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Valli: An attempt to capture the pulse of the land

Before she started writing ‘Valli’, the author spoke to elders in the community and went into Adivasi settlements to understand their lives. As the story of Valli takes place in a Christian migrant village, the dialect of the Christian communities was used…writes Sukant Deepak

There is a certain quiet that underlines the whole novel. A rhythm that finds itself at peace with the enigmatic green all around. Even the violence has a precise sculpted beauty around it. When she writes about her land, Wayanad, it is with awe, and then — with gratitude.

Author Sheela Tomy’s delicate and ferocious glance in ‘Valli’ (HarperCollins India), her latest novel that recently hit the stands, comes from the fact that she grew up listening to the music of the forest and stories about the fight for the survival of her ancestors.

“The story of Valli begins on a February morning in 1970, on the day Comrade Varghese was shot dead, throwing light into the socio-political situation of the time. Major incidents in Valli take place in the 1970s, during the national emergency period and after the Naxal uprisings in Wayanad,” she tells.

The book, that received the Cherukad Award for Malayalam literature had been in her mind for more than a decade, with her father, a school teacher who used to tell her to write about the land, which has a distinct cultural history and geography, rich in myths and folklore. However, it was only after his departure that those stories took shape and became the book. She wrote the plot on three pages in her diary which was developed into ‘Valli’ in three years.

“In the attempt to capture the pulse of the land that made me who I am, I didn’t know where my characters were leading me to. The main characters are migrants from Thiruvithamkur who came to Wayanad. I wanted to show the transformation of my forest land over decades by man’s greed and the encroachments of the corporates, the real threats to the environment today. I wanted to show that the people of the land who once fought for valli (wages) are still fighting for vall (earth), their piece of land, and farmers are still on the brink of suicide. Narrating the story of four generations, their love, hope and resistance, it turned out to be a requiem for the forest. The forest became a main character unknowingly,” she says.

Interestingly, Tomy wrote this debut novel while she was (and still is) in the Middle East. Believing that distance worked for her, she says, “While writing ‘Valli’, I was a migrant in a desert land. I have felt the losses of my land so intensely that I started to write about it. Had it been written sitting in my homeland, the story and content could be the same, but the soul and song of Valli may have been different.”

Also a short-story writer and screenwriter, Tomy is more comfortable with the novel genre as it has a broader canvas and, “Writing short stories gives me much strain as I never get satisfied and keep on editing.”

Stressing that working with Jayasree Kalathil, who translated it from Malayalam into English was sheer pleasure, Tomy says it was her dream that someday the world would hear the untold stories of her forest village and was delighted when Jayasree came forward to translate it.

“I knew that a person who could conceive the music, rhythm and the politics of the land only could do justice to the story. I found Jayasree so involved in it and she was living with my characters the same way I did. I believe, was far beyond a literary re-creation. She was even rethinking the idea of the original text.”

Adding that translations pave way for the readers to new horizons, Tomy feels it is always interesting to hear stories from an unfamiliar land and by authors from different parts of the country.

“It is a world of versatility. My early readings had great influence from translations from Bengali literature. All languages have gems, but translators should be brilliant and skilful to do justice to the original text.”

While stories keep happening to/for her, Tomy says she is mostly “shy” to send them for publishing.

“The editing never ceases. I am never content. For a novel, it is a long but enjoyable process. Once I decide to write about a theme I live with it for months or years. I begin even without having all the characters or plot in mind. It develops gradually as I write.”

Before she started writing ‘Valli’, the author spoke to elders in the community and went into Adivasi settlements to understand their lives. As the story of Valli takes place in a Christian migrant village, the dialect of the Christian communities was used.

“I have employed many narrative devices — diary entries, letters, folk songs, Bible quotations, reinvented myths and popular film songs of the time — to reproduce the period effectively and to escape linear storytelling.”

“In fact, her second novel — ‘Aa Nadiyodu Peru Chodikkaruthu’ (Do not Ask the River Her Name) is set to be released later this month. It stands with people who are under siege and those who are forced to run away from their homeland. Background of the novel is the Middle East, particularly Jerusalem and Palestine,” she concludes.

