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‘Leaders without vision put population in trouble’

Leaders with visions are able to create strategies to reform societies. It is quite natural for them to face problems and find solutions. Success is abstract and the book is an attempt to compile the success of six leaders … reports Anasudhin Azeez

Former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor of the US Dr Henry Kissinger believes that leaders without a vision are putting people in trouble.

Dr Henry Kissinger @C Jurgen Frank

Addressing a press meet organised by Foreign Press Association (FPA) in London as part of his book release, Kissinger said, “Transformational changes are taking place across the world. My book, ‘Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy’, is my concern about the changes. Leaders with visions are able to create strategies to reform societies. It is quite natural for them to face problems and find solutions. Success is abstract and the book is an attempt to compile the success of six leaders.”

Responding to a question on Ukraine, 99-year-old Kissinger said leaders should have a clear idea about their political objectives and should be aware about the military situation. “You can’t simply go on fighting without any objective,” he added.

In May 2022, speaking at the World Economic Forum, Kissinger advocated for a diplomatic settlement that would restore status quo, effectively ceding Crimea and the occupied territories of Ukraine to Russian control.

Kissinger also urged Ukrainians to “match the heroism they have shown with wisdom,” arguing that “pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself.”

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected Kissinger’s suggestions, saying Ukraine would not agree to peace until Russia agreed to return Crimea and the Donbas region to Ukraine.

In his latest book, Kissinger analyses the lives of six extraordinary leaders through the distinctive strategies of statecraft which he believes they embodied. After the World War II, Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of West Germany, brought defeated and morally bankrupt Germany back into the community of nations by what Kissinger calls ‘the strategy of humility’.

According to Kissinger, Charles de Gaulle set France beside the victorious Allies and renewed its historic grandeur by ‘the strategy of will’.

During the Cold War, US President Richard Nixon gave geostrategic advantage to the United States by ‘the strategy of equilibrium’.

Regarding the Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, he said the assassinated leader brought a vision of peace to the Middle East by a ‘strategy of transcendence’.

Against the odds, Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kwan Yew created a powerhouse city-state by ‘the strategy of excellence’.

In the book, he has praised British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for her determination to stay with the US despite opposition from her own party. Kissinger said that Thatcher wanted Britain to be a bridge between the US and Europe.

“Although when she came to power Britain was known as ‘the sick man of Europe’, Thatcher renewed her country’s morale and international position by ‘the strategy of conviction,’” he said.

To each of these studies, Kissinger brings historical perception, public experience and – because he knew each of their subjects and participated in many of the events he describes as personal knowledge. The book is enriched by insights and judgements such as only he could make, and concludes with his reflections on world order and the indispensability of leadership today.

Dr Henry Kissinger’s new book
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Art with fashion for modern Indian women

The strong colours are an ode to Tina and her team, a definitive voice in the fashion landscape of India today…reports Asian Lite News

Ensemble India and Payal Khandwala are proud to present a collaborative collection to commemorate Ensemble’s 35th anniversary, reflecting Payal’s design aesthetic of marrying Art with Fashion for modern Indian women and Ensemble’s ethos of presenting Indian crafts in a contemporary light.

Ensemble has been working with PayalKhandwala for nearly a decade, and this collection is an ode to their journey together. Ensemble gets a poetic ride through rich colorscapes, complete with maximalist prints on luxe fabrics.

Consider one-shoulder drapes with micro-pleated details and bohemian vibes, billowy printed shirts for daytime occasions, pleated saris with dramatic prints, and more. The capsule includes versatile classics that can be worn separately and then passed down as heirlooms to the next generation.

“I love how Payal’s design vocabulary has evolved over the years. You can see the artist in her in the way she combines colours and her graphics. The identity of a PayalKhandwalawoman is very synergistic with the Ensemble woman – very stylised, free thinking and independent. We are thrilled that our relationship has gone from strength to strength and this collection is a real testament to that,” says Tina Tahiliani Parikh, CEO Ensemble India.

“We visualised an exclusive palette, in a continuation of Release 7, to celebrate 35 years of Ensemble being stalwarts in the design industry. The strong colours are an ode to Tina and her team, a definitive voice in the fashion landscape of India today. Wishing Ensemble many more decades of style and success!” Says Designer Payal Khandwala.

The collection is live on and also available at Ensemble’s Khan Market store in New Delhi.

