Society en Fri Aug 21 11:55:06 IST 2020 explore-100-paintings-of-sh-raza <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>When&nbsp;Sayed Haider Raza&nbsp;was eight years old, the school headmaster in his village in Mandla district in British India gave him a punishment. A restless Raza, by his own admission "a bad student", was asked to stay back after class. The teacher&nbsp;drew a black dot on the white wall of a verandah and asked Raza to sit and&nbsp;stare at the point with full concentration.&nbsp;Years later in an interview, Raza said “I could not understand the motivation [of this exercise], but I obeyed.” The benefit of hindsight allows us to flag this innocuous incident as life-changing considering the way the master-painter came to be synonymous with the single point motif that is "Bindu", also interpreted as shunya or the void of nothingness. But, there's more to Raza, a celebrated modernist who along with&nbsp;&nbsp;F.N. Souza and M.F. Husain set up the Progressive Artists Group in 1947, than his trademark Bindu.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Arts Trust, parent company of online auction house AstaGuru, is exhibiting 100 works of acclaimed artist S H Raza (1922-2016). The retrospective,&nbsp;‘Raza-Rendezvous’, features the artist's masterpieces drawn from an oeuvre spanning six decades, from 1940 to 2000. It offers an overarching glimpse into Raza’s artistic evolution from his early expressionist landscapes to his explorations with geometric forms in the 70s and his eventual progression into works centred around “Bindu”, which he believed served as the centre of the universe charged with energy.</p> <p>"The web platform enables us to showcase the works by SH Raza to a much wider audience and that is extremely crucial given the fact that we intend to spread awareness of the master's art," says&nbsp;Siddanth Shetty, vice president of The Arts Trust.&nbsp;</p> <p>Born in 1922 in Babaria, a small village in Madhya Pradesh, Raza grew up in the midst of verdant forests in Mandala, where his family moved after he turned six.&nbsp; He studied painting at the Nagpur School of Art and later at the Sir J. J. School of Arts in Bombay, and after graduation&nbsp;formed the Progressive Artists Group which would alter the course of Indian painting in the way it developed a modernist language. But soon he left for France on a scholarship in 1950 and studied painting at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts from 1950 to 1953. France was to make a strong impression on Raza, so much so that he spent most of his working life there in Paris, and also met his lifelong partner in&nbsp;Janine Mongillat, a French artist.&nbsp;</p> <p>Raza became the first non-French artist to be awarded the Prix de la Critique in Paris in 1956 and held numerous exhibitions both in India and abroad. But, Raza always retained his Indian passport. Wrote Hindi poet and critic Ashok Vajpeyi last month, "For a couple of decades, life was not easy for Raza in France. He was accepted as a painter of the Parisian School which gave him some recognition but it made him unhappy about his artistic identity. It is then that he, through a lot of agonising self-questioning, recalled the 'bindu."&nbsp;</p> <p>In the same article in <i>The Indian Express</i>, Vajpeyi recalls Raza saying "that he learnt how to paint from France and what to paint from India." A strong colourist, Raza's paintings capture the&nbsp; colours of India with all their symbolic and emotive value.&nbsp; He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1981, around the same period he began his explorations with the Bindu motif.&nbsp;</p> <p>Raza-Rendezvous is on view till October 9 at <a href=""></a><br> </p> Wed Sep 30 22:14:19 IST 2020 tourism-day-special-pillars-that-sing-architectural-marvels-of-indian-temples <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>India—often described as the ‘country of temples’—saw temple-building activity begin in the 5th century CE. It was only in the 6th–7th centuries that a more pronounced idiom developed. In that, regional styles began taking shape. These styles had their own quirks. Gradually, these distinct architectural styles became a ‘formula’ that came to be associated with a region. Among several specificities that defined the temples of different regions, the musical pillars became idiosyncratic to the temples of Deccan and, especially, in the state of Tamil Nadu. In other regions, for instance, Odisha came to be associated with the Rekhā deul-style, the Śekhari-style with the temples of Madhya Pradesh, the Phaṁsanā-style with the temples of Kashmir, the Karnāṭa-Draviḍa style with the temples of Karnataka and Andhra and, Draviḍian-style with the temples of Tamil Nadu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are musical pillars?&nbsp;</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They are a group of stone shafts that produce musical notes of varying frequencies when tapped with a finger or wooden mallet. These pillars are of two kinds: 1) Beating/Tapping pillars and 2) Blowing pillars. While the first kind produces sound when tapped, the second kind, which is most likely hollow, works like a wind instrument. The tapping pillars are further classified into three categories: <i>Shruti</i>, <i>Gana</i> and <i>Laya</i>. It is suggested that shruti produces <i>swara</i>s, gana produces classical <i>raga</i>s, and laya produces <i>taal</i> when tapped.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If you are wondering how to identify these pillars, it is not all that onerous. Musical pillars are narrow yet firm in form, clamped at the ends, drawn out of a single block of stone, bereft of carving. According to scholars, they are usually arranged in groups (between 3 and 56) around a central pillar which supports the roof of the structure. The central pillar could vary in height, but the cluster pillars are of the same height with varying girth and shape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>National award-winning scientist H.V. Modak referred to these pillars as ‘Stone Pianos’ in a paper on <a href="">Sahapedia</a>, assigning them to the Vijayanagar period (14th–16th centuries), while scholars M.G. Prasad and B. Rajavel believe they might have begun surfacing as early as the 5th century—the Tirunelveli Nellaiappar temple in Tamil Nadu—but mostly during the 14th–16th centuries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So why was there an influx of musical pillars for 200 years?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is said that these pillars were tapped or blown like musical instruments to accompany chants and devotional performances in the temples. The possible reason for their prevalence in the ‘medieval’ temples of the South could be the multiple halls (<i>maṇḍapa</i>)—sculpture gallery, musical pillar hall, performance hall, etc.—which became an intrinsic part of massive temple complexes, a layout which out-shadowed the concept of single maṇḍapa.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What influenced the peculiar acoustics was either the rock type or the clustered arrangement of the columns. According to the <i>Śhilpa Śhāstras,</i> rocks are masculine, feminine and neuter based on their sound and colour. The male rock produces the tinkle of bronze bells, the female of bass and the neuter produces a dull sound. It is possible that the pillars are musical because they are carved out of rocks with acoustic properties—diabase rocks (black granite) or rocks rich in silica and metallic ore. Such rocks are called singing or lithophonic rocks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, in an experiment carried out at various temples with musical pillars, Modak realised that the arrangement of the clustered pillars in the wall-less maṇḍapas also played a role in lending sound to the pillars. In a cluster, when a pillar is tapped, other pillars with same frequency vibrate with resonance making the group a musical instrument, fit to accompany hymns and performances composed in three–five notes. It is interesting to note that all the shafts from the cluster do not emit musical notes, only the ones on the outside were tailored to produce music.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Where to find them?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Temples with musical pillars are spread across Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, with Tamil Nadu topping the chart. Look out for the popular Hampi, Vijaya Vitthala temple in Karnataka; Madhurai Meenakshi Amman temple, Tirunelveli Nellaiyappar temple, Suchindram Thanumalayam temple, Kanchipuram Varadharaja Perumal temple in Tamil Nadu; Tirupati Venkateshvara Swamy temple, Lepakshi Veerabhadra temple in Andhra Pradesh; Thiruvananthapuram Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala, to list a few.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not known to many, the <i>mahāmaṇḍapa</i> (main hall) of Hampi’s Vitthala temple boasts a cluster of 56 such pillars; 40 of them forming an aisle, the remaining forming a rectangular cluster in the centre. The tall pillars of the ‘musical hall’ are carved with beautiful ends. It is said that the granite monoliths produce sounds of seven notes, percussion instruments such as tabla, veena, mridanga, damaru, ghatam, and bells and conch-shells once struck with one’s hands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Several temples in the South are executed with architectural elements such as pillars, stairs and icons that produce music. One such temple is the 16th-century Kanchipuram Varadharaja Perumal. This temple is well-known for its 100-pillared hall, a sculpture gallery depicting scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata. It has been suggested that the sculptures of this gallery produce sounds of metals such as gold, copper and silver; tambura, an Indian musical instrument; and chains when tapped, a relatively unknown fact. Do not miss the musical sculptured pillars and monolithic chains with movable links suspending from the eaves, the next time you visit the Varadaraja Perumal temple.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Often, as camera-wielding tourists, we don’t notice other elements that architecture has to offer. Many, like these musical pillars, haven’t been explored as much either. Interestingly, the feature seems to be unique to a handful of these South Indian temples, which make them an even more prized aspect of Indian architecture, and definitely worth checking out in person.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>This article is part of </i><a href=""><i>Saha Sutra</i></a><i>, on </i><a href=""><i></i></a><i>, an online resource for Indian arts, culture and heritage.&nbsp;</i><br> </p> Sun Sep 27 17:22:54 IST 2020 is-there-a-problem-with-the-women-have-legs-campaign <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The women in Malayalam cinema have expressed solidarity with a young actor, who got trolled on social media for wearing a dress of her choice, via the online campaign ‘<a href="" target="_blank">women have legs</a>’. Several actors have vehemently resisted the trolls, paying them back in their own coin of hatred and anger, sneering at them as unlettered, jobless, and unacquainted with foreign cultures and feminist literature. Such responses from actors often stimulate the interest of media and society and are highlighted as positive examples of standing up for personal freedom. However, there are some fundamental problems with the ‘women have legs’ campaign.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>First and foremost, it is worrying that the actors could be right, and the trolls could in fact be from the ill-educated and unemployed youth, who possibly lack the privilege of class power and wealth yet, have access to the world’s cheapest mobile data. In a country like India, the issues related to the protection and security of women have to be viewed in conjunction with a deeper crisis that exists among its younger generation. The unemployment rate in the country has hit an all-time high of 23.5 percent following the closure of businesses during the pandemic. In the state of Kerala, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the unemployment rate is at a 40-month high of 26.5 per cent as of May 2020.&nbsp;</p> <p>Second, the campaign 'women have legs' is in distaste of the entire opposite sex. This false dichotomy gives rise to a wrong notion of the battle of sexes and could estrange even the allies among men. Following the rise of violence against women in India, legal experts like Ratna Kapur have affirmed that stringent laws/policies or stricter law enforcement may not be the answer to a deep-seated societal problem. The need of the hour is to foster equality in ways that are not threatening, by involving young men as advocates for women’s rights.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Third, the very sincerity of the campaign, which projects a sisterhood or camaraderie among actors, is questionable. Psychological studies confirm that trolling is a status-enhancing activity attracting attention and approval. Trolling encourages people to be instinctive by providing them with anonymity. Perhaps, campaigns such as ‘women have legs’ pick up tremendous support as it is easy to contest less powerful and anonymous individuals. For example, it is evident that the formation of Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), formed following the assault of a female actor, has not won equivalent massive support in Malayalam cinema. Several female actors who had given favorable statements supporting the assaulted actor during the initial stages of investigation have recently disavowed their earlier stance.<br> </p> <p>Female actors are hesitant to respond to controversial issues that involve powerful male colleagues unless the former are veterans or part of an established clique. They dodge questions on equal pay, WCC or feminism, leading to vicarious embarrassment among the educated viewers who look up to them as role models and privileged advocates of gender equity. This culture of silence, denial, or even justification of existing hierarchies is a clear indication of deep-rooted internalized oppression and prevalent power dynamics.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>Lastly, can we wash our hands of the responsibility of raising a disoriented generation when our education system undermines gender equity? Post economic liberalization, India’s urban population frequents cafes, malls and shops for happiness, and travels abroad for vacations. In stark contrast, another section of society is destined to work like a horse and live like a saint to make it through poverty. There are no economic solutions proposed to integrate marginalized individuals into a rapidly growing society and reasons for their aberrant behaviours are not examined, understood, and dealt with. Having great influence especially over the younger generation, the least the actors can do is to meet with them, engage in productive conversations, involve in community activities to promote causes such as gender and class equity and share such experiences with the public.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>According to activists like Bell Hooks, feminist politics is about coming up with strategies to empower women and men of all classes. We need to critically introspect whether the campaigns like ‘women have legs’ are in fact exposing our feet of clay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b><i>Priya Harindranathan is a researcher at the Center for the Analytics of Learning and Teaching (C-ALT) at Colorado State University.<br> </i></b></p> <p><b><i>The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK</i></b><br> </p> Sat Sep 26 17:30:09 IST 2020 art-project-to-create-antithesis-whatsapp-university <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As a graduate in information design and communications head in the development sector, Tejas Pande has always sought to understand how people consume information and respond to presentations of truth. With the onset of the pandemic, Pande noticed an inflection of sorts at &quot;WhatsApp&nbsp;university&quot;, India's most distrusted source of news.</p> <p>&quot;After the Janata Curfew and the lockdown, I noticed a&nbsp;shift in how people were behaving in&nbsp;WhatsApp&nbsp;groups. It was interesting to see how people were refiguring the way they consume content,&quot; says the 33-year-old who has now received a grant under Now On, a Pro Helvetia New Delhi initiative to get artists and organisations to respond to the global health disaster with innovative ideas, thoughts and experiments.</p> <p>Talking about the project, Akshay Pathak, Head at Pro Helvetia New Delhi says, “We at Pro Helvetia New Delhi are too overwhelmed with the response we have received. It only goes out to show how this global pandemic has further inspired artists in the region to create and share their art with the world.”<br> <br> Pande's experiments with the infodemic led him to devise an interactive project called &quot;WhatsApp-Free university&quot;. &quot;WhatsApp&nbsp;university is a slur that is hurled at someone operating out of ignorance. My project is an antithesis to this notion of&nbsp;WhatsApp&nbsp;university. It wants people to check their own biases as a way of critical thinking,&quot; says Pande who has noticed more receptivity to objective, fact-based news in varying groups on&nbsp;WhatsApp&nbsp;and other social media platforms in the last few months.</p> <p>By way of example, he mentions a recent&nbsp;WhatsApp&nbsp;forward of Arnab Goswami&nbsp;lashing out at opposition parties over India's GDP growth slump, where the contraction of 23.9 per cent was not as bad as countries like Singapore, Canada, the UK, the US, according to the news anchor. But Pande also noticed another related&nbsp;WhatsApp&nbsp;forward, equally popular, which pointed out tiny contextualizations like&nbsp;the numbers can't be compared because the scale has to be annual, not quarterly, and that GDP is not the only indicator of growth. Another instance was forwards around handling of Covid in Maharashtra, where people with clear-cut political&nbsp;sympathies grudgingly appreciated the good work of individuals from opposing parties.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;I want to take away the taint of ignorance and bias from&nbsp;WhatsApp&nbsp;in popular perception. This can be a thinking university. How do people take control of the platform rather than becoming critical of it,&quot; he says about&nbsp;WhatsApp-Free university project which seeks to encourage engagement with one's cognitive biases in tier-II and tier III cities in Maharashtra, a social setting Pande is more familiar with.</p> <p>He will devise seven bi-lingual videos in Marathi and English as group experiments for the project. Some of these videos will explain contemporary infomedia-speak like echo chamber, algorithms, risk analysis, confirmation bias, etc., as&nbsp;WhatsApp&nbsp;forwards in social groups from smaller cities and towns in Maharashtra using local idioms in ways which are non-technical and jargon-free. Straight translations will be avoided. So, the word Echo Chamber in Marathi is explained as &quot;getting caught up in a storm of similar ideas&quot;. Algorithm, which Pande believes needs to be talked about in a better way than writing 'algos' in Devanagari, is “social media technology rules&quot;.&nbsp;</p> <p>In his latest explanatory video, shared in batches, Pande explains the idea of bias and what it does in a social setting when people exchange information.&nbsp;WhatsApp&nbsp;forwards may seem new, challenge or confirm already existing biases, the video says using coloured pieces in an abstract representation.</p> <p>&quot;Biases inherently are not negative traits. It is a way in which our brains process information faster---information that I already have to process more information faster. When a barrage of information like memes and forwards are hit at us from every direction, we use&nbsp;more of that information to process new information faster rather than engage with content first-hand. That's when the relationship becomes problematic,&quot; says Pande who was surprised to see positive nods to this video from the older generation.</p> <p>Some even asked for a list of organisations that bust myths and are into fact-checking. The video ends on a note that we have to learn to confront our biases and work on them. &quot;That's the only way to exist in a very dense environment full of information,&quot; says Pande.&nbsp;</p> Fri Sep 25 16:45:17 IST 2020 geza-von-habsburg-on-the-history-of-the-faberge-egg <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>One hundred years ago, communism killed one of the greatest jewellers to be born in Russia. For the longest time, Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920) was the most cherished goldsmith to the Russian Tsars until World War I, the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and the death of monarchy forced the celebrated jeweller and designer into exile. They say Peter Fabergé died of a broken heart on 24 September 1920 in Switzerland.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During his heyday, between 1882 and 1917, the House of Fabergé is reported to have produced some 150,000 objects like Christmas ornaments, cigarette cases, brooches, photo frames, and boxes, etc.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, the most admired objets de fantasie by the master-jeweler remains the Imperial presentation eggs. The exquisite bejewelled eggs have remained synonymous with the name of the company as it was Peter Fabergé who created the famed series of 50 Imperial Easter eggs for the Russian Imperial family from 1885 to 1916. Some of these eggs were in fact sold off by Joseph Stalin in 1927 to acquire more foreign currency. Between 1930 and 1933, some 14 Imperial Easter eggs were traded off, According to Dr. Géza von Habsburg, world-renowned Fabergé expert and curator, Armand Hammer from the United States managed to snag most of Fabergé eggs at the time. </p> <p>&quot;A great&nbsp;entrepreneur, president of&nbsp;Occidental Petroleum&nbsp;and personal friend of Lenin, his father was the founder of the&nbsp;Communist party&nbsp;in the&nbsp;United States,&quot; wrote Habsburg once.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an email chat with THE WEEK on the 100th death anniversary of Peter Carl Fabergé, Habsburg traces the journey from the first Imperial egg of 1885 to executing the&nbsp;'most complicated objet d’art in modern-day history' in 2018 , a second egg comparable to the “Imperial Class”, the many Indian maharajas who were patrons of the House of Fabergé and when the eggs came to town at the National Museum in Delhi.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q.&nbsp; What is&nbsp;the&nbsp;origin story of&nbsp;the&nbsp;Imperial Easter Egg collection?&nbsp;</b></p> <p>The&nbsp;giving of eggs, considered by many as signs of life re-born, long ago formed part of&nbsp;the&nbsp;ancient spring solstice festival. For&nbsp;the&nbsp;Christian church, which adopted many pagan traditions, eggs represented Jesus’s emergence from&nbsp;the&nbsp;tomb and his resurrection, and - painted red - symbolised Christ’s blood spilled for us.&nbsp; Eggs made of painted wood, lacquer, glass and porcelain were common Easter presents in&nbsp;the&nbsp;18th&nbsp;and 19th&nbsp;century.&nbsp; Fabergé’s first Imperial egg of 1885 was inspired by 18th-century eggs with an enamelled white shell and a gold yolk containing a jewelled hen, of which several examples have survived in royal treasuries.&nbsp;The&nbsp;success of this charming Easter present from Tsar Alexander III to his royal bride started a tradition continued by his son Tsar Nicholas II which was to last 31 years, engendering an absolutely unique series of 50 Easter eggs, 10 during Alexander’s lifetime and 40 eggs created for Nicholas II.</p> <p><b>Q2. How has&nbsp;the&nbsp;celebrated motif of&nbsp;the&nbsp;egg evolved at&nbsp;the&nbsp;House of Fabergé after&nbsp;the&nbsp;death of&nbsp;Peter Carl Fabergé? What are some of its contemporary iterations?&nbsp;</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Russian Orthodox Easter in 1917 was feasted on April 15. At&nbsp;the&nbsp;abdication of Tsar Nicholas on 16 March 1917, Fabergé’s simple birchwood Easter egg for Tsarina Alexandra and&nbsp;the&nbsp;blue glass Easter egg for his mother was still unfinished.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Following&nbsp;the&nbsp;demise of&nbsp;the&nbsp;Imperial family in 1918, Fabergé’s death in 1920 and&nbsp;the&nbsp;upheaval of&nbsp;the&nbsp;old social order at&nbsp;the&nbsp;end of World War I,&nbsp;the&nbsp;creation of luxurious objects came to a total standstill.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The&nbsp;Fabergé brand changed hands a number of times during&nbsp;the&nbsp;next decades and in 1989 was acquired by Unilever of nutrition, hygiene and personal care fame. During&nbsp;their ownership, 97 well-crafted egg-objects were created in limited numbers between 1990 and 2008 under a Fabergé licensing agreement with&nbsp;the&nbsp;German firm of Victor Mayer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2007 Pallinghurst, a South African owned investment group, acquired all&nbsp;the&nbsp;rights to&nbsp;the&nbsp;Fabergé brand with a view of bringing&nbsp;the&nbsp;great Russian house back to its original fame. Fine high jewellery was created in&nbsp;the&nbsp;beginning in 2008.&nbsp;The&nbsp;commission for&nbsp;the&nbsp;firm’s first egg came in 2013, after a hiatus of almost 100 years with&nbsp;The&nbsp;Pearl Egg. Paying homage to&nbsp;the&nbsp;distinguished imperial tradition, Fabergé crafted an extraordinary, one-of-kind egg objet in collaboration with&nbsp;the&nbsp;Al-Fardan family, one of&nbsp;the&nbsp;world’s most renowned collectors of pearls.&nbsp;The&nbsp;Fabergé Pearl Egg draws inspiration from&nbsp;the&nbsp;formation of a pearl within an oyster, and&nbsp;the&nbsp;egg’s painstakingly-crafted mother-of-pearl exterior opens to reveal a unique grey pearl of 12.17 carats, sourced from&nbsp;the&nbsp;Arabian Gulf and exhibiting exceptional purity and a highly unusual shade of grey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More recently, in 2018, Fabergé partnered with Rolls Royce Motor Cars to create an exceptional egg called&nbsp;the&nbsp;“Spirit of Ecstasy” for a client. Named after&nbsp;the&nbsp;iconic hood ornament that has adorned Rolls-Royce cars since 1911, it is&nbsp;the&nbsp;most complicated objet d’art in our modern-day history and only&nbsp;the&nbsp;second egg to be deemed “Imperial Class” since 1917.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q3. Was Peter Carl Faberge ever commissioned to design anything for&nbsp;the&nbsp;Indian royalty?&nbsp;</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During Fabergé’s lifetime between 1908 and 1917, sales teams were dispatched regularly to India from London to cater to a number of&nbsp;the&nbsp;ruling Maharajas. At least one name has survived in Fabergé’s sales ledgers, that of Maharajah Sir Pratab Singh Bahadur of Jamma and Kashmir, who in 1903 commissioned a gold-mounted rock-crystal stamp box which has survived.&nbsp;The&nbsp;Maharajahs of Bikaner and of Patiala and&nbsp;the&nbsp;Rajah of Pudukkotai are also known to have belonged to Fabergé’s clientele.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q4. Where can&nbsp;the&nbsp;Imperial eggs be seen in Russia today?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The&nbsp;privately-owned Fabergé Museum in&nbsp;the&nbsp;Shuvalov Palace situated on St. Petersburg’s Fontanka River Embankment, opened 2013, houses over 4000 Russian works of art of which almost 800, including&nbsp;the&nbsp;9 Imperial Easter eggs formerly in&nbsp;the&nbsp;Forbes Magazine Collection, are by Fabergé.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The&nbsp;State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg owns&nbsp;the&nbsp;Fabergé Rothschild Egg, recently given by Vladimir Putin for&nbsp;the&nbsp;museum’s 250th&nbsp;anniversary, together with approximately 100 further objects in different departments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The&nbsp;Kremlin Armoury Museum&nbsp;in Moscow has 9 Imperial Easter eggs on view when&nbsp;they are not travelling, and approximately 100 other Fabergé objects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q5. Has&nbsp;there ever been any talk of bringing&nbsp;the&nbsp;timeless&nbsp;Fabergé collection to India as a touring exhibition?&nbsp;</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The&nbsp;Russian Link of Times Foundation, owners of 9 Fabergé eggs formerly owned by Forbes Magazine of New York, lent&nbsp;their collection to&nbsp;the&nbsp;New Delhi Museum between December 2008 and January 2009, together with other 180 priceless objects of art. Reportedly over 700 visitors attended&nbsp;the&nbsp;exhibit. No other exhibitions are planned in&nbsp;the&nbsp;near future although from 2017 we have planned a series of trunk-shows of objet d’art, jewellery and timepieces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q6. What is&nbsp;the&nbsp;single-most-important legacy of&nbsp; Peter Carl Fabergé in&nbsp;the&nbsp;world of modern jewellery? Something that has inspired jewellery designers around&nbsp;the&nbsp;world?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, Fabergé offers a wide collection of jewellery, timepieces and objet d’art, including of course egg pendants. We do not copy previous designs but take inspiration from our past to create contemporary pieces. We continue to be inspired by&nbsp;the&nbsp;spirit and ethos of Peter Carl Fabergé and his workmasters to create jewellery and objects for&nbsp;the&nbsp;21st century. As we remember his passing 100 years ago, his legacy of&nbsp;the&nbsp;artist jeweller lives on. We take forward&nbsp;the&nbsp;concepts of fine craftsmanship, colour, creativity and collaboration not only with our makers but also with our clients.</p> Wed Sep 23 23:24:25 IST 2020 blindian-couples-regarded-as-fighters-jonah-of-blindian-project-fame <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It was in 2017 that London-based Jonah Batambuze, a Ugandan-American IT consultant, read about the racial attacks on Nigerian students in Noida. Married to an Indian girl from a Telugu family in Andhra Pradesh, who he met while studying in Dublin, the news article came to him just a day before leaving for India to meet his wife's family. The mob violence against Africans living in India led him to delve deeper into the culture of anti-blackness in the world's largest democracy.</p> <p>After returning to London, he reached out to Black and South Asian couples to share their stories of prejudice and discrimination. After 10 couples agreed to share their journey to companionship, #BlindianProject was born across Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram. Since then Jonah has worked on several other crowdsourced projects to remove adverse stereotypes around Black fatherhood and Black masculinity. In 2020, as Black Lives Matter movement gathers renewed urgency at a time of heightened police racism, Jonah has returned to his most impactful campaign yet: #BlindianProject. In an interview with THE WEEK, he talks about racist jibes in secular societies, raising Blindian children and what Kamala Harris could do for racial minorities in America.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>You have been married to Swetha for more than 15 years now. What were some of the hiccups that came your way back then (when both of you decided to marry) which &quot;blindian&quot; couples might not face today?</b></p> <p>Swetha and I were fortunate that our families were fairly accepting of our relationship. This is not to say that we didn't experience challenges, but neither one of us ever felt that we would get disowned for being together.</p> <p>If you look back to the 1991 cult film <i>Mississippi Masala</i>, many of the negative stereotypes and stigmas surrounding Blindian relationships that existed then are still present now.</p> <p><b>Do you feel Blindian couples who are both based outside their native countries have it easier when it comes to societal acceptance?</b></p> <p>I feel that Blindian couples based in the West have it easier than similar couples based in India. However, this isn't to say that Blindian couples in the West don't experience challenges from their families or communities, or aren't also disowned.</p> <p><b>What kind of subtle, racist jibes have you had to encounter as a Blindian couple in so-called progressive, secular societies?</b></p> <p>My wife Swetha and I have two beautiful mixed-race children aged six and four. Occasionally, we still receive stares from members of both of our communities when out in public. I can also remember a recent incident from a wedding when an uncle thought he was being funny when he commented on my skin complexion.</p> <p><b>Both of you are similar in cultural richness and share a history of &quot;otherness&quot; in predominantly white milieus. Even so, as a Blindian couple and between yourselves, how defensive do you get about your respective racial and cultural identities? Do these issues on cultural competitiveness arise because of racist attitudes in your immediate environment?</b></p> <p>From early in our relationship, Swetha and I had many conversations regarding race, cultural identity, and how we wanted to raise our family. These discussions were essential to ensure we knew what was important to us both collectively and individually. We believe in the beauty of diversity and don't feel any competitiveness between our cultures within our relationship.</p> <p><b>What are some of the new complexities around race and colour introduced in your lives with raising Blindian children?</b></p> <p>Conversations that may have been seen as more acceptable regarding skin complexion when we both were growing up doesn't apply to our mixed Black x South Asian children.<b></b></p> <p>For example, the use of Fair &amp; Lovely as a skin lightening product would never be suggested to either of our children. We want our children to embrace their melanated skin; so, offering those types of products is counterintuitive. While our children represent both of our cultures, we know our children will be looked at by society with a different lens.</p> <p><b>You are in constant touch with so many Blindian couples through your social media project. What are some of the trends that you are happy about and concerns around 2020 Blindian coupledom that worry you?</b></p> <p>In 2020, Blindian couples have seen a much greater representation in the media and mainstream society. People are being forced to discuss a topic that has been swept under the carpet for too long. Another trend is a growing need to find/belong to a community with people who can relate to the Blindian experience.</p> <p><b>How have Blindian couples benefited from the renewed buzz around Black Lives Matter?</b></p> <p>The horrific George Floyd’s incident that occurred earlier this year has inspired the South Asian community to reflect on how they perpetuate AntiBlackness and how they can become better allies. This moment has renewed conversations around Black x South Asian love, and forced people to confront it. My concern regarding Blindian relationships is that progress has been extremely slow, and couples are still fighting the same stigmas from 30+ years ago.</p> <p><b>What do you like about each other the most?</b></p> <p>The thing I love most about Swetha is that her South Asian culture is important to her, and she is an extremely loyal companion that emphasises family. Swetha has an adventurous, outgoing personality and often gets me out of my comfort zone. Which means I can unexpectedly find myself white water-rafting on the Nile River, or zip-lining on England's longest and fastest zip wire. I often find myself participating in activities that I would have never tried, which keeps life exciting.</p> <p><b>How much do you feel Kamala Harris epitomises the Blindian ethos? How is she likely to create a safer space for racial minorities in America if she wins?</b></p> <p>The thing I like about Kamala Harris is that she appears to be a fighter, not scared to stand up against others. When you think about Blindian couples, we are often regarded as fighters—because we are forced to fight for our love.</p> <p>Many people are sceptical about Kamala Harris's time as a DA and Attorney General in which several of her actions disproportionately affected minorities. So, the jury is still out. Regardless of Harris's past, I would much rather see a Biden-Harris ticket in-office than the current administration.</p> Fri Sep 18 12:19:12 IST 2020 can-open-air-theatres-be-adapted-to-stage-plays <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Vivek Vijayakumaran from Our World theatre company in Bengaluru has parked a trial play for October. He clarifies it is not a livestream or a Zoom workshop, but a "normal" performance in the collective's company space in Koramangala. Without giving away too much, he informs that it will be a small show of about 40 minutes, so the audience, which won't be more than 10 to 15 in number, won't have to wear masks for a long time. Theirs is not a closed space anyway, they have French windows on all four sides to allow enough natural air. Vijayakumaran assures he will only invite people he knows as this kind of an undertaking now involves trust. Ten days before the play is showcased, he has instructed the actors to refrain from stepping out much in public to avoid unnecessary exposure.</p> <p>Vijayakumaran is reluctant to call this upcoming show a public performance. "It is a work-in-progress kind of sharing among theatre-makers. Even something like this was unimaginable in the last few months," says Vijayakumaran as he gingerly takes baby steps to revert towards what used to be routine affairs as a thespian in the good old pre-COVID days. "I am using this time to prepare two solos for when the world opens up. And it's not about Corona," says Vijayakumaran, equal parts hopeful and defiant.</p> <p>But what about the fact that open air theatres are allowed to resume operations with a maximum of 100 people from September 21 as part of the 'Unlock 4.0' guidelines? Can plays be adapted for an open air stage at a time when auditoriums and cinema halls remain shut? "In a city like Bengaluru, you never know when it can rain. As an urban city, we aren't really prepared to put up plays in the open air," he says.</p> <p>His nonchalance about open air theatres are echoed by most thespians who have been busy pivoting to a digital interface, putting out solo performances on Insta live, holding acting workshops on Zoom or doing re-runs of old shows on YouTube. Few are hopeful about returning to the proscenium this year even as 'Unlock' stages advance in the midst of India becoming the country with the second highest number of Covid cases.