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Mind Master: Winning Lessons from a Champion’s Life

Reminiscing about his father, who in his early years “doubled up as my manager and had to deal with a youngster who was trying to break free and discover himself”, he writes that in his last years, the elder Anand’s Sunday afternoons were spent in the company of his grandson over ice cream scoops…writes Vishnu Makhijani

Cool as a cucumber: that’s five-times World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand. Cooped up in Germany due to the Coronavirus pandemic, he returned home via a Vande Bharat repatriation flight, coped with the loss of his father, learnt Hindi, had the satisfaction of launching the WestBridge Anand Chess Academy (WACA) to nurture India’s chess prodigies – and is chuffed at the stimulating aspect of mentoring.

“My approach towards the pandemic was not to fight the outlandish situation kicking and screaming, but to flow with the current without overthinking and making myself miserable. None of us could have been better or worse prepared for what we were up against,” Anand writes in the bonus chapter of his memoir, ‘Mind Master: Winning Lessons from a Champion’s Life’ with Susan Ninan (Hachette), that has been reissued as a paperback edition to mark the 44th Chess Olympiad that opened in Chennai on Thursday.

The Olympiad will see the participation of 343 teams from 187 countries, with 30 players from India matching their skills against the best in the world under Anand’s mentorship.

“When I look back at the worst days of the pandemic, I realise the learnings have been plenty. I’ve been forced to cope with the loss of a parent and that has drawn me closer to my family. When I peep into (son) Akhil’s room I see a child trying harder than the rest of us to accept the reality of online classes and his friends being turned into tiny picture panels on the screen…I catch the proud smile on his face when my achievements appear as questions in his school assignments,” Anand writes.

Reminiscing about his father, who in his early years “doubled up as my manager and had to deal with a youngster who was trying to break free and discover himself”, he writes that in his last years, the elder Anand’s Sunday afternoon’s were spent in the company of his grandson over ice cream scoops.

“Every Sunday, we would buy ice creams and take them over to my father’s house. He would enjoy Akhil greedily grab spoonfuls from all of us. They adored each other and it was special to watch that bond from a distance. My dad lived a full life and spent ten years of it watching Akhil grow up. But to me his final days will be inextricably linked with the circumstances the pandemic brought about, which didn’t allow us even one final visit before he left us. Though I rarely demonstrate it, the pain of his absence feels like a giant boulder bearing down on my chest,” Anand writes.

The pandemic, he writes, presented two options: mope about not knowing what lies ahead “or find an opportunity in the unexpected gift of time. We had all the time in the world, with no flights to catch and no office rush to beat. I asked myself what I always wanted to learn but had put off for later”.

“Turns out, the answer was Hindi. I had never found the time earlier to learn the language. In my years of living in Madrid, when I’d learnt Spanish by conversing with locals, I had never been embarrassed to make mistakes. With Hindi…well…it was different. My ignorance of the language meant I felt more lost in Delhi or Mumbai than I ever did perhaps even in Frankfurt (since I read, write and speak German reasonably fluently). I found it strange because I wasn’t supposed to feel this way in my own country. It formed the premise of my motivation to take up Hindi lessons. I defined it as being able to survive an Indian airport,” Anand writes.

Enter friend Anand Subramaniam, who lives in Chicago.

“He took the job upon himself and we began having regular classes over Skype once a week. Thereafter, it was him helping me with my Hindi and me fixing his chess,” Anand writes.

The WACA project dates back to 2019 when Anand had been invited by the Bengaluru-based investment firm WestBridge Capital to deliver a talk for their employees and the company’s co-founder Sandeep Singhal asked him if he’d be interested in a chess collaboration of some sort.

“One of the first thoughts that popped in my mind was the Botvinnik Chess School in Moscow,” the brainchild of a former World Champion that had helped raise a generation of players, famously Gary Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik and Anatoly Karpov, all of whom later became world champions,” Anand writes.

It was initially set to launch in April 2020, got pushed to December of that year due to the pandemic and was formally launched in 2021.

“It was an idea, if not a burning dream that I had always carried in my head. I know I would do it one day but had never got around to putting it together. The association with WestBridge for the academy was unplanned, almost serendipitous. I was chuffed at the stimulating prospect – to work with young minds, see the chess board through their eyes and gain a modern perspective on the game,” Anand writes.

Playing mentor, he states, “is slowly taking the place of a full calendar of tournaments marked for travel. The pandemic has taught us the art of substitution – being at home around family replaced spending time with friends socially, and my love for chess has taken a fresh turn. I wake up every day thinking how I can be a better teacher than I was in the previous class.”

