Society en Wed Aug 25 14:33:18 IST 2021 tomb-of-sand-is-a-mahabharat-of-the-indian-joint-family <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Rajkamal Prakashan in the heart of the narrow streets of Daryagunj is in a celebratory mood. For the original publishers of the new Booker prize winning writer Geetanjali Shree—the day has been sweet. Metaphorically too. There was cake, and mithai.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We cut a cake in our warehouse,’’ said CEO Amod Maheshwari. Geetanjali Shree’s winning the coveted Booker Prize has finally put on the sheer diversity India has in terms of writing on the world map. It is also special, as it is a translation and the first from Hindi, a language that is dominated by harsher aspects of politics rather than soft literary reasons.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is not just about me, the individual. I represent a language and culture and this recognition brings into larger purview the entire world of Hindi literature in particular and Indian literature as a whole,’’&nbsp; Geetanjali Shree has been quoted as saying after winning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The attention the prize has brought is welcome. To Hindi, as well as the world it comes from.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is important that we should start using Hindi in our daily spaces,’’ says Ashok Maheshwari, the managing director of Rajkamal Prakashan who is in London. “The problem is that when something is everybody, sometimes no one pays attention to it. A bit like a barat arrives, everyone rushes to welcome it and the groom finds himself alone in a crowd.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A quiet book—which is deep—with an 80-year-old woman protagonist who travels to Pakistan to make peace with partition, <i>The Tomb of Sand</i> is about relationships and family.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The book is a Mahabharat of the Indian joint family,’’ says Maheshwari. “It has everything. If you say the Mahabharat is the source of every story. <i>Ret ki Samadhi </i>has every familial relationship reflected in it—the relationship between a mother and a daughter, a brother, father everything.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the Tomb of Sand, one of her bestselling books—over 10,000—the Booker prize has certainly helped boost sales. There was a spate of sales after it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the win is only likely to ensure more sales. But more than sales—and catapulting the Hindi on to the literary stage, the win is ultimately about the writer. Over 60, Geetanjali Shree not on social media, and takes her writing seriously. “In an age where everyone posts on social media and gets people to retweet, Geetanjali Shree is a serious writer,’’ says Maheshwari. “She is a real writer.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri May 27 21:10:01 IST 2022 international-booker-daisy-rockwell-american-translated-geetanjali-shree-hindi-novel-english <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On Friday morning, Indians were looking up names of two women on the internet—Geetanjali Shree and Daisy Rockwell. Shree, a writer, had scripted history by bagging the International Booker Prize for her novel <i>Tomb of Sand. </i>Originally<i> </i>published as <i>Ret Samadhi </i>in Hindi, the book was translated into English by<i> </i>Rockwell<i>,</i> making it the first in any Indian language to win the prestigious award.</p> <p>“We were captivated by the power, the poignancy and the playfulness of <i>Tomb of Sand</i>, Geetanjali Shree’s polyphonic novel of identity and belonging, in Daisy Rockwell’s exuberant, coruscating translation. This is a luminous novel of India and Partition, but one whose spellbinding brio and fierce compassion weaves youth and age, male and female, family and nation into a kaleidoscopic whole,” the jury remarked while announcing the winner on Friday.</p> <p><b>Who is Geetanjali Shree?</b></p> <p>Hindi novelist and short story writer Shree, 64, was born in Uttar Pradesh's Mainpuri, and is currently based in New Delhi. A recipient of several awards, her works have been translated into several other languages like French, German, Korean and Serbian. Her novel <i>Mai </i>was shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award in 2000. <i>Ret Samadhi, </i>published in 2018, is her fifth novel. She has also been the recipient of the Indu Sharma Katha Samman award, according to reports.</p> <p>The book's 80-year-old protagonist, Ma, to her family's consternation, insists on travelling to Pakistan after the death of her husbnad, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman and a feminist.</p> <p>“There is a melancholy satisfaction in the award going to it. Ret Samadhi/Tomb of Sand is an elegy for the world we inhabit, a lasting energy that retains hope in the face of impending doom. The Booker will surely take it to many more people than it would have reached otherwise; that should do the book no harm,” she said in her acceptance speech. “But behind me and this book lies a rich and flourishing literary tradition in Hindi, and in other South Asian languages. World literature will be the richer for knowing some of the finest writers in these languages. The vocabulary of life will increase from such an interaction,” she said.</p> <p><b>Who is Daisy Rockwell?</b></p> <p>Rockwell, a painter, writer and translator living in Vermont, US, described the novel she described as a “love letter to the Hindi language”. Rockwell started being interested in translation in graduate school, when she began her doctorate in South Asian studies. And by now, Rockwell has translated some of Hindi literature's finest works into English, besides Shree's novel. Rockwell is the translator of<i> Hats and Doctors</i>, a collection of short stories by the Hindi writer Upendranath Ashk, as well as of Ashk’s famous novel, <i>Girti Diwarein.</i></p> <p>Speaking to <a href="">THE WEEK</a> about a passage that took her the longest to translate in Shree's <i>Ret Samadhi,</i> Rockwell said: “It's a passage in which the human brain is compared to a jalebi. It was just so unimaginably hard because it's written in this kind of fun, breezy way. There's sort of a vague way in which connections are made. I can make it sound vague, too. But I have to know what's underlying it. And so Geetanjali and I had to go back and forth, again, and again, and again.”</p> <p>When asked about how differently both of them approach the same language, she said: “I don't believe that what her Hindi book feels like would sound the same if I just made it sound the way she sounds in English because we don't always speak the same way in different languages. If you translate it into very standard Indian English, you can lose a lot of the simplicity or the intimacy of the original language.”</p> Fri May 27 15:50:03 IST 2022 geetanjali-shree-becomes-first-indian-to-win-international-booker-prize <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Author Geetanjali Shree's novel <i>Tomb of Sand, </i>which is translated from Hindi, has become the first book in any Indian language to win the prestigious International Booker Prize.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At a ceremony in London on Thursday, the New Delhi-based writer said she was completely overwhelmed with the “bolt from the blue” as she accepted her prize, worth 50,000 pound and shared with the <a title="There is no interest in Indian translations outside: Daisy Rockwell" href="">book's English translator, Daisy Rockwell</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Tomb of Sand</i>, originally <i>Ret Samadhi</i>, is set in northern India and follows an 80-year-old woman in a tale the Booker judges dubbed a joyous cacophony and an “irresistible novel”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I never dreamt of the Booker, I never thought I could. What a huge recognition, I'm amazed, delighted, honoured and humbled,” said Shree in her acceptance speech.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There is a melancholy satisfaction in the award going to it. <i>Ret Samadhi/Tomb of Sand</i> is an elegy for the world we inhabit, a lasting energy that retains hope in the face of impending doom. The Booker will surely take it to many more people than it would have reached otherwise; that should do the book no harm,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reflecting upon becoming the first work of fiction in Hindi to make the Booker cut, the 64-year-old author said it feels good to be the means of that happening.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“But behind me and this book lies a rich and flourishing literary tradition in Hindi, and in other South Asian languages. World literature will be the richer for knowing some of the finest writers in these languages. The vocabulary of life will increase from such an interaction,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rockwell, a painter, writer and translator living in Vermont, US, joined her on stage to receive her award for translating the novel she described as a “love letter to the Hindi language”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Ultimately, we were captivated by the power, the poignancy and the playfulness of <i>Tomb of Sand</i>, Geetanjali Shree's polyphonic novel of identity and belonging, in Daisy Rockwell's exuberant, coruscating translation,” said Frank Wynne, chair of the judging panel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is a luminous novel of India and Partition, but one whose spellbinding brio and fierce compassion weaves youth and age, male and female, family and nation into a kaleidoscopic whole,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book's 80-year-old protagonist, Ma, to her family's consternation, insists on travelling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman and a feminist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Booker jury were impressed that rather than respond to tragedy with seriousness, Shree's playful tone and exuberant wordplay results in a book that is engaging, funny and utterly original, at the same time as being an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries or genders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The author of three novels and several story collections, Mainpur-born Shree has translated her works into English, French, German, Serbian and Korean.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Originally published in Hindi in 2018, <i>Tomb of Sand </i>is the first of her books to be published in the UK in English by Tilted Axis Press in August 2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shree's novel was chosen from a shortlist of six books, the others being <i>Cursed Bunny</i> by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur from Korean; <i>A New Name: Septology VI-VII</i> by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls from Norwegian; <i>Heaven</i> by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd from Japanese; <i>Elena Knows</i> by Claudia Pieiro, translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish, and <i>The Books of Jacob </i>by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft from Polish.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This year, the judges considered 135 books and for the first time in 2022, all shortlisted authors and translators will each receive 2,500 pound, increased from 1,000 pound in previous years, bringing the total value of the prize to 80,000 pound.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Complementing the Booker Prize for Fiction, the international prize is awarded every year for a single book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> Fri May 27 08:40:07 IST 2022 an-exhibition-honours-memory-cartoonist-anirban-bora <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>His cartoons turn the mundane into the magical. Such was his talent that with a few strokes, he could make his art extraordinary.</p> <p>Anirban Bora, a much-loved cartoonist and illustrator who succumbed to Covid-19 last year left behind a huge legacy. ‘The World of Anirban Bora’, an exhibition being showcased at the Indian Cartoon Gallery on M.G. Road in Bengaluru gives us a peek into his creative universe. As many as 90 works of Bora, including 12 caricatures and 10 food-themed works are on display at the exhibition. The exhibition is on till May 28.</p> <p>Bora’s work featuring a night market in Bangkok catches my fancy. Bora loved night walks, recalls his wife Sirattiya Bora. A foodie to the core, Bora explored local flavours, and came up with ideas for his art during his culinary journeys.</p> <p>He worked like a man possessed during the pandemic. One of the works in his series titled 'Borialis' depicts a man pedaling a cycle that has wheels that resemble the coronavirus. Another work in the same series depicts Mamata Banerjee popping a pill. Cartoons that deal with issues like children being homebound during the pandemic and how it affects their mental health, and the migrant labour crisis also form part of the exhibition.</p> <p>V. G. Narendra, managing trustee of the Indian Institute of Cartoonists is a huge fan of Bora. ‘’I absolutely loved his cartoons published in <i>The Economic Times</i>,’’ says Narendra. “He was a down to earth man with extraordinary talent,” he recalls. As a cartoonist and illustrator, Bora stood out from the crowd. He found his own unique style, adds Narendra, a cartoonist himself who trained under Shankar.</p> <p>An alumni of the London School of Communication, Bora had worked with <i>The Economic Times</i> and <i>The Indian Express</i>. Being in the media industry made him more aware of the social and political realities. When the onion prices hit Rs 100 per kg, he responded with a powerful cartoon. Bora believed art can be an agent for change in many ways. A cartoon depicting Modi practicing Singhasan and asking Baba Ramdev for feedback makes you laugh and think.</p> <p>Bora shared a deep connection with Kolkata where he was born. Floods in Kolkata are a recurrent theme in his works. A TV reporter in a flood hit car asking a man neck deep in water where can one get the cheapest Sandesh in Kolkata makes you laugh out loud.</p> <p>Mario Miranda’s influence on his cartoons is almost palpable. Like Mario, Bora liked to portray crowded cityscapes. He created magic by animating double-decker buses or and cars with a few extra lines and a splash of colour.</p> <p><i>Indica Gastronomica</i>, Bora’s column on food that used to appear in <i>The Economic Times </i>was hugely popular. In one issue, he featured Goan cuisine which is “multi layered much like the celebrated Bebinca.” A hardcore foodie, he offered a virtual feast to food lovers, with tantalizing descriptions and illustrations of vindaloo, palm toddy and crab curry. It also contained a spicy note on chilli, the most significant contribution of the Portuguese to the Indian culinary history.</p> <p>Sirattiya misses Bora dearly. The 45-year-old who was an art teacher in Thailand met Bora on Yahoo Messenger at an art chat room. They dated for five years before taking the plunge.</p> <p>Sirattiya, a Thai home chef is now on a mission to preserve memories of the 42-year-old artist who died way too young.&nbsp;</p> Mon May 23 14:17:21 IST 2022 personal-archive-of-a-resistance-fighter-enlivens-a-quiet-chapter-in-tibets-history-of-independence <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Camp Hale, once a US army training facility in the Colorado mountains, also served as a top secret spot for Tibet operations, code-named STCIRCUS where the CIA trained around 250 Tibetans in spycraft and guerilla warfare in the 1950s and 60s. Recent refugees from Tibet, the trainees would eventually be parachuted back to Nepal and Tibet as resistance fighters. In an exhibition titled 'Shadow Circus', as part of a parallel event of the recently-concluded India Art Fair, several unseen records, documents and images were showcased from a turbulent chapter in the Tibetan independence movement, including artworks from Camp Hale.</p> <p>The Tibetan trainees at Camp Hale were addressed with names like Pete, Rocky, Lou and Larry. Apart from radio operations, guerrilla warfare and intelligence gathering, the trainees were also given lessons in photography, parachuting, geography, mathematics, political science and art. The refugees fell in love with the place and shared a bonhomie with their CIA trainers.</p> <p>"They had art classes, which were designed for psychological assessment purposes, but which the trainees took to with pleasure. Many of them loved to draw, and created several charcoal and crayon drawings that recalled their homes and the traumatic events they had recently fled from. The CIA took advantage of their artistic skills to create numerous propaganda cartoons that were disseminated both among the exile community and in Tibet to keep morale high and maintain public sentiment against the Chinese occupation," reads an exhibition note, right next to the crayon drawings and cartoons drawn from the voluminous personal archives of one of the resistance fighters, Larry, or Lhamo Tsering.</p> <p>Several other artefacts from this fascinating period in Tibetan history were on display at the India International Centre in New Delhi till May 1.</p> <p>The inaugural version of 'Shadow Circus' was curated by Natasha Ginwala and Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung with assistant curator Krisztina Hunya. It was also shown at the 69th Berlinale in 2019. This was the first time that 'Shadow Circus' was on view in India.</p> <p>Archive-based art exhibitions are crucial to revisit history which is rarely a straightforward narrative with clearly designated winners and losers, friends and enemies. Individual archives offer a deeper look at the inner struggles and contradictions which fail to manifest in public records. This recent exhibition, driven by the personal archives of a key figure in Tibetan resistance against Chinese occupation, enlivened a now forgotten chapter in Tibetan history. 'Shadow Circus' thoughtfully revisited a period of Tibetan armed struggle which ended quite abruptly in the 1970s and took a more non-violent turn.</p> <p>After the Communist Chinese invasion of 1949 and its subsequent takeover in 1959, Tibet has been a country under occupation. But little is still known of the guerrilla war that was fought from the mid-1950s to 1974, right in the middle of the Cold War when thousands of Tibetans took up arms against the invading forces of China. The CIA involvement in the two-decade long anti-Chinese covert operations to train and parachute Tibetan resistance fighters is given a more nuanced reading in 'Shadow Circus' as it brings to the fore the personal archives and artefacts of Lhamo Tsering, a member of Chushi Gangdruk, the Khampa Tibetan guerrilla group and a key intermediary between the CIA and members of the resistance. Serving as chief of operations, Tsering oversaw the activities of the resistance and at the same time, maintained an incredibly detailed archive of photographs, documents, letters and maps.</p> <p>Filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, who is Tsering's son, have researched this story for years and also made a documentary in 1998 for the BBC, called <i>Shadow Circus-The CIA in Tibet</i>. In the exhibition 'Shadow Circus', they re-evaluate the audiovisual material they have gathered over the years, including Tsering’s personal archives, and present a re-edited version of their 1998 documentary to create a more complete and complex mosaic of this still largely obscure story. "My father and the Dalai Lama come from the same part of Tibet, which is in Amdo province. But he came from the far borderlands in an area that was already overrun by Chinese settlers, even when my father was a child. And so when Dalai Lama's elder brother Gyalo Thondup came to Nanking in China to study, my father also happened to be there as a student. And being from the same part of Tibet, they immediately gravitated towards each other. In that part of Tibet, they speak their own dialect which is not Tibetan, it's actually a kind of a Chinese dialect. My father then became his closest aide, his secretary, and accompanied him ever since. So when the CIA started this whole involvement of resistance, Gyalo Thondup appointed him to take charge of the operations and be the liaison between the CIA and the resistance," said Sonam during a walkthrough at the exhibition, recounting how his father got involved.</p> <p>"This is something I always find amazing because my father came from this remote, distant part of Tibet where they already lost their language, were barely holding on to their cultural identity. And then found themselves for the rest of his life actually fighting for Tibetan independence," said Sonam who was born in 1959 in a hospital in Darjeeling. Growing up, he would often see his father go away for secret missions for long stretches of time.</p> <p>The exhibition included snippets from long video interviews conducted with former CIA trainers who were tracked down by the filmmakers from several sources, including organisations like the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, found listed in the yellow pages in Washington DC. One of their video interviews played on loop.</p> <p>There is the image of a shriveled cyanide pill which survived years of incarceration in Chinese prisons and later in exile in India with a fighter who preserved it. "We know that the fighters who were dropped into Tibet were all given a cyanide pill. And the idea was that these people wouldn't want to be captured live and tortured by the Chinese. They could pop it to defend their lives," said Sonam who vividly described how in the initial years his father received instructions in Kolkata's Park Street, full cloak-and-dagger style, as he always waited with a newspaper near Park restaurant for the taxi to arrive at 9 am sharp.</p> <p>The audience were treated to incredibly detailed contour maps of Tibet, printed on silk alongside images of an abandoned intelligence-gathering radio device retrieved some four years ago from Nepal. There were letters Sonam's father would receive asking for details as mundane as account-keeping for day-to-day operations, apart from the actual recorded message of the Dalai Lama sent to the fighters in Mustang in Nepal to surrender their arms.</p> <p>In 1970, the CIA abruptly announced that they were going to pull out of the operation. It was at the time when secret talks were underway in China, with the then US president Richard Nixon's national Security Advisor Henry Kissinger carrying out a new policy toward Beijing. And STCIRCUS was just not a convenient thing for them to be supporting. As Tsering said in an interview shortly before his death, “In my opinion, I don’t see our armed struggle as something that was helpful only at a certain point in our history, something that is finished. I believe we should look at it as one chapter in our continuing struggle for freedom, one that still has some meaning.” Tsering died in 1999 in a New Delhi hospital.</p> Tue May 17 19:31:26 IST 2022 how-covid-19-has-spurred-demand-for-indian-agarbathis-abroad <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The psychoactive effects of burning incense is well known. Religious leaders and scientists alike have attested to the tranquilising power of a fragrant dhoop. Back in 2008, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University expounded on how &quot;burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression&quot;. Yoga, aromatherapy, meditation, chanting, spa sessions or as room freshner, each one of these wellness routines tend to incorporate incense sticks to aid and enhance their healing experience. Would it come as a surprise then that our good old agarbathi saw an uptick in usage during the pandemic?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With Covid-19 strengthening the case for wellness and associated lifestyle changes, the Indian agarbathi, too, is witnessing a surge in demand, thus spurring exports. According to the latest report by All India Agarbathi Manufacturers Association (AIAMA), established in 1949 for redressal of grievances of the agarbathi manufacturers, the United States of America, United Kingdom, Malaysia, and Nigeria are the top four countries importing and using agarbathis. Additionally, with the pandemic still prevailing, yoga and meditation have become an important aspect of one's emotional wellness, which has further triggered the demand for agarbathis in the international markets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Established in the year 1949 as MOMA (Mysore Oodabathi Manufacturers’ Association) by seven founding members and later renamed as AIAMA in the 1980s, it is the oldest agarbathi manufacturing and advocacy collective of its kind in India. Currently, more than 800 agarbathi manufacturers across India are life members with AIAMA.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to data available from the Union ministry of commerce and industry, the segment on Agarbatti and Odoriferous PRPNS, registered a growth of 20.51 per cent between April-Feb 2021 to April-Feb 2022, with export revenues rising from Rs 96,261.62 lakh to Rs 1,02,725.23 lakh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;There are several popular incense manufacturers in the world. Especially from Thailand, Japan and the Middle-East, where they are called bakhoor. But Indian agarbathi is the only kind that is exported to almost 140 countries because being the oldest form, it is more widely accepted,&quot; says Arjun Ranga, president of AIAMA, highlighting how the product has transcended religion to become a more potent expression of spiritualism. The predominant hubs of making agarbathis in India are Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, with several set-ups in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Bihar. Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh is also part of the current map on agarbathi-making in India. A labour-intensive cottage industry, it employs a good percentage of rural women who roll the bamboo sticks at home or in clusters nearby.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aroma trends and fragrances are inclined towards floral flourishes and cosmetic notes such as aqua, lavender, oudh, mogra, rose, champa, lavender, lemon, citronella essential oils. Sandalwood, Ailanthus malabaricum (which yields halmadi) and other natural ingredients are used to make these special agarbathis. Some Mysore agarbathis that used only locally available material were given Geographical Indication status in 2005 after the AIAMA proposed registering Mysore Agarbathi for the GI tag. Recently, special covers were also released by the Karnataka Postal Department to commemorate the GI status of Mysore Agarbathis.&nbsp;</p> Mon May 09 23:05:00 IST 2022 satire-suffering-from-hindi-phobia-heres-help <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Home Minister Amit Shah is an Hon’ble, honourable man (pun intended). At the 37th Meeting of the Parliamentary Official Language Committee earlier this month, Shah weighed in (no pun intended, this time) on the side of India’s official language. He suggested that whenever people from non-Hindi speaking states converse with each other, they ought to speak in Hindi rather than English.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As everyone who has heard him will know, Shah’s Hindi is nothing to drool over. Clearly, he is no Amitabh Bachchan or Amin Sayani whose magical voice and crystal diction have done more to popularise Hindi in south India and the northeast than a shelf-load of government fiats. And yet, despite that heavy regional accent, despite that strident intonation of a stockbroker making a bid outside the Bombay Stock Exchange, Shah is suggesting that more people speak a language in which he himself is not proficient. That’s what makes him so honourable, and that’s why I say ‘Three cheers’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But my cheers are being drowned by fears. Leaders from the south and the northeast are having sleepless nights, worrying about how they will ever manage to converse once Shah’s whim becomes a command. Well, I am here to help. Here is a primer that should help overcome the Hindi phobia. After careful observation, I have realised that there are only a few words of the official language that you really need to know, and here they are:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Achhe Din</b></p> <p>Achhe Din is Hindi for the life you see around you right now. Open any page of a newspaper and you will see excellent examples of how achhe the din is – scalding prices, soaring inflation, rampant unemployment and even your favourite IPL team is not performing as expected. Not everybody understands this. As recent state elections have proved, people who speak Punjabi and Bengali could not grasp the true meaning of the Hindi words. I hope this primer is an eye-opener.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas</b></p> <p>This is a long expression but don’t get intimidated. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just like those sounds made by singers to help a song along. Bob Dylan did it often. So did Manna Dey in his ‘Laga Chunri Mein Daag’ and Mohammed Rafi in the immortal ‘Madhuban mein Radhika’. Perhaps the best example is Kishore Kumar’s yodeling. The vocal acrobatics just needs to sound nice. And ‘Sabka saath…’ certainly does.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sadbhavna</b></p> <p>This term conveys the goodwill that we have towards the others who make up the mosaic of our land. What’s goodwill, you ask? Let me give you live examples. It’s the sentiment that you see when religious processions stop enticingly in front of a house of worship, and wait for the action to begin. Sometimes, carried away by the spirit of the occasion, participants playfully throw stones at each other and set alight whatever combustible objects they find. Well, we didn’t tell you the outcome is happy. As the word suggests, it is sad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Swear words</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The official language has many swear words, but two of them are most popular. Here they are:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Mehngai</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It literally means expensive. In the heat of the moment, you may hear many people using this term while reacting to the price of petrol. But it’s a four-syllable word not to be used in polite company.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Hinsa</b></p> <p>It stands for violence, and is another coarse term which you should never use. If nobody speaks about it, it won’t exist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There’s actually another swearword that has suddenly become out of bounds – Bulldozer. Use it loosely and they will come after you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Nehru ka kasoor</b></p> <p>Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things don’t go as per script. That’s when you need an explanation. The new Hindi lexicon gives you just the term you are looking for – it’s ‘Nehru ka kasoor’. This catch-all phrase can bail you out of every mess you make.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, if even this primer doesn’t help, just be patient and wait till Hindi grows on you. It’s a beautiful, marvelously adaptable language that is sure to win the hearts and minds of everyone in the land – if only the netas would leave it alone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.</b></i></p> Sat Apr 23 20:32:58 IST 2022 new-portal-explore-india-festivals-talks-economic-impact <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Did you know there is an online Ballet Festival of India? Started in 2017 by Mumbai-based ballet teacher Ashifa Sarkar Vasi, the festival is a great exposure to the Western classical dance form as leading practitioners from the Indian ballet community come together to showcase their craft and devise ways to make it more affordable and accessible. Visitors can take classes or attend seminars or watch films in this biennial event which is slated to return in July. Or how about a boutique music festival called Bloomverse, held in April right on the edge of Guwahati in Assam, featuring some of the finest independent acts in the country? In February, every house in the village of Naya in Pingla (part of the paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal) comes alive as an exhibition space for the works of Patuas or scroll painters in a festival called POT Maya.</p> <p>Several other noted and lesser-known festivals are now listed in the newly created platform Festivals From India, an India-UK initiative for arts and culture. The digital platform has been created to showcase hundreds of Indian arts and culture festivals for culture-seekers across the globe. Initiated by British Council, and designed and developed by ArtBramha (a sister concern of the Art X Company) the platform went live on April 20. Festivals From India hosts festivals from across a range of genres including arts and crafts, design, dance, film, folk arts, food and culinary arts, heritage, literature, interdisciplinary and/ or multiarts, music, new media, photography, theatre and visual arts amongst others, across locations and languages.