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Virgil Abloh, Designer Who Brought The Street To The Catwalk, Dies At 41

Virgil Abloh had been battling a rare, aggressive form of cancer for over two years.

NDTV 29 Nov 2021 12:33 pm

Kerala tea-seller couple wrote with admirable honesty about their travel experiences

Books Vijayan, who travelled to 25 countries with his wife Mohana after saving money from selling tea, died on November 19. Cris All images are from the book In 1965, two things happened, writes KR Vijayan in a book he authored with his wife Mohana. The movieChemmeenreleased and he began the habit of watching every new movie on the day of its release. He was a boy then, sneaking out on a bus from Cherthala to Ernakulam city, the first trips away from home. The love for travel was planted by his father, a tea shop owner, when he took little Vijayan to Ernakulam. Growing up, he disappeared every now and then, boarding the first bus he saw, without even checking the destination. Mohana joined him in his pursuits when they both reached their 50s. Saving every extra rupee from the tea shop they jointly ran in Kochi, the couple went on trips across the world, grew famous, and got written about. Nine days ago, Vijayan died of a cardiac arrest. By then he had visited 25 countries with Mohana, and had only just returned from a trip to Russia. Vijayan and Mohanaarea perfect couple whoareliving the happiest life that anyone can live, travel vlogger Drew Binsky wrote in the preface of their book,Chaya Vittu Vijayanteyum Mohanayudeyum Loka Sancharangal World tours of Vijayan and Mohana, by selling tea. In the book, which was published in 2020, the couple writes about their curious life travelling across the world with admirable honesty. Vijayan has written most of it, chronicling his love for travel from the time of his early childhood. To anyone who asked him why he wanted to travel, he immediately said because he wanted to see places. Its the same love that took him to Ernakulam in his schooldays, forgoing the money meant to pay his fees, and what later made him and Mohana travel continents. Through the pages, Vijayan admits to having been reckless in his youth, never being able to hold on to money, spending it all on his travel whims. Even as he got married as a young man and even after the couple bore children, he did not break his habits. He sold things, took off without a word and reappeared a week or two later. Mohana worried a lot on his behalf. At one point, Vijayan sold Mohanas gold chain that she had given him to pawn to buy essentials. He went to Tirupati and roamed around for two weeks till he had no money left and came back home penniless. Vijayan writes of all this without holding back, baring his wayward ways. Mohana, on her part, writes of those early days when she understood the ways of her husband whod sell anything to go on a trip away from home. People had advised her to split and save herself. But she stayed with the faith that it will all work out in the end. And it did, she writes, for she too joined him in his efforts after taking over the finances. Vijayan writes with pride how Mohana has taken over the money matters and there has been peace in the family since then. He cant handle money, she is great at it, Vijayan writes. He calls me his manager, she says. They always relied on travel packages from tour companies. The first country they visited was Egypt in 2008. It was a pilgrimage organised by Sandeepananda Giris School of Bhagavad Gita. Mohana and Vijayan didnt even have passports then. Everything happened quickly they sold jewellery, got a loan and took off. After every trip theyd work hard to pay off the loans they took. Mohana shares her pearls of wisdom put away Rs 200 or 300, or whatever you can, every day. She is easily the more open-minded among the two, despite Vijayans early exposure to travel and reading (he reads about every place he wants to travel to). Vijayan, for instance, wanted a son so that he could do his funeral rites when he passed. The couple bore two daughters. Mohana writes that they tried to talk some sense into Vijayan by telling him that it doesnt matter if there are no sons; what matters is that they raise the children well, whether they are sons or daughters. At another point, she writes that they always tell their co-travellers about being tea-sellers and then they are treated with respect everywhere. She writes about economising by buying cheap clothes, eating fruits during the trip and avoiding all shopping. It is when you try to be someone else that there is a problem. If we live as ourselves there will be no trouble, she notes. We have had a lot of struggles in life. But after this, we want to do what we like as far as we can, she writes. So they went off every few years to countries in Europe, South America, to the United States for which monetary contributions came after a TNM story went viral to Australia and Russia and more. Mohanas favourite is New Zealand, she says, because of the natural beauty and good air. Vijayan found the New Zealand countryside so charming that he thought they could live there. Whatever developed cities we live in, we have a tendency to retire to villages, he writes almost philosophically. But Vijayans observations are always so sharp, he appears to take in much more than what the pretty sights offer. He sees how many countries value privacy highly. No one cared when he wore amunduin a foreign country, as others in his travel group feared. He also took note of the cleanliness and rightly says that hygiene can come only from the efforts of individuals, there was no use blaming the government for it. While he stresses he is a believer, Vijayan also adds that he is a leftist. He was influenced by the concepts of human love and a casteless society, and in his SSLC book he wrote his name as KR Vijayan in place of Vijayanadha Prabhu (which would reveal his caste identity). Several times in the book, Vijayan speaks of death. He doesnt know how long he can travel but he would as long as possible, he writes. And if at one point he became too weak to travel, he would still have memories of the places he visited. But Vijayan didnt have to lie down weakly in a bed. His death was sudden, only days after seeing Russia like he had long desired to. TNM's Haritha John who wrote an addendum to the book says that the couple is the best example of how one can conquer dreams and how one can live life.