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By Rajysree Sen for a country which loves sweets as much

Each of these chapters contains a short introduction of the sweet, details of the ingredients, the method of making, the preparation time and the number of people it serves…writes Vishnu Makhijani

Religion might well be the opiate of the masses in India, but maybe the plethora of desserts offered in the name of religion have a role to play in it, says chef, columnist and food writer Rajyasree Sen, adding that in today’s political climate, there are few moments as satisfying as Hindus craving for some creamy sheer korma during Eid, or Punjabis asking their Bengali friends for mishti doi.

And the fact that Muslim cooks bake the Christmas cake in Calcutta (“no, I will not refer to it as Kolkata”) for a largely Hindu clientele to celebrate a Christian festival proves that when it comes to desserts and mithai — and maybe conveniently — the barriers drop away; one of the biggest reasons to celebrate the sweets of India, she maintains.

“I’ve been writing on food for a while now, almost 15 years I’d say. And it all started with me opening my Bengali and Anglo-Indian restaurant, Brown Sahib in New Delhi in 2007 (it shut down a decade ago). The thought behind the restaurant was to serve authentic Calcutta cuisine and to replicate some of the dishes I had grown up eating at home – keema chops, stuffed crabs, smoked hilsa, prawn malai curry. I have a background in journalism and with my interest in cooking, ingredients and in the history of foods and flavours, it was only natural that I’d be writing on food,” Sen told IANS in an interview of her book, “The Sweet Kitchen – Tales & Recipes of India’s Favourite Desserts” (Aleph).

She was the Wall Street Journal India’s food columnist for years, and has written columns on food for a variety of publications and also scripted many food shows for Fox, Nat Geo and Discovery. Thus, when approached to write on the history and cultural influences on Indian sweets – a topic which surprisingly hasn’t been written about in detail in any one book – the outcome presents readers with some interesting anecdotes, historical facts and tid-bits about sweets in India, and introduces them to some sweets which they might not be familiar with.

Considerable research went into the book.

“As I mentioned, for a country which loves sweets as much as India does – and has a plethora of sweets unique to different communities and regions, it was quite surprising that there was no one definitive book, even academic, on sweets in India. I’ve referred to old texts, books, articles, recipes and spoken to people to discover and confirm much of what you will discover in the book,” Sen explained.

As a result of her extensive research, Sen discovered historical facts she was not aware of or had even considered. For instance, which desserts must we thank the Persians, the Mughals, the Portuguese, and the French for? While she knew that a sweet had been created for Lady Canning in Bengal, she had no idea which Mughal emperor to thank for bringing halwa to India, or the Sikh connection to the creation of kaju barfi. She has also tried to demystify the very controversial question of whether Bengal made the rosogolla first, or if the credit goes to Odisha. She also discovered that daulat ki chaat, an airy, churned milk dessert available only during the cold winter of North India, has a Mughal origin.

Beginning with ‘Sandesh: Muse of the Bengal Renaissaince’, Sen takes the reader through 13 chapters to discover ‘Rosogolla: Who Stole My Cheese’, ‘The Christmas Cake: Cultural Chameleon’, ‘Payasam, Payesh, Kheer: The Three Avatars of Sweet Pudding’, ‘Halwa: The Arab Who Strayed onto the Indian Palate’, ‘Barfi: When Art Outdoes Nature’, ‘Gulab Jamun: Everybody’s Celebration Sweetmeat’, ‘Jalebi: Sweet Lord of the Rings’, ‘Daulat Ki Chaat: The Lingering Taste of Old Delhi’,

‘Misthi Doi, Shrikhand, Bhapa Doi: Haute Culture Curd’, ‘Goan Sweets: Gems from an Indigenous Pastelaria’, ‘Firinghee Sweets: Delicious Relics of the Raj’, and ‘In God’s Name: Sweetmeats and Culutral Congeniality’.

Each of these chapters contains a short introduction of the sweet, details of the ingredients, the method of making, the preparation time and the number of people it serves.

Sen also discovered that sweets are not strictly vegetarian — they can also be made with meat and eggs.

“For example, there are some non-vegetarian variants of halwa such as gosht halwa and ande ka halwa which are worth mentioning,” she said.

“Giving a whole new meaning to the word ‘sweet meat’, the gosht halwa is a translucent, succulent dessert soaked in ghee and cooked with tender lamb mince. The recipe is referred to in old Persian recipe books, and khansamas who worked in Old Delhi homes have recreated the dish from memory, turning out a delightful dessert prepared by cooking meat for hours by stirring it with milk and sugar till it amalgamates into a thick halwa which is then flavoured with saffron and cardamom. This preparation is supposed to have originated in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh.

