Bangla Wiki turns 10

by Prasad Krishna last modified Apr 04, 2015 04:10 PM
The 10th anniversary of Bengali Wikipedia was marked with a a gathering of Wikipedians of vernacular languages from across the country and beyond at Jadavpur University. Bengali is one of 20 Indian languages to have a Wikipedia presence. The event also celebrated 14 years of the mother edition in English of the open-access, crowd-sourced online encyclopaedia.

Contributed by Sudeshna Banerjee, Showli Chakraborty and Abhinanda Datta the story published in the Telegraph on March 29, 2015 quotes T. Vishnu Vardhan.

"We hear of digital divide all the time. Here it is about digital inclusiveness. The University Grants Commission talks of four factors to make a good university - access, equity, quality and employability. What a teacher cannot give in class, he can offer on the world wide web. The question of quality in Wikipedia can be addressed through workshops like this," said Calcutta University registrar Basab Chaudhuri.

Wikimedia Foundation trustee Bishakha Datta spoke of the uneasy relationship between Wikipedia and academia, especially over authenticity.

"Yes, we do not use original research. So our articles are not admissible as primary sources. At the same time, every piece of information in a Wikipedia article has to be cited and annotated. It is great that an institution like JU has come forward to host us," said Datta, thanking the university's School of Languages and Linguistics.

Joint registrar Sanjay Gopal Sarkar argued in favour of the existence of Wikipedia articles in the vernacular. "It is a part of the empowerment of my mother tongue."

Quantity was a problem, he said. "It is not enough to have 33,000 articles (the English version has 4.7 million). Workshops need to be held in Bengal and Assam on how to write articles. If Wikipedia and the universities join hands, a battalion of writers and editors can be created."

The Bangladeshi delegates revealed how Wikipedia's mission of making knowledge free was getting a technological boost back home. "Grameenphone and Bangla Link, two of our biggest mobile service providers, have made Facebook and Wikipedia free. Subscribers just have to log on to specific domains ( and to see picture-less texts," said Ankan Ghosh Dastidar, a Class XI student from Dhaka.

Vishnu Vardhan from the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, urged for more institutional tie-ups so that instead of stopping students from going to Wikipedia, teachers would integrate their contributions to Wikipedia in the course. "Andhra Loyola College is the largest contributor to Telegu Wikipedia," he said. Hindi, he added, has the maximum articles among Indian languages, followed by Tamil and Telugu. "But Malayalam has the most active Wikipedians - around 100."

A workshop was held to teach how to type in Bengali and edit the Bengali Wikipedia. Techno India student Ayan Chaudhury addressed queries on downloading the Avro font and typing tricky conjoined letters in Bengali, as also how to create cross references and highlight terms. "Ask yourself two questions when you want to add any information: Is it relevant? Can it be verified? Also do not blindly turn on Google Translate. The quality of its translation is such that a word like 'swipe' becomes ' dhum dhadakka'."

A group editing session took place on the second day with 15 volunteers translating articles from the English Wikipedia and adding new articles in Bengali. Some also worked on Wiktionary, an online dictionary, and others on Wikisource, typing out pages of seminal texts outside copyright.

Crafts for a cause

Artisans from Bengal and Bangladesh joined hands to participate in a handcrafted jewellery and handloom exhibition organised by WIIN (Women and Infants in Need) at Shree Art Gallery in Ballygunge on March 25 and 26.

"The proceeds will be donated to Paripurnata, a home for women with mental disabilities (off EM Bypass). We emphasise on mental health awareness programmes and try and create job opportunities for the residents at Paripurnata. This helps in building their confidence and creates a sense of social acceptance," said Nilanjana Mukherjee, the general secretary of WIIN and Paripurnata.

The exhibition was inaugurated by actress Sonali Gupta, who plays Satyabati to Dhritiman Chaterji's Byomkesh Bakshi in Sajarur Kanta. "This cause is close to my heart. We must come together to help women and infants in need," said Gupta.

The exhibition showcased a collection of saris and jewellery from the Rajshahi district in Bangladesh, quirky handbags, hand-painted mugs, kurtas and dupattas.

Trilingual road trip

An independent film - or indie - by two graduates of the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) has hit theatres this Friday. Titled Yahan Sabki Lagi Hai (Everybody Gets Screwed Here), the 100-minute trilingual (English, Hindi and Bengali) black comedy is directed by Calcutta girl Tina A. Bose and Mumbai boy Cyrus R. Khambata.

Produced by Vibrant Works, the film revolves around Kesang and Bharat, who are on their way to a birthday party but their road trip soon turns into a disaster as they find themselves in the middle of a jungle, robbed of all their belongings.

Road trip gone wrong has been done before, but according to the young film-makers, "while most of them have been horror or slasher films, ours travels the philosophical path and focuses on the issues we face in life."

The lead actress is a Tibetan girl, Eden Shyodhi. "We wanted to cast a girl from a minority community. We needed someone who was weird and interesting as the character of Kesang is very unusual. And when we met Eden, she had flaming red hair, just like how we had envisioned Kesang!" said Tina, who has studied in Lady Brabourne College and Jadavpur University. The cast also includes stand-up comedian Varun Thakur and Bengali actor Heerok Das, previously seen in Egaro.