</p> <p>Mumbai-based playwright Purva Naresh knows that making a stage out of nothing is always a creative challenge for thespians, it is their playground. Still, she hasn't been designing anything for an open air format. "We are still trying to come up with new grammar for the online space. A lot of us are going through this validation question. What is a live performing art now? How does it change if this is going to be the new normal? How does that affect us? If we are undergoing a change and the audience is also undergoing a similar change, then how does that synergy between an actor and audience change?" says Naresh. "Besides, I don't even know how many open-air theatres are there in Mumbai," she adds.</p> <p>For film, theatre and television actor Hemant Pandey, the good times might not be too far away since 'Unlock' guidelines are changing every month. He and his friends are working towards the day auditoriums can be allowed to open, even at a reduced capacity. "Adapting to a digital medium is a big challenge for the theatre people. It is a highly interactive art form. Virtually, you can't gauge the audience response, there is no clapping. It is just boring. All of us have been working through the pandemic and we are dying to show our work," says Pandey who doesn't think open air theatres can be of much use for stage actors since it requires one to arrange their own light and sound, jacking up production costs.</p> <p>Theatre veteran M.K. Raina is skeptical about auditoriums themselves, if and when they do open this year. "All these theatre auditoriums are privately owned by big houses. They want to earn money. Kamani (in Delhi) is a lakh plus for one day. Shri Ram Centre is around Rs 70,000 per day. It's not worth that much. Theatre people are redundant for them today." Raina does have a solution to offer if open air theatres in Delhi are to be utilized for stage productions. "The Kejriwal government should either foot the bill or share the cost with theatre companies and directors to stage a play in open air theatres. Then we may consider it. We mount a production, do publicity and then call only 100 people? It's absolutely stupid."&nbsp;</p> Wed Sep 16 21:29:51 IST 2020 let-the-music-play-ensemble-singing-in-a-pandemic <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Researchers from Lund University in Sweden recently urged singers to maintain social distancing while performing their art. A recent study found that projection of aerosol particles and droplets is high while singing, particularly for "loud and constant-rich singing".</p> <p>The letters 'B' and 'P' are supposed to be the biggest aerosol spreaders. Aerosols are fine liquid droplets or solid particles in the air and activities like choral singing, concert singalongs, chanting during sporting events or any kind of group singing are feared COVID-19 vectors.&nbsp; The louder one sings, the more particles they spread, according to the aerosol specialists at the Swedish university.&nbsp;</p> <p>William Richmond, Shillong Chamber Choir's lead singer, was well aware of the risks posed by ensemble singing right from the early days of March when the novel coronavirus outbreak was much more serious in other countries. India's premier choir group had begun cancelling their shows across the country that month, up until the time when the national lockdown was imposed in the last week.</p> <p>"At the SCC, we were preparing ourselves to take this very seriously from the start. Since then we have made it a point that none of the choir members socialises anywhere. We are not just singers, we are torchbearers. We have to lead by example," says Richmond as he points out how choral singing venues have been COVID-19 vectors in other parts of the world.</p> <p>Such strict precautionary measures have allowed them to continue with rehearsals, including outdoor rehearsals in smaller groups.&nbsp; Following these safety standards, remote rehearsals and voice care measures,&nbsp; the choir group had released two viral songs in the first week of May ‘Sar Jo Tera Chakraye’ from the 1957 film Pyasa and the ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ from The Sound of Music. In the middle of the lockdown in April, the choir members also started a special home delivery service for the sick and elderly called Uncle’s Home Delivery. "That also allowed our group members to stay in touch," he says.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now SCC, within the next 10 days, will launch a brand new, 1,000 sq ft studio space dedicated exclusively for virtual broadcasts.</p> <p> "It’s going to be a massive space where we can spread out. It will have air purifiers and proper ventilation. We have commissioned a production house to build it here in Pohkseh. It is probably going to be a one-of-its-kind facility in the country," says Richmond about the temporary structure with trussing, built to be soundproof.</p> <p>This digital concert hall will now be used for all their performances as a group; upcoming shows in the new space are now lined up to be broadcast in Singapore, Philadelphia and Kolkata.</p> <p>"Any ensemble singing is a risk at the moment. But we have to learn to adapt and reinvent ourselves as artists. Art and music have always been an immense source of healing in every major incident in human history, especially wars and climatic disasters," says Richmond who does rue the absence of a real audience to interact with.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), based at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai, is India’s first and only professional orchestra. They typically don't have singers in their ensembles, but the risks in congregating, rehearsing and performing persist. Marat Bisengaliev, music director at SOI, does not see a problem working with the entire orchestra with all the safety standards in place.</p> <p>"Of course, there is a bigger risk with the wind instruments in spreading the virus because of the air projection and as it’s impossible to wear masks while playing them, but even so, there are ways to solve this too. I strongly believe that the risk of infection at rehearsals, concerts and other cultural events is not more—perhaps even less—than any other areas where public gathering is permitted," says Bisengaliev.</p> <p>The Kazakh violinist, as founding music director of SOI, has also been a conductor of West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra and Turan Alem Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra.</p> <p>"We have to adapt. The rehearsals are carrying on in smaller groups. Online teaching is more regular and for longer duration than one-on-one teaching. We are ready for orchestra performances with all required guidelines and I can’t wait for live music to resume," says Bisengaliev.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>While open-air theatres have been allowed to operate with a maximum capacity of 100 people from September 21, no dates have been announced for the reopening of closed auditoriums and concert halls.&nbsp;</p> Tue Sep 15 18:28:19 IST 2020 from-jeffrey-archer-karan-johar-children-books-lures-more-stars <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Get ready to spot the celebrity on a children's bookshelf. From Karan Johar to Jeffrey Archer, celebrities are gearing up for their toughest challenge ever—keeping those with the short attention spans hooked.</p> <p>Archer has enthralled adults for decades, but this is his foray into the imaginative world of children's fiction—officially. “I wrote these three books at a time when my children were aged six and four, and obviously were too young to read Kane and Abel! But their friends were telling them I was an author, and they demanded their own books. Willy is my eldest son William, and James his younger brother,'' said Jeffrey Archer in a media statement. He also has experience with two grandsons and finally a granddaughter Vivenne in November 2017, born while he was en route to India.</p> <p><i>By Royal Appointment</i> is about King Benefactor and Queen Echo of Littleland agreeing to have a race to decide which is the fastest car in the world; <i>Willy Visits the Square World</i> is about a rescue mission for Yo Yo the Cat by Willy and Randolph the Bear and <i>Willy and the Killer Kipper</i> is to find Neptune, the world's largest submarine.</p> <p>Twisty and fun, these books are meant for age group of five to nine years and will be launched on October 21, publishers Pan Macmillan India said.</p> <p>This is not the first time the famous have chosen to turn their attention to write for children. The thrill of winning children's hearts has always been the ultimate prize. It helps that it also comes with sometimes a generous advance. Madonna, John Travolta, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and even Will Smith have tried to follow in J.K Rowling's steps.</p> <p>In India, too, this has now become a trend. The tips for mothering—and parenting—has become has domain that every celebrity in India wants to be part of. Even Esha Deol has a book on parenting. But fiction for children so far—apart from a few exceptions—usually has either been dominated by the established writers from across the world or Indian writers who have now become superstars like Sudha Murthy or Ruskin Bond. No longer. Karan Johar has now taken his first step into this space with <i>The Big Thoughts of Little Luv</i>—a picture book being brought out by Juggernaut Books.</p> <p>Going beyond just writing, celebs with kids are also reading. Story time with Soha Ali Khan was launched with Juggernaut in partnership with Hubhopper to get Khan to read her favourite stories for kids. An idea to promote reading among children, while it might have been the brain child of Chiki Sarkar of Juggernaut, the stories were by other publishers too. This is just the start.</p> Sat Sep 12 16:11:50 IST 2020 what-irresponsible-reporting-on-suicide-can-do-to-your-mental-health <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a recent paper published in the Indian Journal of Social Psychiatry, titled 'Psychology of Misinformation and the Media', the authors start with a Jim Morrison quote: "Whoever controls the media, controls the mind."</p> <p>Co-author Dr Debanjan Banerjee,&nbsp; a senior resident at the geriatric unit of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, points to the section on responsible reporting of suicides, especially during disasters and for popular figures. Two theories from suicide-related literature are drawn to explain the role of media in abetting or preventing suicides.</p> <p>On one end is the "Werther effect ", also called "Copycat suicides". The name is derived from Goethe's first successful book, <i>The Sorrows of Young Werther</i>, in which the protagonist, Werther, on finding himself enmeshed in a love triangle, assumes the only way out is by ending his own life. The popularity of the book led to a spate of real suicides when fans began to identify with the travails of the fictional young Werther. The event spawned the theory of "Copycat suicides" born out of local knowledge, repetitive accounts or portrayals of suicide in fiction, television and other forms of media.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>At the other end is the "Papageno" effect, named after a character in Mozart’s opera <i>The Magic Flute</i>. Papageno, the bird-catcher, decides to take his own life after he loses his love. But, his attempt is foiled by three boys who enlighten him on alternatives to dying. From this operatic sub-plot, a simple theory was born that for anyone contemplating suicide or in extreme mental turmoil, the way the media reports the act can have a bearing on an individual's decision.</p> <p>"It is also important to remember that media professionals themselves get affected with suicide reporting and vivid visual content, with studies showing a high prevalence of insomnia, acute stress, depression, and complex posttraumatic stress disorder in them," write Banerjee and his co-author T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao. They direct the reader to clear-cut WHO guidelines, framed in 2017,&nbsp; on reporting suicides.</p> <p>Making personal assumptions, holding biases, sharing "tales" and conspiracy theories, coercive questioning of the bereaved on camera and excessive emphasis on the personal life and contextual information must be avoided.&nbsp;</p> <p>One does not need to overstate where the India media stands on the spectrum from "Werther" to "Papageno" when it comes to reporting the latest celebrity suicide case of a Bollywood star.</p> <p>September 10 is designated as World Suicide Prevention day and one cannot help but reflect on the morbid fascination with the death of Sushant Singh Rajput which could very well have been a direct result of a mental health issue—an aspect of the case which is now conveniently overshadowed.&nbsp;</p> <p>On 14 June, Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his Bandra home and the cause of his death was ruled as suicide by hanging. Almost three months in and the media circus around his death is at fever pitch with all the forced suspense, intrigue and an obscene witchhunt played out in full public glare. In a recent development, Rajput's father filed a complaint to Medical Council of India against his son's therapist Susan Walker for breaking confidentiality agreements by opening up about the actor's medication for anxiety and bipolar disorder diagnosis. A crucial piece of the puzzle, a conversation around mental health in high-stakes showbiz, is now buried under high-decibel speculations around murder, conspiracy, drugs and poltical mileage.&nbsp;</p> <p>Prama Bhattacharya, a clinical psychologist and PhD Scholar from IIT Kanpur, concedes she's never seen such overwhelming involvement of the nation in the untimely death of a celebrity and the media's efforts in keeping this fascination alive. </p> <p>"I personally feel that this time a lot has been catalysed by the fact that the suicide happened during a period of nationwide lockdown. Even now, many of us are working from home, with limited social interaction in our daily life," says Bhattacharya.</p> <p> "Social media thus becomes an integral part of our life. We are probably trying to make up for our social isolation by not being idle on social media and therefore having an opinion on almost everything. We are all scared of the pandemic, and the SSR case gave us something to be distracted with."</p> <p>What are the mental health implications for a country on a diet of largely unfactual reporting of a suicide event and inhumane interviewing of the bereaved? What does irresponsible reporting do to the collective psyche of a nation already grappling with unrelenting public health and economic crises? </p> <p>"Undoubtedly, a very negative one.&nbsp; Our frustration against an insurmountable crisis like the pandemic is getting rerouted in this direction where we can point fingers towards a “villain”. I wonder if this is some form of catharsis, but it worries me," says Bhattacharya.&nbsp;<br> </p> Thu Sep 10 21:00:19 IST 2020 the-drama-of-the-domestic <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>That the home can be a place of critical art outside the white cube is more than reinforced in a pandemic. Shrugged-off objects like a sofa or a side-table have acquired new meaning and purpose. Our private insecurities and fears bounce off these sterile surfaces with greater force in home isolation. To view these domesticated objects pulsating with renewed life, one should look no further than Tanmoy Samanta's solo show at Gallery Espace, as part of TAP India—a new collective of major art galleries on one digital platform, created to make Indian art accessible even in a pandemic.</p> <p>A leaking blue comb, a dissolving telephone under a fish receiver or the serrated edges of two knives outlining faces in red, there is enough inspiration from surrounding banality. There's a pretty chair with a lusty tongue and a portrait of a lady overshadowed by a fighter plane.</p> <p>&quot;I use mundane, domestic objects because they closely witness our lives and are repositories of memory. The containers and cabinets become receptacles of secrets and whisper a moment of history,&quot; says Samanta on the phone from Kolkata.</p> <p>He strives to dismantle assumptions of any visual security with his fluid, surreal style of painting everyday objects in his chosen medium of tempera and opaque watercolour. &quot;All my works grow on the viewer stealthily, until they begin to believe it.&quot;</p> <p>The sewing machine with undefined contours is a mysterious recurrence in the show titled 'The Afterlife of Objects'. &quot;The form and the function of the sewing machine is fascinating. It is evocative and intimate. So it keeps coming back into my work. It is one of the heirlooms that I see in my household, no longer in use but full of stories that it can stitch together,&quot; says Samanta who trained at the Kala Bhawan in Santiniketan, the art institution which later became synonymous with the 'Bengal School' of art.</p> <p>He has been part of several group and solo shows in India and other international art fairs. His works adorn the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, where he co-worked on an installation called 'The Rabbit Hole' with a re-purposed Nano car, and the new Terminal 2 at Mumbai International airport.</p> <p>&quot;Due to the ongoing pandemic, the relationship between one's own self with the objects at home are becoming more dramatic,&quot; says Samanta, reminding us to be more mindful of the objects we co-habit with. &quot;They are evolving a social life of their own.&quot;</p> <p>The 'Afterlife of Objects' is on view till end-October at</p> Thu Sep 10 18:08:11 IST 2020 a-poet-diplomat-ode-to-latin-america <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>If TS Eliot's Prufrock was to visit the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, he might sing: "In the Sambadrone dancers come and go/showing off their torso," or so poet Abhay Kumar reimagines the famous lines in Eliot's lovesong in his latest collection of poems The<i> Alphabets of Latin America</i>.&nbsp;</p> <p>The very first poem which Kumar wrote in the book was 'Carnival: Prufrock at the Carnival in Rio'. The dancers, the swelling crowd, the sounds, lights and colours at Rio's "modern Rasleela" are images that stayed with the poet-diplomat during his stay and travels in&nbsp;Latin America&nbsp;from 2016 to 2019, during which time he also served in the Indian mission of Brasilia.</p> <p>Currently serving as India's Ambassador to the Indian Ocean islands of&nbsp;Madagascar&nbsp;and&nbsp;Comoros, Kumar has crafted a joyous ode to the rich cultural and literary heritage of a beguiling continent which was once the ground beneath his feet.&nbsp;<br> <br> “The common expectation is that literature born amid social and economic crisis by nature must be didactic and polemical, obsessed with simplistic affirmations of identity and written in a raw idiom unconcerned with nuance,” but that a look at Latino/a poetries “will frustrate that expectation.”&nbsp;&nbsp;wrote&nbsp;Martín Espada in&nbsp;<i>El Coro: A Chorus of Latino and Latina Poetry</i>&nbsp;(1997).&nbsp;&nbsp;Latin American poets like Pablo Neruda, Octavia Paz, Gabriela Mistral and Jorge Luis Borges inspired Kumar to take up a diplomatic assignment in the region. Kumar himself has published eight collections of poetry, including 'The Prophecy of Brasilia'. His poems have been published in&nbsp;60 literary journals, including Poetry Salzburg Review. He's also edited collections like <i>New Brazilian Poems</i> and <i>The Bloomsbury Anthology of Great Indian Poems.&nbsp;</i></p> <p>So, the poet in him heeded the call of a fascinating continent waiting to be explored more than geopolitical interests. "In fact, Latin American poets like Neruda, Paz and Mistral were all poets and diplomats at the same time. Neruda was Chile's&nbsp;ambassador to France, Paz was Mexico's ambassador to India and Mistral was the cultural representative of Chile," says Kumar. "All of them went on to win the Nobel Prize in literature. They created a special group of poet-diplomats who have excelled in both poetry and diplomacy," he says.&nbsp;</p> <p>In over 100 poems, Kumar has enthusiastically dipped into the dizzying, many-splendoured wonders of South American society and culture for poetic inspiration. From Amazon, Atacama and Ayahuasca to quetzal, Santiago and Tijuca, there is a sense of yearning and childlike joy upon discovering an exciting new geography. Hence, Brasilia is a "piece of cake", "a fantasy island in the lake", a "Dominican night shake". while Cartagena is a "city that squirms, then revels inhaling its smell".&nbsp; In a delightful poem on&nbsp;Colombian figurative artist and sculptor&nbsp;Fernando Botero and the larger-than-life women he painted, Kumar calls them "xeroxed/yearning/zoomorphic/but not fat." The book of poems can also serve as a travel map in the way it covers a rich mosaic of cultural and geographic terrain.&nbsp;</p> <p>What about versifying the great human churning at this point in history? "I have not been infected by the poetry virus this pandemic. But I have used this time to translate <i>Meghdoot</i> and <i>Ritusamhara</i> of Kalidas from Sanskrit," says Kumar who is editing an anthology of great Indian love poems, out in October.&nbsp;</p> Wed Sep 09 15:37:34 IST 2020 taking-etikoppaka-toys-to-next-level <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Shiny water jars, grinding&nbsp;bowls, shepherds, sparrows or spinning tops---the lacquer wood toys from the tiny&nbsp;village of Etikoppaka&nbsp;on the banks of Varaha River in Vizag occupy a pride of place in India's craft heritage. The delightful little toys from Etikoppaka, with a tradition going back to 400 years, was even GI-tagged in 2017. CV Raju---an agriculturalist from&nbsp;Etikoppaka who revived the use of natural dyes, was praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his&nbsp;Mann ki Baat radio broadcast on August 31 to propel India's toy-making industry.&nbsp;</p> <p>But Raju believes there is a lot more work left to position&nbsp;Etikoppaka toys in the global market.&nbsp;</p> <p>"In order to meet the export-import requirements of US and Europe, we need heavy metals certification. Otherwise the GI tag is useless," says Raju on the phone from Andhra Pradesh.&nbsp;Heavy metal analysis is crucial for exporters to assure international markets that the toys do not contain substances like barium, cadmium and lead.</p> <p>The export of&nbsp;Etikoppaka toys had come to a halt in 2007 when the artisans could not procure&nbsp;heavy metal certification. "National Biodiversity Authority which endorses the wood we use, the&nbsp;Indian Institute of Toxicology Research and&nbsp;every other national organisation of the kind are not coming together to issue this certification which has become more than relevant now," says Raju who is busy preparing proposals for concerned Central ministries for support and what he calls to take the craft of making&nbsp; Etikoppaka toys "to the next level".&nbsp;</p> <p>For the longest time since early 1910s, the use of natural, tree-based dyes and traditional toy-making methods were replaced by synthetic chemicals and cheap plastic toys, including the use of titanium dioxide in the&nbsp;lacquer. Migration of artisans to urban areas as unskilled labourers was another regressive trend. Raju and his family estate in&nbsp;Etikoppaka village&nbsp;have been responsible&nbsp;for restoring the use of plant-based dyes using innovative methods apart from working with the Crafts Council to test the toxicity&nbsp;of the dyes produced anew. He also worked with the forest department to increase the availability of the&nbsp;soft Ankudu wood used for making the toys found in every Telugu home in India. He began a&nbsp;cooperative association of artisans called “Padmavati Associates” to implement new tools and ideas to go back to the tradition of making vegetative dyes.&nbsp;</p> <p>While these changes improved the lives of artisans and the international prices of toys from the region, 95 per cent of the domestic toy market was soon dominated by&nbsp;Chinese variety in later years. The Sino-Indian border dispute&nbsp;and a growing demand for banning import of Chinese toys is expected to boost India's toy-manufacturing&nbsp;capabilities.&nbsp;</p> <p>But Raju knows there's a long way to go before all toys from India can be as qualitatively superior as the soft, round and polished ones in&nbsp;Etikoppaka. Craftsmanship is not elevated to the stature of science here.</p> <p>"We need an experimentation and research centre in the village. There is a need to impart skills and knowledge to the next generation by rejuvenating the craft center to a level of interpretation, archiving and experimentation. The use of natural dyes needs to be diversified for other applications including fabric, furniture, interiors as well as pottery," says Raju.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> Wed Sep 09 13:58:19 IST 2020 celebrity-shoutout-apps-and-the-brand-new-universe-of-fan-engagement <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It took $85 for a comedy writer in New York, Ali-Asghar Abedi, to get a <i>Fox News</i> anchor to call Trump an &quot;ullu&quot;. How did Abedi do it?</p> <p>Abedi was alerted to a &quot;celebrity shoutout&quot; app called Cameo where one can pay for customised messages from celebrities across a range of industries. From movie stars and musicians to athletes and social media influencers, all are game for personalised dispatches for a price on Cameo. The comedy writer wondered if Cameo personalities could be made to say anything for a quick buck. And he was mostly right. Last week, the conservative news anchor parroted “President Trump is wise like an ullu,” never bothering to check the usage of the word in an Indian context.</p> <p>Cameo has been around since 2017 in the US market and has now received a new round of funding to the tune of $65 million to expand to other parts of the world, including India. Its South African web cousin myFanPark, which originated in 2019 and became one of the top five start-ups there, has now opened out to users in Germany, Nigeria and India. On 15 August, entrepreneur and director Shailendra Singh launched myFanPark in India at a time when similar celebrity shoutout fora like Tring, Wysh, YoShot, and Celebrify are also helping fans from smaller towns and cities to purchase recorded messages and videos from television actors and local celebrities, often for as small an amount as Rs 500 for a wish. Sunny Leone reportedly listed herself on Wysh.</p> <p>&quot;The potential of this business is immense. It goes beyond shoutout videos between celebrities and fans. It creates a brand new universe of fan engagement in relation to their celebrities. It is the future Facebook of engagement between celebrities and fans,&quot; says Singh, director of&nbsp;myFanPark, who is banking on a large spectrum of micro-celebrities in India, especially in the B,C,D category to sign up for these apps.</p> <p>&quot;India is a new nation, an emerging market where celebrities range from poets, news anchors, athletes, singers, politicians, doctors, priests, gurus and actors. Our country is very celebrity-struck. The Alia Bhatts, Virat Kohlis and Amitabh Bachchans are making enough money by public appearances, endorsements, movies, awards, conferences, weddings, etc. The A-listers don't need this. But there are other smaller ones with a massive following; they understand the true potential of this. They can make money, keep their brand alive and stay engaged with fans,&quot; says Singh who has enlisted some Bollywood actors and sports athletes for myFanPark where they record and submit their videos on MYP app and messages are delivered to the users via email or WhatsApp. Prices range from Rs 1,000 to 10 lakh on myFanPark.</p> <p>Singh is certain that the concept will take off for Indian fans. &quot;Some Indian artists have obsessive following in places like Dubai and Singapore. So, we may not even know the true potential of an artist and his relationship with his fans. Indians living abroad are more emotional and fan-struck about Indian celebrities than Indians,&quot; adds Singh.</p> <p>Some call it a nifty side-hustle while others disregard it as a &quot;prostitution of talent&quot;. In the West, Cameo has had a hard time onboarding celebrities on to the app. Articles have been written about 'How Cameo Turned D-List Celebs Into a Monetization Machine'. Some D-listers jockey for attention alongside non-celeb categories, which include Trump impersonators, Playboy models, tarot card readers and even real animals like dogs, cats, pigs and horses, as reported in a recent article on Cameo in <i>Wired</i>. It is only after the shutdown of the entertainment industry in a year of the pandemic that more celebrities have found the app useful, often for raising money for charity. &quot;From February to March of this year there was a 77 per cent increase in talent joining the site. Some, whose pre-COVID-19 lives were a whirlwind of performances, shoots, travel and fan interactions, were bored at home,&quot; <i>Wired</i> wrote about Cameo.&nbsp;</p> Thu Sep 03 18:54:19 IST 2020 why-mf-husain-is-the-most-sought-after-indian-artist-in-2020 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Spanning 20 feet, M.F. Husain’s 1958 oil-on-canvas ‘Voices’ is a curious amalgam of shapes and symbols. There is a dark scaffolding of a shelter on one side, damp shades of green enmeshed with vague human outlines in the middle, followed by a grey and blue realm with an indistinct form of a horse’s hoof. Or so it appears. There’s always a tendency to look for horses in the master-painter’s sweeping oeuvre since he began painting the animal in the early 1950s. Yet ‘Voices’ eschews any direct representation of the valiant animal or the painter’s typical figurative style but represents a rich, expansive collectivity of a diverse nation, in fact an abstract assemblage of his many stylistic flourishes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘Voices’ broke all previous auction actualizations of the painter, selling for Rs 18.47 crore, the highest-ever for Husain who is India’s most important 20th-century artist, a trailblazer in modern Indian art. The online auction by AstaGuru on Sunday, as part of a solo artist auction “Husain”,&nbsp; fetched the record price for the artist whose last sale record of Rs 13.44 crore was set in March 2020 for ‘Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12’ in a Saffronart auction of seized items from the fugitive businessman Nirav Modi’s estate. The entire auction “Husain” achieved&nbsp; more than Rs 55 crore in total sales revenue from 34 artworks spanning a collection of paintings, jewellery, tapestry and toys. This makes the late M.F. Husain the most sought after Indian artist in 2020 so far.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“While the economy is grappling with a slowdown, the Indian art market has been recording solid trade. Artery India Knowledge reports that the artist with the highest turnover since January is M.F. Husain, with Rs 98.7 crores realised from 88 works,” says Arvind Vijaymohan, CEO of Artery India, an art market intelligence and asset advisory firm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vijaymohan says that some of the strongest art acquisition opportunities arise in recessionary times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“From January 2020 till date, new global price records have been established for 67 Indian artists—ranging from Rs 13,992 to Rs. 18.4 crores. Of further importance, since April 2020, 685 works have been successfully sold to realise a turnover of Rs 201.7 crores. Amongst these, 46 works have sold for over Rs 1 crore each,” confirm Vijaymohan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘Voices’ was created during a significant phase in Husain’s career in the late 1950s, when he was steadily gaining international repute and his art practice and philosophy was visible on a global stage. The artwork itself was highly commended internationally even back then and won him the International Biennale Award at the Tokyo Biennale in 1959. This further led to him receiving a Rockefeller scholarship later that year to study in New York where his style was further enriched by exposure to abstract expressionists. The painting enjoys an extensive exhibition history and was also shown at a retrospective in 2005 at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai. But this is the first time that ‘Voices’ came up for auction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“‘Voices’ is a masterpiece by M.F. Husain and is amongst his top three works, following ‘Between the Spider and the Lamp’ and ‘Zameen’. He created this work to proclaim India’s evolving and unified ‘Voice’ as a nation to the world,” says Tushar Sethi, CEO of AstaGuru. “The work is his largest from the 1950s. The artist proved his mettle and artistic virtuosity through such iconic works, and garnered a global reputation.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Romanticised as “India’s Picasso” for adapting a Cubist style, Husain began his artistic career by painting cinema posters after attending art school in then Bombay. Husain spent the last few years of his life in a self-imposed exile—living between Dubai, Qatar and London—after being hounded by right-wing fundamentalists in India over perceived obscenity in artworks depicting Hindu deities. He died in London in 2011, aged 95.</p> Tue Sep 01 19:50:12 IST 2020 memories-of-life-lived-with-ramakrishna-hegde <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is 16 years since he died and I try hard to remember that day through the haze, the blur, the caliginous atmosphere that descended on our surroundings, a deep loss that obnubilated and obfuscated the lives of my boys and I for several years to come.</p> <p>But just 16 years earlier than that fateful day in 2004, it was like H. Shipman said-</p> <p><i>Across the gateway of my heart</i></p> <p><i>I wrote: ‘No thoroughfare.’</i></p> <p><i>But love came laughing and cried:</i></p> <p><i>‘I enter everywhere.’</i></p> <p>I was in my parent’s house, my home then, doing something just about normal, like reading a book, when the phone rang. My brother answered and called out to me and said, “ Call for you. This person says Mr. Ramakrishna Hegde wants to speak to you.” I remember screaming, “Yes, sure and I am Indira Gandhi.” My mother quickly hushed us, got up and went to the phone. She turned to me and signalled that it was true, it was indeed Chief Minister Mr. R.K Hegde who wanted to speak to me.</p> <p>That was how it began. Mr. Hegde had watched my performance on television and liked the piece I performed- JagadhoDaarana, the popular Purandaradasa pada. He got to know that I was from Bangalore and wanted to congratulate me and convey his appreciation of my dance to me. Can you believe this? Can you for a moment imagine something like this happening in today’s times? A Chief Minister phoning a young, unknown classical dancer to convey his appreciation? I can still recall the feeling of elation that consumed me, that absolute sense of gratitude I felt for the entire Universe after this phone conversation.</p> <p>For a couple of years after that, I used to be an invitee to get-togethers, parties at his home, whenever he had artistes, cricketers, actors, journalists over, which were pretty regular, at least once a month. My father would drop me off at his residence and come back an hour later to take me home. I always sat on one particular chair, barely spoke to anyone unless spoken to and never had anything except Coca-Cola or juice. At the appointed time, I would run out without saying any goodbyes to meet my father outside, who I was certain would be annoyed if I made him wait.</p> <p>Many moons later, Hegde teased me often about those dinners, my special chair and my Cinderella-like sudden disappearances.</p> <p>The word ‘joy’ summed up my life then; of daring and caring despite the odds. Mr. Hegde was relentless in his pursuit. He was the most genuine, kind-hearted, charming person I had ever met in my life. He was thirty-five years older than I.</p> <p>There was no logic, no reason to our relationship. We just connected as two souls meant to be together. No one understood our relationship. We did not either, nor did we try to. So, the obvious name- calling me began. Flower girl, middle-class, social climber, political aspirant, ambitious etc. If ever I felt hurt and anguished by these comments, Mr. Hegde would tell me that these were small people with small minds and that I was meant for bigger things, with new and fresh grounds to break.</p> <p>A lot was going on politically for him then. He resigned as Chief Minister because</p> <p>of his own sense of who he was, his honesty and public probity and gave way to Mr. Bommai to become CM. Hegde then became one of the founders of the Janata Dal Party. He was willing to put his own political future in the back burner to ensure that a strong Opposition was formed at the national level. He was like a man possessed. He was convinced that ‘coalition politics’ was the only way forward. He said way back in 1987-88, and I quote, “unless a miracle happens, a coalition Government at the Centre comprising like -minded parties appears inevitable in the present political situation.”</p> <p>Determined to find a credible national alternative, he approached V.P Singh, then Defence Minister in Rajiv Gandhi cabinet, when the controversies regarding Bofors, Quattrocchi &amp; HDW submarines’ kickbacks started making news.</p> <p>It fell upon Hegde’s shoulders to convince big leaders like Lok Dal’s Devi Lal, Janata Party stalwarts Chandrashekar, Madhu Dandawate, Biju Patnaik, I.K Gujral, Lalu Prasad Yadav, George Fernandes &amp; others to come together under the united leadership of V.P Singh to fight the general elections. In addition to all of these, he had to take along leaders from his own State -S.R Bommai, then Chief Minister and H.D DeveGowda.</p> <p>Hegde went about convincing each one of them with missionary zeal to merge to form the Janata Dal and organised a massive rally in Bangalore Palace grounds on 11th October,1988. I, with my obvious political naiveté and complete trust in the wisdom of Hegde, was witness to how dedicatedly he worked towards the making of the National Front government with V. P Singh as the Prime Minister. He was offered the Deputy Chairmanship of the Planning Commission by PM V. P Singh, which he gracefully accepted as he was not one given to lobbying for ministerial berths or positions.