favour of making the talks successful. And I don't think the international power centres, too, are in favour of giving Nepal and Nepalis a forward-looking exit from the current crisis by making the talks successful. To tell you directly, I haven't seen the signs for the talks to be successful. But again, the Nepali people want the talks to be successful and our party, too, wants the same. It depends on how much the people's and our party's initiatives can be taken forward. The talks will be successful if the pressure can be increased.

Q. What kind of republicanism is it that you have been talking about?

Prachanda: There shouldn't be the parliamentary republicanism, which is in practice in other countries, in Nepal. That doesn't solve the problem. There's no question of an autocracy. We need a republicanism of our own kind.

Q. You have envisioned a people's republic, no?

Prachanda: Mao Zedong's People's Republic cannot fulfill the needs of today's world. It cannot address today's political awareness appropriately. Mao said cooperative party theory; we called it competitive party theory. We have said let's move ahead from the conventional People's Republic and develop it as per the specialties of the 21st century.

Q. You do not follow the old concept of communism?

Prachanda: Definitely not. What happened without competition? In the USSR, Stalin gave no place to competition and went ahead in a monolithic way. What was the result?

Q. Let's talk about the economy. The 21st century world is a free-market world. How do you see the open market economic policy?

Prachanda: The economy should not be given a free rein in the name of a free market. We should take the middle way. Words like libralisation and globalisation are being much touted these days. But if you look at it closely, the very supporters of these theories have not implemented it in their own countries. The most powerful countries and America themselves have not implemented it. They have referred it to the poorest countries. Competition has been referred to undeveloped countries. We are against that policy. It's not right.

Q. The country's resources haven't increased. The number of mouths to feed has. In such a situation, do you think the country's development is as easy as you are saying?

Prachanda: I think development is not that difficult a thing. The main thing is what policies and plans the state adopts and what kind of programmes it brings forward for the millions of people. This is the main thing. One hundred years back, we were very much self-dependent. We were not economically weaker than others. If you compare us with many countries of the world, you will know that we are not weak. Others kept progressing and we kept going downhill. We have serious problems in the policies adopted by the state. What I think is if the state has the right programmes and vision, then there are only 200 million mouths but 400 hands. If the 400 million hands are put to work in the right way, imagine where this could take the country in 10 years.

However, we have to cut down certain things to save money. I have been saying that we do not need this 90 thousand-strong army. We can cut it down by 80 thousand. 10 thousand is enough. And then see how much capital we will have. It's not out of any personal grudge that we want to abolish the monarchy. They have amassed hundreds of billions of rupees. Imagine the kind of capital we will have if that is nationalised. Won't miracles happen if we then mobilise the 400 million hands? We can earn millions from our herbs. We have so much Yarchagumba. Let's open processing factories where it is found. Thousands will get jobs and we can earn hundreds of millions of rupees. Money will start growing there.

Q. You just mentioned about decommissioning the army. What will happen to your army?

Prachanda: The same for the Liberation Army. I have also been training them now. There is no use of increasing the number of our army, either. We don't have the status to beat the Indian or the Chinese army even with our 30 thousand and the 90 thousand-strong royal army. We don't have the status to beat anyone. You go through history; the only thing the Nepali Army has done after the Sugauli Treaty is to kill the people. We can ensure security by forming the people into a militia. If all citizens are made to undergo a five-year military training, there will be 250 million soldiers ready. Once that army is ready, even if India or China attacks, we can save the country. But even if we make a 500 thousand-strong army and keep it in barracks, it cannot fight anyone. What's the use of it?

Q. That means the management of arms and armies will not be a stumbling block on the way to a constituent assembly?

Prachanda: In my opinion, it will not and should not. If the seven-party leaders are really serious about the country, peace and development, this problem will not come. It will not come from our side. We are going to put forward this proposal. I have already talked about it. Let's cut down the armies of both sides. Let's train the people into a militia. The militia will maintain law and order. Let's keep the army only to train the people.

