Society en Wed May 20 10:35:49 IST 2020 when-bengal-folk-paintings-learn-to-embrace-sanitizers-and-face-masks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the painting 'Gari Ashche', a bored policeman inquires from a woman passing by if she has seen any car coming in his direction; he hasn't collected any bribe for days because of the lockdown.</p> <p>In 'Hot Hero', rendered in the style of a traditional Kalighat painting, home quarantine has made the 'Nayak', a kitchen king, while his 'Nayikas' are lounging around playing cards.</p> <p>In 'Sanitizer Vaccine', a babu is dancing with a wine bottle, amazed that his broom-wielding wife does not see the goodness of alcohol which fights COVID-19, while in 'Mukhor Dhari', the painter compares the face mask with the net that farmers use to tie the mouth of the oxen to prevent them from eating crops.</p> <p>This is the funny thing about adversity. Continued confinement and constriction, born out of a pandemic, can breed snark and levity in some. The school of art most easily amenable to register this grim sense of humour is the 19th century Kalighat paintings from Bengal, when a rise of 'Babu Culture' saw patuas (painters’ community) lampoon the manners of the upper class Bengali gentleman. The rural folk paintings reinvented themselves from religious souvenirs sold around the Kali temple area in Kolkata's Kalighat to satirical portraits of urban social milieus and their aspirational characters. The rural artisans or patuas, who observed the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the cosmopolitan set, came from different districts of West Bengal to make a living.</p> <p>In Anwar Chitrakar's solo exhibition of lockdown-inspired paintings titled 'Tales of our Times', now showing online at (Emami Art website), the artist has tried to capture the non-dramatic and mildly laughable events of our COVID-stilted lives. Born in 1980 to a traditional patua family at Naya Village, West Midnapore, Anwar received his training in Bengal folk paintings from his father Amar Chitrakar. Working within the stylistic boundaries of Kalighat painting, Anwar, however, does not repeat the past, but uses the visual potential of the conventional art forms to capture the transitory sights and emotions of the contemporary. So the 19th century oiled babu holding the pleat of his dhuti and lazily smoking a hookah is replaced with mask-wearing residents of quiet neighbourhoods skirting around empty streets, roving cops and migratory birds.</p> <p>In the pata paintings showcased by Anwar in ‘Tales of our Times’, a lot of detailing has gone into the iconic figuration, flowing lines, and tonal volumes. Anwar plays the painter as a flamboyant storyteller and a humorist. "Art is really the way we choose to want to live. Anwar, though he belongs to the patua legacy, is very contemporary in the delivery of his art. He is absolutely today. These were created now," says Richa Agarwal, CEO of Emami Art. "The exhibition is not Bengal-relevant, but time-relevant. As soon as the work went online, a couple of works were picked up by collectors from Maharashtra," says Agarwal, pointing out how online exhibitions on regional art have found new buyers.</p> <p>'Tales of our Times' is on view till July 31.</p> Fri Jul 10 18:38:04 IST 2020 now-poland-adds-video-games-to-school-curriculum <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Computer games are generally considered a major attention spoiler for children, with parents worried about the negative academic effects caused by the medium, along with its normalisation of activities like shooting and killing. Now, things seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Poland has become the first nation to officially recognise video games in school reading lists (for high school students) as educational resources to support the teaching of sociology, ethics, philosophy and history, according to multiple reports. As the old world charm of textbook-oriented education gradually subsides, a new mode of learning with strong credentials are making its way into schools.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mateusz Morawie, the prime minister of Poland, said, according to the publication <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Notes From </i><i>Poland</i>: “Poland will be the first country in the world that puts its own computer game into the education ministry’s reading list. Young people use games to imagine certain situations [in a way] no worse than reading books.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The much talked-about game<i> This War of Mine</i> is produced by 11 bit studios from Poland, and was released in 2014 to widespread acclaim. The game's focus is on the civilians affected in Balkan Wars. The only option left for civilians is to hide, scavenge for food and survive. The real life situations—hunger, horrors of war, dismantled homes and the last fight for survival—are based on real geography and urban landscapes. It encourages players to take moral choices of affection and empathy to find food, medicine and shelter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the prime minister: “It creates space for an interesting analysis of events, and it shows young people how to follow the good paths in life. In this game, there is a lot of reflection, situations in which we put ourselves [in the position] of a person who has to survive war.” The prime minister noted that the game draws on the Siege of Sarajevo as well as the Warsaw Uprising. The siege on Sarajevo, which is now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, happened during the ethnic conflict in between Bosniaks and Serbs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Video games are intrinsically woven into all parts of interaction between students. If utilised in a proper way in education, it can help students develop problem-solving and team-building skills. Majority of schools in urban areas have smart classrooms occupied with computers and projectors, and they can utilise the children interest in videogames.&nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 09 13:59:27 IST 2020 a-rose-by-any-other-name-will-dropping-fair-from-beauty-products-change-anything <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The fairness creams industry in India, and around the world, are changing their colours—a 'whitening' of perception, of sorts. But will calling 'a rose by any other name' make any difference?</p> <p><a title="HUL to drop the word 'Fair' from skincare cream 'Fair &amp; Lovely'" href="">FMCG major Unilever turned heads recently</a> when it announced that it was removing the phrase 'Fair' from its top selling fairness cream 'Fair &amp; Lovely'. “We recognise that the use of the words 'fair', 'white' and 'light' suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don't think is right, and we want to address this,” Unilever India's president (beauty &amp; personal care) Sunny Jain had announced in a press statement.</p> <p>It is believed that 'Fair &amp; Lovely', which is virtually the nomenclature for complexion creams in the Indian market since its launch in 1975, will <a title="'Fair and Lovely' to be renamed as 'Glow and Lovely'" href="">henceforth be known as 'Glow &amp; Lovely'</a>. Following this, Nivea India MD reportedly said the company is globally reviewing its product portfolio to “determine issues of implications of changing perceptions.”</p> <p>Johnson &amp; Johnson has already announced that it will take its fine fairness cream brands Neutrogena (available in many Asian countries) as well as Clean &amp; Clear (available in India) off the market. Lóreal also bit the bullet, saying it will remove usages of terms like fair/whitening/lightening from its own similar products.</p> <p>While, for years there has been a growing movement in India against fairness creams because of the socio-cultural impact they have on a susceptible young population, the spark for the present change of heart has its roots in the race riots and subsequent Black Lives Matter movement in America.</p> <p>Explains N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, “The #BlackLivesMatter protests have gained enormous momentum across the western world, and companies which have built product lines in the lucrative skin lightening category have to come to terms with the extremely racial nature of the category, which they were extremely aware about, but avoided taking action on due to the force of commerce. Now, with J&amp;J, Unilever and others having already taken action, the pressure is mounting on others to take steps in the same line.”</p> <p>The category is highly lucrative, especially big in countries like India, China, Middle East, South-East Asia and Africa. According to statista, the fairness cream category in India alone is worth about Rs 3,400 crore and includes creams, moisturisers, face washes and even 'whitening' products for underarms and vagina.</p> <p>There has been enough backlash earlier, with Bollywood celebrities like Bipasha Basu and others speaking out against the impact such products have on the young generation and how it propagates cultural biases that favour a person with fairer complexion over others. “Such product categories accentuate the inherent tribalist mentalities in humans based on skin color, and with their large marketing spends, end up creating a ‘body dissatisfied’ generation with low self-esteem,” Chandramouli remarks. While for the longest time the financials proved too strong an impediment, the international reaction seems to have finally prompted the companies to take remedial action.</p> <p>However, there is also a feeling that more needs to be done. &quot;What about 45 years of damage and the wrong messaging about women's empowerment? There should we more than just changing the name&quot; fumed Kavitha Emmanuel in an interview this weekend. Emmanuel has been running the 'Dark is Beautiful' campaign for years, writing to the companies and conducting public awareness campaigns.</p> <p>“Changing the name is not less than appropriate action for the brands, and they must do away with any product that has the promise or ingredients of skin lightening,” adds Chandramouli. The industry might just be taking the present actions also keeping in mind a new legislation being pushed by the health ministry, which makes promotion of skin lightening products punishable by a five-year jail term. The bill has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> Tue Jun 30 17:18:29 IST 2020 compassion-in-the-time-of-covid-19 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Shravan Krishnan, an animal activist from Chennai, got an overwhelming response when he recently put up a post on social media on how beach horses and their owners have been affected by COVID-19 outbreak.</p> <p>The beaches have been shut to tourists and having lost their means of livelihood, many of the horse owners are not able to take care of the horses. “They don’t have any means of income. There are no events or marriages. So these people are struggling and so are the horses,’’ wrote Shravan.<br> <br> Arjun, one of the owners wanted to give up his horse. It would cost Rs 20,000 to buy off the horse from its owner and hand it to Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary. The story struck a chord with many and donations poured in. It took Shravan just a few hours to raise money.<br> <br> The coronavirus pandemic has made humans more compassionate and empathetic. Heart-warming stories of people reaching out to the less fortunate abound during the pandemic. <br> <br> In cities like Bengaluru, women are at the forefront of charity work. From donating home-cooked meals to migrant workers to offering financial support to daily wage workers, they contribute their bit. “We donated thousands of theplas to migrant workers in Bengaluru,” says Mala D. Shah from Bengaluru. Anoopa Anand managed to crowdsource food and even clothes for migrants while Samina Bano of Rightwalk Foundation feeds the poor.&nbsp;<br> <br> With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting supply chains all over the world, NGOs have been playing the crucial role of undertaking service delivery to assist the government’s efforts to bring relief to people, says Shri Chanchalapathi Dasa, vice chairman, The Akshaya Patra Foundation. The foundation works with the union and state governments and UT Administrations to help vulnerable populations.</p> <p>“We have cumulatively served over 65 million meals to people affected by the crisis in various locations across the country. We have been able to achieve this due to the collaborative efforts of everyone involved,” said Dasa.</p> Tue Jun 23 15:16:38 IST 2020 using-art-to-populate-abandoned-villages <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>How do you populate a village perched on a mountainous slope without much of a human presence? In the early 2000s, Tsukimi Ayano returned to her tiny native village of Nagoro in Japan's Shikoku island to tend to her elderly father. She made a scarecrow doll in the likeness of her father to scare off birds bent on destroying her newly planted garden. Soon, dolls spun out of cloth started to appear in farms, fields and bus-stops across the sparsely populated village.</p> <p>By late 2019, Nagoro had more than 300 dolls carved as lookalikes of former residents, with less than 30 human dwellers in the village at the time. This bewildering exercise in repopulation was also captured in a 2014 documentary short called&nbsp;<i>Valley of Dolls</i>&nbsp;by Fritz Schumann.</p> <p>There's nothing new about migration taking place from remote villages in hill areas. Lack of education and health facilities, apart from the search for a better livelihood, have created "ghost villages" in the upper reaches of hill towns—abandoned and unmanned. In 2017, a commission set up by the Uttarakhand government to study migration patterns in the last decade found that over 700 villages in the state were completely deserted and more than 1.19 lakh people had left their villages in the same time period.<br> </p> <p>But recent reports have pointed out how job losses during the lockdown have generated hopes of reviving "bhootiya" villages back to life. Data released by Uttarakhand's Rural Development and Migration Commission (RDMC) states that as of April 23, some 59,360 people have returned to the ten hill districts of Uttarakhand. Of them, Pauri Garhwal and Almora—two of the worst migration-hit districts—saw 12,039 and 9,303 former inhabitants, respectively, come back from the cities and plains.<br> </p> <p>If an artist were to respond to the loneliness of a village bereft of a sense of community, it could range from the otherworldly to the life-affirming. Three years ago, the widely covered ‘The Wise Wall Project’, an initiative by Project FUEL and FUEL Foundation, sought to paint the walls of the remote, 600-year-old village of Saur in Uttarakhand to soften the blows of excessive migration.<br> </p> <p>The latest example of a ghost village's poignant transformation into art comes from Nepal. In a video work being shown at Para Site’s ongoing two-venue group show 'Garden of Six Seasons' in Hong Kong, Pooja Gurung and Bibhusan Basnet from Kathmandu frame a somewhat similar experiment in the highlands of western Nepal where, in a tiny village of Jumla, an old couple grapple with the dilemma of leaving or staying back after the departure of their only friend. The video is shot at Chauki village which lies near Haat Sinja and Rotha Chaur situated on the border between Jumla and Mugu in the highlands of Western Nepal.<br> </p> <p>The old couple, Atimaley and Devi, live in a small village and are suddenly the only ones left there with the unannounced departure of a close friend. "During the Maoist insurgency (1996-2006) in Nepal, over 17,000 people including civilians lost their lives, thousands got injured, hundreds of people disappeared and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced, especially from rural villages like Jumla and Mugu," says Sheelasha Rajbhandari and Hit Man Gurung, co-curators of the upcoming Kathmandu Triennale 2020 from where some of the works are being showcased at Para Site as a precursor.<br> </p> <p>"The long history of repression, continuous political conflicts, unstable governments, complex social caste and class structures, unemployment, the influence of globalization and high demands of low-wage labour forces in the Gulf countries and Malaysia, are the main reasons of both internal and external migration in Nepal. Many villages have been completely abandoned by young people," say the curators.<br> </p> <p>Just like in the Japanese village, dolls filled the street corners of the deserted village, Julma has protective wooden effigies or ‘dadyaa' which are made as offerings to local deities but often memorialize ancestors. The doll motif is further extended with the use of Nepal's illustrious tradition of ceremonial masks in the film.<br> </p> Mon Jun 22 23:26:41 IST 2020 nepal-readies-for-major-international-arts-festival-kathmandu-triennale <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Be it rockets, helicopters, motorcycles and tractors woven into intricate patterns of traditional Mithila painting, or hair strands which float and swirl on the canvas as a sacred, mysterious life force; whether it is the reproduction of a stolen manuscript with a diagram of the ‘subtle body’ derived from Hindu Tantrism or a video story of how an old couple negotiate loneliness with wooden masks in their "ghost village" of Jumla in western Nepal, the showcase of indigenous art practices at the upcoming Kathmandu Triennale (KT) is set to be one of the most fascinating experiments in synergizing modernity with local cultural heritage.</p> <p>Kathmandu Triennale, now in its second edition in this format, which was previously the Kathmandu International Arts Festival, is Nepal’s premier international platform for global contemporary art, and is presented across nine historically and culturally significant venues in three clusters—Patan, Kathmandu, and Boudha. The second edition is called Kathmandu Triennale 2077 and is slated to begin on December 4, 2020—which is the year 2077 in the indigenous Nepali calendar system—and will continue 9 January 9, 2021. The exhibition is planning to host over 100 artists from more than 40 countries. As a precursor to KT 2077, works of nine Nepali artists are currently on display at Para Site in a two-venue group show called 'Garden of Six Seasons' in Hong Kong.</p> <p>Since March, art galleries have remained shut in India. Reading about an ongoing show in Hong Kong and an upcoming one in Nepal, one would feel like the pandemic exists in an alternate universe. How will this multi-disciplinary arts festival come to fruition this year? How difficult has it been in getting artists to commit to KT in December? What are the logistical worries? The co-curators of KT 2077, Hit Man Gurung and Sheelasha Rajbhandari, take us through what it is like organising a global arts festival in the midst of an unrelenting pandemic.</p> <p><b>The earthquake of 2015 was one of the major triggers for conceiving KT. In 2017, art sought to proudly reclaim the city spaces devastated by this unprecedented natural disaster. What are some of the contemporary challenges KT plans to highlight in its second edition?</b></p> <p>There are many challenges which we tend to perceive in isolation, while in reality they are interconnected with other seemingly segregated or subtle issues. There are also tendencies to perceive these challenges only within the political boundaries of the respected countries, which prevents us from engaging with broader collective movements. Focus will be given to ideas, movements that have been marginalised both in Nepal and globally. These will include discourses of decolonisation, migration and displacement, indigenous knowledge, queer rights, feminism, and alternative worldviews. Diverse languages of expressions will be celebrated and acknowledged, particularly those that have been suppressed because of the dominating and narrow patriarchal, West-centric, colonialist narratives in art and thought. The years of political tragedies and natural calamities have led to far-reaching cultural and socio-political consequences in Nepal and different geographies. Migration and displacement are particular results of such catastrophes. KT 2077 will explore these shared experiences of both trauma and resistance. An important section in KT will be dedicated to various artistic practices incorporated into physical, psychological and spiritual healing practices from centuries ago to present day. KT will also host a ‘garden show,’ with artists invited to plant, cultivate, and design an exhibition as a heterogenous park. This is to address and discuss the fact that humans have been creating artificial environments ever since they started making objects, either in the process of economically exploiting and dislocating nature or through the sophisticated manipulation of garden design.</p> <p><b>Can you talk a little bit about the modernising of Mithila paintings underway in Nepal? How have the tools, motifs and patterns evolved in recent years?</b></p> <p>In Mithila paintings and wall reliefs, artists have been depicting and archiving individual and communal experiences, festivals, animals and plants that surround them, along with religious presentations and illustrations of folklore. As Nepal is rapidly modernising, closely-knit communities are expanding into larger cities; the traditional houses made of mud and bamboo are turning into concrete. This has completely changed the tradition of wall relief murals and paintings. The painting tradition shifted to paper around 30 years ago. Over these years, the subject matter of the Mithila painting is also naturally evolving—artists have incorporated dynamics of the society and critique of the prevailing social structures. Mithila art is traditionally practiced by women and the knowledge of the art is passed down from grandmothers, mothers to daughters. And it is particularly inspiring to see women artists challenge traditional gender roles through their works in this way.