The News Minute 28 Nov 2021 7:15 pm

Revolutionary at heart: Diego Maradonas football, politics and life

Books On Maradona first death anniversary, here is an excerpt from Rajeev Ramachandrans upcoming Malayalam work Cheli Puralatha Panthu, a book on the political history of the evolution of Argentine football. Rajeev Ramachandran Facebook The following is an excerpt from a chapter on Maradona from the upcoming Malayalam work Cheli Puralatha Panthu (The Ball Sans Stain), a book on the political history of the evolution of Argentine football, by journalist Rajeev Ramachandran. Sometimes I think that my whole life is on film, that my whole life is in print. But its not like that, its not like that at all, there are things which are only in my heart that no one knows. Even though I have already said so much, I dont think Ive ever told the important stuff, the most important stuff. This is how Diego Maradona starts his autobiography, El Diego, which was published in 2000. It took another eight years for Emir Kusturica to make one of the best sports documentaries of our times, Maradona by Kusturica. No doubt, these two works the text Maradona wrote with the help of journalists Daniel Arcucci and Ernesto Cherquis Bialo, and the flamboyant and out-of-the-ordinary documentary by one of the contemporary greats are the most honest accounts of the life and times of Diego Armando Maradona. There is a nude picture of Maradona in his autobiography, a black and white photo of him standing in a bathtub in some hotel room. I have nothing to hide, nothing. I have always shown myself as I am and now, I can look the world in the eye. Thats why I am willing to show myself like this. This was in Amsterdam, I thought it was fun, reads the caption. This was quintessential Maradona, the same naked man Kusturica captured in his film. In the first available picture of him, Maradona presents himself as a showman, a 10-year-old ball juggler. Juggling did not have the glory and glamour as freestyle football back then. He used to juggle the ball in front of the crowds, showing off his skills, bouncing it from insteps to thighs to back heel to head to shoulder and back again on and on during match intervals. The best time was during an Argentinos Boca match in 1970, remembers Diego, (when) I started with my skills tac-tac-tac-tac, the crowd started clapping along and the first team players returned, the referee came back, but the crowd started shouting, let him stay, let him stay. It was the whole crowd shouting, not only the Argentinos fans but the Boca fans too, even louder. The Boca fans, thats one of my happiest memories of them. I think thats when I started feeling what I feel for them now; I knew then we would come together one day, Maradona says in El Diego. According to Jonathan Wilson, renowned journalist and author of the book Angels with Dirty Faces: The Footballing History of Argentina, the first ever write-up on Maradona had got his name wrong. Wilson writes: On 28 September 1971 Maradona was mentioned by the national press for the first time, as Clarns reporter was captivated by the show he put on at half-time of a game between Argentinos and Independiente although the tribute was rather spoiled by the fact he referred to him as Caradona. The ten-year-old, the report said, demonstrated a rare ability to control and dribble with the ball but what seems more significant is the way Maradona was immediately placed in the pibe tradition: His shirt is too big for him and his fringe barely allows him to see properly. He looks as though hes escaped from a potrero. He can kill the ball and then just as easily flick it up with both his feet. He holds himself like a born footballer. Ball juggling, popularly known as freestyle football these days, is no childs play. Its more than transfer of weight or balancing of the legs. It demands body orientation, ambidexterity, reflexes, rhythm and timing, which effectively translates into a sort of communication with the ball. In almost every great dribbler of world football there exists a little juggler. It was sheer ball control and rhythm of movements that took Maradona to the top of his game, which he owed greatly to his ball juggling skills. It was his raring-to-go chest position that defined his playing style as an attacking footballer. The oft-talked about advantages of being short and having low centre of gravity come only after that. His body posturing was so outward as if he always thrived to move forward with the ball in front of him just like a hunting hound. The essence of his football was this race with the ball, which he always wanted under his sole control. Comparisons between Maradona and Pele played out for decades starting from 1986 perhaps, on terraces in bars and wherever a crowd watched football, which the television and internet took over later. The debate about whose legacy was greater so divided the football fraternity that FIFA had to split the Player of the Century award to allow the pair to share the glory. Maradona was the winner of an internet poll while Pele got the backing of experts and ex-players. Apart from the stellar statistics, it was the off-the-ground personality that gave Pele an edge over an erratic Maradona. Pele was so particular not to challenge the public conscience by any means that it was probably the reason he kept his distance from politics. He did not say a single word against the notorious rule of the military junta in Brazil in the 60s nor did he carry any regret about it. Even today he is of the view that the military dictatorship did not affect him as a person and a player. David Tryhorns 2021 Netflix documentary has him admitting it in public. This is where Pele is the polar opposite of Maradona, who was very vocal in supporting the South American left movements and marking his political opposition against the USA-led Capitalist Bloc. However, Maradona too had not opposed the Argentine military junta that suppressed human rights and free speech in his youthful days, but he never tried to justify it in later years. Considering the structural changes that happened in the game of football between the times the two players were active, this writer puts Maradona slightly ahead of Pele. Yes, Pele raised the World Cup more than anyone else who had played the game, but one should not forget that he had the service of a bunch of world class talents beside him. When Maradona lifted the cup in Mexico in 1986, it was almost a solo effort, just like his second goal against the mighty England. It was Maradonas World Cup. Peles World Cup teammates starting from Garrincha, Vava and Didi to Jairzinho, Tostao, Zito and Bellini were as good as Pele. Theirs was more or less a collective effort, with Pele excelling as the primary scorer. But in 1962, it was a different story when Pele got injured in the first stage of the tournament. It was Garrincha who shouldered the responsibility of the team and carried them along to the podium. Unlike the classical Brazilian team which used to perform like a well-oiled engine, it was a solo show by Garrincha after Peles injury. Maradonas performance in Mexico could be seen as a close parallel to this incredible show of individual brilliance on a football ground. Statistical analysis, including possession rate or pass accuracy, was not available those days, but the running commentary of the matches give us a vivid picture of Garrincha on the field, which could very well be superimposed on the Maradona of 1986 for a perfect match. In 1962, Garrincha also had scored a brace against England, including a header. It was Garrincha who made a better match for Maradona than Pele, be it his performance on the pitch or his celebration of life off-the-ground. As the legendary Uruguayan journalist and author Eduardo Galeano put it, the goal is soccers orgasm, especially for the likes of Maradona and Garrincha. They tend to submit themselves to the ground after scoring their best goals just like a post-coital slump on to the partners body. Pele, on the other hand, is always seen as retrieving his balance after most of his best goals. Maradonas politics too was loud and exaggerated just like his football and personal life, maybe a touch more consistent. He did not hesitate one second to take the side of those were violated by the powerful. He joined hands with leftist leaders of the likes of Fidel Castro, Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez, lambasting the US and then President George W Bush. In his interview with Emir Kusturica, Maradona says that he got his sense of justice only after he started seeing the world up close at a later stage of his life. Its interesting to read his views on the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara in his autobiography. Obviously I would have loved to meet Che Guevara. I carry him on my arm I have a tattoo which is a work of art but I carry him in my heart. I fell in love with him when I was in Italy. I think the fact that it did not start in Argentina is significant, because when I was there El Che to me was the same for most of my fellow countrymen an assassin, terrorist, a baddie, a revolutionary who planted bombs in schools. That was the version of history I had been taught. ... I would love it if the kids were taught true history at school but I would be satisfied if the schools in my country mention the name Che Guevara. By tattooing an image of Che Guevara on his arm, Maradona was literally reclaiming a revolutionary chapter of Argentinas history. It should be noted that this was way before Che became a global insignia of youth, revolution, fighting spirit and what not. Kusturica summarises in his film: I was sure of one thing if Maradona hadnt been a footballer, he would have become a revolutionary. He wouldnt need an incentive to send him off into the woods. He was a revolutionary at heart. Yes, he was indeed a revolutionary and his first act of revolution was the goal he scored against England with the assistance of the hand of God. Even though he had shrugged off the political overtones of the game in a pre-match press conference, he made it clear in later interviews that it was nothing but revenge. But his political understanding driven by solidarity with the oppressed remained at a macro level as he could not walk the talk in his personal life, especially with his partners, including his wife Claudia Villafane. The legal battles Claudia and some of his other girlfriends had to fight, be it for maintenance or recognition of their children, exposed the darker side of Maradona, the ruthless male chauvinist who hardly cared for anybody but himself. Even after his death, a major section of feminists in Argentina, except for the mainstream leftist feminist groups dubbed as Maradonian Feminists for their justification of his violent acts citing his working class background chose to confront him stating that his violence was not limited to abandoning his children and their mothers but extended to psychological intimidation and harassment. His critics range from academics like Graciela Monteagudo to female football players like Paula Dapena of Spain, who refused to take part in an on-the-ground tribute for him before a match in Spain. Maradonas life has been the subject of many books and visual documentations, one of which is a course offered at Harvard University by Mariano Siskind, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of Comparative Literature. According to Prof Siskind, Maradona should be approached via two social, historical and cultural ways through Nietzsches The Birth of Tragedy and a reading of Aristotles Poetics, particularly the section on tragedy. According to Siskind, the opposition and relation that Nietzsche develops around Apollo and Dionysus are applicable to Pele and Maradona. He also argues that Maradona incarnates the figure of the classic hero of Aristotles Poetics (Tragedy). In his class, the professor establishes how Maradona became a hero between 1979 and 1990 and how through his flaws he caused his own demise in 1991, in 1994, and at so many points later in his life. Aristotle also said that the hero has a moment of redemption when he recognizes that his actions led to his fall, he calls itanagnorisis. In the narrative arc of Maradonas life, there is a beautiful ceremony celebrating his career at Boca Juniors stadium in 2001 when he acknowledged his shortcomings, which is his moment of redemption, Siskind said in an interview with The Harvard Gazette. And it was during that ceremony that the footballer crafted that touching epigram: Football is the most beautiful and most healthy sport in the world. Nobody doubts this in the slightest. If one person makes a mistake, football does not have to pay for it. I made mistakes and I paid for them, but the ball doesnt stain. Translated from the original by the author Rajeev Ramachandran.

