Monthly Archives: November 2021

School reopening: Parents play it safe

The article was published in the edition dated November 15, 2021.

While some parents have no qualms about letting their children return to learning in the physical space, many others are wary. I spoke to a few of them to know the reasons behind their decision.

The drop in COVID-19 cases and rising vaccination figures bode well for wary parents and their children across the country. Gradually schools are reopening, with a few of them opting for a hybrid model — offline and online — for students who don’t wish to attend physical classes can log in and take virtual lessons.  

The much-awaited move marks the slow return of normal life for children. While some parents still have reservations about reopening schools and sending their children to attend classes in the physical space, most of them agreed that what the child could do sitting in a classroom can never match what the child does sitting in front of the screen at home.    

Apart from poor quality, a worried parent Shabeeh from New Delhi, who isn’t sending her children to school once it reopens on November 15, says, “My concern is that we do not know much about post-COVID complications in kids. Studies show that kids are the least affected, but I am afraid if any complication arises, and lasts long, it would be difficult to manage.”

For a few others, the hybrid model suits them best. During the lockdown, Hyderabad resident Nimesh Priyadarshi shifted base to Bhubaneshwar but didn’t want to change his daughter Navya’s school in mid-session. “She is still in the same school as she was in Hyderabad, and the online classes have made it possible to attend school from anywhere. We prefer the hybrid model for her, though the school has resumed offline classes for others as well,” he says.   

Before opening their doors and resuming teaching within the four walls of the learning space, the schools had taken ample precautions, including seeking parents’ consent. To assuage the concerns of the parents and children, the schools had ensured complete vaccination of the school staff, with regular sanitization of the entire premises, while maintaining social distancing in the classroom, encouraging hygiene among students, etc. A quick roundup of those sending their children to school versus those who don’t want to, and why.  

Online classes meant zilch learning 

Noida based Amitesh, and Priyamvada Srivastava had sent their children Aadyant and Aarya to attend classes in the physical space when the school had reopened briefly in November last year. “We had no apprehensions this time around. No doubt, online learning was convenient. Kids could attend classes while being stationed here in Noida or Patna or Kolkata, and they did. But when it came to learning, there were no takeaways for children. My son told us that offline is real learning after returning home on the first day, November 8. We were relieved to see this return to normalcy,” he says. There were three children in Aadyant’s class 7 and four in Aarya class 5 on Day 1, but slowly the strength is increasing. Online and offline classes follow different timetables and timings, and there are different teachers assigned for each. “Children are responsible and particular about COVID protocols because any miss could have severe consequences,” she adds.  

Good to see children reclaiming their space 

Patna residents Divesh and Deepa Sehara have been sending their son Milind Dev (Class 8) to school on alternate days from September 6, and every day after Dussehra break. Deepa says, “I was happy about school reopening. Children had forgotten about what life was all about before the pandemic. Their world shrank to a mere phone or a laptop. School is not just about studying; it is also about overall mental and physical growth. So it was a relief to see him back to where he rightfully belongs, the school.” Sehara duo has faith in the precaution being taken by the school, giving them peace that second home is as safe as their child’s first. 

Let children return to their school routine

Dr Nisheeth Kumar, who has been working from home since the lockdown started in March 2020, was pleased with the move to reopen schools. His twin sons, Aditya and Arnav, 7, are in Class 2. They have been going to school for about a month in Patna. “Children have been exposed to testing times for a long duration, and with the situation showing improvement, I think it made sense to let kids resume schools and attend classes in the offline mode. Overexposure to screens has taken a visible toll on children. I am glad schools have reopened, and kids are back to where they belong. My children seemed quite eager to be back to school, and my wife, Rashmi and I heartily welcomed this move,” Dr Kumar states. 

If children can go everywhere else, then why not school?

Priya and Rahul Singh from Bhopal had one nagging issue with the reopening of schools. “The only constraint for us was that children are not vaccinated yet. At the same time, we know that children have strong immunity to recover against infection compared to adults. When parents take their children to malls, markets, and other public places, why not to school?” Rahul asks. Duo’s daughter Rupal is in Class 8, and her school is running and about for all classes, from 1-12, both in online and offline modes. “People in public places can be careless with COVID norms, but not in school. Everyone has to follow them. I feel that little ones in Classes 1-5 are too young to follow norms, so the school should consider excusing them from the offline mode in this session,” Priya adds.