</p> <p><b>What has the response been like at Para Site? Especially at this time of the pandemic?</b></p> <p>Hong Kong had previously experienced the SARS outbreak in 2003, so they were able to contain the COVID-19 more efficiently. As HK did not go through complete lockdown and things started to get comparatively normal, we were able to open the exhibition ‘Garden of Six Seasons’ in mid-May, though it was postponed by two months from its original date in March. However, there were barriers in the transportation of the artworks to HK from other parts of the world and unfortunately few of the planned works could not be transported in the end. The show is getting a good number of in-person visitors, and we are getting exciting responses from those that have heard about or seen the show online or offline. Keeping in mind the people who cannot visit the exhibition in person, there will also be more virtual tours of the exhibition in various formats, and focused sharing sessions by the artists.</p> <p><b>What are some of the challenges of prepping up for a multi-disciplinary arts festival this year? How difficult has it been in getting artists to participate and commit to KT in December? What kind of logistical worries are you grappling with at this point?</b></p> <p>KT will present works by 100+ artists and collaborators from over 40 different nations, and putting together an exhibition like this is always a challenge. Both of us are practicing artists based in Kathmandu. We are well prepared for practical issues such as the lack of proper infrastructure, specialists, and equipment to create large-scale events. We have always been exploring and working to develop a sustainable art environment in Nepal. The current global situation of the pandemic and extensive lockdown is of course the biggest challenge. In South Asia, the lockdown was implemented in the very early stage of the spread of infection. After around three months, the lockdown has been eased a bit but the infection rate is getting higher each day, so we cannot ignore the uncertainty. However, we should not forget that the situations we are facing are not entirely new, the pandemic has mostly intensified society’s already existing problems and pandemic should not be an excuse to stop addressing these issues. Because of the pandemic, we had to cancel many of our domestic and international research trips. As meeting in person is not possible, we had to shift to online platforms, but this has its own limitations. Nevertheless, we are in the process of finalising most of our artists. Our team is in close connection with the artists and different stakeholders, providing updates to our situation as it changes. It is a collective understanding and global effort. We are glad to have their commitment and support for the Triennale. We are looking into all the possibilities in designing a safe environment for the visitors and are still optimistic about the reach the Triennale will receive, in whichever form. We are closely following the guidelines of WHO, Nepal government and consulting local epidemiologists to ascertain best practice.</p> Thu Jun 18 21:05:50 IST 2020 covid-19-to-lead-to-big-changes-in-buildings-public-spaces <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Among the many things that will not be the same in the post-COVID-19 world are the spaces we live, work, socialise, shop, study and seek healthcare in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many visible additions and modifications are already in place. For example, sanitisation tunnels at the entrances of buildings which see large footfall, physically marked distances for standing and sitting; minimal human presence in production processes etc. But more long-term and permanent changes will have to be made, including the use of building and interior design materials which are bacteria/virus resistant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Manu Goel, architect and director at The Novarch, a Delhi-based firm which specialises in hospitality and healthcare among other sectors, says, “The world will never be the same again. This may actually add a greater degree of hygiene measures in Indian social spaces. Social protocols dictate the way buildings and urban spaces are designed.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Architect, author and urban planner Vipul B. Varshney, director of the Lucknow-based Sthapati Associates, says that while work from home is here to stay in some form, there will still be a need to provide those cultural bonds that inspire and motivate employees in a physical workspace. “The workplace will become an ecosystem that is a network of virtual and physical spaces. The new purpose of the office will be to provide inspiring destinations that strengthen the cultural connections, learning, and bonding with customers and colleagues,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Varshney says that this new definition for the office will cause a re-look at the kind of spaces that are currently most in demand for rentals. “Many companies pay high rents for offices in prime city centre locations and are under long lease commitments. Shifting to a more resilient short lease arrangement and occupying only a small workplace will be a model most firms will explore where offices could be used for essential collaboration time, with the majority of employees working from home.” While such a shift will lead to short term instability, it will address planning issues which have simmered over time; for instance, the need for a greater mix to urban land use in areas that are not centrally located.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For schools, Varshney foresees “hybrid learning models”, with students spending half the school day at home to reduce class size, and perhaps eliminating lunch period altogether.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the long term, though, such measures are likely to negatively impact students as they will be deprived of the joys that sharing tiffin boxes and personal contact bring.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Goel says that private health care providers will not shirk from investments which ensure greater hygiene given that spending on private spending on health care is more than four times more than what is spent in the public sector. “Private medical players are aware of this preference of the masses as the public alternative is much worse, with interminable waits in dirty surroundings with hordes of other patients. Many medicines and tests are not available in the public sector, so patients have to go to private shops and laboratories. This market dynamic will drive the private healthcare sector to make all possible attempts to retain its stronghold and invest in systems to attract the end customer,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Goel’s prescription for short term changes in the health sector include sanitization and buffer zones, masks and other protective material vending machines and telemedicine. Mid-term changes will require renovations of existing facilities to include contactless equipment, lift buttons, door handles, toilet fittings; and antibacterial nano coatings. In the long term, hospitals will have designs that include specialized departments for infectious diseases, management of indoor air quality and waste.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In rural settings which see large congregations during specific days such as the Village Health and Nutrition Day (VHND), Goel says, “Measures will have to be low budget and temporary. The most important will be social distancing enablement through design. For example, well-demarcated queuing solutions, like partitions with visibility panels.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Varshney’s list of changes in urban spaces include leveraging of automation and voice activation for touchless interaction, use of sensors to screen visitors, heating ventilation and air conditioning solutions such as the use of ultraviolet C light within these systems to kill microorganisms in the airstream, biometrics and temperature-monitoring devices, installation of smart window shades activated by sun-tracking technology and lighting systems that use sensory detection to adjust brightness in accordance with the time of day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Goel says that the three most marked changes in office spaces would be the creation of buffer zones and thresholds with screening within the existing space; work-desk rearrangements with a revised people flow management and more touchless equipment like door handles, taps, dispensers etc in common areas such as washrooms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many of the required technologies such as coatings that prevent bacteria from multiplying and that are self-disinfecting are already available in the market and will see a rise in use.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One element of concern, however, could be the enhanced use of disposable elements within building spaces. Goel says, “Disposable mediums may see an increase, but they will bear a life cycle cost and may have severe negative environmental impacts in the long term.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Varshney says that only new methods of designing spaces will not be an end as fundamental behavioural changes in employers, employees, property managers, and clients will be needed such that they recognise the long-term benefits of wellness. “The future workplace can be a convergence of nature, design, and martial law,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a normal, long distance vision of the future such changes would have come naturally. The pandemic, however, has brought that future closer.&nbsp;</p> Wed Jun 17 15:38:17 IST 2020 bob-dylans-new-album-speaks-to-the-rough-and-rowdy-ways-of-the-world-today <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There's an earnest query on Quora, like most inquiries in the popular question-and-answer website: "What is the best book or online collection of Bob Dylan's lyrics for someone who is trying to understand his greatness?"</p> <p>While the answers range from weblinks to lyric books, one stands out. "If you want to understand why he’s so great, listen to his albums. And really listen....Dylan has never met you. He knows nothing about you but a line will leap out as if he wrote it that morning about your life. It’s like he’s seen you going for that walk from his studio all those years ago and threw in that line that will knock you sideways."</p> <p>Bob Dylan, one of the greatest musicians to have emerged from 20th century popular culture, will release a brand new studio album on June 19. Dylan is 79 years old now and <i>Rough and Rowdy Ways</i> will be his 39 studio album and the first collection of original songs since <i>Tempest</i> (2012). In a perfectly well-timed release, Friday, June 19, is also 'Juneteenth' in the US, a national holiday which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Dylan was born in Minnesota, the state where the gruesome killing of a 46-year-old black man on May 25 has propelled the most trenchant debates on race and policing around the world. Back in the 1960s, when Dylan released his most influential songs so far in his sprawling oeuvre—'Blowin' in the Wind' and 'The Times They Are a-Changin'—they became anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements then. Will his brand new songs have the same impact in 2020?</p> <p>As we gasp and choke in the worst possible health crisis of the 21st century, the Nobel laureate and possibly the last surviving troubadour poet is not sugar-coating the roads he has taken. The new songs offer no sweet, sorrowful words of solace to soften the blows of nature and human follies. They are as effortlessly 'rough and rowdy' as they get.</p> <p>When he sings:</p> <p><i>You greedy old wolf, I'll show you my heart</i></p> <p><i>But not all of it, only the hateful part</i></p> <p><i>I'll sell you down the river, I'll put a price on your head</i></p> <p><i>What more can I tell you?</i></p> <p><i>I sleep with life and death in the same bed, </i>you get a good old gravelly Dylan at his nasty best.</p> <p>It sets the tone for the whole album, which surveys the entire arc of American history from the lens of culture, history, politics and philosophy. The magnificent sweep of <i>Rough and Rowdy Ways</i> is like reading something as all-encompassing as <i>Ulysses; </i>there are world wars and assassinations, crusades and the birth of nations, as one critic pointed out.</p> <p>And, yes, if you listen carefully enough, the lines leap out like they have been written to make sense of the current turmoil.</p> <p><i>Freedom, oh freedom</i></p> <p><i>Freedom above me</i></p> <p><i>I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free, </i>goes a line from 'Murder Most Foul', a 17-minute epic journey which starts with the premise of Kennedy's assassination.</p> <p>At his finest poetic achievement, Dylan introduces himself again in the song 'False Prophet':</p> <p><i>Well I'm the enemy of treason</i></p> <p><i>Enemy of strife</i></p> <p><i>I'm the enemy of the unlived meaningless life</i></p> <p><i>I ain't no false prophet</i></p> <p><i>I just know what I know</i></p> <p><i>I go where only the lonely can go</i></p> <p>While he has already released three songs (mentioned above) from the new album right since the early days of the pandemic in March, fans await the final 10-track album which drops on June 19. It is perhaps a bigger event than Leonard Cohen releasing an album in his final years. But even if <i>Rough and Rowdy Ways</i> doesn't go down in music history as an epochal event, its poetry will persist. It holds the key to the throbbing, fierce heart of one of the most elusive musical genius.</p> <p>The composer has a tendency to continually discard his previous selves. It is no wonder he can still produce astonishing new work. In the only interview he has given in the run-up to the release of the album, Dylan said to the <i>The New York Times</i>, "Most of my recent songs are like that. The lyrics are the real thing, tangible, they’re not metaphors. The songs seem to know themselves and they know that I can sing them, vocally and rhythmically. They kind of write themselves and count on me to sing them."</p> Tue Jun 16 20:16:52 IST 2020 it-is-a-long-wait-for-the-qawwals-of-nizamuddin-dargah <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>"Kya special plan karangey? Online kuch padh dengey</i> (What special event can we plan now? Will read something online itself)," says Hasan Nizami in a sullen voice.&nbsp; Hasan is a darbari qawwal attached to the Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi and one of the three 'Niazi Nizami’ brothers who hail from a lineage of qawwali performers going back to 700 years.</p> <p>The annual five-day Urs festival starting June 9, which commemorates the death anniversary of the great poet and musician, Amir Khusrau, will come and go without any magical qawwali gatherings at the Dargah Sharif of the revered 13th century Sufi saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, who was also Khusrau's spiritual mentor. In fact, Khusrau is the father of modern qawwali; he invented the genre of the Sufi Islamic devotional music as we know it. Even as places of worship open gradually after more than two months of lockdown, the famous evening mehfils of Nizamuddin Dargah will remain a pre-Corona reverie. The Sufi shrine is closed to the public till June 30. And much as he dislikes it, Nizami knows he has to keep singing on Facebook and YouTube "lives" for now. And, perhaps, longer than June 30.&nbsp;</p> <p>"Artists are painfully shy and proud, you know. They will not go and ask for help or suggest they are in trouble," says Nizami, drawing attention to months of sitting idle with no live performances, the beating heart of a qawwali gathering, which feeds into the energy and spirit of its practitioners. Now Niazi Nizami brothers, with a few musicians from their group of 10, regale listeners from an ornately done-up room in their house. Dressed up like they would for a live performance, the brothers constantly check the "mizaz" of their audience in the comments feed of their Facebook Live and try to create a "sama" in the enclosed space. They are learning to make do with clapping and appreciation as emojis and texts. There are no birthdays, cocktails or marriage functions to make up for the loss of singing opportunities. Recently, an event company roped them in for a Facebook live, but without any compensation.&nbsp;</p> <p>"We don't hold a private or a government job. We don't own shops so we can earn rent every month. Qawwals are calling us everyday for help; they don't know where to go. The well is running dry," says Nizami. The qawwals are a key fixture at Nizamuddin Dargah whose lively musical performances happen every evening after the Maghrib prayers, with special ones every Thursday and Friday. The Nizamuddin qawwalis are a mainstay for tourists and devotees in Delhi. There are at least seven Khandani (inter-generational) darbari qawaals with Nizamuddin Dargah, where professional qawwals come to perform from far and wide. Devoted to their craft and tradition of Sufi singing, any cash payment for qawwals in mehfil settings is frowned upon. But the act of a "pir" blessing the "nazrana" given to performers transforms donations into a pious offering.</p> Mon Jun 08 20:27:15 IST 2020 Among-the-believers <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Asha, a house help in Delhi, recently developed a new ritual for reciting the rosary after dinner. The lockdown restricted the regular churchgoer to her one-room home and denied her the simple assurance of a Sunday mass. This was until she received a WhatsApp forward on May 1, of an adoration held in a convent in Kapurthala, Punjab. In the 30-minute video, a large group of Catholic nuns invoke Mother Mary as mata dulari (cherished mother) and sing for forgiveness in front of her three-foot statue. “Now I play this video every day after dinner,” says Asha. “It helps my daughter and me concentrate. I think I will continue to use it even after the lockdown is lifted.”</p> <p>Many commentators and experts have raised questions about the future of organised religion in the wake of Covid-19, especially with religious sites shut around the world. Just like the bubonic plague and the printing press sowed seeds for the protestant reformation in Europe, can technology and the ongoing pandemic lead to a change in the way we approach places of worship? Can gatherings, the heart of a religious experience, be reduced to carefully managed crowd control strategies? Masks, sanitisers and social distancing at Vaishno Devi temple and the Tirupati Balaji shrine? And for how long?</p> <p>Many religious gatherings were seen as large “viral vectors” from where cases multiplied and exploded—a secretive sect called the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in South Korea, the Islamic missionary movement of Tablighi Jamaat, which held a 16,000-strong gathering in a mosque in Malaysia, an Orthodox Jewish congregation in New Rochelle, New York, and so on. Attending a service in a church, temple, mosque or gurdwara will not be the same for the devout, at least for the next year. Will this collective isolation bring devotees closer to their gods? Or will they fall into despair when sacred places become physically out of reach?</p> <p>“The pandemic situation has introduced a kind of atemporality in experience in the absence of a regular calendar time,” says H.S. Shivaprakash, poet, playwright and professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “The more esoteric aspects of spirituality, the core ones which are not very popular, all talked about the interconnectedness of things. The Shashtra and the tantras call it sarvam sarvatmakam, which in European schools of mysticism was called the theory of correspondence. The interconnectedness of things is the grounding principle of Sanatan Dharma, animism and pantheism. Whether we like it or not, this realisation is being forced upon us now.”</p> <p>Shivaprakash is working on a book on spirituality and the pandemic. He believes that individual religiosity, the constant focus on individual liberation and salvation is going to take a backseat. As people switch to virtual congregations to commune with a so-called God, they will realise that they are praying to their own self, he says. “Nobody is listening outside. Idolatory and external worship is required, but this is only a means to circle back to oneself,” says Shivapraskash.</p> <p>This year, on the eve of Easter, Fr Stanley Kozhichira of the Delhi archdiocese had to deal with a volley of questions from youth attendees of a webinar: Why is God a hard-hearted person? Why is he closing his eyes to our difficulties? For how long can we hope to go on like this? He explained to his anxious listeners that God is beyond time and space. “In the Bible, one day can equal a thousand and a thousand days can equal one. It is only we humans who think in terms of a finite space. One can only wait in hope for betterment,” Kozhichira said.</p> <p>He has been live-streaming a mass at 6:30am every day since March 19, before the lockdown was announced. Kozhichira talks about an interactive, explanatory mass on Zoom, with a group of 60 participating with readings and music and questions on faith and practice. “The Church has given advisory guidelines for people attending these online services,” he says. “It has to be attended live; no recorded service is allowed. For a Sunday mass, one has to dress the part, prepare a table, a Bible, two candles and a cross near the altar.” Unstable internet bandwidth, he says, is the greatest challenge at this point, apart from accessibility of internet services to low-income groups. But Kozhichira is absolutely certain that an active service will not be taking place before September.