Q. Business people, industrialists and entrepreneurs are a little concerned about you. Their fear is if you can give them so many problems as a powerful party, you will squeeze them once in power.

Prachanda: We encourage those who want to develop industries in the country, create jobs, make profits and invest the profits in the country. We are organising a national meet of the capitalists. There, we will invite even those who disagree with us. We want that Nepal's capital does not go outside. We are clear that there will be no development in Nepal unless the capitalists can make some profit. But let that profit not be through exploitation and let it also not go abroad. We are also going to propose to the capitalists to invest where the most profit can be made. We should introduce a strict law to stop those who earn here and deposit the money in America or India.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Anwar Hossain and his photgraphy: Bangladesh born photographer Anwar Hossain, who lives in Paris now is having another photo exhibition "Apsara-Aphrodite" at the entrance principle of the Marche-Couvert at Lil Art in Paris on June 23 and 24. I will miss the show as I will be in Paris only towards the end of July. If you are in Paris, please go and enjoy his art.

I know Anwar bhai (as we call brother in Bangladesh) since 1980 0r so.

Daily Star of Dhaka, Bangladesh once wrote about him:

"European Rhapsody"The mental success and the earthly failure," is Anwar Hossain's phraseology that sums up his life in retrospect. It also reveals an attitude and an outlook that hinges on the pursuit of life rather than material success. A man in "self-exile" since 1993, Anwar is frank about his dilemma in living in France where he finds a populace intoxicated with the energy of life as well as art yet trapped in a social infrastructure that tends to commodify art and every adventure that life has to offer. He testifies, "When some people started to see me as a member of Magnum or Gama, I was told by them... these extremely important people... which I would like to quote verbatim 'Its a pity Anwar that you have spoiled thirty years of your life photographing an insignificant country like Bangladesh'".

His reply to this always used to be the same. He answered back as a rule that most of the world is third world and "My whole oeuvre is the ultimate essay or the Iliad of the third world people and their condition."

"Third world means humanity, it could be representative of that...," says Anwar. He has all the doubts stored in one nook of his discursive mind for people who are churning out works that fit the definition of the third world set by the first world.

"There is too much dignity in your work... " was the accusation that Anwar had to stumble upon in his first few encounters with the first world dignitaries. In lieu of the plethora of images that cross the subcontinent volleyed towards the west, Anwar's humans, however destitute or encumbered they are with material concerns, seem to want to speak of life in all its primal glory.
Home-boundWork brings this master photographer back home. He is here every once in a while. Though many may not have any inkling of how out of 20 best Bangla movies produced in this land, Anwar's photographic signature has made a difference in 15 of them all. Constant homebound trips made it happen. Yet, this is a rough figure. The most important bit lies in the exquisitely done cinematography of Emiler Goenda Bahini, Puroshkar, Dohon, Hulia, Chitra Nadir Parey, Nadir Nam Modhumoti, Lalshalu,--- movies that have earned considerable critical acclaim. Their are soon to be released works like Lalon that will again reveal his acumen as a cinematographer.

Looking Back: The First Scene"Working in the movies opened up a 'Pandora's box' for me, not in the negative sense of course..." says Anwar. The movie Shurjo Dighol Bari revived his passion and set him on a course through memory lane. "Everything came together in the movie; my childhood, the paintings I used to admire, the life I led, my education in Pune and all the photographic experiences, everything came together for an explosion that created Shurjo Dighol Bari," recalls Anwar.

This was his first venture. It also became one of the milestones in the history of Bangla movie.

At a village in Manikganj, back in 1980 the longhaired and big-moustachioed Anwar Hossain with his recently acquired degree from Pune, India was filming his first scene decked in a lungi. He was directing his camera assistants and crew to ready the scene for the first shoot. About the contingent that was there with him he now reflects, "We were all equipped and with people who despite their very, primitive idea about movies had a kind of enlightenment in their soul to do something extraordinary. It certainly catalysed my vision."

