BOOK EXCERPT

The Lives of Others: Neel Mukherjee’s £10,000-Encore Award winning novel

Shortlisted earlier for the Man Booker, the Calcutta-born novelist’s second book has won the prize for the best second novel.

Alex Clark, Chair of the Encore Judges said: ‘We were immensely impressed by the ambition and depth of Neel Mukherjee’s second novel, in which a suburban house in 1960s Calcutta comes to reflect the political and social convulsions of an entire society. Ranging from the mass hunger of the Second World War to independence and the emergence of the Maoist Naxalbari movement, Mukherjee chronicles these extraordinary years in Indian history through the piercingly observed story of one family. As we read further into the story of the Ghoshes ­– their lives thrown into crisis by an absconding activist son – we became increasingly convinced of the book’s immense qualities and its ability to inform and provoke at the same time as it entertains. We are excited to see what Mukherjee will produce next, and hope very much that the Encore Award will encourage him in his writing life.’.

…The girl appears to take this badly.

‘You know how difficult it is to shit on demand like this? You say Shit! and I shit, hyan? It is that easy?’ Her voice becomes louder and louder and she starts preparing her face for a bout of crying: her mouth quivers, her eyes start watering. Priyonath thinks: This is all to squeeze an extra fifty rupees out of me, the old waterworks.

What he has not reckoned for is that the brief mizzle will turn into a squall. Nandita begins by rehearsing, a bit amateurishly, a few sobs, but then gets carried away by her performance and modulates to loud, unstoppable wailing. Before Priyonath can ask her to calm down, three whores fling the door open and barge in.

‘What’s happened? What’s happened?’ a short, cylindrical woman demands.

She has a face so round and fleshy that it looks as if she has got sweets tucked on the inside of each cheek. It is devoid of every single trace of benignity or kindness; she looks the sort to lead a rabble to arson, robbery or vigilante violence.

Another woman, clad only in petticoat and blouse and exposing a generous stretch of her cushiony midriff, envelops Nandita. The girl begins to sob on her shoulder.

The stout woman, clearly some sort of self-appointed leader, now takes charge. She puts her hands on her hips and turns to Priyonath, who has managed to struggle into his underwear and has moved from being supine on the bed, but only to a reclining position.

‘Ei je,’ she barks, ‘so much the gentull-man on the outside, what you have done to this little girl, hey, what you have done?’

‘Nothing,’ Priyonath says, trying to put the situation into words by way of explanation inside his head, but the unconventional nature of the purpose of his visit inhibits him and prevents the words from being spoken.

This laconic reply is taken by the shouting woman as a sign of incontrovertible guilt; she pounces on her prey. ‘You think we don’t know what you’re coming here to do, hyan? You think shirt-pant on the outside are fooling us? You think gentull-man on the outside-outside is fooling us, you son of a whore?’

Priyonath watches, frightened and aghast, silenced by the way this furious woman is whipping herself up to a pitch of such shrill rage, as more women troop into the room to watch the unfolding entertainment.

‘We throw you out onto the street naked,’ she shouts.

‘Ask your sister or your mother to shit on you. You not coming to us for this dirty stuff any longer. We’re seeing all this gentull-man stuff on the outside-outside and low dog on the inside-inside for many years, we’re knowing what to do with your types.’

A supporting murmur ripples through the gathered crowd. Priyonath can see faces of children outside the window, lifting up the curtain and peering in.

‘But … b-but … I’ve … she has …’ he stammers.

‘What you asking her to do, hyan? What? Why you quiet like a thief?’ the pack-leader screams. She turns to Nandita and commands, ‘You tell everyone here what he asking you do all the time.’

Nandita, by now whirled up in the excitement of the drama, has forgotten to continue crying.

After a few nudges she sheds her coyness and reveals to everyone the services demanded of her by Priyonath. Another murmur goes through the crowd, different in tone, timbre and intent from the earlier one.

Priyonath, fearing a public beating in this insalubrious area of the city, decides to defend himself. ‘She’s done it before, many times, over ten times. I paid her well over the going rate. Ask her, if you don’t believe me,’ he says, moving his hand in a gesture that takes in everyone assembled, as though in appeal to a trial jury.