“Ande ka halwa, or egg halwa, is made by cracking eggs into a pan with ghee, milk, sugar, and dried fruits. The mixture is cooked until a thick custard forms, which is then sprinkled with saffron. Most Indian halwas, however, use grains, such as the suji halwa and atta halwa,” Sen explained.

She earnestly hopes the book will serve the purpose of breaking down barriers. “Like all good meals are supposed to do, this book should bring people to the same table and help create an understanding and appreciation of other communities and peoples. After all, if we love their foods, we can surely extend some affection towards them as well,” she elaborated.

What next? What will her next book be on?

“Who knows, maybe I’ll write a historical espionage! I’d love to write a book on Bengali cuisine with recipes. Let’s see, time will tell,” Sen concluded.

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HOLST: Influence of Wagner and Indian Philosophy

Richard Wagner’s influence on Holst was deep and profound which went on to shape his later life. While studying at RCM Holst enlarged his circle of friends with likeminded fellow students such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and John Ireland amongst others…writes Dilip Roy

I dedicate this piece to my grandson Dhyaan a third generation ROY who has been taking interest in the history and cultures of the world specially those of India.

Gustavus Theodore von Holst (1874-1934) was a British composer born in Gloucestershire, England of German and Swedish origin. He came from the family of musicians who were professional in their respective fields. He studied composition at the London’s Royal College of Music later becoming a teacher at Morley College where he served as a musical director from 1907 until 1924. Holst’s work became popular in the early 20th century, but his international success was instant with the composition pf The Planets which had the echoes of Hindu cosmology and that of Lord Indra God of Thunder.

Richard Wagner’s influence on Holst was deep and profound which went on to shape his later life. While studying at RCM Holst enlarged his circle of friends with likeminded fellow students such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and John Ireland amongst others. Together they created a very English version of “ continental intellectual café society” by becoming regulars at a tea shop in Kensington where they discussed everything from philosophy to art and literature and enthused about Wagner. Holst’s passion for Wagner became clear when he visited Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in the summer of 1892 because it is here that a 19th century musical giant Gustav Mahler a staunch Wagnerian was making his debut conducting Wagner Tetralogy The Ring Cycle and “Tristan and Isolde.” Mahler was regarded as last of the Austro-German Romantic composer of that period. For Holst Tristan was the greatest revelation with its saturated chromatic yearning for the infinite, which Holst realized was far more impressive than he had imagined than the piano score version he had studied so avidly. The performances were reviewed by none other than Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw avid Wagnerite himself.

Gustav Holst came across a book called Silent Gods and Sun-Stepped Lands by RW Frazer and discovered stories associated with Hinduism for the first time. Holst’s interest in Indian mythology and philosophy grew deeper as he read the ancient Indian books on Vedas, Upanishads and The Bhagavad Gita. This resulted in the culmination and became musically evident in the opera Sita (1901-06) which occupied nearly seven years of his life and the inspiration came from Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Holst was planning his opera on the epic scale like the Ring but due to financial reasons opera did not get the premiere it deserved. The combined influence of Hindu spiritualism and English folk tunes enabled Holst to go beyond the all-consuming influences of Wagner and forge his own style. Although much of his grand opera Sita is very much a Wagnerian exercise but towards the end a change comes over the music, and the beautifully calm phrases of the hidden chorus representing the Voice of the Earth are in Holst’s own language. Holst was able to decipher the Sanskrit script and translate words with the use of dictionary and eventually he went on to translate as many as twenty invocations to the Hindu pantheon from the Rig Veda and is considered a landmark event in the composer’s development. One example of his clarity may also be found in his translation of the Hymn to Agni, God of Fire.

Whilst in Berlin, Holst worked on a symphonic poem based on a Sanskrit legend Indra follows the eponymous fire, thunder and rain God as he battles with a dragon over parched Indian field. It contains some powerful ideas, but with its Wagnerian echoes the battle might just as well have taken above the Pomeranian plain nearby. Holst’s mind was   split between things Indian and German. Holst continued to be inspired by India as he was working on a large scale composition for chorus and orchestra based on a mythological poem  Megadutam (The Cloud Messenger) by the great Sanskrit poet the famous Kalidasa.   A poet sends a cloud with a message to his beloved. It passes over cities and temples with their various festivities before reaching the women and whispering the message to her in her sleep. This allowed him to compose various set pieces and dances and Holst was greatly satisfied with it. Two Eastern Pictures (1911) provide “a more memorable final impression of Kalidasa.” Holst’s other works included various episodes from the epic Mahabharata.