</p> <p>The Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha temple in Simhachalam, Visakhapatnam, is perhaps the second largest temple in Andhra Pradesh and one of the more well-endowed in terms of land. Two of its biggest festivals, Kalyanotsava and Chandanotsava, happen in April, drawing in lakhs of devotees. But this year, there have been no public darshans since the end of March. “Before the lockdown was announced, I had a board meeting via video conference and we decided that we were not going to allow public darshans (considering) the safety of our devotees,” says Sanchaita Gajapati Raju. She is the hereditary trustee of the Simhachalam Devasthanam board, and became its first woman chairperson on March 4.</p> <p>In a first, the temple telecast pujas live on social media and local media outlets. The preparatory puja before the Chandanotsava (sandalwood festival) was telecast as well. The faithful can register for prasadam through a WhatsApp number and it will be couriered once the lockdown is lifted. People stranded in the vicinity of the temple have been housed by the authorities for free, with access to medicines and dry rations. “As religious institutions, we have a certain leadership role in all of this,” says Raju. “This is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity. How do we reinvent connecting with people? Here, technology can play a huge role. Religious practices are not a pickle to preserve in a bottle. They change with the times. We have to ensure that people’s safety is paramount. Physical darshan now will only be done in staggered timings. There will be access of masks, sanitisers and temperature check. Till such time as you can find a vaccine, I don’t see a silver bullet. “</p> <p>Punjab has seen a recent spike in Covid-19 cases after pilgrims returned from Hazur Sahib gurdwara in Nanded, Maharashtra. Of Punjab’s tally of 1,780 cases as of May 10, those who returned from Nanded account for 68 per cent (1,205 cases). The devotees had returned from Nanded in buses arranged by the Punjab government.</p> <p>Karnail Singh Panjoli, a member of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak executive committee, says that only the basic thermometer drill was done before the pilgrims boarded the buses. He added that there were many migrant workers, too, in the buses. “Our committee had written to the Punjab government three months ago,” says Panjoli. “We had given them a list of gurdwaras they could use for testing the pilgrims and migrants. We had arranged beds, clean bathrooms and the langar was well organised. They should have checked the list and taken the bus there to test and screen people. Instead, when the pilgrims came to Punjab, they were sent home. Then, when they became positive, there was chaos and they were called from home and kept in various places. This worsened the situation.” He says the primary responsibility of gurdwaras now is to feed the hungry and the homeless, apart from offering residential facilities under the Parbandhak for testing and recovery of the afflicted. “Covid-19 has no religion. By targeting a single community, we are endangering all of our safety. Whoever is doing this is an enemy to all religions and the country,” says Panjoli.</p> <p>Fayaz Khwaza from Srinagar is a shawl merchant in Leh, Ladakh. In the last two months, he has suffered a loss of 015 lakh. In this holy month of Ramzan, he offers his prayers with his family at home, some 4km away from Lal Chowk. He does not seem perturbed and is happy playing volleyball with his children. “The prophet spoke of quarantine 1,400 years ago in the time of a plague,” says Khwaza. “The Quran says we have to stay where we are when such a calamity strikes, instead of trying to run away. Nobody can step out of the house until the outbreak is completely over.” He especially highlighted the Wudhu ablution or ritual washing performed by Muslims before offering prayers. “Yes, one can wear masks in a mosque, but it is not possible to pray with social distancing,” he says. “We might as well pray at home, right? What is the problem in that?”</p> Fri May 29 19:52:36 IST 2020 covid-19-and-contactless-future-of-the-art-world <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As India emerges out of lockdown and people gingerly begin venturing outside, the coming months will be all about slow, small resumptions. Culture aficionados, art connoisseurs and keen visitors will be looking forward to museum and gallery visits even if they have learnt to appreciate Facebook and Instagram content, podcasts and open access platforms during their enforced isolation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What would a museum visit post-quarantine entail to prevent overcrowding and transmission?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps an all-purpose mobile app with information on special exhibitions, reserve ahead and timed ticketing? It should have directions to hand sanitizing stations, in-built audio guides and tours of varying lengths for which visitors would need their own earphones. It might also include special commentary from artists and virtual wall-label text, apart from timely information on gallery strength and capacity, membership and giftshop plans. Touch-screen interactives might be disabled for now and virtual queues with digital check-ins and wait-in line could become additional features on websites. Some museums might consider digital membership cards to reduce exchange of physical materials with staff members. And for those who can't travel or are advised not to, immersive digital experience with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology is the way to go.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Entrepreneur, designer and typographer Brendan Ciecko has been brainstorming on a &quot;contactless future&quot; in the art world. As CEO and founder of American start-up Cuseum, he has been advising museums and cultural non-profits around the world on ways to leverage tech tools to negotiate a new, corona-distilled world. His company has also conducted research on neurological perceptions of original artworks through AR and VR. Recently, Ciecko was part of a webinar organised by India's ministry of culture on 'Revitalizing Museums and Cultural Spaces' where he offered suggestions which could have a bearing on policies for safe visitor engagement in Indian museums.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ciecko speaks to THE WEEK on how technology can reinvent consumption of art and heritage in museums.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are some of the immediate contactless measures that should be implemented in museum spaces as long as institutions fear transmission?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As museums reopen, it will be critical that they ensure the safety and well-being of their visitors and staff. This will require a complete redesign of the visitor journey, to reduce physical touch-points, close contact, and other potential risks. Museums across the globe have implemented timed-ticketing, contactless payments, and virtual queuing to reduce crowds and physical contact, as well as introduced mobile tools to encourage social distancing and eliminate printed maps and brochures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Can you tell us more about the long-term viability of digital membership in museums as a source of revenue? Which museums have implemented this effectively?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Right now, museums are eagerly seeking new ways to deliver value to their audience and generate new revenue while their doors are closed. In addition to that, even after museums have reopened, there will be a period of time where capacity is limited and a significant portion of the population will feel anxious about interacting in large, public spaces. This has prompted an interest in digital membership offerings and new virtual benefits. Virtual access and exclusive digital content are now being considered as a more permanent fixture of membership. In addition, some institutions are piloting new, lower-cost virtual membership levels altogether.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Considering how 90 per cent of the museums in the world are shut and will continue to face a long closure, are there digital tools developed by Cuseum for security and preservation of collections?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Throughout the closures and into the phased re-opening of museums, we have remained committed to helping the cultural sector in as many ways as possible. We have developed new resources, tools, as well as hosted conversations that over 50,000 cultural professionals have engaged with.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In response to the closures and demand for immersive digital museum experiences, Cuseum released a new augmented reality (AR) tool that virtually transports famous artworks from museums into people’s homes. Additionally, we have developed new tools to help support social distancing, safety, and distance learning, when visitors return to museums in the upcoming weeks and months.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What would you say to the many naysayers who diminish apps, gadgets and augmented reality as jarring and unreal when it comes to experiencing cultural heritage?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pandemic has changed the world’s perspective on the power and influence of digital channels for experiencing art and culture. This period has forced us all to let go of assumptions and long-held beliefs tied to traditional approaches and mindsets. As digital engagement presented itself as the only option, a new generation of cultural consumers was born; one that sees culture in a non-binary existence—it is not only physical, it is not only digital, at the end of the day, it is all culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, new research has underscored the value and legitimacy of digital channels, such as augmented reality and virtual reality, as a credible means of experiencing art and culture. For those who believe in the great power of art, it is equally important to consider the role technology plays in removing barriers and making it accessible to people all around the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>In the post-corona world, what kind of balance one can hope to see between technology and the physical experience of art in museums? Will it be like online dating where virtual introductions spur meeting in real life? And how much technology can be allowed to intrude in our consumption of art when we physically attend a museum?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We must acknowledge that technology has radically changed the way we all communicate, learn, and experience the world around us. Furthermore, there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to view art. The viewer, the visitor, the consumer will always decide what they prefer, and it is the responsibility of the museum to provide as many avenues and resources as possible to aid in the public’s experience. In the post-COVID-19 era, technology will play an even bigger role than it has in the past in how people experience museums, art, and cultural sites.</p> Thu May 28 23:41:52 IST 2020 covid-19-what-next-for-the-education-sector <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Experts widely differ, as in the definition of socialism, as to when Covid-19 would leave us. Even world leaders are helpless before the electron-microscopic virus. What next after Covid is a bewildering mystery. One thing is certain—life will never return to the pre-corona era. Taking into account the trends that have emerged in the academic field during these pandemic days, we can make certain intelligent extrapolations.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Education, an engine of change, plays a vital role in ensuring quality of life. Its style is bound to undergo a significant transformation. The 'chalk &amp; talk' style where the teacher is a knowledge shopkeeper may have to be complemented with online teaching. Even before Covid, we had initiated the online mode of teaching, but to a limited extent. The India government has several such schemes running.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>SWAYAM, for instance, hosts all courses taught in classrooms from Class 9 to post-graduation to be accessed by anyone, anywhere, any time. It has 4 quadrants–video lecture, specially prepared reading material, self-assessment tests and an online discussion forum for clearing doubts. SWAYAM PRABHA gives instruction through a group of 32 DTH channels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) provides e-learning through web and video courses. DIKSHA is the National Digital Infrastructure for Teachers that focuses on all requirements for teachers, as lesson plans, concept videos, worksheets, and so on. Several universities and educational institutions have recently started experimenting with video lectures and webinars.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the global level, there are quality MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) such as edX and Coursera. edX, founded by Harvard and MIT, is home to more than 20 million learners. More than 60 million people are already learning on Coursera. There are thousands of courses, from traditional subjects to the latest areas of artificial intelligence; many of them take no fees, except for certification.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Style of online courses</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A traditional teacher cannot easily change as an effective online teacher. The usual 45 to 60 minute duration will tire students, who cannot concentrate for so long in isolation, unlike in a classroom with friends. The online classes have to be scheduled as 20-minute slots.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The many IT tools for online have to be fully utilised. Lessons may be planned so as to develop critical thinking among pupils and thereby, enhance their employability. The gifts of IT such as a video clip during the lecture can enrich teaching. Learning has to be an enjoyable experience to the pupils. Teachers of humanities should also know the technical nuances of online operations. The main objective is to transform the role of the teacher in the digital platform. All these call for <a title="Online classes turning out to be nightmare for teachers amid COVID-19 lockdown" href="" target="_self">massive training of millions of teachers</a> in the country. We have to keep in mind that this is not distance education or a set of correspondence courses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The tools for online teaching may be designed by different institutions and the best among them selected for wide use. Of course, individual institutions may prefer special modifications to meet their specific needs. We may take lessons from successful global players in MOOC. But there is a difference in the approach to voluntary candidates going for MOOC and young students who are forced to attend online classes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Administration of online education may develop as a profession. Digital technology for online education may emerge as a specialisation in IT programs. Content creation and manufacture of IT tools for online education may develop as a goldmine for industrialists.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Long-range planning in this sphere is vital, since there is a possibility of other viruses cropping up any time. We cannot afford to have repeated lockdowns for months.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Merits of online programmes</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Video lectures can be viewed repeatedly whenever the students feel comfortable. They can derive the benefits of lessons from the best educators in the country. Since online teaching is a public exercise in full view of academics, only those with fine teaching skills would survive. This would ensure quality in teaching. Of course, well-planned re-training of teachers will help to bring back the weaker members of the faculty to the mainstream.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The principle of 'survival of the fittest' may affect poorer institutions as well. Some of them may be eliminated or may have to be merged with others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has already issued directions to give 20 per cent credit for online programs held through the SWAYAM platform. UGC has given a similar direction to use SWAYAM online courses and enable credit transfer in colleges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>On the flip side</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Laboratory and workshop classes cannot be held without face-to-face exposure. No hands-on skill can be developed without the close guidance of an instructor. Online teaching of children in lower standards will not be effective, since their movements have to be continuously monitored by the teacher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Education is not just text book learning. Students in schools and colleges have ample opportunities for interaction and development of social skills, which is absent in the online mode. Lessons in teamwork and leadership can be learnt only in groups. These drawbacks of online education are to be kept in mind, especially when someone dreams that subjects under the humanities umbrella can be fully learnt online.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The availability of laptops and internet connection with sufficient bandwidth is essential for online programmes. Poor children, particularly in the rural areas, may need special support in this regard. Perhaps, the government could mobilise the CSR of industries for this purpose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lack of online study material in regional languages is a handicap. It may take quite some time and the services of dedicated teachers to prepare adequate material for all levels of study.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Other impacts</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A blended system that combines traditional classroom teaching and online exercises would gain popularity. Institutions that run only practical training classes may emerge, aiming at students who have learnt theory from elsewhere in the online platform.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Students may be able to get two or even more degrees simultaneously from the same or different universities in the online mode. UGC has already given the go-ahead to students to pursue two degree courses simultaneously. Teacher training programmes like B.Ed will have to be drastically restructured.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from straightjacket three-year/six-semester programmes, there would be several need-based short-term schedules. Employers would give priority to skills rather than 'approved degrees' in recruitment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The digital infrastructure in institutions would become richer. The laptop industry may thrive as a consequence of the proliferation of online learning. Students may go for part-time jobs as in the western universities, most of which permit 20 hours of such weekly work for regular students.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We may also consider two innovations—round the year admissions and online examinations on demand.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps, Covid-19 is a blessing in disguise that sets the ball rolling for a revolution in teaching and learning—a long-felt need.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>The author is a former Joint Director of Technical Education, Government of Kerala and a career journalist for 30 years.</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tue May 26 14:35:57 IST 2020 audiobooks-reinventing-reading-in-the-time-covid19 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the past two months, listening has become the way more people have chosen to access books. The lockdown has reduced attention spans, making reading for even the most voracious reader tougher. Welcome the audiobook, a format that publishers know will grow in the future. And courtesy, the shutdown, has seen a definite growth spurt.</p> <p>So much so, that debut writer Nikhil Raj chose to launch his story as an audiobook. His book <i>Das </i>which is set in the city by the sea—Mumbai—tells the story of Vikas Das, an entrepreneur who has a drinking habit. Raj’s story is littered with Mumbai bars and his encounters in the city as he grapples with a break-up with his business partner. Raj chose to give his words a voice; many actually. There is chef Thomas Zacharias, musicians Nikhil D'Souza and RJ Rohini Ramanathan, lending their voices to his project. “I realised mainstream publishers don’t work for me,’’ he says. I was going to self-publish. An audiobook made sense,’’ he says.</p> <p>The response has been encouraging. People have been writing back to him and engaging with the story. “You can also go to the website and download the PDF,’’ he says. The audiobook is available on Spotify and You Tube. “I wanted to make it available on open source platforms,’’ he says.</p> <p>Raj is not alone in identifying a spurt in interest in audio content for books. Audible, the biggest platform for audio books, has seen a spurt in listeners. In an effort to make life easier for parents at home dealing with toddlers, Audible launched Audible stories—free for children and teenagers. With children stuck at home—and not allowed screen time—listening to a story aloud, certainly helped keep the peace at home. Available in six different languages, this service has found many more takers.</p> <p>“The current situation has definitely brought the spotlight on&nbsp;audiobooks during the initial lockdown phases, wherein bookstores and&nbsp;book&nbsp;delivery was closed,’’ says Niti Kumar, SVP, marketing, digital and communications, Penguin Random House India. “Audiobooks&nbsp;are another way to bring our content to our consumers and we are excited about our upcoming catalogue and hope to reach more people who are looking to adopt&nbsp;audio&nbsp;as a means of accessing&nbsp;books.’’