Society en Wed Nov 16 12:48:48 IST 2022 seema-kohli-and-her-tryst-with-the-golden-womb <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Artist Seema Kohli’s recent work ‘Heartbeat of Universe’ is an ode to pulsating darkness giving birth to the glitter of sand, sky or water, to our shrouded thoughts, she says. Created using acrylics and inks on canvas with 24-carat gold and silver leaf, the artwork was displayed at the recently concluded Bihar Museum Biennale.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She explains, “The overarching theme of this painting is a commentary on the Karmic Cycle and Vasudhevya Kutumbakam. We are all like the branches, leaves, and roots of one Universal Consciousness which surpasses all biases. We are all unique, different, and at the same time existing because of each other. Our interdependence is also unique. I put forward a different version of the universal understanding of the Karmic cycle. The idea that the end of the Karmic cycle will put an end to all the suffering is not the central point. But, by going through this life cycle, living life to its fullest with conviction will help us achieve eternity and salvation.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kohli, who follows the concept of the ‘golden womb’ in her art, believes that humans or any other form of beings have all emerged from the female energy, the same element that guides all of us. Before being invited to the Bihar Biennale, Kohli presented an exhibition ‘Vut from the Same Cloth’ at Delhi’s Bikaner House where she brought out embroidered artworks, paintings, drawings and performances – based on the concept of the feminine, the golden womb, on which she had been working for 6.5-7 years.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kohli’s work stands out not only because she presents nature and the woman as one creator but also because it strikes the viewer at once – the use of bright colours and patterns, the feminine element, and the amalgamation of nature and beings. She says that the idea behind using bright colours is the fact that life is full of inspiration and celebrations. “Everywhere I look I see colour in spite of the fact that there are some low moments in life. But I feel that celebrations take them over and create more compassion and joy in our lives.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recipient of the Lalit Kala Academi Lifetime Achievement Award for Women in 2008, Kohli agrees that she draws a lot of inspiration from mythology and not only the mythology of a certain sect but different mythologies from different spaces and faiths. In this show (Cut from the Same Cloth), it is not mythology that was instrumental, it was poets and the teachings of sufi and bhakti saints which are in the knowledge of people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seema’s solo exhibitions have been shown in Brussels, Melbourne, London, New York, Dubai, Singapore, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. She is currently working on her upcoming solo show and says she will soon go back to her ‘womb’ that is, her studio to delve into her art.&nbsp;</p> Tue Aug 15 16:45:24 IST 2023 a-quest-for-equality-and-shackles-of-identity-indian-artists-exhibit-at-the-american-center <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On stage, dressed modestly in plain black clothes, professor Kaushal Kumar began his performance art. As a curious audience observed, he took out at least a dozen red threads or kalava from a bag and placed them on a table. The act was a part of the ‘Interrogations and Ideologies: A Quest for Equality’ exhibition hosted by The American Center that brought together a group of artists who used different installations as a powerful expression of social equality and justice. It was curated by professor Y.S. Alone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As professor Kumar picked up the first and began wrapping it around his body, the audience wondered what was in store next. ‘Can anyone help me?’ he asked the audience and a few went up the stage, picking up the thread bundles and wrapping them around his body. In about 15 minutes, professor Kumar was an embodiment of the tree that stands clenched in red religious threads, tied in hopes and prayers. Wrapped tightly from head to toe in about a dozen bundles of kalavas, he hopped around the stage and struggled but managed to climb down and exit as the startled audience wondered what to expect next.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But he had made his point. And the conclusion of the performance art was one’s own to draw. “The expression of our identities differs from person to person and from community to community. In the case of the majority, it becomes a power symbol,” he says, explaining his act.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is rather true – the whole purpose of the performance was to show the society how our dominant beliefs and ideologies sometimes hold us down hard and restrict us like the bark of the ‘holy’ tree that has been tied around with layers of threads.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a part of the exhibition, artists showcased ‘Ambedkarian aesthetics,’ a world untethered from prejudices, inhibitions, and the metanarratives of hegemonic modernity through their paintings. Artist Jaya Daronde’s art from the series titled ‘Relationship’ represented the oppressed women’s relationship in the hierarchical social structure of the Indian social System – with a socially affluent male, Shukla Sawant’s ‘First Flight’ was all about representing the issues of women’s labour rights from taking care of the baby to the freedom to fly high, the narrative of the everyday life of the Indian women caught in the domesticity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>United States’ deputy chief of mission Patricia Lacina, who attended the exhibition said that every nation struggles with notions of equality and that artists have a special role to play here. “In this context, the US and India have a long-standing history of cultural collaboration where art professionals from both nations have thrived and collaborated to promote social justice. These art expressions not only ignite minds but also reiterate the commitment of the US and India in envisioning an equitable world,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Professor Alone says that he has been in touch with the artists who present an Ambedkarian approach through his previous exhibitions and wanted to bring them all together under one exhibition and that is why he calls it ‘Ambedkarian Aesthetics’. “All these artists come from diverse backgrounds but have a common thread of democratic equality,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Mon Aug 14 10:57:21 IST 2023 honouring-indias-first-feminist-mirabai-and-her-legacy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Feminism as a concept began in the West in the 19<sup>th</sup> century but women in this part of the world were already confronting society centuries before the movement formally spread roots. Among such women, 16<sup>th</sup> century Hindu mystic poet and devotee of Krishna stands tall. In fact, Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Vidushi Sumitra Guha, who is an Indian classical vocalist, goes on to call Mirabai ‘India’s first feminist’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Mirabai was the first feminist and a visionary who voiced against the wrongdoings of the society. Despite being from the royal family, she questioned the norms of animal slaughter as an offering for gods. She stood up to all established norms of honour, and to the authority of every mortal man around her,” said Guha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a name="_heading=h.gjdgxs" id="_heading=h.gjdgxs"></a>To honour her spirit, the musical ‘Veer Meera – A musical on Empowering Women’ celebrated the awakening and liberation of women by paying homage to Mirabai’s ideology her warrior spirit. Conceptualised and composed by Vidushi Sumitra Guha and her senior disciple Dr Samia Mahbub Ahmad, a Hindustani classical vocal musician in the Kirana Gharana, the show brought together an amalgamation of songs celebrating Mirabai and her bhajans. The compositions spoke about how the mystic stood against caste, creed, gender, inequality while the show also had bhajans written by the mystic herself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The songs sung by Guha were enacted through a dance recital by Kathak exponent Shinjini Kulkarni, the granddaughter of the Kathak Maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kulkarni explains that the script is written in such a way that it highlights how Mirabai was decades ahead of her time and provides lessons for all of us. The script of the show was written by Pandit Vijay Shankar Mishra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reflecting on her journey, Guha says that she’s had her own shares of trials and tribulations but her love for music never died. Hailing from Tirupati, Guha’s mother was her first guru. She trained in Carnatic music and later went to Shantiniketan to pursue Philosophy Honours and married a Bengali.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I first wanted to become a doctor because all my friends were pursuing medicine but life had other plans. I had children early in my life but I treated music as my third child. I learned Hindustani classical to hone my accent and have closely followed and been inspired by Mirabai’s journey,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I started from scratch because I didn’t belong to any gharana family nor had any godfather but if you work with dedication, results show up one day,” says Guha who has also sung a track for the second season of <i>The Family Man</i> series.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The program also honoured three women achievers who reflect Meera Bai’s spirit – 95-year-old Bhagwani Devi Dagar who is an athlete, Dr Patil Pranjal Lahensingh, the first visually impaired IAS officer in the country who is currently the district magistrate of Shahdara, New Delhi and Shivpreet Pannu, professional speed climber who is also an Asian Youth Champion and national record holder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The musical was organised by Sumadhur Hansadhwani Trust, a non-profit organisation founded by Vidushi Sumitra Guha promoting Indian music and art form on July 26<sup>th</sup> in Delhi. It was sponsored by the Ministry of Culture to celebrate independent and powerful women in 75<sup>th</sup> year celebration of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sun Jul 30 11:59:46 IST 2023 20-yr-old-lensman-who-captured-albino-deer-plans-to-set-up-eco-friendly-resorts-in-national-parks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>For 20-year-old Dhruv Patil, forests and national parks are a second home. The youngster, who is pursuing a hotel management and tourism degree from New York University, made headlines last month when he spotted and clicked a rare leucistic fawn in the forests of Kabini during a safari. However, this was not the first photography high for him; he had clicked a black panther in Kabini forest in 2020, after spending about 9,000 minutes in search of the panther in the forest area.<br> <br> “The leucistic or albino deer is a very rare genetic mutation. I was in Kabini for a three-day safari when I spotted it with a herd of deer. It looked different from all of them. I immediately clicked a picture and shared it with my mother. She was quite excited to see the rare animal. It was an incredible moment for me,” he says.</p> <p><br> <br> Once he finishes his degree, he plans to not only continue wildlife photography but make documentaries on rare sightings that he captures for creating awareness. “This will also help boost tourism. I also would keenly explore national parks in India to establish luxury but eco-friendly resorts which will be a treat for nature lovers and help tourism,” he says.<br> <br> He visits his hometown Karnataka every vacation and goes on wildlife photography excursions. He plans to go deeper into the jungles of Bandipur and Dandeli.<br> <br> Patil is the son of Karnataka cabinet minister for large and medium industries and infrastructure development M.B. Patil. He first started exploring his passion for wildlife photography about 11 years ago and considers Shaaz Jung, a wildlife photographer whose unique style is ‘environmental surrealism’, his mentor and calls him his brother. “I follow all his work and he has been a teacher and a brother to me,” he says. Patil adds that it is his love for animals that made him take up wildlife photography.<br> <br> The youngster, who founded the NGO Society for Protection of Plants and Animals (SPPA) that takes up conservation and plantation projects, says the most important rule of wildlife photography is respecting the boundaries of animals and clicking from a distance, never disturbing them and always being on a jeep, never on foot. Patil plans to now click another black panther, a black jaguar in Brazil, and a spirit bear soon.</p> Tue Jul 11 16:52:08 IST 2023 merge-indigenous-knowledge-systems-with-modern-technology-for-a-better-planet <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>“<i>It would be a sad day for India if it has to inherit the English scale and the English tastes so utterly unsuitable to the Indian environment.” – Mahatma Gandhi</i></p> <p>Colonial influences have diluted the potency of a culturally bio-diverse nation such as India to the extent that people today credit Western technologies and knowledge systems as the reason for any manner of progressive development in India. It is therefore not surprising to note an excessive glorification of high-tech infrastructure and technologies in the name of modernisation when the reality, however, is the exact opposite. Recent studies render the global north responsible for 92 per cent of the prevailing climate breakdown since historical times while the contribution of the global south is a meagre 8 per cent. As per this, India alone (of the rest of the global south nations) harbours 34 per cent of the climate credit.</p> <p>The concept of modernity is a construct of the human mind. There are several examples of self-sufficiency, resilience, and capacity building embedded within the social infrastructure of any nation; known to have withstood the trials of time. Ancient Indian societies were known to be far more advanced for their times; even prior to colonial infiltration. India is renowned globally for its array of diverse, regenerative, and restorative approaches to living and management of the local environment via local and contextualised native solutions. The biggest challenge associated with the utilisation of Western solutions in the global south context lies in their reduced efficiencies which stem from their biases towards the problems of the global north.</p> <p>And this is where traditional and indigenous knowledge systems hold an edge.</p> <p>As Christopher Alexander discusses in his book<i> A Pattern Language, </i>each society has its own distinct pattern language which although uniquely symbolises the essence of a potential solution to a recurrent problem within our environment; that may be utilised elsewhere without ever repeating the same way twice. Traditional and indigenous practices have been doing just that. These centuries-old practices have been evolving with time, in tune to the changing climate scenario. They symbolise a time when anthropogenic development was a perfect marriage of advancement and an innate empathy for nature.</p> <p>The acknowledgment of the five elements of nature (a.k.a. <i>Pancha bhutas</i>) namely earth, water, fire, air, and space/ether in the cultural, economic, or spiritual wheel of life is proof of the intricate, holistic connection that Indian people share with nature. This clearly amplifies the need for a shift towards an indigenous developmental approach that coexists with nature rather than total dependence on foreign solutions to attain the same. Traditional and indigenous practices originated at a time in history when we were still deeply connected with nature. This is perhaps the biggest USP that sets them apart from Nature Based Solutions (Nbs) as the efficiency of the latter is on the efficiency with which biotic elements deliver ecosystem services. In fact, these practices are also viewed as a component of EbA (Ecosystem-Based Adaptation) like Nbs. Just like EbA and Nbs, traditional and indigenous knowledge systems too account for a cohort of benefits that are otherwise not observed in mainstream foreign technologies or conventional Nbs. Some of them include:</p> <p><b>Fosters harmony within the community</b></p> <p>The efficient working of practices such as Kuhls of Himachal Pradesh (gravity-based ingenious irrigation<i> </i>system) and Dong Bundhs of Assam<i> </i>(gravity-based seasonal river channelisation) can be credited to the presence of strong communal linkages and functioning in the region of implementation of these practices. Mutual understanding among the local community and a give-and-take policy ensured a successful conservation of the shared resource commons i.e. water in this scenario without compromising on anyone’s needs.</p> <p><b>Encourage gender equality</b></p> <p>This is mirrored in indigenous practices such as 'Akkadi Saalu' of Karnataka (rainfed intercropping system with a focus on biodiversity conservation and ecological pest management) and Sedentary Pastoralism across Kangayam grasslands. These practices not only promote gender equality and female leadership but also highlight the efficiency and productivity that may be attained when genders work in unison like a cog in the wheel.</p> <p><b>Incorporate sustainable and localised infrastructure</b></p> <p>The most remarkable advantage of indigenous practices is their increased dependence on native yet eco-friendly raw materials. This can be observed in the case of Meghalaya's bamboo drip irrigation system<i>. </i>The practice leverages the local potential of the ecosystem such as utilisation of abundantly available bamboo species, natural terrain, and gravity in order to successfully accommodate both domestic and agricultural demands. A significant outcome of this initiative includes the sustained conservation of the bamboo forests of India.</p> <p><b>Increase in carbon sequestration and lowering of ecological footprints</b></p> <p>One primary reason why<i> </i>wastewater <i>bheris</i> of east Kolkata wetlands offer ecological subsidies to the city of Kolkata is their ability to act as carbon sinks— locking over 60 per cent of carbon from the input wastewater. Likewise, the design of the surangams of Western Ghats (groundwater harvesting tunnels) is such that it is always low on carbon emissions for its lifetime. This is an outcome of the native vegetation with increased carbon sequestration abilities that grow overhead these tunnels.</p> <p><b>Encourage capacity building</b></p> <p>Collaboration and brainstorming among people have always led to the strengthening of existing approaches and the evolution of new practices. The ancient tradition of Halma, practiced by the Bhil tribes of Jhabua district, Madhya Pradesh, is an example of that. Systems like these become critical in the attempts to develop efficient and hybridised solutions with modern-day innovation. Likewise, they also enable people to take ownership of local issues and subsequently contribute to the process of planning and nation-building at their own level.</p> <p>However, with rampant urbanisation and modern influence, these practices are on the verge of turning redundant while some are already redundant. This calls for an imperative need to promote and mainstream the knowledge associated with these practices to the general public. As India is set to celebrate its 77<sup>th</sup> year of Independence, indigenous and traditional practices can help steer the way towards a self-reliant or <i>“</i>Aatmanirbhar Bharat” as quoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Efforts, therefore, need to be undertaken to equip our changemakers with resources, manpower, and information essential for mainstreaming these practices into the urban fabric of India.</p> <p>The efficiency of modern-day westernised grey infrastructure is only up to the point of resolving the issue for which they were constituted. Indigenous and traditional knowledge systems, however, offer a cohort of holistic benefits; the most important of all being resilience which was clearly observed during the Covid-19 pandemic; amongst indigenous communities that still imbibe these practices. Climate change is an inevitable global phenomenon that does not harbour biases of any kind towards anyone individual or country. Collective efforts supported by cross-sectoral linkages, therefore, become extremely crucial to formulate sustainable and long-term solutions. Institutionally backed strategies, policies, and missions such as LiFE (Lifestyle For Environment), etc.; capable of imbibing these practices into the national framework formally need to be devised for strengthening and mainstreaming this knowledge.</p> <p>Most importantly, understanding and deciphering the pattern established by these practices and their subsequent adaptation/replication in a different context is what we need to be looking at. One can only be enamoured by the wonders that may be achieved by the fusion of indigenous knowledge systems with modern technological advancements that are empathetic to the planet. Together we are not only moving towards (em)powering nature ecosystems to take their course but also conserving our tangible anthropogenic heritage for generations to come. Let us all, therefore, join hands towards reconnecting with our present by collaborating with our past in order to create a better future as a nation and planet.</p> <p><i><b>Hitesh Vaidya is Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA). Vishnupriya Gaur is Young Professional and Manju Rajeev Kanchan is Research Associate at NIUA.</b></i></p> Mon Jul 10 16:31:35 IST 2023 namboothiri-an-artist-par-excellence-in-the-world-of-line-art <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>'Varayude Paramashivan</i> (Lord Shiva of line drawing)'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was a fitting tribute from one stalwart to another – from eminent Malayalam author V.K.N. (Vadakke Koottala Narayanankutty Nair) to noted artist Namboothiri.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the legendary figures of line drawing, Karuvattu Mana Vasudevan Namboothiri, 97, passed away at 12.21am today, leaving behind a rich legacy and his unique style. The eldest son of Parameshwaran Namboothiri and Sreedevi Antharjanam of Karuvattu Mana in Ponnani, Kerala, Namboothiri entered the world of art, inspired by the scriptures at a temple near his house. He was fond of making clay figures. After finishing high school, he worked as a priest at a temple in Thrissur for some time, during which he learnt Sanskrit and traditional medicinal practices. But, Namboothiri soon realised his destiny lay elsewhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With financial help from Krishnan Namboodiri of Varikkasseri Mana, a renowned aristocratic family in Malabar, Namboothiri got enrolled at the Madras School of Fine Arts (now, Government College of Fine Arts). It was there he met the two towering figures who would profoundly influence his art. The first was Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, a student of Abanindranath Tagore and the founding principal of the institution. Under Chowdhury's guidance, the college provided comprehensive training in fine arts, fostering an environment conducive to exploring indigenous art forms. This exposure gave Namboothiri invaluable insights into depicting the human form and deepened his appreciation for artistic expression rooted in Indian traditions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second influential figure was his teacher, K.C.S. Paniker. His inspiration and unwavering support motivated Namboothiri and his peers to embark on a path of exploration, experimentation, and self-expression. Encouraging them to showcase their individual talents and challenge the limits of artistic conventions, Paniker instilled in them a sense of curiosity and a quest to define an Indian identity. After completing diplomas in fine arts and applied arts, Namboothiri lived at the Cholamandal Artists' Village under Paniker's guidance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1960, Namboothiri joined <i>Mathrubhumi</i>, a prominent daily in Kerala, and four years later, he became a staff artist at <i>Mathrubhumi</i> <i>Weekly</i>. During this period, Namboothiri gained fame thanks to his distinctive style of raw and irreverent drawings. His pocket cartoon series, <i>Naniyammayum Lokavum</i>, in <i>Mathrubhumi</i>, got widespread acclaim and became a significant milestone in the publication's history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Line drawing came naturally to him, and his unique perspective on human anatomy breathed life into many literary characters, making them immortal. The period from 1970s to 1990s is often hailed as Namboothiri's golden era, when he created some of his most celebrated literary illustrations. One notable example is the character of Bhima from M.T. Vasudevan Nair's famous novel <i>Randamoozham</i> (1984). Namboothiri skillfully portrayed Bhima with a robust physique and a relatively smaller head, effectively capturing the intricate emotions of Nair's Bhima.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Namboothiri's artistic prowess extended beyond Bhima, as he breathed visual form and shape into numerous characters in Malayalam literature. His illustrations graced the works of esteemed authors like Uroob, V.KN., S.K. Pottekkat, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, and Madhavi Kutty (Kamala Surayya), among others. Each of these artistic renderings showcased Namboothiri's ability to capture the essence of the characters and contribute to the rich tapestry of Malayalam literature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His male characters possessed a sturdy and robust appearance, while his female characters were depicted as beautiful. It was Surayya's father, V.M. Nair, who worked alongside Namboothiri at <i>Mathrubhumi</i>, who suggested that the artist should envision all his characters as visually appealing, even if the writers were exploring themes of agony, distress, or sadness. This approach aimed to convey the inherent beauty within each character, regardless of their circumstances.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Namboothiri possessed a remarkable ability to translate the intricate realm of emotions experienced by a three-dimensional character into the confined space of his two-dimensional drawing sheets. His profound understanding of literature, Kathakali, and classical music played a significant role in shaping his artistic vision. These diverse influences greatly enhanced his drawings. Furthermore, Namboothiri regarded music as the pinnacle or the &quot;best form” of art, considering it the only artistic medium capable of deeply touching and stirring the human heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the 1970s, Namboothiri's artistic talents expanded into the realm of cinema. When G. Aravindan, who would later establish himself as one of the greatest filmmakers in Malayalam cinema, directed his debut film <i>Uttarayanam</i>, Namboothiri served as the art director. In 1974, the film garnered five state awards, including the prestigious Best Art Director award for Namboothiri. Subsequently, the artist collaborated with acclaimed filmmakers such as Shaji N. Karun and Padmarajan, further showcasing his versatility.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Namboothiri also ventured into other artistic mediums, such as oil on canvas and copper relief works, to express his artistry. He even embraced finger painting as a form of artistic expression. His copper relief works on the epics Mahabharat and Ramayan, as well as his fibre-glass works on Kathakali, garnered international recognition and acclaim.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Namboothiri's autobiography, first serialised in <i>Bhashaposhini</i>, <i>Malayala Manorama</i>'s literary magazine, was subsequently published as a book titled <i>Rekhakal</i> by Manorama Books. This publication provided readers with insights into his life and journey, further solidifying his prominent position in the artistic landscape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the numerous honours Namboothiri received, including the Raja Ravi Varma Award, one wonders if the nation truly recognised and honoured his exceptional contributions to the world of art and culture. Surprisingly, he never got a Padma award, which many believe he truly deserved.</p> Fri Jul 07 15:04:39 IST 2023 meet-mithil-dedhia-the-boy-who-summited-the-everest-at-17 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, 16-year-old Mithil Dedhia trekked to the Everest base camp with his uncle, Keval Kakka, a mountaineer who scaled the world's highest peak, also known as Chomolongma, 'the Goddess mother of the world' way back in 2019. That was the first time he saw a small glimpse of the world's tallest mountain peak. It piqued his interest in conquering it and experiencing the summit, first-hand. How would that feel? What must it be like to reach there and how do people actually go about it? His mind was swarming with questions and his heart was beating harder with excitement. Kakka, who's been there, done that-- he's scaled five eight-thousanders one after the other in a short span of time, encouraged his nephew to pursue his heart and go all out to scale Everest.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Everest, he told the teen, was as much about the mind as it was about strength and agility. Once he decided he'd scale the peak, there should be no looking back. Dedhia followed the advice to the T and was resolute about his decision to scale Everest. The very first step was to convince the parents, which to his surprise, turned out to be the easiest one. &quot;Initially they dismissed me, saying it was the excitement that follows a trip to the Basecamp. They were hoping I'd forget all about it in a few days. But I was so determined that they had to give in,&quot; says Dedhia. In January this year, the plan was final: Mithil, a student of St Gregory High School in Mumbai's Chembur was going to be the first 17-year-old from the city to scale the world's highest mountain above sea level.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first and foremost part of the preparation strategy was to achieve a certain level of fitness. That came from two to three hours of Calisthenics. Dedhia has been undergoing training for a year and it helped in building his endurance levels. To that, he added, running marathons, climbing staircases with weights tied to the ankles, and more. This went on from January through March. On April 2, he left for Kathmandu and from there to Lukla, a small and sleepy town in north-eastern Nepal popular among trekkers, who're geared up for the Everest Trek.