</p> <p>From the India Art Fair to Chennai Photo Biennale, Jaipur Literature Festival to the Dharamshala International Film Festival, festival audiences will find easy access to India’s key cultural experiences across urban and rural locations with updates on artist line-ups, locations, facilities and information to know before leaving for their destinations. The platform also hosts a range of hidden gems, select LGBTQIA+ festivals as well as online versions of festivals live streamed for audiences worldwide. Guided by research, the new platform is also aimed at festival organisers, curators, artists and arts managers to find jobs, assemble resources and seek information. The last two years of the pandemic saw several independent and emerging festivals from the creative industries take a major hit by losing more than 50 per cent of their income. The platform is launching at a time when the arts and festival sector is reopening for physical events around the world.</p> <p>The launch of the platform was also accompanied by a report on the business of arts festivals within a larger framework of cultural economies. "In India, there's such limited work happening on cultural economics. There's little understanding of the sector. So while let's say there are 85 books on the history of Indian art, you will find practically nothing on the history of the Indian art market. And that's where the big gap lies. We have also got a section on the needs of the festival sector," says Rashmi Dhanwani, partner at ArtBrahma, and founder and CEO at Art X Company, citing impact analysis studies of festivals like JLF, Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa and the Durga Puja in West Bengal in the way they fire up the tourism industry of the respective states.</p> <p>The platform will provide festival professionals with reading resources including industry research, news and opportunities. Festivals From India will also host a series of events, workshops, and speed networking sessions with the UK and beyond under their 'Festival Connections' banner. The portal will also host free online business skilling courses. "We've mapped about 800-900 festivals, of which we've got 161 already listed on the site. It'll take another six weeks to upload the rest," says Dhanwani.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> Sat Apr 23 16:23:08 IST 2022 a-prestigious-french-literary-award-selects-student-jury-members-from-india-for-the-first-time <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Senegalese author Mohamed Mbougar Sarr's fourth novel<i>&nbsp;La plus secrete memoire des hommes</i>&nbsp;(<i>The Most Secret Memory of Men</i>) is about literature and writing, about Africa and the West. "The book has literally everything in it. It is like reading one more book within a book," exults Vrinda Vaz, an MA student in French from Goa University. </p> <p>"The book &nbsp;is about an African writer who goes missing after writing one of the most compelling books in France, his first and last, a literary masterpiece. The reading public then absolutely couldn't take it that such an astonishing piece of work could be written by an African writer. In <i>The Most Secret Memory of Men</i>, another African writer discovers the book and unspools the story of this missing man in the most mesmerising way,"says Vaz about the intriguingly-titled book which won the Prix Goncourt last year, France's own Booker. Prix Goncourt is awarded to the “best and most imaginative prose work of the year.”</p> <p>But Vaz did not know about Prix Goncourt or Sarr's novel until she was chosen as a jury member for Goncourt Choice of India Award. Her professor in college chose her along with three other students to participate in an international literary exercise which seeks to democratise the process of awarding authors in the Francophone world. Last year, India joined the international family of the Choix Goncourt (Goncourt Choice) where students in 27 countries select their Goncourt choice after reading the four shortlisted titles in two intense months. After completing these books, they meet, interact and discuss to select their preferred title. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mohamed Mbougar Sarr won the first Goncourt Choice of India Award for his book <i>La plus secrète mémoire des hommes</i>.</p> <p>The first edition of the award in India, as part of the ongoing Bonjour India festival, &nbsp;was supported by 10 institutes comprising the network of Alliances Françaises and nine universities across India, including Delhi University, Rajasthan University, University of Mumbai, Savitribai Phule University Pune, University of Goa, Pondicherry University, and English and Foreign Languages University of Hyderabad. Forty-seven students in these 10 institutions formed 10 local juries of the Goncourt Choice of India. Vaz is one of those students. </p> <p>For Vaz, who loves dabbling in French literary texts, it was one of the best opportunities to apply her analytical acumen and come to the capital to present her point of view. "It was a very healthy discussion. I mean, initially, we thought we would be pouncing on each other. But it was nothing like that. It was a really mature and healthy conversation. Everyone was given a chance to speak. And, of course, it will definitely add a feather to my cap," says Vaz who was one of the presidents of the 10 juries who gathered in a room at the Residence of France to decide the laureate of the Goncourt Choice of India. </p> <p>The contenders included <i>Le Voyage dans l'Est</i>&nbsp;by Christine Angot, <i>Milwaukee Blues</i>&nbsp;by Louis-Philippe Dalembert, <i>La plus secrète mémoire des hommes</i>&nbsp;by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, and <i>Child of a Bastard</i>&nbsp;by journalist Sorj Chalandon.</p> <p>Vaz will now participate in an international Contest of Literary Criticism launched by the Académie Goncourt. The 47 &nbsp;jury members from India will have two months to write a 3,000-word critique on the winner in French. The contest jury will be composed of a French publisher, a French literary critic, and an academic. The winner will win a trip to Paris to attend the prestigious Goncourt Prize ceremony in November 2022. Vaz is hoping she can make it to Paris in November. </p> <p>Speaking about the award, Dr Christine Cornet, Attaché for Books, Debates &amp; Ideas, Embassy of France, said “College and university students in India have access to many great books in English. Indeed, many such works are originally written in French before being translated into English. What makes the Goncourt Choice of India Award so exciting is that it gives bright young Indian minds new literary genres to explore in their original language. The thoughts penned in French are distinct from those penned in English. By reading the works of contemporary French writers, readers find a new worldview and discover unique answers to some of life’s most pertinent questions."</p> Thu Apr 07 21:59:13 IST 2022 the-lost-city-of-kyiv-in-pictures <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>"Never knew any friend who travelled there, no one recommended it and there was just one reason for going - it felt like she should." This is how Avantika Meattle describes her visit to Ukraine in January, just a month before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the "country with a flag that is about its sunflowers on the ground and a blue sky above".</p> <p>When Meattle, a leading photographer with a practice spanning 20 years across multiple genres, visited a freezing Ukraine, Omicron was ravaging most of the world and a Russian army was already sending out belligerent vibrations at the border. But Meattle was mesmerised by the vibrant country with its illustrious history, imposing monuments, the people, food and culture - a heady mix of Nordic, European, Russian and Ottoman history.</p> <p>Recently, she collected her photo documents into a three-day exhibition, ‘Ukraine Untold Glimpses as a Travelling Photographer’, which was inaugurated by Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor in New Delhi in the presence of SpiceJet CMD Ajay Singh - the airliner had helped evacuate Indian citizens from war-torn Ukraine.</p> <p>Presented here are snapshots of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, a shimmering, majestic city now battered and bruised for years to come.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Apr 01 00:39:20 IST 2022 ice-hockey-in-the-peak-of-summer-for-delhiites-thats-a-yes <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>An arabesque in ice skating entails extending one free leg behind the body so it reaches the height of the hip in a straight line. &quot;Death spiral&quot; has two partners spin each other, taking turns to lower themselves onto the ice. In a &quot;shotgun spin,&quot; a free leg is help upward by the ankle; it almost looks like pointing a gun. And let's not forget all the delicate footwork with a sequence of edges, turns and hops.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ice skating has an elegant library of terms to identify its many glistening moves. Watching skaters effortlessly glide down the rink in perfect self-possession cutting the cleanest circles on ice is pure poetry-in-motion. American poet EE Cummings once wrote on Skating, &quot;Gleam of ice, and glint of steel, Jolly, snappy weather; Glide on ice and joy of zeal, All, alone, together.&quot;</p> <p>On a sweltering Sunday in late March, you'd least expect to think about these terms when you enter a large, busy mall in Gurugram. But such is the oasis that is iSkate by Roseate in the middle of a dust storm that is summer-ready Delhi-NCR.&nbsp;</p> <p>Trainers dressed in black smoothly glissade down a giant ice rink inside Ambience mall where iSkate is perched on the 6th floor. Imagining a state-of-the-art ice skating rink inside a mall, used by both serious athletes and shoppers, might seem a little far-fetched at first, but iSkate by Roseate is India's only all-weather indoor ice skating rink, and also the largest one on natural ice at about 15,000sqft.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is leading the pack in promoting winter games like figure skating, speed skating and ice hockey. And iSkate also promises to be one of the best bets to cool off this summer beyond indulging in ice packs and cold showers.</p> <p>Since it reopened in October last year—fully kitted out with a co-working space and a plush cafe-patisserie, Roasted by Roseate—iSkate will now offer ice hockey training to anyone who might be interested to pick up the sport.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;This is a one-of-a-kind programme in India. You don't get to learn ice hockey easily. Especially if you live in the plains. It is not a common sport in India and it is very tough to find ice hockey training throughout the year. But iSkate is the only venue in India where you can find ice hockey training all through the year. And this summer, aside from the ongoing training programmes, we will open it out to people who may be interested in ice hockey just so they can begin playing,&quot; says Karan Rai, business head at iSkate by Roseate.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The training will be imparted by national-level coaches and former players associated with the Ice Hockey Association of India,&quot; says Rai. Prices are likely to start at Rs1,200 per session.&nbsp;</p> <p>iSkate has already been hosting events like the National Figure Skating Championships, selections and trainings, and frequently invites Olympian coaches from countries like Korea, Austria, Canada, Australia and Russia to teach the basics of figure skating, long stead and short stead skating.</p> <p>&quot;Winter Games are still something which has a huge potential, but it requires constant growth. By being situated in a mall, the recreational, as well as the community aspect of an ice skating rink, is met. You are in a setting where you have the footfalls and get people more interested in the sport. This is not possible in a standalone rink,&quot; says Rai, highlighting the reason why setting up the rink in a mall makes complete commercial sense considering the high costs of maintenance.&nbsp;</p> <p>The iSkate rink, a unit of Bird Hospitality Services, is 30 meters by 80 meters. It can accommodate up to 150 ice skaters at any given time. A typical day at iSkate sees a footfall of 400-500 people on weekdays and 700 on weekends. An hour of ice-skating costs Rs800 per person.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We have been running iSkate since December 2011. It was shut for renovations in the pandemic, during which time an Indian team worked on rebuilding the ice-skating rink. Otherwise, we usually have experts coming in from Canada and the US,&quot; says Rai, who has been at the forefront of building winter games infrastructure in India for over a decade now.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;It is very hard to maintain an ice skating rink in India because it is very hot. There's a lot of humidity, which forms clouds that rise up, hit the ceiling and fall as rain. The rink is then spoilt. So there is a perfect balance required between the air and the refrigeration unit. It is a complete ecosystem inside,&quot; says Rai. He wants to build world-class ice skating rinks in other metropolitan cities, too, to tap into the wealth of winter sports enthusiasts.</p> Fri Apr 01 15:59:55 IST 2022 the-future-of-producing-music-is-at-home <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>If you close your eyes and try to think of what a music producer looks like, you’ll likely picture someone with expensive headphones on, sitting in front of a complex control pad in a soundproof recording studio of some sort. That’s the typical image that we’ve seen plastered across magazines, newspapers, and other popular media. It’s the quintessential stereotype of how music gets made.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>However, in today’s world – that picture is changing rapidly.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The reason that the recording studio was so central to music production was that the barriers to entry were so high and if someone could centralize all that equipment, expertise, and more importantly – networks, it would make for a very powerful value proposition.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But as astute producers have realized, these reasons don’t hold the same weight they used to anymore. Marilou Audrey Burnel, otherwise known as <a href=""><u>Machi</u></a>, is a producer who sees this future rather clearly. She’s been talking about this shift since 2013 and only now are her predictions starting to get the credence they deserve. She talks about how the proliferation of the internet has created the space for at-home producers to compete with those who have access to studio time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li><p>Firstly, the actual knowledge itself on how to get started has been democratized by the internet. No longer are the keys to the kingdom held behind high walls, you can now take your education into your own hands. This has encouraged many more people to explore music production and this increased interest has in turn spurned a vibrant home producing ecosystem.</p> </li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li><p>Secondly, this ecosystem has to live somewhere. And that’s where social media and other online communities have stepped up to normalize this trend and provide support to those who are producing music at home. This ability to network and learn from each other has more than compensated for the spontaneous connections you might make hanging around a studio space.</p> </li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li><p>Lastly, we started to see labels take your online audience as a key indicator that you had something special. They started to offer producers like OMFG, Alan Walker, and others contracts on the back of their engaged online communities. This showed aspiring producers that they could create their own music, find an audience online, and then transition into traditional success without ever stepping into a studio. You didn’t have to be associated with a music association or use an expensive PR firm or anything like that. Your music spoke for itself.</p> </li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's for these reasons that Machi believes that home production is the future of the industry. And it’s hard to disagree with her. She’s a living example of what this new creator looks like and there are undoubtedly thousands of others who are following in those footsteps.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s a very exciting time for the industry as these doors are flung open to all those who want to be a part of it. As a listener, we’re going to be treated to a new era of music in our video games, films, and all other areas of entertainment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The old status quo is disappearing before our very eyes.</p> Sat Apr 02 17:49:45 IST 2022 redefining-dystopia--with-gautam-bhatia <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>The Burning Question is a column that tackles some of the biggest questions in the intersection of science, technology, geopolitics and culture that shape the world as we know it. The column will soon be expanded into a newsletter, and you can subscribe&nbsp;</i><a href=""><i>here</i></a><i>. Subscribers will receive updates via email, Telegram. Write to&nbsp;</i><a href=""><i></i></a><i>&nbsp;with comments, suggestions and questions.</i></p> <p>Even as Russia rained devastation down on Ukraine, a different kind of war was underway on social media forums. It was an information war, a battle for supremacy in propaganda—fought on multiple vectors.</p> <p>The world looked on curiously as US President Joe Biden invited 20-something TikTok influencers to enlist them in the battle against&nbsp;Russian disinformation. Then, there was concern writ large among foreign diplomats when big tech and 'multi-national' firms based in the West adopted overtly political stances, censoring information freely in super-highways that were under their control. Uncomfortable questions lingered in the air—who was to say that, one day, the lens wouldn't turn their way?</p> <p>On the other side, thousands of Twitter and Facebook bot accounts in support of Vladimir Putin cropped up almost overnight, fluently conversant in the&nbsp;praxis of decolonisation and&nbsp;Western empire overreach in languages as varied as Tamil, Hindi, Urdu and Zulu—spread across South Asia and Africa.</p> <p>A wonderful breakdown of the propaganda network is available in this&nbsp;<a href="">Twitter thread</a>.</p> <p>Boundaries broke down, unnatural alliances were formed (India, China and Pakistan were all in one corner in the global diplomatic forums), the concept of truth was completely kneecapped and overwhelmed, and a sense of liminality—global disorientation—hung thickly in the air.</p> <p>It has also sparked a renewed interest in the concepts of totalitarianism—how it has changed over the years, and what new forms it can take. In a world that is, for the first time in millennia, truly multipolar—with different power structures now vying for supremacy at every level of human governance structure—what would totalitarianism look like? In line with the main theme of the 21<sup>st</sup>&nbsp;century, will it also be 'decentralised'?</p> <p>And that is where legal scholar, and speculative fantasy and fiction editor Gautam Bhatia's new series of speculative fiction [SFF] novels 'The Chronicles of Sumer' comes in. Through&nbsp;<i>The Wall</i>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<i>The Horizon</i>, Bhatia introduces us to the world of Sumer, surrounded on all sides by a giant impregnable wall. The people of Sumer know nothing of the world outside it, though the&nbsp;<i>smara&nbsp;</i>(subconscious yearnings) lurks deeps inside their souls. The story revolves around a group of youngsters calling themselves Tarafians—after revolutionary poet Taraf—and their attempts to convince Sumer that the world outside the wall should be explored. On the other side of the political divide in Sumer are forces like the Shoortans—a quasi-religious group whose job is to keep the boundaries of the Wall intact and sacrosanct.</p> <p>The series is an exploration of a lot of fascinating motifs. How can a civilisation like Sumer exist within a bounded space? Sumer, fed by river Rasa, is divided into 15 concentric circular <i>mandalas</i> (the mandalas are divided on labour differences—and class connotations are implied). Population control is another aspect, enforced by child caps and marriage licenses. In essence, it is a circular city, trapped in an imaginary circular time, divided into circular classes. As Bhatia describes it, Sumer is not a dystopia in the traditional sense of the term. Every natural resource is limited, but there are no times of real hard-hitting scarcities. Sumer has lived through wars and conflicts, with each side raising the banner of 'freedom'. Even though there is a division of mandalas, there is no segregation in the traditional sense—marriages between mandalas are not banned, but carries heavy economic disincentives. Homosexual relations are glorified as ‘pure love’. There is freedom of speech (in a flawed, yet familiar way). There is no all-encompassing power structure. Shoortans themselves are divided, with a faction aligning with revisionist Tefnakth and his Coterie. There is noisy democracy, with different factions including progressive leaders like Council Elder Sanchika. An elite group called The Select spreads science and scientific appreciation amongst Sumerians.</p> <p>Bhatia eschews the pop portrayals of overdone Orwellian or Huxleyan dystopias, and instead gives us something far more familiar, rooted and hard-hitting. A world where the citizens are incentivised to keep the power structure intact—with the 15 mandalas, almost everybody is above somebody else, and has interest in maintaining the system.</p> <p>The more institutional powers, meanwhile, are caught in something akin to a Mexican standoff; an unending jostle to impose their definition over the most premium commodity of all—truth and freedom.</p> <p><i>The Wall</i>&nbsp;explores Mithila and the Tarafians attempt to scale the wall and explore the world outside. In&nbsp;<i>The Horizon</i>, the stakes are much, much higher, with black clouds of unrest and disaster looming over Sumer.</p> <p>Bhatia speaks to THE WEEK about some of the motifs in the book and the changing definitions of totalitarianism<i>&nbsp;</i>in the current political climate.</p> <p>Edited excerpts:</p> <p><b>Q/ Is Sumer inspired from the Mesopotamian civilisation?</b></p> <p>Actually, it has nothing to do with Mesopotamia. It is inspired from Meru—the Meru mountains [believed to be] in the centre of the world. I realised only later the association that people would make with Mesopotamia. The inspiration came from Meru.</p> <p><b>Q/ Is Sumer actually set in the past, or in the future? Maybe a [post-techno world after] something akin to the Butlerian jihad, as portrayed in <i>Dune</i>?</b></p> <p>It is set in the far future—given the existence of builders who created the world, and the existence of structures that come from a different technological time. It is like a post-technological civilisation, and some incident has pushed everyone to an early modern way of living.</p> <p><b>Q/ If it is indeed in the future, have we moved from a post-scarcity world to one of scarcity?</b></p> <p>I don’t think we are post-scarcity now. We are still very much in scarcity. What the two novels try to do is show you a world where scarcity is contingent—it is artificially created. In our world, scarcity is a function of political decisions. In the world of Sumer, scarcity is a function of a literal Wall. And it doesn’t need to be that way.</p> <p><b>Q/ In the book, you show circles as motifs (mandalas, the wall, the horizon), or cages that people have to break through to get to freedom. Was it a conscious decision?</b></p> <p>There are a couple of reasons for it. So, the first is that the idea of circular time is a non-capitalist idea that has been there in all these old cultures. It would make sense for Sumer to have circular time. It is not necessary that every society, whatever its vertical economy, would think of time in the same way. It was broadly to do with that. It is also, as you say, that these concepts become cages, and to attain freedom, you have to break out of the contextual cage you are in—whether it is circular time, whether it is not being able to see the horizon. So, it is part of that broader idea.</p> <p><b>Q/ For me, your two novels best defined dystopia from a real-world perspective, compared to everything I have read in the recent past. There is a functional political system, and not really an overwhelming want for anything. In this current milieu, how would you define dystopia?</b></p> <p>I don’t think the duology [The Wall, the Horizon] is dystopia. In the science fiction tradition, dystopia is the opposite of utopia, right? It is where suffering is kind of the defining feature. It can be post-apocalyptic, where land is ravaged, there is no society, and you are struggling to survive. Or, you are in like <i>1984</i> [George Orwell] or <i>Brave New World</i> [Aldous Huxley], where societies are absoluted in political tyranny. That is kind of a near hopeless world. I was consciously avoiding creating a dystopia. I think my novel genre is best defined as an ambiguous utopia. You think things are fine, but you scratch beneath the surface and you find a lot of issues. Ambiguous utopia, for me, is more interesting.</p> <p><b>Q/ At the point of time, with the atomisation of society, all of us experience dystopia in different and highly personalised ways. For some, dystopia could be primarily induced by the social media. For some, it could be the government. For some workers, it could be corporations. Is there a need, specifically for science fiction writers, to redefine dystopia?</b></p> <p>I don’t think we need new definitions per se. Personally, I don’t find dystopic writing all that interesting. I find works which induce ambiguity into classical dystopia far more fascinating. I think a good example is S.B. Divya’s recent book <i>Machinehood</i>, set in the near future where the economy is completely gig-ified. Everybody has to do gigs in order to survive. It is not this gruesome kind of dystopia, where you are under surveillance all the time, and every moment is one of terror. People still get on with their lives. People still negotiate their way through it. Books that acknowledge the dystopic element of our world, without completely succumbing or dissolving into the dystopia, that is the kind of work I like to read more. That is not to say that dystopic writing is not important. It has always been very important. It is just a matter of personal taste.</p> <p><b>Q/ One motif your book explores is the nature and cost of freedom. If you think of society as an equation of who gets hegemony over freedom (we had single agents in the past, like states, which had monopoly over money, territory and so on—which is not the case now), which of these terms need redefinition?</b></p> <p>In the two books, there is a real physical impediment to freedom in the form of the wall. Of course, the wall can stand in for many things. There is a point at which the scientists tell the people that they can vote on any decision in the city, but they can’t vote against the Wall because it is a part of nature. A lot of debates on freedom stem from what society has decided as natural, and it is a debate on what can’t be changed versus what can be changed. Aristotle, for instance, once wrote that slavery was a condition that some people were born with. For centuries, there were struggles to redefine it and outlaw it. I think [the story of freedom is] the history of trying to shift the needle on what we accept as natural, and what we think of as humanly created and hence need not accept.</p> <p><b>Q/ In the book, you write about the system [of mandalas and restrictions] as being propped up by the people themselves, because someone would always be above the other. What of this nature of distributed oppression do we not understand?</b></p> <p>I think every system of oppression is propped up by the people, and by a range of interests. Oppressive systems work because, at any point, there are enough interests propping it up, and they are able to exercise hegemony. Caste system is a classic example of that. Of course, Sumer has nothing to do with caste system, and there is no relation to it. But, there is this [growing] idea that oppression is always distributed. In a lot of fantasy novels, you see one tyrant, one dark lord, that has to be overthrown. I think oppression is a lot more granular and a lot more distributed. I think one of my attempts with the two books was to show how both oppression and struggle for freedom are ultimately distributed struggles—not featuring one hero and one dark lord. It is much more complex, and people have their motivations which you can’t always classify as good or bad.</p> <p><b>Q/ Where do you stand on tech utopianism vs tech dystopianism?</b></p> <p>I think they are equally flawed, in that technology is not a recipe for either utopia or dystopia. It depends on how you use it. At any given time, you will have elements of both utopia and dystopia. Think face recognition or deep learning. On one hand, it has great uses. On the other, it can be used for deep fakes, fake news, and so on. A lot of it depends on how tech is designed to be used. I think it is a political question. I think tech utopia and tech dystopia are simplifications of how tech is embedded in our politics.</p> Sat Mar 26 10:57:55 IST 2022 a-birds-eye-view-of-the-city-of-joy-kolkata <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In 1983, when I was 10, I first set foot in Calcutta (now, of course, Kolkata) holding my father's hand. I remember taking a double-decker bus, crossing the Howrah Bridge and entering the city from Howrah. Sitting by a window on the upper floor of the bus, I watched with wonder as my father gave me a guided tour of the city, telling me the history and background of each the sights we saw. Seeing Calcutta for the first time was a thrilling experience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Decades passed. Times changed. Like my father, I started commuting to Kolkata daily for my job. I came closer to the beautiful city which gradually engulfed me, and I fell in love with it. I was fascinated by the colonial-era buildings. Already passionate about photography, I had by then turned it into my profession. Its iconic landmarks such as Victoria Memorial, Shahid Minar, Raj Bhavan, Eden Gardens and many others captivated my lens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Time has had its effect on the city. Its character has changed, in keeping with the shift around the globe, and so has its skyline. High-rises have mushroomed everywhere. Eye-catching contemporary architecture has ensured the city’s passage into the modern world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many of the parameters of my profession, too, have changed. We are now in the digital age. The drone camera is a marvel of our times. This camera shows us an aspect of an image that is remarkable because of its hitherto-unexplored angles. As a photojournalist, I had often toyed with the idea of taking a camera to a high location as a human drone to shoot some of Kolkata’s iconic structures. And, almost as if to fulfil my dream, a magnificent construction came up in central Kolkata – a stone’s throw from the Brigade Parade Ground and Park Street – to tower over the entire city. An idea slowly took shape in my mind, that if I could capture the iconic places of Kolkata from atop this building, it would be an enjoyable experience for our readers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was with this objective in mind that I took pictures of Victoria Memorial Hall, Howrah Bridge, Eden Gardens, St. Paul's Cathedral and Raj Bhavan from the tallest building in eastern India, a 62-storey edifice, whose name – The 42 - is derived from its address on the historic Chowringhee.&nbsp;</p> Tue Mar 22 10:01:59 IST 2022 olive-oil-can-be-dangerous-and-other-cynical-life-lessons-the-godfather-offers-us <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Had production gone according to plan, <i>The Godfather</i> would have been the big Christmas release of 1971. But as fate would have it, unforeseen delays pushed its world premiere in New York to March 14, 1972—to the eve of Easter.