Monthly Archives: January 2022

Carrying the mental burden of a physical disease called PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a lifestyle disease caused by hormonal disorders. The incidence of this syndrome affecting young girls and women is on the rise. A mix of lifestyle changes such as healthy food and a regular exercise regime and medications in some cases can help alleviate the symptoms, explain health experts.

shillpi a singh

Nutritionist and Health Coach Voomika Mukherjee got a bolt from the blue in 2019 when medical conditions caught her off guard. “I suddenly had many medical issues like PCOD symptoms, one year of stress followed by anxiety, almost six months of sleepless nights, finally into depression and mood swings and a lot more. This whole journey made me gain 40 kg. My personal and professional lives were adversely affected. I lost myself, smile, sleep, and peace and went into depression. The frequent migraine attacks made it worse for me,” recalls Mukherjee, who is one of the many young girls and women who bear the mental burden of a physical disease – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – silently for years.

Like Mukherjee, lawyer Richa Srivastava also first learned about her PCOS in 2019. The trigger was a missed period! “I was prescribed some hormonal tests to conclude the findings and it was unfortunately confirmed with a high AMH (Anti Mullerian Hormone test). The doctor prescribed a 21-day birth control pill but I refused to take that. I read up that PCOS is a lifestyle disease so was told that making lifestyle changes such as healthy food and a regular exercise regime would definitely help alleviate the symptoms. I tried that for some time but couldn’t follow it religiously,” says Srivastava, recounting her struggles with PCOS.

Understanding PCOS

PCOS is a common hormonal disorder in young girls and women that brings along a lot of physical changes and also mental health issues. The mental burden of being diagnosed with PCOS is because the symptoms have a physical manifestation and also impact mental health. Dr Akanksha Tripathi, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecologist, Paras JK Hospital, Udaipur, says, “Patients get panicky when they read about the long-term effects associated with PCOS as results take time. Patients are overweight/obese, have acne or facial hair, thinning of hair, which leads to low self-esteem and poor confidence, impacting their mental health. Sometimes depression has been seen in a few patients.”

Differentiating between Polycystic Ovarian Disorder (PCOD) and PCOS, Dr Gandhali Deorukhkar, Gynaecologist & Obstetrician, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central, says, “PCOD is a condition in which ovaries produce many immature or partially mature eggs, this happens due to poor lifestyle, obesity, stress and hormonal imbalance. PCOS is a metabolic disorder and a more severe form of PCOD that can lead to anovulation where ovaries stop releasing eggs.”

On the other hand, Dr Neema Sharma, Director, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, says that PCOD is an old term. “PCOD has been replaced by PCOS because it’s not a disorder. It’s just a lifestyle disease and it is a syndrome so it has been replaced by the term called PCOS,” she claims.

Dr Deorukhkar adds that PCOD is a disease in which a lot of obesity is involved, along with cosmetic problems like acne or irritation, a lot of hair fall, hair thinning, bald patches on the head, and male pattern facial hair growth. “So this makes women vulnerable to body shaming and they are depressed. They’re extremely anxious and nervous about facing society and generally in a slump because of the metabolic syndrome,” emphasises Dr Deorukhkar.

Explaining the term, Dr Sharma, states that PCOS has a few clinical features, a few biochemical features and then there are ultrasound parameters. “It is actually a hormonal imbalance or actually it is also a lifestyle disease that can affect young girls and it can happen later as well. The common symptoms are prolonged cycles means a girl starts skipping her periods or they can be scanty periods. It can be in 45 days, two months, sometimes six months or even a year,” says Dr Sharma. Apart from excessive pimples or acne, facial hair, which can be male pattern kind of facial hair on the face or the chest, hair fall, male pattern baldness, there can be excessive weight gain, and a girl/woman suffering from PCOS. “There is usually weight gain in the trunkal part. The waist-hip ratio gets altered,” she explains.

Diagnosing PCOS

The first thing that Dr Sharma advises is an ultrasound to understand the typical polycystic patterns of the ovary. “The ovary is a little bulky, and there are polycystic ovaries. There are multiple small cysts in the ovaries. We do the blood test on the second day of the period to know the extent of hormonal imbalances like a follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estradiol, followed by thyroid levels, prolactin levels, blood sugar, lipid profile, and serum testosterone levels. Suppose the girl/woman is having excessive facial hair. In that case, we do certain other tests to know if there’s any other reason for excessive facial hair like dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate 17 and alpha hydroxyprogesterone,” she states.