“It has supplanted tense games and troublesome opponents that raced in my mind in earlier years. The unannounced pause has also lent us perspective to look closely at the things we’ve been chasing all our lives. To weigh whether they matter enough to be ranked ahead of other aspects that we’ve perhaps overlooked. The blinkers are finally off.

“The world as we know it no longer exists. The things we took for granted, thinking they’d last forever, have long disappeared. The only rule now is to be aware of changing realities, let go of rigid ideas, and find joy in the new and the unknown,” Anand concludes.

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The last war with China

In such a war, traditional conventional forces will be at a huge disadvantage, nuclear weapons will have no role to play, and the valour of individual soldiers will be of no consequence…reports Asian Lite News

If India and China were to fight a war in the near future, India faces the prospect of losing the war within ten days. China could take Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh with a minimum loss of life, and there is very little that India could do about it, says military expert and best-selling author Pravin Sawhney.

This is because the Indian military is preparing for the wrong war, says Sawhney in his eye-opening and disquieting book, ‘The Last War: How AI Will Shape India’s Final Showdown With China’ (Aleph), as he explains in great detail how this alarming scenario could play out.

China’s war with India will be reminiscent of the 1991 Gulf War during which the US military’s battle networks connecting sensors to shooters and guided munitions with support from space assets had induced shock and awe in militaries worldwide. Similarly, China’s war with India will stun the world with the use of artificial intelligence, emerging technologies, multi-domain operations, imaginative war concepts, and collaboration between humans and intelligent robots, Sawhney writes.

China has been preparing for this since the 2017 Doklam crisis after which it permanently augmented its troops across the Line of Actual Control – leading to a stand-off that has continued for two years without any tangible signs of resolution.

The author argues that China’s superpower status will only grow and the ‘capabilities lag’ between the two countries will expand. And if there is outright war, the Indian military will be no match for China’s AI-backed war machines.

In such a war, traditional conventional forces will be at a huge disadvantage, nuclear weapons will have no role to play, and the valour of individual soldiers will be of no consequence.

India is honing its strengths to fight a war in the three physical domains of land, air, and the sea, whereas the PLA is working on becoming the overwhelmingly superior force in seven domains – air, land, sea (including deep-sea warfare), outer space, cyber space, the electromagnetic spectrum, and near space (aka the hypersonic domain).

The PLA’s disruption technologies will overwhelm India within the first seventy-two hours of hostilities commencing, and will lead to the quick end of India’s resistance, the author writes, as the primary battleground will not be on land but in cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum.

‘The Last War’ explains why it’s critical that India works to prevent such a war ever taking place.

It should avoid focusing on joint combat with the US, whose power in the region is weakening. Instead, India should seek to make peace with China and Pakistan, its main adversaries at the moment, while simultaneously working to enhance its military and technological strengths in areas that it hasn’t focused its resources on. Only then will the country’s borders be firmly secure, and the region’s future peace and prosperity be assured, the author maintains.

Sawhney is editor of the FORCE news magazine on national security and defence since August 2003. The author of three books – “Dragon On Our Doorstep: Managing China Through Military Power” (co-authored with Ghazala Wahab), “The Defence Makeover: 10 Myths That Shape India’s Image”, and “Operation Parakram: The War Unfinished” – he has been visiting fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, United Kingdom and visiting scholar at the Cooperative Monitoring Center, United States.

After thirteen years of commissioned service in the Indian Army, he worked with Times of India and Indian Express – and with the UK-based Jane’s International Defence Review.

ALSO READ-From dependence to self reliance

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From dependence to self reliance

Progress in IT is making it increasingly possible to unbundle the production and consumption of information-intensive service activities. Outsourcing of these activities has become feasible…writes Vishnu Makhijani

Very few developing countries are as well placed as India to take advantage of the phenomenal changes that have occurred in production technologies, international trade, capital movement and deployment of skilled manpower, former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan writes in a new book “From Dependence To Self-Reliance – Mapping India’s Rise As A Global Superpower” (Rupa) that builds on his three earlier books on the same theme.

“In view of these advantages, India is in a position to accelerate the growth rate of the economy to 7-8 per cent per annum over the next 25 years. The higher the growth of the economy, the greater is the capacity of the government to finance expenditure for essential social services.

“The combination of higher government expenditure on the provision of social services will provide higher growth in employment opportunities which will have a decisive impact in reducing poverty levels,” asserts Jalan, a former Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, a nominated Member of Parliament from 2003-2009 and India’s representative on the Boards of the IMF and the World Bank.

