Storm in Midnapur – Experimenting With Photography

On May 1st 2015, together with a group of friends we traveled to Midnapur. Our purpose was to go assist a team of Spanish doctors running an eye clinic in St. Joseph’s Hospital located in the Midnapur area. We boarded a local train from Howrah station and arrived in Midnapur station after a travel time of about three hours. The train passed through urban slums to rural green fields to bridges that crossed rivers to finally arrive at our destination—Midnapur.

Midnapur, also known as Midnapore or Medinipur, is located in the state of West Bengal, India and on the banks of Kangsabati River which flows into the sea at Bay of Bengal. Historically, Midnapur is known for its contributions to India’s Freedom movement for it was a place of revolutionary activity. For instance, Khudiram Bose was born near Midnapur and studied at Midnapur Collegiate School before becoming a leading revolutionary during India’s Freedom struggle which eventually led to Indian Independence Act of 1947.

Another historical fact of Midnapur that really fascinates me is that near the town of Tamluk lies the fabled port of Tamralipti. This port on the margins of the Rupnarayan River (a tributary to the Hughli-Bhagirathi-Ganges River) has long disappeared but its wealth and fame is referenced in the Indian epic Mahabharata, in Buddhist writings during King Ashoka’s time and in the travelogues of Chinese pilgrims Fa-Hsien and I-Tsing (Darian, 2010).

In Fa-Hsien’s travelogue A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, version translated by James Legge, it is referenced that from the kingdom of Champa, Fa-Hsien continued his journey east and reached the country of Tamralipti in which the capital is a seaport. After staying for two years, writing out Sutras and drawing pictures of Buddhist images, Fa-Hsien embarked in a large merchant vessel to the country of Singhala or Ceylon (Legge, 1886).

Moreover Tamralipti is also referenced in writings during King Ashoka’s reign, it was from the port of Tamralipti that the precious gifts were dispatched by ship to the King of Ceylon as sustainers of harmonious diplomatic relationships.  As a final note, in the Mahabharata epic, there is the frequent mention of the soldiers of Tamralipti who fought bravely in the great War.

This is an attempt to share my experiences in Midnapur through this set of photographs. It’s about a mysterious and mighty storm that suddenly hit the Catholic Hospital where I was volunteering during an eye-clinic. I’ve never experienced such as storm before and it is my hope this set photographs can give a glimpse of this experience.


Darian, Steven G. The Ganges in Myth and History. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2001.

Hsien, Fa. A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms. Trans. Legge, James. Oxford, 1886.


Letter to Ma

Here I am sitting in a Portuguese church in India. Far away from you Ma, you who are now in Portugal.

I remember from the depths of my heart that you were the angel who introduced me to the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ. And here I am attending a Sunday Mother’s Day mass in a Portuguese church in India. The head priest holding the mass called all mothers to join him near the altar in an act of Celebration of Mother’s Day. All the mothers here for the Sunday mass, stood up and one by one, walked to the front of the altar to join the priest. Some confidently went and some were hesitant to go so the assistants had to give them a little push to go receive their due blessings. When all the mothers were gathered up in the altar, how lonely and grey did the crowd in the benches become. Little boys and girls sitting by themselves and ‘single’ males. Something was missing in the crowd—the motherly presence.

How dark would the world be without mothers? I got a small glimpse of it. Very dark and claustrophobically incomplete… Something more precious than the rarest diamonds would be missing in this world.

A world without mothers is not just an imagined reality. This apocalyptic reality has already struck many brothers and sisters in the world.

Feel the sorrow of the children and adults who lost their mothers during the Nepal earthquake, how dark has their world become? A sorrow weighting more than ten thousand buildings crashing upon the heart and surrounding it in hopeless darkness.

Feel the anger of the children who witness the raid and rapes of their mothers by those legal or illegal ‘soldiers’? How painful is it to see such depravity and not being able to stand up and protect your our mother? How can you forgive and forget these incidents?

Feel the shame of mothers who in order to prevent their children to starve are pushed to lives of prostitution? That entangling shame that keeps mothers trapped in prostitution rings in the limbo state of living-dead?

Feel the disappointment of mothers whose children can’t even take 5 seconds of their busy lives to show appreciation for their mother? How sad it is to sit in near the phone waiting for a long-awaited phone call from the children whom you gave your Life?

Ask yourself. Is your mother in your Heart?

My reply would be

‘My mother is

But we’re far apart

I hope you know

Dear Ma

Please forgive me

For flying away

Far away from the nest you made

One day

I’ll return

Bring you Love

That is long overdue

Stay strong

Stay healthy

I love you

You see this letter

Blossomed from within me

I have learned much

Seen much

Experienced much

In the end

We are all Free

We can meet


Here and there

As long as our Hearts connect…’


With Love,

The bird who flew away

Reflections On A Train

Life is like sitting on a train backwards facing

Not knowing when we will reach our destination,


The final destination.

After sometime the train resumes its journey back to its departing station.

Back and forth it goes.

Carrying an uncertain number of passengers,

All from different backgrounds:

Rich, poor, young, old, students, teachers, buyers, sellers…


On a bench sat a man,

Dressed in a shirt and pants like a middle class worker.

He took out a chopping board,

He must be a chef and he is trying to save time by chopping things here in the train,

Thought the mind,

And the man started chopping onions and boiled potatoes,

How fast and skilled he chopped

Finely dressed and finely chopped

What a skill!

Had a concentrated look in his eyes

Some contentment in his heart

Yet sometimes his mind wandered off

Should I be doing something else?

But chopping he continued

Is he going to take these vegetables home and cook?

Soon he finished his skillful job.


What is this man doing?