The News Minute 25 Nov 2021 11:40 am

Anupamas struggle exposes Keralas medieval mindset towards unwed mothers

Opinion Kerala society is more interested in discussing how Anupama's baby was conceived, than examining the troubling connivance of the state in flouting adoption laws. Sowmya Rajendran An uphill battle fought by 23-year-old Anupama Chandran came to a bittersweet end on November 23, Thursday. For the past one year, the Kerala woman has been running from pillar to post to find her son who was given away for adoption by her family, without her consent. In a culture where motherhood is usually glorified and venerated, the story should have triggered a wave of sympathy and goodwill for the young woman. But that isn't the case because Anupama did not become a mother according to the moral codes prescribed by a society deeply entrenched in patriarchal ideas about women, sexuality, and agency. Social media is full of comments targeting Anupama for bearing a child outside wedlock, that too with a man who was already married. From deeming her an unfit mother to claiming that the Andhra couple who had fostered the baby would have made better parents, the avalanche of judgment is only growing. In contrast, there is very little criticism for Anupama's family who deceived the young woman and indulged in a cruel act of betrayal that has had repercussions on not only the biological parents and the baby but also the foster parents. More troubling is the willingness to look past the serious lapses in the adoption procedure and what looks like the active connivance of the state in keeping Anupama away from her baby. Anyone who writes in support of Anupama or expresses happiness that the mother finally found her child, is being asked if they support infidelity, if they don't feel bad for Ajith's (Anupama's partner) first wife whom he has now divorced, if they are not thinking about the plight of Anupama's family that had to face the prospect of an unwed mother in their home. According to a 2020 survey conducted by Gleeden, India's first extramarital dating app (yes, it exists), 55% of married Indians have cheated on their spouse at some point in their marriage. This isn't a fact worthy of celebration, romanticisation, or glorification. It is simply a fact that points to the reality of marriage in Indian society, and says loudly that extramarital affairs happen all the time. And while an extramarital affair can be considered grounds for divorce, it's not a criminal offence. To put it in plainspeak, what happened between Ajith and Anupama is neither unique nor rare; it would have never made the headlines if not for what Anupama's family did. Anupama's father, Jayachandran, is a local leader of the ruling CPI(M) party in Kerala. According to Anupama, her family objected to her relationship with Ajith also because he's Dalit. In the many interviews she has given, she has said that the family took away the baby from her on the promise that the child will be returned after her sister's wedding. The sister's wedding became a tool of emotional blackmail because we live in a society where the notion of honour is closely tied to exercising control over women's bodies. What would people say if the sister of the bride was an unwed mom? Worse, her unwed partner is from a Dalit caste? How can the family hold its head high with such a 'shameful' secret? Which family would want a bride from such a home? It is because many people following this story closely identify with these questions that we're seeing such a backlash against Anupama. This isn't an isolated instance. We have seen such responses in many cases where a woman goes against her family, and makes decisions that are not considered morally upright by society, even if these are not illegal choices. For example, when Pranay, a Dalit man in Telangana, was brutally murdered by assasins hired by his wife's father, there was a tidal wave of sympathy for the accused who came from a dominant caste. Even media channels painted the horrific crime as the sad consequence of a 'father's love'. Within the Indian family system, a woman is always expected to be under the control of either her father, brother, husband or some other male relative. When she dares to step out of this circle, she is punished, and the punishment, however extreme, is repeatedly justified by the society around her. The violence committed against a woman by her family is almost always considered to be a 'family issue'. In Anupama's case, it is being said that Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, too, knew what was happening but decided not to intervene. The entire state apparatus from the police to the government and the adoption agencies was hostile to Anupama because of her father's political affiliations and the fact that her family's plight drew more sympathy than her own. It is only because she refused to back down that the baby was finally found. Also read: DNA test proves Anupama and Ajith are baby's parents: What happens next Kerala missing child case: Chats between Anupama and CPI(M) leader PK Sreemathi emerge The law is cognizant of the situation that an unmarried mother is likely to face. According to adoption rules, when a child is born out of wedlock, only the mother can surrender the child, and if the mother is a minor, the Deed of Surrender should be signed by an accompanying adult as the witness. Further, the parent who wants to surrender the child should also be provided counseling over a period of time to make sure that they are taking the irrevocable decision after duly considering all factors. We need to pause for a moment and register this. The fact that the law exists is not an encouragement for women to put themselves in such trying circumstances. Instead, it is an acknowledgement that such situations arise and people in those situations need protection mandated by law, because society is likely to be far less understanding and more eager to deprive them of their rights. The issue here is that Anupama's right over her child was not respected by anyone involved in this conspiracy. The law was flouted repeatedly, with primacy being given to moral codes. This is what must concern us as citizens because the issue isn't limited to Anupama's circumstances; it points to larger questions about misuse of state power and lack of accountability. How the baby was conceived is, frankly, not our problem. Beyond satisfying a base, salacious interest, it has no impact on how any of us conduct our lives. Yes, this is a story with many sides, but not all sides matter to the public and neither are all sides equally relevant. The question is not even 'who shall cast the first stone' but 'why do you think it's your business to cast it'.

The News Minute 24 Nov 2021 3:59 pm

Newly discovered 300-yr-old inscription sheds light on Kerala's forgotten Persian Bishop