Dr Tripathi agrees that menstrual irregularity, delayed cycle, acne, skin pigmentation over the neck, increase facial hair growth are all a part of metabolic syndrome. “They are multi-factorial and poor lifestyle, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle can add to the woes of a girl/woman with PCOS,” she adds.

Dr Sharma says that it can happen to any girl/woman as it’s a lifestyle disease. “PCOS can also be caused because of excess insulin in the body. There is a condition called insulin resistance, which happens in PCOS because excessive insulin resistance, may increase male hormonal levels in the body, which may cause difficulty in ovulation. And as a result, they have male kind of androgen in excess of androgen levels, which can cause acne facial hair, and delayed cycles,” says Dr Sharma.

Treatment plan

A woman with PCOS often gets prolonged cycles because of anovulation. It means that they don’t ovulate every month because of the increased insulin levels. “There is no ovulation, and if there is no ovulation, she doesn’t get periods on time and that is the cause of her prolonged cycles. So the diagnosis is a combination of clinical features, ultrasound and blood test. Once we have confirmed that yes, she has PCOS, then it’s important to follow up with these patients with regular monitoring of their blood pressure, regular monitoring of their sugars, cholesterol triglyceride levels, and it’s also important to screen for depression and anxiety,” explains Dr Sharma.

First and foremost, Dr Sharma adds that often PCOS is associated with some kind of mental health issues and it needs to be addressed well on time. “Both proper cycle treatment and psychological counselling are important aspects for young girls/women,” she says.

There is no one size that fits all. There is no such common treatment plan because every girl/woman is a different individual and she could suffer from different symptoms. It could be not getting periods on time, acne, facial hair, difficulty in conceiving or miscarriage or recurrent miscarriages so the management and treatment would be customised accordingly. “A girl/woman may have good skin or she may have acne full skin. Another girl may have regular periods and another PCOD girl may have irregular periods. So the treatment plan is not common for all the PCOD goals and it needs to be individualised as per the patient,” says Dr Deorukhkar.

The first line of PCOS management is always lifestyle modification. “PCOS is all about adopting a healthy lifestyle to improve the hormonal imbalance. A healthy lifestyle includes healthy dietary intake, regular exercise and regular sleep. Complex Carb Diet, a combination of cardio and strength, and staying committing to the goal,” adds Mukherjee.

Dr Sharma explains that dietary changes are needed to maintain weight while including at least 30 minutes of exercise will help maintain BMI. “These together will help maintain a proper waist-hip ratio that gets altered in a woman/girl with PCOS. So that has to be managed.” She advises medications to regularise cycles, fix acne issues, address hair fall and hair thinning, but once these pills are stopped, then the symptoms will reappear. “There is no permanent solution for PCOS. Lifestyle modification alone can help control the symptoms,” argues Dr Sharma.

For facial hair too, the first line of treatment would be conservative – threading, facial or even laser treatment. If these measures don’t work, then there is a medicine to block the effect of male hormones on the skin. “It helps those with excessive facial hair and hair fall. But it is not recommended if one is pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Then there are certain local creams available for facial hair growth, which can be tried,” says Dr Sharma. The tablet is a birth control pill containing estrogen and anti-testosterone, which decreases androgen levels.

There is great emphasis on lifestyle modification if diagnosed with PCOS by all health experts because any lax can have serious consequences. “It can give rise to sub-fertility or infertility. It is a precursor of chronic diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnoea syndrome, endometrial carcinoma, etc.,” warns Dr Tripathi.

After two years, Srivastava was prescribed another drug to control PCOS but she realised that PCOS can never be cured fully but only controlled to some extent by a mix of drugs and healthy lifestyle choices. “The most drastic side effect that I faced and still am is infertility. It makes it difficult to conceive with PCOS but not to say that PCOS people don’t ever conceive. I have heard and seen many people with a history of PCOS successfully getting pregnant and having healthy children! I hope the same for myself,” she adds on how PCOS has come across as the biggest stumbling block in her motherhood journey.

As for women like Srivastava who have been having difficulty in conceiving, Dr Sharma suggests medication to stimulate the ovaries. “The ovulation-inducing drugs stimulate the ovaries and help in the formation of eggs. Another treatment is Metformin. Suppose if there’s a young girl with very high levels of sugars and a very high level of fasting insulin level, then we advise Metformin, which is actually an insulin sensitizer. It improves insulin resistance, lowers insulin levels, and helps spontaneous ovulation.”

Genes are the cause

Excess insulin is one of the reasons for PCOS. “It is hereditary. There are certain genes but are not yet confirmed,” says Dr Sharma.

