Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

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National Press Day

16 November is observed as the National Press Day. This was the day on which the Press Council of India (PCI) started functioning as a moral watchdog to ensure that not only did the press maintain the high standards expected from this powerful medium but also that it was not fettered by the influence or threats of any extraneous factors. Though there are several Press or Media Councils world over, the Press Council of India is a unique entity in as-much-as this is the only body to exercise an authority even over the instruments of the state in its duty to safeguard the independence of the press. Therefore, the day in which PCI started functioning It is symbolic of a free and responsible press in India.

Recommending the establishment of Press Council in 1956 the First Press Commission had concluded that the best way of maintaining professional ethics in journalism would be to bring into existence a body with statutory authority, of people principally connected with industry whose duty it would be to arbitrate. To this end the Press Council of India was established and the body that was evolved since November 16, 1966 has not belied the objective.

However, PCI only encompasses print media and news agencies. Television, radio and digital media do not come under its purview. Now that all media have more or less converged and digital technology is creating newer platforms- it is time PCI makes an attempt to expand its domain of operation.

Preserve Water Bodies

Many of our religious festivals and rituals are integrally associated with water bodies. Consider Chhat Puja (in picture; location: Kuakhia river at the outskirt of Bhubaneswar), Kartik Purnima Boita Bandana, Mahalaya Shradha, etc. It shows the close association our religio-cultural life has had with water bodies.

But of late we are destroying our water bodies both by reducing the water flow and depth and by polluting it. It is like digging our own graves.

It is time to stop destroying water bodies and start caring and nourishing them. Our ground water level is depleting at an alarming rate. We need to reduce drawing more water from ground and use flowing water. For that we need to keep it clean and flowing. It’s time we take our water bodies more seriously.

Children in India

As yet another Children’s Day was celebrated on 14 November, here are some hard facts about  Children in India. It seems despite our professed love for children, they are the most vulnerable lot. One lakh fifty eight thousand one hundred and seventy six children died of pneumonia and 1,02,813 perished in diarrhoea in 2016 as per ‘Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report’ released on 9 Nov. by the International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC) at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
If we want to build the nation, we need t0 look after our children first. Their health and education should be our first priority.

Passing of an icon

Prabhat Nalini Das died a quiet death on 14 November 2018, Children’s Day at an age of 91. She was a teacher par excellence with a heart beating for children.

Born in 1927, she had the distinction of topping every university she attended. She was a gold medalist at the Ravenshaw College. She earned her M.A. in English at the University of Allahabad, where she topped the university, earning three gold medals. She earned another Masters in English at the University of Minnesota as a Fulbright Smith-Mundt Scholar, and topped that university as well, winning several honours, including being the Best Graduate Student of the year (1954) from the Department of English, the Delta Phi Lambda Award, and a special medal for proficiency in writing.

In her uninterrupted career of 40 years, she taught at Ravenshaw College and Sailabala Women’s College, Cuttack, Odisha before being appointed, at age 31, as head of the Department of English at Lady Shri Ram College. She turned down the post of principal of Lady Shri Ram College to move to the IIT Kanpur, as the first Director/Dean of its Humanities Division, at the age of 35. She was, afterwards, head of the Department of English at Ranchi University, a senior research fellow at the American Studies Research Centre, Hyderabad, and founder-professor and head, Department of English, Utkal University for almost nineteen years. She also served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the North Eastern Hill University Shillong.

Das has translated several major Oriya works into English including two of the most well known plays of Manoranjan Das: The Wild Horse and Nandika Keshari.

Together with her husband, Professor Bidhu Bhusan Das, she supported and patronized Odissi dance and music, and Odia and English theatre, right from the early 1950s. They helped Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Guru Pankaj Das and Guru Debaprasad Das in substantive ways when their career trajectories were evolving.

Prabhat Nalini Das has been a pioneer in resuscitating ikat and southern Odisha’a Berhampur silk saris, as well as its tussar (raw silk) saris. So prized and rare is her collection of saris that part of it was requested for display at The Smithsonin during the Festival of India in the US, in 1985.

I was her student for a very brief period, just before she retired from Utkal University, Bhubaneswar. But along with hundreds of other students, I’ll miss her. She will continue to live in the collective memories of her students.

Tailpiece: Legends

Men smoke cigarettes.

Real men smoke cigars.

Legends live in Delhi NCR

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Mrinal Chatterjee is a journalist turned media academician. He lives in Dhenkanal, a central Odisha town. He also writes fiction and plays.

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