And he pulled out his muri (puffed rice) snack kit,

Dangerous kit this was,

A big metal box with lots of muri,

And different small containers of spices and condiments like

Boiled chickpeas, coconut strips and bujia (crispy fried snack with masala)

Everything danced around like it was Holi—the festival of colors

Customers saw this,

Desire arose,

And the maestro started his symphony,

His little spoon worked like a baton stick

Conducting a synaesthetic symphony of

Sounds, colors, smells, flavors and textures.

What a masterpiece!

He was not just a muri wallah (person associated with a specific job or service)

As many people would think.

He was a man selling completeness in life

(Althought he had his short mind wanderings and doubts with it,)

He was able to experience the ecstatic joy of concentration and sense of purpose in life.

He was a teacher,

Spreading the message that

No job is too small and no job is too big.

As long as you are mindful while performing it and pour Love into it,

Doing it as selfless service to others,

You become closer to God and to find fullness in life.

Just like a farmer who plows and works on his field,

You will soon reap the benefits from it.

Let Love spring forth from your Heart when you perform your job

Or else go find a new one that allows you to do so.

Life is short

Like a play

You find your role and perform it.

In the end,

All there is or isn’t

It’s just a child’s play…

The Dancing Boy – A Script for a Children’s Dance Drama Part III Scenes VII, VIII, IX, X

Scene VII – In the Ghat With Friends

(Hero and his group of friends sit in their usual meeting place by the river ghat. They are relaxing and chatting with each other.)

(Hero) – How was your day?

(Laddoo) – My day was good. Our shop sold a big order of tablas today. I helped to convince the customer to buy one by playing a tune with my tabla. Just like this. (He plays a quick beat on his tabla.)

(Hero) – That’s a really nice beat.

(Iron-Man) – Our shop also sold two second-hand motorbikes today.

(Golu) – You guys all sold big orders. It’s hard to sell fruit these days. Our owner only sells organic fruits but they don’t look as good as the fruits produced using fertilizers and pesticides. People get tricked by the looks.

(Anand) – I guess my situation is similar to yours. Now people prefer the nice looking Totos (three wheeled electric vehicles) to cycle-rickshaws. They say “our rickshaws are old, worn out and too slow.” If people paid us a little more than a few rupees, we would be able to improve the conditions of our rickshaws, eat some proper food so we have energy to cycle faster. You know nowadays people talk about sustainability and going green, I don’t think rickshaws cause as much pollution as cars or auto rickshaws. Yet it seems like the society wants to starve us out of the streets.

(Pilot) – Totos are green too. They run on electricity.

(Anand) – Doesn’t electricity come from coal factories?

(Pilot) – I guess but at least it is better than using gasoline. Totos are the new thing, sorry to tell you but old things get replaced by new ones.

(Anand) –  The same thing is going to happen to you sooner or later. When an alternative to Totos comes out and kicks your Totos out of business, you will be the one complaining.

(Hero) – You two are always arguing. You (points to the Toto driver) should feel compassion for Anand and other rickshaw pullers. Think about how they are going to live after they lose their jobs, how their families are going to suffer. If you can, you should help rickshaw pullers find jobs as Toto drivers.

(Pilot) – You’re right…I’m sorry Anand. If you need a job as a Toto driver, I will try my best to help you out (pats Anand in the back). I’m here for you.

(Anand) – Thanks man, I appreciate it bhai.

(Laddoo) – How was your day Hero?

(Hero) – My day was terrible. I was never disrespected this much in my life.

(Friends) – What happened?

(Hero) – I decided to go to the other side of the river.

(Pilot) – Why?

(Hero) – I wanted to go learn some moves from a bboy crew over there.

(Golu) – You’re crazy. Crossing the river is dangerous. Just a few months ago a boat capsized and two people died because they didn’t know how to swim.

(Pilot) – Yes, this river can be very dangerous. I know of several people who drowned while swimming in the river. Do you know how to swim Hero?

(Hero) – A little bit…

(Laddoo) – Don’t listen to them Hero. You returned from the journey safely. Anyway, did they teach you bboying?

(Hero) – No. That’s what made me angry. Their crew leader was so disrespectful. He looked at my clothing and asked me “Where are you from?” I said “…from the other side of the river.” Right after I said that, they looked at each other and judged me. I never felt like that before. It was like I was a criminal or something.

(Iron-Man) – Do you want us to go beat them up?

(Hero) – No, we don’t have to do that. There was one person from their crew who was very nice.

(Friends) – Really?

(Hero) – Yes, she wanted to teach me some moves but the crew didn’t allow her.

(Laddoo) So it’s a she? Did you fall in love Hero?

(Hero) No, no, none of that… So this crew was training for an upcoming battle happening in a few months.

(Iron-Man) – Battle? Like a fight?

(Hero) – No, no. A dance battle…

(Laddoo) – Oh…Like in the movie Any Body Can Dance or ABCD?

(Hero) – Yes, sort of like that. When I was returning home, I had an idea.

(Laddoo) – What kind of idea?

(Hero) – Do you guys want to form a dance crew with me and battle them?

(Laddoo) – That’s a great idea! I’ve always wanted to learn breakdance. I’m in!

(Golu) – But I don’t know how to dance.

(Hero) – Don’t worry, I know some moves, I’ll teach you. What do you think Iron-Man?

(Iron-Man) – Why not? They disrespected one of our brothers so we need to show them that we can do this dance too!

(Pilot) – Sorry, I don’t think I have time for this! I am too tired after my work.

(Anand) – If I can do it, you can do it too. My work is more tiring than yours and I still have energy to learn this.

(Pilot) – Ok, for you Anand, I’ll do it.

(Hero) – It seems like a have a crew! Who has some music?

(Pilot) – I do. Check this out. (He plays a Yo Yo Honey Singh song.)

(All his friends start acting and dancing like Honey Singh, a very popular commercial rapper in India who raps songs with messages about portraying women as sexual objects, going to parties and drinking alcohol.)

