From `A Morsel of Different Shades’ by S.K.Sanyal

“Suraiya was shaking Reshma with both hands when the latter was

relieved from her trance. The daughter wisely manufactured some

stories depicting her over-eagerness towards studies and succeeded

in convincing her mother about her seriousness as a student.

‘Do you know, Amma, in the English language, if a word,

whichever way you read it, forward or reverse, is the same, it is

called a palindrome, like noon or deed. And Amma, this sweet word

amma is itself a palindrome, abba, too. Our home city, Domod, is

also a palindrome.’

‘That is funny. We ignoramuses have heard of aerodromes but

not palindromes,’ saying, Suraiya left to complete her household

chores. Reshma burst into laughter muttering to herself, ‘I can give

you more examples– but then you will start asking me the meanings

and will have the inevitable suspicion about me being involved in

some affair. Though you will not be far from truth, Amma. I’m sorry,

but you don’t know that evil I dwell, lewd I live, the philosophic

palindrome some genius has discovered, just about circumscribes

my present attitude to life.’

Again, she entered her reverie where only Saras and Anna (both

names cut short to palindromes) existed; the outside world had no




Are global surveys reliable?

A comparison of life now as compared to the life 50 years ago was the subject that Pew Research Centre took up through a survey of 43000 people in 38 countries. Some results are highlighted in Times Special of T.O.I, dated 9th Dec,’17.

In India, 69% of the people think that life now is better than 50 years ago. Among the countries, India is second only to Vietnam (88%) giving such high assessment of progress. Before coming to technical aspects, let me bring to you the headlines of the news published on the same page or the next ones, dated 9Dec,’17:

“Boy suspected of killing mom and sister; Hospital loses licence for declaring alive infant dead; women tutors booked for sex abuse of girl,4: Fake board gave school, college mark sheets to 25000; C.M. meets LG on liquor mafia, six women arrested; 11 Dec, TOI -Torture, abuse and disease at Noida’s home for juveniles; 6 year old brutalized with wooden stick; 1in 5 urban families forced to borrow to fund hospital stay: man attacks wife with cleaver in New Delhi————–“

While some such news as above greets all in the morning torpedoing the peace of mind but only temporarily as the later hours adjust to some sort of malignant normalcy. Are we then better off as compared to what was 50 years ago? Betterment should not only be economic transformation but should encompass the social and cultural sectors, not to be measured only in terms of internet, mobiles or even the macro-level enhanced expectancy of life.

Technical aspects

Survey findings need to be looked at from the sample selected. Since no details are available, presumably the sample size for India may be 1000 to 1200 persons (as globally 43000 people across 38 countries were contacted for the survey). It is not clear whether a probability sampling was resorted to. If so, what was the weighting pattern across the different age groups? Overwhelming weights are to be given to those above sixty years of age, as they are the persons who had experienced life 50 years ago. I have doubts whether this fact was taken onto account in the sampling procedure as also whether due weights were given in the sample to the rural –urban distribution of the population. If a purposive sample is taken, it has very little credence in view of the small sample size and perhaps with no spread to other strata of the society except the educated persons.

So, it is better to shed off the complacency about being better off than in sixties of the last century.


[In the earlier blog, Sumitra explores the dynamics of evil based on the universe of teachers and in the process arrives at two geometrical equivalents for the decaying culture .An excerpt from author’s forthcoming novel `A Morsel of Different Shades’, is presented while she was at Putlinagar.]


Certainly, the Putlinagar trapezium wasn’t an isosceles one. On the other hand, it was one with all the inhibitions blessed with the dictates coming from a male dominated society. But Sumitra was wrong about the latter. As time progressed, she came to know about the female dacoits and the clout they had. As she was engrossed in her new found geometrical equivalent of society, Shibu, the peon, interrupted her:

‘A lady has come to see you.’

‘What for?’

‘She didn’t say, but she insists on seeing you.’

‘Okay, Let her in.’

A fully veiled and slightly bent down lady in a salwar kameez entered her room. As Shibu exited, closing the door behind him, the lady stood to her full height of five feet five inches and removed the veil.

‘I’m Sunehri, the infamous dacoit. But you needn’t be afraid,’ she said to Sumitra.

