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Chennai poets join campaign against gender violence, show solidarity with survivors

Poetry The poetry reading event was organised by The Prajnya Trust in association with poetry collective Mockingbirds on December 2. Saradha U The Prajnya Trust What does it mean to stand in solidarity with survivors of gender-based violence or to sit in silence? This is the question that five poets tried to answer over the course of two hours at the poetry reading session held by Chennai-based non-profit organisation The Prajnya Trust which works towards gender equality and peace education. From body politics to domestic violence, from religious identity to trans rights, from the politics of love to attack on everyday sexism, the five poets who were part of the lineup explored a range of topics at the poetry reading session held on December 2, Friday, as a part of the 16-day campaign against gender violence held by the organisation. Some of the poets also noted that some of their pieces were based on the underlying theme personal is political. The year 2022 marks the 12th edition of the campaign. Along with popular names like writers Kutti Revathi, K Srilata and Vatsala, the event featured poets like Aaliyah Banu and Manushi Bharathi, who have embarked on their poetry journeys in recent years. Sharing her experiences of being a Muslim woman and a performance poet, Aaliyah, in her piece, reflected on intersectionality in feminism and her identity among other themes. You see White womens feminism is different, nobody fights for a woman who wants to keep a hijab. Heres a poem for every time I said, at least she was not killed, said 22-year-old Aaliyah, a student of English literature, while performing at the event. I imagine dying on the road, with the gun held on my temples, surrounded by people who do not know how to help me. Their hands: numb. But they wont call an ambulance because maybe they dont want to. Because someone told them I wasnt Indian any more. They retrace my ancestry to see if the blood in me has any Indianness to it, read lines from another piece by Aaliyah. In response to a question from the audience about the decision to embrace her identity as a Muslim woman in her poems Aaliyah quipped, When people look at me, the first thing they notice is that I am a Muslim woman wearing a hijab and it becomes my identity. And it is also my identity, she says. Aaliyah says she understands the risks that come with the current political climate but does not shy away from being vocal about her opinions. Popular Tamil lyricist and poet Kutti Revathi, in a poignant piece about honour killing titled The trees of our land, recited the lines: Engal naatin marangalil, kulaigalai pol thonguvadharkendre, kaathalithargal pengalum aangalum. (Men and women loved each other, only to be hung from the trees of our land like bunches of bananas ). Speaking to TNM about her takeaways from the event, Kutti Revathi, who has penned lyrics from songs from films like Aruvi and Maryan, as well as authored many poetry collections including Mulaigal, remarked, The performers really gave a panoramic view of womens voices. Each story had a different perspective. Their pieces were not just personal, but also political. It was also interesting to see what kind of effort poets make to put their voices out there, because it is not an easy thing to do. Read: These Chennai mannequins show how often women are groped on streets Also read: How women lyricists of Tamil cinema have shattered the male gaze in film music The close-knit reading event which saw the attendance of close to 50 people, was held by Prajnya in association with Chennai-based poetry collective Mockingbirds co-founded by theatre artiste and poet Michelle Ann James and InKo centre. Swarna Rajagopalan, the managing trustee of Prajnya and Michelle observed that the poetry reading event has been a part of most of the yearly campaigns. Our purpose is to get people to confront the reality of violence and to speak about it openly, without mincing words, without euphemism or any sort of stigma. The most effective way to communicate that is through art, and through poetry. We could give you pamphlets and handouts but you would not read them. But this is a journey that goes from performers hearts to ours very effectively. We wanted people to go back, moved by the power of words and human emotions, says Swarna. Manushi Bharathi, recipient of Sahitya Akademis Yuva Puraskar award, who has been writing since 2008, performed pieces like The little princesss words of light, The god of kisses, Yatchis (wild demon) songs of the forest at the event. A childrens writer, Manushi believes that the stories have a huge influence on children while growing up and that when narrated with sensitivity, stories can go a long way in shaping childrens minds and guiding them. The lineup also included writer and academic K Srilata and her mother, Tamil writer Vatsala (80). Known for her poetry collections like Suyam and Naan Yenn kavingar Aaga Villai, Vatsala says that she started writing in her 50s. The writer who views familial relationships through the lens of gender-based violence and sexism in some of her work, says her poems are inspired not just from her experiences, but also from the evolving dialogue around feminism. I did not read feminist theories when I started out writing and yet women told me they that theyd read my poems as a group. It reassured me that what I write also mirrors the truth of other women around me, she told TNM. Picks by her daughter Srilata, a fiction writer and academic, for the poetry reading session included some personal pieces and some political poems. In response to a question about the attack on activists and the response garnered from public intellectuals and academics, Srilata commented, The only thing we can do is by writing, by taking a stand whenever we can. Of course, it is terrifying but we cannot choose not to speak up. We do have a responsibility and cannot live in a bubble. The 16-day campaign by Prajnya, which includes online sessions with a handful of offline events, commenced on November 25 and will conclude on December 10. Read: How Chennais storytelling and poetry collectives are adapting amidst the pandemic Also read: A Ukrainian Mirror: War, women and peace

The News Minute 3 Dec 2022 12:37 pm

Unhealthy, desexualised, or comic relief: Plus-sized character depictions in films