</p> <p>We now know that it was a stroke of serendipity. As brought to screen by director Francis Ford Coppola and author Mario Puzo, <i>The Godfather</i> was a remarkable artistic achievement that resurrected not just American filmmaking, which had been wallowing in crises throughout the 1950s and 1960s because of <a href="">a variety of factors</a>, but also spawned cult-like fan clubs of filmmakers, technicians, students and general viewers across the world. In the 50 years since its release, the film has inspired not just numerous remakes and retellings (the Malayalam hit <a name="Bheeshma Parvam review: This Mammootty-starrer walks the talk, in style" id="Bheeshma Parvam review: This Mammootty-starrer walks the talk, in style"></a><i><a title="Bheeshma Parvam review: This Mammootty-starrer walks the talk, in style" href="">Bheeshma Parvam</a></i> being the most recent), but also obscure cinematic references and delightful Easter eggs in films that are vastly different in tone, texture and theme (<a href="">the new Batman movie, for instance</a>).</p> <p>It is fair to say that <i>The Godfather</i> has so broken barriers that it has become a global cultural touchstone. What is not as apparent, though, is whether people have really come to fully appreciate its continued worth as a delightful primer to the philosophy of cynicism. To be sure, the film’s plot and most of its main characters convey an almost doctrinal distrust in people and their motives and actions, and some of the characters even justify their existence—which they understand is grotesque to others—in words that are both detached and oddly accurate, but also designed to provoke. <i>The Godfather</i> is, if anything, a rich and varied album of characters and moments that offer valuable lessons in putting cynicism to practice.</p> <p>Case in point: the conversation between Michael Corleone and Kay Adams as they go for a stroll after being finally reunited. By this point in the film, Michael is in line to succeed his father, Don Vito Corleone, as the head of the crime family, and he is trying to explain Don Vito’s motives and deeds with a straight face to his future, non-Italian wife. “My father is no different than any other powerful man,” explains Michael. “Like any man who is responsible for other people—like a senator or a president.” Kay smiles—she appears both indulgent and dismissive—and says, “You know how naive you sound, Michael? Senators and presidents don’t have men killed.” Silenced momentarily, Michael cannot but gaze at her intently before he says, “Who’s being naive here, Kay?”</p> <p>There are moments in <i>The Godfather</i> that can well be compiled into an enjoyable, even if trivial, guidebook to leading a very happy life as a stone-cold cynic. Here is presenting five of them, in honour of the five decades that the Corleones have graced our screens. These are lessons on offer that, well, you can’t refuse.</p> <p><b>1. Beware having the fruits of your labour</b></p> <p>Sombre blacks, greys and browns dominate the palette of <i>The Godfather</i>. The most prominent among the few bright objects that occasionally liven up the film’s moody canvas are oranges. Big, bright and shiny oranges that dominate entire shots sometimes.</p> <p>The vibe they exude throughout the film, however, can hardly be termed salubrious. Bright oranges roll across a wintry street as Don Vito collapses after being shot multiple times. Another character unknowingly imperils himself as he negotiates a deal while sitting on a dining table dominated by a big bowl of oranges. And, an orange rind is the last thing the don puts in is mouth before he dies of heart attack.</p> <p>Lesson: The fruits of your labour can be delicious; they can also be deadly.</p> <p><b>2. Go to church, become a good gangster</b></p> <p><i>The Godfather</i> has a masterfully symbolic denouement that shows two very different kind of baptisms. The first is the Catholic kind, in which Michael stands in solemnly in a cavernous church as godfather to his sister’s son. The second is a baptism by bloodbath, in which Michael’s henchmen riddles his enemies with bullets. “Do you renounce Satan?” the priest asks Michael. Shots of people being murdered are intercut, before Michael replies, “I do renounce him.”</p> <p>The vital role that the church plays in the plot mechanics of <i>The Godfather</i> cannot be overstated. The crime empire of the Corleones is shored up by both blood relationships and an intricate web of social contracts consecrated by the church. The baptism sequence underlines this—at the end of it, Michael has not only become a godfather to a child, he has become <i>the</i> Godfather of his people.</p> <p>Lesson: The difference between organised religion and organised crime is bridgeable.</p> <p><b>3. The proof of the Italian pudding is not in the eating</b></p> <p>A lot of wining and dining goes on in <i>The Godfather</i>. But most of the dining, at least, is presented as strangely mirthless. Throughout the film, Corleone’s men are shown consuming loads of spaghetti and ravioli as they wait to make their moves during the bloody gang war. A cannoli is carefully retrieved by a <i>caporegime</i> for later consumption from beside a dead body. Michael and Kay have a silent, ominous dinner together in a hotel room before they abruptly part ways. Even the restaurants in the film appear foreboding. Two of them become scenes of violent, pre-meditated killings.</p> <p>The wining, too, is hardly pleasant. “I like to drink wine more than I used to,” says Don Vito nonchalantly, right after informing Michael that he will be assassinated at a meeting that would ostensibly be called to broker peace between the warring families.</p> <p>The one playful scene involving Italian food in the whole picture is when the cannoli-loving <i>caporegime</i> busies himself in the kitchen, teases the idling Michael about his girlfriend, and then gives him a demonstration on how to cook for 20 people. “You start with a little bit of oil,” he says. “Then fry some garlic. Then you thrown in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it and make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs. Add a little bit of wine, and a little bit of sugar… and that’s my trick!”</p> <p>The brief tutorial dies with the entry of Michael’s hot-headed elder brother Santino, who says, “Cut the crap.”</p> <p>The lesson, which <i>The Godfather</i> may not have intended to offer but still ably demonstrates, is that the complicated work involved in preparing an Italian dish can be more enjoyable than actually eating it. Risotto, anyone?</p> <p><b>4. Women at the wheel can wreck your peace</b></p> <p>Michael would not have become a mafia boss had he not made the grave mistake of teaching his first wife how to drive. “It’s safer to teach you English!” cries Michael after letting his Sicilian wife, Appollonia, drive round the house. Later, Michael orders his aide Fabrizio to get the car ready for a long journey. “Are you driving yourself, boss? Is your wife coming with you?” asks Fabrizio. Michael says no, so Fabrizio goes on and plants a bomb in the car. As he prepares to start the journey, Michael figures out that Fabrizio had crossed over to the enemy side, and that getting into the car and turning the ignition on would kill him. The person who ends up dying in the blast is the adorably carefree Appollonia, who had been waiting at the wheel to take Michael by surprise by driving him to his destination.</p> <p>Just as it painfully dawns on Michael that the car is a death trap, Appollonia spots him waiting, honks the horn happily and turns on the ignition. And blown to smithereens is the peaceful life Michael had built in Sicily.</p> <p>Lesson: Even feared gangsters can be ruined by wives who love to drive.</p> <p><b>5. Olive oil can be dangerous</b></p> <p>Fact: As much as 80 per cent of Italian olive oil exports is dodgy, mainly because of Corleone-like mafia rings who relabel cheap olive pomace oil as the more expensive ‘extra-virgin’ variety and then ship it to foreign markets. It’s a scam that the police in Italy regularly deals with even today. And historically, the growth of Calabrian and Sicilian mafia are inextricably linked to the olive oil trade.</p> <p>As Mario Puzo wrote, Don Vito himself made his fortune by setting up the Genco Pura Olive Oil Company in the 1920s, which served as both legitimate business and a useful front for his criminal activities. “The Corleone family is thinking of giving up all its interests in the olive oil business and settling out here,” says Michael in the latter half of <i>The Godfather</i>, in which he struggles hard to extricate his family from the oily New York underworld and replant it in the arid gambling paradise of Nevada. His plan: Make the Corleone fortune fully legitimate by laundering and investing it in casinos in Las Vegas. It is the big move that leads up to in the baptism-bloodbath in the end.</p> <p>Lesson: The next time you visit the supermarket and see extra-virgin olive oil at discounted prices, remember why Michael wanted to exit the business. And remember that you are about to gamble.</p> <p>There are, after all, offers you can refuse.</p> Fri Mar 18 22:24:09 IST 2022 fending-off-pests-at-lit-fests <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Temperatures between 15 to 20 degree Celsius tend to bring out the literary side of Indians. It dawns on them that they dearly love the written word, and cannot wait to interact with others similarly infatuated. Wrenching themselves from Korean serials and other OTP aberrations, they head starry-eyed to that place where the feast of wit is laid out, viz. the Lit Fest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The locations for these events can cover all points of the compass—from the lower Himalayas to the abode of Khushwant Singh, from the beaches of Goa and Kozhikode, to the granddaddy of them all: the Jaipur Lit Fest. Wherever they are held, and whatever the programme schedules may tell you, most fests feature the same speakers saying more or less the same things in rotation. I am tempted to tell you about the speakers you should steer clear of, and those who shouldn’t miss. But that would deprive you of the simple joy of lucky-dips, so I will do something more meaningful. I will enrich your experience by alerting you to the pests who infest these fests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A major irritant is the Mr, Mrs, or Miss ‘Know ‘em Well’.&nbsp; They are the ones who claim long familiarity with all the speakers on stage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Manu S. Pillai? I knew him since he was in kindergarten."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"As for Pico Iyer, he drops in every time he comes to India."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ‘Know ‘em Well’ can also regale you with gossip—who got the juiciest ‘advance’, who is seeing whose ‘ex’. This may be delightful for a while, but can soon get tedious because few authors are obliging enough to lead the life of a Bollywood star. Before long, you will be looking for excuses to end the conversation. Perhaps, you need to use the washroom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every fest will have one or more unsung martyrs. They are poets and novelists who were destined for literary immortality until publishers and the curators got in the way by hatching a conspiracy to ignore her/him. Want proof? They bring out an ancient album of clippings—published letters to the editors, and contributions to obscure journals. Not to glance at the sagging tome being fished out would be rude.&nbsp; But evincing interest is fraught with risk. He or she could bring out their second volume. Better bail yourself out. Head for the washroom again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At all such events, you need to stay clear of the closet leftist. The left-leaning types attend such events only to squelch them with scorn. Each such elitist festival, they say, deprives a hundred toiling villagers of their dal roti. He denounces the speakers as effete men and unworthy women. Pumped up, he will call credentials to question, and say that the pan wallah across the street has more poetry in him than any of these ivory tower intellectuals. The good thing about leftists is that they advertise their arrival. When you spot a bearded, kurta-clad, jhola-toting individual heading your way, you need to take quick evasive action.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the opposite end of the leftist is the classicist. He looks down upon these popular festivals as a wine connoisseur would look down on limboo-sherbet. The guys here, he says, are literary small fry whose work will be forgotten before the next edition of the fest. Where they ask, is the immortal imagery, the profundity and poignancy you find in Milton or Keats, Ghalib or Faiz? Clearly, it is nowhere to be found. You can be persuaded to ask the organisers for your money back. The organisers, however, have second-guessed you. They have inserted a no-refund clause.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No lit fest can be complete without a shrill anti-angrezi voice protesting that English events are an insidious post-colonial conspiracy to subjugate Indian languages, one <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">akshar</i> at a time. A product of the Manoj Kumar school of patriotism, this pest actually loves an argument, and would be grateful if you countered by saying that Indians actually liked littering more than literature. But the debate could go on till tomorrow. &nbsp;Much better to play it safe, say ‘<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">dhanyavaad</i>’ and move on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there are those who attend literary festivals for the same reason that one would buy a BMW—to be seen in one. They only pay as much attention to the goings-on as is necessary to get the names and book titles right, so that they could be dropped in subsequent conversations. Their love for things literary also increases every time the fest has alcohol on the house. Now, I wouldn’t want you to be too harsh on this particular type—for a very personal reason. He could be me.&nbsp;</p> Sun Mar 13 12:36:28 IST 2022 14-elderly-women-mountaineers-set-to-kickstart-trans-himalayam-trek <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Some 10 years ago, Bachendri Pal discovered she was having trouble with her knee.</p> <p>The famous mountaineer, who in 1984 became the first Indian woman to reach the summit of Mt Everest at age 30, was also the chief of adventure programmes at Tata Steel and director of Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF) then. She consulted doctors from Siliguri to Mumbai who seemed certain these were early signs of arthritis. Pal could not, or refused to, believe her ears. &quot;I was like, 'nothing doing.' I packed my rucksack and went off to the mountains. Karo ya maro (It's either do or die).&quot; remembers Pal with glee in a phone interview.</p> <p>&quot;Before taking off, one doctor said you are 56, about to reach retirement, you are having this issue with your leg and you want to climb mountains? But not only did I manage to climb, I ended up climbing down a day faster than the healthiest mountaineers on that trip. I continue to lead trips and several expeditions. There is no pain in my knee,&quot; says Pal from Jairampur town of Arunachal Pradesh.</p> <p>She is on her way to Pangsau Pass, perched on Patkai hills on the India–Myanmar border, where the 68-year-old will flag off her most unique expedition yet on March 12. Fit@50+ Women's Trans Himalayan Expedition '22 will have Pal conduct a diverse group of 12 women, all in their 50s and 60s, for a five-month odyssey traversing the Himalayas from east to west. That is from Arunachal to Ladakh covering a distance of 4,977 kilometres, crossing 37 mountain passes. It is being organised by TSAF in collaboration with the Union ministry of youth affairs and sports under the FIT India banner.&nbsp;Two men will join them as support team.</p> <p>The idea struck Pal around 2019 when the central government's Fit India Movement had become a talking point. &quot;I was about to retire from Tata Steel and I realised that I am 65 and still successfully leading expeditions and treks. So why not lead something for people who are in my age group under the Fit India movement? What could be a better message about fitness when this age category which is usually dismissed as unfit decides to take on this ambitious trek? This is my dream project,&quot; says Pal who has carefully selected her 12-member squad of seasoned mountaineers who are also mothers, grandmothers, homemakers. retired professionals, have &quot;100 percent self-belief&quot; and who are bonafide team players. From Pangsau Pass in Arunachal Pradesh, the team will trek through Assam, West Bengal, Sikkim, Nepal, Kumaon, Gharwal, Himachal, Spiti, Leh Ladakh and conclude their journey at Tiger Hill in Kargil. In fact Pal had conducted a similar all-women Trans-Himalayan expedition in 1997. But all her teammates were in their 30s and 40s then. The Covid-induced lockdown turned out to be a wonderful period of productivity, preparation and stamina-building for Pal who convinced her 77-year-old sister to go on long, rambling walks of up to 14km in her native village in Uttarakhand much to the amazement of locals. &quot;The lockdown gave me a new lease of life. I just kept walking. Aap fit hai to hit hai,&quot; says Pal.</p> <p>There is limited research conducted on the fitness requirements of elderly mountaineers. And mountain sports necessarily demands an advanced degree of physical fitness. &quot;A normal ascent rate of 300 metres per hour (up to 3500 m) requires an altitude-dependent relative oxygen consumption of 18-22 ml x min(-1) x kg(-1) or an ergometric performance of 1.2-1.5 watt x kg(-1) below the individual anaerobic threshold,&quot; says one 2004 research paper under PubMed. Last year an 81-year-old Spanish mountain climber, Carlos Soria Fontán, was in the news for taking on the challenge of becoming the oldest person in the world to summit all fourteen 8,000-enders. He has scaled 11 of them since turning 60. At 62, he was the oldest to climb Mt Everest. And at 70, the highest peaks of all seven continents. But what about elderly women mountain climbers?</p> <p>Bachendri Pal did not just rest on her Everest laurels. Instead she went on to create more 'Everesters' and mountaineers in the profession. Especially among women. Under her guidance, Arunima Singh became the world's first female amputee to scale Mt Everest and other peaks. Her 1993 Indo-Nepalese Women's Everest Expedition created seven world records in a single expedition. Shamala Padmanabhan, 65, a retired IT professional, avid mountaineer and marathoner is also inspired by Pal's achievements and is part of the current Trans-Himalayan trek.</p> <p>&quot;Mountains do not distinguish between gender, money, caste, creed or religion. Life expectancy has gone up in recent decades and if one invests in physical fitness, one can do anything. Most of us in this trek have at best blood pressure issues,&quot; says Padmanabhan who was also part of the 1991 pre-Everest expedition to Mt. Kamet led by Pal. &quot;We have been planning for about one and a half years for this. We have kept ourselves fit with proper diet, yoga, gymming, climbing and trekking. All 14 of us have specific roles here. One is responsible for cartography, one will look at rations, another at first aid. I look at communications and outreach,&quot; says Padmanabhan who informs that unlike climbing Everest where a mountaineer has to focus on one peak over a small period of time, a Trans-Himalayan Trek is more rigorous as it lasts longer and covers a wider stretch of difficult terrain. It happens once every 10 years or so. “It is not as common or as frequent as the regular treks and climbs. Needs lot of time to cover such long traverse. Trans-Himalya also needs various permits as you will be moving from one end to other end of the Himalayas. In this case from east to west,” she says.</p> <p><br> The high-altitude trek also includes Chetna Sahoo, who in 2016, had scaled Mt Everest. She and her partner went on to become the oldest Indian couple to achieve the feat. She was 50 at the time. It also has 56-year-old Bimla Negi Deoskar who has summited 15 peaks. She has also trained some 14 tribal youths drawn from schools in Maharashtra to scale Everest in 2018 and 2019. Some five of them were women. &quot;Training them went beyond physical fitness. They had never seen mountains in their lives, nor travelled in buses or trains. We had to get them to develop a taste for certain kinds of survival food in the mountains, including Maggi. They didn't know Hindi, and when you are at Everest dealing with life and death situations, crossing dead bodies on the way, you will need help from the sherpas and porters who mostly communicate in broken Hindi,&quot; recalls Deoskar of those heady days of tutoring the adolescent climbers who know hardships from the closest range.</p> <p>At 55, Deoskar knows her body is going to have to suffer great hardships of its own to complete the trek. But she is determined to set an example and inspire other elderly women to stay fit and dream big. For her, mountaineering is the greatest of all sports. &quot;In the mountains, your original qualities and true colours as a person come to the fore. In fact, mountaineering is not the same thing as swinging a racket or a bat. In such sports, people don't have to worry about what and when they will eat, where will they stay or get water from, how they will prepare and plan for an adversity the next day or on day 30, about fuel and ration,&quot; says Deoskar. &quot;It teaches you to plan for everything. You will be in trouble if you forget to pack even your matchstick. And in remote areas even when you achieve something, there will be no one to pat your back. But the self-satisfaction then is better than any external validation.&quot;</p> Sat Mar 12 12:48:43 IST 2022 opinion-india-needs-more-women-voices-legislatures-judiciary <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A picture is worth a thousand words. I understood the full import of this statement when I saw the picture of the Union Finance Minister’s Budget team published in several newspapers, ahead of the presentation of Union Budget for 2022-23. It was an all-men’s team with the sole exception of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman herself.</p> <p>It is high time for us to reflect on gender equality in politics, civil service and other walks of life. For centuries, the social, political and economic status of women was low. Discrimination against women often starts from womb and goes on till tomb. Patriarchy, son bias and other harmful, traditional social practices impeded women’s full development on par with men. Those women who are at an intersection of caste, religion, disability face double or triple discrimination.</p> <p><b>Indian scenario</b></p> <p>Though women hold half the sky, their representation in many walks of life presents a dismal picture. 50 per cent reservation for women in Legislatures is still elusive. Their representation over the years hovered around 10 per cent and it currently stands at 13 per cent. When you combine strength of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs together, there are 103 women MPs out of a total 788 MPs. It appears that this is a new record, as it has crossed 100 mark for the first time.</p> <p>The representation of women in higher judiciary is also poor. The Supreme Court currently has four women judges out of a total of 34 judges and this is the highest ever representation of women in the Supreme Court’s history. In high courts, women judges constitute mere 11.5 per cent of the total Judges. Lamenting on the current state of affairs, the Chief Justice of India N. Ramana in an interaction with women Advocates of Supreme Court a few months back said, “Enough of suppression of thousands of years. It is high time we have 50 per cent representation of women in judiciary. It is your right. It is not a matter of charity”. He urged the executive to apply necessary correctives. In addition, he called for an increase in gender diversity in legal education by strongly advocating reservation of a significant percentage of seats in law schools and universities for women.</p> <p>Women hold 17 per cent of board positions in corporate India, but only 11 per cent hold leadership roles. Valli Arunachalam’s difficulties in Murugappa corporate group point out to patriarchy and deep-rooted gender bias.</p> <p>The female labour participation rate in India had fallen to 20.3 per cent in 2019 from more than 26 per cent in 2005, according to World Bank estimates. In fact, it has been declining steadily in the past two decades. In fact, our neighbouring countries are doing better with 30.5 per cent in Bangladesh and 33.7 per cent in Sri Lanka.</p> <p>For the first time in India, between 2019-21, as per NFHS 5 data released recently, there were 1,020 adult women per 1,000 men. Experts say that it is an overestimate and we have to wait for Census results for an accurate estimate.</p> <p>There is a difference in sex ratio at birth and at adulthood. What is a matter of deep concern is that India still has a skewed sex ratio at birth with 952 girls per 1,000 boys. The ratio is more skewed towards boys than the natural sex ratio at birth. Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, Delhi, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Maharashtra are the major states with low sex ratio at birth.</p> <p><b>International developments</b></p> <p>Inequality is deepening and it is a cause for serious concern. The dream of “All human rights for all” is still elusive. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, therefore, declared 'Equality' as the theme for the International Human Rights Day that was observed on 10 December 2021.</p> <p>Systemic discrimination and exclusion are depriving millions of our fellow human beings of their precious human rights. There exist contemporary manifestations of slavery which include, among others, forced sexual exploitation of women and child prostitution. They strike at the very root of Article 1 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which asserts that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”</p> <p>International Women’s Day is being observed every year on March 8 since 1975. The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing was a major milestone which led to the adoption of Beijing Declaration as well as Platform for Action. In that historic conference, there was a loud assertion that “Women’s rights are human rights”.</p> <p>25 years later, the United Nations General Assembly took stock of the progress made since that landmark conference. It noted that there was progress on women’s rights but not enough. Gender equality for women is still a far cry as no country has fully delivered on the commitments in the Beijing Platform for Action. Achievements in maternal mortality, access to voluntary family planning fall short of the goals set in that document.</p> <p><b>Imperative</b></p> <p>In the past few decades, some progress has been made. While there was a breaking of glass ceiling in a few areas, we still need to traverse a long distance on the road to gender equality.</p> <p>A robust and healthy democracy ought to allow women’s voices shape law and policy. We cannot allow under representation of nearly 50 per cent of voters. The dearth of women’s voices and lived experiences in Legislature and Judiciary must be remedied. It is time that all countries take steps to ensure women’s full participation in all walks of life and their representation at various levels including leadership positions.</p> <p><b><i>The author is Vice-Chancellor, RV University, Bengaluru</i></b></p> Tue Mar 08 12:22:27 IST 2022 chilean-poet-reflects-change-optimism-of-the-new-chile <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Chilean Poet</i>, a delightful literary novel by Alejandro Zambra, brings out the prominent and unique place poetry occupies in Chilean society. One of the characters in the novel says, “Being a Chilean poet is like being a Peruvian chef or a Brazilian soccer player or a Venezuelan model. We’re two-time world champions of poetry, having won two world cups of Nobel Prizes by Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pablo Neruda became a rockstar poet across Latin America. Known as the ‘people’s poet’, he recited poems to large audiences of workers and common people besides the literati. He was invited by president Salvador Allende to read his poems at the National Stadium to an audience of 70,000 people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Neruda lived and travelled around the world during his diplomatic postings. Unlike many poets who end up in poverty, addiction, alcoholism, sickness and premature death, Neruda became a millionaire and lived a healthy life of luxury and fame. He was elected as a senator. His iconic houses with large personal art collections in Santiago, Valparaiso and Isla Negra have become centres of pilgrimage for poets and tourist attractions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is even a 'Coast of Poets' in the Valparaíso, named for the four world-renowned Chilean poets—Pablo Neruda, Vicente Huidobro, Nicanor Parra and Violeta Parra. Visiting Nicanor Parra’s house is like a rite of passage for Chilean poets. Parra, who lived for 103 years till 2018, is famous for the 'anti-poetry' movement, a literary expression that breaks with the traditional canons of poetic lyricism. One of his most recognised works is <i>Poemas y Antipoemas </i>(poems and anti-poems), considered as one of the most influential Spanish poetry collections of the twentieth century,</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Chilean Poet</i> is the story of Gonzalo, a poet, and his step-son, Vicente, an aspiring poet. Since the novel is about poets, the prose of the novel is itself poetic, obviously. The book is filled with the names and stories of the famous Chilean poets and the less-well-known besides imaginary ones. The author takes the readers to the cafes, bars, bookshops, plazas and streets frequented by Chilean poets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gonzalo is an avid reader of poems of Chileans and from the rest of the world. Although he manages to publish his first and only book of poems, he gives up poetry after realising that his mediocre work could not get wider recognition and appreciation. During his schooldays, he falls in love with Carla. But she loses interest in him after some time. He tries unsuccessfully to impress her with poems. She marries Leon, gets a son, Vicente, and later separates from the husband.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After a few years, Gonzalo reconnects with Carla and moves in with her. But when he gets a scholarship for higher studies in literature in New York, he moves on. When he comes back to become a professor in a Chilean university, he finds that his ex-stepson Vicente is also preparing to become a poet. The book ends with a long conversation between Gonzalo and Vicente on poetry and they read out their poems to each other.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Here is a playful poem by Vicente about the genders in Spanish words, which is difficult for English speakers to understand and master:</p> <p><i><b>In my language the words for winter, summer and fall are all male</b></i></p> <p><i><b>Only spring is a female season</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>The wind is a he</b></i></p> <p><i><b>But the snow is a she</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>A fingernail (she) and nail clipper (he)</b></i></p> <p><i><b>A bottle (she) and its opener (he)</b></i></p> <p><i><b>Night and midnight, hers and hers</b></i></p> <p><i><b>Day and midday, his and his</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vicente falls in love with Pru, a New Yorker, who comes to Chile on a journalistic assignment. He comes to her rescue when she is lost in a Santiago street with a hangover. They have a one night stand when Vicente tells her that he is planning to become a poet. He introduces her to Pato, his friend and a poet, who tells Pru that she should write about the poets of Chile. She attends a literary party in which she witnesses the poets exhibiting their eccentricities and bonding like a family. She interviews lot of poets including Niconar Parra. These interviews and encounters are used by the author to bring out the different dimensions and personal traits of poets with a sense of humour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He notes, “Poets are more awkward and more genuine. They work with words, but they don’t even know how to talk. Take them away from poetry and they start stuttering. That’s why they write poems, because they don’t know how to talk.”</p> <p>The author Alejandro Zambra is a poet himself and started his writing career with poetry first before becoming famous as a novelist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an interview, he says, “I am a poet by formation and most of what I have read in my life is Chilean poetry. My community was always poetry, and it still is—most of my friends today are poets who aren’t interested in writing novels. I think my move to prose had something to do with the defeat of poetry; not in the sense that I failed, but in the sense that I was unable to express the things that I wanted in poetry.” Like many other contemporary Chilean poets, he also tries to come out of the shadow of Neruda, saying,“A big part of Neruda’s work is to me utterly unreadable, but you have to understand me, I am Chilean.