The crew that he worked with was not at all well versed in movie making. "The problem that started from the very first scene of Shurjo Dighol Bari lied in the fact that my crew had exactly the opposite ideas and practice of film making compared to what I had achieved," says Anwar.

The scene had Joygun (Dolly Anwar) and Mymoon (Elora Gaohor), her daughter, doing some chores in floodwater next to the house. "The water was quickly receding and we panicked," remembers Anwar. He was shooting from the boat that was stabilised with four banana trees propped up in the water. Anwar remembers his handsome assistant cameraman in John Travolta-style garb and hair in meticulous detail. "He had this very high heeled black shoes on, Travolta type of course, and he was a sight of incredible contrast. I was wondering about how this person would be assisting me..." says Anwar.

Context for Anwar has always been important. In fact in his stills as well as in his cinematography, contextual representation is what he so daringly achieves. In the first shoot Anwar depended on the reflection of the water too. Life in its truthfulness and natural phenomenon are the two elements that always drove him. In the shooting of the first scene of the historically important movie that Shurjo Dighol Bari later became, the man behind the camera took charge and transformed a bleak scenario into an insightful observation of reality. Sheikh Niyamat Ali, the director of the film, gave his cameraman full support. Whatever Anwar proposed, he gave the green light to it and it is this freedom with which Anwar applied to his art. One must recall that the same man who was so particular about using reflectors for the whole scene, discarded their use while shooting the scenes in the city in the same movie. "I wanted to create a harshness that would be representative of city life," said Anwar back in 2000 in an interview with the Star Weekend Magazine.

The history of photography and cinematography in Bangladesh did not remain the same since Anwar burst into the scene in the sixties and masterfully turned the course of cinematography in the 80s. Though Anwar regretfully says, "It still remains the same," while referring to the state of cinematography and the technical supports involved in cinema in Bangladesh. As for still photography, he is in great opposition to working project by project with only mercenary motive in sight. "If you are a creator you cannot create without falling in love. Otherwise you should call yourself a businessman, not a photographer or a cinematographer but a photo-businessman," stresses Anwar. Empathy with the subject and the medium, for him, is the only assurance of artistic excellence.

Anwar remembers how his name was often dropped from the list of the registers though he was the first boy of his class at the Armanitola Govt. High School. "Very often the fees remained unpaid and though I used to get scholarship for my position in class my name was never mentioned during roll calling," reflects Anwar.

But, every predicament had its other side. Struggling for survival at such an early age, studying in the light of one hariken (kerosene lamp) at night out in the open porch, the aspiration to live a better life, and most of all the joy of living, only served to widen his perspective and bring in an intensity to his photography. Anwar harks back to his early days to throw light, "I wrote about the way we used to sit down in a circle like a 'well', I delineated the surrounding--- the split sky above, the pomegranate tree at one corner, and the dreamy reflection on life of a child. This was hugely appreciated by my teacher at school."

His creative flair was aflame from the very beginning. He kept on writing poetry. But as he grew up Anwar developed a kinship for paint and brush. He used to get his paint, brush and paper free of cost from the Shishu Kala Bhaban at Art College (presently the Institute of Fine Arts). "I wanted to become a painter," recalls Anwar. "We had no TV or even radio for that matter, we could not afford them back in the early sixties. So, I resorted to expressing myself, my child-feelings, in paper. I remember becoming some thing of an artist in my class," adds Anwar. In 1963, when he was in class eight, Debdas Chakrabarti, the eminent artist, was the art teacher of his school. Anwar too, back then, seemed all set to become an artist.

On the Image Maker's TrailTo be a painter was not an 'honourable' profession, nor was photography taken as seriously as it is now in our culture. So, what set this aspirant painter on the course of a sinuous photographic journey? The man whose love affair with his camera has only bloomed over time reveals, "One of my friends at college approached me and said he wanted to sell his camera for 30 Taka as he was giving up photography." Anwar bought the camera on an instalment basis.