(Hero) – Stop! What are you doing? This is not Hip Hop! This is bad want to be gangster music. Check out this song.

(Hero plays a Hip Hop song from his phone. This is a Hip Hop song that mixes the old with the new and has a inspiring message for the youth.)

(Hero) – Now we need to practice and work hard every day!

(Friends) – Yes! Let’s do this!

(Hero teaches his friends some moves. End of Scene VII.)

Scene VII Glossary:

Convince – verb, to make someone believe or agree to something

Fertilizers – noun, a product that is added to the soil to help plants grow

Pesticides – noun, a product that is used to kill insects that damage the plant

Complaining – verb, to say that you don’t like or that you unhappy with something

Compassion – noun, a feeling of wanting to help someone who is suffering

Capsized – verb, when a boat turns upside down in the water

Gangster – noun, a member of a group of violent criminals


Scene VIII – Practicing By the Ghat

(The group is sitting on a dance carpet set up by the ghat. They are sitting in a circle and chatting.)

(Anand) – Hey guys, while I was carrying a customer on the rickshaw, I saw this poster on a wall near the mall. I suddenly stopped the rickshaw and got the poster so I can show it you. Here it is. The customer kept yelling at me but who cares?

(The group of friends come together to read the poster.)

(Hero) – This is amazing Anand. I think this is the state dance competition that the crew on theother side of the river plans to go.

(Pilot) – The prize is 20 000 rupees for the winning dance crew!

(Golu) – That’s so much money…

(Pilot) – If we win that prize, I would get a new phone.

(Laddoo) – I would buy a new tabla for myself.

(Anand) – I would buy a fridge for my family.

(Golu) – I would use the money to get a new sound system for us.

(Iron-Man) – Stop dreaming about the money you don’t have yet. Remember our goal is to battle the dance crew who disrespected Hero.

(Hero) – Yes, let’s find that crew at the event and battle them. We will show them that people from this side of the river can bboy too.

(Friends) Yes! Let’s show them our skills.

(Hero) So who can attend this dance competition?

(Iron-Man) I’m ready for the battle. Count me in.

(Friends) I’m in!

(Hero) Do you have money for conveyance costs? We have to take a ferry then a bus.

(Golu) I have no money. I give all the money I earn to my parents.

(Hero) Can you ask them to give you some for this trip?

(Golu) I don’t know if they will give me but I’ll try to ask them.

(Pilot) Hero I have no money left.

(Hero) You’re funny. Yesterday I saw you at the local betel shop enjoying yourself – you were having cold drinks and eating ice-cream.

(Pilot) What? How come you saw me?

(Hero) Yea, my eyes see too many things. When you feel like having a cold drink, you control that desire and you can save enough money to cover the conveyance cost for this trip.

(Pilot) I’ll try…

(Hero) Anyone else has problems with the conveyance fee?

(Friends) No.

(Hero) Great. Let’s start our dance practice.

(The group of friends start practicing a dance routine. The practice doesn’t go well. People start forgetting moves and yelling at each other.)

(Pilot) Golu, you stupid, you’re doing this wrong! It’s not like this, you have to open your arms more.

(Golu) Ok.

(Hero) Take it easy Pilot. Don’t scream at Golu like that.

(Pilot) He is doing this move wrong.

(Hero) That is not an excuse to scream at your crew member and call him “stupid”. How would you feel if others called you “stupid”?

(Pilot keeps silent.)

(Laddoo) Let’s go people, don’t get upset at each other. Let’s keep going.

(The crew continues their practice. While working on a move, Golu injures his ankle.)

(Golu) Ouch! Stop, stop. (Golu lies on the floor and grabs his ankle.)

(Hero) What happened Golu?

(Golu) My ankle…

(Pilot) Are you acting Golu?

(Golu) I’m serious! I think I sprained it.

(Iron-Man) Let me check. (He examines Golu’s ankle.) It’s a minor sprain, you can still move well. Just rest and it will be good in a few days.

(Hero) Where did you learn this Iron-Man?

(Iron-Man) I used play football for the local club. These injuries are very common. Golu, you take a break and everyone else let’s continue practicing. We have a battle to win!

(Pilot) Yes sir, big boss Iron Man!

(Lights fade with the crew continuing their dance practice. End of Scene VIII.)

Scene VIII Glossary

Suddenly – adverb, quickly and as a surprise to others

Attend – verb, to go to or take part in an event

Yelling – verb, to say something very loudly, to scream

Desire – noun, a strong feeling of wishing or wanting something

Sprained – verb, to get hurt by twisting the ligaments (tissue that connects parts of the body)


Scene IX The Night Before the Battle

(Hero, mother and father are all sitting and waiting for Muskan to arrive home and start dinner. Muskan went to school to check her final examination results.)

(Muskan) I’m back!

(Mother) I’m glad you’re back. We were getting worried for you.

(Muskan) There was a lot of traffic on the way back from school.

(Father) Sorry for my impatience, how were your examination results?

(Muskan) Sorry father…I…

(Father) You what?

(Muskan) I passed with top marks! I am the class topper!

(Father) You almost gave me a heart attack! Congratulations! I’m so proud of you!

(At the same time Mother drops the plate with roti inside and starts screaming in joy.)

(Hero) Oh yea! (Hero starts dancing in joy.)

(Muskan) You are all acting so crazy. I’m so hungry, let’s eat!

(Mother) Ok, ok, everybody calm down. Let’s start dinner. (Mother starts serving dinner.)

(Muskan) Mother, father, now I don’t have to marry yet right?

(Father) You have proved yourself that you really want to continue your education. We support your decision. You can marry later, after you finish college.

(Muskan) Yes! I will now start my college applications!

(Father) Yes, you go for it. We will try to help you as much as we can financially but you know our family is not rich.