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the reasons for Gonzalo to give up poetry is because he suspects his poems don’t really fulfil the requirements of truly new Chilean poetry, which has a duty to be political and must fight against the “capitalism, classism, centralism and sexism” of Chilean society. Though he subscribes to those struggles in principle, he is not sure that his poems express a social dimension in a clear enough way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The author has brought in the ongoing socio-political issues of Chile, which has seen in the last decade student and public protests against inequality and marginalisation of masses. Vicente participates in the student protests demanding educational, political and social reforms. The following conversation between Vicente and his father Leon highlights the issue:</p> <p><i><b>Leon says, “If you don’t get into a public university, I can pay for a private one. They’re almost all equally expensive in this damned country.”</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Vicente replies, “There’s no point in you going into debt to pay for my college. I’ll go to college when it’s free.”</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Leon: “You can’t be that naïve, Vicente. Do you really think education in Chile will ever be free?”</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“<i><b>That’s what they promised,” says Vicente with conviction.</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Leon: “You believe politicians?”</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Vicente: “No, but I believe in the people’s movement. And in the young representatives, the new ones.”</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vicente’s hope and optimism has the best chance of being fulfilled by the real-life recent political developments in Chile. Through protests in recent years, the people’s movement had forced the centre-right government of President Pinera to agree to change the constitution imposed by the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. The new Constituent Assembly has gender parity, a first in world history. It has 78 men and 77 women. The first president of the assembly was a woman Elisa Loncon, member of the indigenous Mapuche community. She has now been succeeded by another woman Maria Elisa Quinteros. The assembly, which is currently debating and preparing a new constitution, is filled mostly with civil society activists who have beaten the traditional politicians and establishment parties of both the left and the right in the elections of May 2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In December 2021, the Chileans elected a young millennial leftist student activist, Gabriel Boric (age 35), who is taking over as the new president of the country on March 11. Boric’s cabinet has a majority of women, 14 out of the total 24. He has chosen a young, inclusive and progressive team. The average age of the cabinet is 49. Boric’s inclusive development agenda gives priority to social justice, empowerment of indigenous people and gender parity among other paradigm-shifting promises.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the campaign he said, “If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave.” Boric is an avid reader of poetry. According to a report, Boric has read the novel <i>Chilean Poet </i>and considers it one of his favourites. In an article in December 2021, Zambra wrote, “The generation of Gabriel Boric, that of our younger brothers, formed their own parties and refused to accept our traumas. They deserve our admiration, our affection and our gratitude.” Zambra called Boric also a ‘Chilean Poet’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs.</b></p> Sun Mar 06 13:00:34 IST 2022 rare-cut-outs-by-mf-husain-on-exhibition-in-kolkata <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>"When did you last see a solo of Husain sahab?" asks art curator, documentarian and collector Ina Puri, underscoring in a stroke the significance of Essential Forms, an exhibition of unseen cut-outs by MF Husain, the master of modern Indian painting. Acquired by Emami Art in Kolkata more than 10 years ago, the show has unveiled a startling set of two-dimensional cut-outs - shapely blocks of primary colours on plywood which are big, bold silhouettes of human and animal figures. It stands testimony to the versatility of an artist who could work across diverse mediums with equal ease.</p> <p>"These cut-outs were made around 2008. We have pictures of him making the chalk outlines on plywood. At his age, you have to be remarkably agile to make these cut-outs from wood as they are large works," says Puri curator of Essential Forms where one can see a rotating cast of characters - be it a charging bull in black with its head down or a man in red with serrated edges doing a somersault, from women bound together or trying to break out of a frame to the figure of Krishna playing the flute on a three-headed bull rendered in a delightful mosaic of colours.</p> <p>"I was privileged enough to have known Husain sahab and met him several times. At some point, we had gone and attended the shooting of the film <i>Gaja Gamini</i> (2000) and that is where I had seen huge cutouts (which were different from these). The scale of it was mind-boggling. And with M.F. Husain, it's always the scale that is striking, be it his paintings or cut-outs or his composition on celluloid," says Puri. "For these works, the artist drew on plywood the outlines of the protagonist in chalk and cut out the form before painting over it. The subjects were inspired by the ancestral spirits of man, deity and beast in a sacred space," says Puri in a curatorial note.</p> <p>"Aesthetically, like Matisse’s famous cut-outs, they stand halfway between a drawing and sculpture, showing the rhythm of cutting and sensuality, actively interacting with the architectural setting around," says Richa Agarwal, CEO, Emami Art and Chairperson at Kolkata Centre for Creativity (KCC) in a press note. "The works, called Ahmedabad Series, were created based on the designs of the cut-outs Husain himself made and installed in Amdavad Gufa in Gujarat, the unique architectural project he and the great architect, B.V. Doshi, together conceived," adds Agarwal.</p> <p>Essential Forms in on view till February 28 at KCC in Kolkata.</p> Sat Feb 26 23:20:34 IST 2022 satire-life-lessons-from-vladimir-putin <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Dalai Lama said that we must learn from the gravest tragedies. Here’s what I learnt from Vladimir Putin.</p> <p><b>1. A smile may take you a mile, but…</b></p> <p>An icy stare will take you much further – in fact, it will take you all the way to Kyiv. Now, this may be the exact opposite of what you pick up from happiness gurus and through drippy WhatsApp messages every morning. Well, Putin has proved conventional wisdom to be bunkum. Ever seen him smiling? Even when he does consent to express happiness, it is a thin-lipped mutant of a smile that does not travel far on his face. Moral of the story: read Putin’s lips. If you smile easily, frequently, and without valid reasons, it signals that you are content with yourself. No special effort is therefore required to keep you in good humour. If you want the world to sit up and take notice, let your default expression be stone cold.</p> <p><b>2. SAMBO is the new Rambo</b></p> <p>Vladimir Putin, an expert in Judo, loves to spar with Russia’s Olympics team. When the TV cameras are on, he ends up winning all the bouts since both the Olympians and TV technicians know their place. He is also adept at SAMBO – a Russian acronym for ‘empty hand’.&nbsp; It is a lethal form of martial arts developed for soldiers of the Red Army. Among the many skills it teaches is to put opponents on the mat, and Putin is giving us a live demo. This makes him one of the most formidable world leaders going. Yes, a certain 56-inch chest may puff itself with pride, but when push comes to shove, I would put my money on the SAMBO Judo combo. Putin has also blown to bits the notion that you need to be tall to make a mark. Putin’s height is a state secret – anywhere between 5 ft. 1 inch to 5 ft. 6 inches - but he has made short work of the tallest leaders. Putin of course has an inspiring precedent. A gentleman called Napoleon Bonaparte was almost the same height.</p> <p><b>3. Walk the talk</b></p> <p>There is something purposeful about Putin’s walk. It is firm, measured and arrow-like in its direction. It’s a walk of a man who knows where he is going. Walks matter in power politics – often more than talks because most leaders talk the same way, i.e. badly. Run-of-the-mill products of substandard public speaking classes, some screech, some bleat and some pose rhetorical questions in nasal twang. Clearly, the world of Winston Churchill and grandstand oratory are over, and the stage is open for leaders who telegraph their intentions through body language. If you need video coaching in non-verbal communication, search for the clipping that went viral some months ago showing Putin walking through the long corridors of the Kremlin.&nbsp; It’s probably intended to tell the world that the Kremlin is grand enough to make the White House blush. But you can skip the propaganda and focus on how Putin takes the world in his stride.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><b>4. Actions speak louder than sanctions</b></p> <p>For all those who constantly look over their shoulders and dare not overstep the red line of public opinion, Putin is a role model. As they say, if you don’t find a place at the table, you are probably on the menu. So, Putin grabs what he wants, telling sanctions what he thinks of them. Apart from sanctions, he has played jiggery-pokery with UN conventions and his own country’s constitution. When the rules said that he couldn’t remain president for more than two terms, he simply re-wrote the rule book and can now officially stay on as president till 2032.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>5. Communicating in double-speak</b></p> <p>Lewis Caroll’s Humpty Dumpty said ‘a word will mean exactly what I choose it to mean’. Putin belongs to the Humpty Dumpty School of Linguistics, and since the crisis began, Putin has spoken a lot without saying much. Officially, Russia has still not gone to war. Instead, it is conducting a ‘military operation’. America and a lot of other countries had also enrolled at the Humpty Dumpty School but being poor learners, they made a laughing stock of themselves. ‘Weapons of mass destruction’ is such a long-standing joke, people have stopped laughing.&nbsp; Putin, on the other hand, wins our sympathy because the “military operation” is the “only way for Russia to defend itself”.</p> <p>Of course, you and I can’t claim to be the only ones learning life lessons from Putin. Turn east, and you will see China’s eternal president carefully taking notes, and nodding to himself in appreciation. Soon you can bet you will see Xi Jinping laughing all the way to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Pangong.…</p> <p>So, ‘Thank You Mr Putin!’</p> <p><b><i>The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.</i></b></p> Sat Feb 26 23:00:02 IST 2022 The-Power-of-Gutsy-Girls-of-Science <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>A consummate wordsmith, Ms Ilina Singh, has brought alive the stories of ‘Gutsy Girls of Science’ in her maiden book published by Harper Collins. Still in her teens, the class 11 student of Shriram School Gurgaon wears many hats and has won several national competitions in writing and coding, including the Google Code2Learn Contest 2021. She believes in gender equality and has developed a ML tool - </b><a href=""><b></b></a><b> – that can detect gender bias in textbooks and stories.</b></p> <p>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <b>The title “Gutsy Girls of Science”, how did the idea of this theme come to you and why did you choose only women from the world of science?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The idea of writing “Gutsy Girls of Science” started with an innocuous question while exploring career options in science, a subject for which I have immense passion. When doing so, I realised that there are few Indian women scientists. Coincidently, a tweet of Hon’ble Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Mrs Smriti Zubin Irani, with pictures of 11 women scientists recognised by the Indian government, caught my attention and inspired me. I realised that many girls of my age must have never heard of them. So, I decided to write a book that would encourage girls to take up science. Conventionally, boys are assumed to be qualitatively better in science than girls and it took these pioneers in science&nbsp; a lot of guts to break that barrier. I want to do so myself and encourage other young girls too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <b>What was your experience as you progressed with the book and how long did it take to write it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, the idea of the book did not come first. Arts, is a hobby that I love to indulge in and so I began by drawing portraits of women scientists, which got a lot of positive reactions, especially of Madam Smriti Irani, when I met her in her office and showed my works to her.&nbsp; She supported my idea, which encouraged me to start writing poems and stories about Indian women scientists. It took me nearly a year beginning in April 2020 to March 2021 to complete “Gutsy Girls of Science”. I got a lot of free time to ideate and write the book as it was the Covid pandemic lockdown period.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <b>Do you have plans to write another book and what would be the theme?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I do have plans to write another book and it would be about women equality, which is a topic very close to my heart. The idea is still in its nascent stage and yet to take a concrete shape. I personally think books and words have a great way of conveying ideas and more than anything else books can influence your thought process, your ideas and your dreams. Currently, I am excited about finetuning my new project - a machine learning tool tracking gender bias through stories.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>•&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <b>How did the moment feel when a publisher as reputed as Harper Collins agreed to publish your work?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s like a dream come true for me when Harper Collins, a reputed name in the world of books, published my book. They were very supportive. I also did get a lot of support from different quarters, including the UNESCO, who came on board as part of this project. It was another great moment for me when our Hon’ble Prime Minster, Mr Narendra Modi, lauded my work. I would say that it is almost a group project where so many people came together to make it possible. I owe this achievement to my parents, who have been very supportive throughout in realizing my dream project. The source of inspiration for this concept has been my mother, who is an engineer and all the other superbly talented women in science I have discovered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tue Mar 08 09:52:58 IST 2022 curtains-set-to-go-up-musical-ambedkar-delhi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In an interview once, veteran actor Mammootty recalled an incident on the sets of the biopic <i>Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar</i> which went on to win three National Awards in 1999, including best actor for the Malayalam star. During a shoot of the film at Pune University, a professor fell at the feet of the actor who was so convincingly attired as Ambedkar that he is supposed to have exclaimed, "Babasaheb, Sorry, You are standing in front of me."</p> <p>Television and film actor Rohit Roy hopes to create a similar effect on audiences as he dons the role of the father of the Indian constitution on stage. On 25 February curtains are set to go up on 'Bahasaheb-The Grand Musical' organised by the Delhi government. To be screened till March 12 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the play will be open to the public for free and promises to be a Broadway-style musical production on the life and legacy of a man who is the architect of modern India, perhaps the greatest political leader after Mahatma Gandhi.</p> <p>Directed by Mahua Chauhan, Rohit Roy will be playing the role of Babasaheb along with Tekam Joshi and Tisca Chopra as narrators. Indian Ocean has composed the music for the play and production designer Omung Kumar (<i>Black</i> (2005), <i>Saawariya</i> (2007) has created a 100 ft stage.</p> <p>Visibly nervous as he takes a break between final rehearsals at the venue, Roy says he might have started to look at bit like Babasaheb himself. "There are two things that can happen. I am absolutely unable to convince people that I am Ambedkar. In that case I will just have to shut shop and go home. Or if I can get people to say arrey yeh toh Babasaheb hai stage pe, then there's nothing like it," says Roy who did not have much access to recorded footage to understand his stage character. "I am not trying to ape him physically, but I am trying to project his persona emotionally and psychologically. That 's my challenge. He was hugely influential but also very underrated, strong yet quite vulnerable and to recreate that on stage for an hour and a half was not easy," says Roy who came into the spotlight some 26 years ago when he played Rishabh Malhotra in the Doordarshan show <i>Swabhimaan</i> written by Shobha De and directed by Mahesh Bhatt.</p> <p>But Roy warns that the play does not intend to preach or be straight-off autobiography. "It is an entertaining larger-than-life musical with great song and dance interspersed with what his life was all about. So we are showing his childhood, how he had to suffer. His struggles from an early age when he couldn't even go to school without being insulted every single day. But how he never gave up. That's my takeaway too," say Roy who believes he, too, was chosen for the role because of his persistence in the face of several obstacles in the entertainment industry. "<i>Swabhiman</i> premiered 26 years back on Doordarshan and I am still here, getting to play these kind of roles."</p> <p>Before getting back on stage to join his actors, he repeats his favourite line from the play. "Jis raste mein main chal pada hu, usme na to koi reverse gear hai na U turn (There is no reverse gear or U-turn on the road I have set out on)”.&nbsp;</p> Fri Feb 25 11:35:22 IST 2022 khajuraho-dance-fest-commences-on-world-heritage-temple-premises <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Renowned artists from across the country will be performing in the week-long 48th Khajuraho Dance Festival – 2022, the signature annual event of Madhya Pradesh that got on to a start on the world heritage temple premises on Sunday.</p> <p>On the inaugural day, disciples of Kathak exponent late Birju Maharaj from Kalashram in New Delhi gave a Kathak performance and Shanta-V.P. Dhananjayan troupe from Chennai performed a group Bharatnatyam dance. On Monday evening, Sujata Mahapatra of Bhubaneswar was scheduled to perform Odissi, Nirupama Rajendra of Bangalore a Bharatnatyam-Kathak Samagama and Jayarama Rao and troupe of Delhi a group Kuchipudi performance.</p> <p>Many other exponents will perform during the next five days at the festival. Simultaneously other art-culture activities will continue at the venue.&nbsp; They include&nbsp; Ekagra-Nepathya – an exhibition with focus on Kathak and showcasing the cultural landscape and journey of Indian dance-styles, Art-Mart - an art exhibition featuring works from other countries of the world as well as India, Kalavarta - a dialogue between artists and art experts, Pranati- a solo exhibition on art contribution of senior painter Laxminarayan Bhavsar, Hunar – a fair of&nbsp; indigenous knowledge and traditions and Chalchitra – screenings of films based on art traditions and artists.</p> <p>The festival is being organized jointly by the Ustad Alauddin Khan Sangeet and Kala Academy of the state Culture Department, the Madhya Pradesh Parishad, the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board, the Archaeological Survey of India and the Chhatarpur district administration.</p> <p>The festival was inaugurated on Sunday evening by Governor Mangubhai Patel. Speaking on the occasion, he said that the exquisite stone art of Khajuraho will get global recognition with the Khajuraho Dance Festival. It will leave an indelible mark not only on the state and the country but also on the cultural landscape of the world.</p> <p>State culture and tourism minister Usha Thakur, Micro, small and medium enterprises minister Omprakash Sakhlecha and BJP state president and Khajuraho Member of Parliament Vishnu Dutt Sharma were also present.</p> <p>Thakur said that spirituality is the underlying vision of all the arts in India. Dance styles have emerged from the traditions of temples in India. The sculptures of Khajuraho in the form of these rhythmic dance postures are the living tableaux of Indian philosophy. It is a journey from the outer world to the inner world. In view of the greatness of dance and its contribution to human life, a resource and reference centre of classical dance will be established in Khajuraho, the minister said.</p> <p>Principal Secretary, Culture and Tourism, Sheo Shekhar Shukla said that the platform of Khajuraho dance festival holds a special place in the world. This platform is very important for many eminent artists of the country and abroad. It is the endeavor of the government that in the coming times, artists from different cultures of the country and abroad will be given an opportunity to showcase their talent.<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><b>Envoys of 8 countries witness performances</b></p> <p>Ambassadors and High Commissioners of eight countries joined with their family to witness the inaugural performances of the 48th Khajuraho Dance Festival. They included ambassador of Vietnam Pham Sanh Chau, Lao ambassador Bounneme Chouanghom, Finland ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde, Brunei high commissioner Dato Alaihuddin Mohamed Taha, and Hamid Abdul Hidayat, high commissioner of Malaysia.<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rashtriya Kalidas Samman and Rajya Roopankar Kala Puraskar conferred</b></p> <p>During the Sunday programme, Rashtriya Kalidas Samman of the MP government was given for classical dance to Sunaina Hazari Lal for the year 2019-20 and Shanta and V.P. Dhananjayan for the year 2020-21. They were given a prize money of Rs 2 lakh, a plaque of honor, a shawl and a shriphal. Also, the Rajya Roopankar Kala awards were presented for the year 2022. Devkrishna Jatashankar Joshi Award was given to Priya Sisodia of Badnavar, Mukund Sakharam Bhand Award to Swapan Tarafdar of Indore, Syed Haider Raza Award to Durgesh Birthare of Jabalpur, Dattatreya Damodar Devlalikar Award to Narendra Jatav of Ashoknagar, Jagdish Swaminathan Award to Sanjay Dhawale of Ashok Nagar, Vishnu Chinchalkar Award to Muni Sharma of Gwalior, Narayan Shridhar Bendre Award to Agnesh Kerketta of Bhopal, Raghunath Krishnarao Phadke Award to Rituraj Shrivastava of Jabalpur, Ram Manohar Sinha Award to Jyoti Singh of Sagar and the Lakshmi Shankar Rajput award to Sonali Chouhan (Peethwe) of Dewas.</p> Mon Feb 21 18:51:23 IST 2022 content-creator-shivangi-yadavs-perseverance-helps-her-make-a-na <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In this 21st-century, content creation is one of the career opportunity that is getting a lot of hype. There are many people who are emerging as YouTubers, content creators, social media influencers, etc. However, not every content we see is worth watching, some creators merely post content for namesake but then there are many talented ones who put in a lot of effort to make entertaining content. One such social media content creator who wholeheartedly makes content for her audience is Shivangi Yadav. Her constant efforts and determination is what have made her reach new heights.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The multitalented creator’s content creation is not only limited to Instagram, she likes to explore, hence she creates videos for YouTube as well. Additionally, she is also a model and a fashion blogger.&nbsp;<a href=""></a><a href=""><u>Shivangi’s</u></a>&nbsp;unique content is what has made her stand out among all and has helped her gain over 368K followers on Instagram. Many well-renowned brands like her quality content, therefore they have collaborated with her and have always loved the end result. Her niche is beauty, clothing , and electronics, hence this is what you will mainly see on her account. Shivangi is someone who loves to keep up with trends and tries to bring innovations in her content, thus she always brings something new for her audiences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b><i>Early life and stepping into the Instagram world</i></b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 22-year-old Instagram influencer did her schooling in Uttar Pradesh and has been a part of the modelling industry since the days of her graduation.&nbsp;<a href=""></a><a href=""><u>Shivangi</u></a>&nbsp;has always preferred to balance things and sticking to that, she stood determined and never let her studies and career overpower each other. During her college days, the Instagram world was starting to grow, and seeing that, she also started posting her alluring pictures with beautifully written captions. Later on, she started taking content more seriously and started posting fun reels &amp; photos timely, all of this eventually led to her growth. She wants to return the same love to her audience and for that, she tries to interact with them through live sessions, Instagram stories, etc.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b><i>Fitness Freak</i></b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shivangi Yadav is a person who likes to follow a diet and loves to work out. She believes that staying healthy both physically and mentally is very important. Her workout plan involves doing cardio, spin classes, and yoga. She follows a strict balanced diet that involves high protein and low fats. Obviously, she also rewards herself with cheat days, her favourite fast food include pizza and chocolate. Working out gives her body as well as her mind a sense of relaxation and peace. “Exercise and eat healthy today so that you stay safe from diseases tomorrow,” this is something that always motivates Shivangi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fashionista Shivangi Yadav loves to dress up and try new styles of clothing, therefore you can always visit her account for some fashion inspiration. She also likes acting and dancing and her favourite thing in this entire world is to travel and explore new places. In the near future, she sees herself growing more in the field of content creation and making even a bigger name for herself in the industry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu May 19 16:46:40 IST 2022 business-magnate-sudha-reddy-of-hyderabad-is-a-vision-of-ultimate-grace-on-the-inaugural-south-cover-of-hello-india <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Indian edition of the world's number one celebrity magazine, HELLO! has finally launched its maiden South edition this month. Featuring the very suave and spirited Sudha Reddy as the cover star, the coveted glossy unveils the entrepreneur-philanthropist's personal and professional milestone moments as they delve into her diverse journey as a housewife and career woman.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the cover, Sudha Reddy is a perfect embodiment of glamour and grace as she flaunts an artfully moulded dress by Gaurav Gupta Couture. Exuding a heady mix of oomph and allure the fashionista is seen sporting classic signature diamond jewellery from Kishandas and Co and completes the glitzy look with a dramatic egg clutch by Judith Leiber Couture</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Belonging to one of South India's most influential families, Reddy, has come a long way—balancing life at home, while spearheading projects as the director of MEIL and her philanthropic efforts with the Sudha Reddy Foundation.The style, glamour and jet-set lifestyle she leads has cemented her position as a major mover and shaker in Hyderabad and beyond.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reddy who is a name to reckon with in the social circles of the state of Telangana, having diligently worked towards the upliftment of the underprivileged sections of society since the past decade is quoted saying to the glossy "Meeting Anna Wintour, Serena Williams and the Kardashians was a lot of fun at the Met Gala. The most I gelled with, though, was Gigi Hadid. She was great fun to hang out with, as was Rihanna—beauty with personality,"</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In another social media post, the glossy highlights her innate passion for couture and quotes her, "When it comes to my day-to-day life, I can say that I live and breathe fashion. That is the reason I opted for a professional degree in the field — to understand the nuances of fashion from an expert eye. Ever since I was a little girl, I've been drawn to the glamour,"</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hailed as one of India Inc's most noteworthy do-gooders, Sudha Reddy propounds the inclusive microcosm of billionaires. Moving from 'cheque philanthropy' to 'hands-on philanthropy', the Sudha Reddy Foundation works towards causes of affordable healthcare and accessible education. She currently is a director of Megha Group Of Industries and was recently felicitated with the coveted 'Champions of Change' award by the Telangana government. With a commitment and vision to continually pledge out of her personal wealth, she handed over grants to two charities viz. 'Action Against Hunger and Fight Hunger Foundation' and 'Breast Cancer Research Foundation' in Paris with Elizabeth Hurley in attendance. She was the only Indian and first Hyderabad origin celebrity to be invited to the iconic Met Gala ball in 2021.</p> Thu May 19 11:47:30 IST 2022 why-hitlers-nazi-regime-stole-and-destroyed-thousands-of-artworks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As part of the government's efforts to speed up restitution, the French senate recently approved the return of 15 artworks taken from Jews during World War II. The vote allows public museums that own the works, such as the world-famous Musée d'Orsay in Paris, to transfer ownership to the original owners' heirs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After passing the lower house of parliament in late January, the bill was passed by the Senate. All that is needed now for it to take effect is President Emmanuel Macron's signature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To speed up the process, the government established a special unit in 2018 to try to search down the owners' heirs rather than waiting for them to come forward. Gustav Klimt's 'Rose bushes under trees' is one of the paintings slated to be returned.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mose Levi de Benzion, a businessman, was apprehended in 1940 with watercolours and sketches by French 19th-century artists. Only 169 artworks have been returned to their owners since 1951, of an estimated 2,200 kept by the French state, before these four works were returned.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Between 1933 and 1945, Germany’s Nazi regime confiscated over 600,000 works of fine art. Some were sold, some were destroyed, some hoarded. And till date about 100,000 artworks are still unaccounted for—what was the motive behind this act? Works of which artists were stolen? One of the main reasons for this, according to historians, is that Adolf Hitler hated non-traditionist or modern art, a DW report reads. Also, very few know that Hitler was a former painter, twice rejected by Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From Berlin’s National Gallery, the Nazi regime confiscated about 500 artworks, including Karl Hofer's repainted piece, &quot;The Black Rooms (Version II)&quot; under the direction of the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. They also confiscated Hofer’s self-portraits. This then became part of a ‘degenerate’ exhibit of 600 paintings, which people were forced to visit. And the paintings hung askew with racial slurs and Nazi rhetoric scrawled on the walls.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By the end of 1933, the Berlin National Gallery replaced human portraits with landscapes and neutral works of art. One famous painting looted by the Nazis was ‘Flanders’ by Otto Dix, which features near-death soldiers slumped in trenches. In 1937, Berlin’s National Gallery stopped accepting works from living artists altogether.