</p> <p>They say politics is fickle; I say politics is fluid and politicians are fickle. PM V.P Singh, who the media projected as the saviour of Indian Democracy, wanted to go down in history as the champion of the backward castes and classes. Without calling for a cabinet meeting on the report submitted by the Mandal Commission, as per procedure towards ‘collective responsibility and consensus’, especially in a coalition government, V.P Singh announced the Government’s acceptance of the Mandal Commission report at a public rally. And in true ‘Caesar’s wife has to be above suspicion style,’ but primarily to clip the wings of the popular R. K Hegde, his cabinet accepted the report of a one- man Commission of a sitting judge Kuldip Singh that went into the alleged omissions and commissions of the Hegde Government, that was submitted on 22nd June, 1990. The Kuldip Singh report itself was baseless, had no evidence to back its charges and everything was based on “probable possibility,” according to legal luminaries. But, V. P Singh, thought it fit to rid Hegde even of the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission post, even though he owed his Prime Ministership to the perseverance and commitment of R.K Hegde.</p> <p>A deeply pained Hegde, came home one day and handed over to me a handwritten note to the Prime Minister offering his resignation as the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission to ensure that the Government had a free hand in dealing with the matter. As strange as strange could be, Prime Minister V. P Singh accepted this handwritten resignation. Many intellectuals, politicians, legal experts, journalists, and others who believed in the deep integrity and honesty of R. K Hegde &amp; knew of his commitment to rid politics of corruption were shocked.</p> <p>Seeking a legal opinion on the findings of this one -man Commission from former Chief Justice of India, Mr. Y.V Chandrachud, an editorial in Indian Express dated August 13,1990 said under a very telling headline – ‘IF SHAME HAD SURVIVED’, and I quote , “ ...nothing in the report survives it as ‘evidence’.....indictments framed on ‘probable possibility’, theories invented to read meanings into documents and the manifest, straightforward explanation ignored; the Commission itself as well as the energetic prosecutor himself declaring one day that neither has a shred of evidence which cast a doubt on Hegde...ignoring entirely the fact that the land was never transferred and that it was not transferred solely because of the then Chief Minister’s insistence that rules be framed under which all such cases would be dealt with.....” It continues with this very definitive stand and I quote –“if there had been any sense of honour or shame, a Judge would never have done any of this. If there were any residual sense of honour or shame, the Judge having done any of it and having been found doing it, would have vacated his seat. But this is India. Of 1990, the Commissioner Kuldip Singh having perpetrated such perversities will continue to sit in judgement on the fortunes and reputations of countless citizens.....”.</p> <p>What an irony that the Supreme Court in a five-bench judgement said in 2014 that a commission of enquiry set up under 1952 law is a fact -finding body whose recommendations are not binding on the Government. ‘Dismissing the contempt petition filed by Subramaniam Swamy against the editor at that time, Arun Shourie, the five-member bench of the SC said that a Supreme Court judge doesn’t carry the powers and functions of a judge when he heads a commission of enquiry. At that time, he performs only statutory functions.’</p> <p>Why did Prime Minister V. P Singh not take legal advice on this ‘Report’ before accepting Mr. Hegde’s resignation? This was the beginning of the end of his Government. His Government sure enough fell soon, when BJP withdrew support and Chandrashekar became the PM with outside support of the Congress Party.</p> <p>In 1991, the Chandrashekar experiment failed and the Country was up for General Elections. This was especially significant because Hegde stood for parliamentary elections from Bagalkot constituency. There was huge excitement and he was hugely popular. His opponent was a relatively unknown person from the Congress Party Sidduname Gouda. Hegde insisted that I should campaign for him. I refused initially, said I could not, would not do it but he would not take no for an answer.</p> <p>For one month, I camped in Bagalkot at Ajay Kumar Sarnaik’s farm, from where I would go to different legislative constituencies and do door to door campaigning. No one knew who I was and nor did I care. I was there for Hegde, and only for him. Whether people thought I was the daughter, or a party worker or whatever hardly mattered to me.</p> <p>Soon, the local party workers started liking me and would request me to be present to campaign. My daily itinerary was filled up and I started enjoying meeting people and asking for votes for Hegde. I even went to Sidduname Gouda’s house and met his mother and had buttermilk with her. A simple, straight-forward woman, she said she admired R.K Hegde and had advised her son not to accept the Congress ticket against him. But, destiny played its tricks and Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated right the middle of the campaign and after the first phase of the elections. The campaign was called off and elections postponed. When they did take place, R.K Hegde lost to a relatively unknown youngster because of the huge sympathy wave for Rajiv Gandhi.</p> <p>A political lull set in for Hegde. He seemed happier though. He seemed carefree and would insist on my playing golf with him &amp; HGV Reddy every morning at the Airforce Golf Club or at KGA later whenever we were both in Bangalore. He had more time for reading, writing, music, and cultural programmes which he loved so much. Our relationship grew stronger. My career as a professional danseuse was on the rise. I was traveling a lot, in India and overseas. Through the Prasiddha Foundation, which we registered in 1990, I began organising huge dance -music festivals and all the famous artistes of India would come to perform at Sharad Vaibhava and Eka Aneka festivals. I was riding the crest of the wave. And all on my own steam. R.K Hegde respected me for it. And his was the valuable presence in my life ,which dwarfed everything else, and made everything seem so easy and enjoyable.</p> <p>It is impossible to be free from the humanness of experience, a life led, ineliminable memories, intangible bonding. How can I be objective about what to me is ‘personal’ or ‘emotional?’</p> <p>Life is like a ‘jewelled cup’- but unless there is the wine of love in it, it is lonely and lost. I had it all - love, freedom, free-will and the sheer joy of doing what I desired.</p> <p>I want our 22-year-old boys to know the ‘Ramakrishna Hegde- Prathibha Prahlad’ story from me in first person. And I want them to know that “it is love, not reason, that is stronger than death”.</p> <p><i><b><a href="">Prathibha Prahlad</a> is a pre-eminent danseuse, guru, choreographer, author, and cultural visionary. A distinguished speaker, socio-political activist, feminist, and culture multiplier add to her multi-faceted profile. She is the recipient Padmashri and Sangeet Nataka Akademi awards. She was a long-term companion of Ramakrishna Hegde and lives in Delhi with their two sons.</b></i></p> Sat Aug 29 23:17:38 IST 2020 who-is-marieke-lucas-rijneveld-youngest-international-booker-prize-winner <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Dutch author Marieke Lucas Rijneveld has won the International Booker Prize for debut novel <i>The Discomfort of Evening.</i></p> <p>At 29, Rijneveld also becomes the youngest author to win the coveted honour. Rijneveld shares the prize of 50,000 pounds (about $66,000) with Michele Hutchison, who translated it from Dutch.</p> <p><i>The Discomfort of Evening, </i>vaguely<i> </i>inspired from some of Rijneveld’s own experiences, is a ‘visceral and virtuosic’ novel about childhood grief. In a statement about the novel, Ted Hodgkinson, the chair of the judges, called it a “tender and visceral evocation of a childhood caught between shame and salvation, and a deeply deserving winner”.</p> <p>The novel that originally released in 2018, was a bestselling sensation in the Netherlands.</p> <p><i>The Discomfort of Evening</i> follows a 10-year-old girl named Jas, growing up in a devout farming family. Her brother dies in an ice-skating accident after she wishes he would die. The novel is about Jas and the family’s subsequent struggle with grief. While trying to cope with the grief, Jas also gets caught up in the struggles of adolescence and sexual awakening, and ends up playing dangerous games with her surviving brother and sister.</p> <p>Some of the portions of the book written in Rijneveld’s raw style have been described as disturbing, so much so, that translator Hutchison, in an interview with <i>The New York Times</i>, said she would not work on those passages at the end of the day, fearing she ‘would get nightmares’.</p> <p>“It does deal with some very difficult aspects of life – the sudden death of a brother, a family grieving, some of the more unyielding aspects of a religious upbringing, the quite stark backdrop of a Dutch dairy farm, which can be quite a tough place for a child,” Hodgkinson said about the book.</p> <p><b>Childhood and sexual identities</b></p> <p>Rijneveld, who prefers pronouns they/them, grew up in a similar religious, farming family in the Netherlands, and like Jas, lost their brother when they were three.</p> <p>Rijneveld, who still works on a dairy farm, said that when they started writing stories, “all came back to the loss of my brother”. “I had to tell this story before I could tell any other. If a family loses a member, they can become closer to each other or they can drift. Jas’s family grows apart and their house is filled with grief,” they said in an interview.</p> <p>Before the novel, their brother’s death also inspired Rijneveld’s <i>Calf’s Caul,</i> a collection of poetry published in 2015.</p> <p>Responding to winning the International Booker, Rijneveld said: “I can only say that I am as proud as a cow with seven udders.”</p> <p>“Today, when the world has been turned upside down and is showing its dark side, I often remember those words. So, write, read, win, lose, love each other, but be relentless in this.”</p> <p>While <i>The Discomfort of Evening </i>borrows elements from Rijneveld’s growing up years, they said it is not ‘entirely biographical’. Rijneveld does not liked being boxed into a category of sexual orientation, and self-describes not as ‘trans’, but in-between. “As a small child I felt I was a boy, I dressed like a boy and behaved like a boy, but children at that age are still neutral in their gender. In adolescence, when the separation became clear, I dressed like a girl and became a girl, then at 20 I went back to the boy I was at primary school,”&nbsp;Rijneveld told <i>The Guardian.</i></p> <p>Rijneveld’s strictly religious family is yet to come to terms with their ‘chosen identity’—also why they have not read either of the books.</p> <p>In an earlier interview to <i>The Guardian</i>, they said their family is yet to read the book. “I hope that my parents will read it one day and be proud; that they will understand it’s a novel, it’s not all about them,” Rijneveld had said.</p> <p>“It’s difficult for my parents to understand that I’m not the girl that they raised,” Rijneveld said.</p> Thu Aug 27 15:53:34 IST 2020 anjan-modak-paints-psychologicalcosmos-migrant-workers <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>If the saying "eating like a bird" ever needed a heart-wrenching dramatisation on canvas, Anjan Modak's latest watercolour could serve as an example. In 'Dream of Reality-1', the Kolkata-based painter shows a large female figure stuck in a small house which barely covers her torso. She's fed a morsel of roti (flatbread) from the finger-like beak of a bird, while she holds on to the feet of her feathered friend. There is a small, grey roti floating at the edge of the canvas like a bitter, burning moon on a full night. </p> <p>During lockdown, when Modak saw media images of rotis scattered on a railway track&nbsp;in Aurangabad&nbsp;when a goods train mowed down 16 migrant workers&nbsp;on their way home on foot, he expressed his despair in the only way he knew how. He set about painting his hurt and rage. The fruits of his labour are now part of an online exhibition ‘Fragmented Life’, hosted by Emami Art.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In a series of dream images, Modak charts the&nbsp;emotional&nbsp;landscape of migrant workers in&nbsp;light of their mass exodus for safety and security in the middle of a global pandemic. He does not glorify their physical toil, but explores their&nbsp;complex psychological cosmos marked by a sense of subordination, anxiety and uncertainty.&nbsp;Affected by their sheer helplessness, Modak has painted a series of small size, circular-format paintings to convey the dismalness of their situation precipitated by an unplanned national lockdown on 24 March. "It is the first time that I have chosen a circular format. I was thinking about how when we find a glaring error in need of a correction or something wrong, we circle it with a red pen," says Modak whose large body of work represents the life of the working class, the struggles and tribulations of migrant workers in big Indian cities.&nbsp; The 40-year-old's&nbsp;work has been featured in many group exhibitions, including Tamarind Art Gallery in New York, CIMA Gallery in Kolkata, Jaipur Art Fair, Mumbai Art Fair, Emami Art, Kolkata, and&nbsp;the India Art Fair in Delhi.&nbsp;</p> <p>"When&nbsp;my own parents moved to Delhi from Kolkata when I was a child, they began work as construction labourers. It was not the most ideal way to make a living but they worked hard to rise above their circumstances."&nbsp;&nbsp;says Modak on the phone from Kolkata where he lives and works. "They had street theatre and poetry sessions every evening.&nbsp;They created awareness about the trials of informal labour.&nbsp; Their friends would come to our house in the evening to practice songs of workers' rights and that is how I learnt of problems they faced in their homes," he says, attributing the stylistic and narrative content of his paintings to his childhood milieu and upbringing.</p> <p>In ‘Fragmented Life’,&nbsp;he draws on diverse visual traditions, from surrealism and puppetry to biology textbook illustrations to convey the complexity of the subaltern experience from having lived it.&nbsp;</p> <p>But even in the midst of despair, he can glimpse hope and revival. In one of his paintings in the series, a woman hangs from her waist on a hangar made of bone. The hangar itself dangles from an opaque white cloud. With her face slightly swollen, the woman wears a resigned expression and holds a glass house with a tree growing inside. But the leaves on the tree are her almond-shaped eyes. They still keep a vigil even though she's left the house.&nbsp;</p> <p>‘Fragmented Life’ is on view till August 31 at Emami Art website.&nbsp;</p> Tue Aug 25 15:33:30 IST 2020 an-aerodrome-buried-under-a-farm-in-haryana <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There was once a time-honoured tradition in the township of Loharu, part of Shekhawati region in British India. Every year on the 1st of January, the &quot;Loharu aerodrome&quot; would host a joy-ride for the public on a yellow Tiger Moth for a few annas. For a day, anyone from the area could experience the thrill of flying in the backseat of the biplane steered by a pilot à la British RAF. In fact the British Royal Air Force posted in New Delhi is supposed to have used the Loharu Aerodrome as an emergency landing strip.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, there is no mention of a &quot;Loharu Aerodrome&quot; in the records of The Airports Authority of India. But according to 24-year-old local heritage enthusiast Aditya Sangwan, an aerodrome in the township was built in 1931 by the last nawab of Loharu, Aminuddin Ahmad Khan. He is certain that the aerodrome was Haryana's (eastern Punjab in British India) first and only airport before Independence which was followed by a slew of airstrips in the state, including those at Ambala, Sirsa, Karnal and Hisar. Sangwan shows a picture of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of its most famous visitors, who touched down for a brief visit in 1948 during the Loharu state merger.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The aerodrome was in use till the 1960s. Now it is in complete ruins. If it can be revived, Loharu and southern Haryana can generate many jobs for the youth in the state,&quot; says Sangwan who has made a 9-minute &quot;expository&quot; documentary on the erstwhile Loharu aerodrome. Last year Sangwan made a short documentary, Loharu Fort: The Great Story Never Told, on the need to restore the historic fort for the purposes of heritage tourism. His plea convinced the state government to list the now dilapidated fort under the &quot;protected monument category&quot; in the financial budget released in March.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Working in a production house in Delhi, Sangwan came back home to Loharu just before lockdown when all shooting work came to a standstill, and began an independent video series on the heritage of Loharu. A month ago, he stumbled on to a large farm overgrown with cotton flowers with traces of two buildings. &quot;Turns out, this used to be an aerodrome. The villagers in the area found debris from the aerodrome during crop rotation,&quot; says Sangwan on the phone.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the Delhi Flying Club was set up in 1928 at Willingdon airfield (now Safdarjung airport in Delhi), the noblemen and princely rulers from in and around Delhi began taking a keen interest in flying and started enlisting as members of the Club. One of the patron members was Aminuddin Ahmad Khan who took flying lessons in one of the few de Havilland Moths—the most popular light aircraft flying in the UK at the time. The young ruler of Loharu, Aminuddin, also bought a yellow Moth for himself and set up an aerodrome in his kingdom. In aviation parlance, an airstrip can be used for landing and takeoff, while an aerodrome needs to have an aircraft of its own; it can be used for flight operations irrespective of whether they involve air cargo or passengers.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Durru Miyan, the younger son of the last nawab, is not sure what happened to the yellow Moth. But he recalls reading about his father flying the plane in the early 1930s. &quot;When my father was governor in Himachal Pradesh, he had started writing his memoirs. But one night in 1981, the Raj Bhawan, which was the famous Peterhoff building in Shimla, caught fire and he barely managed to escape. All his notes were gutted in the fire. Subsequently when he moved to Punjab as governor, he started making those notes again. In one line, it was mentioned that the first plane landed at Loharu on September 21, 1931 from the Delhi Flying Club,&quot; says Durru Miyan who mentions that Biju Patnaik, the former chief minister of Odisha, also used the Loharu airstrip quite frequently as he was a pilot and instructor at the Delhi Flying Club.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Stressing on the historical importance of Loharu airstrip, Durru said: “In 1931, even to see an aircraft in India was a big deal. Obviously when the aircraft flew over there, it was a big event. The aircraft was locally called 'Cheel Gadi' (cheel is an eagle). A song in local lingo was made on that and was sung by rural women on occasions for decades, maybe even now.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The aerodrome was built&nbsp; in a small village called Faltia Taal, two kilometers away from Loharu. Two buildings were also built as part of the aerodrome, one for wind direction and aeronautical maps, and a bigger one for aircraft instruments. &quot;There was a 2km-long tunnel connecting the aerodrome to Loharu Fort where transiting rajas and maharajas from other princely states often stopped by for breakfast. The tunnel, which could be used by horses, was also used an escape route for the Nawab. Now it is blocked from both sides,&quot; says Sangwan. &quot;I would like the state government to restore this aerodrome and start a flying club which is more democratic and affordable for the youth of Loharu.&quot;</p> Wed Aug 26 21:32:40 IST 2020 simple-rk-narayan-colourful-marquez-study-in-contrast <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>I have just finished reading <i>My Days</i>, autobiography of R.K. Narayan who created the fictional town of Malgudi in his stories. I could not help the temptation of comparing it with <i>Living to Tell the Tale</i>—the memoirs of Gabriel Garcia Marquez— whose imaginary town in his novels is Macondo. Both Malgudi and Macondo are emblematic of the culture of south India and south America.</p> <p>The titles of the memoirs of Narayan and Marquez give clear clues to their lives, novels and characters.&nbsp;</p> <p>Narayan's&nbsp;<i>My Days</i>&nbsp; is simple, clear and short. &nbsp;It gives details of his life as it happened from the beginning to the end. Marquez’s <i>Living to Tell the Tale</i> (Vivir para contarla) holds suspense, mystery and excitement. There is a quote attributed to Marquez, “Men have three lives: a public life, a private life and a secret one”. There is a Latino macho saying, ‘A man without stories is no man’.&nbsp;</p> <p>So one’s curiosity is raised as to what next would come out from his ‘storytelling’. In south India life is just a life. It starts with birth, childhood, education, employment, marriage, children, grandchildren and the end with philosophical reflections. In south America it is a story.&nbsp;Marquez’s book starts with a 23-year-old him accompanying his mother on a trip to his ancestral village. The following chapters go back and forth with whatever stories Marquez feels like telling.&nbsp;</p> <p>Narayan writes in simple and unpretentious prose, narrating the story and describing the characters without delving deep into any analysis. He adds touches of humour, irony and satire but in a subtle manner. Marquez’s writing is graphic and filled with rich images. He weaves fantasies and realities one after another and blurs the line between them in the same style of Magical Realism he uses in his novels.</p> <p>While Narayan’s narratives flow smoothly like the calm Cauvery river in the flat delta area of Tamil Nadu, Marquez’s writings are like the Magdalena river of Colombia which is turbulent and unpredictable.&nbsp;The river journey by boat could last for a few days or weeks depending on the formation of sandbars, variation of water depth and accidents on the way.&nbsp;</p> <p>Marquez wrote in his mother tongue about the people who spoke Spanish like him. But Narayan wrote in a language foreign to his characters. The ordinary men and women of Malgudi speak Tamil or Kannada and do not understand English. It is amazing that he has made the natives to come alive in a foreign language. I could feel the emotions, characters and moments as naturally as I felt when I read such stories in Tamil with familiar local expressions.&nbsp;</p> <p>Narayan is a writer of few words. But within his short descriptions and phrases, he evokes vividly a whole lot of emotions and feelings around the events and characters. Marquez, on the other hand, is given to overwhelm and mesmerise the reader with long, lyrical and effervescent expressions which flow tumultuously like a mountain stream. Narayan takes us through the short village roads. With Marquez, it is a long journey through mountainous roads overlooking jungles, valleys, peaks and precipices.&nbsp;</p> <p>Narayan gives details of his life one after another in a direct and linear way: his childhood in Chennai with a monkey and a peacock as his pets; his college days in Mysore; his choice of career as a writer; his short married life and the death of his wife; his struggles to make both ends meet; his experience as being part of a typical joint family; the challenges he faced in renting houses and building his own home eventually; his interactions with neighbours, relatives and friends; his success as a writer with money and fame; and the happy ending when he sees his grandson’s attempt at a short story on his next door uncle.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Marquez tells us tales of his adventures and misadventures in his signature style of his novels. His life story is dense with details, twists, turns and many labyrinths. His memoirs mesmerises and surprises the readers. He opens his life boxes randomly and one does not know what will come out of each box. One is filled with anticipation and excitement. Marquez ends his book with this last sentence, “On Thursday of the following week, when I walked into the hotel in Geneva at the end of another useless day of international disagreements, I found her letter of reply”. Later we come to know that the letter was from his childhood sweetheart Mercedes Bachart. He had proposed to her when she was 13 and she took her time to say yes. They were married when she reached the age of 26.&nbsp;</p> <p>Narayan’s autobiography avoids&nbsp;the larger issues of&nbsp;politics and history. He is apolitical and holds no ideological beliefs or associations.&nbsp;He&nbsp;does not&nbsp;touch&nbsp;issues of the day&nbsp;such as freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi, British colonialism, Marxist theories or the world wars of his time.&nbsp;The Malgudians are insular and somewhat disconnected from the issues of the world outside. They do not&nbsp;try anything revolutionary. Nor do they expect any dramatic changes.&nbsp;They&nbsp;are tied deeply to their millennial traditions, horoscope,&nbsp;rituals and practices.</p> <p>Marquez&nbsp;relates his life to the issues of violence, wars, repressions, revolts, dictatorship, revolutions, exile, politics and history&nbsp;of Colombia, Latin America and the world.&nbsp;He refers to heroes and villains&nbsp;who achieve greatness and face tragic ends.&nbsp;Marquez was a leftist and remained a personal friend of Fidel Castro, even after many other writers distanced themselves from the Cuban dictatorship which stifled freedom of expression. His anti-imperialist statements were labelled as subversive by US which denied him visa for many years.&nbsp;</p> <p>Narayan lived his entire life in Chennai-Mysore area except for his travel to the US, Australia and UK. He lived in the traditional Indian joint family system of grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters. Although he chose an unconventional career of writing Indian stories in English, he followed the tradition of his Brahmin caste and worked within the framework of south Indian culture in his personal life. He is austere, straightforward and modest in his style of life. He chose an auspicious day (Vijayadashami) to create his imaginary town of Malgudi for his novel. Horoscopes and astrologers played important part in his family life. After his wife dies within a few years of marriage, he refuses to remarry and continues his life as a widower. His daughter is brought up in his joint family. He never set his eyes on other women or sought sex outside. He was a teetotaller. His only sin was smoking.</p> <p>Marquez’s life is colourful and adventurous. He is a typical Latino mujeriego (womaniser), just as his father was. Besides affairs and romances, he was a regular visitor to the brothels. He claims that he was a veteran of two bouts of gonorrhea by the age of 23.</p> <p>While Marquez chose a young whore as protagonist for his last novel, Narayan’s last book is about his grandmother. Both the books are considered as autobiographical. The title of Narayan’s last book is <i>Grandmother’s tale</i>. One does not have to guess. It is simply the story of his grandmother and what she had told him in his childhood. Marquez’s last novel is <i>Memories of My</i> <i>Melancholy Whores</i> (Memoria de mis putas tristes). It is about the romance of a 90-year-old man with a young and almost adolescent whore. But the word ‘whore’ does not appear in Narayan’s autobiography or his novels. Nor is there any descriptions or narrations of sex in his novels.&nbsp;</p> <p>Here are a few commonalities between the two writers. Both were brought up by their grandparents in their childhood. Both worked as news reporters to earn a living to start with before becoming professional writers. Both had struggled with financial insecurity during the initial phase of their career.</p> <p>Coffee was the common stimulant for both. Narayan gulped cups of the steaming hot filter coffee made in traditional Tamil Brahmin way. In south India, you ask for coffee and you get only one kind, coffee and milk premixed with plenty of sugar. But in Colombia, there are many coffees and one has to specify what one wants. &nbsp;Tinto is sweetened black coffee from leftover beans and the most popular. Perico is Tinto in which half the coffee has been replaced with warm milk. Perico escuro has less milk while Perico claro has more milk. Pintadito is black coffee with milk without foam.&nbsp; Carajillo will make one tipsy because it has the alcohol of aguardiente/rum.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Colombians describe the complexion of people through coffee. Whites are milk, blacks are coffee and the mulattos are coffee with milk (café on leche). In some cases, there is more milk and in others less. There are a number of Colombians who look like Indians with their coffee with milk complexion. There is a delightful Colombian comedy film <i>Ambassador of India</i> (Embajador de la India) in which a crook from the city pretends in a rural part of Colombia as the Indian Ambassador of India and manages to fool the people and take them for a ride. This is based on a true story. The Colombian was able to do it because of his coffee with milk skin colour.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Marquez spent hours together in the cafes filled with the aroma of the famous Arabic coffee of Colombia. Sometimes the coffee had the aroma of women. True.. There is a popular Colombian Television serial called as <i>Café con aroma de mujer</i> (Coffee with the scent of a woman), produced in the 90s. It is the story of romance between a coffee plantation worker with the son of the owner of the estate. There is a song in the serial which goes like this:</p> <p><i>Dame un beso que me sepa a café</i></p> <p><i>Café y tu lo estas con mi aroma de mujer</i></p> <p><i>&nbsp;</i></p> <p><i>Give me a kiss that tastes like coffee</i></p> <p><i>Coffee.. you are with the scent of my woman</i></p> <p>Both the writers have said that their invented towns of Malgudi and Macondo are not so much&nbsp;as&nbsp;places but they are essentially states of the mind, which allow you to see what you want, and how you want to see them.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</b><br> </p> Tue Aug 18 21:14:42 IST 2020 Bengaluru-sculptor-who-recreated-businessmans-wife-also-made-giant-Shiva-statue <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Sridharamurthy K, a Bengaluru-based civil engineering graduate turned sculptor is known for his colossal statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The 47-year-old and his father are among the sculptors that made the towering statue of Lord Shiva that adorn an island in Murudeshwara town in Uttara Kannada District. It is supposed to be the world’s second largest Shiva statue.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The statues of Lord Hanuman stand tall in Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh and the breathtaking statues of Lord Shiva in Jabalpur, Sikkim and Bengaluru and Goddess Durga in Gujarat also bear the mark of his genius. His ancestors were sculptors in Hampi, the capital of Vijayanagara Empire.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sridharamurthy has tried his hand at wax statues, reminiscent of the ones in Madam Tussauds Museum. He did one of those statues for a museum. Shrinivas Gupta, a businessman from Koppal happened to see it. Gupta was impressed with the sculptor’s attention to detail and asked him if he could make a statue of his late wife MVK Madhavi who died in an accident three years ago.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While alive, one of Madhavi’s biggest dreams was to own a new house. &quot;She only got the building plan done and was part of the foundation laying ceremony,’’ recalls Gupta. Knowing the new house would be incomplete without Madhavi, Gupta wanted to have her statue installed in the drawing room.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It took Sridharamurthy and his team of sculptors at Gombe Mane months to infuse life into Gupta’s dream. However hard work paid off.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Madhavi sitting on a sofa, sprang a surprise on guests on the occasion of the house warming.&nbsp; Wearing a pink and gold sari, she was bejewelled and had flowers in her hair.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gupta says he can almost feel her presence while in the drawing room. Madhavi sports a smile that comes from the heart and gives him solace.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The silicon statue has transformed the life of Anusha Gupta, Madhavi and Gupta’s daughter too. ‘’ We had a couple of sittings with Sridharamurthy. He made sure that every detailing was perfect and my mom looks exactly like when she was alive. We even had a nice family photo after three long years.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anusha shares her problems with her mom as she used to before. &quot;It is so comforting to see her when I get back home. The moment I open the door, I can see her,’’ says Anusha who has joined her father’s business after completing her studies. Her sister, Sindusha, is a chemical engineering graduate.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sridharamurthy took great pains to ensure the statue looks real. The statue even features natural hair, he says. &quot;We took help from chemists while making the statue. Technology was of great help to us as we tried to recreate Madhavi’s skin texture, wrinkles, bone structure, lips, nostrils, eye balls, cornea and the nerves of the eye,&quot; adds Sridharamurthy who is a member of the Karnataka Shilpakala Academy.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Madhavi died in a car accident. While traveling to Thirupati, her car crashed into a speeding truck and she died immediately. Anusha and Sindusha, who were with her at the time of the accident, survived miraculously.&nbsp;</p> Sat Aug 15 11:24:05 IST 2020 the-not-so-immersive-world-of-online-heritage-walks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There's a tantalizing template for a virtual walk hosted by the New York Adventure Club. For $10, one can visit the neighbourhood of Five Points, the south end of Chinatown, once a much dreaded slum area in the 19th century Lower Manhattan in New York city.&nbsp;</p> <p>Martin Scorsese's <i>Gangs of New York</i> was set in this infamous space of criminality.&nbsp;The half-forgotten tales and historical relics of this former crime-infested den can be virtually experienced through a&nbsp;neighborhood expert who will take viewers on a digital showcase of "New York's oldest tenement, old churches, and even a building that once hosted rat-on-rat fights". This will be followed by a discussion on the historical accuracy of films and shows born out of the neighbourhood. Registered viewers can replay this online walk for a week.&nbsp;</p> <p>How does one build a virtual walking tour which can favourably compare with the physical experience of a heritage trail? Should it be like a powerpoint presentation with an expert walk leader curating&nbsp; maps, photos and art imagery into a cogent whole? How does one pitch those small inquiries about a soldier's unmarked grave or the mirror work in a queen's chamber? Can unseen images and locations on Zoom reveal more about a place than an actual walking tour? And how amenable are people to paying for online heritage walks?&nbsp;</p> <p>As organisations <a href="">pivot to virtual&nbsp;walkthroughs</a> in a pandemic, cultural trips centered around architecture, monuments, food, markets, nature and ecology are also learning to exist in a cloud. Open online resource platform Sahapedia, which organized pan-India walk festivals in pre-COVID days, has been actively putting out expert-led tours of built and intangible heritage, from Adalaj Stepwell in Gandhinagar to the recesses of Gwalior Fort to introducing Larnai pottery from Thadlaskein block in Jaintia Hills, some 60km away from Shillong. On 16 August, they will host a guided online bird walk on Goa's Carambolim wetland to look for migratory and resident species.&nbsp;</p> <p>At Heritage Walk Calcutta, for a sum of Rs 350, one can explore British architectural experiments along Kolkata's&nbsp;Chowringhee&nbsp; on Zoom or India's oldest Chinatown or even Calcutta at 1942, beset as it was with famine, riots and a war; designed on research of 10 months this virtual walk explores a 'contested “inbound” space through eyewitness accounts and forgotten tales' . There's an option of private tours for Rs 800 per person.</p> <p>There is also a virtual two-hour walk coming up on places which witnessed horrific true crime stories in 19th century Calcutta.&nbsp;</p> <p>Madras Inherited, a collective of architects and volunteers,which conducts walking tours to lesser-known architectural gems in Chennai, holds a virtual walk every Monday to revisit historically significant neighbourhoods in the city like&nbsp;Triplicane, Mylapore, Santhome and George Town, apart from being active on social media with talks, trivia and etymology.&nbsp;</p> <p>Online walking tours have the potential to make far off, touristic spaces cheap and accessible, if only to see from the confines of a house. It can aid our travel fantasies, spur interest in unknown locations or might be a more useful watch than streaming a Netflix show. They can be lessons in history, geography and culture.</p> <p>But, it is still not going to be enough, no matter how cutting-edge the technology. Visiting a place with one's own eyes and legs for the sheer joy of just being there is not the&nbsp;same as watching a talk, a film or a musical concert on Zoom.</p> <p>"Yes, we are trying to make the best of a terrible situation. But, in heritage walks, it's not only the buildings. It is also the feel of the place, the smell of the food being cooked, the way people move, the way they occupy a physical space with other living beings, that can't be replicated online," says Delhi based historian&nbsp;Sohail Hashmi whose&nbsp;heritage walks are much sought after.</p> <p>"Camera can only shoot a part of the reality. Your eyes can see everything. And people who haven't gone for heritage walks before lockdown, will not change after."