The conditions for this are extremely favourable for the first time in almost 40 years as with a single-party majority in Parliament the government’s political profile has undergone a major change as it can now launch political reforms without relying on the discretionary powers of members belonging to other parties.

In recent years, Jalan writes, “an even more phenomenal change from India’s point of view is the growing role of skills-based services in determining the comparative advantage of economies. The development of certain services is now considered as one of the preconditions for economic growth, and not one of its consequences. The boundary between goods and services is also gradually disappearing, as services of various kinds are delinked from the manufacturing process and have become essential elements of the productive structure”.

This change has been brought about by unprecedented and unforeseen advances in computer and communication technology in the last four decades, Jalan writes, adding that an important aspect of the ‘services revolution’ is that geography and levels of industrialisation are no longer the primary determinants of the location of facilities for the production of services.

“As a result, the traditional role of developing countries is also changing – from mere recipients to important providers of long-distance services. India, too, has participated in this scenario, and exports of certain services (for example, software) are expanding faster than the overall trade. The potential for expansion of jobs and incomes in the services sector is truly immense,” Jalan maintains.

From India’s point of view, some of the recent global developments which provide opportunities for substantial growth are:

The fastest-growing segment of services being knowledge-based, such as professional and technical services, India has a tremendous advantage in the supply of such services because of the highly developed structure of technological and educational institutions, and lower labour costs.

Progress in IT is making it increasingly possible to unbundle the production and consumption of information-intensive service activities. Outsourcing of these activities has become feasible.

Unlike most other prices, world prices of transport and communication services have fallen dramatically as provided by the Internet, which now links millions of computers across the world.

Technological innovation is expanding opportunities for services to be embedded in goods that are traded internationally. Thus, India does not necessarily have to be a low-cost producer of certain types of goods (such as computers or discs) before it can become an efficient supplier of service embodied in them (such as software or music).

There is also a structural shift in the pattern of demand in industrial countries in favour of services. This means that in the future, the growth in exports of developing countries will depend less on natural resource endowments and more on efficiency in, providing services and service-intensive goods.

Against this backdrop, the book is divided into 10 chapters in three sections – Economy, Governance and Politics.

The first chapter on ‘Current Situation and Future Prospects’ notes that on any global indicator of economic well-being – be it adult literacy, infant mortality, life expectancy or gender bias – India’s actual performance remains among the bottom one-third among developing countries and that a lot remains to be done before India is able to exploit the new opportunities to realise its full potential in the future.

The next chapter on ‘Science and Development’ notes that India has come a long way in its quest for scientific pursuit, both in the material and intellectual spheres and now has the talent, the skills and the resources to be at the forefront of the technological revolution taking place in the new growth sectors of the global economy.

The third chapter on ‘Information Technology and Banking’ notes that while there are new opportunities for savers and investors to deal directly with each other rather than through the banking system, this poses a challenge, particularly for public sector banks.

The last chapter in Section 1 – ‘India’s Stand in the 21st century – focuses on the prospects for India’s balance of payments and how resources for greater investment in social sectors can be generated by substantially raising literacy rates and healthcare.

Chapter 5 in Section 2 focuses on the role of ‘The Public Sector’, noting that the government should set standards of service, monitor performance of public enterprises and ensure access to the poor. A reduction in the role of the public sector in the economy is also desirable.

Chapter 6 is on ‘Goods and Services’ and outlines a number of issues that need to be tackled to improve agricultural growth and the income of farmers over time while the last chapter in this section is titled ‘Finance and Development: Which Way Now?’ and discusses in detail the shifting paradigm of finance and development and how it has affected the past, present and future of the nation.

Section 3 on ‘Politics’ has three chapters: ‘The Politics of Power’ (Chapter 8), ‘Political Opportunism’ (Chapter 9) and ‘Politics and Economics’ (Chapter 10). It discusses issues like centralisation of political power and public dissavings (spending that is greater than income), the bias among elected representatives at different levels to divest resources under a government programme to their own villages, constituencies and States, and practical and pragmatic core changes to help bridge the gap between politics and economics so that India can realise its full potential for the benefit of all its people.

It also suggests changes in parliamentary procedures to enable the two Houses more effectively discharge the functions assigned to them by the Constitution – for instance, the ad hoc and sudden suspension of rules of business, as was done on August 26, 2004 to pass the budget must be eschewed, except in an emergency.

Also, a vital political imperative for the future is to reduce the role of small parties in Parliament and legislatures and their influence in determining the government’s economic agenda.