History During his time in Kerala, Mar Gabriel became an important spiritual and political entity, with nearly 22 parishes associated with him. Arvind Kurian Abraham In St. Marys Orthodox Church or Cheriyapally in Keralas Kottayam town, the recent deciphering of a nearly 300-year-old inscription on a wooden plank, has shed light on the long forgotten connection between Kerala and a Persian Bishop from the early 1700s known as Mar Gabriel. During his time in Kerala, Mar Gabriel became an important spiritual and political entity, with nearly 22 parishes associated with him and he developed considerable influence with the Dutch colonial powers. History of the Nasranis Christianity established itself in Kerala within the first century A.D, and the local Christian community known as the Nasranis made connections with various ancient Christian communities in Persia, Syria, Asia Minor. The Nasranis used an ancient language known Syriac in their liturgy, which led to them being referred to as Syrian Christians. The Syrian Christians of Kerala had links with the Church of the East or the Persian Church, which was based in Mesopotamia, and later established itself as the main church in the Sasanian Empire. The Persian Church used Eastern Syriac Rite, which was also used among the Syrian Christians in Kerala as their liturgy. Nestorius, the Archbishop of Constantinople in the 3rd century, began ruffling the feathers of the rest of the Christian clergy by arguing that Jesus Christ had both a divine nature as well as a human nature, and that Mary should not be viewed as Theotokos (the Mother of God), rather as the bearer of Jesus, the human. In 431, Roman Emperor Theodosius II conveyed the meeting of council of Christian Bishops in Ephesus (in modern day Turkey) to discuss the theological views of Nestorius. The Council of Ephesus condemned the teachings of Nestorius, also known as Nestorianism, as heresy. This was reiterated by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. However, the Persian Church refused to consider Nestorianism as heresy, and viewed Nestorius as a saint. The tensions between the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire also influenced the straining relations between the Vatican and the Persian Church. In 424, the Persian Church declared itself independent from the Roman Catholic Church. The Persian Church spread across parts of modern day Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Central Asia, and even parts of China. Nevertheless, the Church slowly went into decline, which was only hastened by the military conquests of the Timurid Empire. Syrian Christians in India were forcibly brought under the Catholic Church by the Portuguese who took control of parts of Kerala in the 16th century. However, a section of the Syrian Christians resisted and fought for their independence. In order to get recognition from other churches, the leader of the dissident Syrian Christians, Mar Thoma I sought to build a relationship with the Church of Antioch. In 1665, the Patriarch of Antioch (the head of the Church of Antioch) recognised Mar Thoma as the Bishop of the Malabar region. In this period, the hold of the Portuguese had considerably weakened due to the conquest of the Dutch East India Company in Kerala. The Dutch assisted the local Syrian Christians in establishing ties with Antioch. The Syrian Christians under Mar Thoma adopted The West Syriac Rite, as followed by the Church of Antioch, which was distinct from the East Syriac Rite of the Persian Church. Mar Gabriels Mission The Patriarch of the Persian Church, Eliya X, decided to send Bishops to Kerala to revive the East Syriac liturgy. Therefore, in 1705, Mar Gabriel, a Nestorian Persian Bishop from Baghdad, was sent to Kerala. Interestingly, in a letter written by Mar Gabriel, he mentions that the Persian Patriarch in 1700 had sent Bishop Mar Symons to Malabar. However, before Symons arrived, he sent a letter declaring his intent to visit the region. This letter was intercepted by some Roman Catholics, who captured the Bishop and imprisoned him in Pondicherry. Following this tragedy, the Patriarch sent Mar Gabriel for the mission to Kerala. It is also possible that Mar Gabriel was senior to most Bishops in Persia, as the British Resident G.T Mackenzie in the Travancore Manual mentions that Mar Gabriel was the Archbishop of Oburbigan, a See under the Church of the East. Mar Gabriel went to Thekkumkoor Kingdom in present day Kottayam and joined the St. Marys Metropolitan Cathedral in Changanassery. He tried to seek recognition from the local Roman Catholic officials but they never fully trusted him. Eventually, he was made to leave the church in in Changanassery after it was revealed that Mar Gabriel was in fact a Nestorian, which was viewed as heresy. He then proceeded to join Cheriyapally in Kottayam in 1708. Cheriyapally, built in 1579, is the second oldest church in Kottayam and is held in high regard by the local the Syrian Christian community. Inscription about Mar Gabriel in St. Marys Orthodox Church or Cheriyapally in Keralas Kottayam town Relations with the Dutch Mar Thomas successor, Mar Thoma IV, found his position challenged by the presence of Mar Gabriel who he viewed as a rival and a heretic. He therefore wrote to the Patriarch in Antioch complaining about the Ninevite Gabriels presence and how his clergy was not well equipped to counter Gabriels theological knowledge and skills. The letter was sent via the Dutch, who did not transmit it to Antioch, perhaps owing to their comfortable position with Mar Gabriel, who they viewed more as an ally than as a threat. Mar Gabriels ability to build political relations with the Dutch made him a power centre in Kottayam. He once wrote to Jacob Canters Visscher, a Dutch Chaplain, an account of the history of the Syrian Christians. In his letter, he claims that there were several Christian priests from Baghdad, Ninevah and Jerusalem who came to the Malabar region to provide leadership to the native Christian community. He writes about how in the 1500s the Portuguese tried to bring the Syrian Christians under the authority of the Catholic Church, and when this was resisted, they persecuted the Syrian Christians. According to the letter, a Portuguese Bishop named Alexio went to Cochin to make Syrian Christians accept his authority, and when he failed, the Portuguese persecuted the Syrian Christians and bribed the King of Cochin to stop him from helping the Syrian Christians. The arrival of the justice-loving and peaceable Dutch, who defeated and drove out the Portuguese, is described as a godsend by Gabriel. The person being referred to as Alexio is probably Aleixo de Menezes, the then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Goa. Visscher in one of his letters provides us the only surviving description of Mar Gabriel. In his letter he wrote: Mar Gabriel, a white man, and sent hither from Bagdad, is aged and venerable in appearance, and dresses nearly in the same fashion as the Jewish priests of old, wearing a cap fashioned like a turban, and a long white beard. He is courteous and God-fearing and not at all addicted to extravagant pomp. Round his neck he wears a golden crucifix. He lives with the utmost sobriety, abstaining from all animal food. His house, rather a large one for the habits of the Malabar people, is situated on a hill in the kingdom of Tekkenkoer. He holds the Nestorian doctrine respecting the union of the two natures in our Saviours person. Mar Gabriel also used his political connections with the Dutch to make several interventions. Dr Jincy Othottil in her research has highlighted how in 1708, when there were problems between Syrian Christians in Kandanad and the Raja of Cochin, Mar Gabriel wrote to the Dutch Commander to help resolve the issue. In 1709, he once again wrote to the Dutch Commander to help defuse tensions between the Syrian Christians and Roman Catholics. In 1727, the Dutch sent a missive to the rulers in Malabar to ensure that the Syrian Christians are not harassed. This could have been the result of Mar Gabriels repeated letters to the Dutch. Syrian Christians discontent with Mar Thoma IV began to follow Mar Gabriel. Nearly 22 churches came under his influence. He also tried introducing traditions of the Persian Church. It is said that during his stay in Cheriyapalli, the three day-feast, a ritual of the Persian Church, was observed. He used the donations of the devotees to purchase paddy fields, and the rice that was harvested from the fields were used for the feast. He also advocated allowing priests to get married and to discard the Catholic custom introduced by the Portuguese which prescribed celibacy for priests. In 1729, Mar Thoma IVs successor, Mar Thoma V, wrote to the Dutch Commander in Cochin complaining against Mar Gabriel. The Dutch requested one of their distinguished chaplains, Rev. Valerious Nicolai to sort out the problems between the two bishops. Nicolai wrote to Mar Gabriel and to Mar Thoma, pointing out that both of them were following heresy and offered to show them the true way. Mar Gabriel responded negatively to this unsolicited advice, whereas Mar Thoma said that he could not deal with doctrinal issues without the permission of his Patriarch in Antioch. A legacy forgotten On 8th February, 1731, Mar Gabriel passed away and was buried in Cheriyapally. As he had not appointed a successor, the mission to re-establish the Eastern Syriac Rite as the dominant liturgy also ended with his death. A feast was observed every year in memory of Mar Gabriel, until this practice was later abolished by Patriarch of Antioch. Unfortunately, those who viewed Mar Gabriel as a heretic due to his Nestorian beliefs, destroyed his tomb in Cheriyapally. The debris from the tomb was later used for building the staircase of the office building of Cheriyapally. A wooden plank which supports the staircase, with the old inscription about the burial of Mar Gabriel in Cheriyapally is now the only remaining historical artefact connecting the history of Kerala with the forgotten Persian Bishop. Arvind Kurian Abraham is a lawyer specializing in constitutional law. He writes on law, history and politics.

The News Minute 19 Nov 2021 12:36 pm

Hyderabads food trucks have found a perfect spot in the city but face challenges too