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thereafter, a nine-day trek took him to the Basecamp. Acclimatization at such altitudes is crucial because the body needs to adapt to thin layers of oxygen at higher altitudes given the scarcity of the element further up. Proper acclimatization makes the trip safe as well as more enjoyable. But despite resting for a few days, Dedhia found himself falling prey to morning sickness. &quot;I was dizzy, at a point in time on a small two-day trek to Lobuche, a peak at 6119 metres I almost fainted and that kind of made me super nervous about the upcoming trek the following night from basecamp to Camp One. I was hopeless and disheartened but then pulled myself up sooner,&quot; he says, recalling the moments, in an interview with THE WEEK. &quot;I was super nervous. But my uncle was with me the whole time during these rotations and so it took us eleven hours for us to reach Camp 1 and then we went to Camp 2 the next day at 6800 metres. That took us five hours. The weather was getting inhospitable and unpredictable by the day. On the night of May 12, at 11.30 pm in the face of harsh winds, we left for Camp 2. I was very slow and the daytime heat was killing me. I was able to reach Camp 2 at 5 in the evening,&quot; says Dedhia.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There he and other mountaineers stayed for two days and thereafter moved on further with their oxygen masks on. It took them another six hours to reach Camp 3. &quot;There, I was super exhausted. Also because I was wearing the oxygen mask for the first time and it was physically draining to hike with the mask on, especially in the face of heavy snow. Our tent, which was placed on a vertical slope, was fully covered with snow. Somehow, we spent the night there before leaving for Camp 4. After an unforgettable and highly eventful ten hours, we found ourselves at Camp 4. Surprisingly, I wasn't exhausted at all; rather, I was energetic and very excited for what lay ahead,&quot; recalls Dedhia, animatedly. The team ate theplas and basic homemade food they were carrying along, and soon after left for the Summit at 8 am. At this point, Dedhia was by himself, along with his Sherpa and fellow mountaineers, who were more than a hundred at any point in time. His uncle, Kakka had accompanied him till Camp 3. Just after an hour of leaving for the summit, Dedhia's Sherpa fell sick with diarrhoea. That was at 8100 metres. And it meant that Dedhia had to wait for his Sherpa's replacement to come over. The wait on the way to the summit is actually what causes the most anxiety in climbers, says Dedhia. &quot;My toes had begun to get numb in the snow, while I was waiting for more than an hour at one place.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He finally reached the Ridge Walk at 5380 metres. Despite wearing sunglasses, Dedhia had only 50 per cent visibility, because of the frost on the glasses that made it nearly impossible to see clearly. So here he was on 80-degree steep slopes at a height of close to 8450 metres, all of which he negotiated without being able to see anything clearly. He reached the &quot;South Pole.&quot; Until then for a long time he had been on juices completely and preferred to not stuff himself with food. Then came the famous Hillary Step at 8600 metres, where Dedhia's oxygen mask went kaput, making it difficult for him to breathe. He had to remove it and gasp harder to be able to take in oxygen at a height where the element is less than or equal to only about 30 per cent of that at sea level. So here was this 17-year-old at close to 8500 metres, where he could barely see clearly, could barely breathe well in the absence of a functioning mask and was walking with a numb toe. Dedhia recalls the moment as one that drove him to panic, anxiety and nervousness such as he had never experienced before.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He decided against proceeding further. All he had to do was cross the remaining 200 metres before he could reach the top of the world. But that short distance seemed like an eternity. &quot;My Sherpa was confident, encouraging and warm and was the sole person to convince me that I could do it. He changed my oxygen mask and I sat there for five minutes before moving ahead with small, calculated steps.&quot; The universe conspired to make it all happen for him, says Dedhia. just when he felt at his lowest, and coldest, the sun shone brightly as if taking the boy in a warm embrace. The frost on his glasses disappeared, he could breathe well and walk well. At 9 am that morning he finally reached the summit and soaked in the beauty around for a full 30 minutes. &quot;I made it. It was a wonderful and a very powerful feeling,&quot; says Dedhia from the comfort of his home, a month and a half after he returned from Everest. He is presently nursing a frostbitten foot, but the wound he says, is hardly any price to pay in the face of the momentous accomplishment of having scaled Everest and fulfilled his long-cherished dream.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the ascent was difficult and challenging, the descent from Everest, says Dedhia, is equally challenging if not more. First of all, he had to wait on the Hillary Step for a good 45 minutes only to allow those climbing up, to pass. &quot;On my way, I encountered dead bodies, injured and deeply wounded fellow trekkers, and those who went tumbling down into danger right in front of my eyes. The descent is such that we all need to form a single line and move slowly one after the other. If you try to overtake, you'd slip, fall, tumble and die. We were all moving extremely cautiously; it took me five hours to reach Camp 4. We were there at 2 pm.&quot; From there he was to go to Lhotse, the fourth-highest mountain in the world, but frostbites on the finger and a blister on the toe, kept him from pursuing it. A few minutes into the descent, with the rope slipping from his numb hands, Dedhia had a &quot;deep fall&quot; that led him to further injure his hands and legs. Somehow having managed to reach Camp 2 where he saw his feet were completely frostbitten, he was rescued in a helicopter to Kathmandu.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than the happiness that comes with summiting Everest, it was that on his first 8000'er, he was able to make the right decisions and return from the peak safe and sound. &quot;The injuries I brought back with me, feel sweet in the face of the hardships I endured up there,&quot; he says. One can sense the enthusiasm and energy in his voice as he recalls his first-ever summit, and is already in preparation for his next one.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dedhia had just appeared for his Class 12 exams before setting out for the trek. It was a much-needed break, he says, laughing. He's currently pursuing a program in graphic design and visual communications. &quot;It took me seven to eight months of rigorous preparation to make my body fit for the trek. this despite the fact that I have an agile and fit body, that has been trained into calisthenics for a couple of years now,&quot; he says. Dedhia weighed 57 when he set off for the trek; he lost six kilos during the trek. He now weighs a healthy 53 kilos. His initiation into trekking happened way back at the age of seven, courtesy of Kakka who took him along on weekend monsoon treks and camping trips in the Sahayadris. Ever since he's been a regular at snow treks. From 2018 through 2022, Dedhia spent his Decembers' on some or other snow trek. In December of 2022, he successfully accomplished five long treks in the snow within India including an expedition to a 6200-metre peak in Leh Ladakh. The mantra remains: &quot;Mountains are calling, and I must go.&quot;&nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 06 17:09:39 IST 2023 malcolm-forests-documentary-unveils-brazils-storied-past-and-unique-path-to-independence <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Brazil has a history of independence unlike that of any other country. While fiery <i>libertadores</i> like Bolivar, O’Higgins and San Martin led the epic wars of independence against Spain in bloody South American battles, Brazil's independence emerges from elements of loyalty, philosophical struggle, enchantment, and romanticism depicting a journey that brought about its transformation from a colony to an independent empire before it became a republic.</p> <p>In a cinematic revelation, world avant-premiere of director Malcolm Forest's documentary film, <i>Jornada dos Principes </i>- <i>The Journey of the Princes</i>, unveils the storied tale of Brazil’s path to independence with intimate detail, recreating the grandeur of the time.</p> <p>The film, honouring Brazil's bicentennial cycle that celebrates a series of pivotal events that shaped the destiny of the country, brought voices, history and music across the centuries to the screen in Brasilia this June.</p> <p>The avant-premiere was held at Austria's embassy in Brazil, in deference to the role and history of Austrian princess Maria Leopoldina Carolina Josefa de Habsburgo-Lorena, whose influence on the development and independence of Brazil reverberates strongly to this day.</p> <p>The noble efforts of Austrian ambassador Stephan Scholz in preserving the historical connections between Austria and Brazil also serve to champion and uphold the legacy of the young Austrian woman whom most Brazilians know simply as Dona Leopoldina, Empress of Brazil; and director Forest resurrects the persona of Empress Leopoldina, eloquently revealing her significant contribution in shaping the trajectory of Brazilian independence.</p> <p>“They had music in common... they had the Fatherland in common... together, they made Brazil's independence,” begins the documentary which depicts the people, colour, music, and the story with important dates and events that form the intangible patrimony of the creation of Brazil.</p> <p>The documentary retraces the journey of Dom Pedro, the Prince Regent of Brazil and son of King Dom João VI of Portugal, Brazil’s colonial power, from the capital Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo where he declared independence, giving birth to the Empire of Brazil and becoming its first emperor.</p> <p>At the intersection of cinema and history, the documentary film emerges as a portal to the past, guiding audiences through a journey that intertwines personal narratives and grand historical events, revealing the intricate tapestry of bygone era.</p> <p>With Forest's signature blend of reverence for history and philosophical introspection, the film revisits the visually stunning locations where significant events took place, delving into rich descriptions of familiar narratives.</p> <p>Director Forest uses breathtaking cinematography and a meticulous attention to historical accuracy in showing the soul behind the story of Brazil's birth. The documentary manages to do this with a level of intimacy that captivates and enlightens in providing a profound understanding of the rich cultural heritage that shaped Brazil.</p> <p>The portrayal of Dom Pedro and Dona Leopoldina's relationship serves as a window into the broader narrative of Brazil's birth as an independent state. Their bond becomes a metaphor for the strong ties that held Brazil together during its formative years, and their love story humanises the grand historical events, making them relatable and emotionally resonant.</p> <p>&quot;<i>My dearest Dom Pedro,</i></p> <p><i>&quot;In this momentous hour, I find myself compelled to pour out my heart to you, my beloved husband and the leader of our cherished Brazil. The time has come for us to seize our destiny and carve a path towards independence.</i></p> <p><i>&quot;Oh, Pedro, the spirit of freedom resonates within me, and I believe it stirs within the hearts of our people as well. The yoke of colonial rule has become too heavy to bear, and the longing for autonomy echoes through our vibrant land</i>.&quot;</p> <p>The letter, in Dona Leopoldina's handwriting appearing on the screen, captures the unique path of Brazilian independence, adding a personal and emotional dimension which was contextualised in a combination of intellectual analysis by Forest and historical context by Brazil's preeminent historian Dr Jose Theodoro Mascarenhas Menck and others.</p> <p>&nbsp;Scholz, Austria's ambassador to Brazil, said the film contributes &quot;hugely to renew the understanding of the history... and the early days of independence.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;Brazil last year celebrated its bicentennial,&quot; said Ambassador Scholtz. &quot;We all lived through 1976 when the US celebrated 200 years, and [19]89, when France celebrated. Both these countries set up huge commissions that reviewed history teachings, history curricula and tried to bring new perspectives new findings of the early days of independence, and the struggle for independence.&quot;</p> <p>Noting that the film catalyses a similar process in Brazil, Scholtz said the educational aspect is powerful in projecting how Brazil in early years was perceived in Europe. &quot;How this young, young country became a matter of discussion in the saloons of Vienna because people were fascinated with flora, with fauna, with anthropology, and on the other side they were also fascinated with your liberal constitution of 1824 which gave many rights to the people which central Europeans did not enjoy during that time.&quot;</p> <p>Emperatriz Leopoldina was known for her deep appreciation of botany, art, and music, and left an indelible cultural imprint on the country. Her father, Francis I of Austria, Emperor of Austria and the last ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, sent to her extensive scholarly works and scientific instruments that facilitated her in-depth study of botany, science, and culture, ultimately contributing to Brazil's intellectual and scientific development.</p> <p>She supported scientific expeditions and corresponded with renowned botanists of the time, contributing the foundational understanding and documentation of Brazil's rich botanical diversity.</p> <p>The preview screening before diplomats, government officials, and an audience or notables received a standing ovation on its second night of showing before the Brasilia Women's Club.</p> <p><i>Jornada dos Principes</i> presents a powerful portrayal of a slice of history that shaped Brazil as a nation, said pioneer Brasilian, historian, and longtime civic and arts patron Cosete Ramos, speaking after the screening.</p> <p>Through a personal and intimate portrayal of Dom Pedro and Dona Leopoldina, the documentary showcases the challenges faced, from political tensions and external pressures to internal conflicts in the country's journey towards independence.</p> <p>Director Forest is also a noted composer, singer, actor and cultural producer whose international career spans several decades in which he has garnered international acclaim.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film's soundtrack fills the air with music authored by Dom Pedro I, and original compositions by the film director, Malcolm Forest. In the sum, the narrative evokes a range of emotions as it takes viewers along a historic ride that pays homage to the unique history of Brazil.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The documentary is headed for screenings across Brazil as well as major cities and world capitals as a prelude for worldwide broadcast.</p> Sat Jul 01 08:30:33 IST 2023 dad-and-me-a-tale-of-laughter-love-and-unbreakable-bond <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>My father has been enjoying his retired life for the past three decades. As I lean back and reflect on my career, I can’t help but compare it to my father's carefree and enjoyable journey, realising I can never quite measure up.</p> <p>I vividly remember my childhood days, watching in awe as my father briskly walked up to the door every morning, with my mother following closely to see him off. On a few occasions, he would return at the same pace, declaring he did not feel like going to the office! Oh, how I wish I could do the same.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>My clients eagerly await my arrival, and I find myself rushing out of my home at the crack of dawn, desperate not to miss my flights and face the wrath of both my colleagues and clients. The airlines have become less generous these days and I can't afford any setbacks.<br> </p> <p>Yet, despite his seemingly effortless career, I remember two occasions when my father's enthusiasm waned. The first was when he received a transfer order to the Mumbai office. At that time, our house in Madurai was nearing completion, and I was in class 10. The other instance was when he lost a court case representing his office. However, in his unique style, he managed to turn both situations around.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>I cherish the moments spent with my father as we share laughter and crack wild jokes that one would never expect between a father and son. I recall my grandmother, his mother, cautioning my father that he wasn't raising me properly and that he should maintain some distance. But we were inseparable, like mischievous brothers, strolling down the road, giggling, and poking fun at the people passing by.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>One of the funniest moments we shared was when he had to be admitted to a clinic for his frozen shoulder. The neurosurgeon's routine visit happened to be at an odd hour, so he had to stay overnight. After the surgeon left our room, we couldn't contain our laughter. I imitated the surgeon's mannerisms, only to have a nurse walk in, completely shocked by our unexpected camaraderie. She quickly retreated, probably questioning whether we were really father and son.<br> </p> <p>One of our regular sources of amusement involved my father telling me that he would ask a question (only we knew what it was) to someone, be it my mom, sister, or even a visitor. He would then predict their responses. I would watch his conversation unfold, and more often than not, their replies matched his expectations. We would burst into fits of laughter, much to the annoyance of my sister, who often ended up getting angry and yelling at me. My mother would comment that our household was an exception, as most sons tend to side with their mothers.<br> </p> <p>During my school vacations, I walked alongside my father every day up to the main road where his office was located. The representative from the roadside medical shop and the stationery store owner would often ask me how I managed to maintain such a close relationship with my father, while their own sons seemed distant. I guess the secret lies in our shared laughter and deep connection.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>For the majority of my education, I never had to leave home. Most of my studenthood was fortunately from the comforts of my own house. However, when it came time for my postgraduate studies, I had to venture beyond Madurai. Those initial days in the hostel weren't easy and I fell ill. The housekeeper noticed my condition and asked about my health. In my vulnerable state, I confessed that I wanted to see my father. Suddenly, his expression changed. Little did I know that he would go on to make a lighthearted comment to his colleagues, wondering whether it was my mother or my father who had breastfed me. Both of them had a good laugh at my expense, and I couldn't help but chuckle too without taking offence.<br> </p> <p>My father will forever be my hero. Our close bond sustains me, especially since I lost my mom in 2017. These days, I cherish our shared moments at the dining table, where I playfully coerce him into eating vegetable dishes—something my mom could never make him do. It's the only time he seems slightly uncomfortable with me. As he clutches my hand for balance during our walks, I feel a deep sense of love and gratitude that words can't fully express.<br> </p> <p>My father's presence has always brought joy, humour, and unwavering emotion. I'm forever grateful for the countless laughs, the shared jokes, and the profound connection we share. Through the ups and downs, my father remains an anchor of love and support, reminding me that the greatest gift one can have is a father who is not only a parent but also a best friend.<br> </p> <p><i>(The author is the director, global key accounts, LRQA)</i><br> </p> Sun Jun 18 12:44:36 IST 2023 reimagining-the-himalayas-on-canvas <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>They say the best inspiration for any artist comes from nature. When artist Vinod Sharma looked to nature for ideas, he ended up bringing to life the mystical landscape of the Himalayas on canvas. His month-long solo online exhibition that concludes on Thursday depicts the ageless Himalayas, the abode of Lord Shiva, according to Hindu scriptures.</p> <p>The exhibition celebrates the simplistic use of colour, aligning it with a minimalistic philosophy. Sharma's colour palette ranges from black and white to primary hues of reds and blues.</p> <p>Talking about his collection, Sharma says, “The legends say that Shiva had wisely chosen the Himalayas as his home amid the snow-capped mountains away from the maddening world in the lap of nature, where his mind controlled the world. This is my tribute to that level of self-restraint and control over one’s senses which empowered Shiva to take over the entire universe. Silent, yet powerful. Deep within yet holding the physical world in his fist.”</p> <p>Sharma has 35-five solo exhibitions to his credit, and his works are celebrated internationally. Sharma was also behind organising the art camps and seminars for the NCERT, Dissertation on 20th Century Printmakers, Technique &amp; Vision and designed Murals &amp; Interiors at Trade Fair Society, Delhi. Some of his collections are a part of the Modern Art museum, New Delhi and Museum of Art, Chandigarh as well.</p> <p>Curator Manisha Gawade calls Sharma’s understanding of the mountainous terrains ‘uncanny and intense.’ “The presence of the artist’s meditative state melts into the hearts and minds of the onlooker,” she says.</p> <p>The show was curated by Gawade and supported by Arthouse by AV, Dubai. It was presented by Ehsaas, which was founded by Dr Alka Raghuvanshi and Manisha Gawade in 2012 to bring all the combined arts on a single platform.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Jun 15 15:07:34 IST 2023 guerrillero-heroico-the-story-behind-che-guevaras-iconic-photo <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Who would have thought that a picture taken on March 5, 1960, with a Leica M2 90 mm lens of a man who had been photographed by many, and in numerous poses, would go on to become one of the world's most famous photographs, and be reproduced on every imaginable medium more than any other picture, perhaps, in history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On that day in March, former fashion photographer Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, who later changed his name to Korda, immortalised Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, popularly known as Che Guevara.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Revolutionary leader. Physician. Marxist. Guerrilla leader. Author. And later, pop culture icon. Ernesto “Che” Guevara was all these, and more. But even those who do not know much about Che's life or exploits, would probably know him from Korda's iconic photo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On that day, in downtown Havana, a funeral march was held in memory of all the sailors and stevedores who were killed when the <i>La Coubre</i>, a French vessel carrying tons of grenades and munitions, exploded. The march was attended by the likes of philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Also present was Korda - a staff photographer for the <i>Revolución</i>, a newspaper first published by the Revolutionary Union.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Korda, when asked about the picture by <i>The Times of London</i>, said &quot;I decided to watch from the crowd and used my Leica with its medium telephoto lens. I panned the podium, and suddenly Che moved forward into my camera. I took a picture, and immediately thought of a cover of our newspaper, turned the camera vertically, made another - and the moment had gone.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Korda later said that Che’s facial expression at that moment showed his characteristic stoicism and “absolute implacability”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the picture – later titled 'Guerrillero Heroico' - did not go to print, it ended up in Korda's private collection and would not see the light of the day till 1967, when an Italian publisher and businessman Giangiacomo Feltrinelli came to Korda looking for a portrait of Che Guevara. He gifted Feltrinelli two copies of the print; the same print that Feltrinelli mass printed as promotional posters to promote Guevara's book after his execution by the Bolivian army on October 8, 1967. The picture first appeared as the cover of Feltrinelli’s publication of Guevara's <i>Bolivian Diaries</i> in 1968.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, eight years after Korda's click, and a year after Che died, Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick did a stylised red-black-and-white rendering of 'Guerrillero Heroico', which, to borrow from modern vocabulary, went viral.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Che Guevara had, by then, become the face of the revolution and his image a symbol of rebellion and anti-imperialism. As a result, Feltrinelli prospered while Korda never got any royalties despite being the man behind the lens. His daughter Diana Díaz told <i>CGTN America</i> that her father did not receive a cent out of the photograph's popularity and he did not care about making profits either. The only thing, she said, that mattered to him was the fact that the image helped make Che famous.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The year before he died, in an interview for a documentary, Korda is quoted as saying, “I had the luck to take this photo and leave something for humanity. I didn’t leave great palaces, yachts, money in the bank, none of that. I left an example of my work during my time in this world.”&nbsp;</p> Wed Jun 14 17:19:51 IST 2023 no-mountain-too-tall-indian-soldiers-record-making-trek-to-mt-everest-base-camp <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The weather was as harsh as it could ever be. He was bleeding profusely from the nose. He did not have auxiliary oxygen support. He had a medical condition, which made it difficult to breathe, forget running in an unforgiving terrain with all the gear on. But, Armyman Muhsin V.A. battled all these odds, and more, to finally reach the Mount Everest Base Camp (MEBC) after an arduous 22-hour trek to etch his name in the record books.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 29-year old from Aluva, Kerala, who started the trek from Lukla, a small town in northeast Nepal, entered the Asia Book of Records as the fastest to reach the MEBC.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It usually takes days, and sometimes even weeks, to complete this stretch. I had to run most of the way with all the gear strapped on, to reach the camp in the shortest possible time. I didn't carry any auxiliary oxygen support, too,” Muhsin told THE WEEK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Muhsin, a tech soldier now posted in Ladakh, overcoming his medical condition was one of the biggest challenges. “I was first posted in Himachal Pradesh. My medical condition was an issue, which I overcame with breathing exercises and yoga. This gave me confidence.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was not the first trek to the MEBC for the mountaineering enthusiast. “My first time, back in 2016, I took 15 days and the second time, a week, to complete this trek. The climate then was not that harsh,” Muhsin, who joined the Army in 2015, said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This time, it was snowing heavily, making it difficult to take each step. The wind was blowing so hard that it kept pushing me backwards.” Muhsin even lost his way once.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He started the trek from the Gateway of the Everest – Lukla – at 4am on May 1. It took only three hours to reach Phakding. The real challenge, however, started from there. By around 10:30am, Muhsin reached Namche Bazar but was drained of all his energy. “Since I hadn't had any food, each step was getting harder. No shops were open,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With heavy rains ruling out further movement, Muhsin decided to rest. “By around 11am, I started again. My next stop was Deboche, and by the time I reached, heavy snowfall had covered the village in a blanket of white. The chilling wind was making it extremely difficult to trek.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“From Deboche, I reached Thukla by around 6pm but lost my way after that due to the thick fog. Even my phone was about to die and I knew that if my GPS tracker lost its signal, then there was no point continuing the trek. Thankfully, I heard the sound of cattle bells, which I followed to find a trail. I met a villager who showed me the track to follow. Following the cattle tracks, I reached a tea shop, charged my phone and set out for the Base Camp, and reached by 2am on May 2,” Muhsin said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the way up, there were constant reminders of how deadly each step could be. “There were posters of missing persons. They are a chilling reminder that there are so many people who have been lost here, to these mountains,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The aim was to reach the Base Camp in 16 hours but adverse weather delayed his plans, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Muhsin had trekked with a message '#SaveLakshadweep', to raise awareness on the threat of global warming. At 5am, he started trekking down, and reached Lukla at 10pm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Muhsin trained in mountaineering at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, and the National Institute of Mountaineering and Adventure Sports (NIMAS), Dirang, Arunachal Pradesh. He has his sights set on advanced training at the High Altitude Warfare School in Gulmarg in August, in preparation for his trek to Mount Everest next year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“My target is to reach Mount Everest in 24 hours. On this trek, when people would advise me to go slow, I would tell them that I was in a hurry to complete the trek in record time. ‘Are you kidding’, they would ask. I made that possible and I am confident that I will be able to achieve my next target as well,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Muhsin has conquered other peaks, too, including Island Peak, Mera Peak and Kala Patthar in Nepal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There is no easy way to get used to the high altitude. Your body has to adapt to the conditions. Correct diet and exercise help you adapt.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His feat was acknowledged by the International Book of Records, too, when they named him one of the fastest individuals to have trekked to the MEBC.</p> Mon Jun 12 16:52:53 IST 2023 diplomats-artists-come-together-to-bring-smiles-to-children-battling-critical-illnesses <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Battery-operated cars and bikes, a doll house, phones and tablets for online studies were some of the wishes of children battling critical illnesses. As their wishes were fulfilled by Israeli Ambassador to India Naor Gilon, along with Records Manya and Make-A-Wish Foundation, the children could not stop smiling.</p> <p>The 12 children who were invited to the Ambassador's residence, hail from different parts of the country and are being treated in Delhi for their severe illnesses. Once they received their gifts, they were indulged in activities and interactive experiences to lift their spirits.