“The only constraint in our country’s economic future is the lack of a strong political will to move ahead decisively to overcome the shortcomings in the policies and administrative practices of the past. It is to be hoped that such a consensus will emerge, and India can take its rightful place as one of the leading economies in the world in the twenty-first century,” Jalan writes.

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An epic tale of ‘Victory City’ by Rushdie

Half a millennium later, her writing is discovered, deep in the ancient earth. This is an epic tale with a message for us all: our power is fleeting, but our stories last forever…reports Asian Lite News

Hidden in a clay pot; sealed with wax; buried at the heart of a ruined palace amidst the ashes of an empire — a story waits to be told.

When nine-year-old Pampa Kampana starts hearing the voice of a goddess, she vows to ensure that no more women suffer her beloved mother’s unconscionable fate. Her magic creates a mighty city; her whispered words inspire its people to grow and change. Her poetry maps the rise and fall of its empire. And the prophetess herself — beloved, feared, timeless — watches as the world changes across the centuries and her body fades along with her city’s glory.

Half a millennium later, her writing is discovered, deep in the ancient earth. This is an epic tale with a message for us all: our power is fleeting, but our stories last forever.

“From one of our greatest storytellers, ‘Victory City’ is a tale for our times. Brilliantly styled as a translation of an ancient epic, this is a saga of love, adventure, and myth that is in itself a testament to the power of storytelling. And at its heart, a true heroine, Pampa Kampana, who sets out to give women equal agency in a patriarchal world. This is a stunningly beautiful, lyrical and gripping novel about power and the hubris of those in power,” said Michal Shavit, Publishing Director at Jonathan Cape who acquired the UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Andrew Wylie at The Wylie Agency.

A Fellow of the British Royal Society of Literature, Rushdie has received, among other honours, the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel (twice), the Writers’ Guild Award, the James Tait Black Prize, the European Union’s Aristeion Prize for Literature, Author of the Year Prizes in both Britain and Germany, the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, the Budapest Grand Prize for Literature, the Premio Grinzane Cavour in Italy, the Crossword Book Award in India, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, the London International Writers’ Award, the James Joyce award of University College Dublin, the St Louis Literary Prize, the Carl Sandburg Prize of the Chicago Public Library, and a U.S. National Arts Award.

He holds honorary doctorates and fellowships at six European and six American universities, is an Honorary Professor in the Humanities at MIT, and University Distinguished Professor at Emory University. Currently, Rushdie is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.

His novel “Midnight’s Children” was adapted for the stage and performed in London and New York by the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2004, an opera based on “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” was premiered by the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center.

A film of “Midnight’s Children”, directed by Deepa Mehta, was released in 2012. “The Ground Beneath Her Feet, in which the Orpheus myth winds through a story set in the world of rock music, was turned into a song by U2 with lyrics by Rushdie.

ALSO READ-‘Lies our mothers told us’

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‘Lies our mothers told us’

While these problems apply to all women across the country, those in India’s middle class face an altogether unique challenge because middle-class families have mastered the art of simulating an environment of empowerment in their homes…reports Asian Lite News

Savitribai Phule, Mahasweta Devi, Amrita Pritam, Medha Patkar, Kamla Bhasin, and countless others have, since the 19th century, fought for and won equal rights for the Indian women in a variety of areas — universal suffrage, inheritance and property rights, equal remuneration, prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace, and others.

Pioneering feminists believed that due to these hard-won rights, their daughters and granddaughters would have the opportunity to have rewarding careers, participate in the social and political growth of the country, gain economic independence, and become equal partners in their marriages.

On paper, it would appear that the lot of Indian women in the twenty-first century has vastly improved but, in reality, the demands of capitalism and the persistence of patriarchal attitudes have meant that they continue to lead lives that are hard and unequal, especially when compared to their male counterparts.

The Indian women are among the most overworked in the world — they spend on average 299 minutes on housework and 134 minutes on care-giving per day, shouldering 82 per cent of domestic duties. They are burdened with work from such a young age that many are forced to drop out of schools, leave the labour force, and give up dreams of financial independence.

For those who have the privilege of choosing to have a career, the only way they can make this viable is by doing a “double shift”: women are expected to do most of the housework, childcare, and care-giving, whether they have jobs or not.

While these problems apply to all women across the country, those in India’s middle class face an altogether unique challenge because middle-class families have mastered the art of simulating an environment of empowerment in their homes.