Deorukhkar claims that PCOD is a genetic thing and so doesn’t have a permanent cure. “It’s a gene that is passed on from generation to generation. The girls are born with polycystic ovaries and it manifests at some point of time in their life. The ovaries become bulky, due to the storage of eggs,” she elucidates.

The other health complications that could arise because of PCOD could be obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, high triglycerides and high sugars. “That is basically a pre-diabetic or raised insulin levels in PCOD girls which leads to where there could be thyroid imbalance and the prolactin hormone imbalance as well. All factors can lead towards metabolic syndrome, which is a triad of obesity, hypertension and high sugars,” explains Dr Deorukhkar.

She warns that PCOD patients could face a problem called gestational diabetes during pregnancy. “The sugar starts rising in the third trimester and sometimes needs insulin for correction till the delivery of the baby. If the sugars are not controlled, it can lead to harmful effects to the foetus,” she says.

Family’s role

Once the parents notice the tell-tale signs, they can consult the doctor, educate themselves and help their daughters. “Parents can help their girls in developing good eating habits, giving emphasis on outdoor sports or physical exercise, avoiding junk and consult the doctor as soon as the symptoms appear. They could become their exercise partners,” advises Dr Tripathi.

It took 1.5 years of struggle for Mukherjee to get a grip on herself and take adequate steps to manage PCOS that had wreaked havoc in her life. “In short, I went through hell and it took almost 12-18 months to get myself back with a peaceful mind, relaxed calm environment, and proper self-guidance. My parents gave me immense support and now I’m almost out of my medical condition. No PCOS symptoms and no depression. I’m living my life to the fullest,” says Mukherjee.

Parents can help their daughters by educating themselves with the observations and treatment modalities of PCOS patients. Deorukhkar elucidates that there is a PCOS Society of India that can help parents with the necessary information.

The men have an important role to play in the life of a woman diagnosed with PCOS because they need to give full-fledged support to their partners. “These women have been body-shamed because of their obesity. These women have faced the social stigma of having a face full of acne, or hair on the face, and severe hair fall. Some girls need to shave their beard kind of hair on their face. So men need to be educated about PCOD so that they stop making fun of their partners or other females,” says Deorukhkar.

Mukherjee who bravely fought the PCOS battle and won it too has an important piece of advice for those who are yet to come to terms with the syndrome. “I realize that there are a lot of women out there who are shattered after being diagnosed with PCOS. But let me assure you that you can get this under your control with the right knowledge and mentoring. You are the priority for yourself. If you are happy, fit and healthy and have a peaceful mind, then you can stay happy and take care of yourself and your family too,” she says in the parting.


(By Voomika Mukherjee)

  • It increases the risk of insulin resistance, making the body prone to diabetes.
  • Eat more fresh produce with more fibre content.
  • PCOS consume more unprocessed grains like wheat, rice, jowar, bajra, ragi, barley etc.
  • Include good quality proteins in the daily diet (eg. milk, paneer, curd, eggs, white meat)
  • Consuming food sources of unsaturated fats like nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashew nuts) and seed oils (mustard oil, sesame oil, groundnut oil) are important.
  • Consume more soybean and flaxseeds as they boost the function of female hormones and make their work more effective.
  • Reducing consumption of caffeine-containing beverages may be helpful as they reduce iron absorption in the body.
  • Exercising every day for around 30-45 minutes is essential as it helps in increasing insulin sensitivity.

Home remedies for PCOS weight loss

(By Voomika Mukherjee)

  • Cinnamon Powder: Add one teaspoon of cinnamon powder to a glass of hot water. Drink it daily for a few months. You can also include this spice in your diet by sprinkling cinnamon powder on your cereal, oatmeal, yoghurt, cottage cheese, peanut butter sandwich and other foods.
  • Flaxseeds: Mix one or two tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds in a glass of water & drink it daily. Also include ground flaxseeds in your diet regularly by adding them to your smoothies, soups and salads.
  • Apple cider vinegar: It helps to control blood sugar and keeps your body from producing too much insulin. Less insulin means less testosterone. Plus, it will help you lose weight and improve your overall health. Take 1 tsp apple cider vinegar with 1 glass of water.
  • Spearmint Tea: Spearmint tea can also help deal with PCOS due to its anti-androgenic properties. Drinking spearmint tea can help reduce hirsutism or excess body hair, by reducing free and total testosterone levels and increasing luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels.

A cuppa of coffee is brewing with health benefits?

Studies and research suggest that the physiological effects of drinking coffee can extend beyond a small dose of wakefulness, but only if done in moderation.

Shillpi A Singh

“The powers of a man’s mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffee he drinks,” stated Sir James Mackintosh, a caffeinator who believed that coffee helped improve understanding.