(Muskan) Yes father I know. There are scholarships available to help pay for college fees, I will try to apply for them.

(Mother) Hero, see how your sister is so responsible and hardworking. You need to learn from her. You have to study hard too.

(Hero) Yes mother.

(Muskan) Mother, Hero studies and works very hard day and night! He is a good boy.

(Hero) Boy? Sister, I am a grown-up now.

(Muskan) A grown-up? You will always be a boy in my eyes my little brother.

(Hero) As you wish sister. Mother, tomorrow I have no work or school so my friends and I are planning to go to a dance competition on the other side of the river? May I go with them?

(Father) A dance competition? Don’t you have better things to do?

(Hero) Like what?

(Father) Like studying.

(Hero) I study very hard when I go to the after-school learning center. You can ask the teachers there. Also I have been working very hard in the jute mill…

(Muskan) Father, Hero has been doing so much for the family lately. His good behavior should be rewarded, please let him go to this dance competition.

(Mother) Ok Hero, you may go but you must return by dinner time. It’s dangerous roaming around the other side so late.

(Hero) Yes I will be back before dinner time. Thank you mother! You are the best!

(Father) How about my opinion?

(Mother) Just let him go with his friends. I’m sure they will learn something from it.

(Hero) Yes we will. Maybe we will bring the dance trophy back home!

(Mother) Don’t brag about things you haven’t accomplished yet! That’s a bad habit.

(Hero) Sorry mother. I will give my best for this competition and we will see what happens.

(Muskan) That sounds so much better.

(Hero) I’m so nervous for this competition…Do you have any advice sister?

(Muskan) Actually the night before I went to take my first exam, I was really really nervous. Then I thought about all the hardwork I put in preparing for this exam so I decided to just let it Be. Whatever shall happen, will happen. I did all I could in preparing for the final exam so I let it all flow according to God’s will. I became free of worries and stress. I hope this insight helps you too…

(Hero) Thank you sister. This is really helpful. After listening to your advice, I have no worries now. Whatever shall happen, will happen. My dance crew did its best to prepare for this dance competition so we just need to allow the river of Life flow its course!

(Muskan) Hearing these words from you makes me feel so happy! Good luck for tomorrow’s dance battle Hero! Maybe I will see you there…

(Hero) What? Are you are going too?

(Muskan) Shhh… You get some good rest. Good night little brother. You will do fine tomorrow.

(End of Scene IX)

Scene IX Glossary

brag – verb, to exaggerate one’s sense of importance

nervous – adjective, to feel worried or scared about what might happen in the near future

advice – noun, a opinion on what someone should do

stress – noun, a state of mental tension

insight – noun, a deep understanding of someone or something


Scene X Freestyle Battle Event

(Background is a Hip Hop dance competition with live music and graffiti art. DJ Jojo Joney is in the stand playing music.)

(Hero’s crew walk into the stage where the jam is happening.)

(Hero’s sister Muskan appears with her bgirl crew.)

(Hero) – Hey sister, what are you doing here?

(Muskan) – Hi Hero! I want to tell you something. Sorry I didn’t tell you or parents before but I am actually a b-girl. My friends are too. We have a girl’s only crew on this side of the river. We have seen how hard how guys have been practicing and we decided to help you beat that crew that disrespected you.

(The crew that shunned the boy enters the stage. They act very cool, expensive clothing, some with sunglasses. The crew walks past Hero’s crew and Bill bumps into Hero.)

(Hero) – Watch your step!

(Bill) – Says who? Dirty boy!

(DJ JoJo Joney) – Watch out for your language on the dance floor or you may be disqualified. For tonight’s first battle, we have two dance crews from different sides of the river. (Introduce by the crew names.)

(The dance floor divides into two sides. Battle time. Improvised freestyle battle. Crews can do routines if they want to.)

(After the battle, the audience decides which crew should win. The DJ announces the winner. The winning crew celebrates.)

(DJ JoJo Joney) – Let me tell you something about this talented crew from the other side of the river that I admire. These are working children, hard-working young men who in addition to practicing breakdance, they hold full time jobs. They do the hardest jobs that most of you don’t really consider them important. They are rickshaw pullers, mechanics, fruit sellers, Toto drivers and jute mill workers yet they found time to practice what they love despite all their hardships! Much respect! This is the true essence of Hip Hop! Let’s give a round of applause to these kids.

(Bill) – Respect! I want to apologize for my past attitude towards your crew. Please forgive me. Your crew showed everyone here how talented and creative you are. I have never seen moves like the ones you guys did during our battle. Your dance flows straight out of your Heart.

(Hero) – As long as your apologies are sincere, we accept them.

(Bill) – I hope one day I will dance as freely as you do… I have so much to learn. Who is your dance teacher?

(Hero) – Same for me, learning never ends. To be honest, our crew has no money for a dance teacher. We had to teach ourselves how to dance. I was guided by a ferryman who told me to observe and listen to the River and that is what I did… My dance is inspired by the flow of the River.

(Bill) – That’s deep…

(Sweetz) Wait Hero, our crew wants to ask you something.

(Hero) Sure, what is it?

(Sweetz) Bill, why don’t you ask them to join us for the dance performance during Chinese New Year?

(Bill) Ah good idea Sweetz. (Turns to Hero and his crew) Our crew was invited to perform for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebration. We would like to invite you to perform with us, if you guys have time of course.

(Hero) Chinese New Year? When is that?

(Bill) It happens every year sometime around the end of January and start of February. It varies according to the lunar calendar. It is a very big festival. There will be lots of traditional Chinese food, firecrackers, singing, lion dance and our breakdance performance.

(Hero) Wow that sounds wonderful! (Hero turns to his crew) What do you think?

(Hero’s crew) We are in!

(Laddoo) Who doesn’t like Chinese food seriously?