Food In Hyderabad, food trucks are found in areas like Gachibowli, Madhapur and Hitec city where you have IT companies; and commercial areas where people congregate, such as Abids, Kukatpally and LB Nagar. Rajeswari Parasa It was a cloudy October morning in Hyderabad, and Durga Prasad Kanumuri had prepared three types of batter idli, dosa and vada and readied other ingredients that would be used on his food truck that specialises in tiffin items like mutton kheema dosa, idly and paaya, among others. That evening, he drove his truck to his regular spot in Kukatpally, where he expected to serve food to 150-200 people. But soon after he had set up Vinayaka Food Truck for the night, it started to pour. He only ended up serving a handful of customers. Not only did he hardly earn anything that night, but most of the food he had prepped went to waste. Rains are a nightmare situation for food trucks, as all the planning and prepping goes to waste, says Durga Prasad. We face this situation often during the rainy season from July to August, he adds. Food trucks have the ability to go where customers are and serve them, and have fewer overheads as owners dont have to spend on renting a space, paying for electricity, etc. But there are a lot of challenges they face as well. They have to stand for long hours and work in cramped areas, deal with wastage of food on days that see few patrons, and deal with parking and traffic issues. Not to mention, the COVID-19 pandemic, that led to food trucks having to close for months on end. Over the past few years, Hyderabad has seen a spurt of food trucks. This has largely been driven by the IT industry. People from all over the country have moved to the city to work and made it their home over the last decade, which has prompted restaurants to specialise in different cuisines. To tap into this market, many food trucks have popped up too. They travel to areas where IT companies are located, like Gachibowli, Madhapur and Hitec city; or commercial areas where people congregate, such as Abids, Kukatpally and LB Nagar. These trucks serve everything from south Indian tiffin items and fried foods to burgers and Chinese food. Long hours, cramped spaces Sarada M runs a food truck in the busy area of Abids, one of the oldest commercial areas in Hyderabad. Hailing from Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, Saradha and her family have been living in Hyderabad for many years now. Her food truck, which she has been running for the past five years with her husband, specialises in breakfast items and is only open for a few hours every morning. All the prepping and grinding of batter takes place at home. We then load these into the truck, drive to Abids, set up the kitchen, and start cooking, says Sarada. The day starts early for these food truck owners. N Samrat runs a food truck called Wheres The Food, which specialises in Indo-Chinese food like noodles, fried rice, Manchurian, etc. Parked in Gachibowli, the truck serves lunch and dinner. But for Samrat, and his two employees, the day starts early and ends late. We begin our day at 8 am in a hired kitchen space where we chop vegetables, assemble the ingredients, and cook some food items beforehand. We then shift everything onto the truck and make sure to reach our location in time to serve lunch, says Samrat. We also serve dinner and finish work at 11.30 pm or sometimes even midnight, adds Samrat. Most of Where's The Foods customers are students and employees from surrounding offices. Staff from a corporate hospital nearby also frequent the food truck. Working for long hours and serving dozens of customers from cramped quarters can be challenging. The food truck owners say that optimising the space becomes a necessity as most of these food trucks have at least 2-3 people working in them at a time, and everything from cooking to serving and packing food takes place in the small space. Every area inside the truck has to be properly designed and every item used should have an allotted space, and nothing should be moved, says Samrat. These food trucks dont come cheap either. Converting a vehicle into a food truck and customising it can cost anywhere from Rs 5 - Rs 10 lakh. Samrat started his food truck business after the first lockdown was lifted in Hyderabad. I bought my truck second-hand from a friend, who had designed the interiors and had been running a food business from it. He, however, had to close it down due to the lockdown, says Samrat. Durga Prasad, on the other hand, rents his truck. This costs him Rs 15,000 a month. I used to run a juice point earlier, but only saw regular business during summer. And when the first lockdown happened, I had to close down for good, he says. He decided to change tactics, and serve food that would be welcome all year round. He hired a cook, and after obtaining a food licence from the municipality, started selling different types of meat-based food items. All the food truck operators need to get a special license to run their business. This food license, which costs Rs 3,500, has to be obtained from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) office from their particular zone. The license is valid for a year, after which it has to be renewed. Stick to one location Deeksha of Trucking Foodie, which offers fast food like burgers and pizzas in Yapral, also started her business after the first lockdown. We had a restaurant in Jubilee Hills that we had to close during the first lockdown, she says. So they started a food truck, which they park in Yapral permanently, and serve everything from gourmet burgers to salads and donuts to their customers. Sometimes, due to weather conditions or lack of parking space, they are forced to change location. But many of the food trucks stick to a single spot as they build a regular customer base there. Sometimes we have moved a little away from our regular location due to traffic issues, but we always returned to our original spot as soon as we could as we have our regular customers who visit every day, adds Sarada. While the pandemic pushed Durga Prasad and Deeksha to start food trucks, Sarada says that COVID-19 and the lockdown was a tough time for her as she had to close her food truck for many months. However, the food truck owners say that while business was slow after the lockdown lifted, now things are better and they are breaking even. Initially, after the lockdown was lifted and we were allowed to open, people were wary of coming and eating from food trucks, says Sarada. Sankalp, a Hyderabad- based food blogger says that some folks have concerns about the safety standards followed and quality of ingredients used to cook on these trucks, as officials dont regularly inspect the food trucks. Samrat, however, maintains that they are very particular regarding hygiene and following safety norms on the food truck. We make sure that all our staff wear gloves, aprons and masks while cooking. We cover all our food items with lids and sanitise the place frequently, he adds.

The News Minute 19 Nov 2021 11:52 am

How I Became The Rebel Bahu For Other Women In The Family To Beware Of!

My mother got married at the age of eighteen. A day before the wedding, the pieces of jewellery were laid out. That is when the matriarch of the family realized something amiss. The soon-to-be brides nose was not pierced. In those days, a pierced nose was compulsory. My mothers grandfather, a distinguished advocate, passed the [] The post How I Became The Rebel Bahu For Other Women In The Family To Beware Of! appeared first on Women's Web: For Women Who Do .

Women's Web 10 Nov 2021 10:47 pm

Shakuntala to Menaka: 75-year-old Kerala woman recreates old Barbie dolls

Human Interest During the pandemic, Devaki picked up the habit of turning her grandchildrens old, abandoned dolls into characters in stories she read as a young woman. Cris The door to Naalukettil, a house at the end of a long maze-like lane, is open at half past two on a Saturday afternoon. An elderly man sits on the living room couch with aparippuvada(Kerala snack), humming an old tune to himself. He can see his wife Devaki painting over the faded features of an old Barbie doll. It is thenewest in a series of her Barbie recreations, themed to fit story situations she read as a young woman. A Shakuntala Barbie, reaching down to pick out a pricking thorn, a Chandalabhikshuki (beggar woman considered untouchable) offering well-water to a Buddhist monk, all neatly arranged row by row in a glass shelf at the couples house in Mannanthala, tucked safely away from the city roads of Thiruvananthapuram. The husband Sukumaran Acharyan proudly remarks on the art of Devaki -- S Devaki in full. Now 75, Devaki picked the habit up last year when she unexpectedly got some time on her hands after COVID-19 struck. Anitha, their domestic worker, says she joined the household around that time and Devaki was left free to pursue her love for creating art out of stuff lying around the house. I used to do this when I was much younger. Id see beautiful things when I went out and then want to create them when I come back home. I would pick up the waste and unused materials lying all over the house and get to work. Most of the time I just put things together with an idea that it will somehow work and then it does, Devaki says, keeping her paint brush aside. This adorable 75 yr old revives old barbie dolls abandoned by her grandchildren and turns them into mythical characters she's read and loved as a young woman. Story coming up. #Kerala #Artist #Barbie pic.twitter.com/1tDCs0OgAc Cris (@cristweets) November 7, 2021 She narrates each of the stories into which she has placed the Barbie dolls. Hamsa Damayanti, the famous Raja Ravi Varma painting, has been recreated with a Barbie doll dressed up in a sari, facing a swan who acts as a messenger. Devakis swan is made of plaster of Paris. Above Hamsa Damayanti is the Chandalabhikshuki Barbie. In Kumaranasans poem, she asks Upagupta (a disciple of Buddha) if he can receive water from her as she is from an oppressed caste. He replies that he didnt ask her caste but for water, Devaki says. Barbies as Menaka and Damayanti (Hamsa Damayanti) Chandalabhikshuki and Upagupta All the dolls once belonged to Devakis granddaughter who outgrew them after a point and left them forgotten in a room. She remembers nearly everything she read, and narrates the lines from the original work. Devaki recites from KumaranasansKarunaas she picks up her work in progress Vasavadattaresting as herthozhi(friend) holds the fan. For Shakuntala, Devaki sings lines from Kalidasa. Here she is reciting the line 'ramacha vishari...' from Kumaranasan's Karuna. That's her new recreation, Vasavadatta and her friend with the fan pic.twitter.com/1Z8GxRmwe4 Cris (@cristweets) November 7, 2021 Not all are story situations. Three of her Barbies are dressed as brides of three religions Christian, Muslim and Hindu all of them wearing saris made from border pieces of Devakis unused saris. Devaki stitched their blouses from even smaller pieces of cloth. For jewellery, shed pick up old fancy items abandoned by her grandchildren and cut them to size. These are, of course, stories of Indian women so the Barbies blonde hair has been carefully painted black. The base of all the works is made of painted thermocol. The Barbies are all in conventional attire an Unniyarcha (mythical woman warrior) and a Menaka (mythical celestial fairy) among them. A modern recreation of Barbie is yet to emerge. Devaki is proficient in painting too. Behind Shakuntala and her friends is a landscape she painted to give a fitting background ancient times, in the middle of woods. Shakuntala Barbie Next tothe Barbie recreations are a bunch of flowers that Devaki shaped out of plaster of Paris or floral powders mixed and kneaded. Having possibly run out of space in the glass shelf, she has placed more items atop an open shelf. Made of coir, these make adorable decorative items and vases. A Science graduate, Devaki never had a job. Perhaps she had got busy with running her house all these decades and it was in the middle of the dreaded pandemic that she finally found time for her creative pursuits.