</p> <p>The initiative was funded by a portion of the proceeds generated from the successful art exhibition held last month in which artists sold their art painted on old vinyl records to raise funds. It was a joint initiative of the Speaking Art Foundation and Records Manya, the brainchild of Maya Katz, an Israeli artist working with the Embassy of Israel in India. Around 125 hand-painted artworks on scratched records, created by more than 100 artists from all over India were showcased and sold.</p> <p>Maya, who shared she recently lost someone close to cancer, said it became her drive to do something for the children. “I had received these vinyl records from one of my family members during the lockdown and I was wondering what to do with them. That is when I started painting them. It gave me the idea of bringing together artists to do the same for a good cause,” she said. While the amount raised has not been disclosed, Maya says it is good enough to fulfill the wishes of the children.</p> <p>Ambassador Gilon, who played host along with his wife, said: &quot;I am honoured to host such a noble event and make a small difference in the lives of the children undergoing challenging medical treatment. Witnessing the joy and hope emanating from these incredible kids is a profound reminder of the power of unity, compassion, and the ability to create an impact. It is even more special as the proceeds were generated by the sustainable art exhibition that reused scratched vinyl to create new artefacts.”</p> <p>He further said: “It was inspiring to see Israelis and Indians coming together to make a positive contribution and bring happiness and hope to these children. Together, we can inspire and uplift, creating a world where wishes do come true.”</p> <p>Ambassador Gilon who has actively advocated for water conservation techniques and initiatives often finds himself getting back at trolls on Twitter. When asked about some of the recent incidents, he said he is a Twitter person and loves to engage and communicate with people on Twitter. “I am very active on Twitter and feel it is a god way to share thoughts. At times, I feel the need to speak my part as well and that is why I do and clarify things,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Jun 10 12:23:15 IST 2023 italian-national-day-indian-italian-artists-come-together-for-a-musical-evening <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>When Italian folk musician and songwriter Eugenio Bennato recently played his music at the Italian Embassy in Delhi, the charmed audiences, both Indians and Italians, were transported to Italy by his performance. The founder of a musical movement called Taranta Power that began in 1998 to promote south-Italian folk culture through music, cinema and theater, Bennato's passion for Italian culture and heritage reflects in his love for music.&nbsp;</p> <p>Bennato collaborated with artist Sonia Totaro, who sang along with him, clad in all red, on the occasion of National Day of Italy on June 2. The day marks Italy’s Republic Day commemorating the anniversary of the 1946 referendum through which Italians abandoned monarchy and became a republic.&nbsp;</p> <p>In a first, the Italian maestro could also be seen having a&nbsp;jugalbandi&nbsp;with Rajasthani folk musicians Yar Mohammad and group who set the night in motion. Bennato was also heard praising the musical heritage of Indian musicians.&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier this year, Italy had extended full support to the Indian Presidency of G20. Later, the two countries announced elevating the bilateral relationship to the level of the strategic partnership while concluding a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation.&nbsp;</p> <p>During the event, Italian Ambassador to India Vincenzo De Luca hailed India-Italy relationship and said it holds a special place as both the countries received Independence almost at the same time.&nbsp;</p> <p>It was a feast at the Embassy of Italy in Delhi as Italian delicacies and wine flowed through the night. As the event flagged off, Indian and Italian national anthems were played and the Italian and Indian crowds participated to mark respect to both nations.&nbsp;</p> <p>The guests in attendance also included Ambassador of Denmark Freddy Svane, Ambassador of Lithuania Diana Mickeviciene, Ambassador of Chile Juan Angulo, French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain, among others.</p> <p>Also in attendance was Meenakshi Lekhi, minister of state for external affairs and culture who congratulated Italy on their National Day celebrations.&nbsp;</p> Tue Jun 06 16:47:07 IST 2023 deepa-madans-therapeutic-paintings-brings-emotions-to-life <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A short walk from the Pathadipalam metro station in Kochi leads you to a rather quiet place, the blossoming artist that lies inside though is not as inconspicuous. The Museum of Kerala History is hosting Deepa Madan, an English literature professor, a homemaker, and a brilliant self-taught artist<b>. </b>It is the maiden solo exhibit of the Kerala-born Singapore-based professor cum artist who has won quite a few hearts with her acrylic on canvas exhibits in the lion city.</p> <p>The exhibition titled <i>(un)focused: Then Now Beyond </i>is a collection of Madan’s works ranging from nature stills – in her signature impressionistic style, and cultural paintings – a result of her very intimate travel experiences and childhood to abstract artworks that play with the concept of malleable emotions. Each section of the surrounding walls is segmented to classify the artworks in the aforementioned categories. The experience a space is able to compose lies very much in the way it is curated and Madan's exhibition surely does a great job at that.</p> <p>As soon as one enters the room one is given a green card to a feast of colours. Every painting either plays with the binary, has an overarching shade, or is an alluring but complex mix of everything. When asked about it Madan had a very simple answer. She talked about how sometimes after a long exhausting day at work she would be brimming with a restless energy of sorts. She might have seen a colour that got suck in her head the whole day or a rather interesting shade or object. Till the creative juices are let free she would have no peace of mind. Hence, most feelings of hers get translated into tangible scapes as colours on canvas.</p> <p>Madan is also known for making ‘happy’ paintings. In a press meeting on Thursday, the artist talked about how no matter what unpleasant mood she was in before painting, the end result would be positive. The process of dipping her fingers (or on the rare occasion, a brush) in paint and communicating with the canvas is ‘cathartic’ and ‘therapeutic’, she said.</p> <p>Madan’s stylistic approach is rather interesting. Her fingers to her are her guide, just as a tether is to a kite. She prefers dipping her fingers in paint and letting them do the talking for her. She has not completely forsaken the brush of course but she finds the freedom that the brush gives her is nothing compared to what her five fingers give.</p> <p>There is something absolutely enthralling about a piece of work that bleeds. It is not simply the morbid obsession with the blood but the idea that something as irreplaceably replaceable as that is capable of being proof of life. Two paintings namely ‘Transience’, an acrylic on canvas artwork depicting the beautiful sakura flowers, and ‘Pop into Town’, an acrylic on canvas painting with a monochrome background save for a bright red double-decker bus, are intriguing. There is something unique that the colour red is capable of triggering; it is the automatic response to stare and to watch. As the blossoms of the sakura tree progressively grow darker and darker towards the bottom of the rectangular vertical canvas and the scarlet bus breathes life into that painting, it becomes a testament to the vermilion's brilliance.</p> <p>Just like that, every painting of hers seems interwoven with the next. Madan says she finds it impossible to pick a favourite of all her works as they are all equally painstakingly crafted brainchildren of hers. But out of all of Madan’s work there is one that has been a crowd favourite which the artist herself has acknowledged. It is a green and red painted face that displays half of a Kathakali performer's face and a Beijing opera performer. While the Kathakali player's section was dominated by the colour green, the opera performer was drenched in red. Green in Kerala signifies good while red was used for positive characters as it signifies courage and loyalty in China. The contrasting colours from two cultures that had so much in common was used by Madan as a device to comment on the language of colours, as it was reflected by the cultures that use them.</p> <p>Madan is known to experiment with mediums too. The door to the gallery even features a tiny canvas art made with textured fabric. Taking centre stage in one of the walls is a mixed media artwork titled 'Motif Mystery'—it highlights a varied array of textiles cut out to form the body of Lord Ganesh. The green acrylic backdrop is majestic; it seems like a field or a land sectioned to act like a functional town. After all, it is the huge room of interpretation that art offers which makes it more appealing. And Madan’s artworks surely encourage room for thought.</p> <p>The cheerful artist, when asked about what her future plans were, slowly and steadily explained how she wanted to explore the areas of Art Therapy. She recalled an incident back in her school where an artist was invited to lead a class and help the teachers break free by assisting them in challenging the limits of the canvas. That particular event had left quite an impression that she wishes to recreate the same but with a more purpose-oriented approach by treating art as a form of therapy. She wants children to get into this as well as their parents. But for now Madan is satisfied with the pace she has built for herself. With steady improvements and learning curves it seems like the sky is the limit to Madan’s untapped potential.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Mon May 29 12:49:50 IST 2023 some-of-the-most-impressive-parliament-buildings-in-the-world <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src=",-Romania.jpg" /> <p>Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to inaugurate the new Parliament building on May 28. This project has been in the works since 2019 as part of the Central Vista Redevelopment Project by the Government of India. The current colonial era Parliament building is over a hundred years old and with the increase in Parliamentary activities the building is in dire need of renovations and modifications. As the nation and its needs change, so must its infrastructure. While we wait for the inauguration and for the new to take over the old let's take a look at five incredible Parliamentary Buildings:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Palace of the Parliament/The People's House, Bucharest, Romania:&nbsp;</b></p> <p>Deemed the largest and heaviest administrative building in the world used for civilian purposes and the most expensive administrative building–The Romanian Parliament building is a colossal and controversial structure built under the dictatorial regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. With a towering height of 84m and weighing about 4,098,500 kilograms, the building is famous for its ornate interior design and craftsmanship. The post-modern neoclassical palace was part of the systematisation program by Nicolae Caeusecus who was in turn inspired by the Juche ideology in North Korea. Despite starting its construction in 1984 the building remains incomplete even today. Just 30% of the building's capacity has been used, the other 70% remains empty. Only two large meeting rooms and 400 other rooms have been completed out of the designed 1,100. The building houses the two chambers of the Parliament of Romania, three entire museums, and a massive international conference centre. The enormous and intricate 12-story palace also hosts a spacious nuclear bunker as a direct result of the late dictator's fear of a possible nuclear war.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The National Congress, Federal District, Brazil:&nbsp;</b></p> <p>Oscar Nemyer's Iconic structure houses the previously separate bicameral legislature of the state and is lovingly called the face of Brazilian architecture. The Congressional Palace is a composition of five parts: twin administrative towers flanked by a large, white concrete dome (the meeting place of the Senate) and by an equally massive concrete bowl (the Chamber of Deputies), which is joined to the dome by an underlying, flat-roofed building. Located in Praça dos Três Poderes (Square of the Three Powers) the power centre of the state. Where the Planalto Palace (presidential office) and the Federal Supreme Court building (seat of the highest authority of the judicial power) are, the National congress enjoys its position as one of the most impressive buildings in the square, fully embodying Brazilian modernist architecture. In 1960, after its completion, it soon formally became the seat of the legislative body of the Brazilian government as the Federal Capital was transferred from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Sri Lankan Parliament Complex, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Sri Lanka:</b>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>About 16 kilometres east of Colombo in an artificially created island called Duwa the current parliament building of Sri Lanka designed by Deshamanya Geoffrey Bawa is located. Bawa believed that man and nature were inseparable and that belief of his translated into most of his works as well.This is a project that cost over $25.4 million and was built by a partnership between two Japanese Mitsui groups, it was officially completed in 1982. The design of the Parliament Complex is purposefully built to imitate the style of a floating palace. The central pavilion flanked by five others alludes to an artificial sense of asymmetry which contrasts with the organic structure of the lake. The building, though an example of modernism, is designed in a style that accommodates and highlights Sri Lanka's vernacular architecture. The complex is associated with being the leader of a subgenre of modernism namely tropical modernism, one whose notable features is the building of structures to go with the elements rather than against them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest, Hungary:&nbsp;</b></p> <p>Since its completion in 1902 it The Hungarian Parliament Building has been the largest building in the country. With a symmetrical façade and a central dome, the structure which took 17 years to build was designed by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl in a neo-Gothic style. It is also the third-largest parliament building in the world complete with 691 interior rooms, 10 courtyards, 88 statues of Hungarian rulers on its facade, and 12.5 miles of 29 staircases–spanning over an area of 18,000sq.m with 28 entrances. The building has 242 sculptures on the walls alone. The intricately designed Parliament building is filled with displays like that of King Stevens crown jewels. Inspired by the British Parliament the Hungarian Parliament building is not just an important governmental headquarter but also an Iconic landmark. Other than the six metre tall marble monoliths along the main stairs every material used to build the Parliament building was homegrown.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Parliament House, Canberra, Australia:&nbsp;</b></p> <p>Opened in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II of Australia, the Parliament house also known as capital hill, is the legislative seat of the Australian government. Designed by Mitchell/Giurgola &amp; Thorp the building is a striking piece of architecture. The site covers around 18 acres and when seen from a distance is four metres higher than the original height of the hill. Its highlights are two curved walls, both 460m in length, that divide the Parliament house into four: the House of Representatives and offices for members on the eastern side. To follow the tradition of the colour scheme of the British House of Commons, the House of Representatives is decorated in green and the Senate red. However, the colour is muted to suggest the colour of the Australian eucalyptus. The Chamber itself is designed to seat up to 172 members, with room to accommodate a total of 240 temporarily. The new building was designed to encourage public access and involvement while responding to the Australian climate, landscape, vegetation, and even the quality of the light. It was designed to be both a functional building and a major national symbol all the while imitating the structure of a boomerang. The old building is now being preserved as a historic site. The forecourt is adorned by a 196sq.m mosaic, which was designed by an Indigenous Australian artist Michael Nelson Jagamarra In 1983. The height of the major flag mast on top of the building is 81 metres and weighs 220 tonnes.</p> Sat May 27 14:41:36 IST 2023 kashmirs-pedestrian-market-polo-view-is-a-globetrotters-delight <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>“Shopping under the canopy of chinar trees is a feeling that cannot be experienced anywhere except here,’’ said Deepa Baghai Singh, a resident of Lucknow, at Kashmir’s first pedestrian market - Polo View in Srinagar. Her friend Rashmi Singh said the market reminds her of similar places in Europe. “Pedestrian market in Paris and this market look similar,’’ she said. “I have been visiting Kashmir regularly and remember how the market looked earlier. It has changed for good.” She said a lot of effort has gone into designing the market. “I wish Khan Market and Connaught Place in Delhi, too, were turned into pedestrian markets but it is not easy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The chinar trees line up along the centre of the market with the thick foliage providing a natural canopy on either side. At night, the chinars are lit up. The lights from the shops accentuate the glow. The 450-feet double-row market was inaugurated 10 days ahead of the G20 meetings in Srinagar by Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha. “People who will visit the market will get the feeling as if there are in Mumbai or Delhi,’’ he said. “More such markets will be built in Kashmir.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The makeover of Polo View is part of a Rs 1,000-crore smart city project in Srinagar. A walk through the market is a journey through time, thanks to its rich history and architecture. Since the times of the British, the market has attracted Viceroys, Dogra monarchs and Bollywood legends like Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar and Shammi Kapoor, for handicrafts, dry fruits and herbals products.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier, a two-way road separated the two flanks of the market. Now the two lanes have been replaced by a cobblestone path - again a signature of local architecture. The market is also the first to be wire-free, with universal access, underground sewage and drainage networks, and underground electricity and communication line. Since its inauguration, locals and tourists have thronged the market for a stroll, selfies and shopping. Tourists explore the place without worrying about traffic snarls. Many come to spend some quiet time with friends and family on the benches near chinars. The shopkeepers say the sales are yet to pick up but they are ready to wait.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The lockdown after the abrogation of Article 370 and Covid-19 slowed down the business,” said a handicrafts seller. “It took more than a year for Srinagar municipality to complete the makeover due to which the footfall was low.” He said the government deserves a thumbs-up for the good work. “This place has been completely transformed without tinkering with the traditional look of the place. The buzz about the market has turned Polo View into a key attraction for tourists.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is my first visit to Kashmir. People are hospitable,’’ said Sandeep Jaiswal from Delhi. “Before leaving, I decided to visit Polo View with my wife and kid. I will come again and stay longer next time,” he said. One of the reasons Jaiswal came to the market was to buy a variety of garlic for blood pressure, from ‘Saklain’s Coterie’ - a shop that sells Kashmiri herbal products. Its owner, Saklain Kawoosa, said tourist footfall has increased manifold, but business is yet to pick up. “We appreciate the work that has been done and are ready to wait till things improve.”</p> Wed May 24 16:52:16 IST 2023 international-booker-prize-2023-a-look-at-the-six-shortlisted-books-ahead-of-winner-announcement <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As bibliophiles eagerly await the International Booker Prize winner, set to be announced at a ceremony in London on Tuesday, let's take a quick look at the six books up for the award.</p> <p>Every year, the International Booker is awarded to a book which is translated to English and published in the UK and Ireland, thus promoting international fiction from around the globe. India missed a spot after Tamil writer <a href="">Perumal Murugan's novel <i>Pookuzhi</i>,</a> translated into English as <i>Pyre</i>, failed to make it to the shortlist that includes novels by authors from Spain, South Korea, Guadeloupe, Côte d’Ivoire, Bulgaria and Mexico. <i>Pyre </i>was one of the 13 books on the longlist for the coveted prize.</p> <p>This year's shortlist includes six phenomenal stories with their own exceptional themes. These are: <i>Boulder</i> by Eva Baltasar, <i>Whale </i>by Cheon Myeong-kwan, <i>Standing Heavy </i>by Gauz, <i>Still Born</i> by Guadalupe Nettel, <i>Time Shelter</i> by Georgi Gospodinov an<i>d The Gospel According to the New World </i>by Maryse Condé.</p> <p><b>Boulder by Eva Baltasar, translated by Julia Sanches</b></p> <p><i>Boulder</i>, which is originally written in Catalan, is a short, sensual, and poetic work of lesbian literature that unleashes the complex feelings of love between two women and the impact of motherhood in their relationship.</p> <p>The protagonist, 'Boulder', as she was nicknamed, is a cook on a merchant ship. She is a woman content with her singularity as well as someone who is desperately looking for a partner to tide through her loneliness. She falls in love with a young, blonde Scandinavian geologist, Samsa, and settles for a domestic life in Reykjavik. The story then takes the readers on a roller-coaster of unforeseen shifts in their lives, from buying a house to settling down, and finally, their baby girl Tinna. <i>Boulder</i> thus insists on how Samsa is trying to 'tame' her in their journey of exploring the wonderful state of motherhood.</p> <p>Baltasar equally and beautifully manages to portray the thoughts and feelings of two different minds through dark metaphors and figurative language. The story, which is entirely framed by Boulder as the central figure, never fails to intertwine emotional vulnerability with an upbeat outlook.</p> <p><b><i>Whale </i>by Cheon Myeong-kwan, translated by Chi-Young Kim</b></p> <p>Written by the South Korean novelist, screenwriter, and director, Chein Myeong-kwan, <i>Whale </i>was published in December 2004 and was later translated to English by Chi-Young Kim. The story is set in a remote village called Jeju during the period of 1950s. The plot primarily centres on a mother, Geumbok, and her daughter, Chunhui, who fall under South Korea's increasingly repressive system. In addition, the tale renders that even Geumbok, who eventually reinvents herself in the middle of the crisis, is vulnerable to failure simply because she is a woman.</p> <p>Cheon, therefore, through his irrepressible characters, visualises a prominent subject—sexism. The stories of the three women thus blend into a female line of family trauma. He anchors his story with political turmoil and juxtaposes the dark, magical realistic elements to evoke the question of women's survival in a merciless social disposition. Indeed, consistency is maintained between the playful plot and a myriad of topics that are still relevant and discussed today.</p> <p><b>Standing Heavy by GauZ, translated by Frank Wynne</b></p> <p><i>Standing Heavy</i>, written by Armand Patrick Gbaka Brede, known by his pen name GauZ, is originally written in French and is excellently translated by Frank Wynne. It is his first novel, which came out in 2014, and a sharply satirical and poignant story that examines the aspects of colonialism, racism, and classism. As the story is associated with the author's own experience as an undocumented student in Paris, it makes the readers laugh and ponder at the same time. <i>The Guardian</i> thus referred to it as &quot;intense and very funny&quot;.</p> <p>It tells the tale of three interconnected men—Ferdinand, Ossiri, and Kassoum—employed as security guards, one of the few positions open for undocumented African immigrants in Paris. In line with the title of the story, it alludes to the underpaid, long-standing jobs, and physically depleted people of the marginalised communities. The plot, which is structured around three different periods from the 1960s to the early 2000s, encompasses particular challenges as well. Even when managing to portray the general encounters of a society, GauZ never fails to preserve his poetic, acute, and observant nature throughout the tale. Indeed, it is an exceptional piece of writing with serious social criticism, exposing and examining the pathetic western over-consumption, migration, capitalism, and exploitation.</p> <p><b>Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by Rosalind Harvey</b></p> <p><i>Still Born</i> is written by Mexican writer Guadalupe Nettel and is finely translated by Rosalind Harvey. The tale centres around two contemporary women, Laura, the narrator of the story, and her friend Alina, who are soon to be sterilised. The story of the two independent and career-driven friends later turn over to an appealing but still consequential decision of embracing motherhood.</p> <p>Exploring the issues in all their complexities, Nettel evokes a sense of extreme emotional impact, which makes her work heartfelt, resonant, yet brave. It is a moving novel that is affecting, elegant, and thought-provoking with clear and intimate language which deals with aspects ranging from maternity, male violence, and possibilities of raising a child with profound disabilities. The vibrant yet heartbreaking journey of the two young women is a roller-coaster of varying, intense emotions.</p> <p><b>Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel</b></p> <p><i>Time Shelter</i> is written by the award winning Bulgarian writer, poet, and playwright Georgi Gospodinov and is translated by Angela Rodel. The literary fiction, which was originally published in 2020, unravels a remarkably insightful concept of a 'clinic of the past'. The story is ordered as fragments of several short stories.</p> <p>The narrator, named as the author, opens a clinic along with the enigmatic character Gaustine, who is a geriatric psychiatrist, to treat dementia and Alzheimer's, which later becomes an enormous success as rich people begin to visit, thus recreating the figments of the past that are associated with the patient's memories. The clinic is specifically designed, representing a decade of history through which the author brings together and presents the politics of eastern European nations. The patients are brought back to a safe space of their reliable memories, hence floating in a peaceful state of mind associated with contentment.</p> <p>Later, the story captures the nation's descent to chaos, with Gaustine disappearing, which brings into question his very existence and the author's memories, which are eventually collapsing. The exquisite literary work is thus implying the dangers and consequences of dwelling in the past or holding back instead of moving forward.</p> <p><b>The Gospel According to the New World by Maryse Condé, translated by Richard Philcox</b></p> <p><i>The Gospel According to the New World </i>is a picaresque literary work by the Caribbean author Maryse Condé. It was originally published in October 2021 and is translated by Richard Philcox. The story is centred on a miracle baby, 'Pascal', with a breathtaking appeal, a wheat complexion, and grey-green ocean eyes. He grew up with his foster parents and is considered to be sent by God; therefore, he wonders about his special destiny.</p> <p>The amusing story parodies parts of Bible references as well as the journey in search of Pascal's origin and mission in an enjoyable and less complex manner. With the hope of finding an answer, Pascal feels the need to travel around the region. Condé thus composes a Messiah for the global era and examines the darker side of society, corruption in particular.</p> Wed May 24 16:15:13 IST 2023 from-victims-to-winners-empowering-women-survivors-of-human-trafficking <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As per the 2021 statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau, out of the 5,993 people reported to be trafficked that year, <a href="">65 per cent were women</a>. Tthe United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), in its global report on human trafficking in 2020, recorded that for every 10 victims recorded globally, <a href="">five are adult women and two are girls</a>. Faced with such overwhelming statistics, it becomes crucial to examine the reasons that push women to be trafficked.</p> <p>Even though poverty is one of the major reasons that make women vulnerable to human trafficking, a combination of factors, including prevailing gender and structural inequalities and lack of awareness and illiteracy, contribute to this. Women from poor and economically weaker sections are often exposed to additional complications like lack of access to resources and basic amenities, due to which they are thrust into circumstances of servitude and unemployment, depriving them of their ability to take decisions for themselves.</p> <p>The female literacy rates in the country have seen a substantial rise in recent years—<a href="">from 64.64 per cent in 2011 to 70.30 per cent in 202</a>1. However, educationally disadvantaged women lack access to lucrative job opportunities, putting them at risk of being exploited.&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, skewed sex ratio, cultural norms, and gender-based violence make women more vulnerable. The glaring discrimination faced by women, which often results in their exploitation in various spheres, highlights the need to assess the importance of ideas that strengthen their empowerment.</p> <p>Empowerment is a multidimensional process that enables an individual to regain control over their life. The idea of women empowerment recognises the challenges they face in comparison to their male counterparts. Thus, gender equity becomes an important objective of policies undertaken towards empowering women.&nbsp;</p> <p>In India, the tales of empowerment of women were first woven through the threads of the fifth five-year plan (1974-79), where the gaze shifted from a strict welfare approach to providing a level playing field to women, boosting their development and equity with men. The National Plan of Action for Women was adopted in 1976. The development initiated in the fifth five-year plan was concertized in the subsequent five-year plan where the planning document included a chapter titled ‘Women and Development’.