</p> Wed Aug 12 22:13:13 IST 2020 ap-a-105-year-mother-a-loving-son-and-covid-19 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A few years after she was born, B. Mohanamma had a brush with a pandemic. She has flashes of her life in the last century when the world was troubled by the Spanish Flu. Her parents had locked her up in the house at her ancestral village and did not allow her to venture out. She and her family could successfully dodge the infection and she recalls the virus as “some plague”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a child, a few years later, she remembers seeing Mahatma Gandhi. He had come to Kurnool town in the present Andhra Pradesh in the early 1920s and Mohanamma could observe him from far. She went on to admire his principles and non-violent ways for the rest of her life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At 105, Mohanamma's tryst with history has not ended. She has experienced another pandemic—what can be this century’s biggest health crisis, COVID-19—from close quarters. Last month, she was tested positive in a random test. Today, after more than a fortnight, she is able to walk, even without a stick and spends hours in meditation at her home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From the time she was tested COVID-19 positive to the hour when she got discharged, her family underwent a tumultuous time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A small-time trader who used to deal in groceries, Mohanamma has eight children and lives with her youngest son, Jayadas Naidu, and his family in Kurnool.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Her day starts at 4am with brisk walking, yoga and meditation,” says Jayadas. “She likes to eat everything including non-vegetarian food. Whenever she finds time, she meditates and is usually peaceful. She is religious and is particular about cleanliness. If she finds any dust or trash, we are immediately told to clean them up.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Except on one occasion, he does not remember his mother going to a crowded place before she was tested. The Andhra Pradesh government had made it mandatory for all the senior citizens availing the benefits of the old-age pension scheme, to undergo COVID-19 test. As it was mandatory, Mohanamma also reached a testing centre and gave her sample. On June 18, the son and the family members were informed that her result were positive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We hid it from her and were worried how she would take it. I just told her she needs rest as she is not well and all my family members moved out hoping to keep her in home isolation. This did not go down well with her, and she got extremely worried. Her sugar levels suddenly dipped,” said Jayadas, who is a retired government employee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mohanamma was then shifted to a local government hospital and the treatment centred around keeping her sugar levels, which were fluctuating wildly, in control. A patient of high blood pressure and diabetes, she was, however, known to be lively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jayadas thought that more than anything, his mother needed moral support during her stay in the hospital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We were worried for her and thought she would not come back alive. I told my family members that I will not let my mother die in the hands of some strangers. I have to get her back alive and I do not mind contracting the virus and dying in this process.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During Mohanamma's stay at the hospital, Jayadas visited the hospital thrice daily—the last visit of the day being in the night. With just a mask and gloves on and clearly breaking rules, Jayadas took his mother’s favourite breakfast, idli or dosa, in the morning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The hospital doctors warned me a lot of times and even tried to scare me saying I will catch the virus. But I did not change my ways. I made sure I kept my mother entertained. I also used to chat with other patients in the ward. I helped them with medicines and blankets. It was very important for me to meet my mother on a daily basis and to keep her in high spirits.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The efforts paid off and in less than two weeks, Mohanamma’s sugar levels stabilised and she got discharged after testing negative. As she gets back to her daily routine, there is more good news for the family. Even after visiting the COVID-19 ward regularly for more than 10 days with minimal protection, Jayadas has tested negative in a latest test.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“All I know is that I have fulfilled my dharma as a son,” he said.</p> Wed Aug 12 20:48:31 IST 2020 how-to-be-wildlife-photograher-pandemic <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>An oxpecker is a small brown bird with wide bills and sharp claws—it plucks out pests from animals. Not for nothing are they called tickbirds.</p> <p>They feed on ticks, flies, maggots and open wounds found in the bodies of large mammals. And they are quite fond of the tall and handsome giraffe. In fact some of them are believed to roost on the mammal at night-time, so they don't have to go around the next day looking for the right animal for their dose of ticks and other parasites. The giraffe and the oxpecker have a beautiful give-and-take relationship.&nbsp;</p> <p>In a recent post on Instagram, wildlife photographer and "Big Cat Specialist" Shaaz Jung shows how he captured this interplay in pre-Covid days. In a series of mesmerising shots, a wild flock of red-billed oxpeckers scramble around the long, soothing face of a giraffe—streaked with the soft orange rays of the sun. "Humanity has a lot to learn from nature's symbiotic and selfless relationships. On a warm afternoon under the African sun, a giraffe quenched her thirst and allowed her loyal flurry of oxpeckers to cool off after every sip. These mutual friendships in the wild signify the importance of unity and the art of living together," reads his post. These images were last seen in an exhibition in New York in 2017.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>While the pandemic hasn't been easy for roving wildlife photographers, who virtually spend half the year in the wilderness travelling and gathering footage, home quarantine has made their work evolve in unexpected ways. For Shaaz Jung, also called the "Leopard man of India," it has meant deeper stock-taking and engagement with his million followers on social media. It has meant showcasing his untiring pursuit of an elusive black panther; Shaaz tracked for years the fearful symmetry and the fiery eyes of a&nbsp;melanistic leopard he named Saya.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;On 19 May, Shaaz posted an old portrait of the majestic Saya staring straight into his camera at&nbsp;Kabini forest in Karnataka, part of the Nagarhole National Park. And in July first week, the picture went viral, making the country sit up to google the real black panther, after Bagheera in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. The black leopard has excessive melanin on its coat and is a rare sighting in the forests of Karnataka; it's also called the ghost of the forests.&nbsp;Jung&nbsp;has been&nbsp;tracking the leopards of Nagarhole for over a decade."As wildlife photographers and explorers, we don't&nbsp;just take pictures but also communicate. The lockdown and the pandemic has helped us get our message out there, the deeper meaning behind our work and why we are doing all this," says Shaaz on the phone from Bengaluru. "I have a degree in economics and law and I could be pursuing stuff elsewhere but I am here. In the last four months, I have been able to express that," says the 31-year-old who has been keeping busy with zoom calls and webinars to reach out to a wider audience and teach the painstaking pleasures of wildlife photography.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Born to former cricketer Saad bin Jung who became a conservationist in the 1990s and transformed the hunting lodge in Bandipur into an eco-resort, Shaaz is also a firm believer in the redeeming qualities of ecotourism. He is&nbsp;part of the Buffer Conflict Resolution Trust of India (BCRTI), which studies man-animal conflicts in buffer zones of protected forest areas. Given how the pandemic itself has originated from exploitation of wild animals, Shaaz gets a touch irritated with lazy assumptions about lockdown and its healing effect on nature and wildlife. "Contrary to popular belief, the lockdown has not helped wildlife. In fact it's the exact opposite. There's been a huge surge in poaching in the lockdown months. It has adversely affected revenues derived from eco-tourism. And eco-tourism is a tool for conservation," says Shaaz who&nbsp;also runs The Bison resort at the confluence of the Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks.</p> <p>"A lot of people think that because of the lockdown, wild animals are more at peace. But these animals need us. We in India are only allowed to access 20 per cent of a national park which is called the tourism zone. In that 20 per cent, the animals are monitored by forest department officials, safari jeeps and tourist vehicles. If a tiger is found injured, it is immediately reported. Patrolling that 20 per cent helps notify and nab suspected poachers," says Jung who comments find an echo in a&nbsp;recent report by&nbsp;TRAFFIC, a leading wildlife trade monitoring network.&nbsp;The report, titled ‘Indian wildlife amidst the COVID-19 crisis’, noted a surge of 151 per cent in poaching cases between March 23 to May 2. The report states that&nbsp;222 persons were arrested in poaching related cases during the lockdown period.&nbsp;</p> <p>But Shaaz believes in the power of visuals and storytelling to inform the world about the delicate balance in the animal world<i>. The Real Black Panther </i>documentary, which premiered this year on 14 February in Nat Geo Wild, is a love story set in the&nbsp;Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, where the singular Saya must fight for Cleopatra, the dominant female leopard, to wrest control from Scarface, the leopard king.&nbsp;</p> Sat Aug 08 11:15:47 IST 2020 beirut-in-the-writers-imagination <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>To understand the scale of damage Lebanon suffered during its long civil war, from 1975 to 1990,&nbsp; Jean Said Makdisi's 1990 memoir "Beirut Fragments" is often cited as a useful guide.<br> </p> <p>The Palestinian writer and scholar Makdisi, younger sister to culture critic Edward Said, chose to stay when thousands left to escape the everyday breakdown of a city under siege. She documented first-hand the disarrayed lives of ordinary Beirutis in a war-torn city.</p> <p>It is in a 1991 book review of Makdisi's war memoir that the real essence of Beirut is revealed: "Beirut is a child. Beirut is a mother. Beirut is a whore. Beirut is the city that, perhaps more than any other 20th-century capital, can pride itself on having the most blood and most ink spilled over it. A modern-day Dracula, imbibing enormous quantities of blood, it is also a modern-day muse, inspiring authors of all stripes."</p> <p>As the world witnessed those monstrous mushroom clouds of smoke from an&nbsp;<a href="">earth-shattering explosion in downtown Beirut</a>&nbsp;on Tuesday, with several dead and thousands wounded, it bears reminding how several writers have represented this fervid metropolis which UNESCO designated a Creative City for Literature in 2019. This cultural entrepôt has raised and accepted writers and poets from across the Arab world—some even consider it 'the unsung capital of Arabic Modernism—and its literary life is often reminisced and reevaluated as before and after the outbreak of civil war in 1975 which ushered in an endless cycle of car bombings, airstrikes and shelling.&nbsp;</p> <p>Writer, poet and visual artist Kahlil Gibran is the most famous literary export from Lebanon. In Gibran's utopian vision, Beirut is a heavenly paradise of a great many delights. In his 1912 book,&nbsp;<i>The Broken Wings</i>, he calls the city “a bride in the spring,” and “a mermaid sitting by the brook drying her smooth skin in the rays of the sun.”</p> <p>The West Beirut of the mid-1950s was a site of cultural efflorescence where literary exiles and émigrés thrived in an intellectual ferment. The neighbourhood of Hamra is compared to Greenwich Village in New York. "For a brief twenty-year period, until the outbreak of civil war in 1975, Hamra was a contact zone for artists and militants from the far Left to the far-Right, nationalists and internationalists, experimentalists and traditionalists. In this highly politicized bohème, journals of ideas flourished, and each coterie had its own café," writes Robyn Creswell in&nbsp;<i>The Paris Review</i>.</p> <p>In the same article, Creswell talks about an influential quarterly poetry magazine&nbsp;<i>Shiʿr</i>&nbsp;(Poetry) which was founded in 1957. The international poetry journal had correspondents in Cairo, Baghdad, Berlin, Paris, London, and New York. Adonis, a Syrian Lebanese poet, called West Beirut “a laboratory of numerous and conflicting tendencies,” in the two decades before the war ended this unhindered intermingling of people and ideas.&nbsp;</p> <p>While the paradoxes of war-torn Beirut is amply distilled in the fiction of Hanan al-Shaykhe and Elias Khoury, it is Lebanese-American writer and painter Rabih Alameddine who is the most contemporary chronicler of stories tracing their narrative arc in and out of Beirut. Currently based in the US and Beirut, Alameddine had left Lebanon at age 17 to study in England and his fiction beautifully captures the "dislocation" his characters feel at home and abroad in the aftermath of the war. In Koolaids, Alameddine switches between the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco and the Lebanese civil war in Beirut and how they affect a circle of friends and family “In America, I fit but I do not belong. In Lebanon, I belong but I do not fit,”&nbsp; goes one well-quoted line in the book.&nbsp;</p> <p>But perhaps the most famous lines on the city of Beirut comes from&nbsp;<i>An Unnecessary Woman</i>, where&nbsp; Alameddine narrates the solitary life of Aaliya Saleh, a septuagenarian literary translator with tomes of unpublished manuscripts. While the book is all about bibliophilia in Beirut, it is really the Lebanese capital which is its beating heart as the narrator muses on life and literature under the shadow of the civil war and her own painful past. When a frustrated Aaliya wonders if she will ever find a fully functional traffic light in her lifetime and how the city belongs "to the young and their apathy", she eloquently describes the city she calls home. "Beirut is the Elizabeth Taylor of cities: insane, beautiful, tacky, falling apart, ageing, and forever drama-laden. She'll also marry an infatuated suitor who promises to make her life more comfortable, no matter how inappropriate he is."</p> Wed Aug 05 20:44:40 IST 2020 meet-the-27-year-old-woman-who-created-a-game-to-escape-arranged-marriage <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Love is complicated. Equally complicated? Marriage! Finding the right match these days has come a long way from matching kundalis and internet dates choreographed by friends to being set up on blind dates by parents.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A peek into the latest Netflix show <i>Indian Matchmaking </i>gives us a glimpse of how some stereotypes are yet to change. Sima Taparia, Mumbai’s top matchmaker in the show, says many factors are considered before she zeroes in on the right match for her client.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Finer nuances of an arranged marriage are still not understood, especially by western society. “Westerners often speak about acid attacks and honour killings and conflate arranged marriages with forced marriages, when in reality, the two are entirely different,” says Nashra Balagamwala, a 27-year-old from Karachi, Pakistan, who currently is studying Masters of Design at Harvard University. Balagamwala, who created a game Arranged in 2017 to escape an arranged marriage, talks about&nbsp; the game and her experience. Edited excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>You created Arranged to explain the concept of an arranged marriage to westerners. Please elaborate.<br> </b></p> <p>Many articles in Western media misrepresent arranged marriage–they often speak about acid attacks and honour killings and conflate arranged marriages with forced marriages, when in reality, the two are entirely different. I wanted to provide an insider view of the nuances of arranged marriage.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p><b>In a society like India or Pakistan, is it possible to do away with the concept of arranged marriages and dowry at all?</b><br> </p> <p>I believe it is possible to do away with dowry! I’m from a social sect where dowry is a huge part of marriage. However, in both my siblings’ marriages, there was no such exchange because we believed the tradition was both demeaning and archaic.<br> </p> <p>I don’t think we’ll do away with arranged marriages for a long time, and I don’t necessarily believe we have to. In societies as conservative as Pakistan and India, where religion and tradition play a big role in the way we conduct ourselves, sometimes an arranged marriage is the only way to meet a suitable partner. If the process is more lenient, it isn’t that different from being set up on a blind date or meeting someone through a dating app.<br> </p> <p><b>How can such a patriarchal, complicated system be altered?</b><br> </p> <p>I don’t think there’s any solution to it. I believe there’s a series of efforts that need to be made. The women’s march and liberation movements are a great start, but we have an incredibly long way to go.<br> </p> <p><b>Pakistan as well as India still have a high number of instances of domestic abuse. In your views, is arranged marriage—where a couple more often does not know each other before they tie the knot—directly proportional to the same?<br> </b></p> <p>I think an abusive person makes an abusive relationship. I’ve seen abusive partners who married for love, caring partners who were arranged, and vice-versa.<br> </p> <p>I do believe, however, that arranged marriages allow for a lower possibility of divorce–this is because more often than not, the women are not accepted back into their parent’s home, cannot provide for themselves, and therefore, are made to stay in abusive relationships.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Also, arranged marriages are forced upon gay men and women, too. Your thoughts.<br> </b></p> <p>It’s extremely problematic. This impacts both, the LGBTQIA community as well as the people they are made to marry who have no idea of their sexual preference.<br> </p> <p>I’ve had friends personally impacted by this. One of my best friends was married to a man who wasn’t straight, and it was only a year into the marriage that she realised what she had gotten herself into, and it immediately led to a divorce.</p> <p>I hope that one day we live in a world where everyone can marry whomever they please, freely and without any backlash.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How did your family, people in Pakistan react when you launched the game. Give us a brief timeline of the game and its conceptualisation.<br> </b></p> <p>The inspiration behind creating Arranged was my journey and struggle to avoid getting an arranged marriage, as well as watching my friends get pressured into loveless marriages with strangers their family picked for them.<br> </p> <p>I started by making a list of every silly thing I'd done to avoid an arranged marriage—wearing fake engagement rings, getting a tan, cutting my hair short, etc. I then added issues and ideas that I’d never been able to discuss back at home and masked the seriousness of this topic by turning it into a light-hearted game dedicated to running away from the Rishta Aunty–the matchmaker that most girls meet to be paired with a man.</p> <p>I've had an unbelievably overwhelming response so far. People from all over the world have reached out to provide moral support and words of appreciation.<br> </p> <p>I've had several Pakistani and Indian girls reach out to thank me for finally speaking up about something so important, and have talked to me about their own arranged marriages and family pressures.<br> </p> <p>That's not to say that all the feedback has been positive. I've also dealt with a lot of criticism. Many Pakistanis have said negative remarks and have made it clear to me that I'm a disgrace because I'm bad-mouthing the society. Aunties who once loved me and thought of me as a potential for their sons now roll their eyes at me and whisper negative remarks as I walk by.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Tell us how the game works.</b></p> <p>The gameplay involves a matchmaker trying to get the teenage girls married off to any and every boy she can find, while they try to run away from her and a loveless marriage.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They can do so by talking about having a career, gaining weight, being seen in the mall with boys or several other things that most societies would consider normal, but are seen as disgraceful in South-Asian culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are three female protagonists and one “Rishta Aunty” (the matchmaker).&nbsp;</p> <p>The Aunty’s goal is to get all the girls married off. She moves closer to them as she learns about things such as their ability to cook, the amount of dowry they’ll bring in and whether or not they have “childbearing hips”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The girls spend their time coming up with creative ways to avoid getting hitched by the aunty. They can do so by talking about having a career, gaining weight, being seen in the mall with boys or several other things that every other society would consider normal, but are seen as disgraceful in South Asian culture. Occasionally, the girls may learn things about the aunty, such as the fact that she has a 23-year-old unmarried daughter, and use it to blackmail her into moving away from them.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At some point during the game, the aunty may come across the Golden Boy. The light-eyed, light-skinned, liberal CEO of a business with a foreign passport. This is when the entire game dynamic switches around as it turns into a rat race to get married to the dreamy Mr Right.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The girls then start to make their way towards the aunty by flaunting their talents, such as the fact that they pray five times a day or only have female friends.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Only one girl makes it in time to marry this Golden Boy, and the rest are hitched off to the mama’s boys and womanisers. It is best when played with three to four players.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tue Aug 04 17:42:53 IST 2020 is-india-poised-for-a-cycling-revolution <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Gurpreet Singh Kharbanda from Delhi was always into cycling but mostly as a personal passion. The pandemic-induced lockdown made him start a cycling group at the end of June with two other friends. A resident of Sainik Farms in south Delhi, Kharbanda reached out to neighbours and in less than a month formed the 170-member strong Sainik Farms Cycling Club. This number—modest though it may sound—would not have been possible to assemble in this affluent, deserted neighbourhood in pre-COVID times.</p> <p>&quot;We couldn't form the group earlier because people have evening plans, their own work and schedules. With the lockdown, there's hardly been any outing. So it was easier to get people together. Now we have a formal group and we travel together like a family. We look out for each other,&quot; says Kharbanda who's covered distances of 25km to Mangar village on the Delhi-Haryana border with the Club riders.&nbsp;</p> <p>Kharbanda says many of the members in the recreational cycling group are beginners and first-time riders, from preteens to senior citizens. One 57-year-old gentleman started cycling with the group.<br> </p> <p>Singh is certain the momentum for cycling will sustain itself beyond the pandemic.<br> </p> <p>&quot;They now know the benefits of cycling,&quot; says Kharbanda, an auto-parts businessman, pointing out how the addiction, once acquired, is difficult to shake off.&nbsp;</p> <p>Even as parts of the country unlock, allowing for greater movement after months of homebound lockdown, there's something to be said about the emancipatory benefits of bicycling. Especially in times of emotional distress. When the seven-year-old son of Leo Tolstoy died, the great Russian novelist first learnt to bike just one month after the death of his child. Tolstoy was 67 then.</p> <p>Perhaps at this point, more than one's mood, emptier roads, the need for fitness routines and fear of public transportation is responsible for a surge in recreational cycling. But, no one is complaining as the wheels are set in motion. Vendors and shop-owners are reporting a manifold rise in cycle sales and rentals across cities.&nbsp;</p> <p>All India Cycle Manufacturers’ Association (AICMA) is said to have registered a 25 per cent jump in countrywide sales in June for an industry worth Rs 7,000 crore manufacturing 20 million cycles every year. The surge in May sales was attributed to migrants returning home. Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have recorded the highest demand, according to a report in <i>The Times of India</i> last week.</p> <p>Besides, new and existing cycling clubs have added the highest number of first-time members in a couple of months. But hearteningly there is a simultaneous rise in interest in professional cycling from rural areas and small towns at a time when competitive cycling has taken a backseat; all major championships have been cancelled and postponed.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Cycling Federation of India held its first e-pathshala on 21st July in collaboration with Sports Authority of India—like an online coaching and education programme for cyclists. The ongoing first month of teaching is focusing on beginners and grassroots-level applicants who have just started cycling or are trying to get into professional cycling. This will be followed by teaching intermediate and advanced cyclists in the next few months. This is the first time that the basics of professional cycling are being taught online, often reaching out to schools in remote areas through physical education teachers.</p> <p>&quot;The first day of teaching, we were expecting participants in the range of 1,000. We got 19,000 instead. We are now into our third week of teaching cyclists from the grassroots and every day we get some three to five thousand people joining in. Today we held a Q&amp;A session and there were so many inquiries. Never expected this kind of a response,&quot; says Maninder Pal Singh, secretary-general of Cycling Federation of India.</p> <p>&quot;Our aim is professional cycling. But we need to get these cyclists from the amateur/ grassroots level. Even if one per cent of the country's population decides to pursue professional cycling, that serves our purpose,&quot; Singh says.&nbsp;</p> <p>But how does one teach cycling online? </p> <p>&quot;Professional cycling is one of the most technical things you will ever come across unlike football or hockey where it is all about individual talent. How to sit on a bike, what should be the size of your frame, tyres one should use, allowed positions by the international body, warm-up sessions, diet, recovery patterns, how not to overstress muscles, all of these can be learnt online,&quot; Singh says.</p> Sat Aug 01 22:21:17 IST 2020 opinion-from-hagia-sophia-to-ram-mandir-secularism-is-in-deep-crisis <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Turkey is caught in the midst of an identity crisis. The cantankerous debate over the <a title="Turkey: Hagia Sophia opens for prayers as mosque after 86 years" href="">Hagia Sophia</a> will not abate anytime soon. The has-been museum is now a mosque, with Friday prayers resuming on July 24, after almost a gap of 86 years. The battle lines are drawn among the Turks, liberals, conservatives, secularists, Muslims, Christians, atheists and what have you. The world chatterati is engaged in a war of attrition, with positions hardening across all trenches. This matter, though, is elusive and escapes easy resolution; it is akin to untying a Gordian knot.</p> <p>Yet, this row, among other things, gives us another opportunity to evaluate the place and relevance of secularism in societies outside Europe—societies that have been deeply religious and continue to be so—wherein, secularism did not flourish organically, but was transplanted from without.</p> <p>I do not support the controversial, perhaps entirely needless, decision of the Turkish government—under the baton of mercurial President Recep Tayyip Erdogan—to convert the iconic Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque. This is an act of desperation, unjustified from the point of view of Islam, as I understand it.</p> <p>To my mind, Erdogan has consciously indulged in an unprincipled nationalist-populist gimmick—in short, this is a spectacle designed to keep him afloat, and in power, amid turbulence that Turkey faces on multiple fronts. The economy is floundering; unemployment is on the rise. Erdogan’s goodwill has depleted in the West. And, with Turkey’s differences with Russia on Syria leading to military skirmishes, Erdogan has found an easy refuge in the sanctuary of religion.</p> <p>Let me also add in the same breath that my reason for opposing this change originates not in any desire to defend secularism. Secularism is not a creed for me, and I do not believe—as many of its adherents doggedly do—that, come what may, it should materialise as a value.</p> <p>The Hagia Sophia is a monument that is almost a millennium-and-half old. A brief acquaintance with its long saga is necessary, should we have to—as we must—delve into the more complex questions of principle. It has had a chequered history of twists and turns. Of passing from one faith to another. Of being a symbol of power and piety. It has the distinction of being cherished as a “trophy” by the victor and a “just cause” by the vanquished.</p> <p>The Hagia Sophia was inaugurated as a Greek Orthodox basilica in 360AD. It has been built and rebuilt several times, and the structure that stands today was completed in 537AD. In its long life, the Hagia Sophia has served as a Roman Catholic church, a mosque and a museum; and now, it is back to being a mosque again in 2020. It would be a wild goose chase to locate justice and injustice in such a tumultuous, treacherous, terrain where history, myth, legend, faith and power have all converged.</p> <p>Only politics can navigate this slippery slope. Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, knew this acutely. But politics is done rarely, if ever, for justice; it is about power. In 1934, Kemal Ataturk conjured up a museum out of the Hagia Sophia mosque. This was certainly not the opening salvo by Ataturk. He did much more in Turkey early on, after seizing power in 1923. His comprehensive reforms like secularising schools, modernising law and abolishing the Caliphate significantly changed the identity of Turkey as a country. “Kemalism”—the modernist-secularist ideology that Ataturk fathered—has been her bedrock for close to a century, and it was kept securely in the saddle under the aegis of the army.</p> <p>However, there is no gainsaying that the closure of the prestigious Hagia Sophia mosque, and morphing it into a museum, was an epochal event in the life of modern Turkey. It eased her passage into the modern West. Turkey was, as it were, rescued from the quagmire of Asiatic “medievalism” and her derogatory epithet, “the sick man of Europe”, was finally consigned to the dustbin of history. The Hagia Sophia museum became the most prominent façade of a “secular” Turkey to the rest of the world; a beacon showcasing her inter-faith heritage, and the entwined destinies of Islam and Christianity.</p> <p>Much water has flown under the bridge since. The wheel of time has turned. Ataturk is now a divisive figure in Turkey. His unabashed, unapologetic desire to fashion a new Turkey, somewhat detached from its Muslim moorings and the Ottoman past, is now being resented, especially as revivalist forces gain ground. Since the failed military coup in 2016, Erdogan has come to represent, with renewed vigour, a whole new politics of Islamisation. His Justice &amp; Development Party (AKP) has found support among the people.</p> <p>The army has been the bearer of “Kemalism” in Turkey. It has historically acted as the guardian of the secular constitution, intervening with coups when necessary. It can be argued that the army perhaps overplayed its hand in 2016 in attempting to dislodge Erdogan. Consequently, it is less influential now than ever before.</p> <p>This has emboldened Erdogan, made him more powerful, even arrogant, as his writ now runs unchallenged in Turkey. The conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque is driven more by Erdogan’s desire to tighten his grip on power than any concern for religion. But, at the same time, one has to acknowledge that Erdogan’s attempts have received a considerable fillip possibly because of a latent, perhaps long suppressed, urge among a vocal section of the Turkish people to break free from the regime of forced irreligiosity foisted upon them by Kemal Ataturk who made Turkey take a sudden leap from its Islamist Ottoman bearings to a French-type secular order. In all fairness, however, it is important to record that young people, mostly students, in Turkey, are at the same time resisting the new-fangled growth of religion.</p> <p><b>Secular only in name</b></p> <p>This newfound desire in people to own up the Ottoman past coincides with the unprecedented popularity of <i>Ertugrul</i>, a web series about the exploits of the father of Osman the first, the founder of the Ottoman empire. The craze for <i>Ertugrul </i>has spread like wildfire in Turkey, and in the wider Islamic world. An interesting parallel can be drawn here with India. The telecast of <i>Ramayan</i> and <i>Mahabharat</i> on Doordarshan, in the late 1980s and early 90s, also revived religious sentiment in the Hindi heartland, and riding on this fortuitous wave, the Hindu nationalist BJP soon got catapulted to power.</p> <p>I do not wish to weigh the Turkish society on the scale of how secular it is. Let us work with the assumption that it is more secular than most Muslim countries. But, the question that begs itself is that if a desire to free religion from the cage of the private sphere can strike a chord with people in a society that has been relatively secular for a long time, then how successful can secularism be in hemming in religion to the private realm in deeply religious societies like India, or the ones which obtain in South Asia?</p> <p>The experience of Pakistan and Bangladesh is well known. I do not have to belabour the point. The eventual rise of Hindutva in India—the last bastion of secularism in the subcontinent—in what seems to be a flourish of finality, is the like the final nail in the coffin. Yes, Jawaharlal Nehru’s charisma and the robust institutions he built insulated the state, at the top echelons, but only for a while, from the debilitating effects of the pervading religiosity of its personnel; yet, even in those early times, the state, at its far reaches, was in the grips of both religion and caste. Now, with the advent of Narendra Modi, all hope is lost as institutions have crumbled, and the ‘Hinduisation’ of Indian polity is driven from the top with pride.</p> <p>A secular state—instituted by law—in a religious society like India will always be precariously perched on the horns of a dilemma, until it gradually erodes; and finally, there will come a moment, when it is consumed by religion and become a sorry caricature of itself. The secular state in India unfortunately has come to this pass, and it is now only secular in form.</p> <p>To take a cue from Aristotle: the purpose of a “thing” lies in its functions. If it stops performing its functions, it no longer can be logically said to be that “thing”, except in name. Aristotle gives us the famous example of a “hand” severed from the body. It may yet be called a “hand”, but because it cannot perform any of the functions that a limb performs, it is a “hand” only in name. That is the long and short of the state in India. Now, it is secular only in name.</p> <p>With the prime minister all set to perform “bhoomi pujan” at the Ram mandir site, one can only marvel at how this fits with any known definition of secularism. C.E.M Joad, the British philosopher, once said that “Socialism is like a hat that has lost its shape because everyone wears it.” The same holds true for secularism too, especially in India. It is bereft of any meaning; or, should I say that the intended meaning—the content—has been evacuated from the word by the duplicity of the BJP and RSS. Curiously now, secularism has been stretched thin to imply a Hindu polity. Consider how even the Supreme Court of India—to accommodate the majority’s wishes for a Ram temple—went outside the fold of law, and ruled that in order to do “complete justice”, a Ram mandir should be built on the site of the “illegally” razed Babri mosque to satisfy “the faith and belief” of the Hindus. Or, how the Parliament put its seal on the blatantly discriminatory and communal Citizenship (Amendment) Act, one that mutilates the soul and the spirit of the Indian Constitution.</p> <p><b>Down the dogmatic spiral</b></p> <p>Whether it be India or Turkey, the secular ideal has failed. It has come a cropper in winning the hearts and minds of ordinary folk. In the absence of any real rootedness in the psyche of people, and as merely a state-led project, secularism’s capacity to instil loyalty for itself among people is fairly negligible. No wonder, the Quran, the Bible and the Gita, evoke a lot more awe and trust in people than any constitution ever can. The pallbearers of secularism must answer why it could not integrate itself in the life of our societies, and failed to become a value in our communities?</p> <p>Understandably, there is no dearth of academic literature on secularism in the West or even in decolonised societies like India. Reams and reams have been written to indulge in complex hair splitting, to weigh nuances, to explore different possible models. Yet, rarely will you find an engaging discussion on why people at large still continue to repose faith in religion, or why religion refuses to be boxed in the private sphere. It is not my brief here to evaluate the diverse theories on secularism. However, it must be said that there is a fundamental flaw in the way in which both modernity and secularism see religion. Religion has never been a private affair, or merely a matter of conscience, especially in the East. Ritualism, more than belief, lies at the core of how religion is practised and “lived” in the public realm, with deep linkages to the community.