Here’s what a fact-check of Mackintosh’s statement reveals about the impact of caffeine on depression, skin health, blood pressure and blood sugar.

Coffee and depression

Ask a caffeinator why they rush for a cup of coffee when they feel a bit low, and pat would come to the response… it gives an immediate boost of energy. Caffeine, the stimulant found in beverages like coffee, is a probable mood-lifter. Perhaps that’s the reason why most people consume coffee with the US alone accounting for over 600 million cups of coffee being guzzled each day.

Research into coffee and depression has found that people tend to experience less severe symptoms when they drink coffee.

A large longitudinal study titled Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women, found that depression risk decreases with increasing caffeinated coffee consumption. A meta-analysis with a dose-response analysis quantitatively summarized that coffee and caffeine consumption were significantly associated with decreased risk of depression.

Dr Kriti Anand, Associate Consultant, Psychiatry, Paras Hospitals, Panchkula, states, “Caffeine may be considered as the much-needed accelerator included in medication to help you feel quick relief. The plant-based substance may also help some people deal with the effects of depression.”

Elucidating it further, Dr Anand adds that depression is a mood disorder that affects approximately 1 in 5 Indians in a lifetime, and is often treated using a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

“An analysis of the relationship between caffeine and depression found that caffeine consumption decreased depression risk. Another study found a connection between decreased depression and coffee consumption, but no connection with other caffeinated drinks. These findings suggest that it is something in coffee that reduces the risk for depression, not caffeine,” he claims.

Caffeine may help relieve depressive symptoms or protect against depression suggests Research. A 2016 meta-analysis accounting for 3,46,913 individuals and 8,146 cases of depression suggested that coffee consumption may have a protective effect. A dose-response analysis suggests a J-shaped curve, with the effect reported for up to approx 300 mg of caffeine (about 4 cups of coffee) per day.

However, the risks of drinking too much coffee galore among those looking for energy to push through with their jobs or studies. According to Food and Drug Administration, four regular-sized cups of coffee is considered generally safe. However, drinking coffee can produce side effects such as restlessness, rapid heartbeat and insomnia.

Quoting studies, health experts advise moderation because more than four cups of coffee per day can have an adverse impact on the body. Some people reported heightened anxiety, headaches and agitation on the consumption of more than four cups. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is used to assess and diagnose mental disorders, calls it “coffee intoxication”.

“Caffeine consumption in children and teenagers was found to increase depression among 5th and 10th graders. Caffeine has a negative impact on sleep, and that could affect a person’s mood. The type of caffeinated drink, person’s age and sensitivity to caffeine also have a role to play,” says Dr Anand.

Studies have found positive benefits of coffee on the body such as lowering the risk of getting cancer or stroke, developing dementia and Parkinson’s disease. That’s not all. The effects of caffeine along with the protective compounds found in coffee beans can considerably lower the potential of developing Alzheimer’s disease and improve mental cognitive abilities.

“The powers of a man’s mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffee he drinks,” stated Sir James Mackintosh, a caffeinator who believed that coffee helped improve understanding.

Well, we at THIP fact-checked Mackintosh’s statement to find out more about the impact of caffeine on depression, skin health, blood pressure and blood sugar, and this is what we found.

Coffee and diabetes

There is good news for those who can’t face the day till they have downed a cup of coffee. A study by Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that coffee consumption lowered women’s risk of type 2 diabetes by 8%, while for men it was 4% by drinking regular coffee and 7% for decaffeinated coffee.

The 2012 findings made the case that coffee is a healthy drink for most people. But conditions apply, coffee is good as long as it isn’t loaded with cream and sugar.

However, caffeine affects every person differently. If a person already has diabetes, the impact of caffeine on insulin action may be associated with higher or lower blood sugar levels. In other words, coffee could have adverse effects on those who already have type 2 diabetes. Coffee can raise blood sugar and insulin levels for diabetics because caffeine can affect how the body responds to insulin, the hormone that allows sugar to enter the cells and get converted into energy.

Caffeine may lower insulin sensitivity. In other words, the cells don’t react to the hormone as much as they once did or don’t absorb as much sugar from blood after a meal or a drink. It causes the body to make more insulin, so sugar levels are higher than normal after meals. Caffeine may make it tougher for a person with type 2 diabetes to bring down insulin to a healthy point and may lead to too-high blood sugar levels. Over time, this may raise the chance of diabetes complications, like nerve damage or heart disease.