&nbsp;</p> <p>The five-year plans have followed the framework laid out in the Constitution of India wherein women hold equal rights and opportunities in political, economic, and social domains. These developments were a precursor to the establishment of the National Commission of Women in 1992.</p> <p>In a similar vein, aiding female survivors of trafficking in regaining control of their lives can be an essential tool for their reintegration and rehabilitation. Empowerment of female survivors of trafficking can assume many shapes and forms, in the social, educational, economic, political, and psychological areas of their lives.&nbsp;</p> <p>While social empowerment aims to strike at the rampant prejudice faced by women in society, educational and economic empowerment aims to amplify their prospects of education and financial inclusion. There is a profound need to actively include female survivors of trafficking in the enactment of laws that are structured around their welfare. Provisions of opportunities in the fields of education, occupation and forming of policy will help them recognize their self-worth and gain control over their monetary requirements and physical autonomy.</p> <p>It is important to create favorable circumstances for women to allow them to exercise their autonomy in leveraging the opportunities that are presented to them.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the recent past, several such initiatives have been undertaken by the government that lay down the brickwork for the women to chart their own path as per their wishes and areas of interest.&nbsp;</p> <p>Self-Help Groups (SHGs) have been formed in states like West Bengal and Karnataka under the Swayamsiddha and Stree Shakti schemes, respectively, to impart financial control to women survivors. Programmes have also been implemented by state governments to provide financial relief and training to survivors to enable them to be self-reliant and achieve social and economic empowerment.</p> <p>Along the same lines, programmes have been designed for the empowerment and rehabilitation of female survivors of trafficking. The Asmi Kendra, in West Bengal, built as safe space for women survivors of human trafficking, ensures their mental well-being, and provides vocational and skill-based training. At the national level, the government introduced the NALSA (Victims of Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation) Scheme, 2015, to provide legal services to victims of trafficking including women of all age groups. In 2016, the ministry of women and child development launched UJJAWALA, a comprehensive scheme for the prevention of trafficking and rescue, rehabilitation, and re-integration of victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.</p> <p>While commendable steps have been taken towards the prevention, protection, and rehabilitation of female trafficking survivors, there is a need for women survivors to rewrite their narratives and pioneer the anti-trafficking movement by addressing the gaps in solution-oriented governance. Platforms such as the Indian Leadership Forum Against Trafficking (ILFAT) have put the female survivor voices at the forefront of the movement against trafficking and helped build a blueprint for tackling the global challenge of trafficking through survivor leadership.</p> <p>As India excels on a global stage, all sections of society should have access to its riches and successes. Hence, it is imperative for the female survivors of trafficking to forge forward and paint their canvas with the colors of grit, empowerment, and courage.&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>(The authors are survivor leaders from the Indian Leadership Forum Against Trafficking (ILFAT))</b></i></p> <p><br> <br> </p> Fri May 19 17:47:10 IST 2023 how-can-schools-parents-deal-with-cyberbullying-among-students <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In India, there are no laws against bullying in schools/educational institutions per se. However, if a victim of bullying dies by suicide, then the bully will be liable for the abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code. While Sections 354A and 354D of the IPC provide punishment for cyber bullying and cyber stalking against women, there is nothing specific for schools.</p> <p>Tarika Nagi, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City speaks about the effects of bullying and cyber bullying in an exclusive interview. She has several years of experience in suicide prevention, school safety, school crisis management, adolescent mental health, and anti-bullying education.</p> <p>Excerpts:</p> <p><b>What are the psychological, social, emotional, and physical effects of bullying?</b></p> <p>In recent years, there has been growing concern about the link between bullying and suicide. The Suicide Prevention Resource Centre (US) has conducted a thorough review of the literature, which has revealed a strong association between the two. Evidence suggests that individuals who have experienced bullying, either as a victim or as a bully themselves, are at a higher risk of suicidal ideation and attempts. As a result, it is vital that we prioritise both bullying prevention and youth suicide prevention programmes in our schools and communities.</p> <p>In the past, the home was considered a safe space for children, where they could escape the pressures of the outside world. Back in my childhood days in India, returning home meant finding a safe space where you couldn't be bothered by anyone. At that time, Indian homes only had landline telephones with cords. I often joke that those years were defined by parents sitting beside that phone.</p> <p>However, with the rising use of technology, this is no longer the case. Research indicates that a significant number of adolescent kids check their phones in the middle of the night to see if anything negative has been posted about them online. This highlights the severe impact that bullying and cyberbullying can have on young people's mental health and well-being. It is crucial that we acknowledge and address this issue to ensure that all children feel safe and supported both at home and in their communities.</p> <p><b>How can school staff mitigate negative mental and emotional effects of cyber-bullying when working with children who have increasing access to technology?</b></p> <p>First, try to get parents to take charge of the technology–basically to realise that all of it is a privilege, not a child’s right or necessity. Give parents this message about taking charge, “<i>privilege, not a right!! </i>”The charging stations for the cell phones should be in the parents’ bedroom. At 10 pm, tell your child or teenager, “Give me your phone, I will charge it, I will hand it back to you when you get up in the morning.” At times, kids argue, what if my friends needed to talk to me in the middle of the night? They wouldn’t be able to reach me, and you can always remind them that if something is so urgent, you friends can talk to their own parent.</p> <p>So, I think we can really stop a lot of this with trained, involved, empowered parents, and I do believe that the school systems have the expertise and the technology to help parents keep up. I always recommend that school systems have meetings and training for parents on what to look for, what to do, and how to handle these cyberbullying situations. Sometimes cyberbullying is so severe that the police might need to be involved.</p> <p>It is crucial for school staff and administrators to support victims of cyberbullying by reassuring them that they don't deserve it and that steps will be taken to stop it. It's important to let them know that they are not to blame for the bullying, and that there will be consequences for the bullies. They need to understand that everyone is watching, and if the behaviour continues, consequences will escalate. To prevent cyberbullying, key factors include information, education, adult involvement, monitoring, supervision, consequences, and restrictions on technological privileges when necessary. Even one person, be it a school staff or a parent, can make a big impact.</p> <p><b>You mentioned that prevention is key and absolutely crucial. But for parents, school staff, and school administrators who have a child or several students who have been bullied or who are bullies, what can be done once the situation has passed the point of prevention?</b></p> <p>With the victims sometimes it may reach a point where there needs to be outside child psychiatry assessment and treatment. We might even need to consider changing schools. Obviously it is not going to be perfect, and bullying happens in reputed schools as well. Yet, a change of venue can help.</p> <p>Now if we address the person who is the bully, they may need to be placed in a different educational setting. They may need counseling themselves. They might actually be the victim in some situations, and the bully in another situation, but they do need to face consequences.</p> <p>Another key aspect of the solution is: how can schools get supportive reaction from the parents of the bully? How do they make sure that parents don’t think that in some way the school is implying that they’re a bad parent, that’s why they’re having this conference? And I’m not one that believes that much of the answer is suspension or expulsion–I think the solution really requires structure, counseling, trying to get to the bottom of what’s really going on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu May 18 19:06:11 IST 2023 artist-fiona-murphys-fidel-series-is-an-ode-to-cubas-complicated-history <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Havana 2008 - At the heart of the art exhibit was the striking image of a pale Castro rendered with powerful and exaggerated features that capture his commanding presence and forceful personality. His piercing gaze, at times lost in itself, is in multiple portraits of the &quot;Fidel Series&quot; by mulit-faceted artist Fiona Murphy.</p> <p>In another take, Fidel's eyes are closed.</p> <p>The next moment, the image of the bearded man and the forehead so familiar for so long, transforms as if they deceived your eyes. What at first glance was so certainly Fidel wanes and reels, it is a ghost on an unseen saddle. The artist's work beholds the sunken, sleek face— Don Quixote at the edge of a cliff. You can almost hear the sound of passing time. Could this be Fidel at the precipice of his life?</p> <p>A sudden shiver runs down your spine, and you feel enclosed within a tolling bell. You look again at the portraits and see an unharmonious chime; at once, the images encompass a far more burdened world. But the weight of the world is outside.</p> <p>Created as a response to the deep sense of unease and general anxiety felt in Cuba in 2006 in the face of a worsening illness that for the first time took Fidel away from public view, the portraits seem to question the very nature of perception and reality, challenging the public to reconsider assumptions about the iconic figure and his role in Cuban life.</p> <p>With techniques unapologetically avant-garde and experimental Murphy manages to reflect a deep sense of existential angst in the uncertain world.</p> <p>The enigmatic figure of Fidel Castro, a man whose influence on Latin America is as profound as the shadows cast by the mighty Andes, is as alive in the political context of Latin America today as it unfolds a second Pink Tide movement, echoing Fidel as a symbol of resistance and direction for those who hope to challenge the status quo. His presence in the collective consciousness of Latin America makes his legacy as relevant today as he was in the early days of his revolution.</p> <p>The Fidel of Murphy's series is not the romanticised hero of popular imagination but an enigmatic and nuanced figure whose legacy is as much about his flaws as his successes, one who is also larger than life and an enduring myth for new generations; significantly, for today's Latin American leaders.</p> <p>The portraits are Fidel-centric, allowing viewers to hone in on Castro and the details. Each portrait is an individual in the larger canvas of the series. The series is a deeply moving work that speaks of the Cuban experience with distortions that give a sense of a collective strain and pain embodied in Fidel.</p> <p>While observing these portraits, viewers feel as though they are catching a glimpse of Fidel's final solitude and are drawn to explore their own feelings about him. That is the power of Murphy's art; her mix of styles creates an almost instant relationship between the observer, the subject, and the Cuba of 2006.</p> <p>The conceptual model of the series has aged well. In 2023 it is is immediately clear that they amount to a fascinating exploration of emotions that sparks curiosity about the ever looming Fidel. What is more, viewers feel compelled to express their own subjective feelings as they become acquainted with Fidel and his impact.</p> <p>Fidel's legacy is a complex one, marked by both admiration and criticism. Murphy was able to capture this complicated duality using the expressive power of her art to reflect the political and social context of the time when Cuba began its transition from Fidel into an uncertain future.</p> <p>The importance of the series lies in its ability to capture the complexity of Fidel's legacy, and to convey a message that is both earnest and critical.</p> <p>By using the expressive power of art to convey a message that transcends the boundaries of language and culture, the artist makes an important contribution to the cultural legacy of Cuba. The series is also a testament to the enduring power of art to capture the essence of a moment in time.</p> <p>Murphy is masterful at reaching deep into the viewer's psyche and drawing out strong feelings to a truth many wanted to forget.</p> <p>The hue of blue she chose has a peculiar, almost indescribable effect on the eye. It immediately brings an emotion of melancholy, perhaps on the border of despair, at once demystifying and clarifying Cuba's cultural climate in the crucial aftermath ofFidel's serious health problems.</p> <p>With a keen eye for detail and an the ability to capture the human psyche, Murphy's Fidel series offers a nuanced perspective on a historical figure who has long been shrouded in controversy and mythology and whose influence still affects life in Latin America.</p> <p>Murphy painted images that convey the struggles and pains of the Cuban people set against the backdrop of Fidel's grandiose speeches and monumental figure. She places him on a transparent mirror which does not merely reflect Fidel's image, but also reveals the harsh, unfiltered realities of life in Cuba at the time.</p> <p>In one portrait after another, she peels the layers of myth and distortion that have accumulated around the leader. She elicits feelings in the viewer that add to a more nuanced perspective on one of the most consequential figures of the 20th century.</p> <p>The very existence of the series, painted in Havana while Murphy lived and worked there, captures the essence of creative courage in a city where Fidel himself had decreed artists need to follow a prescribed cultural order.</p> <p>There, at the beginning of his ongoing revolution, Fidel had words of warning to artists and intellectuals: &quot;The artist, the writer, the intellectual in general, is a man who has great influence on society, and above all on the younger generations... He who is not with the Revolution is against the Revolution. And he who is against the Revolution must be silenced, must be quieted, must be illegal.&quot;</p> <p>In that crucible, in Havana and with the alchemy of time, Murphy took up her brush and painted this series of portraits that defied the state's gaze. With each brushstroke, she imbued the canvas with an intrepid spirit in the service of art, using satire and expressionism to elicit an undercurrent of feelings about life in Cuba under Fidel.</p> <p>The series pierces through the official front and shows the voice of the silenced in powerful alternative depictions and the emotions validated through her art.</p> <p>Murphy's adroit evocations in a series of expressionist paintings of Fidel in flailing health —with echoes of Cervantes’s Don Quixote— quietly unmuzzled an undercurrent of feelings in mid-2000s Havana.</p> <p>Murphy's opus makes an important contribution to the understanding of Cuba and its leader beyond the larger narrative of the Revolution and Communism.</p> <p><b>Reality</b></p> <p>Somewhere in deep Havana, Murphy's friend Ariel had kept a lonely and deep pain in his gut. It was a wretched anguish and grief for the underground artist, an impotence and bitter surrender at learning that the hospital's nurse had discarded the lifeless body of his baby child, tossed away so as to not show a death in the country's &quot;impressive&quot; health system's statistics.</p> <p>In formal bones of Fidel's face, Murphy's artwork draws such sorrows of life in Cuba, despair that was hard to express. The people of Fidel's Cuba, their pain, their rituals of compliance, the settled comfort that came through their fears but often only in the smallest coins, and the feelings that are so much a part of the collective inner turmoil in Cuba, are extracted from the viewer on the canvas of each portrait, unleashed by the artist in a fury of brush strokes around his image.</p> <p>Since 1959, Fidel had been the head that ran through every aspect of Cuban life. In 2006, Murphy in Havana began to capture the Cuban spirit as Fidel's deteriorating health unsettled the island.</p> <p>The resulting series validates Cuban resilience and at the same time serve as a quiet indictment of his glaring failures; she extracts powerful emotions at the chasm between his ideology, soaring rhetoric and reality.</p> <p>Fidel's ideals were delivered to the Cuban people in ubiquitous, passionate televised speeches in which he would frequently point his finger towards the audience or the camera. But the harsh realities of his rule would leave Cubans to bear the weight the incongruence between high sounding words and hard life in the island.</p> <p>It was a time rich in images and meaning, too good for the artist in Murphy to pass up. She painted the series of portraits and captured the contradictions of Fidel's rule, juxtaposing his grandiose image with elements that conjure raw, vacillating emotions.</p> <p>As an artist and an expat, she was uniquely positioned to elicit the quirky nuances of Cuban life, the country's relationship with Fidel, and feelings that were often hidden from each other, thus providing a basis for people to make a more honest evaluation.</p> <p><b>Of soul and art</b></p> <p>Fiona Murphy's soul is Irish green. You can see it in her eyes. Her Irish spirit is intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking, as is this series.</p> <p>Born in Cork County in southern Ireland, she was drawn to art at an early age, sketching fish and other things and focusing on the details, annoying her father with her artistic persistence. Her passion for arts led her to study at one of Europe’s finest art schools, the Limerick College of Art and Design.</p> <p>Her next stop was the creative environment of Florence, the city that celebrates the triumph of the power of art. There, among the marble of Michelangelo’s David and some of the finest paintings of the Renaissance, she transitioned from being a student to a teacher and went on to teach orphans in rural, agricultural northeastern Brazil.</p> <p>Her transformation continued as she neared the turn of the century with a turn at the International school of Havana, teaching and interacting with children from around the world, and her personal growth moved from Monet impressionism and realism to experiments that forged her own style.</p> <p>She saw the harsh, gray Havana with its grand old buildings and their forlorn faces, and turned that disappointment into a community project to add color to the city by painting murals on schools, hospitals, and other Havana walls.</p> <p>Murphy walked the city with sure steps, carrying a sense of familiarity and belonging that belied her foreign roots. Her long hair flowing back, she was seen by the locals as one of them.</p> <p>It was in there that her life took a personal turn when she met Reuters Havana bureau chief Anthony Boadle. The man behind the news, with his tousled hair and intense questions, would become her husband.</p> <p>The two of them, passionate, creative, and full of life, would soon become an intellectual and artistic force that brought together her experience in off-tourist-areas Havana with the news- and issues-immersed intellectual and political ferment of the international community which was Boadle's milieu.</p> <p><b>The series</b></p> <p>Influenced by the art of Ecuadorian master painter Osvaldo Guayasamin, a friend of Fidel and frequent visitor to Cuba in the '70s and '80s, Murphy was now equipped to imbue in her paintings the intense emotions of pain, sadness and despair often found in people who feel powerless and struggle in life.</p> <p>As a subject, Fidel is as complex as the melting watches in a Picasso painting, Murphy's Fidel series sees through his image a reflection of the condition of life in Cuba, and a mirror of its subconscious.</p> <p>As the series progresses, the Fidel portraits add to a tapestry of contradictions, a fusion of the real and the visionary. On the whole, it is a fascinating portrayal of the duality of Fidel's character, the interplay between his revolutionary ideals and the harsh realities of his regime. It is this tension that gives rise to the power to the portraits, power that transcends time and Cuba's boundaries.</p> <p>In the realm of surreal, Murphy's depictions of an ailing Fidel become a symbol of the Cuban condition and a representation of a struggle between public life and the subconscious. They manage to transform the carefully managed and extraordinary image of Fidel into the mundane, and his sublime speeches into visuals of pedestrian mimic that everyday Cubans could identify in themselves and in their world.</p> <p><b>A moment of crisis and transformation</b></p> <p>The existential questions that Fidel's illness raised are exposed on canvas as an introspection and reflection on the nature of life in Cuba. They can be seen as a distillation of one's most profound feelings and emotions, expressed in a artistic manner, exploring one of the most complex and controversial political figures of the 20th century</p> <p>In releasing the true nature of emotions and expressing beyond what was preventing Cubans from fully experiencing them, Murphy allows intense emotions to express a deeper understanding of the world around us, and perhaps even finds a measure of the ability of art to transcend the limitations of our own subjective experience.</p> <p>She captures insights of the spirit of the time in nuanced and thought-provoking images of Fidel that go behind to understand how Fidel managed to be much more than a historical figure and embody the aspirations of a people even as many said he limited them.</p> <p>The expressionist portrait series is a poignant and captivating exploration of the subjectivity of the Cuban experience. In exaggerated strokes and intense, emotive close-ups, Murphy conveys a sense of raw emotion and introspection, inviting the viewer to contemplate not only Fidel's legacy, but also the larger questions of identity, power, and Revolution.</p> <p>Murphy's use of bold, exaggerated strokes and blunted colors show a foreboding sense of intensity and fragility, as if Cuba itself were struggling to express its innermost emotions and feelings with each canvas, each portrait seeming to capture a moment of existential crisis and transformation.</p> <p>By stripping away the artifice of state puffery, Murphy's work reveals a more real dimension of Fidel and the complexities of the Cuban experience in a way that resonates quietly with Cubans as well as with a global audience.</p> <p><b>Inflection point in Cuban history</b></p> <p>When in 2006 Fidel faced a series of health problems that ultimately led him to temporarily cede power to his brother, his presence on state TV was maintained by a programming mix of old speeches and new takes in which he often appeared frail and weak, noticeably thinner and clearly fragile.</p> <p>The hours-long speeches of a dynamic Fidel were now juxtaposed to much shorter televised speeches in which he was now seated and appeared to be reading instead of his classic extemporaneous style.</p> <p>That was a moment in history that brought to the surface myriad feelings among Cubans and inspired the perceptive, analytical Murphy to pursue the feeling of the times, and put it on canvas.</p> <p>Her unique 'Fidel Series' depicts the emaciated Cuban leader looking like the archetypal Don Quixote across multiple works. It is a collective work of art that can function as a mirror of mid-2000s Cuba for the world, magnified through Murphy's own experiences with underground artists and the close-up political insight of her journalist husband.</p> <p>The Cuban leader as the worn windmill fighter evokes feelings of romanticism, chivalry, and idealism but also of naivete, impracticality, and delusions, of ideals that could sound noble in theory but harsh in reality.</p> <p>That is perhaps why when the first of the series, the Blue Fidel, was hung in Boadle's office in the Reuters Havana bureau, Cuban officials who came to see him would avert their eyes. &quot;They would never look at the painting, fearing it was a satire they should not be taking in,&quot; recalls Boadle.</p> <p>The blue portrait itself bears a striking resemblance to the melancholy and introspective character of Don Quixote in his later years as he grapples with is own limitations. It captures a sense of isolation, introspection, and vulnerability.</p> <p>A swirling mass of shades of blue in the background plus Murphy's adept mixing of fine and thick brushstrokes create a feeling of artifice, of tension, and unrest around the emaciating Fidel: Cuba's political turmoil and struggle, writ large.</p> <p>Fidel dominates all the compositions, often distorted, with elongated fingers and exaggerated features, giving them a surreal quality that is central to the emotional impact of each piece, allowing feelings to come to the surface even if denying to oneself that it is Fidel in the frame.</p> <p>Murphy chose to portray him in various poses of authority, like &quot;I’m the only man on earth,&quot; with a raised hand, pointed finger, as he often was seen on Cuban television, wearing his image like bones, like skin and beard plus cigar. As the series evolves, the pointed finger becomes more distorted, nails outsized, shoved into the tips.</p> <p>Whether taken as a satirical device or a serious commentary on power, the portraits suggest a degradation of authority, as if even the physical body of the leader was succumbing to the weight of his own power. This exploration is magnified and in some of the portraits, we can see it become a garish, intellectually honest tribute to the time.</p> <p><b>Up close</b></p> <p>The ominous caricature of long, slender fingers gnarled like tendrils over Fidel's face give him the appearance of a praying mantis, and brings feelings that alert us of the primal instincts and drives that lie within us.</p> <p>That Fidel's face comes through from behind the interlaced fingers is a reminder that his likeness is deeply ingrained in our contemporary psyche; the index extended upwards resembles a church spire eliciting a turmoil of emotions before the brutal force of a predator as well as an unexpected reverence and devotion.</p> <p>It is a powerful image that encapsulates the complexities of the country's longtime leader and translates them into feelings that can be understood without saying a word.</p> <p>It is clear that the subject is a man who has shaped the course of history through his sheer force of will. There is the calm and serenity of one at the top of the food chain. Even in these distorted and exaggerated forms, Fidel's image commands attention. That it also provides a strange comfort is confirmation that the world is often confusing and terrifying.</p> <p>It is this juxtaposition of the primal and the civilized, the uncontrolled and the controlled, the intellectual and the chaotic, that makes the series emotionally impactful, eliciting fear, contempt, and respect as the portrait of a man who has left an indelible mark on history.</p> <p>The paintings depict each a haunting moment on its own, an angst in the air in Cuba that Murphy managed to capture in the series. The portraits show an evolution and marked differences in style and technique in the series as they differ in style and technique at times and in context.</p> <p>Whereas the majority of the pieces in the series are of the modernist expressionist genre, some daringly venture into the surreal and impressionistic realms, resulting in a truly dynamic collection.</p> <p>The contextual nuances that arise from this multi-genre approach provide a rich tapestry of visual storytelling, illuminating the many facets of Fidel's persona and legacy.</p> <p>In the surreal elements, viewers can see and get lost in the dreamlike quality of Fidel's revolutionary ideals and the Utopian vision he pursued for Cuba. In the bulk of the collection, expressionist elements capture the duality of his intense and passionate personality and its unpraisable traits.</p> <p>In portraits with impressionist elements, Murphy draws out the romance of Cuba itself and how the impressionist brushstrokes doth capture the woes and grief of those beneath the rule of Fidel Castro.</p> <p>As a whole, the combination of styles add to the powerful and complex presentation of Fidel and life under his power in Cuba.</p> <p>The coloring is different even in two &quot;blue&quot; Fidels with some more vivid, some blurry and others well defined. There is a strong composition across the series, with slight shifts from one portrait to the next. The cigar in the fingers, so central to the series, is also depicted differently in an evolution of slight. But significant changes, the eyes from wide open to squinted to shut, are a poignant allusion to the darker aspects of the Cuban Revolution.</p> <p>The blue portrait is itself a haunting image, rendered with a sense of melancholy that is amplified by the elongated fingers and nails. The figure is depicted in a state of contemplation or introspection, with a furrowed brow and downcast eyes that convey a sense of sadness or despair. The monochrome color scheme adds to the somber mood of the painting, with shades of blue that suggest a sense of isolation or detachment from the world</p> <p>Don Quixote is an introspective character, particularly in his later years as he grappled with his own limitations and the harsh realities of the world around him. In the paintings, Murphy captures Fidel in a similar sense of isolation and introspection, with the elongated fingers and nails serving as a visual metaphor for the internal struggles of the figure portrayed.</p> <p>The comparison brings him down from the pedestal of heroism and exposes his flaws and shortcomings. Don Quixote is often portrayed as a misguided idealist who is out of touch with reality, and Murphy uses the analogy to draw attention to Fidel's idealism and the ways in which he may have been out of touch with the needs of the Cuban people.</p> <p>The critical nature of the series finds is focus on the similar aspects of Fidel with Don Quixote—prone to delusion and exaggeration, and with the tendency to see the world in black, quick to judge and condemn those he considers his enemies.