Post Script: I … believe in the Hindu doctrine of Dharma which is one’s path in life. If one is lucky or maybe (unlucky – it doesn’t matter) to have a clearly appointed path to which comes naturally whereas any other one is an unsuccessful effort, one ought to stick to the former. And I am Oriental enough to believe in doing so without worrying about the “fruits of action” that is success or otherwise. (Gustav Holst)

(Dilip Roy is an elected Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society U.K. and an Aficionado of Richard Wagner. Dilip Roy’s other major contribution include a commemorative article on a 19th century musicologist Sir SM Tagore for Royal College of Music London, and was displayed on the occasion of hundred years of Tagore Medal in November 1999 RCM South Kensington.)            

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Stop predicting revisit life

The biggest lessons learned from such kinds of situations are to be cautious, to nurture, and to value life…reports Vishnu Makhijani

Human behaviour is usually oriented to two basic objectives: Comprehending a situation and then predicting the outcome while relying on that comprehension.

“Predicting life has been compelling and a linear thought. It might have been simpler when we would have been productive by adding gains and outcomes. But then, we directed all the thoughts and models towards multiplying the outcomes. The cost of this zest became high, though, we continuously tried to offset that.

“There have been indicators from all around that we must revisit life, which we ignored. Then came Covid-19, an enemy which graphed every thought process mankind possesses, all the reactions we might have and developed an algorithm of its own, It hit us hard, which compels us to think that life is the most valuable thing,” says Vinay Sharma, a Professor in the Department of Management Studies at IIT-Roorkee, the lead author of “Stop Predicting Revisit Life, Lessons from Covid-19” (Bloomsbury).

India and Indians “have fought exceptionally well and we have realized the value of life more than ever. During this war against Covid-19, we have realized the importance of being together, fighting together and caring for each other”, Sharma told in an interview.

We have realised the value of doctors, medical practitioners, all kinds of forces; people who are leading the economy; people who are contributing in the economy; skilled workers in the field of medical sciences; support teams; farmers, people contributing in transporting goods; media personnel, in fact, everyone who has contributed even a little bit in this war, he elaborated.

“More than ever, we have realized the value of leadership at all the levels and the icons who can motivate us, and make us believe that this would pass. Many people have lost their dear ones and those imprints would remain for a long time. Many had to struggle in different ways, but believing in ourselves and in each other and believing in processes related to living a happy and a healthy life is what we believe now,” Sharma maintained.

How has Covid-19 changed our philosophy of life and our understanding of the future?

“Don’t go too far, try to find contentment. Do care for others, do care for nature, care for the environment, believe in the community, believe in society, live for your country. All the fundamentals have re-strengthened themselves. This is evident as people have started choosing the methods and the ways related to the fundamentals of life and values. But we must learn to be more civic,” Sharma said.

Does India need a new comprehensive law to combat a Covid-19 like pandemic in future from the lessons learned?

“In the wake of the serious governance challenges that India faced, the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the urgent need for a legislative framework in the form of a new national law to combat such a pandemic in future. The legislation should include a legal framework to set up a national crisis communication protocol and a new framework for health governance,” he said.

The absence of a viable national crisis communication protocol aggravated the Covid-19 crisis, especially during the first two waves and has necessitated the need for such a policy at the district, state and national levels to deal with such public health disasters in future, Sharma maintained.

“Also, the pandemic has exposed the weaknesses in the existing public health communication systems and highlighted the urgent need to restructure and reform them to meet the challenge posed by such public health disasters in future. Such a policy response would help strengthen the existing public health communication systems,” he elaborated.

What new measures are needed to augment healthcare facilities, especially in small towns and villages?

“General awareness about health and healthcare, in terms of keeping oneself healthy and to equip people for helping others in cases of situations wherein the participation of large numbers of people is required has to be the first step.

“Inter-connectivity of people with systems and systems with people in terms of provision of healthcare has to be strengthened, as have ambulatory services and a healthcare-related skilled workforce. Most of all, doctors and nursing staff have to be larger in larger numbers, not only looking at the required perspective, but also looking at the numbers that should exist for a large population,” Sharma explained.