</p> <p>Secularism is at loggerheads with religion, and at best can only “tolerate” it outside the confines of the public sphere—the realm of politics. It seeks to imprison religion in the private universe of the individual, while at the same time attempting to negate its supposedly superstitious foundations from the minds of believers. The idea is to create a new society, a new individual, a being of reason alone—torn apart from natural sentiments, emotions and the human proclivity to have faith. It is in this sense that secularism is intrinsically intertwined with modernity. It partakes in the search for a universal, abstract, socius of a human being, cast in the mould of a selfish maximalist. A transactional creature armed with what Bentham calls the faculty of <i>felicific calculus</i>.</p> <p>The trouble though is that human beings do not behave like that in the real world. They are irrational, sentimental and passionate. They live in organic communities and have moral codes that often trump the selfish pursuit of individual interest. They also have spiritual urges. They believe in unseen and unproven things. They have religion. And God. The pursuit of secularism as an end is doomed, for religion has never taken a backseat for long: It did not in Soviet Russia, and it will not in Turkey.</p> <p>Therefore, to arrogantly criticise religion as “irrational” is to refuse to engage with it. It is also Euro-centric, and parochial to understand faith as merely a “private” matter. Upon this skewed understanding, it becomes easy to characterise the public realm as a sphere of reason, of politics and of men. Consequently, the private realm then becomes a dark dungeon of sentiments, religion and women. Joan Scott, the renowned feminist historian, has argued that secularism conflates religion and women by privatising them both. She also says that it might be a misreading of secularism to see it as a guarantor of gender equality.</p> <p>But, worrying signs were always there. Modernity has had articulate critics since its very inception. We just did not pay heed to their warnings. As is our wont, we incrementally calibrated the system to offer symptomatic relief. Rousseau in the West, Gandhi in the East—both of them focus on “love” as the basic ingredient of human nature instead of reason or self-interest. They argued for political systems based on real human emotions: Passions, feelings and sentiments are natural. Faith is an intrinsic part of authentic human experience.</p> <p>Gandhi, in particular, specifically argued against the separation of religion and politics. Secularism pretends to dismiss this with disdain. In more recent times, Foucault has brilliantly exposed how the modern secular order, under the pretext of creating “scientific knowledge,” becomes a willing handmaiden of powers that rule; and, how it becomes oppressive to those on the margins. Secularism arrogates to itself a monopoly of truth and triumphantly calls it “reason”. Isn’t it imperative to dissent in the face of such cocksure certitude that might put religious fundamentalists to shame? Or, must we fall back into a dogmatic spiral?</p> <p><b>Ruptures of religious difference</b></p> <p>Having said this, I must confess that with every passing year, I am more inclined to believe that secularism is a moribund project of modernity. It is doomed to fade away in the twilight, as it can only nest in the imaginary clouds of abstraction—far removed from the “lived experiences” of peoples and societies. Reason and science, since their ascendancy, have begotten their distinct dogmas. Secularism is perhaps one such dogma. Often, this makes for a cold and distant relationship with real, empirical, human beings, who live, breathe, and have faith—unlike the universal, rational, singular “man” who inhabits the world of high theory.</p> <p>Recent decolonial theories on religion also suggest that the so-called “secular” constitutions of the West bear a strong imprint of Christianity. Even modernity draws freely from Christian theology. It is not farfetched, therefore, to argue that the secular-modern visage of the West hides an underlying Christian morality, which lurks beneath, albeit without the clergy. Colonisation, and the concomitant imposition of a secular-modern mode of being on the vanquished colonies, in operative terms, meant that Christianity was privileged over native religions, which were perceived to be superstitious and devoid of reason. Under the garb of universality, secularism has been able to deepen the dominance of Christian, western, values, and ways of thinking and being.</p> <p>One example is the adherence to Sunday as a public holiday even in countries where there is a negligible Christian population. Another example is the acceptance of the Gregorian calendar by the non-western world. “Common Era” is only the secular name for a Christian religious calendar. The notion of secular time is rooted in Christianity and, in that sense, an ingenious way of propagating European hegemony over the world, especially during the era of colonisation. I agree that now we perhaps acquiesce in many such things as fait accompli; however, it is important to understand how Christian morality, belief and practice disguise themselves as “universal”, under the banner of secularism. This unintended conquest continues even after decolonisation, causing its own hurt and humiliation—it is also a part of the reason why secularism has never been fully embraced by our societies, despite the ceaseless prodding by the state.</p> <p>The most major drawback of secularism, as evidence shows, is its inability to accommodate “difference” in societies that have a religious majority. This is also true for countries like France, which practice a supposedly “hardcore” form of secularism. India, on the other hand, has tried to a work with a “diluted” form of secularism wherein—short of not declaring a state religion—the boundary between religion and state is already blurred. This tendency has accentuated in recent years. Society now dictates the state; the power structures of the society have become the power structures of the state; all the ills of the society—patriarchy, communalism and caste—have now manifested as the ills of the state. It can be shown conclusively that the state goes out of its way to mollify the majority; it incorporates the culture, language and festivals of the majority in its grammar and idiom, which is then put forth to the minorities as secular.</p> <p>Once, modernity and secularism get sucked into the vortex of capitalism, there is, in any case, little chance of deeply engaging with the root causes of the malaise. Principal tensions between religion, state, minorities and society that have tenuously existed since the beginning, under the arch-umbrella of secularism, and yet ignored, are now causing greater ruptures and schisms. Under the false veneer of calmness, a raging storm of discontent brewed. The fall of Soviet Russia and the success of globalisation carved out a new space and desire for “identity politics”, away from the pressing material issues of the day. The “citizen” took a backseat, and suppressed, or often newly fashioned identities strove to take the centre-stage. Religion, too, began to assert itself everywhere, but especially in post-colonial societies where the secular wireframe has now become a festering wound in the flesh. Stoked continuously for the sake of power by populist, often authoritarian leaders, the majority religion, in countries like Turkey and India, is beginning to breach the wall of separation and puncture the organs of the state.</p> <p>Secularism, therefore, stealthily, over a period of time, has become a vehicle of marginalisation. It consciously assumes a universalist language, while at the same time legitimising the domination of the majority religion in contestations over values. Unfortunately, in India it has become the very gun that Hindu nationalists are able to load and fire at Muslims with. What was true for Christianity in the days of colonisation—its privileged position vis-à-vis native faiths—is now equally true for various majority religions in different locations, as secularism has mutated into regional variants. India and USA. France or Turkey. In other words, whether the model adopted was “political secularism” as in India and USA, or the more austere and stricter “philosophical secularism” as in France or Turkey, its incapacity to throw off religious majorities from its back continues, irrespective of time and space. This foregrounds how spectacularly the ideal of secularism has failed in the context of protecting religious minorities. Clearly, something has gone terribly wrong.</p> <p><b>New modes and orders</b></p> <p>The secular age is over. It is a dream that has soured. Secularism might still linger on for a while; but, as mounting evidence in numerous countries shows, it would be only a shadow of its former self, as religion reclaims lost ground in the high halls of the state. Even while it lives on, secularism can only do so by betraying itself, and by accepting the suzerainty of the dominant religion.</p> <p>Let us not forget that the initial success of secularism was partly because of the collusion between kings and the new rising class of traders and entrepreneurs in Europe—both wishing to free themselves from the yoke of Christian clergy, which stifled the growth of nationalism and capitalism alike. Hence, secularism from the very beginning was a political project; it was principally directed at the power wielded by the religious bureaucracy in the political realm, but it unwittingly also attacked the faith of the common people. Well, it had to because the clergy derived its power from the belief of ordinary folk, the laity, in God almighty. This pits secularism against the people in the long run.</p> <p>All said and done, it would be foolish to ignore that an overwhelming majority believes in God and professes a religion. Rather than fruitlessly trying to change people and wean them away from how they have lived for centuries, it would perhaps be more prudent to alter political systems, and build models which can take root in the authentic, lived, ways of being and becoming.</p> <p>I, therefore, write from an urge to negotiate for new “modes and orders” (I am decontextualizing from Machiavelli to borrow his famous phrase). Modes and orders will accommodate religion, faith and belief into the fabric of the social and political. Not strive to ostracise them, or even expunge them, from the public sphere, as secularism has notoriously done in the last few centuries and failed. However, these new “modes and orders” must also search for a plausible architecture of a just society, which is reasonably possible in the universe of human belief and action.</p> <p>The time has come to explore for those possibilities. To do that, we must liberate ourselves from the tyranny of reason. An unwarranted devotion to the idea of secularism as the final destination for humanity has stifled possibilities of fresh thought. This reminds me of a gem from Aristotle's vast oeuvre. He says that one may build imaginary castles in the air—in short, a utopia—as his master Plato did, but a possible political system is one which is rooted in the raw material of politics—real men and women, not idealistic fantasies of who they ought to be.</p> <p>The principal question is whether it is possible to have a plural society, outside the ambit of a secular order, where communities professing different religions can cohabit in peace without the tyranny of highfalutin reason denigrating their everyday faith and hacking away at their dignity? One wishes to argue that the search for a just society is not, and should not be, held hostage to the dogma of reason. A plural methodology is far more suited to take us to the destination than the unreasonable insistence that all should walk the secular highway. I refuse to believe that the values of “accommodation” and “justice” are exclusive to modernity, or for that matter to secularism. There are viable grounds for those in other modes of being—modes which have popular sanction, and which have origins in the lived life of a people. The search for such solutions must begin in the right earnest.</p> <p>I am inclined to believe that a &quot;negotiated&quot; position is more viable than a &quot;rational&quot; one in the context of democracies, especially in societies which have a diverse religious population. Secularism, unfortunately, happens to be rigidly rational, leaving no scope for dialogue. As has been explained above, its rationality only turns out to be a garb for propagating the core values of the dominant religion. In all other respects, secularism ends up imposing abstract or universal notions that appear as “alien” to the people, including to those who belong to the majority. Hence, it suffers from a double whammy: Neither can it protect the minorities, nor is it able to win the loyalty of the majority, which it so meekly panders to.</p> <p>A way forward is shown by Jürgen Habermas, who took a “post-secular turn” in his later writings. He is among the few who accept and acknowledge the rise of religion. Although, he speaks of a “post-secular” society in the context of Europe, his central argument that religious and secular mentalities can learn from each other is valid across the spectrum. A “dialogue” between the two assumes mutual recognition. This is already moving far away from the hard secularist stance that holds religion irrational. He argues for a dialogical settlement between faith and reason. Habermas asserts that the post-secular order embraces the “complementary” endeavours of both religion and secularity in the collaborative enterprise of knowledge, ethics and existence. The days of secular elitism are over; or should be if better sense prevailed.</p> <p>It is evident that this new modus vivendi, should it emerge, will be tailored to the peculiar requirements of a society. It also will result in “thick conceptions”—rich with the contextual, historical, locational, religious and cultural particularities of a society in question—of the “modes and orders” for regulating life. I need not reiterate that the erstwhile “thin conceptions” of secularism—those that will hopefully be discarded—were fraught with abstraction, inaccessibility and universality. That is why the imposed secular-modern mode of life was so keenly detested by real, empirical people, who always live in the here and now, and do not have either the intellect or the patience to imagine a dream-world governed solely by reason.</p> <p>It may be worthwhile to take note of the Shaheen Bagh Protests, against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act, in Delhi. The protestors, mostly Muslim women, were able to radically redefine secularism—to the extent of negating its purported meaning—by shedding reticence about their religion, its symbols, its vocabulary, its artefacts, its slogans, and having the courage of conviction to proudly display these alongside the national anthem, or the Constitution. The intertwining of the religious and the secular was an embodiment of the kind of “complementarity” Habermas alluded to. The “public square” belongs to all, not just the secular motifs of the state.</p> <p>This quest will obviously be a work in progress, but in the least it rules out secularism. The task of exploring an alternative falls on all of us. To all the naysayers, and to the mushrooming breed of secular fundamentalists, I can only say that if one disagrees with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ remedy, which modernity and secularism push down our throats, one does not become a revivalist. To suggest that since there is no alternative and therefore, we must not excoriate secularism for its monumental failures is, I am sorry, like saying that we ought to bear with the likes of Trump, Modi, or Erdogan because we do not have substitutes for them in the moment.</p> <p><b><i>Syed Areesh Ahmad teaches political philosophy at Ramjas College, University of Delhi.</i></b></p> <p><i>The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 30 19:26:38 IST 2020 rising-demand-for-forgotten-modernist-prabhakar-barwes-paintings <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Tantric symbolism in art can conjure up minimalism of the most meditative kind. Clean geometric shapes, evocative hues and mystical themes make for some of the most pulsating works inspired by Tantra cosmology.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian painter Prabhakar Barwe (1936-1995) was an abstractionist who, influenced by Tantric symbolism, played with space and form like free verse. In a 1989 enamel on canvas, he distills the essence of a cloud. Rendered in the clearest pool of blue against a delicate avian drama, a small, stray cloud hangs on the far edge of the canvas. Its rain-washed, riverside feel has a calm, soporific effect.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last week, the "First Cloud"&nbsp; fetched around Rs 1.2 crore in an auction bid, a world record for the artist and a sign of his long overdue recognition in the art market.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Whoever said collectors have bigger worries than buying art in a pandemic.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In what could be the biggest art sale in the country since the lockdown began, an Indian auction house notched up over Rs 51 crore for a catalogue on Indian modernists. AstaGuru's online auction, Modern Indian Art, held on July 15 and 16, generated a revenue of Rs 51,43,52,066 for 48 lots, making it the biggest art auction to be held in India since March 2020, confirms art research and advisory firm Artery India.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"According to the Artery India Post Auction Knowledge Report on this sale, it holds the 34th rank amongst all Indian auctions conducted," says Arvind Vijaymohan, founder and CEO of Artery India. The highest price was achieved by a 1962 Akbar Padamsee work titled "Landscape" selling for Rs 4,30,33,811. Another highlight included a national record for KK Hebbar's 'Gold &amp; Red', which depicts a traditional Indian dance form, selling at around Rs 98 lakhs.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the unassuming abstract of Barwe heralds more diversity in a rarefied world of "saleable" modernists.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Barwe's rise, particularly over the past three years, has been spectacular. Our intelligence data reveals that his turnover has risen from Rs 95 lakh in 2017 (from 9 works) to Rs 3.16 crore in 2019 (from 7 works)," says Vijaymohan. "Our databank further reveals that Barwe's record price was broken twice in just 16 months (March 2019-Rs 82 lakhs/July 2020-Rs 1.2crore)—a clear indication of the abiding demand for the artist's important works."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Born in Nagaon in 1936, Barwe's father worked at Bombay film studios and his grand-uncle was renowned sculptor V.P. Karmakar. His fascination with abstracts forms began at Sir J.J. School of Art where he was much influenced by Bauhaus painter Paul Klee. But it was at the Weavers Service Centre in Benaras that Barwe developed his tantra-based abstractionism. The record-breaking artwork sold at the auction can be traced to an earlier award-winning work titled "Blue Cloud', a visual ode to Kalidasa classic Meghadūta.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first major retrospective of Barwe's works, titled 'Inside the Empty Box'&nbsp; with over 100 works, archival material and 50 diaries, happened last year at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai.&nbsp;</p> Wed Jul 29 18:38:22 IST 2020 how-irelands-maharani-gin-symbolises-rebellious-spirit-of-kerala-women <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It was the quest for spices that took European explorers to brave the seas and land in Kerala over 500 years ago, marking the beginning of imperialism and colonisation. In 2020, the spice scent has crossed the seas once again, this time, bottled as an Irish gin under the brand Maharani, by Bhagyalakshmi Barrett, a Keralite who co-owns Rebel City Distillery, the first distillery opened in the city of Cork in Ireland in the past 50 years.</p> <p>Maharani Irish Gin, zested with pomelo fruit (known as Babloos Naranga in Kerala) and spices such as cassia and nutmeg mace, is a uniquely flavoured product. No one has so far used these spices nor this citrus-spicy magical combination in a gin.</p> <p>That is not all. One can see Malayalam words—Viplava Spirit, Moksham, Alchemy and Sargathmakatha—ingrained on the indigo-hued bottle.</p> <p>"For it's crafted with alchemy and artistry," says Bhagyalakshmi, in a telephone interview with <i>onmanorama</i> from Cork City.</p> <p>Maharani, she says, is a tribute to women power.</p> <p>"The brand symbolises the revolutionary, rebellious spirit of Kerala's women and their significant role in shaping up Kerala society. Viplava spirit refers to the rebel spirit in me, in all the women and in the gin," says the 34-year-old native of Kilikolloor in Kollam district of Kerala, who sources the botanicals for the distillery from Vanamoolika, a women's organic farming cooperative in Wayanad district.</p> <p>"I am someone who is proud of my roots. I call myself first a Malayali and then an Indian. It has been my dream that anything I work on has to involve women and stay true to my roots." Bhagyalakshmi is the daughter of Rajeev Vasavan, an actor, and Vimala, a homemaker. She has a brother, Akhil Vinayak, who works in Kuwait.</p> <p>She runs the distillery with her husband, Robert Barrett, and his father, Brendan Barrett, whom the couple calls their mentor.</p> <p><b>From Chennai to Cork, via Madrid</b></p> <p>After starting her career as an information technology (IT) professional in Chennai, she moved to Madrid in Spain and later came to Ireland in 2013 for her masters in business administration.</p> <p>"Since then, I have been here. In 2015, I joined Dell as an IT programme manager, and two years later, Robert and I got married."</p> <p>They tied the knot in August 2017 at Kollam in the presence of family and friends.</p> <p>Robert, a fine spirits expert who did his MSc in brewing and distilling from Scotland, has worked in distilleries and breweries in Caribbean, Vancouver, Uganda and his homeland Ireland before coming up with the plan of setting up their venture in Cork.</p> <p><b>Cork, the rebel city of Ireland</b></p> <p>Cork is known as the 'rebel city' for its history of numerous rebellions. And the duo paid tribute to the city by naming their company Rebel City Distillery.</p> <p>"Our plan was to roll out our first product as a fusion of two cultures, just like us," says Bhagyalakshmi, who considers it a privilege that their distillery is set up in the same plant where reputed global auto-maker Henry Ford and Sons started its first dedicated automobile plant outside the US.</p> <p>"When we moved in, we decided to preserve history and not make much changes to the place in the process of renovation. Even the wall paints are maintained as such. This place is a treasure trove of history. We are next opening a gin school and visiting centre where visitors will be guided through the distillation process and can prepare their own gin bottles," she says.</p> <p><b>Financial support</b></p> <p>Launched with an initial investment of 500,000 Euros (Rs 4.39 crore) with the support of the Irish Food Board and local enterprises, the distillery is one month old and with just three staff, including her and Robert on board, they have been able to bring out 10,000 bottles of Maharani. The product is now available in stores in Germany and Sweden.</p> <p>"Our primary target is the European Union market. We are planning to expand slowly to cover the US and of course, India. The reviews are overwhelming. Popular Irish food bloggers and drink enthusiasts have rated us with a score of 91 out of 100. Maharani is being served at a few Michelin-star restaurants in the UK and the responses have been great," she said.</p> <p>Her company plans to collaborate with many restaurant chains and pubs after the COVID-19 crisis gets over. "Pubs and bars in Ireland remain shut these days. Once we overcome this crisis, we hope to scale up."</p> <p>Maharani is currently priced at 49 Euros (Rs 4,306) per bottle, but once the global distribution plan works out, Bhagyalakshmi hopes that they can bring down the price as the production cost would come down.</p> <p><b>Rum with ingredients from Marayoor</b></p> <p>The couple is planning to introduce more products—white unaged rum, cask-aged rum and small batched spirits like absinthe—but the first one would be a rum with another Indian connection.</p> <p>She says, "Well, the recipe for the rum is locked. All I can say now is that the main ingredients are sourced from Marayoor." (The Idukki town of Marayoor is famous for sugar cane, jaggery and sandalwood oil).</p> <p>Kerala and Ireland, though both have a common ambience of greenery, are poles apart when it comes to treating a drink. "Till the age of 28, my idea about a drink was intoxication. Experience at Ireland made me realise that a drink needs to be enjoyed. In Kerala, people drink to get drunk, but here, people enjoy a drink taking hours, smelling it, letting it soak and sink in. Drinking is socialising and pubs are where people meet, where kids and family are welcome, unlike back home. But things are changing slowly. People have started appreciating their drinks. Attitude will change over time," she said.</p> <p>Bhagyalakshmi and Robert had planned to visit her parents in March, but postponed it due to the global pandemic. "I can't wait to show my parents our Maharani, and I want to take this bottle to my strong women in Wayanad without whom this wouldn't have been possible. What makes Maharani special is the authentic story behind it and the distinct and well-balanced flavour, which stands out in the highly competitive gin market. Maharani is a revolution," she said.</p> <p>(<b>This article was first published on onmanorama</b>)</p> Wed Jul 29 13:07:53 IST 2020 perils-and-promises-of-online-film-festivals <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the Tamil feature film <i>Alpha Adimai</i> (Alpha Slave), a youngster who works as an aide to a weed peddler, recognises an opportunity to rise up and become a kingpin, in the middle of a raid. &quot;We will be having a 'world premiere' of <i>Alpha Adimai</i>. People are going to see this film for the first time in our digital film festival,&quot; says Harsh Narayan, founder and creative director of Indus Valley International Film Festival (IVIFF) which is set to begin on August 1.</p> <p>Narayan is seeking to replicate the experience of visiting a physical film festival by holding what he calls, &quot;the first digital film festival in South Asia.&quot; There will be an inaugural speech by Vishal Bhardwaj, followed by the screening of his last feature film <i>Pataakha. </i>There are workshops and masterclasses, interaction and concerts, and a closing film. &quot;We will close the festival with Nandita Das' <i>Manto</i>. I have received the film from Viacom18 Motion Pictures (which produced <i>Manto</i>). They say it is the first time they are giving their film to an online film festival,&quot; says Narayan, hinting at the reluctance of filmmakers and producers to part with their works for online festivals.</p> <p>Last year, Narayan wanted to begin work on his cross-border love story<i> Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke</i> in a volatile political atmosphere which barred actors from Pakistan to work with Indian filmmakers. That project is still on hold. Instead, he is now hoping to present a bouquet of films and documentaries from the Indian subcontinent, hoping to create a buzz around films from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. There's Bangladeshi blockbuster romantic drama <i>Nolok</i>, starring Shakib Khan, who is as big a star as Shah Rukh Khan in the neighbouring country. &quot;Shakib will be available for interactions,&quot; says Narayan. The Pakistani drama film <i>Moor</i> (mother in Pashto), Narayan assures, is in the same league as a Satyajit Ray or an Akira Kurosawa work. &quot;The director of <i>Moor</i>, Jami, is one of the finest filmmakers of Pakistan. He took five years to make <i>Moor</i>,&quot; says Narayan.</p> <p>Other feature films in the nine-day festival include <i>Thanha Rathi Ranga</i> (Between Yesterday and Tomorrow), a Sri Lankan film about a few friends from Colombo who travel to Jaffna after the fall of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and 20-minute documentary on an endangered music artform, <i>Qasida of Dhaka</i>.</p> <p>&quot;There are many challenges in holding an online film festival, including major technical glitches. The biggest threat is piracy,&quot; says Narayan who will not open IVIFF on a public platform like Facebook or YouTube. He has created his own secure platform called using software like Javascript and CSS. There is a registration fee of Rs700 for the entire festival, including all screenings and workshops. &quot;We can't offer free films online. There is a team to pay and technology involved. This will ensure true film lovers will register,&quot; says Narayan.</p> <p>Thanks to the pandemic, this is a season of online film festivals. The successful YouTube festival held in May, 'We Are One' organised by Tribeca Enterprises in New York, set the ball rolling by offering the idea of a lifeline to stalled or cancelled big-ticket film festivals around the world. It offered films culled from more than 20 international festivals. Even as we speak, there's the 20th edition of New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) taking place virtually till August 2. Even though Cannes and Telluride has been cancelled this year, the Venice Film Festival will go ahead as planned and will open on September 2 online. The Kerala chapter of the Federation of Film Societies of India (FFSI) began its online film festival for Indian language titles on July 27 to overwhelming response with 'No Registration! No Password! No Charges! Just Click and Watch 24X7'.</p> <p>In the West, the format and feasibility of online festivals has begun to divide the film community. Even though they have begun experimenting with systems which integrate streaming, ticketing and scheduling along with audience data for online film festivals, there are concerns being flagged. Apart from digital security, negotiations with filmmakers and distributors is a complicated, long-drawn out process. It is often perceived that prior exposure in an open platform like YouTube or Facebook might hurt OTT and theatrical deals later on. Hence, there are few major 'world premieres', and more revisiting of older titles to reach a larger audience. Besides, the community-driven, highly interactive business model can't be replicated online.</p> <p>But some independent filmmakers also recognise an opportunity in online film festivals thrown by adverse circumstances. And a chance to evolve with the changing times. &quot;Giving your film to an online festival is not the last option. It is the only option now,&quot; says Ridham Janve, whose mystical debut feature, <i>The Gold-Laden Sheep &amp; The Sacred Mountain</i>, on the Gaddi community had earned much praise on festival rounds in 2018-19, adding, &quot; If your film is good and watched by 10 or 1,000 people, you would still find buyers and strike the right deals.&quot;</p> <p>Janve cites Prateek Vats' <i>Eeb Allay Ooo</i> and Arun Karthick's <i>Nasir</i> which generated a great buzz after their screening at 'We Are One'. &quot;Online festivals are a new format and it will take time to settle. They will find better ways to do it properly,&quot; Janve said.</p> Wed Jul 29 16:39:42 IST 2020 mubarak-begum-bollywood-musics-shooting-star <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In one of his music columns on the ‘cross pollination’ of singers between India and Pakistan, author Ajay Mankotia makes an interesting observation: ‘Indian singers have… been hopping across the border to record in Lollywood (Lahore being the centre of Pakistani film industry)’. The author credits the ‘trend’ to Indian playback singer Mubarak Begum who sang four songs in the Pakistani hit film <i>Raaz</i> (1959), which included duets with Ahmed Rushdi, the first pop singer of South Asia, and a risqué club song, ‘Patli Kamar Mori Tirchhi Nazar’. But this was after she had already lent her voice for a song in <i>Bada Aadmi</i> (1957), another Pakistani film.</p> <p>Who was Mubarak Begum? Who was this shooting star whose edgy, expressive voice tore into the hearts of listeners in the 1950s and 1960s, establishing her, even if very temporarily, as one of the promising talents of the Indian film industry along with other female and male playback singers such as Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Sudha Malhotra, Vani Jairam, Geeta Dutt, Suman Kalyanpur, Mohammed Rafi, Talat Mahmood, Manna Dey, among others. We say Indian, because she recorded regional songs, including one that she recorded in Malayalam with Mohammed Rafi.</p> <p>Born in 1936 in Jhunjhunu (not Sujangarh, as many reports claim, and as Begum herself verified in a Films Division documentary made on her), she was a pigtailed girl in frocks and salwar kameez who fell asleep watching movies in cinema halls (simple single-screen theatres) when her father took her, but was attentive each time the songs lit the screen.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the family struggled with financial resources (they were fruitsellers), having moved to Ahmedabad from Rajasthan when she was still a child, her father was very fond of watching films. When he heard his daughter humming songs of Noorjehan and Suraiya in her mellifluous voice, he decided to give wings to her talent. Perhaps, he also hoped that the film industry could offer scope for the family to live more comfortably.</p> <p>In a chapter on Mubarak Begum in his book, <i>The Hindi Music Jukebox: Exploring Unforgettable Songs</i>, Manek Premchand aptly titles a chapter: ‘The Flightless Bird of Hindi Playback Singing’. Begum, in an interview to him, casually hinted when asked why she couldn’t reach the pinnacle of her success despite having the best of songs with the best of composers and fellow singers, ‘<i>Unhoney mere parr kaat diye</i> (they cut my wings)’. From being the singer who made a promising start in the 1949 film <i>Aiye</i> with a solo song (‘Mohe Aane Lagi Angdai’) and a duet with Lata Mangeshkar (‘Aaiye Aao Chalen Chalen Wahan’), Begum’s repertoire of songs included genres of bhajans, ghazals, <i>na’at</i>, besides a slew of romantic and tragic melodies.</p> <p>A disciple of Riazuddin Khan sa’ab of Kirana Gharana, from whom she learnt Hindustani classical music for a couple of years, Mubarak Begum moved to Bombay with her father in the mid-1940s. Naashad, a Pakistani music composer had heard her and gave her a break in <i>Aiye</i>. By this time, the young girl had already struggled with stage fright issues, developed cold feet during recording sessions, and had even run off from recording sessions. Gradually, she developed a rare confidence that reflected in her music. However, as someone who lacked education and perhaps was unsure of herself, she found it difficult to promote herself. The instability in her personal life (she married in her early 20s) when her husband, Jagannath Sharma, a small-time film producer, abandoned her and their two little children, added to the misery along with some other rough edges that she couldn’t smoothen no matter how much she tried.</p> <p>In the 1950s and 1960s, however, her songs continued to sparkle and shine, briefly but surely. It is a testament to her talent that despite singing a limited number of songs, she was working with the best composers of the time (Salil Chowdhury, Madan Mohan, S.D. Burman, Naushad, to name just a few), and had songs in commercially successful films, which included <i>Devdas</i> (1955), <i>Madhumati </i>(1958), <i>Neend Hamari, Khwab Tumhare</i> (1966), <i>Hamrahi </i>(1963), critically acclaimed <i>Teesri Kasam</i> (1966), among many others. Of the 200 songs that she recorded (if there were more, we are unaware), Mubarak Begum sang with so much grace and perfection that many people wondered if it was Lata Mangeshkar (who was fast gaining popularity) behind the mic. An example of this, in Begum’s own words, was ‘Kabhi Tanhaiyon Mein Yun Hamari Yaad Aayegi’ from the film <i>Hamari Yaad Aayegi</i> (1961), actor Tanuja's debut heroine-centric film as an adult. Directed by Kidar Sharma, the title of the film was changed from <i>Jawaan Mohabbat</i> to <i>Hamari Yaad Aayegi</i> when Sharma predicted the song’s success in the recording session. He was right—Begum’s aching voice in this melody moved people to imagine the plight of heartbreak. Sadly, it would eventually become Begum’s requiem.&nbsp;</p> <p>Not realising that she was fast becoming a scratch artiste of sorts (one who records initially for another singer to rehearse), Begum, in several of her interviews, claimed that she was losing out on songs due to the bullying tactics and monopolistic rules of the industry. Suraj Prakash, director of <i>Jab Jab Phool Khile</i> confirmed in an interview that the popular song ‘Pardesiyon Se Na Ankhiyan Milana’ was initially recorded in Begum’s voice but it was ‘mutually decided’ that another singer would record it. It finally released in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice. Luck alluded her (one of her songs, though recorded as a group song with Lata Mangeshkar and Shamshad Begum never made it to <i>Mughal-e-Azam</i>, noted Raju Bharatan in his book <i>Naushadnama: The Life and Music of Naushad</i>), and it’s possible that the struggles in her personal affairs—looking after two children, property disputes escalating with relatives—prevented her from focusing on her career with more seriousness. She concentrated on devotional music but claimed that royalties were never given to her. Worse, though popular she never understood how to demand more money for recording sessions or for live shows. Interestingly, another of her siblings, Mumtaz Begum (aka Vijay Bala), became an actor briefly, acting in films in the 1950s and early 1960s such as <i>Paisa, Chengez Khan</i> and <i>Grihasti</i>. Incidentally, a song by Mubarak Begum in <i>Paisa</i> was picturised on her sister. But Mumtaz Begum went into oblivion, preferring to get married and be away from the film industry.</p> <p>‘The personal struggles came in the way of Aapa nurturing her talent and career even further,’ confirms Azra, her granddaughter who, along with three of her other sisters, looks after their father (Begum’s son) and mother. She also confirms that their aunt’s debilitating Parkinson’s condition upset Begum a lot, and she found it difficult to cope with the meager pension extended by the government. According to Begum’s granddaughter, a few politicians helped the family in their times of distress. Begum’s daughter, Shafaq Banu, passed away in 2015, and she passed away barely six months later, in 2016.