</p> <p>Don Quixote is stubborn and unwilling to listen to reason and whose actions often have unintended harmful consequences and may be motivated by self-interest or a desire for recognition or praise. It is no wonder the visitors to Boadle's Reuters bureau office were reluctant to take in Murphy's ambiguous Don Quixote-cum-Fidel on the wall.</p> <p>By distorting Fidel's features, Murphy was able to strip away the grandiosity and myths that had been built up around him, and reveal deeper layers of a visionary, charismatic leader and a flawed and imperfect human being. Through her art, she was able to show that Castro was not above the struggles and pains of his people, but rather a central part of them.</p> <p>In doing so, she brought him down from his pedestal allowing Cubans to see their lives reflected in his distorted features. This was a powerful statement on the nature of the power he held over their lives.</p> <p>As time passes and emotions surrounding Fidel Castro mellow but his influence remains. This stunning series challenges the simplistic hero-villain dichotomy that has long defined popular perceptions.</p> <p>Through the masterful use of distortion, Murphy has created a powerful, emotionally charged collection of images that capture the complicated and multifaceted nature of Fidel himself, as well as the Cuban Revolution and its place in the public imagination.</p> <p>For history fans, scholars, and for art aficionados Murphy's Fidel Series is an experience that will challenge preconception, expand understanding, expose them to the emotional power of Castro and how art can put it all in front of your eyes.</p> <p>For the world, the Fidel Series is a window on the charismatic personality and the tumultuous times in Cuba, a must-see for anyone interested in the emotions and feeling of living in the communist country and the legacy of Fidel Castro.</p> Tue May 16 11:35:05 IST 2023 dancing-for-a-cause-how-indian-origin-performer-himadri-madan-is-dancing-to-beat-the-climate-clock <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Veteran kathak dancer Birju Maharaj had once said, &quot;art has to exult and elevate&quot;, because the purpose of any art form is to purge oneself and unite the mind, body and soul. In an attempt to elevate and enlighten the audiences, UK-based Indian classical dancer Himadri Madan is spreading the message of 'Climate Change’ through her performances.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A graduate from Bengaluru’s Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography, the Bharatnatyam and Kathak professional says that while growing up in India, she was deeply influenced by Bollywood and that is how her interest in dance began. She started training from the age of four in Bharatnatyam and later in Kathak and Jazz before beginning her graduation in the field.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Madan moved to the UK to pursue an MFA in Choreography from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, where she was awarded the Leverhulme Trust Scholarship and began training in postmodern contemporary choreographic practices, she came across the Climate Clock installation and that deeply impacted her. Madan recently choreographed and performed ‘The Ticking Clock’, which was based on Climate Change, created and performed by Theiya Arts Dance Collective at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh Multicultural Festival in 2022. The performance supported by the Climate Clock centres talks about the urgency of climate change, the countdown as the main driver for the performance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Madan says the audience is asked to put on a timer of 35 minutes, which is the duration of the performance. After 35 minutes the timer goes off, symbolising the end of the ticking clock.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In order to not leave the audience overwhelmed after the performance as there might be children too, they create and distribute a resource list including names of businesses they can support, everything people can do to slow down climate change; documentaries, podcasts to keep a tab on. “We don’t have a solution as we are not scientists. We can only just contribute to the ongoing conversation. My choreographic practices tell stories and engage audiences,” she says.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The performance employs fluid movements traditionally used in South Asian classical dance forms to depict nature, gradually telling tales submerging the audience in an introspective recount of how humankind's relationship with the environment has changed over time. The development of the project was supported by The Workroom and the National Theatre of Scotland through their Artist support residencies and Discover residencies respectively. She started working on the climate change project in 2022 and hopes to travel to places this year too with it.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Madan believes that art gives people an opportunity to reach a wider range of people and a diverse audience, also makes things easier to absorb than a written piece of information from journals. She wishes to start conversations through her performances and thinks that is the smallest difference that can happen from any performance.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She recalls that previous generations have fond memories of being close to nature and the world around them was very different but this generation has to go to places to find natural surroundings. “Nature was a part of their lives. So our performance includes storytelling sessions, folk songs, different classical dance forms to present a story of the changing scene.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her performance includes five dancers, one musician who is a tabla player and one sound designer. She hopes to bring her performance to India someday soon. “It depends on logistics. Our theme is very close to South Asian culture but we are also building a decolonial perspective,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When asked about her other projects that involve social messages, she says that there are two under production – one talks about motherhood mandate and the roles women play, and the other talks about internalised body shame, body dysmorphia, caste, gender, both very universal themes to connect to a large range of audience and to reclaim one’s own voice through art. “Most people in the audience feel marginalised in one way or the other so this is an attempt to reclaim our voices and create a space for other people to talk about themselves.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat May 13 19:00:24 IST 2023 indias-version-of-the-crown-how-maharajas-and-maharanis-are-coronated-in-this-part-of-the-world <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra last month, it was a royal affair. The Maharaja of Kangra Aishwarya Katoch was crowned on April 30 at the Kangra Fort in the presence of 4,300 people and at least 40 royal families of India. The occasion went down in history and became a day that will be remembered for years to come – more so because Kangra observed a coronation after 400 years. Aishwarya Katoch explains the gap and says, “We lost the Fort to the Mughals in 1620 and all following Rajas had their coronation at where they were based or where they were at the time of their predecessor’s death.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His coronation was done in three parts. On the evening of his father's cremation, the Senior Rajputs of the clan anointed him the next Maharaja. As it was a period of mourning, it was a quiet and private ceremony. On that day, he took over his father’s duties. “In Himachal, we believe that the soul of the departed stays with us for a year and hence, he is still the ruler. After long deliberations and taking guidance from the Agni Puran, it was decided that the Namhi of 2023 will be the most auspicious day for my Raj Tilak,” he says.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ceremony of Raj Tilak was performed in two parts — on April 29, five KulPurohits performed the poojas of 108 baths and then did the Rajyabhishek which gives the King ‘Vishnu roop’. After that a havan is performed at the KulDevi temple followed by Kul Devi pooja for blessing the new king. Post this, in the function for the public, family and friends, the royal family comes out in their finery.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the coronation event might not be as grand as the coronation of King Charles III that took place on May 6 in the presence of more than 2000 people and a global live telecast, Indian royal families follow their own traditional and unique coronation ceremonies. The scale of the coronation ceremonies in the Indian royal families might have dimmed down ever since India became a democracy yet remains a significant event in the royal households to announce accession and to keep their legacy alive.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Princess Brijeshwari Kumari Gohil, from the royal family of Bhavnagar in Gujarat, says that the scale of coronation ceremonies has especially toned down after independence, though the traditions and rituals remain the same. “Initially during Raj Tilak all the Bhaiyats and surrounding Royalties and the in-laws would attend. After Independence, it was upto who was invited.” The last coronation in their family was of her father’s - Maharaja Vijayraj Singh Gohil of Bhavnagar in 1994. Before him, when India was a British colony, her great grandfather Maharaja Krishnakumar Singh, who was the first to hand over his kingdom to democratic India and became the first governor of Madras, was crowned. He was a minor when he took the throne.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the royal family of Bhavnagar, the to-be king wears an eagle sarpech (turban ornament) on his headgear. This family heirloom is worn only during the wedding and the Raj Tilak. An angrakha is also worn only during these two occasions. The Raj Tilak is done by a Kumbhar family (potters) from a region called Hathab and this passed down through generations. The descendant of the particular Kumbhar family’s elder son by blood performs the ceremony with his thumb. This has continued for centuries now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gohil informs that the coronation is only for the male heir (eldest son) to the throne while women are not crowned.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Mayurbhanj, located in Odisha, the last coronation was performed in 2001 for Praveen Chandra Bhanjdeo, 47th ruler of the Bhanja dynasty.&nbsp; The district recently rose to global fame when it was listed in the Time magazine’s ‘World’s Greatest Places 2023’. Princess Akshita M. Bhanjdeo, the daughter of Praveen Chandra Bhanjdeo, says that Brahmins and the rajpurohits tie the turban for the Maharaja during the ceremony and he carries a sword that only the King can carry and goes to the temple to seek blessings. As he is being crowned, he is not allowed to perform the last rites of his predecessor, his father. Rather a younger brother or a cousin performs the rituals with a Brahmin for 13 days during which he sleeps on the floor. On the 13th day, the King’s wife’s family attends and presents the royal family with coloured clothes and everyone then changes from dull clothes (worn during mourning of the previous King) into bright clothes for the ceremony.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Similarly, when Maharaja Anant Pratap Deo of Odisha’s Kalahandi’s Raj Tilak or coronation was performed on September 3, 2019, he was made to sit on the Kalahandi Gaddi. He says, “It was a very solemn affair therefore only family members and some extended family and the zamindars (Rajas) of Kalahandi were invited. The general public were also present.” He says that earlier the Maharaja's Raj Tilak was done by the Kondhs (a tribal community) as it is a tribal area. But now the Raj Tilak is done by the Brahmins and the uncle of the Maharaja.&nbsp; “The first order the Maharaja gives is to cremate his father and therefore it's a sad affair,” he tells.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The royal family of Jaipur and that of Mysore, however, had grand ceremonies to announce their new Kings. In 2014, 12-year-old Maharaja Padmanabh Singh was crowned the Maharaja of Jaipur as the City Palace came to life with several attendees and traditional ceremonies being performed. The city of Mysore too was adorned and lit up in celebration as Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar was crowned the 27th King of the Mysore royal family in 2015, after 41 years’ since the last King’s coronation. At the decked up Amba Vilas Palace, he sat on a silver throne. His ascension also ended the long gloom after the death of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar in 2013.&nbsp;</p> Mon May 08 19:47:55 IST 2023 ncert-strikes-mughlai-off-the-menu <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The NCERT (National Council for Eating the Right Tiffin) has said Mughlai cuisine needs to be cut down to size. It has been ruling the roost for so long, they said, that school students think it was the only thing worth eating in the Indian kitchen - either<i> nalli nihari</i> or nothing! A historical injustice, if ever there was one! So the authorities will do unto menu cards what they have done to school text books. And we, on our part, will have to bid a tearful goodbye to the samosas and kababs and extend a warm welcome to kachoris and bhajiyas.</p> <p>What about the biryani so beloved by all? Well, all good things must come to an end, and so must our honeymoon with this love child of the Persian pilaf. Instead, you can smack your lips at the uncrowned national dish - khichdi. Eeek, you exclaim, isn’t khichdi for when you are sick or convalescing? NCERT says,”You are all quite sick already, gorging for years on all that spice-laden, acidity-inducing stuff.</p> <p>As can be expected, the NCERT move has sparked a storm. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. K. Stalin said the authorities should stop being Delhi-centric and start being belly-centric. He charged that the official move to foist khichdi was a below-the-dining table attempt to wean people away from the hot regional favourite – pongal.</p> <p>Shashi Tharoor termed it culinary cleansing and said you mustn’t shove patriotism literally down people’s throats. Strongly defending mutton do pyaaza, he said it was actually as Indian as the famed chilly beef from his home state, and although he did not eat either, he still felt that they deserved a place on the dinner plate.</p> <p>Rahul Gandhi’s comments on the occasion pushed him into all too familiar territory, i.e. in the soup. Guileless as ever, he said if people found Mughlai cooking too rich, they should try Italian cuisine. Mamma mia! It precipitated the loudest cry so far for him to apologize, which he did by picking up his fork and eating his words.</p> <p>There are rumblings in the west as Master Chef da Punjab insisted that Fish Amritsari stood apart - distinct from the nondescript fish available in the rest of the country. In the east, Mamata Banerjee charged that Delhi’s move was against the federal structure of the Constitution. Saying that hilsa was far superior to whatever was being dished out, she got party stalwart Derek O’Brien to chip in with a quiz exclusively on fishy matters - of which India has no dearth. She also demanded that Kosho mangsho – already quite popular – be made India’s non-veg national dish. Yeh dil maangsho more!</p> <p>Nobody in the field knows his or her onions better than Sharad Pawar. Early one day, he said that the native bhakri can eat the north Indian roti for breakfast. Hours later, he said there was some merit in moving away from rich and spicy food. At dinner, he suggested the opposite of what he had said at lunch. Nobody can tell whose side he was on, until he himself is sure which side his bread is buttered.<br> </p> <p>Karnataka has historical memories of food being used to settle personal scores. Legend has it that Tipu Sultan force-fed prime beef to Brahmin priests. No, the secular sultan wasn’t trying to enhance the protein intake of the malnourished but rather to show them who’s boss. Cut to Karnataka’s current CM. He wisely stayed aloof from the discussion, saying whatever the style of cooking, what really matters is the butter that goes into it. So long as it’s Nandini butter, it hardly matters if you make roghan josh or bisi bele bath.</p> <p>The last word came from food critics – the brave band which dissects our diet and tells us about secret ingredients. They say the NCERT issue has been raked up to take our minds off the other thing on the menu. It’s not about Mughlai or deshi, rather it’s about burgers. Not hamburgers, chicken burgers, tofu burgers or cheeseburgers but… you’ve guessed it, Hindenburgers.&nbsp;<br> </p> Wed Apr 19 20:00:56 IST 2023 himachal-gets-the-happiest-state-tag-second-time-in-a-row-in-happyplus-survey <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is safe to say that Finland has become the world’s happiest country after retaining the first position in the World Happiness Report for six consecutive years. India, on the other hand, stands merely at 126th position out of the 137 countries taken into consideration in the 2023 survey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, to change the narrative about India and to find out India’s own happy place in the world, HR firm HappyPlus Consulting recently came out with India’s own happiness survey. According to their findings, Himachal Pradesh is the happiest place in the country. The state has retained the top position for the second consecutive year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The overall rankings are based on various indices on the life ladder like positive and negative impacts, social support, freedom of choice, generosity, perception of corruption which are taken alongside certain objective data on prosperity per capita net state domestic product, consumer price index (CPI), literacy rate, healthy life expectancy at birth, multidimensional poverty index and health index.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among bigger states, Maharashtra bags second position, Odisha and Kerala third and fourth positions respectively, and Uttar Pradesh came last, at 20th place.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among smaller states, Goa, Mizoram and Tripura are the top three happiest places with Arunachal Pradesh ranking last (eighth). Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Delhi have the top three positions among union territories and Dadra and Nagar Haveli was ranked last.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Dr Ashish Ambasta, founder-CEO of HappyPlus Consulting, the report was conceptualised to understand happiness at a granular level in the Indian context.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;“Apart from macro conditions, this survey understands micro conditions like (relationships, meaningfulness, achievement and work),” he says. “Taking both micro and macro conditions together gives a holistic picture of happiness and the data is also presented at state level. Another element of this study is the robustness of the sample size. While last year, the study asked happiness questions to 24,000 people in India, this time we asked 14,000 people.” The first survey was conducted last year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Compared to last year, more people reported 'unhappy' this year. While 2 out of 10 were unhappy last year, the report suggests 5 out of 10 were unhappy this year. The top five reasons for unhappiness are lack of financial empowerment, workplace pressure, society and its regulations (rigid thinking), loneliness, isolation, and even uncertainties caused by the Covid pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Negative emotions like anger and sadness were also higher in 2023, as compared to 2022, especially among those below 18 years and above 60. While only 4 out of 10 felt they have a strong relationship in life, 17 per cent of India’s population was found to be thriving- reporting significantly fewer stress attacks, less worry, sadness, depression and anger; and more happiness, social support, generosity, achievement, meaning and purpose in life.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The findings are based on nearly 14,000 survey data samples collected across all 36 states and union territories in the country. The report further suggests that 65 per cent people in India were experiencing happiness in 2023 as compared to 75 per cent in 2022. Happiness is linked with positive emotions and clearly people of Mizoram, Ladakh, Andaman and Nicobar, Odisha, Lakshadweep and Nagaland had an edge over those living in the hinterland.&nbsp;</p> Fri Apr 14 22:06:40 IST 2023 unique-and-lesser-known-easter-traditions-around-the-world <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Just like eggs symbolise new birth, Easter eggs symbolise birth and fertility and thus, are meant to celebrate Jesus’ rebirth. The Christian holiday celebrates the resurrection of Christ, after he was sentenced to death by the Roman emperor Pontius Pilate. Celebrating Easter with eggs has become a common practice throughout the world. But here are some lesser known and unique Easter traditions followed in different parts of the world.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>France&nbsp;</b></p> <p>In France’s Haux, people celebrate Easter by making a huge omelette. For over 30 years now, thousands gather to cook the same where over 5,000 eggs, dozens of kgs of onions, garlic, salt and pepper&nbsp; are used. A four metre pan is used to make the omelette. Once cooked, people share and eat the giant omelette together for lunch. If legends are to be believed, Napolean first made the giant omelette for his troops when he was travelling across Southern France.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Finland&nbsp;</b></p> <p>In Finland, children dress up like witches and go door-to-door knocking and asking for chocolate eggs or coin as they recite traditional rhymes. They also trade paintings and drawings in exchange for eggs and coins. Their cheeks are painted red and they are often made to wear head scarves. This practice is followed as the Finnish believe that witches and evil spirits would wander around the streets to party with the devil before Easter.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Italy&nbsp;</b></p> <p>In Italy, people celebrate Easter with more than 300-year old tradition called ‘The Explosion of the Cart’ in which a tall cart full of fireworks is pulled and made to stand in front of the Cathedral. People dressed up in medieval costumes; drummers accompany the cart. During the Easter mass, the Archbishop then lights a fuse that ignites the cart leading to a bright lights and fireworks up in the sky. It is believed that the custom ensures a good harvest.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Australia&nbsp;</b></p> <p>In Australia, Easter is celebrated with chocolate Easter bunnies or Easter bilbies, the latter being an endangered species. People usually buy the Easter bunnies or bilbies from bakers and candy makers for children to celebrate the day. People also go to the church mass as usual and gather and celebrate with family and friends.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Guatemala&nbsp;</b></p> <p>Roads in Guatemala’s Antigua are painted and coloured to make them look like embellished carpets to celebrate Easter. These are made from saw dust, fruits, palm leaves, flowers and paper. Local artists gather to paint religious themes, patterns, traditional scenes on the roads. Stencils are used to create the neat designs. Later, a clean up team sweeps all the colour off the road.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>America&nbsp;</b></p> <p>In America, people decorate real or artificial eggs by painting them while churches hold special services for people to gather and pray to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. The elders organise Easter egg hunts for children to engage them. New York holds the annual Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue and the crowds gather wearing extravagant hats and bonnets.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Bulgaria&nbsp;</b></p> <p>Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria are known to boil and dye eggs in various colours and crack them. As red symbolises the blood shed by Jesus Christ on his crucifixion, the first egg is always coloured red. This egg is then preserved for a year until next Easter and cracked open then. It is believed that the condition of the egg symbolises how well the coming year will be.&nbsp;</p> Sat Apr 08 22:21:06 IST 2023 in-delhi-an-encounter-with-korean-traditional-buddhist-culture <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Korea, ‘Yeondeunghoe’ is a lantern-lighting festival that marks Buddha’s birthday. The basic spirit of the Yeondeunghoe is to light up the mind and the world as bright as a lantern and hope that wisdom and mercy will be realised. When this tradition of Korea travelled to India, it lit up the eyes of the beholder.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Korea-India diplomatic ties, a unique cultural exchange exhibition came to life recently at Delhi’s National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). The cultural exchange event that is being organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea and Korean Cultural Centre India, displays a special exhibition titled ‘An Encounter with Korea, Traditional Buddhist Culture in India, the Land of Buddha.’&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The lanterns on display symbolise different holy structures like the lantern in the shape of a Stone Pagoda of Baekjangam Hermitage of Silsang-sa Temple, lotus flower lantern, lantern in the shape of the five-storey Stone Pagoda of Geumsan-sa Temple and so on. A collection of mulberry paper dolls with miniature lanterns in hands too adorn the exhibition.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Korean Ambassador to India Chang Jae Bok says, “In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Korea and India, the Buddhism and Buddhist cultural exchange programme, which can be the foundation of the special strategic partnership between Korea and India, has a special meaning. Since Buddhism and Buddhist culture were introduced to Korea in the 4th century, they have been an indispensable core part when talking about the Korean way of life, way of thinking, and traditional Korean culture. Korea and India, the origins of Buddhism, are also closely connected through Buddhism.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The participating artists from Korea include Korean traditional paper lantern artists Jeon Young Ill, Yin Song Ja, Hyun Jae Youl, and Yang Mi Young. Some of the art forms at the exhibition include a photo exhibition of Korean Buddhism Walks in India, woodblock printing on Korean paper, colouring fans in dancheong designs (decorative art of cosmic designs), making lotus flower lanterns and stringing 108 prayer beads.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the exhibition, one can see the media art of Buddhist painting scrolls called ‘Gwae Bul’, a symbol of traditional Korean Buddhist rituals, Korean traditional lanterns of 'Yeondeunghoe', a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and various photo works with the theme of temple stay. The exhibition introduces Korea's traditional Buddhist culture to India.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ven. Jinwoo, president of Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism says that the content has been prepared “so viewers can more vividly sense Korean Buddhism’s 1,700-year history, steeped in compassion and peace, based on the Buddha’s teachings that were introduced from India.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar Tuhin, director general, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) adds, “The exhibition highlights the Buddhist connection between India and Korea and its importance and significance to people-to-people contact between the two nations.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exhibition is being held at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in New Delhi and it is hosted by NGMA, Embassy of the Republic of Korea and Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. It is organised by the Ministry of Culture (India), Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The exhibition will continue till April 30, 2023.</p> Sat Apr 01 21:10:20 IST 2023 shapes-of-memories-a-tribute-to-the-guru <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Some artists believe in working in silence, away from the exposure of the world, and creating for their own creative sensibilities. Bal Krishan Guru was one such artist. He passed away in 2022. While he was alive, he never quite got the recognition for his work. His sculptures have now been put on public display for the first time ever. His bronze and metallic sculptures adorn the walls of an art gallery in Delhi’s Bikaner House. The magnetic sculptures, as if alive and interacting with the visitors, draw one to itself and bask in their chaotic perfection and contorted beauty. Such was the Guru's magic. His son, Pankaj Guru, also a sculptor, recalls that his father would work on his art in isolation, without accepting any help from anyone, be it for moulding the metals or giving life to his imagination. “He was a tough master and taught me the tough way as well,” he smiles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exhibition - ‘Shapes of Memories’ - was curated by Georgina Maddox and inaugurated by Alphonsus Stoelinga, former ambassador of the Netherlands to India. Organised by his wife Pushpa Guru, the show was a posthumous attempt to reclaim some of the memories and give his work the exposure it deserves. Pushpa Guru recalls that since her husband was a migrant from Lahore, born in 1940, and settled in India post-partition, he began his journey from scratch, devoting his days to art. Due to his love for the art of casting bronze sculpture in the foundry, Bal Krishan, whose family name was 'Rajput', started to be known as ‘Guru’ and adopted the name as part of his identity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A lecturer by profession, he was also a member of the Selection Board of Professors at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1970 and from 1972, worked as head of sculpture department, Modern School in Delhi. Apart from bronze casting for his famed contemporaries like BC Sanyal, Shanku Chaudhary and Prodosh Das Gupta, Guru also undertook several commissioned works for the Indian government. He went on to win the Lalit Kala Akademi award (1963), and President of India Award (1964).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The week-long exhibition concludes today. His sculptures on display included ‘Rhythm of Togetherness’ (a bronze sculpture that depicts dancing together in perfect harmony), a powerful bronze abstract sculpture titled ‘Womb’ that speaks to the profound experience of motherhood and the complex interplay between creation, birth, and nurturing, another titled ‘A Loving Embrace’ that celebrates the beauty of intimacy. His ‘The Caravan: A Monument to the Nomadic Spirit’ is a bronze sculpture that depicts the timeless tale of a wandering caravan, displaying the nomadic lifestyle that is part of human history for centuries. The exhibition showcased as many as 40 sculptures and 14 murals, made of bronze, brass utensils, fiberglass and stainless steel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Guru leaves behind a rich legacy of art and ideology. Greatly inspired by the likes of Auguste Rodin, Ramkinkar Baij and Somenath Hore, he carved out his own style where he utilised a variety of techniques to create new relationships between material, theme and form, hinged between the Indian traditional sculpture and the eclectic modern and contemporary sculpture.