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Erwin Hahs, who was persecuted by the Nazis, was commissioned to paint a portrait of the dictator for a school in Stendal. He painted Hitler in front of smouldering red-hued ruins, and the piece was rejected by the administration. Hahs reused the canvas, painting a nude and giving it the title ‘Great Requiem’, a DW report reads. Yet another reason why so many artworks could have been seized is that Nazis sought to remove any non-Germanic or rather Jewish influences from their culture. Hitler abhorred modernist art movements such as Expressionism, Surrealism, Dada, and especially Cubism as practised by so-called “Bolsheviks and Jews” like Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso—in short, anything that had to do with unspoiled ‘innocence’ associated with such ‘Aryan’ ideals of racial purity. Any art deemed unpatriotic was immediately removed or ‘cleansed’ from museums. Funds generated from several of the sold works funded the Nazi regime’s war machine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some prized finds from the plundered artworks found a place in the Führermuseum, where Hitler housed his vision of art. Among artists whose works were confiscated and destroyed included Paul Klee and those of Wassily Kandinsky<i>.</i></p> Fri Feb 18 22:21:33 IST 2022 sudhir-patwardhan-paints-the-underbelly-of-creating-art-in-a-pandemic <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Cities and the urban milieu have been the natural habitat of painter Sudhir Patwardhan, whose works in the realist tradition celebrate the jostling contradictions of everyday living. But in his ongoing show, ‘Portraits of an Existential Artist’, the 72-year-old contemporary artist reflects on the frustrating experience of creating &nbsp;art in a pandemic. </p> <p>In this series of paintings made over the course of the year 2021, the passions of anxiety inextricable from creative impulses in the studio are transformed into fierce acts of vexation, as Patwardhan himself departs from the familiar contours of his dominant realist language for powerful expressionism. &nbsp;He reveals the underbelly of creation and creativity through the trope of the aggressive artist who is not only cut off from public experience and circulation, but is also grappling with perpetual dissatisfaction, as artists have throughout the ages. </p> <p>Edited excerpts from an interview. </p> <p><b>How did the pandemic impact your creative process and shift the trajectory of your practice?</b></p> <p>The period was very disturbing and one had to come to terms with a new reality. But I will not credit the pandemic with shifting the trajectory of my practice. The genesis of the current body of work was something I had done earlier. One, however, became preoccupied with some darker aspects of the creative process.</p> <p><b>Did you also ponder over how artists have responded to claustrophobia and restrictions in pandemics past?</b></p> <p>Yes. &nbsp;Not only in pandemics but in various social and political situations in which our freedoms are constrained.</p> <p><b>Is the series also a larger inquiry into producing art under severely constrained circumstances, personal and political?</b></p> <p>It is a larger inquiry into art as such. It is about the contradictions within art. The question of beauty on one hand and truth on the other. The artist's position as impartial observer or sympathetic participant or protester against injustice.</p> <p><b>Dipping into arts and literature in isolation has proven to be a great source of comfort and personal growth for many who consume it in their leisurely hours. But for an artist tasked with the responsibility to create works which are meaningful and lasting, how did the pandemic exacerbate an identity crisis?</b></p> <p>The period of isolation, absence of live interaction with artist friends, no exhibitions happening, all this made one turn inward and look critically at what one was when one claimed to be an artist.</p> <p><b>Would you like to highlight any work in the 2021 series which was particularly cathartic to create?</b></p> <p>The work that started the series was 'Tear' which actually came from a very old drawing of mine. That work got me thinking of these problems and the final works 'War 1 and 2' ended up going in quite a different direction. So I traversed a range of emotions and thoughts in this body of work. But 'Tear' was the source.</p> <p><i>The exhibition is on view at Vadehra Art Gallery in New Delhi till February 23.</i></p> Sat Feb 19 18:10:10 IST 2022 International-Womens-Day-2022-BreakTheBias <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On International Women's Day 8<sup>th </sup>March, <b>Dr Rudra Prasad Acharya – Director Surgical Oncology , Paras Cancer Center </b>highlights about the fight of Cancer among Womens.&nbsp; Today's woman is multi-faceted; who takes care of the family as well as her aspirations. There are times when she falls prey to lifestyle diseases. <b><i>Women health problems </i></b>are on the rise partly because of a constant race against time and partly due to sheer ignorance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cancer rates have increased consistently throughout the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Cancer has become the second cause of mortality after cardiovascular diseases worldwide, and this has influenced local, national and global health policies. With being the most common type of cancer in women, breast cancer accounts for 14% of cancers in Indian women. It is reported that with every four minutes, an Indian woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is on the rise, both in rural and urban India.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE RISE OF CANCER IN WOMEN</b></p> <p>There’s no escaping the fine print –&nbsp;<b><i>Breast cancer</i></b><i>&nbsp;</i>is the most common form of cancer in the country, having overtaken&nbsp;<b>C<i>ervical cancer</i></b>. In cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, breast cancer accounts for 25% to 32% of all female cancers, more than 1/4th of all female cancers. It’s also more common in the younger age group, almost 50% of all cases are in the age group of 25-50 and more than 70% of the cases present in the advanced stage had poor survival and high mortality.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first question that my patients who are diagnosed with cancer ask is - W<b>hy Me?</b></p> <p>Is there a profile for women who suffer from breast, cervical or ovarian cancer? For ladies, they think that diagnosis of breast or cervical cancer is a writing on the wall and perhaps her days are numbered. But it's not really like that; newer techniques of surgery and chemo – radiotherapy has led to not only cure but also can preserve the feminity. <br> <br> </p> <p><b>“NORMAL" AFTER CANCER TREATMENT?</b></p> <p>Yes, let’s admit it getting diagnosed with&nbsp;breast cancer, fighting questions like ‘why me’, subsequent treatment, tackling the anxiety about survival…all these can drain you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It’s not easy to overcome all these but then, nothing worth conquering and cherishing for life does come easy to anyone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Those who have gone through cancer treatment describe the first few months as a time of change. It’s not so much "getting back to normal" as it is finding out what’s normal for you now. People often say that life has new meaning or that they look at things differently. You can also expect things to keep changing as you begin your recovery.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For some survivors, the long-term effects of cancer and its treatment may be made worse by the effects of aging, or by other health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, that you may have had before cancer. Breast cancer survivors who have had surgery may find everyday activities like reaching or stretching painful; health conditions such as arthritis can make these activities even more difficult.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some cancer treatments may cause future health problems, sometimes these problems don't appear right away; some don't appear until years after treatment.</p> <p>In one way or another, they all have to do with the quality of your life, which has been threatened and disrupted by cancer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When you are dealing with cancer, you face many goals and challenges. Some of these are medical and physical, some are emotional, and others are interpersonal and spiritual. Psychological , emotional &amp; social concerns related to disease and treatment are common in Indian women in relation to prevailing societal attitudes regarding the role of women as wife, mother, and the carer of older in-laws. Hair loss caused particular distress. Family and faith were key support systems for almost all the women, although it was also the causes of distress for some.</p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Changes of body Image</b></p> <p>Post-surgery, there will be scars and bruises in the chest/breast area. If a mastectomy is performed as part of the treatment, it may make a survivor feel incomplete. In addition to these are hair fall and its eventual regrowth. All these physical changes would affect the survivors emotionally too. But newer techniques of surgery makes the scars less prominent and breast conservative surgery and reconstruction techniques make feel to retain “<b>Women – ness”</b>.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Coping with emotional and social effects</b></p> <p>You can have emotional and social effects after a cancer diagnosis. This may include dealing with difficult emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, or anger, or managing your stress level. Sometimes, people find it difficult to express how they feel to their loved ones.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Coping with the stigma of Cervical cancer</b></p> <p>Cervical cancer, like other cancers that affect the sex organs, can be difficult or uncomfortable to discuss. People with many different types of cancer, such as testicular, penile, vaginal, and vulvar cancers, can experience feelings of embarrassment when discussing these sensitive areas of their bodies. Living with this stigma can make patients feel guilty, hopeless, embarrassed, ashamed, and isolated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Coping with psychological issues</b></p> <p>Almost all cancer survivors will face psychological and emotional issues&nbsp; like fear of reoccurrence, depression, body image etc. that can show up many years after treatment. The good news is that you don’t have to suffer alone. Therapy, support groups, social media and community resources are available to help you cope with these issues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Coping with the workplace</b></p> <p>Women Cancer survivors often feel that they can no longer relate to co-workers who haven’t experienced cancer. You may be reluctant to talk about your cancer treatment to employers or co-workers for fear of being treated differently.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Here are a few tips for embracing your new normal and inspiring others along the way:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Be Patient with Yourself</b></p> <p>Even when treatment is over, your physical body and emotional spirit are still healing. You might be anxious about going back to work, school, or having to take care of your family. You could still feel very, very tired. It’s important to remember that fatigue and other&nbsp;side effects of treatment don’t go away as soon as treatment ends. Whether with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or all of the above, your body just went through a major trauma and needs time to heal.<br> <br> Another thing some people struggle with is how their hair is growing back -- thicker, thinner, curlier, or even different color. Hair loss and regrowth might seem like a trivial aspect of cancer treatment, but it can have a big impact on a person’s outlook and ability to feel like themselves again. They develop thicker and stronger hair to maintain the body image. <br> <br> All of these feelings and concerns are completely normal. With a little patience and support from friends and family, and frequent checkups with your physician, you can gradually find your new normal.</p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>GO Greens</b></p> <p>Some people equate surviving cancer with getting a new lease on life. As a reason to ditch bad habits and focus on things that make you feel good -- inside and out. Eating a balanced diet high in antioxidants is one of the best and easiest ways to boost your health. There are even certain foods that can strengthen your immune system and help you maintain a healthy body weight, which are primary factors in the fight against cancer. There are many of these foods, including broccoli, tomatoes, blueberries and walnuts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Get Moving</b></p> <p>There is convincing evidence that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of cancers of the colon and breast. But even more importantly, there’s also research that shows that regular exercise can reduce the recurrence of breast cancer.<br> <br> Exercise can also play a huge role in helping cancer survivors feel energized again. Evidence shows that exercise boosts your mood, your memory and can even help reverse the effects of stress.<br> <br> </p> <p><b>The Takeaway…</b></p> <p>Life for women after cancer will have its ups and downs. Some days will be better than others, but you’ll always have a different, unique, perspective on life to draw from.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When you are dealing with cancer, you face many goals and challenges. Some of these are medical and physical, some are emotional, and others are interpersonal and spiritual. In one way or another, they all have to do with the quality of your life, which has been threatened and disrupted by cancer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The survival rates of breast cancer in India are low because the detection takes place late.&nbsp;The only way to change these numbers is by increasing awareness. Breast cancer is a treatable disease and chances of survival are higher if it’s detected in time. The only way to do so is by being aware of how it can be detected and early diagnosis can be done.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Other ways to overcome this is by&nbsp; leading a healthy lifestyle, being aware of family medical histories – so that if you know you’re genetically inclined towards it, you can take preventive drugs or undergo preventive surgery. The simplest way to&nbsp;breast cancer prevention&nbsp;is by being able to do a&nbsp;self-breast examination. Women should be doing this on a regular basis after they turn 30.</p> <p><i>Remember, with acceptance comes peace; not everyone survives the onslaught of cancer. </i>If you’re survivor, it simply means that you’re tough and you have it in you to give cancer and its side effects a run for their money.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So today on <b>#International Women's Day of 2022,</b> our aim is to fix the bias and erase any gender inequality. How can we do this? By addressing ourselves. You, as women, should become strong, Do not let somebody else look after your health, Do not wait for somebody else to take you to a facility, do it yourself.&nbsp; Be careful yourself, eat well, watch out. Don't stick to leftovers, eat with the family. Eat a good diet and remain healthy; don't just keep sitting, WALK. Go out there and walk yourself towards health and be your gender equal.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I wish <b><i>All the Best to all young, old, very old and very young women out there; remember Womens are pride of the house and nation, keep your head high and today's survivors are better motivated and determined to achieve more in their life.. !</i></b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><br> <b>Written By:</b></p> <p><b>Dr Rudra Prasad Acharya</b></p> <p><b>Director CUSP Surgical Solutions &amp;<br> Director Surgical Oncology,<br> Minimal Invasive &amp; Robotic Oncosurgery</b></p> <p><b>MS, FAIS, FIAGES</b></p> <p><b>Fellow, Surgical Oncology (GCRI)</b></p> <p><b>Colorectal fellow (Sydney, Australia)</b></p> <p><b>HPB fellow (Tokya, Japan) <br> Paras&nbsp; Cancer Centre, <br> Paras Group of Hospitals <br> Gurgaon, Haryana <br> <br> To Reach him;</b></p> <p><b>Call <u>+919810718247 or +918750062747</u></b></p> <p><b>Email <a href=""></a></b></p> <p><b>Website <a href=""></a></b></p> <p><br> <br> </p> Tue Mar 08 11:34:55 IST 2022 dont-be-a-bystander-and-other-ways-to-combat-cyberbullying <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a 2020 study titled 'Online Safety and Internet Addiction' conducted by CRY (Child Rights and You), covering 630 adolescents across eights schools in Delhi-NCR, nine per cent admitted to experiencing cyberbullying. Its incidence increased with age, with 3 to 17 per cent of 13 to 17 year olds falling prey to it.</p> <p>One in every tenth respondent had been a victim of profile misuse or account hacking. Around 23 per cent saw morphed images or videos on the internet. Some 28 per cent, who spent more than four hours a day on the internet, faced cyberbullying. And only 1/4th of the respondents had any correct knowledge about the minimum age of making a social media account.</p> <p>The report was out in March 2020, and in May, the 'Bois Locker Room' exploded when a private chat group on Instagram made by a group of Delhi schoolboys shared obscene images of their female peers. One of the key recommendations in a 2021 policy document, released by CRY, is that child protection workforce that provides victim support, such as helplines and functionaries appointed under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), and village child protection committees, are best placed to help child victims of online abuse and exploitation.</p> <p>In an interview, Soledad Herrero, chief of Child Protection at UNICEF, shares her thoughts on ways to safeguard children and teenagers from being bullied online.</p> <p><b>Teenagers have, in many instances, begun to use social media as a platform to shame, punish or avenge peer groups they don't respect or align with. How does one monitor such behaviour?</b></p> <p>Parents, guardians and teachers must understand that the environment and contexts that lead to offline violence and abuse are also the precursors of online violence. To counter them, there is a need to inculcate a protective environment with a supportive family. This ensures mental well-being with inbuilt mechanisms for reporting such incidents.</p> <p>It is also important for us to be a part of the online experiences of our children. We can do this by familiarising ourselves with the platforms used by children, explaining how the online and the offline worlds are connected, and warning them about the many risks they will face online. When we do this, we lower the risk of online violence or abuse, and are better prepared to address it when it occurs.</p> <p><b>How has the pandemic exacerbated cyberbullying of teenagers in India?</b></p> <p>The Covid-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our children's lives in ways we are yet to fully grasp. It has exacerbated the pandemic of mental health issues, of poverty, and even domestic violence. It has deprived children from access to education, recreation, and socialisation. It has put additional economic stress on families which were struggling to make ends meet, leading to children dropping out of school, possibly slipping into child labour, child marriage, or other forms of violence, abuse, or exploitation.</p> <p>Children have lost parents and relatives, and have experienced grief, isolation, and anxiety. All these have worsened the already precarious mental health situation of millions of children in the country. Trends around suicides among students are of increasing concern.</p> <p>The capacity of child protection services and overall support system to prevent and respond to children in distress have also been affected, as those who would normally identify symptoms of violence or abuse—teachers, community members, relatives—have had limited contact with those children.</p> <p><b>What correctional measures can be suggested</b></p> <p>In the Covid-19 world, the use of internet has expanded exponentially as a result of online schooling, or more generally as a means to connect, socialise or for recreation. This, as I said, is something that should be welcomed as it happens in a way where the associated risks are mitigated. Firstly, of course, time spent online needs to be controlled and should not go beyond periods that will affect the mental well-being of children. Screen time should not, cannot, replace the time a child spends playing, socialising, discovering in the real world. Secondly, it needs to be supervised. Unfortunately, parents and caregivers, particularly from most vulnerable families, have had to leave children unsupervised for longer periods. Some reports in India identified a 95 per cent increase in internet search for child sexual abuse material in India. Thirdly, use of internet needs be linked with children having access to digital literacy and support systems to navigate the online world.</p> <p><b>What are some of the essential missing links when it comes to proper cyber education/cyber hygiene curriculum in India?</b></p> <p>The first thing that parents and caregivers should do is educate their children about bullying. Once they know what bullying is, children will be able to identify it more easily, whether it is happening to them or someone else. Also the more they talk to their children about bullying, the more comfortable the children will be telling them if they see or experience it.</p> <p>The second thing parents can do, should do, is becoming role models. They need to show their child how to treat other children and adults with kindness and respect by doing the same to the people around, including speaking up when others are being mistreated. Children look to their parents as examples on how to behave, including what to post online.</p> <p>Another message for adolescents is don’t be a bystander. There are three parties to bullying: the victim, the perpetrator, and the bystander. If they witness bullying, they can stick up for the victim, offer support, and/or question bullying behaviors. You can prevent bullying by being inclusive, respectful and kind to your peers. So if you are reading this, seize the opportunity and become a cyberbullying warrior.</p> Wed Feb 16 17:38:39 IST 2022 lessons-in-times-of-corona-how-two-teachers-turned-messiahs-for-students <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Two teachers from Jharkhand and West Bengal became messiahs for students in their respective villages during the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the closure of around 1.5 million schools and impacted over 247 million children across India. Sapan Kumar of Jharkhand’s Dumka district and Deep Narayan Nayak of Jamuria, Asansol in West Bengal decided that the children should not be deprived of their fundamental right to education because of Covid-induced lockdowns, and so, they made elaborate plans, against all odds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though he was caught off guard by the first lockdown in March 2020, Kumar, head teacher (in-charge) of the Dumarthar Upper Grade Middle School, by April, had drawn up a blueprint to continue teaching. Along with other teachers of his school, one afternoon in April, following discussions with the head of the village and other stakeholders, he set out to convert the front yards of the villagers’ huts to makeshift classrooms. In no time, the walls of the huts were turned into blackboards on which everything from English and Hindi alphabets to mathematical tables were written. School began in earnest. It was given a name, too: The Blackboard Model School.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I found it hard to sleep at night, so worried was I about the adivasi children’s plight. They are first-generation students for whom attending school regularly is a major challenge. With schools closed, it would be a huge setback for them and could even drive them to delinquency,” said Kumar. He taught the children to do up the walls with organic substances and write on them by painting the letters, numbers and pictures. They were also taught important Covid-19 rules of wearing masks, using sanitisers and maintaining social distance, even as they learnt to read and write in Kumar’s Gaon ki Pathshala. In a couple of months, the number of students increased to 300. “The unstinted support of the villagers and the enthusiasm of the children brought tears to my eyes even as it brought me a sense of deep satisfaction,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To prevent financial difficulties from coming in the way of his hard work, he taught the children to make the school sustainable. Starting from making their own chalks to weaving the mats on which they sat in class, the children learnt to make everything, “Thanks to Swapan Sir, we have forgotten our original school,” said little Sanmani. A mix of soil, cow dung and leaves and combining the concoction with water, Sanmani, Sanju and Munni made their own blackboards. There were soon two such centres of education in Dumarthar and two others in Simaria and Chandanpura.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The children from the backward villages go there regularly. “In future, when the schools reopen and the children go back to school, I shall turn these blackboards into information centres to share important data with the villagers. I will also use them for adult education. UNICEF has lauded our efforts and our honourable prime minister has acknowledged my services in his Mann ki Baat programme. People from many countries have got in touch with me to find out about the model we have devised for the spread of education,” said Kumar.</p> <p>Educator Nayak, on the other hand, was known to help the backward communities in any way he could. A teacher of the Tilka Majhi Adivasi Free Primary School, he offered free coaching to his students. In March 2020, he was bewildered when the schools closed. Stepping out of his house meant facing questions from the children for which he had no satisfactory answers. One day he went to the village adjacent to his school to inquire about the children. He found that some had gone to graze cattle, while others were sent to collect leaves to help their families eke out a living.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nayak was upset. The next day he met the parents of the children and spoke to them about starting a self-sustaining school. As everyone in the village knew about his philanthropic services, his noble efforts were easily accepted by the villagers. At a time when most people were wary of leaving their homes, Nayak stepped out every day to teach the children. He also gave them food - cake, biscuits, bread and milk, anything he could arrange – as a substitute for their midday meals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later, he started making efforts to eliminate the fear of Covid from the minds of the people, arranging for free vaccination in the interior areas and taking the ailing to the nearby health centres for treatment. He also started a mobile library which operates on weekends, travelling from one street corner to the next to spread education among the underprivileged people of Jamuria.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two teachers from two states, who have never met, have come up with their own ways of dealing with a crisis. When Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan had said that teachers should be the best minds in the country, he was perhaps speaking of principled and innovative educators such as Kumar and Nayak.&nbsp;</p> Tue Feb 15 12:42:18 IST 2022 ulysses-at-100-james-joyce-iconic-novel-is-still-a-captivating-paradox <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>For Jibu Mathew&nbsp;George, professor at English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), a stray remark by his student summed up the experience of reading James Joyce's 1922 novel <i>Ulysses</i>. &quot;It is like taking a child to a mall or department store. There are so many things he/she could buy there,&quot; recounts George, who has been teaching the doorstopper of a novel for over 12 years now. He says there couldn't be a better analogy for a literary masterpiece&nbsp;which has so much to offer even if it is predicated&nbsp;on the events of a single day. The modernist classic, dense and intoxicating, parallels&nbsp;Homer's <i>Odyssey</i> in its design, as it follows the encounters and engagements of an advertising canvasser Leopold Bloom over the course of one ordinary day in Dublin on 16 June 1904, its dizzying narrative arc stretching over 700 pages.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Irish writer Joyce is de rigueur reading in English literature departments all over the world. And much has been written about Ulysses in its 100th year of publication: Its&nbsp;pathbreaking&nbsp;reinvention of language duly acknowledged, its place as a milestone in western intellectual history fully cemented in the way it remains a &quot;monument to the human condition&quot;. But, how has it aged in India? What are the challenges of teaching a seemingly intimidating classic which requires much patience, at least to get past the first hundred pages. When few &quot;Eng Hons&quot; students dare to tread beyond Joyce's more accessible, early works like&nbsp;<i>Dubliners&nbsp;</i>and&nbsp;<i>A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man?&nbsp;</i>&quot;On one level, Ulysses is very encyclopaedic. It contains a lot of miscellaneous data which would otherwise be excluded from a realistic narrative. So, in that sense students are expected to have some cultural repertoire at their disposal, some prior exposure to reading texts on different levels. Like Homer, of course, the way language&nbsp;is used, a&nbsp;bit of European&nbsp;literature, some understanding of Dickens and Walter Pater, the Anglo-Saxon chronicles and the Latinate prose. On the other hand, the book is also very relatable,&quot; says George, highlighting the captivating paradox that is at the heart of reading Ulysses. He points our attention to a particularly tricky chapter/episode in the book called 'The Oxen of the Sun', which a magazine editor once described thus:&nbsp;“I think this episode might also have been called Hades for the reading of it is like being taken the rounds of hell.” It takes place in a maternity hospital in Dublin and the phrase refers to a pastiche of styles as it traces the growth of English as a language. In turn, it is made to parallel the growth of the fetus in the womb.&nbsp;&quot;In India, early Joyce is read at the undergraduate level, while later Joyce like Ulysses and <i>Finnegans Wake</i>, which is even more unique and esoteric, is recommended for Master's and later,&quot; adds George who completed his doctoral dissertation on Ulysses. Over the years, he's written a number of academic papers on it, apart from a book called&nbsp;<i>Ulysses Quotīdiānus: James Joyce’s Inverse Histories of the Everyday</i>.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While a serious examination of Ulysses can be more appropriately undertaken at the Master's&nbsp;level, there will always be early readers who will experience the complete &quot;newness&quot; of the text with reckonings like &quot;I have never been more intrigued&quot;. For Prisha Rewar, now in her third year of BA (Hons) in English at Jesus and Mary College, Ulysses happened sometime between school and college.&nbsp; For her, it was a &quot;joyous&quot; read, and was never seen through a &quot;literary-critical lens.&quot; She was constantly reminded of Mrs Dalloway, a 1925 novel by Virginia Woolf about a day in the life of a high-society woman in post-World War I England. Woolf had famously considered Ulysses with scorn in her early letters when she read it first. &quot;I kept on going back and forth between the two texts. But, the timeline traced in the book was very new to me. It was a very different classic in a good way. But I must say I was quite lost in the end. I couldn't figure it out. I kept thinking but what did the end want you to know? What was the output I was supposed to get from the book?,&quot; admits Rewar.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rimli Bhattacharya, professor in the arts faculty of Delhi university, teaches Joyce's short stories. Even though she hasn't taught Ulysses in her MA class, she does recognise the&nbsp;importance it has come to assume. She avers that without the breakthrough that Joyce achieved with his writing style and the image play in&nbsp;Ulysses, other experiments later in the 20th century wouldn't have happened, including perhaps by Salman Rushdie himself. &quot;Students do get overwhelmed by Ulysses, but if they have a good navigator who need not always be a teacher, someone who has delved into the book and enjoyed it, then it can be rewarding,&quot; says Bhattacharya. She did study Ulysses as a text while pursuing her PhD at Brown University in the 1980s, along with Marcel Proust and William Faulkner. &quot;That was my first serious engagement with Joyce. I remember feeling very lost. I asked one of my teachers that&nbsp;it's so rich and sensuous, but what can I write about it? I felt very powerless to write about it. I think it is a book that if one surrenders to, they enjoy it a lot more.