Dr Gaurav Palikhe, Consultant, Endocrinology, Paras Hospitals, Panchkula, agrees that it has been proven from various studies that coffee acutely raises blood glucose due to various mechanisms like antagonism to adenosine receptors in muscle, the release of catecholamines and stimulation of lipolysis. “Though in the long term, it has been shown to prevent diabetes from epidemiological studies. This specific 50% rise in blood glucose was found in a study by UK researchers published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2020. They found 50% more blood glucose rise following ingestion of black coffee preceding breakfast. Hence, the take-home point from this is that it’s better to take coffee sometime after the completion of breakfast to prevent this rise in postprandial blood rise in blood glucose.”

Coffee and blood pressure

Research indicates that coffee consumption may increase blood pressure for a short time. A review of 34 studies showed that 200-300 mg of caffeine from coffee (approximately 1.5-2 cups) led to an average increase of 8 mm Hg and 6 mm Hg in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respectively.

The impact was visible for up to three hours after coffee consumption, and results were similar in people with normal blood pressure at baseline and those with pre-existing high blood pressure. However, interestingly, regular coffee consumption is not associated with the same impact on blood pressure — which may be due to the caffeine tolerance that develops when you habitually drink it.

To explain this phenomenon, Dr Smriti Naswa, Consultant Clinical, Pediatric & Cosmetic Dermatologist, Fortis Hospital Mulund, Mumbai, says, “Coffee has caffeine. It can lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure by constricting blood vessels. A good blood supply to the skin ensures toxin removal and rejuvenation of the skin which doesn’t happen with the caffeine effect.”

However, she warns against excess consumption of coffee. “The dehydrating properties of coffee make skin looks dry, lusterless, and also aged (if someone binges on coffee or tea). Moreover, it is also acidic (just like tea) and can enhance ageing,” says Dr Naswa.

So health experts and studies advise that coffee consumption can be good for health, but only if done in moderation.

Street hawker Kallu Kewat songs reflect people’s poet Nazeer Akbarabadi’s style

Hawker with a swag! That’s Bundeli artist Kallu Kewat.


नज़ीर अकबराबादी दुनिया के पहले एडवरटाइजिंग जिंगल राइटर थे।उन्होंने लगभग हर चीज़ पर नज़्म लिखी है। नज़ीर ऐसे जनकवि थे जिन्हें आप कुछ भी दे दीजिये, वो उसको बेचने के लिए आम जन की जुबान में नज़्म लिख डालते थे।रंगकर्मी, शायर और लेखक हबीब तनवीर ने अपने सबसे यादगार कृति ‘आगरा बाज़ार’ में शायर नज़ीर अकबराबादी की नज़्मों को पहली बार १९५४ में नाट्य रूप में पेश किया था।आगरा के बाज़ार में घोर मंदी छाई हुई थी और कुछ भी नहीं बिक रहा था। वहां एक ककड़ी वाले के दिमाग़ में यह बात आयी कि यदि कोई कवि उसकी ककड़ी के गुणों का बखान कविता में कर दे तो बिक्री ज़रूर बढ़ेगी। वो कई शायरों के पास गया पर कोई भी इस काम के लिए राज़ी नहीं हुआ । अंत में वह शायर नज़ीर साहब के पास पहुंचा। उन्होंने फौरन उसका काम कर दिया। वह नज़ीर की लिखी ककड़ी पर…

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You don’t know it, right?

The article was carried in the Free Press Journal to celebrate Republic Day in its edition dated January 23, 2022.

The World Wide Web of Hindi 

Hindi is the common thread that connects, binds and gives a sense of belonging to storytellers who are using the different mediums to take the language to greater heights with their humble endeavours. Be it an award-winning French subtitler who is using his knowledge of Hindi and Urdu, and understanding of Indian culture to take Indian cinema to a larger market across the shores or an award-winning filmmaker who turned into an author while documenting the 2020 migrant crisis in the wake of countrywide pandemic-induced lockdown. On the other hand, a bilingual author turned filmmaker who is currently busy adapting his first novel for the big screen loves to transcreate stories in Hindi and English and simultaneously. A poet-journalist loves translating human emotions into verses and rues the neglect of the language over the years. A walking-talking library of Indian literature started a read-aloud storytelling project for the Millennials who prefer to read with their ears while a young literature buff is busy building a feature on his platform that will pay readers to read because “reading makes a person”.   

Shillpi a singh

On January 10, the first World Hindi Conference was held in 1975 in Nagpur, Maharashtra. In 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared this day World Hindi Day. Here’s what a few raconteurs in India and abroad had to say to celebrate the day. 