The biggest lessons learned from such kinds of situations are to be cautious, to nurture, and to value life.

“Contentment is the key. We must remember our duties. We must remember that our objectives should primarily be to serve our nation, society, elders, and the community, while imbibing healthy living, and by being consistent throughout lives, while caring for the nature, not wasting resources, and not generating waste,” Sharma concluded.

The other co-authors of the book are Rabindranath Bhattacharyya, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Burdwan; Sanjeev Kumar Mahajan, a Professor of Public Administration at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla; and Himanshu Shekhar Mishra, a Senior Editor with NDTV India.

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School drop out and mom at the centre of colourful universe

Then he observed his mom, busy in her chores like cooking, cleaning, sewing and washing, all routine struggles and ordinary activities which later ignited his memorable drawings, reflecting her travails artistically…writes Quaid Najmi

For this Solapur school dropout and self-trained artist, Shashikant Vaman Dhotre, his mother Ratan remains the centre of his universe — and also the inspiration for his unique colour photographic drawings on dark paper, which have proved to be head turners and hot sellers.

Using imported pencils from the United Kingdom, and special black paper from France, Dhotre spends weeks and even up to two months to come up with his stunning creations, mostly women, their moods and their rich costumes.

“I have been devoted to my mom since childhood. I witnessed her struggles, as many a time my father – a mason – would be inebriated, and she would quietly take up the responsibility of raising her four sons and two daughters without any complaints or regrets… Whatever I am today is owing to her blessings,” Dhotre, 41, told in a free-wheeling chat.

During his teens, Dhotre — the school dropout, but a keen observer — honed his early artistry by helping his father in quarries, chiselling or carving hard stones with gentle lines to etch out different images – animals, birds, fish, flowers etc. – and developed his early passion for drawing.

Then he observed his mom, busy in her chores like cooking, cleaning, sewing and washing, all routine struggles and ordinary activities which later ignited his memorable drawings, reflecting her travails artistically.

In 2003, he bagged a scholarship in the prestigious Sir J.J. School of Arts in Mumbai — with some eminent alumni like Dhundiraj Govind alias Dadasaheb Phalke, M.F. Hussain, S.H. Raza, Bhanu Athaiya, Atul Dodiya, Homai Vyarawalla, Jatin Das, K.K. Hebbar, Tyeb Mehta, Uday Shankar, V.S. Gaitonde, Nana Patekar, Raj Thackeray, Jehangir Sabavala, and also Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

“However, I was forced to leave the institution in just three months due to the critical financial situation at home and as the eldest son, I plunged into earning bread-and-butter for the family,” Dhotre said.

He also decided to grab the reins of the family and his future, and soon discovered that with a simple lead pencil, he could create startling pieces of art — and attract many sponsors.

His very first creation won the Governor’s Award from the Bombay Art Society and drew attention to his unique style, drawing female figures against a black background, watching marine or flying creatures.

With his tremendous control over the pencil and his sharp observational skill, Dhotre started dishing out artworks with a combination of intricacy and simple rusticism, leaving the viewers in awe and appreciation. Time literally appears to freeze in his creations.

Having arrived on the art scene like a colossus, Dhotre picked up awards, honours and conducted exhibitions in several countries around the world, his drawings towering above the crowd of contemporary art productions… and even continued ‘experimentation’ with pencil and other mediums mostly for his own satisfaction.

This year, Dhotre has ventured into another unknown domain — filmmaking — and is currently directing a Marathi feature film, ‘Sajna’, which is due for release in mid-2023.

Dhotre is married to Namrata and the couple has two daughters — Surmai, 11, and Pali, 9.

On his fetish for darkness and whether it’s a sign of depression of his early days of struggle, Dhotre smiles and says: “I actually love black and it does not symbolise depression… Darkness is more beautiful, the entire Universe is black. Note, how multi-hued colours emerge best on a black/dark background.”

Dhotre’s drawings of women are first born as subjects, which he photographs and then uses them as the ‘model’ for his pencil to produce eye-catching masterpieces on black paper of 60×40 inches, at the rate of one or two, or at best around three a month.

In the past decade or so, the dame fortune has smiled approvingly on the Dhotre family and all are now well-settled, starting with the strong artistic foundations laid down by Dhotre and his pencils.