Caught between the devil and deep sea 

As a healthcare worker, Dr Shabana Mehnaaz in Ranchi has had close encounters with COVID in the last 20 months. “I have been extra careful all this while. Corona is not gone yet, and we can’t let our guards down. If I send my eight grader son Tipu Sultan to school, I will worry about his safety because he refuses to wear a mask, and if I choose to let him stay alone at home, I will be worried about his overexposure to screen and mindless Net surfing. Both situations are worrying as a mother,” she says. A surge of cases in Europe and elsewhere has made her jittery about sending Tipu to school, but eventually, that seems the best possible recourse to take, she feels.

The worst is over, but COVID is not gone yet

Ritesh and Aparajita Chandra from Mumbai have similar concerns for Ishi (Class 8) and Aditri (Class 1). “Reopening schools at this stage is a very debatable issue. The first thing to consider is whether health is a priority at this stage. We are still not sure whether there is any third wave coming or not. What if the children are caught in the worst phase yet to be seen of the pandemic. I have not opted for physical school for my eighth grader as I do not want to risk her health and life,” says Aparajita. The flip side, she agrees, is that the children are deprived of regular school life. Two golden years of school life got lost in this conundrum. The couple’s younger one has suffered a lot regarding the initial development of reading and writing skills. “The interaction through peers at this age is vital. Also, managing work from home and attending school duties for children is tough,” Ritesh adds.

Both propositions have pros and cons

Bhubaneshwar based Namrita and Jaspinder Chahal have two children – Mehr in Class 7 and Zaara in Class 4 – and their reasons to let them attend online classes outweigh those for attending school in physical space. “I am wary of letting them attend school. It is safe but can be risky in no time. I can’t compromise on their health. I agree that online classes aren’t as good as offline classes, but until vaccines come and are available to all children, schools reopening might be a dangerous idea,” Namrita says. Their elder daughter has classes for two hours a day, while the younger one has four to five hours a day, which proves to be harmful to her eyesight. “Schools should keep the hybrid learning mode on for those who choose to stay away from offline class,” Jaspinder adds.

The decision to return to school is tough 

Aman and Vandana Ritolia from Bengaluru have been in touch with his son Shrey’s school since it reopened for Classes 5 and above earlier this year and are looking forward to sending him to school once it resumes class in offline mode for junior school in January 2022. “We are in a fix. On the one hand, we are apprehensive because kids are not yet vaccinated. How will they transition mentally after nearly two years of “home” based learning? The other side of the argument is that online education has been more destructive to kids development – emotionally, socially, physically and mentally. I hope that the schools can compensate for the lost time. Kids are resilient, and the long period of being absent from school does not leave any long-lasting impact on the kids,” Aman says, adding how long home quarantine for a single kid family affected his child. “A confident public speaker has become shy and introverted. Working on a computer has led to a severe loss of writing skills, and there’s no outdoor physical activity. All of it is bad,” adds Vandana about her son who is a Class 3 student at a private school in Bengaluru.

Kids are responsible and will stick to norms 

Durgapur based Rajiv and Indu Dalmia have two kids — Viha in Class 9 and Vedant in Class 3, while one goes to school, the other is attending online school still. “It has been over 500 days since the schools shut due to the pandemic. Having lost a year and a half of learning with adverse effects on kids physical and mental well-being, the benefits of opening schools with precautions far outweigh the risks,” says Indu. With everything else being open — theatres, malls, restaurants, airports, etc., the huge gatherings during festivals, it is high time to consider reopening schools for lower classes too with necessary precautions and restrictions, she argues. “Children are losing touch with the basic foundation of their lives, and that’s a huge cost to pay in the long term,” says Rajiv.

Cheepatakadumpa Review

The Recliner Seat

In Cheepatakadumpa, Devashish Makhija’s short film that is circling across film festivals in India, we are introduced to a surrealist narrative of female friendship, sexual orientation, and emancipation in an easy, unassuming, light-hearted manner that is quite in contrast to the understanding of Makhija’s cinema.

The story involves three friends. Santo and Teja (Bhumika Dube and Ipshita Chakraborty Singh), images of modern, sexually active urban women. While one does not shy away from having an orgasm on a ride in an amusement park, the other is busy scheduling a couple of hours of sexual intercourse with a married man with two kids.

Soon they meet their friend Tamanna (Annapurna Soni), a woman hidden behind a burqa; married, and too shy to even speak the word “sex” in front of her friends. Together, these three friends go on a rarely discussed, and often poorly depicted coming-of-age journey. Santi and Teja…

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The Ad-ventures of Mr B

The Ad-ventures of Mr B


Actor extraordinaire Manoj Bajpayee has made some exciting choices vis-a-vis brand endorsements. Here’s retracing his journey in the ad world in 2021.