Subtitling King  | François-Xavier Durandy

French national and award-winning subtitler François-Xavier Durandy has been associated with many great films shown at major festivals in France. He is a trained translator who speaks English, Hindi, German and Urdu, besides his mother tongue French. Incredibly, most of the movies he has subtitled have gained recognition at international fora. The most recent being CNC Aide aux Cinémas du Monde grant for Girls Will be Girls produced by Richa Chadha and Ali Fazal’s banner Pushing Buttons Studios, and backed by Sanjay Gulati and Pooja Chauhan of Crawling Angel Films and Claire Chassagne of Paris-based Dolce Vita Films. 

Having spent considerable time in India, he has picked up the nuances of the language and its cultural cues. “It is indeed paramount to slip into the shoes of both storytellers and their different characters. In French, the word interprète has three distinct meanings: interpreter, of course, and spokesperson and performer. As translators, we have to interpret the meaning of a text to the best of our abilities, act as the author’s spokesperson in a different cultural context and embody the characters, become their voice and somehow perform their part in the target language,” says Durandy. 

Perfect command of the original language and a thorough knowledge of Indian culture comes in handy in his job as a subtitler. “My familiarity with Hindi and Indian culture does help me know the nuances and character dynamics of a script, even when it’s not in Hindi. I translated the script from English into French for Girls Will Be Girls for submission to the CNC Aide aux Cinémas du Monde grant. The whole script is in English, including the dialogue, at this stage. But when I was translating the lines of the characters, I was always thinking about what they would say in Hindi to see whether it would make a difference in my translation. A simple example is the second person pronoun. To choose between tu and vous in French, I would try to imagine what would be likelier between tum and aap,” he adds.

Subtitling is a major enabler per se, as it allows a film to find its audience beyond its linguistic boundaries. “All the more so with indie cinema, which is more content-driven. 

The audience may enjoy big-budget films without subtitles or poor subtitles because of their immense production value. But when it comes to smaller films, shot on location and with lesser visual impact, quality subtitling becomes a must,” he says, explaining how cinema in India’s so-called regional languages has travelled and been embraced by the rest of the country and world, thanks to subtitles. 

Film scripts that Durandy has translated for CNC were usually all-English because many writers have their dialogue translated into Hindi (or another regional language) later, with all pre-production work happening in English. “I worked recently for a debut filmmaker, and while the dialogue was in Hindi, the rest was in English, but you could tell that he would have been much more comfortable in his mother tongue. I felt that resorting to English was not allowing him to fully and eloquently express himself. People should always be free to write and talk in the language they’re the most comfortable with. That’s what we translators are here for!” 

Chronicling crisis | Vinod Kapri

In a televised address to the nation at 8 pm on March 24, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the entire country would be in ‘lockdown’ (from midnight of March 25) to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The sudden measure wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of daily-wage migrant workers across the country and had far-reaching repercussions. Award-winning filmmaker and author Vinod Kapri, who had been actively engaged in COVID relief work in and around Delhi NCR during those days, was rattled at the misery unfolding before his eyes. One day, he knew that seven of them were planning to set off on bicycles to their hometowns, from Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh to Saharsa in Bihar. “My seven heroes – Sandeep, Mukesh, Ritesh, Aashish, Rambabu, Sonu and Krishna – had no employment, no food, and no place to call home after the sudden lockdown. Their seven-day-long journey speaks of their indomitable spirit. They defied all imaginable odds to cycle for 1232 km,” says Kapri, who accompanied them on this journey, shadowing them until they reached their hometown. The heartwrenching account of the construction labourers pedalling their way home was first released as a documentary early in 2021. It had two songs of despair – “Marenge To Wahin Jaakar” and “O Re Bidesiya” – penned by Gulzar and composed by Vishal Bharadwaj. 

One thing led to another. “I only wanted to document their journey, but there were many things that I couldn’t capture on camera but jotted in my diary. The book was never on my mind. But a close friend suggested that I put it down on paper because he felt that 1232 Km spotlighted the COVID-19-led migrant crisis in India. It found a home, and quite on its merit, be it the OTT platform or publishers because this extraordinary story really pulls on the heartstrings,” recounts Kapri. His debut book has been released in Hindi, English, and four other regional languages. The response to his documentary and books has been overwhelming. “It is a documentation of the plight of migrant workers. I want it to reach more and more people so that people know the nameless faces around us, who sweat it out day in and day out only to make our lives easier but bore the worst during the lockdown. The royalty of these books will go to these men because it is their book,” he emphasises.                  