</p> <p>Known for its music, art and cultural heritage, Rajasthan has produced a slew of artistes in the creative fields, including Shreya Ghoshal (the family shifted from Kota to Mumbai later), Jagjit Singh, Ila Arun, among others. Music directors such as Jamal Sen and Khemchand Prakash (the maker of ‘Aayega Aanewala’ from <i>Mahal</i>) were Mubarak Begum’s contemporaries, and their creative paths crossed in the course of their respective careers. Begum’s voice with its refined earthiness reached the hearts of listeners and contributed invaluably to Rajasthan, adding her among one of the most important people in the music fraternity.</p> <p>Of a total of roughly 200 listed songs, we present Begum’s top six hits:</p> <ul> <li>‘Devta Tum Ho Mera Sahara’; lyrics by Kaif Bhopali; music by Jamal Sen; Daera (1953)&nbsp;</li> <li>‘Mujh ko Apne Gale Lagalo’; lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri; music by Shankar Jaikishan; Hamrahi (1963)</li> <li>‘Kabhi Tanhaayon Mein Yun, Hamari Yaad Aayegi’; lyrics by Kidar Sharma; music by Snehal Bhatkar;&nbsp; Hamari Yaad Aayegi (1961)</li> <li>‘Neend Ud Jaaye Teri, Chain se Sone Wale’; Juaari (1968)</li> <li>‘Woh Na Aayenge Palat Kar’; lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi; music by S.D. Burman; Devdas (1955)</li> <li>‘Hum Haal-e-Dil Sunayenghe’; lyrics by Shailendra; music by Salil Chowdhury; Madhumati (1958)</li> </ul> <p>This article is part of <a href="">Saha Sutra</a>, on <a href=""></a>, an online resource for Indian arts, culture and heritage.<b></b></p> Sun Jul 26 18:10:38 IST 2020 mir-jafar-zatalli-the-nonsense-poet-and-urdus-first-satirist <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Sikkae zadd bargandum wa moth wa matar</i></p> <p><i>Baadshah hai tasma kash farrukh seer</i></p> <p>(The prevailing currency is of dal and peas</p> <p>Because of the Emperor Farrukh Seer&nbsp;</p> <p>Is the one who kills people with his shoelace)</p> <p>These were the lines that allegedly led to the death through <i>tasma-kashi</i> (choking through shoelace) of a much-ignored poet, Mir Ja’far Zatalli. It was a parody of the Emperor’s <i>sikkah</i> (the coins issued after the coronation of Emperor Farrukhsiyar in AD 1713/ 1125 AH), which originally read:</p> <p><i>Sikka zad, az fazl-i Haq, bar sim o zar,</i></p> <p><i>Pads hah-i bahr-o- bar, Farrukh-Siyar.</i></p> <p>(By the grace of the True God, struck coin on silver and gold.</p> <p>The Emperor of land and sea, Farrukh-Siyar)</p> <p>Mir Muhammad Ja’far, who gave himself the pseudonym ‘Zatalli’ (meaning ‘babbler of nonsense’), was a late seventeenth–early eighteenth-century poet who pulled no punches when commenting on society and politics. Not shying away from accusing elites, kings and maulvis of acts of bestiality, homosexuality and murder, even while under their employment, it’s not surprising that it was one of his poems that led to his death.&nbsp;</p> <p>Often regarded as the first Urdu satirist, Zatalli’s writings were filled with sexually explicit words and epithets—probably the reason for his being ignored or dismissed by modern scholars. He mixed Urdu and Persian, a language often referred to as ‘<i>rekhta</i>’ (meaning mixed, poured), in prose and poetry.&nbsp; Urdu, the language of <i>tehzeeb</i> (sophistication) as we know it now, was still being formulated. As scholar Shamsur Rahman Faruqi says, ‘Doubtless, Persian with its great treasure house of the bawdy, the erotic, the pornographic, and the obscene, provided precedents of sorts. But there was no Persian writer who devoted himself exclusively to these modes.’ That was, until Zatalli.</p> <p><b>Social commentary</b></p> <p>Mir Ja’far Zatalli was born to a Sayyid family—high caste Shia Muslims—in Narnaul (current-day Haryana), but the exact date of his birth is unknown. Neither is it known whether the choice of ‘Zatalli’ emanated from ‘the nonsense that he wrote’ or ‘as he was presumed by society’. Not much is known about his personal life either. ‘Zatalli may have remarried at the age of sixty, or he may have married two women at the same time at the age of sixty, if we accept as autobiographical a short poem in which he says precisely this: Ja’far, you spent your life in frivolities, and now at the age of sixty you have acquired two wives!’ says Faruqi.</p> <p>His poetic presentation and expression present a fascinating and scandalous picture of Delhi’s social and cultural life towards the end of Aurangzeb’s reign (whom he extolled on multiple occasions), followed by his sons (Kam Baksh and Bahadur Shah I were especially trolled), and grandson Farrukhsiyar.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>His ‘wicked’ humour</b></p> <p>Zatalli used the <i>hajju</i> (lampooning) style of writing in his criticisms, many of which are available in the ‘Kulliat-i-Jafar Zatalli’. He did a hajju series of maulvis, princes, clergymen, government officials, elite families (including the women), and specifically Prince Kam Baksh, Mirza Zulfiqar Beg (the Kotwal of Delhi), Sabha Chand Khatri (an important functionary of Zulfiqar Khan, who was known for his sanctimonious ways, and also for his corruption). Zatalli combined the ‘personal’ with the ‘social’; his language crude and irreverent.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a criticism of Prince Kam Baksh, he wrote of him prastising bestiality:&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Zahe shah wala gaher kaam baksh</i></p> <p><i>Ke ghachi burkard wa baksh</i></p> <p>(Well done, oh great king Kaambaksh</p> <p>The little opening of the goat is ruptured into a gaping hole)</p> <p>Zatalli also wrote an outrageous ‘Gandu-nama’ (a reference to sodomy) on the reign of Bahadur Shah I:</p> <p><i>Hukm-e qazi, muhtasib za’il shude</i></p> <p><i>dil badhakar gand marawwa kheliye</i></p> <p><i>pir se aur baap se, ustad se</i></p> <p><i>chhup-chhupakar gand marawwa kheliye</i></p> <p>Author Raziuddin Aquil explains the couplet as exposing the extent of sexual transgressions by the king that occurred despite the presence of the qazis (Muslim judges) and <i>muhtasibs</i> (censor officials), whose powers were in decline (<i>za’il shude</i>). He points out how this was done, playfully, away from the gaze of (<i>chhup-chhupakar</i>) the father (<i>baap</i>), teacher (<i>ustad</i>) or the religious guide (<i>pir</i>).</p> <p>When Zulfiqar Khan became prime minister under Emperor Jahandar Shah, he left much of the state’s affairs to Sabha Chand, ‘Khatri, who was unique in wickedness and mischief, and passed his time in entertainment,’ writes Shahnawaz Khan.&nbsp; Attacking Chand’s honesty, Zatalli wrote (translation by Faruqi):</p> <p>‘Don’t be thinking anymore of fives and sevens</p> <p>Lest the lining of your rectum come under pressure;</p> <p>Beat the drum of truth at Court</p> <p>Don’t strike a spark in a bale of hay;</p> <p>Here, let my advice be stuck in your ears:</p> <p>Say the bead of Ram’s name, keep to your senses.</p> <p>In your bottom is a hole full generous,</p> <p>Oh no, dear sir, it’s the hole for the flow of periodic blood;</p> <p>Don’t threaten me with your master, the Khan,</p> <p>Don’t be a smarty pants before me;</p> <p>I am Ja’far, renowned for Nonsense,</p> <p>I vault, I lay him prostrate and rip the backbiter’s arse.’</p> <p>Zatalli’s writings were like hardcore porn juxtaposed with the subtle elite poetry of the time. It may be surmised that his bold and explicit style might have been because of an antagonistic attitude towards society, and the state at large.</p> <p><b>Ahead of his time</b></p> <p>There are two primary reasons that make Zatalli an important poet and literary personality of his time. First, he was one of the pioneers in combining the official Persian language with the <i>chalti zubaan</i> (colloquial language) of Delhi. His works freely mixed Persian to Hindi/Hindustani, laying the path for the origins of Urdu, thus reflecting the cultural and literary amalgamation of the period he lived in. Second, the poet’s death is testament to the power of his words and the impact it had. One can also say it set the stage for Urdu parody as a tool to make governments and people in general accountable. The very selection of his name undoubtedly reflects the image of both what goes on in society and yet what society would not like to talk about, and there was no-nonsense there.</p> <p><i>This article is part of </i><a href=""><i>Saha Sutra</i></a><i>, on </i><a href=""><i></i></a><i>, the digital library for Indian culture.&nbsp;</i></p> <p><i>Dr Syed Mubin Zehra is a social analyst, historian and faculty with the University of Delhi, and senior columnist with various national and international newspapers and magazines. Her research areas include medieval Indian history, and she has authored several books on the topic. She has translated ‘Deewane Mir Jaffer Zatalli’. She works and speaks on gender and social issues, including interfaith interactions and countering violent extremism.</i></p> Sun Jul 26 17:44:00 IST 2020 latin-america-victim-supply-driven-debt-business-demand-driven-drug-business <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Latin American debt crisis caused by the supply-side debt business of US is the theme of the book <i>Debt and Crisis in Latin America: The Supply Side of the Story</i> by Robert Devlin.</p> <p>The author blames the predatory US bankers as equally responsible for the Latin American debt crisis as much as the reckless and corrupt Latin American governments which were willing victims and had mismanaged their economies. Devlin, an American economist, who works in the Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean, has extensive knowledge of both the creditors and debtors. He has done in-depth case studies of Peru and Bolivia. His study is focused on the decades of seventies and eighties when large debts had accumulated and lead to crises.&nbsp;The debt crisis combined with the impact of neoliberalistic policies forced on Latin America by the US had made eighties as a “Lost decade” with increase in poverty and inequality.&nbsp;&nbsp;The governments of the region had to cut down the budget for education, health and poverty alleviation and they were forced to use the export earnings for repayment of external debt.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Devlin, the US bankers had taken the initiative in most cases to lend indiscriminately to some Latin American countries even when there was no clear need for borrowing. The banks went on a spree of loan marketing after they received large petrodollar deposits from OPEC countries in the seventies. The banks sought the markets of developing countries since the profitability in the&nbsp;domestic US market was generally flat and the depressed&nbsp;OECD economies had little demand for credit after the oil shock. Also the banks found that they had more freedom in the financing of foreign governments and corporations than in the domestic market which had tight regulations. The bankers proactively encouraged the Latin American countries to issue bonds and marketed them enthusiastically to gullible investors.</p> <p>The banks chose their victims carefully. They went after those Latin American countries (Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Chile and Mexico) which were misgoverned by illegitimate military dictators and corrupt caudillo presidents. These characters knew that they were in power only for a short time till the next coup or election and wanted to make the most money in the least time. They borrowed huge amounts knowing that they would not be there when the time for repayment would be due.</p> <p>One country where the bankers did not succeed until 1980, was Colombia, which had a responsible policy of resisting the&nbsp;bankers’ overtures. The country had gained a reputation in financial circles as the "prickliest" borrower&nbsp;in the developing world. The frustration of the banks to break into the Colombian market was so much that&nbsp;the banks made the rare concession of not insisting on the waiver of sovereign immunity&nbsp;by the government.</p> <p>Bankers, by profession, are expected to be conservative, risk-conscious and prudent. They are supposed to do rigorous due diligence about the capacity of the borrower to repay. But the big brash US bankers did not care for such professional and traditional norms. They lent money freely for non-productive purposes. For example, in the case of Peru, 49 per cent of the lending was to refinance old loans, 28 per cent was of free disposition (totally untied), and&nbsp; only 15 per cent was directly linked to projects or capital goods imports.&nbsp; In Bolivia, 18 per cent of the lending went to refinance loans, 43 per cent&nbsp;were of free disposition, and 33 per cent were linked to projects or capital goods imports. &nbsp;The free-disposition loans gave the freedom for the corrupt rulers to fill their Swiss Bank accounts or use it for personal and family business.&nbsp;</p> <p>Questioned on the environment in&nbsp;Lima during the development of the credit cycle in the early 1970s, one&nbsp;local banker remarked, "Foreign bankers wanted to give us the money&nbsp;before we asked for it." An official from COFIDE, the Peruvian state development bank mandated to contract foreign loans for the&nbsp;public sector, has commented that during the 1970s, "the banks were&nbsp;eager to lend and would lend for anything."&nbsp;</p> <p>Foreign borrowing was the way the Peruvian dictator Velasco maintained his position. Ministries were the fiefdoms of the generals who headed them. Each&nbsp;general did whatever he wanted. There was a lot of borrowing for&nbsp;corruption's sake: the generals wanted their kickbacks. They received their percentage from the contract regardless of the merits of&nbsp;the project, so they borrowed for anything. Generals got rich from&nbsp;the projects and banks wanted to lend; the merits of the project were&nbsp;unimportant.</p> <p>Some banks trapped the debtor countries in ponzi schemes. They made the countries dependent desperately on new loans to pay interest on the old ones and repay the instalment of the principal.&nbsp;</p> <p>The big bankers were careful not to take the risk by putting up their own money. They preferred to raise syndicated loans with contributions from dozens of other banks including a number of smaller banks from Europe and Japan. Big banks such as Citibank and Bank of America, who had presence and networking in the debtor countries, took the lead in raising syndicated loans. Typically they would put up 10 per cent or even less and raise the rest from other banks. The smaller banks in the consortium had less knowledge of the debtor countries and relied on the expertise and contacts of the lead banks.&nbsp;True to the herd mentality, banks did not want to be left out and rushed to join the big syndicated loans.</p> <p>One immediate advantage for the lead bank was that one-fifth of its own return on the loan came from fees that were paid up front and risk free.&nbsp; This provided an incentive to churn large loan volumes. Bigger the loan, larger was the fees. In 1973 to 1974 Peru's loan syndications were frequently oversubscribed, meaning that more money was generated and pumped into the country than the government needed.</p> <p>Secondly, syndication spread the risk among so many other banks. If the client did not behave, the banks would gang up and use their collective strength to bully and bargain. It was also a clever way of political insurance. If the debtor country were to default, the governments of Europe and Japan whose banks were part of the consortium, could be counted on to put political pressure on the debtors. The lenders could also count on the clout of these countries in IMF and World Bank to turn the screws on the debtor country. So, the debtor is trapped and faces punishment and isolation from the entire western capital market. This actually happened in the case of Argentina after the country restructured its debt in 2002 on its own terms defying IMF and the governments of US and Europe. Argentina was thereafter shut from access to all bilateral, multilateral and private finances in the western world.</p> <p><br> After the Wall Street bankers killed and took the best part of the meat of the hunt, the vulture funds from US descended on the left over corpses to feast on the left overs. They bought the Latin American bonds for pennies and forced the governments to pay the full value plus interest and made obscenely enormous profits. They did this with help from the US Congress, government and judiciary. For example, NML capital of New York paid 49 million dollars for Argentine bonds worth 832 million dollars. They harassed and blackmailed Argentine government and forced them to pay over a billion dollars as settlement.</p> <p>Many Latin American governments had learnt lessons from the past debt experience and have now become more prudent in taking external debts. But a few continue to repeat the past mistakes. Argentina has been trapped yet again in a debt crisis now, after having come out victorious in the fight against the greedy bank creditors and vulture funds in 2002.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Drug business</b></p> <p>In contrast to the supply-driven debt business, the drug business is demand-driven by the US consumers.&nbsp;Millions of Americans pay billions of dollars for the Latin American&nbsp;supply of cocaine.&nbsp;According to a study by Rand Corporation the business of Cocaine was valued at 28 billion dollars in 2012. This is part of the total US business of over 100 billion dollars Including heroine and other drugs. Here is the share of the stake holders in the drug business according to the Netflix documentary <i>The Business of Drugs.</i></p> <p>The Colombian coca leaf producer gets 500 dollars for&nbsp;a&nbsp;ton of leaves from which 1 kg of cocaine is made. The Cartels which process them into cocaine get 5000 dollars for a kilo. When it reaches Mexico its value increases to 12,000 dollars. And finally, the American consumer pays 100,000 dollars for a kilo or 100 dollars per gram. This means out of every 100 dollars of cocaine business, the Colombian farmers get just 50 cents while the Colombian cartels get 5 dollars and their Mexican counterparts 7 dollars.&nbsp;This means that 88 dollars out of 100 dollars in cocaine business is within the US itself. So, if the US wants to stop the use of cocaine it has to cut off the 88 dollar link. But the US government covers up this reality and maligns the Colombians and Mexicans. This is not just unfair but egregiously wicked. The US has changed the narrative and misled the world with its so-called drug war in which Latin America is portrayed as villain, as in the Netflix serial <i>Narcos.</i></p> <p>In any case, if Latin America stops supply, it is not such a big deal for the US consumers. They have other options: heroine, synthetic drugs and opioids from other external as well as internal sources.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The&nbsp;drug war spawns yet another business for US.&nbsp;The counterdrug funding is $35.7 billion in the US 2021 budget.&nbsp;The US Drug Enforcement Authority (DEA)&nbsp;gives billions of dollars of&nbsp;contracts for&nbsp;supply&nbsp;of&nbsp;surveillance helicopters, aircrafts, patrol boats, x-ray and other equipment to detect cocaine shipments in airports and ports.&nbsp;Besides selling to US ports, airports and DEA, the US government forces these&nbsp;items&nbsp;down the throat of the Latin American governments in the name of drug war cooperation.&nbsp;There is a huge US&nbsp;business&nbsp;lobby with a vested interest in the continuation of the multibillion dollar drug war.</p> <p>While the drugs come into US from Latin America, there is a reverse trafficking of guns worth millions of dollars into Latin America from US.&nbsp;According to a study of University of San Diego,&nbsp;over 200,000 guns are smuggled from US to Mexico every year.&nbsp;On average, there are more than three US gun dealers for every mile of the 1,970-mile border between the countries.&nbsp;A significant proportion of the US gun sellers depend on the illegal demand from Mexico.&nbsp;It has been reported that over three fourth of the guns used in the fights between the gangs in El Salvador are of US origin.&nbsp;The illegal American guns kill&nbsp;more&nbsp;Latin Americans&nbsp;than&nbsp;the number of Americans killed by cocaine.&nbsp;</p> <p>Also there is illegal transfer of billions of cash dollars from US to Latin America in exchange for the drugs.&nbsp;American banks have been caught in the drug money laundering of the Latin Americans</p> <p>The US government does nothing much about the trafficking of guns and dollars and makes noise only about the drug trafficking.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Addiction to drugs and debt</b></p> <p>Both the drug and debt businesses have resulted in addiction. The Americans have got addicted to Latin American drugs and the US bankers have made the Latin Americans get addicted to debt.&nbsp;<br> <br> While there are prospects for the Latin Americans to come out of the debt addiction, there does not seem to be any hope for end of the US addiction to drugs in the near future.</p> <p><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</b><br> .<br> </p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> Sat Jul 25 17:25:01 IST 2020 dermatologist-says-time-to-stop-fairness-treatments <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Prapti, 16, had come to me in tears because her social life was at a standstill. Asha, 28 found herself ‘rejected’ at the matrimony forums she was on. Paresh, 41 was convinced he was not getting ahead in his career, because of his ‘savla’ (brownish dark) face. Beena, 58 wanted not to look ‘so’ dark at her daughter’s wedding, at the behest of her family.</p> <p>I treated all these people. Before that, I counselled them about focusing on skin health rather than skin colour, but, treated them anyway. And while I consoled myself that I was restoring self-esteem, providing a weapon to fight social ostracism, career glitches and aiding people to find happiness in life, I was insidiously promoting colourism, racism and casteism in a country that runs rampant with all three.</p> <p>I’m a dermatologist and have been working for more than 20 years as an expert in aesthetic medicine. I have learnt, and trained countless young doctors on the adage ‘Do not judge’ as being the most important one for this speciality apart from the Hippocratic norm of ‘Do no harm.’ It is not our right to question why someone wants a sharper nose, fuller lips, or higher cheekbones. We evaluate the possibilities, outline the risks, counsel the psychological aspects and after obtaining full informed consent, proceed to provide the medical services and products that can do so.</p> <p>I have outlined the possibilities of skin lightening treatments, provided those seeking the same with whatever certified and safe services or products that would work for them. I have helped create ‘breakthrough’ skin glow treatments. I have treated countless cases of pigmentation, provided tips to reduce tanning of the skin, discussed how to improve ‘brightness’ of the skin and talked about services like peels and lasers that can lighten the skin, by reducing the melanin.</p> <p>The desire to get ‘perfect’ skin—the most common term used for skin lightening—is almost universal in India and other Asian countries like China, Korea, and Japan. Skin brightening, white perfect, glow, evenness of skin, toning and de-tanning are all the various pseudonyms under which skin lightening and products related to lightening masquerade.&nbsp;</p> <p>Some papers show a similar trend in other parts of the world too, namely African geographies and even select populations in the western world, where there is overt and covert messaging that elevates light coloured skin to the most aspirational beauty attribute.</p> <p>Once too often, I have been a part of discussions that equate lightening treatments to weight loss treatments, anti-ageing injectables or minimally invasive surgery. What is wrong, who are we to judge, as long as its medically safe, etc. But there is a fundamental difference when it comes to skin colour.</p> <p>Providing these other services does not contribute to covert and tacit acceptance of racism, colonialism and casteism. It does not promote and perpetuate the notion that human beings are unequal based on the differences in 5g of melanin and it is a notion that has historically led to slavery, civil wars and oppression of countless individuals.&nbsp;</p> <p>The notion that beauty is linked to the whiteness of skin is rooted in race, class and caste distinctions which prevail through almost all societal transactions and interactions in India. Casual conversations, matrimonial columns, Bollywood stereotypes and song lyrics all equate fairness with beauty. It is ubiquitous and so encoded in our psyche that most of us do not even react to it. However, as doctors who have the power to influence individuals and societies, I ask myself that if not now, then when will we acknowledge our subtle and insidious contribution to this monster that continues to plague generation after generation of Indians?</p> <p>Yes, all discrimination is bad and must be avoided. Ageism promotes the rush for anti-ageing products, cookie-cutter, media-led standards of impossible beauty drive people to seek that perfection that is being promoted. While there may be intellectual discussions on why people seek these services, there can and must be no two ways in looking at lightening skin colour. It is fundamentally heinous discrimination and if we don’t distance ourselves from this now, the time will never come.</p> <p>One of my dermatologist friends, during our conversation on this topic, asked me if we should stop treating hyper-pigmentary conditions like melasma, lentigines, post-inflammatory scars etc. Indeed, the notion is ridiculous. However, we need to know and realise that research has shown that attitude change to divisiveness based on the colour of the skin will also stem from not having access to products and services that encourage the seeking of this lightening trend. As long as someone provides ‘fairness’ treatments and products, the notion of seeking its superiority and the edge that it supposedly gives people who possess it will never die down.</p> <p>Should then we be discussing guidelines for the same? Of course not. Social responsibility is individual and innate to every one of us and cannot be mandated. I watched an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s show, where he made a valid point about walking the talk on racism, not just admiring those who have beaten the odds to ascend high. It is not enough to just admire the achievements of Michael Jordan, Maya Angelou, and so on, it is time to do our bit and stop participating in the business of skin lightening. What services we do for our patients and what we refuse to do, will always be a function of the lines we draw for ourselves. But, ultimately to establish ‘fairness’ in beauty as in life, the spectre of achieving fairness in skin colour must be done away with and we as dermatologists need to say “Stop!”</p> <p><i><b>Dr Aparna Santhanam is a dermatologist, cosmetologist and hair expert working in the field of beauty, health and wellness for more than 20 years.</b></i></p> Fri Jul 24 16:24:06 IST 2020 from-pandemic-fatigue-doomscrolling-vocabulary-covid19-era <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was grappling with a ‘new normal’, even as governments kicked in ‘lockdowns' across the globe. In those days, there was still optimism about halting the spread through ‘social distancing’. R naught and contact tracing were the terms bandied around as optimists sought to ‘flatten the curve'. Four months later, those words have lost their novelty, and are part of the everyday lexicon. In the meanwhile, many other terms and phrases are entering our everyday speech. Here is a listicle :<br> <br> <b>Pandemic fatigue</b>: You switch on the news channel and there is the latest update on COVID-19 patients. You want to step out but the metro is not working because of the corona lockdown. You can't have that grand 50<sup>th</sup>&nbsp;birthday bash because social distancing is the order of the day. After nearly four months of living with the pandemic, one is simply tired of it on many levels – physical to emotional. That is pandemic fatigue for you. It is a dangerous thing because it makes people throw caution to the winds, and indulge in high risk behaviour like chucking the mask and thronging public places. Some also describe pandemic fatigue as that general feeling of listlessness and actually fatigue, triggered by the gloom all around.<br> <br> <b>Doomscrolling:&nbsp;</b>The habit of listlessly surfing television channels or the internet, moving on from one gloomy report to another. A sure shot way to get into depression or pandemic fatigue.<br> <br> <b>VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous):&nbsp; </b>A term first coined in the 1980s and used by the US military, VUCA assumes various meanings as situations change. Once, it defined the post-Cold War world, today it is used liberally to define the present times. “The first half of 2020 has been VUCA,” many experts like to say. You can talk of VUCA challenges and how to navigate them; you can also discuss the opportunities that emerge from a VUCA world.<br> &nbsp;<br> <b>Build back better (BBM):&nbsp;</b>This is a term used by the optimists, who know that there will be a world at the end of the pandemic, and they want to create something better then, than the legacy which led to the pandemic in the first place. BBM is an approach to a post-disaster scenario, where planners try to build in a certain resilience. It was first officially used in the third UN world conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015 at Sendai, Japan, and finds mention in the UN&nbsp;Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.</p> <p>The cleaner air and water and wonderful sightings of fauna in urban areas during the first weeks of global lockdowns gave many of the present generation their only glimpse of what an unpolluted world looks like and the BBM resolve strengthened. Alas, with masks and personal protection equipment now strewn all around the garbage, that particular resolve was ephemeral.</p> <p>As a policy, however, BBM hopes to build in resilience into societies and economies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's clarion call for Atmanirbhar Bharat is in tune with the BBM vision.<br> </p> <p><b>Hybrid/blended: </b>The lockdown lectures have proved beyond doubt that while educational institutions need to tech up their teaching processes—go online with lectures and assessments—the brick and blackboard infrastructure cannot be totally moved online. Endless screen time is not good for either students or teachers. The future, therefore, they say is blended/hybrid, with a mix of both forms for instruction and teaching.<br> <br> <b>MOOC (Massive open online course):</b>&nbsp;These courses have been available online for years, with everyone from Harvard to the University Grants Commission (UGC) offering them. Most Moocs are free if the learner only wants to attend the lectures, but if she desires a certificate at the end of the course, she needs to sit for a test and has to pay a fee for it. In an attempt at encouraging the hybrid model of learning, UGC recently announced that students can accumulate upto 40 per cent credits in college by taking up Mooc programmes authorised by the UGC. It has even announced that Mooc assessments should not clash with term exams.<br> <br> <b>Herd immunity:&nbsp;</b>A term used by epidemiologists since decades, herd immunity is now that golden ideal towards which societies hope to reach, in case the vaccine or cure for the disease doesn't come soon enough. Herd immunity occurs when a large chunk of a population is immune to a disease, and thereby prevents it from spreading. The percentage of a population required to be exposed to a virus for herd immunity depends on the type of the disease—the more infectious, the higher and the population percentage.<br> </p> <p>Herd immunity can be sped up by a vaccine, as has been done for most infectious diseases under compulsory vaccination, like polio. It can also be acquired the natural way, with many people getting infected once. However, given the nature of COVID-19, herd immunity may come at a very high cost to life.</p> <p>A recent sero survey which shows that a quarter of Delhi's population has coronavirus antibodies, has triggered discussions on herd immunity.<br> <br> <b>Community Spread</b>: A stage in the life cycle of an epidemic when the transmission from person to person is so rampant that it is nearly impossible to do contact tracing and understand the pathway of the spread of the disease. It happens when many people in a community are infected. What actually is community spread of course depends on how officials wish to describe it. And officials are usually loath to admit that an infection has reached the stage of community spread.&nbsp;</p> Fri Jul 24 14:35:06 IST 2020 the-art-of-canvassing-the-many-moods-of-malhar <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Legend has it that Tansen—considered the father of Indian classical music—could summon the rains, turn daylight into dusk and tame the animals with his renditions of ragas.<br> </p> <p>'Mian' Tansen was one of the navratnas (nine gems) in Akbar's court which patronized the leading intellectuals and artists of the day. When envious courtiers conspired to make Tansen sing the Raag Deepak, the raga of light, the master-musician knew he could get singed by the power of his own music. But, he could ill-afford to refuse the emperor. On the appointed day when he sang, the extinguished lamps lit up and the leaping flames surrounded his engrossed self. It was his wife Husseini, schooled in the art of Raag Malhar, who came to his rescue. She invoked the rains with raag Malhar and saved Tansen.<br> </p> <p>Since then, Malhar is the storied raga in Hindustani classical music which when sung can induce torrential rainfall.<br> </p> <p>It is this origin story which sets the tone for Delhi-based Anant Art gallery's online exhibition on monsoon artworks. "A journey into Malhar attempts to interlace the classical with contemporary visual forms...The curation seeks to bring to light the artists' interpretation of ‘Mann ka Malhar’, or the Malhar within, a state of being (of mind and emotions), with a range of internal or external scapes to experiment with," says Chhavi Jain, curator of the ongoing exhibition now live on<br> </p> <p>The raga has over ten variants, the more prominent ones being Megh Malhar and Mian ki Malhar. The paintings mirror and manifest the mood, meaning and structure of terms like Raga, which in Sanskrit means ‘colour’. Ragas breathe ‘rasa’ (emotion) which respond to moods according to the season and time of the day or 'pahar'. Malhar is a night-time raga, and in paintings, manifests in deeper shades of blue and purple.</p> <p>Tanaya Sharma's digital print on canvas, titled ‘The Song of Rain’, expresses the theme most directly with a music-maker poised with a sitar. The striking image could serve as a representative poster for the show with its blooming dahlia of a face, seated like a lotus in a pool against a night-blue backdrop of chirruping birds; the shimmering sitar resplendent in all its glory. The figurative watercolour of Digbijayee Khatua, 'The Story of Land', painted in a set of six, sets itself apart in evocative ochre yellow, reminiscent of high garden walls picturesquely damp with rains. A fine, intricate story unfolds on its poignant surface from one wall to the next; almost Biblical in its simplicity and surety.</p> <p>The abstract watercolour by Indrapramit Roy in black, grey, white and blue is a dull, sweeping landscape of the morning after; sore and numb from the unrelenting rain of the night gone by. In Nur Mahammad's figurative mixed-media painting, colours intermingle to create a jharoka view against a blackness of night. In the fantastical images created within the sloping eaves, there is a lone figure of a boy blowing bubbles into a series of ashen grey vignettes with heaps of shoes, broken brick walls, shelter tents and barbed wires.<br> </p> <p>"The gaze of the children in my paintings unmask the crises of the contemporary time. At the same time, their gestures symbolize a transformative possibility to bring about change,” says Delhi-based Mahammad.<br> </p> <p>"At the end of socio-political chaos, there might be cloudbursts and peace will fall down as rain droplets," says Mahammad who incorporates the expression of 'Malhar' as a conflictual psychological terrain rife with agony and ecstasy.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 23 20:28:02 IST 2020 bringing-nainsukh-of-guler-alive-on-celluloid <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Nainsukh of Guler was one of the foremost artists in the Pahari School of miniature painting. He is the most cherished, the most documented of painters to emerge from 18th century Punjab hill states of the Himalayan foothills.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Active around 1735 AD and born to a painter father Pandit Seu, Nainsukh used his fine-grained training in miniatures to branch out and develop an individualistic style based on sharp observation of situation and moods—a style he perfected after moving away from his father’s atelier in Guler (in Kangra district) to Jasrota under the patronage of Mian Zorawar Singh and his son Balwant. Nainsukh’s astonishing body of work produced at Jasrota (in present-day Jammu), inspired by the daily, non-essential details of his patron’s life—like studying a picture of Krishna, writing a letter, standing at the palace window, the prince getting his beard trimmed, lion and tiger hunting trips and evening dances in moonlit corridors of the majestic fort—comprise the important and productive phase of his artistic career.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These images come alive in <i>Nainsukh</i>, filmmaker Amit Dutta’s 2010 celluloid homage to the extraordinary painter. The 120-minute film is a lush, symmetrical, clean, poetic, crystalline montage of Nainsukh’s efflorescence as a painter in Jasrota, tracing his own painterly language and his tender, abiding relationship with his patron Raja Balwant Singh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Naisukh</i> is now streaming in the India section of Mubi. At the 67th Venice Film Festival held in 2010, <i>Nainsukh</i> was rated one of the top 10 films to watch by&nbsp; <i>Film Comment</i>.&nbsp; Hailed by critics and art historians alike, Dutta’s masterly composition and frames—as behoves a painter of Naisukh’s stature—ensured the film was screened in prominent museums, including MoMa in New York.