The News Minute 7 Nov 2021 8:04 pm

Kochis brand new hard rock band Skreen 6 has a refreshingly smooth single

Music The band, formed by six young men in their late teens and early 20s, is inspired a lot by the rock music of the 1980s. Cris Dibin, Adithya, Jayakrishnan, Amal Dev (bottom), Krishnan, Salas The track is brand new, released only a day or two ago on the internet. But the music is strikingly familiar, if you are in the habit of occasionally losing yourself in the rock and roll world of the 1980s. It is surprising, because the men performing the track are far too young in their late teens and early 20s. The oldest is a 24-year-old music teacher from Kochi! Not that the youngness of the band has in any way affected the quality of their music. Rockin Head, the first single brought out by Kochis brand new hard rock / heavy metal band Skreen 6, is refreshingly smooth. It is all about our music journey, what music has meant to us, says Adithya KM, the drummer of the band. There are six of them Amal Dev the vocalist, M Krishnan on the lead guitar, Salas Stewart on the rhythm guitar, Dibin Savio on the keyboard, Jayakrishnan PS playing the bass and Adithya. Except Dibin, the others are all doing their graduation. MK (Krishnan) and I played in one cover band while Salas, Jayakrishnan and Amal played in another. Dibin was our guitar teacher at school he still teaches. We all knew each other and thought of forming a band to play the music we liked, Adithya says. What they like happens to be music from the 1980s, inspired a lot by bands like Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Skid Row and Guns N Roses. Thats the music our parents would play at home when we were growing up and thats what we enjoyed listening to. Music has been such a big part of their lives that the entire single is about their love for it. The last stanza of the Rockin Head goes: You set me free, when the whole world held me back... Youre the wings that let me soar in through the sky You took me in... When all the others marked me outcast... Youre a warm blanket on a cold December. Rockin Head is the first single from the album of the same name that Skreen 6is now working on. Watch the music video:

The News Minute 7 Nov 2021 7:40 pm

Race Against Age: 67-Year-Old's Cyclothon From Kashmir To Kanyakumari

I find old people to be very negative and I am the person who always likes to be amid positive people. So, all my friends are aged between 18-45 years, 67-year-old Mohinder Singh Bharaj says over...

NDTV 7 Nov 2021 6:37 pm

Hyderabad's gated communities, apt complexes hold fire drills ahead of Deepavali

Fire Safety Reports of fires breaking out in apartments and high-rises in other cities have spurred several apartment complexes and gated communities in Hyderabad to conduct fire drills, ahead of Deepavali. Rajeswari Parasa At Aparna Sarovar/ByArrangement A little more than a month ago, an apartment in Bengaluru caught on fire after a cylinder burst. A senior citizen and her daughter were unable to escape in time and died. Ten days ago in Mumbai, a fire broke out due to a short circuit in a high-rise building and a security guard lost his life. News of these unfortunate incidents has spurred several apartment complexes and gated communities in Hyderabad to conduct fire drills and fire safety awareness programmes, ahead of Deepavali. This is being done to make residents aware of what precautions to take to avoid a fire breaking out, and the dos and donts in the unfortunate circumstance a fire does break out, several residents associations TNM spoke to said. Moreover, they said that Deepavali is a time when firecrackers are burst and diyas are lit and placed everywhere, and there's a need to educate the residents. Most people living in high-rises have very little awareness about fire safety. This is despite having elaborate fire fighting systems in place. This is why we decided to conduct a fire drill. We also wanted to see the ability of our fire department in managing such emergencies, said Irfan, the secretary of the residents association of Aparna Sarovar in Nallagandla. A fire drill was conducted in the complex, with officials from the fire department present. During the drill, the fire department demonstrated how rescues take place, by having a guard stand on the 9th floor and fire officials rescuing him using their high lift. It was impressive that their equipment can handle rescue operations on even the 18th and 19th floor, said Irfan. Aparna Sarovar also took the help of Usha Fires, a private agency that works toward increasing awareness and providing fire safety training in residential and commercial spaces, to educate the residents. A fire drill was also conducted at Botanika, a gated community in Gachibowli. Trivikram, a resident, said, All the residents were also sent an advisory on how to celebrate the festival in a safe manner and where they can burst firecrackers etc. We wanted to be prepared. And, we were also triggered by the kind of fire accidents that are taking place in other cities. Periodically, we keep conducting such drills to increase awareness, but since it's Deepavali time, we need to be extra careful, he added. Hill County in Nizampet organised a fire drill for all the residents for the first time. We have previously conducted fire drills along with the fire safety training for the security staff, but this is the first time that residents have participated, said Divya Shetty, a resident of the gated community. She further recalled that minor fire accidents have happened in the past in their area and it's better to be aware of what precautions can be taken to prevent such incidents from happening in the future. Some things we were told were very basic, such as using the stairs and avoiding taking the lift, and not to touch any electrical equipment in case of a fire, but we tend to forget all this in an emergency, said Divya. Such drills are important and will remind us and prepare us, she added. Meanwhile, Sreedhar Reddy, the Ranga Reddy district fire officer told TNM that residents' associations of quite a few apartments and gated communities have come forward asking for fire drills and fire safety awareness programmes to be conducted for their residents. However, he says the number of people participating isnt as high as he would like. If a gated community or a high-rise building has about 500 households, not even 100 families are turning up. All this is being conducted for the sake of the safety of residents and it is mandatory they attend so they can be alert in case of any emergency, he added. During the fire drills, residents were also informed on how to rescue themselves from the site of a fire and how to get help in time. Many residents said that after the drill they felt better equipped in handling fire prevention equipment that is already in place and to protect themselves. Fire drills are conducted to > Educate and familiarise residents about evacuation procedures and surrounding fire fighting infrastructure> Show resident how to make way for Emergency Response Team (ERT) and Fire Brigade Personnel> Educate people on what measures to take when a fire breaks out and how to extinguish a fire> Demonstrate to people how to escape from a burning building and how to help someone caught in a fire.> Show how sand, clay, water and wet clothes can be used to bring a fire under control> Provide answers to questions residents have about fire safety and evacuations How to exit a building if a fire breaks out > Do not use the elevators. Use fire emergency stairs only> Walk briskly and do not run> Do not talk while leaving the building and try to remain calm> Do not use mobile phones while exiting the building> Always keep your head up and look ahead while leaving the building> Walk on the right side and do not block the staircase or driveway> Look out for emergency vehicle movement once outside the building. Read:Cadet Ashok first to crack UPSC from Telangana Sainik School for marginalised students

The News Minute 3 Nov 2021 7:48 pm

Pootharekulu to Baklava: Explore a range of sweet treats in Chennai this Deepavali

