This is the age of highways. One can drive to Kolkata in flat 3 hours, then there is the information highway- people are actually contemplating information super-highways now. The quantum computers of the future are expected to transfer a whole Bollywood movie replete with songs and gyroscopic dances in just about 3 minutes flat. One of our ex-students (physics) Mrs Nandini Mukherjee is now into the process of quantum layering of micro chips in Stanford University USA which is supposed to make our micro chips hugely faster. So we are actually in the highway age- aiming for the super highways and hopefully ‘bullet trains’ in about half a decade in India as aspired by our Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, who happens to be the chancellor of Visva Bharati- our University.
Just where does the by-lanes of our life stand now?
12The photographs are going to be interesting juxtaposition in this time frame. Whereas for most of us, by now, all long distance movements out of Kolkata are invariably through flight so as to land at Jaipur (say)in two hours flat; moving through by-lanes on the other hand is laborious and time consuming. And the exercise invariably leads one to pause. Well ‘to pause’- what an improbable grammatical expression in today’s context; ‘to pause’ actually has become a big luxury for me at least. In this age of instant thinking, instant action, semesters in colleges and monthly or even fortnightly reviews in corporate houses—whoever has the luxury ‘to pause’? The modern English vocabulary would soon make this term ‘to pause’- obsolete, I reckon!
3Once on a wild foot track by the paddy fields, I discovered this! It instantly looked like the armour of the Galls when they fought the Ceasar’s army in an Asterix comic book; but it was actually a plough still used extensively around Santiniketan to cultivate lands- a very basic tool indeed! It certainly looks mediaeval- something dated 400 years before. Oops, here we are not actually in the ‘pause’ mode; but we are leafing over hundreds of years in history- even in this age of super-highways!
4But, that’s how life is, and it is a plain truth. What exactly to do with this ‘truth’? Prime Minister Modi is keen to acquire large tract of land for industry and smart cities to come up; he has based his arguments on the statistics that agriculture cannot sustain the livelihood of large number of small farmers spread all over the country and they need to shift their profession- to what is not exactly specified though. We can expect this to become a tricky issue in coming years. Actually, grammatically speaking, the term ‘to pause for the rains to come so that I can till my land’ needs to be wiped off from our vocabulary as soon as possible.
56We are witnessing the death of the Rickshaw courtesy the influx of Totos. Certainly battery driven utility transport vehicles are pleasing to ride.
To be more specific, let us revert back to the old theme ‘to pause’. Pausing, after the usual hectic week, for me has been very refreshing. I love to move about the country side without much purpose, nice to inhale plenty of oxygen, and to delete the unnecessary heavy database accumulated over a week in my brain.
I find ‘pausing’ at times truly rejuvenating. It is good to forget the highways once in a while.
78Outside the vicinity of highways life is essentially built upon the pause mode. Things move at its own pace, never actually hurried neither completely still. The drooling pace of life is the ‘real’ life for the majority of Indians, who still live in the villages, and are still comfortable with this pace.
910I spent about an hour sitting beside this tiny lake careful to not think about anything in particular. The massive green all around slowly engulfed my senses and filled me up with a pleasant smile. ‘To pause’ is to belong; it was nice to belong with few hours of my life, it was nice to belong to ‘myself’ for sometime.
To belong to one’s own self for sometime along these by-lanes of life at Santiniketan is certainly precious; and that’s why we need these by-lanes too along with the super highways of our human intellect.
Santiniketan was perennially juxtaposed between the highway and the by-lanes, perhaps set up purposefully by Rabindranath Tagore for us to be aware and to contemplate the arising issues and its consequences.
11Somewhere down the line perhaps Rabindranath was fond of the term ‘Down to Earth’- just a guess though!
Thanks, Shubhashis.

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  1. Shubhashis Mitra says:

    Sukanya Sinha
    এটা পড়ে রবীন্দ্রনাথের এই কবিতাটি মনে এলোঃ আমার বয়সে
    মনকে বলবার সময় এল–
    কাজ নিয়ে কোরো না বাড়াবাড়ি
    ধীরে সুস্থে চলো,
    যথোচিত পরিমাণে ভুলতে করো শুরু
    যাতে ফাঁক পড়ে সময়ের মাঝে মাঝে।

    Also so happy to hear about the great work by my friend and classmate Nandini Mukherjee (nee Moulik) !

    Samik Ghosh
    Beautiful observations both through the lense and in words.

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