&quot;</p> Wed Feb 16 10:41:50 IST 2022 author-pranay-patils-first-novel-serves-as-a-therapeutic-tool-to <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>All profits from ‘Burgundy Winters: in Europe’ to support underprivileged children</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Author Pranay Patil of India was overcome with feelings of helplessness during the pandemic as he watched others struggle around him.</p> <p>So, the trained engineer started to write.</p> <p>However, the words that filled the page for Patil were not of the typical technical nature one would expect from someone in his field.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, as he was shut inside his home like most others all around the world, Patil was crafting a tale of redemption with themes of paranormal and romance -- all for the sake of helpings others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I started writing the book during Covid because I felt guilty. I saw terrible things happening. People I would usually meet or call every day suddenly were not with us anymore, and I couldn’t do a thing to help them,” he said. “I was riddled with guilt because of that, and because I would see the people in the poorer sections of society couldn’t afford the care and treatment others could afford. It really hurt. But there was nothing else to do but write.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although he calls turning his attention to the page of his book a selfish act to rid himself of the guilt, Patil’s intentions could not have been more generous.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I wrote it with a mission in mind to give away all my profits from the book to underprivileged children to help them get a quality education,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Patil’s first book, “Burgundy Winters: in Europe,” transports readers through a dark journey of addiction, tragedy, love and self-forgiveness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Based on a true story, the book, released in early March, chronicles Jace Tanner, an American rocker who was battling a drug addiction. Following the death of his best friend from a cocaine overdose, Jace’s hardships intensify, now overcome with feelings of guilt and self-loathing of his own actions. After a stay in rehab, Jace finds new love that develops into a paranormal romance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book was published by England’s Crystal Peake in early March. As soon as Patil received his advance payment during the publishing process for the book, the money was issued to charity for children.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I thought it would wash away the guilt and helplessness I felt during the lockdowns. But there is still this feeling in my gut that might never go away,” he said. “It’s the helplessness of not being able to save those lives.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Patil said the survivor guilt he feels pushes him to stay strong and gather as much money from the sale of the book as he can to help others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It gives me a reason to keep going,” he said. “And in a way, I am being helped by this. Whenever I feed the hungry or make sure the needy get a treatment on par with the affluent, I feel a bit of my soul being restored. I feel worthy of life, and I feel blessed.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His inspiration for the book, which he said took him about a year to complete, came from his travels around Europe, noting he would often talk with his friends about his experiences and then decided to use them to craft the novel. It is currently available on <a href="">Amazon</a> and <a href="">Barnes &amp; Noble</a> in both print and digital formats.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Patil, success isn’t defined by how rich he can become as an author, but rather, how much good he can do with the money he makes. He has funded children with HIV in India to get them a quality education and a socially acceptable lifestyle. He said literary success for him would be “the ability to earn enough so that I can make a difference in the lives of the needy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Patil has found his talents in storytelling with his new book, he said he currently has no plans to write a second, noting that now as the pandemic restrictions become less binding, he would rather be out among those who need him the most.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Now I can go out and help people with my boots on the ground. I am a hands-on kind of guy and wouldn’t prefer sitting at home writing when there is nothing stopping me now from going out and helping,” he said. “I personally believe that we shouldn’t expect situations to change us. We must continue doing what we do in one way or the other.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s been a hard journey for Patil, but he said knowing he is helping has made all the difference, along with constant support from his family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“They are equally part of my journey,” he said. “It’s not a career for me, but a hobby that breaks me free from the shackles of social norms.”</p> <p>You can Buy his Book from here:-</p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <p>Join Podcast:- <a href=""></a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Mar 23 13:35:37 IST 2022 altogether-now-kai-po-che <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b><i>The kite flying festival began on Makar Sankranti, and it’s now the season as much for flying high as for cutting short.</i></b><br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>'Kai Po Che' won fame as the award-winning film starring the late lamented Sushant Singh Rajput. But long before the movie was even a gleam in the producer’s lens, ‘Kai Po Che’ was familiar in the western parts of India as the unofficial anthem of the kite flying season. You may think it is sung in praise of the joyous sight of gaily-coloured kites covering the skies as paper and string soar over wind and gravity to consort with the clouds.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sigh! The reality is little more mundane, and a lot more malicious. 'Kai Po Che' is Gujarati for ‘It’s been cut!’ It tells the world that the twine which held your high-flying possession has been cut and the kite is currently up for grabs for any number of rag-tag teams roaming the streets to pounce on strays. The way the words are sung crows victory into your ears, carries derision about your plight and heaps salt on your wounded pride.&nbsp;</p> <p>For many, this is ‘mission accomplished’. As a people, we seem to love cutting more than flying. While kite flying may be a seasonal affair, cutting is a year-round sport, ingrained in our culture and expressing itself in various ways. Mumbai’s preferred street beverage, for instance, is ‘Cutting’.&nbsp; Served in a sturdy shot glass, it is widely believed to be the secret of the city’s amazing go-getting spirit. At another level, we also cut in ahead of this alien arrangement called ‘queues’. Long lines tax our patience, and it obviously makes eminent good sense to cut in ahead of people who are patiently, dutifully and dumbly waiting their turn.&nbsp;</p> <p>We also like to cut into each other arguments. The most entertaining part of any televised debate in fact, is to see how participants cut into each other’s speeches, and an angst-ridden anchor cuts them all to size. Cuts were frequent in Bollywood cinema of an earlier vintage. The Board of Film Censors – as keen a bunch of scissor-wielding spoilsports as you would ever know – used to cut the more juicy scenes of films, leaving large numbers of the audience feeling sorely cheated. Things have changed now. We lighten the censors’ responsibility by taking matters into our own hands. If we do not approve of a scene, song or title, we simply threaten to cut loose. Filmmakers – sweet and reasonable souls as it turns out, fall over each other to do our bidding.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is of course in the blood sport called business that ‘the cut’ comes into its own. The scams starring Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi et al couldn’t have taken shape if bank and sundry company officials had not been in on the cut. They are continuing a long and lucrative tradition of under-the-table commerce. Long before Bofors hit the headlines, there was Jayanti Dharm Teja and Haridas Mundhra who wrote the opening lines for the scam saga of free India.&nbsp;</p> <p>Even before Indian industry could get into the act, however, there was the original baron of booty Robert Clive who proved once and for all that the purse is mightier than the sword. It takes two to tango, and Clive had willing Mir Jafars to complete the equation – as did our original parents in the Garden of Eden. But Adam appeared at a loss for words when confronted by the Almighty about the fruit cut from the Tree of Knowledge. If only he and his companion had moved east from Eden, he would have known exactly what to say: ‘Kai Po Che!’</p> <p><b>PS:</b> Surely it can’t be a coincidence that Budget Day falls just a fortnight after Makar Sankranti. Ms Nirmala Sitharaman must know that it is the proximity of the dates which prompts the nation’s middle class to plead for cuts all around – in duties, taxes and red tape. No mean kite flyer herself, Nirmala Seetharaman could turn the tables and cut those very subsidies and grants that make life livable for many. That, you will agree, would be the unkindest cut of all.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sun Jan 30 17:18:03 IST 2022 satire-9-to-5-a-day-in-the-life-of-a-neta <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Many of you must have got into a tizzy reading about netas changing parties quicker than a meticulous momma changing her baby’s nappies. So, I decided to get to the bottom of it all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>9am:</b></p> <p>“Good morning”, I greeted our neta just as he was hopping on to his bicycle for a campaign tour.</p> <p>“It’s a great morning,” he smiled. “It’s time for the Samajwadi Party to open a new innings.”</p> <p>“Er, you mean for the BJP, of course,” I cut in, “you had joined the BJP last evening.”</p> <p>“That was last evening. <i>Raat gayi, baat gayi</i>.”</p> <p>“Overnight, you jumped from BJP to Samajwadi Party?”</p> <p>“You media <i>wallahs</i> are putting words in my mouth. I didn’t jump.”</p> <p>“Sir, you just said….”</p> <p>“Get the facts right. I was in the BJP last evening. At midnight, I joined the Congress, then AIMIM and now I am where I belong – SP.” With that, the neta pedalled away into the UP morning mist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>10am:</b></p> <p>I caught up with the neta as he ploughed through breakfast. I glimpsed <i>kachori sabji, shahi paneer, thandai</i>….</p> <p>“A hearty breakfast, sir,” I said.</p> <p>Scooping <i>lasoon chatni</i> over his <i>kachori</i>, he smiled. “This gives me the energy to push the cause of the Bahujan Samaj Party.”</p> <p>“BSP?” I spluttered. “You are outdoing the Brits. Many years ago, a British prime minister had said a week is a long time in politics.”</p> <p>“Those Angrez know nothing,” the neta said contemptuously, “a breakfast is a long time in Indian politics – especially, UP politics.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>11am:</b></p> <p>The neta’s phone trilled a raucous Bhojpuri folk number. He had a quick, animated conversation, and then leaned forward to whisper in my ear: “Our RLD is sure to form the government.”</p> <p>“Sir, you mean BSP?”</p> <p>“No, that was before the phone call.”</p> <p>Saying that he got onto a new electric scooter he had acquired, and hit the campaign trail.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>12 noon:</b></p> <p>The <i>neta</i> returned masterfully riding pillion on a new motorcycle, and waving the pennants of the TMC.</p> <p>I couldn’t take it anymore, and posed the million dollar question: “WHY?”</p> <p>“I am a perfectionist,” he answered. I want to serve the people, and I am trying out newer and better ways to service, I mean, serve them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>1pm:</b></p> <p>“Sir, I have breaking news. Your brother’s daughter in law has joined the party that you left this morning.”</p> <p>The neta was unfazed. “Pah! What neither she nor her hubby knows is that their <i>kaka</i> and <i>kaki</i>, <i>nana</i> and <i>nani</i> will soon join my party, and so will Moti, the loyal mongrel and their goldfish.”</p> <p>“Is the family splitting up?”</p> <p>“You fellows talk so much about inner party democracy. We go one step further. We have inner family democracy!”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>2pm:</b></p> <p>By the time I saw the <i>neta</i> next, he held a broom in his hand.</p> <p>“Cleaning up the house?”</p> <p>“No, this broom hasn’t seen dust in years. It’s symbolic.”</p> <p>“Don’t tell me you’ve joined Aam Aadmi Party?”</p> <p>“Parties may come and parties may go but I go on forever.” And away he went – in a brand new Honda, out again to serve the people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>3pm:</b></p> <p>I saw the <i>neta</i>’s followers vigorously erasing all trace of the broom and putting in its place a timepiece.</p> <p>“You have to change with time,” he smiled, pointing to the NCP’s symbol, and chuckling heartily over his pun.</p> <p>“Won’t your followers get confused?” I asked, “with these frequent changes?”</p> <p>“This is how I keep my followers on their toes.” Saying that, he got on to his toes, and hopped on to a Mercedes ‘A’ Class and sped away.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>4pm:</b></p> <p>I caught up with the neta just as he was going through a rubdown. His arms were being un-twisted and his back kneaded into shape. I complimented him on a physique trapeze artistes would envy.</p> <p>“I’ve had my backbone removed,” he explained proudly. “So, I am ready to serve the people in any capacity.”</p> <p>“Ah, that explains it all.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>5pm:</b></p> <p>By the end of the day, I was afraid even my super-supple neta had reached dead end. Already, his track record read: BJP, SP, BSP, RLD, RJD, TMC, AAP, NCP…. History tells us that King Alexander wept because there were no more worlds for him to conquer. But our <i>netas</i> are made of sterner stuff.</p> <p>“What will you do?” I asked. “As far as I can see, there are no parties left for you to leave or join – except the Left, which in any case is left out.”</p> <p>The neta was unfazed.</p> <p>“Nah, that’s not a problem,” he said smugly. “I begin all over again tomorrow with the BJP. As you say in <i>angrezi</i> – life moves in circles.”</p> Fri Jan 21 22:58:14 IST 2022 rare-first-edition-books-on-nationalism-freedom-struggle-to-be-auctioned <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">India Divided</i>&nbsp;was published in 1946, a year before India's partition. Most of the&nbsp;book was written in Barabanki jail by Rajendra Prasad, who went on to become the first president of independent India.&nbsp;The crucial historical document questioned the two-nation theory and concluded that Hindu-Muslim discord could be settled with the formation of a secular state where there is cultural autonomy for both groups.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Printed on Indian handmade paper, a rare first edition of&nbsp;<i>India Divided&nbsp;</i>will be up for sale in the third edition of the Nationalism Book Auction hosted by Prinseps. With a price estimate between Rs30,000-50,000,&nbsp;<i>India Divided</i>&nbsp;is among a rare catalogue of books from the pre-independence era which are going under the hammer on January 25.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 85-lot online auction will be open to bidding at 10am on January 25 and closes at 7pm on January 26.&nbsp; It brings a rare collection of first editions to the market, most of which have not been offered for sale before. Printed in India, few copies survive from this time period that birthed freedom fighters, ideologies, revolutionaries and political leaders.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Most of these editions are not easily available or accessible in libraries.&nbsp;For anyone who is an avid book collector or studying the history of India, the nationalist movement and the freedom struggle, this auction will be of great interest," says&nbsp; Brijeshwari Kumari Gohil,&nbsp;vice-president and curator at Prinseps, a research-focused auction house based in Mumbai. Apart from Indian modern and contemporary art, Prinseps also works with other rare collectables like antiquarian books and Art Deco furniture.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Key lots at the Nationalism Book Auction this year include Mahatma Gandhi’s&nbsp;<i>Young India</i>&nbsp;which was printed in 1922 and published by S. Ganesan, Madras; a comprehensive and up-to-date edition of&nbsp;<i>Speeches and Writings of M.K Gandhi</i>&nbsp;by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1922;&nbsp;&nbsp;<i>India and the World</i>&nbsp;by Jawaharlal Nehru, 1936, which is a collection of Nehru's political writings comprising his presidential addresses, followed by some shorter essays written in prison.&nbsp;There's also&nbsp;<i>Consequences of Pakistan</i>&nbsp;by K.L Gauba, 1946 and&nbsp;<i>The Problem of Minorities by Dhirendranath Sen</i>, published in 1940, apart from VP Menon's&nbsp;<i>The Transfer of Power in India</i>, signed by him. "They are in exemplary condition," adds Gohil. Bidding for all starts at Rs 5,000</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the highest estimates is reserved for Mahatma Gandhi's&nbsp;<i>To The Princes and Their People</i>, between Rs 1 to 3 lakh. Signed "Bapu" by Gandhi, it is a rare first edition of the World War II period compilation of Gandhiji's utterances and writings published in Karachi. This particular volume is no. 4 in the "Gandhi series," being a part of a collection of separately published books during the War, issued by Anand T. Hingorani who was Gandhi's personal secretary for some time and editor of Gandhi's weekly newspaper&nbsp;<i>Harijan</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1941, Hingorani launched the "Gandhi series"; he was authorised&nbsp;to create and publish these writings to allow readers to access Gandhi's work on specific subjects, previously scattered in several publications.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the last edition of the Nationalism Book Auction, the highest bid was achieved for&nbsp;Jawaharlal Nehru's&nbsp;<i>Discovery of India</i>&nbsp;which sold for Rs 1.64 lakh, followed by Gandhi's&nbsp;<i>Young India</i>&nbsp;at Rs 1.20 lakh.&nbsp;</p> Thu Jan 20 19:29:33 IST 2022 -azor---a-film-exploring-argentina-s-black-money-culture <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The film <i>Azor</i> brings out vividly the sharp contrast between the cultures of the discreet and self-effacing Swiss private bankers and their Argentine clients who show off their wealth with pompous and pretentious talk. While the Swiss speak politely and properly, the Argentines revel in their unrestrained use of colorful abusive expressions with typical words such as ‘ Boludos’ and ‘Pelotudos’, which means fools.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, the title of the film <i>Azor</i> means ‘be quiet’ and ‘ be careful about what you say’ in the local dialect and code of the private bankers community. The Argentine characters brag loudly with exuberant eloquence while the Swiss listen to them passively but attentively and open their mouth only to prod the Argentines to continue their talk. When the Argentine client asks the Swiss banker about the size of his Swiss estate, the banker replies humbly, "my estate is like a little kitchen garden vis-a-vis your large farm of several thousands of hectares".&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Argentine oligarchies’ need to transfer their black money into secret Swiss accounts becomes more desperate at the time of the military dictatorship in the seventies. The colonels make not only the leftists and their sympathisers ‘disappear’ but they also expropriate the assets (including race horses) of the oligarchic families. The Swiss banker is eager to facilitate the hiding of the illegal money of the Colonels also.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Keeping black money outside the country is part of the Argentine culture. My golf buddies from the Jockey Club of Buenos Aires say that they need to do this for survival because of the volatility of Argentine economy, fluctuations in exchange rates, frequent changes in policies and periodic financial crises. During crisis times, the government freezes bank accounts and imposes foreign exchange restrictions. It happened in 2002. Currently the country is facing a debt crisis with over 50 billion dollars of payment due to IMF and other external creditors. The Argentine peso which was equal to dollar in value in the nineties has now depreciated to 103 pesos to a dollar. But in the black market, a dollar fetches over 200 pesos.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The story is about a Swiss private banker from Geneva who goes to Buenos Aires to reassure his clients after the disappearance of his partner who was dealing with their accounts. His meetings, conversations and deals are discreet in the typical Swiss way. He takes his wife also for the trip and includes her in his social interactions so that she can interact with the Argentine women and give feedback on the inner details of the families. The banker and his wife navigate carefully between the Argentines expressing frustrations with the excesses of military dictatorship as well as those defending the regime publicly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All the actions take place in Buenos Aires, the elegant city of cafes, bars, clubs, gardens, parks and mansions. The Swiss banker is invited to the Circulo de Armas, an exclusive club of oligarchs with its own quaint protocols and secret dealings between members which include oligarchs and military officials and even the upper echelons of the clergy. An Argentine priest with ill gotten money meets the Swiss Banker and seeks his help for investment of his money in foreign exchange and stock trading. The banker is invited to the country house of a client, who shows off his wealth but is depressed since his leftist daughter has been made to ‘disappear’ by the military dictatorship. The banker is given entry into the gentlemen-only private box of a client at the San Isidro Race Club. The Swiss ambassador in Buenos Aires facilitates the work of his country’s bankers by introducing them to the city’s elite through parties and receptions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Argentines remind the Swiss banker that Geneva was the favourite city of Jorge Luis Borges, the famous Argentine writer. Borges had studied in College de Geneva and dedicated his final work “Conspirators” to the city of Geneva. Borges spent his final years in Geneva where he died. It is a pity that Borges missed his Nobel Prize since he was seen as a supporter of the Argentine military dictatorship.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film, released in March 2021, is not sensational or packed with action. It is slow and subtle. But it is filled with suspense, tension and mystery arising from the terrible time of the military dictatorship of the late seventies and early eighties. It lets the viewers to draw their own conclusions about the way Argentina and Switzerland have found their current destinies with their contrasting cultural traits. The director of the film Andreas Fontana is a Swiss who had lived in Buenos Aires. He has succeeded in painting a&nbsp;portrait of the&nbsp;colorful&nbsp;Argentine character using a simple Swiss brush.</p> Sat Jan 08 09:37:45 IST 2022 most-popular-instagram-trends-2021 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has successfully managed to tail millions of people—Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, Boomers—around the globe.</p> <p>From posts to stories to reels to IGTV to DMs, this “ping” is the one everyone has ON in the phones.</p> <p>Let's turn over and skip to the good part! The Instagram trends that defined 2021!</p> <p><b>1.</b>&nbsp;<b>Catch my face</b></p> <p>Well, you do have a face. You know where all the parts of your face are. Then, in this trend all you have to do is catch your face correctly. This challenge is not so hard, which makes it one of the most popular ones. When your eyes, nose and mouth come floating by, blink and there you have it! Your face- with a lot of likes.</p> <p><b>2. Blink at 4.000</b></p> <p>Is it too hard to blink? Every Iger has tried blinking to this trend, oh, and trust me, they didn’t have it the easy way. As soon as the clock starts ticking from 0.000, be on guard! Missing the 4.000 mark by a few seconds can be frustrating, right, but we have been tested by what not this year, so, why not try it again?</p> <p><b>3. Clap with F.R.I.E.N.D.S</b></p> <p>If you are a F.R.I.E.N.D.S fan or not, this challenge is an absolute fun with friends! You might know the lyrics of the 'I’ll be there for you', but, this ain't about the words; it's about the clap! After “So no one told you life was gonna be this way”, clap, clap, clap! Sync at the right time, and there you have it. PS. don’t forget to tune along with your gang to the rest of “I'll be there for you…..When the rain starts to pour…I’ll be…”</p> <p><b>4. Don't fall challenge</b></p> <p>Who doesn’t face a challenge in life? But all of us have the choice of getting up and showing grit. This challenge busted some stereotypes relating to issues like women’s choice of having kids, gender-fluid clothing, body positivity and mental health among others. If you are keen on breaking a misconception, hashtag #Don’tFallChallenge.</p> <p><b>5. #BongoChaChaCha</b></p> <p>Based on the retro song ‘Bongo Cha Cha Cha’ by Catarina Valenta, there are many fun variations to this funky tune. People have created expectations vs. reality videos where they sway along with the song while showing something they’re expected to do. As the ‘Bongo Cha Cha Cha’ song goes, they move on to show what they actually do in reality. Other variations include waltzing to the song with one's friends, adding the Otra Boca- the funny lip sync filter to anything and anyone from the sleeping brother to the cute pet. This song was indeed an IG fav of the year!</p> <p><b>6. iPhone Wallpaper</b></p> <p>Tired after all the moves? Well, then this trend was all about staying still. Until the “ aa…aa” in the song ‘Banna Re’ by Chitralekha Sen and DJ Shadow Dubai, hold your breath and don’t move your limbs. As soon as the beat hits high, dance along. With more than 2.1M reels with this song, make sure you look right while scrolling through the reels, because sometimes the video might just be a photo!</p> <p><b>7. Bachpan Ka Pyaar</b></p> <p>The video of a kid standing in a classroom wearing a blue shirt singing ‘Bachpan Ka Pyaar’ with a straight face took the social media on loop. The wonder boy who won many hearts is Sahdev Dirdo from Chhattisgarh. Soon after the video went viral, Instagrammers created many versions of ‘Bachpan Ka Pyaar’. Celebrities like Surbhi Chandna, Bharti Singh to influencers, everyone made and reeled in with the trend.</p> <p>Later, Badshah wrote the new version of the original music by Mayur Nadiya, featuring Sahdev Dirdo along with Aastha Gill and Rico, composed by Hiten.</p> <p><b>8. Show us your name in Urban Dictionary</b></p> <p>Do you know the meaning of your name? Have you checked it in the Urban Dictionary? If you have not been a part of this trend yet, hurrryyy! This trend had everyone showing their name in Urban Dictionary using the “Add Yours” sticker feature in Insta. Urban Dictionary is a crowdsourcing online dictionary for the GenZ slangs and phrases. Some meanings were flattering, while others, the not-so-great ones were shared with humour.</p> <p><b>9. Photo Crop Challenge</b></p> <p>If you are with your clique, this is one of the best trends in IG. Try to squeeze into the bouncing cropped frame and make sure your face is in the box when the time is up! This challenge is full of energy and is hilarious as the creators dart across the room trying to fit into the box. Though it is just a box, this filter is not as easy as its four lines.</p> <p><b>10. 2021 recap</b></p> <p>Being on the brink of 2022, what better trend than a recap of this year? 2021 was the second year with Mr. COVID, a yet another eventful and tumultuous year. From lockdowns, Netflix and chill, work from home, vaccine drives, to Mr. New COVID variant, Omicron, we all learned how to do the math in our mental health. With a video editing app and a couple of your memorable pictures and videos of the year, tag along with a trending bgm.</p> <p>Were these the only trends in the past 12-long months? Nah! #DontRushChallenge, #ricochallenge, #jalebibabychallenge, #IkoIkoChallenge are some in the long list.</p> <p>But if you are a johnny-come-lately, skip the fadlag and jump on to the bandwagon before 2021 goes emo! Now that you’re dope in the trends of 2021, pause a minute and scroll up. In case you missed out on one, “Yalla”, 2022 is going to sail soon.<br> </p> Sat Jan 01 11:00:50 IST 2022 strong-law-needed-on-illicit-trafficking-of-cultural-property <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a workshop on illicit trafficking of cultural property, organised by UNESCO New Delhi and Anant National University, Australia was singled out and praised as the country most cooperative when it comes to returning ill-gotten cultural objects.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The two-day capacity building workshop focusing on the means to combat illicit trafficking of cultural property in South Asia was held at UNESCO House on December 15 and 16 in the presence of senior government officials, experts, representatives of international organisations and diplomatic missions. Titled&nbsp; "Returning the Loot”, and based on the principles of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, the gathering aimed to raise awareness on the need to strengthen national legislation and tighten controls, establish greater regional cooperation, and strengthen security in museums and at heritage sites.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among the countries most ready to cooperate on illegal trafficking of cultural property, Australia has returned a number of objects in recent years and has pledged to return 14 more objects in 2022.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The illicit trafficking of cultural property represents today the third largest international criminal activity, and is surpassed only by drugs and arms trafficking. While the amount of global sales of art and antiques was recorded at US$ 50.1 billion in 2020, experts estimate that the illicit trafficking of cultural property may separately total up to US$10 billion every year. According to INTERPOL figures, 854,742 cultural objects were seized globally by law enforcement agencies in 2020, but the illicit traffic and looting of cultural heritage increased dramatically in the last decade all over the world, owing in part to globalisation of the marketplace, with easier flows of capital.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"One of the tools at our disposal is the 1970 UNESCO Convention but international partnerships and regional cooperation must be significantly bolstered,” said Eric Falt, Director of UNESCO New Delhi, opening the deliberations. He pointed out that the workshop was held in the wake of the recent return of 157 artefacts and antiquities from the United States on the occasion of the visit there of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"India can become a leading country in fighting illicit traffic in cultural property. A comprehensive systems approach has been scoped to develop a framework for safeguarding all forms of India's rich heritage, especially in the context of international looting during the pandemic," said Amareswar Galla, UNESCO Chair on Inclusive Museums and Sustainable Heritage Development at Anant National University.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 1970 UNESCO Convention marked its 50th anniversary in 2020.&nbsp;</p> Thu Dec 16 20:09:25 IST 2021 painting-the-canvas-with-the-colours-of-transformation--saudamin <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>'Dhi' represents Saudamini Mishra's intellectual self with a typewriter on the head that portrays the fervid mental activities. This book appreciates all the women who are proud thinkers and describes her code of doing 'the right thing.'