Visibly shaken, Sumitra took some time to conjure up the situation. From cavorting an intellectual exercise to seeing an apparition of a veritable dacoit at the closest distance possible was too abrupt for her to be comfortable. She gained some courage, however, when Sunehri flashed a smile that appeared to her innocent and uttered the words: ‘Listen, Behenji, there is absolutely no reason for fear. I’m not going to harm you. As you can guess, I have to use either a disguise or cover my face when I’m in town.’

It was then that she noticed the scars on her face and the eyes that had revenge and cruelty in tandem. She remembered to have gained enough courage to ask: ‘What brings you here? So far as I know, I keep aloof from all social and political activities. And how could a person of no importance with a pittance of a salary be of any concern to be paid a visit by a person of your stature?’

Sunehri, taking a seat, slowly explained her purpose:

‘In this State, women are victims of several cases of abuse arising from the age-long social indifference and apathy. I jumped into the beharr (ravines) because of this, but, unfortunately, now for me, there is no way to come back to the society and do something for the womenfolk. This school does not have the best of teaching standards, and it’s only in namesake that girls are being educated. I have done my homework and have found out that you are one of the very few teachers who devote themselves to teaching selflessly and that too against great odds. ———————————————.There is no semblance of a real education. I’m not sure how we can address these issues single-handedly, but some attempt could be made in this direction.’

Sumitra remembered to have intervened at this juncture, taken aback by her outright insinuation of the education system, though with hidden admiration. ‘For example?’ she had asked.

Sunehri blurted out: ‘While I take care of dishonest teachers, you may have to lead the honest ones in impressing upon the quality of teaching. Why don’t you pick out the weaker students and arrange for their coaching, some extra classes?’————————————–

Salil Sanyal

                                     Dynamics of Evil

(Geometrical Representations)

Salil Sanyal

Excerpts from author’s forthcoming novel ` A Morsel of Different Shades’

First Geometrical Representation:

‘The diagonals of an isosceles trapezium are equal,’ she had just proved in the class. The statement set her pondering in the lunch break that the two equal non-parallel opposite sides lent symmetry to the figure which otherwise was asymmetric. ‘What do the diagonals indicate in the socio-political scene and, for that matter, their equal lengths?’ Sumitra reflected on this, ruminated, and then almost shouted out, ‘balance, stability, equilibrium.’

And what did the figure represent? She thought. ‘A flowerbed, haven’t you seen, you fool, the ones of this shape at Bankura laid down by your father. Roses, gerberas, dianthus and zinnias in beds of this shape in series, the space between the beds interspersed with other seasonal flowers.’

And if the trapezium is not isosceles, the non-parallel sides are not equal and nor are the diagonals. The figure is then asymmetric, and there is chaos, only a semblance of stability resulting in a precariously hung equilibrium. She thought that in the real world, except for the beds of roses or chrysanthemums, an asymmetric trapezium described life, the two non-parallel sides representing the nexus of unholy alliance. There was chaos, tension and eternal conflict. Efforts to reform the society were met equally by the unholy alliance to undo those. An isosceles trapezium with the line good measuring larger than its parallel line evil should be the ultimate aim of humanity.


Sumitra took leave of Ankush and Kamala and returned to her residence, still perturbed over the general character of the Domodians. In a fraction of a second, the asymmetric trapezium came to her mind. As usual, she relaxed in her easy chair in the verandah cogitating about the live-in arrangement of the good and the evil. She wondered what could have been the scenario in the remotest past, soaking in undiluted innocence and selfless existence, when only the good prevailed and the evil had not emerged or materialised beyond the notional symbol of a point (vertex) in what may be visualised as an inverted triangle. The base would represent the good and the vertex would represent the symbolic evil. Time gradually saw the dynamics of evil. The evil exerted equal force laterally in either direction to form an isosceles trapezium, evil smaller than the good. This must have been the time when people were, by and large, honest and less vulnerable to evil. But good was static, evil dynamic. The latter raised its head and manifested itself in multifarious ways till it confronted good in equal measure. The resulting figure was a rectangle. The transformation of a rectangle into a trapezium again resulted when evil took the upper hand, the length of the side representing evil more than its parallel, the good. Sumitra was stunned by her thoughts on the transformation of an inverted triangle to a trapezium to a rectangle and then to a trapezium fitting into the gradual change in the structure of the society, albeit sadly towards a decaying culture. The question then was in which stage of transition our present society was? Whether a trapezium pre-rectangle or one post-rectangle?