(Hero) Stop thinking about food Laddoo, it’s time to return home, to the other shore! Chal!

(Red lights and Chinese festival music in the background. Close the curtains. End of Scene X.)

(The End)

Scene X Glossary

Shunned – verb, to say no or stay away from someone or something

Bumps – verb, to crash or run into someone or something usually with impact

Disqualified – verb, to take someone out of a competition because of breaking the rules

Improvised – verb, something created at the moment, spontaneously, often without preparation

List of context specific words (India):

Betel or pan – leaves of a climbing plant commonly chewed by people in India as a mild stimulant

Bhai – brother

Chal – common expression with a meaning similar to “let’s go”

Dada – older brother in Bengali

Didi – older sister in Bengal

Ghat – series of steps that lead to the river

Majhi – boatman

Khichdi – a popular dish in India made of rice and lentils (dal). It is a flexible dish that can be prepared only with rice and lentils or vegetables and/or meat can be added to it

Tabla – a classical Indian musical instrument which consists of a pair of small hand drums attached together, one being slightly larger than the other and is played using pressure from the heel of the hand to vary the pitch

Toto – A three wheeled electric battery powered vehicle that can be used as an alternative to rickshaws

Thank you for reading this script for children’s play. I would really appreciate if you could share with me your ideas and thoughts about this script so I can improve it. Ideas for collaborative projects are also welcome.

The Dancing Boy – A Script for a Children’s Dance-Drama Part II Scenes IV, V, VI

Scene IV – The City On the Other Margin

(Urban scene. Music starts and Hero does a dance to this beat made of sounds from the city on the other side of the river.)

Song 2: Street Beats in Kolkata by Beatshop (Beatmaker and DJ Ko Wong-Horiuchi)

Youtube link:

(Hero does a dance expressing his sensory overload in the city. Music stops. Hero bumps into a man in suit.)

(Meeting With the Man in Suit)

(Man in suit) – Watch your step boy!

(Hero) – I’m sorry.

(Man in suit) – Why do you look so lost? You are not from here aren’t you?

(Hero) – No I’m from the other side of the river.

(Man in suit) – I thought so. Instead of roaming around, you should get a job like everyone else.

(Hero) – I do have a job sir.

(Man in suit) – I know what kind of jobs you boys from the other side of the river do here. Roaming around and trying to get some easy money: scamming tourists, lying, stealing.

(Hero) – No sir I do none of that. I work in a jute mill on the other side of the river. I came to this side to find a group of breakdancers. Have you seen a breakdance group around here by any chance?

(Man in suit) – Breakdance? What a waste of time, breakdancing… You should go look for a well paying job on this side of the river and make some money. (He checks his expensive watch.) Then you will be able to buy a nice watch like this one. (He shows his watch to Hero.) Chii, I’m so late for my business meeting. Sometimes I talk too much… Remember boy time is money, never waste it. Now get out of my way.

(The man in suit walks away in a fast pace.)

(Meeting With the Wealthy Lady with Her Son)

(A rich, upper class lady walks into the stage holding her son’s hand. Her son carries a small backpack and is eating a big piece of chocolate. )

(Hero) – Hello didi. Have you seen a group of breakdancers around here?

(The lady ignores him.)

(Hero) – Hello, have you seen a group of breakdancers around here?

(Lady’s son) – Wow, breakdancers!

(Lady) – Come here dear, don’t talk to him.

(Hero) – Excuse me, please don’t pretend I don’t exist. I am just asking whether you have seen any group of breakdancers around here.

(Lady) – Break, what?

(Hero) – Breakdancers. I’m looking for a group of young people dancing on the street.

(Lady) – Dancing on the street… Are they beggars?

(Hero) – No, no.

(The lady’s son starts breakdancing.)

(Lady) (The lady slaps her son’s back to stop dancing.) What are you doing? You need to have manners when in public. Don’t dance in the street like a monkey. Let’s go home.

(The lady and her son walk away.)

(Meeting With the Shopkeeper)

(Hero walks towards a betel shop by the river ghat with a big, attractive name sign – “Common Betel Shop”. At the time, there are no customers at the betel shop.)

(Hero) – Hello sir. Do you know about a group of kids dancing around here?

(Shopkeeper) – Dancing? Not really. Do they earn money?

(Hero) – I don’t think so.

(Shopkeeper) – Why would they dance if they can’t earn money from it? Young people nowadays, you don’t know how hard it is to make a living.

(Hero) – Sir, how hard it is to make a living around here?

(Shopkeeper) – You have no idea, do you? You have to work from morning to evening but money is never enough.

(Hero) – I also work from morning to evening but my family tries to be grateful with the little money we have.

(Shopkeeper) – That’s just sweet talk. Nobody is happy being poor. My wife and children are always complaining about money and money and how they don’t have enough of it. So here I am earning money for them. Anyways why am I telling this to you…

(Hero) – Sir, did your wife and children ever come visit your store?

(Shopkeeper) – No they have no interest in it.

(Hero) – Why don’t you invite them and ask them to come visit you? I am sure they will see how hard you work everyday and start appreciating your sacrifice for them.

(Shopkeeper) – You are much wiser than you look young man. I will think about it.

(Hero) – People say don’t judge a book by its cover…

(Shopkeeper) – You are too smart for my liking. Are you going to buy anything?

(Hero) – No sir.

(Shopkeeper) – Then why don’t you move to this side so customers can see and walk into the shop.

(Hero) Ok. (Hero moves to the side.) Actually I will go and take some rest under that Banyan tree. This way I won’t disturb your business. Sir, I hope everything works out for your shop and your family.

(Shopkeeper) – I hope so too, thank you. You have a kind heart young man. What is your name?

(Hero) People call me Hero.

(Shopkeeper) You know Hero, that is a very old Banyan tree. When I was your age, I used to sit there and contemplate life but now I sit in the shop and worry about money. You enjoy your years of youth because there is no joy in old age.