&nbsp;</p> Thu Mar 23 15:59:18 IST 2023 making-life-easier <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>'Who will marry you?' is one of the most common questions that almost every girl gets to hear at least once in her lifetime. This question becomes even more unbearable for girls who have gone through a tragedy or are born with any kind of disability.&nbsp;</p> <p>Shatabdi Awasthi, a paralympic athlete, faced a lot of ridicule when she met with an accident in 2006, while she was preparing for armed forces recruitment.</p> <p>“I got an injury in my spinal cord and lost the sensation. While the treatment was going on, I was told that improvements will take place gradually. My relatives used to tell my parents that it would have been better if she died. Who will marry her now?,” she said at the We The Women (WTW) festival in Jaipur on March 4.</p> <p>Awasthi did go through a tough time, but she was determined to not give up. It was her dream to join the armed forces. It shattered the day she got to know that she has to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.&nbsp;</p> <p>Since she could not sit, she would lie down and study. In 2010, she got selected as a probationary officer at the State Bank of India (SBI). Nevertheless, her aspiration for joining the army kept pushing her, and she finally became the first paralympics athlete from Rajasthan.</p> <p>A resident of Sawai Madhopur, Awasthi has won several medals, including a silver medal at the international level.</p> <p>At the WTW forum, she was honoured with the Hope Empower Rise (H.E.R) award by superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter Shweta Bachchan, a columnist, author, and former model.</p> <p>Self-love is a journey, emphasised Sakshi Sindwani, a fashion content creator, who shared the stage with Awasthi. She realised the importance of self-love long after she came out of depression, the reason for which was a lot of bullying at school. It further led her to an eating disorder and she gained a lot of weight.</p> <p>“I was bullied in school, and it took me so many years to come out of it. In the later stage, I heard comments like&nbsp;<i>ladki patli sundar honi chahiye, tabhi shadi hogi</i>. So, my family members would have diet conversations during dinner which I would ignore because I was content with myself. I accepted my body the way it was,” she said.</p> <p>Today, Sindwani runs an Instagram page with more than five lakh followers and inspires people with different forms of content. She is not body-positive, but body-neutral now.</p> <p>“Education doesn't make you body-positive, awareness does. Accept your body the way it is. Be who you are, but never forget to work on yourself,” she said.</p> <p>Another woman who shared the stage with Awasthi and Sindwani was Sanjana Rishi, an Indian-American entrepreneur, who wore a pantsuit for her wedding and was criticised for the same. She didn’t want to wear a 10 kg lehenga.</p> <p>“I wasn't setting out to accomplish anything. Seeing a bride in coat-pant, I was called an anti-Indian, someone who was defaming the Indian culture. I was even asked to go to Pakistan,” she quipped.</p> <p>She also spoke about the glorification of women bouncing back post-delivery.</p> <p>“Getting into shape post-delivery is quite glorified and this bounce-back culture is toxic. As a woman, you are also told to be so controlled. We all have gone through that. However, when it comes to my daughter, I want her to know and explore the body types and the ideologies people have, and understand herself and her choices better.”</p> <p>Loving oneself and breaking stereotypes is a must for women in a male-dominated world. That is how they lead their path towards their ambitions in life, concluded the three women on the panel.</p> Mon Mar 06 12:39:45 IST 2023 kochi-biennale-artist-mithra-kamalams-installations-celebrate-the-strength-of-women <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Pepper House, a colonial-style, spice warehouse-turned-gallery, houses a room filled with mesmerising mise-en-scene, presenting paintings and sculptures, created by Mithra Kamalam that explore feminist archetypes.</p> <p>Mithra Kamalam's installation titled 'Corrective Measures - Resetting Sati; Still, is there a slippery, a fall in disguise? And here we are shivering in disgust' at Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022-23, showcases an extension of her latest series of works called “Corrective Measures”. The title phrase was used to denote the idea of healing through repetition and address intimations of counter-narratives in her work. Kamalam's art is deeply personal and extends beyond the confines of her own practice to connect with wider historical, social, and gender positions.</p> <p>Kamalam's works can be described as journalistic and autobiographical records that combine scenes from her environment and use them to create narratives featuring partially fictional characters. These characters come together in surreal settings to perform in a dreamlike atmosphere.</p> <p>In the central painting, Kamalam referenced a 16th-century Dutch illustration, Sati from the <i>Itinerario</i> of Jan Huyghen van Lincschoten. The illustration depicted the ritual Sati, a traditional Hindu practice that was prevalent until 1987, in India where a widow was supposed to immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.</p> <p>“I was drawn to the depiction of a woman who was portrayed as &quot;loose&quot; as possible with all her vulnerability exposed, voluntarily falling into the fire or man's body/corpse. By adopting this notion of &quot;fall&quot;, I aimed to explore the deeply linked connections between female sexuality and body, and positioned herself socio-politically,” said Kamalam.</p> <p>In a personal anecdote, she used two overlaid self-portraits to appropriate the gesture of this archetype and to bring a contradictory dialogue on patriarchal power structures and female autonomy. In one portrait she voluntarily submits herself to the pyre and in another, she shows restraint.</p> <p>In 'Corrective Measures', the repetition of forms that include figures of fruits (pomegranate) and flowers serves as a therapeutic expression and evokes emotions, while also connecting with female psychology, body, social, and gender positions.</p> <p>“My approach to these components follows the cathartic reasoning of one revisiting distressing occurrences with the aim of rewriting and reclaiming them from a female perspective, navigating the assigned role and gender in a traditional society,” Kamalam said.</p> <p>Kamalam's art is experimental and often extends beyond the boundaries of painting. The work also incorporates photo montages and sculptural installations to create a meta-fictional and interrupted narrative. Her work frequently interrupts the single flow of narration by overlaying multiple frames.</p> <p>The exhibition also explored militant feminist archetypes such as 'Chonnamma/Red Mother', a local Kali-like figure portrayed in Malayalam writer R. Rajasree's debut novel <i>Kalyaniyennum Dhakshayaniyennum Peraya Randu Sthreekalude Katha.</i></p> <p>The phrase 'Ms Militancy' used in one of her paintings is taken from the poem <i>Ms. Militancy 2010</i> by Meena Kandasamy, using it as a powerful and provocative piece that challenges patriarchal and sexist norms in society and celebrates the strength and resilience of women.</p> <p>Speaking about her inspiration Kamala mentioned, “I drew inspiration from folktales mostly from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, as well as contemporary literature and cinema. The references that I find are simply accidental. For my research, I usually reflect on the references I found and develop connections.”</p> <p>“My fascination with various art forms, including Mughal miniature paintings, early Arab illustrations, and folklore, has inspired me to incorporate archetypes from these traditions into my work,” she added.</p> <p>Through her art, she aims to merge these archetypes with her immediate surroundings and personal experiences, resulting in dreamlike settings featuring partially fictional characters. Although her work is autobiographical in nature, Kamalam seeks to readdress the idea of indigeneity and vernacular idiom, showcasing the interconnectedness of different cultures and traditions. Her work reflects her admiration for diverse art forms and her desire to incorporate them into her artistic expression.</p> <p>Kamalam's enthusiasm is to further explore gyno social imaginaries that include friends, family, luminaries, myths, and mystics. Her exhibition at Kochi Biennale is a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of gender, power, and healing.</p> <p>“My art is an attempt to heal the disrepair, disorder, and interruptions in society through repetition and therapeutic expression. By exploring feminist archetypes, I seek to challenge power structures that interrupt female autonomy and spread over other domains,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Mar 03 16:41:00 IST 2023 kochi-muziris-biennale-artist-anju-acharyas-works-reflect-mans-bond-with-nature <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>With the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale, a wide array of artworks are being acknowledged and appreciated—some for the unique concepts they convey, and others for the innovative techniques used.</p> <p>The world of flora and fauna is not new to humans. But artist Anju Acharya's works look at nature and ecosystems from a fresh perspective. In her series of paintings titled 'Lull', on display at the Aspinwall House, Acharya portrays the connection between human beings and other living organisms. Dripping with natural elements, her paintings reflect her concern for the impact of human activities on nature.</p> <p>Hailing from Kerala, Acharya is known for her distinct style of art which incorporates dyes from flower extracts, human hair, blood, beetle wings, threads, rice paper, and other natural elements.</p> <p>“According to my mom, I used to scribble in mud and books from the age of one,” says Acharya, “and the power of my drawings is all acquired from my father's designs of machine engines.” Her family has never been the stereotypical one that doesn’t let a child pursue the arts professionally and has always supported her decision to become an artist. She says she was also deeply influenced by her biology classes in high school. When I started taking drawing and art more seriously, I got inspired and found myself deeply influenced by the artworks of Japanese artist Fuyuko Matsui, German-American artist Kiki Smith, and the famous German artist Albrecht Durer,” she adds.</p> <p>Acharya is focused more on satisfying the artist in her than pleasing the audience. She says: “I never visualise my audience. My prime focus is always on the self-satisfaction the particular work gives me.” Acharya, whose works capture the themes of birth, death, and decay, says her university life in Hyderabad, with its natural atmosphere, helped her connect deeply with nature and observe life around her. Beyond the central theme, her works portray the physical and emotional changes in organisms. Her entire body of work serves as a window into her emotionality and sensitivity to the world around her. &quot;Initially, even though my subjects were mostly nature and its emotions, I preferred acrylic for drawing,” says Acharya. But the realisation that her actions and choice of medium did not sync together made her turn to nature to source materials for her artworks.</p> <p>Some of her famous exhibitions include the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi Grand Exhibition which featured Acharya's debut solo exhibition, 'Unborn', in 2019. She exhibited her work, titled 'Fantasy of Having a Trailer Wagon All to Myself', in a group exhibition curated by Tatiana De Stempel in London in 2021. Her works that were exhibited at Lokame Tharavaadu, a group exhibition curated by artist Bose Krishnamachari in 2021, grabbed eyeballs.</p> <p>As an extension of her works displayed at the Kochi Biennale, she also led a workshop titled 'Memory Book'. Guided by the aroma of leaves, fruits, buds, and flowers, the workshop allowed participants to take a trip down memory lane. They were also introduced to Tataki Zome, a Japanese technique for applying botanical dyes to cloth or paper by pounding flowers and leaves. In addition to bringing up the use of natural elements in art, this serves as a way to preserve our memories.</p> <p>The Biennale, in Acharya's words, is the only place where &quot;even people who are not into the arts are also speaking, sharing, and experiencing my works.&quot;</p> <p><i>Acharya's 'Lull' will be on display until April 10</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Mar 01 14:42:01 IST 2023 representing-the-underrepresented-at-the-kochi-muziris-biennale <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Art has the power to shine a light on the experiences of those who are often overlooked or forgotten. In a society that perpetuates inequality, art can be a powerful tool for marginalised communities to share their stories and perspectives with the world. This is precisely what the artists at the fifth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2023 aim to achieve: a space where the experiences of those communities, ignored and discriminated against can be heard and seen.</p> <p>Through the exhibition by Jithinlal N.R. and Amol K. Patil at the biennale, the artists invite us to explore their experiences—from their struggles to their joys—in a way that is both personal and universal. Whether through photography, painting, sculpture, or other mediums, the artworks on display offer a window into the lives of people whose stories are often silenced.</p> <p>The literary narratives in the form of folk songs, stories and poems are transformed into visual narratives by these artists to represent the complexity of caste identity.</p> <p>As we step into the exhibition at the Aspinwall House, we are struck by the diversity of the artworks, installed by Amol, and the emotions they convey. His work—‘Politics of Skin and Movement’—explores the theme of identity, migration and movement, particularly in relation to how these ideas intersect with issues of caste, race and ethnicity.</p> <p>“My practice is rooted in questioning the conditions of labour and casteism,” says the Mumbai-based artist.</p> <p>‘Politics of Skin and Movement’ reminds us that marginalised communities are not just defined by their struggles, but by their humanity and the richness of their experiences. The mixed media installation by Amol, who comes from a family of artists, includes sculptures, kinetic works and literary works of his father and grandfather from which he derives the framework for his art.</p> <p>“These written archives of my father and grandfather had a strong impact on my understanding of the community. Later, I started using these conversations in my visual art practice,” Amol said.</p> <p>Amol’s ‘Casteist Wall’, visualised in the kinetic installation, is a metaphor for skin as land. The movements emerging from within feel as though the ground is breathing.</p> <p>Speaking to The Week, Amol said, “With the making of the ‘Casteist Wall’ as a metaphor, I wanted to bring into conversation the binary that is created between people on the basis of their caste. Here, the wall referred to an incident that happened in Tamil Nadu. A 6,000-metre-long wall was built to segregate the housing of lower and upper-caste people. Later, the structure was demolished because of protests but one can still find the residues of the wall there. The wall is also connected to the idea of the hybrid relationship between humans, the barrier created through a person’s skin or the community to which they belong.”</p> <p>The bronze ‘unfinished’ sculptures created by Amol visualise parts of a body lying apart, connected only with a line, compelling us to question the severe condition of the labours, their freedom of movement and our perception based on the texture of one’s skin. At the exhibition, the drawers creates two different space; an inside and an outside, indicating the government offices, where they keep the files. Referred to as ‘chambers’, they are a beholder of the dust or the ‘ash of hope’. The movements in the sand are symbolically made by souls fighting for their rights, trapped in the form of paperwork.</p> <p>Kochi-based artist Jithinlal’s artwork at the biennale opens the door towards the history and experience of the dalit community which was once hidden and traces of which were only visible in indigenous folk songs and tales. His work ‘Spectral Speech’ draws its narrative framework from the literary device of the same name, employed by well-known dalit author C. Ayyappan in his novel to fictionalise the complexity of caste identity.</p> <p>“In Kerala, the idea that talking about caste will encourage it, has silenced the people of the community from speaking about their experiences and sharing their stories and culture. While in college I realised that casteism still prevails and that not talking about it is not the solution. When I moved to Baroda, I began sharing the dalit identity and discovered that the discourse of dalit identity varies across India. I found art as the medium to express the confusion about identity that I experienced,” Jithinlal said.</p> <p>To engage with the theme, Jithinlal creates illustrations and comic figures, using strokes and marks, which suit to represent the oppressed rather than applying any exorbitant methods or style.</p> <p>Coming out from the dalit community, Jithinlal’s drawings and paintings investigate the modern subaltern memory to revive the harsh reality of dalit existence and challenge the normative idea of perception. The constitutive diagrams and pictograms explore the notion of transgression related to spectrality and produce forms that address caste oppression problems. His works create a new gaze, liberating the people fighting to become ‘human’ again.</p> <p>Both artists agree that it is necessary for the community to have a place in a society where they can identify themselves as they are and hence it is important to encourage art forms that talk about the marginalised and oppressed.</p> <p>“The history of the dalit community is usually presented from the colonial or Brahmanical viewpoint. My work is a historical inquiry of the movements, folk songs and poetry that concern the dalit community and seeks to present an alternate image of society through the viewpoint of the masses usually unrepresented using the work of subaltern artists like C. Ayyappan,” Jithinlal added.</p> <p>The idea put forward by theorist Stuart Hall that cultural identity is not only a matter of 'being' but of 'becoming', 'belonging as much to the future as it does to the past’, became the ground of his art style. According to Jithinlal, the dalit community lacked historical evidence for them to identify with. Therefore he tries to capture the stories of the community, present around us in the form of landscape or bodily sensation, on a canvas to fill the gap in the subaltern history of Kerala.</p> <p>Amol feels a lot of people still are unaware of the caste politics of the country. “There are always layers to how we ask questions or how things are changing. We can trace a lot of conversations that had already happened about poetry, protest, and community issues but it still exists,” he says. That is why he finds it important to bring it into this conversation.</p> <p>“I look at the young people who do cleaning jobs in the morning and do theatre practice at night. It is like a process of learning from the community and also learning from our history. It is about bringing up a futuristic conversation, a talk about changing the new times.” Amol said.</p> <p>From the bold and striking drawings of Jithinlal to the haunting sculptures and movements in Amol's work, the exhibition at<b> </b>Kochi is a celebration of creativity, diversity, and resilience, to capture our imagination and open our eyes to acknowledge and understand how societal structures impact upon ideas, identities and art.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Feb 25 13:08:36 IST 2023 kerala-cyclists-hit-the-road-to-save-the-worlds-biggest-fish <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A cycle rally set out on its journey all the way from Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod on February 19, with the goal of spreading awareness about whale shark conservation. The rally, covering the entire 589.5 kilometres of the state's coast, is conducted by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) as a part of its ‘Save the Whale Shark Campaign’.</p> <p>The 10-day-long journey, entered its third day on Tuesday, covering Kochi and heading towards Thrissur. The rally which was flagged off from Shankumugham Beach by Pradeep Kumar IFS, saw 10 participants from Cyclers Thrissur wearing campaign t-shirts and hats bearing the slogan &quot;Save The Whale Shark,&quot; and advocating for the conservation project around the coastal communities. The team set out in two batches—the first group rode from Thiruvananthapuram to Thrissur from where the second group will head to Kasaragod.</p> <p>Along the route, the participants engaged in conducting various sensitisation activities at each stop using a whale shark inflatable to raise public awareness of the threats posed by ocean plastic pollution. Supported by Oracle, the campaign throws light on the threats faced by whale sharks—listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While whale sharks are often hunted for their meat, fins and oil, accidental by-catch in fishing nets is also a leading cause of death of the world's biggest fish.</p> <p>“The rally had a great impact and saw support from many local fishermen around the coastal areas of Kerala. We are reaching out and interacting with school students and local communities to educate them about the dangers as well as the methods to conserve the whale shark,” said Sudheer P.S., Secretary, Cyclers Thrissur.</p> <p>The campaign launched in October 2022 in Kerala yielded positive outcomes, including the rescue of a few whale sharks with the support of the local fishermen community. “This inspired us to expand our reach,” said Sreenanth K, Programme Communication Officer, WTI.</p> <p>“Though being the world’s largest fish, people are unaware of its existence and threats,” said Sajan John Programme Lead, WTI. “With whale sharks being filter feeders, it is necessary that marine waste is controlled. Through this initiative, we aim to bring this topic to the forefront and reach out to more and more people in the coastal region.”</p> <p>The fishing community's role is critical for this endeavour. Sajan adds: “Due to a lack of awareness and fear of getting into trouble, people hesitate to report to authorities if a whale shark gets entangled or trapped accidentally. It is vital to rescue the trapped fish and release it back into the ocean as soon as possible. Being the key stakeholders in such rescues, the fishing community's participation is therefore critical and it becomes important to sensitise the community about whale shark conservation.”</p> <p>The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a keystone species in the marine ecosystem, reaching lengths of up to 12 metres and weighing as much as 21.5 metric tons. Although distributed widely across tropical and warm temperate seas, limited information is available on the population trends of this species, especially along the Indian coastline.</p> Fri Feb 24 15:35:18 IST 2023 ratna-viswanathan-on-making-government-schools-joyful-places-to-learn <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the age of chatGPT, it is crucial that children imbibe good education without becoming victims of technology. This is why it becomes even more significant for social impact organisations to partner with state governments to improve the quality of teaching and learning at multiple levels. Reach to Teach, is one such organisation that champions the cause of 'good education' outcomes in Government schools. Reach to Teach works directly at a systemic level building upon its extensive work with communities at the field level over the past decade. To date, they have engaged with numerous government schools through their ‘frugal innovation’ and ‘appropriate technology’ approaches in the states of Gujarat, Haryana, and Arunachal Pradesh. In an interview with THE WEEK,&nbsp;Ratna Viswanathan<b>,</b>&nbsp;CEO, Reach to Teach and a former civil servant throws light on the many ways in which her organisation is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of children on the ground.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How does Reach to Teach bring joy to classrooms?</b></p> <p>Government schools are treated as post offices where the teachers and the school authorities themselves have zero agency over what to teach and how to teach. They are simply asked to follow instructions. In the state of Arunachal Pradesh, where we have an agreement with the government, along with Niti Aayog, we are rewriting content from Class 1 to 12 without touching the curriculum or the syllabus. We are introducing experiential learning and activity-based learning to make the experience of learning interesting for both, students and teachers. This way we also bring agency back to the teachers. Teaching no longer becomes a monologue and becomes interactive instead. Parents are also integrated into the system to ensure we have ideal levels of enrolment of children in schools.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>In today's day and times of chatGPT, how do we ensure that actual, physical classroom teaching remains unaffected by technology?</b></p> <p>Technology is only the enabler. It does not drive learning. At the end of the day, AI (Artificial intelligence) is only an input which also comes from human learning. Digital innovations are great, no doubt in providing access to learning, but they cannot be the only way of learning. What is a smart classroom? that helps in planning better and teaching a larger audience. Human interface and interaction are extremely crucial and will always remain so. The point is that education should not be driven by technology, rather technology should enable education.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How do you assess a student's grasp over his or her learning?</b></p> <p>We have just done a baseline assessment. So what we do is give the same question to students of classes 3, 5 and 8 and see their responses. that's how we will know whether there is grade-appropriate learning or not. We train teachers and also in every state where we work, we try to equip the state by building capacity for it to run on its own once we have exited it.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Post Covid enrollment in government schools has increased significantly. Do you think parents from the middle and upper middle classes should also consider municipal schools as good options for their wards, especially when private schools charge exorbitant fees?</b></p> <p>Definitely. A lot of parents have been shifting their children from private schools to government schools because the latter have done extremely well concerning education and facilities. It is about intuitively understanding what it is that a child wants.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How do you put the concept of frugal innovation into practice?&nbsp;</b></p> <p>It's about what you innovate at a local level and it need not have anything too expensive, state-of-the-art classrooms, smart classes and internet connectivity etc. It is about using whatever is available to leverage and create different concepts and innovations that are frugal. They are local and coined out of what is available. For instance, in a school I went to, a headmaster had conceptualised a small tiffin box in which he asked children to put money to make them learn how money grows. They'd return the money to each child with a small interest added to it at the end of each year. In another school, the teacher kept a tray with paraphernalia including stationery and asked the children to pick up what they wanted and put the money as per the price labels on the item. Nobody was supervising but a camera was put up and none of the children knew about the camera. So 99 per cent of children honestly put the money in each time they took. Now that was a lesson in honesty. So, it's a small but crucial example of how we can teach the most basic ideas in the most profound and hands-on manner. Also, I feel the concept of frugal innovation hasn't yet been captured fully in government schools. It is important to capture local knowledge and disseminate it within the community.</p> Wed Feb 22 13:28:03 IST 2023 kochi-biennale-palani-kumars-photographs-put-the-spotlight-on-manual-scavengers <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Walking through the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) venues, one thing was clear: people need to understand that the Biennale is more than just about what's on display at the Aspinwall House or Pepper House. It is a reflection of a society that needs to be scrutinised rather than something to merely glance over.</p> <p>The TKM Warehouse, one of the venues of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2023, houses various invitation programmes; 'Communities of Choice' being one of them. 'Communities of Choice', presented by the Chennai Photo Biennale Foundation and Ffotogallery (Wales) with the support of the British Council, poses a few underlying questions and exhibits photographs and news articles of various social issues that have not received adequate acknowledgment.</p> <p>The exhibition aims to use the expression of emerging artists from India and Wales to create and develop bodies of work that explore the concepts of belonging and inclusion. It also explores themes like gender disability, politics, constructs of race/caste, identity, and sustainable community. The concept note of the invitations programme describes the exhibition:</p> <p><i>Who am I?</i></p> <p><i>Where do I belong?</i></p> <p><i>Do I belong to A community?</i></p> <p><i>Do I belong to many?</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Palani Kumar's 'Out of Breath'<i>,</i> a photo exhibition in the 'Communities of Choice'<i> </i>programme, depicts the hardships and suffering of manual scavengers in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, and leaves many viewers feeling distressed by its portrayal of reality.</p> <p>Manual scavenging—the act of manually cleaning human excrement from drainage and sewers—and employing people to do it have been banned in India according to the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act of 1993. This law was replaced in 2013 with the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, which outlaws the use of dry latrines as well as the manual cleaning of unhygienic latrines, pits, and open drains.