The eighth exposure of the first film that Anwar filled in his newly bought camera was spent on a scene taken from opposite Kamrangir Char. Anwar remembers how he got down into knee-deep water to take the scene of dhopas of Dhaka city. "This was the last exposure of that eight exposure film, and this picture got me an award in Bangladesh," Anwar goes back to his early start. Golam Kashem Daddy used to run the Camera Recreation'? Club, it was at the exhibition of the Club that he got the award.

Anwar came a long way after that. He completed his diploma in architecture, though never practised it in life. He was in love with photography. "Fortunately I did not have girl friends, and looking at girls did not even occur to me as something interesting back then. Therefore, I could spend my time in observing life through the lens," Anwar says jokingly. It is the truthfulness of photography that at last won over painting, which is practised in isolation at one's home or studio. As a member of a poor family who never felt poor, son of a caring and giving mother, Anwar took life for granted. "All the difficulties and hardship was part of life," he feels in retrospect."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Co-Creating: Since I have written about Co-Creating and the lessons that I got from my friend Nyree to communicate with plants, many of my friends wrote me and asked what all these about- “talking to veggies.” So here is an article that I found on the web, which might answer some of these questions:

Co-Creating with the Devas of Findhorn
by Celeste Adams

Today, the concept of communicating with the plant beings as a way of creating plentiful crops and beautiful gardens, if not exactly embraced by commercial growers, is well known and widely used in the new age and organic farming communities. Forty years ago, this approach to agriculture was pretty much unheard-of in the Western world. But on a barren, sandy, wind swept corner of a rundown trailer park in Findhorn, Scotland, Peter and Eileen Caddy were changing all that.

The Findhorn Foundation, located in northern Scotland, was founded 40 years ago by Peter and Eileen Caddy and their colleague, Dorothy Maclean. It is one of the largest intentional communities in the United Kingdom and is a model for holistic and sustainable living. Despite the fact that Findhorn was built on sand dunes, it is known for its beautiful gardens, which were co-created with the nature devas.

In The Faces of Findhorn, David Spangler writes:
Many people see Findhorn as a place; but to understand truly what Findhorn is seeking to make manifest we must see it from the inside out, and that means from the center of our being outwards. This is true of any of the other centers of Light that are now beginning to emerge. New age communities are springing up in many countries, and small groups of people are coming together to help educate each other into a new way of living. All of these people are agents of the divine plan, in order that at this time in human history there might be worldwide demonstrations for the birth of a new Earth and a new humanity. . . .So the message of Findhorn, the message which is unfolding throughout the Earth, is for humanity to awake, to arise, and to be the creators, now, of the world you have envisioned, and through envisioning are bringing into being.

The Findhorn Foundation attracts four thousand visitors a year, from countries around the world. It is a member of IONESCO and is recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization, or NGO, by the United Nations.

In The Spirit of Findhorn, Roy McVicar describes how Eileen Caddy heard the voice of God in simple, day-to-day directions that inspired her, with Peter Caddy, to create Findhorn:
Little in Eileen Caddy's early life indicated that she would one day be the co-founder of a New Age spiritual community or that she would develop a unique power to hear and to share the voice of God within....After five years there [at the Cluny Hill Hotel] and a year at another hotel in Scotland they [Peter and Eileen] found themselves out of work, with no place to stay, puzzled that divine guidance should work in such devious ways. They then made the move which is now widely known; they went back to their caravan [mobile home], which was sited at Findhorn, and brought it to the very last place they would ever have chosen, a dirty, windswept corner of Findhorn Bay Caravan Park, because that was where God said to go. Despite the fact that the land was barren and dry, beautiful gardens began to grow.

In Faces of Findhorn, Professor R. Lindsay Robb of the Soil Association speaks about the vitality and vibrance of the Findhorn garden:
The vigor, health and bloom of the plants in this garden at mid-winter on land which is almost barren, powdery sand cannot be explained by the moderate dressings of compost, nor indeed by the application of any known cultural methods of organic husbandry. There are other factors and they are vital ones. The other factors that Robb is referring to were Findhorn's co-creation with the angelic and elemental realms.