</p> <p>More than just stories for children—which have seen a growth in the lockdown phase—there are also other trends. “We have observed that people are interested in genres such as mythology, mind, body and spirit, self-help and celebrity writings,’’ says Kumar.&nbsp;&nbsp;Data from Audible also indicates that people have chosen to tune into a lot more wellness content, especially, as anxiety levels have been high. Indian content is also seeing an increase in listenership. Taking a leaf out of the national broadcaster’s book of showing epics to get TRPs, Audible, has just launched <i>Mahabharat</i> in six hours narrated by Devdutt Pattnaik.</p> <p>The audiobook segment is only likely to grow. Juggernaut has also decided to jump on to the bandwagon. Founder Chiki Sarkar tweeted that the publishing house was looking for a team to create a bank of audio content. Listening may be the new reading.</p> <p>Fellow book readers and country men, lend me your ears.</p> Wed May 20 18:31:24 IST 2020 complicted-relationship-tagore-victoria-ocampo <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After reading the <a title="‘Thinking of Him’ explores Tagore’s relationship with Victoria Ocampo" href="" target="_blank">review of the film <i>Thinking of Him</i></a>, which explores the relationship between Rabindranath Tagore and Argentine writer Victoria Ocampo, many are curious to know if there was a carnal part to the platonic love.</p> <p>Putting it the Argentine way, ‘It is complicated’.</p> <p>The most frequently used word in Argentine vocabulary is ‘complicado’ (complicated). You may ask an Argentine about his country, politics, economy, debt, marriage, love, weather or the world.&nbsp;‘Complicado Che’ is how they start their response and explanation.&nbsp;‘Che’ is an endearing way of saying ‘friend’ in Argentina.</p> <p>When it comes to the Tagore-Ocampo relationship, here is the first complication:</p> <p>The ‘heroine’ drew a line; the ‘hero’ did not cross it.&nbsp;But he was tempted… he tried—just a touch… without crossing the line.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is what Ocampo says in her autobiography: “One afternoon, as I came into his room while he was writing, I leaned towards the page which was on the table. Without lifting his head towards me he stretched his arm, and in the same way as one gets hold of a fruit on a branch, he placed his hand on one of my breasts. I felt a kind of shudder of withdrawal like a horse whom his master strokes when he is not expecting it. The animal cried at once within me. Another person who lives inside me warned the animal, ‘ be calm… fool’ It is just a gesture of pagan tenderness. The hand left the branch after that almost incorporeal caress. But he never did it again. Every day he kissed me on the forehead or the cheek and took one of my arms, saying “such cool arms”.</p> <p>This was the farthest Tagore went physical. Ocampo's graceful and quiet but firm and cold non-response stopped him at this point.</p> <p>Ocampo described her emotion for Tagore as a great “love tenderness” (amour de tendresse). A love into which nothing entered except the spiritual.Tagore has, of course, talked about his love and longing&nbsp; in poetic but subtle and suggestive ways in his notes and letters to her as well as poems.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>More complications:</b></p> <p>Tagore’s secretary Leonard Elmhirst (who accompanied Tagore in the South America tour) went beyond Tagore in exploration. He tried to kiss Ocampo when they were in the car. She slapped him and banged the car door so hard that the sound ‘shook the whole city’. Thereafter he apologised. She accepted it and did not make any fuss afterwards.</p> <p>In her autobiography, Ocampo says that Elmhirst was infatuated by her. She had also felt a bit of attraction to him. That’s why she kept up contact with him for many years and had visited him in England. She even dedicated her book on Tagore to Elmhirst, calling him&nbsp; ‘a friend, friend of Tagore and friend of India’.</p> <p>Ocampo had confessed to Elmhirst the story of her unhappy marriage in 1912 and how her husband treated her like a “conquered land”. She found a secret lover five months after her wedding. It was Julian Martinez, one of her cousins. Since divorce was not permitted and she did not want to upset her family, she continued to live in the same house with her husband but in separate bedrooms. In 1922, she moved out and lived separately on her own in an apartment.&nbsp;&nbsp;Neither Elmhirst nor Tagore knew about her secret lover. If they had known, those accidents might not have happened.</p> <p>Tagore mistook Ocampo’s excessive devotion for something more. At the time of Tagore’s visit, Ocampo was in a state of transition after the break up with her husband and the strains of keeping the secrecy of her love affairs with her cousin. The society had thrown cold water on her aspiration to become a woman writer. At the same time she did not want to upset her family by open rebellion. She wanted to bring Tagore to stay in the large mansion of her parents but they refused. At this time of mental turmoil, she looked up to Tagore as a Guru from the East who might illuminate her spirit and reveal a new path for her. This is what made her to show extraordinary and explicit expression of her excessive ardour to Tagore.&nbsp;</p> <p>But&nbsp;the old widower poet mistook Ocampo’s devotion as inviting signals. He thought, “he had received ‘a woman’s love’, the kind of love he had been hoping for a long time to ‘deserve’ the love that alleviates a man’s inner loneliness and is like a’ supply of water’ in his journey across a desert.” This was reflected in his poem <i>Shesh Basanth</i> (the last spring) which he wrote on November 21 during his stay as the guest of Ocampo.</p> <p><i>While walking on my solitary way</i></p> <p><i>I met you at the dusk of nightfall</i></p> <p><i>I was about to ask you take my hand</i></p> <p><i>When I gazed at your face and was afraid.</i></p> <p><i>For I saw there the glow of the fire that lay asleep</i></p> <p><i>In the deep of your heart’s dark silence</i></p> <p>The old man did not fail to notice the tension of attraction between Ocampo and Elmhirst. How did he deal with it? He teased Elmhirst saying that he should marry her and bring her to Shantiniketan. He said this with his knowledge that Elmhirst was already engaged and soon to be married (actually in April 1925) to Dorothy, an American heiress. He told Ocampo that Elmhirst was in love with her.&nbsp;Mischief&nbsp;in the mind of the mystic poet?</p> <p>For Ocampo, the explorations by Tagore and Elmhirst did not come as a shock. She was used to such advances. Since she was living as a single, separated and independent young and beautiful woman with rich inheritance, many men were tempted. A Spanish poet Ortega y Gasset, older than her, tried to seduce her couple of years earlier but she rebuffed him decisively. But she liked him as a poet and kept in literary contact with him. Later, she had many affairs with older and younger men. One thing was clear. She did not want to live with the label of someone’s wife or lover. She took her destiny in her own hands. She did not let others to mess with her life beyond a line she drew.&nbsp;Perhaps this is the main reason she declined the repeated invitation of Tagore to her to visit Shantiniketan. She did not imagine herself to be like the western ladies Nivedita and Mirabehn who had dedicated their lives to serve Vivekananda and Gandhi in India. Ocampo wrote, ‘I cannot envy them because I know that my Dharma would not have made their path as mine.</p> <p>Of course, before and after Ocampo, many foreign and Indian women were attracted to Tagore and he was also interested in them. But it seems that Ocampo remained as the main muse for Tagore in the 17 years from 1925 to his death in 1941. &nbsp;Besides dedicating the ‘Purabi’ poems to her, Tagore is said to have written many other poems and stories as well as done paintings alluding to Ocampo.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ocampo is credited with uncovering Tagore’s painting talents. It was she who saw his doodlings in Buenos Aires and encouraged him to paint more seriously. She organised the first exihibition of Tagore’s paintings in May 1930 in Paris at the Galerie Pigalle by spending her own money, organising a party and using her contacts. Encouraged by the Parisian reception, he started painting and holding more exhibitions thereafter.&nbsp;</p> <p>For those curious to delve deeper, there is plenty of information in Ketaki Kushari Dyson’s book <i>In Your Blossoming Flower Garden</i>. She has done detailed analysis of words, actions and circumstances of the Tagore-Ocampo encounter and has written objectively.&nbsp;</p> <p>For Argentine amigos, the Tagore- Ocampo relationship is like Tango dance— the man and woman touch each other’s bodies 'creating sparks' but 'without getting burnt'.&nbsp;</p> <p><b><i>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</i></b></p> Mon May 18 15:28:01 IST 2020 thinking-of-him-explores-tagore-relationship-victoria-ocampo <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>“Latin American ladies have a special way of showing their affection”, says Tagore. The lady is Victoria Ocampo, his Argentine admirer, who gifted an armchair to take to India from Buenos Aires. But there was one problem. The chair was too big to go into Tagore’s cabin in the ship. But the strong-willed Victoria would not give up. She told the captain of the ship to break the door of the cabin and enlarge the entrance to enable the chair to go into the cabin. It was Ocampo who arranged a special two bed room cabin for Tagore through her contact. This was what impressed Tagore to make that comment. Tagore used to sit on that chair for about two months during November-December in 1924 when he stayed in Buenos Aires as Ocampo’s guest. That chair is still preserved in Shantiniketan.&nbsp;</p> <p>In his last years, Tagore used to relax in that chair and even wrote a poem about it in April 1941, just before his death the same year.</p> <p><i>Yet again, if I can, will l look for that seat</i></p> <p><i>On the top of which rests, a caress from overseas</i></p> <p><i>I knew not her language</i></p> <p><i>Yet her eyes told me all</i></p> <p><i>Keeping alive forever</i></p> <p><i>A message of pathos</i></p> <p>When she got the news of Tagore’s death, Ocampo sent a telegram to Tagore’s son which said simply 'Thinking of him' (pensando en el).&nbsp;That’s how the name of this Argentine movie came about.&nbsp;</p> <p>Pablo Cesar, the Argentine director and producer of this fascinating movie, has recreated the Tagore-Ocampo encounters based on the real life story.&nbsp;Tagore had to stop in Buenos Aires on &nbsp;November 6 for medical rest while he was on his way to Peru to attend the centenary celebrations of independence.&nbsp;Victoria came to know about it and offered to take care of him. She mortgaged her jewellery to rent a beautiful mansion in San Isidro, a suburb of Buenos Aires, and put up Tagore there. From his balcony, he had the view of the wide sea-like Plata river and a large garden with tall trees and flower plants.&nbsp;Tagore left Buenos Aires on January 3, 1925 after fully recovering from his illness.&nbsp;<br> <br> The 63-year-old Tagore was rejuvenated by the charming young Ocampo, 34, who took care of him during his 58-day stay. She looked after him with utmost devotion and had set his imagination on fire. She got a spiritual awakening and literary inspiration from the great Indian philosopher poet. The platonic love of Tagore was reciprocated by the spiritual love of Ocampo.</p> <p>Who is Victoria&nbsp;Ocampo?&nbsp;Not many&nbsp;Indians know about her.&nbsp;Ocampo&nbsp;was also a writer and patron of letters, later. Besides contributing to Argentine literature, she went beyond her country and built bridges with the cultural and literary world of Latin America, Europe and US. She became the first woman to be admitted to the Argentine Academy of Letters in 1977. This was a special satisfaction to this Queen of Letters, who had suffered discouragement from writing&nbsp;by the patriarchal society&nbsp;when she was a young woman. Victoria founded, funded, published and edited a literary magazine ¨Sur¨ which had poems, stories, essays and social commentary of authors from around the world.&nbsp;</p> <p>She was a fierce feminist, ahead of her times.&nbsp;She quit her unhappy marriage early on and lived independently for the rest of her life. She had many lovers, affairs and friends. She travelled around the world and moved in the artistic, literary and social circles of Europe especially in France.</p> <p>Ocampo&nbsp;had&nbsp;read <i>Gitanjali </i>in 1914 and said ‘it fell like celestial dew on my anguishing twenty four year old heart’. She described Tagore´s poetry as ‘magical mysticism’. She felt powerful echoes in Tagore´s personal loving God, radiating happiness and serenity, unlike the demanding and vengeful God imposed on her in childhood. She was very excited when Tagore&nbsp;reached&nbsp;Buenos Aires&nbsp;on &nbsp;November 6,&nbsp;1924. In her own words, it was one of the greatest events of her life. She wrote in&nbsp;the Argentine daily&nbsp;La Nacion&nbsp;on November 9 an article “The joy of reading Rabindranath Tagore”.&nbsp;She was overawed by his intellect and serenity and felt shy like a child before him. She listened to him mostly and did not dare to express herself as she would have liked to do. Later&nbsp;she wrote an essay &quot; Tagore on the banks of the river Plata&quot; and a book <i>Tagore en las barrancas de San Isidro</i> (Tagore on the ravines of San Isidro).&nbsp;Ocampo&nbsp;introduced Tagore to her social and literary circles in the city and got his articles published in Argentine newspapers.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ocampo&nbsp;was the muse of&nbsp;Tagore’s&nbsp;Purabi poems in which&nbsp;he&nbsp;called her as Vijaya&nbsp;(for Victoria)&nbsp;and dedicated the poems to her.&nbsp;In one of the poems, he says:</p> <p><i>Exotic blossom</i></p> <p><i>I whispered again in your ear</i></p> <p><i>What is your language dear</i></p> <p><i>You smiled and shook your head</i></p> <p><i>And the leaves murmured instead</i></p> <p>After his return to India, Tagore had exchanged a number of letters with Ocampo till 1940.&nbsp;Tagore calls her endearingly as my Bhalobhasha (love in Bengali). She always addresses him as ‘Dear Gurudev’ and signs as “your Vijaya”.&nbsp;</p> <p>When Tagore saw Victoria for the first time, he says to himself, “When my old words die out in the tongue, new melodies burst out from the heart.” When they were together in the house, Victoria says to herself, “I am so close to you and yet utterly unhappy to know that you cannot be near me”.&nbsp;He wrote “Joy, I felt near you; suffering, because you ignored my nearness”.</p> <p>Tagore wrote to&nbsp;Ocampo: &quot; You were the only one who came to know me so closely when I was old and young at the same time&quot;;&nbsp;&quot; When we were together we mostly played with words and tried to laugh away our best opportunities”.&nbsp;Tagore confessed to her about his immense burden of loneliness as a celebrity and talked about the woman's love he deserved.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ocampo poured out her heart,&nbsp;“Why did you go away so soon? I miss you”;&nbsp;”The days have become endless since you went away&quot;; “I am afraid you will never know how much I love you. Remember Gurudev, you have left here someone who is trying to find expression for her love for you”.</p> <p>The personal meeting also turned out to be a continental encounter. Tagore wrote; “For me the spirit of Latin America will ever dwell incarnated in your person”. She responded; “You are and will always be India to me”.</p> <p>The movie has two alternating parts—one, the black and white scenes of Tagore&nbsp;and Ocampo; &nbsp;the other&nbsp;in colour,&nbsp;a modern story of&nbsp;Felix&nbsp;an Argentine school teacher who visits Shantiniketan to understand Tagore’s method of teaching. While the Tagore-Victoria scenes have come out authentically and beautifully, the other story is not as gripping and&nbsp;interesting.&nbsp;Eleonara Wexler, the Argentine actress has portrayed Ocampo admirably giving the typical look of an Argentine woman who avoided explicit expression of emotions in the early twentieth century. Victor Banerjee has interpreted Tagore with Bengali sensitivity.</p> <p>For those interested in knowing more about the Tagore-Ocampo relationship, read the book <i>In Your Blossoming Flower Garden</i> by Ketaki Kushari Dyson based on her extensive research on the subject. The Sahitya Academy of India has published this book.</p> <p>This is the second film on India for Pablo Cesar. He had earlier directed an&nbsp;Indo- Argentine joint production&nbsp;film&nbsp;<i>Unicorn- the garden of fruits</i> released in 1996.&nbsp;Pablo Cesar is an unusual film director among his Argentine counterparts. Argentina has produced the most number of creative films in Latin America. Many of them are introspective with strong psychoanalysis narration of Argentine characters. But Cesar likes external exploration of ancient cultures and rare traditions especially in the east. Since 1990, he&nbsp;has directed and coproduced 13 films with local themes in Angola, Tunisia, Cape Verde, Mali, Benin, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Namibia and Morocco.&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Thinking of Him</i> premiered at the Goa Film Festival in December 2017 and released in Argentina in August 2018. The official release to the Indian public is planned for August this year.&nbsp;</p> <p><b><i>The author is an expert in Latin American affairs</i></b></p> Mon May 18 15:29:42 IST 2020 amid-crisis-in-dining-and-drinking-industry-a-delhi-bar-enters-asias-best-50-list <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On May 2, a 29-year-old man in South Korea visited several clubs and bars at Itaewon, a popular nightlife district in Seoul. This was after the country slowed the spread of coronavirus to almost zero in April and the government allowed opening of bars, clubs, restaurants and cinemas with proper social distancing in place. On May 6, the man tested positive for the virus, leading to contact tracing of some 7,200 people who had visited drinking dives and nightclubs in the Itaewon area. Now the entertainment district is a virus cluster from where 90 per cent of the 29 new additional cases were reported in the second week of May.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Honk Kong—which had previously reported its biggest local transmission from an infection cluster in nightclubs—bars reopened around the same time they shut in South Korea this month. Deep discounts on cocktails, happy hour extensions, promotionals like "stay safe, play safe", plexiglass dividers on dining tables, thermal checks, hand sanitizers for customers and COVID-19 blood tests for hundreds of workers—the precautionary measures for a city intrinsically committed to its vibrant night life has kicked in as the global metropolis stutters into normalcy after pro-democracy protests and a pandemic ostensibly under check.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This week on Thursday, Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards were announced online and Delhi's Sidecar is the only bar from India to feature on the list. Asia's 50 Best Bars and The World’s 50 Best Bars are owned and organised by William Reed Business Media, the group behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. This is the first time that a bar from India had made it to the list of Asia's 50 Best Bars, now in its fifth edition.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The announcement comes at a time when bars and entertainment industries are silent and suffering, even as countries urge their people to adapt to a transformed daily life when new waves of infection will become inevitable.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"In this grim picture of COVID, the announcement infuses fresh energy not only in Sidecar but its larger fraternity that an Indian bar is nominated in the list. Bartenders and beverage consultants are all happy to know of this. Others would want to up the ante. Sidecar is ranked 40 and next year they would want to up the number," says Tarun Sibal, food consultant with Sidecar.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many state governments in India have allowed online delivery of alcohol, with Karnataka allowing pubs and bars to sell liquor on a takeaway basis till May 17. As the Centre prepares to exit a nationwide lockdown, Delhi might consider proposals to open bars, restaurants and cinemas on an odd-even model. What could it mean for the few odd bars which might decide to open with skeletal staff and reduced covers?&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"A lot of focus is now on how you make establishments COVID-compliant. Then we have to see how customers are behaving. Trust assurance between brands and customers based on safety norms will be top-most priority. As an industry, FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) and National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) has given guidelines on this front. But new ground rules on sanitization of services, thermal checks, UV disinfection, distance between consumers and their servers will have to be clearly drawn up. Now safety and cleanliness will be more important than the product itself," says Sibal.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nightclubs, bars and the banqueting business are particularly dependent on large crowds, much more than restaurants. Hence, watering holes will tread cautiously this year. An interesting fallout of this crisis, Sibal personally believes, will&nbsp; be that of home bars where people will learn how to mix drinks; there might be delivery of non-alcoholic mixers by specialists and DIY cocktail kits. But in cities with an after-work drinking culture, siting back in bars community-style will surely bounce back in good time.