“Lies Our Mothers Told Us” (Aleph) dares to ask and evaluate if, in our patriarchal society, the assertion that “women can have it all” comes at too high a price. Taking a unique look into the state of women in India’s middle class in the 21st century, the book uses the available data and in-depth interviews to reveal the real lives of Indian women across the country.

Authored by a brilliant award-winning journalist with over 20 years of experience in the field, Nilanjana Bhowmick’s book is an epiphanic read for every aspiring Indian woman.

Bhowmick has won three international awards for her reports on gender and development. She began her career as a producer for the BBC Asian Network in Birmingham and The World Today, the flagship current affairs programme of the BBC World Service Radio based in London.

She was the correspondent for TIME magazine’s South Asia bureau in New Delhi. She has written for the Washington Post, Al Jazeera, and National Geographic Magazine. Her non-fiction work, poetry, and short stories have appeared in several international anthologies.

ALSO READ-By Rajysree Sen for a country which loves sweets as much

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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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‘It is about telling a story, about creating an experience’

The project is driven by a largely women cast and crew — while the casting demanded that, but as far as the crew is concerned, she asserts that even though we see more shows with women protagonists, there is a long way to go…writes Sukant Deepak

Moving from Bangalore to Delhi, she lived in a busy apartment complex for the first time, and could sense possible stories behind the many windows and balconies. While the architecture offered physical proximity, but often no closeness. Stories were created based on the sounds one could hear across the wall. “This, along with my keen interest in exploring the idea of love and desire in women at different stages of life made me write this series. I wanted to create a story where there was no clear black and white morality, but an exploration of grey areas — what one woman has, the other woman wants,” Aditi Bannerjee, the writer and director of ‘In Love at 5th Floor’ being streamed on MX Player tells.

She says that once the seed was in place there was a fair amount of primary research — talking to people, attending meet-ups, and familiarising herself with certain ideas and contexts. “Kieslowski’s Dekalog and Alain De Botton’s The Course of Love are two additional inspirations.”

Interesting the project has been crowdfunded, a goal they achieved in less than ten days although the budgeted time was one month. Done primarily to ascertain creative freedom and share ownership, Bannerjee stresses that she wanted to work outside of the big studio system and felt strong enough to take a chance, even if it meant less budget and tighter timelines. “In short, I felt responsible for my dream,” she smiles.

The project is driven by a largely women cast and crew — while the casting demanded that, but as far as the crew is concerned, she asserts that even though we see more shows with women protagonists, there is a long way to go. “In fact, I was surprised when someone recently commented about why my series poster was ‘so feminist’. The pay gap still exists, and often the bigger roles are for male stars. In order for the system to change, I feel that the more women are involved on-screen and off-screen, the more possibility for equal opportunities will emerge.”

For someone who has worked across genres but enjoys being fluid- moving between documentary and fiction as both feed into each other well, she adds that working in documentary films has enabled her to travel, meet people, develop an ability to do research and encounter several realities. “Fiction offers control and freedom of a different kind, which I experienced through this series which is my first long fiction. Imagination is a lot of hard work. I found that these genres are not in watertight compartments for me. Finally, it is about telling a story, about creating an experience.”

While the popularity of OTT platforms keep soaring, it is hard to miss the fact that it is mostly crime-thrillers that are ruling the charts. The director says that she has been asked several times to pitch a crime thriller in the past year or so. “I feel that there is an anxiety that platforms have of losing viewers and there is a perception that a thriller with twists and turns will keep the viewer hooked. The language of series is also geared towards that- faster cuts, louder aesthetic. It has been a struggle to get my series out, where the focus is on inner drama.”

The writer and director, who studied Film & Video Communication at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad may not believe that formal education is a prerequisite for making films, but adds that it has helped her in different ways. “The freedom of exploration and making mistakes without fear as a student was precious. The exposure to cinema, people and stories of different kinds, being mentored patiently, working within tight budgets and limitations, and the habit of writing and re-writing (which comes from formal education in both film and literature), is something I value, not to mention the peers that NID gave me,” she says.

Bannerjee who has developed a story based on her original idea for an OTT platform and is set to pitch a few more concepts says she would looking to collaborate with more people. “Apart from my own work, I like to enable people to tell their own stories, so a scriptwriting workshop with Adivasi students in Jharkhand is going to happen. Another one in Arunachal is also being planned,” she concludes.

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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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Books Lite Blogs

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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