Fig 1: Inverted triangle (see upwards) to trapezium to rectangle to trapezium



When Sumitra rang their doorbell on Sunday, Kamala was busy with leisurely washing, cooking a few special delicacies, dusting, arranging the furniture and so on. Ankush freed himself from the newspaper and opened the door to find Sumitra.

‘Good morning, Behenji,’ Ankush welcomed her, and then shouted, ‘Kamala, see who has come.’ Kamala came running, her sari reflecting the rigours of the household chores but her face resplendent and brimming with joy, expressing her true candour. ‘Oh, how nice of you, Sumi dear, to have come. Please sit and do have breakfast with us.’

Sumitra was endearingly called Sumi by her colleagues.

‘I have had mine, thanks, but you carry on,’ replied Sumi, her mind struggling with the problem of representing the dynamics of changes in the moral values of the society. After exchanging a few pleasantries, she came to the topic.

‘Ankushji, I have come to you for your views on a geometrical representation of the different phases over time of the society, measured in respect of only two parameters, good and evil…’ ‘Just a minute, Behenji,’ interrupted Ankush. ‘Do you really think I’m capable of understanding this high stuff and then giving my views?’

‘This is no high stuff to begin with. Secondly, I have faith in your wisdom. You remember the Pindari stuff?’

Sumi asked for a piece paper and a pencil, and explained the transition from the triangle to a trapezium to a rectangle to a trapezium, posing the question that had been troubling her all these two days, as to which phase the society was currently in?

Both Kamala and Ankush listened to Sumi with interest. Ankush readjusted himself in the chair, moved his fingers through his sparse hair, rubbed his eyes and then shook his head while Kamala stood up saying, ‘Very interesting. I will join you soon.’ Sumi understood that Kamala had some household work to complete. She waited for a reaction from Ankush.

‘I hope the concepts of good and evil are as those used in common parlance, both in the purest terms. Otherwise, how can they be parallel?’

‘Yes, exactly, that is the assumption in this representation. Good and evil are paired as opposites, evil the abasement of good. The concept of good has a positive connotation while that of evil, negative. It should be realised, however, that life is a concoction of good and evil, which the intervening area in the geometrical figure depicts. The parallel lines are, therefore, indicative of the limits, difficult to reach.’

‘You mean to say that unpolluted joy or unbridled evil is a chimaera and we have to accept the fact that evil is real. Was it not Leibnitz who believed that evil in life enhances the beauty of goodness?’

‘You are right, but let us not be warped by the sayings of saints and philosophers. It would be better if we stick to the hypothesis that an evil streak is present in all human beings. Now I shall explain to you why the inverted triangle is chosen to begin with in the earliest of human civilisations. We can imagine the scenario to be that of heaven where the duality of good and evil did not exist, only good remained, or if the evil existed, it was of no consequence. That is why I chose to represent it by a point as a symbol.’

Sumi relaxed, as she waited for a reaction from Ankush when Kamala returned and took a seat. Ankush, with knitted eyebrows and an unmistakable smirk, said:

‘Beg your pardon, the inverted triangle suits your convenience, too, as you can play with the vertex and, hence, the two sides, to form other geometrical figures. Whatever be it, the arrival of the demon must have played havoc with the heavenly ambience.’

‘If not havoc, the process of evil to manifest itself in multifarious ways for sure started,’ said Sumi.

‘If I’m not giving too hurried a reply, I would go for the pre-rectangle trapezium because the society goes on with no large-scale chaos, establishing the fact that the line measuring good is more than the line representing evil. This is at the macro level, that is, the society. At the micro level, that is the individual or the household, it is difficult to say, but the majority not having any discriminating intellect are content with the present lot.’

‘I do have certain reservations on what you said. The accelerated movement of the curve depicting evil over time is to be noted. For example, take the judiciary, the system in which you are at the moment involved. Once hailed as the honest and upright instrument of dispensing justice, it is tainted black, no detergent invented to remove the stain. For that matter, if we take the educational system with which we are concerned, Kamala will agree that it is far worse with all possible forms of corruption. The real cause of evil conduct in some is the craving that induces the selfish desire to achieve his or her objective by any means. This is true both at the macro and micro levels. The working of Panchayats, to cite the example of community governance, is not beyond doubt, serving, as it does, mostly the vested interests,’ saying, Sumi rested for a while before she continued again.