</p> Fri May 15 19:49:20 IST 2020 how-ludo-has-endured-through-the-ages <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Candy Crush Saga, PUBG, Clash of Clans, Temple Run might be some of the most popular gaming apps, but Ludo King has surpassed them all to become numero uno with more than 185 million monthly active users during the lockdown. It has more than 350 million downloads—a record untouched by no other Indian gaming app—according to the app’s creator.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moving beyond the virtual rush, stationary shops and grocery store owners in Delhi are reporting an increased demand for the board game in all shapes and sizes after the COVID-19 lockdown, with families hunched over it in neighbourhood corners and terraces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An actor from Mumbai showed off a full bed sheet which splayed out like a giant Ludo mat where his kids play the game with a cushion dice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Outmanoeuvred by his wife in a game of online Ludo, a husband broke her spine after a verbal duel following the defeat in Vadodara last month.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a village in Greater Noida, a 25-year-old man is shot at after he coughs in the middle of a Ludo game, sparking fears of COVID-19 infection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Stories around this good old board game, whose modified versions in India can be traced back to the latter part of third millennium B.C., are proliferating in a pandemic which has brought the world to a standstill. The homegrown strategy game—on a cross-and-circle layout in red, blue, green and yellow, where 2-4 players circuit from start to finish with the roll of a dice—is also governed by luck. The roll determines one’s fate and the end goal is get the four markers to heaven or home without capture and lock. In India, the game has historically been recognised as <i>pachisi</i>, <i>chaupar</i> and <i>chausar</i>. The game of <i>chausar</i> or <i>chaupar</i> was played by Shakuni, one of the main villains in the Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’. Shakuni was best known for perfecting the sorcerous game of dice which was, according to some versions, made using the bones of his dead family members. Predictably, Shakuni never lost a game and the dice always rolled in his favour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Mughal emperor Akbar was known to be one of the most avid players of <i>pachisi</i>. In his courts and palaces in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri, he divided a part of the floor plan into red and white squares, with a huge white stone in the centre as home. The women from his harem, dressed in colours of the players, moved around as living pawns on these squares with the roll of the dice. “It is said that the Emperor took such a fancy to playing the game on this grand scale that he had a court for <i>pachisi</i> constructed in all his palaces, and traces of such are still visible at Agra and Allahabad,” writes M.L. Rousselet in the book <i>India and its Native Princes</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes, from ancient times, “the people of Hindustan have been fond of this game,” as Akbar historian Abul Fazal went on to write.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then in 1891, an Englishman by the name of Alfred Collier applied for a patent for ‘Royal Ludo’, claiming it was his invention. That’s when ‘pachisi’ became Ludo. ‘Antique Collier “New Game of Ludo” Playing Board Pat No. 14636 Royal Ludo’ is now a collector’s item which often pops up in online auctions as rare memorabilia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are a number of westernised versions of the game, ‘Parcheesi’, ‘Sorry!’, ‘Parchís’ (popular in Spain and northern Morocco), and ‘Parqués’ (in Colombia), to name a few.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When a Pennsylvania-based toy-making company launched ‘Paschisi’ as the “Game of India” back in 1938, its phenomenal commercial success was recorded in the Harvard Business Review as a case study meant to inspire budding entrepreneurs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is no dearth of stories down the ages around this game of intelligence and luck. But what endures is how it brings family, friends and foes together, like a ‘social lubricant’ in this time of social distancing.</p> Thu May 14 21:07:40 IST 2020 central-secretariat-library-lures-readers-with-rare-titles-during-lockdown <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bookshops are slowly opening their doors to welcome masked readers desperate to add a new spine to their shelves. The Central Secretariat Library, which is one of the oldest book collectors in India, too, is welcoming new readers. The lure? Treasures that have long gone out of print.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the lockdown, the Central Secretariat Library—a perfect place for those who want to wander into India’s past—has been posting online its rare book collection. The library has made it possible for readers to access the collections with just the click of a button. This spells hope for researchers as Indian archives, even in their digital avatar, are not easy to access.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among the books that have been made available is 'Delhi: The Imperial City' by J. Renton-Denning, a writer who visited the capital in 1911 and described his experience.&nbsp; While the sites worth seeing remain the same—from Qutub Minar to Purana Qila and Humayun’s Tomb, he also writes abut the history as well as a military tournament programme that was issued for the Durbar week.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book is littered with advertisements. There is Gold Medal Whiskey that tempts with the tagline “You have Tried the Rest Now Drink the Best’’. A glimpse into the life and times of the elite, the handbook is particularly useful for those who likes the finer things in life. From drink to drawing rooms created for those who wanted to smoke, it is a fascinating look into that world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is 'Mandu: The City of Joy' by Ghulam Yazdani. Yazdani’s book was written for “ordinary’’ visitor. The pleasure city where sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din “held a retinue of 15,000 damsels’’ had always been on Yazdani’s list. But the visit came about in an “unexpected manner’’ he writes. The invitation was extended to him by Maharaja of Dhar, but by the time he visited, the Maharaja had died. But no expense was spared and a draftsman was employed for the buildings, giving readers then and now a chance to get a picture of this incredibly romantic city.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The library, which is housed in Shastri Bhavan, has also released two other books. 'The Indian Heritage' by Humanyun Kabir, the Bengali poet and novelist, and 'Indian Cultural Influence in Cambodia' by Bijan Raj Chatterji.</p> Mon May 11 21:02:45 IST 2020 how-will-home-delivery-of-alcohol-work-in-india <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>“We will not pass any order but states should consider home delivery or indirect sale of liquor to maintain social distancing,” said the Supreme Court via video-conferencing. Refusing to entertain a PIL seeking to ban direct sale of liquor through shops during the lockdown period, the apex court has now advised state governments to consider home delivery of alcohol.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Punjab, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh have already decided to home-deliver alcohol. The Delhi government is also mulling the possibility of doing the same in an attempt to prevent overcrowding in standalone stores. According to Reuters, app-based food delivery company Zomato is also believed to be considering getting into door-delivery of alcohol.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many believe this is a step in the right direction and a long overdue one. “Home delivery of alcohol should have happened ages ago. But the infrastructure for it is better now,” says sommelier and wine educator Gagan Sharma who lists several benefits accruing from this model. “With door-delivery of alcohol, business will increase, there will be more jobs, black-marketing will reduce, interstate buying will end, there will be lesser cash handling, one can look forward to better price control and data-collection for policymaking. The higher price will ensure quality drinking,” says Sharma. “Once it reaches homes, it will usher in better drinking sensibilities.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If there are so many gains to be had from home delivery of liquor, what were some of the unfounded fears in the excise department?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“One major fear was how do you check the age of the person who is ordering the alcohol,” says sommelier, TV show host, author and columnist Magandeep Singh. Different states have their own age-appropriate standards for drinking and physical stores somehow manage to offer a notion of deterrence when it came to drinking by minors. However, the nature of these extraordinary times seems to have obliterated that fear for the time being, what with the state coffers drying up. And with travel and hospitality industry hit the hardest, people are ready to spend more on alcohol. But Singh is not very hopeful that door-delivery of alcohol will persist in a post-Corona India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“If they allow delivery now, it will set a precedence. Once things go back to normal, people will expect the delivery to stay. Then the opposition is going to make the wrong noise. It will becomes a political issue,” says Singh, adding that class divides will also be raked up with online buying being more accessible to a higher-income group. He is also unsure of private food delivery start-ups jumping into the bandwagon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Delivery systems required to put in place are tough. They don’t want to give it to a local party like Zomato. It won’t be that easy to get the license yet, from what I have gathered. It’s not uniform across states. Other guys who paid for licences for their shops had such high barriers to entry. How can a Zomato just walk in?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The importance of liquor as a source of revenue cannot be overstated. For Delhi, alcohol accounts for around 14.1 per cent of its total revenue projections for 2020-21, amounting to Rs 6,279 crore through the sale of liquor. The national lockdown since March 25 has already led to a loss of Rs 645 crore in revenues after the closure of alcohol stores. After the shops were allowed to re-open this week, unmanageable queues outside made a complete mockery of social distancing norms. In response, some states like Delhi imposed a massive “Corona tax” on alcohol sales. As a crowd-control strategy, the Delhi government has also introduced e-tokens which can be bought through a web link, to be issued in limited numbers on an hourly basis. In certain part of Tamil Nadu, the police has proposed age-specific time slots in state-run TASMAC outlets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But online delivery of alcohol is not such a bad thing in the long run. “Because the world over, 60-70 per cent of the alcohol sales happen in retail. Only 30-35 per cent happen in institutions like hotels and restaurants. Everywhere in the world, people drink more often at home than they do when they are out. In India, that statistic is upside down. It might get aligned with the rest of the world,” says Singh, although he wouldn’t like to jump the gun. “Right now, it difficult to say how it will all work out. E-tokens? How will they administer that people get their alcohol in that one hour? I don’t know,” says Singh.</p> Fri May 08 19:47:53 IST 2020 final-volume-of-professor-shonkus-adventures-released-as-e-book <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Miracurall, Professor Trilokeshwar Shonku's invention, could cure every ailment except the common cold. Satyajit Ray’s Shonku might not be the answer for COVID-19, but he can certainly, work for boredom. And to fight this powerful enemy that has rendered everyone to a state of ennui, is <i>The Final Adventures of Professor Shonku</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fourth volume of the book published by Puffin was released on Satyajit Ray’s 99th birth anniversary. “We could be sure that he would have approved of this internet launch,’’ said Dhirtiman Chatterji, the actor who plays him in the film. This book, which has nine adventures, is available on Kindle from May 2.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of Ray’s most favourite creations, Shonku—who came before Feluda, Ray’s detective—could have taught Harry Potter, a thing or do. Even in the Muggles world, Trilokeshwar Shonku, who was created in 1965, is 'pill for nightmare'. It ensured that the person who took it, went to sleep and had nightmares. He also Remembrane—something Dumbledore would have approved of—to make people remember what they had forgotten. He also had the 'Invisibility drug' that could make the person invisible for five hours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Ray was informed by the social reality around him,’’ said Chatterji, at the video launch. “We know if Ray was around today, he would have sent remote corner of the world searching for the source of the virus.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shonku lived in his house in Giridih, but travelled across the world. From Brazil to China—to Tibet—and even Mexico, the stories of Shonku are fascinating, incredibly imaginative and wonderful. They also reflect Ray’s mind and the scope of his imagination. “I discovered him when I was ten,’’ says Indrani Mazumdar, the translator of the book. In her house filled with books, Mazumdar discovered <i>Sandesh</i>, the magazine started by his grandfather and then revived by Ray. “I discovered Ray’s writing and his illustrations first. Only later I became aware that he was a filmmaker.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mazumdar has spent years, translating her childhood companion into English for other kids now. “The Bengali he writes in 'Feluda' is different,’’ she says. “It is more informal. In the case of Shonku, it is more formal.’’ There are words that made her scramble to find old scriptures. “Or foreign words,’’ she says. The journeys to exotic lands that Shonku takes—and which Ray brought alive—was what the filmmaker observed in his own travels across the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A filmmaker, an illustrator and a writer, Ray’s works continue to enthral audiences, years later. In an effort to honour Ray, Penguin India has chosen to bring out his unpublished works this year. A discovery year of sorts, his son Sandip Ray, in his forced spring cleaning because of lockdown, has found a box with a 1,000 negatives believed to be stills of his movies. Ray, according to reports, said some of them belonged to <i>Aparjito</i>, <i>Apu</i> trilogy, as well as <i>Charulata</i>, still keeping people glued, on his 99th birth anniversary.&nbsp;</p> Sat May 02 21:04:04 IST 2020 may-day-2020-celebrations-go-virtual <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Minimum wage, child labour laws, pension benefits, unemployment insurance, social security, overtime pay, paternal leave, sick leave and even the weekend… where would the world be without trade unions and the labour movement?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As we observe International Workers’ Day with no physical rallies or marches, May 1, 2020, will be a day like no other. Around 10 million migrant labourers are stranded across India due to the <a title="Novel Coronavirus" href="">coronavirus</a> lockdown, even as the first “special” train ferrying some 1,200 grounded workers left Telangana for Jharkhand this morning. The global pandemic portends greater inequality and unemployment in the near future, and daily wagers and migrant labourers are set to bear the maximum brunt of this economic impasse. It was in Chicago Haymarket Square in 1886 that workers first gathered to demand an eight-hour work shift. This labour protest rally inspired working classes around the world and May Day first came into being in 1889. How will the trade unions and labour groups fight for their rights in the current crisis in such constrained circumstances?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, delivered his May Day speech on TV and social media. “They should not drop workers at the first sign of trouble,” he said ahead of May 1. For the first time in the country, the National Trades Union Congress held a closed-door virtual dialogue session comprising some 1,500 labour movement leaders and partners.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indonesia’s labour unions, aside from seeking donations for face masks for factory workers, have called for an online protest against a controversial bill which could lead to more layoffs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>France plans to mark the day on social networking sites and raise flags and slogans from balconies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Finland, the famous market square enclosing the Manta statue, where the largest public gathering takes place on May Day, lies vacant. But the Finn authorities have called on people to move their May Day festivities online where viewers can partake live streaming of wine tasting and cocktail-making lessons in the world's happiest country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Greece, the Philippines and Hong Kong have seen people take to the streets in sporadic protests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>May Day was first celebrated in India in 1923 in Madras (now Chennai). It was held in two meetings and spearheaded by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan and Comrade Singaravelar (Singaravelu Chettiar) who fought for the rights of the backward classes and demanded a national holiday on Labour Day.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While web demonstrations for stronger rights have not been planned at this point, a number of cultural initiatives have been streamed online mark the great significance of the day. Delhi’s prominent left-wing bookstore, May Day Bookstore and Cafe which is also attached to theatre space Jana Natya Manch, is holding a day-long online celebration of workers’ right at <a title="Leftword Live" href=""></a>. The platform will host performances and talks from all over the world, including JNU student leader Aishe Ghosh from her hometown in Durgapur, singer Tania Saleh from Lebanon, CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat from Delhi, Jose Delgado from Venezuela and Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) from the US.</p> Fri May 01 18:53:10 IST 2020 gogi-saroj-pals-kinnari-is-in-sync-with-her-solitude <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Much of 'Quarantinart' on social media has been about simulating paintings of masters in one's home settings, from Caravaggio to Freida Kahlo. The sudden abundance of time has afforded us the luxury of contemplating art as a distraction from fear. One can just keep looking for hidden meanings and metaphors to make sense of the current crisis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the recently concluded fundraiser of 51 artworks from the DAG (formerly known as Delhi Art Gallery) collection, 'Kinnari' by Gogi Saroj Pal might speak to those who frolic in the garden of their mind. The 2008 gouache-on-handmade-paper entitled 'Kinnari' shows a composite being of a half-woman, half bird with her head languorously titled, happily sheltered in the haze of her dreams. Carefree and self-contained, the female figure is in sync with her solitude.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gogi—born in 1945 in Uttar Pradesh—is one of the first female artists to work with female nudes. Gogi's women are distinctive; her "nayikas" mimic and mock conventional standards of beauty by cavorting around naked while embellishing themselves for their own pleasure as opposed to gloriously bedecked women in the miniature painting tradition who wait for their beloved. Clothes in Gogi's paintings signify shackles of traditional femininity. As one of the first feminist women painters in India, Gogi's art has been pre-occupied with exploring the inner life of women, painting them in their social and political contexts. She is most well-known for her half-human, half-animal works under the series Kamdhenu (half woman, half cow), Kinnari and the Dancing Horse (half-woman, half-bird).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kinnari, 2008, got sold for Rs 50,000, the lowest fixed price in the lockdown sale which had artworks by the likes M.F. Hussain, Madhavi Parekh, Jamini Roy, F.N. Souza, Nemai Ghosh and others. The entire fundraiser proceeds—Rs 1 crore, with all 51 artworks sold out—will go to two charities: PM-CARES Fund and Lt. Governor/Chief Minister Relief Fund, Delhi. Even though marked at a lower price, Kinnari has lessons to offer lonely birds stuck in isolation in these surreal times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gogi’s kinnaris have wings coming out their bodies, suggesting that the mind is free to fly and wander even when grounded as wives, sisters, daughters, caregivers, nurturers or capitalist slaves. As the catalogue succinctly observes, "One’s freedom as a person is not implicit in the physical being as in one’s mind space, and all emancipation springs from within one’s own self". In our present state of unfreedom, it is a liberating thought.