(Hero) – Sir why don’t you come sit with me under the shade of that Banyan tree?

(Shopkeeper) – Thank you for your offer but I have to look after this shop. After all, my family and this shop are the only two valuable things that I have in my life. I would have a nice time relaxing under that Banyan tree but I can’t leave my shop…

(Hero) Why? Can’t you close your shop for a little break?

(Shopkeeper) Why would I? If I sit here in my shop, I get paid for doing so. However if I sit under that Banyan tree, I lose money. Then I start chatting, meeting new people, paying others tea and snacks, and eventually my pocket will go empty.

(Hero) Sir wouldn’t you do the same sitting at sitting in your betel shop? Meeting people, tea, snacks…

(Shopkeeper) No. My conduct is very strict and professional when I am in the shop. Only work, no fun or relaxation.

(Hero) Sir sometimes people need to relax and spend time with family and friends.

(Shopkeeper) Why relax if you can make money? Do you see those two customers that are walking here? They are ready to purchase some chewing tobacco and betel leaves. If I wasn’t sitting here in the shop, this money would go to another seller.

(Hero) Sir I still don’t understand your thinking but I respect it. Will you ever reach a time in which you tell yourself “I have earned enough money?”. Once you do, we can go together and relax under that Banyan tree. For now I will go by myself and take some rest. Good bye sir.

(Shopkeeper) When you get older, get married and start a family, you will understand my thinking. As I said enjoy your years of youth. Best of luck for you and I hope you find the breakdance group you were looking for. Goodbye.

(Hero goes and sits down under the Banyan tree. End of Scene IV.)

Scene IV Glossary:

Sensory – adjective, of related to the senses like taste, touch, smell, seeing and hearing

Roaming – verb, moving around without aim or purpose

Scamming – verb, to cheat other people usually for money

Pretend – verb, to act like something is true but it is not, to give a false appearance

Nowadays – adverb, in the present or current time

Grateful – adjective, feeling or showing thanks for something or someone 

Scene V – Encounter With the Dance Crew

(While Hero sits under the Banyan tree, the dance crew he was looking for walk into the stage with a boombox and acting very cool. The boy watches curiously.)

(Bill) – Dude have you seen the new music video on MTV?

(Xerox) – Yea, it’s so amazing.

(Bill) – Let’s add some of their moves into our routines.

(Xerox) – Yea, good idea man.

(Sweetz) – It’s nice to get inspired from others ideas but we shouldn’t copy them. By the way, how did your exam go Bill?

(Bill) – You’re right no ‘biting’ (*a term used for copying other dancers’ moves in bboy/bgirl culture). My exam went well. If I get a good score on this, I can go study in a top university in the US or UK.

(Xerox) – Oh man, when you go abroad, you’ll meet so many famous bboys and bgirls.

(Bill)– Yea, maybe I can practice more and learn more things there. My parents aren’t too happy with me practicing street dance. They want me to focus on my studies so I can have a stable job in the future.

(Sweetz) – Remember you can’t always aim for stability. Just like dance, you have to aim for creativity and originality.

(Bill) – You and your talk about originality. I think winning battles is more important. You can be the most original bboy or bgirl in the world but if you can’t win any competitions, you are nothing. I really want to win the upcoming dance competition so I can show my parents how I can become a successful professional dancer.

(Xerox) – Respect man. Our crew is here to help you out in bringing that trophy back home to show your parents.

(Sweetz) – We are here to support you Bill.

(Other crew members) – Yes. (All the crew members nod and show signs of support and agreement.)

(Bill) – Thank you guys, now let’s practice. We have a jam to win!

(The dance crew start their dance practice. Hero approaches them.)

(Hero) – Hello. My name is Hero. Could you teach me some moves please?

(The crew look at him from top to bottom. The crew leader decides to ask Hero.)

(Bill) – Where are you from?

(Hero) – I am from the other side of the river.

(The group of young kids look at each other and judge him.)

(Bill) – Why don’t you find a crew on your side of the river?

(Hero) – I haven’t seen any bboy crews over there.

(Bill) – Then you should start your own crew. (Turns around to his crew members.) Chal, let’s continue practicing. We have an international jam coming up in a few months.

(Sweetz) – Come on, let him practice some moves with us.

(Bill) – Do you want to move to the other side of the river and create a crew with him then?

(Sweetz) – No, I just want to teach him some moves.

(Bill) – We have an international dance battle coming up soon. We need to practice hard if we want to win this.

(Other crew members) – Come on Sweetz, let’s continue our practice for the jam.

(Sweetz) – Sorry, I have to go practice with them. What’s your name again?

(Hero) – My name is Hero. Thanks, anyway. Go ahead.

(Sweetz) – I’m known as bgirl Sweetz. I apologize for my crewmate’s attitude, he’s under lots of pressure. Maybe when the dance competition is over you can come and practice with us.

(Hero) – Maybe. Bye.

(The boy walks away from the dance practice really disappointed. End of scene V.)

Scene V Glossary:

Creativity – noun, the ability to make new things or think of new ideas

Originality – noun, being different and new in a good way

Attitude – noun, a way of thinking and behaving that is unfriendly

Start of Scene VI – The Ferry Back Home

(Ferryman) – Hello my friend.

(Hero) – Hello. (Replies the boy, very sad, looking down and avoiding eye contact.)

(Ferryman) – What happened?

(Hero) – They didn’t let me practice with them. One kid was nice but others didn’t want me to join them. They were saying how they had to practice in order to win this dance battle coming up.

(Ferryman) – I see. These kids want to win the competition, and succeed in life just like everyone else on this side of the river. Don’t let this city bring you down my young friend. This is like a city of crows, people who live here fight each other for the leftovers. Let’s return home to the other shore. The river is our friend and it will guide us home.