</p> <p>And yet, it is still been practiced in several states of India, especially Tamil Nadu. The series of photographs portrays the harsh realities of the lives of these oppressed scavengers and their deaths. As of December 31, 2022, the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis estimates that hazardous cleaning of septic and sewer tanks has resulted in the deaths of 1,054 people since 1993. Many people do the activity of cleaning sewage and drainage systems without any protective gear, leading to the most common cause of death among them—asphyxiation due to the inhalation of toxic gases.</p> <p>“This is an everyday happening in India, but the issue has been avoided by the masses,” says Kumar, “and that is why I chose to fight for them by exhibiting photographs on the issue and showing the reality.” Despite the prevalence of reservation systems in society, finding employment outside stereotyped, long-term caste-based occupations is not easy. The hierarchical power structure plays a role in maintaining the situation by appointing and calling them for scavenger work.</p> <p>Even if people want to leave, there seem to be no other job options available to them because no one is willing to give them jobs other than those, leading to a clear case of discrimination. As a result, people are forced to scavenge to acquire food for their families, who are sometimes kept in the dark about their occupation.</p> <p>People suffer deaths due to asphyxiation because none of them have been provided with protective gear while working, even while having to fully submerge under these contaminated waters. In all of these upheavals, their children resort to and fall into these roles, and the cycle of discrimination continues.</p> <p>Kumar is ready to talk about manual scavenging anywhere and everywhere until it is acknowledged and necessary actions are taken. “We say photography has the power to change the world, and many instances have shown that,” he says, “but in India, we have to constantly fight for it to be impactful.” Manual scavengers have played a huge part in the times of the pandemic and cyclones, and yet no one recognises their work. It has been more than five years since Kumar started documenting the lives of manual scavengers and their families, and yet he points out how nothing has changed in their lives and they still continue to suffer silently.</p> <p>Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently announced that this year's budget will allocate around Rs 100 crores for the newly named NAMASTE (National Action Plan for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem) scheme and that &quot;all cities and towns will be enabled for 100 per cent mechanical desludging of septic tanks and sewers to transition from manhole to machine-hole mode&quot; as part of the announcement regarding urban sanitation in the budget for the year 2023.</p> <p>“These are ‘election duties’ of the government,” says Kumar. “We are waiting for a time when the government will actually implement the law seriously and manual scavenging is going to end.”</p> <p>“India has the power and technology to replace the work of manual scavengers with machinery and yet failed to do so,” states Kumar, and further says: “Why does the government not take murder charges against the people who employ the manual scavengers, knowing it is banned?”</p> <p>The photographs convey the question of why nothing changed in their lives. Why are there no actions taken against people who assign jobs for manual scavenging, even after knowing it is illegal? Why are people not provided with protective gear before work? Why are these people unable to find other jobs having to reluctantly rely on being manual scavengers? Why are there no machines available for the job? Or, more importantly, why is India's drainage system still reliant on manual labour and not being prioritised for improvement?</p> <p>“We are part of a web of interwoven communities. Some we have the privilege to choose, while others are simply assigned to us.” In the end, this description in the concept note seems more accurate than ever, as it captures the myriad of issues the community—which did not have a choice—had to deal with.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Mon Feb 20 12:44:30 IST 2023 at-india-art-fair-art-finds-forwardism-via-technology <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The India Art Fair, this year, is witnessing an amalgamation of art and technology, along with several other themes, grabbing a lot of eyeballs. Being held in the national capital from February 9-12, the fair showcases enthralling artworks of cutting-edge digital artists, along with contemporary and modern artworks, championing powerful and rising new voices from India and South Asia.</p> <p>Being held in partnership with BMW India, the fair presents 85 exhibitors, including 71 galleries and 14 institutions. It also consists of an extended studio that presents the ‘Digital Artist in Residence’ programme, which provides an online platform for digital artists to create and display new artwork. The initiative aims to aid artwork created using digital processes, exploring the boundaries of art and technology.</p> <p>In line with this, BMW’s new model, X7, which was launched in India last month, has an artwork by Devika Sundar with the theme 'going boundless.' With Sundar's art, one steps into a world of magic and inspiration. Her design perfectly captures the spirit of wonder and possibility that lies at the heart of the human experience.</p> <p>Talking about her journey of the artwork on the BMW X7, Sundar said, “I drew this art with hands first, using water colours and pen, and, then, each element was done through painting on paper. So, the background and the forms are done separately, and then, I combined them digitally and put it on the 2D render of the car. Later, it went into 3D and BMW cleared this version.”</p> <p>The digital art studio comprises the artwork of three artists; all made on iPad Pro in response to the theme ‘Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.’</p> <p>Visual artist and illustrator Mira Felicia Malhotra highlights the oddities and idiosyncrasies of the Indian family life in vibrant portraits of women titled&nbsp;<i>'Log Kya Kahenge'</i>&nbsp;(what will people say). Inspired by her own life experiences and the work of renowned psychologists and psychiatrists, she has created three family portraits, depicting conflicts that often go unseen in traditional family structures. One can view these portraits in Augmented Reality (AR) using iPad Pro to uncover the complexities of gender roles.</p> <p>In one of her paintings, that hangs on the wall, there is a family comprising a man, his wife, their daughter and an infant (whose gender is not known) – all of them smiling. However, when one sees this particular painting using the iPad Pro scanner, the visual shows the man’s angry expression instead of a happy face. The woman’s expression seems to be that of a subjugated lady, who seems to be tired of her life and is striving hard to survive in a male-dominated society. The daughter changes into a boy (representing the LGBTQ community) and the smiling baby is full of tears behind the scanner. Such is the power of technology displayed at the India Art Fair 2023. One device changes it all at the blink of an eye.</p> <p>&nbsp;Another artist, poet and writer Gaurav Ogale’s art, also created on iPad Pro, invites the audience to explore the extraordinary biographies of ordinary people through an audio-visual book anthology series 'Bestsellers'.</p> <p>One of his artworks tells and makes one hear the story of a&nbsp;<i>hijra</i>&nbsp;(transgender) on the iPad Pro itself, using earphones. Nasreen, who belongs to Mumbai, begins her day doing household chores, and while she moves her hands, one can hear the sound of her bangles, the hustle-bustle of the city, and the honking sound of the vehicles while she gets out of her home.</p> <p>Another artist, Varun Desai, has created an immersive projection room giving a glimpse of the future—one that fuses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and human consciousness.&nbsp;</p> <p>Will AI replace manpower in the future? “No, because AI is just a tool to support and enhance one’s art that comes from the heart,” he believes.&nbsp;</p> <p>Responding to the theme ‘Forwardism,’ and presenting a unique vision of a future where art, science, and fiction meet, Sundar will also design the wrap for BMW X7. She has also been awarded a special commission titled 'The Future is Born of Art.'</p> Thu Feb 09 22:51:56 IST 2023 kochi-muziris-biennale-meet-the-artist-behind-the-painting-took-to-the-skies <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On January 27, the Air India Express’s Boeing 737-800, with a painting featured on its tail, was unveiled at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. Artist Smitha GS’s acrylic painting was selected to represent the Kochi-Muziris Biennale on the 25-foot-long tail of the aircraft.</p> <p>The vibrant artwork depicts chameleons, grasshoppers, insects, and other tiny critters set against the enormous mountains and broad landscapes in which these creatures are placed in.&nbsp;The original artwork is currently on display at the Aspinwall House, the prime venue of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022.</p> <p>A self-taught artist from Kozhikode, Smitha's paintings were initially displayed at the 'Lokame Tharavadu' exhibition curated by Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) president Bose Krishnamachari. Her unique perspective on species that typically go unseen drew a lot of attention. Soon after, her meticulously detailed depictions of landscapes and creatures earned her a spot at this year's Biennale.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Painting has always been a passion of mine. My father encouraged me to paint, and I enjoyed it over studying. My house was surrounded by lush green forests, and I enjoyed going for walks and admiring the scenery. The setting in which I grew up has been a major source of inspiration for my works,&quot; Smitha said.</p> <p>She painted a lot throughout the pandemic lockdown, and it became more fun for her as she began using vibrant colours and delving deeper into the subjects she was passionate about. It took multiple layers of bright colours and meticulous detailing on the paintings before she was finally satisfied with her work.</p> <p>Speaking of her inventiveness, she attributes it to the picturesque surroundings she grew up in, as well as her father. &quot;He crafted toys for me with coconut leaves in my younger days, I would imagine them coming to life. As a tribute to my father, I paint my images in green. Spending time in the forest allowed me to intentionally examine the life and creatures that sometimes appear inconsequential. All of this immensely enhanced my imagination,&quot; the artist said.</p> <p>Her paintings are all tied directly to her own life, making them highly personal to her. She chose superstitions as the subject of another painting, which is also displayed at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The artwork features many images or creatures that were deemed terrifying or harmful in Indian culture, and she believes that the painting would create a genuine impact and change in the people who view it.</p> <p>&quot;I have a lot more to do since I have so many more paintings in my mind that I want to paint. I feel art requires a clear vision, mental preparation, and time. A journey alone or a stroll helps me prepare to paint the picture that I have formed in my thoughts,&quot; Smitha said.</p> Mon Jan 30 15:29:38 IST 2023 learning-ability-dipped-in-kids-post-pandemic-educators-tell-us-why <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There has been a dip in the learning ability of students, post-pandemic, as reported by the recently-released Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). While there is a massive surge in the number of students who have enrolled in schools after the pandemic, the learning skill deficiency caused by the pandemic and the challenges children are required to overcome to get back into learning, are at an all-time high.</p> <p>Educators THE WEEK spoke to cited multiple reasons for the dip ranging from shorter attention spans, gadget usage and reduced social skills. Besides these obvious reasons, educators also said the reduced immunity level in younger children who stayed fully indoors for two years has also affected post-pandemic schooling.</p> <p>When asked about the study's findings, an early-year educator, Chrisen Raju, reflected for a moment and answered, “Children struggle with a lot more health problems and fall sick more often because they get exposed to flu or cough. Their immune systems never got the chance to develop resistance against as they hardly left their homes and were never exposed to these because during the pandemic.”</p> <p>Explaining further, Chrisen highlights the deeper problem that directly affects children’s learning. “Their health affects their attendance, since they fall sick so often, they miss a lot of classes every other week. The children are unable to understand the portions as they miss lessons and end up struggling when they show up to class after getting better.”</p> <p>Sofia Dini, a kindergarten teacher, also had similar findings and said, &quot;There was a serious loss in the foundation for mischievous children who cleverly had their parents complete their homework. They struggled to write letters and to hold pencils.”</p> <p>Prathibha Menon, a lower primary teacher, talked about children's reluctance to adjust, shorter attention spans, and lethargy post-pandemic. &quot;Their social skills have reduced and they cannot adjust or share even with friends now. They don’t want to learn concepts guaranteed to interest them anymore&quot; she added.</p> <p>While tiny tots struggle with holding pencils properly and having trouble sitting still, the students and teachers in higher grades also face challenges. &quot;Students struggle with their psycho-motor abilities, find cognitive thinking challenging, and are unable to focus for prolonged durations. Offline classes were initially overwhelming for learners,&quot; said Roopma Anand, an educator. She also drew attention to students’ use of abbreviations even in their exams and the use of slang words in formal settings.</p> <p>“A bad network was an easy excuse for some to skip classes, while a few genuinely had trouble joining classes. Some would play games or chat with friends during class hours,” Merin Jacob, an 8th grader recalls.</p> <p>Esther Susan and Shiv Narayanan, both of them 12<sup>th</sup> graders, described getting back to offline learning as a good shift that came with problems like finding it harder to concentrate and being overwhelmed by the post-pandemic stress. A higher secondary teacher, Reyma Reji, also observed that there have been a lot of changes in the classroom behaviour of the students. She noted how teenagers feel isolated and often struggle with mental health issues more than ever.</p> <p>Chitra S. Nair, principal of Bharatiya Vidya Mandir in Kerala's Thrissur, said restlessness returned in students with a loss of focus in academics as gadgets consumed unchecked amounts of their time. “Classes one to five are managed with dynamic methods of experiential learning and loads of activities now, but the high schoolers were rather anxious to face the board exams they don’t feel prepared for,” she said.</p> <p>Both students and teachers are facing struggles in various dimensions of teaching and learning as schools are back open after the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.&nbsp;</p> Sat Jan 28 12:23:19 IST 2023 bonding-with-the-best <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>One of the places I have been meaning to visit for many years is Landour, a small cantonment in the Himalayan foothills in Uttarakhand. I finally made it there last month as a speaker at the Mussoorie Writers’ Mountain Festival, held at Woodstock School. Walking the winding hill roads and descending steep paths through the forest was a delight. All around us were pines and deodars which, aside from their beauty, carry a pure, reviving scent that is the perfect antidote to living in a city like Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of my experience of climbing in the Himalaya and Karakoram has been virtual, describing the journeys of great explorers, but some of the other speakers were expert mountaineers. As well as these athletes, I had a chance to meet the legendary 81-year-old writer Ruskin Bond, who has made his home in the hills for more than half a century. Knowing that Bond is prone to be pestered by tourists, I resolved not to spend too long at his house, but while I was there he amazed me with his memory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I mentioned that I was writing the authorised biography of the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing, who achieved more in her 94 years than most of us can expect in several lifetimes, Bond got up and went over to a bookshelf. “Have you seen this?” he asked. It was a 1951 copy of a magazine named Lilliput, featuring a story by Doris Lessing that I had never read.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As I was fl icking through it in amazement, his telephone rang. “Buckingham Palace,” said Bond as he picked up the receiver. Then came a knock at the door. “Please tell them I’m not here.” I relayed the message to the visitor, who responded by pushing open the door and bringing in a party of impromptu visitors—the family of a minor dignitary who had come to be photographed with the legendary author.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the things I admire about Bond’s writing is its simplicity, which means that as a reader you can put yourself inside the head of each of his characters and imagine their thoughts and feelings. In The Room on the Roof, for example, Rusty likes the look of Meena Kapoor, who wears a red sari and white silk jacket, and has her hair plaited and scented with jasmine. “Rusty gazed admiringly at her; he wanted to compliment her, to say, ‘Mrs Kapoor, you are beautiful’; but he had no need to tell her, she was fully conscious of the fact.” You can picture both Rusty and Meena.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the last of my Last Word columns for THE WEEK, though I am looking forward to returning to these pages for special articles. As other publications have become more raucous, THE WEEK has been a haven: I do not recall a single occasion when one of my columns has provoked the sort of virulent and intolerant reaction that is now common on TV and social media. You are the gentlest and most understanding of readers, and writing for this magazine has always reminded me of a lovely winter that I spent 12 or 13 years ago, living in Fort Kochi. (I was even photographed for these pages wearing a mundu that was, I realised later to my sartorial chagrin, an inch shorter than it should have been.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the pleasures of appearing in a publication like this one, which has an inquisitive and eclectic set of readers like you, is that as a writer you feel free to tell your stories in an open, anecdotal way, like the great Ruskin Bond up in Landour. For ultimately, it is the reader and not the writer who has the last word.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Patrick French is a British writer, historian and academician.</b></p> Thu Mar 16 17:44:47 IST 2023 kochi-biennale-a-photo-project-puts-the-spotlight-on-nepal-womens-historic-fight-for-visibility <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On display at Pepper House, as part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, are 8,000 photographs depicting the extensive history of women's movements in Nepal. Curated by NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati and Diwas Raja KC, the photo gallery titled 'The Public Life of Women' intends to track the path of protests to increase women's visibility in public places, education, trade, and history.</p> <p>The road was not easy, but the photo collection succeeds in showing viewers that the women of Nepal were tenacious and uncompromising in the pursuit of their goals. The photos on display were selected from a larger collection of about 1,20,000 photographs from the Nepal Picture Library, initiated in 2018.</p> <p>As personal albums were included, every unique form of protest that women used was conspicuously represented. The massive rallies—unquestionably activities that defied social conventions—translated into pathways toward better visibility for women. Women's movements for visibility were centered on marking a space for their stories in history books as well. The 'publicity' became a fundamental strategy in establishing their actions as an outcry for freedom that would not stop until it is heard. Women needed to be able to speak in public, work and earn money, obtain education, travel, and move freely in both private and public settings.</p> <p>The photo collection opens a window into a wide range of personal and public protests, right from Mangala Devi who founded the Nepal Women's Association and campaigned for women's education, to Hisila Yami who encouraged her daughter to be proud of her womanhood in a personal letter to her.</p> <p>It is impressive to see that women had started fighting for what matters to them in ways that ensured they were heard loud and clear. The numerous rallies held over 50 years were also beneficial in voicing opposition to caste concerns. The initiative urged Tharu (an indigenous ethnic group) women to rise up against landlord abuse and unite against their oppressors.</p> <p>This gallery seeks to take a thorough look at all the battles that women fought to guarantee their inclusion in the universal community. The photographs also shed light on patriarchal practices that ran deep through the fabric of society.</p> <p>The themes, nuances, and dimensions of these various movements and stories explored by the photo collection are vast, as we see that the ways by which each woman chose to protest were linked together by their common aim and how their efforts spurred progress over time. The archive stands as an encouragement, inspiration, and challenge to this day because of its truly timeless relevance.&nbsp;</p> Thu Feb 02 18:06:14 IST 2023 sufism-is-the-lost-voice-of-compassion-says-writer-moin-mir <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>-“Sit, be still and listen”<br> </p> <p>-“Patience is the key to joy”</p> <p>-“Dance until you shatter yourself”</p> <p>-“Set your life on fire”</p> <p>A cursory search on Rumi, the 13th-century Sufi mystic, throws up these sayings of his. Many of us may have received them as forwards on WhatsApp, and this is what infuriates London-based writer Moin Mir, whose latest book,&nbsp;<i>The Lost Fragrance of Infinity</i>, explores the allure of Sufi philosophy. “One does not know whether [these sayings] were actually written by him and reused in the most bizarre way,” he said at a session with historian Rana Safvi presented by THE WEEK at the Jaipur Literature Festival. “Rumi in the west became this symbol of hippie culture and he was very far from that.”</p> <p>To disabuse his readers of such misconceptions, he said, was one of the reasons why he wrote&nbsp;<i>The Lost Fragrance</i>. There were others, too. “Sufism, in many ways, is the lost voice of compassion,” he said. “And in its essence, it is not understood properly. I, too, am a student of it because it is so complex. There are various ways in which one can approach Sufism. Historians and academics look at it through the lens of history and philosophy, but I thought of looking at it through the lens of the complex mind of the Sufi. One that is fired by curiosity and that drives innovation, one that surrenders to divine love and finds itself investigating art, literature, and poetry. I took that approach.”</p> <p>It was his grandfather, Mir Khairat Ali Khan – a leading scholar of Sufism in India – who got him interested in the subject. Khan was an expert on Mirza Ghalib and Persian mathematician and poet, Omar Khayyam. Under his tutelage, Moin began exploring the byzantine alleyways of Sufism. If he got his love of books from his grandfather, he got a love of travel from his grandmother, Ziaunnissa-Ladli Begum, who spent most of her youth travelling between India, Baghdad, Cairo and the Levant.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moin himself travels extensively to research his books. In fact, going through his Instagram page is like sinking into another world, another time. He makes you see things with new eyes – like the majestic square in Palermo, the ruined city of Pompei, the quaint island of Mazara Del Vallo in Sicily, the caves and monasteries of Greece…. You don’t just see them, you see them through Moin’s eyes. He shows you how he discovered the Greek philosopher Plotinus’s teachings in Greece or was wonderstruck by the sculpture of a satyr at a museum in Sicily.</p> <p>In fact, it was while he was passing through the town of Bursa in Anatolia that he found the Sufi who would inspire the central character of the tilemaker Qaraar Ali in&nbsp;<i>The Lost Fragrance</i>. “Early in the morning, I visited a fabulous mosque with geometric tile work,” said Moin. “I found an old man sitting under an arch twirling his beads. He was a Sufi, and as the slanted rays penetrated the stained-glass windows and fell on him, I felt a pull towards him. I went and spoke with him. He asked me what I saw when I looked at the tiles. Then he told me that they represented the different castes, cultures, races and languages of mankind, and bang in the middle was the eight-pointed star, which is the star of enlightenment. Now obviously, historians and academics will have a completely different take on what geometric tile-making is, but I was struck by the simplicity of it. This ascetic sitting in this quiet mosque saying something so beautiful was amazing. And so that became the heart of my story in many ways.”&nbsp;<i>The Lost Fragrance</i>&nbsp;is set in the 18th century and is about a man who flees Delhi and on his way to Andalusia, Spain, he discovers love through Sufi philosophy. It is almost a metaphor for Moin’s own life.</p> <p>Moin says he is not a practising Sufi and hence has never had a mystic or transcendental experience. However, he has had “flashes of inspired intuition”, when he would get the surety that he was destined to write a particular line. Every good writer has perhaps had that experience, of finding perfection in a thought which would then almost write itself. Moin knows how rare such an experience is, and like the tenets of Sufism, he holds it close to his heart.</p> Wed Jan 25 12:22:00 IST 2023 revolutionaries-should-be-given-due-place-in-indias-freedom-struggle-narrative <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Acclaimed economist and author Sanjeev Sanyal is a staunch proponent of the idea that India’s history of freedom struggle must be rewritten. Sanyal, who was the Principal Economic Adviser to the Union Finance Minister till February 2022, recently released his book that talks about the revolutionaries who got neglected in the post-Independence period.</p> <p>On the sidelines of the Kerala Literature Festival, he spoke exclusively to THE WEEK on various issues related to India’s past and present.</p> <p>Excerpts:</p> <p><b>The dominant narrative about India’s freedom struggle says it had been a non-violent movement. Is your latest book <i>Revolutionaries: The Other Story of How India Won Its Freedom</i>—a book about those who took arms to fight the British—challenging this narrative?</b></p> <p>There is no doubt that the mainstream narrative of India's freedom struggle is dominated by the story of the non-violent movement. While this did have a role, it should be remembered that there was also an armed resistance [against] the British Colonial occupation of India. It is not that we have forgotten all these names like Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Sachindra Nath Sanyal or Rash Bihari Bose.</p> <p>But get the impression from the official narrative that these were some sporadic events in the fringe and that they had no real impact on the mainstream narrative. And, that is not the case. The purpose of the book is to show that revolutionaries were very much in the mainstream movement.</p> <p>They were not only important as part of the resistance against the British. They were important within the Indian National Congress itself. One cannot understand the Indian National Congress without reference to what the revolutionaries were doing. As Netaji demonstrated, the revolutionaries were capable of winning an election within the Congress for the party president against the Gandhians. So, the revolutionary movement has to be given back a correct, due place in our national narration.</p> <p><b>Recently you said there is a need to rewrite the history of India's freedom struggle. If that process happens, how do you want it to be?</b></p> <p>First of all, you need greater recognition of many of these great freedom fighters. The book is one contribution to that, but you have also seen recently the Netaji statue unveiled in Delhi. Another step is the gallery inside the Victoria Memorial Museum dedicated to the revolutionaries. So, in some ways, they are being brought back into the conversation. Of course, ultimately this has to also reflect in the school textbooks, which I hope will happen over time.</p> <p><b>During your research, you might have come across the stories of many extraordinary characters. Could you share the story of one such revolutionary whose story got neglected in the post-independence period?</b></p> <p>There are dozens of such characters. Let me tell you about one of them. Many of you may have never heard of somebody called Pandurang Khankhoje. He was an extraordinary person born in the late 19th century in Nagpur. He became part of the revolutionary movement and to escape British Intelligence, he went up to Japan. From there, he went to north America where he gained military training and made contacts with the Ghadarite revolutionaries. When World War I happened, he made his way to Iran—what was then Persia—and he created a group of Persian rebels and Indian revolutionaries and fought in the first world war backed by the Germans and the Turks against the British. Interestingly, his opponent was none other than Reginald Dyer. Dyer first gained a reputation fighting against [Khankhoje's forces] on the Balochistan-Persia border. The war ended with the British side winning and the Germans losing. So first he made his way to Russia and ultimately to Mexico where he became a very famous agricultural scientist. Many of the technologies we now know as the Green Revolution, [were developed by Khankhoje]. In the 1950s, he came back to India and introduced these technologies in India, leading to the green revolution in India as well.</p> <p>Now, here is just one character, who gave amazing contributions to the freedom fight. Just his contributions to the green revolution and changing the world's food production patterns would alone have made him an all-time great. And yet, most Indians probably have never heard of him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Mon Jan 23 13:35:18 IST 2023 mainstream-pornography-porn-boring-amia-srinivasan-right-to-sex-feminism <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In 2021, Oxford professor Amia Srinivasan came out with her seminal work – a collection of essays called 'The Right to Sex: Feminism in the 21st Century' – and decimated all our ideas of what sex should be or who you should be having it with. Your sexual desires, she posited, are not just personal, but they are moulded by societal forces. In other words, we are conditioned to like whom we like. Incisive and scholarly, the essays probed the changes after #MeToo and the issue of consent, gender diversity and trans rights, pornography, and sex positivity. The book took the world by storm. It was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing and was named as Blackwell’s Best Book of the Year, along with winning a host of other awards.