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Arts & Culture

AI programme to connect artworks and cultures around world

The platform works by providing users with two options. The first (Curated Journeys) allows the user to view predefined journeys, created primarily by MAP’s educational and research arm, the MAP Academy…reports Asian Lite News

Microsoft and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru, launched a new artificial intelligence-powered platform to connect artworks and cultures around the world. The platform, ‘Interwoven’ is rooted in MAPs vast collection of South Asian textiles and was developed as part of Microsofts AI for Cultural Heritage initiative, which leverages technology to empower people and organizations dedicated to the preservation and enrichment of art and culture.

Previous projects under the initiative have involved improving accessibility through the Open Access collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the digital restoration of ‘Ancient Olympia’, in collaboration with the Government of Greece. The MAP in Bengaluru is the first project under this initiative in India.

Speaking at the launch, Kamini Sawhney, Director, MAP, said: “Covid 19 and the lockdown really forced us to reflect on how people interacted with the online space. Right from week 1, we began looking at how we could engage with our online communities. After the pandemic, a primary aspect of our mission is to use the digital realm to connect with people across the country, and the world. We’re rethinking the idea of museums. They cannot be mere repositories of objects. MAP will not just be a collection of objects, but a space for ideas and conversations that are initiated through our collections. Interwoven fits securely within this vision?”

“Interwoven is a project that is deeply impactful to society, culture, and heritage. The project interweaves technology with art, using AI to find shared histories in artistic traditions from different corners of the globe, particularly pertaining to something as rich and complex as textiles. Our approach to AI centres around meaningful innovation and this project beautifully allows art to be more accessible and inclusive for people around the world. We stay committed to using technology to help celebrate and preserve culture as part of our AI for Cultural Heritage initiative,” adds Rohini Srivathsa, National Technology Officer at Microsoft India.

The platform works by providing users with two options. The first (Curated Journeys) allows the user to view predefined journeys, created primarily by MAP’s educational and research arm, the MAP Academy. These combine relationships between global artefacts suggested by the AI, which are then researched and expanded further by individual curators. It is an explorative model for how AI might be used in museology and art historical research. These cover a range of themes and subjects, from ideas of anti-imperialism to representations of women, to explorations of leisure. One of the journeys, for instance, even traces the forms and functions of handbags across different cultures and time periods, shedding light on their associations with ideas of community, convenience, and haute couture.

The second option (Custom Journeys) invites general users to explore the platform to stumble upon meaningful and sometimes even surprising visual connections. It provides a new way to engage with culture and learn more about the history of textiles and fashion and their relationship to global exchange.

As part of the project, the MAP Academy has also developed a free, introductory online course on South Asian textiles, for a global audience, to further contextualize the enduring impact and relevance of textiles, addressing everything from fashion, to the environment, and global exchange.

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‘Open Book’ is a reality, she feels age is just a number

The actor who has written a whole chapter on ‘Sacred Games’ on how she got to play the part of ‘Kuku’ and her relationship with Anurag Kashyap as her director feels that digital platforms have metamorphosed the entertainment landscape in the country…writes Sukant Deepak

In reel life, she owned the fugitive nights of ‘Sacred Games’ with the character of ‘Kuku’. In real life, the bullying at school sent a part of her into a dark corner deep within.

Living between endless corridors of the past and uncertainties hidden in the future’s crystal ball, actor Kubbra Sait, talking about her book ‘Open Book: Not Quite a Memoir’ (HarperCollins India) maintains she has learnt to absorb responsibility for her choices.

“Even when I didn’t make one… that was a choice too,” she tells IANS.

Sait, who went on stage at the age of five, was bullied as an eight-year-old, hitting rock bottom as a 10-year-old and at 13 years of age, went on to discover a personality development programme that changed her life forever.

Admitting that it was not really her idea to write the book, but in fact, one she was brewing for a friend, Sait recalls it was when she spoke with Smita Khanna and Jayapriya Vasudevan of Jacaranda Literary Agency, that Smita nudged her towards writing a memoir. But is she not too young to write one (a memoir)?

Now that ‘Open Book’ is a reality, she feels age is just a number. “I have lived long enough to have not one but many stories, experiences, and journeys to encapsulate the idea of who I am, and who I may be becoming. I also feel the experiences that happened were meant to be. I cannot change a thing today. I was able to learn from my shortcomings, and learnt to be accountable for my actions,” she says.

The deafening silence during the lockdown was a time of internal reflection for her.