Jameel Gulrays

Padma Shri Manoj Bajpayee’s prolific career has been accentuated with numerous awards for his spectacular performances, and the latest addition is the National Film Award for Best Actor 2019 for his searing portrayal of a retired cop – Ganpat Bhonsle – in Bhonsle.

The actor extraordinaire has traversed a long and exciting journey across the medium, from television to films, and then OTT, navigating his way through each medium with deftness, and in between, he has also made interesting forays in the world of advertising to promote/endorse brands that he can relate and connect.

“I come from a middle-class rural family, and that’s my biggest identity to date. I proudly wear it as a badge of honour on my sleeves. I was born and brought…

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Cheepatakadumpa: Hitting the G-Spot

Three friends — Teja (Bhumika Dube), Santo (Ipshita Chakraborty Singh) and Tamanna (Annapurna Soni) — from small-town India meet at an upmarket mall, and from there, take the audience on a pillion ride into the world of female desire on a full moon night.

A tightly-knit storyline has the trio exploring the idea of women loving their bodies by taking matters into their hands, quite literally. Two of the actors — Bhumika and Ipshita — have co-written the script with filmmaker Devashish Makhija, and it reflects in their combined gaze on the subject. The off-screen camaraderie of the trio, all alumni of the National School of Drama with a solid body of work in theatre, makes them shine in this short. Sharp dialogues, clever camera work, and tight editing give the not-so-openly-spoken topic in Hindi cinema, ample space to stretch itself to the imagination. 

Santo (Ipshita Chakraborty Singh)

The opening scene is a good starter. Teja owns her sexuality and unabashedly. That unbelievable power of ownership leads the audience to the unchartered territory of female desire, and Santo as the woman who fantasises about having sex with a married man under full moon’s gaze that night, ably takes the plot further.

Teja (Bhumika Dube).

In between, the duo leads married but yet uninitiated Tamanna to experience that elusive pleasure for the first time. The transition from organ to orgasm is organic. The result is an ecstatic high. Bishna Chouhan adds zealously to keep the spark alive with her deadpan expression.  

The last scene pans out in the open and broad daylight, letting the audience experience the freaky idea of femaleness, of women seeking pleasure and owning their sexuality through the deft approach of a man and two women to this taboo subject. The scene is liberating. Together, all of them have treaded the thin line, carefully manoeuvring the plot and keeping it on track without being preachy or voyeuristic, and that’s quite a feat to say it all in barely 23 minutes. 

Tamanna (Annapurna Soni).

Makhija uses the mobile camera, fiddles with aspect ratio, cramps the actor in small spaces and lets the camera focus on their quirky expressions, movements and gestures as they go about exploring their femaleness in this short film currently playing at the Dharamshala International Film Festival.   

Cheepatakadumpa questions the double standards regarding sexuality — a rule for a man, an exception for a woman — subtly by letting the female protagonists explore the idea that there’s nothing wrong in seeking pleasure. It is in their hands, after all.

Register to watch it, here:       

(All pics courtesy 

When FAN made a star

In the sweltering heat of 2016, superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan got a “Jabardast” Bhojpuri twist in Manoj Tiwari’s voice. The lyrics penned by Dr Ranju Sinha scorched the musical charts and cooled the heart and soul of Bhojpuri music lovers. The song was released in nine Indian languages, two foreign languages and a mashup version that was a remix version of all the 11 tracks. Here’s SRK Fan Dr Ranju Sinha’s personal relationship with her Superstar.  

Shillpi a singh

If you are a die-hard Shah Rukh Khan Fan from the eastern part of India, where Bhojpuri is the native language, chances are that you would have made a secret wish to see the superstar groove to a Bhojpuri song. Lo and behold, the wish had come true sooner when the Jabardast Fan song from Shah Rukh Khan-starrer was recorded in Bhojpuri, among many other languages. The peppy version was sung by singer, actor and parliamentarian Manoj Tiwari. The Hindi lyricist was Varun Grover, while the Bhojpuri version was penned by Dr Ranju Sinha, a producer, director, and lyricist in Bhojpuri cinema. And like Gaurav in Fan, she states, “Connection Bhi Na Kamaal Ki Cheez Hal, Bas Ho Gaya To Ho Gaya, Mat Pucho Kaise.” A conversation with Sinha and her special musical relationship with the Superstar… as a Jabardast Fan.

It was Sinha’s first outing in the Hindi cinema, and she still can’t believe that she had managed to fulfil a part of her dream – write the lyrics for Badshah SRK.

Retaining the essence of the original Jabardast Fan song in Hindi, she peppered the song with her nuanced choices of frequently spoken Bhojpuri words that helped the song strike a chord with Bhojpuri speaking youngsters. The Bhojpuri version of the song was a rage in Western Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.