‘Money?’ the woman shrieks. ‘You showing us the heat and dazzle of your money? We seeing it all, sister-fucker. You can buy everything with money?’

With a jolt, Priyonath notices that she has descended into addressing him as tui , the irreverent version of ‘you’. Amidst diffuse paranoia about whether this is a set-up, one feeling isolates itself, a sense of mild indignation, so he says forcefully, ‘Yes, here you can.’

He can almost see her combust into a burning column. She lets loose a jet of abuse. ‘You son of a foolish fucker, I have your teeth broken with beatings. Then I plant the broken teeth in your mother’s cunt, you son of a whore. When your father come to fuck her at night, he sees her cunt grinning.’

The incipient outrage at the indignity that Priyonath has fleetingly experienced now disappears, replaced swiftly by fear; it is his bowels that seem on the brink of release. His madly palpitating heart reminds him of his blood pressure. Where are his Amdepin tablets, he thinks in a stab of panic, and lifts his hands to his chest to look for the pills in the pocket of his shirt, only to realise that he is not wearing one, that his hands have touched the hairy bulge of his breast. The gurge of a new fear now adds itself to the spinning inside him. As he reaches for his clothes, the berating woman moves closer to him and demands, ‘Where you think you going, hyan? Where?’

The crowd of spectators has thickened.

The flapping and beating in his chest becomes more urgent. He grabs his trousers. As he is trying to get into them, a cracking slap lands on his left cheek; he has been hit by the screaming harridan. The shock freezes him for a few seconds, then the fear surges in again: what if he were beaten by this gathered crowd of prostitutes out in the open street? These things are all too common in the city, he knows. As if to stem the shame that such an event would bring about – being thrashed in public by a bordello of whores, imagine that – he looks around for the presence of a man, any man, a pimp or someone; somehow a beating administered by a man would be easier to bear.

‘Give money. Give all money you have,’ the woman screams, inches from his face. A sour stench gusts out from her twisted mouth. Priyonath involuntarily moves back his head. ‘Give your shirt-pant. Right now, give your shirt-pant,’ she orders, then snatches the trousers from his hand. She turns the pockets out: side, front, back. One hundred and seven rupees, eighty paise. The hundred-rupee note was for Nandita, payment substantially above her standard fee. Even in the middle of this thuggery, Priyonath feels a small thread of relief course through him: he has been wise in leaving his wallet back in his office, bringing only what was necessary for this visit.

The prospect of possibly no more money hidden away turns the fury even more fractious. ‘Only this, byas? Where you hide the rest, hyan? Where, arse-fucker?’

Priyonath answers, ‘That’s all I have with me. You’ve checked my pockets. There’s nothing in the pocket of my shirt.’ He reaches out for it, shows it to her, then puts it on. The Amdepin is not in the pocket of his shirt.

‘You tell me you have no money and I believe, hyan? What you take me for? That milk comes out if you squeeze my nose, hyan? Wait, I show you fun,’ she says and, picking out someone from the crowd, commands, ‘Go call Badal.’

There is a rustling as a few of them peel off to fetch Badal. In all probability a strongman-pimp-goon figure, Priyonath thinks, now jolted out of all residual inertia.

His cock has shrivelled to the size of a pea. He debates whether to go on the offensive, threaten with names of police and politicians, or be meek and retreating, in the hope that perhaps that will somewhat abate their concocted fury. But either stance can backfire.

A short, lean young man, with dark skin, his face pitted from a bad case of childhood pox, and oil-slicked hair combed flat over his head and ears and curling to a well-maintained wave right at the nape of his neck, walks in. He wears a tight, short-sleeved white shirt, a golden chain around his neck and a green lungi. The shirt is unbuttoned almost to his stomach, showing off his hairy chest.

Priyonath closes his eyes in terror at the thought of the physical pain awaiting him. Through the fear runs one dark thought: how is he going to explain his bruises and wounds when he gets home? Then another thought: is he even going to get home?

Excerpted with permission from The Lives of Others, Neel Mukherjee, Random House.

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.