In her book To Hear the Angels Sing, Dorothy Maclean writes about communicating with angels: I had never set out to learn to talk with angels, nor had I ever imagined that such contact could be possible or useful. Yet, when this communication began to occur, it did so in a way that I could not dispute. Concrete proof developed in the Findhorn garden, which became the basis for the development of the Findhorn Community. The garden was planted on sand in conditions that offered scant hospitality and encouragement for the growth of anything other than hardy Scottish bushes and grasses requiring little moisture or nourishment. However, through my telepathic contact with the angelic Beings who overlight and direct plant growth, specific instructions and spiritual assistance were given. The resulting garden, which came to include even tropical varieties of plants, was so astonishing in its growth and vitality that visiting soil experts and horticulturists were unable to find any explanation for it, and eventually had to accept the unorthodox interpretation of angelic help.

In The Faces of Findhorn, devas and elementals are described as living forces of creative intelligence that work behind the scene. All life is considered an outpost or point of entry through which great intelligences externalize themselves. "The devic or angelic beings work at that level where the divine image or idea is sketched out into the archetypal patterns for all forms. The devas, whose name stems from a Sanskrit word meaning literally 'shining ones,' hold these archetypes in consciousness, wielding and patterning the forces which vivify the physical form and stepping these energies down to the elementals or nature spirits, the 'blue collar workers' who build the forms through which Spirit reveals itself.

One member of the community describes a kind of sensitization process that takes place in learning to communicate with the nature spirits:
When I came to Findhorn in 1971 I began to realize that I was experiencing a broadening of perception; it was as though my physical senses were being extended in a way that's very hard to describe. Walking through the central garden I experienced an extraordinary sense of being greeted and caressed by presences there which seemed to be connected with the flowers. Later that winter I came to follow up that contact with the nature kingdoms when Dorothy asked me to try illustrating her messages from the Devas. For me that whole period was like a sensitization process leading me into a whole different area of communication, a way of perceiving too subtle to say it was through images or sound but rather a direct reception of the essence of another being inside my own essence.

Today, Findhorn has become an important part of the world group. As their website explains:
On December 8, 1997, the Findhorn Foundation was approved for formal association with the United Nations, through the Department of Public Information, as a recognized Non-Governmental Organization. This was the culmination of a series of official collaborations between the UN and the Findhorn Foundation.The new status was also a sign of a great maturing of our community, which has been promoting principles of sustainable development as put forward by the major UN conferences of the last decade — including the environmental aspect of the Rio Earth Summit, the human settlements aspect of Istanbul, and the women's aspect of Beijing — in an attempt to provide a contemporary and evolving model of sustainable living.

To learn more, we spoke with Richard Coates, a public relations officer who has lived at Findhorn for 25 years, and with David Buswell, who operates the enquiry line there.

Celeste: Can you describe the relationship that people had with plant devas in the early years at Findhorn?

Richard Coates: In the early days, we were famous for our 42-pound cabbages, which we don't grow these days. Well, I haven't seen any lately. We're told that this was necessary as a demonstration of the power of the people and an example of what we could achieve by cooperating with the nature realms. By working with those beings, we could produce amazing results. But having demonstrated that, we don't necessarily need to keep doing that. Our gardens are quite magnificent and are admired by many people who come and visit.

Celeste: Dorothy Maclean is known for communicating with the devas and elementals. Are the people who come to workshops at Findhorn learning to communicate with devas?

Richard Coates: Anyone who comes here does one of our "experience weeks," which we give all year long for various nationalities. People work together, live together, and explore together in the gardens. It's a personal experience of being here and how that relates to nature. We allow people to explore on their own and to have the direct experience of working in the garden. It's a very healing thing to do. Part of our experience is a nature sharing in the evening. One of the gardeners will come in and talk. We also have an evening on spiritual practice. Many people like myself will spend the evening, after work or on the weekends, in the garden, and that's part of our spiritual practice.