Film Commentary TNM takes a look at the representation of plus-sized characters in Tami, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Hindi films. Saradha U Facebook/ T Series When the Sonakshi Sinha and Huma Qureshi starrer Double XL was promoted before its theatrical release in November this year, the film was seen as a silver lining by a small, yet substantial number of movie buffs and critics who observe films through the lens of representation and portrayals of body image. Double XL is among the first few Indian films narrating the stories of two plus-sized women and unlike movies in the past featuring actors in superficial fat suits, Double XL has lead actors who look the part. However, having said that, the Sonakshi Sinha and Huma Qureshi starrer fails to impress on the whole, despite hitting a few right notes. At a rather important point in the film when Huma Qureshis Rajshree Trivedi is on the verge of giving up her dreams, she says with a frown, Humko yahi life mili hai (this is the life given to me), implying that she is forced to endure it. Unfortunately, that is the sentiment shared by the audience too. A viewer among the audience in the theatre responded, Humko yahi film mili hai (This is the film given to us). Rajshree, who is from Meerut, aspires to be a sports commentator. She is bogged down by her infuriating mother who either forces her to get married or constantly shames her body weight. On the other hand, Saira Khanna (Sonakshi Sinha), a fashion designer, is inching closer to her dream of launching her label. Saira, dating an aspiring model and gym enthusiast, ignores the red flags in her relationship and eventually gets cheated on by him. Both the personal and professional lives of the leading women of Double XL come crashing down due to reasons that are partly associated with their body image. The two women meeting each other when they are amid mental breakdowns and discussing their lives is a sequence that had the potential to be a poignant reflection on systemic fat phobia and its implications, but it turns into a flimsy scene because the makers of Double XL refuse to take themselves seriously (which is evident from the clothes designed by Saira in the film). Rajshree is denied an opportunity to interview for the position of sports presenter despite being qualified because she is plus-size. Instead of focusing on the characters emotional struggle at the time, director Satramm Ramani places an animated scene that fails to make viewers feel empathetic towards Rajshree. The makers shy away from discussing whether fatphobia has failed to create a level-playing field for professionals, excluded people based on the way they look and whether it is a common practice across the board in the field of sports journalism. Similarly, as a fashion designer and a plus-sized woman, Sonakshis Saira could have been a good plot device to take a critical look at the fashion industry, especially concerning the experiences of plus-sized models and actors. Sairas big idea of starting a brand for plus-sized women is presented as a novelty in the film without acknowledging how the body positivity movement has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, specifically post the involvement of plus-size influencers in the discourse. Nonetheless, some of the criticism against the body positivity movement about it being rooted in consumerist ideals, not being inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community, being limited in scope only to a few social media users, elitism, omission of people with disabilities, and posts by body positivity influencers coming across as a subset of toxic positivity are also applicable to Double XL. Double XLs failure to authentically represent the lived experiences of plus-sized people on the big screen hardly comes as a shock. Time and again, filmmakers have fallen prey to typecasting plus-sized people rather than offering them roles that cinematically map their experiences without being trite. Fat is equated with being unhealthy Be it the representation of lived experiences on the big screen or the dialogue around body positivity, the conversation is often ambushed with the subject of obesity and its health risks. On social media or otherwise, these counterarguments are mired with factual inaccuracies. There are glaring similarities between the irrational objections to the movement and their on-screen portrayal. In cinema, plus-sized characters are always shown as unhealthy people who are obsessed with food. Bombat Hendthi, a 1992 Kannada film depicts politician and actor Girija, popularly known by her screen name Sruthi, as a plus-sized character obsessed with food. Even a strong comedy writer like Crazy Mohan relies on fat jokes directed toward child actor Bharath in the popular 2002 Tamil movie Panchathanthiram to elicit laughs. Double XL, a movie that claims to authentically represent plus-sized characters, which hit the big screens 30 years after Bombat Hendthi, features Sonakshi delivering a powerful monologue slamming people who body shame, only for it to be followed by a scene where the lead characters can be seen gorging on burgers and fries, thus reinforcing the existing stereotypes that equate fat with unhealthy. Should filmmakers then not feature plus-size people eating on screen? On the contrary, there are discourses around plus-sized people not being able to eat comfortably in public spaces without being looked at in a disapproving manner, or shamed for their food choices a predicament their small-bodied counterparts seldom have to deal with. If director Satramm had set the right context in Double XL by mirroring how the mere act of eating makes them susceptible to shaming, viewers might have seen the leads in the film relying on food for comfort as an act of rebellion rather than blunt patronisation. Such half-baked discussions neither do justice to the dialogue around body positivity nor health. Obesity, for instance, could be caused by a range of factors including lack of socio-economic access to a nutritious diet, hereditary factors, consumption of mental health medications, hormonal disorders, or other factors. Read: Why can't a princess be fat? A group of plus-size actors is taking on beauty stereotypes Films fail to delve deeper Over the past years, if not decades, plus-sized actors have been cast in movies only for comic relief. Problematic dialogues dished out under the garb of comedy are hardly called out. Each film industry is likely to have a set of plus-sized characters who become the butt of fatphobic jokes. Actors Vidyulleka Raman, and Deepa Shankar, child actors Bharath, and Harathi in Kollywood, late actor Kalpana in Mollywood, actor Geetha in Tollywood, actor Doddanna in Sandalwood, and several others serve as examples of this. Gautham Vasudev Menons Neethane En Ponvasantham (2012) dedicates a huge chunk of its run time to feature a parallel romantic track starring Vidyulekha and Santhanam, a segment peppered with fat jokes, hardly leaving room for the nuances that get lost in the mix. Other films like Vijays Tamil film Bigil (2019), and the Kannada movie Hatavadi (2006), go to the extent of interspersing trumpet sounds with visuals of dark-skinned, plus-sized characters on screen, to compare them with elephants. Vijay, one of the most prominent Kollywood stars, also uses adjectives like Gundamma (fat woman) and says hurtful things to supposedly inspire and motivate one of his students to perform better in a football match, in Bigil. It will perhaps take more years and unlearning for Tamil filmmakers to understand the impact of weight stigma on mental health, but it is disheartening to see such scenes open to applause in theatres, normalising such attitudes. Similarly, the 2015 Tamil-Telugu bilingual Size Zero starring Anushka Shetty in the lead role as Soundarya or Sweety is only ridden with cliches about plus-sized bodies. It is only after almost an hour into the film that Sweety becomes invested in finding out the perils of slimming centers. Every aspect of Sweetys life is connected to her weight, perpetuating the stereotype that plus-sized people cannot lead full lives unless they lose weight (the audience might have as well turned to their judgemental aunts instead of watching this film). Such scenes make the viewers wonder whether the filmmakers, in their attempts to condemn fatphobia, have given a platform for the very thing they set out to question. In what can be construed as another variation of the damsel in distress trope, we see Sweety being unhappy with her life until her romantic interest enters the picture. The 2017 Hindi film Noor, and Karan Johars 2003 Hindi film Kal Ho Naa Hos treatment of Jaspreet or Sweetu (Delnaaz Paul) are also in the same vein. The 2018 Hindi film Fanney Khan, a film that supposedly focuses on the journey of Lata ( Peehu Sand), an aspiring singer who is ridiculed for being overweight, puts the spotlight entirely on Prashanth Kumar or Fanney Khan (Anil Kapoor), her father. Women actors not having well-rounded characters to play or being roped in only to support the male lead in the story is not uncommon in Indian cinema. This is also true for actor Shikha Talsanias role in the 2009 Hindi film Wake Up Sid. She is the hero Sids (Ranbir Kapoor) bubbly and positive best friend who is there to support him at all times. When the makers finally give a moments screen time to explore who Laxmi is as a person, it is utilised to show her having a breakdown about her body weight and confiding in Sid that she has had a tough time following a fitness regime to shed her weight. While it is true that treating a plus-sized character with empathy is a rarity, especially in Bollywood, Wake Up Sid does not truly invest in Shikhas character. The scene plays out minutes before it finally dawns on Sid that everyone around him has their share of struggles. But what about the supporting actors character arc? One cannot help but wonder why filmmakers chose to depict plus-sized characters, who are already so scarcely seen in movies, without fully committing themselves to the idea. Read: From body image to fertility issues, PCOS is the nightmare 1 in 5 Indian women live with Depiction of plus-sized people as undesirable A clip from popular singer-songwriter Taylor Swifts music video Anti-Hero courted controversy when it was released in October this year. In the clip, the musician steps onto a bathroom scale, and when the dial spins, the word FAT pops up instead of numbers. Taylor looks up at her doppelganger who is visibly disappointed. Observing that the clip was fatphobic, many social media users pointed out that the scene equates fat to being ugly or undesirable. Taylor Swifts music video, where she looks down at the scale where it says fat, is a shitty way to describe her body image struggles. Fat people dont need to have it reiterated yet again that its everyones worst nightmare to look like us, eating disorder therapist and body positivity blogger Shira Rose tweeted. Though many of Taylor Swifts fans argued that the intent behind the clip was to critique internalised fatphobia, it was countered by social media users citing how someone like Taylor Swift, an artist with a global fan following, can adversely impact audiences with such misplaced messaging. They also noted that despite Taylor having opened up about her struggles with eating disorders in the past, it was irresponsible of her a White person conforming to conventional beauty ideals to use the word fat in the aforementioned context without understanding its connotations. Shortly after the clip sparked a row, it was removed by Taylor from her YouTube video. A similar response is hardly seen by Indian creators when their art is under scrutiny for being fatphobic. Arjun Reddy (2017, Telugu), which was condemned for its sexist plotline, was also opposed for an appalling scene where the protagonist asks his girlfriend to befriend a fat classmate because he believes that fat people are like Teddy bears and are loyal. Plus-sized characters or even actors who do not conform to accepted beauty ideals are presented to viewers as undesirable and desexualised. Attributes like chubby and bubbly are generously tossed around to describe them. They are often seen as the supportive best friend to the hero, the tomboy, or the down-to-earth girl, whose personality attracts the hero, but not their physical appearance. In the 2022 Tamil film Thiruchitrambalam, Dhanush who plays the titular role is best friends with Shobana (Nithya Menen). He falls head over heels in love with other conventionally prettier women but professes his love for Shobana because of her personality. But what about his romantic or sexual interest in her? Arent they crucial to a romantic relationship? If the protagonist does not find their plus-sized partner to be sexually attractive, is he making a compromise? Doesn't it imply that in the heros eye, his partner is not viewed as his equal? The 2019 Hindi film Udja Chaman revolves around Chaman who experiences premature balding and is unable to find a bride for himself as a result. He matches with his to-be-partner Apsara (Maanvi Gagroo) through a dating app. A few fat-phobic jokes and a dreary scene later (where the couple meet with an accident while driving because of Apsaras weight), Chaman becomes romantically interested in Apsara, a plot point that is not only fatphobic but also insensitive. Read: Pitied and desexualised: How Malayalam cinema has portrayed people with disability Positive representation Few and far between, a handful of movies have shown well-researched and nuanced plus-sized characters on screen. The 2006 Telugu film Kithakithalu and the 2015 Hindi film Dum Laga Ke Haisha share a similar plot line: The male protagonists are forcefully married to plus-sized women they do not like. But the similarity begins and ends there. Kithakithalus reductionist approach is in stark contrast to Dum Laga Ke Haishas which is set in the 1990s and tracks the lives of Sandhya (Bhumi Pednekar) and Prem Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana). The well-educated and talented Sandhya marrying Prem, a man who underperforms professionally or otherwise, is advantageous to both families. Prems dislike for Sandhya partly stems from his aversion towards plus-sized women and his incompetence. The perennially bad-tempered Prem shames Sandhya before his friends and is displeased to even look at her. The rest of the film tracks the emotional journeys of the two characters and closely offers a peep into the evolving relationship between them. Unlike most of the other films featuring plus-sized characters, Dum Laga Ke Haisha represents the qualms of living as a plus-sized woman the stigma she has to endure and the lack of support from family or friends, without taking away her agency. Prems insensitive comments are not encouraged, nor is he condescendingly applauded for dating a plus-sized woman, as was the case with the films discussed previously. Malayalam films like Da Thadiya (2012) and Kakshi: Amminippilla (2019) were also praised at the time of their release for better portrayals of plus-sized people. Masaba Masaba is perhaps the only recent Indian web series to cast Rytasha Rathore, a plus-sized woman in a role that does not slot her under that category. The third season of the Hindi Amazon Prime web series Four More Shots Please! which was released in October this year, opened to mixed and negative responses. Nevertheless, Sidhi Patel (Maanvi Gagroo), one of the lead characters, has a rattling sequence that prods audiences to think about the ramifications of fat fetishism, a topic that is seldom discussed. Representation of plus-sized characters on the silver screen will be normalised only when filmmakers stop exoticising them and relegating them to roles offering comic relief wherein subjecting them to humiliation becomes the basis of the humour. Plus-sized characters are not people who need to be saved or motivated to change themselves in ways that society demands to pursue their dreams. It is high time that filmmakers reevaluate how the commonly used storylines centered around plus-sized people mirror societal prejudices and instead, narrate stories based on lived experiences that are treated with honesty and empathy. Read: Living in a fat body: Meet the two women behind the candid 'Fat. So?' podcast

