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The story of a tea-laborer and his path-breaking journey

If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.- Dr Martin Luther King, Jr

Bike Ambulance Dada, the authorised biography of Padma Shri awardee Karimul Hak, is the most inspiring and heart-warming biography you will read this year. It documents the extraordinary journey of a tea-garden worker who saved thousands of lives by starting a free bike-ambulance service from his village to the nearest hospital.

Here is an excerpt from Bike Ambulance Dada by Biswajit Jha titled A Bike Ambulance Takes Shape.

Front Cover Bike Ambulance Dada
Bike Ambulance Dada || Biswajit Jha

Now that Karimul had a bike, he was no longer dependent on his cycle to ferry a patient. The bike gave the patients a greater chance of survival by ensuring they got to the hospital quickly. Karimul, too, was under less pressure, physically and mentally; he could be more certain of patients getting timely medical attention, be they sick or injured, and riding a motorbike was far less physically taxing than cycling all the way with a passenger.

One day, in 2008, when Karimul was enjoying a cup of tea with some acquaintances at a tea shop in Kranti Bazaar, one of them, Babu Mohanta, suddenly cried out. The engrossing discussion on political affairs was halted abruptly. The small group sprang into action to find out the reason behind Mohanta’s shriek. Investigations revealed that a snake had bitten him just above the ankle. Karimul immediately made up his mind to identify the snake, as this would help the doctor decide on the course of treatment; it was imperative in such cases. He saw the snake but could not identify it. Thinking fast, he somehow caught the snake and put it in a small box so that he could carry it to the hospital. He applied a pressure bandage on the wound as well. With the help of those around them, Karimul got Mohanta tied to his back and asked a villager to ride pillion with him. Before starting out for Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital, Karimul instructed the man to make sure that Mohanta did not fall sleep. The snake, carefully locked in the box, accompanied them to the hospital.

On the way, they met with a huge traffic jam on the bridge over the Teesta, just 5 kilometres from the hospital. The road was chock-a-block with vehicles stranded on the bridge, all trying to find a way out and, in the process, aggravating the situation. As Karimul zipped past the four- wheeled vehicles, he saw an ambulance stuck in the traffic. When he asked the ambulance driver for the patient’s details, he was told that the man had also been bitten by a snake, and they were heading for the same hospital as Karimul. Manoeuvring his much-smaller vehicle between the cars and moving towards the hospital with Mohanta, the soft-hearted Karimul felt sorry for the patient in the ‘proper’ ambulance, unable to get out.

Karimul soon reached the hospital. Once there, he showed the snake to the doctor, who was at first startled but then observed it intently for a few seconds before springing into action with the treatment.

After getting Mohanta admitted, Karimul went back to the bridge where they had seen the ambulance. He saw that the ambulance, along with other vehicles, was still there; the patient had, unfortunately, passed away.

After a couple of days, Babu Mohanta was released from the hospital. He was the first person bitten by a poisonous snake in the village to be saved—all because of Karimul’s timely intervention and bike ambulance service.

Before this incident, though Karimul had ignored the taunts of some of the villagers and had gone about ferrying patients to hospital, he had sometimes harboured misgivings that his bike ambulance was a poor substitute for the conventional ambulance. But that day, he realized that his bike ambulance was sometimes far more convenient than a standard ambulance. From then on, there was no looking back for him. His new-found confidence enthused him to serve people with increased passion.

After he was awarded the Padma Shri, the Navayuvak Brindal Club, Siliguri, donated to him an ambulance that he used for some months. But the traditional ambulance not only consumed more fuel, it was also rather difficult to drive it to remote and far-flung areas. After some weeks, he stopped using that ambulance; though it is still with him, he doesn’t use it. Instead, he now has three bike ambulances at home; one is used by his elder son, Raju, another by his younger son, Rajesh, while Karimul himself mostly uses the bike ambulance donated by Bajaj Auto, which has an attached carrier for patients.

Thanks to Karimul Hak’s unique initiative, the bike ambulance has become popular in rural areas of India. Inspired by him, some social workers, as well as some NGOs, have started this service too, thereby saving thousands of lives in far-off areas of the country.