David Buswell: Dorothy Maclean wrote a great deal about devas and nature spirits. She comes back here several times a year and gives workshops. When people are sensitive to plants, a relationship begins. Communicating with devas is a matter of sensitivity. There's no methodology as such to learning how to do it. That kind of sensitivity is inborn in some people. People who really want to develop that sensitivity go to our workshops, run by Dorothy or others who do these things.The gardeners here all have a basic connection. It really is an individual thing. Some say the plants are "talking" to them. Whatever they mean by that, the essential truth we've found is that the spirit within a plant is capable of communication. And when the plant spirits find humans they can communicate with, it's a boon to them. When human beings can recognize the subtle levels, the plant beings are overjoyed. In ages past, far more people had these gifts. In folk history, they had connections with what they called the fairy folk, or in Ireland, the "little people." So communication with nature devas is not something new. It's an ability that existed when people were closer to the land, one that atrophied with the development of the intellect and industrialization. But today, people are developing sensitivity, and these connections are once more being made.

Celeste: How is the Findhorn Foundation organized and how does it operate?

Richard Coates: The Findhorn Foundation was originally a charitable organization run by charitable laws, not corporate laws. Then it became too cumbersome to handle as a single entity, so it's been broken down into different organizations. Some are charities, some are volunteer organizations. There's also an organic farm, a café, and a shop. This has enabled a lot more people to become involved. Not everybody who is involved here needs to become a member of the Findhorn Foundation to be associated with the work that we're doing here.

Celeste: Why is it important that a place like Findhorn exists?

Richard Coates: It is a place where people can experience different ways of relating to each other, to themselves, to the planet, to society. It is a place that twenty-five or thirty years ago was on the cutting-edge of changing aspects of society. Many places around the world that now exist are based on what the foundation has been doing and demonstrating.The things we have been doing, like health care and organic farming, are now very much a part of mainstream society. Even thinking about the planet as a whole, instead of selfishly looking at the nuclear family, "my country" or "my town," is a change since Findhorn began. Findhorn has inspired people to look at the whole picture, not just part of it.

Celeste: How is Findhorn spreading its message to the world about honoring and preserving the environment?

Richard Coates: Six weeks ago, we had a Restore the Earth conference, all about trees — reforesting, and how we could influence politicians to take care of the environment. This was a precursor to the United Nations conference coming up in South Africa. We are recognized by the UN as a Non-Government Organization, or NGO. We have people at the UN who meet regularly and represent us there. We also have our Trees for Love project, which was started by Alan Watson Featherstone, who has lived here for as long as I have. The plan is to reforest the highlands of Scotland with native trees, going out with work parties and fencing off areas to protect them from deer and so on. Projects like Trees for Love might be small in terms of their individual impact. But as a whole, energetically, these projects build up exponentially.Thinking about the whole planet, and not just my little bit or my backyard — that's how we have to think.

References:The following is a short selection from the many books about the Findhorn Community.

  • God Spoke To Me by Eileen Caddy (to be republished by Findhorn Press 2002 in a special edition), the first book of Eileen's Guidance — still in print after 35 years.
  • The Findhorn Garden by The Findhorn Community (Harper Collins), the story of the community's early days.
  • To Hear The Angels Sing by Dorothy Maclean (Lindisfarne Press), Dorothy's autobiography.
  • Opening Doors Within by Eileen Caddy, daily selections from Eileen's Guidance.
  • Flight Into Freedom by Eileen Caddy (to be republished by Findhorn Press 2002), Eileen's autobiography.
  • The Kingdom Within edited by Alex Walker (Findhorn Press), a selection of writings on the history and work of the Findhorn Foundation by David Spangler, Peter and Eileen Caddy, Myrtle Glines, William Bloom, Dorothy Maclean, and many others.
  • Simply Build Green by John Talbott (Findhorn Press), a guide to the principles and methods of Eco-building.
  • In Perfect Timing by Peter Caddy (Findhorn Press), Peter Caddy's autobiography.
    Growing People, compiled and edited by Kay Kay (Pilgrim Guides 2001), a recent collection of people's personal experiences of the Findhorn Community

Friday, June 09, 2006

Chatting with Shaan: Together with Tanveer Mayen, I prsent a weekly hour long live radio show for Bangla speaking people living in Ottawa. Bangla Bettar, the show goes on air every Thursday from 1 PM to 2 PM on CHUO FM radio. Any one, anywhere in the world can also listen to the webcast of this show as well.