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“These essays are works of both criticism and imagination,” praised&nbsp;<i>The New York Times</i>, in its review of 'The Right to Sex'. “Srinivasan refuses to resort to straw men; she will lay out even the most specious argument clearly and carefully, demonstrating its emotional power, even if her ultimate intention is to dismantle it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of the essays arose from discussions she had with her students at Oxford. Their take on some of the issues, such as pornography, were surprising, she said in a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I did not think my students were going to find this very interesting,” she said. “It is quite quaint, the idea of feminists arguing about whether pornography should exist or be made available, especially when porn meant going to seedy film theatres or (flipping through) graphic magazines. It is extremely outdated in this era of totally ubiquitous online pornography, to which they had all been exposed since a young age. But I was really struck by how responsive they were to these anti-porn polemics from the 1970s. They were struck by the idea that pornography has this pedagogic function where it teaches you what is important and sexually exciting. It propagates the idea that a certain dynamic of male domination and female submission is what is erotically and sexually charged. (Basically), it teaches them how to have sex. Many of my students agreed with this in a way that I found extremely disturbing.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She clarified that she is talking about mainstream pornography that is algorithmically selected for you by a company (MindGeek, which owns the four biggest porn sites in the world) whose sole interest is to make money. By feeding you this kind of pornography, the company ensures that your sexual propensities and tastes become more similar to everyone else’s. “The fundamental problem with mainstream porn is that it is so boring, so unimaginative,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Srinivasan, 38, was born in Bahrain and later lived in Taiwan, Singapore, New York and London. She did her undergraduate degree in philosophy from Yale and then, a BPhil and DPhil as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. In October 2018, she joined St John’s College, Oxford, as a tutorial fellow in philosophy and in January 2020, she took over as the Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, Oxford, the first woman and person of colour to do so.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of us are so streamlined into thinking a certain way about sex and gender that we often don’t question why we think the way we do, says Srinivasan. Take the example of trans rights. “I think it is important to sometimes hear what the critics and opponents of the trans rights movements are saying,” she said. “Often, what they expressing is that they are deeply anxious about their own sense of identity, gender and sexuality,” she said. “It is a profound threat to their sense of self as just straightforward men or women. As British academic Jacqueline Rose put it, ‘All of us are literally haunted in our dreams by other genders and sexual possibilities for ourselves. We are haunted by the female, male or hermaphrodite versions of ourselves. And that has to be repressed so that we can go through the social and political world that insists on us being cleanly woman or cleanly man’.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The politics of sex is not the only thing that this erudite professor is interested in. From Bulgarian folk music to octopuses, death and philosophy, there is much to keep her occupied. However, perhaps her name will go down in history as the one who dislodged one of the most potent myths about love: that the heart wants what it wants.</p> Sun Jan 22 18:33:01 IST 2023 kochi-biennale-pavilion-a-mansion-built-from-debris-is-a-symbol-of-hope <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Stone, mud, brick, thread, and debris from buildings—made from these is a graceful mansion that exposes a lot of ideas. This is the Biennale Pavilion designed by world-famous architect Samira Rathod at Fort Kochi's Cabral Yard. The stars of the night sky are visible through its roof which also lets the sun's rays in bit by bit during the day.</p> <p>The 4,000-square-foot pavilion, with a roof sans concrete, is a wonder by its design. Named the 'Container of Hope', it stands in harmony with nature. The construction, which speaks volumes of possibilities from debris and about new ideas that could be made practical, came as a result of the hard work carried out by almost 60 labourers from Kochi, Kolkata, and Delhi across 30 days and nights while weathering the unexpected December rains.</p> <p>&quot;No material which cannot be reused has been used for the construction of the pavilion, and upon dismantling this temporary construction, no waste will reach the earth. This is its significance&quot;, said Samira. The four walls of the structure are filled with stones, pieces of brick, red stone, and debris from building construction. The floor is made of granite pieces, stone, and cement from quarries. The large roof above contains a layer of transparent plastic on which stones are plastered along with soil and mud.</p> <p>&quot;It is to protect the monitors and speakers in the pavilion that plastic had to be used on the roof,” said Samira. But this plastic sheet specially stitched at the Samira Rathod Atelier—Samira's architecture and interior design establishment in Mumbai—can be reused. The most attractive feature of the pavilion is the big glass shutters fixed on the walls. Neethu Lekshmi, Fenil Soni, and Kiran Keluskar, all of them architects at the Samira Rathod Design Atelier, stayed in Fort Kochi for a month overseeing the construction of the pavilion. The support of the organisers of the Kochi Muziris Biennale was also invaluable.</p> <p>&quot;There are two thought streams behind the construction of the Biennale Pavilion,&quot; says Samira. “One is the reuse of the remains of buildings. Second is the poetic nature of the construction. We see a building in its complete form. Normally the back-filling used in the walls or basement remains hidden. We had the desire to have a transparent construction. So this back-filling is visible from the outside. Biennale literally means taking new ideas to the public through the medium of arts.</p> <p>After the Biennale, the pavilion can be completely dismantled and reconstructed at any other location according to requirements. &quot;If more studies are carried out, and proper maintenance is given, such buildings can be used for a long time,” says Samira. The studio works within the pavilion have been done by Studio Motion Works.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Jan 19 17:08:54 IST 2023 sea-is-the-centrepiece-of-this-art-project-that-explores-keralas-past-and-present <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>'Sea: A Boiling Vessel'—a phrase once used by seafarers is the title of an art project that dives deep into the role of the mighty ocean in shaping Kerala's culture and society. Exploring the ocean is a spiritual experience for sailors, as it becomes the essence of life itself. The multi-disciplinary exhibition, spearheaded by Aazhi Archives and Design Trust of India, brings this experience to the viewer through the portrayal of long-forgotten maritime histories.</p> <p>“The project's goal is to learn about Kerala's history via its own archives. This research has merely scratched the surface of our state's massive archives; there is much more beneath the surface that we are yet to explore. There is ongoing research and studies that aim to shift our perspective from a terrestrial history to an oceanic perspective,” explains Project Manager Kshema.</p> <p>Curatorial Director Riyas Komu has brilliantly curated pieces on origin narratives, slave narratives, metaphorical immortality of the ocean, migration, and many other topics. This astounding arrangement allows the audience to see the intention in the selection of pieces and the relevance of each artist and their works on exhibit.</p> <p>The show's primary location is the former Hallegua residence, where Juliet Hallegua lived for many years before leaving for Israel with her daughters.</p> <p>Late artist K.P. Krishnakumar's last sculpture, Boatman, is prominently featured in the exhibition in Kochi that features the works of 13 artists. This shrunken boatman poses as the ultimate representation of the ocean's wide contrast of absurdity and clarity.</p> <p>K.R. Sunil's photographs document the lives of the artists of Chavittunatakam—a dance-music-drama performance that originated in the coastal regions under Portuguese rule. &quot;I recall watching a five-day performance by several troupes and being enthralled by the last group from Chellanam [a coastal village in Kerala's Ernakulam district],&quot; Sunil says. They were fishermen from the village and performed after finishing their day’s work. They performed tales from the Greek Empire as well as Christian stories. Their exquisite costumes were embellished with gleaming jewelry, dazzling crowns, and more, Sunil recalls. Their performance was in Tamil, and it was brimming with enthusiasm and raw emotion. &quot;It was almost as though they were transforming into everything they couldn't be in real life,&quot; he says.</p> <p>The artists invited Sunil to their houses, where he learnt that their lives were full of struggles. Battered by the effects of climate change, their huts near the coast are frequently flooded as sea levels rise. The community struggles to make ends meet and earn even two meals a day. But even in the midst of adversity, they have held their own close and their art closer.</p> <p>A hyper-realistic painting by Parag Sonarghare is an unusual and distinctive take on the slave narrative. 'The Foot' is a larger-than-life-sized acrylic on canvas painting of a man's foot with wrinkles and scars from repeated exposure and walking on harsh terrains. Parag says he sought to capture the ordinary things that were not included in mainstream history and culture. &quot;I wanted to capture what is authentic to me. This is the reality I see in my immediate surroundings,&quot; he explains. The bodies of these marginalised individuals become the site of evidence of their life and journey. Parag carries to the canvas the fragments of elements of reality that surround him.</p> <p>Midhun Mohan responds to M.H. Illias's 'Dubai Elsewhere' project that sheds light on the theme of migration. He also discusses the Indian Ocean, along with the various objects, concepts, and individuals who traveled through oceans. &quot;I've looked through the boundless and unrestrained oceanic perspective to bring the concept into the painting,&quot; explains the artist. His paintings, such as 'Kappiri,' have also been influenced by Indian Ocean legends and motifs. His migration-themed paintings focus on the aspirations of people who traveled to the Gulf nations, which contrasted with the lifestyles that they lived there. The piece 'Man Holding His Dreams' depicts the lives, identity, and dysphoria of migrants, which caused them to imitate foreign culture in their own country after returning.</p> <p>Other notable works that contribute to the project's central concept include Sumedh Rajendran's installations and T.V. Santhosh's work focusing on the long-lasting impact of colonisation in the cultural and linguistic dimensions of our society, among many more.</p> <p>With extended events in Kozhikode,'Sea: A Boiling Vessel' hosts discussions, dialogues, and presentations simultaneously. This art event is truly an experience to discover Kerala's cultural origins from a different perspective.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Jan 19 15:06:48 IST 2023 sudha-murthy-reveals-how-the-gopi-diaries-is-based-on-real-stories-from-her-home <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Children's author and Infosys Foundation chairperson Sudha Murthy is loved for her stories that pack in humour and life lessons. In the best-selling children's book series<i> The Gopi Diaries</i>, she engages children with stories told through the eyes of a dog named Gopi. </p> <p>Speaking to THE WEEK on the sidelines of the Kerala Literature Festival, she shared about her dog Gopi, on whom the three books are based, life with her grandchildren and more.</p> <p>Excerpts:</p> <p><b>Please tell us about your book series that features your dog Gopi? How did you decide to write a children’s book based on your experiences with Gopi?</b></p> <p>Harper Collins approached me and asked if I could write something. I said I do not have any ideas right now. I do not commit to anything until I have ideas. When this meeting was going on, my dog, Gopi, came in. He [the publisher] suggested I write on Gopi. I said there are many books on dogs in the market. But they said, 'no you write something'. After they left, I thought a dog owner may write about how cute his/her dog is and things like that. But what does a dog think of its owner? That is how Gopi became the narrator. And I became Ajji to Gopi. In Kannada, ‘Ajji’ means grandmother.</p> <p>Gopi came to me through my son Rohan who brought and left him in my house. Rohan went for a week to London, but could not return due to the pandemic. So then, Gopi became mine.<b> </b>Gopi [in the book] sees Rohan as his father, Mr [Narayana] Murthy as Ajja and I am his Ajji. I started to think what Gopi would be thinking: ‘Oh this is my new home. When I talk, they call it barking and I pull Ajji’s pallu’. Through Gopi, I wrote the first book— <i>Coming Home—</i>about<i> </i>what it meant for a pup to leave his mother and adjust to a human home. And it became very popular among children. The books feature instances like Gopi going to the doctor, or getting scared. I wrote the whole book in just three and a half hours. More than one lakh copies were sold. Then I wrote part two. So all these stories [told through Gopi’s eyes] are real stories.</p> <p><b>I have heard Narayana Murthy is very scared of dogs.</b></p> <p>Yes. Because when he was a kid, he was bitten by a dog. So, he used to say: 'No dogs at home'. For 40 years, I did not get a dog even though I was very fond of them. In my childhood, we always had dogs. We had a Rajah for 14 years, then a Julie for 13 years. But Mr Murthy set a condition—no dogs at home.</p> <p><b>Was that like a marriage condition?</b></p> <p>A part of… because he was damn scared of dogs. He said if I kept a dog, he would be uncomfortable throughout the day. I said, ‘Fine’. In marriage, we have to adjust. But when Rohan got this dog, Murthy changed over a period of time. First, he used to stay in another room. Initially, he thought the dog would be at our home only for a week, and it will then go back to Rohan’s. But Rohan went to London and did not come back for eight months. So, Gopi stayed in our house all that time. And even after his father [Rohan] came, he did not go home; rather he stayed at my house. So, when Murthy realised that Gopi will be with me for a long time, he started staying in the same room—Gopi at one end and Murthy at the other.</p> <p>Slowly he realised that not every dog will bite you. Gopi is like a child and Murthy developed a friendship with him. I realised that in the last one and half years, he [reached a stage where] he will not live without Gopi. So, that is the basis of my second book, <i>Finding Love</i>, [in the series]. The third book, <i>Growing Up </i>[was released recently]. In this, Gopi has grown up now. He is a big dog. All the female dogs look at him and he selects [his pair]. He goes swimming. While swimming he meets his lady love. How he wants to impress her, how they go together, how Ajji tries to neglect that, and how he becomes a father. But he does not know how to raise a pup. And then Ajji tells him that he was also once a pup.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are the kind of ideas you explore through your books for children?</b></p> <p>See, if it is children, and you tell them they should tell the truth and be honest, they may think it is a moral science class. So, you convert these into a story. You show two characters, one who is honest and another who is dishonest. And you tell a story in which the dishonest person is punished at the end. So the moral is told. That is the way I convert the moral into the form of a story so that children will unknowingly get the idea. In Gopi’s story also I have given some small morals. For instance, I have explored the theme of ‘sharing is caring’ in Gopi’s story.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Your son-in-law Rishi Sunak is the Prime Minister of the UK. So, how often do you get to talk to your grandchildren?</b></p> <p>Well, I go to England twice or thrice a year. They come once a year. I do spend time with them. I write chapter books also and my granddaughter, Anushka Sunak, converted those and choreographed it into a Kuchipudi dance. I also discuss history in many of my books. My eldest granddaughter, Krishna, loves history and keeps insisting she wants to visit Indian historic places. I talk to them about language, culture and love for the country. And I tell them a lot of stories.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>You have said earlier you wanted to bring up your children to know the value of money. You never wanted them to have an extravagant life. Recently, when Mr Sunak was running for elections, there were allegations that your daughter Akshata Murthy has not taken UK citizenship in order to evade taxes. The Indian media also reported the same. How did you deal with such allegations?</b></p> <p>Let them write whatever they want to. They should verify the truth and write it. I do not get into that. I do not get into any of the politics, any of the controversies.&nbsp;</p> Fri Jan 13 16:24:59 IST 2023 india-is-like-cuba-to-me-says-che-guevaras-granddaughter-after-visiting-kochi-muziris-biennale <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Granddaughter of revolutionary socialist leader Che Guevara, Estefania Guevara, visited the Kochi-Muziris Biennale on Thursday and said she was wonderstruck by the art presentations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a release, Estefania said, &quot;The exhibitions and venues are astonishing and exhilarating.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Being here is the same as being in my homeland. The ark works here are just as enticing. India is like Cuba to me,” Estefania said. Estefania is the daughter of Aleida Guevara, a social activist, and eldest daughter of Che Guevara.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sarah Kirlew, Consul General, Australia who visited the Biennale said, “The Biennale is a very attractive and brilliant exhibition of art. Creations made in response against disorder are thought-provoking.&quot;&nbsp;</p> Thu Jan 12 19:26:51 IST 2023 bridging-a-musical-gulf <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Listening to ‘Akasha’, a song released as part of the musical short film,&nbsp;<i>Metagod</i>, is a jolting experience. It starts with a classical piece that morphs into electronic music. The blending is so seamless it does not feel like you are listening to music from starkly opposite ends of the spectrum. Still, it leaves you unnerved, like you entered a portal into a different world, one that tilts dangerously on its axis and threatens to empty you into an unknown abyss. For all its dark matter, the song is liberating, perhaps because it does not follow any rules and encourages you to do the same.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I used vocal cultural elements of western classical and Carnatic music and then sang the composition over electronic music,” says Neelakantan Indanthuruthil Krishnan, one of the composers of the song. He sang it with another vocalist, Priyyank. “Throughout the ages, music has mutated. In my opinion, its future is inside computers.” Technology, he says, has changed Carnatic music as well. “I feel like I am creating new ways of encouraging others to get into classical music,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Krishnan, 29, was born into a family of musicians. He was trained in classical music by his mother till the age of 14 and after that, by her guru. In school, he got introduced to western genres like jazz and metal. In Class VIII, he became the vocalist in Flood of Mutiny, a band he formed with his friends. When he started neglecting his studies to be part of the local music scene, he knew this was no time-pass, and that he wanted to take up music professionally. Being from a south Indian family, however, he was persuaded to first complete his bachelors and masters in political science from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Afterwards, he moved from Baroda to Mumbai and worked on small, independent music projects. It took him two years of research – when he intensely studied the works of electronic musicians from 2000 to 2015 – to understand the rhythmic patterns and melodic cycles of this genre. He would practice for three hours daily. He did not find it a struggle to move from classical to fusion. “When you think out of the box, you always take the road less travelled,” he says. “If things are getting difficult, then you know you are on the right track.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘Akasha’ happened when&nbsp;<i>Metagod’s</i>&nbsp;director and producer Paresh Vijay and Anand Iyer wanted to remix the song with an electronic focus. They got introduced to Krishnan’s music on Instagram and were impressed with the ability of his voice to straddle both eastern and western styles. He was invited for a discussion in February. It took over four months to complete the recording. The song came out on December 22.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Krishnan first performed in a concert at the age of six. He remembers an embarrassing mistake, when he sang the opening line and then forgot the rest of the lyrics. He stretched the note for two rhythmic cycles before his mother realised that he was lost. She came and whispered the next line to him. “What I remember about that incident is how quickly I made a recovery,” he says with a laugh. “The way I picked up the lyrics felt like I was an experienced singer. The mistakes I have made are the reason that I am here. They have taught me how to move ahead in life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His creative process involves long discussions with his producer, where they might draw inspiration from anything around them, from the sound of construction to traffic. The world has moved on from being just about one character, he says. People can make music about the smallest things like buttons or keychains. To survive in this atmosphere, one must expand one’s horizons. Krishnan builds on what his producer creates on the digital audio workstation. “In classical music, you move with how the sound gravitates,” he says. “You move around the musical framework you are given, explore the tune for a while till another idea or element strikes, and you add that to the existing framework. You build on it like Lego blocks. This background helped me a lot in the improvisation process.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the future, what he wants most is to become a global ambassador for Indian classical music. In this, he is trailing musical greats like Ustad Zakir Hussain, flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia, sarod musician Amjad Ali Khan and sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar – people who “displayed their music to the world without changing their core values”. But the sonic terrain that Chaurasia or Hussain traversed is far different from the one that exists currently. Music has taken another quantum leap, so much so that ‘purity’ in music might need a rethink. That is why Krishnan is most inspired by sitar player Anoushka Shankar. He studied her discography and dynamic marking (the extent to which a note is going to be played) for months. “I love that she does not have any boundaries,” he says. “She is not limited by the belief system that you must keep music pure. Purity comes from sharing your knowledge. The more you share, the purer your music becomes.”</p> Tue Jan 03 18:47:22 IST 2023 kochi-muziris-biennale-2022-a-celebration-of-resistance <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The buzz is back. As you walk into Aspinwall House, the primary venue of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), there is constructive chaos—labourers walking hither thither, trying to bring artists’ vision to life; art mediators deep in thought or in conversation with the artists; landscape workers in action. The KMB, which was delayed by over a year due to the pandemic, will begin on December 12. The event will be inaugurated by CM Pinarayi Vijayan.</p> <p>“The theme for the Biennale curated by Singapore-born Indian artist Shubigi Rao is ‘In our veins flow ink and fire’, says Mario D’Souza, member of the curatorial team and director of programmes. “It is a celebration of an honouring of sorts, of artists’ responses to social and political situations around the world—be it of resistance and erasure, in their own context.”</p> <p>He adds: “This year we have a contingent of artists from Asia, Africa and Latin America—countries with whom we share a colonial history. We wanted to build an affinity with them, learn from each other’s contexts and make different types of excesses and injustices visible—be it through art or protest.”</p> <p>The Goa-born writer, artist and curator goes on to talk about how the artists were originally invited in 2019, but the event got cancelled and so, somewhere, a different meaning was accrued to the work. Among artists to watch out for, he says, there is “Zhanna Kadyrova, an artist from Ukraine who fled Kyiv when Russia invaded. She has used bread (a kind called palyanitsya) as a symbol for differentiating between the enemy and their own. Kadyrova’s work would be an installation of a rock collected from the bed of a Ukrainian river, sliced as bread and placed on the table as a sign of hospitality.”</p> <p>“Then we have Sahil Naik, who is talking about history the state didn’t think important to preserve,” adds D’Souza. His installation talks about a dam that was built when Goa was liberated, in 1961. When the dam was complete, the houses right under it, in one of Goa’s oldest villages—Curdi—were submerged. In 1970, however, the village re-emerged. Since then, each summer, the villagers return to the ruins and sing to the landscape.</p> <p>The youngest artist this year is 28-year-old Pranay Dutta, who is using a video game landscape to show how water would be used as currency in the future. D’Souza also talks of Joan Jonas, a New York-based performance artist who is bringing an artwork, the ideation of which was birthed in Kochi in 2016.</p> <p>Talking of sustainability, D’Souza says, “It is a given that with the climate conditions here at Fort Kochi, the materials used by artists responds to these conditions.”</p> <p>Talking about sustaining as an artist, D’Souza says it is always tough. “But, having said that we are grateful to the government of Kerala for all the support. Things are looking up—there are plans for artists' residencies and seminars in the pipeline; then there are artists supporting artists and so on. Fundraising models have improved too,” he adds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sun Dec 11 12:19:30 IST 2022 from-unknown-to-in-demand-samuel-hagais-journey-as-a-self-taught-painter-to-professional-muralist <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Samuel Hagai's&nbsp;&nbsp;journey from a self-taught painter to a professional muralist is an inspiring story of hard work, determination, and risk-taking. Born in Israel to a family of modest means, Hagai had few resources to aid him in honing his painting skills. But for Hagai, this was not a roadblock but rather an opportunity to challenge himself and push his limits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He worked relentlessly, taking odd jobs to pay for art supplies while developing his skills and providing for his family. As time passed, Hagai's skills grew exponentially, and his paintings began to receive attention in the local art circles. The local community was fascinated by his works, and the international community soon began to take notice of this young artist's talent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The life of Hagai changed drastically in 2015 when Hagai took a leap of faith and moved from his comfortable home in Israel to the United States. Hagai chose New York City as his destination, drawn by the big goals and opportunities that America offered. However, it wasn't an easy start—Hagai didn't know many people in the city and struggled to learn the language. But he was determined to turn his hobby into a full-time career, and eventually, after a year of failure and struggles, businesses started becoming interested in his work, and jobs began to come in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With hard work, dedication, and an optimistic mindset, Hagai was able to secure large-scale mural work with clients such as Macy's and the US Air Force, as well as show his paintings at various exhibits around town. But despite his success, Hagai began to feel tired of life in New York and knew he needed a change. In 2019, he took another leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles, where he is now fully engaged as a muralist and oil painter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This risk paid off, as Hagai found the new environment stimulating and refreshing. Los Angeles provided him with a new kind of creative energy and the opportunity to collaborate with other artists and take part in the thriving local art scene. This vibrant city offers a wealth of opportunities for the artist, with art museums like MOCA, the Getty, the Broad, and LACMA, as well as beautiful downtown patios and the famous Venice Boardwalk.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hagai immediately embraced the unique culture of Los Angeles, immersing himself in the city's art and cultural life. He enjoys taking his friends to stroll the canals or bike the strand, and he appreciates LA's diverse art scene. Every minute spent exploring the city reveals something new, giving him inspiration and ideas for his next project. His&nbsp;<a href=""></a><a href=""><u>murals</u></a>&nbsp;can be seen all around Los Angeles, showcasing his unique talent to transform a wall into a vibrant canvas.</p> <p><a href="">&nbsp;</a><a href=""></a></p> <p><a href=""><u>Samuel Hagai</u></a>&nbsp;has now become one of the most highly regarded and sought-after muralists in Los Angeles and all around the world. His story is a testament to the power of perseverance and the importance of believing in oneself. He took a risk by leaving the familiar for the unknown and, through hard work and dedication, turned his hobby into a successful career. Hagai's journey from unknown to in demand is an inspiration for anyone who has ever dreamed of turning their passion into a profession.</p> Wed Feb 01 11:29:28 IST 2023