</i></p> <p>Saudamini Mishra's profound family background gives her the independence of thoughts and creative perspective- a household governed by fierce and dynamic women. Therefore, that serves as the roots of the entire belief system.&nbsp;An international painter turned into a bestseller writer after getting inspired by her painting, 'Dhi,' which speaks of the transformation. Saudamini Mishra believes in communicating through the language of colours and visual- expressions to convey her thoughts, so she stepped into the world of painting and visual arts without any professional training in 2013 and continued it till 2019. In that duration, her work received worldwide appreciation through her national and international exhibitions, and finally, in 2015, she painted her intellectual portrait, 'Dhi.'&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>'Dhi' was initially a painting further converted into the book of thoughts. It was inspired by a writer's life and dedicated to several women who listened to her consciousness. She is the Her illustrations, and quotes from the collection of this book were published by Air India's in-house magazine 'Shubh Yatra,' one of which is,&nbsp;&quot;Connecting with God requires the innocence of a child rather than the intellect of a sage.&quot;&nbsp;Saudamini Mishra gives the credit of the book 'Dhi' to her late mother, an artist, and a freelance journalist, by saying,&nbsp;&quot;I just penned whatever I had learned from my mother who helped me cope with life before she passed away. So, I have just been an instrument- the actual writer, in essence, has been my mother and the universe that's made this possible.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later in 2016, Saudamini Mishra was interviewed by the NDTV for her Internationally acclaimed painting and complete writing. The contribution of Saudamini Mishra depends on the transformation made in people's lives through Oracle numerology that includes self-confidence, self-empowerment, and self-dependence. Saudamini Mishra also started strengthening the corporate sector by imparting knowledge on Digital Content Writing. She added that the book covers more aspects than just women's empowerment. Referring to the concept of the book, Saudamini Mishra says, &quot;Actually, this was unintended (there are stories in the book with men too as the protagonists), but I am glad that this is the case, as I have been brought up by a strong woman and come from a household which has been governed by fierce, dynamic women-so that's been my inherited worldview and belief system. I guess, conventionally, I would be called a feminist, and I am proud of that as well, but I see that more as being an equalist&quot;.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Saudamini Mishra is an Inventor of Oracle and Self-empowerment numerology, wherein she has infused the symbolism of numbers with the vibrancy of art and the slice of life element of storytelling. Oracle numerology combines the aesthetics of art with the relatability of storytelling and meaning of the nine core numbers in numerology. Apart from wisdom and self-empowerment, 'Dhi' by Saudamini Mishra stands straight for freedom of choice among the people.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Mon Feb 28 18:31:30 IST 2022 exploring-the-zone-how-a-book-film-and-videogame-converge <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>I dread the sound of my Geiger counter. As my character walks slowly through an irradiated garbage dump, its distinctive clicks indicating ionising radiation add to the soundtrack (described by one YouTube comment as “pure desolation in the form of sound”). The clicks are a reminder that I have made a mistake. That I tread without caution. They ensure I keep my character walking, not running, as the Zone, the 60km area around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, is littered with invisible anomalies, patches of radiation, and mutated beings—any one of which is strong enough to kill me in an instant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I hear the whooshing sound of an anomaly. By the time you hear this sound, it is usually too late. But this was not for me—a mutated dog that was silently charging at me from behind got trapped in a Whirligig. It is thrown into the air with enough force to kill it and then spun with enough force to kill it several times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anomalies in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R video games often resemble glitches. Like a video game that has been broken by some error in its universe’s code. This is perhaps by design. The Zone is not a natural place, it is meant to be a reality where some aspects have been “broken”. This is what makes it dangerous, but also lucrative, as the glitches result in artefacts with supernatural properties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The game is set in a world where a second incident happens at the CNPP in 2006, expanding the Chernobyl exclusion zone and adding supernatural effects to the area. Scavengers called “stalkers” explore the Zone to acquire and sell these artefacts, against the wishes of the military that has cordoned off the area to all but scientists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You would think that the game’s premise was inspired by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Epithets like “Stalker” and “The Zone” and have been used to describe the real-life scavengers and adventurers that explore the nuclear exclusion zone. But both these names predate the incident by many years, almost prophetically.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prior to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R video games, the previous best-known work to bear this name was the classic 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky film,&nbsp;<i>Stalker,&nbsp;</i>itself inspired by&nbsp;<i>Roadside Picnic&nbsp;</i>(1972), by Soviet-Russian authors Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, among the most popular science fictions novels to ever come out of the former Soviet Union.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Its basis is not a nuclear explosion but an alien “Visitation” that took place several years before the novel is set. In six locations across the earth, aliens appear to have briefly paid a visit. They make no contact, no invasion plan, and disappear with no explanation. But the aftermath of their visits shakes the world, as the artefacts they left behind have supernatural properties, and the places they visit appear permanently altered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the aliens, it is implied, their trip to earth was nothing but a picnic. Their “garbage” proves invaluable: Some as sources of infinite energy, others for their physics-defying properties. They all appear beyond the reason of man.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a dingy bar named the Borscht, a scientist offers his interpretation of the visit.</p> <p>“A picnic. Imagine a forest, a country road, a meadow. A car pulls off the road into the meadow and unloads young men, bottles, picnic baskets, girls, transistor radios, cameras … A fire is lit, tents are pitched, music is played. And in the morning they leave. The animals, birds, and insects that were watching the whole night in horror crawl out of their shelters. And what do they see? An oil spill, a gasoline puddle, old spark plugs and oil filters strewn about … Scattered rags, burnt-out bulbs, someone has dropped a monkey wrench. The wheels have tracked mud from some godforsaken swamp … and, of course, there are the remains of the campfire, apple cores, candy wrappers, tins, bottles, someone’s handkerchief, someone’s penknife, old ragged newspapers, coins, wilted flowers from another meadow.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such items may be trash to us, goes the logic, but to a less advanced species, they may be priceless. From a spark plug, one could infer the machinations of an internal combustion engine; from a gasoline puddle, the discovery of combustible fuel, and so on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s musings on the visit apply what we already know to that which we do not. Humans will seek profit in the most dangerous of places if it will pay the bills.&nbsp;<i>Roadside Picnic</i>&nbsp;follows the steps of a “stalker” named Redrick Schuhart. Stalkers operate in a grey area. As they are familiar with the many dangers and intricacies of the Zone, they are useful as guides for scientists who seek to study the alien’s leftovers, which they call “swag”. As opportunists, they satisfy the global demand for alien artefacts, which begin to transform human society. Though the military does not allow unauthorised entry into the Zone, they do so anyway, often travelling at night. But less than a third of stalkers who enter ever return.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Remember the “Whirligig” anomaly? In roadside picnic, its equivalent is the “Meat Grinder”, thus named because of the effect it has on its victims. This, and a slew of other anomalies makes the Zone particularly hazardous, even without radiation. The Meat Grinder protects the most sought-after artefact in Strugatsky’s Zone, an alien artefact dubbed the golden sphere. It is said that any wish made before it will come true. But the wish comes with a terrible cost.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The wish granter is the climax of the book, film and game. The book’s last words are that of the wish, the film leaves it unsaid, and the game gives you choice of whether to make it at all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Unfinished dreams</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the first game in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series,&nbsp;<i>Shadow of Chernobyl&nbsp;</i>having released in 2007, it is played by thousands today (many more if you count the mods built on top of it and its sequels). Not many 14-year-old games have aged this well: Its atmosphere remains unmatched; from the dinghy colours to the throbbing industrial soundtrack, and the surprising realism of its “A-life” artificial intelligence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You begin at the periphery of the Zone. But the world you are joining is an alive one. There are other stalkers, like you, members of various factions competing for control of and access to the Zone. The Zone is contested by the Ukrainian military (who seek to limit access to it), loners (independent stalkers who just want to loot out a living), bandits, Duty (a militarised group that seeks to protect the world from the Zone’s terrors by killing all mutants), Freedom (another militarised group that wants to let people enter the Zone freely and contests authoritarian efforts to prevent this), Ecologists (scientists who want to study the Zone) and Monolith (a heavily-armed religious cult that worships an artefact at the Centre of the Zone and considers everyone else apostates).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tarkovsky’s&nbsp;<i>Stalker&nbsp;</i>also had its own take on factions, in the form of the three protagonists: The stalker, the writer and the professor. The philosophical debates between them form the crux of the film’s experience.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like the film, the game suffered from delays, six years, due to its contrasting design and development goals and perhaps over-ambitious aims. The result was a slightly broken product that may seem opaque to new players. But it turns out, that was a feature, not a bug.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ambiguousness of the Stalker universe is part and parcel of the experience. The novel leaves many questions unanswered, from the aliens’ motivations to the exact nature of the zone’s artefacts to the transformation it has triggered on the rest of the world. The mystery adds to the atmosphere, be in the the book, videogame or film. A newcomer to the Zone will perhaps hardly understand anything about it, or about the precautions needed for it. Returning to 1979, we see this in Tarkovsky’s&nbsp;<i>Stalker,&nbsp;</i>perhaps the most enigmatic and cryptic of adaptations so far.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shot in industrial wastelands and swampy landscapes in Estonia, the film took the 1957 Chelyabinsk nuclear accident as inspiration for its setting. Watching it with hindsight, knowing the events at Chernobyl that would follow in just seven years, is chilling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But without hindsight too, this film captivates, courtesy Tarkovsky’s rich and brooding style of cinema. Its premise is akin to that of the book, albeit a more stripped-down version: A stalker helps a writer and scientist enter into the Zone, sneaking past the military, in order to reach the mythical “wish-granting room” believed to be at the centre.</p> <p>&quot;Look, what is it? How could it be?&quot; the writer asks the stalker, after witnessing an anomaly.</p> <p>'I already explained.'</p> <p>&quot;What did you explain?&quot;</p> <p>'It's the Zone, don't you understand?'</p> <p>Book, film and videogame retain one visual mechanic: A stalker with a bag of bolts, throwing them forward and watching where they land. If the bolt is jerked out of the air or redirected by some unseen gravitational anomaly, you can know that the path is unsafe. Tossing these bolts into the vague unknown, the stalker takes step after step. When the game entrusts you guide another NPC into the Zone, you must take the lead, and ensure they make it through safely. The Zone is at once the enemy and the most compelling character of the game.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film revels in its long shots (averaging a minute each) of desolate and polluted landscapes and abandoned buildings: The Zone is depicted as a post-industrial wasteland. Its cinematography relies on shots so long that one of them may have killed its director and one of the actors: Several scenes were filmed near the effluent from a chemical plant. Years later, both Tarkovsky and actor Anatoly Solonitsyn (who plays the writer) would die of cancers, which sound recordist Vladimir Sharun attributed to the toxic set that they spent hours filming in. The production was painful, with an initial round of filming lost in a fire, the film had to be reshot. With the budget decimated by the the first and prolonged outdoor shoot, the film had to be reimagined. Differences between the director and the first DOP led to another being hired, adding more delay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The game expects you to find your own path to stay alive. You may find it helpful to rely on tips and tricks taken straight out of the book: Don’t take the straight path to where you’re going (it’s likely a trap), go around it. “It has to be clear for a hundred paces either to your left or to your right,” explains Red in the novel. The movie, too, proves useful. “Here the shortest path isn’t the simplest. The more indirect, the less risk there is,” says the stalker in the film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The combination of knowledge, mystery, and survivability is what makes stalkers unique: They alone know best how to live through an encounter with the Zone. This is why they are sought after as guides. But they don't always take this task cheerfully.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Zone is only for those who are hopeless or unhappy, says the stalker. Perhaps this is true even for players of the video game. But for the stalker, it is the only place they find meaning in; the only job they can do to make another person happy. &quot;I bring here people like me, desperate and tormented. People who have nothing else to hope for. And I can help them! No one else can help the, only I the louse, can! I'm so happy to be able to help them that I want to cry. And that's all. I don't want anything more!&quot; the stalker says in an emotional outburst at the climax of the film.</p> <p> Why does such a depressing place offer such escapism? In YouTube comments on videos of the game, you can see many who play as a means of escapism. An immersive game proves easier to sink into than one that is artificially cheery and thereby un-immersive to the despondent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is common in the art, that many of the greatest works remain unfinished. While the&nbsp;<i>Stalker&nbsp;</i>we see may not have been the one Tarkovsky originally envisioned, it retains every aspect of his cinema. Philosophical and soul-searching, the conversations between the stalker, the professor and the writer are given time to linger, as the camera meanders between them and their landscapes. While the film was an expensive one, it obviously lacks CGI or any other special effects (barring a single scene, where a bird appears to fly out of a room twice). The supernatural aspects of the Zone are left implied, but mostly unseen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The choice</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If the book makes you question man’s place in the universe, the film examines deeply our place on earth and in our own skin. The video game provides nods to both but leaves it up to you to find your path and your journey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is the burden of the video game that it must execute elements of all other forms: Its writing must be readable prose (the S.T.A.L.K.E.R games have few recorded lines and most exposition is to be read, with several paragraphs often on screen at a time), its visuals must be cinematic and captivating, its sound design must be immersive, its artistic merit must leave some impact on the player.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But unlike the book and the film, the video game can be edited. The imperfect can be made “perfect” depending on what your taste is. For hardcore players who want a “rawer” experience, mods like Misery or Anomaly can change the game entirely: Making it more about survival, more unforgiving, and giving players far more freedom to choose their own experience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The difficulty is sometimes used as a screening tool by an auteur for their audience. “The film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts,” Tarkovsky famously said. Likewise, the opaque mechanics of the most popular S.T.A.L.K.E.R mods help keep casual players out, ensuring a player base willing to put the hours in to get good and play immersively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an era where we seldom have the time to read, and digital distractions constantly call out to us to watch videos or play games, the book proves the easiest to pick up and digest. But if you are a fan of multiple mediums, experiencing all three will leave a profound impact, and ensure you get your fill of everything the Zone has to offer.</p> Sat Dec 11 10:40:19 IST 2021 family-has-crucual-role-in-my-success-sruthy-sithara <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After years of being condemned, Sruthy Sithara has now proven that there is a space for every individual. The Kerala native recently became the first Indian to be crowned Miss Trans Global.</p> <p>From being a boy who dreamt to be a model or actor, her transformation from Praveen to Sruthy, was not an easy journey. But she always had her family’s support to fall back on. Though she was passionate about acting in movies and advertisements, she was reluctant to force herself into roles designed for male characters. “I strongly believe there is a space for each and every individual in this world, so I wanted to create my own space of self-dignity,” she told THE WEEK.</p> <p>The wind beneath her wings has always been her father Pavithran. She said: &quot;He has never let me down; he has always accepted me the way I am. He was such a welcoming parent. I wish other parents could be like him.”</p> <p>She revealed how a few of her school friends helped in convincing her father about her gender identity. “My family has a crucial role in my success,” added Sruthy.</p> <p>Celebrity makeup artist Renju Renjimar and model-actress Namitha introduced her to this pageant. It was an online event that spanned over seven months. The event also helped her in projecting ‘Kaleidoscope’—a social media campaign to bring awareness about LGBTQ community--along with her friends Nadira and Amna.</p> <p>Sruthy, who was also crowned Queen of Dhwayah in 2018, wants to use her success to make life better for fellow trans persons. She is set to prove that they are ‘no less than men or women’. “We are equal, we have our own calibre and we have our own traits,” she said.<br> </p> <p>There has been a change in the way the transgender community is perceived, she said, adding that there is still a long way to go: “When we compare the current situation to the past 10 years, we can see a change—not drastic, but there is a change. Even now, there are people who do not know about this community. They still feel it is a biological problem, and that it could be corrected,” she said.</p> <p>Everyone has the right to choose their gender identity, Sruthy said. “We have the best constitution; it shows us that we have the right to live in our own gender identity. It is all about our decision--you can choose our life as a male, female or trans, whatever sexuality or identity you like.”</p> <p>Grieving over a few friends who took their lives recently, she said self-love is important for every individual. Prioritising others over your own dreams and isolation are a few reasons for rise in suicides. “They are prioritising others and some even prioritise their toxic relationships. This has to stop for everyone to notice their better versions which lie deep inside them,” she said.<br> </p> <p>Sruthy, a model and one of the four transgender persons who were given a government job in Kerala, now aspires to step into the film industry. She believes failure will never overtake her if her determination to succeed is strong enough, as APJ Kalam, one her inspirational figures once said.&nbsp;</p> Mon Dec 06 17:19:25 IST 2021 through-guatemala-history-mario-vargas-llosa-latest-book-traces-latin-america-turbulent-present <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Harsh Times</i> (Tiempos Recios) is the latest offering of the Peruvian nobel prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa. The novel is about the overthrow of the leftist Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz by CIA at the behest of the United Fruit Company. This crude regime change to safeguard the profits of a private company was labelled as “war on communism” by the US propaganda.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is based on the real life events of what happened in Guatemala in 1954. Even the names of most of the leading characters in the novels are real names. So the novel reads like real history. There is no magical realism. It is pure realism. Of course, the Latin American reality is more fantastic than fiction sometimes. Llosa has embellished the characters and exaggerated events to spice up the story. But the spice is much less in comparison to Llosa’s other historical novel <i>The Feast of the Goats</i>&nbsp;( about the Trujillo dictatorship in Dominican Republic) which has more fantasy and labyrinths. Llosa has made an interesting link between the two novels through the character of&nbsp;Marta Borrero Parra&nbsp;(Miss Guatemala), the wife of attorney Arturo Borrero Lamas who leaves him to become&nbsp;the&nbsp;mistress of President Carlos Castillo Armas, (Gloria Bolaños Pons was the real life mistress of Armas)&nbsp;later as lover of Trujillo’s intelligence chief Johnny Abbes Garcia followed by becoming radio propagandist for President Trujillo in Dominican Republic, and as informant of CIA which arranges asylum for her in US&nbsp;in the end. Llosa has also brought in the role played by Trujillo directly and in collaboration with CIA in the overthrow of the Arbenz government&nbsp;and assassination of President Castillo Armas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Harsh Times</i> is not one of the best novels of Llosa. It is a bit lame by Llosa's standards. But this is understandable given his ripe old age of 85. He continues reading (every morning) and writing even now. It is unusual to see that Llosa, the political conservative, has shown sensitivity and sympathy to the Left in this novel. But in his political discourses he continues his right wing positions. He supports the right wing Chilean Presidential candidate Antonio Kast standing against the leftist Gabriel Boric in the elations to be held on 19 December. In the last Peruvian elections held in June 2021, he supported the rightist Keiko Fujimori who stood against the leftist Pedro Castillo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The story starts with the American company United Fruit which owned banana plantations in Guatemala and exported to US. The company was the largest land owner in the country. It had bribed and coerced the Guatemalan governments to let them have such large land, own the infrastructure such as railways, power stations and ports, subject to virtually no tax and get away with very low payments to the workers who were kept in miserable slave-like conditions. President Arbenz tried to correct this injustice. He passed a land reform bill through which unused land of the company was to be taken away by the government for distribution to landless peasants. The government agreed to pay compensation to the company based on the value declared by the company itself for tax purposes. The government also proposed to tax the company and improve the conditions of their workers. But the company would have nothing of it. The company complained to the Dulles brothers, who were their shareholders and former legal advisors. One of them ( John) &nbsp;was the Secretary of State and the other one (Allen) Director of CIA. The two used their combined clout and the whole weight of the mighty US government to overthrow the Arbanz government. The CIA recruited and armed mercenaries, bombed Guatemalan cities and spread terror and panic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The new American ambassador to Guatemala John Emil Peurifoy was given a clear mandate to overthrow the democratically elected government at any cost. He worked on the colonels and majors in the army pushing them to rise against their own government.&nbsp;&nbsp;He threatened President Arbenz that the American marines were ready to invade and advised him that the only way to avoid bloodshed was for him to quit. Ambassador Peurifoy told Washington DC, “Noncombatants will have to die. Panic will have to break out among the civilian population. That is the only provocation that will allow us to intervene against Árbenz”.&nbsp; Peurifoy had experience of managing a successful coup in Greece where he was ambassador before. So after the Guatemalan coup, when he was posted to Thailand he asked if there was going to be a coup there too. This reminds me of a Latin American saying that “there will not be any military coup in Washington DC because there is no US embassy there”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The US imposed an embargo against supply of armaments, munitions and even spare parts to Guatemala. It blockade the Guatemalan ports. This was a blow to the Guatemalan armed forces and a severe handicap at a time when there was need for them to fight against the mercenaries invading the country. This created concern among the military officers and pitted them against President Arbenz. The American bombing of the Guatemalan military academy buildings was the final nail in the coffin and pushed the Guatemalan armed forces against&nbsp;&nbsp;their president.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The US government justified their regime change operation in the name of the so-called war on communism. The United Fruit company hired Edward Bernays, a pioneering publicist and called as the Father of Public Relations, who worked the American and Guatemalan media and portrayed a false narrative of impending communist takeover of Guatemala and the region. Although Arbenz and some of his allies had leftist outlook and sympathies, the propaganda that they were communists was a blatant lie and fake news. Guatemala did not have relations with Soviet Union and there was no Russian presence in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The American intervention in Guatemala changed the history of Latin America in the second half of the twentieth century. It generated a wave of&nbsp;&nbsp;anti-Americanism in Latin America all over again, and invigorated the Marxists. It paved the way for the success of the Cuban revolution and spread of leftist guerilla movements in the region. It hardened the anti-American conviction of Che Guavara, the leftist icon, who was in Guatemala and saw first-hand the exploitation of the country by United Fruit and the overthrow of democracy by CIA. In fact, it was the Guatemalans who gave the nick name of “Che” to Ernesto Guevara.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The American intervention in Guatemala set the stage for destabilisation of Central America for the next half century. The region went through a bloody civil war. Later, the US government repeated their Guatemalan play book in Nicaragua against the leftist Sandinista government in the seventies and virtually destroyed the country. The US-supported military dictatorships in the region killed hundreds of thousands of civilians including indigenous people. The end of the civil war was followed by gang wars, which have been fought with illegal American weapons. This has added to the insecurity of the Central Americans to flee from the violence in their countries. This is the fundamental reason for hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to reach the US border to get in legally or illegally. The immigration issue at the US border is nothing but US reaping what it sowed in Central America.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Read the full blog <a href="">here</a>.</b></p> Mon Dec 06 11:42:09 IST 2021 nif-book-prize-2021-dinyar-patel-dadabhai-naoroji-biography <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A biography of Dadabhai Naoroji, one of the founders of the Indian National Congress, by Dinyar Patel was on Wednesday named winner of the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2021.</p> <p><i>Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism</i> was selected from the six shortlisted books that covered a variety of themes and subjects and showcased some of the finest non-fiction writing about India, organisers New India Foundation said.</p> <p>The winner was selected by a jury chaired by political scientist Niraja Gopal Jayal and also comprising entrepreneurs Nandan Nilekani and Manish Sabharwal and historians Srinath Raghavan and Nayanjot Lahiri.</p> <p><i>Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism</i> by Harvard University Press is an "exemplary biography about one of India's first nationalists, written with great lucidity and detail by a promising scholar", the jury's citation said.</p> <p>"In his keenly-researched work, Dinyar Patel illuminates the life and legacy of Dadabhai Naoroji as a key figure in the history of India's movement towards Independence," it added.</p> <p>The other shortlisted books were: <i>The Death Script: Dreams and Delusions in Naxal Country </i>by Ashutosh Bhardwaj, <i>India's First Dictatorship: The Emergency, 1975-77 </i>by Christophe Jaffrelot and Pratinav Anil,<i> Gandhi in the Gallery: The Art of Disobedience</i> by Sumathi Ramaswamy, <i>The Coolie's Great War: Indian Labour in a Global Conflict 1914-1921</i> by Radhika Singha and Vinay Sitapati's <i>Jugalbandi: The BJP Before Modi.</i></p> <p>This is the fourth edition of the prize instituted in 2018. The prize celebrates high-quality non-fiction literature on modern and contemporary India from writers of all nationalities published in the previous calendar year and carries a cash award of Rs 15 lakh and a citation.</p> <p>The prize will be presented to Patel, a professor of history, at an event here on December 4.</p> <p>In the book, Patel examines the life of the foundational figure in the country's modern political history, a staunch critic of British colonialism who served in Parliament as the first-ever Indian MP, forged ties with anti-imperialists around the world, and established self-rule or swaraj as India's objective.</p> <p>The prize is named after institution-builder Chattopadhyay who had contributed significantly to the freedom struggle, to the women's movement, to refugee rehabilitation and to the renewal of handicrafts.</p> <p>Previous winners of the prize are Milan Vaishnav (2018), Ornit Shani (2019), and Amit Ahuja and Jairam Ramesh (jointly, 2020).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Dec 01 13:59:02 IST 2021 a-hole-in-wall-a-ode-to-bookshops <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Often described as man’s best friends and most wonderful weapons, books are invaluable even in a fast-paced world.