Food From delicate layered Andhra sweets to dry fruit confections, indulge in new delicacies along with traditional ones this Deepavali. Saradha U IndiskaMagic/Instagram Wafer-thin layers of rice sheets are generously stuffed with dry fruits and folded into neat rectangles in the Andhra sweet Pootharekulu (which in Telugu means coated sheets). The final product is carefully placed in a box containing a variety of sweet treats. And It takes just one bite of this delicacy to realise it tastes very different from the usual jaggery-based south Indian sweets. With its crisp, ghee-drizzled outer layer, fine rice sheets and the aromatic stuffing of dry fruits along with coarsely crushed sugar that melts in your mouth, a bite of Pootharekulu leaves you wanting more. While the sweet originates from the rice-producing regions in Andhra's East and West Godavari, Pootharekulu is a bestseller at Chennais Amaravathi Andhra Home Foods this festive season. This is just one of the many new sweet treats available in the city. If you want to indulge in new delicacies along with traditional sweets this Deepavali, here are some Chennai-based food brands to check out. Amaravathi Andhra Home Foods Although Amaravathi is known for its spicy and authentic Andhra meals, the sweets too have gained popularity among customers. The jaggery-based Ariselu; the sweet flatbread Bobbatlu; and Gavvalu or sweet shells thats made out from maida are popular delicacies from the Telugu-speaking states. Amaravathi was started by Vijay Kumar Reddy in 1980, his father had started Savera Hotel in the city. Since we hail from Andhra and there werent any other brands that served authentic Andhra food, my husband (Vijay Kumar Reddy) decided to venture into this space, Nina Reddy, the Joint Managing Director of Savera Hotel and Amaravathi tells TNM. After we bagan the restaurants, we then started selling sweets, savouries, pickles and podis from back home since they serve as comfort food for many, she adds. She points out that all of Amaravathis sweets are handmade, predominantly by women in Andhra. Explaining how it is quite difficult to prepare some of these special treats, Nina illustrates how Pootharekulu is made. After soaking rice for a few hours, it is ground into a thin, watery batter. A fine cloth is dipped in the batter, swiftly and artfully smeared on an inverted earthen pot set to heat. The rice layer is removed after it attains its wafer-like consistency. The second phase of preparation involves the application of ghee, sugar and other items like dry fruits or jaggery as a part of the stuffing. We believe in sticking to a few items and ensuring that quality is not compromised on. The shelf-life of sweets is limited and hence the wastage will be high, Nina Reddy adds. In the Amaravathi outlet, there are colourful gift hampers, neatly arranged in rows, for the festive season. We have used old-fashioned baskets which can be reused. The baskets are priced between Rs 1,000- 1,250 and includes a range of sweets and savouries, Nina says. Amaravathi has physical outlets on ECR and in Gopalapuram. Online delivery is available through Zomato, while courier orders can also be booked through their website. Source:Amaravathi Andhra Home Foods Mithai Mandir Located in Vadapalani, Mithai Mandir, which was founded in 2002, specialises in Kaju and milk-based sweets. Made out of pure ghee, delicacies such as Milk Peda, Kalakand, Gulab Roll, Moti Pak and Laddu are bestsellers. The taste is authentic since my father Deepak, who is from Gujarat, learnt to make sweets from his uncle there, says Rahul, who works full-time at Mithai Mandir. When he started this restaurant and later added sweets to the menu, he hired chefs from north India to make them and also passed on some of the recipes he learnt, he says. He also adds that savouries like Papdi Gatiya and mixtures are some of their savoury specialities and customers from all over the city come to stock up. This festive season, Mithai Mandir is offering a range of Deepavali gift boxes that are priced based on the quantity being bought. Some of the combos only include sweets, while others consist of salted cashews and badams, as well as savouries, since it is customary to exchange both sweets and snack items during the festival of lights. The gift boxes are priced between Rs 325 and Rs 1,000, depending upon the selected items and quantity. Mithai Mandirs products can be ordered online via Swiggy. Source: Mithai Mandir Indiska Magic Osh El Bulbul, a sweet depicting a miniature bulbul nest made out of crunchy, golden vermicelli wires, with pistachios standing in for eggs. Dry Fruit Kunafa, a layered delicacy made with vermicelli, nuts, with a generous filling of cream, milk and cheese, and oozing with a syrup made of lemon, sugar and rose water. And Baklava, consisting of crispy filo sheets, nuts and honey-based syrup. These are all part of the exquisite range of Arabic sweets sold by Indiska Magic. Located in Chetpet, Indiska Magic has also introduced Deepavali gift packages like Dry fruit fantasy, Nutty delight and Magestic Indian (which includes cashew-based sweets) at different price ranges for the festive season. Indiska Magic was founded by Bharat Bhandari, who is also the co-owner of Nuts N Spices. The restaurant was launched five years ago and specialised in paneer-based dishes. We started with nuts and dry fruits-based sweets like Badam Katli and Kaju Katli since the resources were available through Nuts N Spices, says R William, the general manager of Indiska Magic. Soon after Indiska Magic started making Arabic sweets. There wasnt anything similar available in the city, and the main chef who runs the kitchen is from Egypt and he knows how to make these delicacies, he adds. Making the hand-crafted sweets is a time-consuming process, but the taste is worth it, according to William. Beautifully arranged in elegant boxes, the Deepavali packages are lined up at Indiska Magic to be sent to customers across Chennai. With numerous customers walking in throughout the day, even sweets at the live counter such as flower-shaped Kaju Katli and delicacies covered in chocolate are getting sold in a jiffy, says William. Source: Instagram/indiska magic

The News Minute 3 Nov 2021 12:23 pm


Indian players performed exceedingly well in the recently concluded Tokyo Olympicsand Paralympics2020. While we finished 48thin the Olympicsthe highest ranking in over four decades, with a total of seven medals, including a historic gold medal from Neeraj Chopra in javelin throwthe countrys differently-abled extended this tale of excellence into the Paralympic Games.India sent its largest contingent ever, in which 54 para-players represented the country in nine para-sports.The contingent recorded their best finish24thplace, with 19 medals.Indian athletes created history with shooter Avani Lekhara becoming the first woman to win two medals at the Paralympics. The games have truly been a special moment for Indian sports. In a nation where sporting culture is renounced for academic excellence, the news about the historic wins has to be considered as system-changing.Sport has never been a career prospect for most Indians, but Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have paved the way for lakhs of aspiring sportspersons. All said,no medal is won without proper support, training opportunities andputtingrelevant authorities at work. Credit goes to the Paralympic Committee of India and the Union sports ministry who played their parts well and helped players to shine in a championship held in the shadow of the pandemic. The governmentssustained efforts to promote sports in a big way played a pivotal role in Indias historic wins. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports launched Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS)in 2014 with an aim to realise Indias Olympic medal dreams at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.The scheme provides financial and other support to top athletes in the country, to help them reach the podium at the Olympics.The results are for everyone to see. Indiasyouth have undergone aperspectivetransformation. They do not want to tread ready-made beaten paths, they want to carve out newer paths and itis imperativethat they receive adequatesupport from the government to realise their potential and fulfil their dreams. To provide maximum opportunities to our young talents,theKheloIndia Scheme was initiated in 2016 as a fusion of three schemesthe Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan, Urban Sports Infrastructure Scheme and National Sports Talent Search Scheme. It focused on increasing mass participation of youth in annual sports games and competitions. It has been Prime Minister Narendra Modis dream to see India develop as a multi-sports nation, and not just one or two sports garnering the limelight. The Tokyo Olympics proved that with the right leadership, India is capable of bringing medals in all arenas. Modi has always believed that sports can inculcate values of self-discipline, sportsmanship, team spirit, leadership, and integrityin our youthas well as promote a healthy lifestyle.As someone who leads by example, he launched the Fit India Movementand suggestedthat fellow citizens adopt a healthy lifestyle. It was through perseverance and tremendous hard workof our athletes, their coaches andconcerted efforts of the government that India could create history in the arena of sports. Let us bask in the glory for now and then get back with double the force because when our sportspersons enter the stadium next time, we will not be the underdogs. TheTokyoOlympics have created a major impacton the sports scene of the countryand it is important to ensure that the momentum generated by the success of the Indian contingentdoes not melt away.