“Well, I had a better routine than I have ever had. I was able to sleep with my thoughts, peel layers of my hurt and really look within. It was a very easy process to write the book. I wrote a lot and I am not afraid to share chapters from my life thus far. I feel it was the perfect time to spill my heart and know that it’s all behind me. The future is fresh and infused with joy.”

Talking about the years of bullying, she recalls they were terrible. “They hurt. That time could have been so amazing if I did not encounter what I did. But… I lived through it and managed to turn the page in my own life. I changed myself. It was cathartic for me. Even armed men who go to war experience PTSD. I was only a little girl. I turned out just fine with all the experiences of the past.”

As a first-time author, she does not really have any apprehensions about how the book will be received. “I was not scared when I moved to Dubai, or Mumbai or acting the first time. I was nervous, good to be nervous. I am proud of what I have written — I feel free. I think it’s done… and not, it is now for the world to read. It is theirs as much as it’s mine.”

The actor who has written a whole chapter on ‘Sacred Games’ on how she got to play the part of ‘Kuku’ and her relationship with Anurag Kashyap as her director feels that digital platforms have metamorphosed the entertainment landscape in the country.

“It’s far more democratic than it ever was. We are able to appreciate cinema from across our country and from all over the world. Newer stories and characters have become possible,” says the actor, who is currently shooting for a film and two web series.

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Re-introducing ‘Mai: Silently Mother’ of Geetanjali Shree

The novel will provoke contradicting thoughts about social perception, family, relationships, or hierarchy and give you a perspective you may have never imagined of…reports Asian Lite News

As a celebration of the recognition given to noted Hindi author Geetanjali Shree and Translations by the International Booker Prize 2022, Niyogi Books has re-introduced her debut novel ‘Mai’, translated to English as ‘Mai: Silently Mother’ by Nita Kumar.

The novel offers an insight to the three generations of women and men around them set in a North Indian middle-class family. The events revolve around the protagonist Mai or the mother, giving the readers a glimpse of the dynamics of relationships, patriarchy, societal prejudices, struggle, survival, and much more. Since childhood, Sunaina, the narrator and also the daughter of the household, aspires to be different than her mother or Mai whom she perceives as weak, imprisoned, abused and suppressed by her husband and in-laws.

The story begins with: We always knew mother had a weak spine.

But, Rajjo, the mother, was not inherently a spineless creature as the author seemed to have suggested. Rajjo is what she is because she is part of a certain kind of middle class, patriarchal family. Hers is not the problem of Indian women or of mothers, and certainly not of ‘women’.

Yet, Mai presents us with a mother-heroine, like Sethe in Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’ (1987), who can leave us questioning the joys of motherhood and at many places of that of womanhood as well.

Is the always self-sacrificing mother as weak as we perceive her to be? Are women really caged or do they want themselves to be caged? The author poses several relevant questions against the social stereotypes during the course of this simple yet sly novel.

The novel will provoke contradicting thoughts about social perception, family, relationships, or hierarchy and give you a perspective you may have never imagined of.

‘Mai: Silently Mother’ received the Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize in 2002. It was also shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award 2001.

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Books Lite Blogs

June for worthy reading

The book is a magnificent examination of Agyeya’s civilizational enterprise. Ambitious and scholarly, it is also an unputdownable, whirlwind of a read…reports Asian Lite News

From much-awaited translations to new releases here’s what you should stack up on for the coming week.

The Wait by Damodar Mauzo And Other Stories

“Damodar Mauzo’s stories present us with vivid glimpses of the richly diverse, cosmopolitan reality of contemporary Goa. In these perceptive, keenly observed stories Hindus, Catholics and Muslims all find ways to co-exist, in defiance of bigotry,” said Amitav Ghosh. From the 2022 Jnanpith Award winner, Konkani writer Damodar Mauzo’s sometimes bizarre, sometimes tender stories, set largely in Goa, create a world far removed from the sun and sand and the holiday resorts. Here you find villagers facing moral choices, children waking up to the realities of adult lives, men who dwell on remorse, women who live a life of regret and communities whose bonds are growing tenuous in an age of religious polarization. Probing the deepest corners of the human psyche with tongue-in-cheek humour, Mauzo’s stories reveal the many threads that connect us to others and the ease with which they can be broken. Written in simple prose and yet layered in nuances, The Wait is a collection that brings to the anglophone world one of the doyens of Konkani literature.

