Tag Archives: Bengali

Or, where we talk about digital future of the Bengali language

ABP Pvt Ltd has a history that goes back to 1922.

From the website

“In 1922, Anandabazar Patrika first came out as a four-page evening daily that sold at two paise and had a circulation of about 1,000 copies a day. Eighty-five years later, Anandabazar Patrika reaches out to over seven million readers, every day!

Today, the ABP Group has evolved into a media conglomerate that has eleven premier publications, three 24-hour national TV news channels, two leading book publishing businesses as well as mobile and internet properties. Touching the lives of millions of readers and viewers, daily.

We believe the legacy you leave, is the life you lead. We see ourselves as repositories of best practices and processes. And, at times, when we don’t have the very best within, we open windows to look out for expertise. Not surprisingly, ABP is associated with companies and personalities revered across the world.

In the world of journalism, we are not just a media house. We are really an alma mater.

Given the reach of the group and, the important role it plays in giving shape, form and direction to the literary content that is produced from Bengal, it is not too much to expect them to be at the forefront of technology when it comes to news and content published electronically. The association with Ananda Publishers, which publishes books from a variety of authors for a consumer base that spans ages, it is not too hard to anticipate that they will be heralding change and, changing for the better.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Bengali/Bangla and digital standards, the group is one of the laggards since they stick to an antique non-standard technology. In short, it is surprising that they are yet to think over adopting Unicode as a part of their online version.

This lack of interest in adopting Unicode has created an unique situation. The digital content published by the ABP group requires extremely unorthodox parser development to be encoded into Unicode and, used in any form of language study. The inability to be able to easily use the corpus is all the more important from the perspective of being able to extensively use Bengali/Bangla in the digital domain. Additionally, while browsers have demonstrated improved support for Unicode, the online content, including the shopping cart of Ananda Publishers, are unfit to be rendered on such browsers. Stop here for a moment and imagine a plethora of mobile and portable devices which may have extensive support for Bengali/Bangla at the user-interface level, the ability to input, print and render Bengali/Bangla but, would be unable to work with the content provided by the most circulated Bengali newspaper in India.

A group of folks led by Golam M Hossain have devised a prototype of an Unicode Proxy for Anandabazar Patrika. The attempt is not aimed at facilitating the reading of the newspaper, that is a happy collateral. The experiment is focused on demonstrating that it may not be difficult for Anandabazar to adopt Unicode.

Please read this page and if you desire to support it, write in with your name and affiliation to support the petition. If you know someone at ABP/Anandabazar who would be interested in a discussion, it would be good to get a conversation going.

Two of my favorite songs

আমি কান পেতে রই         ও আমার আপন হৃদয়গহন-দ্বারে বারে বারে
কোন গোপনবাসীর কান্নাহাসির গোপন কথা শুনিবারে — বারে বারে ।।
ভ্রমর সেথা হয় বিবাগি নিভৃত নীল পদ্ম লাগি রে,
কোন রাতের পাখি গায় একাকী সঙ্গীবিহীন অন্ধকারে বারে বারে ।।
কে সে মোর কেই বা জানে, কিছু তার দেখি আভা ।
কিছু পাই অনুমানে, কিছু তার বুঝি না বা ।
মাঝে মাঝে তার বারতা আমার ভাষায় পায় কি কথা রে,
ও সে আমায় জানি পাঠায় বাণী গানের তানে লুকিয়ে তারে বারে বারে ।।


কী পাই নি তারি হিসাব মিলাতে মন মোর নহে রাজি ।
আজ হৃদয়ের ছায়াতে আলোতে বাঁশরি উঠেছে বাজি ।।
ভালোবেসেছিনু এই ধরণীরে সেই স্মৃতি মনে আসে ফিরে ফিরে,
কত বসন্তে দখিনসমীরে ভরেছে আমারি সাজি ।।
নয়নের জল গভীরে গহনে আছে হৃদয়ের স্তরে,
বেদনার রসে গোপনে গোপনে সাধনা সফল করে ।
মাঝে মাঝে বটে ছিঁড়েছিল তার, তাই নিয়ে কেবা করে হাহাকার —
সুর তবু লেগেছিল বারে-বার মনে পড়ে তাই আজি ।।

I realized that I had nearly worn down the LP during my childhood listening to the above two songs along with this song. In fact, my favoritism to Debabrata “George” Biswas’s songs came immediately after this phase. These days, every trip to Kolkata is a hunt for the CD versions of my favorite LPs. Sadly, not all of them are available. Which is a shame really. Not that the current crop of singers aren’t good. Just that one tends to hang on to those singers one grew up with.