Reading by the ears | Jameel Gulrays

It is quite commonplace for the Millennials to be quite well-versed with Franz Kafka, Khalil Gibran, Haruki Murakami, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and many other literary giants of their ilk from across the world. But seldom do they even care to flip through the enormous body of work of litterateurs from the Indian subcontinent. Mumbai-based septuagenarian former adman, Urdu connoisseur and avid storyteller Jameel Gulrays started a read-aloud storytelling project called Katha Kathan in 2015 to help the Millennials “read these literary gems through their ears.”  

“My storytelling project aims to explore the rich tapestry of literature in Hindi, Urdu, and other Indian languages to preserve, promote, and popularise them so that they aren’t lost into oblivion but live on for many generations. My band of storytellers at Katha Kathan are the backbone of this. Our zealous efforts are aimed at the larger cause of preserving the vast repertoire of Indian literature,” says Gulrays. 

After wowing the audience through live sessions held in Mumbai and many other cities during the pre-pandemic days, a successful run on his YouTube channel, and podcasts on Soundcloud, Team Katha Kathan forayed into the voice-based social network app Clubhouse in 2021. The literary evening enlivens the statement made by Premchand in his memorable short story, Eidgaah, “Club ghar mein jadoo hota hai” through weekly dramatised readings of classics. “We endeavour to reintroduce and rejuvenate languages and motivate the younger generations by narrating the literature and ensuring it reaches them through the medium (read social media platforms) they consume,” states Gulrays.  

The session sees the audience from India’s nook and corners and across the world tuning in every weekend to brush up on these classics. It is a mix of both literature lovers and newbies to the world of Urdu and Indian classics. It often has celebrities like Rekha Bharadwaj, Vishal Bharadwaj, Naseeruddin Shah, and many others joining in to be regaled by stories.  

Verse is good | Pratap Somvanshi

Journalist and poet Pratap Somvanshi made a failed literary debut when he was still in school. “I was in class 8 then and had written a short story. I sent a two, and a half-page story accompanied by a three-page covering letter addressed to the editor of Nandan. The story was rejected, but the thoughtful editor sent a heartwarming note,” reminisces Somvanshi. The rejection letter laid the foundation of his career path. He is the editorial head of a leading Hindi national paper and writes poetry. “It is ‘bhavanuvad’ – a translation of human emotions and relationships,” he adds. In 2016, his first anthology of poems – Itwar Chhota Pad Gaya – a culmination of his friends’ tireless efforts and wife’s insistence was published. “I love poetry and live it too. My poems and life are interdependent. They can’t exist in isolation,” he says. 

Commenting on the long-standing neglect of Hindi, he gives an overview of the publishing industry. According to him, today, it is like a business where the publishers look for saleability and numbers. It could also be a co-operative where the author pays to publish his book or is Atmanirbhar venture where the author opts for self-publishing option. “There were a few Hindi publishers till a few years ago, and they too had their priorities. Books in Hindi were never published to sell copies but to be stocked in libraries. There are 150 crore Hindi speakers worldwide, of which 100 crore can read and write Hindi. But when it comes to Hindi, only 1000 copies are published, be it novel, poetry or short stories.”

Somvanshi whose couplet – Ram tumhare yug ka Ravan accha tha – is the most forwarded message on social media platforms on Dussehra. “Social media has made crowd sharing of emotions so easy, and it bodes well for Hindi writers. People are discovering literary gems on social media, and then they go hunting for books by these poets, be it of Jaun Elia or Fahim Badayuni,” he states. A few poets find publishers on their merit – be it known face or saleability – but a lot depends on the readers. “They create the market and not the other way around,” he says.

Love of literature | Ankur Mishra

Ankur Mishra wears many hats and aplomb. He is the founder of Kavishala and Foreantech and the author of seven books, but he remains a literature buff in one’s heart of hearts. He started a website called Kavishala for poets to have an online mehfil of sorts. “Kavishala is a one-stop platform for literary minds. Ease of getting good and genuine content at one place. Kavishala has many verticals – Kavishala Talks and Kavishala Campus Ambassadors, and Kavishala Sootradhar, where one can access the works of eminent litterateurs of yore. We must make the younger generation aware of the treasure trove of Indian literature and languages,” says Mishra. 

Another interesting vertical on the platform, Kavishala Labs, helps readers access exciting articles about Indian literature and writers. “The Kavishala team works hard for these articles, and they come up with not known and lesser facts for an engaging read. Kavishala Sootradhar is a vertical where we have 6000+ poets and writers from Indian and world literature, and the content is free. We aim to be a virtual library for our readers in easy clicks. Kavishala has three million-plus monthly page views on this content only,” he adds.