Nireeswaran (Vayalar and Kerala Sahitya Akademi winner)

From the author of Anti-clock, Shortlisted for the JCB Award 2021 comes this “compelling narrative of shifting faiths and displaced gods. As realities and fantasies disentangle there appears in the nether regions an un-god, Nireeswaran, with no halo. A mind-boggling work from a master novelist” said M. Mukundan, recipient of JCB Prize 2021.

Is it possible for society to exist without religion? Nireeswaran, the most celebrated of Malayalam novelist V.J. James’ works, uses incisive humour and satire to question blind faith and give an insight into what true spirituality is.

Three atheists, Antony, Sahir, and Bhaskaran, embark on an elaborate prank to establish that God is nothing but a superstition. They instal a mutilated idol of Nireeswaran, literally anti-god, to show people how hollow their religion is. Their plan starts turning awry when miracles start being attributed to Nireeswaran-a man waking up from coma after twenty-four years, a jobless man ineligible for government employment getting a contract, a prostitute turning into a saint-leading hordes to turn up to worship the fake deity.

The trio is put in a quandary. Will they fight their own creation? Is their intractable minds an indication that atheism is a religion in itself? Belief and disbelief, it is possible, are two sides of the same coin.

Beauty Unbottled

Can one make sunscreen from saffron? Can hemp oil help heal acne? How does madder root help cure hyperpigmentation? Beauty Unbottled is a unique DIY guide on how to use herbs and plants to turn your kitchen into a beauty lab. Learn how to treat hair loss, frizz, dandruff and premature greying with powerful Ayurvedic kitchen herbs. Create your own masks, moisturizers, serums and shampoos with superfoods like neem, tulsi, jasmine and sandalwood-herbs that are revered in Ayurveda. Explore the alchemy of Ayurveda and its long-lost, forgotten beauty secrets with simple step-by-step skin and hair recipes (with vegan options) in this definitive guide and self-help book. This book will also guide you to read and understand labels, have a balanced diet for a healthy body and choose ingredients that are super effective yet gentle on you and mother earth.

Equal, yet different

A book by Anita Bhogle on how women want to be treated and need to be treated at home and in the workplace.

Equal, Yet Different is exactly how women want to be treated and need to be treated at home and in the workplace. This book talks about the catalysts that are required for women to reach peak potential-conditions, people, or even mindsets at home, at work, and in the ecosystem. Anita Bhogle draws from the professional experiences and wisdom of a large number of women leaders and experts.

Talking about the motivation behind this book, author, Anita Bhogle said, “I believe ‘Equal, Yet Different’ is how women would like to be and need to be treated at home and in the workplace. They are equal to men in terms of ability and ambition but different because of how they are conditioned and given the challenges they face. The book draws on the wisdom and experience of several professionals and experts and attempts to identify conditions, people, and mindsets that can prove to be catalysts for women to achieve their full potential. The millennials are lucky to have access to the experience of a fairly large pool of career women today. As a society, it is time we realise that diversity and inclusion will only make the world a better place.”

Writer Rebel Soldier Lover: The Many Lives of Agyeya

Writer, Rebel, Soldier, Lover features a formidable cast of characters: from writers like Premchand, Phanishwarnath Renu, Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand and Josephine Miles to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, revolutionary Chandra Shekhar Azad and actor Balraj Sahni. And its landscapes stretch from British jails, an intellectually robust Allahabad and modern-day Delhi to monasteries in Europe, the homes of Agyeya’s friends in the Himalayas and universities in the US. The book is a magnificent examination of Agyeya’s civilizational enterprise. Ambitious and scholarly, it is also an unputdownable, whirlwind of a read.

Banaras Talkies

Bhagwandas Hostel at Banaras Hindu University can be mistaken as being like any other college hostel, but that would be a gross error. For, among the corridors of BD Hostel roam never-before-seen characters: Suraj the narrator, whose goal is to woo a girl, any girl; Anurag De, for whom cricket is life, literally, and Jaivardhan, whose melancholia gets him to answer every query with ghanta’.

Follow the adventures of the three friends and others as they navigate undergraduate life in one of India’s most vibrant colleges, plan to steal exam papers, struggle to speak to women, find friends in corridors lined with dirty linen, and forge lifelong bonds amid bad mess food.

First published in Hindi in 2015, Banaras Talkies has remained on the bestseller list since then. A slice-of-life novel, it captures college life with all its twists and turns. Written with the idiomatic flourish that is the hallmark of Banarasi colloquialism by Satya Vyas, this comic novel is one of India’s great coming-of-age novels.

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