Related to fonts for Bengali

I noticed that a few Bengali fonts are available for download from this URL (link to a .zip file). I was wondering if anyone could provide information about:

  • the licenses of the fonts
  • whether they can be redistributed commercially/non-commercially
  • an upstream developer/contact to ensure that feedback can be provided.

All things considered, it would be good to assess whether they can be packaged for distributions.

I asked the same question on the Bangla Computing Group list too.

It only gets funnier…

I had mentioned Baishakhi Linux in passing in an earlier post. So, today a few of us received an interesting mail from Prof Anupam Basu of IIT-Kharagpur. The original mail is here for ready reference as it is at here. And I have a few points to make which are below. I will abbreviate Prof Anupam Basu as PAB and my responses as SM.

However, at the outset, let me state that it seems that the team working on the project can do well to buy copies of Karl Fogel’s excellent work Producing Open Source Software.

PAB: The release was on the 8th of September and it was planned to make the source code
available upstream, within a few days as is expected of open-source activities.
Please keep your weather eyes open on the SNLTR site.

SM: I recall asking twice about this and, this is the first time we hear about plans
to make source code available upstream. However, it isn't upstream source code that I'd be
interested in. I'd be interested in having access to the source of the distribution itself.

PAB: Mr. Toshi Kubota (mail cc'd to him) is a pioneer in Open-Source and Linux related
movements in Japan. We will ensure that all gpl requirements are adhered to in accordance
with his guidance. Please note that the inauguration was only day before yesterday !!!!

SM: This is what is generally called a straw-man argument. If you note, at no point have
any aspersions been cast on the level of expertise, or, competence of Mr Toshi Kubota.
Instead, what has been asked is a simple question - why have the translator credits been
mangled in the headers (that have been obtained from the .mo files) ? For instance, I don't
recall Promathesh Mondal following any of these steps.

PAB: I know ( because Indranil Dasgupta himself told me on the first day we were discussing
and demonstrating a prelim version of Baishakhi Linux) that the existing Linux versions,
printout of complex Bengali scripts through Firefox was not possible - thanks to Indranil -
this problem is not there in Baishakhi Linux.

SM: If you could point to a suitable sample of such complex scripts I'd be more than glad to
test it out on Fedora9 or rawhide -> Fedora10. As on date, I am yet to see on the Firefox
bugzilla a bug from your team that provides specimen cases that drive home the point that the
complex script rendering is an issue on Linux.

PAB: The contributions may be incremental, (as suggested by Sayamindu - a one line code), but
that is there now. Baishakhi Linux need not make tall claims, it was a very low budget effort
and the spirit should be to contribute more by pointing out bugs and improving on it.

SM: I read two things from this: [i] the distribution does include the one line code that
Sayamindu points out ie. it isn't materially new and [ii] none of the fixes that Baishakhi
claims to be 'features' have the patches attached to the already existing bugs in upstream

PAB: I am pained because my invitations to some of the Open-Source groups to join hands in
these activities was met with absolute silence.

SM: 'Let us be objective first' (quoting you) - who are these 'some of the Open-Source groups' ?
And, when you invited them, did you point out the mode to join and contribute ?

In short Prof Anupam Basu, we met around a year plus back at the ‘Bangla in e-Governance’ meeting and even then I had taken time to ask you to work with our group to push all the work you do into upstream. Not surprisingly, it hasn’t happened. I don’t expect it to happen as well – but your mail was something of a surprise. More so, since you chose to include Sayamindu’s mother in cc: – what were you thinking ? :)

Sayamindu has a response as well.