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was art historian B.N. Goswamy’s assiduous research on Kangra paintings that unearthed the life and legend of the 18th century Pahari painter from Guler, otherwise lost to the annals of time. Goswamy tracked down most of Nainsukh’s paintings and reconstructed his life from scratch. Thanks to his efforts, most of Nainsukh’s paintings now occupy pride of place in some of the leading museums of London, Zurich, New York and Delhi. The painting titled ‘A Leisurely Ride’, considered Nainsukh’s masterpiece, resides in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Nainsukh has been produced by German art historian and ethnologist Eberhard Fischer, former director of the Swiss Museum Rietberg which houses one of the best collections of Indian Pahari paintings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Nainsukh</i> is a must watch for anyone interested to witness a finely-crafted intersection of art, cinema, music, poetry and heritage, imbued with a sonorous silence.</p> Tue Jul 21 22:19:10 IST 2020 how-covid-lockdown-has-been-a-challenge-for-adolescents <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As schools remain shut, with lockdown persisting in varying degrees, adolescents are in a prolonged state of physical isolation from their peers, teachers, extended family and society. “Being in a continued state of lockdown could change the chemistry between kids and parents,” said Dr M. Vijayalakshmi, a paediatrician in Kochi, who has two teenage daughters. “Parents are worried about so many things. Many of them have lost jobs or taken a salary cut. They’ve also had to shift to a work-from-home model, manage children round-the-clock, and deal with fears relating to the pandemic.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the first few weeks of lockdown, she and her husband, Pradeep Palazi, kept the girls amused with baking and board games. But, these activities soon fizzled out, and the girls spent most of their time on gadgets. “I gave up trying to monitor it, as I was unable to control it,” said the mother. “Most parents are now letting their kids do whatever they want. There is this real feeling of helplessness.” &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,&nbsp; published in June, loneliness due to lockdown could lead to high rates of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents. It said clinical services should, therefore, offer preventive support and make early interventions. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Humans are conditioned to certain stimuli,” said psychotherapist Farishta Dastur Mukerji of Kolkata. “A pandemic and lockdown are not in our mental schema. Since we were not prepared for these circumstances, our bodies are finding ways to cope. People are experiencing sleep disturbances because of an increase in anxiety and frustration, as no one knows how long this situation will last.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Children have been spending more time alone, and on screens. This has led to dry eyes, back pain and neck pain, as well as psychological problems. “Online academic classes put a lot of pressure on pre-adolescent children,” said Farishta, who is also a school counsellor. “There is such an information overload. Kids are not processing most of it.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Adolescents seek independence and have a constant need to establish their own identities. Lockdown has curtailed opportunities to indulge this urge. They also have to deal with perfect life syndrome on social media. “Adolescents are more ‘at risk’, as for them, the manifestations of being isolated are more,” said Farishta. “Either they withdraw, or they go into conflict with their parents. At that age, they don’t really want to talk to their parents, they would rather talk to a third person, and parents need to understand this. In extreme cases, suicidal thoughts crop up as life plans have changed. These cases will need clinical assessment.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Garima Aggarwal, who owns Peekaboo Patterns, a company that sells furniture, furnishings and accessories for children in Chennai, believes that adolescents need to be given space. She tells her clients that it is no use nagging or disciplining children now; instead they should empower and trust children to take their own decisions.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“If you want your kids to change, lead by example,” said Garima. “Sitting them down and talking to them doesn’t work. Right now, you just have to let them be. You haven’t been through a pandemic; neither have they, so stop judging them. If I have to find fault with my kids for petty things like not eating healthily or exercising, or not bathing or sleeping on time, I would constantly be nagging them. All these things don’t matter right now.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Children with behavioural problems</b></p> <p>For parents of children with behavioural problems, however, lockdown has presented different challenges. Mallika Sharma*, 42, has a 14-year-old son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “Lockdown has exacerbated my son’s behavioural problems, which are now at their worst ever,” said Mallika, who lives in Bengaluru. “It is difficult to keep a child with a lot of energy locked up in an apartment.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As lockdown wore on, her son lost interest in everything, except his gadget. He had enjoyed going downstairs to play with his friends, but no longer. A therapist told Mallika and her husband, Pranav*, since the child was having online schooling a few hours a day, further screen time would be detrimental. “But he would hit us and destroy things around the house if his gadget was taken away,” said Mallika. “He does not know what to do with himself if he doesn’t have it in his hands.” She often ends up smacking him or saying something hurtful that she later regrets. “I feel pushed to react like this,” she said. “The verbal and physical abuse has put a strain on our relationship with our son.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Alokika Bharwani, a psychologist in Mumbai, said her adolescent clients told her that increased time with parents was getting to them. While some of them have experienced borderline emotional and verbal abuse, for those with dysfunctional families, the experience has been worse.&nbsp;</p> <p>“These are abnormal times,” said Alokika. “Parents, too, are grappling with the new normal. Days are blurred and merging into each other. How do you keep your child occupied? There has been sleeplessness, boredom and a lack of routine.” But adolescents are being proactive when it comes to seeking help for their mental health. “They are finding therapists online and contacting them through Instagram,” she said. “Some kids say that their parents are not encouraging this.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Neha Deshpande* was relieved when her 17-year-old son, Aryan, who has Asperger’s syndrome, reached out to his therapist during lockdown. “He told his therapist that he was frightened and needed his sessions,” said Neha, a consumer insights professional in Mumbai. “He is in junior college and, for him, being away from his friends is a big deal. He feels like his whole life has been taken away. He was missing his usual routine, and his anxiety levels rose, leading to a lot of mumbling and self-talk.” Neha set up weekly calls on Zoom so that he could interact with his friends. “I didn’t want my child to go into a depression because of the unnatural situation,” she said.</p> <p><br> <br> <br> </p> <p><b>Children with special needs</b></p> <p>Lockdown has been debilitating for children with special needs and exhausting for their parents. At the Raksha Society, an institute for children with special needs in Kochi, teachers in masks work tirelessly to engage their wards, who are at home. “Lockdown happened so quickly and we were initially not equipped to support the children online,” said Elizabeth Philip, principal of Raksha Society. “Many parents are from lower-income households and do not own smartphones. For those who do, we slowly began engaging with the children on WhatsApp, asking them to send photographs of activities or chores they had done at home. Sometimes, their data runs out and we only hear from them the following month.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As these children cannot follow instructions on regular videos, the teachers are making a video themselves on how to grow microgreens, so the children have an activity to do at home every day. “We need to explain slowly, in a manner they understand,” said Elizabeth.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Organisations like Raksha give parents of children with special needs a much-needed break for a few hours each day; this has been taken away from them. “The parents are frustrated and often call the teachers to talk about problems they are facing, and ask for help on how to deal with behavioural issues,” said Elizabeth Shirley, headmistress at Raksha Special School. “When the children hear their teacher’s voice on the phone, they often calm down, and some of them pick up their school bags thinking they are off to school. It is imperative for these children to be stimulated, to observe and interact with people, which motivate them to develop cognitive skills. For most of them, the inactivity that has come with lockdown will make them regress.” As these children are in the high-risk category, another challenge is for them to learn aspects related to the pandemic, like how to wear a mask and do physical distancing. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gayathri Dharmanand, 14, who has cerebral palsy, mild retardation and autism, is a student at Raksha. She spends many hours a day watching cartoons on TV at home. “It has been very difficult to keep her engaged during lockdown and she often gets into a bad mood,” says her mother, Bindu. “As we cannot get therapists to come home, or give her online classes, she is regressing as time goes by. Since she needs constant attention, I feel I can’t do anything properly. If I’m in the kitchen cooking, or doing housework, I’m always distracted, worrying about how she is coping in the next room.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>College conundrum</b></p> <p>Students who were to have started college this year have found themselves in a bewildering and unpredictable situation. The economic and political fallouts of the pandemic, coupled with the restrictions, have forced many of them to make difficult, heartbreaking decisions that could alter their future.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many students were mid-way through their 12th grade board exams when the lockdown was announced. As the remaining exams were postponed, they continued to study for months on end, dealing with multiple postponements, until exams were cancelled in July. After months of hard work, they haven’t had a chance to unwind, or de-stress with friends. They are also experiencing&nbsp; tremendous anxiety as there is no end in sight to the pandemic. “Some parents are dealing with tantrums from their 18-year-olds who they say are behaving like 12-year-olds,” said Vijayalakshmi.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Students who have got admission into colleges abroad are worried about when international flights will start, and if they will get visas on time,” she said. “Some are wondering if their parents can still afford to send them. With many colleges shifting to online classes, they are upset about not being able to live on campus or make new friends. I hope these feelings are temporary and not long term, as they could lead to post traumatic stress disorder, or an exacerbation of pre-existing mental illnesses. A lot depends on the socio-economic situation of the household.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While students going abroad have already got admission into colleges, it’s the students applying to Indian colleges that have been left most unsettled. Usually, board exams results are announced in May; this year, they were only announced in July. For those applying to professional colleges, since common entrance exams have been postponed, there is no inkling of how admissions will happen, when classes will start, or when students can physically be on campus. Students who took a gap year after completing their 12th grade in 2019, to take coaching classes to get into a good college this year, are the worst hit. They feel they have fallen behind their peers, who are now in their second year of college.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taera Singh, who just completed her 12th grade from The Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai, has been preparing for a few competitive exams in law, which have repeatedly been postponed. “Different exams have different formats, so we need to know the dates of each to prepare properly, and this has caused a lot of anxiety,” said Taera. “Usually, colleges in India start in July, and we should have been in college right now. Many of my friends binge-watch Netflix and sleep late, but I can’t do that as I need to wake up early for online coaching.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She said it’s been a tricky balance between studying and taking breaks, which are necessary to avoid burnout. “Sometimes, I really don’t know if I am a school student or a college student,” said Taera. “A lot of my friends are going abroad to study, and I was looking forward to spending time and having fun with them, but that never happened.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Souryadeep Sardar is exhausted. The 18-year-old from Kolkata has been studying for at least 10 hours a day, since November last year, for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test, the Joint Entrance Examination, and his board exams. He was relieved when the board exams got cancelled, as he could focus on the entrance exams, which have been postponed to September. He is anxious about further postponements. He says that studying endlessly has been draining and monotonous. “No one imagined this would happen,” said Souryadeep. “Since these are such competitive exams, it’s been so tiring and stressful.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Trisha Karki, from Delhi, has been preparing for competitive exams in architecture, which have also been postponed. “I took it easy in May, but now I have my focus back,” said Trisha. “Because of the uncertainty, my focus varies, which results in irritation. My friends who are going abroad have already secured their admissions, but for me, the pressure is continuously on.”</p> <p>Students who just finished their 12th grade feel that their rites of passage have been taken away. As graduations, farewells and award ceremonies have moved online, they feel a sense of loss and grief about the important transitions in their lives. These feelings often manifest in sadness, anger or irritability.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tarika Vohra recently completed her schooling from the Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai and has accepted a position at Columbia University in New York. She is scheduled to join in September, but since the US embassy in Mumbai is closed, she is unsure when she will get her visa. While Tarika enjoyed spending time with her family during lockdown, and interacting with her friends on video calls late into the night, there is a lingering sadness about the way her final year in school ended.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We were supposed to go on a class trip to Jamnagar, but that got cancelled,” said Tarika. “We were supposed to wear saris for the first time at an event in school and had a holiday planned to Goa after exams, but both got cancelled. We were looking forward to meeting friends and going out, but that never happened. Even our awards ceremony was held online.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eighteen-year-old Viraj Bakliwal, who has accepted a place at New York University, has similar sentiments. “The time between board exams finishing and going to college was supposed to be spent with friends and going out,” said Viraj, who lives in Delhi. “But everything has been taken away from us and we feel robbed.” He said that many of his friends had taken to cooking and baking during lockdown, and some of them had started small businesses selling cakes, cookies and dips from home.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some students have decided to take a gap year because of the pandemic. Mrittika Mandal, who finished her 12thgrade from Loreto House, Kolkata, was supposed to start college in the UK in September. But with so much uncertainty, she has decided to take a gap year, and focus on getting into a better college next year.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2018, Apoorvi Bharat Ram founded The Happiness Project, when someone close to her battled depression. The organisation, which focuses on mental health, works with disadvantaged children who have no access to counsellors or doctors. “There has been an overall increase in anxiety with the pandemic,” said Apoorvi, 18, who recently completed her 12th grade from The Shri Ram School, Moulseri, in Gurgaon and has accepted an offer from The University of Pennsylvania in the US. “We are sitting at home without any structure or distractions. Sources of interaction are especially important at our age. Not being able to spend time with friends before joining college has created a lot of sadness.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;You are just stuck with your thoughts. Usually, if you’re feeling low, you can go out with friends and forget your problems, but when you don’t have these distractions, small problems get bigger. A lot of my friends who dealt with mental health issues in school have now fallen back into them. They have no regular routine or motivation, and are sitting at home doing nothing. Depression feels like that, so being in this state makes them feel like they are back there again.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Happiness Project is developing an app for people to diagnose themselves. “We also have a form that is specific to COVID-19-related anxiety and give tips on how to deal with it.” The principal of her school has reached out to her and her batchmates to mentor the juniors to ensure their mental health is in check.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many adolescents have enjoyed spending quality time with their families during lockdown. Eating meals together as a family, they say, is a luxury they never had. They’ve also learnt to cook, wash dishes, and clean rooms and bathrooms. They say they now realise the value of handymen like plumbers, electricians and carpenters, and appreciate the hard work put in by domestic help.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Flourishing in lockdown</b></p> <p>For some youngsters, lockdown has been a largely positive and productive experience. “Most of my friends have hated lockdown, but for me it’s been a period of growth,” said Rehan Chagla, 18. He recently graduated at the top of his class from The Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai, and has accepted an offer from Christ College, Cambridge University. “My exams got cancelled just before lockdown, and I’ve used my time productively. It’s important to keep yourself busy so that your mental health is good. I’ve learnt cooking, have been working out, and have self-studied biology. I have also been volunteering online with Angel Xpress, an NGO that works with underprivileged children.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Trishla Gupta, a 12th grader in Delhi, is in the process of converting a few rooms in a government school into a science centre, with exhibits that include a solar system, an elliptical carrom board, anatomy models and water wheels. “The society I live in uses an old diesel rickshaw to collect garbage from homes,” said Trishla, 17. “It’s an old two-stroke diesel engine that gives out noxious fumes. After a lot of ideating, experimenting and engineering, I converted an e-rickshaw, which was a passenger carrier, to a garbage carrier.” During this time, Trishla also wrote a research paper on the coral reef, and is making a workbook for computational thinking. “Delhi is opening up, but we are not going out at all,” said Trishla.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Manav Chordia, from Chennai, is relieved that his 12th grade exams got cancelled. “I was worried about getting Covid-19 while taking the exams,” said Manav, 18. He hasn’t seen his friends for more than three months, but he’s been busy. “During lockdown, I broadened my understanding of Swift, a programming language by Apple,” said Manav. “I utilised my time to see what skill others were using to make apps, and made an app called DeftScanner, a document scanning app built around privacy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lockdown has been an eye-opening experience for Anoushka Aggarwala, who recently began her 12th grade at La Martiniere for Girls, Kolkata. “At first, I was heartbroken, as I was so looking forward to my final year in school,” said Anushka, 17. “It was supposed to be our best year, during which we would hold certain positions and earn accolades that we had been working towards for so long.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As an athlete, she was looking forward to participating in a district-level meet in May, which got cancelled. “In retrospect, I was chasing trivial things; I now realise it was a myopic view,” said Anoushka. “If the Olympics could get cancelled, my race was nothing.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her perspective changed after she began volunteering for the NGO Kolkata Gives, which gave provisions to daily wage workers during lockdown. “People were trying to make ends meet, and here I was, worried about a race,” she said. She also wrote a paper for the Bombay Institute of Critical Analysis and Research on how the pandemic has disrupted the social order. “The busier you keep yourself, the easier it is going to be on you; everyone has spurts of anxiety, but the only thing you can remind yourself is that you are not alone in this. We need to realise that we can grow through this and this will not last forever.”</p> <p><br> <br> </p> <p><b>*Some names have been changed</b></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><br> <br> </p> Mon Jul 20 20:02:39 IST 2020 when-bengal-folk-paintings-learn-to-embrace-sanitizers-and-face-masks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the painting 'Gari Ashche', a bored policeman inquires from a woman passing by if she has seen any car coming in his direction; he hasn't collected any bribe for days because of the lockdown.</p> <p>In 'Hot Hero', rendered in the style of a traditional Kalighat painting, home quarantine has made the 'Nayak', a kitchen king, while his 'Nayikas' are lounging around playing cards.</p> <p>In 'Sanitizer Vaccine', a babu is dancing with a wine bottle, amazed that his broom-wielding wife does not see the goodness of alcohol which fights COVID-19, while in 'Mukhor Dhari', the painter compares the face mask with the net that farmers use to tie the mouth of the oxen to prevent them from eating crops.</p> <p>This is the funny thing about adversity. Continued confinement and constriction, born out of a pandemic, can breed snark and levity in some. The school of art most easily amenable to register this grim sense of humour is the 19th century Kalighat paintings from Bengal, when a rise of 'Babu Culture' saw patuas (painters’ community) lampoon the manners of the upper class Bengali gentleman. The rural folk paintings reinvented themselves from religious souvenirs sold around the Kali temple area in Kolkata's Kalighat to satirical portraits of urban social milieus and their aspirational characters. The rural artisans or patuas, who observed the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the cosmopolitan set, came from different districts of West Bengal to make a living.</p> <p>In Anwar Chitrakar's solo exhibition of lockdown-inspired paintings titled 'Tales of our Times', now showing online at (Emami Art website), the artist has tried to capture the non-dramatic and mildly laughable events of our COVID-stilted lives. Born in 1980 to a traditional patua family at Naya Village, West Midnapore, Anwar received his training in Bengal folk paintings from his father Amar Chitrakar. Working within the stylistic boundaries of Kalighat painting, Anwar, however, does not repeat the past, but uses the visual potential of the conventional art forms to capture the transitory sights and emotions of the contemporary. So the 19th century oiled babu holding the pleat of his dhuti and lazily smoking a hookah is replaced with mask-wearing residents of quiet neighbourhoods skirting around empty streets, roving cops and migratory birds.</p> <p>In the pata paintings showcased by Anwar in ‘Tales of our Times’, a lot of detailing has gone into the iconic figuration, flowing lines, and tonal volumes. Anwar plays the painter as a flamboyant storyteller and a humorist. "Art is really the way we choose to want to live. Anwar, though he belongs to the patua legacy, is very contemporary in the delivery of his art. He is absolutely today. These were created now," says Richa Agarwal, CEO of Emami Art. "The exhibition is not Bengal-relevant, but time-relevant. As soon as the work went online, a couple of works were picked up by collectors from Maharashtra," says Agarwal, pointing out how online exhibitions on regional art have found new buyers.</p> <p>'Tales of our Times' is on view till July 31.</p> Fri Jul 10 18:38:04 IST 2020 now-poland-adds-video-games-to-school-curriculum <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Computer games are generally considered a major attention spoiler for children, with parents worried about the negative academic effects caused by the medium, along with its normalisation of activities like shooting and killing. Now, things seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Poland has become the first nation to officially recognise video games in school reading lists (for high school students) as educational resources to support the teaching of sociology, ethics, philosophy and history, according to multiple reports. As the old world charm of textbook-oriented education gradually subsides, a new mode of learning with strong credentials are making its way into schools.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mateusz Morawie, the prime minister of Poland, said, according to the publication <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Notes From </i><i>Poland</i>: “Poland will be the first country in the world that puts its own computer game into the education ministry’s reading list. Young people use games to imagine certain situations [in a way] no worse than reading books.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The much talked-about game<i> This War of Mine</i> is produced by 11 bit studios from Poland, and was released in 2014 to widespread acclaim. The game's focus is on the civilians affected in Balkan Wars. The only option left for civilians is to hide, scavenge for food and survive. The real life situations—hunger, horrors of war, dismantled homes and the last fight for survival—are based on real geography and urban landscapes. It encourages players to take moral choices of affection and empathy to find food, medicine and shelter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the prime minister: “It creates space for an interesting analysis of events, and it shows young people how to follow the good paths in life. In this game, there is a lot of reflection, situations in which we put ourselves [in the position] of a person who has to survive war.” The prime minister noted that the game draws on the Siege of Sarajevo as well as the Warsaw Uprising. The siege on Sarajevo, which is now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, happened during the ethnic conflict in between Bosniaks and Serbs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Video games are intrinsically woven into all parts of interaction between students. If utilised in a proper way in education, it can help students develop problem-solving and team-building skills. Majority of schools in urban areas have smart classrooms occupied with computers and projectors, and they can utilise the children interest in videogames.&nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 09 13:59:27 IST 2020 a-rose-by-any-other-name-will-dropping-fair-from-beauty-products-change-anything <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The fairness creams industry in India, and around the world, are changing their colours—a 'whitening' of perception, of sorts. But will calling 'a rose by any other name' make any difference?</p> <p><a title="HUL to drop the word 'Fair' from skincare cream 'Fair &amp; Lovely'" href="">FMCG major Unilever turned heads recently</a> when it announced that it was removing the phrase 'Fair' from its top selling fairness cream 'Fair &amp; Lovely'. “We recognise that the use of the words 'fair', 'white' and 'light' suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don't think is right, and we want to address this,” Unilever India's president (beauty &amp; personal care) Sunny Jain had announced in a press statement.</p> <p>It is believed that 'Fair &amp; Lovely', which is virtually the nomenclature for complexion creams in the Indian market since its launch in 1975, will <a title="'Fair and Lovely' to be renamed as 'Glow and Lovely'" href="">henceforth be known as 'Glow &amp; Lovely'</a>. Following this, Nivea India MD reportedly said the company is globally reviewing its product portfolio to “determine issues of implications of changing perceptions.”</p> <p>Johnson &amp; Johnson has already announced that it will take its fine fairness cream brands Neutrogena (available in many Asian countries) as well as Clean &amp; Clear (available in India) off the market. Lóreal also bit the bullet, saying it will remove usages of terms like fair/whitening/lightening from its own similar products.</p> <p>While, for years there has been a growing movement in India against fairness creams because of the socio-cultural impact they have on a susceptible young population, the spark for the present change of heart has its roots in the race riots and subsequent Black Lives Matter movement in America.</p> <p>Explains N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, “The #BlackLivesMatter protests have gained enormous momentum across the western world, and companies which have built product lines in the lucrative skin lightening category have to come to terms with the extremely racial nature of the category, which they were extremely aware about, but avoided taking action on due to the force of commerce. Now, with J&amp;J, Unilever and others having already taken action, the pressure is mounting on others to take steps in the same line.”</p> <p>The category is highly lucrative, especially big in countries like India, China, Middle East, South-East Asia and Africa. According to statista, the fairness cream category in India alone is worth about Rs 3,400 crore and includes creams, moisturisers, face washes and even 'whitening' products for underarms and vagina.</p> <p>There has been enough backlash earlier, with Bollywood celebrities like Bipasha Basu and others speaking out against the impact such products have on the young generation and how it propagates cultural biases that favour a person with fairer complexion over others. “Such product categories accentuate the inherent tribalist mentalities in humans based on skin color, and with their large marketing spends, end up creating a ‘body dissatisfied’ generation with low self-esteem,” Chandramouli remarks. While for the longest time the financials proved too strong an impediment, the international reaction seems to have finally prompted the companies to take remedial action.</p> <p>However, there is also a feeling that more needs to be done. &quot;What about 45 years of damage and the wrong messaging about women's empowerment? There should we more than just changing the name&quot; fumed Kavitha Emmanuel in an interview this weekend. Emmanuel has been running the 'Dark is Beautiful' campaign for years, writing to the companies and conducting public awareness campaigns.</p> <p>“Changing the name is not less than appropriate action for the brands, and they must do away with any product that has the promise or ingredients of skin lightening,” adds Chandramouli. The industry might just be taking the present actions also keeping in mind a new legislation being pushed by the health ministry, which makes promotion of skin lightening products punishable by a five-year jail term. The bill has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> Tue Jun 30 17:18:29 IST 2020 compassion-in-the-time-of-covid-19 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Shravan Krishnan, an animal activist from Chennai, got an overwhelming response when he recently put up a post on social media on how beach horses and their owners have been affected by COVID-19 outbreak.</p> <p>The beaches have been shut to tourists and having lost their means of livelihood, many of the horse owners are not able to take care of the horses. “They don’t have any means of income. There are no events or marriages. So these people are struggling and so are the horses,’’ wrote Shravan.<br> <br> Arjun, one of the owners wanted to give up his horse. It would cost Rs 20,000 to buy off the horse from its owner and hand it to Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary. The story struck a chord with many and donations poured in. It took Shravan just a few hours to raise money.<br> <br> The coronavirus pandemic has made humans more compassionate and empathetic. Heart-warming stories of people reaching out to the less fortunate abound during the pandemic. <br> <br> In cities like Bengaluru, women are at the forefront of charity work. From donating home-cooked meals to migrant workers to offering financial support to daily wage workers, they contribute their bit. “We donated thousands of theplas to migrant workers in Bengaluru,” says Mala D. Shah from Bengaluru. Anoopa Anand managed to crowdsource food and even clothes for migrants while Samina Bano of Rightwalk Foundation feeds the poor.&nbsp;<br> <br> With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting supply chains all over the world, NGOs have been playing the crucial role of undertaking service delivery to assist the government’s efforts to bring relief to people, says Shri Chanchalapathi Dasa, vice chairman, The Akshaya Patra Foundation. The foundation works with the union and state governments and UT Administrations to help vulnerable populations.</p> <p>“We have cumulatively served over 65 million meals to people affected by the crisis in various locations across the country. We have been able to achieve this due to the collaborative efforts of everyone involved,” said Dasa.</p> Tue Jun 23 15:16:38 IST 2020 using-art-to-populate-abandoned-villages <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>How do you populate a village perched on a mountainous slope without much of a human presence? In the early 2000s, Tsukimi Ayano returned to her tiny native village of Nagoro in Japan's Shikoku island to tend to her elderly father. She made a scarecrow doll in the likeness of her father to scare off birds bent on destroying her newly planted garden. Soon, dolls spun out of cloth started to appear in farms, fields and bus-stops across the sparsely populated village.</p> <p>By late 2019, Nagoro had more than 300 dolls carved as lookalikes of former residents, with less than 30 human dwellers in the village at the time. This bewildering exercise in repopulation was also captured in a 2014 documentary short called&nbsp;<i>Valley of Dolls</i>&nbsp;by Fritz Schumann.</p> <p>There's nothing new about migration taking place from remote villages in hill areas. Lack of education and health facilities, apart from the search for a better livelihood, have created "ghost villages" in the upper reaches of hill towns—abandoned and unmanned. In 2017, a commission set up by the Uttarakhand government to study migration patterns in the last decade found that over 700 villages in the state were completely deserted and more than 1.19 lakh people had left their villages in the same time period.<br> </p> <p>But recent reports have pointed out how job losses during the lockdown have generated hopes of reviving "bhootiya" villages back to life. Data released by Uttarakhand's Rural Development and Migration Commission (RDMC) states that as of April 23, some 59,360 people have returned to the ten hill districts of Uttarakhand. Of them, Pauri Garhwal and Almora—two of the worst migration-hit districts—saw 12,039 and 9,303 former inhabitants, respectively, come back from the cities and plains.<br> </p> <p>If an artist were to respond to the loneliness of a village bereft of a sense of community, it could range from the otherworldly to the life-affirming. Three years ago, the widely covered ‘The Wise Wall Project’, an initiative by Project FUEL and FUEL Foundation, sought to paint the walls of the remote, 600-year-old village of Saur in Uttarakhand to soften the blows of excessive migration.<br> </p> <p>The latest example of a ghost village's poignant transformation into art comes from Nepal. In a video work being shown at Para Site’s ongoing two-venue group show 'Garden of Six Seasons' in Hong Kong, Pooja Gurung and Bibhusan Basnet from Kathmandu frame a somewhat similar experiment in the highlands of western Nepal where, in a tiny village of Jumla, an old couple grapple with the dilemma of leaving or staying back after the departure of their only friend. The video is shot at Chauki village which lies near Haat Sinja and Rotha Chaur situated on the border between Jumla and Mugu in the highlands of Western Nepal.<br> </p> <p>The old couple, Atimaley and Devi, live in a small village and are suddenly the only ones left there with the unannounced departure of a close friend. "During the Maoist insurgency (1996-2006) in Nepal, over 17,000 people including civilians lost their lives, thousands got injured, hundreds of people disappeared and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced, especially from rural villages like Jumla and Mugu," says Sheelasha Rajbhandari and Hit Man Gurung, co-curators of the upcoming Kathmandu Triennale 2020 from where some of the works are being showcased at Para Site as a precursor.