80% plus writers and poets are from the Hindi language to date. “The number of readers in Sootradhar is encouraging. We’ve 13% plus page views from the USA and 10% plus from UAE, which means Hindi literature has a good reach in non-Hindi speaking countries. If we get help from investors, we can make it even bigger and better,” he says. On World Hindi Day, Kavishala is conducting Kavishala International Meetup, where the platform will bring together Hindi and Hindi literature lovers in one place. “The event will be virtual and private. Our target is to have at least 150-200 people from different countries,” he adds.

Another plan in the offing includes making Kavishala the word first kind of platform, which will give readers money for reading. “We attempt to make reading a habit. There are a handful few readers left among the younger generations. We want to pay them for reading in an attempt to revive that reading culture,” he emphasises. 

Vantage point is bilingualism | Pankaj Dubey

Filmmaker-author Pankaj Dubey has an uncanny knack for transcreation. With nine bestselling titles to his credit, five in English and the rest four transcreated in Hindi, almost simultaneously, Dubey is currently busy adapting his first novel What a Loser (English) and Loser Kahin Ka (Hindi) for the big screen. What sets him apart from others of his ilk is the two-language deal for all his books from the publishing house, Penguin Random House. “I owe it to my editor, late Renu Agal, who spotted it first and encouraged me to write in both. Being bilingual is a significant marker in South Asia. It helped me bag the nomination for a prestigious writer’s Residency in Seoul, South Korea, in 2016,” says Dubey, who was one amongst the three novelists from Asia to get this opportunity. “I am bilingual, so I write all my stories together in Hindi and English. I never try to translate. Since my first book, I’ve been selling quite well, and that’s been my purpose because if I’m not interested in being a much-loved author, I would rather write diaries and not get them published,” he says.

The spectacular success of his first novel made it a breeze for the rest. “I always had conviction in my story and my telling. I have been fortunate, but I know that many others don’t have it easy. But once you get a publisher, and if your book does well, the sky’s the limit,” adds Dubey, who pursued his filmmaking passion and his first film, Maratha Mandir Theatre, is streaming on Disney Hotstar+.  

He owes his success to his storytelling and adaptability, both of which are up to date. The books are popular among the Millennials because the characters speak the readers’ language. One problem with Hindi literature is that the growth of writers in Hindi literature has been slower than the growth of readers. Moreso, because the readers and their tastes have evolved over a while. 

Commenting on the challenges of contemporary Hindi writing, he says, “Most Hindi writers, if not all, are stuck to the language and vocabulary of the past, which makes it dull and uninteresting for the readers. The idea is to contemporise things and accepts the linguistic ingredients of the contemporary world and society. That helps a lot,” he adds. 

Dubey attributes the democratisation of the reading and writing process to the advent of social media. “It has given access to everyone to all kinds of literature at the click of a mouse. So it is very challenging for the writers if they don’t try it well. The attention span of the readers is decreasing every day. Social media has made it challenging for good writers. At the same time, it has opened new ways to promote your work. So you can spread awareness around your writing, and once your writing is light, it will fly on its own,” he states. 

The article was carried in The Free Press Journal on the eve of World Hindi Day on January 9, 2022.

A wish list for 2022

In 2022, a visually impaired assistant professor #AkhileshKumar waits to hold his book in hand, while a mother-in-waiting #JaspreetChandhok is looking forward to bringing home her ‘adopted’ child.
A person with epilepsy #VinayJani will run to create awareness for the less spoken neurological condition, while a Bicycle Mayor #ArshelAkhter will pedal for green mobility. 
#ShramanJha of #WWFIndia believes the emphasis shifts to a more proactive, participative stance with the theme “Shape our Future”, be it for the #EarthHour or as #AkashDeep of #GRIHACouncil says on #greenbuildings that can be #sustainable and #affordable.  
An entrepreneur #SarvmeetOberoi hopes to pamper our pawsome family members at his pet facility – #PetfelixDogBoarding – a little more. At the same time, a chocolate brand #Kocoatrait led by L Nitin Chordia expects to become more sustainable and increase its contribution to the circular economy.
A martial arts expert #FaisalAliDar hopes to initiate more children into sports and sportspersons into coaching while a cafe’s founder in Jamshedpur #AvinashDugar is brewing a change for the deaf.
A busker Debojyoti Nath hopes to make more music and spread kindness, and a farmer #PradeepGawande is sowing hope to reap prosperity in 2022, for himself and others of his ilk.  
What we left behind are memories. What we are taking forward are moments. Here’s what 12 wonderful people are looking forward to this year, their wishes, and everything in between worth celebrating!  

The article was featured in The Free Press Journal in its edition dated January 2, 2022.