The News Minute 1 Dec 2022 7:45 pm

Prawn ghee roast to kane rava fry: Mouth-watering Mangalorean food in Bengaluru

Food We did a culinary tour of Bengaluru in search of Mangalorean food and were delighted to discover eateries serving some authentic delicacies. Susheela Nair Kane Tawa Fry | Credit: Susheela Nair The distinctive cuisine of Karnatakas Mangaluru has diehard fans from the state and outside. The luscious seafood and piquant chicken curries prepared with freshly ground coconut paste, Byadgi chillies, and piercingly sour tamarind or kokum, served with boiled rice, paper-thin neer dosa, wafer-like rotti, steamed sannas, or pundi (soft rice steamed dumplings) make for a lip-smacking meal. The regions staple cereal is rice and it assumes many forms: powdered dry, ground to paste, flattened, rolled, cooked, fried or steamed. If you are in namma Bengaluru and yearning for Mangaluru oota, there are several eateries to suit the wallet and palate. Tapping into the demand for homely Mangalorean food, several coastal cuisine restaurants have mushroomed in the Karnataka capital. The seafood scenario has changed over the years in the Garden City. Coastal cuisine is predominantly non-vegetarian, and seafood dishes dominate Mangalorean cuisine. One of the secrets of the success of Mangalorean cuisine in Bengaluru can be attributed to the fresh supplies of quality seafood specially brought from Mangaluru on a daily basis, explains Ashok Hegde, a veteran in the hospitality business for more than two decades. Despite Bengaluru not being on the coast, its unique location enables enterprising businessmen to source fish, prawns, and other fresh seafood from Kochi, Mangaluru, and Chennai. Besides upmarket seafood restaurants, there are budget-friendly ones if you dont want to burn a hole in your pocket, he adds. We did a culinary tour of Bengaluru in search of Mangalorean food and were pleasantly surprised by what we discovered. Our first stop was Southern Spice, a restaurant in the Malleshwaram area, which offers a fish thali (meal) including dry fish chutney, bangude (mackerel) rava (coated with semolina) fry, bangude curry, neer dosa, a bowl of boiled rice, rasam, and a sweet, all for only Rs 150. Marwai (clam) sukka Nammuru Mangaluru, overlooking the scenic airfields in Jakkur, is another restaurant that serves Mangalorean cuisine. The walls here have digital art depicting coastal life and traditional cuisine. Started by Param Shinde, the restaurant transitioned from a cloud kitchen to a restaurant serving exclusive seafood. We started our meal here with a glass of chilled solkadhi, kokum-infused coconut milk, a digestive we needed in generous doses as we feasted on the coastal cuisine. The pink-coloured drink is often consumed after particularly hot and spicy meals as it is very soothing for the gut. We relished the chicken ghee roast, the most iconic of Mangalorean dishes. The aroma of freshly ground and roasted spices, and the richness of ghee was inviting. Fiery, tangy, and laced with ghee, the chicken ghee roast is the piece de resistance of this restaurant. Made from a mind-boggling array of spices, the masala is the hallmark of any Mangalorean ghee roast dish. The style of cooking is time-consuming and laborious since it involves fresh, hand-ground masalas, explains Param, a foodie who is also passionate about cooking. But the recipe remains a closely guarded secret. Prawns are another perennial favourite, fried or cooked with coconut masala. Other favoured starters at the restaurant are squid sukka (squid cooked in spicy coconut masala) and prawn ghee roast. Bolenjir (silver fish) rava fry, a delicacy in Nammuru Mangaluru, is a must-try. We tried the signature kane (lady fish) rava fry and it was perfect. The tanginess of tamarind, the fragrance of curry leaves, and the fire of red chillies permeated the prawns, crabs, fish, and other seafood items. We rounded off our meal with elaneer (tender coconut) payasa, a delicious, smooth dessert made by simmering milk with elaneer pulp and juice. Bolenjir fry at Nammuru Mangaluru Another restaurant that serves tasty Mangalorean food is Kudla (which means Mangaluru in Tulu), located in Ramanashree Hotel on Raja Ram Mohan Roy Road. The food, the decor, and traditional attire of the staff all highlight the distinctiveness of Dakshina Kannada. Seafood lovers can savour a range of South Kanara delicacies like the bangude naked fry and the prawn ghee roast, says Kudlas owner Prabhat Rai, who runs a chain of eight restaurants including Parika Coastal Village and Coastal Delight. The signature dish at Kudla is the prawn ghee roast. The squid chilli fry, pomfret masala fry, chicken sukka, and marwai sukka (clams toasted in chefs special southern spices) are other bestsellers. Pulimunchi, traditionally made with mackerels in a rich and spicy tamarind-based gravy, is another favoured dish. Anjal (seer fish) tawa fry coated with masalas and deep fried with or without a rava (semolina) coating was scrumptious. If you have a sweet tooth, you may try ragi manni, a traditional dessert made with finger millet, sugar, and milk. This pudding with its jelly-like texture tastes great when served chilled. Crab ghee roast Ragi manni Karavalli in Taj Vivanta on Residency Road has the ambience of a typical west coast home, complete with courtyard, wooden pillars, and lush vegetation. Renowned for its fiery regional fish delicacies, the restaurant has been around for the past three decades. The coastal delicacies here, such as the sea crab ghee roast fried in a subtle Kundapur spice mix, are simply divine. What makes Karavalli distinctive is that the chef and team have painstakingly restored old recipes and recreated forgotten flavours of a glorious bygone era. Synonymous with best-in-class food and service, the restaurant has been voted amongst the S. Pellegrino Worlds Best Restaurants. Prawns ghee roast Pomfret fry Sana-Di-Ge (meaning brass lamp in Kannada) in Goldfinch Hotel on Crescent Road serves an eclectic mix of coastal delicacies in an authentic setting. The anjal fish curry with rice and teekha prawn fry are some of the must-try dishes here. For hardcore fish fans, Sea Rock, a swanky seafood restaurant in Shivananda Circle, is a must-visit for its squid masala, silver fish rava fry, kori rotti, and chicken curry with the soft neer dosa. If youre looking for something quick and on-the-go, there is the seafood truck called Mangalore in Bangalore in RR Nagar. Set up by three engineers from Kundapur, you can sample authentic Mangalorean fare here. All pics by Susheela Nair. Susheela Nair is an independent food, travel and lifestyle writer and photographer contributing articles, content and images to several national publications besides organising seminars and photo exhibitions. Her writings span a wide spectrum which also includes travel portals and guide books, brochures and coffee table books.

The News Minute 28 Nov 2022 6:57 pm

Bakarmax founder Sumit uses art to initiate his audience into Indian political history

Comics Even though people feel strongly about the country and its politics, very few know its history beyond three-line summaries, says Bakarmax founder Sumit Kumar. Shivani Kava Facebook Sumit Kumar, founder of comics and animation studio Bakarmax, is gearing up for the pre-production of his animated show Aapki Poojita (Yours, Poojita). Describing the show, Sumit said, In India, everyone is obsessed with the idea of a good girl'. Poojita is extremely good, so much so that it becomes a satire on the concept itself. Aapki Poojita is touted as Indias first animated show for grown-ups. For something that started out as a passion project while he was working on the first Comic Con, Bakarmax has now come a long way. Currently, the studio not just makes comics and animations, but also uses humour to discuss political narratives. It also provides a platform for aspiring cartoonists and other contributors to submit their work. Sumit began his career interning with cartoonist Pran Kumar Sharma. He later worked with the firm that organised India's first Comic Con, which is a convention for comics and pop culture. Speaking to TNM at the 9th edition of the convention at Bengaluru, Sumit said, Comic Con India has had a great impact on my career. As someone who loves comics, the inception of Comic Con was gratifying in itself. I am honoured to see the growth of this convention and it gives me immense pleasure that I was able to contribute to it. Speaking about how he started doing political cartoons, Sumit said, When I saw that Newslaundry was looking for someone to do political cartoons, I jumped at the opportunity like an assignment. I had never read Indian political history until then. While some people feel strongly about the country and the politics surrounding it, very few have read its history, according to him. Some of us feel strongly and get into arguments, but most of us havent read the history. When I started working on my political novels, I realised that history plays out differently when you take together day-to-day happenings and the three-line summaries that most of us know about what happened in India, he said. While he was researching for his projects, he had the opportunity to read and understand history. I write from the perspective of someone who is getting to understand history for the first time, Sumit added. Sumit is also the author of political graphic novels Kashmir Ki Kahani and Amar Bari Tomar Bari Naxalbari. Among Sumits various works is an animated sketch titled Dalit Card. The sketch uses humour to mock people who pose an array of questions to a Dalit person. These range from asking what their caste is, to posting casteist slurs online. Talking about how he came up with the idea behind the sketch, Sumit said that it started out when someone told him to not use the Dalit card. I am a Dalit and I am among the first generation to get three meals a day. The whole subject of being a Dalit isnt discussed a lot. A senior designer at Bakarmax came up with the idea of an actual card and we went ahead, decided to launch it as a real card and made an explainer video in desi style. Sumit told TNM that peoples opinions change when he tells them that he is a Dalit. They see you differently and start treating you differently, which is why I have always believed in confidently talking about my identity, he said.