While Karimul has saved many lives, he deeply regrets not being able to save some. Still, he derives immense satisfaction from the fact that a person like him, with a paltry income and limited capacity, has made a difference in the lives of so many people. Relatives and family members of those who died en route to the hospital, or even after reaching the hospital, at least know that they, through Karimul, tried their best to save their loved one. This is a noteworthy achievement for Karimul, who dreams of a day when lack of medical treatment will not be the reason for someone’s death.

Bike Ambulance Dada is a must-read today as it will inspire us to do and be better in our lives.

An Interview with Kabir Khan- An Excerpt from ‘Directors’ Diaries 2’

‘One of the primary principles of directing is making choices, you have to make one about whether something is right or wrong, because there is no middle ground. As a director, you make a choice and then stick with it, all the way.’

Directors’ Diaries 2 is an anthology by Rakesh Anand Bakshi that features the voices of some of India’s greatest film makers – -Shyam Benegal, Tanuja Chandra, Kabir Khan, Abhishek Chaubey, Nandita Das, Shakun Batra, Prabhu Deva and Mohit Suri-as well as significant but often overlooked behind-the-scenes crew such as spot boy Salim Shaikh, make-up artist Vikram Gaikwad and sound designer Rakesh Ranjan.

The book gives a peek into the lives, souls and motivations of these icons and can be a truly wonderful resource for young film-makers.

Read an excerpt from the book below:

Kabir Khan

FILMOGRAPHY: Kabul Express (2006); New York (2009); Ek Tha Tiger (2012); Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015); Phantom (2015); Tubelight (2017)


What made you script Kabul Express as your first feature film?

KK: After the 9/11 terror attack in New York, I found myself doing a lot of documentary work in and about Afghanistan. Eventually, I shot two or three documentaries in Afghanistan, as guerrilla short films. I had a huge number of real stories and anecdotes from my personal experiences in Afghanistan, which would churn in my conscious and subconscious mind, and I realized what I had experienced in Afghanistan would make a great story by itself. Thus inspired, I sat down one day to write the story of Kabul Express. In hindsight, it was easy to put it all down as a screenplay, because I basically just had to string together our experiences. I wrote the script within two or three months, which, I think, has been the fastest that I’ve written a script to date.

Considering your films may reflect socio-political themes, do you make them to raise questions or answers?

KK: Neither. Primarily, I just want to tell a story. But I do like to tell a story against a certain socio-political context, which has some sort of resonance, first within me, and then, in society. Having said that, my storytelling is neither agenda-driven nor thoughtdriven. But, yes, I think, I would like to say that I make films that raise some questions and may sometimes give a few answers that have not been heard before.

How did you get someone to produce Kabul Express?

KK: I was married by then and Mini was a VJ with MTV. So, she had a bit of an ‘engagement’ with Bollywood people; MTV VJs were celebrities back then. Mini knew some well-placed people and got me some important numbers of people I could pitch my script to. Jaideep Sahni, a screenplay writer who had written Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006), was a friend, and helped me procure the numbers of actors and producers. I started contacting them.

However, whoever I narrated the story of Kabul Express to reacted with, ‘Wow! What a lovely story! But it is a very “different” film! Difficult to make.’ They felt there was no market for such a film. I was clear that I would be able to shoot it in Kabul, because for me, Kabul was not a location, it was a character in my film; and I had already shot two documentaries there and survived. I was confident that I’d be able to pull off a feature film there.

Meanwhile, I never gave up on trying to cast well-known actors. I went to all kinds of producers and production houses— new, old, semi-old, semi-new, small, very small, medium, big, very big. But I never approached Yashraj Films, because conventional wisdom told me, ‘Yashraj? To produce this kind of film? No way! Are you crazy!’

While I waited for producers to revert, I began to look for actors myself. I approached Arshad Warsi. Arshad’s wife is my wife’s friend so it wasn’t that difficult to meet him. He read the script and was immediately on board. Then, I met John Abraham and he too agreed to be in the film. With these two in, I thought my chances of getting a producer would increase exponentially. However, I was proved wrong. I still could not convince anyone to make the film.