The Week 23 Sep 2021 8:08 pm


The celebrations that flagged off the 75th year of independence were unlike the ones in other years.There was a sense of responsibility, with each of us being acutely aware of the challenges that confront our country. While it is easy to look down that path,one must not forget the glorious journey our nation has treaded in the past 75 years. Our achievements have been nothing short of miraculous. From ensuring access to electricity to every village, to reaching Mars, to developing indigenous vaccines, to eradicating diseases, to becoming a pioneer in the FinTech revolution through Unified Payments Interface, development has touched every citizen. At the time ofindependence, epitaphs for Indian democracy were writtenby Anglophile commentators. They imagined that it was impossible fora democracy to sustain itself in a newly formed country brimming with suchunimaginable diversity.Wehave not just sustained democracy, but have also embraced, nurtured and developed it.It is for this reason that there is perhaps no other parallel to this story of our country. Concurrently, we face challenges that are signs of changing times. With globalisation, almost all issues have global ramifications. Our country and the world are confronting issues like climate change, disaster resilience, adapting to newer technologies at a faster pace, and challenges in cyber-security, energy security andbio-security. Atmanirbhar Bharat is an umbrella term to describe our strategyto tacklesuchnew-age challenges. It means self-reliance, which will eventuallylead to a self-confident country, capable of helping herself and other countries along the way. The various ways by which our country has set forth to achieve atmanirbharta are through the string of schemesannounced by our government sincelast year. These include the production-linked incentive scheme for manufacturing an array of goods of strategic importance,new hydrogen mission, diversion of surplus sugar for manufacture of ethanol for our energy security, themultiple measures being taken for indigenisation of defence equipment (INS Vikrant is an example), the newly announced mission on oilseeds for attaining food security and geo-spatial reforms. Antiquated ways and laws are making way for next generation reforms. The new education policy is a testimony to this. The current education system, developed when India was not independent, does not deserve to be preserved.Our next generation must be equipped to face challenges.Various laws are also being simplified and revamped, such as the Limited Liability Partnership Act, to unshackle the entrepreneurial spirits of our country.Thisyear has already produced a record 23unicorns. As we enter the next quarter, each of us must be aware of our responsibilities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi added avery important termto a phrase that has become synonymous to our governanceSabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. By adding sabka prayas , he has given each of usthe responsibilitytoget into the drivers seat anddriveour countryahead.Today, world over, there is a debate on capitalism verses socialism;our country is looking towards cooperativism. We believe in empowerment and growth of all. It is only when every single citizen is truly empowered and contributes to the success story of our country, that we can realise the dream of Rabindranath TagoreWhere the heart is without fear and where heads are held high; into that heaven offreedom, the country shall awake.

The Week 26 Aug 2021 8:17 pm


India is struggling hard to cope with the havoc caused by the latest strain of Covid-19. From international media to domestic media to social media, everyone is looking for someone to blame. Easiest target? Prime Minister Narendra Modi. States in India with huge health budgets and all the paraphernalia refused to act and follow the guidelines. And here we have a leader who is working day and night to save every single life that he can, that we can, but the comparisons will not stop. None of the previous Central governments, or, for that matter, foreign governments ever had to handle what the present leadership in India is handling. So, are the comparisons even fair? Yes, there is a shortage of oxygen in Delhi, but should we only blame Modi? Does a state government with 010,000 crore budget have no responsibility? A similar situation was faced by Italy when the pandemic had hit the world. The worlds best health care system in the US and the UK completely collapsed when the surge hit them, and they are overwhelmed even today. Why is a country that came up with the Vaccine Maitri policy being bullied with such vulturism? Everyone needs to understand that the virus, the biological warfare that is, is above all of us. Today, it is causing havoc in India and Brazil, tomorrow it could be any other country infected with another mutated variant. The truth is that the nature of the virus is such that the whole world has been caught off guard, not just Modi. Even the best of experts failed to predict its next course. Why is there so much of insensitivity? According to some reports, it is the UK variant that has wreaked havoc in northern India, but blame on the UK was nowhere to be seen. Many state governments are not responding well, and they are not run by the BJP. Take the case of Delhi. Its health budget for the year 2020-21 was Rs9,934 crore, but this is nowhere reflected in hospitals, oxygen concentrators, ventilators and ICUs. The so-called internationally acclaimed mohalla clinic is nothing more than an outpatient department. No new primary health centres have been established in Delhi; maternal health centres in the city have been reduced from 265 to 230. Delhi had only a few hundred ventilators till a few thousand were sent under the PM Cares Fund. The AAP legislators and their health minister are nowhere to be found amidst the worst hit crisis, except the chief minister, who is always on TV in some advertisement or the other. The state health ministry could have taken a collaborative approach towards the private sector, which could have resulted in better coordination and less malpractice. Rather what we witnessed was blame game on live television, which is a pity. The Delhi government also refused to implement Ayushman Bharat, the Centres flagship insurance scheme for citizens. However exonerative it may sound, we, the people of India, too, are responsible for the second wave. Not masking up properly, despite repeated reminders and penalty by the authorities, and violating protocols regarding gatherings, led to a situation this horrific. Hoarding and black marketing of remdesivir, charging exorbitant prices for ambulances and other malpractices are adding to the misery. We are all in it togetherthe media, the state governments and the people. It is not a fight that can be fought alone, certainly not by playing the blame game. We all need to keep a moral high ground, do our bit, and save as many lives as we can. Lekhi is member of Parliament forthwriteml@gmail.com

The Week 6 May 2021 6:28 pm


As Covid-19 vaccines are being rolled out at breakneck speed, the world awaits the largest international sporting eventTokyo Olympics. One of the biggest challenges is the safety of players and organisers. In the run-up to the event, a problem that organisers might face is verifying whether players have been vaccinated against the virus. Countries heavily reliant on the hospitality and entertainment sector are actively seeking solutions to enable easy identification of persons who have been vaccinated against the virus. To tackle this, certain countries and organisations are vying for vaccine passport or travel passes, and some are proposing digital methods. These digital passports will contain health status of the passenger and inform governments whether the passenger can be allowed to travel into the country. Individuals are apprehensive about transfer and storage of this information via online portals, outside their countries. The concept of vaccine certificates is not novel. When travelling, proof of vaccination against specific diseases is a must for certain countries. Creating a digital version of physical certificates will lead to an international regulatory rigmarole. While many countries are rushing towards this new solution to help their ailing economies, one must be cautious before taking the plunge as there is no unified global understanding on issues of privacy, sensitive personal data, interoperability of platforms and transnational data transfers. One of the foremost issues related to generation and storage of additional sensitive personal data is data protection and privacy. Who would collect and store personal data? How much personal data would be collected? For how long would the data be retained? Which countrys law would govern this process? Who would be responsible for any violation of privacy? Which court would have the jurisdiction over any violation of privacy rights? Many developed nations do not even have a unique digital identity number for its nationals. India has been a pioneer in adoption of technologies for management and combating Covid-19. We are one of the few countries in the world with a single unified digital identification system. We made use of Aadhaar card for testing and vaccination against Covid-19. We also launched the worlds most downloaded contact tracing phone appAarogya Setu. Vaccination certificates issued in India are linked with the volunteers Aadhaar card and come with a unique QR code. This has resulted in India becoming a data mine. Over 90 per cent of phones and 70 per cent of computers are manufactured in China, and its track record of handling sensitive data of other countries remains a concern. Therefore, India needs ambiguities surrounding digital passports to be resolved before we agree to the idea of issuing digital passports. Moreover, not many countries have developed such robust digital systems for managing this pandemic. The question of interoperability arises as countries may not have unified identification system, and each country may have its own system of issuing of vaccination certificates. Instead of developing a new ecosystem, we can make use of the physical certifications with certain modifications. This can include stamping of passports, adding a certificate in the passport, or using the already existing yellow cards. It would be a much simpler way to reopen borders in the near future and make way for large-scale international events to take place. India can play a leadership role in providing solutions.

The Week 8 Apr 2021 10:05 pm