(Hero) – Yes, I want to return to my side of the river, where I belong.

(Ferryman) – Remember your true home is on the other shore.

(The ferryman sings another song about the river. This is a folk song composed by Bhupen Hazarika.)

Song 3: “O Ganga Behti Ho Kyun” (O Ganga why do you keep flowing?) by Bhupen Hazarika

Lyrics and English Translation (edited from different available versions)

(Assamese )

Bisterno varorey, / (On your wide banks)

Afankhya janore, / (That are home to countless people)

Hahakar sunio (In spite of hearing their anguished cries)

Nnirovey, / (So silently and unmindfully)

Bhural hui tumhi, / (Oh you old river?)

Bhural hui bura ki aur. / (Why do you keep flowing?)


Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Naitikta,  nasht  hui, manavta bhrasht  hui,
(Morality is destroyed, humanity has been corrupted)
Nirlajj bhav se behti ho kyun?..
(Why do you keep flowing shamelessly?)
Itihas ki pukar, kare hunkar,
(The call of history is roaring)
Oh ganga ki dhar, nirbal jan ko, sabalsangrami, samagrogrami, banati nahi ho kyun?.
(Oh stream of Ganga, why don’t you turn the weak into powerful warriors marching forward?

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Anparjan, aksharheen, anginjan, khadyoviheen, *neatravhiheen,
(Innumerable people are illiterate, uneducated, without food and blind)
dikshmon ho kyun?.
(Why are you silent seeing this?)
Itihas ki pukar, kare hunkar,

(The call of history is roaring)

O Ganga ki dhar, nirbal jan ko, sabalsangrami, samagrogrami, banati nahim ho kyun?.

(O stream of Ganga, why don’t you turn the weak into powerful warriors marching forward?)

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Vyakti rahe, vyakti kendrik, sakal samaj, vyaktitya rahit,
(People are self-centered, the entire society is characterless)
Nishpran samaj, ko tor ti chodti na kyun?
(Lifeless society, why are you unaware of this?)
Itihas ki pukar, kare hunkar,

(The call of history is roaring)

O Ganga ki dhar, nirbal jan ko, sabalsangrami, samagrogrami, banati nahi ho kyun?.

(O stream of Ganga, why don’t you turn the weak into powerful warriors marching forward?)

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Shrutasvini, kyun na rahin,
(Why did you stop being a source of action and energy)
Tum nishchay, chintan nahim,
(You became inanimate)
Prano me prerana deti na kyun?
(Why don’t you give inspiration to life?)
Unmat avani, kurushetra garami, gange janani, navabharat me, bhisma rupi, sut samrajayi, janati nahi ho kyun?
(The exhilarated earth has become Kurushetra (a battleground, where Mahabharata took place), Ganga, o mother, in this modern India why don’t you give birth to a victorious son like Bhishma, the great warrior?

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)
Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, o ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

Vistar hai apar, praja dono par, kare hahakar ni sabdth sada,
(Your expanse is immense, the people living on both banks are suffering silently)
O ganga tum, ganga tum, ganga tum, o ganga tum, ganga tum,  ganga behti ho kyun?..
(O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)
Ganga behti ho kyun? (O Ganga why do you keep flowing?)

(The ferryman finishes singing)

(Ferryman) – We have arrived. When you feel sad and lost, just observe and listen to the river my friend. The river is always dancing. The river dances in its own rhythm. The river dances with an infinite joy and everywhere it flows, it is at home. Goodbye my friend. God bless you!

(Hero) Goodbye sir. God bless you too and thank you for ferrying me across the river!

(End of scene VI.)

Scene VI Glossary:

Avoiding – verb, to stay away from something or someone

Leftovers – noun, the remains of something has already been used, eaten or completed

Rhythm – noun, a regular and repeated pattern of sounds and/or movements  

Infinite – adjective, something that has no limit or ending  

List of Context specific words (India):

Betel or pan – leaves of a climbing plant commonly chewed by people in India as a mild stimulant

Bhai – brother

Chal – common expression with a meaning similar to “let’s go”

Dada – older brother in Bengali

Didi – older sister in Bengal

Ghat – series of steps that lead to the river

Majhi – boatman

Khichdi – a popular dish in India made of rice and lentils (dal). It is a flexible dish that can be prepared only with rice and lentils or vegetables and/or meat can be added to it

Tabla – a classical Indian musical instrument which consists of a pair of small hand drums attached together, one being slightly larger than the other and is played using pressure from the heel of the hand to vary the pitch

Toto – A three wheeled electric battery powered vehicle that can be used as an alternative to rickshaws


On Naming the Hughli River

Where Are You O Boatman
Where Are You O Boatman

Rivers are commonly refereed as the bloodlines of mother Earth. Its utmost importance to the planet Earth and all living beings cannot be fully captured in a few sentences. Rivers offer vital services such as providing precious water for drinking, sanitation, agriculture, industries, transportation, communication and bringing all living beings together over the shared need for water. In a way rivers equate to Life in this planet.

Civilizations, empires and cities have risen and fallen on the margins of major rivers around the world. It was on the margins of the Hughli river, a distributary of the Ganga or Ganges river, that seven European nations: the Portuguese, Dutch, English, French, Danes, Ostenders (Swedish) and Prussians founded trade settlements and fought each other in order to establish trade empires in India and the rest of South Asia (Das and Chattopadhyay, 2014). Over time the British East India Company outwitted its competition and managed to establish a powerful colonial empire in India with its headquarters in the city of Calcutta. Calcutta (name changed to Kolkata in 2001) sprung up from small village settlements on the margins of the Hughli river to later become the administrative center of the British colonial empire in India (Chatterji, 2009).

Throughout this writing, I will attempt to provide a historical background of the Hughli river, discuss the process of naming this river, and lead into reflections on the relationships between people, language and rivers.

