Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee


Remembering Emergency

It was on 25 June 1975 that emergency was promulgated. I was in Class XI then. In the small mofussil town called Charampa in Bhadrak district in Odisha where I lived then it had a mixed reaction. People were scared as there were police vehicles movement, a rare sight in our town- rarer still was the fact that they carried weapons. People were also happy as the trains and buses started running on time and prices of grocery items like cooking oil, sugar and daal came down. In my family my father was unhappy as newspapers we used to subscribe suddenly became insipid. But my mother was happy as the prices came down.

Next year I went to college- 4 kms from my place. No election was held in our college. We heard that some students were arrested as they protested against the government and emergency. Some students clandestinely brought copies of an Odia publication Pragativadi and Mainstream and insisted we should read it.

Next year 1977- the emergency was lifted. The arrested students came back to the college with a hero’s welcome. Some of them fought elections again held in the college and won.

General Elections were held in March 1977. I remember my father listening to the results late into the night on radio. When the news came that Indira Gandhi was defeated in Rae Bareli my father smiled and ordered my mother who was sleeping then- to prepare a cup of tea. Radio was playing the song: Bareli ke bazar mein jhumka gira re… I was awake then. So was half of the town. There was bursting of crackers. After finishing tea my father said: mark my words, she will again come back.

Years later I wrote a novel titled Abhimanyu with the backdrop of emergency times at a small town.

… And Orwell

It is often said history repeats itself. History also in a queer way forewarns. Consider this:  George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair), who was also born on 25 June 1903 in Motihari, Bihar. What he wrote holds relevance in case of emergency and also in the present times.

Orwell knew the horrors of the twentieth century: the rants of the dictators, the totalitarian societies they unleashed, the wars of unparalleled bloodshed.

Considered perhaps the twentieth century’s best chronicler of English culture, Orwell wrote some of the most brilliant literature of the twentieth century, which showed the dark side of dictatorship.

His novels Animal Firm and Nineteen Eighty four showed what authoritarianism can do those who submit themselves to it.

Patient’s’ Rights Day

My friend Ankuran Dutta who heads the Journalism and Mass Communication Department of Gauhati University in Assam is spearheading a movement to institutionalize what he calls Patients’ Rights. As health care is becoming a big business moving slowly into private domain- incidents of patient negligence and financial coercion is increasing. Lack of accountability on the part of the doctors and hospitals makes the patients and their relatives vulnerable. Ankuran is a victim of such negligence which took the life of his wife Anamika at the age of thirty six. Instead of suffering silently Ankuran has decided to fight back for the right of the patients.
He has started to observe this day 25 June as Patients’ Rights Day to raise awareness about medical negligence.

As I posted this information on my social media page my childhood friend and a respected surgeon Dr. Ibrarullah reacted: It is good to teach patients their rights. But it is equally important to teach then their duties towards their care giver, understand the limitations of medical care, accept failures as limitations of medical science and not consider every failure as negligence and exploitation by the doctor. Empowering the patients should not be the excuse to create mistrust towards the care giver- that eventually manifests in hostile and aggressive behaviour.

Medical care in India is increasingly getting hemmed between these two sets of opinions. Is there a way out? I guess, there is- if only an implementable legal framework is made and an ethical medical industry plus civil society body is empowered to look into it.

Breast Feeding

Few months ago I was amazed, perturbed and a little enraged to know that a criminal case under the Indecent Representation of Women Act had been filed against monthly Malayalam magazine ‘Grihalaxmi’ for publishing the picture of a young woman breastfeeding a baby on its cover page.
I failed to understand how feeding a baby could be lascivious or prurient? Several countries including India have been trying to increase the practice of breastfeeding as it is the best for the baby. Several countries including India have issued postage stamps with pictures of mothers breast feeding their babies to popularise the practice.
Thankfully Kerala High court has recently dismissed the case. ‘There is no obscenity in a woman breastfeeding a baby on ‘Grihalaxmi’ magazine cover, obscenity lies in the eyes of the beholder,’ Kerala High Court said.

Tail piece 1

Health Insurance Companies are your best well-wishers. They always pray God for your long life with good health and mind. Private hospitals and medicine companies wish otherwise.

Tail piece 2: Wheel of Karma

Time changes fortunes. A king today turns a pauper tomorrow. Look at how winners of World Cup football in one edition have fared in the next.

1998: France wins WC
2002: France out in group stage!

2006: Italy wins WC
2010: Italy out in group stage!

2010: Spain wins WC
2014: Spain out in group stage!

2014: Germany wins WC
2018: Germany out in group stage!


Tail piece 3: Why Germany lost

Everybody is asking this question: how can 2014 World Cup champion Germany, considered to be a powerhouse lose against minnows South Korea? The answer lies in the venue and in the history. How can Germany win in Russia?

Tail piece 4: Drama on the field

The way some players are feigning injury on the field, rolling on the grounds, grimacing and contorting their faces during the world cup football matches, they should be given best actor awards.


Mrinal Chatterjee, a journalist –turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. He also writes fiction. English translation of his Odia novel Shakti and compilation of his columns Window Seat have just been published.

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