Reminiscing her Fan moment, Sinha says, “It was a dream come true for someone like me to write a song for the superstar. SRK’s movie was about how a fan makes a star. In my case, too, I would say, Fan made me a star, in some measure.”

Dr Ranju Sinha.

A renowned name in the Bhojpuri cine circuit, life is a beautiful coincidence for Sinha. Born in a middle-class family in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district on March 15th, 1962, she was married off at the age of 16 to Neelmani Kumar Sinha, a Bihar government official. “I was married off soon after Class 10 exams. I thought marriage meant the end of my academic and creative pursuits. But my parents-in-law and husband proved me wrong. They ensured that I continued my studies and finished my Class 12th, bachelors, masters and even got a doctorate,” she says, with a lot of pride.

Armed with a doctorate, she joined Raj Narain Singh Inter College, Muzaffarpur, as a lecturer in the home science department in 2002. By then, her two children — daughter Pooja Priyanka and son Pancham Priyam — had been packed off to New Delhi for schooling.

In 2005, her daughter moved to pursue an undergraduate program in audiology and speech therapy at Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped, Mumbai. “My daughter was all alone in Mumbai. She was homesick, so I thought it would be a good idea to move to Mumbai; Pooja would get to stay at home with me and would be able to focus on her studies.”

A homemaker, who mostly spent her days and nights taking care of her home and family in Muzaffarpur, Sinha shifted base to Mumbai only to give company to her daughter. She had planned to return home after Pooja completed her studies. As they say, man proposes, God disposes. “Initially, I did not know what to do with a lot of free time in this city. But it made me discover the creative side of my personality, which has been the biggest takeaway of being in Mumbai.” She was fond of writing, and for the first few months, all that she did was contribute articles for magazines and newspapers in Mumbai. Her penchant for writing made her explore options as a lyricist in the film industry. A movie buff, Sinha enjoyed watching the latest releases, but she had zilch knowledge about the craft of film-making as she admits today. But she was destined to be part of the film industry.

She says her elder brother, Mumbai-based businessman late Raman Kumar Bachchan, helped her get a toehold. It was on his insistence that she started looking for a meaningful creative engagement in the Bhojpuri film industry. “I started my career by penning devotional songs in Bhojpuri for ‘Chhatt Maharani’ for T-Series.” Dhananjay Mishra had composed the songs while Manoj Tiwari, and Anuradha Paudwal sang the songs. “It was a good start for a newcomer. Renowned singers such as Manoj Tiwari and Anuradha Paudwal lent their voices to my words. I was overjoyed.”

There was no looking back for Sinha after her debut as a songwriter for this devotional album. Buoyed by the success of this venture, she went on to pen devotional songs for two more albums — Chalo Re Sai Dham and Sai Base Hain Kan Kan Mein. Today she is a sought-after lyricist and story writer in the Bhojpuri film industry, having penned songs for hit movies such as Sautan, Ajab Devra ke Gazab Bhaujai, Niruha Banal Don, Rangbaaz and Jai Ho Jagdamba Mai. But that’s not all. She successfully forayed into film production and direction under her home banner, Gauri Shankar Arts Private Limited. She has produced half a dozen movies, including Jai Ho Jagdamba Mai, Chandrika, Preet Bada Anmol, Paro Patna Wali and among many others.

“In a way, I am in the best phase of my life. My children are doing well. Pooja is married to Dr Shashank Kumar, a dentist here in Mumbai, and the couple has a son Dhwanit. My son Pancham is currently working as Project Manager in NIIT Technologies in London, and he lives there with his wife and son.” So does she intend to leave Mumbai and return to her roots? “As of now, my hands are full. There is so much to do that I can’t even think of doing so by any means. I can’t even afford to take a break from work.”

Recalling her long association with Tiwari, Sinha says, “We go back a long way. His voice has the Midas touch. It did wonders to my just launched career way back in 2006. I was glad to have him lend his voice for the Bhojpuri version of Jabardast Fan.”

However, the call from Yash Raj Films was quite surprising for Sinha, as she fondly recalls. “I had initially dismissed it as a prank call. I couldn’t believe in my wildest dreams that I got a call from YRF to sing a song for their movie. When I checked with the production house, I realized it was indeed true. I was over the moon,” she says.

Sinha is a self-proclaimed Fan of SRK. The Bhojpuri Fan song is still popular among the masses. But unfortunately, not many people know that ‘E dilwa tohre jabardast ab toh fan ho gayil‘ was my work. The crowd goes berserk still to hear it in Bhojpuri, and that gladdens my heart.”