<br> </p> <p>"The long history of repression, continuous political conflicts, unstable governments, complex social caste and class structures, unemployment, the influence of globalization and high demands of low-wage labour forces in the Gulf countries and Malaysia, are the main reasons of both internal and external migration in Nepal. Many villages have been completely abandoned by young people," say the curators.<br> </p> <p>Just like in the Japanese village, dolls filled the street corners of the deserted village, Julma has protective wooden effigies or ‘dadyaa' which are made as offerings to local deities but often memorialize ancestors. The doll motif is further extended with the use of Nepal's illustrious tradition of ceremonial masks in the film.<br> </p> Mon Jun 22 23:26:41 IST 2020 nepal-readies-for-major-international-arts-festival-kathmandu-triennale <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Be it rockets, helicopters, motorcycles and tractors woven into intricate patterns of traditional Mithila painting, or hair strands which float and swirl on the canvas as a sacred, mysterious life force; whether it is the reproduction of a stolen manuscript with a diagram of the ‘subtle body’ derived from Hindu Tantrism or a video story of how an old couple negotiate loneliness with wooden masks in their "ghost village" of Jumla in western Nepal, the showcase of indigenous art practices at the upcoming Kathmandu Triennale (KT) is set to be one of the most fascinating experiments in synergizing modernity with local cultural heritage.</p> <p>Kathmandu Triennale, now in its second edition in this format, which was previously the Kathmandu International Arts Festival, is Nepal’s premier international platform for global contemporary art, and is presented across nine historically and culturally significant venues in three clusters—Patan, Kathmandu, and Boudha. The second edition is called Kathmandu Triennale 2077 and is slated to begin on December 4, 2020—which is the year 2077 in the indigenous Nepali calendar system—and will continue 9 January 9, 2021. The exhibition is planning to host over 100 artists from more than 40 countries. As a precursor to KT 2077, works of nine Nepali artists are currently on display at Para Site in a two-venue group show called 'Garden of Six Seasons' in Hong Kong.</p> <p>Since March, art galleries have remained shut in India. Reading about an ongoing show in Hong Kong and an upcoming one in Nepal, one would feel like the pandemic exists in an alternate universe. How will this multi-disciplinary arts festival come to fruition this year? How difficult has it been in getting artists to commit to KT in December? What are the logistical worries? The co-curators of KT 2077, Hit Man Gurung and Sheelasha Rajbhandari, take us through what it is like organising a global arts festival in the midst of an unrelenting pandemic.</p> <p><b>The earthquake of 2015 was one of the major triggers for conceiving KT. In 2017, art sought to proudly reclaim the city spaces devastated by this unprecedented natural disaster. What are some of the contemporary challenges KT plans to highlight in its second edition?</b></p> <p>There are many challenges which we tend to perceive in isolation, while in reality they are interconnected with other seemingly segregated or subtle issues. There are also tendencies to perceive these challenges only within the political boundaries of the respected countries, which prevents us from engaging with broader collective movements. Focus will be given to ideas, movements that have been marginalised both in Nepal and globally. These will include discourses of decolonisation, migration and displacement, indigenous knowledge, queer rights, feminism, and alternative worldviews. Diverse languages of expressions will be celebrated and acknowledged, particularly those that have been suppressed because of the dominating and narrow patriarchal, West-centric, colonialist narratives in art and thought. The years of political tragedies and natural calamities have led to far-reaching cultural and socio-political consequences in Nepal and different geographies. Migration and displacement are particular results of such catastrophes. KT 2077 will explore these shared experiences of both trauma and resistance. An important section in KT will be dedicated to various artistic practices incorporated into physical, psychological and spiritual healing practices from centuries ago to present day. KT will also host a ‘garden show,’ with artists invited to plant, cultivate, and design an exhibition as a heterogenous park. This is to address and discuss the fact that humans have been creating artificial environments ever since they started making objects, either in the process of economically exploiting and dislocating nature or through the sophisticated manipulation of garden design.</p> <p><b>Can you talk a little bit about the modernising of Mithila paintings underway in Nepal? How have the tools, motifs and patterns evolved in recent years?</b></p> <p>In Mithila paintings and wall reliefs, artists have been depicting and archiving individual and communal experiences, festivals, animals and plants that surround them, along with religious presentations and illustrations of folklore. As Nepal is rapidly modernising, closely-knit communities are expanding into larger cities; the traditional houses made of mud and bamboo are turning into concrete. This has completely changed the tradition of wall relief murals and paintings. The painting tradition shifted to paper around 30 years ago. Over these years, the subject matter of the Mithila painting is also naturally evolving—artists have incorporated dynamics of the society and critique of the prevailing social structures. Mithila art is traditionally practiced by women and the knowledge of the art is passed down from grandmothers, mothers to daughters. And it is particularly inspiring to see women artists challenge traditional gender roles through their works in this way.</p> <p><b>What has the response been like at Para Site? Especially at this time of the pandemic?</b></p> <p>Hong Kong had previously experienced the SARS outbreak in 2003, so they were able to contain the COVID-19 more efficiently. As HK did not go through complete lockdown and things started to get comparatively normal, we were able to open the exhibition ‘Garden of Six Seasons’ in mid-May, though it was postponed by two months from its original date in March. However, there were barriers in the transportation of the artworks to HK from other parts of the world and unfortunately few of the planned works could not be transported in the end. The show is getting a good number of in-person visitors, and we are getting exciting responses from those that have heard about or seen the show online or offline. Keeping in mind the people who cannot visit the exhibition in person, there will also be more virtual tours of the exhibition in various formats, and focused sharing sessions by the artists.</p> <p><b>What are some of the challenges of prepping up for a multi-disciplinary arts festival this year? How difficult has it been in getting artists to participate and commit to KT in December? What kind of logistical worries are you grappling with at this point?</b></p> <p>KT will present works by 100+ artists and collaborators from over 40 different nations, and putting together an exhibition like this is always a challenge. Both of us are practicing artists based in Kathmandu. We are well prepared for practical issues such as the lack of proper infrastructure, specialists, and equipment to create large-scale events. We have always been exploring and working to develop a sustainable art environment in Nepal. The current global situation of the pandemic and extensive lockdown is of course the biggest challenge. In South Asia, the lockdown was implemented in the very early stage of the spread of infection. After around three months, the lockdown has been eased a bit but the infection rate is getting higher each day, so we cannot ignore the uncertainty. However, we should not forget that the situations we are facing are not entirely new, the pandemic has mostly intensified society’s already existing problems and pandemic should not be an excuse to stop addressing these issues. Because of the pandemic, we had to cancel many of our domestic and international research trips. As meeting in person is not possible, we had to shift to online platforms, but this has its own limitations. Nevertheless, we are in the process of finalising most of our artists. Our team is in close connection with the artists and different stakeholders, providing updates to our situation as it changes. It is a collective understanding and global effort. We are glad to have their commitment and support for the Triennale. We are looking into all the possibilities in designing a safe environment for the visitors and are still optimistic about the reach the Triennale will receive, in whichever form. We are closely following the guidelines of WHO, Nepal government and consulting local epidemiologists to ascertain best practice.</p> Thu Jun 18 21:05:50 IST 2020 covid-19-to-lead-to-big-changes-in-buildings-public-spaces <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Among the many things that will not be the same in the post-COVID-19 world are the spaces we live, work, socialise, shop, study and seek healthcare in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many visible additions and modifications are already in place. For example, sanitisation tunnels at the entrances of buildings which see large footfall, physically marked distances for standing and sitting; minimal human presence in production processes etc. But more long-term and permanent changes will have to be made, including the use of building and interior design materials which are bacteria/virus resistant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Manu Goel, architect and director at The Novarch, a Delhi-based firm which specialises in hospitality and healthcare among other sectors, says, “The world will never be the same again. This may actually add a greater degree of hygiene measures in Indian social spaces. Social protocols dictate the way buildings and urban spaces are designed.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Architect, author and urban planner Vipul B. Varshney, director of the Lucknow-based Sthapati Associates, says that while work from home is here to stay in some form, there will still be a need to provide those cultural bonds that inspire and motivate employees in a physical workspace. “The workplace will become an ecosystem that is a network of virtual and physical spaces. The new purpose of the office will be to provide inspiring destinations that strengthen the cultural connections, learning, and bonding with customers and colleagues,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Varshney says that this new definition for the office will cause a re-look at the kind of spaces that are currently most in demand for rentals. “Many companies pay high rents for offices in prime city centre locations and are under long lease commitments. Shifting to a more resilient short lease arrangement and occupying only a small workplace will be a model most firms will explore where offices could be used for essential collaboration time, with the majority of employees working from home.” While such a shift will lead to short term instability, it will address planning issues which have simmered over time; for instance, the need for a greater mix to urban land use in areas that are not centrally located.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For schools, Varshney foresees “hybrid learning models”, with students spending half the school day at home to reduce class size, and perhaps eliminating lunch period altogether.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the long term, though, such measures are likely to negatively impact students as they will be deprived of the joys that sharing tiffin boxes and personal contact bring.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Goel says that private health care providers will not shirk from investments which ensure greater hygiene given that spending on private spending on health care is more than four times more than what is spent in the public sector. “Private medical players are aware of this preference of the masses as the public alternative is much worse, with interminable waits in dirty surroundings with hordes of other patients. Many medicines and tests are not available in the public sector, so patients have to go to private shops and laboratories. This market dynamic will drive the private healthcare sector to make all possible attempts to retain its stronghold and invest in systems to attract the end customer,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Goel’s prescription for short term changes in the health sector include sanitization and buffer zones, masks and other protective material vending machines and telemedicine. Mid-term changes will require renovations of existing facilities to include contactless equipment, lift buttons, door handles, toilet fittings; and antibacterial nano coatings. In the long term, hospitals will have designs that include specialized departments for infectious diseases, management of indoor air quality and waste.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In rural settings which see large congregations during specific days such as the Village Health and Nutrition Day (VHND), Goel says, “Measures will have to be low budget and temporary. The most important will be social distancing enablement through design. For example, well-demarcated queuing solutions, like partitions with visibility panels.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Varshney’s list of changes in urban spaces include leveraging of automation and voice activation for touchless interaction, use of sensors to screen visitors, heating ventilation and air conditioning solutions such as the use of ultraviolet C light within these systems to kill microorganisms in the airstream, biometrics and temperature-monitoring devices, installation of smart window shades activated by sun-tracking technology and lighting systems that use sensory detection to adjust brightness in accordance with the time of day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Goel says that the three most marked changes in office spaces would be the creation of buffer zones and thresholds with screening within the existing space; work-desk rearrangements with a revised people flow management and more touchless equipment like door handles, taps, dispensers etc in common areas such as washrooms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many of the required technologies such as coatings that prevent bacteria from multiplying and that are self-disinfecting are already available in the market and will see a rise in use.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One element of concern, however, could be the enhanced use of disposable elements within building spaces. Goel says, “Disposable mediums may see an increase, but they will bear a life cycle cost and may have severe negative environmental impacts in the long term.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Varshney says that only new methods of designing spaces will not be an end as fundamental behavioural changes in employers, employees, property managers, and clients will be needed such that they recognise the long-term benefits of wellness. “The future workplace can be a convergence of nature, design, and martial law,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a normal, long distance vision of the future such changes would have come naturally. The pandemic, however, has brought that future closer.&nbsp;</p> Wed Jun 17 15:38:17 IST 2020 bob-dylans-new-album-speaks-to-the-rough-and-rowdy-ways-of-the-world-today <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There's an earnest query on Quora, like most inquiries in the popular question-and-answer website: "What is the best book or online collection of Bob Dylan's lyrics for someone who is trying to understand his greatness?"</p> <p>While the answers range from weblinks to lyric books, one stands out. "If you want to understand why he’s so great, listen to his albums. And really listen....Dylan has never met you. He knows nothing about you but a line will leap out as if he wrote it that morning about your life. It’s like he’s seen you going for that walk from his studio all those years ago and threw in that line that will knock you sideways."</p> <p>Bob Dylan, one of the greatest musicians to have emerged from 20th century popular culture, will release a brand new studio album on June 19. Dylan is 79 years old now and <i>Rough and Rowdy Ways</i> will be his 39 studio album and the first collection of original songs since <i>Tempest</i> (2012). In a perfectly well-timed release, Friday, June 19, is also 'Juneteenth' in the US, a national holiday which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Dylan was born in Minnesota, the state where the gruesome killing of a 46-year-old black man on May 25 has propelled the most trenchant debates on race and policing around the world. Back in the 1960s, when Dylan released his most influential songs so far in his sprawling oeuvre—'Blowin' in the Wind' and 'The Times They Are a-Changin'—they became anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements then. Will his brand new songs have the same impact in 2020?</p> <p>As we gasp and choke in the worst possible health crisis of the 21st century, the Nobel laureate and possibly the last surviving troubadour poet is not sugar-coating the roads he has taken. The new songs offer no sweet, sorrowful words of solace to soften the blows of nature and human follies. They are as effortlessly 'rough and rowdy' as they get.</p> <p>When he sings:</p> <p><i>You greedy old wolf, I'll show you my heart</i></p> <p><i>But not all of it, only the hateful part</i></p> <p><i>I'll sell you down the river, I'll put a price on your head</i></p> <p><i>What more can I tell you?</i></p> <p><i>I sleep with life and death in the same bed, </i>you get a good old gravelly Dylan at his nasty best.</p> <p>It sets the tone for the whole album, which surveys the entire arc of American history from the lens of culture, history, politics and philosophy. The magnificent sweep of <i>Rough and Rowdy Ways</i> is like reading something as all-encompassing as <i>Ulysses; </i>there are world wars and assassinations, crusades and the birth of nations, as one critic pointed out.</p> <p>And, yes, if you listen carefully enough, the lines leap out like they have been written to make sense of the current turmoil.</p> <p><i>Freedom, oh freedom</i></p> <p><i>Freedom above me</i></p> <p><i>I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free, </i>goes a line from 'Murder Most Foul', a 17-minute epic journey which starts with the premise of Kennedy's assassination.</p> <p>At his finest poetic achievement, Dylan introduces himself again in the song 'False Prophet':</p> <p><i>Well I'm the enemy of treason</i></p> <p><i>Enemy of strife</i></p> <p><i>I'm the enemy of the unlived meaningless life</i></p> <p><i>I ain't no false prophet</i></p> <p><i>I just know what I know</i></p> <p><i>I go where only the lonely can go</i></p> <p>While he has already released three songs (mentioned above) from the new album right since the early days of the pandemic in March, fans await the final 10-track album which drops on June 19. It is perhaps a bigger event than Leonard Cohen releasing an album in his final years. But even if <i>Rough and Rowdy Ways</i> doesn't go down in music history as an epochal event, its poetry will persist. It holds the key to the throbbing, fierce heart of one of the most elusive musical genius.</p> <p>The composer has a tendency to continually discard his previous selves. It is no wonder he can still produce astonishing new work. In the only interview he has given in the run-up to the release of the album, Dylan said to the <i>The New York Times</i>, "Most of my recent songs are like that. The lyrics are the real thing, tangible, they’re not metaphors. The songs seem to know themselves and they know that I can sing them, vocally and rhythmically. They kind of write themselves and count on me to sing them."</p> Tue Jun 16 20:16:52 IST 2020 it-is-a-long-wait-for-the-qawwals-of-nizamuddin-dargah <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>"Kya special plan karangey? Online kuch padh dengey</i> (What special event can we plan now? Will read something online itself)," says Hasan Nizami in a sullen voice.&nbsp; Hasan is a darbari qawwal attached to the Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi and one of the three 'Niazi Nizami’ brothers who hail from a lineage of qawwali performers going back to 700 years.</p> <p>The annual five-day Urs festival starting June 9, which commemorates the death anniversary of the great poet and musician, Amir Khusrau, will come and go without any magical qawwali gatherings at the Dargah Sharif of the revered 13th century Sufi saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, who was also Khusrau's spiritual mentor. In fact, Khusrau is the father of modern qawwali; he invented the genre of the Sufi Islamic devotional music as we know it. Even as places of worship open gradually after more than two months of lockdown, the famous evening mehfils of Nizamuddin Dargah will remain a pre-Corona reverie. The Sufi shrine is closed to the public till June 30. And much as he dislikes it, Nizami knows he has to keep singing on Facebook and YouTube "lives" for now. And, perhaps, longer than June 30.&nbsp;</p> <p>"Artists are painfully shy and proud, you know. They will not go and ask for help or suggest they are in trouble," says Nizami, drawing attention to months of sitting idle with no live performances, the beating heart of a qawwali gathering, which feeds into the energy and spirit of its practitioners. Now Niazi Nizami brothers, with a few musicians from their group of 10, regale listeners from an ornately done-up room in their house. Dressed up like they would for a live performance, the brothers constantly check the "mizaz" of their audience in the comments feed of their Facebook Live and try to create a "sama" in the enclosed space. They are learning to make do with clapping and appreciation as emojis and texts. There are no birthdays, cocktails or marriage functions to make up for the loss of singing opportunities. Recently, an event company roped them in for a Facebook live, but without any compensation.&nbsp;</p> <p>"We don't hold a private or a government job. We don't own shops so we can earn rent every month. Qawwals are calling us everyday for help; they don't know where to go. The well is running dry," says Nizami. The qawwals are a key fixture at Nizamuddin Dargah whose lively musical performances happen every evening after the Maghrib prayers, with special ones every Thursday and Friday. The Nizamuddin qawwalis are a mainstay for tourists and devotees in Delhi. There are at least seven Khandani (inter-generational) darbari qawaals with Nizamuddin Dargah, where professional qawwals come to perform from far and wide. Devoted to their craft and tradition of Sufi singing, any cash payment for qawwals in mehfil settings is frowned upon. But the act of a "pir" blessing the "nazrana" given to performers transforms donations into a pious offering.</p> Mon Jun 08 20:27:15 IST 2020 Among-the-believers <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Asha, a house help in Delhi, recently developed a new ritual for reciting the rosary after dinner. The lockdown restricted the regular churchgoer to her one-room home and denied her the simple assurance of a Sunday mass. This was until she received a WhatsApp forward on May 1, of an adoration held in a convent in Kapurthala, Punjab. In the 30-minute video, a large group of Catholic nuns invoke Mother Mary as mata dulari (cherished mother) and sing for forgiveness in front of her three-foot statue. “Now I play this video every day after dinner,” says Asha. “It helps my daughter and me concentrate. I think I will continue to use it even after the lockdown is lifted.”</p> <p>Many commentators and experts have raised questions about the future of organised religion in the wake of Covid-19, especially with religious sites shut around the world. Just like the bubonic plague and the printing press sowed seeds for the protestant reformation in Europe, can technology and the ongoing pandemic lead to a change in the way we approach places of worship? Can gatherings, the heart of a religious experience, be reduced to carefully managed crowd control strategies? Masks, sanitisers and social distancing at Vaishno Devi temple and the Tirupati Balaji shrine? And for how long?</p> <p>Many religious gatherings were seen as large “viral vectors” from where cases multiplied and exploded—a secretive sect called the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in South Korea, the Islamic missionary movement of Tablighi Jamaat, which held a 16,000-strong gathering in a mosque in Malaysia, an Orthodox Jewish congregation in New Rochelle, New York, and so on. Attending a service in a church, temple, mosque or gurdwara will not be the same for the devout, at least for the next year. Will this collective isolation bring devotees closer to their gods? Or will they fall into despair when sacred places become physically out of reach?</p> <p>“The pandemic situation has introduced a kind of atemporality in experience in the absence of a regular calendar time,” says H.S. Shivaprakash, poet, playwright and professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “The more esoteric aspects of spirituality, the core ones which are not very popular, all talked about the interconnectedness of things. The Shashtra and the tantras call it sarvam sarvatmakam, which in European schools of mysticism was called the theory of correspondence. The interconnectedness of things is the grounding principle of Sanatan Dharma, animism and pantheism. Whether we like it or not, this realisation is being forced upon us now.”</p> <p>Shivaprakash is working on a book on spirituality and the pandemic. He believes that individual religiosity, the constant focus on individual liberation and salvation is going to take a backseat. As people switch to virtual congregations to commune with a so-called God, they will realise that they are praying to their own self, he says. “Nobody is listening outside. Idolatory and external worship is required, but this is only a means to circle back to oneself,” says Shivapraskash.</p> <p>This year, on the eve of Easter, Fr Stanley Kozhichira of the Delhi archdiocese had to deal with a volley of questions from youth attendees of a webinar: Why is God a hard-hearted person? Why is he closing his eyes to our difficulties? For how long can we hope to go on like this? He explained to his anxious listeners that God is beyond time and space. “In the Bible, one day can equal a thousand and a thousand days can equal one. It is only we humans who think in terms of a finite space. One can only wait in hope for betterment,” Kozhichira said.</p> <p>He has been live-streaming a mass at 6:30am every day since March 19, before the lockdown was announced. Kozhichira talks about an interactive, explanatory mass on Zoom, with a group of 60 participating with readings and music and questions on faith and practice. “The Church has given advisory guidelines for people attending these online services,” he says. “It has to be attended live; no recorded service is allowed. For a Sunday mass, one has to dress the part, prepare a table, a Bible, two candles and a cross near the altar.” Unstable internet bandwidth, he says, is the greatest challenge at this point, apart from accessibility of internet services to low-income groups. But Kozhichira is absolutely certain that an active service will not be taking place before September.</p> <p>The Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha temple in Simhachalam, Visakhapatnam, is perhaps the second largest temple in Andhra Pradesh and one of the more well-endowed in terms of land. Two of its biggest festivals, Kalyanotsava and Chandanotsava, happen in April, drawing in lakhs of devotees. But this year, there have been no public darshans since the end of March. “Before the lockdown was announced, I had a board meeting via video conference and we decided that we were not going to allow public darshans (considering) the safety of our devotees,” says Sanchaita Gajapati Raju. She is the hereditary trustee of the Simhachalam Devasthanam board, and became its first woman chairperson on March 4.</p> <p>In a first, the temple telecast pujas live on social media and local media outlets. The preparatory puja before the Chandanotsava (sandalwood festival) was telecast as well. The faithful can register for prasadam through a WhatsApp number and it will be couriered once the lockdown is lifted. People stranded in the vicinity of the temple have been housed by the authorities for free, with access to medicines and dry rations. “As religious institutions, we have a certain leadership role in all of this,” says Raju. “This is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity. How do we reinvent connecting with people? Here, technology can play a huge role. Religious practices are not a pickle to preserve in a bottle. They change with the times. We have to ensure that people’s safety is paramount. Physical darshan now will only be done in staggered timings. There will be access of masks, sanitisers and temperature check. Till such time as you can find a vaccine, I don’t see a silver bullet. “</p> <p>Punjab has seen a recent spike in Covid-19 cases after pilgrims returned from Hazur Sahib gurdwara in Nanded, Maharashtra. Of Punjab’s tally of 1,780 cases as of May 10, those who returned from Nanded account for 68 per cent (1,205 cases). The devotees had returned from Nanded in buses arranged by the Punjab government.</p> <p>Karnail Singh Panjoli, a member of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak executive committee, says that only the basic thermometer drill was done before the pilgrims boarded the buses. He added that there were many migrant workers, too, in the buses. “Our committee had written to the Punjab government three months ago,” says Panjoli. “We had given them a list of gurdwaras they could use for testing the pilgrims and migrants. We had arranged beds, clean bathrooms and the langar was well organised. They should have checked the list and taken the bus there to test and screen people. Instead, when the pilgrims came to Punjab, they were sent home. Then, when they became positive, there was chaos and they were called from home and kept in various places. This worsened the situation.” He says the primary responsibility of gurdwaras now is to feed the hungry and the homeless, apart from offering residential facilities under the Parbandhak for testing and recovery of the afflicted. “Covid-19 has no religion. By targeting a single community, we are endangering all of our safety. Whoever is doing this is an enemy to all religions and the country,” says Panjoli.</p> <p>Fayaz Khwaza from Srinagar is a shawl merchant in Leh, Ladakh. In the last two months, he has suffered a loss of 015 lakh. In this holy month of Ramzan, he offers his prayers with his family at home, some 4km away from Lal Chowk. He does not seem perturbed and is happy playing volleyball with his children. “The prophet spoke of quarantine 1,400 years ago in the time of a plague,” says Khwaza. “The Quran says we have to stay where we are when such a calamity strikes, instead of trying to run away. Nobody can step out of the house until the outbreak is completely over.” He especially highlighted the Wudhu ablution or ritual washing performed by Muslims before offering prayers. “Yes, one can wear masks in a mosque, but it is not possible to pray with social distancing,” he says. “We might as well pray at home, right? What is the problem in that?”</p> Fri May 29 19:52:36 IST 2020 covid-19-and-contactless-future-of-the-art-world <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As India emerges out of lockdown and people gingerly begin venturing outside, the coming months will be all about slow, small resumptions. Culture aficionados, art connoisseurs and keen visitors will be looking forward to museum and gallery visits even if they have learnt to appreciate Facebook and Instagram content, podcasts and open access platforms during their enforced isolation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What would a museum visit post-quarantine entail to prevent overcrowding and transmission?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps an all-purpose mobile app with information on special exhibitions, reserve ahead and timed ticketing? It should have directions to hand sanitizing stations, in-built audio guides and tours of varying lengths for which visitors would need their own earphones. It might also include special commentary from artists and virtual wall-label text, apart from timely information on gallery strength and capacity, membership and giftshop plans. Touch-screen interactives might be disabled for now and virtual queues with digital check-ins and wait-in line could become additional features on websites. Some museums might consider digital membership cards to reduce exchange of physical materials with staff members. And for those who can't travel or are advised not to, immersive digital experience with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology is the way to go.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Entrepreneur, designer and typographer Brendan Ciecko has been brainstorming on a &quot;contactless future&quot; in the art world. As CEO and founder of American start-up Cuseum, he has been advising museums and cultural non-profits around the world on ways to leverage tech tools to negotiate a new, corona-distilled world. His company has also conducted research on neurological perceptions of original artworks through AR and VR. Recently, Ciecko was part of a webinar organised by India's ministry of culture on 'Revitalizing Museums and Cultural Spaces' where he offered suggestions which could have a bearing on policies for safe visitor engagement in Indian museums.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ciecko speaks to THE WEEK on how technology can reinvent consumption of art and heritage in museums.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are some of the immediate contactless measures that should be implemented in museum spaces as long as institutions fear transmission?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As museums reopen, it will be critical that they ensure the safety and well-being of their visitors and staff. This will require a complete redesign of the visitor journey, to reduce physical touch-points, close contact, and other potential risks. Museums across the globe have implemented timed-ticketing, contactless payments, and virtual queuing to reduce crowds and physical contact, as well as introduced mobile tools to encourage social distancing and eliminate printed maps and brochures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Can you tell us more about the long-term viability of digital membership in museums as a source of revenue? Which museums have implemented this effectively?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Right now, museums are eagerly seeking new ways to deliver value to their audience and generate new revenue while their doors are closed. In addition to that, even after museums have reopened, there will be a period of time where capacity is limited and a significant portion of the population will feel anxious about interacting in large, public spaces. This has prompted an interest in digital membership offerings and new virtual benefits. Virtual access and exclusive digital content are now being considered as a more permanent fixture of membership. In addition, some institutions are piloting new, lower-cost virtual membership levels altogether.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Considering how 90 per cent of the museums in the world are shut and will continue to face a long closure, are there digital tools developed by Cuseum for security and preservation of collections?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Throughout the closures and into the phased re-opening of museums, we have remained committed to helping the cultural sector in as many ways as possible. We have developed new resources, tools, as well as hosted conversations that over 50,000 cultural professionals have engaged with.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In response to the closures and demand for immersive digital museum experiences, Cuseum released a new augmented reality (AR) tool that virtually transports famous artworks from museums into people’s homes. Additionally, we have developed new tools to help support social distancing, safety, and distance learning, when visitors return to museums in the upcoming weeks and months.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What would you say to the many naysayers who diminish apps, gadgets and augmented reality as jarring and unreal when it comes to experiencing cultural heritage?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pandemic has changed the world’s perspective on the power and influence of digital channels for experiencing art and culture. This period has forced us all to let go of assumptions and long-held beliefs tied to traditional approaches and mindsets. As digital engagement presented itself as the only option, a new generation of cultural consumers was born; one that sees culture in a non-binary existence—it is not only physical, it is not only digital, at the end of the day, it is all culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, new research has underscored the value and legitimacy of digital channels, such as augmented reality and virtual reality, as a credible means of experiencing art and culture. For those who believe in the great power of art, it is equally important to consider the role technology plays in removing barriers and making it accessible to people all around the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>In the post-corona world, what kind of balance one can hope to see between technology and the physical experience of art in museums? Will it be like online dating where virtual introductions spur meeting in real life? And how much technology can be allowed to intrude in our consumption of art when we physically attend a museum?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We must acknowledge that technology has radically changed the way we all communicate, learn, and experience the world around us. Furthermore, there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to view art. The viewer, the visitor, the consumer will always decide what they prefer, and it is the responsibility of the museum to provide as many avenues and resources as possible to aid in the public’s experience. In the post-COVID-19 era, technology will play an even bigger role than it has in the past in how people experience museums, art, and cultural sites.</p> Thu May 28 23:41:52 IST 2020