‘I would rather think that the society is at the moment described best by a rectangle where the good matches the evil in equal measure. A shift to the post rectangle trapezium would surely spell doom that we have not been able to discern so far, though indications are there that evil, if not checked, may soon overpower good and herein comes the role of the Government.’

Kamala, who had meanwhile joined the discussion, spoke for the first time:

‘There is no need to elaborate what the Government would do. I feel the society may have crossed the stage of the rectangle for an isosceles trapezium, the evil measuring more than the good, but the balance is held by the two non-parallel sides and the diagonals giving it the semblance of equilibrium.’

Sumi found that each of them had come up with a different answer.

Dear Reader, could you please indicate your option (pre-rectangle trapezium/ rectangle/ post-rectangle trapezium) in the comments.

Second Geometrical Representation

Fig 2: The Venn Diagram


The universe of teachers she had seen presented the cross section for the greater universe. If a Venn diagram was constructed for persons having good and evil characteristics, the intersection area denoted those with, both, good and bad characteristics, and was seen to be very fat, occupying the centre, with only two slits on either side, indicating the purely good and the purely evil ones. This only indicated the vulnerability of the greater mass, opportunists all of them, singularly lacking the courage to slip off into either of the extreme corners. These people occupying the central area loved to scoff at or criticise those in the slits, while actually incapable of doing good deeds or harbouring evil thoughts that they publicly criticised. Sumi remembered her days at Putlinagar, the dacoit-infested area where even women had jumped into the fierce ravines, for whatever reason. This served as an example of the lateral movement of the elements in the fat central area to the right extreme of purely evil; the courage to change the label came off a deep-rooted conviction. If only she could reduce the girth of the central portion of the Venn diagram with a shift towards the left. Well, Suhasini and Kanchan did have a swing towards the left after having gone through a moral turpitude, but whether they did make it to the select few in the pure good category was suspect.

Undeterred by the triviality of the two pure categories being of small weight, Sumitra went on thinking about the composition of the interesting central portion of the Venn diagram with various shades of honesty and dishonesty. If black symbolised pure evil and the persons categorised according to decreasing proportion of evil, black would lead to deep brown to grey to lighter shades and finally transcend to white, the colour of pure good. What picture would emerge, thought Sumitra, no artist must have ventured to put this concept on canvas.

However, Sumitra immediately discarded the idea as impracticable, as uniform distribution of persons according to a decreasing or increasing order of honesty or dishonesty is not possible. Nobody knew what streak of dishonesty or evil was present in his or her next-door neighbour. The central portion of the Venn diagram was, therefore, a random mix of various colours and the tendencies towards or away from the evil unpredictable. The social order emerging out of the resultant values in the random mix was of secondary importance, as the Government, compared to the political economy, put forth different yardsticks for the welfare of the society. The latter did not have the goal of widening the area in the proximity of the slit designated in the Venn diagram as pure good.

Sumitra, therefore, dismissed the side representing pure good as of no consequence because of its negligible weight and of its being non-attainable because of the eternal presence of greed for comfort, lust and power in human nature that was difficult to overcome. Any move to approach pure good could only be asymptotic. On the contrary, the other slit representing pure evil was not only attainable but also attractive. The pragmatic approach would be to change the distribution of the fat central portion, increasing the density towards pure good at the expense of the density near pure evil. Relatively, though, pure evil had greater pull as compared to pure good; the intuitive feeling sent her into a dizzy.

Dear Reader, please give your comments as to which side the fat portion is denser. Towards the left or the right?



Realization is a revelation of sorts

Controlled by mind,

Suppressing yearnings

Preferring peace over material things.


Realization comes sometimes slow

Unable to mow

Down the damage done.

A crucial choice of alternatives

Where grasping the significance

Is lost resulting in failures.

To realize the pros and cons

Of a situation, one who goes by emotion

Loses to a disciplined person

In a thoughtful decision.


It is a paradox where the verb

`To realize’ is by and large instant

But the noun `realisation’, dependent

On the thought process is ponderously lengthy,

Often, noun at cross-purposes with the verb.

No wonder, `realization’ felt over the years

Becomes immense and sometimes painful,

Rues over the decision `to realize’

In the past.