This week, famous Indian singer Shaan was our guest. He is going to do a show in Ottawa on Saturday. Prior to his show he chatted with us by phone from Toronto.

I did not know much about Shaan earlier. Few weeks back I was visiting a Bangladeshi friend in Ottawa. As usual, their TV was on and on one of the satellite South Asian Channels I had a glimpse of the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa show. The young host was impressive. The lady of the house told me that the name of the host was Shaan and he is a famous singer in India these days. That was my first introduction to Shaan.

Before interviewing Shaan, I did a little web research. One of the sites said:

“This long haired sensation made his appearance in the song 'Q - Funk' from the album 'Oorja'He burst into the pop scene with sis Sagarika, powered by pop-guru Biddu’s melodies and doing re-mixes. Shaan, the 'oh cho chweet' pop-star, has been wooing the audiences since he stepped into Indian Music industry. He launched 'Loveology' and gave everyone a well received lesson in the arts of larvae...

The track from his second album Tanha Dil, "Bhool Ja", which is an excellent ballad with superb lyrics written by the man himself! "Tanha Dil" catapulted to the charts within days of its release and was very popular on radio! "Dil Kya Kare," is a remix that caught everyone's eye thanks to its electrifying video and soothing melodies. "Mana Janab," is a fun and frolicky blast from the past that Shaan livens up with a latino groove. Induced with lots of emotional and groovy tracks, the album popped up the singer’s star rating, market value and of course ambitions.

He did a bit role in a Kalpana Lajmi film – Daman and the breakthrough happened not in the medium he started his career with, but in the mother of all commercial singing in India – Playback."Musu Musu" from the film Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi won him several offers from leading music directors like Anu Malik, A. R. Rahman while "Woh Pehli Baar" won the budding singer a lot of fans.Shaan took on an altogether different route when remixes became the order of the day. He remixed "Hum Bewafa" and the R D Burman "Roop Inka Mastana". After the success of Koi… Mil Gaya (where he sang In panchhiyon) Shaan got films like Zameen, Inteha and Sssshhh… lined up. “Film music, though, has its limitations – you have to sing the way the composer conceptualises. In an album you can experiment,” he says.

He’s excited about singing an item number with Asha Bhonsle in Bewafa. “She’s been my icon for ages. She has reinvented herself with the changing times,” he sums up.
Shaan loves to sing in English too. “Singing in Mumbai Matinee and Valentine’s Day gave me confidence. I have no training in classical music but I can pull off a semi-classical bandish,” says Shaan, who’s also planning to do fusion with alaaps on the chartbuster Koi kahe number (Dil Chahta Hai).

From an aspiring desk – top publisher to a pop singer Shaan surely has come a long way. He is currently host the show 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' on Star Plus that hunts for young talent. “

During our coversation I found him very pleasant. I did not know he was Bengali. He told me his real name, Santanu Banarjee. He talked about his father, mother, wife and two kids. He talked about his struggle and success. He even sang a Bangla song over the phone for us.

Some of his songs are available on line at the following link.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Insect Hours: My friend Nyree taught me how to communicate with plants. She is into holistic gardening. She told me that she is planiting different types of vegitables this summer, some where near Toronto. She has sent me an e-mail today saying: "Yesterday was pretty exciting (for me anyhow). I added a 24-hour all-you-can-eat lunch buffet to the garden. It's for the insects (ie, please don't eat the corn & tomatoes in the main garden - but these are all yours). I didn't think it was such a big thing but it changes the look & feel of the garden as a whole quite a bit. Seems more complete somehow." I will write more about her gardening later.