Background Information

The Hughli river is a stretch of the Ganga (Ganges) river sourced in the Gangotri glacier in the Himalayas and it is known to be one of the four great Himalayan rivers flowing through India, along with the Yamuna, Indus and Brahmaputra rivers (Darian, 2001). It is commonly accepted that the Hooghly river is formed at the junction of the Bhagirathi and Jalangi rivers at Nabadwip in the district of Nadia in West Bengal and flows into the sea at Bay of Bengal covering an area of about 260 km (160 miles)(Britannica, 2014).

It was from the sea at Bay of Bengal that European traders arrived and sailed up the river in order establish trade settlements on both sides of its margins. The river’s strategic geographical location near Bay of Bengal allowed the entry of ocean going ships and its extensive waterways served as channels of communication and transportation connecting people, cultures, ideas, goods and services. At first European traders settled on the west side of the Hughli river because it was more developed than the east side due to the existence of local ports and settlements where traders from different parts of India came together for commerce. One of these local settlements was the town of Hughli and the Portuguese saw potential in this place to become a successful port where trade would flourish. This led to the establishing of one of the first European trade settlements on the west side of the Hughli river in the town of Hughli by the Portuguese (Das and Chattopadhyay, 2014). Later other European nations such as the Dutch, English, French, Danes, Ostenders (Swedish) and Prussians  joined the ‘rush’ to establish trade settlements along the margins of the Hughli river.

On Naming the River

Before the arrival of European traders, the Hughli river was originally known as the Bhagirathi river or as the Ganga river. With the arrival of the Portuguese in the town of Hughli and followed by traders from other European countries who also sought profits from trade in Bengal, the economic, social, political and cultural landscape of the areas along the river started to change. These newly formed trade companies grew to exert powerful influence on local affairs and were able to shape the way in which people name, interact and relate to the river.

European settlers in their need for simplification started to name the river (originally known as the Bhagirathi or the Ganga) as the Hughli river. The new name derived from the town of Hughli in which the river flowed through. The term Hughli is said to be derived either from gola which means storehouse or hogla which signifies the reeds that used to grow on the margins of the river. This gradual change in the name of the river from “Bhagirathi into Hughli was symptomatic of a broader transformation that took place in this region as a result of European intervention.” (Das and Chattopadhyay, 2014). These European traders as agents of colonialism and globalization shaped how local people connected and attributed meaning to the river.

Reflections on Naming the River

In a sense local people lost their power to name the river. Their voices got silenced and the simplified name of “Hughli” river used by European traders substituted the name “Bhagirathi” river or the “Ganga” river used by the local population. It might seem that there is nothing special for people to be able to name the world around them because after all it is just a word. Let’s look at this quote by Paulo Freire, a leading Brazilian thinker, philosopher and educator on the power of naming the world:

“To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it. Once named, the world in its turn reappears to the namers as a problem and requires of them a new naming.” (pg. 61, Freire, 1972)

This quote brings out the importance of naming the world and how it is in ingrained in the process of existing humanly that is to live as a free human being. Freire argues that in order for people to exist as free human beings, it is necessary to regain the power to name the world around us. The power of naming the world is the power to determining reality.

Here is another excerpt of a conversation in a culture circle in Chile quoted by Freire that again expresses the power of naming:

‘Let’s say, for the sake of the argument , that all men on earth were to die, but that the earth itself remained, together with trees, birds, animals, rivers, seas, the stars…wouldn’t all this be a world?’ ‘Oh no,’ the peasant replied emphatically. ‘There would be no one to say: “This is a world”.’ (qtd. Freire, 1972)

Language is the mediator of human-world relationships (Freire, 1972). It determines how humans construct and de-construct meaning from the world which creates the so called human ‘reality’. It is from human-world relationships that reality is produced and acted upon. What is the connection between the power of naming and human-river relationships? This thought/reflection is an attempt to tackle this question:

A river only becomes a river if people name it as a river. Without naming the river as a river then people cannot know what a river is. Without language, people cannot name what it perceives to be a river to become the river. For a river only becomes a river if the people make sense of it and act upon it as being a river. Yes, a river can exist without people but it would not exist as a river per se. It would exist as something ‘else’, something beyond human conception because there would be no people to no name it as being a river.  Humans can only filter the so called “the world in which we live in” through the limited perspective of a human being and people call it ‘reality’. But this is only human reality, it cannot be applied to All. Yes, humans can transcend this perspective but this transcendence cannot be captured using human words for it is beyond the human realm. Since this transcendence is beyond the human realm, you would experience the river not as a river but as something ‘else’.

This reflection is an attempt to bring out the power of naming the world which in this case the power to name rivers.


The gradual change in the name of the river from Bhagirathi or Ganga to Hughli provides major insights on how the arrival of European traders as agents of colonialism and globalization, shaped how people connected and attributed meaning to the river. Even though India is now an independent country since 1947, there are still remnants of the structures of colonialism used during British control of India. Moreover India is under the fire of constant cultural imperialism in the current ongoing wave of globalization.

Some food for thought:

Who has the power to name the world or the so called ‘reality’?

Is the name Hughli or Hooghly river still being used to name the river?

Do the common people still come together in the naming of the world?

“Dialogue is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world.” (Freire, 1972)


Chatterji, Aditi. Ethnicity, Migration and the Urban Landscape of Kolkata. Kolkata: K P Bagchi, 2009.

Darian, Steven G. The Ganges in Myth and History. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass , 2001.

Das, Suranjan and Basudeb Chattopadhyay. Europe and the Hughli The European Settlements on the West Bank of the River. Kolkata: K.P Bagchi, 2014.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Opressed. Middlesex : Penguin Books, 1972.

“Hugli River”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 21 Oct. 2014