The News Minute 24 Nov 2022 5:36 pm

Got a two-day stopover in Bengaluru? Heres a list of places you can visit

Travel Bengaluru makes a pleasant stopover, a transit point to other popular destinations in the state and around. Two days would suffice for a leisurely inspection of the city. Susheela Nair Susheela Nair For heritage buffs, nature enthusiasts, and the spiritually inclined, there is a plethora of sights to see and explore in Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka. Besides historical monuments, palaces, parks, temples, and churches, there are plentiful delights like museums and art galleries. It makes a pleasant stopover, a transit point to other popular destinations in the state and around. Two days would suffice for a leisurely inspection of the city. Hire a cab and explore some of the sights we have compiled for you. One can start sightseeing in Bengaluru with Vidhana Soudha, one of the prominent landmarks of the city. This imposing granite edifice houses the Karnataka State Legislature and the Secretariat. The gleaming white domes, 12 massive pillars, archways, and wide flight of stairs leading to its entrance is a magnificent sight. The 50,000 sq m structure flaunts a fusion of architectural styles. Frieze panels, geometric designs, and ornamental motifs embellish the walls, with the Indian national symbol atop the biggest dome. Just a hop, skip, and jump from it is the elegant, two-storey Attara Kacheri (18 courts), a red brick-and-stone building in the Greco-Roman style of architecture, with fluted Corinthian columns. It is the most arresting structure in the 300 acre Cubbon Park, a quiet, green getaway right in the heart of the city. The park has stately statues of Queen Victoria and Sir Mark Cubbon, from whom it derives its name. The bandstand, yellow tabebuias and the High Court in Cubbon Park Cubbon Park is studded with other lovely old structures too, like the Government Museum; Venkatappa Art Gallery; Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum; the State Central Library, an impressive, red Gothic structure; Jawahar Bal Bhavan, a childrens recreational area; and the bandstand, originally the venue where military bands played for the pleasure of the public. District Central Library in Cubbon Park Bengalurus other lung, the celebrated 240 acre Lalbagh botanical garden, is a cool green paradise in the midst of the bustling city. Laid out in 1760 by Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore, it was modelled on the lines of a Mughal Garden he saw in Sira. Hyder Ali imported plants from Delhi, Lahore, Multan, and even London. Stroll around and you will discover Indias largest collection of rare tropical and subtropical plants, as well as many century-old trees. It contains a surreal lawn surrounded by Snow White and the seven dwarfs, an ornamental floral clock flanked by the cheeky dwarfs of the fairy tale. It also has one of Kempegowdas watch towers perched on a rock, a beautiful lake, a topiary park, an aquarium, a charming wooden bandstand, and a glass house modelled on Londons Crystal Palace. The glass house in Lalbagh is the venue of Bengalurus biannual flower shows. Near the bandstand is the Centenary rose garden, with a profusion of roses of varied hues. Close by is a tree fossil, twenty million years old, donated by the National Fossil Park. If you are a heritage buff, explore the palaces of the Wadiyars and Tipu Sultan, the erstwhile rulers of Mysore. Constructed in 1880 in the Tudor style, the 45,000 sq ftBangalore Palaceis modelled on the lines of the Windsor Castle in England. It was purchased in 1887 as an abode for king Chamaraja Wadiyar. Set in the middle of 454 acres of greenery, the iconic monument flaunts fortified towers, arches, Gothic windows, battlements, and turreted parapets. The interiors are equally impressive with exquisite carvings, elegant woodwork, paintings, and photographs of viceroys, maharajas, and other eminent personalities. Built in 1791, Tipu SultansSummer Retreat is a two-storied ornate wooden structure with fluted pillars, cusped arches, balconies, and ceilings painted in brilliant colours, with beautiful carvings. The palace houses a museum that contains artefacts of the Hyder-Tipu regime and is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Close to the palace is a rare monument called the Hyder Ali Armoury and a fort dating to the reign of Hyder and Tipu. Cells where the British were imprisoned can also be seen inside the fort. A riot of colours during Flower Show in Lal Bagh Situated on Bugle Rock in Basavanagudi is the Bull Temple, reminiscent of 16th century Dravidian architecture. It was built by Kempegowda as the guardian deity of the city. It has a huge granite monolith of Nandi, made of grey granite and polished with a traditional mixture of groundnut and charcoal. During the groundnut festival in November and December, worshippers arrive with groundnut garlands for the bull. Just below the Bull Temple is the Dodda Ganesha Temple with a gigantic monolithic Ganesha idol. Built during Kempegowdas reign, the unique Gangadhareshwara Cave Temple at Gavipuram contains a well-preserved granite moon, sun-disc monoliths, a stone umbrella, a Shivalinga, and three cave passages. Crawling through the cave passages of the temple is an experience not to be missed. Every year during Makara Sankranti, this cave temple witnesses a strange phenomenon when a ray of light passes precisely through the horns of the stone bull outside and illuminates the deity inside the cave. Perched on a hillock, the gleaming ISKCON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness) Temple, is built in an ornate style that combines neoclassical architecture with traditional elements of South Indian temple architecture and hi-tech facilities. Ornamental arches and illuminated cascades of water lead to the rajagopuram with a backdrop of four gopurams (gateway towers) connected by a glazed canopy. Paintings of Lord Krishna adorn the lofty ceiling of the temple. The inner sanctum displays deities of Krishna decorated in magnificent dresses and colourful flowers. Dont miss the free khichdi prasadam (offering) to all visitors and a sumptuous feast to pilgrims. ISKCON Temple, a blend of modern technology and spiritual harmony Overlooking the crowded Russell Market, the spires of St Marys Basilica, topped by a cross, tower above the other buildings in Shivajinagar. It is not only the oldest church but also the first church to be elevated to the status of basilica in Bengaluru. With its stained-glass windows, multiple columns, stately arches, ornamental motifs, and the imposing tower forming the faade, the Gothic-style church is an architectural marvel. The Basilica draws hordes of devotees of all faiths during the annual Virgin Marys festival in September. Modelled after St. Pauls Cathedral in England, St Marks Cathedral flaunts a majestic dome, a porch with iconic columns, moulded cornices, and large windows. The balustrade parapets, marble plaques adorning the walls, and a circular vault on the apse are some of its special architectural features. Inside the church, look for the beautiful stained glass in floral motifs. When you have had your fill of sightseeing in Bengaluru, you can indulge in museum hopping or head to the nearby getaways. All pics by Susheela Nair. Susheela Nair is an independent food, travel, and lifestyle writer and photographer contributing articles, content, and images to several national publications besides organising seminars and photo exhibitions. Her writings span a wide spectrum which also includes travel portals and guide books, brochures, and coffee table books.

The News Minute 24 Nov 2022 11:14 am

Once upon a time in Bangalore: The music bands of the 1960s and 70s

Music In those days, the young groups who played in Bangalores clubs and at parties mostly used wooden guitars and were all inspired by the Beatles, the Ventures, and the Rolling Stones, reminisces the author. Gita Aravamudan JS, the Statesmans iconic youth magazine published in the 1960s and 70s, gave me some of my very first freelance writing opportunities. And I had the most fun doing them too. I was in the same age group as the magazines target audience and the wonderful editor of JS, the famous Desmond Doig, gave me a free hand to write what I liked. Usha Uthup (or Usha Iyer as she was known then) featured in one of my earliest articles as the girl with the fantastic voice who sang pop songs dressed in a sari. I realised then that she and I were the same age. I met her when I was covering a two-day show called Sonorific Fantastic at the Lido theatre in Bangalore (before it became Bengaluru). Advertised as a kinky, freaky musical blow out, it was meant to showcase young musical talent. Music bands from other cities like Trichy, Mangalore and Madras had come down to take part in it. In the 60s and 70s, pop shows were simple, laidback events. The young groups who played in clubs and at parties mostly used old-fashioned wooden guitars and were all inspired by the Beatles, the Ventures and the Rolling Stones. Trini Lopez was another hot favourite and every band included Lemon tree, La Bamba, and If I had a hammer in its repertoire. It was on the second day that I met Usha backstage and heard her for the first time. She was accompanied by a Madras group called the Spartans. It was a strange medley. Usha in her traditional sari and short-sleeved blouse stood out in the crowd of jeans-clad, long-haired singers. As her superb voice soared through the auditorium, it silenced the restless young audience who was prone to singing Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram whenever bored. I went to many more Usha Uthup concerts over the years, though I never met her personally again. I heard her sing in other cities like Trivandrum and Bombay. I watched her grow from a fresh young singer to a much loved and talented diva. And recently I saw her on YouTube singing as vibrantly as ever, at the age of 74, with her daughter and granddaughter. Ushas journey to the top has been quite spectacular and well-documented. However, I dont know what happened to most of the other young groups that played at that festival. Maybe they disbanded and moved on to other things. Maybe some migrated to Bombay and Calcutta, where the nightclub scene was more happening. In those pre-synthesiser days, many of these young musicians also got a foothold in films. Another musician I heard in those early days was Biddu Appaiah, a Bangalore boy who studied in Bishop Cotton. He started his musical career as a teenager, playing in restaurants much before he became internationally famous. In the 1960s, Three Aces was one of the most popular restaurants on MG Road (or South Parade, as it was once known). My classmates and I from Mount Carmel would bunk class and cycle up to this favourite hangout of ours to play the jukebox and share ice creams. This is where Biddu started off when he was in his teens. He formed a small group called The Trojans with two friends who later dropped out. In his late teens, Biddu migrated to Bombay where he played in a popular nightclub called Venice for a while. I remember hearing him at a pop concert at the huge Shanmukhananda Hall in the city. He was calling himself the Lone Trojan by then. Soon, still in his late teens, he made his epic journey to London by hitchhiking and playing in nightclubs along the way. Many years later after he had achieved international fame, he told an interviewer in his hometown Bangalore that his only aim then was to meet the Beatles in London and play music. But Biddus ascent was not so smooth. He reached London the hard way. He first sailed to Mecca on a Haj ship, then made his way across the Middle East to Beirut and then on to France. When he finally reached London in 1969, he found there were no takers for his music. For a couple of years, he had a day job selling hamburgers while he composed and sang music at night. Biddu hired a studio with the money he had saved and began recording his own compositions. His first few creations sank without a trace. He first tasted success in the mid-1970s when he hooked up with the famous singer Carl Douglas and produced Kung Fu Fighting, which topped the British pop charts. From then there was no looking back. It was another Bangalore boy, Feroz Khan, who gave Biddu his biggest break in India when he asked him to collaborate with him for the music for his Bollywood film Qurbani in 1980. This led to the discovery of the teenage Pakistani sensation Nazia Hassan, who also lived in London. Her Aap jaisa koi was an instant hit. This was followed by the insanely popular Disco deewane. After a hiatus of a couple of years, Biddu resurfaced with indie pop songs like Made in India, and in the process launched a couple of singers like Alisha Chinai. Time rolled by and I too moved on. I lost touch with the Bangalore music scene as I had moved to other towns and other subjects. Bands came and went. The nature of music changed. When I came back to Bangalore in the late 1990s, huge rock shows were in vogue. These productions were nothing like the more intimate little shows we had in the 60s and 70s. Their highly advanced stereo systems combined with their electronically enhanced musical instruments blasted music across the open grounds where they played and destroyed the eardrums of those living in the neighbourhood. By the 2000s, DJs with their mixers ruled the roost in clubs where the music was mostly synthetic. In the bars, canned music blared often drowning the conversations. But there were other bands too. Some quietly played in hotels and at festive club events. Many bands switched over to a mix of Bollywood and Western pop. Some added dappan koothu, the popular Tamil dance music to the mix. Some restaurants still had retro nights. Some weeks ago, I was invited to a Blues evening at the RCB Bar and Caf on Church Street. It turned out to be a very pleasant experience listening to the two live bands in which 14 artistes were playing. The oldest band was The Chronic Blues Circus, which has performed without a break since 1991. They said their music depicted the Bangalore mood aka the Bangalore Blues. Joshua Lance, a bass guitarist, has been performing since 1990. MoonArra (meaning three streams), the fusion band created by Jagadeesh MR and his wife Madhuri in 2006, was also part of the programme. Unlike the bands of yore, these mostly played their own compositions. As the evening wore on, the music and the ambience stirred up memories of listening to the bands of the 60s and 70s. Not just the Bangalore bands, but also the famous and talented Anglo-Indian bands of KGF who would come into their own during the Christmas season when there were dances in all the clubs. It evoked a pleasant nostalgia for a time gone by. A time when we were all young and life was more slow-paced and Bangalore was still a garden city where we could enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Gita Aravamudan is a journalist and the author of Baby Makers: The Story of Indian Surrogacy.