</p> Sun Apr 26 00:11:52 IST 2020 art-exhibitions-in-india-are-slowly-migrating-online <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A bright, black line-drawn tapestry from the ‘Theatre of Life’ series by S.G. Vasudev,; a white, wavy expressionist Banaras of Manu Parekh; and a spotted grey mother nature of gathering clouds in a Jogen Chowdhury watercolour—these are some of the artworks on display in an online exhibition “Black White and More” at Emami Art, a contemporary art gallery in Kolkata.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With cancelled exhibitions, previews and gallery openings, the art world is quickly responding to the coronavirus pandemic by moving to online viewing rooms to remain in touch with buyers and connoisseurs. Most prominently, the marquee Art Basel fair in Hong Kong migrated entirely to the web last month, showcasing more than 2,000 artworks worth USD 270 million. Some 2,50,000 viewers logged in to witness Art Basel online. This was followed by Art Dubai which moved its entire 2020 catalogue of the fair online.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While international art galleries have been plotting the digital move for years now, with the pandemic only expediting the process, it will be interesting to see how much business art galleries in India can generate on the web with online shows and competing neck-to-neck with existing web-based auction houses. Shrine Empire Gallery in New Delhi and Tarq in Mumbai unveiled two new shows online this month. Titled ‘Speculations on a New World Order’ and ‘Resurgence’, they directly showcase artistic interpretations of a post-corona dawn.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On Emami Art’s website, the exhibition deals with some of the finest monochromatic artworks of eminent artists like Jogen Chowdhury, Rabin Mondal, S.G. Vasudev, Dashrath Patel, Bose Krishnamachari and Manu Parekh. Although the selected works have all be shown earlier at the physical gallery, their curation into a themed online exhibition with prices displayed is being done for the first time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>How confident are they of roping in viewers for an art exhibition on their respective website? “The current pandemic while ensuring social distancing, has also brought the world closer through the digital medium. Art is always a part of our lives, sometimes very subtly,” says Richa Agarwal, CEO of Emami Art which was established in late 2018 and is part of a 70,000 sq. ft. multidisciplinary arts space spread over six floors called The Kolkata Centre for Creativity (KCC) run by the Emami Group, a well-known FMCG conglomerate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are quite hopeful that people would find it interesting to visit our website and browse through the online exhibition. The artists and their artworks have been curated carefully to appeal to a discerning audience. We are confident that art lovers would appreciate Emami Art bringing them a slice of positivity through this exhibition to their homes,” says Agarwal.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> Wed Apr 22 22:24:40 IST 2020 tvs-is-acquiring-a-legacy-norton-che-guevaras-diesel-baby-in-the-motorcycle-diaries <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A buddy, a bike and an epic road trip that would change the course of his life and world history. No guesses here--the reference is to Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara and the epic bike trip he undertook with his friend, Alberto Granado starting 1952. What began as a bike trip of two friends eventually went on to rewrite the Latin American history forever. All thanks to a bike--Norton 500cc motorcycle.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On Friday, Indian business circles were abuzz with the acquisition news of British bike manufacturer <a title="How TVS plans to resurrect iconic British motorcycle brand Norton" href="" target="_self">Norton Motorcycles by TVS Motor Company</a>, a Tamil Nadu-based motor company, in an all-cash transaction of GBP 16 million. It was no secret that Norton, the maker of the iconic Commando and Dominator series, was looking for a saviour. The 122 year-old motorcycle company was swept off to a corner due to a number of overwhelming factors, including Brexit, unpaid taxes and international competition.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, before all these were the heydays when Norton Motorcycles, unwittingly, played an irreplaceable role in world political history, especially the Latin American politics. If it was not for the 1947 Norton Model 18 belonging to Granado, Che's travel buddy, the world would not have witnessed the rise of the Argentine communist figure. Granado, also a medical student like Che, had named his "diesel van" La Poderosa II, which translates to "powerful babe."&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, their journey through the vast stretches of Argentina, Chile, Peru, Columbia and Venezuela was nothing like they had anticipated. The "diesel baby" was not in an ideal condition to undertake the arduous journey. It broke down frequently, necessitating overnight stays in small villages along the journey. During these short stays, Che got a closer look of what poverty looked like. The first-hand experience sowed the seeds of a revolutionary in Che. The bike plays a poignant role in Che's journal entries, which later became <i>The Motorcycle Diaries</i>.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Historians and biographers now agree that the experience had a profound impact on Guevara, who would later become one of the most famous guerrilla leaders ever. “His political and social awakening has very much to do with this face-to-face contact with poverty, exploitation, illness, and suffering,” said Carlos M. Vilas, a history professor at the Universidad Nacional de Lanús in Buenos Aires, Argentina.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"The trip would not have been as useful and beneficial as it was, as a personal experience, if the motorcycle had held out. This gave us a chance to become familiar with the people. We worked, took on jobs to make money and continue traveling. We hauled merchandise, carried sacks, worked as sailors, cops and doctors," Granado said in 2004, decades after Che's death. The duo parted and went separate ways soon after the journey.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from <i>The Motorcycle Diaries</i>, Norton Motorcycles is also famous for its role in James Bond film <i>Spectre</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No doubt, with the acquisition, TVS will now own a slice of world political history.&nbsp;</p> <p><br> <br> </p> Sat Apr 18 14:25:46 IST 2020 the-covid-19-lockdown-is-propelling-indias-esports-industry <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>One of the most recent tweets from Nodwin Gaming, one of India's largest gaming solutions companies and a creator of e-sports events, reads thus: "#bored in quarantine? Watch esports on TV! Tune-in to @MTVIndia now! This is your chance to learn from the best, watch in-depth game analysis and breakdown! #quarantine #esports #csgo #esportsmania."</p> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic has stilled sports stadiums and arenas into silence, with players kept in lockdown. But the quarantine culture has seen a surge in online gaming and sports simulation from stay-at-home fans. Enter <a href="">e</a><a href="">S</a><a href="">ports</a>, or electronic sports—a digital media format where virtual game-play is streamed as video content, just like football matches, with players raking in millions. In a time of social distancing, self-quarantine and containment, we are left with playing online games and watching other people play them from computer and TV screens at home. Some of the popular titles in the Indian eSports arena include <i>League of Legends</i>, <i>Fortnite</i>, <i>PUBG: Mobile</i>, <i>FIFA 20</i>, <i>Counter Strike: Global Offensive and DotA, </i>among others.</p> <p>The world of competitive video-gaming was already a <a href="" style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); font-size: 0.8125rem;">billion-dollar industry in 2019</a>, a five-fold increase from 2014. "eSports is a sport because the speed at which a person is reacting to images on the screen is the fastest in the world. The speed at which these kids’ fingers move on a keyboard or on a screen are unimaginably high for anyone else. So it actually comes closest to Formula One, where your hands are on a steering wheel and you're going at 300-400 km an hour with no room for mistakes," says Akshat Rathee, co-founder of Nodwin Gaming which was launched in 2014 and is headquartered in Gurugram. Casual games like <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Candy Crush</i> or titles online poker, Rathee emphasizes, do not qualify as eSports, which he feels is quite a misunderstood genre of video games.</p> <p>With the popular gaming tournament DreamHack launching in Mumbai in 2017, India arrived in the international league of eSports, with prize pools seeing a steady upward climb since then. 2019 was a great year for eSports in India, but the worst year of global health in a century has not dented the skyward trajectory of this gaming sector.</p> <p>"We are seeing a very high demand for our titles. The world is talking about recession and reduction. We are looking at multiple, very high double digit growth for our company," says Rathee, who's seen an 80 per cent jump in traffic for titles in his company in the last one month. With exclusive partnerships with the Electronics Sports League, the eSports World Convention, and others, Nodwin manages prime IPs or gaming events like ESL India Premiership, KO Fight Nights, Dreamhack India, the Intel Extreme Masters qualifiers for India and the Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) India Qualifiers. In March, Nodwin Gaming expanded its operations to South Africa, which they saw as a gateway to a larger eSports scene across the continent.</p> <p>Online gaming platform Paytm First Games recently concluded the largest <i>Clash Royale </i>eSports tournament in India, which saw 11,000 gamers from across the country participate to play the mobile game. The tournament was beamed on the company's YouTube channel and was seen by more than 70,000 users, setting new records, the company claims.</p> <p>Will eSports survive in an era where other sports cannot? The Intel World Open tournament, which was to showcase eSports in Tokyo just prior to the Olympics planned launch, has been postponed to 2021 along with the Olympics. Offline tournaments like the ESL One in Los Angeles have been turned into online events; likewise, the <i>League of Legends </i>Championship Series (LCS) and <i>Counter Strike: Global Offensive’s</i> Pro League have been made online-only, spectator-free events.</p> <p>In March, the mobile eSports platform Mobile Premier League tied up with World Cricket Championship 2 (WCC2) to host tournaments, in a bid to target India’s cricket-hungry audience. With this, and with other region-focussed manoeuvres in India’s eSports arena, competitive online play could be set for its heyday in India.</p> Fri Apr 17 22:29:28 IST 2020 albert-camus-in-the-time-of-coronavirus <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Much has been written about Albert Camus and his acclaimed novel <i>– La Peste</i> - translated as <i>The Plague</i> in English. This article, therefore, does not intend to be a repetition of similar ones. A preliminary Google search reveals that several online publications have already come out with articles on the relevance of <i>La Peste</i> amidst the current coronavirus pandemic. BBC reports that the sale of the book has increased manifold in France, Italy and Britain in 2020 and that the book is currently in reprint.</p> <p>The book came out in 1947. The purpose of this article is not to glorify Camus and his novel. The author of this article, having read the book again this week, is not on the lookout for philosophical, metaphysical or even literary gains from the book. That may well be reserved for another day. The focus is on essential key insights/takeaways from the book which would make us smarter during the pandemic as well as for life. The novel deals with an epidemic of plague striking the town of Oran in Algeria and the response of the town including the medical community and volunteers towards resisting it. It is in the form of a narrative or chronicle by Dr Bernard Rieux, who is one of the doctors of Oran in charge of treating the afflicted people. Though the central narrative is certainly about the plague epidemic, the novel tries to widen its scope to ‘pestilences’ in general, both natural and man-made, and to consequent human suffering and resistance<i>.</i></p> <p>The novel belongs to the philosophical novel genre though it can be regarded, in all respects, as an ‘open work’ or <i>‘Opera Aperta’</i> as Umberto Eco defines it. Openness indicates the capacity of the work to remain flexible to multiple simultaneous interpretations. There have been many reviews suggesting that Camus alluded to the Nazi invasion of France as The Plague, while few others have commented that the use of the term is a metaphor for life itself. However, the description of the plague as a disease in itself is so comprehensive and convincing that one cannot resist reading the novel in its most direct way possible, that of the narrative of an epidemic.</p> <p>To waste no more time on introductions, here are some of the key insights from the novel.</p> <p><b>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <u>The larger historical landscape</u></b></p> <p>Through the narrative of Dr Rieux, Camus uses the initial chapters to position the current epidemic in Oran in a larger context by giving some details about previous plagues in history. This includes historical accounts from the Justinian Plague of Constantinople, the Black Death of Marseilles, the Great Plague of London, the Great Plague of Milan and the Plague of Athens. Also, in the final chapter, the author clearly mentions the possibility of recurrences of such plagues in the future. Thus Camus offers a model of understanding the catastrophe as an event in history rather than a singular challenge unmindful of time.</p> <p>This is important because the current coronavirus pandemic appears as a pervasive and all-encompassing topic for all of us which seems to put every other event in the shadow. We are fully consumed by the thoughts of the pandemic while Camus suggests that need not be the case. Plagues are a part of human existence and disaster preparedness would be one of the best responses from our side.</p> <p><b>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <u>An objective narrative</u></b></p> <p>Many a time, in the book, the narrator seems to take extra effort to maintain the rigour of his narration, which reminds one of scientific pursuits. There are descriptions about the competence of the narrator, the kinds of data he has in his custody and his business being only to say “This is what happened”. The narrator clearly expresses his wish to adopt the tone of an impartial observer. He says he has confined himself to describing only such things as he was enabled to see for himself and has refrained from attributing to his fellow-sufferers, thoughts that they were not bound to have.</p> <p>In another page, he describes the character of the chronicle, which is intended to be that of a narrative made with good feelings that are neither demonstrably bad nor overcharged with emotion in the ugly manner of a stage-play.</p> <p>Thus, Camus underlines the importance of objectivity and rigour while narrating a catastrophic event of great social impact.</p> <p><b>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <u>The nature of calamities</u></b></p> <p>A paragraph from one of the initial chapters reads thus – <i>“A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore we tell ourselves that a pestilence is a mere bogey of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is the men who pass away……”</i><u></u></p> <p>And in the same page, <i>“When a war breaks out, people say, ‘It’s too stupid; it can’t last long.’ But though a war may well be too stupid, that doesn’t prevent its lasting.”</i></p> <p>Camus challenges our predisposition to attribute humanness to all events including calamities and to deny vehemently, the possibility of such events escalating into proportions fully beyond the scope of human imagination. In simple terms, he urges us to drop wishful thinking and self-denial of reality.</p> <p><b>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <u>Optimal use of the resource of time</u></b></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;The author offers a defence against the repetitive unpredictable calamities which threaten our existence from time to time. That is a proper use of the available time at our disposal. To illustrate this point, he uses as examples Rieux’ silent and relatively unexpressed love towards his mother and his relationship with his friend who had died <i>‘without their friendship’s having had time to enter fully into the life of either’</i>.</p> <p>Camus suggests that an ever so valuable and fulfilling entity that one can sometimes attain, in an unpredictable world is human love. For people with greater and more abstract aspirations above the level of the human individual, time is a limiting factor. Our life is inherently unpredictable with the possibilities of recurring plagues and calamities and hence, finding time for love and happiness is crucial.</p> <p><b>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <u>From heroism to decency</u></b></p> <p>The narrative avoids repetitively the tendency to identify heroes in the town’s resistance against the plague. Rieux makes this clear when he says – <i>“I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with saints. Heroism and sanctity don’t really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is – being a man.”</i></p> <p>Also in Rieux’s conversation with his journalist friend, Rambert, <i>“there is no question of heroism in all this. It is a matter of common decency……but the only means of fighting a plague is common decency.”</i> Throughout the narrative, people are portrayed in a realistic manner without any sort of hero/villain divide and there are efforts to visualise the plague through the eyes of different characters, with their own different meanings. While downplaying the ‘hero’ concept, Camus characterises the healers of the plague as people who, while unable to be saints, refuse to bow down to pestilences. By avoiding the propensity for idolatry, one is left with a much more realistic perspective on human responses in the wake of a disaster.</p> <p><b>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <u>The significance of a chronicle</u></b></p> <p>Many volunteers in the resistance against the Plague succumb to it including Jean Tarrou, Magistrate Othon and Father Paneloux. When the plague finally comes to an end, the dead are forgotten in the egoistic, but necessary celebrations of the living. Dr Rieux decides to compile the chronicle amid the celebrations <i>‘to bear witness to those plague-stricken people, so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure’</i>. Also, he wants to state, <i>‘quite simply, what we learn in a time of pestilence’</i>.<i> &nbsp;</i>The well-known medical information website, Medscape, has made an expanding list of all the frontline healthcare workers who succumbed to Covid-19. It is an effort to remember, and remember we must.<i></i></p> <p>It may suffice to mention that the book offers a lot more insights of note. In conclusion, one is compelled, merely, to add a small conversation between Rambert and Dr. Rieux.</p> <p><i>Who taught you all this, doctor?</i></p> <p><i>The reply came promptly.</i></p> <p><i>&nbsp;‘Suffering.’</i></p> <p><b><i>The author of the review is a Consultant Psychiatrist based in Ernakulam, Kerala.</i></b></p> Fri Apr 17 12:13:55 IST 2020 on-his-100th-birth-anniversary-pandit-ravi-shankar-as-his-wife-remembers-him <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>2020 marks the 100th birth anniversary of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. Although there were plans to commemorate his life with a series of centennial concerts, the COVID-19 outbreak played spoilsport. There was, however, a virtual tribute organised, which saw the likes of his daughter Anoushka Shankar and disciples Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Shubhendra Rao performing, along with a host of others. Additionally, there was also the release of his biography <i>Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar</i>, by author Oliver Craske. In conversation with THE WEEK, Pandit Shankar’s wife Sukanya talks about the enduring memories of her husband.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How did Oliver Craske's book on Panditji come about? Can you tell us a bit about its contents?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Oliver has been planning it for over three years, I think. He worked with Raviji for the autobiography and seemed the natural choice. He has done a wonderful and thorough job, and I am so glad that he is getting raving reviews, that he so richly deserves, from the press.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How do you spend your leisure time these days, when you are not working to keep alive Panditji's legacy? What kind of activities do you do with your daughters and with your grandchildren?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am a workaholic and hardly have time. When my daughters and grandchildren are with me, I put aside my work and make quality time for them. We are a fun loving family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is your most poignant and enduring memory of Panditji? Could you relate some anecdote/ incident concerning you and him?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Everything about him was very poignant and memorable as a musician or otherwise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How would you describe your marriage? What was its best and worst parts?