Sunday, June 20, 2010


Hello everyone,we have been busy keeping in touch with each other. The UK is a good place to meet and catch up on our friendships, don't you agree?
Here are some of the things we have been up to.


We've all read poems by Rupert Brooke for Senior Cambridge. Qamar lives near this Vicarage which is the present home of the author Jeffrey Archer and his wife Mary.
An event was arranged where she read and explained the famous poem "THE OLD VICARAGE,GRANTCHESTER".
Many of us had to read this poem for our finals. Hearing it again through the words and emotions of one who now lives there brought on a fresh outlook and of course nostalgic feelings!

RITA ROY (batch of 1970) has been singing in India for a while now.
She was in the UK on tour.

Her programme was entitled
Melodies & The Magic of the River a magical evening performed to packed audiences, at the Rudolf Steiner Hall on 22nd May, 2010, and on 8th June, 2010, at The Nehru Centre. The first programme consisted of Hindi film songs covering 6 decades (1950 to the present day ) in which memories were rekindled by singing some of the most memorable melodies produced in Bollywood.
Rita's singing was accompanied by Sujit Sil and Rekha , who are singers of repute in London.They were also backed by live musicians one of whom was the well known Mohamed Kassam who has played for Lata Mangeshkar and played in many songs for Raj Kapoor.
We were entertained by songs such as "Tere mere sapne" from Guide, "Raina beeti jaye" from Amar Prem and songs from films like Umrao Jaan and Parineeta.
The second event, held at The Nehru Center, London, was a solo performance by Rita in which she traced the various moods of the rivers in India -the Ganga, the Brahmaputra, the Jamuna - sung in Bengali, Assamese and Hindi, linked together by a narration in English read by Pritha and her son Agnish. Here too she was accompanied by live music. Popular songs like O Nodire. Ganga Aye Kahan Se, Ganga Amar Ma and Ganga Behti Ho Kyun were included in this presentation.

Mohamed Kassam


When Bijoya Sawian was here she met up with Naila Kabeer, Rita Payne and Verity Whitworth. They had a wonderful day together as you can see.......

Rita's husband Geoff joined them too.

Bijoya has just published her first book. Here is a review in THE TELEGRAPH in Kolkata

Today's Edition
Wednesday , April 28 , 2010

Cathartic twist to pastoral whodunit- Shillongite in novel debut after Oxford stint

Sawian in traditional attire at Christ Church, Oxford

He was a clean-cut kid,
But they made a killer out of him
-Bob Dylan
Calcutta, April 27: It is a steep descent from the bustling Guwahati-Shillong Road at Mawprem to Lower Mawprem, past the house of former Meghalaya chief minister E.K. Mawlong, to a pair of stately gates marked Lakyrsiew. Inside, the pear-tree lined drive to the picture-postcard setting of the Sawian homestead is matched by the graciousness of its occupants.
The eldest daughter of the house, Bijoya Sawian, was born here in 1950. Recently back from Oxford University where she did a course in creative writing, Sawian’s maiden novel, tentatively titled Shadow Men, is ready for publication.
What, you wonder, could have inspired (Sawian prefers to call it ‘provoked’) a novel with a darkened chiaroscuro when the pinecones in the hearth are popping with such warmth? “A turbulent August in Shillong almost a decade ago sowed the idea of the book,” she says. “The sadness I felt when I thought of all those young people out there, with few or no alternatives beyond these hills because of their circumstances, suddenly poured out in a huge torrent of words. I suppose it was a kind of catharsis for me”.
That Shillong would comprise the pivot of her story is but natural since Sawian is proud of her cultural identity. “My siblings and I grew up in our maternal grandmother’s house and were brought up strictly according to the precepts of the Khasi religion, culture and tradition,” she explains. “The issues in my book were staring me in the face: the erosion of values, matriliny, the horrific corruption in politics, the despair and angst all around, and of course, the few unsullied souls that still exist to remind us that there is hope, all is not lost.…”
Shadow Men does not offer solutions, or even seek to do so, says Sawian. She has been nurtured in a matrilineal society, where the mama (maternal uncle) takes decisions and the youngest sister, khatduh, is the custodian of ancestral property. To the outside world, matriliny projects the rosy hues of emancipation and empowerment of women. That it brings its share of responsibilities and burdens often goes unstated.
In her manuscript, Sawian weaves these perplexities in the form of a conversation between the protagonist and her driver, Robert.
For Sawian, who comes of mixed parentage, this realisation is tinged with a sense of verisimilitude. Her father came from a Hindu family that migrated from Sylhet to the hills in 1927. “My mother was Khasi; her family resisted the wave of conversion that swept our hills in the 1840s and to this day professes the original religion of the Hynniewtrep, Niam Khasi Niam Trai. When we — three sisters and two brothers — were young, my father, an immensely intelligent and farsighted man who retired as the last IGP of undivided Assam, made a decision that made all the difference in our lives.
He felt that since he was not in his own land but that of his wife’s where the religion, culture and tradition were not only alive and vibrant but had already made a considerable impact on our lives, we should not be introduced into yet another culture. He realised with all his wisdom that if we were forced to be ‘neither here nor there’ we would suffer an identity crisis.”
This sense of belonging is evident in the pages seeped with nostalgia. “What on earth had I got myself into? Is this the summer of madness that Aila and I had planned over telephonic giggles? Innocent plans to relive our childhood strolls through pine-scented forests and along quiet lakes full of secrets, to rest our eyes on emerald hills that roll on and on in the distance to touch a sapphire sky. Maybe we focused too much on the word ‘madness’ and now it was exactly that that was happening.
Next morning I woke early and switched on Radio Shillong. I lay in bed for a while listening to the melodious Khasi songs sung by the beautiful Kong Helen Giri. The music transported me to a faraway land where Man and Nature merged in perfect melody…”
Or, “I passed the erstwhile Polo Grounds, now a huge stadium for soccer and hockey. An eyesore if one compared it to what it was, a beautifully kept patch of emerald green turf for the races, encircled by wooden stiles. During my girlhood days I used to love coming to the races because my mother would be at her sunniest best, laughing and betting with her Khasi friends. My father did not know of this delicious, surreptitious indulgence of hers…”
Will the novel, highlighting as it does corruption, militancy and questions on a centuries-old social structure not ruffle feathers? The feisty sexagenarian is banking on the “universality” of her theme to get the readers thinking about the myriad unanswered questions. And being a Shillongite to the core, she signs off with a poignant salute to Bob Dylan:
“Everyone wants to know why he couldn’t adjust
Adjust to what – a dream that bust?”

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