The News Minute 22 Nov 2022 6:58 pm

Kerala Legislature Library turns 101, now open to the public

Literature The library has well over one lakh books on various floors, and an enviable collection of archives, with most of the Assembly documents digitised and made available online. Cris Twenty-six years before India won independence, a library opened at the office of the Dewan of Travancore, long before the state of Kerala was even formed. Through the years, the library changed names twice. It was called the Legislative Library in 1921 and later renamed as the Travancore Cochin Assembly Library in 1949. The library got its present name, the Kerala Legislature Library, in 1956. A year after celebrating its centenary, the Assembly finally opened the doors of the library to the public on November 1, celebrated as the Kerala Piravi day. Until then, it was accessible only to the members of the Kerala Legislative Assembly. On a Wednesday in the first week of November, there are only two people perched over books on a reading table. Members of the public must only have begun to join the library, long closed to the outside world. Armed with an identity card, you can enter the gates and begin the long walk to the building situated next door to the vast Assembly builidng. As part of the Kerala Piravi week celebrations, the entry hall on the ground has a display of some rare old collections from the archive. Deputy librarian Indu MR says that as part of the centenary celebrations, the Niyamasabha (Assembly) library is trying to reach out to the public and create awareness about the work and services it does. We are doing it district by district. The first one was held in Alappuzha, and then the next in Kozhikode. From November 28 to December 4, we will have an international book festival as part of the celebrations, she says. Deputy librarian of the Kerala Assembly Library, Indu MR, recently opened to the public, speaks about its 100 yr old history and the digitisation of assembly documents. #KeralaAssemblyLibrary pic.twitter.com/6kdliusJRX Cris (@cristweets) November 16, 2022 There are more than 1,10,000 books on the various floors of the library, copies of about 150 periodicals in English and Malayalam, and year by year editions of 20 newspapers. It is a unique storehouse of knowledge, says Indu. Malayalam newspapers from the 1950s Travancore Kochi news, 1952 The library has also been digitising its documents and putting them up online on the niyamasabha.org for the public to access. Indu says that the Assembly proceedings from the year 1888 are out there, and about 75 of them have been preserved in their original form. Other documents include gazettes, declarations of kings made before independence, administration reports, and directories of a time before the state of Kerala was formed, among others. Kerala Gazettes, sorted by year There are six sections in the library, starting from the reference section on the ground floor. The archives unit containing committee commission reports and central committee reports from the late 19th century is on a floor below. Digitisation and maintenance all happen in different corners of the surprisingly vast and mostly undisturbed library. Old directories and yearbooks The public cant access the archives or the rare documents preserved through the years. But there is a good collection at the general section ranging from biographies to literature, and law journals. Mathrubhumi magazine, 1957, showing an old film poster Indu displays an enviable number of old periodicals carefully bound and tied up together. National Geographic and EPW magazines dating back to the 1940s and 60s, the Mathrubhumi Weekly published in the year of Keralas first government, old photos and film posters, and the writings of many generations are maintained remarkably well. Mathrubhumi magazine on the year Kerala elected its first government The National Geographic, 1947 Newspapers from 1924 are also among the collection, but they have to be handled extra carefully, and preserved, Indu says. She points to a shelf of books set aside for fumigation, to keep them worm-free. Maps from when Travancore and Cochin existed separately as princely states, Acts and proclamations of the individual states from 1895, souvenir collections, and the original Constitution, are all part of the librarys proud collection.

The News Minute 16 Nov 2022 8:08 pm

How the State and social media witch-hunt women journalists in India

Press Freedom On the one hand, women journalists are targeted by the State for not toeing the establishments line, while on the other hand, they are subjected to vicious online harassment for daring to be visible in public. Megha Kaveri Image for representation. Credit: picxy.com/adamr On October 3, 2022, the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, became a launch platform for an international campaign for the safety of journalists. The campaign, led by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), called for a UN convention to improve the safety and independence of journalists. It is backed by several journalists, media unions, and NGOs across the globe. The need for a UN convention, namely the International Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists and Other Media Professionals, emerged after increased impunity, threat, and prosecution against journalists by several countries. It highlights existing weaknesses and loopholes in international humanitarian and human rights law and the lack of effective enforcement mechanisms, IFJ states on its website. India, a growing power in world politics, is not a country known for freedom of the press, especially in recent times. In fact, the country slipped eight places in the World Press Freedom Index in 2022. It now stands at 150 out of 180 countries ranked by the global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The violence against journalists, the politically partisan media, and the concentration of media ownership, all demonstrate that press freedom is in crisis in the worlds largest democracy, ruled since 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the embodiment of the Hindu nationalist right, the agency states in its analysis. Process as punishment The State-led threat to journalists for merely doing their jobs is particularly acute in the case of women journalists. On the one hand, they are targeted by the State for not toeing the establishments line, while on the other hand, they are subjected to vicious online harassment solely because they dare to be visible in public. An example of how the States persecution of women journalists can drag on for many years, causing harm to their physical, mental, and professional well-being is KK Shahinas story. Eleven years ago, the government of Karnataka led by the BJP, slapped the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on Shahina KK. Then a journalist working at Tehelka, she had interviewed two witnesses in the 2008-Bengaluru bomb blast case and had reported lapses in the police investigations. Apart from the draconian UAPA under which getting a bail is extremely difficult, the state also booked Shahina under two sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for criminal intimidation. This could lead up to seven years of imprisonment. News and human rights organisations across the world came out in Shahinas support. However, her fight for justice is far from over. Her case is pending at the Supreme Court of India, 11 years after she was booked. Shahina KK. Facebook Meanwhile, a lot has changed in her life. She gained and lost friends, missed out on several work opportunities abroad, and let go of domestic journalistic assignments of similar nature. There are positive and negative impacts of this case on my life, she says over a video interview. I received tremendous support from many fellow journalists across the country. My network widened after this case, she says. However, the cost was higher. She had to re-wire herself in self-preservation over the past years. Apart from refusing to take on similar assignments, she also had to self-censor to merely protect her loved ones. After this case, I came across many stories that would shake the State, but I kept away. I didnt take them on because of this reason. I limited myself, she explains. While the court did not direct her to surrender her passport, she stayed away from renewing it fearing the bureaucratic paperwork involved in the process. This led to her losing out on opportunities abroad. When asked whether she received any support from the Kerala government as a resident of the state, she says, I received a lot of support from the government and also from the ruling party. Kerala was governed by the Left (CPI(M)) at that time. CPI(M is essentially against the BJP and they claim they are against the implementation of such draconian laws, so I got their support, she says. Keralas CPI(M) government hasn't, however, shied away from exploiting the UAPA to serve their interests on other occasions. Shahina is not alone in facing the wrath of the State for carrying out her duties as a journalist. Over the years, women journalists like Neha Dixit, Poonam Agarwal, Rachna Khaira, and Shrishti Jatav have all faced harassment and intimidation and cases have dragged on, obliterating parts of their lives. In 2016, journalist Neha Dixit published a five-part investigative report in Outlook Magazine about the alleged trafficking of 31 young girls from Assam. The girls, Neha reported, were being illegally taken from Assam to other states by the Sangh Parivar. Immediately after the reports came out, the ideological parent of the ruling BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), issued statements against Neha. BJP associates also filed cases against her for defamation and inciting communal disharmony. Neha is still fighting these cases in courts in Assam. As recently as 2021, attempts were made to harass and intimidate Neha. She tweeted about multiple incidents of stalking since September 2020 and an attempt to break into her house in January 2021. The attempted break-in prompted her to lodge an official complaint with the police. Small victories Poonam Agarwals story is one of victory against the States power. In 2017, Poonam had produced a video documentary exposing the Sahayak system in the Indian Army, a long-standing tradition in the armed forces wherein senior officers used junior officers to do menial tasks for them. The Government of India had issued a circular in January 2017 ordering the armed forces to not misuse the system. However, Poonams sting from an army camp near Nasik, Maharashtra, showed that the system was still alive despite the order. Her expos that aired on The Quint on February 24, 2017, had conversations by several army jawans who detailed the exploitation by senior officers. Poonam Agarwal. Twitter After the video went live, one of the soldiers who was featured in the video (though his identity was blurred) was found dead in the barracks, allegedly by suicide. The Nasik police then registered an FIR against Poonam and Naik Deepchand Kashmir Singh (a Kargil war veteran) in March 2017 on the basis of a complaint filed by the Indian Army. Deepchand used to run a canteen at the army camp, where Poonam exposed the Sahayak system. The allegation against Deepchand was that he helped Poonam enter the army camp to conduct her sting. The police charged her under sections of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) (for criminal trespass) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (for abetment of suicide of the soldier). Since OSA was slapped on both, it made it difficult for them to get bail as the law implied that the accused were anti-nationals working against the country. In April 2017, her application for anticipatory bail in the sessions court in Nasik was rejected. She then approached the Bombay High Court which granted her plea. The FIR against her was quashed by the Bombay High Court two years later on April 18, 2019, stating that she was wrongly implicated in the case. The judges viewed the said video and the unedited raw footage and concluded that no offence was committed by Poonam and Deepchand. They also categorically stated that the video was not a threat to the nations security and that there was no direct connection between the said video and the soldiers death. In some cases, like the one involving Rachna Khaira, a journalist with The Tribune, the police have had to accept in court that there was no basis for further investigation. On January 3, 2018, Rachna blew the whistle on a breach in data of the unique identity number Aadhaar. Demographic data of millions of cardholders was reportedly being sold to private parties. The newspaper reported that it had received an offer from a seller who was ready to give them the login credentials to access Aadhaar data pertaining to millions of Indians. The series, published in The Tribune in 2018, led to several public interest litigation cases being filed against the Aadhaar programme, which eventually led to the revision of some of its problematic aspects. Two days after the story broke, the Delhi Police booked Rachna, her editor, and the newspaper for cheating and forgery. The FIR, registered in January 2018, was closed by the Delhi Police in April 2021 citing lack of evidence. The details about the closure of the FIR came to light after the Delhi police filed a report in a Delhi court. More recently, Dalit Times Shrishti Jatavs arrest put the spotlight on the unchecked power of the police in attempting to intimidate a journalist. The Delhi police arrested Shrishti on August 25, 2021 for allegedly covering the demolition of the Dhobi Ghat slum area in the city despite a court order against demolition. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) proceeded to demolish the slum amidst protests by the residents of the area. Shrishti and her cameraperson had reached the spot to cover the demolition drive when the police took them into custody. Though they were released in three hours, they stated that the police went on to confiscate their phones and delete the footage. Age of trolls On the other side of the coin are women journalists having to face the worst harassment online for doing their jobs or simply even daring to express their opinions in public. A 2021 research paper published by UNESCO titled The Chilling: global trends in online violence against women journalists found that 73% respondents had experienced online violence and an alarming 20% said they had been attacked or abused offline in connection with online violence they had experienced. Prominent broadcast journalist Sugitha Sarangaraj has been at the receiving end of the vitriol spewed on social media several times. It all began in 2018 when Sugitha anchored a show on the channel News7 Tamil with spokespersons from across political parties. In the show, she referred to Tamil Nadus five-time Chief Minister M Karunanidhi by his name, instead of calling him Kalaignar (artist) as he is popularly known. Sugitha Sarangraj (left) at News 7 Tamil. Screengrab/News 7 Tamil It started with them (online trolls) questioning how I can refer to an elderly, senior politician by his name, she recollects. I was being relentlessly trolled by DMK cadres and IT wing guys, which ran to thousands of tweets and retweets. It was only after Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief and current Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin intervened and tweeted against it that the trolling finally stopped. After Stalin condemned the online abuse, several IT wing leaders and politicians also took to Twitter to express their solidarity with Sugitha. If trolling doesnt completely demoralise a woman journalist, the mere procedure involved in filing a cyber-crime complaint and getting the police to act on it will. It took Sugitha weeks to figure out the right police station to file her complaint on another instance of online harassment recently. When she finally did manage to find a station, she was told that the jurisdiction was different and that she had come to the wrong place. If I, as a journalist with decent connections, find it cumbersome to file a complaint, I cannot imagine what it would be like for a woman who isnt as privileged, she points out. Sugitha adds that this constant online abuse and intimidation has a far-reaching impact in the lives of journalists, especially if they are women. This relentless, nasty cyber-trolling has prevented many women journalists from even thinking of making public appearances, she says. More recently, journalist Anna Vetticad tweeted about the sexual abuse she faced from a stranger on Facebook. She said that the stranger had sent her sexually explicit videos. Despite her reporting the videos to Facebook immediately, the platform did not take it down even after two weeks. She then went on to document her sour experience masking the private information of the sender and shared it with the clips on her Facebook wall. However, she tweeted that Facebook promptly took down her post, stating that her post does not adhere to their community standards on sexual activity. Her experience prompted many on social media to wonder about the accountability of these platforms, which invariably end up making the space unsafe for women. Their guidelines are implemented in a random manner, making it difficult for women to rely on them in case of sexual harassment. For women only? The role of gender in these cases Sugitha attributes her case solely to gender. Their (the abusers) mindset is that a woman shouldnt question a male politician, especially a woman wearing a saree. They align the image of a saree-clad woman journalist with women in their household and expect them to be demure and subservient, she explains. It also becomes nasty very fast when the online abusers sexualise the matter. In Sugithas case, soon after the trolling began, she found her and her friends pictures on a Facebook page with sexual content. After the government hounded her with the UAPA, Shahina KK was stopped by an all-male mob on her way back from work one day. She pegs this move on the part of the mob to her being a woman. However, Shahina says that more than her gender, it is her religion that caused the BJP-led state government to double down. If it was someone who belonged to another religion, say a Hindu, I dont think this would have happened, she says. Targeting women based on their religion is a recurring pattern in India. In 2021, two apps Sulli deals and Bulli bai pooled and doctored publicly available photos of prominent Muslim women journalists and others leading a public life without their consent and listed them for auction and sale. Bulli and sulli are Islamophobic slurs used to denigrate Muslim women. These women, many of whom were journalists, had spoken against Modi and the ruling dispensation on social media. These apps were hosted on the tech platform GitHub. The police had arrested six men for creating these apps and filed a chargesheet in March 2022, according to an answer by Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Kumar Mishra in the Lok Sabha. Both Sugitha and Shahina say that as women journalists, they are constantly vigilant because the risks come in more layers when compared to a male journalist. We always have to be in fight mode with people. We cant relax for even a single minute. Wherever you go, whoever you mingle with, we have to be vigilant, they say. Megha Kaveri (she/her) is a journalist and a postgraduate student at the Graduate Institute (IHEID), Geneva. She is specialising in issues around migration and global health in her postgraduate programme.