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My marriage was a fairytale one. It was beautiful and perfect. I could never see any negativity in our marriage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What do you miss the most about Panditji and when do you miss him the most?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is with me always, so I don’t miss him. I miss his voice everyday saying, “Did I tell you how much I love you? I love you more than yesterday and less than tomorrow”. He said this to me everyday. If I close my eyes and go into deep meditation, I can hear his voice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Tell us one thing Panditji might have told you—a joke, a piece of advice, a compliment—that has always remained with you.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He said that for the life of me I can never say a joke! It is true as I always mess up. He complimented me everyday for everything.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I have never laughed in my life like I have laughed with you, I thank god everyday for blessing me with you.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“How I wish you had come to my life earlier.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These words will always remain with me and I am so grateful to god for my blessings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>On his 100th birthday, what do you think is Panditji's legacy to the world?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His legacy is all around—his two beautiful daughters, his six grandchildren, six great grandchildren, so many wonderful disciples, so many musicians singing his ragas and playing his compositions. So many millions credit him for changing their lives for the better.&nbsp;</p> Thu Apr 16 12:30:35 IST 2020 how-the-the-afflictions-treats-terrible-diseases-with-literature-and-philosophy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In Bernard’s Malady—recorded by physicians a long, long time ago—people who lived their entire lives in poverty start developing memories of opulence. They start recalling palaces and how they gorged on sumptuous meals in silver cutlery.&nbsp; Suddenly, these “invalids” can't stand their deprived circumstances. They find no dignity in menial labour as their eyes rove for lace and brocade, often resorting to robbery. When the disease spreads to posher neighbourhoods, merchants start thinking they are feudal vassals, knights believe they are noblemen, and dukes obsess over a time when they sat on thrones. Kingdoms can go bust if these “lordly sufferers” are not quarantined in dungeons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Unable to alter the present, Bernard’s Malady alters the past. Unable to repair the iniquities of the visible world, it repairs the fabric of memory. But it succeeds only in magnifying misery though the lens of false opulence,” writes Vikram Paralkar in <i>The Afflictions</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As we brace ourselves for an extended lockdown, some counterfactual reading about ‘how things could have been worse’ might help ease frayed nerves. Even though Paralkar’s catalogue of strange, fantastical diseases in his 2014&nbsp; book <i>The Afflictions</i> might trigger a fair bit of unease, it could still offer consolation in tiny, mirthful doses. The hypothetical outbreaks in his delightful first book are essentially bite-sized philosophical disquisitions on disease and medicine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Paralkar, Mumbai-born physician-scientist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, USA, himself isn’t sure if reading <i>The Afflictions</i> in the midst of a pandemic is endowed with greater significance than at any other time. But he is certain the readers might find resonance in some of the tangential connections he has tried to make between the dimensions of human existence. “Underlying <i>The Afflictions</i> was my desire to explore the strange treaty between our mental and physical lives, and explore them by dissecting mankind through ailments of society and identity and morality. In a way, that’s what a pandemic does as well—it holds up a magnifying glass to our lives and societies, revealing the wonderful and terrible ways in which we are connected, the ways in which we are both reliant upon and capable of harming each other,” says Paralkar over email.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In <i>The Afflictions </i>(HarperCollins, 175 pages), Paralkar creates a pseudo-medieval world where Senor Jose, the head librarian at the Central Library, offers to introduce a young apprentice to the institution’s most glorious treasure: the Encyclopaedia Medicinae, an inventory of the most unusual afflictions. For example, in Chorea Rhythmica—a disorder of movement—the afflicted individual first develop crippling muscle spasms, the limbs thrash about on their own and the wrists contort in strange angles. It later progresses on to the shoulders, thighs and torso which do not retain any self-control if left untreated. Only skilled physicians can detect this condition and offer well-calibrated tinctures to cure the diseased body. The author lists a kind of amnesia which causes others to forget the invalid’s existence, even as the person affected remembers everything. There’s an affliction that delinks cause and effect: If one man commits a murder, the second person carries the guilt and the third one has to bear the sentence for it. Yet another condition imitates death even before someone actually dies—first by causing the heart to stop beating and then cooling one’s blood. As Senor Jose explains to his eager new apprentice Maximo, the Encyclopaedia has a hierarchy, with the first level on anatomy, next on pathological mechanisms and further broken into particular class of afflictions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“If you read the Encyclopaedia from beginning to end, you get the feeling that every affliction known to man is part of a single, infinite progression. Or that every disease is a different facet of one great and terrible malady,” Jose observes in the book and his view can be extrapolated to offer a perspective on this relentless pandemic even though Paralkar&nbsp; himself didn’t have a pandemic in mind when he wrote that sentence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“But perhaps there’s a strange symmetry here. After all, this virus is made of the same material that we are; it’s a miniscule not-really-living particle—a strand of RNA packaged within a shell of proteins, all comprised of the same constituents that make our own bodies,” says Paralkar, adding that a virus, and indeed all pathogens, are a reminder of how human beings are just another slice in the vast progression of life on this planet, and only shades and nuances separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. “Even now, in the 21st century, a little upstart from the realm of virology can bring our mighty civilization to heel,” Paralkar says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Paralkar’s own lockdown reading recommendations (<i>Blindness</i> by José Saramago, <i>The Plague</i> by Albert Camus or anything by P.G. Wodehouse) are exactly like his first book. They are lyrically written and have a sense of humour. They are philosophical without being pedantic. Bizarre without being silly. It is just what the doctor ordered.</p> Wed Apr 15 20:07:03 IST 2020 would-you-play-a-game-of-pandemic-to-escape-a-real-life-pandemic <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The last time 25-year-old board-gaming addict Asis Mansingh left her house on March 14 before she went into self-quarantine, she had played Pandemic with her friends in a cafe in&nbsp;south&nbsp;Delhi. In fact, she had been happily playing Pandemic for close to five months until lockdown, with no premonition of the approaching contagion in the outside world. With a copy of the board-game handed down by a relative in the US in late 2019, Asis has been addicted to Pandemic in which 2 to 4 players collaborate and frantically work against time to save the world from four virulent diseases breaking out simultaneously. Asis inevitably got very involved in &quot;saving the world&quot; aspect of the game and even had her non-board-gaming friends take a keen interest. But in the middle of the lockdown, while Asis is dying to get back to board-gaming, she isn't particularly looking forward to playing Pandemic. &quot;I have played it so much recently. Honestly, I think I have had my fill of the game and now it feels just too real,&quot; rues Asis who even taught Pandemic in a cafe in Gurugram as part of a three-month board-gaming stint.&nbsp;<br> <br> But the game Pandemic—first released in 2008 and conceived by game designer&nbsp;Matt Leacock from Minnesota in the US—has valuable lessons to offer to doctors, governments, scientists and other frontline soldiers&nbsp;scrambling to end the scourge of COVID-19. The game's underlying message—that of unity and collaboration—cannot feel more urgent in the middle of the worst global health crisis of the 21st century. &quot;There is no individual winner in the game. We are all playing against the diseases. There are four diseases in the world and they are constantly spreading&nbsp;at every turn in the game. Essentially you are running on a timer and if the diseases spread too much, you are done for.&nbsp;The players have to be doing what they can by working to the best of their capabilities to save the&nbsp;world. It is a strongly cooperative game and if you are not in tune with other players, you are not going to get anything done,&quot; says Asis about the game which Leacock started designing in 2004 when SARS was breaking big in the real world. Back then, Leacock wanted to design a &quot;cooperative&quot; game, and viruses and diseases proved to be the best common enemy humanity could join forces against.&nbsp;<br> <br> Hence in&nbsp;Pandemic, the&nbsp;participating players&nbsp;are specialists who tend to identify disease hotspots. They&nbsp;research cures for the four plagues before they explode. The game board has many population centers and a player has to collect cards and travel cities around the world, treat infected clusters, discover cures and build research stations. While there are cards which arm players can handle with greater abilities, the dreaded&nbsp;<i>Epidemic!</i>&nbsp;cards intensify the disease. Players are required to gauge their strengths and collaborate accordingly to end the diseases. If one or more disease can't be controlled, all the players loose, and if all four diseases are exterminated, everybody&nbsp;wins.&nbsp;</p> <p>This strategy game, when it first came out, ushered in a whole new genre of co-operative games, where players come together to work against the game itself. And now there are multiple versions of Pandemic: the 2013 edition has two new roles, a contingency planner and a quarantine specialist. &quot;Pandemic: Legacy&quot;, more deeply plotted with a storyline,&nbsp; is, according to BoardGameGeek, &quot;the single best board game ever made&quot;.&nbsp;</p> <p>Mithun Balraj—who founded ReRoll, a board games collective in Bengaluru—says that after 180 weeks of offline meets, the gamers' community now plays online. Pandemic is one such lockdown game. &quot;It's quite frantic and difficult.&nbsp;The game is set on a map of the world and players control&nbsp;little pawns which move across the world. To develop a cure, you need to get enough research data which exists in the form of cards. It's hard because you have limited capacity to hold cards in your hands. And you have to work within the systems given in the game which is challenging.&quot;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> Tue Apr 14 22:31:27 IST 2020 cartoonists-join-hands-for-online-coronavirus-themed-exhibition <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The animals look bemused, right from the monkey cub to the bear mom, watching a human family quarantined inside their homes, as if at a zoo. The colour palette is straight out of a children’s drawing text, the creatures reminiscent of Disney creations. The message isn’t though, the chilling tragi-comedy of it coming through with such impact that no translation is needed for anyone to figure this one out.</p> <p>Created by Malayalam cartoonist Subhash Kalloor, it is only one amongst the hundreds of cartoons that have been put up as ‘Sanitized Toons’, an online exhibition of cartoons related to COVID-19, now online on the <a href=";eid=ARAf7KltnzLPFJq3AVAtMIFz3DAX0TFERL7mjJwZ5qjZwZGT6buBy2Suj3X53Gmiqxa5vf-B7oZyOvOL" target="_blank">Facebook page of the Kerala Cartoon Academy</a>. The selections are from around the world and from across Indian languages, including some of the biggest names in the country’s cartoon scene, like E.P. Unny of&nbsp;<i>The Indian Express</i>, R.Prasad of&nbsp;<i>The Economic Times,&nbsp;</i>Jairaj T.G. of&nbsp;<i>The Week&nbsp;</i>and many others<i>.</i></p> <p>The Academy had initially conducted a cartoon exhibition on the coronavirus in Kannur, Kerala as part of an international exhibition there, but response was low as the epidemic was still to impact India majorly then. “Then, we thought of doing it across hospitals and other public places in Kerala in March, but the restrictions and lockdowns prevented us from doing so,” said Sudheer Nath, who is moderating the venture, “so we went in for an online model.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The name ‘Sanitized’, beside its obvious connotation, has an added meaning here.” With communal colours being added to the developing situation, we decided to ensure that no cartoons of that sort would be part of our compilation,” Nath points out, adding, “our aim is not even to put together a bunch of humorous cartoons, essentially they need to have a positive message.”</p> <p>With so many cartoons flowing in, the moderators are now thinking of compiling various volumes and sub-albums for easy viewing. While there are already two volumes, a gallery featuring cartoons by children is set to go live on Tuesday, which is also the auspicious festival of Vishu.</p> Mon Apr 13 14:58:31 IST 2020 indian-classical-dance-in-high-demand-in-times-of-global-lockdown <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Move over Bollywood. Indian classical dance is back in vogue. The demand to learn Indian classical dance and music has grown, especially in Bangkok and Tokyo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Had Video-Conf interactions with students and teachers at SVCC, Tokyo; and Bangkok run by ICCR_Delhi! Demand for opportunities to learn Indian classical dances and music is growing everywhere and Sanskrit and Hindi classes too getting remarkable response!’’ tweeted Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) president Vinay Shasrabuddhe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>April 9, marks 70 years of the foundation of ICCR. While the celebrations have been postponed for a year, ICCR has tried to commemorate the day, in keeping with the times of COVID-19, virtually. “When the world recognises the power of soft power. The role of the ICCR has become all the more critical,” said Shasrabuddhe in his video message.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There has been a thrust by the BJP government to increase India’s soft power internationally. The appointment of best-selling writer Amish Tripathi at the Nehru Centre in London is part of this major rejig. While India has reached out through its culture—especially through dance and music—there has been a feeling that to be a world leader, India has to do much more. Post the success of Yoga Day—a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has become now a staple in the calendar of each mission—there is a need to do more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an attempt to use the lockdown period to continue its work, ICCR has set up web sessions to take classes to the students. So, Swami Vivekanada Cultural Centre in Columbo has started online yoga classes via video conferencing so that it helps people keep mentally fit. Going beyond just yoga and the classics, ICCR will also conduct e-tutorials in Hindi and Sanskrit. There are also online classes for those who like to cook, as well as Surya Namaskar classes. For those who want to learn tabla in Jakarta, ICCR is finding a way to reach out too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are working with a ‘show must go on’ spirit,” said Shasrabuddhe according to a press release issued by the ICCR. “A Global Art Competition has on the theme of facing the challenge of COVID-19 unitedly has already been announced and through and through many such programmes, we will rise to the occasion.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Asking artists—professional, aspiring and even children—to express their feelings through painting, ICCR wants to connect people around the world. The competition “Art in the Times of Corona: United against Corona Express Through Art” was launched earlier this month. It encourages people to create art, whether it is on canvas, or digital and send it. Open to Indians and foreign artists, all anyone has to do is to send a photograph. More details are on the ICCR website. The chosen pieces of art will be displayed in a grand exhibition in the Capital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an attempt to get the ICCR family—which includes students and alumni—part of the goodwill the organisation has generated over the years, there is an essay writing competition, with the winner of the best essay receiving prizes. Titled ‘My Personality Growth, My Experience’, the competition is a chance to say thank you in 4,000 words.</p> Thu Apr 09 20:30:53 IST 2020 a-sweetmaker-in-kolkata-shows-his-defiance-with-an-anti-corona-sandesh <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A sweetshop in Kolkata wants its customers to eat and digest their virus scare. The 70-year-old confectionery shop, Hindusthan Sweets, in the city's Jadavpur outlet has created a "sandesh" in the likeness of the most popular ultrastructure image of the COVID-19 virus. "People are calling it corona sandesh, but please know that this anti-corona," says R. K. Paul, one of the owners of the sweetshop.</p> <p>"People are just so scared looking at news of all the people dying in Italy, US and Spain. That's why I had this idea of creating an anti-corona 'mishti'. We are at war with the disease. And we are not scared. We will eat it out and digest it," says Paul who has created slogans and posters to go with his brand new confection which he gives out for free. 'Nai Nai Bhoi/ Hobe Hobe Joy/ Coronar hobey parojoy' (There is no fear/victory is near/corona will be defeated) reads a flier pasted across a glass display in the sweetshop, which is located close to the main campus of Jadavpur University.</p> <p>Last month, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee permitted sweetshops to function with minimum staff during lockdown, even though sweets do not fall under the list of essential items. While the ostensible reason given is a Bengali person's penchant for his 'mishti', the move is intended to check the wastage of thousands of litres of milk lying unused with no delivery and transportation staff. The sweetshops are meant to remain open strictly between 12 to 4pm in the afternoon, a siesta time in the city when footfall is likely to be less. "People don't ask for these sweets. We just give it in packets for free. I don't think anyone eats it. It looks grotesque, anyway. But who would have thought the sweets would become a virus of its own," chuckles Paul who is happy to entertain TV reporters, newspapers and local journalists doing live broadcasts of his anti-corona sandesh. He gloats about how he got calls from media houses in the US as well.</p> <p>This isn't the first time Paul's topical confections have gone viral, he says. Most recently, when India's first ever day-night Test match was played with the pink ball at Eden Gardens, Paul had 'pink ball sandesh' to mark the historic moment. But Paul is more happy to recall his line of "herbal sweets" made of Arjun, Brahmi, Tulsi and the like. "I was the first one to invent carrot rasogolla in 2003," he says, beaming with pride. Journals in Paris and the United States wrote about it, he says.</p> <p>Paul thinks of himself as a Newton who is bonked with apples under a tree when inspiration strikes. He doesn't want to create any further spinoffs of corona confection, neither is he worried about other sweetmakers following in his footsteps. "Rabindranath Tagore got a Nobel only once. I have got my Nobel. Who wants another one? Even coronavirus will only happen once," says Paul, adding how he has been robbed of his sleep after creating his anti-corona sandesh.&nbsp;</p> Thu Apr 09 19:48:23 IST 2020 a-boy-named-covid-a-girl-named-corona-covid-19-inspires-unique-baby-names <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Shubhra Singh from Dr BR Ambedkar Memorial Hospital in Raipur clearly remembers the night of March 27. "It was just like a scene from the movies. There is just the harried husband and his pregnant wife kicking and screaming while rushing to the hospital OT in the middle of the night," says Singh when she recalls how a Raipur-based couple managed to rush past the barricades in the middle of a lockdown for a complicated delivery procedure. "But the cesarean delivery went off so well. The mother delivered twins and the couple was happy. They have to name them Covid and Corona," Singh excitedly informs over the phone.</p> <p>The couple from Raipur—Preeti Verma and Vinay Verma—aren't the only ones to have named their newborn infants after the ongoing coronavirus scare, which has got the world to hunker down and led to unprecedented restrictions on movement and human contact. With India working on a war footing against COVID-19, with the country in the middle of a strict 21-day lockdown, two more families in Uttar Pradesh named their babies 'Corona' and 'Lockdown'. A baby girl born on the day of janta curfew in Gorakhpur to Bablu Tripathi and Ragini Tripathi was named 'Corona' by her uncle. While a boy, born a week later at Khukhundu Primary Health Centre in nearby Deoria district, was apparently named 'Lockdown' by his family.