An executive producer friend of mine, without my knowledge, had given the script to Adi [Aditya Chopra of Yashraj Films], because, at that point, he was looking for films outside his comfort zone. This friend knew about it because he was working with Adi. I received a call out of the blue from Yashraj Films. The caller informed me that Aditya Chopra wanted to meet me. I thought it was a prank. I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, sure. Like, hell! Adi Chopra would want to meet me, a first-time film-maker whose script is nowhere close to the kind of films Yashraj makes!’ However, I eventually realized the caller was serious and was indeed calling me from Yashraj Films!

Within five minutes of that call, Jaideep Sahni called me. He had read my script long ago, because I had bounced it off him as a friend. He said Adi wanted to meet me because he had read my script and liked it. Later, I found out that when Adi had mentioned my script to Jaideep, he had replied that he already knew about it because he had read it long ago and liked it too, and had even suggested changes. Adi had then asked him about me and Jaideep had told him, ‘Kabir’s a friend and he is capable of directing this film.’ And that’s when Adi decided to meet me and his office called me.

It was a momentous feeling when I entered Yashraj Films’ office to meet this mythical character, producer and director called Aditya Chopra. When I met him, he said, ‘I have read your script, it really moved me and I want to produce it. When can we start?’ And that was it! Adi stood by me like a rock, from day one.

Can you tell us how you usually direct an actor?

KK: Like I said, I believe in giving minimal directions on the first take. I just convey the context of the scene to them, tell them about the backdrop of the moment they are in at that point of the screenplay, where it’s headed, and that’s it. Once I give them that information, I wait to watch what the actor is going to give me in the very first take, or the rehearsal, building on whatever little I have told them. From that a few questions get answered. For example, are they on the same page as me? Have they gone somewhere else? Is the path they’ve taken more interesting than mine? Should I explore that zone, their intuition, their understanding of my scene? Or have they missed the mark completely? Then and only then do I start putting in or pulling out from their understanding and performance.

Frankly, I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, the way I function with my actors, and I do not know how others direct. It’s worked for me so far, or so I feel.

Grab your copy of Directors’ Diaries 2 today to discover how they were first drawn to the craft of film-making to how they got that elusive first break.

Eight Things You Didn’t Know About A.K. Ramanujan

Journeys offers a glimpse into the life of A.K. Ramanujan (1929-1993), one of India’s finest poets, translators, folklorists, essayists and scholars of the twentieth century, is a stalwart in India’s literary history. His translations of ancient Tamil and medieval Kannada poetry, as well as of UR Ananthamurthy’s novel Samskara, are considered as classics in Indian literature. A pioneering modernist poet, during his lifetime he produced four poetry collections in English, and he had also intended to publish the journals he had kept throughout the decades.

Edited by Krishna Ramanujan and Guillermo Rodríguez, Journeys offers access to Ramanujan’s personal diaries and journals, providing a window into his creative process. It will include literary entries from his travels, his thoughts on writing, poetry drafts, and dreams. His diaries and journals served as fertile ground where he planted the seeds for much of his published work.

Here are some interesting details about Ramanujan’s life!

He could hold forth on a number of subjects with insight and scintillating wit: proverbs, riddles, conjuring tricks, mathematical puzzles, folktales.


 He received a Fulbright to study linguistics in the US, and during this time he flowered as a poet and thinker in the free academic atmosphere of the American University.


AKR had gained a local reputation as a brilliant lecturer; students had travelled from distant towns to attend his classes.


In 1958, fed up with teaching, Ramanujan enrolled in a linguistics programme at Deccan College in Pune, while his longtime desire to travel abroad only grew


A.K. Ramanujan (b. Mysore, 1929) was at the peak of his career when he passed away in 1993 at the age of sixty-four.


A.K. Ramanujan had kept diaries and journals from the time he was a teenager in Mysore, and these were often intermingled with poetry lines and drafts.


In the 1960s he begins his successful career as a Dravidian scholar at the University of Chicago – interacting with America’s intellectual elite.


A.K. Ramanujan’s earliest known diary entry, ‘A Poem is Born’, was written in September 1949, at age twenty, in his home town, Mysore.

Know more such interesting facts about Ramanujan’s life in Journeys

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