The News Minute 16 Nov 2022 6:32 pm

Hope my victory encourages others to contest: TISSs gender fluid student body head

Interview Pratik Permey, an openly gender fluid tribal person from the north-east of India, recently became the president of the student body at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. Ragamalika Karthikeyan Pratik Permey An openly gender fluid tribal person from the north-east of India recently became the president of the student body at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai. Pratik Permey, 23, has been elected to lead what is being touted as the most diverse student body in the history of the institution. The winning team is made up of representatives from Ambedkar Students Association, Fraternity Movement, Northeast Students Forum, Adivasi Students forum and Muslim Students Federation. We spoke to Pratik about their plans for the student body at TISS, and what this win means for them and for persons at the intersection of marginalised identities. Excerpts from the interview: What does this win mean for you as a gender fluid, tribal person? What do you think this means for persons at the intersection of marginalised identities in the country? When it comes to electing a queer, tribal, north-eastern person, it is a big deal. For me, it was completely about representation. I did not know if I would win or lose, but I contested for the sake of representation. During the election, when my campaign video went out, it reached not just the people in TISS, but also people from various locations, in various colleges, various parts of the country, and even outside the country. Most interestingly, many people, especially from the community, and tribal people who are from marginalised communities who watched the video they got a positive feeling looking at that video. They felt good that a person they could somewhat relate to was contesting. I remember one non binary person seeking me out, they said that they have contested in their college twice for a specific position, but they lost. And the fact that they said that we don't think we could win, so my winning was a huge moment of pride and joy for them was a lot. So when it comes to the election of a person from the intersection of margins, I think that it definitely has an effect, not only for student politics but also giving options for where people can pursue their education. Some people reached out to me saying that seeing me rock inside TISS, it gave them hope that they too could study at TISS. Many queer and tribal persons reached out to say this. And that is actually extremely important. What are the areas you're going to be focusing on during your term? Is there a plan for the things you want to achieve in the next six months? The prime reason why I got the motivation to contest is I want to promote inclusivity. My focus will be on building and creating infrastructure for gender neutral spaces on campus. Many times, whenever we walk into the academy, most spaces are very gendered. Attempts have been made to make certain changes in the past, but I want to take that to the entire campus, the entire infrastructure. The other thing is redrafting the constitution of TISS. In many spaces, there is no provision for they and them it is only he or she. We are in the process of forming the redrafting committee, and the committee will look at special provisions for queer people, people with disabilities, people from neglected identities in the society. We want everyone to have a say, and we will ask everyone to put across their points of view on how they want the constitution to be. Another thing that's going to be done it's called the Dream Project. When it comes to the narrative of the education system and how people have perceived education its only for a career. Pick a subject to study, go earn money for food and thats the end of their dream. We want education to be pleasing to students. Many people come in here who want to become writers, who are very good artists, who have a certain talent, certain dreams that their loved ones have decided that they are not allowed to pursue. The Dream Project will help students follow their dreams other than academics. We will also be restructuring and strengthening the existing system. There are mechanisms already in place but there is no proper monitoring and assessment done. For instance, there is a grievance redressal system but its not being used because people dont feel welcome to use it. We will ensure that every student voice is highlighted. And while I come from an intersection of marginalised identities, I am not enough to represent everyone. I am not enough to represent all of the margins. My attempt during my tenure as president will be to help all communities to feel welcome on campus. LGBTQIA+ persons in public life are usually activists or have to end up becoming activists or we have some visibility in the entertainment sector. In mainstream politics, we have seen a couple of people becoming spokespersons of some parties, but there isn't really a political movement for visibility and representation. Do you see that changing in student politics? There are lots of closeted people in the world, and many of them have expressed to me, especially after my victory, that they feel better represented. According to one of my friends, seeing a person like me an out queer person as president means a lot because it is a wave of change. When it comes to politics, queer persons are usually viewed as tokens. Im happy that some trans women have been spokespersons, but even then there are always restrictions. Im sure there may have been queer people who have become student presidents before, but they may have been closeted. Im pretty sure Im not the first queer student body leader. But they may not have felt safe coming out. I hope my victory encourages others to contest, and that politics goes beyond tokenistic representation. My next question is about that. While visibility is extremely important, representation is important is it enough? We are seeing many right wing movements, and parties, co-opting the language of representation. Theres a brown Prime Minister in the UK right now which is being seen as a win for diversity. We have an Adivasi woman President in India, who is from the BJP. Is it enough to have people who visibly belong to certain identities occupying positions of power? I believe that it's very complicated, its an extremely complicated topic. Representation can only contribute towards some kind of visibility, but in politics, I believe that revolution is necessary. I believe that representation can be used as a tool to create some change. However, it's not enough. What are you studying right now? And what are your plans for the future? I'm doing my MA in Social Work with a specialisation in public health. So that, by default, makes me a social work student. But before TISS, Ive been an actor, Ive modelled for Getty Images. So there is this artistic aspect of me which is currently helping me pursue my livelihood. Like you said, queer people, somehow, end up becoming activists, although that may not be the agenda. I actually have the dream of being a pop star, singer, dancer, actor. Someone who would use art as a tool to empower people. This interview first appeared in TNMs Heres the Thing newsletter on November 4, 2022.