</p> <p>"What else is to be done? No name registration offices are open. I don't know when they will open. I might change their names later," says Vinay Verma, father of the twins Covid and Corona from Raipur. Vinay's first daughter was named after Vaishno Devi, a Hindu goddess, when his own parents couldn't visit the pilgrimage site in Jammu two years ago. "My mother suffered a brain hemorrhage two weeks before the trip. And just two days later, my daughter was born. Hence the goddess herself came to my house," says an elated Vinay who hasn't changed his daughter's name since then.</p> <p>Vinay recalls the harrowing two-hour journey where he negotiated three police barricades from his house to the general hospital in a local ambulance service, after having turned away from a private hospital and primary health care centre which did not have the resources to treat his wife. "This is no less than a film story for us. Like suddenly my wife's labour pain starts in the middle of the night, and then I carry my older child around one shoulder. On another shoulder I have all the documents, a bottle of milk, bed sheets and water. And then from my third floor flat, I hold and pull my crying wife to climb down the stairs. All three of us were in tears," says Vinay. "It is because of the lockdown that so much drama happened. Their names should remain Covid and Corona."</p> Fri Apr 03 18:38:22 IST 2020 covid-19-bollywood-actors-divided-over-pm-modis-appeal-to-light-lamps-on-april-5 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Richard Bradley, an early 18th century botanist, once espoused the consumption of coffee to keep off the plague. Bradley, the first titular professor of botany in the University of Cambridge, published a great many books and pamphlets on horticultural affairs. His writings could also qualify as popular science. One of them was 'The virtue and use of coffee, with regard to the plague, and other infectious distempers '(London, 1721).</p> <p>The plague was roiling Marseille then, and threatening to ravage London. In the midst of this public health scare, Bradley published his treatise on the efficacious role of coffee in times of pestilence and how it prevented the spread of infection. He also gave express instructions on how to dry out the ripened berries before roasting. One had to pour boiling water over ground berries instead of boiling the coffee. His elaborate methods, he said, were worth the effort, as coffee cured everything from headaches, vertigo, lethargy, "coughs, moist and cold constitutions", to sleepiness, rheumatism, gout, fevers and infection. Most importantly, coffee was a happiness cocktail, an instant mood lifter. It lit the drinker's "vital flame" , he said, and protected them from "fear and despair". He warned that those “whose Spirits are the most overcome by Fear, are the most subject to receive Infections”.</p> <p>What would the late English botanist think of the latest decoction that is Dalgona?</p> <p>A gloriously whipped four-ingredient coffee—called Dalgona in South Korea—is the internet's favourite isolation beverage. What started to pick up as a trend in late January is now a kitchen competitive sport in all of Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter, with people vying to thrash out the most sumptuously whippety Dalgone coffee. And there is a reason why it resonates in our hard-pressed times where a generation of internet users is already attuned to ASMR-style hypnotica to calm frayed nerves. "It only calls for three to four very basic ingredients (instant coffee, sugar, hot water and milk) which are kitchen staples. Even in the midst of a lockdown, we still have them in our kitchens. When everybody is trying new things in the kitchen, this lesson comes at the right time," says Shivesh Bhatia, a popular 22-year-old Food Instagrammer from Delhi.</p> <p>When Bhatia tried it on his YouTube channel, he saw many Indian internet users jump on to the Dalgona bandwagon. "A lot of people at home started making it instantly because the turnaround time is so less. Yeah, the part where you constantly whip the sugar and the coffee together, it's a lot like the Indian 'pheti hui coffee' that we have been making at home for a long time. The process is a lot like that. But where the difference comes is the presentation bit of it. While we pour hot milk in India over the coffee and drink it up, in Dalgona you take cold milk with ice in the glass and then top it with the whipped coffee mixture. The presentation is the reason why it is catching all the eyeballs," says Bhatia whose latest isolation treat is a five-ingredient tea cake made of parle-G biscuits, sugar, milk, baking powder and vanilla extract.</p> <p>Instagratification, artfully arranged lattes, and the relentless, meditative churn of coffee and sugar until it is bulbous-buttery golden—why should that be a hardsell when we suddenly have so much time to keep staring at blank walls? Bradley would be pleased to learn how coffee has adapted and endured in times of crises, even though in his own time he was often dismissed as a bit of a rogue.</p> Fri Apr 03 18:03:44 IST 2020 poetry-in-the-time-of-corona <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>When the novel coronavirus outbreak peaked in China,&nbsp;Wei Shuiyin from Gansu province volunteered to work as a nurse in one of Wuhan's many "shelter hospitals"&nbsp;or&nbsp;<i>fangcang—</i>these makeshift tents were<i>&nbsp;</i>put together to ease the burden on hospitals with limited beds. Working on the frontlines with a medical team, Shuiyin's stayed weary and sleep-deprived for most of her days, with no time to choose between life and death. Overwhelmed by her experience, she composed a poem called 'Please Don't Disturb' which went viral on WeChat, but was later deleted. Almost pleading to be left alone with her work, she wrote:&nbsp;<br> <br> <i>Please, don’t decorate me in garlands<br> Don’t give me applause<br> Spare me recognition for work injury, martyrdom, or any other merits<br> I didn’t come to Wuhan to admire the cherry blossoms<br> And I didn’t come for the scenery, the reception of flattery<br> I just want to return home safe when the epidemic ends<br> Even if all that remains are my bones<br> I must bring myself home to my children and parents&nbsp;&nbsp;</i><br> <br> In this time of spiralling chaos and uncertainty, look no further than poetry for curative metaphors and images. Poems are lifesaving drugs whose intake in isolation has proven restorative powers. And crisis begets poetry,&nbsp;as can be seen in the example above. The internet is awash with lockdown poems. From a&nbsp;Capuchin Franciscan Brother in Ireland holding out against hate and loneliness to Simon Armitage, poet laureate of the United Kingdom, channeling a bit of&nbsp;‘Meghaduta’ by Kalidasa to foster hope and patience, the creative stress is expected to produce anguished verses&nbsp;like a river undamned.&nbsp; Instagram hashtags&nbsp;&nbsp;#coronapoetry and covid19 poetry on isolation, solitude, quarantine and ill-health were inevitable.&nbsp; Poets’ communities have converged in online meet-ups and livestreams to read out the most resonant compositions.&nbsp;<br> <br> As we wander adrift in this thicket of corona-inspired poesy, one must not miss the Poetry Live sessions by Indian Novels Collective in collaboration with Mumbai's popular bookshop Kitab Khana. Every evening at 5:30pm, between March 31 and April 14, live poetry readings will broadcast words of "peace and calm". Curated by&nbsp;Mumbai- based Indian English&nbsp;poet Ashwani Kumar, the speakers include many regional poets waiting to unleash a treasure trove of Indian poetry at a time when Indian poems are struggling to reach a larger audience.</p> <p>The&nbsp;inaugural&nbsp;session had popular&nbsp;Indian poet, writer and critic&nbsp;Arundhathi Subramaniam&nbsp;read out&nbsp;&nbsp;Rumi's ‘The Tent’ and her own poem the ‘Memo’, amongst others. As&nbsp;Subramaniam rightly pointed out, recreating this recital is like a "virtual campfire" for poetry lovers.&nbsp;<br> <br> <b>&nbsp;‘The Tent’ by Rumi<br> </b><i>Outside, the freezing desert night.<br> This other night inside grows warm, kindling.<br> Let the landscape be covered with thorny crust.<br> We have a soft garden in here.<br> The continents blasted,<br> cities and little towns, everything<br> become a scorched, blackened ball.<br> <br> The news we hear is full of grief for that future,<br> but the real news inside here<br> is there's no news at all.</i><br> <br> The short, succinct poems posted by British poet and translator&nbsp;George Szirtes on his Instagram handle offer much to ruminate on the ongoing infodemic.&nbsp;<br> <br> <b>‘Wartime’</b><br> <i>There are profiteers</i><br> <i>in the cupboard. There are thieves&nbsp;</i><br> <i>in the neat hedgerows.&nbsp;</i><br> <br> <i>There are the rumours&nbsp;</i><br> <i>and the alarms. It's the times</i><br> <i>we live in they say.&nbsp;</i><br> <br> <i>Darling, these are days</i><br> <i>of anxiety. Listen&nbsp;</i><br> <i>to the high pitched call</i><br> <br> <i>of small birds. Kiss me.&nbsp;</i><br> <br> With the closure of schools and colleges, the resources released under Poetry Foundation's Teaching Poetry Online has&nbsp;poetry teaching content for people of all age categories, apart from an exhaustive '101 Guides to Individual Poets' featuring the best in American poetry.</p> Fri Apr 03 17:16:36 IST 2020 licence-to-introspect-actor-keshav-moodliar-opens-up-about-his-journey <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a scene in <i>Sink, Sank, Sunk</i> – a three-part series about a mother-son relationship that released two years ago – two gay men, played by Will Seefried and Keshav Moodliar, are discussing relationships by the lambent glow of a&nbsp; campfire.</p> <p>“People are not meant to pair off. It’s not natural,” says Seefried.</p> <p>“I have never been able to get onboard with the natural-unnatural thing,” says Moodliar. “Human beings are all different. For some, pairing off is great. For others, it is not. I don’t think either is good or bad. And neither is unnatural.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Moodliar is a talented actor. Myriad emotions play across his face, framed by the sparks of the fire, as he engages in a subtle mating game with Seefried, teasing, flirting, probing…. Like all good actors, he makes you believe that he believes in what he is saying. Maybe he does. After all, most actors are drawn to roles that adhere, however loosely, to their own reality. “All the pain and joy we have encountered live in us in beautifully specific ways – and the greatest gift we have as actors is that we are given a license to investigate those experiences and pick them up afresh,” he says. “The work, in that sense, never ceases, because we are always learning about the world, and in turn discovering new things about ourselves.”</p> <p>He stumbled into acting almost by accident, in pursuit of another worthy cause: love. Sometime in the eighth grade, he was walking past an audition for an annual school play, <i>The Boy Who Fell into the Book</i>, when his friend forced him to go in with him, because he wanted to stand next to the girl he was madly in love with. “I ended up playing ‘The Boy’, and was fully and wholly obsessed with performing from that moment on,” says Moodliar. He was gripped by the sheer adrenaline and thrill of going onstage. As he says, “Something about the lights and scale of theatre, which makes you feel both tiny and larger than life – not to mention that it created a space where an auditorium of people had to be silent and listen to you for two hours, which was special in its own way for a 13-year-old.”</p> <p>After graduating from Ramjas College in Delhi, Moodliar became the first Indian to be accepted into The Juilliard School’s MFA programme in acting. The four years he spent there, he says, will always be the most important in his acting and personal journey. “Juilliard gave me an opportunity and a safe space to fail every day for 4 years,” he says. “It definitely was the biggest lesson I learned from my time there – that there is no one way to get this thing called ‘acting’ right. It is about showing up day and night and just being present, and truthful, under imaginary circumstances.”</p> <p>Since then, Moodliar has acted in several plays and shows. He was the first Indian to play Romeo in The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s production of <i>Romeo and Juliet</i>. He recently finished shooting the pilot episode of a new television show for FX, starring Chris Messina and Ari Graynor, and is currently scheduled to shoot a pilot for the ABC drama, <i>Wreckage</i>, based on Emily Bleeker’s book about the survivors of a plane crash. He also teaches acting at the New York Film Academy.</p> <p>One of the characters which hold a special place in Moodliar’s heart is Ray from the play <i>Red Speedo</i>, which was performed in his final year at Juilliard. He plays an Olympic swimmer who is caught with performance enhancing drugs on the night before the qualification round for the Olympics. Moodliar lost 25 pounds for the play, which, he says, “wrestles with just what we are willing to do to succeed”. He says the play taught him a lot about himself.</p> <p>Perhaps among them was the insight that no matter where you go or how many times you fall, you are always enough. “We live at a time when the whole world has screeched to a halt,” he says. “There are millions of people all over the globe who are relying on the work of actors and other artistes to get through the day. So never let anyone ever tell you that what you do is ‘non-essential’. Because you have the capacity to change a life, the ability to question the world we are in today, and the power to spread true joy. And that is a very special thing.”</p> Fri Apr 03 15:59:30 IST 2020 nemai-ghosh-and-his-unfulfilled-dreams <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Two years ago when Nemai Ghosh was 83 years old, he went to Punjab alone to execute a new idea. In his twilight years, the famed photo-biographer of Satyajit Ray was trying to carve a niche beyond what he was most well-known for. Armed with his analogue camera and roving around in his wheelchair, Ghosh attempted to capture the temple's resplendent shade of golden in black and white—in that same inimitable style of blending natural light and shade or the chiaroscuro effect. He captured many images from this visit and wanted to come back for more, if health issues permitted. On March 25, 2020, Ghosh died after being confined to his bed for months. Like most artists, he died with unfulfilled dreams.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From 1968 until Ray's death in 1992, Padma Shree awardee Nemai Ghosh captured close to 90,000 images of the pathbreaking filmmaker &quot;in action and repose&quot;. When Ghosh's awe-inspiring muse died, he was so depressed that he could not touch a camera for a year or two. Ghosh soon realized that Ray continued to work, even amidst the slings and arrows of fate. So he picked up where he left off. Even when the world had changed and colour photography and digital cameras were in the ascendant, Nemai Ghosh knew that no technical wizardry can replace one's own intuition, timing and compositional skills.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Analogue photography is a classic way of doing photography; its a photographer's art. Whatever has been captured on the negative, you can't manipulate it anymore. Integrity of the composition remains intact,&quot; says still photographer Anirban Mitra. He knew Ghosh since 2003 when he first met him in Kolkata to seek mentorship and guidance. Mitra and Tirtha Dasgupta's 2018 documentary, <i>A Ray of Light</i>&nbsp;captures Ray entirely from the perspective of Ghosh in a black-and-white visual narrative, apart from tracking Ghosh's own 50-year photographic journey from 1968.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is this documentary that Ghosh tells Mitra about his desire to frame Golden Temple. &quot;Nemai Ghosh never created anything synthetic; he never asked people to smile or pose. He was very particular about the concept of natural light—the light that is already available, a philosophy that Satyajit Ray himself employed in his films. He was interested in the drama of light. He always told me to 'chase the light,” remembers Mitra who last spoke to a bed-ridden Ghosh on the phone about a month ago. Mitra promised to come and see Ghosh when he felt better in a short, abrupt conversation. Mitra could not reach Ghosh on the phone in the last four days that he tried. &quot;Ghosh was a people's photographer who took candid shots. He was a purist and came from a classical school of photography. Only his art was paramount, he never cared for money or technicalities, &quot; says Mitra who recalls a Ghosh who lived modestly in a joint family, had no luxury, and got a car only much later in life.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ghosh became a photographer only after encountering the sheer force of Ray's personality and craft by accident, while on vacation with friends. His first love was theatre. Not many people talk about Ghosh's incredible documentation of Bengali theatre, or his behind-the-scenes take on modern masters in the art world from across the country, his images of other actors and actresses from Indian cinema even while he was assiduously photographing Ray or his extensive work documenting tribal life. In his lifetime, Ghosh had expressed a desire to build a permanent gallery or museum&nbsp; dedicated to the life and legend of Satyajit Ray, which may include his photographs as well.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the documentary, Ghosh expresses a similar worry. &quot;What will happen to all the archival material I have of Manik-da (Satyajit Ray)? They need to be preserved and handed over to the next generations. We are only two-three years from his birth centenary, I see no preparations whatsoever.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Satyajit Ray's birth centenary is now one year way. We know precious little of preparations so far.&nbsp;</p> Fri Mar 27 17:09:28 IST 2020 amid-coronavirus-shutdown-uaes-art-dubai-goes-online0 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>At a time when even the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed, Art Dubai has refused to press the pause button. As the UAE went into lock down on Wednesday, one of the biggest art fairs in the region—with a considerable Indian art component—came alive.</p> <p>“We are currently all experiencing an unprecedented situation on a global scale which means we, like many other fairs and institutions, have quickly adapted to replace physical experiences with digital, said an Art Dubai spokesperson.</p> <p>“Adapting to a digital programme enables us to uphold our mission support galleries and nurture Dubai’s arts ecosystem, even in these challenging circumstances. Online initiatives have always been meant to supplement the physical, corporeal experience of visiting the fair and seeing works in person, but in the current situation they have come very rapidly to the forefront,” the spokesperson said.</p> <p>Art Dubai is not the only fair that has been hit. The coronavirus has severely impacted art events across the world. Art Fair Tokyo was one the first few casualties to the virus. In its 15th year, the fair with 146 exhibitors—cancelled to avoid the spread of infection. Art Basel, the biggest destination for modern and contemporary art is still planning to stick to its schedule in June. But Art Brussels has been pushed back a month to June after Basel. Germany, which had Art Cologne has pushed to November.</p> <p>Going beyond just the online catalogue of 500 art works, there is also an Art Dubai Performance Programme, which has been adapted to an online performing space. “We did this every year in March,” said Shumon Basar—commissioner of the global art forum, Dubai, in the Global Art Forum which is being streamed as NewsHour on Wednesday. “We took it foolishly for granted. It is already become a cliché to say these are exceptional times. The constant use of the word of unprecedented, is beginning to bore.’’</p> <p>This uncertainty—coupled with the lingering feeling of doom—where the virus has made borders irrelevant looms large. “Nothing feels distant from the threat,” says Basar. “Every man-made border is powerless and porous.” The Global Art Forum reflected this strange time and Music for Homes, which debuted by Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi, which was made in her New York home under quarantine.</p> <p>Trying to offer succour through art, the festival has a performance programme on healing. A collaborative effort across the world, the programme has been curated by Marina Fokidis who lives in Athens. Bringing together artists from Iran, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Greece and French Guiana, the programme that was planned a year ago, much before COVID-19 became a reality, uses art to explore “medicinal space for our collective therapy to exist,” Fokidis has been quoted as saying.</p> <p>For the desis, there is more. Art Dubai, which has become a platform for artists from India, has much more participation from India this time. “This year’s edition has seen a rise in the presence of Indian galleries and artists showcasing works. Live on the Catalogue now, you can peruse through works created by artists represented by Kolkata-based Experimenter and New Delhi’s Gallery Latitude 28, Nature Morte, Vadehra Art Gallery and Blueprint 12 Gallery,” said a spokesperson. There will also be a keynote address by Anjolie Ela Menon.</p> <p>This time, everyone is invited. You don’t even need a ticket—just visit the Art Dubai website.</p> Thu Mar 26 19:40:09 IST 2020