</p> <p>Research shows that the lockdowns across the globe during the pandemic have generally led to a ‘slowing down’ of our pace, which in turn has led to an increase in the sale of books. As Cicero remarked, ‘A room without a book is like a body without a soul.’</p> <p>Good old bookshops are soulful. These special places do much more than just selling books. They have been melting-pots of cultures and ideas. They can also float or sink a bestseller. Their role in our culture, both real and fictional, is truly marvellous.</p> <p>Asne Seierstad immortalised Sultan Khan, the protagonist in her <i>The Bookseller of Kabul</i>, using his shop as the window to a country torn by cruel regimes and the Taliban. The famous TV series <i>Black Books</i> revolved around a bookshop. As in countless Hollywood films, the protagonists found love in a bookstore in the film <i>Notting Hill</i>. The bookshop Flourish &amp; Blotts in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley is simply magical.</p> <p>Books and bookshops have shaped Indian history, and many revolutionary ideas took wing at bookshops and spread from there. Such was the power of the written word that the Vernacular Press Act in the 19th century had to be passed as a tool to curb freedom struggle and break unity in the country.Ironically, Udham Singh would hide his weapon in a book to avenge the Amritsar massacre.</p> <p>With their history and importance, bookshops are remarkable places. Within the chaos, there is always a studied calm and the wonderful aroma of freshly printed paper. Within the confines of a single store, one can possibly delve into philosophy, fiction, politics, history.... the list is endless. Not to forget the useful suggestions given by the booksellers, always willing to help and recommend books based on their interactions with their patrons.</p> <p>Online buying and selling of books has had a major financial implication for these bookshops. A number of them have had to reinvent ways to stay relevant. Some of them, for instance Bahrisons and Faqir Chand in Delhi, are almost as old as independent India. The famous Maria Brothers on Mall Road, Shimla, still preserves history, dealing in antique and rare books. Select Bookshop in Bengaluru makes it a point to get each book signed by their 95-year-old owner, with a suitable quotation always.</p> <p>No other place offers the promise that a bookshop holds. As times change, how we perceive these places changes, too. In the metaphorical epic of bookshops, a new chapter is being written, with the arrival of online shops and soft copies of books.</p> <p>How the rest of this book completes itself is yet to be seen. However, the readers of books will undoubtedly have a major role to play in this epic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Nov 20 16:23:51 IST 2021 goodbye-mr-smith <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Disclaimer</b>: This is not an obit. It is a fan’s lament. If you are looking for something more balanced, you should perhaps look elsewhere.</p> <p>Wilbur Smith first walked into my life in 2001—through <i>River God</i>, at a book fair in Kottayam—under the watchful eyes of a girlfriend. She parted ways three years later. But Smith and I continued to be friends. Friends, yes. When we met in Bangalore in 2011, and talked about his books in my collection (then 33 or so), Smith exclaimed with a grin, “We are friends then! Just that we have not met before.”</p> <p><a title="From the archive: Wilbur Smith said his first book was rejected 20 times" href="">My copy described him thus</a>—"boyish grin, greying hair cropped close, white shirt with thin, sky blue stripes, gold cufflinks, Rolex, dark blue D&amp;G jeans, and sneakers”. In person, too, he was an amazing storyteller. Some stories found their way into my profile of him, too. Like the one about when he signed Frederick Forsyth’s books.</p> <p>On November 13, Smith died at his Cape Town home with his current wife, Mokhiniso 'Niso' Rakhimova, by his side. His estate did not mention the cause of death. He was 88. Of all the places in the world, he would have loved to die in this house—on the three-acre Sunbird Hill, bordering the Kirstenbosch national botanical gardens.</p> <p>After having been close to so many animals, he had singled out the sunbird for a singular honour—his personal crest. He loved to watch them flitting through his garden, looking for nectar. “I believe good things happen to me when these green, iridescent visitors come calling,” he said. The bejewelled birds will surely miss their admirer.</p> <p>He called the little visitors by their Afrikaans name: <i>klein suikerbekkie</i>, little sugar beak. Smith held that a name in the local language or Afrikaans was more evocative than in English. Livingstone’s Victoria Falls pales in comparison with the waterfall’s Kololo name—<i>Mosi-oa-Tunya, </i>the smoke that thunders.</p> <p><b>Inspiration</b></p> <p>Smith’s inspiration was his father, Herbert James Smith. And then there were the many writers who were his favourites, writers of clean, gripping prose—Rider Haggard, Ernest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham, C.S. Forester, Frederick Courteney Selous. One book that keeps popping up in his books is <i>Jock of the Bushveld </i>by Sir James Percy FitzPatrick.</p> <p>While his father instilled in him a love for the land and guns, his mother, Elfreda Lawrence Smith, gifted him the eyes of a painter. Smith’s chalet in Davos, Switzerland, is almost entirely decorated with her watercolours—around 200 of them.</p> <p>He told me about his favourite painting. “She did one of me as a small boy walking along the beach, at sunset, with my fishing rod and bait-box,” he said. “She has painted every house that I ever had.” A small urn with her ashes was a constant in his study.</p> <p>In addition to these influences, Smith mostly wrote of a land and times intimately known to him, and therein lies his success.</p> <p><b>Great writer; bad father</b></p> <p>Smith has said that he is a better writer than a father. He was married four times—the first two ended in divorces, and the third, novelist Danielle Thomas, died of brain cancer. Niso is 39 years his junior. In Bengaluru, he quipped that he had found the Tajik-origin Niso among the Grishams at a W.H. Smith bookshop in London, and gently steered her to his display.</p> <p>He has four children—sons Shaun and Lawrence, daughter Christian and stepson Dr Dieter Schmidt, Danielle's son from her first marriage. He was out of touch with all of them; Niso was helping him build bridges, says the grapevine.</p> <p><b>Smith in my life</b></p> <p>As I said, Smith had been a constant thread in my life since 2001. When I got married in 2008, a dear friend gifted us <i>The Quest</i>. A gift that became priceless after Smith autographed it for my wife and me.</p> <p>In 2009, the Indian Premier League’s first ‘away season’ saw me in South Africa. In Kimberley—Northern Cape province, where the vast Karoo grasslands meets the great Kalahari desert—I got a taste of the diamond country that Cecil Rhodes and his ilk shaped. You, of course, know of the firm that Rhodes founded, backed by N.M. Rothschild &amp; Sons. De Beers, a name synonymous with diamonds.</p> <p>In 2011, Senior Special Correspondent Mandira Nayar passed on an invitation to interview Smith. Deputy Photo Editor Bhanu Prakash Chandra and I met him at the Taj West End during the Landmark Wilbur Smith Tour.</p> <p>In 2018, the great flood wiped out around 600 books in my collection, including my Smiths. I mourned them and grieved like a child. Dear friends Gayathri ‘G’ Krishnan and Hari Subramaniam stepped in; G gave me every last Smith that her late father had left her.</p> <p>On November 14, two college friends broke the news about Smith’s death to me. Yet, Smith has not left his readers alone. <i>River God</i> and its siblings remain on my shelf, markers of a forever friendship.</p> Sun Nov 14 21:37:25 IST 2021 how-dhaulpur-in-rajasthan-is-teaching-students-about-reproductive-health <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Laxmi is a class 11 student at Government Senior Secondary School, Marena, in the Dhaulpur district of Rajasthan. Her village is close to the Chambal river - the region's badlands and ravines once dreaded strongholds of dacoits and outlaws. Her own village, in the Raja Kheda block, often drowns due to excessive rainfall. Women hardly step out of their homes and interaction with men outside is always frowned upon.</p> <p>But Laxmi seems to have found a new outlet for her many questions on gender discrimination, child marriage and adolescent health, thanks to a special new class in her school hostel. Every day in the evening after formal classes, her classmates gather around with their hostel warden to discuss and inquire about period hygiene, boys, marriage, contraception and reproductive health. &quot;There was a lot of shame and coyness around these subjects. Now we will not think twice about complaining against boys who tease or harass us,&quot; says Laxmi. She proudly recounts one recent incident when she extricated a boy from under the wheels of a tractor after she heard screams for help, much to the opposition of her father. &quot;We talk deeply and clearly about all our personal problems here. We also know that marriage and childbirth before 18 leads to several health complications,&quot; says Laxmi, recalling lessons from classes which city schools might mistake for &quot;value education&quot;. Laxmi's friend Varsha's 17-year-old sister was married off during lockdown last year. But both Laxmi and Varsha know they want to study. They are learning to voice their opinions and needs in the last two years since they started attending these special classes under a programme called Udaan Tara which has a considerable focus on sex education to avert teenage pregnancies.</p> <p>The unique adolescent health programme was launched in the Bari block of Dhaulpur district in Rajasthan in October 2018 as a pilot in 66 schools. In February 2021, it was scaled up to cover the entire Dhaulpur district, covering 587 government schools where more than 2,000 teachers have been trained to impart lessons on topics which might be considered taboo in communities of rural Rajasthan.</p> <p>Introduced by the state government in collaboration with local NGO Manjari Foundation and international consulting group IPE Global, Udaan Tara is based on the components of Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakaram (National Adolescent Health Programme) which was launched by the Union ministry of health and family welfare in 2014. The content of Udaan Tara’s Teacher-Student Adolescent Health Dialogue has been organised into modules namely nutrition, reproductive health, mental health, prevention of non-communicable diseases, harmful impact of narcotics and prevention of gender-based violence.</p> <p>But the classes on sex education are stirring vital conversations at a time when multiple incidents of child marriage continue to be reported from the state regularly. Recently, the state government recalled a piece of legislation (Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Bill, 2021) which, activists decried, enabled child marriage. The bill had earlier stated that a marriage between a bridegroom below 21 years and a bride below 18 years could be registered by the parents (or guardians) within 30 days of the marriage. Even beyond the state-specific issue of indirectly dealing with underage marriages, sex education helps adolescents navigate the complications of sexuality and sexual relationships - it is missing from the National Education Policy 2020.</p> <p>Even male teachers under the programme are learning to address sensitive questions around sex education and women's reproductive health in Dhaulpur government schools where students mostly belong to BPL, SC and ST backgrounds. Rajesh Kumar teaches classes 11 and 12 at the Government Senior Secondary School in Kanasil in the Saipau block of Dholpur. He's also trained under Udaan Tara and conducts these special classes alongside the coursework for 40 minutes every day. &quot;In my classes, girls and boys sit together.</p> <p>“In my 10 years of teaching, I have not seen training of this sort,&quot; says Kumar, who admits parents did not approve of the classes in the beginning. &quot;For example, I once told the students they should always hang their undergarments in the sun to prevent germs. Many female students said they don't feel comfortable doing so in their houses. In the beginning, parents would tell me the women don't need to learn these things in school. Eventually they came around,&quot; says Kumar, whose lessons on women's personal hygiene require greater care. &quot;I often ask for help from female teachers to get them across to the students,&quot; says Singh, who continued with these classes during lockdown by sending WhatsApp notes.</p> <p>Sanjay Sharma has been associated with local NGOs in Dhaulpur like Manjari and Pradaan. He is not sure how much the programme has had an impact on preventing child marriages during lockdown but agrees that it is definitely helping change mindsets, mostly because of its specialised teaching and awareness-building methodology through the school curriculum. &quot;The content part in Udaan is mindful of local languages. Activities, games and teaching methodology is very different. It entails shaking up gender equations. This won't reach even private schools that easily. Imagine it is happening in government schools. I am not sure even Delhi government schools are working on this,&quot; says Sharma. When a survey was done in the district some three years ago to check the average age of child marriage, it was 16.5.&nbsp;Sharma believes it may have improved by some decimal points, but a great deal of work remains to be done.</p> <p>When Ajab Singh from the Government Senior Secondary school in Bari block attended these sessions in class 9, he learnt all about good touch, bad touch and consent. &quot;We were taught we always have to ask for permission before touching any woman. They also told us to talk freely about any internal body changes that we may experience,&quot; says Singh, who mentions an &quot;issue&quot; boys his age often face and how it became less stressful after talking about it. &quot;I had the problem of night fall (involuntary ejaculation).&nbsp; I thought this was a disease. When these classes started, my teacher told me that it is natural,&quot; says Singh, who wants to become a doctor.</p> Mon Dec 13 15:03:33 IST 2021 from-the-archive-wilbur-smith-said-his-first-book-was-rejected-20-times <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b><i>This story was originally published in THE WEEK issue dated January 1, 2012</i></b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have autographed books written by Freddie [Frederick] Forsyth and Lord [Jeffrey] Archer,&quot; said Wilbur Smith with an impish grin, as he signed a copy of his latest book, <i>Those In Peril. </i>The first happened at a book signing at the old Doubleday bookstore on New York's Fifth Avenue. &quot;At the huge store, I was sent to the third floor,&quot; he said. &quot;And there it was—a desk, around 300 of my books and not a soul to buy them! I waited, sharpened my pencils, and then walked around. &quot;Suddenly, I saw a man across the room, signing books at a furious pace. And, there was not a buyer there, either. I asked, 'Sir, I'm intrigued. Whom are you signing these for?' He said: 'Well, if I write in a book, the store cannot return it to my publisher, and I'll get my royalties.' Light dawned! I ran back to my desk and signed all 300 books so fast that my pen was smoking at the end of it! Then I got up and looked around and found a display of Forsyth's books. Now, Freddie is a good man, and a friend of mine. So, I did him a favour. I signed all his books as well.&quot;</p> <p>The Archer signing happened at a department store in Sydney, Australia. The woman had driven five hours to get there, and the book was for her husband's 50th birthday. Smith said: &quot;The book's title was <i>Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less. </i>&quot;I said, 'Ma'am, I'm sorry, but I cannot sign this'. 'You are Jeffrey Archer, aren't you?' she asked. I said no; he was coming the next week. She said, 'Sign it'. I was reluctant. 'SIGN IT', she said. So, I signed it: 'In the absence of Lord Archer, Wilbur Smith'.&quot; But don't fall for his self-effacing jokes. His website says he has sold enough books to fill the Wembley Stadium twice over. Each of his novels averages three million copies. His novels have never been out of print.</p> <p>Lee Marvin <i>(Shout At The Devil) </i>and Roger Moore <i>(Gold Mine) </i>have acted in adaptations of his novels. In 2014, he will be celebrating his 50th year with publisher Pan Macmillan. As an African saying goes, &quot;If you drink Zambezi waters with your mother's milk, Africa will forever run in your veins.&quot; Another option is to read Smith; any one of his 33 novels. My first one was <i>River God, </i>bought, under the watchful eyes of a girlfriend, from a book festival at Thirunakkara Maidanam, Kottayam. The girlfriend is long gone, and the maidanam has changed shape. But <i>River God </i>and its 32 siblings remain in my library, my share of the 120 million Smiths sold in 26 languages.</p> <p>I met Smith during the Landmark Wilbur Smith Tour in Bangalore. When he walked into the room at the Taj West End, it was hard to believe that he was 78—boyish grin, greying hair cropped close, white shirt with thin, sky blue stripes, gold cufflinks, Rolex, blue D&amp;G jeans and sneakers.</p> <p>A 'friendship' built over 33 books is a long one. So, there were things that he never had to tell me. Like the slight limp, polio. That he was an accountant in Her Majesty's Inland Revenue Service. That he has been married four times the first two ended in divorces, and the third wife, novelist Danielle Thomas, died of cancer. His current wife is 39 years his junior— Mokhiniso 'Niso' Rakhimova, a Tajik with a law degree from Moscow.</p> <p>At a WH. Smith bookshop in London, he found her among the Grishams and gently steered her to his display. Elsewhere Smith has said that he is a better writer than a father. He has four children—sons Shaun and Lawrence, daughter Christian and stepson Dr Dieter Schmidt, Danielle's son from her first marriage. He was out of touch with all of them and then recently, after Niso insisted, contacted Shaun, an SAS soldierturned- businessman. Dieter and Smith publicly fell out after Danielle died.</p> <p>Dieter accused him of leading a double life under the pseudonym Steven Bisset Lawrence. He said in court that for many years Smith had paid royalties to an offshore company for which Lawrence held the power of attorney. The final outcome of the case is not known to this reporter. Smith has been fairly frank about the fact that he does count the number of days he spends in his homes to save tax as a non- resident.</p> <p><br> Nothing wrong there; many famous, not so famous and infamous Indians do it all the time. Smith has a house in London, a chalet in Davos, Switzerland, and the three-acre 'Sunbird Hill' in Cape Town. He had a beautiful 22-acre property, Cap Colibri, in the Seychelles. He sold it because Niso is allergic to coral. Cap Colibri is close to Bel Ombre beach on Mahe island, where pirate Olivier Levasseur aka La Buse (The Buzzard) supposedly cached his treasure.</p> <p><br> He was reportedly R.L. Stevenson's inspiration for <i>Treasure Island. </i>So, <i>Those In Peril </i>has pirates and new age treasure. There is Hazel Bannock of Bannock Oil Corp, her daughter Cayla and Hector Cross of Cross Bow Security. Cayla is kidnapped by pirates and Cross goes after them. There is intrigue, doublecrossing, a supertanker, raunchy sex and a happy ending. And there are Berettas. Smith and Niso took a tour of Beretta's Italian plant last year. It helped that Ugo Beretta is a close friend. And, Smith believes that no one makes better shotguns than the Berettas.</p> <p><br> Those who closely follow Smith know that he leaves personal links in his characters. For example, La Buse, at least in name, makes an appearance in <i>Birds Of Prey; </i>a wily Scottish captain Angus, Lord Cumbrae, is otherwise known as The Buzzard. Smith was born in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and Tungata Zebiwe <i>(The Leopard Hunts In Darkness) </i>resembles Joshua Nkomo, founder of the Zimbabwe African People's Union.</p> <p><br> Moonfish makes an appearance in <i>The Quest; </i>in Tajiki, Mokhiniso means 'moonfish'. So, isn't there a lot of him in his characters? &quot;I accept that accusation,&quot; said Smith wryly. &quot;You cannot write in a vacuum. Characters come from people whom you have interreacted with. I would rather say my characters are a soupspoon of me and a lot of wishful thinking.&quot; Many of Smith's characters are collectors, like the netsuke collector in <i>Elephant Song.</i></p> <p><br> The man himself is a collector of books, Egyptian artifacts, Rolexes and firearms. &quot;The prize of my watch collection is a platinum 'Roger Federer' Rolex gifted by my wife,&quot; said Smith. &quot;Then there is my father's Rolex from the 1940s. Among my guns, there are two that are interesting. A .416 Rigby built specially for a Kenyan safari company in 1934, a year after I was born. Then there is a Queen's Silver Jubilee edition .375 Holland &amp; Holland Magnum rifle. It is one of five produced by them. It is numbered and has the jubilee crest on it. Actually, it is supposed to be an exhibition piece. But mine is quite well used. I've shot over 40 buffalo with it.&quot;</p> <p><br> The Rigby made an appearance in <i>The Seventh Scroll. </i>Smith shot his first lion in 1947. His parents were vacationing and the 14-year-old was alone at home when a pride of lions tore into their livestock. With his father's .318, which was offlimits for him, he shot three lions with as many bullets. He has freely admitted that his father, Herbert James Smith, was the template from which he fashioned his 'great white hunters'. Later, Smith did turn conservationist. He bought sheep farms in the Karoo and fenced them into one 26,000-acre reserve, where he introduced eland, gemsbok, springbok and other indigenous species. He sold the reserve to a friend, but visits and hunts there often. Smith's introduction to India was through the writings of Corbett, Kipling and even R.K. Narayan.</p> <p><br> He said that unless conservationists <i><b>Helpmate, playmate, soulmate: </b>Smith with wife Niso </i>appeal to human nature, the human versus wildlife conflict in India might continue. In post-independence Africa, he said, people were trying to raise cattle on the same grass that the gazelle was eating. This led to conflict. Then, the government told tribal chiefs that they would get 50 per cent of the fee from every hunting licence. But the money must be invested in schools, clinics, wells and soon. &quot;Today, if anyone poaches, his fellow tribesmen turn him in,&quot; said Smith. &quot;India has a strong hunting tradition and lots of rich Indians still do come to East Africa to shoot game. Today, to shoot a lion in Botswana, you have to pay $3,00,000. An elephant too comes at around the same price. You say there are no animals in India. In Botswana alone there are a 1,40,000 head of elephant, while the ground can only support 60,000 or so!&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Paintings and painters make an appearance in many of Smith's novels. The inspiration is undoubtedly his mother, Elfreda Lawrence Smith, who died three years ago at the age of 92. Smith's chalet n Davos is entirely decorated with her watercolours. He has around 200 of them. His favourite? &quot;She did one of me as a small boy walking along the beach, at sunset, with my fishing rod and bait-box,&quot; he said. &quot;She has painted every house that I ever had.&quot;<br> </p> <p><br> On the desk in his study, he keeps a small wooden box with her ashes. On a working day, Smith gets up at around 5:30 a.m., goes through his morning routine, has breakfast and writes from around 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. &quot;Then we go for walks or go fishing,&quot; he said. &quot;Sometimes we have a barbecue in the evening.&quot; He has professed his weakness for crayfish and Cape red wine. He also loves a young springbok steak, rare with lots of garlic, and a side dish of pasta. He hits the sack by 10 p.m.</p> <p><br> In between books the Smiths travel—fishing in Alaska, Iceland or Russia, pheasant hunting in Argentina and so on. His biggest fish was a 1,112-pound marlin hooked off the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. He took six hours to bring it in, and the behemoth measured 14ft from the tip of the sword to the tail. After being close to so many animals, he has chosen a little one for his personal crest—the sunbird.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes, <i>The Sunbird </i>is one of his more popular books, but there is more to it. His Cape Town house borders the Kirstenbosch national botanical gardens, and many a day sunbirds come to his garden looking for nectar. &quot;I believe good things happen to me when these green, iridescent visitors come calling,&quot; said Smith. But still, why the sunbird? Coleridge, perhaps, has the answer: <i>&quot;He prays well, who loves well/ Both man and bird and beast./He prays best, who loves best/ All things both great and small.&quot; </i>•&nbsp;</p> Sun Nov 14 20:55:39 IST 2021 jcb-prize-2021-won-by-m-mukundan-for-delhi-a-soliloquy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Scoring a hat-trick of sorts for Malayalam literature in translation, M. Mukundan won the JCB Prize for&nbsp;<i>Delhi: A Soliloquy&nbsp;</i>in the capital on Saturday.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;It is a novel of the poor and wretched,&quot; said Mukundan while receiving the prize. This is the third time in four years that a translated Malayalam novel has won the biggest prize for literature in India.</p> <p>Written over years—Mukundan lived in Delhi for 40 years—before moving back to Kerala—was the result of his experiences. &quot;26 years I worked. Four years I wandered. Wanderlust is very good for a writer.&quot;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>He travelled for years through Delhi's underbelly—walking through Govindpuri and Old Delhi; among the homeless and poor.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Very little of the book is imagination,&quot; he said. &quot;The hungry people can never win a prize but they can help a writer win. It is interesting,&quot; he added, dedicating his award to the poor.</p> <p>The prize includes Rs 25 lakhs for the writer as well as a cash prize for the translators. &quot;It couldn't have been translated better,&quot; he said. It took the translators—Fateema E.V. and Nandakumar K.—along with Mukundan a year to complete the project.&nbsp;</p> <p>Published by Westland Books, the novel covers the history of Delhi from the 1960s capturing historical events from the riots to the China War.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;It is exciting that the novel has won. It [shows that] Malayalam literature in translation has arrived,&quot; says V.K. Karthika Publisher Westland books. &quot;I was reading the book in February at the time of the riots in Delhi, sitting in the East of Kailash. Mukundan is writing about was very spooky. I realised that you can't escape violence.&quot;</p> Sat Nov 13 21:45:59 IST 2021 khee-highlights-the-worrying-trend-of-stray-dog-attacks-in-ladakh <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Nikhil Talegaonker talks about a "bizarre" breed of dog called ‘Khibshank’. He came to know about them while filming <i>Khee </i>in Ladakh some three years ago. <i>Khee </i>in Ladakhi translates to dog and "shanku" is wolf. When the stray dogs there mate with the wolves, they create a hybrid&nbsp;which is locally named Khibshank.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the 35-minute documentary <i>Khee, </i>now screening at the 10th Dharamshala International&nbsp;Film Festival, the locals describe Khibshanks&nbsp;as an&nbsp;aggressive&nbsp;sort, distinguished&nbsp;by longer tails and ears which look much different than the street dogs.</p> <p>"They are found near the Hemis National Park area and are known to have killed livestock in the surrounding villages," says Talegaonkar on the phone from Pune, where he lives. The high-altitude national park is also globally famous for the endangered snow leopards. "We did not come across any documented cases of&nbsp;Khibshanks attacking snow leopards. But there are cases of stray dogs attacking the elusive mountain leopards," affirms&nbsp;Talegaonkar, highlighting the severity of stray dog attacks which have gone up through the years in the land of the high passes.</p> <p>In <i>Khee</i>, there is raw footage of a stray dog attacking and killing a snow leopard, shot in December 2018 by the producer of the documentary Sandeep Dhumal, a wildlife photographer himself.&nbsp;It was during a two-year project on wildlife documentation in Ladakh that Dhumal got to know about the serious and ever-increasing incidents of dog attacks in the Union territory which is always in the news for its tourism potential, its rugged, breathtaking beauty and defence and strategic importance. But the problem of dogs growing wild and feral in the winter months has been persisting now for more than a decade.</p> <p>In the documentary <i>Khee</i>, the filmmakers show how the stray dogs have gone rogue on humans, the rarest birds and wildlife species, apart from goats and lambs. By seamlessly merging media reports, victim and eyewitness accounts, soundbites by officials from the department of animal husbandry, birth control, wildlife protection and law enforcement alongside footage acquired from villages of Suspol, Nyoma and the dumping yards of tourist-choked Leh town, the filmmakers show a much neglected and worrying trend of stray dogs going wild in Himalayan territories like Ladakh. The alarming rate of growth in the stray dog population in Ladakh was first attributed to improper&nbsp;disposal of kitchen waste by the Army and later due to irresponsible tourism.&nbsp;</p> <p>"In the tourist season from July to October, the dogs have much to feed on as the tourists throw food at them out of affection. In the winter months, from late November, Ladakh literally shuts down for tourists. And these dogs then prowl in packs everywhere for food. Almost all the vicious attacks have happened in the winter months," says&nbsp;Talegaonker&nbsp;who has recounted the killing of birds like ruddy shelduck and the black necked cranes (including the destruction of their nests, eggs, and hatchlings), the killing of the rarest of the wild cats called Lynx, attacks on large brown bears and snow leopards.</p> <p>The size of the victim is not a concern for a pack of wild, hungry dogs. The film begins with the accounts of the kin of two young women who were badly mauled and eaten by wild dogs in the villages of&nbsp;&nbsp;Suspol and Nyoma. The incident in 2016 at Suspol had created a furore, so much&nbsp;so that locals had begun&nbsp;to round up dogs to throw them in the river.&nbsp; This led to the creation of Ladakh's only dog shelter by a non-profit called Live to Rescue in collaboration with&nbsp;Young Drukpa Association and the animal husbandry department of Leh. But maintaining this shelter is an expensive affair. And not every homeless dog in Ladakh can be accommodated here.&nbsp;</p> <p>Registered dog bite cases in Leh have only been going up, from 854 in 2017&nbsp; to 1,529 in 2019. Some 141 people were reported to have been bitten by dogs in January alone in 2020. Data from villages beyond Leh is hard to come by. "Everyday, some five to seven cases of dog bites are registered in the local hospital of Leh alone," approximates&nbsp;Vishudha Lobsang,&nbsp;chairman of the&nbsp;Wildlife Conservation and Birds Club of Ladakh in Leh. "Sterilisation of dogs is now happening at a better pace than before. But the issue is still there and it is a big&nbsp;one.&nbsp;The strays become long-ranging dogs in the winter months, who travel more than 10 to 15km. For the&nbsp;last one decade, shepherds don't go alone&nbsp;to&nbsp;the fields. And they travel with clubs and sticks," says Lobsang, who agrees that sterilisation isn't exactly the solution when the problem itself starts with lack of food in the winter months.&nbsp; "Neither is culling accepted by society."&nbsp;</p> <p>The film mentions, in one sequence, how even Mahatma Gandhi was against stray dogs. The filmmakers came away with a renewed understanding of managing strays in city streets. "We like to offer our neighbourhood&nbsp;dogs Parle-G biscuits and feel good about it. But feeding street dogs is feeding into the problem. One should not do it for some pseudo-satisfaction. If you really want to do something about stray dogs, try to give them a home," says&nbsp;Talegaonker, a dog-lover himself. He is trying to crack television deals for <i>Khee </i>for wider dissemination. "We expect to receive a lot of flak from dog-loving communities. And we are prepared to take&nbsp;them. But we want people to watch this and start a conversation around it."</p> <p><i>'Khee' is on view at&nbsp;</i><a href="#inbox/_blank"><i><u></u></i></a><i>&nbsp;till 14 November.&nbsp;</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Nov 10 21:55:41 IST 2021