The News Minute 16 Nov 2022 5:37 pm

Is a mans anger more righteous than that of a woman? Lessons from Bigg Boss Tamil

Opinion While 'Bigg Boss Tamil 6' contestants Dhanalakshmi and Azeem have both been called out on their anger by other contestants and host Kamal Haasan, there is an obvious disparity in the way their behaviour is perceived. Aazhi In righteous anger, even blood might play a role, but tears never will, veteran actor Kamal Haasan had said to a woman contestant on November 5, while hosting an episode of Bigg Boss Tamil 6. The contestant, Dhanalakshmi, had just told Kamal that she often ended up crying when angry, as she did not know how to properly express the emotion. According to the actor, however, real righteous anger can only manifest in certain ways like in the case of fifth century BC Greek philosopher Socrates, who had approached his own unjust death without tears or fear. As the host of the reality show, Kamal is within his rights to question Dhanalakshmi on her behaviour. But just because she cried when she was angry and Socrates didnt when he took the hemlock, can he completely invalidate her anger as false? Kamals take on righteous anger is, in fact, unlikely to feel relatable to many; especially so when it comes to women whose anger is often accompanied by tears, owing to feelings of frustration and powerlessness. What Kamal doesnt seem to realise is that not everyone is Socrates. Emotions are experienced differently by people, and ones social positioning class, caste, and gender play major roles in determining how they are expressed. Dhanalakshmi, a 22-year-old TikToker, and Azeem, a TV serial actor in his early thirties, can easily be identified as the two hot-tempered contestants on whom the show is banking for target rating points (TRP). Their sudden bursts of anger mid conversation, explosive quarrels with each other and other contestants, and their frequent brawls during various physical tasks have been major talking points for the shows viewers. Their anger is usually prompted by what they consider to be disrespectful and biassed behaviour from others, and when their opinions and ideas are rejected. But while both Dhanalakshmi and Azeem have been called out on their anger by other contestants as well as the host, there is an obvious disparity in the way their behaviour is perceived. During the episodes telecast on October 26 and 27, Azeem had exhibited inexcusable anger over a falsely-created scenario, which led to him disrespecting and abusing a woman. But this only seems to have won him a strong fanbase. The audience sees him as a real man who doesnt fake his emotions. His fans never hold him accountable for his anger, instead laying the blame on other housemates and claiming that they intentionally provoked him. The audience have also consistently rewarded him with votes, making sure he is saved from eviction by a large vote margin during the past three weeks. At the other end of the spectrum is Dhanalakshmi, who is derogatorily referred to as bajari (roughly translated to rowdy) by a section of the audience who wants her to be evicted for her anger. The very emotion that seems to add to Azeems charm has acted as a repellent in Dhanalakshmis case. A lot of comments on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter claim that even Dhanalakshmis face is irritating and annoying, with memes about her pitiable future husband making their rounds on social media. Besides gender, no other visible cause can be cited for this difference in societys approach towards the contestants. Both of them have come across as rude and stubborn on a number of occasions, and gotten angry for the silliest of reasons. Yet, only Dhanalakshmi seems to bear the brunt. As natural as the emotion of anger may be, it is also extremely gendered. It is considered a masculine trait by default, and is condemned when seen in women. When men express their anger, it adds to their power, respect, and strength. But at the slightest exhibition of anger from a woman, she is quick to be termed as hysterical and the world gets ready to dismiss her. Tamil popular culture in itself has historically acted as a platform to discourage womens expression of anger. Characters like Neelambari from Padayappa are treated as aberrations and are used to teach women moral lessons about anger. In cinema, a bold, confident woman who can think for herself and is fearless to go after what she wants has to eventually meet a tragic end brought upon by her own actions, just to prove that alavukku adhigama kova patta pombala nalla vaazhndhadha sarithramae kedaiyadhu ('history has never seen an angry woman lead a good life'). If this woman wants a happy ending, her anger has to be tamed by the hero. Otherwise, illegal firearms would provide her with an ideal end. In his career spanning more than four decades, Rajinikanth has frequently taken it upon himself to teach adakkam (subservience) to women. Sumathi (Madhavi) in Thambikku Entha Ooru, Shanthi (Vijayshanti) in Mannan, and Ranganayaki (Meena) in Muthu are a few among the several angry heroines he has tamed over the years. Tamil cinema heroes have often gone overboard in their didacticism, lecturing not only their lovers but also their angry (to-be-) mothers and sisters-in-law on good feminine behaviour. Gemini Ganesan tutors Varalakshmi in Poova Thalaiya, Vijay trains Kushboo in Minsara Kanna, and Dhanush teaches Manisha Koirala good behaviour in Mappillai. No male villain, however evil he is, can ever reach the antagonistic stature of Sorna Akka (Dhool) and Easwari (Thimiru) in Tamil minds. It is interesting that this very culture that condemns female rage also celebrates Cilappatikarams Kannagi. However, it also begs the question: will Kannagi be revered the same way if she had burned down the city with her disloyal husband in it after finding out about his infidelity? A womans anger is deemed acceptable when it fulfils her traditional patriarchal roles. A mother, sister, wife, and daughter can be enraged on behalf of/for her son, brother, husband, and father. Her anger is also justified when it is to protect the patriarchal values of chastity and purity. Rather, it is considered problematic only when she places her own interests, including her self-respect and human dignity, on the forefront. Essentially, any woman who is assertive, bold, stubborn, and angry for her own self, and for a reason that doesnt directly or indirectly benefit male interests, is demonised and vilified by the society. Read: Kannagi to Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kadhal: Adultery in Tamil cinema Dhanalakshmis anger at being body-shamed and called a dog by her fellow housemates is deemed unnecessary by many. Since her anger serves her own self, doesnt have any altruistic purpose, and is expressed in a (tearful) manner different from that of men, the patriarchal society disapproves of her. The decision to support Azeem because he is a man and hate on Dhanalakshmi because she is a woman need not be conscious or deliberate. But it is undoubtedly a result of societal conditioning, as a majority of us tend to see and experience the world through a patriarchal lens. It is because of gender that Dhanalakshmi continues to be picked on for her anger, while ADK, another contestant, goes scot-free for his angry, misogynistic, and violent remark against her. ADK had said that only a slap on her face can make Dhanalakshmi learn her lesson. Though Kamal Haasan condemned the comment in a different context during the episode telecast on November 12, the audience's thunderous applause in approval of the comment prior to the condemnation was for the lack of a better word disgusting. And also, truly scary. The Orwellian nightmare of a show keeps proving how overwhelmingly male the world is. Anger is usually construed as a negative emotion, which impacts the balance of a person and affects their peace and quiet. Hence, people are usually taught how to manage and control their anger. Contrary to this popular approach, however, another contestant on the show, Vikraman, had offered his take on anger from a societal perspective. He highlighted how necessary and vital righteous anger (which doesnt degrade the equality and dignity of others) is in an unequal society to facilitate social change. He said people must feel enraged for oneself and also on behalf of others, and use their anger to voice out and resist the societys efforts in subduing them and converting them into apathetic people. It was quite surprising to hear someone say this on a mainstream entertainment show. #Vikramans words to #Dhana ~ This society is not equal to everyone. Every1 face injustice here. Namakkaaga mattum illama pirarukkagavum neenga kova padanum.. This society will make you NUMB so dont lose this quality. #BiggBossTamil #BiggBossTamil6 pic.twitter.com/V8pA4Pgk0y Raja (@whyrajawhy) November 2, 2022 The importance of anger is being increasingly realised in subaltern politics now, as women and minorities around the world are claiming and asserting their right to rage. Righteous wrath is seen as essential in driving people to fight against an unjust and unfair society and secure their equal rights. Structures of power recognise the threat that anger poses to their effective functioning, and hence deny the oppressed their right to rage. Womens anger can challenge and destabilise mens authority, which is why patriarchy penalises women for their anger. It becomes imperative of any society that wishes for a social change to validate the anger of the marginalised. Besides, it is all the more necessary that the dominant and the privileged do not get to dictate the right and wrong ways of expressing it. That is why despite causing great destruction, Kannagi is held as the symbol of marginalised rage. She had the courage to unleash her wrath upon an all-powerful king. Aazhi is a research scholar in the Department of English at Stella Maris College, Chennai. Read:The curious case of women in Tamil cinema and clubbing Also read:The small wins of good LGBTQIA+ representation in Bigg Boss Malayalam

The News Minute 16 Nov 2022 2:18 pm

Meet The Hysterical, Chennais first all-woman improv comedy ensemble

Comedy Improv comedy is a participatory process where performers make jokes spontaneously and rely on the audience's ideas to create unrehearsed scenarios. Saradha U Laughter and loud voices grab your attention as you near the vibrant, board-games-themed cafe in Chennai on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. As you walk in, you find a room full of people standing in two circles. The inner circle stays put while the people in the outer circle move to the right every 40 seconds when the host blows a whistle. That is all the time that one gets to introduce oneself to the person opposite. The trick, the hosts say, is to reveal something truly unique about yourself so that the other person remembers your name. The Hysterical, Chennais first all-woman ensemble of comics, kicked off their Sunday jam with this introductory activity. From Telephone booth, a game that requires four participants to finish sentences from where another has left off, to the popular punchline game Whose line is it anyway, the next two hours were filled with improv games that kept everyone on their toes. Improv comedy is a participatory process where performers make jokes from scratch and rely on the audience's ideas to create spontaneous, unrehearsed scenarios. The Hysterical is the brainchild of Shalini Vijayakumar (29), a theatre artist since 2010 and the only woman comic to be a part of the Chennai-based improv troupe The Half-Boiled Inc. I was inspired by a Bangalore-based all-woman improv group called The Adamant Eve, Shalini recounts, as she shares the story of her improv troupe. The Hystericals eight-member ensemble was formed in June this year. With the support of stand-up comic Karthik Kumar and co-founder of Evam comedy Sunil Vishnu K, Shalini held a comedy campaign Feel free to be funny to audition candidates. The team also includes producer Ramya, designer Shriya, and Harini, who handles their social media. The group premiered on September 24. Mixed Jam session hosted by The Hysterical in Chennai. Even though Shalini learned the ropes of improv comedy from stand-up comic Baggy, she says that it is mostly a self-taught art form. There are some basic rules for both improv and comedy. If you are going to improvise with someone, you listen, trust the person, and build something together. It is like bricklaying and building. We are forming a picture but we will know what it is only towards the end. We refer to this as group mind, which is what we try to achieve through our practice sessions, she points out. The Hystericals comics say that each one of them has had different takeaways from their improv performances. For Varsha (23), the art form has helped her explore the craft, while Neha (24) shares she is no longer afraid of performing on stage or failing. Role of gender in improv comedy Shalini says that she was keen on forming an all-woman troupe as she believes that gender plays an important role in comedy. It was not that I felt unsafe at The Half-Boiled Inc, but the dominant thought process would often be male-centred. For example, when we did scenes between a mother and daughter, we would think about a scenario like a mother forcing her daughter into marriage. But when The Hysterical does scenes on the same premise, we are able to delve deeper because it is based on our lived experiences. This is also a drawback as we might get trapped in a bubble. The challenge for us is to break away from that, she explains. The team says that they also have to identify and work on the conditioning associated with gender roles. When we were supposed to pick and perform different actions for one of the improv games, we repeatedly chose cooking, cleaning or other chores while playing a woman, while showing a man reading the newspaper. When we noticed this pattern, we decided to show a man cooking or cleaning the next time, says Nandita (19), another member of the team. Several women comics like Aditi Mittal, Sumukhi Suresh, and Neeti Palta have spoken about being typecast as comedians who only discuss topics that are conventionally feminine, or being branded as unfunny because of their gender. Commenting on this, the troupe members say that they tend to repeatedly discuss themes like female friendship, trauma, and motherhood. We dont mind it being identified as our brand of comedy. We are performing on these subjects because it is linked to who we are and because our views on many subjects are similar, says Shalini. Troupe member Keerthana PV (29) adds, There might be another womens collective doing something totally different and that is fine. In fact, it would promote healthy competition. The Hysterical's rehearsal session Read: Audiences still coming around to women also being funny: Stand-up comic Sumaira Shaikh The comics explain that when a joke on a sensitive matter is made by an all-woman ensemble, the audience understands that it comes not with the motive of shaming, but rather to support the survivor and blame the perpetrator. One of the improvisers, Vinithra Menon (29) adds, As a format, improv comedy comes with a lot of freedom of speech because we are building a script from scratch. The comics believe that their freedom of speech is founded in the trust that the audience has in them. The jam sessions begin with the organisers requesting participants to not be offensive and avoid self-deprecating jokes. Monika Dhayalan (25), who is part of The Hystericals main team, jokes that their rehearsals can sometimes feel like therapy sessions as they spend a lot of time discussing where they stand on different subjects. Read: Why I made a short film called Kiss: Varun Grover interview A safe space for women In addition to planning shows in cities like Coimbatore and Madurai, The Hysterical is also focusing on building a community of women improvisers. We have performed in Chennai and Bengaluru so far, where the shows were sold out. Many people have come more than once to our jams and shows. We are now trying to attract new audiences, Shalini says. Initially, they held jam sessions exclusively for women, but have now started sessions for all genders. The Hysterical hosted its first mixed jam session on Sunday, November 6. Women who attend our sessions have felt that it is a safe space. We wanted to open it up for everyone without changing that factor. Hence, we decided to admit two people per ticket and made it compulsory for one of them to be a woman, Shalini points out. The Hysterical's show. When asked whether there were noticeable differences between the mixed jams and the ones that were exclusively for women, Saga (24), another member, quips, It is not very different. Before we begin the session, we usually ask participants how they feel. We were not sure whether men would share how they felt, but they did. It made us realise that it was just a misconception. The collective is currently gearing up for its upcoming show on November 19, which will take place at The ARTery in Chennai. Read: Take stock of crowd, steer clear of religion: Comedians guide to staying out of trouble

The News Minute 14 Nov 2022 4:25 pm

International indie music rocks Keralas Kovalam for five days

Music The indie music fest, a rarity in the state, included seven bands from outside the country and 14 from within. Cris JK of the thrash metal band Chaos Passing through the Kovalam bypass road, kilometres away from the buzz of Thiruvananthapuram city, no one would suspect that there exists a large sprawling campus brimming with arty things on a side lane. The Arts and Crafts Village, located at the end of a bylane near Vellar, was opened for craftspeople from remote areas to create, exhibit, and sell their work. Extending its scope, in the last five days the ground also turned into a venue for a rare indie music fest in Kerala. Twenty-one bands from India and abroad participated in the festival, which was put together by two city musicians, Jay and Manoj, who had left behind their band dreams in the 1990s and came back to it a quarter of a century later. Jay and Manoj joined hands with the Kerala Tourism Department's Arts and Crafts Village to organise the show, which hosted seven bands from outside the country. On Saturday, November 12, when we drove into the campus, small groups of young people, mostly in black metal T-shirts, were trickling in for the music fest. Outside the main venue, a young woman strummed a guitar and sang Elvis Presley for a few gatherers. Saturdays schedule had four bands on the menu three of them metal and one Carnatic rock. Inner Sanctum and Chaos, calling each other brothers, performed heavy, explosive music that shook you from miles away. Even those who claimed not to enjoy metal found themselves nodding their heads vigorously in step with the head-banging fans upfront. Nikhil gets down from the stage and plays his mad solo amid the crowd during @Chaos_Metal 's performance at the Indie International Music festival in Thiruvananthapuram yesterday. #iimf #chaos pic.twitter.com/CzcOA6KTUN S.R.Praveen (@myopiclenses) November 13, 2022 While Inner Sanctum is from Bengaluru, Chaos is from Thiruvananthapuram. Returning to their home turf was always great, said Chaos vocalist JK, and proceeded to sing a Malayalam metal song the band composed for the film S Durga. Rudra, singing Sanskrit metal and coming from Singapore, was the third band of the day. After them, it was Agam led by Harish Sivaramakrishnan, a familiar figure who not only has a huge vocal range but also occasionally makes speeches on social issues. #Agam at the International Indie Music Fest #IIMF in #Kovalam on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/vg2oy9KZEf Cris (@cristweets) November 13, 2022 On the first day November 9 it was a Kerala band singing Malayalam protest songs, Oorali, which opened the fest. Two foreign bands followed up the act. Among them was Anslom, a reggae musician from Papua New Guinea, who is the cultural ambassador of his country. Sami Chohfi from the US, who has made albums in India, performed on the second day. Job Kurian, who is active in film and independent music in Kerala, had a rocking show, complete with his famous single, Padayathra. The third day, When Chai Met Toast, another popular indie folk band with roots in Kerala, performed after a pop band from the UK and a rock act from Malaysia. The fest ends on Sunday with a show by playback singer Sithara Krishnakumars band featuring Indian folk numbers. Organisers Lazie J Jay and Manojs band will perform classic rock, while Will Johns from the UK will end the show.

The News Minute 13 Nov 2022 6:48 pm


Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated his 72nd birthday on September 17, and we are in the midst of the Sewa Pakhwada (roughly translated to service fortnight)a 15-day programme to honour Modis birthday. It is not about blowing candles and cutting cake, but yet another drive to give back to the community. Modi has devoted his entire life for the development of the country and service to humanity. Every privileged person should adopt Modis zeal and his outstanding work towards uplifting the downtrodden and weaker sections of society. As a true disciple of B.R. Ambedkar, Modi has been striving hard to make India an egalitarian society. First, as a party worker, then as a chief minister, and now as the prime minister. Two initiatives of the Modi government that have touched the lives of those at the far end of the pyramid are the Aspirational District Programme, which aims to transform districts that have shown relatively lesser progress in key social areas, and the Adarsh Gram Yojna, which is for the development of model villages. It is Modis unique quality to think differently. His flawless planning and execution brought palpable changes to the lives of the poorest. Several social welfare schemes are great examples of this. Sewa Pakhwada is the most felicitous form of admiration that one can show for this great man. During the fortnight, party workers are rendering their services in various activities like organising blood donation camps and conducting free health check-up camps. Besides, free medical implants are being given to the physically challenged at various places by party workers, and free Covid-19 booster doses are being administered to those who could not go to the vaccination centres. Under the Sewa Pakhwada, a tuberculosis patient is adopted for a year by the BJP leaders. Whoever has interacted with Modi will tell you that he is quite worried about the deep-rooted corruption in our system. He knows that it is the poor who suffer the most as a result of this. Modi continues to wage a resolute battle against corruption and he ensures that the fruits of all the schemes reach the poorest of the poor. This indicates the mans empathy for the poorest of the poor. It is the upliftment of poor that has put India on the global map like never before. From a mere 11th position, India has climbed up to fifth position, surpassing the UK. We have all talked about the potential that India has, but we have never tapped it on ground level. That is exactly what Modi and his government aimed at, and look where we are now! The infrastructural development that has boomed throughout the country was never seen before. Be it the Central Vista, Kashi Vishwanath temple corridor, Ujjain corridor, the grandiose is there for all to see. Infrastructure speaks of development, and we have plenty of examples to prove Modis priorities. The Sewa Pakhwada is being celebrated with the purest intention to honour Modi. It shows the love, admiration and respect that the karyakartas have towards him. This is a positive shift from others forms of exorbitant celebrations, and only the aura of Modi could pull this off!

The Week 25 Sep 2022 4:02 pm